Trump Scales Back Vision for His Border Wall With Mexico

Bloomberg

President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall is getting shorter and at least partially see-through. Bloomberg

Skift Take: The border wall was the presidential campaign promise that most excited Trump’s supporters. It would be a huge disappointment for them if it doest materialize. If some semblance of a wall indeed gets constructed, then expect it to tarnish the U.S. brand as a tourist destination.

— Sean O’Neill

President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall is getting shorter and at least partially see-through.

Trump offered new details of the wall he wants to build on the Mexican border to reporters traveling with him to Paris during an off-record conversation on Air Force One, portions of which were released for publication Thursday by the White House.

His colorful explanation of his thinking also included planning for the possibility drug dealers would haphazardly toss heavy bags of illegal narcotics over the barrier, posing a danger to innocent passersby unless they could see them coming.

“It could be a steel wall with openings, but you have to have openings because you have to see what’s on the other side of the wall,” Trump said. “As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over.”

Trump also told reporters there is “a very good chance” that solar panels can be added to the wall to offset costs. He also said he sees an opportunity to cut the length of the wall to as little as 700 miles rather than the entire length of the border, which runs about 2,000 miles.

“You don’t need 2,000 miles of wall because you have a lot of natural barriers. You have mountains. You have some rivers that are violent and vicious. You have some areas that are so far away that you don’t really have people crossing. So you don’t need that. But you’ll need anywhere from 700 to 900 miles,” he said.

It’s not the first time since he took office that Trump has raised the possibility of a wall that doesn’t stretch across the entire border. He said in a Feb. 9 interview with MSNBC that the wall only would “need 1,000” miles of coverage because of natural barriers.

He also suggested to reporters that existing border fencing is a starting point for what he envisions. “We’re taking wall that was good but it’s in very bad shape, and we’re making it new,” he said. “We’re fixing it. It’s already started.”

House Republicans this week released a spending bill that proposes $1.6 billion for border wall construction during the federal fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, after leaving out any funding for the wall in the budget for the current year.

Trump pledged during his campaign to make Mexico pay for the wall. Mexico’s president has said that won’t happen.

This article was written by Margaret Talev and Justin Sink from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Disney Teased Fans With Look at New Star Wars Lands

Christopher Palmeri  / Bloomberg

Walt Disney Co. gave fans the first three-dimensional look at the new “Star Wars” lands it’s building in Florida and California, including its jagged mountains, metal-domed cantina and forest packed with scheming rebels. Pictured are storm troopers at Disney World. Christopher Palmeri / Bloomberg

Skift Take: The new Star Wars Lands will definitely make fans want to visit Disney’s U.S. theme parks but making sure crowds don’t ruin the experience is a challenge the company is struggling with.

— Dan Peltier

Walt Disney Co. gave fans the first three-dimensional look at the new “Star Wars” lands it’s building in Florida and California, including its jagged mountains, metal-domed cantina and forest packed with scheming rebels.

Disney unveiled the models at a preview to D23 Expo, a three-day, biennial fan event that begins Friday in Anaheim, California. “This is the most ambitious land we’ve built to date,” Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney’s parks division, said Thursday at the unveiling.

The projects are part of a renewed focus on investment in the parks. Last year, the company opened its first resort on the Chinese mainland, the $5.5 billion Disney Shanghai Resort. That was followed by an “Avatar” land in Orlando, Florida, and a “Guardians of the Galaxy” revamp of its Tower of Terror ride in California. More investments are planned, including “Toy Story” lands in Orlando and Shanghai.

The world’s largest entertainment company announced the “Star Wars” plans at the expo two years ago. Costing about $1 billion each, they’ll feature a simulated ride on the Millennium Falcon spaceship and an attraction that puts guests in the middle of a battle between the evil First Order and the Resistance fighting them.

They’re expected to open in 2019 at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando and the company’s original park, Disneyland, in Anaheim.

