March 21, 2007

Hilton Hotels Corp. has introduced a companywide online booking tool for small meetings called e-Events. The technology, available to some customers on a testing basis for the past year, now is offered to all planners arranging meetings for five to 25 room nights. The tool was developed after research showed 60 percent of the hotel company's group leads were for events of 25 rooms or fewer. E-Events works with real-time inventory for both rooms and meeting space, and a standard contract across all of Hilton's brands has been developed for the tool; no negotiations take place. Two other products, which are available for meetings of any size, also have been launched: Planners can work with Hilton to develop a free customized event meetings site called the Personalized Online Group web page, while the Guest List Manager allows planners to view room counts, manage rooming lists and book multiple reservations online for any group at any hotel in the Hilton family. To access the tools, go to and click on the groups and meetings link.

As part of its global strategy, Meeting Professionals International has announced it will hold a Professional Education Conference-Middle East in April 2008 in Dubai, just before the Gulf Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition. The organization outlined its new global strategy this week during the Professional Education Conference-Europe in Copenhagen, Denmark. MPI's goals, to be implemented over the next two years, are to establish new Professional Education Conferences, open more regional offices, create an online CultureActive Tool, design web portals to centralize community knowledge and business opportunities, arrange trade missions to build relationships, and create a global workshop program. The association also will open an office in Singapore later this year, according to Didier Scaillet, vice president of global development.

Clear Registered Traveler has opened an enrollment station at New York's JFK airport, where passengers can apply in person to obtain expedited security clearance. Next month, Clear will open a private security lane in partnership with Virgin Atlantic at JFK's Terminal 4, where registered travelers will have access to a private expedited security lane. The company also is operating an enrollment station -- where applicants pay $99.95 and submit to a background check, iris and fingerprint scan -- in Midtown Manhattan at the Hyatt New York at Grand Central Terminal.  

Union workers at four Starwood hotels in Boston have voted to authorize a strike, should such a measure be necessary to complete contract talks with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. UNITE HERE Local 26 members approved the measure 1,013 to 27 on March 14. Most of Boston's union hotel contracts expired last November. A strike at the Boston Park Plaza, Sheraton Boston, Westin Copley Place and the Westin Boston Waterfront could occur as soon as April 1, the day after the last contract expires at the Westin Copley Place. The union said strikes would not occur at other union hotels in Boston, where workers have agreed to accept the terms Local 26 negotiates with Starwood.

Marriott International has launched a website to help North American third-party planners understand and navigate the company's new Centralized Group Commission Payment System. The site, accessed by logging on to and clicking on the Events & Meetings link, contains an explanation of the program, including new requirements for payment, how and where third parties can get accredited to take part in the program, frequently asked questions and Marriott contact information for further help. In addition, planners can sign up to receive electronic commission payments, funds transfers and commission statements. In October 2006, Marriott announced that all third-party planners doing business with the chain would be required to have an IATA number in order to be eligible to receive commissions; the website was developed to facilitate this process.

According to Lodging Econometrics, a lodging real estate consultant, 513 active construction projects in Europe currently are being pursued by developers, all scheduled to be open by year-end 2009. Of that number, 53 percent are full-service hotels in city centers, at airports or in resort locations. The United Kingdom leads the pipeline with 147 projects. Overall, 70 percent of the 513 projects already have been branded.

A new Gen X/Y board associate has been added to the board of directors of the International Association of Conference Centers. Warren Call, a 27-year-old sales manager at Crystal Mountain in Thompsonville, Mich., will attend all board meetings beginning with the Annual Conference in April, will work on an IACC committee and will give a final report on his observations and experiences at the winter board meeting in January.