Atari Wants to Build Video Game-Themed Hotels

The first hotel will break ground later this year in Phoenix, Arizona. Another is being planned for Las Vegas. They promise to offer Atari-themed lodging, along with lots of video gaming experiences.

Michael Kan – January 28, 2020 

Atari Interactive thinks it has an idea to rekindle interest in the gaming brand: It wants to build Atari-themed hotels.

On Monday, the company announced it was partnering with a design agency to build at least eight video-gamed themed Atari Hotels in the US with the first one slated to break ground in Phoenix, Arizona later this year.

The idea is certainly unconventional, but Atari says the concept will connect with the public at a time when the market for gaming is exploding. Not only will the hotels provide Atari-themed lodging, but also lots of video gaming, including the latest VR and augmented reality experiences. In addition, some of the hotels will be designed to host esports events.

“Together we’ll build a space that will be much more than just a place to stay,” Atari CEO Fred Chesnais said in a statement. “Atari is an iconic global brand that resonates with people of all ages, countries, cultures and ethnic backgrounds and we cannot wait for our fans and their families to enjoy this new hotel concept.”

According to Atari, a design agency called GSD Group and movie producer Napoleon Smith III, who was behind the recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles reboot films, will manage the hotels’ designs. Meanwhile, the Arizona-based real estate developer True North Studio will handle actual construction of the first building.

Additional hotels are planned for Las Vegas, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, Austin and San Jose. Interested customers can sign up at the website to stay up-to-date on the project.

In the meantime, Atari Interactive is preparing to launch a new retro-themed console. The Atari VCS is slated to start shipping in March starting at $249, and will let you play 100 classic pre-installed Atari games in addition to modern PC games.


Accor signs 14 new northern European hotels during first half of 2020

Breaking Travel News – Aug 17, 2020

Despite a challenging first half of the year for the global hospitality industry, hotel giant Accor has signed 14 new properties in Europe during the last six months.

These include four in the UK and Ireland, six in Belgium and four in the Netherlands.

The new signings will collectively add well over 2,000 rooms to the company’s portfolio in the region.

The four signings in the UK and Ireland include the first Fairmont in Ireland, one Tribe, one Mercure and an ibis Budget.

In the luxury division, the historic Carton House is the newly signed Fairmont Hotel situated just outside Dublin.

Accor has also signed Tribe Manchester Airport, a 412-room franchised new build hotel.

This is the second Tribe hotel to be signed in northern Europe this year and marks the expansion of an existing relationship with the owners of ibis Budget Luton and the ibis Budget projects at Manchester and Heathrow Airport.

Tribe Manchester Airport is set to open in 2022.

The first half of the year also saw ten new signings in Benelux, with six important signings in Belgium.

In the first quarter, Belgium welcomed a new brand to northern Europe with the signing of an 83-room Novotel Living, an extended stay brand, at Brussels Airport.

In the second quarter, Benelux saw four new signings in the Netherlands.

The 192-room Tribe Amsterdam North and 110-room Mercure Amsterdam North are both set to open in 2021.

The 137-room Mercure Rotterdam Airport and the 136-room ibis Styles Rotterdam Airport are also due to open next year.

Phillip Lassman, vice president of development, Accor northern Europe, explained: “The first half of the year has posed a unique set of challenges for Accor and the hospitality industry as a whole.

“However, the strength of our proposition remains and through the dedication of the Accor team and hard work of our partners we have delivered an outstanding set of development results, with 14 new signings collectively adding over 2,000 rooms to our network in the past six months.”


Coronavirus: Hotels and Airbnb plan ‘fundamental shift’ after COVID-19 lockdowns

By Lauren Chadwick

last updated: 08/05/2020

As lockdown restrictions are eased in several European countries, many in the travel industry hope that with higher cleaning standards and social distancing, business can continue in a new form.

Nicolas Vigier, whose agency manages 60 Airbnb apartments, says he’s slowly seeing demands come in for summer rentals in the south of France.

“Before the crisis, our clients were 90 to 95 per cent foreigners. We had very few French people booking our apartments,” Vigier said.

