by By the M&C Staff | September 30, 2009

American Express released its 2010 Global Business Travel Forecast on Wednesday, in a presentation that was, for the first time, broadcast via telepresence from studios in New York, Mexico City and London. Use of the technology underscored one of the forecast's central themes: The new mindset in corporate travel is to consider the various options available to connect with business partners globally. Even as the economy is expected to improve in the coming year, indicated Global Travel Services president Charles Petruccelli, companies will look at travel as an investment more than a cost, and take those trips that are most strategically beneficial.
   Globally, American Express believes airfare will increase slightly in 2010, due in large part to pent-up demand and decreased supply. The company predicts domestic/short-haul (economy) fares will go up between 0 and 5 percent globally, and international/long-haul (business class) will increase from 1 to 6 percent. In North America, domestic fares are forecast to rise between 2 and 7 percent, while international fare increases should match the global average. Mid-range hotel rates, meanwhile, are predicted to change from a 3 percent drop to a 2 percent rise globally; upper-range hotel rates may change between a 4 percent drop and a 1 percent increase. North American properties rates are expected to fall 1 to 4 percent for mid-range hotels and decline by 3 to 6 percent in the upper range. Asia Pacific suppliers should fare best globally; it's the only region for which increases are called for in both airfare and hotel rates.

The Motivation Show to Change Format
Beginning next year, the Motivation Show will host only a two-day trade show, saving the third day just for education. The conference sessions will be held Oct. 12 and the trade show will run Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 13 and 14, extending the schedule an hour each day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This will save setup costs for exhibitors, as they no longer will have to prepare over the weekend. Also, the show now will be held in Chicago's McCormick Place West instead of South, to take advantage of its Wi-Fi capabilities, among other reasons.

Union Issues Heat Up in Boston and Chicago
Of 98 housekeepers fired from Boston-area Hyatt hotels, 77 have rejected the company's offer to place them in jobs with a staffing company. According to the Boston Globe, the employees, who were earning $15 an hour, were let go from the Hyatt Regency Boston, the Hyatt Harborside and the Hyatt Regency Cambridge and replaced with workers from an Atlanta staffing company charging $8 an hour. For more on the story, visit Last Thursday, in solidarity with the Boston workers, approximately 200 supporters staged a peaceful protest in front of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Chicago. Since Aug. 31, about 6,000 union hotel workers at more than 30 hotels in Chicago have been in negotiations over a new contract; however, talks with hotel companies have grown contentious. In particular, according to a spokesperson for Unite Here Local 1 in Chicago, the contract put forth by Hyatt did not include adequate health-care benefits. In a statement concerning the Chicago demonstration, Hyatt officials said, "We have come to every discussion in good faith and will continue to do so. The Hyatt hotels in Chicago will continue to offer a competitive wage and benefit package." Also on Thursday, a rally was held in San Francisco by 1,700 union employees and supporters, organized by Unite Here Local 2, the chapter representing about 9,000 hotel workers who have been working without a contract since last month. Two hotels in Union Square, the Grand Hyatt and the Westin St. Francis, were involved.

CIC Partners With MPI to Upgrade CMP
The Convention Industry Council and Meeting Professionals International have teamed up to revamp the Certified Meeting Professional designation. Enhancements will include more emphasis on how meetings bring return on investment and return on objectives; MPI also is investing in the program to further roll it out to the international marketplace.

New LEED-Certified Ritz-Carlton Opens in Charlotte
The 146-room Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte (N.C.), opens Thursday in the city's Uptown neighborhood. The hotel is the first purpose-built, LEED-certified hotel for Ritz-Carlton and for Charlotte. The property offers a 13,000-square-foot Wellness Center, 12,000 square feet of meeting space and a 140-seat outpost of chef Laurent Tourondel's BLT Steak. Environmental innovations at the Ritz-Carlton include a green roof with 18,000 plants, which help insulate the building and slow rain run-off; complimentary parking for hybrid cars, and employee uniforms made from fabric derived from recycled plastic bottles.

