By Julia McKinnell - Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 0 Comments
A California spa that even your dog will love
Finding a pet-friendly hotel isn’t the hassle it once was. A lot of hotels do accept pets. The gamble is, what will the room be like? Sometimes, it feels like pet owners are the new smokers. You can check in, but you’ll be sleeping in the smelly room across from the ice machine on the ground floor. In Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., for instance, our pet-friendly hotel room had tufts of fur on the pillowcase when I turned down the bedspread. I called the front desk to complain, and we got moved to a new room where our cat disappeared into a hole in the drywall behind the toilet.
So it was nice last week to check into a dog-friendly hotel that had none of these problems. Retired veterinarian Dr. Paula Terifaj owns and operates the DogSpa Resort and Wellness Center in Desert Hot Springs, Calif. The DogSpa isn’t a spa for dogs, as the name suggests, but rather a hotel where dogs of all sizes and breeds may stay unattended in the room, run in the private off-leash dog park or roam the main lounge while their humans eat breakfast. But what had enticed me there were the website photos. In one shot, a cute dog is paddling in the hotel pool. In another, a woman luxuriates with a glass of wine while a large hunting dog nuzzles her in the hot tub. Continue…
By Martin Patriquin - Monday, November 19, 2012 at 8:40 AM - 0 Comments
Quebec goes exploring in medical tourism market
The term “medical tourism” may conjure images of clinics in far-flung countries that offer a tempting proposition: world travel and cut-rate surgery. Yet a Quebec clinic hopes that Canadians will instead think of a warm bed, perhaps an invigorating facial scrub at a renowned Quebec City spa and the chance to skip the clogged lines that are the reality in much of the Canadian public medical system.
“Mix prevention with pleasure” reads the brochure for Fairmont Le Château Frontenac’s medical tourism package, which charges $1,000 for a two-night stay in a suite, including a massage and a complimentary bottle of wine. Medical examination costs are the client’s responsibility. The service, “a first in Canada,” according to the luxury hotel chain, is available to Canadian residents, and promises “VIP treatment” with “wait-free access to your medical professional.” Medical tourists visiting Quebec can avail themselves of six various tests, including mammograms, CT and PET scans, as well as a virtual colonoscopy. These are provided by Radiologie et Imagerie Médicale de la Capitale (RIMC), a Quebec City-based private clinic.
“We cater mostly to a business clientele who don’t have much free time,” says Jacques Lévesque, a radiologist and medical director at RIMC. “We had patients coming here from outside Quebec City, even from outside the province, and we were forever hindered with the fact that they had to leave the same day, so we partnered with Fairmont.” Continue…
By Cigdem Iltan - Thursday, July 7, 2011 at 12:40 PM - 0 Comments
Beirut’s luxury hotels had only just stolen the spotlight back from bombed-out ones when…
Beirut’s luxury hotels had only just stolen the spotlight back from bombed-out ones when Arab Spring uprisings and trouble on Lebanon’s domestic front dealt a debilitating blow to the city’s tourism industry this year. After the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, the city’s reclamation of its hedonistic reputation and “Paris of the East” moniker was made official in 2009 when the New York Times named Beirut the top place to visit in the world. And the numbers followed: in 2010, Lebanon set a new tourism record with more than two million visitors, exceeding pre-civil-war numbers. But tourism dropped 15.5 per cent in the first four months of this year, while Beirut’s hotel business has dropped 40 per cent. Dozens of restaurants have shuttered, while many that remain open have laid off employees or cut their salaries. Business owners also blame Lebanon’s precarious political situation: after more than five months without a government, the country finally got one on June 13, albeit an administration dominated by militant group Hezbollah. The fast-deterioriating situation in neighbouring Syria is no help, either, as the country is an important land route for tourists travelling from Jordan and Turkey.
