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Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is an American hotel and leisure company headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut. One of the world's largest hotel companies, it owns, operates, franchises and manages hotels, resorts, spas, residences, and vacation ownership properties under its nine owned brands. As of 1 December 2012, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. owned, managed, or franchised 1,162 properties employing over 171,000 people, of whom approximately 26% were employed in the United States. Wikipedia.

LAX was a notable holdout against Uber's cheapest ride-hailing service, as taxi companies lobbied to keep out a potent competitor. After months of negotiations, the agency overseeing LAX made the announcement Wednesday. The main catch: Passengers will have to go to the upstairs arrivals level. Also, each ride will have a $4 charge. Up until now, UberX passengers often would board a hotel or rental car shuttle to take them off airport property, then open Uber's app and summon a car. In December, the airport allowed pickups by Lyft, an Uber competitor. The agency overseeing LAX says that in the first two weeks, there were nearly 50,000 drop-off and pick-up trips. Explore further: Uber partners with Starwood, giving hotel points for rides

Airbnb will now let travelers from outside the U.S. to book properties in Cuba after receiving authorization from the U.S. government, reports the Associated Press. Previously, only Americans were allowed to reserve the site’s Cuban listings. They will open to international users on April 2. Airbnb launched its Cuban operations in April 2014, four months after the Obama administration revealed that it will begin to restore diplomatic relations with the Communist country. The historic policy change means that travel and trade sanctions will be lifted, which is expected to boost tourism to Cuba dramatically because Americans no longer need licenses to visit. In fact, President Obama is currently on an official visit to Cuba, the first president since Calvin Coolidge to do so. According to the AP, Cuba is currently Airbnb’s fastest-growing market, with about 4,000 homes added since it opened listings. Other travel businesses taking advantage of the U.S.-Cuba thaw include Starwood Hotels, which announced a deal yesterday to manage three Cuban hotels, making it the first American company in six decades to do so, and Marriott, which has received permission from the Treasury Department to pursue agreements with Cuban partners. Sprint and Verizon are also launching services for tourists to Cuba. The two are the first American companies to offer direct roaming service after signing deals with Cuba’s state-owned telecom.

BEIJING (AP) -- Asian stocks declined Wednesday as investors awaited the outcome of this week's meeting of the U.S. Federal Reserve for possible insights into the state of global growth and future Fed moves. KEEPING SCORE: The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.6 percent to 2,842.70 points and Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.4 percent to 20,343.06. Sydney's S&P ASX 200 fell 1.3 percent to 5,119.00 and Taiwan also declined. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 slipped 0.2 percent to 17,207.93 and Seoul's Kospi was almost unchanged at 1,971.02. Benchmarks in Malaysia, New Zealand and the Philippines rose. WATCHING THE FED: The Federal Reserve's Federal Open Market Committee meets Tuesday and Wednesday. Investors don't expect a rate hike but are watching for indications of possible future Fed moves. In December the Fed raised interest rates for the first time in almost a decade, but it left them unchanged in January. ANALYST'S TAKE: "The most anticipated item on the U.S. economic calendar this week is the FOMC meeting, even though policy will almost certainly be left on hold. With no change in rates the focus will be entirely on forward guidance," said Jim O'Sullivan of High-Frequency Economics in a report. WALL STREET: U.S. stocks barely budged as declines by energy companies were offset by gains for hotels and travel-related companies. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 15.82 points, or 0.1 percent, to 17,229.13. The S&P 500 lost 2.55 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,019.64. The Nasdaq composite index gained 1.81 points to 4,750.28. STARWOOD IN PLAY: Starwood Hotels jumped after a consortium led by China's Anbang Insurance Group offered to buy the hotel chain for $14 billion. Last year Marriott International agreed to buy Starwood for $12.2 billion. Starwood said it will examine the new offer. Its stock gained $5.51, or 7.8 percent, to $75.93. Marriott stock rose $2.04, or 3 percent, to $70.93. It will get a $400 million payment if Starwood backs out of their agreement. The news lifted other travel-related companies. GLOBAL RALLY: Stocks in Europe rose after the eurozone had its biggest monthly increase in industrial production since 2009. Germany's DAX rose 1.6 percent. France's CAC 40 added 0.3 percent while Britain's FTSE 100 gained 0.6 percent. CURRENCY: The dollar slipped to 113.63 from 113.79 yen. The euro gained to $1.1112 from Monday's $1.1105. ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude shed 19 cents to $36.99 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell $1.32 on Monday to close at $37.18. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 32 cents to $39.21 per barrel in London. On Monday, the contract declined 86 cents to $39.53.

