by M&C Staff | August 20, 2008

HOT TOPICSThe Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau will be forced to make about $570,000 in spending cuts this year because low hotel occupancy has reduced the amount of hotel taxes available for the bureau's operating expenses. About half the amount will come from reductions in salaries as well as cuts in advertising, programming and other areas. Most of the bureau's funding comes from the hotel taxes. "We are not planning on discontinuing any services to our customers," Mark Vaughan, the bureau's executive vice president and chief sales and marketing officer, told M&C. "Hiring freeze, furlough of staff are the big ticket items that will get us through."

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority got the go-ahead from the state legislature last week to begin construction of 20,000 square feet of new restaurant space at the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston, part of a previously announced $18 million renovation of the facility. Work will begin immediately, according to an MCCA spokesperson, who said the job should be complete in January. The MCCA does not expect the construction to interrupt or have negative impact on any events at the center. The renovations also will upgrade the venue's security system, technology offerings (including improved wireless Internet and cell-phone service), and its heating, cooling, electrical and plumbing infrastructure.

The long-awaited $301 million Hilton Baltimore Convention Center Hotel now is open for business. One block from Camden Yards and connected to the Baltimore Convention Center by enclosed sky bridge, the 757-room hotel features 60,000 square feet of meeting space, including two ballrooms of 25,000 and 15,000 square feet, respectively, several full-service restaurants and 550 parking spaces.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has announced a decision to split the $890 million renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center into three phases, and to change the order of the work involved. "After reviewing the project and the current economic conditions, we decided this was more fiscally responsible," said an authority spokesperson. In the first quarter of 2009, the LVCVA will begin work on utility relocation, renovations to the north and central halls, and the addition of bathrooms to the central hall. Construction of the metro police station and Clark County fire station also will begin at that time. The LVCVA estimates this first phase will take two years and cost approximately $395 million. The second phase will include renovations to the south hall, and the third will entail the construction of the new grand concourse and lobby. The LVCVA will continue to monitor the economy to determine when the second and third phases will begin. Previously, the entire renovation package had been scheduled for completion in 2011.

The U.S. General Services administration has announced the 2009 federal per diem rates for federal travelers, which take effect Oct. 1, and run through Sept. 30, 2009. Several cities have seen significant increases over their 2008 rates. For example, Los Angeles is up $10, to $128; Baltimore ranges from $157 to $172 (up $17); Philadelphia, $155-$166 (up $17); Washington, D.C., $165-$233 (up $32); and New York City, $259-$360 (up $49). For more information, visit

As of last Saturday, the Transportation Security Administration is allowing laptop computers to remain in new "checkpoint friendly" bags while going through X-ray security screening for carry-on luggage. The bags were created by independent luggage manufacturers in conjunction with the TSA and include several different styles of bags -- butterfly, trifold and sleeve style. Passengers should look for the words "checkpoint friendly" when purchasing a bag. For more, visit

Dolce International, known as a manager and owner of many conference center properties, has changed its name to Dolce Hotels and Resorts to reflect the services and amenities that it will offer soon. Along with a new name and logo, the company also has announced several expansions, renovations and operational changes. Dolce Hotels and Resorts has segmented its portfolio of 24 properties into two divisions: hotels and resorts, and conference hotels. About $100 million is being spent on capital improvements at several properties, including Dolce Valley Forge in King of Prussia, Pa.; Dolce Basking Ridge (N.J.); Dolce Chantilly (France); Dolce Frégate in Provence, France; and The H Hotel in Midland, Mich. A new spa is being added at Dolce La Hulpe in Brussels, Belgium, and the spa at Dolce Sitges, outside of Barcelona, is being expanded.

At Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, work begins this week on a $33.8 million underground, in-line baggage system at Terminal A. The new system is scheduled to be running by January 2010. All other terminals at the airport already have modern baggage systems.

Effective Sept. 2, three carriers operating out of Mineta San Jose (Calif.) International Airport will cut flights. JetBlue Airways will drop its direct flight to Boston, and Continental Airlines will cancel service to Newark, N.J. United Airlines will discontinue its Washington/Dulles flight, followed by its flight to Chicago, which will be dropped in November. According to a spokesperson for the airport, by November airline capacity will decrease by 13 percent in comparison to the previous year.  

According to Travel Weekly, M&C?s sister publication, effective Sept. 1, Hawaiian Airlines will discontinue its daily route from San Diego to Maui. Service will continue from San Diego to Honolulu, with inter-island connections to Maui.

The American Society for Association Executives and The Center for Association Leadership?s annual meeting wrapped up Tuesday night in San Diego with a total attendance of 6,138. This is lower than last year?s figure from Chicago (7,000), but higher than total attendance in Boston in 2006. At a press conference on Monday, ASAE president and CEO John H. Graham IV was asked about the timeline for a decision on the makeup of the boards of ASAE and The Center; potential outcomes could be one board for both organizations, two boards populated by the same people or two totally separate boards. Graham said the matter should be settled by next April, though perhaps by as early as November. Next year?s annual meeting for ASAE and The Center will be held Aug. 15-18 in Toronto.

The International Association of Conference Centers holds its first European annual conference Aug. 28-31 at Warwick University in Coventry, England. About 100 people, primarily from the Denmark, Sweden and U.K. chapters, are expected to attend.

The Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau in Australia will change its name to Business Events Sydney, effective Sept. 1, to describe the function of the bureau better. The bureau?s members also have approved a few changes to the board of directors, adding six seats, including two for executives of Events New South Wales, a company established by the NSW government to market Sydney and the area to meeting and event planners.

