Orlando has been the centre of attention this year after American-born gunman, Omar Mateen, attacked one of the city’s gay nightclubs on Sunday morning, killing 49 people and leaving 53 club-goers severely injured.
The attack, the worst mass shooting in US history, has now prompted advanced security at Orlando Airport and in the city’s most visited tourist attractions.
Just the day before the shooting at Pulse, YouTuber and The Voice contestant, Christina Grimmie, was shot multiple times at her meet and greet in Orlando.
And Florida police were on the hunt for a two-year-old boy that was dragged into the water by an alligator at a hotel in Orlando’s Disney resort.
Known as the ‘City Beautiful’, Orlando is home to some of the best theme parks in the world, including Walt Disney World, SeaWorld Orlando, and Universal Studios Florida.
Plenty of British holidaymakers are due to visit the city this summer but, is it still a safe place to travel to despite recent incidents?
On its page for US travel advice, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) states: “On 12 June, 2016, a firearms attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida killed 50 people and injured over 50 others. If you’re in the area, you should follow the advice of the local authorities.”
It says gun crime “rarely involves tourists”, but you should “take care when travelling in unfamiliar areas”.
The FCO also states there is a “general threat from terrorism”, adding: “Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by foreigners. You should monitor media reports and remain vigilant at all times. There is considered to be a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.”
“The US Department of Homeland Security provides public information about credible threats. Expect an increased presence of law enforcement and tight security at public places and events. This may include a heavy police presence, additional restrictions and searches on bags, and the use of screening technologies. For all current alerts within the United States and its territories, visit the DHS website.”
Tourism industry view
Managing director of West End Travel, David Segel, says: “You can’t hide away from the entire world, we’ve got to get on with our lives. It’s tragic; hopefully it’s a one-off incident, I really don’t think it will take anything away from tourism.”
“Sadly there’s going to be incidents in the future, the point of terrorism is unfortunately you don’t know where it’s going to be.”
Neil Robinson, tourism lecturer at the University of Salford, stresses that gun ownership in the US should be the main concern, not terrorism. He fears that British travellers are not as familiar with the gun violence in the US.
“The USA seems more concerned with terrorism rather than the number of US citizens that die every year due to gun crime.
“Orlando is still safe to visit. The tourism industry is very resilient and evidence suggests that when a catastrophe happens, in the short term a downturn in the economy follows.”
He adds: “This is often short-lived, remember the 2005 London bombings? London was fairly quick to recover in terms of tourism visitors. In contrast, locations such as Tunisia and Egypt have not yet followed this trend and still appear to have problems recovering from the terror attacks of last year.”
Robinson highlights that, following the Paris attacks in November, there was “a 6.3% decline in hotel occupancy in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year”.
Jason Betts, PR and social media executive for Virgin Atlantic says the airline is continuing to fly to Orlando.
“We always follow the Foreign & Commonwealth Office’s advice in such matters and therefore we are continuing to operate our flights to and from Orlando as normal.”
George Aguel, president & CEO of Visit Orlando, comments: "The safety of our visitors has and continues to be the top priority for the Orlando Tourism community.
Orlando remains a safe destination for families to relax, have fun and create lifetime memories. The terrible tragedy of June 12 has further united the community and bolstered our spirit of resiliency.
As we continue to mourn the lives that were senselessly taken, considerable efforts are underway to activate enhanced security protocols that have been in place to ensure that the destination, parks and hotels remain a safe environment.
Current visitors and those who have plans to visit the Orlando in the coming weeks and months can rest assured that all available resources are focused on delivering the experience the destination is known for when you visit."
Are you still worried about travelling to Orlando? Let us know in the comments section below.