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Microsoft's billionaire founder Bill Gates III, through his Kirkland, WA-based firm Cascade Investment LLC, has purchased almost 3.9 million shares of stock in locally based Strategic Hotels and Resorts Inc., according to an SEC filing. With the purchase, Gates owns about 5.23% of the REIT. The purchase comes at a time that the REIT has downgraded estimates of earnings for 2009, with officers citing the struggling economy, higher construction costs and the drop in group bookings nationwide. Strategic, in its second quarter earnings conference call on Aug. 7, said its lowering its guidance for FFO per share for the rest of the year by 10% to the mid-point of $1.46 to $1.56. Strategic officials did not return calls for comment. During the Aug. 7 call, president and CEO Laurence Geller said market forces have forced the company to back off on new properties. "The length of time to develop a project in the high-end market is increased by over 20%. Financing is scarce and certainly relatively more expensive than in the recent past," he says. "As we look at potential competitive supply in those markets in which we operate, our conclusion is simple. If a property is not being built today, then we are unlikely to see any more supply coming in before the end of 2011, at the very earliest." Source: CITYFEET.COM
Best Western International has announced the imminent launch of its first hotel in Singapore, the Best Western Jayleen 1918, which will officially open in December 2008. Best Western Jayleen 1918 is exceptionally well located within Singapore's central business district so as to easily access all the best the Lion City has to offer. With its prime city-center address, the hotel boasts three nearby MRT stations and yet it is only 20 km from the airport. The 42 guestroom hotel is also handy for Raffles City Convention Center, Clarke Quay and Raffles Place. "BW Jayleen 1918 is a well-appointed, centrally-located hotel that serves the business and leisure markets equally comprehensively," said Glenn de Souza, Vice President International Operations Asia. "We are very excited to enter the Singapore market at a time when it offers visitors so much in the way of entertainment and activities based on its strong and stable economy. But this is only the beginning; we plan to continue expanding in this market, just as we are expanding throughout the Asian region." Best Western expects to develop 80 hotels in Asia within the next three years, bringing its total to over 200 properties. Southeast Asia is seen as having most potential for development of the brand's mid-range and high-end hotels and resorts.
Hyatt Hotels & Resorts announced that its North American properties will provide jogging and fitness-walking guests with palm-size route cards designed by Athletic-Minded Traveler®, a leading healthy-travel and lifestyle media firm. Hyatt is the first major hospitality company to partner with Athletic-Minded Traveler and will feature the maps as part of the StayFit@Hyatt program at participating Hyatt Regency and Grand Hyatt properties. Enhancing the dynamic selection of StayFit@Hyatt workout programs that cater to fitness-conscious business and leisure travelers, these easy-to-carry cards will provide runners and walkers of all levels with essential information to help them follow healthy pursuits while away from home. The Athletic-Minded Traveler maps offer detailed directions on one side (beginning at each property's front door) and a colorful map with mileage markers on the other (routes range from 2 to 8 miles). The unique tools encourage runners to head outdoors by answering the vital questions "Where?" and "How far?"
Eleven people have come down with gastroenteritis symptoms after eating at a HK hotel. The Centre for Health Protection said the 10 women and one man, aged 22 to 59, fell ill after a buffet on August 23. Six consulted private doctors and required no hospitalisation. They are all in stable condition. Source: Health & Community
Marriott is gearing up for a new online travel community, Marriott Rewards Insiders, where Marriott Rewards members can exchange travel advice and share their personal tips. According to the company, Marriott Rewards Insiders is a lightly moderated online community, and is built specifically for members. Powered by social media marketing agency LiveWorld, the site is open to the programme's 3.5 million Elite members and will open to all members later in the year. "Our members told us they wanted a place where they could talk to each other without interference from sponsors trying to sell them something," said Ed French, senior vice president, Marriott Rewards. "We designed an innovative digital lobby to give them a place to share their stories and get authentic, honest information from other frequent travelers just like them." Members can either use the site to just read information or set up their profile and post questions, comments or responses. They can also sign-up for alerts, which are sent when a post is created in a forum the member wants to follow. They can be emailed or posted in the member's profile. Source: eyefortravel
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