Industry News 7-20-2007

*Hilton to be acquired by Blackstone Investment Funds
*Pleasant announces new President
*Drive Time
*It’s in the bag
*Reaching the Gay Market
*More Time to Find Nemo

Hilton to be acquired by Blackstone Investment Funds
Hilton Hotels Corporation recently announced that it has entered into a definitive merger agreement with the Blackstone Group’s real estate and corporate private equity funds in an all-cash transaction valued at about $26 billion. Under the terms of the agreement, Blackstone will acquire all the outstanding common stock of Hilton for $47.50 per share.

Hilton’s board of directors approved the transaction, and it’s anticipated that the transaction will close during the fourth quarter of 2007; completion is subject to the approval of Hilton’s shareholders, as well as other customary closing conditions.

“Our priority has always been to maximize shareholder value,” said Stephen F. Bollenbach, Hilton’s co-chairman and CEO. “Our board of directors concluded that this transaction provides compelling value for our shareholders with a significant premium. We are delighted that a company with the resources and reputation of Blackstone fully appreciates the value inherent in our global presence, strong brands, industry-leading marketing and technology programs and unique portfolio of hotel properties.”

Blackstone officials said they view Hilton as an important strategic investment; no significant divestitures are expected as a result of this transaction.

“It is hard to imagine a better strategic fit for us than Hilton with its world-class people, brands and network of hotels,” said Jonathan Gray, senior managing director, Blackstone. “This transaction is about building the premier global hospitality business. We are committed to investing in the company and working with Hilton’s outstanding owners and franchisees to continue to grow and enhance the business.”

Blackstone currently owns more than 100,000 hotel rooms in the U.S. and Europe, ranging from limited-service properties such as La Quinta Inns and Suites to LXR Luxury Resorts and Hotels.

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Pleasant announces new President
Pleasant Holidays recently announced that Jack Richards will be named president and CEO for the tour operator effective Aug. 1.

Richards brings more than 20 years of executive leadership and management experience in travel wholesale operations and online travel agency experience to Pleasant Holidays. Richards’ experience includes working as senior vice president of product marketing and strategy at, and president and CEO of the Leisure Company, which operated the America West Vacations brands. He was also CEO at Adventure Tours USA Inc. and served as vice president of tour operations at ATA airlines.

“Jack has exceptional tour operator credentials that will benefit Pleasant Holidays,” said Tim Irwin, Pleasant Holidays’ outgoing president & CEO. “His experience working with travel agencies and in the online agency arena will continue to strengthen Pleasant Holidays’ partnerships with our key accounts. Jack understands the travel industry, the value of long-term relationships and he will deliver the high levels of service that have produced these valuable relationships for nearly five decades.”

Tim Irwin will retire in August after 5½ years with Pleasant Holidays. Irwin announced his retirement in December 2006 to prepare a smooth management transition for the new president.

“Pleasant Holidays has been a premier travel provider leading the industry for nearly 50 years,” Irwin said, “and I am committed to working with Jack to ensure a smooth transition and that Pleasant Holidays record of success continues in the future.”

Richards will relocate from Texas and will reside near Westlake Village, Calif., headquarters of Pleasant Holidays.

Drive Time
LA INC., the Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, recently launched a new Mobile Visitor Information Center (Mobile VIC). The four-door Honda Element will be attending festivals, sporting and cultural events, conventions and trade shows throughout Southern California, providing visitors and residents with a resource to L.A.’s varied destinations and new must-sees.

“Los Angeles is the second most visited domestic destination for visiting friends and relatives, and the Mobile VIC will play a very important role in showcasing the tremendous variety of attractions the city has to offer,” said Mark Liberman, president and CEO of LA INC. “The vehicle also creates awareness in the community of just how important tourism is to our city.”

Images on the vehicle represent some major attractions in Los Angeles, including the Griffith Observatory, the Korean Friendship Bell, the Hollywood Sign, Chinatown, Wicked, Olvera Street and the Hollywood Bowl. Staff will accompany the Mobile VIC, distributing material about hotels, events, restaurants, shopping and more.

In 2006, visitors to Los Angeles contributed $13.5 billion to the city’s economy tourism is the second-largest industry in the city, ahead of entertainment and technology industries.

It’s in the bag
Next month marks the first anniversary of the TSA regulations for carry-on baggage on commercial flights. To make toting those three-ounce bottles more fun, in August Kiss My Zipz will debut five new designs with sassy travel slogans printed on quart-size, extra thick, zipper-top, clear plastic bags that are 100 percent recyclable. While the bags have other uses, the slogans are aimed at jetsetters, including, “I miss my dog already,” “Land this plane on time. I NEED to watch Oprah!!!,” “My private jet is being fixed” and “Remember when flying was fun???”

Reaching the Gay Market
World Travel Market, in conjunction with leading global gay marketing agency, Out Now Consulting, is launching a Gay and Lesbian Travel MasterClass. “The travel and tourism industry is now beginning to recognize the importance of the gay and lesbian market and its economic potential,” said Fiona Jeffery, managing director of World Travel Market. “This is the third year that we have worked with Out Now and are delighted that the MasterClass will be able to help delegates tap into this lucrative market more effectively.” Ian Johnson, CEO of Out Now said the 60-minute MasterClass will offer the latest practical advice on reaching the gay market. “We will take the most representative questions submitted to Out Now online before World Travel Market to be used as part of a presentation covering a whole range of issues,” he said. “We also invite people to send us their brief specifying specific requirements and budget and Out Now will select two to present real gay travel marketing solutions to such problems at WTM. If people have ever wondered how their own brand should best approach the gay market, this is their perfect opportunity to find out.”

More Time to Find Nemo
This fall the Disneyland Resort will offer clients the opportunity to spend more time enjoying the new Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage with a fourth night free added to any three-night vacation package. Through Dec. 15, clients receive one additional night with the purchase of a three-night stay vacation package at any one of the three Disneyland Resort hotels or at one of any participating Anaheim-area Good Neighbor Hotels. This special Disneyland Resort offer includes Disneyland Resort Park Hopper Bonus Tickets, early-entry access to select attractions at Disneyland Park (including the new Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage), entrance to Mickey’s Toontown Morning Madness and preferred viewing for select shows at Disney’s California Adventure.