Travel & Tourism
In a program it hopes will serve as a model for the rest of the country, a group in Daytona Beach is training adults to fill jobs in hotel and motel management.
The Skills Tasks and Results Training program, or START, produced its first 18 graduates in June. Each got 180 hours of instruction over six weeks through a partnership that includes the Hotel-Motel Association of Volusia County, the Workforce Development Board of Flagler and Volusia Counties Inc. and Bethune-Cookman College, which conducted the training.
The program is free for participants, paid for by Workforce Development, which has set aside $53,000 to educate 1,500 potential lodging employees, says program director Bob Davis, executive director of the Hotel-Motel Association of Volusia County.
START is expected to save money for hoteliers, who otherwise would pay an average of $5,000 to $7,800 to train each new employee, according to Workforce Development. Organizers worked with material created by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute in Orlando.
"We hope to jump-start a new pool of qualified applicants to help meet the growth expectations of the industry," says Rick Fraser, president of the Workforce Development Board.
Florida tourism leaders have joined others from the U.S. travel industry in urging the federal government to improve the process of admitting international visitors in the face of new Homeland Security measures.
"Because Florida is the nation's No. 1 destination for international visitors, we are particularly sensitive to the necessary balance between increased security and the comfort and convenience of overseas travelers," says Bud Nocera, president and CEO of Visit Florida, which has endorsed the plan.
The latest figures show international tourists coming to Florida decreased 5% last year -- from 4.4 million in 2002 to 4.2 million -- after a drop of 16% from 2001 to 2002. But the number of visitors from several countries actually rose last year, according to U.S. Department of Commerce statistics released this summer.
Visits increased from the United Kingdom, up from 1.3 million to 1.4 million; Germany, up from 202,000 to 225,000; Brazil, up from 134,000 to 145,000; and Spain, up from 66,000 to 91,000.
Best of the Beaches
Four Florida sites have made this year's list of "Top 10 Beaches," the 14th annual ranking of the nation's 650 major beaches by coastal researcher Stephen Leatherman, director of Florida International University's Laboratory for Coastal Research:
Fort De Soto Park near St. Petersburg -- No. 2
Caladesi Island State Park near Clearwater -- No. 4
Crescent Beach on Siesta Key near Sarasota -- No. 7
Cape Florida State Park near Miami -- No. 9Hanauma Bay in Oahu, Hawaii, was No. 1.
An article on Travelocity.com ranks two Florida destinations among the top 10 "action beaches, where activities and people come together and there is a palpable vibe."
Hollywood Beach ranked No. 3, cited as a perfect spot for people-watching.
South Beach, "the beach of the pretty and proud," ranked No. 8. Atlantic City Beach in New Jersey topped the list for its casinos and boardwalk.
A revamped Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven is now looking at an October opening for its debut as Cypress Gardens Adventure Park. The attraction will have 37 new rides, including four roller coasters. Next spring, the attraction plans to add a fifth roller coaster and a water park. ... SeaWorld Orlando has put together a "Saving the Species" tour that gives visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the park's animal rescue, rehabilitation and release efforts. One dollar of the $15 cost for adults and $12 for children goes toward animal conservation programs by SeaWorld and sister theme park Busch Gardens in Tampa. SeaWorld also has a new summer fireworks display through Labor Day called "Mistify," which includes fire, lights and 100-foot fountains. Meanwhile, Busch Gardens is touting its new 35-minute "KaTonga: Musical Tales from the Jungle" show as the first theme park production of Broadway caliber. ... Even Silver Springs near Ocala is reinventing itself in the face of so much competition. "Nature's Theme Park" has added three attractions this summer: A Fort King River Cruise, a Lighthouse Ride and a Fantastic Fountains show.
Business travel has been slow to rebound from Sept. 11, 2001, but overnight stays connected with conventions and meetings are expected to increase 8.3% this year in Orlando, according to Global Insight Inc., which conducts research for the Orlando/Orange County Convention and Visitors Bureau. The bureau is expecting 3.9 million business travelers, still below the high of 4.1 million in 2000. Researchers expect the number to climb 6.5% in 2005 to 4.2 million. ... African-American travelers from all over the U.S. are making plans to spend Labor Day weekend at Walt Disney World's Coronado Springs Resort for the second Tom Joyner Family Reunion, which features nationally known entertainers, parties, a worship service and a town hall forum. The radio talk-show host's first event in 2003 drew 600 African-American families. ... The Association of British Travel Agents, which in November will hold its annual convention in Florida for the first time since 1975, has sent representatives to Orlando this summer to scout out the Orange County Convention Center, where the meeting will take place. ... Orlando and the Orange County Convention Center are preparing for the area's largest-ever convention, a January gathering of the National Association of Home Builders that is expected to pump $133 million into the local economy.