April 28, 2004

In a marketing move aimed at attracting corporate meeting and incentive business to its European hotels, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts announced April 19 that it would match the U.S. dollar to the euro at 10 of its InterContinental properties, regardless of the exchange rate, for groups booking 10 rooms or more and one meeting room. The program, which runs through Feb. 28, 2005, is being offered at the chain's hotels in the following cities: Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Athens, Greece; Budapest, Hungary; Cannes, France; Madrid, Spain; Paris, France; Prague, Czech Republic; Rome, Italy; St. Julian's, Malta; Tel Aviv, Israel; Vienna, Austria; and Warsaw, Poland.

A 216-room Ritz-Carlton Hotel is planned for downtown Dallas; it will be the company's first luxury hotel in Texas. Ground is scheduled to be broken in the first quarter of 2005 for an opening in 2007. The project will include 70 condominiums in the Residences at the Ritz-Carlton. Plans also call for 14,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, plus a 12,000-square-foot spa and fitness center. The building will be owned by Crescent Real Estate Equities Co. and designed by the dean of the Yale School of Architecture, Robert A.M. Stern.

More good news for the lodging industry. According to a recent report by Smith Travel Research, first-quarter occupancies for 2004 reached an industrywide average of 56.8 percent, up 4.4 percent over the same quarter in 2003. Average room rate increased 3.1 percent and RevPAR - Revenue Per Available Room - improved 7.7 percent over the same period last year.

On Tuesday, leaders in Cincinnati broke ground on the two-year, $160 million expansion of the Dr. Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center, to be renamed the Cinergy Center upon completion. The redesigned facility will feature 750,000 square feet total, including 194,000 square feet of contiguous exhibition space, 37 meeting rooms and two ballrooms. One architectural feature of the center will be a matrix of angled panels on the facade that spell out "Cincinnati" in reflective 50-foot-tall letters. "In our business, size matters," said Lisa Haller, president and CEO of the Greater Cincinnati Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Last week, the International Association for Exhibition Management and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade inked an agreement to use trade shows to increase commercial trade between the U.S. and China. IAEM and CCPIT pledged to share information on exhibitions in each other's countries and foster communication by producing a yearly industry show spotlighting American and Chinese business opportunities. The first event, tentatively titled China Expo Summit, is scheduled to take place in Beijing in 2005. Dennis Slater, 2004 chairman of the IAEM board of directors, called the agreement "an incredibly important first step in making it possible for show organizers and exhibitors to participate in Chinese exhibitions."