by By the M&C Staff | November 26, 2008

Hot Topics

Ground has been broken on the 1,100-room MGM Grand Ho Tram, a casino resort in southwest Vietnam, part of a US$4.2 billion, multiproperty beachfront development known as the Ho Tram Strip, along the South China Sea. Asian Coast Development Ltd. will own and finance the resort, which will be operated by MGM Mirage. To open in 2011, the property will include "high-tech meeting space," gaming and entertainment facilities, restaurants and nightlife spots, a spa, luxury retail, and an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Greg Norman. The MGM Grand Ho Tram is one of five resorts being developed on the Strip by ACDL.

Last week, Osceola County (Fla.) commissioners unanimously approved a deal with separate developers to add a 350,000-square-foot convention center and 594 new hotel rooms to the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, and to build a 175,000-square-foot conference center and a four-star, 500-room hotel at ChampionsGate Golf Club. The county will contribute $120 million of tourist tax revenues to the two developments, which tentatively will open in February 2014.

On Wednesday, The Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City laid off 5 percent of its work force (approximately 400 people). Rob Stillwell, a spokesperson for co-owner Boyd Gaming, said the layoffs, the first in the casino's history, were made because of the economy. The layoffs affected salaried and non-salaried employees in all departments and included workers at The Water Club Hotel, the Borgata's nongaming hotel that opened this summer. According to Stillwell, "The cuts would have been deeper without the Water Club's revenues." When asked if further layoffs were possible, he told M&C, "We tried to do the cuts swiftly at once, so we don't have to go there again." But if the declines continue, he added, the company might have to revisit the situation.

On Monday, Gaylord Entertainment announced it has canceled plans to build a $1 billion, 32-acre resort and convention center in Southern California's Chula Vista, citing "prolonged planning and approval processes, a complicated regulatory and legal structure, and excessive off-site infrastructure costs." Although people likely will attribute the project's demise to the weakened economy, company officials emphasized that "the complexity and costs of the project were the main drivers of this decision." The resort would have featured 1,500 to 2,000 hotel rooms, meeting space, retail shops, a spa, six restaurants and a rooftop bar.

The International Association of Conference Centers has upgraded its Universal Criteria and Recommended Guidelines with 11 new technology standards and a number of new technological guidelines for its member properties. The changes are outlined in a white paper, "Design for Great Technology," which gives recommendations for basic, medium and high levels of conference technology; the technical details are available at The basic-level requirements have been incorporated into the Universal Criteria and will be part of member audits beginning in 2009.

LodgeWorks LP is stepping into the boutique hotel market with the launch of a new chain, Avia Hotels. Avia properties will be 70- to 160-room upscale hotels with facilities for small to midsize conferences and special events. Each property will offer the Avia Kitchen, an informal chef's kitchen environment specializing in small dishes and tastings to showcase local and regional cuisine and fresh produce; a refreshment bar selling Dean & DeLuca products; and the Wine Bar, offering a selection of small-production wines from California and the Northwest, as well as microbrew beers. Opening in January 2009 is the 151-room Avia Savannah, Ga., to be followed in midyear by the 138-room Avia Long Beach and the 141-room Avia Napa, both in California.

StarCite founder John Pino has launched i-Meet, a free social networking community for planners, featuring blogs, videos, groups and more. While in beta testing, the site ( has signed up about 2,000 members in 47 countries. Pino introduces the site with a video available on YouTube (

The Hong Kong government has established the Meetings and Exhibitions Hong Kong office, a new division within the Hong Kong Tourism Board designed to be a one-stop shop for meeting planners and the driving force behind new partnerships within the local hospitality community that will benefit planners. In addition to regular budgetary allowances for tourism, the government pledged US$19 million over the next five years to support MEHK. "Our competitors are already setting up dedicated MICE bureaus and rolling out incentive schemes to entice events," HKTB chairman James Tien said in a statement. "We must ensure that Hong Kong maintain its lead over our regional rivals."

Airline Industry
Three U.S. airports will unveil new runways on Thursday, all designed to increase capacity as well as reduce delays, particularly in low-visibility conditions. Chicago's O'Hare airport will open a new runway and air traffic control tower, part of a $6.6 billion modernization project; it's the first runway to open at O'Hare since 1971. Seattle-Tacoma's new $1 billion, 8,500-foot runway will be the airport's third, while the new $355 million, 9,400-foot runway at Dulles International Airport, in Washington, D.C., is that airport's fourth.

