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Risk appears to have shaken hands with reward at ASAE’s annual XDP, aka Xperience Design Project, held May 23-24 at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.

Two years in the making and replacing the association’s much larger, more traditional Springtime Expo tradeshow, which had completed a lifecycle that began in 1976, participants at XDP were constantly reminded they weren’t attending a tradeshow, but instead a radical departure for both ASAE and perhaps the meetings industry as a whole.

“It didn’t make sense until we did it,” said John H. Graham IV, president and CEO of ASAE, The Center for Association Leadership. “Did it feel like a risk? Yeah. How were we going to pay for it? How’s it going to come together?”

All of these questions were answered at the conclusion of the event, except on the financial side, as the inaugural event wasn’t planned to break even due to ramp-up costs that will be absorbed by future XDPs. But in the end, the time had come for a big change, as Springtime had seen its day and the nature of association meetings is changing fast.

“This industry needs to do something different, and ASAE needs to provide that different experience, so we need to take that risk,” Graham said of the decision to launch XDP, which brought together 250 people to develop the new format. “It was a risk worth taking. No regrets on that.”

ASAE partnered with 360 Live Media, a Washington, D.C.-based marketing and event experience design company, which was invited to attend what would be the last Springtime in a “secret shopper” role and report on its strengths and weaknesses.

That report resulted in blowing up the traditional tradeshow formula—a key revenue generator for associations—creating in a more-cerebral format that hinged on event design and collaborative learning, under the umbrella of the five core elements of an event: experience, marketing, location, learning and technology. These became the titles of collaborative Zones.

These Zones were the launch pad for the first day of the event. Participants gathered in The Lab, a theater-in-the-round, hub-and-spoke setup, where industry leaders and other experts delivered an opening address followed by short breaks where groups of five or six association executives and two or three industry partners analyzed and discussed solutions to common problems in each Zone subject.

Participants used radio-devices with earbuds to toggle into which Zone they were in, which was an improvement made after a run-through in December where the multiple presentations created too much audio cacophony. Organizers of XDP were initially worried that the radio units, provided by Hargrove, could malfunction, but the devices worked without a hitch.

The groups each picked three of the five Zones to participate in, with each Zone session lasting an hour and a half.

Two breaks in The Lab zone-learning format featured 15-minute pop-up speeches from motivational speakers Shannon Polson, a former Army Apache combat helicopter captain; and customer retention expert Kelly McDonald. The proceedings were emceed by Lisa Kay Solomon, author and managing director of Singularity University.

Evening entertainment, under the banner of “Connections,” was held at the new MGM National Harbor and headlined by rock band The B-52s.

Day two featured motivational entertainment served up by “freestyle” rapper SaulPaul, followed by “LabX” summaries of the previous day’s Zone presentations by the various Zone Leaders. The business, and primary revenue, end of the show was then handled in a Business Exchange in which buyers met with sellers for pre-scheduled 20-minute appointments—no drop-in appointments allowed—in six settings ranging from large suite areas sponsored by MGM Resorts International, Marriott International and event services company Hargrove, to smaller suites and table areas.

While the event won’t break even in its first year, Graham said that is not the primary driver of the effort.

“We don’t look at it as an entrepreneurial undertaking,” he said. “It’s a space for associations to learn how to make quality events for their membership.”

Amy Ledoux, SVP, Meetings and Exposition at ASAE, and a key player in launching XDP, echoed Graham’s remarks, with an additional emphasis on what differentiates XDP from the Springtime Expo it replaced.

“The tradeshow model is usually low-cost, high-return, but this is not a tradeshow environment,” she said. “The industry experts at ASAE had to take these risks, and the ASAE Board was entirely on board with the risk. We definitely have room to grow. Our goal is to be sold out in year three.”

In the end, radically changing what became a stale format for association industry tradeshows was certainly a risk, but one that the organizers felt was crucial to take.

“In the old days of associations, the way to success was to pursue a path of better sameness,” said Don Neal, founder and CEO of 360 Live Media.

XDP will be held at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center through 2020.

The Numbers

The inaugural XDP event featured the following attendance and participation numbers:

  • 1,816 participants.
  • A 6/3 buyer-to-seller ratio and more than 1,500 people participating in The Lab, LabX and Business Exchange programs.
  • Approximately 2,000 pre-scheduled appointments in the Business Exchange, with 800 more in the works at press time.
  • Participants came from 28 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Two-thirds of the association executives, or planners, participated in the Business Exchange.
  • 31 percent of the association executives had not been to an ASAE event in the previous five years.



Sonesta International Hotels Corporation announced The Chase Park Plaza, which opened in St. Louis in 1922, will join their collection of Royal Sonesta hotels in the United States. Celebrating its heritage within the city of St. Louis, Sonesta will retain The Chase Park Plaza name and continue to deliver its authentic service.

"This is definitely one of the more exciting announcements in recent years,” said Carlos Flores, President and CEO for Sonesta International Hotels Corporation. “With its unique amenities and celebrated history, The Chase Park Plaza is an amazing addition to our growing portfolio.”

Home to a storied past, featuring such legendary guests as Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Carter, the iconic, 338-room Chase Park Plaza hotel offers over one million square feet of luxurious accommodations.

The hotel also features 15 apartment-like luxury suites to accommodate longer-stay guests.

A range of premier hotel amenities are available at The Chase Park Plaza including: four restaurants serving locally-inspired cuisine, a Mediterranean-style courtyard with outdoor heated swimming pool, a five-screen historic movie theater, a barber shop, spa, salon and an 18,000-square-foot fitness center.

The hotel is also especially well-suited to host corporate meetings and events. With 65,000 square feet of flexible space (including a self-contained 30,000-square-foot conference center) the hotel is able to accommodate functions of all sizes—from an executive meeting for 12 to a conference for 2,500.

A dedicated convention services team is available to assist with all of the event details.

Located in the lively Central West End neighborhood, the hotel is less than 10 minutes from the heart of downtown St. Louis and only 11 miles from Lambert International Airport. Its location provides guests convenient access to key business destinations as well as some of the city's most popular attractions.


AAA projects that 39.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Memorial Day weekend. That is one million more travelers than last year taking to the roads, skies, rails and water.

If the predictions are correct, this will be the highest Memorial Day travel volume since 2005.

"The expected spike in Memorial Day travel mirrors the positive growth seen throughout the travel industry this year," said Bill Sutherland, AAA senior VP, travel and publishing. "Higher confidence has led to more consumer spending, and many Americans are choosing to allocate their extra money on travel.”

The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thurs., May 25 to Mon., May 29.

By the Numbers: Memorial Day Travel Forecast

  • 2017 will mark the third consecutive year of growth in Memorial Day travel with 2.7 percent more travelers than last year.
  • 34.6 million Americans (88.1 percent of travelers) will drive to their destinations, an increase of 2.4 percent over last year.
  • 2.9 million Americans are taking to the skies this Memorial Day, increasing air travel by 5.5 percent over last year.
  • 1.75 million travelers, an increase 2.9 percent from 2016, will look to other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses.
  • Drivers will pay the highest Memorial Day gas prices since 2015. Airfares, car rental rates and mid-range hotels are all trending higher than last Memorial Day.

Travelers still hitting the road despite higher gas prices
While AAA expects most U.S. drivers will pay the highest Memorial Day gas prices since 2015, the vast majority of holiday travelers (88.1 percent) are still planning to hit the road. Automobile travel will grow by 2.4 percent this Memorial Day, with 34.6 million Americans planning a holiday road trip.

The national average price for a gallon of gas today is $2.34, 11 cents more than last year.

More Americans are planning to rent cars for their holiday road trips this year. AAA's car rental bookings are 19 percent higher than last Memorial Day. According to Hertz, the busiest day for car rental pick-ups is expected to be Friday, May 26, based on last year's data.

Large increases in flying and travel by other modes this Memorial Day
While road trips continue to reign supreme for Memorial Day, more Americans will fly, ride the train or bus, or take a cruise vacation compared to last year. Air travel is expected to increase 5.5 percent over last year, with 2.9 million Americans taking to the skies this Memorial Day. Travel by other modes of transportation, including cruises, trains and buses, will increase 2.9 percent, to 1.75 million travelers.

Airfares, hotel and car rental rates on the rise
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, average airfares for the top 40 domestic flight routes will be 9 percent higher this Memorial Day, with an average round trip ticket landing at $181. Hotel costs have also increased since last Memorial Day, with the average AAA Three Diamond Rated hotel costing $215, or 18 percent more than last year. Daily car rental rates will average $66, which is 7 percent more.

AAA and Waze share perspectives on holiday travel
According to Waze, a crowdsourced traffic and navigation app, Chicago, Los Angeles and New York are the busiest metro areas this Memorial Day weekend, based on last year's accident and traffic jam data. For travelers visiting or driving through these cities, be aware of high traffic volumes on Thursday and Friday – New York City sees an average 27 percent increase in accident alerts on these two days.

Many Memorial Day vacationers traveling abroad this year 
While the vast majority of travelers are planning a Memorial Day road trip, many other Americans will take advantage of the long holiday weekend and travel internationally, with Europe especially popular this year. The top destinations for Memorial Day weekend, based on AAA travel bookings, are: Orlando, Rome, London, Dublin (Ireland), Vancouver, Seattle, Las Vegas, New York, Paris and Honolulu (Hawaii).

According to Hertz, the busiest airport pick-up locations are expected to be Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Orlando (MCO), Atlanta (ATL) and Denver (DEN), based on data from 2016.


Airlines for America (A4A), an industry trade organization for major U.S. airlines, announced it expects a record 234.1 million passengers—or approximately 2.54 million per day—will travel worldwide on U.S. airlines between June 1 and August 31, an increase of 4 percent over last summer’s 224.8 million.

Accordingly, airlines said they are adding 123,000 seats per day across their networks to accommodate the 100,000 additional daily passengers expected to fly on U.S. carriers during this period.

“We continue to see consumers value experiences and travel, and airlines are responding accordingly by increasing staffing and boosting the availability of seats in the marketplace, as well as further investing in new aircraft and customer-facing technology,” said A4A VP and Chief Economist John Heimlich.

First quarter 2017 financial results for 9 publicly traded U.S. airlines (Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines and United Airlines), show reported pre-tax earnings of $2.4 billion, down from $4.8 billion in 2016.

Airline profitability remains substantially below Starbucks, Apple and McDonald’s.

Additional financial results include:

  • Operating revenues increased 1.5 percent to $37 billion.
  • Airline operating expenses increased 9.3 percent to $33.9 billion, led by 24.3 percent growth in fuel costs and a 6.7 percent increase in employee wages and benefits.

As airlines see higher returns on capital, customers are seeing more seats.

