News Briefs, Week of May 7, 2012

Sahara to get new lease on life


SBE Entertainment Group confirmed plans to renovate and reopen the Sahara Hotel, which opened on the Las Vegas Strip in 1952 and closed last year. SBE said it obtained $300 million in funding from JP Morgan to reopen the hotel in 2014 as the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, with more than 1,600 rooms.

Affinia Chicago to be rebranded
The 213-room Affinia Chicago Hotel is changing hands and changing brands. Lowe Enterprises Investors acquired the property from Denihan Hospitality Group on behalf of an investment client and said its affiliate Destination Hotels & Resorts will reflag the hotel as an independent called MileNorth. Denihan continues to operate the James Chicago and its five Affinia-branded hotels in New York.

San Francisco gets Princess year-round
Princess Cruises for the first time will base a ship in San Francisco year round, beginning in May 2013. The 2,600-passenger Grand Princess will offer Alaska cruises in the summer, followed by Hawaii, Mexico and California Coastal sailings during the fall 2013 to spring 2014 season.

Airlines launch new DFW routes
KLM resumed its seasonal Dallas-Amsterdam service, offering five weekly flights with A330 aircraft configured for 243 passengers. Spirit, meanwhile, continued to expand at Dallas/Fort Worth by launching a twice-daily service to Tampa, plus a seasonal nonstop to Myrtle Beach, S.C., also operating twice daily.

Hyatt to acquire Hotel Nikko Mexico
Hyatt agreed to acquire the Hotel Nikko Mexico in Mexico City for $190 million and rebrand it as a Hyatt Regency. It also plans a $40 million, three-year renovation that will combine some rooms and reduce the capacity of the 756-room hotel to 734 rooms and suites. The transaction is expected to close this month. The acquisition would bring the number of Hyatt hotels in Mexico to four and reduce the JAL Hotels portfolio in the Americas to its two resorts in Hawaii and the Hotel Nikko San Francisco.

Hard Rock plans Aruba development
A 310-room beachfront Hard Rock Hotel & Casino will be built in Aruba outside the capital of Oranjestad on the site of the abandoned Bushiri Hotel, which closed in 2002. The resort will feature ecofriendly construction elements and will include multiple restaurants, a casino and entertainment venues. Hard Rock said final contracts and financing details are pending. The company has operated the Hard Rock Cafe on the Palm Beach hotel strip in Aruba since December 2008.

U.S. hotel brands arrive in Qatar
Hilton and Starwood each opened new hotels in Doha, Qatar. The Hilton Doha offers 309 rooms plus six restaurants and bars, including the first Trader Vic's outside of the U.S. Starwood, meanwhile, opened the 336-room St. Regis Doha, offering "10 culinary and lounge experiences" and the first Jazz at Lincoln Center jazz club outside of the U.S.

Friends & Colleagues

Holland America Line and Seabourn named Joe Palermo to the newly created position of director, ship refurbishments. Most recently, Palermo was director of corporate services, with oversight of the company's crew wage and administration budgets as well as facilities and administrative services. Palermo joined Holland America Line in 2004 as project director, Signature of Excellence. Prior to that, he was with Cunard. • • • Officials at Waikiki's 353-room Modern Honolulu named Vittal Calamur general manager. Beginning in 2007, Calamur participated in the development of the luxury boutique property when it was known as the Waikiki Edition, a partnership between Marriott and New York-based hotelier Ian Schrager, before helping the hotel's ownership transfer management to Aqua Hotels & Resorts in 2011. Calamur began his career at the Westin Renaissance Center in Detroit and later worked for W Hotels. • • • Eduardo Segura has been named executive director of the Los Cabos Tourism Board, which often goes by its Spanish acronym of Fiturca. Segura joins Fiturca after serving as general director of Cabo Adventures and Cabo Dolphins, tour and activity operators in Los Cabos, since 2006. Prior to that, Segura held executive positions at hotels including the Dreams Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa and the Camino Real Puerto Vallarta. • • • Liat Airlines announced that Brian Challenger, acting CEO, will resign from the regional carrier on June 30. CFO Julie Reifer-Jones will serve as CEO until a successor to Challenger is named.

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