Roger Tondeur was honored by the Society of Incentive & Travel Executives (SITE) as its 1996 Member of the Year. Tondeur, a 17-year veteran of the incentive and congress industry, is the general manager of MCI Travel in Geneva.

Roger A. Smith is the new chief executive officer of the Pasadena (CA) Center Operating Company. Smith, a 30-year veteran of the hospitality industry, most recently was an independent consultant to CVBs; prior to that he served as CEO of the Denver Metro Convention and Visitors Bureau. Jesse Waiters, a 17-year veteran of the Pasadena Center, has been promoted to vice president and executive director.

Richard A. Geyer has been appointed president of the Wisconsin Center in Milwaukee. He joins from the Columbus (OH) Convention Center, where he was president and CEO.

The Athens (GA) Convention & Visitors Bureau has appointed Chuck Jones as director. Jones has more than 14 years experience in the hospitality industry.

Ohio's Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau and John S. Knight Center have promoted Gregg M. Mervis to vice president. Previously, he was director of sales.

Rowena Buffet has assumed the position of vice president of sales at the Greater Greenville (SC) Convention and Visitors Bureau. Most recently, she served as director of casino marketing for Station Casinos, Inc. in Las Vegas.

Bally's Las Vegas has promoted Danielle Babilino (left) to vice president of sales and marketing. She had served as the executive director of sales and marketing.

The Greensboro Area (NC) Convention and Visitors Bureau announced two staff changes. Henri "Temo" Fourrier joins as the new vice president of sales and marketing. He was previously vice president of marketing with the Baton Rouge Area (LA) Convention and Visitors Bureau. Ava Pope has been promoted to director of sales. She had been sales manager.

Toni Collins has been selected as director of sales and marketing for the Tallahassee Area (FL) Convention and Visitors Bureau. Collins joins from the Florida Department of Community Affairs, where she worked in the division of housing and community development.

Nanci Kindle (left) has joined International Speakers Bureau in Dallas as vice president of special events, responsible for showcases. Kindle had been manager of continuing education for Promotional Products Association of Irving (TX).

Mark W. Shafer has joined the Greater Columbus (OH) Convention & Visitors Bureau as director of sales. Most recently, he served as director of sales and marketing at the Westin Galleria and Westin Oaks Hotels in Houston.

Doug Giordano has been named director of sales and catering at the Woodcliff Lake (NJ) Hilton. Most recently, he served as director of sales at the Park Ridge (NJ) Marriott.

Victoria C. Brewer has been named director of sales at the Boca Raton (FL) Resort & Club. She joins from Westin Hotels & Resorts, where she served as director of leisure sales.

The Chicago area's Hyatt Regency O'Hare has appointed David Gauthier director of sales. Most recently, Gauthier was director of sales at Hyatt on Printers Row. He replaces Jack Horne, who was promoted to director of marketing.

Mark Vaughn (left) is the new director of marketing for the Fort Lauderdale (FL) Marina Marriott. He joins from the Dayton (OH) Marriott Hotel, where he was director of marketing.

The Peachtree Executive Conference Center & Resort in Peachtree City, GA named Dwayne M. Spitzer director of sales and marketing. Most recently, Spitzer was regional director of sales and marketing for Carnival Hotels & Casinos. Also at the Peachtree, Sherry Awbrey has been promoted to national sales manager. She had been sales manager.

Keith M. Douglas has joined Doubletree Guest Suites Chicago as director of sales and marketing. Formerly, he was director of sales and marketing at the Omni Colonnade Hotel in Coral Gables (FL).

Michelle Lewis has been appointed director of sales at L'Auberge de Sedona (AZ). Lewis had served as general manager for Sun Destinations Scottsdale.

The Daytona Beach (FL) Hilton Oceanfront Resort has named Michael Primivera director of sales and marketing. Previously, he was director of sales for the Grand Summit Hotel in Summit, NJ.

Phil Mogle has joined Marriott Hotels, Resorts, and Suites as regional director, national accounts, Southeast region. He had been director of Hyatt Hotels' national sales office in New York. He replaces Patrice Spinner, who is the new regional director of Northeast national accounts.

The Princess, in Hamilton, Bermuda, has promoted Hal Browne to director of sales and conventions. Browne, a 20-year veteran of The Princess, was most recently rooms division manager.

The Marriott at Sawgrass Resort in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL announced two appointments. Andrea Smith is now director of group sales. She had been director of group sales at the Orlando Airport Marriott. Starr Crist has been named national sales manager, focusing on large groups. Her previous positions include director of transient sales at Fort Lauderdale Marriott North.

Jesse Lucas has been named to the newly created position of creative director for Riverside Productions, the division of the Rochester (NY) Riverside Convention Center that provides theme parties and special events. Lucas was the founder of Traditions in Design, an event production company in Rochester.

Dale Scharlat has joined Sonesta Hotels & Resorts, based in Key Biscayne, FL, as regional sales manager for the New York area. Scharlat had served with the New York-based Krisam Group as director of sales.

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company in Atlanta has promoted Manny Corral to regional director of marketing, Latin American/Caribbean. Corral had served as director of sales and marketing for The Ritz-Carlton, Cancun, in Mexico.

The Sheraton Biscayne Bay in Miami has announced two appointments. Jacklyn Passanese has joined as group sales manager, bringing with her nine years of experience with South Florida hotels. Pamela Morgan has also joined as executive meeting manager. Morgan recently earned a Master's degree in Administration/Leadership at Florida State University.

