July 19, 2006

Jordy Tollett, president and CEO of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau, has taken a leave of absence, probably until sometime in August, according to a bureau spokesperson. While the official statement refers to giving Tollett the opportunity to address some personal issues, his leave comes three days after an expose on Houston's KPRC (Channel 2), which aired July 10, showed Tollett apparently spending extended lunch hours in a bar. Tollett has been the head of the CVB since 1997 and has been working to bring visitors and conventions to the city in some capacity for about 35 years.

The Massachusetts Turnpike Authority has closed indefinitely the I-90 Connector Tunnel following a fatal accident on July 10, and safety inspections of surrounding tunnels and bridges are causing delays around the South Boston waterfront district, site of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. A message posted on the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority website warns attendees that "as the inspections continue throughout the summer...convention guests should be prepared for longer than usual drive times." The Ted Williams Tunnel between the South Boston waterfront district and Logan International Airport is closed to all traffic except emergency vehicles and the Silver Line bus, which has increased service on the route. In a note sent to members of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau yesterday, Larry Meehan, vice president of media and tourism for the bureau, said visitors should be reminded that the city is open and events are not being canceled. The Turnpike Authority (http://www.masspike.com), the Massachusetts Port Authority (http://www.massport.com), and the Greater Boston CVB (http://www.bostonusa.com) all have travel advisories on their websites that provide information about tunnel closures and suggested alternate routes.

Phase One of the Phoenix Convention Center expansion, the West Conference Center, opens this weekend. The new facility offers more than 156,000 square feet of space, including a 62,000-square-foot exhibition hall, 16 meeting rooms and an additional 16 rooms approved by the International Association of Conference Centers. The old North Building was demolished last week to make way for Phase Two, during which a four-level facility will be constructed. The $600 million project will bring the center's footprint to more than 900,000 square feet of space when the dust settles in 2009.

Serge Dive, who founded the International Luxury Travel Market, which he eventually sold to Reed Exhibition Companies, is organizing a new show, Beyond Luxury, for the luxury travel, goods and services markets. The inaugural invitation-only exhibition will be held at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France, next June, and attendees will network and pursue business opportunities during pre-arranged appointments.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide will build a new W Hotel in downtown Philadelphia, scheduled to open in 2009. The W Philadelphia Hotel & Residences will be in Center City, across the street from the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The hotel will feature 250 guest rooms, including 26 suites, plus a 6,500-square-foot spa, a signature restaurant and bar with outdoor garden space, and 11,000 square feet of meeting space.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. will open a 275-room resort with residences on Half Moon Bay, on the southern coast of St. Lucia, in 2009. The Caribbean resort will offer a 20,000-square-foot spa, two golf courses and 7,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 5,000-square-foot ballroom.