June 23, 2004

The 179-room Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace opened in the Hungarian capital of Budapest on June 21. On the Danube River at the base of the city's famous Chain Bridge, the 1827 structure is in the former headquarters of a now-defunct British insurance firm, the Gresham Life Assurance Company. Planning, design and a $110 million renovation of the building's art nouveau interior and exterior took almost six years. A restaurant, Pava, and eight meeting rooms are on site.

Last Tuesday, Chicago police arrested 15 protesters who blocked traffic on Michigan Avenue. The demonstrators marched in support of the year-old strike by Local 1 of the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union against the 850-room Congress Plaza Hotel. The hotel's owners, 520 S. Michigan Avenue Associates, have refused the union's demand to accept the contract reached in 2002 with 27 other Chicago hotels, claiming the company cannot afford to pay the contract's 11.5 percent annual salary increases. "The union's demands have been excessive and unreasonable -- especially given the overall climate of the hotel and restaurant industry right now," said a spokesperson for the hotel's owners. Union members foresee no end to their strike. "We just want the kind of wages where you can support your family and have health insurance," said a spokesperson for the local union.

A fourth Ritz-Carlton hotel has been slated for China. The 320-room Ritz-Carlton, Beijing, Financial Street will be built in the city's financial district and will feature a total of 9,311 square feet of meeting space, including a 5,447-square-foot ballroom. The property, which opens in fall 2006, also will offer three restaurants, a health club and a spa.

Boston bulked up its guest room count this week, with two openings slated for Friday. In the Back Bay area, the 220-room Jurys Boston Hotel is a $60 million property in the city's former police headquarters, built in the 1920s. It offers five meeting rooms, ranging in size from 318 to 1,212 square feet. Also opening is the 175-room Hampton Inn & Suites Boston Crosstown Center Hotel.

In-room high-speed Internet access is now available at 2,000 Marriott International properties. The service is free at Courtyards by Marriott, Residence Inns, TownePlace Suites and SpringHill Suites. Beginning July 1, Fairfield Inns also will offer the service free.

Boutique Hotels & Resorts International has added five U.K. properties to its growing portfolio. The latest additions include the Academy Hotel in Bloomsbury, England; Threadneedles Hotel and The Colonade in London; the Glasshouse in Edinburgh, Scotland (a 150-year-old former church); and Quebecs in Leeds, England.