Thursday, August 19, 2010

Eat, Pray, Love

This says it all. IF you are so inspired make sure you plan your sojourn by including luxury hotel stays along the way!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Recession is Over for the Magnificent 7"in Paris

Crisis? What crisis? Judging by the flood of super-rich foreign tourists into France this summer, the recession is over, at least for some.

The top Paris hotels have long regarded themselves as a leading indicator of the financial health of the world's estimated 10 million millionaires, and in 2008, after the start of the world banking crisis, they feared the worst as occupancy slumped, with some suites standing empty for days at a time. Even the super-wealthy contented themselves with an "ordinary" room at the Ritz or George V at about €700 (£575) a night.

Bookings recovered only partially last year. But now things appear to be changing. The seven top hotels in Paris – the "magnificent seven" – have been virtually fully booked since the beginning of July at an average room rate of more than €900 a night. Much the same story is reported from the Côte d'Azur and Biarritz.

"July was exceptional. Things could hardly be better," said Didier Le Calvez, director general of the Bristol, a few steps from the Elysées Palace and the Parisian hotel of choice for Middle Eastern princes and Hollywood film stars.

On the other side of the Champs Elysées, the Hotel George V is also chock full with wealthy Russians, Brazilians, Indians and Middle Eastern minor royalty. The hotel's director, Marc-Oliver Raffray, says that all 60 suites – at prices ranging from €13,000 to €3,000 a night – have been booked for the whole summer. The five other five-star hotels in Paris – the Ritz, Crillon, Meurice, Plaza-Athénée and Fouquet's Barrière – report more than 90 per cent occupancy from all over the world.

"Now the economy seems to be booming in Brazil and Asia," said Mr Calvez at the Bristol. "We are also getting lots of American and Australian dollars. Middle Eastern clients are back. It is a special moment when all our markets are buzzing at once."

And although Middle Eastern visitors are thinning out a little, with the beginning of this year's early Ramadan religious festival, wealthy Russians, Indians and Brazilians are taking their places. At Biarritz, at the foot of France's Atlantic coast, the Hotel du Palais, dominating the main beach, is fully booked for August at an average room rent of €500 a night. Jean-Louis Leimbacher, the director general of the hotel, said that 60 per cent of his clients were foreign, the majority of them Russian.

Vanguelis Panayotis, development director at the hotel and leisure group MKG, said that the occupancy rate at top hotels in France was back to pre-crisis levels. France was benefiting, in part, from the relative weakness of the euro against the dollar and other currencies, he said, but there also seemed to be no shortage of money among the elites of Asia (other than Japan), Russia and South America.

The lower reaches of the French tourism market are also enjoying a relative boom this year, after a poor 2009. The fall in the value of the euro has brought back visitors from Britain and the United States. The Germans, Dutch and Belgians are choosing to stay close to home rather than book expensive holidays on the other side of the world. "For them nearer to home means France," said Didier Arino, director of the study group Protourisme.

There had been an increase of up to 10 per cent in European visitors to France this summer, he said. The average price of a hotel room had increased by 10 per cent

Written by By John Lichfield in Paris for the . Links supplied by

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How to Spoil Your Daughter like Eloise at The Plaza

NEW YORK (CBS) Eloise, the precocious 6-year-old who lived on the "tippy top floor" of The Plaza Hotel (one of my daughter's favs) with her Nanny, her dog Weenie, and her turtle Skipperdee in Kay Thompson's classic book, now has a suite at the New York hotel in her honor.

Designed by Betsey Johnson (my wife's former employer), the suite on the hotel's 18th floor channels the hotel's most famous fictional resident.

"She's so pink, so fun," Johnson said in the statement of the fictional city girl that inspired the room. "...Hey, Eloise! Me and my grandkids want a sleepover with you soon!"

"Each day, our colleagues share Eloise's adventures with guests from all over the world and she is such a beloved character," The Plaza's General Manager Shane Kirge added. "Collaborating with a visionary of style and design like Betsey Johnson to bring Eloise's world to life has been so rewarding and we feel she is the ideal talent for this project."

The room, decorated in pink and black, is full of nods to the beloved book character and the girly accents that Johnson is known for on the runway.

A chandelier hangs from the ceiling, a zebra-print carpet covers the floor (to muffle the sound when Eloise "slomps her skates to 'make a really loud and terrible racket,'" according to a statement from the hotel), a king-size bed with custom-designed bedding depicting images of Eloise, a sparkly padded pink headboard and Eloise's name scrawled in neon lights affixed to the wall above.

Petticoats and tutus hang in the closet - an homage to Eloise's love of dressing up - and custom-made fabric with her well-known remarks ("Charge it, please" and "Tomorrow I think I'll pour water down the mail chute.") cover the French doors to the bathroom, according to the New York Times.

The suite also has original prints by "Eloise" illustrator Hilary Knight on the pink-striped walls, a wall-mounted flat screen TV and DVD player and Eloise books and dolls.

