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A recent global survey conducted by etouches aimed to pinpoint the top pain points planners encounter throughout the lifecycle of their meeting or event. The company found that a majority of planners listed the implementation of technology at events, specifically in regard to attendee satisfaction, as a concern.

239 event planners from the Americas, EMEA and Asian Pacific regions responded to the study.

According to etouches, attendee satisfaction was cited as the most important indicator for event success, with 48 percent of respondents identifying it as a crucial factor over engagement, number of leads generated or other indicators. Etouches concluded a better use of technology could help planners.

“Technology and attendee satisfaction are clearly linked,” said Mike Mason, vice president, sourcing and hospitality solutions for etouches. “To drive satisfaction—and the overall success of events—planners must evaluate the areas where technology can drive the most impact and improve success rates.”

Among the pain points identified in the pre-event phase, nearly 60 percent of respondents cited targeting the right people with the right event content as a common struggle in their planning.

Meanwhile, on-site challenges are varied and impact event planners across the board. A big challenge for 44 percent of respondents is communication with event attendees. Additionally, 42 percent of event planners cited the registration and check-in process as well as technology overall as pain points.

Etouches’ survey revealed event planners are using technology in some aspects of the event lifecycle, but haven’t embraced these tools across the board. For example, only 20 percent of respondents use a venue sourcing tool and just seven percent use a strategic meetings management (SMM) program. And only 47 percent of respondents use a mobile app to communicate with attendees during events.

The biggest post-event pain point cited by respondents is event measurement. On a positive note, the majority of respondents—65 percent—indicated they are already measuring event return on investment (ROI). However, figuring out how to analyze the data and use it in meaningful ways is still a challenge.

A white paper with more information from the global survey is available on the etouches website.


Vail Resorts announced it will aggressively pursue a comprehensive sustainability commitment, called "Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint.” The initiative, announced at a company event, commits to zero net emissions by 2030, zero waste to landfill by 2030 and zero net operating impact to forests and habitat.

"Everything we do at Vail Resorts is driven by the spectacular natural surroundings where our employees, guests and communities live, work and play,” said Rob Katz, chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts. “The environment is our business, and we have a special obligation to protect it.”

Inspired by Whistler Blackcomb's environmental commitment, Vail Resorts said it intends to go beyond setting a partial emissions reduction target by executing on a more expansive and ambitious plan. "Epic Promise for a Zero Footprint" comprises three pillars: emissions, waste, and forests and habitats.

Vail Resorts runs ski resorts in Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone. The company also operates resorts in Park City, Utah, the Lake Tahoe area, Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, Perisher in Australia, Stowe in Vermont, Wilmot Mountain in Wisconsin, the Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mt. Brighton in Michigan.

The company’s zero footprint plan was developed in consultation with leading sustainability experts in the industry. More information on the plan, including a complete outline of each pillar, is available here.



Marquee Sports & Entertainment announced the new American Airlines Conference Center, located on the second floor of mixed-use office space in Wrigleyville, is available for booking.

The American Airlines Conference Center is described as “a versatile space with best-in-class amenities available to host meetings and entertain clients adjacent to Wrigley Field.”

The 5,300-square-foot conference center can be booked for private meetings, networking events and receptions. There are four customizable event spaces, including the Home Plate Room featuring an outdoor terrace overlooking the Park at Wrigley with sweeping views of the Chicago city skyline.

“Whether a group wants to book a meeting room during a high-energy summer Cubs game or host a private party and skate on the outdoor ice skating rink in December, Marquee Sports & Entertainment is excited to offer a premier customizable event space year-round,” said Marquee Sports & Entertainment Co-Managing Director Andy Blackburn. “This American Airlines Conference Center is [a one-of-a-kind venue].”

The conference center can host groups as small as 12 guests and can reach a capacity of 300 guests. Each room is equipped with A/V support including projectors, drop-down screens and LED televisions.

Levy Restaurants, the primary on-site catering provider of the American Airlines Conference Center, allows clients to customize their menu with numerous food options. From classic ballpark fare like a “Make Your Own Chicago Dog” station to a doughnut sundae station for dessert, options abound.

Marquee Sports & Entertainment is a brand-new sports and entertainment agency launched by the Ricketts family. It is currently booking premier and group spaces, meetings and events at Wrigley Field, Park at Wrigley, Hotel Zachary, Wrigley Rooftops and the American Airlines Conference Center.


As the world’s ideas of wealth and status change, travelers’ ideas of luxury are changing to match, at least according to a new study from Sabre, which found that high-end travelers increasingly choose subtle indulgence over flashy logos and conspicuous consumption. And similar to what is being observed across other industries and at meetings, luxury travelers are gravitating toward exclusive experiences.

In this new landscape, “luxury travel” can mean flying by helicopter to a remote desert peak for an exclusive yoga class. Or, it could mean passing up the comfort of a resort stay for a once-in-a-lifetime dive to the wreck of the Titanic—a “vacation” that requires specialized training in addition to money.

A newly-released report, “The Future of Luxury Travel,” by Sabre Hospitality Solutions in collaboration with TrendWatching reveals five key areas impacting how customers will choose luxury experiences.

“The evolution of high-end travel is creating a marketplace where ‘luxury’ is defined by the most exclusive, unique experiences that reside at the intersection of affluence and access,” said Sarah Kennedy Ellis, VP of global marketing and digital experience at Sabre Hospitality Solutions. “We see guests moving beyond traditional ideas of status and embracing highly-bespoke travel opportunities that focus more on the individual traveler’s personality and values and less about expressing opulence.”

Each of the five trends have immediate implications for the hospitality industry, showing how luxury brands and innovative startups can attract high-end travelers  by providing fresh, unique experiences.

Here are three trends that are highlighted in the report.

Luxury drives growth in wellness tourism: According to figures from the Global Wellness Institute, the global wellness tourism segment is expected to grow by over 37 percent to $808 billion over the next three years. A major driver of this growth will be luxury travelers looking for wellness opportunities.

Those trips could include highly-shareable moments like the exclusive Museum Workout at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art—a 45-minute exercise session and tour held before the gallery opens.

Low-key luxury: Increasingly, luxury travelers identify themselves as “post-status”—choosing subtle indulgence over prominent logos and showy opulence. The “no-frills chic” phenomenon sees travelers choosing travel that contrasts with traditional luxury—which, itself, is a new way of showing off status.

Indulgence without guilt: Another factor driving consumer choice is a desire for guilt-free luxury. “The Future of Luxury Travel” report cites examples of emerging high-end products and services whose selling points include positive environmental or social impact. From ice cream made from fruit that would otherwise have been sent to a landfill, to lab-grown gems that offer an ethical alternative to diamond mining, wealthy consumers are choosing luxury products that help make the world a better place.

The full “The Future of Luxury Travel” report full report is available for download here.



The Buccini/Pollin Group acquired the 302-room Sheraton DFW Airport Hotel for $46 million. PM Hotel Group, a national hotel management company based in Washington, D.C., will operate the hotel.

“The Sheraton DFW Airport Hotel marks our 7,600th room either developed or acquired since our inception in 1993,” said Dave Pollin, co-founder, BPG. “The Dallas/Fort Worth marketplace continues to hold great interest for us as we further expand our portfolio of full-service hotels in markets with high barriers to entry."

Located within minutes of DFW Airport at 4440 West John Carpenter Freeway, the recently renovated hotel is near such attractions as the Texas Motor Speedway, Six Flags Over Texas and AT&T Stadium.

The hotel underwent an extensive $7 million upgrade to its lobby, including a new signature lobby lounge experience, guest rooms, an expanded and redesigned Club Lounge, and all function rooms. Guests can enjoy complimentary internet access and the Sheraton Signature Sleep Experience in a spacious setting.

The hotel is equipped with 25,000 square feet of meeting space, a fitness center and an outdoor pool.



Omni Hotels & Resorts announced the opening of the Omni Frisco Hotel located at The Star. The 300-room Omni Frisco is the “official hotel of the Dallas Cowboys” and it offers a number of exclusive dining and retail experiences for guests.

“This is a project we’re so happy to finally unveil to our customers as well as the people of Frisco,” said Jim Caldwell, CEO of Omni Hotels & Resorts. “So much thought and effort has gone into the design and execution of this hotel and we are thrilled to have such exceptional partners in the [Cowboys].”

Laura McKoy, creative director and vice president of interior design for Omni Hotels & Resorts, and her team of designers worked to capture the Dallas Cowboys legacy in the room decor and throughout the hotel, while keeping Omni’s signature level of luxury and service at the forefront. Frisco, a city known for its great progress, and its motto, “Progress In Motion,” is also reflected in the guest room details.

Clean lines, layered textures, multifunctional furniture with integrated storage and lighting aim to make the guest rooms the new standard for modern and quality design. Omni Frisco is a cornerstone to North Texas and reflects the culture and energy of the area. The hotel is led by general manager, Jeff Smith.

In partnership with restaurant entrepreneur, Nick Badovinus, the hotel officially debuted Neighborhood Services as its featured dining experience. The newest location of the ever-popular dining destination is led by Executive Chef Richard Blankenship. Neighborhood Services at the Omni Frisco Hotel features a variety of menu favorites such as the Butcher’s Meatballs, Crispy Asparagus, Butcher’s Burger and more.

The restaurant’s premiere brunch menu, debuting Friday, August 25, will put a Neighborhood Services twist on brunch favorites including Avocado Toast, House Granola and Yogurt, and Churro French Toast.

As executive chef, Blankenship oversees the hotel’s culinary endeavors for Neighborhood Services, along with the hotel’s rooftop pool bar and grill, the Edge Bar, in-room dining, banquets and catering.

In addition to the its food and beverage program, Omni Frisco offers a luxury retail experience with the Charlotte Jones Collection. Named after the Dallas Cowboys Executive Vice President & Chief Brand Officer and notable style maven, Charlotte Jones Anderson, the luxury retail outpost hopes to become a  fashion destination for the hotel, which anchors the Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters at Ford Center.

The Omni Frisco Hotel and its retail and culinary outlets are now open. 


Hilton Garden Inn, the  global upscale brand from Hilton with roots dating back more than 25 years, unveiled a comprehensive brand refresh that aims to anticipate and cater to modern travelers’ needs.

Anchored by a new global marketing campaign, “Simple Things on Another Level,” the brand refresh focuses on food and beverage updates, new hotel prototypes for each region of the world and brand culture enhancements across Hilton Garden Inn's portfolio of 720+ hotels in 33 countries and territories.

"Our brand refresh will amplify and focus on what's great about Hilton Garden Inn—including our upscale, light and airy properties, our award-winning food and beverage offerings and our exceptional team members at each and every hotel," said Hilton Garden Inn Global Head John Greenleaf.

As part of the brand refresh, Hilton Garden Inn is building upon consumers' changing dining preferences with healthier and more on-trend menu choices, premium varietal wines, national and local craft beers, handcrafted cocktails and small plates. Key F&B enhancements include a new, open-display kitchen for signature cooked-to-order breakfast dishes, and a more social setting for restaurant and bar service.

