January 26, 2005

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, when all the numbers are tallied up the U.S. lodging industry will rack up a 29.9 percent increase in profits for 2004 over 2003, to $16.6 billion. PricewaterhouseCoopers predicts the bounce back will gather more steam, and has forecasted a 25 percent increase in industry profits for 2005, to $20.8 billion, and record profits of $25.2 billion in 2006. In addition, RevPar, which increased 7.5 percent in 2004, is forecasted to increase an additional 7.5 percent in 2005 and 6.3 percent in 2006.

The International Association for Exhibition Management has criticized as "biased and seriously flawed" a new report from the Brookings Institution, authored by professor Heywood Sanders of the University of Texas at San Antonio. The report, titled "Space Available: The Realities of Convention Centers as Economic Development Strategy," asserts the convention marketplace is in decline and challenges many assumptions behind public investment in convention centers and infrastructure. But IAEM sharply disagrees with these central findings. "Sanders and I debated these issues in a public forum a year ago," said Steven Hacker, CAE, president of IAEM. "Nothing in this report is new or different than what he said then. The fact that business travel and attendance at business events suffered enormously in the wake of 9/11 and as the result of a very serious economic recession does not mean that the industry will not enjoy a robust recovery. It already has, and the evidence is all around us." 

Hotel/casino developer Société des Bains de Mer has announced the name of its new 334-room property in Monaco: Monte-Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort. The property, which will open in October, will have 11 meeting rooms.

Le Meridien Group, which opened six new properties in 2004, has announced an ambitious expansion plan for the next two years. The luxury hotel chain plans to add 21 properties to its portfolio and has targeted Europe, the United States, Asia-Pacific and Africa for its growth. The first 10 hotels will be opened by year-end, including two hotels in Nigeria and one each in Pakistan, Malta, Morocco, Nepal, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Shanghai, China. In the U.S., the company is scheduled to open the 210-room Le Meridien Sunny Isles Beach in Miami by spring 2005. Currently, Le Meridien has 130 properties worldwide.

It was only a matter of time. Marriott International has kicked off a $190 million bedding makeover across all of its 2,400 hotels and eight brands. While the new bed does not come with a brand name, such as Westin's Heavenly Bed, the plush comforters and luxury linens will be the new standard for all 628,000 of the chain's beds by year-end 2005.

After months of inactivity, the Society of Corporate Meeting Professionals has officially closed its doors after almost 35 years in existence. The organization's web site (www.scmp.org) is still functional, and e-mails will be answered. However, attempts at resuscitating the association will cease for the time being. Since its management company folded in 2002, SCMP had been run by a dedicated board of directors, but tough economic times have eroded the group's membership from a high of 200 (at which membership was capped) down to just one: Kevin McNally, CMP, director of convention services at the Westin Chicago River North and former co-president of SCMP until the organization's demise. "We had a special niche, and that niche is no longer there," said McNally. "Or the niche has changed, and we can't keep up with it."