December 10, 2003

According to Smith Travel Research, third-party Internet websites will rake in an estimated $1 billion in hotel room sales in 2003, up from $676 million in 2002. The latest figures represent 6 percent of U.S. hotel industry profits. Those numbers, according to the research firm's report, should signal hotels locked into wholesale agreements with third parties to consider the impact such relationships have on their profit lines. Should room rates increase in 2004, as predicted due to an improving economy, those hotels would not benefit from the hike.

Plans were unveiled last week for Chicago's McCormick Place West Building. The addition, designed to be ecologically friendly, will offer 470,000 square feet of exhibition space, bringing the convention center's total to 2.6 million square feet. The building will have 250,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 100,000-square-foot ballroom, for a total of 600,000 square feet. A covered rooftop garden will be available for receptions of up to 800 people. Groundbreaking is scheduled for the spring; bookings are now being accepted for 2008.

The Phoenix City Council has approved design plans for a $600 million expansion to the Phoenix Civic Plaza Convention Center. The first phase, to begin next May, will be the construction of the new West Building, which will have 165,000 square feet of space on four levels, including a 65,000-square-foot exhibit hall, 50,000 square feet of meeting space and a 50,000-square-foot multipurpose room. A connection to the existing South Building also will be added during the first phase. The entire project, to be completed in three phases by 2009, will increase the center's rentable space to more than 900,000 square feet.

As of Dec. 8, US Airways stopped selling tickets through online travel site According to the airline, the decision came after Expedia raised customer booking fees for US Airways tickets to $8.99 from $5. "The rate that Expedia wants to charge for US Airways bookings is higher than that of any other carrier, and it does not cost Expedia any more to process a US Airways ticket," said a US Airways official. "We cannot allow them to differentiate, and we won't." For its part, Expedia called US Airways a valued partner and said it is working to resolve the matter.

The Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau has named a new president and CEO: Dale Lockett, former assistant director of the San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau. He takes over at the New Mexico bureau Jan. 5, following the retirement of his predecessor, Mary Kay Cline.

Ground will be broken today on a new 548-room Marriott next to the Las Vegas Convention Center. The nongaming property is expected to open in mid-2005.

Marriott International will operate London's Grosvenor House hotel and Dublin's Shelbourne Hotel, beginning Jan. 31. The two hotels, owned by The Royal Bank of Scotland, formerly were owned and operated by Le Meridien Hotels and Resorts; Le Meridien will continue to manage the hotels under a short-term transitional arrangement. Following renovations, the properties will be reflagged, with the 498-room Grosvenor House becoming a JW Marriott and the 276-room Shelbourne, a Renaissance.

The Professional Convention Management Association has hired a new director of meetings. Nancy Kay Olson, who starts on Dec. 15, was formerly the director meeting services at the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, where she worked for 24 years.