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Friday's Daily Pulse

2012 a record year for tourist spending

Visitors to Florida spent a record $71.8 billion while on vacation or business here last year, 6.8 percent more than the year before, state officials said Thursday. That translates to about $4.6 billion more than the $67.2 billion spent in 2011, said Visit Florida, the state's tourism-marketing agency. The last time visitors to the state spent anywhere near that much in one year was 2007, just ahead of the Great Recession, when the tab totaled $65.5 billion. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]

Sandpearl Resort
The Sandpearl Resort on Clearwater Beach is one of several resorts profiled.
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Business ... and beyond

Resorts that focus on business travel also understand the value of down-time amenities.

» Harbor Beach Marriott, Fort Lauderdale

The sprawling Harbor Beach is close to the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, making it convenient for business travelers. “Once the conference portion is done,” says Jay Marsella, director of sales and marketing, “we can set up group excursions outside of the hotel, in addition to offering many on-property activities such as water sports, spa treatments and fitness activities like yoga, spinning and beach boot camp.” 

» Read more about this and other business-friendly Florida resorts

Is space tourism beginning to take off?

Sending people into space is a tough way to make a buck. Not only is it risky, but it's tough to turn a profit given the sky-high cost of rocketing into the upper atmosphere or beyond. But recently, a handful of entrepreneurs, marketers and yes, even rocket scientists, have announced plans to build private space stations, blast astronauts back to the moon and even mount the first crewed expedition to Mars. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]

Legislative roundup

Some of the news out of Tallahassee today:

» Texting bill picking up speed in Florida Legislature
» Bill could bring higher insurance rates for property owners
» Banks versus Dolphins in the Florida Senate
» Capital Scoop: Interview with Rep. Alan Williams
» House panel moves ahead with Everglades cleanup plan
» Bill allows construction at state parks
» What you need to know about Friday's Day 4 of session

Florida's card-game industry is booming

Almost every night of the week at comic-book stores and card shops across Central Florida, dedicated players do battle by invoking the powers of wizards, dragons, zombies, aliens and sometimes the cuddly yellow Pichu character from the Pokémon series. Though trading-card games such as Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokémon and Magic: The Gathering have been around for years, the players are increasingly getting out of their bedrooms and packing gaming shops. [Source: Orlando Sentinel]


› Spring-break community service now the norm on Central Florida campuses
Welcome to what college students once called Alternative Spring Break — which, these days, is not so alternative and really isn't much of a break.

› Inductees named to Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame
Five Tampa Bay area business leaders were inducted Thursday evening into the Tampa Bay Business Hall of Fame, joining 160 other executives in the hall for their business accomplishments and civic contributions.

› Rent a Sarasota waterfront mansion, only $31,500 a week
If you've ever wanted to spend the night in a waterfront mansion, now's your chance. And at $187.50 per night, the price is less than that of a typical luxury hotel. The only catch: You'll have to find 23 others willing to bunk with you — each paying their own $187.50.

› Profits up at National Beverage
The winter may not be great for soft-drink sales, but Fort Lauderdale’s National Beverage on Thursday reported strong profit gains in the first quarter. Citing volume from La Croix sparkling water and Rip It energy drinks, National said revenue grew 6 percent to $144 million and profits were up 6 percent to $8.4 million.

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› ’Parent trigger’ schools bill moves through first committee hurdle
A year after a bipartisan group of Florida senators blocked it, a controversial “parent trigger” bill is back without some of the provisions that made it more palatable to critics and with a new state Senate almost certain to sign off on the measure.

› Nutrition experts call some Darden kids' meal changes disappointing
A nonprofit group monitoring Darden Restaurants' progress on healthier menus gave the company a thumbs-up Thursday, but some nutrition experts say changes didn't go as far as they had expected.

› UF group wants to pick roommates of any gender
A group of students are pressing University of Florida officials for permission to choose roommates of any sex in campus housing. Gators Coalition for an Inclusive Campus wants to create space in residence halls for inclusive housing. But first, the coalition's officers need the support of students.

› Elementary students dance through history
The students learned the Cakewalk, the Charleston, the Twist, dances invented generations before they were born. A $1,330 grant from the education foundation paid for the dance instructor and the extra books for the special project at the Sarasota school.