The Eloise Suite, which starts at $995 a night, opens Aug. 16. Guests also have the option of booking the adjoining "grown-up" Edwardian suite, which ups the total to $2,045 a night for both rooms. Whereas regular rooms & suites like the Edwardian Suite are bookable online across our site at WhataHotel!, you'll need our connections to snag the Eloise Suite. Plus, any booking with us at The Plaza at a qualifying ratecode entitles you to Exclusive Complimentary Perks that enhance the value of your reservation.

The "Eloise" books debuted in 1955, and documented the antics of the titular pint-sized heroine in her hotel home. A portrait of Eloise has hung in the Plaza lobby until it closed for renovations in 2005. It was re-hung in 2008 after spending time in storage.

CREDIT-CBS News Online for story. Additional commentary & links by Greg Guiteras/Blogger.

Monday, August 2, 2010

An Actual Study which Proves You Need Vacations

Two recent studies show there's good news and bad news about your coming vacation.

Bad news first: Your vacation will likely make you happier and probably even healthier, but those effects won't last long.

Now, the good: The benefits of your vacation kick in sooner than you'd think. In fact, if you have a trip planned, you're likely already happier than usual.

Despite vacations being a sizable contributor to the world economy—Americans alone will spend $76 billion on summer vacations this year, up $7 billion from last year, according to a survey by travel insurer Mondial Assistance USA—there's relatively little research available that measures vacation effects.

In a study published in the August issue of Work & Stress, an academic journal, authors surveyed 96 Dutch workers over a seven-week period beginning two weeks before their planned vacations. Workers were asked throughout the period about wellness factors, including their health status, mood, level of tension and energy and satisfaction. Participants reported improvements in each of these measures during their vacations, as expected. However, just one week after returning to work, their self-reported measures of wellness plummeted to pre-vacation levels.

That suggests the benefits of vacations are real but short-lived. What the study results don't show, and what the authors suggest future studies look at, is how changes in vacation time affect the duration of benefits upon return. For example, if a worker has 10 vacation days to use during summer, does he capture greater total happiness by using them all at once on an extended getaway, or by taking Fridays off all summer long?

Another study, published in the March issue of Applied Research in Quality of Life, looked at survey results from more than 1,500 Netherlanders, almost 1,000 of whom had gone on vacations. Time off refreshed workers, but the effects were far from lasting. The study also showed a marked increase in the self-reported happiness of vacationers in the weeks leading up to their trips.

The implications for workers are clear. Plan vacations well in advance. Doing so can save money, but more important, it prolongs the anticipatory phase and increases total happiness. How best to handle the dip in happiness upon returning to work? Simple: Start planning your next vacation right away.

Above article was found at by Conor Dougherty. Greg Guiteras of added a link to it's content.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tough Crowd, these Teens on a Family Vacation

For teenagers on summer vacation with their families, there seems to be a universal goal: Ditching the parents.

Hotels and resorts are trying to make that easier by offering souped-up teen programs—with Wii contests, sushi-making lessons and poker nights—as well as dedicated hang-out spots for the under-18 set. Think video games and "mocktails."

While hotels and resorts have long offered activities geared to younger children, companies are now realizing they need to offer something fun, and safe, for teens, especially if they want to hold onto families whose kids have aged out of the children's programs. Resorts are also finding that bored teens hanging around the lobby isn't so desirable. Before Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa extended the hours of its teen program last summer to 1:30 a.m. instead of 11 p.m., "kids would be wandering around the property aimlessly," says Joel Ryan, group manager for entertainment at Sandals Resorts International, which owns Beaches properties in the Caribbean. "They would take pool chairs and throw them in the pool."

The Renaissance Esmerelda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, Calif., started in March turning over its new adult nightclub to 12- to 17-year-olds during the day. For $40, kids get access to computers loaded with 150 video games and unlimited pizza and soda. Beaches Turks & Caicos has an outpost of Scratch DJ Academy, a New York-based DJ school, to teach kids how to spin vinyl. Last year, it opened "Trench Town," a no-parents-allowed lounge with arcade games, black lights and murals painted by a New York graffiti artist.

This summer, the teen beach cabana at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel (designed by Williams-Sonoma Inc.'s PBteen home-furnishings brand) is hosting Wii contests and offering mocktails such as mojitos, daiquiris and margaritas, all sans alcohol.

And this winter, Atlantis, Paradise Island in the Bahamas, is planning to open a massive teen club. The $10 million, 14,000 square-foot spot will include its own teen-only branch of Starbucks, an Internet lounge, a video-game room with a floor-to-ceiling "gaming tree" with 32 monitors, and a dance club with its own bouncers and roving paparazzi. And for a place to stay at Atlantis, consider either The Cove Atlantis or The Reef Atlantis.

