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Phone Hot Line Updates State of Local Blooms

March 01, 1992|KIM UPTON

This winter's cool, wet weather is expected to produce an abundance of wild flowers starting in the low desert within the next few weeks, according to a spokeswoman from the Theodore Paybne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants. To provide information on what's blooming and where, the Foundation's 24-hour "Wildflower Information Hotline" willbe programmed with a telephone message, updated weekly, alerting callers to the best wildflower areas. Areas covered include the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Joshua Tree National Monument, Antelope Valley, Santa Monica Mountains, Santa Clarita Woodlands Park and other locations within a day's drive of Los Angeles. The number is (818) 768-3533.

Travel Quiz: What is the name of the world's largest airport and where is it located?

Cheap Is Sweet: Phones have been ringing off the hook at Northwest Airlines, which on Feb. 15 slashed prices for round-trip travel between Los Angeles and Sydney from $998 to $564 and set off a price war that saw four other airlines--Air New Zealand, United, Continental and Qantas--follow suit and offer additional destinations at reduced rates. For example, Air New Zealand has the same discounted $564 fare to Auckland, New Zealand, and Sydney, but also offers a $764 round-trip fare to Brisbane or Melbourne, with a free stopover in Honolulu. And for $200 each, with a maximum of three, Air New Zealand is selling stopovers in Fiji, Tahiti, the Cook Islands, Tonga and Western Samoa. In addition, Northwest is offering to fly travelers beyond Sydney--to Brisbane, Melbourne and Canberra--aboard other airlines, for an additional $200 round trip. By making the deals good for the next three months, the airlines are hoping to extend peak season, which usually lasts through March. Travel on most of the deals must begin on or before April 30 and be completed by May 31.

More Traveling at Increased Rates: Occupancy picked up statewide for California's hotels and motels in August, 1991, for the first time since October, 1990, according to the California Hotel & Motel Assn. This occurred because demand rose 3.5% while the supply of rooms only increased 2.8%. At the same time there was a slight rise in room rates: up .3% to an average daily room rate across California of $68.30. This indicates that Californians may be starting to travel again, since 60% of rooms booked in California are by California residents. And the rise in room rates shows that people are buying rooms that aren't necessarily discounted.

Confronting Crime in Rio: In preparation for RIO '92, the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development being held in the city June 1-12--and to counter fears about street crime--the City of Rio de Janeiro Tourism Authority has announced several programs to protect tourists. While some are similar to those instituted in November in reaction to a U.S. State Department travel notice advising tourists to exercise caution in Rio, a few are new. Among them: numerous mini-police stations will be set up on the beaches and streets of Copacabana, Ipanema and Leblon, and police patrols will be increased in these areas; a special department of the municipal police will be created to deal exclusively with incidents involving tourists, and there will be special attention to security in popular tourist areas such as Corcovado, Sugar Loaf and the national park Floresta da Tijuca, according to the Rio Tourism Center in New York. RIO '92 is expected to draw 10,000 participants to the city, including 70 heads of state.

Quick Fact: Despite the fact that last year's tally of visitors to Atlantic City, N.J., declined for the third consecutive year (a 3.2% drop), gross gaming revenues of the casinos there rose 1.35%, according to city and tourist officials.

Air Care: The domestic airlines ended the year 1991 with a solid on-time performance rating and a 22-year low in the number of consumer complaints to the federal government, according to the Transportation Department's monthly report card. The 10 reporting carriers operated 80% of their domestic flights within 15 minutes of schedule during December, the best December performance since DOT began keeping on-time records in 1987, the agency said. DOT also said it logged a mere 7,551 complaints during the year, down from 9,501 in 1990 and the lowest total since 1970. The improvements are the result of several factors, including a closer government monitoring of airline on-time performance, according to a DOT spokesman. But the airlines are changing, too, he said. "At one time the emphasis was on pricing, now the airlines are stressing service and trying to improve it, both through flying on time and baggage handling."

More for Less: In Portugal, the Lisbon-to-Oporto freeway has at last been completed. This reduces driving time between the two cities from about five hours to three.

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