January 07, 2004

On Dec. 15, Osceola County commissioners voted to raise the county room tax from 5 to 6 percent in order to help finance a convention center in Kissimmee, Fla., that has been in the planning stages for several years. The new tax rate goes into effect July 1. The county's development partner in the convention center project, FaulknerUSA, has until May to bring a new financing plan with a confirmed lender to the county. Plans call for the center to have 250,000 square feet of exhibit space and to be anchored by an 800-room Hilton hotel.

InterContinental Hotels Group acquired the 64-property Candlewood Suites brand on Dec. 31 from Hospitality Properties Trust for $15.3 million in cash. That acquisition expands parent company Six Continents Hotels' portfolio to six brands, joining Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites and InterContinental Hotels & Resorts.

Hilton Hotels Corp. has introduced new technology called the Group Reservations Identification Program, which cross-references group registration lists against hotel rooms reserved at select Hilton properties. The GRIP system provides reports on attendee-booking activity and compiles historical data once a meeting has concluded.

The Greater Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association sent out a request for proposal to hotel consulting companies at the end of December regarding the financial feasibility of a 1,200-room headquarters hotel. "Clients are making decisions now for future years, [and] the number of committable hotel rooms is critical to Minneapolis being selected," said Greg Ortale, president and CEO of the GMCVA. "The sooner the hotel can be open, the better for the economic growth in Minneapolis and Minnesota." The GMCVA is hoping to have the study's results by late spring.

The 800-room Hilton Austin, next to the Austin (Texas) Convention Center, opened Dec. 27. The property's 60,000 square feet of meeting space offers two ballrooms (including the 28,000-square-foot Austin Grand Ballroom) and 11 breakout rooms.