by M&C Staff | October 08, 2008

Food-service workers at Boston's two convention centers have filed a class-action lawsuit against Aramark, the centers' food-service provider, and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority for failing to pass on to the workers all service charges collected on bills. "The state requires [service charges] to be paid to the workers in full," says Shannon Liss-Riordan, the lawyer who filed the suit and who has won several similar cases in Boston. She said the lost monies represent millions of dollars not paid to the workers. James Rooney, executive director of the MCCA, said Aramark issues all invoices and would need to deal with the suit. An Aramark spokesperson declined to comment. Aramark still is negotiating a new contract with Boston's Local 26 Unite HERE workers, whose previous contract expired a year ago. This summer, Rooney threatened to terminate Aramark's contract with the MCCA, in part due to the ongoing labor unrest. Rooney says a decision about future food service at the convention centers has not been made, but since he publicly admonished Aramark, "they have done a better job on all fronts."

In its third-quarter earnings report, released Oct. 3, Marriott International predicted that some hotels in its development pipeline might be delayed or canceled because of the state of the financial markets. The company's worldwide pipeline of hotels under construction, those awaiting conversion to a Marriott brand and those already approved for development totals more than 130,000 rooms. Marriott's third-quarter profits fell 28 percent, even as revenue per available room (RevPAR) rose 3.4 percent in the same time period. Looking ahead to fourth quarter 2008, Marriott expects its global RevPAR to decline 1 to 3 percent, with North America dropping as much as 5 percent. CFO Arne Sorensen said he expects 2009 "to be unusually challenging."

After months of speculation, Reed Travel Exhibitions officially has announced the launch of its Americas Incentive Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition, an annual trade show. The first will be held in Baltimore June 29-July 1, 2010. The show will employ the "hosted buyer" format for qualified planners from both the U.S. and international markets. This event joins Reed's portfolio of hosted-buyer shows: EIBTM in Barcelona, GIBTM in Abu Dhabi and CIBTM in Beijing. According to Paul Kennedy, group exhibition director of Reed Travel Exhibitions Meetings and Incentive Events, the company spent two years researching and developing AIBTM. In a statement sent yesterday to potential exhibitors, Kennedy said, "We have made a terrific choice in Baltimore, which will host what must be considered the biggest fam trip the city will ever see." Reed is contracted to hold AIBTM in the city through 2014.

Last week, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts opened the 319-suite Iberostar Rose Hall Suites Hotel in Jamaica's Montego Bay. The $82 million hotel is part of the all-inclusive Iberostar Rose Hall Beach & Spa Resort, which has 488 guest rooms and 14 suites. The property features an 18-hole golf course designed by Robert von Hagge, as well as 11,000 square feet of indoor meeting space and 30,000 square feet of outdoor event space.

Next week the 406-room Riviera Resort & Spa will reopen in Palm Springs, Calif., following a $70 million transformation. The 24-acre property will offer dining at Circa59, a signature spa, three lounges, two retail boutiques, two pools and 30,000 square feet of indoor meeting space. In addition, 10,000 square feet of outdoor event space, featuring landscaped gardens, fire pits and walkways, is available for gatherings.

The 1,410-room Waldorf=Astoria in New York City has unveiled the Guerlain Spa, the first signature spa of the Waldorf=Astoria Collection. The facility spans 14,000 square feet and offers 16 treatment rooms. Approximately 60,000 square feet of meeting space is available at the property.

An effort to standardize sustainability practices in the travel and tourism industry was presented Monday at the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, Spain. United Nations Foundation founder and chairman Ted Turner, together with the Rainforest Alliance, the United Nations Environment Programme and the United Nations World Tourism Organization, presented the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, based on best practices and existing standards. The criteria, which can be found at, were developed over the past 15 months by a coalition of 27 travel- and tourism-related organizations from the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

Airline Industry
Virgin America has announced two new options: fully refundable fares and "Main Cabin Select" service, which offers more legroom and some first-class perks. Passengers with Main Cabin Select tickets will be able to take advantage of priority check-in, security screening (where available) and boarding, as well as no fees for itinerary changes. In similar news, Southwest Airlines now will offer priority security screening lanes for use by its Business Select and Rapid Reward A-List passengers. The priority lanes initially will be available at Baltimore/Washington International, Dallas Love Field, Phoenix Sky Harbor International, Orange County (Calif.) John Wayne, Denver International, San Francisco International and Los Angeles International airports. In November, the program will be expanded.

Association management firm the Kellen Co. has acquired Washington, D.C.-based public affairs firm John Adams Associates to provide communication and education services to Kellen clients. While John Adams is not a registered lobbyist, Mike Brooks, CFO of Kellen, said JAA will help Kellen clients educate both consumers and lawmakers on "issues of the day." John Adams, president of JAA, will continue to direct his firm while becoming a senior executive of Kellen, which manages 100 trade and industry associations in North America, Europe and Asia.

Association management company SmithBucklin Corp. is acquiring Amedco LLC, a St. Paul, Minn.-based certification and accreditation management company. The transaction should close at the end of the year. Amedco will retain its St. Paul office, and all Amedco employees will be hired as SmithBucklin employees, making them eligible to participate in SmithBucklin's employee stock ownership plan.

