April 21, 2004

Preliminary results from a monthly report by PKF Consulting reveal that March occupancies in New York City were nearly 85 percent, the highest for March since 1969. Room rates rose to $190, up $11 from March 2003 and up $6 from Feb. 2004. These increases are due in part to a weaker U.S. dollar, which makes the city cheaper to visit for both domestic and international travelers, said John A. Fox, senior vice president of PKF. He added that New York City hotels have noticed last-minute group business is improving. This means bargains are probably dwindling in number and amount for all travelers, Fox said. In national occupancy news, PricewaterhouseCoopers reports 2004 has been so good to hotels that properties are looking to raise room rates in 2005. For the last three years, low demand forced hotels to cut rates, but with occupancy levels on the rise and expected to stay so for the remainder of the year, PWC estimates that room rates will increase an estimated 2 percent in 2005.

A plan to build a $650 million stadium in Dallas' Fair Park for the NFL's Dallas Cowboys was endorsed last week by the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau. The CVB does not support raising the city's bed tax to help cover construction costs, however. In a resolution, the CVB's board recommended eliminating the 2 percent occupancy tax that is currently funding the city's American Airlines Center and replacing it with a Dallas County tax, adding that it would be "disastrous" to raise the city's already high 15 percent bed tax. If a plan can be solidified, a referendum concerning public funding of the project could be put on the November ballot.

On Friday, the Convention Industry Council announced the release of its Green Meetings Report, a 12-page document detailing best practices for holding an environmentally friendly event. Included are policies for reducing waste throughout a meeting from start to finish, using guidelines from such groups as EnergyStar, the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies and BlueGreen Meetings. "The guidelines will be revised continually," said Amy Spatrisano, chair of the CIC's Green Meetings Task Force, which compiled the report. "Right now, it's a bare minimum of what to call 'green.'"

The Meeting Professionals International Foundation has announced the formation of the Canadian Foundation to support Canada's meetings industry through research and development. The new foundation already has raised CN$500,000 to run local professional programs for MPI's 1,261 Canadian members. In other MPI news, the association is offering attendees to its World Education Congress, being held in Denver in July, a $50 certificate toward future MPI purchases as incentive to book within the event's room block. The certificate will be good for MPI Bookstore purchases, international conference registration or MPI's e-Learning Series, but not for membership fees.

Carnival Corp. and Norwegian Cruise Line signed letters of intent with New York City Monday, guaranteeing the city at least $200 million in port charges to go toward upgrading the renamed New York Cruise Terminal. In addition to the combined $200 million tab, the two cruise companies agreed to bring at least 13 million passengers to New York through 2017. In return, the city gave each line preferential berths on specific piers and fee reductions. A master plan, created by New York City's Economic Development Corp., calls for the creation of four cruise-ship berths over the next four years.

Part of a $308 million expansion, the 98-suite Lodge at Turning Stone opened Friday at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, N.Y., 35 miles east of Syracuse. The addition of this luxury hotel brings the total number of accommodations at the resort to 434. A 287-room hotel tower and a winter garden with restaurants will open in September, along with a 60,000-square-foot meeting center and 5,000-seat event center, giving the resort a total of 90,000 square feet of meeting space. The resort's third golf course, designed by Tom Fazio, opens July 21. A spa, attached to the Lodge, debuts at the end of the year.

The 512-room Hilton Arc de Triomphe in Paris will open May 10. The property, which has eight meeting rooms, a ballroom and a spa, was originally scheduled to open in April, but was damaged by a flood caused by a burst pipe a week before the opening.