by By the M&C Staff | July 08, 2009

Destination DC, the convention and visitors bureau for Washington, D.C., has named Elliott Ferguson as its new president and CEO. The national search for a new bureau head began in mid-April, when Bill Hanbury, who had occupied the top job since spring 2001, announced his resignation. Hanbury's new role, as president and CEO of the United Way of the National Capital Area, began at the start of July. Ferguson takes on his new position immediately, moving from his previous job as Destination DC's senior vice president of convention sales and services. He also has led the convention sales teams at the Atlanta and Savannah, Ga., CVBs. In a statement, Ferguson said, "I am honored to represent Washington, D.C., in [this new] capacity. I've learned a lot in my years working with Bill Hanbury and the wonderful team at Destination DC. It's an exciting opportunity and challenge to lead this organization and set the strategy for continued success."

Javits Clears Final Hurdle
Last week, the $463 million renovation and expansion plan for New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Center gained final approval from the Public Authority Control Board, allowing construction on the project to start immediately. The expansion will add 100,000 square feet of space, including 40,000 square feet of exhibit space. The remaining 60,000 square feet will offer prefunction and registration space, food-service areas and loading docks. Renovations will replace the roof and exterior curtain wall and install energy-efficient technology. The expansion will be completed next year, while renovations should finish by 2013. The center will remain open during the work.

W South Beach Opens
Last Thursday, the 408-room W South Beach opened with 10,000 square feet of function space, a fitness center, six bars, rooftop tennis and basketball courts, a pool and a business center. The property’s Mr. Chow restaurant will open in August, and the Bliss Spa will be unveiled Dec. 15.

Planned NYC Medical Mart Announces First Tenants
The World Product Centre, New York City’s planned medical mart development, announced last week that 11 companies, including Ohio-based health-care supplier Cardinal Health, have signed licensing agreements for the facility. The 60-story glass building will offer 1.5 million square feet of space for offices, a training center, showrooms and an auditorium. Demolition of the existing structure at its planned midtown Manhattan location will begin in October, with construction to follow in 2010. Completion is expected in 2013; the building will seek LEED certification.

GMIC Announces First Chapter
The Green Meeting Industry Council, a membership-based organization providing educational resources about sustainable meetings to industry professionals, announced its first affiliate, GMIC Oregon Chapter, based in Portland. Other chapters currently in the formation stages will be based in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Florida, Northern California and Southern California. The organization also hopes to expand to Canada, Mexico and Europe.

Hyatt Tweaks Name
Global Hyatt Corp. has changed its name to Hyatt Hotels Corp. The new name more accurately reflects the importance of the hotels’ relationships with their respective local communities, according to a press release.

Tetco Voxpilot Launches Videoconferencing Platform
French telecommunications company Tetco Voxpilot released a new videoconferencing solution last week, intended for use on PCs and 3G mobile phone platforms. According to the company, videoconference-room-like quality can be experienced by mobile users through high-definition transmission. No software installation is necessary, as the application is hosted online. See for more information.

STR Revises Hotel Forecast

Smith Travel Research has revised its hotel forecast, lowering expectations for the remainder of this year and 2010. STR now expects occupancy to decrease by 8.4 percent, year over year, for both the summer and year-end 2009. The company is calling for a slight decrease (0.3 percent) in occupancy for 2010 as well. A 10.4 percent decrease in average daily rate is projected for the summer months of 2009, with a 9.7 percent decrease for the year and a 3.4 percent drop in 2010. RevPAR is projected to fall by 18.7 percent this summer, 17.1 percent for the year and 3.7 percent in 2010. Smith Travel Research, typically known to be more optimistic than other forecasters, had previously projected the rebound to begin sooner. The company now intends to revise its forecast monthly.