Published airline schedules show domestic seat supply up 3.8 percent year-over-year in 2017—to its highest level in 10 years—and international seat supply up 6.1 percent, to an all-time high.

Additionally, since April 2015, U.S. airline job growth has exceeded overall U.S. job growth. In recent months, airline employment has risen 4 percent, more than double the rate of overall U.S. job growth.

Here are links to the related A4A media briefing and infographic (both PDF files).



Embassy Suites by Hilton announced the opening of a newly-built hotel in San Antonio. Embassy Suites by Hilton San Antonio Brooks Hotel & Spa is currently the only full-service hotel on the south side of San Antonio, where guests can easily access the San Antonio River Walk or the San Antonio Missions.

The 156-room Embassy Suites by Hilton San Antonio Brooks Hotel & Spa is located at the former Air Force Base, Brooks. It spans 1,300 acres of preservation land and has been redeveloped into a live, work and play community. The hotel restored the historic Hangar 9 building, the oldest wooden aircraft hangar of its kind still standing in its original location. It is currently available for business events and special gatherings.

In total, the hotel offers over 20,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

In addition to Embassy Suites by Hilton's traditional amenities, this property is also home to regionally influenced Nineteen17 Restaurant and Bar, featuring locally sourced menu items, providing a true farm-to-table experience. The full-service bar, named after the year the former base originated, features local beer and spirits, classic cocktails, a curated boutique wine list and live music from local talent.

The property also has a full-service spa and offers a therapeutic salt cave for inhalation therapy.

The Embassy Suites by Hilton San Antonio Brooks Hotel & Spa is about 11 minutes from the Alamo and downtown San Antonio, and 25 minutes from San Antonio International Airport.


The U.S. Travel Association and the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) released separate statements after the future of Brand USA was threatened due to President Trump’s proposed budget cuts.

The proposed budget would eliminate Brand USA, a federally funded organization that promotes the country overseas as a tourist destination, and shift revenue to Customs and Border Protection.

Brand USA was created by Congress in 2010 and began operating in 2011. It has been funded through visa fees every year and Congress voted in 2014 to reauthorize the program until 2020.

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow issued the following statement on the proposed elimination of the Brand USA tourism marketing agency in Trump’s federal budget document.

“With all that's going on in the world, unilaterally disarming the marketing of the U.S. as a travel destination would be to surrender market share at the worst possible time,” Dow said. “It’s especially perplexing that the elimination of Brand USA is on the table when both Commerce Secretary Ross and OMB Director Mulvaney each have supported it previously.

“The creation of Brand USA was a bipartisan effort led by Republicans that passed both chambers by overwhelming majorities. The agency was responsible for adding $8.9 billion to the U.S. economy last year, according to the firm Oxford Economics—a 28-to-1 return on investment. Brand USA isn’t funded with a dime of taxpayer money, reduced the deficit by $50 million, and by the OMB’s own accounting eliminating it would put the federal budget further in the red.

“With international visitation being the country’s No. 2 export supporting 15 million American jobs, we’re struggling to understand how cutting Brand USA squares with this administration’s stated priorities.”

AHLA President and CEO Katherine Lugar then released the following statement.

“Travel and tourism is a critical driver of the U.S. economy, generating $2.3 trillion in economic output and responsible for one in nine American jobs,” Lugar said. “That's why we are concerned that the Administration’s budget proposal eliminates federal funding for Brand USA, a public-private partnership that has been a catalyst responsible for driving more than 4.4 million incremental international visitors to the U.S. and supports thousands of American jobs.

“In the last several years, Brand USA has been a powerful force in providing America with a competitive edge and has served as a highly successful promotional program attracting millions of visitors from countries near and far. The program boosts the U.S. economy as Brand USA results in nearly $32 billion in total economic impact, contributes nearly $4 billion in federal, state and local taxes, and supports an average of nearly 50,000 incremental jobs a year—jobs that cannot be exported and which extend well beyond the travel industry.”

“The program has had long-lasting and overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress, across all travel sectors. With travel season upon us, it is important for lawmakers to understand the benefits of this program. We need Brand USA’s strong marketing message to remind visitors that the U.S. is open for business.

“As the economy picks up steam, now is the time to ensure the vital economic contributions made by the tourism industry to the nation’s GDP remain strong. We look forward to actively engaging with both key officials in the Administration and Congressional leaders on Capitol Hill to encourage them to keep Brand USA intact and ensure certainty and economic stability.”


Dream Hotel Group, home to its Dream Hotels, Time Hotels, The Chatwal and soon-to-launch Unscripted Hotels brands, announced nine new hotels expected to open in new destinations by the end of 2020. 

“We signed more new hotel deals in the last six months than any other year in the company’s history,” said Dream Hotel Group Chairman Sant Singh Chatwal. “After significant investment and repositioning from ownership to hotel brand and management, Dream Hotel Group now boasts its strongest portfolio ever, and we look forward to continuing to build on our success and expand our brands at a rapid rate.” 

Dream Hotel Group has 16 hotels open at this time and a pipeline of 26 additional properties, including these nine new locations, which, when open, are expected to bring the company’s total property and room count to 42 and 10,034, respectively. With the largest pipeline in the company’s history, Dream Hotel Group is on track to increase its global footprint by 230 percent over the next four years, tripling its existing portfolio by 2022.

Newly signed locations include primary and secondary markets around the world—from Dallas to Delhi, Upstate New York to Vietnam, the Maldives to the Dominican Republic—and represent $750 million.

The news follows that of the summer launch of Dream Hotel Group’s Unscripted brand. Designed for the “progressive creative traveler,” Unscripted will open its first location in Durham, N.C., in July 2017.

Dream Hotel Group signed nine new hotel deals in the last six months, including:

  • Dream Oceanami Villas & Spa (Vietnam) – Fall 2017 – Developed by Beegreen Group, Dream Oceanami Villas & Spa marks the first of four new locations to open in Vietnam. Located in Long Hai, Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, the resort will feature 347 villas and eight dining and nightlife venues, including the brand's signature Dream Beach Club, fronting the South China Sea.
  • Unscripted Cocobay Da Nang – Fall 2017 – Developed by Vietnam-based Empire Group, the 160-room Unscripted Hotel will feature three dining and nightlife venues. The Cocobay complex will be the largest integrated resort complex in Vietnam with a walking street of shops and restaurants, a water park, a performing arts center, luxury apartments and residences, a beach club and eight hotels, including Unscripted Cocobay, all overlooking the South China Sea.
  • The Chatwal Lodge – Late 2018 – Located in Bethel, N.Y., The Chatwal Lodge will be the second location to debut in The Chatwal collection of luxury hotels. Developed by Dream Hotel Group, the resort will feature 50 exquisite accommodations on 23 acres, including private villas, suites and rooms, and culinary experiences crafted renowned chef Todd English and others TBA.
  • The Chatwal Maaga Maldives – 2019 – Developed by local entrepreneur Mohamed Manik and Alpha Kinam Holdings, and the first of two new Dream Hotel Group locations in the Maldivian Islands, The Chatwal Maaga Maldives will feature 80 ultra-luxury villas, six private beach villas and two presidential villas, as well as three unforgettable culinary venues to North Ari Atoll.
  • Unscripted Dallas-Fort Worth – 2019 – Developed by Newstream Hotels & Resorts, the five-story hotel will feature 134 guest rooms and four restaurants and bars, including a rooftop lounge. Located in the town of Flower Mound, adjacent to Lake Grapevine and six miles north of DFW Airport, Unscripted Dallas-Fort Worth marks the first ground-up build for the new brand.
  • Dream Delhi – 2019 – Developed by Asrani Inn & Resorts Private Ltd., Dream Delhi will feature 179 rooms and multiple food outlets, including a Food Hall concept by Todd English.
  • The Time Dominican Republic – 2019 – The Time Dominican Republic marks the group’s first location in the Caribbean. Set to open in 2019, the upper-upscale resort hotel will feature luxurious beachfront guest rooms and suites, multiple dining and nightlife venues and a spa.
  • Unscripted Dominican Republic – 2019 – Also slated to open in 2019, Unscripted Dominican Republic will feature spaces guestrooms and suites, and multiple food and beverage outlets.
  • Dream Gasveli Maldives – 2020 – Developed by local entrepreneur Mohamed Manik and Alpha Kinam Holdings, Dream Gasveli Maldives resort will feature 500 villas, eight experiential dining and nightlife venues, including the brand's signature Dream Beach Club, a 20,000-square-foot wellness spa, and more than a dozen designer brand retail outlets for duty-free shopping.

Dream Hotel Group also signed letters of intent to open hotels in the following markets: Austin, Phoenix, Orlando, Monterey and Long Island City, as well as the United Kingdom, Central America and Vietnam. 

The company plans to sign more than 150 hotels and resorts across all its brands—Dream, Time, The Chatwal and Unscripted—in the next four years, continuing to solidify its burgeoning global portfolio.


HONOLULU, Oahu, Hawaii

Autograph Collection Hotels announced the grand opening of The Laylow following an extensive $60 million renovation. The 251-room Laylow is said to feature a 1960s Hawaii modern aesthetic.

“We are thrilled to invite global travelers to experience a new side of Waikiki through the lens of The Laylow: laid back luxury amidst a thoughtfully-designed urban oasis,” said General Manager Robert Friedl. “The Laylow is one of the prominent properties leading the renaissance of Kuhio Ave. now buzzing with new retail and restaurants, including the recently redeveloped International Market Place. It used to be all about Kalakaua Ave., but among people in the know, Kuhio Ave. is the place to be.”

Perched above the revitalized Kuhio Avenue in the heart of Waikiki, The Laylow blends midcentury modernism with its Hawaiian roots, melding the island's melting pot of cultures and the post-war architecture movement that shaped modern Honolulu. The hotel's creative design was led by Fritz Mesenbrink and Jeremy Pelley, co-founders of Official Mfg. Co. of Portland, Ore., who drew upon works by midcentury visionaries to inspire the aesthetic of guest rooms, suites and public spaces.

The Laylow's signature restaurant, Hideout, serves up reimagined Pacific Rim classics. Executive Chef Bryan Byard crisscrossed the islands to source the freshest ingredients from the ocean and local farms for the restaurant's inventive menus. Hideout extends to an open-air terrace with two fire pits, where guests can enjoy entertainment by island musicians and craft beer from Hawaii breweries.



Caesars Entertainment announced it will be launching a $90 million complete renovation of 1,270 rooms at Flamingo Las Vegas. The renovation will begin in late August 2017, with the first guest arrivals expected in November 2017, and final completion of all rooms expected in the second quarter of 2018. 

"Flamingo Las Vegas is an iconic resort filled with 70 years of rich history and unforgettable experiences," said Bob Morse, president of hospitality for Caesars Entertainment. "The renovated rooms pay homage to the property's past, while also giving it a fresh and modern new look."

