Smith and The Bench Join Forces

Global Benchmarking Venture

. October 14, 2008

SEPTEMBER 28, 2006. Smith Travel Research (STR) and The Bench are announcing the merger of their hotel performance tracking programs to provide the hotel industry with global benchmarking data. Performance metrics will be available on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and will cover all global destinations.

Comments Randy Smith, owner and co-founder of STR: 'We are excited to bring STR's trusted benchmarking expertise together with The Bench's proven technology and fresh concepts to provide a true one-stop shop for global hotel data. The global hotel market poses unique challenges to hotel companies, owners and managers. Our association with The Bench will enable us to provide a global lodging benchmarking solution. We look forward to providing our clients the common reporting platform they have requested aiding all levels of hotel operators around the globe.'

Jonathan Worsley, Chairman and co-owner of The Bench, added: 'From Beijing to Berlin, our online daily benchmarking solution has received exceptional reviews from hotel operators. It only makes sense to combine our intuitive web interface at www.thebench.com with the reporting power and expertise of STR. There is a real need within the industry to provide a global solution to hotel benchmarking data and we are delighted to now offer such a product by combining forces with STR.' Jamie Chappell, Managing Director of The Bench continued: 'Our combined capabilities will allow us to build participation in new cities and bolster existing markets which will assist hoteliers in making sound business decisions that will ultimately help them become more profitable.'

STR will purchase a significant minority stake in The Bench, which will modify its name to incorporate the association with STR. STR and The Bench will continue to service clients under their existing contracts. A joint marketing and sales effort will be launched to promote awareness of the new venture and build participation. In addition to lending sales support, STR will coordinate the adoption of its data processing procedures throughout The Bench's global reports. STR will maintain offices in Hendersonville, TN and The Bench will continue operations in London with sales offices in Asia Pacific and throughout Europe.

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Hotel Law: A Labor Crisis and Cyber Security

According to a recent study, the hospitality industry accounted for 2.9 trillion dollars in sales and in the U.S. alone, was responsible for 1 in 9 jobs. In an industry of that scope and dimension, legal issues touch every aspect of a hotel's operation, and legal services are required in order to conform to all prevailing laws and regulations. Though not all hotels face the same issues, there are some industry-wide subjects that are of concern more broadly. One of those matters is the issue of immigration and how it affects the ability of hotels to recruit qualified employees. The hotel industry is currently facing a labor crisis; the U.S. Labor Department estimates that there are 600,000 unfilled jobs in the industry. Part of the problem contributing to this labor shortage is the lack of H2B visas for low-skilled workers, combined with the difficulty in obtaining J-1 visas for temporary workers. Because comprehensive immigration reform is not being addressed politically, hotel managers expect things are going to get worse before they get better. Corporate cyber security is another major legal issue the industry must address. Hotels are under enormous pressure in this area given the large volume of customer financial transactions they handle daily. Recently, a federal court ruled that the Federal Trade Commission had the power to regulate corporate cyber security, so it is incumbent on hotels to establish data security programs in order to prevent data breaches. The lack of such programs could cause hotels to face legal threats from government agencies, class action lawsuits, and damage to their brand image if a data breach should occur. These are just two of the critical issues that the December issue of Hotel Business Review will examine in the area of hotel law.