by M&C Staff | October 22, 2008

The Las Vegas Sands Corp. has been unable to obtain the loans needed to complete construction of a US$3.3 billion, 6,400-room resort complex on the Cotai Strip in Macau, according to a report in the South China Morning Post. The development, already well under construction across from the 3,000-room Venetian Macao, includes four hotels, from Shangri-La, Sheraton, St. Regis and Traders, that were to open in phases beginning in the second quarter of next year. According to the Post, another attempt to obtain financing for the project could be made in January. A spokesperson for the Macau Government Tourism Office said the Post story was "highly speculative" and the MGTO expects the hotels to open "in the next 18 months, on schedule." A Sands spokesperson did not return a message from M&C seeking comment.

Chicago's city council has approved a plan to privatize Midway Airport, making it the first major airport in the country to take such a step, although many foreign airports are privately run. Midway International and Development, a consortium of Citi Infrastructure Investors, YVR Airport Services and John Hancock Life Insurance, won the 99-year lease with a bid of $2.5 billion, which still needs to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. "For the traveling public, the lease will mean the benefits of a world-class airport operator whose airports have been acclaimed for the range and quality of their amenities and service," Mayor Richard Daley said in a statement. "For the airlines, the lease will mean lower and more predictable airport rates and charges, which will improve their financial situation." A report published last month in the Chicago Tribune indicated that fees paid by consumers, such as airport parking, could rise sharply as a result of privatization.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security last week enhanced its online Electronic System for Travel Authorization to better facilitate travel by nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries to the United States. Instructions on how to obtain an electronic travel authorization now are available in 13 additional languages: Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Portuguese, Slovene, Spanish and Swedish. As of Jan. 12, 2009, all visa-free travelers will be required to use the online system. Also last week, President Bush announced that the following seven countries will be admitted to the U.S. Visa Waiver Program: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and Slovakia. These countries are expected to be integrated into the program within a month, bringing the total number of participating countries to 34.

European hotel company Accor, whose brands include the luxury chain Sofitel, is making major cuts because of the challenging economic climate. The company hopes a US$98 million cost-cutting program, which already has begun, will result in US$65 million in savings by the end of the year. Accor also is lowering the amount available for hotel renovations by US$131 million, leaving around US$543 million. The company's capital to fund its global expansion plan -- adding 40,000 new rooms per year by 2010 -- also is being reduced by US$131 million. yesterday announced plans to debut a six-star rating for luxury hotels in summer 2009. The new category will be added to Star Service, currently a five-star rating system, which is owned and operated by The site will simultaneously unveil a six-star rating system for airlines, said Peter Nicas, CEO and editor in chief of A six-star rating system for luxury cruise ships will follow next fall. Star, developed in 1939, rates more than 160,000 hotels worldwide and includes 10,000 detailed hotel reviews, based on anonymous inspections from 325 professional reviewers. will draw on this database to select a group of exclusive luxury hotels to be considered for six-star designation, based on a very stringent set of criteria, including cultural and emotive factors. Among the criteria: a minimum one-to- one employee-to-guest service ratio; nonintrusive, seamless service; privacy for guests in public areas and restaurants; architectural uniqueness, and local flavor.

Airline Industry
OpenSkies, the transatlantic startup airline and subsidiary of British Airways that launched this past June, has begun service between New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Amsterdam's Schiphol International Airport. The 64-passenger planes fly six days per week and offer amenities such as healthful cuisine, a range of entertainment options and concierge services. Other European destinations being considered for the airline include Brussels, Belgium; Frankfurt, Germany; and Milan, Italy.

ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership have selected Content Management Corp. to record audio and video of sessions and presentations at various annual meetings and to create an online archive of the material. CMC also provides such services to the Professional Convention Management Association and Meeting Professionals International, among other associations.

Convention Centers
The George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston will receive an $850,000 grant from Houston Endowment Inc. to help install a 100-kilowatt solar-panel energy system on the center's 11-acre roof in 2009. The center still is pursuing another $150,000 to complete the $1 million project. The system will be one of the largest solar installations in the region and is the start of a green roof master plan for the convention center.

