Mexico may get more low-fare air

Gol, Brazils fast-growing low-fare airline, is partnering with a Mexican company to start a low-cost, airline in Mexico. That would give the country two low-cost carriers: Click Mexicana, Mexicanas new low-cost unit, began service July 5.

Gol and its partners plan to begin flights in the second quarter of 2006, pending shareholder and government approvals. Gol said the Mexican domestic market has many similarities with the Brazilian market, including large cities, long distances and high fares.

Lodge set to open in Aug. on Curacao

Curacaos new 44-villa Lodge Kura Hulanda and Beach Club, sister property to the Hotel Kura Hulanda in Willemstad, will open next month on the islands west end.

Transportation will be offered between the beachfront resort and the in-town hotel, which is part of the Unesco World Heritage Village site.

Agents score high on comfort in poll

Two-thirds of travelers in a Galileo survey identified one or more reasons they feel more comfortable booking leisure trips with a travel agent. The top comfort factor, cited by 53%, is the agents ability to ask the traveler about travel needs, followed by willingness to customize itineraries (52%) and ability to do complex trips (49%).

The 1,006 respondents in the Harris Interactive survey also were asked to identify essential services when booking a vacation with an agency. Sixty-five percent cited personal interaction, or the need to sit with the agent to discuss plans, but some routine capabilities rated even higher (ability to book travel, 76%, and access to real-time information, 73%).

D.C. Marriott to get condos

The Wardman Park Marriott Hotel, the largest hotel in Washington, will be getting a new look and some condos. New owners of the hotel, which overlooks Rock Creek Park, plan to convert about 195 of the hotels 1,334 rooms into condominiums.

The hotel, which will remain a Marriott, is also earmarked for renovations to guest rooms and public areas. Bill Wallis, the hotels director of marketing, said the property will remain open during renovations.

Taj takes over at the Pierre

Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, one of Asias largest hotel groups, took over operations at the Pierre, one of New Yorks top luxury properties, replacing Four Seasons. The Pierre is the first hotel in New York to be managed by Taj, which plans to invest $35 million upgrading the hotel.

Taj said it will honor all previous bookings. The property, located opposite Central Park on Fifth Avenue at 61st St., includes 201 hotel rooms and 80 residential apartments, a mix that Taj said will be maintained.

Discovery sailings to include Galapagos

Discovery World Cruises brokered a deal with the Ecuadorian government to offer two sailings that include the Galapagos Islands, a carefully controlled region that is restricted to small ships that fly the Ecuadorian flag. The Discovery, which flies the Bahamian flag, will be an exception.

Occupancy on the 650-passenger ship will be capped at 500, and passengers will be tendered ashore on a rotating basis. The cruises, on April 7 and April 27, will begin and end, respectively, with two days in the Galapagos and three nights in Quito, Ecuador.

US Airways-Am West merger clears hurdle

The proposed merger of America West and US Airways cleared another hurdle: US Airways said the 30-day period for competing bids expired on July 1 without any offers.

It would have been difficult for other offers to have provided comparable value to our stakeholders, and with the bidding process now behind us, we will begin planning with America West for the integration of our two companies, said US Airways CEO Bruce Lakefield.

Lufthansa-Swiss deal wins E.C. approval

The European Commission and U.S. competition authorities gave antitrust approval to Lufthansas takeover of Swiss, clearing the way for Swiss to begin its integration into the Lufthansa Group. Lufthansa will soon own 49% of Swiss, but the complete takeover is not expected until 2006 or 2007. The airlines will begin integrating their schedules this winter.

Swiss will maintain a separate brand identity as well as its Zurich hub. The E.C. is requiring the partners to give up enough airport slots at Zurich; Frankfurt; Munich, Berlin, and Dusseldorf, Germany; Vienna, Stockholm, Sweden; and Copenhagen, Denmark, to allow for a total of 41 roundtrip flights per day by competitors.

Friends & Colleagues

Bonnie Buimi, senior vice president and treasurer at Royal Caribbean Cruises, has been appointed CFO for NCL Corp., effective July 20. She will replace Lamarr Cooler, a 30-year veteran at NCL. " " " Barbara Muckermann, Silversea Cruises senior vice president of worldwide marketing and communications, resigned due to personal and family commitments. The line has not yet named a replacement. " " " Tom Manno was named senior director of sales and operations for Regent International Hotels. Manno was vice president/general manager for the Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami. " " " Yale professor Michael E. Levine, a major architect of airline deregulation and former senior executive at Continental and Northwest, is moving on to the  NYU School of Law as a Distinguished Research Scholar. Levine, who once headed the Big Apples hometown airline, New York Air, is writing a book about airline deregulation. " " " Northwest consolidated its marketing and sales activities under the leadership of three Northwest executives, whose responsibilities and titles expanded and changed. Thomas Bach became vice president of network planning and revenue management, Jim Cron became vice president of passenger marketing and sales, and Crystal Knotek became vice president of reservations and customer care. Cron also became CEO of MLT Vacations, a subsidiary of Northwest. " " "Peter Odle, general manager of Mango Bay Hotel and Beach Club in Holetown, Barbados, is the new president-elect of the Caribbean Hotel Association for the 2006-2008 term. He will succeed Berthia Parle when she steps down next year. " " " Karen Colliton Thomson was promoted to director of sales and marketing of the Westin New York at Times Square. Colliton Thomson joined the staff about a year ago as director of group sales.

Submit your items and photos for News and Friends & Colleagues to: Joseph Kornik, managing editor of the print edition of Travel Weekly, at[email protected].

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