November 08, 2006

Elections yesterday produced results that will impact meeting planners and events around the country, many involving cigarette smoking. Here are a few notable outcomes:

" In Arizona, voters passed a measure prohibiting smoking in enclosed public places and places of employment, including sports arenas, restaurants, bars, hotels and motels (although it permits properties to allow smoking in up to half of guest rooms). The proposition also creates a 2-cent-per-pack tobacco tax that will pay for the enforcement and public education of the new statewide smoking law.

" By an overwhelming margin (72 percent to 28 percent), voters in Laramie County, Wyo., passed a 1 percent increase to the area's lodging tax, bringing it to 4 percent. The tax will help fund the Cheyenne Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

" In Nevada, voters approved an initiative to ban smoking in certain public places with a food-handling license, including bars that serve food. Smoking will continue to be allowed in gaming areas of casinos.

" A new Harrah's resort casino is not in the cards for Rhode Island. Citizens rejected an amendment to the state constitution that would have allowed a gaming company to own and operate a resort casino in association with the Narragansett Indian Tribe in West Warwick, R.I. 

" Voters in Ohio supported the more stringent of two smoking ban proposals on the ballot, favoring a law that bans smoking in nearly all public places, including bars and restaurants. The law takes effect in January.

Four Seasons Hotels has received a $3.7 billion takeover offer from its majority investors, including the chain's current chairman and CEO, Isadore Sharp; Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal of Kingdom Hotels, and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates' Cascade Investment. The group wants to take the publicly traded hotel chain private. The Four Seasons board of directors has established a special committee to consider the terms of the takeover, which would pay stockholders $82 per share, with Sharp remaining at the helm. In an official statement, Sharp said the buyout offer "was the best way to preserve and expand the long-term strategy, vision and core values of Four Seasons."

As of Jan. 1, the Internal Revenue Service's suggested mileage rate for using a car for business travel will increase from 44.5 cents per mile to 48.5 cents per mile. Companies are free to set their own rates, according to the IRS; the rate merely is a guide based on an annual study of the cost of operating an automobile.

On Monday, the European Union instituted new rules restricting liquids that can be carried onboard commercial aircraft. The new rules, which are similar to those imposed recently in the United States, apply to all flights departing EU airports, no matter the destination or the nationality of the carrier. Liquids must be stored in containers of 100 milliliters (3.3 ounces) or smaller capacity, and packed in one clear, resealable bag no larger than one liter. A guide to the rules change is available at

The Toronto Congress Centre announced plans for a major expansion that will boost the facility's overall convention floor space to more than 1 million square feet. Scheduled for a fall 2007 opening, the Toronto Congress Centre North addition will comprise 500,000 square feet of additional exhibition space, 40 meeting rooms and a 25,000-square-foot ballroom.

The 424-room InterContinental Boston opened Monday with 32,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 10,500-square-foot ballroom. Also offering 130 residential units, the property sports a 6,600-square-foot spa, a 24-hour health club, a French brasserie, a sushi bar, a champagne bar and a rum-themed bar. Also, the 447-room InterContinental London Park Lane has reopened following a $113 million renovation. The property has five meeting rooms; a spa; a restaurant; and The Cookbook Cafe, where up-and-coming chefs will provide cooking classes for guests.

The 564-room London NYC officially debuted last week, celebrating the change in name and look from the Rihga Royal. The spacious rooms, most of which are suites, have an airy, residential feel, designed by Irishman David Collins. Meeting space is not yet finalized, but plans call for three meeting rooms, suitable for small gatherings. Gordon Ramsay's restaurant opens Nov. 16; Ramsay will be handling the hotel's catering, as well.