Travel Weekly's Florida E-Letter: April 3, 2002

THE ROYAL PACIFIC RESORT, the final piece of the phase one expansion to the Universal Orlando destination resort, is slated to open about a month ahead of schedule on June 18, according to Jonathan Tisch, CEO of Loews Hotels, New York, which is a partner in the 1,000-room hotel with Universal. the grand opening will occur during July. Fred Lounsberry, executive vp-marketing for Universal Orlando, said that group business for the property has been good and that summer airline seat capacity to Orlando, when the hotel opens, is expected to return to pre-Sept. 11 levels. Spring capacity is about 12% less than last year, he said.

UNIVERSAL STUDIOS VACATIONS, the tour operator arm of Universal Orlando, meanwhile, extended its offer of an additional commission point for agents who book its vacation packages electronically. The new deadline for bookings to be received is June 30. To qualify for the bonus point, agents must book through the major GDSs, VAX-Vacation Access or the operator's Web site, www.universalstudiosvacations.com.

IN RELATED NEWS, as of April 1, a free third day at both Universal Orlando theme parks became a feature of a new two-day/two-park ticket that went on sale at the regular price of $100.65 for adults (ages 10 and older) and $86.87 for children (ages 3 to 9). The ticket can be used at both parks every day within a seven-day period after it is first presented. It also includes unlimited admission to the CityWalk nightclubs.

THE MAYOR of Miami Beach, David Dermer, said that he opposes renewing the contract of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau. The Miami Beach City Commission makes the final decision on the contract which expires this summer. The contract requires a $5 million contribution by the city., accounting for about one-third of the bureau's funds. Dermer claims that the city, as the dominant visitor entity, is getting insufficient promotion for the money. The mayor would prefer to use only $1 million for promotion, to be administered by Miami Beach, with the other $4 million subsidizing services directly related to handling visitors.

SOME SMALLER South Beach hoteliers side with the mayor, but not Tony Goldman, owner of two such hotels, who also is chairman of the Greater Miami bureau. He cited the bureau's ability to leverage advertising funds with those of other entities, bolstering the reach of the area's message. Jonathan Tisch--remember him from a few items ago?-- said that "this was not the time to reduce funds for any convention and visitors bureau, especially one that has done a good job." Tisch's company runs the 800-unit Loews Miami Beach Hotel.

GRENELEFE GOLF RESORT, the 1,175-unit property in Haines City, Fla., which closed after filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in Tampa in mid-February, has drawn interest from five potential buyers, according to its trustee. The buyers were not identified. Grenelefe, according to a published report, could not successfully compete with Orlando and Tampa area hotels, leading to its financial problems, worsened by the terrorist attacks. Sports Shinko Group of Japan, Grenelefe's owner, also filed for bankruptcy in Japan in February, but it is attempting to reorganize rather than liquidate.

AIRTRAN will inaugurate daily Milwaukee-Orlando service on June 19; daily Milwaukee-Tampa service, Oct. 5, and daily Milwaukee-Fort Lauderdale flights on Nov. 5. Introductory fares (one-way) must be purchased by April 16. They are $79 to Orlando; $89 to both Tampa and Fort Lauderdale.

GOOD NEWS DEPT.
• Gogo Worldwide Vacations, Ramsey, N.J., reported that its Greater Miami bookings in March were only 10% behind the same month of 2001 and that it expects April business to top April 2001. Last October, as a result of the terrorist attacks, Gogo's Greater Miami business was off by 50% vs. October 2000. Helping the area's spring-summer sales is a new ad effort of Gogo, Travel Impressions, the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau and Visit Florida, spotlighting 25% savings on air-inclusive packages.
• Orlando's major theme parks (Disney, Universal and SeaWorld) reported a strong Easter vacation period, with many nearby hotels full.

COMMISSIONABLE ON-LINE packages are now available from the Web site of the Seminole County Convention & Visitors Bureau, www.visitseminole.com/vacations. Cruises aboard the Rivership Romance are among activities. To receive commissions, agents first must register through a link belonging to Travel Agent Rez, or call (877) 884-1850. Information also is available by sending an e-mail to [email protected].

THE 891-ROOM PEABODY ORLANDO postponed phase one of a major expansion project set to begin this summer. Instead, in late 2003 it will break ground on a 1,000-room, 42-story tower with 125,000 square feet of meeting space and a two-story spa. It would open in 2006. Phase two calls for another 700 room wing, to be completed in 2008. At that time, the Peabody Orlando would have 2,591 rooms and 182,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.

HONORED: Dennis Edwards, senior vp of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, was one of five U.S. recipients of the International Award of Tourism, Golden Helm, presented during the International Tourism Exchange (ITB) in Berlin, on March 18. The award is bestowed for having contributed to the development of international tourism with competence, dedication and professionalism.

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