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According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, unemployment claims have dropped by an unexpected 6,000 to 247,000 in the week ending April 16. The median forecast called for 265,000 claims. This is the lowest that jobless claims have been since 1973. For more information, click here.

Recently, hotel companies like Hilton WorldwideMarriott International, and Hyatt have offered lower rates on their websites to entice guests to book direct. Now, online travel agent Expedia is claiming that hotel owners are the ones who lose out when chains push for direct booking. Expedia estimates that owners could take a revenue hit of about 8 percent because of the decision to publicly offer loyalty program members lower rates on the company website than on a third-party website. Despite owners saving on distribution costs from direct booking, Expedia says this method could reduce exposure and lead to higher loyalty program costs. However, the choice to push for direct booking is not without reason on the hotel companies’ side–direct booking keeps guests out of the clutches of rogue booking websites (which claim nearly 15 million bookings per year) and can lead to strengthened brand loyalty. To read more on this topic, click here.

Today, Harris Poll released its 28th annual EquiTrend List, recognizing the best brands across several industries. In the travel industry, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hampton by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Microtel Inn & Suites, and W Hotels and Resorts were recognized.

This year, more than 97,000 U.S. consumers assessed more than 3,800 brands across nearly 500 categories. Brands that rank highest in Equity receive the Harris Poll EquiTrend “Brand of the Year” award for their category. Read more here.

While the majority of high-income U.S. travelers (62 percent) have not made any changes to their international travel plans as a result of terrorist activity, a higher percentage of those affluent travelers (12 percent) have canceled a booked trip compared to budget and middle-income travelers, according to a YouGov survey. To view more results, click here.

New data shows that Airbnb is taking off in New Orleans, offering about 4,000 properties in the city. According to InsideAirbnb, about 72 percent of the rentals are entire homes. Similar to other cities, controversy is mounting over how rentals, sometimes operating as illegal hotels, could negatively impact neighborhoods. Read more here.

Real estate developer and founder of Bigelow Aerospace, Robert Bigelow, is looking to build expandable habitats for use in outer space. Faster, cheaper, and easier to launch than metal structures, he anticipates that his habitats will be leasable to business entities and space agencies as early at 2018. To watch a video interview with Bigelow, click here.

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