Aiming high - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Monday. 3/7/2023

The Monocle Minute

Image: Getty Images

Opinion / Christopher Lord

Accommodating needs

With the hotel occupancy rate expected to surge to pre-pandemic levels, the Fourth of July should be a day of celebration for the US hospitality industry. Though major chains are packing in the punters, they’re coming up short in terms of the all-important bellhops, barkeeps and people to turn over the beds. Many markets face similar challenges but these labour travails are particularly acute in the US: 82 per cent of the country’s hotels report being understaffed and about a quarter severely so. In Southern California, more than 15,000 hospitality workers are poised to strike in what could be the biggest hotel walkout in American history.

The strikers are demanding better pay and contracts that give them secure hours on the job. Too many US hotels have settled for a business model in which housekeeping staff are only brought in as they’re needed. Now, when I travel around the country, I often have to tell front-desk staff to freshen up my room days in advance. This makes little sense when hotels are competing to retain staff; for the guest, it hardly leaves an impression of care and hospitality.

I recently stayed at a hotel on the US east coast where the general manager had been in place since it opened a decade ago and had kept many of the original staff. One loyal guest told me that, for him, part of what kept him returning was that the staff knew who he was – from housekeeping to the concierge. Everyone knew his favourite drink and to always hold a table for him on the first night. That’s the secret to a warm welcome.

Christopher Lord is Monocle’s US editor. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

Image: Getty Images


Writers blocked

Last week technology giants Google and Meta announced that they would block local news from their platforms in Canada. The move follows the passage of the Online News Act, which requires technology firms to negotiate payments with media outlets for using their content. Though Google has already struck similar deals with news providers in Europe and Australia, it has deemed the Canadian law to be “unworkable” and announced that it will also remove all links to local news from its search.

Meta, meanwhile, is refusing to pay. How the dispute will be resolved is unclear. However, it could set an example for other countries such as Indonesia, South Africa, India, the UK and the US, which are considering similar measures.

For more on Meta and Google’s decision to block news sites in Canada, tune in to ‘The Globalist’, on Monocle Radio at 07.00 London time.

Image: Getty Images

Economy / Sri Lanka

Closing for business

In an effort to steer past its worst post-independence crisis, Sri Lanka began a five-day bank holiday on Thursday to help restructure its debt. The country’s foreign exchange reserves hit record lows last year, triggering the country’s first foreign debt default. This was followed by widespread protests blaming the government for the economic collapse. Authorities in Colombo are asking international bondholders to take a 30 per cent reduction in their capital while requesting similar concessions from those invested in domestic dollar-denominated notes.

“The five-day bank holiday will absorb some of the stock market shock on the first day and shift losses into the next quarter,” Sri Lankan journalist Dimuthu Attanayake tells The Monocle Minute. “These manoeuvres should help to unlock further funding from the International Monetary Fund for essentials such as fuel and food – but people are very worried that their savings might bear the brunt of it.”

Urbanism / USA

Aiming high

Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye has unveiled his first Manhattan skyscraper, 130 William, designed by his architectural studio Adjaye Associates and developed by New York-based firm Lightstone. Drawing on the history of the city’s skyline, the 244-metre-high building’s arched windows recall the industrial warehouses of the city’s waterfront. Inside the 66-storey skyscraper are 242 luxury apartments, as well as amenities such as exercise rooms, an indoor basketball court, a pool, a spa, a children’s play area and an Imax theatre.

Image: Ivane Katamashvili, James Wang
Image: Ivane Katamashvili, James Wang

For Adjaye, the most compelling part of the project was the building’s pocket park: a community space where both residents and visitors can gather. The architect conceived 130 William as a public piece of infrastructure rather than just another residential building. With many of the city’s skyscrapers sitting empty, here’s hoping that the architect is right.

Image: Tom D Morgan/Burberry

Fashion / London

Back in black

Burberry has opened the doors to its redesigned flagship shop, which sits alongside Chanel and Louis Vuitton on London’s New Bond Street. Following several months of renovation by the UK fashion house’s creative director, Daniel Lee – who previously reinvigorated Bottega Veneta – and its CEO, Jonathan Akeroyd, the shop now has a refreshed look. The old rows of beige curtains and neutral-hued furniture, for example, have been replaced with graphic black-and-white accents and touches of cobalt blue.

The rebrand, which includes a renewed focus on Burberry’s signature chequered pattern and the reintroduction of its equestrian knight motif, has received a warm welcome so far. The reopening of the boutique will test whether the brand’s latest direction can translate into sales and get the business back on track.

Image: Nc’nean

Monocle Radio / The Entrepreneurs


We meet Annabel Thomas, the founder of organic whisky distillery Nc’nean on Scotland’s west coast. Thomas reflects on her decade-long journey to change perceptions of the spirit, reach a more diverse customer base and innovate production through sustainable practices.

Monocle Films / Quality of life Survey

Monocle’s July/August issue

Who tops our liveable leaderboard? Monocle’s annual Quality of Life Survey puts the world’s best cities through their paces and profiles the urban centres on the up. We also get set for summer by gardening in Hiroshima, dining in Marseille and dancing in Mexico City. Plus: how Bratislava’s bass-playing, architect mayor is helping the city to find its groove.


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