Head of International Hotel Chain Booked into Miami Jail
In Miami last week, Luis Riu, who, along with his sister Carmen, heads up Riu Hotels, the global chain of mostly luxury resort hotels which has more than 100 properties in 19 countries, was charged with illegally compensating officials charged with inspections of, and the granting of permits, to the Riu hotel in Miami Beach, which recently underwent a nearly three-year renovation.
Popular among South Americans, the Riu Plaza Miami Beach is one of two Riu-owned U .S. properties. The other is the Riu Plaza New York Times Square Hotel. Most Riu properties are luxury hotel-resorts. The chain is owned by TUI, Europe’s largest travel company, which is headquartered in Hannover, Germany.
Riu hotels was founded in 1953 by Juan Riu Masmitja and his wife Maria Bertran Espigule, along with their son, Luis Riu Bertran when the family opened an 80-bed hotel in Playa de Palma (Mallorca), Spain. Luis and Carmen Riu Guell took on the post of managing directors of the chain in 1998, upon the death of their father. They are the third generation of the family to run the company.
A Short Stay: Specifically, prosecutors have charged Mariano Fernández, former building director for Miami Beach, as well as Riu and the company’s regional vice president, Alejandro Sanchez del Arco. The Riu Hotel and Resorts Florida subsidiary was also charged. All are all charged with unlawful compensation and conspiracy to commit unlawful compensation.
The criminal charges stem from the renovation of the Riu Plaza Hotel, 3101 Collins Avenue, in the heart of luxury beachfront properties that line the street—south of the Fontainebleau but north of the Ritz-Carlton. The Miami Beach building department was in charge of permitting and inspections and the granting of permits during the renovation of the property that took place between October 2013 and June 2016.
As reported by several news sites, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office believes that Fernández helped Riu with securing permissions, even allowing them to skirt fines, while he regularly solicited free and comped rooms for him and his employees. According to an arrest warrant,Riu flew into from Spain for processing on Feb. 12. His stay behind bars was brief—he spent most of the day in custody and was allowed to post a $20,000 bond that night. He will be able travel from his home in Mallorca, Spain, to resorts around the world.
A Riu company statement strongly defended Luis Riu: “Our executives are absolutely innocent of the charges against them. We trust that the judicial system of the United States will conclude that these accusations are totally unfounded, and our executives want impatiently to prove their innocence, “it said, pointing out that Riu traveled from Spain “to appear voluntarily this Monday before the court, where the charges would be presented, as agreed and coordinated with the local authorities. It is part of the usual procedure that this reading be done with the defendant standing and as seen in the published images. ”
Could 2018 Spark a Boom Market for Germany?
As reported by FVW, the German organized holiday market is “enjoying a boom,” with strong double-digit growth rates in January.
Perhaps it has something to do with a stronger Euro—it increased by 18 percent in value against the U.S. dollar from mid-January 2017 to mid-January 2018—as the news from Germany regarding the travel trade is decidedly upbeat, even if there are no specific references to the Visit USA market. (The U.S. National Travel and Tourism Office has forecast a modest two percent increase in passenger traffic for 2018; this would follow an anticipated 1 percent increase for 2017, once official data for the year are available.)
Summer 2018 has generated cumulative revenue growth of 18 percent so far, including a 17 percent year-on-year increase in January, which is the top booking month of the year.
This was one of the highlights for the month, according the Travel Insights survey by the Nuremberg-based marketing research group GfK (Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung, or Society for Consumer Research) in its restructured monthly sales analysis, which has been broadened to include bookings from 2,000 representative travel agencies (rather than the previous 1,500) as well as sales through OTAs and tour operator websites. It does not cover individual direct bookings by consumers. Other highlights from the report include the following:
—Nearly half (47 percent) of last year’s total summer revenues have already been reached as of the end of January.
—The top growth months are May (up 47 percent), mostly due to spring holidays in several German regions, and September (up by 21 percent); all months in the summer season, however, are higher than last year at present.
