Articles Posted in Outlook and Trends

Published on:

17 March 2020

See how JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® can help you.
Click here for the latest articles on distressed hotel loans, here for The Lenders Handbook for Troubled Hotels, and here for articles on the coronavirus.

 

Hotel owners, operators and lenders are under stress – hotel defaults, layoffs, and shutdowns loom. Prompt action is critical.

For the last three to five years the pundits have increasingly speculated that the longest economic recovery in history could not endure and that we were due for a recession. We hope that the extraordinary measures being taken now may defer some of the worst fears, but clearly the US economy has been plunged into distress, and the pain is particularly acute in hotels, restaurants and related travel and tourism businesses.

The shelter at home edits of the Federal, state and local governments are literally requesting that people stay at home for the next two weeks. Many hotels have plunged into single-digit occupancies and slashed revenues to cover fixed and operating expenses. Restaurants struggle to see if they can survive on takeout and delivery services alone. Furloughs and layoffs are imminent.

Lenders and borrowers alike are seeking relief, clarity, and resolution. It feels like some blend of the 1990s and 2008. And it is time to go back to the basics or distressed loans: Quick assessment, preparation of plans, transparency, communication, and cooperation for mutual benefit.

The lawyers who comprise JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® have extensive experience and resources that can help hotel stakeholders answer these questions. The issues involved are too numerous to address in one article, and the answers will vary widely depending on each hotel asset and how it is structured.

Today’s article will address how the “structure” of hotel ownership and operations impact the interests of the various stakeholders.

  

Coronavirus: Creative strategies to mitigate financial impact
Loan defaults, lender rights & recapitalizations
by
Jim Butler and Guy Maisnik
JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group®

 

Facing the realities of low hotel occupancy and dwindling operating revenue

Lenders, equity providers, borrowers and operators are facing hard realities regarding the performance of their hospitality assets due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

What are the parties’ rights? What remedies can be pursued? What is the best approach for both the short term and the long term?

Understanding the structure of the hotel asset will help stakeholders answer these difficult questions.

The “operating business” is key

It is often said that hotels are a special real estate asset with an operating business. It really is the other way around: hotels should be thought of as a unique operating business first, within special purpose real estate. This is true not just for hotels, but for assets like timeshares, casinos, gasoline stations, movie theaters, and restaurants. The operating business comprises a large component of the asset’s value.

It is also the operating business that raises thorny problems when cash flow drops dramatically due to matters outside the control of any party – such as a global pandemic or a declaration of national emergency.

Identify and work with all stakeholders

It would be a serious mistake for any stakeholder to believe it holds all the cards in directing the final outcome on asset direction following a calamity. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

20 February 2020

See how JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® can help you.
Click here for the latest articles on the impact of the coronavirus.

Coronavirus continues to be of global concern, and remains an issue the hospitality industry should be tracking, both for economic and legal reasons. Bob Braun discusses whether the virus may trigger a force majeure event for hotel operators and owners, and what that might mean for a property’s performance obligations and other operations.

— Jim

Coronavirus as Force Majeure Event:
What Hotel Owners and Operators Should Consider
by
Robert Braun

Coronavirus (COVID 19) has been a leading news item for more than a month now, competing and often pre-empting other national and international news items. For the hospitality industry, the virus has created severe disruptions in the largest single source of tourists. Hotel companies, both inside and outside of China, have warned of reductions in revenues, and as the virus continues to spread, the trend does not bode well. Like the SARS virus of 2002-2003, coronavirus has the potential to disrupt travel for months, and the travel industry will take time to recover.

Performance Tests and More
The most immediate effect will be seen by hotel companies when they review upcoming financial statements and see shortfalls. This could, among other things, cause some hotels to fail their performance obligations, giving owners the right to terminate a management agreement (unless the hotel operator exercised a right to cure the shortfall). At that point, hotel operators are likely to claim that the impact of the virus constitutes a force majeure event, which would require performance tests to change the performance obligations. For more details on performance tests, see our article on Hotel Management Agreement Performance Standards.

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

31 January 2020

See how JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® can help you.
Click here for the latest articles on the coronavirus and here for the latest on force majeure.

Note: If you are an individual consumer with coronavirus-related travel issues, please do NOT contact us! We do not represent individual consumers. We advise businesses on major contracts, investments and financing. 

