Lodging Leaders show

Lodging Leaders

Summary: Lodging Leaders is an award-winning weekly podcast that examines trends and issues impacting the hospitality industry. Each week, we bring listeners on a journey through engaging stories narrated by co-hosts by Jon Albano and Judy Maxwell, and amplified by interviews with hospitality experts and other thought leaders. Each enhanced episode leverages modern media to provide closed captions, chapter markers with images and links, and an expanded multimedia report with downloadable transcriptions, while adhering to strict editorial standards. The longest running, top-ranking hospitality podcast, Lodging Leaders received a Bronze Stevie® Award in 2020 for Podcast of the Year in the 17th annual Stevie® Awards for Women in Business. Its parent company, Long Live Lodging, also received a Bronze Stevie® Award in the Media Hero of the Year category for its expanded coverage of the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis on the hotel industry.

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 303 | Hotel Tech Goes Viral: COVID pandemic forces industry to modernize operations | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 27:57

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing hoteliers to deploy new technology to run more cost-efficient businesses and to ensure customers that properties are safe by providing such services as contactless check in and mobile key. Episode 303 of Lodging Leaders podcast explores how the COVID-19 outbreak has invigorated hotels’ adoption of tech solutions and looks at what types of products owners and operators are investing in.

 302 | Value Judgment: Hotel asset pricing in COVID-19 age is different from previous recessions | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 31:49

Hotel appraisers and brokers expect distressed assets to come to market as the pandemic recession continues into 2021. But pricing will be different than in previous economic downturns. Episode 302 of Lodging Leaders podcast explores the state of hotel values and what may lie ahead for sellers and opportunistic investors. This is part of our ongoing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the hospitality industry.

 301 | The Road Warrior Ahead: Business travel will come back ‘with a vengeance,’ say experts | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 33:41

Business travel is expected to begin a comeback in 2021 as the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out, consumers regain confidence and corporations put some of their people on road. In Episode 301 of Lodging Leaders podcast, we explore the outlook for business travel as hotels, airlines and others in the travel industry hope to make up for the $113 billion and 200 million jobs lost to the coronavirus pandemic.

 300 | 2020 Hindsight: Lodging Leaders reviews hot topics, gives sneak peek of what’s ahead | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 54:03

{caption}Co-founders of Long Live Lodging, an online multimedia news organization that covers the hospitality industry, gathered in March 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia, for a group shot a few months after agreeing to develop the new venture. They are, from left, Anand Patel, director of operations; Jon Albano, founder and co-host of Lodging Leaders podcast and director of production; Judy Maxwell, director of editorial and co-host of Lodging Leaders; and Neha Patel, director of marketing. The Patels also own and operate Myriann.com, which develops and manages Long Live Lodging’s website.{/caption} Long Live Lodging, multimedia storytelling for the new age of hospitality, carves a niche with innovative programming on Albano founded Lodging Leaders podcast more than five years ago to spotlight hospitality industry experts and influencers. Today, the podcast marks its 300th episode. It’s apropos that the news organization reaches the milestone at the dawn of 2021, given the historic newsworthiness of 2020. Lodging Leaders podcast is part of Long Live Lodging, an online multimedia news organization that covers the hospitality industry. The company officially launched in September 2019. Its main focus in 2020 was how the coronavirus crisis impacted the hospitality industry. And it continues to cover how the course of the pandemic has altered hotel businesses. Access our complete coronavirus coverage here. COVID-19 emerged as a health and economic doubleheader in March and the impact on lodging was swift and devastating. Beginning, March 16, the team has produced nearly 40 reports that explored myriad trends and issues brought about by the pandemic and the ensuing downturn in business at most of the nation’s 57,000 hotels. The World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus a global health pandemic on March 11. On Friday, March 13, the Trump Administration declared the viral outbreak a national emergency. “That Monday is when we went to three episodes a week,” Albano said. The first report was Episode 254 “High Cancellations and Low Demand: Hotel pricing in a steep downturn. “The one that really sticks with me aired just two weeks later, Episode 260.” said Judy Maxwell, co-founder, editorial director and podcast co-host. “That’s when industry analysts, including Jan Freitag with a STR expressed shock over the deep downturn in business.” Here’s an excerpt from Freitag’s recorded presentation via STR’s platform and featured in the episode titled Startling Statistics: Industry analysts stunned at depth of downturn. Freitag: “So the week ending March 21st, RevPAR declined 69.5 percent. It’s the steepest weekly RevPAR decline we have ever recorded ever in our 30-year history.” He went on to say analysts at STR expected business performance to get worse. “This has been the third week of consecutive, double-digit RevPAR decline,

