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NEWS AND BRIEFS

Las Vegas MGM Grand Plans an Early Opening

August 08, 1993|KIM UPTON

The MGM Grand Hotel Casino & Theme Park has accelerated its target opening date and will open in Las Vegas Dec. 18--some 3 1/2 months earlier than originally scheduled. The MGM opening will follow Luxor Las Vegas (the 30-story pyramid owned by Circus Circus Enterprises) and Treasure Island (owned by Mirage Resorts Inc.), two mega-resorts set to open in October on the Las Vegas Strip. The early MGM opening, made possible because the construction project was completed ahead of schedule, will allow the hotel to cash in on heavy travel traffic around New Year's--a time when hotels are traditionally full and big-spending gamblers abound. When complete, the MGM will be the largest hotel in the world and will include 5,000 rooms, a 170,000-square-foot casino, a 15,000-seat special-events arena and a 33-acre theme park with 12 major attractions. Grand Slam Canyon, Circus Circus' 5-acre, domed, water-themed entertainment complex--a climate controlled miniature of the Grand Canyon--is scheduled to open Aug. 23.

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Travel Quiz: What three continents are crossed by the Tropic of Capricorn?

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Travel Warnings Via Fax: A new State Department fax service--offering U.S. government travel warnings for areas of the world that pose dangers to Americans, news on visa requirements and background information on the history and customs of countries--is now available 24 hours a day to those calling from any fax equipped with a push-button telephone or telephone jack. Callers need only dial from their fax machine into the State Department Consular Affairs service (202-647-3000) to select the information they wish to receive. The new service will supplement the automated telephone message system (202-647-5225) which has been criticized for being long and sometimes confusing. Rather than having to wait through a long main telephone menu, fax callers may enter the first four letters of the requested country to receive the printed document. Or they may order a printed index and then call back and request up to nine documents on a single call. While the service itself is free, users will be billed for the long-distance call.

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Quick Fact: In the 8 1/2 years since airline telephones debuted on an American Airlines flight between Dallas and Chicago, more than 31 million calls have been made on U.S. carriers with GTE Airfone, which serves about 95% of domestic airlines. (Source: GTE Airfone)

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What Tourists Like in London: Visitors to London do not think much of the exterior of Buckingham Palace but adore the Houses of Parliament, according to a recent opinion poll by a London radio station. The exterior of Queen Elizabeth's main residence was voted the most disappointing building in London by tourists, who said it resembled an office building. The prime minister's official home and office fared little better: 10 Downing Street was deemed the second most disappointing building in London. But the 1,500 tourists questioned in the survey by the London radio station Capital FM liked the delicately carved Palace of Westminster, where Parliament meets, and the 17th-Century St. Paul's Cathedral. In third place was the massive and elaborate Harrods department store, ahead of Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London. Visitors said they were most impressed by London's "polite police." They disliked talkative taxi drivers and rubbish in the streets.

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Ferries Cannot Unite Against Channel Tunnel: Two major ferry companies that sail the English Channel--Stena Sealink and P & O European Ferries--have been told they cannot join forces to compete more effectively against the Channel Tunnel when it opens next year. But the British government, which has jurisdiction over the companies, told them they can make another application once the tunnel opens and they have a better idea how much business they're losing as a result. Some analysts believe the 31-mile tunnel, which will take cars, trucks and trains under the channel between Folkestone, England, and Calais, France, could draw away up to half the current ferry traffic. The ferry companies had requested that they be allowed to discuss coordination of sailing schedules to make themselves more attractive to travelers.

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Older and More Interested: A majority (54%) of people 55 years and older feel that part of the fun of a trip is planning, while only 31% of vacationers under the age of 35 enjoy planning, according to a recent nationwide survey of 500 men and women. The survey, sponsored by the MGM Grand Hotel, Casino & Theme Park, also found that younger Americans are less likely to keep up with world events while traveling (68% compared with 87% of older Americans). And older vacationers feel the need to travel more than 100 miles to feel they are truly on vacation, and are more interested in meeting new people while on vacation than younger travelers are. In fact, 57% of those 55 and older strongly agreed that they enjoyed meeting new people while on vacation, as opposed to 47% of those under the age of 35.

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Country Vacations Brochure: A free brochure lists farm vacation spots--from 200-year-old farmhouses to fields filled with milk cows--in Pennsylvania Dutch country, Lancaster County, Pa. Some of the farms are modern and air-conditioned; some are spare. Some have private baths; some offer minimal creature comforts but an opportunity to feed animals. For a copy of "Farm Vacations at Lancaster County Bed and Breakfasts," and a free map and visitors' guide to Pennsylvania Dutch country, Lancaster County, call (800) 735-2629, ext. 2224, or write the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention & Visitors Bureau, Dept. 2224, 501 Greenfield Road, Lancaster, Pa. 17601.

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Comparatively Speaking: Cost of a 24-exposure roll of film in Stockholm, $5.25; in Tokyo, $4.33; in Sao Paulo, Brazil, $3.68; in Singapore, $2.76. (Source: Runzheimer International)

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Quiz Answer: South America, Africa and Australia.

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