The fully renovated rooms will feature contemporary and retro-chic designs with accents that celebrate Flamingo's rich history as the centerpiece of the Las Vegas Strip. Designed by Forrest Perkins, the rooms were inspired to sparkle and shine like glitter, with vibrant hues of gold and bright pops of flamingo pink.

Flamingo Las Vegas helped define the Strip, and as the city grows, it continues to represent the Vegas experience. The resort celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2016, featuring more than 3,500 guest rooms and suites and is home to a sprawling 15-acre pool and wildlife habitat complete with waterfalls, mature island vegetation and tropical wildlife, three distinctive pools and several outdoor wedding gardens.

Flamingo Las Vegas offers a wide variety of dining options with eateries such as Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, Center Cut Steakhouse, Paradise Garden Las Vegas Buffet and Carlos'n Charlie's.

In 2016, Caesars Entertainment also upgraded more than 4,800 rooms at four of its Las Vegas resorts, including Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, Paris Las Vegas and Harrah's Las Vegas.


AMSTERDAM, Netherlands

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) announced the opening of the Kimpton De Witt in Amsterdam. The hotel is the first Kimpton-branded property in Europe and the brand’s first outside of the Americas.

The hotel has been fully transformed with Kimpton’s signature design. Inspired by Dutch heritage with a mix of wit, the hotel is said to have a spirited edge, first exhibited by a “living wall” of vibrant florals and botanicals trailing the entrance. The design aims to marry old and the new—a late 20th century building with architecture from the Dutch Golden Age—interlocking modern luxury and historical elegance. 

The hotel’s 274 rooms, which include nine signature suites in the original Golden Age buildings, are inspired by Dutch design, from a modern take on classic Dutch art in the bedrooms to the blue Delft-inspired tiles paving the bathroom floors. Within the property stands a three-story “Little House,” which dates back to the 1600s and was once the childhood home of the Dutch playwright, P.C. Hooft.

Little House can be rented for groups looking for the luxury of a private abode; it offers two king-sized rooms and a first floor living room. Kimpton De Witt’s signature suite, Penthouse De Witt, is split over two stories and its roof terrace offers views of the city and its iconic canal house rooftops.

The Kimpton De Witt also features 18 meeting and event spaces for smaller groups.

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is famous for its award-winning restaurants and bars and Kimpton De Witt is said to be no exception. Next to the hotel, Wyers Bar & Restaurant, run by Executive Chef Sam DeMarco aka SammyD, offers American staples with Dutch influences, while House Bar provides guests and locals with a resting post where bartenders craft creative cocktails using unexpected ingredients as well as serve an extensive menu of local gins and genevers. Local passers-by can grab a hot cup of strong coffee, made with coffee beans roasted locally and fresh sugar-dusted beignets, at Miss Louisa Coffee & Beignets. The walk-up window is open to the public for early morning, afternoon and evening snacks. 

The hotel, which is in the heart of Amsterdam’s vibrant city center and near the city’s Centraal Station, marks a milestone for IHG as it brings the Kimpton brand to Europe for the first time.



The Hotel 50 Bowery—the first Joie de Vivre property in New York—recently opened in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood. The 229-room boutique hotel was developed and owned by Chu Enterprises with deep roots in the Chinese community. Located in a 21-story building at the landmark address of 50 Bowery, the hotel welcomes guests with artistic energy, Asian-inspired cuisine, and playful design.

“We knew our first Joie de Vivre property in New York had to be in a neighborhood that allows us to provide guests with the eclectic, destination-driven experiences the brand has been synonymous with for the past 30 years,” said Jamie Sabatier, CEO of Two Roads Hospitality. “Hotel 50 Bowery’s guests will be immersed in the local culture, without sacrificing convenient access to all of [New York’s] offerings.”

Embracing the destination’s rich layers of history and culture, the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) has installed a permanent exhibit located on the hotel’s second floor in The Gallery. The 1,500-square-foot exhibit, titled the Heart of Chinatown, explores the history of Chinatown’s core streets.

Paying homage to the destination’s past, the exhibit showcases many of the artifacts that were found at the hotel’s construction site, highlighting its colorful history; taverns, a gambling den, and vaudeville and motion picture theaters all called the hotel’s location “home” from the 1700s through the early 1900s.

The exhibit is adjacent to Atlantic Garden, a 5,000-square-foot outdoor space named after the historic beer hall that occupied the site in the 1850s. The space can be used for events, and by hotel guests at their leisure. For indoor events and meeting spaces, the hotel offers the Bowery Common, a semi-private, multifunctional space that can seat up to 12 guests, as well as the Precious Coral Boardroom.

Hotel 50 Bowery’s three restaurant, bar and lounge concepts draw influence from and reflect the dynamic and culturally-rich Chinatown neighborhood. The Three Kings Restaurant Group, which includes partners Chef Dale Talde, David Massoni and John Bush, will oversee all culinary concepts for the hotel.

Rice & Gold, the hotel’s 220-seat signature restaurant, will offer contemporary Asian-centric cuisine, featuring dishes such as Arroz Caldo, Pancit Palabok and Thai Fried Chicken. Below Rice & Gold will be The Green Lady, an opium den-themed parlor lounge offering live music and entertainment.

Both Rice & Gold and The Green Lady are set to open this summer.

Opening with the hotel is the 21st-floor rooftop bar and lounge, The Crown, featuring globally-inspired street food and an Asian-inspired cocktail program, paired with a backdrop of Lower Manhattan.


Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) and European Cities Marketing (ECM) announced a “Memorandum of Understanding” that will allow for the sharing of key research and educational resources between organizations in addition to increasing the value of both parties.

“With this alliance, European and American DMOs establish permanent links to cooperate,” said Ignasi de Delas, president of ECM and deputy general manager of Turisme de Barcelona. “This agreement will enable both organizations to provide their members with a wider range of [offerings and services].”

Through the partnership, several key projects will be initiated in the coming years. The first two activities include DMAI’s DestinationNEXT program and the Annual ECM Summer School program.

“This partnership helps further demonstrate DMAI’s mission to empower our members with the tools they need to help their destinations excel,” said Don Welsh, president and CEO of DMAI. “DMAI offers competitive destination tools, such as DestinationNEXT, to help destination organizations and CVBs thrive and we look forward to collaborating with ECM to provide [even more] tools for success.”


Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) Executive Director and COO Mike McCormick published a blog post on Friday, May 19, detailing new GBTA research that projects a major loss in U.S. business travel spending.

Using first quarter ticketing data from the Airlines Reporting Corp. (ARC), publicly available travel data and GBTA’s economic research and models, McCormick said the association developed an “uncertainty forecast” for 2017 showing the impact that mounting geopolitical uncertainty in the U.S. is having on the economy.

Below is an excerpt from McCormick’s blog post.

“GBTA projects a loss of over $1.3 billion in overall travel-related expenditures in the United States in 2017 including hotels, food, rental cars and shopping expenses that inbound travelers would have spent.

“That includes $250 million lost in spending from inbound business travelers from Europe and the Middle East. The even greater concern is that the longer-term impact on business travel will become even larger.

“In an earlier survey of GBTA’s European members, 45 percent indicated their company will be less willing to plan future meetings and events in the United States due to executive orders on travel.”

According to the GBTA’s findings, the U.S. GDP will take a nearly $300 million hit. More than 4,200 jobs could be lost along with $175 million in wages and $70 million in tax collections. Europe is forecast to lose over $250 million in air fare spending and the Middle East will lose over $80 million in air fare.

“As we await the verdict on a possible expansion of the electronics ban, we have yet another uncertainty factor,” McCormick added in his analysis. “While it is certainly different from the travel ban executive orders, and there is no doubt that the electronics ban is based on a clear security threat, it is the cumulative impact of anti-travel policies that leave the perception to many that the United States is closed for business.

"It goes without saying that GBTA strongly supports all efforts keep our skies safe, but we encourage TSA to pursue alternative options to effectively reduce the risk of terrorism.”

More information and commentary from McCormick is available on the GBTA blog.


Six of the top 10 cities outside of the Asia Pacific (APAC) region which are traveling to Australia for business are U.S. cities, according to newly released data from American Express Global Business Travel (AmEx GBT).

Australia’s strong business ties to the U.S., particularly San Francisco and New York, continue to remain a key travel driver, according to AmEx GBT. In addition a weaker Australian dollar has increased tourism to Australia and resulted in greater connectivity, further enabling opportunities and demand for business travel.

Here are the top 10 cities visiting Australia for business, excluding APAC.

  1. London
  2. New York
  3. Los Angeles
  4. San Francisco
  5. Paris
  6. Houston
  7. Chicago
  8. Amsterdam
  9. Dallas
  10. Dubai

The travel destination data, which encompasses all air bookings made globally through AmEx GBT between March 2016 and Feb. 2017 for travel to Australia, provides a snapshot of business travel flows into the country. Singapore remains the top city of origin within APAC, and London outside the region.

“Amidst all the commentary regarding the impact of U.S. and U.K. politics and changes in regulations, there has not been a noticeable impact on business travel between the U.S and Australia,” said Jo Sully, vice president and general manager, American Express GBT, Australia. “Considering the high number of multinational organizations operating in Australia, the need for travel between the U.S. and Australia is unlikely to be affected in any meaningful way in the immediate future. We have, however, seen a greater demand for up-to-the-minute information from companies as they navigate through changing regulations and policies.

“That being said, it will be interesting to see how current global political conditions impact international business travel related to meetings and events,” Sully added in his analysis of the data. “When large groups are required to travel for a conference or other large-scale event, issues such as the recent travel bans and electronic devices bans in the U.S. may drive people to consider alternative destinations.

“If Australia continues to position itself as a welcome destination for business travelers, there is scope for us to benefit from a rise in meetings and events spend and business traveler tourism dollars.”

Cities within APAC make up the majority of the top 10 visiting Australia for business, with proximity playing a factor. London is the highest ranked destination outside of APAC for business travel, followed by New York.

Lists of top international and APAC cities visiting Australia for business are available here.


The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) joined forces on May 17-18 as nearly 500 hoteliers from across the country arrived in Washington, D.C. for a joint hotel day on Capitol Hill. During the two-day Legislative Action Summit (LAS), hoteliers plan to raise awareness with Congressional leaders and hold some 250 meetings about the strength of the industry.

This is the third year AHLA and AAHOA have partnered to underscore the industry’s strength and unity, with a theme focusing on how hotels are creating jobs, serving guests and supporting communities.

“Located in every congressional district, hotels are interwoven into the fabric of each community across the country, creating jobs, serving guests and supporting communities,” said AHLA President and CEO Katherine Lugar. “As a guest-centric industry that focuses on opportunities and experiences, we are an industry of people, from our guests to our workers. The power of our industry lies in the opportunities hotels create for men and women seeking pathways toward upward mobility, fast-track promotions and lifelong, successful careers."

