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October 20, 2016: Event Planners and Travel Agents Are Ditching Trump's Washington Hotel, The Obamas Go Italian for Final State Dinner, Debate Highlights Include an Effective Moderator

1. EVENT PLANNERS AND TRAVEL AGENTS ARE DITCHING TRUMP'S WASHINGTON HOTEL: The new Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., was supposed to be a go-to destination for event planners and travel agents. But because of the stigma that comes with the Trump name, many now aren't bothering to suggest the hotel as a venue to stay in or to host weddings and parties. CNNMoney: "It's unclear whether Trump's scorched-earth campaign will put a measurable dent in the new hotel's success. It advertises an opulent five-star experience set within the capital's historic Old Post Office and Clock Tower. But some event planners told CNNMoney that the controversy associated with Trump is a turnoff. 'I'm not recommending the Trump property to anyone,' said Tara Melvin, the owner of Virginia-based Perfect Planning Events. 'Just based on his character, and his actions and the things that he said over his political campaign.' Melvin and others, like wedding planner Shelby Tuck-Horton, said they wouldn't dissuade clients from choosing the property if they wanted. But they also weren't sure that many would consider it. 'It's just a lot going on with his properties right now because of his visibility,' said Tuck-Horton, who runs Exquisite Expressions & Events in Maryland. 'I don't know that a lot of my clients would even want to go.' Diane George, the owner of Covenant Weddings & Occasions, also in Maryland, said she probably wouldn't suggest the hotel to avoid political tension altogether. 'I don't ask my brides which way they vote,' George said, 'so I don't even bring that up.' Client comfort was another concern. Eric Reader, the senior vice president and chief operating officer of Connoisseur Travel in Washington, said his agency doesn't work with the Trump chain because it belongs to a different travel association. But he said he probably wouldn't recommend the property even if that restriction didn't exist."

2. THE OBAMAS GO ITALIAN FOR FINAL STATE DINNER: The last state dinner of the Obama White House took place on Tuesday, offering an Italian menu from guest chef Mario Batali and a performance from Gwen Stefani. Washington Post: “First of all, they went big with an out-sized guest list of 382 VIPs that was light on the famous faces but stuffed with Obama insiders, particularly the first lady’s personal retinue. Perhaps the real star of the night, then, was outsize personality and superstar chef Mario Batali, the dinner’s guest chef. The orange-Crocced TV star practically stole the show at the White House’s preview event on Monday. The chef’s swagger was clearly warranted. As the guests began to trickle into the White House on Tuesday almost everyone said they were most looking forward to trying Batali’s four-course America-meets-Italy meal, not, you know, meeting the president of the United States. But politics did end up on the menu. … And, of course, the first lady wore Italian. For her grand entrance Mrs. O made her grand fashion reveal on the North Portico with the president in tow, wearing a floor-length, rose gold chainmail gown designed by Atelier Versace that was both retro and modern. Other big name Italian designers such as Valentino and Cavalli also made sartorial cameos that night. Held in a tent on the South Lawn dripping with chandeliers and dotted with mirrored tables to conjure up the Italian ‘fresco’ technique, the evening featured a stroll through the first lady’s kitchen garden, hung with lanterns for the occasion, a four-course meal prepared by Batali and a performance by Gwen Stefani of ‘No Doubt’ and ‘The Voice.’”

3. DEBATE HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE AN EFFECTIVE MODERATOR: The third and final presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump took place Wednesday at the University of Nevada and—while much of the evening was focused on the candidates’ last debate comments to attract new voters—one of the takeaways was Chris Wallace’s skill as a moderator. Forbes: “Chris Wallace proved to be an excellent moderator. He effectively controlled the candidates and the audience, and asked tough questions, often from a conservative point of view, prompting substantive exchanges between the candidates. Wallace focused on issues that were ignored in prior debates: abortion, guns, immigration, entitlements and the national debt. Most commentators expected Wallace to begin the debate with a question about rigging the election or sexual assault. Instead, Wallace asked about the Supreme Court. … Compared to previous moderators, Wallace did a better job controlling the audience and the candidates themselves. When the debate descended into unintelligible crosstalk, Wallace cut it off. He firmly transitioned to new segments. He generally refused the candidates’ requests for more time (‘No, we need to move on’). When Trump interrupted Clinton, Wallace said, ‘Her two-minutes, sir, are her two minutes.’ When Trump talked over him, Wallace declared, ‘Mr. Trump, I’m not a potted plant here. I would like to ask some questions.’ The audience was relatively subdued, thanks to Wallace. Minutes before the debate began, Wallace lectured the audience on the importance of staying quiet. He reminded them that a general election debate is different than a primary debate. One of these two candidates will become president. If a candidate says something they like, the audience is still expected to stay silent. Previous moderators spent less time explaining this.”


