August 22, 2007
Hurricane Dean descended on Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula as a Category 5 storm on Tuesday morning, well south of the major resort areas of Cancun and the Riviera Maya and quickly weakened to a Category 1 as it traveled over land. Before easing, winds that averaged 165 miles per hour pummeled the port city of Chetumal, just north of Belize. Preliminary reports indicate little damage and no serious injuries in the resort areas, from which most tourists had been evacuated, although heavy rains and winds likely will continue. Damage from Dean's passage through the Caribbean, where St. Lucia and Jamaica took the brunt of the storm, also was minimal. Representatives on both islands said the hurricane did not cause major damage to their infrastructures and the local airports all have reopened. In a recent earnings conference call, Colin Reed, chairman and CEO of Gaylord Entertainment Co., said the company is considering expanding the 1,511-room Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas. He said the property, which currently has 400,000 square feet of conference space, would add 250,000 to 300,000 square feet of meeting space and about 500 rooms, plus an expanded pool complex. "We believe demand warrants it," he said. The push to beef up the pool area might be a response to the competition that is coming to town: The 400-suite Great Wolf Lodge, scheduled to open nearby by the end of the year, will feature an 80,000-square-foot indoor waterpark.

The new Branson Convention Center in Branson, Mo., hosts its inaugural event this weekend, a Missouri School Boards' Association conference, expected to draw 250 attendees. Managed by Hilton Hotels Corp., the convention center has 87,300 square feet of meeting space, including two exhibit halls totaling 47,000 square feet and a 23,000-square-foot ballroom. The facility is the centerpiece of Branson Landing, a $420 million mixed-use development. The center will hold an official opening ceremony on Sept. 7. Connected to the center is the 293-room Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel, which opens this week.

Last week UNITE HERE Local 11, the Los Angeles chapter of the international hotel and restaurant union, filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board in an effort to combat an alleged anti-union campaign waged by the 392-room Ritz-Carlton, Huntington Hotel & Spa in Pasadena, Calif. According to a spokesperson for the union, "Anyone who speaks up in favor of unions has received threats and is in danger of losing their job." Also, a claim was filed last week with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing by African-American and Latino workers at the hotel, alleging racial discrimination concerning promotional and transfer practices. The hotel's general manager was unable to be reached for comment.

The 860-room New Yorker Hotel, built in 1930, is undergoing a $65 million restoration. Highlights of the project include a complete revamp of all soft goods, a redesign of the lobby, a facelift to the exterior and improvements to the hotel's restaurants. Upon completion in August 2008, the property will feature 910 remodeled guest rooms offering free Wi-Fi service, and 25,000 square feet of meeting space. The first wave of guest room renovations finished up this week.

The Independent Meeting Planners Association of Canada has re-launched with a new name, the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners. As part of its new identity, CSPEP, which was founded in 1995 and has grown to 130 meeting planner members, has unveiled a new logo and a new website,