Boston's Fifteen Beacon officially open for business The 61-room Fifteen Beacon, located in Boston, has officially opened its doors. Among standard hotel accommodations, the $25 million hotel features unique in-room features such as three telephones, a 4-inch LCD bathroom television, color fax machine, copier and printer, and digital satellite music with surround-sound speakers. Furthermore, frequent guests of the hotel will have the same privately assigned telephone and fax numbers each time they return.

In addition to its unique amenities, the hotel is also rich in history. The present building was originally built in 1903 by Boston-based architect William Gibbons Preston, whose other works include the Museum of Natural History (now Louis Boston) and the International Trust Co. Building. Former tenants of the building include the Boston Transit Commission and the Rapid Transit Commission. From 1923 until 1999, however, it was occupied by the Boston School Committee.

Hampton Inn opens first, last hotels as Y2K kicks in Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Hilton Hotels Corp. opened the last Hampton Inn in 1999 when the clock read 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 31, and opened the first Hampton Inn of 2000 at 12:01 a.m. The hotels were opened in Tooele, Utah, and Clinton, N.J., respectively.

Located at 461 South Main St., the 51-room Tooele Hampton Inn is within 30 minutes of the Salt Lake International Airport and features amenities such as high-speed Internet access, a swimming pool and business center. Located off Interstate 87, the 130-room Clinton Hampton Inn is less than one mile from the city's historic downtown. Amenities include a fitness center, two conference rooms and a swimming pool.

According to Hampton Inn executives, in 1999, the Hampton Inn brand opened nearly 120 Hampton Inns and Hampton Inn & Suites properties across the country.

Viva Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas Resort! Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp. has expanded its luxury resort portfolio with the opening of the Hyatt Regency Lake Las Vegas Resort. The 496-room residential and resort community was built on 21 acres of lakefront property and is only 17 miles away from the Las Vegas strip.

In addition to its two restaurants and European-style casino, the resort also contains 40,000 sq. ft. of indoor function space, including a 21,330 sq. ft. ballroom and 10 small- to mid-size meeting rooms. The resort's courtyards, terraces, gardens and pavilion provide an added 70,000 sq. ft. of function space.

U.S. Franchise Systems debuts ihoa In order to make independent hotels around the nation more accessible to the public, Atlanta-based U.S. Franchise Systems has debuted the Independent Hotel Owners Affiliated (ihoa) According to Mike Leven, president of U.S. Franchise Systems and one of the founding members of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), ihoa will be targeted exclusively to independent, non-franchised hotel owners who are members of AAHOA.

Each ihoa member will receive a free Windows 98-based personal computer with technical support, allowing them to be part of a toll-free Internet-based reservation system staffed 18 hours a day. Other benefits of ihoa membership include low credit card processing fees, discounts and online purchasing through hsupply.com, and access to low MCIWorldCom rates.

AAHOA has approximately 6,000 members, of which 35% are independent hotel owners. Benefits of ihoa will be effective June 1.

Gaming report looks at the industry then and now "The Gaming Sector...Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow," a report that contains a state-by-state rundown of the past, present and future predictions of the gaming industry, is now available. In addition to predictions, the sixth annual report covers 23 publicly traded gaming companies, breaking them down into three sections: growth, valuation and speculative.

Among the findings, last year's Model Portfolio of 25 gaming stocks returned a record 86% gain for investors. Using diversification as a key strategy, last year's Portfolio contained a mixture of large cap casino stocks, suppliers to the industry, as well as small cap emerging market riverboat companies.

Furthermore, last year's forecast accurately predicted that while there would be big gains in large cap casino stocks, the big money would be made in the merging small cap riverboat companies due to a combination of consolidation and debt refinancings.

According to the report - which in the past has gone against the conventional thinking of Wall Street - the biggest gainer of 1999 was Argosy Gaming, which rose from an entry price of $2.25 to a high of $17 7/16 during the year.

* White Plains, N.Y.-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts has sealed the sale of Caesars World Inc. to Park Place Entertainment Corp. for $3 billion in cash. Executives for the company say immediate plans for the sale's proceeds include the repayment of $2.5 billion of high cost debt with a current interest rate of more than 9%. Additionally, the company plans to target more than $500 million in incremental asset sales, including the previously announced sale of the Desert Inn in Las Vegas to Sun International.

* Memphis, Tenn.-based Promus Hotel Corp. and Argyle-Leddy Hospitality Co. have broken ground on a $53 million Doubletree Hotel at the Legacy Town Center in Plano, Texas. Construction is slated for completion in December, and the facility is expected to employ approximately 300 people.

* Biloxi, Miss.-based Isle of Capri Casinos has indefinitely postponed the expansion of its Biloxi facility, and has terminated its sublease, previously approved by the city. The proposed expansion was to include a new casino barge, additional retail and restaurant facilities, a parking garage, and a 400-room lodging facility.

Hospitality industry rides the Y2K wave like a pro Along with "paradigm shift," one of the most overused phrase of the past six months has been "Y2K bug." Perhaps no other New Year has been quite souncertain. Would cars start? Would electricity flow? Would computers, which had run perfectly fine the days before, all of sudden crash for no apparent reason? We were all concerned. Just look at the Eckhart family of Lisbon, Ohio. According to TIME magazine, the family took no chances and stockpiled food and supplies for six months.

People weren't the only ones who were a little on edge as the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1. Corporations were concerned about their livelihood, and small businesses were nervous about their survival.

To prepare for this unknown, companies brought in tech support months before the big day to make sure everything was Y2K compliant. New software was installed, and many information technology specialists sat anxiously at their desks as the ball dropped in Times Square.

And they needed to be prepared. As Robert Mandelbaum, director of research in the Atlanta office of PKF Consulting, explains, hotels were a much different breed of real estate when it came to Y2K planning.

"[Hotels] had a higher obligation because they were going to be active that night as opposed to an office building that wouldn't have people there on the 15th floor on Dec. 31," says Mandelbaum. "For that reason alone, I think hotels were fairly diligent and in line in terms of mandating to franchisees and other properties that they needed to meet [Y2K] specifications."

Preparing for the big event meant spending money - $1 billion and some change to be exact. "The industry spent about $1.1 billion leading up to Dec. 31, 1999," says Bjorn Hanson global leader of PricewaterhouseCooopers' Hospitality & Leisure practice.

"There may have been another several million dollars - perhaps $5 million to $10 million - spent on extra staffing and security around the holiday," he adds. "Then there will be some money spent this year because some system replacements - specifically upgrades - were deferred until after the New Year started."

According to Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, the lodging industry has updated old hardware and searched for computer applications that were Y2K compliant. Similar to many industries, the hospitality industry had its own set of Y2K-exclusive issues which included light safety, guest convenience and behind-the-scenes operations.

"Many people don't realize there was a fourth category and that was 'other.' This included worrying about vendors and whether they would be able to respond," says Hanson.

The good news is all of the preparation paid off, and the industry had good news to report early in the New Year. "There were no important surprises," says Hanson. "We didn't even capture any elevator problems or lighting or any such things."

In addition to escaping any major problems, Mandelbaum says hotel occupancies were around 60% - not bad for a holiday which traditionally draws in lower occupancy rates.

"Historically, New Year's Eve is not a very busy time for hotels because there is not a lot of convention of business travel," says Mandelbaum, adding that the push to curb drinking and driving - urging the public to take the elevator home - has made New Year's a more attractive holiday for hoteliers.