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Travel trends to watch in 2004

By Shane Sharp, Contributor

The Quarry CourseORLANDO, Fla - Chin up, Sunshine state! It may not be Mickey Mouse grin evoking news, but the sheer volume of flights coming your way this month should be reason enough to get a little Goofy.

According to data compiled by OAG (oag.com), 1,285 daily non-stop flights from cities outside the state will touch down in Florida in February. This represents a 10 percent increase over February 2003. Hey, one state's winter of discontent is another state's season-o-plenty.

The increase comes from a combination of new routes emanating from hubs like Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas/Ft. Worth and more frequent flights on existing routes. The big winners are Orlando (31 additional interstate flights), Fort Lauderdale (24), and Tampa (14).

On the other side of the equation, New York, Texas and Pennsylvania airports are the biggest suppliers of the additional service. Delta is leading the airlines resurgent charge into FLA with 24 additional daily flights, followed by upstart discounter Jet Blue (16) and US Airways (14).

It is nearly impossible to ascertain how many additional "have clubs, will travel" passengers the increase in daily non-stop flights will produce. It is probably safe to assume, however, that not everyone is heading south to see the mouse, dog and duck.

While on the subject of flights and Jet Blue, the trendy discount airline with the cushy seats, attentive service and satellite TV announced this week that it could add as many as 200, 100-seat regional jets to its fleet over the next two years. Of note to Carolinas residents: the carrier is considering Charlotte, Raleigh/Durham, Charleston, Greensboro, and Columbia and Greenville-Spartanburg in its short-term expansion plans.

Can you hear me now?

Ever picked up a hotel bill and felt sick upon seeing the astronomical rates it charges for long distance and even local calls? Yours truly was a victim of this telecom price gouging in Las Vegas two years ago. An hour a day on a local Internet connection call and a handful of 10-15 minute LD calls amounted to just over $400.

While we can blame cell phones for a variety of things, from traffic accidents to cancer, we can thank them for a gradual decline in hotel phone revenue. According to the Wall Street Journal (yes, TGG can read), the average hotel made $532 per room phone last year - down 20 percent from 2002 and 51 percent from 2000.

In a recent study by the World Travel BTI, two-thirds of corporate travel managers surveyed discourage the use of hotel phones. BTI also found that 88 percent of domestic business travelers used cell phones (instead of hotel phones) last year. As more residential cell phone customers transition to nation-wide plans and more hotel chains offer free high speed Internet access, hotels could take an even bigger hit in phone revenue.

Exchange rate update.

Whatever advantage the euro had over the British pound sterling in exchange rates with the U.S. dollar are fading fast. The dollar has hit a six-year low against the euro, making a golf trip over the pond a bit pricier. Nonetheless, we yanks are still hopping in droves. The reason? Travel industry experts cite deep discounts and rate freezes at many European resorts and hotels. Looking for some favorable exchanges, check out the peso (Mexico) and the rand (South Africa). Both Mexico and South Africa also happen to be jammed with great golf courses.

Random TGG Ramblings.

This month's Howard Dean award for bad timing goes to Travel + Leisure GOLF magazine. Just as the well-respected golf glossy taps Greg Norman as a player/columnist, the Shark bears his teeth about women playing in PGA Tour events. Hey, at least Norman showed he has an opinion and he's not afraid to state it... The reader's of the Toronto Sun have spoken! Or voted, at least, for Mississippi as their favorite golf-travel destination in the U.S. Myrtle Beach - a long-time favorite among Canuck duffers - finished a close second. Just thinking out loud, but will Myrtle Beach finally wake up and smell the competition's coffee? The Grand Strand is no longer the only value-laden golf destination in the Southeast. In fact, it is only one of a dozen depending on one's definition of "golf destination". But it is safe to say that Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, Charleston, Florida's First Coast all pose a legitimate threat to Myrtle Beach's supremacy.

Shane SharpShane Sharp, Contributor

Shane Sharp is vice president of Buffalo Communications, a golf and lifestyle media agency. He was a writer, senior writer and managing editor of TravelGolf.com from 1997 to 2003.


 
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