Kimpton Hotels

Miss Spot? Check into a hotel with a loaner pet

Love your pet but can’t take it along with you when you travel? Then consider staying at a hotel that will loan you a dog, a cat or a fish. Here’s a story I put together for CNBC Road Warrior:

Beau and Mavis Fairmont

 

Fluffy pillows might make hotel guests feel welcome, but sometimes face time with a floppy-eared mutt is what a road warrior might be craving.

That’s why the Red Mountain Resort in St. George, Utah, offers the Pound Puppy Hike, a complimentary amenity that matches guests with a puppy or dog from a local shelter for hikes on scenic trails in the area. “We know that busy executives are visiting the property to recharge and disconnect yet stay active and not sit around,” said resort general manager Tracey Welsh.

The Humane Society of the United States estimated in 2012 that there were pets in 62 percent of American households, so in Aspen, Colorado, guests missing their own pets are pointed to the Aspen Animal Shelter, which welcomes short-term volunteers and charges no fee to loan dogs for in-town walks or day-long hikes.

“The outings provide exercise and socialization for the dogs and often lead to successful adoptions,” said Aspen Animal Shelter director Seth Sachson.

Some pet-friendly Aspen hotels, such as The Little Nell and the Mountain House Lodge, waive pet fees that can reach $125 per stay for guests that invite lucky shelter dogs to spend the night. And both The Little Nell and the Hotel Jerome provide shuttle service to and from the shelter, said Sachson.

Friendly “canine ambassadors” greet guests at eight North American Fairmont hotels and many of those dogs can be booked for walks or runs around town. At the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, it is Mavis and Beau, while at the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston, the concierge has a special appointment book for walks or runs with the very popular Catie and Carly.

In addition to being a bonus for younger guests (and their parents), “the program results in higher guest satisfaction and more personalized guest experiences, while positioning the hotels as unique and distinctive in their respective destinations,” said Hadley Schroll, a spokeswoman for FRHI Hotels & Resorts, which owns the Fairmont brand.

While offering loaner dogs, like loaner sports equipment, may give a hotel a leg up on its competition, “even programs with the best intentions are still objectifying animals” and putting some at risk, said Lisa Marcotte, business development manager for pet insurance provider Trupanion. “Those who have no commitment to an animal are less inclined to care for them properly or keep them from injuring people and damaging property,” she said.

There’s no need to worry about personal injury with Maya, Louie or George, the kitties that will sleep in a guest room for no charge at the Vintage Inn in Yountville, Calif., or with the free loaner goldfish offered through the “Guppy Love” program at Kimpton Hotels.

KIMPTON FISH

The program started in 1997 when the Hotel Monaco Seattle (part of the Kimpton collection) added a goldfish companion to the in-room dining menu. “It was an option at the bottom of the menu where guests could order it for $5 and we would often surprise VIP guests with a goldfish upon arrival as a fun amenity,” said hotel spokeswoman Melanie Blair.

Instead of cashing in on what became a very popular demand, the hotel decided to make the loaner fish amenity complimentary for all guests and, eventually, so did all 61 Kimpton hotels.

And while no fish rental fees are collected, the goldfish seem to be earning their keep.

“While we initially chose the Monaco for its location, and for the wine hour, we now choose it because of the goldfish,” said Liz Phillips, a middle school teacher from Portland, Ore. whose family stays at the Hotel Monaco Seattle each Thanksgiving.

“The first year, we walked into the hotel room to find two fish bowls housing two huge goldfish with a note saying that the fish were named “Bella” and “Gabbie,” the names of our own children. Our kids were thrilled and after that that experience there was no way we could ever stay anywhere else.

Tidbits for travelers: Merlion Hotel and other offers

A couple of fun, hotel-related, tidbits for you today:

MERLION

If you’ve been to Singapore – or seen photos from there – no doubt you’ve seen the country’s mascot: an imaginary animal that has the body of a fish and the head of a lion. The sculpture sits in Merlion Park, overlooking Marina Bay.

For the upcoming Singapore Biennale, – an arts celebration running from March 13 through May 15, 2011 – Japanese installation artist Tatzu Nishi has created the one-room Merlion Hotel: an upscale, temporary suite with a double-bed, a bathroom and a full-range of amenities, including a Merlion Hotel Butler.

Here’s what it will look like:

(artist’s rendering, detail), 2011. Image courtesy of the artist.

Reservations for Merlion Hotel opened last week and sold-out immediately, but you can still get a look inside: the suite will be open to the public each day of the Biennale.

Can’t fly to Singapore right now? Here are a few other unusual hotel events in other cities:

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants is hosting a Paw-parazzi Pet Photo Contest: You have until May 31, 2011 to submit a photo of your pet and, every two weeks, prizes will be awarded to the five photos that get the most ‘Like’ votes.  At the end of the contest, one lucky pet (and their persons) will win the grand prize, which will include airline tickets, a hotel room, dining credit and assorted goodies. Here are the details about the Paw-parazzi Pet Photo Contest.

