December 20, 2006

The Ritz-Carlton, Palm Beach (Fla.), reopens tomorrow following a $60 million renovation and expansion. Closed since July for the work, the property has added a second pool, three new restaurants and a 3,000-square-foot oceanfront terrace for events. Opening next summer is the 28,000-square-foot Grand Spa, connected to the property's South Tower. All guest rooms have been renovated and 24 new oceanfront units have been added, increasing the room count to 310. The resort has 20,000 square feet of meeting space.

The Signature at MGM Grand, a hotel-within-a-hotel in Las Vegas' 5,034-room MGM Grand property, debuted the second of its three 576-suite hotel towers today. The first tower opened in June; the third will open next May. Each building has a separate lobby. Tower 2 has two 800-square-foot meeting rooms and a 350-square-foot boardroom.

Harrah's Entertainment is close to accepting a buyout, according to several newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Two Texan investment companies, Apollo Management Group and Texas Pacific Group, want to buy Harrah's, which owns hotel-casinos in Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada and New Jersey, in a deal worth approximately $17 billion. In Las Vegas, Harrah's properties include the 3,349-room Caesars Palace, 3,221-room Paris Las Vegas and 2,500-room Rio All-Suite. Chances are the gaming company -- the world's largest -- would retain the name Harrah's if the deal goes through. Harrah's could not be reached for comment.

Three destinations -- the Cape Verde Islands; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; and Mures County, Transylvania -- have been selected for the 2007 Wild Card Pavilion at IMEX, the international meeting and incentive trade show. Each year, IMEX offers Wild Card status, which includes free booth space and marketing support, to several up-and-coming destinations that have never participated in a meeting or incentive trade show. The annual exhibition takes place at Messe Frankfurt, April 17-19.

The Convention Industry Council has named five stars of the industry as the 2007 inductees to its Hall of Leaders. The winners are Christine Duffy, president and CEO of Maritz Travel; Steven Hacker, CAE, president of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events; Robert "Bob" Moore, executive vice president of Freeman; Edward E. Scannell, CSP, CMP, director of the Center for Professional Development & Training for the National Speakers Association; and Roger Tondeur, president of MCI Group Holding S.A. The winners will be honored at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on Dec. 11, 2007, in conjunction with the IAEE annual meeting.

A major new report by the Healthcare Convention & Exhibitors Association uncovered a number of statistics for the health-care convention industry. For example, average exhibit hall square footage increased by 12.4 percent over the past five years, and the average number of exhibitors increased by 15.7 percent. The average cost of a 10'x10' exhibit increased by 9.4 percent. According to the HCEA, health-care conventions represent one quarter of the entire convention market. The full report will debut at HCEA's 2007 Healthcare Convention Marketing Summit, being held Jan. 18 at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel in Baltimore.