News Briefs, Week of May 4, 2015

Starwood explores strategic options


Starwood Hotels & Resorts said its board will "explore a full range of strategic and financial alternatives to increase shareholder value" and has hired financial advisory firm Lazard to assist in the process. UBS analyst Robin Farley, in a note to clients last week, listed Marriott, Hilton and Wyndham as potential buyers. Starwood's brands include Sheraton, Westin, Aloft, St. Regis and W Hotels.

Seabourn partners with star chef Keller
Seabourn has partnered with Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller, who will create menu items for the Odyssey, Sojourn and Quest cruise ships beginning in early fall. Seabourn and Keller also will collaborate on a restaurant that will debut on the Seabourn Quest next year before being expanded to the rest of the fleet.

Radisson in San Juan closes its doors
The Radisson Ambassador Plaza Hotel & Casino in San Juan ceased operations April 29. General Manager Miriam Velez cited a decline in the 233-room property's profitability over the past 10 years as a result of a deteriorating casino market and proliferation of illegal slot machines across Puerto Rico.

Montage makes foray into Mexico market
Montage Hotels & Resorts will open its first international property, in Los Cabos, in late 2017. The 122-room Montage Los Cabos will be set on 39 acres on the shores of Santa Maria Bay on the Sea of Cortes. Montage currently operates luxury hotels in Laguna Beach and Beverly Hills, Calif.; Deer Valley, Utah; and on Maui.

Curio hotel in works on Dallas Hilton site
The Statler Hotel & Residences in Dallas will be built on the site of the former Statler Hilton, a hotel that closed in 2001. The property will open in October 2016 and join Hilton's Curio collection of independent hotels. Centurion American Development will spend $175 million reconfiguring the downtown property into 161 hotel rooms and 219 residences. Aimbridge Hospitality will manage the hotel.

Schooner cruises in Cuba to debut in Dec.
Small-ship specialist AdventureSmith Expeditions said it will offer a series of eight-day sailings in Cuba starting in December. The company will use the Panorama, a 49-passenger, three-masted schooner, to visit five ports along Cuba's western and southern shore. The cruises depart from Havana and are qualified people-to-people excursions.

Mandela retreat now open for overnights
Nelson Mandela's former retreat at the Shambala Private Game Reserve outside of Johannesburg, South Africa, has been made available for stays. The Nelson Mandela Centre for Reconciliation, built by Shambala owner Douw Steyn, can be rented for about $5,900 to $6,800 per night, depending on season, for up to 12 people.

Alaska adds service from L.A. to Costa Rica
Alaska Airlines is adding service between Los Angeles and Costa Rica's two major international airports. There will be eight weekly flights: four from Los Angeles to San Jose starting on Oct. 31 and four to Liberia/Guanacaste starting Nov. 1. The airline also will launch daily service between Los Angeles and Baltimore on Sept. 9.

Friends & Colleagues
Maggie Zackowitz has been named editor in chief of National Geographic Travel and will head all its travel content, including serving as editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine and heading its digital editorial portfolio. Zackowitz has been director of short-form content for National Geographic magazine and previously ran the magazine's Departments section. She replaces Keith Bellows as editor of National Geographic Traveler, who left in October after 18 years in that post. The position had been held on an interim basis by Norie Quintos, who remains executive editor. • • • Carnival Cruise Line's vice president of worldwide sales, Joni Rein, will step down on Aug. 15. Rein joined Carnival in 2008 as vice president of field sales from the North American office of Costa Cruises, where she had been vice president of sales development. She was promoted to her current title in 2009. After stepping down, she will work in a consulting role for Carnival for the balance of the year. A replacement for Rein has not been named. • • • Steven Simao was named vice president of travel agency sales at Windstar Cruises. He will oversee domestic and international sales for the retail travel agency channel following the departure of vice president of sales Dan Chappelle. Most recently Simao was director of international sales at Holland America Line and Seabourn. • • • Mirell Reyes' role at Star Clippers has been expanded to include the position of president of sales and marketing for North America, South America and Canada. Reyes will continue as director of sales for Star Clippers Monaco and manage the sales and marketing efforts for Germany, Austria, Switzerland and parts of Asia. • • • African Travel has named a new president, Sherwin Banda, who will replace Jim Holden in August. Banda has spent nearly 15 years in the hospitality industry; he currently serves as general manager of the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa.

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