By Bob Weiss, Travel Contributor

SARASOTA, Fla. (CBS) – Spring training for Major League baseball teams is the best travel promotion ever conceived in the U.S.  It has a long history and is a major topic of conversation here.

This is Baltimore Orioles country here in Sarasota, about 50 miles north of the Red Sox spring training site in Fort Myers.

Your Red Sox hat with the stylized letter B draws more than its share of comments from people who pass by.

Fifteen Major League baseball teams are currently calling Florida home during the six-week period that ends the first week in April. From a sporting standpoint, exhibition baseball ranks up there with fishing and golf as the major past time for vacationers.

It’s big business too for the areas involved. The teams will generate about $750 million in economic activity in Florida this year.

Next year will mark the 95th anniversary of the start of spring training. The New York Yankees came to Florida in 1921, traveling by train to get ready for the regular season.

Everybody is a winner in this warm weather prelude to the season. Managers are optimistic. The rookies look good.  The games are played in the afternoon and the sports writers’ work is done for the day by 5 p.m. When one TV station sends a crew to Florida from Boston, all the stations come down to cover the games. TV stations bring down their major advertisers for a relaxing weekend.

The recession is a distant memory here. You need restaurant reservations day and night. Everywhere you look, high-rise building is taking place and winter season traffic is a major topic of conversation.

JetBlue Airways pulled a major coup with the naming of JetBlue Park, Fenway South, a smaller version of Boston’s Fenway Park with a left field wall.  The airline’s name is included in just about every report. After a game, five registers are ringing up sales in the Red Sox store.

Baseball helps triple the people coming to Florida for annual vacations. With the winter Boston has had, that number will increase in 2016. Look for prices to be up about 9 percent next year. Also keep in mind that Florida has a room tax of 12 and one-half percent to support tourism promotion.

Bob Weiss reports on business travel on Mondays at 5:55 a.m. on WBZ NewsRadio 1030.


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