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Ever since Marriott International announced plans to acquire Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide back in November, the industry has been buzzing about the merger that would create the world’s largest hotel company. Hotel News Now Editorial Director Jeff Higley combed through a 295-page regulatory filing to find the 15 most interesting facts related to the deal. While some reports indicate that more than 30 companies reached out or were contacted during the process, Higley says it came down to Marriott and 10 others that expressed serious interest in Starwood. The $12.2 billion deal is expected to close mid-year. Read more of his takeaways here.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), the sole national association representing all segments of the nearly two million-employee lodging industry, has issued a statement following votes in both chambers of Maryland’s General Assembly to override the veto by Governor Hogan of SB 190, closing a loophole for online travel companies and ensuring they pay their fair share of taxes on rooms booked online.

“The hotel industry applauds Maryland senators and delegates for overriding Governor Hogan’s veto of legislation that protects Maryland’s jobs and secures millions of dollars in uncollected tax revenue that supports so much of the infrastructure, tourism promotion, local development and economic growth in communities across the state. This commonsense legislation marks an important step forward in creating a level playing field by ensuring online travel companies will no longer exploit this tax loophole. They will now be required to pay the same occupancy taxes as hotels do,” said Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

“Our industry prides itself on being a partner with communities across the state of Maryland, and the Maryland Hotel & Lodging Association (MH&LA) is absolutely essential to building those relationships and driving growth in the state. Maryland hotels generate more than $1.2 billion in tax revenue, and through the leadership of the President & CEO of the MH&LA Amy Rohrer, as well as Marriott International, and our member properties across the state, Maryland’s legislators recognized the importance to right this wrong and close a loophole that has benefited online travel companies at the expense of in-state hotels employing thousands of Marylanders.”

To view the hotel industry’s contributions to economic growth and job creation in Maryland, please click here.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) recently released its 2015 Visa Openness Report, which shows that the percentage of the world’s population that needed a visa to travel in 2015 dropped 14 percent from the percentage required in 1980. The UNWTO report includes several charts that illustrate the different ways visa programs have changed in the last 35 years. To view the charts, click here.

Airbnb has sparked controversy within the Palestinian community for failing to mention that their properties listed are located in West Bank—occupied land claimed by the Palestinians. The Palestinians argue that by contributing to the settlement economy, Airbnb and other companies conducting business in the West Bank are perpetuating Israel’s settlement enterprise, placing Airbnb in the crossfire of the increasingly hostile global boycott movement, which has introduced Mideast politics into the shared economy. To read more, click here.

The performance of U.S. hotels has become increasingly influenced by changes in the global economy, according to CBRE. Despite a relatively weak recovery in the United States, the unemployment rate is holding steady at 5 percent and wage growth is starting to pick up, said Richard Barkham, chief global economist for CBRE, in a video interview. While the health of the economy is good for domestic tourism, the rising dollar might stifle overseas demand for the U.S. lodging industry, particularly in gateway cities and higher-end hotels, Barkham explained. To watch the video, click here.

Carlson, owner of brands that are part of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, is exploring a potential sale as it considers strategic alternatives for the hotel company, reports the Wall Street Journal. The company is also allegedly considering a merger or partnership. Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group includes Radisson Hotels, Park Plaza Hotels, and Country Inns and Suites.

Carlson Rezidor has more than 1,100 hotels worldwide, making it one of the world’s largest hotel companies. Carlson was not available for comment.

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