by By the M&C Staff | June 17, 2009

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives today named Richard Crum as its new president, filling the office vacated by Doug Weeks, who resigned on Monday. Crum, who is president of Airplus International Inc., previously served as ACTE's president from 2007 to 2008. ACTE's Board of Directors named Crum by unanimous decision, according to a statement released by the association. In a related action, the board also named Greeley Koch head of the association's Global Centre For Research and Education, the position left open by Crum's appointment. Koch, director of Strategic Development for the Acquis Consulting Group, is also a former ACTE president, who held the post from January 2005 to June 2007.
    The past two weeks have been marked by upheaval for ACTE's board, which voted June 8 not to pursue a proposal to merge with the National Business Travel Association. Weeks, director of global sourcing and travel at consulting firm Booz & Co., was a proponent of the merger. Former treasurer-elect Mary Ellen George and treasurer Brad Seitz also stepped down from their posts after the June 8 board meeting. George, general manager of Advito, the consulting arm of BCD Travel, told M&C on Tuesday that the time commitment was a primary factor in her decision.
    Aside from the executive directorship, currently held by Susan Gurley, all ACTE board posts are volunteer positions, an important consideration for travel professionals in the current economy, said George.
    Several ACTE board members were in favor of pursuing the merger with NBTA, according to a plan that had taken shape over several months based on meetings among Weeks, George and NBTA leadership. Gradually, said George, other ACTE board members had been brought into the discussion, but she and Weeks had initiated the talks simply to investigate one potential path ACTE might pursue. Although a formal merger proposal was not issued by either organization, "we had very clearly laid out a path for doing so," noted George.
    Of the vote, George said, "There are two fundamentally different schools of thought. Either the industry can sustain two associations or it can't. The general overall feeling among board members who voted against the merger is that the industry is better served by two associations." ACTE executive director Gurley added in a statement, "It is not uncommon for association or corporate positions to shift when the majority vote expresses greater confidence in a course of action that differs from a decision reached by a few."
    ACTE leaders would not confirm reports the association would soon ally itself with the Professional Convention Management Association, although George did acknowledge that the association is looking for creative partnership opportunities. "There is a tremendous opportunity to partner with meetings associations," added George. "While I'm very disappointed that ACTE and NBTA aren't going to be partnering," she said, "I am very optimistic that the industry will be better served by partnerships that cross over into the meetings segment."

Survey: Small Meetings to Continue, Attract More Scrutiny
The number of small off-site meetings will remain constant or increase in 2010, say 71 percent of respondents to a survey conducted in late May and early June by meetings technology provider Worktopia. The survey, which queried 213 meeting planners and travel managers in the education, finance, government, health, medical and professional services industries, found that only 33 percent of respondents currently have a policy or meetings management program in place for off-site meetings for fewer than 100 attendees. Of the remaining two-thirds, 12 percent are thinking about developing a policy and 6 percent will have one deployed by the end of 2009.

PKF Identifies Lodging Low Point
PKF Hospitality Research predicted last week that revenue per available room will reach its cyclical low point in the third quarter of 2009. The company also revised its forecast, based on May numbers from Moody's PKF now expects RevPAR to fall 17.5 percent in 2009, and another 3.5 percent in 2010. "The good news is that the bottom of the current cycle for the U.S. hotel industry is soon to arrive," said R. Mark Woodworth, president of PKF Hospitality Research, in a statement. "The bad news is that 2009 will be the weakest year on record for the domestic lodging industry, and 2010 is going to be disappointing as well."

Industry Reacts to Treasury Dept. Rules for TARP Firms
Leaders of meeting and incentive associations are pleased that the U.S. Treasury Department's rules issued last Wednesday apply only to firms that are receiving TARP funding from the federal government. One of those rules requires firms to develop a companywide policy for "excessive" expenditures in areas including events. Industry leaders were concerned that the government would extend the rule to all firms, not just those receiving taxpayer dollars. Brenda Anderson, Site's CEO and a member of the coalition that was formed earlier this year in response to the meetings industry crisis, told M&C, "We are very excited because non-TARP companies have not been regulated; that allows us to move forward and have everyone adopt our [the coalition's] MEI guidelines." In a statement issued last week, Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, said, "We are pleased that after months of discussion with the Obama Administration, and our industry's full-court press on the value of meetings, events and incentives, these regulations do not do any further harm to the [non-TARP-related] meetings and events marketplace."

