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Destinations

Hotel revenue in Oman dropped $122m in first two months of 2020

Occupancy levels fell by 7.8% compared to same period in 2019, according to National Centre for Statistics and Information

Europeans made up the maximum number of visitors to the Sultanate in 2019, reaching 127,331.

Total revenue of Omani hotels in the three-to-five-star category fell by 6.3 percent to RO43.9 million ($122m) for the first two months of the year compared to RO46.9m ($122m) for the same period of 2019.

According to the latest figures from the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI), hotel occupancy rates in the Sultanate fell by 7.8 percent to reach 62.5 percent at the end of February 2020 against 67.8% for the corresponding period last year.

While the total number of guests in Omani hotels rose by 0.8 percent in the two-months at the start of 2020, reaching 311,219m from 308,880m guests for the same period in 2019.

Europeans made up the maximum number of visitors, reaching 127,331. This was followed by 84,379 Omani guests and 31,171 Asian tourists until the end of February 2020, the NCSI data revealed.

The number of American, Oceanian, and GCC guests increased by five percent, 10.2 percent, and 12 percent, respectively until the end of February 2020 compared to the first two months of 2019.

However, the number of European, African and other Arab guests dropped by seven percent, 0.4 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively.

Throughout 2019, Omani hotels received 1.77 million guests and generated total revenue of RO229.5m ($597m).

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Cruises

Xcaret Park and Hotel Xcaret Mexico to Reopen on June 15

Grupo Xcaret plans to reopen Xcaret Park and Hotel Xcaret Mexico on June 15 in the first phase of its reopening, while implementing over 1,300 specific health and safety measures.

Developed in accordance with national and international organizations, 360 Xafety is Grupo Xcaret’s manual on how they will proceed with the phased reopening of the properties to ensure the well-being of employees, guests, visitors and suppliers who frequent the properties.

“People are at the center of Grupo Xcaret’s business model, and safeguarding their safety is one of the main pillars that support our enhanced safety reopening protocols. We are aware of the challenges that the tourism industry faces in regaining travelers trust and believe that the first step is being completely transparent about the measures we are taking to protect them,” said Miguel Quintana, CEO of Grupo Xcaret, in a statement. “To this end, our open-access protocols will be available on our website, not only for potential visitors but for other tourism providers that can use them as guidelines in creating or adapting their own,” he added.

Grupo Xcaret serves as a member of the Board of Affiliates of the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and on a specialized task force compiled by the Global Association for the Attractions Industry (IAAPA) who’s purpose is to help build reopening guidelines.

And because safety and sustainability are of such importance to the group, all cleaning and disinfecting products are not only biodegradable, but they also meet the criteria set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Some protocols guests will notice upon their return to the properties are:

—Occupancy will be limited to 50 percent capacity at Xcaret Park, Hotel Xcaret Mexico and transportation services.

—Noninvasive temperatures checks.

—Use of face masks encouraged for all resort guests and visitors.

—Sanitization of high contact surfaces.

—Cleaning of guest rooms twice a day.

—Transforming all self-service buffet stations into assisted food places.

The next phase of Grupo Xcaret’s reopening is expected to be July 1 with the reintroduction of its other parks and tours. The organization is closely following government regulations and recommendations.

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Cruises

AHLA Believes Hotel Industry is on 'Brink of Collapse'

The American Hotels & Lodging Association (AHLA) is calling directly upon the U.S. Congress to prioritize financial assistance for hotel workers and small businesses in the next wave of COVID-19 economic relief legislation. Business Travel News cited the AHLA as having referred to the hotel industry as currently being on the “brink of collapse”.

“The hospitality industry is in a fight for survival,” said AHLA president and CEO, Chip Rogers. “We are grateful to the leadership of both parties during one of the most difficult health and economic challenges we have faced. We are urging Congress to do even more to help the hotel industry so that our small hotel operators can keep the lights on, and retain and rehire employees.”

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) revealed that the hospitality and leisure industry is the hardest-hit sector of the U.S. economy by far, with 7.7 million jobs lost in April alone. That’s more job losses than those sustained by the construction, manufacturing, retail, education, and health services sectors combined, said AHLA’s letter to Congress, dated May 20, 2020.

Along with its letter, the AHLA provided its recommended ‘Roadmap to Recovery’ plan, calling for action on several key points, including:

—Expanding the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) from the ‘Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’.

—Providing tax credits for certain expenditures, especially in light of enhanced sanitation measures and the provision of personal protective equipment by hotels in order to continue operating.

—Offering employees tax credits or direct tuition assistance for continuing education, in light of furloughs and job losses resulting from the pandemic.

—Extending the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) through December 31, 2020, and expanding the scope and flexibility of PPP loans.

—Extending federal loan maturity from two years to a minimum of five years.

—Extending the re-hiring deadline to December 31, 2020, for loan forgiveness purposes.


