May 28, 2008

According to a report from Smith Travel Research, hotel occupancies are down compared to the same period last year, but the average daily rate has increased. The average occupancy for January through April 2008 fell 2.1 percent to 59.2 percent compared with the same period in 2007. The average daily rate, however, increased 4.7 percent to $108.01.

Marriott International has launched several environmental initiatives to help meeting planners offset their meetings' carbon footprint, including a menu of eco-friendly products and a commitment to make cash contributions to protect the Amazon rainforest. According to Marriott's estimates, the average three-day meeting for 1,000 people produces 12 tons of trash, uses 200,000 kilowatts of power and consumes 100,000 gallons of water. To assist planners in reducing these numbers, meeting room options at several Marriott brands now include biodegradable pens and notepads made from recycled materials, specially designed linenless tables, name-tag reuse programs and options to use organic flowers. Also, for qualified "green" meetings booked between July 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009, and held by Dec. 31, 2011, Marriott will make a cash donation equal to 5 percent of the total cost of the group's guest rooms to the Brazilian state of Amazonas to fund an environmental management plan. Groups of 10 sleeping rooms or more, booked directly through the hotel's sales associate, qualify. The brands taking part in the green initiatives include JW Marriott Hotels, Marriott Hotels and Resorts, and Renaissance Hotels and Resorts.

Starting June 15, American Airlines passengers who purchase economy tickets for domestic travel (including Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands) will be charged $15 each way for their first checked bag, and $25 each way for their second. Passengers still can bring one personal item (briefcase, laptop bag, purse) plus one carry-on bag onto the plane for free. Frontier Airlines also has announced baggage fee changes, effective for tickets purchased on or after June 10. The first checked bag still will be free, but the second checked bag will cost $25 each way. Frontier also increased other fees, including those for paper tickets (from $25 to $35), checked scuba equipment (from $0 to $100) and, believe it or not, checked antlers (from $75 to $100).

Asian Coast Development, a Canadian developer, announced plans last week for a multibillion-dollar, 9,000-room luxury beachfront casino resort destination in southern Vietnam, about 50 miles southwest of Ho Chi Minh City. Dubbed the Ho Tram Strip, the 415-acre project will become Vietnam's largest tourism development. Plans call for a 1,100-room hotel with a casino and a Greg Norman-designed golf course, both to debut in 2010. The following year, another 1,300 rooms and a second casino will open in a separate resort. In all, the Ho Tram Strip will comprise five integrated resorts, a convention center, a marina, a spa, a "holistic wellness center," a tennis academy, restaurants and retail stores, all to be built over the next decade.

The International Association of Exhibitions and Events is warning its members about a Mexican company it says is trying to scam exhibitors out of thousands of dollars under the guise of collecting information for a "free listing" in an exhibitor directory for IAEE's annual meeting. Expo-Guide has sent letters to exhibitors requesting companies to "confirm the accuracy" of their directory listing, but the form's fine print reveals that anyone who signs and returns the paperwork agrees to pay more than US$1,500 per year for three years for an advertisement in the directory. Although the Expo-Guide letter states it is not affiliated with IAEE, Steven Hacker, the association's president, believes the company's conduct constitutes "an unfair infringement and improper intrusion into the business affairs" of IAEE and is designed to mislead exhibitors who do not read the form carefully. Hacker suspects that Expo-Guide is affiliated with Austria-based Construct Data Verlag, a company that has used similar methods on IAEE exhibitors in the past. Expo-Guide could not be reached by phone and did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment. IAEE has sent a letter to Expo-Guide demanding that it cease solicitation of information from IAEE exhibitors.

The Glorypark development in Arlington, Texas, is on hold, as financing was not secured in time for a recent deadline. The $600 million project, next to the Texas Rangers' ballpark and near the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, was going to feature a 300-room Westin property and a 140-room Aloft hotel, as well as restaurants and retail outlets. According to a source at the Arlington Convention and Visitors Bureau, it looks like the Westin still will be built. As reported in the Dallas Business Journal, developer Tom Hicks said, "We have put an enormous amount of time and money into Glorypark. We will pursue alternative funding options."