Shasta Geaux Pop, a Glamazon Hip-Hop Icon

Shasta Geaux Pop, a Glamazon Hip-Hop Icon

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All pop stars are constructs, but that’s especially true of Shasta Geaux Pop, a glamazon hip-hop icon who exists, like Tinkerbell, only to the extent that you believe in her and clap your hands. Invented by the performer Ayesha Jordan and the director Charlotte Brathwaite, who met while working in the Netherlands in 2001, she’s part of this year’s “Under the Radar” festival (Jan. 4-15), the Public Theatre’s showcase of the avant-garde, where she’ll be hosting get-down parties on select nights in the Public’s lobby.

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December 29, 2017 at 09:20AM

The Indulgences of the Loyal

The Indulgences of the Loyal

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The Loyal, a handsome, highly polished new brasserie—which appeared on Bleecker Street just as Matt Umanov Guitars, open since 1965, took its leave—is charmingly eager to please. The chef, John Fraser, who has shown that he has a persuasive way with vegetables at Nix, Narcissa, and Dovetail, here crowds enough indulgent items onto the menu to challenge one’s duty to decorum. Because you oughtn’t have bar snacks, raw bar, and appetizers along with pasta, sides, and an entrée, you might just start with a cocktail—perhaps a Flood Gates, a gentle, citrusy take on a Negroni, with Meyer lemon—and then let the server guide you. That way, you’ll probably end up with duck tots—sturdy potato cuboids burnished beyond golden, tossed in duck fat, aioli on the side—which are all you really need.

But there’s much more. You might start with the raw bar, which could mean the “half lobster,” smaller than it sounds, and too bad, because you’ll want more than five bites of lobster meat tossed with a tomato-and-chive dressing that tastes like summer. Appetizers include a lovely little dish of radishes atop a smoked-trout gribiche, and a slab of Hudson Valley foie gras the size of a stick of butter, larded with chicken liver and bacon and poured over with a port-wine glaze. Mushroom carbonara, which sounds like the ideal winter splurge, involves clunky noodles as thick as udon and too al dente. But the sliced duck breast was perfect on a recent night, with rust-colored, crispy skin, accompanied by a luscious farro, leek, and Parmesan porridge.

For those who will go straight for the burger, the Loyal’s is a fine specimen. (It comes with duck tots.) It’s massive, with a soft pink center and topped with Comté cheese and a complicated-sounding “22-step tomato”—a whole fruit so unwieldy that it’s easier to just remove it. There’s also a spa-worthy black sea bass, straight from the Riviera, with olives, fennel, and tomato broth, and an addictive crown of salty-sweet, crunchy-soft Parker House rolls that are definitely unnecessary and utterly worth it.

Fraser has said that his inspiration for the Loyal was the American tavern, but the white tablecloths and elegant serving pieces—scallop-edged china, dainty silver bowls, gravy boats galore—evoke something closer to Aunt Sukie’s parlor. Subtly hilarious wall illustrations, of lobsters in button-downs, cabbages on leashes, and cavorting carrots, cows, and people, shift the tone to playful, a mood matched by a dessert called Sundae Set and Candy Shop. Served on a silver tray, it feeds at least four, and once you run out of ice cream there’s enough candy left to carry you through the week. Go on, get the sundae. (Entrées $22-$36.) ♦

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December 29, 2017 at 09:20AM

”Othello” Becomes a Noh Drama

”Othello” Becomes a Noh Drama

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Satoshi Miyagi is a fifty-eight-year-old director from Chiyoda, Tokyo. In this part of the city, there are a number of religious edifices, including the famous Yasukuni Shrine and the main cathedral of the Japanese Orthodox Church. Growing up, Miyagi had a great interest in rakugo, or “fallen words,” a form of theatre where a single actor sits more or less in stillness and tells a comic story, sometimes with sentimental overtones. Looking at photographs of rakugo players, one can imagine the performer as a worshipper, or as a priest. Miyagi studied aesthetics at the University of Tokyo; he also started a theatre company and performed as an actor. After college, he worked with classical texts like “Electra,” and he and his actors—with another company he started—toured not only in Japan but also in India and Pakistan. What audiences seemed to respond to—and continue to respond to in Miyagi’s work—was his interest in reshaping or reimagining Western texts via Japanese theatrical traditions.

