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Travel Briefs - Jan. 2005

Hotel Openings
The Nickelodeon Family Suites Resort by Holiday Inn is set to open early this year in Orlando as the first venture between the children's television network and the hotel company. The team has pumped $20 million into the former Holiday Inn Family Suites Resort to add water attractions and themed guest rooms featuring cartoon characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants. ... The new 730-room Omni Orlando Resort at ChampionsGate, just west of Walt Disney World on Interstate 4, is billed as one of the premier golf resorts in the country. It includes more than 70,000 square feet of meeting space, a 10,000-sq.-ft. spa and two Greg Norman-designed par-72 golf courses.

Per Diems
State lawmakers and Orlando tourism leaders flew into action last fall after the U.S. General Services Administration announced its proposed fiscal year 2005 per diem travel rates, the daily allowances that can be claimed by traveling government employees. Orlando's had decreased from $95 in 2004 to $61 for 2005, making it one of the lowest in the country. After reconsideration, the GSA set the rate at $98. Here's how other Florida destinations compare:

CITYPER DIEMCocoa Beach$83Daytona Beach$134 or $79*Fort Lauderdale$137, $117 or $86*Fort Myers$93 or $61*Fort Pierce$86 or $70*Jacksonville$78Key West$184 or $135*Kissimmee$69Lakeland$66Leesburg$67Miami$138 or $99*Naples$127 or $79*Palm Beach$97 to $142*Pensacola$67Sarasota$110 or $86*Tampa/St. Petersburg$93*Depending on the season