September 22, 2004

The Transportation Security Administration on Monday intensified screening procedures at airports around the country. Passengers now must remove coats, jackets and blazers for X-ray inspections. The TSA also gave screeners more latitude to conduct pat-down inspections. "These procedures are consistent with TSA efforts to improve and expand the use of technology to screen passengers for explosives at airport checkpoints across the country," said Rear Adm. David M. Stone, USN (ret.), the assistant secretary of homeland security for the TSA.

Hotel workers at two Los Angeles properties, the Century Plaza and the St. Regis Hotel, plan to file a class-action lawsuit against parent company Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, citing violation of the California Labor Code and the state's Industrial Welfare Commission Orders. The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, contends that as many as 1,000 housekeepers, waiters, cooks, bartenders and other employees routinely worked through the mandatory 30-minute mealtime breaks in order to meet the hotels' standards of room service and housekeeping turnover. Attorneys for the plaintiffs are seeking more than $10 million in damages. Starwood officials declined to comment on any pending litigation.

Grand Cayman is still in bad shape after Hurricane Ivan swept through last week. As of press time, the airport was closed to commercial travel, and power was down over parts of the island. Fortunately, the major resorts were left relatively intact. The 309-room Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort will reopen Oct. 15; the 136-room Courtyard Grand Cayman, Oct. 1; the 336-room Westin Casuarina Resort and Spa, Nov. 1; and the 289-room Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman, Dec. 1. The opening of the new 365-room Ritz Carlton, Grand Cayman, scheduled for December, might be postponed. "We have everything but electricity," said Victor Lopez, divisional vice president of Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, who visited the Hyatt Regency last weekend. "On Saturday night, I saw the lights over George Town go on and I said, 'Hallelujah!'"

The Las Vegas Sands Corp. broke ground this week on a $1.6 billion, 3,025-room hotel adjacent to the 4,049-room Venetian. To be called the Palazzo Casino Resort, the new hotel will have an upscale design. The 15-acre site chosen for the 50-story Palazzo also is adjacent to the Sands Expo & Convention Center and opposite Wynn Las Vegas, which opens next spring with 2,698 guest rooms. Palazzo will offer a 105,000-square-foot casino, a 375,000-square-foot entertainment complex and 450,000 square feet of meeting space.

The $37 million Columbia (S.C.) Metropolitan Convention Center opened on Sept. 21. The 142,500-square-foot facility has a 24,700-square-foot column-free exhibition hall, a 17,200-square-foot ballroom and 10 meeting rooms. Joining the center in spring 2006 will be a 228-room Hilton headquarters hotel.

Ten months after announcing its CEO would step down once a new chief was found, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has ended its long search. Stephen J. Heyer, former president and COO of The Coca-Cola Co., will take over the hotel group on Oct. 1 from Barry S. Sternlicht, who will become the company's executive chairman and chief design officer.