Hotels

Hotel group to return at least $91 million in COVID-19 relief funding

North American hotel group Ashford Inc. will return nearly US$59 million ($91 million) in government Payment Protection Program loans.

One of the biggest beneficiaries of the United States government’s US$660 billion ($1.02 trillion) small business lending program, Ashford Inc. and its subsidiary companies had applied for US$126 million ($196 million) in forgivable loans.

According to multiple reports, Ashford Inc. had secured at least $91 million. However, some, including the The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, report the company received as much as US$70 million ($108.6 million).

On Saturday, the firm and its companies said it would return the funds it had thus far received, with the decision stemming from “the [Small Business Administration’s] recently changed rules and inconsistent federal guidance that put the companies at compliance risk.”

The firm – which boasts 130 hotels in its portfolio at company Ashford Hospitality, including several Ritz-Carltons, Sheratons and Embassy Suites – had previously said that it would not return the amounts if received.

It came amid the voluntary resignation of Ashford Hospitality president and chief executive Douglas Kessler, who will remain at the company until 14 May, when Ashford chief strategy officer J. Robison Hays will take over the roles.

Ashford Inc. had come under intense scrutiny for asking to access the funds at a time when many small businesses are locked out from receiving government assistance.

Additionally, the amount asked for by the firm far exceeded the average size of loans – US$206,000 ($320,000) – in the program’s first round of funding, the NYT reported.

According to the NYT, the Trump administration had scrambled to tighten the program’s rules after it became clear that companies like Ashford were benefiting from the $1.02 trillion program.

Last week, US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said companies had until 7 May to voluntarily return the funds and that they could be held “criminally liable” if they did not meet the program’s criteria, according to the NYT.

He said the United States would audit any company that received more than US$2 million ($3.1 million) in loans.

Likewise, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the minority leader, reportedly asked for an investigation into the company’s loans, while Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for this year’s US presidential race, wrote on Twitter that the firm should give the money back.

According to the NYT, Ashford Inc., headed by Trump campaign donor Monty Bennett, is one of several big companies that qualified for the program thanks to an “intentional loophole” that came after a lobbying push from hotel and restaurant companies, with Ashford among them.

Based on this push, congress had allowed individual restaurants and hotels that belong to bigger companies to benefit from the program, the outlet reported.

In a company release, Bennett denied reports his company had accessed “loopholes”.

“Congress designed the [Payment Protection Program] to specifically allow companies that own multiple hotel properties to obtain separate loans for each property as a means to prevent the economic collapse of the hospitality industry that is now occurring,” he said.


Featured image supplied by Remington Hotels.



SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Leave a Reply

Cruise

Cunard reports biggest booking day in a decade

The rumours are that many Cunard employees went home that day with a big sack with a dollar sign on it after a massive day on the job.

Share

CommentComments

News

Travel just got easier: No more pre-departure tests for New Caledonia, Tahiti, Indonesia

What would make travel really easy for us is if a nice company out there would like to send a Travel Weekly reporter on a nice trip overseas (wink, wink, nudge, nudge @anyone please).

Share

CommentComments

Cruise

Dream Cruises ship resurrected for new cruise brand

Don’t just sit around dreaming of cruises, hop on this revived Dream Cruises ship for your first getaway in two years.

Share

CommentComments

Events

Collette wraps up its first travel forum in two years

The tour operator hosted top sellers, partners, key travel players and media friends (that’s us!) for poolside shenanigans in sunny Cairns.

Share

CommentComments

Wholesalers

“Travel is the great educator”: Collette CEO Dan Sullivan on why we need travel now more than ever

We spent the past few days sipping mojitos by the pool in Cairns… Oh, and attending Collette’s travel forum! Here’s proof we were listening.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

“It’s our shout”: Flight Centre is giving away free holidays!

The travel giant is giving away 40 holidays to celebrate its 40th Birthday! Nobody tell them that it’s usually the other way around…

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

QT Newcastle signature restaurant and bar revealed!

It might seem like we’re calling Newcastle a ‘cutie’ but rest assured, our cutest NSW city award still goes to Griffith.

Share

CommentComments

Events

Australian Tourism Exchange 2022 concluded and next year’s location revealed!

The rumours are that next year’s event will have twice as many arancini balls and half the day will be dedicated to playing Mario Kart. Bear in mind our source for this was a 6 year old boy…

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Japan gets closer to reopening its border with experimental group tours

Don’t worry, the fact that the tours are operating is what makes them experimental. You won’t have to remember your high school science skills for a trip to Japan (at least we don’t think so).

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

Do you want to explore South Australia? Complete a few training modules for your chance at a famil!

The team at South Australian Tourism Commission has your next holiday sorted with a famil offering for travel agents and product managers.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

ATEC tickled pink with Labor Party tourism funding promise

As professional journalists, we at Travel Weekly remain completely unbiased when it comes to political matters. However, we’re just going to leave this here…

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

“The time is right”: industry legend, Barry Mayo, retires after 60+ years in travel

We think we speak for everyone when we say we can’t imagine an Australian travel industry without this industry stalwart!

Share

CommentComments