by By the M&C Staff | September 09, 2009

Last Tuesday, union contracts for approximately 6,000 hotel workers at more than 30 hotels in the downtown Chicago area expired. According to Unite Here Local 1, the workers' union representative, layoffs have resulted in excessive overtime hours for those workers still employed. Contract negotiations have begun, but little progress has been made, the union claimed. "We've actually gone backward since we first announced the contract expiration last week," said Annemarie Strassel, a spokesperson for Local 1. "For example, the current proposal put forth by Hyatt would gut workers' health insurance." Strassel noted that a strike has not been ruled out. In response to Unite Here's claims, a spokesperson for Hyatt said since negotiations began on Aug. 10, a total of four meetings have taken place. "The hotels have come to every discussion in good faith and will continue to do so," Hyatt said in a written statement. "We fully expect to come to an agreement with Unite Here without any labor disruption." Hyatt's statement also noted, "Like so many other employers across the country, we must manage rising health-care costs while continuing to provide the competitive benefits that attract great people." Negotiations will continue with Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Hilton Hotels this week and next.

Survey Gauges Impact of Recession on Associations
Association meetings are feeling the heat but faring better than other segments of the industry, according to a survey of 120 international association executives. The study, conducted in June by IMEX, the international meeting exhibition held annually in Frankfurt, Germany, and the International Convention & congress Association, reveals that non of the respondents canceled meetings in 2009. Furthermore, 60 percent said their 2009 conventions achieved or were expected to achieve increased or flat delegate attendance vs. previous years. On the downside, 74 percent said the economic downturn had impacted their organizations. In other findings, half of those polled said they intended to select lower-cost destinations and venues for future meetings. To download a PDF of the full survey results, click here.

Department of Homeland Security Gives IAAM Foundation Funds for Emergency Preparedness Training
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has awarded a $250,000 grant to the International Association of Assembly Managers Foundation to bolster emergency preparedness in venues, including convention centers. The grant will allow IAAM to deliver safety training and security protocols for emergency preparedness and crises communication. It also will allow IAAM to introduce the free risk self-assessment and benchmarking tool that it created with the DHS.

Star Alliance Airline Network Launches Global Meetings Discount Program
Last Wednesday, the global airline network Star Alliance, which encompasses 17,000 daily flights to 916 destinations in 160 countries, with 21 airline members, launched Meetings Plus, a global meetings market discount program. The program is available to groups of 50 or more people, who must originate from at least three different countries. RFPs can be submitted online at, after which the planner will be contacted by the appropriate member airline. Discounts from 10 to 20 percent will be given for business or economy tickets.

Hyatt, La Quinta Now Cater to Mobile Devices
Hyatt Place and Hyatt Summerfield Suites launched their mobile websites on Friday. Customers with mobile devices now can view the specially formatted sites ( and to research locations, make room reservations and edit existing reservations from their mobile devices. La Quinta, meanwhile, released a free application for the iPhone and iPod Touch, which finds nearby La Quinta hotels based on GPS mapping technology. People using the application can book rooms, change reservations, get driving directions, view photos, and obtain detailed service and amenity information.

Hilton Orlando Opens This Week
The 1,400-room Hilton Orlando welcomed its first guests early last week, with its grand opening set for this Saturday. The hotel features 175,000 square feet of meeting space, including three ballrooms spanning 50,000, 30,000 and 15,000 square feet; seven dining options; two swimming pools; a 15,000-square-foot spa and fitness center; a jogging track, and an open-air walkway connected to the Orange County Convention Center.

Airline Industry
AirTran Offering New Flights to the Bahamas and Jamaica

Last Thursday, AirTran Airways announced it would begin new service to Nassau, Bahamas, and Montego Bay, Jamaica. The new nonstop flights will originate from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Baltimore/Washington International Airport and Orlando International Airport. Bahamas flights will begin on Dec. 17, and Jamaica flights on Feb. 11, 2010.

Terminal Renovations on Tap at DFW International
The board of directors for Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport have approved an eight-year project that will renovate the facility's four original terminals. The first major expenditure is a $20.75 million package for the URS Corp. of Dallas to begin design work for terminals A, B, C and E, which opened with the airport in 1974. Airport officials estimate the overall cost will be between $1.5 billion and $2 billion; funding will come from bond sales, available capital and other sources. Construction will begin in early 2011, just after Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas. Work on Terminal A should be completed sometime in 2014, and the entire project is slated to finish up by the end of 2017.

