Florida Trend's Floridian of the Year
Fla. Newsmakers of 2009
People who made an impact in business, economy, science, environment, government, education, sports, philanthropy, media and our fallen soldiers.
Business and the Economy
» Harry Potter
Visitors will journey through scenes and rooms modeled after those in the Harry Potter movies. The Hogwarts castle, made to look 700 feet tall, is the centerpiece. The attraction also features three rides.
Face it. As Florida tries to re-create itself as Silicon Valley on the Beach or Research Triangle South, tourism and agriculture remain the keys to the economy. Tourism accounts for nearly a third of employment in the tri-county Orlando area, for example. And in 2009, a fictitious British wizard made the most significant single contribution to building Florida's tourism industry. Universal spent big — an unconfirmed $200-million-plus — to build the 20-acre Wizarding World of Harry Potter that opens this spring at Islands of Adventure.
To his fans, Potter represents adventure, loyalty, laughs and pluck. To Florida — like plenty of other foreign transplants who prop up our economy — he represents cold, hard cash, jobs and construction employment in a state with over 10% unemployment.
Potter will put heads in beds for an industry that projected the Orlando tourist count to fall 9% in 2009 leading to layoffs, shorter weeks and furloughs. "I think it's going to be sensational for the destination — 300 million fans around the globe," says Gary Sain, president and CEO of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Good news given that international tourism — down nearly 10% in 2009 — makes up just 7% of the Orlando market, but those visitors spend 23% of the tourism money. Disney begins construction this year on an expansion of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom that some estimates tag at $1 billion. Look for the Little Mermaid in this space in a future year. — Mike Vogel