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crazy4wdw
04-16-2007, 09:37 AM
TOURISM & TRAVEL- Parks' theme: Earth Day

Christopher Boyd and Scott Powers | Sentinel Staff Writers
Posted April 16, 2007

Earth Day will be celebrated with animals and conservation programs at three Central Florida theme parks this weekend, starting with Disney's Animal Kingdom on Friday.

As part of a national string of events called "Party for the Planet" organized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Animal Kingdom will set up conservation-themed stations, such as an African market, with activities, costumed characters and gifts for children and other visitors. At each location participants will receive a postcard with the stations identified and several conservation steps they can take at home.

Animal Kingdom's Party for the Planet will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday. Some activities will be repeated Sunday, which is Earth Day.

SeaWorld Orlando is planning a variety of conservation education activities and animal encounters, notably around its Manatee Rescue and alligator areas on Sunday. SeaWorld also is pledging that proceeds from its popular wildlife encounter tours on Sunday will be donated to the SeaWorld-Busch Gardens Conservation Fund.

Busch Gardens Tampa Bay also is hosting an Association of Zoos and Aquariums' Party for the Planet on Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. At Busch Gardens, activities will include special animal appearances, conservation education, craft making and environmentally friendly giveaways.

All the events will require ticketed admission to the parks.

Keeping up with the Joneses

The U.S. lodging industry is expected to invest a record $5.5 billion in capital improvement projects this year, eclipsing the previous 2006 record of $5 billion.

Financial-services company PricewaterhouseCoopers' Hospitality & Legal Services division forecasts the high spending level as hotels compete with one another to offer everything from improved bedding to flat-screen televisions.

"Although the maintenance and general condition of U.S. hotels is the best it has ever been, the industry continues to make improvements and offer further enhancements," said Bjorn Hanson, the hospitality division's principal.

In addition to upgrading furniture, electronic equipment and in-room technology, hotels are being redesigned to accommodate the tastes of younger travelers.

Changes include creation of areas for casual gatherings, installation of branded equipment and products, inclusion of Internet hot spots and extended hours for food and beverage operations that include the addition of "fun foods."

Pirates in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Disneyland will be getting a Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, though it won't be the ride that's been a huge, long-running hit in Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo and Paris.

Pirate Land, featuring themed entertainment and interactive treasure hunts, will run May 4-June 30 in Hong Kong, coinciding with the May 24 release of the Disney Pictures movie Pirates of the Caribbean 3: At World's End.

The ship flies a "Mickey Jolly Roger Flag." Hong Kong Disneyland, which opened in 2005, is the only Disneyland (or Magic Kingdom) that does not have a Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

More Southwest flights

Southwest Airlines is adding several new flights within the airline's existing network, including one to Orlando International Airport.

Southwest, which is the leader in passenger market share at OIA, will add a daily nonstop round-trip between Houston and Orlando for a total of four. The new flight starts June 17.

Other cities getting additional flights are Dallas; New Orleans; Tampa; Albuquerque, N.M.; Norfolk, Va.; and Seattle.

"We are a growth airline, and we are thrilled to be able to offer this new service to our customers," Southwest chief Gary Kelly said in a prepared statement.

Christopher Boyd can be reached at 407-420-5723 or cboyd@orlandosentinel.com. Scott Powers can be reached at spowers@orlandosentinel.com or 407-420-5441.