Originally created 12/26/05

Across the southeast



Missing teen's mom cautions trip safety

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Beth Twitty did her homework before letting her daughter, Natalee Holloway, head to Aruba on her senior class trip: She went to planning meetings, and so did Holloway. They asked questions. They discussed underage drinking, chaperones and traveling with buddies.

In spite of all of the precautions, Holloway vanished May 30, the last night of her stay in Aruba.

Her unsolved disappearance became a cautionary tale for parents and the class of '06, and Twitty hopes teens will listen.

"I think if kids can take Natalee's story with them and realize that you're not always safe. ... You are responsible for yourself," said Twitty in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "I think Natalee can show us firsthand what can happen."

However, while Holloway's disappearance may have soured the senior trip experience for her friends in suburban Mountain Brook, it has swayed few others.

Travel groups such as AAA Travel said a few travelers switched destinations in the weeks after Holloway's disappearance, but those fears subsided, even with a call by Alabama's governor for a boycott of Aruba.

Holloway, an 18-year-old honors student from Mountain Brook, was last seen leaving an Aruba bar with Dutch national Joran van der Sloot and Surinamese brothers Deepak and Satish Kalpoe. The young men were arrested in June but were released after a court ruled there was not enough evidence to hold them.

Amusement parks see attendance increase

ORLANDO, Fla. - Powered by strong investment in new rides, the 50th anniversary of Disneyland and hurricanes that spared the theme park capital of Orlando, attendance at North America's 50 most popular amusement parks rose 4.2 percent in 2005.

An estimated 176 million visitors went to North America's most popular parks, according to an annual survey being released Monday by the trade publication Amusement Business and the research firm Economics Research Associates.

Worldwide, amusement park attendance increased 2.2 percent to 253 million visitors in 2005.

The $10 billion North American industry had the benefit of momentum from 2004, the first year attendance had increased since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Universal's two parks in Orlando, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures, each declined 8 percent, and Universal Studios Hollywood had an attendance dip of 6 percent. All three parks came off strong attendance increases in 2004.

Amusement Business also said the worldwide marketing campaign for the 50th anniversary of Disneyland at Disney's parks may have siphoned off some attendance at the Universal parks.

Disney's four parks in Florida and two parks in California benefited from the celebration with new rides, stage shows and parades. The Florida parks had attendance increases of 5 percent to 6 percent, while Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif. respectively saw growth of 8 percent and 3.6 percent.

The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, with 16.1 million visitors, and Disneyland in California, with 14.5 million visitors, were the best-attended parks in the world. The next top 5 spots in North America were Disney's other Florida parks: Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios and Animal Kingdom.