And then the music stopped. Testbed’s Top Reading – March

Unprecedented. The best fit word to describe the situation we are now all faced with as a result of the continuing spread of the CoronaVirus around the world.

Acute. The best fit word to describe the global situation the hospitalty & travel industry are facing as a result of the impact of the spread of the CoronaVirus around the world.

In Testbed Vegas’ career as industry professionals we have experienced the Asian Financial Crisis, SARS, 9-11 and the global financial crisis. Rolled up together these scenarios still do not scale to the impact of the CoronaVirus.

Recover we will! Why? Because all of the pre-crisis indicators for the continued growth of the travel and hospitality industry have not changed.

Testbed Vegas

If one had never envisaged how you could stop global industries on a dime, we have now all witnessed exactly how this comes to pass. Perhaps if we had experience of the 1920’s some of this would be more familiar. And yet in 2020 we live in a globally connected world where almost every destination on the planet is less than 24 hours away. Spreading the Spanish Flu took years. The CoronaVirus – days.

Our industry more often than not is the first affected by such circumstances and also the last to recover, because all other supporting industries need to recover first.

Recover we will! Why? Because all of the pre-crisis indicators for the continued growth of the travel and hospitality industry have not changed. This situation provides a couple of flat tires and will slow the ongoing rise of global travel. Perhaps pulling the industry behind a couple of years from 2030 original projections. But by the middle of the decade the fundamentals that provided the strength of industry growth will be evident again.

Enough about that! Now on to positive developments about our industry.

This month we take a look at Google and developments with Translate, Space travel, new locations for startups, the news from an empty Las Vegas Blvd, 3rd party delivery, AirBNB & the EU, the role of the Asset Manager, StayNTouch and the White House and some ideas about what to eat and where to go. Once you are allowed too!

Can’t Skip Hope

This month we are starting with a video. Portugal took the opportunity to reflect on the situation with this video about the pause in our industry life. Moving. We hope that this gives you pause for reflection and then steels you for getting back to the business of travel at the first opportunity.

The empty Boulevard

It’s all happened in the city that never sleeps since our last installment. Best summarized, Las Vegas has been placed in slumber mode with the first time the city has been locked down since as far back as 9-11.

A usually rammed Circus Circus Casino and Hotel was closed today, but the neon lights continued to brighten up the area

Naturally Las Vegas business had an immediate impact as a result of the CoronaVirus. In an industry first a ransom ware attack on slot machines was announced at Four Queen’s and Binion’s in Downtown Las Vegas. In another focus piece the Nevada Independent reviewed the latest development projects in Downtown Las Vegas bringing new experience to the northern end of the strip led by the Circa project on Fremont St.

Testbed Vegas has been taking the opportunity to experience the emptiness of Las Vegas Boulevard daily since the lock down began. To see a city with 42M visitors a year empty is quite extraordinary. Hopefully we won’t have to see that again.

Martin Fuentes, Testbed Vegas’ digital storyteller assisted The Daily Mail from London in a photojournalism piece documenting a closed down Las Vegas Boulevard. Fantastic images, Martin!

In other news each of the major gaming operators took their individual approach on the closures. Some with layoffs, some ensuring they would look after their staff in the hard times, others with executive changes and representing industry in Washington DC. Some highlighting the importance of successful businesses giving back to community during difficult times. Others joining the government to help the post CoronaVirus recovery.

AirBNB plays nice with the EU

Do you think that AirBNB’s willingness to cooperate with the European Union might have something to do with hoping many of their major destination cities don’t shut them down? We do.

This month the two bodies announced that they will cooperate in sharing data about short term rentals for European destinations. If you have been following the story you will note that many European citizens and municipalities have become upset with the impact that AirBNB is having on their home cities. Negative impacts have included rental prices and availability, change of social construct and culture and pricing citizens out of their homes.

In other news AirBNB announced their quarterly financial performance including a 276M loss.

Hospitality Tech & Geopolitics

Who would have thought that the tiny industry of hospitality technology would draw the eye of the White House and the global investment review committee. And yet in early March that is exactly what happened.

A 2018 Investor Wild Card That's Not Priced In: China-US Trade Tension

Shiji Groups subsidiary StayNTouch was the subject of acquisition from the original founding partners, Jos Schaap and Tim Kinsella. Schaap and Kinsella by this stage have been out of the picture of the company day-to-day operations for some time. The sale process seemed to be progressing as normal until President Trump announced the block of the sale due to national security concerns.

A tough blow for all involved and Shiji has made impacts in industry growing the portfolio of customers as well as the company profile over the last couple of years. According to filings Shiji Group has 90 days to find a new buyer meeting the approval of the White House.

No more 3rd party delivery?

Last month we attended MURTEC in Las Vegas and one of the topics that was a high priority on operators and technology providers lips was the subject of delivery.