Supporting nearly eight million American jobs, driving $600 billion to the U.S. economy each year, and contributing $170 billion in federal, state and local taxes, the impact of the hotel industry is apparent.

AHLA and AAHOA also plan to advocate for policies that encourage travel and tourism promotion, business growth and entrepreneurial opportunities while urging more transparency on the rise of commercial activity fostered by short-term rental platforms and protecting consumers from online hotel booking scams.



Potawatomi Hotel & Casino, owned and operated by the Forest County Potawatomi Community, announced its intentions to construct a second hotel tower at its Milwaukee property. Construction on the $80 million dollar addition will begin later this year pending application approval by the city.

The second tower will house 119 additional rooms and suites, bringing the hotel's total room count to 500. The 180,000-square-foot addition will also feature a spa and additional meeting space.

The new addition is expected to open in the spring of 2019.

"The Forest County Potawatomi have committed to investing in Milwaukee,” said Potawatomi Hotel & Casino COO Rodney Ferguson. “Aside from accommodating our guests, the project will create hundreds of jobs on the construction site and dozens of permanent positions within the hotel.”

It is anticipated that 50 permanent hotel jobs will be created as part of the project. The property currently employs nearly 2,700 people, making it a top 25 employer in the Milwaukee area.

The project is also expected to spur additional revenue for the city and county of Milwaukee, VISIT Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin from property, sales, exposition and personal income taxes.


ANTIGUA (Caribbean Islands)

Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Hilton's luxury brand of hotels, announced the signing of a management agreement with Callaloo Cay Antigua for the brand’s first new-build resort in the Caribbean, Waldorf Astoria Antigua. Scheduled to open in 2020, the elegant resort will aim to provide one-of-a-kind experiences.

"Waldorf Astoria Antigua will set a new standard of Caribbean luxury, extending our bespoke True Waldorf Service and first-class accommodations, as well as providing travelers with unforgettable experiences,” said John T.A. Vanderslice, global head, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. “Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts’ mission is to be the fastest growing, most innovative luxury hotel brand in the world, and hotels like Waldorf Astoria Antigua represent the brand’s commitment to continued expansion and delivering luxury.”

Nestled in a sheltered cove along the Southeastern coast of Antigua at Morris Bay Beach, approximately 20 minutes from V.C. Bird International Airport, Waldorf Astoria Antigua will offer a tranquil escape on a sprawling 30 acres of pristine beachfront as well as a stunning bluff overlooking the Cades Bay.

Waldorf Astoria Antigua will feature an exquisite culinary experience with a specialty restaurant, signature bar and waterside dining concepts. For ultimate relaxation, guests will indulge in the resort’s world-class spa, disconnect in the fitness center, or enjoy gentle breezes and azure waters on the beach.

A five-acre natural park will be developed as part of the project, available for guests to enjoy an outdoor experience unlike any other. Indoor and outdoor event space will host group and meeting activities.


Cvent revealed its annual list of the top 50 cities for meetings and events in the United States, and the top 25 cities in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), and the Asia Pacific (APAC) regions. The lists were compiled according to meeting and event booking activity through the Cvent Supplier Network.

The top 10 cities in each region for 2017, as provided by Cvent, are listed below.

United States (U.S.)

  1. Orlando
  2. Las Vegas
  3. Chicago
  4. Atlanta
  5. San Diego
  6. Washington, D.C.
  7. Nashville, Tenn.
  8. Dallas
  9. New York
  10. Phoenix

Click here to view the top 50 meetings destinations in the U.S.

Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA)

  1. London
  2. Barcelona, Spain
  3. Berlin
  4. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  5. Paris
  6. Madrid, Spain
  7. Frankfurt, Germany
  8. Rome
  9. Munich, Germany
  10. Prague, Czech Republic

Click here to view the top 25 meetings destinations in EMEA.

Asia Pacific (APAC)

  1. Singapore
  2. Sydney, Australia
  3. Bangkok, Thailand
  4. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  5. Hong Kong
  6. Shanghai, China
  7. Melbourne, Australia
  8. Tokyo
  9. Mumbai, India
  10. Seoul, South Korea

Click here to view the top 25 meeting destinations in APAC.

According to Cvent, Orlando has held the No. 1 spot as the top meetings destination in the last five of six years since the rankings have been published. Chicago and Washington, D.C., switched spots this year.

Phoenix moved up three spots from last year to arrive at the No. 10 spot in 2017.

London and Barcelona maintained their top spots on the EMEA list from 2016. Munich broke into the top 10 for the first time in 2017 and jumped to the No. 9. Meanwhile, Singapore and Sydney maintained the top two spots on the AMEA list, while Mumbai moved up 11 ranks to the No. 9 spot on the list.

Earlier this year, Cvent revealed its annual list of top meeting properties. In 2016, Cvent completed a merger with Lanyon Solutions, for more on that check out our Jan. 2017 cover story.



The Hilton Atlanta Northeast, an iconic hotel in Atlanta’s Peachtree Corners suburb, is being reintroduced after an extensive renovation which gutted each of the hotels 271 guest rooms, while reimagining every common area and all of its more than 20,000 square feet of multi-purpose meeting and event space.

The Hilton Atlanta Northeast welcomes guests into its redesigned lobby with an open front desk and recreated Library/Business Center. Each of the hotel’s guest rooms, including 38 suites, were taken down to the studs during the renovation and now feature luxury bedding and new furnishings, as well as contemporary bathrooms with walk-in showers or new bathtubs. Additional guest room amenities include refrigerators and safes.

All guest corridors and elevators have also been renovated.

Additional upgrades include a refreshed indoor-outdoor swimming pool area, expanded fitness center and enhanced exterior landscaping. For dining, Latitude 33 is open for all meals and cocktails. 

The Hilton Atlanta Northeast is located at 5993 Peachtree Industrial Blvd., Peachtree Corners, Ga., and is adjacent to many corporate headquarters and Atlanta’s Technology Park.

The hotel is also surrounded by upscale shopping and dining, and is in close proximity to the Gwinnett Infinite Energy Arena and Convention Center. It is only a short drive to downtown Atlanta and Buckhead.

The Hilton Atlanta Northeast is 40 minutes from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.


Etouches, a cloud event management software company, was acquired by HGGC, a middle market private equity firm. The event management company said the acquisition will help etouches expand its business.

Etouches' end-to-end platform is said to provide event management and venue sourcing solutions to a broad set of customers worldwide in all major verticals, addressing a range of event management and data needs and complexities. Its cloud platform aims to bring together hotel and venue sourcing, event marketing and content, registration and logistics, engagement and mobile, and data analytics and ROI solutions.

The company’s global customer list includes more 1,300 companies, such as Lufthansa, Dell, IKEA, Volkswagen/Audi, Ticketmaster, BNP Paribas, National Australia Bank, Mary Kay, Mazda and NPR.

Etouches has offices in the U.S., U.K., Belgium, Australia, Singapore and United Arab Emirates.


BANGKOK, Thailand

Park Hyatt Bangkok opened its doors on May 12, marking the first Park Hyatt hotel in Thailand. The hotel is centrally located in the heart of the Thai capital’s central business district. The new-build hotel features an array of luxurious amenities and over 21,500 square feet of meetings and event space.

The five-star hotel contains 222 rooms and 32 suites, alongside two restaurants, a bar and a lounge.

The Park Hyatt Bangkok features contemporary architecture matched by luxurious residential interiors, curated art, world-class food and wine, and refined service, all coupled with a promise to offer uniquely Thai experiences that reflect the country’s rich culture, gracious hospitality and colorful lifestyles.

“We are excited to open Park Hyatt Bangkok in this incredible city that is full of culture, history and a rich sense of place,” said Michael Golden, general manager of Park Hyatt Bangkok. “Our goal is to make all of our guests feel welcome and very much at home with highly personalized, [sophisticated] service.”

Once the scene of elegant garden parties hosted by the British Ambassador to the Kingdom of Thailand, the prime corner plot in the heart of Bangkok is now home to the newest Park Hyatt hotel.

The interior design brief—to create a sophisticated private residence and sanctuary reflecting Thailand’s rich culture—was eloquently executed by New York-based Yabu Pushelberg, who also served as the designers of the brand’s flagship Park Hyatt New York hotel. This is the award-winning design duo’s first hotel in Bangkok. AvroKO designed the three uppermost floors of the hotel’s Penthouse Grill & Bar.

“We found the perfect interior for Park Hyatt Bangkok is when all the parts—the lighting, materials, space, texture—work as a whole and you get this sense of calmness,” said designer Glenn Pushelberg.

Park Hyatt Bangkok’s architecture is designed by AL_A, the London-based studio founded by Amanda Levete and Bangkok-based Pi Design. The hotel and an adjacent luxury shopping mall are bound together by a continual looped form merging plinth and tower. The twisted coil forms a three-dimensional figure of eight, a lucky number in Chinese culture. Drawing on motifs and patterns found in traditional Thai architecture, the eye-catching facade is clad in extruded aluminium tiles, creating a shimmering moire-like pattern.

Similar to other Park Hyatt hotels, art is intrinsic to the experience. Two of Park Hyatt Bangkok’s most dramatic installations were created by Japanese artist Hirotoshi Sawada. “Pagoda Mirage” incorporates hundreds of small, conical copper swirls, suspended en masse to evoke the reflection of a pagoda on water. Described as “equally striking,” is the “Naga” (Level 9), a series of batons suspended from the ceiling that resembles a mythical water dragon traveling between the pool and internal waterfall.

As the first Park Hyatt hotel in Thailand, the hotel created industry buzz well before its opening, earning the “Most Anticipated Hotel Opening” title in this year’s Travel Top 50 annual survey by Monocle. The project was scheduled for launch in 2014, but was delayed for three years due to “design issues.”



Davidson Hotels & Resorts announced the addition of Hotel Viking, an iconic 208-room historic property in Newport, R.I., into its portfolio, under its luxury and lifestyle division, Pivot Hotels & Resorts.

Known as the "City by the Sea," Newport once rivaled New York and Boston as a center of commerce and was said to be the preferred vacation destination for "America's First Families." Today, it remains one of the most affluent summer vacation destinations in the Northeast. Hotel Viking is located in the heart of Newport on Bellevue Ave., steps from Newport's historic mansions and other attractions.

Davidson's transition follows the acquisition of the property by an affiliate of KSL Capital Partners, LLC.

Originally opened in 1926, Hotel Viking's guest rooms are romantic, luxurious and classically adorned. Egyptian cotton bed linens, pillow top mattresses and ornately carved headboards create an elegant environment. Brimming with stories of famous dignitaries, Hotel Viking has offered gracious hospitality for over 90 years in a setting of style, comfort and modern amenities. Later this year, the hotel will undergo a multimillion-dollar update to its guest rooms and public spaces to enhance the guest experience.

