Q&A WITH MORGAN GREGORY GOOGLE CLOUD OFFICE OF THE CTO: STRATEGY & PROGRAMS AT GOOGLE

Morgan Gregory, Google Cloud Office of the CTO: Strategy & Programs at Google runs strategy and programs for Google Cloud's CTO Office, working closely with their senior leaders and technical CXOs of strategic customers on co-innovation and thought leadership initiatives. Morgan has a passion for paradigm-shifting technology and has side hustle in AI. She's particularly interested in AI for Good and Responsible AI - topics that marry her technical background and desire to make a difference.

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Travel Technology, Hospitality Management

Virgin Voyages Close $550M Fundraise Led by Ares Management

Virgin Voyages | September 08, 2023

Virgin Voyages announced a $550 million funding round led by Ares Management for global expansion. Founder Tom McAlpin transitions to Chairman of the Board, while Nirmal Saverimuttu takes over as CEO, bringing extensive experience from Virgin Voyages' early days. Virgin Voyages looks forward to continued success and collaboration with investors, including Ares Management, to drive future growth and innovation. Virgin Voyages, the award-winning cruise brand backed by Richard Branson's Virgin Group, has announced the completion of a $550 million fundraise led by Ares Management's Private Equity Group. This funding, including contributions from existing investors such as Virgin Group and Bain Capital, is poised to propel Virgin Voyages into international markets while enhancing the overall customer experience. Partner and Co-Portfolio Manager of Special Opportunities in the Ares Private Equity Group, Aaron Rosen, remarked, With this new investment alongside our partners at Virgin Group and Bain Capital, we believe the company is on strong footing to capitalize on its differentiated product and value proposition in the growing cruise industry. [Source - Cision PR Newswire] Established as a leading player in the industry, Virgin Voyages has swiftly gained recognition and accolades with a fleet serving various destinations and recent wins like topping the mega-ship category in Travel + Leisure's 2023 World's Best Awards and sweeping all five cruise categories in the 2023 Cruise Critic Cruisers' Choice Awards. Alongside this development, Tom McAlpin, the founding CEO, is transitioning to the role of Chairman of the Board. Nirmal Saverimuttu is taking the reins as the new Chief Executive Officer, having formerly served as President and Chief Experience Officer. In addition, Nirmal Saverimuttu has been a foundational figure at Virgin Voyages since 2014, when he joined as Chief Commercial Officer after securing initial investments from the Virgin Group. His role expanded in 2021 to President and Chief Experience Officer, making him well-prepared to guide the brand into its next phase of growth and innovation. Nirmal Saverimuttu, CEO of Virgin Voyages, said, I want to send our deepest thanks, on behalf of all our Crew and the Board, to Tom for his leadership and passion for the business. We are so grateful for all he has done and are thrilled to continue to partner with him as our Chairman. [Source – Cision PR Newswire] Virgin Voyages is a trusted brand due to its crew's dedication and passion for offering remarkable experiences for its guests. Nirmal also expressed his anticipation of collaborating with the Ares team and Virgin Voyages' current investors to execute growth and expansion plans as the company contemplates its promising future.

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Hospitality Management

Aimbridge EMEA Named First Third-Party Manager of Costa Blanca Resort Grand Luxor Hotel & Village

