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ORLANDO-A mild attendance recovery at area hotels and attractions following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have been wiped out by new anthrax fears that have plummeted gate receipts by 35% for the week ended Oct. 9, according to the Florida Attractions Association.

The trade group monitored 22 statewide parks in this 600-mile long state. Business was down an average 25% throughout the state. Orlando was hit hardest, largely because of the volume of new and planned hotel rooms, says the Orlando/Orange County Visitors Bureau.

The bureau, headed by Bill Peeper, is spending $5 million on a promotional tourism package that comprises electronic and print media advertising; discounts at hotels and attractions; and related tourist-attracting concepts.

Attendance at attractions fell 50% in the first week after the attacks but recovered and was down by 10% for the week ended Oct. 2.

Preliminary mid-October hotel occupancy figures from Smith Travel Research Inc. show an average 58.7% occupancy as of Oct. 13 among the 111,618 hotel rooms at 427 area hotels tracked monthly by the Hendersonville, TN-based firm. That’s an improvement from the 29% average occupancy posted in the first week following the attacks but down from the average 88.2% occupancy at this time last year.

Walt Disney World, Central Florida’s largest innkeeper with 18 hotels and 20,942 rooms, declines to discuss occupancy figures. As GlobeSt.com reported Oct. 17, Disney has shelved plans to complete its two-building, 5,760-room, $460 million Pop Century Resort next to the 350-acre Wide World of Sports Complex at Lake Buena Vista, FL, 15 miles southwest of Downtown Orlando.

On the convention side, the four million-sf Orange County Convention Center is bracing for a reduction in attendees between now and the end of the year but reports all 24 bookings for the next three months remain active. However, convention officials expect an estimated 15% dropoff in the number of attending delegates. A total 202,000 attendees were originally booked.

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