April 07, 2004

The U.S. government last weekend expanded the Visitor and Immigration Status Indication Technology (US-VISIT) program, which requires visitors from other countries to be fingerprinted and photographed. Formerly, only those from countries requiring visas needed to undergo the entry formalities, but starting Sept. 30, all visitors must submit to the process. Shawn McBurney, vice president for governmental affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based American Hotel & Lodging Association, said the program has been expanded because many visa-waiver countries won't be able to provide their citizens with biometric-encoded passports, a U.S. requirement, before the deadline of Oct. 26. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, more than 200 people have been intercepted since January through the US-VISIT program, including convicted rapists, drug traffickers and a convicted armed robber.

On the blocks since last summer, the luxury Savoy Hotel Group has been sold to a consortium of Irish investors. In a deal said to be worth US$1.3 billion, Quinlan Private beat out competition from a number of high bidders, including Saudi Prince Alaweed Bin Talal Alsaud, for the prestigious group comprising The Berkeley, Claridge's, The Connaught and The Savoy hotels, all in London. According to the terms of the deal, which will be finalized by the end of May, Quinlan Private will keep the hotel group intact and under existing management. Quinlan Private now owns 10 hotels worldwide, including several recently acquired Four Seasons properties in Budapest, Milan and Prague.

The board of the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education decided at a meeting last week to adopt an updated Standards for Commercial Support, a major revision of the document that outlines the precautions medical meeting planners must take when organizing continuing education conferences. Before being adopted, the revised standards must be approved by ACCME's seven member organizations, including the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges, a process that might take until September.

Officials in Palm Springs, Calif., have authorized a $45 million expansion of the Palm Springs Convention Center, a move the city hopes will win back large meeting groups that have outgrown the complex. The project would bring the center's total space to 250,000 square feet by fall 2005.

Travel is a powerful motivational tool, according to a study conducted by performance improvement firm Maritz Travel Co. The survey, which polled 2,100 corporate employees who have participated in a company-sponsored travel incentive program, found 89 percent of the respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they kept the travel incentive program in mind when performing their jobs. Ninety-one percent of employees agreed or strongly agreed that the opportunity to earn the trips encouraged them to increase their efforts in the program, while 99 percent said they agreed or strongly agreed that travel is appealing as an award.