Source = e-Travel Blackboard: G.A <a href=”http://www.etbtravelnews.global/click/24bd5/” target=”_blank”><img src=”http://adsvr.travelads.biz/www/delivery/avw.php?zoneid=10&cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a> An agreement between Best of Australia Travel Centres (BOATC) and Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA) will see Sydney and New South Wales product sold across the country.“This deal will mean tourism products in Sydney and broader New South Wales will be sold at BOATC outlets in Melbourne and Perth, as well as to the one million people that visit the Foreshore Authority owned and managed Sydney Visitor Centres each year,” SHFA General Manager Egle Garrick said.“Eighty tourism suppliers will immediately benefit from this agreement,” Ms Garrick said. SHFA expects the current tourism revenue of AUD1.5 million to grow through the promotion of New South Wales by BOATC.“We believe this opportunity to work with the Foreshore Authority and Sydney Visitor Centres will lead to an increased visitor spend and a greater conversion rate of those travellers coming into the centres,” said BOATC General Manager Laurence Schulz.There is also the expectation of increased jobs as a result of the agreement.“Through this deal with BOATC, more than ten new retail and tourism positions will be created at the visitor centres in The Rocks and Darling Harbour,” said Ms Garrick.Responsibilities of BOATC will now grow to include the provision of New South Wales accommodation, tours, transport and hire service bookings as a free service to tourists who are travelling through Perth and Melbourne.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J Judges at the 2011 Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Gold Awards agreed that ‘There’s nothing like Australia’, presenting Tourism Australia with two awards for the tourism campaign. The tourism group walked away with the Grand award and the Gold award for its interactive website. Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy said in an online statement that the interactive element, in which Australians were able to post their ideas and experiences, contributed to the success of the campaign. “These awards are really a pat on the back for the people of Australia, who brought their country to life by sharing their favourite Australian place or experience with the world,” Mr McEvoy said. “They are the experts on what makes Australia unlike anywhere else and getting them to share their stories and experiences has helped make this campaign the huge success it has been. During the first phase of the campaign up to 30,000 Australians posted stories and images to show why visitors should visit the country. As part of the second phase a digital interactive map of Australia was made up of the things Aussies highlighted as special about the country. Mr McEvoy said that while winning the award was an achievement the overall success of the campaign makes it a winner. “Australia’s inbound tourism achieved solid growth of six per cent last year despite major economic challenges in many of our key overseas markets – a very credible achievement when many of our competitors have suffered declines,” Mr McEvoy said.The campaign was launched at in May last year, accompanied with digital advertising plus a video commercial aired in cinemas and online.
Source = Ossian Hall Valley Retreat Karina Groth receives her tourism award A string of industry awards has seen Tourism Business Solutions manager Karina Groth gain national recognition, this time as a winner of the 2011 Accommodation Association of Australia A.C.E.S. Awards.The former information centre manager in the Hawkesbury region took out the award for outstanding contribution to the tourism accommodation industry. “Karina was the manager for Tourism Hawkesbury at the Clarendon Visitor Information Centre back in 2000-2004 in which time she elevated the Hawkesbury tourism industry to new heights and literally put it on the map,” said Jim Swaisland, owner of multi-award winning Ossian Hall Valley Retreat at Colo, north-west of Sydney.“In her role during those years she was able to create incredible opportunities for operators throughout the shire,” he said. “Karina also led Tourism Hawkesbury to win the Western Sydney Industry Awards over four successive years (2001-2004).”In 2002, Karina won the Wendy O’Donohue NSW Young Achiever in Tourism Award. Two years’ later she was solely responsible for the winning submission for the Best VIC in the NSW Tourism Awards for Excellence.“Karina has demonstrated a strong ability to develop programs that directly benefit regional tourism, most notably the Hawkesbury Valley,” said Jim. “In her role as Tourism Manager for Tourism Hawkesbury, Karina was instrumental in developing innovative programs that took the area from being ‘just Windsor and Richmond’ to encompass the entirety of the local government area.”Karina’s work and her business direction support regional tourism. She works in numerous capacities to assist regions with the development of tourism, accommodation and in particular, awards programs to increase the profile of the industry and the individual businesses.Karina also teaches for Western Sydney Institute of TAFE, at Baulkham Hills College to further develop and educate newcomers to the industry. And she supports a guest speaker program with other teachers to promote current changes and issues in the tourism industry at large. The award-winning executive is kept busy with Tourism Business Solutions, a business she established in early 2005.Tourism Business Solutions offers services which provides, not for profit and private enterprise assistance in the development, enhancement or expansion of their new or existing tourism operation – nationwide.
