SAN DIEGO CC EXPANSION CANCUN'S NEW TECH MECCA Plug into the Caribbean l The 340-room Sheraton Grand Resort Paradise Island, Bahamas, reopened in February after the second multimillion-dollar renovation in two years. Guest rooms now have data ports and voice mail. There is 8,500 square feet of meeting space.

l The $350 million, 1,350-room Lucayan Beach and Golf Resort, Grand Bahama Island, opened with championship golf, water sports, a children's center, and 40,000 square feet of meeting space.

l The 184-room Hilton Barbados, opening in May, will be a beachfront resort within walking distance of Bridgetown. Rooms will have voice mail and data ports.

l The 44-room Newstead Hotel in Hamilton, Bermuda, added a business center. The property features voice mail,a data port, and high-speed Internet access in all guest rooms. It includes a meeting room for up to 30 attendees.

l The 534-room Melia Cancun Beach and Spa Resort has undergone a $34 million expansion, adding 166 guest rooms (for a total of 700) and a 16,146-square-foot conference center.

l The Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman opened a $15 million, 289-room beachfront addition with 7,200 square feet of meeting space.

l The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman will open mid-2002 with 366 rooms and 17,450 square feet of meeting space.

l The Melia Caribe All-Inclusive Beach, Spa and Golf Resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, opened a 12,000-square-foot convention center.

l The 300-room Casa de Campo Resort, Dominican Republic, spent $24 million renovation of it guest rooms, including new voice mail and data ports. It also added a new business center.

l In Jamaica, the $113 million, 430-room Ritz-Carlton, Rose Hall opened this summer with championship golf, spa, and 18,000 square feet of meeting space.

l The 303-room Hilton Kingston (Jamaica) recently opened a Cyber Centre with Internet service, faxing, and digital copiers. The hotel also unveiled a videoconferencing facility.

l The Condado Plaza Hotel and Casino in San Juan, Puerto Rico, has completed a four-year, $45 million upgrade, including renovation of its 570 guest rooms and suites.

l San Juan's 389-room Caribe Hilton unveiled a $60 million renovation that included upgrades to its 7,400-square-foot conference center, swimming complex, and 644 guest rooms. The hotel opened a 6,550-square-foot ballroom in June, for a total of 65,000 square feet of meeting space with 27 breakout rooms. Next on the drawing board is a 12,000-square-foot spa, set to open by the end of the year.

l In December, the Puerto Rican island of Vieques will debut the 156-room Martineau Bay. Rooms will be equipped with three phone lines, a fax line connection, and cable TV. The hotel will also offer the Meetings House for up to 220 people.

l The 918-room Wyndham El Conquistador Resort and Country Club has opened its Golden Door Spa and started a Dolphin Quest attraction.

Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino has opened on St. Croix, USVI. The 146-room resort includes two freshwater pools, tennis, a fitness center, a water sports center, and the USVI's first gaming casino, with a 10,000-square-foot function space.

l Marriott Morning Star Beach Resort on St. Thomas, USVI, completed a $6 million renovation of its 96 guest rooms and restaurants. It shares more than 60,000 square feet of meeting space with the adjacent Marriott Frenchman's Reef, including the 14,100-square-foot Grand Harbour Ballroom.

l The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, plans to spend $75 million to add 48 rooms and suites, a private lounge, an 8,700-square-foot spa, and a fitness center by 2002.

l The 300-room Wyndham Sugar Bay Beach Club and Resort has completed a $5 million renovation of its guest rooms, with upgrades including Internet access. The 800-person ballroom and the outdoor pavilion have also been redone.

