Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.


Los Angeles to Drop Ballot Measure That Would Require Hotels to House Homeless

1 month ago

Los Angeles’ city council appeared this week to have reached a political compromise with the local hotel workers’s union about a controversial plan to mandate that hotels temporarily house the homeless.

At issue is a long-running dispute. Earlier this year, LA’s powerful hotel union, Unite Here Local 11, successfully pushed the city’s council to put an initiative on the ballot for voters in March 2024. One of the initiative’s most controversial proposals was to mandate that hotel operators take part in a city program to place the homeless in otherwise vacant hotel rooms temporarily.

Hotel operators would have to report daily on their vacancy rate and had to accept temporary housing vouchers to cover the cost of temporarily housing the homeless.

The idea sparked outraged LinkedIn commentary. But more importantly, the hotel industry’s array of lobbying organizations, including the American Hotel & Lobbying Association, led a campaign against the idea with a mix of editorials in publications like The Hill and appearances in news programs tied to a survey of locals opposing the effort that AHLA sponsored.

The Center For Union Facts ran a TV ad called “Hotel Hell.”

Hoteliers argued that the mandate was unfair.

Others were nervous about reports of hotels receiving damage when participating in the voluntary effort. LA’s boutique 294-room Mayfair Hotel claimed to suffer significant acts of vandalism and damage during six months of participation in a different effort, called Project Roomkey, which transformed whole properties into temporary shelters, as the Los Angeles Times reported.

As of Friday, a proposal that removed the homeless mandate was still two votes short of passage in the L.A. City Council, reported the Los Angeles Times, but political insiders said they were optimistic. The California Hotel & Lodging Association and the Hotel Association of Los Angeles supported the compromise, which they helped facilitate along with council member Traci Park, Council President Paul Krekorian, and others.

Unite Here Local 11 said it considered the deal a victory. The pact includes the City Council promising to okay a set of fresh regulations on hotel development that would tighten the standards for the approval process to link hotel creation with the parallel creation of residential housing construction. Other criteria include vetting whether there is enough demand to support the hotels and what side effects development may have on the local demand for childcare and other city services.

“We have said all along that our contract campaign has been about two things: housing for our members where they work and a living wage,” said Kurt Petersen, the union’s co-president, in a statement.

An L.A. Times report on the proposed political deal related to hotel and the homeless.


Dallas Hotel Boom: 80 Projects to Begin Construction Within Next Year

1 month ago

The Dallas area has topped national rankings for hotel development for more than a year as the Texas capital enjoys a hotel building boom.

The Dallas area hit a pipeline record, with roughly 80 hotels with a total of 9,021 rooms slated to begin construction in the next year, according to research firm Lodging Econometrics. For context, the U.S. as a whole has opened roughly 40,000 rooms in the past year.

“Dallas also leads the top five U.S. markets with the greatest number of projects in the early planning stage at the end of the third quarter,” Lodging Econometrics said.

Upcoming openings include Loews’ $550 million hotel in nearby Arlington and the luxury Bowie House in Fort Worth.

After the Dallas area, Atlanta has the most new hotels in the construction pipeline. Nashville is close behind, with 122 projects.

It’s unclear if Dallas has the momentum to overtake recent national champions for hotel openings, New York City and Atlanta.

See the full report from Lodging Econometrics


Marriott’s Giga-Resort in Saudi Arabia Banking on Cash-Rich Locals

3 months ago

The next generation of Saudi Arabian hotels is coming, marked by the opening of the Kingdom’s multi-billion-dollar giga-projects. Marriott is showing what is possible at these spare-no-expense properties: Asking for the highest room rates in the country.

Skift’s Josh Corder reports:

Just two hotel operators are entrusted to introduce Saudi Arabia’s “untouched” Maldives-rivaling Red Sea to international guests: Marriott and IHG. Three of the planned 50 hotels at the $50 billion giga-project open this year, a St. Regis and Ritz-Carlton Reserve from Marriott and a Six Senses from IHG.

For Marriott, it’s familiar territory. The group operates the ultra-exclusive and somewhat secretive Bulgari Resort in Dubai, a vast St. Regis Resort on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island, and another St. Regis on Qatar’s Marsa Arabia island.

Much like these fellow five-star island properties, Marriott’s St. Regis Red Sea Resort appears to be positioning itself a cut above other hotels in the country. Currently, the property is bookable for stays from February 1, 2024 (the official word is that it will open before the end of 2023). Priced at about $1,600 a night (6,037 Saudi Arabian riyals) a night, it is comfortably one of the country’s most expensive hotels — comparable only to IHG’s Six Senses nearby.

