Hilton mulls sale of Scandic brand

Hilton said it was evaluating "strategic alternatives" for its Scandic brand, including the possible sale of all or part of the chain. The Scandic portfolio includes 130 hotels, mostly in Scandinavia. Hilton acquired the chain when it took over Hilton International earlier this year.

Separately, Hilton said it would soon divest 10 European properties that it acquired in the Hilton International deal. Among them are the Hilton Charles de Gaulle and Hilton Strasbourg in France; the Hilton Zurich Airport in Switzerland; the Hilton Barcelona in Spain; and Los Zocos Villa Resort in the Canary Islands.

Expedia inks deal with US Airways

US Airways has signed a five-year deal with Expedia, pledging to make all published fares and inventory available through Expedia and its affiliate sites, including "special package inventory."

Value Place brand hits milestone

Value Place, the low-frills, extended-stay chain, has opened its 23rd property. Founder Jack DeBoer disclosed that the 4-year-old company has 500 franchise commitments.

Windstar fleet slated for upgrades

The Windstar Cruises fleet will be upgraded and refurbished by 2008, the company announced. The Wind Surf will be out of service this fall from Nov. 12 to Dec. 16. The Wind Spirit will go into drydock in the spring, and the Wind Star will do the same in the fall of 2007. Windstar has not released details of the upgrade, except to say that it will be extensive.

Experts downgrade hurricane forecast

Federal officials downgraded their projections for the 2006 Atlantic hurricane season to 12 to 15 named storms, of which seven to nine would become major hurricanes. The original forecast called for 13 to 16 named storms.

However, officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned that the threat remains real for an above-average hurricane season, despite the recent lull. (Alberto, Beryl and Chris have come and gone with little impact.) The peak storm period runs through October; the season officially ends Nov. 30.

Starwood builds a virtual Aloft

The first Aloft, a new Starwood brand featuring loft-like rooms, won't open until 2008, but players of Second Life -- an online, virtual environment populated by about 350,000 users -- won't have to wait that long.

In September, Aloft, the virtual hotel, will become part of an interactive, 3-D environment on Second Life, a Web site where players will be able to check into rooms, hang out in the hotel's lounge and get a sense of life in the hotel before the opening of the first Aloft. Until the virtual opening in September, online players can watch the construction at www.virtualaloft.com.

Holiday Inn planned for Panama site

InterContinental Hotels Group will open the first Holiday Inn in Panama in 2008. The Holiday Inn Hotel and School Panama Canal will be part of the City of Knowledge, an educational complex operated by a private foundation on a former U.S. military base near Panama City.

Sun sets on Melia's Hard Rock deal

Hard Rock International and Sol Melia mutually agreed to terminate a 3-year-old partnership to develop hotels under the Hard Rock brand.

The companies indicated they would separately pursue new brand strategies. Hard Rock intends to focus on acquiring global "cafe, hotel and gaming, intellectual property and operational rights," while Sol Melia seeks to develop lifestyle hotels and concepts.

Tempe, Ariz., to get Le Meridien hotel

Starwood disclosed plans to open a new Le Meridien hotel in Arizona in October 2008, the first announced newbuild since Starwood acquired Le Meridien last November. The 183-room Le Meridien at Tempe Town Lake will be part of Hayden Ferry Lakeside, a planned landscape of water and park space at Tempe Beach Park, and will include 44 residential units.

Best Western site adds packaging

Best Western International enhanced its Web site by adding dynamic-packaging functionality that enables users to book flights, car rentals, event tickets and tours as well as Best Western hotel rooms.

The new functionality is due to Best Western's separate partnerships with Travelport, formerly Cendant Travel Distribution Services, and Viator, a specialist in sightseeing and destination activities.

U.S. OKs air grant for the Caribbean

The State Dept. earmarked $400,000 to support ongoing aviation safety initiatives in the Caribbean, according to Marion Blakely, FAA administrator.

The funds supplement an earlier grant of $800,000 used to provide technical and legal assistance, enhanced training and infrastructure development for Caribbean aviation development.

Friends & Colleagues

Best Western International has named Tony Di Rico vice president of operations, a newly created position. Di Rico has held senior level positions with Richfield Hotel Management and Choice Hotels, where he launched MainStay Suites. " " " Terry Robertson, founder of Grand Expeditions, has joined Lindblad Expeditions as its chief operating officer. " " " SeaDream Yacht Club has named Ian Buckeridge its U.K. sales and marketing director, senior director of business development in the U.K. and head of marketing strategy for the U.K. and Ireland. " " " Matz Jenssen, director of business development for Scandinavia, Russia, the Eastern Bloc and the Baltic States, has been named senior director of business development for Continental Europe. " " " Marriott has appointed Kathleen Matthews executive vice president, global communications and public affairs. She will replace Charlotte Sterling, who is retiring at the end of the year. Matthews has been a news anchor, reporter and producer at WJLA, an ABC affiliate in Washington. She is the wife of MSNBC's Chris Matthews. " " " Stacy-Ann Greenwood is now regional sales manager for Half Moon resort in Jamaica. Greenwood, who was sales manager at Point Village Resort in Negril, Jamaica, took over for Sharon Logan, who is now group sales manager for Half Moon." " " Contiki Holidays has promoted Mark Junette to vice president of sales. He had been director of sales for the U.S. market.

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