Achieving the country’s set target of up to 15 million visitors over the next eight years will require collaboration and support, according to South African Tourism chief executive Thulani Nzima.Speaking at the opening of the annual travel show, INDABA, Mr Nzima explained the country’s private and public sectors need to focus on working together for ongoing success and growth.Describing the travel system as “only as strong as” its weakest link, he added that the future of the industry was the responsibility of “all in the tourism value chain” from operators to tours guides, Ministers and right down to waiters and flight attendants.“… all of us are equal partners in building, growing and sustaining South Africa’s tourism industry,” he said. Also speaking at the conference, South Africa’s Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk told up to 200 hosted buyers that within the next eight years, the country aims to contribute up to R218 million in promoting the destination across Africa.He explained that among the promotional tactics will include launching five new officers across Africa over the next five years while also focusing on harness technology through the implementation of e-visa systems over by 2020.“There are some areas in which we need to work with those international players with whom we also compete,” he explained. “‘Co-opetition’ is the name of the new game. Competition brings out the best in all of us, but co-operation is what is urgently needed, especially on the African continent, where we have to work together to remove barriers to international travel and tourism.”Kicking off on 12 May this year, INDABA welcomed up to 200 buyers who scoped out and talked tourism with up to 1,500 exhibitors. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J South African Tourism Minister
Sydney’s monorail was pulled down in June 2013 because it was long seen as an eyesore, under-utilised and a waste of money. The plan is to build an AUD $1 billion monorail above the Tullamarine Freeway and connect to the airport to either Southern Cross or Flinders Street station, the Sydney Morning Herald reported. Premier of Victoria, Denis Napthine said that he received a proposal and would discuss it with the Plenary Group, the backers of the project but that a metro tunnel had to be built before any link to the airport could be considered. The future of public transport between Melbourne Airport and the city of Melbourne could be a monorail if an entrepreneur’s plan goes ahead. Peter O’Brien, the mastermind behind the project, says it would be a cleaner and more high tech substitute for a normal diesel train. The monorail would be similar to one built in Incheon, South Korea because it would be silent and driverless. Source = ETB News: T.N.
IHG announced the partnership with Amadeus to help build up Amadeus’ goal of creating a ‘community of hotels’ just like it has helped form a ‘community of airlines’. InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) has joined with Amadeus in a strategic technology relationship. IHG will help Amadeus achieve this strategy by using its focus on consumer experience to help develop a new hotel management system. Source = ETB News: Tom Neale “We also have a long track record of investing in relevant technologies to support our brand promise and build a closer relationship with our guests,” Mr Pearson said. IHG chief information officer, Eric Pearson said that IHG’s partnership with Amadeus would teach the company how to use technology improve its guests’ experience. “Partnering with Amadeus will help us continue to do just that.” The first phase of the partnership will focus on planning and development of technology that can be used by IHG.
“In spite of the current political situation, we are very pleased that many buyers and sellers are still assured to attend Thailand Travel Mart,” TAT Governor Thawatchai Arunyik said. “This is a major vote of confidence in Thailand, the quality of our tourism products and services, and the determination of the travel trade to go on with business as usual.” The theme at this year’s TTM+2014 is “Experience with Us”, and was chosen to reflect the trend of leisure travel shifting away from just recreational holidays to more experiential, interactive and fulfilling experiences, with the exhibition area divided into product-based and leisure categories. Despite a curfew policy currently in place between the hours of midnight and four am, its business as usual on the streets of Bangkok as Thailand’s security gets back on track and protests in the capital’s streets are cleared. Meanwhile, officials continue to reassure visitors that Bangkok is “safer than it has been for nearly a decade” due to the increased presence of military and police since last week’s martial law came into place. “Today’s travellers want to “experience” something new, learn something, and satisfy a deeper need for participation, creativity, community, and idealism, which is why we launched “Thainess”, our way of life as embodied in our culture, art, food and way of life.” An industry forum will be held on the topic of “Amazing Thailand – Simplicity to Luxury”, with media briefings given by TAT, the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau and the Myanmar Ministry of Hotels and Tourism, before the final closing ceremony on 6 June. Set to take place between 4 to 6 June at the IMPACT Muang Thing Thani, Thailand’s biggest travel industry event will promote the country’s diverse tourism industry offerings, with buyers and media able to experience a full range of related tours showcasing the region’s natural beauty and rich culture. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has announced that despite the ongoing political unrest in Bangkok, which saw martial law take affect last week, the 13th annual Thailand Travel Mart 2014 Plus (TTM+2014), will still be going ahead as planned. Source = ETB News: Lana Bogunovich
Strong support for tourism and business events in 2015 NSW BudgetAustralia’s peak accommodation body, Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA), has welcomed the NSW Government’s commitment of over $640 million to the tourism and hospitality sector in the State Budget announced today. TAA said that support for the regional tourism and business events sectors was particularly important as there has been no growth in real terms in overnight stays in accommodation in regional NSW over the past 7 – 10 years. The NSW Budget delivered an increase of over 25% ($127.6 million) in funding of the Visitor Economy Industry Action Plan over four years, comprising:· $75.9 million investment to make Sydney the premier destination for major events, including $22.6 million for more events in Western Sydney· $41.9 million more to grow regional tourism; and· $9.8 million to target overseas visitors from priority international markets In addition, a $110 million Regional Tourism Infrastructure investment was confirmed. “This budget has come at a critical time to reinvigorate visitation to regional NSW”, said TAA Acting CEO, Carol Giuseppi. “While the latest International Visitor Survey for 2014 showed strong inbound growth to Sydney, many regional areas not only missed out but also experienced falls in business travel and business-related events. “Regional areas have been set back further in the past few years as a result of downturns in mining, and the effects of natural disasters such as drought, bushfires and floods. “The priority must be for a new model for regional tourism in NSW. Regional tourism bodies require a certainty and consistency of funding if they are to stimulate demand for visitors to their region and create an environment for visitor economy infrastructure development. “Now that the Budget is secured we look forward to the release of the much awaited regional business events strategy by Destination NSW. Tourism Research Australia highlighted that business events visitors make the highest contribution to overnight visitor expenditure. This investment is pivotal to attracting more business events – conferences, meetings, exhibitions – to regional centres across NSW during the trough midweek periods.” The tourism and events sector is worth $33 billion to the NSW economy and is responsible for 158,000 direct jobs, including 67,900 in regional NSW. Tourism Accommodation AustraliaSource = Tourism Accommodation Australia
