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LUXURY HOTEL INSIDER
 
FSA LogoThe Luxury Hotel Insider: Exclusive luxury hotel deals, features and special rates from the luxury hotel experts at Five Star Alliance. 
 
Named one of Tripbase's Best Luxury Travel Blogs for 2011, below are Five Star Alliance's newest articles featuring exclusive information on luxury hotels worldwide including special offers and deals at the world's best hotels.

An Interview with the General Manager: Laurence Bloch of Hotel Plaza Athenee

July 12, 2007
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard

Laurence BlochLaurence Bloch is the Director of Hotel Plaza Athenee in Paris and holds a master's degree in Hotel Management from the Parisian Hotel College Maxims, as well as a solid hotel management background. Her previous hotel experiences include the Mas d'Artigny on the French Riviera, Prince de Galles in Paris, Park Avenue Hotel, Hotel du Parc and others.

In her previous position as Rooms Division Manager at Plaza Athenee, she actively participated in the relaunch of the five star property and helped to undertake the redecoration of the hotels' bedrooms and major investment projects.

Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?

Laurence Bloch: Via quite a classic route; 20 years of varied experience in the business after Hotel School, I became Rooms Division Manager at the Plaza Athenee and was then promoted to Deputy General Manager.

Five Star Alliance: Which do you consider to be the best rooms in the house? Not just the suites, but also any particular standard rooms that have great views or unusual advantages? If you were checking into a standard room at the hotel, which one would you request?

Laurence Bloch: I would choose the top floor of the building, the 8th floor, for its Art Deco style and its natural light and its airy atmosphere. You are woken by birds singing on the top floor which is quite a unique experience in a city centre hotel!

Five Star Alliance: Can you mention any interesting miscellaneous trivia regarding the hotel? Any special events that have taken place on property?

Laurence Bloch: Filming of the final episodes of the epic American TV series "Sex and the City" was quite an excitement for everyone, guests and staff included!

Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?

Laurence Bloch: We are lucky to have a very equal nationality market mix: 1/3 Americas, 1/3 europe, 1/3 Asia and Middle east.

Five Star Alliance: Tell us what you feel is the most distinctive or unique feature of your hotel? What best describes the personality of the hotel?

Laurence Bloch: I feel that the Plaza Athenee is quite simply the most Parisian of the city's 5 star luxury hotels. As a Parisian myself, I have always believed that the Plaza Athenee has been emblematic of a chic Parisian way of life. The hotel’s distinctive and unique location on the very fashionable avenue Montaigne has definitely added to the essence of this Parisian atmosphere. Privileged with a separate street entrance to the hotel’s Brasserie, the Relais Plaza has been witness to celebrity visits from all ranks of the fashion, cinema and political world. The famous English Bar that existed on the lower ground floor since the opening of the hotel, was always a popular meeting place both for hotel guests and Parisians alike. This tradition continues with our innovative Le Bar which mixes a traditional and modern decor. This is the main ingredient of the Plaza Athenee's personality today: the ability to combine and respect tradition with innovation. For example, the symbolic red geraniums of our façade are now offered as spring gifts as mini plants or as jams or candies. Another very important and distinctive exclusive feature of the Plaza Athenee today is the excellency of our cuisine with the privileged, Michelin star partnership with Alain Ducasse.

Five Star Alliance: What is the best thing about the hotel's location? What is your favorite thing to do in the surrounding area?

Laurence Bloch: As previously mentioned the greatest attribute to the hotel’s location is the local luxury shopping on offer; on the avenue alone there are 50 haute couture and fashion houses. Added to this wealth of choice are fabulous restaurants and bars in neighboring streets. The area is duly known as the "Golden Triangle" for a reason!

Five Star Alliance: Can you share the names of any famous guests who have stayed in the hotel, or perhaps regulars that return on a periodic basis?

Laurence Bloch: Sorry, this information is confidential!

Five Star Alliance: If you were considering staying at the hotel as a guest, what would you want to know about the hotel before checking in?

Laurence Bloch: I'd definitely want to know what the hotel had to offer in terms of F&B, in a gastronomic city such as Paris, why go further a-field, when the hotel has 5 different outlets under 1 roof. Also I would want to know which specialties were on offer; for example our Pastry Chef won the title of World Champion Pastry Chef, again it would be a huge shame to have missed sampling his fare.

Five Star Alliance: What is the hardest part about being General Manager? If you could change one thing about the hotel, what would that be?

Laurence Bloch: The risks involved are one of the hardest things of being the major decision taker; being an innovative leader in one's field of expertise, can be a lonely road.

Five Star Alliance: Other than your own, can you share your choices of two or three of what you consider to be the greatest hotels in the world? And why you think they are special?

