August 30, 2006

Meeting planning company Conferon Global Services announced yesterday, during the company's annual meeting in Denver, that it has changed its name to Experient. (In April of this year, Conferon Global Services was formed from the merger of the company's three divisions: Conferon, ITS and ExpoExchange.) During the announcement, CEO Ed Shartar said, "While I recognize the enormous equity in each of the former divisions, I have absolutely no doubt that the event industry will very soon recognize a much greater benefit in the combined resources we have as Experient."

Hotel workers in Chicago, Hawaii, San Francisco and Monterey, Calif., voted last week to grant local UNITE HERE leaders authority to call for strikes if their contract disputes cannot be resolved. Workers in Toronto passed a similar measure last month. More than 90 percent of voters in each city were in favor of strike authorization. Negotiations continue this week in San Francisco, where nearly 8,000 workers have been without a contract for two years. Workers in Monterey are planning to stage a rally on Aug. 31, which is also the day contracts expire in Chicago. John Wilhelm, president, hospitality industries for UNITE HERE, said the votes were standard procedure and did not signify that strikes would necessarily occur. "It's important because it shows employees have placed their confidence in the union leadership," he said.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has signed its first contract for the Four Points by Sheraton brand in China. Scheduled to open in July 2009, the 301-room Four Points by Sheraton Beijing will be located in the Haiden district, the city's technology hub, and will feature 16,800 square feet of meeting space, a full-service business center, three restaurants and a spa. Starwood currently operates 28 hotels in China, Taiwan and Macao and has another 28 under construction.

The French government is considering a ban on smoking in restaurants and other public places. The measure, which would take effect Jan. 1, 2007, was proposed by French health minister Xavier Bertrand in an interview last week with newspaper Le Figaro. Nightclubs, casinos and bars that sell tobacco would be exempt from the measure. The ban would bring France into step with Britain, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Sweden, all of which have imposed or are preparing to impose bans on smoking in enclosed public spaces.

The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority announced on Aug. 22 that it will offer Passkey, the online housing management system, as part of its convention services package. The Passkey service helps manage room blocks and create customized event websites.

Millenia Hotel Private Limited, a company that owns a number of luxury hotels in Singapore, has signed a deal with West Paces Hotel Group to manage a resort in the rainforest of Sentosa, an island in Singapore, under West Paces' ultra-luxury brand, Capella Hotels & Resorts. The 110-room Capella Singapore, to open in summer 2008, will offer two restaurants, a spa and four meeting rooms.