TSEA Calls for Overhaul of Housing Rules
The Trade Show Exhibitors Association is calling on trade show organizers to adopt housing policies that lessen the financial burden on exhibitors. Last week, the TSEA released a position statement:  ] urging organizers to eliminate penalties and fines for exhibitors who seek more affordable lodging outside official room blocks and to add incentives for exhibitors to stay within the block. According to the statement, "any policy that adds an additional burden to exhibitors increases the difficulty with which exhibitors justify their continued marketing expenditures on the meeting." The TSEA's guidelines were based on those drafted by the Healthcare Convention Exhibitors Association and the Professional Convention Management Association.

Delta and American Announce Further Capacity Cuts
At investor conferences held last week, both Delta Air Lines and American Airlines announced deepening capacity cuts, citing declining passenger revenues, rising jet fuel prices and fears of the H1N1 flu virus. Delta said it would cut systemwide capacity by 10 percent vs. 2008. The reductions will begin in September, although the affected routes were not announced. Delta also is cutting its international capacity by an additional 5 percent over what previously had been announced, which amounts to 15 percent less service compared with 2008. Nonstop service from Atlanta to Seoul and Shanghai and from Cincinnati to Frankfurt and London's Gatwick Airport will be suspended. Delta also is reducing weekly flights between Atlanta and Detroit and Mexico City, as well as putting on hold some previously planned seasonal service from nonhub cities to Mexican beach destinations, "due to the impact of the H1N1 virus on customers' travel plans." Full details of Delta's capacity cuts (as well as several new routes, such as from Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia, and Salt Lake City to Tokyo) are available here. Meanwhile, American Airlines has increased its capacity cuts from 6.5 to 7.5 percent for 2009; this reduction will be made up by a 1 percent drop in domestic capacity and a 3.5 percent drop in international flights. American did not detail which domestic or international routes would be affected. Read the full American Airlines press release here.

Starwood Capital Group Acquires Golden Tulip
Golden Tulip Hospitality BV, the Swiss hotel company that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month, was acquired by Starwood Capital Group last week. Starwood intends to grow the Golden Tulip brand by creating a strategic alliance with Louvre Hotels, which has a comparable price point. The brands' combined holdings total about 1,000 hotels across 40 countries, comprising approximately 82,000 hotel rooms.

St. Regis Monarch Beach to Be Auctioned Off July 7
The St. Regis Monarch Beach resort in Dana Point, Calif., the infamous host hotel for insurance company AIG's incentive program following its receipt of TARP funds, has been scheduled for a foreclosure auction on July 7. According to the L.A. Times, the companies that own the resort are in default on a $70-million loan from Citigroup Global Markets Realty Group. During the months following the AIG event, bookings at the property dropped by 20 percent.

Airline Industry
American Affiliate Adds Service
American Eagle Airlines, the regional affiliate of American Airlines, began nonstop jet service to five new cities Thursday from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The carrier now flies to Santa Fe, N.M.; Tallahassee, Fla.; Montgomery, Ala.; Brownsville, Texas; and Lake Charles, La.

Atlanta Ritz-Carlton Completes $20 Million Renovation
The 444-room Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta, has completed a $20 million renovation. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the property "has ditched the venerable country club look in the lobby and public areas of its downtown location for a more sleek contemporary appearance." Renovations to the guest rooms were finished last fall, while updates to the lobby, public areas and ballrooms were just completed. The property has more than 17,000 square feet of meeting space, including two ballrooms and two meeting rooms; the fine-dining Atlanta Grill is one of two eateries on the premises.

