On Feb. 17, the Destination Marketing Association International Foundation merged with the U.S. Travel Association Foundation to create a single entity, called the Destination & Travel Foundation, with the intent of better serving destination marketing professionals and providing support for travel research, education and industry partnerships. As a result of the alliance, the U.S. Travel Association Foundation will support DMAI’s “Destination Excellence: Investing in the Future of Destination Marketing” campaign, whose goal is to raise $4 million in funds over five years. Approximately $1 million has been raised thus far.
On Tuesday, the Dallas City Council approved operating agreements for a new convention center hotel with developer Matthews Southwest and hotel operator Omni Hotels. The city now will begin selling revenue bonds and finalize construction plans for the hotel, which will open in 2011. The property will rise next to the Dallas Convention Center at the southwest corner of Young Street and Lamar Boulevard. The 1,000-room hotel will offer several restaurants, lounges and coffee kiosks, and 100,000 square feet of meeting space.
The launch of Reed Travel Exhibitions’ Americas Incentive Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition trade show has been postponed until “2011 at the earliest,” according to Paul Kennedy, group exhibition director of Reed Travel Exhibitions' Meetings and Incentive Events. AIBTM was scheduled to debut June 29-July 1, 2010, in Baltimore. In explaining the move, Kennedy told M&C “It's simply and entirely because of the macro-economic conditions. Baltimore remains absolutely our destination of choice and we look forward to working with the city to create a great event to sit within our leading global portfolio.”
Meeting Professionals International has launched the Meetings Industry Crisis Center (meetingindustrycrisiscenter.org) to collect news and offer tools and resources to help individuals in the industry become proactive about changing the current perception of meetings. The site includes overviews of the issues at hand, such as guidelines for conducting responsible meetings, plus links to contact congressional representatives, job-search resources and more.
The Hutton Hotel opened in the West End area of Nashville last week. The 248-room hotel features almost 14,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 7,000-square-foot ballroom, and a signature restaurant.
Marriott International plans to open 57 new hotels in Asia within the next four years, including 24 in India, 21 in China and eight in Thailand. The new hotels will carry the brands JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Renaissance and Courtyard and combined will offer 15,510 rooms. Marriott's portfolio in Asia-Pacific currently consists of 109 hotels and more than 39,000 rooms. Last week, Marriott also announced that its income from "continuing operations" dropped 49 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, compared with the fourth quarter of 2007, but the company still plans to invest in new properties around the globe. "In 2008, we added 26,000 net hotel rooms to our system and we expect to do the same this year," said J.W. Marriott Jr., chairman and CEO of Marriott International, in a statement.
Trump Entertainment Resorts' three Atlantic City casinos -- Trump Marina Hotel Casino, Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, and the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino -- filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday. A spokesperson told M&C the bankruptcy filing will have no effect on the planned sale of Trump Marina, which is expected to be completed in May, and all three casinos are open for business as usual. This marks the third time the three Trump casinos have filed for Chapter 11 protection. Last week, Donald Trump resigned as chairman of the board after his offer to buy the company and take it private was rebuffed by bond holders and their allies on the board.
The San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau's expected budget of $21.4 million for 2009 is being reduced by $1.7 million, causing the bureau to cut some programs and eliminate more than a dozen full- and part-time positions. According to David Peckinpaugh, president and CEO of the bureau, services to meeting planners will not be affected by the reductions: "The cutbacks have occurred only on the membership services and operations side. Our trade show schedule will remain the same, and even with these cuts, we will continue to grow our sales and marketing staff." The bureau's funding primarily comes from a 2 percent tax per room night on hotels in the San Diego Tourism Marketing District, but revenues have fallen because of the steep decline in occupancy in recent months. Longtime bureau employees Christine Shimasaki, vice president and chief strategy officer, and Sal Giametta, vice president of public affairs and communications, are among those losing their jobs. Other areas that will receive cutbacks include international travel, meetings industry events, research and vendor agreements.
The 1,572-room Hilton Anaheim (Calif.), adjacent to the Anaheim Convention Center and one block from Disneyland Resort, has completed a $60 million renovation of its meeting space, lobby, restaurant, fitness center and guest rooms. The lobby now features the Mix Lounge, with a waterfall and stone sculpture as its focal point, as well as the upgraded Mix Restaurant, which serves dishes made from organic and sustainable foods. Guest rooms are outfitted with Hilton Serenity Beds and LCD TVs. A total of 100,000 square feet of meeting space was redone at the start of the renovation, in 2007.
Internal meetings will be the hardest hit area of business travel this year, according to the ACTE 2009 Business Travel Spend Survey, conducted by the Association of Corporate Travel Executives in January. The survey of 176 global respondents, 53 percent of whom were travel managers, sought updated information to a similar poll the organization conducted in September, before the economic situation worsened to its current state. Forty-seven percent of those surveyed named internal, non-revenue-producing meetings as the area in which they would cut back the most. Using meeting alternatives such as webinars, meanwhile, was the number-one-ranked priority for 2009, with 50 percent of respondents expressing interest. A total of 71 percent of respondents indicated they would spend less on travel this year, up from the 33 percent who said they would do so in September.
The 493-suite Grand Velas All Suites & Spa Resort celebrated a soft opening Feb. 12 in Mexico's Riviera Maya, on the outskirts of Playa del Carmen. The property is home to a 76,640-square-foot spa with 40 treatment rooms, as well as 91,457 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space.
Singapore Airlines announced it is reducing its flight capacity by 11 percent, beginning in April 2009. All cuts will be in place by March 2010. Also, the airline plans to decommission 17 planes.
