Thursday, July 30, 2009

Wasington DC May Increase Sales Tax

The D.C. Council is poised to raise a number of consumer taxes in order to help fill more than $660 million in combined budget shortfalls for the remainder of the 2009 fiscal year and the two years following.

Jobless Rates Highest Since Great Depression

This recession has shrunk the racial gap in unemployment, largely because white men are doing so much worse than usual. Check out this interesting article in USA Today.

Island Hotel Newport Beach

Formerly the Four Seasons Newport Beach, this upscale boutique hotel is just minutes from the John Wayne Santa Ana Airport and adjacent to Fashion Island. Hotel has 295 guest rooms and 30,000 sq ft of meeting space. Newly renovated in April 20009. Check it out at:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Expanding The Four Seasons

The Four Seasons Hotel has opened several new locations in Mumbai, Florence, Istanbul, Macao, Bora Bora, Mauritius, Seychelles, Hangzhou, Moscow, and three in the U.S.A. One of the new US properties is the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis located in the historic Laclede’s Landing entertainment district. This property overlooks the Gateway Arch and Mississippi River with access to stadium sports and the Lumiere Place Casino. With 200 guest rooms and suites, a serene spa, and 17,600 square feet of meeting space; there is something for everyone here. For more information, click here:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

St. Regis Monarch Beach Hotel in Default

The seizure of the St. Regis Monarch Beach hotel, where American International Group, Inc. sponsored a luxury retreat shortly after accepting a federal bailout, is the most dramatic sign yet of the deep troubles in the market for high-end hotels. Citigroup, Inc. took over the Orange County, California, hotel and golf course last week after months of negotiations over a $70 million loan that was in default. For more information, click on the following link:

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Meeting Sites Pro Making a Difference!

What a wonderful experience we had sharing a few hours with residents of St. Paul's Villa in downtown San Diego at their Annual Ice Cream Social. Meeting Sites Pro was honored to organize this year's Villa Ice Cream Social. The biggest reward was interacting with the residence, listening to their great stories and even singing along to live piano music; all while enjoying delicious ice cream! We take great pride in being a small part of helping to fulfill St. Paul's mission to serve the physical, spiritual and social needs of the elderly community! fb#

Friday, July 17, 2009

Marriott Earnings Fall as Timeshare Profits Shrink

Marriott International, the No. 2 U.S. hotel operator, Thursday posted a 7.6 percent decline in quarterly profit and forecast future earnings below Wall Street expectations, signaling further declines in the once booming lodging industry. Check out the story at #fb

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

It’s not about over-indulgence. It’s about wellness.

Everyone knows that spas are a huge part of the resort scene. With these economic times, spas are seeing a huge downturn. Now that people are reducing the time and money spent on treatments, spas are emphasizing on wellness and value by offering valuable packages at discounted rates.

The goal is to convince people to take better care of themselves mentally, physically, and spiritually. “Everybody needs stress release right now,” says the director of sales for a well know resort and spa in Arizona. “Anytime you can incorporate a spiritual or inner quest experience into a program for a corporation that is not just rewarding or expanding the bottom line, it’s incorporating a motivational element into the program.”

Whether traveling on business or leisure, don’t forget to take advantage of valuable packages spas all over the country are offering.

For more information, see:

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Twice the Work, Half the Pay

The New York Times recently published the following article on independent planners. The article is copied below. Enjoy it.

When meetings or conferences are canceled — a relatively common occurrence in these financially difficult times — hotels collect a fraction of the money they were expecting, and participants lose the chance to network or gain knowledge about their industry.

But one group of hospitality professionals is literally watching its livelihood go down the drain as corporate events are pared to the bone — the corporate event planners hired by companies to book and coordinate meetings.

“One hundred percent of my revenues are made on commission,” said Stephanie Edwards, a partner at Conference Consultants Worldwide. “I would say when we got our first-quarter results, they showed a 40 percent cut in revenue.” Other independent planners report similar and occasionally even steeper drops. Those who focus on troubled industries like automotive and financial services have been hit the hardest. But no one is immune.

“It’s been a really challenging time for the industry,” said Brenda Anderson, chief executive of Site Global, an association for corporate event planners. “Let’s say you’re a small planner. One big piece of business that goes away is going to put you out of business. It’s your survival on the line.”

While Ms. Edwards and others like her are hired by companies, their contract is actually with the hotel. The property agrees to pay them a commission — 10 percent is standard in the industry — based on the room revenue they bring to the hotel. This means that if a meeting for 2,000 is suddenly scaled back to half that, or if a four-night booking is halved to become a two-night event, the amount of money people like Ms. Edwards earn automatically drops by 50 percent, even though the work they do does not change.

