by By the M&C Staff | January 14, 2009

Hot Topics

Hilton Hotels Corp. has announced it will manage Shanghai, China's first Waldorf=Astoria hotel, the 266-room Waldorf=Astoria On The Bund Shanghai, when it opens in 2011. The hotel will have four restaurants, two bars and a health club and spa. The amount of meeting space has yet to be determined.

The Michigan State Legislature has passed a bill allocating up to $279 million for an expansion of Detroit's Cobo Center. Partial funding would be raised by extending the current hotel and liquor tax levels through 2039. The legislation also creates a five-member governing board for a regional convention facility authority to oversee the center and its expansion. The board members will be appointed by the governor, Detroit's mayor and regional county executives. The bill still needs the governor's signature, which could come later this month.

The city of Phoenix unveiled two major enhancements during the last week of 2008: the final phase of the $600 million expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center and the launch of a 20-mile light-rail system that connects the Arizona capital with the cities of Tempe and Mesa. The convention center expansion adds 570,000 square feet of meeting/exhibition space to the facility, for a total of 872,000 square feet of event space; overall, the center's size increased from 580,000 square feet to 2.5 million square feet.

The 199-room Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada, Fla., sustained damage from a fire on Dec. 31 and will be closed until further notice. According to a statement issued by resort officials this week, the fire started in a thatched roof on the main building where all of the damage was contained.

On Dec. 18, the New York City Council approved a hotel tax increase of 0.875 percent, bringing the transit occupancy tax to 5.875 percent. The increase, which amounts to an additional charge of $2.62 for an average hotel room rate of $300 a night, will generate at least $80 million for the city from March 2009 to Nov. 30, 2011. The total tax on rooms in New York City is now 17.75 percent, which includes the transit occupancy tax, sales tax and a $3.50 per room tax.

The Sagamore resort on Lake George in upstate New York's Adirondack Mountains will close from Jan. 4 through March. Though the resort typically opens only on weekends during the winter season, the property's owner has opted to shut down operations for the period. However, according to Kevin Rosa, the resort's director of sales and marketing, group business on the books will be honored, and the resort will reopen for events that generate at least $10,000 in revenue per day.

According to Smith Travel Research's week-ending report for Dec. 27, 2008, the U.S. hotel industry experienced steep declines in occupancy, average daily rate and revenue per available room compared with the same period in 2007. Hotel occupancy fell 16.4 percent, to end the week at 35.8 percent. Average daily rate dipped 9.5 percent to $92.49. Revenue per available room dropped 24.3 percent to $33.13. The luxury segment was the hardest hit, with occupancy falling 24.4 percent to an average of 40.5 percent, and ADR declining 14.5 percent to an average of $310.83.

NTag Interactive Corp., makers of event-networking devices, filed for a voluntary petition for liquidation on Dec. 24, according to competitor Spotme Inc. A Spotme e-mail sent to all company contacts cites U.S. Bankruptcy Court records, as well as unnamed former nTag employees, who say they were let go on Dec. 31. Calls and e-mails to nTag were not returned. According to Kevin Wielgus, SpotMe's director of sales, neither his company nor a number of nTag clients has been able to reach nTag. Spotme has stepped in to handle one nTag client event in Atlanta, which began Monday, and is in talks with other stranded clients.

Meeting Professionals International has chosen the all-inclusive 2,103-room Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort in Cancún, Mexico, to host its MeetDifferent conference, Feb. 20-23, 2010. The property has 150,000 square feet of meeting space and a 27-hole Jack Nicklaus golf club.

Cruise Lines
Norwegian Cruise Line has announced it will only build one of its F3 megaships instead of the planned two. The 4,200-passenger ship, the largest in the company's history, is being built by STX Europe in France to will be delivered in May 2010.

Convention Centers
According to The Seattle Times, a December PowerPoint presentation to a Washington State legislative task force included details about a potential major expansion of Seattle's Washington State Convention & Trade Center. The price tag for the expansion, which would nearly double WSCTC's existing 205,700 square feet of exhibit space, was pegged at $766 million. A feasibility study for the expansion is due later this month.

The Missouri Hotel & Lodging Association and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources have launched a new Certified Green program for the state's hotels, recognizing properties for achieving a certain level of energy and water conservation, waste minimization and recycling. Hotels began applying for the two-year certification on Jan. 1.

On Monday, the 145-suite Embassy Suites Jackson–North/Ridgeland opened in Ridgeland, Miss., an affluent community north of Jackson. The hotel, the brand's first in the state, is one of Embassy Suites' new Design Option III hotels, which have a smaller footprint than other properties in the brand. The hotel has 5,000 square feet of meeting space split up among four rooms.

The 96-room Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott opened Monday in Columbia, S.C. In addition to its 1,500 square feet of meeting space, the property has an outdoor pool, a fitness center and a business center. The guest rooms include 20 suites. The hotel is eight miles from downtown Columbia and the University of South Carolina.

According to several news reports, construction on the J Hotel, a luxury property being built in New York City's West Village and whose main investor is hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, has been halted because of a lack of financing. The rapper had acquired a $66 million plot on which to build a hotel with a pool, a gym, a spa and restaurants, but due to a $370 million shortfall in funds, the project currently is on hold.

The dust has cleared on a multimillion-dollar renovation at the 448-room Hyatt Regency Austin (Texas) Downtown. The final elements are the complete redesign of the 12 executive suites, four deluxe suites and two presidential suites, and improvements to the 23,000 square feet of meeting space. In 2008, some minor energy-saving changes were made to the guest rooms, which were completely redone in 2006; a tapas bar and the SWB Southwest bistro opened last summer, and the coffee shop was relocated to the lobby level.

More than 200 new rooms and a 20,000-square-foot conference center open this week at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas. The total accommodations at the property now is 600 guest suites. The conference center has a 7,350-square-foot ballroom, seven breakout rooms and a boardroom. The lodge also offers indoor and outdoor waterparks and a full-service spa.

London's Radisson Edwardian Marlborough Hotel has completed a $25 million renovation and changed its name to the Bloomsbury Street Hotel. The property has 174 guest rooms and six meeting rooms.

Wynn's 2,034-room Encore, a sleek tower that echoes the design of the Wynn Las Vegas next door, opened as planned on Dec. 22. The luxury property is home to five signature restaurants, including the French seafood/steak house Switch, and Sinatra, an homage to the iconic entertainer that serves Italian fare. Encore also features a club, XS, and a variety of upscale shopping establishments.