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Country Inns & Suites By Carlson announced the opening of Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Fergus Falls, Minn., located off Interstate 94. The hotel offers 96 guest rooms and suites.

“Country Inn & Suites By Carlson, Fergus Falls, Minn., shows our commitment to growth and expansion here in our home state of Minnesota,” said Jeffrey Freund, senior vice president, Midscale Brands, Americas, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group. “Country Inns & Suites is committed to providing both business and leisure guests a comfortable hospitality experience that makes them feel at home.”

Hotel guests have access to an array of amenities including free Wi-Fi and a fitness center. The hotel also has the largest indoor pool in town, which is shaped as the state of Minnesota. Guests can enjoy the brand’s signature complimentary, hot Be Our Guest breakfast served daily on classic dining ware.

Country Inn & Suites By Carlson recently made improvements to the hotel’s breakfast area, fitness center and guest corridors. The hotel also announced it would undergo further renovations in 2017.

The Fergus Falls hotel connects to the Bigwood Event Center, which offers 12,000 square feet of space for meetings and special events. The Wright Ballroom can fit up to 600 people or it can be divided into smaller boardrooms. Each room is equipped with teleconferencing capabilities and LCD projection screens. Z103 Bar & Grill is also located within the hotel. The restaurant is open daily.



Marriott International announced the opening of Four Points Cleveland Airport, the brand's first hotel in Cleveland. The new Four Points offers approachable design, stylish comfort and signature amenities.

Owned by NextGen Hotels, the recently renovated Four Points Cleveland Airport features 147 guest rooms and 6,500 square feet of flexible, state-of-the-art meeting space. Amenities include an indoor heated pool, a 24-hour fitness center, a business center and free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel.

"Four Points Cleveland Airport will attract today's business and leisure traveler by providing them with stylish accommodations and a relaxing atmosphere," said Santos Galarza, general manager, Four Points Cleveland Airport. "We will also offer guests a wide selection of local brews as part of the Best Brews program at the Four Points bar, which is the perfect spot to unwind at the end of the day."

Four Points is on track to expand its portfolio of rooms by nearly 60% in the next five years with new hotels strategically located. At least 20 hotels are scheduled to launch in 2017, with more on the way.



Wyndham executives, city leaders, local meeting professionals and other guests gathered on Jan. 18, 2017, to cut the ribbon on the thirty-third Wyndham Grand in the world at Clearwater Beach in Florida. It is the latest addition to Wyndham’s 8,000 strong hotel portfolio.

“This is the number one beach in the country according to TripAdvisor and I ask myself, ‘How else can I sell this destination?’ Well, all we have to do is show off this hotel,” said David Downing, executive director, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, during the ribbon cutting event.

The $200 million, 343-room Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach offers views of the Gulf of Mexico or Intracoastal Waterway, depending on where guests are staying at the resort.

“I’m so impressed with Clearwater and what they’ve done to promote this area and now this hotel,” Downing said. “We believe in the power of tourism and it is a testament to the future of Clearwater to have an investment like this.”

The resort, located within 30 minutes of the area’s two international airports, offers 12 meeting rooms—including the nearly 11,000-square-foot Dunes Ballroom which can accommodate up to 800 people—complete with terraces, outdoor function space, free Wi-Fi and state-of-the-art technology like programmable chandeliers which can change colors and light patterns.

“We look forward to welcoming meeting attendees to experience beach, boating, dining and shopping just steps from the hotel,” said David Yamada, the property’s general manager.

Ocean Hai, the signature Asian-Fusion restaurant—with an eight-seat sushi bar—can seat a total of more than200 overlooking the Gulf of Mexico with sunset views. DocK’s serves sandwiches, tacos and other light fare, poolside. There is also eSKPades, the barista and lobby bar.

The approximately 6,000-square-foot Pallavi Spa, using Elemis products, has six treatment rooms, included couple’s retreat and space for mani-pedis.


Hyatt Hotels Corporation announced that Hyatt has acquired Miraval Group, a wellness resort and spa company famous for its flagship property in Tucson, Ariz., from an affiliate of KSL Capital Partners, LLC.

For over 20 years, Miraval’s Tucson property has been considered one of the nation’s leading wellness resorts, offering a comprehensive program of activities, experiences and treatments focused on balance.

Along with acquiring the flagship Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa, Hyatt will continue Miraval’s plans to redevelop the recently acquired 220-acre Travaasa Resort in Austin, Texas, and pursue the acquisition and redevelopment of the 380-acre Cranwell Spa & Golf Resort in Lenox, Mass. The transaction also includes the Miraval Life in Balance Spa brand, which debuted in Dana Point, Calif., in early 2016.

“The Miraval acquisition reflects our commitment to super serving the high-end traveler and finding new ways to understand and care for them,” said Mark Hoplamazian, president and CEO, Hyatt Hotels Corporation. “We know that wellness is an area that is becoming increasingly important to our guests and we share Miraval’s belief that wellness is more than fitness and nutrition—it’s a lifestyle.”

The acquisition includes an initial investment of $215 million for the Miraval brand and the resorts in Tucson and Austin. Hyatt expects to invest an additional $160 million over the next two to three years to fund the expansion of the Tucson resort, the redevelopment of the Austin resort and the acquisition and redevelopment of the Lenox resort. Hyatt will fund the investment with current operating cash flows and proceeds from the sale of existing assets, consistent with Hyatt’s asset recycling program.

Miraval will form a distinct new wellness category within the Hyatt portfolio of brands. Steven Rudnitsky, president and CEO of Miraval Group, will continue to drive the brand’s growth strategy, reporting to Mark Hoplamazian and working with the existing Miraval leadership team and associates.

“Importantly, the acquisition also extends the Hyatt brand into adjacent spaces beyond traditional hotel stays, which is core to Hyatt’s global growth strategy,” Hoplamazian said. “We recognize the business opportunity within the $420 billion wellness-tourism category and understand the rising demand.”



Marriott International announced the opening of Aloft Louisville East, the brand's second Aloft in Louisville. Owned by M&T, LLC and developed by CRM Companies/PWM Real Estate Holdings, LLC., Aloft Louisville East features 126 loft-style rooms, more than 3,500 square feet of flexible meeting space and live music performances at the hotel's signature W XYZ Bar and the outdoor Carloftis Courtyard.

"We are pleased to grow our presence in Louisville with the opening of the city's second Aloft hotel, where travelers will enjoy urban-inspired design, tech-forward amenities and live acoustic music," said Toni Stoeckl, global brand leader and vice president, Distinctive Select Brands. "Catering to the needs of today's savvy global traveler, Aloft has hotels in over 100 dynamic destinations worldwide."

Aloft Louisville East is close to Baptist East, Tom Sawyer Park, Ford Motor Company, and General Electric. The hotel is approximately 15 minutes from the Kentucky International Convention Center, KFC Yum! Center, Muhammad Ali Center, Louisville Slugger Field and Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory.


Historic Hotels of America inducted 37 historic hotels into membership in 2016. The oldest historic hotel inducted dates to 1789. Hotels nominated and accepted into the prestigious National Trust for Historic Preservation Historic Hotels of America program in 2016 range in age from 227 years to 51 years old.

These newly inducted historic hotels represent 19 states and include Hotel Captain Cook, the first member hotel in the state of Alaska. Nine of the hotels are in the National Register of Historic Places.

