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New Orleans Attracts More Visitors

201008-w-cafe-du-mondejpgWall Street Journal |  On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, tourism in New Orleans is growing at one of the fastest paces in the U.S., but it remains a fraction of its pre-hurricane levels.

In 2004, New Orleans saw a record 10.1 million visitors; in 2006, post-Katrina, the number had dropped to 3.7 million. But 7.9 million tourists visited New Orleans in 2009, and of the 25 top U.S. destinations, New Orleans had the second-highest growth of revenue per available room in the first half of 2010, according to a report from hotel-industry research and consulting firm Smith Travel Research Inc. (...)

Kelly Schulz, a spokeswoman for the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, a nonprofit that promotes tourism in the region, says next to rebuilding infrastructure, the biggest challenge the tourism industry faced post-Katrina was "convincing people that it was safe to come back." Photo credit: Philip Scalia / Alamy.

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Cities Selling Parking, Airports, Zoos

Wall Street Journal |  Cities and states across the nation are selling and leasing everything from airports to zoos—a fire sale that could help plug budget holes now but worsen their financial woes over the long run.

California is looking to shed state office buildings. Milwaukee has proposed selling its water supply; in Chicago and New Haven, Conn., it's parking meters. In Louisiana and Georgia, airports are up for grabs.

About 35 deals now are in the pipeline in the U.S., according to research by Royal Bank of Scotland's RBS Global Banking & Markets. Those assets have a market value of about $45 billion—more than ten times the $4 billion or so two years ago, estimates Dana Levenson, head of infrastructure banking at RBS. Hundreds more deals are being considered, analysts say.

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LVMH Extends Posh Label to New Luxury Resorts

Wall Street Journal | LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is checking into the hotel business. The world's largest luxury-goods company, home to brands such as the Louis Vuitton fashion house and champagne maker Veuve Clicquot, said Thursday it will develop resorts using the name of its Bordeaux winery, Cheval Blanc. The company tested the concept with a first location that opened in the French ski resort Courchevel in 2006. Two more hotels are scheduled to join the new chain by 2012 in Oman and Egypt, the company said.

The project is "a natural extension of activities in luxury hospitality with Cheval Blanc," LVMH said in a statement.

Like many top hotel operators, LVMH is limiting its exposure to the volatile hotel industry. It won't own the real estate or finance construction, but will instead run the resorts under management contract, a similar model to other high-end chains such as The Ritz-Carlton. The new LVMH Hotel Management business has six employees.

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W Hotels to Name a 'Fashion Director'

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Wall Street Journal |  Putting a new spin on the term "designer hotel," boutique chain W Hotels is hiring a fashion director to amp up its style credentials and its profile within the fashion industry.

After a two-year search, the chain is planning to announce next week—on Feb. 11, the opening day of New York Fashion Week—that it has hired stylist Amanda Ross in what is very likely a first for the hotel industry. W Hotels, which operates 36 properties worldwide, is a unit of Starwood Hotel & Resorts Worldwide Inc.

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Airlines Face Big Fines for Delays

The Wall Street Journal |  The Obama administration said Monday it would begin levying hefty fines against U.S. airlines for subjecting domestic passengers to lengthy tarmac delays, the government's latest response to a series of high-profile incidents.

The new rule adopted by the  Department of Transportation sets fines of as much as $27,500 per passenger when airlines leave fliers stuck on a plane on the ground for more than three hours. Based on a delayed plane carrying 120 passengers, the fine could be as much as $3.3 million. The rule would apply to planes with more than 30 seats.

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