The Business Travel Coalition has launched tVillage Talent Connections, a LinkedIn-based site designed to assist unemployed, about-to-be-unemployed and underemployed workers in all global travel industry segments. The noncommercial site is private and invitation-only, and is designed to serve only those in need. Members will be able to post résumés for review, share job leads, provide letters of recommendation, share industry insights, exchange contacts, critique résumés, offer advice and provide moral support. Qualified people may apply for membership at tinyurl.com/bpmpvq.
Two property members of the International Association of Conference Centers were completely destroyed by bushfires in Australia last week. Lost in the Feb. 7 conflagration were the 62-room Marylands Country House and the 43-room Cumberland Marysville, both in Marysville in Victoria's Yarra Valley. The town itself also was leveled. IACC has set up a relief fund for the employees of the two centers and has made a $5,000 contribution to seed it. To donate, go to iacconline.org and click on IACC Australia Disaster Relief Fund.
Norwegian Cruise Line's 1,936-passenger Norwegian Sun will sail out of Port Canaveral, Fla., from October 2010 to April 2011. NCL has not based a ship in Port Canaveral in more than 11 years. The ship will operate seven-day cruises to the Caribbean.
Defense of the Meetings Industry
Last week, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman sent an open letter to President Barack Obama, informing him that his comments during a town hall meeting were harmful to Las Vegas and to the meetings and conventions industry as a whole. Goodman was referring to President Obama's comment about the need for accountability in the way financial institutions spend bailout money, specifically, that financial institutions "can't go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayer's dime." Obama's comments, wrote Goodman, "reinforced the stereotype -- unjustified, I may add -- that meetings, events and incentive travel are wasteful and any trip to Las Vegas is a 'junket.' " According to the Las Vegas Sun, Senator Harry Reid said the following day on the Senate floor that he had spoken to chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel and was assured that Obama's remarks were directed only at the potential use of taxpayer funds for junkets.
Financial and Insurance Meetings
Twenty-six percent of respondents to a survey on U.S. and Canadian insurance/finance firms' plans for canceling or changing conferences planned for 2009 and 2010 say they either cancelled or made significant changes in a recognition conference in 2009. The survey of 60 firms was conducted in mid-December by LIMRA International, an industry consulting firm. In other findings, respondents from 11 companies reported canceling or changing all their 2009 conferences. Twenty-seven percent of those polled said their firms had discussed plans to either cancel or change a 2010 conference.
The Georgia World Congress Center Authority is launching a "zero-waste zone" with hotels, attractions and restaurants in downtown Atlanta to reduce the amount of garbage produced in the area. Members in the partnership plan to reuse spent grease to produce biofuel, and compost or donate food to decrease the amount of waste going to landfills, amongst other actions. "This is a really exciting initiative that we're very proud to be a part of," said a spokesperson for the GWCC. "At the MPI meeting last week we recycled 2,400 pounds of material and composted 1,575 pounds of material."
The 107-room Lorien Hotel & Spa, a Kimpton Hotel, has opened in the Old Town section of Alexandria, Va. All rooms have 42-inch flat-screen TVs, iHome clock radio/iPod docks, both Wi-Fi and wired Internet access and more. The 4,000-square-foot spa is the first full-service, on-site hotel spa in Old Town. The Lorien has more than 3,500 square feet of meeting space.
The Jamaica Observer has reported that ground was broken last Saturday in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on the US$45 million Montego Bay Convention Centre. Jamaican tourism minister Edmund Bartlett said the American Society of Travel Agents had made plans to hold its 2012 conference at the new facility. The convention center will have 52,213 square feet of exhibition space; a 20,925-square-foot banquet hall (divisible by three), and eight meeting rooms totaling 11,334 square feet of space.
The Viceroy Miami opened in downtown Miami last week. Part of the Icon Brickell residential project, the hotel includes 162 guest rooms, five meeting rooms and a 4,000-square-foot ballroom. Featuring interiors designed by Kelly Wearstler, the hotel also includes a 28,000-square-foot spa, a signature restaurant and a two-acre pool terrace.
The 149-room Doubletree Austin-University Area in Texas has completed a $5 million renovation of its guest rooms, meeting space, amenities and public spaces. The property offers 4,300 square feet of meeting space, the Topaz Bar and Grill, a renovated fitness center and an outdoor pool.
The 210-room Hilton Garden Inn Minneapolis Downtown, a block from the Minneapolis Convention Center, opened Monday. The hotel has five meeting rooms for a total of 2,860 square feet of meeting space, a business center, a fitness center and a restaurant.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts will open the 90-room W Paris-Opéra in 2011. The property will be housed in a 130-year-old building near Place Vendôme and will have a spa, a restaurant and a lounge. The amount of meeting space has not been determined.
The 154-room Radisson Hotel Yuma (Ariz.) will open tomorrow. The property has 3,054 square feet of meeting space, a business center, an exercise room and a restaurant.
The MeCo Group (meetingscommunity.org) announced at its MeCo Meetup last week that moderators intend to incorporate the group into a 501(c)(6) nonprofit association by the fourth quarter of this year. In a letter to the Google group, co-founder Jim Louis wrote that creating a formal organization would be necessary in order to handle liability issues and payments at potential training sessions and conferences. This designation makes the most sense for MeCo's educational objectives, Louis said, and it will help to stabilize the group's funding. MeCo has no plans to begin charging for membership and will make all accounting transparent to its members.
Five Sixty, a new restaurant from Wolfgang Puck, has opened at the top of the Reunion Tower in Dallas. The fine-dining establishment features Asian-influenced fare.