by By the M&C staff | August 12, 2009

Labor disputes continue between hotel workers and properties in Los Angeles and Anaheim, Calif. Last week 90 percent of the 2,100 union hotel workers at the Paradise Piers, Disneyland and Grand Californian hotels in Anaheim rejected a contract offer from Walt Disney Co., which would make health-care benefits unaffordable for most employees, according to Paulina Gonzalez, a spokesperson for Unite Here Local 11. "We hope that Disney will come back with a proposal that will make health-care affordable," she said. "At this point, we have not ruled out a strike." Meanwhile, the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, which recently announced it will close for an 18-month renovation project, has told workers they will lose their jobs for the time being, but will be able reapply for positions when the hotel reopens. "This is unacceptable to us," said Gonzalez. "There are ways to protect workers during a closure, such as providing health insurance and guaranteeing their jobs when the hotel reopens." A Disney spokesperson said the offer included affordable health-care coverage and added that the union had distorted the contract terms. Thirty other unions represented at the resort have agreed to contracts with similar healthcare plans, the spokesperson said. The Hotel Bel-Air declined to comment for this story.

St. Regis Mexico City Opens
The 189-room St. Regis Mexico City, on Paseo de la Reforma overlooking the Plaza of Diana, opened its doors last Thursday. The luxury property is the brand's second in Mexico, and features a Remède Spa and three restaurants. Guest rooms offer 42-inch LCD TVs with DVD players, as well as additional LCD televisions recessed behind the bathroom mirrors. The property has more than 12,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, including the 9,000-square-foot Astor Ballroom and 2,600-square-foot Diamond Ballroom.

Southwest Airlines Makes Bid for Frontier Airlines
On Monday, Southwest Airlines confirmed it had submitted a cash offer of $170 million to acquire Frontier Airlines, the Denver-based carrier that filed for bankruptcy in April 2008. Frontier is scheduled to be sold at auction this Thursday. If Southwest's bid is accepted, it would acquire about 80 percent of Frontier's Airbus fleet, which eventually would be replaced with Boeing 737s. In a statement confirming the bid, Southwest said it "intends to maintain all existing markets, as well as add new nonstop routes from Denver that are not served by either Southwest or Frontier today."

PCMA Ends Pursuit of ACTE Alliance

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.

Convention and Visitor Bureaus
North Carolina CVB Names New President
North Carolina's Cabarrus County Convention & Visitors Bureau has named Donna Carpenter, formerly the director of tourism and partnership development for Visit Charlotte, as its new president and CEO. Carpenter replaces DeSales Webster, who left to work for Speedway Motorsports in Concord, N.C.

New Head For Central California CVB

According to The Tribune of San Luis Obisbo, Calif., the San Luis Obispo County Visitors & Conference Bureau has appointed John Summer as executive director after a year-long search. Summer, a former news anchor at local television station KSBY-TV and founder of Central Coast Magazine, replaces Jonni Biaggini, who headed the bureau for 22 years.

Four Seasons Launches "Meetings with More" Promotion
Four Seasons is offering a promotion, "Meetings with More," at all 82 properties. The package includes a complimentary breakfast for each night's stay, 10 percent discount on banquet menus, complimentary Internet access in guest rooms and the general meeting room, a complimentary guest room, no penalty for attrition up to 25 percent and a 10 percent discount on the next group program booked at any Four Seasons property. The offer is good for all new meetings booked by Oct. 30 and held by Dec. 31, 2009.

Atlantic City Casino Revenues Down 13 Percent in July
Atlantic City's casino revenues for the month of July were down 13 percent, at a price tag of $383 million, compared with their earnings in the same month a year ago.

Blackstone Denies it Will Break Up Hilton
Reports published this week that the Blackstone Group is seeking to sell off parts of the Hilton Hotels Co. are completely false, according to the equity group. "There is no truth at all to a rumor that Blackstone intends to sell off parts of Hilton," said a company spokesperson.

