NSW home and hotel quarantine to end November 1; 399 new local cases, four deaths in NSW as regional travel delayed; Victoria records 2179 new local cases, six deaths


Victoria has eased its border restrictions with New South Wales, with fully vaccinated travellers entering from red zones no longer needing to quarantine for 14 days.

Vaccinated travellers who enter Victoria must return a negative test result no more than 72 hours before entry.

Once they enter, they must get tested and isolate until they return a negative test result.

However, people who are not fully vaccinated – including those with medical exemptions – must quarantine for 14 days upon arrival, as well as get tested before entering the state.

Previously, people returning from red zones had to be Victorian residents.

Fully vaccinated people coming from orange zones will no longer be required to get tested and isolate until they receive a negative result.

The new border measures come into place at 11.59pm on October 19.



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Report: 2022 Negotiated U.S. Hotel Rates Could Rise 15 Percent


Much like the 2021 hotel request-for-proposals cycle, this year’s negotiation season differs greatly from pre-pandemic ones. Many hotel companies have offered to roll over 2020 rates for a second year, and some buyers—though seemingly not as many as last year—are taking them up on it, with 2021 volume only nominally higher than 2020, and recovery still nascent.

Still, for those buyers conducting an RFP this year, the average 2022 U.S. corporate negotiated rate could increase 10 percent to 15 percent year over year, predicted industry expert Bjorn Hanson, adjunct professor at the New York University School of Professional Studies’ Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality, in his annual analysis. Reasons for the projected increase include restored hotel services, sellers more aggressively addressing financial challenges, and business and group demand recovery—mostly for small and midsize meetings of between 150 to 400 attendees.

Rate Strategies

Hanson said there are four primary approaches for rate negotiations this year: rolling over rates; applying a discount to a defined rate, typically the best available rate, which is dynamic pricing; using a hybrid model based on last year’s rate or a discount to the BAR, whichever is lower; and having fewer or almost no negotiated corporate rates and providing guidelines for travelers instead.

“There may be an RFP, but there won’t be, ‘We’ll guarantee 50,000 room nights in these three markets,’ ” Hanson told BTN. “It won’t be for normal volume. It will be more taking dynamic pricing or last year’s rates.”

Indeed, Hanson in the report estimates that 35 percent to 45 percent of buyers will maintain 2021 rates. He also projects 30 percent to 40 percent will discount to BAR while 10 percent to 15 percent go hybrid and 10 percent to 20 percent will have no negotiated rates.

“One thing to take away from my discussions is that buyers said they hate dynamic pricing and will avoid it because it sets them up for that becoming the model,” Hanson said, while adding those buyers also said they don’t have another immediate alternative. “They said, ‘As soon as I can stop dynamic pricing, I will.’ The risk is getting into a dynamic pricing model, and it being hard to get out of in the future.”

Buyer vs. Supplier Market

Though buyers should have had a negotiating advantage last year, most had dramatically less volume and more uncertainty and therefore less information with which to negotiate. Yet Hanson said some travel buyers didn’t get as many good deals as they could have—especially for a year in which he anticipated corporate rates could fall by up to 25 percent

“Some people who would be leading those negotiations and would be aggressive were furloughed,” he said. Also, “some buyers said, ‘We’ve been working with this hotel or intermediary for a long time. We’ll get a good deal, but we don’t need the best possible deal.’ “

He explained that some buyers believed that if they did not take a hard line in negotiations, then neither would hotels when their opportunity came. “They forgot that the first minute [hotels] can raise rates, they will,” Hanson said. “Some were very savvy buyers, but some were naïve.”

Still, some buyers did negotiate for every last dollar and cut their corporate rate by 40 percent to 50 percent, Hanson said. “They are not the ones who will get the opportunity to hold their rates over for another year,” he added. 

Negotiation Considerations

Hanson’s report notes a few factors buyers should keep in mind when negotiating for 2022. 

Much of 2021 occupancy has been concentrated around weekends, which has allowed hotels to shift to higher rate schedules for those limited periods. “But those limited periods represent large shares of accommodated demand.” Average daily rate for 2021 is about $25 less than for 2019, or almost 20 percent lower, according to the report. 

Further, for some hotels, corporate and group rates in 2021 are lower than leisure rates. With fewer corporate and group rates, overall ADRs have increased because of the mix of demand rather than real increases in room rates.