But now his demand is entirely from France.

Domestic Airbnb reservations in the Netherlands and Denmark are at 80 per cent and 90 per cent respectively of what they were in April 2019, the company said.

Vigier said in France they cannot confirm reservations since people are not yet allowed to travel further than 100 kilometres from their homes.

But the demand is a glimmer of hope for an industry that’s been one of the hardest hit due to the pandemic.

Source: The Conversation (2020)

‘Severe and sudden impact’

“Airbnb’s business has been hit hard, with revenue this year forecasted to be less than half of what we earned in 2019,” said Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s chief executive, as he announced staffing cuts at the company this past week.

For many, the change to business was abrupt. It wasn’t until the French government announced the lockdown measures mid-March that Vigier saw a significant drop in demand for Airbnb apartments, he said.

Hotel data benchmarking firm STR estimates that hotels that are still open globally are at less than 30% occupancy. In many European countries, the few hotels that are still open are only at 10 per cent occupancy.

Marriott hotel CEO Arne Sorenson said in a sobering video message in March that the coronavirus was “nothing like we’ve ever seen before.”

“For a company that’s 92 years old, that’s borne witness to the Great Depression, World War II, and many other economic and global crises, that’s saying something,” he added.

“COVID-19 is having a more severe and sudden impact on our business than 9/11 and the 2009 financial crisis combined.”

Marriott saw a 90 per cent decline in business in China after the outbreak started, the CEO said in March.

Restoring customer trust in a global crisis

Airbnb has announced a new cleaning protocol for hosts that will launch in May that includes a learning and certification programme.

The protocol will also help to space out reservations in line with the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to have 24 hours between people entering a room.

“Hosts will have access to expert-backed cleaning educational materials and will be supported to show that they take cleanliness and prevention seriously,” Airbnb said in a statement.

These new guidelines will be most “drastic” change to their daily work, said Vigier. It means they will have to have three days between reservations.

Hotels are instituting similarly stringent cleaning policies.

A spokesperson for Marriott said the hotel was adding to its cleaning protocols including “requiring that public space and guest room surfaces are thoroughly treated with hospital-grade disinfectants.”

The company is also testing “electrostatic sprayers” to disinfect entire guest areas.

“The concern seems to be around rebuilding consumer confidence and trust,” said Mark Ashton at the University of Surrey’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

It will depend on “enhanced cleaning standards” and a “reduction of touch points” such as tablets or remote controls.

Whether someone picks a hotel or Airbnb, “depends on trust with the consumer as to whether they perceive that a hotel chain or independent hotel as perhaps going to be more reliable at delivering a higher level of cleanliness and sanitation,” said Ashton.

A potential recovery?

A spokesperson for Airbnb France said that there had been an increase in people on the website investigating spring and summer holidays close to home.

“Travel in this new world will look different, and we need to evolve Airbnb accordingly. People will want options that are closer to home, safer, and more affordable,” Airbnb CEO Chesky wrote in a note to employees.

Meanwhile, Marriott International said they were slowly seeing an increase in occupancy rates in China, including during an April holiday, where some hotels reached 60% occupancy.

But it will be a long time before things go back to normal.

“It will take a period of time for things to bounce back,” said Ashton. But there’s “a potential that hotels will consider increased automation and a move to digital” which might “speed up the adoption of those types of technology”.

It’s an area where Airbnb already has an advantage due to the ability to check in with an application and be in contact with a host via messaging instead of in person.

Vigier said they used to have someone greet every guest who stayed in an apartment, but it will be an easy change to allow guests to pick up keys in a box or at their agency.

In a crowded hotel, it could be more difficult.

“Do we have robots doing certain things, maybe taking bags, room service, sanitising areas?” asked Ashton.

He expects that digital changes hotels were expecting to implement anyway will happen more quickly.

“There’s going to be some fairly fundamental shifts,” Ashton said.


Airbnb and Vrbo Significantly Outperformed the Hotel Industry But for How Long?