PR Newswire | October 20, 2023

Aimbridge Hospitality EMEA, a division of global management leader Aimbridge Hospitality, has been appointed by Santa Maria Group to manage its independent, 402-key Grand Luxor Hotel & Village resort on the Costa Blanca beginning October 1, 2023. The deal marks a major milestone for both companies, signaling their joint ambition to accelerate growth and provide exceptional experiences in the market. A leading hospitality management company and the world's largest third-party hotel operator, Aimbridge EMEA is expected to bring its two decades of operational expertise and award-winning talent development to the four-star rated resort. The Grand Luxor Hotel & Village houses a 300-guest room hotel, including two Presidential Suites, five food and beverage outlets and 102 villas, boasting both communal and private swimming pools. Located adjacent to the Terra Mitica theme park, and a 40-minute drive away from Alicante Airport, the resort also offers a spa, a gym, three outdoor pools, mini golf, a kids' club, and more than 1,500 sqm of meetings and events space. The hotel will benefit from the Terra Mitica Convention Centre and world class event spaces, totalling 12,000sqm, including an Iberian Village, and a 3,000 sqm Circus Maximus Auditorium. Terra Mitica is under the same ownership group and the theme park is a key destination for family tourism in the area. David Anderson, Divisional President at Aimbridge EMEA, said: "We are incredibly excited to partner with Santa Maria Group and announce our entry into the Spanish market. The Grand Luxor Hotel & Village, located on the Costa Blanca - one of Spain's most popular tourist destinations - is an impressive and sought-out resort, and we look forward to helping the owners meet their growth goals." Formerly known as Interstate Hotels & Resorts, Aimbridge EMEA has seen development deals across Europe soar over the last six months, as travel returns to pre-pandemic levels and investors regain confidence in the hotel and tourism sectors. "As a division of global powerhouse Aimbridge Hospitality, this deal also reflects our commitment to accelerate growth across the region. The Iberian Peninsula has been a major focus for our development plans over the last 12 months, and we have made sizable investments in the market, including several new hires in key locations, such as Madrid and Barcelona," Anderson continued. "We see many opportunities to bring our management expertise to the Spanish region and beyond, utilising Aimbridge's industry-leading technologies, systems and talent to create great experiences for guests, and superior returns for investors and owners." In addition to its entry into Spain, the company has also announced a number of new additions to its EMEA portfolio in recent months, including the Holiday Inn Eindhoven Airport, the Adagio Aparthotel Antwerp City Centre, and the Alliance Palace in Batumi, Georgia. Last month, the business welcomed industry veteran, Niall Kelly, who has been appointed as Head of Development – EMEA, bringing more than 25 years of significant deal-making experience within international markets to his role. Anderson added: "We're focused on attracting top talent with expertise in multiple languages and across all verticals, building on our relationships with both existing and new hotel owners to create returns and unlock more opportunities for their properties. "The strong growth in project numbers that we're seeing across Europe is testament to this approach, and the many benefits Aimbridge's global scale and industry experience can offer owners within the hospitality space." The Aimbridge Hospitality global portfolio, inclusive of managed and pipeline properties, includes approximately 1,500 hotels in 20 countries around the world.

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Travel Technology

Courtland Grand Hotel Now Part of Trademark Collection by Wyndham

HEI Hotels & Resorts | October 13, 2023

Courtland Grand Hotel, under HEI Hotel & Resorts, officially joins the esteemed Trademark Collection by Wyndham. This collaboration integrates the hotel into Wyndham Rewards, with over 100 million members and enhances its reservation system. The Courtland Grand Hotel's strategic affiliation with Trademark Collection by Wyndham reflects the brand's appeal to three- and four-star hoteliers, preserving their unique character. Courtland Grand Hotel, a prominent hospitality investment and management company in a significant development, operated by HEI Hotel & Resorts, has formally joined the prestigious Trademark Collection by Wyndham. This strategic partnership seamlessly integrates the former Sheraton hotel into Wyndham Rewards, a highly acclaimed hotel rewards program boasting over 100 million enrolled members. It also grants access to Wyndham's robust reservation system, enhancing its reach and services. Marilyn Yelle, the director of sales and marketing for the Courtland Grand Hotel, expressed, "Joining the Trademark Collection by Wyndham affords us the best of all worlds, allowing the Courtland Grand Hotel to retain its independent allure while providing access to brand tools that ultimately benefit our guests." [Source - Business Wire] The hotel has been operating since 2017, and its affiliation is seen as both a celebration of independence and an essential step toward the continued mission of providing unparalleled guest experiences. The move also enables the hotel to pay higher commissions to third-party reservation partners and intermediaries, which is expected to further benefit the hotel's bottom line. The affiliation of the Courtland Grand Hotel with the Trademark Collection by Wyndham underscores the brand's appeal to three- and four-star hoteliers seeking to leverage the scale and resources of Wyndham while preserving their hotels' distinctive character. Trademark Collection, a global brand, boasts over 185 hotels across nearly 25 countries, encompassing premier locations such as Atlanta, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Montreal, Berlin, Zurich, Athens, Istanbul, and other notable destinations. The Courtland Grand Hotel, located in the heart of downtown Atlanta at 165 Courtland Street NE, has upheld an impressive four-star rating on TripAdvisor since 2016. Guest accommodations feature spacious layouts with floor-to-ceiling windows and convenient in-room refrigerators. The hotel boasts a range of appealing amenities, including a 24/7 fitness center and a picturesque garden courtyard with a heated pool covered by a retractable glass dome. Guests can savor American cuisine and specialty cocktails at Fandangles Bar & Restaurant or indulge in a delightful breakfast buffet at Collage. The hotel also presents an extensive event space, offering nearly 100,000 square feet, including two grand ballrooms and an expansive exhibit hall.

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