by By the M&C Staff | December 03, 2008

Hot Topics

The U.S. hotel industry posted declines in all three key performance measurements during October, including the first year-over-year decline in average daily rate in more than five years, according to data released yesterday by Smith Travel Research. Average daily rate fell 0.5 percent from October 2007 to $107.60. Year-over-year revenue per available room dropped 7 percent in October and finished the month at $66.85. Occupancy also declined, falling 6.5 percent to 62.1 percent. "With the overall economy moving into recessionary territory, the U.S. hotel industry faces continued challenges in the operating environment," said Jan D. Freitag, STR's vice president of global development. "We hope hoteliers learned their lessons during the post-9/11 time period that cutting rates in the short term only provides slight immediate help. It took the industry more than five years to recover from the price discounting that took place during late 2001 and the first half of 2002."

The Hendricks County (Ind.) Convention and Visitors Bureau is reviewing a feasibility study for a full-service hotel and conference center in Plainfield, on a site five miles from the new entrance to Indianapolis International Airport and 15 miles from downtown Indianapolis. The study, conducted by Convention Sports and Leisure in Minneapolis, examined a range of property configurations -- 120 to 250 hotel rooms, 17,000 to 30,000 square feet of meeting space -- and concluded that a facility could generate between $16 million and $21 million annually in total economic impact. Jaime Bohler Smith, assistant director of the CVB, said the project remains "in the very beginning stages," but she's optimistic the bureau will be able to find a development partner, despite today's economy. She said the suburban property would complement the multibillion-dollar investment in meetings infrastructure occurring in downtown Indianapolis.

The Waldorf=Astoria Orlando and the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek complex will open Oct. 1, 2009, Hilton Hotels announced last week. The 497-room Waldorf=Astoria will be the first of the brand to be built outside of New York City and will include 28,000 square feet of meeting space, a pool, a spa and five restaurants. The neighboring 1,000-room Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek will feature 122,000 square feet of meeting space, six restaurants and multiple pools. The resorts will share a Rees Jones-designed golf course.

The Economic Development Committee of the city of Dallas has recommended that Omni Hotels be chosen as the operator for the Dallas convention center hotel that currently is in development. The planned property will have 1,000 rooms and more than 100,000 square feet of meeting space. Omni also is running the new 614-room headquarters hotel in neighboring Fort Worth, which opens in January.

Airline Industry
As Chicago's O'Hare Airport celebrated the recent openings of a new runway and an air-traffic control tower, major airlines serving the airport questioned the value of future expansion plans there, according to the Chicago Tribune, citing letters sent to city and federal authorities. Executives at United Airlines and American Airlines later told Crain's Chicago Business that they support the new runways but are not convinced that construction of a new terminal and parking facility, connected to the existing facility via a people mover, is necessary. At the runway ceremony, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley said, "Completing the full OMP [O'Hare Modernization Program] is important because it will create thousands of new jobs throughout the region and will pump millions more into our economy. It will reduce delays and add capacity. We are moving aggressively forward to complete the entire OMP in 2014." A spokesperson for O'Hare did not respond to a request for comment.

Citing slowing demand, Delta will further pare capacity for 2009, the airline said Friday in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. Including Northwest's operations, Delta's fourth-quarter capacity already is down 4 percent systemwide; domestic service declined by 12 percent while international is up 9 percent. Details about the capacity cuts will be revealed during the carrier's Dec. 9 investor day.

Meeting Professionals International has appointed an executive advisory council to help the organization develop high-level initiatives for meetings executives. Chair of the committee will be Angie Pfeifer, CMM, assistant vice president of corporate meetings, travel and incentives for the Investors Group in Canada, and immediate past chair of the MPI board of directors. Other council members include MPI’s chair-elect, Ann Godi, CMP, president of Benchmarc360; Craig Ardis, CMM, director of global event management for Zimmer Inc.; Christine Duffy, president and CEO of Maritz Travel Co.; Margaret Moynihan, CMP, a director at Deloitte & Touche; and Bruce MacMillan, president and CEO of MPI.

The Association Forum of Chicagoland’s board of directors has named Christie A. Tarantino, CAE, as its president and CEO. Tarantino will take over in mid-January, reporting to the Forum's 12-member board and managing a staff of 16. She comes to the organization from her current position as executive director of the 35,000-member Academy of General Dentistry in Chicago.

The complete roster of more than 40 classroom and online course offerings for the 2009 Certified in Exhibition Management program have been listed online at Course enrollment will be capped at 40 people per session, so early registration is recommended, according to the International Association of Exhibitions and Events. There were 282 graduates from the 2008 CEM Learning Program, including 21 from Korea and 155 from China.

Cruise Lines

Last week Disney Cruise Line announced new itineraries for summer 2010. The Disney Magic will sail for five months in Northern Europe and the Mediterranean on seven- and eight-night cruises. The Disney Wonder will sail on four- and five-night itineraries from Port Canaveral, Fla., to the Bahamas.

According to several news reports, the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City laid off 50 supervisors last week. Last year, the gaming property slashed nearly 1,000 jobs. According to the Associated Press, revenues at all 11 casinos in Atlantic City are down 6.6 percent so far this year; the Tropicana is off 11 percent. As reported in last week's Midweek News, The Borgata laid off 5 percent of its work force.

A $20 million renovation has been completed at the 380-room Holiday Inn Stamford (Conn.) Downtown. All guest rooms, meeting space and public spaces were upgraded, and a new health club with an indoor lap pool and a new restaurant, 700 Main, were added. The hotel has 20,000 square feet of meeting space.

Financing is in place for the construction of a 262-room Embassy Suites Hotel adjacent to the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. Ground will be broken in March, and the property will open in fall 2010.

The 140-unit Manor Vail (Colo.) Lodge reopened Friday following an 18-month renovation. More than $100 million was spent to add a 50,000-square-foot penthouse floor with 17 luxury condos, plus underground parking, pools, hot tubs, walkways and a reconstructed exterior. Built in 1964, the lodge was one of the first condominium properties in Vail Village.

On Nov. 14, ground was broken for the new 18-hole Tom Fazio golf course at Christophe Harbour on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. The course, which is being built on top of a volcanic ridge and adjacent to an inland cove, will be open for play in 2011. The 2,500-acre Christophe Harbour resort also will open in 2011 with a Mandarin Oriental hotel, a yacht harbor, restaurants and more.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts is building three more hotels in Saudi Arabia, bringing the company’s total number of properties in that country to 13. Under construction are the 300-room Four Points by Sheraton Mall of Arabia, scheduled to open in Jeddah in early 2010 (with 3,000 square feet of meeting space); the 236-room Four Points by Sheraton Dhahran, planned for opening in 2011 (with 3,700 square feet of meeting space); and the 225-room Aloft Riyadh, the second Aloft in Saudi Arabia, opening early 2011 (with a small, unspecified amount of meeting space).

Union Station in Dallas reopened Thursday following a $23 million renovation to the event space. The venue, which offers services by Wolfgang Puck Catering, has 20,000 square feet of meeting space in eight rooms, including the Grand Hall. The facility is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark and a City of Dallas Historic Landmark.