Leisure and Hospitality: A Year in Review

The leisure and hospitality industry is accustomed to cycles, with each year bringing seasonal fluctuations in travel and recreation. Read about how the COVID-19 outbreak has stifled this cycle, with few industries having been so directly impacted because of international travel restrictions.  

Published on 28 June 2021
Written by Cavan Ferguson
Cavan Ferguson

The impact of global restrictions to the leisure and hospitality industry

In recent history, the industry has contended with challenges arising from 9/11 and the global financial crisis. In March of 2020, the sector was impacted on an unprecedented scale. What followed was described by market sources as “a year unlike any other.” The global pandemic led to the dramatic halting of international business travel, which would otherwise provide steady and consistent footfall in hotel lobbies. In addition, there was a great deal of concern looking forward. Leisure and hospitality jobs were at risk as many businesses closed their doors and bookings and enquiries about future opportunities reduced. 

A tidal wave of legal issues

Legal practitioners have been quick to respond to widespread uncertainty in the sector, creating taskforces and guiding clients through unprecedented issues with novel solutions. Many law firms have continued and even stepped-up client engagement to support stakeholders and protect assets. As the realities of COVID-19 came into focus, firms saw a “tidal wave of legal issues” emerge. 

As is to be expected, attorneys across the US have advised on franchising matters resulting from hotels closing and a change in hospitality services. This work has been particularly prominent in the past 12-18 months due to the sheer quantity of institutions in distress as well as associated hotel closures.  

Lawyers have handled a mixture of both contentious and non-contentious matters such as amending management agreements and conducting contract reviews. Of particular interest this year was work which had not previously appeared on firms’ submissions including advising on the unprecedented legal questions surrounding furlough schemes, the Cares Act PPP loans as well as unique loan forbearances and loan modifications. 

Chambers insights into the leisure and hospitality industry

Faced with numerous challenges, the legal market has shown tremendous resilience. The negative effects of the pandemic cannot be downplayed, but practitioners have continued to focus on providing excellent client service and navigating the unique legal challenges in the hospitality sector. The developments seen in the Chambers USA 2021 guide and legal rankings are testament to the resilience demonstrated by law firms in the legal industry.  

There are some key points to note in the USA – Nationwide Leisure Hospitality rankings. Akerman is a new addition, boasting deep expertise in litigation. Similarly, Skadden receives plaudits for its nationwide presence and enters Band 4. At the other end of the table, Dentons’ practice remains an industry powerhouse. The firm’s formidable hospitality group continues to impress, as evidenced by its highly sophisticated work and reputation for being “deeply skilled in all areas of hospitality.” This elite group includes standout individual Mark Daliere, who is currently enjoying an upward trajectory in the rankings.  

Latham & Watkins’s highly regarded hospitality practice also makes the step up to Band 1 this year, joining Dentons and Paul Hastings. With professionals stationed in Chicago and Los Angeles, the firm is a market leading practice and possesses some of the best leisure & hospitality lawyers in the US. The department’s growing bench makes an excellent impression on clients and according to peers, is a major player. Meghan Cocci’s high profile move to the firm has been very well received and bolsters what was already a stellar outfit. The team has handled several stand-out matters this year. Alongside work for Dreamscape, Latham & Watkins acted for GEM Realty Capital on its high value purchase of the Hilton Hotel in downtown San Jose. The firm’s stand-out quality across all levels of seniority stands them in good stead to handle sizable transactions in the sector. 

Elsewhere, Catherine Morgen at Morris, Manning & Martin demonstrates a plethora of skills and has gained a noteworthy reputation in the market. Joining the rankings in Band 4 and based in Atlanta, Morgen has recently been active on some impressive corporate financing matters within the sector, representing clients such as Concord Hospitality. She is described as “practical and solutions-oriented.” Also worthy of a mention from Morris Manning are Thomas Gryboski and David Reina, entering the table into Band 4 and as an ‘Up and Comer’ respectively. The section also sees the “innovative” Lauren Giovannone of Paul Hastings move into Band 2, continuing her rise through the rankings.  

What is the future in leisure and hospitality?

As the world emerges from the pandemic and adjusts to alternative working practices, the hospitality industry will benefit from professionals itching to take a break from the familiar home office. Anecdotal reports suggest that “people feel the need to meet clients in person.”  

The industry welcomes the hesitant resumption of business travel for the purposes of in-person collaboration, client meetings and networking events. 2020 was a “very tough year on a personal level for clients.” Whilst the pandemic has no doubt been a proving ground for video calls and has highlighted the world’s hyper connectivity, it seems improbable that virtual meetings and seminars will remain the only option moving forward. What seems certain is that lawyers practicing in the sector remain motivated to adapt to changing demands and produce creative solutions for clients. 

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