Monthly Archives: January 2016

The 2016 Hospitality Law Conference


Intensive Hospitality Education. Exceptional Networking. It’s Not Just for Lawyers.

From development deals to management agreements, from food and beverage liability to labor and employment, and from claims management to anti-trust issues, the latest cases, trends and challenges in compliance, finance, law, risk, safety, and security are up for exploration at the 14th Annual Hospitality Law Conference, February 22-24, 2016.

The Owner Management Summit, co-located with The Hospitality Law Conference – 2016, intersects legal, finance and technology and includes sessions on: who owns the data, who is responsible for the data, development and unwinding management contracts.

The Hospitality Insurance and Loss Prevention Summit, co-located with the Hospitality Law Conference, includes sessions on risk management, the top claims in 2015, and coverages for cyber & data breaches.

Hotel and Restaurant Corporate Counsel have several opportunities to meet with their peers in facilitated conversations to explore common challenges, solutions and law department management.

Also featured during The Hospitality Law Conference – 2016, are break-out sessions and roundtables in Food & Beverage, Lodging, and Human Resources & Labor Relations.

Join Petra Risk Solutions’ very own Todd Seiders for, “Discussion of Most Frequent Claims and How to Prevent Them”


Todd Seiders - Petra Risk SolutionsSlips, falls, breaks, disruptions.  If you are involved in the hospitality industry, you face very real threats to your financial well-being and your reputation.  A security breach at your property, a slip by a patron, a defect in construction, or a natural disaster are examples of problems that could and should be addressed by your risk management program and your insurance.  In this session, Todd Seiders, Director of Loss Control at Petra Risk Solutions, and Allen Wolff, Insurance Recovery Attorney with Anderson Kill, will identify and analyze some of the most frequent claims that arise in hospitality industry and will offer analysis and insight for managing the risk of such claims, mitigating the losses caused by them, and obtaining insurance coverage for them.

Click here for more infomation on: TODD SEIDERS
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Filed under Conferences, Hotel Restaurant, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

Embassy Suites Let Attacker Into Woman’s Room


A New Jersey woman who was sexually assaulted while staying at the Embassy Suites in downtown Des Moines has filed a lawsuit claiming staff members unwittingly let her attacker into her seventh-floor room.

Cheri Marchionda is suing both Embassy Suites and Hilton Worldwide, as well as Atrium Finance III, the company that owns the Des Moines hotel.

She was staying at the East Village hotel during a business trip when she awoke sometime after midnight on April 11, 2014, to find Christopher Edward LaPointe standing at the foot of her bed and touching her leg.

LaPointe, 31, a New York resident also staying at the hotel, is now serving a 20-year prison sentence at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center after pleading guilty to burglary and sexual abuse charges in December 2014.

In a federal lawsuit on track to go to trial in Des Moines, lawyers from a Pennsylvania firm representing Marchionda wrote that a manager, a desk clerk and a maintenance man all helped LaPointe get into the woman’s room without asking Marchionda whether he had permission to be there.

Though the Des Moines Register does not typically identify sexual assault victims in criminal cases, it does publish plaintiffs’ names in reporting on civil lawsuits. Reached by phone Wednesday, Marchionda’s lawyers said she did not currently want to speak publicly about the case.

“Each defendant owed a special duty of care to her, including a duty to provide for and assure her safety and security while at the hotel,” attorneys Paul Brandes and Michael Hanamirian wrote in the lawsuit. “To not expose her to burglary, assaults or attacks by others … and to not assist others in burglarizing, assaulting or attacking her.”

The negligence lawsuit was filed in a New Jersey federal court district in June, but was moved Tuesday to Iowa after lawyers couldn’t agree on a settlement during nonbinding mediation earlier in December. None of the defendants have filed an answer in court to the lawsuit, though a motion to dismiss over jurisdictional issues was denied by a judge.

The general manager at the Des Moines hotel did not immediately return a reporter’s phone call this week. Maggie Giddens, a public relations director for the hotel chain, said the company could not publicly comment because of the ongoing litigation.

The claims in Marchionda’s lawsuit are similar to those from another that Los Angeles attorney Gloria Allred filed against Embassy Suites and its parent company, Hilton Worldwide, on behalf of a woman who was sexually assaulted while staying at one of their hotels in North Charleston, S.C.

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Use a Lack of Confidence in OTA Sites to Your Advantage


A recent report from the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) revealed an increase in complaints about false OTA websites created by fraudulent travel companies.  Many customers have lost money to these sites, while others are calling hotels directly to ensure that they are indeed making a reservation at the hotel as intended.

