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Quest Means Business
E.U. Warns Of Further Vaccine Export Controls; E.U. Plans Digital Certificate For Travel Through Europe; Senate Confirms Katherine Tai As U.S. Trade Representative; IATA Calls For Consolidation Of The Aviation Industry; Major Hotel Chain's Stock Reaches All-Time High; Where Capitalism And Conservation Flow Together: "Call To Earth". Aired 4-5p ET
Aired March 17, 2021 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Closing bell ringing on Wall Street. Dow at an all-time high. Dow over 33,000. A busy day, the market
roared in the late afternoon. That is the way the market is looking.
The day so far. Europe's vaccine rollout grows ever more chaotic. Now, the Commission says it may block further exports.
The predictions go up, rates stay low. Fed's latest forecast seeks to reassure investors.
And call it a green light for the green pass. Spain's Foreign Minister tonight about plans for a Euro-wide vaccine certificate.
We are live in New York, as always. Today, it is Wednesday, middle of the week, March 17th. I'm Richard Quest. And oh yes, I mean business.
Good evening. Tonight, more chaos in Europe over vaccines, as the European Commission President has accused AstraZeneca of under producing and under
delivering. She is blaming the drug maker for the bloc's troubled vaccine rollout.
Ursula von der Leyen says Brussels could use emergency powers to speed things up by blocking vaccine exports. The decision by some countries to
pause AstraZeneca jabs on the grounds of clots is being second guessed now.
The W.H.O., the European Medicines Agency and even Dr. Fauci in the U.S. all say AstraZeneca is safe, even as Spain reports two people who have
received the vaccine suffering blood clots, one of them since died.
Meanwhile, Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister in Parliament, offered a show of confidence, saying he will soon get the AstraZeneca jab himself.
And Italy's medicine regulator says politics has entered the equation. The E.U. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen blamed AstraZeneca for the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
URSULA VON DER LEYEN, EUROPEAN COMMISSION PRESIDENT: But we also know that AstraZeneca has unfortunately, under produced and under delivered. And this
painfully, of course, reduce the speed of the vaccination campaign.
Now, the figures are that in the first quarter, AstraZeneca was supposed to deliver 90 million doses. They reduced that at first to down to 40 million.
Now, their projection is that AstraZeneca will deliver 30 million doses until the end of the first quarter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Fred Pleitgen is with me in Berlin. Well, it doesn't really matter if they deliver five million or 500 million if the use of AstraZeneca is
suspended. I mean, it's a red herring what she's talking about.
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, not only that the use of the vaccine is suspended, and that's something of course,
that could change tomorrow. But one of the other things that Ursula von der Leyen did not mention is that there are millions of doses that were on the
shelf, even before the use of AstraZeneca was suspended simply because a lot of the European member states, Germany, of course, being one of the
main ones aren't vaccinating at a very fast rate and simply aren't getting their vaccine rollouts going.
And one of the other things, of course, that also needs to be said about the European Union's acquisition in the first place of AstraZeneca is that
it took them a very long time to actually finalize those contracts. And that, of course, led to the fact that AstraZeneca vaccines were delivered a
lot quicker and a lot more quantity to other countries, like for instance, the United Kingdom, where of course the vaccine rollout is going a lot
And then of course, you also have within the European Union, Richard, between the European Medicines Agency and some of the local country
medicines agency, also very different takes on them.
Like for instance, the Germans initially only approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for people 65 and under; the European Medicines Agency approving
for all age groups and that's just something that really undermined trust in that vaccine for a very long time.
I did a report about two to three weeks ago where people were telling us that in vaccination centers in Germany, people were coming in and asking
not to get the AstraZeneca vaccines.
Certainly, there was a lot on the European level that was done that really undermined faith in that vaccine -- Richard.
QUEST: Right, but Fred, the idea, though, that there is truth to the point that AstraZeneca has not been able to deliver the number of vaccines it
said, arguably it says because there are export restrictions, and so it can't get the precursors.
PLEITGEN: Well, exactly. The European Union and Ursula von der Leyen was saying that initially, 90 million doses were supposed to be delivered by
AstraZeneca saying that in the first quarter, they're going to be able to deliver 30 million or 80 million.
They said they're going to be able to deliver only 30 million because some of these export restrictions.
