Tag Archives: Petra Risk Solutions

How the Zika Virus Is Affecting Travel

Zika

The travel industry is beginning to react as vacationers rethink their trips amid growing concern over the Zika virus, the mosquito-borne disease that experts say is possibly linked to microcephaly in babies. The spread of the virus has led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to warn pregnant women and those planning to become pregnant against travel to affected areas, including popular Caribbean tourist destinations like Puerto Rico, the United States Virgin Islands and Barbados, as well as Mexico, Brazil and Panama.

United Airlines said that customers who hold tickets to regions that the C.D.C. says are affected by the virus can postpone their trips or receive full refunds.

American Airlines said that pregnant women with tickets to Panama City, Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula in Honduras, and San Salvador in El Salvador will receive a refund if they provide a doctor’s note stating that they are unable to travel because of their pregnancy.

JetBlue will allow customers who have concerns about traveling to Zika-affected areas a refund or rebooking, a spokeswoman said.

Virgin America will let travelers who have tickets to any Mexican destinations — Cancún, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos — get a refund or change their flight free of charge, a spokesman said.

Cruise lines are also working with travelers who want to change their plans. A spokeswoman for Princess Cruises said that pregnant women who are on itineraries visiting Zika-affected countries can cancel their cruises and get a credit for future cruises.

A spokesman for Royal Caribbean said that pregnant women who do not feel comfortable sailing to countries affected by the Zika virus can choose an alternative itinerary or get a credit for a future cruise, valid for two years.

Norwegian Cruise Lines is also making accommodations for pregnant women by allowing them to reschedule their cruise for a future date or change their itinerary to nonaffected destinations, a spokeswoman said.

Hotels in the affected regions are largely not offering refunds. While some are taking precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the disease, they have not implemented specific cancellation policies for guests who want to change their plans.

Hilton Worldwide, with 109 properties across its 13 brands in the affected areas, as well as Hyatt hotels and Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, are considering waivers for cancellations on a case-by-case basis.

Some tour providers, meanwhile, especially in Brazil, where it is peak tourist season, report that they are fielding inquiries from concerned clients who have vacations planned in the country in the coming weeks.

For more: http://nyti.ms/1T0bcse

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Filed under Health, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

Eight Places to Clean to Avoid Norovirus Outbreak

norovirus

Most prevalent in the winter months, norovirus is the most common cause of acute gastroenteritis outbreaks in the United States resulting in as many as 21 million cases each year and 1.9 million hospital visits. To help reduce the spread of flu within businesses this season, Cintas Corporation offers a checklist of commonly overlooked “hot spots” to help facility managers maintain a clean environment for employees and guests.

 

“A norovirus outbreak can wreak havoc on a business’s productivity,” said John Engel, senior marketing manager, Cintas. “Whether you work in a school, medical building, hotel, restaurant, or even a cruise ship, an aggressive cleaning regimen with effective cleaning, sanitization and disinfection can help reduce the impact or threat of an outbreak.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identifies three primary modes of transmission for norovirus: Eating or drinking contaminated foods or liquids, touching surfaces or objects contaminated with norovirus then putting your fingers in your mouth, or having direct contact with an infected person.

To help minimize the spread of norovirus, facility managers should pay close attention to the following items within a building:

Door handles. Because they are one of the most touched surfaces in a facility, it’s important to regularly wipe down and disinfect all door handles within a building. This includes doors to offices, restrooms, storage areas, refrigerators, as well as the front and back entrances that are often used by employees.

Community tables. Whether it is in a conference room, waiting area or in an employee cafeteria, table surfaces are touched often and should be regularly cleaned and disinfected.

Elevators. Touched daily by employees or guests, elevator buttons can be a likely source for virus transmission. Wipe down elevator buttons on a daily basis and sanitize them at least once a week.

Community benches and chairs. Because they are designated for sitting, seats might be an overlooked part of the cleaning and disinfecting process. To prevent the spread of bacteria and norovirus infection, clean all parts of the seat, including the bottom and arm rests.

Light switches. Although light switches in primary areas of a facility, such as the lobby, might be touched only once a day, light switches in other areas like meeting rooms, offices or the restroom are used more frequently and require additional cleaning.

Employee kitchen equipment. Clean and wipe down the surfaces of all kitchen and break room equipment, including large items such as dishwashers and microwaves and smaller equipment such as coffee makers and toasters.

Drinking fountains. Drinking fountains can become contaminated by a variety of germs from the user’s mouth and hands, which is why it’s important to disinfect their surfaces – particularly their spouts and handles daily.

Railings. Located alongside stairs or at the top of an atrium or overlook, railings and handrails should be cleaned and disinfected daily.

