Contiki’s Scott takes an accidental dip in Venice Scott’s 3D drinking buddy Source = e-Travel Blackboard: G.A With its Europe 2011/12 brochure fresh from the printers and more than half its 1,700 departures guaranteed, Contiki Holidays announced the launch of its new look travel agent and consumer websites.Speaking to e-Travel Blackboard, Contiki Holidays managing director Nicole Moy said the new agent site “simplifies the search process”, now allowing keyword searches on top of destination and tour searches.“It’s still about travel agents because our target audience is still going to them to book,” Ms Moy said.“Our results show that resoundingly travellers still want expert opinion and validation from a travel agent.“So we want to empower agents and give them everything they need to make a booking.”Also getting a face lift is Contiki Holidays’ Europe 2011/12 brochure, featuring new itineraries and product changes.According to Ms Moy, Contiki Holidays have catered to trends and customer feedback, adding more cruising in Greece and Croatia, new camping options as well as fast tracking entry at key destinations in their Time Out Tours, enabling customers to “see it all without lining up in a queue for an hour”.“Product has really evolved in large chucks and small bits,” Ms Moy said. “The only things that are fixed are the destinations.“One thing that is definite, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the youth market. “Our 2011/12 Europe program has been designed with this in mind, ensuring that there is a style to suit a variety of tastes and budgets.”Ms Moy said the changes were in line with Contiki Holidays’ desire to “remain relevant”.In a constant state of evolution, Contiki Holidays is about bringing the customer to the fore, Ms Moy said, detailing measures taken by the company to stay innovative, such as researching travel trends and incorporating customer feedback. “We are making a considered effort to engage with consumers in dialogue,” Ms Moy told e-Travel Blackboard.The Europe 2011/12 brochure is in line with this strategy, filled not with models but actual customers and including user-generated content. “We’re all for trying new things to add more colour to the experience.”Some of these “new things” featured in the brochure include a QR barcode taking readers on a Contiki audio visual journey as well a call to customers to experience Contiki 3D: parasailing in Corfu, floating along Venetian canals in a gondolier, or at the heart of Munich’s Oktoberfest.“We’ve also launched a new look website with loads of new features and smart tools to help customers research destinations and tour options,” Ms Moy added.“At Contiki, our number one priority is to remain relevant and engaging for our audience: in technology and lifestyle as well as travel trends,” Ms Moy said. Contiki’s Nikki goes 3D in Corfu
A recent survey reveals that in high risk areas, over 4,700 international business travellers value specific travel alerts and travel tracking capability.The International SOS survey showed that 60 per cent of respondents travel to what they feel to be high risk destinations once a year and one in five say they have travelled to high risk areas five times a year or more.A huge 82 percent of respondents reported that they were comfortable or very comfortable with their travel destination being tracked and receiving travel alerts to their mobile whilst they are travelling to foreign destinations.The survey revealed that international business travellers placed being informed on health and security risks whilst travelling to specific destinations as of ‘high importance’ and cared less about the types of privacy issues related to location tracking than has been seen in other sectors of travel.Business travellers rated the type of information they would like to receive from their employers or travel providers and the level of importance to them. The availability and location of quality medical services in a specific city was the most important followed by disease risks, vaccination advice and medication availability.A modest 21 per cent of travellers use travel related applications on their mobile phone and from the respondents who do use these apps, the ability to call for emergency whilst travelling was rated as the most important.The ability to receive updated medical and security alerts for travel destinations followed closely behind and the ability to receive travel security or medical advice for selected destinations. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: S.P
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J The Rugby World Cup drove more Aussies into New Zealand last month than the same period last year, with 11.8 percent more Aussies crossing the Tasman for the games.In the company’s October statistics, capacity across the trans-Tasman increased by 14.5 percent compared to October 2010 while load factor fell 2.1 percentage points to 85.2 percent.In total the company scored 1.5 percent more passengers during October this year compared to the last, with short haul driving the growth with domestic rising 1.9 percent on the same month 2010.International fell by 1.8 percent this year with demand from Asia particularly Japan and the UK falling 9.6 percent and 9.3 percent.Travellers from the US increase 3.7 percent on last October and capacity rose 2.7 percent.Hoping to build its domestic network, Air New Zealand launched new flights between Auckland and Paraparaumu earlier this month.Flying 18 return flights per week, the route is the carrier’s twenty-seventh destination.
