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

According to rumors reported by the Times UK, Hilton Hotels Corp. is seeking to negotiate a settlement with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, in response to the latter's corporate espionage suit filed in mid-April. Starwood alleges that Hilton recruited Starwood executives Ross Klein and Amar Lalvani to join Hilton, and that the two men brought to their new employer more than 100,000 confidential Starwood files. The suit claims that Denizen, the luxury brand that had been announced by Hilton, was developed using this stolen information. Although a Hilton spokesperson said the suit was without merit, Hilton suspended all development on Denizen and placed Klein and Lalvani on administrative leave. According to a blog post by James B. Kinsel, a partner at Williams Mullen specializing in unfair business claims, "it is a good bet that Starwood and Hilton are working to settle the dispute."

Kennedy to Leave Reed Travel Exhibitions
Paul Kennedy, group exhibition director for Reed Travel Exhibitions' meetings and incentive events, will step down from his position in August, citing the need "for a break from the amazingly fast-paced environment, involving almost constant overseas travel."  In a statement released to the press today, Kennedy said, "Since joining Reed in November 2004, I have had an exciting, truly dynamic and challenging role in building a top-class team that has created the market-leading portfolio of pan global events for the meetings industry." He helped re-engineer the European Incentive Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition trade show following its relocation to Barcelona; launched GIBTM in Abu Dhabi; restructured and relaunched CIBTM in Beijing; and is helping develop AIME in Melbourne, Australia, and the International Congress & Convention Association Congress Exhibition. Kennedy also spearheaded Reed's Americas Incentive Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition trade show, which was slated to debut in 2010 in Baltimore but has been shelved until 2011 at the earliest. Meetings and exhibitions industry veteran Vanessa Cotton has been appointed by Reed to "provide support, counsel and advice to the meetings portfolio team and to assist with the process of finding a successor to Paul."

Mandarin Oriental Project in Dallas Scrapped
According to The Wall Street Journal, Mandarin Orient Hotel Group has abandoned its plans for a 120-room luxury property next to the W Dallas - Victory in the Victory Park development. "We just walked away from our Dallas project," the paper quotes Richard Baker, the chain's executive vice president, saying Monday during a panel discussion at the 31st Annual New York University International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference. "That city has been overdeveloped in luxury, both hotel and residential."

Analysts Debate Hotel Recovery at NYU Conference
Many presenters at the 31st Annual New York University International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference this week offered their predictions for when the industry will rebound from recession. The most optimistic was Mark Lommano, president of Smith Travel Research, who believes this is the nadir and "by fourth quarter of this year or certainly by first quarter of next year we will be seeing improvement." He added that other analysts think the recovery will take longer. Stephen Rushmore, president and founder of HVS, said, "The hotel industry will continue to feel pain for the next 12 to 18 months" and is likely to hit its lowest point next spring before beginning to turn around. Many analysts, however, believe the recovery will be rapid and strong, due in part to the minimal new supply in the marketplace and a pent-up demand for travel and meetings.

New Cowboys Football Stadium Opens
The ribbon was cut last week on the $1.15 billion Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the new home of the NFL's Dallas Cowboys. The first official event, a George Strait/Reba McEntire concert, will be held Saturday night. Along with a $40 million, 60-yard-long, four-sided HD video board hanging 90 feet above the field, the venue features seating for up to 100,000. Event areas include the 98,000-square-foot field; the Miller Lite Club, which holds up to 400 for a reception; the Cowboys Locker Room (200 people); the Owner's Club (700 people); the Legends Club (700 people); an 80-seat amphitheater, and a host of smaller meeting rooms.

Mega-Casino Opens in Macau as Government Plans MICE Stimulus

City of Dreams, a new mega-development in Macau, opened on Monday with a 322-room Hard Rock Hotel and a 286-room Crown Towers hotel, plus a 420,000-square-foot casino and meeting space for up to 120 people. An 800-room Grand Hyatt hotel with 53,800 square feet of meeting space will open later this year. The first phase of the complex also calls for a spa, a 2,000-seat theater (opening next year), 20 dining options, and 85,000 square feet of retail space. Also on Monday, the Macau Government Tourist Office announced it will spend US$8 million in direct assistance to meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition organizers to help stimulate the hospitality industry. More information about the tourism stimulus plan is available on the MGTO website.