NSW Government needs to differentiate between “genuine sharing” and commercial short-term lettingAustralia’s accommodation sector says the recommendations of a NSW Legislative Assembly Committee Inquiry into short-term letting –tabled today in Parliament – were a first-step towards achieving ‘sensible regulation’ of the sector, but that it was important for the State Government to differentiate between genuine sharing and commercial operators involved in the sector.Tourism Accommodation Australia (TAA) said that it had no major issues with a lessening of regulations for property owners who provided genuine share accommodation by offering a room in their house or apartment on an occasional basis.But TAA called on the NSW Government to ensure that regulations which already existed to restrict short-term letting of whole houses and apartments were clarified and strengthened to protect guests, residents and communities from commercial operators. To achieve this, TAA advocated for a specific time limit to be placed on short-term letting of non-resident properties, which would allow owners to rent out their property while on holidays – but not as a commercial business.TAA welcomed the Committee’s recommendation designed to protect against the establishment of “party houses”, but TAA said the prospect of inner-city apartment blocks being turned into ‘quasi hotels’ was a greater issue that required more transparent regulation.Research shows that 37% of Airbnb listings in Sydney are available 365 days a year and being operated as fully commercial property businesses, while InsideAirbnb estimated that 61% of Sydney listings were for full houses or apartments, involving no ‘sharing’.In a statement, TAA CEO, Carol Giuseppi, said she welcomed the Legislative Assembly Committee Inquiry’s report and while there were areas that required clarification, the accommodation sector was happy to work with the Government to implement “sensible and proportionate regulation” to allow greater flexibility in the sector, while protecting the interests of guests and residents.“We are not against genuine ‘sharing’, but we believe there needs to be adequate regulations imposed on non-resident commercial property investors – especially multiple-property owners – who rent out full apartments for short term stays,” said Ms Giuseppi“With a large supply of apartments coming into the market any relaxation of regulations on commercial short-stay accommodation could have serious implications for resident owners and long-term renters in apartment blocks which are effectively turned into ‘quasi hotels’. It will lead to overcrowding, potential safety and insurance issues, parking problems and, most importantly, higher rents and lower availability for long-term renters.”“It will also be important for Government to ensure that the online operators who’ve been offering unregulated short-term accommodation are held responsible for only listing compliant properties and ensuring they do not exceed the agreed letting limits.”Source = TAA
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released the latest international arrivals data for the year ending December 2014, a record of 7.6% rise in short-term visitors to Australia to 6.9 million – the highest visitor arrivals growth the country has seen in a decade.Australia welcomed 807,100 visitor arrivals during the month of December 2014, an increase of 2.8% compared with December 2013.Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan said, “The remarkable performance’ was testament to the industry’s hard work. The industry deserves great credit for delivering such impressive numbers, but now certainly is not the time to look back. There is still a lot of hard work to be done if we are going to hit our Tourism 2020 targets, and our focus is very much about the future.”Tourism Australia has run two successful ‘Restaurant Australia’ promotions in India recently. Tourism Australia teamed up with Vacations Exotica to promote ‘Restaurant Australia’ themed packages on leading English lifestyle and entertainment channels. Vacations Exotica has reported growth in sales of 70% over the same period last year with a healthy number of enquires in the pipeline for the coming months.“Fundamentally, ours is a destination with enormous appeal – assets such as our world-class natural beauty, great food and wine, warm and welcoming people. But these things only become a competitive advantage if they can be successfully converted in to more visits, particularly from high yielding visitors likely to stay longer, travel deeper and spend more during their trips. I think we have shown with Restaurant Australia, that if you identity an opportunity and really go hard, you can deliver impressive results,” he said.
29 key Indian travel agents showcased a wide range of Sydney and NSW tourism products, destinations and experiences as part of the Focus on India 2016 Workshop, hosted by Destination NSW. Stuart Ayres, Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events, NSW said Focus on India 2016 provided a unique opportunity for Indian travel agents to learn more about Australia’s premier tourism and events.“In the year ended December 2015, NSW welcomed 112,300 visitors from India who spent $298 million, up 80% on last year,” said Ayres. “These outstanding figures demonstrate that the NSW Government, through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW, is committed to working with key trade partners to promote Sydney and Regional NSW and we look forward to welcoming many more visitors from India as a result of a successful 2016 program.”The week-long trade event included one-on-one appointments between Indian agents and NSW tourism suppliers, and also saw the visiting Indian travel trade group complete a pre and post workshop familiarisation program in Sydney and Regional NSW.“Our State is home to some of the world’s most spectacular scenery, world-class food and wine and unique accommodation options. We are delighted that the recent Focus on India workshop was so successful in helping increase the awareness of NSW destinations and products amongst our key Indian trade partners, better equipping them with the knowledge to build the most compelling travel packages to attract potential visitors to NSW,” said Sandra Chipchase, CEO, Destination NSW.“We look forward to continuing to showcase NSW’s strengths in cooperation with Industry partners, as well as highlighting the welcoming and multi-cultural elements that make NSW an ideal place for Indian visitors,” added Chipchase.