Prefer watches to watchdogs? The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas may be able to help. Once each month from now through Labor Day, a guest booked at the Suite Dreams rate will be find a complimentary Bulgari watch under his or her pillow.

Ice-cream. At the airport, the hotel and beyond.

We’re having a heat wave.

Well, a lot of the country is having a heat wave. The kind of tropical heat wave Ella Fitzgerald, Marilyn Monroe and Gale Storm sang about.

And when there’s a heat wave there’s only one thing to do: eat ice-cream and lots of it.

Back in the 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice-Cream Month and set aside the third Sunday of the month as National Ice-Cream Day.  And, as this photo proves, President Barack Obama is a big fan of ice-cream too.

(Photo courtesy Wells’ Dairy, Le Mars, Iowa)

So as you’re traveling around this month, be sure to stop and eat some ice-cream.  If you’re stuck at the airport, it’s a good chance you’ll find a branch of Ben & Jerry’s, Haagen-Dazs or some other well-known ice-cream or frozen yogurt chain in the food court.

Better yet, here’s hoping you land at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, where there’s a branch of Amy’s Ice-Cream, a local favorite, or at Little Rock International Airport, where you can find Arkansas-made Yarnell’s Ice Cream.

Know of some other airports where you can get great ice-cream? Please share your find in the comments section below.

And while you’re out on the road, why not learn something about this sweet treat?  For a recent msnbc.com article, Ice-cream fans celebrate sweet treat – I found a few factory tours that not only offer an ice-cream education but, in the three cases below, a free sample.

Ben & Jerry’s, Waterbury, VT

(Courtesy Jeff Pecor, Yapta)

If you’re in New England and your travels take you anywhere near Vermont, make your way to Waterbury for a tour of the Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream factory. The adventure includes an entertaining “moo-vie” about ice-cream production and a visit to the “Flavoroom” to taste the flavor of the day. Details at Ben & Jerry’s.

Blue Bell, Brenham, TX (Broken Arrow, OK; Sylacauga, AL)

Ice-cream at Blue Bell Factory, Brenham TX

Named for the Lone Star State’s native bluebell wildflower, the Brenham, Texas-based Blue Bell Company offers tours of its ice-cream plants in Texas, Oklahoma and Alabama. Each tour ends with a complimentary scoop of ice-cream and the opportunity to purchase additional scoops for $1 or less.  Details at the Blue Bell website.

Velvet Ice Cream, Utica OH


(Blue icing getting mixed into a special birthday cake ice cream)

The Velvet Ice Cream factory in Utica, OH makes more than five million gallons of ice-cream a year in “small” (for the industry) 800-gallon batches at the Ye Olde’ Mill, a 20-acre site that houses an ice-cream museum, a historic grist mill with water wheel, a fishing pond and other attractions.  Factory tours don’t usually include a complimentary taste of ice-cream, but for National Ice-Cream Month visitors who show up weekdays between 1 and 3 p.m. will get to taste the flavor of the day as it comes off the line. For details see the Velvet Ice-Cream Company website.

If your travels don’t take you near these shops, consider stopping by one of the Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants participating in the company’s “Scoop for Success” program.  During National Ice Cream Month part of the proceeds of a specially-designed ice-cream dessert at each restaurant will be donated to Dress for Success, an organization devoted to helping women re-enter the workforce.

And we’re not just talking chocolate sundaes. At Firefly in Washington, DC, the designated dessert is peanut butter ice cream sandwich with chocolate decadence, banana’s foster sauce and praline crumb.

Firefly, Washington DC dress for success dessert

NIOS, in New York City, is serving vanilla bean gelato with caramelized popcorn and caramel sauce. And at the Red Star Tavern & Roast House in Portland, Oregon, the decadent dessert is red velvet doughnuts with bourbon-pecan cheesecake ice cream.

Kimpton Portland Red Velvet Donut dessert

On July 15th, 2010 Kimpton Hotels will also be hosting a National Ice Cream Social.  All proceeds from special desserts sold in the hotels’ “living rooms” will be donated to charity.

Do you need any more reasons to go eat ice-cream?  Go!

Tidbits for travelers: parks, pillows and perks

A couple of fun and possibly useful notes:

Southwest Airlines begins service between New York’s LaGuardia Airport and both BWI and Chicago’s Midway airport at the end of June (2009). To celebrate, the airline is sponsoring the Southwest Porch in New York City. It’s in Bryant Park, at appropriately enough, the park’s southwest corner and has porch swings, rocking chairs, Adirondack chairs, umbrellas, and space for about 175 people.

Southwest-Porch

Also, those crisp white Westin Heavenly blankets and pillows that travelers on some United flights have been getting to snuggle up with are now being made in a travel-size version that the rest of us can buy.

Westin travel blanket

And, if you’ve been irritated by all those new (and old) checked baggage fees airlines are now charging, keep in mind that some hotels, most notably the nationwide chain of Kimpton Hotels,  offer a $25 room credit if you show a receipt for a checked bag.  Kimpton’s “We’ve Got Your Bag” promotion has been extended indefinitely.