Donna Jakulski has accepted the newly created position of Audience Development and Marketing Director of Plan Your Meetings, responsible for the planning and implementation of marketing initiatives including circulation, database development and reader research analysis. She is charged with growing new and existing programs and events (digital, print and live) that will extend PYM’s brand as it expands into new territories. Jakulski previously was the owner of Atlanta’s Perfect Wedding Guide.
Frits van Paasschen was named chief executive officer of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.
Christie Hicks, senior vice president of global sales for Starwood Hotels, has joined the Convention Industry Council’s APEX Commission, representing the housing sector of the industry. Maura Gast, executive director of the Irving [Texas] Convention & Visitors Bureau also joined the APEX Commision, representing the convention bureau sector.
John Merkin is now senior vice president, brand management, Holiday Inn Brands, the Americas.
Jesse Suglia joined Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants as director of hotel sales.
Drew Toth was named senior vice president of Associated Luxury Hotels, managing the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic sales regions.
Gretchen Kihm Stegall became director of sales for the Midwest region for both Fort Worth [Texas] and Baltimore [Md.] convention and visitors bureaus.
Kevin Kamenzind was named vice president of sales and marketing of the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau. There also were several promotions at the agency: Marc Garcia was promoted to vice president of visitor marketing and community development; Melissa Gogel was promoted to director of marketing; and Erin Schlimgen was promoted to associate manager of citywide accounts.
Kelsey Paul-Petersen was named sales project manager of the Scottsdale [Ariz.] Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Enrique Alfonso Briceno became general manager of Trader Vic, located in Scottsdale, Ariz.’s Hotel Valley Ho.
David Downing is PR director for the St. Petersburg/Clearwater Area [Fla.] Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Kelly Marshall was promoted to executive chef at the Quorum-Hotel-Tampa [Fla.], overseeing catering, banquets and the hotel’s Blue Water Grill.
David J. Sargent became senior vice president of sales and marketing of the Orlando/Orange County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Tim Hemphill became executive director of sales and marketing at the Orlando Sun Resort & Convention Center.
Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando hired three new conference sales managers. Kristine Erickson will be responsible for managing meetings of 150 rooms and less coming from the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, in partnership with Suzanne Kennedy and Jonathan Misiewicz. Jennifer Lane will manage Florida’s small meetings market as well as short-term association and corporate business from the West Coast and lower Midwest region with Roslyn Powell and Jamie Cox. Molly Rock will manage small corporate and association meetings from the Northeast region, in partnership with Katie Bellas and Doug Thomas. Other new hires include corporate sales representatives Jill Sanders (international pharmaceutical and insurance markets, Northeast and Canada corporate and association business) and Venessa Grant (Midwest market for worldwide corporate and association business).
Niccole Haschak was promoted to full-time tourism sales associate at the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades [Fla.] Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Jorge Pesquera was named president and CEO of the Palm Beach County [Fla.] Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Chris Glangrosso, sales and marketing manager of Morton’s the Steakhouse in Downtown Atlanta, was awarded the company’s Top 10 Sales Growth-Target Award for 2006 for increasing his targeted top-10 new business sales by 936 percent.
Michael Hammond was named general manager of the AmeriSuites North Point in Alpharetta, Ga.; Lisa Smith was named regional director of sales.
Amanda Perlman became general manager of the Residence Inn-Windward in Alpharetta.
Elena Warburton was appointed director of sales at Staybridge Suites Alpharetta-North Point.
Leo Chandler became general manager of the St. Louis [Mo.] Airport Marriott.
Carolyn Brown was appointed director of national accounts for the Reno-Sparks [Nev.] Convention & Visitors Bureau; Dan Helper was named associate director of convention sales, and Samantha Eigenman was hired as a sales manager.
Peter Weien was named vice-president and hotel manager of the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn.
Tina Teague joined the convention sales staff of the Amarillo [Texas] Convention & Visitor Council.
Meredith Brown was named account director for eastern regional sales for the Austin [Texas] Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Kristen Alderson was named general manager of the Sheraton Fort Worth Hotel and Spa (opening early 2008); Shannon Hopper was named director of sales and marketing.
Marriott International will open two new properties in Puerto Rico this year. The 248-room La Choncha Resort in San Juan will be rebranded; a 150-room Courtyard by Marriott in Aquadilla will be a new construction.
Southwest Airlines will add eight daily nonstop, roundtrip flights from New Orleans to five cities (Birmingham, Houston, Dallas, Las Vegas and Orlando) on Nov. 4.
Express Jet began operating out of New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong International Airport with 12 daily, nonstop flights to Austin and San Antonio, Texas; Kansas City, Mo.; Birmingham, Ala.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
AirTran added three nonstop flights with service to Las Vegas’ McCarran International Airport from Quad City [Moline, Ill.] International Airport, James M. Cox Dayton [Ohio] International Airport and Greater Rochester [N.Y.] International Airport.
