May 04, 2005

The Association of Corporate Travel Executives is refusing to endorse a State Department plan to issue U.S. passports containing Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chips later this year, despite a new pledge by the government to encrypt personal data stored on the transmitting microchips. "There are too many unanswered questions regarding the RFID chips," said ACTE President Greeley Koch. "First we were told that the chip could not be activated beyond 10 centimeters. Then we were told there was no reason to encrypt the data. Now we're being advised that there is a need to encrypt the data and the way to do it is with an unproven technology. Quite frankly, we think it is in the business travel industry's best interest for the government to wait and thoroughly test everything."

Fare hikes initiated by American Airlines last week appear to have taken hold with other airlines. On Thursday, American increased domestic U.S. and U.S.-Canada fares by $5 one-way and $10 round-trip, blaming the soaring cost of jet fuel. "The huge losses that the industry has experienced will continue until average fares begin to reflect the increased cost of providing air service," said American Airlines Chairman/CEO Gerard Arpey. By Friday, Northwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines said they would post similar fare increases in most cities.

Last Friday, Indiana lawmakers approved a $900 million financing plan for expanding the Indiana Convention Center and building an attached 63,000-seat football stadium for the Colts. The expansion of the ICC will include 275,000 square feet of added exhibition space, 50,000 square feet of meeting space and a 60,000-square-foot ballroom, to be completed by 2010. "This will approximately double our capacity and create a unique niche with an unparalleled product, not only related to the convention center and attached stadium but connected hotels," said a spokesperson for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association.

Plans to develop a $250 million, 140,000-square-foot convention center in Portland, Maine, hit a snag last week, according to the Portland Press Herald, when Gov. John Baldacci announced his tax-reform package would not allow counties to levy local-option taxes to fund state projects. The proposed convention center development would include a 250-room hotel and a 10,000-seat arena, as well as an office building and a parking garage in downtown Portland. Developers CB Richard Ellis/The Boulos Co. pledged to continue to lobby the legislature to allow the needed local-option taxes.

Rick Taylor has resigned as head of the National Convention Bureau of South African Tourism, a position he has held since last July. A spokesperson for South Africa Tourism in New York City said a replacement had not yet been named.

The 80,000-square-foot tent that San Jose has been scrambling to finish in time for the much-anticipated eBay Live! 2005 convention endured a blow of rejection last week. The temporary supplement to the McEnery San Jose Convention Center, dubbed South Hall, was intended to debut as the venue for the show's closing gala dinner, but eBay officials have decided to hold their gala at the Santa Clara Convention Center instead. The tent will still be occupied by eBay, but for the decidedly less glamorous uses of employee cafeteria, storage area and employee childcare facility.

The Palace at Somerset Park, a classically decorated day conference center hosting groups of up to 800, opened Monday in Somerset, N.J., 35 miles from Newark Liberty International Airport. The $30 million property features 60,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including two ballrooms with terraces and a collection of meeting rooms. The Palace also includes a 9,000-square-foot kitchen with chef's table, two libraries, a wine cellar and outdoor meeting space on 30 acres.