After intense lobbying, the Department of Homeland
Security last week postponed requiring 27 "visa waiver countries"
(mainly located in Europe) to issue passports embedded with RFID
chips containing biographic information and a digital photo of the
passport holder for admittance into the U.S. The postponement came
after several of the so-called VW countries claimed they were not
ready to produce new passports by the original deadline of Oct. 26,
2005. Many travel and meetings trade groups argued the deadline
would hurt travel to the States. The new deadline for so-called
"e-passports" is now set for Oct. 26, 2006.
Reint Reinders, president/CEO of the San Diego Convention
and Visitors Bureau, announced his resignation last week, to take
effect when his contract expires in June 2006. Reinders, who began
his current post at the bureau in 1991, has guided the bureau
through numerous pivotal challenges, most recently funding cuts
that whittled 2003's $13.5 million budget down to this year's $9.5
million, expected to be shaved by another $1 million in 2006.
Reinders has committed to assisting in the hunt for his replacement
along with a search committee.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has inked plans to
hoist its first Westin flag in India. The Westin New Delhi Hotel
& Residences in Gurgaon is scheduled to open in 2007. The
property will feature 300 rooms, five restaurants, 17,500 square
feet of meeting space and a 16,000-square-foot health and spa
center. Another 150 units will be devoted to high-end two-, three-
and four-bedroom residences.
The Rihga Royal, a 505-room hotel in
Manhattan, gave up its JW Marriott flag on Friday. The hotel was
bought by Blackstone Real Estate Advisors, is now managed by the
Boca Hospitality Collection (the team behind the Boca Raton Resort
& Club) and will be renovated within the year.
Kansas City (Mo.) Convention Center
officials broke ground on Friday for a new ballroom with 46,500
square feet of exhibit space. The ballroom and accompanying outdoor
public plaza are expected to be available for events by June 2007.
The new construction is part of a $135 million multiphase expansion
and renovation project at the convention center, which already has
updated its 200,000 square feet of meeting space and municipal
On June 20, Osceola County Commissioners voted to suspend
discussions for developing a convention center in Kissimmee, Fla.
The project was to include an 800,000- to 1 million-square-foot
convention center and an 800-room headquarters hotel. The
commissioners also failed to consider expanding Kissimmee's Gaylord
Palms Resort & Convention Center to double its meeting space to
approximately 800,000 square feet. According to the commissioners,
both projects stalled due to the need to conclude a study examining
"the use of tourist-development taxes." A Kissimmee Convention
& Visitors Bureau spokesperson said that both proposals are
likely to be discussed again but could not say