by By the M&C Staff | December 17, 2008

Hot Topics

ASAE is claiming a legal victory over a hotel booking company that allegedly misrepresented itself as ASAE's official housing agent last summer, a practice referred to as "poaching." A Nevada District Court judge last week signed an order prohibiting Complete Event Planning Inc. from presenting itself as an official booking agent for ASAE or any ASAE member association without permission. "The resolution of this lawsuit is a potentially huge benefit not only to ASAE but to member associations as well," said Jerry Jacobs, ASAE's general counsel, in a statement. Violations of the order by CEP would be subject to future litigation. "The consent order also sends a signal to firms other than CEP that the association community will not tolerate improprieties in this area," Jacobs added. Earlier this year, CEP was expelled from the International Association of Exhibitions and Events for similar practices.

An $8 million to $10 million renovation and expansion of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., is being considered. The work would add 40,000 square feet of meeting space to the facility's current 150,000 square feet. The center also has 703,000 square feet for exhibitions and 52,000 square feet of ballroom space. The Washington Convention Center Authority plans to use some space from the center's grand lobby for the additions, and to install a vertical "sky wall" system to drop dividers down from the ceiling to section off rooms. While approval of the proposal is needed from the D.C. Council, the WCCA hopes to break ground by March.

The New York City Council will consider legislation this week introducing a possible hotel tax increase of 0.875 percent, which would generate approximately $80 million for the city from March 2009 to June 2010, the close of the next fiscal year. The Hotel Association of New York City has opposed the increase, but budget concerns and negotiations between city officials and Mayor Michael Bloomberg have prompted the council to consider the measure. According to a spokesperson for the council, the measure likely will move forward to the appropriate committee. If it progresses from there, public hearings and meetings would be held, followed by a vote by the council and approval by the mayor.

Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Ariz., is upgrading its meeting facilities and adding 7,000 square feet of meeting and event space. When completed in fall 2009, the 220-room property will have a total of 36,000 square feet for meetings and events.

As part of a new branding campaign launching in January, the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives is changing its name to its acronym, and will be known simply as Site. While full details of the campaign have not been released, the organization announced the new name and logo at its annual meeting, held Dec. 5-8 in Montreaux, Switzerland. The association also is changing its web address to

The 59-room Capella Ixtapa debuts Friday on Mexico's Pacific Coast, 160 miles north of Acapulco. The luxury boutique property, the fourth under Horst Schulze's new brand, will be the first to open in the Americas. The hotel is hidden alongside a rocky cliff outside the resort town of Ixtapa and consists of five secluded buildings overlooking the ocean. Each guest room or suite offers a private terrace and plunge pool. Amenities include a fine-dining restaurant, a grill, a bar and a 6,000-square-foot spa.

Airline Industry

In a ruling issued Monday, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia granted a stay against a plan by the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation to auction off landing and take-off slots at the three major New York-area airports: LaGuardia, JFK and Newark Liberty. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey requested the stay, saying the FAA does not have the right to auction the spaces. All the major airlines oppose the plan, as does the Air Transport Association. In a statement, ATA president and CEO James C. May said, "This is a clear win for passengers, as the Department of Transportation was stopped from implementing ... an ideological experiment that would have resulted in higher fares, less service and a confiscation of airline property." Using similar language, the Port Authority also applauded the court's decision. An article in The New York Times theorized the auction plan probably is dead, as the case will not be reviewed until after the inauguration of President-Elect Obama, who is seen as friendlier to the airlines than the Bush Administration.

On Jan. 7, Continental Airlines will conduct the first-ever biofuel-powered U.S. commercial flight. The biofuel will be made from algae and jatropha plants, which Continental describes as "sustainable, second-generation fuel sources that don't impact food crops or water resources, and don't contribute to deforestation." No passengers will be allowed on board, as the flight is purely for research purposes. Nevertheless, according to Continental chairman and CEO Larry Kellner, "This flight represents another step in Continental's commitment to reducing carbon emissions and identifying sustainable, long-term fuel solutions for the aviation industry." In other Continental news, the carrier is adding daily nonstop service between Houston and Frankfurt, Germany. The flights will begin Nov. 1, 2009.

HSMAI announced last week that the Event Technology Expo, which debuted last year at Affordable Meetings National in Washington, D.C., will be held at all three Affordable Meetings conventions in 2009. ETE is a show-within-a-show that includes educational sessions and a trade show dedicated to event technology products for planners.