The theme-park division, the second-largest after television, is expected to account for the bulk of Disney’s profit growth through 2020, according to estimates from FBR & Co. analyst Barton Crockett. Earnings from cable TV, which generated more than 40 percent of Disney’s 2016 profit, are expected to be flat as that business copes with viewers shifting to online video options such as Netflix Inc.

The parks division has challenges, too, as Disney tries to keep crowds coming while setting prices to ensure parks don’t get too crowded and tarnish the experience. In part because of price increases, attendance last year fell at all but one of the company’s parks, the newly opened Shanghai Disneyland, according to data from the consulting firm Aecom.

New attractions are one way to entice guests and coax more spending on food, merchandise and hotel rooms. Price increases, particularly during peak periods, can help balance demand, Chapek said in an interview.

“If it was just about attendance then we can win that game at any time,” he said.

Burbank, California-based Disney will entertain D23 guests this weekend with sneak previews of movies as well as the opportunity to purchase exclusive merchandise at dozens of shops situated in the Anaheim Convention Center. Single-day, adult tickets for non-Disney fan club members are $81.

Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger will hand out the company’s Legends awards Friday to “Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill, Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee and others, while Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer, John Lasseter, will show clips from upcoming animated films. Chapek is scheduled to preview additional attractions Saturday.

Corey McConville, a 27-year-old pizza delivery man from Pittsburgh was waiting out in front of the convention center with his friends from 10 a.m. on Thursday so he could get good seats for the Legends event. He planned to spend the night on an inflatable chair in the lobby. It will be his third Disney Expo.

“It wasn’t as crowded four years ago,” he said. “That was before Star Wars.”

This article was written by Christopher Palmeri from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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EasyJet to Launch New European Airline to Shield Itself From Brexit Restrictions

Simon Dawson  / Bloomberg

EasyJet aircraft stand at departure gates at London Gatwick airport. Simon Dawson / Bloomberg

Skift Take: While the UK is doing just fine tourism-wise post-Brexit so far, easyJet took the break from Europe very seriously and is launching easyJet Europe to protect its routes within Europe. It’s a smart move. This Brexit stuff is very serious business.

— Dennis Schaal

EasyJet Plc will create a new airline based in Vienna that will shield its routes within the European Union against any fallout from Britain’s negotiations to exit the bloc.

The approval process for an air operator certificate that has been filed with Austria’s aviation regulator is “now well advanced,” with clearance expected in the near future, Luton, England-based carrier said in a statement Friday.

The new airline, dubbed EasyJet Europe, will form one of three owned and operated by the company, alongside its U.K. and Swiss operations. EasyJet will shift registrations for 110 of its planes to the new unit, representing about 42 percent of its fleet.

EasyJet is seeking to safeguard rights to fly between destinations in EU countries after Brexit takes effect, in the event the U.K. fails to reach an agreement on retaining access for its airlines. About 30 percent of EasyJet’s passengers fly between EU airports outside of the U.K., with about half its total customers originating from within the bloc, making it one of the carriers most exposed to policy changes from Brexit.

The company began the search for options for a new airline days after the U.K.’s Brexit referendum in June 2016, when the vote to leave prompted a one-third drop in EasyJet’s market value. The move only protects EasyJet’s intra-European routes. The carrier is still pushing for authorities to reach a deal allowing U.K. and mainland-Europe airlines to operate freely across the tighter border after March 2019, when Brexit is set to take effect.

Rival Ryanair Holdings Plc, British Airways owner IAG SA and U.S. trade body Airlines for America said this week at a European Parliament hearing that Brexit could disrupt all international flights serving the U.K. Ryanair Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Leary cautioned that the Irish discounter would start canceling flights six months ahead of time if a deal hasn’t been reached.

EasyJet will remain listed on the London Stock Exchange and keep its headquarters in the U.K., while meeting EU ownership restrictions that require airlines be majority owned by EU nationals. Investors from the other 27 EU countries currently hold “close to half” of EasyJet’s stock, including the 33 percent owned by founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou and his family, who are citizens of Cyprus, the airline said.

