Orlando has spoken! A pair of New Yorkers rose above hundreds of applicants to become Orlando’s Smile Ambassadors. For 67 days, they will experience more than 100 attractions offered … which includes a hell of a lot more than just a dance with the Mouse. Alligators will be involved, for example. Along the way, they’ll blog and their experiences, giving the rest of the world an “in the trenches” view of what Orlando has to offer.
The final test for Kyle Post, a Broadway performer and Stacey Doornbos, a childcare worker in Harlem, was a 67-hour “boot camp” that ended on July 29, 2009. The candidates went hang gliding, did some indoor skydiving and checked out downtown Orlando, blogging and tweeting as though it were the real deal.
“Every member of the selection committee agrees that selecting one pair from our ten finalists was one of the toughest career decisions we have each faced,” said Gary C. Sain, president and CEO of the Orlando CVB. “Each pair demonstrated tremendous creativity, desire and commitment. We thank all of the finalists for making us smile and ultimately look forward to Kyle and Stacey bringing the complete Orlando experience to life for a worldwide audience starting Aug. 27.”
Kyle and Stacey have been frends since childhood, growing up together in Holland, Michigan. They have taken more than 30 amusement park trips together and say they’ve been on 618 rides. Kyle moved to New York and was cast in RENT, and Stacey wound up in the city after experiencing seven countries in three months.
The duo took a “friendship honeymoon” (how it pains me to use that expression … it’s worse than “staycation”) to Orlando shortly after they finished college, so it’s easy to see why Kyle says, “We feel like everything we have done in our lives so far has led to this moment.” He continues that they “chose to apply for this position because Orlando embodies everything we are – passionate, charismatic and adventurous. We can’t wait to start our 67 days in Orlando to share everything we learn about what this amazing destination has to offer.”
Prices are about to go up at Disney World, but the company is keeping the increases reasonable. Theme park multi-day admission prices will increase by 2.5 percent to 5.3 percent, depending on the nature of the passes. In 2006, when the economy was strong, the park hiked prices 16 percent.
The money has to come from somewhere. Hotel bookings are down 7 percent for Disney’s domestic parks this quarter, and the discounts used to bring more people in the door are hitting the company’s bottom line, as well. Park attendance was up last quarter, but revenue fell 9 percent, thanks to aggressive hotel room pricing.
What’s this all mean? Disney CEO Bob Iger doesn’t expect the economy to recover anytime soon, so he’s got to keep Mickey’s pockets full. He does make the point, however, that a $79 ticket to the Orlando park compares favorably to sporting events, ski lift tickets and other forms of entertainment – not a bad point.
Eighty-six percent of international arrivals to the United States come through only 15 ports of entry, according to data from the Department of Transportation. This represents an increase of one percentage point over last year (measuring the first five months of 2008 to the first five months of 2009.
The top three ports of entry are hardly surprising: New York (specifically JFK), Miami and Los Angeles. How insane is it that the leading first impression of our country is in Queens?! These three spots were responsible for 40 percent of all arrivals so far this year. Their share of all international arrivals – trending with the top 15 – increased by roughly one percentage point year-over-year. Miami, Orlando and Philadelphia were the only members of this group to post increases.
Six of the top 15 ports of entry into the United States sustained double-digit decreases in arrivals. The stream through San Francisco is off 18 percent, moving it into the #6 position on the list (behind Honolulu). Detroit dropped 32 percent, pushing it to fifteenth, behind Boston and Philadelphia, and Agana, Guam fell 9 percent, putting it behind Chicago on the list.
One monorail crashed into the back of another at Walt Disney World early this morning, killing one driver and shaking up a family of six. According to the park’s statement, “Today we mourn the loss of our fellow cast member. Our hearts go out to his family and to those who have lost a friend and co-worker.”
The monorail, according to a report by CNN, was shut down, as the park works with law enforcement to figure out just what happens … and what comes next.
In case Orlando only gives you images of amusement parks, read Tom’s post on what else to do in Orlando. There may not be time for the Magic Kingdom. Next time I go, I want that scenic boat trip in Winter Park.
If the world about the news seems too darned depressing, check out Kraig’s post on Art in All of Us. Yes, indeed there are wondrous, uplifting happenings as well.
For anyone heading to Morocco, do read Tynan’s latest Life Nomadic missive on the Moroccan hustle. Reading about his experiences trying not to be taken reminded me of the Moroccan segments of Brook Silva-Braga’s documentary, “One Day in Africa.” Being prepared for the everyone is trying to make a deal experience is a wise move. Tynan covers the issue to a T.