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WASHINGTON, D.C.—President and CEO Katherine Lugar of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) issued this statement following President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address:

“Tonight, by hailing the progress of economic growth and robust job creation, President Obama touted the resilience and success of our nation and spoke to the power of our workers and small businesses. He noted that we are ‘in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history.’ Our industry knows this well. With more than five years of consecutive growth and job creation, employing nearly 2 million workers nationwide, the hotel industry has been one of the key drivers of economic growth across the country. The lodging industry is a leader in strengthening our communities and fostering a track to upward mobility and fast-track promotions for those seeking long-term employment with good pay and benefits and the chance to quickly climb the ladder of opportunity. And though we are encouraged that the President strives to sustain the nation’s economic prosperity in the final year of his presidency, we urge the Administration to support public policy that empowers business growth, entrepreneurial ambitions, and certainty rather than implement onerous regulations that could small business owners.

“Critical to generating and maintaining the backbone of our economic resurgence are innovations in technology, which boost the economy and all industries, including ours. As an industry that is constantly innovating to improve the guest experience, we agree with President Obama that there’s a great need to ensure technological advancements strike a balance between privacy and security. Moreover, there should be a level playing field as newer players enter the marketplace when operating in the lodging sector. Only by working together can these critical issues be addressed in a comprehensive way.

“As President Obama begins his final year in the White House, we encourage the President to work hand-in-hand with Congress on bipartisan policy initiatives that bolster our economy, increase innovation, and create the certainty necessary for our industry to continue to invest in our local communities and jobs. We look forward to working with the White House and Congress towards advancing our common goals aimed at strengthening the communities we serve every day.

earlAUSTIN-Texas—Hyatt Regency Austin, located on the shores of Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin, has announced that its security representative, Earl Smith, has been invited to attend the State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 12. Smith will be seated in the private guest box of First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Dr. Jill Biden, and Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president.

Smith first met President Barack Obama when the then-senator was campaigning in Texas in 2008 and stayed at Hyatt Regency Austin. Smith met Obama in an elevator and gave the senator a military patch from his time served in Vietnam as part of the 101st Airborne Division. After holding onto the patch for more than 40 years, Smith presented the patch to Obama as a token of good luck to keep him safe on his journey as he continued on the campaign trail. The president carried the patch in his pocket for the rest of the campaign, and later invited Smith to the Oval Office to tell him how the patch and his story had impacted him.

“We are very proud of Mr. Smith and the profound impact he has made on not only the President of the United States but to everyone who has heard his incredible story,” said Michael Murphy, general manager at Hyatt Regency Austin. “Mr. Smith continuously demonstrates true compassion and care for each guest who stays at the hotel, and strives to make a difference in the lives of everyone he meets. He is a true example of Hyatt’s core value of caring for people so they can be their best, and we are honored to have such remarkable person as part of our team.”

Smith has worked in the hotel industry for more than 40 years. He began his career as a room attendant cleaning rooms and sorting guest room sheets and towels. He worked his way up to management positions and was hired as the hotel assistant manager at Hyatt Regency Austin in 1998. He has worked in the security department since that time holding a number of positions including security director. Smith recently received the 2015 Hyatt Regency Icon Award, an award which recognizes outstanding individuals within the hotel. He was also honored with the 2015 Austin Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) Carl McKee Hospitality Person of the Year Award, which honors the best in hospitality and service throughout the Austin-area.

Richard Solomons, CEO of IHG, stopped by Bloomberg Television’s “The Pulse” to discuss the company’s growth, especially in the booming Chinese hospitality marketplace. “The Chinese are traveling more on business, they’re traveling more on leisure as the country opens up,” explained Solomons. “The Chinese government has described travel and tourism as the fifth pillar of economic growth, so they’re investing behind it. So hotels are getting built.” Currently, IHG has 200 hotels in China, with about 200 more in the pipeline. To watch the video, click here.

Airbnb sent out letters this week urging its hosts in San Francisco to register with city hall and report on their rental activity every quarter. This move comes after city officials questioned how committed short-term online rental marketplaces like Airbnb were to enforcing San Francisco’s voluntary registration requirements. Currently the company doesn’t have a mechanism for verifying if any of its hosts have registered. After defeating a ballot measure in October that would have created a system to ensure room-sharing hosts paid hotel taxes, reported revenue, and followed city codes, Airbnb vowed to promote “responsible home sharing.” However the company has proven reluctant to block illegal rentals from its platform, leaving cities like San Francisco and New York to chase after illegal hotels. To read more, click here.

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.


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