March 31, 2004

Leaders from New York City's government, convention and visitor bureau, hotel association, unions and private sector, as well as from state government, came together for the first time last Thursday to announce the expansion of the Javits Center and redevelopment of New York City's far West Side. The 75,000-seat stadium for the New York Jets, to be built just south of the convention center, will be called the New York Sports and Convention Center, underscoring its usefulness as an additional 200,000 square feet of exhibit space for planners. Still to come before groundbreaking is the completion of an environmental impact study and the creation of legislation at the state level. The expanded center should open by 2009 or 2010. "We still have quite a bit of work to do," said Jonathan Tisch, chairman and CEO of NYC & Co., "but the announcement is a significant and meaningful step toward the reality of an expanded Javits Center."

Expedia Inc. is expanding its service to Europe. The agency announced this week it has acquired the French online corporate travel company Egencia for an undisclosed amount. With operations in Belgium, France and the U.K., Egencia will be renamed Expedia Corporate Travel Europe and will continue to serve existing clients while working to broaden its customer base.

Responding to the escalating trend toward shorter, more frequent vacations, Carnival Cruise Lines will increase its short cruise offerings this year by 50 percent and provide consumers with 39 different short-cruise itineraries, including departures from two new home ports -- Jacksonville, Fla., and Mobile, Ala. A spokesperson for the cruise line said the move may have special appeal to planners, as "most shipboard meetings are in the short cruise market, since most companies do not have the time or money to host weeklong meetings."

Opening Friday is the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center on Lake Grapevine, a big name for a big property. The 1,511-room resort offers 400,000 square feet of meeting space for groups of up to 5,000. For planners, audiovisual and decorating companies are on site; for attendees, there is a 24,000-square-foot spa, water sports on the lake, a golf course and five restaurants. A 1,000-seat arena will be completed by the end of the year.

Air travel is expected to return to pre-9/11 levels by 2005, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, while the number of passengers flying domestically is expected to grow nearly 7 percent over the next two years. However, those numbers might do little to comfort airline executives. According to transportation secretary Norman Y. Mineta, the forecasted increase of passengers mainly consists of leisure travelers who have purchased Internet fares, as opposed to revenue-generating business travelers.

Garfield Traub Development LLC last week announced that it will build the headquarters hotel of the Puerto Rico Convention Center, a 500-room Sheraton, managed by Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Earlier this month, the Puerto Rico Convention Center District Authority chose the proposal from a pool of five, which included brands such as Hyatt, Marriott and Crowne Plaza. Offerings at the property will include a 15,000-square-foot spa, a 10,000-square-foot casino, a 30,000-square-foot nightclub and 63,000 square feet of meeting space. The hotel is scheduled to open in mid-2007, two years after the convention center.