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Virgin Hotels unveiled its second property, Virgin Hotels San Francisco. The hotel, located in South of Market (SoMa) near Yerba Buena Gardens and the Moscone Center, features 194 guest accommodations, multiple dining and drinking outlets and 7,000 square feet of meeting space. The hotel is also near the new Central Subway Station, which, upon opening later this year will connect South of Market with Union Square and Chinatown.


Omni Houston Hotel reopened in November 2018 following a property-wide $30 million renovation. The inspiration drew from an authentic local aesthetic that includes leathers, bronze, brass and lush greens, providing a new take on a “modern Texas.” The urban oasis now has natural light throughout with floor-to-ceiling windows, open communal spaces and the idea of bringing the outdoors inside.


Convene opened its newest location in Chicago’s Citadel Center. The company, which offers meeting and event spaces, workspaces and hospitality amenities, will also open three additional locations in Chicago.



JW Marriott Cancun Resort & Spa completed its extensive renovation and unveiled a new look. The resort’s transformation included upgrades to all 447 ocean-facing guest rooms and suites. Club 91, located on the 14th floor, was also renovated and the resort’s event technology was upgraded.


AEG Facilities and SMG owner Onex announced they will merge to create ASM Global. The new company will be headquartered in Los Angeles and will operate over 300 venues across five continents that include arenas, stadiums, convention centers and performing arts centers.


In late January 2019, the Events Industry Council (EIC) released four new sustainability principles that incorporate all 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and define what a fully sustainable event is for the first time. The initiative, aimed at encouraging and helping planners and organizations implement sustainable practices, entailed months of collaboration among leading industry voices.


Marriott International meetings and conventions veteran Alex Shotwell has sold, serviced and experienced his share of high-profile, massive meetings in his more than two-decade career. Shotwell, area director, sales, Orange County & San Diego, has vast experience working in the brand’s Convention & Resort Network Hotels. He shared three critical mistakes meeting planners must make strides to avoid for a successful event.


Caesars Entertainment is betting big on its first non-gaming hotel in the U.S., Caesars Republic Scottsdale. The hotel, slated to open in 2021, will be the first installment of a new lifestyle hotel brand designed to push creative boundaries and encourage collaboration with industry trendsetters.


Benchmark released its "Top 10 Meeting Trends for 2019.” The annual list is compiled from guest observation and feedback from the company’s portfolio of 80 hotels, resorts and conference centers.


The coldest weather in years will sweep the Midwest and Northeast United States in 2019 due to the impending polar vortex, resulting in windchills as cold as -50 degrees Fahrenheit. Here are five suggestions to help meeting planners and participants better handle the extreme cold and help ensure that big annual meeting can still go off without a hitch, even in subzero temperatures.


Meetings Today's Tyler Davidson talks with Mark Vaughan, executive vice president and chief sales officer for the Atlanta CVB, about how the destination is gearing up for the big game, and what it means for meetings and conventions groups in the future.


Air traffic controller sickouts related to the government shutdown at three major Northeast airport hubs are greatly affecting arriving flights, according to news reports, resulting in the rerouting of flights. The sickouts are causing significant flight delays at the following airports: LaGuardia Airport, Newark Liberty International Airport and Philadelphia International Airport.


The Washington Hospitality Association (WHA) voiced its approval for Senate Bill 5258. According to the Washington State Legislature, this bill will help prevent “the sexual harassment and sexual assault of certain isolated workers.” Senate Bill 5258 was introduced following the Washington State Court of Appeals’ blocking of Seattle Initiative Measure 124, which included broader protections.


Air travelers may be in for a rude awakening when navigating airports during the government shutdown, as the absence rate for TSA workers is now on a record pace. According to reports, the absentee rate for TSA employees hit 10 percent of its more than 51,000 officers as of Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019, compared with 3 percent a year ago.


In September 2018, Hurricane Florence deluged parts of the Carolinas. Hardest hit was North Carolina, with an estimated $17 billion in crop, infrastructure and other losses. Florence went easier on South Carolina, which reportedly saw some $607 million in damages. Experiencing varying impacts, from minimal to destructive, the region’s coastal destinations have made significant recovery efforts.


Sarah Kloepple and Christoph Trappe discuss recent airport travel experiences during the government shutdown and provide some general tips for navigating security and reducing stress for everyone. Remember to be nice to TSA workers and definitely arrive a little earlier at the airport!


A number of issues impacted the meetings industry in 2018, from strikes and other labor actions in various destinations across the U.S. to major hotel chains cutting their traditional commission level for independent planners. Meetings Today polls its readers every year on how their jobs and programs fared, how they expect their budgets  will shape up, the sites they typically use for their programs and other questions that help shine a light on the state of the profession. 361 meeting planners answered the call. Following are some highlights.


Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center opened its doors as the largest combined resort and convention center in Colorado. The resort is the fifth Gaylord Hotels property in the U.S., under the Marriott International umbrella. It is located about 10 minutes from Denver International Airport.


Hilton Birmingham at UAB, The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s flagship hotel on campus, completed its multimillion-dollar renovation, officially converting from a DoubleTree by Hilton property.


While women have an outsized representation in the hospitality industry—especially in the role of meeting planners—the number of females in upper management and c-suite roles continues to lag behind those of men. Charlotte St. Martin, president of The Broadway League, is a hotel, CVB and meetings industry veteran who took a hammer to the glass ceiling years ago.


With a background in financial analytics, one could argue that Mulberry Development Principal & CEO Michael Buono was as equipped as anyone to weather the economic collapse of 2008 that tore through the construction and real estate industry like a Category 5 hurricane.

One thing is undeniable: The close-shave timing of his entry into the hospitality development business couldn’t have been worse. “The word on the street was we were the last project that was funded [as a lender] in Manhattan by HSBC before the financial meltdown took place,” Buono said of his Ace Hotel New York project. “What I saw was fear and lots of instability because the market just imploded.”


01.15.19 Update: According to Reuters, German airport security staff have started a one-day strike. Lufthansa said it would cancel around 500 flights, 28 of which are intercontinental.

01.14.19 Update: Lufthansa announced it will cancel at least 414 flights due to a possible strike on Tuesday, January 15 at eight German airports, including Frankfurt. The airline said the cancellations include 386 flights within Europe and 28 international flights.

Airline passengers planning on traveling to, from or through Germany’s Frankfurt Airport during this timeframe may have to find alternative plans.

According to a notification on Lufthansa’s homepage, due to a strike by security staff at the airport, a major European hub, Lufthansa Group flights to and from Frankfurt will be considerably hindered Tuesday, January 15.


NGALA Wildlife Preserve, located on a private, wooded 42-acre property outside Naples, Florida, caters to corporate events and is a home for a variety of rescued animals that cannot be reintroduced back to the wild. NGALA, which translates from Swahili to “Place of the Lion,” was founded by Donovan Smith nearly 20 years ago and is currently home to about 45 animals in addition to over 100 venomous reptiles introduced to the preserve by Smith’s “better half,” Khara Geders.


As the U.S. government shutdown continues, one of the major issues that could have an increasingly detrimental impact on travel safety and convenience is Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers calling out from work. The situation has the potential to leave passengers dealing with longer lines at TSA checkpoints and possibly less security restrictions should the problem ensue.


As PCMA Convening Leaders 2019 continues in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the association announced that it became a signatory of The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism, in partnership with ECPAT-USA, also known as The Code.


Effective January 7, 2019, visitors to Japan will pay a 1,000 yen (about $9 USD) departure tax when leaving the country, regardless of nationality. The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) reported that the tax is expected to expand and enhance the country’s tourist infrastructure.


The massive data breach of guest information at Marriott-owned Starwood Hotels & Resorts properties revealed by Marriott International at the end of November 2018 has grown in its severity, with the passport numbers of more than 5 million guests compromised, according to The New York Times.


What does the government shutdown mean for meetings and events? According to meetings industry veterans, the impact can be severe or not much at all, depending on how long a shutdown lasts, when it happens and who is attending and presenting at meetings.


We all know the pains of long days on one’s feet—it is unavoidable in this this industry. Whether it’s a full day at the convention center, running around the day before a big event, or a lengthy site visit, leg and foot discomfort seem to come with the territory of the job.


On October 1, 2020, current driver’s licenses in 27 U.S. states will no longer be valid to board a domestic commercial airline flight in the U.S. California rolled out its Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses January 2, 2019. The new driver’s license costs $35 and a new identification card costs $30.


Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas is joining the list of properties offering free self- and valet parking fees for overnight hotel guests as of January 1, 2019. The parking fee was previously $10 per night, however, the hotel is simultaneously raising the daily resort fee by $4 per night, going from $35 to $39. Day visitors at the Cosmopolitan without will still be charged hourly parking fees.


The Washington State Court of Appeals blocked a so-called “panic button” law for hotels in Seattle on Monday, December 24, 2018. According to the unanimous ruling, Seattle Initiative Measure 124 violated the “single subject condition,” which stops disparate rules being combined into a single law.


The Meetings Today editors skimmed through the analytics, grabbed the top 20 videos and then watched each one to pick our personal favorite Meetings in a Minute (MIAM) planner tips we showcased in 2018.


Although heat mapping visual representations have been around for a century or more in various forms, the digital revolution and data analytics have made this tool extremely useful and utilized in the last decade. A frequent use of heat maps in the events industry is to track attendee behavior.


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