Last week, the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau
extended an offer to Stephen Perry, president and CEO of the New
Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, to fill a
similar position in the Texas city, but Perry turned down the job.
The search committee, which first convened in November when Mayor
Bill White requested the CVB find the most qualified candidate for
the position, must now review other candidates for the job. "The
search continues," said Don Henderson, chairman emeritus of the
board, who has been running the bureau along with current chairman
Doug Horn since the former president and CEO, Gerard J. "Jordy"
Tollett, resigned in January. When the search first began, Tollett
had been encouraged to reapply for his job, but according to the
Houston Chronicle, since leaving his post, Tollett now is bound by
an agreement not to do so. Currently, he is a consultant to the CVB
until early 2008, still receiving his full salary of $206,000.
This week the Palm Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau will
vote on and finalize a compensation package to offer Jorge Pesquera
to become the bureau's president and CEO. The package details
include a salary of $195,000 for the first year, rising to more
than $250,000 by the third year. Pesquera currently is the COO of
the Aruba Hotel and Travel Association; according to the Palm Beach
Post, he is making $250,000 a year, so if he accepts the position
he will be taking a pay cut.
A feasibility study is under way to determine if the Henry B.
Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, Texas, should be
expanded. The most recent enlarging of the facility was completed
in 2000, bringing it to about 400,000 square feet of exhibit space
and 67 meeting rooms. "Our occupancy at the center is over 60
percent, so it's time to look at expanding," said Michael Sawaya,
director of convention, sports and entertainment facilities for the
city. "We don't even know if they'll recommend expansion. We don't
know if bigger is better; that's what we're paying to see."
Convention, Sports & Leisure, an advisory and planning firm,
has been hired to conduct the study; the results are due in
October. If they recommend expansion, the next step, according to
Sawaya, would be to look into financing such a project.
The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority wants to expand
and enhance the three-year-old Boston Convention and Exhibition
Center by developing a 22-acre lot to the south of the facility,
which now holds a parking lot. The MCCA last week put out a request
for proposal for master plans and will accept submissions through
Sept. 5. Among the additions that MCCA executive director James
Rooney said he would like to be considered are an auditorium with
TV broadcast-quality A/V equipment, a second ballroom and permanent
food service facilities.
A $1.1 billion plan to build a performing arts center, an arena
and renovate the Citrus Bowl stadium in Orlando, Fla., is being
voted on this week. On Monday, the City Council of Orlando passed
the plan with a 6-to-1 vote; today and tomorrow, the Tourist
Development Board and the Orange County Commission will cast their
votes. The plan is the biggest public building project in Central
Florida history, and would be funded by a combination of grants,
private contributions and tax dollars. If approved, the arena will
open in 2010, renovations to the Citrus Bowl will be completed in
2011, and the performing arts center will open in 2012.
Dolce International, the conference center management company,
has been recapitalized by Broadreach Capital Partners, who have
acquired 85 percent of Dolce from AEW Capital Management and Soros
Real Estate Investors. Over the past two years, Dolce has sold off
most of its assets and now owns just one of the 26 hotel, resort
and conference facilities it manages. "We think the Dolce brand is
underused," said Philip "Flip" Maritz, managing director of
Broadreach, which just acquired two new Dolce properties, the Dolce
Basking Ridge (N.J.) and the Dolce Norwalk (Conn.) Conference
Center. Plans for the company include rapid expansion in the United
States and Europe, and possibly in Asia. According to Andy Dolce,
chairman and managing director, "We'd like to be in Milan and Rome,
back in Houston, and all over California. We are in an expansion
and development mode."
The landmark 1,334-room Marriott Wardman Park in Washington,
D.C., the city's largest hotel, has begun a $100 million
renovation. Included in the work will be a complete overhaul of
guest rooms, 173,000 square feet of meeting space and public areas,
as well as the addition of a new ballroom, a signature restaurant
and a fitness center. The project will be completed by the end of
AirTran Airways is sponsoring Clear, the top provider of
registered traveler lanes at U.S. airports, to operate lanes at
LaGuardia International Airport's Central Terminal. Passengers at
all three New York City-area airports now will have access to RT
lanes. AirTran is the first domestic-only carrier to support the
program. An in-airport enrollment center at LaGuardia will open in
August. Fast lanes currently are open at JFK, Orlando, San Jose,
Cincinnati and Indianapolis airports, as well as Newark Liberty,
where the lanes opened on July 19. Other facilities where the RT
lanes will open soon include those in Albany, N.Y.; Atlanta;
Denver; Little Rock, Ark.; San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; and
Virgin America, the new San Francisco-based airline partially
owned by Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, began selling
tickets Thursday for travel between Aug. 8 and Feb. 12. The airline
will offer last-minute discount fares for business travelers in
both coach- and first-class cabins. Virgin America's first day of
service on Aug. 8 will feature two daily flights between San
Francisco International Airport and New York's John F. Kennedy
International Airport, as well as five daily flights between San
Francisco and Los Angeles International Airport. Two more flights
between San Francisco and New York will be added, one each on Aug.
19 and Sept. 9. Washington and Las Vegas also will be included in
the flight plans by the end of October. The airline aims to serve
10 cities by next summer and 30 cities within five years.
Caesars Palace in Las Vegas will add a new 665-room hotel tower
and 110,000 square feet of new meeting space by 2009, part of a
planned $1 billion expansion. These additions will push the room
count at the resort to 4,013 and the total amount of meeting space
to more than 300,000 square feet. The hotel's existing 512-room
Forum Tower also will receive an $83 million renovation over the
next six months.
Orbitz Worldwide, the online travel service, has formed a
strategic alliance with StarCite, an online meetings management
company, through which StarCite users and their attendees will be
able to book travel through Orbitz for Business and Travelport for
Business directly from the StarCite Attendee Management
application. The new feature is expected to be available to
StarCite customers by the first quarter of 2008.