UNITED AIRLINES ENTERS THE MEETING PLANNING BUSINESS A meeting management firm recently acquired by United Airlines plans to go after new clients among the Fortune 500. Randy Hannon, president of the Premier Group, Rolling Meadows, IL, said United's ownership of the company "will open a lot of doors for us" and should also boost meeting executives' confidence in the company. "There's definitely a lot of strength in having the backing of United," he added.

Prior to the acquisition, the Premier Group was a unit of Apollo Travel Services, which markets the Apollo computer reservation system (CRS) to U.S. travel agencies, and had been owned primarily by United. When Apollo Travel Services was bought by sister company Galileo International last July, United assumed ownership of Premier. Premier's main client had been Apollo Travel Services.

Premier is an independent, stand-alone firm offering services including site selection, hotel contract negotiation, housing and registration services, on-site management, exhibition management, travel services, and public relations and marketing support.

AIRLINE NEWS * Continental Airlines has announced expanded service to London after a codeshare agreement with Virgin Atlantic Airways was approved. Effective February 2, the service will consist of Virgin-operated flights between Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Washington Dulles, New York (Newark and JFK), and Heathrow; and between Newark, Boston, Orlando, and London Gatwick; and seasonally between Orlando and Manchester, England. Continental also has expanded its Latin America service. New daily routes include: Newark to San Salvador, Guatemala City, and San Jose, Costa Rica; San Diego to Mexico City; Mexico City to Guatemala City; and Los Angeles to San Salvador. Increasing to twice daily are flights between Houston and Belize, Guatemala City, San Salvador, and San Jose, Costa Rica; as well as Newark to Cancun. Finally, Continental recently announced new daily nonstop service between Newark and Glasgow, Scotland, effective July 1998; and between Newark and Dublin and Shannon, Ireland, effective June 1998.

In other news from Continental, the airline recently announced its tenth consecutive quarter of record earnings, spurred by the highest quarterly load factor (73.7 percent) in the carrier's history.

* American Airlines recently launched American Connection service in conjunction with Business Express Airlines, offering America Airlines customers convenient connections at Boston to and from 12 northeast cities: Burlington, VT; Portland and Bangor, ME; Lebanon, NH; Syracuse, Rochester, Albany, White Plains, and Islip, NY; and Quebec City, Ottawa, and Halifax, Canada. Passengers will be able to make one-stop connections at Boston from these cities to London (Heathrow), Paris (Orly), Dallas/Fort Worth, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, Miami, New York (Kennedy), San Jose, and San Juan. American Airlines also recently announced a strategic alliance with Asiana Airlines, placing its designator code on all Asiana flights between the United States and Seoul, South Korea.

* Aeromexico has added a fourth daily flight from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to Mexico City.

* Northwest Airlines has partnered with Worldview Systems Corporation to expand travel planning content at its Web site. Worldview will provide a multimedia travel guide to more than 20,000 destinations worldwide. Visitors will be able to customize travel plans by specifying areas of interest. Maps, photos, currency conversions, and travel and weather advisories also will be available.

WEB SITE LINKS PLANNERS WITH POTENTIAL VENUES EventSource, an event planning Web site, has launched an electronic request for proposal (RFP) service that lets users secure sites and services online.

Called BookIt!, the service connects planners to EventSource's network of more than 7,000 venues in North America, including hotels, resorts, convention centers, auditoriums, arenas, and theaters. By streamlining the RFP process, BookIt! "lets people get into the actual event planning, rather than being bombarded by details," says Brian Langer, president and founder of Novato, CA-based company.

With BookIt!, a meeting executive fills out a single request form with information on a meeting or event. EventSource broadcasts the form to selected sites via e-mail or fax. The user begins receiving proposals within 24 hours, while the RFP information is stored for future use. To locate sites, planners enter event criteria and the Web site's search engine comes up with a list of venues that best meet them. Information on sites includes detailed capacity specifications, floor plans, photos, and contact information. The Web site's site selection support includes destination information with links to convention and visitor bureaus, and a listing of hotel and travel promotions for groups.

The EventSource Web site now attracts about 50,000 users a month, according to Langer. Neither users nor sites listed pay for the service, which is financed by advertising from hotels, destinations, and suppliers. EventSource plans to expand its service to include international sites. The EventSource Web site is at www.eventsource.com.

