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ORLANDO-International travelers, which made up only 7.5% of all visitors to Central Florida in 2001, are slowly returning to metro Orlando destination sites, according to a U.S. Department of Commercial biannual forecast.

The number of British and Canadian tourists, which normally account for almost half of all international visitors to metro Orlando, will increase by 2006, but the volume of Brazilian and German visitors will still be below 2000 levels. The forecast was made during the 35th annual International Pow Wow in St. Louis.

Visit Florida, the state’s tourist marketing agency, confirms the international tourist side is showing signs of rallying. The agency estimates overseas visitors in the first quarter rose 6%; Canadian tourists, 8%.

The sluggish international tourist volume pace doesn’t surprise Orlando hospitality industry consultant Robin L. Webb. “While vacationers have generally returned to traveling, their spending habits are more frugal, in light of the economic uncertainties, and most are traveling close to home,” Webb tells GlobeSt.com.

“It is reasonable to believe that the number of visitors to Orlando and the attractions will not accelerate at a significant pace unless and until the economy rebounds and some of the remaining terrorism fears diminish,” the consultant says.

Still, the broker says, “while both terrorist and weakened worldwide economies, along with stock markets, have impacted international travel, Central Florida still represents a great bargain for visitors from Britain and Europe.”

He says, “After all, the charter carriers operate some of the most secure airline flights on the globe, and it is still cheaper to fly from London to Orlando that it is to fly from London to Madrid.” Webb is the managing broker in the Winter Park, FL office of Coldwell Banker Commercial NRT.

Another encouraging note comes from Dallas-based Hotels.com. The nation’s largest hotel-specific online seller of lodging reports Orlando in May was the second most popular destination in its worldwide online booking system for upcoming summer travel. Las Vegas was first. Rounding out the top five destinations were New York, New Orleans, San Francisco, Chicago, London, Honolulu, Reno, NV and Paris.

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