OTM is an exhibition that turns fruitful for not only the travel and tourism professionals, but also anyone who is connected with this sector. India is a very important market for us. Last year Indonesia observed around 3,50,000 visitors from India which in comparison to 2015 has witnessed a 31% increase. For the year 2017, we anticipate an increase of 5,03,000 from India. OTM provides us with a platform to showcase our destination, helping us outreach the Indian market.
Last year, Oman relaxed its visa rules to attract more tourists by granting Visa on Arrival (unsponsored tourist visa) for the citizens of India, China and Russia who reside in or who hold an entry visa to one of these countries – United States of America, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and Schengen states to enter the Sultanate of Oman. To further facilitate the process, the Royal Oman Police (ROP) has announced that effective March 21, 2018, visas will only be granted electronically via the URL: https://evisa.rop.gov.om and there will be no more hand-processed visas at the airport effective that date.A spokesperson from the Royal Oman Police, Sultanate of Oman said, “The migration to electronic visas is due to its simplicity and effectiveness, its alignment with modern technology and is in line with the e-government project of the Sultanate. Further, it will save tourists and visitors time so they don’t have to wait in long queues at the airport. The system has been thoroughly tested and more than 12,000 users have already benefited from it. The system is considered to be one of the safest and most confidential in the world, having achieved an ISO certification.”The e-visa application explains clearly the process of obtaining visas either individually or collectively such as obtaining a visa through a tourism company, in a simplified way. Additionally, the application clarifies the visa formalities for various groups of countries. In addition, specialists at ROP are available 24 hours a day to provide support. There is an official account of eVisa system on twitter @OmanEvisa where once can seek assistance.The new e-visa system, coinciding with the opening of the new Muscat international airport, supports the Oman tourism strategy in attracting more tourists and tourism investment into the country, whereby the number of tourists to Oman in 2040 will reach over 11 million by 2040.
Wallonia in India (AWEX Mumbai), Visit Brussels and Wallonia Belgium Tourism jointly organised a spectacular tourism training event in association with Maratha Chamber of Commerce Industry and Agriculture and TAAP recently in Pune. Emmanuelle Timmermans, Trade and Investment Commissioner from AWEX along with Ellona Pereira from Visit Brussels presented the hidden gems of the tourist destination.Introducing Wallonia to the audience, Emmanuelle Timmermans said, “This event was organised, as we realised that even regular visitors to Belgium are not always aware of some of the hidden gems of Belgium. One of those is the new sensational city of Dinant, which was voted one of Europe’s Best Destinations in 2019.”She further highlighted the most popular tourist attractions in Wallonia. Spa is one of Belgium’s main tourist spots. Spa is famous for its several natural mineral springs. It is also the location of mineral water producer and where the term ‘spa’ originates from.Wallonia is well known for its castles, one of the major attractions being ‘Radhadesh’, a spiritual place which has an impressive castle turned into a temple complex named the ISKON Temple. The castle has been restored and transformed into a spiritual oasis where visitors can explore colourful Indian traditions. Wallonia is home to the second-largest cave in the world called ‘Caves of Han’, an excellent option for MICE tourism and family segments.Educational Tourism is also growing rapidly for a few years and Euro Space Centre experiences a large number of Indian tourists including all major Indian schools. The European Space Centre provides a virtual reality experience. Another major attraction is the upcoming Beer Palace to be opened near the Grand Palace in the City of Brussels. Brussels is the second most cosmopolitan city in the world and is well-known for heritage tours, be it Grand Place, Manneken Pis., Belgian Comic Strip tour, Atomium, Mini Europe or Flying Restaurant, Belgium has it all. It is also called ‘The City of Museums’.The event showcased different itineraries for FIT, Luxury, MICE, Group and Educational Tourism. Wallonia and Brussels also offer amazing Beer Route across the two regions. Most of the breweries are well known for their traditional manufacturing process. The Sweet Experience with chocolate and waffle workshop is also a must.Many hidden truths about the ‘Tourism Gems’ from Wallonia are unknown to the world like the fact that the saxophone was invented in Wallonia and there is a Saxophone Museum on the river Maas at Dinant.Talking on Belgium’s promotional goals for 2019 and 2020, Emmanuelle Timmermans said, “We would like to attract an increased number of visitors from India to our region. Wallonia tourism is truly “Hidden Gems” as many truths are unknown to the world. I have seen tourism trends are changing now, tourists believe more in unique experiences such as amazing activities, beautiful memories, mysterious places. Wallonia is one destination for all generations and for all type of tourism interests, be it FIT, Luxury, family, MICE or educational tourism, Wallonia has lots to offer to everyone.” The event was attended by major Indian tour operators.