By Bruce Parkinson, Takeoffeh.com - Friday, May 21, 2010 at 12:22 PM - 0 Comments
Watch What You Tweet: Hotels Are Watching You, Airport Security: Free Flow For Liquid Rules, and Canucks Just Wanna Earn Points
Watch What You Tweet: Hotels Are Watching You
Are you one of the millions of travellers who review hotels following your stay, offering bouquets or brickbats when deserved? If you are, it may be prudent not to reveal too much personal information. According to travel columnist Christopher Elliott, hotels are tracking down who you are, especially if you’re reviewing them anonymously. Industry consultant John Baird says some hoteliers are going to great lengths to deduce a guest’s identity and either contact them directly or note the guest’s review in their guest database. Elliott says guests who write a positive review might receive a reward from the hotel — a gift basket, perhaps, or a discount on a future stay. But those who criticize a property could receive a concerned e-mail from the general manager asking them to reconsider their comments. Some fear their comments could be used against them by marking them as a ‘problem guest.’ Baird points out that most hotels want the information for the right reasons: either to say thanks for a nice review or to reach out to a negative guest to patch things up. Just in case though, Elliott recommends not using your real name, avoiding posting your geographical location and ensuring your online handle doesn’t give away your identity.
Airport Security: Free Flow For Liquid Rules
While travellers are sick and tired of security screening rules, it seems like security authorities are too. Reports from the U.S. suggest strict rules on liquids in air travellers’ baggage are no longer being enthusiastically enforced. “The Transportation Security Administration’s unpopular restrictions on liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on luggage are history,” MSNBC columnist and travel ombudsman Christopher Elliott wrote recently. There have been no official pronouncements, but Elliott says extensive feedback from readers indicates the TSA has all but stopped screening carry-on bags for liquids. “(Readers) say transportation security officers no longer ask them to remove lotions, shampoos and even water bottles from their luggage, and overlook all manner of liquids packed in their carry-ons during screening,” Elliott writes. According to the TSA, however, nothing has changed. “The policy continues to be enforced, although it is important to note that we empower our workforce with discretion,” a spokesperson told Elliott. Several Canadian frequent travellers canvassed by TakeOffeh report little change in the way rules are being enforced here, although some have also seen incidents when officials displayed ‘discretion.’
Canucks Just Wanna Earn Points
According to a 2009 study, the average Canadian household uses nine different loyalty programs – 50 per cent more than our American neighbours. In a recent Globe and Mail article Bert Archer suggests the phenomenon may stem from our history as “an immigrant nation of bargain hunters averse to debt and big on nest eggs.” He points to Canadian Tire money launched 50 years ago – nearly 90% of those bills still find their way back to the store. Best Western’s Dorothy Dowling told TakeOffeh “Canadians are the biggest point junkies in the world.” While Best Western operates 4,000 hotels in some 80 countries, the 1 million Canadian members of their reward program make up a disproportionate 10% of the global total. “Loyalty has become even more important than in the past,” says Dowling. “We had double-digit growth in all measures last year. Membership was up 25% and our members cashed in 32% more reward nights than the year before.” Dowling says reward aficionados have grown quite savvy in understanding the relative currency of reward points, especially we frugal Canadians.
Porter Airlines IPO Now Boarding At Gate 3
When an initial public offering (IPO) is put forward there are two audiences. One is the retail investor – average folks buying stocks. The other is the institutional investor – organizations which pool money and invest it. In the case of Porter Airlines, currently preparing for its IPO coming-out party, the Globe and Mail likens retail investors to those passengers who line up early to get their seat on a flight, and institutional investors to those who hang out in the bar until the last boarding call. Retail investors are excited about investing in Porter, attracted by the airline’s positive reputation and ‘underdog’ status. But institutional investors are taking a different tack, hanging back while hoping to pressure Porter to issue the offering at the low-end of the projected $6-$7 per share price. They hope to exploit a weak market to get their piece of Porter at the best possible price. It remains to be seen which way the pendulum will swing, but many of the comments on the Globe article were cynical, including one from ‘pilotguy,’ who wrote: “Best way to make a hundred bucks in the airline biz? Start with $1000…”
By: Bruce Parkinson
Bruce Parkinson is a travel industry journalist and regular contributor to Takeoffeh.com as well as sister company, OpenJaw.com
Photo Credits:laflor, sjlocke, Pgiam, flyporter.com
By Bruce Parkinson, Takeoffeh.com - Monday, May 17, 2010 at 11:45 AM - 0 Comments
The Americans Are Watching, Room With A View? For $5 We’ll Uncover The Window and Two Best Hotel Lists – Wildly Divergent Results
The Americans Are Watching
Flying from Toronto to Cancun? The Americans want to know who you are. Why? Because you’ll be flying over their airspace. Coming this December, new U.S. ‘Secure Flight’ rules require Canadian airlines to provide personal information on passengers flying over the home of the brave. If your name happens to show up on a U.S. watch list or no-fly list, you could be stuck on the ground – even though you aren’t even landing in the U.S. When you consider that a large percentage of Canadian flights do pass above U.S. territory, it’s a daunting proposition. And while Canada’s privacy watchdog isn’t happy about these new rules, Chantal Bernier says there isn’t a doggone thing she can do about it: “There is a limit that is beyond us — and that is United States sovereignty over U.S. airspace. Geography works against us here,” Bernier told MPs at parliamentary hearings into the matter. Of course 99.9% of travellers shouldn’t be affected, but we all know that no-fly lists are not perfect, and officials say ‘false positive’ results will take 50 to 60 days to clear up – in other words, the trip is off. As Canwest News Service reported, Bernier told the committee that another concern is that passenger information supplied to the U.S. could be used for other purposes, including law enforcement and immigration.
