October 05, 2005

The Transportation Security Administration last week ended its test of the Registered Traveler Pilot Program at five U.S. airports. The program, designed to boost security and ease inconveniences at security checkpoints, had about 10,000 voluntary enrollees. "I am concerned that the abrupt termination of the pilot programs will foster a patchwork of home-grown registered traveler-type programs driven by local airport authorities," said Greely Koch, president of the Association of Corporate Travel Executives, who favors continuation of TSA's Registered Traveler initiative. "This process will require business travelers to enroll in multiple programs, carry multiple cards and generate multiple registration fees -- without achieving consistent performance."

Members of ICPA are voting this month on a proposed name change to the Financial  Insurance Conference Planners. Ballots were mailed last month and must be received by ICPA by the 31st of this month. A two-thirds majority is needed to change the name, according to the organization's bylaws; the name must then be ratified by the board, which will meet prior to ICPA's annual meeting in New York, Nov. 6-10. In other news, ICPA board president John Touchette, CMP, resigned last week after taking a new position outside the financial and insurance industries. The organization's bylaws require his resignation; he was assistant vice president, meeting management, at Boston-based John Hancock; his new position is at Raytheon. Touchette is succeeded by board president-elect Michael Burke, CMP, senior specialist of conference and travel services for Worcester, Mass.-based Allmerica Financial.

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved the funding plan for a 1,100-room Hilton headquarters hotel adjacent to the Los Angeles Convention Center. To develop the property, which is slated as the centerpiece of the $4 billion L.A. Live complex, Wolff Urban Development and Apollo Real Estate Advisors will receive a $16 million loan and $4 million in city fee waivers. The city also has agreed to forgo as much as $270 million of the hotel's transient occupancy tax over 25 years. No opening date is set.

Business is back to normal at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, a major relief center following Hurricane Katrina. Trinity Motivational held a Saturday-Sunday meeting there this past weekend, and the Invensys Process Systems Customer Conference gathers there through Thursday.

Officials at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center in Louisville, Ky., will celebrate tomorrow the completion of the center's $52 million South Wing expansion, which adds more than 160,000 square feet of exhibit space to the center, bringing the total exhibit space to approximately 500,000 square feet. The addition also creates 57,000 square feet of new meeting and conference space. Plans to renovate the center's 216,000-square-foot East Wing -- by reducing the number of columns in its exhibit space from 96 to five, and raising the ceilings to 27 feet, among other improvements -- are already in motion. The East Wing project is expected to cost $55 million and be finished in the fall of 2007.

The JW Marriott Hotel New Orleans reopened following Hurricane Katrina on Sept. 30, the first Marriott property in downtown New Orleans to do so. The 494-room hotel, like the majority of hotels in the city, currently houses members of relief and reconstruction crews.