Monthly Archives: September 2016

Marriott International Completes Acquisition Of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide

Marriott International has completed its acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., creating the world’s largest and best hotel company.

Marriott now offers the most comprehensive portfolio of brands including leading lifestyle brands, a significant global footprint, and leadership in the luxury and select-service tiers as well as the convention and resort segment.

Beginning today, Marriott will match member status across Marriott Rewards – which includes The Ritz-Carlton Rewards – and Starwood Preferred Guest [SPG], enabling members to transfer points between the programs for travel and exclusive experiences when they link their accounts later today.

“Throughout our nearly 90-year history we have never stopped searching for fresh ways to serve our guests. With the addition of Starwood’s strong brands, great properties, and talented people, we have dramatically expanded our ability to provide the best experiences to our customers. We also welcome the tremendous responsibility as the world’s largest hotel company to be a good global steward, providing new opportunities for our associates and building the economic strength of the communities we call home,” said J.W. Marriott, Jr., Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board of Marriott International.

“We believe that Marriott now has the world’s best portfolio of hotel brands, the most comprehensive global footprint, and the most extensive loyalty programs, providing an unparalleled guest experience.

Combining Starwood’s brands with ours better enables Marriott to reach our goal of having the right brand in the right place to serve our loyal guests and welcome new ones,” said Arne Sorenson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International. “We can now provide a better range of choices for our guests, more opportunities for our associates, and greater financial benefits for our owners, franchisees, and shareholders.”

The new company will operate or franchise more than 5,700 properties and 1.1 million rooms, representing 30 leading brands from the moderate-tier to luxury in over 110 countries. With the completion of this acquisition, Marriott’s distribution has more than doubled in Asia and the Middle East.

Best-in-Class Loyalty Programs

Marriott Rewards – which includes the Ritz-Carlton Rewards – and SPG are the most recognized and awarded loyalty programs in hospitality. Together, these programs will offer members more benefits when they link their accounts, as well as new destinations such as Aruba, Tuscany’s Serchio Valley and Kruger National Park in South Africa for SPG members and the Maldives, Bora Bora and Santorini, Greece for Marriott Rewards and The Ritz-Carlton Rewards members.

“Marriott will draw upon the very best each program offers and we can’t wait to show the loyal members of these programs the power and benefits of Marriott and Starwood coming together,” said Stephanie Linnartz, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Commercial Officer.

Marriott will launch a microsite later today, www.Members.Marriott.com, for all members of the combined company’s loyalty programs to learn more about the reciprocal benefits now available and to link accounts.

New Board Members and Shares Listing

Effective today, Marriott’s Board of Directors has increased from 11 to 14 members, with the addition of Bruce Duncan, former Chairman of the Board of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. and President, CEO and Director of First Industrial Real Estate Trust, Inc.; Eric Hippeau, Partner, Lerer Hippeau Ventures; and Aylwin Lewis, Chairman and CEO of Potbelly Corporation. Messrs. Hippeau and Lewis are also former Starwood board members. Full biographies on each of the three new board members are available at www.Marriott.com/investor.

Before market open today, Starwood’s shares will cease trading on the New York Stock Exchange. As previously announced, Starwood shareholders will receive $21.00 in cash and 0.80 shares of Marriott International, Inc. Class A common stock for each share of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. common stock.

Transaction Benefits

Marriott’s acquisition of Starwood enables the combined company to expand the scope of its distribution and portfolio while deploying its larger scale to realize cost efficiencies in its corporate and property operations. As previously stated, Marriott is confident the company can achieve $250 million in annual cost synergies. Other synergies should come in the form of leveraging operations and sharing best practices. Combined sales expertise and improved account coverage are expected to provide both enhanced efficiencies and increased revenue opportunities.

“These enhanced efficiencies and revenue opportunities should drive improved property-level profitability as well as greater owner and franchisee preference for the combined company’s brands, which will encourage new hotel development,” Sorenson said. “As new travel destinations emerge, Marriott can be counted on to be there.”

