Can Florida tourism survive without Visit Florida?

State lawmakers have proposed cutting the budget for Florida’s leading tourism agency.


ORLANDO — Is Florida tourism strong enough that it can survive, and thrive, without taxpayer money in the budget of a state agency that sells the Sunshine State internationally?
That’s a thorny question being debated by Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-led Florida House of Representatives, who are locked in a battle over the future of state funding for Visit Florida.
This week, the House Appropriations Committee voted to eliminate Enterprise Florida, the state agency that works to boost job creation, and significantly reduce state funding of Visit Florida, eliminating the agency’s budget by 67 percent. Criticism of the agency that works to promote tourism intensified last year when state lawmakers criticized Visit Florida’s former chief for secretly paying rapper Pitbull $1 million to record a new version of his “Sexy Beaches” song to include footage of Florida’s hotels and beaches. Continue reading

Top tips for staying cool in Orlando’s summer heat

Visiting an indoor attraction like WonderWorks is one way to beat the summer heat in Orlando.

Visiting an indoor attraction like WonderWorks is one way to beat the summer heat in Orlando.


ORLANDO – For a lot of Central Florida residents, the cry-out-loud words in the past few days has probably been, “Where’s the rain?”
Summer is the wet season in Central Florida, when the heat and humidity builds up throughout the morning, until massive downpours sweep across the region during the afternoon and late evening.
And while those downpours are no fun for anyone caught outdoors at a theme park, playing a round of golf at the local golf courses, or driving in heavy traffic on the interstate, one clear benefit is those storms drop the temperatures and provide some relief from the intense heat.
At the moment, though, Orlando is stuck in a different weather pattern, one where the temperatures have soared into the mid-to-high 90s, but it’s very dry and there’s no rain in sight. That means virtually no letup from the high heat index.
Anyone who loves the heat and hates the rain is probably thrilled this week. But for those who find the heat makes being outdoors an endurance test of sweat-soaked shirts and low energy levels, keep in mind that the Orlando region is well aware of the heat potential during the summer months, and has plenty of options for beating the heat. Continue reading

Universal Orlando developing plenty of new attractions

Skull Island: Reign of Kong is among the new attractions developed by Universal Orlando. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.)

Skull Island: Reign of Kong is among the new attractions developed by Universal Orlando. (Photo courtesy of Universal Orlando.)


ORLANDO – If summer marks the height of the tourist season for Central Florida’s hospitality industry, it can also mark a time when theme parks are eager to roll out new rides and attractions to keep their appeal fresh to visitors.
That’s particularly true at Universal Studios, which is hoping a volcano in the Pacific, a few scares by King Kong, and a chocolate kitchen convince the guests that this is the place to be during their Orlando vacation.
This summer, Universal unveils its new Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction, which harkens back to the original “King Kong” movie from 1933, where a group of filmmakers travel to the Indian Ocean to do location shooting for a new picture, only to find that actress An Darrow gets kidnapped by a giant ape. The movie has since been remade several times, including a 2005 version of director Peter Jackson, who also made the “Lord of the Rings” films.
Opening at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Universal describes this ride, which runs just under seven minutes long, as an “intense, all-new adventure brought to life in a dramatically themed environment,” and one that will “pull guests into a powerfully told story where they become part of the next generation of the Kong legend.”
The journey that guests take will include visiting an ancient temple inhabited by hostile natives, a jungle filled with prehistoric creatures, and then direct contact with the colossal Kong. Continue reading

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