August 13, 2008


Stevan Porter, president of the Americas region for InterContinental
Hotels Group PLC, died last week, less than a month after leaving
his job for medical reasons. Porter, who was in the hospitality
industry for 32 years, joined IHG in 2001 and was appointed to the
board in 2003. "Steve Porter was an outstanding executive and a
passionate supporter of the company," said David Webster, chairman
of IHG, in a statement. "Steve commanded the fullest respect and
affection of everyone in our industry."

The Times-Picayune has reported that the New Orleans Morial
Convention Center remains "largely unbooked" for 2010 and 2011. Tim
Hemphill, the center's director of sales and marketing, told M&C
that this is incorrect, but that 2010 and 2011 do look to be "a
challenge" in terms of bookings. To meet that challenge, the
convention facility and the New Orleans Convention and Visitors
Bureau have put together a package offering free use of the center
plus other enticements (such as free Wi-Fi and some free F&B) to
meeting planners who book more than 1,000 peak room nights during
select months from 2008 through 2011. Planners booking more than
1,500 room nights in the city also will receive free shuttle service
and some free housing. "We understand the economic and ROI pressures
that association and corporate meeting professionals are facing,"
said J. Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the CVB, "so we want New
Orleans to be the highest value proposition of any destination in
the United States."

At the World Education Congress held this week in Las Vegas, Meeting
Professionals International introduced its revamped awards program.
Now called the MPI RISE (Recognizing Industry Success and
Excellence) Awards, the program features seven annual honors in
three categories: organizational, individual and community
achievement. RISE will be phased in beginning with the
organizational award, which will be presented at the WEC in Salt
Lake City next summer. The full program will be presented in summer
2010 at the WEC in Vancouver, British Columbia. MPI also has created
the Community of Honorees, composed of all past award winners,
charter and life members, as well as past presidents and chairs of
the board of directors. At the opening general session, MPI launched
its redesigned member magazine, now known as One+. Almost 4,500
attendees -- a record number -- gathered at the WEC in Las Vegas.
The Fontainebleau Miami Beach has confirmed rumors that its grand
opening has been delayed. A spokesperson said the new date will be
in mid-November, when the 1,504-room property will host the
Victoria's Secret fashion show. Groups with bookings at the hotel
between Sept. 6 and Oct. 17 are being relocated. A preview opening
will take place Oct. 18. The 22-acre property is completing a $1
billion renovation; when finished, the hotel will have 107,000
square feet of meeting space, a 40,000-square-foot spa, 11
restaurants, two nightclubs and multiple pools.

A new tax being levied in San Diego is giving local convention and
visitor bureaus bigger budgets. Implemented on Jan. 1, the
assessment raised the city's transient occupancy tax by 2 percentage
points to 12.5 percent at hotels with 70 or more rooms. For the 2009
fiscal year, the San Diego Convention and Visitors Bureau has
increased its public funding from $8.8 million during 2008 to
approximately $15.5 million, bringing its total operating budget to
$21.4 million. The budget of the San Diego North Convention &
Visitors Bureau has more than tripled, from $1.1 million in 2008 to
approximately $3.5 million for the 2009 fiscal year.

The 229-room W Minneapolis-The Foshay and the 155-room Aloft
Minneapolis opened in the past week, two of several new Starwood
Hotels & Resorts Worldwide properties in the area. The W, in the
financial district, has 6,700 square feet for meetings, and the
Aloft, near the Metrodome, features 2,000 square feet of meeting
space. Earlier this year, Starwood opened the 136-room Hotel Ivy in
downtown Minneapolis, part of the company's luxury collection, and
last month added the 150-room Sheraton St. Paul Woodbury. Before the
Republican National Convention is held in the city in September,
Starwood also plans to open the 225-room Westin Edina in a nearby

The American Wind Energy Association has decided to relocate
Windpower, its annual convention that is scheduled for June 7-10,
2009, away from Minneapolis because the show has outgrown the city's
convention center. An alternate city has not been announced. When
the association booked the Minneapolis Convention Center in 2006,
AWEA executives expected the show to grow at an annual rate of 20 to
40 percent, but attendance at this year's event, held in Houston in
June, exceeded 13,000, nearly double that of 2007. In a statement
released by AWEA, the group's leaders expressed regret that the show
no longer will be held in Minnesota, "a state that is one of the
outstanding leaders in wind power."