SOFTWARE LETS USERS TRACK INCENTIVE PROGRAMS ONLINE Companies can now take their incentive programs online with Maestro, an online/real-time performance improvement program. Maestro promises to redefine the performance improvement business, says Werner Haase, CEO of the New York-based X-ceed Performance Group, which launched the program this past fall.

"Maestro's real-time feature allows companies not only to respond immediately to competitive conditions but to make use of a motivational element on an ongoing basis, because participants can access their performance levels and their standings in the incentive program [at any time]." Maestro "ultimately becomes a management tool," Haase says, by providing companies a means of monitoring not only performance but sales results and other data.

Maestro incorporates several modules, including training, sales tracking and reporting, awards, recognition, and surveys. The program can be customized to a company's needs, using any or all of the modules. Rewards, for example, can range from gift certificates to vacations. Employees can go online to check their performance-based credits and order an award they qualify for from their own keyboard.

CLC TO EMBARK ON STANDARDIZATION PLAN The Convention Liaison Council (CLC) has taken the first step toward developing industry standards or recommended practices in the meeting, convention, and exposition industry by authorizing the hiring of a consultant with expertise in technology to examine the feasibility of such an effort.

Mickey Schaefer, CAE, vice president for membership, meetings and conventions, and administration, American Academy of Family Physicians, and president-elect of the Professional Convention Management Association, presented a proposal to the CLC House of Delegates in November at the Sheraton Music City in Nashville.

Called the Meeting Industry Standards and Technology Initiative (MISTI), the proposal calls for standardization of the following seven areas: meeting and site profile, terminology, meeting history and post-meeting report, resumes and BEOs (banquet event orders), housing, RFPs (requests for proposal)/booking inquiries, and contracts.

Her proposal suggests that the initiative be driven by the planner organizations on CLC, but ensures collaboration from suppliers and all constituent organizations of CLC. CLC legal counsel Jeffrey King said in order to ensure antitrust compliance, CLC should not call these standards, but recommended practices; that rates should never be discussed; that the process should be inclusive rather than exclusive; and that the practices be optional, not mandatory. The CLC Board will hire a consultant who report on the project's feasibility at the April meeting of the House of Delegates.

In other CLC news, the organization appointed the Resource Center for Associations in Wheat Ridge, CO, as its new management firm, the first under the CLC's new governance structure.

The Resource Center, headed by Francine Butler, was selected from among six finalists. One of its strongest points was Butler's understanding of the Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) program, says Craig Smith, CLC chair. Butler was one of the founding board members of that certification program.

Butlier's first big project, in conjunction with consultant Hugh Lee of Fusion Productions, is the creation of the CLC Forum, to be held April 27 to 29 at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers in New York, Smith says, to which 250 industry representatives and government representatives will be invited.--Betsy Bair

All's Fair in War and Teambuilding Clad in army fatigues and armed with (paintball) guns, your unit sets out from its isolated, wooded encampment on a mission that will almost surely bring it face to face with the enemy.

Not your typical day at the office, but this military-style training prepares corporate combatants for just that, says Dean Hohl, president of Louisville, KYbased Leading Concepts. A former Army Ranger, Hohl finds parallels between the skills needed for military victory and those for corporate success. He's boiled these down to three key areas--leadership, teamwork, and communication--that are the focus of Leading Concepts' four-day military-style workshop.

"In my world, when leadership, teamwork, and communication failed, people died," says Hohl. "When these fail in the business world, it may be slower and less dramatic, but the result is the same. The company dies."

Held outdoors at remote company sites in Louisville; Tucson, AZ; and Albuquerque, NM, the workshops take teams of ten to 14 participants through patrols, missions, and debriefings, with a continual changes in leadership that give everyone a chance to head the group. Periodic reviews apply teams' experiences to the workplace and their personal lives. Participants camp in tents throughout the course, although Hohl says the workshop is designed as a mental, rather than a physical, challenge.

For more information, call (800) 864-1772 or visit the firm's Web site at www.leading concepts.com.

Incentive Possibilities Experience the Romance of Flight Combine the world's largest private collection of vintage aircraft with a fleet of modern flight simulators and you have a special events venue like no other: Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, FL, 20 minutes southwest of Walt Disney World.

Attendees can get high on eight flight simulators recreating World War II combat missions and "immersion experiences" that take them back through different eras of aviation.

