Sofitel Hotels is rolling out the red carpet for families who love chocolate this holiday season. And who doesn't love chocolate? With the "I Love Chocolate" special, you'll score one free night (stay for 3 and pay for only 2), a late check-out at 3 p.m., and a festive chocolate feast the whole family will enjoy. Think chocolate-filled pastries and cups of rich hot chocolate to warm up after a day wandering the city streets, shopping and sightseeing. Available from November 15, 2010 through January 16, 2011 at luxurious Sofitel Hotels around the globe. Here's a sampling of prices:
Sofitel Chicago Water Tower from $117
Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi from $157
Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square from $147
Sofitel Philadelphia from $117
Sofitel London St. James from GBP 133
Sofitel Agadir Royal Beach Resort from EUR 117
Sofitel Amsterdam The Grand from EUR 193
Sofitel Paris Arc de Triomphe from EUR 193
As reported by The Los Angeles Times recently, TripAdvisor partnered with UNESCO's World Heritage Center to poll travelers about which sites they'd recommend as "must-see tourist stops." Here's the run-down from the 250,000 folks who submitted feedback about the "789 sites (the list has since expanded to 911) identified by UNESCO as places of natural beauty and rich cultural value":
1. Angkor, Cambodia (pictured at right)
2. Historic center of Rome
3. Historic center of Florence, Italy
4. Historic areas of Istanbul, Turkey
5. Old and new areas of Edinburgh, Scotland
6. Historic center of Prague, Czech Republic
7. City and lagoon, Venice, Italy
8. Architecture of Antoni Gaudi, Barcelona, Spain
9. Westminster Palace, Westminster Abbey and Saint Margaret's Cathedral, London
10. Historic Center of Vienna
Mumbai's legendary Taj Mahal Palace is back on top. After the deadly terrorist attacks two years ago, the five-star hotel has completely refurbished its heritage wing (the part of the hotel that sustained most of the damage). Now the staff is prepping the refurbished Presidential Suite for its first occupants this weekend: President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. The Obamas are in good company; the palatial suite has hosted a slew of A-list guests-- from Prince Charles and the King of Morocco to Tina Turner and Mick Jagger. Furnished with antiques and original paintings, the suite has Italian marble floors and a patio overlooking the harbor. Rumored cost per night: $4,000.
A fascinating Wall Street Journal interview with Andrew Cosslet, Chief Executive of InterContinental Hotels Group, dishes some food for thought. IHG was the first international chain to enter China in 1984 and will be opening four more hotels soon, bringing the total to 132 properties in China. Cosslet has learned some lessons on building a brand there, which he shared with The Wall Street Journal Scene:
1. Follow the pyramid. "Always enter a market with a five-star hotel, and then spread out from there with your boutique concepts and mid-market hotels."
2. Don’t skip breakfast. Apparently people like to eat breakfast, especially in midrange properties such as the Holiday Inn Express, an IHG brand. “We have these amazing cinnamon rolls in the U.S. as our trademark breakfast item,” says Mr. Cosslet. “In China, we are trying to develop a signature congee that really hits the spot.”
3. Be auspicious. The company takes feng shui seriously during the construction and designing process – beams are never placed over the ceilings and mirrors never face the bed directly, for example – and it always consults a master before scheduling an opening date.
4. Double the staff. The staff-to-customer ratio in IHG hotels in China is more than double that of elsewhere in the world.
5. Double the fun. “There are more banquets and parties in our properties in China than anywhere in the world,” says Mr. Cosslet, noting that events make up more than half of IHG’s food and beverage revenues in the region.
November 3, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Lonely Planet just released a list of the "Top 10 Cities of 2011"-- featuring Tangier, Tel Aviv, New York, Wellington, and more. The venerable guidebook company had flattering words for Chiang Mai, Thailand's culture capital, which may just inspire us to visit soon:
If Chiang Mai were a person, it would be Bob Dylan. With a history dating back further than anyone can remember, its influence remains enormous. And despite its great age, there’s still a bohemian chic that makes it as relevant and hip as ever. Culture capital of Thailand, Chiang Mai was once the heart of the Lanna kingdom. Today those wanting to flee the bustle of Bangkok visit to lounge in coffee shops and drink in the city’s artisanal atmosphere. With a friendly, cosmopolitan feel, this is one easy, safe and pleasant place to explore. There are dozens of well-preserved temples here, too. Many new ecotours and adventure trips are appearing, and with a choice of river rafting, elephant rides, trekking and off-road cycling, even the biggest adrenaline junkie will be sated.
Looking for accommodations in town? Five Star Alliance has some choice Chiang Mai recommendations-- from The Chedi (ooh la la) to the Shangri-La and Mandarin Oriental. In addition, Five Star Alliance offers some four-star properties in Chiang Mai. Browse away!