Six Senses The Southern Dunes, The Red Sea takes bookings from November 1, and, with an imposed two-night minimum stay, rates start from about $1,700 a night (6,618 riyals) a night.

Bookings for the ‘Nujuma’ Ritz-Carlton Reserve resort have not yet opened.

The St. Regis will have just 90 keys, all of which will be villas.

While the hotels are said to open this year, they won’t see international guests until 2024. The project’s Red Sea International Airport — also developed by the same company, Red Sea Global — will operate domestic flights this year and international next year. Dubai will be the first overseas destination connected to the new airport.

Made For Mocktails

For this domestic crowd, which will fly in from Jeddah and Riyadh, pricing remains a barrier. In Knight Frank’s Saudi Report 2023, cost was a reason why respondent Saudi travelers would not stay in a hotel in their own country. The survey found that 28% of 25–35-year-olds put it as their biggest barrier, 41% of those up to 45 years old said the same, and 54% of those over 45.

For young Saudis, the thing that put them off most from staying at domestic hotels was restrictions. Alcohol, for example, remains prohibited.

Speaking with the FII Institute earlier this year, Red Sea Global group CEO John Pagano assured that his post-card tourism project “doesn’t need alcohol.”

“Alcohol is not on the agenda,” Pagano said. “I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary. There’s a new industry evolving. The no/low alcohol industry, it’s booming.”

The St. Regis Red Sea Resort will have its own St. Regis Bar, complete with oysters and caviar, live music, and mocktails.

More broadly, Pagano said visitors will discover a changing Saudi Arabia.

“I’ve seen so much change in the five years I’ve been here — it’s incredible,” Pagano said. “Western attire will be perfectly acceptable within the destination. Obviously, if you wander into some of the local towns, we expect people to respect the customs and cultures. Within the resorts, you can wear bikinis without any issue.”

Story by Josh Corder


Hilton to More Than Double Its Luxury Hotel Footprint in Asia Pacific

4 months ago

From today’s Daily Lodging Report newsletter: Nikkei Asia published an article on Hilton planning to expand its luxury offerings in Asia. Hilton will be bringing its Waldorf Astoria brand to Malaysia, Vietnam, India, and other countries for the first time as part of its plans to open 25 new luxury hotels in the Asia Pacific region over the next few years. That’s up from the 33 luxury hotels it currently runs in the Asia Pacific.

In 2027, Hilton will open India’s first Waldorf in Jaipur, the capital of the state of Rajasthan. Hilton has a management agreement with the Dangayach Group, which will own the hotel.

Hilton is also bringing Waldorfs to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Sydney, Australia. In China, Hilton will add its top-of-the-range hotels in Xi’an and Shanghai, while Japan’s first Waldorf will open in Osaka in 2025, followed by Tokyo in 2026.

JLL estimates that the Asia Pacific region has 560,000 luxury hotel rooms, a number that is expected to increase by 90,000 in 10 years.

See Skift’s story on Hilton’s Asia Pacific expansion for context.

Hilton plans to open a Waldorf-Astoria in Hanoi in 2025. Source: Hilton.
Nikkei's Hilton APAC story


Extended-Stay Tops Other Hotel Types for U.S. Pipeline Growth in Second Quarter

4 months ago

U.S. hotel developers have more projects for extended-stay properties than any other type of hotel, whether measured by number of projects or room count, according to new data.

In the second quarter, developers expanded their pipeline of extended-stay projects by 18% year-over-year to 2,083, said Lodging Econometrics, which collects and studies hotel development.

The extended-stay category had growth outpacing lifestyle, soft-branded, traditional limited-service, and generic full-service properties, as measured by property count and room count. Lodging Econometrics created this chart to illustrate:

One caveat: A segment that was hard to count because it’s so small was independent boutiques.

For independent boutiques only, CoStar’s STR counts 4,227 rooms in construction, with 2,338 rooms projected to open in 2023. That’s a 2.8% year-over-year growth in supply. There are only 16,565 rooms in the indie boutique pipeline.


IHG to Launch Midmarket Hotel Brand Designed to Grow Quickly

4 months ago

IHG Hotels & Resorts revealed on Tuesday that it has been pitching hotel owners on a new brand addressing an opportunity in the middle of the market it said is underserved.

“Our aim is that this new conversion brand will become the first choice for guests and owners in the midscale segment, accelerating our growth in a space that is already worth $14 billion in the U.S. market alone,” said CEO Elie Maalouf during remarks tied to the company’s quarterly earnings.

The Windsor, UK-based hotel group — whose brands include Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, and Six Senses — didn’t reveal the name of the new brand, which has become IHG’s 19th brand, or other details.

