Travel Weekly's Florida E-Letter: May 15, 2002

RUBELL HOTELS introduced a 20% commission policy at all three of its hotels for stays between June 1 and Sept. 30. The hotels are the Beach House-Bal Harbour and the Albion and Greenview, both in Miami Beach's South Beach district. Bookings must be made directly with Rubell and the code word "double" must be mentioned by the agent. For information, call (877) 782-3557 or send an e-mail to [email protected].

• Alamo Rent a Car, in a move to reduce the waiting time at service counters and minimize no-shows, will allow customers to prepay their rentals. Initially, the program will be available at 19 locations including six airports in Florida: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Orlando, Tampa and Fort Myers. A 25% discount offer is tied to the prepayment option. For information, call (800) 4-AGENTS.
• Payless Car Rental System, St. Petersburg, formerly all franchise, now owns and operates two outlets as a result of buying out James L. Shapiro, its former franchisee in Orlando and Tampa. The two sites, involving some 1,400 cars, will continue to operate as usual with the same staff. But they also will be used for introducing Payless to prospective franchisees, for staff training and for product testing. For information, call (800) PAYLESS.

THE MIAMI BEACH City Commission is to decide on May 22 whether to renew its $5 million per year contract with the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

GOV. JEB BUSH will be the featured speaker during the May 29 luncheon at the Travel Industry Association of America's Int'l Pow Wow in New Orleans.

XENTURY CITY, an Orlando area developer, was selected by the Osceola County Board of Commissioners to build a $100 million, midsize convention center with 250,000 square feet of exhibit space and 40,000 square feet of meeting space. Follow-up negotiations between the county and the developer were in progress at the time of this report. The convention center would be situated near the Gaylord Palms Hotel. Xentury City was co-developer of that hotel, which opened in February. The new center would be anchored by a separate, 1,000-room, 30-story hotel (most likely a Starwood brand). Groundbreaking could occur as early as November, and the completion would be in February 2005.

• Spirit Airlines on May 9 launched the first wave of expanded service to Florida. It began nonstop service from Denver to Fort Lauderdale and San Juan to Orlando. The carrier also added connecting service from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale and one-stop service from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale and a new daily nonstop between Chicago and Orlando. From Oakland, it added a one-stop flight to Fort Lauderdale and daily connecting service to Orlando and Tampa. Starting May 23, Spirit adds a third daily flight between Detroit and Fort Lauderdale. Starting June 13, a second daily flight between Denver and Fort Lauderdale will be added.
• National Airlines will add a third daily roundtrip on Nov. 21 between Miami and Las Vegas.
• Delta Express on June 1 will add two flights from New York (LaGuardia) to Fort Lauderdale for a new total of six roundtrips daily. It also will add one flight from New York (JFK) to both Orlando and Tampa, for a total of four roundtrips daily to Orlando and three to Tampa. As of May 4, Delta also expanded its Saturday service between New York (LaGuardia) and Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and West Palm Beach.

IN THE KEYS, a U.S. Navy Landing Ship Dock will be sunk in 130 feet of water, six miles off Key Largo, to be used as an artificial reef. The site is part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, The 70,000 divers per year expected to visit the wreck should translate into an economic impact worth $14 million, according to the Key Largo Chamber of Commerce.

CONVENTIONAL THINKING: Greater Orlando, with more than 107,000 hotel rooms, could easily accommodate the four-day Republican National Convention in 2004, but area politicians turned down a request from the GOP to submit a bid, based on advice from Tom Ackert, director of the Orlando-Orange County Convention Center, and other business leaders. The problem? It would be difficult to raise the estimated $60 million that it would cost to play host to the GOP because of lost tourism revenue stemming from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The costs would have covered modifying the convention center for the GOP's needs, delegate security, ground transportation and insurance. On the other hand, Greater Miami, also recovering from Sept. 11, would welcome both parties parties. Its bid to the Democrats was submitted some time ago, and by June it will make a formal bid for the GOP.

THE TRIBAL COUNCIL of the Seminole Tribe of Florida broke ground Monday on the 750-room Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Resort at the Seminole Hollywood Reservation in Hollywood, at Stirling Road and U.S. 441. The property will have a 115,000-square-foot casino. Hard Rock Cafe Int'l, Orlando, also is the tribal council's partner in a 250-room hotel and 90,000-square-foot casino set for Tampa. Both projects are to be completed during 2004.

HOTEL DEAL: On stays through Oct. 31 the Blue Moon, Essex House and WinterHaven Hotels, Miami Beach, all Coral Collection affiliates, offer a South Beach Sizzling Summer Special. Under the offer, guests who stay for three nights paying $345 double receive a fourth night free; those who pay $500 double for five nights, get two more nights free. For information, contact each property, respectively, at (800) 724-1623; (800) 553-7739 and (800) 395-2322.

SET TO HOLD a soft opening today is the long-delayed, 422-room Royal Palm Crowne Plaza in Miami Beach. The property, at Collins Avenue and 15th Street, is a project of African-American developer RDP Royal Palm Hotel Ltd., with management handled by Six Continents Hotels. For information, call (305) 604-5700 or check the Web site

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