by By the M&C Staff | June 25, 2009

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives and the Professional Convention Management Association announced Thursday afternoon that the two organizations were pursuing a strategic alliance. Members of each organization will be able to enjoy the benefits of both, in the form of access to publications, research and archived presentations and articles, among other advantages. However, leaders of both ACTE and PCMA stressed that the organizations would remain separate, independent entities. "This is not a merger," clarified Deborah Sexton, president and CEO of PCMA. Sexton acknowledged the potential benefits that would come with co-locating the two associations' major conferences, and said a decision would be reached within the next week as to whether that would occur as early as January 2010 or at the next possible opportunity, in spring 2010.  Leadership from both associations pointed to the benefits of collaboration, particularly given the convergence of business travel and strategic meetings management. "The need to innovate and stay relevant to our membership is really what's driving this," said ACTE board member Caro Cook, the chief of transportation at the International Monetary Fund.

ACTE Names Richard Crum President, Following Doug Weeks' Resignation
The Association of Corporate Travel Executives yesterday 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."

Clear Registered Traveler Abruptly Shuts Down
Clear, the four-year-old airport-security program that allowed registered travelers to use special, faster-moving security lanes at 18 airports around the country, abruptly ceased operations early Tuesday morning. A brief statement posted on the company's website ( said, "Clear's parent company, Verified Identity Pass Inc., has been unable to negotiate an agreement with its senior creditor to continue operations." According to CNET News, the program had 260,000 members, many of whom paid $199 for the service. No information has been given regarding whether refunds will be issued.

Tentative Agreement Reached on Financing for D.C. HQ Hotel
Several news sources report that last week, developers and city council members in Washington, D.C., reached a tentative agreement on financing for a new convention center hotel. The $540 million, 1,167-room Marriott Marquis has long been in the works for the city. The deal was reached following the outcry over D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's recent proposal that the city pay for all of the hotel, by issuing $750 million in bonds, a move that would have pushed the city over its debt financing cap and could have jeopardized other projects in the capital. Under the new agreement, the Washington Convention Center Authority would loan $80 million to the developers, who would then raise another $320 million in private equity funds to pay for the property. These sums would be added to the $187 million and land the city already has committed to the project. In a story published in The Washington Post, Councilman Jack Evans, chair of the city council's finance committee, said the agreement will be considered at a hearing today, with a vote to be held no later than July 14, the last day of voting before the council breaks for the summer. If the deal is approved, construction on the hotel could begin as early as this fall.

Developer Sues Marriott International
Miller Global Properties, developer of the 1,000-room JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa that is scheduled to open in January, sued Marriott International in Colorado State Court Wednesday for fraud and professional negligence. According to law firm Bickel & Brewer, which is representing Miller Global, the suit claims Marriott induced Miller Global into assuming ownership of the development based on fraudulent budget estimates and incomplete project plans. The Denver-based developer said costs were about $90 million over budget by last September. "Marriott allegedly caused the project costs to spiral out of control, increasing our clients' financial burdens and destroying much of the upside of this great resort for its owners," William A. Brewer III, lead counsel for Miller Global, said in a statement. The suit seeks more than $200 million in damages. In a statement, Marriott said, "We completely disagree with the allegations in the lawsuit and believe it has no merit whatsoever."

Top executives at Hanley Wood Resign
Hanley Wood Exhibitions president Galen Poss and executive vice president Michael Green unexpectedly resigned last week over a contract dispute, according to CEO Frank Anton, who declined to elaborate. Rick McConnell, a Hanley Wood senior vice president, will serve as interim president until a permanent replacement is found. Anton said the exhibitions division of the company no longer will report to him directly but instead will report to the business media division, which produces trade magazines and websites. Anton hopes coordinating the efforts of the publications and exhibitions that serve the same markets will open up new business opportunities for advertisers and exhibitors. Anton praised Poss and Green for nearly a decade of service at Hanley Wood, building up the company's exhibitions business essentially from scratch to one of the top producers of trade shows in the country.

Airline Industry

Republic to Buy Frontier Airlines
Frontier Airlines Holdings yesterday announced it will be purchased by Republic Airways Holdings for $108.75 million. The plan is subject to bankruptcy court approval and other conditions; if approved, Frontier will exit bankruptcy later this year and become a wholly owned subsidiary of Republic, which also owns Chautauqua Airlines, Republic Airlines and Shuttle America. Frontier Airlines and its affiliate Lynx Aviation would maintain their current names and continue to operate as usual.