Source = e-Travel Blackboard: A.N Should some breeds be restricted from flying? Image: fotopedia Qantas made headlines in 2012, there’s no doubt about it, and it looks like this year will be no different with the first mass complaint to the company: let the American staffies fly!Whilst the American Staffordshire terrier has been on the ‘no flying list’ for ten years, a petition created on website change.org less than three weeks ago has already gathered more than 3000 signatures in the hopes of making Qantas allow this one, of six, breeds get aboard Australian air Express – the Qantas owned carrier used to transport animals.Using social media to help fuel the campaign, a Facebook page and a Twitter account have also been created for the cause, whilst some went straight to the boss and complained on Qantas’ own Facebook site.Petition creator Pauline Steele said that since the staffies were not a restricted breed in Australia, they should not be banned from flying and that Qantas services should create better procedures that would allow all animals to travel safely.However, a Qantas spokesperson said the safety of those involved in any handling of animals was the first priority and Qantas restricted breeds that are traditionally considered aggressive and highly agitated.The spokesperson added that “certain breeds of animals are not permitted to fly on flights over a certain time period due to respiratory issues”.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has taken Jetstar Australia and Virgin Australia to court over ‘drip pricing’.The regulator accused the airlines of misleading consumers with low fares but then offloading or ‘dripping’ extra charges and fees on them later in the booking process, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.The counsel for the ACCC will allege that Jetstar and Virgin failed to be transparent about the extra booking and service fee which was AUD $8.50 for a one way ticket for Jetstar and AUD $7.70 for Virgin customers.Virgin Australia lashed out at the ACCC, querying why only it and Jetstar were targeted when “drip-pricing” is a “normal” practice among all Australian airlines.However, the ACCC defended taking legal action, saying the complaints are against Jetstar and Virgin only.Dr Gary Mortimer, of the Queensland University of Technology said that drip-pricing in the aviation industry was no different to paying extra charges when you buy a car.Source = ETB News: Tom Neale
World Aviation Systems (WAS) is pleased to announce Gia Acitelli as Regional General Manager for Virgin Atlantic Airways, following the airline’s recent appointment of WAS for the Asia Pacific region.Acitelli joins WAS from Virgin Atlantic Airways, where she has held the position of sales and marketing manager for Australia and New Zealand, for the past 14 years.With over 20 years of experience in travel, tourism and airline distribution, she has held senior executive management roles including, head of sales and marketing at Consolidated Travel and head of sales at Concorde International Travel.In her new position, Acitelli will oversee all operational sales and marketing strategies for Virgin Atlantic in Asia, Australia and New Zealand.“I am excited to join the World Aviation team as the representative for Virgin Atlantic, the opportunity to grow our revenue and further develop relationships with our industry partners, will be my immediate focus,” says Acitelli.James Vaile, group general manager of World Aviation Systems, says he is thrilled to welcome such a high calibre professional to the WAS team.“As a well-known and respected figure in the Australian and New Zealand airline and travel industries, Gia will play an integral role in our ongoing relationship with Virgin Atlantic Airways,” said Mr Vaile.Source = ETB News: Lewis Wiseman
Qantas Frequent Flyer members have new opportunities to earn points for activities other than flying, with the introduction of another 16 retailers into the popular Qantas Online Mall.The Online Mall, accessed via qantaspoints.com/onlinemall, gives members the ability to earn Qantas Points while they shop with well-known local and overseas brands.New retailers include Australian labels Oroton, Lorna Jane, Peter Alexander and Glasshouse Fragrances, as well as a number of lifestyle and youth brands such as Rebel Sport, Wiggle, Kathmandu General Pants, L’Occitane Fossil, Smiggle, and Forever New.Overseas brands Kurt Geiger and Uniqlo, plus furniture and homewares company Zanui and computer manufacturer Lenovo, take the total number of retailers in the Online Mall to 45.Qantas Loyalty CEO Lesley Grant said Qantas Frequent Flyer rewards are within reach for those who maximise points-earn across their everyday spend.“Today we offer well over 15,000 opportunities to earn points as part of your normal day-to-day activities: from using a credit card, dining out at great restaurants, playing golf, through to filling up your car with fuel and of course shopping.“Shopping at the Online Mall is a simple way to earn points and some of our retail partners offer five points per dollar spent, so it can very quickly add up,” she said.Ms Grant said that if members use a points-earning credit card to make their Online Mall purchases, they can effectively double-dip on Qantas Points.“Our members earned over 4.8 million rewards last financial year – the most popular being flights and upgrades to business class.“But a growing number of members are also exploring other ways to earn and use points and the success of the Online Mall is a great example of that.”The access point into Qantas’ Online Mall, www.qantaspoints.com, is a site designed to help Frequent Flyers understand how they can maximise their points and get rewarded as quickly as possible.Members who make a purchase via the Online Mall before 21 September 2015 will go into the draw to win a shopping trip to London, New York or LA.Source = Qantas
(L-R) Destination NSW CEO Sandra Chipchase, Arsenal Chief Commercial Officer Vinai Venkatesham with the FA Cup, NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres.The NSW Government and English Premier League football giants Arsenal FC have signed a significant and historic partnership which will see Destination NSW become the club’s Official Tourism Partner, securing the team for a two-match tour exclusive to Sydney in 2017.Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events and Minister for Sport Stuart Ayres said the partnership will see NSW promoted to millions of football fans around the world.“Arsenal FC is one of world football’s oldest and most iconic clubs, having formed in 1889 and won 13 League titles and 12 FA Cups in its 127 year history. This historic two year agreement will see NSW promoted at Arsenal home games, generating huge exposure for our State across the globe,” Mr Ayres said.“The partnership will also see Arsenal travel to Sydney in July 2017, playing matches against Western Sydney Wanderers and Sydney FC, exclusively at ANZ Stadium. The matches are expected to attract more than 28,000 domestic and international visitors, who will spend in excess of $18.6 million.“This continues the NSW Government’s record of attracting the world’s best football teams to Sydney. Arsenal FC joins Chelsea FC, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur and Juventus, who have all played matches here in the past three years.”Destination NSW Chief Executive Officer, Sandra Chipchase said the partnership will provide a boost to local tourism.“Arsenal has an enormous global following, with more than 34 million Facebook fans and 6.6 million Twitter followers. This agreement will see NSW promoted through LED perimeter signage, digital and social promotions, in-stadium activations, match day hospitality as well as access to players and legends,” Ms Chipchase said.Watch a video message from Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger below: Destination NSWSource = Destination NSW
