by By the M&C Staff | October 28, 2009

The Imex Group will launch IMEX America, a hosted-buyer trade show for the meetings, incentives and events industry, Oct. 11-13, 2011, at the Sands Expo Convention Center in Las Vegas. The show has the support of major industry associations, including Meeting Professionals International (which Ray Bloom, chairman of the Imex Group, called a "strategic partner"), Site (which will hold its 2011 annual conference in Las Vegas Oct. 13-15, immediately following IMEX America), Destination Management Association International and the American Society of Association Executives, which will hold an education day for association planners on Oct. 10. Bloom told M&C  that show dates for 2012 and 2013 have been set, again for the Sands Center. Initially, he anticipates the show will host 1,500 buyers, with 80 percent coming from North America. His organization launched IMEX-Frankfurt, the European version of the show held each spring in Germany, in 2003. The move comes just weeks after Reed Travel Exhibitions announced it would hold its first North American hosted-buyer trade show in Baltimore, June  21-23, 2011 (after having pushed the date back twice from its original targeted debut of June 2009). The IMEX Group and Reed have been fiercely competitive in Europe: Reed acquired the hosted buyer trade show EIBTM, held in December in Barcelona since 2004, from Bloom before he set up IMEX-Frankfurt once his noncompete clause expired. Bloom's announcement also comes on the heels of the news that the Chicago-based Motivation Show, which had been the U.S. largest meetings industry trade show, would be scaling back its exhibition from three days to two beginning next year.

When asked what MPI's strategic partnership entails, including how this would affect MPI's current offerings, Bloom declined specific comment and asked M&C to contact MPI for details. In response, MPI president Bruce MacMillan told M&C, "There will always be a marketplace experience at MPI live events. Just as we have moved away from a traditional trade show at MeetDifferent 2010 based on member feedback, we will also continue to evolve our WEC marketplace experience to be reflective of member needs at the time. With the economy recovering we need to create more marketplace opportunities for our members, not less."

Chicago Hotel Workers Authorize Strike
According to Unite Here, the union representing hotel employees, members working at five Starwood properties in Chicago  -- the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, Westin Michigan Avenue, W Lakeshore, W Chicago-City Center and Tremont Hotel -- voted to authorize a strike by an 89 percent majority. The vote authorizes the bargaining committee to call a strike, if necessary. A union spokesperson told the Chicago Tribune that if contract negotiations drag on, similar votes could take place at downtown Hyatt and Hilton hotels. Union contracts covering 6,000 workers at 31 hotels in downtown Chicago expired on Aug. 31. The spokesperson said Starwood was pinpointed because it has been particularly vocal in blaming the economy for cutbacks, an argument the union has criticized. He added that health-insurance guidelines proposed by Starwood would mean about 50 percent of hotel workers would no longer be eligible for coverage. Jim Franczek, Starwood's chief negotiator, told the paper that hotels have been hard hit by the recession.

W Boston Hotel Opens
The 235-room W Boston opened Thurdsay morning just off Boston Common. The $234 million property offers about 4,100 square feet of meeting space and the Sweat fitness center; a full-service Bliss Spa will open in January, and the underground Descent bar will debut a few weeks later. Food is served up at the Living Room and Market by Jean-Georges.

Trade Show Associations Launch Exhibit Industry Council
Five trade show industry associations -- the Healthcare Exhibitors Association; the Trade Show Exhibitors Association; the Corporate Event Marketers Association; Exhibit Designers + Producers Association, and the Exhibitor Appointed Contractor Association -- have formed the Exhibit Industry Council in response to rising concerns from exhibitors that business practices in the industry are leading to an unsustainable business model. "The EIC's goal is to unify all trade show industry stakeholders to support reputable, consistent standards through the use of best practices that support world-class service at trade shows," according to Eric Allen, executive vice president of the Healthcare Exhibitors Association. The group, which will meet quarterly, plans to develop and promote a set of trade show best practices.

ACCME Reviewing Policies Concerning Bias in CME
As reported last week in The New York Times, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education is reviewing policies concerning the council's efforts to keep pharmaceutical industry bias out of the continuing medical education coursework required of doctors. Dr. Murray Kopelow, chief executive of the ACCME, told the Times that the organization intended to publish a list of classes and companies that violated the organization's rules against commercial bias. The exact timing and nature of that action currently is under consideration by the board of directors, according to the ACCME. Also under review is a proposal that CME providers must notify doctors and provide corrective materials when it is determined that any class material was biased in favor of a drug firm. The board's review of these policies is happening concurrently with mounting government pressure to curb commercial bias, as well as scrutiny of whether the pharmaceutical industry will continue to sponsor medical education to the extent it has in the past.

Nashville Uses Eminent Domain to Gain Convention Center Land
Last week, The Tennessean reported that Nashville's Metro Development and Housing Agency has filed suit in county circuit court to acquire by eminent domain certain properties needed for the new, 1.2 million-square-foot, $600 million convention center. Seven property owners are named in the suit. The MDHA's development director said his agency would continue to negotiate with the property owners even though eminent domain proceedings had begun.

