Tag: Business

Taiwan and New Zealand show business travel’s future

They handed out the New Zealand CIO Awards in Auckland’s Civic Theatre last week. For those of us locked down in the northern hemisphere, the photos come from a glittering world. There are 650 people crowded into the pre-event drinks, leaning in to make themselves heard. A few are posing arm in arm. Astonishingly, someone is reaching for a canapé from a proffered tray. There are no masks.

This may be a view of our past, but perhaps also our future, when we, like New Zealand, have controlled the virus. The country has suffered 25 Covid-19 deaths. Life has a normality denied to much of the world. What can it teach us about business travel post-Coronavirus? Was Bill Gates right when he said business travel would be down 50 per cent on its pre-pandemic level?

I became interested in travel patterns in largely coronavirus-free countries when I spoke to Steven Pan, chairman of the Regent Hotels Group. He is based in Taiwan, which has suffered just seven deaths. Pan told me that local business travel was returning — in interesting ways.

Conference attendance in Taiwan was well down. People had discovered they could attend remotely. Intra-company office visits were also less common than pre-virus, but Pan told me he thought corporate leaders with subsidiaries in countries across Asia, with their differences in language and culture, would need to resume travelling to their offices to make sure company messages were heard. In the US and Europe, where multinationals largely operated in English, intra-company visits would not make a big comeback. The real business travel boom was in sales; you can’t close deals on Zoom.

New Zealanders are seeing similar patterns. Domestic travel has risen. International passenger numbers at Auckland airport were down 97 per cent in September and October compared with the same months last year. But domestic numbers, down by 53 per cent in September, were down only 35 per cent in October.

What business travel are New Zealanders doing? Darrin Grafton, chief executive of Serko, a travel technology company, says he has seen a pick-up in off-site meetings, as companies reintroduce team members to each other. This is necessary because not everyone has gone back to the office. Nick Queale, general manager for corporate travel at Flight Centre Travel Group, says many have settled into a pattern of three days a week at home and two in the office.

In spite of events such as the CIO awards, Queale said conference-going seemed an unnecessary expense to many companies. Travel for intra-company visits is still subdued. But face-to-face training was returning, as was travelling to conclude deals. Companies were taking a hard look at what travel was necessary and examining the return on investment. How vital they thought travel was varied by sector. Demand for travel in mining and manufacturing was particularly strong.

What would happen when New Zealand

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Travel agents in Mideast, Africa say UAE is blocking visas | St. Louis business news

Saeed Mohammed, an agent at Arabian Nights Tours in Dubai, said he frequently faces difficulties obtaining UAE entry visas for Iranians, Turkish citizens and those from Yemen’s rebel-held capital due to simmering political tensions. The UAE’s recent normalization deal with Israel, which now allows Israelis to visit the emirate’s skyscraper-studded cities visa-free, has cast a spotlight on a changing Middle East. Gulf leaders have come to see Israel, a former enemy, as a key ally against the shared threats of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Despite long-standing visa troubles, Mohammed said he’s never seen the 100% visa rejection rate of the past week, with some dozen visitor visas denied each day from Yemen, Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan and other countries.

“We can only assume that there has been some change in the law, but in reality, no one knows,” he said.

Mohammad Hosseini, Iran’s Chargé d’Affaires in the UAE, wrote on Twitter Thursday that he’s following up with the Emirati Foreign Ministry after hearing the visa ban applies to 13 countries “temporarily and until further notice.” A travel agent in Tehran said Iranians hadn’t received visas to enter the UAE since early August.

One travel agent in Istanbul said she wasn’t at all surprised by the ban, especially given the UAE’s growing trend of rejecting Turkish visas over the past few months — the result of a political rivalry, not the coronavirus, she added.

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New business on Hill, thanks to vacation down south

by Len Lear

Walter Lapidus, 50, a Wyndmoor resident, his wife, Margie Scherzer, and daughters, Daria, 18, and Jordan, 16, went on vacation a couple years ago to Nashville and New Orleans. “My daughters ate at a place that serves fruit bowls and smoothies,” said Walter, “and they loved it. I figured that if they liked it so much, there must be a demand for that type of place, so when we got home, I did some research and found the nearest place like it was on Route 63, but nothing in Chestnut Hill or Mt. Airy, so I decided to open one.”

Walter learned about Bahia Bowls Açaí Café, a franchise operation founded in 2017 in Southwest Florida in the “fast casual” healthy dining space. Its stores offer an assortment of all-natural “Superfruit” bowls, Smoothies and other specialty products. (The açaí palm is a species of South American palm tree cultivated for its fruit, hearts of palm, leaves and wood. Global demand for the fruit, which is sweet, tasty and full of fiber and antioxidants, has expanded rapidly in the 21st century.)