PLEITGEN: But on the other hand, of course, you have the European Union as well, that has some of these export restrictions in place, and that was one
of the things that Ursula von der Leyen was threatening today is that these export restrictions could be used on a larger scale.
And I'm not sure that she was necessarily only targeting AstraZeneca in those remarks, because she very clearly seemed to be talking about the
United Kingdom as well.
The European Union believes that the U.K. should send some of the doses of AstraZeneca that were produced in the U.K., back here to Europe, and
they're saying so far that simply isn't happening.
So she was taking a lot of swipes at AstraZeneca, but clearly also talking about other countries as well. Of course, the European Union does have a
lot of power with those export restrictions, potentially, to really undermine deliveries of vaccine to other countries as well.
On the other hand, of course, it is a bloc that has always prided itself on free trade, and is a bloc that really leaves off free global trade, not
just in terms of vaccines, but to other things as well.
So it isn't a great look on the part of the European Union to be talking about export restrictions and stopping deliveries to other countries
outside of the E.U. -- Richard.
QUEST: Fred is in Berlin. We will talk more on this of that I am sure.
Europe's slow vaccine rollout. Well, at this point, it could dash hopes to save the summer holidays. It is still early. But the E.U. has unveiled
plans for a new digital green certificate that would allow people to move freely.
Travelers must prove either that they have been fully vaccinated, or that they've received a negative test result or recovered from COVID-19 within a
certain number of days.
There will be a digital QR code. It will allow entry to any E.U. member state.
Spain's Foreign Minister, Arancha Gonzalez Laya is with me, we're always glad to have you on the program, Minister, thank you.
Look, we'll break this down. We'll get to the green pass in just a moment. I'm having trouble with this business of the suspension of the vaccine,
AstraZeneca, over this idea of an abundance of caution.
If all the regulators say -- if all the regulators say keep going, it is safe. Where is the abundance of caution in deciding to stop?
ARANCHA GONZALEZ LAYA, SPANISH PRIME MINISTER: Well, Richard, I would say that vaccine rollout is dependent on confidence, on trust of our citizens
and it is important that we make sure that the trust is there.
At the moment, some citizens have questions and this is why in Europe, a number of countries including in Spain have temporarily suspended the use
of Astra Zeneca out of precautionary reasons. We are awaiting the verdict of the European Medicines Agency in order to take a final decision.
But for us, what's very important is to make sure that we build the trust of our citizens. So if we have to wait a couple of extra days, let's do
QUEST: Hang on -- but, Minister, surely you're doing exactly the opposite, because whilst you're saying let's wait, let's wait, let's wait. Those
various agencies, those very same agencies are saying don't wait, don't wait. Don't wait, keep vaccinating.
So when you do eventually start again, people don't know who to believe.
LAYA: No, I disagree with this, Richard. At the moment, we have asked the European Medicines Agency to give us their view. And it's on this basis
that we will decide the next step.
It's a temporary suspension. It's been two days of suspension. We surely can wait a few days to ensure that what we are doing is fully safe for our
citizens. It's a good approach. It builds confidence of citizens and that's what we are there for.
QUEST: Can we talk about the summer ahead? Is it Spain's intention to try and do various deals? Cyprus has done it with the U.K. already. Greece is
looking at it.
Are you going to do deals with countries like the U.K. where fully vaccinated people will be able to come to Spain and enjoy a good summer
LAYA: Well, we certainly are getting ready, Richard, and we have as the horizon, the summer, and we want by that time to be very advanced in the
vaccination of our citizens. We want to have a big critical mass of Spanish citizens vaccinated. If all goes according to plan, we will be there.
And we also want a digital green pass to be available in the European Union and beyond. This is why in addition to working in the E.U. to advance the
pass, which we very much support, we are also working with O.E.C.D. countries to ensure that pass is also built with them.
The more we build this as a multilateral tool, the more we will ensure a return to orderly and safe mobility.
And for a country like Spain who loves tourists, and who loves tourism, this is a crucial thing now. Invest in building a global tool to restore
mobility in a safe and orderly manner. That's what we are investing in.
QUEST: Right, but is the green pass the way to do it? I.A.T.A is already working on the travel pass, which could become the industry standard. I
worry that you know for visitors to Spain, for example, from the U.K., from the United States, from non-E.U. countries, are you at risk of locking
yourself into an E.U. system? And how are you going to get it to work with other systems?
