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5 things to know: 4 January 2013
January 4 2013

• Spain’s Paradores reduces layoffs in union deal
• US, Canada performance down during holiday week
• Google agrees to minor concessions in antitrust case
• US unemployment rate 7.8% in December
• Travelodge lists strange left-behind items

Following weeks of tense negotiations and several strikes, management at Spain’s famed, yet troubled, government-run chain of Paradores hotels have agreed with unions to reduce employee layoffs by almost half from the 644 sackings originally planned and close just one of the 94 properties, according to correspondent Ben Jones.

The accord came in a final session lasting 22 hours in which the two sides agreed to cut only 350 staff members working at the hotels, many of which are housed in former palaces, convents and monasteries.

For those employees who are to be let go, management agreed a payoff of 25 days of salary for each year in service and offered to allow workers the option of leaving voluntarily. 

Of the remaining 4,000 employees in the hotels and at central headquarters in Madrid, 400 will have their shifts trimmed by 25% and there will be across-the-board cuts in some benefits and holidays.

The U.S. hotel industry reported decreases in all three key performance metrics during the week of 23-29 December 2012, according to data from STR, parent company of In year-over-year comparisons, occupancy was down 7.2% to 45.4%, average daily rate fell 1.6% to $106.57 and revenue per available room decreased 8.7% to $48.34.

“A shift in the day Christmas and New Year’s Eve fell on this year eroded last week’s performance,” said Brad Garner, STR’s COO. “We expect the industry to return to performance normalcy in the coming weeks. And while the year certainly will finish strong, we also look forward to tracking what the new normal might be with travel patterns post fiscal cliff.”

Canada’s hotel industry, meanwhile, experienced declines as well, according to STR. Occupancy fell 14.4% to 36.9%, ADR was down 2.8% to $126.76 Canadian dollars ($127.90) and RevPAR decreased 16.8% to CA$46.73 ($47.15).

One of the biggest antitrust investigations of an American company in years ended with a slap on the wrist Thursday, when the Federal Trade Commission closed its investigation of Google’s search practices without bringing a complaint. Google voluntarily made two minor concessions, according to The New York Times.

The investigation came on the heels of Google’s foray into new search verticals, such as local business listings and comparison shopping, and whether or not the company had biased its search results in favor of certain products. The FTC ultimately ruled those practices were not harmful to consumers, while Google agreed to change some of its business practices.

“Google has agreed to give online advertisers more flexibility to simultaneously manage ad campaigns on Google’s AdWords platform and on rival ad platforms; and to refrain from misappropriating online content from so-called ‘vertical’ websites that focus on specific categories such as shopping or travel for use in its own vertical offerings,” according to an FTC news release.

Google is still awaiting a competition ruling from the European Commission.

Nonfarm payroll employment rose by 155,000 in December, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.8%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Employment increased in health care, food services and drinking places, construction, and manufacturing.

The number of unemployed persons, at 12.2 million, was little changed in December. The unemployment rate held at 7.8% and has been at or near that level since September.

What do breast implants, a Harry Potter wand, a micro pig and a bucket of live crabs have in common? Each found its way to Travelodge’s lost-and-found office during 2012, according to the U.K. budget chain’s annual list of unusual items left behind at its 527 properties worldwide.

The most commonly forgotten items once again were books—more than 20,000 in all—including the likes of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “The Hunger Games.”

Some of the more unusual finds include: a winning EuroMillions ticket, keys to a Bugatti, a stamp album worth £250 million ($400 million), a box of 200 Queen Elizabeth masks and a Persian Chinchilla kitten worth £600 ($962).

Compiled by Patrick Mayock.

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