New York City has the largest commercial steam system in the world. In a city where many rooftops are not suitable for solar, it allows large buildings to increase their efficiency by using the steam for combined-heat-and-power (CHP) systems or even for cooling. The steam system is one of the world's oldest, but for new projects, leveraging the district heating system doesn't always pencil out. In some cases, it is utility standby charges that kill a project. “Standby tariffs are a pain in the ass and can really cause some trouble,” Vishnu Barran, senior business development manager at ENER-G Rudox, said during a Clean Energy Connections panel in New York on Wednesday. His clients are often aiming for a five-year payback. Barran and his fellow panelists are not looking for the elimination of standby rates, but rather for more transparency in terms of how they’re calculated, as well as more consideration on the part of utilities and regulators for how the rates can kill projects that could otherwise be an asset at the grid edge. For large corporations that are looking to take on increasingly complex energy projects, whether CHP, EV charging or solar-plus-storage, the rates add an additional layer of confusion when it comes to dealing with utilities, even those with which they generally have good relationships. The hometown utility, Consolidated Edison, took the brunt of the criticism, but not because it was particularly unique. “Most utilities have a standby tariff,” said Barran. “Con Edison’s might just be a bit more onerous.” Philip Skalaski, VP of engineering and Energy Services at The Durst Organization, said that skyrocketing steam rates in New York City make it particularly difficult to model large co-generation projects. For the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park, the steam rate tripled from the time it was planned to when the combined-heat-and-power system in the building became operational three years later, in 2009. “If we don’t use an ounce of steam, we’ll still pay $1 million per year,” Skalaski said of the project. New York regulators are instituting some changes that alter the cost-benefit of CHP systems by eliminating standby rates if CHP plants in large buildings run in the summer to reduce peak demand on the system. That change saved One Bryant Park about $300,000 in 2015. Even so, the demand charges are so substantial that Durst is considering installing a central boiler plant, because that would have a six-year payback. Dynamic modeling of technology options within a given rate structure for investments like CHP or energy storage is increasingly important as rates become more complicated. For example, knowing when to run the system to make a project financially viable is one of the biggest challenges, said Barran. “It’s one of the trickiest things for business development guys on our end,” he added. It is even more important if microgrids are going to become financially viable, particularly in the Northeast, where CHP is a common element of microgrids. Outside of the Northeast, however, it is solar and not CHP that the C&I sector is increasingly adopting. “Solar is just free money to us,” Randy Gaines, VP of operations in the Americas for Hilton, said at a recent event hosted by GE’s Current. Kirby Brendsel, associate director of sustainability at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, expressed his enthusiasm regarding the federal Investment Tax Credit extension that will allow his company to pursue more solar projects. Commercial solar continues to rebound, but some significant challenges remain. Third-party financing, an increasingly common form of ownership for C&I solar, is highly variable. “We see a gradual standardization of third-party financing in commercial solar,” Omar Saadeh, senior analyst at GTM Research, said during a recent webinar on trends in C&I energy management. Even for companies that are enthusiastic about installing solar, interconnection issues can be excruciating. “It feels like always putting a square peg through a round hole,” said Starwood’s Brendsel. Although there are technical hurdles to faster interconnection, it can also be as simple as having a better line of communication with a utility to move things along. Solving interconnection hurdles is another area where regulators can incentive utilities to provide better outcomes. “It’s amazing with the better communicators how much faster projects get done,” Kylie Sale, resource management specialist at Whole Foods Market, said of working with different utilities. Regulators in some states, such as California and New York, are incentivizing utilities to think differently about interconnecting with and leveraging assets at the grid edge. They are also directing wholesale markets in those states to develop ways for behind-the-meter assets to play in those markets. “Near-term wholesale market opportunities may shift the cost burden away from end users and bring new cost-benefits to light,” Saadeh said of behind-the-meter resources such as solar-plus-storage. Even the most sophisticated corporations are looking for hand-holding as the world of energy procurement, generation and efficiency grows more complicated and compelling. However, while they work closely with their utilities, most corporations are not looking to utilities as those advisors. “We’re not distributed-energy or demand-response consultants,” Granville Martin, JPMorgan’s managing director of sustainable finance, said of looking for opportunities to shave energy across all of its branches. To assist with a large LED retrofit and auditing project, for example, JPMorgan Chase picked GE’s Current. Similarly, Sale said electric-vehicle charging was high on Whole Foods’ priority list, but the chain is enthusiastic about third-party ownership options. “Our primary purpose is to sell food,” she said. These companies want to focus on their core businesses, but also meet the sustainability goals of their shareholders, customers and employees. It’s harder than ever before. Everyone from ESCOs to utilities to startups see that challenge as an enormous market opportunity. “We’re seeing a lot of change in the already-fragmented C&I energy management space,” said Saadeh. “As energy consumers move to adopt increasingly analytics-driven beyond-the-meter strategies, we expect the current landscape to only get more complex.” *** Download the slides and listen to the archived webinar here. Learn more about the Grid Edge Customer Network here.