LAYA: Well, this is why, Richard, as Spain argued for this certificate in the European Union, but we also argued for this certificate in the
O.E.C.D., in the international organization where the U.S. seats, where were the U.K. seats, where Canada seats, where Australia and New Zealand
seats. Where Brazil and Chile and Colombia seat and we want to do this at the O.E.C.D. also, because the more countries have a standard system, the
better it will be.
We have learned from the beginning of this pandemic, which was a bit chaotic that the more we standardize what we are asking citizens to provide
us, evidence, it will be easier to restore mobility and mobility as we all know is essential for tourism.
QUEST: Minister, we will talk again over the summer. I'm looking forward to coming to Madrid and talking to you there which will be sooner rather than
later. But thank you, this evening. I appreciate your time.
Thank you, ma'am.
Now international --
LAYA: Looking forward to welcoming you in Madrid, Richard.
QUEST: Thank you. The international aviation -- the I.A.T.A. as you and I know it is launching its own travel pass after successfully trialing it on
a first international flight on Wednesday, the D.G. of I.A.T.A. Alexandre de Juniac tells me, it is the key to restarting travel, and it could end up
a key part of his legacy as Alexandre de Juniac prepares to step down.
I spoke to him on Tuesday. He warned the travel recovery is facing a growing threat from the spread of new COVID variants.
ALEXANDER DE JUNIAC, DIRECTOR GENERAL, I.A.T.A: When the variants surged by the beginning of the year, all the hope and the optimism we had at the end
of 2020 disappeared. The border closures came back. Travel restrictions came back.
The traffic, you know, dropped again, and so we are still in the difficult period.
Now, we hope that in the coming weeks due to the rollout of the vaccination, at least in developed countries, they will reopen borders and
we see some signs of optimism in the U.S. or in some countries in Europe, not all of them, but some of them; and in Asia, things are moving very
slowly in the right direction, so we are not desperate. But there's a long way to go.
QUEST: What's the biggest worry now? It seems to me it's besides just sort of traffic, is this idea of a world of some who can travel, whether you
have vaccination certificates. I know you're not in favor of a vaccination certificate being a de facto passport to travel.
DE JUNIAC: Yes, we are not recommending that vaccination is mandatory to travel, of course, but we fully understand that there will be a requirement
either of testing or vaccination to know whether you have been infected and you are normally immune. If it's -- if it works.
So what we do is that we have provided the tool for that to certify that either you have been tested, vaccinated or you are immune under the I.A.T.A
But we think it's a key instrument as a complement of the testing and vaccination that the government have to ensure that traveling is safe and
that air travel is safe.
QUEST: The travel pass has great promise to be a cornerstone, but I guess many of us, myself, perhaps included naively, Alexandre, we thought to
ourselves, hang on, once this is over, middle of this year, next year, whatever it might be, why will we need these things? But you're suggesting
that this is here for the foreseeable.
DE JUNIAC: We think that it is important for the restart and as restart will last for months, and perhaps one or two years, it will be necessary
during this period.
After, if COVID disappears or if it is not any more concern for governments and health authorities, we will not need a specific COVID-19 app.
But our app is broader than that and it can be used as a kind of digital identity or digital passport that will simplify everything for passengers
and it will be an enormous improvement.
QUEST: When it comes to economies and the U.S. economy, it's not even time to start talking about talking about tapering according to the Fed Chairman
The latest forecasts from the Fed after the break.
And also a new face. The U.S. trade policy has Katherine Tai officially begins the job. I'll talk to Britain's Ambassador to the U.S. about some
tough negotiations, trade negotiations that will be ahead, in a moment.
QUEST: The Dow just closed above 33,000 for the first time. It comes after the Fed upgraded its economic growth forecast and that's where you see that
sudden whoosh as the press conference gets underway late in the afternoon to the meeting's minutes were released.
Now most Fed officials don't expect any rate rises before the year 2023. The Fed also upped its growth forecast by more than two percent from
December and says it will hold steady on bond purchases.
Earlier, the Chair, Jerome Powell, of course, said now is not the time to pull back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEROME POWELL, CHAIRMAN, U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE: We've said that we would continue asset purchases at this pace until we see substantial further
progress and that's actual progress, not forecast progress. And that's a difference from our past approach.
