Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has filed a lawsuit against Hilton Hotels Corp. and its senior executives Ross Klein, Global Head of Hilton Luxury & Lifestyle Brands, and Amar Lalvani, Global Head of Hilton Luxury & Lifestyle Brand Development. The lawsuit alleges that Klein, former president, Starwood Luxury Brands Group, and Lalvani, former senior vice president, Starwood Luxury Brands Group, aided and abetted by Hilton, stole proprietary Starwood information which was used to expedite Hilton's entry into the lifestyle hotel market, among other charges. Allegedly, confidential information about W Hotels was stolen in order to speed up the launch of Hilton's new Denizen brand. The two executives went to Hilton in June 2008 following its highly leveraged $20 billion-plus acquisition by Blackstone Group. The filing also alleges that Klein and Lalvani, directly and through other Starwood luxury brands employees they recruited to Hilton, stole more than 100,000 electronic files – truckloads of documents when printed – before and after they joined Hilton, in violation of both their contractual and fiduciary duties. In a statement, Kenneth Siegel, Starwood's chief administrative officer and general counsel, said: "Starwood seeks to avoid litigation, but the egregiousness of the conduct and the volume of highly confidential documents taken left us no choice but to take this strong action to protect our brands and intellectual property for the benefit of our investors, associates, owners and customers. The wholesale looting of proprietary Starwood information, including a step-by-step playbook for creating a lifestyle luxury hotel brand, unfairly enabled Hilton to launch a new brand in only nine months instead of the usual three to five years." A statement from Hilton said, "Hilton Hotels Corporation believes this lawsuit is without merit and will vigorously defend itself. We fully intend to move forward on the development of our newest brand, Denizen Hotels."
New Online Program From MPI Begins Tuesday
Meeting Professionals International (mpiweb.org) has launched two educational programs to help planners make the most of these hard times and even take advantage of them. "No Turning Back: A Revolution in the Meetings Industry" is a three-part series that aims to explain four key elements of strategic value for meetings and events: portfolio management, meeting design, measurement and advanced logistics. It begins with an April 21 webcast based on "The Case for Meetings," a briefing paper by meetings consultant Mary Boone of Mary Boone Assoc. A half-day workshop will be held at the World Education Congress in Salt Lake City in July, and the series will end with a webcast on August 26. Another program, the "Meetings Matter" webcast series, will last eight weeks, starting April 29 and running through June. Each webcast will offer real-life solutions to issues that industry professionals currently are facing. The eight topics are: Telling Our Story: Economic Impact Data and the Attack on Meetings; Layoffs, Cutbacks and Closing Down: What Are You Doing to Make a Difference?; Don't Let TARP Cover You Up – Surviving Tough Economic Times; Your Role in Corporate Strategy: Integrating & Aligning Event Goals; Managing Transitions; You Can Do This! Turning Lemons into Lemonade; Survival Strategies for Suppliers; and Show Me the Money (or, Show Me the Value): Enhancing and Communicating the Value of Your Meetings.
Pittsburgh Convention Center Hotel Plans Delayed
Pittsburgh’s Sports & Exhibition Authority, the city- and county-governed group that owns the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, has postponed the formal request-for-proposal process planned for a new convention center hotel. The planned 500-room, $104 million hotel has been touted by the city as essential to attracting larger conventions, and would complement the existing, 616-room Westin Convention Center hotel. According to executive director Mary Conturo, the SEA still is talking to a few local developers, as well as Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises, which owns the Westin and originally was slated to develop the second hotel. A formal RFP process, which had been planned due to lagging negotiations with Forest City, will occur, if necessary, when economic conditions improve.
Detroit Mayor Loses Battle to Expand Cobo, Appeal to Come
A Michigan judge has blocked an attempt by Detroit Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr. to secure $280 million of state funding for the expansion of the Cobo Center, the city's convention facility. The Detroit City Council had rejected the funding offer, which stipulated that the city would have to relinquish control of Cobo to a newly formed regional authority. The mayor vetoed the council's decision, keeping hopes of expansion alive. But the judge ruled last week that the mayor had no authority to veto the council in this case. The mayor is appealing the decision. "I believe that the future of Cobo Center and the city is too important to stop here," the mayor said at a news conference last week. "Therefore, with full confidence in the arguments that we've been making from the very beginning, we plan to appeal [the] decision to a higher court. We will file our appeal shortly, and we expect to prevail."
CEIR Study Shows Companies Save Money With Exhibitions
The Center for Exhibition Industry Research has released more data in its ongoing effort to demonstrate the value of trade shows. A new study, "The Cost Effectiveness of Exhibition Participation: Part II," conducted by researchers at the University of South Carolina, found that companies save an average of $795 to close a sale with a new customer using exhibitions compared with other methods. CEIR members can download the study for free at ceir.org; nonmembers can purchase the report for $24.
