March 22, 2006

On Friday, New York City-based Cendant Corp. announced the spin-off of the Cendant Hotel Group -- a division comprising Wyndham, Ramada, Super 8, Wingate Inn and Days Inn brands, plus various timeshare resorts, vacation exchanges and rental businesses -- into an independent, publicly traded company to be known as Wyndham Worldwide. "We believe Wyndham Worldwide translates perfectly as the bold new identity for a company that provides consumers with the widest choice in global travel accommodations for virtually any occasion, price point and experience," said Stephen P. Holmes, Cendant vice chairman and the new company's chairman and CEO. Wyndham Worldwide's portfolio will include 6,300 managed or franchised hotels with more than 530,000 guest rooms in 100 countries.

Last Thursday, ASAE & the Center for Association Leadership announced that Toronto, St. Louis and Dallas had been picked to host the organization's annual meeting and exposition in 2009, 2011 and 2012, respectively. "Each year's annual meeting gets better and better, in large part due to our host city's hospitality," said John H. Graham IV, CAE, president and CEO of ASAE. "And Boston is setting the bar in 2006." Other forthcoming ASAE host cities include Chicago (2007), San Diego (2008) and Los Angeles (2010). ASAE estimates that 20 percent of the delegates to its annual meeting book their own conventions in the host city within five years.

Ritz-Carlton will open a hotel and residence tower in Denver next spring. The 19-story property will feature 202 guest rooms and 23 residential units, plus 13,000 square feet of meeting space.

The shake-up at Vail Resorts continues. Last week, William Hall, vice president of operations for Rock Resorts and Vail Resorts Lodging Co., was promoted to vice president, lodging division, for Vail Resorts. Ed Mace will depart as the president of Rock Resorts and Vail Resorts Lodging Co. on April 15. Last month, Vail Resorts announced it was moving its headquarters from Avon, Colo., to Denver and merging its mountain and lodging divisions. A spokesperson for Vail Resorts said the company was "not expecting to change our portfolio. Rock Resorts is still a national luxury chain, and we anticipate announcing several new properties this year. We just realized that there are some synergies that have not been fully taken advantage of by keeping the ski company and hotel company in separate spheres, and we'd like to have a closer working relationship."

InterContinental Hotels & Resorts announced on March 17 a major development in Orlando. To be part of the $800 million Palazzo del Lago, a mixed-use development, the InterContinental Resort & Residences will have 1,260 guest rooms. In addition, the Palazzo del Lago will have 994 condominiums in five 18-story towers, known collectively as the Villas at Palazzo del Lago. Construction starts this fall, with work due to wrap up in early 2009. And as its name suggests, there is a lake on the 42-acre site; other amenities will include a spa, five restaurants, a putting green and a resort pool with fountains. The InterContinental property will have 114,000 square feet of meeting space.

Meeting Professionals International named Katie Callahan-Giobbi chair of the CEO search committee. She is vice president, sales, for LA, Inc. Other members of the committee will not be named by MPI "out of respect for the applicants," MPI said. An executive search firm has yet to be named. MPI is hopeful that a president will be appointed in as early as 90 days.

Bans on cigarette smoking are increasing around the world. As of Saturday, smoking will be banned in Scotland's public areas, such as bars, restaurants, hotel lobbies and meeting rooms. Bermuda enacts a smoking ban in clubs, restaurants and bars April 1, and Puerto Rico has passed a similar ban that will go into effect in the near future.

The Professional Convention Management Association announced a number of hires and promotions. Susan Salem Euritt has been brought aboard as executive director of the PCMA Education Foundation, and Jennifer Kingen Kush has been promoted to member relations director of PCMA. Both came to PCMA this year from the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau, not coincidentally the same CVB from which president and CEO Deborah Sexton arrived. Steven Oberhofer II has been hired as member relations specialist, and Reggie Swanigan has been named director of technology; both came from the American Association of Law Libraries.

An 80-room boutique hotel is opening in May at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. Rooms at the Rockefeller Center Hotel will have flat-screen TVs, pillow-top mattresses, ergonomic workstations and high-speed Internet access. Meeting space and boardrooms are available at the Terrace Club at Rockefeller Plaza, on the seventh floor.

Harrah's Entertainment announced on March 21 that it would reopen its Grand Casino Biloxi (Miss.) in "mid- to late summer," the first hotel-casino to do so following last August's Hurricane Katrina. The formerly 1,000-room hotel-casino will come back, Harrah's officials state, with 500 guest rooms, as well as a 16,000-square-foot spa, a 500-seat buffet and a steak house.