And what we mean by that is pretty straightforward. It is we want to see that the labor markets have moved -- labor market conditions have moved,
you know, have made substantial progress toward maximum employment and inflation has made substantial progress toward the two percent goal. That's
what we're going to want to see now.
Now, that obviously includes an element of judgment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Matt Egan is with me, our senior writer, Matt, JPMorgan's economist has just put out a note. It's titled, "No Nay, Never, No Hikes." I mean,
the 2023 is what the market seems to believe is where it's going. But this stimulus, this market, the stock market, give me some more.
MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR WRITER: Yes, Richard. Jerome Powell had to do a delicate dance here. On the one hand, he had to acknowledge the
obvious, which is that this U.S. economy is really gaining steam. I mean, the recovery is shaping up to be quite robust, at least this year.
But Powell also had to then explain why the Fed is in no rush to get out of crisis mode. And, you know, it's a tough case to make.
As you mentioned, the Fed did significantly upgrade its economic forecast, they are now calling for 6.5 percent GDP growth this year, that's up from
4.2 percent previously. They upgraded their unemployment forecast. They upgraded inflation as well.
But clearly Jerome Powell, he is not ready to declare victory just yet. He pointed out that, listen, the economy is still down nine and a half million
jobs relative to where it was before the pandemic. Unemployment among minorities is still high. Unemployment for hard hit sectors is high.
And so clearly, he's not willing to pull this support just yet. And as you mentioned, the markets seem to love it. We have the Dow closing above
33,000 for the first time ever.
QUEST: Square the circle, though. Look, unemployment, this four and a half percent, which is where we were, de facto where we were before the
pandemic. Yes, I know there's underemployed. There are people who are part time and et cetera, et cetera.
But we are rapidly heading back to -- on this program last night, we had the -- we've had the head of PwC. We've had the head of -- a load of people
all saying that everybody is looking forward to a bumper rest of year.
EGAN: Yes, that's right. I mean, the economist I talked to, they're expecting China like GDP growth in the United States this year. I talked to
BlackRock's Rick Rieder, and he said he can't remember the last time he was this optimistic on the economy.
But as far as squaring this, I think what you have to remember, Richard, and you know this, is that the Fed is worried not about inflation. They're
not really worried about overheating the economy.
In fact, I talked to Bill Dudley and he said that's their goal. They want to overheat the economy. What they're scared of is deflation, because they
don't know how to get out of deflation. That is what really worries them.
So what they want to do is put as much distance between themselves and balling prices. And so they want to wait, make sure this recovery actually
goes as forecasted and at that point, they then maybe able to start talking about talking about removing some of this stimulus.
QUEST: You and I -- then you and I will be talking about taper tantrums, and concepts of boom and bust.
Matt, good to see you, sir. Hope you and the family all our well. Thank you, sir.
EGAN: Thank you.
QUEST: Now the Senate has confirmed Katherine Tai as the Biden administration's new Trade Representative. Of all the pressing issues she's
got, it includes a proposed trade deal with the U.K. in the aftermath of Brexit.
Some senators are vowing to oppose the deal unless Britain upholds the terms of the Good Friday Peace Accords on Northern Ireland, which to be
fair that they certainly seem to be doing as well to the last negotiations.
President Biden underscored his own commitment to the Northern Ireland Agreement in talks with the Irish Prime Minister a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, my view and the view of my predecessor -- of the Obama-Biden administration on the Good
Friday Agreements. We strongly support them. I think it's critically important that they be maintained and the political economic stability of
Northern Ireland is very much in the interest of all our people so people to people ties.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
QUEST: Dame Karen Pierce, is the British Ambassador to the United States. Dame Karen joins me from Washington tonight.
Ambassador, thank you for taking the time. How are you going to convince the U.S. administration that the Northern Ireland -- that the Good Friday
Agreement is okay bearing in mind that the European Commission has just launched legal action, claiming the U.K. is breaking the protocol on
Northern Ireland as a result of its actions in terms of the withdrawal agreement?
KAREN PIERCE, BRITISH AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Well, the first thing I'd say is Happy St. Patrick's Day, to all are Irish, and Irish-
American friends. And the second thing is that Boris Johnson and the British government are deeply committed to the Good Friday Agreement, and
have pledged not to introduce a hard border on the Island of Ireland.