 299 | Conserve Cash, Save the Hotel: What asset managers are doing to survive the long COVID winter | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 26:33

{caption}Since March 20, the early days of the coronavirus crisis, more than 1,700 hotels in the U.S. reportedly have closed, most of them temporarily. For the other 55,000 properties that have remained open, owners, operators and advisers have been decisive in implementing strategies that have cut costs and conserved cash. Long Live Lodging interviewed two asset managers who share what they’re doing to keep the industry alive as a vaccine offers hope for recovery in 2021.{/caption} With vaccine rollout amid virus surge, lodging industry positions for recovery ‘The mandate from the ownership is: “If I can lose a half a million a month being closed, I better not lose more than that by being open.” And so that sort of became a true benchmark…’ – Larry Trabulsi, CHMWarnick By mid-March Robert Cole knew the U.S. hotel industry was in for a year so “ugly” it would defy all other downturns he had witnessed in his storied career. However, at the end of the third quarter, Hospitality Ventures Management Group, the company Cole founded in 2001, announced its portfolio of 50 owned and managed hotels had outperformed the overall industry amid the coronavirus crisis. It cut operating costs by $16 a room compared to the industry average and generated a gross operating profit of nearly $10 a room over the industry norm. Cole, chief executive at HVMG, credited his company’s decisive actions in the early stages of the pandemic. He also acknowledges the crisis is far from over, especially as the rate of COVID-19 infections has surged over the past few weeks. The coronavirus crisis has tested the mettle of Cole and his cohorts, veterans of a hospitality industry that looks nothing like it did at the beginning of this year. As 2021 emerges with a vaccine and more federal relief, Long Live Lodging interviewed Cole and Larry Trabulsi, vice president of asset management at CHMWarnick, about the strategies they deployed to keep hotels open and operating over the past nine months. {caption}CONSERVE CASH, SAVE THE HOTEL: Episode 299 of Lodging Leaders podcast explores what owners, operators and asset managers are doing to survive the long COVID winter.{/caption} In the beginning “I still remember to this day, it was a Sunday night and the second week of March where we had a team meeting with my executive team and we unfortunately saw a lot of the writing on the wall,” Cole said. The HVMG team knew “this was going to be very ugly; business was going to contract in an unprecedented fashion,” he said. HVMG’s headquarters is in Atlanta, Georgia. As it strategized how to save its business, Larry Trabulsi and others at CHMWarnick, an asset manager in Beverly, Massachusetts, mobilized to advise its clients on how to navigate through the COVID-19 storm. Today, Trabulsi and his cohorts are grappling with the reality that recovery is a distant port. “I think the duration (of the crisis) is the big wild card here,” he said. Trabulsi recalls attending the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in Los Angeles in late January and hearing a little about a new viral outbreak in China. “No one really knew what it was and a few people in the airports were wearing masks, but that was about it,” he said. Some people wondered if the illness would mimic the SARS outbreak in 2010. Whatever it was, most people figured it would impact a few markets for about two months. “Fast forward to mid-March – absolute devastation,” Trabulsi said. “And even from mid-March, it was,

 298 | Ready to Order: Ghost kitchen concepts may save the restaurant industry | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 23:47

{caption}VIRTUAL RESTAURANT: DoorDash Kitchens in February opened a ‘ghost kitchen’ in Redwood City, California. At least five chain restaurants are sharing the space to cater to customers who order online. DoorDash is an online third-party food-delivery service and is among the mobile-ordering operations experiencing exponential growth during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Shutterstock){/caption} ‘The world is changing’ as COVID-19 pandemic accelerates adoption of food-delivery apps by restaurants and customers ast year, DoorDash opened a ghost kitchen in Redwood City, California, part of Silicon Valley. DoorDash Kitchens invites restaurants to operate out of a shared kitchen. Chick-fil-A is among the five tenants. Ghost kitchens are real commercial-grade kitchens wholly dependent on internet ordering and third-party delivery services, such as DoorDash and Uber Eats. In March 2018, Pentallect Inc., a food industry strategy firm, valued the third-party food delivery sector at $13 billion and predicted it would grow by 13.5 percent a year. This includes deliveries from restaurants and grocery stores. It is an emerging concept in the food-and-beverage industry that is experiencing an acceleration in adoption as owners and operators of restaurants, including those in hotels, are looking for ways to stay in business during the coronavirus pandemic. The National Restaurant Association reported, because of the coronavirus pandemic, restaurants will lose $240 billion in sales and 8 million jobs this year. {caption}LOST BUSINESS: The coronavirus pandemic has taken a dramatic toll on restaurants, as this infographic by Statista shows.{/caption} Adding a tech-driven delivery model to any restaurant, whether it’s stand-alone or inside a hotel, could generate new streams of revenue and save businesses and jobs. Capitalizing on this trend in a big way is Alp Franko, a native of Turkey and founder of The Local Culinary, a ghost kitchen franchise of 50 restaurant brands that are delivery only. Ghost kitchens are also known as virtual kitchens or cloud kitchens. They’re real commercial-grade kitchens wholly dependent on internet ordering and third-party delivery services. Franko said the term “ghost kitchen” is a “little bit exaggerated.” “A ghost kitchen is a simple commissary kitchen dedicated to producing food items just for delivery. At the end, it’s not such a big deal; it’s just a regular [restaurant] kitchen.” Franko said he has a background in restaurant operations, running 25 different brands in Europe. “When I came to the U.S., I wanted to invest in something new.” He came up with the ghost kitchen concept in May 2019 and shifted to a franchise model this past July. The Local Culinary franchisee can be a new restaurateur or an established eatery that wants to expand its operation to include delivery-only menus. “I believe the virtual restaurant is a very important component in t...

