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Florida Panel Seeking Ways to Protect Tourists

March 07, 1993|KIM UPTON

Among the proposals before a new Florida state task force, looking for ways to protect tourists visiting the state, is one to abolish license plates that identify rental cars. The proposal (also contained in a bill now before the legislature) is aimed at thwarting so-called smash-and-grab robberies, where criminals smash the windows of cars paused at stoplights and rob passengers. Florida Gov. Lawton Chiles created the new task force of law-enforcement authorities and government officials last month in response to a variety of crimes against out-of-state visitors. Several have been murdered: in January, a Canadian and a Venezuelan diplomat, both in Miami; in December, a Canadian in Lake Worth and a German in Ft. Myers, and in November, a Briton in Orange County. Although many of the slayings appear to have been connected with robbery attempts, a black New Yorker was set on fire and seriously burned on New Year's Day in what is thought to have been a racially motivated attack near Tampa. And in November, the American Automobile Assn. issued a warning, since rescinded, telling motorists to avoid a heavily traveled stretch of Interstate 295 in northern Florida because of sniper attacks. The task force, which had its first meeting late last month, is considering other proposals to improve safety for tourists. Tourism is the state's largest industry, worth an estimated $28 billion, and Commerce Secretary Greg Farmer has proposed a public relations campaign to counter the state's crime-ridden image.

Travel Quiz: Lake Titicaca, the world's highest large navigable lake, lies on the border between which South American countries?

Airline Antitrust Claim Extension: The deadline to participate in the proposed settlement of the class-action suit accusing nine domestic airlines of price fixing has been extended from March 31 to June 1. And a toll-free number to answer questions about the lawsuit has been established by the law firm for the plaintiffs. It is (800) 854-7264, and it is open 5 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and 7-11 a.m. Saturday, although it is frequently busy. Those eligible to participate in the proposed settlement are people who flew on American, Continental, Delta, Midway, Northwest, Pan American, TWA and/or USAir through, to or from any of 34 major U.S. airports between Jan. 1, 1988, and June 30, 1992. Those who wish to file should call to request claim forms to apply for vouchers that will be applicable toward tickets.

California Here We Come: In the first large-scale study of its kind, state tourism officials found that Californians vacationing in their own state outnumbered leisure visitors from elsewhere by more than 4 to 1 in 1991. According to the recently released study, commissioned by the State Office of Tourism, of the 194 million leisure excursions in California during that year, 157 million were undertaken by state residents. The high number of Californians vacationing in their own state surprised officials. Four Western states--Arizona, Washington, Oregon and Nevada--supplied the bulk of the non-California visitors, with New York and Colorado coming in second and third. More than 5 1/2 million visitors to California were from foreign countries.

Quick Fact: Hong Kong's Star Ferry has raised its rates for the first time in several years from 15 to 19 cents for adults (upper deck) and from 10 to 13 cents for children.

China Drops Border AIDS Testing: China has suspended a controversial program of AIDS testing for travelers crossing the border from Hong Kong into the southern province of Guangdong, according to an official report. Authorities began the random testing of non-Chinese visitors in January as part of an attempt to stem an increase in AIDS cases in Guangdong. Chinese officials paint AIDS as a foreign disease, although foreigners account for only a fraction of what the Chinese government claims is more than 900 people who have tested positive for the AIDS virus in China. The testing in Guangdong is believed to be partially responsible for a reported 30% drop in China-bound visitors from Hong Kong. China Daily, the official English-language newspaper, said testing has been suspended as Chinese officials review the policy.

Baja Resort Shuts Down: Baja California's massive Stouffer Presidente resort in Loreto, the resort town on the Sea of Cortez, closed on Feb. 15. A hotel spokeswoman had no comment on the reason for the closure, but said all those with reservations for future dates had already been contacted.

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