June 14, 2006

Plans for Las Ramblas, the Las Vegas megaresort dream of actor George Clooney, have come to a halt. Announced to great fanfare in 2004, the property was to have featured 4,400 rooms and a host of Las Vegas-style amenities. A spokesperson for the project said the 25 acres acquired for the project were sold for $202 million to development company Edge Resorts, which owns the adjacent, upcoming W Las Vegas Hotel Casino Residences. The land will be used for an "entirely new project, a boutique destination with several hotels around a casino," according to a spokesperson for Edge Resorts.

New York City has announced the intention to integrate its three marketing entities, NYC & Company, NYC Big Events and NYC Marketing, into one organization. George A. Fertitta, previously chairman and founder of the branding, marketing and advertising agency Margeotes Fertitta Powell, will be chief executive of the new organization. NYC & Company, the city's convention and visitors bureau, will remain intact, though it will benefit from additional marketing support from Fertitta and the other organizations. "It's a very exciting undertaking," said a spokesperson for NYC & Company. "It's going to set a new model for how cities market themselves in the future."

Since the beginning of 2005, Radisson Hotels & Resorts has invested more than $500 million in renovation, enhancement and new construction projects at more than 100 properties in North America, making the average dollar investment per guest room $17,000. Executives at the brand and its parent company, Carlson Hotels Worldwide, said the investment was necessary in order for Radisson to bring its portfolio into alignment in key markets. Included in the $500 million was $45 million for the launch of a new bedding program; a $10 million renovation of the Radisson Hotel Martinique in New York City, which currently is in progress; and the $15 million renovation of the 545-room Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel in Philadelphia, expected to be completed by this fall.

Accor, which in April sold 50 percent of its stake in Carlson Wagonlit Travel for $465 million, announced it has sold 16 percent of its share in Club Med and will use the proceeds of both sales to invest in its core business: hotels. The company, which currently has a portfolio of 470,000 rooms worldwide, plans to add another 200,000 rooms by 2010, with most of its expansion in new and emerging markets such as China, India and Morocco. Accor also plans to concentrate on strengthening its position in Italy and Spain.

Trump Entertainment Resorts announced on June 12 that it will build a casino in Diamondhead on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which was ravaged by last year's Hurricane Katrina. The property will rise on a 404-acre parcel of land that the local county deemed a Special Use District-Waterfront Gaming District. This designation, under a new law passed following Katrina, allows casinos to be built within 800 feet of the shoreline. (Before Katrina, Mississippi casinos had to be on the water.) A press release stated that the property will be a "destination casino resort and hotel with condominiums and other amenities," but no further details were available at press time.

Marriott International will construct 1,000 hotel rooms and 216 residences to anchor L.A. Live, the $1 billion sports and entertainment district currently under construction downtown, according to LA Inc. The 876-room Los Angeles Marriott Marquis will include a ballroom with the capacity to seat 3,000 people and will serve as the headquarters hotel to the Los Angeles Convention Center. Above the Marquis will be the 124-room Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles, plus 216 luxury residences. The 54-story tower is expected to open in 2010.

A judge in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas dismissed that city's lawsuit against 17 online travel companies, including Orbitz and Expedia, because the issue should have been handled by the tax review board, not the court. "This court is troubled by the fact that it does not appear that the city has ever performed an audit, provided notice or attempted to collect the tax from defendants, other than by filing the instant lawsuit," explained Judge Howland W. Abramson in an order and an opinion. The lawsuit had demanded that the online companies remit hotel occupancy taxes based on the profit they made. So far, no court has decided whether that profit is subject to the hotel tax.

The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority is suing the design team of the Boston Convention & Exposition Center for design flaws it claims has cost taxpayers tens of millions of dollars, including a leaky roof. The trial is expected to begin in Boston's Suffolk Superior Court on June 19. The MCCA would not comment on the case, and the two architectural firms named as defendants, HNTB and Rafael Vinoly Architects PC, declined to comment or did not return phone calls seeking comment.

On July 1, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts takes over management of the 209-room St. Andrews Bay Golf Resort & Spa in Scotland. The property, which has two 18-hole golf courses and 12 meeting rooms, will be reflagged this fall as the Fairmont St. Andrews Bay.