One-time transaction costs for the merger are expected to total approximately $140 million. Marriott intends to take the steps necessary to cause Starwood’s outstanding public debt to be pari passu with the outstanding public debt of Marriott International by the end of 2016. Marriott remains committed to maintaining an investment grade credit rating and to continue managing the balance sheet prudently after the merger.

Arne Sorenson remains President and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International, and Marriott’s headquarters continues to be located in Bethesda, Maryland.

Advisors:

Lazard and Citigroup were financial advisors to Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and Deutsche Bank Securities and Goldman Sachs were the financial advisors to Marriott International. Cravath, Swaine & Moore served as legal counsel to Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher served as legal counsel to Marriott International on the transaction.

Cross River Most Beautiful Girl Suspends Another Queen

Barely days after it suspended two of its prominent queens, Belle’Sabel Grooming Agency [BGA] the organizers of the prestigious Cross River Most Beautiful Girl [CRMBG] has announced the suspension of another of its titled queens, Christy Annie, who is CROSS RIVER MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL TOURISM 2016 entering the world’s book of records as first pageant to have serially suspended three of its titled queens at a stretch, a move many practitioners in the pageant industry see as discipline at very high ebb.

When Victoria Ana and Favour Ezeh were suspended two days ago as CRMBG 2016 queen and CRMBG Culture And Heritage 2016 respectively this brewed frenzy in many quarters that Annie, the first runner up of the event would succeed her as acting queen, but in such suspense fill movie style twist, BGA wowed those who have been following up with trends of the episodes of suspension.

Annie is being fingered to have made it a point of duty to use her crown to attend functions without due regards to intimating her management, an aspect BGA did not take lightly as they feel the events are not being censored, which the fear may bring the name of the pageant to disrepute.

Meanwhile Miss Catherine Eriom, the CEO of prestigious Face of Independence Nigeria [FOIN] in a comment to the media through her publicist has commended BGA for the step they took arguing that taking disciplinary action on title queens would sanitize the system of title holders who are not goal oriented while making them to be uptight to the goal of the pageant.

The management of CRMBG through Cross River Studios, its publicist said it is planning to announce its acting queen soonest.

By OBAJI AKPET, Calabar.

$20m Accounts: Patience Jonathan May Forfeit N10bn Hotel To Government

Dame Patience Jonathan, the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, may forfeit to the Federal Government, a N10bn hotel allegedly belonging to her if she fails to explain how she came about some funds allegedly traced to her accounts.

“This is one of the questions she may have to answer as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission continues investigation into the $20m found in five accounts she has laid claim to,” a source told our correspondent on Monday.

The hotel, which is known as Aridolf Resort Wellness and Spa, Yenagoa, was inaugurated by Patience in April 2015, barely a month before the end of her husband’s tenure.

According to a UK business newspaper, The Financial Times, the hotel, which has imported state-of-the-art furniture, can compete with other luxury hotels in developed countries.

The report dated April 21, 2015, states in part, “The Aridolf Hotel in Yenagoa is an unlikely monument to kitsch on a reclaimed swamp in Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta. In the lobby, Louis XIV furniture is accompanied by bowls of plastic fruit, faux Dutch landscapes and a grotesquely gaudy chandelier.

The hotel is redolent of the riches on display in a region that for half a century has generated the bulk of Nigeria’s wealth.

“The Aridolf, which is owned by Patience Jonathan, wife of the former President, is symptomatic of how superficial progress has been in addressing the festering sense of marginalisation in the region, which remains desperately impoverished despite benefiting from a tide of petrodollars in recent years.”

The Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay, told our correspondent that the EFCC had the right to investigate anybody who was living above his or her means.

He said anybody, who failed to do so, could risk forfeiture of properties believed to have been obtained through stolen funds or could lose funds traced to him or her.

