November 22, 2006

The Los Angeles City Council voted last week to require a dozen hotels near Los Angeles International Airport to pay their employees a "living wage," the first time the city has intervened in the salary practices of a private employer not contracted with the government. The council also approved measures that would temporarily protect hotel workers' jobs when hotels change ownership and would require hotels to pass along to employees service charges levied for banquets or large group functions. The legislation does not apply to all Los Angeles hotels, but some business leaders, fearing the measures could be extended to other hotels and businesses, have vowed to take the issue to the general populace in an effort to overturn the ordinances, according to the Los Angeles Times. The council was scheduled to vote again on the measures this morning.

Marriott International will expand its eFolio program, launched last year for corporate accounts. Guests of all JW Marriott, Marriott, Renaissance, Courtyard by Marriott, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn, TownePlace Suites, SpringHill Suites and Marriott Vacation Clubs International resorts in the United States and Canada can elect to have their hotel bills e-mailed directly to them within 48 hours of checkout, which effectively eliminates the need for a front-desk stop on departure. According to Marriott, in a survey of 21,000 business travelers, 85 percent preferred e-mail access to their folios.

Last week, McSam Hotel Group, a Long Island, N.Y.-based developer, announced it will build 33 hotels from the ground up in New York City over the next few years, totaling 6,000 rooms. Most of these hotels will be in the limited-service segment. Of the 19 hotels planned for Manhattan, about half will be full-service, with the most group-friendly being a 360-room Sheraton on Canal Street with 4,000 square feet of meeting space, to open in early 2008. When asked why there isn't more meeting space in the mix, COO Gary Wisinski explained, "When the cost of land in New York City is $350 a square foot, it's hard to go out and build a 10,000-square-foot ballroom when, in fact, you don't even need it."

The 413-room Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino has been sold for $237 million, to the Caribbean Real Estate Opportunity Fund. The property still will be managed by Marriott. A guest-room refurbishment planned for next year will expand into a more extensive $40 million renovation that by 2008 potentially will reposition the property in the market.

Moevenpick Hotels & Resorts will manage two new hotels in Turkey, the 91-room Moevenpick Resort Bodrum, which will open in June, and the 102-room Moevenpick Suites & Spa Istanbul, to open in mid-2008.

The 87-room Jumeirah Lowndes Hotel in London has reopened following a complete renovation. The property has one meeting room.

The Embassy Suites Hotel Tampa-Downtown Convention Center opened Monday. The $100 million project has 360 suites, 9,000 square feet of meeting space and a skybridge connecting it to the city's convention center.

Moloka'i Properties plans to spend $30 million to renovate and reopen the 152-room Kaluakoi Hotel, purchased four years ago. Renovations to the Maui property will include new restaurants, a snack bar, Internet cafE, shops and a community beach pavilion. Moloka'i Properties already has reopened the property's 18-hole golf course.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts has converted the Cumberland House Hotel in Knoxville, Tenn., into the Four Points by Sheraton Knoxville Cumberland House. Adjacent to the Knoxville Convention Center, the hotel now features 130 rooms with flat-screen televisions, a fitness center, a restaurant, high-speed wireless Internet access and approximately 3,400 square feet of meeting space.  
The Brown Hotel in downtown Louisville was sold last week to 1859 Historic Hotels Ltd. The historic 293-room hotel features three restaurants, a 24-hour fitness center and more than 16,000 square feet of meeting space.