Laurence Bloch: The Beverly Hills Hotel is one of the greatest hotels in the world, it is truly the champion for first class service and attention to detail; when once I left a book open at the page I was reading, a thoughtful book marker was placed inside inscribed with "to save your page..." The Imperial Hotel in New Delhi is another unique property. The essence of comfort and history is omnipresent but yet astonishing touches of modernism bring you back to reality, combined with perfect discreet service.

Five Star Alliance: Anything else you would like our readers to know about your property?

Laurence Bloch: I feel it important that readers should know how important our staff are. To be a true 5 star Luxury “Palace” hotel the personal touch is essential and this is achieved thanks to our 550 dedicated staff members for 188 rooms. We are proud of their loyalty and experience, often a lifetime’s dedication - 49 years in the case of our Head Concierge. Also, it is important that our guests are aware that we take seriously the privileged, exclusive title of being a Luxury “Palace” hotel which bears the responsibility of regular financial investments, an engagement we proudly maintain. Finally, I believe it important to underline to our guests and readers that we are where we are today thanks to the Plaza Athenee's rich and glorious past, based on much experience and effort, a total team effort.

Learn more about the Hotel Plaza Athenee >>


Hotel Lumen: Summer Opening in Paris

July 10, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Louvre, Paris Any day now, Paris will welcome its latest luxury boutique: Hotel Lumen. Behind a Haussmanian façade (like Hotel Fouquet's Barrière), the hotel will combine contemporary and baroque styles. Created by architect Alain Daronian and designer Claudio Colucci, the hotel's central design concept is the importance of light (from which it derives its name). What could be more appropriate in the City of Light! Situated smack dab in the center of Paris, the Hotel Lumen will be a stone's throw from the Louvre, the Place Vendôme, and all the mythological treasures of the 1st arrondissement. Of the 33 guest rooms, choose from the St. Roch single rooms (with views of the stained glass windows of the beautiful St. Roch church), the Pyramides double or twin rooms, the Lumen rooms (with lots of light), and the beautiful, luminous suites on the 5th and 6th floors. The on-site Parisian brasserie will serve delightful neo-classical cuisine inspired by Frédérick Grasser-Hermé, the acclaimed cookbook writer.


Dispatch from France: Renovation of the Chateau of Versailles

June 26, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Versailles After a staggering renovation project, a three-year makeover, the Hall of Mirrors at the Château de Versailles has reopened and is ready to dazzle the château's three million annual visitors. As described by the New York Times:

This week, after a $16 million makeover, the full spectacle finally resumed, with the hall looking, as closely as possible, the way it first appeared to Louis XIV in 1684. With its 357 mirrors, 17 glass doors, marble walls, chandeliers and ceiling paintings, it remains-- as was the Sun King's intent-- a sight breathtaking in its majesty.

Restoration of the palace will continue until 2020. This $455 million project-- the "biggest renovation since the king moved out in 1789"-- is a daunting undertaking, considering the sheer size and scale of this impressive château: 700 rooms, 2,153 windows, 352 chimneys and 28 acres of roof.

Photo Via NYT


21C Museum Hotel Will Open in Austin, Texas

June 22, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

21C Museum Hotel This is the best news we've heard in awhile. The 21C Museum Hotel, the extraordinary Louisville hotel that knocked everyone's socks off with its opening in 2006, is coming to Austin. Developers have announced a $200 million project which will dramatically change Austin's skyline: the 44-storey tower will rank among the city's tallest. Inside this soaring landmark, there will be a contemporary art museum, luxury hotel, spa, and stylish residences. Say hello to the second 21C Museum Hotel, set to open in 2010 at Third and Brazos streets. The contemporary art museum will offer free admission year-round to the general public (guaranteed to be mind-blowing). Each room in the hotel will also feature original works of art-- in addition to the luxurious amenities, cutting-edge technology, and contemporary furnishings. Straight from the horse's mouth:

21c Museum Hotel was born out of a love of contemporary art; a desire to create livable downtown spaces that prevent urban sprawl; a belief that art should be accessible, interactive and without pretense; and the conviction that art drives commerce.

The restaurant will become a hot spot, no doubt. The menu will be created by acclaimed restaurateur and author Michael Bonadies, the founding partner of the New York-based group that owns and operates Tribeca Grill, Nobu and Rubicon. Specializing in contemporary American cuisine, the restaurant will emphasize local and sustainable agriculture.

Related Articles:

Gridskipper, 21C Museum Hotel


What a Hotel! Restored Elegance

June 15, 2007
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard

Here's a challenge to test your luxury travel savvy. Do you know this hotel? Take a guess, leave us a comment letting us know which hotel you think this photo belongs to, and check back next week for the answer and new image.

