September 23, 2023
Orlando is a gateway to the Middle East
The first Emirates flight lands at Orlando International Airport in September 2015.

Central Florida Roundup

Orlando is a gateway to the Middle East

Emirates links Orlando International with a major overseas hub.

Jason Garcia | 10/28/2015

The most important flight to land at Orlando International Airport in a decade touched down just before noon on Sept. 1 — an A380 operated by Emirates coming from Dubai.

The arrival marked the beginning of daily, non-stop flights that Emirates will fly between Orlando and the Middle East, filling an important gap in OIA’s route network. While central Florida for years has boasted an array of non-stop options to markets across the United States, it has struggled to land connections to big overseas hubs. Access to those hub airports connects OIA to fast-growing markets in Asia and Africa that otherwise require flights with multiple layovers.

Emirates’ hub in Dubai is one of the biggest in the world. The airport handled more than 70 million passengers last year, according to Airports Council International, making it the sixth-busiest in the world and the fourth-busiest outside the United States. Through Dubai, Emirates offers one-stop service to dozens of markets, from Singapore to Shanghai to Sydney.

Emirates becomes the second airline to link OIA with a major overseas hub, joining German carrier Lufthansa, which began flying in 2007 between Orlando and Frankfurt, the 11thbusiest airport in the world. (British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have for years flown between OIA and London, but both land at the smaller Gatwick Airport rather than Heathrow, the world’s No. 3 airport.)

Orlando becomes Emirates’ 10th destination in the United States. The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority provided the carrier with a $2.5-million incentive package and spent nearly $250,000 to build a “reflection room” — complete with directional markings — aimed primarily at Muslim travelers looking for a place to pray. Visit Orlando, the region’s publicly subsidized tourism bureau, has also said it will step up advertising in India and other markets whose citizens are likely to arrive via Emirates’ flights.

Adding to the economic development appeal: The Emirates jets will have the room to carry as much as 17 tons of cargo in each direction every day, potentially boosting Florida exports


Marilyn Monroe Spas

Orlando-based Niki Bryan Spas International, which does business as Marilyn Monroe Spas, landed $20 million from a firm led by a Brazilian investor. The company was launched in 2012 by Al Weiss, once Disney’s highest-ranking executive in Florida, and Niki Kearn (formerly Bryan), who once operated the spas at Disney World hotels. The pair negotiated with Marilyn Monroe’s estate for the rights to use the former actress’s name and image, and today has 10 locations in four states, as well as a line of retail products. The company says it has raised more than $36 million, including the latest $20 million, which it says will help fund domestic and global expansion and the creation of a “Marilyn Monroe Spa and Glamour Institute” providing career training for aspiring spa and salon professionals.


The board that runs Orlando Sanford International Airport elevated its former No. 2 administrator Diane Crews to executive director, succeeding Larry Dale, who retired.

Gov. Rick Scott removed Orlando attorney Walter Ketcham from the board of the Central Florida Expressway Authority and replaced him with Seminole County businesswoman

Andria Herr. Herr is president of the Orlando office of Hylant, an insurance brokerage, and also serves on the board of the Seminole County Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Business Briefs

CAPE CANAVERAL — Boeing opened a commercial cargo and processing facility at Kennedy Space Center. Boeing expects to add 550 jobs in the area this year.

CLERMONT — Mount Dora-based First Green Bank will build a branch powered entirely by solar energy.

DAYTONA BEACH — Miami-based United Parks purchased Daytona Lagoon for an undisclosed price and said it would spend $2 million renovating and upgrading the small attraction.

DELAND — Stetson University will build a 10-acre aquatic center on Lake Beresford that will function as both a freshwater research facility and a rowing-sports venue, using a $6-million gift from Sandra Stetson, a great-granddaughter of the university’s namesake.

KISSIMMEE — Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Holdings and real estate investor Encore Capital Management plan to build a 300-acre themed vacation community near Disney World that will include a hotel, timeshares and vacation rental homes, as well as 170,000 square feet of retail space and a water park.

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Walt Disney Co. Will add two “lands” — one based on the Star Wars franchise, the other on the Toy Story films — to Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the least-attended of Walt Disney World’s four theme parks. The company did not announce a project timeline, but construction is likely to take five years or longer.

ORLANDO — Orlando Health Physicians Associates acquired Pediatric Associates of Orlando, a practice that had been independent since 1939. > Universal Orlando will build an attraction based on its Fast and Furious action-movie franchise and add 400 rooms to the 1,800-room Cabana Bay Beach Hotel, which opened last year. The theme park resort also began operating a shuttle service carrying passengers between Orlando International Airport and its hotels. Disney offers a similar shuttle, although Universal, unlike Disney, will charge for the service. > Orlando- based Bags, which operates luggage-handling services for hotels, plans to launch a new luggage pickup service from customers’ homes. > SeaWorld Entertainment, under pressure from animal rights activists for several years now, says it is no longer interested in accepting beluga whales captured from the wild in Russia. > Morning radio host Scott McKenzie, a fixture at community events who spent nearly 25 years on the air in central Florida, died of cancer. He was 59.

SANFORD — Industrial Lighting Products, which makes fixtures for customers ranging from Duracell to Disney World, plans to add 35 workers over the next year to the more than 160 it already employs and expand from 40,000 square feet to 70,000 square feet.

SEMINOLE COUNTY — Hoping to attract a larger share of the central Florida tourism market, county leaders voted to adopt a new marketing slogan for the county: “Orlando North Seminole County.”

WINTER PARK — Canvs, a co-working space operator with about 20,000 square feet of office space in downtown Orlando, will add 7,500 square feet in Winter Park. > City commissioners approved an expansion proposed by Winter Park Memorial Hospital that will include a 95-foottall tower and an expanded emergency department.

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