All posts by Louis Smith

ELFA Update

We continue to gather and share as much relevant information as we can with members to help navigate through these troubled days, and position best for whatever may lie ahead.

Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERC) Program Update

While many hotel and hospitality businesses took advantage of the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) resulting from the 2020 CARES Act, many businesses have not followed up with an additional tax credit, the ERC, which allows for an employee tax credit resulting from any single quarter revenue being only 20% lower than its corresponding period in 2019.

There has been a lot of confusion around this program, including eligibility and program expiration date. Bottom line is most businesses are eligible, and there is plenty of time to apply.

ELFA has partnered with ERC Today to assist in both determining eligibility and streamlining the application process. If your business experienced a drop of 20% or more for any single quarter in 2020 and 2021 compared to 2019, and you had wage earning employees on staff at the time and filed IRS form 941, you may very well qualify for this payroll tax credit.

Please visit this special link established for ELFA members to inquire and apply today while funding for this program still remains.

Supply Chain Issues?

Supply chain disruptions in the purchase of branded and other required guest products and amenities continues to plague the industry. Choice Hotels leadership is very aware of these issues, and is working to help assist franchisees who are experiencing these setbacks and delays when ordering.

Please reach out to your dedicated Area Manager, and ELFA, to inform them of any challenges you are experiencing in this area. The Choice Franchise Services team is working with and relaying information to procurement and the QAR team, alerting them to potential problems as they occur. Please help both yourself and other franchisees by sharing these issues regularly and freely.

LRA Inspections Expand to Brand Standard Compliance Beginning January 1st

Starting in 2022, Quality Assurance reviews and LRA inspections will begin including brand standard compliance in all areas towards property scoring. Since the onset of Covid, Choice has allowed this area of compliance to take a back seat to cleanliness and condition considering the economic challenges related to the pandemic. However, with travel and spending having surged back, often to pre-pandemic levels, this element of operations will resume its presence in property inspections.

Cleanliness remains a highest priority in scoring and property expectations. It is the number one area mentioned in guest feedback. Compliance with the Commitment to Clean program, along with certifications, will continue to play a significant role in inspections in the coming year and beyond.

We understand that many properties have faced significant challenges in each of these areas both with issues involving labor, along with the additional wear and tear that has accompanied additional business and shifts in our guest makeup. We urge you to take any and all steps to bridge gaps in either of these areas that may be facing your property after this difficult period.

If you are experiencing issues with procurement or shipping / order delays for critical products, we also ask that you please relay this information without delay to your Choice Area Manager so that they can relay this information on to procurement and the QAR team.

CrowdStrike Non-Compliance Penalties Are Being Assessed

Choice Hotels is issuing $150 monthly fees for properties not in compliance with the CrowdStrike software mandate for all front desk computers.

If you are seeing this fee levied on your monthly invoice, please take steps immediately to resolve. Search your GM Inbox for the original CrowdStrike “Welcome / Installation” e-mail from 2020 and follow the installation instructions. If you cannot locate this e-mail, you can send an e-mail of your own to falcon-complete@Crowdstrike.com and request a re-send.

Installation is mandated for all front desk computers and those accessing ChoiceAdvantage. It takes less than 10 minutes from start to finish for the installation process.

Are You Hearing Regularly from ELFA?

ELFA sends out e-mails regularly to its Econo Lodge franchisee members with important brand updates and notices on a wide variety of pressing operational matters. While we do not overload with e-mails, we at least reach out once per month.

If you are not receiving e-mails or correspondences from ELFA in this fashion, please reach out to us and let us know so that we can update your contact information. Please include your property code so we can best update and ensure delivery.

Choice Hotels Brand Update

Important Changes to Locally Negotiated Rate (LNR) Accounts and CP Points Eligibility

Choice Hotels has recently implemented a change to gaining exemptions from awarding CP points for certain LNR plans (Corporate Lodging, Weekly, etc.) that your property may utilize. Beginning this past December 15th, these plans can no longer be deemed “non-points eligible” when creating a new one in Rates Center. Instead, all plans must be submitted to Choice Hotels for approval via the Choice Now platform.

Further, beginning March 1, 2022, any existing LNR’s that do not award CP points will be automatically converted to “points eligible” unless they have been cleared by Choice Hotels via this same process.

