News Briefs, Week of June 17, 2013

Carnival Triumph back in service

Four months after an engine-room fire knocked the ship out of commission, the Carnival Triumph returned to service on June 13. The ship is homeported in Galveston and will operate four- and five-day Mexico cruises year-round. Carnival said it improved the ship's fire-suppression system and installed a second backup generator so that key hotel operations (toilets, elevators and food service) can function in the event that the main power is knocked out. The engine-room fire in February left the ship without power for five days at sea, leaving passengers without air conditioning and functioning toilets.

ASTA makes pitch via social media
ASTA will launch a new social media strategy this month, in which the organization promotes the value of using a travel agent. Kerby said ASTA will have a presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media outlets. ASTA's new tagline is "The global advocates for travel. Go with the pros."

Ritz-Carlton exiting Palm Beach hotel
Ritz-Carlton on July 1 will stop managing its hotel near Palm Beach, Fla., and is countersuing the hotel's owner, claiming breach of contract. Ritz-Carlton, which was sued by hotel owner RC/PB Inc. in 2011, will file a "multimillion-dollar counterclaim," Ritz-Carlton said. RC/PB in 2011 sued Ritz-Carlton and its parent, Marriott International, claiming Ritz-Carlton overcharged management fees by almost $30 million during the previous five years and that it was running higher costs than necessary as part of an alleged kickback scheme with some of the hotel's vendors.

Omni signs pact to buy five resorts
Omni Hotels & Resorts reached an agreement to buy five resorts from private-equity firm KSL Capital Partners and will reflag the resorts under the Omni brand on July 1. The acquisitions are Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas; La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif.; Grove Park Inn in Asheville, N.C.; Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif.; and the Homestead in Hot Springs, Va. No purchase price was disclosed.

Report: Occupancy headed up in 2014
Next year's U.S. hotel occupancy will be the highest in this century as travelers continue to boost spending, PKF Hospitality Research said. With room supply set to rise just 1% next year, 2014 occupancy will increase 2.2 percentage points, to 63.8%, the highest since 1997. Meanwhile, U.S. revenue per available room (RevPAR) will rise 7.7% next year. Oakland, Calif.'s RevPAR will rise 10% next year, while Denver and Chicago will jump 8.9% and 8.7%, respectively.

Kai Tak cruise port opens in Hong Kong
Hong Kong's $1 billion Kai Tak Cruise Terminal opened June 12 and welcomed its first arrival, Royal Caribbean's Mariner of the Seas. The terminal was built at the end of a runway at the old Kai Tak Airport, which closed in 1998. One berth is completed, and the other is scheduled to open in 2014. The terminal can accommodate Royal Caribbean's Oasis and Allure of the Seas, the largest ships in the cruise industry, at 220,000 gross tons.

Friends & Colleagues
ASTA announced a pair of recent appointments. Susan Verdolini-Sheats is the Society's new vice president for business development. She will lead ASTA's strategic alliance and Allied Member outreach and management. Verdolini-Sheats joins ASTA after serving the same role with the Global Business Travel Association. Bill Lawrence will serve as director of partner programs. Lawrence has held sales, marketing and corporate development positions at InterContinental Hotels Group, Hilton International and Sheraton. • • • Enterprise Holdings promoted the company's president, Pamela Nicholson, to CEO. Nicholson replaces Andy Taylor, who continues as Enterprise's executive chairman. Nicholson will retain her title of president.


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