He has made that very clear to the Irish government and our Secretary of State has made it very clear to Chairman Neal and other members of the
Friends of Ireland Caucus here on St. Patrick's Day yesterday in the day before.
With the infraction proceedings that the E.U. have launched, we think it's not necessary to go down that particular route, but I would point out that
there are some 900 infractions a year that the E.U. deals with from member states. So hopefully, that gives you some sense of proportion.
PIERCE: What has happened is that we had to introduce some temporary practical measures so that deliveries could get through to Northern Ireland
shops and suppliers.
QUEST: The issue, of course of a Free Trade Agreement, and the last administration, I suppose there was a possibility for that more. -- hope
there's a possibility for that for more, hopefully, you can hear me still when I put my mind back on, but how are you going to convince the
administration to move forward fast with a with a Free Trade Agreement with the United Kingdom?
PIERCE: Well, Katherine Tai has just been confirmed unanimously as the new U.S. Trade Representative, and our Trade Secretary, we hope will be
speaking to her early next week. So congratulations to Miss Tai on that.
We don't want to put ourselves under a deadline on negotiating a Free Trade Agreement. We want a good comprehensive agreement rather than a fast one,
but we will be talking to U.S.T.R. and working out what is possible, given that the Biden administration also wants to get a lot of domestic
legislation through as your previous interview was showing.
So we understand that, but we want to have a good thorough conversation about what might be possible in the short term.
QUEST: Ultimately, Ambassador, the new British strategic review came out, "Global Britain in a Competitive Age." And I've spoken to various ministers
on this program about the various trade relationships and I understand how significant trade is in your own portfolio.
But how do you convince -- how do you convince the Americans to continue to regard Britain as a player -- besides nuclear weapons, for example, when
next door, the E.U. is such a larger market demanding of their attention?
PIERCE: If we look at it purely from the markets and trade point of view, there's obviously a bigger equation when it comes to security. The E.U. is
the third largest economy in the world taken as one single market, but the U.K. is the fifth largest, and we are the largest single investor in the
U.S. and vice versa.
So we already have a very strong bilateral economic relationship. And if we want to make a difference to things like protectionism and free and fair
trade, then U.S. and U.K. are natural partners for all the reasons of our common law system and our support for open markets.
The issues that have so far bedeviled a U.S.-E.U. trade agreement are still there, notably on agriculture and audio visual. So I don't think it's the
case that America would quickly be able to have a deal with the European Union.
But we've got a lot of things to work out together. That includes the E.U., U.S., U.K. We've got to sort out economic resilience and supply chains and
those are some of the things we will be concentrating on.
As Britain, we have the presidency of the G-7 this year, and Boris Johnson will hold the Summit in June and these are some of the areas we'll be
looking at together.
QUEST: And we hope that Dame Karen that you will join us as the year moves on, you and I will get a chance to talk about these issues more often.
Thank you, ma'am. I appreciate your time, Ambassador.
PIERCE: I'd like that. Thank you.
QUEST: Thank you. Airlines are looking and longing for more collaboration by governments on the future of travel. One of Europe's largest low-cost
airlines will talk about the E.U.'s digital green certificate and find out if it's the right answer. The CEO of Wizz after the break.
QUEST: Hello, I'm Richard Quest. There's more QUEST MEANS BUSINESS in just a moment.
The director general of IATA says the aviation industry needs more consolidation. I'll ask the Wizz Air CEO if he agrees.
And the CEO of Wyndham Hotels tells me how his company's shares are at an all-time high despite the collapse in the travel industry.
As you and I continue this evening, this is CNN. And on this network, the news always comes first.
The police are not calling deadly shootings at three spas in Atlanta a hate crime although the authorities say they have not ruled out bias.
Eight people were killed on Tuesday, six of them Asian women. The police say the suspect told investigators he has a sexual addiction and the spas
were a temptation he wanted to eliminate.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has told CNN at least 202 people have been killed in Myanmar since the military coup last month.
Security forces are carrying out an increasingly brutal crackdown on protesters turning parts of some cities into virtual war zones.
The British health secretary says the country's vaccine rollout is still on track after the English national health service warned of supply
In a letter the NHS suggested not making any new vaccine appointments in April. That's because -- its significant reduction in supply. Instead it
says it will focus on delivering people's second doses instead.
