by By the M&C Staff | July 29, 2009

The meetings industry coalition formed earlier this year under the auspices of the U.S. Travel Association has released an updated model meetings and events policy and created a document that cross-references the policy with U.S. Treasury Department rules, "Revised Model Board Policy for Legitimate Meetings and Events." View the "Cross Reference for Treasury Rules to the Revised Model Board Policy" here. In an e-mail sent to Site members last week, Brenda Anderson, Site's president and CEO and a member of the coalition, said, "It is now incumbent on all of us to adapt these standards, so the next time anyone thinks a motivational program is being delivered irresponsibly we can respond in confidence with these guidelines. Please share these and educate your customers so you can demonstrate that you are operating by the standards accepted by the U.S. Treasury. These sensible guidelines are a powerful statement when developing and executing programs, no matter what country you are in."

Damaged Hotels Reopen in Jakarta
Both the Ritz-Carlton and the JW Marriott Hotel Jakarta reopened today, less than two weeks after they were damaged in a terrorist bombing. According to a spokesperson for Ritz-Carlton, "While both hotels followed a high level of security procedures prior to the attacks, security has been heightened even further as a precaution. As always, the top priority at both hotels remains the safety and well-being of our guests. We continue to mourn those who were hurt or lost their lives in the July 17th attack."

SGMP Members Decry Destination Blacklist
According to a survey released yesterday by the Society of Government Meeting Planners, 84 percent of members polled said there should not be a federal government policy against meeting in "desirable" locations. The survey of 623 government planners was conducted last week in the wake of a Wall Street Journal article that cited e-mails from the FBI and Department of Agriculture encouraging conference locations that aren't resort destinations and don't appear to be "lavish." When asked if their organizations had policies prohibiting them from attending meetings in desirable locations, 11 percent said yes, 80 percent said no and 9 percent were unsure. Twenty-one percent of the respondents said if they received an RFP from Las Vegas or Orlando (two destinations cited in the WJS article), it would be rejected, even if was the lowest bid. Charles Sadler, executive director of SGMP, told M&C that the U.S. General Services Administration, which oversees federal government meetings, does not have a destination "ban list," but individual government agencies -- including the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Justice Department -- can make stronger meetings policies than the GSA's recommended ones. "The Federal government uses the RFP process, and that keeps everything on an even field; meetings should be about content, not location," said Sadler. In a related issue, U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada) sent a letter Monday to cabinet secretaries and the head of every federal agency, requesting they reject or reverse any travel policy that discriminates against specific U.S. cities, including Las Vegas and Reno. Click here to read a copy of his letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.

New STR Data Predicts 17 Percent Drop in U.S. RevPAR for 2009
Revenue per available room for U.S. hotels declined 18.7 percent to $53.87 for the first half of 2009 vs. the same period in 2008, according to data released yesterday by STR. Occupancy dropped 10.9 percent to 54.6 percent in that time, and average daily rate fell 8.7 percent to $98.66. "The first half of 2009 was, without question, one of the most challenging the U.S. lodging industry has experienced," said Bobby Bowers, senior vice president of operations at STR. "RevPAR fell nearly 19 percent -- by far the largest first-half decline ever recorded by Smith Travel. While there is some evidence that industry performance has bottomed, hotel operators will continue to face harsh operating conditions -- particularly from a pricing perspective -- in the second half. STR is currently forecasting a total industry RevPAR decline of about 17 percent for full-year 2009." For the full release, click here.

Taxes Go Up in Massachusetts, Might Rise More in Boston

The sales and meal taxes in Massachusetts will go up on Aug. 1, from 5 percent to 6.25 percent. Boston's hotel occupancy rate remains at 12.45 percent, as the sales tax is not applied to guest rooms. That room tax might be rising, however, as Mayor Thomas Menino last week proposed levying local-option meal and hotel taxes in the city, adding .75 percent to the meal tax and 2 percent to the hotel tax. "None of us like new taxes -- we have kept property taxes steady -- but as I see it, these local-option tax increases would primarily impact visitors to our city, and travel, tourism and convention business remains strong," Mayor Menino said when announcing his plan. "Even with the proposed increase, Boston's meals and hotel tax rates would remain lower than many other comparable cities like New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco and Chicago." For the mayor's full statement, click here []. Pat Moscaritolo, president and CEO of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, expects the city council to support the mayor's proposal, which would bring the meal tax to 7 percent and the hotel tax to 14.45 percent on Oct. 1.

Oakland, Calif., Raises Hotel Tax
Residents of Oakland, Calif., approved a measure last week to raise the city's transient occupancy tax by three percentage points, to a total of 14 percent. Half of the revenues generated will go toward the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau, which lost its source of city funding last year. The remaining revenues will be allocated toward the Oakland Zoo, the Oakland Museum of California, the Chabot Space and Science Center, and other cultural arts programs and festivals. The tax will go into effect Jan. 1, 2010.

Study Estimates Global Business Travel Spend Hit $929 Billion in 2008
The National Business Travel Association and Egencia (the corporate travel arm of Expedia) released a sample of findings from a study that quantifies global business travel spend and projects business travel growth through 2013. The study, which evaluated 72 countries, shows that business travel growth patterns vary dramatically across the globe, with North America advancing at an average rate of just over 2 percent per year for the last decade, Western Europe growing 4.6 percent annually and Asia Pacific advancing by 7.2 percent annually over the same period. North America, Western Europe and Asia Pacific regions each represent about 30 percent of the global business travel market (90 percent combined), estimated to total $929 billion in 2008. For more information click here.