News Article | January 12, 2016
Site: www.fastcompany.com

How radical is Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky’s vision for the future of travel? Radical enough that last November, at the Airbnb Open—a gathering of some 5,000 hosts—the opening act for Chesky’s keynote included an earnest celebration of a rarely celebrated breed of traveller: The sex tourist. "It’s totally normal," said Alan de Botton, a British pop philosopher and friend of Chesky’s, who addressed a crowd at Paris's Parc de la Villette. "One of the most wonderful things to do when you’re traveling is have sex with a local." De Botton, whose 2003 book The Art of Travel was reissued last year with a foreword by Chesky, was being intentionally provocative, calling attention to the fact that most people travel not because they want to eat in a fancy restaurant or see a museum, but because they’re seeking some sort of deeper fulfillment—which yes, often includes meeting romantic partners. In addition to celebrating the single traveler, however, de Botton suggested that hosts try to cater to the needs of families by suggesting culturally relevant kid-friendly activities that go beyond theme parks and costumed characters. "It’s very hard to be part of a family," de Botton said. "There are resentments, a sense of being neglected, a sense of loneliness." And yet, he noted sardonically, "Most of the travel industry suggests one answer: a water slide." In his own remarks, Chesky built on de Botton's ideas. "Every year, 30 million people go to Paris," he said. "They look at everything, and they see nothing. We don’t need to go to monuments and landmarks to experience a culture. We can actually stay with people." At the end of his talk, Chesky showed a teaser video for an ad campaign that Airbnb is currently developing and plans to unveil sometime this year. "Don’t go to Paris," a woman’s voice intoned. "Don’t tour Paris. And, please, don’t do Paris. Live in Paris." The pitch: Airbnb offers an experience that is more authentic than a typical cookie-cutter hotel room. This idea underscores why Airbnb is shaking up the hotel industry—many believe that Airbnb’s rise helped prompt Marriott's decision to acquire Starwood for $12.2 billion—and it is informing the company's recent moves. In December, Airbnb began testing a new product, Journeys, that packages a three-day homestay in San Francisco with an airport transfer, meals, and day trips for $500. On stage in Paris, Chesky urged hosts to offer their guests extra services, such as airport pickups, walking tours, and snacks. "What’s special in your world isn’t just the home you have," he said. "It’s your whole life." During my interviews with Chesky for Fast Company’s current cover story, he declined to comment specifically on Journeys but acknowledged that it represented a broader shift in approach. Airbnb guests, he told me, "are looking for experiences where they connect with people and connect with the culture." If Airbnb can deliver those experiences reliably, Chesky will have gone a long way in justifying his company's $25.5 billion valuation.

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