March 24, 2004

A proposed $1.50 per night room tax on New York City hotels, to fund a $1.4 billion expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, was announced last week. The fee must be approved by the Hotel Association of New York City before it goes into effect. The tax revenue will help fund the hotel association's $300 million contribution to the expansion. New York City and the state each are expected to chip in $300 million, with the remaining amount coming from private investment.

Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher has called for a 1 percent tax on hotel rooms. The bed tax, unveiled last week as part of the governor's Jobs for Kentucky legislative package, is estimated to generate $17.8 million over the next two years. The revenue would go toward developing tourism and increasing meetings and convention business across the state. "We feel this will help Kentucky's $9.1 billion tourism industry," said Jason Keller, deputy press secretary to the governor. Currently, only local governments levy taxes on hotels, and there is no additional statewide tax. If approved by the legislature, Kentucky's hotel tax would take effect in 2005.

The city of Phoenix has narrowed to two the number of hotel companies vying to run a proposed 1,000-room convention center headquarters hotel. Hilton Hotels Corp. and Starwood Hotels & Resorts are still in the running to manage the $300 million property, which will be built with public funds. Once the management company is chosen in June, the city council will have to vote to give the project the formal go-ahead.

The Insurance Conference Planners Association, based in Vancouver, is switching its management and moving its headquarters. The organization will replace the present two-person staff, consisting of executive director Karen Hopkinson and executive assistant Helen Peters, with Chicago-based association management firm Smith-Bucklin by May 1. In a letter to members explaining the change, ICPA president Debbie Boschee, CMP, said, "Our membership the past two years has remained flat or declined, and even with the decision to open it up to financial services organizations, we have not made any significant inroads. With this in mind, the board of directors began to evaluate our operations management and look at alternative models and options to best position our organization for the future."

Maritz Travel Co. is selling its U.S. corporate travel subsidiary to Carlson Wagonlit Travel for an undisclosed amount. According to Maritz, the transaction, which is pending regulatory approval, will allow the company to focus on its meetings, event and incentive group travel business, segments that are not included in the deal. Company chairman Steve Maritz last week said the initial response from clients has been positive.

The 400-room Mandarin Oriental, Washington, D.C., opened yesterday. Overlooking the Potomac Tidal Basin and the Jefferson Memorial, the hotel features the 14,000-square-foot Spa at Mandarin Oriental, as well as two restaurants and 34,000 square feet of meeting space, including an 8,300-square-foot ballroom.