“When these factors are not fully understood or disclosed, buyers may be using data that lead to misunderstandings about the rate environment, and therefore agreeing to higher negotiated rates,” according to the report.

Cancellation policies also are a key factor this year. “Word is getting around that you can negotiate more flexibility,” Hanson said. But he added that hotels also are starting to enforce cancellation policies again after allowing more leeway during the pandemic. 

An emerging negotiation factor noted in the report is disclosure of and/or commitments for hotel, hotel brand or corporate environmental, social and governance practices. “These can include third-party generated or confirmed environmental reporting, board of director composition, compensation reporting and other matters.”

Despite the reduced number of RFPs during the pandemic, Hanson still believes there is value in having a negotiated corporate hotel program. “Buyers have a long list of priorities,” he said. “There’s the quality of the traveler’s experience, price, long-term relationships, locations [and more]. … I think both the buyer and seller sides see great value in negotiated rate agreements. … I’ve heard some people say that this is the end of negotiated rates, or by 2025 this won’t exist anymore. I think there will be a return to a more traditional model with some variations with what has been learned these past two years.”

RELATED: 2021 rate negotiation forecast



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DigiTravel and partners launch hotel programme analysis tool


DigiTravel Consulting, Business Travel Performance
Automation and About Partners Luxury Brands Collection have joined forces to
create a new tool to assess corporate hotel programmes and improve upon the
annual hotel request-for-proposal process, DigiTravel announced.

Dubbed Hotel Program Opportunity Analysis, the service is
available for free globally.

“The Opportunity Analysis has been carefully designed
by real industry experience to outline value and savings for companies and
hotels without going through the cumbersome RFP process every year, driving
continuous improvement, innovative services and smarter sourcing,” said
DigiTravel managing partner Susan Lichtenstein in a statement.

Lichtenstein explained in an email how it works; after a
company fills out a questionnaire on the DigiTravel website, the three partners
use their expertise along with technology, including the BTP Index, to review
the data and present back to the company opportunities in the area of savings,
cost to manage, booking channels, sourcing, benchmarking, process optimisation
and procurement.

“There’s a lot of confusion in hotel procurement right
now,” said BTP CEO Bruce Yoxsimer in a statement. “Unless you really
have your arms around your position as a buyer, it’s very difficult to build a
programme that supports your goals as an organisation. Our goal as partners is
to provide a clear path forward for companies as travel ramps back up.
Data-driven analytics, automation of manual processes and continuous sourcing
is the key.”

DigiTravel specialises in the business travel market.
Newcomer BTP partnered with Traxo earlier in 2021 to create a hotel programme
automation and performance platform to analyse both in-channel and off-channel
hotel bookings. About Partners represents independent hotels and serviced
apartments and formed an alliance with DigiTravel in November 2020.



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Online Travel Update: Airbnb takes steps to accommodate hotel listings; Hopper is ranked the most downloaded travel app in the first half of 2021 | Foster Garvey PC


Fall has definitely arrived in the Pacific Northwest. It was a relatively quiet week in the online travel world. This week’s Update features a story on one of the most widely used Global Distribution Systems – Amadeus – as the company announces its second (unnamed) major customer for its new reservation platform. Enjoy.

Airbnb Takes Steps to Accommodate Hotel Listings
(“Airbnb revives hotel strategy, moves closer to rival OTA model,” September 29, 2021 via Phocus Wire)
While the pandemic may have led Airbnb to pause its hotel distribution aspirations, it appears that the pause may have only been temporary. Airbnb is reportedly testing a new API that allows suppliers to provide and display multiple rate plans (similar to many of Airbnb’s OTA competitors). According to two of Airbnb’s beta partners – RoomCloud (an Italian channel manager and booking engine) and Cloudbeds (an US cloud-based PMS provider), the changes are designed to appeal to hoteliers. Airbnb is also apparently re-starting efforts with its mobile booking platform, HotelTonight, as it seeks to fill multiple open positions within the company, including market managers. Airbnb has refused to provide comment on either effort.