This apparent trend of dwindling consumer confidence matches the booming growth of the online travel sector. While customers now have unparalleled choice and freedom to compare a range of deals, they’re also faced with uncertainty when dealing with unknown companies.

Common questions: Is this deal too good to be true? Is my payment secure? Who exactly am I dealing with here? With answers to these questions unclear at times, customers are increasingly cautious.

For a legitimate OTA, this clearly presents a challenge. How can an online business give people a sense that it can truly be trusted?  Having a quality website that has well-written copy, that features up-to-date content, and has a unique tone of voice can all help give off a sense of added professionalism and authenticity.

But the ABTA report shines a light on arguably the most important way people seek assurances: they pick up the phone.   In the end, nothing replaces the human voice. As a travel company, making sure customers can talk to you day or night offers your clients an instant way to check your credentials.

No doubt, investing in a quality website can convey an extra level of trustworthiness. But many customers will always want a more immediate and reliable way of making sure your company is legitimate.

So, at a time when online shoppers are becoming less trusting and more savvy about who they deal with, having a phone number clearly listed on your website and a system to ensure every call gets answered can safeguard potential bookings from cautious customers.

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Social Media Marketing Trends to Try in 2016

social media

In today’s fast-moving digital age, unless you’re constantly reviewing journals and forums, online and social media trends can be hard to keep up with. It’s important that hospitality brands stay at the forefront of digital innovation to target audiences on the online platforms where they spend their time. Oster and Associates, a full-service marketing and branding firm, offers this overview of some of the top online marketing tactics that hospitality brands can take advantage of during 2016.

Capture your customers during micro-moments

Micro-moments are the times throughout the day when a consumer consults their smartphone to do something instantaneously, such as research a fact a friend just mentioned, shop for an item of clothing they just saw a stranger wearing, look up a nearby restaurant for lunch or check prices for upcoming weekend flights to Chicago. Because customers function in micro-moment tidbits of time, so should your brand. This means considering how your website is navigated. It should be mobile-friendly and intuitive to a customer’s needs, featuring a personalized experience through geo-targeting, demographic information and established behaviors. Consider how you can serve your customers the information they need before they even ask for it.

Videos should be a large portion of your social media content

Customers want to experience your brand as much as possible before choosing to spend their money at your establishment. Videos offer a chance to give them a bite-sized glimpse of your company. In addition to video-based social media platforms such as Periscope, most existing platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, have incorporated video capabilities. And, 360-degree video technology is changing the game. Hospitality and tourism brands can utilize videos to showcase their product with potential customers around the world.

Tailor email campaigns to your various audience groups

Email campaigns are effective channels to share your brand with consumers and create long-term relationships with existing customers. Compared to other industries, the hospitality industry experiences one of the highest open-rates for emails. Capitalize on your already-engaged audience and provide content specific for each group. For example, we know that families tend to plan their vacations months in advance, so if you are a family-oriented brand, create and schedule email campaigns that engage your target audience during their vacation-planning phase. Additionally, with the expected increase of business travelers, consider how to engage with the bleisure traveler – the one who tacks additional days on to a business trip in order to enjoy leisure time while in a different city. Try targeting this group using email campaigns that promote weeklong stays with leisure options, such as restaurants or tours, over the weekend.

“While the platforms and technology may change, one thing remains constant: customers want to feel valued,” said Karin Salas, Oster and Associates vice president. “Even in a technology-driven world, consumers want a personalized experience. Brands can use new online and social media tools to connect with potential customers, creating customized moments that engage them with your brand.”

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Booking Scams: Helping Guests Helps Hoteliers


Although online booking scams are a problem that should be resolved by the hotel industry as a whole, they also can cause headaches for individual front-desk employees at properties.


According to research from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 15 million deceptive bookings were made in 2015 at a cost of roughly $1.3 billion.

So what should you do when prospective guests walk through your front door believing they’ve booked and paid for a stay only to find out they’ve been scammed? Sources said the answer to that question can be a difficult one, but it requires a delicate balance of education, compassion and long-term thinking.

Maryam Khan Cope, VP of government affairs for AH&LA, said one way these rogue websites operate is by taking photos from a hotel’s website and claiming to offer bookings to that particular property.

“We’re seeing this spike (in booking scams) and hearing from hotels that they essentially had their identities replicated on these scam sites,” Cope said.

Accommodating a scammed guest

Even though hoteliers did nothing wrong to cause a would-be guest walking onto their property with a sham booking, there is a lot on the line depending on how the situation is handled.