Historic Hotels of America welcomed these new members in 2016:

  • The Georges (1789) Lexington, Va. (AR)
  • Woodstock Inn & Resort (1793) Woodstock, Vt.
  • The Bedford Village Inn (1810) Bedford, N.H. (AR)
  • Historic Hotels of Lake Geneva (1856) Lake Geneva, Wisc. (AR)
  • Plaza Hotel 1882 (1882) Las Vegas, N.M.
  • Montvale Hotel (1899) Spokane, Wash. (NRHP)
  • The DeSoto (1890; 1968) Savannah, Ga.
  • AKA Times Square (1893) New York, N.Y. (NRHP)
  • Ames Boston Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton (1893) Boston, Mass.(AR,NRHP)
  • White Stallion Ranch (1900) Tucson, Ariz.
  • Pioneer Inn (1901) Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
  • The Redbury New York (1903) New York, N.Y.
  • XV Beacon (1903) Boston, Massachusetts (NRHP)
  • AKA Wall Street (1907) New York, N.Y.(AR)
  • AKA Rittenhouse Square (1912) Philadelphia, Penn. (AR)
  • Claremont Club & Spa, A Fairmont Hotel (1915) Berkeley, Calif.
  • Hotel Congress (1918) Tucson, Ariz. (NRHP)
  • Marriott Syracuse Downtown (1924) Syracuse, N.Y. (NRHP)
  • The Scarlet Huntington (1924) San Francisco, Calif.
  • La Valencia Hotel (1926) La Jolla, Calif.
  • dusitD2 Hotel Constance Pasadena (1926) Pasadena, Calif.
  • The Hollywood Roosevelt (1927) Los Angeles, Calif.
  • NOPSI Hotel New Orleans, a Salamander Hotel (1927) New Orleans, La. (AR)
  • Hotel Durant- Berkeley (1928) Berkeley, Calif.
  • The Renwick Hotel New York City, Curio Collection by Hilton (1928) New York, N.Y. (AR)
  • AKA Sutton Place (1929) New York, N.Y.
  • Silver Birches Resort (1929) Hawley, Penn.
  • Hotel Warner (1930) West Chester, Penn. (AR, NRHP)
  • Hotel Phillips Kansas City, Curio Collection by Hilton (1931) Kansas City, Mo. (NRHP)
  • The Lodge at Wakulla Springs (1937) Crawfordville, Fla. (NRHP)
  • The Raleigh Miami Beach (1940) Miami Beach, Fla.
  • The Campbell House Lexington, Curio Collection by Hilton (1949) Lexington, Ky.
  • Morris Inn (1952) Notre Dame, Ind.
  • Hotel Valley Ho (1956) Scottsdale, Ariz.
  • The Dewberry (1964) Charleston, S.C. (AR)
  • Hotel Captain Cook (1964) Anchorage, Alaska
  • Mauna Kea Beach Hotel, Autograph Collection (1965) Kohala Coast, Hawaii

Ten of the historic hotels are adaptive reuse (AR) projects that have involved converting some or all of a historic building to a hotel. Originally, these buildings were built for another purpose in their history.



The average nightly rate for a hotel room in Washington D.C. is $2,071 for Friday, Jan. 20, the date of Trump’s Inauguration in Washington D.C., according to recent data released by

Historically hotel rates in Washington D.C. are at their lowest during the winter, with recording an average nightly rate of $204 in Jan. 2016 and $197 in Dec. 2016 for the nation’s capital.

Trivago said the average nightly rate for Friday, Jan. 20, is at 927 percent above the norm.

More information and average nightly rates for Thursday and Saturday are available via Trivago. Another factor for the higher hotel rates may also be the influx of protestors heading to Washington D.C.



The Los Angeles suburb of Whittier celebrated the opening of DoubleTree by Hilton Whittier Los Angeles, the latest addition to the growing portfolio of DoubleTree by Hilton hotels in the U.S.

The eight-story hotel is located approximately 16 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles, in the heart of Whittier’s tree-lined uptown business and historic district. Standing as the largest hotel in Whittier with 202 luxurious guest rooms and suites, the newly-opened hotel is within walking distance to cultural treasures, such as the Jonathan Bailey House, Whittier Museum and numerous shops, cafes and more.

The Whittier DoubleTree caters to business travelers, given its close proximity to Los Angeles-area businesses and Southen California attractions. Just a short drive away, visitors can find Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland and relaxing seashore communities, such as the Seal, Sunset and Newport Beaches.

“Lovely Whittier is a quiet oasis amid its action-packed SoCal neighbors, but it’s also easily accessible,” said Dianna Vaughan, senior vice president and global head, DoubleTree by Hilton.

Hotel accommodations include DoubleTree’s signature beds, a work desk with Wi-Fi access, and views of downtown or the nearby Puente Hills. With more than 12,000 square feet of meeting space, DoubleTree by Hilton Whittier Los Angeles can accommodate up to 600 guests for conferences and social events.

The Grand Ballroom is ideal for banquets seating as many as 400 attendees, and eight smaller rooms offer flexible meeting options. A state-of-the-art sound system and A/V equipment are also available.



Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, a luxury resort located on the Santa Ana Pueblo (near Albuquerque), shared information on its unique volunteer and teambuilding experiences. The resort is home to the Tamaya Horse Rehabilitation Program, a nonprofit organization that provides shelter, care and rehabilitation to neglected and abandoned horses in New Mexico. Through this program, groups can interact with the horses, take part in teambuilding and volunteer activities, or sponsor a horse on behalf of their company.

“The Tamaya Horse Rehabilitation Program offers a one-of-a-kind group experience,” said Herb Rackliff, general manager of Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa.  “Not only can groups arrange fun and unique teambuilding experiences as part of the program, but they can give back to a great cause.”

Through the Tamaya Horse Rehabilitation Program, guests can go to the Stables at Tamaya to interact with the horses one-on-one. They can also work with the on-site wranglers to provide care for the animals such as feeding, grooming and cleaning stalls, as well as help to build stables and corrals for new horses in the program.

As many of the horses in the Tamaya Horse Rehabilitation Program become permanent residents at the Stables at Tamaya, guests can take teambuilding trail rides with horses that were previously part of the rehabilitation efforts. The horseback rides explore the rugged terrain (and beautiful scenery) of the Southwest.

Tamaya Horse Rehabilitation Program also offers sponsorship options. There are several donation levels, which allow the guests to adopt, name and support a horse. Groups that sponsor a horse will receive a sponsorship certificate and photo of the horse, as well as weekly video updates on the horse’s progress.

Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa also offers state-of-the art meeting facilities, with 29,000 square feet of indoor and 25,000 square feet of outdoor flexible meeting space. The property features several venues including the Tamaya Ballroom, a 12,000-square-foot space that can be partitioned into eight separate rooms.


Spas of America, a spa and wellness travel website, unveiled its annual ranking of the Top 100 Spas of 2016, based on consumer behavior on its website that was determined from Google Analytics stats.

“In 2016, we continued to see steady growth in the North American spa and wellness industry, with record visits and increased revenue,” said Spas of America President Craig Oliver.

The 2016 International Spa Association U.S. Spa Industry Study, commissioned by the ISPA Foundation and undertaken by PwC International Survey Unit, reported consumers made 179 million visits to spas in the United States, generating an estimated $16.3 billion in revenue.

“North American spa and wellness consumers are continuing to focus on health, exercise and fitness experiences—especially in the outdoors,” Oliver said. “Spa and wellness travel offers people a chance to take a step back, enjoy a slower pace and focus on what is truly important.”

The Top 100 Spas of 2016 includes 66 spas from the United States (including 17 from California), 28 spas from Canada, three from Mexico, two from Brazil and one from Turkey.

Health spas were the most popular spa experience, with 34 of these spas making the 2016 list.

