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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.

The Changing Face of Shanghai

April 14, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Shanghai

The NYT reports on the phenomenal building boom that is transforming Shanghai at a feverish pace. My recent memory of Shanghai (2004)-- a landscape ravaged by industry, blanketed by pollution, and marked by strangely toxic sunsets over the Bund but also steeped in fascinating history and culture-- is barreling towards an unrecognizable future. The biggest city on Earth is about to get a whole lot bigger: host to the biggest ports, one of the biggest automobile factories, the biggest shipyard, Asia's largest shopping mall, and mammoth, futuristic skyscrapers dominating the Pudong riverfront. Shanghai's got its eye on surpassing New York in magnitude, size, and industrial infrastructure. And the trends I noticed a few years ago-- skyscrapers shooting up as quickly as bamboo stalks, the neon hovering and enormous in the smog, the transformation of the cosmopolitan face of modern China-- will continue at breakneck speed. As reported by the NYT, conservationists and critics bemoan the city's cultural losses: the architecture and personality of a city that has such a storied history, including its 19th century imperial division into autonomous colonial possessions, each ruled by the Brits, French and Americans. Historical neighborhoods of winding alleyways, open air markets and rich, authentic street life are set to be demolished.

Like China's capital, which is undergoing a crash rebuilding program in time for the 2008 Summer Olympics, Shanghai is using its role as host of the World Expo to shift what had already been a hugely ambitious remake into high gear. By the standards of recent urban development projects in the West — the so-called Big Dig in Boston, say — the scale of what the city is undertaking is astounding.

Along the western banks of the Huangpu River, site of the historic Bund thoroughfare, a 2,000-plus-yard-long stretch of the waterfront is being razed and redeveloped. The essence of the Bund, a virtual museum of Western architecture, flush with classical, Gothic and Art Deco landmarks, will be preserved, but densely inhabited neighborhoods at its edge are already being demolished.

Talk about ambition. As the city "aims for the top as it ascends the hierarchy of world cities, with one eye on longtime champions like New York, and another on its fraternal rival, Beijing," its rich heritage will perhaps be lost forever. Best to get there fast before a new breed of skyscrapers (already twice as many as New York's) paves China's quintessential urban cityscape.


The World’s Gambling Capital Shifts East: the Mad Macau Makeover

April 6, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

The Sands Macau

That's right. The tiny, former Portuguese colony in China surpassed Las Vegas as the world's biggest gambling city, its casinos raking in $6.8 billion last year. According to the Telegraph:

Hollywood has led me to believe that the really high rollers jet into the casinos of the Bellagio or the Venetian in Las Vegas. But I was wrong. In terms of sheer spending power nowhere comes close to this former Portuguese colony, which now services the immense desire of the growing monied classes of China to gamble. Here, the average take per table per day is $18,000. In the VIP rooms that flank the main hall, $50,000 bets regularly change hands-- and it is on these private tables that nearly three quarters of Macau's gambling revenue is made, compared with just 25 per cent in Las Vegas. The slot machines in Macau largely stand empty, yet in Vegas they make three quarters of the profits.

And Las Vegas-style luxury hotels are on the rise: the $240 million Sands opened in 2004; the Wynn Macau is scheduled for this year, along with the $800 million sister hotel to Las Vegas's Venetian. Apparently, Macau is due for its own $1 billion MGM-Mirage, complete with underwater casino, and luxury hoteliers like Four Seasons, Hilton, InterContinental, Starwood, Park Hyatt and Shangri-La are staking out their territory.

Related Articles:

The Informed Traveler, "What's Up With Macau?"


Escape with World Cup 2006 Packages at Banyan Tree

March 30, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

World Cup 2006

So you missed your chance to get tickets to this year's matches in Germany, not to mention the impossible task of booking a hotel room in any of the hosting cities. But you-- a diehard and devoted football fan-- are not about to miss the games on telly. Enter Banyan Tree, with their creative packages designed for fans who want to watch the games in peace (tranquil surroundings with nary a beer-guzzling heckler in sight!) and their partners/spouses who may have escaped infection with that football fevered frenzy. For a limited period from June 1 to July 31, Banyan Tree is offering exclusive World Cup 2006 Escape packages at its resorts worldwide. All packages are inclusive of daily bountiful breakfasts and a surprise gift from Banyan Tree Gallery.

