October 7, 2011
By: Christopher Roney
Hello friends/acquaintances/internet (wo)men,
Today I want to take some time out of my busy schedule to address an important issue in the hotel world. Randall Munroe of XKCD has been kind enough to bring to our attention one of the problems plaguing hotels and travelers alike: The bogus hotel review. Who are these evil people who are out to ruin the reputation of perfectly good hotels and steer you wrong in your vacation plans? Are they fun-hating scrooges who kick puppies and steal candy from babies? Maybe. But that doesn’t have much to do with writing reviews. Maybe instead they’re hired guns engaging in intricate plots of corporate espionage, compromising their rivals with claims of bed bugs and sticky-fingered staff. Or maybe they’re just entitled people full of rage at some perceived slight: “Agh, my muffin wasn’t cut in half for me! Worst hotel ever!!!”
We may never know for sure. But what we do know is this: Telling the real reviews from the fake is just as important as any step in the booking process. And it can be really difficult to do so. Here’s a couple of tips I’ve picked up in my time working with online reviews.
1. Don’t base your decision off a single negative review. Look at the aggregate of a hotel’s reputation online and across more than one site. Some of the biggest review sites are so worried about trustworthiness, they're changing their slogans. Any mistake can be made once, but the mark of a problem is when more than one person on more than one site points out the same bad service.
2. Go to the experts. If industry staples are reviewing a hotel well, it’s unlikely that poor reviews are anything but an anomaly. And conversely if it’s getting bad reviews, you might want to think twice about booking. This isn’t to say you should ignore customer reviews, however. Professional reviews are great at getting drilling deep into the nitty-gritty of a hotel stay and evaluating across multiple hotels, but customers are more likely to spot the most recent changes in a hotel’s practices. If a hotel has taken a turn for the worse, customers will be the first to know.
3. Pay attention to the language. According to a study by Cornell researchers, if a reviewer itemizes every experience they had, mentions the name of the hotel, and uses a lot of exclamation points, there’s a chance that it’s been generated by the hotel itself. Plenty of people enjoy their stays and want to gush about them, but very few will take the time to give you an itemized list of everything you can see and do there.
4. Above all, trust your instincts. Ultimately, reading online reviews is about reading the people who wrote them, and even after only a couple of sentences you’ll have a good sense of who is trustworthy. If you think someone sounds like a fake or is completely irrational, don’t let them color your judgment.
October 6, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Hot off the press! Starwood has unveiled a dazzling hotel in Florence, Italy. After a 10-month restoration, the property that was formerly called the Grand Hotel Florence has been reborn as a St. Regis- meaning it features the signature St. Regis Butler service and St. Regis Aficionado program, providing guests with insider access to once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Talk about historical grandeur! This hotel was originally designed in 1432 by Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect of the Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore, and is one of the city's most culturally significant buildings. The 81 guest rooms-- including the opulent designer suite by Bottega Veneta-- are decked out with paintings, decorative antiques, frescos and crystal chandeliers-- thus paying homage to local Florentine artisans. Overlooking the Arno River, the hotel also features three Iridium Spa Suites for the ultimate in pampering. What we're most excited about? A stellar restaurant called Etichetta Pinchiorri, opened by the folks behind the Michelin three-star restaurant Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence.
From supporting local craftsmen in Romania to clean-ups of the reefs in Cozumel, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts knows responsible business. In fact, they've partnered with National Geographic’s Center for Sustainable Destinations to celebrate Responsible Business Week. Hotels around the world are "taking part in activities that ensure their location remains an appealing place to visit for future generations"- to quote the official press release. The protection and preservation of local environments is key. Examples of these geotourism initiatives include: InterContinental Boston's rooftop beehives that pollinate the flora in surrounding parks and provide local honey for the kitchen; InterContinental Bora Bora Resort's salt water air-conditioning system, the first in the world; Presidente InterContinental Cozumel Resort's environmental work to protect the reefs and marine life, teaching guests how to scuba dive responsibly. More details can be found here.
As fans of Hyatt's Andaz brand, we've been keeping our eye on this story for awhile. Come January 1, 2012, Andaz will be arriving in China with a cool new hotel in Shanghai's Xintiandi district. HotelChatter recently got the scoop from a very-excited tipster who claimed the property was originally slated to belong to Jumeirah. From the hotel's official website, there's a lot to be thrilled about. A spa with a swimming pool and juice bar. An all-day patisserie called-- what else?-- Éclair. A fun lounge and restaurant that combines a "French bistro and Shanghainese brasserie." A Glass Pavilion for weddings and red carpet events. Not to mention the rooms with a view, all equipped with an "impressive LED lighting where guests can customise the colour to suit their mood." In Andaz fashion, all non-alcoholic minibar drinks and snacks, local telephone calls, and wireless internet access are free.
Pictured: Andaz Liverpool Street in London.
From special spa treatments to private guitar lessons for adolescents, hotels are noticing the teenager set. The latest trend in the hospitality world is the teen lounge created exclusively for teenagers at luxury hotels. Read: no adults allowed. At the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa, the Blur Teen Lounge was an instant hit when it opened in April. Traveling with an adolescent can be tricky, but the Teen Lounge provides a separate area for independent-minded teens to hang out and relax, while still on hotel property. Another big attraction? All the technology, like iPads, an Xbox 360, a Playstation 3, a 46-inch LCD HDTV, and a DVD library. Also in Arizona: the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has an exclusive teen lounge called The Hang Out.