Cameron Sperance, Skift- Aug 14, 2020

Short-term rentals may be outperforming the hotel industry through the peak summer leisure season, but a fall downturn in family vacations could extend the drag on performance to platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo.— Cameron Sperance

While much of the global economy continues to reel from the catastrophic impact of coronavirus, at least one hospitality sector is enjoying a degree of the V-shaped recovery so many economists predicted — or at least hoped for.

Short-term rentals on services like Airbnb generally performed better than similar quality hotel competitors, according to an STR and AirDNA study of 15 urban markets and 12 regional destinations around the world. Revenue per available room — the hotel industry’s key performance metric — was down nearly 65 percent at hotels at the end of June.

But the performance indicator was only down by about 5 percent at short-term rentals.

“It was kind of a perfect storm of factors that hit hotels disproportionately than short-term rentals,” said Patrick Mayock, vice president of research and development at STR.

The report shouldn’t be seen as a total swan song for the global hotel industry.

The caveat to the short-term rental performance narrative is hotels in certain leisure and drive-to markets have generally performed close to 2019 levels, showing travelers still crave hotel stays.

Hyatt sold out hotels on China’s Hainan Island during the country’s first major post-lockdown holiday. Markets like Panama City Beach, Florida, have even seen average hotel occupancies approach 90 percent at points over the summer. Choice Hotels leaders touted the company’s relatively small $2.4 million second quarter loss to the fact their portfolio is based largely on drive-to and leisure hotels.

But hotels rely on more than summer and holiday leisure traffic.

Business transient and group business travel historically kept the hotel sector at performance levels well above those of short-term rentals. But coronavirus effectively zapped both business lines for most of 2020 and tanked hotel performance while short-term rentals seized the outperformance crown.

The study, conducted between January 2019 and the end of June of this year, focused on entire-unit short-term rentals on Airbnb and Vrbo.

Hotel occupancy across the studied markets — which include places like New Orleans, Rome, and Australia’s Gold Coast — bottomed at nearly 18 percent the week of March 28. Short-term rental occupancy hit a low of just over 34 percent. But the short-term rental sector’s revenue per room (or unit) durability has more to do with rental rates staying close to normal levels.

While average daily rates at hotels fell 50 percent from the end of March 2019 to the end of March this year, they were only down between 6 and 12 percent at short-term rentals of various sizes. This stems largely from the leisure traffic flocking to Airbnb and Vrbo never fully going away.

“In truth, vacation rentals are simply becoming the preferred lodging type in an ongoing era of social distancing,” said Tom Caton, chief revenue officer at AirDNA. “The amenities, the ability to cook, the ability to rent entire-home listings, the supply in remote locations, the availability of larger, 2+ bedroom properties that accommodate entire families — all this points towards vacation rentals rebounding, even given the current state of the world.”

There are still uncertain variables ahead for both hotels and short-term rentals.

There are only a few more weeks left in what would normally be the peak summer travel season, and it isn’t clear yet how much leisure travel will extend into the fall. Continued remote work and school learning could enable travelers to continue flocking to drive-to and leisure markets.

But hybrid in-person, remote working, and education models could hinder how much travel continues into September and beyond.

“The real question is, what happens on September 15th, post-Labor Day?” said Evan Weiss, chief operating officer at LW Hospitality Advisors. “How are these properties performing at that point given the contraction in leisure and the lack of corporate transient and group travel? I’d imagine they will be somewhat similar to hotels in these markets: rather dismal occupancies. We will all have to wait and see, as there is no clarity on next week, let alone the fall travel season.”


Accor and SBE Begin Global Expansion of Delano Hotel Brand Despite the Pandemic

Cameron Sperance, Skift- Aug 12, 2020 6:00 pm

The South Beach luxury lifestyle is making a hop across the pond.

The Delano brand, made famous by its original hotel in Miami’s South Beach, will expand to Europe with a property in Costa Smeralda on the Italian island of Sardinia.

The Delano Porto Cervo, slated to open in 2023, will be the first in an international expansion that will see the brand grow beyond its U.S. presence in Miami and Las Vegas. SBE plans to eventually grow the brand to properties in Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Asia, the hospitality group announced this week.