“We’re delighted that more than 100 hotels have already expressed definitive interest in the new brand,” Maalouf said.

Designed for Fast Growth

Maalouf likely wanted to prioritize a conversion brand over a new construction brand to help address IHG’s need to maintain steady growth in its hotel pipeline.

Unlike new-build brands that take time to grow because of construction delays, conversion brands can expand quickly, especially as many independent hotel operators or owners of properties flagged with older brands seek a refresh.

“Conversions represent a major growth opportunity for us, generating around 40% of first-half openings and signings globally,” Maalouf said.

Addressing the Mid-Market

The new brand is Maalouf’s first big move as CEO, having taken the top job last month.

Maalouf had previously led the group’s North American business for 8 years. During that time, he showed an interest in mid-market growth.

Maalouf led his team in debuting the new brand Avid, in 2017, which he said at the time targeted “a vastly underserved $20 billion segment of the U.S. midscale market.” Avid charges roughly $10 to $15 a night less than Holiday Inn Express, IHG’s midscale leader, and less than Candlewood Suites, IHG’s other mid-scale brand. (The difference in market size figures Maalouf has quoted refers to different segments of the overall mid-market.)

Given Maalouf’s sense that the mid-market is underserved, he has prioritized putting another IHG brand on the grid. That said, IHG’s board (on which he’s been a member for years) approved of this initiative before Maalouf became group CEO.

The hotel franchisor already has upper midscale with Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express, so the new brand is likely more affordable.

IHG expects to target around a 25% lower cost per room to convert to the new brand than that for Holiday Inn Express.

Facing Rivals

IHG’s rivals have also been looking at the middle of the market.

  • In June, Marriott International said it would expand into the “affordable midscale” hotel category in North America with a new hotel brand — which it hasn’t yet named. The move came after earlier this year, when it completed its acquisition of City Express, a midscale brand focused on Latin America.
  • Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta said in his second-quarter earnings call that the “mid-market” was what he coveted long-term. “We’re not ashamed of saying we have every intention to have the best brands in every market to serve the mid-market because we think that’s where the most money will be made over the next ten or 20 or 30 years,” Nassetta said.
  • In May, Hyatt unveiled a new brand, Hyatt Studios, in the upper-midscale segment.


Certares Closes $284 Million Fund for Hospitality Real Estate

5 months ago

Certares, a private equity firm that invests in travel, said on Wednesday it had closed its first real estate hospitality fund, with $284 million of equity commitments.

The fund is acquiring hospitality real estate assets in U.S. growth markets. It has already made investments in 10 hotels that together have more than 2,100 keys.

The New York-based investments specialist has invested heavily in travel companies — most prominently American Express Global Business Travel, car rental brand Hertz, the airline Azul, and Liberty Tripadvisor Holdings.

“A targeted real estate strategy is a natural extension of our experience in travel and hospitality,” said Greg O’Hara, founder and senior managing director at Certares.

The 10 hotels that Certares has made investments in include:

  • AC Hotel Santa Rosa Sonoma Wine Country
  • Sea Crest Beach Hotel in Cape Cod
  • Courtyard San Diego Downtown
  • EAST Miami in downtown Miami
  • Ashore Resort & Beach Club in Ocean City, Maryland
  • Doubletree Suites Doheny Beach in Dana Point, California
  • Embassy Suites Midtown Atlanta
  • Hilton San Antonio Hill Country
  • Le Meridien Tampa
  • The ARC Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The fund’s operators can take advantage of Certares’ leisure and business travel distribution assets, which it said “enhance demand and provide market intelligence for the hotels.”

The fund has an active pipeline of new investments, said Nolan Hecht, senior managing director and head of real estate at Certares, in a statement. Hecht previously oversaw hotel investment and asset management at Square Mile Capital Management.


Wyndham Signs 60 New Extended Stay Hotels in North America

5 months ago

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts said on Tuesday it had signed 60 more hotels for its Echo Suites Extended Stay by Wyndham brand in the U.S. and Canada.

That brings the extended-stay brand’s pipeline to 265 hotels, with about 33,000 rooms. It’s the fastest-growing brand in Wyndham’s development pipeline.

The growth is remarkable. Wyndham only formally announced the brand last November, and it doesn’t expect to have its first Echo Suites hotel open until 2024. Few other brands introduced in the past few years have gained such rapid traction with developers.

Wyndham partly credits its success to having worked closely with developers when inventing its prototype — obtaining earlier design buy-in than has been customary. The franchisor also has a commercial strategy of signing multi-unit deals with veteran developers, such as MasterBUILT Hotels in Canada.

