What does your mom prefer this May?

What does the mom in your life prefer? Whether you’re thinking about your wife or your own mom – not to mention anyone who’s given you a motherly nudge throughout your life – consider the gift of travel this may. The Preferred Hotel Group’s Mother’s Day program, IPrefer, offers a unique set of resort escapes at hotels across the United States. The “IPrefer Resort Escapes are valid until July 31, 2010. Sign up online (it’s free), and your favorite mom will enjoy a $75 daily activity credit, breakfast for two every day, a guaranteed room upgrade, late check-in and check-out and complimentary internet access.

Also, every participating resort will have a special amenity waiting for your favorite mom upon arrival. At The Palms Spa, a luxury Aveda spa at The Palms Hotel & Spa in Miami, Florida, discounts are available, and the theme is culinary at The Sanctuary Kiawah Island in South Carolina.

New York remains top U.S. port of entry

Through the first nine months of this year, overseas visitors passed mostly through only 15 ports of entry. These spots, according to the Department of Commerce accounted for 84 percent of entry traffic into the United States, gaining two percentage points over the first nine months of 2008. New York‘s JFK airport, Miami and Los Angeles dominated, pulling in 39 percent of all arrivals, up a percentage point from the same period last year.

Only four of the top 15 ports of entry in the United States saw traffic increase year-over-year: Miami, Orlando, Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale. Of the 11 that posted declines, three did so at a double-digit rate. Visitation through Chicago fell a whopping 18 percent, which pushed it to seventh on the list, behind Honolulu. Houston fell a mere 3 percent, bringing up to #12, ahead of Boston. Philadelphia’s 6 percent gain moved it to #14, and a 3 percent increase in traffic through Fort Lauderdale brought it into the top 15 at the bottom spot. Detroit‘s 36 percent fall in overseas arrivals caused it to fall from the top 15.

Get some relief from winter in Bal Harbour this year

Miami is the place to be for holiday shopping. So, put the snow behind you and head for Bal Harbour, where you can pick up a free fourth night’s stay for every three you book at the Sea View Hotel. Once you check in, cross the street and start melting your credit card immediately at the top-rated mall in the United States. Rates start at $537 and are valid through the end of March 2010.

The Sea View Hotel has 220 rooms with views of the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay and an Olympic-size pool surrounded by Key West-style cabanas. If you need relief from the brutality of winter — this usually happens to me in February — plan your exit down to Miami for a few days. And remember that four nights means one of them is free.

Art Basel in Miami to get art market’s pulse

Next week, while shoppers will be dashing in and out of stores — and caving to the pressures of the holiday season — the art community will be feeling its own anxiety. Art Basel in Miami Beach, the top art show in the United States, kicks off on December 3, 2009. This event, the U.S. version of Switzerland’s Art Basel show, will bring more than 250 art galleries from around the world, showing 20th and 21st century pieces from more than 2,000 artists. The exhibitions will be held in Miami’s Art Deco District. Video, performance and public art will be on display, and collectors will have the chance to open their wallets.

The art community is pretty nervous. The market has spent the past year in a slump, with auction prices falling 70 percent or more and some collectors unable to sell their pieces, even when willing to accept such dismal prices. There are signs that the art market is recovering, but the near future is far from certain.

Interested attending? Through Ticketmaster, one-day tickets cost $35, with $55 for two days and $75 to attend the entire event (which ends on December 6, 2009). And, click here to see some of the other events that will be held alongside Art Basel.

[Painting by artist Benjamin Krell]

How did international visitors enter the U.S. this year?

If you visited the United States from overseas, you probably hit the ground in one of 15 ports of entry. These top first stops accounted for 84 percent of all entries from overseas in the first eight months of 2009– up almost 2 percentage points from the same period in 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Traffic through the major ports is becoming slightly more concentrated. This doesn’t include visits from Canada and Mexico.

New York JFK, Miami and Los Angeles continue to be the top three ports of entry for overseas visitors. Through August, these locations accounted for 39% of all arrivals from overseas, an increase of a percentage point from last year. Miami was the only one of these three to post a year-over-year increase, and it was joined only by Orlando MCO, Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale. Meanwhile, 11 of the top 15 ports of entry posted decreases in arrivals. This is hardly surprising, given that visits to the Untied States from overseas are down 9 percent so far this year.

Chicago was hit particularly hard, losing 18 percent of its entry traffic and moving into #7 on the list, behind Honolulu. Detroit lost 36 percent of its inbound visitor share, falling to #16 — after Boston, Philadelphia and Fort Lauderdale.