American Eagle will begin nonstop service between Chicago O’Hare and Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., on Sept. 5; nonstop service between Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport and Miami International Airport in December.
Three Alabama spas were ranked among the country’s best by “BestSpas USA: The Guidebook to Luxury Resort, Hotel and Destination Spas.” All three spas are part of the Resort Collection on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, located at Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa in Florence, Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa in Hoover, and Grand Hotel Marriott Resort, Golf Club & Spa in Point Clear.
The Hotel Highland at Five Points South (formerly The Pickwick) reopened after completing a six-month renovation of its 63 guest rooms (including 28 suites), breakfast room and martini bar.
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute was designated a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate. Affiliates are able to borrow artifacts from the Smithsonian’s 136 million-object collection. Other Alabama affiliates include the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville and the Anniston Museum of Natural History.
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North is undergoing a $14 million renovation of its 210 casita guest rooms and suites, lobby, lobby lounge and fine-dining restaurant. Other improvements will include a new wine-tasting room for private tastings and dinners.
Canal restaurant opened in the SouthBridge development in Scottsdale. Features include global cuisine, indoor and outdoor seating, and a fashion runway flanked by projection screens broadcasting fashion and events as well as live kitchen shots and other food- and fashion-themed items.
The Broadmoor recently opened Broadmoor Hall, a 60,000-sq. ft. column-free, high-tech events center. The resort now has 185,000 total square feet of meeting space.
A four-story, 500-room Crowne Plaza opened in Colorado Springs after undergoing a $12 million conversion to the brand. The property has 43,000 square feet of meeting space; 16 suites, including loft-style suites and a presidential suite; complimentary shuttle service, an indoor pool; and in-room Sleep Advantage amenities.
Hilton Garden Inn opened in downtown Denver with 221 guest rooms, eight suites and 6,800 square feet of meeting space.
The Emerald Grand at HarborWalk Village luxury resort opened on 15 acres along historic Destin Harbor. Amenities include a full-service, 9,700-sq. ft. spa and fitness center, and 281 luxury units.
Sandestin Golf & Beach Resort completed its 10-year master redevelopment plan. Recent additions and renovations include a $23 million beach renourishment project; a $4.2 million renovation to the 175-room Bayside Inn; new lodging, including the Residence Inn Sandestin at Grand Boulevard and Courtyard Sandestin at Grand Boulevard, and oceanfront and bayside towers; eight new restaurants; day spa and salon improvements; and upgrades to the Baytowne Golf Club.
Grand Boulevard opened in the Sandestin area of the Beaches of South Walton. The mixed-use development has dining, retail and accommodations, with additional restaurants opening throughout the year.
The Regal Sun Resort (formerly the Grosvenor Resort) in Lake Buena Vista completed a $25 million property-wide renovation, including all 626 guest rooms and suites, meeting space, the lobby, restaurants and lounges, the pool area, guest room corridors and pre-function space. The resort has 19,000 square feet of meeting space and is within walking distance of the Downtown Disney Marketplace, Pleasure Island and Downtown Disney.
A $27 million renovation of the Renaissance Orlando Resort at SeaWorld is complete. Improvements include refurbishment of its 778 guest rooms, Tradewinds restaurant and two of its four ballrooms; and the addition of a sushi bar and a Starbucks. A spa is to open later this year. Other amenities include 185,000 square feet of meeting space.
Construction began on the Hilton Orlando, a 1,400-room property scheduled to open in 2009. Other amenities will include a full-service spa, four restaurants and 130,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 50,000-sq. ft. ballroom and 38 meeting rooms.
The 124-room Regent Bal Harbour is to open this fall in Bal Harbour Village, an affluent shopping district and beachside community near Miami’s South Beach.
Vivi, an Italian restaurant and bar created by Tom Billante, opened at Miami’s Bentley Beach Hotel. The hotel’s 2,000-sq. ft. Sunrise Ballroom is to open in fall 2008.
Miami’s Biltmore Hotel is scheduled to complete a $5 million renovation of its 18-hole, par-72 golf course on Oct. 1. Designed by Donald Ross, the course will have new greens, tees and bunkers, and a refurbished restaurant, clubhouse and pro shop.
The Blue Moon Hotel in South Beach is undergoing a $300,000 renovation to its 75 guest rooms and public areas.
Also in Miami, the Clevelander Hotel is undergoing an 18-month, $20 million renovation project to upgrade its lobby, outdoor bar and guest rooms. A new sports bar and other lounge areas are to open in fall 2008.
