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Archive for February, 2013

Atlantis exhibit to open at Kennedy Space Center in June

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

The Kennedy Space Center Vistor Complex will unveil its exhibit that showcases the space shuttle Atlantis on June 29, it was announced Thursday.

The $100 million project is under construction around the orbiter, which has been lifted off the ground and placed at a 43-degree angle to simulate its position in space when leaving the International Space Station.  Space center guests will see Atlantis’ payload doors open and its robotic arm extended.

Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Sapce Center

New Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit to open at Kennedy Sapce Center

The 90,000-square-foot exhibit will include 60 interactive stations outlining the history of the space-shuttle program.

A logo for the attraction also was revealed Thursday. In it, an orange silhouette of the shuttle  — as seen from above — forms the A in the word “Atlantis.” The NASA logo (meatball style) is at the end of the word, with “Kennedy Space Center” below. The exhibit will be known simply as “Space Shuttle Atlantis.”

“Although the multimillion-dollar interactive exhibit encompasses much, much more than the display of Atlantis, there is no denying, she is truly the star of the show,” said Bill Moore, chief operating officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

Also coming soon to the visitor complex will be an attraction called Angry Birds Space Encounter, based on the popular game and characters. The kid-friendly element is scheduled to open this spring.

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Florida tourism hits new high

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

89.3 million people visited Florida in 2012, a new tourism record for the state.  In 2011, there were 2.3 percent less visitors, with the numbers coming in at 87.3 million.  These numbers were compiled in an annual report from the state’s tourism marketing firm, Visit Florida.  Interestingly, the report even goes so far as to break down the numbers by domestic and overseas visitors.  10.2 million of the tourists visiting Florida came from overseas and there were 1.2 percent more domestic visitors than last year.

Visit Florida Board of Directors Chairman Glenn Hastings said, “Surpassing the 10 million overseas visitor mark for the first time ever is a significant milestone for Florida’s tourism industry.  With over 10 percent of all Canadians traveling to Florida last year, we are exceedingly grateful for the loyalty of our friends and family to the North.”

British holidaymakers in Florida embroiled in bureaucratic bungling as they’re told they’ll need International Driving Permit – but won’t be punished if they don’t have one

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

As the main half-term holiday rush gets underway, British holidaymakers heading to Florida and planning to rent a car could find themselves embroiled in bureaucratic bungling.

Last month Florida’s legislature broke ranks with the other 49 American states and made it mandatory for overseas visitors to carry an International Driving Permit (IDP) as well as their national licence. Earlier this week, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles warned that any British driver who broke the new rule would face a mandatory court appearance and possibly jail.

Florida U-turn on International Driving Permit

Florida U-turn on International Driving Permit

Few British motorists carry the IDP, because the vast majority of holidays and business trips are to places that do not require it. The permits are issued by the AA and RAC by post, or in person at Post Offices – but only by 88 branches in the entire UK, which is less than one per cent of the total.

Leading car-rental companies changed their policies to reflect the new rule, and refused to hire vehicles to motorists who did not have the right paperwork. But last night officials in Florida said that while the law would remain on the statute, drivers who broke it would not be punished.

The department said: “The Florida Highway Patrol will defer enforcement of a law that requires visitors from outside the United States to have an International Driving Permit to drive lawfully in Florida”.

A foreign motorist without the IDP will still technically be breaking state law, and there are fears that anyone involved in an accident could face difficulties with insurance cover as a result. The AA is still recommending that travellers obtain the permit.

The official explanation given for the sudden change of heart was that “the law may potentially conflict with an international treaty”. It is widely believed that pressure from local tourism officials, the Foreign Office and motoring organisations triggered the abrupt change of mind. “The Sunshine State is doing business as usual,” the statement added. “Florida’s doors and roadways are open as usual to all visitors.”

About one million UK citizens visit Florida annually. Rosie Sanderson, who runs the AA’s International Division, said the new law “has thrown the fly-drive market into chaos, with a lot of conflicting advice”.

Rental companies are expected to revoke their rule changes, though the process of informing customers and staff may not take place quickly enough to benefit British families flying to Florida this weekend.

Disney reveals NextGen details with ‘MyMagic+’

Monday, February 11th, 2013

After more than three years in development and $1 billion in spending, the Walt Disney Co. on Monday unveiled the central elements of its “Next Generation Experience,” the sweeping, vacation-planning project aimed at getting travelers to spend more time and money at Walt Disney World.

Packaged under the name “MyMagic+,” the project includes a new website and mobile-phone app, a revamped ride-reservation system, and wristbands equipped with wireless transmitters that will serve as all-in-one theme-park tickets, hotel-room keys and credit cards.



The goal is to make an increasingly congested Disney World, whose four theme parks drew more than 47 million visitors last year, less intimidating and more pleasant to navigate for travelers.

But it is also designed to allow Disney to cull vast amounts of new information from its guests — from individual spending habits to crowd movements in its parks — in hopes of better tailoring everything from sales pitches to operating hours.

“There’s the key. It’s a marketing bonanza,” said Duncan Dickson, a professor in the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. “It opens up so much rich information and gives the marketing groups the ability to target-market specifically to the guest.”

Rumors have been swirling around Disney’s technology project for years. The Orlando Sentinel first reported the existence of “NextGen” — and its billion-dollar price tag — in January 2010, though the project wasn’t formally approved by the Burbank, Calif.-based company’s board of directors until February 2011.

