tourism

Business
1:14 pm
Mon March 23, 2015

Sunshine Economy: Customer Service In South Florida

Julie Grimes came to South Florida from Canada about 20 years ago. She owns two hotels with about 250 rooms combined. She's managing partner at the Bentley Hilton South Beach.
Credit Tom Hudson

South Florida is known around the world for its sun, sand and surf. Those natural attributes are responsible for thousands of jobs, millions of visitors and billions of dollars. But what about service? South Florida may invite the world to come play on its beaches, stay in its hotels and eat in its restaurants, but what kind of hosts are its people?

Julie Grimes gives the overall customer service experience three out of five stars. She is the owner of two hotels in Miami: the Doubletree Hilton and the Hilton Bentley South Beach where she also is the managing partner.

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Sports
4:21 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Is Key West Race Week Sailing Into The Sunset?

Bella Mente, skippered by Hap Fauth, sails to an overall IRC 1 class victory at this year's Quantum Race Week in Key West.
Credit Ken Stanek / Florida Keys News Service

Since 1987, Key West has hosted the international sail racing world each January. Quantum Race Week fills thousands of hotel rooms and provides footage that is shown all over the globe.

But the regatta's future is in question with the announcement Monday from Premiere Racing, the event's owner and organizer, that it is stepping aside.

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Keys Hotels
6:56 am
Thu February 26, 2015

Keys Adding Hotel Rooms To Booming Industry

Tom Whitney is the general manager of The Marker Resort, which opened last December in the Key West Historic Seaport.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

The Florida Keys have been under a moratorium on new hotel rooms for decades. But the islands are seeing a flood of new properties open, mostly through renovations and conversions.

In all, about 1,000 new rooms are being added or coming back on line after being closed for renovation and rebuilding. The Keys have a total of 15,000 lodging units, which includes hotel rooms, RV spots and short-term vacation rentals.

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Tourism
6:04 pm
Sun February 22, 2015

The Sunshine Economy: The Hotel Industry In South Florida

The Marseilles Hotel on South Beach is undergoing a $10 million renovation. Owner Lloyd Mandell is a second generation Miami Beach hotelier.
Credit Tom Hudson

A LITTLE HISTORY

Ian Schrager and Lloyd Mandell used to be neighbors. 

One is an iconoclast who made a fortune (and went to prison for tax evasion) as co-founder of the famed Studio 54 nightclub in New York, and the other a Miami Beach native whose dad owned a gas station where a Starbucks now stands on West Avenue.

The two men are in the same business now, technically. But they came to it in different ways.

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Tourism
4:47 pm
Tue February 17, 2015

Florida Tourism Campaign Features Overtown And Eatonville

The Lyric Theater in Miami's Overtown community is one of the only theaters left from the days when the neighborhood was known as "The Harlem of the South."
Credit Carl Juste / Miami Herald

Visit Florida, the state’s tourism agency, is promoting the rich history of  two of Florida’s historic black neighborhoods for Black History Month.

Miami’s Overtown neighborhood will be featured in a national commercial that highlights its past as “The Harlem of the South.”

Big name artists like Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday and Nat King Cole would perform on Miami Beach, but because of segregation they stayed in Overtown hotels. At night, visiting celebrities would go to the local nightclubs, performing and jamming with locals.

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Tourism
4:47 pm
Mon February 16, 2015

Florida Sees A Record Number of Tourists In 2014

Florida saw a 3.9 percent increase in visitors in 2014 compared to the year before, according to Visit Florida, the state's tourism-marketing arm.
Credit http://www.palmbeachculture.com/

  Florida attracted a record number of tourists in 2014, inching closer to an annual goal sought by Gov. Rick Scott.

An estimated 97.3 million visitors came to Florida in 2014, a 3.9 percent increase from the year before, according to information released Monday by Visit Florida, the state's tourism-marketing arm.

Scott, who has asked lawmakers to increase tourism-marketing funding from $74 million in the current fiscal year to $85 million during the budget year that begins July 1, has been pushing for Florida to surpass 100 million visitors a year.

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The End of the Road
2:22 am
Mon February 16, 2015

How A Tourist Murder Shaped Juvenile Sentencing In Florida

Credit Illustration by Wilson Sayre

Early in the morning on September 8, 1993, Uwe Rakebrand and his wife, Kathrin, are driving from the Miami airport to a hotel on Miami Beach in their rented red Toyota Corolla. They have just arrived from Germany on a belated honeymoon.