Bonnet Creek Development Opens in Orlando
Opening on Thursday are the 1,000-room Hilton Orlando-Bonnet Creek, the 497-room Waldorf Astoria Orlando and the Rees Jones-designed Waldorf Astoria Golf Club at the 482-acre Bonnet Creek Resort development, bordered by the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. The area features a dozen restaurants and bars, including Bull & Bear Steakhouse, Peacock Alley and La Luce, headed up by renowned Northern California chef Donna Scala. A total of 122,000 square feet of meeting space is available at the Hilton, as well as a two-acre lagoon pool and the private outdoor retreat venue Bonnet Creek Island. The Waldorf Astoria features a 24,000-square-foot Waldorf Astoria Spa by Guerlain, a 4,000-square-foot fitness center and 28,000 square feet of its own meeting space.

Renovations Unveiled at Sheraton Boston Hotel
A $50 million revamp has been completed at the 1,216-room Sheraton Boston Hotel. The North Tower's 700 guest rooms were redesigned, and the lobby was updated and is now called The Park. The South Tower rooms were renovated a few years ago. The Sheraton has 70,000 square feet of meeting space and is connected to the Prudential Center and the Hynes Convention Center.

Hotel Indicator Increases for Fourth Straight Month

Economic research firm and Smith Travel Research announced Tuesday that their U.S. hotel industry leading indicator rose 1.7 percent in August, the fourth consecutive month the HIL has increased. The HIL takes into account nine components, including hotel profitability, interest rate spread, new orders for manufactured goods and national vacation barometer. The HIL usually leads industry activity by four to five months; this means that because the HIL has increased for the past four months, an industry upswing could be imminent, according to the forecasters.

Airline Industry

British Airways Launches All-Business Flights From New York City to London
Yesterday, British Airways began all-business-class service from New York City's JFK International Airport to London City Airport. Two reconfigured Airbus A318s, with 32 lie-flat beds, make the trip twice daily. This is the first all-business-class service to launch since the high-profile failures in late 2007 and 2008 of three business-class airlines, Silverjet, Eos Airlines and Maxjet.

Airline Baggage Fees Increased 275 Percent in Q2 2009

According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, revenue collected by U.S. airlines from baggage fees increased 275 percent in the second quarter of this year vs. the second quarter of 2008. The two carriers that collected the most from the fees in the second quarter of 2009 were American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, both of which earned $118 million on the charges. Total baggage fees for the second quarter of 2009 were $669 million, vs. $178 million for the same period in 2008.

Convention and Visitor Bureaus
Peoria Area CVB Head Resigns

On Friday, Brent Lonteen resigned as president and CEO of the Peoria Area (Ill.) Convention and Visitors Bureau. Rick Edward, the bureau's chairman of the board, will assume leadership duties in the interim. The board has initiated a search to fill the post, but a specific timeline has not yet been established.

W New York Downtown Hotel & Residences Tops Off
Last Tuesday, New York City-based real estate development company The Moinian Group topped off the W New York Downtown Hotel & Residences. The 58-story property includes a 217-room hotel and 223 condominiums. Amenities include 1,933 square feet of meeting space, the Sweat Fitness Center, the Living Room lobby lounge area, a spa and a restaurant. The hotel is scheduled to open in early 2010.

Public Financing Could Pay for Nashville's Headquarters Hotel
According to The Tennessean, the Nashville city government might need to use public financing for its proposed $300 million, 1,000-room Marriott Marquis convention center headquarters hotel if private financing cannot be secured. The new hotel will complement the new $600 convention center, set to open in 2013. Nashville has hired two development companies in Colorado and Atlanta to securing financing for, as well as to design and build, the hotel. The city council was set to discuss the matter yesterday.

Colorado Resort Earns Silver LEED Certification
The Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa in Avon, Colo., part of the Beaver Creek resort, has been awarded Silver LEED Certification, the first hotel in Colorado and only the ninth in the country to do so. The year-old property is 100 percent smoke-free, and 50 percent of its electricity comes from renewable sources. During construction, low- and nonemitting paints, adhesives and carpets were used; 40 percent of the building materials and products came from within 500 miles of the hotel, and 10 percent of the building materials were made of postconsumer/industrial-recycled content (for instance, the roof tiles were made from recycled tires). The Westin offers 210 suites and condos, a spa and Restaurant Avondale. The 4,200 square feet of meeting space brings in natural light through floor-to-ceiling windows, and an outdoor terrace overlooks the Eagle River.