L.A. Times l In the land of the movies and the Mouse, meeting possibilities often seem limitless. The biggest of the coming attractions? The $4.2 billion Anaheim Resort Complex is taking shape on 1,100 acres, including a new theme park called Disney's California Adventure, an expanded Anaheim Convention Center, and a deluxe 750-room hotel, Disney's Grand Californian. The hotel, anticipated to be completed by the end of the year, will have 750 rooms and 22,000 square feet of meeting space.

l Looking ahead to the new competition, the 1,033-room Anaheim Marriott, adjacent to the Anaheim Convention Center, is renovating all guest rooms and refurbishing its 54,000 square feet of meeting space. Plans include installation of high-speed Internet access in each guest room.

l In Los Angeles, The Century Plaza Hotel is undergoing an extensive renovation and will be called The Century Plaza Hotel & Spa. The 727-room hotel will add a 30,000-square-foot Asian-themed day spa, set to open in early 2001. Renovations will include the California Conference Level's 33 meeting rooms; two junior ballrooms will be added. Meanwhile, the Century Plaza Tower building will be reintroduced as the St. Regis Los Angeles. Both hotels will be managed by Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

l The Renaissance Hollywood Hotel will open in fall 2001 as part of the new 640,000-square-foot Hollywood & Highland retail/entertainment complex. Hollywood & Highland also will include a live broadcast theater designated as the new home of the Oscars presentation. The 640-room hotel will offer more than 47,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 26,940-square-foot (off-property) Governor's Ballroom and the 7,974-square-foot ballroom on property.

In the Hills l Dolce International is now managing the 294-room Industry Hills Sheraton Resort & Conference Center in San Gabriel Valley, Calif., currently undergoing a capital improvement program, including the addition of a dedicated conference wing and business center. Communications technology throughout the center is also being overhauled. The property has two 18-hole golf courses, 17 tennis courts with stadium seating, and 20,000 square feet of meeting space.

l The Holiday Inn Pasadena, Calif., has undergone a $4 million renovation to become the Sheraton Pasadena. The 320-room hotel offers 12,000 square feet of meeting space next to the Pasadena Convention Center.

Chaminade Executive Conference Center, managed by Benchmark Hospitality in Santa Cruz, Calif., has completed a $2.5 million renovation. All 152 rooms and public spaces were refurbished, and four executive suites were created. The center is in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, overlooking Monterey Bay.

Surf's Up l The second phase of the $100 million Queensway Bay Project to redevelop 300 acres of Long Beach oceanfront broke ground last spring. The project will include an entertainment, dining, and retail area targeted for completion in May.

l Miami-based Carnival Corp. has agreed to construct and operate a cruise ship terminal in Long Beach next to the Queen Mary, with completion in spring.

l The Long Beach Museum of Art has opened the Ocean View Room, which can host events of up to 170 people.

In March the Hyatt Regency San Diego began an 875-room tower expansion, scheduled to open in 2001. The property has 45,500 square feet of conference space and 25,192 square feet of exhibit space.

l Also new in San Diego, the 252-room Hilton San Diego Gaslamp Quarter opened in the historic district last May.

l In Newport Beach, the Peter and Mary Muth Interpretive Center opened in mid-October in the Upper Newport Bay Nature Preserve. Events for up to 300 persons can reserve the exhibit area, outdoor plaza, and Birds Nest Amphitheater.

l The 360-room Bacara Resort & Spa opened in September in Santa Barbara County, nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains. In-room features include two-line phones, high-speed Internet access, and DVD players. The beachfront property offers 25,500 square feet of meeting space, including the 11,300-square-foot Grand Ballroom, a 220-seat screening room, and an IACC-compliant conference center. A highlight of the property is its 42,000-square-foot spa.

After years clouded by diminished service and high seat prices, the Caribbean airlift forecast calls for sunnier skies.

Much of the bad weather arose because the islands have relied so heavily on service from a single carrier, American Airlines. "Having all our eggs in one basket has always been a problem for the Caribbean," explains John Bell, director general, CEO, of the Caribbean Hotel Association.

Recently, however, service has broadened, led by an increase in flights by Caribbean-based Air Jamaica, as well as BWIA and LIAT. Air Jamaica is now offering more than 340 flights per week from across the United States, including Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and Phoenix. "We are spreading our market access deeper into the heartland of America," notes Bell. At the same time, broader access across the Caribbean is being achieved through expanded regional service by carriers such as the newly launched EC Xpress, a subsidiary of Air Jamaica.

