by By the M&C Staff | July 01, 2009

Officials at the Detroit Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau are celebrating the passage of a new bill by the Michigan state legislature that authorizes the expansion of the Cobo Center, Detroit's convention center. The bill is similar to one that was rejected by the Detroit city council in February but allows for the city to maintain ownership of Cobo, which the previous bill did not. "We're obviously extremely delighted we're going to be able to move forward," a CVB spokesperson said, noting that an expanded Cobo will be able to retain the city's largest annual exhibition, the North American International Auto Show, which was outgrowing the existing facility. The plan still needs approval from the city council, but the face of that body is changing: Monica Conyers, who as council president led the opposition to the previous plan, announced her resignation Monday after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.

San Francisco Mulls Expansion of Moscone Center
The city of San Francisco is considering a major expansion to its major convention facility, Moscone Center. Preliminary plans include adding 180,000 square feet of meeting space and 100,000 square feet of exhibit space, including an underground parking structure, to be built in place of three buildings to the east of the main convention center. Dubbed Moscone East, the addition would expand the current 1.2 million-square-foot center by 25 percent. Another proposed expansion, which might follow the first, would widen the space that connects Moscone North and Moscone South. Also being discussed is an expansion of Moscone Center West. The earliest completion date of Moscone East is estimated to be 2017.

SISO, UFI Form Strategic Alliance
The Society of Independent Show Organizers and UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, announced a strategic partnership on Monday that will allow each association's members to enjoy benefits of the other organization, including access to research and reduced registration rates at meetings and conventions. The networking between the associations will be particularly useful to SISO members who want to expand their exhibitions outside the United States, and to UFI members entering the U.S. market, said Lew Shomer, executive director of SISO. He said the two associations will remain separate and will hold separate meetings and trade shows. UFI also announced that managing director Vincent Gerard will step down in July 2010, to be replaced by Paul Woodward, who currently heads up UFI's Asia/Pacific operations.

Asian Exhibition Industry Grew 8.7 Percent in 2008
The exhibition industry in Asia expanded by 8.7 percent in 2008 compared with 2007, fueled by 14 percent growth in China, according to a new report by UFI, the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry. The report, which measured the net square footage of trade shows, determined that more than half of the exhibition space sold in Asia last year was purchased in China. Japan's industry took the next largest share of the Asian market, at 14 percent. Smaller but faster growing destinations in Asia include Macau (69 percent growth in net square feet sold in 2008 compared with 2007), Taiwan (26 percent growth) and Vietnam (24 percent growth). Revenue from trade shows in Asia reached US$3.45 billion last year, up 6 percent from 2007.

Registered Traveler Program Could Come to An End
Travel Weekly,M&C's sister publication, reports that the end could be near for Registered Traveler programs, following last week's demise of the Clear program. Clear, which abruptly shut down on June 23, was the primary provider of expedited Registered Traveler security lanes, with lanes at 18 U.S. airports. Two other operators, with Registered Traveler lanes at airports in Reno, Nev.; Jacksonville, Fla., and Louisville, Ky., said they would honor Clear cards. However, as Travel Weekly reported in April -- even before the demise of Clear -- the Congressional Research Service, which assesses the success or failure of government initiatives, characterized the Registered Traveler program as "uncertain." In an email to its members, Clear assured them that their personal information -- including fingerprints, iris images, addresses and credit card numbers -- would be kept private, and would not be used "for any purpose other than a Registered Traveler program operated by a Transportation Security Administration-authorized service provider." For the full story, visit

Airfare Increases Adopted by Legacy Carriers
Last Wednesday, American Airlines raised fares by $10 and $20 roundtrip on a large number of domestic routes, according to These increases have been matched by all the legacy carriers except Southwest. The new pricing follows a $20 jump June 10 on domestic roundtrip airfares that was instituted by Delta/Northwest and US Airways and were matched by United, Continental and American, as well as Southwest. Rick Seaney, CEO of, remarked on the hikes and what they mean for the industry and for airfare pricing going forward in a blog post on "I have been cautioning consumers for the past month that they procrastinate on purchasing airline tickets at their own risk," Seaney wrote. "And these two airfare price hikes in the past few weeks is the strongest signal I have seen that the bottom is either here -- or very near."