Hotel Data Conference Attendees Predict Delayed Recovery
More than half of attendees surveyed at the Smith Travel Research Hotel Data Conference believe that industry revenue per available room will not start to recover until the second half of 2010 or later. Eighty-eight attendees participated in the survey, conducted during the conference in Nashville on Aug. 4 and 5. One-third (33 percent) believe RevPAR will not start to recover until 2011 or beyond. Just under one-quarter (24 percent) predict a recovery will begin during the third quarter of 2010.

New Upscale Property Opens in Houston
Sunday is opening day for the 244-room Hotel Sorella in Houston's new CityCentre development. The property is connected by skywalk to the 30,000-square-foot Norris Conference Center – Houston/CityCentre, which offers a 7,800-square-foot ballroom. Restaurateur Alex Brennan-Martin will debut two establishments at the hotel in October: the casual Café Rosé and the more formal Bistro Alex. A Singaporean restaurant called Straits opens in September and the Yard House, an upscale sports bar, in late October.

Upgrades Finished at Harvard Square Property
Renovations to the lobby and pavilion spaces at the 294-room Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Mass., have been unveiled. The property's public spaces now feature Shaker-inspired furniture from a local craftsman, Le Corbusier chairs and couches, and one-of-a-kind artwork including reproductions of sketches by President John F. Kennedy. Updated audiovisual equipment, including automated projectors, screens, room signage and a light-dimming system, were added to the conference center. The hotel's website also has been redesigned and now includes Real Guest Reviews (, which displays postings from user-generated sites such as TripAdvisor. The Charles offers more than 18,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space.

Trump to Buy Atlantic City Casinos Back
Donald Trump, his daughter Ivanka and an affiliate of Dallas-based Beal Bank have been chosen by Trump Entertainment Resorts, which owns Atlantic City’s Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort, Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino and Trump Marina Hotel Casino, to purchase the bankrupt firm for $100 million. The real estate mogul resigned from TER's board in February, days before it went into Chapter 11 for the third time. The plan must be approved by a U.S. bankruptcy court.

Boutique Hotel Opens in Long Beach
The 138-room AVIA Long Beach (Calif.) hotel opened last week. The property offers the AVIA Kitchen + Dining Room, the AVIA Wine Bar + Lounge and 7,600 square feet of meeting and event space.

NOAA: Hurricane Season Will Be Near or Below Normal
Last week, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center updated its 2009 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, as the country now is in the peak hurricane-producing months of August through October. The NOAA now predicts a 90 percent chance that the 2009 season will be near normal or below normal, with a 10 percent chance of above normal.


RFP and Meeting Consolidation Software Released
Meeting Evolution has launched programs to manage requests for proposal and meetings consolidation. The application allows planners to manage a global hotel database, RFP processes, function space evaluation and hotel contracts. Included are a variety of meeting spend and cost-savings reports. See for more details. Rolls Out Hashtag Registry and Live Event Features -- which aggregates Twitter, YouTube, TwitPic and RSS feeds using hashtags, such as #eventprofs for messages on Twitter that relate to event professionals -- rolled out a registry for the tags on Monday. Event organizers can register unique markers to prevent multiple uses by different parties, and make it easier for people to find event-related news. Twubs also released new features to its Live Event Suite, intended to give organizers more control over the social-network conversation. These include branded live moderation; enhanced hashtag options, such as the ability to merge multiple feeds; and increased spam protection, including the ability to block certain words and users from a Twub feed.

Third-Party Firms
TTG and Ambassadors Merge
Travel Technology Group and Ambassadors' meeting and travel division have merged. Lakeview Equity Partners, the investor who purchased Ambassadors International's travel and events division earlier this year is also TTG's majority stakeholder. The new company, which will be rebranded by the end of the year, will be led by Michael Howe, formerly TTG's senior vice president and CFO, who has been named president and CFO. Bob Derham, co-founder and managing director of TTG, has been appointed vice chairman of the board.