News Briefs, Week of Oct. 7, 2013

Booking.com signs a second city site


Priceline's Booking.com agreed to become the exclusive hotel booking engine for San Francisco's tourism marketing arm, marking the site's second recent partnership with a major U.S. city. The San Francisco Travel Association said its site at www.sanfrancisco.travel gets about 400,000 visitors a month. Booking.com went live with New York's NYC & Company on Sept. 25.

Key West rejects ship channel study
By a margin of 3 to 1, Key West voters rejected a referendum proposal, backed by the Chamber of Commerce, to have the Army Corps of Engineers study the impact of widening a mile-long portion of the ship channel from 300 feet to 450 feet to accommodate larger cruise ships. Opponents cited the potential damage to seafloor habitat protected by the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and the congestion caused by large numbers of cruise visitors.

Bermuda to ships: Open casinos OK
Ministers in Bermuda approved legislation allowing cruise ships to open their casinos during the evening while still docked. In exchange, the government will get a license fee for ships that carry more than 2,000 passengers. Casinos can be open between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. and only for passengers. Proponents argued that most cruise ship passengers are back on the ship after 9 p.m. so the casinos do not compete with local attractions. They also argued that the change will help keep Bermuda competitive with other cruise ports.

Amtrak drops most base commissions
Amtrak is eliminating base commissions to agents on Nov. 1, except for previously negotiated agreements with national accounts, which it identified as AAA Travel and Vacation.com. Amtrak said it will continue to pay 8% to 10% to "all Amtrak appointed travel agencies" for Amtrak Vacations bookings and group tickets. Details are online at Amtrak's travel agent resource center.

Omni opening taps Music City theme
Omni Hotels cut the ribbon on the Omni Nashville, an 800-room convention hotel billed as "The Key to Music City." The property offers 80,000 square feet of event space and is adjacent to the Music City Center and Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Thompson brand unveiled in Chicago
Thompson Hotels reopened and rebranded its former Sutton Place Hotel on Chicago's Gold Coast as the 247-room Thompson Chicago. The renovated hotel offers Lake Michigan views, a 1,000-square-foot fitness center and more than 12,000 square feet of meetings space.

Kempinski, Leela go separate ways
Kempinski Hotels and Leela Palaces completed the phase-out of their 25-year co-branding agreement. The separation sets the stage for Kempinski to expand its brand into the India market beyond its single hotel in Delhi and for Leela to focus on sales and marketing. Mumbai-based Leela has eight properties in India and five sites under development.

Friends & Colleagues
John Brehm has joined Travel Leaders Franchise Group as its vice president of franchise development. Brehm comes over from sister company Travel Leaders Corporate, where he had been since 2009, serving as vice president of global sales, marketing and meetings. He previously was a regional vice president for global sales with American Express Global Corporate Services. • • • Edie Bornstein has resigned her position as senior vice president of sales and marketing at Azamara Club Cruises. Bornstein came to Azamara after a long career at Carnival Cruise Lines. Her duties will be assumed by Azamara CEO Larry Pimentel. Signe Bjorndal, director of marketing, and Carmen Roig, director of sales, are now the two senior executives in those areas for Azamara. • • • The new director general and CEO of the Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association is Jeff Vasser. Vasser joins the CHTA after more than a decade as head of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority. He succeeds Alec Sanguinetti, who retired at the end of 2012. Vasser's appointment, which takes effect Nov. 18, also makes him a co-director of the Caribbean Tourism & Development Co.

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