Here are Spas of America’s Top 100 Spas of 2016:

  1. New Life Hiking Spa, Mendon/Killington, Vt.
  2. Aspira Spa, The Osthoff Resort, Elkhart Lake, Wisc.
  3. Pala Spa, Pala Casino Spa & Resort, Pala, Calif.
  4. Oaks at Ojai, Ojai, Calif.
  5. Skaná, The Spa at Turning Stone Resort, Verona, N.Y.
  6. The Biggest Loser Resort Palm Desert, Palm Desert, Calif.
  7. Grotto Spa, Tigh-Na-Mara Spa Resort, Parksville, British Columbia.
  8. Spa Terra, Meritage Resort and Spa in Napa Valley, Napa, Calif.
  9. Movara Fitness Resort, Ivins, Utah.
  10. Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie Paris, Shangri-La Toronto, Toronto.
  11. The Spa at White Oaks Resort, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.
  12. Deerfield Spa, East Stroudsburg, Penn.
  13. Wellfit Malibu, Malibu, Calif.
  14. The Spa at Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge, Jasper, Alberta.
  15. 100 Fountain Spa, Pillar and Post, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.
  16. Grand Geneva Resort & Spa, Lake Geneva, Wisc.
  17. Woodlands Spa, Nemacolin Woodlands Resort, Farmington, Penn.
  18. Sunstone The Spa at Agua Caliente, Rancho Mirage, Calif.
  19. Spa Khakara, Sheraton Waikiki, Honolulu, Hawaii.
  20. Abhasa Spa, The Royal Hawaiian Resort, Waikiki Beach, Hawaii.
  21. The Millcroft Inn & Spa, Alton, Ontario.
  22. Ste. Anne's Spa, Grafton, Ontario.
  23. Tennessee Fitness Spa, Waynesboro, Tenn.
  24. The Lodge at Woodloch, Hawley, Penn.
  25. Clinic at KurSpa, Sparkling Hill Resort & Spa, Vernon, B.C.
  26. Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain, Blue Mountains, Ontario.
  27. Crystal Spa, Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa, Thompsonville, Mich.
  28. Evensong Spa, Heidel House Resort, Green Lake, Wis.
  29. Jasha Spa, JW Marriott Los Cabos Beach Resort, Los Cabos, Mexico.
  30. Glacial Waters Spa at Grand View Lodge, Nisswa, Minn.
  31. Turtle Cove Spa, Mountain Harbor Resort, Mount Ida, Ark.
  32. Wine & Roses, Lodi, Calif.
  33. Secret Garden Spa, Prince of Wales Hotel, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.
  34. The Biggest Loser Resort Amelia Island, Amelia Island, Fla.
  35. Gurney's Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa, Montauk, N.Y.
  36. The Biggest Loser Resort Chicago, Chicago, Ill.
  37. CHI Spa at Shangri-la Hotel Vancouver, Vancouver, B.C.
  38. Scandinave Spa Whistler, Whistler, B.C.
  39. Spa Grand Traverse, Acme, Mich.
  40. The Ranch at Live Oak Malibu, Malibu, Calif.
  41. Sundara Inn & Spa, Wisconsin Dells, Wisc.
  42. Black Rock Oceanfront Resort, Ucluelet, B.C.
  43. Hilton Head Health, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
  44. Spa Shiki at the Lodge of Four Seasons, Lake Ozark, Mo.
  45. Manitou Springs Resort and Mineral Spa, Manitou Beach, Saskatchewan.
  46. Temple Gardens Mineral Spa, Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
  47. Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Mexico.
  48. The Spa at The Joule, Dallas, Texas.
  49. The L Spa & Wellness Centre, Grande Prairie, Alberta.
  50. Glen Ivy Hot Springs, Corona, Calif.
  51. Spa Walden, Aurora, Ohio.
  52. Red Mountain Resort, St. George, Utah.
  53. Santé Spa Victoria, Victoria, B.C.
  54. The Spa at InterContinental Toronto Center, Toronto.
  55. The Spa at Delta Victoria Ocean Pointe, Victoria, B.C.
  56. Lake Austin Spa Resort, Austin, Texas.
  57. eforea spa at Hilton Suites Toronto/Markham, Markham, Ontario.
  58. Shoji Lodge & Spa, Asheville, N.C.
  59. Shankara Ayurveda Spa, Art of Living Retreat Center, Boone, N.C.
  60. Springs Eternal Spa, Omni Bedford Springs Resort, Penn.
  61. Sunrise Springs Integrative Wellness Resort, Santa Fe, N.M.
  62. Healing Arts Center & Spa, Cavallo Point Lodge, Sausalito, Calif.
  63. Relâche Spa, Gaylord Opryland Resort, Nashville, Tenn.
  64. Immerse Spa, MGM Grand Detroit, Detroit, Mich.
  65. Brentwood Bay Resort & Spa, Brentwood Bay, B.C.
  66. Golden Door, San Marcos, Calif.
  67. Trillium Spa at Seven Springs Mountain Resort, Penn.
  68. Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa, Miami, Fla.
  69. Avani Spa, The Abbey Resort, Fontana, Wisc.
  70. Cal-A-Vie Health Spa, Vista, Calif.
  71. Canyon Ranch Lenox, Lenox, Mass.
  72. The Spa at Grand Velas Riviera Maya, Mexico.
  73. The Sportsman''s Inn, Killarney, Ontario.
  74. Green Mountain at Fox Run, Ludlow, Vt.
  75. The Biggest Loser Resort Niagara, Java Center, N.Y.
  76. Kurotel Longevity Medical Center and Spa, Brazil.
  77. Kohler Waters Spa, Kohler, Wisc.
  78. Nob Hill Spa at the Scarlet Huntington, San Francisco, Calif.
  79. The Spa at the Catamaran Resort, San Diego, Calif.
  80. Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort at Kaplankaya, Turkey.
  81. The Ashram, Calabasas, Calif.
  82. Bota Bota, spa-sur-l'eau, Quais du vieux-port de Montréal, Québec.
  83. Topnotch Resort & Spa, Stowe, Vt.
  84. Mii Amo, A Destination Spa at Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Ariz.
  85. Spa Eastman, Eastman, Quebec.
  86. Green Valley Spa, St. George, Utah.
  87. The Parkside Spa, Parkside Hotel & Spa, Victoria, B.C.
  88. Elaia Spa, Hyatt at Olive 8, Seattle, Wash.
  89. Lapinha Spa, Brazil
  90. Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa, Tucson, Arizona
  91. Carson Hot Springs Bathhouse, Carson, Washington
  92. Wi Spa, Los Angeles, Calif.
  93. Santé Spa Calgary at Hotel Le Germain, Calgary, Alberta.
  94. Christienne Fallsview Spa, Sheraton on the Falls, Niagara Falls, Ontario.
  95. Qua Baths & Spa at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas, Nev.
  96. Mirbeau Inn & Spa Skaneateles, Skaneateles, N.Y.
  97. G Salon, Marriott Providence, Providence, R.I.
  98. The Spring Resort & Spa, Desert Hot Springs, Calif.
  99. The Spa at Poplar Springs, Warrenton, Va.
  100. The Fairmont Banff Springs, Willow Stream Spa, Banff, Alberta.

Source: Google Analytics, Jan. 1–Dec. 31, 2016.


JetBlue announced a new program offering “free and speedy,” broadband-quality Wi-Fi connectivity on every aircraft for all passengers, with full accessibility from the departure gate to the arrival gate.

According to a press release from the airline, Jet Blue’s “Fly-Fi” will offer the ability to stream video and use multiple devices at once, in addition to surfing the web and chatting on messaging apps.

“It’s 2017 and our customers expect to be connected everywhere, whether that be from the comfort of their sofa or 35,000 feet above it.” said Jamie Perry, vice president of marketing, JetBlue. “That’s why we’re so proud that JetBlue is now the only airline to offer free, high-speed Wi-Fi, live TV and movies.”