“From day one, Wyndham made a point of seeking the input of experienced developers and then actioning on their insights,” said David Donaldson, president and CEO, MasterBUILT Hotels.

For context, read: Why Every Hotel Company Wants an Extended Stay Brand Now and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ Brands, Explained.


Choice Hotels Opens Properties at Faster Pace and Reaffirms Profit Outlook

5 months ago

Choice Hotels, a U.S.-based franchisor, said on Tuesday it had opened an average of more than four hotels a week in the first half of 2023 — a 39% jump year-over-year. The steady onboarding of properties was one reason it reaffirmed its profit forecast for the year despite some industry concerns about leisure demand patterns in the U.S. going into reverse.

Choice Hotels opened 107 hotels in the first half of the year, with an increase in conversion hotel openings of 45% and a rise in new construction hotel openings of 24%. The gains were impressive in a hotel sector where interest rate uncertainty had raised concerns about the willingness of banks to endorse hotel development.

The first-half openings growth was across all segments. Openings in the upscale segment were by 83%, the midscale segment by 42%, the extended stay segment by 50%, and the economy segment by 11%.

“The company remains optimistic about extended stay franchise business growth and expects the number of its extended stay units to increase at an average annual growth rate of more than 15% over the next five years,” it said in a statement.

The positive news helped the company re-commit to its previously provided financial guidance for full-year 2023, where it forecasts net income — a measure of profit — of between $255 and $265 million.

The news is positive at a time when analysts have become more cautious about the hotel sector. For more context, see “Analysts Pare Back Enthusiasm for Hotel Companies.”

Investors closely watch trends in another metric, adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA). The news on that front was also positive relative to its peers.

“In 2024, Choice Hotels expects to generate more than 10% adjusted EBITDA growth at the midpoint, year-over-year, driven by approximately $20 million in incremental contribution from [the merger with] Radisson Hotels Americas as well as organic growth in more revenue intense segments and markets, strong effective royalty rate growth, and other factors.”

For more, see “Choice Hotels’ Brands, Explained.”

What is Choice Hotels?
Choice Hotels International, Inc. is a hotel operator based in Rockville, Maryland. The company operates nearly 7,500 hotels spanning 22 brands, including its flagship upper-midscale brand Comfort and roadside midscale brand Quality Inn. The company’s strategy consists of expanding its portfolio with hotels that generate higher royalties per unit, meaning higher-end properties. In addition to this, Choice Hotels also has a loyalty program known as Choice Privileges.

These are the most relevant articles I found:

Morgan Stanley Flags Headwinds for Hotel Companies – 06/30/2023

Choice Hotels Explores Buying Wyndham: Report – 05/23/2023

The Wyndham-Choice Merger Skeptics – 05/25/2023


Ennismore’s Mondrian Singapore to Open by June 2023

8 months ago

Mondrian Singapore Duxton, a 302-room luxury hotel, has seen its opening delayed by a couple of months. The Straits Times has a fun profile by Louisa Lim of all the frenzy behind-the-scenes in how the joint venture by hotel group Accor and lifestyle brand builder Ennismore aims to get the five-star hotel just right.

An interview with Robert Hauck, the hotel’s general manager, explains how the brand — founded in 1996 by Ian Schrager and featured in the TV series Entourage and songs by rapper 50 Cent — needed to be customized for the local market, such as by obtaining art from Singaporean artists like illustrator Andre Wee.

To make the property a local hit, the manager has hired celebrated talents to lead the house restaurants Christina’s and Canyon Club. These include the 39-year-old Jacquelyn Yvonne Chan, a former Olympian for Malaysia, and the 59-year-old Lim Tow Seng, a tattoed ex-convict whose life has been documented on TV. A fun detail:

“Mr Hauck had vowed to track down “Ah Seng” after spotting him on German television. It took him three months to locate the 59-year-old at his workplace, a bak kut teh shop, and offer him a job.”
He reminisces about the moment: “Ah Seng was very shy and very reluctant. I asked why and he said, ‘I’m afraid… You know, I’m afraid people will look down on me.'”
Today, Ah Seng is the manager for Bistro 126, the hotel’s staff restaurant, and a walking poster child for Mondrian Singapore. “He practically ignited the whole campaign for us,” says Mr Hauck.

Louisa Lim, for The Straits Times

The article echos themes about how lifestyle and luxury hotels need to emphasize locally-relevant and distinctive offerings and create experiences to talk about that were discussed in this video by Ennismore Founder Sharan Pasricha at Skift Global Forum 2022.

Subscribers can read the Straits Times article on Mondrian Singapore Duxton here.




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