What a Hotel!

Helpful Hints: Spa Caudalie, 1st arrondissement, The Style of Individuality

Lana was the only contestant in Last Week's Hotel Contest:
What a Hotel!

The The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA


Summer in Paris: What’s On in the City of Light

June 8, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Hotel Plaza Athenee There's never a bad time to visit the French capital, but summertime brings a host of music concerts, the Paris Cinéma festival (showcasing a diversity of films in cinemas around the city from July 3-14), and the famous Paris Plages-- when urbanites flock to the sand along the Seine for serious sun-worshipping, replete with deckchairs, loungers, and umbrellas (July 19-August 20). Beach volleyball games take place on the sand court in front of the Hôtel de Ville.

Stop by the George Pompidou Centre, which celebrates its 30th anniversary with cutting-edge exhibitions. Stroll down Champs-Élysées and indulge in an ice cream break at the new international showcase for Häagen-Dazs. The three floor-establishment features a chic 200 seat terrace (the largest on this storied avenue), special tastings, cooking classes with the chefs, and the Ice Bäar on the top floor, where you can delight in ice-cream-based cocktails and take in panoramic views while listening to the DJ's sounds. Forget the Metro, the city now boasts a self-service bicycle lending program called Vélib', so you can navigate your way through Paris's magical streets, taking in the architecture and diverse districts-- all for free!

Let's not forget Les Soldes, when even the most bashful of Parisians hit the streets in a frenzied shopping spree. In July, the summer sales dazzle bargain hunters and fashionistas who can score impressive discounts of up to 70 percent off in the city's luxurious establishments. Treat yourself to a new chic French wardrobe (totally guilt-free!)

Make like Carrie Bradshaw and book a room at Hotel Plaza Athénée, the elegant landmark hotel which has become synonymous with Parisian style. Splurge on a meal at the hotel's award-winning restaurant, overseen by world-renowned Chef Alain Ducasse.

PS. Giorgio Armani's new luxury boutique-- a minimalist space with onyx walls, black Plexiglass ceiling, and grey silk wall murals-- is located right across the street on the avenue Montaigne.


An Interview with the General Manager: Ezio Attilio Indiani of Hotel Principe di Savoia

June 7, 2007
By: Editorial AdvisoryBoard

Ezio Attilio IndianaEzio Attilio Indiani was appointed general manager of the Hotel Principe di Savoia Milan in July 2005. He is recognized worldwide as a leading figure in luxury hotel management and has worked at some of the most prestigious hotels in the world in the course of his 25-year career. In recognition of his management abilities, in 2002 he received the Hermes Prize as the "Best Hotel Director" in the world, the highest award given in the deluxe hotel category. He took some time to answer a few of our questions, which we can share with you below.

Five Star Alliance: How did you come to be General Manager of the hotel?

Ezio Attilio Indiani: I was appointed after the Principe di Savoia become part of the Dorchester Group and later Dorchester Collection. I have spent 25 years in luxury hotel management, previously at Villa d'Este in Cernobbio, Hotel Des Bergues of Geneva, Hyde Park Hotel, Casa de Campo complex in the Dominican Republic, Hotel Eden of Rome and Grand Hotel Palazzo della Fonte of Fiuggi to name a few.

Five Star Alliance: Tell us what you feel is the most distinctive or unique feature of your hotel? What best describes the personality of the hotel?

Ezio Attilio Indiani: For sure our Presidential Suite, 500 square meters with private spa in Pompeii style, an area of 100 square meters with frescoed walls and vaulted ceiling encompassing a swimming pool (20 square meters), whirlpool, sauna and Turkish bath. Table and bed linen, cutlery, crystals and china are all custom-made for the suite. Butler service and staff available 24 hours a day. Direct check-in in the suite. Limo service from and to the airport and to downtown.

Five Star Alliance: Can you share the names of any famous guests who have stayed in the hotel, or perhaps regulars that return on a periodic basis?

Ezio Attilio Indiani: George Clooney, Leonardo di Caprio, Sharon Stone, H.R.H. Queen Rania of Jordan, President George H. W. Bush, Woody Allen, Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, Donatella Versace, The Rolling Stones ... and more.

Five Star Alliance: Who are your customers and where do they come from?

Ezio Attilio Indiani: Our main customers are businessman coming from UK, USA, Japan, Russia, France, Germany and U.A.E. Also leisure travelers from these markets are increasing especially over the week end.

Five Star Alliance: What is the best thing about the hotel's location? What is your favorite thing to do in the surrounding area?

Ezio Attilio Indiani: The Hotel is located in a strategic position. Our customers can reach the city centre very easily without being in the main crowded streets of Milan and this is very important for our VIP guests who need privacy.