Airline Industry
Airline Satisfaction Study Released
The results of J.D. Power and Associates’ annual North America Airline Satisfaction Study were released last week. The survey measures overall customer satisfaction based on seven criteria, listed here in order of their importance: cost and fees, flight crew, inflight services, aircraft, boarding/deplaning/baggage, check-in and reservations. For the second year in a row, Alaska Airlines headed up the traditional network carrier rankings, with an overall score of 671 out of 1,000 points, edging out Continental Airlines by two points. Both airlines were ranked as “among the best” in their class. In the low-cost segment, JetBlue Airways scored 750 points out of 1,000 to top the list for the fourth year running, with Southwest Airlines a close second at 736 points. JetBlue was the only carrier given an “among the best” in the low-cost segment, with Southwest having to settle for a “better than most” designation. More broadly, the study also found that overall customer satistfaction with airlines has declined for the third year in a row.

MPI Foundation Executive Resigns
Katie Callahan-Giobbi has resigned her position as executive vice president of the Meeting Professionals International Foundation and chief business architect at MPI to pursue new career ventures. Callahan-Giobbi held the position for two and a half years, helping to steer the MPI Foundation to support initiatives such as the development of the Global Certificate in Meetings Operations, the Canadian Economic Impact Study and the CMP On-Line Study Guide.

Cruise Lines
Pimentel Named President and CEO of Azamara Cruises
Larry Pimentel, who resigned as CEO of SeaDream Yacht Club in January, has been named president and CEO of Azamara Cruises. Azamara's parent company is Royal Caribbean Cruises, which launched the two-ship luxury cruise company in 2007. Pimentel left SeaDream, the company he co-founded in 2002, due to what he termed "fundamental disagreements" with the direction it was taking.

Starwood Sells W San Francisco
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has signed an agreement to sell the W San Francisco for $90 million to Keck Seng Investments Ltd., a hotel investment and development company based in Hong Kong. Starwood will continue to operate the property as a W Hotel. According to a company press release, the sale is an example of a select few transactions being pursued by Starwood to reduce its debt levels.

Grand Bahama Island Resort Reflagged as a Radisson
The 740-room Westin Our Lucaya Resort on Grand Bahama Island has been reflagged as a Radission property and renamed the Radisson at Our Lucaya Beach & Golf Resort. The resort has a 7.5-acre beach; two golf courses; a casino with 400 slot machines and 30 gaming tables; a 25,000-square-foot spa and fitness center; and 90,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 40,000-square-foot convention center.

JW Marriott Washington, D.C., Completes $40 Million Renovation
The final phase of an extensive $40 million renovation was completed last week at the JW Marriott Hotel Washington, D.C., which originally opened in 1984. The project touched all 772 guest rooms and suites, the hotel’s 37,000 square feet of meeting space (including a 14,000-square-foot ballroom and 22 other meeting rooms) and the atrium lobby. The JW Marriott is within walking distance of the White House, the National Mall and the Smithsonian Institute.

New NYLO Hotel to Debut in Texas
Opening next Monday in Irving, Texas, is the 200-loft NYLO Dallas/Las Colinas, with 7,000 square feet of meeting space. Other amenities include a 7,500-square-foot courtyard featuring two pools, fire pits and a bar, and a restaurant with a sushi bar. The property will run on 100 percent renewable energy.

Hotel Indigo Opens in St. Louis
The first of three Hotel Indigo properties planned for St. Louis opened last week following a $10 million transformation of an existing motel, less than four miles from downtown’s central business district. The 127-room Hotel Indigo St. Louis Central West End has a 1,100-square-foot meeting room. Other amenities include complimentary wireless Internet in guest rooms and public spaces, a café, free parking and a 24-hour business center. A Hotel Indigo will open in the University City area in 2011 and another in the downtown convention district in 2012.

Castel Monastero Opens in Tuscany
The 76-room Castel Monastero has opened in Tuscany, Italy. The resort, 14 miles east of Siena, occupies 13 buildings built in the 11th century. The property has a spa, a Gordon Ramsay restaurant and one large meeting room.