Share Unemployment,Initial Unemployment Claims Rocket Following Sandy’s Impact November 15, 2012 391 Views Two weeks after tearing up the East Coast, Hurricane Sandy rocked first-time claims for unemployment insurance. In the first full week after the storm, initial claims shot up 78,000 to 439,000–the highest level since April 2011–for the week ending November 10, the “”Labor Department””:http://www.ows.doleta.gov/press/2012/111512.asp reported Thursday. Economists expected 376,000 initial claims filings. [IMAGE]The previous week’s report was revised upward to 371,000 from the originally reported 363,000. In addition to the direct impact on businesses, the storm also forced the closing of government offices that process claims filed by telephone or online.Continuing claims–reported on a one-week lag–rose 171,000 to 3,334,000 after falling 99,000 one week earlier. The previous week’s initial report of 3,127,000 continuing claims–which would have been a one-week drop of 135,000–was revised upward to 3,163,000 from the originally reported 3,127,000. The continuing claims report tracks the number of longer term unemployed who qualify for regular state jobless benefits. The week-over-week increase in first-time claims was the largest since claims jumped 96,000 one week after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005. Two weeks later, claims fell 65,000, but then jumped 25,000 when the Gulf was hit by Hurricane Rita. The two storms had a stronger impact on continuing claims, which rose 285,000 in their wake.The storm-related impact to the East Coast was greater than that of Hurricane Isaac, which struck in August 2011 and caused a temporary two-week spike of 14,000 claims of unemployment insurance filings.Indeed, the impact of Sandy on claims may continue as it did with the 2005 and 2011 storms.[COLUMN_BREAK]On a longer-range trend basis, the four-week moving average of initial claims increased 11,750 to 383,750 and the four-week moving average of continuing claims rose 71,000 to 3,254,500.While not covering the same week as the monthly employment situation report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics will use data collected during the week ended November 15 for that release. Sandy could nonetheless have an impact on the jobs total and send the unemployment rate back above 8 percent for November as businesses remain closed.At the same time, though, Sandy could well affect reporting of jobs numbers (which is voluntary) as businesses concentrate on rebuilding rather than completing a government form.The total number of people claiming benefits in all programs for the week ending October 27 was 4,977,808, a decrease of 100,423 from the previous week. There were 6,773,260 persons claiming benefits in all programs in the comparable week in 2011. Extended benefits were only available in New York during the week ending October 27. According to the BLS, unemployment was 12,258,000 in October, which means that of those individuals counted as unemployed, 7.28 million were not receiving any form of government unemployment insurance, up from 7.18 million one week earlier.States have been borrowing from the federal government to cover shortfalls in those funds, which will eventually have to be repaid, unless Congress intervenes with higher assessments on employers. Since those assessments are a percentage of payrolls, they discourage employers from adding new workers. As of November 13, 20 states have an aggregate $26.0 billion in outstanding loans to cover shortfalls, down from $26.1 billion one week earlier. Absent Congressional action, interest on those loans could lead to states increasing contribution rates required from employers.States reported 2,085,605 persons claimed emergency unemployment compensation (EUC) benefits for the week ending October 27, a decrease of 32,570 from the prior week, the Labor Department said. There were 2,935,466 persons claiming EUC in the comparable week in 2011. According to the Labor Department detail, also reported on a one-week lag, the largest increases in initial claims for the week ending November 3 were in Pennsylvania (+7,766), Ohio (+6,450), New Jersey (+5,675), Michigan (+2,373), and Connecticut (+1,783), while the largest decreases were in California (-8,149), New York (-2,241), Florida (-939), Georgia (-913), and Indiana(-603). Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Investors Jobs Labor Department Lenders & Servicers Payrolls Processing Service Providers Unemployment 2012-11-15 Mark Lieberman in Data, Government, Origination, Secondary Market, Servicing
Mortgage application volume declined last week at a more sudden rate than in previous weeks, according to data from the “”Mortgage Bankers Association””:http://mbaa.org/default.htm (MBA).[IMAGE][COLUMN_BREAK]The Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey fell 3.7 percent for the week ending July 26, the association reported. On an unadjusted basis, the index decreased an estimated 4 percent. The Refinance Index dropped 4 percent from the previous week, though the refinance share of total mortgage activity was unchanged at roughly 63 percent. Mike Fratantoni, MBA’s VP of research and economics, noted the refinance index is now “”more than 55 percent lower than its recent peak, reaching the lowest level in over two years.””Meanwhile, the seasonally adjusted Purchase Index decreased 3 percent week-over-week. The unadjusted index was also down 3 percent, standing about 5 percent higher than the same week a year ago.The average contract interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was unchanged at 4.58 percent, though points fell slightly to 0.38 from 0.40 for 80 percent loan-to-value ratio loans. application,Mortgage Applications Drop for Seventh Straight Week July 31, 2013 395 Views Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Investors Lenders & Servicers Mortgage Applications Mortgage Bankers Association Mortgage Rates Purchase Loans Refinance Service Providers 2013-07-31 Tory Barringer Share in Origination
New,Urban Lending Solutions Recruits Business Development Leaders Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Investors Lenders & Servicers Movers & Shakers Processing Service Providers 2013-10-04 Tory Barringer in Data, Government, Origination, Secondary Market, Servicing Share In Colorado, “”Urban Lending Solutions””:http://www.urban-ls.com/home (ULS) announced the hiring of industry experts Ken Harthausen and Julie Bussey.[IMAGE][COLUMN_BREAK]Harthausen was brought on as SVP and strategic sales executive, positions from which he will oversee development and growth of strategic accounts. Formerly, he was president of the correspondent lending department at New Day Division, a subsidiary of Chrysalis Holdings. While there, he was responsible for setting the strategic direction, growing origination and reverse mortgage volumes, and increasing the division’s revenue by millions.As SVP of business development, Bussey will also be responsible for ULS’ strategic accounts. She previously worked at Integrated Asset Services, where she held the titles of EVP of sales and marketing and senior director of business development. Prior to that, she held various sales positions in the mortgage industry for more than 15 years, negotiating multi-million dollar agreements with Fortune 500 and government accounts. October 4, 2013 472 Views