“We’re not saying we want 50 Delanos. It’s not a number that we’re looking for,” said Chadi Farhat, SBE’s chief operating officer for the Middle East and Europe, in an exclusive Skift interview. “It’s more about strategic locations that we’d like for Delano to be around the world.”

The 68-room Delano Porto Cervo entails a complete redevelopment of an existing hotel, resulting in what Farhat says is a new-build project complete with a restaurant, lobby and pool bars, beach club, and fitness studio.

The Sardinian property may be a partnership between SBE, private equity firm Quianto Capital, and advisory firm Enma Capital, but a different SBE partner is helping the Delano brand go global.

Accor bought a 50 percent stake in SBE in 2018 for $319 million, an investment the hotel industry viewed at the time as fueling the Paris-based hotel company’s goal of expanding in North America. But Farhat said the Accor partnership is also assisting the SBE development pipeline around the world.

The Delano expansion starts in Europe, first with the Italian property and then a soon-to-be announced project in Switzerland, Farhat said. While Delano conjures images of South Beach, its global portfolio is expected to eventually grow to a mix of beachfront, countryside, and ski resorts.

“The elements of South Beach that make Delano special, like programming and services, will travel with Delano around the world,” Farhat said.


It may seem like an odd time to take the Delano brand abroad, given the catastrophic impact on travel due to coronavirus — especially to the luxury sector.

But SBE and Accor remain committed to expanding the Delano footprint, saying the brand is less vulnerable in the current travel environment than other upscale brands.

“We are not your traditional luxury or upper upscale hotel,” Farhat said. “We create destinations with our hotels.”

He points to the performance of the Mondrian — another SBE and Accor brand — in Doha, Qatar, as proof there is pent-up demand for luxury accommodations, even in the middle of a global pandemic. The hotel’s July performance was better than that seen in 2019 due to staycations, Farhat said.

Even the Delano South Beach saw “healthy numbers” in June before the surge of new coronavirus cases in Florida.

“It tells you the minute restrictions are lifted and with social distancing and health measures in place — which we are seriously doing — there will be demand,” Farhat said. “People will come back and travel.”

The current travel environment could even present further opportunities to build out the Delano brand.

Construction financing is extremely tight due to the uncertain economic climate, especially around hotels. Farhat — like executives at other companies like Hyatt and IHG — said there are still plenty of pent-up capital sources out there to help fuel a brand expansion.

But growth may come at someone else’s expense.

“Not only is there pent-up capital, there are great opportunities,” he said. “There are iconic assets you see in New York, iconic assets being foreclosed on that will create more opportunities for conversions for new brands coming in. The environment itself, yes, it is bad, but where there is capital, there are great opportunities.”


Eventbrite CEO Outlines Her Plan for Recovery


Eventbrite has been one of the most successful event tech brands for years, but has recently experienced deep losses due to the pandemic. We spoke to CEO Julia Hartz about Eventbrite’s experience and what is on the horizon for the tech giant.

Source: Stefan Wieland cited in Skift

Eventbrite’s most recent earnings indicated a significant decrease in year-over-year revenue, resulting in layoffs and cuts, but things could have been worse. Eventbrite is beginning to stabilize thanks to a combination of virtual event options, new formats, and the ingenuity of planners.

We spoke to founder and CEO Julia Hartz about how Eventbrite handled the second quarter and what the future has in store.

What has Q2 been like for Eventbrite?

Despite the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 that have brought shelter in place and social distancing restrictions, the human desire to connect with one another remains strong. Throughout this pandemic, we’ve seen resilience and ingenuity from our creators, not only as they’ve shifted their events online but as they’ve explored new forums for in-person gatherings that adhere to social distancing mandates, like drive-in events. In fact, despite the significant ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on live events, ticket sales on the Eventbrite platform improved in each successive month of the second quarter, illustrating the resilience of Eventbrite creators and attendees, and the value our platform provides them.

Are you seeing any positive signs of a comeback in your community of creators?