The Fly-Fi program began in December 2013 on a single aircraft and was just recently installed on its entire fleet of 227 Airbus A320s, A321s and Embraer 190s. The airline also offers free DIRECTV on its flights.



A coalition of Texas CVBs including VisitDallas, San Antonio, Austin, Arlington, Fort Worth and leaders from PCMA, ASAE, IAEE and TechNet, a technology trade group in Texas, joined together to form “Texas Welcomes All” to oppose the “Privacy Protection Act” and any other discriminatory legislation.  

The coalition strongly opposes Senate Bill 6 (SB6), legislation introduced by Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (Rep.-Brenham) that discriminates against transgender people. The bill would prohibit any local government from adopting or enforcing an ordinance that relates to the use of a private entity’s bathroom or changing facility—essentially nullifying ordinances that protect against discrimination in public accommodations. Inclusive cities with transgender-inclusive public accommodations policies would lose those protections.

Nearly 1,200 Texas employers, including 41 Fortune 500 companies, 21 Texas chambers of commerce, most of the major airlines and hotels, are united in saying that there is significant economic risk in Texas being hostile to LGBT people—and that protecting Texas’ competitiveness costs us nothing at all.

The group called passage of the Lt. Governor’s bathroom bill “an unnecessary multibillion-dollar disaster" for the Texas economy, Texas tourism, Texas DMOs and CVBs and cities across the state.

“Discrimination of any kind is wrong. If passed, this legislation will have devastating consequences on our economy and would result in our local government losing its control over ensuring Dallas is a welcoming city to all,” said VisitDallas CEO Phillip Jones. “Rather than keep the status quo and let each Texas city determine its own community values, this legislation would essentially pre-empt Texas from doing business by bypassing every city’s own social values to conform to one state standard.”

The legislation, if passed, is estimated to result in a short-term GDP loss of $8.5 billion annually statewide due to lost travel and tourism revenues, and it would put an estimated 185,000 travel and tourism jobs at risk in Texas. As seen in North Carolina, Texas can expect cancellations from major performing artists, sporting events and business conventions and meetings if this legislation passes.

Following are statements from PCMA, ASAE and the Austin CVB on the issue:

“Restroom laws are one of the top policy deterrent for planning conventions, conferences and meetings,” said Deborah Sexton, president and CEO of the PCMA. “Know that our industry holds 1.83 million meetings annually and brings $28 billion in U.S. federal, state and local taxes annually; with more than $280 billion in annual U.S. direct spending spurred by our sector. Should SB6 be signed into law, you ensure Texas’s future percentage of these taxes and spending will exponentially be reduced.”

“ASAE opposes any legislation that permits or even gives the appearance of tolerating discrimination,” said John Graham, president and CEO of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). “Similar to other bills of this type that we have seen proliferate across the country, Senate Bill 6 is discriminatory in that it is squarely aimed at denying public accommodations to members of the LGBTQ community.”

“The Texas Privacy Act is a piece of legislation that is discriminatory and sends a message that Texas is unwelcoming,” stated Tom Noonan, president and CEO of the Austin CVB. “Moreover, the passing of this bill or any other bathroom bill, will have a huge financial impact to our state with the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars. We’re asking other convention and visitor bureau leadership to join our coalition to keep Texas open for business and welcoming to all.”



MGM Resorts International announced plans to expand its policy footprint at the federal level with the opening of a new office in Washington, D.C., that will assist with lobbying efforts and other areas of public policy.

With the opening of MGM National Harbor in Maryland and the continued expansion of the organization to over 71,000 employees in locations around the world, MGM Resorts said it felt that an expanded Washington, D.C., presence would better support the company's overall public policy efforts.

"[This is] the first of many steps we aim to take to build our public affairs capabilities and strengthen our role as a strong corporate citizen,” said John McManus, executive VP general counsel and secretary.

The new office will be led by Ayesha Khanna, who has been selected as senior vice president for federal government affairs. Khanna joins an established team that spans the country, including Norman Ross, vice president of federal government affairs, located in Washington, D.C., and Denice Miller, senior vice president of government affairs, located in Nevada.  Khanna brings significant policy experience to MGM Resorts, most recently serving as chief counsel to Sen. Harry Reid.  Prior to her tenure with Sen. Reid, Khanna served as international trade counsel on the U.S. Senate Finance Committee under Sen. Max Baucus.

Khanna was formerly in the Office of General Counsel at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The team will continue to advance MGM Resorts' position on critical issues, such as travel, tourism and gaming.


Hilton announced the signing of nine properties in Mexico that represent a number of Hilton brands, including Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Curio – A Collection by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton and Homewood Suites by Hilton, as well as the company’s first dual-branded property in the country.

These newly announced properties will join the portfolio of more than 45 existing hotels in Mexico.

“Mexico continues experiencing impressive tourism growth, and the addition of these hotels will help satisfy the increasing demand from both leisure and business travelers,” said Juan Corvinos, managing director, development, Mexico, Central America and the Hispanic Caribbean, Hilton. “With nearly 100 open properties in Latin America, Hilton continues to pursue growth opportunities in the region.”

The properties signed by Hilton include:

  • Hilton Guadalajara Midtown: Expected to open in Q1 2018, the 226-room Hilton Guadalajara Midtown is located northwest of Guadalajara and will be part of the Midtown Jalisco project.
  • The Fives Downtown Hotel Playa del Carmen, Curio Collection by Hilton: Will be Hilton’s first property in the coastal town of Playa del Carmen, along the Yucatan Peninsula’s Riviera Maya strip of Caribbean shoreline. The 93-room new-build property will reflect the region’s natural offerings with a grand wall of live plants, embedded elements and a skylight. The hotel’s rooftop will feature a restaurant, signature cocktail bar, infinity pool, pool bar and lounge.
  • 1970 Hotel Posadas Guadalajara, Curio Collection by Hilton: The 160-room hotel is in the heart of Guadalajara, globally recognized as the capital of Tequila and Mariachi. The property, which will have a restaurant, bar, gift shop and fitness center, will be centered around an open-air courtyard lobby, featuring industrial metals and raw wood materials with vivid colors.
  • Zacatecas Centro Historico, Curio Collection by Hilton: The 19th-century building, in the city of Zacatecas, will undergo interior renovations before its anticipated opening as Zacatecas Centro Historico in early 2018. Its design ethos will focus on simple and elegant finishes in bright colors that enhance the building’s original architecture and details, including its historic exterior.
  • Hilton Garden Inn Merida: Hilton Garden Inn Merida is expected to open in Q1 2017, with 128 rooms in the area of Altabrisa. The hotel will provide access to Plaza Altabrisa, a shopping mall.
  • Hilton Garden Inn Mexico City Santa Fe: The 189-room hotel is expected to open in late 2017 as part of the first dual-branded Hilton property in Mexico. The 172-room DoubleTree by Hilton Mexico City Santa Fe, the other half of the development, opened last month. The hotel will be located near Centro Santa Fe, the largest shopping center in Latin America.  
  • Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites by Hilton Saltillo: Slated to open in late 2019, the property will bring 200 hotel rooms to the capital of Coahulia – 110 rooms from Hilton Garden Inn and 90 suites from Homewood Suites by Hilton. The hotel was Hilton’s first dual-brand property announced in Mexico, and represents Hilton’s commitment to expansion.
  • Hampton Inn by Hilton Cancun: The 134-room Hampton Inn by Hilton Cancun is scheduled to open in Q2 2017 in the Pabellon Cumbres area of the city.

Several Hilton properties opened in Mexico last year, including DoubleTree by Hilton Veracruz, Hilton Garden Inn Hotel Puebla Angelopolis and DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Mexico City Santa Fe, which will be joined by Hilton Garden Inn Mexico City Santa Fe as the Hilton’s first dual-brand property in the country.

