by By the M&C Staff | September 02, 2009

Despite pressure from a coalition of trade show and exhibition associations for suspension of the San Jose Convention Center's new labor agreement with a local Teamsters' union, the deal remains in place, according to Dan Fenton, president and CEO of Team San Jose, the destination marketing organization that operates the facility. The agreement, which went into effect Aug. 1, states that Teamster Local 287 will be the center's exclusive provider of labor. Industry leaders from the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, the International Center for Exhibitor and Event Marketing, the Exhibition Service Contractors Association and the Society of Independent Show Organizers oppose the deal, for reasons outlined by IAEE president Steven Hacker, CAE, in an op-ed piece published last week in the San Jose Mercury News. Hacker claimed the new contract bestows a base labor rate increase of 56 percent and could create labor grievances and litigation by not honoring policies already in place. Dan Fenton, president and CEO of Team San Jose, the city's destination marketing organization, told M&C the contract will provide more flexibility and better economics. "There is a minor charge on top of the base rate for workers' compensation, but figures have been revised since the plan was first rolled out," he said, adding that other benefits include more flexible start times and reduced minimum hours -- from eight hours to four -- per shift. In a statement released today, Hacker said, "Our industry has been struggling to meet the unprecedented challenges of a severely impaired economy coupled with dramatic attendance reductions and corporate travel restrictions. The unexpected action of the [center] that imposes a new labor agreement that ignores existing binding labor agreements and does so with no prior consultation nor any forewarning is a grossly unfair and irresponsible act that cannot and will not be condoned." IAEE plans to discuss the matter further at its next board meeting on Sept. 12.

San Diego Convention Center Expansion Gets Task Force Approval
On Monday, the San Diego Convention Center Task Force, a group appointed by Mayor Jerry Sanders last February to evaluate plans to expand the city's convention center, approved a $753 million expansion of the facility. Financing is yet to be determined, though the task force outlined several possible sources, including an increase of the city's hotel tax, a new tax on food and beverage sales, and the implementation of the city's second Tourism Marketing District. The proposal will now move to City Hall, where the mayor will gauge business support of these financing options. Features of the expansion include 198,000 square feet of exhibit space; 108,000 square feet of new meeting rooms; 49,400 square feet of retail space, and a 500-room hotel, with 37,900 square feet of meeting space. The project is expected to break ground in 2012 and finish in 2014.

City Councils Approve Boston and Cambridge, Mass., Bed and Meal Tax Rise
The Boston and Cambridge, Mass., city councils voted last Wednesday to increase both cities' hotel tax by two percentage points, from 12.45 percent to 14.45 percent. The meals tax will increase by 0.75 percent, to 7 percent. The increases will go into effect Oct. 1. The Massachusetts state budget permits cities and towns to adopt a local option meals tax of up to 0.75 percent and a hotel tax of up to 2.5 percent.

New International Association for Medical Meeting Professionals Announced
It was announced on Aug. 26 that members of the medical meeting planning community have collaborated to form the International Medical Meeting Professionals Association (IMMPA), designed to support the industry and provide members with education, training, certification and networking. Founding members include Pat Schaumann, CMP, CSEP, DMCP, president of Meeting IQ; James Montague, president of Professional Meeting Planners Network; Marissa Wolfard, CMP, director of meetings for Meetings IQ; David Gillette, vice president of ITC; and Henry Wu, president of China Connect. The founders promise to offer a certification program that will be connected to a major university. IMMPA will officially launch on Nov. 2, during the Missouri Meetings and Events Expo in Kansas City.

Greenbrier Resort Breaks Ground on New Underground Casino
West Virginia's Greenbrier resort, under new ownership by businessman Jim Justice, broke ground last week on a new underground casino, as well as retail and dining areas. All three developments, which combined will total 80,000 square feet, are scheduled to open next April. Above where the casino is being built, the front lawn's main flowerbed will be preserved, and a reflecting pool, walkways and benches will be added. A temporary casino, with slot machines and table games, is scheduled to open Oct. 1 in the resort's Virginia Wing.

