March 01, 2006

On Feb. 23, the members of the Center for Exhibition Industry Research approved a partial merger with the International Association for Exhibition Management. Beginning today, IAEM will provide administrative support and a "defined membership constituency" for CEIR, while the latter group makes its research available to IAEM and its membership. "Research is paramount to providing legitimate data that supports the case for the exhibition and events industry," said Sandy Angus, IAEM's chairman. "As the pressure on marketing budgets increases, it is incumbent upon is to provide the data to support the case for participating in exhibitions. CEIR has been doing that for 28 years, and now, with our support, CEIR will be able to greatly expand that effort."

On Feb. 24, InterContinental Hotels Group announced the signing of four management contracts with Shanghai Greenland Group, including a deal to run the InterContinental Nanjing, in China, which reportedly will be the world's tallest hotel upon opening in 2010. Other properties involved in the deal include a Holiday Inn in Xi'an and two Express by Holiday Inn properties in Shanghai. Together, these four hotels comprise more than 1,400 rooms.

New Orleans has good reason besides Mardi Gras to celebrate: The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on Feb. 20 concluded its first convention since Hurricane Katrina. The Helen Brett Gift & Jewelry Show attracted approximately 500 booths and 15,000 attendees. Exhibit halls D, E and F are being used now; after June, eight of the center's 12 halls will be available, and the entire venue will be ready by November. The property is due to begin construction on its Phase IV expansion later this year. The project, to be finished in 2009, will add an extra 524,000 square feet of exhibit space in two halls, 61 meeting rooms and a 60,000-square-foot ballroom.

A $525 million expansion of the 2,010-room Borgata was announced last week. Set for completion in summer 2007, the project will add 800 new rooms in a separate hotel tower called The Water Club, which also will have a two-story, 36,000-square-foot spa and 18,000 square feet of meeting space, among other amenities.

The Society of Incentive & Travel Executives will hold its first SITE Academy for Young Leaders in Vail, Colo., June 15-18. The academy is for industry professionals under the age of 35 and/or with fewer than five years of experience in incentives.

Destination Marketing Association International is considering setting up a European office. The office would be based in Brussels and, according to a spokesperson for DMAI, would be up and running within a year. The effort is part of the organization's commitment to expand internationally and serve international members in a more effective and efficient way.

Just when you thought new hotel companies had reached saturation point, another one enters the market. Newly founded BentleyForbes Hospitality Group, a division of Los Angeles-based BentleyForbes, a national commercial real estate company headed by former InterContinental Hotel Group vice president Chris Pfohl, is looking to purchase and manage four- and five-star resort and hotel properties in major markets. And, to get it started, the parent company has given it $750 million in seed money.

Last week, Tourism Australia, the governmental department responsible for tourism marketing, launched a new campaign -- "Where the bloody hell are you?" -- the result of US$4.6 million and 18 months of focus group research. "This exciting new campaign provides a compelling and uniquely Australian invitation to the world that celebrates our personality, our lifestyle and our place," said Scott Morrison, managing director of Tourism Australia, in a statement. "It has been carefully designed to cut through the clutter and motivate international tourists to stop putting it off and visit Australia now."

The 137-room Loews Beverly Hills Hotel has been sold. According to a spokesperson for Loews Hotels, the chain will continue to manage the hotel in the short term, while the new owner, Morning View Hotels, decides whether to stick with Loews or to rebrand.