The Southern California wildfires, which have destroyed more
than 379,000 acres of land, have not caused any significant damage
to major San Diego hotels. The Rancho Bernardo Inn, which was
evacuated last week, suffered minor fire damage to its golf course
and land on the northern edge of the resort. Employees and guests
were allowed to return to the property last Thursday; the resort
opened for business later that day, and the golf course was open
the following day. On the meetings front, at least one major event,
San Diego-based Sharp Healthcare's annual employee meeting, was
canceled as a result of the fires. The event would have taken place
at the San Diego Convention Center from Oct. 24 to Oct. 25 and was
expected to draw 12,000 to 14,000 local attendees. According to a
company spokesperson, the meeting will be rescheduled. The San
Diego Convention Center Corp. reports all other events on the books
will take place as scheduled.
Last week, The Blackstone Group finalized its $20 billion
acquisition of Hilton Hotels Corp., the lodging industry's largest
buyout. Christoper J. Nassetta has been selected to take over as
Hilton's president and CEO. Nasetta, currently president and CEO of
Host Hotels and Resorts, will take his new position Dec. 1. He
replaces Stephen Bollenbach, who retired from Hilton last week
after seeing the Blackstone deal through to completion. In turn,
Nassetta will be replaced at Host by W. Edward Walter, the
company's current executive vice president and CFO.
Meeting Professionals International opened an office in
Singapore on Thursday. The outpost is headed by Michael Tay, MPI's
new director of operations, Asia-Pacific. Tay is a native of
Singapore and an adjunct professor at the University of Las Vegas,
Singapore campus, where he teaches meetings management. "The
expansion of MPI into Asia-Pacific is a deliberate response to
supporting the outstanding meetings and travel growth in that
region," said Bruce MacMillan, MPI president and CEO, at a ceremony
in the city.
The 248-room Raffles Dubai opened last week in the booming
United Arab Emirates city. Amenities at the hotel include Wi-Fi
access throughout, private balconies for each guest room, the
Raffles Amrita Spa and the two-acre Raffles Sky Garden. The hotel
has eight meeting rooms, four boardrooms and a Grand Ballroom for
groups of up to 550 people.
French hotel group Accor will upgrade 120 of its Sofitel
properties from upmarket to the luxury category, and seven
properties will fall under its new Sofitel Legends banner.
Launching in 2009 will be a boutique-style brand called So by
Sofitel. In December, 35 Sofitel properties will be rebranded under
Accor's new Pullman brand (a rebirth of an old name once used by
Accor), which is aimed mainly at business travelers.
Workers at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford voted
last week to join the Connecticut Laborers' District Council, a
member of the Laborers' International Union of North America.
Approximately 45 full-time cooks, engineers, banquet and catering
staff, and other workers will join the union, according to the
District Council. Last year, the convention center lost some
business when groups held meetings at alternate venues to avoid a
growing labor dispute about how unions could organize workers. The
connected 409-room Hartford Marriott Downtown, owned and managed by
the Waterford Group, which also operates the convention center,
could be the union's next organizing target. A spokesperson for
Waterford said no organizing activity was currently taking place at
the hotel, but Charles LeConche, the District Council's business
manager, has hinted that such activity could begin soon.
The Washington Convention Center in the nation's capital is
being renamed for the city's first elected mayor. His name,
conveniently, was Walter E. Washington. Following a rededication
ceremony on Nov. 5, the 2.3 million-square-foot center will be
known as the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Washington was
voted into the office in 1975 and died in 2003.