Posts in the category "Hotels":

Jet lag? Free breakfast might help.

Free Breakfast

(Photo snapped at 4 a.m. with a borrowed cell phone… pre-coffee.)

No, matter how savvy you are about traveling and how many tricks you’ve got in your carry-on to avoid jet lag, there you are at 4 a.m. on the other side of the world wide awake and ready to start the day.

Or at least ready for that first cup of coffee.

That was me a few weeks back at the Hong Kong Novotel Citygate, which is right near Hong Kong International Airport.

I was too awake to sleep and had not yet discovered the coffee maker in my room hidden behind a panel, so I headed to the lobby in search of the coffee hotels often have out before their restaurant opens.

Breakfast is not included in everyone’s rate at this hotel, but I was impressed to discover that this hotel not only had coffee out for early risers, but a nice spread of complimentary continental breakfast – and a cute sign inviting guests to enjoy it.

(My hotel stay was part of a Cathay Pacific press trip that included a tour of the airline’s cargo operations facility and, of course, a day at Hong Kong International Airport.)

Escape the cold on vacation? It will cost you.

Radisson Blue

The beach bar at the Radisson Blu Resort, Marina & Spa on the Caribbean island of St. Martin.Courtesy of the hotel.

 

 

The “get me out of here!” calls are rolling in to travel counselors around the country as spring break kicks off and yet more winter storms bring bitter cold weather to many parts of the United States.

“People are literally crying to help us get them somewhere with guaranteed good weather,” said Jack Ezon, president of Ovation Vacations, a member of the Virtuoso luxury travel network.

“Our winter business has spiked 38.5 percent in the past three weeks. And last minute business, meaning requests 10 days out or less, accounts for a whopping 78 percent of our business this year for winter travel,” he said.

Several online agencies, including STA Travel, a discount student agency, report the same.

“We have definitely seen an increase in requests recently, mainly to Cancun,” STA spokeswoman Teresa Cordova said. Some of the more popular places are sold out, and prices at other properties are about 30 percent more expensive than they were six weeks ago, she said.

CheapOair.com’s data show travel to warmer destinations has increased 27 percent over the past few weeks to destinations including Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean.

“If you haven’t booked your spring break yet, do so immediately and have a backup list of where you want to go,” said Mark Drusch, chief supplier relations officer for CheapOair.com. “Consider counter-seasonal destinations or international destinations, such as Central America, perhaps more so this year due to the weather and its impact on bookings.”

At the Radisson Blu Resort, Marina & Spa on the Caribbean island of St. Martin “rooms are flying off the shelves,” General Manager Jean-Marc Jalbert said via email. “We are right in the middle of the perfect storm—a good one. We have not raised our prices because of the weather, but we have been pretty much sold out since the second week of January.”

Jalbert said unlike previous years, there is no negotiating on rate room rates right now and that if superior or deluxe rooms are no longer available, “the guests buy suites, just to get out of the cold weather. We have also seen people extending their stay at the last minute, reluctant to go back to the cold.”

Ovation Travel’s Ezon hasn’t noticed many hotels raising their rates as a result of the bad weather in the United States, but says many properties are blocking out promotions or are instituting minimum stays.

“The other big challenge right now is getting people to their destinations,” said Ezon.

The unrelenting winter storms are motivating people to plan and book trips to warm weather destinations, but bus, train and airline cancellations often get in the way.

“My advice for all winter refugees is to buy insurance that covers either ‘cancel for any reason’ or delay/cancellation based on weather,” said Ezon. “And make sure to buy it from someone who understands the nuances in the policies, because not all will pay for your vacation if your flight is merely canceled due to snow.”

(My store about winter storms spiking demand for vacations in warm weather destinations first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior)

 

Smoker in need of a hotel?

Lucky Stirke smoking

A new online booking tool has rolled out to help smokers find hotel rooms where it’s OK to light up.

Lake Forest, Calif.-based Smoketels.com has a database of more than 250,000 smoking-allowed hotel rooms, said founder and smoker Shawn Bradley. “On existing online travel reservation sites such as Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia, you have to click on the hotel and then look to see if there might be any smoking rooms,” he said. “That gets very confusing and frustrating. Our inventory only includes hotels where smoking rooms are available.”