—So far, 84 percent of summer 2018 revenues, overwhelmingly generated by package holiday bookings, have been generated by retail travel outlets.
—Winter bookings are also looking good with an 11 percent increase so far, including a 14 boost in January.
—With 97 percent of last year’s winter season volumes already sold and still three months to go, winter 2017/18 is also likely to close with good growth, said GfK.
The GfK findings come in the wake of similarly positive figures in the monthly TATS sale survey of 2,500 travel agencies and OTAs that use its Ibiza reservations system. This showed a 6.9 increase in booked revenues for package holidays and cruises last month, and an overall 8.3 percent increase, including flights and other travel products.
Advance bookings were 13 percent ahead of January 2017, including a 19 percent increase for cruise holiday bookings. Overall, leisure travel bookings for departures up to October 2018 were nearly 10 percent higher than at the same time last year.
Houston’s Top Tourism Official Forced Out
Dawn Ullrich, president and CEO of Houston First—it runs Houston’s convention and tourism bureau and also operates a convention center, theatres, parking facilities and more—was abruptly fired last week (on Feb. 13) just a week after she submitted a letter announcing that she would retire at the end of this year. An attorney who has more than three decades experience working for the city of Houston—she came to Houston First when in 2011 when it was established following a number of years with the convention center.
Ullrich announced that she has retained an attorney and will challenge the decision to dismiss her, which was made by David Mincberg is chairman of the Houston First board of directors and chief executive officer of Flagship Properties Corporation. Mincberg announced the decision following a closed-door session with other board members.
Ullrich said through her attorney, David Feldman, that only Mayor Sylvester Turner has authority to discharge her. “Houston First has acted unlawfully,” said Feldman “We are determining how to proceed against them.”
Ullrich had informed the board and Turner by letter on Feb. 6 that she would retire Dec. 31. In an e-mail response on the same day, Mayor Turner praised Ullrich for her long service.”Though I hate to hear of your retirement, at least you will continue until the end of the year,” he wrote. “Your shoes will be hard to fill.”
But Mincberg was quoted as saying that he did not want a “lame-duck CEO” presiding over the organization for 11 months.
“After carefully considering your expressed desire to serve for the duration of 2018 and complete ongoing projects, Houston First believes that it is in the best interest of the Corporation to accelerate the necessary transition,” he wrote in a letter to Ullrich on Feb. 13.
Ullrich responded in an email that she had advised the board “out of courtesy” that she planned to retire at year’s end. “Your effort to treat my notice of retirement as a letter of resignation that you could put into effect immediately is unlawful, discriminatory and retaliatory,” she wrote. “You will be hearing from my counsel shortly with respect to the action you have taken.”
Feldman said only the mayor has authority to discharge Ullrich because city code dictates the Houston First position must be nominated by the mayor and approved by the city council.
According to Mincberg, the mayor’s involvement is not necessary to act because Ullrich was not a city employee. Houston First bylaws give the board authority to remove “any officer elected or appointed by the board of directors.” But, in a note that is a bit confusing, Mincberg said the board discussed Ullrich’s retirement during the closed session but did not vote on it.
Feldman, meanwhile, also raised concerns over the closed session to discuss “compensation, evaluation and/or duties for specific individual employees” during the board’s meeting on Tuesday. He said holding a private discussion about a high-level executive without specifying that on the agenda could have violated Texas open-meetings law.
Houston First is a quasi-public agency that manages a number of city-owned facilities, including the George R. Brown Convention Center, the Hilton Americas-Houston and several performing arts venues. In 2014, it assumed the duties of the Greater Houston Convention and Visitors Bureau in promoting the city and attracting tourism. The agency has a $240 million budget and 240 staff members.
Travel Leaders Group not Finished Buying UK Agencies
Just a week after it announced that it had acquired the high profile Barrhead Travel, which is headquartered in Glasgow, Scotland, USA mega agency
–it is the ninth largest in the U.S., according to the Travel Weekly Power List—has indicated that it is not finished acquiring other travel companies in the UK.
