Hospitality Industry Legal Update: “Northwest Dallas Hotel is ‘hub for drug use, prostitution and violent crime,’ Says City Hall”

The city of Dallas has had enough, and late Thursday filed suit against the owners of the motel that looks decent enough on the outside but is anything but on the inside, according to the City Attorney’s Office. The city wants the court to order the owners to clean it up immediately or face thousand-dollar-a-day penalties until the laundry list of problems are remedied.

In early December, two men were shot and another man was injured (after he jumped out a window to escape being shot) at the Orange Extended Stay Motel on Finnell Street in Northwest Dallas, near Northwest Highway and N. Stemmons Freeway. Several residents told our Naheed Rajwani at the time they feel unsafe at the Orange and that, perhaps, it was time to move away from the crime-ridden (and poorly reviewed) hotel. Said one woman, “I’m scared, and I don’t want to end up losing my life being in this area.”

She had good reason to be concerned: On May 30, someone was shot to death at the hotel.

The city of Dallas has had enough, and late Thursday filed suit against the owners of the motel that looks decent enough on the outside but is anything but on the inside, according to the City Attorney’s Office. The city wants the court to order the owners — Carrollton-based Dynasty Hotel Group — to clean it up immediately or face thousand-dollar-a-day penalties until the laundry list of problems are remedied.

“The relatively well kept facade of this business belies the abhorrent physical conditions, habitual drug offenses, and violent crime that have pervaded its interior and for which the property has become known,” says the suit, signed by Assistant City Attorney Melissa Miles.

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Hospitality Industry Management Update: “6 Ways to Prepare For the Next Downturn”

“Providing an exceptional guest experience is the best investment any hotelier can make.20150714_downturn_feature This is why we as a brand have rolled out a membership-wide training program all about the importance of unlocking the personalities of the staff and the story of the hotel when guests stay,” she said.

Good times continue to roll for the global hospitality sector with growth in the travel and tourism industry expected to increase by 3.9% this year, according to Ernst & Young’s “Global hospitality insights” report for 2015.

But in the cyclical fashion of the industry, the upswing can’t last forever.

So what should hoteliers be doing now to prepare for the inevitable down cycle, and how much can investing in their products and services now set them up for not so good times in the future?

For Eric Danziger, president and CEO of Debut Hotel Group and Hampshire Hotels Management, preparation now is absolutely key to success in a future downturn.

“Hoteliers should be pragmatic, preparing for when it is a bit more difficult to get those much-needed guests through a property’s doors,” he said. “Hoteliers that are prepared with a product and with services that guests value, appreciate and are willing to pay for will be ahead of the game.”

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Hospitality Industry Legal Update: “DOJ Releases Supplemental Guidance on Service Animals Under the Americans With Disabilities Act”

“Public accommodations and facilities covered by the ADA (including, but not limited to,those noted above) are well-advised to review the new guidance,Seal_of_the_United_States_Department_of_Justice.svg which provides practical insight into these and other thorny issues that frequently arise with regard to service animal access.”

With the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) just two weeks away, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has released a new technical assistance document addressing frequently asked questions regarding service animals and the ADA.   This additional guidance is intended to be read in conjunction with the DOJ’s previous July 2011 technical assistance on Revised ADA Requirements: Service Animals, which remains in full effect.

The DOJ has stated that this additional guidance is meant to further assist people with disabilities as well as places of public accommodation covered by the ADA – such as retail shops, restaurants, hotels, medical facilities, theaters and event spaces, and other places open to the public – in understanding how the ADA’s service animal provisions apply to them. Among other topics, the additional guidance addresses in detail:

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Hospitality Industry Management Update: “Three Rules of Renovation”

“In an era when the next big tech invention seems to arrive every week, we recognize that our guests require us to stay on trend,” Spillett says.Renovation “We know that traveling can take its toll and sometimes leaves us vulnerable, without the comforts of home. These comforts increasingly fall in the technology category, so we make every effort to ensure that our guests have convenient access to the latest tech amenities and services.”