You can find the LNR plan points exemption form in Choice Now.

Examples of LNRs that have not been awarded CP points exemptions include those that are considered Choice corporate programs (LSTATE, Fed Rates, etc.), cases where no contract between guest (or guest organization) has been provided, or cases where a contract does not explicitly state that the rate is non-points eligible.

Once an LNR plan has been awarded an exemption, you may use this rate code for multiple guests that may stay under that plan. You will not need to submit an exemption request for every guest under the same LNR plan, only when a new LNR plan is created.

Stay tuned to ELFA correspondence and www.elfa.org for more updates on this administration shift.

New ChoiceMAX Rate and Revenue Management Tool is Now Available

Choice Hotels has completed Phase I of the new ChoiceMAX rate and revenue management tool, and is available for use by all properties in the Choice Hotels system.

ChoiceMAX is a more dynamic and thorough replacement for the SmartRates tool, allowing for more frequent competitive rate analysis throughout the day, and more dynamism and targeting when it comes to optimizing your property’s rates.

One critical key with successfully implementing this type of rate management tool lies in accepting that oftentimes guests are more ready, willing, and able to pay more for room nights than we may expect. ChoiceMAX helps better target these rate thresholds, and the data that it utilizes to help drive higher ADR is now more current and up-to-the-minute than ever.

If your property was already utilizing SmartRates then you will have automatically been switched over to the ChoiceMAX system. If your property was not already utilizing SmartRates, and roughly half of Econo Lodges were not with this program, we urge you to connect with your Area Manager today and study its tools, features, and the potential positive impact it may have on your property and your ability to maximize not only rate, but overall revenue alongside.

You can find out more about the ChoiceMAX program and its features here.

Housekeeping Upon Request (HKUR) Guest Communication

Choice Hotels has produced guest-facing publications and collateral to better help relay your property’s HKUR program and schedule in an effort to help manage guest satisfaction feedback and property scoring.

Please take a minute to visit the Econo Lodge HKUR Resource Page in Choice Central for links to materials and descriptions that you can put to work at your property.

New Opaque OTA Pricing Strategies

Choice Hotels is implementing new opaque rate plans for Hotwire and Priceline business, in addition to the existing LOPQ plan. These new tiers open up the advance booking windows for your property.

Please visit the Opaque Pricing Strategy FAQ Page in Choice Central for more detailed information and actions you can take to best manage available inventory for these plans, or to opt out entirely. Opaque OTA business is not right for every property, so be sure that you are maximizing or minimizing these according to your property’s specific booking needs.

Commitment to Clean Program –

Choice Hotels has been actively promoting this Commitment to Clean status to both the general public and its array of corporate business sales, much of which benefits our Econo Lodge brand. Please ensure that your property has taken the necessary steps to comply with this critical program, as the message is going over very favorably with guests and potential guests.

Please follow this link to the Choice Commitment to Clean Hub to access the training module. You must have an active Choice University student account, and be logged in to that account, to access and complete the training module. With QAR inspections underway, this is a critical area being monitored, so be sure your property is fully up to date with all necessary certifications and components in place.

AAHOA Covid-19 Resource Page Update

The Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), the largest hotel advocacy group in the US, is providing resources and information to assist all hoteliers, whether you are a member of AAHOA or not.

Please visit the AAHOA Covid-19 Resource Center for industry updates and access to live and ongoing webcasts and other resources.

AAHOA 2021 Regional Conferences Starting Up in August

The Fall Regional meeting slate for AAHOA begins in earnest the week of August 23rd, with two events covering Washington state and Arkansas.

AAHOA Regional meetings are excellent opportunities for all hoteliers, whether AAHOA members or not, to gather together, meet, share local industry insights, and learn more about local legislative and advocacy efforts that benefit owners and franchisees.

Please visit AAHOA’s Calendar of Events page for more information on a Regional meeting near you.

PPP Loan Forgiveness Portal Is Open on SBA Site

The SBA has opened up a direct PPP Loan Forgiveness portal on August 4th and has since received over 340,000 applications. This avenue is aimed at smaller PPP loans totaling $150,000 or less.

Find more information here from the SBA’s news release.

