Stake in Mandarin NYC sells at distressed price: A 73.37% stake in the 248-room Mandarin Oriental Hotel at Columbus Circle in New York City has reportedly sold to Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries for a discounted US$98.15 million with its billionaire owner Mukesh Ambani interested in acquiring the outstanding shares should they become available. In 2007, the hotel was reportedly valued at US$340 million. Reliance is acquiring the shares from Cayman Islands-based Columbus Centre Corp. in a deal expected to close in March. Reliance also bought Stoke Park in the U.K. last year and has a stake in India’s luxury Oberoi hotel brand.
White Lodging names new CEO: White Lodging, Merrillville, Indiana, has appointed Jean-Luc Barone as the chief executive officer, succeeding Ken Barrett who will continue to serve as president of the hotel management company. Both Barone and Barrett will report to Bruce White, the company’s founder and chairman. Barone joined White Lodging in 2016 as vice president of food & beverage and most recently served as the company’s chief operating officer, a position he has held since 2018. Before joining White Lodging, Barone spent 16 years with Starwood Hotels in several operational roles, including vice president of global food & beverage for Starwood hotels. David Lanterman, the present senior vice president of operations, will now assume the role of the chief operating officer. Steve Ransone will serve as White Lodging’s vice president of organizational capability, with Whitney Flores serving as the vice president of rooms operations.
JW Marriott debuts in São Paulo: Marriott International has signed a deal to launch JW Marriott Hotel São Paulo in Parque da Cicade, a Class A, LEED-certified mixed-use complex that was the former home of a Four Seasons hotel. The 258-room hotel will be converted from an existing luxury property and is expected to become Marriott’s first luxury property in São Paulo. The hotel is slated to open in Q2 2022 and will feature more than 1,000 square meters of meeting space. Marriott currently operates 11 properties in Brazil and more than 300 in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Baird/STR Hotel Index up 12.7%: The Baird/STR Hotel Stock Index surged 12.7% in December and was up 25.6% for 2021. With the big rebound at the end of the year, hotel brands marginally outperformed the S&P 500 in 2021, while hotel REITs, despite gaining 12% on the year, lagged. STR identified beach and mountain destinations as stronger-performing locations throughout the pandemic. In December, the Baird/STR Hotel Stock Index outperformed both the S&P 500 (+4.4%) and the MSCI US REIT Index (+8.2%). The Hotel Brand sub-index jumped 13.2% from November, while the Hotel REIT sub-index increased 10.9%.
Perial Asset Management acquires 9 in Spain: Perial Asset Management, Paris, has acquired a portfolio of nine hotel assets in Spain, including five in Catalonia. Managed by French hotel operator B&B Hotels, they benefit from a lease with a residual firm term of 11 years. While the first five properties were acquired in December 2021 for €25 million (US$28.26 million), the remaining four will be acquired in May for €33.4 million (US$37.75 million). The purchase is being carried out on behalf of SCPI PF Hospitalite Europe. Currently, the portfolio of SCPI PF Hospitalite Europe is made up of 55% of healthcare establishments, 24% hotels and 21% managed residences.
Stonehill’s US$30 million financing package for Hyatt portfolio: Stonehill has provided a US$30 million financing package to Shashi Group and Liberty Hotel Investments for the recapitalization of a national Hyatt hotel portfolio. The properties include the 220-key Hyatt Centric in Portland, Oregon; 179-key Hyatt Place in Glendale, California; 165-key Hyatt house in San Jose, California; and 190-key Hyatt Place San Jose Airport in San Jose. The Shashi Group-Liberty Hotel joint venture owns the four newly-constructed West Coast hotel properties that together consist of 754 keys.
Surge in bookings in Britain: Airline and travel firms are reporting a surge in bookings after the U.K. government relaxed the COVID testing requirements for travelers returning to the country. From Friday, international arrivals returning to the U.K. will not be require to produce a negative pre-departure test nor self-isolate until they receive a negative PCR test result from the first two days on arrival. While British Airways said searches for holidays on its websites saw a 40% rise compared with the previous week, EasyJet said there were about three times as many flights bought in the U.K. in the hours after the Prime Minister made the announcement about the new norms. EasyJet said its surveys showed around half of British customers were planning to take more holidays than usual in 2022, with one-third of them planning to spend £1,000 (US$1,353) more after missing opportunities to go abroad during the pandemic.
Thailand suspends Test & Go program: The Test & Go no-quarantine program in Thailand for air travelers has been suspended, with January 15 as the last date for all pre-approved arrivals. About 10,000 people registered with the program are yet to enter the country. However, three provinces have been added to the Sandbox scheme, which is presently applicable to Phuket. The additional Sandbox destinations are three islands in the Surat Thani province — Koh Samui, Koh Phangan and Koh Tao — and the entire provinces of Phangnga and Krabi. Under the Sandbox program, travelers are not mandated to quarantine and are free to travel in the designated province/island but are required to stay there for seven days before moving on to other destinations.
Employed Americans fly less: Fewer Americans traveled by air in 2021 than in any year between 2003 and 2015, according to Gallup records, mostly due to reduced travel by employed adults. However, those who did fly took multiple flights within the year, although fewer than in previous years. About 41% employed adult Americans traveled by air in 2021, down from 54% in 2015, the lowest for employed adults in Gallup’s trend. In contrast, the percentage of non-working adults who traveled remained steady at 34% in 2021 compared to 33% in 2015. On an average, Americans took 1.4 air trips in the past 12 months, down from 2.1 in 2015. Air travelers also took fewer flights, with the average number of flights they took falling from 4.6 in 2015 to 3.6 in 2021. The figures are below average and the lowest Gallup has recorded.
Israel reopens borders: Israel announced the reopening of its borders to all vaccinated international travelers from January 9. Travelers entering the country are required to take a PCR test 72 hours before their flight and will have to take another PCR test on arrival in Israel. Travelers will have to quarantine in a hotel until their results return or 24 hours pass, whichever is less. Travelers are required to have been vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least 14 days before the day of entry (14 days must have passed since receiving second dose upon arrival into Israel, but no more than 180 days upon leaving Israel – i.e., if it has been six months since the second dose, you will need the booster shot to enter).