Day: November 21, 2020

Wheelock Street Capital Announces Acquisition of Hotel Contessa


Wheelock Street Capital announced it has acquired Hotel Contessa, a 265 room, all-suite and AAA Four-Diamond luxury, independent hotel located at 306 West Market Street in San Antonio, TX.

The 12-story hotel, built in 2005, benefits from its central location along San Antonio’s highly sought-after Riverwalk with direct access to many of the city’s top cultural destinations, including The Alamo, San Antonio’s Central Business District and the recently expanded Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. The Property offers 10,000 square feet of function space, a rooftop pool, a full-service restaurant and bar opening directly onto the Riverwalk and a full-service spa. Wheelock plans to complete a full renovation of the ground floor restaurant and bar in the coming months. The hotel currently operates independent of a national brand affiliation and maintains an outsized transient base in one of the nation’s premier drive-to leisure markets.

HEI Hotels & Resorts, a leading national hotel operator with an existing presence in San Antonio, will assume management responsibilities under Wheelock’s ownership.

The acquisition marks Wheelock’s first hotel purchase in the San Antonio market and first since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The property’s historically strong performance, superb location, and superior quality in a top leisure-driven market was a perfect match with our current acquisition criteria and provided us the conviction to execute during an uncertain time in the capital markets,” stated Tim Hodes, Principal and Director of Hotel Investments for Wheelock Street Capital. “We look forward to achieving success at another quality asset with our partners at HEI.”

Hodges Ward Elliott (“HWE”) arranged the sale of Hotel Contessa and advised Wheelock on the financing structure for the acquisition.

About Wheelock Street Capital
Wheelock Street Capital ( ) was formed in 2008 by Rick Kleeman and Jonathan Paul, two veteran real estate private equity investors, each with 30 years of broad real estate transaction experience across all major asset classes. Wheelock has raised over $4 billion in capital commitments from well-known institutional investors and focuses on real estate investment opportunities throughout the United States, in both public and private markets. Wheelock is currently deploying its sixth fund in its value-added series, Wheelock Street Real Estate Fund VI and its first perpetual life fund, Wheelock Street Long Term Value Fund. The Long Term Value Fund targets high-quality, cash-flowing assets with stable, yet attractive risk-adjusted returns over a 5-15 year investment horizon. The firm may invest directly or with high quality joint venture partners through a variety of capital structures and transaction types, including acquisitions, restructurings, and recapitalizations. Wheelock’s investment team benefits from extensive experience from top-tier institutional investment firms and highly regarded real estate operating companies and has produced a 10-year track record of demonstrated and consistent outperformance over industry benchmarks.

About HEI Hotels & Resorts
HEI Hotels & Resorts, headquartered in Norwalk, Conn., is a leading hospitality company that acquires, develops, owns and operates upscale, upper upscale and luxury hotels and resorts, throughout the United States under such well‐known

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Hong Kong To Singapore Travel Bubble Popped By Virus Spike

A planned travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore was scrapped a day before its launch on Saturday after the southern Chinese city announced a sudden spike in coronavirus cases.

The decision is both a blow to the two cities’ battered tourist industries and also for other countries who had been hoping the scheme might be a model to replicate during the pandemic.

The two financial hubs have both suffered mild outbreaks. But with small populations and a heavy dependence on links to the outside world they have been hard hit as the global economy collapsed.

Desperate to help their key tourism and aviation sectors, they came up with the plan allowing limited, quarantine-free travel between the cities as long as visitors test negative for Covid-19.

The travel corridor was set to kick off on Sunday morning.

Hong Kong's tourist industry has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with travel restrictions severely limiting arrivals Hong Kong’s tourist industry has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, with travel restrictions severely limiting arrivals Photo: AFP / Dale DE LA REY

But on Saturday, Hong Kong announced the scheme would have to be delayed for two weeks following a sudden rise in coronavirus infections.

“In the light of recent surge of local cases we have decided, together with the Singapore government, to defer the air travel bubble’s launch by two weeks,” commerce secretary Edward Yau told reporters.

After weeks of single-digit infections, Hong Kong health authorities reported 36 local coronavirus on Saturday.

Crucially, 13 were from unknown transmission sources, prompting fears the city has a new wave of out-of-control infections.

The sudden spike was enough for authorities in both cities to postpone the travel bubble.

