December FOCUS: Hotel Law

December, 2020

Hotel Law: Protecting Guest Privacy

Every business is obligated to protect their customers from identity theft but unfortunately, data breaches have become all too common. In an effort to protect a guest's right to privacy and to safeguard their personal data, the European Union passed a General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that could hold hotels legally liable for any breaches that expose a customer's sensitive personal information. Though the GDPR only pertains to EU citizens' data, any international business that mishandles their data can be legally responsible. Another legal issue of concern is the fight involving hotel "resort fees." Several states attorney generals have recently filed suit against two major hotel chains in an effort to litigate this practice. Their suit alleges that these companies are "engaged in deceptive and misleading pricing practices and their failure to disclose fees is in violation of consumer protection laws." The suit seeks to force the hotel chains to advertise the true price of their hotel rooms. There are several other legal issues that the industry is being forced to address. Sexual harassment prevention in the workplace is still top of mind for hotel employers-particularly in New York and California, which now statutorily require harassment training. Hotels and motels in California will also soon be required to train all their employees on human trafficking awareness. Immigration issues are also of major concern to hotel employers, especially in the midst of a severe labor shortage. The government is issuing fewer H2B visas for low-skilled workers, as well as J-1 visas for temporary workers. Though there is little hope for any comprehensive immigration reform, hotel lobbying groups are actively seeking legal remedies to alleviate this problem. These are just a few of the critical issues that the December issue of the Hotel Business Review will examine in the area of hotel law. 

This month's feature articles...

Ronald Schirtzer

The question of how to balance the desire to return seemingly healthy employees to the workplace with concerns about the safety and welfare of other employees and customers continues to plague employers as the COVID-19 pandemic persists. While there is no "one size fits all" answer to this question, there are resources and best practices that hotel owners and operations can utilize to reduce their risk. Ronald Schirtzer and Steven Gonzalez of Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial offer their insight. READ MORE

Jerome G. Grzeca

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the United States, the Trump administration immigration policies contributed to steep labor shortages in the hospitality industry. As a result of the pandemic, President Trump has since raised additional barriers that make it more challenging for hotels to employ foreign nationals, who make up a substantial portion of U.S-based hotel workers. READ MORE

Steven D. Weber

Does COVID-19 (coronavirus) afford hospitality industry operators relief from their contractual obligations? Hospitality industry operators are feeling the impact of coronavirus. The question may arise as to whether the coronavirus affords hospitality industry operators relief from their contractual obligations. In some cases, those contractual obligations may have arose months or years before coronavirus. Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer for all hospitality industry operators and, thus, hospitality industry operators should consider taking steps to examine their options, including but not limited to, the steps set forth below. READ MORE

John Mavros

After an unprecedented 2020, many are wondering when the COVID-19 pandemic will finally be over. With recent announcements of potentially viable COVID-19 vaccines, there may be light at the end of the tunnel. However, a post-pandemic "normal" for hotel employers could include questions about mandatory vaccination policies. This article provides an overview of the issues surrounding vaccination of employees that hotel employers will need to think about next year. READ MORE

Gregory A. Hearing

The polarization of our country and the recent Presidential Election has left hotel and lodging industry employers facing a conundrum as to how they may keep employee political, cultural and social rhetoric out of the workplace environment. This article explores the speech rights of hotel and lodging employees and the extent to which employers may limit such employees' speech. READ MORE

Michael B. Newman

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have changed how they purchase products more extensively utilizing on-line ordering and home delivery. In response, restaurants and bars have pivoted to expand their businesses in this direction. To help struggling on-premise businesses, numerous states have temporarily or permanently relaxed restrictions on alcohol beverage sales making it easier for bars and restaurants to make this pivot. READ MORE

Maureen Beacom Gorman

The US Supreme Court recently ruled that the domain is capable of functioning as a trademark. Over the objections of the United States Patent & Trademark Office, the decision opens the door to other domain holders seeking Federal trademark protection of otherwise potentially generic brand names. The ruling shows how powerful consumer brand perception can be in obtaining trademark rights. READ MORE