The Mayfair House Hotel in West Palm Beach was purchased by the Ceebraid-Signal Corp. (Obadon Hotel Group), which plans to add a rooftop pool and bar, a spa and multiple restaurants and nightlife venues to the 179-room property.
The Naples Grande Resort & Club opened a 5,700-sq. ft. ballroom with a sunset deck.
The Banyan Resort and the Gardens Hotel in the Florida Keys became the first certified members of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Lodging Program. The program’s environmental guidelines help hotels and motels reduce waste and conserve natural resources. Certified properties are evaluated in categories including water and energy conservation, waste reduction, indoor air quality and communication of green policies to guests; certified properties also must have a plan to continue improvements. Both Florida Keys hotels earned the “one-palm” ranking; highest ranking is “three-palm.”
Morris Digital, in partnership with Plan Your Meetings, will be filming the Plan Your Meetings 2007 Southeast Expo on Sept. 27 to create a podcast and virtual tradeshow available to planners on the planyourmeetings.com Web site post-event.
The Sheraton Gateway Hotel Atlanta Airport completed a multi-million dollar renovation of its 395 guest rooms, main lobby, fitness facilities, hallways and other public spaces. Upgrades to guest rooms include the addition of Sheraton Sweet Sleeper beds with plush-top mattresses, new furniture, 32” LCD flat panel televisions and remodeled bathrooms. Other hotel amenities include a 13,000-sq. ft. conference facility, high-speed Internet access in guest rooms and a 24-hour business center.
Atlanta’s Marriott Marquis is undergoing a $138 million makeover. Three new food and beverage venues have opened, and renovations of the property’s 1,663 guestrooms and 94 suites are complete. Other completed projects include the addition of eight atrium-level meeting rooms; an expansion of the concierge lounge; remodeling of the imperial ballroom, 15 Marquis-level meeting rooms and 12 lobby-level breakout rooms; and the addition of a Starbucks and a deli. Projects nearing completion include a new hotel porte cacher and indoor/outdoor swimming pool with poolside bar. Projects remaining include a 6,000-sq. ft. health club and spa (opening March 2008), a redesign of the Marquis Ballroom (May 2008) and the addition of a 25,000-sq. ft. Atrium ballroom (July 2008).
The 755 Club at Turner Field in Atlanta opened the Crown Room, an ultra-luxe event space with a panoramic view of the city’s skyline, plasma televisions, custom tables and contemporary chairs.
Construction began on the Streets of Buckhead development in the northern Atlanta neighborhood. The $1.2 billion project will be home to two full-service hotels, including One  Hotel & Residences, which will have 175 guest rooms, 100 condos, a spa and a restaurant. The hotel, scheduled to open in 2010, will be LEED certified and is being billed as the first green, global luxury hotel. Other features of the mixed-use development, to open in 2009, include gourmet restaurants and a strip of 80 Rodeo Drive-style luxury boutiques, such as Hermès and Bottega Veneta.
Utopia Martini & Tapas Lounge opened in West Midtown Atlanta. The cross-cultural eatery has a “Jetsons”-inspired bar, martini flights and a lower level event space, Shangri-La.
The Glenn Hotel in Downtown Atlanta opened Dylan’s Candy Bar, a New York-based emporium of lollipops, licorice and chocolate bars, ranging from $2.50 to $5.
The American Screenworks Movie Theater (formerly the cinema at South DeKalb Mall) in Decatur is a recently renovated, eight-screen boutique theater with a restaurant-style concession, a game area and a jazz bar.
The Dalai Lama accepted a faculty position as Presidential Distinguished Professor at Emory University in Decatur, near Atlanta. A three-day conference on meditation and depression with music and dance performances, special lectures and a world peace-building summit will take place on-campus from Oct. 20-22.
The Beechwood Inn in Clayton received a 2007 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for its commitment to maintaining a fine wine list, with a sufficient selection of better producers along with a thematic match to the menu in both price and style. The North Georgia inn offers accommodations, prix fixe dining and room for small meetings.
Carnival Cruise Lines extended its contract for the 2,056-passenger Carnival Fantasy to dock at the Port of New Orleans’s new, $37 million Erato Street Cruise Terminal. The cruise line will stay in New Orleans at least through 2008, possibly through 2010, and make a minimum of 70 calls per year to the port for four- and five-day cruises to the Western Caribbean.
The Branson Convention Center and the 293-room Hilton Branson Convention Center Hotel officially open this month in the $420 million Branson Landing development. The convention center has 87,300 square feet of meeting space, including two exhibit halls and a 23,000-sq. ft. ballroom.
Culinary Workers Union Local 226 in Las Vegas will hold a strike authorization vote on Sept. 12 for workers still working without a collective bargaining agreement.