“In any deal that we strike with the EU, we want to make sure it’s a good deal for everyone, including businesses that operate here,” Alison Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the U.K. prime minister, said Friday at a briefing, adding that the Austrian registration is “a commercial decision for EasyJet.”

— With assistance from Thomas Penny

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Benjamin Katz from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Trump Travel Ban Gets Weakened in Ruling by Hawaii Judge

George Lee  / The Star-Advertiser via Associated Press

This December 2015 photo shows U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Honolulu. Watson on July 13, 2017, expanded the list of family relationships needed by people seeking new visas from six mostly Muslim countries to avoid President Donald Trump’s travel ban. George Lee / The Star-Advertiser via Associated Press

Skift Take: Wow, grandparents can now be welcomed back as actual family members under the provisions of a further weakened Trump travel ban. This isn’t the last word on the subject, though.

— Dennis Schaal

In another setback for President Donald Trump, a federal judge in Hawaii has further weakened his already diluted travel ban by vastly expanding the list of family relationships with U.S. citizens that visa applicants can use to get into the U.S.

The ruling is the latest piece of pushback in the fierce fight set off by the ban Trump first attempted in January. It will culminate with arguments in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in October.

The current rules aren’t so much an outright ban as a tightening of already-tough visa policies affecting citizens from six Muslim-majority countries: Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Libya, Iran and Yemen. People from those countries who already have visas will be allowed into the country. Only narrow categories of people, including those with relatives named in Thursday’s ruling, will be considered for new visas.

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson on Thursday ordered the government not to enforce the ban on grandparents, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews and cousins of people in the United States.

“Common sense, for instance, dictates that close family members be defined to include grandparents,” Watson said in his ruling. “Indeed grandparents are the epitome of close family members.”

Watson also ruled that the government may not exclude refugees who have formal assurance and promise of placement services from a resettlement agency in the U.S.

The U.S. Supreme Court, which last month allowed a scaled-back version of the ban to go into effect before it hears the case in October, exempted visa applicants from the ban if they can prove a “bona fide” relationship with a U.S. citizen or entity.

The Trump administration defined “bona fide” relationship as those who had a parent, spouse, fiance, son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law or sibling already in the U.S.

The case came back to Watson when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that he had the authority to interpret the Supreme Court’s order and block any violation of it.

Watson’s Thursday ruling broadened the definition of what counts as a “bona fide” relationship to include grandparents and the rest of the wider list of relatives.

Hawaii Attorney General Douglas S. Chin, who represents the state as the plaintiff in the case said the court made clear “that the U.S. government may not ignore the scope of the partial travel ban as it sees fit.”

“Family members have been separated and real people have suffered enough,” Chin said in a statement.

The Supreme Court ruled that workers who accepted jobs from American companies, students who enrolled at a U.S. university or lecturers invited to address a U.S. audience would also be exempt.

A relationship created for purposes of avoiding the travel ban would not be acceptable, the justices said.

Trump proposed a blanket ban on Muslims during his campaign, but limited it to a handful of countries when he issued his initial travel ban in January, promoting it as a necessary tool for national security and fighting terrorism.

It set off massive protests at airports around the country and immediately sparked a sprawling, ongoing legal fight.

Courts blocked that first ban as well as a second the Trump administration had retooled, until the Supreme Court partially reinstated it at the end of June.

It’s unclear how significantly the new rules have affected or will affect travel. In most of the countries singled out, few people have the means for leisure travel. Those that do already face intensive screenings before being issued visas.

___

Associated Press writer Andrew Dalton contributed to this story from Los Angeles.

