From the desks of the Hotel News Now editorial staff:
- Marriott CEO shares details of Starwood data breach
- EU changing requirements for visa-free travel
- Tech, distribution also challenges for alternative accommodations
- Hotels in Columbia, South Carolina, prep for March Madness
- US retail sales increased at beginning of Q1
Marriott CEO shares details of Starwood data breach: In his testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations last week, Marriott International President and CEO Arne Sorenson gave new information on the data breach of the legacy Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide reservation system, Forbes reports.
Software triggered an alert after it detected a human operator was interfering with its database, Sorenson told the subcommittee. The company hired third-party investigators, who found malware known as a Remote Access Trojan and a penetration tool. Further investigation found evidence of two compressed, encrypted files that were deleted, which upon decryption revealed passport information and guest data.
Although U.S. officials have stated their belief Chinese state hackers were behind the data breach, Sorenson in his testimony denied that China was responsible for the attack.
EU changing requirements for visa-free travel: Although not a monumental change, the European Union has added a few extra steps before citizens of countries that have visa-free travel to the EU can visit, The New York Times reports. The European Travel Information and Authorization System, which goes into effect 1 January 2021, will require visitors from visa-free travel countries to register online and pay a fee of €7 ($8).
The EU created the ETIAS “to identify any security or irregular migratory risks posed by visa-exempt visitors” as part of its efforts to fight human trafficking and other criminal activity, according to the article.
The ETIAS registration is not a visa, the newspaper reports, and it does not require a visit to a consulate to file an application or be fingerprinted. The authorization is valid for three years. While authorized, travelers can make an unlimited number of entries.
Tech, distribution also challenges for alternative accommodations: While hoteliers feel alternative-accommodation companies have an advantage when it comes to taxes and other regulations, executives at these companies shared they face the same challenges hoteliers do when it comes to technology and distribution, reports HNN’s Terence Baker from the International Hotel Investment Forum in Berlin.
When investing in technology, it’s important to make sure that it enhances the guest experience, said Marloes Knippenberg, CEO of Kerten Hospitality, which operates Cloud7 and The House Hotel but also develops and operates F&B and co-working concepts.
“We’re still talking about tech only in terms of check-in, and we invest in so much tech we do not understand, and that does not help with the experiences we want to provide,” she added.
Hotels in Columbia, South Carolina, prep for March Madness: As one of the hosts of the first and second rounds of the NCAAA tournament, Columbia, South Carolina, will welcome thousands of college basketball fans on 22-24 March. Hotels in the area are getting ready for all of the bookings coming their way, reports WLTX19.
“The impact from the NCAA rooms themselves is quite substantial. We have already booked over 3,000 hotel roomnights,” said Scott Powers, executive director of Experience Columbia SC Sports.
The reservations from the NCAA rooms is expected to create $3 million to $4 million in revenue for area hotels, Powers told WLTX19. His organization has reached out to hoteliers in the market to tell them to be fully staffed and ready to take more calls and bookings following Selection Sunday, which is 17 March.
U.S. retail sales increased at beginning of Q1: U.S. consumers increased their spending at the beginning of the first quarter of 2019, The Wall Street Journal reports. The U.S. Department of Commerce released data showing retail sales grew a seasonally adjusted 0.2% (1.2% excluding gas stations) in January compared to $504.4 billion in December.
Data from the Commerce Department shows consumer spending increased at restaurants, building material stores and sporting goods, hobby and book stores, according to the article.
Compiled by Bryan Wroten.