'Orlando is suffering,' tourism officials tell Pence

Vice President Mike Pence met with the governor and business leaders in Orlando Wednesday to discuss tourism and the state's phased reopening plans. 

Tourism leaders in Florida told Vice President Mike Pence that the state's largest industry is taking new safety measures as businesses battered by coronavirus-related lockdowns start reopening.

Theme park executives, restaurant owners and hoteliers told the vice president at a roundtable discussion that the damage caused by shutdowns from the virus was unprecedented in an industry that survived the 9/11 attacks and the recession a dozen years ago.

Pence's visit coincided Wednesday with the limited reopening of an entertainment complex at Walt Disney World, the area's biggest tourist destination. Walt Disney World and crosstown rivals Universal Orlando and SeaWorld have been closed since mid-March.

Tourism is Florida’s No. 1 industry, and it’s crashed during the coronavirus pandemic, with hotels, theme parks and other vacation-based businesses seeing massive drops in revenue because of closures.

According to Dana Young, head of Visit Florida, hotels saw a drop in revenue of $1.6 billion during a six-week period in March and April compared to last year.

Domestic air travel to the state is down 65% and international air travel is down 80% compared to last year, Young said recently.

During his trip Wednesday, Pence also made a stop at a nursing home to deliver personal protective equipment on Wednesday. His office said the nursing home visit is part of an initiative to deliver PPE to more than 15,000 nursing homes across America.