An increasing number of hotels, such as Marriott and Starwood, have made all their U.S. properties 100 percent smoke-free. “But many Days Inn and Quality Inn properties — and many hotels in the South, where there are still many heavy smokers — will generally have smoking rooms available,” said Bradley.

In a 2012 survey of 52,000 properties conducted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 63 percent reported being 100 percent smoke-free. “But keep in mind,” said Bradley, “many hotel chains that ban smoking in their U.S. properties have smoking rooms available at their properties in other countries.”

Many of the estimated 43.8 million adult smokers in the U.S. who travel will smoke even if they have to rent a nonsmoking room. “They’ll burn candles, use cologne, blow the smoke out the windows, all in an effort to mask the smoke,” said Bradley.

Smoketels.com may have a hard time going up against existing online travel agencies, said Marcello Gasdia, a consumer analyst with PhoCusWright.

“The only way to generate revenue is to steal market share,” said Gasdia. “That’s a tough thing to do when you’re going against entrenched players like Priceline, Expedia or Kayak. Going for a niche audience is one approach, but it’s still difficult to pull any consumer from these household name brands.”

(My story about a new website that lists hotels where it is OK to smoke first appeared on NBC News Travel.

Travel slug? Get a workout at the airport

It’s far too easy to become a slug when you’re on the road. But staying active offers business travelers an edge: the benefits of working out while traveling include stress reduction and an increased ability to combat jet lag.

GOODLIFE FITNESS - GoodLife Fitness Lands at Toronto Pearson

Travelers passing through Canada’s largest airport, Toronto Pearson International, now have an extra advantage: an airport health club.

GoodLife Fitness, which has over 300 locations across Canada, has opened a branch in the Terminal 1 Arrivals area (presecurity), offering a 10,000-square-foot workout area, changing rooms with showers, towel service and luggage storage. No workout clothing? No excuse: Workout clothing and sneakers are available for rent. A daily pass is CND $15, or US $14.58. Hours: 4:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Toronto Pearson may currently be the only airport in North America to have an in-terminal fitness club open to the public, but it’s not the first to give it a try. In the late 1990s, North America’s first airport fitness center opened at Pittsburgh International Airport (it closed not long after 9/11), and for several years there was a 24-hour fitness club at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas.

While certainly convenient, on-site fitness clubs aren’t the only way to get a workout at the airport. Here are some options for working off calories in other North American airports.

Athletic Club

Athletic Club at the Chicago O’Hare Hilton

 

Accessible from the domestic terminals and popular with pilots and flight attendants as well as travelers, the 8,000-square-foot fitness center at the Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport has an indoor lap pool, sauna, steam room and full-service locker room. Work-out gear is available for purchase. Daily pass: $20; hours: 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends.

Detroit Westin pool

The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport, connected to the airport’s McNamara Terminal, offers guest passes to the fitness club, a pool and locker room for $15. Open 24 hours (pool closes at 11 p.m.)

SFO YOGA ROOM

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) has an enclosed yoga room in Terminal 2 and, at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, a privacy screen set up in front of a window on a walkway between Terminals B and D creates a yoga “studio” with a view. Burlington International Airport in Vermont also has set aside space for yoga and stretching as well. Loaner mats are available.

BWI Trail - courtesy BWI Airport

The 12.5 mile scenic BWI Trail completely encircles Baltimore-Washington International Airport and has a walking /biking path that includes a link to an aircraft observation park with picnic tables and a playground. “BWI has a longstanding reputation as the ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ airport,” said airport spokesman Jonathan Dean. “The BWI trail resources are an important example of our commitment to a convenient, excellent experience for our customers.”

BWI-Cardio-Trail-sign-terminal-

Calorie-burning mileage is marked on paths inside Indianapolis International Airport, Baltimore-Washington International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and others. A tool on the American Heart Association website will help you find these paths and others in many other airports.

The Grand Hyatt DFW, connected to the international terminal at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, offers day passes to its fitness center and to the heated outdoor pool on the rooftop overlooking a runway, for $30. Locker room facilities include steam saunas; nonguests may use the facilities until 8 p.m.

5.0.2

At Vancouver International Airport, travelers may purchase a day pass to the health club at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport for CND $18 (US $17.50). Club features include a children’s wading pool, a mechanized three-lane lap pool that allows swimmers to adjust their own current, saunas and work-out equipment. Hours: daily 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Of course, even if there are no marked walking paths, health clubs or yoga studios at an airport, there’s still an easy—and free—way to work off calories: Take the stairs instead of the escalators, avoid the moving walkways and track your mileage with a clip-on pedometer or an app on your smartphone. Just try to set your path to avoid the airport candy shops—and the bars.