The Most Downloaded Travel App in the First Half of 2021? Hopper
(“Top Travel Booking Apps: Look Who’s Winning the U.S. Now,” September 28, 2021 via Skift Travel News) (subscription may be required)
Those of you who have read my Update for the past year or two know all about Hopper. While Hopper may have started out as just another mobile booking application, it is now successfully leveraging its many fintech tools to appeal to post-pandemic travelers seeking maximum flexibility in their travel plans (as evidenced by the 1.3 million U.S. consumer downloads of the app that occurred in July alone). As noted in last week’s Update, Hopper CEO, Frederic Lalonde, isn’t satisfied just being the most downloaded app, he hopes to create the “West’s first travel superapp.” For those of you wondering, with the exception of Tripadvisor, Expedia and/or Booking Holdings owned applications dominated the remainder of the list of the top ten most downloaded apps.


Other news:

Amadeus Signs Another Hotel Giant to Its Enterprise Software Platform
September 28, 2021 via Skift (subscription may be required)
On Tuesday, Amadeus revealed it had signed on an as-yet-unnamed hotel company to use its hospitality software platform.

Pandemic Twist Emerges on Bookings for Hotels in Tussle With Online Resellers
September 27, 2021 via Skift (subscription may be required)
Several hotel groups have tried to lower costs for roughly a decade by driving more consumers to book directly. During the pandemic recovery, hoteliers have by and large continued to avoid overusing aggregators such as Expedia and Booking.com for much of their online sales.



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NH Hotel Group opens first Scandinavian property


NH Hotel Group has opened its first property in Scandinavia
with the launch of NH Collection Copenhagen. The hotel features 394 rooms and
suites, two restaurants, a bar, lounge area and seven rooms for meetings of up
to 252 people. It also offers fitness facilities and a relaxation room, bicycle
rental and direct access to the city’s waterfront.

The company said sustainability was a focus of the hotel’s
design, which features a green sedum roof. The property uses seawater for
cooling and intelligent controls for lighting and indoor climate. A large portion
of the historical building has been maintained, while the façade stones are
cast from materials collected from the interior demolition.



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business trip

Tripbam: Corp. Hotel Volume Recovering After August Dip


Despite a blip in the recovery during August, when market-rate growth flattened and pricing volatility increased, hotel booking volume again is on an upward trajectory and volatility is down once more, according to Tripbam’s third-quarter market report. “The dip we saw was related more to late summer holidays than it was to long-term concerns about the [Covid-19] delta variant,” according to the report.

The hotel reshopping firm on Sept. 12 assessed data from the previous 30 days and compared it with figures from the same 30 days in 2019. Tripbam used the same customer set it had in 2019 for a like-for-like comparison.

The company found it had processed about 31 percent of the volume as in 2019, but the average length of stay has begun to return to what it was two years ago, said Tripbam founder and CEO Steve Reynolds during a late September webinar that reviewed the findings. With mostly essential travel happening during the height of the pandemic, the average length of stay had been four to five days, but has returned to a more normal 2.5 days, he said. The 11-day booking window before travel still was shorter than the 16-day window of 2019. 

Global market rates were down 28 percent for the 30-day period in 2021 compared with 2019, from an average of $234 to $168, while global booked rates were down 22 percent, from an average of $195 to $150, according to the report.

Looking at rates from a discount level, hotel programs in 2019 delivered about 18 percent in value across all clients, Reynolds said during the webinar. Currently, that percentage is at 17 percent, so there is a “bit of a ways to go to get the same percentage value,” he added. 

The report projected that global business travel hotel bookings by year-end would be between 40 percent to 60 percent of 2019 levels. As of the end of 2022, Tripbam expects global business travel hotel bookings to reach 80 percent of 2019 volumes, and the company expects that reduction to remain long-term based on conversations with corporate buyers.

Tripbam also anticipates that market rates will reach 2019 levels by the first quarter of 2022 and likely exceed 2019 levels in the subsequent quarters. “Don’t roll over rates,” Reynolds said. “Get programs in place now so they’re in a good position for 2022. We think [rates] will go up, and we can argue that a static program might be the way to go, and we can argue dynamic might be the way to go. It depends on the market.”

Further, the report cautioned about dual-rate loading. Some companies worked with hotel partners to introduce dynamic rates and to roll over 2020 static rates, which would in theory act as a rate cap in 2021. But Tripbam found during contract audits that dual-rate loading was often having the opposite effect—the static rate was acting as a floor rather than a cap, leading companies to pay more. “The concern is that some hotels don’t have the technology to support it the way it is being sold,” Reynolds said. “You need to [perform] audits to make sure it’s working. For major chains, it is working as promised, but with some smaller brands, there are some problems.”

