by By the M&C Staff | August 05, 2009

Last week the Professional Convention Management Association ended its pursuit of a "strategic alliance" with the Association of Corporate Travel Executives. In late June, the two organizations had announced they would pursue a partnership, after merger talks between ACTE and the National Business Travel Association broke down. But last week the ACTE board, in a reversal prompted by the resignation of some of its leadership, voted unanimously to reopen merger talks with NBTA, at which point PCMA made its decision. Brad Lewis, PCMA's vice president of marketing and communications, told M&C, "We felt that if [talks between ACTE and NBTA] were still continuing, then pursuing the strategic alliance didn't make much sense." Lewis noted that colocation of PCMA and ACTE conferences, which had been a possibility, would not be occurring. Nevertheless, PCMA still intends to offer expanded business travel education, as an increasing number of its members perform both meeting planning and business travel functions. "Our concept," Lewis said, "was to stay abreast of this trend of converging disciplines and do more education for those performing dual functions — but if [ACTE and NBTA] would rather remain more cohesive within their segment, that doesn't really speak to meetings."
    The ACTE board of directors voted unanimously on Wednesday to reopen merger negotiations with the National Business Travel Association, after the board voted against pursuing such action in June. ACTE followed up by submitting an outline of the terms of such a merger to the NBTA negotiation committee. "The market place wants and needs a combination of the best of both organizations, best practices and deliverables," said ACTE President Richard Crum in a statement. "This will not be accomplished by the takeover of one association by another, but rather a true merging of ideas, philosophies and memberships -- all committed to creating a new organization."  
    ACTE's proposal specifies several points the board believes are necessary to attract at least 51 percent of the membership to vote for the merger. Among these points are: co-branding for the next two years, followed by the creation of a new name; creation of an interim board for two years, to include five members from each organization's current board, followed by new elections (with non-U.S. seats guaranteed); ACTE-led education, based on the ACTE philosophy; leadership by the new NBTA president, with the new executive director being sourced by NBTA; and a membership model that balances the ACTE and NBTA approaches. ACTE also specified that all remaining 2009 programs would continue as planned, and invited NBTA to partner with them on all such events. An NBTA spokesperson confirmed receipt of the proposal, but said the committee hadn't had time to review it. 
    ACTE and the Professional Convention Management Association announced a strategic alliance in late June, originally promising details within a week concerning co-location of the two organizations' major shows.

Hyatt Plans to Go Public
Hyatt Hotels Corp. has filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to propose an initial public offering of shares of its Class A common stock. Lodging expert Bjorn Hanson, associate professor at the Tisch Center at New York University, said this might be the perfect time for the move. "There is a growing consensus that the lodging stocks are being undervalued," he said. "There are several lodging companies for which the marketing capitalization (their debt plus the market value of the stock) is equal to or less than the underlying value of the assets. This IPO is focused on those types of investors that share that view, and believe a new public entity created in these market conditions creates an opportunity to get in early but maybe wisely." To see Hyatt's full release, click here.

Greenbrier Owner and Marriott Part Ways
Marriott International and the new owner of the 721-room Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Jim Justice, failed to reach an agreement on marketing, thus triggering Justice's payment to Marriott of a "break-up fee" of $7.5 million. When Justice bought the property in May out from under Marriott, which had agreed to purchase the resort, the two parties agreed to work out a deal to allow the hotel chain to market the Greenbrier in exchange for commissions. If that didn't work, Justice agreed to pay Marriott the multimillion-dollar fee. As to why an agreement could not be reached, Justice told the Register-Herald of Beckley, W.Va., "We just couldn't get together. There were two areas we struggled with -- the economy and the branding." He added, "It just made more sense to me to keep the Greenbrier as the Greenbrier," with no Marriott branding.

Cobo Center Expansion Moves Forward
The proposed expansion of Detroit's convention facility, the Cobo Center, cleared its final hurdle last week when the city council opted not to vote on a resolution that would have prevented the city from relinquishing its ownership of the center, thereby allowing the nearly $300 million expansion project to move forward. In February, the council rejected a similar resolution to give up the center, but in June the plan was revived, following the approval of legislation that created a five-member committee to run and renovate the structure. The City Council had until Aug. 1 to reject the plan.