Room With A View? For $5 We’ll Uncover The Window
With airlines now charging for everything from (literally) soup to nuts – and earning billions in the process — hotels have been watching with envy. Now some of them are taking a page out of the airline industry’s ‘unbundled’ approach by charging extra for anything from towels to air conditioning. As Consumer Traveler reports, the most extreme example is Asian budget hotel chain Tune Hotels, which boasts the marketing tagline ‘5-star sleeping experience at 1-star price.’ For one very low price – basic rates start as low as $5 per night in Asia – guests get a room, bed and bathroom. You can make the room as comfy as you wish by paying additional fees for things like air conditioning, hair dryers, toiletries and even towels. In September the chain will make its first foray outside Asia with a London, England location. Starting at 9 square metres (97 square feet), Tune hotel rooms are a little bigger than ‘pod’ or ‘capsule’ hotels like Yotel. One thing Tune does offer is a decent bed, which it says is custom-made by bedmakers who supply 5-star hotels – hence the ‘5-star sleeping experience’ claim. Don’t expect a mad rush by major hotel chains to follow Tune’s lead. In a somewhat counter-intuitive twist, luxury hotels already charge for ‘extras’ like Internet, parking and room safes, while mid-market hotels tend to get by on the value offered through an inclusive package where things like Internet, parking and breakfast are included. Dorothy Dowling, senior VP marketing and sales for 2,200 hotel-strong Best Western told TakeOffeh: “The mid-market will continue to sell the value package.” Will consumers embrace bare-bones hotels? One reader comment on the Consumer Traveler story shows there’s definitely a market for it: “Well, I did it! I refused the towel, and used my bedsheet instead.”
Two Best Hotel Lists – Wildly Divergent Results
Two online giants owned by the same company have each produced lists of the world’s top reviewed hotels, but the lists are so different they leave you wondering what to believe. The ranking of top ten European and U.S. hotels from both Expedia and TripAdvisor – which is owned by Expedia — reveal no common names whatsoever. One U.S. hotel featured in the Expedia’s global top ten didn’t even make the top 30 hotels in its own city, let alone the world, based on TripAdvisor reviews. In fact, none of the top ten hotels featured on the Expedia list are featured among TripAdvisor’s 719 top properties. So are these lists of any use at all? Expedia representatives say that it uses a “mathematical formula” to rank its properties, with over 1 million traveller reviews as the most influential factor. TripAdvisor’s approach is similar, although it claims more reviews. But Expedia also takes into account the views of 400 Expedia “market managers,” who contribute “their insight and firsthand knowledge of their destination’s best hotels.” And Expedia’s version does have another advantage: to post a review, travellers must have booked through Expedia. That’s different from TripAdvisor, where any registered user can post a review without having to prove they have ever stayed there. Critics – especially hoteliers – say that fact leaves the TripAdvisor system more prone to manipulation.
Air Canada Makes Progress, But There’s A Long Road Ahead
The recovery is underway for Air Canada, but the airline still has a long way to go, as the Montreal Gazette reported this week. “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon,” CEO Calin Rovanescu told analysts after the carrier reported a Q1 operating loss of $126 million, down from a loss of $188 million a year ago. The net loss was $85 million – better than analysts expected, but not a result to send stock soaring. And that stock has a long way to soar, considering that it was issued at $20 and now hovers around $2. Analysts point to a number of factors impacting AC success: fierce competition, low yields, volatile fuel prices, less cash on hand than its peers and ongoing labour uncertainty. The airline is doing a number of things very well – it continues to fill the vast majority of its seats (83% in April) and has successfully weeded out tens of millions in costs. But the Icelandic volcano stung the carrier for about $20-million, and business travellers still aren’t willing to pay premium prices. As Peter Hadekel points out in the Gazette, Air Canada doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room if things go wrong. And, in the travel industry something always seems to be going wrong.
