July 12, 2006

Meeting Professionals International's World Education Congress, which concluded yesterday in Dallas, was the organization's largest ever. More than 3,600 people, 40 percent planners and 60 percent suppliers, attended the event at the Dallas Convention Center, beating the previous record of 3,417 in Las Vegas in July 2001. Also, MPI's Global Corporate Circle of Excellence has released its fifth white paper, called "360 Degrees of Teamwork: How Meeting and Travel Professionals Can Build Strategic Synergies to Drive Results." The paper is available from the organization's website (www.mpiweb.org).

The Convention Industry Council has released version 2.0 of its APEX Meeting & Event Toolbox, a Microsoft Office-based package. The upgrade includes RFP templates for a single facility and such services as A/V, transportation, destination management companies and show contractors; an improved rooming list template; enhanced navigation; default event and user profiles, and six new help lessons. The toolbox still costs $99.95; the upgrade is free to owners who registered their copies of version 1.0. It should be available for download at the end of the week, and on CD in four to six weeks. One or two more upgrades are expected in 2007, as CIC's development partners work to allow the product to be used not just on a local machine, but also on a server and over the Internet.

Casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., reopened July 8 after a four-day work stoppage by state employees (including casino inspectors), caused by a delay in agreement on the state budget. A spokesperson for the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority said a few restaurants decided not to open during the shutdown but there were no large conventions in town at the time. The spokesperson added that it was too early to estimate the losses the city suffered both in terms of casino revenue and hotel-tax income, but news outlets have reported the casinos' estimate to be $16 million per day. The new state budget includes an increase in the sales tax, from 6 percent to 7 percent, as of July 15.  

In September, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts will unveil a new meetings portal on its website at www.crowneplaza.com/meetings. Designed for gatherings of 25 to 200, the site will include space and budget calculators, third-party content such as informational articles, and customizable websites for individual meetings, with a booking tool to help keep attendees within the room block.

Orient-Express Hotels has acquired six Pansea Hotel Group properties from Hosia Ltd., a Hong Kong-based investment firm, three years earlier than originally planned, for $25 million. Orient-Express has been an investor in the properties since 2004. Pansea will continue to manage the hotels. The properties are as follows: the 34-room La Residence Phou Vao in Luang Prabang, Laos; the 55-room La Residence d'Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia; the 41-cottage Jimbaran Puri Bali; the 38-villa Ubud Hanging Gardens (also in Bali); the 45-room Governor's Residence in Yangon, Myanmar and the 55-cottage Napasai, Koh Samui, Thailand.