Convention Centers
The Oregon Convention Center in Portland has achieved the Silver LEED-EB (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design--Existing Buildings) recertification from the U.S. Green Building Services Commission. Areas in which the convention center scored points include the installation of low-flow plumbing fixtures, purchasing wind power to provide 40 percent of the center's energy, and modifications to the convention center's heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems. The center has 255,000 square feet of exhibit space and 50 meeting rooms, plus the 25,200-square-foot Oregon Ballroom and the 34,200-square-foot Grand Portland Ballroom.

Cruise Lines
Jewel River Cruise Line announced this week it will delay the launch of its luxury cruise line, Jewel River Cruises. "Launching the first boutique-luxury ship in the river cruise industry became increasingly challenging given the current worldwide economic climate and uncertainties in the international financial markets," the company said in a statement. The 35-suite Jewel Imperial Blue was supposed to set sail last April on eight- to 14-day voyages between Paris and Rouen, France. According to M&C's sister publication, Travel Weekly, the company had previously announced plans to build two ships to enter service in 2009 and 2010.

Disney Cruise Line announced Monday it will reroute the 2,700-passenger Disney Magic from Florida to Europe from April through September 2010. The ship will sail 10-, 11- and 12-night voyages in northern Europe and the Mediterranean.

El-Ad Group, owners of New York's Plaza Hotel, won a court battle on Monday in Clark County, Nev., over the use of the Plaza name for its Las Vegas development. Tamares Las Vegas Properties, owners of the Plaza Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, had filed a suit to prevent El-Ad from using the name. El-Ad Group president Miki Naftali praised the jury's decision in a statement, but the company would not confirm groundbreaking or opening dates for the new hotel, Plaza Las Vegas, which will be constructed on the site of the former New Frontier. In August the company delayed groundbreaking until late 2009; according to the Associated Press, that could be delayed again until spring 2010, with a projected opening date of 2012.

Green Meetings
Third-party planning firm Meeting Strategies Worldwide, whose principals, Nancy J. Wilson, CMP, and Amy Spatrisano, CMP, founded the Green Meeting Industry Council, has launched Best Places to MeetGreen ( This free "green" destination-selection site uses two elements of MSW's MeetGreen Toolbox, the scorecard and the calculator. The scorecard ranks destinations' convention and visitor bureaus, convention centers and hotels with a green score, descriptions and green practices. The calculator allows users to evaluate destinations by entering the number of attendees coming from regions around the world and selecting cities they are interesting in using. A report is generated comparing the attendee travel footprint for each destination.

The 148-room Mandarin Oriental Boston opened on Monday in the city's Back Bay neighborhood with 10,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 4,200-square-foot ballroom. A 16,000-square-foot spa and fitness center will open later this month. The luxury hotel has two restaurants, Asana and M Bar & Lounge, in addition to L'Espalier and Sel de la Terre, two noted Boston establishments that have relocated adjacent to the hotel.

Some hotels finally are open in Galveston, Texas, but services still are spotty as the island continues to clean up after taking a direct hit from Hurricane Ike on Sept. 13. The 428-room Moody Gardens Hotel is open, and some of the complex's attractions also are up and running, including the Aquarium Pyramid, the Ridefilm Theater and the Colonel Paddlewheel Boat. The Discovery Museum will reopen Oct. 10. The 239-room Hilton Galveston Island Resort also is open, but its phone lines have yet to be restored. The 226-room Hotel Galvez, a Wyndham Historic Hotel, will not reopen until November, and the 119-room Tremont House, also a Wyndham Historic Hotel, will remain closed until early 2009.

The 123-room Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita has opened. The property has a spa with 12 over-water treatment pavilions, a golf course designed by Ernie Els and one large meeting room.

Conservation Corporation Africa has opened two new luxury camps in Botswana's Okavango Delta: Xudum Delta Lodge and Xaranna Tented Camp; each accommodates 18 guests. 
InterContinental Hotels Group will unveil the first Hotel Indigo in Central America, when the 100-room Hotel Indigo San José Forum opens in Costa Rica in the first quarter of 2009. The property had been planned as a Holiday Inn Express, but the hotel group elected to change the flag, based in part on the success of the Indigo brand in North America. Hotel Indigo San José Forum will be in the Santa Ana region of the city, and will offer four meeting rooms, a restaurant and bar, a fitness center and an outdoor pool.
The 445-room Riu Palace Pacifico opened Friday on Playa de Flamingos beach in Mexico's Riviera Nayarit, less than two miles north of Nuevo Vallarta. The resort, Riu's third in the Riviera Nayarit, has five restaurants, five bars, two meeting rooms, a swimming pool and nightclub.

Motivation Show organizer Pete Erickson told M&C that his show's new hosted buyer program will be expanded next year. The program, which covers most costs (including hotel rooms) for qualified incentive and meeting planners, was launched at this year's show, held Sept. 23-25 in Chicago. Though 150 people were qualified, Erickson said about one-third canceled due to corporate travel restrictions and business uncertainty. The Motivation Show has contracted with Chicago's McCormick Place through 2016.