STS Travel and Tourism Talk

Snapping a theme park together lands 1,000 jobs

The first major theme park in the U.S. in more than a decade has opened in the Southeast and is entertaining a special niche of guests.

It is Legoland Florida, 45 minutes from Orlando and Tampa on the site of the former Cypress Gardens attraction, and it is aimed squarely at youngsters. It opened Oct. 15, and there were immediate reports of expansion plans for 2012.

"We're establishing an entirely new visitation category in this market because every ride, show and attraction . . . has been designed exclusively for kids ages 2 to 12 in mind," said Nick Varney, CEO of park owner Merlin Entertainments Group.

"It's a real game-changer for Central Florida because young families can finally plan that first theme park vacation assured that even their youngest child will enjoy a memorable experience," he said.

Legoland reinforces memories of Cypress Gardens, which opened in 1936 as Florida's first theme park, because the new park reclaimed the botanical gardens that made Cypress Gardens famous.

"Legoland reports creation of more than 1,000 jobs," said Southeast Tourism Society President Bill Hardman. "It's a great demonstration of tourism's power as an economic engine."

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'Please don't talk to me'

A recent Harvard Business Review article poses the issue of "Why Your Customers Don't Want To Talk to You."

While its thrust is about retail transactions, it actually is instructive for the supposedly high-touch, personal world of travel and tourism.

Is it possible leisure travelers are like Greta Garbo and "want to be left alone"? The HBR article may make you ponder how your business handles customer/guest contact.

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Remember the flap over $16 hotel muffins?

Members of Congress were quick to pile on recently when an internal Justice Department audit questioned conference expenses that included $16 muffins.

Too bad their outrage was misdirected because the auditor didn't do his homework completely, forcing the affected hotel chain and the convention industry to retaliate.

The episode is somewhat of a tempest in a teapot, but it contains a lesson for the tourism and hospitality industry -- if you know that a critic is wrong, speak up loudly and clearly with the facts.

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Importing tourists with big wallets

It may seem a bit ironic for people from China to travel to America to buy products made in China, but that's what is happening as American retailers work to attract shoppers from cash-rich China, Brazil and India.

"They're their own little stimulus program," said David French, senior vice president for government relations at the National Retail Federation.

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October 2011

Score one for tourism in the Senate

Pro-tourism voices spoke loudly Oct. 18 and 19 to urge the U.S. Senate to vote down a prohibition of federal funding for scenic byways and welcome centers.

"That measure was not good for tourism or local communities," said STS President and CEO Bill Hardman. "STS marshaled grassroots communication to the Senate, and we prevailed this time."

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Punching Amtrak's ticket

Amtrak, whose service touches several states in the Southeast, had miles of smiles as its fiscal year ended Sept. 30. Here are two big reasons:

  • 30.2 million passengers, up 5 percent and the eighth record in nine years
  • $1.74 billion in ticket revenue, up 8 percent

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Stop! Don't send that email!

If you've ever groaned aloud at an overflowing email-box, you'll enjoy this thought piece about just who is responsible for all that email. Consider this our office behavior tip of the day.

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Recruiting 'vacation volunteers' in New Orleans

STS isn't the only organization doing volunteer work in New Orleans as revitalization efforts continue six years after Hurricane Katrina's body blow to the city.

LivingSocial, the daily deals company, is offering "volunteer vacations" to help rebuild the Crescent City. Among its offers: A $265 experience with two nights for two in a French Quarter hotel and a day of building houses with Habitat for Humanity.

STS's own volunteer project is part of its Nov. 8-10 meeting in New Orleans.

STS Events

STS Fall Meeting
Jazzing it up - tourism style
Nov. 8-10; New Orleans, La.
Learn more

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