“We’re working twice as hard for half as much money,” said Brian Stevens, president of ConferenceDirect, a site selection company that makes bookings for some 6,000 groups a year. He added that his booking pace for 2009 so far is down by about 33 percent from last year.

In fact, many freelance planners who depend on commission say they are working harder than ever to drive hard bargains on hotel rates and lobby for lenient contracts that will not penalize a group if the number of delegates they draw is smaller than the number promised.

“Our clients realize we’re working twice as hard for them, and they realize our job is to get them the best rates even if that cuts our commission,” Mr. Stevens said. Other planners report that they have been able to shave as much as 40 percent off previously negotiated rates — a boon for the event sponsor, but a loss for the planner.

If an event is canceled outright, planners who work on commission usually do not make a dime. While a rare few freelancers say they have been able to wrangle concessions from hotels that promise them a piece of the damages a group must pay the hotel if it cancels, the vast majority have to chalk it up as a loss. An equally tough challenge is if a company or association decides to postpone the event for a year, or even indefinitely. This holding pattern has become so common it even has a nickname among the professionals — “helicoptering” — to describe clients who are afraid to commit to a future event because of current financial uncertainty.

“Clients are so afraid the pickup isn’t going to be there that they’re not signing the contracts for future years,” said David N. Bruce, managing director of CMP Meeting Services.

As the economy has worsened, some site selection professionals have even found themselves embroiled in disputes with hotels resistant to paying a commission on rates that have been slashed to the bone.

John Foster, a lawyer who specializes in group hotel contracts, said some hotels are now taking the position that they won’t pay a commission if a conference attendee books accommodations outside the block of rooms designated for the group. Part of the difficulty is the ubiquity of online discount-booking sites, on which conference delegates can often find rooms nearby or even at the same property for less than the rate being offered by the event’s sponsor. Hotels generally pay these third-party sites a commission per booking, so they are loath to pay a second commission to the event coordinator.

To sustain income during these difficult times, planners like Cecilia Rose who offer site selection are changing how they are paid. “We’ve redefined how we charge a little bit,” said Ms. Rose, who owns an event booking and planning firm. “We’ve gone to more flat fees as opposed to a commission,” and her contract in those cases is with the group not the hotel.

Although planners run the risk of putting off clients who would prefer to have the hotel pay the planner, Ms. Rose says her clients appreciate knowing how much her services are going to cost. Nor, she said, do they have to worry that the hotel is padding the room rate to make her commission.

Other freelance event planners and companies that depended on commission dollars in the past are exploring the prospect of offering other, fee-based services to insulate them from a drop in hotel bookings. They will run a conference registration desk, for example, or help develop seminar topics, all for flat or hourly fees that supplement their shrinking commission income.

The industry trade group, Meeting Professionals International, added new educational sessions for its coming convention to teach freelance planners how to expand their services beyond room booking and into more strategic areas like creating education curriculums or running group activities.

Hot Rates at World Class Hotels

New York City hotels slashing prices to lowest in years - even Waldorf is under $200

Read more:

Slashed Hotel Rates

The Atlanta Business Chronicle posted an article stating that slashing hotel rates is a foot-shooting strategy. In my opinion, this is not a strategy but rather a business survival necessity. Read more and decide for yourself.

For more information go to:

U.S. Lodging Sees Turning Point

While researching topics on current trends in the hospitality industry, I came across some interesting articles. Most reports show continuing decline through 2010 with 2009 having the weakest year on record for the domestic lodging industry.

For more information, please go to:

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fun Food and Beverage Ideas

Looking for a popular menu item to add to your next Food and Beverage function or a new dish for a dinner party at your house? At a recent program in San Diego at the US Grant, the Fruit Fondue Station and Smashed Potato Bar were a HUGE hit! The fondue station was presented with pieces of fresh pineapple and strawberries on skewers. Guests could choose their dip of choice, either chocolate or crème anglaise. Those looking for a hearty side dish visited the Smashed Potato Bar. Guests helped themselves to a martini glass and filled it with mashed potatoes. The fun part was choosing your toppings. There were a bunch to choose from including bacon bits, blue cheese, mushrooms, sliced avocados, sour cream, tomatoes and wasabi. The guests loved these two food items due to their delicious taste and fun presentation. We highly recommended adding either one or both of these cost effective menu items to your next food and beverage function.