Hotel Viking features multiple food and beverage outlets, including the award-winning One Bellevue Restaurant & Bar and the Top of Newport, a rooftop bar with views of the Newport Harbor and Narragansett Bay. The property also features nearly 15,000 square feet of meeting space, a fitness center and a full-service spa.



Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center unveiled its new waterfront venue, RiverView Ballroom, on Friday, May 12, during an intimate opening ceremony in National Harbor, Md. The 16,000-square-foot ballroom will welcome corporate meetings and social functions for groups in the Capital Region.

The RiverView Ballroom is being dubbed the Washington, D.C. area’s first infinity ballroom, as guests will feel as if they are floating on top of the Potomac River. The venue was also constructed to provide column-free, unobstructed panoramic views from its 270-degree, floor-to-ceiling windows.

The contemporary waterfront ballroom in National Harbor is designed to provide event-goers their own private venue outside of Gaylord National’s main meeting hub.

The ballroom comes equipped with modern technology, custom menu experiences and scenic views.

On top of its 16,000 square feet of meeting space, the ballroom also provides two outdoor terraces equaling more than 10,000 square feet of space. These terraces offer even more versatility for guests.

When it comes to food, planners can choose from new, interactive menu experiences designed around fresh, local fare with a focus on sustainability. Gaylord National’s executive chef curated themed menus that include Penang and Malaysian, Cuban, Southern Barbeque and Chesapeake Bay flavors—all of which offer expert culinarians and mixologists to assist attendees in making their own dining creations.

With the addition of RiverView Ballroom, Gaylord National now offers five ballrooms and more than 600,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor flexible meeting space—maintaining the resort’s claim to meetings fame as the largest non-gaming resort and convention center on the East Coast.


Melia Hotels International announced during the International Tourism Fair in Cuba that it will extend its presence in the center of the island with the addition of eight hotels, while also promoting destinations.

The company said it is committed to enhancing new hotels through their renovation and adaptation.

"[Renovating and promoting] these eight hotels are an important challenge which we face with great enthusiasm and responsibility, given that we are also taking on a commitment to strengthen the multi-destination vacation segment, guaranteeing the service and quality of the Melia, INNSIDE and Sol House brands from the east to the west of the island,” said Melia Vice President, Gabriel Escarrer Jaume.

The agreement between Melia Hotels International and the Cuban hotel groups, Gran Caribe, Cubanacan and Islazul, aims to promote organized multi-destination vacations that already include several towns and cities on the island, while at the same time adding new destinations, one of the objectives of a Cuban tourism strategy which seeks to enhance the visibility of a number of cities.

In the city of Cienfuegos, Melia will manage the 56-room San Carlos Hotel and the 49-room Union Hotel, both located in the historic center of Cienfuegos, declared a World Heritage Site in 2005. The company will also manage the Jagua Hotel in the same city, operating 173 rooms under the INNSIDE by Melia brand, the hotel company’s most avant-garde urban brand, and one of its most highly-rated worldwide.

In Trinidad, the company will renovate and manage the 279-room Ancon Hotel under the Sol House brand, as well as a 102-room hotel to be built at the end of the Ancon Peninsula under Melia branding.

Lastly, in Camaguey, Melia will begin to work with the Islazul hotel group to manage three hotels, two of them in the historic center of the city: the 72-room Gran Hotel and the 58-room Hotel Colón. INNSIDE by Melia will also be the brand applied to the 142-room Hotel Camaguey after an investment in renovation.

In 2015, Melia Hotels International celebrated the 25th anniversary of its operations in Cuba, and continues to announce that it maintains the same enthusiasm as ever for continuing to increase its quality and service in a destination it has always described as "privileged.” The company will assume responsibility for the hotels on Nov. 1, 2017, starting a transitional process in their management.

The hotel management agreement will be completed by Jan. 1, 2018.



The Billings Tourism Business Improvement District (BTBID), operating as Visit Billings, the tourism arm of Billings Chamber of Commerce and the DMO for the Billings community, was officially renewed by the Billings City Council in a unanimous vote last week on May 8. The effort for renewal began in 2016.

The BTBID renewal effort included the collection of signed petitions showing the contributions that Visit Billings had made to the local community and asking for support of the BTBID through 2027. Of the city’s 55 lodging partners, nearly 70% supported the extension of the BTBID for another 10 years. The BTBID board of directors and staff then went in front of the Billings City Council to request the renewal.

“The BTBID not only fills hotels, it supports events and attractions that make the Billings community better overall,” said BTBID Board Chair Shelli Mann with the Boothill Inn and Suites. “These funds are important to Billings and we’re encourage by the unanimous support of the [Billings] City Council.”

The renewal of the BTBID officially sunsets the first district on Sept. 30, 2017, and begins a second district, or 10-year term, on Oct. 1, 2017. A new board will be appointed by Mayor Tom Hanel to run the second district that is created. Applications for the second district’s board will be accepted this summer.


The U.S. Travel Association commented on the potential expansion of an electronics ban on incoming flights from Europe that is already in place for flights from 10 airports in the Middle East and Africa. The measure has not been formally announced, but “official government sources” and others have hinted at the ban.

Here is the message attributed to U.S. Travel Association Executive VP for Public Affairs Jonathan Grella.

“If there is a legitimate terror threat, the flying public needs to take it seriously and adjust to the new protocols as best they can,” Grella said. “Travelers have been through this kind of thing before and are more resilient than we often think—plus the consequences of a major attack on the transportation system hardly need to be repeated. Threats are ever-evolving, and so must we all be.

“Still, it is critical that the U.S. government clearly communicate the details of this new policy and the reasons why it’s needed, continually reassess it to ensure it remains relevant and effective, and actively seek protocols that neutralize threats while minimizing disruption for legitimate business and leisure travelers.

“May travel always be safe and convenient as possible. Kudos to airlines for prioritizing security, but especially the ones who also are providing safe devices to passengers to mitigate inconvenience.”

Various news outlets have suggested that the U.S. government could make an announcement on the expansion of the electronics ban to include Europe as early as Thursday, May 11, but so far this has not been confirmed.



The Myrtle Beach Marriott Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes, rising high above the Atlantic on the northern end of Myrtle Beach, revealed the completion of a $14 million makeover for the 2017 summer season.

The Marriott’s massive remodeling project, which began in October 2016 and is now completed, showcases 405 revamped guest rooms that were redesigned to include brand-new contemporary furniture, including chests, mirrors, artwork, closets, desks, chairs and beds. All rooms now also include 50-inch smart TVs. Guest room bathrooms were replaced with luxurious walk-in showers, mirrors, fixtures, commodes and lighting.

The hallways on the resort’s 11 floors were re-carpeted and updated as well.

For all types of business meetings and social gatherings, the resort offers 45,000 square feet of meeting space, gourmet catering options, modern AV equipment, a business center and high-speed internet.



Travel and hospitality representatives in Washington, D.C., announced that the nation's capital received 20 million domestic visitors in 2016, an increase of 3.4% over 2015 according to a DK SHIFFLET report.

The seventh consecutive record-breaking year for domestic visitation earned a record high visitor spend of $7.3 billion, according to IHS Markit, a year-over-year increase of 3.0%.

According to Destination DC, travel and tourism sustains more than 74,654 jobs in D.C.

The briefing occurred at Destination DC's (DDC) Travel Rally at the National Building Museum. Themed "Faces of Travel," the ninth annual assembly coincided with the U.S. Travel Association's National Travel and Tourism Week (May 7-13, 2017) that champions the impact of the industry on the economy.

"In 2016, Washington, D.C. welcomed 700,000 more domestic visitors than we did in 2015," said Elliott L. Ferguson, president and CEO of DDC, the official destination marketing organization for the District. "These numbers articulate the national appetite for new and enduring tourism inventory in the District.”

2016 marks the second time that visitor spending in Washington, D.C. surpassed $7 billion. Spending on accommodations grew 4.0% over 2015. Retail spending grew 1.6%. Spending on dining was up 2.7%.

In 2017, Washington, D.C. will host 21 citywide conventions with an estimated economic impact of $340 million, including Microsoft, the American College of Cardiology, and for the first time, Otakon. In 2018, the District will host 20 citywide conventions including True Value Company, another first-time group.



This spring, the Minneapolis Convention Center began using its recently installed stormwater storage system, which will keep an estimated 5.4 million gallons of stormwater from running off and into the Mississippi River each year. A series of large rainwater storage pipes buried under the center’s marshalling yard will collect runoff from the building’s roof, with a total storage capacity of 250,000 gallons. The stored water will be used to irrigate the landscaped areas all around the center, becoming the primary source of water for irrigation.

The system captures water from about 10 acres of the building’s roof and stores it in a network of 10- and 11-foot diameter corrugated steel pipes until it’s needed for irrigation. In addition to reducing stormwater runoff to the river, it also significantly lowers the center’s water costs by reducing the amount of potable water used.

This major project is a recognition of the importance of the Mississippi River and lakes to the region. As Minneapolis has embraced the riverfront in recent years as a draw for recreation, visitors and new businesses, the City of Minneapolis and many partners have invested in efforts to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff from properties in the city, which carries pollutants into the storm sewers.

This project will further the Minneapolis Convention Center’s efforts to attain United States Green Building Council LEED for Existing Buildings: Operation & Maintenance (EBOM) certification. The rainwater project will help by meeting the LEED credit requirements for Rainwater Management.

To learn more about sustainability initiatives, visit the Minneapolis Convention Center website.


The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) announced a record number of association meetings were held in 2016 and revealed its top cities for international association meetings.

According to ICCA, the association’s research captured 12,212 rotating international association meetings taking place in 2016, which is an all-time record for ICCA’s annual snapshot of immediate past year’s meetings data, and an increase of 136 additional meetings compared to numbers tallied in 2015.

Additionally, the data shows that the number of association meetings held in 2016 (12,212) is more than twice that of the numbers from a decade earlier in 2006, when just under 6,000 meetings were held.

The ICCA also released its annual list of top international association meeting cities.

Paris was the top city for international association meetings with 196 meetings held in 2016. The top 20 cities are shown below, with the total number of meetings held in parentheses next to each city.

ICCA’s Top 20 Cities for International Association Meetings

  1. Paris (196).
  2. Vienna (186).
  3. Barcelona (181).
  4. Berlin (176).
  5. London (153).
  6. Singapore (151).
  7. Amsterdam (144).
  8. Madrid (144).
  9. Lisbon (138).
  10. Seoul (137).
  11. Prague (126).
  12. Bangkok (121).
  13. Dublin (118).
  14. Copenhagen (115).
  15. Beijing (113).
  16. Budapest (108).
  17. Buenos Aires (103).
  18. Stockholm (101).
  19. Hong Kong (99).
  20. Rome (96).