A revamped flexible hotel design approach provides six new, customizable hotel prototype options—one for each region of the world where the brand operates—empowering hotel developers to adapt to evolving guest preferences. Features of the new prototypes include increased natural light and pod-style check-in areas. Meeting spaces with multi-functional features will also add to the brand’s adaptability.



The Garrison Hotel, a new boutique property in Dover, N.H., is the latest independent hotel to join the Ascend Hotel Collection, a network of historic, boutique hotels from Choice Hotels International.

The 66-room upscale hotel was inspired by the rich history of Dover, N.H., and takes its name from the city's historic garrison buildings. Throughout the hotel, the area's colorful history comes to life through design and decor. As soon as guests enter the lobby, they can learn more about Dover shipbuilding, mercantilism and the colonial era through exhibits on display from The Woodman Institute, a Dover history museum.

The Garrison offers travelers a range of guest room types, a fitness center and indoor pool, a business center, free Wi-Fi, free breakfast and pet-friendly accommodations and local area recommendations.

The hotel is less than one mile from Dover's downtown center and a short drive from the University of New Hampshire and downtown Portsmouth. The Garrison is one hour from Boston, Portland (Maine) and New Hampshire's Lake Winnipesaukee. It’s also within 30 minutes of New Hampshire beaches.


The Association of American Law Schools (AALS) is the latest in a series of legal organizations to announce it is relocating a meeting away from Texas due to discriminatory legislation that will soon take effect in the state. AALS also stated in a letter addressed to the Mayor of Austin, Texas, and several Texas state legislative leaders that it “will not hold any other meetings in Texas because of actions by the legislature to discriminate.”

“I write today to announce that the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) is relocating its 2018 Conference on Clinical Legal Education from Austin, Texas, to Chicago, Illinois,” wrote AALA President Paul Marcus. “It will be held there on April 29 to May 2, 2018. AALS has decided to make the move, and will not hold any other meetings in Texas because of actions by the legislature to discriminate against individuals seeking to immigrate to the United States and against members of the LGBTQ community.”

The letter, which is available in its entirety on the AALS website, goes on to reference Texas’ SB4 (an immigration bill) and SB6 (a “bathroom bill”) as two of the recent measures that influenced its decision.

Other organizations that also recently announced they are moving upcoming meetings out of Texas due to discriminatory legislation include the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL), the American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) and the American Immigration Lawyers Associations (AILA).


Created in appreciation for our nation’s active military personnel, veterans and their spouses, MGM Resorts International’s new Military & Veterans Program (MVP) launched on July 20. Conceptualized and developed by MGM Resorts’ Veterans Employee Network Group, MVP provides special recognition, offers, discounts and benefits at MGM Resorts destinations throughout the U.S. to military members, veterans and spouses. With a military ID, they can sign up for the program on-site at MGM properties.

“As a company, we have always supported our country’s greatest heroes,” said Jim Murren, chairman & CEO of MGM Resorts International. “Our new Military & Veterans Program provides us with another channel to recognize and thank them for their service. Including spouses in our program allows us to honor these important partners as well for their incredible bravery and commitment to family and country. I am proud of our Veterans Employee Network Group for their work on this program, which will result in more meaningful on-property interactions between our team and the military community.”

A private launch ceremony took place last night at The Mirage Hotel & Casino where Murren presented the first MVP cards to seven active and retired military service members as well as military spouses.

An extension of M life Rewards, the company’s existing loyalty program, MVP distinguishes service members with a dedicated M life Rewards card identified with the MVP logo and provides access to all of the available military benefits throughout MGM Resorts destinations via a new central location.

In addition to M life Rewards’ existing benefits, new Military & Veterans Program cardholders are automatically upgraded to the second Tier Level, Pearl, with benefits including complimentary self-parking at MGM Resorts properties as well as exclusive discounts on select entertainment, dining options, attractions, spa treatments and room rate discounts at all MGM Resorts destinations.

The MGM Resorts Military & Veterans Program is available to all U.S. active duty, guard, reserve, retired military, veterans and spouses of eligible military personnel. Current M life Rewards members can sign up for the MVP card at any M life Rewards Desk at M life Rewards destinations across the U.S.



The former Palm Springs retreat of the legendary silent film comedian, actor and director, Harold Lloyd, is now available as a venue for special events accommodating up to 200 people. Situated in the celebrity hideaway of the Movie Colony, the Harold Lloyd Estate offers a unique setting for corporate events.

The 1.1 acre estate recently underwent a redesign of the interior main house and guest houses, and a new distinctive Hollywood-inspired photography collection was installed throughout the living quarters.

The Lloyd estate was built in 1925 and sits across from the Cary Grant estate in the historic Old Las Palmas neighborhood of the Movie Colony, which was developed in the 1920s with former iconic celebrity residents taking second homes here including Elizabeth Taylor, Kirk Douglas, Katherine Hepburn, Gene Autry, Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Dinah Shore and many other Hollywood stars.

The main house and two spacious casitas of the Lloyd estate recently received a redesign that embraces the original warm Spanish architecture while highlighting added Asian accents and feng shui elements. At 5,100 square feet, the house and casitas contain five bedrooms and six bathrooms for up to 10.

Entering through ornate doors into a spacious guest area, visitors will find intricately hand-painted wood beams and hand-carved wood decor throughout the house, while featuring the original terracotta tile flooring and colorful art deco bathroom tiles in the unique his-and-hers bathroom off the master suite.

There is also an incredible 1,000-bottle wine cellar and tasting room located in the basement of  the Harold Lloyd Estate, accessible via a spiral staircase that had to be installed by a crane from atop.

A carefully curated photography collection is exhibited in each of the main living areas and guest bedrooms, in which each room presents a different theme documenting the Old Hollywood golden era to the Playground of the Stars. With over 100 vintage photographs of digital variants printed from originals, the walls are adorned by Charlie Chaplin, Robert Downey Jr. portraying Chaplin from the 1993 film of the same name, James Dean, Spencer Tracy, Gloria Swanson, Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Katherine Hepburn, Veronica Lake, Elizabeth Taylor, Greta Garbo Clark Gable, Lucille Ball, Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren and Alfred Hitchcock.

Additionally, Virtual 3D Photographs of modernist architecture can be found scattered throughout the property. Lloyd was one of the first proponents of 3D motion pictures and shot over 200,000 3D slides.

French doors off the main house as well as the casitas open out to a spacious and private outdoor grassy area framed by hundred-year old Tamarisk and Eucalyptus trees. There is a salt-water swimming pool and Jacuzzi, and al fresco dining seating for 10, under mountain views and a palm tree lined backdrop.



InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) announced the opening of the 44-story, 596-room Holiday Inn Express Waikiki hotel—the largest Holiday Inn Express property in the Americas region. Located just three blocks from Waikiki Beach, two blocks from Luxury Row shopping and four blocks from the Hawaii Convention Center, this hotel is said to be well-suited for business and leisure travelers visiting Waikiki.

"Holiday Inn Express is the largest hotel brand in the world in its segment, and we're excited to add another property to the Hawaiian Islands,” said Jennifer Gribble, vice president, Holiday Inn Express.

The hotel features the brand's newest design solution which includes a modern design scheme, ample access to power outlets and charging ports and more community workspaces for travelers looking to get work done outside of their guest room. Additionally, the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki hotel features 4,700 square feet of flexible meeting and event space with nearly 1,500 square feet of outdoor seating, and a spacious fifth floor Sky Deck with games like giant chess, nine-hole mini golf, shuffleboard, foosball and pingpong.

The property also has an outdoor pool, sun deck and 24-hour fitness center.


Maritz Travel, a Maritz Global Events Company, announced a new road tour dedicated to healthcare compliance. The tour is an opportunity for attendees to engage with industry leader and current Maritz employee, Pat Schaumann, on important topics surrounding compliant medical meeting experiences.

“We developed Maritz Travel | Healthcare Solutions to respond to the challenges medical meeting planners face every day,” said Steve O’Malley, division president. “This road tour allows us to have face-to-face dialogue on one of the challenges we hear about the most—[healthcare] compliance.”

Beginning in August, the tour will hit four major cities:

  • Tampa, Fla. – Thurs., Aug. 10, 2017.
  • San Diego – Thurs., Sept. 7, 2017.
  • Chicago – Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.
  • Philadelphia – Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017.

Schaumann, senior director of healthcare compliance at Maritz Travel, will address a range of topics, including the importance of the health care professional (HCP) experience, event execution and data capture, and expenditure tracking—a hallmark of [healthcare] compliance—among others.

“The response to our new healthcare solution has been overwhelming,” Schaumann said. “I’m excited to literally get the show on the road to help connect meetings professionals with [compliance info].”

Meeting planners interested in attending any of the events can request additional information via the registration website. For more information on Maritz Travel | Healthcare Solutions, click here.



As it celebrates its role as a second home to Midwestern luxury travelers, The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis is heralding the future with a reimagined new interior. The transformation can now be seen in all of the hotel’s 299 luxury rooms and suites, where its latest designs are said to “showcase muted color palettes, contemporary geometric shapes, and the tranquil ambience of a contemporary spa retreat.”

The remastering takes further inspiration from the serene skies of the American Midwest, as blues, greys, and shades of white and cream add luxury and cross-generational appeal. Enhanced guest room features include sleek furnishings, new linens in blue and grey and subtle accents of leather and chrome.

“We are delighted to share these beautiful new guest rooms ... and the early response has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Amanda Joiner, general manager for The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis. “These recent upgrades even further position the hotel as a luxury oasis for business travelers and families.”

The hotel’s new design extends to guest room corridors and circulation spaces as well, as soft blue and grey wall and floor coverings contemporize the landmark building’s elegant exterior. Second-floor meeting rooms continue the modern motif, with dimensional fabrics, ergonomic chairs and rich woods reflecting the same sophisticated interiors as seen in the hotel’s exquisite ballroom wing, which was transformed last year.

The Ritz-Carlton St. Louis includes more than 30,000 square feet of meeting space.



Margaritaville Holdings and Driftwood Acquisitions & Development announced the rebranding of two high-profile resorts in the U.S. and Costa Rica. Tan-Tar-A Resort in Central Missouri and Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa in Costa Rica will join Margaritaville's rapidly expanding portfolio of hotels and resorts.

"We are thrilled to combine the fun and escapism of our brand with these iconic locations, and provide additional opportunities for our guests to ... have a great time,” said Margaritaville CEO John Cohlan.

Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach, Missouri 

Tan-Tar-A Resort is a 500-room lakefront property spread across 1,150 miles of shoreline on Lake of the Ozarks, perfectly positioned to transport guests into Margaritaville's vacation state of mind.

