January 20, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
27 holes of championship golf in the sultry desert heat at The Phoenician. Nine gorgeous pools overlooking Camelback mountain and the red rock desert landscape. A phenomenal spa. And the city's dazzling culinary display and rockin nightlife. Now couldn't be a better time to visit Scottsdale. If those aren't reasons enough: the legendary destination resort recently completed a $20 million makeover. Guestrooms and casitas are all newly furnished (bed linens, wall hangings, artwork all in earthy desert tones), with divine new beds, and loads of new technology and upgraded bathroom fixures (lighting, floor-to-ceiling Italian marble, oversized tubs.) Of course the lobby, lounges, restaurants and public areas weren't overlooked, and the Spa and Fitness Facility was injected with a healthy $250,000 of new stairmasters, ellipticals, Life Fitness strength training machines and 15" individual televisions in all cardio equipment. The best part of the makeover? The Oasis swimming pool complex with new poolside cabanas, all new surfacing and decking, teak outdoor furniture, and underwater sound.
Via Travel and Leisure February issue
The Phoenician, Official Site
The Phoenician, Five Star Alliance
January 19, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
HotelChatter gives us the scoop about the Waldorf, just as the Hilton Hotel Corp. announces its new lux brand: The Waldorf-Astoria collection. The timing couldn't be worse. Now the Grand Wailea, Arizona Biltmore, and La Quinta Resort and Club, along with New York's legendary hotel-- slated to be newly managed by Hilton under this exclusive new brand-- will be stained by the very same Waldorf name. Talk about a PR nightmare.
Rumor has it that Acqualina-- the exquisite new boutique resort from Rosewood-- will open its doors for guests in February. Located in Sunny Isles, Florida, between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Acqualina is billed as a European architectural masterpiece (everybody's talkin!). Indeed, the resort's got it all: two-storey oceanfront spa, private beach club, superb dining, poolside cabanas and three gorgeous pools to choose from-- depending on your mood (will that be the infinity pool or tranquility?) The long-awaited debut was originally scheduled for November 2005, so I'm not holding my breath for an ontime opening.
Acqualina, Official Site
Acqualina, Five Star Alliance
The award-winning hotel is back and (almost) ready for action. After Hurricane Wilma took out most of Cancun's hotels and sweeping white sand beaches, construction and renovation has been nonstop, and this gem is set to open on May 1. Luxurious oceanfront suites with balconies, an elegant spa, rooftop tennis, and plenty of golf nearby... located smack in the middle of Cancun's Hot Hotel Zone. Welcome back.
Redeem awards for unrestricted travel on any airline? Or take those miles and stock up on goods like iPods, Bose sound systems or lux spa treatments? No, this is not a joke. Just when almost every other airline out there has raised the number of awards necessary to get a free ticket (and upped the blackout dates), Eos-- the premium airline I've obsessed over before-- has introduced a brilliant frequent-flyer program. Both Travel Weekly and the Online Travel Review are talking it up this week. (And it's easy to understand why.)
Abu Dhabi plays catch up with the incredible development going on in nearby Dubai, with the latest AED 800 million project, dubbed BTB (that's Between the Bridges, guys). Due to open in Feb 2007, the complex will be packed with luxury villas, executive apartments, and a five star hotel. That's music to our ears.
Four Seasons has set up camp (literally) in Thailand's mysterious Golden Triangle (didn't this used to be scary, opium-producing backcountry?) It seems the hotelier is jumping on the "rustic luxury" bandwagon, catering to a crowd that yearns for adventure, yet can't do without the spa touch of Four Seasons. Thus you can mount an elephant, raft down the Mekong, and meet the local hill tribes-- and return at night to one of 15 Four Seasons tents, with hand-hammered copper bathtubs (imagine hauling that into the wilderness on the back of some beast-of-burden), down pillows and supersized robes, and wifi access. Yep, you heard that right. A riverbank tent with wifi and multi-line phones. Other swank services include five-course dining, spa, and free-form pool.
The aging resort and casino sits on some 63 acres of prime Strip-front property, and the Boyd Gaming Corp. sees four sparkling, new hotels (including a Shangri-La) where Stardust's decrepit 1,500 rooms used to be. The developers will welcome Echelon Place—the $4 billion complex with 5,300 rooms, spas, casino, restaurants and bars, meeting facilities and a 4,000-seat theater– in 2010. Besides the Shangri-La, the Morgans Hotel Group (of Mondrian and Delano fame) is keen on the scene.