This article was written by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

From Skift: Here’s the ruling:

Download (PDF, 142KB)

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Delta Says Travelers Still Love Airline Credit Cards Even Though Miles Are Worth Less

American Express

American Express and Delta have considerable competition in the airline-branded credit card space, but Delta said customers still want new cards in record numbers. American Express

Skift Take: Yes, airline frequent flyer programs probably were more lucrative a decade ago. But savvy travelers can still get a lot of value out of the programs and their affiliated credit cards.

— Brian Sumers

Airline customers love to complain that miles aren’t worth what they used to be — and in almost all cases, that’s true, thanks to some impressive recent inflation — but travelers still love airline credit cards, Delta Air Lines executives said Thursday.

During its second quarter earnings call, the airline said it’s on-track for its fourth consecutive record year of new credit card acquisitions through its partnership with American Express. The company has been Delta’s credit card issuer since 1996, with the sides re-upping their deal most recently in 2014.

“We are the leading growth vehicle in their co-brand portfolios by a large margin,” Ed Bastian, Delta’s CEO, told analysts.

It may sound surprising. For one, there’s a dizzying number of airline branded credit cards available, and some carriers, like American Airlines, even have deals with more than one card issuer. For another, savvy travelers know airline programs are not as generous as they once were. In nearly all cases, a mile earned today is worth far less than one earned five years ago.

There’s good reason for the inflation. While it’s often tougher for casual travelers on cheap tickets to earn miles from flying, many card issuers give tens or hundreds of thousands of extra miles and points to consumers they consider big spenders. Popular high-end cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve and American Express Platinum, not only give out extra points for sign-up bonuses, but also award them for spending on special categories like restaurants, hotels and air travel. Consumers can convert the points to airline miles.

With more miles being created, airlines have subtly (and in some cases not-so-subtly) raised the number of miles required for free travel.

“It feels like over the past few years the strategy at airlines is to effectively devalue the currency so you need more miles to buy a ticket,” Joseph DeNardi, an analyst at Stifel, said while asking a question on Delta’s earnings call. “That’s obviously beneficial to the airlines, but it doesn’t make the currency more demanded by consumers.”

But Delta executives said demand for cards remains strong. In a release, the airline noted that “other revenue” — a category that includes SkyMiles — increased roughly 5 percent, year-over-year, for the second quarter. And they told analysts the American Express deal is on track to produce $300 million in incremental value this year.

“Consumers are enjoying the products and services and they’re continuing to apply at record numbers,” Delta’s president Glen Hauenstein said.

Delta executives didn’t say break down how they calculated the incremental value number, but in a report released after the call, DeNardi suggested the airline likely has been selling miles to American Express at higher rates. 

As for requiring more miles for popular redemptions, Delta executives defended the practice, noting the airline is on track to give away more free tickets this year than ever. And Hauenstein said the airline’s changes to redemption policies have not hurt co-branded card demand.

“There are incredible value propositions for customers out there who acquire and use our cards, and we have no interest to degrade the total value proposition,” he said. “We may adjust on the margin the valuation of peak seats versus off peak seats. But the value that we are creating seems to be greater and greater, and I think that’s being recognized in the marketplace.”

Hauenstein said Delta is trying to create new options for customers to use miles for products other than plane tickets. It has tried allowing travelers to use miles for Dom Perignon champagne and other high-end drinks in the Delta Sky Club, as well as permitting them to use miles for upgrades to first class and premium economy.

Now, it’s considering allow passengers to use miles to defray costs for unaccompanied minor fees or pet fees. Delta, Hauenstein said, “really wants to make that currency come alive to our customer base.”

Making it easier for customers to redeem miles would also help the airline remove some liabilities from its books.

“We really don’t want people to save them forever,”Hauenstein said.

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The New Machine-Learning Booking Tool for Road Warriors: Travel Startup Funding This Week

Jason Mrachina  / Flickr

The founders of travel tech startup Comtravo have received funding for its tool to help small- and medium-sized companies book entire business trips with single emails or messages using text-analysis and other tools. Jason Mrachina / Flickr

Skift Take: New tech is going to vastly improve the efficiency of booking business trips, selling tours, and running short-term rentals. But it’s too soon to know if these three freshly funded companies, in particular, will pull off the trick.