Five Star Alliance: Which do you consider to be the best rooms in the house? Not just the suites, but also any particular standard rooms that have great views or unusual advantages? If you were checking into a standard room at the hotel, which one would you request?

Ezio Attilio Indiani: In January 2006 we opened 48 new Deluxe Mosaic Rooms, all overlooking Piazza della Repubblica and they have been designed to appeal to all types of guests – business and leisure, men and women, locals and international. I think these kinds of rooms are very beautiful, especially the bathrooms. The design inspiration and key feature of every bathroom is the mosaic wall – a contemporary feature of classical Italian design.

Five Star Alliance: Can you mention any interesting miscellaneous trivia regarding the hotel?

Ezio Attilio Indiani: One of our VIP guests, Sylvester Stallone, asked us to buy the beautiful chandelier of our Winter Garden Bar. Obviously we couldn’t sell it but we called our designer who made a copy of the chandelier for him.

Five Star Alliance: If you were considering staying at the hotel as a guest, what would you want to know about the hotel before checking in?

Ezio Attilio Indiani: I would like to be informed about the high level services and amenities such as the free Limousine service or the Spa with swimming pool, sauna and Turkish bath. It's also very important to be told about the business centre and the high level of technology available in every room. Moreover, I would be glad to know that the Hotel offers the best concierge service in Italy, which can actually unlock the doors of Milan to every costumer, as well as one of the best restaurants, "Acanto", which is a matter of pride for all of us.


What’s Hot: Chambers Hotel, Minneapolis

May 30, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Chambers Hotel Travel and Leisure raves, "Minneapolis's exuberant Chambers Hotel is taking Midwestern design to a whole new level." Forbes Traveler has named Chambers as one of the sexiest hotels in the U.S. Indeed this David Rockwell-designed boutique, the sister hotel to New York's famed Chambers hotel, is easily the hippest hotel in Minneapolis. Billed as the "Luxury Art Hotel," Chambers is housed in two landmark 20th century buildings located in the heart of downtown's historic theater district. The minimalist design aesthetic is complemented by the $7 million contemporary art collection of 250 works displayed throughout the public spaces. There are 60 modern guest rooms with "rain-sky" showers, the penthouse level outdoor terrace and bar, and stellar restaurant, where super chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten (the visionary behind Jean-Georges in the Trump International Hotel and Mercer Kitchen in The Mercer Hotel) has devised the delicious Asian-themed menu.

Related Articles:

New York Times, "Check In, Check Out: Minneapolis: The Chambers Minneapolis"

HotelChatter, "Minneapolis Gets a Touch of NYC with the Chambers Hotel"

Gridskipper, "Chambers Hotel in Minneapolis"


White Nights in St. Petersburg, Russia at the W Hotel

May 18, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

St. Petersburg Just in time for the 2008 White Nights Festival, Starwood has announced the opening of a new W hotel in the Russian city on the Neva built by Peter the Great. Throughout the month of June, the sun never sets and St. Petersburg celebrates in style with music, festivals, and ballet performances at the Mariinsky Ballet and Opera Theater. Indulge in some caviar and ice-cold vodka and take in the city sites: the Hermitage (which rivals the Louvre), the Russian Museum, and the imperial estate of Peterhof. Scheduled to open in mid 2008, the new W hotel will be the first W in Eastern Europe. The hotel will showcase historic architecture complemented by exciting contemporary interiors (and plenty of signature W design elements, like the W Living Room). Located on Voznesensky Prospect, the hotel will feature spectacular views of the gold-domed St. Isaac's Cathedral from the guest rooms. The best part of all? A rooftop bar overlooking the historic city’s sparkling lights.


Art Lovers in Florence, Italy: Rocco Forte’s Hotel Savoy Celebrates Cezanne

May 4, 2007
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Hotel Savoy, Florence Ahh, Florence. Fabled Tuscan city in the wine-growing hills of Chianti, home to magnificent Renaissance architecture and formidable art museums, the jewel of Italy. It may be packed with tourists in the summer, but Florence is still a premier destination, a treasure for art lovers. (After all, UNESCO estimates that 60 percent of the world's most important artworks are in Italy, with more than half located in Florence.) Rocco Forte's Hotel Savoy, located in the very heart of the city showcasing breathtaking, panoramic views over the Florentine rooftops, is offering a special package to celebrate the spectacular Cézanne exhibition at the historical Palazzo Strozzi. The Celebrate Cézanne package includes room upgrades upon availability at time of check-in, daily breakfast, entry to the exhibition and a copy of the official exhibition catalogue. Valid until July 29, 2007, with a minimum two-night stay required, rates start from EUR 480 per night in a Classic double room.