Fantasy of Flight is housed in an Art Deco aerodrome, with50,000 square feet of space in four different areas that can be used individually or together for one large event. For more information, call (941) 984-3500 or plug into www.fantasyof flight.com.

Institutional Investor's Best Hotels in the World Institutional Investor magazine surveyed 100 senior financial executives from 26 countries about their top hotel picks around the world.

Here's what they said:

1. Peninsula, Hong Kong

2. Bel-Air, Los Angeles

3. Regent, Hong Kong

4. Oriental, Hong Kong

5. Mansion on Turtle Creek, Dallas

6. Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong

7. Connaught, London

8. Four Seasons, Singapore

9. Four Seasons, Los Angeles

10. Four Seasons, Chicago

How Do You Hit The Road? Survey Pegs Business Traveler Types Not all business travelers are created equal, according to a recent Hyatt Hotels and Resorts study. "Takeoffs and Tradeoffs: The Life of Today's Business Traveler" identifies four different traveler types, from those who can't wait to take off to those who dread the thought.

The study was conducted for Hyatt by New York-based Roper Starch Worldwide, which interviewed 500 executives. The 370 men and 130 women each averaged 17 trips during the past year.

So, which type are you?

* Torn Travelers--This group, plunk in the middle of their child-bearing years (65 percent have kids under 18), are ambiguous about business travel. While 90 percent of them enjoy life on the road, they also feel guilty aboutbeing away from home, with one in ten worrying that their travel is hurting their marriages.

* Globe Trotters--The archetypal "road warriors," these travelers view business travel as an antidote to the daily grind and relish a chance to get away from the office. One quarter are single (as opposed to 13 percent of all respondents) and they have been traveling for fewer years than those in the other groups. Globe Trotters also take more international trips than other travelers.

* World Wearies--Traveling an average of 14 years and having the highest median income of all groups ($127,500), these travelers have no doubt where they stand. They find business travel intrusive and disruptive. Two thirds say they'd stop traveling tomorrow if their careers allowed it. Nine out of ten are married, and 18 percent believe their marriages have been damaged by business travel.

* Smooth Sailors--True veterans, this group is the least likely to believe business travel has adversely affected their lives. For them, travel is simply a way of life that neither bothers nor excites them. At an average age of 51 and with an average of 16 years on the road, Smooth Sailors are the oldest and most-experienced group. The vast majority are married (87 percent), but only 30 percent have children under 18. Three in ten hold top management positions.

FACING CHANGE A monthly snapshot of our readers

What is the greatest change you've faced in your job during the past year?

One corporate relocation would be enough of a challenge for any travel manager. Jude Draper, CMP, manager of travel and corporate meetings for GenRad, Inc., recently had to cope with two moves, one right after the other.

GenRad, a manufacturer of automated testing and measurement equipment, relocated its headquarters last June from Concord, MA to Westford, MA. The company outgrew those new offices only six months later, and Draper's five-member department was selected to make a second move a half-mile from headquarters. "It might as well have been California," she says. Draper and her staff arranged the move for the weekend after the company's Friday night holiday party in December. "We were ready to go to work at 8:30 a.m. on Monday," she says. Corporate staff needed to travel, so there could be no downtime.

On the positive side, says Draper, "Moving gave us the opportunity to look at the way we do things and make some changes." And the staff worked well together as a team. "It showed us what we're made of."

TRY THIS HOW GREEN IS YOUR PROSPECTIVE PROPERTY? The Houston, TX-based "Green" Hotels Association is dedicated to supporting and promoting ecological consciousness in the hospitality industry, and to encouraging hotels to conserve water and energy and reduce solid waste. It has compiled a list of 34 questions for environmentally interested groups to fax hotels to judge their environmental commitment. Among them:

* Does your property regularly purchase recycled products or those that can be recycled?

* Does your property have an in-house recycling program? If yes, what materials are included?

* Will your property provide recycling bins for our meeting (aluminum, glass, newspaper, white paper, plastic, steel cans)?

* Does your property purchase and serve beverages in returnable, refillable containers?

* Do guests have a choice on having towels exchanged?

* Do guestrooms have low-flow showerheads?

* Does your property donate leftover food to a local nonprofit organization?

For the complete list of questions, contact the "Green" Hotels Association at (713) 789-8889.