Holiday Inn Melbourne on Flinders Holiday Inn® Melbourne on Flinders to surprise and delightHoliday Inn® Melbourne on Flinders to surprise and delight with random acts of kindnessGuests staying at Holiday Inn Melbourne on Flinders during the school holidays will be surprised with ‘Random Acts of Kindness’, adding an extra dose of Holiday Inn’s famous ‘Joy of Travel’.Families with a hotel reservation for stays between Monday 25 September to Sunday 8 October 2017 stand a chance of receiving family passes to some of Melbourne’s top tourist attractions, including SEALIFE Melbourne, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre Melbourne, Eureka Skydeck, Melbourne Star Observation Wheel, ACMI and Melbourne Zoo. Passes have been generously donated by the venues to showcase the best of Melbourne to Australian and international guests.The joy continues when families return to the hotel at the end of the day, with the ‘Glamp-in’ experience. Adults enjoy the comforts of a newly refurbished hotel room, while the kids have their very own ‘glamp-in’, including a tee-pee filled with pillows and blankets, and games for the whole family. After a great night’s sleep, buffet breakfast has been included for two adults and, of course, kids under 12 stay and eat free.Garry Beadel, Hotel Manager, Holiday Inn Melbourne on Flinders said: “Everyone loves to be surprised and delighted. We delight our guests 365 days per year with our exceptional service and true hospitality, but over the school holidays we intend to add an exciting element of surprise.We can’t wait to give a number of lucky families a day of unexpected wonder and excitement at some of the best attractions in the city.. “Kerry Seymour, mother of Instagram star PiperSienna, said “Our favourite Melbourne hotel just keeps getting better and better! We recently stayed and ordered the new kids Glamp-In package. It meant we stayed in one of the beautifully refurbished rooms and when we arrived the kids found their very own glamp-in setup complete with tee-pee, board games, puzzles, books and blankets to make sure they were comfortable. To say it was a huge hit with the kids is an understatement! It made my little travellers feel like VIP’s who didn’t want to leave the room when they were having so much fun playing.”To book the package guests can either book through www.holidayinnmelbourne.com.au or call 138 388.Holiday Inn Melbourne on Flinders has spent more than $6 million revitalising the hotel with all guest floors and corridors receiving a makeover. Guest rooms have been zoned for ultimate comfort and functionality, and all furnishings have been upgraded to create a contemporary feel with a high quality finish. The refurbishment is due to be completed late 2017. Source = Holiday Inn® Melbourne on Flinders
Carnival Panorama the first brand-new carnival shipCarnival Panorama the first brand-new carnival shipCarnival Panorama will be ideal for Aussies wanting to cruise the Mexican Riviera out of LACarnival Cruise Line today announced its latest ship – Carnival Panorama – will be home ported in Long Beach, Southern California, from December 2019. This will be the first brand-new ship deployed on the West Coast of the USA in 20 years.The 3,960-passenger Carnival Panorama, the third Vista-class ship in the fleet, will offer seven-day Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach at the end of 2019. This is the perfect destination for Carnival’s free-spirited, fun loving guests looking to cruise internationally. Reservations are expected to open late March 2018.Like its name implies, Carnival Panorama will include onboard venues offering both indoor and al fresco experiences, including the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, Library Bar, and Bonsai Sushi, along with open-air attractions like the groundbreaking bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction SkyRide, a massive WaterWorks aqua park, and the SportSquare recreation area.Also featured will be a vibrant Havana section with tropics-inspired staterooms and its own Cuban-themed bar and pool, Family Harbor featuring extra-roomy accommodations, the Family Harbor Lounge, and Ocean Plaza, a spacious dining and entertainment venue with indoor and outdoor seating. Other innovations unique to Carnival Panorama will be announced in the near future.Jennifer Vandekreeke, Carnival Cruise Line Vice-President, Australia said, “This is fantastic news for Australian cruise lovers who now have even more options to cruise from Long Beach – via just one direct flight to Los Angeles – to some incredible destinations around the Mexican Riviera.”For additional information visit GOCCL.com.auSource = Carnival Cruise Line
Qatar Airways launches ‘Goal For Difference’ Activation in Celebration of the 2018 FIFA World CupQatar Airways launches ‘Goal For Difference’ activationAward-winning airline hosts virtual penalty shootout game in nine countries around the world in support of Education Above All Foundation through Educate A Child ProgrammeLucky winners will be offered return tickets to any of the airline’s more than 150 worldwide destinationsQatar Airways is delighted to announce that it has launched the global on-ground activation ‘Goal For Difference’ in nine countries around the world, to further celebrate the 2018 FIFA World Cup RussiaTM and support Education Above All Foundation’s Educate A Child (EAC) Programme, which now has partnership commitments in place to provide access to quality primary education for more than 10 million of the most marginalised and hardest to reach children in 50 countries around the world.‘Goal For Difference’ is an on-ground activation being carried out in several key destinations globally, including: Australia, India, Iran, Turkey, Morocco, Malaysia, Kuwait, Oman, and the USA. Hosted at popular locations in each destination, including the Oberoi Mall in Mumbai, Chadstone Shopping Centre in Melbourne and Marina Mall in Kuwait, participants will engage in a virtual penalty shootout game, with players who score at least two out of three goals entered into an online draw for a chance to win round-trip Economy Class tickets to any Qatar Airways destination.The ‘Goal For Difference’ activation took place between 21 and 25 June in Iran, Turkey, Malaysia and the USA, and will take place between 28 June and 1 July 2018 in the remaining destinations.The initiative leverages the airline’s groundbreaking sponsorship deal with FIFA, for which the award-winning airline is the Official Partner and Official Airline until 2022. The partnership, one of the biggest sporting sponsorships in the world, gives Qatar Airways extensive marketing and branding rights at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and the 2022 World Cup Qatar™, with an expected audience reach of more than two billion people per tournament.Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “I am extremely pleased that this activation merges two wonderful initiatives: sports and education. By launching the ‘Goal For Difference’ activation globally, not only are we celebrating the 2018 FIFA World Cup RussiaTM, but we are also contributing to an incredibly admirable cause, Educate A Child. EAC and its strong partnership network have already helped more than 6.6 million children to overcome barriers to education such as extreme poverty, cultural challenges, conflict and insecurity, and challenging geographies. EAC strives to achieve individual and social outcomes for these children, their communities and ultimately, a more sustainable world for us all.” Participants can post images of themselves and others participating in the activation on a special microsite, to enable sharing on their social media platforms. To access the microsite, please click here: qataraiways.com/goalfordifferenceThe award-winning airline has captured the excitement of the tournament by launching its new 2018 FIFA World Cup RussiaTM campaign last month, featuring a re-recording of the classic song ‘Dancing in the Street’ sung by renowned singer and TV star Nicole Scherzinger. The upbeat TV commercial has seen tremendous global success, with more than 20 million views across the airline’s social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.Qatar Airways has been a proud supporter and partner of Education Above All Foundation, through EAC since 2013, and we continue to support them today by giving others the opportunity to help out of school children reach for the sky.Qatar Airways encourages passengers to donate in support of the Educate A Child programme through different methods, including online when booking a flight on Qatar Airways’ website, as well as using the on-board donation envelopes that are collected by the cabin crew. Additionally, the airline’s in-flight entertainment system, Oryx One, as well as Oryx Magazine and the airline’s popular social media networks are all utilised to promote and create awareness about the Educate A Child programme and its beneficiaries, the children.Qatar Airways is also the Official Airline Partner of the FIFA Club World Cup™, the FIFA Women’s World Cup™, the FIFA Under-20 and Under 17 World Cups™, the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup™, and the FIFA Interactive World Cup™.The award-winning airline has received a record number of accolades recently, including ‘Airline of the Year’ by the prestigious 2017 Skytrax World Airline Awards, which was held at the Paris Air Show. This is the fourth time that Qatar Airways has been given this global recognition. In addition to being voted Best Airline by travellers from around the world, Qatar’s national carrier also won a raft of other major awards at the ceremony, including ‘Best Airline in the Middle East’, ‘World’s Best Business Class’ and ‘World’s Best First Class Airline Lounge’.Qatar Airways recently revealed a host of upcoming new global destinations, including the announcement that it will be the first Gulf carrier to begin direct service to Luxembourg. Other exciting new destinations to be launched by the airline include Tallinn, Estonia; Valletta, Malta; Langkawi, Malaysia and Da Nang, Vietnam.Source = Qatar Airways
Air Canada updates schedule following the grounding of Boeing 737-MAXAir Canada said today that it has adjusted its schedule through to April 30 to cover 98 per cent of its planned flying following Transport Canada’s closure of Canadian airspace to Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operations. In compliance with the safety notice, Air Canada has grounded its 24 737 MAX aircraft and Boeing has advised that deliveries of its 737 MAX are currently suspended. Air Canada was expecting six new aircraft in March and April.Air Canada is now updating its May schedule to further optimize its fleet and re-accommodate customers. Because the timeline for the return to service of the 737 MAX is unknown, for planning purposes and to provide customers certainty for booking and travel, Air Canada intends to remove 737 MAX flying from its schedule until at least July 1, 2019.“The Boeing 737 MAX accounted for six per cent of Air Canada’s total flying, but there is a domino effect from removing the 737s from our fleet that impacts the schedule and ultimately will impact some customers. We have been working very hard to minimize that impact,” said Lucie Guillemette, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Air Canada.“To bring certainty to our schedule for our customers when booking and travelling, we are revising our schedule until July and we have taken several steps to continue delivering substantially all of our planned capacity through our global network.“Customers who have travel plans between now and July can be reassured that we will keep them informed every step of the way as we revise our schedule. We have a deep global network and many partner airlines to provide solutions so serving our customers and minimizing any disruption is our first priority. We remain committed to delivering the same safe, reliable transportation customers expect from Air Canada. Customers can continue to book and travel on Air Canada with full confidence,” said Ms. Guillemette.Among the measures taken by Air Canada:MitigationsTo mitigate the impact, Air Canada has been substituting different aircraft on 737 MAX routes. This includes flying routes with similar-sized or larger aircraft. To help provide this replacement flying, the carrier has extended leases for aircraft which were scheduled to exit the fleet.Air Canada is also accelerating the in-take of recently acquired Airbus A321 aircraft from WOW Airlines into its fleet and has hired other carriers to provide immediate extra capacity. For example, Air Transat has been chartered on a temporary basis to operate one daily frequency between Vancouver and Montreal beginning March 20 until March 31. In addition, Air Canada has leased an aircraft from Air Transat from April 1 to April 30 in order to operate the Montreal to Cancun route.Schedule ChangesThe airline has implemented a number of route changes to date, either changing operating times or substituting larger aircraft with fewer frequencies on routes operated more frequently by smaller aircraft. In some cases, it has deployed Air Canada Rouge aircraft to serve mainline routes. The airline is also currently finalizing a new routing for the return leg of its Toronto-Delhi service, which continues to be impacted by the closure of Pakistani airspace. This flight will remain non-stop between Toronto and Delhi but now stop in Vancouver rather than Copenhagen on the return leg.Route SuspensionsIn a small number of cases, Air Canada has temporarily suspended until further notice service on certain 737 MAX routes where alternative aircraft are not presently available. This includes flights from Halifax and St. John’s to London Heathrow, for which it is re-accommodating customers over its Toronto and Montreal hubs. Air Canada remains committed to these routes and will resume service as soon as possible. It also includes seasonal flights from Vancouver to Kona, Lihue and Calgary-Palm Springs, with customers re-accommodated on other routings.Customer InformationAs changes are finalized in the flight schedule, customers whose flight times or flight numbers have changed can expect to receive an email detailing their updated itinerary. This information is also available in My Bookings on the Air Canada app or Air Canada website. Customers are advised, whether they have booked directly through Air Canada or not, to ensure their contact information is on their booking to facilitate communication of any flight changes.Air Canada has put in place a flexible rebooking policy with full fee waiver and a refund option for affected customers. Customers originally scheduled to travel on a 737 MAX can call Air Canada at 1-833-354-5963 for information within 72 hours of their planned flight. Customers who have booked flights through a Travel Agent should contact them for immediate assistance.Customers are further advised to check the status of their flight using the Flight Status function