Amenities include 27-holes of golf across two courses, a 103-slip marina, eight food and beverage venues, a full-service spa and salon, a fitness center, horseback and pony riding, and numerous sports facilities including tennis, basketball and beach volleyball courts. Indoor and outdoor pools are located throughout the property, as well as a 20,000 square-foot indoor waterpark. For corporate meetings, incentive retreats and social functions, the resort houses more than 91,000 square feet of event space.

Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa in Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Surrounded by the white sand beaches of Flamingo Beach on the northern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, Flamingo Beach Resort & Spa is an oceanfront paradise nestled in tropical splendor.

The resort offers 120 spacious guest rooms and suites, along with a full range of activities for eco-tourists, families, couples and more. In addition to its location on the Blue Flag-certified ecological Flamingo Beach, the property boasts a large main pool with a swim-up bar, an oceanfront restaurant and lounge, a family center, watersports, a spa, a tennis court and a fitness center.

Social event and corporate meeting facilities are also available, including an intimate, private venue overlooking the ocean. Nearby activities range from scuba diving to jungle canopy tours and more.

Renovations Incoming at Both Properties

Renovations are expected to commence immediately and will touch all facets of the properties, incorporating Margaritaville's signature “casual-luxe” design elements. The properties will remain open during the phased conversion, with Margaritaville and DAD providing support to the resort teams.


Three in 10 (29 percent) of travel managers reported they do not know how long it would take to locate affected employees in a crisis, according to a study released by the GBTA Foundation, a part of GBTA.

Overall, 50 percent of travel managers said, in the event of an emergency, they could locate all of their employees in the affected area within two hours or less. Additionally, three in five (60 percent) of travel managers rely on travelers to reach out if they need help and have not booked through proper channels.

The study, “How to Close Risk Management Loopholes,” conducted in partnership with Concur, explores how traveler safety protocols are executed, including the extent to which technology is utilized.

“Research reveals significant gaps in educating travelers about resources available to them and the existence of protocols should the unforeseen happen,” said Kate Vasiloff, GBTA Foundation Director of Research. “Failing to establish and communicate safety measures leaves travelers and organizations vulnerable. As both security threats and technology evolve, even the most robust protocols that once served companies well may now have weaknesses requiring immediate attention and modification.”

Regardless of which department formally oversees the duty of care program, travel managers still play a key role in supporting travelers should disaster strike, which is why the vast majority (85 percent) of travel programs include risk management protocols. Over the past two years, prevalence of domestic travel risk management protocols have increased to rival those already in place for international travel.

Despite this progress, GBTA found there continues to be room for improvement as only three in five (62 percent) international travelers are given pre-travel information and even fewer (53 percent) are given information on local providers for medical and security assistance services before leaving the country.

Methodology: The GBTA Foundation conducted an online survey of 148 U.S. travel managers from April 12-21, 2017, for the purposes of this study. A free preview of the report is available on its website.


The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators (NHCSL) announced it is pulling the 15th Annual National Summit of State Legislators from Texas due to “the anti-Latino, anti-rule of law bill enacted by the state known as SB4.” The group was scheduled to hold its annual conclave in Houston in November but in the aftermath of SB4 the organization has decided to move its convention to Chicago instead.

According to an NHCSL press release, it is the first major national Latino organization to boycott the Lone Star State because of its strong opposition to the controversial law. The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) previously voted on June 7 to move the association’s 2018 annual conference from Grapevine.

"Texas' SB4 is a 'show me your papers law' on steroids,” said NHCSL President and Pennsylvania State Representative Ángel Cruz. “As Latino state legislators, we cannot in good conscience invest in a great state that nonetheless has chosen to scapegoat immigrants and minorities while making communities there less safe and turning innocent Latinos into targets. Contrary to popular belief, SB4 does not just eliminate state and local sanctuary policies, it criminalizes the speech of public officials who support such common-sense practices and subjects them to removal from office if they even speak out against laws like SB4.

"This should be unacceptable to anyone in 21st Century America; and it certainly is for NHCSL.”

SB4 was signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott on May 7, 2017, and goes into effect on September 1st of this year. Among the provisions in the law, SB4 forbids cities, towns, counties and universities from becoming or remaining sanctuary cities or sanctuary colleges for undocumented immigrants.

The law also allows the Attorney General of Texas to request that the Texas State Court remove from office any elected or appointed official even for endorsing a sanctuary policy or enforcing one already in place. In addition, SB4 subjects local law enforcement—and even campus police departments—to fines of up to $25,000 for merely refusing to ask individuals about their immigration status or reporting it.

"Chicago is exactly the type of city that welcomes immigrants, respects the rule of law, and protects communities by working together with all residents, regardless of their immigration status, to keep their neighborhoods safe,” said NHCSL Executive Director Kenneth Romero-Cruz in a July 19 press release.

“We are thrilled to be holding our annual summit in the Windy City and look forward to productive week while we're there,” he said. “Chicago is a model for other cities to emulate when it comes to the critical collaboration that needs to be nurtured between law enforcement and the communities they serve and that is why we chose this forward-thinking city for our annual Summit of Hispanic State Legislators.”


PCMA announced the destinations hosting its annual 2019 and 2020 Convening Leaders event. Convening Leaders, held each January, is marketed as “the definitive event for the business events industry” and continues to grow in attendance. More than 4,200 professionals participate in three days of educational collaboration and orchestrated networking. The event has grown more than 30% in the last nine years, according to PCMA.

In 2019 PCMA will host Convening Leaders in Pittsburgh, known as the “City of Bridges,” located at the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela and recognized for its 400+ bridges and breathtaking vistas. The destination once known as “The Steel City” has transformed into a technology lightning rod with companies such as Google, Apple, Bosch, Facebook, Uber, Nokia, Autodesk and IBM among the 1,600 technology firms generating $20.7 billion in annual payrolls and generous local intellectual capital.

Located in Downtown Pittsburgh, the David L. Lawrence Convention Center—host venue for Convening Leaders—blends space, functionality, and flexibility with cutting-edge technology. Pittsburgh is home to 68 colleges and universities, including research and development leaders Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. PCMA will tap into these cerebral resources to bring risks, new ideas and innovation to Convening Leaders’ content—and there may even be a chance to ride a driverless Uber.

“We are so excited to host the 2019 PCMA Convening Leaders Conference in Pittsburgh in 2019 that five minutes after the announcement the team started our planning,” said Craig Davis, president and CEO of VisitPittsburgh. “PCMA attendees who have never been to our great city or who haven’t been here a while, will quickly find out why Pittsburgh is amongst the top travel destinations in the world … We look forward to welcoming the meetings and convention leaders from around the world to Pittsburgh.”

In 2020, San Francisco will host PCMA’s Convening Leaders annual event. A mosaic of colorful, distinctive neighborhoods, San Francisco is a city of life-changing technology, trendsetting cuisine and famous postcard views. Within this seven-by-seven-mile metropolis attendees will discover ethnic enclaves such as the Mission District and the leafy glades of the Presidio and Golden Gate Park.

San Francisco is a renowned magnet for meetings of all sizes, from self-contained meetings based at one hotel to citywides utilizing multiple properties and the Moscone Center. Just blocks from Union Square, San Francisco’s Moscone Center is about as central as it gets. It’s walking distance to hotels, restaurants, museums, attractions, public transit and more. In 2020 the center will showcase their recent expansion of more than 170,000 gross square feet of meeting space, including the addition of a 50,000-square-foot ballroom.

“There will be so much new to experience in 2020, we can’t wait to welcome Convening Leaders to San Francisco,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of San Francisco Travel. “The elegant design of the Moscone Center expansion and the Chase Center, home to the NBA Champions Golden State Warriors, will take people’s breath away. Attendees will see changes in the neighborhood including the new Central Subway, the Mexican Museum and the Salesforce Transit Center and we’ll have [several] new hotels.”

Convening Leaders 2018 will be held in Nashville, Tenn., at the acclaimed Music City Center. Registration for the event opens this year in late August. For more information, please visit



The new, European-inspired AC Hotel Miami Aventura by Marriott opened its doors in Aventura, Fla. The 233-room property will target its services toward the South Florida leisure and business travel markets.

"We are delighted to be a part of Aventura's vibrant community," said Alan E. Pinado, Jr., general manager for the AC Hotel Miami Aventura. "Our associates believe residents, local businesses and visitors to the area will enjoy the hotel's many offerings and we look forward to welcoming them.”

The property is managed by Pyramid Hotel Group and its amenities include spacious guest rooms, a rooftop pool, a fitness center, meeting space, co-working space, a lively lounge and free Wi-Fi access.

Cozy cushions, luxurious lounge chairs, bright poolside umbrellas and well-appointed bar, along with a large patio area that can be transformed into event space, surround the hotel's rooftop pool. A health and fitness area overlooks the sun-drenched pool deck and features the latest in exercise equipment.

The AC Hotel Miami Aventura includes 2,871 square feet of event space, suitable for 100 attendees.


Wyndham Hotel Group announced plans to acquire the Minnesota-based AmericInn hotel brand and its management company, Three Rivers Hospitality, from Northcott Hospitality for $170 million.

AmericInn's portfolio consists of 200 primarily franchised hotels with approximately 11,600 rooms in 21 states, predominately in the Midwestern U.S., Ohio Valley, and Mountain states including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and North Dakota. The brand's U.S. pipeline consists of 23 hotels. Committed to its asset-light strategy, Wyndham Hotel Group said it will explore options to divest the owned portfolio.

The deal, subject to regulatory and government approval and the satisfaction of other customary closing conditions, will bolster Wyndham Hotel Group's existing collection of more than 1,500 midscale hotels while also significantly increasing its footprint in the Midwest. Upon closing, Wyndham will expand to 20 brands.

"AmericInn's unwavering dedication to first-rate quality and service, proven by its consistently high ratings and guest satisfaction scores, grows our North American system in the heartland where we see great opportunity for continued growth," said Geoff Ballotti, Wyndham Hotel Group's president and CEO. "AmericInn's guest-centric culture aligns perfectly with our values, making it a fantastic tuck-in brand for us. And with the global middle class expected to more than double in the next 10 years, we know investing in the midscale segment allows us to offer great experiences and value at price points that travelers need and where they want to be."

AmericInn is the latest addition to Wyndham Hotel Group's growing portfolio of brands following last month's launch of The Trademark Hotel Collection, a new concept for upper-midscale-and-above independent hotels. In late 2017, the company acquired Fen Hotels and its Dazzler Hotels and Esplendor Boutique lifestyle brands.



Hyatt Hotels Corporation celebrated the opening of the Hyatt Regency Lake Washington at Seattle’s Southport, which is currently the only waterfront hotel within 10 miles of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The new property is the Hyatt Regency brand’s third Seattle-area hotel.

Hyatt Regency Lake Washington at Seattle’s Southport is designed to connect business and leisure travelers to the wider Seattle area. The new 12-story hotel is located on the southeastern shore of Lake Washington in Renton, Wash., among a lush natural setting with panoramic mountain and skyline views.