By: Bruce Parkinson
Bruce Parkinson is a travel industry journalist and regular contributor to Takeoffeh.com as well as sister company, OpenJaw.com
Photo Credits: tunehotels.com, carlosphotos, Fotogma, aircanada.com
By Takeoffeh.com - Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
How Green Is Your Hotel? and A New Way To Protect Your Travel Documents
How Green Is Your Hotel?
Here’s an interesting fact: fewer U.S. hotels have earned the Green Building Council’s LEED Certification than have been awarded AAA 5-Diamond status. The LEED program certifies buildings for water and energy efficiency, green materials and environmental friendliness. In a recent survey, travel deal site Travelzoo found that 90% of respondents would pick an eco-friendly hotel if it was offered at the same price as a comparable hotel without a strong green commitment.
More than one-fifth of respondents said it is difficult to find green hotels that fit their budgets, and a similar number said the process of determining a hotel’s eco-practices can be cumbersome and time-consuming.
In response to the survey and in honour of the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, Travelzoo has published a list of special offers from LEED-certified properties across the U.S. The list strives to overcome both previously mentioned objections – that green hotels are expensive and hard to find.
Some sample prices: $99 rates through August at San Francisco’s boutique Orchard Hotel; 60% off at the 4-Diamond Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, North Carolina (rates from $119); a rate of $159 (regular $249) through September 6 at the 4-star AT & T Conference Center & Hotel in Austin, Texas; and half-price rates starting at $59 at the Hilton Vancouver Washington.
A New Way To Protect Your Travel Documents
A Canadian company is offering a new service for travellers that aims to ease the pain if vital travel documents are lost, stolen or damaged. AccessMyID.com allows subscribers to digitize, upload and securely store vital travel documents, including passport, driver’s licence, travel itinerary, visa, medical insurance details, prescriptions, parental travel permission letters – basically any records you need for your journey.
The information is stored online on a secure site so it can be accessed anytime, anywhere. High-resolution scans of essential ID’s provide irrefutable identification at government embassies or consulates — even a bank. The site’s founders point out that the service is also useful here at home in case a wallet or purse is lost or stolen.
Many people photocopy documents and carry them in their luggage, but these can get lost too. Some travellers do their own scans and e-mail the documents to themselves so they can be accessed from abroad. But security experts advise against it because e-mail is not normally encrypted and also because travellers are likely to access e-mail from unsecured Wi-Fi or Internet cafés while on the road.
Photo Credits: proximityhotel.com, accessmyid.com
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Friday, November 21, 2008 at 12:49 PM - 1 Comment
The reality of the world-wide economic panic seems to be slowly dawning on the…
The reality of the world-wide economic panic seems to be slowly dawning on the Olympic movement, whose official motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Swifter, Higher, Stronger,) might more appropriately be rendered as Pony-Up, Suckers.
In Istanbul today, IOC President Jacques Rogge told a gathering of European Olympic Committees that the movement is still healthy, but “the Games are not anymore in a growth mode, they are in a conservation mode.”
Finances are stable, he said, but costs, and the size of the Games must be kept under control. And for the first time, Rogge acknowledged that global sponsors are getting hard to come by. Although the IOC still maintains that it will take in more sponsorship money in the 2009-12 cycle, it will be with 1/3 fewer corporate backers (9 firms are committed, down from 12 in the 2005-08 cycle.) Negotiations with a 10th potential sponsor continue said Rogge, but he didn’t sound very confidant. “If it materializes fine,” he said. “If not, it’s not a big issue.
In Canada, there have been worries that General Motors—a major national sponsor of Vancouver 2010—might scale back its participation due to its financial difficulties (a $4.2-billion US loss in the third quarter alone) but company spokesmen have been delivering a “we’re still on board” message all over the place this week.
Still, times are tough, and it’s starting to show. Continue…