Ninan Chacko, chief executive of the U.S. group, told the British travel trade publication, TTG, that it would “ramp up our focus in the UK” following its takeover of the Scottish agency chain.
The company will “without doubt undertake a mix of small, medium and larger acquisitions” in the future, he said, adding: “We certainly are in talks, a number of them; none I would characterize as later stage at this point.”
He added that Travel Leaders had grown “very comfortable with the notion of having a retail presence” since working with the Munro family. Bill Munro is chairman of Barrhead and Sharon Munro, his daughter, is chief executive.
“I have every expectation that Barrhead will thrive,” he added. “And particularly if Sharon sees opportunities where we can grow that retail presence, or something independently comes up that’s good business, then with the Barrhead acquisition the success and confidence will continue to grow, [and we can look at] how that might contribute to our UK portfolio.”
Chacko indicated that the Barrhead Travel name would remain and Travel Leaders was not “under any illusions of having our name plastered over the high street.”
Last year, Travel Leaders acquired the luxury agency Colletts Travel, which features Visit USA product in its offerings. Additional UK agencies would enable Travel Leaders to increase its profile as a transatlantic company, offering both inbound and outbound product.
Chinese Woman Follows Handbag Through Security X-Ray
(From the BBC)
Worried about your bags being stolen at security? One Chinese woman joined her handbag through an X-ray machine to prevent just that.
Staff at Dongguan Railway Station in southern China were shocked to find the silhouette of the train commuter on their X-ray monitors. An online video showed the bizarre incident took place on Sunday during the Lunar New Year travel rush.
After climbing off the conveyor belt, the woman checked her bags and left. Extraordinary X-ray images show the woman kneeling on all fours behind her luggage, still wearing high-heeled shoes.
It is unclear why the woman was so anxious about her handbag, but many people in China carry large amounts of cash when travelling home for Chinese New Year
She was then told all bags had to go through the X-ray machine, but she refused to part with her handbag.
Her solution was to join her belongings on the conveyor belt, and she climbed out the other side unscathed, with one security guard laughing with surprise.
Rail station staff in Dongguan have since advised passengers not to enter the X-ray machines, as radiation given off by the scanners could be harmful, local media reported.
The woman was one of an estimated 390 million people expected to travel by train for the Chinese New Year holiday, which fell on 16 February.
Receptive Tour Operator of the Month
One of AlliedTPro’s progenitors, Allied Tours, was one of the first receptive tour operators in the United States, giving it a unique perspective on the role of the receptive. Today, it is positioned under the Thomas Cook India Group, which last year acquired part of the Kuoni Group that included AlliedTPro. Thomas Cook India is owned by Toronto-based Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited, whose chairman is Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa.
The TourOperatorLand.com website by the NAJ Group (it also publishes the Inbound Report) has introduced both receptive tour operators, U.S. tour operators and international tour operators to travel product and services of U.S. travel suppliers and DMOs. Visitors to the website can use its exclusive Receptive Finder™ to find the right RTO. It is designed to help both the travel trade and travel suppliers find the right U.S. based receptive tour operator to sell their products on the international travel market place.
The receptive operators, who are vetted and qualified by the NAJ Group also take part in at least one of NAJ’s RTO Summits series. The Summits take place annually in Los Angeles (It was held Feb. 21-22, 2018), New York City (April 17-18) and Orlando (October 24-25, 2018). You can connect with AlliedTPro at this year’s RTO Summit in New York.
For more information, visit www.TourOperatorLand.com
Really Inexpensive Round Trip First Class Flights from Tokyo and Hawaii, New York, Paris and Rome
A Virtual Reality Ride launched in Tokyo by First Airlines checks in its customers with boarding passes, puts its customers into a spacious first class areas of the cabin, serves meals that first class passengers enjoy, and then enjoy “all around” tours of their destination—complete with comments and tips from the people who live there—before they return home. All of this without actually leaving Tokyo. Looks to be a new attraction possibility, as the cost of a ticket (around $60) isn’t off-putting for an experience that lasts nearly two hours.
