September 14, 2005

As a response to recent gasoline price increases, the Internal Revenue Service has increased the optional standard mileage rates for the final four months of 2005. The rate is now 48.5 cents per mile for all business miles driven between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2005, 8 cents more than the 40.5 cent rate in effect for the first eight months of 2005. "With many predicting a decline in gas prices over coming months, we will hold off on setting the 2006 rate until closer to January," said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson.

The 306-acre Hong Kong Disneyland Resort marked its grand opening on Monday, with Disney executives and Chinese government officials in attendance. The theme park, a joint venture between the Hong Kong government and the Walt Disney Co., features shows and attractions, the 400-room Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel and the 600-room Disney's Hollywood Hotel; traditional Chinese feng shui design was used throughout the complex.

Ground will be broken today on a $585 million expansion to Old Bahama Bay Resort & Yacht Harbour on Grand Bahama Island. The development currently has a 49-room hotel; after the expansion, another 150- to 200-room luxury hotel will be added, along with condos, a marina, tennis courts and a spa with clear acrylic floors that allow guests to see the ocean beneath.

Accor North America is looking to expand its Sofitel brand in the United States and Canada, even as it plans to sell off six of its 11 hotels in the region. The six hotels up for sale are the Sofitels Chicago Water Tower, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, San Francisco Bay and Washington, D.C. The remaining Sofitel hotels, Chicago O'Hare, Houston, New York, Philadelphia and Montreal, will continue to be owned and operated by Accor. The company has not announced what cities it hopes to build in. The chain has hired former Four Seasons executive Colin McDonald to spearhead the repositioning of Sofitel.

InterContinental Hotels and Resorts will sell 40 of its 53 luxury hotels, leaving the chain with (among others) four core properties in New York, London, Paris (the InterContinental Le Grand-Paris) and Tokyo. InterContinental already has sold its other Paris property, the InterContinental Paris, to GIC Real Estate (the real estate investment arm of Singapore's government) for $390 million. The property, which has 438 rooms and 12 meeting rooms, will be managed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts and will be rebranded as the Westin Paris next month.

According to a spokesperson at Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp., the 1,184-room Hyatt Regency New Orleans will be closed until the end of next year. No other information was forthcoming, but the closure obviously displaces all meetings booked through 2006. The hotel has 115,000 square feet of function space, including 54 meeting rooms, a ballroom and a 25,000-square-foot exhibit hall.