Also opened last year were Hampton Inn by Hilton Durango, Hampton Inn by Hilton Piedras Negras, Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Salamanca and Hampton Inn by Hilton Irapuato.


ASAE’s Endorsed Directors’ and Officers’ (D&O) Insurance Program announced a broader, enhanced and competitively-priced D&O insurance coverage solution for the association community.

Developed by Aon Affinity Nonprofits (Aon), in partnership with A+ rated Arch Insurance Company (Arch), ASAE-Endorsed D&O Insurance is a flexible multi-coverage product tailored to meet the evolving risk management needs of trade and professional associations, as well as other nonprofit organizations.

“ASAE has been working with Aon for over 20 years to provide innovative and customized insurance solutions for associations and nonprofits at affordable premium rates,” said President and CEO John H. Graham, IV, FASAE, CAE. “The enhanced D&O insurance solution we are rolling out is a prime example of that partnership. ASAE knows that D&O insurance is a risk management essential for associations.”

Highlights of the program include:

  • Up to $500,000 in wage and hour (FLSA) coverage.
  • Up to $100,000 in expense costs for cyber breaches.
  • $250,000 workplace violence coverage.
  • Up to $250,000 in PR costs associated with sexual abuse allegations and fundraising fraud.
  • Over a dozen first party coverage extensions.

More information on the ASAE-Endorsed D&O Insurance is available here.



Golfers heading to the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri may find new value in 2017 through an updated pricing model at The Cove and The Ridge golf courses at the Lodge of Four Seasons waterfront resort.

The Lodge's new golf by the hour allows players to pay for the amount of time spent playing the course rather than the traditional method of paying for a set number of holes, as is the standard elsewhere.

"This is definitely a first for The Lodge," said Matt Tausig, director of golf. "I've worked in the golf industry for 25 years, and I've never seen another golf course offer this kind of pricing."

Although traditional pricing will still be available at both courses, the new pricing model is a direct response to analysis and feedback from guests looking for better value and more opportunities to play.

"Head Golf Professional Chris Lash and I continually discuss what we can do that no one else in the golf business is doing and how we can overcome industry challenges," Tausig said. "One of the biggest issues that golfers face today is that golf is such a time-consuming game."

A full 18-hole round of golf traditionally takes four or more hours to play, Tausig said. But many avid golfers who play faster don't want to pay a full rate when they're on the course for a fraction of the time. Then there are also players who pay for a full round but run out of time before finishing.

According to Lodge Director of Sales and Marketing Frederik Houben, golf by the hour also creates an opportunity for meeting and convention guests at the Lake of the Ozarks on business. Even an hour between meetings is enough to play a few holes—and everyone gets what they play for.

"Meeting attendees can and have time constraints but would love the opportunity to play one, two or more holes of golf in one hour just to decompress," he said. "This new hourly price structure fills that void."

Current rates are around $10 (plus tax) an hour per person, including golf and cart, but rates for hourly play will vary day to day, even hour to hour, depending on the season and how busy the course is.

The Lodge of Four Seasons offers more than 65,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space.

Related Content: Looking for golf tips? Check out Edward Schmidt Jr.’s feature that appeared in the Dec. 2016 issue of Meetings Today titled “Plan the Perfect Golf Event for Every Type of Attendee.”



Mayor Rahm Emanuel and David Whitaker, president & CEO of Choose Chicago, announced visitors to Chicago in 2016 reached 54.1 million—a new record and 2.9 percent increase over the previous year.

“Three years ago we set a goal for Chicago to reach 55 million visitors by 2020,” Mayor Emanuel said. “We had an incredible and record-breaking year in 2016, but we are not stopping there.”

In 2016, Chicago's tourism industry supported an estimated 145,137 jobs and $15 billion in direct tourism spending. That’s an increase of 20,000 new jobs since Mayor Emanuel took office.

Chicago’s visitor industry is supported by group business (also known as major meetings and conventions), paired with increasing leisure visitation. Leisure visitation reached a record of 40.65 million in 2016, a gain of 3.4 percent. Meanwhile, business visitation grew by 2.1 percent to 11.9 million.

“As we look ahead to 2017 and beyond, it remains imperative for us to focus on building the destination’s profile internationally and educating and reminding our partners in the travel industry, and the travelers we target, that Chicago is not only an amazing city to visit, but a top-notch place to convene and do business,” Whitaker said.

Chicago welcomed 52.55 million domestic visitors (+3.1 percent) and an estimated 1.56 million overseas visitors (-3.7 percent) in 2016. While there is projected continued growth from emerging markets such as China (+22.7 percent), India (+7.1 percent) and South Korea (+10.2 percent), economic uncertainty and unfavorable exchange rates are expected to influence declines in key European markets such as the United Kingdom (-18.3 percent), Germany (-6.1 percent) and Spain (-14.5 percent), among others.

Of the 31 major meetings and conventions held in Chicago in 2016, several set records: eight saw record-setting attendance; four had their most exhibiting companies participate; and four had their highest net square footage of exhibition space. These 31 meetings and conventions welcomed 916,888 attendees to Chicago in 2016. The estimated overall economic impact totals $1.32 billion.

Looking ahead, there will be 35 major meetings and conventions coming to Chicago in 2017. The number of room nights projected to be generated from these groups is 1.04 million.



The Music City Center, Nashville’s $623 million convention center, revealed plans for its first major upgrade and expansion that will include the addition of a new F&B outlet and a variety of new meeting facilities.

According to The Tennessean, the upgrades will cost $19.9 million and construction is set to begin immediately, following a unanimous vote from the Nashville Convention Center Authority’s board. The project, which was said to be initiated in response to customer feedback, is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

More information on Music City Center’s expansion is available from The Tennessean.


Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) Chairman Gary Sherwin, CDME and President and CEO Don Welsh announced the association’s 2017 Business Plan has been published online.

Industry insights and feedback gleaned from the 2016 listening tour, paired with extensive analysis across all operational facets of the association contributed to a planning process [for the plan]. 

“Don and his leadership team really listened to our members and, as a result, prioritized the association’s goals and objectives to deliver [essential] resources our members,” Sherwin said. “These resources, as determined by our members, include: professional development, certification, accreditation and advocacy support along with scalable and timely products and services.”  

The following strategic goals will direct all DMAI initiatives throughout the plan:

  • Industry Advocacy Leadership: Become the recognized advocate for the DMO industry.
  • International Impact: Expand DMAI’s international footprint to grow membership, non-dues revenue and global impact.
  • Strategic Partnerships: Transform DMAI’s partnership business model to create beneficial solutions for DMOs, partners and DMAI.
  • Next Generation Professional Development: Become the premier source for destination marketing and management education and professional development.

“2016 was filled with first-time achievements and initiatives,” Welsh said. “We exist for the sole purpose of supporting our members—to inform, connect, inspire and educate in an effort to drive destination economic impact, job creation, community sustainability and quality of life through travel.”

DMAI said it seeks to raise the level of professionalism within the DMO industry by delivering impactful products and services. Two key initiatives that the DMAI team and its Boards have been actively working to elevate include Destination Showcase and its member Summits. Registration for the 2017 Destination Showcase taking place Thurs., March 2, 2017 at the Marriott Wardman Park is now open. Planners are invited to attend this FREE event which has been redesigned to maximize networking and education.

Additionally, the Association released the expanded roster of member Summits, including the new Convention Services Summit, along with dates and locations:

  • CEO Summit, March 20-22, Nashville, Tenn.
  • CMO Summit, April 23-25, Denver.
  • Visitor Services Summit, Sept. 24-26, Columbus, Ohio.
  • Convention Services Summit, Sept. 27, Columbus, Ohio (New)
  • Membership Summit, Oct. 23-26, Charlotte, N.C.
  • Finance and Operations Summit, Nov. 2017 (location TBD)
  • Convention Sales Summit, Dec. 2017, Chicago.