So Walter and two partners, Michael Dvorkin and Boris Karol, decided to buy a franchise from Bahia Bowls. (All three partners are originally from the former Soviet Union, and Dvorkin and Lapidus are partners in another business, Anchor Realty, based in Northeast Philadelphia.)

In August of last year the Chestnut Hill Community Association voted to officially support the variance for a Bahia Bowls takeout operation at 8136 Germantown Ave., formerly the site of a sit-down restaurant that closed a few years ago.

Bahia Bowls opened to the public on July 10 with mostly curbside pickup or delivery by Grubhub or Doordash. “It is not something people will drive a long distance for,” said Lapidus. “We figure that customers come from two-and-a-half miles in either direction. We are actively looking at another location. The area has to be walkable and densely populated, like Chestnut Hill or Manayunk. We have no competition nearby.

“We will start serving waffles soon, made by my wife. Waffles did not work in Florida because of the warm weather, but now that cold weather is coming, we think it will work here. We are the only Bahia Bowls store in the Northeastern U.S. The pandemic has not really hurt us because we are not an in-store dining operation. It’s take-out-and-go. I love the product. It is not a snack or dessert. It is a full meal.” (As a customer, I can vouch for that. The bowls are inexpensive, less than $10, delicious and very filling. Each one is literally a meal in itself.)

Almost every review on yelp.com so far has been five stars. The latest one was by Jeff H. of Chestnut Hill, on Nov. 11: “The bowls and Smoothies are a perfect light lunch or snack. I especially like the fruit bowls with the Pitaya Bowl being my favorite. It is so tasty … As Bahia Bowls is only a very short

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When will business travel recover?

Duration: 02:31

It’s been a gloomy year for the global aviation industry, but Emirates Airlines president Tim Clark says business travel is set for a major rebound.

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Local politicians and business owners criticize Hawaii’s new COVID-19 pre-travel policy

Last week, Hawaii Gov. David Ige tightened the state’s COVID-19 pre-travel plans, requiring all travelers to have a confirmed negative coronavirus test before arriving in the island nation.

The previous policy allowed travelers who had not been tested to quarantine until their test results came back. Under the new policy, travelers must show proof of a negative coronavirus test. Otherwise, they will be quarantined for two weeks, even if test results come back negative.

The policy change has upset local politicians and business owners, including Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki, according to the Honolulu Civil Beat. Some critics cite the island’s low infection rate of visitors and its recovering economy as reason enough to stick to the original policy.

“This doesn’t serve the public very well,” Saiki said in a bi-monthly meeting this past Monday of the Hawaii House Select Committee on COVID-19 Economic and Financial Preparedness.

Mufi Hannemann, the former Honolulu mayor who now heads the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, said the tourism industry group had grave concerns. Hannemann alleged Ige’s administration had not consulted any of them in their decision making.

Following criticism, Ige released a statement on Monday saying the policy change was meant to protect the island’s residents and to prepare for an upcoming holiday season that was likely to see a greater number of travelers.

“While only a handful of visitors receive a positive test each day following their arrival, it was enough to compel us to make the policy change, especially as more people travel to Hawaii to celebrate the holidays,” Ige said in the statement. “We must take every precaution to ensure the safety of our community, and that our hospitals have the capacity to care for those in need of treatment.”

About 270,000 people had traveled under the original policy with only 44 arriving with a test pending that later turned out to be positive.

“It’s not a large number, but it’s enough to change the policy,” Ige said last week.

Just 44 of 270,000 is “a very, very, very small percentage,” said Ray Vara, the chief executive of the island hospital giant Hawaii Pacific Health. Vara also said he does not want to see the island’s economy worsen.

“Things are tough enough right now,” said Peter Ho, chairman, president and chief executive of Bank of Hawaii, adding that this new policy change is not helpful to the island’s recent economic recovery.

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China and Japan to resume coronavirus-hit business travel

China and Japan have agreed to resume coronavirus-hit business travel by the end of next month and to forge ahead with multilateral trade deals, as they seek to strengthen ties ahead of the incoming Biden administration.

The announcement came as Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister wrapped up a visit to Japan on Wednesday, the first high-level delegation from Beijing since Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga took office in September.

Before the pandemic, Chinese president Xi Jinping had been expected to make a state visit to Japan this year to cement a 2018 reset in bilateral relations, as Beijing moved to strengthen regional ties amid a spiralling spat with the US over trade, technology and security.