ACTE Exec Director Gurley Resigns
Susan Gurley, executive director of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, will step down on Dec. 1, announced ACTE president Richard Crum on Tuesday, during the association's global conference in Prague, Czech Republic. Gurley has accepted a position with a cause-based advocacy organization she declined to name. She will assist with the transition process until the end of the year; deputy executive director Megan Costello will serve as interim director until the board finds a replacement. The news comes a day after ACTE's announcement that BCD Travel sales executive Chris Crowley will become president-elect as of Jan. 1, 2010, and will succeed Richard Crum as president in May. Crowley, BCD's senior vice president sales, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific, will be ACTE's first European president. He has 18 years of experience in the travel industry and served as sales director for various hotel companies before joining BCD in 2005.

Labor Disputes in San Francisco and Chicago Continue
Last Thursday, 92 percent of more than 3,000 union hotel workers in San Francisco represented by Unite Here Local 2 voted to authorize strikes against 31 of the city's hotels. According to a statement from Local 2, the union has met with representatives from Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, Hilton Worldwide, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts to discuss various contract proposals, all of which result in increasing workloads and health-care costs for workers. Meanwhile on Monday, hundreds of members of Unite Here Local 1, which represents about 6,000 hotel workers in downtown Chicago, picketed at the Congress Hotel, the site of a six-year-long strike against inadequate wages and high health-care costs. According to Local 1, a vote by workers at five downtown hotels on whether to strike took place yesterday and today. Results of the vote are expected tonight. When asked to comment on the situations in Chicago and San Francisco, Hyatt responded with the following statement: "Just as Hyatt strives to be the preferred hotel company for our guests, we are committed to being the employer of choice among current and potential employees. That means we focus every day on being a great place to work, offering competitive wages and benefits, great training and growth opportunities. Creating an environment that attracts great people and enables them to thrive is a critical part of how we deliver authentic hospitality. The process of negotiating a contract with our unions is just beginning. We have made ourselves fully available for negotiations and have come to every discussion in good faith and will continue to do so."

LAX to Undergo $1.26 Billion Modernization

Last week, the Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners awarded $1.26 billion in contracts to redesign the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. Known as the Bradley West Project, the work will take four years and will include two parts: The first, dubbed the Bradley West Gates Project, includes the addition of nine new boarding gates, dual passenger loading bridges, concourses with larger passenger lounges, new tarmac areas and specialized equipment to accommodate new-generation aircraft, all to be completed by 2012. The second part, the Bradley West Core Improvements, will upgrade customs and border-protection facilities, build secure corridors between terminals 3 and 4, and add 1.25 million square feet of food, beverage and retail concessions. Work on the second part will finish in spring 2013.

W Scottsdale Avoids Foreclosure
Triyar Hospitality Scottsdale LLC, which owns the W Scottsdale Hotel, has reached an agreement with its lenders to restructure its debt and end foreclosure proceedings that began last January. The 224-room property opened in September 2008.

CEIR Releases Study on How Young Professionals View Exhibitions

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research has released "The Power of Exhibitions in the 21st Century -- Identify, Discover and Embrace Change from the Point of View of Young Professionals." The study was conducted in two phases: through on-site interviews with 300 young professional attendees, age 20-39, at 10 business-to-business exhibitions, and through an online survey of 1,200 young professionals who attended or had the opportunity to attend any exhibition related to their career in the past three years. Among the findings: 87 percent of those polled who expect an invitation to an exhibition in the next two years said they were very likely or somewhat likely to attend. The study, free to members of CEIR and $299 for nonmembers, can be downloaded here.

Airline Industry
Alaska Airlines Launches Seattle–Atlanta Flight
Last Friday, Alaska Airlines began daily nonstop service between Seattle and Atlanta. Through Nov. 11, the carrier will offer introductory one-way fares of $109 for travel taking place no earlier than Nov. 6 and no later than March 10, 2010.

Southwest Airlines to Service Six Cities From St. Louis
Beginning next May, Southwest Airlines will add nine daily flights to six new destinations from St. Louis' Lambert International Airport. The cities gaining flights from St. Louis are Nashville; Raleigh/Durham, N.C.; New Orleans; Los Angeles; Seattle, and San Diego.

Continental Airlines Joins Star Alliance
Continental Airlines has become the 25th member of the largest global airline network, Star Alliance. Continental had been part of the competing SkyTeam, the world's second-largest airline network. Members of Continental's OnePass frequent-flyer program now will be able to earn and redeem miles on other Star Alliance carriers. Planners arranging a trip on Continental also will be able to participate in Star Alliance's Conventions Plus discount program. For more on this program, click here.

Convention Centers
Raleigh Convention Center Achieves Silver LEED Certification
The year-old Raleigh Convention Center has received Silver LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, joining just six other U.S. convention centers that have reached that level of environmental sustainability. Originally, the RCC sought only basic LEED certification. The center has 150,000 square feet of exhibit space and 20 meeting rooms.