Airline Industry
Registered Traveler Security Lanes Might Get Second Life
Last week, the National Business Travel Association sent letters to 21 U.S. airports where Registered Traveler expedited security lanes had been in operation until the shut-down, in June and July, of Verified Identity Pass and Vigilant Solutions, the companies that administered the majority of the RT lanes in the country. FLO Corp., the only remaining RT provider, also suspended its program at Reno-Tahoe International Airport. In a letter to its members, however, Glenn Argenbright, chairman and CEO of FLO Corp., said the company is working with the Transportation Security Administration "to reopen or initiate service at about a dozen airports nationwide." In the NBTA letter, association president and CEO Kevin Maguire wrote, "We are encouraged by recent communications from another qualified RT vendor, FLO, encouraging airports to relaunch operations with FLO to provide RT enrollees continued usage and benefits of RT. NBTA urges airports to work in coordination with TSA and U.S. airlines to reopen RT operations with FLO or other qualified vendors."

Continental, American Raise Checked Baggage Fees
Last week, both Continental Airlines and American Airlines increased their checked baggage fees by $5. For domestic travel (including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Canada) on Continental after Aug. 19, the first checked bag will cost $20, and the second, $30. American's fees will be the same, except the increase does not include Canada and will go into effect Aug. 12. Continental passengers who pre-pay for their checked baggage on will not be charged the increase.

OpenSkies To Drop N.Y.-Amsterdam Route
Last week New York-based airline OpenSkies, a subsidiary of British Airways, announced it will stop service between New York City and Amsterdam starting Aug. 16, due to the decline in market demand. The airline now operates just one route, between New York and Paris.

TSEA Names New Board Members

The Trade Show Exhibitors Association has named its new board members for 2009-2010: Cindy Erp, senior manager of exhibits and events at KCI; Teri Nobbe, trade show manager at Hill-Rom; Michael Rapp, exhibit marketer for Fujitsu Network Communications; and Rick Rinderle, corporate events and speaker program manager for Alcatel-Lucent. Nick de Bois, chairman of Rapiergroup, will serve as an allied board member.

Convention Centers
Saratoga Springs Announces City Center Expansion
The City Center convention facility in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., has announced a $16 million expansion project, to break ground in September of this year. When completed in fall 2010, the extension will offer 12,000 square feet of extra meeting and exhibit space, including a new second floor with conference rooms and views of downtown. This will bring the building's total to about 35,000 square feet of space. New prefunction areas, a grand staircase and a new lobby are part of the plan, as well.

Kahala Hotel & Resort Concludes Renovation
The 338-room Kahala Hotel & Resort in Honolulu has wrapped up a $52 million renovation. Approximately $30 million went toward adding features to guest rooms, such as wireless Internet access, 40-inch flat screen TVs, iPod docking stations, Egyptian cotton linens, and Frette towels and robes. Other additions include five new treatment rooms and a new outdoor lounge area at the spa, and a complete redesign of the resort's 11,500 square feet of meeting and ballroom space.

The Ilikai Hotel Reopens
The 203-unit Ilikai Hotel in Waikiki, Oahu, reopened on Friday, having been closed by its previous operator on July 9. The property's new operator, iStar Financial, reached an agreement with the Unite Here Local 5 following the closure, and has since rehired approximately 50 members of the hotel's former staff. Hotel Management Services, LLC, will manage the property.

320 Ranch Completes Upgrades
The 87-room 320 Guest Ranch in Big Sky, Mont., has completed renovations and technology upgrades. All guest rooms in the cabins, log homes and chalet were redone, given flat-screen TVs and a new look. Wireless Internet access was installed throughout the property, and new furnishings were added to the Brask Conference Center, which offers more than 5,200 square feet of meeting space. The ranch also added an 1,800-square-foot tented pavilion for events of up to 200 people.

Rocco Forte Property Opens in Sicily
Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, the Rocco Forte Collection's first resort, has opened in southwestern Sicily. The property has 203 guest rooms, two golf courses and a spa with 11 treatment rooms. The meetings facility includes six rooms, a ballroom and an outdoor amphitheater.

Alaska's First Crowne Plaza Debuts

The 165-room Crowne Plaza Anchorage-Midtown, two miles from Ted Stevens International Airport, opened July 21. Hotel highlights include the Juno restaurant and lounge, serving American food and Alaskan bistro-style specialties; a library with mountain views, and an indoor saltwater pool with a spa. The new property has 4,000 square feet of space for meetings and events.

Trade Shows
Freeman Renames Creative Services Division
Exhibit solutions company Freeman is eliminating the brand name ProActive for its creative agency, and all services rendered by that division now will fall under the general Freeman brand. The semantic change will not affect clients or account teams. "The bottom line is that our clients' interface with one brand will make it easier for them to take advantage of all our resources at Freeman," said Carrie Freeman Parsons, CEO, in a statement. "Today's clients are looking for truly integrated solutions from a single source, so we are simply aligning our offerings in every single way."

Hanley Wood Promotes Executives
Rick McConnell now is president of Hanley Wood Exhibitions and Shawn Pierce has taken over as senior vice president. They replace president Galen Poss and executive vice president Michael Green, who unexpectedly resigned in June over a contract dispute. 


Chicago Mulls Ordinance To Inform Hotel Guests of Strikes
On Monday, the Finance Committee of the Chicago City Council considered an ordinance that would require hotels to notify guests of possible work stoppages involving more than 20 employees and lasting for more than 15 days. If passed, hotels will have to include notice of stoppages in their advertising and on their websites. Local hotel officials, such as Marc Gordon, president of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association, have opposed the proposal, claiming local Unite Here chapters are using it as a bargaining chip in ongoing labor negotiations. A vote on the ordinance will take place in September, following the committee’s August recess.