by M&C Staff | September 24, 2008


The 1,000-room Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel will debut next Tuesday in the capital's Copper Square District, one block from the Phoenix Convention Center. The property has 80,000 square feet of meeting space, a Core Performance fitness center, an outdoor pool and sundeck, a lobby bar, a restaurant and an Internet café.

The Santa Fe Convention Center opens tomorrow in New Mexico's capital. The facility has 11 meeting rooms, a 17,925 square foot ballroom, a main lobby representing 3,139-square-feet of prefunction space and 11,139 square feet of outdoor event space. The center was designed to garner LEED Silver certification.

Palm Beach (Fla.) County Commissioners unanimously agreed yesterday to cancel a deal with Ocean Properties to build a 400-room convention center hotel. Ocean Properties and the county reportedly terminated the deal because of disagreements over the contract's financial terms and the size of the hotel, but the county might try to find another developer to build the hotel in the future.

Construction began last week on the 1.1 million-square-foot Gateway Center, a mixed-use development that will open in early 2010 adjacent to the Georgia International Convention Center in Atlanta. Gateway will include a 403-room Marriott, a 147-room Springhill Suites, 400,000 square feet of office space and 50,000 square feet of retail space. Marriott International will build both hotels to LEED specifications, and the larger property will offer 20,000 square feet of meeting space. An automated people mover will connect visitors to the new facility from the convention center and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Construction on the $500 million Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, in Palm Springs, Calif., was halted last week. According to The Desert Sun, some have speculated that the recent financial difficulties of investment company Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., one of project developer Gencom Group's known investors, might have contributed to the action. A representative of Gencom would not confirm this, saying the company was unaware of the reason for the work stoppage and does not know when construction will continue. When finished, the hotel will have 260 guest rooms and 43,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space; it was expected to open in early 2009.

According to a survey by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, there will be fewer business travelers in airline seats and hotel beds next year. Of the 131 travel managers who participated in the survey, 33 percent of the survey participants said they will reduce travel spending, 31 percent said spending will be about the same, and 36 percent said they will spend more on business travel next year. However, ACTE executive director Susan Gurley noted, "Those who stated they are spending more may find they are barely keeping up with cost increases." The top reason for cutting, according to 47 percent of the respondents, was the combination of economic uncertainty and rising fuel costs. Cutbacks will occur through a variety of strategies: 31 percent of those surveyed expect to cut travel across the board, 39 percent will cut back on internal meetings, 16 percent will reduce international travel and 9 percent have taken training trips off the table for next year.

Airline Industry

United Airlines is increasing its fee for a second checked bag from $25 to $50 (each way) for domestic travel within the U.S. and between the U.S. and Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (United charges $15 for the first checked bag.) The new second-bag fee took effect on tickets purchased after Sept. 16 for travel after Nov. 10. First- and business-class passengers, as well as those holding premier frequent-flyer status with United or the Star Alliance, are exempt from these fees.

Convention and Visitor Bureaus

The Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau's board of directors has approved William Pate to take over as its president and CEO. In December, Spurgeon Richardson, the current president and CEO, will retire after 17 years with the organization. Pate will begin working at the bureau Oct. 1 and officially will assume his duties on Jan. 1.

NYC & Company, New York City's convention and visitors bureau, will try to grow meetings and conventions business on both domestic and international fronts by reorganizing positions within its tourism and convention departments in order to combine marketing efforts from both the leisure and business travel sectors. The changes include the following: Fred Dixon, previously senior vice president of tourism development, will now be senior vice president of convention and tourism development, and Kelly Ann Curtin, formerly senior vice president of membership, will oversee convention services in addition to membership.

Convention Centers
The $111 million Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, opened last Thursday. The 215,000-square-foot facility has a 50,000-square-foot exhibit hall at street level, six meeting rooms totaling 11,000 square feet, and a 25,000-square-foot ballroom. The third floor has an outdoor terrace with heated flooring that holds 900 people. All told, the city of Anchorage now can accommodate, with the Dena'ina Center and the Egan Center, groups of up to 5,000 attendees.
Orlando Hotelier Harris Rosen will spend between $100 and $200 million to expand and renovate six of his hotels in the city starting next February. The 800-room Rosen Plaza will receive 400 to 700 new rooms, 100,000 square feet of additional meeting space and a walkway that connects to the neighboring 1,334-room Rosen Centre hotel and the Orange County Convention Center. Of the total Rosen will spend up to $60 million refurbishing four of his International Drive hotels -- the Quality Inn Plaza, Quality Inn International, Rodeway Inn International and Comfort Inn Lake Buena Vista. The renovations will be completed in stages over the next seven years.
The 620-room Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Tampa, Fla., will complete a $25 million renovation this month in anticipation of the Super Bowl coming to Tampa in February. The resort refurbished all 65,000 square feet of its meeting space, added two 16-seat board rooms and renovated the Johnson's Penthouse. The resort's Highlands Clubhouse now offers Packard's steak house and a new outdoor bar; improvements also have been made to the tennis center and the four golf courses. A 12,000-square-foot spa and a 4,000-square-foot fitness center will open in January.

