August 25, 2004

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed an employment discrimination lawsuit last week against Omni Hotels on behalf of a general manager at the Omni Mandalay Hotel in Irving, Texas, who alleges post-9/11 backlash by the chain, among other discriminatory actions. According to the EEOC, Mohamed S. Elmougy, a 16-year employee of Omni Hotels, was asked by the chain's corporate office to cease speaking publicly to promote tolerance and understanding of the Arab and Muslim communities in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Elmougy quit his job at the hotel in late 2001. The EEOC is seeking "injunctive relief," asking that Omni be required to train managers and form policies to prevent and correct national-origin and religious discrimination and retaliation; the suit also seeks lost wages, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Elmougy. "We're very sorry to learn that Mr. Elmougy has ill feelings toward Omni," said a spokesperson for the hotel chain. "But we do not feel we have done anything wrong. We believe this lawsuit has no merit and plan to vigorously defend our position."

As of Tuesday, the Ottawa County, Ohio, Health Department reports 893 people have fallen ill from a gastrointestinal outbreak originating on South Bass Island, the popular Lake Erie resort. Patients suffering from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or cramps have been identified from 12 states and the Canadian province of Ontario, while 162 more people experiencing symptoms are being interviewed by health authorities. Cases of campylobacter, salmonella and norovirus have been connected to the outbreak, although no source of contamination has been identified, according to the Ohio Department of Health. The mayor of South Bass Island's largest community, Put-In Bay, says "misconceptions" are being spread about the outbreak. "There are not, nor ever have been, any problems with the water," asserted Mayor Bernard Mack McCann yesterday. "There is no mystery illness, as has been suggested." While no travel restrictions to South Bass Island are in place, epidemiologists from the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently are analyzing the situation.

Unionized British Airways ground staff called off strikes set for next weekend at airports in London and other parts of the United Kingdom after approving a pay deal. Despite the resolution, a number of BA flights out of its main hub at London Heathrow were delayed or canceled Monday and Tuesday; they are expected to continue today. A statement posted on BA's website says, "We are making all efforts to ensure that affected customers are assisted and apologize sincerely for any inconvenience caused. August is the busiest period of the year for us and resources at Heathrow are stretched. This has been compounded by a number of operational problems....Customers are strongly advised to check real-time arrivals and departures before leaving for the airport."

The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island on Kiawah Island, S.C., opened on Aug. 20. Owned and operated by Kiawah Island Golf Resort, the 255-room, $125 million property has two oceanfront restaurants, a seaside grill, two bars, a spa and 18,000 square feet of meeting space.

On Aug. 19, Marriott International assumed management of the 692-room Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami. The hotel, now called the Doral Golf Resort & Spa, a Marriott Resort, has more than 90,000 square feet of function space.

Visit Charlotte, the convention and visitor bureau for Charlotte, N.C., has named Mike Butts as its new president. He has been acting as interim president since July 2003.