Travel Briefs

Record number of tourists visiting Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida had a record number of visitors during this past spring.

Gov. Rick Scott will announce Tuesday that 24 million tourists visited the state during the second quarter of 2014. That’s a 3 percent jump over the same time period a year ago.

Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm, estimates that the record number includes 2.8 million visitors from overseas and 1 million Canadians.

Scott has pushed to increase spending on Visit Florida advertising to try to boost the state’s tourism industry. This current fiscal year the state set aside $74 million for the effort.

Last year nearly 95 million people visited the state. Scott wants to boost that number to 100 million even though legislators did not increase funding for Visit Florida as much as he wanted.

Ring, ring: London statues want to talk to you

LONDON (AP) – Calling all London tourists: Peter Pan, Sherlock Holmes and Queen Victoria want a word with you.

Statues of some three dozen historical and fictional characters in London and Manchester are coming to life thanks to a new interactive project that gives them a voice to tell their stories.

Passers-by can swipe their smartphones on a tag or type in a web address to get an instant call from the characters depicted. Actors including Patrick Stewart and Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville perform the monologues, which last a few minutes each.

The project, launched Tuesday, features Isaac Newton at the British Library, Sherlock Holmes at Baker Street station and Queen Victoria at Blackfriars Bridge, among others.

The statues will talk for a year and organizers hope to bring them to other cities.

Road work this fall in Yellowstone Park

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) – Yellowstone National Park is giving visitors to the park this fall a heads up on some significant road construction work that will result in long detours.

The National Park Service says the road work involves two sections of Yellowstone’s Grand Loop Road that will be closed due to construction after the Labor Day holiday weekend.

The road linking Old Faithful with West Thumb and Grant Village will be closed for the season starting on Sept. 2.

In addition, the road from Mammoth Hot Springs to Norris will be closed starting Sept. 14.

The road construction will cause detours that will add up to two hours or more along parts of the route.

Thailand ranks No. 1 in beachfront hotels

BANGKOK (AP) – Experiencing a dramatic surge in tourism, Thailand has surpassed the United States in the number of hotels truly set on its beaches, according to a survey of more than 11,000 hotels in 109 countries released Friday.

The Southeast Asian country ranked first with more than 1,250 beachfront properties, followed by the United States with 1,016 and Mexico with 943. Spain, with 736, was fourth, trailed by the Philippines, Greece, Italy, Turkey, Egypt and Sri Lanka, said the survey by the Beachfront Club, a website that maps and details seaside hotels around the world.

The Bangkok-based website defines true beachfront hotels as those directly on the beach or oceanfront with no road or traffic between the rooms and the water.

Thailand also ranked first for total beachfront accommodations within a single beach destination. Its Samui Island has 270, ahead of Riviera Maya in Mexico with 250, Crete with 194 and Mallorca with 187.

5 Tennessee sites added to national register

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Five Tennessee sites have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The registry is part of a nationwide program that coordinates and supports efforts to identify, evaluate and protect historic resources. The Tennessee Historical Commission administers the program in the state.

The new sites are: Happy Holler Historic District in Knoxville, C.C. Card Auto Co. Building in Cleveland, Picardy Place Historic District in Memphis, Miller Farmstead in Carter County and Norris Dam State Park Rustic Cabins Historic District in Anderson County.

For more information about the National Register of Historic Places or the Tennessee Historical Commission, visit .

Travel Briefs

American art to begin flooding billboards in US

WASHINGTON (AP) – Billboards displaying artwork from five major U.S. museums are going up nationwide this week to mark the start of a large outdoor art show.

The National Gallery of Art in Washington is one of the museums contributing artwork for the “Art Everywhere U.S.” show. It will run through the month of August and will display art on city streets, bus shelters, subway platforms and airports, as well as rural highways.

Officials at the National Gallery of Art say works will be seen in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The public voted last spring for which artwork to show. Curators in Washington say paintings from the National Gallery of Art received the most overall votes. The museum contributed 14 of the final 58 selections.

Vegas resort planned at ex-New Frontier site

LAS VEGAS (AP) – A new resort could soon spring up on the vacant Las Vegas Strip site of the former New Frontier casino, thanks to a partnership between Australian billionaire James Packer and former Wynn Las Vegas President Andrew Pascal.

The two announced last Monday that they’re forming a new company and acquired a controlling interest in the 35-acre parcel, which has remained undeveloped since the storied New Frontier was imploded on Nov. 13, 2007. Groundbreaking is planned for 2015, while the resort could open as soon as 2018.

“You can’t be in the gaming industry and not have a special reverence for Las Vegas – that’s where it all began,” said Packer, whose company, Crown Resorts Limited, has successful casinos in Australia, Macau and London. “While we fell short in past attempts to enter that market, we now have the ideal opportunity.”

Carnival plans to build cruise port in Haiti

KINGSTON, Jamaica (AP) – A major Florida-based cruise line has signed a letter of intent to develop a new port on an isolated Haitian barrier island that’s long been a major launching spot for smugglers, authorities said Monday.

Carnival Corp., the parent company of Carnival Cruise Lines, said it signed a memorandum of understanding last week with the Haitian government for a cruise port on Ile de la Tortue off Haiti’s north coast.

In a statement emailed last Monday, Carnival said the development would create a “tremendous economic impact” for Haitians while also carving out a new spot for ship itineraries in the Caribbean, the globe’s No. 1 cruise destination.

“The development will create an exciting opportunity for our guests to enjoy a new, secluded and stunning destination,” said David Candib, a vice president for Miami-based Carnival.

Hotel negative review policy spurs online backlash

NEW YORK (AP) – A hotel received a flood of online criticism last Monday following reports that it threatened to charge $500 if guests posted negative reviews.

The New York Post reported early Aug. 4 that the Union Street Guest House in Hudson, N.Y., warned on its website that “a $500 fine … will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review placed on any Internet site by anyone in your party.” The policy was aimed at guests booking the inn for weddings and other events.

The hotel, about 100 miles north of New York City, apparently removed the warning from its website after the Post story was published and picked up by other media. The hotel then explained on its Facebook page that the policy on fines was “a tongue-in-cheek response to a wedding many years ago. It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced.”

By late that afternoon, the hotel appeared to have removed the “tongue-in-cheek” explanation from its Facebook page.

After the original New York Post story was picked up by many websites, readers began posting dozens of phony one-star reviews on the hotel’s Yelp listing, many with absurd claims (“none of the rooms have beds”). Some posters said the bogus write-ups were deserved, though at least one gave a five-star review to the maligned hotel out of pity.

The hotel’s phone went unanswered Monday afternoon and the hotel did not respond to an emailed request for comment.