5 things to know: 22 January 2020
5 things to know: 22 January 2020
22 JANUARY 2020 10:26 AM

From the desks of the Hotel News Now editorial staff:

  • World takes stock as coronavirus spreads
  • Trump touts US economy, warns of climate ‘prophets of doom’
  • At HOTCO, hotel CEOs highlight Eastern European markets
  • Greenlight given to build £300m Knightsbridge hotel in London
  • Australian court rules booking site misled travelers

World takes stock as coronavirus spreads: The World Health Organization will meet today to discuss whether a fast-developing viral outbreak constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern,” CNN reports.

The coronavirus, which has killed at least nine people and sickened more than 400 mostly in the central China city of Wuhan where it originated, has spread to several other countries, including the U.S., where the first confirmed case is a Washington State man who had recently traveled to Wuhan, The New York Times reports.

The virus, spread human to human through the respiratory tract, has also been confirmed in Thailand, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan.

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have put in place passenger screenings at five major airports: Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, San Francisco International Airport and New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport, USA TODAY reports.

U.S. President Donald Trump, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, said he was not concerned about a possible pandemic, The Hill reports.

“We have it totally under control,” he said. “It’s one person coming in from China, and we have it under control.”

Trump touts U.S. economy, warns of climate ‘prophets of doom’: Also in comments at the Davos summit, Trump boasted about the strength of the U.S. economy while mostly dismissing the issue of climate change, as on Capitol Hill in Washington the U.S. Congress debated the terms of his Senate impeachment trial, NPR reports.

NPR’s Scott Horsley reports that while the president “does have some bragging rights, particularly when it comes to unemployment,” some of his other points on the economy were exaggerated.

“The U.S. jobless rate, at 3.5%, is the lowest it’s been in half a century, and, of course, the stock market’s been hitting all-time highs. Trump credits that to the GOP tax cut, deregulation and his own tough stances on trade, but the president exaggerates both how good the economy is now and how much it’s improved since he came into office. The fact is the economy was pretty good when Trump came in, and most of those positive trend lines have continued. If you look at GDP growth, though, that’s averaged 2.6% under President Trump. That’s below its 50-year average and below his promise of 3% growth. And GDP growth has slowed a good bit in the last year partly as a result of the president’s trade war,” Horsley reports.

On climate change, which was a major theme of the Davos summit, Trump reiterated his skepticism of climate scientists and activists, who he called “prophets of doom.”

“These alarmists always demand the same thing—absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives. We will never let radical socialists destroy our economy, wreck our country or eradicate our liberty,” Trump said.

At HOTCO, hotel CEOs highlight Eastern European markets: Tightening yields across Western Europe are motivating hotel developers and investors to take a closer look at markets in Eastern Europe, where history and culture are among big demand drivers, reports Hotel News Now’s Terence Baker from the Hotel Investment Conference Central and Eastern Europe and Caucasus (HOTCO).

Noah Steinberg, chairman and CEO of Hungarian property developer Wing Zrt., said his company calculates “a 200- to 300-basis-point premium in this part of Europe even if there is a slowdown across all Europe.”

“We have gone through the problems in the area, and the real estate and macroeconomic performances are excellent,” he said.

Greenlight given to build £300m Knightsbridge hotel in London: Kensington and Chelsea’s planning committee has given its approval for construction to begin on a £300-million ($394 million) luxury hotel in London that will include a “secret tunnel” to the Harrods department store, City A.M. reports.

The 120-room Knightsbridge hotel, under the Millennium & Copthorne Hotels brand, “will be a one-minute walk from the iconic London department store, but also includes a disused underground pedestrian and goods tunnel linking the two sites,” the newspaper reports.

Australian court rules booking site misled travelers: A federal court in Australia has ruled that German travel booking site Trivago NV misled consumers by prioritizing hotel listings which generate highest commissions for the company over hotels with lower rates, Reuters reports.

The watchdog Australian Competition and Consumer Commission sued the Frankfurt-listed booking site in August, and Federal Judge Mark Moshinsky ruled against the company on Monday, saying pecuniary penalties would be set at a future hearing.

Compiled by Robert McCune.

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