on the Air Canada app or on aircanada.com prior to going to the airport.Additional information, including specific changes to the April 737 MAX operation is provided in the special page Update on flights operated by the Boeing 737 MAX on aircanada.com which will be updated as warranted.About Air CanadaAir Canada is Canada’s largest domestic and international airline serving nearly 220 airports on six continents. Canada’s flag carrier is among the 20 largest airlines in the world and in 2018 served nearly 51 million customers. Air Canada provides scheduled passenger service directly to 63 airports in Canada, 56 in the United States and 100 in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America and South America. Air Canada is a founding member of Star Alliance, the world’s most comprehensive air transportation network serving 1,317 airports in 193 countries. Air Canada is the only international network carrier in North America to receive a Four-Star ranking according to independent U.K. research firm Skytrax, which also named Air Canada the 2018 Best Airline in North America. For more information, please visit: aircanada.com/media, follow @AirCanada on Twitter and join Air Canada on Facebook.Internet: aircanada.comSource = Air Canada
Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Fannie Mae FHFA Freddie Mac Investors JPMorgan Chase Lenders & Servicers Mortgage Bankers Association PNC Bank Quicken Loans Service Providers U.S. Bancorp Wells Fargo 2012-12-19 Krista Franks Brock The “”Mortgage Bankers Association””:http://www.mbaa.org/NewsandMedia (MBA) has assembled a GSE Single Family Task Force to revisit the association’s 2009 proposal for the future of the secondary market and to further discourse on this topic. [IMAGE]Tim Dale, EVP of mortgage lending at “”BB&T””:http://bbt.com/, will head the task force of members from various financial institutions, including “”Wells Fargo Home Mortgage””:https://www.wellsfargo.com/mortgage/, “”Chase””:https://www.chase.com/, “”U.S. Bank Home Mortgage””:https://www.usbank.com/mortgage/index.html, “”PNC Bank””:https://www.pnc.com/, “”Quicken Loans””:http://www.quickenloans.com/ and more. “”The oversized government role in the residential market, and the uncertainty surrounding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have created an unhealthy and unsustainable mortgage market,”” Dale said. [COLUMN_BREAK]””Most stakeholders agree that we need to re-engage private capital in the market, but that won’t happen until the fundamental questions around the GSEs and the government role is resolved,”” Dale continued, adding that the new task force “”will tackle these issues, with a key focus on transition.”” The task force will work in two phases. First, they will review the 2009 position and determine potential issues during a transition. Next, they will put together a “”roadmap”” for the transition.MBA’s 2009 proposal supports government participation in the mortgage market, but a limited one. “”The size and scope of the U.S. housing market mean that, except in times of extreme duress, the federal government’s role should be to promote liquidity for investor purchases of mortgage-backed securities, not to attempt to provide the capital for or absorb the risks itself,”” the proposal stated. Since 2009, “”[t]he concepts contained in the MBA proposal became central to the most serious discussions over the future role of the government in housing finance,”” said Debra W. Still, chairman of the MBA. “”However, four years later, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are still in conservatorship, with no end in sight,”” Still continued. The announcement of the new GSE Single Family Task Force comes on the heels of a white paper published by “”MBA’s Multifamily Task Force.””:https://themreport.com/articles/mba-releases-white-paper-on-gse-role-in-multifamily-housing-finance-2012-12-05 Share December 19, 2012 455 Views MBA Assembles GSE Single-Family Task Force in Government, Secondary Market
BofA, Mairone Found Liable in Mortgage Fraud Case October 24, 2013 403 Views Share A 10-person panel of jurors is holding Bank of America and a mid-level manager liable for high-risk mortgages originated by Countrywide through a program known as “”Hustle”” and then sold off to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. [IMAGE]After hearing arguments for four weeks in a Manhattan federal court, the jury returned a decision finding BofA liable on one charge of fraud in the civil case and finding Rebecca Mairone, who worked for Countrywide from 2006 to 2008 as COO of one of its lending divisions, liable on the civil fraud charge she faced. It’s among only a handful of cases stemming from the subprime and foreclosure crisis to go to trial and the first time an individual has been singled out as being responsible for personally contributing to the housing market’s implosion–and government officials are relishing the victory. “”Bank of America chose to defend Countrywide’s conduct with all its might and money, claiming there was no case here. The jury disagreed,”” said Preet Bharara, Manhattan U.S. attorney and the prosecutor in the case. Bharara says the Hustle program treated quality control and underwriting “”as a joke”” and he faulted BofA and Mairone for “”making disastrously bad loans and systematically removing quality checks in favor of its own balance.”” He added, “”In a rush to feed at the trough of easy mortgage money on the eve of the financial crisis, Bank of America purchased Countrywide, thinking it had gobbled up a cash cow. That profit, however, was built on fraud.””[COLUMN_BREAK]The case was decided nearly a year to the day after the U.S. Department of Justice filed its complaint, alleging Countrywide used the Hustle program to unload poorly underwritten mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to the tune of $848.2 million in gross losses for the GSEs, according to court documents. Mairone was added as a co-defendant in January because in her position, she was responsible for managing the High Speed Swim Lane program, or Hustle.For five years, though, state and federal officials have neglected to go after subprime kingpin and Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo, who despite his track record has escaped any and all repercussions related to his mortgage dealings and been subject only to a fine for insider trading-of which he only had to pay two-thirds. Instead, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara zeroed in on a mortgage exec who’s still visible in the marketplace and whose tenure with Countrywide was short-lived and low-profile.Mairone, who is now a home lending executive with JPMorgan Chase, became part of the Bank of America team when it acquired Countrywide in 2008, and she’s spent the better part of her career laboring to keep financially distressed borrowers in their homes. For nearly two years, she was BofA’s national default servicing executive, overseeing loss mitigation and foreclosure prevention efforts for hundreds of thousands of distressed homeowners. In 2011, Mairone was named Bank of America’s national mortgage outreach executive. Under her supervision, the company doubled its outreach staff, opened dozens of regional customer assistance centers in hard-hit markets, and hosted and participated in hundreds of local home preservation workshops with Mairone herself traveling from city to city to ensure homeowners attending the events got the assistance they needed.A court date of December 5 has been set to begin the penalty phase of the case. Ultimately, the decision of how much BofA and Mairone will be fined is in the hands of U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff, a court official well-known for his tough stance against banks and the financial services industry. in Origination, Secondary Market Agents & Brokers Attorneys & Title Companies Bank of America Fannie Mae FHFA Freddie Mac Investors Justice Department Lenders & Servicers Mortgage Fraud Service Providers 2013-10-24 Carrie Bay
