June 09, 2004

The $850 million Boston Convention & Exhibition Center finally will open its doors this Thursday, at the facility's grand premiere. Offering 500,000 square feet of contiguous exhibition space, 160,000 square feet of meeting space, 86 meeting rooms and a 41,000-square-foot ballroom, the South Boston Waterfront center opens less than one week after construction began on the $200 million headquarters hotel, a 790-room Westin directly adjacent to the center, expected to open in summer 2006.

MGM Mirage has offered to buy Mandalay Resort Group for $7.65 billion. The deal, which would include a payout of $4 billion in cash, would make MGM Mirage the largest gaming company in the world and put half of the 72,000 rooms on the Las Vegas Strip under its umbrella, as well as give it a generous slice of the lucrative meetings and conventions market. MGM Mirage operates 14 properties, including Bellagio, The Mirage and Treasure Island in Las Vegas, as well as MGM Grand Detroit Casino, Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Miss., and the MGM Grand, Darwin, Australia. The merger, should it go through, would give MGM Mirage control of Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino and the Luxor Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, as well as properties in Detroit, Reno, and Tunica, Miss.

A new low-fare carrier operating under the Virgin brand has chosen New York City as its headquarters and San Francisco as its base of operations. Local and state governments in New York and California offered the yet-to-be-named carrier more than $26 million in grants and incentives. "Culturally, New York and San Francisco reflect the Virgin brand's fun, dynamic style, making them both ideal places for us to recruit creative and skilled employees who can deliver on our vision of outstanding customer service," said Fred Reid, the former Delta executive spearheading the start-up carrier.

Airlines worldwide have agreed to phase out paper tickets by 2007, the International Air Transport Association announced this week. The initiative is part of a broad effort to cut airline costs and simplify the travel process. Other IATA-led initiatives include promoting self-service kiosks, improving baggage handling and broadening the use of biometric-identification technology.

Hyatt has anounced a partnership with Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile HotSpot to place wireless broadband service in all 208 Hyatt lobbies and public areas as well as select guest rooms. The rollout of this service is expected to be completed by early 2005.

Hilton International announced plans to open a Conrad Hotel in Dubai, the first of its kind in the United Arab Emirates. The 350-room property (including 130 suites) will be 20 minutes from Dubai International Airport. The hotel is expected to include 12 meeting rooms and a ballroom for parties up to 1,000, as well as several restaurants and a large spa and health club. Developers expect to open the property by late 2007.

Last Thursday, New York Governor George E. Pataki introduced state legislation for a hotel and car rental tax, among other things, to pave the way for expanding New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Opposition, however, is mounting. The New York Association for Better Choices, founded two weeks ago, is embarking on a campaign to stop the creation of the New York Sports and Convention Center, the planned addendum to the Javits Center that also will serve as a stadium for the Jets football team. The group claims the stadium is a waste of taxpayers' money and will exacerbate traffic problems in Manhattan. A spokesperson for the Jets' marketing campaign said the $600 million in tax money is paying only for the aspects of the stadium that will make it viable as exhibit space for large meetings, and 70 percent of Jets season ticketholders would take mass transit to games.