News Briefs, Week of Feb. 8, 2010

Tripology trips, seeks new funding
Tripology, a Web-based referral and lead-generation service, posted a notice on its agents' blog that it "stopped accepting travel agent payment for lead credits, terminated the Tripology staff and actively started looking for a new investor" after a previous investor withdrew. At press time the site was still accepting and acknowledging new trip requests from consumers and allowing agents to continue to buy leads using existing credits.

Royal Caribbean to put ship in Palma
Royal Caribbean International will base the 2,446-passenger Grandeur of the Seas in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, in summer 2011, a first for the line. The ship will offer seven-day or back-to-back 14-day cruises along the French Riviera, Italian coastline and Balearic Islands. The line said the move was a direct response to strong demand in the U.K. and Ireland for greater cruise variety and destinations.

Ramada Plaza opens in Honolulu
Ramada opened the 198-room Ramada Plaza Waikiki in Honolulu. The property, formerly the Holiday Inn Waikiki, is owned and operated by Cal-Dynasty International, a unit of Taiwan's China Airlines.

Court to continue Hanni hacking suit
A U.S. District Court judge in Texas rejected Delta's motion to dismiss a lawsuit by Kate Hanni, founder of FlyersRights.org, who alleges the airline conspired to hack into her personal email and computer files. The court said the case should proceed because Hanni could be entitled to reimbursement for her loss.

Manhattan hotel loses Sheraton tag
Starwood is yanking the Sheraton flag from its 665-room Sheraton Manhattan near New York's Times Square in April. The company said the property, which it owns, does not meet the upgraded standards of the Sheraton brand, which is finishing a three-year, $6 billion global overhaul. The hotel, which Starwood will operate as an independent property, is one of 32 losing the Sheraton flag as part of the brand revamp. Starwood CEO Frits van Paasschen said the company was looking for a buyer or investor to help redevelop the property. He said it would likely don one of the company's upscale brands but could also be returned to the Sheraton portfolio.

Two Costa ships to cruise Red Sea
Costa Cruises will base two ships in Sharm al-Sheikh, Egypt, for the winter 2010-2011 season. The Costa Allegra and Costa Marina will offer seven-day cruises in the Red Sea that will include three days in Sharm al-Sheikh, a resort destination on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. The ships will offer one-day calls at Adabiyah and Safaga, Egypt; Aqaba, Jordan; and Elat, Israel.

Avianca, TACA set for merger
Two Latin American airlines, Colombia's Avianca and El Salvador's Grupo TACA, closed on a merger agreement after receiving government approvals to combine their operations. The new parent company, Avianca-TACA, will be based in the Bahamas, 67% owned by Synergy Aerospace, Avianca's majority owner, and 33% owned by TACA majority owner Kingsland Holding. The company plans no short-term name or brand changes.

Friends & Colleagues

Kathy Fitzpatrick is the new president of VAX VacationAccess Worldwide. Fitzpatrick has been in the GDS industry for more than 20 years, most recently serving as senior vice president and managing director of Americas at Travelport. She replaces Bob LaCroix, who served as president and CEO. • • • Hard Rock International has hired Michael Shindler as executive vice president of its hotels and casinos. Shindler most recently served as president and CEO of Four Corners Advisors, a Chicago-based hotel consulting and advisory firm. • • • John D. Clagg has resigned as CFO of YTB International. YTB's board of directors appointed CEO Robert van Patten to take on Clagg's duties until a new CFO is found. • • • HEI Hotels & Resorts has promoted Steve Mendell to the position of president, acquisitions and development. Mendell is a co-founder of HEI. He served as executive vice president, acquisitions and development, prior to the promotion. • • • The Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association named Noel Lynch deputy director general and director of membership. Lynch formerly was minister of tourism and international transport for Barbados. • • • Georgia Kirsner, vice president, travel industry and emerging markets for Ritz-Carlton, will retire from the company this month. Kirsner began her career at the Ritz-Carlton, Naples (Fla.) in 1990 and joined the corporate staff in 1995 as vice president, travel industry. Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants named Nabil Moubayed and Denise Schultz to the executive team of the Hotel Palomar Chicago. Moubayed, who will serve as general manager, most recently held the general manager position at Kimpton's Hotel Monaco Chicago. Schultz, the director of sales and marketing, served as the director of sales and marketing at the Radisson Plaza Hotel Minneapolis prior to accepting her new post.

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