Share House Financial Services Committee HUD Julián Castro 2015-02-09 Seth Welborn HUD Secretary Prepares to Meet House Committee HUD Secretary Julian Castro is scheduled to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday starting at 10 a.m. Eastern time.This will be the first time Castro has testified before Congress since being named HUD Secretary in July 2014. In recent public appearances, such as a speech at the National Press Club and in a fireside chat-style meeting last month, Castro has touted 2015 as a “year of housing opportunity.”Among the topics Castro is expected to answer questions about before the committee are the budget of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and President Obama’s announcement last month that the FHA would be lowering its annual mortgage insurance premiums by 50 basis points down to 0.85 percent in order to make homeownership affordable for first-time buyers. HUD and FHA estimate that the lowering of the premiums will save homebuyers about $900 per year in mortgage payments.The administration estimates that the lowering of the premiums will result in 250,000 new homebuyers over the next three years. FHA’s value has increased by $21 billion in the last two years due to aggressive and necessary action taken in the last six years, according to HUD, and is on a strong trajectory.While the move of lowering the insurance premiums has been praised by Democrats as a way to increase homeownership among creditworthy borrowers, it has drawn criticism from GOP lawmakers who say the move puts taxpayers at risk and will eventually lead to a repeat of the 2008 mortgage meltdown.”The President’s decision reflects a race to the bottom between the FHA and the GSEs in which the private sector is crowded out and taxpayers are left holding the bag,” said Representative Ed Royce (R-California), a member of the House Financial Services Committee who will be questioning Castro on Wednesday. “The financial crisis is proof positive that an increased government presence in housing distorts the market and promotes the very boom-and-bust cycle we are trying to avoid.”Castro defended the lowering of the insurance premiums, however.”A few have even suggested that this is a return to the mania that fueled the crisis,” Castro said in his speech at the National Press Club last month. “It’s not. Our nation is smart enough to heed the lessons of the past without forsaking our future. The answer isn’t to deny responsible Americans homeownership—it’s to do it right.”Castro will likely face questions regarding HUD’s Blueprint for Credit Access. Critics claim that opening up mortgages to a larger pool of borrowers will degrade loan quality, which Castro says will not happen.”Policies have fundamentally changed to create safeguards so that we can offer the opportunity to own a home for people who are ready and responsible to buy,” he said.Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director Mel Watt testified before the committee on January 28 and faced tough questioning from Republican lawmakers on recent housing policies FHFA has enacted. in Daily Dose, Government, Headlines, News February 9, 2015 448 Views
While the percentage of homes in the United States with negative equity has declined substantially since the fourth quarter of 2013, they experienced a slight increase quarter-over-quarter in Q4 2014, according to CoreLogic’s Q4 2014 Equity Report released on Tuesday.CoreLogic reported that 10.8 percent of all residential homes were underwater in Q4 (about 5.4 million properties), which was down from 13.3 percent in the same quarter a year earlier – a decline of nearly 19 percent, or 1.2 million homes. The Q4 total was up slightly from the 10.3 percent that was reported for Q3 2014 – an increase of 3.3 percent.”The share of homeowners that had negative equity increased slightly in the fourth quarter of 2014, reflecting the typical weakness in home values during the final quarter of the year,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Our CoreLogic HPI (Home Price Index) dipped 0.7 percent from September to December, and the percent of owners ‘underwater’ increased to 10.8 percent. However, from December-to-December, the CoreLogic index was up 4.8 percent, and the negative equity share fell by 2.6 percentage points.”Despite the year-over-year decline in the percentage of underwater residential properties, negative equity remains a serious issue, according to Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. For the full year of 2014, 1.2 million borrowers regained equity – but nearly five and a half million properties remained in negative equity as of the end of the year after approximately 172,000 homes slipped into negative equity from the third quarter to the fourth quarter in 2014.Approximately 10 million of the nearly 50 million residential properties with a mortgage in the United States (about 20 percent) have less than 20 percent equity, a condition known as under-equitied. Approximately 1.4 million homes have less than 5 percent equity, a condition referred to as near-negative equity. Aside from the near-negative equity making it difficult to sell their home, underwriting constraints may prevent those with negative equity from obtaining financing to buying a new home, according to CoreLogic.Falling home prices may result in those with near-negative equity moving into negative equity status; CoreLogic said in the report that about one million homeowners would regain equity if home prices rose by as little as 5 percent.”We expect the situation to improve over the course of 2015,” Nallathambi said. “We project that the CoreLogic HomePrice Index will rise 5 percent in 2015, which will lift about one million homeowners out of negative equity.”The aggregate value of the negative equity for those 5.4 million underwater homes as of the end of 2014 was $349 billion, which was an increase of about $7 billion from the third quarter of 2014, according to CoreLogic. Year-over-year, however, the negative equity aggregate value declined in Q4 by 13.4 percent, down from $403 billion. in Daily Dose, Data, Featured CoreLogic Releases Equity Report Anand Nallathambi CoreLogic Equity Report Frank Nothaft 2015-03-17 Samantha Guzman Share March 17, 2015 711 Views