The hotel offers 347 guest rooms and 60,000-square-feet of indoor and outdoor event space, all designed with feng shui principles to balance luxurious interiors with various outdoor elements.

“We are thrilled to open our doors to global travelers and offer world-class hospitality within the Southport development on Lake Washington in Renton,” said hotel General Manager Rusty Middleton. “As part of the Hyatt Regency family, we take pride in connecting travelers to what matters most to them, including convenient access to the [Seattle-Tacoma Airport], Seattle and Bellevue.”

Hyatt Regency Lake Washington at Seattle’s Southport highlights include Asian-inspired Northwest fine dining at Water’s Table, a lakeside kitchen and bar, and tranquil health and wellness offerings through a 24-hour StayFit gym, dedicated yoga room, an indoor saline pool and an on-site, full-service spa.

The hotel also boasts convenient access to the neighboring beaches and wooded trails of Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park. With the distinct design and location of the hotel, guests are invited to enjoy the invigorating beauty of the Pacific Northwest—whether staying inside or enjoying the great outdoors.



Dream Hollywood officially opened its doors on Wed., July 12, 2017, anchoring the extensive revitalization of Los Angeles' famed Hollywood neighborhood. The hotel’s marquee location brings together partners in dining, nightlife and wellness, creating a magnetic social hub for visitors and locals.

"We could not be more excited to welcome our guests and the community to Dream Hollywood," said Jay Stein, CEO, Dream Hotel Group. "Dream Hollywood is truly unlike anything this city has ever seen, setting a new standard for hospitality and becoming a hotbed for creativity, culture and entertainment."

Dream Hollywood's interiors are designed by the Rockwell Group architecture firm and pay homage to Los Angeles' iconic mid-century modern architecture, balanced by garden inspired elements, plush upholstery and more. The building's facade is designed by LA-based Killefer Flammang Architects.

The hotel features 178 guest rooms and suites, including an 1,800-square-foot Guest House suite with a private screening room and 360-degree views; an indoor-outdoor double-height lobby with retractable Nana Walls; an 11,000-square-foot rooftop pool, restaurant and lounge with views of the Hollywood Hills and Los Angeles Skyline; a 1,000-square-foot gym; a wellness program designed by celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson; and an activated pedestrian alleyway that links the hotel to its adjacent offerings.

Dream Hollywood also features five restaurant and nightlife venues operated by TAO Group located within and adjacent to the hotel. Experiential offerings include brand new rooftop concept The Highlight Room, Beauty & Essex, TAO Asian Bistro and Avenue, as well as Luchini Pizzeria and Bar.

Dream Hollywood will offer 3,000 square feet of dedicated meeting space designed to reflect the vibrant, forward-thinking mindset of its guests and the surrounding new entertainment industry hub. These dynamic, state-of-the-art spaces can accommodate a wide range of events, including meetings, exhibits and gala dinner banquets with a multi-use layout, double-height lobby and catering selections.


A new report issued at GBTA Convention 2017 by the GBTA Foundation, the education and research arm of the Global Business Travel Association, in partnership with American Express Global Business Travel (GBT), highlighted the positive economic impact business travel has on the nation’s economy.

The study, titled “The U.S. Business Travel Economic Impact Report,” revealed business travel was responsible for about 3 percent ($547 billion) of U.S. GDP in 2016. Additionally, the research found that for every 1 percent change in business travel spending, the U.S. economy gains or loses 74,000 jobs, $5.5 billion in GDP, $3.3 billion in wages and $1.3 billion in taxes.

The economic impact study found that in 2016, the nation’s businesses spent $424 billion to send travelers out on the road for 514.4 million domestic business trips. The business travel industry supports 7.4 million jobs and generated $135 billion in federal, state and local taxes.

Much of business travel’s contribution to the economy accrues directly to industries that serve business travelers, but their supply chain beneficiaries received an additional indirect contribution of $132 billion.

“Business travel matters—it is a critical driver of the economy,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA executive director and COO. “In a time where many policies have created uncertainty and disruption around travel, this study shows the importance of enacting pro-travel polices to our nation’s bottom line.”

Breaking Down the Business Trip

According to the GBTA Foundation’s research, in 2016, the average amount spent per business fell 2.2 percent to $520, including $163 on lodging, $180 on transportation, $94 on food and beverages in restaurants, $33 on entertainment and $50 on shopping and merchandise.

Roughly half (48 percent) of U.S. business trips were taken for transient purposes (sales trips, client services, government and military travel and travel for construction or repair), while 28 percent were taken for group travel purposes. The remaining 25 percent of trips were taken for a combination of business and leisure. Three-quarters of the business trips taken in the U.S. included an overnight stay.

A personal car or truck (35 percent) was the most popular mode of transportation among U.S. business travelers in 2016, followed by airplane (28 percent) and rental cars (13 percent). The largest share of business travel stays was in traditional hotels (42 percent) with 18 percent staying in other accommodations, including sharing economy properties, their own second home or B&Bs.

Popular Business Destinations

Domestic business travel accounted for approximately 94 percent of total trip-oriented business travel spending in the United States in 2016. Not surprisingly the majority of business trips were taken to destinations with higher population densities and states with large business centers. This includes states in the Pacific region, those in the Northwest and Southeast as well as Central and Mountain states.

Defining The Modern Business Traveler

U.S. business travelers have an average household income of just over $82,000 and more than 60 percent are men. Just over one-third of U.S. business travelers have obtained a bachelor’s degree, while just less than one-third have a graduate or professional degree. They are well distributed across age cohorts—roughly half are under the age of 45 and nearly 60 percent of those surveyed were married.

A free preview of the GBTA Foundation’s business travel research is available here.


According to the “2018 Global Travel Forecast,” travel prices are expected to rise sharply in the coming year, reaching nearly 4 percent increases in some sectors. The fourth annual forecast was released at GBTA Convention 2017 on July 18 by the GBTA Foundation in partnership with Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

The Global Travel Forecast shows global airfares are expected to rise 3.5 percent in 2018; hotel prices are expected to be 3.7 percent higher; and ground transportation such as taxis, trains and buses are expected to rise only 0.6 percent—significantly less than the 3 percent inflation forecast for 2018.

“Geopolitical risks, uncertainties in emerging markets and ever-changing political environments in Europe and the United States mean today’s travel professionals have more than ever to take into account when building their travel programs,” said Jeanne Liu, GBTA Foundation vice president of research. “The most successful programs will have to keep a watchful eye on both geopolitical risks and a rapidly-changing supplier landscape as they reevaluate strategy often and adapt as necessary.”

“The higher pricing is a reflection of the stronger economy and growing demand,” added Kurt Ekert, president and CEO, Carlson Wagonlit Travel. “The global numbers from this forecast should be considered strong leading indicators of what 2018 will mean for global businesses, as we anticipate higher spending.”

Here is a breakdown of the 2018 Global Travel Forecast, as provided by the GBTA Foundation.

2018 Air Projections

The rise in global airfares comes as crude oil prices rise, in spite of airlines adding an expected 6 percent capacity in 2018. Complicating airline pricing is increased segmentation of basic fares among large carriers, as travelers now have the option of choosing a variety of seating and service options on flights.

  • Asia Pacific expects to see a 2.8 percent rise in 2018 pricing with domestic demand increasing, particularly in China and India. However, as many of the economies in Asia strengthen, weaknesses in infrastructure—and airports in particular—are increasingly becoming apparent.
  • Across EMEA, air travel is anticipated to continue growing, with prices rising a whopping 7.1 percent across Eastern Europe and 5.5 percent in Western Europe. However, Middle East and African countries only expect a 3 percent increase as they face ongoing security threats and an oil industry that is still in recovery. Currency fluctuations in Europe may further impact airfares in 2018.
  • Across Latin America and the Caribbean, prices are expected to change little in 2018—up only 0.3 percent. Airlines have cautiously added capacity back into the market. Broader analysis of South America shows a 20 percent increase in scheduled flights by the end of 2019. Low cost carriers are well positioned for this area given the low penetration in the region. And, new, more efficient aircraft coming into in operation will lower operating costs in 2018.
  • North America will see prices rise by a modest 2.3 percent, according to our projections. Citing the potential for stronger U.S. travel restrictions, flights to the United States have already been reduced accordingly. Canadian airlines are expected to aggressively compete given new market entrants and capacity growth of about 11 percent in 2017 and 12 percent in 2018. With the region’s air travel market nearly flat year-over-year in early 2017, competition is fierce between carriers who now compete on branded fares rather than on bundled fares or by carrier type.

2018 Hotel Projections

Globally, the 3.7 percent average increase in hotel prices masks what is actually happening on a regional level. Europe is expected to post strong increases, while other regions are barely keeping up with inflation. Additionally, prices are expected to fall in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Suppliers are progressively moving corporate buyers away from fixed, negotiated hotel rates and toward dynamic rate pricing. There is also a global trend towards “smarter” hotels, with hotels investing in beacon technologies, messaging, in-room entertainment and more. Increasingly tech-savvy guests will use apps to check in and out, unlock their hotel room door and control room temperature.

  • Across Asia Pacific, hotel prices are likely to rise 3.5 percent—with a large discrepancy as Japanese prices are expected to fall 4.1 percent, but New Zealand is set to rise a full 9.8 percent. Strong economies means demand is increasing in the APAC region. Buyers should anticipate a more challenging discussion with newly merged hotel groups, especially in high-volume markets such as Bangkok, Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore.
  • Across EMEA, hotel prices are likely to rise—6.6 percent in Eastern Europe, 6.3 percent in Western Europe, but only a modest 0.6 percent in the Middle East and Africa. Norway is expected to lead with increases of 14 percent expected for 2018, while Russian hotel prices will rise 11.9 percent thanks to increased demand from hosting the 2018 Summer World Cup.    
  • Within Latin America, hotel prices are expected to fall 1.2 percent, with steep declines in Brazil (down 8.7 percent) and Argentina (down 2.3 percent). However, Peru (7.7 percent) and Chile (5.5 percent) are expected to see increases. Buyers may see efficiencies in 2018 as bigger brands purchase independents and upgrade systems. Capacity is being added throughout the region with an estimated 449,500 new hotel rooms being constructed between late 2016 and 2025.
  • North American hoteliers may be banking on economic growth as demand has leveled off since mid-summer 2016—but supply is expected to continue growing steadily through 2018. With international travel projected to grow 4 percent in 2017 and 2018, U.S. hotel growth is expected to be concentrated primarily along with the West Coast and in Washington D.C. In Canada, Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal are expected to maintain good pricing power.

2018 Ground Transportation Projections

Ground transportation pricing is expected to rise only 0.6 percent in 2018 (but 5.5 percent by 2022). Industry experts predict record new car sales over the next five years, pushing up per unit fleet costs, while used car pricing is expected to fall 50 percent, hurting residual value for used rental cars.

Sharing economy players such as Uber and Lyft are expected to continue double-digit growth upwards of 10 percent in 2018, before settling down into single-digit growth for 2019. Their growth is under threat by costly regulation and government bans.

