March 05, 2008

Spurgeon Richardson, president and CEO of the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, will leave the bureau at the end of 2008 after 17 years of service.├ŽUnder Richardson, Atlanta was the first bureau to launch a destination website, according to the CVB, and to open a corporate development department. "Right now, we are forming our search, headed up by our previous ACVB chairman, Michael Robison," Gregory Pierce, the ACVB's executive vice president, told M&C. A firm will be hired to conduct a national search, which is expected to take three to six months. "No official candidates have been submitted, but we do believe there will be at least one internal candidate," said Pierce.

A new $1.6 billion international terminal for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport was approved Monday by the Atlanta City Council. Despite opposition from Delta Air Lines over the high cost of the 1.2 billion-square-foot terminal, the plan was passed unanimously. The terminal will take about three years to construct and will include 12 gates, a new parking garage and its own entrance off I-75.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts will build a 300-room St. Regis luxury hotel in Bahrain. Set to open in 2011, the property will have four restaurants, a large spa and more than 3,000 square feet of meeting space.

In an effort to increase the attractiveness of Hong Kong as a meetings destination, Hong Kong's financial secretary John Tsang said last week in his annual budget speech that the hotel tax will be waived for all travelers, a measure he estimates will cost the government US$60 million annually. Next, Tsang said he would earmark an additional US$19 million over the next five years to aid efforts to book large international conventions and trade shows. He also expressed a desire to upgrade the available hotel package in the city and said the government would offer up 10 sites to developers that were "restricted to hotel use."

Beijing Capital International Airport opened its gigantic new terminal last week, part of the preparations for this summer's Olympic Games. Three new concourses span more than 10 million square feet, and flights from British Airways and Qantas Airways, among others, already are operating out of the facility. At the end of March, the terminal will be fully operational, handling flights from many other international carriers, including Air China, Cathay Pacific Airways, Emirates, Lufthansa and United Airlines.

The historic 282-room Plaza Hotel in New York City reopened on Saturday, following a two-year, $400 million transformation. The hotel's Grand Ballroom, which seats 500 to 700 guests, reopened in January, with its neoclassical features restored, a new kitchen added, and revamped lighting and sound equipment. Included in the unveiling last week were 21,000 square feet of new meeting space. Amenities to debut later this year include a collection of boutiques, the Caudalie Spa, a fitness center, a salon and the reopening of the Oak Room and the Oak Bar.

During a Pinnacle Entertainment earnings call on Feb. 26, chairman and CEO Dan Lee said his company's plans to build a $2 billion casino resort on the former Sands site in Atlantic City are dependent on the improvements in the economy. "If credit markets don't improve, we won't build," said Lee. He went on to say that based on experience, he expects things to get better before Pinnacle's anticipated groundbreaking next year -- but that he isn't in any hurry. "If we have to wait a year until they improve, that is OK," Lee remarked. "The land is not going anywhere."