Day: November 12, 2020

Business travel industry braces for a post-pandemic new normal

Brian Contreras represents the worst fears of the lucrative business travel industry.

A partner account executive at a U.S. tech company, Contreras was used to traveling frequently for his employer. But nine months into the pandemic, he and thousands of others are working from home and dialing into video conferences instead of boarding planes.

Contreras manages his North American accounts from Sacramento and doesn’t expect to travel for work until the middle of next year. Even then, he’s not sure how much he will need to.

“Maybe it’s just the acceptance of the new normal. I have all of the resources necessary to be on the calls, all of the communicative devices to make sure I can do my job,” he said. “There’s an element of face-to-face that’s necessary, but I would be OK without it.”

That trend could spell big trouble for hotels, airlines, convention centers and other industries that rely so heavily on business travelers like Contreras.

Work travel represented 21% of the $8.9 trillion spent on global travel and tourism in 2019, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council.

Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Ed Bastian recently suggested business travel might settle into a “new normal” that is 10% to 20% lower than it used to be.

“I do think corporate travel is going to come back faster than people suspect. I just don’t know if it will be come back to the full volume,” Bastian told the Associated Press. Right now, Delta’s business travel revenue is down 85%.

MBC Group, a Dubai company that operates 18 television stations, says it’s unlikely employees will travel as often once the pandemic ends because they’ve proved they don’t need to.

“We have managed to deliver projects and negotiate deals very successfully, though remotely,” MBC spokesman Mazen Hayek said. MBC has reduced trips by more than 85%, Hayek said.

Amazon, which told it employees to stop traveling in March, says it has saved nearly $1 billion in travel expenses so far this year. The online shopping giant, with more than 1.1 million employees, is the second-largest employer in the U.S.

At Southwest Airlines, CEO Gary Kelly said that although overall passenger revenue is down 70%, business travel — normally more than one-third of Southwest’s traffic — is off 90%.

“I think that’s going to continue for a long time. I’m very confident it will recover and pass 2019 levels, I just don’t know when,” Kelly told the AP.

U.S. hotels relied on business travel for around half their revenue in 2019, or closer to 60% in big cities such as Washington, said Cindy Estis Green, the CEO of hospitality data firm Kalibri Labs.

Peter Belobaba, who teaches airline management at MIT, said business travel is down partly because some people are afraid to fly and partly because companies fear liability if employees contract COVID-19 while traveling for work.

Companies have also reined in travel because times are lean, he said. ExxonMobil cut business travel in February — even before

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Sonoma County Buys Hotel To House Homeless Vulnerable To COVID

SONOMA COUNTY, CA — The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors approved the purchase Tuesday of a hotel in downtown Santa Rosa for $7.95-million. The hotel will house homeless people who are most vulnerable to developing COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Funds for the purchase of Hotel Azura, 635 Healdsburg Ave., were supplied by the state of California through its Project Homekey program, county officials said Tuesday in a news release.

Once escrow closes next week, the county will convert Hotel Azura into interim housing using Project Homekey funds secured by the county earlier this year.

Hotel Azura has 44 recently remodeled rooms in the center of Santa Rosa, with capacity to house 66 people.

“Adding Hotel Azura into our housing portfolio will give us the opportunity to bring more of our COVID-19 vulnerable individuals who are experiencing homelessness into supportive housing, with a path to permanent housing,” said Susan Gorin, chair of the Board of Supervisors Susan Gorin. ”I applaud the state for helping counties pursue housing that truly meets people’s needs, with supportive services and access to grocery stores, medical services and transportation.”

The county will give priority for the housing resource to people experiencing homelessness who are most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Those housed at the hotel will participate in the county’s ACCESS — Accessing Coordinated Care to Empower Self Sufficiency— Initiative, which county officials described as an innovative program that provides individualized, integrated services to individuals experiencing homelessness based on their needs and supports.

The county and community programs provide wraparound and holistic care and interventions, which are critical to improving well-being and self-sufficiency, county officials said. Services include primary health care, behavioral health services and supports, economic assistance, food assistance, employment training and other services. These resources and services are key determinants of successful housing placement and the permanency of these placements, the county said.

Also on Tuesday, supervisors also approved the purchase of the Sebastopol Inn, pending funding from the state. Because of the large number of applications the state has received for Project Homekey, the Sebastopol Inn application is on a waitlist for funding.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Project Homekey in June, and in July made $600 million in funding available. Of that, $550 million has been provided to cities and counties by California’s direct allocation of the federal Coronavirus Aid Relief Funds, with an additional $50 million provided by the state to supplement the acquisition and provide initial operating funds.