Cincinnati to Close Suburban CVB
Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials have decided to shutter the Northern Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau at the end of the year, claiming the Cincinnati USA Convention and Visitors Bureau will be able to represent the suburbs more efficiently. The NCCVB was formed in 2003 as a concession to hoteliers, who agreed to higher occupancy taxes that were used to fund, in part, the downtown Duke Energy Center expansion. Last year, the NCCVB generated commitments for 60,000 future room nights and now has an operating budget of $820,000. Mark Schutte, executive director of the NCCVB, said the decision was purely political.
Hotel Taxes Plunge, Miami Will Build New Ballpark Anyway
Miami-Dade County hotel taxes fell 24 percent in February, compared with February 2008. The report, issued last week, came the day after a vote by the Miami-Dade County Commissioners, who approved financing for a $563 million, 37,000-seat baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins. About $508 million, or 90 percent, of that financing will come from the declining hotel tax collections.
MGM Secures Credit Amendment for CityCenter
MGM Mirage announced Monday that its senior lenders have agreed to an amendment that would allow MGM Mirage to fund 100 percent of the construction costs required to complete CityCenter. The $70 million required is due no later than Friday, April 17, and would cover the $35 million owed by Dubai World, should the joint partner choose not to contribute. MGM made similar arrangements last month, when the casino company made a $200 million payment that covered Dubai World's half. Dubai World filed suit against MGM Mirage in March, seeking to be released from its financial obligations. According to an unnamed source cited by Reuters, Dubai World intends to withhold any further payments until the two companies negotiate a new financing agreement.
Southwest to Begin Service to Boston
Following on the heels of Southwest Airlines' expansion into New York City's LaGuardia Airport on June 28, the airline will begin flying into Boston Logan International Airport on Aug. 16. Southwest is set to run 10 daily nonstop flights out of Boston, five into Chicago Midway (for initial one-way fares of $89 and up) and five into Baltimore/Washington International Airport ($49 one way).
United Flights Go Cash-Free
Last week United Airlines announced that all North American flights (except for United Express) will no longer accept cash for inflight purchases as of April 20. Credit and debit cards, which began to be accepted on United flights in March, now will be the only form of payment allowed.
DFW Airport Gets Stimulus Money for Renovations
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport will use $8.8 million in stimulus funds for runway renovations. The facility operates seven runways that handle more than 650,000 takeoffs and landings per year.
Convention and Visitor Bureaus
Destination DC President and CEO Hanbury to Depart for United Way
William A. Hanbury, president and CEO of Destination DC, Washington, D.C.'s chief marketing organization, is stepping down from his post for a new job as president and CEO of the United Way of the National Capital Area. Hanbury has been with Destination DC since the spring of 2001, when it was formed by the merger of the D.C. Convention and Visitors Associaton and the D.C. Committee to Promote Washington. Hanbury's new position will begin July 1. The organization’s board hopes to hire an executive search firm by the end of May to find Hanbury’s successor.
Ocean City Director of Tourism Resigns
Mike Noah, the Ocean City (Md.) Convention and Visitors Bureau's director of the department of tourism and executive director of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center, is resigning as of April 17. Noah, who has been with the CVB for 13 years, is resigning "for personal reasons and to pursue other opportunities," according to a statement. A search for Noah's replacement currently is under way.
Oklahoma Facilities Get a Facelift
The Ford Center in Oklahoma City will close for about five months starting this week to undergo renovations. Updates include newly remodeled suites, wider seats for the lower levels, a renovated lobby, upgraded A/V facilities and a new $5.5 million scoreboard. Most of the upgrades will be completed by the fall. In 2010, the entrance and lobby will be expanded, and new restaurants will be added.
Spokane Center Exceeding Revenue Projections
According to the Spokane Journal of Business, the Spokane Convention Center, which completed an $89 million renovation and expansion in 2007, is exceeding revenue projections that were laid out when the expansion was being proposed. In 2008, the center took in $3.76 million, $478,000 more than was projected in 2002. Revenue for 2009 also is on track to exceed projections, with revenues of $3.93 million, or $430,000 more than was predicted in 2002.
Red Lion Promises to Beat Any Corporate Rate
Red Lion Hotels announced last week it will beat any corporate negotiated rate by 25 percent at any of its 47 properties in the U.S. and Canada. The offer is good for stays through the end of 2009, and requires a travel manager to provide supporting documentation of a negotiated rate with another hotel company. No long-term commitment or volume requirements will be applied; both travelers and travel managers can earn points in the Red Lion R&R Club. Additional information about the offer can be found here.