— Sean O’Neill

Each week we round up travel startups that have recently received or announced funding. The companies we note this week have together raised more than $17 million.

>>Comtravo, a Berlin-based startup, has received $9.7 million (or 8.5 million euro) in a Series A funding round after two years of development. The venture capital firms Project A and Creandum led the round.

The startup aims to streamline travel booking for small- and medium-sized businesses. It uses software that takes advantage of natural language recognition and machine learning tools to speed up the booking process for travelers and managers.

For example, a traveler sends Comtravo an email, Skype or text message such as “I need to fly from Stockholm to Berlin on July 23 before my 9:00 meeting in the center. Would like a hotel in Kreuzberg and fly back in the morning.”

The traveler is then supposed to receive an answer with a few recommendations for flights, hotels, trains, and car rentals based on the employee’s past booking patterns and the company’s travel policies.

Comtravo, which has focused on European clients so far, says it will use the funding to expand internationally, and for hiring aggressively.

It is quick to point out that Lola, a well-funded travel concierge startup created by Kayak co-founder Paul English, has recently been adding tools similar to the ones Comtravo has been developing for its own platform — though the similarities end there.

>>BeMyGuest, a tours and activities booking platform based in Singapore, has closed a Series A funding round. Raffles Venture Partners and investor, Koh Boon Hwee, led the round.

The startup has not revealed the amount of the funding. But it says the round brought its total equity investment to $8.5 million since it was founded in 2012.

Other investors, such as the Singapore government, Chan Brothers Travel (Singapore’s largest group of travel agencies), Spring Seeds Capital, also participated.

BeMyGuest CEO & founder, Clement Wong, claims that his startup is now the largest aggregator of Asian attractions, tours and activities content.

He adds that his company has 500 strategic distribution partnerships with online travel players such as Ctrip, Yatra, Tuniu, Alitrip, and Travel.jp. It distributes more than 25,000 activities, attractions, day tours, ground transfers, and events in more than 900 destinations from 4,500 suppliers to those consumer marketplaces.

Wong claims his company has released a broad range of ways for tour operators to distribute their inventory to online travel players, as showcased by BeMyGuest Labs, its new platform that offers several options such as supplier inventory push API, multilingual pull API, and white-label distribution.

BeMyGuests’s less well-funded competitors include WithLocals, myRealTrip, and Voyagin.

>>MadeComfy, a home sharing property management service based in New South Wales, Australia, has received $850,000 ($1.1 million Australian dollars) in seed investment.

Founded in 2015, MadeComfy manages homes for hosts of short-term rentals in Sydney, the fifth-largest market for Airbnb worldwide. The company plans to use the funding to expand across Australia and New Zealand. It has 17 full-time employees.

The company’s model is similar to OneFineStay’s in Europe and Pillow’s in the U.S. For a 20 percent commission, it manages the stay on behalf of the host and promises higher returns to the host than the host could earn on his or her own.

Check out our previous startup funding roundups, here.

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Ridesharing Gets More Seamless — Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report

Lyft

Lyft just added automatic receipt forwarding for passengers using their business accounts, making the ridesharing option easier for business travelers to expense. A driver and passengers are pictured in this promotional photo. Lyft

Skift Take: Ridesharing companies know that corporate travel represents big business. Making their products easier for business travelers to use — and expense — is a smart move.

— Hannah Sampson

The Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report is our weekly newsletter focused on the future of corporate travel, the big fault lines of disruption for travel managers and buyers, the innovations emerging from the sector, and the changing business traveler habits that are upending how corporate travel is packaged, bought, and sold.

Lyft has made another move to integrate itself more easily into the lives of business travelers.

The ridesharing company announced this week that it was adding “the #1 most-requested feature for business travelers.” That feature: automatic ride expensing.

