Monthly Archives: September 2010

Mexico's drug wars, not immigration law, costing Arizona hotels a bundle

The Gadling released a story today entitled “Immigration law costs Arizona hotels a bundle” where the Arizona Hotel and Lodging Association believes that tourists have cut back on their visits to the state because of its immigration law.

Their assertion couldn’t be further from the truth because it’s not Arizona’s immigration law that has prospective tourists making other plans.  It’s the violence spilling into the U.S. from Mexico’s drug wars that are to blame.

According  to a Los Angeles Times article, “Mexico Under Seige, more than 28,000 Mexican citizens have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since the start of 2007, shortly after Mexican President Felipe Calderon declared war on drug traffickers.  That’s more than the U.S. fatalities in the Iraq war.  There have been 45,000 Mexican troops and  5,000 federal police deployed to 18 states where trafficking groups are fighting local authorities and battling for access to the U.S. market.

Illegal immigration and drug smuggling have always been issues in this border state, but warring Mexican cartels are carrying violence to levels that have shocked law enforcement and government officials.  Arizona State Senator Jonathan Paton told the AFP that “It’s definitely being ramped up beyond anything we’ve ever seen before” and Senator John McCain asserts that this sort of violence is “a threat to our national security.”

Last week Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer filed an appeal to a judge’s ruling in favor of a Department of Justice petition to stop an Arizona immigration law that would have allowed state and local police to request visa papers from individuals stopped for questioning on other matters.

Nearly a dozen states filed a legal brief Friday in support of that law, arguing that the judge erred in ruling that the law interferes with the executive branch’s immigration enforcement priorities.

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.

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Dolce to manage first Las Vegas Property

Why in the worst local economy in memory would a company want to reopen the closed Ritz-Carlton hotel at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson?

The answer, says Dolce Hotels and Resorts CEO Steven A. Rudnitsky, is that the property represents a great opportunity for Dolce as the economy recovers.

That’s because the hotel is well-suited to Dolce’s main line of business: Accommodating business retreats, strategic planning meetings and other corporate-sponsored activities.

Dolce today announced it’s entering the Southern Nevada market by reopening and rebranding the hotel 20 miles southeast of the Las Vegas Strip. Headquartered in Montvale, N.J., and Paris, Dolce said it was selected by hotel owner Village Hospitality LLC to manage the 349-room property that closed in May. The property, sitting on 15 acres, is due to reopen in the first quarter of 2011.

Dolce said it specializes in accommodating meetings, weddings and other “social event” experiences and in an interview Rudnitsky said corporate meetings make up 60 percent of the company’s business.

That may have given Dolce an edge among hotel operators competing for the hotel management contract, though Rudnitsky said Dolce also has a strong track record attracting transient leisure and business travelers — those not part of group meetings.

“The Lake Las Vegas resort is a natural fit for Dolce’s portfolio, which focuses on properties situated just outside major metropolitan areas on sprawling grounds where guests can recharge and reconnect. A leader in the meetings industry, Dolce hosts approximately 30,000 events and 4 million group clients throughout its 27 properties in North America and Europe,” the company said in a statement.

Rudnitsky said the hotel will be a Dolce Hotel and Resort, but it’s actual new name has not yet been determined. It will likely hire at least a couple hundred employees, he said.

The property’s owner is looking for a casino operator to reopen the attached Casino MonteLago and Dolce won’t be involved in managing that part of the business, Rudnitsky said.

Dolce said the Lake Las Vegas resort can accommodate gatherings ranging in size from 10 to 1,000 attendees. It said it has advanced meeting space features including an 11,841-square-foot ballroom with 7,423 square feet of pre-function area, a smaller 4,700-square-foot junior ballroom and 10 function rooms that include two luxury ballrooms.

"Fancy getting into bed with a Virgin"

Richard Branson may have started the Virgin Group as a mail order record retailer back in 1970, but it has since extended to include more than 300 branded companies, covering everything from worldwide mobile phone services and Formula 1 racing to space tourism and, most notably, air transportation. The organization recently announced that it will soon make a logical addition to this roster: hotels.

The Virgin Hotels group, which debuted its Web site this week, is in the initial stages of acquiring existing properties in North America. The hotels will be midsize — 150 to 400 rooms, depending on the market — and will include restaurants and communal public spaces, in the hope of attracting local residents as well as hotel guests.

“We polled a group of recent travelers and something like 70 percent said they would stay in a Virgin hotel,” said Anthony Marino, the executive director of Virgin Hotels. “We felt like we could make an impact.”

Though the first hotels aren’t likely to open before six months to a year, Mr. Marino said, possible choices for first-phase locations include what he called “gateway cities”: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Washington D.C.

New PhoCusWright survey finds mobile and social networks gaining traction with travelers

In two new reports, PhoCusWright explores how these sweeping trends—mobile and social networks—are changing how consumers shop for, purchase and share their travel experiences. Based on a comprehensive survey of online travelers, PhoCusWright’s Traveler Technology Survey 2010Mobile and PhoCusWright’s Traveler Technology Survey 2010: Social Networks each provide unique insight into an extremely influential technology that is impacting traveler behavior and attitudes.

PhoCusWright’s Traveler Technology Survey 2010: Mobile reveals some significant trends in device ownership, and explores the types of activities that travelers perform (and plan to perform) on mobile devices. Among the report highlights:

Keeping in touch
Among online travelers who carry smartphones, more carry touchscreen devices than non-touchscreen devices. However, only a third of those touchscreen smartphones are iPhones, suggesting that some travel companies should broaden their mobile strategy.

See what is on tap
The growth trajectory for those who intend to purchase travel products via their mobile device is extremely strong, and is projected to nearly double in 2011.

PhoCusWright’s Traveler Technology Survey 2010: Social Networks looks at how consumers use online social networks. In particular, the report focuses on travel-related communications and activities on social networks, and how this activity impacts the travel planning and sharing processes. Research highlights include:

Posting is the new postcard
While posting about general subjects is far more common than travel-related posts, nearly four in 10 social media users have posted something about travel, underscoring the importance of having a coherent social media strategy.

“Fans” or not, travelers connect with companies online
Relatively few social network users are “fans” of travel companies online; however, more than one third of online travelers have interacted with a travel company through an online social network via a computer.

Montana Governor rips Travelocity over tax dispute

Gov. Brian Schweitzer publicly hammered Travelocity leaders Tuesday over a growing tax dispute — the same day the online travel reservation company announced a program aimed at promoting the state.

The Internet travel giant rolled out sponsorship of Montana festivals and highlighted its promotion of the state at the Montana Economic Development Summit in Butte on Tuesday.

Schweitzer took some of the wind out of the announcement by publicly confronting company leaders earlier in the day on the tax dispute. The governor has been increasingly critical of the online travel booking industry for shorting the state on the bed tax for hotels, and fighting other states in court over the issue.

“You have an obligation to pay that tax to Montana and make your books available to Montana,” Schweitzer told the head of Travelocity’s parent company. “This bed tax is pretty straightforward.”

Schweitzer extracted a promises of a very quick meeting on the tax issue, perhaps Wednesday with state tax officials.

Schweitzer said the state has been seeking information from the Internet booking industry with little response. Travelocity countered that it has responded to all letters it has received from Montana.

Schweitzer, like other state and local government leaders, believes that the bed tax should be paid on the full retail amount charged by the Internet companies. He argues those companies are wrongly paying the tax just on the wholesale portion of the room cost that is sent to the local hotel.