by M&C Staff | April 22, 2009
Hilton Hotels Corp. has temporarily suspended development of its new Denizen brand after being sued by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide for corporate espionage. The suit alleges that two former Starwood employees now working for Hilton unlawfully obtained and shared documents about Starwood’s W brand. Hilton has placed the employees, Ross Klein and Amar Lalvani, on paid administrative leave.

VA Cuts Meetings to Save $18 Million

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has canceled or delayed 26 conferences, saving nearly $17.8 million, and will use less expensive alternatives like videoconferencing. In a cabinet meeting Monday, President Obama mentioned the VA as an example of how government departments can cut back on spending. To read the President’s statement, click here.

Detroit Mayor Drops Legal Fight for Cobo Expansion
Detroit Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr., who wants to transfer control of the Cobo Center, Detroit’s convention facility, from the city to a regional authority in return for $280 million in state funding earmarked for the expansion and renovation of the building, was dealt another legal blow last week and now says he no longer will fight the city council’s resolution to reject the deal. Last week, an appeals court panel affirmed that Cockrel did not have authority to veto the city council’s decision to refuse the funding and maintain city control of Cobo. “I will work closely with the Detroit City Council, Governor Granholm, the Michigan Legislature and stakeholders throughout our region to craft a viable funding plan that allows Cobo to remain an internationally competitive convention center in the short and long term,” Cockrel said in a statement. “We have every intention of retaining and expanding the North American International Auto Show, and attracting new conventions and trade shows to Detroit.”

Hyatt Regency Phoenix to Undergo Renovation
The Hyatt Regency Phoenix will undergo a $15 million makeover in July. The project, which is scheduled for completion this December, includes upgrades to the hotel’s 712 guest rooms and 48,000 square feet of meeting space. Other enhancements include the addition of a lobby Internet café and the expansion of the StayFit@Hyatt fitness center. The hotel is across the street from the Phoenix Convention Center.

ASAE Deems Springtime a Success Despite Drop in Attendance
Springtime Expo, an annual conference and trade show organized by ASAE & The Center for Association Leadership, attracted 11 percent fewer attendees and 13 percent fewer exhibitors this year than last year, but ASAE executives hailed those figures as a success in today’s economy. Overall, the show, held last Thursday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., drew 4,000 attendees and exhibitors, down from 4,500 last year, and the show floor contracted by 7,700 square feet to 65,500 net square feet.

BTC Opens up tVillage Talent Connections Site

The Business Travel Coalition has removed restrictions on joining the tVillage Talent Connections networking site it launched in February. As of this week, the LinkedIn site is now open to all travel-industry participants — not just the unemployed, about-to-be-unemployed or underemployed travel-industry professionals it previously specified. According to the BTC, strong interest among employers, executive search firms and currently employed professionals precipitated the change. The site permits resume posting and critique, sharing job leads, general advice and moral support, among other features, and may be found here.

United Airlines to Charge Some Passengers for Second Seat

United Airlines has published a change to its contract of carriage that could affect overweight passengers. As of last week, passengers who “are unable to fit into a single seat in the ticketed cabin; are unable to properly buckle the seatbelt using a single seatbelt extender; and/or are unable to put the seat's armrests down when seated” will be moved to a seat adjacent to an empty seat, if empty seats are available. If not, the passenger will be required to purchase an upgrade to a cabin with larger seats or change his or her ticket to the next available flight and purchase an additional seat.


Convention and Visitor Bureaus

Funding Bill for Annapolis and Anne Arundel County CVB Before Governor
If Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signs a new tourism bill passed by the state legislature, the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau will receive an increasing percentage of the county’s hotel tax for the next five years. The money would be the bureau’s first dedicated source of funding. Initially, the CVB would receive 7 percent of the hotel tax, but by 2014 it would receive 17 percent. In a statement, Annapolis and Anne Arundel CVB board chairman Susan Zellers praised the bill: “Passage of Senate Bill 11 means that the bureau can continue planning for the future. We can keep the program pipeline full, knowing that there is a reliable funding source in place that is dedicated to marketing the destination.”

Convention Centers
Columbia, S.C., Convention Center Offers 25 Percent Discount
Last week, the Columbia (S.C.) Metropolitan Convention Center announced a 25 percent discount on meeting space this summer. The 222-room Hilton Columbia Center, adjacent to the convention center, will offer a companion discount on room rates for groups booking a minimum of 300 room nights.

Discovery Cruise Line Cancels Voyages
Fort Lauderdale-based, Discovery Cruise Line, which ferries passengers daily from South Florida to the Bahamas, has canceled all voyages until Thursday, April 30, due to “mechanical difficulties,” according to

CIC and APEX Launch Virtual Discussion Forum on Green Meetings

The Convention Industry Council and the Accepted Practices Exchange, in partnership with environmental marketing company ASTM International, have launched a website,, to promote discussion about the organizations’ green meeting and event standards. The three discussion topics currently available on the site are destinations, meeting venues and transportation. In the coming months, the following topics will be added: accommodations, food and beverage, A/V, communication, on-site offices and exhibits.

U.S. Hotel Pipeline Down by 17%, Says STR

The total active U.S. hotel development pipeline includes 5,187 projects with 551,610 rooms, a decrease of 17.1 percent over last year, according to the March 2009 STR/TWR/Dodge Construction Pipeline Report released last week. According to the report, the largest drop occurred in the Mountain region, due to the cancellation or delay of large Las Vegas projects, followed by the Southern and Pacific regions, due to the slowing of resort business.  

