Travel Weekly's Florida E-Letter: March 27, 2002

THE GRAND OPENING of the Residence Inn at SeaWorld Int'l Center, Orlando, is set for April 2. The world's largest Residence Inn, with 352 suites, has an introductory rate of $89 per night (rate code LLRA) for stays April 6 to May 1. Rack rates are $119 to $185. Agents can earn 10% pay. Owned by CNL Hospitality, Orlando, the property is managed by Marriott. For information, call (800) 331-3131 or check the Web site, www.residenceinn.com.

PANAMA CITY BEACH began welcoming the first wave of an expected 400,000 college students who will be spending their spring break vacations in the area through the second week of April. Up to 7% arrive by air; the rest by land. Most are from points east of the Mississippi River. According to the Panama City Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau, spring break is worth up to $60 million in direct spending by the visitors, who help fill the area's more than 20,000 hotel and condo units. However, not all of the guests are leisure-minded. There are commercial visitors as well who want to influence the college crowd. Among them are representatives from Sony, Panasonic, Calvin Klein, 7UP, BCBG Fragrance, AT&T, Cingular Wireless and Artisan Entertainment.

VANGUARD AIRLINES, which continues to pay agent commissions, will launch Kansas City-Orlando service April 22. On that day, it offers a $120 Hot Deal roundtrip fare for travelers who leave on the 9 a.m. flight from Kansas City and return April 26 on the 1:20 p.m. flight. The deal is repeated for the April 26 departure and April 30 return. Even though the fare is bookable only over the Web (click Hot Deals at www.flyvanguard.com), agents can earn 5% pay (no caps) by booking as a consumer would, and then entering their ARC number on the bottom of the purchase page before submitting the information. "Travel agents have been an important part of our successful growth. We plan on being a part of their success and continue to fairly compensate agents for booking Vanguard," Scott Dickson, president and CEO of Vanguard, said.

EXPRESS AIRLINES, a Northwest Airlink partner, will introduce an all-jet schedule on its Memphis-Tallahassee route starting June 17, shortening the flying time by nearly 40 minutes. There will be three flights a day in each direction. The 50-seat Canadair Regional Jet will be replacing the 34-passenger Saab 340 turbo-prop.

MCDONALD'S will be the major sponsor of Fort Lauderdale's annual Air & Sea Show May 4 and 5 featuring the U.S. Navy Blue Angels Demonstration Team, parachute jumps and other events. Entertainment will be provided each evening. Among cosponsors are Thrifty Car Rental and the Radisson Bahia Mar Beach Resort, Fort Lauderdale. Set for Port Everglades from April 29 to May 5 and also McDonald's-sponsored, is Fleet Week, a national salute to the U.S. military. Access to ships this year will be very restricted because of security concerns. Clients should not expect to be able to board ships. For information, check the respective Web sites www.airseashow.com and www.nationalsalute.com.

WWII EVENT: The World War II Encampment, set for May 11 at the Collier County Museum in Naples, will commemorate the 57th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. Authentically uniformed Allied soldiers will present military displays and drills on the museum grounds. The military vehicles include the museum's own Sherman tank. The movie, "From D-Day to Victory in Europe," written and narrated by Max Hastings, will be shown in the museum's lecture hall. Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for students. Children ages 8 and younger are free. For information, call (239) 774-8476.

THE WALT DISNEY WORLD Swan and Dolphin Hotels complex set a $75 million expansion that includes adding a 50,000-square-foot , 26-foot high exhibit hall next to the hotel's' existing exhibit hall. The present exhibit hall also will be expanded by 10,000 square feet, bringing the total space at the complex to 111,000 square feet. The new space is expected to be completed this fall. The Swan-Dolphin complex also is redesigning its guest rooms and adding a seafood restaurant.

THE 88-ROOM Clinton Hotel, a Miami Beach Art Deco era property at 825 Washington Ave., is closed while undergoing a $12 million renovation and it will reopen in July. Rates will range from $115 per night single or double including a continental breakfast. For information, call (305) 538-1471.

HOTEL DEAL: The upscale Boca Raton (Fla.) Resort & Club rewards guests paying for four consecutive nights at rack rates from $260 per couple per night, between March 28 and May 30. The rewards are a free fifth night and a $200 credit on recreation and dining. The property pledges to pay commission within 14 days of check-out. For information, call (888) 495-BOCA.

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