June 18, 2008

Approximately 300 to 350 food-service workers at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center will stage a three-day strike beginning June 21, according to Brian Lang, vice president and chief negotiator for Unite HERE Local 26, which represents workers employed by Aramark, the centers' food-service provider. The employees, who have been without a contract since October, are protesting Aramark's "unfair labor practices," Lang said, including the termination of two workers who allegedly were involved with union activities and the intimidation of others. Complaints have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board. An Aramark spokesperson declined to comment on specifics relating to the Boston negotiations. According to the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority's convention calendar, events that could be affected include the Boston Health & Fitness Expo 2008, a two-day public trade show expected to attract 50,000 people, and the Drug Information Association's annual meeting, expected to draw 8,500 attendees.

Because of last week's unprecedented flooding in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, by the town's namesake river, the Cedar Rapids Convention and Visitors Bureau is closed temporarily. Calls to the bureau were not answered, but a recorded message said the bureau would soon announce its temporary headquarters. All hotel rooms in Cedar Rapids currently are being occupied by flood-relief workers. For more information, check www.cedar-rapids.org and www.corridorrecovery.org, or call (800) 735-5557.

The $430 million expansion of the Casino Windsor, a Harrah's casino resort across the river from downtown Detroit, will open on Thursday and be rebranded as Caesars Windsor. A new 369-room hotel tower brings the property's total to 758 guest rooms, and new meeting rooms give the resort a total of 100,000 square feet of meeting space. Billy Joel will inaugurate a new 5,000-seat theater at Thursday's grand opening.

Last week, Broward County, Fla., commissioners approved a new financing plan for the development of a 1,000-room anchor hotel for the Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center. The Hilton-branded property has been plagued with numerous roadblocks; during the past few weeks, tourism officials and development partners have been scrambling to keep the project alive after the Florida attorney general ruled it would be illegal to use bed taxes for construction costs, as had been planned. The LEED-certified property, which will open in 2012, will have 50,000 square feet of meeting space and a 12,000-square-foot spa.

Reed Travel Exhibitions has pushed back the date of its first hosted buyer trade show in North America for meeting and incentive planners from June 2009 to June 2010, according to Paul Kennedy, RTE's group exhibition director, meeting and incentive events. The show's venue and destination have not yet been announced, but Kennedy told M&C it would still be held in a destination on the East Coast, as was reported earlier this year.

The 1,316-room Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C., has completed its year-long, $100 million renovation, which added a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, bringing the hotel's total meeting and event space to 195,000 square feet. Other improvements include wireless Internet access in all meeting rooms, as well as the addition of an on-site FedEx/Kinkos office to assist meeting planners throughout their events.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has opened two new properties in Europe: the Four Seasons Hotel Florence in Italy and the Four Seasons Istanbul (Turkey) at the Bosphorus. The 117-room Four Seasons Hotel Florence encompasses two restored historical buildings -- the 15th-century Palazzo della Gherardesca and 16th-century Palazzo Coventino. The property's meeting facilities include a ballroom and a banquet hall housed in the former church of the Palazzo Conventino; it also has a spa with nine treatment rooms and extensive gardens that can be used for outdoor events. The new 166-room Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus is a renovated 19th-century Ottoman palace. The property has two ballrooms,æsix meeting rooms, the 10,764-square-foot Wedding Garden that can accommodate a variety of outdoor events, a hammam (Turkish bath) and a spa with nine treatment rooms.

The Convention Industry Council, the International Association of Conference Centers, the Professional Convention Management Association and Content Management Corp. are joining up to offer a CMP International Study Day on July 18. Participants will gather in IACC-accredited conference centers across North America to prepare for the Certified Meeting Professional exam that is scheduled for Aug. 9 and is administered by the CIC. The sites are the BMO Institute for Learning in Toronto; the Doubletree Hotel & Executive Meeting Center in Bethesda, Md.; the Pacific Palms Resort, Industry Hills, Calif.; the Renaissance Denver Hotel & Conference Center; the St. Louis Executive Conference Center; Georgia Tech Hotel & Conference Center in Atlanta; Hamilton Park Hotel & Conference Center in Florham Park, N.J.; and the Summit Executive Centre in Chicago. In other news, the CIC has welcomed a new member organization, the Travel Industry Association. The CIC now represents 34 meetings, conventions, exhibitions and hospitality industry organizations.