Trump Marina Deal Off
The sale of Trump Marina Hotel Casino in Atlantic City to Coastal Marina LLC is off, according to several media outlets including AP and Reuters.  The bankrupt Trump Entertainment Resorts was slated to close the deal last Thursday, but last week the parties were still working out the details. "Coastal has failed to consummate the transaction within the time provided under the agreement," Trump Entertainment said in a filing yesterday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, as reported by Reuters. In May 2008, Coastal Marina agreed to purchase the casino for $316 million, but the bid later was lowered to $270 million; the company had planned to brand the casino as Margaritaville in partnership with the business operations of singer Jimmy Buffett.

IMEX Attracts 3,700 Hosted Buyers, 3,500 Exhibitors
IMEX, the international meetings and incentive trade show, hosted 3,700 buyers (including 800 association planners and 226 U.S. planners) and 5,100 visitors (including planners not hosted) at this year's show, held in Frankfurt, Germany, May 26-28; last year, 3,600 hosted buyers attended the show. Exhibitors numbered 3,500, the same number that participated in 2008. Among the first-time destinations exhibiting were Madagascar, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, El Salvador, Lebanon, and Anchorage, Alaska.

Raynor Resigns as Unite Here President

Bruce Raynor resigned as general president of hotel- and garment-workers union Unite Here last Friday, two weeks after being suspended by the union's general board and the day before he was to stand trial before that board for his efforts to dissolve the merger that created the union. Unite Here was formed in 2004 in a merger between UNITE (The Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees) and HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union). A strained relationship between the two sides escalated in recent months, resulting in some members seceding to join the Service Employees International Union, with which they formed a new entity, Workers United (see "Unite Here Members Vote to Secede"). Unite Here president John Wilhelm, who formerly shared power with Raynor, applauded Raynor's resignation. "His departure removes an important, though not the only, barrier to returning our Union the vital work that it does for hundreds of thousands of workers," Wilhelm wrote in a statement.

Pierre Hotel Reopens Following $100 Million Renovation
The 189-room Pierre Hotel, a Taj Hotel & Resort in New York City, reopened on Monday following a comprehensive $100 million renovation. Corridors, public spaces and all guest rooms were upgraded; the refurbishment of the Grand Ballroom and the Cotillion Room was finished in January 2007. The property offers 18,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

Delta Scales Back and Southwest Increases Bag Fees
Last week, Delta Air Lines retreated from its plan to charge $50 for a second checked bag on international flights, a practice that was announced on April 21 and would have begun July 1. Instead, Delta said is instituting the $50 second bag fee only on flights between the United States and Europe. The first checked bag on all international flights will remain free, as will the second bag for passengers traveling on premium tickets. In other airline news, Southwest Airlines -- which thus far has touted its nonreliance on extra fees and charges -- announced last Friday it would double the amount it charges passengers for a third checked bag, from $25 to $50, beginning June 17. The first two checked bags on all Southwest flights are free.

PCO Survey Looks at Business 2008-2010
Business generated by members of the International Association of Professional Congress Organizers during 2008 was up 26 percent over 2007 figures, according to a study by the U.K.-based association. The 95 respondents forecast a drop of about 20 percent in 2009, but expect business to increase in 2010. Among the changes they reported seeing from clients were the postponement of decisions, delays in signing contracts and a general reluctance to commit to anything before they had to. Additionally, 65 percent of those polled have seen a drop in sponsorship and exhibition support.