Roger Bloss, CEO of Vantage Hospitality Group, said his directive to owner-operators of his company’s brands is to honor stays of “a night or two” and charge it to the corporate office.

“We’ve got to think about the people booking in the economy lodging segment,” Bloss said. “(Scam bookings) can be a dramatic hardship on them. As hoteliers, we don’t want to see that happen. So, we’ve instructed our hotels to be hospitable.”

Bloss said covering stays for scammed customers benefits the company in terms of reputation management. Even though the hotel isn’t the source of the scam, leaving a would-be guest out in the cold can lead to a negative association with brands and possibly negative reviews and backlash online.

“At the end of the day, it always comes back to the brand, the property and the company,” Bloss said. “I don’t want to put our members in the position that they have to make a financial decision that affects the brand as a whole. In the days of social media, it’s a lot less expensive to keep a customer than attract new ones.”

Bloss said he sees this as a common sense approach.

“You have to think about all the money spent to attract guests to hotels,” Bloss said. “Would you destroy all that over a couple hundred bucks?”

Cope said AH&LA suggests taking a similar tact to what Bloss described.

“We suggest, because they’re in the business of guest service, that they do whatever they can to accommodate,” she said. “That might mean identifying an alternative at your hotel in your area.”

Cope said GMs try to “bend over backwards” to help scammed guests, but sometimes they’re caught in situations where no solution presents itself, such as if no rooms are available. But hoteliers should keep in mind that all efforts to help a scammed guest are positive.

“They should offer any additional support they can provide the guest especially because negative experiences often reflect on the hotel,” Cope said.

Chris Harvey, GM of the Crowne Plaza Charleston Airport & Convention Center, said he has been lucky enough to not encounter scammed guests at his hotel, but if it were to occur he’d instruct staff to offer a room at a reduced rate.

“You have to make sure you’re doing something for them and help them to keep the situation from getting worse,” Harvey said.

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Workers Compensation Best Practices: What You Should Be Doing

Workers Compensation

Effective cost management of workers compensation claims starts at the time of the injury. Otherwise, studies confirm that the longer it takes to report a claim, the higher the cost.


“What happens in the first 24 hours post-injury is critical,” said Michael Bell, executive vice president for U.S. business development with Gallagher Bassett. Industry experts agree that successful management of these expenses must be comprehensive from start to finish, from the time of the injury through recovery and eventual return to work.

Bell estimates that 30% of all injured workers require medical guidance instead of medical care. This means that 30% can be resolved with self-treatment and that a claim doesn’t have to be filed. It eliminates a costly visit to the emergency room, where expenses can quickly climb to $1,000 or more.

The top priority — helping the employee recover and return to work — is best addressed by prompt treatment and proper guidance to direct the patient to the right source of care. For example, if someone is suffering from complex pain issues, a general practitioner may not be the best option for a claim that is not going to end with a simple outcome.

An injury is frequently a new experience for many employees who are looking for guidance. Where that guidance comes from, whether on the employer’s side or the claims handling side, makes a difference. A recommended best practice, Bell said, is a nurse triage process. Nurses will record initial interviews at the site of the accident, a critical time when facts can be clarified and confirmed. A worker will be much more honest in sharing information with a nurse than with a claims professional. A triage nurse also determines whether treatment is even necessary and then guides the patient to the appropriate medical provider.

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Hotel Housekeeping Firm Accused of Insurance and Tax Fraud


The owners of an Irvine-based company that provides housekeeping services for luxury resorts and major hotel chains in Southern California have been indicted in what prosecutors call a $7 million insurance and tax fraud scheme, the San Diego County district attorney’s office announced Monday.

Prosecutors alleged in a news release that Hyok “Steven” Kwon and Woo “Stephanie” Kwon hid the existence of about 800 employees for almost a decade through a “methodical and systematic shell game involving six straw owners.”

The scheme enabled the Kwons to avoid paying more than $3.6 million in housekeeping workers’ compensation insurance premiums and more than $3.3 million in payroll taxes, prosecutors said.


The Kwons’ company, Good Neighbor Services, has high-profile clients in San Diego, Los Angeles and Riverside counties, including the Hotel del Coronado and hotel chains such as Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Hilton and Hyatt, according to prosecutors.

“These defendants lied on the backs of their employees who were cleaning rooms in some of the most prestigious hotels in California,” San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said in a statement. “If employees got hurt on the job, they were threatened with being fired.”

Prosecutors allege that housekeeping and other employees at Good Neighbor Services were not paid overtime and not granted workers’ compensation benefits if they were hurt on the job.

