Tourism Falls as Economy Continues Its Slowdown

It looks like Mickey Mouse may have lost his magic.

Travel experts say tourist dollars are drying up and "destination theme parks," like Disney World in Orlando, Fla., are suffering through a summer of plunging profits.

"The problem is the U.S. economy," said Hank Fishkind, president of Fishkind & Associates, which did a study on the Orlando economy. "If it doesn’t get better soon, then we lose our winter tourism season in Florida."

Disney World’s fiscal third quarter revenue fell a whopping $100 million from the same time last year – another victim of the faltering economy.

"With the economic slowdown people’s discretionary income is a little lower, so people are changing their travel habits," said Fishkind. "It’s a big deal. It’s affecting markets all across the state."

Fishkind said the industry’s troubles aren’t over yet, particularly in light of the fact that there was a tourist attraction construction boom in the last few years.

"Those construction projects are just coming to fruition as the markets are turning down," he said. "We haven’t seen quite the worst of the downturn in the travel industry."

Usually, it's viva Las Vegas – but not these days. With several new million-dollar shows, Sin City is also scoring a big, fat zero. Visitor attendance was flat for the first five months of this year, compared to last.

Experts say the slow-growth economy and increasing gas prices are adversely affecting the tourism trade nationwide. Per capita spending on fun in the form of vacations has fallen between 5 and 15 percent this year.

Not everyone is scrapping trips entirely, though. Some, like Chicago tourist Kenny Williams, are just traveling on a tighter budget. Williams said he booked some efficiency rooms, so the family could cook instead of dining out every night.

"I’m not going to let things going on around me stop me from doing what I really want to do, even if I have to cut back," Williams said. "I still want to find a way to make myself happy and make my family happy."

Some tourism experts say their polls show that while some adults are scaling back on travel, there’s actually been slight overall growth in trip-taking.

"We haven’t seen a large decline in leisure travel," said Andrea Stueve, marketing director of the Travel Industry Association of America. "We are predicting a 1 percent increase in leisure travel through the end of the year."

But even they agree that a Universal Studios vacation may not be in the stars right now.

"For a family to go to a theme park for a few days might this year be a harder thing to do," Stueve said.