Lodging’s current robust performance is creating a competitive environment when it comes to product freshness. The industry fundamentals have never been better, and these conditions are driving a flurry of construction projects, rebranding and conversion activity, and renovations of every scope throughout the United States.

In the last three years, an estimated 1.2 million hotel rooms have been renovated, representing more than 20 percent of the existing supply, Lodging Econometrics (LE) data reveals. According to Bruce Ford, LE’s senior vice president and director of global business development, the number of renovations will likely trend downward as strong hotel operating profitability discourages owners from making rooms unavailable while being renovated. However, for those hoteliers willing to take the plunge and make some upgrades, here are some key takeaways for making the best renovation decisions for your bottom line.

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Hospitality Industry Legal Update: “Are You Breaking the Law by Recording Calls?”

“Regardless of the content of the call, hoteliers should be ensuring that they are using automatic disclosures—in order to obtain consumer consenthotel-phone—if using an automatic recording system. If an operator becomes the target of one of these consumer privacy class actions, taking an aggressive approach and attacking these claims as incongruent with the legislative purpose and intent behind the respective statute is a recommended.”

In the past few years, class action plaintiffs have recovered billions of dollars in punitive damages by exploiting strict liability laws that punish businesses for failing to properly notify customers when a phone call is being recorded.

Under the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act and similar state statutes, businesses including hotels are prohibited from using certain tactics when telemarketing or making calls to solicit potential guests or customers. Hotels and other businesses are precluded from making calls or using any kind of prerecorded message, unless the caller has obtained a recipient’s prior express consent in writing or electronically.

Additionally, hoteliers are prohibited from making calls to residences before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m., and a future hotel guest calling to confirm a reservation also must be notified if the call is recorded. Hence, under these laws, if a hotel receptionist in Montana receives a call from a California resident to confirm a reservation but never notifies the recipient that the call is being recorded, it could result in damages ranging from $500 to $5,000 per call under federal and state laws.

This seemingly innocuous business practice of recording customer service calls without providing some variation of the oft-heard disclosure, “This call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes” has the potential to financially cripple a business.

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Hospitality Industry Legal Update: “Patel v L.A. and What it Means for Hotel Operators”

“It was being used to circumvent case law and proper court procedure to obtain privacy information,1436387202_JULY ALB Patel v LA sidebar pic” Seiders said. “The police were using these local laws to avoid having to go through judicial review. I think that’s where it became abusive.

More than a decade ago, a group of hotel owners sued Los Angeles. Now their actions have caused reverberations in hotels throughout the country.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 22 in City of Los Angeles v. Patel that the police practice of asking for a hotel’s guest registry without a warrant is unconstitutional.

“It’s certainly providing privacy protection and extending it to companies, both to the company owner and the guests that are there. It’s certainly a win for the hotels,” Attorney Dana Kravetz said.

“This is going to have widespread impact – and already has had widespread impact – on a host of cities and really the industry at large. It’s a powerful decision. It really sets it out pretty clearly as to what the police can or cannot do.”

This ruling goes beyond Los Angeles as so many other U.S. cities have similar ordinances, said Kravetz, managing partner of Michelman & Robinson and chair of the law firm’s hospitality group.

“It’s really a great day for the hotel industry,” said Frank Weiser, the attorney for the group of hotel owners (Patel). “It’s a great day for businesses throughout America.”

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Hospitality Industry Management Update: “Cuts to Per Diem Rates Could Mean Less Business for Hotels”

However, not only does this policy penalize the men and women who ensure our national security on a daily basis,perdiem but it also threatens to erode the morale of the workforce and will mean less business for hotels and firms that cater to federal travelers. These same companies are extremely supportive of our military and veteran communities, and they too will face negative effects of this policy.

As Congress and the Administration make decisions on how to reduce fiscal spending, there is a basic set of principles they must follow to make sure the policies enacted are fair and balanced. While cuts in spending are guaranteed to have an adverse effect on at least one group or geographical area, a 2014 policy on per diem rates for military personnel and defense civilian employees who receive temporary duty assignment (TDY) for long-term periods failed to be either fair or balanced. It affected service members and defense personnel in my home state of Hawaii to a far greater extent than the small amount of savings it contributed to the budget. That is why I made it my top priority in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act and was successful in including the provision in the bill that reversed this ill-thought-out policy.