ICCA also revealed its list of Top 20 Countries for International Association Meetings in 2016, with the U.S. taking the top spot with 934 meetings held, followed by Germany (689), the U.K. (582), France (545) and Spain (533). The full list and other information and statistics are available on the ICCA website.



The Florida Legislature passed an $82.4 billion state budget on Monday evening, officially ending its 2017 legislative session three days behind schedule. The budget failed to include requested funding for three of Gov. Rick Scott’s biggest priorities and saw the reduction of Visit Florida’s annual budget to just $25 million.

Gov. Rick Scott continues to be a strong proponent of Visit Florida’s role in increasing tourism across the state of Florida and had asked for a $100 million budget. In 2016, the DMO had a budget of $76 million.

As previously reported, Gov. Rick Scott has the ability to veto the entire budget, or more likely, do a line-item veto of the items that he most disagrees with. Scott has already hinted at a full or partial veto.

More information on the Florida Legislature’s vote is available via the Miami Herald.


A number of U.S. destinations are celebrating National Travel and Tourism Week 2017, which kicked off on Sunday, May 7. This year’s official theme is “Faces of Travel” and the event ends Saturday, May 13.

According to an official promotional video (linked above), National Travel and Tourism Week is a time “where travel and tourism professionals nationwide unite to shine a spotlight on the unique value that travel holds for our economy, our businesses, our communities … [in addition to] our personal lives.”

Here are a few highlights of ways destinations are celebrating the occasion.

According to the U.S. Travel Association, the Empire State Building lit up red on Tuesday—the official National Travel and Tourism Week color—to commemorate Travel Rally Day on Tues., May 9.

The New Orleans CVB reported that hundreds of New Orleans hospitality and tourism industry members paraded through the French Quarter and proclaimed the power of tourism in an event held on May 9.

Visit Grand Rapids, the DMO representing Grand Rapids, Mich., is sharing area travel and tourism faces through their social media and website throughout the week and encouraged businesses to participate.

Blount County, Tenn., a popular tourist spot near the Smoky Mountains, planned to celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week with a special event, Blount County’s Tourism Day, on Thurs., May 11.

VisitDallas and other major DMOs/CVBs across the U.S. also reported plans to celebrate the industry. For those interested in following along on social media, check out the event’s official hashtag #nttw17.



The Gwen, a Luxury Collection Hotel, announced the completion of the hotel’s full renovation; revealing newly designed guest rooms, suites and public spaces. Paying homage to pioneer Chicago sculptor Gwen Lux, The Gwen’s new rooms and public spaces aim to provide an elegant art deco guest experience.

“The Gwen takes guests back to the golden era of travel in Chicago,” said Director of Sales and Marketing, Marcus Cornelious. “Our new rooms add a new inviting and distinctive element.”

With 311 guest rooms and 34 suites, there’s one suite in particular that makes a stay at The Gwen especially memorable. The “masterpiece” of the renovation is the Gwen Lux Suite which sits high atop the hotel overlooking Michigan Ave. This suite includes one of the largest private outdoor terraces in all of Chicago (1,100 square feet) for guests to take in both, the magnificent city skyline and serene lakefront views. The hotel expects the suite to be booked regularly for business retreats and more.

Adding to the hotel’s city-centric elegance are the property’s two dining concepts: the Upstairs at the Gwen, the fifth-floor outdoor terrace with fire features and sweeping views of the city; and the Gwen’s Circa Lounge, offering all-day dining and weekly musical programming. Guests looking to explore the retailers of the neighboring Shops at North Bridge have easy access via an indoor walkway.

The Gwen also caters to business and corporate event travelers looking for a posh big city retreat. Located in the heart of Chicago off Michigan Ave., the four-star hotel encompasses more than 15,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting spaces while providing high quality service from its staff.


Despite a slew of headline-worthy incidents, it appears that customer satisfaction is on the rise for traditional and low-cost North American airlines, at least according to the latest J.D. Power study.

J.D. Power’s 2017 North American Airline Satisfaction Study attributed the rise in customer satisfaction to lower fares, better on-time performance, fewer lost bags and the lowest bump rate ever recorded.

“It’s impossible to think about airline customer satisfaction without replaying the recent images of a passenger being dragged from a seat, but our data shows that, as a whole, the airline industry has been making marked improvements in customer satisfaction across a variety of metrics, from ticket cost to flight crew,” said Michael Taylor, travel practice lead at J.D. Power. “As recent events remind us, however, airlines have significant room for improvement. Airlines still rank among the bottom tier of most service industries tracked by J.D. Power."

The North America Airline Satisfaction Study, now in its 13th year, measures passenger satisfaction with North American airline carriers based on performance in seven factors (in order of importance): cost & fees; in-flight services; aircraft; boarding/deplaning/baggage; flight crew; check-in; and reservation.

Scores are higher this year than one year ago in all of the study factors that measure customer satisfaction. This performance contributes to the steady improvement in customer satisfaction.

Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.

Following are some of the key findings of the 2017 study, as reported by J.D. Power:

  • Overall satisfaction reaches for the sky: Overall satisfaction with the airline industry in 2017 increases by a significant 30 points to 756, continuing a trend of steady performance increases that began in 2013. Both traditional and low-cost carriers have shown improvement, with the traditional carriers continuing to close the satisfaction gap (740 vs. 784, respectively).
  • Lower costs, fewer problems, satisfaction with crews drive improvement: The average North American airfare fell 8.5% in 2016 to $349, helping to drive satisfaction levels in the cost and fees factor in the study to the highest level since 2006. Improved on-time performance, fewer lost bags, historically low bump rates and high scores for flight crews contribute to the increase.
  • Social media is feedback tool of choice: Among business travelers, 21% posted a comment about their airline experience on social media, while 8% of leisure travelers did the same. It is worth noting that nearly three-fourths of social media comments are described as “positive” by those posting. The most commonly used social media platforms are Facebook (81%) and Twitter (41%). When an airline responds to any post there is a 121-point lift in passenger satisfaction.
  • “Ladies and gentlemen, the overhead bins are full…”: After a slight dip in 2016, passenger problems with overhead storage has become more common, with 14% of passengers in 2017 reporting this as an issue on their flight. Satisfaction among flyers having difficulty with overhead storage is 82 points lower than among those who don’t have difficulty. The problem is inversely related to age, as younger travelers are more likely to experience a storage issue.
  • Bumping occurs infrequently—but significantly affects satisfaction: Although instances of denial of boarding and re-booking to another flight (bumping) have reached historic lows in frequency, they have the greatest negative influence on overall satisfaction. However, when there are delays, such as those caused by weather or mechanical issues, satisfaction levels fall by 101 points when a traditional carrier is delayed and by 59 points for a low-cost carrier delay.

J.D. Power also released rankings for the airlines with the highest customer satisfaction levels. The company reported that Alaska Airlines ranked highest among traditional carriers—for the 10th consecutive year—with an index score of 765. Delta Airlines ranked second with a 758 score.

Meanwhile, among low-cost carriers, Southwest Airlines took the top spot for the first time with a score of 807, improving across all seven factors measured. JetBlue Airways ranked second with an 803 score.

According to travel industry website Skift, Hawaiian Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Allegiant Air were not included in the J.D. Power Study, as the three airlines did not meet J.D. Power’s criteria for inclusion.

The J.D. Power-led study measures passenger satisfaction among both business and leisure travelers, and is based on responses from 11,015 passengers who flew on a major North American airline between March 2016 and March 2017. The most recent study was fielded between April 2016 and March 2017.

More information about the Airline Satisfaction Study is available on the J.D. Power website.


The U.S. Travel Association released the latest version of its Travel Trends Index (TTI) and with it comes a warning of a projected slowdown in the months ahead for international inbound travel growth.

U.S. Travel released the following statement and quote with the Travel Trends Index.

“Numerous reports have held that international travel to the U.S. has measurably declined as a direct result of President Donald Trump's executive orders on visas and immigration, the first of which was issued on January 27. However, U.S. Travel economists urge caution, both because the strong dollar, coupled with a weakening global economy, was already having an impact and because any effects of the executive orders could not have shown up in economic data instantaneously.

“Because of lag times between searches for international travel to the U.S. and actual trips—56.9 days on average, according to data provided to U.S. Travel by the research firm ADARA—any fallout from the Trump executive orders would begin to be captured in April travel data.

“Therefore, the most comprehensive measurement of the executive order's effects to date will be offered by the Travel Trends Index due to be released on June 6.

"Think about it: practically no one who travels internationally books a trip, then gets on a plane the next day," said U.S. Travel Senior Vice President for Research David Huether. "It takes nearly two full months for the average traveler to search for a trip online, book it, then actually travel.”

According to the TTI data, travel to and within the U.S. grew at a faster year-over-year rate in March 2017 than in February 2017. Domestic travel posted strong growth, with business travel growth notably surpassing leisure travel, thanks in part to the timing of holidays like Easter and Passover this year.

According to U.S. Travel, a TTI reading of 50 or more indicates positive growth, while a reading below 50 indicates decline. International inbound travel's Current Travel Index (CTI) reading of 50.2 shows that the sector grew in March, albeit at a much slower year-over-year pace than in previous months.

A PDF of U.S. Travel’s Travel Trends Index is available on the U.S. Travel website.



Florida lawmakers settled on an $82.4 billion budget last Friday, May 5, but they have to return on Monday—three days later than scheduled—to finish the legislative session. At this time it appears that the Florida Legislature agreed on a $25 million budget for Visit Florida, a reduction of $51 million over the previous year.

Visit Florida President and CEO Ken Lawson commented on the proposed budget cut on Friday.

“Because of the Legislature's decision, our ability to assist your business and community, as well as compete against other states to bring visitors to Florida, will be negatively impacted,” Lawson wrote in his weekly email message to the Visit Florida supporters on the battle for funding. “In the next several weeks, we will review and respond to the Legislature's decision and will keep you informed as always.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran was behind the push for reduced funding to Visit Florida following a controversy that involved paying Miami rapper Pitbull $1 million for a state marketing campaign. Gov. Rick Scott supported Visit Florida throughout the session and even pushed for a $100 million budget.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, “the consistent criticism led by [Gov.] Scott has raised the prospect that he could veto the entire budget, something that hasn’t been done since 1992.”

More information on the Florida Legislature’s final budget is available on the Orlando Sentinel website. Meetings Today will continue to monitor the situation as it develops and provide updates on the website.

UPDATE: The Florida Legislature approved the $82.4 billion budget on Monday evening.