On January 31, 2020, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) declared the Wuhan coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern. The numbers of confirmed cases, as well as the death toll continues to climb. (For current statistics, see the Center for Systems Science and Engineering’s online dashboard that pulls data from the World Health Organization.)

Containing the spread of the disease is of global concern. Beyond the serious human health impacts, businesses worldwide expect disruptions in supply chains for manufactured goods, evidenced by the S&P’s sharp decline on January 31st. The U.S. has issued a “Do not travel to China” advisory, major U.S. airlines announced cancellations of flights to China, and President Trump announced a travel ban on foreign nationals who have traveled to China.

Hoteliers have their own causes of concern.

Chinese nationals comprise the largest tourist market in the world with 159 million outbound tourists in 2019, accounting for 12.2% of all outbound travelers globally and US $275 billion spent. If you cater to even a small percentage of these tourists, their absence will affect your bottom line.

  • Do group travel organizers have contractual obligations to your hotel if they cancel trips due to the coronavirus?
  • If travelers in your hotel infect other guests or your workforce, what is your liability?
  • If you have hotels in China, what responsibilities do you have toward foreign guests who cannot easily return to their home countries?
  • What do you do if your employees refuse to come to work for fear of becoming infected?
  • What policies and procedures should you put in place for managing these kinds of crises?
  • What exactly does your insurance cover?
  • How can you find experts who can help?

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

24 January 2020

If you’re planning to attend the 2020 ALIS conference next week, we’d like to hear from you! Our Global Hospitality Group® attorneys are ready to discuss:

  • Successful hotel purchase strategies
  • Getting a great hotel management agreement
  • Optimizing your financing structure
  • Avoiding regulatory pitfalls in 2020
  • How to protect your company and comply with new cybersecurity regulations
  • Hotel industry litigation issues

Please contact us if you’d like to get in touch during the conference:

jim-150x150Jim Butler
Partner, Chairman
Global Hospitality Group®
310.201.3526
JButler@jmbm.com
guy-150x150Guy Maisnik
Partner, Vice Chair
Global Hospitality Group®
310.201.3588
MGM@jmbm.com
david-150x150David A. Sudeck
Partner
310.201.3518
DSudeck@jmbm.com
bob-150x150Robert E. Braun
Partner
310.785.5331
RBraun@jmbm.com
jeff-150x150Jeffrey T. Myers
Partner
310.201.3525
JMyers@jmbm.com
mark-150x150Mark S. Adams
Partner
949.623.7230
MarkAdams@jmbm.com
Published on:

02 January 2020

Click here for the latest articles on Data Technology, Privacy & Security.

 

My partner, Bob Braun, senior member of JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® and Co-Chair of the Firm’s Cybersecurity & Privacy Group, has written extensively about the California Consumer Privacy Act that became effective January 1, 2010.  In his excellent article below, he describes how the CCPA will impact the hotel industry.

— Jim

CCPA: Loyalty Programs, Data Retention and the Brave New World of Privacy

by Robert E. Braun

This article first appeared in the Hotel Business Review and is reprinted with permission from www.HotelExecutive.com.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (the “CCPA” or the “Act”) is a piece of consumer privacy legislation which was signed by California Governor Jerry Brown on June 28, 2018, and goes into effect on January 1, 2020. The Act is, far and away, the strongest privacy legislation enacted in the United States at the moment (although there are a number of contenders for that honor), giving more power to consumers to control the collection and use of their private data, and is poised to have far-reaching effects on data privacy.

What is the CCPA?

It is estimated that more than 500,000 companies are directly subject to the CCPA, many of them smaller and mid-size business, where the detailed requirements of the Act – disclosure and notice procedures, opt-out rights, updating privacy policies, and revising vendor agreements – is daunting. As discussed below, many hotels and hotel companies will be directly impacted by the Act, either because their qualify as a “business” as defined in the CCPA, or because they are associated with companies – brands and management companies – that are subject to the Act. Hotel owners, managers and brands that have not grappled with the requirements of the CCPA need to move quickly to do so, or risk potential liability under the penalty provisions of the Act.

Where did the Act Come From?

In early 2018, Alistair McTaggart, a California real estate developer, led an effort to include a new privacy law – the Consumer Right to Privacy Act of 2018 – on the November 2018 California ballot. By June 2018, supporters of the initiative had gathered enough signatures to earn a place on the November ballot. In response, California legislators, working with California businesses and other interest groups, negotiated and passed a substitute bill – the CCPA – in exchange for an agreement to drop the more restrictive text in the Consumer Right to Privacy Act from the November ballot.