A “Mood of the Market” report released last week at the EIBTM exhibition in Barcelona revealed a relatively optimistic outlook among European planners. The report, based on responses from 700 meeting planning professionals throughout Europe, was conducted by event-venue consultants The Right Solution and Reed Travel Exhibitions. While 64 percent of respondents cited the economy and cost-cutting pressures as the key influencing factors for the coming year, one quarter of respondents still planned to organize more international events. More than 60 percent of respondents anticipated their 2009 budgets would either hold steady or increase. Results also revealed that European planners have more than just the economy on their minds: 86 percent said corporate social responsibility and environmental policies would be extremely or somewhat influential over the next decade. The full report is available at

Cruise Lines
Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruises and Carnival Corp. announced last week that all three companies are eliminating fuel surcharges on future sailings. NCL removed the charges from all 2009 sailings. Carnival eliminated fuel surcharges on voyages departing on or after Dec. 17 via its six North American brands: Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Cunard Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and The Yachts of Seabourn. Royal Caribbean will cease charging its fuel supplement on all bookings made on Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara Cruises departing on or after Jan. 1. All three companies will issue refunds in the form of onboard credits.

Destination Management Firms
The majority of Global Events Partners' member destination management firms expect sales to decrease in 2009, according to a survey conducted last month. The DMC consortium represents 70 firms worldwide; more than two-thirds responded to the e-mailed survey.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts announced last week that more than $100 million is being spent on renovation projects in California, as part of a global brand initiative to upgrade the company's inventory. Major projects now under way or already completed this year include an $11 million renovation of the Hilton San Jose, adjacent to the San Jose McEnery Convention Center; a $26 million upgrade to the Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa; and an $18.5 million renovation of the Hilton Irvine Orange County Airport, which finished earlier this year.

According to The Oregonian newspaper, plans for a long-delayed headquarters hotel for Portland's Oregon Convention Center are not dead. Though the current mayor and the chairman of the county board of commissioners are opposed to the property, the city's mayor-elect, Sam Adams, rallied political and tourism leaders at a Monday meeting to forestall the demise of the plan. According to the newspaper, Adams is more willing than his predecessors to use tax revenues to pay for the hotel, which is estimated to cost $225 million.

The 202-room Holiday Inn Select & Convention Center Tinley Park (Ill.), about 30 miles south of Chicago, will more than double its exhibit space by June 2010, according to the Chicago Southland Convention & Visitors Bureau. Plans call for the addition of 24,000 square feet of exhibit space, giving the property a total of 42,000 square feet; also being added is 6,000 square feet of new meeting space, bringing the center's total to 21,500 square feet. The Holiday Inn will add 68 new rooms on two floors, increasing the guest room count to 270.
The 171-room University Plaza Hotel, a mile from Purdue University in Lafayette, Ind., has completed a full refurbishment and rebranding. Formerly the University Inn - Conference Center & Suites, the hotel has 13,000 square feet of meeting space.

The 107-room Lorien Hotel & Spa is on schedule to open Feb. 12 in Alexandria, Va.'s historic Old Town. To be managed by Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, the hotel will feature guest rooms with custom furnishings, 42-inch flat-panel televisions and spacious work areas. The hotel is the first property in Old Town Alexandria to offer a full-service spa; the 4,000-square-foot facility and fitness center will include five treatment rooms, private locker rooms and two steam rooms. The hotel also will feature three restaurants and more than 3,500 square feet of meeting space.
The 136-room Aloft Frisco (Texas) opened last Friday. The property has one 513-square-foot meeting room.

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts will manage the 240-room Hyatt Regency at the Hayden Ferry Lakeside development in Tempe, Ariz. The property, which will have a 4,000-square-foot spa and 13,000 square feet of meeting space, will open in spring 2011.

Jurys Doyle Hotel Group has changed its name to The Doyle Collection. The move is part of the chain's rebranding campaign, which includes a $300 million investment to upgrade nine of its 11 properties, which are in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

The 92-room Four Points by Sheraton Philadelphia Convention Center opened last week, across the street from the Pennsylvania Convention Center in downtown Philadelphia. The property offers almost 2,700 square feet of meeting space, an on-site restaurant and a fitness center; Internet access is free throughout.

International Travel

Visitors to Colombia who spend more than approximately US$90 on goods with a credit card now may apply for a full sales tax refund at the airport or other port when departing the country. The refund will be credited, when applicable, within a maximum period of three months.

The Dallas City Council votes today on expanding its smoking ban to bars and billiard rooms. The original ban, which outlaws smoking in restaurants, hotels and other public spaces, went into effect in 2003.

Acteva launched Assignment Center last week, a new feature for use with its online event registration, ticketing and payment platform. Assignment Center streamlines the task of grouping attendees, be it for housing, banquet seating, golf foursomes, tour buses or the like.

StarCite has hired Kevin Iwamoto as vice president, enterprise strategy, with responsibility for client and industry relations. Previously, Iwamoto spent 10 years with Hewlett-Packard, where he oversaw the company's $1.2 billion global travel and meetings program. He also served as president of the National Business Travel Association (2001-2003).