Doubletree Chicago Completes a $21 Million Renovation
The 500-room Doubletree Chicago Magnificent Mile, near Navy Pier, unveiled 16,000 square feet of new and renovated meeting space last week, part of a $21 million makeover at the hotel. In February, the property opened a new full-service restaurant, Markethouse, serving “farm-fresh” cuisine. The site of the hotel’s former restaurant has been transformed into a 1,350-square-foot, lobby-level event space.

Grand Hyatt New York to Renovate Ballroom

The 1,311-room Grand Hyatt New York will launch a $12 million renovation in July of its 18,000-square-foot ballroom. A total of 55,000 square feet of meeting space currently is available at the property. The project will wrap up in September.

Boston Hyatt Unveils Renovated Meeting Space
The 270-room Hyatt Harborside, at Boston’s Logan International Airport, has completed a $2 million upgrade of its 22,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 5,000-square-foot ballroom. The hotel’s guest rooms were refurbished in 2007.

MGM Ponies up CityCenter Funds Amidst More Bankruptcy Talk

MGM Mirage met its extended payment deadline last week, providing $70 million to cover the current CityCenter construction costs. The payment, which included joint partner Dubai World’s $35 million share, was made based on an amendment to MGM’s loan agreement with its senior lenders. Dubai World hasn’t made a CityCenter payment since filing suit against MGM Mirage in March. As MGM continues its attempts to renegotiate terms and finance its $13 billion debt, some investors are calling for the company to file for bankruptcy, according to the Wall Street Journal. Citing unnamed sources, the paper named billionaire Carl Icahn and investment fund Oaktree Capital Management as those seeking a bankruptcy filing. MGM Mirage indicated only that discussions with lenders continue.

Midpriced Hotel Debuts in Cincinnati
The 122-room SpringHill Suites Cincinnati Midtown opened last week, about a mile and a half from the city’s central business district and the Duke Energy Convention Center. The hotel has a single boardroom, suitable for up to 12 people.

Palm Beach Doubletree Meeting Space Now LEED Certified
The 279-room Doubletree Hotel & Executive Meeting Center Palm Beach Gardens in Palm Beach, Fla., announced last week that its newly renovated 15,000-square-foot executive meeting center has received both Silver LEED certification and IACC certification. Both guest rooms and meeting space also are treated with the PURE air purification system that rids air space of 98.9 percent of allergens, odors and bacteria.

L.A. Marriott Hotel Owner Files For Bankruptcy
L.A. Hotel Venture, the owner of the 469-room Los Angeles Marriott Downtown, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week in an effort to restructure funds for the hotel’s remodeling project, according to the L.A. Times. The company is reportedly in debt by an estimated $500 million. When the hotel was purchased in 2007, the projected cost of the planned renovation was $30 million.

Hotel Indigo Opens in Costa Rica

The 100-room Hotel Indigo San José Forum, in the Santa Ana neighborhood of Costa Rica’s capital, opened during the second week of April. The first Hotel Indigo in Central America, the Hotel Indigo San José Forum is part of the commercial development of Del Centro Empresarial Forum Dos and offers on-site dining, a business center, a spa and a fitness center.

Radisson Blue Opens in Sandton, South Africa
The 290-room Radisson Blu Hotel Sandton has opened in Sandton, South Africa. The property has eight meeting rooms, a spa and fitness center, and a restaurant. All guest rooms have complimentary high-speed wireless Internet access.  

Trade Shows
Freeman Now Renting Sustainable Exhibits
Freeman, the exhibitions services company, recently began allowing customers to rent environmentally sustainable trade show exhibits, which use special wood, carpet, glues, finishes, aluminum extrusions and banner graphics that are less harmful to the environment than traditional materials. Depending on the model, the sustainable exhibits typically rent for $2,500 to $3,000. Freeman also announced last week that all of its offices will roll out a paperless order-entry system that converts faxed exhibitor orders to PDF files, before the end of the year. The company says the move will eliminate 600,000 sheets of paper annually.

Flooring Company Launches Exhibits Division
Signature Fencing and Flooring, a New York City-based manufacturer of portable flooring and fencing, has launched a new division dedicated to the trade show industry. Exhibit Flooring Solutions offers various options for trade show displays and will design new products for the market. The company’s latest innovation, AlphaDeck, is a modular, raised flooring system that can be outfitted with electricity and plumbing under the exhibit floor.

Travel Management
NBTA Report Claims Travel Management Cuts Costs

According to a March survey conducted by the National Business Travel Association, nearly 85 percent of the 119 corporate travel manager respondents have decreased travel spend since October 2008. More than 70 percent expected continued decreases throughout the year. And 53 percent indicated their companies have saved more than $50,000 since October as a result of new travel management initiatives, a fact appreciated by bosses: 63 percent of respondents feel secure in their current positions, with half of those saying their companies now value their services more than ever. Eighty-five percent said off-site strategy meetings and leadership conferences are an important part of their companies’ business planning and talent-development process.

MeetingMetrics Introduces New ROI Diagnostic Service

MeetingMetrics, software that provides a way of measuring meeting value using customizable survey templates, has introduced a new turnkey ROI Diagnostic service. The new service is available to MeetingMetrics customers who don’t have the time or expertise to do a complete return-on-investment study. The ROI Diagnostic service offers a two-week turnaround time and a fully automated online ROI reporting tool for analyzing and sharing the results. The service costs approximately $2,500 to $2,900 per event, based on complexity.