Briefs: Macau shuts casinos; Wells Fargo takes JW Marriott Chicago

Macau shuts all casinos: For the first time in over two years, Macau has shut all its casinos to contain the biggest outbreak of COVID-19. More than 30 casinos and other businesses in the city will remain closed for one week and people have been asked to stay at home, with only essential services and short trips being permitted. The drastic step is estimated to impact businesses as many casinos had been effectively closed since the past three weeks with minimal employees being allowed. Analysts said recovery of gaming revenue is not expected before the end of the third quarter or during the fourth quarter. Casinos in Macau were last closed for 15 days in February 2020. The local government was earlier hesitant to close casinos due to its mandate to protect employment as the industry accounts for over 80% of government revenues and employs most of the population directly and indirectly.

JW Marriott Chicago

Wells Fargo takes JW Marriott Chicago: Wells Fargo has assumed ownership of the foreclosed 610-key JW Marriott Chicago with a winning bid of around US$251 million in a foreclosure auction on June 8. The previous owner, Orlando, Florida-based Estein USA, had failed to pay its US$203 million loan since last summer. The loan amount eventually grew to US$243 million. Last year, Wells Fargo filed a foreclosure suit and was the only bidder on the hotel, which remains open. The hotel, which is operated by Marriott International, opened in 2010 when developers were converting former offices in the city’s financial district into hotels.

Veranda House gutted by fire: The historic 18-key Veranda House hotel in Nantucket, Massachusetts, was destroyed after a massive fire broke out early on June 8. No injuries were reported to civilians, but two firefighters were being treated. The fire has also damaged the nearby Chapman House forcing both hotels to close, said both hotels’ parent group Nantucket Resort Collection. The Veranda House collapsed hours after the fire started. Civilians and an off-duty fire captain helped guests and employees evacuate the hotel and save lives.

HIP adds in Spain: Hotel Investment Partnership (HIP), Barcelona, Spain, has acquired the Mett Marbella Estepona hotel in Estepona, Spain from Madrid, Spain-based investment advisory firm, Mazabi Gestion de Patrimonios at an undisclosed price. HIP plans to invest additional capital to reposition and renovate the hotel and upgrade it from a 4-star to a 5-star property. Following the renovations, the property will feature 253 rooms and a new beachside swimming pool and beach club along with new restaurants. Sunset Hospitality Group will continue to operate the hotel under the METT brand. Gomez-Acebo & Pombo Abogados advised Mazabi Gestion de Patrimonios. The acquisition grows HIP’s presence on the Costa del Sol, where the company already owns the Guadalmina Spa & Golf Resort and the Barcelo Marbella.

Ritz-Carlton Moscow changes name: The Ritz-Carlton Moscow is changing its name to The Carlton Moscow after Marriott International, its parent company, exited the Russian market over the invasion of Ukraine. The hotel will continue to operate as an independent property and has also launched a new website. The Ritz-Carlton Moscow had remained open since Russia invaded Ukraine, with Marriott stating that the property is owned by a third party. Marriott closed its corporate office in Moscow and suspended all its investments in Russia, after Russia invaded Ukraine in February.

B&B Hotel grows in Portugal: Grupo Casais, Braga, Portugal, has entered into a joint venture with North American group Sunny to expand France’s B&B Hotels Group in Portugal with a planned conversion to the B&B Hotel Olhão in Olhão, Portugal. The 3-star, 89-key hotel has an investment value of €6 million (US$6.10 million) and will open in 2023. The investment also includes the renovation of Ria Shopping Centre, the site where the new hotel will be located. The hotel will be reconstructed by Grupo Casais under architect Jose Mario Fernandes. Grupo Casais arrived in the Portuguese market in 2018 and presently has 17 projects in operation or under construction in the country.

Avocet adds The Admiral to portfolio: Avocet Hospitality, Charleston. South Carolina, has added the 156-key Admiral in Mobile, Alabama, to its portfolio following the closing of the property on June 27. Avocet acquired the upscale, historic hotel for US$21 million. The hotel, which opened in 1940, offers 7,000 square feet of event space.

Dominican Republic sees record arrivals: The Dominican Republic posted a record arrival of international tourist arrivals in June. Attracting a total of 644,861 tourists during the month, the figure was 9.9% higher than the international arrivals in 2018 and 9.8% more than in 2019. So far, 3,547,142 travelers visited the Dominican Republic this year. Occupancy in the country’s hotels was more than 71%, with tourists staying for an average of 10 days. The country’s resounding success in the recovery of its tourism sector can partially be attributed to its relaxed COVID testing norms, allowing visitors from the U.S. to enter without a pre-entry test.

Marriott to train Thai students: Marriott International has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Silpakorn University Faculty of Management Science to provide professional training, practical experience and prospective opportunities to hospitality graduates in Thailand. As per the agreement, 20 Marriott hotels in Bangkok will offer internships to students of the Bachelor of Business Administration in Hotel Management provided by the faculty of Management Science and enable them to get training and hands-on experience at its hotels in the third and fourth years of their program. Students spending 300 hours with Marriott during their third year and 800 hours in their fourth year will receive course credits. Currently, Marriott has internship partnerships in Thailand with around 40 students gaining work experience at its hotels in Bangkok. The latest understanding will enable students to transfer credits between their university course and Marriott’s in-house training, and credits earned by the students while interning with Marriott can help them earn an additional Associate Members’ Educational Qualification at the university.

India’s new service charge rules: India has asked all district collectors to ensure enforcement of guidelines regarding service charge by restaurants and hotels. The Central Consumer Protection Authority has directed collectors to conduct an investigation and submit a report in 15 days and has written to chief secretaries of all states to ensure publicity of the guidelines to protect consumer interest. This comes after the authority last week asked hotels and restaurants to inform consumers that service charge is optional, voluntary and at consumers’ discretion. Restaurants and hotels cannot deny services or restrict entry based on collection of service charge. The optional charge cannot be collected by adding it along with the food bill and levying Goods and Services Tax on the amount.

USTA unveils Daily Getaways: The U.S. Travel Association has launched a weeklong preview of its Daily Getaways program, the annual fundraiser initiative to boost travel across America. Launching from July 18, the sale will consist of deals from 10 major travel brands — Accor Hotels, Choice Hotels, BWH Hotel Group, IHG Hotels & Resorts, Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott International, The Venetian Resort Las Vegas, Universal Orlando Resort and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts — offering discounts of up to 50% off hotel stays, loyalty points, vacation packages and theme park tickets. Offers and deals available through the Daily Getaways will help lower costs for travel experiences. Travelers will be able to sign up for reminders when the deals go live from July 11when the deals start previewing online.

Hyatt donates US$500K to AHLA Foundation: The American Hotel & Lodging Foundation (AHLA Foundation) has announced a US$500,000 donation from the Hyatt Hotels Foundation to unveil the ‘No Room for Trafficking Survivors Fund’ and grow the hotel industry’s efforts to prevent human trafficking and support survivors. The donation will jumpstart the Survivors Fund which will provide community-based organizations with the resources to engage and support survivors, from direct financial aid of their near-term, baseline requirements to career-focused support which can equip and empower them in future. A representative from the Hyatt Hotels Foundation will serve as the co-chair of the No Room for Trafficking Advisory Council, which will bring together industry leaders in action and thought leadership to further their collective efforts. Along with the survivors, they will draw a framework for the fund and identify other areas of opportunity and innovation for the industry’s prevention of human trafficking and awareness efforts.