November 2, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
The W Hotel Hong Kong keeps racking up the awards: TripAdvisor's Top Ten Trendiest Hotels in Asia (#1), Business Traveller's Best New Business Hotel in Asia Pacific... And what's not to love at this urban resort, where all 393 rooms boast skyline views and "sightseeing" from a signature W bed? You can have a sky-high work-out at SWEAT, imbibe all kinds of cool cocktails in the Living Room, soak up the scene at the rooftop WET pool, and get pummeled into blissful relaxation at the Bliss Spa. We've got our eyes on a few specials with value-added perks. With the "Sweet Suite Treat," you'll get significant savings and enjoy lots of indulgent treats in a Marvelous Suite. Included with your accommodations: a wine and cheese tray, 20% discount when purchase Triple Oxygen Face Treatment at Bliss Spa, and a one-way Audi Q7 limousine transfer. We also like the sound of "Stay Warm This Winter" which includes one night in a Wonderful Room, buffet breakfast for two at Kitchen, one Triple Oxygen Face Treatment (85 minutes) at Bliss Spa, and high speed Internet access in your room.
St. Regis Hotels & Resorts have just unveiled a special offer worth booking ASAP. To celebrate their expanding portfolio-- and the November debut of The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort, Puerto Rico*-- the brand has rolled out the "Suite Luxury, Legacy Rates" offer. Book a suite for at least two consecutive nights at participating St. Regis hotels around the globe, and you'll get the second night's stay for only $4, the price of a suite at the brand's flagship, The St. Regis New York, when it originally opened in 1904.
*The new resort in Puerto Rico marks the brand's first foray into the Caribbean market. The resort will be home to the Caribbean's first and only Certified Audubon Signature Sanctuary.
Some of the coolest in-room tech that we've seen-- hands-down-- is in The Peninsula Tokyo. If you're curious to learn more about the gadgetry (get ready to drool)- the good folks at Hotelchatter have just published a video that takes an inside look at these swanky rooms. Here's the skinny:
We're talking about a printer/copier/fax machine next to the desk (which worked with our Macbook no problem), a cell phone for use within the hotel, a plug panel at the TV for smartcards/memorysticks, USB cords and more, plus perhaps the most unexpected techy touch of all: a nail dryer next to the boudoir desk in the walk-in wardrobe.
Of course, The Peninsula is thankfully one of the few luxury brands to understand that WiFi needs to be free if you're paying in the high triple-digits each night, and they were one of the first hotels in Tokyo to come through with complimentary internet.
October 27, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Since its launch a few months ago, The Fullerton Bay Hotel has already become a darling of the press. "One of Singapore's most design-forward residences," raves Conde Nast Traveler. "Fullerton Bay’s accommodations feature sleek furnishings that provide an elegantly modern frame for vistas of Singapore’s futuristic skyline," says the Robb Report. Globorati talks up the hotel's glittering setting: "Encased in glass and squatting on concrete stilts, Fullerton Bay is the city’s only over-water hotel, and every room comes with a balcony and a water view."
Keen to check out this new masterpiece first-hand? Spend New Year's Eve in Singapore and you'll be dazzled by the fireworks display. If you book the 2010 New Year Eve’s Room Package by November 28, 2010, you'll be treated to an Early Bird Special of S$100 off the below room rates:
Premier Room S$868 per night
Bay View Room S$918 per night
Here's what you get: guaranteed view of the New Year Eve’s fireworks, daily breakfast for two persons at Clifford Restaurant, complimentary in-room Internet access, complimentary late check-out at 3 pm, a bottle of champagne per room per stay, and one signature Fullerton teddy bear per room per stay.
This special is also available at the hotel's sister property, The Fullerton Hotel Singapore, starting from S$568 per night in a Courtyard Room. The offer includes access to One Fullerton rooftop for two people (with canapes, free flowing Champagne, wine & soft drinks), daily American buffet breakfast for two, late check-out, and the teddy bear.) Valid for stays on December 31, 2010 only.
October 21, 2010
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
We don't often see specials like this at some of the world's most luxurious hotels. Get amazing value this winter when you stay at Peninsula Hotels in Hong Kong, Shanghai or Beijing, as guests who stay a minimum of three consecutive nights from November 15, 2010 to March 15, 2011 will be treated to a hotel credit equal to the price of one night's room rate in your selected room category. So if you book a three-night stay in a Deluxe River Room (RMB 3,800 per night) at the new Peninsula Shanghai-- perched on the historic Bund in the very heart of the city-- you'll get a corresponding credit of RMB 3,800 to use during your stay. Think airport transfers, indulgent spa treatments, cocktails and multi-course meals...