Carnival Cruise Lines will replace its 1,452-passenger Holiday with the 2,056-passenger Fantasy out of Mobile, Ala., beginning in November 2009. Fantasy will cruise to Mexico on four- and five-day itineraries. It will feature the Carnival WaterWorks Aqua park, an adults-only retreat area and a new resort-style pool complex, after the ship goes into dry dock this fall. The Holiday will be transferred to Iberocruceros, Carnival?s Spain-based sister cruise line.

The Plaza Las Vegas project has been delayed, according to a spokesperson for developer Elad IDB Las Vegas. Construction on the Las Vegas Strip property now is slated to begin sometime in 2009, on the site once occupied by the New Frontier. The project, previously estimated at $5 billion, had been scheduled to break ground by the end of this year. According to the spokesperson, the developers ?want to make sure all plans are complete and all bids are in before beginning construction.?

The Boston Redevelopment Authority last week approved a $160 million mixed-use project that will include two midscale hotels near the TD Banknorth Garden and the city?s North Station. Plans call for a 153-room Courtyard by Marriott and a 121-room TownePlace Suites by Marriott, in addition to 10,000 square feet of street-level retail, 13,000 square feet of restaurant space and 200,000 square feet of office space. Construction will begin next year, and the project should be complete two years later.

On Friday, the Tulalip (Wash.) Resort Casino, a half-hour north of Seattle, opened its $130 million, 370-room luxury hotel. The 83-acre resort has 192,000 square feet of casino gaming space, 30,000 square feet of meeting space, the 3,000-seat Tulalip Amphitheatre, six restaurants and the 14,000-square-foot, ?earth-inspired? T Spa.

The 168-room Lakeway Resort and Spa in Austin, Texas, a conference resort run by Dolce Hotels and Resorts, now is offering a spin-off of the complete meeting package offered by most conference centers. The Complete Green Meeting Package includes the standards of the CMP ? where the room rate covers an event?s meals, breaks, A/V and meeting space ? and adds elements to help planners conserve energy and resources during their meetings by recycling and reusing products, and using local and organic produce. Among the environmental offerings, notepads will not be provided, meeting rooms will be maintained at 72 degrees Fahrenheit and pitchers of citrus-infused water will be put on conference tables instead of bottles of water.

Marriott International has named Tina Edmundson, a former Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide executive, senior vice president of lifestyle brands and Renaissance operations, effective Sept. 1. Edmundson, most recently senior vice president of brand operations for Starwood?s luxury group, will lead Marriott?s brand strategy and operations, and give marketing oversight for the 140 hotels under the Renaissance and Renaissance Club Sport flag, which recently received an injection of $2 billion in capital investment from owners and franchisees.

Hilton Hotels Corp. has announced the retirement of Steve Armitage, senior vice president of sales, Americas. Armitage, a 30-year Hilton employee, will be replaced by Rob Scypinski, who has been promoted to vice president of sales, the Americas. In addition, Mark Komine, a former executive vice president with LXR Luxury Resorts & Hotels, has joined the Hilton team as senior vice president of sales and commercial development, Americas.

Embassy Suites Hotels, which has 192 properties worldwide, announced this week it has the strongest development pipeline in the brand?s 24-year history. Currently there are 62 hotels planned or under construction, primarily in secondary and tertiary markets in the United States, as well as Latin America, which will propel the brand?s total inventory to 300 by 2010.

The 240-room Mona Lisa Suite Hotel opened in Celebration, Fla., last week. The property features the 150-seat Galerie Restaurant & Bar and meeting space for up to 55 people. The hotel also partners with the Stetson University Conference Center, about half a mile away, to offer an additional 10,000 square feet of meeting space.

Marmara Hotels & Residences, a Turkish hotel chain, plans to add 40 properties over the next 10 years. Among the cities Marmara is eyeing for the $1.5 billion expansion are Sofia, Bulgaria; Baku, Azerbaijan; Bucharest, Romania; and St. Petersburg and Kiev in Russia. The firm currently has nine properties -- eight in Turkey and one in New York City.

The historic La Posada de Albuquerque Hotel, a member of the National Register of Historic Places, will reopen later this year as Andaluz, following a $30 million renovation. The 107-room property, one block from the Albuquerque Convention Center, will have 7,346 square feet of meeting space.

More than 400 hotels will open in Germany by 2012, according to, a database for international hotel construction projects. More than half, 270, are in the luxury or upscale hotel segment. Among the largest is the 572-room Scandic Hotel Berlin, to be completed by 2010.

The 180-room Westin Mount Laurel is now open in southern New Jersey, about six miles from downtown Philadelphia. Amenities include Westin?s Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Bath, as well as in-room wired and Wi-Fi Internet. The property offers 25,000 square feet of meeting space and an Italian restaurant and steak house, Bellagio Ristorante, which features a private dining room that seats 20.
Flamingo Las Vegas, a 3,565-room resort hotel on the Las Vegas Strip, recently completed renovations to its 73,000 square feet of function space. Every meeting room now has new air walls, and every ballroom has been repainted and updated.

When Susan Sarfati, president of the Center for Association Research and executive vice president of the American Society of Association Executives, leaves her job at the end of this month, she will join the American Program Bureau as executive vice president, charged with heading up a new Washington, D.C., office for the speakers bureau. APB?s list of global speakers includes former Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, eight Nobel Peace Prize winners and media celebrities such as Dan Rather and Larry King.