January 14, 2006
By: Guest Writer
Originally published in the Bangkok Post, Wednesday 21 December 2005 By George Romanyk Even as I write this, the guttural growl of a Harley Davidson (not to mention a roaring chorus of other Harleys, BMWs and Japanese superbikes) is still echoing in my ears. You see, I've just returned from a five-day road trip to the Golden Triangle, along with an assortment of biker friends who also happen to be company presidents, CEOs and entrepreneurs. Now, before you start wondering what this has to do with a column on branding (or start snickering "born to be mild''), I'd like to share some insights I garnered during the course of this challenging and exhilarating journey. While our group was on the road during the days, we certainly weren't averse to roughing it. We got our motors running, we headed out on the highway, and when the highway occasionally deteriorated into a rutted, muddy track, we were well up for it. Ah, but at the end of each day, the discomforts of the road were eased by the unique boutique resorts on the Mekong our assistants had booked us into, as well as some first class meals, and the imported wines and cheeses and some truly tasty Cuban cigars we had smuggled along in our saddlebags. My point (besides making you green with envy) is that our little jaunt was a good example of a major change sweeping the world right now in how luxury is perceived and experienced. For many of the "baby boomers'' and the swelling ranks of "Generation X'' (people born between 1964 and 1976 or thereabouts), the era of ostentatious luxury is over, and instead they are demanding authenticity and adventure. We still want our luxuries, but we want them contemporary, with a hip twist; luxury that "keeps it real'', as it were. Particularly in the luxury hotel and travel sector are these demands being felt. At the recent International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes, the age of ostentatious travel was proclaimed to be over, with new research unveiled showing today's wealthy travellers needed "authenticity, exclusivity and attention to detail'' to keep them happy. "Personalised'' and "private'' were also big buzzwords. In a survey of 248 travel suppliers from around the world who service the needs of the affluent, 84% agreed their clients sought a more subtle form of luxury than in the past. The survey, by the Future Foundation, concluded: "No longer content to visit the classic haunts of the rich and famous, today's luxury traveller would prefer to be a trailblazer, albeit in great comfort, and visit new and less discovered destinations.'' According to ILTM's founder, Serge Dive: "The tastes of the rich don't stay still. Our research shows that the luxury traveller of today doesn't just want to be pampered-- they want a total escape from their highly pressured lives and they want to come back from their holiday having experienced something new.'' Another trend is that as more people get rich younger, they take less formal but shorter trips, with technology allowing them to blur the line between business and leisure travel. Also, little things often count for much: 65% of those surveyed said the toiletries on offer in a hotel were important, with recognised luxury brands meriting maximum brownie points. After our trip, I can heartily agree with that last point: eight windblown hours in the saddle of your steel steed, and you really appreciate little treats like a scented hot towel, some luxurious shampoo and shower gel, and a unique hotel experience. These findings also echo research our own firm has conducted during the course of a major re-branding project with one of our major hotel clients. Our research results concur that well-heeled travellers prefer service that gives them space to be themselves and to feel totally relaxed (while still meeting their every need of course) rather than the more intrusive and obsequious style of service offered by many five-star hotels in the past. A recent article in Newsweek notes: "Travel used to be divided into two basic categories: luxury and no-frills. The former consisted of flying first class, dining at three star restaurants and staying in decadent comfort; the latter involved backpacking and camping out in some of the world's most beautifully remote spots. Now, tourists can have their wine and see the wildlife too; communing with nature and living the good life are no longer mutually exclusive.'' Newsweek defines this as "rustic luxury'': a group of wealthy "new nomads'' toting Mount Everest-ready backpacks by luxury luggage-makers like Tumi, who want to visit the most rugged deserts, jungles, mountains and forests, and go rock-climbing and wreck-diving, but want their designer coffee and Egyptian cotton sheets when the day's adventuring is done. There is also the element of one-upmanship among this growing demographic. As one new nomad tells Newsweek: "It's a status game. Staying at the Four Seasons seems kind of bourgeois, since any doctor from the Midwest will know about it.'' To me, getting wild without losing the luxury is like a marriage made in heaven. There's nothing like zipping through rugged jungle tracks on your hog, getting down and dirty, when you know that some prime rib, a nice glass of Bordeaux and a fat stogie have your name on them. George Romanyk is chief executive officer of Creative Inhouse, a local branding consultancy and ad agency.
By: Guest Writer
January 10, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Looks like the Four Seasons Georgetown, of recent Mobil five star acclaim, is on the market for a mere $170 million (that's just $800,000 a room, folks). After injecting $25 million in renovations, the owners want a few pennies return on their investment... Apparently, this is the biggest price tag ever for a D.C. hotel. Good luck, guys. Via MSNBC