PRA Launches Free Website for Job Seekers
PRA Destination Management has launched connect4Jobs.com, a free employment website for meeting professionals. Job seekers can upload their résumés and browse listings; companies and organizations also can post available positions. PRA launched the service "to keep the meeting planning industry moving, in spite of the recent economic forecast."
Banking Group Moves Convention from Bermuda to Boston
The Massachusetts Bankers Association has changed the location of its convention, set to take place April 30 to May 2, from Bermuda to Boston. According to the Associated Press, group chairman Kevin Bottomley cited the economic climate and the federal bailout of banks for the change. The meeting was to be held at the Fairmount Southampton in Bermuda; it will now take place at Boston's Fairmont Copley Plaza, and it has been scaled back from four days to three. Plans for the MBA's 2010 convention, which was to take place in Florida, are on hold.
Las Vegas Convention Attendance Down 35 Percent
In a year-over-year comparison, attendance at conventions in Las Vegas was down nearly 35 percent in February, according to numbers released by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. The number of conventions held in February decreased by almost 16 percent from last year. A year-to-date comparison for the first two months of the year revealed a drop of nearly 29 percent in convention attendance and just over 17 percent in number of conventions held. Total visitor volume for the city was down 10 percent for January and February.
Inland Empire Auto Show Postponed
The Ontario (Calif.) Convention Center has announced that the 2009 Inland Empire Auto Show, scheduled for April 24-26, has been postponed. Major auto companies such as General Motors and Lincoln were set to participate; however, several other top automotive manufacturers pulled out at the last minute and show organizers were apprehensive about General Motors' commitment as an exhibitor. According to a spokesperson for the IEAS, "It appeared there was a strong possibility that GM was going into bankruptcy, so we were concerned that we'd have a huge hole in the show. It was determined that it would be better to wait until the auto industry was more stable." Show organizers are considering rescheduling sometime in the fall.
Atlantic City Casino Revenues Drop in March
Atlantic City's casinos reported $318.4 million in casino revenues for the month of March, a 19.4 percent decrease over the same month a year ago. For the first three months of the year, casinos took in $950.2 million, down 16.2 percent from the $1.1 billion banked in the same period in 2008.
La Quinta Hotel Opens in Downtown Chicago
The 241-room La Quinta Inns & Suites Chicago Downtown opened inside the Loop on South Franklin Street this week. The hotel offers three meeting rooms totaling 2,200 square feet, free Internet access and complimentary breakfast.
LAX Hotel Reaches Contract Agreement With Employees
According to UNITE HERE local chapter 11, the 580-room Radisson Hotel at Los Angeles International Airport has reached a new contract agreement with its approximately 160 employees, who will now receive free health insurance for their families, wage increases and safer working conditions. The hotel joins the Sheraton Gateway, the Four Points LAX and the Westin LAX as union establishments.
Hotel and Conference Center Opens North of Denver
The 263-room Embassy Suites Loveland Hotel, Spa and Conference Center in Colorado now is open. The property features 80,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 28,800-square-foot Front Range ballroom, plus the Grille and Lounge, Caffeina's Internet Café and the Spa Botanica. The hotel is next to The Ranch, the Larimer County Fairgrounds and Events Complex, which offers the 375,000-square-foot Budweiser Events Center.
Developer Chosen for Hotel Project Near Google Headquarters
The city of Mountainview, Calif., has entered into negotiations with real estate company Robert Green Co. to develop the city's first four-diamond hotel and conference center, on an 18.6-acre piece of land leased by Google Inc. near its headquarters. The property will occupy 9.2 acres of the site; the remainder will be dedicated to office space. Robert Green proposes building a 200-room hotel with a 15,000-square-foot conference center, a restaurant, a spa and fitness center, a pool and space to expand the conference space by up to 15,000 square feet. Financing and a construction timeline for the project are yet to be determined.
Hyatt Place Opens in Mesa
The 152-room Hyatt Place Phoenix/Mesa (Ariz.) has opened at the Mesa Riverview Lifestyle Center, a mixed-use commercial development. The property has 1,300 square feet of meeting space and offers complimentary Wi-Fi access throughout the hotel.
Luxuriant to Launch in Guatemala
Luxuriant World Resorts, a U.S.-based luxury gaming resort company, announced last week that its first property is slated for Guatemala, near either Antigua or El Peten, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage sites. As the company matures, it will expand from Central America to other international regions.
Travel and Tourism
Travel Rally Set for May 12
The U.S. Travel Association is asking convention and visitor bureaus to participate in U.S. Travel Rally Day on May 12, to raise awareness about the effect the travel downturn has on the local level. For more information, go to www.tia.org/resources/NTW/NTTW_toolkit_09.htm.