Miyagi’s new work, “Mugen Noh Othello” (at Japan Society, Jan. 11-14), is based on Shakespeare’s at times overwhelming tragedy about the corrosive—indeed, maddening—effects that power can have on human beings, leading them to imagine that they are gods. Artists as great as Orson Welles and Daniel Craig have immersed themselves in the play, and Miyagi will stage it in a Noh context, with his actors in masks, set to live music. In a recent essay, the painter David Salle discussed how transfixed he was by Noh dramas on his first trip to Japan—they are tragedies with music. Mugen Noh stories often take place after the protagonists have died: lives lived in the past. In Shakespeare, there are many deaths and ghosts. In a way, one could think of “Othello” as an excavation of sorts; the dead are always with us, as is the treachery of language. One of the more unforgettable moments in Sam Gold’s recent production of the play came when Craig, playing Iago, was found out, and the actor curled up in a kind of fetal position and said, “I shall speak no more”: words had made him and undone him.

It will be interesting to see what Miyagi does with the politics in “Othello,” and with place. Shakespeare set his play in Venice, and there is mist there, just as there is mist and mystery in Japan. As the world gets smaller and more dense and fascinating, culturally speaking, we look to artists like Miyagi to chart wonderful new theatrical territory, making it strange and familiar, all at once. ♦

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December 29, 2017 at 09:20AM

Catty Girl in India

Catty Girl in India

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More Little Girls in India

These happen to be mine! We got them some of these pretty local dresses and they were quite the hit I tell ya! 🙂

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Daily Photo – Catty Girl in India

Little girls are kind of the same all around the world, I think. Fun and fancy free! This little girl in a small village outside of Kerala was a hoot. She would just dance and pose and dance and pose. It reminded me of my little girls!

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2016-01-07 18:23:49
  • CameraILCE-7RM2
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/800
  • Aperture
  • ISO800
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias+0.3

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December 29, 2017 at 08:06AM

Latin America Travel Unicorn Despegar Is Hunting but Could Be Hunted Too

Latin America Travel Unicorn Despegar Is Hunting but Could Be Hunted Too

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Despegar

Despegar listed on the New York Stock Exchanged, pictured, this autumn. The Argentine company is based in Buenos Aires, which is often described as the Silicon Valley of Latin America. Despegar

Skift Take: The biggest online travel story in Latin America in 2017 was Despegar’s IPO. The Expedia-backed booking site raised $332 million to fund its expansion. The company has hinted that it is likely to use some of the cash to make an acquisition in 2018.

— Sean O’Neill

Online travel agency Despegar raised $332 million this year, having listed on the New York stock exchange in September.

Along the way, the Argentine company became Latin America’s first unicorn, or start-up worth more than $1 billion, in online travel. As of Friday, the markets placed Despegar’s valuation at  $1.86 billion.

Despegar said it plans to use the $332 million it raised to fund its expansion.

Rather than pay a dividend to investors, the company’s executives said they plan to invest the cash in long-term growth opportunities by spending heavily on its marketing and technology platform.

In November, chief financial officer Mike Doyle told investment analysts on the third-quarter call that his company is “very interested in looking at potential mergers and acquisitions opportunities in the region,” though he said at the time that there were no active discussions to report.

Viajanet, Submarino Viagens, Viajala, Voopter, and other companies will be curious to see what moves the regional star makes.

In turn, Expedia has a 14 percent stake in Despegar, and is prohibited from purchasing more than 35 percent of Despegar’s shares within three years of the IPO unless Expedia makes a tender offer. Under the latter scenario, Expedia could acquire Despegar if Expedia agreed to purchase more than a 75 percent stake in the company.

Other big players could take a look at Despegar, as well.

Regional Dominance

Despegar is one of the leading online travel agencies in the region. In November, it reported its first quarterly results as a public company.

It had $1.12 billion in third quarter gross booking volume, up 32 percent, year over year. Its total transactions of $2.3 billion in the quarter represented a 25 percent jump. Net income, though, fell 22 percent to $11.2 million.