Luxury Australian Resort Debuts

Opening Oct. 1 is the Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, on the Great Dividing Range of Australia's Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, about three hours from Sydney. The 40-suite Emirates Hotels & Resorts property was built to stringent environmental standards and is surrounded by two national parks. Meeting facilities are available for up to 90 people, and the spa features six treatment rooms. Activities include guided wildlife walks, four-wheel-drive safaris, mountain biking and more.

New Hard Rock Hotel Opens in Penang, Malaysia

The 233-room Hard Rock Hotel Penang opened last week in Malaysia. The property is on five acres of beach at Batu Ferringhi, on the northern coast of Penang. Features include a 26,000-square-foot swimming pool, a Hard Rock Café, a live concert venue and 6,550 square feet of meeting space.

Baton Rouge Hotel to Become a Hotel Indigo

Renovations to the former Hotel King in downtown Baton Rouge, La., will turn the property into a 93-room Hotel Indigo. The $25 million project, to finish up in late 2010, will offer complimentary Wi-Fi, a 24-hour business center, a fitness studio, one small meeting space, and the Phi Bar and Bistro.

San Diego Resort Closes for Renovation
The 217-room Handlery Hotel and Resort in San Diego will close Nov. 23 for three months, to undergo a $4 million renovation. Hotel workers will regain their jobs when the property reopens in late February. The hotel's lobby and meeting space will be refurbished, and all guest rooms will be upgraded, including the addition of 37-inch flat-screen TVs.

Florida Tennis Resort Closes
On Monday, the 234-room Colony Beach & Tennis Resort in Longboat Key, Fla., suspended operations indefinitely, due to an unresolved financial dispute between hotel management and the Condominium Unit Owner Association Board. The Colony Spa, the Monkey Room Patio and the Colony Shops all have suspended operations, but The Colony Dining Room will remain open. Management hopes to reopen once the dispute is resolved.

Long Beach, N.Y., Hotel Opens
The 121-room Allegria Hotel & Spa has debuted in Long Beach, N.Y. Amenities include the Atlantica Restaurant & Bar, the L'Onda Lounge, a 3,182-square-foot ballroom, three meeting rooms and a fitness center. In the first quarter of 2010, the 10,000-square-foot Allegria Spa and an infinity pool will open.

U.S. Hotel Performance Continued to Slide in August
Although demand is showing signs of stabilization, according to Smith Travel Research, the company's data shows U.S. hotels experienced further declines in August. Occupancy fell 9.9 percent over last August, to 60.7 percent for the month. Average daily rate dipped just a bit more than 10 percent, to $96.58, and revenue per available room dropped 19 percent, to $58.65. All of the top 25 markets experienced decreased performance over last year.

Dreams Riviera Cancún to Open Thursday
The 486-room Dreams Riviera Cancún is slated to open tomorrow, Oct. 1, near Playa del Carmen and about 30 minutes from Cancún on Mexico's Riviera Maya. The all-inclusive luxury property features nine international restaurants, six bars, a spa and a fitness center. The property offers more than 8,300 square feet of meeting space, including a 7,200-square-foot ballroom.

GetThere Announces New Collaboration Suite
Travel technology provider GetThere has announced Collaboration Suite, a collection of tools designed to maximize return on investment for travel and virtual meeting services that will be available by the end of the year. The new solution indicates GetThere's intention to move from "travel management" to "collaboration management" -- and therefore help travel and meetings departments to manage web, audio and videoconferencing, plus business-oriented social media, in addition to travel booking. The Collaboration Suite includes a return on invested collaboration calculator, which provides fiscally responsible collaboration/travel options; cubeless, the social-networking community platform developed by Sabre; GetThere Meetings, the meetings booking and management platform; and collaboration inventory management, which automates the shopping and booking of collaboration services, such as air travel or videoconferencing.

StarCite Partners With Acclaim Meetings, Valorem Group
StarCite, which provides online meetings management solutions, is partnering with meetings and marketing organization Acclaim Meetings. StarCite will power AcclaimCite, a branded version of StarCite's sourcing and management tools for use by Acclaim's network of independent planners and travel agents. StarCite also announced a partnership with Valorem Group, which provides sales and marketing services to international hotels, resorts and destination management companies. Through the agreement, StarCite Destination Solutions will be better able to service corporate and incentive meeting planners in site selection.