When the temperatures start to cool off in this hemisphere, things are only heating up in Australia. How about a Christmas or NYE break in OZ? Bask in the Australian sun and learn the ins and outs of one of the coolest cities on the planet. (The Clefs d'Or Head Concierge at the Sydney Harbour Marriott will hook you up with local insight on the city's premier attractions.) For your stay in Sydney, experience the newly refurbished Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay. Just minutes from the Harbour Bridge, Opera House, Sydney Aquarium, Observatory and historic Rocks district, this stylish waterfront hotel recently completed a $20 million refurbishment. New features include large 42” flat screen LCD televisions in every room, as well as high speed wireless internet and an iPod docking station - not to mention the famous Marriott "Revive" bedding (300-thread-count linens, fluffier pillow & down duvets). Most guest rooms have killer views of the harbour, to boot. Start off the day with a full breakfast buffet in Icons restaurant, and after exploring Sydney, return for a swim in the indoor pool or for a massage in the day spa.
2012 will be a big year for Britain, says Travel Agent Magazine. London is prepping for a series of blockbuster events, starting with the Queen's Jubilee in June, honoring Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne (can we say gigantic flotilla on the Thames?) If you're eager to get in on the action, and also partake in Olympic fever, it's best to book your hotel room ASAP. The USA Today reports that "hotels are expected to fill about 92% of their rooms, which will mean many sold-out nights"-- according to a new forecast from Pricewaterhouse Coopers. "And that's despite a number of new hotels that have opened, including Dorchester Collection's tony 45 Park Lane in Mayfair and Starwood's trendy W in the heart of Leicester Square."
Looking for a hotel in London or the surrounding area? Five Star Alliance has a number of recommendations- whether you want a family-friendly boutique hotel or an opulent palace on the Thames. There are also a slew of four-star hotels available.
Pictured: The Athenaeum Hotel and Apartments.
September 30, 2011
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
When The Savoy opened its gilded gates in London last year after a staggering £220 million restoration project, London couldn't stop talking about it. (And when we dropped by for a visit earlier this year, there was an impressive line of visitors gawking at the famous bars and lobby.) A lot of ink has been spilled about the "most ambitious hotel restoration in British history"-- but did you know that it was also an eco-friendly one? (Fairmont-- who manages the hotel-- gets serious props for its green programs.) The Savoy is all about sustainable luxury, having installed the latest in green technology in the hotel, and having launched various sustainable initiatives. To show guests the green side of London, the hotel has launched "The Savoy Elements Package." Here's what it includes:
* Overnight accommodation
* Return transfers in a luxury hybrid vehicle from a London airport or station
* A “Savoy Green Butler” to assist with requests such as packing and making travel arrangements as well as advising on green initiatives within the hotel and places of interest around London
* Welcome green gift on arrival
* Choice of inspirational 3-hour walking green tour of London
* Complimentary valet car parking if arriving by hybrid vehicle
* Complimentary use of a BMW bicycle with helmet provided
* An organic, 3-course dinner in either the River Restaurant with a pre-dinner, biodynamic cocktail
* Organic breakfast with selected organic juices
* A one-day travelcard allowing free use of London's public transport network
* A donation of £10 to London charity Thames 21, on behalf of the guest
* An organic, gourmet picnic hamper and blanket can be arranged at an additional cost
* Details of outdoor activities, including heritage sites, nature walks, cycle and jogging routes, wildlife centres, conservation programmes and community projects for volunteering are available through the Concierge
Rates from £825 per night, based on double occupancy and subject to availability.
Say goodnight to the Hotel Victor. Located next to the Versace mansion on Ocean Drive in South Beach, the sexy designer hotel once embodied South Beach's pleasure-seeking vibe. Back in 2004, the press fell hard for the concept after the Victor had a major overhaul by French designer Jacques Garcia; the Hotel Victor debuted mini-bars stuffed full of “South Beach life-style essentials” (like chilled eye masks), the personal "vibe manager" to arrange your stay in Miami, and cool, signature treatments like the Jet Lag V at the Spa V. Oh, and let's not forget the illuminated jellyfish tank in the bar. Now we hear that Thompson Hotels has acquired the Hotel Victor will be re-branding it as the Thompson Ocean Drive after a multi-million dollar renovation of the public spaces and guest rooms. Anticipated date of completion: early 2012.
Kimpton has snatched up a fine piece of real estate in San Diego- the former Sè Hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter. Just this week, the property reopened as the Hotel Palomar San Diego with a rooftop bar and pool deck, destination spa, and a two-story "gastro-lounge" called Saltbox Dining and Drinking. Kimpton's latest hotel joins sister property, Hotel Solamar, which is located eight blocks away. Say hello to the shiny new hotel with a special introductory offer of $159, plus a complimentary glass of Champagne for two while dining at Saltbox. Subject to availability, through December 30, 2011.
For more history on this sleek, design-led hotel, and who owned it even before it was called the Sè Hotel, check out this article.