Users with business profiles can add their company’s expense management system, if available — Lyft has partnered with several including Concur, Expensify, ChromeRiver, Certify, and others — and rides taken under those profiles will be automatically sent for approval.

“Our goal is to provide reliable, easy-to-adopt, and cost-effective transportation solutions to make Lyft the preferred partner for businesses,” Kamil Rodoper, head of enterprise product, said in a statement. “Integrating with expense management systems saves time and creates a seamless experience for employees to do their expenses.”

Lyft is fairly late to the development. Uber, a much larger player in ridesharing, already made expenses automatic for business profiles last year. The moves by both companies show the importance of widespread business traveler adoption as the companies continue to grow.

Even though ridesharing has been moving toward the mainstream for years now, it’s still not universally accepted by travel policies and continues to be a subject of discussion for the corporate travel industry. And it’s one of the topics that will come up next week at the Global Business Travel Association Convention, which Skift senior writer Andrew Sheivachman will attend in Boston.

We also expect to see discussions about the way geopolitical disruption affects business travelers; alternative accommodations such as Airbnb (which had its own news with Concur yesterday morning); virtual payments; airline fares and fees; and the next wave of business travelers (yes, there is a generation after millennials).

— Hannah Sampson, News Editor

Business of Buying

Half of Business Travelers Want to Avoid Human Interaction on the Road: Dealing with humanity can be annoying, and it can be even worse when you’re traveling for business. More robust technology tools, however, can help automate and streamline many annoyances for business travelers. Read more at Skift

Why Not Having a Formal Travel Loyalty Program Works — For Some: Not every travel business needs to have a formal loyalty or rewards program to have loyal customers. But if you’re going to go that route, you better know what you’re getting into. And for some companies, it might be time to reconsider doing without. Read more at Skift

Hotel and Online Travel Agency Direct Booking Winners and Losers in 5 Charts: Expedia and Booking.com, which each doubled Marriott’s TV advertising spend over the last year, are still growing like weeds despite hotels’ direct-booking campaigns. That makes for a tough environment for hoteliers, although some brands will do better than others. Read more at Skift

More Employees Are Using Corporate Cards for Expenses: Companies are giving their workers employer-backed credit cards to improve security, better track expenses, and make the most of savings. Virtual card use is also on the rise. Read more at The Wall Street Journal

Safety + Security

Data Breach at Sabre Hits Four Seasons and Other Hotels: Sometimes it really does pay to book direct. At least in this case, customers who booked direct weren’t impacted. Those who booked on third-party channels like online travel agencies weren’t as lucky. Read more at Skift

Royal Jordanian Becomes the Latest Airline to Have U.S. Laptop Ban Lifted: Despite the fact that the U.S. laptop ban on Middle East carriers has been lifted, the return of U.S. restrictions on visas for citizens of six Muslim-majority countries may continue to hurt several airlines. Read more at Skift

Disruption + Innovation

Many Airline Passengers Still Prefer Interacting With Employees Instead of Technology: It’s 2017. According to SITA, 98 percent of airline passengers fly with at least one mobile device. It’s amazing that so many passengers still prefer to the face-to-face experience at airports. It’s a lot slower than self-service, and often less effective. Read more at Skift

Kayak and Amazon Echo Now Offer Voice-Powered Hotel Booking: Kayak is the first online travel player to let shoppers book hotels via Amazon’s smart speakers. While the concept has promise, its price comparison process still has to improve before it becomes useful to the average traveler. Read more at Skift 

Smart Luggage Is Using Tech to Solve Travel Problems: Startups are developing suitcases — often with crowdfunding support — that charge electronics, track bags, and alert travelers when theyve reached a weight limit. The question is what kind of demand exists for such products, especially among business travelers. Read more at The New York Times

Travel Assistant Mezi Is Launching Its New Corporate Travel Service: Earlier this year, Skift named Mezi, a digital travel concierge combined with a personal shopping assistant, one of the most interesting corporate travel startups around. While it started as a consumer-facing service, now the company is launching Mezi for Business, aimed at travel management companies and travel agents. The app puts artificial intelligence front and center in corporate travel booking. Read more at Business Travel News

COMMENTS

Skift editors Hannah Sampson [hs@skift.com] and Andrew Sheivachman [as@skift.com] curate the Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Thursday.

