June 15, 2005

Wyndham International announced yesterday that it is being acquired by The Blackstone Group, a private investment firm. Under the terms of the merger agreement, Blackstone will purchase all outstanding common stock of Wyndham for an estimated $3.24 billion. The transaction is expected to be completed by the end of this year. Last October, Blackstone acquired Boca Resorts Inc., a collection of luxury properties in Florida including Boca Raton Resort & Club in Boca Raton, the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Naples and the Registry Resort at Pelican Bay in Naples, for $1.25 billion.

The Los Angeles Hotel Employer's Council and Unite HERE Local 11 signed a contract agreement early Saturday morning, ending a 14-month struggle. The agreement came minutes before LAHEC began a lockout at the seven member hotels in retaliation for a strike the union organized against the Hyatt West Hollywood last week. "I am happy to say that cooler heads have prevailed," said mayor-elect Antonio Villaraigosa, who oversaw the final sessions. Under the pact, union workers will get a wage increase of 65 cents per hour, continued free health care and, most notably, a 2006 expiration date -- the demand the union had been pursuing since negotiations began last year to line up with contracts already in place in major cities around the country. At press time, both sides were hashing out outstanding complaints of unfair labor practices; some resolution on these issues must be reached before the contract can be voted on by union membership and ratified by LAHEC's seven member properties. LAHEC comprises the Hyatt West Hollywood, Westin Century Plaza, Sheraton Universal Hotel, Wilshire Grand Hotel & Centre, Millennium Biltmore Hotel, Regent Beverly Wilshire and Westin Bonaventure Hotel.

As the strike at Chicago's Congress Plaza Hotel reaches its second anniversary this week, the city is considering an ordinance that would require hotels to notify their customers when a hotel has been subject to lawful picketing for more than 15 days. Hotels would be fined at least $500 a day for each violation of the legislation, which also includes a provision requiring the hotels to post detailed notifications of strikes on their websites as well as on third-party booking websites. The ordinance was introduced into committee on June 3 and, following amendment proposals and legal review, could be back on the committee's agenda as early as June 24.

Five days after the Connecticut Convention Center opened in Hartford, the state legislature approved a budget that will cut the center's marketing and operations dollars from $6 million to $4.7 million for 2006. The Capital City Economic Development Authority, a state agency created to manage Hartford's revitalization project, will receive $2.7 million to cover its own operational costs and to subsidize the center's anticipated first-year operating deficit. A spokesperson for CCEDA said the first service targeted for cutbacks or elimination will be a shuttle service to connect the convention center to downtown Hartford, unless other funding sources can be identified. The Greater Hartford Convention and Visitors Bureau will receive $2 million from the state to market the center, but the center's spokesperson expects some of the marketing money now will have to be used to close other gaps in the center's funding.

According to a recent forecast by PricewaterhouseCoopers, hotel occupancy rates for 2005 will average 63.4 percent, a 3.3 percent increase over 2004, bringing levels to their highest since 1997. PwC expects the trend to continue through 2007, with occupancy growing to 64.5 percent in 2006 and 64.9 in 2007. Room rates are forecasted to increase 4.3 percent this year, the greatest jump since 2000, with a 7.8 percent rise in revenue per available room.

Following three years of planning, this fall developers will break ground on a 200-room Four Seasons hotel and 106-unit luxury condo development along Baltimore's waterfront. The project is expected to take 30 months to complete. Four Seasons has not released any details on proposed amenities and meeting facilities.