Teens say that the new activities and lounges not only give them a much-needed break from vacation-forced family togetherness, but also help them meet people their own age. "We were just sitting on the couch and people said, 'What's up?,'" said Kristoff Duxbury, an 18-year-old from Vancouver, British Columbia, on a recent afternoon at the PBteen lounge at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort near San Diego, Calif. "Maybe we'll hang out later." Kristoff and his brother Madison, 13, were taking part in the "Wii Teen Challenge" along with nine other kids, including a few pint-sized under-10 crashers. (First prize was a sundae.) "It is hard finding activities for this age group," said Sophie Duxbury, Kristoff and Madison's mother. "This is a lifesaver."

Parents are more likely to travel with their kids and to give them a big say in deciding where to go. (A week with a miserable, eye-rolling teen is no vacation.) Families are particularly attractive for hotels because they tend to stay longer and rack up bigger bills. While business travelers stay an average of 1.2 nights, families on their big annual vacation stay about 4.3 nights, says Bjorn Hanson, a hospitality professor at the Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University.

Teens are among a hotel's toughest customers: They will skip any program that resembles a children's camp or activity that seems remotely un-cool. The Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa in San Antonio, Texas, axed scavenger hunts and "ice-breaker" games after kids didn't show or refused to participate. "Maybe we tried too hard. It was really a failure," says Melody Goeken, a hotel spokeswoman. The program has been much more popular since it dropped most organized activities and instead simply provides video games, Internet access and a "place where [teens] can just be," she says.

The Montage Laguna Beach, an ocean-front resort in Laguna Beach, Calif., started offering stand-up paddle board lessons, beach volleyball games and weekend theme parties for teens this past Memorial Day weekend. Jake Wasserkrug says he won't be anywhere near the activities, even though the 16-year-old loved the resort's children's club, "Paintbox," when he was younger. "Even if it was fun, I still wouldn't do it—unless there was a hot girl camp," says Jake, who was vacationing from Henderson, Nev., earlier this month at the Montage with his parents, brother, two friends and cousins.

The key to attracting teens, some hotels say, is giving them grown-up experiences—and setting limits. When Atlantis did a focus group with 50 teenagers earlier this year to find out what they wanted in a new teen club, the participants asked for the oversized beds popular in some adult spots, hot tubs and "cages to dance in," says Amanda Felts, vice president of guest activities and resort planning. "That's not going to happen."

The Montage Laguna Beach
has had success with a "casino" night where kids sip "teentails" such as Shirley Temples, gorge on a buffet of candy and play poker. On a recent Friday night, six kids ages 11 to 15 sat around a table getting ready to play Texas hold 'em in one of the hotel's beige-carpeted meeting rooms. (Inflatable dice and hand-made posters saying "Mteens Casino Night" tried to liven it up.) One attendee, Leigha Mamula, asked for a refresher on the game's rules.

"But you're from Vegas," protested John Gallagher, 14. "So?, said Leigha. "I'm 12, not 21."

While hotels say they want to give kids independence and a good time, they try to prevent mischief. When the Beaches Turks & Caicos throws nighttime bonfires on the beach, for example, the beach is lit up and counselors and security guards are stationed around. The designer of the new Atlantis teen club, Jeffrey Beers, said he made sure there were no "dark, hidden areas" where teens could sneak off and make out. Most hotels also employ software to control which websites kids can visit in teen lounges and edit the music collection to keep it PG-rated.

One way to up attendance at teen programs is to bribe the kids. At Beaches Negril Resort & Spa in Jamaica, teens earn points for each activity. They can cash them in for access to "VIP cabanas" during teen dance nights at the resort's Club Liquid. The Basin Harbor Club in Vergennes, Vermont, gives iTunes gift cards to kids who complete the teen "Passport," a booklet filled with various challenges including, "Perform in the talent show" and "Dance...with grandma." The resort is hoping the program will boost last summer's attendance rate when only 15% to 20% of teen guests took part in its organized teen activities, says Jennifer Wyman, director of programming and public relations at the resort

The Winnetu Oceanside Resort in Edgartown, Mass., sends the "coolest" counselor to scope out the pools and invite teens to attend the hotel's program, says Tammy Moreis, activities director for the Martha's Vineyard resort. "I get one of the most active, fun counselors to really talk it up. [Teens] usually want to hang out with them."

Still, Ms. Moreis says there's always the danger that an activity will be taken down by the too-cool-for-it teen. "I could have 10 kids sign up and one can walk in and say, 'that's stupid' and every single one of them will follow," and leave," she says.

And if a teen program is too compelling, there is a downside: Parents who have spent time and money to take a family vacation may rarely see their child. The teen program at the Beaches resorts, for example, keeps kids busy from 10 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., including during mealtimes. Counselors will, however, try to coax kids into at least a little family time. Says Beaches' Mr. Ryan, "You are guaranteed to have at least one dinner," with your teen during a week's trip.

This article was copied from the Wall Strett Journal & written by Andrea Petersen. Greg Guiteras of contributed some remarks & links.