July 09, 2008

On Sunday, The Times-Picayune reported that the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau has been "quietly floating" a proposal to fold the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. and the New Orleans Multicultural Tourism Network into the CVB. The Times-Picayune also said a summary of the proposal called for changing the CVB's name to New Orleans & Co. and marrying its marketing and advertising to that of the Superdome and the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the CVB, told M&C that The Times-Picayune mischaracterized the tenor of the proposal, which was leaked to the newspaper. The two organizations would not be dissolved, Perry said, rather, "The New Orleans Marketing Corp. head would be the chief marketing officer of New Orleans & Co." -- which, he confirmed, is the possible name for the reorganized bureau -- "while the Multicultural Tourism Network head would be a vice president." Perry added, "Virtually all of the major industry leaders are on board" with the proposal, and this major reorganization would be ready in two to three months. The goal, Perry said, is to "create a unified hospitality sales and marketing organization that will be a new, 21st-century version of a CVB."

Planners and suppliers from more than 46 countries, including the United States, are split on how they think the economy will affect the meetings sector, according to a poll conducted by the organizers of IMEX, the international industry trade show held annually in Frankfurt, Germany. Forty-eight percent of those polled were optimistic, while 52 percent thought the current climate would have a negative effect on the marketplace. The e-mail survey of 515 respondents, including corporate buyers, third-party planners, association leaders, suppliers and other industry professionals, was conducted after the 2008 show, which was held April 21-23. When asked specifically about incentive programs, 59 percent of those polled said difficult economic circumstances could be advantageous.

Last Wednesday, several state parks and lodging facilities in northern California's Big Sur valley, 160 miles south of San Francisco, were issued a mandatory evacuation notice due to a wildfire that has been burning in the area for approximately two weeks. According to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, as of Monday evening, more than 80,000 acres have burned, and since June 20, more than 600,000 acres have burned across California. State parks in the Big Sur area that are closed include Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Andrew Molera State Park and Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park. The 20-room Deetjen's Big Sur Inn, the 61-room Big Sur Lodge, the 60-room Ventana Inn & Spa and the 31-room Post Ranch Inn remain closed as well. According to updates posted on the properties' websites, no structural damage had occurred as of Monday. Though most of the hotels could not be reached for comment, a spokesperson for the Ventana Inn & Spa said the projected reopening date for the inn is Aug. 1, and refunds will be issued to all guests and groups affected by the closure.

Some 1,500 hotel workers from four of Montreal's largest hotels -- the 456-room Delta Montreal, the 605-room Hyatt Regency, the 825-room LeæCentre Sheraton and the 1,039-room Fairmont Queen Elizabeth -- staged a 24-hour strike last Friday. Individual negotiations between each hotel and Quebec's Confederation of National trade union continue this week, and if no progress is made, a more prolonged strike might be called. At issue are the working conditions of housekeeping employees, who are asking that the daily number of rooms to be cleaned per person be reduced from 14 to 13. Other sticking points include wages and pension plans.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled last Thursday that Florida Gov. Charlie Crist had no legal right to forge the gambling compact he made last November with the Seminole Indian Tribe, which owns seven casinos in the state. The agreement gave the tribe sole rights to offer class III, Las Vegas-style slots, blackjack and baccarat in Florida. The court stopped short of ordering the tribe to remove the machines, but that decision could be made by other governing bodies on the state or federal level. A spokesperson for the tribe told M&C that at the moment "there is no change in the games. The Seminole Tribe is studying their options, and any resolution will take months."

The 605-room Sofitel London Heathrow has opened. Connected to Heathrow Airport's recently opened Terminal 5, the property has 41 meeting rooms, a 117-seat theater and three high-tech boardrooms with private dining facilities.

Walt Disney World announced last week that the nightclubs at Downtown Disney will be closed to "re-imagine Pleasure Island with new shopping, dining and other experiences," according to the company's website. By Sept. 28, all the nightclubs will be closed, including 8 Trax, The Adventurer's Club, Mannequins Dance Palace, BET Sound-Stage Club, Motion and The Comedy Warehouse. Shops, restaurants and other family-friendly establishments will replace the clubs by 2010.