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NEWS8 . . May 2012May The stuff of legendsTwo of the world's meetings and events industry's legendary characters' achievements were honoured at the sixth annual Exhibition News Awards, held at the new-look Olympia West Hall in London.Ray Bloom's IMEX America debut show in Las Vegas last year won Best International Launch and veteran entrepreneur Roger Shashoua picked up the EN Pioneer Award for achievements in expanding the exhibition industry, in particular for his work to develop his global exhibition company, ITE into new and emerging markets.There were 850 of the event community's fi nest in attendance for Conference News' sister publication's Awards.Other winners on the night included: Best Employer, Business Design Centre; Best International Venue, Amsterdam RAI; Best UK Venue Earls Court and Best Venue Marketer, Gemma Parkhouse, Excel London.Winners were announced in 20 award categories including 10 people awards. The Master of Ceremonies was Canadian quick-fi re comedian Stewart Francis.Pictured above: Roger Shashoua (left) and IMEX Chairman Ray Bloom.

NEWS2012May 2012 . . 9 Spanish company Barcelo Hotels and Resorts is to withdraw from the UK and pay a £20m penalty to terminate leases on 21 UK hotels owned by Puma Hotels. Properties include the Lygon Arms in Worcestershire, The Majestic in Harrogate and Hinckley Island Hotel. Barcelo, which had signed a 45-year lease to run the 21 hotels in 2007, had asked for a reduction in rent. Prior to the grant of the leases in 2007, Puma Hotels itself operated the hotels through its head office in Hinckley. Puma, in which the AIM-listed Hotel Corporation has a 49.9 per cent stake, will revive the old Paramount Hotels brand, having negotiated an agreement with its bankers to extend its debt facility until 31 December 2013. Puma appointed Chardon Management to assist in managing the hotels, while Shore Capital will continue to provide asset management, despite having taken a £4.8m loss on its five per cent Puma holding, according to analysts.Some tough months for hotels have seen the administration of Professional Ventures Corporation, holding company for 42 hotels operated by Marriott Hotels, and Jarvis Hotels, whose 24 hotels have been transferred to new company Jupiter Hotels.Adios Barcelo, Puma brings back ParamountThe Titanic Belfast has opened a 1,000-seat banqueting suite, within the world's largest ever Titanic-themed visitor attraction. Northern Ireland's largest tourism project, Titanic Belfast, has been built on the site where the famous ship was built.Set over six fl oors, Titanic Belfast boasts nine interactive galleries. The fi ve-storey central atrium is inspired by the majesty of gangways, gantries, cranes that fi lled the void between the Titanic and Olympic when they lay side-by-side upon the slipways.The 14,000sqm building took three years to complete, the same length of time as Titanic itself, and is designed with capacity to accommodate up to one million visitors annually. Paul Crowe, Managing Director of Todd Architects, said: "Developing a building that refl ected the ingenuity, ambition and scale of Titanic has been an immense professional challenge. Titanic Belfast is on course for a BREEAM Excellent status" (a design assessment standard for green buildings).Like RMS Titanic, the project was completed on budget and to a strenuous time constraint, which demanded completion in advance of April's centenary celebrations of the ship's maiden voyage.Gateshead gets £10m green light for new venueFollowing last July's funding setback for a new International Convention and Exhibition Centre project on the banks of the River Tyne, £10m of Arts Council England (ACE) funding has been granted for a more modest venue project to be built adjacent to the existing Sage centre. A further £20m is required, however, to realise the new plan for a conference centre holding 3,000-plus.It is estimated that over 75 additional conferences a year could be attracted to the region as a result of the new facilities, set to include a 3,000sqm exhibition hall. The new facility will now be built on land currently used for car parking to the south of The Sage Gateshead. Anthony Sargent, General Director of The Sage, said: "Since opening The Sage in 2004 we have wanted the capacity to capture more of the world's largest international conferences. This Arts Council vote of confi dence in the project is a key step in that journey."Nick de Bois, Conservative MP, and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Events in the UK, will deliver the keynote at the IMEX opening ceremony in Frankfurt, 22 May. De Bois set up an events company in 1990 (now run by his wife) and has championed the industry to Government.He will join Excel London Chief Executive Kevin Murphy in speaking at the IMEX Politicians Forum, which this year takes place at Rocco Forte's Villa Kennedy hotel.IMEX organisers expect the Forum to welcome 70 meetings industry leaders and 30 politicians from around the globe. IMEX America picked up Best Launch Show at CN's sister publication Exhibition News' sixth annual Aw ards, held recently at the new-look Olympia West Hall in London.£97m Titanic Belfast venue sets sailNick de Bois to deliver keynote at IMEX