October 26, 2005

As a result of Hurricane Wilma, Cancun's international airport remained closed as of yesterday. According to a spokesperson for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, all of the chain's properties in the area are temporarily closed. A spokesperson for Hilton Hotels & Resort's Mexico properties said the 300 guests staying at the Hilton Cancun Golf Resort & Spa have been evacuated to the Hilton Villahermosa, 200 miles inland. As for Marriott Hotels & Resorts, the JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa, CasaMagna Marriott Cancun Resort, and Ritz-Carlton, Cancun, are closed until Dec. 31. The Presidente InterContinental Cancun is closed until Jan. 31; Hyatt Regency Cancun is closed until further notice; Hyatt Cancun Caribe Villas & Resort is closed until Jan. 15; Holiday Inn Express Cancun is closed until Dec. 24. The Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort & Spa is closed until Jan. 31. Many Florida hotels shut down before Hurricane Wilma hit. Marriott's website says four Florida properties are temporarily closed due to power outages and some minor damage: Fort Lauderdale Marina Marriott, Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Marriott's Ocean Pointe and West Palm Beach Marriott. Meeting planners are urged to check the websites of hotel chains and individual properties to ascertain the latest information regarding affected properties in southern Florida and Mexico's Cancun and Maya Riviera regions. An official for Visit Florida, the state's official tourism organization, said Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport currently is closed to commercial flights, but Miami International Airport reopened yesterday with reduced service. The Fort Lauderdale airport should open in the next couple of days.

On Monday, Cendant Corp. (the $18 billion firm that owns Century 21, Avis, Ramada, Howard Johnson, Days Inn, Cheap Tickets and Orbitz, among other brands) announced a plan to break into four distinct companies, one each for its real estate, travel distribution, hospitality and car rental businesses. The company's leadership expects the move will benefit shareholders: "From inception, each of the new companies will be a major competitor in its sector," said Henry R. Silverman, Cendant's chairman and CEO. "Each will have leading brands and market positions, strong balance sheets and world-class, experienced management teams." Despite his optimism, the company's shares fell 6.6 percent following the reorganization announcement. A date has not been set for the split.

The Accepted Practices Exchange, or APEX, has been named the recipient of Meetings & Conventions' first annual Breakthrough Award, to recognize history-defining innovations in the meetings industry. APEX, a set of universal standards compiled by the Convention Industry Council for everything from requests for proposal to post-event reports, is scheduled to be fully approved by the CIC within a few months. The award was presented at the 2005 BiZBash M&C Meeting and Event Style Show, which took place last week in New York City.

Officials broke ground on Tuesday for the Branson Convention Center and the 293-room Branson Hilton Convention Center Hotel in Missouri, both of which are expected to open in late spring 2007. The convention center will feature a 50,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 23,000-square-foot ballroom and 15,000 square feet of meeting space. The two properties are part of a $420 million project dubbed Branson Landing, which also will include a boutique hotel, retail shops, restaurants, a boardwalk, a marina and entertainment venues.

Ground was broken Oct. 25 on the $1.8 billion Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. To open in 2008, the resort will have 2,700 hotel and condo-hotel rooms, with Grand Hyatt operating all the rooms. Included in the plans are 150,000 square feet of meeting space, 300,000 square feet of entertainment space, a spa and a 1,800-seat theater.

American Express Business Travel released its 2006 Global Business Travel Forecast on Oct. 25, stating global economy-class fares will rise 3 to 6 percent, and international/long-haul business fares will increase 3 to 5 percent next year. On the hotel side, room rates overall for mid-range properties will increase 1 to 3 percent, while upper-range properties will increase 3 to 5 percent. The report predicts the increases will come as suppliers feel pressure to recover losses, soften the effect of high fuel costs and, in some cases, even grow profits. However, competition from low-cost carriers might limit airlines' ability to raise fares in many markets.