For more: http://bit.ly/1L3n4mM

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Filed under Food Illnesses, Guest Issues, Health, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

5 Questions, Answers About ADA Compliance

ADA

Hotel News Now has run numerous stories about compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA), with topics ranging from how to handle service animals to providing equal access to guests.

 

However, sometimes those articles inspired more questions from you. We asked two legal sources to provide some insights on your questions.

1. If someone comes in and asks me for a handicap room, can I ask them for proof they are disabled or handicapped at that point (such as a handicap sticker)?

Minh N. Vu of Seyfarth Shaw: “No. A hotel should not inquire about or require proof of disability when a person requests an accessible room. However, it would be appropriate to say something like: ‘The room you are requesting has features for guests with mobility and/or hearing disabilities. Would you like to continue booking this room?’ This clarification point is helpful to ensure that the person booking the room knows what type of room he or she is booking.”

2. If a hotel does charge more for an ADA room, what recourse is there? 

Minh N. Vu of Seyfarth Shaw: “Hotels cannot charge more for a room just because it is accessible. The rates for comparable accessible and non-accessible rooms must be the same. A person who has been charged more for an accessible room can claim an ADA Title III violation and bring a private lawsuit. He or she can also file a complaint with the Department of Justice.”

3. If a hotel must provide equal access to everyone and not charge an additional amount for service animals, then logic would follow that they cannot charge extra for a refrigerator to keep medication refrigerated. Can you comment on the legalities of this? 

Taylor Burras of Michelman & Robinson: “Hoteliers must make ‘reasonable modifications’ to their standard policies when accommodating a person with a disability. Section 36.301(c) of the Americans with Disabilities Act states: ‘A public accommodation may not impose a surcharge on a particular individual with a disability or any group of individuals with disabilities to cover the costs of measures, such as the provision of auxiliary aids, barrier removal, alternatives to barrier removal, and reasonable modifications in policies, practices, or procedures, that are required to provide that individual or group with the nondiscriminatory treatment required by the Act.’ Thus, it would stand to reason that a hotel cannot charge extra for a refrigerator to keep medication refrigerated.”

4. Are therapy dogs classified as a “Service Dog”? We have seen a recent influx of travelers and they carry a tag that said “Certified Therapy Dog.”

Taylor Burras of Michelman & Robinson: “The ADA defines a ‘service animal’ as ‘any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability.’ However, dogs with the sole function of providing comfort or emotional support do not qualify as service animals under the ADA definition. Since they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, such therapy dogs do not qualify as service animals under the ADA.

“It’s important to note that the ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that a neurological event or episode is about to happen and take a specific action that will help prevent, or lessen the impact, that dog would qualify as a service animal. However, if the dog’s mere presence provides comfort or emotional support, that would not be considered a service animal under the ADA.

“Notably, however, some state or local governments have laws that allow people to take emotional support animals into public places, so hotels should check with their state or local government agencies to find out if they may be subject to such a regulation.”

5. Is there an appropriate way to handle a situation where the dog is a service dog but not apparently working? (For example, there was a guest who had to carry the dog who was on chemotherapy and had arthritis in its back legs. He was trained, but it seemed he was retired and it was seemingly more of a rescue situation for a dog that had been in service.)

Minh N. Vu of Seyfarth Shaw: “When a hotel has reason to believe that a dog may not be a service dog, it can ask two questions: ‘Do you need this dog because of a disability?’ If the answer is yes, then the second question that can be asked is: ‘What work or tasks has this animal been trained to perform?’ If the owner cannot identify the work or tasks that the dog has been trained to perform for the person with a disability, the dog is not a service animal.”

For more: http://bit.ly/1ParGsU

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Filed under Guest Issues, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Risk Management, Training

The 2016 Hospitality Law Conference

hospitality

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
And for more info on the conference: http://bit.ly/1KfrDiI

 

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Filed under Conferences, Hotel Restaurant, Management And Ownership, Risk Management

Embassy Suites Let Attacker Into Woman’s Room

Embassy

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.

For more: http://dmreg.co/1njFwCb

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Filed under Crime, Guest Issues, Hotel Industry, Liability, Management And Ownership

Use a Lack of Confidence in OTA Sites to Your Advantage

OTA

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.

For more: http://bit.ly/1PhGonk

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Filed under Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Technology

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.”

For more: http://bit.ly/1QiDZb9

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Filed under Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Social Media

Booking Scams: Helping Guests Helps Hoteliers

Scams

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.

For more: http://bit.ly/1NbJKAJ

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Filed under Guest Issues, Hotel Industry, Management And Ownership, Risk Management, Training

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.

For more: http://bit.ly/1mQNvXM

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Filed under Hotel Employees, Hotel Industry, Insurance, Management And Ownership, Workers' Compensation

Hotel Housekeeping Firm Accused of Insurance and Tax Fraud

housekeeping

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.

For more: http://lat.ms/1Pjd5Ld

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