Subscribe to Skift’s Free Corporate Travel Innovation Report

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Foreign Governments On Notice To Share Security Data or Face U.S. Travel Sanctions

Taimy Alvarez  / South Florida Sun-Sentinel via Associated Press

Air Canada passengers pick up their luggage at Terminal 2 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport Sunday, January 8, 2017. Taimy Alvarez / South Florida Sun-Sentinel via Associated Press

Skift Take: Is this a legitimate move to enhance security at U.S. airports or an extended travel ban without calling it as such? The Trump administration has so poisoned the well that it’s hard to tell.

— Dennis Schaal

The clock has started to tick on a 50-day deadline for foreign governments to meet new U.S. standards for passports and sharing information about their citizens. Failing to meet the deadline risks having some categories of nationals banned from traveling to the U.S.

The State Department on Thursday sent a cable to all U.S. embassies and consulates instructing U.S. diplomats to inform their host governments that the 50-day period has begun for them to meet the new criteria, devise a plan to meet them or face the possibility of travel sanctions. The seven-page State Department cable was obtained by The Associated Press.

The 50-day deadline and sanctions threat had been were laid out in President Donald Trump’s March 6 executive order on protecting the U.S. from terrorist threats that the Supreme Court partially reinstated last month. That executive order also contained the travel ban for residents of six mainly Muslim nations and the suspension of refugee admissions. Neither the executive order nor the cable was specific about what categories of foreigners might be banned from countries that do not comply.

The new standards involve the quality and integrity of identity documents such as passports as well as sharing information about security threats and public safety concerns. Many nations, including the 38 countries that are part of the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, already meet the criteria, which include biometric, machine readable electronic passports and the provision of terrorism watchlists and other domestically produced intelligence data on citizens who may pose threats. They also include reporting lost or stolen travel documents to Interpol.

It was not immediately clear how many countries might have to adopt new policies to comply with the new requirements. A separate classified cable sent was sent to embassies and consulates in countries that are believed not to be meeting the standards or that have been determined to be at risk for noncompliance.

This article was written by Matthew Lee from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

 

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Choice Hotels Appoints Pat Pacious as New CEO Beginning in 2018

Choice Hotels

Choice Hotels COO and president Pat Pacious will become CEO on January 1, 2018. Choice Hotels

Skift Take: The signs of this succession were right there all along.

— Deanna Ting

Choice Hotels president and COO Patrick Pacious will succeed Stephen Joyce as CEO of Choice Hotels on January 1, 2018.

The Choice Hotels board of directors appointed Pacious for the role as part of “a thoughtful, deliberate, long-term succession planning process,” the company said in a press statement.

Pacious’ appointment doesn’t seem to portend any future major changes in strategy for the Rockville, Maryland-based company, whose brands include Comfort Inn, Cambria Hotels, and Econo Lodge.

Joyce will continue in his role as CEO until the end of 2017, after which he will become vice chairman of the board. He joined Choice Hotels as CEO in 2008, after serving as executive vice president, global development/owner & franchise services for Marriott International.

Joyce guided the company in the immediate aftermath of the 2008/2009 financial crisis, and increased its market share, improving the company’s guest satisfaction and RevPAR (revenue per available room) index against the company’s main competitors. Under his leadership, Choice enhanced its marketing and e-commerce initiatives, launched the industry’s first iPhone hotel app, and saw the highest year-over-year growth for the company’s Choice Rewards loyalty program.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see how or if Pacious continues Joyce’s leadership strategy with regard to direct bookings; the growth of the company’s boutique brand, Cambria; and the growth of its Vacation Rentals by Choice business. Joyce is known for his frank, direct approach to doing business, and he’s never shied away from saying exactly what’s on his mind.

