Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Sonesta Hotel Opening In South Carolina

Yellow Crab at Hilton Head.
The Sonesta Collection Group, one of the world’s largest timeshare and resort sales operators, is opening a new interval-ownership resort in South Carolina. On 27 April, reservations will be accepted at Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island, just minutes away from famous Savannah, Georgia on the South Carolina/Georgia state line. Sonesta operates a cruise line, and it’s not yet known if they plan to dock out of the Hilton Head Island location.

Beach activities like parasailing, jet-skiing and swimming will be located just steps from the timeshare resort. All rooms will have high-speed wireless internet access and a private balcony. Golf courses and tennis courts can be found just 20 minutes away in neighboring Savannah.

Sonesta group runs hotels in such diverse places as Miami, Boston, Sint Maarten, Colombia, Peru and Egypt. Planned expansion in the upcoming years includes sites in Panama and Argentina.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Homeless Hotspots

Clarence, happy to work.

In an interesting twist combining blatant advertising with a rampant social issue, BBH Labs, a British advertising agency, came up with the idea of giving homeless people in Austin Texas wireless routers and allowing them to sell wi-fi time to people on the street at The Southwest Music Conference and Festival (SXSW) is an annual film and music festival. Billed as the festival where “The World Comes to Austin,” the festival gets a good showing from the local college crowd and visitors from all over the world.

The idea was inspired by Street Newspapers. This is the national paper printed by the NASNA and sold to homeless people for them to sell and deals editorially with homeless and unemployment issues in America.

The shirts the people wear offer their name and password, and once the prospective customer logs on with their phone or laptop, they can make a payment of whatever amount they like. The suggested value is $2 for every 15 minutes of usage. All money paid will go directly to the homeless individual, who is also making an hourly wage for his work.

BBH Labs felt that selling newspapers was an outdated commercial model, and that turning homeless people into Wi-Fi hotspots was more intelligent and sound for the smartphone age.

Some media outlets have criticized the move, but all of the volunteers embraced the idea. "They're giving us the opportunity to work," says Mark West. "You're proving a service for the public. It's like an individual business."

Al Gore is the headline speaker for SXSW 2012 and Andrew Bird is the featured musical performer. Transfer Smart will do a presentation at the show. The official site for Homeless Hotspots provides information on the 13 men who worked the event as hotspots.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wells Fargo May Close Branches Says CFO

                          In this tale, a story of downsizing.

In order to become more profitable, Wells Fargo is considering closing branches that are near each other, according to CFO Tim Sloan. CEO John Stumpf claims the company will cut costs by $1.5 billion over the next nine months. Transfer Smart activity has gone up over the same time period.

By contrast, Chase Bank is expanding. In a statement released last month, they outlined a plan for opening 900 new branches in 2012. The majority of their new businesses will be built in Florida, California and Georgia. In 2011, Chase opened 240 branches. Wells Fargo closed 638 branches in 2010.

Wells Fargo is the national leader in home lending and mortgage servicing, overtaking Bank of America. Bank of America was shelled last year as the Fed determined they had given out many faulty loans.

Monday, March 5, 2012

GM Lays Off Workers

                               The Chevy Volt, not on fire.

Slower than projected sales of the part-gas, part-electric Volt vehicle has led GM to lay off 1,300 employees from March 19th to April 23. The vehicle was introduced last year and fell short of its projected goal of 10,000 sold by almost 25%. As of February 2012, Chevrolet has sold 1,626 Volts.  Instead of expanding production, they will suspend manufacture for five weeks at their Detroit plant.

The car became a political lightning rod last year when accusations of cover-up by the White House were suspected. President Obama’s administration, wishing to promote electric and hybrid cars to the American people, allegedly covered up the fact that two Volts burst into flames weeks after severe NHTSA crash testing.

The car has a high selling point of $40,000, but government subsidies knock the price down to $32,500, still pretty steep for a small car that still uses gasoline. And rival Ford released a statement today that their new Focus Electric is “officially America's most fuel-efficient five-passenger car."

The government famously purchased the first 100 volts made as part of its promise to lead America in decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

GM released this through a spokesman: “Even with sales up in February over January, we are still seeking to align our production with demand.”

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Costa Cruise Line Disaster Strikes Again

Just a month removed from the Costa Concordia disaster off the coast of Italy, another Costa Cruise lines ship has suffered a major disaster in an exotic location.

The fire was in the generator room of the ship. No one was hurt, but it occurred while the ship was 200 miles away from land in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

The Costa Allegra fire was contained quickly according to a company spokesman. The ship returned to port in the Seychelles Islands and all passengers departed safely.