Regent Hotels Ousted From Miami Beach Hotel
As of this week, Regent Hotels & Resorts no longer manages the Regent Bal Harbour Hotel in Bal Harbour, Fla., just north of Miami Beach. Following the bankruptcy of the hotel's owner, WCI Communities Inc., a new sale was immediately approved, and the existing management contract was rejected. Miami-based One Luxury Resorts now manages the property, which has been renamed One Bal Harbour Resort & Spa and features 124 oceanfront rooms. In a statement, Regent Hotels officials said: "Regent Hotels & Resorts is proud of its tenure managing the Regent Bal Harbour since its opening, having achieved strong positioning in the South Florida luxury hotel market. The brand is continuing to expand globally, including the opening of eight new hotels over the next three years in locations that span the world, from Puerto Rico to the Maldives."

Starwood, Marriott to Offer Telepresence Suites

Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International independently have announced plans to offer telepresence suites in their respective properties. Starwood and Singapore-based Tata Communications are partnering to roll out telepresence rooms in international Starwood properties. Ten of the high-end videoconference suites, which will offer Cisco TelePresence technology, are slated to debut this year. The first are planned for the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers; the Sheraton on the Park in Sydney, Australia; the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel; the Westin Los Angeles Airport, and the W Chicago-City Center. Marriott, meanwhile, will use the AT&T Telepresence Solution, which combines AT&T's networking capabilities with Cisco's technology. Marriott plans to launch the suites in 25 cities, including New York; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Hong Kong; Shanghai, China; Frankfurt, Germany; and London, in the Marriott, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts and Renaissance brands. The first suites should open by the end of October.

Lancaster Convention Center, Marriott Open in Pennsylvania
The Lancaster County Convention Center and adjacent Lancaster Marriott at Penn Square have opened in Lancaster, Pa. The properties hosted the center's first event last week, an annual convention of Pennsylvania state and city officials. The convention facility opened behind the 19th-century facade of the former Watt & Shand department store. Features include a 45,000-square-foot exhibition hall and 90,000 square feet of total event space. The 300-room Marriott adds 15,000 square feet of meeting space.

Airline Industry
Southwest Airlines Begins Service Out of New York City
This week, Southwest Airlines began flying eight daily nonstops out of New York City's LaGuardia Airport, a first for the low-cost airline. Five flights head daily to Chicago Midway Airport and three to Baltimore/Washington International Airport. Last week, Southwest began flying out of Milwaukee, with a dozen daily nonstops to six destinations: Baltimore/Washington; Kansas City, Mo.; Las Vegas; Orlando; Phoenix, and Tampa Bay, Fla. In August, the airline is scheduled to offer 10 daily nonstop flights out of Boston's Logan International Airport, split equally between Chicago Midway and Baltimore/Washington.

DMAI European Advisory Council Names New Chair
Charles-Eric Vilain has been appointed the new chair of Destination Marketing Association International's European Advisory Council. Vilain, the current managing director of the Lille (France) Convention Bureau, replaces David Hornby, who has left his post at VisitLondon. The Council was formed in January 2007, following the opening of DMAI's European office in Brussels.

MPI Offers Virtual Pass to WEC
Meeting Professionals International is offering online passes to sessions at its upcoming World Education Conference, to be held in Salt Lake City, July 11-14. Full access allows users to see the opening general session live, as well as two live keynote sessions and 14 live education sessions, along with hundreds of other seminars and tools. The cost is $79 for faculty and students, $299 for members and $499 for nonmembers. Access to just the opening general session is $19 for members and $59 for nonmembers. Go here to register.

Convention Centers
Construction on Las Cruces Convention Center Begins
Ground was broken Monday for the Las Cruces (N.M.) Convention Center. The facility will have 30,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 9,630-square-foot ballroom, when completed in late 2010 or early 2011.

Cruise Lines
Yachts of Seabourn Debuts New Ship
Seabourn Odyssey, the newest vessel in The Yachts of Seabourn fleet, was launched last week. The ship has 227 suites, accommodating 450 passengers. It is the first of the three new ships from the cruise line, with the Seabourn Sojourn scheduled to debut in 2010 and the third new-build in 2011, which will give the cruise line a total of six ships.