Acting FHA Chief Joins Five Star Government Forum Lineup Biniam Gebre FHA Five Star Institute 2015-02-06 Seth Welborn in Daily Dose, Government, Headlines, News Share The Five Star Institute announced the addition Friday of Biniam T. Gebre, acting commissioner of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), as a featured speaker at the Sixth Annual Five Star Government Forum on March 18 at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.Gebre will sit down for a one-on-one interview with Five Star Institute President and CEO Ed Delgado to discuss FHA policies, standards, and programs impacting housing and homeownership across the United States.Gebre joined FHA in July 2013 as HUD’s General Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Housing and was named Acting Commissioner of FHA in October 2014. He has co-led several major priorities for HUD since joining the Department a year and a half ago, including efforts to transform how HUD delivers rental assistance, policies to modernize and preserve FHA’s 80-year history of providing affordable access to credit, and initiatives to improve the Office of Housing.Prior to joining HUD, Gebre was a Principal at McKinsey & Company, where he led many engagements on housing finance, risk management, leadership development, and organizational effectiveness. He co-founded the McKinsey Center for Government, McKinsey’s global hub for research, collaboration, and innovation in government performance. He has also been the founding leader of the Development Agencies and International Aid Practice and of the Real Estate Finance Practice.Gebre has a BA from Williams College in Chemistry and an MBA in Finance and Economics from Northwestern University.The Sixth Annual Five Star Government Forum is a unique opportunity for the leaders in mortgage servicing to join together with leaders from the nation’s capital and take part in an open and honest dialogue about the most pressing issues that affect the entire housing economy. Featured speakers will include U.S. Representative Randy Neugebauer from Texas, officials from government agencies such as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae, HUD, Treasury, and CFPB, and executives from the nation’s top lenders and servicers.Editor’s note: The Five Star Institute is the parent company of MReport and theMReport.com. February 6, 2015 512 Views
Citi, Goldman, UBS to Pay $235M in RMBS Settlement Three financial institutions—Citigroup Global Markets, Goldman Sachs, and UBS Securities—have agreed to a settlement for $235 million with a pension fund to resolve allegations of fraud on the part of the underwriters involving residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) sold by Residential Capital, according to media reports.The plaintiffs in the case, New Jersey Carpenters Health Fund, filed a motion for preliminary settlement approval on Friday to end a lawsuit involving the sale of RMBS to the health fund and other investors by Residential Accredited Loans, Inc. (RALI) and other affiliates during the run-up to the financial crisis, in 2006 and 2007.According to the class-action lawsuit, which was originally filed in September 2008, the underwriters made “material misstatements and omissions of material facts” in the offering documents, which was in violation of the Securities Act. The complaint also alleges that Residential Capital and the defendant underwriters “failed to conduct adequate due diligence with respect to the originators’ compliance with the loan underwriting guidelines stated in the offering documents.” According to the complaint, Residential Capital and the underwriter defendants also failed to disclose weaknesses in the loans for 59 offerings.The plaintiffs allege that Residential Capital, which had become one of the world’s largest issuers of mortgage-backed securities, sought out ratings agencies that gave favorable ratings to its subprime mortgages. These mortgages later received junk ratings when they went into default or foreclosure, according to the plaintiffs.The defendants gained a partial victory in 2010 when a district judge threw out 55 of the offerings, leaving just four at issue in the case; however, on appeal, 13 of the offerings were restored to the case in April 2013, according to the motion filed on Friday. A partial settlement was reached three months later in July 2013 when the issuing defendants agreed to pay $100 million in cash to resolve the claims against them. The $235 million settlement was originally reached in November 2014 and agreed to on Friday, pushing the total of settlements in the case up to $335 million.”Over seven years, the case had many difficult twists and turns, including an initial denial of class certification that would have meant an end to the case had we not kept pursuing it,” said Joel Laitman, attorney for the New Jersey Carpenters Health Fund. “In the end, it is a favorable result for investors, particularly in light of continued risks.”Spokespeople from Goldman Sachs and Citigroup declined to comment on the settlement. Representatives from UBS were not immediately available for comment. Citigroup Goldman Sachs RMBS Settlements UBS 2015-02-17 Seth Welborn in Daily Dose, Headlines, News, Secondary Market February 17, 2015 587 Views Share
