Monthly Archives: December 2011

Dubai hotels gear up for DSF

DUBAI — Excitement is running high among hotels in Dubai, as they gear up for the 17th edition of the Dubai Shopping Festival, or DSF, offering their best deals to-date in a bid to woo the thousands of visitors, who will be flocking to the emirate for a 32-day period commencing on January 5.

Anticipating higher occupancy levels during DSF 2012, participating hotels have come out with numerous offers to entice visitors to absorb the enriching experience of shopping in Dubai including special packages, discounted room rates, a slew of entertaining activities and much more.

Tourists from around the world have found Dubai a very attractive destination because it offers a diversity of hotels to suit every budget and requirement, in addition to the world-famous landmarks, high quality facilities and services.

Dubai hotels enjoyed high occupancy rates of up to 100 per cent during DSF 2011, and leading experts from Dubai’s hospitality industry have predicted yet another a huge boost to occupancy figures during this year’s shopping extravaganza, which is being held under the slogan “Dubai at its best” in line with the overall festival theme of “One world – One family – One festival”.

The festival, on an average, welcomes around 3.5 million tourists each year, drawn by the range of attractive discounts offered across a wide range of well-known local and global brands, an  exciting calendar of family entertainment events and activities and a range of shopping-linked raffle prizes. As this year’s event also coincides with the school holidays, tourism traffic from neighbouring GCC countries is expected to rise significantly.

Burkhard Wolter, general manager of Kempinski Hotels Residences Palm Jumeirah, one of the participating hotels, said that he expected DSF 2012 to draw more visitors, especially those from GCC countries. However, he said that one should look at the bigger picture, and that was of DSF being a visionary concept that had achieved the stature of an international festival and a tourism icon.

“We expect no less than 300 occupied rooms per night during the shopping festival,” Wolter said.

Hotel Pullman Dubai Mall of the Emirates is offering a “Shopping Getaway” package together with entertainment activities for all guests. The package includes a three-night stay in a Superior Room, breakfast for two and complimentary Wi-Fi access.

Leonard Theng, director of sales and marketing at Hotel Pullman Dubai Mall of the Emirates, pointed out that DSF was very important to the hotel because of its direct access to the shopping mall.

“We witnessed a significant rise in occupancy during DSF 2011, and we are very positive that we will experience a similar occupancy surge during the upcoming edition,” he said.

Aloft Hotels test out iPad concierge

The next time you check into an Aloft Hotel, you won’t have to talk to a real-life concierge to get your restaurant recommendations. All you’ll have to do is tap on an iPad.

Aloft Hotels, part of the Starwood Hotels Resorts Worldwide brand, is piloting a tablet-based concierge program that lets guests research local entertainment options, dining and activities to plan their itineraries.

Each hotel will have two concierge stations near the front desks in the re:mix lounge. Guests will be able to look up directions and phone numbers, make reservations, check on their flight status and print boarding passes on the devices.

READ MORE:  More hotels distribute iPads to guests to access services

So far, the iPads are in place at Aloft Lexington in Massachusetts, Aloft Harlem in New York, Aloft Phoenix Airport, Aloft Tallahassee in Florida and Aloft Chennai in India. Another 11 properties will have them by January and February.

“Our guests tend to be independent and tech-savvy so the tablet-based concierge program allows them to conveniently plan their schedules in a familiar way that enhances their overall experience,” said Brian McGuinness, senior vice president of Specialty Select Brands for Starwood, in a written statement.

Aloft joins a growing number of hotels and airlines, including The Plaza and Mondrian Soho in New York and The Hilton Inn at Penn in Philadelphia, that are distributing iPads and similar devices to digitize services. Many hotels go so far as to outfit guestrooms with the devices. Guests are charged if they take off with them.

Orlando-based Intelity has developed the app used on the device, which allows guests to access all sorts of services. Intelity has said that about 380 hotels nationwide are using it. Those hotels have reported an 18% increase in room service orders as a result, the company said.

Atlantic City expects packed casinos, hotels for New Year’s celebrations

ATLANTIC CITY — Sold-out hotel rooms, packed
restaurants and posh high-roller parties will add up to a
blockbuster New Year’s Eve celebration for the city’s

The biggest holiday on the casino calendar ensures the struggling
industry some much-needed business to close out what will be the
fifth straight year of declining revenue in the nation’s
second-largest gambling market.

“No question about it. I want to end strong and start fast,” Tony
Rodio, president and chief executive officer of Tropicana Casino
and Resort, said of the transition to 2012. “The indicators for New
Year’s Eve weekend, the metrics we look at, the rooms, the
restaurants and the parties, are extremely strong.”

Virtually all of the 17,000 hotel rooms at the 11 casinos are
expected to be filled for New Year’s Eve. Some casinos are setting
aside precious few rooms for last-minute arrivals by their most
valuable customers.

