November 23, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
"Throughout history, only a handful of structures have had the power to change history." The great pyramids, Empire State building, Eiffel Tower, and... the Burj Dubai? Pretty bold, if you ask me, but this development is being billed as "the most exclusive address in the world," not to mention the world's tallest building. This will be the site of the first of the Armani Hotels and Resorts, scheduled to open in 2008. Emaar Properties is supposedly investing $6 billion in its Burj Dubai project. Opposite the tower, The Old Town Island will feature residences, boutique offices, spa and retail outlets.
The brand voted Europe's Leading Luxury Hotel Brand has announced plans to open a hotel in the heart of the Czech capital. Not new construction-- this jewel will be created out of (count 'em) five historical monuments. The most significant of which is ancient St. Thomas' Monastery, dating from the 1400s. Courtyards, wine vaults, elegant garden squares, and cloistered terraces-- galore. The 101 ginormous rooms enjoy fantastic views over the city. (The Presidential Suite is a measly 150 sq meters.) I'm awaiting its opening with bated breath. (Not til 2007, folks.)
The rumors were too devastating to bear: The Plaza to be gutted and stuffed with luxury condos?!? The fall of New York’s legendary landmark—possibly the most storied hotel in the United States—seemed the end of an era. After 100 years of hosting movie stars, dignitaries, and lots of drunken NYC debutantes… But admirers of Eloise (my all-time favorite childhood book), the legend lives on! Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has just announced plans to manage this National Historic Landmark. After a $350 million renovation, the new Plaza will contain 282 luxury hotel rooms (including those dreaded condo units and heaps of retail space), ready in early 2007.
Heading to your favorite Argyle on Sunset? Don’t be dismayed at its apparent disappearing act. The hotel has morphed into the Sunset Tower Hotel, a name-change that I believe goes back to the hotel’s roots 76 years ago. Anyone know for sure?
Sunset Tower Hotel, Official Site
Sunset Tower Hotel, Five Star Alliance
The legendary New Orleans establishment has opened again with a full range of services. The Windsor Court is well-known as one of the world’s finest hotels, with overly-spacious suites, superb service and cuisine, and the finest collection of European art in the South. In its 20 year history, the Windsor Court has remained a fixture at the top of all the World’s Best lists (Conde Nast, Travel and Leisure, Andrew Harper’s Hideaway, you name it…) Post-Katrina, the hotel is not only housing clients associated with the city’s rebuilding, but is also offering a “Returning Home” rate for locals who need a place to stay while overseeing home repairs. The rate of $235 a night includes suite accommodation, breakfast for two in the New Orleans Grill, and parking. Additionally, the hotel can stock your refrigerator with groceries and configure the in-room phone line to accept forwarded calls from your home or business.
The Windsor Court Hotel, Official Site
The Windsor Court Hotel, Five Star Alliance
At last week’s World Travel Awards, the Dubai-based luxury hospitality group was recognized as the “Middle East’s Leading Hotel Brand.” In addition, Jumeirah’s hotels in Dubai—the Burj al Arab, Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort, and Jumeirah Emirates Towers—received a bounty of accolades. The Burj Al Arab, Jumeriah’s flagship, was honored as the “World’s Leading Hotel,” not surprising for the hotel most often recognized as the world’s most luxurious. Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort, received four awards including Middle East’s Leading Resort and World’s Leading Conference Resort. Additionally, the Emirates Towers won two prestigious awards: World’s Leading Business Hotel and Dubai’s Leading Hotel. (Notably, last February Jumeirah’s business hotel launched the Chopard floor, an entire floor devoted to female business travelers.) Since its establishment in 1997, Jumeirah has won over 130 international travel and tourism awards. Starting in early 2006, Jumeirah will take over management of the Essex House in New York.
Burj al Arab, Official Site
Burj al Arab, Five Star Alliance
Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort, Official Site
Madinat Jumeirah, The Arabian Resort, Five Star Alliance
Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Official Site
Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Five Star Alliance
Thrilling news: the Sunday Herald reports that the Trans-Siberian railroad is about to go lux. The adventure across eight time zones of Europe and Asia used to be about stamina and endurance, rather than Orient-Express style opulence. (Seven days and 5,772 miles across the vast, empty landscape of the world’s largest country.) Manchester-based GW travel is spending $23 million on 12 new carriages, each new compartment to be equipped with en-suite shower, double or twin beds, a sound and video system, individual air conditioning and a safe. And of course there’s the bar car, enhanced by live musical entertainment each evening. Starting in 2007, a two-week journey in the Gold Class compartments will cost $11,000-- while accommodations in the silver class will set you back $9,000.
Opening in Spring 2006, the centrally-located Knoxville hotel will be Intercontinental’s fifth Hotel Indigo. (Other locations include Chicago, Atlanta, Nashville and Dallas.) The 126-room, seven-storey property will be a conversion from an independent hotel, featuring artwork and furniture that change seasonally. What is the brand Hotel Indigo? It is billed as a brand developed for conversions, to rejuvenate properties that “aren’t reaching their full potential, but are poised for success post conversion.” Hmmm, sounds a little sketchy. But Intercontinental further explains that this “lifestyle boutique hotel defined a new category of hotels targeting the needs of consumers who are ‘trading up’ to affordable luxury and service, but still seek value and style.” The Knoxville Hotel Indigo will feature plush bedding, whitewashed wood furniture, spa-style showers, hardwood floors, wireless internet, personalized service, and fitness studio. Sounds swell. But has anyone actually stayed in a Hotel Indigo—who can provide some insight?
November 16, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
After yesterday’s verbiage—sheesh! I’m wiped out!—I’ll try to keep it short and sweet. There are rumors milling that Tetiaroa-- Marlon Brando’s private atoll in Tahiti—will be an exclusive eco-resort in 2008. The Brando (as it’s been dubbed) will require a $40 million investment, as there’s no electricity or running water on the island. I wonder if there’s a line already queuing for the 30 bungalows?
November 14, 2005
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
A recent article in The Guardian got me thinking about the hotel rating system—those hotels that strangely surpass five stars. The best-known example worldwide? Why the seven-star, sail-shaped Burj Al Arab takes that prize. Perched on its own island, its tower soaring above the skyline, the hotel is the landmark visible for all of Dubai. What’s so special about a pad here? Personalized butler service, a laptop and private fax in every suite, an underwater seafood restaurant (reached by a simulated three-minute submarine ride), and an 18th floor spa with sweeping views of the Arabian Sea. The price tag starts at $1,000 a night.
With such over-the-top perks at luxury hotels these days (personal iPods and PSPs, and all the good stuff I’ve recently blogged about), it’s no wonder that hotel PR departments are getting creative with their rating systems. After all, there is no global, standardized rating system. Sure, different tourist boards around the world have their own ratings, and Mobil and AAA are widely known, but a universal system? Nope.
That’s pretty bogus if you ask me. What should we do about it?