Proposed New York State Convention Center Moves Forward
The proposed New York State convention center gained some ground last week when the board of directors of the Albany Convention Center Authority approved the purchase of a second parcel of land for the project. Last fall, New York Governor David Paterson offered support for the long-delayed, scaled-back center by allocating $10 million toward preconstruction planning, land acquisition and environmental impact studies. Authority officials hope to purchase the remainder of the required land by the end of the year, after which they will seek construction financing. Development plans call for a 266,000-square-foot structure spanning six acres, in addition to a hotel built by a private developer.

Lufthansa to Merge with Austrian, Signs Codeshare with JetBlue
Last week the European Commission approved the merger of Austrian Airlines with German flag carrier Lufthansa. Austrian Airlines will be integrated into Lufthansa this month. The German airline also announced on Monday that it has signed a codeshare agreement with JetBlue. If the deal is approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation, JetBlue passengers traveling via New York City's J.F.K. International Airport or Boston's Logan International will be able to connect to Lufthansa flights bound for Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Marketech Upgrades Trade Show and Event Calculator
Exhibitor training and marketing advisor Marketech upgraded its Measurement Made Easy calculator last week. The tool, designed for trade show and convention managers, expands the capabilities of the previous tool with 19 components that cover items such as rule-of-thumb budgeting, preshow promotions and cost per visitor reached. The tool can measure, store and report results on a show-to-show basis, and make year-over-year comparisons. A single-user lifetime license may be purchased online for $999.

Airline Industry
Representatives Lobby for Preservation of Registered Traveler Data
On Aug. 20, two members of the House Homeland Security Committee, Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and ranking member Rep. Peter King (R–N.Y.), wrote a letter to Janet Napolitano, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, requesting that Registered Traveler data not be deleted by the Transportation Security Administration. Registered Traveler is an expedited airport security lane program that was primarily utilized by the company Verified Identity Pass and its Clear lanes, until that firm's abrupt shutdown in June. (Click here for more on the Registered Traveler program.) In the letter, Thompson and King argued that if the TSA deletes the Registered Traveler program participant data, as the agency has ordered, it "could have a potential negative impact on the restoration of operations for the RT program."

US Airways Increases Checked Baggage Fees
US Airways announced last week that it is increasing its checked baggage fees, to $20 for the first checked bag and $30 for the second on domestic flights, and $50 for a second checked bag on transatlantic flights (the first checked bag will remain complimentary). The airline also is adding a $5 service fee per bag checked at the airport; this will be waived if passengers check their luggage using The new fees went into effect last Wednesday for tickets purchased for travel on or after Oct. 7.

Former President Clinton Calls Business Travel Criticism Unfair
During a keynote address at last week's National Business Travel Association International Convention & Exposition in San Diego, former President Bill Clinton said it was unfair for the government to criticize business travel. "Companies are not in the business of throwing away money," he pointed out. "The government shouldn't second-guess those decisions." During the address, Clinton also spoke of the importance of travel and meeting face-to-face, and announced a charitable initiative being launched by global distribution system provider Amadeus, which will allow passengers to make a small donation when booking a plane ticket to Unitaid, a Geneva-based organization that helps fund the delivery of medications to the poor. Click here to see a full report on Clinton's address published by our sister publication, Travel Weekly.

Convention Centers

Minneapolis Convention Center Sustains Mild Damage From Tornado
The Minneapolis Convention Center revealed Thursday that it sustained an estimated $350,000 to $500,000 in damages as a result of a tornado that hit the city on Aug. 19. The roof of the structure's Exhibit Hall B was damaged, allowing some water to enter the building, and four dock roll-up doors and some pedestrian doors were impaired due to high winds. Repairs are being made and should be completed by Sept. 14. The center estimates a minimum impact to the few events scheduled to take place at Exhibit Hall B over the next two weeks, all of which are being moved to another space within the facility of comparable size.