Small Business Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Details Released

The Treasury Department has released further information about the Small Business Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Here are links to the documents that were released:

One-Page Overview Document

An Application for the PPP

PPP Information Fact Sheet for Borrowers

Starting on April 3, 2020, small businesses and sole proprietorships can apply to the program using the application form above. For additional resources, you can also access the Economic Injury Disaster Loans Application here: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/

You can find out much more about the SBA’s extensive relief and support efforts at their Coronavirus (Covid-19): Small Business Guidance and Loan Resources page. Thank you to Choice U for providing this link.

AAHOA continues to host webinars on various important topics facing all hoteliers, and past webinars, along with a trove of industry resources and updates, are available to review on the AAHOA Covid-19 Resource Page. We urge you to check in here often for new content.

ELFA is extremely grateful to AAHOA for their continued guidance, leadership, and open arms to all hoteliers during this unprecedented time.

Covid-19 Resource Update

ELFA recently sent out an e-mail to members covering topics that help to offer immediate financial relief. If you are a member and did not receive this e-mail, please e-mail Executive Director Louis Smith at lsmith.elfa@gmail.com so we can ensure we have a best e-mail address for future ELFA e-mail updates.

With each area, the key has been to be pro-active – acting now before finances and resources make situations more dire and more difficult to overcome.

Financing / Debt Service:
Connect with your lender immediately on payment deferrals (3-6 mo.), interest-only status, or other creative strategies. The banking industry is healthy, unlike the 2008 financial crisis, they are expecting these calls, and to date this is showing to be highly effective for those hoteliers who are pro-actively in contact.

Utilities / Telecom:
Reach out to your local providers of all services and request deferrals, abatements, or other remedies to assist during the next 90-120 days. This may also involve reaching out and connecting to your local legislators and municipal leaders requesting utilities relief. This also is proving highly effective.

Read More

SBA Loans Are Available Now

What You Need to Do to Apply

The following was provided via Choice Hotels Corporate Comuunications.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) introduced significant changes to the loan process that make it easier and faster to obtain funding for your business:

  • Processing time for many has been reduced from 60 days to three weeks or less.
  • Applications are shorter and streamlined.

Do you need help covering your mortgage? Are you able to pay your staff?

These are just some of the issues facing many in the hotel industry right now.

Read More

Helpful Information from Our Friends at CHOC

In our efforts to offer as much helpful and timely information as possible, we wanted to share the following tips that the Choice Hotel Owners Council had recently shared with its membership. Many thanks to CHOC Chairman Sam Patel and Executive Director Cassandra Hill for their assistance during this period.

There is also a FAQ Section following that we at ELFA found very helpful. Please expand below to read more.

Pro-Active Steps:

·        Immediately reaching out to your lender and making sure of the following:

·        Your file is updated;

·        Sharing with your lender information showing revenue declines/reservation cancellations;

·        Asking your lender the process involved for a request for rate reduction, interest only and/or forbearance so that you can start preparing from now.

Read More

Econo Lodge Covid-19 Brand Response Information

ELFA Members,

This is an unprecedented time in our industry and for you as a business owner. We at ELFA are dedicated to providing as much information as possible to members to help best maneuver through this crisis.

We will continue to update elfa.org with relevant and timely information as we gather it. We encourage you to please be diligent in being on the lookout for communications from Choice Hotels. We will work to provide links and other directions to helpful resources as things develop.

If you haven’t recently, please take a moment to visit the Econo Lodge Covid-19 Brand Response Information page. This page will be refreshed regularly so please bookmark it in your system for quick access.

NOTE: The deadline for Eclipse Collection linen program has been extended from July 1, 2020 to January 1, 2021. See Brand Page above.

ELFA leadership will continue to reach out to Choice Hotels leadership on guidance and, most importantly, support for our franchisees as we sail into uncharted territory.

Though it may sometimes feel like we are each alone in this process, please know that you have a family in ELFA to reach out to. We are dedicated to working towards the best possible outcomes for our Econo Lodge franchisee members, and will do our best to achieve that as the situation continues to unfold.

Coranavirus (Covid-19) Update – 12 March 2020

With a rapidly unfolding and changing landscape surrounding the current Coronavirus outbreak and global spread, we wanted to provide easy access to Choice Hotels corporate communications and updates, along with additional information from trusted industry providers.

