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Yule rebound an ‘aberration’

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ORLANDO, Fla. — The weeks around the holidays marked a bustling end to what was one of the most miserable years for the nation's tourist attractions.

During the holidays, the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World closed its gates three times because it was too crowded, Legoland California racked up the year's strongest attendance, and the Las Vegas Strip was the most packed it has been since Sept. 11.

But many plans for Christmas and New Year's travel were made before Sept. 11, so the success of those two holidays are no indication of how tourist attractions will fare in 2002, said Orlando-based tourism consultant Peter Yesawich.

"I would by no means take admission counts of the past few weeks as to what the future holds," Yesawich said. "The holiday numbers are a bit of an aberration."

Florida tourism officials say the success of the next two months will be determined by consumer confidence, special promotions and how cold it gets up north.

"We pray for snow everyday for every place north of Jacksonville," said Nicki E. Grossman, president and chief executive of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In Orlando, the occupancy rate for hotels during the week between Christmas and New Year's averaged about 80 percent or higher, a vast improvement from November's 52 percent.

But hotels didn't make the same money they did in past years because the average room rate was down 25 percent to 50 percent, said Richard Maladecki, president of the Central Florida Hotel Motel Association.

In Las Vegas, hotels were close to full occupancy, although revenues were down due to discounting around New Year's Eve, one of the busiest times of the year.

"It was a very strong weekend for us," said Erika Brandvik, a spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. "Everyone is raving about how it went."