June 21, 2006

A spokesperson for the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority confirmed the sad news that Manny Cortez, the LACVA's long-time president and CEO, died on June 18 after suffering a heart attack at his home. Cortez served as the head of the authority for 13 years before his retirement in 2004. He was 67.

Officials at the Hotel Association of New York City and the Hotel and Motel Trades Council, representing unionized workers, tentatively agreed to terms for a new collective bargaining agreement on June 16. As of noon on Tuesday, representatives from the hotels (including the St. Regis and the Four Seasons) and the workers were meeting and expected to ratify the agreement, which would avert a citywide labor dispute when the current agreement expires on June 30. However, the labor situation remains tense at two Hilton properties, the Hilton New York and the Waldorf=Astoria, which did not take part in the negotiations. Earlier this year, according to several sources, the hotel union UNITE HERE had shut Hilton out of negotiation talks because of ongoing legal disputes involving back pay for employees and an alleged asbestos problem at the Waldorf=Astoria. Hilton officials are scheduled to meet with UNITE HERE local 6 today.

Cincinnati's Duke Energy Center, formerly the Cinergy Center, celebrates its official opening tomorrow, following a $135 million renovation and expansion. The center offers nearly 200,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space, a 40,000-square-foot ballroom and 100,000 square feet of additional meeting space.

The 793-room Westin Boston Waterfront officially opens today, connected to the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. The hotel has more than 32,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 15,000-square-foot ballroom, a 130-seat modern American grill restaurant, a business center, an 80-seat lobby lounge and a health club with an indoor swimming pool.

An agreement has been reached between Dallas, Fort Worth, and American and Southwest airlines that will bring an end to the Wright Amendment in eight years. The amendment restricts carriers serving Love Field in Dallas from flying beyond a few neighboring states. The immediate impact would allow Southwest passengers to through-ticket to destinations within the 50 United States and Washington, D.C. All international travel, however, is restricted to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The city of Dallas and Southwest also agreed to invest $150 million to $200 million to modernize the main terminal at Love Field. Congress has to approve the agreement.

The Philadelphia City Council narrowly passed a bill last Thursday to ban smoking in most public places, including bars and restaurants. The bill awaits the signature of Mayor John Street.

Meeting Professionals International has adopted new categories for its planner members, effective Sept. 15, to help the association offer more personalized services and products. New and existing members will be defined as corporate meeting professionals, association/nonprofit meeting professionals, government meeting professionals, supplier meeting professionals or meeting management professionals. The organization still will have student, faculty, retired, life and honorary member categories. "In order to evolve the profession, we must know who our members are and how to deliver relevant education," said Christine Duffy, 2005-'06 chair of the board of directors. In other news, concerning MPI's search for a new president and CEO, Mark S. Andrew, CMP, CHA, who was granted a leave of absence from the Westin Bayshore Resort & Marina in Vancouver to lead the association, begins his duties on July 1 as 2006-'07 chair of the board. He has appointed MPI director of governance and chief of staff Sandra Riggins as interim staff coordinator.

The room space crunch soon will be easing up. According to a new construction forecast released this week by PricewaterhouseCoopers, 119,000 new hotel rooms will be added to the U.S. hotel inventory in 2006. That is a 45 percent increase over 2005, when only 82,625 new rooms came on to the market. The largest percentage of new rooms, according to the forecast, will be in the upscale and midprice segments.

The new 500-room Renaissance Schaumburg (Ill.) Hotel and Convention Center will host its first group, U.S.A. Gymnastics, on July 6, but attendees will not be able to stay at the hotel as originally planned, due to construction delays. A spokesperson for the hotel said guests will be able to stay on property beginning July 17. The hotel has more than 48,000 square feet of meeting space, and the adjoining convention center has a 100,000-square-foot exhibit hall.