Disney said Monday that the project includes three central elements:

• A new website and mobile app dubbed “My Disney Experience,” which Disney said will be a “one-stop shop” for planning a Disney vacation. In addition to details such as hotel-room availability, travelers will be encouraged to provide personal details ranging from their favorite characters to celebrations such as birthdays.

• A revamped version of its existing FastPass ride-reservation system dubbed “FastPass+,” in which travelers will be permitted to reserve a limited number of attraction times from home. In addition to rides, options will include reserved seating for nightly fireworks displays and other shows — even specific character-greeting times. For travelers uncertain about how to plan, Disney said it will recommended a prepackaged set of three FastPass+ reservations to “serve as a starting point.”

• Radio frequency identification-equipped wrist bands, to be known as “MagicBands,” that will replace paper tickets and can be used to enter parks and hotel rooms and to buy food and souvenirs throughout the resort. The RFI wristbands will also interact with other sensors in Disney’s parks, allowing characters to greet guests by name and verifying guests’ “FastPass+” return times.

Disney said MagicBands will initially be available to certain guests staying in Disney-owned hotels or to those who purchase other, unidentified products — a move Disney hopes will help rebuild hotel-occupancy rates that dipped to 78 percent during Disney’s fiscal fourth quarter last year.

Dickson said he expects the wristbands will help drive bookings particularly for Disney’s mid-tier hotels, which he said have not fared as well in recent years as Disney’s top- and bottom-end hotels.

But Dickson also said Disney will have to articulate a strategy for how the new planning tools help annual pass holders, who are some of the company’s most loyal customers and who may not benefit from advance reservations as much as travelers planning vacations six months or more ahead of time.

SeaWorld Orlando Embarks on Epic Voyage

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013

SeaWorld Orlando kicks off its “Epic Voyage” campaign to launch Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, the park’s all-new, largest-ever attraction opening this spring. The campaign starts in New York City and includes stops in six other cities and a new mobile app, both designed to give families a sneak peek into the new attraction’s thrilling and chilling adventure in ways as amazing as the continent itself.

Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin

Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin

The new attraction, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin will transport families into a rarely seen, icy world. You’ll feel the majestic grandeur of the South Pole and see it through the penguins’ eyes on an exhilarating, first-of-its-kind family ride. You’ll explore a massive penguin colony in an expanse that envelops you in cool extremes, both above and below the penguins’ icy world. It’s a must-see, one-of-a-kind theme park experience only at SeaWorld in Orlando.

SeaWorld’s “Epic Voyage” takes over malls and consumer travel shows with a unique family experience filled with a massive ice dome, interactive virtual reality, shareable photo opportunities, chances to win incredible prizes, and, of course, live penguins! Who doesn’t want to meet a penguin up close? Plus, Coca-Cola Freestyle machines will also be part of the experience on site to quench the thirst of attendees with complimentary, refreshing drinks.   We’ll have street teams roaming the cities in wrapped, Antarctic-themed Hyundai Santa Fes and Sonata Hybrids as they mingle with the locals at various hot spots, commuter stations and key landmarks. The street team will test the locals with trivia, hand out prizes and allow them to escape to Antarctica through the augmented reality videos that can be shared with family and friends.   Everyone can follow the freeze with our all-new mobileapp to put you in the action … plus interactive elements to share with friends. From behind-the-scenes teaser videos and tour details to penguin fun facts and trivia, consumers can immerse themselves virtually into Antarctica through augmented reality and also enter the Family Voyage Sweepstakes. The app — SeaWorld’s Antarctica — is available for download today on iPhone/iPad and is coming soon for Android devices.   “Since Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin was announced in November 2011, we’ve been planning and looking forward to bringing a glimpse of the attraction to these key markets to connect with our fans and let them feel the chill,” said Vice President of Marketing & Sales for SeaWorld Parks & Resorts Orlando Toni Caracciolo.

Antarctic-themed Hyundai Santa Fes

Antarctic-themed Hyundai Santa Fes

Anyone can enter to win the trip of a lifetime with the Family Voyage Sweepstakes.Two lucky families will receive a 4-day, 3-night journey to SeaWorld Orlando to be one of the first to experience Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin. All of the details are found online so go check it out for your chance to win!   For more information about the Epic Voyage, visit, where you’re able to watch videos, sign up for emails, learn about penguins and Antarctica, enter the Family Voyage sweepstakes, and find the best vacation values to start planning your next voyage to SeaWorld Orlando.   We hope to see you along our voyage in one of these cities.

The Epic Voyage schedule:

NEW YORK  The New York Times Travel Show  Jacob K. Javits Convention Center  January 19-20

CHICAGO  Gurnee Mills Mall  Thursday, January 24   Chicago Travel & Adventure Show  Donald E. Stephens Convention Center  Rosemont  January 26-27

BOSTON  Boston Globe Travel Show  Seaport World Trade Center  February 8-10

PHILADELPHIA  King of Prussia Mall February 23-24

WASHINGTON D.C.  Washington, D.C. Travel & Adventure Show  Walter E. Washington Convention Center  March 9-10

JACKSONVILLE  The Avenues Mall  March 23-24

ATLANTA  April dates TBD

MIAMI  Miami Dolphins Fin Fest 2023  Saturday, April 27   Aventura Mall  May 4-5