 297 | Reply All: How hotels can use email to build back business | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 24:33

{caption}READ ME: Hotels can use email to connect with both loyal and prospective guests as the lodging industry prepares to emerge from its COVID-19 quarantine, say experts.{/caption} Travel marketers should target inboxes to attract bookings from the coming pent-up demand, say experts hen the coronavirus pandemic first hit the U.S. lodging industry, Mike Schmitt, owner and chief executive at Clairvoyix, a digital marketing company in Las Vegas, advised in a blog that hoteliers communicate with past and prospective guests to shore up business ahead of the upcoming recovery. Owners and operators may wonder what form should that messaging take; whom should they target; and how often should they reach out? The most tried-and-true method of communication has proven to be email. Clairvoyix has “always believe the trusted source gets the best response,” Schmitt said. He advises hotel marketers who want to reach out to guests: “If they’ve done business with you before and they recognize the name in the email there’s a very good chance they’ll respond or open it or file it away for next week to look at, much more so than banner ads or mobile. “It’s just something people are comfortable with, as long as they know the domain; as long as they say, ‘Yes, I’ve stayed at this property. Yes, I know this person. I feel very comfortable with that.’ “Just understanding that has served us very well. So, we’ve always been high on repeat guests and building loyalty through this constant communication.” {caption}CLICK RATES: Researching retailers’ email marketing campaigns from January through April 2020, Omnisend reports charting “substantial email marketing click rate decreases due to COVID-19.” Email open rates increased, but there was more browsing than buying during that time. “Click rates eventually rebounded and improved to where they started the year,” reports Ominsend, noting that trend was not seen in 2019. “If our assumptions are correct, we should expect to see conversion rates increase.”{/caption} Capturing Demand The whole point of email marketing is to drive revenue. Though many people are not traveling during the coronavirus pandemic and the hotel industry is reportedly averaging 50 percent occupancy, Schmitt believes communicating with past and prospective guests is important as the lodging sector prepares for a comeback. The more targeted the campaign, the better. “We found over the years as social media came on strong that, for example, we’d send an email and then we’d back it up with a Facebook custom-audience campaign, using the exact same creative, using the exact same audience,” Schmitt said. “We found that to be incredibly effective.” Most of the nation’s 57,000 hotels have remained open since the pandemic struck in mid-March, but are operating with skeleton crews. “I think now, more than ever, with dwindling resources and money, email is the most cost-effective channel,” Schmitt said. Revinate, a software developer for hotel customer relationship management, recently released results of a survey that gauges traveler intent. The company surveyed more than 10,000 people. The biggest reason for the extreme slowdown in travel are government mandates that force businesses to close, restrict public gatherings and encourage citizens to shelter in place. As such, consumers with money to spend plan to travel post-pandemic to make up for what they’ve missed during the crisis. Revinate’s survey found 68 percent of travelers who intend to stay at a hotel feel most comfortable booking one they’ve stayed at before. Domestic travel will rebound the fastest as 70 percent of survey respondents plan to travel within the U.S. And one-third or more than 30,

 296 | Flexible Business Model: Apartment-hotels are an emerging trend in an industry in crisis | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 36:05

