The Tropics Beckon

February 10, 1994|By David Conn | David Conn,Sun Staff Writer

True remark overheard yesterday morning from a 3-year-old, struggling to stay vertical on a South Baltimore street, to his mother: "Get me out of here!"

And if he had a credit card he'd probably do what Baltimoreans are doing in droves: calling their travel agents and booking a trip south -- anywhere south, the farther the better.

Or maybe a nice cruise.

"Cruises are up, because they're starting to be affordable now, they're competitive," said Jeannie Urban, a part-time agent and director of the cruise desk at Roeder Travel on York Road.

Business has "definitely increased," since the cold snap last month, Ms. Urban said, at least double the rate in December. "People want to go where it's warm. They want to get out of town, and they want to get out fast."

That may help explain why area travel agents say they've been deluged with calls in the last few weeks. "I don't know whether it's attributable to the weather or not, but our business has picked up tremendously since the first of the year, and particularly in the last three or four weeks," said Clem Dietze, of Dietze & Renner Travel Agents Inc. in Baltimore.

"The depression that goes with the weather has just been the kick in the pants to get people up and off their wallets" after a long recession, he said. Compared with this time last year, he said, business is up 30 percent to 35 percent.

"We're getting a lot of last-minute requests for people who want to go" to warmer climates, Mr. Dietze said. The most popular destinations are the obvious ones: Cancun, Puerta Vallarta, the Bahamas, the Caribbean and Florida.

And why not? "It is beautiful," gloated Alice McDaniel, assistant media manager at the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, and a Baltimore native. "It happens to be a perfect day.

"The sun's nice and hot, but it's not too hot on you," Ms. McDaniel said, mercilessly rubbing it in. "With a 'leeeeetle' bit of a breeze."

Phone calls to the Ocean Grand Hotel in Palm Beach are up 30 percent year-to-date compared with last year, according to Jill Sharp, whose Miami public relations firm, Abbaticcio and Limner, represents the hotel and others. Business is up 10 percent.

Telephone inquiries to the Doral Resort & Country Club in West Miami have jumped to 280 a day from 200 before the mid-January mess hit the East Coast and Midwest, Ms. Sharp said. And the Doral Ocean Beach Resort in Miami Beach has seen its call volume rise to 210 a day from 175 before the cold snap.

The weather apparently can motivate superhuman efforts. "We had [customers] actually come in, in their cars" to book vacations, said Jim Pryor, president of Carlson Travel Network/Four Seasons Travel in Cockeysville. "That's what blows my mind: people can't make it to work, but they drive in here to book a cruise," he said.

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