During the two-day visit, Mr Wang held meetings with Japan’s top leadership, including Mr Suga, foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi and chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato.

The Japanese ministers all raised concerns about incursions by Chinese vessels around the disputed Senkaku or Diaoyu islands — which both countries claim — while nonetheless signalling that Tokyo is keen to improve its relationship with Beijing.

According to a statement by the Japanese government, Mr Suga told Mr Yang he was pleased about the resumption of business travel and wanted a “stable bilateral relationship”, but he raised the Senkaku issue, China’s ban on Japanese beef and the security crackdown in Hong Kong.

But Japan’s new prime minister is likely to want a strong economic relationship with China in order to help his country to recover from the Covid-19 shock, and he may therefore seek to play down the more contentious security relationship.

Earlier this month, US president-elect Joe Biden said Washington’s security guarantees extended to the disputed islands, in a sign that he would be willing to challenge China’s territorial claims in the region.

Zhou Yongsheng, an academic at the Institute of International Relations in China, said Mr Suga’s government would be smart to downplay the territorial dispute in the name of advancing the broader bilateral relationship. “This is an unsolvable problem and [raising it] will only intensify conflict,” he said.

He added that it “shows that Japan wants to protect its own interests independent of the US” and represented an opportunity to push forward regional trade deals. 

Mr Yang and his Japanese counterpart, Mr Motegi, also pledged fast progress on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade pact, one of the largest free trade deals in history, which was signed by 15 Asia-Pacific nations earlier this month.

Mr Xi this week expressed interest in joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a move that would potentially give China even greater influence in regional trade as part of previously US-backed agreement abandoned by the Trump administration. Japan is already a member.

Additional reporting by Emma Zhou in Beijing

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China, Japan to lift restrictions on business travel

Nov. 24 (UPI) — China and Japan have agreed to “fast track” business travel between the two countries after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with his Japanese counterpart in Tokyo.

Wang, who is to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Wednesday, is on a weeklong tour of Japan and South Korea. On Tuesday, Wang addressed the issue of expediting travel, but also raised the issue of disputed islands in the East China Sea, VOA News reported.

“Some Japanese fishing boats that do not have knowledge about the truth have repeatedly entered sensitive waters” near the islands, Wang said, according to the report. “We will certainly continue to safeguard [Chinese] sovereignty.”

Beijing claims the Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands as its own. In recent years, Chinese fishing boats have been chased out of Japan-claimed territorial waters, and Tokyo’s military have invested in new units to increase surveillance near the islands.

Expectations have been building in China for improved relations with Tokyo. Before the pandemic, the two countries were moving forward with plans for a summit between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Wang Guangtao, an associate research fellow at the Center for Japanese Studies at Fudan University, has said China could play a greater role in regional affairs, according to South Korean newspaper Hankook Ilbo.

The Chinese academic also said the recently signed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership would allow China and Japan to operate in a free trade zone for the first time, according to Chinese state media Sunday.

On Wednesday, Wang Yi is to visit Seoul, but his trip comes at a time when China’s response during the initial stages of the coronavirus pandemic has soured South Korean opinion of Beijing, reflecting trends in other countries.

According to an October poll from Pew Research Center seven in 10 respondents in Japan and South Korea say China has done a poor job dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. Unfavorable views of China are at a historic high, the poll said.

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Renaissance Austin Hotel sells for $70 million – Business – Austin American-Statesman

A San Francisco–based investment firm has purchased the Renaissance Austin Hotel, agreeing to pay $70 million for the 492-room hotel in the Arboretum retail development.

The Axton Group is purchasing the hotel from Florida-based Xenia Hotels & Resorts, the companies said Tuesday.

Xenia had agreed in February to sell the Renaissance Austin Hotel for $100 million to an unnamed buyer. However, Xenia announced in April that it had terminated the planned sale, as the coronavirus pandemic impacted the U.S. hotel industry.

Located at 9721 Arboretum Blvd., the Renaissance Austin Hotel is a 457,000 square foot property on 9.7 acres, according to the Travis Central Appraisal District. Its appraised value is $93.3 million, according to the appraisal district’s 2020 figures.

The hotel includes 88 suites and 77,600 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event facilities, according to the Axton Group. The firm said it plans a number of renovations to the property, including a redesign of the entrance and lobby and renovations to meeting and banquet facilities.

The Axton Group “is actively evaluating opportunistic investments across the U.S. from sellers seeking liquidity,” the firm said in a news release announcing the acquisition.

