Orlando Sentinel
By Gabrielle Russon – Contact Reporter

Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry lights up during “Holidays at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.” Holiday cheer at Universal Orlando Resorts kicks off Saturday, Nov. 18 and runs daily through Jan. 6. Click here to view Video

Universal Orlando Resort is selling New Year’s Eve tickets to ring in 2018 at CityWalk. The festivities include access to six clubs with live bands and DJs, along with unlimited gourmet food plus a midnight champagne toast. Fireworks will ring in the New Year at midnight.

“The whole year’s been leading up to this: EVE, Universal CityWalk’s eye-popping, mind-blowing, jam-packed New Year’s celebration,” an announcement from Universal said.

Advance general admission for those 21 and older cost $109.99, while annual passholders pay $98.99 plus tax. Ticket prices increase after Dec.15.

Beverages are not included in the price, and there is no theme park admission in the package. Parking is also not included in the price, although it’s free to park after 10 p.m. at CityWalk and $20 before 10 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit www.CityWalk.com/EVE

SeaWorld extends season

SeaWorld announced it is expanding its holiday season at the park with Latin-inspired festivities from Jan. 1-6.

“Families are invited to help commemorate the arrival of the Three Wise Men with authentic festive cuisine and celebratory experiences held in honor of the cherished tradition of Latin cultures,” the company said in a press release.

The festivities include Puerto Rican holiday dishes available at Sharks Underwater Grill, live music and a Three Kings Processional leading to a live nativity scene.

SeaWorld’s Three Kings Celebration is included with park admission and begins at 11 a.m. daily, Jan. 1 – 6, until the park close at 7 p.m.

The Orlando theme park is also offering New Year’s Eve festivities with fireworks, food and entertainment until 12:30 a.m.

ITEC hires VP in China

ITEC Entertainment announced it hired Scott Schriefer to be the new vice president and regional director of China. The Orlando-headquartered company builds and designs theme-park attractions.

Schriefer will work in the company’s Shanghai office as ITEC created the new vice president position because the company is working on more than 35 projects in China.

“Scott’s leadership and expertise will ensure our high U.S. standards continue to be delivered in a 24-hour-a-day business environment which has become critical to our success in the development of unmatched, immersive guest experiences in Asia and throughout the world,” said ITEC Entertainment President, Bill Coan.

Schriefer’s 30-year career in the theme park industry includes working for Dubai Parks and Resorts and Fox Studios Australia.

ITEC opened in 1985 and has been involved with more than 300 attractions and guest experiences.

Hotel tax revenue

In October, Orange County tourism tax jumped to $21.8 million, a 6 percent increase compared to same time in 2016.

The 6 percent tax is charged on short-term rentals, hotels and motels, and may have grown partly because of hurricane evacuees.

“Orange County and our region were still feeling the impacts from Hurricanes Irma and Maria during the month of October and I am certain that influenced our TDT numbers,” Orange County comptroller Phil Diamond said in a news release. “As we go into the holiday season, the numbers should be closer to normal.”

It was the second month where people evacuating the storms and coming to Central Florida helped increase tax revenue. The tax generated about $19 million in September — a 12 percent increase from September 2016.

Seaworld manatees

SeaWorld’s Orlando rescue team helped save 10 manatees in danger on a three-day mission last month in Charleston, S.C., the company announced.

“The manatees were spotted in the upper reaches of the Cooper River, near a warm-water outflow area. Historically, manatees move south into warmer waters when the water temperature drops below 68 degrees,” SeaWorld said in a press release. “Due to rapidly dropping water temperatures in the river, the manatees remained close to the warm water outflow, instead of continuing to travel south. In doing so, they were isolated from adequate food sources and naturally warm waters.”

Several other government and wildlife agencies, including Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, joined SeaWorld in the operation.

The manatees — eight males and two females — were taken back to Florida, where they were evaluated by veterinarians at the Jacksonville Zoo and the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine.

Nine were released back into the wild in Brevard County.

“One female was exhibiting mild cold stress and is being cared for by veterinarians and staff at the Jacksonville Zoo with support from SeaWorld and the Lowry Park Zoo,” SeaWorld said in a press release.

So far in 2017, SeaWorld Orlando has rescued 47 manatees and returned 25 following successful rehabilitation.

LOAD-DATE: April 6, 2018

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