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The Buzz From Pow Wow

April 30, 2007 By: Travel Agent Central Contributor Travel Agent

ANAHEIM, CA—At International Pow Wow, the Travel Industry Association's tourism trade show, 4,600 attendees networked and learned about hotel openings, infrastructure improvements and other news. But being an international show, there was a focus on how to overcome the dip in international visitors this country has been experiencing. TIA President and CEO Roger Dow makes a grand entrance at a Pow Wow luncheon

The top concerns voiced by attendees were U.S. visa policy and delays for visitors at customs and immigration. Roger Dow, the TIA's president and CEO, said that the TIA and the Discover America coalition have been working with Congress and the Bush administration to find a "balance between security and ease of travel." He said that Discover America has petitioned Congress to expand the visa waiver program and modernize airports, and that the Senate has already authorized hiring at least 200 additional customs officials.

In his keynote speech, Matthew Hart, president and COO of Hilton Hotel Corp., suggested that the U.S. needs to make itself more welcoming to international travelers. "Loyalty comes about when people feel welcome and appreciated," Hart said. He went on to predict a global tourism boom due to changing demographics, market-based economics and low airfares, among other factors. However, the U.S. has its work cut out for it, he stressed, saying that slow visa processing and "slow-as-molasses security" are preventing many international visitors from feeling welcome. He added, "The hunger to extend and receive human kindness is not a fad."

News From LAX, Hilton, Universal

Coincidentally, processing renovations are underway at Los Angeles International Airport's international terminal. The renovation of the Tom Bradley International Terminal broke ground in February and is expected to be complete by March 2010. The $723.5 million project calls for the installation of an in-line checked baggage security system and a second boarding gate to accommodate large aircraft.

Meanwhile, Hilton's Hart also discussed the groundbreaking of The Waldorf=Astoria at Bonnet Creek and the Hilton Bonnet Creek Hotel, part of a resort development adjacent to the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. The total cost of the project will exceed $500 million, and the opening is scheduled for late 2009. Hart also mentioned the opening of the Homewood Suites by Hilton in Agoura Hills, CA, one of 180 Homewood Suites by Hilton nationwide, as well as new properties debuting in Stuttgart, Florence, and in the Rome International Airport, where Hilton's 300th hotel will open.

Universal Parks & Resorts announced a Simpsons ride that will feature Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson and will open both at the Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood in spring 2008.

A Las Vegas Update

At the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority's press conference, Rossi Ralenkotter, LVCVA's president and CEO, announced that Las Vegas would have 170,000 rooms by 2009, and that the company's goal is to welcome 43 million visitors in that year. Highlights of upcoming openings include Sands' Palazzo (adjacent to the Venetian) in 2007; the Trump International Tower and Encore at Wynn in 2008; the Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino and the MGM Mirage's $7.4 billion Project CityCenter (formerly the Dunes) in 2009; and Echelon Resort (formerly the Stardust) in 2010. He also announced the planned $800 million renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

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