Briefs: Wyndham uplifts women franchisees; AEG seeks partner for LA Live

First franchisee member of “Women Own the Room” program: Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has signed its first agreement as part of its “Women Own the Room” program, signing Trusha Patel, founder and CEO, Platinum Holdings, as the first member with two new construction La Quinta and Hawthorne Suites dual-branded hotels. Patel will open the two dual-branded hotels — La Quinta and Hawthorn Suites Austin Airport and La Quinta and Hawthorn Suites Georgetown — in Texas, with each property offering a combined 125 rooms, of which 75 will feature the recently refreshed room design from La Quinta’s Del Sol prototype and 50 will feature the upgraded Hawthorn room design. The program aims for women’s upliftment in hotel ownership and help women entrepreneurs break through the predominantly male-dominated hotel industry. Wyndham will offer a development incentive providing financing, discounts of initial fees and complimentary first-year operating services to support the success of the properties developed by women.

JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton at LA Live

AEG seeks hotel partner for LA Live complex: Entertainment giant AEG plans to sell more than a 50% ownership stake in the Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels at LA Live (1,001 rooms and 134,000 square feet of meeting space) to help fund a planned expansion of the complex in downtown Los Angeles. AEG completed the hotels in 2010 at a cost of about US$1 billion and is looking for a partner with a lot of experience in the hotel space. The capital will be used to fund a delayed expansion of the JW Marriott (a new 860-room tower and conference center adding in excess of 150,000 square feet of ballroom and meeting space) and to invest in several of AEG’s business units. AEG’s hotel addition is intended to happen in tandem with a US$500-million expansion of the Los Angeles Convention Center. At the same time, JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group has been retained by AEG to explore recapitalization opportunities and secure a strategic partner for the hotels.

Four Seasons expansion: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Toronto, has updated its pipeline, which includes new hotels, resorts and residences in key markets, and the extension of its standalone residential collection. Four hotel openings are planned for 2022, including Tamarindo, Mexico; Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Nashville, Tennessee; and Minneapolis, Minnesota. Four Seasons has more than 50 new projects under planning or development, including in Italy, Spain, China, Japan, Colombia, Belize and across the U.S., all of which will add to the company’s existing portfolio of 122 hotels and resorts and 48 residential properties in 47 countries around the world. New standalone Private Residences set to open in the coming years include Dubai at Jumeirah; Lake Austin in Texas; and Marrakech, Morocco. Other upcoming residential developments connected to an existing or soon-to-open Four Seasons property include Fort Lauderdale, Minneapolis, Nashville, Mumbai, Cartagena and Belize.

Lark grows on East Coast: Boutique operator Lark Hotels, Amesbury, Massachusetts, is taking management of the 27-room Urban Cowboy Lodge in the Catskills, New York. Lark has also taken on management of the Topside Inn, Boothbay Harbor, Maine, which will reopen in May for the summer season. Also in January, Lark Hotels has announced two new projects, breaking ground in Asheville, North Carolina, through a partnership with commercial real estate development firm Hatteras Sky. The two companies will open two new properties in Asheville in 2023: the 70-room Radical and the 20-room Zelda Dearest, both of which break ground in January 2022. Zelda Dearest will debut Hatteras Sky’s Fitzgerald Estate portfolio, a collection of properties paying homage to the iconic author and artist Zelda Fitzgerald and her husband F. Scott Fitzgerald, who spent meaningful time during their lives in Asheville. Culinary programs at both properties will be overseen by local Asheville chef and James Beard finalist Jacob Sessoms.

San Diego resort refinanced: JLL’s Capital Markets group arranged a US$265 million refinancing for a 387-key, master-planned beach resort in Oceanside in North County San Diego, California. The resort includes the 161-key Mission Pacific boutique hotel and The Seabird Resort, a 226-key full-service resort. JLL represented the borrower, S.D. Malkin Properties, to secure the floating-rate, interest-only loan through ACORE Capital. Proceeds from this refinance were used to retire the construction facility, including a significant mezzanine loan. The new loan will provide cost savings, term and flexibility for the sponsor.