Pacious started as Choice Hotels in 2005 and was appointed COO in January 2014; he became president, as well, in May 2016. Previously, he held senior management consulting positions with BearingPoint and Arthur Andersen, when he was engaged on several projects for Choice.

Pacious is a former U.S. Navy officer.

Of Pacious, Joyce said, “Choice is in a great position with an amazing leadership team, and I am proud of the outstanding achievements that we have accomplished during my tenure. I expect the company will continue to lead the industry with innovations and technology with Pat as CEO.

“Pat is a natural leader, and I fully endorse the board’s decision to appoint him to the helm of Choice Hotels at this time. We have worked closely together since I joined the company in 2008. I believe his strategic thinking and vision will continue to drive growth and profitability for the company. Our shareholders, franchisees, developers, partners and associates are in good hands.”

Pacious said he felt honored to accept the position and is eager to strengthen the chain’s position as an industry leader.

“Business is strong. Our upper midscale and midscale brands – Comfort and Sleep Inn – are experiencing their strongest growth in recent history,” Pacious said in a statement. “We have solidified our place in the upscale market with Cambria Hotels and The Ascend Hotel Collection. Most importantly, we remain focused on embracing digital disruption and creating innovative technology solutions that improve our franchisees’ return on investment, expand our customer reach, and serve the broader industry.”

Pacious’ appointment as CEO is the second recent executive leadership change to take place in the hotel industry. Earlier this month, Keith Barr replaced Richard Solomons as the new CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group.

Ryan Wolkov

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Author: Ryan Wolkov

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Airbnb Host Gets Fined for Discrimination After Canceling Asian-American Woman’s Stay

Yuya Shino  / Reuters

A man walks past a logo of Airbnb after a news conference in Tokyo, Japan. A California-based Airbnb host who canceled a guest’s reservation because of the guest’s race has to pay a $5,000 fine and take a college-level Asian American Studies course. Yuya Shino / Reuters

Skift Take: We’re all for creative agreements like this. But we have to ask: What grade will Baker have to get in that class? It better be an A+ at this point.

— Deanna Ting

An Airbnb host who cancelled a reservation and told the guest, “One word says it all. Asian,” has agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and attend a college course in Asian-American studies, officials with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing said Thursday.

The guest, Dyne Suh, had booked the home as part of a ski trip with her fiancé and friends in Big Bear in February. When she was close to the house, Suh messaged host Tami Barker through the Airbnb app, but the host cancelled the reservation after a dispute over additional guests.

Barker told Suh in a series of messages that she wouldn’t rent to her if she were the last person on Earth.

“One word says it all. Asian,” one of the messages said.

When Suh told Barker that she would complain to Airbnb, Barker wrote, “It’s why we have Trump … I will not allow this country to be told what to do by foreigners.”

Suh, who posted an emotional video about the incident on YouTube, has said she’d agreed to pay $250 per night to rent the home and later asked Barker if two other friends could also stay at the house, which Barker agreed to. Suh sent Barker screenshots of text messages where she agreed to the additional guests, but Barker cancelled the reservation.

As part of an agreement with state officials, Barker also agreed to personally apologize to Suh and perform community service at a civil rights organization.

A message left at a number listed for Barker was not immediately returned. Her attorney, Edward Lee, said his client was “regretful for her impetuous actions and comments” and is pleased to have resolved the matter.

Suh said in a statement posted on Facebook that she was pleased the settlement included Barker’s agreement to attend an Asian-American studies course and hoped the settlement would encourage others to report discrimination.

“I hope that more victims of discrimination will feel encouraged to come forward with their own stories,” Suh wrote. “Your pain is not insignificant and you are not alone.”

Associated Press writer Janie Har in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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This article was written by Michael Balsamo from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Ryan Wolkov

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Author: Ryan Wolkov

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