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Procaccianti Group Buys the 293 room Westin Hotel
 in the Cypress Creek Area of Fort Lauderdale
By Tom Stieghorst, South Florida Sun-SentinelMcClatchy-Tribune Business News

Mar. 26, 2007 - The 293-room Westin Hotel in the Cypress Creek area of Fort Lauderdale has changed hands. The new owner is Procaccianti Group, of Cranston, R.I., which also owns the nearby Marriott Fort Lauderdale North and Boca Raton Renaissance hotels.

Although there will be some shared functions between the three, that was a secondary consideration in the deal, Procaccianti spokesman Ralph Izzi Jr. said. The main factor was Fort Lauderdale's strength as a tourism market, he said.

Izzi confirmed that the purchase was in the $40 million range, but declined to give an exact figure. Starwood Hotels & Resorts had owned the hotel, which will continue to be a Westin franchise under the new owner.

Procaccianti Group, which operates 50 hotels in 17 states, also owns the 279-room Marriott Palm Beach Gardens hotel in South Florida.

--College Spring Break hotel business, shunned by Fort Lauderdale since the mid-1980s, is drawing fire in Panama City, too.

Several resorts in that Panhandle beach community have formed the "Pro Family Spring Break Coalition," with the goal of cleaning up the rowdy side of the spring season.

The resorts pledge to market to families only and most of them are accepting bookings only if the reservation comes from someone over 25 years old.

In a press release, the coalition notes that Fort Lauderdale and Daytona Beach have successfully curbed Spring Break, after concluding that its drawbacks outweighed its benefits to area hotels.

"We are tired of being portrayed as the place for college kids to party," said coalition president Paul Wohlford, who is also marketing vice president at The Resort Collection of Panama City Beach, a group of five large hotels and a golf course.

--High construction costs could mean rate increases for hotel guests. So says PKF Hospitality Research in its 2007 investment survey.

PKF adviser and Cornell School of Hospitality professor John B. Corgel notes that rising hotel rates normally prompt enough new hotel construction to add to room supply and eventually cool the increases.

But competition for steel, cement and labor are making it harder for new hotels to get out of the ground.

"If construction costs continue to grow at rates exceeding inflation and property value increases, it is reasonable to assume that existing hotels will be virtual money-printing machines over the next few years," Corgel said.

"On the other hand, should construction costs decline by 5 to 10 percent, the potential exists for the supply growth to exceed demand growth during the next two years."

--The National Association of Women in Construction will hold a regional meeting at the Sheraton Yankee Trader hotel under the title "Where the Girls Are," on April 20 and 21. More than 300 female construction executives and professionals are expected to attend.

--The Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, which opened most of its 333 rooms in February, has been rated four diamonds by AAA. Costa Dorado Associates Ltd developed the condo-hotel.

--Florida's 378 time-share resorts account for 30 percent of all U.S. time-share units, according to a study by PriceWaterhouseCoopers for the American Resort Development Association, a trade group.

The study puts the industry's direct employment in Florida at 54,300 people and estimates the direct and indirect economic impact of the industry at $14.3 billion.

--Silversea Cruises promoted Marilyn Conroy to senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Americas. The Fort Lauderdale-based luxury line recently ordered a 540-passenger ship for delivery in 2009.

Send items for this column to tstieghorst@sun-sentinel.com or call 305-810-5008

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Copyright (c) 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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