AmEx completes biz travel joint venture


American Express has completed the establishment of a business travel joint venture, the company announced. Plans for the new American Express Global Business Travel, a joint venture between American Express and an investor group led by Certares, were announced in September. The investor group, which includes Qatar Holding and funds managed by BlackRock, Macquarie Capital and Certares itself, has committed $900 million for a 50% stake in the joint venture.

Southwest launches international routes
Southwest Airlines spread its wings to the islands on July 1 with the launch of service to Oranjestad, Aruba; Nassau; and Montego Bay, Jamaica, from Atlanta, Baltimore and Orlando. It is Southwest's first international service. The carrier took over operation of the routes from its AirTran subsidiary.

Frosch acquires Florida travel agency
Frosch Travel, a $1.15 billion agency and No. 16 on the 2014 Power List, has acquired Indian River Travel, a 28-year-old, Florida-based travel agency. Indian River Travel owners Ken Wall and John Burson will stay with the business: Burson will become a luxury travel consultant, and Wall will act as a liaison between Indian River's daily operations, its staff members and Frosch. Indian River has offices in Stuart, North Palm Beach and Vero Beach.

ARC offers FareSight tool to nonmembers
FareSight, ARC's benchmarking tool for air travel, is now available to corporate customers who don't process transactions through ARC.

Viking cancels Ukraine river cruises
Viking Cruises, which had been taking a wait-and-see approach to its Ukraine sailings, has decided to cancel its remaining Ukraine itineraries for 2014 and is repositioning the newly refurbished, 196-passenger Viking Sineus to a 12-day itinerary between Bucharest, Romania, and the Black Sea. The ship was scheduled to sail a 12-day Footsteps of the Cossacks cruise from Kiev into the heart of the Crimean Peninsula. Guests who were booked on the remaining 2014 Ukraine sailings were notified of the cancellations and were offered a full refund.

Westgate buys former Las Vegas Hilton
The Las Vegas Hotel & Casino has been sold by Goldman Sachs to luxury timeshare operator Westgate Resorts. The 2,956-room hotel will be renamed the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. The company will convert some of the rooms to luxury timeshare units. The property is the former Las Vegas Hilton and was at one time the world's largest hotel. It was built next to the Las Vegas Convention Center in 1969 by casino magnate Kirk Kerkorian and opened as the International Hotel. Navegante Group, which has been managing the property since October 2012, will continue to run the hotel.

TUI AG plans buyout of TUI Travel
TUI AG intends to acquire the shares of tour operator company TUI Travel that it doesn't currently own, in a deal worth about $7.5 billion. TUI AG currently owns nearly 55% of TUI Travel. The proposed buyout, anticipated to close in the spring, could reduce costs for both entities by as much as $77 million, according to the companies. U.K.-based TUI Travel includes U.S. brands such as Travcoa and International Expeditions.

Friends & Colleagues
Choice Hotels International appointed Dennis Wynn to oversee franchise sales efforts in the Caribbean. Wynn was appointed director of membership for Choice's Ascend Hotel Collection in 2012, and he now adds the Caribbean region to his portfolio of core brands, which also include Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality Inn and Clarion. Wynn joined Choice in 2006. Prior to that, he was a chef at the Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead in Atlanta. • • • Celebrity Cruises has promoted three sales managers. Keith Lane has been named vice president, field sales and national accounts, North America; he had been vice president of field sales. Carol Cabezas, formerly director of sales planning and strategy, has risen to the position of associate vice president, national accounts and strategic accounts, North America. Ron Gulaskey becomes global director, corporate, incentives and charter sales; he had served as director of corporate, incentive and charter sales. • • • Journey Mexico appointed Lillian Aviles director of marketing. Aviles formerly was director of sales, North America, for the Palazzo Sasso in Ravello, on Italy's Amalfi Coast. Prior to that, she ran her own public relations agency, representing a number of boutique hotels and resorts. • • • Following its announcement that the joint venture for American Express Global Business Travel was completed, the company announced new executive team members: Pat Bourke as chief administrative officer, Norma Corio as chief financial officer and JoAnne Kruse as chief human resources officer. Bourke is a former Worldspan and Travelport executive who most recently served as a partner in Blackstone's private equity group. Corio is a former JPMorgan Chase & Co. executive who most recently served as co-president and a managing director of restructuring firm Miller Buckfire. Kruse, also a former Travelport executive, was the founder of consulting firm Human Capital Partners.

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