Gaylord Announces One Partner Promotion
Gaylord Hotels launched its One Partner promotion last week, providing planners the opportunity to lock in promotional pricing for meetings over the next two years. New meetings booked in 2009 and 2010 will receive credit equivalent to 10 percent of the meeting's cost (room revenue plus resort fee). That credit can be used to offset attrition for that meeting or be put toward another meeting booked and held by the end of 2011. Planners of existing meetings already booked for 2009 or 2010 can obtain credit by booking another meeting of at least 25 percent of the value of the currently booked meeting. Visit Gaylord Hotels' website for details.


Iberostar Temporarily Closing Three Properties in Mexico and Jamaica
Last week, Iberostar Hotels & Resorts temporarily shut down two of its Riviera Maya, Mexico, properties, the 388-room Iberostar Paraiso del Mar and 424-room Paraiso Beach. The company also closed the 366-room Rose Hall Beach Hotel in Montego Bay,  Jamaica. The Riviera Maya properties will remain closed until Sept. 30 to undergo upgrades and preventative maintenance. Iberostar's five other resorts in the region will remain open, and guests who had booked with the closed properties will be relocated. Guests booked at Jamaica's Rose Hall Beach Hotel will be re-accommodated at the Rose Hall Suites, part of the larger Rose Hall Beach & Spa Resort Complex. No reopening date has been set for the Rose Hall property, but Iberostar says it will open in time for high season.

Tornado-Damaged Atlanta Westin Hotel to Be "Reskinned"
It was announced last week that Atlanta's 73-story, 1,068-room Westin Peachtree Plaza hotel, whose glass exterior was damaged by a tornado in March 2008, will have all 6,350 windows replaced by Skansa USA Building. The $22 million project is scheduled for completion toward the end of next year. To help expedite the effort, one of the hotel's F&B outlets, the top-floor Sun Dial Restaurant Bar & View, will be closed from Sept. 29 until late December. The Westin Peachtree Plaza has 80,000 square feet of meeting space.

Disney Enhances Castaway Cay
Castaway Cay, the private Bahamian island owned by the Walt Disney Co., is undergoing  a renovation and expansion to accommodate the growing Disney Cruise Lines fleet. Included in the project are the expansion of the beach and the addition of a water slide platform and private cabanas. The enhancements will be completed by next summer; earlier this year, the cruise line announced the addition of two new ships (for a total fleet of four), which will begin sailing in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

Ritz-Carlton, New York Wraps Up Renovation
The 298-room Ritz-Carlton New York, Battery Park, has completed a $10 million renovation of all guest rooms, suites and its Ritz-Carlton Club Level. New working stations, flat-screen TVs, furnishings and decor were added. The hotel features a Prada Beauty Spa, Wi-Fi in all guest rooms and public spaces, and 12,000 square feet of meeting space, including two ballrooms.

Sheraton San Francisco Reflagged a Hilton
The 400-room Sheraton Gateway San Francisco Airport has been reflagged as the Hilton San Francisco Airport. The hotel completed a renovation of all its guest rooms, executive lounge and lobby last year.

First North Carolina Hotel Indigo Opens in Durham
The first of IHG's new Hotel Indigo brand in North Carolina, the 125-room Hotel Indigo Durham–Research Triangle Park, opened last Friday in Durham. The hotel has three meeting rooms with a total 1,600 square feet of meeting space.

Aloft Tallahassee Opens
The Aloft Tallahassee (Fla.) opened last week with 162 guest rooms and several signature features of Aloft hotels, including the xyz bar, the re:fuel 24-hour snack station, the re:mix lounge and a Bliss spa. Three meeting rooms, totaling 2,249 square feet, are available.

Worktopia Provides Support for Travelocity Business Meeting Bookings
Worktopia's Universal Meeting Solution, which automates the process of arranging small off-site meetings, will power new meeting-booking capability in Travelocity Business. Planners will be able to search for meeting space in real time, compare quotes and book the space, as well as accommodations and catering. The feature initially will be offered as a service through which advisors will help Travelocity Business clients to ensure customers are booking through preferred suppliers and accessing special contracted rates. Travelocity Business plans to eventually offer the service as a self-booking tool for customers who wish to manage their own programs.