Winter Park resident Chris Jaskiewicz is no stranger to the tourism and entertainment industries. With a father who worked with the Walt Disney Company since 1967 and a mother who regularly performed at Theatre on Park on Park Avenue, you may even go as far as to say he has it in his blood. Now, as president and CEO of ICON Park on International Drive, Jaskiewicz is helping revive Orlando’s tourism industry in the wake of COVID-19.
Throughout his career, Jaskiewicz held positions in sales, hospitality, and law, all of which helped lead him to his current role. And although no one could have prepared for the effect COVID-19 would have on businesses, Jaskiewicz’s vast experience allowed him to identify how to safely and strategically reopen ICON Park after the pandemic resulted in mass shutdowns.
“We were the first ones to speak to the reopening committee to explain why we could open, and how we would open, and why it would be safe for our employees and for our guests,” Jaskiewicz said.
The 20-acre entertainment complex, which includes attractions like The Wheel at ICON Park, Madame Tussauds Orlando, and the Orlando StarFlyer, as well as restaurants like Sugar Factory and Blake Shelton’s Ole Red Orlando, has been open since June 3 and is “doing well” according to Jaskiewicz. Noting that overall tourism is down because of a reduction in flight travel, he explained the company focused its energy on the local travel market and shifted its messaging to appeal to those audiences.
At home in Winter Park, Jaskiewicz has seen how similar tourism trends have affected the local community and hopes business owners can take a lesson from ICON Park’s reopening to apply it to their own recovery process. “[Winter Park business] operators have to be aware of the new reality, which means operating with a heightened sensitivity to distancing and cleanliness. And not only operating that way, but also giving off the perception that they’re operating that way,” Jaskiewicz said. “I’m pleased that Park Avenue continues to attract visitors. Restaurants have had to follow the 50 percent capacity rules and bars have been closed, so I think Park Avenue and the surrounding areas have been very resilient.”
“All residents benefit from out-of-town visitor travel,” Jaskiewicz said. “The taxes help pay for roads and schools. Ancillary industries, from construction to real estate to even the grocery industry, are all positively influenced by a robust tourist economy.”
Jaskiewicz encourages residents to do their part in stimulating the tourism industry by visiting local attractions.