A site-selection committee in Cleveland has urged county officials
to build a convention center and medical mart on a riverfront site
behind Tower City instead of the site of the existing convention
facility, because construction would be less expensive and the site
would provide better accessibility and connectivity with mass
transit. The project originally was expected to cost $490 million
but isæestimated at $536 million. To make up the difference, the
committee has recommended increasing the hotel tax by 2 percent,
pushing the total tax on hotel rooms to 17.25 percent, among the
highest in the country. The project still needs approval from the

Dozens of flights to Brussels Airport in Belgium have been canceled
or delayed due toæa luggage-handlers' strike that began on Monday.
On its website, the airport advised travelers to contact their
airlines or call the emergency information number, and said
passengers who had arrived at Brussels Airport during the strike but
were unable to retrieve their bags should not to come to the airport
until further notice. By the end of Tuesday, one of the two striking
firms, Aviapartner, had rejected a new proposal by the management,
while employees at the other, Flightcare, resumed work on the apron
at about 5 p.m. According to the website, however, even if all
striking handlers were to go back to work it still might take days
before the airlines would be operating back on schedule and more
than a week before the nearly 20,000 pieces of unhandled baggage can
be returned to their owners.


JetBlue Airways is no longer distributing free blankets and pillows
on its flights. The airline now is selling a $7 pillow and blanket
package on all flights longer than two hours. The package includes a
$5 coupon for Bed, Bath & Beyond.


Countering the dire economic news being announced daily, a report
from the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston showed hotel
room nights associated with events at the center for the fiscal year
that ended June 30 totaled 385,241, a 49 percent increase compared
with the previous year. Facility rental income rose 23 percent to

Efstathios Louis Pavledes, who ran Detroit's Cobo Center for nine
years before being fired in 2004, pled guilty in federal court last
week to receiving a $100,000 kickback from a convention center
contractor, according to news reports. Karl Kado, of Metro Services
Organization, the Cobo contractor, has been charged with filing
false tax returns in connection with his alleged bribe of Pavledes.
Metro Services no longer holds any contracts at Cobo.


Larry Luteran, a longtime Hilton Hotels executive, has been promoted
to senior vice president of group sales and industry relations. In
his new position, Luteran continues to oversee the group component
of Hilton Sales Worldwide in the United States and takes on a new
role as Hilton's primary contact with all customer industry
organizations, oversees the company's special events department and
becomes responsible for sales contracts. Also this week, Luteran
began his one-year term as chair of the board of directors for
Meeting Professionals International.

Loews Hotels has promoted Michael Dominguez to the newly created
position of vice president of global sales. Dominguez will oversee
the chain's national sales offices and third-party relations and
will be the "face" of Loews Hotels in the meetings industry.
The 367-room Radisson Plaza Hotel Lexington (Ky.) temporarily became
the Lexington Downtown Hotel & Conference Center last week. The
property has started a $13 million renovation of all guest rooms and
public spaces and will be rebranded as a Hilton upon completion in
September 2009. Connected to the Rupp Arena and the Lexington
Convention Center via skywalks, the hotel offers 16,000 square feet
of meeting space, the Bigg Blue Martini lounge and the Cafe on the
Park restaurant.

With its debut this week, the 92-room Hotel Indigo Ontario Rancho
Cucamonga, in Ontario, Calif., became the first of the
InterContinental Hotel Group's boutique hotel brand to open in
California and the 16th in the portfolio. Amenities include the
brand's Phi restaurant, the Phitness center, two meeting rooms and
wireless Internet access. In other Indigo news, the Inn at Somerset
Hills in Basking Ridge, N.J., is now the 112-room Hotel Indigo with
2,250 square feet of meeting space.

The 443-room Allerton Hotel Chicago on North Michigan Avenue
officially unveiled an $85 million renovation this week. The hotel
has more than 13,000 square feet of meeting space.
Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, in collaboration with Tata
Communications, is introducing high-definition videoconferencing
rooms at five of its luxury properties. The Cisco TelePresence rooms
have been completed at two properties in India, the 565-room Taj
Mahal Palace & Tower in Mumbai and the 117-room Taj West End in
Bangalore. The facilities at New York City's 200-room Pierre, the
273-room Taj Boston and the 86-room 51 Buckingham Gate in London
will be completed by the end of the year.


Shockfish SA, a Swiss company offering the Spotme wireless
communication devices for meetings, has opened Spotme offices in the
United States. The company is headquartered in Chicago and has a
sales office in New York City. Spotme is designed for events of
between 200 and 5,000 attendees. The device allows participants to
use instant messaging and networking functions, take surveys, give
feedback and check agendas, while giving host organizations
comprehensive attendance data.