“This is a sober reminder that the Covid-19 virus is still with us, and even as we fight to regain our normal lives, the journey will be full of ups and downs,” Singapore transport minister Ong Ye Kung wrote on his Facebook page.

Copyright AFP. All rights reserved.

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The airline industry had hoped for a bustling holiday travel season. It may not happen.

Thanksgiving week was shaping up to be one of the busiest periods for U.S. air travel since the pandemic brought it to a near-standstill in the spring. But a renewed surge in virus cases and increasingly alarming warnings from public health officials are rattling travelers and threatening airlines’ hopes for the holiday weekend and the months ahead.

Airlines argue that flying is generally safe because of the various policies put in place to limit contagion, high-end air filtration aboard planes and the relatively few published cases of coronavirus spread in flight. But the science is far from settled, travelers are still at risk throughout their journey, and many would-be passengers have been discouraged by lockdowns and outbreaks in the places they hoped to visit.

Airlines are already noticing that prospects for passenger demand in the weeks ahead are dimming:

  • On Thursday, United said that bookings had slowed and cancellations had risen in recent days because of the surge in virus cases.

  • Southwest Airlines said last week that booking momentum seemed to be slowing for the rest of the year.

  • American Airlines, which has also seen demand dip because of the virus, has slashed December flights between the United States and Europe, leaving just two daily flights out of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, to London and Frankfurt.

To some extent, the unevenness of the travel recovery comes as little surprise, said Helane Becker, managing director and senior airline analyst at Cowen.

“We always knew that it would be choppy, but that said we think that people want to travel and they’re looking for ways to get out,” Ms. Becker said during a Thursday panel at the Skift Aviation Forum.

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Trump tweets undermine Michigan leaders; images show Chatfield drinking at Trump hotel

Public skepticism that Michigan’s Republican legislative leaders focused on COVID-19 assistance during a Friday meeting with President Donald Trump was only amplified Saturday, when Trump’s tweets implied the election was also a topic of discussion. 

Senator Shirkey arrives in D.C. singing



Photographs of House Speaker Lee Chatfield drinking and sitting, unmasked, with others at the Trump International Hotel — and the lawmakers not elaborating on what, if anything, the president asked about Michigan election results — also drew the ire of people already dubious that the president did not try to persuade the lawmakers in his ongoing efforts to undermine the will of voters. 

a group of people sitting at a table: House Speaker Lee Chatfield, right and Representative Jim Lilly, left have drinks at the Trump Hotel in Washington D.C. November 20, 2020.

© The Undercurrent
House Speaker Lee Chatfield, right and Representative Jim Lilly, left have drinks at the Trump Hotel in Washington D.C. November 20, 2020.

More: Michigan GOP leaders say COVID-19 assistance, not election, focus of White House meeting


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More: Michigan Speaker Chatfield: ‘I won’t apologize’ for meeting with President Trump

Chatfield, R-Levering, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, met Friday afternoon at the White House with Trump. After the meeting, the pair issued a statement that said, in part, “we have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan.”

President-elect Joe Biden earned approximately 154,000 more votes in the state than Trump. 

However, Trump tweeted twice Saturday, responding to both lawmakers with more unfounded allegations of fraud and misconduct in Michigan. 

“This is true, but much different than reported by the media. We will show massive and unprecedented fraud!” Trump tweeted in response to Shirkey tweeting out his statement. 

In response to a Chatfield tweet, Trump tweeted, “Massive voter fraud will be shown!”

More: Trump withdraws federal lawsuit in Michigan, citing Wayne County canvasser affidavits

More: Donald Trump called Monica Palmer after Wayne County Board of Canvassers meeting

The Trump campaign and supporters have failed repeatedly, both in court and in press conferences, to present any evidence or proof of widespread fraud. Instead, their allegations have either been deemed not credible but judges or racist by a litany of people, including Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, Michigan Democratic Party Chairwoman Lavora Barnes and others. 

a large clock on the side of a building: Projections of messages to Republican election officials from Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield during their visit to the White House light up the front of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.

© André Chung
Projections of messages to Republican election officials from Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey and Speaker of the House Lee Chatfield during their visit to the White House light up the front of the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Leading up to the White House meeting, Chatfield and Shirkey faced an enormous public backlash for agreeing to see the president. Chatfield, who appeared repeatedly with Trump at events in Michigan ahead of Election Day, defended the decision. 

