Travel Weekly's Florida E-Letter: May 8, 2002

FOUR OF NINE Renaissance Hotels in Florida formed a sales and marketing alliance designed to oversee the properties' business and leisure travel sales. The alliance, called the Renaissance Hotels Florida, plans to add the remaining five properties in the future. The group comprises the Eden Roc Renaissance Resort & Spa in Miami Beach, Renaissance Orlando Resort at SeaWorld in Orlando, Renaissance Vinoy Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg and Renaissance Miami-Biscayne Bay in Miami. Randy Griffin, director of marketing for the Eden Roc Renaissance Resort & Spa, was named the group's area director of sales and marketing.

HARD ROCK CAFE INT'L, Orlando, reported that it secured financing for two previously announced Hard Rock Hotel and Casino resorts to be developed on Seminole Indian Nation reservation land in Florida. Both are to break ground soon and open in 2004. The first project -- in Hollywood- calls for a 750-room hotel and an 115,000-square-foot casino. The second project -- in Tampa -- involves a 250-room hotel and a 90,000-square-foot casino.

THE OWNER of the 919-room Hyatt Orlando in Kissimmee, Fla., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, scuttling plans of the Illinois bank that holds the property's mortgage to auction the place off in a foreclosure action. Orlando Hyatt Hotel Associates of Rockville, Md., the owner, said that Hyatt will continue to manage the property. The hotel remains open, operating business as usual.

THE OCCUPANCY GAP continues to close each month in Metropolitan Orlando. Numbers for February came in at 70.6% vs. 75.5% for February 2001. Over the Easter and Spring Break periods, hotels reported better-than-expected spikes in occupancy while theme parks reported brisk business, according to the Orlando-Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau. If you're keeping count, in first-quarter 2002, the area added 1,892 hotel rooms, bringing the total accommodations inventory to 107,975.

MEANWHILE, more than 25 Orlando hotels introduced summer specials, ideal for families, on the Web at www.orlandoinfo.com. Nightly rates range from $59 for a suite to $219 at a luxurious resort. Most offers include value-added items such as breakfast and courtesy theme park transportation. The Orlando-Orange County CVB determined, however, that only seven of the participating properties are paying commissions on these Internet deals. The good guys are: Doubletree Club Hotel, Embassy Suites I-Drive, Embassy Suites Lake Buena Vista, Enclave Suites, Florida Supreme Villas, Orlando World Center Marriott and the Park Inn and Suites Maingate.

THE TRADEWINDS ISLANDS RESORTS complex on St. Petersburg Beach began rewarding travel agents with a two-night stay for every three leisure bookings they make directly with the hotel. Clients must complete stays by Sept. 30. TradeWinds properties are the Sirata Beach, Sandpiper and Island Grand. For information, call (800) 345-6461, ext. 2241, or check the Web site at www.justletgo.com.

OPENING IN JUNE in Lake Mary is the 304-room Orlando Marriott-Lake Mary. Located in the Heathrow International Business Center, it has more than 11,000 square feet of meetings space. The property is owned by Heathrow Hotel Associates and run by Pinnacle Hotel Management. For information, call (407) 995-1100.

MIDWEST EXPRESS Airlines on Nov. 1 will reinstate, ahead of schedule, seasonal nonstop service between Milwaukee and three Florida cities -- Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers and Tampa. In addition, the airline will increase its formerly weekend-only Fort Lauderdale service to daily. Fort Myers service will be weekend-only through Dec. 17, with daily service beginning Dec. 18. Tampa service will continue to be offered daily. Midwest Express currently operates twice-daily nonstops between Milwaukee and Orlando; a third daily nonstop begins Nov. 1. Schedules, including a downloadable timetable, and fares are available from the Web site at www.midwestexpress.com.

THE GREATER MIAMI Convention & Visitors Bureau and allied interests are making a big splash with both consumers and agents in New York.
• An Only in Miami Beach scene was created in Times Square on May 7 -including swimsuit-clad models and salsa dancing.
• Greater Miami tourism sales team dinner seminars for invited agents were set for May 6 to 10, spotlighting the Tropicool Festival Season, coupled with vacation deals offered by American Airlines, Travel Impressions and Gogo Worldwide Vacations. The agent seminars were slated for Baltimore, Philadelphia and Eatontown, N.J., as well as New York.

THE GREATER FORT LAUDERDALE Convention & Visitors Bureau apparently sees eye-to-eye with the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, which was set to convene in Fort Lauderdale May 5 to 10. The group's annual meetings in the city began in 1995 and will continue through 2009, the bureau reported. The 2002 gathering was expected to draw more than 8,000 attendees who will utilize some 20,000-room nights at more than 40 hotels and spend some $8.5 million while in town.

PACKAGE DEAL
The Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables, offers one-, two-, or three-night Memorial Day Weekend Getaway packages with 10% pay. Included in all plans are a historical tour of the hotel on Sunday; a Memorial Day poolside barbecue for two adults; 20% off Sunday brunch; and 20% off spa treatments. Children age 9 and younger eat dinner free when accompanied by an adult. Rates for one-night, May 26, are $159 per room, double; two-nights, May 25 and 26, $298; and three-nights, May 24 to 26, $417. Children age 9 and younger stay and eat free when accompanied by an adult. For information, call (800) 727-1926, or check the Web site at www.biltmorehotel.com.

CALENDAR OF EVENTS
• The photography of Ansel Adams, who lived from 1902 to 1984, is on exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, from June 22 to Sept. 15. The exhibit is called "Ansel Adams: Nature and Art." For information, call (727) 896-2667.
• Key West's third annual African-American Heritage Festival is set for June 28 and 29. Festivities will abound from 6 p.m. to midnight June 28 and noon to midnight June 29. Activities include reggae, soul music, steel drum performances, dancing, arts & crafts and street fair food samplings. For information, call (305) 292-0025.

CA D'ZAN, the Venetian-Gothic mansion of the late John and Mable Ringling, reopened in Sarasota. Resembling the Doge's Palace in Venice, the attraction underwent a major restoration during the past two years. For information, call (941) 359-5700 or check the Web site www.ringling.org.

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