Industry Training Consultancy Debuts

Eli Gorin, CMP, owner of the independent planning firm gMeetings in Aventura, Fla., has launched Train2Meet, a collaboratiion of top trainers and consultants covering all major segments of the meetings industry. Making up the team are Gorin, longtime industry expert Joan Eisenstodt of Eisenstodt Assoc.; Brad A. Goldberg of Trigold Consulting, who will handle risk management training; legal expert Tyra Hilliard, Ph.D., JD, CMP, of Hilliard Associates; meetings technology expert James Hogg of the Rosen School of Hospitality Management; Carol Krugman, CMP, CMM, of Krugman Maller LLC, whose expertise is in international meetings management; special-events authority Gloria Nelson, CSEP, of Gloria Nelson Event Design; Bonnie Wallsh, CMP, CMM, of Bonnie Wallsh Associates, who will consult on the basics of meeting planning; and Michele Wierzgac, CMM, of Michele & Company, whose expertise is strategic meetings management.

Convention Centers
Nashville Convention Center Land Purchase Gets Go-Ahead

On June 2, the Nashville Metropolitan Council passed by a vote of 29 to six (with two abstentions) a measure allowing the city to borrow $75 million to purchase nearly 16 acres of land for a new, $635 million, 1.2-million-square-foot downtown convention center called the Music City Center. One of those who opposed authorizing the land purchase was Councilman Robert Duvall. "Based on my research," Duvall said, "the convention center is going to cost us more than tax revenues will generate, and the people of this county will be left on the hook for that bill." Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Mayor Karl Dean disagree. Spyridon told M&C that the new Music City Center is "a much-needed, long-overdue project that really meets the existing demand."

Convention and Visitor Bureaus
Buffalo Niagara CVB President and CEO Resigns

Richard Geiger, president and CEO of the Buffalo (N.Y.) Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau, has resigned from his post, effective this past Sunday. A search committee under the leadership of board chair Jennifer Parker has been formed, and an interim president will be appointed shortly. No reason was given for Geiger's departure.

Palm Beach County CVB Offers Rebates for Planners

In celebration of the county's centennial, the Palm Beach County (Fla.) Convention and Visitors Bureau has launched an incentive rebate program for meeting planners. Groups that finalize a contract before Sept. 30, 2009, with a minimum of 50 room nights will receive a rebate of $250; rebates accrue up to $4,909, if up to 1,200 rooms nights are booked. The promotion is offered at 200 hotels and resorts throughout Palm Beach County; resorts that have participated thus far include the Ritz-Carlton Palm Beach and the Boca Raton Resort and Club.

Luxury Cottages Unveiled at the Broadmoor
Along the 18th fairway of the East Course at the 744-room Broadmoor in Colorado Springs now sit the Cottages, six units offering 44 rooms. The luxury accommodations feature stone fireplaces, bathrooms with five-fixture baths and heated floors, and verandas with wicker chairs and rockers. An outdoor common patio offers a fireplace, a bowling green and an entertaining area.

InterContinental O'Hare Expands Meeting Space
The 556-room InterContinental O'Hare in Rosemont, Ill., has nearly doubled the amount of meeting space it had when the hotel opened last September. With the addition of a new wing, which features a "green" roof and runs on wind-powered electricity, the property increased its meeting space from 28,000 square feet to 53,000 square feet.

Renovation Wraps Up at Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront
The $63 million transformation of the 910-room Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront, formerly an Adam's Mark hotel, is nearly complete. All guest rooms are finished, as is most of the hotel's 83,000 square feet of meeting space. Now open are a new sports bar and a new fitness room. To debut next month: two new restaurants, including a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, and 7,100 square feet of top-floor meeting space with a terrace and views of Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park and the Gateway Arch.

Construction on Embassy Suites Hotel Begins in Houston

Ground was broken last week on a $55 million Embassy Suites about a block from the George R. Brown Convention Center. The property, scheduled to open in spring 2011, will have 262 rooms, about 6,400 square feet of meeting space and a rooftop swimming pool. According to the Houston Chronicle, the hotel is the first to take advantage of a resolution passed by the city council last October that allows hotel developers to keep their occupancy taxes for seven years if they build within four blocks of the convention center.

