In The Media

Assessing the Pandemic's Impact on Tourism Travel

Using Transportation Data Analytics to Track the Recovery in Central Florida

The upheaval of the global pandemic meant historic disruptions in the tourism-dependent region of Orlando, Florida, and the Florida Department of Transportation wanted to quantify the impact on travel in the area. Transportation data and analytics can provide key insights into the health of an economic area and the impact of major events. Particularly in tourism areas, tracking the number of travelers and their movements can help improve understanding of how transportation systems are working as well as how the tourism industry is faring.

Brittany Wood
Brittany Wood

HDR transportation data scientist Brittany Wood partnered with FDOT staff to research the topic, and together they recently co-authored an article on the pandemic’s impact in ITE Journal, published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers. Wood works as an in-house consultant at FDOT’s Central Office in Tallahassee, where she provides support on spatial data analytics for freight and multimodal planning needs.

The article aims at quantifying the impacts of the pandemic on tourism travel in Central Florida’s flagship attractions district including Disney World, Universal Studios and Sea World. Leveraging a multitude of transportation datasets and analytical methods, the article looks at automobile traffic in key highway corridors as well as bicycle and pedestrian traffic in high-density tourist zones. Wood and her FDOT co-authors found that movement patterns within tourist zones decreased dramatically compared to the previous year but as attractions have begun to reopen, traffic has steadily increased. As of September 2020, however, levels have not returned to pre-COVID numbers.

Read more in the article in the April 2021 issue of ITE Journal, "Quantifying the Transportation Impacts of COVID-19 on Orlando’s Tourism Corridor."