In 2017 and beyond, DMAI said it will continue to provide its members with the resources they want. This includes but is not limited to: research, networking opportunities, professional development and certification programs, all keeping both individuals and organizations at the front of the industry curve.



Kenneth Lawson has been selected to fill the role of president and CEO at Visit Florida at a salary of $175,000 following the departure of Will Seccombe, who was asked to resign by Gov. Rick Scott following a controversial decision to pay rapper Pitbull $1 million for a marketing campaign. Pitbull shared his contract on Twitter.

According to various news outlets, Lawson will be making more money at Visit Florida than he was in his current position as director for Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, but the salary is significantly lower than what was being paid to Seccombe, after a call for accountability.

The Orlando Sentinel also reported that the Visit Florida board approved a $73,000 severance package for Seccombe, which was lower than the $327,000 that was mentioned in a clause in his contract.

Scott praised the decision to hire Lawson for the Visit Florida CEO role and reiterated the importance of accountability and transparency in the use of taxpayer dollars from the DMO moving forward.

More information is available in this article from the Orlando Sentinel.



The Meetings Mean Business Coalition (MMBC) summarized its 2016 activities and 2017 initiatives at PCMA’s Convening Leaders, held at the Austin Convention Center from Jan. 8-11.

Key successes in 2016 included a “Worth” advertising campaign that ran during the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and the final presidential debate in Las Vegas.

Although Richard Harper, executive vice president at HelmsBriscoe and co-chair of Meetings Mean Business, said it is hard to quantify the success of the campaign, “there’s been little to zero negative [coverage] of the meetings industry in the last year, so we must be doing something right.”

Other 2016 successes included the first Global Meetings Industry Day, with efforts in 30 countries, and the creation of a Meeting Planner Task Force that seeks to get planners more involved with MMBC.

MMBC now counts 60 partners in its fold, with plans to grow that number aggressively in the 2017.

Also in store for 2017, MMBC has created a licensing agreement so other countries can join the effort. According to the coalition, about a half a dozen countries have so far expressed interest, with three firmly involved in creating their own MMBC effort. Another priority in 2017 will be to further communicate the ROI various meetings segments bring to communities. Harper said MMBC’s board meeting at Convening Leaders was packed with participants, which bodes well for industry participation in the new year.

Addressing the health of the industry, Paul Van Deventer, president and CEO of MPI and co-chair of Meetings Mean Business, said that forecasts are still positive, but are not as optimistic as those from a couple years ago.

“There’s still a positive outlook, but it’s come down a bit,” Van Deventer said.

In other Convening Leaders news, PCMA released the 2016 Impact Report from the PCMA Education Foundation, which directed $409,000 back into meetings and conventions industry support such as scholarships for students, other educational programs and charity efforts.

A highlight of the Convening Leaders opening general session was a surprise visit by actor and Austin native Matthew McConaughey, who extolled the virtues and core values of his hometown.


Powerful storms were forecasted to hit the Western U.S. on Tuesday, a day after thousands of residents were evacuated from homes in Nevada and California. The area has already received heavy rainfall.

According to Reuters, the storms are part of a weather system called the “Pineapple Express” that is affecting Hawaii, California, Nevada and other states in the Western U.S. 3,000 residents have already been evacuated from Sonoma County and 400 residents were ordered to leave homes in Reno, Nev., due to flood threats.

Other regions, such as the Sierra Nevada, have received heavy snowfall, which is expected to continue through Thursday. Heavy rains have also prompted officials to open a Sacramento dam for the first time in a decade.

Over the weekend, NPR reported that the iconic “Pioneer Cabin Tree,” a sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park known for its carved tunnel, was brought down by the powerful California winter storm.

More information is available at the following links:



Visit Sacramento announced President and CEO Steve Hammond will retire from the region’s destination marketing organization on June 30, 2017, at the end of the organization’s fiscal year.

Hammond joined Visit Sacramento in 1999 after serving in leadership roles at the Long Beach and San Jose’s CVBs, as well as several major airlines. Throughout his 18 years in Sacramento, Hammond significantly expanded the organization’s economic impact and scope. During his tenure, Visit Sacramento secured major, multi-year convention and sports business such as the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Juice Plus, the USA Track & Field Outdoor National Championships and the Junior Olympics.

“Steve has played a pivotal role in putting Sacramento on the map within the tourism industry,” said Visit Sacramento Board Chairman Brian Larson of Halo Hospitality. “Thanks to his leadership, he has created a sense of place that has laid a solid foundation to propel our [business] to the next level.”

Just before Hammond was hired, tourism sales and marketing for the city had been privatized under Visit Sacramento. Throughout his tenure with the organization, Visit Sacramento’s operating budget has grown from $2.2 million to more than $11 million, and the staff has doubled in size to more than 40 sales and marketing professionals. In addition, Visit Sacramento has taken over management of the Sacramento Sports Commission and launched the region’s well-known America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital program, drawing additional tourism impact, national media recognition and visitor spending.

Hammond was asked by the Visit Sacramento board in 2014 to extend his contract through 2017 to maintain continuity through the opening of Golden 1 Center and the initial phases of the community center theater and convention center expansion projects, which he will continue through June.

Hammond’s successor will be selected through a national search process conducted by a special committee of Visit Sacramento’s Board members and other leaders in the Sacramento community. The Board hopes to confirm the name of Hammond’s successor by the spring of 2017. 



The Philadelphia CVB (PHLCVB) announced the appointment of Atlantic Link as its in-country representation firm based in Copenhagen to serve as an extension of the PHLCVB team.

Atlantic Link will work with tour operators on creating itineraries that incorporate Philadelphia and take advantage of the world-famous landmarks the city offers. The opening of an in-country office increases opportunities for the PHLCVB team to engage more frequently with travel media and consumers.

"The PHLCVB team has worked actively and successfully in the Nordic market over the last several years by building awareness through travel trade and press opportunities and we're beginning to see the results of our efforts,” said Julie Coker Graham, president and CEO of the PHLCVB. "Since 2015, we have seen an increase … and we are projecting a 21 percent growth in the Scandinavian market by 2020."

Additionally, the launch of Icelandair's non-stop service from Reykjavik in May 2017 makes Philadelphia a top gateway for travel to the east coast of the U.S. This new flight increases access to Philadelphia from Scandinavia and offers convenient connections from more than 25 European cities.

"We are pleased to welcome Icelandair and look forward to hosting visitors from that region and around Europe," said Philadelphia International Airport CEO Chellie Cameron. "With this addition, we are proud to offer service from five international carriers and we will have non-stop flights to 35 international destinations. This enhances Philadelphia's position as a gateway city easily accessible from Europe."

In 2017, PHLCVB's outreach plans to attract more visitors from the Nordic region include participation in tradeshows and regional workshops as well as global public relations efforts to grow awareness of Philadelphia and inspire travel. With the opening of the new Copenhagen office, PHLCVB now has seven international representation offices—China, Denmark, India, Italy, France, Germany and the UK.

More info on PHLCVB’s work is available at



AJ Capital Partners announced it has acquired The Commons Hotel in Minneapolis from the Rockbridge investment firm. In 2017, the hotel will undergo a conversion into a Graduate Hotel. The eight-story, 304-room, full-service hotel is located at the heart of the University of Minnesota’s campus. 

With over 20,000 square feet of meeting and event space, a fitness center, as well as The Beacon Public House—the hotel’s restaurant and bar, The Commons Hotel is an established destination for University visitors and business travelers alike. Located just one block from U of M's distinguished Medical Center, the hotel benefits from having direct indoor access to the McNamara Alumni/Conference Center.