The company also said that its mobile travel app is the most downloaded online travel app in Latin America. More than half of the company’s traffic comes from mobile devices, the company said.

Despegar uses Expedia Inc. exclusively for its hotel inventory outside the continent. The U.S. giant bought a 16.4 percent stake in Despegar in 2015, which it has retained. With the IPO dilution, Expedia now owns 14 percent.

Despegar has a more substantial presence in South America than Expedia and its rivals Priceline Group and Ctrip, on average among the countries. Despegar has operated for18 years, building up local relationships. It now serves 20 Latin American countries.

That matters because South America is a continent with above-average growth prospects, given its low online penetration relative to other regions.

In Latin America, only $22 billion of travel is bought online today, which investment analysts at Citi believe is merely 34 percent of the potential if consumers switch away from bricks-and-mortar agencies. The 34 percent average is well below European and U.S. online travel penetration of 51 percent and 48 percent, respectively, according to Euromonitor estimates.

Despegar’s secret sauce is partnering with local banks to offer installment payment plans, which let credit card holders spread out the payments on a trip. In the first half of 2017, consumers paid for 54 percent of the company’s transactions in this way.

In comparison, foreign-based giants have little-to-no local installment or layaway plan options for consumers.

Positive Market Dynamics

In some developing markets, fierce price wars have broken out as local competitors use discounts to gain market share. But Despegar appears to have escaped that trap.

Despegar’s take rate — or its cut of gross bookings, a metric that investors watch closely — was 11.8 percent, or roughly $130 million. That take rate hews closely to the 12 percent average it had through 2016, making it competitive with the take rates of some of the larger online travel agencies, and comparably sized companies elsewhere, such as MakeMyTrip in India, which has a 13 percent take rate.

The first wave of travel startups in emerging markets also historically have focused on flight sales, which typically generate less profit than hotel sales. But since it ramped up hotels starting in 2009, Despegar has also dodged this dynamic over time.

This year, slightly more than half of the company’s sales were from hotels and vacation packages, while flights took up much of the rest.

What’s more, margin tends to be higher on airline tickets in Latin American than in other parts of the world, and Despegar has successfully trained consumers to accept a booking fee — a model not common in the U.S. or Europe, but one that helps keep margins steady.

The Outlook for 2018

Despegar does face risks. The biggest may be the political and financial instability of Brazil, a market representing about 41 percent of Despegar’s transactions.

But even accounting for the Brazil factor, Citi analyst Mark May forecasts the online travel market in Latin America to grow at least 10 percent a year for the foreseeable future.

The global brands will likely step up their fight to add inventory in Latin America. Despegar currently lists 300,000 hotels in the region but only has about 23,000 of those directly tied into its extranet instead of through a global distribution system connection.

Another risk: While the globals can scoop up hotel and vacation rental listings relatively quickly, they can’t compete at scale as easily with more nuanced products. For example, Despegar has been expanding sales of destination services, such as tour guides, and of travel insurance, partnering with local players.

Despegar generates about 7 percent of cash per dollar of sales from its core operations, compared to Expedia’s comparable 20 percent. Nau Securities analyst Alex Wright forecasts that Despegar will boost that metric in its core online travel business to about 15 percent by 2020.

Once the company is in line with Expedia’s level of performance, perhaps the U.S. giant or its competitors will want to absorb it, experts have speculated.

A third risk is avoiding discounting to gain market share. In 2017 the company selectively reduced air customer fees in certain markets, notably in Mexico and Colombia, to boost cross-selling of hotel stays and ancillary services.

That drove double-digit growth in transactions while keeping commissions stable, the company said. But the fee cuts could pose a challenge if done at scale.

Meanwhile, Despegar may be in a shopping mood in 2018. Expect an acquisition or merger in the New Year. Viajanet, Submarino Viagens, Viajala, Voopter, and other companies will be curious to see what moves the regional star makes.

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December 29, 2017 at 07:34AM

Vacasa CEO on Why a Recession Could Be Good for His Business

Vacasa CEO on Why a Recession Could Be Good for His Business

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Skift

Vacasa CEO Eric Breon is pictured here. His business is more dependent on the availability of vacation rentals than consumer demand. Skift

Skift Take: Vacasa CEO Eric Breon doesn’t see Airbnb or big hotel companies as competition for his company, which specializes in managing traditional vacation home rentals. But he could use more homes to manage.