—Providing hotels that reopen and adhere to proper public health guidance protection under a limited ‘safe harbor’ provision, applicable to guests and employees, from exposure liability related to COVID-19.

—Creation of a ‘Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities (CMBS) Market Relief Fund’ to keep hotels in cash-flow crisis from defaulting on their mortgages.

—Creation of a ‘Federal Pandemic Risk Insurance Program’ to protect operators against future pandemic outbreaks and associated losses.

—Incentivizing travel through increased testing to reassure the public; set federally-imposed per-diem rates for the fiscal year 2021-22, based upon 2019 data; reinstate entertainment, food and beverage-related tax deductions as business expenses; and create a temporary Travel Tax Credit, similar in purpose to the homebuyer tax credit applied following the 2008 housing crisis.

AHLA hopes that such concessions would enable the hospitality industry to survive the devastation that’s been dealt out by the COVID-19 crisis, whose impact the organization called “worse than the Great Depression”. Thus far, experts say, the pandemic has caused the industry nine times the damage it suffered in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. 2020 is forecast to become the single worst year on record in terms of hotel occupancy, and predictions indicate that the sector won’t bounce back to its 2019 levels until at least 2022.

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Travel

Chip Rogers American Hotel Lodging Association

While the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) has applauded the federal government’s passage of the Cares Act, the hospitality trade group has also been critical of its rollout, taking particular issue with the legislation’s $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The small-business lending program ran dry of funding shortly after its launch, and although it’s set to be replenished with an additional $310 billion, the AHLA has asked Congress to make further changes to the bill. Hotels editor Christina Jelski recently spoke with AHLA president and CEO Chip Rogers to discuss the hotel industry’s concerns and some of the Cares Act’s shortcomings.

Q: While the additional round of PPP funding is certainly welcome, will this do enough to meet the needs of the struggling hospitality sector?

A: We’re very grateful that there’s going to be a replenishment, but we’re concerned that it’s not going to address the demand. We understand that around $1.2 trillion [in loans] had been applied for already. So if you have the first tranche at $349 billion and second at $310 billion, you’re just at a little over halfway of what we think the true demand is. And it’s going to be really unfortunate if some businesses get it and others don’t get it, only because their banking relationship wasn’t as long-standing or as tight as others.

Q: There’s been some controversy over the large number of publicly traded companies that have received approval for PPP loans. What’s your take on this development?

A: I think some of those stories are a bit overblown, trying to pit one company against another and create angst. I don’t know if that’s helpful. I think that the most important point is that this funding should be going to industries most affected by the virus. If you look at the industries that got much of the money, right off the top, it’s the construction industries, the [information technology] industries, etc. — industries that no doubt are somewhat hurt, but they’re seeing nowhere near the level of devastation that hotels and restaurants are experiencing.

If you look at the percentage of money that went to hotels and restaurants, it was less than 9% of total PPP funds. Even if it were 9% of the funding for hotels alone, that would not have been enough. Yes, you can pick out some of those well-known names and say, “Aha, they may have gotten more money than they should have gotten.” But I think if we spend too much time thinking about that, then we’re not looking at the fundamental flaw, which is the way the system is set up.

Q: Are there any other changes to the PPP that you believe could go a long way toward helping hotels in particular?

A: When Congress was creating this, which was early to mid-March, the landscape looked very different. But the reality is that hotels and restaurants began feeling the impacts of [Covid-19] in late February. So by the time this was passed into law and put in place, hotels and restaurants had already gone through the process of furloughing employees, because their revenue had started drying up a long time ago. Lawmakers were hoping that they could create a plan that would keep people on the payroll. For many hotels, however, people were already off the payroll by the time the plan was implemented. So now the question is, how do you get them back on the payroll and keep them on the payroll? If you look at the way the program is structured right now, there are two checkpoints [that determine loan forgiveness]: How many employees did you have on Feb. 15? And how many employees will you have on June 30? Let’s say you’ve cut your workforce by 50% in that time. If that’s the case, then only 50% of your loan is forgiven. Hoteliers are saying, “There’s no way I’m going to get my full staff back onboard by June 30. I have no customers, no revenue.”

And by the way, the law requires you to use your loan within eight weeks. So at the end of the eight weeks, you may just be laying off your employees again. What we’re asking Congress to do is move the June 30 date. Give hotels flexibility to take the money now and then push the date back a bit to, say, Oct. 31. But if you’re expecting hotels to pay employees now and then lay them off again, hoteliers are just going to say this loan isn’t worth it, and it doesn’t make any sense.

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Cruises

Hotel rooms as workspaces coronavirus

Many employees are working from home these days, but they just don’t
have the same focus they do in an office and are not as productive.

There may be a hotel room available for these workers.

The Hamilton Hotel in Washington D.C. has launched daytime
rates, with check-in starting at 9 a.m. and checkout at 5 p.m. The Hamilton
said guestrooms offer “a safe and clean work environment” enhanced by access to
amenities like an in-room breakfast before noon, high-speed WiFi and a coffeemaker
as well as printing, faxing and office supplies upon request. 

