Travel Weekly's Florida E-Letter: December 11, 2002

PLANS FOR a $100 million convention center in the Kissimmee-St. Cloud area near Orlando were scrapped when the Osceola County Commission voted 3 to 2 Monday to abandon a proposed partnership with Xentury City Development, following allegations that the CEO of Xentury's Saudi-owned parent firm, Xenel Int'l, may have ties to a bank that reportedly funds terrorist activities. Xentury denied that ties exist, but the county attorney could not verify the denial nor disprove the allegations. The allegations were made by officials of Local 362 of the Hotel and Restaurant Employees Union. What's next? Osceola County will be discussing a convention center proposal from the Texas-based Landmark Org. This facility, however, would be built closer to hotels and motels along Highway 192 and not near the proposed Xentury site, which in turn was close to the existing 1,406-room Gaylord Palms Hotel, a Xentury-related project.

REOPENING DEC. 12 in Miami Beach is the Bass Museum of Art, which completed phase one of a renovation and expansion. The $8.8 million project more than tripled the museum's exhibition space and provided an outdoor sculpture terrace, cafe and museum shop. For exhibit information, call (305) 673-7350; or check the Web site,

CRUISETOUR WORLD, a show for leisure specialists, will make its debut next spring in Fort Lauderdale under the sponsorship of several industry associations and Travel Weekly. Set for April 24 to 27 at the Broward County Convention Center, the sponsors include Cruise Lines Int'l. Assn., the Institute of Certified Travel Agents and the U.S. Tour Operators Assn. It will be co-sponsored as well by Giants, and the Outside Sales Support Network. More than 200 exhibitors are expected to participate. Travel Industry Shows, based in Pleasanton, Calif., will produce CruiseTour World. For information call (925) 249-2233, check the Web site, or e-mail [email protected].

WITH THE AIM of "elevating the luxury golf experience to a new standard," a Golf Caddie-concierge program will be introduced by the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Golf Club opening in July at the Grande Lakes Orlando complex. In addition to usual caddie services, the caddie-concierge will provide course information and an ice-cold towel soaked in rum and lime juice; relay food and drink orders; and make new or revised dinner reservations. The uniformed golf caddie-concierge will be on hand from practice session to the conclusion of the golf round.

SEMINOLE COUNTY hotels launched a third-night-free deal applicable through the Christmas-New Year's period. The Orlando Marriott-Lake Mary pays commission on the first two nights, but it is up to the participating nine properties to decide on commissions, a Seminole County Convention & Visitors Bureau spokeswoman said. Thus, agents should check before booking. For information and related dates, view the bureau's Web site,

• The Boca Raton Resort & Club received City Council approval to add a 151-room hotel wing and a separate, 12-suite building to its Boca Beach Club operation. The expansion will include 19,000 square feet of meetings space. There are no immediate construction plans for the expansion, a spokeswoman said.
• Wellesley Inns, a unit of Prime Hospitality, Corp., opened its third property in the Orlando area. The 164-room, 12-story renovated hotel at 6500 International Drive, previously operated under the name MIC Lakefront Inn. It continues to be owned by MIC Hotel Group, Miami. Rates are from $89 per night including a continental breakfast. Agent pay is 10%. For information, call (800) 444-8888 or (407) 345-5340.
• The 221-unit Ponte Vedra Inn & Club, Ponte Vedra Beach, received the American Automobile Association's top Five Diamond rating.

THE PLAZA RESORT & SPA, Daytona Beach, introduced a two-night Getaway Sampler Spa plan priced at $609, double, on stays through Jan. 31. The pay is 10%. Included are an oceanfront room, spa cuisine breakfast and lunch each day, unlimited use of the spa, one 50-minute massage, one Salt Glow treatment, one minifacial, a manicure, fitness classes and a spa gift. For information, call (800) 874-7420 or check the Web site,

• AirTran inaugurated service to West Palm Beach. The new service from Atlanta involves three nonstops daily in each direction.
• Delta Connection carrier Chatauqua Airlines starting Feb. 1, will operate three daily nonstops between Richmond, Va., and Orlando using Embraer regional jets.

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