5 things to know: 14 October 2019
 
5 things to know: 14 October 2019
14 OCTOBER 2019 9:40 AM

From the desks of the Hotel News Now editorial staff:

  • Collapse of Hard Rock Hotel leaves two dead
  • Queensgate finalizes $400 million Freehand Hotels buy
  • Chesapeake Hospitality names Chris Green CEO
  • Saudi Arabia looking to boost foreign tourism
  • Thomas Cook's fall an ‘existential threat’ for Spain’s tourism

Collapse of Hard Rock Hotel leaves two dead: The collapse of an in-construction Hard Rock Hotel property in New Orleans Saturday has left two dead, with “almost three dozen” injured and one person still unaccounted for, according to a report from The Times-Picayune/Nola.com.

The collapse happened in the upper floors of the 18-story building shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday when 112 workers were on the job. The property is located on Canal Street in the city’s historic French Quarter and has been under construction since 2018. The news outlet notes the collapse left the “top floors pancaked, sending tons of concrete and steel tumbling down and toppling a construction lift onto North Rampart Street.”

In a statement from Hard Rock International, the company notes the hotel was being built as part of a licensing agreement and Hard Rock had “no involvement” in the construction.

“We want to extend our deepest sympathies to victims of this tragic accident and to their loved ones and friends,” the statement reads.

Federal workplace safety inspectors are looking into the cause of the collapse.

The threat of further collapse has led authorities to close off the area surrounding the construction site.

Queensgate finalizes $400 million Freehand Hotels buy: In July, it was reported that United Kingdom-based investment firm Queensgate Investments would pay $400 million to acquire New York-based Freehand Hotels, which is majority owned by hotel operator Sydell Group and private equity investor Ronald Burkle’s firm. On 11 October, the deal officially closed, according to a news release. Generator, a Queensgate-owned company, is set to manage Freehand Hotels.

Queensgate acquired Generator in 2017, and under its ownership, Generator has doubled earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, the release states.

"The acquisition of Freehand is of strategic importance to Generator, and the combined portfolio represents one of the largest asset-rich lifestyle hospitality platforms globally with 19 hotels in 17 gateway cities. There is now a significant push to grow the presence of both Freehand and Generator across the U.K. and Europe, with opportunities currently being evaluated in London, Edinburgh, Milan, Amsterdam and other gateway European cities,” Puneet Kanuga, investment director at Queensgate, said in the release.


Chesapeake Hospitality names Chris Green CEO: In an exclusive interview with Hotel News Now, Chris Green, the new president and CEO of Chesapeake Hospitality, said now is a “great time to pass the baton” for a third-party management company, writes HNN’s Stephanie Ricca. Green succeeds Kim Sims and most recently held the role of chief commercial officer.

“With the business dynamic we have now and the level of performance we have, we’re handing off operations and the day-to-day running of the company at a time when things are well-curated and we’re ready,” Green said.

He said his role as CEO is to be steward of the strategies that the company has already been executing while also being forward-thinking, curious and aggressive. Advancing technology is also a priority for his vision moving forward.


Saudi Arabia looking to boost foreign tourism: Saudi Arabia, which was relatively closed off for decades, has now opened tourist visas for those who already hold a visa from the United States, Britain or the EU’s Schengen zone, Reuters reports, in an effort “to boost foreign tourism and diversity the economy away from oil.”

The new visas allow visitors to enter multiple times as well as stay up to three months, the article states.

“Until now, foreigners traveling to Saudi Arabia had been largely restricted to resident workers and their dependents, business travelers and Muslim pilgrims who are given special visas to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina,” according to the article.


Thomas Cook's fall an ‘existential threat’ for Spain’s tourism: Since British travel company Thomas Cook entered into liquidation in September after negotiations with its creditors and investors failed, it has put a strain on Spain’s tourist sector, according to BBC.

It was reported last month that 500 hotels in Spain would close immediately. The future of workers and staff at Thomas Cook’s Spanish suppliers and subsidiaries “is at stake,” the BBC writes.

Beyond the immediate impact of the Thomas Cook crash, some Spanish tourism sector leaders say there is some soul-searching to be done regarding the future of the country's biggest industry.
“After six years of record international tourist arrivals, reaching 82.8 million in 2018, the negative impact from Thomas Cook's collapse may lead to stagnation, with growth up to August reaching only 1.5%, according to government figures,” the article states.

Compiled by Dana Miller.

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