For the complete story, read this: https://www.tnooz.com/article/first-airlines-restaurant-virtual-reality/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Tnooz+%28Tnooz%29&mc_cid=ddce8c4655&mc_eid=6d1d247753
At A Glance: Missouri
For full information Click Here
HODGE PODGE: Shifts, Shakeups and Occasional Shaftings in the Tour and Travel Industry
B’Anka Neder (left) is the new senior sales manager for Grand Canyon Helicopters (GCH), a Papillon Group brand; her counterpart representing the national sales division for the company is Taun Adams (right), national sales manager for Papillon Group. Neder, with 15 years of sales experience, comes to the group from Big Bus Tours, where she spent nearly five years. Adams brings nearly 30 years in sales to her position selling for several of the largest touring companies in the Southwest. She is a veteran to the industry having extensive background working for various hospitality/tourism companies including more than 15 years with the historic Grand Canyon Railway & Resort.
Sandy Harvey has been named vice president of sales for Meet AC (Atlantic City). She was promoted from the post of senior director of sales. A veteran of more than 25 years in the tour and travel industry, Harvey joined the organization in 1995. She succeeds Gary Musich.
Barrhead Travel has announced the appointment of Nesta Gilliland as its new marketing director as the company prepares for further growth following its recent acquisition by Travel Leaders Group. She has over 25 years of strategic sales and marketing experience in the travel and leisure sector. Prior to joining Barrhead Travel, Gilliland was head of marketing and sales at Abellio ScotRail for over two years where she co-ordinated a multi-million pound B2B and B2C marketing budget. She also spent five years as a director at David Urquhart Travel.
Diego Camacho has left his position as tourism sales manager at New York Water Taxi has taken on the job as senior sales manager for the Empire State Building Observatory, focusing on the Latin American, Brazilian, Japanese, Korean and Australian markets.
Matt Walls has been promoted by TravelSupermarket to the newly created role of general manager. With overall responsibility for the business across commercial, product, technology and marketing, Walls’ promotion has been created to drive the TravelSupermarket strategy, business growth and profitability. He joined TravelSupermarket in January 2017 as marketing director. Before that, he spent 13 years at Hotels.com and Expedia Group, where he was vice-president marketing at Expedia Inc for over five years, and marketing director for over seven.
Gary Gillespie has been appointed to the post of national sales manager for Super Break, replacing Graham Balmforth who retired at the end of January. Gillespie has worked in the industry for over 30 years and moves over from Innstant Travel, where he was head of sales. He began his career in branch as a retail travel agent for both Neilson Travel and Thomas Cook Retail before moving to head office as business development manager and then head of sales and training for Thomas Cook’s Flexibletrips.
Barbara Ackermann has been named director of the German team for Destination Canada in Germany. She replaces Karl-Heinz Limberg, who leaves the organization at his own request. Contact person for sales remains Nina Brauckmann. All activities continue to run under the umbrella of the agency Travel Marketing Romberg in Mettmann, Germany.
Patrick Tabora has been named tour and travel coordinator at Legends/QUE Skyspace in Los Angeles. He had served previously served the organization as an account executive, group sales. Prior to that he was part of the inside sales team for the San Diego Chargers.
Guillermo Monti has been named as CEO of the tour operator Ola, which is based in Rosario, Argentina, about 180 miles northwest of Buenos Aires and which sells a good deal of Florida product.. He replaces Guillermo Cedaro. Monti, who has a background in economics, with extensive experience at the executive director level in travel and tourism industry. At the beginning of 2017, he joined as a strategic partner in Flight Center Travel Group. OLA (Mayorista de Turismo) manages a wide range of services in various destinations and an exclusive department of quinceañeras.