Criticized Ashford returning PPP loans
Dallas-based Ashford Inc. released a statement Saturday saying it is returning at least US$70 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans under the US$2 trillion U.S. coronavirus economic relief fund. The news came a day after a front-page New York Times story chronicling the loan controversy and Ashford’s operations. On Friday, Ashford Chairman and CEO Monty Bennett said he would not return the money. “While we believed then and continue to believe today that we qualify for PPP loans based on the legislation and rule-making in place at the time our applications were submitted, continuous (Small Business Administration) rule changes and evolving opinions by administration officials have led us to conclude that we may no longer qualify,” the company said in a statement. Also on Friday, Ashford Hospitality Trust President and CEO Douglas Kessler said he was resigning to pursue other professional opportunities. The board appointed J. Robison Hays III to replace him. Kessler’s resignation and Hays’ appointment will be effective May 14. Hays had been serving as the company’s chief strategy officer since May 2015.
High-profile hoteliers released by MGM
MGM Resorts International on Friday laid off several high-level executives. The Review Journal cited sources reporting resort presidents Randy Morton of Bellagio, Cindy Kiser Murphey of New York-New York, Cliff Atkinson of Luxor and Eric Fitzgerald of Excalibur have been laid off. Sources also said other management-level positions had been cut across the company. Acting CEO Bill Hornbuckle said in an earnings call Thursday that two of those hotels — Bellagio and New York-New York — would be the company’s first to reopen after the shutdown related to the coronavirus pandemic, but he offered no timetable. The company is spending around US$270 million during each month that its domestic properties remain closed and has laid off and furloughed 63,000 workers.
L.A. has protections for laid-off hospitality workers
The Los Angeles City Council has adopted ordinances to protect jobs of hospitality, janitorial and tourism workers who have been laid off during the coronavirus pandemic. Some business groups have threatened lawsuits over the measure. Under the measures, businesses will be required to provide notices to workers that they have begun rehiring people, after the coronavirus pandemic subsides. Laid-off workers will have 10 days to respond to worker recall notices from employers, and people who have worked for businesses the longest will be prioritized.
Positive travel signs
New data by MMGY Travel Intelligence shows some positive signs that increasing numbers of travelers intend to get moving once the pandemic passes. Among the key findings, road trips and travel to destinations closer to home will likely drive much of the tourism recovery once pandemic restrictions on travel are lifted. The percentage of travelers who agreed that they are more likely to travel by car after COVID-19 passes increased in the last two weeks from 35% in Wave II to 47% in Wave III. The percentage who said they are more likely to travel to destinations close to home increased from 36% in Wave II to 42% in Wave III. This was especially true for older travelers.
Davidson to operate Margaritaville Orlando: Atlanta-based Davidson Hotels & Resorts will manage the 186-room Margaritaville Resort Orlando. The resort, which opened in December 2018, has four on-site dining and lounge experiences and more than 40,000 square feet of meeting and event space.