{caption}SERVICED APARTMENTS: WaterWalk Dallas – Richardson, an apartment-hotel development in Richardson, Texas, is among nine franchised properties under WaterWalk International of Wichita, Kansas. The serviced apartment brand is the brainchild of Jack DeBoer, considered the founder of the extended-stay hotel concept. WaterWalk is a hybrid of furnished extended-stay units and unfurnished leased apartments in which renters can enjoy hotel amenities. The apartment-hotel trend is gaining in popularity among travelers seeking safety amid the coronavirus pandemic and among commercial real estate investors in search of asset diversity and pricing flexibility in the subsequent economic downturn.{/caption} Combined lodging assets are recession resistant, say developers Jack DeBoer, the legendary creator of the extended-stay hotel concept, in 2014 opened his first WaterWalk serviced apartment building in Wichita, Kansas. Today, his granddaughter, Mimi Oliver, runs the company that has nine properties open and five in the pipeline. It is exploring more franchising opportunities in 25 markets. Before the coronavirus pandemic struck the hotel industry, lodging developers had a heightened interest in serviced apartments as well as apartment-hotel concepts that offer flexibility in different lengths of stay, operating expenses and revenue streams. The commercial real estate asset has shown its strength during economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. Longer stays have buoyed the short-term rental sector, which experienced an average 5 percent decline in demand from April 2019 to April 2020 while transient hotel demand dropped by an average 29 percent in the same time period, according to a joint report by The Highland Group and All The Rooms. Such demand is also supporting apartment-hotels. {caption}Flexible Business Model: A common area at WaterWalk International’s recently opened apartment-hotel development in Plymouth, Minnesota. Episode 296 of Lodging Leaders podcast explores the emerging trend of apartment-hotels and the sector’s impact on the lodging industry during the coronavirus crisis.{/caption} Mixed Category The category includes serviced apartments; lodging accommodations with a mix of hotel rooms and serviced apartments; and privately owned condominiums that are part of a hotel complex’s short-term rental inventory. Some accommodations can be classified as short-term rentals in the home-sharing category while others are labeled as extended-stay in the hotel segment. In the extended-stay sector, The Highland Group recently reported that in the third quarter of this year, U.S. extended-stay hotels’ occupancy was nearly 18 percent above the overall lodging industry. In the short-term rental silo, AirDNA and STR recently reported that from January 2019 through June 2020 hotel RevPAR in 27 markets around the world was down nearly 65 percent from the previous period, while short-term-rental RevPAR declined 4.5 percent. {caption}SHORT-TERM RENTALS: A recent study by AirDNA and STR charts fluctuations in occupancy in the global lodging sectors – hotels; “hotel comparable” units or those with studio or one-bedroom accommodations; and rentals with two or more bedrooms – in the first six months of 2020.{/caption} AirDNA and STR also found several changes in travelers’ behavior as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. * The decline in business and group demand severely impacted transient hotels while leisure guests buoyed demand in both short-term-rental and trans...

 295 | Doing Well: Coronavirus pandemic advances wellness design and programs in hotels | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 34:34

{caption}OUTSIDE IN: Hotel of Tomorrow, a forum of more than 300 collaborators gathered by The Gettys Group of Chicago, identified biophilia as an emerging design trend in hospitality that integrates nature into buildings and shifts more activities outdoors. Hotel of Tomorrow participants believe the concept is going to exponentially grow because the coronavirus pandemic has caused pent-up people the world over to crave and appreciate the wide outdoors.{/caption} COVID-19 sharpens hospitality’s focus on mind, body and spirit In a worldwide survey of travel consumers, the Wellness Tourism Association in July reported it found most respondents crave more “nature-based” experiences. The association based in Denver, Colorado, surveyed 4,000 consumers from 48 countries from May through June. It found people’s top motivation in wellness travel is “to return to everyday life rejuvenated.” A close runner-up is “to experience activities outdoors.” The sharper focus on overall wellness in travel during the global coronavirus pandemic is causing hotel owners and operators to think beyond the now-normal COVID-19 clean-and-safe protocols. Hotels will start to deploy technology, programming and materials that build anti-COVID spaces where guests can live, work and sleep and come home feeling better than when they left, experts say. Given that the coronavirus pandemic has driven many people toward outdoor activities, it’s no surprise that people want to breathe free and create their own safe spaces within a natural environment. One company that’s leading thought on how to deliver what travel consumers crave these days is The Gettys Group. The Chicago-based hospitality design company revived its Hotel of Tomorrow think tank in July to explore how to create solutions to challenges wrought by the pandemic. The Gettys Group first established the forum in 2003 with about a hundred hospitality-related developers, designers, manufacturers, owners and operators from all over the world who put their minds together to imagine the future of hospitality and travel and how to respond. It held workshops for a few years before the program went on hiatus in 2006, but out of that came Botlr, Savioke’s robotic butler first used by Aloft Hotels to deliver on guests’ requests for such things as towels, toiletries and items from the hotel retail center. This year, Ron Swidler, chief innovation officer at The Gettys Group, said the forum drew ideas from 325 collaborators and came up with five top concepts, which it announced in September in its Trendline report. At the top of the stack is the bed. But not just any bed. Bed XYZ is designed to deliver a night’s sleep so fulfilling it meets the traveler’s number-one desire to be rejuvenated during their stay. {caption}SLEEPING WELL: Bed XYZ is the top idea to emerge from Hotel of Tomorrow, a global think tank The Gettys Group design firm formed to tackle challenges and capitalize on emerging trends in the hospitality industry. Episode 295 of Lodging Leaders podcast explores how the coronavirus pandemic is advancing wellness design and programs in hotels.{/caption} Simply sleeping is, of course, important but Bed XYZ offers so much more. It is a technology-enhanced system that controls the room’s environment and monitors guest’s sleeping patterns, much like an Apple Watch. The bedding materials are antimicrobial and antibacterial, meaning they absorb and repel bad things, including viruses.