Convention Centers

Aquarium/Convention Center Project Slated for Rio de Janeiro
The largest marine aquarium in Latin America, to be called AquaRio, is expected to open in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, by 2012, according to Brazzil Magazine. Municipal authorities announced the project last Wednesday, as part of a citywide revitalization effort. The roughly U.S. $60 million, 290,000-square-foot project will be home to 12,000 sea creatures, as well as a marine museum, convention center, shops and a restaurant. The aquarium will promote environmental education and serve as a home for research and recovery of injured sea animals.


Accor Hospitality Plans to Significantly Expand Indian Hotel Network
Accor Hospitality plans to open 45 hotels in 15 Indian cities by 2012. The company currently has five hotels in India. When all 50 properties are open, there will be 10,400 Accor guest rooms in the country. One of the first to open, in the third quarter of 2010, will be the 283-room Sofitel Mumbai Bandra Kurla.

Alvear Palace Owners Plan to Expand in Buenos Aires
Owners of the 197-room Alvear Palace Hotel in Buenos Aires announced last Wednesday plans to open two new hotels in the city in 2012. They already have begun development on the 150-room Alvear Plaza San Martin, a business hotel near the city's commercial center that will offer a fitness center and meeting and event space. The 150-room Alvear Puerto Madero, which also will offer 40 residences, will include a 1,000-person ballroom, a restaurant, additional meeting rooms and a spa with an indoor pool.

Canadian Resort Expands Conference Facility
The 211-room Fairmont Le Château Montebello, in Montebello, Quebec, has completed the expansion of its conference center. The facility now has a total of 17,300 square feet of meeting space, along with a spa and a Land Rover Driving School.

New Embassy Suites Opens at Columbus, Ohio, Airport
The 198-suite Embassy Suites Columbus-Airport opened last Wednesday, two miles from Port Columbus (Ohio) International Airport. The property features the Flying Spoons restaurant, 12,000 square feet of meeting and prefunction space, a fitness center, complimentary Wi-Fi and an indoor heated pool.

NH Hotel Opens in Mexico City Airport
The 287-room NH Mexico City Airport Hotel opened last Wednesday in the airport's newly renovated Terminal 2. The luxury business hotel offers a business center, a gym, a spa, a swimming pool, a lobby bar, a restaurant and seven meeting rooms with a total capacity for 500. The project is a strategic alliance between airport operator OMA and Spain-based NH Hotels.

St. Tropez Hotel in Las Vegas Acquired by Siegel Group
The Siegel Group Nevada, a commercial real estate and business development company, has purchased the ailing 150-room St. Tropez Hotel for $10.5 million. The all-suite hotel, across from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near the Las Vegas Strip, had been closed earlier this summer. The new owners intend to reopen the property within the next 30 days and resolve maintenance issues within the next two months. Over the next eight months, the Siegel Group intends to renovate and modernize the facilities. Long-term plans are to convert the St. Tropez to a high-end boutique property, with the possible addition of a restaurant, a bar, an outdoor events center, a nightclub, an outdoor yoga studio and more.


Unite Here Calls for Boycott of Hilton Long Beach
Early last week Unite Here Local Chapter 11 in Long Beach, Calif., joined by community activists and religious leaders, called for a boycott of the Hilton Long Beach & Executive Meeting Center, claiming that the property has opposed workers' efforts to unionize. Kristi Allen, the hotel's general manager, maintains that employees always have had the right to be represented by the union, but that they should not be forced to make a decision in front of union representatives. "It is irresponsible and unjust for the union and a few community leaders to call for a boycott of our hotel at the purported request of our employees," she said in a prepared statement. At least one group, the Cleveland-based United Church of Christ, has considered moving a booked meeting -- the General Synod scheduled for 2013 -- to another location, in solidarity with the workers, if the dispute isn't resolved closer to the date of the conference.

Trade Shows

Reed Exhibitions' CIBTM to Add "Meetings Week"
On Tuesday, the first day of the China Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition, which is being held at Beijing's China National Convention Centre, Reed Travel Exhibitions announced that next year's CIBTM would incorporate a "Meetings Week" that will surround the actual conference. The week will contain additional education programs sponsored by industry organizations such as Meeting Professionals International, the International Congress & Convention Association and Site. The current CIBTM, to run through Thursday, has 324 exhibitors, 35 percent more than the last show, held in 2007. Preregistration for this year's CIBTM was 6,300, or 17 percent more than in 2007. Next year's CIBTM (click here for more information) again will be held at Beijing's CNCC, Sept. 7-9, 2010.