An outstanding turnout, a spectacular venue, and a busy program that combined great evening entertainment with enlightening educational sessions made the Northeast ICPA chapter meeting a huge success. Organized by Pat Jaworski, director, North American travel & conference services, Sun Life Financial, and Karyn Rizzo, CMP, senior meetings consultant Sun Life Financial, the meeting was held January 8 to 9 at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. About 30 planners and 10 hospitality partners from national hotel chains attended the event.

Mohegan Sun was a pleasant surprise for first-time visitors: It feels more like a stunning modern hotel with a casino and convention center than a casino with guest rooms. After property tours, ICPA attendees enjoyed cocktails, a wine-tasting dinner, and entertainment by the hilarious and mind-bending Jon Stetson.

A day of educational sessions and networking followed. Hotel partners reported that overall, new properties are still coming online and companies are still investing in existing hotels with major renovations and additions. Look for a sea change in Starwood’s Sheraton line in terms of product consistency, lots of news from the up-and-coming JW Marriott brand, another guest room tower at Mohegan Sun, a stable rate structure from Four Seasons this year, more golf resorts from Hilton, a complete makeover of KSL’s La Costa Resort and Spa, and seven new Ritz-Carltons in 2003 and 2004, including Lake Las Vegas; South Beach, Florida; and Orlando, Grande Lakes.

Other presentations included an update on the CMP exam by Sharon Chapman, CMP, Berkshire Life; Rob Gingras, CMP, CIGNA; and Karen Rizzo, CMP, Sun Life Financial (see "To CMP or Not to CMP" on page 21). Chapman also explained the APEX (Accepted Practices Exchange) Initiative on industry standards. A standardized contract, she said, is one of the most important priorities on the APEX agenda.

New Airline/Agency Relationships?
Speakers Alan Krensky, president and CEO of Colpitts World Travel in Dedham, Mass., and Jim Carter, regional sales director Northeast, American Airlines, said that airlines and major travel agencies are embarking on a new kind of partnership.

For example, American Airlines is becoming "strategically aligned" with about eight travel agencies out of a few thousand that currently exist in the greater Boston area. Planners who work with these agencies will get greater negotiating power for things like ticket prices and the ability to void seats, said Krensky. He believes that select major travel management companies will form strategic partnerships with several carriers, creating a kind of "dealership" environment. —Regina Baraban