November 28, 2007

Gaylord Entertainment has agreed to buy the Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio for $252.5 million. The 508-room property currently features 39,000 square feet of meeting space and two top-notch golf courses. Gaylord officials plan to spend three years and another $250 million to expand the resort; when the work is finished, La Cantera will offer about 1,000 rooms and 160,000 square feet of meeting space. The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2008.

Allied Europe, a U.K.-based destination management company, has acquired PRA Destination Management, one of the largest U.S. DMCs. The new company, which will combine Allied's seven offices in Europe and the Middle East (Allied Arabia) with PRA's 19 franchise offices, will be known as Allied International, but the three groups will continue to do business under their current brand names. Allied's James W. Hensley is the CEO of the new company; Patti Roscoe, PRA's founder and chairman, will serve on Allied's international board of directors.

Casino dealers at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn., voted over the weekend to join the United Auto Workers union, which might pave the way for other workers at the Native American-owned resort to organize. John O'Brien, president of Foxwoods, hinted in a statement that the resort was prepared to fight the election in court by suggesting the National Labor Relations Board lacked authority to hold such an election on tribal land. "We are disappointed with the preliminary tally; however, these results will not be official until all legal issues, including jurisdiction, are resolved," O'Brien said.

The MotorCity Casino Hotel in Detroit opens today, the second of three new 400-room casino hotels in the city. The property has nine meeting rooms, including an 11,890-square-foot ballroom and 100,000 square feet of gaming space. The MGM Grand Detroit opened in October, and the Greektown Casino is expected to open its hotel late next year.

Global hotel performance data for October was released this week by Smith Travel Research, showing average daily rates, revenue per available room and occupancy were up significantly over the same period a year ago for several key destinations. In Berlin, ADR rose to $129.56, compared with $107.60 in 2006; in New York, ADR jumped to $320.87 from $278.11 in 2006; in Dubai, ADR rose to $370.81, compared with $299.32 in 2006; and in London, ADR in October was $268.06, compared with $214.71 in 2006. Cities making the biggest gains in occupancy levels were Cairo at 77.3 percent, a 23.8 percent increase over 2006, and Dubai at 83 percent, a 15.9 percent increase over 2006.

The Kissimmee Convention and Visitors Bureau continues to look for a new executive director now that its two main candidates are out of the running. Daniel Rowe, previously a Georgia tourism official, took the top job at the Panama City Beach CVB, and Patrick Kaler, of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, did not accept the CVB's offer. Maria Grulich, the bureau's new economic development administrator, is serving as the interim director. A spokesperson for the KCVB said, "The search is ongoing. We will be involved with more direct recruiting rather than using a search firm." The previous executive director, Tim Hemphill, resigned in May.

Last week, the Merced (Calif.) City Council voted to terminate the Merced Conference and Visitors Bureau's city contract after discovering the bureau owed at least $40,000 in unpaid bills and had spent nearly all of its cash reserves. According to Onis Lentz, operation manager of the California Welcome Center Merced, the city's visitor information agency formerly run by the bureau, the redevelopment department of city management is maintaining operations of the center until another organization bids for a new contract. According to the Merced Sun-Star, unauthorized charges made by the bureau included a 15 percent raise to the CVB's executive director, Melyssa Laughlin; an $11,775 renovation to the California Welcome Center, including refurbishment of the executive director's office; and the escalation of credit-card debt from $1,778 to $10,390 in one year.

The New York State United Teachers, a union representing 585,000 teachers, has decided to move its 2009 annual convention from the Rochester (N.Y.) Riverside Convention Center to Buffalo, N.Y., in order to support the efforts of the local chapter of UNITE HERE, a national union for hotel workers. According to the NYSUT, the Crowne Plaza hotel in Rochester, a property near the convention center, has repeatedly denied workers the right to unionize. The convention will occur on April 1-4, 2009, as originally scheduled, at the Buffalo Convention Center. The estimated economic impact of the event is $5 million.