Tripbam also provided an update on its new air offering, which is in beta with about eight clients, said VP of air solutions Tim Nichols. “It’s up and working,” he said. “We’re looking at reshopping and rebooking, that is the core of what the solution does.” Early findings show that it is producing savings “in the mid-teens [percentages] and increasing.” The company expected to run the beta for about another month.

RELATED: Tripbam: Corp. Hotel Rates Set to Hit 2019 Levels by Year-End



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Hotel Engine to Offer Sonder Inventory


Hotel Engine has added short-term rental provider Sonder’s inventory to its offerings, the companies announced Tuesday. The inventory will be available “beginning October 2021,” the companies said, without further detail.

The companies didn’t immediately return a request for clarification.

“The addition of Sonder provides more choice and flexibility in how our members travel and stay for work in some of the top cities around the world,” said Hotel Engine VP of supplier relations Anwar Musa in a statement.

Sonder in July added its inventory to the major global distribution systems following its May announcement that it intends to go public by merging with special purpose acquisition company Gores Metropoulos II with a valuation of $2.2 billion. Hotel Engine, a no-contract, free-to-use corporate travel booking and management platform, raised $16 million in funding in September 2019. It claims to provide rates that are up to 60 percent less than public rates.

Hotel Engine has more than 550,000 individual members across 35,000 businesses, with 700,000 hotels in more than 185 countries, according to the company. Sonder’s portfolio includes 250 properties with 5,000 units in more than 35 cities across nine countries, according to the company. 



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New Atlanta Hotel The Hamilton Is Alpharetta’s First Boutique Hotel


Courtesy of The Hamilton Alpharetta

A good hotel is great for a much-needed staycation, a brief respite from our daily worries, or an easy solution for last-minute shelter when going out of town. A great hotel, however, can be so much more than that. A truly great hotel leaves a mark on its guests and clientele, and since its opening last month, The Hamilton—Alpharetta’s first boutique hotel—has been hard at work to prove that it deserves recognition as one of Atlanta’s best OTP hotels.

“After almost four years to the day, we couldn’t be more honored and proud to open this landmark boutique hotel in downtown Alpharetta,” said Jason Joseph, Managing Director and Partner, Mayfair Street Partners, in celebration of The Hamilton’s opening in August. “I’m confident we have accomplished what we originally set out to do in adding not just a hotel, but a center point and destination for the City of Alpharetta—and a critical part of the City’s master plan.”

Courtesy of The Hamilton Alpharetta

Part of Curio Collection by Hilton, The Hamilton is owned and developed by Mayfair Street Partners and managed by Hotel Equities, and the striking new hotel in downtown Alpharetta boasts incredibly designed rooms, a fitness area, multiple dining options, unique on-site entertainment, and gorgeous open spaces for everything from inspiring business meetings and chic ballroom events to gorgeous weddings and receptions.

“The Hamilton is a cornerstone in the city of Alpharetta, a destination our community can be proud of for generations to come,” said Brad Rahinsky, President and CEO, Hotel Equities.

Here is everything that you need to know about downtown Alpharetta’s new vintage, yet modern hotel that has had everyone talking.

Hamilton Hotel
Courtesy of The Hamilton Alpharetta

The design

The Hamilton Hotel’s flair can best be described as “classic architecture, mixed with industrial elements and contemporary trends.” Inspired by the Western & Atlantic Railway, the lobby offers a vibrant contrast of vintage furniture and industrial fixtures with rich hues of blues and greys. And throughout the entire hotel, modern-day designs are still tastefully infused in order to ensure guests the best experience possible, with top-of-the-line furnishings and technology in the lobby as well as in the rooms and other spaces.

The Hamilton Alpharetta
Courtesy of The Hamilton Alpharetta

Room types

This downtown Alpharetta hotel has three main layouts. The King room comes with one king bed and ranges in size from 290 to 350 square feet, while the Queen room comes with two queen beds and measures out at 300 square feet. Both come with Waldorf Astoria beds, blackout curtains, complimentary Wi-Fi, a 50-inch Samsung HDTV, premium cable, a work desk, a mini-fridge, frette robes and slippers, a hair dryer, and an iron. The 1 King and 2 Queen rooms also each have an equally luxurious, mobility and hearing accessible counterpart, and they come with lowered light switches, an emergency ball button on the room phone, a roll-in shower, braille room numbers, and a lowered peephole in addition to all of the standard room features.

