Central Florida's economy is expected to flourish this summer and beyond thanks to an unlikely source -- Harry Potter. Diagon Alley, an expansion of Hogsmeade -- the first phase of the Harry Potter park, which opened in 2010 -- will open on July 8th of this year, and is expected to bring thousands of new visitors to the Central Florida area. And it won't be cheap for visitors. According to WFTV 9, since the two attractions are in separate parks, a family of four will have to fork over $532 for a full day at both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.
The expected influx of new visitors is good news for investors such as Harris Rosen, who took a big bet on Central Florida in 2008 at the peak of the last recession. As The New York Times noted, Mr. Rosen spent $130 million to renovate his seven Orlando-area hotels during a time when other investors were weary of the market. According to Rosen, his bet on Florida paid off.
"We did it because we knew things would get better, and we knew it would be much less costly because construction wasn't doing well," Rosen explained. "If we'd waited until construction came back, the same work would have cost us $175 million to $200 million."
According to The New York Times, jobs in leisure and hospitality are up 16 percent in the state since the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in 2010. In total, the leisure and hospitality sector has added 54,500 workers in the last year. Employment in construction is also on the rise due to Florida's economic expansion, with a 12.1 percent increase reported over the last 12 months.
While Florida's economic recovery cannot be attributed entirely to the expansion of Harry Potter theme parks in the state, experts say the parks may have lit the spark that ignited the comeback. As The New York Times noted, the state's unemployment rate is now at 6.2 percent, which is below the national unemployment rate of 6.3 percent and far below the state's peak of 11.4 percent in early 2010.
"You have to give all the credit to the private sector," Governor Rick Scott stated. "We in government can do all the right things, but the private sector has to show up."
As the Miami Herald recently pointed out, data from the first quarter of this year shows that consumer spending in Florida grew 5.8 percent from last year. Furthermore, recreation and tourism spending in the state increased 6.4 percent from the same quarter last year. And while Florida's economy has yet to reach pre-recession peaks, local legislators see modest signals of recovery as a good sign for the state's ongoing economic prosperity.
"It's positive for the long term because it is not the boom-bust cycle of the past," Tony Villamil, founder of Coral Gables-based Washington Economics Group, told the Miami Herald.
Compiled by Holly Johnson
"A Bet on Florida Pays Off," The New York Times, May 26, 2014, Tim Mullaney, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/27/business/a-bet-on-florida-pays-off.html
"Central Florida economy expected to bank on Harry Potter expansion," WFTV.com, June 18, 2014, http://www.wftv.com/news/news/local/central-florida-economy-expected-bank-harry-potter/ngNdT/
"Tourism and investment spending lead Florida's economic recovery," Miami Herald, June 18, 2014, Celia Ampel, http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/06/18/4186595/tourism-and-investment-spending.html