January 14, 2004

Boston-based hotel company Pyramid Advisors LLC and Morgan Stanley's real estate fund have acquired a portfolio of eight Adam's Mark hotels and currently are in discussions to reflag each of the properties following renovations to take place later this year. The eight hotels sold are in Clearwater Beach and Daytona Beach, Fla.; Colorado Springs and Grand Junction, Colo.; San Antonio, Texas; Northbrook, Ill.; and Indianapolis, Ill. Earlier this year, Pyramid and Morgan Stanley acquired the 604-room Adam's Mark Houston, which will be reflagged the Houston Marriott.

New York City's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center is, indeed, scheduled for an expansion to begin next year, revealed mayor Michael Bloomberg in his 2004 State of the City address last Thursday. According to a spokesperson for the Department of City Planning, environmental impact studies are under way, and a comprehensive rezoning plan will be up for a seven-month public review this spring. This will set into motion not only the Javits expansion and an extension of the #7 subway all the way to the convention center, but also a decades-long 360-acre redevelopment on Manhattan's West Side.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority has begun a $400,000 pilot program to strengthen the state's image as a business destination. A senior HTA executive last month said while prices and terms often are negotiated successfully with meeting planners, those proposals sometimes are voted down by CEOs and boards of directors who believe Hawaii is strictly for leisure travel. The branding program, which will finish by June 30, will include $200,000 in media advertising aimed at educating senior executives.

Meeting Professionals International, in conjunction with American Express, released yesterday the FutureWatch 2004 Industry Outlook, which surveyed 2,075 planners and suppliers in North America and Europe. Combined, the respondents predicted an average 4 percent gain in spending and revenue. Suppliers were the more optimistic of the two groups; they predicted an average 10 percent rise in revenue, while planners predicted an average 3 percent increase in spending for the year.

In order to keep from cutting city services on this year's budget, the Pittsburgh city council votes today on an increase of the parking tax from 31 percent to 50 percent, making already the highest parking tax in the nation even higher for the duration of the year. Whether or not the city's private parking lots will pass all the added tax onto customers is still up for grabs. In a statement, mayor Tom Murphy said he hopes to reduce the high tax later this year, if the amended budget passes.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide has been chosen to manage the Marques de Riscal Hotel in Bilbao, Spain. The hotel, which will be designed by famed architect Frank O. Gehry, will be developed within the Marques de Riscal wine complex, which includes a wine museum, and will feature an ancient wine cellar converted into a banquet hall, as well as a wellness center, a swimming pool and a signature restaurant. The number of hotel rooms is as yet undecided. The hotel, which is expected to be completed by year-end 2005, will become part of Starwood's Luxury Collection portfolio.

Hilton Hotels Corp. announced on Friday that the 512-room Hilton Arc de Triomphe Paris will open in late March. The property, on the Rue de Courcelles near the Champs Elysees, has seven meeting rooms, two ballrooms and a spa.