The MGM Grand in Las Vegas is to open a new, 90,000-sq. ft. building earmarked exclusively for meetings, exhibits and food functions this December. Upon completion, the resort will have more than 600,000 square feet of meeting space.
The Peppermill Hotel in Reno is undergoing a $400 million expansion to open this fall. New features will include a 600-room all-suite Tuscany Tower, 62,000 additional feet of meeting space (total available will be 102,000 square feet), a three-story spa and salon, three restaurants, a nightclub and lounges, and a pool and garden area.
The Atlantis Casino Resort and Spa in Reno is undergoing a $50 million expansion to add a pedestrian skywalk to the Reno-Sparks Convention Center and 27,000 square feet of meeting space.
A convention center complex is being planned for the city of Wilmington to open in early 2010. The 95,000-sq. ft. convention center will have an adjoining 254-room Marriott hotel. The center also will have 46,725 square feet of meeting space, an additional 11,500 square feet of pre-function space and 9,000 square feet of outdoor exhibit space. The Marriott will have 6,835 square feet of meeting space.
The Hilton Wilmington Riverside is scheduled to complete its $10 million renovation by November. Improvements include a new restaurant, Starbucks café, outdoor bistro, riverside fitness center and façade.
The Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site now offers four different group tour programs, including reduced admission, and self-guided, ranger-led and audio visits. The site, where the Carolina Colony was founded in 1670, also has a museum, working archaeological digs, a natural habitat zoo and craft demonstrations.
The Chattanoogan completed extensive renovations to its guest rooms and public areas. Soft goods, bedding and décor have been completely refurbished, as have the hotel’s lobby and upscale jazz and martini bar. New features include Sealy Plush 700 beds, digital artwork on plasma displays, seasonal dining menus, atmospheric music and scent-delivery systems in public spaces. The 210,000-sq. ft. luxury resort has 199 guest rooms and suites, three restaurants, a 25,000-sq. ft. conference center, a full-service spa, and is within walking distance of downtown Chattanooga’s museums, galleries, aquarium, shops and restaurants.
Taxes to finance Nashville’s new downtown convention center, the Music City Center, have been approved, raising the hotel/motel tax to 6 percent, effective Sept. 1. Other measures approved to finance the $455 million, 1.2 million-sq. ft. center include a $2 hotel room occupancy tax, a $2 airport shuttle and taxi fee (from airport), and a 1 percent rental car tax.
The Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville will undergo a $400 million expansion to add more than 400,000 square feet and 400 all-suite guest rooms to the property between 2008 and 2011.
The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, opened with 14,000 square feet of meting space, a 12,000-sq. ft. spa and a restaurant created by chef Dean Fearing.
The Stoneleigh Hotel & Spa in Dallas is scheduled to complete a $30 million renovation this fall. Renovations include extensive exterior work, refurbishments of its bar, spa and fitness center, and the addition of a signature restaurant and a 21-floor condo tower. The hotel also is being restored to maintain its historical integrity and 1930s art deco décor.
The Green Oaks Hotel in west Fort Worth will be torn down in December to make room for a new office building and, potentially, a new hotel. The landmark property once hosted celebrities such as Elvis Presley, Bob Hope, Jimmy Durante and Tina Turner.
An Element extended-stay hotel is to open in Irving in October 2008. Features of the 123-room hotel will include residential-style guest rooms, multi-purpose modular furniture, complete kitchens, Westin Heavenly Beds and oversized spa showers.
The Driskill Hotel in Austin joined the Associated Luxury Hotels International. The 1886 hotel has 189 rooms and suites, 18,080 square feet of flexible meeting and event space, restaurants, a business center and a fitness studio.
Courtyard Houston by the Galleria opened with 190 guest rooms, a heated indoor pool, a 24-hour business center, three meeting rooms, one executive boardroom and a Courtyard Café.
In downtown Houston, the Sheraton is scheduled to undergo renovations and reopen as an Omni Hotel with 400 suites, a 13,000-sq. ft. spa and 30,000 square feet of meeting space.
Lucy’s Legacy: The Hidden Treasures of Ethiopia exhibit opened at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The exhibit will run until April 20, 2008, and marks the first time the hominid skeleton “Lucy,” the world’s most famous fossil, will be on display outside of Ethiopia.
The Realty Exchange Corporation purchased the Fredericksburg Fairfield Inn by Marriott. The Hampton Inn Woodbridge, the Chantilly Fairfield Inn by Marriott, and the Potomac Mills Fairfield Inn by Marriott were purchased by Hermani Management of New Jersey.
An unnamed boutique hotel is under construction in Old Town Alexandria to open in early 2009. The $50 million Kimpton-operated property will have 107 rooms, including 20 suites, and 3,000 square feet of meeting and event space.