 294 | She is a Hotel Investor: What She Has a Deal can teach every hotel investor | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 34:20

{caption}SHaD SQUAD: Members of She Has a Deal competing teams, team coaches and program founder Tracy Prigmore, front, center, celebrate the success of the program’s inaugural pitch competition on Oct. 24 at the Hilton McLean Tyson’s Corner Hotel in McLean, Virginia.{/caption} Investment fund to include winning project and two other developments pitched in the inaugural competition he three women who make up the team called Datcher will soon become vested hotel owners thanks to the $50,000 in equity they won on Oct. 24 in She Has a Deal’s inaugural pitch competition held in McLean, Virginia. Besides owning equity in a fund that will help finance their $27.4 million proposed project in downtown Detroit, the women will also be vested in projects that were pitched in the competition. Tracy Prigmore, creator of She Has a Deal and founder and CEO of TLTSolutions, a hotel investment company, said the winning equity will be put toward a fundraising project for The Strait, which is Datcher’s project, plus two other projects – LodgingGo’s proposal to acquire and reposition a luxury property in New Orleans into a 90-room upscale hotel called The Brick House, and Fernweh Project’s ground-up development of a 135-room Hyatt Place in San Jose, California. “We hope that particular fund will acquire at least the three projects,” Prigmore said. While She Has a Deal pitch competition brought forth proposals for very real projects, Prigmore explained the contest was a didactic exercise in hotel investment with the goal of teaching contestants what goes into developing and financing a hotel. As most hotel owners know, a deal is not done until an agreement is inked. And, as most hotel developers also know, anything can happen to derail a prospective deal. No matter what happens to Datcher’s idea, the team members will have ownership in hotel projects financed by the fund, Prigmore said. Currently, only The Brick House in New Orleans has advanced beyond the idea stage. TLTSolutions has initiated a letter of intent to acquire the building, Prigmore said. The next step, she said, is to recruit more investors for the fund, including big money such as institutional capital that can move the needle on getting these deals done. In this article, Long Live Lodging reports on Datcher’s project as well as the other two hotels earmarked for the investment fund. {caption}MONEY MAKERS: The Strait is an 80-room boutique hotel in Detroit proposed by members of Datcher, the winning team in She Has a Deal’s Oct. 24 inaugural pitch competition. Datcher presented the $27.4 million proposal that included various profit centers besides rooms as shown in this slide.{/caption} The Strait Lera Covington is captain of Datcher, which won the competition. Her teammates are Kristen Collins and Joanne Angbazo. Covington will graduate in December from Cornell Baker Program in Real Estate. Collins and Angbazo are graduates of the program. And all three women are members of Cornell Real Estate Women, which is where they learned about She Has a Deal. Their team is named for

 293 | Crisis Managers: Coronavirus challenge redefines GM role | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 43:52

