June 23, 2004

Connecticut governor John Rowland announced his resignation Monday, under the threat of impeachment over receiving unreported gifts from state contractors and employees. Rowland, governor since 1995, had spearheaded the state's movement toward a more meetings-friendly tourism agenda, supporting the current wave of hospitality-related construction, including the $190 million convention center set to open in Hartford next summer. Representatives of Hartford's Capital City Economic Development Authority said the governor's removal will have no impact on the projects already in progress or the state's emphasis on conventions. "Gov. Rowland was a great supporter of these projects," said Dean Pagani of the CCEDA, "but the CCEDA was established in order to maintain and manage the construction of the center, and that will continue regardless of who the governor is."

The Phoenix City Council has chosen a 2.8-acre site for a new 1,000-room convention center hotel, to be managed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide as a Sheraton property. The hotel will be across the street from the city's expanding convention center, Phoenix Civic Plaza. That $600 million project, which is tripling the size of the center to more than 900,000 square feet of exhibit and meetings space, is expected to be complete by mid-2009. The hotel will open in late 2008 and will provide 100,000 square feet of meeting space.

On June 16, the Mississippi Gaming Commission approved the first stage of development for the Myriad Botanical Resort to be built in Tunica, Miss. With a price tag of approximately $900 million, the property will be the largest resort built in the state since Beau Rivage in 1999. So far the MGC has approved the site; next comes an investigation into the resort's financing and Myriad World Resorts' ability to operate a casino. According to Webster Franklin, president and CEO of the Tunica Convention and Visitors Bureau, the resort might open by 2006. Included in the plans are a 1,200-room hotel, a 374,000-square-foot convention center, a water park, a botanical garden and an 18-hole golf course, all covered by a 7,000-foot-long Teflon dome.

On June 18, Caesars Entertainment sold the 3,174-room Hilton Las Vegas for approximately $280 million to Colony Capital, which also owns New Jersey's Resorts Atlantic City, among other properties. The main reason for the sale was to help reduce Caesars' debt, which stands at about $4.2 billion. Colony will invest $67 million to renovate the hotel and its 200,000 square feet of meeting space. Hilton will continue to manage the property.

Ana Maria Viscasillas has been appointed president and CEO of the Puerto Rico Convention Bureau. She was formerly vice president of marketing at the bureau and became acting president when former bureau chief Jorge Pesquera left in late winter to become the president and CEO of the Aruba Hotel & Tourism Association.

The Sonesta hotel chain returns to the Caribbean on July 8 when the 534-room Maho Beach Resort & Casino in Dutch St. Maarten will be rebranded as the Sonesta Maho Beach Resort & Casino. Aside from the casino, the property, which sits on 10 acres on the island's southwest shore, offers 59,000 square feet of meeting space, three restaurants, and a full-service spa and fitness center.