Rosen Launches Name-Your-Rate Promotion
To celebrate the company's 35th anniversary, Rosen Hotels is celebrating the olden days of "cocktail napkin contracts" and "gentleman's agreements" with a name-your-rate meetings promotion.  Virtual "cocktail-napkin contracts" may be submitted via for events to be fulfilled by Dec. 28, 2009. According to the hotels, an effort will be made to honor all reasonable rate requests.

Omni Announces 77-Hour Sale
Omni Hotels is offering a "77-Hour Meetings Sale," beginning on July 7 at 7 a.m. Groups booked during the sale will receive tiered room rates from $107 to $167 per night, based on the hotel. Additional incentives include: one complimentary room for every 27 paid, occupied rooms; 7 percent off banquet food and beverage, not including alcohol; 7 percent off the audiovisual total; complimentary meeting room; and the planner's choice of a 7 percent discount off rooms or F&B credited to the master account of the next meeting booked at any Omni by Dec. 31, 2009, to occur between Jan. 1, 2010, and March 31, 2010. The offer is open to new leads received during the 77-hour sale and booked by July 17, 2009.

Signs of Recovery in Boston
Although large conventions, particularly consumer shows, have struggled in Boston, business has been picking up and some are reporting that 2010 looks promising, according to this report in the Boston Business Journal.

Liquor Laws Eased in Utah
Rules on serving alcohol relax considerably today in Utah.  Memberships and membership-fee requirements for dining and social establishments that serve liquor have been eliminated, and glass partitions to shield customers from where alcohol was poured no longer are required. The IDs of patrons under 35 will be verified using a scanner; the data will be stored onsite for a week.

Have Convention Cities Been Blacklisted by Feds?

Orlando tourism officials believe the city has been secretly blacklisted as a federal government meeting destination, and they are working with the U.S. Travel Association to uncover the details of the supposed list. "It is unfair for destinations not to be considered for meetings," Gary Sain, president and CEO of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau, told M&C. "Orlando should be number one on the list for government meetings, since our per diems are low and we're the fourth largest airport market. We're built as a value destination." According to the Orlando Sentinel, other cities on the list might include Las Vegas, Miami, and Aspen, Colo. Sain traveled to Washington, D.C., earlier this month to speak with representatives of government markets about the issue. "There isn't a document that states what we're dealing with, but there are examples of this happening," Sain added. To combat the effects of the blacklist, a letter from Orange County Mayor Richard T. Crotty reinforcing Orlando's value proposition will go out to a database of government meeting planners this week.

France Lowers Dining Tax
Today, France lowers its VAT rate on restaurant meals, including those served at hotels, from 19.6 percent to 5.5 percent. Alcoholic beverages and wine still will be taxed at the higher rate.

St. Regis Hotel Coming to Bermuda
On Tuesday, Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced plans to build a 140-room St. Regis hotel with 80 residences in Bermuda's capital city of Hamilton. When completed in 2013, the property will be the first Starwood in Bermuda, and the first major luxury property to open in Hamilton in half a century. The St. Regis will have a Remède Spa, butler service and 12,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 4,000-square-foot ballroom.

Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort Up for Auction
The Associated Press reports that the 521-room Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort and Spa on Hawaii's Big Island has defaulted on its mortgage and accrued interests, which total nearly $60 million; the property will be auctioned off on July 31. Features of the 521-room resort include three restaurants, 65,000 square feet of meeting space, a spa, a 14,000-square-foot pool, 12,800 square feet of retail space, a gym and a business center.

Westin St. Francis Completes $40 million Renovation
The Westin St. Francis hotel in San Francisco has completed a $40 million restoration. The 1904 hotel offers 614 rooms, now bedecked with dark wood furnishings, abstract artwork and 37-inch flat-screen TVs. The main lobby's original grand staircase has been restored, the lobby redone, and the new 55-seat Clock Bar, by Chef Michael Mina, was added. A total of 56,000 square feet of function space is available.
Reopening Date for London's Savoy Announced
The Savoy, a landmark London hotel, will reopen in early 2010, following a $165 million restoration by designer Yves Rochon. The property, closed since late 2007, will have 268 guest rooms and 12 meeting rooms, afitness center and spa, four restaurants and six bars.