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In brief for May 31, 2006

New Orleans aquarium back in the swim New Orleans' famed Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, closed since the devastation of Hurricane Katrina last year, reopened Friday. Facility staff hopes to be able to serve as a special event venue again soon ...

Starwood, Vongerichten to partner on restaurant development Starwood Hotels & Resorts and acclaimed chef/restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten announced today that they are joining forces to create an international, upscale, multi-concept restaurant and licensing business. The new company will develop and operate restaurants created by Vongerichten, including New York's Spice Market. The new company will serve as a third-party development arm for restaurant concepts in Starwood's high-end hotel brands including W, Westin, Le Meridien and St. Regis. Additionally, the company will own and operate free-standing restaurants outside of Starwood's hotels. "The hotel industry has commoditized hotel dining to the point that most restaurants are so unremarkable they're simply an option of last resort," said Starwood CEO Steven J. Heyer. "We see a wonderful opportunity to dramatically re-imagine hotel dining and provide customers an unforgettable, theatrical experience" ...

'05 'extremely strong' for international meetings, ICCA says The number of international meetings--defined as meetings with at least 50 participants, run by international associations and taking place on a regular basis--climbed nearly 11 percent from 2004 to 2005, says the International Congress & Convention Association. The top country by number of meetings was the U.S., the association says, with Germany, Spain and the U.K. filling the next three positions. The top city was Vienna, with Singapore second and Barcelona third.

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