Uber, DoorDash try and fail to merge at investor Softbank's ...

Without giving the idea of food delivery much thought, it doesn’t raise much curiosity beyond the local Pizza delivery arriving at your door. And yet in the modern arena of restaurant and food and beverage operations this piece of the overall pie has become high value revenue generation coupled with a very complex logistical management process. Now more topical due to the forced closure of the restaurant industry and the only remaining revenue stream until the virus passes.

There is much to be considered in the delivery element of restaurants. Getting a dish hot and well presented to the table is one matter. Getting the dish hot and well presented to your front door using multiple partners and transportation in the process is another matter all together. It’s brought about increased cost, logistics and management processes that did not exist earlier and has a marked impact on profitability and quality of product to the end customer. Not to mention the loss of direct customer interaction.

In this article Reforming Retail examines why 3rd party delivery will not be sustainable.

Whose watching the Assets?

Hotel Asset Management - New World Hospitality

Hotels are very expensive asset investments. Usually tying up hundreds of millions of dollars in capital value in a property of mid-size. Looking after that asset is a full time job that sometimes entails multiple parties. An operator or management company, a brand and an owner.

One of the key roles in overseeing the performance of a property is the Asset Manager. sometimes the owner plays this role and sometimes a third party is engaged to monitor performance of the asset.

In this article Russell Kett of HVS discusses the role of the asset manager and key areas of performance that they use to evaluate a hotel property. Great insight on the business of commercial hoteling.

Google – Travel, Translate and HEDNA 2020

Google is still a hot topic in our industry with the search giant continuing to have a significant impact on travel search for flight and hotel rooms. Many of the industry players in the OTA market have made noise about the Google monopoly, advertising and any other number of reasons the market place is unfair. Stratechery provides valuable insight into how Google got here and why the OTA’s are struggling to compete.

Rob Torres joined the HEDNA conference in LA in late January in a candid discussion on their motivations in the travel space. This is well worth listening too to gain an appreciation of the search company’s thoughts on information presentation for the traveler. Testbed Vegas is a fan.

In other news Google announced that Google Translate is now able to translate an initial number of languages in real time. This has always been the promise of the various translation engines that have been in play. For the travel sector this only make the world a smaller and more communicable place among people from disparate cultures and languages.

Technology at its finest! If that isn’t good news we don’t know what is!

Time to get out of this world!

Philippe Starck designs "foetal" interiors for Axiom's commercial ...

If you don’t like the way things are going in your current world then maybe it’s time to get out of this one and give another a try. Space travel is only just around the corner now. It will be a time before it becomes affordable to the mainstream traveler. However, for the well heeled it could be a matter of months. In preparation for the first phase on consumer led space travel Philippe Starck has been commissioned to work on the design of the Axiom space station for the first guests.

Testbed Vegas is a collaborating partner in ASCEND 2020, the conference for the space community in Las Vegas in November.

Leaving Silicon Valley

Why Young Talent Is Leaving Silicon Valley

Testbed Vegas has long been of the view that the development of software and other technologies is a horses for courses approach. That the best place to build technology for an industry would be where that industry is focused. We believe Las Vegas is the right place for travel, hospitality and entertainment technology to come to life alongside the global hub of travel, hospitality and entertainment – Las Vegas.

With a marketplace, economy and workforce focused on the industry where would you find a more suitable location?

Startup technology has now reached a phase where hubbing in Silicon Valley is no longer the direct approach toward success. As municipalities around the country and the world look to build technology ecosystems more locations are becoming attractive for startup technology company’s.

Did someone say Fried Chicken?

Spicy Korean fried Chicken recipe - 9Kitchen

Is all of this being locked away at home making you hungry? Perhaps eating more than you should without the necessity for a morning commute or other time filling activities no longer in play.

How about some Fried Chicken!? Matador looks at Fried Chicken recipes from around the world.

Escape room?

How many days do you think it will be before you travel once the travel bans are lifted? No doubt there is quite a lot of pent up travel demand for lot’s of people. To give us all something to focus on outside of being locked up at home The Telegraph asked it’s editors to highlight their favorite travel getaway destinations.

Some incredible Hotels in this list.

Brae Hotel Review, Birregurra, Australia | Telegraph Travel

As we write the summary this month we are not really any closer to understanding when our world might return to normal. The USA will remain largely locked down until the end of April. At the moment it would appear that there is no slowing the case growth domestically, and there are still regions of the world just commencing their own path. It might be a little while….

In the meantime let’s enjoy the opportunity to take a different approach on how we consume our industry from the comfort of home. It will make the return to the road that much more enjoyable.

We will leave you with this verse from Tolkien;

It’s a dangerous business going out your door. You step on to the road and if you don’t keep your feet there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.

JRR Tolkien

Oh for some danger and being swept away!

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