December 05, 2007

The Albany (N.Y.) Convention Center Authority has announced the developers for the city's $325 million hotel and convention center project. Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide will operate the 400-room hotel under the Sheraton brand, while convention center management company SMG will operate the 244,000-square-foot convention facility. Ground will be broken on the project next summer, with the opening scheduled for late 2010.

W Hotels will enter the nation's capital with a 317-room hotel in the historic former Hotel Washington, directly across from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. The 11-story property, which is scheduled to open in 2009, will feature 13,000 square feet of meeting space, a full-service spa and a signature restaurant.

Continuing to expand its global reach, Meeting Professionals International has announced the formation of two new international chapters. The MPI Southern Africa Chapter comes from a strategic alliance with the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry and is the first MPI chapter in Africa. Partnering with the Seoul Convention Bureau, the group also has created the MPI Korea Chapter, its first in Asia (MPI Japan is classified as a club, not a chapter). In addition, the organization has launched The Meeting Professional European Digest, a quarterly extension of its monthly magazine. The online version is available now at

The 353-room Hotel Sax Chicago, formerly the House of Blues Hotel Chicago, unveils its renovated meeting space today. The 10,000 square feet of space has been given a flashy new design -- non-rectangular meeting rooms; contemporary sculptures in the central rotunda; a 36-foot, semicircular video wall -- in an attempt to break away from traditional spaces. The suites on the hotel's top floors are the only unfinished element in a $20 million transformation and will be completed in late February.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide will manage Westin properties in three new mixed-use developments in emerging markets in India, to open in 2009 and 2010. The 428-room Westin Hyderabad, Mindspace, will have 12,000 square feet of meeting space; the 277-room Westin Pune, Koregaon Park, will have more than 12,000 square feet of meeting space; and the 323-room Westin Kolkata, Rajarhat, will offer 21,000 square feet of meeting space.

The 210-room Hotel @ MIT in Cambridge, Mass., a Hilton property, will become the Le Meridien Cambridge after HEI Hotels & Resorts acquires it and begins a renovation later this month. The rebranding of the property, which has 7,700 square feet of meeting space, will mark the return of Le Meridien to the Boston market, having last operated a hotel in Post Office Square before Langham Hotels International took it over in 2004. Continuing the brand's expansion in the U.S., parent company Starwood has announced that the 202-room Le Meridien Philadelphia, with 5,300 square feet of meeting space, will open in 2009, less than one block from the Philadelphia Convention Center expansion project. Extensive renovations begin this month to the building, which originally opened as a YMCA in 1912. Five floors of guest rooms are planned, as well as a 90-seat restaurant and a business center.

EIBTM, the exhibition for the conference, incentives, events, business travel and meetings industries held in Barcelona, Spain, last week, was the largest to date, attracting more than 6,900 visitors and hosted buyers -- a 20 percent increase over last year. During the three-day show, event organizer Reed Travel Exhibitions announced EIBTM will continue at its current venue, Fira de Barcelona, through 2013. Group exhibition director Paul Kennedy said his team had conducted an extensive review of major European cities and concluded that Barcelona provided a unique mix of cosmopolitan conveniences, modern infrastructure and a distinctly Spanish flavor. Next year's EIBTM takes place Dec. 2 - 4.

Hotel bills in San Diego will rise by 2 percent beginning Jan. 1, when the total taxes and fees on hotels increases to 12.5 percent. The city council voted on Monday to approve the creation of a Tourism Marketing District, an entity that will collect a 2 percent assessment on hotel bills at properties with 70 or more rooms and spend the money to market the destination. Mike McDowell, chief executive of the San Diego Lodging Industry Association, said the hospitality industry was tired of seeing more of the hotel tax revenue appropriated by the city for general purposes while the money allocated for marketing the destination was cut.