{caption}DUAL ROLES: General Manager Antonio Jones and others in administration have become very hands-on at the dual-branded Staybridge Suites Atlanta-Midtown and Crowne Plaza Atlanta-Midtown during the coronavirus crisis. They’re filling roles once held by rank-and-file employees pre-pandemic. A study shows general managers are spending a record amount of time on the job as they cannot afford to bring back laid-off employees in a time of uncertainty.{/caption} General managers break time barriers as they work to keep hotel businesses afloat ntonio Jones has been a general manager in hotels in several cities over the past 20 years. And he’s worked to save hotel businesses in the wake of disasters such as the terrorist attacks of 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans in 2005. These days, Jones is general manager of a dual-brand complex in Atlanta – the Staybridge Suites Atlanta Midtown and the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Midtown, which is managed by Spire Hospitality. The management company is an affiliate of the property’s owner, AWH Partners LLC in New York City, which acquired the 500-room property in 2014 when it was branded as a Melia. Over the next two years, AWH Partners spent $20 million on renovating and repositioning the asset. InterContinental Hotels Group owns the brands. Staybridge Suites is an upscale extended-stay hotel and Crowne Plaza is an upper-upscale full-service property. The complex’s seasoned GM is applying what he learned in previous challenging circumstances to keep the hotels operating. Jones believes the U.S. hospitality industry will recover from the unprecedented downturn in business caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but it will take more than a year for performance to reach pre-pandemic levels. Until then, Jones is committed to the long haul. “When you look at pre-COVID, we were always at a mindset how do we become innovative, how do we stay on the cutting edge and invest for the future. Right now, all those things are on hold,” Jones said. Keeping the hotels’ business solvent for the next six to 12 months is the most important thing right now, he said. “Every expense is critical.” And that includes labor costs. The staffing level at the property declined from 130 employees to 25. Tate and Teresa Sims, director of operations, are performing tasks they’ve had not had to do for years, including preparing meals, cleaning rooms and staffing the front desk. They both stay take turns staying overnight at the hotel so they can be on hand for any issues that arise. Occupancy was down in April and May, but business began to pick up in the summer. Tate said the increase in occupancy corresponded with the federal government’s stimulus-check distribution and its Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which gave people who lost jobs because of the coronavirus crisis $600 a week on top of their regular state unemployment benefits. The increased business was welcomed but Tate said it was not enough to call all the hotel’s employees back. That meant Tate and Sims were turning rooms over when demand would surge, staying up until 2 a.m. to get the laundry done. {caption}INCREASED WORKLOAD: Hotel Effectiveness,

 292 | People of Persuasion: Travel influencers grow in sophistication and significance in COVID-19 age | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 34:31

{caption}PIN THIS: A map pin is part of the marketing collateral of ‘Let’s Go There,’ a social media campaign by U.S. Travel Association designed to encourage Americans to start thinking about vacationing and planning excursions in the COVID-19 age. Influencing travel via social media channels is not new, but it’s taken on more significance as travel consumers shift their lockdown state of mind to one of safety as they venture out. The coronavirus pandemic is giving travel influencers new meaning as well, say professional travel bloggers, communications experts and brand marketers who see influencers becoming more trusted as content creators that target their messaging to specific consumer demographics.{/caption} As consumers emerge from lockdown mode, hoteliers should consider adding social-media-savvy tastemakers to their marketing schemes, say experts he U.S. Travel Association says “with the right recovery initiatives in place” the nation’s travel industry will begin to heal from the gutting caused by the coronavirus pandemic. A major step toward bringing back 800,000 jobs and generating more than $70 billion in travel spending in 2021 is the association’s Let’s Go There social media campaign that’s all about enticing Americans to start thinking about taking vacations. The nation’s travel industry has a long way to go. STR last week reported hotel occupancy for the third quarter of this year averaged 48 percent, a decline of more than 32 percent in the same quarter of last year. RevPAR averaged $48.58, a decline of 48.5 percent. STR notes, “The absolute occupancy and RevPAR levels were the lowest for any Q3 in STR’s U.S. database.” In an Oct. 23 presentation, Jan Freitag, senior vice president of lodging insights at STR, said business performance will most likely not improve in the fourth quarter. That’s mostly because of the dearth of corporate travel business. Freitag said some significant findings emerged in the third quarter. Americans prefer limited-service hotels over full-service properties. They prefer to stay in hotels in rural markets versus urban accommodations, and they would rather drive than fly to destinations. The current reality has the travel sales and marketing sector working to come up with new ways to encourage Americans to go on a road trip, even though COVID-19 remains a threat to health and safety. To that end, the U.S. Travel Association recently launched Let’s Go There, a social media campaign that encourages Americans to start planning a getaway. Let’s Go There has more than 60 partners representing hotels, resorts, destination markets and theme parks. The multi-tiered program uses multimedia content in the form of videos, photos and graphics that focus heavily on health and safety protocols adopted by hotels and travel-related businesses. It also encourages consumers to practice safety measures such as wearing face masks and social distancing. Brian King of Washington, D.C., is global officer in charge of digital, distribution, revenue strategy and sales at Marriott International, and is co-chair of the Let’s Go There campaign. The U.S. Travel Association and supporters began to develop the program at the beginning of summer as they watched coronavirus outbreaks surge throughout the country and the travel industry continue its nosedive into negative territory.

