Group trumpets Jacksonville area

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- First Coast Attractions, a marketing organization based in this area, was formed last August to encourage Orlando-bound motorcoach tours and individual visitors to extend their stays.

The organization's treasurer, Jim Uccio, owner of Tour Time, a Middleburg, Fla.-based receptive operator who does customized packaging for the group, said First Coast's membership has grown from the original three founding concerns to 12.

Uccio said his company saves tour operators time and money by customizing packages they might otherwise have to spend time planning and pricing for themselves.

First Coast Attractions also does business under the name JaxAttrax. While the group's members are competitors, they do pool funds with a common goal of increasing tour group and individual stays in the area, which includes St. Augustine and Amelia Island.

The organization's Web site, at www.jaxattrax.com, has tour component suggestions for in-state and out-of-state bus groups and explains why suppliers should join. There are links to 11 of the 12 members.

The members, in addition to Tour Time, include the Alhambra Dinner Theatre; Anheuser Busch, which has a local beer brewery attraction; Jacksonville Landing, a dining, shopping and entertainment district; Jacksonville Zoo; Kennel Clubs of Jax (dog racing); the Museum of Science and History; River Cruise Boats, an operator of party cruises; River City Opry, and World Golf Village.

The Comfort Suites World Golf Village and the Jacksonville and the Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau also are members.

Because of First Coast's efforts, Floridave Travel, Coshocton, Ohio, which runs off-the-beaten-path trips to Florida and elsewhere, operated its first three-night tour to Jacksonville in early February.

In the past, the city was a brief stopover on Florida itineraries.

Also scheduling stopovers this year will be Diamond Tours, Englishtown, N.J., which sent 65 motorcoaches to the area last year. For the first quarter of this year, it expects to send around 100 motorcoaches from all over the U.S., according to Jeff Ferraro, marketing manager.

Officers of First Coast Attractions are Dane Lucas of River Cruises, chairman; Jack Booth of Alhambra Dinner Theatre, president; Uccio, treasurer; Janice Lowe, Jacksonville Landing, secretary, and Katie Kight, Jacksonville Zoo, board member.

Kitty Ratcliffe of the Jacksonville & the Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau, is the advisor.

For more information on group and individual services, call Tour Time, (800) 822-4278.

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