January 11, 2006

According to "Future Watch 2006," an annual research report from Meeting Professionals International and American Express that was released yesterday, the meetings industry is thriving and expected to grow for a third consecutive year. Key findings: Client-side (corporate, association, government and nonprofit) planners expect the numbers of meetings planned to grow by 7 percent, the same as expenditures, with 42 percent predicting their budgets will increase. By comparison, intermediaries (independent and third-party planners, association management companies, destination management companies and multi-management companies) expect the number of meetings planned to increase by 21 percent and expenditures for meetings to rise 14 percent. On the supplier side, 81 percent expect hotel rates to increase, and 24 percent predict that concessions and flexibility will decrease.

The 50th annual meeting of the Professional Convention Management Association, which concludes today in Philadelphia, has drawn more than 3,000 attendees, with final numbers expected to fall between 3,200 and 3,300. Almost 40 percent of those were meeting planners, about 55 percent were suppliers, and 7 percent were faculty and students. The 2009 convention will be in New Orleans, it was announced Monday. Gregg Talley, departing PCMA chair, claimed that the other cities in the running fully endorsed that decision. At the conference, $130,000 was raised toward the Hospitality Industry Relief Fund. Also, the fifth edition of PCMA's textbook, Professional Meeting Management, arrives on shelves in late spring.

A major new development in Las Vegas was announced on Jan. 9. Las Vegas-based Boyd Gaming Corp. will build the 63-acre, $4 billion Echelon Place development, to open in 2010 on the Las Vegas Strip. As part of the project, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts will open a 400-room hotel with a 20,000-square-foot spa, several restaurants and 20,000 square feet of meeting space. Echelon Place will include three additional hotel properties; talks are under way about the possibility of a 600-room sibling of Miami Beach's Delano hotel and a 1,000-room sibling of Los Angeles' Mondrian hotel. Plans also call for a 140,000-square-foot casino, two entertainment venues with 4,000 and 1,500 seats, respectively; 25 restaurants; a retail complex; and the Las Vegas ExpoCenter at Echelon Place, with 650,000 square feet of exhibit space and 175,000 square feet of meeting space. In total, the project would encompass 1 million square feet of meeting space, including 200 meeting rooms, and 5,300 guest rooms. The Stardust Hotel & Casino is likely to be closed to make way for the development.

This week, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide announced it had inked a deal with Yahoo! and its Sheraton brand. In what is billed as an industry first, the online media company and Sheraton Hotels have teamed up to create Yahoo Link@Sheraton, a branded web portal, and specially designed Internet lounges in its hotels, featuring comfortable seating, refreshments and plasma TVs, as well as complimentary wireless and broadband Internet-enabled installations. The first lounge opened this week at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel & Marina. A full rollout will continue across the brand throughout 2006.

From Jan. 5-8, the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show drew more than 150,000 attendees and 2,500 exhibitors to the Las Vegas Convention Center and Sands Expo and Convention Center. "The 2006 International CES shifted from simply a trade show to a major global event," said Gary Shapiro, president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association. This year's International CES broke previous show records with exhibit space comprising 1.67 million net square feet and more than 23,000 international visitors in attendance. Last year, CES was the largest trade show in the United States.

CNL Resorts has entered into an agreement to purchase the 500-acre Grande Lakes Orlando Resort, including the 584-room Ritz-Carlton and its sister property, the 998-room JW Marriott, for $753 million. As part of the transaction, CNL has allocated $10 million in capital improvements for the Ritz-Carlton, including the completion of a 14,100-square-foot ballroom currently under construction. Both properties will remain under the management of Marriott International.