October 18, 2006

A 235-room W hotel and a 1,000-seat theater are part of a mixed-use development planned for downtown Austin, Texas. The theater will be the new home of "Austin City Limits," the acclaimed music show that currently tapes at the University of Texas in Austin. The new venue will be available for outside events and will offer several VIP suites. Also part of the development is a new facility for the Austin Children's Museum. Elements of the project are expected to open by 2009.

A report released this week by the Travel Industry Association of America says travelers in the United States can expect room rates to rise by 6.5 percent in 2007, with the average daily room rate forecasted to reach $103. Continued strong demand, and a limited amount of new inventory next year, means hotels will be able to raise room rates aggressively, the report predicts. In 2005, the average daily room rate was $90.56, and so far for 2006, that figure has increased to $96.73.

According to a three-year forecast of new hotel openings by Lodging Econometrics, a hospitality real-estate consultancy, China now has 63 percent of the total guest rooms in development in Asia, with 316 hotel projects and 107,725 guest rooms in the pipeline, second only to the United States globally. Development is centered in Beijing, with 36 projects underway comprising 11,288 guest rooms and seven hotels slated for opening by the end of 2006, 10 more in 2007 and 12 in early 2008. "Their development pace is geared to getting ready for the Olympic Games," said Patrick Ford, president of Lodging Econometrics.

Demand at North American convention centers increased 2 percent in the last year and more than 18 percent since 2004, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers report. (Demand is measured by dividing the amount of meeting space used by conventions and trade shows by the total amount of space available at the convention centers over a period of one year.) "In the past several years, we really have seen the big rebound in demand that some in the industry claimed would never occur," says Robert Canton, a director in PWC's Hospitality and Leisure practice. Total attendance at conventions and trade shows increased 3.8 percent between 2005 and 2006, according to the report, which compared annual survey data from approximately 50 convention centers in North America, most of which are in the United States. Of the those centers, nearly 60 percent report that demand is now equal to, or greater than, 1999 and 2000 levels, when convention business set high-water marks at many centers, Canton said.

The Portland Oregon Visitors Association's board of directors has chosen Jeff Miller as the agency's new president and CEO. Miller currently is the general manager of the Metropolitan Exposition Recreation Commission, which is responsible for managing several of Portland's largest public venues. Miller, who takes over officially on Nov. 13, replaces Joe D'Alessandro, who was appointed president and CEO of the San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau last July.