Opening day nears for Universal's Diagon Alley

Harry Potter fans around the world, rejoice: Universal Orlando Resort's highly anticipated attraction, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter -- Diagon Alley, will open July 8. Theme park officials have billed Diagon Alley as "the world's first centrally themed, multipark experience." The area features a collection of shops and eateries, with a thrill ride called "Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts" as the centerpiece. Guests can buy interactive wands and use them at specific locations around Diagon Alley to produce "magic" moments. And they can travel between London and Hogsmeade, the Harry Potter-themed area located in the Islands of Adventure park, aboard the new Hogwarts Express train, which features interactive windows with silhouetted characters, music and scenes from the film.

American pays $31M for Heathrow slots
Cyprus Airways sold its last remaining slots at London's Heathrow Airport to American for $31 million. American has not yet named the route for which it will use the slot pair, which accommodates one daily takeoff and one landing. Cyprus said it sold the slots to raise funds for a financial restructuring. It will serve Heathrow through Sept. 13 and then move its Larnaca-London flights to Stansted on Sept. 14.

JetBlue adds routes at Washington Reagan
JetBlue, having picked up new slots at Washington's Reagan National Airport, set Dec. 18 as the launch date for new seasonal routes to Fort Myers and West Palm Beach, Fla. The carrier last week opened new routes from National to Charleston, S.C.; Hartford, Conn.; and Nassau, Bahamas.

United's Houston hub to get Santiago spoke
United plans to add Santiago, Chile, to its system, launching service from Houston on Dec. 7 with 767-300 aircraft. The carrier plans a daily nonstop with a 214-seat configuration: 30 flat-bed seats in BusinessFirst, 49 in Economy Plus and 135 in Economy.

PhoCusWright inks partnership pact
Travel research firm PhoCusWright and Chinese publisher and event organizer TravelDaily agreed to cooperate on their upcoming conferences. PhoCusWright and TravelDaily will co-host the 2014 TravelDaily Conference, Sept. 3 and 4 in Shanghai, and TravelDaily will be an official media partner of the 2014 PhoCusWright Conference, slated for Nov. 11 to 13 in Los Angeles. PhoCusWright is a unit of Travel Weekly's parent, Northstar Travel Media.

IHG introduces Even, its newest brand
InterContinental Hotels Group debuted its wellness-oriented Even Hotels brand in Norwalk, Conn. The 129-room hotel, owned and managed by IHG, offers features such as an "in-room training zone," adjustable LED mood lighting, eucalyptus fiber bedding and a food and beverage program that emphasizes healthier products. The brand is expected to compete against upper-upscale select-service brands such as Courtyard by Marriott and Hyatt Place. The brand's second property is expected to open soon in Rockville, Md., a suburb of Washington, followed by openings in New York.

Hilton plans opening for South Beach hotel
Hilton will add a beachfront hotel to Miami Beach's Collins Avenue this summer. The Hilton Cabana Miami Beach, located at Collins Avenue at 62nd Street, will have 231 rooms, including 12 suites. Situated in two buildings at the former site of the Allison Hotel, the property will feature a "semiprivate" 119-foot beachfront.

Palace Resorts enters Jamaica market
Palace Resorts will assume ownership of the 730-room Sunset Jamaica Grande in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, on July 7 and close it on Sept. 1 for renovations and upgrades. The resort will reopen as the Moon Palace Jamaica Grande in early 2015, marking Palace Resorts' entry into the Jamaican market. Mexico-based Palace Resorts owns and operates seven properties in Mexico, including the Moon Palace Golf & Spa Resort, Cancun. Sunset Resorts has three other properties in Jamaica, two in Montego Bay and one in Negril.

Friends & Colleagues
The American Queen Steamboat Co. has hired J. William Diebenow as senior vice president of sales, replacing the recently retired Jeff Drew. Diebenow most recently served as vice president with Preferred Hotel Group and Optriant. Prior to that he led educational travel event provider High Country Passage/World Leaders Symposium. He also served on the sales and marketing team for Intrav and Clipper Cruise Line. • • • Darrick Eman has been named director of sales and marketing for the Nizuc hotel brand. He most recently was the director of sales for Orient-Express Hotels Mexico & Caribbean. The Nizuc brand currently consists of just one property, the Nizuc Resort & Spa in Cancun. It is the flagship property of Mexico's Las Brisas Hotel Collection. • • • The Loews Coronado Bay Resort appointed Brian Johnson managing director. Johnson brings more than 30 years of hospitality experience to the role, most recently as managing director of Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Arizona's Catalina Foothills. He has also worked with Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, where he began his career in 1983. • • • The Bermuda Tourism Authority named Victoria Isley as its chief sales and marketing officer. She previously served as COO for the Destination Marketing Association International. • • • The recently created Faith Travel Association (FTA) has named Justina Elsidodi as administrative assistant; Julie Hoover-Ernst as director of marketing and communications; and Theresa Krieg as FTA Ambassador. • • • Palladium Hotel Group appointed Jacques De Paep commercial director for North America. De Paep will focus predominantly on the Palladium Hotels & Resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean, Ushuaia Ibiza Beach Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza and the Ayre and Only You brands.
He has 20 years of experience in international hospitality, including at Grupo Sol, where he helped integrate Sol and Melia into one brand. Palladium's former commercial director for North America, Bill Chlebek, is now the brand's director of contracting for key accounts in North America.

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