The British TV period drama Downton Abbey, which weaves stories around the lives of a fictional aristocratic family and their staff in the early 1900s, seems to have captured the imagination of luxury hotels worldwide. The series was featured as a Masterpiece Classic PBS program in the USA, and New York’s Oheka Castle luxury hotel in New York decided to offer its own Downton Abbey experience. It has created special “Aristocratic Escape Packages” where Lords and Ladies can be entertained in the manner befitting upper class gentry.
This pampering package includes overnight accommodation, afternoon tea, champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries and a copy of the drama series on DVD. Oheka Castle and Estate on Long Island is no stranger to an upmarket clientele. It was the setting for the marriage of Maude Kahn, elder daughter of Otto Kahn, to Scots Guard Major John Marriott in 1920 with a guest list straight from the Who’s Who of New York Society.
Other luxury hotels cashing in on popular TV series include the urban art hotel, Artists Residence, in Brighton England. It was featured in the Hotel Inspector TV series that shot a behind-the scenes-documentary and the hotel now basks in notoriety.
Similarly, the reality TV show Dancing with the Stars has prompted a spate of package weekend breaks with a dancing theme. Judges and professional contestants from the British version, Strictly Come Dancing, are guests at luxury country house hotels across Britain. Guests have two dance lessons before a performance, plus a Q&A session and photographs with the celebrities.
What started out as a novel way to attract single female travellers and groups of ladies has turned into a legal nightmare for a boutique hotel in Denmark. The Bella Sky Hotel in Copenhagen opened last year as Europe’s largest design hotel. It reserved one floor specifically for women and added extra feminine touches such as makeup mirrors and glossy magazines to make their female guests feel more pampered.
Unfortunately Denmark’s Equal Treatment Board ruled that the initiative was illegal. The hotel is currently refusing to comply with the ruling, stating “the only man who can access this floor will be a fireman in the case of fire”.
The Dukes Hotel, a five star London boutique hotel has also decided to woo women guests and has assigned some of its rooms as “Duchess Rooms”. These rooms are serviced solely by women staff and have added extras such as fresh flowers, styling accessories and female bathroom amenities. They are proving very popular with their upmarket female clientele, but may prove to be less than popular with the European Commission on Gender Equality.
The luxury travel market is suddenly being inundated with a new term – “Pop-up”. While the term is common in temporary pop-up seasonal shops, it is also now being applied to hotels. One British company calling itself the “Pop-Up Hotel” specializes in crafting temporary spaces for events and retreats, and other hotel chains are now joining in.
While temporary usually equates to cheap, in the case of the Papaya Playa Project in Mexico, it is anything but. Priced at up to $675 per night, the hotel group Design Hotels has created a pop-up hotel in a series of cabanas and casitas right on the beach at Tulum. Claiming that it offers a luxury “glamping” experience (being a type of glamorous camping) it does promise high thread count sheets, a spa incorporating Mayan shamanism and food from KaterHolzig, better known for its Berlin Bar 25 fame.
Design Hotel Founder Claus Sendlinger also plans to bring famous DJs and musicians to perform on the natural amphitheater on the beach, introduce an on-site designer boutique and offer the luxury traveler perks such as sustainable and organic food-on-the-go.
Not to be outdone, the Cosmopolitan Las Vegas luxury hotel is offering a Pop-Up Wedding Chapel for a short time. There is a choice of ceremonies: the Hitched in a Hurry economy package which includes a photo booth picture and space eraser rings, or the deluxe “Going to the Chapel” package which has a silk flower bouquet, logo tee shirts and party favors.
by Gillian at Luxique
There have been plenty of news articles about the theft of hotel items, but one chain of luxury hotels in Australia is actually encouraging it. Each of the Art Series Hotels in Melbourne is named after a well-known artist and aims to attract art lovers, seekers of culture, corporate travellers and those who enjoy the good life. From December 15, 2011 to January 15, 2012 they are also encouraging those with a slight criminal tendency to book a room.
Guests are being challenged to steal an original artwork by Banksy, best known for his graffiti-style. Those caught in the act will simply have to admit defeat and rehang the painting, but anyone who gets clean away with the painting gets to keep the AUS$15,000 signed masterpiece as the prize. The challenge was to lift the Banksy original “No Ball Games” and two female guests did indeed use all their cunning and guile to persuade the staff to actually load the painting into their car on December 19, claiming it had to be moved to another hotel.
