October 20, 2004

Corporate travel will continue to revive worldwide in 2005, with modest price hikes anticipated, according to the American Express Global Business Travel Forecast, released Monday. While increases will vary by market, American Express predicts an overall 0 to 3 percent rise in economy and short-haul airfares, and a 2 to 5 percent rise in international business fares. Hotel rates for mid- and upper-class properties are expected to increase by 1 to 3 percent. Competition from low-fare carriers plays a significant role in keeping next year's airline price hikes modest, despite increasing traffic. In Europe, for example, domestic, short-haul economy fares could dip by as much as 3 percent and will increase no more than 1 percent, according to the report.

The Convention Industry Council last week announced a restructuring of its governance, along with a new executive committee. The current 31-member council and 11-member board of directors will be merged into one group, composed of one delegate plus one alternate from each of the 31 member organizations, totaling 62 people. The change will smooth and enrich the decision-making process, said Mary Power, CIC president. "We need as wide a range of input as possible in designing programs, because they all have such wide-ranging impact," she added. Michael J. Bandy, president of the Trade Show Exhibitors Association, will become chairman, replacing Michael D. Gehrisch, president and CEO of the International Association of Convention and Visitor Bureaus.

Ed Shartar, president and CEO of Coca-Cola's Toronto subsidiary, has been hired as the CEO of Conferon Global Services, a leading outsourcing company for the meetings industry. Bruce Harris, president of CGS, said, "We're an industry leader, and we want to maintain that," adding Shartar will bring "vision" to the company. Other changes in the executive ranks include moving Bob Lucke, current president of the ExpoExchange division, to a new position as executive vice president of business development for the overall company. Dave Lutz, president of the third-party meeting planning arm, Conferon, also will be president of ExpoExchange.

The Raleigh City Council and Wake County Commissioners in Raleigh, N.C., have approved the final designs for the city's new convention center. The center, to be built with public funds, will have 150,000 square feet of exhibit space, 30,000 square feet of meeting space and a 32,000-square-foot ballroom. An adjacent 400-room Marriott hotel will offer a 9,000-square-foot ballroom and 5,950 square feet of meeting space. Both the convention center and the hotel are scheduled to open in February 2008. The current convention center will be torn down to make way for the new facility.

Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez has halted progress on plans to build a 10,000-seat downtown arena. "Solid fiscal discipline and management not only mean getting our budget in order and improving services, [they] also mean knowing when to walk away from a plan that no longer makes solid business sense," said the mayor. The arena was to be built and run by a nonprofit management organization, without burdening taxpayers with bond debt. "Several factors lately have come together to make the plan essentially unworkable," he added. While the idea is not being scrapped for good, the process is beginning again from square one with the appointment of a Downtown Arena Task Force.

InterContinental Hotels Group announced Oct. 18 it will open its first InterContinental brand property in Panama in late 2006 or early 2007. The 300-room InterContinental Playa Bonita Resort will occupy a former U.S.-military recreational beach on the Pacific Ocean, three miles west of the Panama Canal. InterContinental currently manages one Marriott and one Courtyard by Marriott in Panama.