Meeting professionals in Atlanta are getting together to form the first chapter of the Green Meetings Industry Council. President of the group will be Audrey Davies, senior manager of events management for The Home Depot. "We recognized that the meeting leaders in Atlanta were not only aligned with our mission and values, but also wanted to make an ethical commitment to a global movement," said Tamara Kennedy-Hill, the association's executive director. A GMIC chapter in Chicago is on the verge of launching, as well.

A new governance structure of ASAE and The Center for Association Leadership was approved last Friday by the boards of the two organizations, which have decided to merge. The Center's board will be established within the ASAE board, which will be headed by the ASAE chairman and the ASAE chairman-elect, who also will serve as chairman of the Center. "The time was right for the two organizations to integrate the two boards to be more successful in their decision-making and oversight," ASAE chairman J. Clarke Price said in a statement.

Convention and Visitor Bureaus
At its 99th annual board meeting on Nov. 13, the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau officially changed its name to Visit Denver, The Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Our challenge was to find a 21st-century name that would be easy to remember and enunciate, be consistent with our brand and have a call to action," president and CEO Richard Scharf said of the change, which follows similar renamings by convention and visitor bureaus around the country.

MGM Mirage chairman and CEO, Terry Lanni, announced his resignation last week, effective the end of this month. Lanni, who joined the company in 1995, said in a letter to employees that he wanted to devote more time to philanthropic work through his family foundation. However, various media outlets, including Reuters and Forbes, said his resignation came mere hours before The Wall Street Journal reported Lanni had not earned an honorary master's degree in finance from the University of Southern California, as corporate biographies have claimed.

The 420-room Sheraton Hotel North Houston at George Bush International Airport, the only property in Houston to close because of damage from Hurricane Ike, reopened Monday. During the storm, water damaged the lobby, the restaurant and the first-floor meeting space. Some work continues, including the transformation of a 150-seat auditorium off the lobby into a 3,600-square-foot ballroom. Renovation of the hotel's guest rooms had been completed in June.

The 6,500-square-foot V Spa with seven treatment rooms has opened at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. Earlier this year, a $57 million renovation was completed at the property, which offers 1,606 guest rooms and more than 333,400 square feet of meeting space.

Atlanta will get a Mandarin Oriental in 2011. The $250 million property will be part of a new mixed-use development in Midtown and will have 198 guest rooms, a 22,000-square-foot spa, an outdoor pool, and four bars and restaurants. The meeting space has not yet been determined.

Wyndham Hotel Group, a division of Wyndham Worldwide, has named Eric A. Danziger as president and CEO. Danziger takes up the post Dec. 1, replacing Steven Rudnitsky, who resigned in September. Danziger most recently was CEO of WhiteFence, an online comparison-shopping site for home services. Meanwhile, Dolce Hotels & Resorts has announced that Rudnitsky will take over as its president and CEO on Dec. 8. Dolce wants to double its portfolio during the next five years and has hired Rudnitsky to spearhead that growth. 

Paris is getting two new Radissons. Opening Dec. 31 is the 296-room Radisson Ambassador Hotel, Paris Opéra (the former Hotel Ambassador), with eight meeting rooms. The property will undergo a renovation expected to last 18 months. The second property is the new 343-room Radisson Hotel Paris La Défense, which will open in 2011 with approximately 10,000 square feet of meeting space.

On Monday, the 201-room luxury Montage Beverly Hills opened in Southern California, a sister property to the Montage Laguna Beach. Amenities of note include the 20,000-square-foot Spa Montage, which offers 17 treatment rooms, a salon, and a yoga and Pilates studio. Among numerous dining options are the 88-seat Parq restaurant; the 44-seat Muse, with a 20-seat private-dining room; and the Conservatory Grill, adjacent to the rooftop pool.

The 170-room Boar's Head Inn in Charlottesville, Va., unveils its new Pavilion today with 9,000 square feet of function space. The centerpiece is the 5,600-square-foot grand ballroom, which accommodates up to 400 for dinner or 600 for cocktails. The Pavilion also offers a full commercial kitchen and a full-service business center.

Last week the New York City Council approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg's $3 billion vision to revitalize Willets Point, a 62-acre industrial site in the borough of Queens. The plan calls for transforming the acreage into a massive mixed-use development featuring a hotel and convention center, 500,000 square feet of office space, eight acres of public space, a school and 5,500 apartments. According to Crain's New York Business, next year the city will seek a developer for the project. Construction is expected to take a decade.