Federal Home Loan Bank of New York Georgia Jumbo Residential Mortgages Mortgage Trading Platform New York 2015-04-13 Scott_Morgan in Headlines, News, Origination The Federal Home Loan Bank of New York this week announced that it will partner with Atlanta-based mortgage clearing house Mortgage Asset Exchange (MAX Exchange) to launch a pilot program that will allow certain FHLBNY members to sell conforming and jumbo residential whole loan mortgages on an open exchange platform.The deal with MAX Exchange, a multi-seller to multi-buyer exchange and clearing house for residential mortgage loans, introduces a peer-to-peer mortgage trading platform to FHLBNY’s network of 12 regional banks that serve 340 financial institutions in New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The pilot program will include a limited number of pre-approved traditional secondary mortgage investors as buyers and a limited number of qualified FHLBNY members as both sellers and buyers.”Our mission,” said FHLBNY president and CEO Jose Gonzalez, “includes helping to improve our members’ capacity to serve their markets.” Gonzalez went on to say that in partnering with MAX, the bank will be able to “provide responsible local lenders with easy secondary mortgage market access and better execution.”Tom Pearce, president and CEO of MAX Exchange, said that the standardization and transparency provided by his company will “level the playing field for buyers and sellers of all sizes in the secondary mortgage market.”The MAX Exchange is an independent market utility that provides an open exchange platform for buying and selling mortgage loans and includes secondary market settlement with objective loan reviews, life-of-loan surveillance, and a fair and efficient dispute resolution process to protect both buyers and sellers, according to a joint statement by MAX and FHLBNY. The aim of the exchange is to reduce transaction costs and provide buyers and sellers with a single pipeline through which they can trade with many qualified counterparties, something FHLBNY is hoping to extend to its preferred customers. Share Federal Home Loan Bank of New York and MAX Exchange Pair Up to Expand Mortgage Services April 13, 2015 653 Views
in Daily Dose, Foreclosure, Headlines, News San Francisco-based advocacy group California Reinvestment Coalition (CRC) has asked HUD to impose a moratorium on home equity conversion mortgage (HECM, or reverse mortgage) foreclosures by CIT Group and its subsidiary, Financial Freedom.CRC requested the moratorium based on new data it obtained from HUD in the form of a fact sheet which shows that CIT Group/Financial Freedom were responsible for 39 percent of the 41,237 reverse mortgage foreclosures in the United States since April 2009 despite having an estimated market share of only 17 percent in the reverse mortgage market.Many of the reverse mortgage foreclosures that have occurred are “widow foreclosures,” or foreclosures that occur after the death of a non-borrowing spouse. These foreclosures are allowed to happen because some reverse mortgage originators name only the borrower on the reverse mortgage, which later allows the servicers to foreclose on the non-borrowing spouse. Many of the foreclosed-on non-borrowing spouses are seniors.“CRC was contacted by a number of widowed homeowners and other heirs who shared disturbing stories about Financial Freedom,” said Kevin Stein, associate director at CRC. “Using a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request, we asked Financial Freedom’s primary regulator, HUD, about the total number of foreclosures it had completed, and the number of complaints HUD had received against Financial Freedom.”Stein said the new data they obtained from HUD on reverse mortgages provides a “red flag that something is amiss” at Financial Freedom.“This builds on the troubling consumer stories shared with us about Financial Freedom and CIT Group disclosing it had received subpoenas about Financial Freedom from HUD’s OIG (Office of Inspector General),” Stein said.Maeve Elise Brown, executive director at Housing and Economic Rights Advocates, added, “This newly uncovered data about Financial Freedom’s outsized role in HECM foreclosures is troubling, and suggests the need for a thorough and transparent investigation.”The CRC originally made the FOIA request in November 2014 to obtain more information on HUD’s oversight of the reverse mortgage industry, such as the number of complaints against Financial Freedom. The CRC said that it was told that HUD could not fully comply with the request because HUD estimated it would take 120 years to compile all the information they asked for.“It’s deeply concerning from a consumer protection standpoint when the main regulator for an industry tells you that because of their outdated technology, it will take them 120 years to compile complaint data about one of the companies they’re supposed be regulating,” Stein said. “If HUD lacks the ability to systematically access, analyze, and respond to consumer complaint data, how can it effectively regulate this industry, and individual companies? This is important information for identifying problematic practices and bad actors. In comparison, anybody with an internet connection can use the CFPB’s complaint database, and the CFPB routinely publishes public reports about the complaints it receives.”Neither HUD nor CIT Group immediately responded to requests for comment on the CRC’s bid for a moratorium on reverse mortgage foreclosures.Click here to view the fact sheet on the FOIA request. California Reinvestment Coalition CIT Group HECM HUD Reverse Mortgages Widow Foreclosures 2016-04-28 Seth Welborn April 28, 2016 459 Views Share Is Something Amiss in the Reverse Mortgage Industry?
May 19, 2016 489 Views Calling the Dodd-Frank Act a “negative force,” presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Wednesday that in the next couple of weeks he will unveil a plan to overhaul the controversial Wall Street reform law that was passed in 2010 in response to the crisis.While he did not disclose specific changes he would make, Trump told Reuters that his plan will be a “near dismantling” of Dodd-Frank.“Dodd-Frank has made it impossible for bankers to function,” Trump said in the Reuters interview. “It makes it very hard for bankers to loan money for people to create jobs, for people with businesses to create jobs. And that has to stop.”The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, was swift to respond to Trump’s stated intention to overhaul Dodd-Frank. Wednesday morning, Clinton tweeted, “Latest reckless idea from Trump: gut rules on Wall Street, and leave middle-class families out to dry.”Donald TrumpRepublicans have been trying to roll back Dodd-Frank ever since it was passed in July 2010. Lately several bills aimed at chipping away at the law have gained traction in Congress. In mid-April, two such bills passed in the House Financial Services Committee; one to repeal Dodd-Frank’s bailout fund for large, complex financial institutions and one to put the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s spending on a budget in an attempt to make the Bureau more accountable to taxpayers.Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, recently told DS News that “America needs a new vision—a new model for financial reform—because the Dodd-Frank Act is a failure.”Democrats have generally been fiercely protective of Dodd-Frank and highly critical of Republican efforts to undermine it. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-California), ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, said of those two bills that passed in the Committee in mid-April, “Both of these bills, if enacted, would take our financial system back to September of 2008, when regulators did not have the tools to protect consumers or the broader economy from financial sector ruin. It would take us back to a time when we were hemorrhaging nearly 800,000 jobs a month, household wealth dropped by $13 trillion, and millions of our fellow Americans were facing foreclosure, eviction, and potential homelessness.”Latest reckless idea from Trump: gut rules on Wall Street, and leave middle-class families out to dry. https://t.co/MXXH9JmfQj— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) May 17, 2016 in Daily Dose, Government, Headlines, News Dodd-Frank Donald Trump Financial Reform Wall Street 2016-05-19 Seth Welborn Trump Planning Dodd-Frank Overhaul Share