  • Continued uncertainty in mining, and a cautious recovery in the oil and gas industry will result in flat rates for 2018 in Asia Pacific. Business continues to grow in China as most major car rental and sharing economy suppliers have a presence. Sharing economy suppliers Didi Chuxing in China, Ola in India and Grab in Southeast Asia have all achieved economies of scale that make them key competitors to more traditional car rentals firms and taxis. Meanwhile, Malaysia and Singapore are pushing ahead with a high-speed rail line from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore with an expected 2026 completion date.
  • Ground transportation remains very competitive in EMEA. Prices are expected to remain mostly flat in Europe, and up a meager 1 percent across the Middle East and Africa. Rail continues to be a viable alternative to air travel throughout Europe, especially with enhanced security at airports. The continued expansion of Enterprise, the re-emergence of Budget and the continued impact of new players like Uber and Lyft are all creating downward pricing pressure for 2018.
  • Prices are expected to rise slightly (1.0 percent) across Latin America. Brazil and Mexico are anticipating increased demand for car rentals in 2018 as their economies rebound.
  • Canada is expected to see a healthy 4.6 percent increase in 2018, but the overall region will only be up 1.0 percent. Limited railways, along with improved income per capita and increased corporate travel, are expected to push up rental car rates in North America.

A free preview of the GBTA Foundation’s "2018 Global Travel Forecast" is available for download.



RLH Corporation announced the filing of a lawsuit against Hard Rock Cafe International in federal court in New York. The complaint alleges, among other things, that Hard Rock copied RLH Corporation's distinctive trade dress for its Hotel RL brand, which is protected by federal trade dress law.

Over the past few years, RLH Corporation has built a brand focused on the millennial mindset for its Hotel RL chain. The brand consciously evokes RLH Corporation's Pacific Northwest heritage, with elements that include a prominent coffee bar; a Living Stage, where local artists, musicians, activists, civic leaders, and engaged citizens can showcase their projects and points of view; "The Steps," a communal, stadium-like seating area across from The Living Stage, where hotel guests and visitors can relax, plug in and work, or take in a Living Stage performance; and a front-desk experience that replaces the traditional across-the-counter room check-in process with an option to bypass reception and check in via self-service kiosks or directly from their mobile devices.

RLH Corporation discovered that Hard Rock had decided to launch a competing brand - called Reverb - also aimed at millennials, which RLH Corporation believes plagiarizes the Hotel RL signature elements. It also learned that Hard Rock had hired the same branding group used by RLH Corporation to help define the Hotel RL brand - The Gettys Group.

"While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and it is indeed understandable that Hard Rock would seek to imitate our brand's success in this market, we are not appreciative of Hard Rock's wholesale infringement of our trade dress with The Gettys Group's help," Greg Mount, RLH Corporation President and CEO said. "Hard Rock's infringement is particularly troubling in light of its aggressive litigation strategy to protect what it considers to be its own trade dress. RLH Corporationwelcomes fair competition, but infringement of our trade dress is unfair and illegal. We are prepared to defend our brands and will pursue all avenues available to RLH Corporation to ensure that all of our brands are protected."

RLH Corporation's complaint seeks compensatory damages, an injunction, Hard Rock's profits from its Reverb chain, and legal fees and costs.

In addition to pursuing a lawsuit against Hard Rock, RLH Corporation is enforcing its rights and remedies under its contract with The Gettys Group which it believes is in breach given the similarity in work produced for Hard Rock.



Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants announced a four-star Kimpton hotel in the high-end neighborhood of Bloor-Yorkville in Toronto. Amid Bloor-Yorkville’s luxury retail and cultural destinations, the Kimpton will offer access to the energy and activity of one of the city’s most exciting epicenters, right at the intersection of Bloor and St. George Streets.

Owned and developed by InnVest Hotels LP, one of the largest hotel owners in Canada, Kimpton’s new boutique hotel is slated to open in mid-2018 and will be a full conversion of the current Holiday Inn Toronto Bloor Yorkville. The revitalized and reconcepted 13-story property will comprise 189 guest rooms, including 18 suites and one Presidential Suite, 2,000 square feet of ground level meeting space and a Bloor Street-facing leased restaurant and bar. Additional amenities will include a fitness center, complimentary PUBLIC bikes, yoga mats in every room, morning coffee and tea, and nightly social hour.

“We’re looking forward to entering the Canadian market and introducing our unique heartfelt service to Toronto,” Mike DeFrino, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants' CEO said. “We’re thrilled to be working with InnVest to open the first boutique hotel that speaks to the city’s dynamic cultural scene.”

One of Toronto’s most dynamic neighborhoods, Bloor-Yorkville’s mastered the unique cross-section of exclusivity and historic charm. The heart of the country’s bohemian culture in the 1960s has evolved to become an artistic enclave with many art galleries alongside posh boutiques and critically acclaimed restaurants in historic Victorian houses.

“We see Kimpton as the perfect partner for our new four-star boutique hotel,” Andrew Higgs, vice president of Asset Management for InnVest Hotels, explained. “Kimpton’s known as a leader in adaptive reuse and a company with a proven track record of inclusivity and diversity. Both of these will make the new Kimpton Bloor-Yorkville a successful and positively contributing member of the neighborhood, setting the property up for success from the start.”



Saratoga Casino Hotel announced they will be hosting the All-Star Sports Festival. The casino will welcome nearly a dozen revered professional athletes on property on Saturday, September 23 for a full day of fun while raising money for the Ronald McDonald Charities of the Capital Region.

Athletes confirmed to be in attendance include: Reggie Jackson, Goose Gossage, Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, Lawrence Taylor, Otis Anderson, Ron Turcotte, Jean Cruget and Steve Cauthen. A full lineup is available on

“I look forward to getting together with some of my former teammates and visiting with our fans from upstate New York,” said Mr. October, Reggie Jackson.

The day will begin with a ticketed VIP Brunch in Vapor. During the brunch, guests will be treated to a Question & Answer session with the celebrity athletes hosted by News Channel 13’s Chris Onorato.

At noon, an exhibition softball game including the athletes, casino VIPs and sponsors will take place on the grounds at Saratoga Casino Hotel. A portion of the proceeds will go directly to The Ronald McDonald House of Albany. Following the conclusion of the game, the athletes will be available for autographs and photos on a rotating schedule. Pricing varies by athlete. MAB Celebrity Services, a full-service sports marketing agency specializing in athlete representation and event management, is coordinating the appearances.

“We are honored to be part of what will be an incredible event and experience for our community,” said Jeff Yule, executive director of The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Albany. “The money raised will directly benefit our families by keeping them together, and providing for all their needs, as their child battles a life-threatening situation.”

In addition, local bands The Refrigerators and Skeeter Creek will be performing and a variety of local food trucks will be on hand throughout the day. Tickets for the VIP brunch and softball game are on sale now and can be purchased at Admission to the grounds to enjoy the music and food trucks is free.

“We look forward to welcoming generations of fans to our property for unprecedented access to some of the biggest names in sports,” said Tom Wiedmayer, general manager of Saratoga Casino Hotel.

Saratoga Casino Hotel features 117 guest rooms, over 1,700 slots, electronic table games, two full-service restaurants. The property offers more than 3,000 square feet of meeting space include a ballroom that can be divided into three smaller rooms. There is also an outdoor terrace with fire pit and outdoor veranda off the main ballroom.



Choice Hotels International announced that its Board of Directors appointed Patrick Pacious as president and chief executive officer, effective January 1, 2018.

Pacious currently serves as President and Chief Operating Officer, and will succeed Chief Executive Officer Stephen Joyce. Joyce will continue in his role as CEO through the end of the year, after which he will assume the role of Vice Chairman of the Board. Pacious is expected to join the Board of Directors in September.

The appointment of Pacious as President and CEO is the culmination of a thoughtful, deliberate, long-term succession planning process, focused on maintaining leadership continuity, while driving new ideas that result in continued positive business growth now and into the future. Over the past several years, Joyce has collaborated with the Board of Directors to identify and prepare his successor. The Board and Joyce identified Pacious as the right person to lead Choice into the future.

"Under Steve's tenure as CEO, Choice Hotels has grown stronger. We are grateful for Steve's leadership, passion for talent development, and his legacy of innovation and growth over the better part of a decade," said Stewart Bainum, Jr., chairman of the Board of Directors. "When Steve joined Choice as CEO, he was immediately impressed with Pat's strengths and talents, and by enhancing Pat's roles over the years, Steve ensured that Pat is the clear choice to succeed him. Pat demonstrates exceptional vision, and has spearheaded innovations that cement our position as a hospitality and technology leader and pioneer, while further strengthening our strategic differentiation and our core values."

Pacious joined Choice in 2005 and has created significant value for shareholders and franchisees. Under his direction, Choice built industry-leading global technology platforms that resulted in improved profitability and efficiencies for the company's franchised hotel owners. He has led strategies and innovative growth initiatives around brand, marketing, development, franchise services, revenue management and performance analytics. This includes the company's significant growth in the upscale segment with both Cambria Hotels and The Ascend Hotel Collection, as well as the successful transformation of the Comfort Brand.

During his successful tenure at Choice Hotels, Pacious has held roles of increasing responsibility, was appointed Chief Operating Officer in January 2014 and additionally became President in May 2016. Previously, he held senior management consulting positions with BearingPoint and Arthur Andersen, during which time he was engaged on several projects for Choice, and is a former U.S. Navy officer.

"Choice is in a great position with an amazing leadership team, and I am proud of the outstanding achievements that we have accomplished during my tenure. I expect the company will continue to lead the industry with innovations and technology with Pat as CEO," Joyce stated. "Pat is a natural leader, and I fully endorse the Board's decision to appoint him to the helm of Choice Hotels at this time. We have worked closely together since I joined the company in 2008. I believe his strategic thinking and vision will continue to drive growth and profitability for the company. Our shareholders, franchisees, developers, partners and associates are in good hands."

"In essence, we have two executives at the top of their games, one who is agreeing to stay on the board as Vice Chairman, and another stepping in to take the reins of the company,” added Bainum. “As a result, Choice benefits from a deliberate and well-executed long-term succession planning strategy coming to fruition."

"This is an exciting time at Choice. We have a strong performance-based culture that focuses on agility and speed, creating momentum and opportunity for the company, franchisees, associates and shareholders. I am honored by the confidence that the Board and Steve have placed in me, and I look forward to strengthening Choice Hotels' position as an industry leader," said Pacious. "Business is strong. Our upper midscale and midscale brands – Comfort and Sleep Inn – are experiencing their strongest growth in recent history. We have solidified our place in the upscale market with Cambria Hotels and The Ascend Hotel Collection. Most importantly, we remain focused on embracing digital disruption and creating innovative technology solutions that improve our franchisees' return on investment, expand our customer reach, and serve the broader industry."


