The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory Monday against all nonessential travel to Mexico due to the outbreak of the HIN1 "swine flu" virus. The CDC issued the alert "out of an excess of caution," according to the agency. The virus may be responsible for as many as 150 deaths in central Mexico, with the majority of cases occurring in and around Mexico City. There have been no confirmed cases in the country's beach resorts. North of the border, more than 60 cases have been confirmed in the states of California, Kansas, New York, Ohio and Texas. The incidences in the United States have not been serious health threats, with only one patient requiring hospitalization. The CDC is working closely with Mexican health authorities and the World Health Organization to learn more about the virus. Meanwhile, the Mexican government has closed all schools, entertainment and event venues throughout the country until at least May 6, in an effort to contain the outbreak. The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and its consulates throughout the country also have been closed to nonemergency business and will remain so until May 6. Travelers arriving in Mexico are being screened for signs of influenza at airports and bus stations. Updates on the situation are available from the CDC (cdc.gov), the U.S. Travel Association (ustravel.org) and the Business Travel Coalition (netvibes.com/btc#Flu).
Hotel Industry: Is Slide Over?
Revenue per available room dropped 20 percent in March in a year-over-year comparison, but Smith Travel Research president Mark Lomanno believes demand might have bottomed out. “Over the past two months, the number of rooms sold has remained fairly consistent after the accelerating drops experienced beginning in September 2008 though January 2009,” he explained in an STR release. “Knowing that the trough in the cycle has been reached gives hope that the beginnings of a modest recovery may not be far away.” That said, at the end of the first quarter 2009, occupancy has decreased 10.9 percent from last year, to 51.4 percent. Average daily rate for the first quarter was down 7.7 percent, to $100.13. And a 17.7 percent first-quarter decline in RevPAR has caused STR to revise projections for 2009 and 2010. The company is calling for a 9.8 percent decrease in RevPAR in 2009. Year-end occupancy is now projected to be down by 6.5 percent, to 56.5 percent, and average daily rate is projected to be down 3.6 percent to US$102.89. Things are looking up for 2010, however: STR projects a 1.5 percent increase in RevPAR and ADR, and for occupancy to remain flat at 56.5 percent.
Hawaii Legislature Approves Hotel Room Tax Hike
Last Tuesday, the Hawaii State Legislature approved a 1 percentage point increase of the state's hotel room tax, from 7.25 percent to 8.25 percent, to take effect on July 1. Beginning July 1, 2010, the tax will increase another percentage point, to 9.25 percent. Speaking out against the tax hike, Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle believes the increase will damage the economy; she is expected to veto the bill. A two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate would be required to override the veto. According to M&C's sister publication Travel Weekly, the room rate increase will generate approximately $28 million in revenue for the first year, followed by $60 million in the second year.
New Orleans Releases 2008 Numbers as Association Moves 2012 Convention
The New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. have released visitor numbers for 2008. Half a million more people visited New Orleans in 2008 than in 2007 (7.6 million versus 7.1 million), and spending by those visitors increased from $4.8 billion to $5.1 billion. The survey was conducted by the University of New Orleans Hospitality Research Center. Of the 7.6 million visitors, nearly a quarter -- or 1.9 million -- came to the city for the purpose of either "corporate meeting/business" (15.1 percent) or a "convention/trade show" (9.8 percent). Visitors in town for an association meeting, convention or trade show spent an average of $940 per trip, or $210 per day. Meanwhile, the American Heart Association announced this week it is canceling its 2012 Scientific Sessions conference in New Orleans. The AHA's 2008 convention, held last November in the city, drew 26,000 visitors, with an economic impact of $50 million. The AHA pulled out to expand its rotation of cities, although, according to a spokesperson, no decision has been made on where the 2012 convention will be held. It will be outside of the traditional rotation of Chicago, Dallas, New Orleans and Orlando. New Orleans still is slated to host the AHA convention in 2016.
Redesigned Guest Rooms Open at Ritz-Carlton Chicago
The 435-room Ritz-Carlton Chicago, a Four Seasons Hotel, will unveil new-look guest rooms on Friday, the result of what the hotel is calling "one of the largest, multimillion-dollar restylings of its guest rooms and suites in the hotel's history." The new rooms were designed by Brayton Hughes Design Studios and have a more contemporary, urban-chic feel compared with the lush, elegant décor of the old rooms.
