April 13, 2005

Out of respect for the passing of Monaco's Prince Rainier III, Meeting Professionals International made some changes to its Professional Education Conference-Europe, which took place April 10-12 in the Mediterranean principality. To set the appropriate tone, the more festive elements of the events were eliminated. For example, no upbeat music was played during the opening and closing sessions, and the final night's event was dinner only, without any entertainment. Also, citywide MPI signage was removed and the MPI Foundation Europe fundraiser party was canceled. Money from party sponsors Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and the Vancouver Convention and Exhibition Centre was instead donated to the Princess Grace Foundation. And, of course, an appearance by new ruler Prince Albert II was canceled. The conference, however, broke its attendance records with 515 attendees from 30 countries, 13 more people than the record set last year.

The termination of Michael E. Fife's presidency at the Palm Springs Desert Resorts Convention and Visitors Authority might not be final. Fife retired at the end of March amid charges of financial impropriety, halting an investigation into his records. After enlisting the services of civil litigator Jon Shoenberger, however, Fife has yet to sign and return a 10-page document the CVA sent him last week in order to finalize the agreement. "There were no grounds to terminate him," Shoenberger said. "We're now examining what the best course of action is." The CVA, too, is considering its next step, according to The Desert Sun. Robert Bernheimer, Indian Wells city council member and CVA board member, told the paper this week that if the retirement contract is not returned, the board would complete the investigation. Also, the CVA appointed an interim president yesterday. Gary Sloan, a retired La Mirada city manager, will serve until the CVA has concluded its search for Fife’s permanent replacement, whom they hope to bring on board by July 1.

According to a survey of association CEOs conducted by the Professional Convention Management Association, meeting planning is second only to executive management as a key function of such organizations. Responding to the survey were 269 top staff members of trade and professional associations and foundations. Ranking the importance of staff functions, 97 percent of the CEOs said meetings/events were "important" or "very important," well ahead of other functions such as membership development, education, communications, publications and legislative/regulatory affairs. The full report will be available online at www.pcma.org.

Stephen A. Schuldenfrei will take over as president of the Trade Show Exhibitors Association on June 1. He replaces Michael Bandy, who is leaving TSEA to launch an association management firm with his wife, Dee Dee. Previously, Schuldenfrei served as executive director of the Society of Independent Show Organizers and president of the Expositions Operations Society.

Yesterday, the International Association for Exhibition Management announced it would not merge with the Society for Independent Show Organizers as previously planned. In a statement, the association said: "While IAEM is disappointed that we are not able to move forward with SISO in creating a new organization, we want to make it clear that we still firmly support the concept of consolidating industry resources and organizations to create one, strong voice for the industry." Change, however, is still in the air. IAEM is moving from an individual membership base to a corporate membership structure and will seek opportunities to "collaborate or perhaps even consolidate" with other industry groups.

The 185-room Park Hyatt Seoul, South Korea, opens April 15. In the neighborhood of Gangnam, Seoul's central business district, the 24-story property has a spa, a gym, an indoor pool, a restaurant and six meeting rooms.

The 126-room Mansion on Forsyth Park opened April 11 in Savannah, Ga. The upscale property incorporates an 1888 mansion -- where most of the public space is -- and is part of the Orlando-based Kessler Collection. Highlights include 400 pieces of artwork, a spa, and the 700 Drayton restaurant with private dining rooms and a cooking school, a wine cellar, and a bar overlooking Forsyth Park. The hotel also offers 8,000 square feet of meeting space for up to 300 people, including an ornate ballroom.

On Hawaii's Big Island, the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa opened April 8 following a $70 million, two-year renovation. On the island's Kona Coast, the 22-acre resort has 521 guest rooms, an Asian restaurant, and 36,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space for up to 1,000 people.