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.
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.