- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 20, 2005

Six Flags America’s water park is getting a Caribbean makeover. Hurricane Harbor, set to debut on May 28, will include two new rides, an expanded children’s section, bold colors and Caribbean-themed eateries to give the water park an island feel.

The Largo-based park, which will have 25 water rides this season, is one of seven water parks under the Six Flags Inc. umbrella to be transformed into the Caribbean theme. Six Flags has 30 amusement, water and animal parks nationwide.

Six Flags America’s water park, formerly known as Paradise Island, has not been revamped since 1995. Officials aren’t disclosing the cost of the makeover.

“This renovation represents the single biggest expansion in the history of our water park and is in direct response to consumer demand for a bigger, better water park,” said Janet Porter, vice president and general manager at Six Flags.

Crews are expanding the 6,500-square-foot children’s area to 10,500 square feet. Buccaneer Beach will include pools, slides, palm trees and a pirate ship. Two new rides also highlight the makeover.

The Tornado, an enormous funnel turned on its side, carries four riders in cloverleaf-shaped tubes down a 132-foot-long tunnel splashing back and forth on 5,000 gallons of swirling water. Bahama Blast twists riders along a 517-foot-long triple-dip water slide.

Six Flags will begin advertising for the new season next week. Mr. Six, the company’s bald, dancing spokesman, will return.

Spring fever

Spring travel is in the air.

Americans will take nearly 281 million trips during March, April and May — up 1.2 percent over last spring, says the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA). TIA measures a single trip as one person traveling 50 miles or more from home one way.

Americans are expected to take nearly 223 million leisure trips, up about 1 percent from last year. It is moderate growth but nearly 7 percent higher than travel in spring 2003 and 10 percent more than in spring 2000.

Business and convention travel is expected to increase about 2 percent this season.

TIA has been tracking seasonal travel for more than 15 years. The group’s forecasts are usually within a half-percentage point of actual figures.

Business networking

Baltimore tourism officials are hoping to charm Washington-area meeting planners this week to bring more business to the city.

The Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association (BACVA) has invited more than 30 association meeting planners based in this area to breakfast at Nordstrom at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City on Wednesday to showcase Baltimore. BACVA has hosted similar meetings in Chicago the past four years.

It will give the tourism group a chance to market Baltimore as a meeting and convention destination to neighboring planners. Attendees also will get some spring shopping advice from Nordstrom professionals.

Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Retail & Hospitality runs every other Monday.

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