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NEWS, TIPS & BARGAINS | TRAVEL LOG

California tops survey of tourism

May 21, 2006|Catharine Hamm; Susan Lendroth; Rosemary McClure

MOVE over, Florida. California may be the tourism hot spot this year. That's what the 14th annual National Leisure Travel Monitor says.

The survey of 1,353 Americans, by Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown & Russell of Orlando, Fla., that was released this month says that 34% of respondents are very or extremely interested in visiting California. Florida fell to No. 2 at 32%, down from 40% the previous year.

These are, of course, just projections, based on responses from leisure travelers who say they took a trip last year of 75 miles or more away from home that required overnight accommodations.

Rob Caborn, vice president of public relations for YPB&R, thinks the shift may reflect hurricane concerns. "Florida's gone through it for two years now, and I think people are looking at it a little more carefully," he said.

Florida's official visitor organization doesn't dispute that hurricanes may have raised concerns, but the head of the organization thinks Florida tourism will be fine.

"In the last two years, we broke all visitor records, in spite of an active hurricane season," said Bud Nocera, the president and chief executive of the public-private partnership that is the official state tourism marketing corporation. In 2005, 85.8 million people came to Florida, Nocera said, a 7% increase from 2004. (That number is business and leisure travel.) Nocera expects this year's numbers to be about equal to 2005.

-- Catharine Hamm

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A winter's tale in London

ONE of the hottest new attractions in London is also its coldest -- IceSpace, open through June 30 on the South Bank of the Thames near Tower Bridge. IceSpace is a blend of entertainment, art gallery and walk-in freezer.

It's housed in a large white structure 300 feet long and 70 feet high.

Visitors are loaned coats as they step inside and given bags containing scarves, gloves and hand warmers, all included in the admission price. A frozen wonderland awaits, with artificial snow crunching underfoot and modernistic ice sculptures, illuminated by blue and purple lighting.

Entertainers, including acrobats, dancers and musicians, put on constantly changing shows throughout the day.

You can chill out on ice-block sofas by frozen tables and sip hot cocktails, but don't get too comfortable. Temperatures, which hover between 22 to 27 degrees, are low enough that visitors are asked to remain no more than an hour.

IceSpace is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily through June 30 in Potters Field, off of Tooley Street. Admission to IceSpace is $40 adults, $29 children. No one younger than 5 will be admitted. Information: 011-44-845-021-1234, icespace.net.

-- Susan Lendroth

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United increases service to Hawaii

TRAVELERS bound for Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii this summer will have some new air choices.

United has announced it will increase service between Hawaii and the mainland June 8, adding weekend service from San Diego to Honolulu and three additional daily flights from LAX to Lihue, Kauai; Kailua-Kona on the Big Island; and Kahului, Maui.

The airline will fly five times a day from LAX to Honolulu and four times a day from LAX to Maui.

Also, a new inter-island service will be launched June 9 by go!, a division of Mesa Air Group. The airline is kicking off the new service with round-trip fares as low as $59 between Honolulu and Hilo and Kailua-Kona on the Big Island, Lihue and Kahului. The fares are applicable for travel June 9 to Sept. 30. To receive the $59 round-trip fare, tickets must be purchased by Monday.

For information, call (888) IFLYGO2 (435-9462) or see www.iflygo.com.

-- Rosemary McClure

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New look for Tahoe casino

CAESARS Tahoe casino resort in Stateline, Nev., gets a new name, the MontBleu Resort, Casino & Spa, and a fresh look Wednesday. Caesars' Roman touches have been replaced by a "metro-cool" look."

In the $45-million renovation, MontBleu has added a poker room to its casino and restaurants, clubs and bars. Doubles begin at $129. Info: (800) 648-3353, www.montbleuresort.com.

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Airtran expands coastal service

AIRTRAN is expanding service on the West Coast.

The low-cost carrier began daily nonstop flights between LAX and Indianapolis May 9. One-way fares start at $139.

On June 7 it plans to add nonstops between San Francisco International Airport and Indianapolis. Info: (800) AIR-TRAN (247-8726), www.airtran.com.

-- Compiled by Vani Rangachar

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