April 16, 2008

A living wage law requiring hotel workers at 12 properties near Los Angles International Airport to be paid nearly $10 an hour finally will be implemented, as a result of last week's state supreme court decision not to review an appeal made by the properties' general managers. This marks what appears to be the end of a yearlong effort to appeal the law. Ruben Gonzales, executive director of the Hotel Association of Los Angeles, says that in light of the supreme court decision, the hotels are reviewing their options. One possible course of action is to challenge the law on its merits. "The city passing a regulation that includes just 12 Century Corridor hotels is not equal treatment under the law," he said. Unless more legal action causes further delay, the ordinance will go into effect 30 days following its final publication, which is expected to occur within the next two weeks.

The 210-room Westin Hunstville (Ala.) opened Saturday. The property offers 10,964 square feet of meeting space, including a 7,000-square-foot ballroom, a Heavenly Spa by Westin, the Sage Grille restaurant, a pool and a business center. The hotel is part of the Bridge Street Town Centre mixed-use development featuring numerous retail, dining and entertainment outlets.

Omni Hotels has announced that as of Jan. 1, when the new Omni Fort Worth (Texas) opens, the property will become the exclusive caterer for the Fort Worth Convention Center. The 608-room hotel will offer 48,000 square feet of meeting space of its own.

The 398-room Overland Park Marriott, south of Kansas City, Kan., is undergoing a $20 million renovation that will upgrade all guest rooms and 14,000 square feet of meeting space when completed in September. The revamp of the ballroom will begin in August. The hotel will remain open throughout the process.

InterContinental Hotels Group will open a 194-room Crowne Plaza near Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport late this year, a conversion of the existing Ramada Inn and Conference Center. The hotel has 29,000 square feet of meeting space. Amenities include a 24-hour fitness center, a business center, an airport shuttle, a restaurant and an Executive Club floor with its own lounge.

The 202-room Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, a historic property set on 15,000 acres in northern New Hampshire, is in the middle of a major restoration that will create more modern accommodations and more flexible meeting space. The resort's 7,200 square feet of meeting space was renovated and reopened last December, and this year the property will begin work on upgrading roughly half of its guest rooms. Among the recreational amenities at the resort: an 18-hole Donald Ross golf course, boating, fly-fishing, and hiking and mountain-biking trails.

Duncan O'Rourke has been named the new chief operating officer of Kempinski Hotels & Resorts, effective June 1. O'Rourke takes over from Michael Novatin, who has been tapped to head up the management team of Shaza Hotels, a joint venture between Kempinski and Guidance Financial Group that was launched in 2006.

The 340-room Agua Caliente Casino Resort & Spa near Palm Springs, Calif., opens this weekend. The $300 million property includes a 10,500-square-foot spa, a steak house, a cafe and a 13,000-square-foot conference center. In late 2008, a 2,000-seat entertainment venue will debut at the resort.