News Briefs, Week of May 21, 2007

El Al check-in staff makes house calls

El Al added an at-home check-in option for departures from Israel whereby members of the airlines ground staff and security team visit the passengers home, office, hotel or other venue and conduct security screening, baggage check-in and issue boarding passes.

The service is priced at $49 for up to four people and $5 for additional passengers and $15 per person for groups of six or more.

It can be ordered by phone up to six hours before departure. At the airport, travelers proceed to Passport Control with carry-on baggage.

Plaza hotel brand bound for Vegas

The Elad Group, owner of New Yorks Plaza Hotel, is taking the venerable Manhattan brand to Las Vegas, the first step in a global expansion. The firm said it had acquired the 34.5-acre site of the New Frontier on the Strip and would demolish it for a $5 billion, multi-use complex with the style, service and luxury of the original Plaza.

The developer said the Las Vegas Plaza would include a six-diamond hotel, private residences and retail and gaming spaces. It will open in 2011 across from the Wynn Las Vegas.

Elad said it planned to bring the Plaza brand to other cities in the near future, specifically naming Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Boston, London, Paris, Rome, Tokyo and Shanghai.

Londons Savoy to shut for face-lift 

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts said its iconic Savoy Hotel in London will shut down in December to undergo an extensive, $200 million restoration of its guest rooms, public areas and restaurant. Fairmont intends to reopen the hotel in 2009.

American opens Kennedy concourse 

American moved its international service at New Yorks Kennedy Airport into Concourse B of its new $1.3 billion terminal, offering wider corridors, more moving walkways, larger hold rooms, a new baggage-screening system and, of course, more shopping. New lounges open in June.

The concourse boosts the number of gates from 18 to 28, with eight more to come next year.

Wyndham reflags Rio Mar resort

Wyndham raised its flag over the 600-room Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa on the northeastern shore of Puerto Rico. The former Westin is the first property to join Wyndhams new Grand Collection. Wyndham plans to develop an adjacent 26-acre tract as a Wyndham Vacation Ownership timeshare resort.

Louis Cruises gets replacement ship

Louis Cruise Lines acquired the 1,278-passenger Opera as a replacement for the Sea Diamond, which sank two weeks ago in Greece. The ship, the former NCL Leeward, will join the fleet in July, the company said.

AAA sees surge for Eastern Europe

Based on advance bookings through May 1, AAA Travel said demand for summer travel to Eastern Europe was rising sharply, while demand for Western Europe, with the exception of France, was flat or down from last year.

AAA cited exchange rates, increased air service to Eastern Europe, positive media coverage and increased tourism promotion as reasons for the trend, along with perceptions of less crowding.

Friends & Colleagues

Neko Grant was named minister of tourism and aviation for the Bahamas by prime minister Hubert Ingraham, who was elected to office May 2. Grant replaced Obie Wilchombe, who served as minister of tourism under former prime minister Perry Christie. " " " Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has named Katherine Blaisdell vice president of development construction. Blaisdell served as Rosewoods director of design and construction from 1985 through March 2005. She most recently was vice president of design and construction at the Kor Hotel Group. " " " The Mansion on Turtle Creek, a Rosewood Hotel in Dallas, appointedDuncan Graham managing director, Tracy Fitz director of marketing andKathy Wilbourn rooms division director. Graham most recently was managing director at Rosewoods San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif. Fitz was director of sales and marketing at the Hotel Derek in Houston. Wilbourn was director of finance at the Beverly Wilshire in Los Angeles. " " " Virtuoso appointed Tony Gonchar executive vice president of sales and marketing. Previously, Gonchar was Expedia, Inc.s vice president of distribution. " " " Stephen Tipsword was appointed senior director of marketing for the Aruba Hotel and Tourism Association. Tipsword formerly was general manager of Continental Vacations.

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