State reports record tourism
Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm, is reporting a record 89.3 million visitors came to the state in 2012. Officials say that the number represented an increase of 2.3 percent over 2011 when 87.3 million people visited.
Visit Florida estimated in its annual report that 10.2 million overseas visitors and 3.6 million Canadians came in 2012. The firms said tourism- and recreation-related taxable sales increased 6.9 percent.
The agency reported the number of domestic visitors to Florida increased by 1.2 percent while more than 20 million Floridians took vacations inside the state.
Park adds fees,
Changes to the backcountry reservation and permitting process for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park took effect last week. Backcountry users no longer are required to call the backcountry office to obtain reservations. They can be made online any time up to 30 days in advance. Permits also can be obtained online at www.smokiespermits.nps.gov . The park also now requires a $4 per person, per night fee for camping.
Allegheny trail nears completion
The missing link in the bicycle trail connecting the Pittsburgh area to Washington, D.C., is expected to be finished by June.
The Great Allegheny Passage is a 141-mile trail that runs from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, Md., and then links up with the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath, which stretches to Washington.
Russia to open
DreamWorks Animation says it is licensing its characters to a Russian developer of theme parks with plans to open parks in St. Petersburg, Moscow and the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg in 2015.
Some franchises that are to be featured at the parks include Shrek, Madagascar, How to Train Your Dragon, Kung Fu Panda, and Turbo, a movie set to debut in July about a snail that gets super speedy powers.
Southwest, AirTran combine booking
Southwest Airlines and its subsidiary AirTran Airways have combined more booking systems to make it easier to purchase flights on both. Customers will soon be able to book flights to any of the combined 97 destinations of the two carriers in one transaction.
Southwest acquired AirTran in 2010. The combined systems will be expanded this month and should fully connect in April.
Need a new passport but can’t get away during the week to apply? The Miami Passport Agency will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 9 during the annual Passport Day event. The office is in the Omni Building at 1502 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 210. www.travel.state.gov.