Feb. 9, the San Diego City Attorney filed a lawsuit against more
than a dozen online travel companies, including Orbitz, Expedia and
Hotels.com, demanding that they pay more than $30 million in
transient occupancy taxes collected over the past five years. The
suit, which follows similar suits filed in Los Angeles and
Philadelphia, alleges that the companies charge guests a tax based
on the retail price but remit taxes based on the wholesale rate.
The online companies, represented by the Interactive Travel
Services Association, have long claimed that they do not resell
rooms at all, that they remit the amount of tax that the hotels ask
for, and that any profit they make on the sale is just a service
fee and is already taxed as such.
After a four-year, $150 million effort,
the Transportation Security Administration last week mothballed the
Secure Flight program. With Secure Flight, the government, instead
of the airlines, would have checked names of domestic airline
passengers against terrorist watch lists. However, the program had
long been under fire from data privacy advocates, civil
libertarians and the Government Accountability Office, which last
week said Secure Flight, "has been ad hoc, resulting in project
activities being conducted out of sequence, requirements not being
fully defined and documentation containing contradictory
information or omissions." Kip Hawley, assistant secretary with
TSA, told Congress the agency would "re-baseline the program."
Secure Flight was the successor to the ill-fated CAPS II program,
which was terminated in 2004.
Yesterday, Chicago-based association
management giant SmithBucklin announced a deal with MCI, Europe's
largest association and event management company, to create a
worldwide network of association management resources. The new
entity will be known as the "SmithBucklin + MCI Global
Partnership." Clients will have access to 15 offices in eight
countries, including the United States, Belgium, France, Germany,
Singapore, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The venture
gives MCI's president, Roger Tondeur, a seat on SmithBucklin's
board, and SmithBucklin chairman and CEO Henry S. Givray a seat on
Tim Roby will take over as president of
the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau in April, filling a
position that has been available since Chris Bowers left the post
last August. Roby, a Greater Chicago native, had served as senior
vice president of Kerzner International Resorts and, before that,
as vice president of sales for MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las
Vegas. Bill Utter, CCTB's vice president of marketing, who had been
acting as interim president, resigned last week.
Harrah's New Orleans Casino will reopen
on Feb. 17, having been closed since Hurricane Katrina. Currently,
the property has no hotel rooms or meeting space, but work on a
450-room, 26-story hotel directly across the street from the casino
has resumed. That property will open this September.
The Convention Industry Council has
released the final panel of the Accepted Practices Exchange,
dealing with contracts, for public review and discussion. Meeting
planners and suppliers who would like to read the document and
comment on what clauses should be included in a universal contract
template for the meetings industry should visit
www.conventionindustry.org by this Friday.