Michael Wildes

COVID-19 has caused significant disruption to immigration and travel into the United States, and in turn has had a profound effect on the hospitality industry. While the challenges are daunting, by changing current immigration policies and implementing new safety guidelines, we can re-energize travel for business and tourism and resurrect the industry. READ MORE

Todd Soloway

The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped the hospitality landscape, and its effects on the industry are far from concluded. Diligent market participants can be poised to navigate this uncertainty and stand to reap substantial returns when the sector rebounds. The allure of these healthy future returns, however, should not give way to lax diligence, and a skeptical and thorough diligence process is critical to ensuring that stakeholders are best positioned to weather the current upheaval and benefit from future market upswings. READ MORE

Howard Russell

Liability waivers and limitation forms are commonly used by recreational facilities and tour companies, due in large part to the risks inherent in the use of recreational equipment and engaging in adventure tourism. Hotels and resorts are forced to balance the desire to offer guests amenities with the potential liability exposure created by providing access to the equipment involved. Howard Russell, office managing partner at Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial, provides factors for hotels and resorts to consider when developing or using waiver forms, sign-in sheets or liability limitation clauses. READ MORE

Sabina Fluxá Thienemann

Tourism must come back, and the question is how. The industry has a choice: return to business as usual (or worse, take backward steps in progress) or use sustainability as a core driver for a safe return. In this piece, Sabina and Gloria Fluxà, respectively, CEO and Corporate Sustainability Officer (CSO) at Iberostar Group, share what they believe are three key aspects to consider to build a better industry. READ MORE

Rick Garlick

Now more than ever it is important that hotels look for ways to reduce friction in the hotel experience. In this article, Rick Garlick will examine the ways in which technology can help reduce friction in the hotel experience, leading to more enjoyable experiences for travelers. Such tactics that Rick suggests hotel brands adopt include one-click booking, smart luggage, and in-room technology. This article will also look at factors beyond technology that hotels have to weigh when it comes to reducing friction in the hotel experience, as interaction-less guest experiences, health and cleanliness practices, and guest communications. READ MORE

Mark Ricketts

All hospitality organizations strive to embody a corporate culture of service to guests and community. But how do we establish and perpetuate this conscious workplace culture-one that represents worthwhile goals and values as it builds strong connections within and without our organization. This article will discuss positive actions that can help drive our business and the ways they work to satisfy some of the most basic human attitudes and values. It is important to stress that a time of stress puts our corporate culture to its test. Will we pass? READ MORE

Nate Lane

Not every company out there has your best interests at heart, but it isn't always easy to tell if - or when - you've been deceived. In order to spot misleading marketing practices, hotels need to know and ask the right questions. We have detailed three examples that hotels can focus on when dealing with digital partners to ensure data transparency and to avoid long-term scams that prey on operators' trust and budgets. This way, hotels can focus on providing the best possible guest experience while trusting their digital partnerships are doing everything they can to improve business, particularly during difficult periods. READ MORE

Brenda Fields

Are companies like Amazon and Apple setting better examples of great customer service than the hospitality industry? There has been a sharp decline in the hospitality industry in basic customer service with more reliance on technology, resulting in impersonal or rote customer interactions. Many times, calling a hotel requires extreme patience because of all the sales and reservation messages and the numerous prompts before getting to the right area, if lucky. READ MORE

Jennifer Corwin

As the battle between traditional hoteliers and alternative lodging providers heats up, the major players are experimenting with how to jump into each other's markets. In this article we explore how established and emerging brands stay true to the "experience promise" that remains critical to achieving customer satisfaction objectives and loyalty -- even as travel behaviors evolve. READ MORE

Mark Natale

It is most effective when a company's branding aligns with the experience found within the establishment, giving consumers a full experience. Mark Natale, Smarthinking Inc.'s chief executive officer, says that to be successful, you must take the time to define your brand terms. In his authored piece, he details the crucial questions you should be asking yourself in order to create an unforgettable hospitality brand. READ MORE

Bonnie Knutson

How can hotels give guests the personalized and memorable experiences they want? Is Alexa the answer? What about Siri? Or maybe Cortana? Can any of them give hospitality and deliver those immersive experiences so you can delight your guests and improve your team's productivity. And what about privacy policies? Will a hotel be able to use Alexa to eavesdrop? These are the questions that every hotel will have to answer – and soon. READ MORE

