After seven years, former Disney executive and current CEO and President of Visit Orlando George Aguel is retiring from his position, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

What’s Happening:

  • Since 2013, Former Disney executive George Aguel has been the president and chief executive officer of Visit Orlando, a government subsidized tourism advertising agency.
  • Yesterday during a meeting, Aguel announced that he will be stepping down from his position to focus on time with his family.
  • Though his contract expires in early 2021, a spokeswoman for the agency said board leaders will meet next week to discuss a transition plan, including the exact timing of Aguel’s departure.
  • Aguel oversaw the agency during a boom in growth in Central Florida that included major expansions of both Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World, including The Wizarding World of Harry Potter: Diagon Alley, Volcano Bay Water Theme Park, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and Pandora: The World of Avatar.
  • He also led the regional response efforts to local crisis situations, including hurricanes, the Zika outbreak of 2016, and the shooting at PULSE nightclub, and also served as the Co-Chair to Orange County’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force.
  • The decision to step down comes at a time when the tourism industry is struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With the agency funded by taxes collected from hotels, Visit Orlando has had to furlough employees and take other cost-cutting measures that weren’t specified by the agency. Controversially, earlier this year Visit Orlando paid out nearly $300,000 in bonuses and other incentive pay when the hotel taxes were already beginning to decrease.
  • Aguel and other executives have come under pressure to find ways to help workers in the notoriously low-paying tourism industry, where many workers have been forced to work two or three part-time jobs, or now, with the COVID-19 Pandemic, may be out of work entirely.
  • One of Aguel’s biggest achievements was a negotiation for more tax money than ever before, collecting up to 30% of the hotel tax, but due to the pandemic tax collections are at levels not seen since Walt Disney World was a one-park resort and Universal Studios Florida hadn’t even been built yet.

What They’re Saying:

  • George Aguel: “While this is a decision I’ve been considering for some time, if there is anything 2020 has shown me, it’s that you can’t take your health for granted and there is no better time to spend it than with those I love most. As a newly minted, 67-year-old grandfather, with a second one coming in October, and husband to an ever-patient wife of 46 years, there’s nothing I look forward to more than spending as much quality time as possible with my family.”
  • Jeremy Haicken, president, UNITE HERE Local 737: “I hope his successor will focus more on the meager salaries most Orlando hospitality workers earn and be more open to using the industry’s massive wealth to improve our region’s poor public education and transportation systems. Tourism doesn’t get our community anywhere if all that it creates is more poverty.”