MPI Extends Early-Bird Registration
Meeting Professionals International has extended its early-bird registration fees for members, hoping to encourage more people to attend the World Education Congress in Salt Lake City, July 11-14. The discounts that were supposed to end on June 12 now are good until July 9. Members of MPI and members of the National Business Travel Association still can pay $625, instead of the $930 regular fee; students still pay $120, and faculty pay $310.

Business Travel
Visitors to Denver Spent Record Dollars in 2008
According to a report from Longwoods International, business and leisure travelers spent a record $3.1 billion in Denver in 2008, up 9 percent over 2007. While the study shows business travel volume declined 2 percent, the Democratic National Convention coupled with a strong convention year for the city boosted business travel spending by 5 percent.

City-Owned HQ Hotel in Dallas Moves Forward Again
The Dallas City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Friday to authorize the sale of $514 million in Dallas Convention Center Hotel Revenue Bonds to finance the 1,016-room Omni Dallas Convention Center Hotel, scheduled to open in early 2012. "Clearly, we've already seen a tremendous response to the hotel in terms of future convention bookings," said Mayor Tom Leppert. "Now, we just have to sell the bonds, get to work and finish the hotel in time for groups showing up in January 2012." The property will have more than 80,000 square feet of meeting space, several restaurants and lounges, and a Mokara Spa.

Developers Chosen for Nashville Convention Center Hotel
Last Friday, the Nashville Metropolitan Development and Housing Agency announced that Phelps Portman Nashville LLC has been selected to develop, design and build a 1,000-room headquarters hotel for Nashville's new convention center. Hotel plans include 100,000 square feet of meeting space, plus shops and restaurants. No construction start date has been set, but MDHA executive director Phil Ryan said, "Our goal is to open the hotel in the fall of 2012."

Trump Offers Restructuring Plan for Atlantic City Casinos
According to several news sources, Donald Trump has proposed a debt restructuring plan for bankrupt Trump Entertainment Resorts, which owns three gaming properties in Atlantic City: Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, the Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino and the Trump Marina Hotel Casino. The new plan would restore Trump -- who left the company's board in February, three days before it filed for bankruptcy -- back to the helm of the company. According to, Trump Entertainment has until Aug. 3 to submit a restructuring plan of its own to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Camden, N.J.

U.S. Hotel ADR Reached Record High in '08
The U.S. hotel industry's average daily rate hit a record-high of $106.55 for 2008, according to data just released in STR's Hotel Operating Statistics Study. Hotels raked in $140.6 billion in room revenue for the year, a 0.9 percent increase over 2007. Pretax income profits fell, however, down 7.9 percent to 25.8 billion, and the economic slowdown translated to a revenue drop of $1.7 billion in the last four months of the year, compared with 2007. The HOST study includes data from 5,800 hotels, the most participants ever to contribute to the study.

Doubletree Philly Completes Room Makeover
The Doubletree Philadelphia, across from the Academy of Music downtown, completed phase two of a $13 million renovation last week. All 432 rooms were redesigned and renovated for a cleaner, more contemporary look. The final phase, slated for completion by the end of the year, will remodel the lobby and the swimming pool.

Hadlow to Head Online Incentive Firm
Michael Hadlow has been named president and CEO of Engagement Technology LLC, a newly launched online incentive/engagement firm. The company's two main products are the Corporate Rewards Exchange, an online bulk-buying service for corporate rewards; and the Incentive Business Exchange, which includes Solata Engagement Manager, a platform for supporting online incentive programs. Hadlow served as president and CEO of incentive firm US Motivation from 1994 to 2001.

Court says Eddie Bauer Can Honor Gift Cards
A U.S. bankruptcy judge gave bankrupt retailer Eddie Bauer permission last week to honor its gift cards. According to the Associated Press, the court also authorized Eddie Bauer to pay employee wages and vendors in order to stay in operation. At press time, one firm -- CCMP Capital Advisors LLC -- has bid $202 million for the bankrupt retailer.

Tucson Raises Hotel Room Surcharge
The City of Tucson voted to increase the $1 nightly surcharge on hotel rooms to $2. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Tucson Convention & Visitors Bureau said the increase affects only properties within the city limits, excluding the area’s main resorts, such as the JW Marriott Starr Pass,  Loews Ventana Canyon Resort and the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, which opens in October.

Trade Shows
Canceled Conference in New Zealand Comes at a Price
Supporters of the government's health conference say the meeting could have resulted in a small loss or a modest profit, but canceling for perception reasons cost taxpayers more than US$70,000, according to Reuters.

Champion Exposition Services Expands in Orlando
Champion Exposition Services will reallocate some of its warehouse resources from Atlanta to Orlando over the coming weeks to better reflect demand, the company announced last week. Champion expects nearly to double the size of its Orlando warehouse, where much of the company's southeastern business is produced.