August 06, 2008

The 738-room Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa in Phoenix is planning an extensive $300 million renovation and expansion. The preliminary plans, which were submitted to the city last week, call for the addition of 300 guest rooms, a 25,000-square-foot spa and 15,000 square feet of additional meeting space (for a total of 115,000 square feet). According to a spokesperson for the property, the new meeting space would replace a tent that currently is used as additional meeting space. The historic property is owned by Boston-based Pyramid Hotel Group and Morgan Stanley, and is part of the Waldorf=Astoria Collection managed by Hilton Hotels Group.

Boston's two convention centers generated nearly $500 million in estimated economic impact for the city and the state of Massachusetts in 2007, but overall business was down compared with 2006, according to the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority's annual Economic Impact Report, released last week. Because the centers are now allowed to host public trade shows, the two combined to attract more than 850,000 attendees last year, a 22 percent increase from 2006. But the number of conventions, meetings and trade shows dropped 10 percent to 247; associated room nights fell 7 percent to 602,000; economic impact was down 6 percent to $494.2 million, and direct tax revenue dipped 6 percent to $17.7 million. Officials at the MCCA said the numbers proved a strong return on investment, considering the buildings cost $41.8 million to operate in 2007.

Boyd Gaming Corp. has suspended work on its Las Vegas Echelon project for three to four quarters, due to "the difficult environment surrounding today's capital markets and the challenging economic conditions that currently exist," according to a company statement. Construction will resume when conditions improve. The $4.8 billion, 87-acre mega-development is slated to include approximately 5,000 guest rooms among five hotels, as well as 750,000 square feet of meeting space. Morgans Hotel Group, Boyd's co-developer on the project's proposed Mondrian and Delano hotels, later announced that the group doesn't expect to extend the joint venture under its current terms past the upcoming Sept. 15 construction financing deadline.

Three Revel Entertainment executives were killed in a corporate jet crash in Minnesota on July 31, as was the Tishman Construction project manager for the $2 billion Revel Hotel & Casino development in Atlantic City, N.J. Revel confirmed the executives were vice presidents of construction development Tony Craig and Chris Daul, as well as Lawrence "Chip" Merrigan, director of field operations. The development's project manager was Karen Sandland. According to, at least eight were killed in the crash; among the other fatalities were glazing contractors for the casino project. The flight, which crashed in bad weather, originated in Allentown, Pa., and was en route to Owatonna, Minn.

According to the Honolulu Advertiser, Rex Johnson, the president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, may be asked by the authority's board to resign after sexually explicit e-mails and downloaded content allegedly were found in his government e-mail account. The material was found by an auditor who was investigating the state Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and was auditing the authority's major contractors. The board is scheduled to meet today to discuss whether Johnson's resignation will be recommended. Johnson told M&C: "I acknowledge receiving certain emails and forwarding them to friends. It was a huge error in judgment on my part, and I will abide by the board's decision." In other Hawaii news, the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism reported last week that the total number of visitors to Hawaii by air and cruise during June 2008 had decreased 14.2 percent in comparison to last year. Also revealed in the report was a decrease in visitor expenditures, which were down by 13.5 percent, or $153.2 million, to a total of $982.4 million spent during the month of June.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts said it plans to expand its Hilton Meetings program to a majority of its North American hotels by the end of 2008. Hilton Meetings was first introduced in 2000 at Hilton properties in Ireland and the United Kingdom. The program, which aims to bring a personal touch to small events, includes having a dedicated meeting specialist on property to assist planners with individual needs, providing fresh and contemporary meeting spaces with advanced technology, offering specialized lunch and break menus designed to boost energy, and providing all-day complimentary tea and coffee. More information on Hilton Meetings can be found at