Let this sink in.
Five years ago, Kissimmee, Florida, had some 6,000 vacation home rentals on the market.
Fast forward to today, and that number has skyrocketed to more than 22,000 rentals, says Juliana Leveroni, media relations director at Experience Kissimmee.
With that kind of growth, it’s no wonder why Leveroni and her team call Kissimmee the official “Vacation Home Capital of the World.”
“The great thing about our homes is that they’re privately-owned, but also managed by professional management companies,” Leveroni told PAX last night (Sept. 23rd) at a media event hosted by Experience Kissimmee and VoX International, which represents the Central Florida destination in Canada. “It’s not like you check into an Airbnb and you don’t know where to find the keys. You check-in like you would at a hotel.”
Packed with hotel-like amenities and commissionable to travel agents, vacation home rentals are at the forefront of Kissimmee’s trade strategy as the busy fall and winter booking season amps up.
Whether it be homes, condos, or townhouses that range from two to fifteen bedrooms, the properties in Kissimmee cover all budget types, from luxury and suite-style units to mid-priced branded hotels and value properties.
When comparing vacation homes with traditional hotels: “The price is almost the same, or less,” Leveroni said, noting how vacation homes are a huge draw for friends travelling together and for multi-generational family vacations. “If you stay in a two-bedroom home, sometimes it’s usually same price for one night at a hotel.”
The numbers alone speak to Kissimmee’s rise in the home rental market.
According to Experience Kissimmee’s latest year-to-date stats, vacation home rentals represent 49.5 per cent of the destination’s overnight stays, surpassing hotels and motels, which sit at 46.1 per cent.
Encore, Solara, and Reunion are just some of many brands leading the home rental scene in Kissimmee, which is conveniently located minutes away from some of Florida’s most-sought-out attractions, such as Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment and Legoland Florida Resort.
“You can stay in a nice home and be about 10 minutes from all the theme parks,” Leveroni said, adding that many vacation homes offer shuttle services to and from the big attractions.
There's value, too, in renting a vacation home as many properties sit in gated communities that include private swimming pools and cost-saving amenities, such as kitchens, Leveroni said.
With vacation homes at the forefront of Kissimmee’s strategy, it was fitting the destination hosted last night’s event in a chic, homey unit on the 15th floor of Toronto’s prestigious One King West Hotel and Residences building.
“We’re very appreciative of the Canadian market,” Leveroni told PAX, mentioning how Canada is Kissimmee’s number one international market.
Joining in on the evening were seven of Kissimmee’s partners from the Florida area: Walt Disney World, SeaWorld, Wild Florida, Westgate Resorts, Reunion Resort, Tuscana Resort, and Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures.
Kissimmee, which lies in Florida's Osceola County, is just south of Orlando, which makes it a viable place to stay for theme park-bound tourists.
“Central Florida is the theme park capital of the world,” Leveroni said.
Outside of the neighbouring theme parks, Kissimmee is a destination in and of itself, offering a range of nature-based activities, from zip-lining and tree-trekking adventures (some of which may involve soaring over alligator ponds) to hiking, kayaking or paddling along Shingle Creek Regional Park.
Airboat and hot air balloon rides, premium outlet malls, and golf is also a huge draw (Kissimmee, notably, has twenty-two, 18-hole golf courses).
Kissimmee is a 25-minute drive from Orlando International Airport (MCO), which welcomes direct flights from Canada via Air Canada Rouge, Air Transat, Sunwing, WestJet and, as of late, Swoop.
Orlando, in fact, just passed Miami as the busiest airport in Florida, noted Denise Graham, account manager for Experience Kissimmee at VoX International.
“It tells you about the number of tourists that are coming to the area,” Graham said.
New to Kissimmee this year is a Jimmy Buffet-inspired Margaritaville Resort, which offers 184 upscale rooms and private residences known as the Margaritaville Cottages.
“The [cottage] backyards are open-concept with no fences,” Graham said, noting how the property aims to create a backyard party atmosphere. “It’s great for all ages.”
Also new is Wild Florida Airboats and Gator Park, a 75-acre, drive-through safari park that lets guests drive their cars (or ride on a guided swamp buggy tour) through a parkland of more than 100 exotic animals, such as wild boar, white-tailed deer and zebras.
Looking ahead, travellers in the Kissimmee/Orlando region can expect improved connectivity to Florida as Richard Branson's Virgin Trains USA (formally called the Brightline) begins the expansion of its intercity passenger railroad from its current Miami to West Palm Beach route to Orlando.
The $4 billion dollar MIA-MCO corridor broke ground in May this year and is expected to be completed in 2022.
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