Our data tells us that people are still hungry to connect. Not only has paid ticket volume for online events specifically increased 30-fold from the second quarter of 2019, but paid ticket volume for both online and in-person events has grown 38 percent from May to June. Social distancing has challenged the live experience economy, but it hasn’t diminished the resilient nature of our creators, who are demonstrating flexibility and finding new, innovative ways to grow their businesses. For example, we’ve seen more than one thousand drive-in events on our platform this year, which is more than nine times as many drive-in events in each of the past two years on Eventbrite. We’re seeing these events happen all across the U.S. – and world – including in Australia, UK, Netherlands and Italy. One creator in particular, The Magic Beans, held a scaled-down, two-day version of their annual festival, rebranded as Beanstalk: At the Drive-In! in June where tickets sold out hours after they announced their revamped show. The festival went so well they hosted another drive-in festival in July.

How are virtual events impacting the use of the platform?

The constraints of the current environment are propelling smaller and more frequent events, a trend that plays to Eventbrite’s strengths. Our tools to create and manage online events provide our creators with a way to stay connected to their attendees and be responsive to their needs. Savvy small business owners like Haymarket Books quickly pivoted to online, donation-based events, and have seen a surge of attendees through this new format. A single event featuring Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, author of “How To Be An Anti-Racist” reached 17,000 registrations.

Online or hybrid event experiences allow creators to go far beyond the geographical boundaries of an in-person event and connect with global audiences. On the consumer side, we’re seeing that attendees are last-minute buyers when it comes to purchasing tickets to online events on Eventbrite. The percentage of tickets sold in the 24 hours leading up to an event is double that of in-person events, giving creators a longer window of marketing opportunities.

What virtual event features, if any, are you working on?

Through our research, we know consumers are enjoying online experiences and plan to keep attending them. We have plans to continue innovating in this space, and can share more soon.

Register to Vote is another public initiative after the support to the BLM protests, can you share more?

We have seen a spike in activism-related events on our platform this year, and believe this activity will continue leading into the election. In our commitment to break down barriers by amplifying social justice and civic engagement events, we’ve seen more than one thousand events in relation to Black Lives Matter published on our platform between May 2020 and looking into December 2020, and over 113K tickets issued to social justice events between May and July 2020. We’ve also signed Business for America’s Vote Safe letter to Congress in support of secure absentee ballots and safe in-person voting sites for the 2020 election because we agree that no one should be forced to choose between protecting their health and exercising their right to vote.


Eventbrite owes their progress in part to investments in virtual event tech and in part to consumer adaptability. The events market is under pressure to produce smaller and local events, which plays to Eventbrite’s strengths, and Hartz cites Eventbrite’s virtual event management tools as a response to this new demand.

As with many event tech companies, the secret to survival seems to be a balance between ingenuity and the ability to pivot on the one hand, and an ability to make cuts and minimize cash burn. Still, the future seems bright for Eventbrite.


Europe’s tourism & leisure industry sees a drop of 53.1% in deal activity in Q2 2020

Europe’s tourism & leisure industry saw a drop of 53.1% in overall deal activity during Q2 2020, when compared to the four-quarter average, according to GlobalData’s deals database.

A total of 53 deals worth $2.81bn were announced for the region during Q2 2020, against the last four-quarter average of 113 deals.

Of all the deal types, M&A saw most activity in Q2 2020 with 35, representing a 66.04% share for the region.

In second place was venture financing with 12 deals, followed by private equity deals with six transactions, respectively capturing a 22.6% and 11.3% share of the overall deal activity for the quarter.

In terms of value of deals, M&A was the leading category in Europe’s tourism & leisure industry with $2.64bn, while private equity and venture financing deals totalled $128.67m and $42.26m, respectively. 

Europe tourism & leisure industry deals in Q2 2020: Top deals
The top five tourism & leisure deals accounted for 95.6% of the overall value during Q2 2020.

The combined value of the top five tourism & leisure deals stood at $2.69bn, against the overall value of $2.81bn recorded for the quarter.

The top five tourism & leisure industry deals of Q2 2020 tracked by GlobalData were:

  • Evolution Gaming Group’s $2.32bn acquisition of NetEnt
  • The $224.57m acquisition of Porto Carras by Belterra Investments
  • TowerBrook Capital Partners’ $108.67m private equity deal with CarTrawler
  • The $20m private equity deal with Playa Hotels & Resorts by Davidson Kempner Capital Management
  • Atream’s asset transaction with PATRIZIA for $18.48m.