At Banyan Tree Bangkok, the World Cup 2006 Escape package rates begin from US$270 per night for a Deluxe View Suite (minimum two-night stay). The package includes a Banyan Tree Spa Back Reviver session per person as well as a Shopping Companion Service for hunting out the city's treasures.

At Banyan Tree Bintan, package rates start at US$465 in the Valley Villa (minimum two nights stay). All guests taking this package will receive a choice of a two-hour Renewal or Rejuvenation spa session, as well as a welcome drink and fruit platter on arrival.

At Banyan Tree Maldives Vabbinfaru, guests can enjoy the World Cup Escape Package with rates starting from US$680 per night for an Oceanview Villa. This package includes daily breakfast and dinner, a choice of a two-hour Renewal or Rejuvenation spa session, and an unforgettable private sunset sail on a catamaran, complete with a guide.

At Banyan Tree Phuket, the package is priced from US$495 per night in a Deluxe Villa, with a minimum stay of three nights; includes a body massage per person, an intimate High Tea session for two, and cooking lessons with lunch for two.

Lastly, at Banyan Tree Seychelles, the World Cup Escape package rates start from EUR 855 per night (four night minimum), including a Renewal or Rejuvenation Spa session for two, as well as a one-day tour of Mahe with a beach picnic lunch included.


The Intercontinental Nanjing: The World’s Tallest Hotel?

March 23, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Intercontinental Nanjing

When it opens in 2010, the 450-room luxury hotel will be the tallest in the world. Intercontinental recently signed a deal with Shanghai Greenland Group, one of the leading real estate and property management companies in China, which will add more hotel rooms in Shanghai and Xian, as well as the hot Intercontinental Nanjing. To be located within the Nanjing International Financial Center, the world's tallest hotel will boast pool, spa, dining, and excellent conference and business facilities. Take that, Dubai.


Mother’s Day Spa Specials at Banyan Tree Angsana Spas

March 21, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Angsana Spa Cape Town

Brought to us by award-winning luxury hoteliers Banyan Tree, Angsana Spas are renowned for their rejuvenating therapeutic treatments that emphasize natural ingredients such as native flowers, plants, herbs, and spices. Fusing techniques from East and West, Angsana Spas are located worldwide as both resort properties and day spas. This Mother's Day, pamper your mother (and yourself) with packages designed for women at Angsana Spas around the world.

At the Angsana Spa Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, indulge in the Mother's Glow session (RM250)-- a two-hour treat comprised of a massage and body polish of your choice, as well as a special gift from Angsana Gallery. The Angsana Spa Double Bay and Jamison, Sydney is offering a Sweet Mum package: a two-hour beautifying and pampering session comprised of a massage and facial of Mum's choice. Priced at A$148, available from 1 May to 30 June 2006. Likewise, the Angsana Spa El Gouna, Egypt is showcasing the Mother's Spirit package ($110); its three hours of indulgence include a body polish, massage and facial (choose your favorite treatment from each category.) At the Angsana Spa Vineyard Hotel, Cape Town, South Africa, the Mother's Essential package includes an hour massage and an hour-long facial. Get a discount when you join your mother for the same treatment: top up the R704 single package treatment to a R1320 package for two. Valid from 1 May to 30 June 2006. The Angsana Spa Guam is offering the ultimate Mother Dearest package for $160, including a Jasmine Green Tea Revival treatment and hour-long facial. Lastly, the Angsana Spa and Health Club Dubai Marina will feature the Pampering Mum treatment for Dhs520. Includes a reviving massage, facial and hand balm, as well as a special Mother's Day card or sweet bouquet of flowers included in the treatment room.


Mickey Mouse Moves in on Shanghai

March 15, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Disney descended on Hong Kong last September, and-- in the ultimate symbol of China's newly (and increasingly) ravenous consumer hunger-- is now planning a park on the Chinese mainland as well. Indeed, Hong Kong Disneyland was so mobbed during the Lunar New Year that hordes were denied entrance to the park. As quoted by CNN:

"China has a very large population. We now have 1.3 billion people. The market is very large. As far as I know, Hong Kong Disneyland is now very crowded," said Shao Qiwei, director of China's State Administration of Tourism, whose comments were broadcast on Hong Kong's Cable TV.


