January 24, 2007

As of Tuesday, new rules require all airline passengers -- including U.S. citizens -- to present passports upon entering or re-entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda. The requirement, known as the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative, has caused fears of a drop in international travel in the region, as only about one quarter of U.S. citizens now possess a valid passport. The Travel Industry Association recently set up a website -- www.getapassportnow.com -- to help U.S., Canadian and Mexican citizens obtain the document.

On Thursday, Silverjet, a new business-class airline that promises its operations will be carbon-neutral, begins daily service between New York and London. Aside from the practice of environmental responsibility, innovations by Silverjet include a private terminal in London; seat-side check-in and security clearance guaranteed in 30 minutes; and a women-only restroom onboard. The British-owned airline will operate flights between Newark Liberty Airport and London Luton Airport using a Boeing 767 fitted with 100 lie-flat seats.

On Jan. 19, Gary C. Sain was named the new president of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau. He replaces longtime president Bill Peeper, who retired at the end of 2006. Sain previously was the chief marketing officer at Orlando-based public relations company Yesawich, Pepperdine, Brown and Russell. He has also held executive positions at GES Exposition Services, Premier Cruise Line and Hyatt Hotels Corp. Sain begins his new role on Feb. 12.

The Hyatt Regency New Orleans, which has been closed since Hurricane Katrina hit the city in August 2005, will reopen by the end of the year. The hotel is the final major property in the city to remain closed. The 1,076-room property will undergo a $120 million renovation, including all 115,000 square feet of meeting space.

Accor Hotels, which previously owned a 34 percent stake in Dorint Hotels & Resorts, has acquired control of 52 upscale and midscale hotels in Germany that were part of Dorint's 93-property portfolio. Eight of the properties previously were operated under the Dorint Sofitel brand, 17 under the Dorint Novotel brand and 27 under the Mercure brand. In the first half of 2007, the Dorint name will be dropped from all 52 properties.

A 120-room Waldorf=Astoria hotel is in the works for Beverly Hills, Calif., part of a previously announced $500 million redevelopment project at the 570-room Beverly Hilton. In addition, 120 luxury residences will be built on the 9-acre property, and the Beverly Hilton, which recently emerged from an $80 million renovation, eventually will be reconfigured to offer 402 guest rooms and a conference center certified by the International Association of Conference Centers. The revitalized Beverly Hilton will be designed to meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards. A spokesperson for Oasis West Realty, owner of the Beverly Hilton, said the earliest that designs could be finalized for the Waldorf=Astoria Beverly Hills would be spring of 2008.

The 317-room Westin St. Maarten Dawn Beach Resort & Spa held its grand opening on Monday. The Caribbean resort offers a 10,000-square-foot spa, a casino, a 10,000-square-foot ballroom and 99 residences, some of which will be in the rental pool when owners are absent. Columbia Sussex, which owns and manages the Westin Casuarina Resort & Spa Grand Cayman, is the franchisee of the new property.

The Convention Industry Council announced last week the new leaders of the APEX Commission, replacing those who had served for the past six years. Theresa "Terri" Breining, CMP, CMM, president, Concepts Worldwide, became the chairperson, as previously announced. Gregg Talley, CAE, president of Talley Management Group, now represents the Convention and Meeting Management sector. Mike McCool, director of technology services at The Freeman Companies, is head of the Service Contractors sector. Shawn Pierce, director of infrastructure for Hanley Wood Exhibitions, heads up the Exhibition Management sector. Ty Helms, senior vice president of sales at Hyatt Corporation, now oversees the Housing sector. Lastly, Leslie DeVries, regional vice president of Aramark, represents the Food and Beverage sector.