Chatfield, Shirkey and other Michigan lawmakers, including House Speaker-elect Justin Wentworth, R-Clare, appeared to be staying at Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C. Images emerged online hours after the White House meeting showing Chatfield and several other men 

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Iran shuts down businesses, restricts travel as it faces the Middle East’s worst COVID-19 outbreak

Iran took the drastic step of closing its businesses and restricting internal travel as Tehran battles against the region’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

Hassan Rouhani looking at the camera: Iran shuts down businesses, restricts travel as it faces the Middle East's worst COVID-19 outbreak

© Getty Images
Iran shuts down businesses, restricts travel as it faces the Middle East’s worst COVID-19 outbreak

Iranian officials had already issued guidance urging residents to wear masks and avoid nonessential travel, but with a confirmed case tally of more than 840,000 and a death toll of more than 430 over the past five days, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani indicated more stringent action was needed.

“If in the past people were told to follow the health protocols to ensure their own and relatives’ health, and to reduce the pressure on the medical staff, today, in addition to those recommendations, everyone must carefully follow the health principles to avoid economic pressure as soon as possible,” he said in a statement.

“In the implementation of the comprehensive plan, all institutions must work together,” he added. “Everyone should help in this regard, especially those who are in quarantine.”

Video: IAEA Director on Iran Deal: ‘This is a Very Important Day’ (NBC News)

IAEA Director on Iran Deal: ‘This is a Very Important Day’



The new lockdown measures include closing most businesses, shops, malls and restaurants, and officials designated nearly 160 towns and cities as hot spots between which travel by private car is suspended.


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The closures are currently slated to last for two weeks, though the government has the option of extending them should it deem it necessary.

Rouhani noted that the restrictions would have a negative economic impact and that the government would look to provide a stimulus for 30 million people. But he expressed confidence that the measures would help curb the rapid spread of the virus.

“If we carefully implement the comprehensive plan with the requirements mentioned above, there will be no need for even a one-hour shutdown, and there is no doubt that by following the instructions and requirements, we can shorten the shutdown period and reduce the spread of the disease,” he said.

However, Tehran’s health efforts could be hindered by a government shake-up in the midst of the alarming outbreak. Iranian newspapers said Saturday that Reza Malekzadeh, the deputy health minister in charge of research, and Ali Nobakht, an adviser to the health minister, resigned from their posts in response to remarks from Minister of Health Saeed Namaki that government research was unsuccessful, according to The Associated Press.

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Hamilton proposes halving fees for sports groups using city recreation facilities

Hamilton is proposing to give users of its gyms and arenas a financial break as the city is forced to limit the number of people who can use its recreation facilities because of provincial health measures.

The city’s emergency and community services committee approved Mountain Coun. Tom Jackson’s Nov. 19 motion to cut user fees by half for the public, retroactive to Nov. 16, as long as Hamilton remains in the red or “control” category, which is scheduled to end on Dec. 15.

“The health of our community is absolutely paramount,” said Jackson.

Chris Herstek, director of recreation, said that an hour of ice time is $178.63 while one hour of gym time is $55.55. He said user groups would only pay half those amounts.

It is unknown what the total cost will be for cutting the fees and how the loss revenue will impact the 2021 recreation budget. But Jackson said the city could use a portion of the $45 million the city is expected to receive from the province in coronavirus-related relief to help cover any deficit.

Councillors will vote on the recommendation at their Nov. 25 meeting.

Jackson’s motion came after staff reopened additional arenas beyond the twin-pads buildings, which were opened at the end of August, to include single-pad facilities to accommodate ice user groups’ needs.

The arenas now open include Bill Friday (Lawfield) Arena, Carlisle Arena, Glanbrook Arena, Inch Park Arena, Mountain Skating Centre, Pat Quinn Arena, Rosedale Arena, Spring Valley Arena and Westoby (Olympic) Arena.

In addition, the city is opening Beverly Arena for volleyball and Coronation Arena and Saltfleet Arena for basketball groups from Nov. 30 until May 2021.

Eastwood Arena and Stoney Creek Arena are unavailable for any activity until May 2021.

“We have been working with user groups and as the demand for ice increases, we are opening up additional arenas,” said Herstek.