American Express Global Business Travel (AmEx GBT) signed an agreement to acquire Banks Sadler, an international event management agency headquartered in London. The company will operate as part of American Express Meetings & Events, a division of AmEX GBT. When the transaction completes, which is expected in the third quarter of 2017, the company and its staff will formally become part of AmEx GBT.

“Banks Sadler is one of the most respected M&E brands,” said Issa Jouaneh, SVP and general manager of AmEx Meetings & Events, calling the acquisition a “strategic [move] for AmEx. “It brings an extensive range of services and solutions with an independent agency mindset that we will maintain and grow.”

Banks Sadler was founded in 1982 in London and has offices in York, Windsor, Paris, Dusseldorf and New York. It has approximately 250 employees. Over the last 35 years, the business and brand have built trust and—under the leadership of Leigh Jagger—the company has expanded its service and portfolio.

“The sale is a pivotal moment,” Jagger said. “Though customers will not notice any change, the business is now supported by one of the largest travel and meetings management companies in the world. We will, therefore, continue to offer best-in-class, event planning and management while benefitting from American Express Meetings & Events’ supplier relationships, global scale and [SMM] expertise.”



Atlanta-based Hotel Equities (HE) announced the opening of the Island House Hotel Orange Beach – a DoubleTree by Hilton after a multimillion-dollar renovation. The hotel is owned by Island House, Inc.

Located on the Gulf Shores and in the heart of Orange Beach, Ala., Island House Hotel Orange Beach – a DoubleTree by Hilton boasts one of the largest private beaches of any hotel in the area and is the only full-service Hilton hotel on the Alabama Gulf Coast. Each of its 161 rooms features a private balcony.

The property offers close to 6,000 square feet of meeting, ballroom and banquet facilities.

“As the Alabama Gulf Coast area continues to grow in popularity for leisure and business, we are excited to open the Island House as a DoubleTree and introduce the DoubleTree by Hilton brand to Orange Beach,” said Joe Reardon, SVP business development and marketing. “Our ownership group has completed a first-class renovation that will allow guests to enjoy a unique beach experience whether [on vacation or on business]. 

The 10-story hotel features contemporary, coastal decor, creating a soothing, beach-inspired feel throughout—whether in the lobby, restaurants, bar, meeting space or guest rooms. Island House is convenient to shopping and attractions including the Wharf, Gulf State Park, Waterville USA and Adventure Island.

Island House Hotel Orange Beach – a DoubleTree by Hilton offers resort-style dining with delectable cuisine from Chef Brett Breaux, the area’s finest classically-trained chef, at Beachside Bistro & Bar. Along with fresh local seafood, the restaurant specializes in Southern cooking with Cajun and Creole twists.


LIBERIA, Peninsula Papagayo, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

The 181-room Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo, the only Forbes Five-Star luxury resort in Central and South America, announced a $35 million reimagination that will deliver a new era of modern eco-luxury and meaningful explorations to Costa Rica’s north Pacific coast in December 2017.

The resort-wide transformation will begin in August 2017 and encompass the following:

  • All 181 guest rooms, suites and villas will emerge as soothing retreats with a seamless visual connection to the flora, fauna and ocean views beyond each balcony or patio.
  • A redesigned, inviting arrival experience and a new luxury retail experience.
  • New culinary concepts featuring locally-sourced organic foods, including three reimagined restaurants and an all-new Añejo bar and Library lounge.
  • An enhanced signature pool area with new luxury cabanas, amenities and programming.
  • A new collection of guest activities and experiences rooted in a connection to self and nature.
  • An introductory offer of a $1,000 resort credit with a five-night stay.

The $35 million renovation of Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica will be guided by a locally-inspired yet globally-considered modern design narrative from Meyer Davis Studio. The renowned New York City-based design boutique will bring a handcrafted approach to integrating the resort’s signature indoor-outdoor spaces with the peninsula’s vibrant tropical landscape so that nature takes center stage.

The December 2017 debut of the reimagined Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica will also signal the launch of a more than $100 million investment toward a major transformation of the 1,400-acre Peninsula Papagayo—a collection of residential and resort communities. Guided by new ownership led by Miami-based Gencom, the destination transformation will connect the Peninsula Papagayo from end-to-end.


Four Seasons, Hard Rock, Loews and Trump Hotels were among a list of companies affected by a recent data breach at Sabre, a third-party hotel reservations provider to thousands of hotel properties.

According to a press release from Four Seasons, “the incident involved unauthorized access to certain guest information associated with a subset of hotel reservations processed through Sabre’s SynXis Central Reservations System (CRS) from Aug. 10, 2016, until March 9, 2017.” Sabre confirmed it has contained the issue and revoked access for the unauthorized party, but some guest information may have been compromised.

Sabre said the unauthorized party was able to access payment card information for certain hotel reservations, including cardholder names, payment card numbers, card expiration dates and card security codes. In some cases the unauthorized party may have accessed guest names and contact information.

Information such as Social Security, passport or driver’s license numbers were not accessed.



Best Western Hotels & Resorts announced the newest property to join its recently developed, upscale Best Western Premier brand—the Best Western Premier Alton-St. Louis Area Hotel in Alton, Ill.

The Best Western Premier Alton-St. Louis Area Hotel offers 136 guest rooms and is making its debut following a $4.2 million renovation. The hotel’s transformation showcases a contemporized design, with a splash of Midwestern flare—providing an upscale experience for guests. Visitors are greeted by the hotel’s lobby, which features ample seating, a soothing waterfall and an elegant fireplace.

The Best Western Premier Alton-St. Louis Area Hotel claims to be the only full-service hotel in Alton that can accommodate business travelers, long-term stay guests, leisure travelers, business meetings, banquets, church or social retreats, corporate meetings and conventions, weddings and conferences.

The hotel contains five meeting rooms alongside its conference and banquet facilities.

Guests looking to treat their taste buds to the mouthwatering flavors of the local surroundings don’t have to travel far to do so. The Great Rivers Tap & Grill—the hotel’s on-site restaurant considered to be one of the area’s favorite hidden gems—offers selections that are handcrafted and chosen for the regions around the Mississippi River and the Great Rivers region. The restaurant also offers live entertainment during special events, as well as karaoke and dance music every Friday and Saturday.

With a strong commitment to providing guests with an excellent stay, the property was recently honored with the highly coveted TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence for 2017, which celebrates hospitality businesses that have earned great traveler reviews on TripAdvisor over the past year.

The hotel’s location in Alton is also within close proximity to St. Louis, providing travelers a central location to explore what both cities have to offer. Nearby tourist sites include the St. Louis Gateway Arch, National Great Rivers Museum, Lewis and Clark Visitors Center, National Great Rivers Scenic Byway, Busch Stadium—home to the St. Louis Cardinals, Gordon Moore State Park, and many more.

As an added perk, the Best Western Premier Alton-St. Louis Area Hotel offers a complimentary shuttle service for all of its guests, which travels to some of the nearby attractions and business hubs.



Officials of the 212-room Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel in Portland, Ore., announced the hotel has completed the first phase of a two-part, $7 million renovation. Phase One included a complete, top-to-bottom renovation of all guest rooms and suites, while Phase Two—to be completed by Sept. 2017—will transform the hotel’s lobby, signature restaurant, function space and other popular amenities.

“Once completed, the ongoing renovation of the Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel will bring the hotel to ‘like-new’ status, creating the freshest product to enter the market in 20 years,” said Michael Daley, general manager. “Today’s travelers seek experiential travel, and we believe this renovation will address and enhance the ... guest experience, incorporating local touches while remaining true to [the brand].”

Located on the grounds of Portland International Airport (PDX), the five-story hotel is convenient to both downtown Portland, Ore., and Vancouver, Wash., as well as scenic Mount Hood. Guests can relax in the hotel’s indoor heated pool, Jacuzzi or sauna or exercise in the 24-hour fitness center. The hotel also provides a fully equipped business center and 17 meeting rooms at 22,500 square feet of space.

The Sheraton Portland Airport Hotel’s guest rooms have been entirely transformed. All rooms now feature the Sheraton Signature Beds and marble countertops, as well as contemporary artwork and furnishings. Charging stations and new headboards with read lamps were also added to all rooms.

Phase two of the renovation will include the all-new Rose & Compass restaurant and bar—serving local cuisine, an updated lobby coffee shop and the addition of a private event space for smaller groups.



The historic, beachfront Hotel del Coronado announced it will officially join the Curio Collection by Hilton in July 2017. The announcement was made as the hotel celebrates its 130-year anniversary.

"What a landmark day for Curio Collection by Hilton, as we welcome one of the world's most celebrated and storied hotels," said Mark Nogal, global head, Curio Collection by Hilton. "We look forward to continuing the authentic tradition of Hotel del Coronado while the hotel establishes its place as a true gem in our growing collection of hotels and resorts that are remarkable destinations unto themselves."

Built in 1888 and designated a National Historic Landmark, Hotel del Coronado has hosted numerous celebrities, royalty and beach-loving families. The 757-room hotel offers beachfront dining, an award-winning spa, shopping, recreation and 78 luxurious cottages and villas at Beach Village at The Del.

Hotel Del Coronado also holds 47 meeting venues and can accommodate up to 1,200 guests.


DMAI Chairman Gary C. Sherwin, CDME and President and CEO Don Welsh announced the launch of the association’s newly redesigned and rebranded website, The rebrand to Destinations International was announced at DMAI’s 2017 CEO Summit in Nashville on March 21.

According to a DMAI release, the website is the first rebranding asset to be introduced.

“Our industry website is often the first interaction between the association and its members,” Sherwin said. “As Don and his team fundamentally change the way we engage with our members, it’s critical to have a robust, member-focused website that is built with rich content and user-friendly programming.”

Encompassing the Association’s new branding as Destinations International, which officially debuted at the Annual Convention July 11-14, the website was created with the user-experience in mind. The site is responsive and works on desktops, tablets and mobile devices. It provides users with a crisp design that incorporates improved functionality and content centered around DMAI advocacy initiatives, member-centric online resources, educational offerings, and forward-focused research and destination tools.

Features of the new website include: a searchable resource library, access to case studies and industry research, and the beta launch of a new online user community that will allow destination professionals to connect, engage and learn from each other. DMAI said the site is an evolving resource for members that will continue to be enhanced with new information and tools throughout 2017 and beyond.

“The DMAI team is proud to release the first look of the organization’s new branding with the launch of our new website,” Welsh said. “Our website should be the first place a destination professional or organization goes to when they need general information or assistance. The site, which tells the story, value and position of the organization, is a resource for members to further engage with the [industry].”

DMAI, now Destinations International, is an association for destination marketing and management professionals. DMAI’s 2017 Annual Convention is currently underway (July 11-14) in Montreal.


The Marriott International Convention & Resort Network (CRN) announced the addition of several properties to its collection of large-scale meetings facilities, including convention hotels and resorts that fall under the Starwood line such as the Westin, Sheraton and The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts brands.

