July 07, 2004

The first train of the $650 million Las Vegas Monorail system leaves the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino at 9:30 a.m. today. Officially known as the Robert N. Broadbent Las Vegas Monorail, the automated service costs $3 per ride (weekly and monthly discounts are available) and takes 14 minutes to cover its four-mile route. The elevated track runs between the MGM Grand and the Sahara Casino Hotel; it has seven stations, one of which is the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts will manage a 475-room W Hotel in Barcelona, Spain, the chain's first W property in Europe. Scheduled to open in 2008, the W Barcelona will be at Nova Bocana, the entrance to the city's new port. Its architect is Ricardo Bofill, who designed the Parisian headquarters for both Cartier and Christian Dior. A W Hotel also is coming to Scottsdale, Ariz. The W Scottsdale Hotel, to open in 2007, will offer 225 rooms and a spa.

Internet travel management companies like Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity have become "serious players" among corporate customers, according to a survey conducted by the Business Travel Coalition, based in Radnor, Pa. Among the 32 businesses surveyed, the primary reason for turning to Internet companies was to save money on transaction fees. Respondents also gave high marks to ITMCs for honoring advertised prices and offering fast support when products needed modifying. The BTC predicted Internet companies will continue to win market share from traditional travel management companies over the next few years.

JetBlue Airways will launch new daily service between Phoenix and New York City's JFK International Airport beginning Oct. 1 for an introductory fare of $99. The company also officially has unveiled its corporate travel booking site called CompanyBlue (http://www.jetblue.com/companyblue). In addition to allowing travelers to book business flights easily, the site offers online reporting tools to help corporate travel managers track employee spending.

The 2003 annual report from the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education, released last week, showed that $971 million was spent in commercial support for medical education in 2003, up from $746 million in 2002. This $225 million increase came in a year when pharmaceutical companies and CME providers were working on reducing spending on meetings for doctors. According to Dr. Murray Kopelow, chief executive of ACCME, the additional funds might be coming from pharmaceutical companies moving their support from promotional to educational activities in accordance with a governmental mandate to decrease drug promotion.

The 594-room Paramount Hotel near Times Square in New York City will become a Hard Rock Hotel. Ian Schrager's Morgans Hotel Group sold the property for $126.5 million to Becker Ventures LLC. The hotel now is managed by a joint venture between Sol Melia Hotels and Resorts and Hard Rock Cafe International, and it will become the world's second Hard Rock Hotel early next year, after a multimillion-dollar renovation. A 10,000-square-foot special-event space will be added in the basement.