December 13, 2006

The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, will open in July, about a month ahead of schedule. The 218-room hotel will feature 14,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 9,500-square-foot Ritz-Carlton Ballroom. Relaxation will be offered in the 12,000-square-foot spa with 12 treatment rooms, two VIP/couple's suites and one Vichy therapy room.

The Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas will undergo a $150 million improvement and expansion. Forty new guest villas and 40 Four Seasons luxury residential condos will be built, and the property's two golf courses, the TPC Las Colinas and the Cottonwood Valley Golf Course, will be redesigned. Also planned is a comprehensive renovation of the existing 397 rooms and the public areas. The resort's 30,000-square-foot conference center was renovated last year.

Golden Tulip Hospitality has added a 75th Netherlands hotel to its portfolio, the 65-suite Golden Tulip Amsterdam-Vinkeveen. Plans are in place to expand the property to 130 suites and to add more conference and leisure facilities by 2010.

Starwood Capital Group, headed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide founder Barry Sternlicht, has entered into a strategic alliance with Jin Jiang International Hotels, one of China's largest hotel operators. SCG will invest more than US$30 million in Jin Jiang, making SCG the largest outside shareholder in the Chinese company.

James B. Sherwood, founder and chairman of Orient-Express Hotels, has retired from the luxury chain, citing personal reasons. Sherwood, 73, founded Orient-Express in 1976. The company reports that Sherwood's wife has been unwell and he is unable to travel as much as in the past. Sherwood will continue to serve as nonexecutive chairman until the company's June 2007 shareholders meeting. After that, he will be the nonexecutive director and founder.

The Drawbridge Inn and Convention Center in Fort Mitchell, Ky., will undergo its first major renovation since opening in 1970. The 400-room hotel will spend $5 million to $7 million to upgrade its exterior, guest rooms, restrooms, carpeting and all 30,000 square feet of meeting space. The inn will stay open during the renovations, which begin next January and should be completed by year's end.

Members of UNITE HERE Local 2 in San Francisco passed a strike authorization vote last week against the W San Francisco, where some employees have been working without a contract since 2004. The union ratified contracts with 16 "Class A" hotels in the city in September, including a pair -- the Westin St. Francis and The Palace Hotel -- operated, but not owned, by Starwood Hotels & Resorts. The union has yet to agree to terms with 14 other Class A properties, including the W San Francisco and the St. Regis Hotel, San Francisco, both owned and operated by Starwood. A union spokesperson said after contracts are signed with all of the city's major hotels, union leaders will turn their attention to contracts at 31 smaller, limited-service hotels and motels in the area. In other union news, the 500 workers at the Waikiki Beach Marriott have ratified a four-year contract with UNITE HERE Local 5 that includes wage increases of $2.40 an hour over four years for nontipped employees and $1.20 an hour for tipped employees.
To kickoff a $60 million renovation, the Hyatt Regency O'Hare in Rosemont, Ill., closed on Dec. 10 and will reopen on Jan. 29, after structural work is finished. Among the improvements slated for the first phase of renovation, which will be finished in April, will be a new two-level conference center and extra meeting space, bringing the hotel's total to more than 110,000 square feet. An enclosed skywalk will be built to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, which offers 840,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space. This first phase also will include a new bar, a restaurant, a fitness center and improved public spaces.

Kempinski Hotels will manage the 430-room Palace Hilton Geneva, formerly the Noga Hilton. The property, which has 13 meeting rooms, will be renamed the Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva. Currently closed for a complete renovation, the hotel will reopen 230 rooms in February, with the remaining guest rooms, meeting facilities and restaurants opening in May.

Golf resort developer Peter de Savary has purchased the Royal Golf Hotel in Dornock, Scotland. The 25-room property, currently closed for renovations, will reopen in April.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide will manage the Westin Syracuse Convention Center, to open in 2009 beside the Oncenter Complex, a 99,000-square-foot convention center in Syracuse, N.Y. The 350-room hotel will feature 17,000 square feet of meeting space, a Westin Kids Club and an indoor pool. Also in Syracuse, the former Wyndham hotel has become the 250-room Doubletree Hotel Syracuse, after a multimillion-dollar renovation. The hotel has 12,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 4,800-square-foot ballroom and 14 meeting rooms. The property also has an indoor pool and a fitness center.

Baha Mar, the five-hotel, 1,000-acre megaresort planned for Nassau, the Bahamas, will open its first hotel in spring 2007. With an influx of $80 million, the Radisson Cable Beach is being converted into the 700-room Sheraton Resort at Cable Beach. The property will feature Sheraton-branded beds, high-speed Internet access, LCD flat-screen TVs, walk-in showers and desks with ergonomic chairs.
A few days after New York City banned trans fats in restaurants, Loews Hotels declared it would ban the hydrogenated fats in the chain's 18 hotels and resorts in the U.S. and Canada by June 1. Trans fats will be absent from foods served in restaurants, room service, banquets and even minibars.