The Act is aggressive, and cites the March 2018 disclosure of the misuse of personal data by Cambridge Analytica, as well as the congressional hearings that followed which highlighted the fact that any personal information shared on the internet can be subject to considerable misuse and theft. This prompted the California legislature to move rapidly to protect Californians’ right to privacy by giving consumers much more control of their personal information. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

30 December 2019

Click here for the latest articles on Labor & Employment.

Hotel Lawyer with labor & employment law update for 2020

Several new pieces of California legislation will take effect on the first day of the new year, impacting nearly all employers and how they handle worker classification, discrimination disputes, arbitration agreements, and union organizing. Our round-up will help you determine which key issues may impact you in 2020; contact us to be sure you’re ready for all these upcoming changes.

Use of Independent Contractors Severely Limited as of New Year

On September 18, 2019, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 5 into law, codifying the holding in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court which severely curtailed when employers may use independent contractors. AB 5 is effective January 1, 2020 and sets forth an “ABC” tests to determine whether workers qualify as independent contractors.

The test examines whether:

  1. The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact
  2. The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business
  3. The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed

The “B” prong is new, and may be particularly problematic for businesses – potentially resulting in misclassification of individuals who were formerly properly classified as independent contractors.

AB 5 codifies a number of exceptions from the ABC test, including but not limited to:

  1. A person or organization licensed by the Department of Insurance;
  2. California licensed physician, surgeon, dentist, podiatrist, psychologist, or veterinarian;
  3. California licensed lawyer, architect, engineer, private investigator, or accountant;
  4. Securities broker-dealer or investment adviser or their agents and representatives registered with the SEC or FINRA or licensed by California;
  5. Direct sales salespeople;
  6. Commercial fishermen.

Workers in these categories are subject to the “Economic Realities” test set forth in Borello & Sons, Inc. v. Dept. of Industrial Relations. In applying the economic realities test, the most significant factor to be considered is whether the person to whom service is rendered (the employer or principal) has control, or the right to control, the worker both as to the work done and the manner and means in which it is performed.

AB 5 also provides for limited exemptions to the ABC test for certain professional services, business-to-business contracts, construction subcontracts, relationships between referral agencies and service providers, and contracts between motor clubs and third parties. When these categories of relationships qualify, they are subject to Borello’s economic realities test.

What this means for you: All businesses using independent contractors should conduct audits and review written independent contracts under the new standards to ensure that workers are properly classified. Misclassification can result in significant penalties, wage and hour liability, EDD and other tax liabilities as well as trigger class action lawsuits.

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

24 September 2019

Click here for other cannabis-related articles.

The column below was first published in the October 2019 issue of Hotel Management and is reprinted with permission.

Why are so many hoteliers talking about cannabis hotels?
by
Jim Butler, Hotel Lawyer

Legal cannabis sales exceeded $10 billion in 2018, and are expected to exceed $20 billion by 2025. 33 states plus the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational  or medical purposes (or both). With all this activity, many sense an opportunity to generate more guests and profits by developing “cannabis hotels”.

Are you recommending your hotel clients dive into this?

No, except as a limited opportunity to explore carefully. Our law firm is extremely active in the hospitality industry and is one of few full-service firms in the country with a dedicated cannabis group, so we would certainly present a cannabis opportunity to the hotel industry if we thought it was viable. But we think cannabis is a “false flag” opportunity for hotels, presenting more problems than opportunities.

You say more problems than opportunities. Why?

Cannabis is still a Schedule 1 substance prohibited by Federal law. Federal agents can seize product and arrest people trafficking in cannabis products, even in states where it is legal.

The Federal illegality spooks banks with FDIC insurance. Does any hotel want to risk its banking relationships and lines of credit to dabble with cannabis?

The IRS can deny ordinary and necessary business deductions to taxpayers who traffic in Schedule 1 substances.

The regulatory situation is very complex with widely divergent state and local regulations, making it difficult or impossible to formulate uniform procedures and business approaches.

In many jurisdictions, it is likely that the property would lose all liquor licenses if it distributes cannabis products. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

24 July 2019

Click here for the latest articles on Resort Fee Litigation.