"When it comes right down to it, the North American carriers will do what is right for their stockholders, and that may not be good for the Caribbean," Bell says. "They may move their planes to another area to meet demand, and you can't argue with that. The Caribbean airlines have no place else to fly but the Caribbean, so the stronger they get, the better."

The increase in Caribbean-based airline service has been answered by corresponding expansion by U.S.-based carriers, including Delta, USAirways, TWA, Northwest, United, and American. "Several air carriers are increasing flights to the Caribbean this fall and have either introduced new services or added to their existing schedules this past year," says Michael Youngman, director of marketing, Caribbean Tourism Organization. "These significant developments reflect a renewed interest in the region, and we expect that this trend will continue over the next year."

Moon Palace brings high-tech to Cancun, and its sister property will soon follow.

Groups have long favored Cancun for its sun and sand, but with two new expansions - at Palace Resorts' Moon Palace in Cancun and Aventura Palace, 45 minutes south of Cancun along the Riviera Maya - it will soon appeal to planners in search of connectivity and cutting-edge technology.

Opened in 1996, with a phase two expansion in 1998, Moon Palace opens its most meeting-friendly feature this fall: a new 50,000-square-foot exhibition center. This will be "Mexico's first such installation for exhibitions and trade shows," says David Schwartz, corporate director of group sales for Palace Resorts of Cancun, who also notes that the property plans to open 27 holes of golf designed by Jack Nicklaus in late 2001.

The cornerstone of the new exhibition center is the Galactic Ballroom. The 26,813-square-foot hall features hookup panels every 32 feet, with access to microphone inputs and video connections, including high-end computer monitor connections. Each panel also includes electrical connections for both 110 and 220 volt equipment, XLR (digital audio) inputs, BNC (for putting computer images on a regular TV screen) and 5-wire RGB (computer-to-computer video), as well as telephone and data ports. Video cabling and telephone systems for teleconferencing run throughout the building.

"This is probably the most advanced hotel in the area, in my opinion," says Brent Augustine, Moon Palace audiovisual director. "The Moon Palace was designed with convention groups in mind, with an easy access loading dock and dual cargo elevators that lead right into the main ballroom. Large productions are not a problem."

The ballroom also has projection elevators in the 30-foot-high ceiling. These accommodate data and video projectors and allow for unobstructed viewing from all corners of the room. Another cool feature: ceiling mounted automatic screens. The facility offers video playback in all international VHS and Beta standards, including SVHS, Beta, BetaSP, PAL, SECAM, and digital. Editing facilities are available, as are simultaneous translation facilities.

Tech-needy groups will find a Public Frame-Relay WAN with high bandwidth availability; only Cisco and 3Com routers and switches are used. Inside Moon Palace lies a 24-pair fiber-optic backbone. Throughout the building, 100 MB network access is offered with Category 5 copper cable. The facility has three ISDN data lines - for videoconferencing or data - and can contract for more with advance notice. It can also rent fractional or full E1 access. (E1 is the European equivalent of T1; it has a slightly larger capacity.)

A fully equipped stage includes scrims and theatrical lighting, including robotic lighting designed by Martin Professional. J&S Presentation Technologies maintains a full-time, on-site technical staff.

With construction wrapping up at Moon Palace, Palace Resorts' attention turns to its 474-room, hacienda-style Aventura Palace. The laid-back resort hopes to entice meetings to its virgin jungle landscape by constructing a conference facility and duplicating the technological offerings just introduced by its sister property. Construction is expected to begin by the end of 2000.

l Bahamas Ministry of Tourism

l Barbados Tourism Authority

l Bermuda Dept. of Tourism

l Cayman Islands Dept. of Tourism

l Dominican Republic Tourist Board

l Jamaica Tourist Board

l Puerto Rico Convention Bureau

l USVI Dept. of Tourism (800) 372-USVI