Last week, American Airlines became the first domestic carrier to offer in-flight broadband Internet access with the launch of "Gogo," its new Wi-Fi service, on Boeing 767-200 jets traveling between New York City and San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. The airline will charge passengers $12.95 for access on flights longer than three hours, the same price that Delta Air Lines plans to charge for its Wi-Fi service, which is slated for launch next summer.
The expansion of Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Convention Center appears to be on track, after bids to complete the most expensive phase of the project would bring the total cost to $777 million, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Governor Ed Rendell speculated to the newspaper that the state might have to pull the plug on the project if bids were too far above the original $700 million estimate. Should the bids be accepted, the extra $77 million could be covered by an increase in the city's hotel tax, a measure already approved by the state legislature. The expansion has an estimated completion date of January 2011. Messages left at the convention center and the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau were not returned.
At least two groups that had scheduled conferences at the 1,625-room Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego have decided to meet elsewhere in the city, in protest of hotel owner Doug Manchester's financial support of an effort to ban gay marriage in the state of California. Gay rights groups called for a boycott of the hotel after news surfaced of Manchester's $125,000 contribution to the campaign. The San Diego County Employees Retirement Association voted last week to move its conference to the San Diego Convention Center, and the Association of American Law Schools will meet at the San Diego Marriott Hotel & Marina. Both groups will maintain at least a portion of their room blocks at the Manchester Grand Hyatt in an attempt to avoid attrition penalties.
More than half of planners are using some type of technology for various aspects of their meetings, including online registration, videoconferencing, social networking or blogging, according to a survey released last week in advance of the inaugural Event Technology Expo organized by Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. To be held Sept. 10-11 in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the HSMAI Affordable Meetings National show, the technology expo will include more than 20 education sessions on meetings-related technology and a trade show featuring products for meetings.
This week, the Las Vegas Sands Corp. opens the 360-room Four Seasons Macao adjacent to the company's 3,000-room Venetian Macao, which debuted exactly one year ago. The new Four Seasons has 18,000 square feet of meeting space, 70,000 square feet of gaming space, a 20,000-square-foot spa, three restaurants, two lounges and 220,000 square feet of retail space. LVSC has plans to build a dozen more hotels on Macau's Cotai Strip, bringing its total investment there to $12 billion, but the company has yet to receive all necessary approvals from the government and to arrange financing for many of its planned resorts.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, in partnership with Broward County, Fla., has started a new program for meeting planners to help offset the carbon footprint of their meetings in the area. According to the program, dubbed Plan.It.Green, the CVB and county will plant a tree anytime a planner visits the CVB's booth at any trade show, arrange a "volunteer planting day" for groups or donate to the parks division when a planner submits an RFP to the bureau.AIRLINES
JetBlue will introduce service to Cancún, Mexico, from Tampa, Fla., and Washington, D.C., on Dec. 18 and Dec. 20, respectively. JetBlue currently provides direct service to Cancún from Boston, Orlando and New York’s JFK International Airport.HOTELS
A report by Smith Travel Research for the U.S. lodging industry showed that revenue per available room (RevPAR) increased in 16 of the top 25 markets for the month of July 2008. Average occupancy, however, fell 2.1 percent, compared to July 2007, to 69.3 percent, partially a result of continued supply growth. At the same time, average daily rate in July increased 2.5 percent to $106.50, compared to the same period in 2007.
The 311-room Renaissance Oklahoma City Convention Center Hotel will celebrate the completion of a $4.5 million renovation on Thursday. Guest rooms have been updated with new décor, soft goods and flat-screen TVs, and a lounge has been added to the lobby. The hotel has 33 meeting rooms totaling 66,000 square feet of meeting space.
The 556-room Radisson SAS Hotel Hamburg in Germany will undergo a 10-month renovation beginning this October. All guest rooms will be refurbished by designer Christian Lundwall. Additional features of the project include improvements to nine meeting rooms, the lobby, the bar-lounge area, and the wellness center and spa. The hotel will be closed between January and March 2009; the entire project will be completed by the following August.
The 74-room Le Mirador Kempinski Lake Geneva in Switzerland will close next month for a 10-month expansion and refurbishment. Among the planned enhancements: the addition of 45 guest rooms and 14 residential apartments, and the expansion of the wellness center. The property currently has 17 meeting rooms and will not add meeting space during the expansion.
The 400-unit Tahéima Wellness Resort & Spa, a US$150 million condo-hotel project on the El Tigre Golf Course in Nuevo Vallerta, Mexico, 10 miles north of Puerto Vallarta International Airport, will open next spring, according to developer Whole in One Nuevo Vallarta. All units will have two or four bedrooms and will include a kitchen and wireless Internet access. The property will feature approximately 5,000 square feet of flexible indoor meeting space, a 20-room spa, two onsite restaurants and an adjoining outdoor amphitheater.
Distinguished International Hotels, Residences and Resorts announced last week that it will begin construction next year on an “eco-lodge” resort and conference center on the Caribbean island of Dominica. The green resort is expected to have 100 villas, cottages and “tree-house suites,” along with a 3,000-square-foot conference center, a spa and a number of natural, river-fed swimming pools. The project will incorporate solar heating elements and use indigenous building materials, and will be built in conjunction with the Dominican government and the Carib Council.TECHNOLOGY
Marriott International has launched an online travel community. The 3.5 million members of the chain's frequent-traveler program, Marriott Rewards, now can share personal travel tips on Marriott Rewards Insiders, a lightly moderated online community (marriottrewardsinsiders.marriott.com
). The site also allows members to set up their own profiles and post questions, comments and responses.TOURISM INDUSTRY
The board of the Hawaii Tourism Authority will not ask president and CEO Rex Johnson to resign, despite Johnson’s admission earlier this month to sending and receiving adult-oriented e-mails on his government computer. The HTA board has reduced his contract to one year and has lowered his annual salary from $240,000 to $200,000.TRADE SHOWS
The American Wind Energy Association has selected Chicago to host Windpower 2009, the group’s annual meeting; this come three weeks after executives determined that the event had outgrown the Minneapolis Convention Center, where it had been booked. The four-day event will be held at McCormick Place beginning May 4. Windpower was last held in Chicago in 2004.