Travel Weekly's Florida E-Letter: January 30, 2002

CORAL BEACH HOTELS & CLUBS is the name of newly merged Coral Beach Hotels & Resorts, a management concern, formerly led by John E. Ayres, and The Coral Beach Club Co., a country club management concern, formerly led by Lee R. Weeks. Previously both firms, based in Naples, had been separate concerns with shared ownership. The merged concern is a hospitality management and investment company with a portfolio of eight hotels -- seven in Florida and one in the Turks & Caicos -- and three country clubs. Partners in the merged firm are Ayres as chairman and chief executive officer, and Weeks as president and chief operating officer. The Web site is www.coralbeachhotels.com.

SEAWORLD ADVENTURE PARK, Orlando, last week hiked the price of daily gate admission by $2. The new costs are $49.95 for visitors ages 10 to 54; $46.95 for those ages 55 and older; and $40.95 for children ages 3 to 9. These rates do not include a 6% tax. Visitors who buy SeaWorld tickets online (www.seaworld.com) and print them out will save 10%. Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World had not matched the increase at the time of this report.

IN RELATED NEWS, SeaWorld's sister park, Discovery Cove, closed down for renovations. It is scheduled to reopen on Feb. 11.

MERISTAR HOTELS & Resorts, which operates seven properties in southwest Florida, launched an agent Web site, www.shellislandrewards.com. It contains information on the properties and a new bonus commission program called Shell Island Rewards. The latter calls for commission increases once plateaus in revenue-generation have been reached. Agents also can call (866) 47-SHELL.

VISIT FLORIDA and the Florida Lottery launched a six-month-long scratch-off game on Jan. 22, where purchasers of a special $2 ticket can win up to $10,000. Some scratch-off boxes yield travel prizes -- one of 90 vacation packages donated by suppliers such as Carnival Cruise Line, Universal Orlando and Florida Panhandle interests. Every losing ticket is a winner because it can be redeemed for discounts statewide at more than 300 hotels and attractions. The aim of the scratch-off game, backed by a Florida Lottery $5 million ad effort, is to increase resident awareness of the value of tourism, according to Visit Florida. (The initial report on plans for this special game appeared in the Jan. 9 Florida E-Letter.)

THE FORT LAUDERDALE-HOLLYWOOD International Airport has bounced back in terms of flight frequency since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to the Broward County Aviation Department, citing the airport's most popular route -- Fort Lauderdale-New York/Newark. A department spokesman said that there were only 28 roundtrips a day on the route after Sept. 11 vs. a peak of 38 a day during the first half of 2001. By December last year, roundtrip flights on the route increased to 35. While during January, the frequency was 34. In February, it will return to 35. During the first six months of 2001, when the 38 flights were operating, the route was the most heavily traveled in the nation, averaging 9,700 passenger boardings a day on the northbound departures. Today, Delta, JetBlue and Continental are the top three airlines on the route, followed by Spirit, American and US Airways.

CULTURE KEY is the banner for a new series of value-added discounted winter activities introduced by 32 Palm Beach County hotels. Under the plan, two-for-one admissions are extended to hotel guests presenting a room key and the related voucher provided by the hotel. More than 30 museums, theaters and other cultural attractions are participating. Among the latter are the Dolly Hand Cultural Arts Center in Belle Glade; Ballet Florida, the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra; Lake Worth (Fla.) Playhouse and the Hibel Museum, Palm Beach. For information, call the Palm Beach County Cultural Council, (561) 471-2901

SEPARATELY, the Palm Beach County Convention & Visitors Bureau launched a winter advertising campaign in New York and other markets on Jan. 27 spotlighting other value-added deals, such as free fourth and seventh nights when three and six nights are prepaid at participating hotels. Winter advertising seldom occurs, according to Warren McLaughlin, president of the Palm Beach County Convention & Visitors Bureau, because of traditionally high demand. Addressing travel editors in New York, he explained that hotel occupancy this winter, for various reasons, was off by as much as nine percentage points vs. last year. However, winter room rate reductions, prevalent elsewhere in Florida, have been minimal in Palm Beach County.

CROWNE PLAZA at Sawgrass Mills, a Six Continents Hotels property with 250 rooms, opened in Sunrise, west of Fort Lauderdale. Sawgrass Mills is a gigantic discount retail outlet complex. The 10-story hotel has more than 8,000 square feet of meeting and banquet facilities.

ME PRODUCTIONS, Orlando, a destination management concern, was selected by the Kissimmee-St. Cloud Convention & Visitors Bureau to produce the themed event planned for the evening of Feb. 3 for the 2,200 attendees of the American Bus Assn. Marketplace staying at the new Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee. The group will be brought to Kissimmee's Old Town complex (eight restaurants, 75 shops and 15 amusement rides) where themes reflecting the moon, sun, wind and clouds will be created and overhead will be a trapeze artist. There will be live entertainment as well sponsored by various attractions and other interests.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: The 2002 Florida State Fair, Tampa, is set for Feb. 7 to 18. The event includes equestrian shows, forestry appreciation, crafts, alligator education, Celtic music, racing pigs, circus acts, a steam engine exhibit, manufactured housing show, and a novelty music wagon. For information, call (800) 345-FAIR; or visit www.floridastatefair.com.

RITZ-CARLTON UPDATE: The chain's 115-room boutique Coconut Grove property, which originally was to have opened during the first quarter of this year, will now open in midsummer and not in late spring.

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