March 26, 2008

On Sunday, the historic Open Skies Treaty between the United States and the European Union will go into effect, allowing airlines to fly without restriction between any American and European destinations. (Intra-U.S. travel will remain restricted to domestic carriers, though talks are under way to do away with this rule as well.) In response to this treaty, British Airways is readying the launch of its new "premium" transatlantic airline, called OpenSkies, which will begin flights between Paris and New York City this summer. The airline will add new routes and planes through 2009.

A new hotel is planned for inside the IBM building in downtown Chicago. LaSalle Hotel Properties and Oxford OG Hospitality Chicago have purchased 12 floors of the tower and intend to convert the space into a "super luxury hotel" with up to 335 rooms, according to a LaSalle announcement last week. The building, along the river two blocks west of Michigan Avenue, will be outfitted with a separate entrance for hotel guests and exclusive hotel elevators. Although designs are not final, current plans call for 17,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 5,000-square-foot ballroom with river views, and a 9,000-square-foot restaurant. Developers will strive for silver LEED certification and expect to open the hotel in 2010.

The Sheraton Yankee Trader in Fort Lauderdale Beach, Fla., will close June 1 to undergo renovations and will reopen in February 2009 as the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort. The rebranded resort will include 433 guest rooms, 32,000 square feet of meeting space, a Heavenly Spa by Westin, a Starbucks and a 4,000 square-foot rooftop terrace.

The Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta has postponed and canceled several meetings and conventions this week in order to make repairs to its tornado-ravaged exterior. The Clinical Laboratory Management Association ThinkLab '08 Conference and Exhibition and the Central Atlanta Progress Meeting have been postponed until further notice, and the ING Georgia Marathon and Fitness Expo on March 30 has been moved to the Georgia Dome. Officials for the center said they are developing a timeline for the repairs and are confident that three large meetings in the coming weeks will go on as scheduled: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Auto Show (April 19-27), FIRST Robotics (April 16-19) and the DECA International Career Development Conference (April 26-29). Shows going on as scheduled this week include the International Window Coverings Expo and the National Propane Gas Association's Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo. Officials said no damage estimates have been calculated yet, but a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution estimated the center suffered at least $100 million in damages.