August 10, 2005

The National Rifle Association has announced that St. Louis will host its 2007 Annual Meetings & Exhibits from April 13 to 17 at the America's Center convention complex. The decision came just two weeks after the NRA retracted its verbal agreement to hold the convention in Columbus, Ohio, in protest of an assault weapons ban that the city council passed on July 11.

The International Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus officially has changed its name to Destination Marketing Association International. During the annual meeting, held Aug. 3-6 in San Diego and attended by more than 1,000 people, the group announced it is considering expanding its membership to include other tourism outlets, such as national tourist offices and state tourism departments. In other news, DMAI plans to launch an accreditation program for bureaus in late 2006; details on the program have yet to be determined.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Board of Supervisors president Aaron Peskin and hotel workers' union Unite HERE Local 2 president Mike Casey brokered an agreement last week calling an 18-month moratorium on condo conversions. The proposal, which initially called for a permanent prohibition of conversions before last week's revision, was written up in response to an increasingly prevalent trend that has most recently hit the Fairmont San Francisco and the Palace Hotel, both of which have claimed interest in going condo. The city's board of supervisors was scheduled to give the motion its first reading yesterday afternoon. If it wins the majority vote at its second reading next Tuesday, the ordinance will be passed into law.

According to independent third-party corporate travel company Topaz International, airfares paid by business travelers have gone up, not down, in the months since airlines rolled out much-publicized fare reforms. "In the first six months of 2005, average domestic ticket prices have increased from  $411 to $531," said Bradley J. Seitz, president/CEO of Topaz International. "In the cost-per-mile measurement, [price] has increased as well, from 24 cents to 29 cents."

The 297-room Sofitel Los Angeles will undergo a $35 million makeover, with design celebrities Cheryl Rowley and Yabu Pushelberg at the helm. The property, outfitted with eight meeting rooms that accommodate up to 300, will be completely redesigned by spring 2006. New additions will include LeSpa by Accor Thalassa, the first on-site spa at a North American Sofitel; Simon, a classic comfort food restaurant from chef Kerry Simon; and a new bar and lounge from nightclub developer Rande Gerber.

The Spa at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, N.Y., opened Aug. 3. The 30,000-square-foot facility features 16 treatment rooms, a hydrotherapy tub, fitness center, indoor and outdoor heated pools, beauty salon and a garden on the roof for yoga and meditation. Mohonk Mountain House has 251 guest rooms and a 2,400-square-foot conference center.

Caesars Palace in Las Vegas will open the Augustus Tower on Aug. 12. The 26-story tower adds 949 rooms to the property, for a new total of 3,367. Last month, the hotel-casino added about 80,000 square feet of meeting space for a new total of approximately 240,000 square feet.