Defense spending heavily supports Hawaii’s economy—nearly 20 percent, according to a study by the RAND Corporation. This economic contribution falls second only to our tourism industry, which adds approximately $14 billion to the state’s gross domestic product every year. Therefore, dedicating support to preserve and enhance these industries is a top priority for any politician representing the state. Reversing policies with unintended consequences that negatively affect these industries, along with the almost 20,000 Department of Defense civilian employees in the state, also should take
top consideration.

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Hospitality Industry Technology Update: “Hoteliers Need to Own Their Property Website”

While low cost and minimal fees are an appealing draw, rental websites are a classic example of a scenario in which one gets what one pays for, but in this case, possibly even less since the ownership of the site and what hoteliers are putting funds toward is not theirs at the end of the day.hotel website This doesn’t even take into account the additional shortcomings seen from rented hotel websites such as no search engine optimization, little service or support following the initial set-up, a limited number of site pages, photos or content and so on.

The hospitality industry has seen a number of agencies offering hoteliers a low-cost, low-budget website that they can rent. It has been widely noted that these agencies, which promise all of the bells and whistles associated with investing thousands of dollars and development resources, often leave hoteliers in the lurch after the deal is done.

Why? A number of reasons, but perhaps the most important is that agencies that rent hotel websites do not provide hoteliers with true ownership of their content which becomes problematic as explained below.

It should come as no surprise that a hotel’s digital assets should be owned by the property, however, the subject of digital ownership seems to be overlooked by hoteliers doing business with rental agencies. Hoteliers’ ownership should reach past the physical ownership of their property to include their digital content and here is why:

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Hospitality Industry Management Update: “Protect Your Property from Common Industry Scams”

To prevent any type of scam, Bragiel suggests that hoteliers establish reliable contacts within banks, businesses, and the hotel’s credit card processor. That way, if questions of authenticity arise,Scam the front desk staff can turn to trusted sources. “When in doubt, we always encourage our members to check with the folks they have relationships with,” says Bragiel

It could be disguised as a typical guest interaction: Someone checks in under a corporate account that does not require a credit card, only for management to later realize the guest was not an employee of the company. Or, it could be someone whose credit card fails to go through, so he or she provides the clerk with a false authorization code. Both of these scenarios are common lodging industry scams, pulled by con artists who exploit front desk protocols to get a free stay, and oftentimes managers don’t even know what happened until the guest is long gone.

Fraud is a growing issue in the United States, with retailers losing $32 million in 2014 to credit card scamming, up from $23 million in 2013, according to a recent Business Insider report. For hoteliers to avoid becoming a victim of one of these cons, it is important that they not only recognize the signs of common industry scams but also learn how to be proactive in protecting a property from vulnerability.

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Hospitality Industry Management Update: “3 Ways the Hotel Industry is Changing”

“We’re under attack right now,” he said. “We’re under direct attack. We’ve got Expedia and Orbitz planning a merger. They have 75% of the online marketplace. This is like the Klingons and Romulans teaming up together.”3 ways hotel industry changing…David Kong, president and CEO of Best Western International, said he is not surprised to see consolidation among online travel agencies considering that some hotel companies are consolidating, too.

J. Allen Smith has a problem.

“I keep feeling: ‘What should I be worried about?’” the president and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts said Tuesday during a general session “The leaders forum” panel at the 37th annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference.

“You’re mindful of a plethora of risks. None of them seems to be materializing in a way that seems to be disrupting anything, but you have to be mindful of them,” he said

Smith’s comment succinctly summed up the sentiment on Day Two of the NYU Conference. With the industry hitting on all cylinders, it can be difficult to find things to be concerned about.

Difficult, but not impossible it turns out, as top leaders from around the industry discussed their biggest concerns in this part of the cycle. One of the recurring themes throughout the three-hour long series of morning general sessions had to do with how the hotel industry itself is in transition.

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