Convention and Visitor Bureaus
Monterey, Calif., Bureau Chief Departs

President and CEO Steve A. Wille of the Monterey County (Calif.) Convention and Visitors Bureau left his position, effective last Tuesday. The bureau cited the desire to pursue new challenges as the reason for his departure, though a local newspaper speculates that Wille was fired. A spokesperson for the bureau would not comment. Bob Cowdrey, a bureau board and executive-committee member, will serve as an interim strategic adviser and will assist in the search for a new president.

Saratoga (N.Y.) Bureau Chief Resigns
David Zunker, president of the Saratoga (N.Y.) Convention and Tourism Bureau, has resigned his post. According to the Albany Business Review, Zunker left the position because he was unable to sell his home in Columbia, S.C., where he served as vice president of the Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, leaving him with expenses accrued by owning two homes; also cited was the distance and separation from his family. The bureau's governing board is expected to begin a nationwide search for a new president.

Renovations Complete at Marriott Salt Lake City
About $7 million was spent in a revamp at the 504-room Marriott Salt Lake City Downtown. New beds, bedding and worktables were added to the guest rooms, along with plug-and-play hubs for connecting iPods and laptops to speakers and the Internet. The rooms also now feature 37-inch flat-screen TVs. The property offers 22,000 square feet of meeting space.

New Art Hotel Opens in Melbourne, Australia
The 113-suite Cullen hotel opens today in Melbourne, Australia, featuring works by native artist Adam Cullen throughout the building. The property, which has a rooftop conference space, is the first of three Art Series Hotels opening in the city. The 239-room Olsen, named for painter John Olsen, opens in March with several meeting rooms and a glass-bottomed pool; and the 207-room Blackman, featuring paintings by Charles Blackman, opens in April. Conference space at all three hotels is designed for groups of up to 100.

Bermuda's Elbow Beach Resort to Close Main Building
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group will shutter the 131-room main building of Elbow Beach Resort in Bermuda on Nov. 30 for a renovation. The property's 98 suites and cottages will remain available. The main building's F&B outlets also will close, leaving six operating dining and bar options. The project, parts of which should be completed by March, will add a new business center and transform the free-standing 1,344-square-foot Bermuda Room, a 1908 meeting venue. Elbow Beach has 10,000 square feet of meeting space.

STR's September Hotel Performance Shows Continued Slide
U.S. hotel performance results from Smith Travel Research were in line with the company's forecast and showed further evidence that the lodging industry is not experiencing an early recovery. Occupancy fell 6.3 percent over the previous year, to end the month at 56.7 percent. Average daily rate dropped 10.2 percent, to $96.67, and revenue per available room posted a 15.9 percent decrease, to $54.78. "While demand has begun to stabilize in the important Middle and South Atlantic regions," stated STR president Mark Lomanno in a release, "average room rates continue to be a drag on revenue generation. We will be very closely watching fourth-quarter results, anticipating incremental improvement in key indicators, even though we fully expect most results to still be negative."

Crowne Plaza Conversion Debuts in Dallas
The 300-room Crowne Plaza Dallas Downtown, a conversion of the Hampton Inn Dallas-West End-Convention Center, has debuted. About $14 million was spent to rebrand the property, which offers more than 22,000 square feet of meeting space. Added were the Ten15 Elm restaurant and the Thrive nightclub. The rooftop features a pool and panoramic views of downtown Dallas.

Embassy Suites Opens in Atlanta Suburb
On Monday, the 192-suite Embassy Suites Atlanta–Kennesaw Town Center opened in Kennesaw, Ga. The hotel is the first "Design Option III Prototype" by Embassy Suites to be built in the state. The new-build aims to be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly, and its suites have a more residential feel. The property has 7,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 5,500-square-feet ballroom, and a Ruth's Chris steak house.

Breining Joins Consulting Company
Terri Breining, CMP, CMM, has joined Global Marketing Services Inc. Breining brings more than 30 years of leadership and business experience in the meeting industry to GMS, having run her own global meeting management firm, Concepts Worldwide, for more than 20 years. In January, she will be inducted into the Convention Industry Council's Hall of Leaders for her lifetime contribution to the professional development of the industry. GMS helps form and facilitate customer advisory boards and focus groups, and its partners also provide services including custom-training programs for management, sales and front-line employees, as well as industry and university-level educational program development and execution.

Turks and Caicos Hotel Tax Increase Delayed
According to the Turks and Caicos Sun newspaper, a previously announced hotel tax increase, from 10 to 11 percent, has been delayed until Nov. 1. The tax had been set to go into effect on Oct. 1, which the executive director of the Turks and Caicos Hotel and Tourism Association argued had "blindsided" hoteliers.

Sydney, Australia, Welcomes New Event Space

Now open in Sydney, Australia, is the waterfront Darling Island Wharf, offering event space that seats up to 800, a kitchen suitable for cooking demonstrations, several smaller meeting spaces and views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. The ecologically friendly building is built from concrete made of recycled products, insulated with materials made without ozone-depleting gases, and equipped with high-performance glass to minimize heat loss.