October 25, 2006

On Monday, InterContinental Hotels Group announced a deal with All Nippon Airways (ANA) to create IGH ANA Hotels Group Japan, a new entity that will be the largest international hotel operator in Japan. IGH ANA Hotels Group Japan will manage 13 properties comprising 4,943 guest rooms under a 15-year management contract with ANA. Each hotel will be reflagged under one of three new brands created in the deal: ANA-InterContinental, ANA-Crown Plaza and ANA-Holiday Inn. The first property rebranded under the agreement will be the 901-room ANA Hotel Tokyo, set to become the ANA-InterContinental Tokyo in April 2007.

Last week, the Tourism Industry Association of Canada blasted the government's plan to eliminate the Goods and Services Tax Visitor Rebate Program, under which foreign visitors, meeting planners and attendees have been entitled to a giveback of the 6 percent tax on hotel rooms, event admission costs, convention space and supplies. "While other countries are going out of their way to attract visitors, Canada is essentially rolling up the welcome mat," said Randy Williams, president and CEO of TIAC. Many Canadian tourism and business travel groups have banded together as the Visitor Rebate Program Coalition in an effort to save the program, which is scheduled to end April 1.

Real estate consultant Lodging Econometrics has revised its pipeline forecast, reducing new hotel openings in 2007 to 1,087 projects, or 115,956 rooms. The new forecast represents a decrease of 3,470 rooms from the original projection. The company also reduced its forecast for 2006 new openings to 775 projects, a decrease of 4,797 rooms. According to company president Patrick Ford, the new numbers reflect developers' cost-pressure problems, which affect their ability to complete projects on time. According to Lodging Econometrics' current predictions, 2008 will be the year that upper-upscale and large casino projects make it to market, easing the current room crunch.

Marriott International intends to add 85,000 to 100,000 hotel rooms worldwide by the end of 2009 through conversions and new builds. About 30 percent of the increase to the portfolio will be outside of North America. The expansion will bring Marriott's worldwide room count to 600,000 by 2009, with 120,000 guest rooms outside of North America. More than 12,000 of the new rooms will be in the Middle East, Africa and Europe; Asia is slated to get between 11,000 and 12,000 new rooms, with Ritz-Carlton properties accounting for almost 25 percent of that total. Up to 5,000 rooms are projected for the Caribbean and Latin America.

Starwood Capital Group, a real estate investment firm led by former Starwood Hotels & Resorts chairman and CEO Barry Sternlicht, will launch a chain of eco-friendly luxury hotels called "1" Hotel and Residences. The properties will be built to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) standards and will be committed to using environmentally sustainable architecture and minimizing the consumption of natural resources. The Natural Resources Defense Council has agreed to be an adviser on "1" in an effort to create a new standard for environmental awareness that other hotels might follow. The first "1" will open in Seattle in late 2008.

In New Orleans, the final stage of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center's comeback will be finished this week with the reopening of halls A, B, C and D, following a $60 million restoration project to repair damage from Hurricane Katrina. The first show to use the complete center will be the International WorkBoat Show, which runs from Nov. 29 through Dec. 1. As previously reported, the center's Phase IV expansion has been put on hold.