May 24, 2006

The business travel community is praising passage by the United States Senate of legislation to push back the passport deadline for the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative until June 1, 2009. Because current law mandates passports for travel between the United States and Canada by Jan. 1, 2008, there is fear the closer deadline could reduce business and leisure travel between the two countries. The new amendment to the Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation was co-sponsored by senators Ted Stevens (D-Alaska) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), and it must be passed by the House of Representatives and signed by the president before any deadline change would take effect.

The 802-room Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., will begin a $50 million renovation on Oct. 15. The grand dame property will close its doors briefly from Jan. 2, 2007, to April 2, 2007, for the work. Renovations will encompass the main lobby, dining spaces and guest rooms.

At the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide media summit held in New York City this week, Hoyt Harper, senior vice president for the Four Points brand, announced a 250-room Four Points by Sheraton will be constructed in Times Square. Scheduled to open in 2008, the hotel will feature several meeting rooms.

Based on the success of its EIBTM meetings and incentive exhibition, Reed Travel Exhibitions announced last week it has partnered with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority to create GIBTM, a similar show for meetings and incentive suppliers from the Persian Gulf, South/Southeast Asia, Europe and North Africa. The show will be held March 27-29, 2007, in the new Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Company Centre.

A new hotel tower with 800 to 1,000 rooms is being planned for Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., which already offers 1,200 guest rooms. More gaming and retail space also will be added, Christopher Perry, vice president, hotel sales and marketing for the gaming company, said at a meeting of the New York Society of Association Executives held last week at the Javits Center in New York City. Perry said the expansion has not yet been announced officially, and further details were not available.

Hotel firm Grupo Barceló, based in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, is launching a new chain, Playa Hotels & Resorts. Playa will focus on the acquisition and development of all-inclusive beachfront resorts in Mexico, Latin America and the Caribbean. The firm's initial portfolio will consist of four Mexican properties: the Barceló Premium La Jolla de Mismaloya in Puerto Vallarta, Barceló Premium Ixtapa, the Barceló Premium Huatulco and the Barceló Premium Karmina Palace in Manzanillo. All future acquisitions will be branded and managed by Barceló Hotels & Resorts.

The 123-room Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, is under construction in White Plains, N.Y. The entire development, called Renaissance Square, will feature a 10,000-square-foot spa, two fine-dining restaurants and 10,000 square feet of meeting space. The hotel, along with 32 condo-hotel units and 175 residences, will open in 2008.

The board of directors of the New York Convention Center Operating Corp. has approved the expansion and renovation plan for the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Said Gerald T. McQueen, president and CEO of the Javits Center, "Is the plan perfect? No. But under the restraints of space and available finances, the plan is acceptable to the management of the Javits Center." Groundbreaking is scheduled for late summer or early fall, depending on when and whether the Public Authorities Control Board approves the plan.

The 51-room W Honolulu-Diamond Head in Waikiki is being sold to Diamond Head Pacific Capital LLC. As part of the sale, which is expected to close later this month, Starwood will stop managing the property, and the hotel tentatively will be renamed the Resort Hawaii Diamond Head.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts will build a St. Regis hotel on the Pacific coast at Playa Coyol, Costa Rica, 65 miles from the capital city of San José. The 133-room St. Regis Resort, Costa Rica, will open in 2008 with three pools, three restaurants, a beach club, an 11,000-square-foot spa and 3,750 square feet of meeting space.