Brand experience company Freeman has announced the launch of its new Freeman Design Leadership Council, a group of 10 global design visionaries and experts selected by the company’s chief design officer Bruce Mau. The council members include former chief creative executive of Walt Disney Imagineering Bruce Vaughn, Coca-Cola’s vice president of innovation and entrepreneurship David Butler, and Lululemon Athletica’s executive vice president of culture and talent Gina Warren. 


AUSTIN:  The AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center has hired Cheryl Shirley as its new catering manager.

CHICAGO:  The Gwen, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Chicago, has named Marcus Cornelious as director of sales and marketing.

DALLAS/FORT WORTH:  On Monday, Virgin Hotels Dallas broke ground at Hi Line Drive and Turtle Creek Boulevard in the Design District. The 200-room hotel, which is expected to open in 2018, is being developed by Dunhill Partners and Gatehouse Capital. Virgin Hotels Dallas will have multiple dining and drinking outlets, including a pool deck and bar, a rooftop lounge, and the brand's flagship space, the Commons Club.

LAS VEGAS:  The 2016 Soul Train Awards, hosted by Erykah Badu, will take place November 6 at the Orleans Arena. BET and Centric will televise the show on November 27. Drake is the award show's leading contender, with 12 nominations, followed by Beyoncé with eight nods. Teddy Riley will receive the Legend Award, and Brandy will get the Lady of Soul Award.

Andiron Steak & Sea in Downtown Summerlin will host an intimate chef dinner with executive chef Micah Waltz on October 26.

The Venetian Las Vegas will debut craft cocktail bar the Dorsey in December. Located on the casino floor, the space will offer an innovative cocktail menu designed by Sam Ross of Attaboy in New York.

LOS ANGELES:  During this year’s IMEX America in Las Vegas, the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board launched "Virtual Discovery L.A.," a new virtual-reality travel platform that provides meeting professionals with immersive, 360-degree viewing experiences of more than 50 L.A. venues and locations—billed as the most comprehensive virtual tour of any destination in the world.

For information on upcoming events in Los Angeles, visit Masterplanner:

MIAMI/SOUTH FLORIDA:  The fifth annual Tortuga Music Festival will take place April 7-9, 2017, at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park. The country music event will be headlined by Kenny Chesney, Luke Bryan, and Chris Stapleton.

Wyndham Hotel Group is opening two South Florida hotels in 2017. Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach, a 450-room resort in Clearwater, will have 24,000 square feet of event space. TRYP by Wyndham Maritime, a 150-room hotel in Fort Lauderdale, will have 2,500 square feet meeting space, a pool, outdoor deck, rooftop lounge, gym, basketball court, and a European-style tapas bar.

NEW YORK:  The annual Café Bustelo New York Pop-Up Café Experience runs today through Monday in Williamsburg. The pop-up will feature live art and music performances, a latte art demonstration, free coffee and espresso drinks, an interactive photo booth, and lounge seating.

The Every Beautiful Body Symposium, presented by Refinery29 in partnership with Lane Bryant and Aerie, will take place October 26 at Brookfield Place. The daylong event—which will have panels and exhibits focused on body representation in the media and fashion—will feature speakers including model Tess Holliday, photographer Anastasia Garcia, and actress Danielle Brooks.

Alamo Drafthouse Downtown Brooklyn is now scheduled to open October 28. The cineplex with restaurant-style dining had originally been slated to open in August.

The Brooklyn Museum will host a conversation between musician Iggy Pop and conceptual artist Jeremy Deller on November 3.

For information on upcoming events in New York, visit Masterplanner:

ORLANDO/CENTRAL FLORIDA:  Beginning December 1, the Ravenous Pig will move into the remodeled dining room and bar of its sister restaurant, Cask & Larder. Cask & Larder will then operate exclusively from its new location at Orlando International Airport. The parent company, the Swine Family, will also open a new restaurant, the Polite Pig, at Disney Springs in 2017.

TORONTO:  The fourth annual Toronto International Short Film Festival will take place November 9-11 at Carlton Cinema. The event will screen 67 films from 11 countries.

WASHINGTON, D.C.:  Home2 Suites by Hilton Arundel Mills BWI Airport is now open in Hanover, Maryland. The 80-suite hospitality venue is managed by Baywood Hotels.

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With contributions from Jenny Berg in Chicago, Alesandra Dubin and Claire Hoffman in Los Angeles, Mitra Sorrells in Orlando, and Carla Hay, Beth Kormanik, Michele Laufik, Jill Menze, and Ian Zelaya in New York.

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