“This investment is representative of the cyclical nature of hotel assets, which have been even more acutely impacted in this current environment than previous economic cycles given the dynamics of the pandemic,” Peter Oberndorf, founder and CEO of Axton, said in a written statement. “It is now our responsibility to reposition and enhance this property, guiding it on a path of recovery and ultimately leaving it in a better place than we entered. We look forward to making this vision a reality.”

The hotel will retain the Renaissance brand and continue to be managed by Marriott, the Axton Group said.

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Hotel Lincoln demolition set to go before Metro Council, officials said item will be removed | Business

The demolition of the Hotel Lincoln is set to be introduced at Tuesday’s East Baton Rouge Metro Council meeting, but officials said plans are still underway to restore the historic property.

Anthony Kimble, who owns the hotel at 400 Eddie Robinson Sr. Drive, said the demolition item will be removed from the Metro Council agenda. The demolition was set for introduction Tuesday, then to go before the council for a vote December 9.

“It’s taken care of,” Kimble said.

Historic Hotel Lincoln renovation to start soon, plans to open in 2020; see renderings

The Hotel Lincoln catered to Black entertainers, such as Aretha Franklin, James Brown and B.B. King. Plans are in the works to turn the building into apartments and short-term rentals. The hotel, which opened in 1955, has been closed since the 1980s.

Hotel Lincoln re-developers seek tax incentive for $1.75M conversion into apartment, retail space

According to a report from a city parish building inspector filed with the agenda, the Hotel Lincoln was found to be “in a dilapidated and dangerous condition”.

Planning Commission to look at redevelopment of historic Hotel Lincoln where Aretha Franklin, James Brown and B.B. King stayed

Davis Rhorer, executive director of the Downtown Development District, said he spoke to Planning Director Ryan Holcomb about the demolition motion. Holcomb said the hotel had been secured and the item will be removed from the agenda, Rhorer said. The DDD has been supportive of efforts to get the Hotel Lincoln back in business.

Rhorer said the redevelopment of the hotel is still underway. “This is an important building,” he said.

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Renting Hotel Rooms Just for Business Hours Can Be a Good Thing

Renting out hotel rooms by the hour can have a, shall we say, unsavory ring to it. But how about by the workday and for perfectly legitimate uses, like a very temporary office?

That’s the thrust of a recent article in the very respectable Wall Street Journal [subscription required] that delved into how major operators such as Marriott International (NASDAQ: MAR), Hilton Worldwide Holdings (NYSE: HLT), and Hyatt Hotels (NYSE: H) are experimenting with offering day use to office workers bored with working from home and willing to pay for the privilege of working in a nice room while the kids use the pool or beach.

The WSJ said some hotels are promoting day rates, while others are offering longer-term stays and package deals from families. Marriott is offering the stay-for-the-day option through its loyalty program and to corporate partners interested in offering it to their own employees as a perk.

It’s a way to fill empty hotel rooms, for sure, and the hospitality industry needs the bump as much as any segment in this pandemic-plagued economy.

An industry on the brink as vaccination season approaches

The numbers are bleak. For instance, the 17 real estate investment trusts (REITs) in the lodging segment tracked by Nareit posted a year-to-date total return of -50.33% as of Nov. 23.

And from the lender perspective, Trepp just reported nearly 20% of the more than 3,100 commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) loans backed by hotel properties across the country are delinquent.

Perhaps even more stark: The American Hotel & Lodging Association said a survey of more than 1,200 members conducted in mid-November found that 71% won’t make it another six months without further federal assistance, and more than a third will be facing bankruptcy or forced to sell by the end of 2020. As of this writing, that’s in less than six weeks.

The coming vaccinations should help this industry — and every other business — a lot, but the creative ideas property managers and owners come up with now can provide temporary relief — and maybe a long-term revenue stream to keep things buoyant even after COVID-19 is a bitter memory.

Start the thinking with office space by the day

The office space idea, for instance, does seem like a good one, since a hotel can offer novelty and amenities a regular shared-office space business probably can’t.

There are other things to try. For starters, that pool: Use it for swim lessons. That was done by a few hotels here in Columbia, South Carolina, for a while, renting them to swim lesson providers. You don’t need all that big a pool, especially if it’s for giving wee ones their first dips.

But if the business really just can’t make it as a hotel, consider making it something else; for instance, apartments. I’ve seen that conversion happen at least three times here in our own market, and it has no doubt worked well in multiple other cities as well. Choose the location carefully, and you

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