Florida Keys developments: Hotels set deals

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KEY WEST, Fla. -- Florida Keys hotels introduced value-added deals such as free extra nights, room rates from $40 on weeknights, and credits for dining and spa treatments.

There also are in-house packages including drinks, ground transportation, fishing and sunset cruises. The incentives were created to lure visitors in light of the terrorism-related downturn in travel.

"We will never forget the horrendous events of Sept. 11," said Harold Wheeler, director of the Monroe County (Florida Keys) Tourist Development Council (MCTDC). "But President Bush has asked Americans to return to normalcy and the Keys tourism industry is providing excellent motivators."

A list of Keys offerings is found on the destination's Web site at www.fla-keys.com. Most offers have availability and date restrictions.

Clients arriving by air either can rent cars at Miami Airport or take connecting flights to Marathon or Key West.

The Keys also launched a Florida resident-targeted ad effort emphasizing normalcy, and on Oct. 1, it will kick off its 2001-02, $6.8 million ad campaign, using regional and national publications as well as selected Web sites such as Yahoo! and Expedia.

Meanwhile, signs that the visitor flow to the Florida Keys may be rebounding were evident from informal surveys of several Keys properties and visitor centers undertaken by the MCTDC.

Five chambers of commerce reported an increase in phone calls and in-person tourist inquiries at their visitor centers during the weekend of Sept. 21 to 23.

If tourists do decide to visit, a number of special events are set to go off as scheduled including Key West Fantasy Fest, Oct. 19 to 28; World Championship Offshore Powerboat Races in Key West ,Oct. 29 to Nov. 10 and Key Largo's Island Jubilee Nov. 1 to 4.

More information on these and other events is available by calling (800)-FLA-KEYS or visiting the Keys' Web site, www.fla-keys.com.

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