How COVID-19 can stimulate healthier hospitality leadership

Much has already been written about how travel and tourism will be irrevocably changed by the coronavirus pandemic. Optimists and realists alike are focusing on more environmentally friendly ways of reaching our chosen destinations, more sensitive ways of considering local culture and more sustainable, ethical methods of sharing and distributing the financial benefits of tourism.

But what about the hospitality and in particular the hotel industry itself? If there was ever a time for us to engage in honest, unflinching self-reflection, this is it. As travellers and vacationers are ready and willing to change their habits, so the hotel industry must look to reshape its practices for the future.

Responding to the crisis
Facing possibly the toughest situation it has ever encountered, the hotel industry now needs fresh solutions to these challenges. Management cannot simply fall back on “we’ve always done it this way”. In the post-COVID-19 marketplace, only different approaches and attitudes will succeed.

A new style of leadership
When the hotel sector goes back to work, the most urgent need will be to reassess staffing needs, operational procedures and ensure our guests return sooner than later. Ultimately, recoup lost income, re-establish cashflow and focus on the quickest returns on investment.

Operating structures will have to be pared-down and become more efficient. Leaner, more agile leadership with effective change management skills must create imaginative, practical plans to get businesses back on track.

Managers will have to adapt to the new situation with new-found agility. The days of a Hotel Manager shut away in a back office are over. They will need to be multifaceted: even more present throughout the hotel, taking care of guests and staff, mobilising their teams, coaching / teaching and leading by example. In this new climate of lower hotel occupancies and reduced income, one role per employee has become an unaffordable luxury. Staff will now need to be trained to take on a broader range of disciplines. Managers should emphasise the positive aspects of this: employees will enjoy more varied work and gain a wider range of experience to help them progress their careers.

Creative, cost-efficient business models will be needed for operations, sales, marketing, revenue management and distribution strategies. Trusted employees should be invited to contribute to management decisions; their perspective ‘at the coal face’ will help shape your recovery policy and make them feel more involved and valued.

It’s vital these new initiatives are communicated clearly throughout the business, to ensure they are adopted successfully.

Keeping your teams motivated
There are undoubtedly difficult financial decisions to be made, and it can be tempting to focus wholly on saving cash. But this is short-sighted. Hotel businesses which have laid-off the majority of their employees will find it difficult and expensive to recruit the skilled talent they need as the market recovers.

Conversely, firms who have furloughed as many employees as possible to give them some degree of security can expect greater loyalty and renewed commitment. Identify your core people and work hard to retain them.

Management who also display integrity and a sense of unity, for example by ensuring fair pay cuts during this difficult time, will be more highly regarded by the workforce after the crisis.

This is the ideal moment for top executives to show strength, empathy and vision. Employees will respond best to leaders who inspire through their energy, optimism and sense of purpose, and create a collaborative, environment that encourages and nurtures development.

Whilst it may seem counter-intuitive, now is the perfect time to invest in your most talented employees, for example by encouraging and providing cross-training. In the hotel’s immediate future there will be fewer staff, and employees and managers alike must be ready to use new skills.

Mitigating the impact on employees
For hotel staff, the pandemic has bitten hard, and with countries taking separate routes to easing their lockdown restrictions, it is unclear when and how the worldwide travel and tourism industry recovery will kick in.

This leaves many employees worrying about their income now and their job security mid to long term. The situation is especially tough for those already on low wages, with few savings, yet the anxiety is also felt right up to senior management. Are their positions safe? Would they be able to find a similar role elsewhere?

Great C-level leaders and managers are those who stay connected and communicate regularly with their employees, sharing objectives and building that vital sense of hope for the future.

Part of the recovery process must involve making the workplace more attractive and productive. Ensure the work environment is balanced, with genuinely equal opportunities and fair rewards for everyone. Revisit how you evaluate performance; is it an objective and positive system? Failing to address these aspects could lead to your talented employees looking elsewhere. 