INTERNATIONAL SCENE Marriott's CasaMagna Cancun (Mexico) completed a $2.5 million renovation in mid-December, which upgraded all 450 guest rooms and 38 suites, renovated the Mikado Restaurant, and moved the children's activity center into a larger space.

It began in 1994, and now the finishing touches of of a $22 million renovation are in place at the Istanbul (Turkey) Hilton. The project completely renovated all 501 rooms, restyling the interiors, adding soundproof windows and dataports, and improving the lighting and air-conditioning systems. The property now has a larger gym, an upgraded Turkish bath, and renovated lobby and reception areas.

NEW BOUTIQUE HOTELS FOR SMALL GROUPS Newport, RI, renown as the summer home of the turn-of-the-century elite, continues to draw visitors to its historic mansions and yacht-filled harbor. In May, the town's 1909 Vanderbilt Hall will complete a transformation into a 50-room "mansion house" hotel. The property is being developed by Country House Hotels and Cornish Associates and will include a boardroom, billiards room, and fitness facilities.

Another unusual small property opened in December in Puerto Rico. El Convento, a former convent in the heart of Old San Juan, offers 57 rooms and meeting space for 24 persons in a structure opened in 1651 as the home of Carmelite nuns.

New in New York, The Phillips Club at Lincoln Square opened in December on Manhattan's Upper West Side. The property's 96 units are aimed exclusively at the extended-stay market (30 days or more), with both deluxe rooms and one- and two-bedroom apartments. The Phillips Club has a boardroom and business center on site and offers access to meeting space in several small theaters and the Reebok Sports Club.

CONFERENCE CENTER NEWS Under Marriott Conference Centers management, the $50 million MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center in Kingsport, TN opened in late November. The property includes a 196-room hotel, 35,000-square-foot exhibit hall, 10,000-square-foot junior ballroom, 96-seat amphitheater, and a number of meeting rooms and boardrooms. A championship golf course, Cattails at MeadowView, opens in Fall 1997 to complement the resort's pool, fitness center, and tennis courts.

In Chantilly, VA, Westfields International Conference Center completed a $2.5 million renovation at the end of 1996 that upgraded all soft goods in the property's 335 guest rooms and 28 meeting rooms.

NEW AND IMPROVED With 2,035 rooms in 12 adjoining towers that recreate the New York skyline, it won't be easy to miss. New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas celebrated its grand opening on January 2. The megaproperty, which includes a Coney Island-style roller coaster and scaled-down replicas of the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge, is a $460 million joint venture between MGM Grand Inc. and Primadonna Resorts Inc.

The Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston plans to complete an upgrade of the 100 rooms in its East Tower by the end of the month as part of a $7 million renovation project for 1997.

The Hyatt Regency San Diego is now booking the Gallery, a 1,500-square-foot meeting space on the waterfront boardwalk between the property and the marina. The Gallery, a converted art showroom, can accommodate up to 220 persons.

The Pointe Hilton Resort at Tapatio Cliffs in Phoenix has opened a three-and-a-half acre water experience that should take the edge off the Arizona heat. The $7.5 million project adds a 40-foot waterfall, two free-form pools, a children's activity center, a 130-foot enclosed water flume, an open-air restaurant pavilion, and poolside gardens. New sun decks and terraces-a total of 65,000 square feet-can be used for outdoor functions.

CAMINO REAL SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA During a recent visit to Costa Rica's capital city of San Jose, I attended an outdoor reception in the balmy Arboleda room at Camino Real San Jose, where we were joined by no less than the president of Costa Rica, Jose Maria Figueres. He was there to celebrate the hotel's new standing as one of The Leading Hotels of the World.

Camino Real San Jose is an impeccable business hotel and a comfortable base from which to explore this diverse country. It is close to downtown and 15 minutes from the international airport, with 261 rooms and suites (including a club floor), four meeting rooms, a ballroom that accommodates up to 900 persons, a spa, a European-style casino, a tennis court, and a free-form outdoor pool.

Though only about half the size of Tennessee, Costa Rica is aptly known as the Switzerland of Central America for its stable government, lack of a standing army, and spectacular, rugged mountain scenery. It well-known for its efforts to preserve its natural beauty: One-quarter of the land has been designated protected conservation areas.

Spanning the isthmus from Atlantic to Pacific, the country encompasses a range of microclimates, from its dry and balmy Pacific Coast, to the lush coffee plantations, to its vast lowland rain forests and delicate, epiphytic "cloudforests" on the upper slopes. Several active volcanoes include Arenal, which will often oblige visitors with nightly fireworks displays.

Because we visited during the rainy season, our group's planned afternoon excursion to the rain forest and aerial tram at Parque Nacional Braulio Carrillo was delayed by a late afternoon rain and lightning storm of Old-Testament proportions. But when we returned the next day, raging mountain streams had subsided a bit and the roads had been cleared of mud slides.

The open-air tram took us, five at a time plus guide, through a forest filled with hundreds of brightly colored butterflies, exotic birds (Costa Rica has more than 800 species), poison dart frogs, and shockingly vivid snakes coiled in the crotches of moss-laden trees. Returning at canopy level, we drank in the heavy air, rich with the scent of blossoming tropical flowers.

While in Costa Rica, my group's activities were handled by destination management company Swiss Travel Service, which escorted us in a comfortable air-conditioned motorcoach. The country has a well-developed infrastructure so that meeting and incentive groups can take advantage of all there is to see and do, from volcano rim walks to white-water rafting to rain forest treks.