1) Florida Flaunts Impressive Tourism Numbers
If you’re a meeting professional, chances are you’ve been to Florida. From the massive real estate available at the Orange County Convention Center for trade shows to the beaches in Miami and Fort Lauderdale perfect for incentive trips, the Sunshine State stands out on the map for meeting planners.
In 2013, it looks like Florida is standing out for, well, just about everyone. Visit Florida released numbers that show the first quarter of 2013 was a record-setting period for the state’s tourism industry with more than 26 million visitors between January and March. That’s a year-over-year increase of 4.7 percent compared with the same time in 2012.
2) Chicago Sets A Record - - and Looks to Set More Records
As the Gulf Coast continues to welcome plenty of visitors, Choose Chicago proudly unveiled its own record this week, too. The city enjoyed its best-ever hotel occupancy rates for the month of April.
“I am committed to attracting visitors to Chicago, for business and pleasure,” Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel said. “These numbers show a city that is moving in the right direction in this critical area and I look forward to welcoming more and more visitors to our wonderful city, and the positive economic impact they bring.”
It looks like Emanuel is very serious about that commitment, too. His administration unveiled preliminary plans for a $1.1 billion investment along Lake Michigan that Chicagoans are already calling McPier. The plans include a new 10,000-seat arena and event center that will act as home court for the DePaul University basketball team across from McCormick Place, a new 500-hotel room and a previously announced 1,100-room hotel. Further north on the shoreline, the money will go toward a redevelopment of Navy Pier that includes 54,000 square feet of new dining and entertainment space, a new park and bicycle flyover and an expanded Children’s Museum.
If the plans gain approval, expect more visitors and more record-setting numbers in the future.
SEE ALSO: Chicago’s McCormick Place Shines on Election Night
3) Starwood Set to Supersize Latin American Hotel Supply
As many planners look toward Latin America to host future meetings, Starwood is looking to capitalize on the growing business potential. The hotel giant announced that it will increase its hotel footprint in Latin America by 50 percent within the next five years.
“Macro-economic trends continue to reshape the Latin American travel and business landscape, creating strong growth in lodging demand and many opportunities for Starwood to expand in the region,” Frits van Paasschen, President and CEO, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, said in a statement. “At the same time, Latin America’s middle class grew by 50 percent in the last decade, and this increase in wealth means that there are more and more people with the means to travel and an increasing appetite for global, luxury brands like ours.”
While the hotelier will be looking to expand throughout the region, Brazil and Colombia appear to be the two primary areas where Starwood will focus its continuing global expansion.
SEE ALSO: American Hotel Giant Relocates to the Middle East
4) American Rewards Light Travelers
Regardless of where you or your attendees are traveling, American Airlines is experimenting with a new boarding process to save everyone time.
For passengers flying American, traveling with just one carry-on item that fits underneath the seat will pay off with the ability to board before the gate attendants invite Group 2 to get in line. It’s all part of an effort to smooth over the try-to-stuff-that-oversized-bag-above-the-seat-while-a-line-forms hassle that’s been hampering the boarding process for airlines as passengers work to avoid checked baggage fees.
“Our tests indicate that this new boarding process will improve our dependability and on-time performance,” Carol Wright, vice president, customer planning, American Airlines, said.
SEE ALSO: When You’ll Find the Cheapest Flights
5) Senator Scrutinizes Airline Change Fees
Plans can change, but any seasoned traveler knows that change costs quite a bit of cash at most air carriers. However, Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, is urging the nation’s biggest airlines to halt their ticket change fees. His request comes after Delta, United, American and U.S. Airways all announced that passengers who change tickets will pay $200 in fees. There is no word yet of any kind of specific proposal in Congress.