AD1 secures US$16.5M to refinance Wyndham: Slate Real Estate Capital I, the real estate credit platform of Toronto-based Slate Asset Management, has provided a US$16.5 million bridge loan to AD1 Global to refinance the 142-room Wyndham Garden Hotel in Dania Beach, Florida. Noam Kaminetzky of Meridian Capital Group represented AD1 for the transaction.

Blanket travel restrictions ineffective, says UNWTO: Blanket restrictions on travel are not effective in suppressing the global spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 and, in fact, can cause economic and social harm, said the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), reiterating the call of the World Health Organization (WHO) for travel restrictions to be eased or withdrawn. These restrictions may also “discourage transparent and rapid reporting of emerging Variants of Concern,” WHO had said. Calling restrictions as “counterproductive,” UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili said they “do more harm than good, especially in destinations reliant on international tourists for jobs, economic wellbeing and sustainable change.” “It is imperative we restart tourism and so kickstart recovery and get back on track towards meeting the SDGs while responding to Climate Imperatives. We also amplify their (WHO) recommendations against using vaccination status as the sole condition for welcoming tourists back, especially when vaccination rates remain so uneven,” Pololikashvili said.

Michael Shannon awarded ALIS lifetime achievement award: Michael Shannon, the co-founder and chairman of KSL Capital Partners was awarded with the lifetime achievement award at the 21st annual Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) in Los Angeles, California. Since its inception in 2005, KSL has raised more than US$15 billion in equity capital commitments, investing exclusively in travel and leisure businesses. Shannon served as president and CEO of Vail Associates from 1986 to 1992. Before KSL, in 1992 he co-founded KSL Recreation Corp. and served as its president and CEO.

UK to scrap travel testing norms: In a landmark decision, the U.K. announced it would scrap the COVID travel testing norms for fully vaccinated travelers from February 11. In a step to return to normalcy, “to show that the country is open for business, open for travelers,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said fully vaccinated travelers will no longer be mandated to take tests. “Border testing of vaccinated travelers has outlived its usefulness. Today, we are setting Britain free,” said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. This will make the U.K. one of the most open countries for international travel. The testing mandate is being lifted for vaccinated adults and children under 18 years. Unvaccinated travelers will now get to skip quarantine but will have to take tests before and after arriving into Britain. Currently, fully vaccinated travelers are required to take a rapid COVID test within two days of arriving into the U.K. Unvaccinated travelers face more stringent testing and quarantine requirements. The government is set to lift mask mandates and other restrictions later this week. The decision was welcomed by the tourism industry, which has been severely impacted by the pandemic and its following restrictions.

Asia Pac travel recovery forecast: While there is some improvement in travel demand in the Asia Pacific region, it will be highly variable and uneven, according to the latest international arrival (IVA) forecast by the Pacific Asia Travel Association along with Hong Kong Polytechnic University. The forecast for 39 Asia Pacific destinations between 2022 and 2024 shows strong growth rates after a marginal annual gain in foreign arrivals in 2021. As a result of medium impact of the pandemic, IVAs will reach its 2019 level by 2024, but there will be a 30% decline by 2024. IVAs this year are likely to be between 159 million to 315 million, based on mild and severe impact of the pandemic. Asia is projected to supply more than 64% of all IVAs, followed by the Americas and Europe. While international travel recovery to and within the Asia Pacific region will return moderately in the next three years, recovery will be uneven into several sub-regions and destinations.

Travel trends in 2022: As people make small shifts and movements to resume traveling amid a pandemic, there has been a paradigm shift in wellness tourism with the sector emerging to be a pervasive influence on almost all aspects of the travel industry, according to CatchOn’s trend report ‘22 Forces, Places, and Trends Shaping the Future of Travel.’ Wellness travel ranked number one in the five forces shaping the future of travel, followed by business travel 2.0, climate realities, developing Asian markets and China outbound rebound. According to the report: Iceland, Singapore, Jordan, U.A.E., Vietnam, Japan, Mexico, Turkey, Italy, Mozambique, U.S. and Qatar are the destinations that will lead the future of travel. The top travel trends to watch out this year will be expedition cruises, traveling with pets, all-inclusive packages, modernized ryokans and “homing pigeons” reliance on home stays and comfortable villas (retirees and digital nomads).