by By the M&C Staff | February 04, 2009

Hot Topics

A new convention center and medical mart complex in Cleveland will be built along the city's downtown mall, on the site of the existing convention center, Cuyahoga County commissioners announced last week. Demolition and construction could start before the end of the year. The mall site is attractive because it is within walking distance of more than 3,000 hotel rooms, according to Positively Cleveland, the city's convention and visitors bureau. It's unclear how business already on the books at the existing center would be affected by the construction, said Tamera Brown, vice president of marketing for Positively Cleveland. She said groups booked at the existing center might be forced to relocate to other Cleveland venues if construction cannot be phased to accommodate them.

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research last week released a study that says recessions do not have predictable or significant negative effects on the exhibition industry. "The role of exhibitions bringing products to market doesn't change in a stressful economic environment," said Doug Ducate, president and CEO of CEIR. Using data going back to the late 1960s, the report shows that key buyers continue to attend trade shows during recessions, despite any overall attendance drops or shrinking of exhibit floors. The study also pointed out that interest in trade shows, traffic density, hours spent at exhibits and the percentage of attendees planning to buy products as a result of the exhibitions do not change significantly during recessions. The data collected for the report, however, does reveal some potentially troubling long-term trends since the early or mid-1990s, such as steady declines in traffic density and falling percentages of attendees who plan to buy products as a result of exhibitions. Most worrisome, according to Ducate, is the decline in first-time attendees, down to around 34 percent in 2007, vs. a high of 42 percent in 1992.

The 291-room W Atlanta-Buckhead opened last week with 8,000 square feet of meeting space, a Jean-Georges Vongerichten's Market restaurant and the Whiskey Blue rooftop bar.

This week, Hilton Hotels Corp. rolled out the first of two new brands it is introducing this winter -- a mid-tier, extended-stay hotel concept dubbed Home2 Suites by Hilton that company executives believe will appeal to an underserved extended-stay guest looking for accommodations priced at around $90 a night. The company said it already is reviewing 10 applications for the all-new construction brand. Home2 Suites will offer approximately 108 rooms and feature "The Oasis," a living area with a community table, individual work zones, a pantry, integrated guest laundry and activity room; a walking/exercise course; fitness facility; an indoor pool; outdoor living rooms; outdoor grills. The guest rooms will feature a "working wall," a series of modular, pieces that will serve as a workspace, closet and storage, plus 42-inch flat-panel televisions. No information has been given on the second brand, but it has been widely speculated that Hilton will introduce a boutique brand by year-end.

As a result of special charges associated with fuel hedges, Southwest Airlines reported a loss of $56 million in 2008's fourth quarter. However Southwest, unlike many other airlines, was profitable for the full year of 2008. Nevertheless, the airline is making cuts: CEO Gary C. Kelly said the airline will reduce 2009 flight capacity by 4 percent vs. 2008, and is cutting the number of new Boeing 737-700 aircraft it is ordering for 2010 delivery from 22 planes to 10.

The 429-room Westin Jersey City Newport opened yesterday. The property, on the Hudson River across from lower Manhattan, has 30 meeting rooms, including a 10,000-square-foot ballroom; a fitness center; the Wildfire restaurant, and the Half Moon Lounge.

Smith Travel Research unveiled year-end numbers for the lodging industry this week, as well as its forecast for 2009. According to STR, the U.S. lodging industry held up well in the first eight months of 2008 compared with the same period in 2007. The average daily rate grew 3.9 percent, revenue per available room increased 1.2 percent, and occupancy slipped 2.6 percent. However, the last four months of 2008, said STR president Mark Lomanno, were disappointing. The ADR dropped 0.8 percent, occupany declined a further 7.5 percent, and RevPAR fell 8.2 percent. And while RevPAR is held as the barometer of hotel performance, Lomanno warned the industry that further dropping their ADR could have long-term consequences. The luxury segment suffered the worst, with only 2.8 percent of U.S. luxury hotels -- just seven properties -- reporting positive occupancy and ADR growth in the last quarter of 2008. STR is estimating that in 2009, average occupancy will fall to 58 percent, before growing slightly to 58.1 in 2010. ADR will decrease another 2.0 percent in 2009, before increasing 2.4 percent in 2010. RevPAR will fall another 5.9 percent in 2009, before increasing 2.4 percent in 2010. STR's report is more optimistic than PricewaterhouseCoopers', which this week also released its 2009 forecast. PWC is forecasting an 11.2 percent decline in RevPAR, a further 3.9 percent decline in average occupancy to 56.5 percent, and a 5.2 percent slip in ADR.