Legislation Could Block Government Discrimination Against Resort Destinations
In the wake of several articles that explored a federal bias against holding meetings in cities that could be viewed as "vacation destinations/spa/resort/gambling," senators Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Bill Nelson (D-Florida) each introduced bills last week to prohibit U.S. agencies from engaging in this practice. Major convention cities in the states of both senators, Las Vegas and Orlando, were singled out for "the chopping block" in an e-mail from an FBI employee that was obtained by the U.S. Travel Association and that sparked a Wall Street Journal story. In a statement associated with the introduction of the Protecting Resort Cities from Discrimination Act of 2009, Reid sought to highlight the irresponsibility and shortsightedness of the practice. "If it makes the most sense economically and logistically to hold a meeting in Las Vegas or Reno, then that's where it should be held," he said. "Paying more money to hold a meeting in another city for appearances' sake is unfair to all U.S. taxpayers and a waste of their money." For more on this story, see the Wall Street Journal article , as well as announcements from senators Reid and Nelson regarding the introduction of their legislation.

PhoCusWright: Corporate Travel to Drop 15 Percent this Year

The U.S. corporate travel market will decline by 15 percent in 2009, to $85 billion, according to PhoCusWright's U.S. Corporate Travel Distribution Fourth Edition. The travel-industry research outfit projects the total U.S. travel market to drop by only 11 percent this year. According to the report, corporate travel historically has represented about 40 percent of the total travel market; by 2010, however, PhoCusWright projects that such travel will comprise just 35 percent of the total U.S. travel market.

Las Vegas Sands, Wynn, MGM Report Q2 Results
Battered Las Vegas casino giants MGM, Sands and Wynn reported second quarter results last week. MGM lost $212.6 million in the quarter, as net revenue fell 17.6 percent compared with a year ago and Las Vegas Strip RevPAR plummeted by 31 percent. Las Vegas Sands, which owns the Venetian and Palazzo hotels, posted a revenue decrease of 4.8 percent, for a loss of $175.9 million in the quarter. Wynn actually posted a profit of $25.5 million for the quarter, but that is still a 91 percent drop from last year's $272 million profit in the same quarter. Revenue at Wynn's properties dropped by 12 percent from a year ago.

Fenton Named DMAI Chair
Last week Daniel Fenton, president and CEO of the San Jose Convention & Visitors Bureau and chairman of Team San Jose, was elected chair of the board of directors for Destination Marketing Association International at the organization's annual convention in Atlanta. Fenton, a DMAI member for 12 years, has participated in destination marketing initiatives such as the DMAI executive committee, the DMAI-IAAM Liaison Group, the Futures Study Task Force, the MINT Committee and the DMAI/TIA Task Force.

Convention Centers
Solar Power Added at Houston Convention Center
The George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston now has more than 600 solar panels on the roof, installed as part of a test program funded with private-sector money. "We need to learn how best to harness solar energy -- what works, what doesn't -- before we expand our alternative energy efforts on a wider scale," said Mayor Bill White, a former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, in a statement. In other Houston news, the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau has teamed up with GuestAssist-Conference, a provider of two-way text-message communication, to facilitate interaction between attendees and event staff. When registering, attendees are asked for their cell phone numbers so they can receive updates from the host organizations. During the event, attendees use an event- or a venue-specific code to send questions and comments, and responses are sent directly to their phones.

Director of Georgia World Congress Center Authority to Retire

Last week, Dan Graveline, the executive director of Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center Authority for more than three decades, announced he will retire on Dec. 31. The GWCCA manages the state's largest convention center, the Georgia World Congress Center, as well as the Georgia Dome and Centennial Olympic Park. Graveline became general manager of the center while it was still under construction, in 1976. Since then, the facility has undergone three expansions, quadrupling its original size. Bob Prather, the GWCCA's chairman of the board, has appointed a committee to conduct a nationwide search for Graveline's successor.