 291 | On The Brink: Hotel associations lobby on Capitol Hill to ward off disaster | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 35:19

{caption}CLOSED FOR GOOD: Highgate Hospitality on Oct. 1 closed its Hilton Times Square Hotel in New York City. Average occupancy in New York City hotels was below 40 percent, compared to more than 90 percent a year ago, reports STR. The 478-room full-service Hilton Times Square opened in 2000. The closure put 200 people out of work. The shuttering of the landmark property is the tip of the iceberg, say industry officials who forecast a wave of hotel closures unless the federal government provides direct relief to an industry suffering steep losses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Hilton){/caption} The end is near for much of the U.S. lodging sector unless Feds soon provide fiscal relief, say industry advocates ime is running out for the nation’s 57,000 hotels in need of federal government financial relief as the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. heads into its eighth month, say leaders at AAHOA and the American Hotel & Lodging Association. The U.S. hotel industry is hanging on by a thread as foreclosures on hotels are happening every day, say Cecil Staton, president and CEO of AAHOA, and Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. But they’re not the only ones sounding the alarm. An Oct. 15 letter addressed to President Donald Trump asking him to approve “immediate modifications” to the federal government’s $600 billion Main Street Lending Program is signed by Staton and Rogers and 78 other industry leaders, including CEOs of major hotel franchisers. According to research from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, two thirds of the nation’s 57,000 hotels will close without federal government relief. Experts Lodging Leaders interviewed say hotel businesses are on the precipice of failure, and if they fall they’re taking more than 5 million jobs with them. Congress and the U.S. Department of Treasury this week are hashing out another round of stimulus spending. Congress is expected to vote on some form of relief this week. Meantime, government affairs advocates at AHLA and AAHOA are on Capitol Hill every day lobbying Congress to enact legislation that will save the hotel industry from the death throes of the COVID-19 pandemic. LISTEN: ON THE BRINK OF DISASTER: Episode 291 of Lodging Leaders podcast examines efforts by AAHOA and AHLA on Capitol Hill to ward off a wave of hotel business foreclosures that could cut the number of the nation’s 57,000 hotels in half. One of the major goals is the expansion of the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program into a second round of funding. They’re also asking the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Federal Reserve to redo the Main Street Lending Program to enable small businesses to borrow money to pay their mortgages and ward off foreclosure. Industry leaders such as Staton and Rogers are fighting to be heard above the noise emanating from The Hill this election season. Staton works to cut through the political din with the collective voice of hotel owners – small business investors and operators whose needs are often overlooked when big government moves to bail out big business. “We have been at the ready for now months, talking to members of the House, Senators, members of the administration on literally a daily basis about trying to get more relief that would be specific to hoteliers,” Staton said. “We’re really at a precipice,” he said,

 290 | DAY-CATIONS: Hotels turn guest rooms into private office spaces | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 36:26