Airline Industry
Air traffic controllers in France are expected to take part in a national strike tomorrow, causing major disruptions to flights. The strike is over concerns about jobs, salaries and benefits for transport workers and teachers.

About $520 million will be spent to upgrade Dallas Love Field airport. The plans include a new 20-gate concourse. The project will be funded in part by an increase in fees to Southwest Airlines passengers who use the facility from $1.50 each to $5 each.

Convention and Visitor Bureaus
NYC & Company, New York City's tourism and marketing organization, unveiled the city's newly renovated Official NYC Information Center in midtown Manhattan last week. Announced at the time was the launch of, the city's new resource for visitors and residents. The new website provides information in nine languages, as well as a MyNYC tool that allows visitors to rate their experiences. Additionally, hotels, flights, car rentals and restaurant reservations now can be booked online.

The 474-room Eurostars Madrid Tower Hotel 5* opened last Thursday in the Spanish capital's Cuatro Torres business district. The property is in the SyV Tower, one of the four skyscrapers that define the district, and offers nearly 27,000 square feet of meeting space. That includes the 16,000-square-foot Grand Barcelona Hall, which the hotel claims is the largest column-free venue in the city.

The 588-room Crowne Plaza Louisville Airport Kentucky Expo Center opens this Friday. Formerly the Executive West Hotel, the property has undergone a $25 million renovation to the guest rooms, public space and business center. Also, a new bar and a restaurant were added. The hotel, about a mile from Louisville International Airport, has 50,000 square feet of meeting space.

The Georgian Terrace Hotel in Atlanta has begun an $11 million renovation project to be completed in April. All 307 guest rooms will receive new flat-screen TVs, high-speed Internet and new beds. The public areas, including the lobby, 5,500 square feet of meeting space, and five dining and bar areas, will be upgraded as well.
The Avia Savannah (Ga.) hotel opened last week. Overlooking Ellis Square, the 151-room property features a restaurant, a wine bar and a 2,700-square-foot event space.

According to Travel Weekly, M&C's sister publication, the 1964 Ilikai hotel in Honolulu is expected to close Feb. 8 due to hotel lender iStar Financial's refusal to make payments for continuing operations. The 1,009-room property features 666 privately owned units and 343 condo-hotel rooms, a pool, a fitness center and 13 meeting rooms.

According to the The Island Packet newspaper, Daufuskie Island Resort & Breathe Spa near Hilton Head, S.C., filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 20. At the end of last year, the resort laid off more than 100 employees. A press release from the resort's owner attributed the bankruptcy to the tumbling stock market, as well as a lawsuit brought against Daufuskie by some of its membership. According to the release, the plan is to sell the resort piecemeal, though selling it as a whole also could be an option.

A $12.1 million renovation has been completed at the Embassy Suites Dallas Park Central. The entire property was redone, including the 279 suites, the atrium, the lobby area and all meeting space. Added were 5,000 square feet of event space, for a total of 15,000 square feet, and a new casual restaurant, the Riparian Grille.

The Arizona Grand Resort in Phoenix will debut its 100 Arizona Grand Villas this weekend. The addition, which brings the property's total to 740 rooms, is part of a $52 million upgrade. When completed this spring, all guest rooms, restaurants and spa will have been renovated; the 18-hole golf course redesigned, and a new main lobby opened. The former lobby will become a group check-in area. The property has 117,000 square feet of meeting space.

Shipping Services

Sports Express LLC, a door-to-door luggage service, has merged with its competitor, First Luggage, the companies announced this week. U.K.-based First Luggage primarily services international deliveries and U.S.-based Sports Express provides shipping for sports equipment as well as luggage. Customers of the two companies can continue making reservations through the existing websites and call centers.

Cvent, a web-based event management provider, launched the Cvent Professional Services Group. The new consulting business offers assistance in optimizing the use of web surveys, improving business intelligence through data collection and feedback management.