Diversified We Stand Divided We Fall American Mortgage Diversity Council Diversity Inclusion Office of Minority and Women Inclusion 2015-10-16 Staff Writer The Mortgage Industry Breaks down Stereotypes through Diversification and InclusionBy Xhevrije WestThere is a demographic shift happening within the mortgage profession. In an industry that is so male and white-focused, women and minorities are often passed over for well-deserved positions and promotions, but this idea is being reshaped and redefined right before our eyes.Individual companies, government agencies, and trade organizations are working diligently to make diversity and inclusion a priority. In the process new definitions are being crafted for what it means to be a diverse company, and organizations that are lagging behind will soon find themselves racing to catch up as diverse organizations benefit from the innovation that a variety of ideas and backgrounds create.“Our industry will look to diversity and inclusion as sources of competitive advantage,” explained Kevin Wall, president of First American’s Mortgage Solutions Group and member of the Five Star Institute’s newly created American Mortgage Diversity Council (AMDC). “Great leaders will recognize that their organization’s competitiveness can be enhanced by embedding diversity and inclusion into their business objectives, organizational structure, and approach to people. Diversity and inclusion aren’t just about recruiting or retentions, they’re levers to help transform the culture of an organization into one that is market-focused, leadership-focused, and people focused.”Numbers Don’t LieAccording to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2014, women make up 46.9 percent of the entire workforce, while African American or blacks occupy 11.4 percent of the workforce, Asians make up 5.7 percent, and Hispanics or Latinos make up 16.1 percent.There appears to be an even larger disparity between different ethnic groups in the mortgage industry.In the financial activities sector, African Americans or blacks account for 9.1 percent of this workforce, Asians make up 6.3 percent, and Hispanics or Latinos make up 11.3 percent, the data showed.The data also found that in the real estate workforce, African Americans or blacks make up 7.8 percent of this group, Asians account for 3.8 percent, and Hispanics or Latinos make up 14.9 percent.“Today’s effective leaders will recognize that beyond race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation, diversity also applies to thought, skill, and passion,” Wall said. “They will facilitate a corporate culture that provides the flexibility to challenge traditional thinking in search of the best business solutions. In such an environment, people are able to advocate their point of view passionately, even from the status quo. That is how you foster innovation.”Legislative ActionOn July 21, 2010, President Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act into law. This intention was “to promote financial stability of the U.S. by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end ‘too big to fail,’ to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices, and other purposes,” the Dodd-Frank Act says.Among those ‘other purposes’ is a highly important portion of the Dodd-Frank Act—Section 342. The legislation requires inclusion of women and minorities in all levels of business activities and applies to contracts of the agencies for services of any kind, such as from financial institutions, investment banking firms, mortgage banking firms, asset management firms, brokers, dealers, financial services entities, underwriters, accountants, investment consultants, and providers of legal services.This part of the Act requires federal agencies to establish an Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI). These offices are responsible for promoting diversity and ensuring the inclusion of minorities and women within management, workforce, and business activities.Agencies covered by Section 342 of Dodd-Frank are the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), the 12 regional Federal Reserve Banks, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Credit Union Administration, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Department of the Treasury.Sharron Levine, director of the FHFA’s OMWI, oversees all diversity-and inclusion-related matters within the agency, including the policies, programs, and initiatives of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Home Loan Bank System, which includes 11 FHLBanks and the Office of Finance.“I believe that being an integral part of this very important function could yield sustainable and far-reaching economic benefits for traditionally underrepresented groups,” Levine said. “In turn, that could translate into greater access to credit for those populations, with the attendant benefits that homeownership brings.”Moving forward, Levine hopes the FHFA’s OMWI purpose and direction of diversity and inclusion spans further than just the ‘right thing to do’ and that economic implications of the global demographic trends and changes are considered.“Given the vast number of challenges and opportunities that these changes and trends are likely to bring, the increased and increasing buying power of minorities and women, businesses would do well to consider taking steps to becoming more culturally competent to deal with diverse consumers and users of their goods and services,” she explained.Another major legislative change that occurred in June 2015 was the U.S. Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling in the case of Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc. The court concluded that disparate impact claims can legally be brought about under the Fair Housing Act of 1968. This ruling will allow courts to hold defendants liable for the discriminatory effects of their actions.Mixing it UpThe American Mortgage Diversity Council (AMDC), a Five Star Institute Member organization, is comprised of executives from various mortgage companies and aims to shape the diversity agenda.The council, launched in June 2015, was created to drive results that support the application and promotion of the mortgage industry’s best diversity practices, and advancing solutions that support initiatives outlined by Section 342 of the Dodd-Frank Act.“The dialogue around diversity in the mortgage industry has not been advanced the way it needs to be,” explained Five Star Institute President and CEO Ed Delgado. “Five Star was presented with a tremendous opportunity to fill a leadership void and we will work with our industry partners to set the bar for diversity in the industry.”Michael Ruiz, Director of Corporate Procurement with Fannie Mae and chairman of the AMDC for the 2015-2017 term, believes that companies could benefit from diverse practices within their businesses and the changes that the AMDC seeks to create within the industry.“A diverse company is one that assembles a talent pool across all levels that is rich in all of the traits listed above, and embraces the concept of diversity as a key component of its business strategy, leveraging diversity in order to improve business outcomes,” Ruiz said.He further explained, “I am firmly convinced that the development of effective and sustainable diversity and inclusion practices is a high-value exercise for all involved; corporations, diverse-owned suppliers, and communities served and sustained by the activities of the mortgage industry.”As chairman, Ruiz hopes to develop a consensus framework for the adoption and implementation of impactful strategies and practices that deliver tangible benefit to all stakeholders, and also engage and activate senior leaders across the industry to become true champions of diversity, both within their organizations and their spheres of influence. Fannie Mae also has a multiyear diversity and inclusion strategy that is supported by three pillars: workforce, workplace, and marketplace.However, Ruiz also noted that the AMDC’s commitment to diversity and inclusion practices is not compliance-driven and these practices are of value to all, especially in lieu of the changing demographics of communities and markets served by AMDC members.