July 23, 2008

Kevin Forde, a former manager for the Switzerland Incentive & Convention Bureau in North America, died Friday following a long battle with brain cancer. A statement released by Urs Eberhard, vice president Switzerland Tourism, and Barbara Albrecht, manager of the Swiss Incentive & Convention Bureau, said, "Kevin became part of the MICE team North America in 2002 until he had to discontinue working for us late last year due to health reasons. We will miss him as a wonderful colleague with a positive spirit, a great passion for Switzerland and an enormous courage in fighting his disease."

On Saturday, 280 workers, mostly housekeepers and kitchen staff, went on strike at the 605-room Hyatt Regency Montreal and are still out as of this writing. A letter from the general manager, placed in all guest rooms, said room service and pool services had been suspended. The hotel, which remains open, is one of several in the city that currently are negotiating with Quebec's Confederation of National Trade union. The heart of the issue is the working conditions of housekeeping employees, who are asking that the number of rooms to be cleaned daily per chambermaid be reduced from 14 to 13. Other sticking points include wages and pension plans. The workers' current contract expired June 30.

Aramark employees at Boston's two main convention centers, who have been working without a contract since October, might never get one -- at least not from Aramark. James Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, indicated last week that the MCCA will consider terminating its $27 million-a-year catering contract with Aramark early next year and will seek a new food-service provider or will choose to handle F&B internally. Rooney continues to push Aramark to reach an agreement with its workers and expects to make a recommendation to the MCCA's board of directors this fall about retaining the supplier. According to an MCCA spokesperson, the decision to explore new options was influenced, in part, by the failure of Aramark to settle disputes with Unite HERE Local 26, the union that helped the workers stage a three-day strike against their employer last month.

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon has announced the creation of a joint board of directors that will provide oversight to the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association and the Baltimore Convention Center. Tom Noonan, president and CEOæof the BACVA, and Peggy Daidakis, executive director of the BCC, will report to the new entity, which will be known as the Baltimore Convention & Tourism Board. Chairing the board will be Edwin F. Hale, chairman and CEO of 1st Mariner Bank, and a former chair of the BACVA's board of directors. Noonan and Daidakis each will continue to run their organizations independently, and their staffs will remain separate. The board's mission will include destination sales and marketing, as well as the maintenance and operation of the BCC. The 2008-2009 board's term begins Aug. 1.

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine signed legislation Friday transferring control of the Atlantic City Convention Center and Boardwalk Hall from the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority. Under the new legislation, the ACCVA now will oversee its own marketing and operating finances, as opposed to having to work through the Sports and Exposition Authority. The ACCVA expects to officially take ownership of the two venues in 2009, following bond-holder approval.

An opening date of Oct. 10, 2010 (10/10/10), has been established for the 100,000-square-foot convention center being built in Irving, Texas. The $137 million facility, part of a mixed-use entertainment development, will offer 50,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 20,000-square-foot ballroom and 20 breakout rooms of about 1,000 square feet each. Visit irvingtexas.com to view renderings of the angular, three-story building. For phase two of the project, a proposal from the Watermark Hotel Co. is under consideration by the city council and includes development of a 400-room conference center hotel, a 100-room Watermark Hotel, 30,000 square feet of meeting space, two hotel restaurants, a 15,000-square-foot Watermark spa, 200,000 square feet of retail space and more. Also being considered is a 3,500-seat concert venue.

Ritz-Carlton will take over management of the 220-room St. Regis Fort Lauderdale Resort effective Aug. 11, renaming the property The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale. Starwood Hotels & Resorts, which owns the St. Regis brand, announced last week that it was de-flagging the resort in August. According to the South Florida Business Journal, Starwood canceled the contract because of undisclosed disputes.

Hong Kong & Shanghai Hotels Ltd. and Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Co. plan to develop a historical building in Paris into a Peninsula hotel. The building, near the Arc de Triomphe, was formerly the Centre International de Conferences. The property, Peninsula's first in Europe, is expected to open in 2012. Room and meeting space details have not yet been determined.