Studio puts Florida tour at center stage
By SUSAN G. STROTHER
Knight-Ridder News Service
CHICAGO - Maureen Stine blows into the Midway Airlines office here and, in short order, turns a drab, cramped conference room into a cheery sales oflice for Universal Studios Florida.
She spreads park brocures fan-like on to the table, positions creaky wooden chairs and, with an effusive "hello" welcomes the first group of reservation clerks who will hear her 7 minute spiel.
With all the publicity Universal Studios has generated,
it seems remarkable that there are
people who do not realize the new studio tour opens next month. Yet in the Midwest and
Northeast, where the bulk of Universal's sales effort is under way, knowledge of the park is spotty.
"Oh, is that the Disney World thing?' asked Midway's Kathy Fleming as she picked up a brochure.
"No-o-o-o, no. it's not," said Stine, smiling "We're about 6 miles from Disney. We're Universal Studios."
Stine, a member of Universal's 14 person sales team,
has flown thousands of miles in the
past two years, hoofing it around corporate ofices, airports and trade shows to market the $600 million park in the eastern half of the United States.
Following a corporate stategy that was hatched in late 1987, Stine and five co workers have keyed in on the travel industry - wholesalers, agents, airlines and bus operators that bring millions of tourists to Orlando every year.
More recently, the strategy has been to tout Universal as the kinder, gentler attraction. Travel agents grouse that Walt Disney World, Universal's key Central Florida competitor, refuses to sell single day tickets, won't pay commissions and is stingy with sales literature
In contrast, Universal sell one - and two day tickets, pays commissions of up to 20 percent and ships boxes of literature upon request. It also gives free passes to tour guides and bus drivers.
"Disney has shot themselves in the foot," said
John Stachnick, president of Mayflower Tours Inc., a tour-bus company .The Universal
Studios Florida Tour has its grand opening on June 7 in Orlando. Planning for
the tour's 'E.T. Adventure' segment.