February 27, 2008

Former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka debuted two new resorts last week in Orlando under the brand Mike Ditka Resorts. The 192-room Runaway Beach Club Resort offers one-, two- and three-bedroom villas with kitchens; two pools, and a fitness center. The 80-room Lighthouse Key Resort has a spa, a 50-seat movie theatre, a 25,000-square-foot clubhouse, and two-, three- and four-bedroom villas. Both properties offer free shuttle service to Walt Disney World.

The 85-room Hotel at Naples (Fla.) Bay Resort opened last Thursday. The property offers 3,300 square feet of meeting space, a tennis center, a spa, the Olio restaurant and bar, two pools, a lazy river and a yacht club. Guest rooms include kitchens, flat-screen televisions and Bose entertainment systems.

The 486-room Orlando Airport Marriott received Florida's Green Lodging Certification last week. To deserve the accreditation, the hotel installed a linen-reuse program, low-flow faucets and showerheads, and a computerized Energy Management system with in-room programmable thermostats and sensor lighting.

According to the Denver Business Journal, a 400-room upscale hotel is being planned for a parking lot across the street from the Colorado Convention Center. Focus Property Group already owns the lot and has hired Hospitality Real Estate Consultants to find a developer.

Reopening Monday is the Stoneleigh Hotel and Spa in Dallas following a $36 million renovation. The historical 170-room property, which debuted in 1923, now offers a 5,200-square-foot spa and will have 6,000 square feet of meeting space when the 1,700-square-foot Terrace Ballroom opens next year. The penthouse, originally decorated by interior design pioneer Dorothy Draper, has been refurbished by her protege, Carleton Varney.

Hawthorn Suites has unveiled a room prototype aimed at making its extended-stay guests feel more at home. A new color scheme and more contemporary furnishings are part of the look, and all suites will feature the chain's signature Sweet Suite bed and two flat-screen televisions. As part of its overall strategy to grow the brand, Hawthorn Suites has expanded its national sales team and brought those employees in-house, so they can deliver increased support to the hotels. There are currently 100 Hawthorn Suites open or in the pipeline, including one each under construction in Augusta, Ga., and West Palm Beach, Fla.

The Shawmutt Inn, an independent hotel in downtown Boston near the TD Banknorth Garden arena, will be converted into a 72-room Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites in early summer, following a $2 million renovation. The property will not have dedicated meeting rooms.

The 170-room Novotel Edinburgh Park will open next month in Scotland. The property has six meeting rooms and a restaurant called Elements.

The 250-room Grand Cascades Lodge, the newest property at The Resorts at Crystal Springs in Hardyston, N.J., has unveiled six new meeting rooms ranging from 300 to 4,300 square feet. The decor reflects the stately design of the hotel, and the rooms are outfitted with ergonomic seating, remote-control drapes, built-in screens and LCD projectors. Grand Cascades Lodge is an hour's drive from Manhattan and Newark Liberty International Airport.

MTM Luxury Lodging is deploying Passkey group reservations technology at seven of its properties in the U.S. Planners will be able to use Passkey for events held at the Liberty Hotel in Boston; the Ivy Hotel in San Diego; Hotel 1,000 in Seattle; Woodmark Hotel Yacht Club & Spa in Kirkland, Wash.; Willows Lodge in Woodinville, Wash.; Alderbrook Resort & Spa in Hood Canal, Wash.; and Cave B Inn in Columbia Gorge, Wash. Passkey allows attendees to reserve rooms through customized websites; the data is then transferred to the hotel's central reservation system. Planners gain real-time access to hotel block pickup and reservations data.

Wyndham is developing a Wingate by Wyndham property to open in Chihuahua, Mexico, later this year. The 137-room hotel -- the first of the brand to open outside of the U.S. or Canada -- will feature 1,200 square feet of meeting space, a 24-hour fitness center, a pool, and in-room wireless and wired Internet access. Wingate by Wyndham Chihuahua will be 20 minutes from Chihuahua International Airport and near one of the city's major shopping areas.

A US$9 million renovation is complete at the Buenaventura Grand Hotel & Spa, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. All 236 rooms have been refurbished and now include upgraded furniture and fixtures, satellite television and balconies with ocean views. New to the resort are the open-air Shakti spa, a beachfront sushi bar, and a poolside bar and grill.

The Sheraton Carlsbad Resort & Spa, 30 minutes north of downtown San Diego, opened this week. So far, 129 of its guests rooms have been unveiled, with an additional 121 rooms scheduled to be available next month. Also open to guests is the Twenty/20 Grill and Wine Bar, specializing in California wine and cuisine; the Ocean Pearl Spa; 25,000 square feet of conference facilities; and an array of sports facilities, such as tennis courts, a fitness center and a gym.