March 30, 2005

Salt Lake City is mourning the loss of a longtime travel industry friend. Dianne Nelson Binger, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau, died March 23 following a long battle with cancer. Binger, who was 54, started with the SLCVB in 1987, becoming president in 2001. Cliff Doner, the CVB's executive vice president, CFO and COO, has been named acting president.

The Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront opens this Friday, April 1. Part of the city's new Ocean 31 entertainment district, the 295-room, 20-story resort faces the beach and features two restaurants, a vanishing-edge pool and 10,050 square feet of meeting space, including a 7,140-square-foot ballroom for up to 1,000 people. Directly outside is a city park with a stage, where nationally recognized acts will perform.

Michael Fife, president of the Palm Springs Desert Resort Convention and Visitors Authority, resigned last week in the face of embezzlement charges. In a meeting held on Thursday to discuss the findings of a weeklong investigation into his financial records, Fife announced he had "decided to retire, rather than see the agency he worked so hard to build be impugned by any further allegations and rumor." The search for Fife's replacement will be held off until after a final meeting on April 5. In the interim, vice president of market development/communications Gary Sherwin will act as president.

Last week, the National Business Travel Association joined the Convention Industry Council, bringing the total membership to 31 organizations and further signaling that corporate travel managers and meeting planners are working hand in hand. "As procurement becomes more and more of a player in corporate meetings, both the meeting planner and the corporate travel buyer are finding they need an understanding of the other," said Mary Power, president and CEO of CIC. The astute news reader might remember CIC had 31 members before the addition of NBTA, but that is because the International Association of Association Management Companies dropped out at the end of last year as the group trained its focus away from meetings.

New York City Councilmember Joseph Addabbo introduced a bill last week that would limit local hotels from converting more than 20 percent of their rooms to condominiums. The bill comes as a response to a dozen Manhattan hotels in the past year announcing conversion to condominiums, most notably the Plaza hotel, which will lose more than 600 guest rooms after a planned renovation. The Hotel Association of New York City opposes the bill, which it claims will take property rights away from hotel owners and discourage future hotel investors from considering New York City.

The Greater Glasgow & Clyde Valley Tourist Board, which handled meetings, conventions and incentives for the Scottish city and its environs, will be replaced Friday by a new venture: the Glasgow City Marketing Bureau. The 27-person organization, which will be overseen by chief executive Scott Taylor, is funded by the Glasgow City Council and the private sector.

The Fort Worth City Council has approved plans for Omni Hotel Management Corp. to construct a $90 million headquarters hotel. The 600-room property will have 48,000 square feet of meeting space. Ground might be broken on the project by December; the hotel will open in fall 2008.