Image and perception
Hotel leadership responses to the crisis have varied. Many have taken positive action. In the absence of paying customers, some hotels have opened their rooms to help isolate patients who are not critically ill, easing the burden on hospitals. Or temporarily taken in homeless people, who would otherwise be especially vulnerable to the virus. Others have kept kitchens running, to help feed emergency workers who haven’t had time to source meals for themselves.

These positive actions, displaying a spirit of generosity will mean these businesses are better perceived by potential guests. Those who have been distant and unsupportive during the pandemic will find that empathy and integrity are important, and guests and employees have long memories.

Goodbye old order, hello new era
There is a broad consensus that the travel and tourism industry cannot return to how it was before COVID-19. The lockdown has given guests, hotel business owners, directors, managers and employees time to assess how we all live, work, travel and relax.

Personal well-being, work/life balance, the vulnerability of the planet and a stronger determination to protect it, will change how hospitality is perceived and must perform in the future.

Some hotel businesses, however, seem to have learned little from the experiences of 9/11 and the 2008 financial crisis. Those who cling to the old, pre-COVID-19 model are unlikely to prosper. Companies and leaders with the sensitivity and emotional intelligence to address guest and employee concerns, with policies that demonstrate fairness and diversity, will fare best of all.

The pandemic cannot be ignored or wished away. For hotel employees at all levels, it should be seen as an incentive to develop fresh skills and become more valued and marketable, as multi-functional, hands-on and strategically savvy individuals. For hotel owners and management, this is the start of a new era: the opportunity to learn from experience and use the freshly gained insight to develop more dynamic, creative, sustainable leadership that is fit for a brave new world.


REITs see long-term opportunities, but market stalled

REIT executives see the chance to make deals in the future as the hotel industry continues to cope with the COVID-19 downturn, but many said deals are put on hold for the time being.

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—While many are eager to see the deals market open up, with the expectation that distressed assets could be available, executives with real estate investment trusts said they are still examining the market before ultimately making moves.

Here’s what executives had to say about potential deal making during first-quarter earnings calls:

Neil Shah, president and COO, Hersha Hospitality Trust
“Generally, I think smaller assets are easier to sell, and assets and investment opportunities that don’t require … traditional capital markets are more likely to get done today. Frankly, I think the four (deals) we have under contract were probably the most likely to get done in an environment, generally. But since we have hard deposits on these four, that is where most of our effort and focuses (are) … expecting those to close. We continue to always consider inbound inquiries for other hotels in the portfolio, and we’ve had conversations with a lot of investors. But you’ve seen the math. A buyer today for … a traditional institutional grade hotel asset needs a pretty high return to justify making an investment. There’s no debt market that they can use to support their investments or they’re thinking of it as an unlevered deal without any clarity on when operating losses stop. Most investors consider pretty long drag on operating losses. When the math generally comes out to where you hear buyers or private equity talking about interest in deals, is that kind of 11% to 12% kind of cap rates on 2019 kind of performance? I don’t think there is many sellers at that level.”

Dan Hansen, chairman, president and CEO, Summit Hotel Properties
“I think it’s fair to say that everybody is in some level of distress right now, particularly the smaller owner-operators. I don’t know that there is an immediate opportunity regardless of the level of leverage or operations. Banks have generally been supportive of smaller owner-operators and giving them time to get their feedback under them. As far as opportunities, our priority right now is really on the portfolio. And based on our portfolio, the locations, the chain scale and the operating model, we think there is a lot of value to be created from here simply with that. But to the extent there is an opportunity in the future, we do have as good a relationship with our lenders as anybody in this space.”

Justin Knight, CEO, Apple Hospitality REIT
“Our expectation is that in the early phases of recovery, there will be an increase in the number of opportunities that would be attractive to us. Our first preference, though, is getting back to cash positive. I think it would be reasonable for us to assume that while we are eager to pursue opportunities from a capital allocation standpoint, which would drive shareholder value. Our No. 1 priority at this point is getting back to a position where we’re producing positive cash flow from operations. Until we get to that point, I think it’s fair to say that we would be conservative in pursuing optional uses of cash.”