Shaner Hotels announced the opening of the 120-room Courtyard by Marriott Hershey Chocolate Avenue in Hershey, Pa. The hotel is owned by Bears Creek Hershey Hotel, LLC, a joint development between Shaner and Chafia Capital Partners, a real estate investment and private equity firm.

Located at 515 E. Chocolate Ave., the four-story hotel is nestled between downtown Hershey, the Hershey Country Club, Hershey Chocolate World, Hersheypark and the Hershey Medical Center.

“While we always design our hotels to be a part of the local community, we took special steps for this property to architecturally enhance it to match Hershey’s historic downtown, providing such local touches as brick and limestone,” said Shaner Hotels Group Inc. President Plato Ghinos.

Hotel amenities include guest laundry, fitness room, indoor pool and full-service business center. The hotel features the Courtyard Refreshing Business lobby and guest rooms offer free Wi-Fi.

“This property is configured to comfortably accommodate both business and leisure travelers that are coming to Hershey in larger numbers every year,” said Lance Shaner, Shaner Hotels chairman. “That’s what made this location so appealing, its close proximity to all the key locations in the city.”

The Courtyard by Marriott Hershey Chocolate Avenue includes a 1,000-square-foot meeting room.



The 403-room Embassy Suites by Hilton Denver Downtown - Convention Center announced the completion of a major property renovation that included new furniture, lighting, carpet and soft goods in the guest rooms, in addition to a new commissioned two-story art and water feature within the hotel.

The hotel’s 27,000 square feet of meeting space, which can host up to 650 people for a meeting or event, now features fresh carpet and design, along with three new Executive Board Rooms.

“With the Denver hotel market booming, this remodel definitely helps to position us as a more upscale downtown hotel with an urban, boutique vibe,” said General Manager Ed Blair. “True to our Colorado design inspiration, our staff is happy to recommend their favorite local hiking trail, 14’er or mountain getaway. We also proudly pour a variety of Colorado craft beers at our nightly manager’s reception.”

Located in the heart of downtown Denver, across the street from the Colorado Convention Center, the Embassy Suites by Hilton Denver Downtown Convention Center hotel is walking distance to the Denver Center for Performing Arts, Coors Field, Denver Union Station, the Pepsi Center, and much more. The location also provides access to Denver’s extensive Light Rail System. Additional amenities include a saline-based indoor swimming pool, 24-hour fitness facility and 24-hour BusinessLink Business Center.

Managed by Denver’s Sage Hospitality, the Silver LEED Certified Embassy Suites by Hilton Denver Downtown Convention Center is owned by Carey Watermark Investors 2 (CWI 2), a non-traded REIT.



Andaz San Diego, located in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, unveiled its newly finished $4 million renovation. The completed design draws from the neighborhood’s rich culture of art, staking Andaz as the place for makers, doers and creators to connect, unwind and be inspired by local works.

“The Andaz redesign is about staying true to the essence of our neighborhood while bringing something amazing back to it,” said Andaz San Diego General Manager Shane Nicolopoulos.

The reimagined Andaz San Diego includes a chic new event space, “The Gallery,” featuring intimate nooks for gathering, and amenity upgrades to all 159 rooms and suites. The new social spaces add to the existing 18,000 square feet of meeting spaces and are woven with local art to inspire those who gather.

The hotel’s 142 guest rooms, 13 junior suites and four lifestyle suites have been remade for comfort, yet are steeped in style. Additions include luxury mattresses, modern furniture and lighting, couches that pull out for lounging, and richer carpet, tile and wood flooring. Original artwork was also added.


Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) announced its 2017 “30 Under 30” class, which will convene for the first time at the association’s Annual Convention in Montreal, Canada July 11-14.

“One of the main priorities for our industry today is developing our workforce, and specifically our leadership, for tomorrow,” Destination and Travel Foundation Chairman Joe Marinelli said. “The ‘30 Under 30’ initiative gives us the ability to do both. It has been exciting to watch the enthusiasm of these young professionals as they form a network they can rely on. Attending the Annual Convention will ... deliver the critical insight they will need."

Now in its seventh year, “30 Under 30” is supported by founding program partner SearchWide, and sponsored by IMEX and USAE. The 30 individuals, 30 years of age and under, will have the opportunity to engage in professional development and networking opportunities throughout 2017. The honorees originate from a variety of DMOs, including Meet Puerto Rico, Destination DC, Travel Oregon, Visit Wichita and Brand USA.

The program benefits include: complimentary registration and accommodations for three nights during DMAI’s 2017 Annual Convention; complimentary registration for Fundamentals in Destination Marketing, the first course of DMAI’s PDM program; and a year-round development focus, including access to an online community.

The 2017 "30 Under 30" class includes:

  • Jose Arana, Marketing & Communications Executive, Meet Puerto Rico.
  • Jake Buchheit, Marketing & Communications Coordinator, Visit KC.
  • Lauren Cleland, Digital Content Strategist, Visit Savannah.
  • Kenzie Coleman, Sales Manager, Visit Omaha.
  • Jamie Cox, Marketing Coordinator, Visit Franklin/Williamson County CVB.
  • Katie Egresi, Graphic Designer, Experience Columbus.
  • Kimberly Franz, Marketing Director, Dunwoody CVB.
  • Andrea Gardi, Senior Project Manager, Regional Tourism Organization 4 Inc.
  • Drew Hays, Sports Sales Manager, Visit Wichita.
  • Emily Hendricks, Creative Services Coordinator, Visit Saint Paul.
  • Kate Herron, Director of Marketing, Experience Grand Rapids.
  • Britt Hijkoop, Senior Manager, International PR, NYC & Company.
  • Ahmed Ibrahim, Membership Sales Manager, Destination DC.
  • Natalie Jamieson, Manager of Research & Data Analysis, Visit Baltimore.
  • Cambria Jones, Marketing Specialist, Allen CVB.
  • Chandler Jones, Account Manager, Austin CVB.
  • Victoria Lightfoot, Public Relations Specialist, Atlanta CVB.
  • Roxanne Lombard, Senior Researcher, Cape Town Tourism.
  • Wesley Lucas, Communications Manager, Frisco CVB.
  • Aime O'Keefe, Senior Web Specialist, Discover The Palm Beaches.
  • Sarah Radzanowski, Tourism Product Developer, Edmonton Tourism.
  • Kara Reed, Convention Services Manager, Visit Indy.
  • Daniel Schwartz, Senior Manager, Tourism, San Francisco Travel Association.
  • Brian Screptock, Manager, Partner Services, Brand USA.
  • Lauren St Martin, Public Communications Specialist, Pasco County Board of County Commissioners Office of Tourism Development (Visit Pasco).
  • Joe Tacynec, Creative Director, Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board.
  • Maranda Tippin, Site Experience Specialist, San Diego Tourism Authority.
  • Elena Vizzini, Destination Development Coordinator, Travel Oregon.
  • Ivette Wilhelm, Public Relations Manager, Galveston Island CVB.
  • Angela Wirkler, Group Sales Manager, Boulder CVB.

DMAI is the largest association resource for official DMOs, CVBs and tourism boards.


The PCMA Education Foundation announced the winners of its 2017 Lifetime Achievement Awards, which included a planner, educator and supplier in the industry, in addition to the winners of its 2017 Professional Excellence Awards at the Marriott Marquis Washington, D.C. on May 3, 2017.

“Our 2017 honorees and award winners’ accomplishments serve as inspiration to both industry veterans and novices alike,” said PCMA President & CEO, Deborah Sexton. “Each an expert in their profession—always endeavoring to lead the advancement of their organizations and the business events industry.”

Here’s the list of award winners, as presented by PCMA.

2017 Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees [announced in 2016]

  • Martin (Marty) Balogh, Associate Executive Director, Meetings and Travel Group, American Bar Association - 2017 Meeting Professional Honoree.
  • Carol Krugman, MEd, CMP, CMM, Chair of the Department of Hospitality, Tourism & Events, Metropolitan State University of Denver - 2017 Educator Honoree.
  • Barry Smith, President & CEO, Metro Toronto Convention Centre - 2017 Supplier Honoree.

2017 Professional Excellence Award Winners [announced live]

  • Danielle L. Urbina, CMP, Director of Meetings and Exhibits with the American Society of Anesthesiologists – Meeting Professional of the Year.
  • Megan D. Tate, CMM, Vice President, Meeting & Event Planning Manager with Wells Fargo – Event Designer of the Year.
  • Jennifer L. Erney, CMP, CASE, Accor Hotels and most recently with ALHI – Supplier of the Year.
  • Peter C. O’Brien, CASE, Global Account Executive with Marriott Global Sales Organization – Community Advocate of the Year.

The 2017 Professional Excellence Award Winners were selected from PCMA’s membership, which is made up of nearly 7,000 members. PCMA is the world’s largest network of business events strategists.

More information on the Professional Excellence Award Winners is available on the PCMA website.



Starting today (May 3), the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau (Austin CVB) will answer to a new name: Visit Austin. The CVB said research indicates the change will make it even more noticeable.

“Our ultimate goal in changing our name to ‘Visit Austin’ was to make it easier for visitors and meeting planners alike to find relevant information and resources when researching Austin as a destination,” said Tom Noonan, president and CEO of Visit Austin. “Convention and visitors bureaus all over the U.S. are moving away from the traditional CVB titles because the terminology doesn’t truly capture the role of what we are trying to accomplish, especially in Austin. We want people to visit Austin and see the amazing things we are doing here as a leisure, meetings and conventions destination.”

Visit Austin is only an organizational name change as it is still formally the Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau doing business as Visit Austin. Austin CVB has been identified on social media channels as “Visit Austin” and will now use the title for their rebranding, logos, advertising and marketing. 


The James Beard Foundation revealed its annual line-up of top restaurants and chefs at the 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards held at Lyric Opera of Chicago on Mon., May 1, 2017. During a ceremony hosted by Emmy Award-nominated actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, awards in the Restaurant and Chef and Restaurant Design categories were presented, as well as a number of special achievement awards.

Highlights from this year’s list of winners include:

  • Best New Restaurant: Le Coucou, New York City.
  • Outstanding Chef: Michael Solomonov, Zahav, Philadelphia.
  • Outstanding Pastry Chef: Ghaya Oliveira, Daniel, New York City.
  • Outstanding Restaurant: Topolobampo, Chicago.
  • Outstanding Restaurateur: Stephen Starr, Starr Restaurants, Philadelphia.
  • Rising Star Chef: Zachary Engel, Shaya, New Orleans.

Industry leaders from across the country attended the ceremony where the theme of the evening was “Powered by Food,” which celebrated the ways that technology has strengthened our connections through food, from the blog post that sparks a trend, to the Instagram posts that inspire us each day.

Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields and furthers the Foundation’s mission to celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America's food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone.