The former president Lula Da Silva is calling for a global summit on COVID vaccines. Speaking to Christiane Amanpour, he urged President Joe Biden to
call an urgent meeting of G20 nations. The full interview is on "Amanpour" at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday.
Iceland says it will open its borders to vaccinated visitors. That'll include those from non-Schengen countries such as the U.K. and the USA.
Previously only people with vaccine certificates from E.U. and EEA were exempt in the country.
From tomorrow, anyone fully vaccinated will be allowed to travel to Iceland without being subject to border measures such as testing and quarantining.
That invariably gives further credence to the green pass that the E.U. Commission has announced and Travel Pass, which IATA launched today and had
the first successful use of.
Joseph Varadi is the CEO of Wizz air, Europe's largest low-cost airlines. Joe's with me from Austria this evening and joins me via Skype.
QUEST: The idea of green pass, travel pass, are you in favor of having this as a requirement before you can fly?
JOZSEF VARADI, CEO, WIZZ AIR: First of all, good evening, everyone. Thank you for inviting me.
Of course that has to be a solution here. Systemic problems require systemic solutions and we need to figure this out. So far every country has
been doing something on its own, and we need to have a coordinated approach here.
Belarus has a green pass, it is a certificate, whatever it is. But I think people who get vaccinated, who's got antibodies and who are tested negative
should be able to travel and should be able to fly again.
QUEST: Of course, you said about the confusion element, that's going to be the key part of it, getting everybody to agree. You're expecting to fly
nearly your full capacity this summer, aren't you?
VARADI: Yes, this is what we are expecting. We will see what we going to be able to do this summer.
This is an issue of restrictions imposed by governments much more than people's desire to fly. I think people want to go, I think people are
waiting for the moment to travel.
Interestingly, the U.K. government announced the opening on the 17th of May and our booking system has exploded as a result as of that day. So people
are eager to go. But we need to see how governments are lifting restrictions currently imposed.
QUEST: Where are you going to grow? I keep seeing press releases there's a few more planes here, a base there. But what is your strategy in a post-
pandemic world where leisure travel is going to be more significant arguably for the foreseeable than business travel?
VARADI: We have been diversifying our network since the breakout of COVID- 19. Since then we have opened 300 new routes, opened 70 new operating bases. And at the same time we have been taking new aircraft deliveries, 20
brand-new aircraft, in this period.
Clearly, we are diversifying capacity towards leisure destinations, countryside destinations, seaside destinations. I don't think people will
go to capital cities, they going to have fresh air and enjoy the sun, enjoy the sea. So this is where our network is becoming biased towards.
QUEST: Look at your share price -- and I know CEOs don't usually want to comment on the share price. And arguably, there are things in the
financials of Wizz Air that do sort of boost your share price.
But even so, your share price now is higher, considerably higher, than it was before the pandemic. This suggests that you're doing something that --
well, obviously it doesn't suggest, it tells us -- you're doing something that investors like.
VARADI: I would hope so. That the investors like what we are now doing. They are supporting our market diversification, our strategy, our
continuing innovation in terms of fleet and our management updates that we keep investing into, human resources as well.
I think what is happening today is this is the first economic crisis that is happening with a lot of money on hand. There's a lot of liquidity out
there Countries are printing money and investors are looking for good ideas.
And I think they have figured Wizz Air out as one of the good ideas to invest into, and we are seeing a lot of demand for our shares. And as a
result, of course we are seeing the share price going up.
QUEST: Good to see you, sir. Thank you. I appreciate your time tonight. Good to see you.
VARADI: Thank you very much.
QUEST: As we continue, I speak to the philanthropist Christine Tompkins about what she calls capitalist jiu-jitsu.
Using profits to protect landscapes for future generations to come.
It's "Call to Earth." After the break.
QUEST: In today's "Call to Earth" I talk to one of the most successful national park philanthropists in history.
She's Kristine Tompkins, the former CEO of Patagonia. Along with her late husband, the co-founder of North Face has invested millions of dollars to
preserve fragile ecosystems in South America through Tompkins Conservation.
They have helped protect more than 14 million acres of parkland in Chile and in Argentina.
She spoke to me a few days ago from her home in California.
The gargantuan size that you managed to create through all of this is eye- popping.
