Hotel briefs: Holiday Inn expands testing of e-concierge service

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Holiday Inn expanded its testing of a virtual concierge service called eHost to 14 of its U.S. hotels. The chain had been testing the system only at the Holiday Inn Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga.

The virtual concierge is an intranet system that enables guests to order room service and access information provided by a traditional concierge, including dining options, attractions, movies, shopping, transportation and events. Guests also may use eHost to access weather and airline information, play games and send e-postcards.

Holiday Inn said it intends to roll out eHost chainwide by the end of the year. It plans to use the system to complement traditional concierge services.

Omni Hotels agreed to acquire two hotels in San Antonio, La Mansion del Rio and the Watermark Hotel & Spa. The transaction is expected to close March 6. Omni said the purchase is part of its strategy to build or acquire properties in top business and leisure destinations.

MeriStar Hospitality Corp. signed an agreement to sell a portfolio of nine hotels and a golf and tennis club, all located in Florida, to an affiliate of the Blackstone Group for $367 million in cash. MeriStar said it expects to complete the transaction during the first quarter. The properties include the Hilton Cocoa Beach Oceanfront and the Sheraton Beach Resort Key Largo.

Concorde Hotels opened the five-star Hotel Concorde Berlin, a new downtown property with 311 rooms. Concorde said the hotel has the largest guest rooms in Berlin.

Hiltons Homewood Suites opened a 124-unit hotel in downtown Salt Lake City, its second in the city and the first property in the chain to feature two restaurants and six retail spaces on site. The extended-stay brand typically offers limited meal service and convenience store shopping.

Starwood signed three separate deals to manage hotels under construction in China under its Sheraton and Westin brands. The hotels are the Sheraton Dameisha Resort in Shenzhen, due to open in early 2008; the Westin Zhejiang Resort at Nine Dragon Hill, a resort area in the Yangtze River delta region, to open in mid-2008; and the Sheraton Zhongshan Hotel in Guangdong province, opening in January 2009.

Four Seasons has three new projects in Asia. The Four Seasons Hotel Macao opens in late 2007. Two years later, the company plans to open its second hotel in Shanghai and the Four Seasons Hotel Taipei.

The Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort is back in full operation, following a $15 million renovation to repair Hurricane Ivan damage and expand the meeting facilities. All rooms now have wireless Internet and balconies.

Extended Stay Hotels now offers wireless Internet access at its properties in the U.S. Extended Stay Hotels brands are Extended Stay America, Homestead Studio Suites Hotels, StudioPlus Deluxe Studios, Crossland Economy Studios and Extended Stay Deluxe. Extended Stay guests pay a one-time $4.99 fee, which permits Web access for the duration of their stay.

The James Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Ariz., was sold to the Morgans Hotel Group for $46.5 million by Stephen Hanson and Danny Errico, founders of the boutique brand. Hanson and Errico said the money from the sale would enable them to grow the James brand. Their second hotel, the James Chicago, is slated to open next month. The entrepreneurs also intend to open hotels in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Boston and Las Vegas.

Michael Milligan is Travel Weeklys hotel editor. E-mail him at[email protected].

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