We’ve enjoyed several visits from suppliers in our Manhattan offices over the past few weeks. Most recently, we had Martin Riecken and Klaus Walther from Lufthansa’s corporate communications department in for a nice chat. The airline has just launched A380 service from London to Miami, which is causing quite a buzz. They also told us that they’re reconfiguring their First Class cabins—reducing the number of seats from 16 to eight so that passengers now have a full seat and full bed. That’s a game changer in my book.
A few days before that, Michael Gigl from the Austrian Tourist Board dropped by to tell us that, on October 23, The Sound of Music will premiere at the Salzburger Landestheater in Salzburg, the city made famous by the film and stage musical. Michael and his team also hosted a lovely event in New York for travel agents, with great entertainment and cuisine, to update them on Salzburg and all of the activities and festivals going on there.
We also had the pleasure of meeting Art Torno of American Airlines at the Hungarian Consulate in New York. Art was on hand to announce the new daily nonstop service from New York’s JFK to Budapest Ferihegy International Airport, which has just opened SkyCourt, a spiffy new glass-structured building that links the existing terminals 2a and 2b. American has also added New York-Barcelona and Miami-Madrid services.
If you haven’t been to an event at the Hungarian Consulate, there’s always wonderful entertainment, after which the hosts open the doors to a room with a huge table brimming with Hungarian cuisine. It’s always a fascinating cultural evening.
Mark Durliat and Nikheel Advani from Grace Bay Resorts also stopped in; they were in town for the NYU Investment Conference and Caribbean Week. While it’s too soon to reveal some of their plans, it looks like Grace Bay’s luxury offerings in Turks & Caicos are getting some traction and we may be hearing some more news from them soon! (Hint: They are looking to expand in Costa Rica, Panama, Belize, Brazil and even Asia.)
The meeting that surprised me the most, however, was the one from Michael Smith, general manager of the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, which is set to reopen in October (see page 10). The hotel closed down after Hurricane Katrina and went through a series of ownership issues spurred by the recession. When it reopens, it will be a completely different hotel.
What amazed me is the role Michael played during and after Katrina at the hotel, which became ground zero for New Orleans. He hosted FEMA and city officials, coped with grieving employees who were forced out of their homes (but given jobs in other Hyatts throughout the country)—the list goes on. The reality is, he kept the lights on and fed people.
These days, Michael is all about the future of New Orleans. In fact, he told me that he was about to make a rather large announcement, and indeed he did: It turns out the Hyatt Regency New Orleans and Brad Pitt’s Make It Right nonprofit organization are conducting a major fundraising campaign to achieve Make It Right’s goal of building 150 environmentally friendly homes in New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward, the neighborhood hit hardest by Katrina. Watch for a gala event in March 2012 that will celebrate the hotel’s reopening while also raising funds for Make It Right.
It’s wonderful to see one of America’s best cities on the rise again and equally exhilarating to see our industry expanding its great offerings.