One worker whom investigators interviewed said she had to repeatedly ask for medical attention when she was hurt, and when the Kwons did send her to a doctor, it was a dentist, not a physician, according to the district attorney’s office.

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Filed under Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Insurance, Workers' Compensation

Three Tips for Hazard Communication Compliance


GHS compliance is something every member of your staff should be up to date on. Does your hotel staff know how to properly handle the hazardous chemicals they are exposed to every day?

Earlier this year, a hotel in Rochester, N.Y., faced this question when a dangerous vapor cloud formed after hotel staff mixed chlorine with other “ordinary” household cleaning chemicals. Luckily no one was seriously injured, but the entire hotel was evacuated and six employees were taken to a local hospital after falling ill.

Incidents like this serve as a reminder that even common chemicals used in relatively small quantities can pose serious hazards to staff if proper training and guidelines are not followed. Since 1994, hotels have been required to comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Hazard Communication Standard (HazCom), which applies to the handling and storage of hazardous chemicals. OSHA mandates under HazCom that all hotel employees be trained on the safe use, storage, and handling of these materials.

In 2012, OSHA modified the HazCom Standard to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), a model system developed by the United Nations. The adoption of GHS has triggered big changes and compliance deadlines for establishments covered by HazCom. The biggest change is to chemical product safety data sheets (SDS) and labels, which have new formats that provide more specific and consistent information about any potential hazards. Under GHS, safety data sheets must follow a strictly ordered, 16-section format. Similarly, labels on shipped containers now include a standardized format with six key elements: product identifiers, signal words, pictograms, hazardous statements, precautionary statements, and supplier information.

Whether or not you’ve begun preparing for the GHS changes, here are a few tips to help get you on track for full OSHA compliance by the final June 1, 2016 deadline:

Ensure staff is comfortable with GHS.

All staff exposed to hazardous chemicals in the workplace should have been trained on the new SDS and label formats by the first GHS deadline, Dec. 1, 2013. If your staff still hasn’t been trained on GHS, and they are exposed to hazardous chemicals in the course of their work, then you may be found out of compliance and should address these requirements quickly. You should recognize this training requirement as an ongoing obligation.

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Filed under Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Training

9 Social Media Tips For 2016

Social Media

Hotel marketers have never seen such rapid and overwhelming change like the one happening in social media. However, there are ways to approach the social media universe that will help maintain perspective in the face of all that change.

Several sources provided nine social media tips for 2016 to help marketers maintain perspective.

1. Keep up with what’s new

Social media innovations catch on with incredible speed. For instance, Periscope and Meerkat, both video streaming apps launched in 2015, are already players in travel marketing. The apps allow users to send video to friends or followers instantly.

“There are constantly new platforms emerging and it’s important to us to stay on top of it,” said Dan Moriarty, director of digital strategy and activation for Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

2. Stay up to date on existing platforms

The big guys are not resting on their laurels. For example, Moriarty said, “Twitter removing direct messaging character limitations really opens up the depth of conversation hotels can have with guests on that platform and enables better connections.

“Also, Instagram has made it easier to tag a location when a picture was taken there, and now allows users to search by location rather than just hashtag. This is huge for travel.”

“Facebook is leading the pack everywhere,” said Benji Greenberg, CEO of BCV, which manages social media for hotels. “They are introducing something new every two weeks. They recently launched Facebook Messenger for business, which is important because companies will be able to embed Messenger in their websites instead of using live chat. Now a customer can walk away from the computer without the usual live chat waiting and maintain the communication on another device.”

3. Practice targeting

All the social platforms have upped their capabilities around targeting, said Lucy Kemmitz, lead of social media for the Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Curio brands from Hilton Worldwide Holdings.

“Instagram now offers the same extensive and highly accurate targeting parameters as Facebook,” Kemmitz said, “and allows for campaigns that run on both platforms for coordinated campaigns using both platforms at a more affordable price point than previously. As evidence of the effectiveness of the targeting available on Instagram, we see click-through rates of nearly 2.5% on ads for Curio.”

Kemmitz said Twitter launched event-based targeting, which allows marketers to target people interested in area events. She said beta advertisers saw up to a 110% increase in engagement when using this type of targeting on the platform.

Jeremy Jauncey, founder of Beautiful Destinations, which advises brands on Instagram, said paid advertising on Instagram is “the most important change to the platform in its history.”

“Now not only can a hotel tell its story through imagery, targeted ad technology enables brands to drive: clicks to websites, views of videos, mobile app downloads and massive amounts of impressions,” Jauncey said. “Hotels like the Bellagio and Starwood properties such as W and Aloft have already spent money on these types of ads.

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