KRISTINE TOMPKINS, PRESIDENT & CO-FOUNDER, TOMPKINS CONSERVATION: It is. But when you put it in comparison to the amount of land that's being
converted to production every day around someplace in the world, the nearly 15 million acres is sort of a drop in the bucket. And we're trying to
double that or triple that over time.
QUEST: But this idea of rewilding --
QUEST: -- bringing back species. It's not without controversy, is it?
TOMPKINS: Honestly, nothing we do is without controversy, I would say. If you think back where we started almost 30 years ago in Chile, which was
We were taking these vast territories putting them into conservation and therefore taking them out of production. And that was heresy in its day.
And, of course, you bring back a top predator in any ecosystem and you have untold quantities of pushback.
But if you don't do these things, if you truly look at the importance of something not by its presence but by its absence, then you begin to look
through things from a different prism.
QUEST: Is there an inherent conflict between conservation and capitalism?
TOMPKINS: Absolutely. I often call what we do capitalist jiu-jitsu. We're taking the funds that we garnered from our world in business, turn it
around and fight the very things that capitalism encourages and promotes. There are limits to growth.
But when you accept that then you have to figure out what then is the role of capitalism in a world that is not ever-expansive.
QUEST: But that same argument does say that eventually the market will correct the imbalances, simply by supply and demand. Admittedly, a lot of
damage is done in the process.
TOMPKINS: Yes, of course. If you look just at the last 200 years, the market is correcting for that. That's absolutely true.
But at the heart of it when you look at, say, the markets today that are seemingly completely disconnected to what's happening on the ground in a
year of pandemic, the markets are doing really well. Meantime, the events on the ground are not so positive.
QUEST: Ah, but that's where you have your conundrum.
QUEST: Because the markets doing really well gives you more resources to then go on and do the work that you're doing. It is two --
TOMPKINS: I didn't say I was complaining about it. What we do, conserving land, sea, bringing back species that have gone extinct, this is all just
attempting to keep some semblance of balance between the global economic system and the non-human world.
There is a fallacy within the business community at large that it's either/or, that you have to be conservationists or you have to be
capitalists. And that's the most short-sighted, dangerous, ridiculous position to take.
QUEST: Never tell me that business and conservation and climate change don't all go together. As you heard perfectly in that interview.
Whatever point of view you come to, it's all part of the same thing.
We'll continue showcasing inspirational stories such as these as part of the initiative at CNN. And you have your views at #calltoearth, what you're
QUEST: If you want to know how the COVID situation is going to be adjusting, just look at the share price of various travel and tourism
companies. Investors are showing confidence.
They rebound when they think things are going well. Sending Wyndham Hotels, for example, Wyndham shares to an all-time high. The company's stock's been
steadily gaining despite the drop in travel and demand.
It's the world's largest hotel franchising company; 9,000 hotels in more than 90 countries.
Geoff Ballotti is the president and CEO of Wyndham hotels. Jeff, good to have you, sir. It is always good to talk to you.
Firstly, the share price -- I was talking to Joe Varadi at Wizz Air, the share price there, he's also at a high -- tells us that people have got
confidence. But I'm not sure in the current environment what that confidence is in. What do you see in it?
GEOFF BALLOTTI, PRESIDENT & CEO, WYNDHAM HOTELS & RESORTS: Well, I think, Richard, you've been reporting on it all week long. People are traveling,
people are confident to travel.
I'm staying here at the beautiful La Quinta by Wyndham at Oklahoma City airport. This is an airport hotel, and it was sold out last night. It will
be sold out again tonight.
And our small business owner, "Champ" Patel (phonetic), that owns this hotel owns a Hilton across the street that was three rooms short of selling
out and a Marriott right around the corner in the same parking lot that was nearly sold out as well.
So people want to get out, people are very confident. Flying this week through Newark to Dallas to Oklahoma City later tonight, you see it picking
You've been reporting on the TSA numbers this week. All the data is showing more people are willing to spend on travel.
We just had the busiest weekend since the last time we met. We last talked right after Labor Day and we were worried about the winter months ahead.
But 60 percent occupancy was the occupancy that Wyndham Hotels & Resorts ran. And you're seeing it in credit card spend which was down 40 percent in
January for travel, 30 percent in February, it is now down 20 percent in March.
