News Briefs, Week of Sept. 29, 2008

Indian hotelier Taj adds lifestyle brand 
Taj Hotels launched a new brand in India called Gateway. Taj said Gateway hotels would "cater to the emerging set of contemporary travelers" and would be divided into eight "zones": enter, stay, hangout, meet, work, workout, unwind and explore. Core initiatives include a 24/7 approach to all key hotel functions and food service geared to health-conscious guests.  Sixteen hotels in Taj's India portfolio are migrating to the Gateway brand, and agreements have been reached for 10 new hotels throughout India.

Colo. Westin seeks LEED certification
Westin opened the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa, Vail Valley's newest green resort. The cornerstone of a $500 million condo-hotel development, the 210-room Westin Riverfront, is seeking LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. Green programs include guest recycling stations on every floor, preferred parking for hybrid vehicles and an on-site organic garden. The Westin Riverfront is connected to Beaver Creek Mountain via the Riverfront Express Gondola.

Olsen to tighten smoking policy 
Europe's Fred Olsen Cruise Lines will ban smoking in all indoor areas in 2009, permitting it only on cabin balconies and designated outdoor deck areas. The rule will become effective on the Boudicca, Black Prince and Braemar on their first sailings of 2009 in January, and on the Black Watch and Balmoral following the completion of their 2009 world cruises in the spring. Fred Olsen allows smoking in designated areas of lounges but not in cabins or dining rooms. 

House committee approves travel bill 
The House Energy and Commerce Committee approved the Travel Promotion Act. The bill would set up a travel promotion entity through a public-private partnership, to communicate U.S. entry policies to foreign visitors and generally promote the U.S. The bill calls for imposing a $10 fee on travelers from Visa Waiver countries who, beginning next year, will be required to obtain Electronic Travel Authorizations from the Department of Homeland Security before arrival.

Desires to run hotel in lower Manhattan 
Desires Hotels, a collection of independent boutique properties, said it will manage a new, 19-story property under construction on Ludlow Street on New York's Lower East Side. Opening in next year's first quarter, the 167-room Hotel Ludlow will be Desires' fourth hotel in New York.

Citing civil unrest, AA cancels Bolivia 
American was slated to resume service to La Paz, Bolivia, this week after canceling all flights Sept. 24 because of civil unrest. American usually operates a daily nonstop from Miami. The State Department in mid-September issued a travel warning advising U.S. citizens to defer nonessential travel to Bolivia due to anti-government violence.

Four Seasons eyes Seattle opening 
The Four Seasons Hotel Seattle, a 21-story downtown hotel and condominium tower, is slated to open in October. The hotel will have 147 guestrooms and 36 private residences on the upper floors. 

Abu Dhabi acquires stake in Kor Hotels
Kor Hotel Group, the Los Angeles-based operator of the Tides and Viceroy hotel brands, said a development and investment firm owned by the Abu Dhabi government had acquired a 50% stake. The buyer, Mubadala Development Co., holds a stake in Ferrari and in the private equity firm Carlyle Group but has no other hotel holdings. Kor said it would boost its presence in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia with new "business and resort developments" opening in Abu Dhabi by 2012.

Shareholders OK Delta-NWA merger
The Delta-Northwest merger moved closer to reality as shareholders of the two carriers, in separate actions, approved the transaction. The votes came two days after the FAA approved the carriers' plan for integrating their maintenance and safety operations. Still pending is the Justice Department's antitrust review.

Carnival to debut Quebec cruises 
Carnival's Eastern Canada offerings will include its first cruises to Quebec next summer with three nine-day cruises up the St. Lawrence River from New York on the 2,758-passenger Carnival Triumph. Itineraries include a 16-hour port call in Quebec City and optional excursions to Montreal.

IHG eyes new hotel in Buenos Aires 
InterContinental Hotels Group disclosed plans for a second hotel in Buenos Aires. The Nordelta Buenos Aires Hotel, Residences & Spa is scheduled to open in early 2011 on the Bahia Grande in Nordelta, a mixed-use, master-planned community in the city's northern suburbs.  The hotel will have 140 guest rooms and 225 residences. Plans call for a spa, fitness center and indoor and outdoor pools.

Friends & Colleagues

Ambassadors International announced that Chairman, CEO and President Joe Ueberroth has announced his resignation and that his last day will be Sept. 19, 2009. Ueberroth will continue his roles and responsibilities while working with the board over the next year to ensure a successful transition. A successor has not been named. • • • Air France-KLM said that it has decided to separate the CEO and chairman roles, as per the wishes of the executive who has held both of those posts. Jean-Cyril Spinetta will relinquish his CEO duties on Jan. 1 and remain chairman of Air France-KLM and Air France. CEO duties will pass to Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, currently deputy CEO. • • • Hilton Hotels has named Thomas C. Kennedy executive vice president and CFO. Kennedy joins Hilton from Vanguard Car Rental, where he also held the position of executive vice president and CFO. • • • Wyndham Hotel Group announced expanded senior staff roles. Duane Elledge has been promoted to executive vice president of brand services. Elledge previously served as senior vice president of group operations for North America. Keith Pierce has been promoted to president of brand operations for the Americas. Pierce most recently served as group president. The company also announced consolidation of its distribution, channel management and reservations functions under Jeff Edwards, chief information officer and executive vice president of revenue services. Edwards previously served as executive vice president and chief information officer since December 2005.

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