Travel Weekly's Florida E-Letter: September 26, 2001

TO ENCOURAGE AGENTS to book during the post-terrorism period, 20% commission policies were implemented by the Sonesta Beach Resort, Key Biscayne, on all room and package sales made through Dec. 15 for stays over any dates, and by five Grand Theme Hotels on room sales involving stays through Jan. 13. The Grand Theme members are the Celebration Hotel in Celebration; the Doubletree Castle, Sheraton Studio City, and Westin Grand Bohemian, all in Orlando; and the Casa Monica in St. Augustine.

MELBOURNE INT'L AIRPORT, which just lost Continental service from Newark and Spirit Airlines service from LaGuardia, will be looking for replacement carriers to the New York area later this fall, Jim Johnson, airport director, said. Melbourne is left with Atlanta service provided by Delta MD-80s as well as regional jet service provided by Atlantic Southeast Airlines. Weekend flights to Cincinnati also are operated by Comair, while Bahamas charter service is run by Vintage Air.

AIRTRAN WILL inaugurate Atlanta-Pensacola flights (three a day in each direction) on Nov. 7 with Boeing 717s. However, on Nov. 6, it will terminate Atlanta-Fort Walton Beach service. Pensacola business interests provided "a risk-free opportunity for us to enter a new market and provide the benefits of low-fare competition in an uncertain economy," Ken Healy, AirTran's vice president of planning, explained.

BECAUSE OF THE recent terrorist attacks, and a resulting decline in visitors, Walt Disney World is implementing a temporary hiring freeze and cutting the schedules of most of its 40,000 hourly workers. But the sharpest cuts will impact Disney's 15,000 part-time employees, some of whom are being told not to report to work until further notice. Full-time employees also might have their hours cut. The decline in visitors also means shorter operating hours for the Magic Kingdom on Fridays and Saturdays.

MEANWHILE, Universal Orlando, encompassing two theme parks, an entertainment district, and two hotels, reduced the hours of 1,500 part-time employees. Some of them were suspended until business picks up. At SeaWorld Orlando Adventure Park, part-time employees' hours also were trimmed and the opening of some sections of the park were delayed.

IN CULTURAL NEWS, the Museum of Arts and Sciences, Daytona Beach, on Oct. 9, will open a wing called the Root Family Museum containing its extensive Americana collection, much of it focusing on Coca-Cola. Also, through Nov. 15, the Orlando Museum of Art is exhibiting more than 85 works of Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma Moses).

FANTASY FEST, Key West's 10-day masking and costuming festival that usually celebrates the eccentric and outrageous, this year also will spotlight freedom and peace, while raising funds for the Sept. 11 terrorist attack victims. Fantasy Fest is set for, Oct. 19 to 28 and has the theme: "Secrets of the Zodiac Revealed."

THE UPDATED home page of the Orlando-Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau's Web site, www.orlandoinfo.com, carries this statement: "By not letting the recent tragic events deter you from your travel plans, you are sending a strong message and setting a very positive example of the strength in America's resolve to ensure the stability of our country and our precious right to travel freely."

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