“We are extremely excited by the opportunities that the addition of these properties presents to our customers,” says Mike Wainwright, vice president of sales, Marriott CRN. “This presence in new markets allows for CRN to dramatically expand on the ability to provide meeting facilities in the most desired destinations."

Marriott said the CRN recently hit 100 properties and expects the collection to continue to grow. The company also revealed an updated website and expanded its online tools for planners, including options for preselected hotel search groupings, so that users can easily navigate the site based on their group's needs.

The largest property in the Marriott CRN is still the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville with nearly 440,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 55,000-square-foot ballroom.


LENOX, Mass.

Hay Creek Hotels announced it has been selected to manage the iconic Blantyre, a world-class destination country house hotel located in the Berkshires region of western Massachusetts.

The luxury property is a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateau organization and is also designated as a Forbes Five Star hotel. Situated on 110 acres of gardens and woodland in Lenox, Mass., the hotel is recognized for offering exclusive levels of service in the hotel, restaurant and its spa facility.

"We're looking forward to the opportunity to steward Blantyre forward to a new level of excellence" stated Norman MacLeod, president and CEO of Hay Creek Hotels. “Working with committed ownership, Hay Creek will continue to transition the property into its next chapter while maintaining [tradition].”

Blantyre was purchased in late June by Linda Law and Wayne Levenfeld, two Silicon Valley-based investors, who according to Hay Creek Hotels have long sought to own the award-winning hotel.

The Blantyre offers meeting space for eight to 100 guests in its Main House.



Tropicana Entertainment Inc. announced that its subsidiary, Tropicana Atlantic City Corp., has acquired The Chelsea Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J. Tropicana plans to integrate The Chelsea Hotel, which is located directly across Morris Ave. from Tropicana Atlantic City, into Tropicana Atlantic City's existing operations as "The Chelsea Tower at Tropicana Atlantic City,” and expects to open The Chelsea Tower in August 2017.

The hotel is not a part of the PILOT program, and is subject to local property taxation.  

"We are pleased with this acquisition and the opportunity to offer our guests more hotel room options on [the boardwalk]," said Tony Rodio, the Tropicana’s president and CEO. "The Chelsea Tower is a great addition to our four existing hotel towers at Tropicana Atlantic City. Guests will be able to enjoy a boutique hotel feel while having full access to all resort options at Tropicana Atlantic City.”

The Chelsea Tower consists of a 20-story oceanfront hotel tower with many rooms boasting sweeping ocean and bay views, stylish decor with retro charm and an adjoining low rise hotel structure.

Combined the buildings will feature 330 hotel rooms. The Chelsea Tower's Cabana Club pool and bar will offer cabanas and beverages. Tropicana is working on plans to improve the property, including a skyway bridge linking Chelsea Tower to Tropicana Atlantic City, F&B offerings and additional meeting space.

Guests can expect the same service and amenities they receive at Tropicana Atlantic City and they will have access to Tropicana's facilities including 24 dining options, 25 shops and 18 nightlife experiences.


VILLA-SECA/SALOU, Tarragona, Spain

Hard Rock International shared details of its Hard Rock Entertainment World proposal, which upon its completion, would be one of the largest resort destinations in Europe.

The project, located in Vila-seca and Salou (Tarragona), Spain, will consist of a combination of hotels and convention areas, with entertainment, dining and shopping. This project is defined through a complete zoning plan already approved by the Catalan Government, with a maximum capacity of eight million square feet for all the different uses and an estimated global investment of €2,000 million (approximately $2,300,000), including the cost of the land and infrastructures needed, to be developed in phases, over several years.

Phase 1 will be headlined by the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tarragona integrated resort. The Hard Rock integrated resort will also include a collaboration with PortAventura on the development of a family-oriented hotel of up to 500 rooms, and Value Retail on a luxury tourism shopping destination, featuring more than 75 shops. Hard Rock Entertainment World is expected to bring thousands of new jobs.

"We're honored to work with the Catalan government on the creation of Hard Rock Entertainment World and look forward to bringing first-class entertainment and hospitality experiences to the region," said Jim Allen, chairman and CEO of Hard Rock International.

The iconic guitar shaped Hard Rock Hotel will be a focal point of the Hard Rock Entertainment World and will offer 600 rooms. Among the largest in Europe, the casino destination will boast 1,200 slot machines and 100 table games. The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tarragona will also provide a large pool area.

True to the Hard Rock brand, the entertainment destination will offer concert capacity in excess of 15,000 people and a Hard Rock Live performance venue that will host regional and international musical acts and shows, a Hard Rock Cafe, and an accompanying Rock Shop, featuring Hard Rock merchandise.


PCMA and its partner organization, the PCMA Education Foundation, announced they will be jointly awarding research grant funds totaling over $75,000 in order to advance the second phase of three major meetings industry research initiatives, with an end goal of propelling the industry forward.

The three initiatives being pursued by PCMA include the continuation of its business events case studies, a study on the impact of travel boycotts and an international study on future meetings scenarios.

PCMA announced it is funding a series of business events case studies to determine what the professional, business, academic and economic outcomes of the business events industry are and how they can be best communicated to the respective communities and governments that they effect.

The project is being managed by the University of Technology, Sydney and is in collaboration with the Joint Meetings Industry Council (JMIC). The project will focus on creating a set of case studies detailing where the outcomes of business events have positively impacted cities around the world.

PCMA said the business events case studies research is due to be completed by early 2019.

“By helping to fund this prestigious piece of work with our industry partners, we are helping to prove to the wider world that business meetings and events are a vital part of all our economic futures,” said Sherrif Karamat, COO, PCMA. “For the first time as a result of this work, the case studies generated by JMIC will be thoroughly researched examples of the broader benefits that business events can bring.”

Further PCMA Foundation Supported Research

While the business events research is underway, the PCMA Education Foundation is also supporting a study around the issue of travel boycotts. These political tools have risen in popularity in recent years to force political or ethical change in the U.S. and abroad. For example, in Charlotte, N.C., in Feb. 2016, the state government passed a law allowing transgender people to choose public bathrooms that correspond to their gender identity. The governor later called this action “a threat to public safety” and within a month, legislature passed a law prohibiting local governments from enacting their own anti-discrimination rules.

As a result, many national organizations such as the NBA decided to terminate their business in North Carolina (the NBA pulled its All-Star game). This legislation has since been rescinded.

The impact these travel boycotts are having on the business events industry is the subject of this research. The PCMA Education Foundation is contributing $30,000 and the work is being carried out by DMAI, the global association for official destination marketing organizations (DMOs). The study will provide information for event organizers and destinations to navigate travel boycotts in the future.

For the second study, the PCMA Education Foundation has partnered with the German Convention Bureau (GCB) and the European Association of Event Centres (EVVC) to delve into how different types of event participants are impacted by the use of various elements and methodology. Phase one was previously completed, initialed by the GCB and EVVC together with the Fraunhofer Institute of Labour Economics and Organization (IAO).

So far, the GCB and EVVC have identified six so-called future meeting scenarios that match the developments in the industry. The six scenarios show various forms of future events and the second phase will build on those results focusing on identifying success factors for event organizers.

“We’re glad to be partnering with DMAI to understand the true impact of travel boycotts and GCB and EVVC to define how participants will engage with future meeting design,” said Meredith Rollins, executive director of the PCMA Education Foundation. “Education is key to success for our industry and both of these research projects tackle issues that will shape our industry today and for the future.”



Marriott International announced the opening of SpringHill Suites by Marriott in Cincinnati. The 100-suite hotel will operate as a Marriott franchise managed by Keystone Hotel Group of Cincinnati.

The SpringHill Suites Cincinnati Blue Ash is located just 34 miles from Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, and 20 minutes from downtown. The hotel offers guests convenient access to the Cincinnati Zoo, King’s Island Amusement Park, Great American Ballpark and Paul Brown Stadium.

“As a brand opening a new hotel every 10 days on average, we are delighted that the SpringHill Suites Cincinnati Blue Ash is the latest addition to our growing number of properties across the United States and Canada,” said Callette Nielsen, vice president and global brand manager, SpringHill Suites. “Our all-suite offering, and convenient amenities offer guests a little extra to help them enjoy their stay.”

Ideal for business and leisure travelers alike, the new hotel offers a little extra space with suites larger than a typical hotel rooms. Separate living, working and sleeping spaces provide guests with flexibility and functionality. The designated work space offers a well-lit desk space to encourage productivity.

Daily complimentary breakfast is filled with hot, healthy and indulgent choices including fresh strawberries, steel cut oatmeal, cold cuts, cheeses and much more. The hotel also offers business services, complimentary Wi-Fi, same-day dry cleaning, guest laundry facilities and a fitness center.



AJ Capital Partners announced its acquisition of the Sheraton Iowa City in Iowa City, Iowa, from Rockbridge. The hotel will undergo a renovation to convert to a Graduate hotel by summer 2018.

The nine-story, 234-room hotel is located on Iowa City’s Ped Mall near the University of Iowa. 

Located just a block from the University of Iowa campus, the hotel benefits from an indoor public walkway connecting the hotel with direct access to the city’s Pedestrian Mall home to many restaurants, bars and retail shops. With over 13,000 square feet of meeting and event space, a fitness center, indoor pool and restaurant, the hotel is already an established destination for university visitors and travelers.

“It is with great pleasure that we announce the acquisition of the Sheraton Iowa City,” said Tim Franzen, president of Graduate Hotels. “This acquisition exemplifies our strategy of investing in ideally located assets in multi-dimensional university-anchored markets. Our location on the Ped Mall, the focal point of downtown Iowa City, will offer locals, students and visitors direct access to the hotel. We look forward to expanding our footprint within the Big Ten Conference with [the hotel’s] opening next year.”

The hotel will undergo a renovation, which will touch all guest rooms, restaurant, pool, meeting and event spaces and the hotel lobby. In addition, Graduate Hotels will introduce an innovative, locally-centric food and beverage program designed to foster interaction between hotel guests and locals.



Visit Austin, Norwegian Air and Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) announced Austin as one of two new U.S. routes from London Gatwick Airport. The announcement comes after Norwegian Air celebrated its third anniversary since it first began low-cost long-haul services from Gatwick.

“The new service from Gatwick Airport will provide opportunity for additional visitors connecting from throughout the world and from the U.K.,” said Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Austin. “With year over year increases in visitors from the U.K. and beyond, we anticipate this flight will be very successful. The addition of this route is also a direct reflection of how our city continues to evolve as a premier destination for travelers.”

Starting on March 27, 2018, Norwegian will begin flights to Austin with a new year-round, three-weekly service to ABIA, with fares available from £239 ($308.86) one way and Premium fares from £579 ($748.24). The eight-hour flight will depart from Barbara Jordan Terminal at 4:20 p.m. and arrive in London at 7:20 a.m.

The new route from London Gatwick to Austin will be operated by the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft offering passengers “a spacious, modern economy cabin with seatback inflight entertainment,” together with a Premium cabin offering more legroom, complimentary meal service and airport lounge access.

