February 16, 2005
The rumors were true: The Professional Convention Management Association has not renewed the contract of its current president and CEO, David Kushner; he will leave the organization as of Feb. 25. The PCMA board made the announcement yesterday, at the same time naming Deborah Long Sexton as the new president and CEO, following what was a very quiet executive search. On identifying Sexton as the right candidate for the job, board chairman Gregg H. Talley, president of the Talley Management Group, said: "I don't know that it was an issue of getting the word out [that the board was searching for a new association president] as it was recognizing the leadership qualities we were looking for and then identifying matches. We didn't know Deborah would be willing to listen to our approach." Sexton brings 30 years' experience in the industry to PCMA, leaving her current position as president of the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau to join the association. PCMA is based in Chicago. Sexton expects to begin her new job no earlier than March 15.

Robert F. Cotter, president and COO of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, announced Feb. 14 he will retire at the end of the year. Cotter, who joined Starwood in 1973 and is only 53, was named president of the company in November 2003, just two weeks after Barry S. Sternlich announced he was stepping down as chairman and CEO. Cotter has been COO since 2000. The hotel company has not yet named a replacement.

A new study conducted by the Chief Marketing Officer Council identified some conflicting results concerning how CMOs view events. The online survey of 190 CMOs and 230 event marketing managers found that CMOs rank events as the third most important marketing function, behind direct response and interactive efforts. Only about a third (36 percent) of the CMO respondents said events were "tightly integrated" with other marketing functions; 46 percent said they consistently measure the effectiveness of their events against their organizations' overall marketing objectives. The majority of the CMO and event-manager respondents reported they see events as expensive and time consuming; their top challenges are identifying and following up with leads and analyzing ROI. Just 33 percent of the event managers surveyed believe their CMOs are "very committed" to events.

Orient-Express Hotels announced yesterday it has acquired a majority interest in the 301-room Grand Hotel Europe in St. Petersburg, Russia. Dating from 1824 and restored in 1991, the upscale hotel on Nevsky Prospekt sits across from the Shostakovich Philharmonic and is within walking distance of the Hermitage Museum and the city's other major tourist sites. The hotel has more than 8,000 square feet of meeting space, including a ballroom for 250 people. Orient-Express claims the $100 million deal is the largest ever for a Russian hotel.

Released yesterday, the 2005 American Express Survey of International Business Traveler Expense Practices confirms that a crackdown on expenses is being felt by business travelers in the United States and Europe. Of the 500 U.S. and European travelers polled, 45 percent said their firms' policies governing reimbursable expenses have become either "somewhat" or "a lot' tougher over the past two or three years. Other findings:
* Nearly half (48 percent) of French respondents said their firms are questioning them more frequently on specific T&E expenses. Just 15 percent of British, 12 percent of German and 7 percent of U.S. travelers noted a similar uptick in scrutiny of their expense reports.
* Business meals are the most abused T&E expense category, cited by 70 percent of French, 59 percent of German, 53 percent of American and 48 percent of British respondents.