“This acquisition exemplifies our strategy of investing in well-located assets in multi-dimensional university-anchored markets,” said Tim Franzen, president of Graduate Hotels. “We look forward to introducing Graduate Minneapolis to the Minneapolis and U of M communities in late 2017.”

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



The 272-room Radisson Hotel Detroit Metro Airport opened its doors after a complete renovation of the property. Guests can now enjoy vibrant guest rooms and a revitalized lobby, along with an updated pool, restaurant and fitness center. The property is located just minutes from the airport in Romulus.

The hotel offers nearly 15,000 square feet of meeting space. There are eight rooms to choose from for corporate meetings or wedding receptions. AV equipment is available, along with full-service catering. The Great Lakes Ballroom is an ideal fit for larger events, as it can fit up to 520 guests for receptions.

The Radisson Hotel Detroit Metro Airport is located near many attractions in the Detroit area, including the Ford Museum, America at the Motown Museum and Ford Field. For business travelers, the Ford and General Motors World Headquarters, Eastern Michigan University and Detroit Diesel are all nearby.

“We are thrilled to partner with Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group and the Radisson brand to reintroduce this hotel,” said Jeff Katofsky, hotel managing member of RKJ Hotel Management, LLC. “The $10 million overhaul of the [property] is intended to provide the finest experience for our guests.”

The hotel offers high-speed Internet access, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a 24-hour fitness center and a business center. A free shuttle service is available to guests traveling to the airport.


SAINT JAMES WINDWARD, Saint Kitts and Nevis

Wyndham Hotel Group announced it will be adding a Caribbean property along the shores of Nevis, one of the region’s most exclusive destinations, with the island’s first Wyndham Grand resort.

The beachfront Wyndham Grand Nevis will be situated within Northern Pointe Resort, a new 30-acre luxury real estate development being built along Long Haul Bay in the Parish of Saint James. When completed in 2019, the resort will boast 170 suites, condominiums and villas; a private beach club; five dining areas; infinity pools; more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space; a spa; and other Wyndham Grand amenities.

“Nevis is known around the world as one of the most desirable yet exclusive vacation spots in the Caribbean, and as more travelers discover this tranquil paradise the demand for more upscale accommodations will grow,” said Paulo Pena, president and managing director, Latin America and the Caribbean for Wyndham Hotel Group.

Located roughly 1,200 miles from Miami, the 36-square-mile Nevis is the smaller of two islands which make up the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis. Travel to the island is steadily blossoming with overnight visitors and cruise tourism increasing each year since 2013.



JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts announced the opening of the 726-room JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort. Following an extensive $320 million renovation facilitated by ownership group Mass Mutual, the Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort, Golf Club & Spa has converted to a JW Marriott luxury property.

“This brand conversion brings to fruition years of planning, dedication and hard work, and I could not be more pleased,” said Rick Medwedeff, general manager, JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort. “As we move forward into the next chapter of our resort’s story, we are embracing our celebrated past and welcoming a new level of luxury by joining JW Marriott’s global portfolio of exceptional properties.”

The resort is poised to become one of the region’s most coveted culinary destinations, led by Executive Chef Eric Vasta, who most recently held the post at the celebrated five-star JW Marriott Marquis Dubai. Culinary programming will include private sommelier-led wine tastings and Chef’s Table experiences at signature restaurant Ario, helmed by Chef de Cuisine Gerald Sombright. The culinary offerings will extend to the beach with fish-grilling classes, rum tastings and private dinners.

JW Marriott Marco Island offers Spa by JW, the JW Marriott brand’s exclusive global spa concept with treatments based on four core benefit states: calm, indulge, renew and invigorate. Guests can customize their spa experience, choosing from a variety of menu options from full-service treatments to express spa services that start at a 12-minute entry point and are bookable without an appointment.

The property will also feature a 94-room, adults-only tower, scheduled to open in the fall of 2017—offering a rooftop pool, restaurant with an award-winning chef at the helm, and a 12,000-square-foot indoor entertainment center. Designed by Florida design and architecture firm, Edge of Architecture, Inc., the new tower will boast views of the Gulf of Mexico. Once construction is completed, the resort will include a total of 100,000 square feet of flexible event space and 810 guest rooms and suites.

In 2015, the resort began phase one of a three-phase makeover and brand conversion project, including expanded pool decks, a refurbished lobby, a new porte-cochere and a grand front entrance. The second phase, which concluded on Dec. 31, 2016, welcomed a complete transformation of guest rooms and resort culinary offerings, including the addition of two new signature restaurants, Ario and Maia.



After a soft opening in November, Grand Velas Los Cabos officially opened its doors on Dec. 20, 2016. The $150 million resort on Mexico’s Baja Peninsula is the fifth property of Velas Resorts. The beachfront property's amenities include duplex wellness suites with juice bars, wine-based features inspired by the proximity to the region producing Mexico’s fine wines, and dramatic ocean views and unique spaces throughout the resort.

A gallery of contemporary art will also be opening soon, with the goal of bringing the art, fashion and culture of Mexico to guests. Grand Velas Los Cabos offers all-inclusive amenities and facilities.

Located between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo, Grand Velas Los Cabos features 304 ocean view suites, all over 1,180 square feet with private terraces and some with personal plunge pools. The hotel also offers five gourmet restaurants with an extensive beverage and wine program; 35,000-square-foot spa with 16 treatment rooms; and three pools with pool and beach concierges available to assist guests.

The Convention Center at Grand Velas Los Cabos offers 16,370 square feet of flexible event space, with the capacity to hold up to 1,700 attendees. The property’s two large ballrooms can be conveniently divided into 20 breakout rooms. An oceanfront terrace offers private event space for up to 600.

In addition to customizable meeting space, the resort offers modern AV equipment, technical support, secretarial and translation services, and a fully-equipped business center. The property is also just 35 minutes from the Los Cabos International Airport which directly services over 40 destinations.


The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) declared 2017 as “the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development,” showcasing the potential of tourism to advance the UN’s universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The International Year aims to support a change in policies, business practices and consumer behavior towards a more sustainable tourism sector than can contribute effectively to the SDGs.

"This is a unique opportunity to build a more responsible and committed tourism sector that can capitalize its immense potential in terms of economic prosperity, social inclusion, peace and understanding, cultural and environmental preservation," said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

The International Year will promote tourism's role in the following five key areas:

  1. Inclusive and sustainable economic growth;
  2. Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction;
  3. Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change;
  4. Cultural values, diversity and heritage; and
  5. Mutual understanding, peace and security.

The presentation of the International Year, formally announcing the goals put forward by the UNGA, will take place in Madrid (Spain) on Jan. 18, 2017 on the occasion of the Spanish Tourism Fair, FITUR.

More information on the initiative is available at



The Gwen, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Chicago, announced the start of its guest room renovation to elicit the inspiration of the hotel’s namesake, famed Chicago sculptress Gwen Lux, and the spirit of the hotel’s guiding design principle of 1930’s era glamour. Housed in the former McGraw-Hill building, The Gwen is in the heart of downtown Chicago, overlooking Michigan Avenue on Rush Street.

The Gwen opened its doors in Sept. 2015 and debuted its newly remodeled lobby, rooftop terrace, lounge and restaurant in May 2016. The Gwen is an artistic icon with a 1930s-inspired aesthetic.

With inspiration drawn from the hotel’s namesake, famed sculptress Gwen Lux, The Gwen’s new guest rooms are rooted in an approachable elegance that invites guests to enjoy an elevated experience akin to the period of glamourous travel to Chicago when the city was advertised as “the Vacation City.”

