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September 21, 2005

The Palm Springs (Calif.) Desert Resorts Convention & Visitors Authority has hired Jeff Beckelman as its new president and CEO. Beckelman resigned Tuesday from his post as president and CEO of the Reno-Sparks (Nev.) Convention & Visitors Authority. An official starting date, as well as a decision on who should succeed Beckelman at the Nevada organization, should be finalized after the RSCVA board meets Thursday morning. The PSDRCVA has been operating under interim president Steve Morris since former president Michael E. Fife was asked to resign in March over accusations of financial impropriety.

According to a report issued Sept. 19 by Lodging Econometrics, a hotel real estate consulting firm, 286 properties in the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, with a total of 45,832 rooms, have reported service interruption due to severe damages from Hurricane Katrina. The report, a comprehensive analysis of the impact of Katrina on the lodging industry, breaks down the closings: Of the 203 hotels in New Orleans, 127 remain closed; in Biloxi, 22 of 34 hotels remain closed; in Gulfport, 12 of 21 are closed. Likewise, all 11 hotel-casinos along the Mississippi coast were damaged severely and remain closed. Before Katrina struck, 32 hotel projects, representing 5,551 new rooms, were in the construction pipeline: Eight were under construction, 17 were scheduled to start within the next 12 months and seven were in the planning stages. Those under construction will be delayed, while the remainder in the planning stages will be canceled outright or postponed indefinitely.

IDG World Expo has canceled next year's Macworld Conference & Expo in Boston, slated to run July 10-13. The East Coast incarnation of Macworld suffered from Apple Computer's withdrawal two years ago, when the event relocated from New York City to Boston, where it drew just 8,000 attendees last year (compared with an 11 percent rise this year to 36,000 attendees at the San Francisco sister event). "We're going to be altering what we've done historically with annual West and East Coast events," said an IDG spokesperson. "Now it will take place once a year, with all of our resources directed to the San Francisco event."

Westin Hotels has been chosen as the management company for the 400-room headquarters hotel to be built adjacent to the Palm Beach County Convention Center. Groundbreaking should take place within a year, with the hotel opening in early 2008. Plans call for a ballroom and a spa, among other facilities.

MGM Mirage announced details of its new Project CityCenter development in Las Vegas. The $5 billion development will have 4,000 guest rooms in a hotel-casino; 800 guest rooms in two nongaming boutique hotels; 500,000 square feet of shopping, dining and entertainment; and 1,640 private condominiums. Involved in the project are some of the world's foremost architects, including Cesar Pelli & Associates, Sir Norman Foster & Partners and Rafael Vinoly Architects. Project CityCenter is scheduled to open in late 2009. Mandarin Oriental is one of the hotel companies interested in running the anchor hotel.

Officials at the Mall of America unveiled plans last week for a $1 billion, 5.6 million-square-foot expansion, known as Phase II, that will include three hotels, a performing arts center and an ice rink. Kathy Rusche, leasing manager for the Mall of America, said the plans have yet to be approved by the city of Bloomington, Minn., but she expects ground will be broken on the project next fall.

Construction has begun on a multibillion-dollar resort community along 23 miles of shoreline on the Atlantic coast of the Dominican Republic. Costa BayanA will encompass a whopping 28 hotels, five golf courses (including courses by Arnold Palmer and Jim Fazio), three cruise-ship piers, two international airports, 850 shops and restaurants, and 10,000 real estate units. The first phase, comprising about a third of the plans, will debut in December 2006, and the entire project should be completed in eight to 10 years.

Three of the 14 hotels in the San Francisco Multi-Employer Group -- the Westin St. Francis, Palace Hotel and Argent Hotel -- have come out in favor of Unite HERE's demands for a contract with a 2006 expiration date. Brian Hughes, general manager of the Argent, said, "We've determined that a short-term contract is in the best interest of our employees and guests." The Westin has been removed from Unite HERE Local 2's boycott list, but the Palace and Argent have not yet been removed. As SFMEG solidarity began to dissolve, spokesperson Steve Trent said the group "continues to believe that a 2006 expiration date is not in the best interest of our hotels, our employees or the city of San Francisco. We remain committed to negotiating a contract that meets the real economic needs of our employees."