— Hannah Sampson

Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of video interviews from the Skift Take Studio, presented by KDS, that were filmed at this year’s Skift Global Forum.

During the 2017 Skift Global Forum in September in New York City, we heard from a host of the travel industry’s top leaders from across every sector.

And after first speaking to them on stage in front of an audience of more than 1,100, we took another few minutes with them to get more insight in our backstage Skift Take Studio.

In our behind-the-scenes conversation, Eric Breon, CEO of vacation rental management company Vacasa, shared his thoughts about Airbnb, the reason he doesn’t see hotels as competition, and why a recession would actually be good for his business.

“At Vacasa, we’re primarily constrained by supply, homes that we manage, rather then consumer demand,” he said. “Supply is much more readily available in a recession as people bought that house and now they’re not able to sell it. They’re under water, they’re going to look for other options, and we are one of those options where they could rent out the home they can’t afford.”

He added: “In a hot market like today, it’s a bit of a headwind. People are selling their home for 50 percent more, twice as much as they paid. Whereas if the market slows down, people would be stuck with those homes and then they’d be looking [at], ‘How can I monetize this home I’m not using?’”

Watch all the Skift Take Studio videos here.

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December 29, 2017 at 06:30AM

Deal Alert: 22+ Mainland Cities to Hawaii for Under $400 Round-Trip

Deal Alert: 22+ Mainland Cities to Hawaii for Under $400 Round-Trip

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Want to see the latest flight deals as soon as they’re published? Follow The Points Guy on Facebook and Twitter, and subscribe to text message alerts from our deals feed, @tpg_alerts.

Airfare deals are typically only available on limited dates. We recommend you use Google Flights to find dates to fly, then book through an online travel agency such as Expedia, which allows you to cancel flights without penalty by 11pm Eastern Time within one day of booking. However, if you’re using the American Express Platinum Card, you’ll need to book directly with the airline or through Amex Travel portal to get 5x MR points. Remember: Fares may disappear quickly, so book right away and take advantage of Expedia’s courtesy cancellation if you’re unable to get the time away from work or family.

Wednesday night, we wrote about how American began attacking fares from Delta hubs. Thursday morning, Delta responded with an attack on AA hubs. Now, we have an all-out fare war for flights to Hawaii. Right now, we’re seeing 22 US cities with tickets available to Hawaii for under $400 round-trip, with even more cities added each time we look.

Dates vary by departure city. Most of the outstanding deals are limited to departures from January through March 2018, but make sure to look at the calendar on Google Flights to see which dates work from your city. Then you can complete booking directly with the airline.

Airline: Alaska, American Airlines, Delta, Hawaii
Routes: The lowest price, route and airline are listed. However, there may be other routes from some cities for under $400 round-trip.

Lower 48 Hawaii Price Airline
ATL HNL $354 American
BLI OGG $357 Alaska
CVG HNL $354 American
DAL HNL $374 Delta
DEN KOA $362 Delta
DFW HNL/OGG $374 Delta
DTW HNL/OGG $354 American
LAS HNL $354 American
LAX LIH $377 Hawaiian
MEM HNL $359 American
MIA HNL $374 Delta
MSP HNL/OGG $354 American
OAK HNL/KOA $357 Alaska/Hawaiian
PDX OGG/HNL/KOA $372 United/Alaska/Hawaiian
PHL HNL $374 Delta
PHX HNL $374 Delta
SAN LIH $335 Hawaiian
SEA KOA $345 Delta
SFO KOA $353 Hawaiian
SJC OGG $337 Hawaiian
SLC HNL $354 American
SMF OGG $355 Hawaiian

Cost: $335+ round-trip in economy
Dates: January to May 2018
Booking Link: Expedia or with the airline directly
Pay With: The Platinum Card from American Express (5x on airfare), Chase Sapphire Reserve, Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express, Citi Prestige (3x on airfare) or Chase Sapphire Preferred (2x on travel)

Here are a few examples of what you can book:

Atlanta (ATL) to Honolulu (HNL) for $374 round-trip:

