October 27, 2004

The Spanish hotel company Barcelo has made a $64 million takeover bid for John Q. Hammons Hotels. The deal, should it go through, gives Barcelo, which currently manages and leases 125 properties in the United States under its Barcelo Crestline operation, an additional 46 properties. The new company would be renamed Barcelo Hammons Hotels & Resorts.

The Business Travel Coalition on Monday sent comments to the Transportation Security Administration regarding the TSA's proposed Secure Flight passenger screening program. BTC, which represents the concerns of travel managers and suppliers, said corporations "would be burdened with the majority of Secure Flight costs in the forms of taxes, fees, higher ticket prices and possible disruption to the conduct of business, should travelers be inadvertently ensnared by the system." The TSA has supplied the industry with very few details about the Secure Flight program, which places responsibility for passenger screening with the federal government rather than the airlines, BTC charges. "We do not understand the privacy and civil liberty tradeoffs required in return for expectations of greater security. Nor do we know about the safeguards, remedies, costs, future program growth and alternatives to such a program. Secure Flight generates the same concerns many had with CAPPS II in the areas of process, product and protections," said the statement.

In other TSA news, yesterday the agency announced placement of an explosives detection trace portal at Terminal One of New York City's John F. Kennedy airport. "TSA is committed to using cutting-edge technology in the defense of the nation," said retired Navy Rear Adm. David M. Stone, the assistant secretary of homeland security for TSA. The portal, made by Smiths Detection of Pine Brook, N.J., blows puffs of air over passengers, then samples the air for explosives. In the TSA's trace portal pilot program, similar devices recently have been installed at T.F. Green Airport in Providence, R.I.; Greater Rochester (N.Y.) International Airport; San Diego International Airport; Tampa (Fla.) International Airport and Gulfport-Biloxi (Miss.) International Airport.

On Oct. 21, InterContinental Hotel Group launched a new brand -- Hotel Indigo -- with the opening of the 12-story Hotel Indigo Atlanta Midtown. The 140-room boutique hotel, on Peachtree St. N.E., opposite the city's Fox Theatre, has two meeting rooms and a restaurant called the Golden Bean. According to InterContinental, the new brand is designed to "address the demands of style-conscious guests who are seeking experience and quality over pure mundane functionality when traveling." The Hotel Indigo brand also has signed an agreement with Joie de Vivre Hotels, which has 25 boutique properties in the United States, to help the new chain in customer relations, training and marketing. The second Hotel Indigo opens in Chicago next spring.

Downtown Seattle will have a new, 21-story Four Seasons hotel by 2007. The Four Seasons Hotel Seattle, to be developed by Seattle Hotel Group LLC, is to include 150 guest rooms, 50 condominiums, extensive meeting space and a 5,000-square-foot ballroom with water views. "We want Four Seasons Hotel Seattle to be the most sought-after address for guests and residents in the city," said John Oppenheimer, managing partner of the Seattle Hotel Group. The Four Seasons flag has been absent from the local market since Fairmont took over management of the Olympic Hotel last year.