Sagay, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, wondered how Patience, who was a civil servant and never held any government position, could have billions in her bank accounts.

He said, “The EFCC and ICPC Acts have provisions under which they can ask the court to freeze the account of a person if a person’s capacity to earn is below the amount of money that the person appears to have.

“If you are living a lavish lifestyle and it appears you don’t have the means to have acquired the property and the wealth you have, the EFCC is free to probe you.”

Patience recently sued Skye Bank and the EFCC for freezing four company accounts which have a balance of $15m.

The former first lady also has another account with the title, ‘Patience Ibifaka Jonathan’ which has a balance of $5m. The account is, however, still active.

The PUNCH had reported that four of the accounts belonged to Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Trans Ocean Property and Investment Company Limited and Globus Integrated Service Limited.

The anti-graft commission believed that a former Special Adviser to the President on Domestic Affairs, Waripamowei Dudafa, forged the identities of his domestic servants to open the four accounts while the fifth account was opened in the name of Patience.

The domestic servants were, however, denied access to the accounts while a platinum card was issued to Patience.

The EFCC froze the accounts of the four companies which were initially believed to be owned by Dudafa until Patience stated last week that the four accounts belonged to her.

The EFCC is set to arraign Dudafa and some bank officials for alleged fraud.

However, Mr. Joseph Okobieme, the lawyer to Demola Bolodeoku, one of the bank officials, said his client did not take part in forging the signatures of the domestic servants/directors.

He said, “I don’t know why he was included in the charge.

He has no business in this transaction. He was merely doing his job as a banker. The allegation they levelled against him was not that he benefitted from the proceeds of the alleged transaction.

“There is a mere allegation of forgery of certain documents which are not within his power to have forged because he is not a director of the company.

“These four companies were duly registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission [CAC], with the names and the directors on record. So, if they say the names of these directors were forged, it is not possible for my client to have forged them. Clearly, he was not the author of the documents.”

He believed that the four domestic servants should be charged by the EFCC as well.

Source: punchng.com

Mzembi Acknowledges, Praises French Footprint In Global Tourism Industry

In a back to back meetings with senior officials of the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Zimbabwean Minister of Tourism and the Hospitality Industry, Walter Mzembi, extended his campaign to become the next Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation [UNWTO] to France, the very heart of European tourism and an acknowledged super-power in the global tourism industry.

The Minister first met with Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Director for United Nations and other International Organisations within the French Foreign Ministry. This was followed by a meeting with Cyrille Pierre, Cabinet Director for the Secretary of State for External Trade and Tourism Promotion – again within the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Mzembi’s visit comes in response to an invitation extended to him by the French authorities which was issued in the immediate wake of the unanimous endorsement of his candidature by African Heads of State and Government at the recent AU Summit meeting in Kigali, Rwanda.

Respectful of Africa’s decision, the French authorities wished to hear first hand from the continent’s candidate for the top UNWTO job, to compare policy thrusts going forward and to satisfy them that the interests of the global tourism sector will be in safe hands.

Given France’s status as a major force within the global tourism industry, and the fact that France is a member of the UNWTO Executive Council, their support will be crucial if Mzembi is to clinch the Organisation’s top job when the Council convenes at UNWTO Headquarters in Spain, in May 2017, to elect a successor to the incumbent, Taleb Rifai of Jordan.

France is widely recognised as Europe’s number one tourism destination, attracting in excess of 80 million visitors a year. In economic terms, tourism constitutes some 10 per cent of France’s annual GDP, with the industry directly employing more than two million people.

Acknowledging the pivotal role played by France in the genesis of what is, today, the UNWTO, Dr Mzembi paid glowing tribute to the pioneering work of Robert Lonati, a French national, who headed the International Union of Official Travel Organisations [IUOTO] from 1957 until 1974, building it in terms of membership and focus and steering it to become, in 1975, the UNWTO, with its headquarters in Madrid, Spain. In that same year, Lonati was elected the first Secretary General of the UNWTO, and continued in that position until 1985.