Thomas Baltimore, Jr., president and CEO, Park Hotels & Resorts
“Park is not interested in (deals) at this time. We are laser-focused on all the initiatives that we’ve outlined, laser-focused on getting through the recession so that we are well-positioned when the recovery begins.”

James Risoleo, president and CEO, Host Hotels & Resorts
“We are in a unique position given the strength of the company and the fact that we came into the year at 1.6x debt to (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) with $1.6 billion of cash on the balance sheet, we are truly in a position to persevere through this downturn, through this pandemic and come out the other side in a position to play offense. Now when does that happen? I think right now it’s very premature at this point in time, I don’t think you’re going to see us or anybody else in a position to acquire hotels until we have greater visibility on the case of how the U.S. economy is going to perform and how it’s going to recover. Everyone is in agreement today that we are in a recession. We just don’t know the depth of the recession, nor do we know the duration of the recession. There are numerous conversations occurring between hotel owners and lenders today with respect to waivers, interest forbearance, it’s a question of how that’s all going to play out and where the opportunities are going to be. It’s a little too soon to know. But when we have visibility and when we start seeing opportunities come to market, we will be in a position to take advantage of those opportunities. We’re talking to our bank group about giving us some optionality to acquire hotels as we move forward.

“Obviously, the hotels are going to have to be a strategic fit for us. They’re going to have to be priced appropriately, they’re going to have to allow us to believe that we’re going to be able to create shareholder value or we’re going to continue to be disciplined in our approach to capital allocation. We think it served us very well toward the end of this cycle and given us an opportunity to play offense.”

Sean Mahoney, EVP and CFO, RLJ Lodging Trust
“As we think about deploying on acquisitions, which we still need to get through COVID-19 before really focusing on acquisitions in any meaningful way, but certainly, the new normal will factor into our thoughts around geographic reallocation within our portfolio. But our footprint today, we have a portfolio for a reason, which is we like to have a diverse geographic dispersion and we’re comfortable with our footprint today.”

Keith Cline, president and CEO, CorePoint Lodging
“These deals that closed were deals that we had struck pre-COVID-19. Generally, the vast, vast majority of the people that are buying these hotels are existing hotel owners that may either own a La Quinta flag or potentially even other flags. I will tell you from the onset, these deals were closed for the purpose of continuing to operate a hotel. Now, that may change over time, but the deals that we’ve struck, the vast majority of those are for continuing hotel operations.”

Jon Bortz, chairman, president and CEO of Pebblebrook Hotel Trust
“We also expect there to be significant opportunities over the next few years to acquire properties in distress, due to a likely prevalence of cash strapped and over-levered owners and many properties that go back to lenders.

“Our team has been through two prior crisis-driven opportunistic periods, including the creation of Pebblebrook in late 2009 following the tail end of the Great Recession. Following that crisis, we were able to fairly quickly and aggressively assemble a very unique portfolio of high-quality hotels and resorts at very attractive prices that also had substantial upside opportunities. Given our ability to operate our properties more efficiently than the vast majority of buyers … our unique strength and redevelopments and transformations, we believe we’ll have a significant advantage as opportunities arise over the next few years.”


Spain to reopen to international tourists in July

Spain’s prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has announced the country will reopen to international tourists from July, pledging to guarantee the safety of visitors and the workforce.

The leading destination receives over 80 million tourists per year.

Starting in July, Sánchez said that international tourism can resume once more, adding tourists can start planning their holidays.

Sánchez confirmed that as part of the planning for Spain’s phased reopening plan – known as the ‘Plan de Desescalada’ – the government was working with the tourism sector to prepare measures for the reopening.

The moves will be coordinated by ministry of industry, business and tourism in collaboration with Spain’s autonomous communities.

Going forward, the prime minister announced that Spanish tourism will have two new hallmarks – health and safety and environmental sustainability.

GreecePoland and the Algarve have announced similar moves in recent days.

At the same time, the European Aviation Safety Agency has been considering how to get passengers safely back in the air.