Day rates at the Hamilton start at $89 for a standard room
and $199 for a suite.

At Soul Community Planet’s hotels in Colorado Springs and Redmond,
Oregon, members of the brand’s SCP Commons coworking offshoot can opt to work
in hotel guestrooms as part of their monthly membership. SCP co-founder and CEO
Ken Cruse says the set-up is ideal for professionals who “need a safe, socially
distant space to work and conduct business during the day.”

SCP Commons memberships start at $100 per month, while
non-members can take advantage of the work-from-hotel offer with a $40 daily rate.

Traditional hospitality players aren’t the only ones
repositioning their accommodations as workspaces. In addition to offering new
extended-stay rates to cater to first responders and healthcare professionals,
serviced apartment-hotel hybrid Sonder is marketing its units as private
workplaces with “plenty of room to spread out.”

The company says all bookings of 14 days or more are 40%
off, with a flexible cancellation policy.

“During a time when many of us are working from home and
schools have been cancelled, space and silence can quickly become sparse,” said
a Sonder spokesperson in an emailed statement. “Having extra room with spaces
that are professionally cleaned, serviced digitally and with fast WiFi can
create a respite for folks to get some work done.”

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Cruises

Hotel Companies Lay Off, Furlough Thousands of Workers

Marriott International and other hotel companies are furloughing tens of thousands of workers amid plummeting occupancy rates stemming from travel bans and restrictions being imposed by governments worldwide to slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

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According to The Wall Street Journal, about two-thirds of Marriott’s 4,000 corporate employees headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland and roughly two-thirds of its corporate employees overseas will be furloughed for 90 days starting in April.

The hotel giant hopes to bring staff back when travel demand resumes.

Competitors such as Hyatt Hotels Corporation and Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. have announced similar job cuts and furloughs as they’ve also been forced to shutter properties around the world amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Furloughed Hilton employees will be given access to other jobs, the company announced Monday and will continue receiving health benefits while also being able to file for unemployment.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that Dallas, Texas-based Ashford Inc. will lay off or furlough a whopping 95 percent of its staff of 7,000 employees.

Last week, with massive cuts looming, executives of some of the world’s top hotel companies met with President Trump and other White House officials to seek urgent financial assistance for the industry. U.S. hotel companies are hoping to secure $150 billion in direct aid and an additional $100 billion in relief for suppliers such as recreation providers and retailers.

A message to Marriott International associates from President and CEO Arne Sorenson. pic.twitter.com/OwsF14TZgb

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Cruises

Hyatt works to mitigate coronavirus damage with new measures

Hyatt Hotels Corporation has waived cancellation fees for stays in Greater China, South Korea, Japan and Italy until March 31st.

The move is part of a wider package of measures designed to alleviate the impact of the coronavirus on travellers.

Guests who booked via online travel agents or other third parties are advised to contact their booking provider for information on their policies and for assistance.

Hyatt is also extending special exceptions for all advance purchase rate non-refundable reservations made directly with Hyatt on or before March 8th for travel through June.

Guests holding these fully prepaid reservations who have decided not to travel may opt to receive 10,000 World of Hyatt Bonus Points compensation in lieu of their stay to use toward future travel.

“We understand the need for increased flexibility with travel planning right now,” said Mark Hoplamazian, chief executive of Hyatt.

“We want you to know that we are monitoring the coronavirus situation closely, keeping those who are affected in our hearts, and are listening carefully to the questions and concerns we receive from guests such as yourself.

“We believe in responsible and safe travel while staying vigilant and following the recommended procedures and protocols by the World Health Organisation, United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and local authorities.

“Hyatt hotels continue to welcome business and leisure travellers with our established operational excellence and commitment to care.”

Safety

In an email to all World of Hyatt members, Hoplamazian added the company was doing everything in its power to minimise the spread of coronavirus within its hotels.

Comprehensive Covid-19 guidance is in place at Hyatt hotels globally, detailing how to protect against transmission of the virus (including implementing hand sanitizer stations and frequent cleaning of high-touch areas), and procedures in case there is a suspected or confirmed case among guests or colleagues

Cross-functional, global response teams, including infectious diseases and occupational health experts, are also on hand to provide guidance to hotels and help address specific needs when needed.


Hyatt chief executive Mark Hoplamazian has sought to calm guests’ fears over travelling

Hoplamazian also called for respect among travellers in response to the outbreak after a number of attacks on Chinese guests.

He explained: “While travel – our shared passion – may temporarily be challenged, at Hyatt we believe in its enduring power to connect us and move us closer to our vision: a world of understanding and care.

“At all times, we remain grounded in our purpose and focused on our values of inclusion and respect.

“Covid-19 does not distinguish between nationality, race or geographic origin, and Hyatt’s steadfast commitment to inclusion and care guides our actions, at our properties and in our communities.”

More Information

Find more information on the Hyatt response to coronavirus here.

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