Travel Weekly's Florida E-Letter: August 14, 2002

RECOVERY UPDATE: Although the 19.4 million visitors who came to Florida during the second quarter of 2002 represented a decline of nearly 2% vs. the same period of 2001, the state's recovery from the effects of Sept. 11 and the weakened economy is occurring "much more rapidly than anyone predicted," according to Gov. Jeb Bush, addressing the annual Governor's Conference of Tourism at the Gaylord Palms Hotel, Kissimmee. But the recovery of visitor traffic from overseas is lagging, Bush said. For the second quarter of 2002, overseas arrivals dipped by 14%. However, Bush compared the 2002 figures with those of the fourth-quarter 2001, when overall arrivals were down by 19% vs. the same quarter of 2000. Visit Florida's Barry Pitegoff, vp-research, and Austin Mott, president and CEO, predicted that the state would begin to make a full recovery during early 2003, when pre-Sept. 11 visitor levels should return. During the next year, low-yield value pricing -- essential following Sept. 11 -- will be downplayed in future Visit Florida advertising, and more focus will be on travel within the state's different regions, Mott said.

THE FREE TRAVEL OFFER for Sept. 11, originated by Fort Lauderdale-based Spirit Airlines (which "sold" out its seats in a few hours), spread to more than 40 hotels in Broward County. Show Your Spirit is the name of the promotion and the free room requires a two-night minimum stay. Among participants are Marriott's Harbor Beach and the Sheraton Yankee Trader, both in Fort Lauderdale, and various Holiday Inns. Meanwhile, the Holiday Inn Family Suites, Orlando, offered 550 of its units at no cost on Sept. 11. All were snapped up. For more information, call (800) 22-SUNNY or check the Web site,

AT DISNEY'S Magic Kingdom, the 20th annual "Night of Joy" will feature 15 Christian music acts Sept. 6 and 7 on stages throughout the park. The performers include 2002 Artist of the Year Michael W. Smith as well as Steven Curtis Chapman and Kirk Franklin. Popular attractions also will be operating during the Night of Joy hours -- 7:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. (after regular Magic Kingdom closing). For ticket information, call (407) W-DISNEY. Tickets for groups of 10 or more are available by calling (877) 648-3569. Special group benefits include admission to the Magic Kingdom at 4 p.m. on the event-day.

THE 11-UNIT Sundy House Resort, Delray Beach, run by Taos, N.M.-based Dharma Resorts, offers agents 15% pay. Rates are from $145 per night off-season for a studio unit. A 40-unit addition is under consideration, according to Seth Peal, Dharma Resorts' director of sales. For information, call (561) 272-5678.

• The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, Longboat Key, scheduled its 13th annual Stone Crab, Seafood and Wine Festival for Oct. 31 to Nov. 3. Demonstrations by five top chefs are featured. Related packages over the festival period start at $1,750 for two, covering a one-bedroom suite, all festival events and a welcome gift. For information, call (800) 4-COLONY or check the Web site,
• Pier House Resort and Caribbean Spa, Key West, introduced a three-night Live Like Hemingway package valid to Dec. 24. For $3,500 double, (inclusive of taxes and tips), a stay in the hotel's Hemingway Suite is provided along with a day of fishing in the Florida Straits, admission to the Hemingway House attraction, a box of Conchitas cigars from the Key West Factory, drinks at the hotel's Chartroom Bar; and a three-course meal, served on the suite's balcony with key lime pie for dessert. For information, call (800) 327-8340 or (305) 296--4600. The Web site is at
• The Renaissance Fort Lauderdale-Plantation Hotel is set to open Sept. 20 in Plantation, adjacent to the 36-hole Jacaranda Championship Golf Club. White Lodging Service Corp. of Merrillville, Ind., will handle the management.
• In Seminole County, north of Orlando, the 304-unit Marriott at Lake Mary opened recently providing nearly 12,000 square feet of meeting space.

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