October 17, 2007

The Warf Group has spun off its Marco Polo Hotels division into a separate entity, to be renamed Marco Polo Hotels Ltd. A wholly owned subsidiary of The Warf Group, the company will be headed by Steve Kleinschmidt, a Canadian-based hospitality industry strategist, who has been named president. Peter Woo, chairman of The Warf Group, said the repositioning of Marco Polo Hotels was necessary in order to pursue strategic growth and brand-building objectives, as well as "revitalize and upgrade [Marco Polo's] reputation and performance."

According to a report in India's Economic Times, Carlson Hotels plans to add 30 hotels in that country over the next several years, primarily in smaller cities. The new entries will mostly comprise Park Inns and Comfort Inn & Suites properties, the company's fastest growing mid-market segment brands.

Best Western, the world's largest hotel chain, unveiled a new prototype for its upper-midscale segment at the company's Best Western North America convention held this week in Montreal. Properties in the Atria brand will feature 100 rooms in five-story buildings on two acres. Guest rooms will have an airy loft design with multiple workspaces; the lobbies will feature a spacious reception area and a lounge.

The 127-room Ellis Hotel in Atlanta, reopens today following a $28 million restoration. The property, formerly known as the Winecoff Hotel, features amenities such as a Southern-themed mini bar featuring Sugar Daddies and Southern Comfort and a "Choose Your Snooze" pillow menu. Rooms on the women-only floor feature hair-straightening irons and Spanx hosiery. Two meeting rooms, a business center and high-speed Internet are offered as well.
The 137-room Element Orlando Convention Center/International Drive, part of Starwood's new brand of extended-stay hotels, opens in August 2009. Westin Heavenly Beds, modular furniture, custom closets, oversized showers and full kitchens are featured in the guest rooms. The hotel will offer 2,218 square feet of meeting space and fitness and business centers.
The 1,500-room Rosen Shingle Creek is the 12th hotel in Orange County, Fla., to be designated as a certified Florida Green Lodge by the stateÕs Department of Environmental Protection. The property, which offers 445,000 square feet of meeting space, has added low-flow toilets and showerheads, a towel and linen reuse program, programmable thermostats and recycling programs as part of its eco-friendly efforts.

Vail Resorts is going "green" in its kitchens by serving hormone-free meats and poultry as well as organic dairy products in the on-mountain restaurants at its five ski resorts: Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone in Colorado, and Heavenly in California. To help accomplish this effort, Vail Resorts has created the Good Food Partnership with two other Colorado companies: Coleman Natural Foods LLC and WhiteWave Foods Co., maker of Horizon Organic dairy products and Silk soymilk products.

The 255-room Westin St. Louis will undergo a $7 million refurbishment over the next three years, according to HEI Hotels & Resorts, which announced last week that it had acquired and will now manage the property. The hotel's 14,000 square feet of meeting space will be renovated during the project.

The 400-room W Bangkok, with 30,000 square feet of meeting space, will open in 2011. The hotel will be the second W in Thailand. The 70-room W Koh Samui Retreat & Spa, with more than 8,400 square feet of meeting space, debuts March 1, 2009.
The 448-room Westin Guangzhou opened in China on Monday, with 12,916 square feet of meeting space. The hotel features a Westin Heavenly Spa and a 24-hour gym.

New York City's World Trade Center developer, Silverstein Properties, will build a residential and hotel tower one block from the trade center site. Although specific design details have yet to be determined by architect Robert A.M. Stern, the tower will feature luxury condominiums, hotel rooms, a restaurant and meeting facilities. Demolition of an existing building on the site will begin this month, with construction of the new structure to begin next June. The project is expected to finish in early 2011.

The 182-room Lodge at Sonoma (Calif.), a Renaissance Resort & Spa, has completed a $2 million renovation of its guest rooms, fitness center and spa. Upgrades to the property include flat-screen TVs, iPod docking stations and new fixtures in all guest rooms, as well as new fitness center equipment and additional treatment rooms at the property's Raindance Spa.

Grupo Posadas, which operates hotels throughout Latin America, plans to open 10 new Mexican properties in 2008. Seven of them will be Fiesta Inns, which cater to business travelers, in the following cities: Chetumal (which recently bore the brunt of Hurricane Dean's damage), Cuernavaca, Durango, Insurgentes, Morelia, Tepic and Toluca. Posadas will also open three new entries in its One Hotels economy brand in the cities of Acapulco, Aguascalientes and Culiacan. The AQUA lifestyle brand debuts this year with the December opening of the 371-room AQUA CancSn.
Hyatt Place and Google have created an iGoogle-based web portal and homepage for Hyatt Place guests, the first instance of a hotel chain using Google Apps Start Page technology. Guests logging onto Hyatt Place's complimentary Wi-Fi network will be directed to the portal, which is tailored to each hotel with features such as Google Maps location and driving directions, local weather, traffic conditions, date and time, a hotel television channel guide, room-service menu and instructions for printing boarding passes on the hotel printer.