Travel Weekly's Florida E-Letter: August 28, 2002

THE MARCO ISLAND Film Festival, set for Oct. 18 to 27, will include some films shown free right on the beach, Oct. 23. In addition to screenings, there are workshops, receptions, parties and networking opportunities with filmmakers, actors, writers and devotees. Some Naples and Marco Island hotels offer commissionable packages or special rates during the festival. For information, call (239) 642-FEST or check the Web site www.marcoislandfilmfest.com.

TWO NATIONWIDE problems -- rising levels of discourtesy and look-alike attractions -- could affect repeat business to Florida and other states, according to Barry Pitegoff, vp-research for Visit Florida. During the recent Florida Governor's Conference on Tourism in Kissimmee, Pitegoff cited a survey revealing that 50% of the respondents had walked out of retail establishments because of rude treatment. "Generica," or the commercial homogenization from look-alike malls and sights is the other challenge. It has a strategic marketing implication, he said: "If every place looks the same, why go anywhere?"

LODGEPODGE
• The 54-unit Vero Beach Hotel & Club (formerly Ocean Guest Suites) and the 106-room Palm Court Resort, also in Vero Beach, were acquired by William Esping, managing general partner in EFO Holdings, Dallas, and John Ayres, chairman and CEO of Coral Beach Hotels & Clubs, Naples, Fla. The two men had leased the properties since 2000 from Vero Mar Development Ltd. Coral Beach Hotels & Clubs will run the hotels, and its marketing arm, the Coral Collection of Fine Hotels & Resorts, will handle their international marketing effort. Capital improvements to the properties and a repositioning for the upscale traveler are planned.
• The Wellesley Inn Deerfield Beach, with 79 units, was sold by Fairfield, N.J.-based Prime Hospitality to Bijal Hospitality LLC, but will continue to operate as a Wellesley Inn under a 20-year franchise agreement.
• Motel 6 is reconstructing its 149-room property at 5909 American Way, Orlando, and it will reopen in December with interior corridors, new heating and cooling systems, room dataports, electronic door locks and a pool.
• The two-night Gridiron and Golf package was introduced by World Golf Village, St. Augustine. Rates of $457 per person, double, apply from Sept. 8 to Dec. 22 when Jacksonville Jaguars home games are scheduled. Included is a Renaissance Resort room, game ticket, one round of golf, sightseeing admissions, beach club access and other golf features. For information, call (800) WGV-GOLF or check the Web site, www.wgv.com. For the Jaguars' full 2002 schedule, go to www.jaguars.com/gameday/2002schedule.asp.
• Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, Destin, opened its Village of Baytowne Wharf, a 28-acre waterfront pedestrian complex featuring a collection of specialty merchants ranging from quaint boutique shops and charming eateries to lively nightclubs.

AIR BYTES
• Southeast Airlines will inaugurate public charter service from Stewart Airport near Newburgh, N.Y., to Fort Lauderdale starting Sept. 12. Newark will be an intermediate stop. During November, a nonstop route from Stewart to Fort Lauderdale may be added. Southeast at present offers public charter flights between Newark and Fort Lauderdale and Newark and St. Petersburg/Clearwater. For information, call (800) FLY-SEAL or check the Web site www.flyseal.com.
• Midwest Express will operate Kansas City-Fort Myers seasonal service from Dec. 18 to April 27.
• Alaska Airlines plans to introduce a daily, nonstop flight between its Seattle hub and Miami on Nov. 21, using a 120-seat Boeing 737-700.

FALL DEAL: Walt Disney Travel Co.'s three-night Funshine Package, priced from $315 per adult, double, requires booking by Sept. 23. It covers a value category hotel (at this rate), an Ultimate Park Hopper ticket (to all four theme parks and the water parks) and a commemorative luggage tag. The rate is valid most nights Nov. 3 to Dec. 25. Higher rates apply if upgraded hotels are selected. For reservations call (800) 327-2996. The package code is ZWKH. The Web site is www.disneytravelagents.com.

PORT EVERGLADES welcomed Ken Krauter as its new port director. Most recently he was CEO of the Jacksonville (Fla.) Port Authority.

CLARIFICATION: The Holiday Inn Family Suites Resort, Orlando, allows guests who win a free two-night package under its Suites-Stakes promotion to return any time between Oct. 15 of this year and Dec. 23 of next year. In last week's E-Letter, the 2003 was inadvertently omitted. For information, call (877) 387-KIDS.

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