January 09, 2008

The Ritz-Carlton, Denver, opens its doors on Friday. Within walking distance of the Colorado Convention Center, the luxury property offers 202 rooms; 13,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 6,200-square-foot ballroom; and the Athletic Club at Denver Place, with a basketball court, and indoor pool and more. The signature restaurant, Elways, is named for the former Denver Broncos quarterback. On the East Coast, the 118-room Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, opened late last month in White Plains, N.Y. The property's notable features are a two-story lounge, a 10,000-square-foot spa with 11 treatment rooms, a rooftop indoor pool and 9,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 6,100-square-foot luxury ballroom. Guest rooms offer 42-inch LCD flat-panel TVs, DVD players, wireless Internet and iPod docking stations.

The findings of PKF Hospitality Research's first Trends in the Hotel Spa Industry, released this week, indicate spas are a major profit maker for hotels. Between 2005 and 2006, spa department profits increased 11.3 percent, compared with a 9.9 percent profit growth for all other departments. For that period, the average hotel spa department realized a profit margin of 31.3 percent. For resort spas, the profit margin was even greater.

On Jan. 1, New York State's Airline Passenger Bill of Rights, signed into law by Governor Eliot Spitzer late last summer, went into effect, following a failed challenge in court by the major U.S. airlines. The law requires all carriers flying from the state's airports to provide food, water, fresh air, electrical power and functional restrooms to passengers on planes that have been delayed on the tarmac for three hours or longer. In addition, the bill also created the Office of the Airline Consumer Advocate, whose job it will be to make sure the airlines are complying with the new requirements.

The 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show, which wraps up tomorrow in Las Vegas, is the largest in history, with 2,700 exhibiting companies spanning 1.85 million net square feet of exhibit space, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. But the perennial Las Vegas juggernaut might be searching for a new home. Karen Chupka, senior vice president of events and conferences for the association, was quoted in the Las Vegas Sun as saying hotel rates and food-and-beverage guarantees in the city "have become astronomical." She added the CEA has had initial talks with Chicago and Orlando about hosting the show after 2011, the final year of CES's commitment to Las Vegas. Chupka later released a statement that said the informal talks with other cities are part of normal due diligence to learn about major trade show markets. The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, hoping the show will stay put, is holding space for the CES through 2025, even though the group is committed only through 2011.

The 1,000-room JW Marriott hotel in Indianapolis might not open alongside the expanded Indiana Convention Center in fall 2010 as planned, according to a spokesperson for REI Real Estate Services, the hotel's developer. Design modifications likely will delay the opening until early 2011 and raise the price tag by approximately $100 million to a total of $425 million. A spokesperson for the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association said executives still hope the hotel will be ready when the center expansion is complete. The other three Marriott flags comprising the planned headquarters hotel complex -- Courtyard, Fairfield Inn & Suites, and SpringHill Suites -- which will offer a combined 500 rooms, still are on schedule to open in time for the NCAA Men's basketball Final Four in March 2010.

Twenty-two airports in the United Kingdom have lifted a restriction that limited passengers to only one piece of carry-on luggage. Heathrow, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh are among the major airports where two pieces will be permitted. London's Gatwick Airport will lift the restriction on Feb. 11.

The long-anticipated expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City has been derailed because of escalating costs and the unwillingness of the Hotel Association of New York City to agree to an occupancy tax increase to fund the project. According to a spokesperson for Empire State Development Corp., the project's developer, the organization now is considering a dozen or so alternatives to the original proposal, which most likely will entail a renovation and modest expansion to the facility within the original budget of $1.6 billion. A final decision regarding the proposal is expected "very soon," the spokesperson said.

Carlson, the global travel, hotel, restaurant and marketing company, has announced that Marilyn Carlson Nelson will step down as CEO effective March 1. Current Carlson Wagonlit Travel CEO Hubert Joly will fill the role of Carlson president and CEO, and Nelson will remain chairman of the board. Nelson, who has served as CEO since 1998, was only the third CEO in the company's 70-year history. Joly will be the first CEO who isn't a member of the Carlson family; he was appointed CEO and president of Carlson Wagonlit Travel in 2004. Since that time CWT revenues have grown from $8.9 billion in 2003 to $22 billion in 2007, in part through acquisitions of competitors such as Navigant. The CWT board has begun searching internally and externally for Joly's replacement.