Parc 55 Hotel Finishes Upgrades
The 1,010-room Parc 55 Hotel in San Francisco has wrapped up an 18-month, $30 million renovation. Key changes to the property include upgrades to all guest rooms, the Club lounge, the fitness center, the lobby and the 30,000 square feet of meeting space. As part of the transformation, the hotel has debuted a new eatery, the Cityhouse Restaurant.

StarCite and Starwood Integrate Request Technology
Online meetings technology provider StarCite and Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced integration plans on Tuesday. Specifically, Starwood will meld its sales automation system directly with StarCite's meeting request platform. When StarCite customers complete an electronic request for proposal for a Starwood property, the form will be routed automatically to the appropriate salesperson, thereby eliminating several manual steps and speeding up the process. The functionality, which represents the deepest RFP integration StarCite has developed with a hotel company to date, is expected to go live by the end of this year.

Wyndham Launches Mobile Sites
Wyndham Hotel Group has launched 10 brand-specific mobile websites, each containing the same hotel information found at the primary websites but optimized for use on mobile devices. The functionality is designed for use on more than 5,000 types of phones and PDAs, according to Wyndham, including the Apple iPhone and Blackberry Curve. The sites, which are accessed through the brands' primary URLs, detect the type of device being used and deliver the content in the appropriate format.

MGM Grand to Open in Egypt
MGM Mirage Hospitality has announced it will develop the 550-room MGM Grand New Giza in Egypt, in conjunction with New Giza for Real Estate Development. The property, to open in 2013, will be part of the New Giza master-planned community that will include luxury homes, restaurants, shopping malls, sports facilities, a golf course and two additional resort properties.

Tropicana Deal Gets Green Light from Court
A U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved the sale last week of the 2,125-room Tropicana Resort and Casino in Atlantic City to a group of its lenders, including billionaire Carl Icahn. According to the New Jersey Casino Control Commission, the deal calls for the lenders to cancel $200 million of the more than $1 billion in debt the company owes them. Since losing its gaming license in December 2007, the casino has been operating under a state-appointed conservator. According to a release issued by the NJCC, the sale is expected to close before the end of the year.

Extended Stay Files for Chapter 11
Extended Stay Hotels has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, although the filing should have no impact on the chain's operations, according to HVM, which manages the 684 hotels throughout the U.S. and Canada. No plans are in place to close or sell any of the hotels, a statement from the company says, and employees will continue to be paid as usual. The filing represents a debt restructuring, and the organization also expects to pay vendors without interruption.

Mainsail Hotel Expands Meeting Facilities
The 360-room Mainsail Suites Hotel & Conference Center in Tampa, Fla., has completed an $11 million expansion, adding an 8,000-square-foot meeting center, a 6,000-square-foot outdoor patio and a gazebo. The facility now can accommodate 500 people for a banquet or 350 for a conference. 

Westin Annapolis Adds Meeting Space
Last Thursday, Maryland's 225-room Westin Annapolis completed a $2.1 million renovation that converted employee offices into an additional 2,000 square feet of meeting space. The Westin now has 13,600 square feet of meeting space, including the 6,343-square-foot Capitol Ballroom.

STR Data Reveals Steady Hotel Declines for May

Preliminary Smith Travel Research hotel data for May reveals steady drops in average daily rate and revenue per available room. Average daily rate was expected to have fallen between 12 and 14 percent over May of 2008, and RevPAR was expected to have dropped between 20 and 22 percent. The luxury segment's RevPAR was thought to have been hit the hardest, with a decline of 29 to 31 percent. According to the May STR/TWR/Dodge Construction Pipeline Report, development has dropped 22.2 percent from last year, with 4,097 projects (522,778 rooms) in the works.

San Antonio River Walk Grows
San Antonio has unveiled 1.3 new miles of its River Walk. The extension almost doubles the length of the city's signature green space, which now winds past venues such as the Pear Brewery and the San Antonio Museum of Art. This is just the tip of the project: Work continues to extend the River Walk an additional nine miles, connecting to four of San Antonio's 18th-century Spanish colonial missions. The $279 million River Improvements Project will be completed in 2014, bringing the total length of the River Walk to 13 miles.