Last week, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts revealed additional details of the mixed-use resort complex to be built in Oahu, Hawaii. The project, the company's first stand-alone resort without a theme park, will feature a 350-room hotel with 480 Disney Vacation Club villas on 21 acres of western Oahu's Ko Olina Resort. The following amenities will be offered: an 18,000-square-foot spa, gardens, pools, water slides, wedding facilities, and banquet and meeting space. The project is on track for a 2011 opening.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, last Thursday approximately 150 hotel employees of the San Jose (Calif.) Marriott Hotel, which is attached to the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, picketed outside the property and demanded higher wages without the reduction of health-care benefits. UNITE Here local chapter 19, the union representing about 200 dishwashers, busboys and housekeepers at the property, has been negotiating a new contract with Marriott since July. The hotel was unable to be reached for comment.

Last week's scheduled groundbreaking for the 365-room Westin Syracuse convention center hotel, which will be built adjacent to the Onondaga Convention Center in Syracuse, N.Y., has been postponed because of financing difficulties, according to Rochester, N.Y.-based project developer Wilmorite Inc. Amenities were to include a restaurant, a lobby lounge, a bar, a coffee shop, a fitness center and 17,000 square feet of meeting space.

A five-star, 186-room Mandarin Oriental Resort & Spa will be built in Palmas del Mar, Puerto Rico, a resort community about an hour's drive east of San Juan. The $300 million property is scheduled to open in 2011. Meeting space details have not yet been determined.

The 75-room Kempinski Hybernská Prague has opened in a restored 17th-century building in the center of the eponymous Czech Republic capital. The hotel offers a lounge, a bar, a restaurant and a gym. Events can be held in a 19,375-square-foot garden, which accommodates 300 for a cocktail reception or 100 for a seated dinner. Three boardrooms are also available.
The 601-room St. Louis Airport Marriott is spending $1.1 million to turn 7,000 square feet of restaurant and lounge space into meeting space. Two meeting rooms open this month; seven others, plus two executive boardrooms will be open by January 2009. The hotel currently has 29,000 square feet of meeting space and offers complimentary shuttles to Lambert International Airport.

Last week, the 283-suite Embassy Suites Norman - Hotel & Conference Center opened in Norman, Okla. The property offers 80,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 30,000-square-foot ballroom, plus a fitness center, a pool, an Internet café and the University Grill and Lounge.

The Tulsa World reported last week that plans for a 140-room Hampton Inn & Suites to be built across from the newly opened BOK Center in downtown Tulsa, Okla., and a half mile from the Tulsa Convention Center have been scrapped because the developer and the Tulsa Development Authority could not agree on financing. The property would have opened in 2010 with 6,000 square feet of meeting space.

Jumeirah will open its first property in Scotland in 2010. The 160-room Jumeirah Glasgow Hotel will have extensive meeting facilities, a signature Talise Wellness spa, a gym, a rooftop cocktail lounge and several restaurants and bars. It also will offer 85 apartments for extended stays.

Villa La Estancia Nuevo Vallarta/Riviera Nayarit, a 245-suite resort on Mexico's Pacific Coast, officially opened on Thursday, Oct. 16. The property has been hosting guests for almost a year, but construction is now complete and all units and facilities are open. The resort offers one-, two- and three-bedroom suites, as well as the 17,000-square-foot Tatewari Spa and two on-site restaurants, including the fine-dining La Casona.
Under an agreement with New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, insurer AIG (which is headquartered in New York City) has canceled 160 worldwide events representing a total cost of $80 million. The company was denounced by Congress for hosting a $440,000 incentive program and an $85,000 executive hunting retreat in England days after the $85 billion federal bailout.

Jim Fausel, 74, president and founder of The Conference Connection in Phoenix and a teacher in Arizona State University's College of Public Programs, died Saturday. Fausel taught meeting and conference management at ASU, and a scholarship is being established in his memory at ASU's College of Public Programs for students entering the Hospitality field.

Cisco and Tata Communications have collaborated to offer Cisco TelePresence rooms for rent in select corporate and hotel locations. The high-end videoconferencing suites currently are available at Cisco's offices in Santa Clara, Calif., as well as Taj Hotels in Boston; London; and Bangalore and Mumbai in India, among other locations. Tata plans to open 100 additional public rooms by the end of 2009. Cisco reports that 1,000 rooms now are in use globally by more than 200 companies. Public TelePresence rooms currently are available at rates of $299 to $899 per hour, depending on the size of the rooms, the largest of which can accommodate 18 people.

Trade Shows
Freeman, the exhibition and event services company, will begin construction this fall on a new warehouse and office facility in Las Vegas. The 412,000-square-foot building will be complete in fall 2009. Freeman also has relocated its operations in Reno to a larger facility. A company statement notes Freeman has seen a 50 percent growth in business in the Western region of the U.S. over the past three years, and further growth is expected in future years.