Travel Weekly's Florida E-Letter: March 6, 2002

MERISTAR HOTELS & Resorts, Fort Myers, launched Shell Island Rewards -- a travel agent incentive applicable to its seven resorts in Fort Myers Beach, Captiva Island and Sanibel Island. The largest property is South Seas Resort on Captiva Island. Pay of 12% is possible once $10,000 in room revenue is generated; 15% commission is offered for very high volume, making agents "preferred." For information, call (866) 47-SHELL or visit www.shellislandrewards.com.

WATERCOLOR INN, an upscale property with 60 units, opened along the Florida Panhandle in Seagrove Beach, between the Seaside residential community and Grayton State Beach Recreation Area. Rates through Sept. 3 start at $275 per night, single or double, and include continental breakfast and use of most recreational equipment, such as boogie boards, bikes, canoes and kayaks. The property offers gulf beach facilities, a dune lake, an amphitheater, two restaurants and 4,000 square feet of executive meetings space. The inn is part of the WaterColor residential resort community, owned by Jacksonville-based St. Joe Hospitality. Running the inn is a St. Joe subsidiary, Arvida, its community development arm. For information, call (866) 426-2656 or log onto www.arvida.com/watercolor/watercolor_inn.asp.

A 15% COMMISSION is extended by the Sonesta Hotel & Suites Coconut Grove (Miami) -- which opens April 1 -- on all stays during April and May. Introductory rates, valid through Sept. 30, are $129 per night for rooms and $169 for suites. Standard rates for these units are from $145 and $195, respectively. Commissions of 10% apply to stays starting June 1. For details, call (800) SONESTA or visit www.sonesta.com.

THE FLORIDA MARLINS will no longer be holding spring training after March at Space Coast Stadium, in Viera, near Melbourne. The Marlins' new owner, Jeffrey Loria, intends to move the team's spring training site to Jupiter in 2003.

UNIVERSAL ORLANDO'S two theme parks -- Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure -- now cost the same as SeaWorld Adventure Park, which hiked its admission by $2 on Jan. 23. The new admissions for each Universal park are $49.95 (ages 10 and older) plus tax, and $40.95 (ages 3 to 9) plus tax. The two-day tickets, respectively, now cost $94.95 plus tax and $81.95 plus tax. Universal's prices for its four-and five-park Flextickets (up to 14 days) covering its own two parks, SeaWorld, Wet 'n Wild and Busch Gardens (five-park) remain unchanged. At presstime, Disney had not matched the other parks.

A MEETING PLANNERS Guide is hot off the press from the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. It contains information about the Greater Fort Lauderdale-Broward County Convention Center expansion as well as alternative meetings sites. A calendar of events is supplied as well. Contact the bureau at (800) 356-1662 or email: [email protected]. The guide also is available on line at www.sunny.org/meetingplanners.

A $100 MILLION renovation was completed by the Orlando World Center Marriott Resort and Convention Center, including construction of a 500-room tower, with 14,000 square feet of meetings space. This brings the resort's inventory to 2,000 guest units. Some $6.5 million alone was spent on the lobby of the main hotel and its nine-story atrium. Guest units now have high-speed Internet access, custom beds and safes. The 10 dining outlets also were refurbished and the Hawk's Landing golf course was expanded to 6,900 yards.

A GUEST-FRIENDLY Web site was installed by the Central Florida Visitors & Convention Bureau, responsible for promoting Polk County, home of Cypress Gardens and Fantasy of Flight. Users can download vacation materials, including a discount card; sign up for a monthly e-newsletter; and book on line. The Web site [www.sunsational.org] has an area targeted to travel agents as well, which when clicked, provides details on familiarization trips, hotel packages and special events.

GREATER MIAMI Convention & Visitors Bureau officials are excited about exposure Miami Beach received the morning of March 1 when New Orleans chef Emeril Lagasse (Emeril's Restaurant) cooked up a dish beachside at the 790-room Loews Miami Beach Resort during the telecast of ABC-TV network's "Good Morning America." In fact, the entire March 1 telecast was shot in Miami Beach.

AIRTRAN introduced Grade A Deal sale fares, based on seven-day advance purchase tickets. Savings are up to 35% on the fares, which must be ticketed by March 12. Travel must be completed by either April 15 or Sept. 30, depending on the destination and day of the week. Among the routes included: Atlanta-Orlando; Baltimore-Orlando; Boston-Miami; Dayton, Ohio-Fort Lauderdale; Philadelphia-Orlando; Tampa-Miami; and Tampa-Tallahassee.

RATE FIX: The Adam's Mark Daytona Beach Resort offers year-around rates (subject to special event surcharges) from $105 per night, single or double, for a sunset view room and from $125 per night for an ocean view unit. In the Feb. 6 Florida e-letter, there were higher minimum room rates listed, which hotel officials supplied inadvertently. For information, call (888) 444-ADAM or surf over to www.adamsmark.com.

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