Articles Posted in Outlook and Trends

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 →

Published on:

02 June 2019

Important data on Boutique, Lifestyle, and Soft Brands

Each year since 2016, The Highland Group has published the Boutique Hotel Report, an annual compilation of data describing the boutique hotel segment. Kim Bardoul, a partner with the group, specializes in boutique hotels and produces the report each year.

A resource for developers, consultants, appraisers, operators, lenders and brands, the report defines lifestyle, soft brand collections and independent boutique hotels; details room distribution; describes current market share and recent trends; and compares boutiques with traditional hotel types for RevPAR, F&B revenue, Trev PAR and EBITDA.

With boutique hotels one of the fastest-growing segments in the U.S. hospitality industry, and $20 billion in revenue in 2018, The Highland Group’s report is a valuable tool for anyone interested in how they might take advantage of their strong performance. Following are a couple of charts I found interesting, and that illustrate the data available in the full report.

Lifestyle and Soft Brand Collection supply increased dramatically from 2000 to 2018 – Lifestyle boutique rooms increased by 13% from 2017 to 2018, and Soft Brand Collection rooms increased by 32%. The charts below, provided in the report, illustrate this trend. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

07 May 2019

Greetings from Los Angeles and the beautiful Hyatt Regency LAX!

Today, we kicked off Meet the Money® 2019 – the National Hotel Finance & Investment Conference hosted by JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® – with the LIIC Top Ten. Presented by my friend, Mike Cahill, CEO and Founder of HREC and one of LIIC’s co-chairmen, the LIIC Top Ten reflects the perspectives of the industry’s most active members in the hospitality market.

— Jim

About the LIIC Top Ten

For the past 15 years, the members of the hotel industry’s preeminent think tank, “LIIC – The Lodging Industry Investment Council,” are annually surveyed to develop a list of the major hotel investment opportunities and challenges for the coming year. This exhaustive survey results in the LIIC Top Ten, a highly regarded profile of investment sentiment and attitudes for the lodging industry for the forthcoming 12 months. Altogether, the members of LIIC represent direct acquisition and disposition control of well over $60 billion of lodging real estate.

Members are currently extremely active and have the pulse of the market, with 64% of LIIC hotel investors having successfully sold a hotel in the last 12 months and 50% purchased a lodging asset. In defiance of any late cycle concerns, 93% are looking to buy more hotels over the next 24 months.

The hospitality industry’s most influential investors, lenders, corporate real estate executives, REIT’s, public hotel companies, brokers and significant lodging equity sources are represented on the Council. LIIC serves as the leading industry think tank for the lodging real estate business (www.liic.org).

2019 LIIC Top Ten Survey Results: CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

24 April 2019

LOS ANGELES—JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® will host Meet the Money® national hotel finance and investment conference May 6-8 at the Hyatt Regency LAX in Los Angeles.  Now in its 29th year, this annual event will bring together hotel owners, operators, developers, consultants, investors, brands, lenders and other capital providers to discuss current developments in the industry as well as strategies for the future.

“Our line-up of more than 70 speakers include top hospitality leaders who will share their expertise and deliver essential information for maximizing potential opportunities,” said Jim Butler, Chairman of JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group®. “Attendees will also have the opportunity to meet some of the most active capital providers in the market for both existing and new hotel construction,” he said.

Free to all who register is a special pre-conference session on Monday afternoon May 6th – Meet The Equity: Investment Bootcamp – Preparing and Executing the Capital Raise. This interactive workshop will be led by Jonathan Falik of JF Capital Advisors, Guy Maisnik, Vice Chair of JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group®, and private equity experts who will explain how they evaluate requests for capital, what makes certain deals attractive to them, and why they reject projects.

Some of this year’s panel discussions and special presentations, include:

  • Views from the Executive Suite: What’s Important Now?
  • Creative Financing: Mezz and Beyond
  • Is Select Service Still Everyone’s Favorite? Where Does it Go from Here?
  • Developing, Redeveloping and Repositioning to Optimize Value
  • Winning Strategies for Buying and Selling Hotels
  • Construction Financing Today

“Our speakers are passionate about the hospitality industry and we look forward to the enthusiastic exchange of ideas that happens every year at Meet the Money,” said Butler. “We look forward to seeing our long-time industry friends and making new ones.”

Registration can be made through the Meet the Money® website. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

12 February 2019

Recently, my partner, Guy Maisnik, and I spoke about hotel retail mixed-use development with Kelsi Maree Borland of GlobeSt.com. Her article, Why Retail Owners Are Partnering With Hotels ran with the subtitle, With retail evolving to be more experience-driven, retail owners are finding the benefits of adding boutique hotels to shopping centers.

Retailers adding hotels to the mix is nothing new – but they may be more motivated than ever. The Hotel Law Blog has been covering hotel mixed-use projects — where the hotel provides the catalyst for social activity at shopping centers, office complexes, and residential buildings — since 2009. At that time, retail sales were suffering due to the Great Recession.

