Grizzly with a salmon seen at Chilko Lake, part of the remote area’s experience with nature.

Welcome to the New Year, when we all are hoping that our world’s health, outlook and economies rebound with vigorous speed and stability. I have faith in us. Throughout the pandemic, I have been renewed by stories of people who have switched industries, founded new businesses, reached out to others, or have received the help needed. I’d love for you to be interactive with this blog. Send me your news of destinations, events, or what topics are of concern. Comment on what I have written. Contribute ideas on what direction or information you would like to know. I will do my best to deliver. I have been privileged to be accepted onto the Independent Small Business Owners Advisory Panel for Meetings Professionals International. Have been on many local chapter committees and on the Board of Directors, as well as many other global advisories. I “feel” like this group will be invigorating, challenging, and resourceful… All great words I want to insert into my, and yours, everyday life. Be healthy, focused and productive.


TradeWinds Island Resort renovations rendering.

 TradeWinds Island Resorts guest room renovations. Check. Completion of a $2.2 million total redesign of all indoor meeting spaces and common areas for the St. Pete Beach (FL) resort. Check. Inspired by the Gulf of Mexico, along which it straddles, the renovations include 50,000 sf of updated space, including the Grand Palm Colonnade lobby area, all meeting rooms, and the Pavilion at the TradeWinds Island Grand property. New carpeting, furniture, lighting and fresh paint has transformed the spaces with vibrant blues, metallic accents and nautical details. Throughout the lobby area, dark mahogany-colored furniture and crisp, cream-colored chairs create a soothing space among signature 20-foot palms. The chairs in all meeting spaces have been updated with deep blue upholstery with classic gold frames. The $13 million renovations to the guest rooms at the Island Grand and RumFish Beach Resort were finished in March of 2020 and the meeting space uplifts were finalized more recently.

For groups: (800) 345-6461; www.TradeWinds and for leisure:

More than a $100 million has already been spent on renovating THE ROW, a luxury Caesars Entertainment property in Reno, NV and now the Silver Legacy Resort Casino is undergoing an additional $47 million redo to the resort’s rooms and suites. Completion is expected by June. The Silver Legacy Resort Casinos is a 1,600- room premier property. The current renovation covers the 1,999 rooms from the hotel’s fifth through 25th floors. The new rooms follow the addition of Top Golf Swing Suite and The Spa at Silver Legacy, redesigned hotel rooms at all three Reno resorts, and improvements to The Carnival Midway at Circus Circus.;


Rendering of Caesars New Orleans, opening in 2024

2021 has barely begun but Caesars Entertainment, Inc is already looking to 2024 when they anticipate the $325 million renovation and construction of transforming Harrah’s New Orleans (LA) into Caesars New Orleans will be completed. Expected to be the only land-based casino in New Orleans, the project creates a new flagship resort just steps from the famed French Quarter. Preliminary plans include a new 340 room hotel tower above the existing casino valet porte cochère, full exterior and interior architectural and design enhancements, and new culinary and hospitality offerings within the casino. In June of 2019, Caesars Entertainment was awarded an extension to its operating contract, allowing operation until 2054. As part of the extension agreement, Caesars Entertainment will provide millions in tax revenue to New Orleans and Louisiana while creating 600 construction jobs during development and 500 sustainable and new jobs following the construction phase. “We are excited to introduce Caesars New Orleans to the city,” said Tom Reeg, CEO of Caesars Entertainment. “As the only land-based gaming operator in the city, we take great pride in our 20-year history in New Orleans, and this reinvestment is a testament to our continued commitment.” Additional details coming when approved by the City and Louisiana Gaming Control Board.


COVID-19 testing is just one of Marriott International’s new health protocols that began in January in branded properties across the United States as another step in ensuring meeting and event safety. These optional health protocols build upon initiatives already in place as part of the recent launch of Connect with Confidence. Meeting professionals may select optional health protocols for meetings and events at Gaylord Hotels and Resorts in Florida, Tennessee, Texas, and Colorado. More hotels and resorts will be added in the following weeks. Optional health protocols for meeting professionals to consider include: self-administered COVID-19 tests taken by the guest prior to travel; COVID-19 testing administered by a third-party testing provider on site at the hotel; daily and/or pre-arrival health screening questions via a dedicated mobile application; and daily temperature checks to enter the event area. These new measures supplement Marriott’s Global Cleanliness Council and Commitment to Clean introduced earlier. “These new health protocols provide options for meeting professionals as they plan and host meetings, conferences, and events,” said Tammy Routh, Senior Vice President, Global Sales Organization for Marriott International. “Building upon the work of our Global Cleanliness Council, we engaged industry-leading experts and through a thorough review process, identified third party providers capable of offering the health protocols that meeting professionals want and need for future events.”


Virtual Booth Photo Estimator

The Pixilated team reports that their customers repeatedly ask the same questions about their PixiWeb Virtual Photo Booth. The questions ranged from how many would want to have their photo taken or to how many could each guest take? What happens if the host runs over the selected package from Baltimore, MD company’s offerings? Although those questions and more are answered in their FAQ section, they devised a new tool to help hosts predict how much engagement to expect. The tool is called a Virtual Booth photo estimator.; (888) 902-0054

While some of us (OK, I mean me) are slower to comprehend and utilize technology, there are companies who have not sat idly by during COVID interruptions and have instead been innovating new AI-backed products geared towards the hospitality, meetings & events industries. MeetingPlay is one such company. Here’s just a taste of what the Frederick, MD company now offers. MeetingPlay Studio contains all the tools necessary to build, manage, and stream compelling, studio-quality videos for meetings and events. Newest virtual features are speaker training portals, enhanced collaborative workshops, exhibitor testing rooms, and configurable dashboard agenda. With each feature on the platform, you can begin by watching a video tour, then test your hardware to make sure you are ready to present. Issues can be reported by pushing a button. For example: each exhibitor testing room is unique to each exhibiting company. Other users don’t get to peek in and if you need help, administrators can join the test room. I don’t pretend to understand all that is possible, so you’ll just have to check it out for yourself.