As they approach I-95, the couple's car is bumped from behind. Kathrin had just read a crime brochure explaining what to do in this very type of situation, and Uwe follows its advice: Don’t pull over, it might be a robber.

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Food
7:47 pm
Thu February 5, 2015

World's Largest Key Lime Pie Travels To Its Northernmost Point

David Sloan, left, and Marky Pierson, right, put the finishing touches on the world's largest Key lime pie Thursday. The pie was served to commuters in Boston's South Station Thursday afternoon as part of a Florida Keys tourism promotion.
Credit Andy Newman / Florida Keys News Service

  Commuters in Boston’s South Station, coping with temperatures in the 20s and light snow, on Thursday got a taste of the Florida Keys. 

The Monroe County Tourist Development Council this week took over the station with ads and promotions for the Florida Keys. On Thursday, they provided samples of the islands’ signature dessert: Key lime pie.

And not just any Key lime pie. This is billed as “the world’s largest Key lime pie.” It’s 9 feet in diameter.

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Environment
6:18 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Wilderness Island Attracts Wildlife — And Party Crowd

The sandy beach and serene atmosphere at Boca Grande makes the island attractive to wildlife like sea turtles — and boaters looking for a place to party.
Credit U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

The islands west of Key West have been designated as a national wildlife refuge since 1908, when Teddy Roosevelt created the Key West National Wildlife Refuge. The intent was to protect birds from plume-hunters who were killing them for feathers to adorn ladies' hats.

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News
4:50 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

Keys Already Advertising For Gay Wedding Business

Credit Peetje2 / Creative Commons/Flickr

As soon as same-sex marriage became legal in Florida, the Keys tourism council was on LGBT websites and blogs advertising the islands as a wedding destination.

“The Florida Keys has long been a popular destination for weddings and honeymoons,” said Harold Wheeler, director of the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. He’s hoping the same will apply for same-sex couples.

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New Keys hotels
8:12 am
Fri December 19, 2014

Florida Keys Adding New Hotel Rooms

The Marker Resort is Old Town Key West's first newly built hotel in about 20 years.
Credit Marker Resort / Facebook

The Florida Keys, where hotels have the highest occupancy rates and daily room rates in the state, are adding more than 1,000 new and renovated hotel rooms in the next few months.

While only a few of the rooms are brand new, some have been unavailable for years while the properties were wholly reinvented.

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News
1:35 pm
Tue December 16, 2014

Florida Tourism Officials Support Relaxing U.S. Visa Rules

A new study says international tourists bring big bucks to the United States, but our visa laws hamper the potential job and revenue growth those visitors could bring.
Credit freedigitalphotos.net/Mister GC

Florida tourism officials say America’s restrictive travel visa rules are costing the Sunshine State big bucks.

The Visa Waiver Program currently allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States for tourism without having to obtain visas.

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Key West
1:45 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

After The Party's Over, Fantasy Fest Concerns Continue

Many Key Westers are concerned that Fantasy Fest is becoming more of a gathering for exhibitionists and voyeurs, and less of a creative costume party.
Credit Mark Hedden

Weeks after the "Fat Lady Sings" tea dance that marks the official end of Fantasy Fest, Key Westers are meeting to talk about how to change the annual event to limit raunchy behavior and increase creative costuming.

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Locals And Visitors
5:56 pm
Wed October 22, 2014

Is Key West's Fantasy Fest Too Raunchy?

Michael Blades and his wife Kathy Kilroy used to work on elaborate floats for Fantasy Fest's big parade. Now they're putting their efforts into newer events that are not part of the official festival roster, like the Zombie Bike Ride.
Credit Nancy Klingener / WLRN

Fantasy Fest started 35 years ago as a way to bring visitors to Key West during what had been the slowest time of the year. But locals have always been a big part of it -- the 10 days of street fairs and costume parties, and the culminating parade, for which 60,000 crowd the island's downtown.

"I was on a float for, like, 19 straight years," says Key Wester Michael Blades. He and his friends built elaborate parade entries and won the grand prize three times. But they're not entering this year.

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Key West
8:03 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

See How Tourism Changed The Florida Keys

The Custom House on Key West Harbor has been a landmark since it was built, as shown by this vintage postcard. Today the Custom House is an art and history museum, and site of an exhibit on the history of tourism.
Credit Monroe County Public Library/Scott DeWolfe collection

A new exhibit explores Key West as South Florida's oldest outpost. 

Florida Keys or Bust! A History of Tourism runs until Oct. 1 at the Custom House Museum.

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