(My story about airport workouts first appeared on CNBC Road Warrior)

Busy bees help the environment & the bottom line

Waldorf Beehives Lower Res

Bed bugs in hotel rooms are definitely bad for business, but bees on hotel rooftops can be good for the financial and environmental bottom line.

Beekeepers are moving millions of honeybees into apiaries at hotels in urban and rural areas, with harvested honey showing up in restaurant dishes, beer and cocktails, spa treatments and in lip balm, soap and other products sold or given to guests.

Honeybees are now hosted at 21 Fairmont Hotels & Resorts in North America, Asia, Africa, Bermuda and Mexico, including at the Fairmont Washington, D.C., Georgetown, where three hives with 105,000 Italian honeybees were installed in 2009 for set-up fee of about $1,200,

Maintaining the Fairmont’s DC hives is about $300 per year and the 300 gallons of honey harvested annually (plus honeycomb and beeswax) is used in the hotel’s signature “BeeTini” ($14), in honey walnut bread ($4), in various desserts and sauces as well as in lip balm, honey tea and sunscreen given as amenities and gifts to guests.

“We believe that our honeybees are good for business,” said Ian Bens, chief beekeeper and executive sous chef at the Fairmont Washington, D.C. “Our guests appreciate the fact that we are helping the bee population and the environment, and they enjoy the taste of local honey that is included in much of our culinary program.”

The Waldorf Astoria New York has had from 250,000 to 350,000 bees in residence since 2012, when six beehives were installed on the 20th floor rooftop for a cost of about $4,000.

The hotel’s honey is now an ingredient in dishes in every hotel restaurant and used as gifts by the hotel’s sales team for VIP guests and potential customers. Hotel officials also report that Sunday brunch revenue has increased over 20 percent since the installation of the hives and, since the addition of a tour of the rooftop beehives and garden to the hotel’s Historical Tours ($65 per person—inclusive of lunch, taxes and gratuity), demand has increased by 30 percent.

In Snoqualmie, Washington, not far from Seattle, the apiary at the Salish Lodge & Spa is providing honey for signature dining room dishes, spa treatments, honey-flavored beer and vodka and retail products ranging from honey-flavored marmalade, truffles and caramel corn.

Operating the apiary costs about $9,000 a year, “but we feel that there is no price for doing the right thing,” said General Manager Rod Lapasin. “It is essential that individuals and businesses alike do our part for our environment, of which we know the honeybee is a very essential component.”

Airports are also getting into the apiary business.

Lambert-St. Louis International Airport receives about $75 per year to house beehives on 400 square feet of airport property just north of a runway. The abundance of Dutch clover and the lack of pesticides are big draws to both the beekeeper and the bees. And while the revenue for the airport is minimal, “it’s a great opportunity for us to assist in a ‘green’ initiative that’s positive for environment and the community,” said airport spokesman Jeff Lea, “especially in light of recent reports on bee colony collapse.”

Fifty beehives now sit on land owned by Chicago O’Hare International Airport and produce about 1,000 gallons of honey each year. Their honey is used in such beauty products as lip balm, moisturizer and bath lotion that are sold at Hudson News stores and other locations in O’Hare and Midway airports.

“We have grown the business from $5,000 in 2012 to $25,000 so far in 2013,” said Hudson Group spokeswoman Laura Samuels, who notes that the all-natural lip balm is an especially good seller.

The apiary program pays minimal rent to the airport, but some revenue from product sales does go back to the airport via Hudson News.

And this summer, 16 honey bee colonies were established on land at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. “We’ve also raised two groups of local queens and are working with the airport to plan the installation of 50 acres of native wildflower meadows,” said Bob Redmond, executive director of The Common Acre, the nonprofit group coordinating the Flight Path project.

The group has already harvested about 250 pounds of honey, sales of which will go toward the costs of the project. Beyond that, he said, “the yields are long-term—healthy local bees, healthy habitat, support of native bee populations, the potential to distribute bees and wildflower seeds around the region, and education and inspiration of tens of thousands of people.”

Sweet.

(My story about bees at hotels and airports first appeared on CNBC)

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