Minneapolis (MSP) to Honolulu (HNL) for $374 round-trip:

Salt Lake City (SLC) to Honolulu (HNL) for $374 round-trip:

Las Vegas (LAS) to Honolulu (HNL) for $374 round-trip:

Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to Kahului (OGG) for $374 round-trip in Delta Basic Economy:

Miami (MIA) to Honolulu (HNL) for $374 round-trip in Delta Basic Economy:

Philadelphia (PHL) to Honolulu (HNL) for $374 round-trip in Delta Basic Economy:

Phoenix (PHX) to Honolulu (HNL) for $374 round-trip in Delta Basic Economy:

Maximize Your Purchase

Don’t forget to use a credit card that earns additional points on airfare purchases, such as the American Express Platinum Card (5x on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel), Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Premier Rewards Gold or Citi Prestige (3x on airfare) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on all travel purchases). Check out this post for more on maximizing airfare purchases.

H/T: Thrifty Traveler Premium for the original deal, Scott’s Cheap Flights for the expansions.

Featured image by M Swiet Productions / Getty Images

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December 28, 2017 at 10:55PM

Americans Have Over $4 Trillion in Open Credit Card Lines, According to New Report

Americans Have Over $4 Trillion in Open Credit Card Lines, According to New Report

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On Wednesday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released its biennial report to Congress covering the credit card market, and its findings show that the market is on the up-and-up. In addition to the total number of credit card accounts increasing, so has the total credit available to cardholders and the average amount of debt over the past two years.

The CFPB report states that the credit card market has grown in size, as well as in its number of participants, offerings and features of its products. Some of the major findings from the report include:

  • Total amount of credit line on cards (used or unused), is still below recession levels, but has steadily increased since 2009. As of 2017, credit card companies extended more than $4 trillion in credit lines as of mid-2017.
  • In 2016, consumers opened about 110 million new credit card accounts which is about 50% higher than 2010 and higher than any single year since 2007.
  • The average cardholder has fewer credit cards than before the financial crisis, but the number of cards in people’s wallets have increased in recent years.

The CFPB report also shows that, during the same time period, the delinquency and charge-off rates increased modestly. Both rates were high during the financial crisis between 2007 and 2009 and then fell to “historic lows in the years following the recession.” according to the CFPB report. Even though the increase in delinquencies is not huge, “it is a troubling sign,” says Bruce McClary, vice president of communications at the National Foundation for Credit Counseling to NBC News. “There’s nothing wrong with using a credit card, which be a useful financial tool, as long as you make payments on time and avoid going deep into debt,” he added.

 

The report also found that the average credit card debt increased 9% since 2015 and the average balance for cardholders with low credit scores rose at a faster rate; those with really bad credit history saw a 26% increase in their average credit card debt since 2015.

The average American household with credit card debt has a balance of $15,654, according to a report by NerdWallet. Last week, the national average APR hit 16.21%, according to the latest report from creditcards.com, which is the highest average APR recorded since the website started tracking in mid-2007.

Creditcards.com also predicts that as the Federal Reserve continues to boost interest rates, credit card interest rates will go even higher in 2018.

H/T: NBC News

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December 28, 2017 at 09:55PM

Google Travel Feeling Intensified Antitrust Pressure

Google Travel Feeling Intensified Antitrust Pressure

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Skift

Pictured is a Google Hotels display on iPhone. A Wall Street Journal editorial on December 27 alleged that Google steers consumers to its own businesses to the detriment of competition. Skift

Skift Take: Might 2018 be the year U.S. regulators take a hard look anew at Google’s travel-business practices after declining to take action in 2012? We hope so, in the interests of fair play, although the Trump Administration has been keen to reduce government regulation of businesses, not increase it.

— Dennis Schaal

Google is not only feeling antitrust heat in Europe, where the European Union leveled a $2.7 billion fine against it in June over its shopping business, but now Google is feeling  regulatory pressure in the U.S. over its travel-business practices, as well.

A Wall Street Journal Editorial Board opinion piece Wednesday on what it termed the Google-Hotel Travelopy called on Google to compete fairly by giving free rein to smaller online travel agencies to use hotel trademarks in their Google ads and URLs, and to stop biasing search results in favor of Google’s own flight and hotel metasearch businesses to the detriment of competitors’ businesses.

