July 30, 2008

South Padre Island bore the brunt last week when Hurricane Dolly made landfall in Texas. Power remains out over much of the island, access to the area is restricted, andæmost phone service still was out as of yesterday. The 194-room Radisson Resort sustained some structural damage, according to its website, and the property is not accepting reservations for stays in the immediate future. Local news outlets reported the roof was blown off the 201-room Bahia Mar Resort & Conference Center, and the hotel had to be evacuated. Currently, there is no answer at the 250-room Sheraton SPI Beach Hotel & Condominiums.

According to figures released by Smith Travel Research this week, U.S. hotel occupancy for the first half of 2008 slipped 2.6 percent to 61.4 percent compared to the same period in 2007. However, room revenue grew 3.9 percent in the first six months of 2008 compared to the same period in 2007, a result of increased room rates, generating $54 billion. In other economic news, Lodging Econometrics, a hospitality real estate consulting firm, reported that figures for the first half of 2008 show a full hotel construction pipeline in the United States. Currently, there are 785,547 new rooms in the pipeline, with 242,229 actually under construction. Another 2,737 are scheduled to begin construction in the next 12 months. The bulk of the projects, 44 percent, consist of 100-200 room properties. However, the number of new projects entering the construction pipeline is expected to decline over the next four to six quarters due to constriction of lending by financial institutions.

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that about 4,000 employees of the German airline Lufthansa went on strike to agitate for a 9.8 percent pay increase over one year. (The airline is prepared to give 7.7 percent, plus a one-time bonus, over 21 months.) The striking employees are members of the ver.di trade union and comprise technicians, cargo workers, cabin crews and caterers. There were no flight cancellations on Monday, but, as the strike continued into Tuesday, Lufthansa was forced to ground nine planes, leading to 35 cancellations, mostly on intra-Germany and European routes. A Lufthansa spokesperson told M&C the airline has "maintained all connections, and that all intercontinental flights to the U.S. and Asia are on time with no delays or cancellations."

Global Hyatt Corp. is investing upward of $1.3 billion to revitalize its portfolio of Hyatt Regency hotels. Seventeen Hyatt Regency properties in key business, convention and resort locations throughout North America will undergo renovations as part of the multiyear project. Another 31 properties are scheduled to be renovated or to open by 2010. Among the projects are the $300 million, 500-room Hyatt Regency Toronto Airport, scheduled to open in 2010. Also included is the 1,260-room Hyatt Regency Atlanta, which will begin a $15 million renovation this summer. Improvements include a new pedestrian bridge connecting the hotel to the neighboring Marriott Marquis, an overhaul of the 333 rooms in the International Tower, and upgrades to the 9,150-square-foot International Ballroom and the 40,000-square-foot Grand Hall. Four new 1,500-square-foot breakout rooms will be added, as well. All renovations will be completed by the end of this year. The 250-room Hyatt Regency Coral Gables will begin its $10 million renovation in September, to finish up in November.

A major redesign of the Meeting Information Network, Destination Management Association International's online convention and meeting database, is in the works. The project, called EmpowerMINT, consists of three stages. Phase one, already in progress, will upgrade the meetings history database by improving its navigation, search engines and convention reports, among other items. The second stage will add a "dates, rates and space" function to allow meeting professionals to access room availability and convention center facts, as well as to submit requests for proposal. The last stage will incorporate a lead-generation feature. Completion of the project is expected in April 2009.

Meeting Professionals International has launched an online study guide for those preparing to take the CMP exam. The guide was created through a partnership with Arizona State University. An overview of the guide can be found at www.mpiweb.org/_media/asu_intro/index.htm.