Greg Ortale, president and CEO of Meet Minneapolis, is moving
south at the end of the year to become president and CEO of the
Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau. Ortale, who starts
on Dec. 3, will fill the vacancy left by the January resignation of
Gerard J. "Jordy" Tollett. The search for a new CEO started in
November 2006, following a request by Mayor Bill White to find the
most qualified candidate for the position; the committee had then
asked Tollett to reapply for his job. For Ortale, this is a return:
In 1984, he was executive vice president and general manager of the
Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Council. Back in Minnesota,
Melvin Tennant, senior vice president of innovation + operations of
Meet Minneapolis and the former executive director of the San
Antonio (Texas) Convention and Visitors Bureau, will become acting
president and CEO when Ortale leaves.
Linda Howell DiMario has resigned from her position as president
and CEO of the Arlington (Texas) Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Her last day will be Dec. 31, after which she plans to become a
consultant in the industry. On Monday, the CVB board created a
four-person search committee headed up by Jim Brothers, marketing
director of Six Flags Over Texas. A search firm will be hired to
help fill the position; ideally a new CEO will be identified before
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. has launched Meaningful Meetings, a way
for groups to give back to the community. For bookings of 10 or
more nights made by Dec. 31 at any of the chain's U.S., Canada or
Caribbean properties, for events taking place by Dec. 31, 2008,
Ritz-Carlton will donate 5 percent of the total room revenue to a
charity of the group's choice. The hotel company also will donate
an additional 5 percent, in the group's name, to the Ritz-Carlton
Community Footprints Fund. In 2006, the fund donated $5.25 million
in products and services -- and Ritz employees volunteered more
than 100,000 hours -- to causes such as hunger and poverty relief,
education and conservation.
Conrad Hotels & Resorts, part of Hilton Hotels Corp., will open
a Conrad Hotel in Portugal's Algarve, the first outpost of the
brand in Europe. The property will feature 158 guest rooms, a
16,000-square-foot spa and 15,000 square feet of meeting space. The
hotel, which opens in 2010, will be Hilton's second in the Algarve.
The 154-room Hilton Vilamoura As Cascatas Golf Resort & Spa
opened in Vilamoura in July.
A $170 million renovation has begun at the Eden Roc Renaissance
Beach Resort & Spa in Miami Beach. Slated to finish up in late
2008, the work will add a 21-story tower with 283 guest rooms, and
several 1,200-square-foot suites with private balconies and
Jacuzzis. Guest rooms will be updated with iPod docking stations,
LCD TVs, new bedding and furnishings. Two ballrooms overlooking the
ocean and totaling 14,000 square feet will be added to the current
43,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as a rooftop garden
and skybar for private events. The main pool will be redesigned as
an infinity pool with added cabanas, a full-service bar and a
retail shop. The spa will be increased to 21,000 square feet, and
three new dining outlets will open as well. The hotel currently is
closed until Feb. 4 for the renovation of the existing 349-room
tower. When all the work is finished, the property will have 632
rooms and 57,000 square feet of meeting space.
Windjammer Barefoot Cruises has ceased operations temporarily and
possibly permanently. A release on the website Monday said the
company is "in the midst of a storm" and has canceled its sailings
for the weeks of Oct. 14 and Oct. 21. According to M&C's sister
publication, Travel Weekly, and postings by Windjammer customers on
numerous web forums, Windjammer's tall ships currently are stranded
in the Caribbean; throughout the past few months, customers have
arrived for their cruises and been told the trips have been
canceled because of staff walkouts and lack of fuel. According to
the posted release, Danny Walsh, the founder's grandson, has paid
debts to staff and is working with investors to get the company
back up and running. Customers are advised to check www.windjammer.com
for updates. Phone calls to Windjammer went unanswered.
The Grand Casino Resort Tunica (Miss.) will undergo a $45 million
renovation. As part of the work, a new restaurant by Food Network
star Paula Deen will be added, called Paula Deen's Buffet. The
refurbishment will encompass all 1,356 guest rooms and public
spaces at the three-hotel complex. Phase one will be completed in
May and the second in September. Also in May, the property will be
rebranded as Harrah's Casino Tunica. The resort offers 45,000
square feet of meeting space.
A $90 million renovation was completed last week at New York City's
515-room Jumeirah Essex House. The project refurbished the guest
rooms and lobby area and added the Spa at the Jumeirah Essex House.
The 900-square-foot health club also was redone. Final touches to
the restaurant's upgrades will finish by December. The hotel offers
a total of 11,610 square feet of meeting space.