Choice Hotels Coronavirus Update, with new cancellation policy updates.

Coronavirus (Covid-19) Information and Product Review: Ecolab

Additional Online Resources from Ecolab:
     Presentation Link
Video Webinar
Ecolab Website FAQ
Ecolab Covid-19 Website

ELFA leadership has remained in close contact with Choice Hotels leadership as this industry and health crisis has unfolded. We have witnessed significant drop-offs in reservation activity, both domestic and international, and we all share facing an uncertain landscape on the horizon.

Please be alert for corporate communications from Choice Hotels. ELFA will do its part to assist in getting information out to membership as it becomes available, both via e-mails and information and links posted on elfa.org

Urgent Disruptions: While this crisis is having a significant negative impact on all facets of the travel industry, some locations and areas are under greater threat, and face greater negative impact, than others. If you are facing a severe financial hardship that endangers your business, please feel free to reach out to your ELFA Regional Director with information and updates so that we may best inform Choice and work to try and mitigate dire situations as best as possible. We are here to assist members in any way that we can.

Important December 31st Year-End Deadlines

With time running out in 2019, it is critical to note several important compliance deadlines from Choice Hotels affecting all Econo Lodges.

Merchant Acquisition Initiative –

Announced at Convention, ALL Choice Hotels properties must shift their payment card processing service over to one of three providers – Bank of America, World Pay, or Elavon – by December 31st. [This mandate and service is separate from the continued mandate for Shift4 as the sole processing “gateway” service.]

ELFA has done its homework on this throughout the year and has elected to put its support behind Elavon as our preferred processor of the three. Elavon has agreed to provide ELFA and its members with not only a dedicated support team to assist with the switchover itself – often a problematic occurrence – but also this same dedicated support team to work with our members afterwards. The businesses are usually run by great managers like Andy Defrancesco who have a lot to offer.

We highly encourage all ELFA members and Econo Lodge franchisees in general to reach out to Elavon and request the “ELFA Program” support program. There is no additional charge for this enhanced service level – Choice has negotiated set terms for all three providers. What we have put in place is simply leveraging our size to ensure that the many owner / operators that comprise the Econo Lodge brand don’t get lost amid the larger accounts that higher grossing branded properties may command.

Elavon Contact Info:
(866) 868-3391
E-mail: hospitalitysales@elavon.com
www.elavon.com/choicehotels

Econo Lodge Property Photo Refresh –

Also announced at Convention, Choice Hotels has mandated that all Econo Lodges must have updated property photography on their Choice Hotels brand page that reflects the property upgrades made during the recent Guest Room Improvement Program (GRIP).

Everyone has made sizable investments in their Econo Lodge properties over the past few years, and it is critical to ensure that the public at large can see these changes online to help drive revenue and additional business.

While the deadline for having these new photos appearing online is March 1, 2020, there is a December 31st deadline to have contracted with one of Choice Hotels authorized photography providers to schedule this work.

At our recent Economy Brands Fall Education Summits, two of Choice’s photography providers offered $699 package specials to accomplish this. Please see the attached flyers from RTV and CS3 If you have not already updated your property photography OR have not yet scheduled with a provider to do so, please try to take advantage of one of these before year’s end. Note: Choice Hotels will only accept photographs and images from one of their authorized providers.

Choice Privileges Elite Reserved Parking Sign Install – December 31st

Elite Reserved parking signs should already be delivered to your property. These should be posted up in convenient spots for guests.

Eclipse Linen Collection – July 1, 2020

This linen initiative was announced at Convention in 2018 for all mid-scale brands and up plus Econo Lodge. While other brands have until December 31st to fully change over to this new linen, ELFA worked to extend the Econo Lodge deadline to July 1, 2020 to help ensure that this switchover would not create undue burdens on our often limited space and equipment.

In order to ensure that you are able to meet this July 1st deadline for 100% conversion, it is advised to work towards placing an order for the Eclipse Collection by year’s end, as delivery and order fulfillment is getting squeezed by the switchover from all other brands.

If you have not ordered your Eclipse Collection material yet, please connect with ELFA sponsor Amtex – a Choice-licensed provider – and start this process soon.