August 11, 2004

On Thursday, the Fort Worth City Council voted unanimously to go forward with a project to build a 600-room convention center hotel, to be run by Omni Hotels Corp. The hotel company will finance and construct the $90 million property, which will offer about 48,000-square-feet of meeting space, and the city will lease the hotel site to Omni for 99 years. City insiders say the completion of an architectural plan is the next step in the project; the hotel should open in 2007.

The plan to build a $350 million convention center in Kissimmee-St. Cloud, Fla., has been canceled, even though the hotel tax in Osceola County was raised 1 percent last month to 6 percent in order to cover the construction. Developer FaulknerUSA withdrew from the project, citing financing problems, according to the Kissimmee-St. Cloud Convention & Visitors Bureau, which also stated the project will go back to the drawing board. A bureau spokesperson added that a meeting will be held soon to discuss whether the recent tax increase will remain in place.

Last week, organizers canceled the 2005 CeBIT America computer trade show, which was scheduled to run June 28-30 of next year at New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. "Though regrettable, this is the correct business decision," said Joachim Schafer, president of Princeton, N.J.-based Hannover Fairs USA Inc., the show's producer. "CeBIT America is a terrific event, but it has not generated enough revenue to justify a third year. It is really a reflection of a changing high-tech industry as well as the overall U.S. economy." According to organizers, international versions of CeBIT, including the original event in Hannover, Germany, will not be affected by the failure of the U.S. show. The cancellation of CeBIT America 2005 comes just six weeks after MediaLive International called off this year's Comdex IT trade show in Las Vegas, saying it lacked vendor participation.

Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City will soon be home to JetBlue Airways. Beginning next year, the low-fare carrier will build an $875 million, 26-gate terminal on 70 acres attached to the historic terminal, abandoned since TWA's departure in December 2001. In 2008 or 2009, when construction is completed, JetBlue will move its operations to the new terminal; it currently occupies 13 gates in Terminal 6. Plans for the TWA terminal itself remain uncertain, though it will house an art exhibition in October.

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has taken over the Radisson Plaza at the Pier in the coastal city of Cairns, Queensland, Australia, the traditional starting point for trips to the Great Barrier Reef. Renamed the Shangri-La Hotel, The Marina, the property will undergo a US$17.6 million renovation before the official rebranding next January. Changes will include a new lobby, four new conference rooms and a new restaurant. The new guest room count of 256 will include 36 executive-level rooms. The hotel has a ballroom that seats 400.

The 337-room Merrill Lynch Conference & Training Center in Plainsboro, N.J., which is managed by Aramark Harrison Lodging, is now taking outside business. To reflect this change, it was renamed the Harrison Conference Center & Hotel - Princeton Forrestal Center as of Aug. 5. In the coming weeks, an expansion of the meeting space at the IACC-approved property will begin, increasing the space by 25 meeting rooms to a total of 59 rooms and 57,000 square feet.