February 22, 2006

The Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority's board of directors approved on Feb. 15 a $737 million expansion for the Las Vegas Convention Center, with construction due to begin by the end of the year and completed by the end of 2010. According to the board, the expansion will add meeting rooms to the center's South Hall; a new lobby that will connect the Central, North and South halls; a 100,000-square-foot exhibit space, and an enclosed walkway to link the center with the Las Vegas Monorail. In addition, the entire facility will be renovated.

The Canadian Business Travel Association Eastern Region has officially merged with the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, increasing ACTE's Canadian membership by 37 percent, it was announced on Feb. 17. Additionally, ACTE has entered into a cooperative agreement with the Canadian Business Travel Association Western Region whereby the organizations will link web sites and cross-promote events and educational programs. "ACTE welcomes our Canadian partners from the CBTA Eastern Region, looks forward to working closer with our colleagues at the CBTA Western Region and regards this venture as the basis of a new idea-exchange," said Greeley Koch, ACTE's president. "Nearly every issue the industry faces these days is international in scope with unique regional implications."

The Aruba Tourism Authority announced it is forging ahead this year with a $200 million investment in the island's tourism product. Major projects include a $34 million expansion at Queen Beatrix International Airport to support increased airlift to the island from major carriers such as American Airlines, Continental, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines. In addition, island hotels have earmarked $150 million for capital investment through 2007 and the ATA will launch in the coming months "The Aruba Promise," an islandwide tourism-training program.

RLJ Development, the largest African-American-owned hotel investment company in the United States, announced it has signed a deal to acquire 100 hotels from White Lodging Services Corp. for approximately $1.7 billion. The deal for the first 87 hotels will close by the second quarter of 2006, while the remaining 13 properties, which are currently under construction or recently completed, will be finalized in the next 24 months. RLJ currently has 29 hotels in its portfolio. White Lodging Services will retain management of the hotels, mostly Marriott and Hilton properties, under a long-term management agreement.

A civic committee in Nashville released a report on Friday that recommends the city build a $455 million convention center south of the Gaylord Entertainment Center to become more competitive for convention business. The Music City Center Committee advocates constructing a facility with 375,000 square feet of exhibit space, between 75 and 100 meeting rooms, two ballrooms totaling 80,000 square feet, and a theater that can seat between 2,500 and 3,000 people. Mayor Bill Purcell has asked the Nashville Civic Design Center, a nonprofit consulting organization, to review the report before moving forward with the project.

Morgans Hotel Group has announced an aggressive growth plan for the next several years that will increase its portfolio by one-third and double the number of rooms under its management. Included in the development initiative are two new hotels in Las Vegas, one bearing the Delano brand, the other Mondrian, to be completed in 2010; the $47.5 million acquisition of the 194-room James Hotel in Scottsdale, Ariz. (which is slated to close in April); and the expansion of the Delano in South Miami Beach, which will include the addition of 70 guest rooms and a restaurant.