He said volleyball and basketball organizations have been requesting that the city open other facilities so they can accommodate their players.

But under the red or “control” provincial health measures, there is a limit of 10 people per facility, including coaches and players, and only practicing and training are allowed. Herstek said the 10-person limit applies to all recreation facilities whether it is a single-pad arena such as Lawfield Arena or the larger Mohawk 4 Ice Centre.

“With 10 people, for some user groups it will be a hardship,” said Herstek.

Prior to the staff report being written, Herstek said, the limit for a facility was 25 people. The province moved Hamilton into the red category on Nov. 16 because of the rising number of coronavirus cases.

“Oh my goodness,” said Jackson. “Something seems wrong with that picture.”

The city’s recreation staff has also been juggling extra requests from user groups after both the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board and the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board informed the city in September that their gyms would not be available to the city or other community groups.



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Israel Welcomes End to Convicted U.S. Spy Pollard’s Travel Ban | World News

JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Israeli leaders on Saturday welcomed the U.S. decision to end parole restrictions on Jonathan Pollard, a former U.S. Navy intelligence officer who served 30 years in prison after being convicted of spying for Israel.

The U.S. Justice Department’s parole commission decided on Friday to allow a travel ban on Pollard to expire. The move was seen by some as a parting gift from the Trump administration to its ally Israel.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu welcomes the lifting of the restrictions on Jonathan Pollard,” a statement from the Israeli leader’s office said.

“The Prime Minister thanked Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer for responsibly and sensitively leading the contacts with the administration. The Prime Minister hopes to see Jonathan Pollard in Israel soon,” the statement said.

Pollard pleaded guilty in 1986 to conspiracy to commit espionage in connection with providing Israeli contacts with hundreds of classified documents he had obtained as a naval intelligence specialist in exchange for thousands of dollars.

He was sentenced in 1987 to life in prison. After serving 30 years, which included time in custody following his 1985 arrest, he was released on parole in 2015 under terms which dictated he remain in the U.S. for five years.

Pollard, 66, has sought to move to Israel, which granted him citizenship while in prison and had long pushed for his release. The espionage affair strained U.S.-Israel relations for decades.

Netanyahu’s statement was echoed by other Israeli ministers and by President Ruvi Rivlin.

“Over the years we have shared in Jonathan Pollard’s pain, and felt a responsibility and commitment to bring about his release. Now we will be able to welcome him and his family home,” Rivlin said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Mike Harrison)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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Two travel giants raised $4 Billion to ride out the pandemic. Only one needed it.

For travelers looking to book a flight or hotel room, and look a lot alike. Yet the two fared very differently when the coronavirus pandemic shut down travel, thanks to different strategies behind their websites.

Revenue has plunged at both Booking Holdings Inc. and Expedia Group Inc. this year. Each company moved quickly to raise about $4 billion in the spring to navigate the crisis. Expedia ended the third quarter with double the debt it started the year with, while Booking wound up with a bigger cash cushion.

The cash imbalance illustrates how differently the two rivals operated their online travel services. Expedia often collected cash upfront from hotel travelers, and when those customers canceled, the company had to pay them back. By contrast, Booking didn’t charge upfront as often for hotel stays, so had less to refund when cancellations occurred.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
BKNG BOOKING HOLDINGS INC. 1,992.77 -18.20 -0.91%
EXPE EXPEDIA GROUP, INC. 119.90 -4.06 -3.28%


With Covid-19 cases surging, some countries have imposed new restrictions and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised Americans not to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday. But executives at Booking and Expedia said earlier this month that they survived the worst of the pandemic and feel optimistic about news of promising vaccine candidates. The travel giants have ample cash reserves and have no plans to change business strategies, they said.

“If you run out of your cash, it’s like if you’re a human being and you run out of blood. You’re dead,” Booking Chief Executive Glenn Fogel said in an interview. Early on in the pandemic, he said, Booking executives started looking at financial models to estimate how much they needed to survive for one or two years with no revenue. Booking sold $4 billion worth of bonds in April.

Though revenue plunged over the summer and the company had to issue some refunds, most of the cash Booking raised in the spring added to its reserves. Booking had $11.2 billion in cash at Sept. 30, about $4 billion more than it did on March 31.

Expedia, which generated about 80% as much revenue as Booking did in 2019, held a smaller cash cushion before the crisis and burned through much of the funds raised in the spring.