Work-from-hotel an emerging business model that might remake the hospitality industry during and after the coronavirus pandemic, say experts ast week, Arne Sorenson, president and CEO at Marriott International posted a blog on LinkedIn about the value of hospitality professionals returning to the office to work. Like many businesses across the country, employees stationed at Marriott’s corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Maryland, pre-pandemic have worked from home for the past six months. Marriott had about 4,000 employees at its corporate headquarters in the beginning of the year. It laid off two thirds of its corporate staff in March as the coronavirus pandemic brought travel to a grinding halt. The company has begun to call employees back to work at its headquarters while extending furloughs for others and announcing permanent job cuts for 700 employees effective this month. In his blog, Sorenson laid out a plan that has employees easing back into working from their offices. “While remote work will be a bigger part of our future than any of us anticipated in the past, it is increasingly clear that getting back to the office, sensibly, flexibly and in phases, is the appropriate next step,” Sorenson writes. Those commenting on Sorenson’s blog include Yannis Moati, founder and CEO of HotelsbyDay, an online booking platform that offers hotel rooms for day use. Moati disagrees with Sorenson’s assessment of the necessity of returning to the office, noting remote working can benefit hotels struggling to fill their rooms. “Our industry is hurting, with more vacancy than ever before,” he writes, noting the large geographical footprint of hotels. “This is the one time (sic) opportunity to re-evaluate what our industry’s mission is.” Open for New Business Moati is a former travel agent who lives in New York City. HotelsbyDay.com allows users to book rooms for day use via its mobile app. Since its start in 2015, more than 1,500 hotels around the world have signed up as participants. Moati was seeing a continuous increase in the program’s use before the pandemic hit. Pre-pandemic, Moati said, more than half of HotelsbyDay customers were leisure guests; 30 percent were people who were on layover at airports; and another 10 percent booked for business use. Almost all the layover business is gone, he said. HotelsbyDay’s business was down 82 percent in April. In September it was down by 26 percent compared to pre-pandemic traffic. “So we are climbing ourselves back up from that hole.” A big part of the bounce back, Moati said, is the business sector. With an estimated 40 million people working from home, HotelsbyDay has seen a 35 percent increase in “work-from-hotel” bookings. The day-use guest demographic, he said, is “hyper local,” with more than 60 percent coming from less than 25 miles away. The trend is “suddenly opening the door of that hotel to a much larger audience than ever before,” Moati said. READ: ‘OFFICES ARE DEAD’: Yannis Moati, founder and CEO of HotelsbyDay, espouses the business benefits of the work-from-hotel concept in this opinion piece he penned for MarketWatch. Hotel owners and operators will reorganize their business models to accommodate the emerging demand, he writes. Hotel Companies Respond Recognizing the boost that day use can have to a hotel’s bottom line, hotel companies such as Hyatt Hotels Corp. and Hilton have rolled out remote-work promotions. Hilton’s

 289 | OTA Protest: Reform Lodging members to blackout rooms | File Type: audio/x-m4a | Duration: 36:42

‘Lights Out, OTA!’ a strategic move in hoteliers’ battle to regain control of their businesses, say participants n April, when the coronavirus crisis had sunk hotel occupancies to unfathomable lows, online travel agent Expedia Group researched what kind of support hotels and other lodging providers needed to survive the downturn in business. At the end of May, the company announced a $275 million global recovery program for what it calls its lodging partners. Most of the funding is in the form of marketing credits and a 10 percent reduction in commissions on new bookings. Expedia Group also has allowed hotels to defer by 90 days the commission payments the properties collect from guests who book on OTA’s channels. But one group of hoteliers is not buying it. Reform Lodging, a new organization with nearly 2,000 hotel owners as members, plans to protest commission rates being charged by Expedia Group and Booking Holdings. Reform Lodging has launched Lights Out, OTAs!, during which its members plan to remove their hotels’ rooms from the OTAs’ inventory on Friday and Saturday. It’s the hoteliers’ first planned attack to regain control over their businesses from both OTAs and franchisers, say owners. Expedia Group declined our request for an on-the-record interview, but a spokesperson who asked not to be identified provided background information about its relief program. The relief is available to owners of independent and branded hotels, but the franchisers of the brands are required to opt in. Sagar Shah, co-founder and president of Reform Lodging, said he has not heard whether major hotel franchisers are participating. Shah is also managing principal of Yatra Capital Group, a family business that owns hotels and senior living facilities. He said Reform Lodging is a think-tank that represents the interests of hotel owners on a variety of issues created by the coronavirus crisis. In a survey of 114 members, all but six agree that while OTAs are necessary in a crisis, their commissions are too high and threaten owners’ ability to turn a profit during the current downturn in business. Shah recently attempted to get the attention of online travel agencies in a letter addressed to Peter Kern, CEO of Expedia Group, and Glenn Fogel, CEO of Booking Holdings, in which he asked for financial relief in the form of reduced OTA commissions. Reform Lodging’s letter, dated Aug. 13, is indicative of the type of advocacy the organization plans to practice in the coming months. “We realize that the OTAs have been rather quiet with respect to what’s happening right now, and we felt it was necessary to strike up a conversation with them,” said Shah. {caption}DEAR OTA: Sagar Shah, co-founder and president of Reform Lodging, wrote this letter to Expedia Group and Booking Holdings to raise concerns about the online travel agencies’ commission rates it’s levying for reservations made through their various channels during the coronavirus pandemic. Also signing the letter is Rich Gandhi, co-founder and chairman of Reform Lodging.{/caption} Shah and members of Reform Lodging also want to send a message to major franchisers that they, too, skim too much from third-party online reservations, increasing the cost of guest acquisition beyond what owners can manage at this time. “When it comes to a franchised hotel or property we’re not directly negotiating with the OTAs,” Shah said. “It’s really up to the franchisers. They’re the ones who strike deals with the OTA partners.


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