Melbourne Hilton Opens Alongside New Convention Center
The 396-room Hilton Melbourne South Wharf in Australia is now open as part of the US$1 billion Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre redevelopment project, which will be completed this July. The new riverfront convention center will have a 5,000-seat plenary hall, 323,000 square feet of exhibition space, 32 meeting rooms and prefunction space for up to 8,400 people. The hotel has a fitness center and three restaurants, including a wine and tapas bar and a contemporary Spanish restaurant. Although the complex was designed to handle large groups, in February the Hilton and the MCEC formed South Wharf Meeting and Events, a "one-stop" sales office focused specifically on booking small and midsize groups.
Dolce to Manage Seaview Near Atlantic City
Dolce Hotels and Resorts will take over management of Seaview, a 297-room historic hotel, conference center and golf resort in Galloway, N.J., just outside Atlantic City, from Marriott International. The property has two 18-hole championship golf courses and 42 meeting rooms, including a ballroom that seats 500; all meeting rooms and public areas have high-speed Internet access.
Global Air Travel Down Sharply from One Year Ago
According to the Official Airline Guide's April 2009 FACTS (Frequency and Capacity Trend Statistics) report, released on Monday, airlines around the world collectively flew 6 percent fewer flights in April 2009 than a year ago. Worldwide seat capacity also dropped by 3 percent compared with April 2008. The North American airline market saw an even steeper decline, with a 9 percent reduction in domestic flight frequencies and an 8 percent drop in total domestic capacity. One of the few regions showing an increase over last year is the Middle East, which this past month had 15 percent more international flights and capacity than in April 2008.
Pomona, Calif., Gaining Conference Space
The City Council of Pomona, Calif., approved financing last week for a $28 million conference center, to be built at Fairplex, the L.A. County Fair, Hotel and Exposition Complex. A 50,000-square-foot addition to the fairground's existing 35,000-square-foot exhibit hall will be built; the new space will seat approximately 1,000 for a banquet. Fairplex officials hope to begin construction in August and finish in late 2010, in time for the 2010 L.A. County Fair.
Corporate Travel Management
Travel Consultants Launch Review Site
Partnership Travel Consulting, with support from the National Business Travel Association, launched a supplier review site on Tuesday. Known as the Travel Sourcing Index (managedtravel.org), the site allows corporate travel purchasers to rate the service and quality of airlines, hotels, car rental companies, online booking tools, travel management companies and major airports. The subscription-based site currently is available only to NBTA direct members, who receive complimentary access for two years. The site will soon launch for other corporate travel purchases.
Innisbrook Renovation Complete
More than $26 million has been spent on a two-year, propertywide renovation of the 608-room Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club near Tampa on Florida's Gulf Coast. The project now is complete with the opening of the new 20,000-square-foot Indaba Spa. All rooms, the 65,000 square feet of meeting space and the four golf courses also were upgraded.
Hyatt Regency Completes $19M Renovation
The 481-room Hyatt Regency Milwaukee is wrapping up a $19 million renovation, which includes fully refurbished guest rooms, a new entrance and lobby, a new street-level restaurant and lounge, and wireless Internet in the hotel's 19 meeting rooms. The 21,600 square feet of meeting space was renovated in 2006.
Historic Wigwam Faces Foreclosure, Loses Starwood Management
The 331-room Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa in Litchfield Park, Ariz., is facing foreclosure, according to a filing with the Maricopa County Recorders Office. Its owner, Kabuto Arizona Properties -- which also owns a golf club in Phoenix -- has not made payments on a $65 million loan since November, according to the Arizona Republic. A foreclosure auction is scheduled for July. Last week, Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced it would terminate its management agreement with the property effective May 29.
New Meliá Property Planned for Portugal
Sol Meliá will manage a 125-room luxury hotel in Quinta do Vale in Portugal's Algarve region. To open in 2011, the property will be the country's fifth under the Meliá brand and will offer a spa and conference facilities.
New Hotel Opens in Portugal's Algarve
The 170-room Vila Galé Lagos Hotel opened last weekend in the Meia Praia area of Portugal's Algarve region. The seaside property has an 11,840-square-foot conference center, the Satsanga Spa, three tennis courts and a pool.
Name Change for Sante Fe Inn
The 58-room Inn of the Anasazi, A Rosewood Hotel, in Santa Fe, N.M., has been renamed the Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi.
Ambassadors Sells Travel Division
Ambassadors International has sold its travel and events division, which provides meeting and incentive planning services, to Lakeview Equity Partners. The sale is part of a larger plan Ambassadors announced in February to sell off all assets except Windstar Cruises.