Conceptualized and designed by award-winning Simeone Deary Design Group, each Art Deco-inspired room aims to offer a welcoming atmosphere with glamourous and contemporary touches that seamlessly weave together the building’s rich history and modern luxury.

Chicago born Gwen Lux designed the bas-relief sculptures depicting the zodiac that are featured on the exterior of the building. The femininity of Gwen Lux is echoed through the subtle touches of backlit mirrors, artistic sketching wallpaper and peach leather pops of color, complemented by the richness of mossy green velvets, marble and brass pieces, and weathered river tones throughout each room.

Conducted in stages floor by floor so as not to disrupt current guests of The Gwen, the guest room renovation is scheduled to conclude in April 2017 across each of the hotel’s 311 rooms and suites. The hotel offers 15,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space for corporate groups and more.



Miraval Group acquired the 220-acre Travaasa Austin Resort in the Hill Country of Texas, which it will redevelop and expand into a 120-room destination wellness resort, its first in Texas and the South.

The purchase, from a wholly owned subsidiary of Amstar Group LLC, closed this week following the approval of Miraval’s development plans. The project is expected to be completed by January 2019.

Miraval Group will renovate the existing inventory, add 50 rooms, more than double the spa space, expand the main restaurant and construct several facilities, including a unique equine experience.

Steven A. Rudnitsky, Miraval Group president & CEO, said the project would “build on the momentum of the company’s nationwide growth plan,” following the opening of the Miraval Life in Balance Spa at Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, Calif., and its redevelopment of the Cranwell in Lenox, Mass.

“We selected Travaasa Austin for a host of reasons, including its hilltop location that provides extraordinary views of Lake Travis and a sense of place,” he said. “The campus is surrounded by protected lands, providing privacy and protection from distractions of the outside world—key attributes of the Miraval Experience. In addition, the existing staff is a good fit for the Miraval culture.”

The resort will continue operating as Travaasa Austin throughout the redevelopment process over the next few years, and is expected to be relaunched as Miraval Austin sometime in early 2019.

Travaasa Austin’s largest meeting space is currently the 2,795-square-foot Lone Star Room, which can support 144 attendees seated banquet-style, 122 classroom-style and 46 in a u-shape setup.


Analysts at Lodging Econometrics (LE), a real estate consulting company, reported that the four leading franchise companies in the Global Hotel Construction Pipeline by project-count are:

  • Marriott International with 2,021 Projects/347,544 Rooms.
  • Hilton Worldwide with 1,733 Projects/267,788 Rooms.
  • InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) with 1,343 Projects/207,806 Rooms.
  • Choice Hotels with 487 Projects/43,381 Rooms.

The leading brand for each of these top global franchise companies are: IHG’s Holiday Inn Express with 607 Projects/73,584 Rooms, Hilton’s Hampton Inn with 478 Projects/55,737 Rooms, Marriott’s Fairfield Inn with 299 Projects/31,603 Rooms and Choice’s Comfort Inn with 114 Projects/10,752 Rooms.

Marriott’s overall boost in construction is likely due to the completion of the Marriott-Starwood merger.


Even with an increased number of travelers moving through airports—many of which are not designed for the volume of people and flights they now support—satisfaction with the overall airport experience is improving, according to results from the "J.D. Power 2016 North America Airport Satisfaction Study."

Overall traveler satisfaction with the airport experience averaged 731 (on a 1,000-point scale) in 2016, an improvement from 725 in 2015. Overall satisfaction with large airports is 724, a five-point increase from 2015, and satisfaction with medium airports is 760, an eight-point rise. The increase in satisfaction comes at a time when airports are posting a 5-6% annual increase in traveler volumes.

“Many airports, especially the nation’s largest airports, were never built to handle the current volume of traveler traffic, often exceeding their design limits by many millions of travelers,” said Michael Taylor, director of the airport practice at J.D. Power. “Yet airports are overcoming infrastructure limits by affecting the things they can influence. Airports are successfully applying technology to improve check-in, security screening and the food, beverage and retail shopping experiences [based on the results of the survey showing a rise in satisfaction].”

Large and medium airports have experienced year-over-year improvements in satisfaction overall, and for all factors. Satisfaction with security check improves the least (+1 and +8 points respectively), due in part to increased traveler volume contributing to an 8% increase in wait times in security lines.

Here are the top five large airports as ranked by J.D. Power’s 2016 Airport Satisfaction Study:

  • Portland (Ore.) International Airport (786 points).
  • Tampa International Airport (775 points).
  • Las Vegas McCarran Airport (759 points).
  • Orlando International Airport (751 points).
  • Miami International Airport (750 points).

And here the lowest ranked large airports referenced in the study (lowest at bottom):

  • Boston Logan Airport (689 points).
  • Chicago O’Hare Airport (689 points).
  • Philadelphia International Airport (688 points).
  • Newark Liberty International Airport (669 points).
  • New York LaGuardia Airport (649 points).

Note that the above numbers are not accounting for medium-sized airports, which were ranked separately in the study, but earned a higher overall rate of satisfaction when compared to their larger counterparts.

Now in its 11th year, the J.D. Power airport study measures overall traveler satisfaction with large and medium North American airports by examining six factors (in order of importance): terminal facilities; airport accessibility; security check; baggage claim; check-in/baggage check; food, beverage and retail.

To view the full report and related charts visit the official J.D. Power website.


The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) released its annual travel trends report in which it declared 2016 to be “an eventful and challenging year for the travel industry.” The report also makes some predictions about 2017, stating that “a positive outlook is tempered by caution and uncertainty," due to Brexit negotiations.

The report presents five key trends for 2017 that touch on budget-minded holiday travel, the rise of “city holidays” versus “beach holidays,” an emerging demand for microadventures, the continued implementation of new and updated travel technology and a more aggressive push for sustainable tourism.

The ABTA’s 12 destinations to watch for in 2017 include: Andalucia (Spain), Azores (Portugal), Bermuda, Chile, County Kerry (Ireland), Croatia, Denmark, Kerala (India), Sardinia (Italy), South Africa, the Southern U.S. and Vietnam. Some logic behind these choices is also explained within the 2017 Trends Report.

The full ABTA travel trends document is available in PDF form via the association’s official website.



A joint venture between Urgo Hotels & Resorts and Triumph Development, LLC, announced the opening of the 129–room Residence Inn by Marriott Breckenridge in Colo. The joint venture developed and owns the hotel, with Urgo managing the property going forward.

“This hotel marks the first Marriott-branded hotel in Breckenridge, one of the nation’s most popular ski destinations, as well as the market’s first new hotel in over two decades,” said Mathew Jalazo, vice president of development at Urgo. “The property further benefits from its close proximity to the Denver International Airport, eliminating the need to travel through Vail Pass. We remain very bullish on Breckenridge, a year-round resort area that attracts any number of outdoors people, including skiers, golfers, bikers, hikers, mountaineers, fishers and kayakers. The town regularly ranks as one of the two most visited ski destinations in the United States."

Located across from the Village Base Area and QuickSilver Chair Lift, the hotel is situated in the heart of downtown Breckenridge adjacent to the city's shopping and entertainment with more than 75 dining options and over 160 shops within walking distance. The hotel was designed to showcase the surrounding mountains. Two-story, floor-to-ceiling windows open the lobby to vistas, while the lobby bar features seating areas opening onto an outdoor terrace with views of the Tenmile Mountain Range.

The hotel offers ski lockers and a ski valet service that provides seamless ski drop off at the hotel and pick up at mountainside. All custom-designed suites offer full kitchenettes and sitting areas. The hotel aims to appeal to both leisure travelers and business groups and offers approximately 1,700 square feet of meeting space.

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