“Google ought to compete on fair terms by opening its auctions to all players and stop favoring its meta-search,” the Wall Street Journal editorial concluded. “Otherwise, regulators may soon ask if the search giant is abusing its market power.”

Google didn’t immediately respond to a Skift request for comment.

The Wall Street Journal editorial cited a Skift Research article in June about the estimated size of Google’s travel business. “The search giant’s travel business is worth $100 billion and will generate $14 billion in revenue this year, according to Skift Research,” the Wall Street Journal said.

Skift Research’s just-published report, A Deep Dive in the Google Travel Ecosystem 2018, estimated that two online travel businesses alone — the Priceline Group and Expedia Inc. — shelled out more than $4 billion on Google advertising in 2016 while North America hotel chains chipped in $1 billion to $1.4 billion in 2017.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division told Skift Thursday that it doesn’t as standard practice confirm or deny the existence of investigations before the information is released to the public. A spokesperson for the Federal Trade Commission likewise declined to confirm or deny an investigation.

The Wall Street Journal’s call for Google to cease allegedly anticompetitive practices comes five years after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission probed Google’s advertising practices and decided not to take action. The FTC declined to sue Google in 2012, the Wall Street Journal reported at the time, despite the fact that key antitrust staffers wanted to sue after concluding that Google’s search and advertising practices harmed consumers and slowed innovation.

Preview and Purchase Skift Research’s A Deep Dive Into the Google Travel Ecosystem 2018

What It All Means

Before briefly looking at the Wall Street Journal’s arguments — some of which have been aired innumerable times before — it is important to point out that when the Wall Street Journal, a powerful force in U.S. business, takes Google to task over its advertising and travel-business practices, this puts these issues into the national spotlight and places more pressure on Google to make concessions.

The Wall Street Journal alleges that Google and major hotel chains have banded together to stifle competition from smaller online travel agencies to the detriment of consumers.

“The problem is that Google is working with hotels to stifle competition,” the Wall Street Journal alleges.

The editorial cites the fact that some hotel chains and major online travel agencies have contracts that prohibit the online travel agencies from bidding on and using the hotels’ trademarks in their advertisements on Google. The use of such trademarks used to be common practice to the chagrin of the big hotel chains. Skift Travel Tech Editor wrote about the issue here.

The Wall Street Journal claims that despite Google’s denials, the search giant has bowed to the wishes of large chains and clamped down on smaller online travel agencies that seek to use hotel trademarks in their Google advertising, and that this harms consumers by inflating hotel rates.

“A spokesperson for Google says the company doesn’t restrict keyword ad bids, but we’ve been told by a small OTA that Google applies rules in a way that restricts trademarks in their hotel ad titles and URLs,” the Wall Street Journal wrote.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association has long called on Google to restrict online travel agencies and their affiliates from using hotel trademarks in their Google advertising because some hoodwink consumers into thinking they are booking rooms directly with hotels when in reality they may be booking on dodgy and sometimes fraudulent websites.

So it’s unclear if there would be real consumer harm if Google is indeed restricting online travel agencies from using hotel trademarks.

Google’s Preferential Displays of Its Own Products

Where the Wall Street Journal arguments may have more merit is in the travel industry’s longstanding criticism that Google has buried organic search results in favor of paid advertisements, and the fact that Google biases search results to favor its own travel metasearch products, including Google Hotels and Google Flights, to the detriment of the competition and consumers.

For example, a Google search for “Philadelphia hotels” Thursday produced search results with paid ads from Hotels.com, Expedia.com, TripAdvisor and Kayak on top of the initial search results page. Underneath these Google AdWords placements was a prominent colored map of Philadelphia with hotel rates, and a boxy image of three hotel search results with rates, review scores, star ratings, hotel descriptions and photos, all leading after a click to Google’s hotel-metasearch business.

Free search results from online travel agencies or hotels aren’t visible on the first screen of the Google page on desktop or mobile. Companies that rely on such organic search results from Google are now hard-pressed to attract site visitors from the search engine.