I think it's as you've been reporting and reporting well on, people's ability to want to get out -- and it's spring break --
QUEST: All right.
BALLOTTI: -- and folks are out.
QUEST: OK. So related to this, how many -- and when we talked, I remember when we talked (inaudible) that I was very concerned about your franchisees
and how many of them would not be able to make it.
Now has the dust -- I mean, a combination of PPP and payroll protection in the U.K. and all these other places, what do you think the net loss was?
BALLOTTI: Well, it's been dramatic for our industry, as we've talked about before. But 80 percent of our franchisees were successful in getting a PPP
loan. Last night, as you know, the house passed the PPP extension which -- there's still $100 billion out there.
But it is going to be a tough road ahead. We still have -- this industry employs 10 million people, there are still 4 million of our team members
who are either on furlough or reduced hours. While we ran 60 percent occupancy, it still was down.
In our business a good 20 percent, 30 percent from a year ago, we need to bring those workers back. PPP is a big piece of that.
But what Congress really needs to work on right now is passing a hotel- specific support bill. And the American Hotel & Lodging Association is working very hard and will be in the weeks ahead on a Save Hotels Job Act
to ensure that we bring these team members who are still out there on furlough back.
As this nation starts to recover and starts to travel again.
QUEST: The big issue of course is confidence, ensuring people feel safe. Now I know Wyndham along with all your competitors are going to great
lengths in this regard.
But what do you see as being the hallmark for getting people back to traveling?
BALLOTTI: It's communicating that it is safe to travel. It is -- as we've talked before, so safe to travel. The lengths that these small business
owners, our hotel industry has gone to ensure we're using those hospital- grade disinfectants, that we're cleaning like we've never cleaned before. That people know it's safe to fly and it's more safe than ever to stay in a
hotel is what this industry should be proud of and is working very hard at.
Selling out hotels like this here in Oklahoma City night after night as people come back onto the road.
QUEST: Finally and briefly, as you get -- assuming Congress doesn't pass a hotel bill -- or maybe it will, maybe it won't, we can't really forecast --
but where will you grow Wyndham?
BALLOTTI: Well, we're growing around the world. Our fastest growth right now is international. We've been growing our net rooms internationally in
the high single digits for all of 2018, 2019.
We had positive net room growth in Asia Pacific, in Europe, Africa, India, the Middle East and in Latin America last year and we expect that growth to
continue to be strong as it picks up here in the United States.
QUEST: Good to see you, sir. Geoff, lovely to see you. I'll make the same promise that I made back in Labor Day.
I'm looking forward to our next interview when it'll be in one of your hotels and we can really get to grips with what's happening in the travel
and tourism industry.
Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
BALLOTTI: Happy St. Patrick's Day. Thanks for having us.
QUEST: Thank you. Now, a recap on the day's markets.
This is the -- well, there's good cause and good reason for optimism.
The Dow closed above 33,000 for the first time ever on Wednesday. It spiked after the Fed raised its growth outlook by more than two percent. It said
it does not expect to raise rates before 2023. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS.
QUEST: Tonight's "Profitable Moment". What to make of Europe's vaccine fiasco.
Well, to be sure, AstraZeneca has failed to deliver on the number of vaccines that it said it was going to. First 90 million then 40 million,
now it says it will barely do 30 million. So the Europeans have a valid cause for complaint. But that's another issue.
But what a fiasco over the suspension. Would you take the AstraZeneca vaccine tonight? Well, think about it.
You see, the problem is that Europe's politicians said that they would only -- they would only approve the vaccines when the regulators said it was
So the medical agencies, the national agencies, they all went through this long process saying it's safe, it's safe, it's safe. Then they say oh, no,
there's this worry about blood clotting but the regulators are saying still take it. Don't stop, don't suspend, don't do what you're doing.
So putting that together, all together, and you're starting to ask would you manage to take the AstraZeneca vaccine bearing in mind all that's been
happening and all that's been going on?
I suppose the answer is no. And even when you're told it's safe, well, then what happens after that?
And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for tonight. I'm Richard Quest in New York -- nearly forgot that.
Whatever you're up to in the hours ahead, I hope it is profitable. The closing bell rang just an hour ago.
The Dow is at a record, over 33,000 for the first time. There you see the number. Finally. I'll be back tomorrow.
Coming up next, "THE SITUATION ROOM."