Note: If you are a consumer with a Resort Fee issue, please do NOT contact us! We do not represent consumers with complaints against hotels. We advise hotel industry clients on litigation, compliance and risk mitigation strategies. We have provided counsel on Attorney General investigations. We understand the best defenses to consumer and government agency claims that Resort Fee practices constitute violations of state consumer protection actions, the Federal Trade Commission Act and other causes of action based on misrepresentation, consumer fraud, and unfair business practices.

Another state Attorney General joins in the Resort Fee litigation – this time suing Hilton

On July 23, 2019, Attorney General Doug Patterson filed a lawsuit against Hilton, alleging that it has engaged in deceptive and misleading pricing practices and failure to disclose fees in violation of Nebraska’s consumer protection laws. The complaint seeks injunctive relief to force Hilton to advertise the true prices of its hotel rooms, provide damages for Nebraska consumers, statutory civil penalties of $2,000 for each violation, and costs for investigation and legal action. Click here to see the Nebraska complaint against Hilton.

This new lawsuit is particularly significant because it was filed just two weeks after the District of Columbia filed a similar suit against Marriott.

A new template for other Attorneys General and plaintiff’s class action lawyers?

Many industry observers believe that the two recent lawsuits against Marriott and Hilton provide a virtual “template” for other AGs and class action lawyers to mark up and file – potentially against all hotel franchise companies, hotel operators, and hotel owners involved with any hotel that has used Resort Fees or other mandatory fees or charges imposed on all hotel guests which are not included in the initially quoted room rate.

The conduct complained of in the DC and Nebraska lawsuits traces the pattern outlined by the January 2017 FTC Report as deceptive and misleading under the FTC Act and most state consumer protection laws (that are based on the FTC Act). Although these first two suits are against big hotel companies, they are just at the top of the pyramid and provide high-profile examples of targets for plaintiffs. Similar actions would likely exist against every other brand, operator or owner of a hotel using undisclosed Resort Fees in their advertised room rates. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

09 July 2019

Click here for the latest articles on Resort Fee Litigation.

Note: If you are a consumer with a Resort Fee issue, please do NOT contact us! We do not represent consumers with complaints against hotels. We are part of the fabric of the hotel industry and are committed to informing, educating and assisting players in the hotel industry.

Hotel Lawyer: We hate to say “we told you so” on Resort Fee litigation

We have been watching the Resort Fee issue for several years. We have advised clients on litigation, compliance and risk mitigation strategies. We have provided counsel on Attorney General investigations. We understand the best defenses to consumer and government agency claims that Resort Fee practices constitute violations of state consumer protection actions, the Federal Trade Commission Act and other cause of action based on misrepresentation, consumer fraud, and unfair business practices.

We have cautioned that consumer frustration over this issue is very high, and government agencies have periodically shown significant interest in jumping on a populist bandwagon. But today, it looks like the situation may have finally reached a turning point.

Hotel Resort Fees litigation back in the news

On July 9, 2019, the Attorney General for the District of Columbia sued Marriott International in Superior Court for the District of Columbia over its policies and practices regarding “Resort Fees” and “drip pricing.” The lawsuit says that Marriott’s use of Resort Fee pricing misrepresents material facts (and tends to mislead consumers), and is an unlawful trade practice that violates the District’s Consumer Protection Act.

Resort Fees is a shorthand expression for all mandatory fees and charges imposed by a hotel on its guests which are not included in the quoted room rate. They may have a variety of names such as resort fees, service fees, amenity fees, destination fees, surcharges or otherwise. But the common feature is that they are non-optional charges to the guest which are not included in the initially quoted room rate.

Copy of the complaint in DC vs. Marriott

Click here to view a copy of the complaint.

Potential importance of this Resort Fee case

Resort Fees have been around since at least 1997, but by 2017 they were estimated to have grown to more than $2.7 billion. They seem to be gaining greater popularity with hoteliers and continue to be a top annoyance for hotel guest. The practices the new lawsuit complains of are widely used throughout the industry by a large number of hotel brands and operators.

While some hotel companies may seek to distinguish their practices from those of Marriott in this case, we believe that most Resort Fee cases will present similar liabilities, challenges and compliance problems that Marriott will face.

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

13 June 2019

This year at Meet the Money® 2019, we asked attendees what they they see on the horizon for the hotel industry in 2019 and 2020 where are we in the cycle? What trends are emerging? What are the market’s strengths and weaknesses?

We’ve compiled some of the interesting answers we received in the video, below. Watch it and hear what opportunities and challenges industry executives see ahead.

CONTINUE READING →