An additional Norwegian route from London Gatwick Airport was announced for O'Hare in Chicago.



Prior to Fourth of July celebrations in Las Vegas, a smaller group of residents and tourists were out celebrating the legalization of recreational marijuana in the city as the clock struck midnight on Saturday, July 1.

As of July 1, 2017, adults 21 and older in the state of Nevada who possess a valid ID can buy up to an ounce of pot or one-eighth of an ounce of marijuana infused edibles. About 40 dispensaries that sold medical marijuana received permission to sell the drug for recreational use beginning over the long holiday weekend.

Some stores in Nevada are already anticipating a shortage of marijuana in the state.

Nevada is the fifth state where marijuana can be legally purchased for recreational use, joining Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Las Vegas is one of the top cities for large-scale meetings and conventions in the U.S., which means planners should be aware of the change in law and its potential impact on their events.

It is also important to note consuming marijuana in public remains illegal in Nevada.



Best Western Hotels & Resorts announced that the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel and Tower and the Aquarius Casino Resort—each owned by American Casino and Entertainment Properties (ACEP)—will join Best Western's soft brand, BW Premier Collection launched in 2015. Bringing these world-renowned properties into the Best Western portfolio represents the largest deal in Best Western's 70 year history.

"It's a very exciting day for Best Western Hotels & Resorts as we will now offer two new and thrilling travel destinations for our loyal guests," said Ron Pohl, senior vice president and COO of Best Western Hotels & Resorts. "Whether you're looking for exhilarating sights and gaming options, world-class dining and entertainment at your fingertips or just an unforgettable guest stay, these hotels provide it all.”

Opened in 1996, the Stratosphere serves as the tallest structure in Vegas, rising 1,149 feet above the ground and it includes an observation deck, which provides 360-degree views of the Vegas strip and surrounding areas. The tallest observation tower in the U.S., the Stratosphere encompasses a 24-hour casino with a newly-remodeled Race & Sportsbook, casual and upscale dining options—including the Top of the World restaurant—lounges, live music and entertainment, two rooftop pools and the Tower Shops.

Guests looking for thrills can leap 855 feet from Las Vegas' Sky Jump – which holds the Guinness World Record for highest controlled descent. Other tower rides include the Big Shot! Insanity and X-Scream.

Aquarius Casino Resort is the largest gaming resort in Laughlin, Nev., providing 1,906 rooms and suites and a 57,000-square-foot casino offering 1,250 slot machines, a wide variety of table games, and a race and sportsbook. The Aquarius Casino Resort offers multiple amenities including a range of restaurants.



Nobu Hospitality announced the opening of its first two European Nobu Hotels in London and Ibiza.

Nobu Hotel Shoreditch London, located in London's artistic quarter, offers 148 guest rooms and suites, special event and meeting space and London's newest Nobu Restaurant and Bar. Crafted to suit the energy in Shoreditch, the Nobu Hotel and Restaurant draws from the area's creative and industrial vibe.

Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay is located on the shores of Talamanca Bay. The resort offers 152 rooms and suites, two private seafront pools and Nobu Restaurant Ibiza, in addition to other restaurants, spa, and boutique shopping. The design reflects a “barefoot luxury style,” crafted for couples and families alike.

"We are very proud to open the Nobu Hotel Shoreditch and Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay, each with partners who have great vision and passion to create something different and special," said Nobu Hospitality CEO Trevor Horwell. "[Following London and Ibiza], we plan to announce further special Nobu Hotels in distinct locations.”


The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced on Wednesday that travelers flying to the U.S. from overseas will face additional scrutiny for laptops and other electronics larger than phones. The U.S. measure calls for an escalation of airline security worldwide in order to avoid a full-fledged laptop ban.

According to USA Today, the tougher standards will apply to 180 domestic and foreign airlines that fly direct to the U.S. from 280 airports around the world. The new rules will affect about 2,000 flights daily.

“Make no mistake: our enemies are constantly working to find new methods for disguising explosives, recruiting insiders and hijacking aircraft,” Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, said in a speech at the Center for a New American Security, a nonprofit that develops security and defense policies.

Tightened security measures could include more bomb-sniffing dogs or upgraded technology. The New York Times reported that the TSA is currently testing two technologies to speed airport screening.



Shangri-La Resort celebrated the grand opening of its 120-room Shangri-La Resort Hotel and Conference Center on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees on Friday afternoon, June 23, 2017. According to Tulsa World, the new hotel “sits pretty much on the footprint of the old Shangri-La lakeside resort.”

The original Shangri-La resort opened in 1964, closed in 1969, reopened after a renovation in 1970 and then went bankrupt in 1986. The property previously served as a summer getaway for celebrities.

The Shangri-La Resort Hotel and Conference Center includes 8,000 square feet of conference and ballroom space and three separate restaurants. It also features 27 holes of championship golf. More information on the new Monkey Island hotel is available in this recent article from Tulsa World.



The Louisville CVB launched a new virtual reality 360-degree video series. Three films make up the series which features augmented reality graphics and a unique take on the 360-degree viewing experience.

Uniquely Fresh: Louisville's Culinary Scene – Showcases Louisville’s farm to table culinary scene and features 10 local culinary experiences including: 8UP, Crescent Hill Craft House, Harvest, Jack Fry’s, Mike Linnigs, Monnik, Proof on Main, The Table, the Village Anchor and Woodland Farms.

Uniquely Fun: A Taste of Louisville Attractions – Offers a fully immersive experience at some of Louisville’s unique attractions including: Kentucky Derby Museum, Muhammad Ali Center, Louisville Orchestra and the Kentucky Center for the Arts, Speed Art Museum, Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay, and Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.

Uniquely Spirited: Bourbon, Brandy, and the Urban Experience – Features four spirited experiences with a focus on the individuals behind the scenes. The four locations highlighted are: Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, Kentucky Peerless Distillery, Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience at Stitzel-Weller, and Copper & Kings American Brandy Company.

Uniquely Fresh: Louisville's Culinary Scene has already garnered national attention. It has been awarded the Samsung VR Creator Gold Award, as well as a Silver Telly Award, the highest honor given by the Telly Awards that honor the best in TV and cable, digital and streaming and non-broadcast productions.

“Video is so much more than just great shots, it’s about a story,” said Zack Davis, director of marketing at the Louisville CVB. “Louisville has such an authentic story to tell and VR has been able to convey the experience unlike anything we’ve seen before. We feel it will leave a lasting impression on [viewers].”

The LCVB partnered with local video agency Videobred to produce these films.

The LCVB is using the shareable, cutting edge, immersive technology to engage with millennial travelers and young families who are expected to account for half of all global travel spend by 2020. The LCVB plans to work on more VR films in the future on highlighting the destination to a variety of groups.

While VR goggles and headphones provide the richest experience for viewers, they can also experience the video on their mobile devices or desktop computers on the Louisville CVB’s YouTube channel.


IVvy Inc., a global events and hospitality technology company based in Queensland, Australia, announced its entry into the North American market, offering an online alternative to the traditional request-for-proposal meetings model that proposes to save planners and venues time and money.

The company, which recently opened an office in New York, made its mark in the hospitality industry by creating an advanced global distribution system for meetings and events that provides real-time availability, rates and inventory for function space, catering, group accommodation and event suppliers. 

IVvy also developed and introduced an integrated revenue management and distribution platform for meetings venues to manage inquiries and bookings, drive inbound revenue and enhance reporting.

“Today we give notice that the meetings business in North America never will be the same,” said Lauren Hall, iVvy cofounder and CEO, at HITEC 2017 Toronto. “As TripAdvisor is to accommodations, Google is to air travel and Amazon is to consumer trade, iVvy wants to disrupt the events industry by giving meeting planners more real-time control and availability of information on a local and global scale.” 

Since it was founded in 2009, the company said it has gained 12,000 users in 13 countries.

IVvy’s cloud-based event management platform enables meeting planners to work virtually using computers, tablets or smartphones. Among other capabilities, iVvy provides tools for planners to create custom event websites featuring online registration and hotel and airline bookings. Planners also can manage sponsors and guest speakers, assign seating, accept payments and promote their events.


Alfredo Gonzalez announced he is stepping down from the role of vice president at Visit Florida. According to Naples Daily News, Gonzalez was the highest paid employee left at the agency. President Ken Lawson will lead the organization moving forward and announced plans to reorganize the DMO and hire new employees.

Gonzalez's official title at Visit Florida was Vice President of International Sales and Global Development.

Visit Florida recently won a hard fought battle to retain its $76 million level of funding in 2018, after initially hoping to increase its budget to $100 million with the support of Florida Gov. Rick Scott. At one point in the Florida Legislature’s budget debates a much lower $25 million budget was proposed for Visit Florida.

Gonzalez will officially leave his position on July 7, 2017. Prior to Gonzalez’s announcement, Visit Florida International Marketing Program Director Shari Bailey’s resignation was effective as of Saturday, June 24.

During a Tuesday meeting of the Visit Florida board of directors, acting CMO Nelson Mongiovi said the resignations would not affect the agency and that a reorganization would take place in the next 45 days.

More information is available in this article from the Naples Daily News.


NASSAU, Bahamas

BMD Holdings Ltd., the original developer of the Baha Mar mega-resort, called for a moratorium on the yet-to-be-completed sale of Baha Mar to Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd. BMD Holdings made its plea via an official statement to the Government of The Bahamas after it made its Heads of Terms (or sales) agreement public.

"In BMD's view, these documents confirm the nation's fears that the previous administration had engaged in the wholesale giveaway of hundreds of millions of dollars in tax waivers and concessions that the country could not afford and that rightfully should have been earmarked for The Bahamian people, solely to facilitate a charade of a sale in the lead up to the general election last May,” the company wrote in its statement. “The agreement also clearly raises the concern about the potential of corruption and self-dealing by members of the previous government, even beyond the now public self-dealing by the former attorney general."

BMD Holdings went on to urge the new government to:

  • “Place a moratorium on the completion of any sale of Baha Mar and other transactions under these agreements so that it and the public can thoroughly assess the extent of the toxicity of these arrangements to our country and how the best interests of Bahamians can be met.”
  • “Reopen the casino license investigation and report the findings of the Gaming Board given the extensive, disturbing public record about the potentially extensive criminal associations of Chow Tai Fook's owners—a record that appears to have been intentionally and conveniently ignored.”

BMD Holdings finished off its statement by reiterating its desire to purchase Baha Mar.

Baha Mar Resort celebrated the launch of the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar on April 21, which also signified the official launch of the Baha Mar development. Baha Mar's construction faced several setbacks and delays. SLS Baha Mar is expected to open in fall 2017 while the Rosewood Baha Mar has an anticipated spring 2018 launch.

In an interview with Tribune 242, Baha Mar President Graeme Davis said Chow Tai Fook Enterprises had the full support of the government to complete and operate Baha Mar. He did not acknowledge BMD Holdings.

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