August 18, 2004

In the aftermath of Hurricane Charley, the only major hotels closed are on Captiva and Sanibel islands, on Florida's west coast. A spokesperson for the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau, which covers Fort Myers and the two islands, said, "We're in clean-up mode. Both islands were evacuated and are closed to visitors at least until Friday. No one has been allowed back yet, and officials hope to get out there today [Tuesday] or tomorrow to assess the damage." An official memorandum from the LCVCB recommended that "during this period anyone with immediate reservations in the area [should] reschedule or delay their plans." For updates, visit the LCVCB's website. Access to the island of Fort Myers Beach also is expected to be re-established on Friday.

The Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City is expanding. The $52 million project will add 145,000 square feet of exhibit space and 72,000 square feet of breakout space, for a total of 515,000 square feet of contiguous exhibit space and 125,000 square feet of meeting space. The announcement came after the city had successfully negotiated to retain through 2009 the annual winter and summer Outdoor Retailer shows -- Salt Lake's largest convention center events. The shows had outgrown the city and organizers were considering relocating. According to Outdoor Retailer, the deal to remain in Utah is contingent on the expansion of the Salt Palace. The $10 million needed for phase I of the construction is "already in the bank," according to a city spokesperson. He added that Salt Lake County (which owns the facility) is hoping to secure permission to raise the room tax 1 percent to 12.2 percent in the next legislative session to pay for the second phase; if it doesn't get approval, the county will fund the facility from existing revenues. Work on the first phase begins in September, to be finished in July 2005.

InterContinental Hotels Group PLC announced plans on Monday to sever its relationship with Expedia, Expedia Corporate Travel and According to a press release from IHG, the action, due to take place over the next several months, comes after the company was unable to guarantee marketing and customer service standards from its distribution partners. IHG instead will work with Travelocity and Travelocity Business as third-party distributors for its 3,500 hotels worldwide. The company said it is continuing negotiations with other online travel distributors and expects to announce other partnerships in the near future.

When the New York state legislature disbanded last week, a plan for financing the expansion to the Javits Center had not been approved. This means the bill will have to wait for the next legislative session, which has not been scheduled and might not occur before the end of the year. Said a spokesperson for Senate majority leader Joseph L. Bruno, "The Senate majority is 100 percent supportive of expanding the Javits Center, and we are still optimistic, given the support that this project has."

The Convention Industry Council announced Friday the results of its Project Attrition Phase II survey, sent by 22 participating planners to their attendees and exhibitors, to investigate booking habits. The study found that about half of registrants book based on price, and more than half have a corporate travel policy that tells them what type of hotel to use. Also, only one in five of the respondents had any awareness at all that attrition was an issue. The 42-page document can be read at CIC's website.

Meetings are taking a "complacent attitude" toward security at a time when security should be the top concern. That was one of the central themes last week at a PCMA conference titled, "Security Door to Door: A Comprehensive Approach for the Travel and Meetings Industry." The panel -- which included representatives from the Air Line Pilots Association and the Transportation Security Administration -- said in addition to terrorism, planners should consider issues of freight security and natural-disaster preparedness. Also, when site inspecting a hotel or convention center, said panelists, event organizers should discuss emergency evacuation measures with local authorities. "On site, we're all responsible," said panelist Thomas M. Mobley Jr., general manager and CEO of the Washington Convention Center. "We have a shared, overlapping responsibility for the safe execution of an event."