The Minister paid similar tribute to another French national, Franceso Frangelli, who headed the UNWTO for three consecutive terms, from 1997 to 2009, and who oversaw the processes leading to its becoming a Specialised Agency within the United Nations family in 2003.

“The importance that France attaches to tourism, in all its multi-faceted aspects, is very clear”, said the Minister. “Tourism is a major component of the French economy, contributing hugely to the fiscus, to employment creation and to overall national development”.

“France is therefore more than just a normal stakeholder in the global tourism industry. Naturally, UNWTO is an important Organisation for them. Naturally, France will take a very keen interest in whosoever is elected to lead that Organisation going forward”, he noted.

“That is why I am here in Paris. So that those responsible for the tourism industry, for policy-making with regard to the future development of tourism both to and from France, and globally, can meet me, get a feel for me and what I am able bring to the UNWTO table”.

Thanking the Minister for his visit to the Ministry and for sharing his vision for the future of the UNWTO should he be elected to the post of Secretary General, his French hosts were effusive in their congratulations on his candidature and in their recognition of his undoubted qualifications for the job.

“They were left in no doubt at all as to the pedigree of the candidate, his credentials and experience and his prescriptions to the challenges confronting global tourism”, said a source privy to the discussions at the French Foreign Ministry headquarters.

Following the Minister’s detailed presentation of how he foresees the future evolution of the UNWTO, Cabinet Director Pierre commented that he [the Minister] had “ touched on all the important points for France”.

In essence, these include [i] the need for the UNWTO to develop and coordinate a comprehensive, effective and sensible response to the security challenges which continue to confront France and, more broadly, the global tourism industry; [ii] the need for the tourism industry to be more inclusive, more balanced and to embrace and be accessible to all levels of society across all nations; and [iii] for tourism to be more socially responsible and for it to make an effective contribution towards the achievement of the UN’s sustainable development goals [SDG’s] – 3 of which relate directly to tourism.

Confirming himself to be in complete agreement with the important areas of focus raised by his French hosts, Dr Mzembi zero-ed in on the scourge of terror, noting that “the issue of tourism and security is a consistent theme emerging from all those with whom I meet as I engage members of the Executive Council and indeed others – whether it is in Northern Africa, Eastern Africa or here in Europe”.

“None of us is immune to the kind of mindless violence which has been unleashed against totally innocent men, women and children, simply wishing to enjoy the beauty of nature, culture and art in their own and in foreign countries”.

“But”, the Minister cautioned, “in the industry, under the umbrella of the UNWTO, yes, we need to come up with a co-ordinated, effective response to how we deal with the impact of terror and, beyond that, to how we deal with the tourism-related impact of natural disasters, the impact of disease pandemics such as Ebola, the impact of climate change : but in our approach to all of these challenges, perhaps especially in so far as terror is concerned, we need to be measured, sensible and to guard against over-reaction”.

“The most effective way of countering terror directed against tourists, is for people of the world to keep travelling”, insisted Mzembi.

Thanking Mzembi, again, for his initiative and for a most “informative and constructive exchange of views” about the UNWTO and its future trajectory, the French Government officials assured the Minister that they would keep in close touch with him.

The final leg of the Minister’s current campaign visit will be to Rome, Italy, where he is scheduled to meet with his counterpart.

Whilst in Italy, Mzembi has requested to visit the area of Amatrice, in the central Italian province of Umbria – the epicentre of the devastating earthquake which struck the region on 23 August 2016. It is not yet certain whether the Italian authorities will be able to accommodate the Minister’s request – given the still very challenging situation on the ground in the area of Amatrice.