Previous failed attempts including guests hacking into the CCTV system; placing a listening device beneath the Reception desk and countless requests for false housekeeping issues in a vain attempt to get staff to leave the painting unattended.
The Art Theft challenge continues with a second Banksy original now hanging. Guests have until January 15 to make off with “Pulp Fiction”, by fair means or foul!
Luxury hotel chain Hyatt has joined with Michelle Obama, Honorary Chair for Partnership with Healthier America, in creating new healthier menus for children. Currently Hyatt Hotels serves nearly 3 million children as guests in their hotels each year. They now pledge to provide a children’s menu with an “improved nutritional profile” in the fight against childhood obesity.
Changes that Hyatt guests will notice include making non-fat and low-fat milk available with free refills, alongside sodas. The children’s menu will be headed with a meal option that meets the MyPlate Federal guidelines for low-calorie healthy food and Hyatt will ensure that illustrations depict the nutritious options. Other changes in the menu should see fruit and vegetables arriving automatically on a child’s plate instead of fries or chips, and french toast will be made from wholegrain bread rather than white bread as at present.
Adult guests are not exempt from the new healthier standards as Hyatt vows to revamp recipes to reduce calories, sugar and sodium. They already serve cage-free eggs in all restaurant and room-service options. All Park Hyatt and Grand Hyatt properties will have the new improved menus in place by the end of 2012 and the hotel aims to reduce calorie intake by 10% across all its menus within three years. Kimpton Hotels has a Healthy Choice Menu with all choices under 500 calories and the Pierre in New York is also featuring lower calorie dishes.
While promoting these new healthy options is commendable, will it really impress loyal guests? And will other movers and shakers in the luxury hotel industry follow the Hyatt’s lead?
As airlines cut back on VIP services, luxury hotels are stepping in to fill the gap by offering new airport services to their valued guests. One of the first luxury hotels to see the need for a resident airport concierge was the Peninsula Beverly Hills. They now employ a team of five staff to meet guests at Los Angeles International Airport and help departing guests by securing better seats or helping with minor emergencies. The airport concierge service is free on arrival but departing guests are charged $100 per family for speeding them through security and giving them access to private airport lounges.
Luxury hotels in Jamaica, including the Island Outpost Hotel and Round Hill Hotel and Villas offer a similar Club Mobay service at Montego Bay Airport. For $30, departing guests can enjoy speedy processing through security and immigration and can relax in the private hotel lounge with Wi-Fi internet access, a mini-spa and a kid’s corner. The Four Seasons Marrakesh goes one better and whisks its guests out of the line at immigration to a VIP lounge where their passports are checked in comfort. Guests are catching on and are choosing to stay in luxury hotels which offer these valued extras.
As in-flight food becomes an optional extra, luxury hotels are also offering meals-to-go. The Jefferson in Washington D.C., the Four Seasons Seattle and the Montage Deer Valley in Park City, Utah are all offering delicious lunch boxes for passengers to enjoy in the airport lounge or onboard. Treats include sandwiches made with Creminelli salami, homemade granola bars and honey pops made by the hotel’s resident beekeeper!
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.
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.
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.
Five star hotels are frequently the preferred location for weddings, birthdays and other family events. Now luxury hotels in the Netherlands are completing the collection of family-oriented services by offering three-day breaks for couples to get divorced.
The idea is the brainchild of entrepreneur Jim Halfens who explains that couples first go through an extensive interview process and then choose their preferred luxury hotel to complete the divorce over a weekend. “It’s a divorce in three days, roundabouts, in a hotel,” Halfens explains.
One participant of the new scheme is the five star Hotel Karel in Utrecht where couples can book in, not for a chance to re-bond, but to commit to a quick low-cost divorce. Typically divorces can drag on through lawyers for anything from three months to three years, putting lives in limbo and costing a fortune. The Divorce Hotel solution comes in at around $3,500 including accommodation in two separate rooms, of course.
The three days include intensive meetings with mediators and other legal specialists including notaries and psychiatrists if necessary! Due to different divorce laws in different countries, so far only Dutch couples can actually complete the divorce process, but the idea could rapidly catch on in other countries.