USA Today reports a 300% increase in the demand for hotel WiFi services as business and leisure guests carry more and more devices. David Garrison, CEO of iBahn which provides Internet services to the hospitality and travel industry, sees the rocketing demand will present problems for hotels in the near future.
In his experience the rapid growth in the use of iPads and tablets is already stretching demand, causing slow Internet service at peak times. He foresees that hotels and airports will be forced to increase the band width and that will be the end of unlimited free Internet access for guests.
Almost one third of travelers today carry a smartphone, laptop and a tablet such as the Apple iPad and they are using them more than ever before. The demand for video is particularly heavy and can create a tremendous traffic jam at peak times. Garrison predicts that chains such as Marriott, Hyatt, Starwood and Hilton that currently offer free Internet may change their policy. Guest may be able to check their email for free in the future, but downloading films and video may incur an extra fee.
One of the expected services offered by luxury hotels is the concierge and it has become a recognized profession. Les Clefs d’Or, which means Golden Keys, has over 3,000 professional concierge members, all with proven track records of making the impossible happen.
Some in the travel industry predicted that with the prolific information available on the Internet at our fingertips, a concierge would soon be a relic of the past, but apparently not so. President of the US branch of the Clef d’Or, Jeanne Mills, sees their role as more essential than ever. “Guests are seeking the guidance of concierges now to help them filter the barrage of information and to seek personal insight.”
Claudette Breve, concierge at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans has no fear of being replaced by an Internet search engine. “Does a computer have a personality and charm or hands-on experience? I’d say no. Can a computer get you courtside seats for playoffs or a front-row seat at a sold-out concert? That’s the difference between a computer and a concierge“, she comments.
Although many of the questions she faces on a daily basis are mundane, such as “How do I take the streetcar?” or explaining the difference between Cajun and Creole cuisine, her skills are truly honed when challenged to provide the impossible.
“If it’s not illegal or immoral, we’ll do it,” said Rudy Rasmussen, concierge at the Ritz-Carlton in New Orleans. He cites many misconceptions about the role of a concierge. “We’re approachable, and we’re not snobs!” he says as he tries to let guests know that he is available to do more than just hand out maps and make reservations, important as those tasks are. Although many guests shy away from using the concierge fearing a large tip is required, he feels that this should never be the case. Tipping is at the guest’s discretion, in line with the magnitude of the request being made.
Condé Nast Traveler has just released the results of its annual Readers’ Choice survey for the Best Hotel in the World. It revealed that the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai luxury hotel is the 2011 winner of this prestigious title.
In second place was Peninsula House in the Dominican Republic, just ahead of the Four Seasons Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt. Luxury hotels in South Africa, which have done very well in tourism awards so far this year, was represented by the Safari Lodge at Phinda Private Game Reserve which was given fourth place.
The awards are chosen by a large cross-section of business and leisure travelers as over 28,000 readers submitted their top choice. The same process was used for readers to vote for the best city in each country. Here the United States winner was Charleston, South Carolina. Quebec City was voted top city in Canada and San Miguel de Allende won for Mexico.
Further awards were given for each continent, giving travelers more ideas for some great city trips. Sydney, Australia was voted the top city to visit in the Oceania section, Buenos Aires won for Central and South America, Kyoto won in Asia and the lovely city of Florence, Italy won the award for best city in Europe.
Despite an onslaught of hype and billions of dollars invested, Dubai did not get a mention until #49 when the Park Hyatt Dubai was named, well behind more modest offerings in England, New Zealand and Greece.
Luxury hotels in New York will be gearing up for their usual pre-holiday rush as shoppers descend from all over the world to shop for holiday gifts and the latest winter fashions.
One innovative company has recognized the inconvenience of trailing around the stores with a handful of unwieldy shopping bags so they have come up with the perfect solution – Cubby. This new service is a cross between a luggage store and a courier service and is centrally located on Park Avenue South and 23rd Street in Manhattan. More downtown locations are planned to open shortly.
The idea is that shoppers drop their purchases at Cubby, perhaps before taking a break for lunch. They can then continue on their quest, unencumbered by their earlier purchases. Shoppers can either pay to have their bags held for collection later or can arrange to have their bags delivered to their hotel by bicycle courier. The Cubby store is open from 8am to midnight.
Shoppers can download an app to make a reservation for storage at preferential rates. Prices are dependent upon size, and start from $5 for the first bag. Additional bags are charged at lower rates and the optional personal courier service is $10.