Revenue has plunged at both Booking Holdings Inc. and Expedia Group Inc. this year. (Gabby Jones/Bloomberg via Getty Images)


Expedia ended the third quarter with about $5.1 billion in cash, roughly what it held in the first quarter — but significantly more debt. Where Booking’s net debt — or total debt minus cash and cash equivalents — has decreased by almost half over that time, Expedia’s net debt rose by 73%.

“We knew that things were bad. We didn’t know how long they’d

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The Economics of Outdoor Recreation

Outdoor recreation is not only intrinsic to the Montana lifestyle, it is also one of the most crucial parts of the state’s economy, a point that was again underscored in a new report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), which listed the Treasure State as a top contributor to the nation’s gross domestic product in revenue generated by outdoor activities.

According to the report released last week, the outdoor recreation economy accounted for $459.8 billion of the country’s national gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019, or 2.1%. Combined with new data from 2018, the burgeoning industry’s two-year contribution to the country’s economic output is $788 billion, supporting 5.2 million jobs.

The new BEA data don’t include analysis of the outsized impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the outdoor recreation industry, which suffered as stores and manufacturing plants shut down and national and state parks closed or adjusted operations. In May, the U.S. Census Bureau ranked the industry as the second most affected by the coronavirus-inducted downturn, behind the food and accommodations sector, according to Lise Aangeenbrug of the Outdoor Industry Association.

But Aangeenbrug said a new survey of the national trade organization’s members shows the financial impacts are beginning to ease as the options for outdoor recreation outweigh more conventional entertainment and vacation avenues, which remain limited.

“The BEA release of economic data comes at a time when the health and wellness benefits of recreation cannot be overstated,” Aangeenbrug said. “A recent poll showed 69% of Americans have gained a renewed appreciation for the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. People want to get outside for their physical and mental health.”

From bikes and boats to bows and arrows, the surging sales of outdoor recreation gear will likely figure prominently into the 2020 economic picture, particularly in terms of resilience, Aangeenbrug said.

“What’s more, they yearn for social connection, which they can find through safely distanced activities in neighborhood parks or national parks,” she added. “Now more than ever, we need the outdoors.”

For its part, Montana’s outdoor recreation economy contributed $2.5 billion and employed 31,598 people, while making up 4.7% of Montana’s total economy. That places Montana near the top ranking for its size, placing third behind Hawaii, which linked 5.8 percent of its GDP to the growing outdoor recreation economy, and Vermont, with 5.2%.

“In Montana we understand the far reaching benefits and impacts of a healthy and vibrant outdoor recreation economy on nearly every facet of our lives and livelihoods,” said Rachel Schmidt, director of the Montana Governor’s Office of Outdoor Recreation. “Having this economic data is vitally important to forming the best policy decisions to support and enhance the recreation economy at every level of government in the country.”

Montana is one of 11 states in which outdoor recreation accounted for 3.1% or more of a state’s economy.

Further, in real gross output, compensation and employment grew faster in the outdoor recreation economy than the national economy as a whole,

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Columbia University bans 70 students for Covid-19 travel violations

Columbia University says it has temporarily banned at least 70 students for violating the New York City school’s Covid-19 travel policy.

a group of people walking in front of a building: MBA students from Columbia University in New York City traveled to Turks and Caicos.

© Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
MBA students from Columbia University in New York City traveled to Turks and Caicos.

The MBA students traveled to Turks and Caicos, according to Columbia University spokesman Christopher Cashman.

That violated the school’s Covid-19 health compact, a protocol which restricts any official or organized group travel until further notice, Cashman said.

“The Turks & Caicos trip was a group event that violated this policy and thus was met with disciplinary action,” Cashman said.

Coronavirus case counts are surging, with 2.7 million new infections since the beginning of November. Friday alone saw more than 195,500, the most in a single day yet. More than 250,000 Americans have died from Covid-19.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that Americans should not travel for Thanksgiving, and has posted updated guidelines for safely celebrating the holiday.

Cashman said the students can’t enter campus until December 1. They must complete their academic obligations by attending class virtually.

If the students violate the policy again, they are subject to harsher discipline, Cashman said.

“All of this is being done to protect the broader health of our community and, thankfully, to date our positive case rate remains low,” Cashman said.

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