January 17, 2007

Following a heated competition between American, Continental, Northwest and United airlines, last week the Department of Transportation awarded the new nonstop U.S.-China route to United Airlines, which will serve the capital cities of Washington, D.C., and Beijing. United will begin operating the new route using a 347-seat B747-400 aircraft within 90 days after the DOT issues its final ruling, which could come as soon as next week.

On Monday, Clear Registered Traveler began operation of a Registered Traveler security lane in British Airways Terminal 7 at New York City's JFK International Airport, signaling the beginning of a national rollout of RT, which allows air passengers to pay an annual fee to pass through an express security line. Last Friday, Clear announced that all its partner airports had received the go-ahead from the Transportation Security Administration to begin RT enrollment and verification services. Currently, Clear is the only company approved by TSA to enroll RT applicants and operate the lanes. The airports include those in Cincinnati; Indianapolis; Orlando; and San Jose, Calif.; as well as Terminals 1 and 7 at New York's JFK International.

Denver has been chosen as the site of the Democratic National Convention, to be held Aug. 25-28, 2008, 100 years after the only other time the Democrats have met there. Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau officials expect the gathering to be the largest the city has hosted, with an estimated attendance of 35,000 people. Bureau president and CEO Richard Scharf said the city is ready, considering the area has added more than 5,000 hotel rooms since 2000, and another 2,000 rooms should be available by the time the delegates arrive. The bureau calculates the convention's economic impact will be $160 million.

The 273-room Ritz-Carlton Boston, long a local landmark, has been reflagged the Taj Boston. A spokesperson for the hotel said the owners are interested in reopening to the public the property's Dining Room, which had been used exclusively for private events since 2005, but plans have not been finalized. Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces will not be giving the hotel a major overhaul because Ritz-Carlton poured $60 million into the property in 2002. The hotel has approximately 18,000 square feet of meeting space.

A proposed $550 million resort in La Quinta, Calif., is one step closer to reality after the city agreed last week to sell more than 50 acres of land to developer LDD SilverRock, a dedicated entity of Lowe Enterprises Inc. A 225-room boutique condo-hotel with conference facilities, a spa, a fitness center, several restaurants and retail space will be the first component to be completed in 2009. The next phase, to be open soon after, will include 55 additional condo-hotel rooms known as the Ranch Villas. A 283-room resort hotel will follow a few years later, with additional conference space, another spa, its own fitness center, and more restaurants and retail space. The proposal also calls for a "retail village" of approximately 81,000 square feet. SilverRock currently is working on designs and will need city approval for each phase, but a management analyst for the city said construction could begin later this year.

Last week, the city of Irving, Texas, released plans for the redevelopment of the site of Texas Stadium. The venue's occupants, football's Dallas Cowboys, will move to a new stadium in Arlington in time for the 2009 season. Irving is negotiating with Forest City Enterprises to turn the 380-acre site into a new neighborhood with a hotel, a civic center, retail outlets and residences. Two DART light-rail stops are planned for the area.