In addition to the standard room accomodations, there’s the King, Deluxe Room, which improves on the 1 King room features with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer a great overview of downtown Alpharetta, a pull-out sofa bed, and a more spacious bathroom with premium bath products.

Carrie's Conservatory Bar
Courtesy of The Hamilton Alpharetta

The food

There are two distinct dining options at The Hamilton that offer a unique take on southern French cuisine. The hotel’s all-day restaurant, Carrie’s Conservatory, is open for breakfast from 7 am to 10:30 am, lunch from 11 am to 3 pm, and dinner from 3 pm to 11 pm, and in addition to a wide array of menu options, CC’s offers indoor and outdoor seating.

Fulton’s Public House is the second dining option at The Hamilton Hotel, and it is only open for dinner from 5 pm to 11:30 pm. The more intimate setting at Fulton’s Public House is complemented by simple, yet inspired favorites that are prepared with farm-fresh ingredients from local markets and specialty butcher cuts.

Both Carrie’s Conservatory and Fulton’s Public House present guests with a full bar experience and curated wine program

Roaring Social Speakeasy
Roaring Social Alpharetta

Roaring Social, The Hamilton’s own speakeasy

The Hamilton Hotel takes on-site entertainment to a new level with its decked-out venue, Roaring Social. Located on the Speakeasy Level, Roaring Social takes design cues from the Roaring ’20s, and the prohibition-inspired entertainment venue is even hidden behind the storefront of RoSo Clothiers. After finding the secret password, guests will then be able to experience everything that Roaring Social has to offer—from signature craft cocktails and shareable bar bites to live music events and boutique bowling. With Roaring Social, The Hamilton Hotel guarantees that guests will be entertained during their stay, without having to even leave the premises.

Ameris Bank Amphitheatre
Ameris Bank Amphitheatre

Things to do in the area

From live music to shopping centers, everything that you would need or want during your trip to The Hamilton Hotel can be found in a 10-minute radius. First off, there’s Ameris Bank Amphitheatre, a 12,000-seat, outdoor music venue that regularly welcomes some of the biggest names in the music industry. In the coming weeks, artists like Chief Keef, Brooks & Dunn, Slipknot, Pitbull, and more are set to hit the stage, so while you’re enjoying your stay at The Hamilton, you may be minutes away from an exciting live concert.

Even though there is an on-site fitness area at the hotel, you can also opt for some open-air recreation at places like Wills Park or the Big Creek Greenway. The former features a 60-acre equestrian facility, baseball fields, a newly renovated swimming pool, plenty of playgrounds, tennis courts, and an 18-hole golf course. The latter is actually a trail, so for those who like to run, walk, bike, or skate, the Big Creek Greenway is a great scenic option for some outdoor exercise.

Biltong Bar
Avalon

Lastly, if you’ve got a bit of a shopping habit, then you’re in the right place because Avalon is just two miles away. With well over 60 retail shops and over 25 delicious food options, you could spend all day at that mall alone. Still even with such great nearby attractions and activities, don’t forget to enjoy your stay at The Hamilton Hotel in Alpharetta.

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat.

Joshua Robinson is an Atlanta-based contributor for Thrillist. Follow him on Instagram at @roshrisky.





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How to Score the Best Luxury Hotel Deals: 5 Expert Tips


TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS a night for a hotel room with one king-size bed in Nantucket. More than $4,000 a night for a “Desert View Suite” in Utah. Travelers itching to get back on the road are getting an unwelcome surprise: hotel sticker shock. According to a recent survey from travel booking app Hopper, lodging prices in the U.S. are up 42% from earlier this year, and are likely to rise even more by the winter holidays. “We’ve seen crazy high levels at some leisure destinations,” said Hopper economist Adit Damodaran. Why the spike? “Demand for hotels just skyrocketed overnight” around Memorial Day, explained Andrea Stokes, hospitality practice lead at research firm J.D. Power. Plus, many guests chose to stay stateside this year instead of going abroad. The good news: You can still ferret out bargains or wrangle a discount. We asked a few travel industry insiders for their best booking tips:

Time it right

Hopper advises booking at least 30 days in advance for a hotel in a resort area. But for city center hotels, try the opposite tack: Book less than two weeks from arrival to get last-minute deals when inventory opens up. And look for midweek specials.



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