Rezidor’s CEO Hails Inaugural AviaDev Conference That Will Discuss Issues Facing Travel In Africa

The Chief Executive Officer [CEO] of one of the world’s leading hotel chains has welcomed the launch of AviaDev Africa – the inaugural conference to determine future air connectivity – and called for even closer cooperation between the hotel and airline industries.

Wolfgang M. Neumann, President and CEO of The Rezidor Hotel Group, will be participating at the Africa Hotel Investment Forum ‘[AHIF’], on the panel discussing tourism infrastructure in Africa.

AHIF, the premier hotel investment conference, which runs parallel with AviaDev Africa, will be taking place on 4-6 October in Kigali, Rwanda. It brings together top-level international investors, business leaders, industry experts, government ministers and officials, from around the globe.

AviaDev visitors will be able to meet and network with 30 airlines, 40 airports and 500-plus delegates in 1,000 meetings.

The two conferences will provide a platform for airports, airlines, governments and tourism authorities to plan future air connectivity in Africa and to discuss those plans with the hospitality industry. They will also be able to discuss the main issues confronting economic growth in the region that have been recently compounded by the threat of terrorism and the outbreak of Ebola.

Matthew Weihs, Bench Events Managing Director, said: “Hosting these two coordinated events provides a unique opportunity for everyone involved in the aviation and hotel industries. We have some exceptional speakers, as well as plenty of opportunities for networking and forming mutually beneficial partnerships.”

Both conferences have been organised by Bench events. They take place at a time when data produced by the International Air Transport Association [‘IATA’] has predicted strong growth for Africa, which will include seven of the top ten fastest growing aviation markets.

Wolfgang M. Neumann said: “The success of airlines and hotels are inextricably linked. The two industries have worked closely together for decades and it’s important that this dialogue is maintained. We keep a close eye on what’s happening with new routes and flights as these are ultimately a reflection of consumer demand.”

Neumann said that Rezidor has seen a surge in growth in Africa “more than anywhere else in the world,” and added: “Scheduling a new airline route development conference alongside the Africa Hotel Investment Forum is a smart move and bound to attract more decision makers to shape the future of travel in Africa, and facilitate a meaningful discussion on the issues and opportunities in the region.”

Bench Events has outlined three key areas that could help the continent’s aviation and tourism industries achieve their full potential, in the face of Africa’s broad economic challenges which include falling commodity prices, slowing consumer consumption and lower growth.

Reducing aviation fuel taxes

Industry insiders say the fuel tax, set by governments in Africa, is too high and is stifling economic growth. Costs are being passed on to passengers, keeping travel numbers low.

Matthew Weihs said: “Air fuel in Africa can cost up to 2.5 times the world average. The low oil price has undoubtedly assisted the growth of air transport worldwide and many airlines have enjoyed a good 2015 and 2016 but aviation is not a money-spinner. So surely now is the time for more enlightened taxation policies including a reduction in taxes on fuel to help aviation and hence commerce flourish in Africa.”

Resolving airline revenue repatriation

In June, IATA called on four African governments – Nigeria, Sudan, Egypt and Angola – to ensure airlines are able to repatriate revenues owed to them. The concern is that a shortage of dollars, because of a fall-off in oil revenues, will make airlines increasingly nervous about retrieving funds owed to them, resulting in route closures. Matthew said: “There’s no easy solution to this issue, but it could have catastrophic consequences for aviation markets and set them back many years.’

Developing a single African passport

This would offer visa-free access to passport holders from the 54 member states in The African Union. The aim is to have the passport fully implemented by 2020. The first recipients would be heads of state, government ministers and permanent representatives.

Behramjee Ghadially, Senior Manager Route Network Planning, Arik Air, who will be at AviaDev, concluded: ‘Without investment in infrastructure and hotel beds, there is no need for air services. AviaDev will bring together these two communities for the benefit of Africa.”

AHIF and AviaDev take place at the Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Centre in Kigali from 4-6 October 2016. Full details, including the programme and speaker line-up can be found at www.Africa-Conference.com.