Raffles Beijing Hotel Celebratory Opening Package

March 14, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Raffles Beijing

Say hello to the brand spanking new Raffles Beijing Hotel. The decadent 171-room hotel makes its debut on May 28, and Raffles is celebrating big time. A little background: the hotel is not a new glass skyscraper or contemporary architectural icon. This building was constructed in the 1900s, and is cloaked in history. This is an illustrious Beijing address, located just a few minutes from the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square. Inside, the guest rooms are beautifully decorated, a fusion of Asian and French elegance. There is fine dining aplenty, and a gorgeous fitness center (squash or indoor tennis, anyone?) with its own indoor swimming pool. And the Raffles Beijing Hotel is celebrating its opening with a fantastic introductory offer. Two nights luxurious accommodation includes the following amenities: complimentary breakfast for two, arrival car transfer from the airport, complimentary wireless internet, and personal on-call valet services. Starting at CNY 2,180 per night for a Landmark Room, and CNY 2,680 for an Executive Room. Available May 28-August 31, 2006. Did I mention that the first 1,000 guests receive a special free commemorative gift?!


The Destination Spa Program at Banyan Tree Phuket, Thailand

March 10, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Banyan Tree Phuket

Arguably the world's best spa resort, the Banyan Tree Phuket is an exotic spa paradise facing Thailand's turquoise Andaman Sea. These exquisite tropical surroundings have recently become the sought-after setting for Banyan Tree's Destination Spa program: a series of fitness, wellness and cultural activities available in three, five and seven-night packages. The program includes accommodation for two in award-winning villas at Banyan Tree Phuket, daily breakfast, afternoon tea and dinner, two 90-minute massage sessions, an Intimate Moments experience, complimentary participation in daily fitness and wellness program and a special gift from Banyan Tree Gallery. In addition, guests are provided their own personal resort host to assist and recommend the best spa treatments. Rates begin at US$1,980 for a three-night package in a Deluxe Villa.

Banyan Tree Phuket, Official Site

Banyan Tree Phuket, Five Star Alliance


Taj Royal Escapes, India: Stay for Six Nights, Pay for Three!

February 27, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Taj Lake Palace

Now is the time to plan a holiday to India: to discover the colorful culture and mythical history of the desert-state of Rajasthan, the pulsing nightlife of New Delhi, and get pampered like a maharaja staying at the glorious Taj Hotels. It doesn't get much better than this with Taj Royal Escapes. From May 1- September 30, stay at any participating Taj luxury hotel, in any combination, and the benefits are extraordinary. Stay for 6 nights, pay for 3; stay for 10 nights, pay for 5; stay for 14 nights, pay for 7. Hotels include Taj Mahal Palace and Tower (Mumbai), Taj Mahal Hotel (New Delhi), Rambagh Palace (Jaipur), Umaid Bhawan Palace (Jodhpur), and the most romantic and magical hotel in the world: the Taj Lake Palace, which appears like a brightly lit castle floating on water in Udaipur.


Spotlight On: Four Seasons Hong Kong

February 23, 2006
By: Mary Winston Nicklin

Four Seasons Hong Kong

The new Four Seasons is the shining star of the prestigious International Finance Centre, the awesome business and shopping complex located on the waterfront of the Central neighborhood. This is easily the top location on Hong Kong Island, with unrivalled links to Hong Kong Station, and the Star Ferry just steps away. Described by the IHT as the "first major hotel to open in Hong Kong in 15 years," the Four Seasons Hong Kong opened its sleek, modern doors in September. Its 399 spacious guestrooms—with wall-to-wall windows offering views of the Harbour, Kowloon and the Peak—are well-equipped with the latest in technology, including 42-inch plasma screen TVs. Additionally, there are five excellent restaurants and bars, a fully-equipped health club, and an incredible, 2,043 sq meter spa with 18 treatment rooms including two VIP suites. The outdoor infinity pools, heated in winter, offer a pool-deck whirlpool and sweeping harbor views.

Related Articles:

IHT, "Hotel Watch: A Rare New Hotel in Hong Kong"

Four Seasons Hong Kong, Official Site

Four Seasons Hong Kong, Five Star Alliance