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Loews Hotels & Resorts has appointed Oliver Bonke the company’s first chief commercial officer. The appointment is effective today. In his new role, he will oversee Loews’ strategic growth in addition to presiding over sales, marketing, guest-facing technology, and public affairs.

“The newly created positon of a chief commercial officer is vital as Loews experiences a significant growth period,” explained the company’s president and CEO Kirk Kinsell in a statement.

“Commerce is very important to our future, and Oliver brings tremendous experience in many different areas of the lodging industry,” Jonathan Tisch, chairman of Loews Hotels, told LODGING. “Now with him in charge of sales and marketing and other areas that are relevant to commerce, it’s a big commitment to finding additional sources of revenue and finding ways to interact with our guests and really communicate with our team members.” Prior to IHG, Bonke spent 24 years with Starwood Hotels & Resorts, holding several sales, marketing, and operations leadership positions across the globe.

The lodging industry is booming! There are at least 865 hotels, with more than 103,230 rooms, scheduled to open in the United States in 2016, according to STR. With record breaking demand and revenue, building activity has increased dramatically—there are 21 percent more rooms under construction today than there were a year ago. The cities seeing the most activity include New York, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Detroit. To read more, click here.

 

In the Financial Times, Larry Summers asks the question on everyone’s mind: “How much should forecasters and policymakers look to speculative markets as indicators of future prospects? And how alarmed should they be about the prospect of a global slowdown?” While the stock market isn’t the economy, the current volatility has plenty of people seeing signs of 2008. This as investors hope the U.S. stock market can stabilize after a turbulent start to 2016, when the Dow tumbled 6.2 percent over the course of last week. Despite a strong jobs report, U.S. equities markets, as measured by the Wilshire 5000 Total Market Index, suffered a paper loss of $1.5 trillion. Could this all be signaling a recession? Two separate articles ask that question, pointing to the long U.S. recovery growing old in the tooth, the flagging Chinese economy, and high debt levels in emerging markets as proof.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), along with the Maryland Hotel & Lodging Association, Asian American Hotel Owners Association, and several of America’s leading hotel companies, are urging Maryland lawmakers to override a decision by the governor and close an important tax loophole.

In a letter addressed to Maryland senators and delegates, the hotel industry called on them to override Governor Hogan’s veto of SB 190, which closes a tax loophole and ensures online travel companies pay the state’s existing occupancy sales taxes.

“Maryland hotels are an important part of the state’s economy, generating more than $1.2 billion in tax revenue for the state of Maryland alone,” said Katherine Lugar, AH&LA president and CEO. “We urge Maryland’s policy leaders to close the loophole that benefits online travel companies at the expense of in-state hotels employing thousands of Marylanders. Our industry prides itself on being a partner with local communities, and closing this loophole will protect the state’s jobs as well as add new revenue to the state. Now is the time to level the playing field and we encourage the Maryland delegation to do the right thing for the people of Maryland.”

“As Governor Hogan recognized, even as he vetoed the bill, this legislation would not create a new tax, it simply ensures that all companies in the business of booking hotel rooms remit existing sales tax in the same way,” the letter states. “As in many states, consumers in Maryland are required to pay certain sales and occupancy taxes when they stay in a hotel. These taxes support infrastructure and tourism promotion, generate funding for event venue construction, as well as provide general revenue for the state and its counties. Hotels collect sales and occupancy taxes from guests based on the rate charged for use of a room, regardless of the method of booking, and remit that sum to tax authorities.

“In contrast, online travel companies like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity remit sales and occupancy taxes based on just the portion of their charges they turn over to hotels – not the final price they charge consumers. This means a hotel ends up paying more in sales taxes than an online travel company when selling the same room to a guest at the same rate. Online travel companies have taken this unorthodox approach in order to pad their bottom lines, resulting in a loss of revenue for the state while placing brick-and-mortar hotels at a competitive disadvantage.”

The prospect of new Department of Labor regulations has small businesses across the country scrambling to reclassify their employees. This summer, the DOL is expected to issue new rules that include raising the eligibility ceiling for overtime pay from its current $23,660 annually to as high as $50,440. This pay threshold the DOL is planning to set doesn’t account for regional disparity or geographical differences across the country, instead lumping high-cost-of-living areas like New York City and San Francisco in with lower ones like Birmingham, Ala., or Buffalo, N.Y. Some legal experts are predicting that rule changes expanding the definition of who’s entitled to overtime pay, as well as widespread minimum wage hikes and increased regulation of independent contractors, will create a tsunami of employee lawsuits. This is causing companies to look very closely at whether employees are classified correctly as hourly or salaried. Read more here.

NEW YORK—According to a new TravelClick survey, more than half (57.31 percent) of hoteliers said that they are increasing their marketing budgets for 2016, with an increased spend on search engine marketing (23.17 percent), website update/redesign (20.73 percent), online advertising (12.20 percent), and mobile (17.07 percent). In fact, about one-third (35.37 percent) of respondents said that they will experience the most growth in mobile bookings, compared to any other direct booking channel, in 2016 and are increasing spends on mobile specifically to capitalize on this trend as a result.

When asked where hoteliers will place the most resources with respect to mobile, 46.34 percent said that they plan to enhance/improve their mobile websites, 24.39 percent said that they plan to improve their mobile search and 21.95 percent said that they plan to put resources toward social media. Additionally, because mobile will be so popular in the coming year and beyond, nearly half (48.79 percent) of respondents are spending more money on mobile than in previous years.

“It’s clear from the data that hoteliers are expecting to see the most growth in 2016 bookings through hotel websites via mobile, as well as through the GDS and OTA channels,” said John Hach, senior industry analyst, TravelClick. “This is consistent with what TravelClick has seen as part of its quarterly North American Distribution Review reports and shows both the relevance and impact that mobile continues to have on hoteliers around the globe. It is no longer acceptable for hoteliers to leave out mobile as part of their marketing strategies, and the data reflects hoteliers’ acceptance and embrace of mobile as an important way to significantly move the needle for their properties and reach a new group of consumers simultaneously.”

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