December 13, 2006

Last week, Florida's 3,300-member Seminole tribe announced it had acquired the Hard Rock Cafe restaurant, hotel and casino chain from British investment company Rank Group PLC in a $965 million deal, beating out 70 competing bidders. The Seminole tribe already owns and operates two Hard Rock facilities in Tampa and Hollywood, Fla. The deal, which is expected to close in March, includes 124 cafés, six hotels and casinos. In 2005, the Hard Rock chain posted $70 million in profits on $500 million in revenues. Meanwhile, this week Hard Rock International announced it will build a 450-unit condo-hotel in Palm Springs, Calif., to open in late 2009. The Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs will include 40,000 square feet of meeting space and a 20,000-square-foot Rock Spa.

Thomas J. Noonan has been named the new president and CEO of the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association. Noonan, who begins his new job Jan. 3, comes from the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau, where he was senior vice president of sales and services, the bureau's second in command. He replaces Leslie R. Doggett, who resigned last May.

Le Méridien Lav opened in the Mediterranean port city of Split, Croatia, on Monday. A $100 million renovation of the former Hotel Lav, the property has 381 guest rooms, a restaurant, a pub, a champagne lounge, 2,000 feet of private beach, a marina and a tennis academy. Also on site are 22,554 square feet of meeting space.

On Monday, the Travel Industry Association of America launched a new website -- -- to provide information to travelers about documents and deadlines mandated by the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative. The site also provides links to help U.S., Canadian and Mexican citizens obtain passports. "The message is that if you want to travel to or from the U.S., get a passport," said Roger Dow, president of TIA. According to the group, 40 percent of Canadians and just 27 percent of Americans currently have a passport. The TIA is encouraging all travel industry partners to provide links to the site on their web pages in order to increase those percentages.

Myles McGrane, general manager of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City, will retire by the end of the month. In a note to show managers, he said, "My decision to leave is personal and the timing with the change in state government is simply coincidental." A successor has not yet been announced. By 2010, the first phase of an expansion to the center will be completed, increasing the exhibit space by 340,000 square feet to a total of 1.1 million, and increasing the meeting space by 180,000 square feet to a total of 210,000 square feet.

Wyndham Hotel Group, in a deal with Royal Orchard Hotels of Bangalore, India, will develop 10 four-star-quality, Ramada-flagged hotels in the Indian states of Karnetaka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. Investment in the properties by Royal Orchard Hotels will total about US$100 million. Wyndham Hotel Group franchises the Ramada, Days and Howard Johnson brands in India, a marketplace PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts will require up to 125,000 new hotel rooms in the next five years. This deal will add at least 1,000 guest rooms to the country.

On Dec. 8., the Singapore government announced that Infinity @ TheBay Pte. Ltd., a venture between Genting International and Star Cruises, has been awarded development rights for the $3.4 billion Integrated Resort project on Singapore's Sentosa Island, which will feature a Universal Studios theme park, an oceanarium, a water park, a museum and other entertainment offerings. Meetings venues will provide capacity for up to 12,000 attendees, including 22 meeting rooms, a ballroom and exhibition space. A total of 1,830 rooms will be divided among six hotels, including a Hard Rock Hotel, a Maxim's Residences and a first-of-its-kind Hotel Michael, designed by lead project architect Michael Graves.