Plans for a $705 million, 300-room casino hotel in Kansas City, Kan., moved one step closer to reality last week when the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board selected Kansas Entertainment, a joint venture between the Kansas Speedway and The Cordish Co., to manage the state-owned property. Scheduled to open in 2011 as a Hard Rock hotel, the facility will be built at the Speedway, about 15 miles west of downtown Kansas City, and will offer 3,000 slot machines, 140 table games and extensive meeting facilities. Las Vegas Sand Corp. and Pinnacle Entertainment, two of the five companies that had been pursuing the contract, withdrew their bids before the final vote. The contract will become official when the joint venture passes a background check being conducted by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission. A portion of the casino could open as early as next year.
Fairmont Hotels & Resorts will manage a new 150-room hotel at Battery Wharf in Boston's North End. The hotel, scheduled to open in December, was to be managed by Regent Hotels & Resorts, but the company backed out of the project in June, citing "philosophical differences" with developers. The Fairmont Battery Wharf will have approximately 6,000 square feet of meeting space and a restaurant from chef Guy Martin. The new hotel will be Fairmont's second in Boston, along with the 383-room Fairmont Copley Plaza.
The 473-room Pheasant Run Resort & Spa in St. Charles, Ill., less than 30 miles west of Chicago's O'Hare Airport, has completed an eight-year, $30 million renovation of all of the resort's guest rooms, public spaces, and dining and entertainment facilities. A few remaining upgrades, including the addition of a new restaurant, will be completed in the coming months. The resort has more than 100,000 square feet of meeting space, including 45 meeting rooms, two expo centers, four ballrooms, a 320-seat amphitheater and a 15,000-square-foot training center.

The 180-room Westin Verasa, Napa (Calif.), opened last week with 12,000 square feet of conference space, a 24-hour WestinWorkout fitness center, the La Toque restaurant, an outdoor pool and two bocce courts.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts broke ground last week on a 154-room Aloft in Mount Laurel, N.J., a short drive from Philadelphia. The property will offer a pool, fitness facilities and 5,400 square feet of meeting space when it opens in the fall of 2009.

Storm Updates
Travelers with business in Galveston, Texas, will have to wait until sometime in October or beyond to return to the island community. Repairs to the area's water, sewer, gas and electricity lines should be fixed within a week, city manager Steve LeBlanc told The Daily News of Galveston County, but power is still out in many parts of the city. Most hotels are closed, with no reopening date announced. The exception is the 428-room Moody Gardens Hotel, which was scheduled to reopen yesterday, although the property's phone number was not working at press time. The 226-room Hotel Galvez and the 119-room Tremont House, both Wyndham Historic Hotels, are closed indefinitely, as is the 239-room Hilton Galveston Island Resort. For the near future, Carnival Cruise Lines' Ecstasy and Conquest are operating out of the Port of Houston.

Over the weekend, more than two feet of precipitation fell in a 24-hour period in Puerto Rico. While the extremely heavy rainfall caused severe flooding, leading to four deaths, the island's hotels continue to operate as usual. "We have no reports of the island's tourism infrastructure being affected," said Ramon Sanchez, executive vice president and COO for the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau. "Our airports continue to experience on-time arrivals and departures and none of our member hotels are reporting any damage related to the rains at this time."
Audience-response tech provider Turning Technologies released ResponseWare Web, a web-based polling application for use with Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. During TurningPoint-enabled presentations, audience members can submit survey answers via mobile devices, laptops or personal computers; results are then transmitted from the web to a slide that is added to the presentation. ResponseWare currently is certified for use on AT&T's network, and talks are underway with other carriers.
Trade Show News Network launched a new Facebook tool last week called TSNN eventFriend. The application may be installed by any Facebook user and provides access to TSNN's database of trade shows, events, suppliers and venues. Show organizers can use the tool for free by e-mailing past and potential attendees with a request to install the application. The application facilitates networking among attendees, who can communicate through Facebook. See for details and registration information.