This article originally appeared on the Petaluma Patch

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‘Italian-inspired’ boutique hotel proposed for old Maria’s Pastry location in North End

A boutique Italian hotel complete with a rooftop terrace and two new restaurants could soon take up residence along Cross Street where for decades the beloved Maria’s Pastry Shop stood.

“The intent is to build an Italian-inspired boutique hotel pulling from the culture of the North End and essentially knitting back the fabric of the edge of the neighborhood,” said William Caulder of 6M Development, which is proposing the project.

The six-story, 135-room hotel would be located along Cross Street between Endicott and Salem streets, beside the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

Caulder, a North End resident of more than 15 years, pledged his latest project would stay true to the flavor of the Italian culture of the neighborhood.

The facade would mirror the brick facades peppering the area. Caulder has plans for two street-level restaurants — one that would give preference to North End restaurateurs — and a rooftop terrace that will occupy the top floor and have sprawling views of the greenway and North End.

It’s also likely to have a banquet space and includes plans for an open-air, publicly accessible passageway connecting the greenway to Cutillo Park.

“We want to preserve the Italian culture here,” Caulder said.

He said he opted to build a hotel rather than residential housing in an effort to keep the views “in the public realm.”

Caulder said he is “in talks” with several well-known Boston hoteliers, but hasn’t decided yet whether the hotel will operate independently or under a corporate flag.

In an Oct. 30 letter of intent to the Boston Planning & Development Agency, project manager Kate Moniz of Fort Point Associates said the 87,142-square-foot hotel would serve to help address “Boston’s growing hospitality demands by supplying needed hotel rooms at a gateway location.”

The project requires BPDA approval.

The hotel would take over the line of empty storefronts once anchored by the iconic Maria’s Pastry Shop, which for 37 years was lauded as one of the North End’s top pasticcerias.

Owner Maria Merola hung up her apron for good last October. The pastry chef had churned out cannolis, panettones, zeppoles and more Italian delights at the location for 50 years — working for the previous owner, Modern Pastry, before she bought the business.

The hotel would be Caulder’s second large development project in Boston. His firm, 6M Development, previously built the Seville Boston Harbor, a 66-unit condo complex in East Boston.

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Midvale mayor fights plan to use hotel for homeless winter overflow

MIDVALE — Already faced with Utah’s first heavy snowfall, Salt Lake County homeless officials this week had hoped to finalize details on two facilities to help house the homeless as part of a winter overflow plan.

But then, Midvale Mayor Robert Hale publicly voiced opposition to using a hotel — the La Quinta Inn east of the Midvale Family Family Shelter on 7200 South — as part of that plan.

“What can we do to request a change?” Hale asked during the State Homeless Coordinating Committee meeting on Tuesday. State officials, in response, told him the decision was up to the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness.

The coalition has spent months trying to come up with a solution to bring the homeless camping on the streets out of the cold, after Salt Lake City leaders promised last year’s winter shelter, the Sugar House Temporary Shelter, would be just that — temporary. It shuttered in April.

Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has further strained Utah’s homeless system, putting pressure on homeless resource centers’ ability to fill their beds to capacity while keeping clients safe and socially distant. Salt Lake County has also executed contracts with other hotels to house homeless who are at “high-risk” to COVID-19.

But Hale, in an interview with the Deseret News on Wednesday, said the small, 6-square-mile city of Midvale can’t take any more impacts from homelessness, already the host of the 300-bed Midvale Family Shelter just across I-15. Another 140 homeless adults housed in the hotel, Hale said, would put too much pressure on Midvale’s already strained police resources.

“It’s not that I dislike the homeless. I feel for them. I love them as a brother,” Hale said, explaining how he and his wife on multiple occasions have helped house and feed homeless individuals under their own roof. “But when the county drops a bombshell on us of putting up to 140 homeless into a motel … it’s going to overwhelm our little city.”

Hale said if that many more homeless individuals are housed in Midvale, “it’s going to bring additional issues that we are not able to provide safety from.” He said that area around the La Quinta, including the nearby Motel 6, is already a “crime hotspot” that “keeps our police very busy.”

Jean Hill, co-chair of the Salt Lake Valley Coalition to End Homelessness, said the Midvale mayor had raised some concerns during a walk-through of the La Quinta a week ago, but she was caught off guard by his public opposition.

“We thought we addressed those concerns,” she said.

Hill said the coalition “carefully reviewed” eight sites in multiple cities using a series of criteria created based on experiences last winter.

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