July 12, 2016 750 Views Homeownership Mortgage Industry mortgage originations 2016-07-12 Seth Welborn Mortgage Re-engineering: Rebranding the Product in Commentary, Daily Dose, News, Origination By Ona NgnoumenHomeownership, with its visions of tree lined sidewalks and white picket fences, endures as a symbol of “The American Dream.” Multiple statistics corroborate that the “dream” is alive and thriving, including the results of the third annual “How America Views Homeownership Survey” conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs and Wells Fargo. Ninety-three percent of respondents still believed that homeownership is a significant accomplishment and 86 percent say homeownership is the realization of their dream. However, according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies’ 2016 State of the Nation’s Housing report, the U.S. homeownership rate has fallen to its lowest point in approximately 50 years.What could explain the reason for this disconnect? While there are arguably multiple contributing factors to this decline, key considerations are the perception of the mortgage process and the mortgage industry being perceived as “difficult,” “confusing,” and “untrustworthy.” In several polls, the mortgage process has been rated more stressful than bankruptcy, divorce, childbirth and even bereavement.The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Consumer’s Mortgage Shopping Experience Report for 2015 identifies mortgage complaints third in volume after complaints regarding debt collection and credit reporting. These grievances stem from the following issues expressed by clients regarding the mortgage industry: a lack of confidence, communication gaps and a lack of industry investment in the client experience. Addressing these issues becomes crucial to repairing this relationship.Client confidence has eroded as the mortgage process became an increasingly combatant relationship between the mortgage industry, borrowers and regulators. The already tenuous balance that once existed between these groups suffered a drastic decline with the housing crisis of the last decade and the “blame game” we witnessed as a result.Currently the government is working to enact a correction to the issues raised during the housing crisis through increased regulation. While this effort may facilitate process and procedural changes, it fails to concretely repair the relationship between clients and the industry. To achieve this we need to incorporate three components into our product philosophy: simplify, educate and engage (S.E.E.).Borrowing a page from Apple’s accomplishments in the personal computing industry, the mortgage industry must understand that this need to simplify begins with our efforts towards targeting and retaining clients, starting with the product packaging phase. The fact that the “average” American reads at a 7th or 8th grade level informs us that the way we attract and initially educate our clients needs to change fundamentally. Just as Apple leveraged simplification and minimalism in its design philosophy and the use of graphic user interface & icons; the mortgage industry should move to identify and remove the “noise” around our core offerings by paring down the various “exotic” loan packages available and going back to more basic loan options that are simple, specific and easy to communicate. We need to re-package and re-brand our product to better address and meet the needs of our clients. This includes simplifying the loan application process with shorter documentation that is easier to understand.The next critical component is to educate the stakeholders at each stage of the process. A 2015 survey by the CFPB shows that nearly half of borrowers are not familiar with the way the mortgage process works and as a result do not “shop” for a loan. Their lack of knowledge makes the process intimidating and they default to relying on their lender, mortgage broker, realtor and friends for mortgage advice.At the same time, we as lenders currently “woo” in the origination stage of the process. Once our clients have made a borrowing commitment, we find that we are not as familiar with them as we imagined. We also fail to provide the right education, best fit or to clearly articulate the nuances of our product. Consequently, a large percentage of client feedback illustrates the perception that they were not provided with a clear expectation of their product and its behavior over the product lifecycle. It comes as no surprise that our clients do not feel confident in their lending relationship. It reveals a need to understand our potential customers better, beginning with the initial client contact.Using the Apple philosophy, the focus should not be on pushing a sale but rather on having the product address the consumer needs. Originators should be as knowledgeable as servicers and should be able to clearly articulate the advantages and disadvantages of each product to better anticipate and address client questions or concerns from the early stages of the process. Educating the client continues through the origination and the subsequent servicing of the product. Apple understood this continuing need for product knowledge and responsiveness and answered by providing in-store “Genius Bars” for firsthand immediate assistance with client concerns; a significant factor in their consistent rating of exceptional customer service.Finally, we must place more emphasis on engaging our clients throughout the loan application process and subsequent servicing. Statistics show that about 77 percent of clients typically only seriously consider and apply with one lender and stop shopping with their first application. Our goal should be to make that first application a meaningful experience – the focus being on “experience.” Also, given the clients’ predominant initial reliance on their lenders for mortgage advice, we have a tremendous opportunity to build a relationship based on trust and loyalty with them. People tend not to remember the facts of a situation but rather how they felt during and as a result of the interaction. We need to be attentive to that experience throughout the product lifecycle. As such, the industry must take a more relational approach to the process, communication and terminology. A starting point would be to soften the terminology used to identify the client and certain client demographics.For example, “borrower” denotes indebtedness and to an extent subservience, which may be theoretically true, however- the reality would indicate that the interest payments received from these clients are an essential source of revenue to our business and significant to our financial success. Such verbiage does not convey the vital role the customer plays in our success. In like manner, the terms “default” and “delinquent” do not ideally communicate partnership or mutual esteem. Instead, they illustrate the industry’s desensitization and the increasingly widening gap between us and our clients.As “delinquency” or the number of distressed mortgages continues to fall and the market moves closer to “normal,” the mortgage industry has an opportunity to reinvent itself by selling an experience: the belief in the American Dream and the commitment to helping our clients as active partners in making that dream a reality.Ironically, as the catalyst that helps people realize their dream: build homes, neighborhoods and communities we have lost the relational aspect of our core product and the experiences associated with it. Like all iconic products that endure, it is time for the industry to self-identify and re-brand ourselves as a partner in the process and we can achieve this by going back to the basics: a product that is simple to communicate and understand, a process that invests in its stakeholders providing education at every step, and engages them in a community that is vested in their success. Share