Hyatt Regency DFW Completes Renovations

A six-year, $50 million project has been completed at the 811-room Hyatt Regency DFW inside Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The final phase of the work renovated the 21,120-square-foot Enterprise Ballroom and the 11,600-square-foot executive conference level, which now can be broken into a number of configurations for smaller gatherings. Overall, the property features 92,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 26,073-square-foot exhibit hall, a 4,832-square-foot junior ballroom and 74 breakout rooms.

Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Doubles Meeting Space
The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa in Chandler, Ariz., unveiled its 35,330 square feet of additional meeting space yesterday [Tues]. The new facilities include a 15,000-square-foot ballroom designed by Jacobs Carter Burgess, two meeting rooms and an 8,884-square-foot foyer. With the addition, the property has a total of 70,000 square feet of meeting space.

Amtrak to Build Hotel Atop Baltimore Train Station

According to The Baltimore Sun, Amtrak is planning a 77-room hotel for the top three floors of Baltimore's Pennsylvania Station. The $9 million hotel, which will be built and run by Hospitality Partners of Bethesda, will be called The Inn at Penn Station. Construction on the property should begin by the end of this year and be finished by late next year.

ME Cancún Reopens

The 448-room ME Cancún reopened last Thursday after completing three weeks of work updating furnishings, artwork and soft goods.
Riu Emerald Bay Debuts in Mazatlán
Riu Emerald Bay, a 716-room all-inclusive resort in Mazatlán, Mexico, opened for business on Friday, May 29. The property offers four on-site restaurants, two swimming pools, and three conference and event halls.
STR Reports April Hotel Performance
Both occupancy and revenue per available room dropped by double digits again for U.S. hotels in April, according to data from Smith Travel Research. Occupancy for the month was 56.4 percent, an 11.1 percent drop from last year, while RevPAR fell 19.5 percent to $55.48. Average daily rate dipped 9.4 percent, to $98.37. The one bright spot was transient weekend travel, according to STR, which was positive for the month.

Medical Meetings
Marketech to Offer AdvaMed Code Training Program
Marketech, a developer of exhibit-staff training software, has introduced a program to help exhibitors adjust to the new Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) Code of Ethics on Interactions with Health Care Professionals. The DVD-based program will debut at the Healthcare Convention Exhibitors Association's annual meeting June 13 to 16 in Tampa, Fla. It can also be purchased online at for $750.

InXpo Launches Twitter Functionality for Virtual Events
Virtual event producer InXpo released its Virtual Event Platform 7.6 last week, which includes Twitter integration. Status updates from organizers and attendees can now be sent via Twitter from within the virtual show environment, creating an additional opportunity for real-time interaction among participants.

Third-Party Firms
Amex, Maritz Announce MaXvantage
American Express Business Travel and Maritz Travel announced plans on Monday to launch MaXvantage, a strategic alliance that will offer complete strategic meetings management services. Through the partnership, the companies intend to provide meetings management and logistics services together with strategic sourcing to help clients improve transparency and accountability. By leveraging the expertise of both companies, MaXvantage will be designed to help clients achieve the key objectives of their meetings, events and incentive travel, to improve their ROI, and to work closely with corporate procurement professionals to streamline and manage policy.

Trade Shows
Mike Cooke to Resign as CEO of DMG World Media
Less than a month after reporting the departure of COO Michael Franks and the sale of several regional gift and consumer shows, publisher and trade show producer DMG World Media announced that CEO Mike Cooke will resign at the end of September and leave the company at the end of the year. DMG also announced the appointment of Suresh Kavan as chairman. "We began implementation of a new strategic plan for DMG World Media in 2007, and I decided that we would reach a point in the execution that would be the ideal time for me to step down," Cooke said in a statement. "We have essentially reshaped the company over the past 18 months, and my work here is largely done." A spokesperson for DMG said Cooke and Kavan will devise a plan to name replacement executives in the coming months.