The Whitby, a stylish new hotel in midtown Manhattan, NY


Time is running out to book a stay at Gran Meliá Nacional Rio de Janeiro and receive both a 20% discount with MeliáRewards, plus $200 in resort credit. Stay by August 31 at this beautiful São Conrado beach location. ; 1-(844) 425-9969.

Whimsically-colorful, cozy and being within walking distance to Central Park and Broadway, are just a few factors that make The Whitby, a new hotel and one of the latest additions to Design Hotels’ Collection, a charming treasure for small groups. It’s one of the few midtown Manhattan hotels with numerous balconies, several private event rooms, and its own and a 130-seat state-of-the-art cinema. The Whitby has 86 rooms and suites spanning 16 floors. The rooms range from 330 to 1,845-sf. Contemporary interior design is by Kit Kemp. The Whitby is the second New York property owned by Firmdale Hotels. Book nowand receive a free bottle of water per day per guest and complimentary WiFi.

Hotel Santa Fe Hacienda lounge, Santa Fe, NM, is steeped in native traditions.

Immerse yourself in the ancient traditions of Santa Fe, NM while enjoying the modern amenities of the Santa Fe Hacienda & Spa, and get a package of benefits for the booking. You have until April 20 to book the Spring Break Package and receive 15% off, $25 Gas Credit and two complimentary tickets to Meow Wolf, an arts production company that creates immersive, multimedia experiences.


Southwest Airlines has taken its first international flights from the San Francisco Bay Area.  The daily flights from Metropolitan Oakland International Airport to Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta began in February.  Beginning April 25, Southwest Airlines begins flying direct routes from San Diego, CA to San Jose del Cabo / Los Cabos, Baja California Sur, Mexico.


Although Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa, the largest full-service beachfront resort hotel on Northwest Florida’s Gulf Coast, has introduced new menu items which should play well with palates at two of the resort’s restaurants, Sandcastles Restaurant and Lounge and Picnix Poolside Market, it is the revamped catering menu that I want to share. New interactive stations have been designed specifically for meetings and events. Early guest favorites are Herb Pesto Leg of Lamb, Mango BBQ Beef Brisket, Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin, and Churrasco-Style Flank Steak. Create the ultimate breakfast atmosphere with the new Shrimp & Grits Station and a Bloody Mary Bar. Other options include the Taco Truck Station, Gulf Shrimp a La Minute Station and a Mac & Cheese Station. Adult beverages have also been taken to a new level with craft beer flights, barrel-aged bourbons and a Hilton Sandestin twist on classic cocktails, such as the New Old Fashioned, Caribbean Mule and HSB Infused Bloody Mary.; (850) 267-9500.


World Food Championships again hosted in Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, AL

I don’t usually write about festivals put on to bring in leisure travelers or local visitors, but I can bend the rules a bit when it’s a tourism bureau promoting one of my favorite festivals; ie, one promoting food competitions. In this case, the Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism is the 2017 title sponsor of the World Food Championships, in which roughly 1,500 chefs, home cooks and competition teams from around the world compete for food, fame and fortune. Last year it drew competitors from 48 states and 14 countries. This year’s competition, November 8-14, is at The Wharf, a resort destination with a full-service marina, retail, dining and entertainment options anchored by a multi-use event center and a 10,000-seat amphitheater. The bulk of the cooking challenges will occur in the Kitchen Arena, the largest outdoor kitchen in the world, measuring a full city block at 7,800-sf. The arena features $250,000 worth of stoves, cooktops, countertops and cookware – enough for 50 chefs to compete simultaneously. An additional $100,000 worth of professional grills from Bull Outdoor Products affords open-flame grilling in the burger and steak categories. Last year, the World Food Championships brought an estimated $3.3 million impact to the Alabama Gulf coast region, located along the Gulf Coast and a short drive from airports in Pensacola, FL and Mobile, AL;;

I’d rather sample their culinary offerings but perfect shirt for the Prostart culinary competition in Florida

OK, so in actuality, the ProStart Culinary Team Competition for Florida high school students is not a festival, but I’m bending the rules a bit because it is all about food (and related hospitality events) and because the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association awarded more than a million dollars in scholarships. These are our future hospitality industry stars. The early March competition drew 47 schools, with 15 schools winning top awards. More than 20,000 students participate in the Pro-Start cooking program. The four main event competitions at the state level (I have judged the Orange County competitions for five or six years) are the Cracker Barrel Management Competition, the Johnson & Wales University Culinary Competition, the Keiser University Edible Centerpiece Competition, and the Coca-Cola Company Waiters Relay Competition. Overall competition winners were first, Tarpon Springs High School (Tarpon Springs); second, East Ridge High School (Clermont); and third, South Lake High School (Groveland).


Visit Winston-Salem has launched a new complimentary online resource for meeting planners. As the $20 million reinvention of the Benton Conventoin Center in Winston-Salem, NC nears completion, the site will be a boon for meeting planners researching hotels and facilities. The site will have updated videos and an easy RFP submission tool.


On March 10, the Florida House of Representatives passed HB 9, which would limit VISIT FLORIDA‘s ability to successfully market the state. As an active (working) member of the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries and organizations, I would be just one of the thousands and thousands of Floridians directly and negatively impacted by this action. Yes, Florida has companies (think the big three of theme parks: Disney World, Universal Orlando Resorts and Sea World) that heavily market their products that encourage tourists and corporate buyouts, but they can’t do all the work. Visit Florida promotes the entire state, for which tourism is a key industry. Here’s what Ken Lawson, President & CEO of VISIT FLORIDA said about this onerous bill’s passage. “At VISIT FLORIDA, we are laser focused on transparency and accountability, however, HB 9 unnecessarily grows government regulation to limit our ability to attract visitors. This bill jeopardizes the record breaking success of Florida’s tourism industry and the 1.4 million jobs the industry supports. Together, alongside our strong, engaged industry, we will work tirelessly with the Florida House and Senate to advance meaningful reform like HB 889 and SB 1076. We have already made significant progress towards transparency by placing contracts and staff salaries online and conducting a thorough audit of all agreements to ensure that there will be no more secret deals at VISIT FLORIDA and that we get the best return on investment for Florida’s taxpayers.” I, for one, hope our industries are able to make our voices heard loud and clear.

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries. She is an active member of ILEA and MPI and is now serving on the 2016 – 2017 MPI Global Advisory Board for The Meeting Professional Magazine for the second consecutive year. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, she has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events.;; @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.


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