News Briefs, Week of June 1, 2015

Universal to open new water park in Orlando


Universal Orlando Resort is building a new water park, Volcano Bay, scheduled to open in 2017, joining Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure as the resort's third theme park. Universal said the park would be inspired by tropical islands and "will forever change the perception of water theme parks."

New Orleans to get its first Four Seasons
The New Orleans City Council approved a plan to redevelop its long-vacant, 33-story World Trade Center into a $364 million, 350-room Four Seasons hotel and 76 condos, scheduled to open in December 2017. Local reports say the Four Seasons will have an observation deck, a ballroom, meeting rooms and a restaurant.

Cuba visits from U.S. up 36% this year
U.S. visitors to Cuba between Jan. 1 and May 9 totaled 51,458, an increase of 36% over the same period last year, according to an Associated Press report, which cited figures provided by an economist in the University of Havana's tourism studies department. According to the report, 38,476 U.S. visitors flew directly from the U.S. to Cuba, up from 29,213 over the same period in 2014; the remainder arrived via third countries. The total did not include Cuban-Americans with family ties.

2014 saw a million cruisers Down Under
The number of passengers cruising in Australia topped 1 million for the first time in 2014, according to a CLIA report, 20.4% more than in 2013. Australia accounted for 4.5% of the 22.1 million global cruise passengers in 2014, the world's fourth-largest cruise market, CLIA said.

Md. governor vetoes tax markup bill
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) vetoed a bill that would have taxed hotel markups and possibly service fees on hotel bookings charged by travel agents, saying the issue is being decided in Maryland courts in the case of Travelocity vs. the Comptroller of Maryland. ASTA and other major travel agency groups lobbied against the bill, while hotels supported it.

Windstar names its third Seabourn ship
Windstar named the Star Legend last week, the last of three former Seabourn ships to join its fleet following refurbishment. Gloria Bohan, CEO of Omega World Travel and Cruise.com, is godmother to the 212-passenger ship, the former Seabourn Legend. The Star Breeze, the line's second Seabourn ship, entered service last month, and the Star Pride in 2014.

Madrid's Hotel Ritz to become a Mandarin
Luxury hotelier Mandarin Oriental and Saudi Arabia-based Olayan Group agreed to buy the 115-year-old Hotel Ritz in Madrid for $148 million and invest $103 million into upgrading the property in 2017. The current ownership group includes Belmond.

Commune to open two new LA hotels in 2017
Commune Hotels & Resorts' will open its first two newly built hotels in Los Angeles' Hollywood neighborhood in 2017, one each for its Thompson Hotels and the new Tommie brands. The 200-room Thompson Hollywood will be located a few blocks from the Tommie Hollywood. The first Tommie will open in New York this fall.

Friends & Colleagues
Carmen Roig will become Crystal Cruises' senior vice president of sales and marketing. Roig has been in travel sales for 30 years, most recently at Azamara Club Cruises, where she served as associate vice president of sales, the Americas. Crystal said Roig will work out of the Miami office and will report to Crystal CEO Edie Rodriguez. • • • Carnival Cruise Line appointed James Heaney senior vice president and CFO. He joins Carnival on June 22 and will report to the cruise line's president, Christine Duffy. Before joining Carnival, Heaney spent three years as CFO for SeaWorld Entertainment. He replaces Anne Bramman, who left Carnival in February to become CFO of Avery Dennison. • • • GroundLink has named Liz Carisone CEO. Carisone, who most recently served as CFO/senior vice president of operations and has been with GroundLink since 2012,  replaces Dean Sivley. Sivley announced plans to assist John Noel in transitioning the leadership of Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. • • • CroisiEurope hired Cindy Christen to be director of sales in North America. For the past nine years, Christen served as sales manager for Uniworld Boutique River Cruises in Florida. Previously, she held management positions with several travel companies. • • • Aqua Hospitality and Aston Hotels & Resorts appointed James Karabelas senior director of digital marketing for its 54 properties in Hawaii, the U.S. mainland and Guam. Karabelas previously oversaw the strategic development and management of e-commerce initiatives and online marketing programs at Castle Resorts & Hotels.

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