Last week, Starwood Hotels and Resorts completed the $225
million acquisition of the Le Meridien hotel brand, including the
related management and franchise business of the chain’s 130 hotels
and resorts around the world.
Starwood said the acquisition, first announced in August, will
“significantly increase” its presence particularly in the
Asia-Pacific region as Le Meridien has at least 10 new hotels in
India, Thailand and China, among other places, slated to open in
Starwood will continue to operate the Le Meridien flag.
“Le Meridien is a perfect complement to the Starwood portfolio,
with its international footprint and unique guest culture,” said
Steven Heyer, Starwood’s CEO in a statement. “Le Meridien
represents both a great growth opportunity, alongside Starwood’s W
and Westin brands, and extends the number of destination choices of
travel” to the 24 million members of the Starwood Preferred Guest
“In addition, we have great plans to expand the brand
particularly in the U.S., Latin America and Asia-Pacific to enhance
the brand itself, and build on its great reputation and people,”
Starwood Hotels and Resorts has more than 850 properties in more
than 95 countries worldwide. Its brands include St. Regis, The
Luxury Collection, Sheraton, Westin, Four Points by Sheraton, W, Le
Meridien, Aloft and Starwood Vacation Ownership.
Riverwalk Opens in New Orleans
New Orleans’ Riverwalk Marketplace, reopened for business as the
city took another step toward restoring a tourism infrastructure
that remains largely ravaged three months after the massive
flooding caused by Hurricane Katrina.
Riverwalk Marketplace, one of the Big Easy’s top attractions, is
home to a variety of shops and eateries on the downtown New Orleans
“The reopening of Riverwalk is an important step in the journey
New Orleans faces to rebuild the vital tourism industry,” said John
Bucksbaum, CEO of General Growth Properties, in a statement.
General Growth Properties owns and manages Riverwalk.
The marketplace, which will feature live entertainment every
weekend by the Riverwalk Jazz Band, will be open seven days a week
from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.
Riverwalk joins other attractions that have resumed operations
over the past several weeks, however, the city still has a long way
to go before it is fully recovered. For instance, in the wake of
Hurricane Katrina, about 70 percent of the city’s 35,574 hotel
rooms were closed, according to Lodging Econometrics, a firm that
tracks hotel real estate. New Orleans reports that currently only
about 17,000 hotel rooms are open, but it expects to add another
9,000 early next year.
Funjet Vacations Presents Virtual Fam
Funjet Vacations is presenting a fast-paced, 45-minute
interactive online broadcast that will show post-Wilma footage of
15 hotels and several attractions in the Riviera Maya, as well as
allow agents to ask questions to a panel of experts about tourism
and hotel conditions.
In addition to these updates, agents will also receive
promotions and offers from the Riviera Maya that are specific to
their selected gateways during each live broadcast.
There will be two live shows daily from Dec. 6-9. The schedule
for the broadcasts is (all times, PST):
Dec. 6, Show A: 10 a.m.; Show B: 3:30 p.m.
Dec. 7, Show B: 9 a.m.; Show A: 2:30 p.m.
Dec. 8, Show A: 11 a.m.; Show B: 4 p.m.
Dec. 9, Show B: 9 a.m.; Show A: 1 p.m.
Agents who view both shows will automatically be registered to
win all-inclusive trips to the Riviera Maya.
The Virtual Fam is offered to agents free of charge.
Registration can be done through VAX at VacationAccess.com or the
Web site: www.funjetlive.com.
Classic Name Change
As part of a broader brand initiative that included updated
logos and a new graphic identity system, Classic Custom Vacations
has changed its name to Classic Vacations. The new 2006 product
brochures for Hawaii, Mexico, Europe and the Caribbean are the
first major pieces to feature the revised name and brand.
According to Classic president Gregg Brockway, the change
reflects the company’s current momentum and builds on its
reputation for excellence.
“We’re modifying the name, but we’re not changing what the
company stands for,” Brockway said.
Trisept Adds Cruise Engine
Trisept Solutions will debut a new cruise booking engine in
December on its VAX VacationAccess system that will enable agents
to book 10 lines.
The engine will permit real-time bookings in a five-step process
for Carnival Cruise Lines, Celebrity Cruises, Costa Cruises, Cunard
Line, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Norwegian Cruise
Line, Royal Caribbean International, the Yachts of Seabourn and
Specials offered by the cruise lines also will be available, and
agents will be able to search for cruises by lifestyle or
Tauck Launches New Web Site
After over a year in development, Tauck World Discovery has
launched a new and expanded Web site, with enhancements that
include the ability to sort trips by type rather than just
Visitors to the site can choose from over 10 trip categories,
such as cruises, U.S. National Parks, premium events, fall foliage
journeys, family travel and best sellers. Expanded information is
also available for each journey, including an itinerary map, image
slideshow, FAQ, travel tips and more.
Ensemble Travel Group raises Funds
During its 2005 International Conference in Anaheim, Calif.,
Ensemble Travel Group members and suppliers raised nearly $11,000
for the Tourism Cares - Gulf Coast Restoration Fund through the
sale of Tourism Cares for the Gulf wristbands.
Part of Tourism Cares for Tomorrow’s mission for the fund is to
rebuild the tourism infrastructure of the Gulf Coast which is vital
to the area’s economy through the repair and restoration of
natural, cultural and historic sites.
Sceptre Tours Celebrates 25
In celebration of its 25th anniversary, Sceptre Tours which
focuses exclusively on Ireland and specializes in independent
travel to the Emerald Isle has created a special 2006 brochure,
adding several itineraries with added sightseeing and
The company’s signature seven-night Treasures tour includes
accommodations in four- and five-star hotels and castles, and
features a luxury motorcoach with a professional Irish
The 2006 Treasures tour is priced from $999 net per person,
Americans Plan to Travel for the Holidays
An American Express survey recently sampled 278 Americans who
plan to take a vacation from November until the end of this year,
gauging their thoughts on travel costs and major concerns.
Results show that one in four Americans, roughly 27 percent, and
a third of those aged 18 to 24, plan to take a leisure trip before
the end of the year, with an average estimated holiday travel
budget of $1,267.
Concerns that top travelers’ minds are financial planning, trip
costs and payment. Also, 37 percent of consumers point to
convenience as a major factor influencing how they book travel.
Other factors include price (33 percent) and discounts and deals
Large family gatherings are popular this season, with 57 percent
of those surveyed planning to visit family or friends at home or
take a vacation with family or friends (37 percent). Though more
than half will stay with relatives and friends, nearly four in 10
of those planning to travel will stay at a hotel, motel or
The survey was conducted via telephone Oct. 14-18.