Mountain biking along the White Rim Trail, part of Holiday River Expediitions packages.

The only people I know who aren’t tired of being confined and restricted by COVID-19 safety protocols are those who don’t care, don’t believe they will ever get sick, or who must travel for their job or family concerns. For some companies, finding solutions that provide safe outlets for guests and employees while ensuring their business survives has resulted in some clever creativity and sensitivity as to what will make guests comfortable. Holiday River Expeditions (Salt Lake City, UT) is one of those companies. For over 50 years they have produced and guided river rafting adventures. They have responded to concerns about travelling with strangers on a group experience by offering pods for groups who operate within their own bubble. They have a 12-person minimum for private rafting charters and eight for a small group, private charter backcountry mountain biking trip on the White Rim Trail or the Moab-Westwater combination trip of rafting and biking. Their multi-day bike trip, The Maze, which goes deep inside Canyonlands National Park, is limited to seven. Here are other protocols the company has adopted and will follow through with during the 2021 adventures:  a 4 to 1 guest to guide ratio (to increase social distancing while in a raft); decreased capacity in vehicle transportation with masks required; a mandatory “Statement of Good Health” a week before departure; and temperatures taken at meeting point. Also: there’s a meal service change from buffet to served, with guides wearing masks and gloves during preparation and service; always-available sanitizer; and additional PSA’s to create a “culture of care” that addresses comfort zones.

(800) 624-6323; Holiday@BikeRaft.com

Horseback above Chilko Lake in British Columbia

Another adventure in which you and your pod can participate is The Chilko Experience Wilderness Resort in remote British Columbia. Large families or perhaps private company incentive programs for 12 (and possibly up to 20) might consider a $15,000 per night buyout of this family estate on Chilko Lake for the June to October season. The buyout includes access to luxury Canadian hand-crafted log homes, services of a master chef and private activity guides, plus an open bar and the capability to accommodate and arrange for private aircraft. While a 25% deposit is required with the balance due 90 days prior to arrival, guests will receive a full refund if the Canadian border is closed at time of travel. Full refunds minus a $500 per person fee will be available for cancellations 61 or more days prior to the arrival date. However, there will be no refunds for cancellations 60 days or less prior to arrival date if it is for any reason other than border closure. Hosts Phil and Anne Huston, founder and owner, say all precautions and protocols evolved throughout the pandemic are followed. The remote private estate sits within the 32 million acres of Chilko. The roadless region supports 17 unique ecosystems. There are mountains, glaciers, rushing rivers, alpine lakes and brown bears, cougars, wolves, mountain goats, eagles and salmon. Their off-the-grid estate contains six custom log and timber frame luxury accommodations which were designed and constructed by HGTV’s Timber Kings. Each unique home shares common features: oversized windows for maximum natural light, stone floors, hand-beveled denim (blue toned pine) ceilings, steel roofs, and furnished with antiques. Should I mention the wine cellar? They serve only British Columbia-sourced wines, many from Okanagan Valley vintners. Many of its over 300 wineries have won international awards. Phil Huston says, “One could not conceive of a more desirable antidote to our current woes than this intimate, untamed adventure.  When guests ask for the address of the resort, they get an unusual answer.  We are 30 miles off the power grid, 40 miles to the post office and 200 miles to the grocery store but at night you can reach up and touch the stars.” Most guests access the Chilko valley via private charter flights originating in Vancouver, BC.  The flight time is one hour.  Guests can also fly commercially to Williams Lake and then drive three hours to the estate. From Vancouver it’s a 10-hour drive.;; (888) 865-7136;


Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals Foundation (HFTP®), established in 1952, is a hospitality nonprofit association headquartered in Austin, TX and with offices in Hong Kong, United Kingdom, The Netherlands and Dubai. Each year the group sponsors a competition for students earning their HFTP-UH Global Masters Certificate, a program with candidates of the Master of Science in Global Hospitality Business, a partnership between the CN Hilton College at the University of Houston, the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and EHL. Students were assigned to focus on a critical hospitality industry topic and submitted their study as a blog article. Upon completion, a group of judges from HFTP reviewed and voted, identifying the top three winners. “The topics presented by all the competitors are top-of-mind to our industry, all wide-ranging in topic but important information in a time we are all looking for new strategies,” said HFTP Frank Wolfe, CAE. “Without a doubt, these students are entering their careers with a strong background.” The winning blogs will be published on the HFTP Connect blog between January and March. Here are the winners: 1st place: Role of Technology in Cleaning and Sanitizing in the Era of the New Normal by Nutthaphat Poolworaluk; Published on January 13. 2nd place:

Stay or Leave? Internship Stress and Coping Strategies in the Hotel Industry by Shan Shan Chien. To be published February 10. 3rd place: Live Streaming Has Made Great Contributions to Chinese Hospitality Business Recovery by

Shuyi Wang; To be published March 10. HFTP will host the same competition for a new group of graduate students over the Spring 2021 semester.; HFTP News page at; HFTP Connect blog at

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 International Live Events Association, Meeting Professionals International and the Society of Professional Journalists. She is now serving on the 20121-2022 MPI Independent and Small Business Owners Advisory Board. 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.