Florida aims to bring winter tourists back

Florida aims to bringwinter tourists back
Time was when Floridians (anyone who's lived there a year or more) dreaded the winter tourist season with its traffic jams and long lines at restaurants. This year, with hotel occupancy rates down and the theme parks quieter than usual, Florida is seeking ways to bring back the winter tourists and perk up its No. 1 and most important industry.
One method is through ad campaigns such as Miami's "What Makes You Happy?" and "Family Time, Family Place" in Orlando, where hotel occupancy is down 12 percent from a year ago. Unaccustomed winter discounts is another trial balloon.
In the end, however, Florida hotels and attractions are banking on the drop in gasoline prices to fuel a tourist recovery. The Automobile Association of America estimates that at least three out of four Americans will be driving to their vacation destinations this winter.
Officials reopen toursat Hoover Dam
Tours of the Hoover Dam have resumed on a limited basis after being suspended since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.
"We're back in business," U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton said while standing at an observation deck overlooking the dam.
Nevada and Arizona officials hope the move will help bring tourists back.
Completed in 1935, the dam is one of southern Nevada's most popular attractions. Last year, 1.2 million people went on guided tours of the dam.
Tours will allow limited access into the dam and its power plant. More extensive tours that included a trip to the base of the dam still are not permitted. Those tours may never resume because of security concerns, Ms. Norton said.
The dam, about 30 miles east of Las Vegas, forms Lake Mead, the nation's largest man-made reservoir. It also supplies electricity to a wide area of the Southwest.
Elsewhere, Liberty Island and Ellis Island reopened Dec. 20 for the first time since the terrorist attacks. Tourists aren't allowed to climb the Statue of Liberty. And visitors to both islands must go through strict security checkpoints before boarding ferries at Battery Park in New York City and Liberty State Park in Jersey City.
Schedule and ticket information is available at (212) 363-3200 or www.statueoflibertyferry.com.
Maine train service back
Passenger train service returned this month to Maine after an absence of more than 30 years when the new Downeaster began serving a 114-mile route between Portland and Boston.
Stops include the seaside resorts of Old Orchard Beach and Wells in Maine, plus Saco, Maine; Dover, Durham and Exeter, N.H.; and Haverhill, Mass. The train makes four round trips each day. Fares between Portland and Boston begin at $21 one way or $35 round trip.
In its first five days, the train averaged 860 riders a day, said Michael J. Murray, executive director of the agency formed by Maine to develop the rail project. The train is owned by the state of Maine and operated by Amtrak. Murray called the ridership "very positive" for a start-up.
His agency had projected 1,000 riders a day but expects it will take at least six months to reach a peak.
For reservation, contact Amtrak, (800) 872-7245, www.amtrak.com. For information, visit www.thedowneaster.com.
No-clothes clubsreport steady pace
While most of the tourist industry was painting a bleak picture this month, the American Association for Nude Recreation bared facts showing business at the no-clothes clubs was remaining steady and even picking up in places.
"I wouldn't say tourism is booming, but our clubs are holding their own," said association president Erich Schuttauf. "We have a loyal market of people who wouldn't have a vacation anywhere else."
The association, based in Kissimmee, Fla., has grown to 250 affiliated clubs across the United States and Canada that provide clothes-free or clothing-optional recreation.
Among expanding resorts, he cited Avalon in Paw Paw, W.Va., near Washington, which offers winter recreation in a new indoor complex that includes a heated pool, sauna and exercise room. No-clothes resorts in Florida, Texas and California were all reporting business as usual or better, Schuttauf said.
Once you take off your clothes, you take off the stresses in your life, he added. Another advantage is traveling light: "You don't have to pack very much."
For a list of clothes-free clubs, call (800) TRY-NUDE or visit www.aanr.com on the Web.
Statistics show a risein visitors to Vietnam
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- Vietnam played host to 2.3 million foreign visitors in 2001, an increase of 8.9 percent from the previous year, with only a brief slowdown following the terrorist attacks in the United States, officials say.
Chinese visitors topped the list at 673,000, an increase of 7.9 percent from the previous year, followed by the United States with 230,000, up 10.4 percent.
Foreign arrivals dropped 12 percent in October from September because of cancellations following the U.S. terror attacks, but picked up again in November and December.
In October, Vietnam was rated the most secure country in the Pacific region in a survey of tourism officials in 13 Asian countries and the United States by the Political and Economic Risk Consultancy.

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