In its defense, Google says that the hotels featured in the map and box are triggered organically. But clicking on the results bring users to a Google Hotels page, featuring advertisements from online travel agencies and hotels. Competitors get no such prominent display for their businesses.

Free search results aren’t visible on the first screen of the Google page on desktop or mobile.

The Wall Street Journal says that Google is thus unfairly steering consumers to its own businesses. “But competition and choice will decline if Google exploits its market dominance to squeeze rivals,” the Wall Street Journal said.

What’s Next?

It’s been widely reported that the European Union is examining Google’s travel practices after having slapped Google hard for the way it runs its comparative shopping business.

It’s unclear if the Trump Department of Justice or Federal Trade Commission would have an appetite to probe Google’s travel-business or advertising practices or to subject Google to new regulation when the President has issued an executive order to reduce government regulation and has made reduced government regulation as key talking point.

It’s true that Google and Silicon Valley in general haven’t been ardent Trump supporters so tearing into Google could be seen as fitting retribution, but Google knows how to play both sides of the Washington lobbying and regulatory game and has ample resources and friends in government.

For its part, the Department of Justice under Trump-appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions has initiated just half of the antitrust cases in 2017 that the Obama-led Justice Department did in 2016.

Still, the Wall Street Journal editorial gives hope to many in the travel industry who have demanded that Google be taken down a notch in the interests of fair competition.

2018 could get more interesting on the Google regulatory front.

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December 28, 2017 at 09:26PM

Hilton, Disney Revise ‘Do Not Disturb’ Policies to Require Employees to Enter Rooms Daily

Hilton, Disney Revise ‘Do Not Disturb’ Policies to Require Employees to Enter Rooms Daily

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In the wake of the shooting in Las Vegas from a room at the Mandalay Bay hotel, hotel chains are reconsidering their “Do Not Disturb” policies. Hilton and Walt Disney World Resorts are the first to act, with updates to their “DND” policies specifying that employees will enter guest hotel rooms at least once each day, regardless of any requests for privacy.

According to LoyaltyLobby, Hilton’s new policy states that if a guest does not have the room serviced for 24 hours, hotel management will check on the room. In accordance with this revised policy, the chain has instructed all properties to update their guest directories with the following language:

“We understand and respect your need for privacy. The hotel reserves the right to visually inspect all guest rooms every 24 hours to ensure the well-being of our guests and confirm the condition of the room.”

Hilton’s “Unable to Service” room cards will carry the same language and an additional note:

“If service is refused for this length of time, a member of hotel management will check on the guest room.”

Disney has gone a step further, not only requiring that a Disney employee enter every hotel room at least once a day in its three main hotels that lie along the monorail at the Walt Disney World resort in Orlando, but also removing all “DND” signage from those properties. Instead, a “Room Occupied” sign will be provided to indicate to the company’s cast members that guests are in the room.


Employees of the Grand Floridian at Walt Disney World will check on all rooms at least once every 24 hours. Photo by GREGG NEWTON/Getty Images.

Disney’s revised terms of service state:

“The hotel and its staff reserve the right to enter your room for any purposes including, but not limited to, performing maintenance and repairs or checking on the safety and security of guests and property.” 

While Disney did not directly mention the Vegas shooting as the reason for the changes, LoyaltyLobby reports that Hilton cites the 2017 incident multiple times in the internal document updating its policies. Hilton is also encouraging its hotel employees to report any illegal or suspicious activity to authorities, which includes “guests overly concerned about privacy, “using cash for payment, “those taking photos and notes about hotel” and “switching rooms number of times,” as well as several other activities the hotel considers suspicious. The internal document also notes that it’s the responsibility of housekeeping to report if a guest has left the “DND” sign on its door continuously for 24 hours and refused service more than twice.

Thus far, Hilton’s changes are only outlined in an internal document, so it will likely be a while before the new rules are implemented at all the chain’s properties. However, guests staying at the three Disney resorts undergoing changes will find a paper noting the revised policy in their rooms this week. According to Walt Disney World News Today, Disney’s new “DND” rules are expected to roll out at all Walt Disney World properties in the coming weeks.

Featured image by Todd Pearson/Getty Images.

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December 28, 2017 at 07:13PM