From GlobeSt.com:

“The Great Recession taught retailers that the old mantra was dead”, says Maisnik. “’If you build it, they will come’ may work in the movies but not for increasing retail sales. There were just too many stores and they were boring, outmoded and couldn’t attract shoppers. The drivers for adding hotels to retail projects have not changed in the last 10 years but the force of the drivers and their impact has increased tremendously. Failure to adopt and grow to meet consumers’ desires can be the death knell for retailers.”

Add to this the spectacular growth of online sales, which accounted for 19.1% of total retail sales in 2018, and it is no wonder that brick-and-mortar retailers are hurting. Some, like Sears and JC Penney are scrambling for survival.

From GlobeSt.com:

“To survive the challenges from online retailing, brick and mortar retail will need to create exciting environments for consumers, where art, music, events, convenience and lifestyle provide a magnet for consumers. Properly done, hotels can be an important part of creating this magic, but hotels provide new levels of complexity in mixed-use projects with their own unique norms, customs, and players.” Jim Butler

What retail properties are good candidates for a hotel, and what should owners interested in including a hotel look for?

To create a great mixed-use project, each component of the project must be strong and must be tested against the fundamentals for that type of real estate use. Just as retail developers go through their checklists to determine what will make a great retail center, if there is to be a hotel, office, entertainment, or residential component, each piece of the puzzle must be tested against its own unique criteria for success. This is particularly true for hotels which need demand, and require a rigorous feasibility analysis. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

23 January 2019

Hotel Lawyers share tax news for those owning interests in foreign entities.

The tax lawyers at JMBM have significant experience in advising clients with international business interests, and keep them informed of developments that affect their businesses. Recently, JMBM issued a Tax Alert regarding the obligations of those owning an interest in a foreign entities to determine whether a repatriation tax payment must be made under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Yes, the IRS imposes a penalty for failure to report, so compliance is critical. I am pleased to share this information with you, which is provided by my partner, Scott Harshman, Chairman of JMBM’s International Tax Group.

Tax Alert: Foreign Entity Ownership Compliance
Don’t Ignore the Repatriation Tax
by
Scott A. Harshman

 

In 2017, if a client owned an interest in a foreign entity (directly or indirectly through a tiered entity structure), then an evaluation should have been done to determine whether the client owed a repatriation tax under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).  Many clients, and their tax advisors, are unaware of this obligation and have failed to pay this tax.  The repatriation tax was meant to tax accumulated earnings of a controlled foreign corporation.  For clients that own an interest in multiple foreign entities, the accumulated earnings may offset one another from each entity.  Two tax rates potentially apply, 15.5% and 8%.

The rules are complex, but in simple terms, if a U.S. person owns an interest in a controlled foreign corporation or owns any interest in a foreign corporation through a domestic corporation, they likely should have paid the repatriation tax beginning in 2017.  A special election may be made to pay this tax in 8 installments. Additionally, an election under IRC Section 962 would treat an individual, trust or estate shareholder as a corporation to potentially receive more favorable tax treatment.  This analysis and election must be done each year.  A controlled foreign corporation is a foreign corporation (some entities may be a corporation for U.S. tax purposes even if called something else) where U.S. persons who own more than 10% also collectively own more than 50% of the entity (but note that the repatriation tax applies to any domestic corporation that owns a foreign entity).  Constructive ownership rules apply and generally attribute stock ownership from family, entities, trusts and estates.

Now that we are in 2019, tax professionals are starting to understand the new tax rules for foreign entity reporting and disclosure, including the 2017 repatriation tax under IRC Section 965 (such as those described above).  The IRS continues to provide new guidance in this area to help tax advisors apply these new rules. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

Chinese-Photo-1-2

Recently, a Chinese government delegation visited Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP.  The delegation included some of the highest-ranking officials from a top Chinese government agency – “China State Administration of Foreign Exchange” – an agency that directly oversees the investment of $3 trillion of China’s foreign reserve. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

A hotel lawyer brings together numerous legal disciplines, depending on the hospitality project. That’s why the Global Hospitality Group® is part of a full-service law firm. My partners at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM) provide first-rate services to our hospitality clients and I am pleased that their efforts were recognized today in U.S. News & World Report’s list of Best Law Firms.

– Jim

U.S. News & World – Best Law Firms® Recognizes JMBM as 2019 “Best Law Firm”

Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell LLP (JMBM) is pleased to announce it has been recognized as a 2019 “Best Law Firm” by U.S. News & World Best Lawyers®, which recognizes the top law firms in the country for professional excellence. This is the ninth year for JMBM’s inclusion as a Best Law Firm.

“This recognition is especially important to us as it is based on the views of our clients and peers,” said Bruce P. Jeffer, JMBM’s Managing Partner. “We are committed to focusing on our clients’ objectives and providing outstanding service.”
JMBM’s Trusts & Estates Group achieved National Tier 1 – the highest ranking possible – in Trusts & Estates Law, underscoring the Group’s unique combination of exemplary service and breadth of knowledge in trusts and estates law.

The Firm also earned Metropolitan Tier 1 rankings in the following areas: CONTINUE READING →