“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to diversity and inclusion, but we should collectively be able to agree on definitions of successful activities and desired outcomes,” Ruiz said.One AMDC member, Cheryl Travis-Johnson, COO at VRM Mortgage Services, feels that the idea of diversity is often confused with affirmative action, but says that “diversity is having an environment where all people have equal access to opportunities with businesses and organizations in terms of employment and also from a supplier sourcing perspective, in that you have programs in place to ensure transparency with opportunities.”She added, “The Dodd-Frank Act is a first step to bring about some awareness and it really shouldn’t take a law to get people to do the right thing.”For the future, Travis-Johnson hopes to get to a point where more women and minorities will take an interest in this industry because the numbers are dwindling down.Dana Dillard, EVP and chief customer officer of Nationstar Mortgage believes that a diverse company has an “appreciation for the differences in perspective and thoughts that can add value to the business operations.” This belief is reflected in the 52 percent of the Nationstar’s staff that is comprised of women.“We have intentionally hired key leaders in the company that come with backgrounds and experience different than the mortgage industry,” Dillard noted. “These key hires have helped shape and influence our culture and business priorities. We will continue to evaluate our team to make sure we are meeting the ever-changing needs of the home buying population—that’s how you create competitive advantage.”Global DMS is also making strides to diversify their company and business practices. Vladimir Bien-Amie, CEO and president of the company and AMDC member, says that forcing a policy on their staff is something they try to avoid. Forty-one percent of their employees are minorities and women.“Being exposed to different kinds of people brings a different point of view to things,” Bien-Aime said. “As America changes and grows, organizations and companies are going to need to adjust to meet the changing culture.”Bien-Amie also said that most corporate diversity programs aim to only increase the percentages of certain minorities in the overall employee pool to mirror the country as a whole.“This approach is a misguided and ineffective because it comes with an assumption that the potential employee must change to fit into the current workplace culture,” he said. “Our approach was to change our environment so it embraces diversity in both culture and in opportunity. We believe that diversity is a strategic initiative versus a tactical one; the results are evident.”First American’s Mortgage Solutions is another company that is focused on bringing diversity and inclusion to the forefront of the mortgage industry. A few of the company’s diversity initiatives include the Women in Leadership program, Recruiting for Diversity, and their Employment Engagement Survey.“Bringing attention to diversity and elevating conversations about diversity in the mortgage finance industry is positive,” Wall explained. “We’ve taken the view that diversity is a business imperative. Our customers are diverse. Homebuyers are diverse. So, a diverse employee population will make companies more competitive.”The End GoalAs more join the diversity and inclusion movement, the mortgage industry is sure to see a huge change, not only internally, but also from the consumer perspective. By opening up the doors to people from a variety of backgrounds, the stereotype of working within this profession can and will be broken.ZVN Properties hopes to boost their vendor diversity numbers in the future and drive financial recovery in compromised communities.“I would say the end goal for diversity within my firm is to continue to grow the number to surpass the 35 percent mark as far as vendor diversity and by doing so hire specific diverse groups that live within or come from the community that they will be servicing,” said Bryan Lysikowski, Co-Founder and CEO, ZVN Properties Inc., and AMDC member.He further explained, “If we can do that it will put a sense of pride back into some of these blighted communities and help bolster the financial recovery in those areas. I also think if we can add to our network with diverse firms it will help correct some of the problems the National Fair Housing Alliance sees with the condition of some of the blighted properties inside of the urban areas.”As mentioned earlier, Nationstar already hosts a pretty diverse staff, but sustainability problems persist.“I think our overall diversity numbers already look strong,” Dillard said. “Our challenges are how to sustain the numbers for the long haul and continue growing the numbers within our leadership ranks. Through mentoring, career pathing, and a concentrated effort in encouraging the next generation of leaders, I’m hopeful we can get there.”VRM Mortgage Services would like to see every company in the industry adopt the proposed standards outlined in Section 342 of the Dodd-Frank Act.“The initiatives proposed by 342 would drive an enterprise-level of employee awareness around a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and the programs in place,” Travis-Johnson explained. “Most importantly, every program would be designed to ensure that everyone has equal access to employment, succession planning, and sourcing opportunities with selection and retention practices based on proven performance. I see this as a natural progression towards true inclusion for the mortgage and real estate industries. In short, equal access to opportunities for employees, solution providers, vendors, and the consumer.”Bien-Amie also mentioned that “the ultimate goal for diversity for both Global DMS and the industry is growth.”“The industry participants need to vastly increase their ability to sense new opportunities, develop creative solutions, and execute with much greater speed,” he noted. “The only way to reach these goals and ultimately grow your business is through a revamped workplace culture that embraces diversity so that opportunity awareness, creativity, and speed are all immensely improved.”Editor’s note: This select print feature appears in the October 2015 edition of MReport magazine, available now. Share in Daily Dose, Data, Government, Headlines, News, Print Features, Servicing October 16, 2015 621 Views