Corporate Travel Management
Concur Acquires Etap-On-Line
Travel booking and expense company Concur acquired Paris-based business travel and expense provider Etap-On-Line. The acquisition, which closed on Aug. 1, doubles Concur's European operations and adds offices in Paris, London, Prague and Frankfurt.

Upscale Lodge Opens in Park City, Utah
The 175-room Dakota Mountain Lodge, the first new-build property in Hilton's Waldorf Astoria collection, opened last weekend at the base of the Canyons Resort Village in Park City, Utah. All rooms have fireplaces and a private patio or balcony; suites are equipped with gourmet Viking appliances. The restaurant is an outpost of chef Mark Sullivan's Spruce Restaurant in San Francisco. The property's 16,000-square-foot Golden Door Spa opens tomorrow. Currently, the ski-in, ski-out resort has 1,500 square feet of meeting space; phase two of construction, for which a start date has not yetbeen chosen, will include a 6,000-square-foot ballroom and some breakout rooms, for a grand total of 16,500 square feet of meeting space.

Hard Rock Tower Opens Two Months Early
The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas opened its new 490-room Paradise Tower on Friday, nearly two months ahead of schedule. The 18-story tower, part of the property's $750 million expansion, also includes a 3,500-square-foot penthouse and 10 pool suites that overlook the Beach Club Pool. The hotel now offers 1,137 guest rooms. 

Hotel 32 to Open at Monte Carlo Las Vegas
The Monte Carlo Las Vegas Resort and Casino will open the 50-room boutique Hotel 32 on the resort's top floor on Aug. 10. Guests of Hotel 32 receive VIP treatment, including roundtrip limo service to and from McCarran Airport, curbside greeting from a dedicated "suite assistant," private check-in, and access to Lounge32, which offers complimentary morning and evening food and beverages. The Monte Carlo now has a total of 2,992 rooms.

L.A.'s Hotel Bel-Air to Close for Renovations
Travel Weekly, M&C's sister publication, reports the 91-room Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles will close in October for renovations, for an 18- to 24-month period. All rooms, the Champagne Bar and the restaurant will be refurbished. Additionally, the hotel will add 12 villas to the grounds, and a new spa with seven treatment rooms and three spa suites will be built.

Fort Lauderdale Resort Unveils Renovations

The 433-room Westin Beach Resort, Fort Lauderdale, has completed phase two of a multimillion-dollar renovation. A Heavenly Spa by Westin, a 24-hour Westin Workout center and a Starbucks Coffee kiosk have opened. By December, the hotel will make its revamped 32,000 square feet of meeting space available for bookings. During the work, planners can use 5,613 square feet of event space.

International Travel
Mexico City Offers Free Medical, Travel Insurance
The government of Mexico City kicked off its free insurance program last week, promising both domestic and international visitors free medical and travel coverage in case of emergency. Among the benefits promised are medical assistance to any traveler contracting the H1N1 influenza (or any other illness or medical emergency); ambulance service; hospital coverage; hotel stay for recovery time; transportation home in the event of a medical emergency; legal assistance in case of robbery or loss of documents or belongings, and assistance in case of flight delays or cancellations. Additional details are presented to travelers upon arrival at the airport, as well as upon check-in at city hotels. Information also is available from the city government at +52 55 5480 6898 or

Report Shows Decline in Luxury Spa Performance
Spa STAR, the spa benchmarking report published by Smith Travel Research, revealed declining revenue and flat patronage of the luxury spa industry during the first six months of 2009. The revenue per available treatment room hour (RevPATH) declined by 13 percent, from $136.79 in June 2008 to $120.99 in June 2009, though frequency of use remained approximately the same. The revenue per available station hour (RevPASH) for luxury hotel spa salons declined by 18 percent during the same time period, while the number of stations used remained about the same.

Trade Shows
New Budgeting Tool From Freeman
Freeman, the exhibit solutions provider, has launched Buy Direct by Freeman for corporate customers who source all their event needs through the company. According to Freeman, customers can reduce costs by as much as 20 percent using the new savings model. An assessment tool is available at