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Cuban tourism boom seen slowing, but finding a room still hard

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HAVANA Cuba’s tourism boom continues at a record pace but is expected to cool off during 2016 with the government forecasting nearly 6 percent growth this year after a 17 percent increase in 2015.

Amid the international buzz surrounding the country’s detente with the United States, Cuba received a record 3.5 million visitors in 2015, then set another record for any single month in January 2016, officials said.

The influx has pushed capacity to the limit and forced many tourists to scramble for hotel rooms, raising questions about how Cuba will absorb additional visitors when scheduled U.S. commercial airline service starts this year.

The Communist government is rushing to increase hotel capacity in the capital Havana and the beach resort Varadero, the two markets under the most strain, said Dalila Gonzalez, deputy director of marketing for the Tourism Ministry.

Cuba has forecast 200,000 additional visitors this year, or 3.7 million total, which would be less than a 6 percent increase, Gonzalez said.

The January record of 417,764 visitors was up 12.7 percent from a year earlier.

“One of our priorities for this year is the construction of four- and five-star hotels, especially five-star hotels,” Gonzalez told Reuters. “All you have to do is walk the streets of Old Havana to see a lot of construction under way.”

Projects remain months or years from completion, meaning the hotel crunch is likely to continue, especially during the high season from November to March.

The Manzana de Gomez, an ornate building being converted into a luxury hotel, is due for completion by early 2017. It is a joint venture between the venerable Swiss chain Kempinski and the Cuban state tourism company Gaviota.

Construction recently began on a Sofitel luxury hotel on a prime parcel fronting Havana’s famous malecon, or boardwalk. Refurbishing of out-of-commission rooms in ageing hotels is also under way.

Occupancy rates at four- and five-star hotels in Havana and Varadero surpassed 80 percent last year, Gonzalez said, a figure that includes the low season.

Because Americans are still banned from tourism under the U.S. trade embargo and only allowed on officially sanctioned visits, Americans concentrate in the capital rather than at forbidden beach resorts. That makes finding a hotel in Havana during the high season a challenge.

American visits last year rose 77 percent to 161,000, not counting hundreds of thousands of Cuban-Americans, and Gonzalez said a similar percentage increase was possible in 2016.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by David Gregorio)

Source: R-Entertainment

Hugo Boss cuts prices to try to revive weak China sales

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BERLIN German fashion house Hugo Boss​ is bringing prices in Asia down closer to levels in Europe and the Americas after saying its sales in China and the United States so far this year have been weaker than it expected.

Hugo Boss shares closed down 19.8 percent to make it the biggest faller on the Stoxx 600 index, in the worst day for the stock since October 2008.

Beijing’s clamp-down on corruption and conspicuous spending since 2012 as well as the stock market fall have hurt the Chinese market for luxury goods.

Analysts estimate more than two thirds of luxury purchases by Chinese buyers are done overseas, offering savings of more than 50 percent compared with China prices thanks to foreign exchange rates, tax refunds and other discounts.

Hugo Boss, which had already warned last month it was suffering from weak markets in China and the United States, said it now expects 2016 sales to rise at a low single-digit percentage rate on a currency adjusted basis.

The group said in November it expected sales in 2016 to stay below its long-term target for high single-digit growth because of the challenges in China and the United States, which together account for more than a third of its sales.

It added it will limit the distribution of its core Boss brand in the U.S. wholesale business to try to avoid the impact of a market dominated by big discounts.

It said cost cuts would only partially be able to compensate for the price cuts in Asia and the limiting of distribution to U.S wholesale.

That means it now expects adjusted operating profit to fall at a low double-digit percentage rate, while it is also abandoning a target to improve its adjusted operating margin to 25 percent this year.

Hugo Boss said it would discuss its financial outlook in more detail when it presents annual results on March 10, adding it is confident it can keep increasing sales in the medium term and also improve its margins again in future.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Susan Thomas)

Source: R-Entertainment

Time Inc explores bid for Yahoo's core business – source

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<span class="focusParagraph articleLocation”>Time Inc (TIME.N), the publisher of Sports Illustrated, People and Time magazines, has been exploring a bid to acquire the core internet business of Yahoo Inc (YHOO.O) for several weeks, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Tuesday.

Time Inc has been reaching out to bankers on pursuing a deal with Yahoo, according to the source, who wished to remain anonymous because they were not permitted to speak to the media.

It is unclear if the company has retained an investment bank as financial advisor on the potential bid. Yahoo officially launched the sale of its core business, which includes search, mail and news sites, last week.

Time Inc could pursue a Reverse Morris Trust transaction with Yahoo, a tax-free deal in which one company merges with a spun-off unit, Bloomberg reported earlier on Tuesday. Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer would not be part of the company under such a deal, Bloomberg reported, citing one of its sources.

Time Inc has heard a presentation from Citigroup Inc (C.N) bankers on pursuing a deal with Yahoo, the Bloomberg report said, adding that Citigroup had not been retained by Time. (

Time Inc and Yahoo declined to comment on the Bloomberg report while Citigroup could not immediately be reached for comment.

Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N), which already owns Internet pioneer AOL, has already publicly expressed interest in Yahoo’s core business.

Time Inc, which has seen print advertising dollars dry up in recent quarters, has been trying to boost its digital presence through acquisitions of online properties. Time Inc said earlier this month it would buy social networking pioneer MySpace.

Earlier this month, the magazine publisher reported a bigger-than expected drop in fourth-quarter profit, hobbled by a strong dollar and a drop in income from print ads, and said ad revenue would likely be flat or fall in the current quarter.

The company also said it would buy advertising company Viant as it seeks to boost revenue from its digital properties.

Time Warner Inc (TWX.N) spun off its publishing business Time Inc in 2014 to focus on its more profitable broadcasting businesses.

Time Inc shares were down 2.5 percent at $13.97 in afternoon trading. Yahoo shares dipped about 1 percent to $30.88.

(Reporting by Jessica Toonkel in New York; Additional reporting by Sai Sachin R in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski)

Source: R-Business

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