How do you fancy staying in a luxury hotel in Dubai with plasma TV, luxury suites, indoor and outdoor gym, personal limo and gorgeous outdoor swimming pool? The latest luxury resort to open in Dubai is Urban Tails and unfortunately it is just for pets! However no expense is spared in giving them the same top-notch service that their owners might expect from a similar luxury hotel.
Custom-built to keep pets happy while their owners are away, the hotel offers 70 suites for dogs and 40 for cats. Plasma TVs in each room are tuned to familiar programs so the pets don’t feel homesick. Pampered pets are offered beauty treatments in the pet boutique, exercise in the gym and even a day at Doggie Boot Camp. Treadmills and agility courses provide challenging fun for energetic dogs, with their own personal trainers of course.
If transportation is required it is provided in a chauffeur-driven limo. This ultimate pet resort destination has been ranked the world’s first seven star pet destination, with rates from $31 per day to $105 for the Royal Suite. It will certainly ease the guilt trip as doting owners jet off to their own luxury resort destination.
There are more than 40 luxury hotels in London and many of them are involved in multi-million dollar refurbishments with no sign of concession to the current economic downturn. Marriott is opening two new brands in London – a Bvulgari in Knightsbridge and an Edition hotel on the site of the former Berners Hotel. Shangri-La is also opening a new luxury hotel at London Bridge.
The classic Four Seasons luxury hotel on Park Lane is reaping the benefits of a £125 million refurb that gave the rooms and restaurants a totally new look. Most daring of all, a whole new floor was added to accommodate the fabulous spa.
The glitzy modern W hotel in Leicester Square, the heart of London’s theaterland, has recently had a 192 room extension. It is making the most of its stunning new features, such as the huge glitterball in the bar, to host BAFTA awards parties making it the central hub for events in the heart of London.
The newly opened Corinthia Hotel in a former government building cost £300 million to develop. It blends high-class English traditions with some contemporary touches – such as the innovative décor in the Bassoon Bar.
Last but not least, the former railway hotel, now the Renaissance St Pancras, reopened after 76 years at a cost of £200 million. Its Gothic architecture, talked-about restaurants and convenient location to the Eurostar at the adjoining St Pancras Station make this a certain success.
The recent World Travel Awards, known as the Oscars of the travel industry, recently announced the winners of their comprehensive awards program. Luxury hotels in South Africa were the talk of the event with the Legend Golf and Safari Resort at Limpopo winning an impressive double. They scooped not only the award for Africa’s Leading Sports Resort, but also made it a double celebration by being recognized as South Africa’s Leading Golf Resort for the second successive year.
Located two hours’ drive north of Johannesburg in the Limpopo Province and within striking distance of the Kruger National Park, their unique “world-in-one” Signature Golf Course is a must-play for serious golfers. Each of the 18 holes has been designed by a world golfing legend. However, the most talked-about hole is the Par 3, the Extreme 19th. Set high up on the impressive Hanglip Mountain, the hole is accessible only by helicopter and played to a green the shape of Africa some 1,300 feet below. It boasts a unique golfing experience complete with adrenaline rush!
Despite its remote location, Peet Cilliers, CEO of Legend Lodges, Hotels & Resorts, said, “The resort is proving to be a great success and increasingly popular with tour operators, conference and event organizers and travellers from around the world. And we continue to strive to deliver a truly 21st century experience in the heart of the African bush”.
After the acclaimed success of the Ice Hotel at Jukkasjarvi, Sweden offers another innovative hotel idea to the world – a suite in a disused silver mine. While most guests are prepared to pay top dollar for the penthouse, descending over 500 feet below ground into a disused silver mine is also pretty pricey at £380 ($600) per night.
Guests reach the unusual room-without-a-view via the lift which descends the mine shaft in seconds. The hewn out cave has walls that shimmer with silver in the candlelight, a comfy double bed and silver furnishings. There is of course no cellphone service, Internet access or central heating, but the air underground remains an ambient 18°C (64°F) year-round.
As for the mine’s history, this silver mine in the town of Sala was the largest silver producer in Sweden for over 400 years. It took miners ten years just to create the bedroom-sized cave. The painstaking process involved burning wood to heat the silver so it could be removed by hand more easily.
Perhaps with the current rising price of precious metals, guests may be packing a rock hammer in their suitcase to procure a precious souvenir of their stay.