Each award category has an individual committee made up of industry professionals who volunteer their time to oversee the policies, procedures, and selection of judges for their respective Awards program.

All JBF Award winners receive a certificate and a medallion engraved with the James Beard Foundation Awards insignia. There are no cash prizes. The 2017 James Beard Foundation Awards were hosted by Choose Chicago and the Illinois Restaurant Association and presented in association with the Chicago Department of Aviation, HMSHost, Illinois Office of Tourism, and Mariano's, alongside other partners.

The full list of 2017 James Beard Foundation award winners is available on the JBF blog.



InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) announced a milestone in the construction of a new InterContinental Hotels & Resorts property at the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. The project, made possible by a partnership led by Graves Hospitality and Intercontinental Real Estate Corporation, broke ground in October 2016, and the concrete foundation was recently completed in April/May 2017.

The hotel is on track to open summer of 2018.

This will be the second InterContinental Hotels & Resorts property in the Twin Cities, and joins the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront hotel located in downtown Saint Paul.

The InterContinental Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport hotel will connect to Terminal 1-Lindbergh, the airport's largest and most recently renovated terminal, via a climate-controlled sky bridge to Concourse C—where it will intersect with the A and B Concourses. The hotel will have its own TSA security checkpoint, and the sky bridge will offer guests direct and easy access to their flights.

The 12-story building will offer 291 rooms, including nine suites, two restaurants, a penthouse-level observation bar, a signature InterContinental Club Lounge, a business center, a fitness center and a world-class spa. The InterContinental Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport hotel will offer 20,000 square feet of meeting space with a 10,800-square-foot ballroom. Located in front of the hotel will be an Art Park visible by cars as they enter the airport. The hotel will also have its own dedicated parking.

The Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport (MSP) is located 12 miles from downtown Minneapolis, eight miles from downtown St. Paul, and less than five miles from the Mall of America—the largest shopping complex in North America—with a light rail line that runs directly from the airport to the Mall.


The U.S. Department of State reinstated a travel advisory for Europe, declaring that “widely-reported incidents in France, Russia, Sweden and the U.K.,” have demonstrated the potential for future terrorist attacks.

“U.S. citizens should always be alert to the possibility that terrorist sympathizers or self-radicalized extremists may conduct attacks with little or no warning,” an official State Department release stated.

The State Department’s alert suggested that tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls and local government facilities were the locations most likely to be targeted in an attack.

“If you are traveling between countries in Europe, please check the website of the U.S. embassy or consulate in your destination city for any recent security messages," the State Department suggested. "Review security information from local officials, who are responsible for the safety and security of all visitors."

The State Department’s last terror alert for Europe was issued on Nov. 21, 2016, and expired on Feb. 20, 2017. The new alert, issued on Monday, May 1, 2017, is set to expire on Sept. 1, 2017.



Omni Hotels & Resorts announced it acquired Time Warner Inc.’s 50 percent interest in the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center, and now has full ownership and management of the property. Omni Hotels & Resorts partnered with Turner Broadcasting in 2000 to acquire the hotel’s south tower.

Omni also made plans to build the 600-room north tower, which opened in 2003.

Nestled in the heart of downtown Atlanta, the hotel connects to the CNN Center, Georgia World Congress Center and the College Football Hall of Fame, making it ideally located for leisure, business and convention travelers. The property features 1,059 guest rooms and suites and 45 meeting rooms with more than 120,000 square feet of function space, including a 19,864-square-foot Grand Ballroom.

Additionally, Omni Hotels & Resorts announced the appointment of Manuel Deisen as general manager of the hotel. Deisen joins the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center from the Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta, where he has been the property’s General Manager since 2012. Throughout his career, he has held numerous leadership positions at a number of Ritz-Carlton properties, including Florida’s Amelia Island, Orlando Grande Lakes, Golf Resort Naples, as well as Boston Common in Massachusetts, among others.

“Omni Hotels & Resorts’ complete acquisition of the Omni Atlanta Hotel at CNN Center demonstrates our commitment to owning hotels which allows us to manage in an environment where all interests are aligned and focused on delivering a superior guest experience,” said Jim Caldwell, CEO of Omni Hotels & Resorts. “We are also very pleased to welcome Manuel to Omni. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated a leadership ability … and we look forward to many successful years with him.”



It appears that Visit Florida has been unable to catch a break so far in budget negotiations, at least according to a recent update from Florida Senator Joe Negron on a roughly $83 billion state budget outline that would reduce the DMO’s funding to $25 million from the previous year’s $76 million alloted amount.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are still haggling over final details in the state budget, but no further details were provided on the remaining differences.

Visit Florida President Ken Lawson urged Florida residents to call and email the Florida Legislature to tell them why funding Visit Florida is so important. Lawson and Florida Gov. Rick Scott are still pushing for an increased $100 million budget for the DMO, but certainly at least hope to maintain the previous year's budget.

U.S. Travel also issued a release in support of Gov. Scott’s $100 million Visit Florida budget proposal. The Florida Legislature has until Tuesday, May 2, to finalize a budget if it wants to end the session on time.

More information on the Florida budget negotiations is available via the Orlando Sentinel.


The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), the association for the global business travel industry, hosted its 15th annual Legislative Summit last week. Over 110 GBTA members representing 26 states attended, calling on lawmakers to prohibit the use of voice calls on planes and ensure the Passenger Security Fee goes toward new technologies and trusted traveler programs rather than being diverted to pay down the deficit.

GBTA members outlined the following “top issues” with Congress:

  • No Calls on Planes: GBTA continues to disapprove of allowing voice calls on planes as it is disruptive, a potential security threat and should be banned from the time the aircraft door is closed until the flight lands. GBTA believes Congress should enact legislation that sets policy for the Department of Transportation (DOT) and prohibits the use of voice calls on planes.
  • Passenger Security Fees: GBTA believes that increasing the passenger security fee to offset the cost of other priorities unrelated to aviation security is bad policy. The answer lies in developing a more efficient risk-based screening system that fully ensures security while eliminating unnecessary travel hassles and expenses—not raising fees on travelers.

The Legislative Summit kicked off with a full day of discussions with top industry insiders, political strategists, administration officials and lawmakers on key travel issues including FAA Reauthorization, passenger rights, ATC reform, PFCs, biometric exit, TSA PreCheck and REAL ID.

Speakers included Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); John Wagner, Customs and Border Protection; Holly Woodruff Lyons, House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; Winsome Lenfert, FAA; Steve Yonkers, Department of Homeland Security; and Simone Davis, TSA.

“Given the importance of business travel as a critical economic driver, we need lawmakers to adopt policies that support our business travelers and help our industry grow,” said Michael W. McCormick, GBTA executive director and COO. “I’m pleased to see so many of our members flying in to D.C. to advocate for our industry."


Hilton announced it will hire an additional 20,000 veterans, spouses, dependents and caregivers by 2020. The company achieved 10,000 military hires in the United States since 2013, exceeding its initial goal two years ahead of schedule. Hilton’s commitment is said to be the largest in the hospitality industry.

“Military veterans and their families have made incredible sacrifices for our country, and we are strongly committed to ensuring they have great jobs when they return home from service,” said Christopher J. Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton. “We’ve always felt strongly about this issue since our founder Conrad Hilton himself was a military veteran, and we are very proud of our veteran team members.”

The expanded hiring commitment is part of Hilton’s Operation: Opportunity program, which provides wide-ranging support to U.S. veterans and their families. The program offers flexible work opportunities and continuity of employment during long deployments and after location moves. Hilton partnered with the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to connect military caregivers with Hilton Reservations & Customer Care jobs that enable remote working. Hilton has hired more than 1,000 military spouses and dependents.

To position new hires for success, Hilton has developed extensive resources and support programs for veterans, including reserve pay benefits, tailored development resources, internship programs, on-the-job training, a dedicated Veteran Team Member Resource Group and special recognitions for veterans.

In addition to hiring veterans and their families, Hilton also donates Hilton Honors Points for veterans to redeem for free hotel stays while seeking jobs, trainings or certifications with Hilton or other industries.



The Darcy, a contemporary hotel located just six blocks from the White House and around the corner from the trendy 14th Street corridor in Washington, D.C., is now part of the Curio Collection by Hilton.

The Darcy Washington D.C., Curio Collection by Hilton, joins the rapidly-growing collection brand of locally authentic hotels as its first property in the nation’s capital. A destination unto itself not far from the cosmopolitan Logan Circle neighborhood, The Darcy—which takes its name from a well-dressed and well-traveled fictional character—is a short walk from four Metro stations and D.C.’s noted landmarks.

“The Darcy Washington D.C. is as eclectic and remarkable as the district it serves, delivering a truly authentic experience for guests looking for one-of-a-kind discoveries,” said Mark Nogal, global head, Curio Collection by Hilton and Tapestry Collection by Hilton. “Newly recreated, The Darcy exudes the spirit of its destination as do all Curio Collection hotels … through ambiance and local partnerships.”

The Darcy Washington D.C.’s design, led by Christian Schnyder, owner and principal of the prestigious Beleco Designs in Los Angeles, is inspired by the American Beauty Rose, the city’s official flower. Its look intersperses European-inspired elements of mixed wood with distressed metals and bright colors.

Restaurants include seafood-focused Siren, offering up seafood reeled in form the world’s waterways, and the more casual Lil’ B Coffee & Eatery, a street-level hangout serving a southern-inspired menu.

The Darcy holds a variety of flexible meeting spaces, including the Logan Ballroom for up to 200.


The Plan Your Meetings division of MPI released a free, interactive U.S. map showing state-by-state gun laws as they relate to meeting and event venues. The map was created as a starting point for discussion.

When examining the map, meeting and event planners can select a state to reveal the general status of handgun and long gun possession in the state, including whether or not permits are required. The map also provides information related to exemptions in the law that apply to potential meeting and event venues.

More information on the map and related links are available on the Plan Your Meetings website.



Palace Resorts announced its Le Blanc Spa Resort brand will debut its second property in Mexico, Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos, in fall 2017. The brand already has a flagship property in Cancun.

The beachfront, all-inclusive property will feature a spa, a hydrotherapy facility, a fitness center, a wellness center, four plunge pools, butler service and over 14,000 square feet of meeting space.

“We are so excited to continue to grow our most coveted brand, Le Blanc Spa Resort,” said Gibran Chapur, executive vice president of Palace Resorts. “It only made perfect sense, to do so in a destination such as Los Cabos, a magical place known for its … [untouched beauty and impressive landscapes]."

The 373-room Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos will be comprised of four buildings that curve toward the ocean, with a design that is influenced by the flora and fauna of Los Cabos, and other natural elements.

The resort’s meeting facilities will include the 8,912-square-foot Blanc Convention space for up to 630 attendees, alongside three smaller meeting rooms with the latest in technology and AV equipment.

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