Adria Levtchenko

Brought about by necessity as a result of the pandemic and the resulting curtailed staff at many properties, cross-training has helped the hospitality industry to get through some extraordinary times, while introducing new possibilities. As we emerge from the pandemic, more formalized programs of cross-training may help solve prospective human resources issues and even suggest ways to attract new talent to the hospitality industry. READ MORE

Amy Draheim

A lot can happen in a year. If hindsight really is 2020, there's much to learn from the chaos. The experiences we've hung our hat on for the last decade, from communal tables, to lobbies with energy once described as contagious, almost everything we know about hospitality has changed. While this might be true, it's also true that the nature of what we do really hasn't changed. The challenge has been to respond to needs that are constantly evolving, the needs of our guests, teams, and communities at large. Here are 6 hospitality trends none of us saw coming. READ MORE

Timothy Flohr

In project management it is critical that we ask the right questions both of ourselves and of those around us. Only by asking quality questions will we get to quality answers, whether they pertain to the execution of our day-to-day operations or the meticulous planning of a complex project's details. Let's discuss how the proper framing of our questions can help us connect-the-dots to create new ideas, solve complicated issues, and better understand everyone around us. READ MORE

Euan McGlashan

Although COVID has changed the face of hospitality for many months now; International travel must, and will return! As we all think about future business and ways to attract new guests; don't forget foreign corporate and leisure travelers. Read on for some effective tips on how to attract this important segment to your property from Valor Hospitality Partners CEO, Euan McGlashan. READ MORE

Will Traywick

The best hotel management professionals have embraced smart digital marketing strategies to position their properties for success during this difficult period. Understanding what changes and what digital strategies have been most effective in responding to pandemic challenges not only reveals what has taken place over the last 6-8 months, but also helps appreciate what hotels will need to do to thrive going forward. READ MORE

Rod Clough, MAI

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting restrictions on domestic and international travel, economic activity, and individual movement are having an unprecedented impact on the lodging and tourism industry in Latin America and worldwide. While government authorities across the region work to manage restrictions and phased reopening plans, uncertainty prevails over the duration of the global pandemic. READ MORE

Kristi  Dickinson

Leading a business in the era of COVID-19 is a brave new frontier for even the most seasoned executive. Particularly so if your career has been in one of the hardest hit industries such as ours. Success requires the kind of resiliency, perspective and endurance which can only be achieved through great physical, mental and emotional strength training. READ MORE

Janet Wright

Hundred-year floods, hurricanes, wildfires and snowstorms seem to be increasing in frequency. After the wildfires we've seen out West, the hurricanes that have plagued the Southeast and the derechos and blizzards that have hammered the Northeast and Midwest, hoteliers have realized that preparation is key. But what are best practices in terms of disaster planning? Let's take a look! READ MORE

Justin Taillon

Based on Cyber HITEC's 2020 keynote session of the same title, this article investigates an emerging trend in management strategy: customer service. What do you think of when you hear the term hospitality customer service? Do you perhaps recognize a front desk agent, server, or valet parking attendant face-to-face with a customer? Customer service is much more than these examples though. READ MORE

Graeme  Labe

Time spent in nature elevates moods and lifts spirits. The problem is, as humans, we spend 93 percent of our time indoors, separated from nature. What does that mean for hospitality architecture and design if being outdoors can enhance even the most mundane human activities? We pull the natural world into the built hotel environment! READ MORE

Maryann Prestia

The number one priority of a hotelier is the health, safety and well-being of both their guests and employees, but maintenance risks abound both inside and outside of hotels. Distinguished Programs' vice president and hospitality program manager Maryann Prestia examines these risks, as well as what causes them, and offers best practices for taking a proactive approach to hotel maintenance. READ MORE

Mark Ricketts

The future of our industry will rely on the quality of our next generation of hospitality leadership, whose skill sets and attitudes are being forged right now in perhaps unseen ways. This article will consider some of these factors and the responsibility of today's hospitality leaders in developing and attracting these future leaders to our industry. READ MORE

Coming up in March 1970...