“We’re jammed,” Rodio said. “Our New Year’s Eve has continued to
stay strong. It’s the busiest night of the year in the market.
We’re seeing no dropoff.”

Asked to rank this weekend on a scale of 1 to 10, Tom Pohlman,
general manager of Golden Nugget Atlantic City, replied “20.” The
Golden Nugget is making its New Year’s Eve debut as an entirely
rebranded casino. Pohlman said Golden Nugget has sold out its hotel
rooms and has increased its New Year’s Eve business in other key
areas compared to last year, when the property was known as Trump
Marina Hotel Casino.

“Everything we’re doing, we’ve increased our participation,” he

Borgata Hotel Casino Spa expects 20,000 to 30,000 customers
at any one time over the holiday weekend. The high end of Borgata’s
crowd count would not be far off from Atlantic City’s entire
year-round population of about 40,000.

“All of the restaurants will be full. The building will be full,”
said Joe Lupo, Borgata’s senior vice president of operations.
“You’re trying to accommodate 20,000 to 30,000 customers who will
be walking through the building that day.”

With New Year’s Day falling on a Sunday, it will create an extended
weekend of revelry. Monday serves as the official holiday for the
state and federal governments.

“Having it on a weekend certainly doesn’t hurt,” said Michael
Frawley, chief operating officer of ACH, formerly known as the
Atlantic City Hilton Casino Resort.

As an added bonus, the weather is expected to cooperate, with the
forecast calling for relatively mild winter temperatures in the

“I think it will be a big weekend in town,” said Howard Bacharach,
executive director of the Atlantic City Hotel Lodging
Association. “I think we need that going into January, February and
March, the slow period in town.”

Bacharach said major noncasino hotels in town, such as the
Sheraton, the Wyndham, the Flagship and the Chelsea, also are
expecting brisk business. He predicted the holiday crowds will
spill out onto the Boardwalk and The Walk shopping district to give
stores there a boost.

The casinos capitalize on the holiday by throwing gigantic, blowout
VIP parties featuring haute cuisine and high-end Champagne.
Tropicana, for instance, will serve filet mignon and lobster to
guests in its Royal Swan Ballroom.

Some of the high-roller soirees will attract 1,000 people or more.
Those parties routinely cost in the six figures, but the casinos
say they create an air of exclusivity and are the best way to
reward their most loyal customers for their business.

“So much goes into it, especially in terms of the big party,” Lupo
said. “There’s so much excitement at the midnight hour in the
casino. The New Year’s Eve holiday has a special aspect to it. I
think everyone has such a positive outlook in ringing in the new

But as Atlantic City continues to struggle with the fragile economy
and declining revenue, some of the parties may not be as grand as
in the past, Frawley said.

“I think as far as New Year’s Eve being the financial boom it has
been has probably slacked off a little, but it’s still a nice
holiday,” said Frawley, whose financially troubled casino was saved
from a foreclosure sale this year in a deal with its lenders.

ACH will have smaller public events in its restaurants and a
private VIP party in its ballroom for New Year’s Eve. Frawley said
ACH’s hotel rooms are sold out.

Guest rooms are also booked solid at the four Caesars Entertainment
Corp. casinos — Bally’s, Caesars, Harrah’s Resort and Showboat.
Caesars Entertainment will mix in some headliner acts to complement
its invitation-only parties and public events. The Don Rickles show
at Harrah’s is sold out, as is the Goo Goo Dolls concert at

Resorts Casino Hotel, which has sold out its guest rooms, will host
what it is billing as “the sexiest party Atlantic City has ever
seen” on New Year’s Eve. The risque Cirque Ultra Lounge will
feature dancers, contortionists and burlesque vignettes, although
no actual nudity.

“New Year’s Eve is the culmination of 12 months of events and the
promise of new things to come, so it is no surprise that it is
always the biggest party of the year. We wanted to bring a whole
new twist to the night with Cirque Ultra Lounge and the sexy
burlesque theme,” said Dennis Gomes, Resorts’ co-owner and

Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., parent company of Trump Taj Mahal
Casino Resort and Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino, declined to discuss
its New Year’s Eve events.

Contact Donald Wittkowski:


Free marketing workshop set Jan. 6 – Post

<!–Saxotech Paragraph Count: 5

APPLETON — A free marketing workshop for real estate professionals is set for 3 to 5 p.m. Jan. 6 at the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel.

The workshop is presented by Frank Garay and Brian Stevens of the Think Big Work Small Daily Show and GSF Mortgage.

For more information or to register, contact Leah Marsh at lmarsh@gsf or call 262-901-1457.

GSF Mortgage was founded in 1995 and employs more than 140 people across 25 branches in the Midwest and East Coast.

For more information, visit

Andrew Harper names best luxury hotels

Each year, Andrew Harper picks his favorite properties he’s visited over the past calendar year. He looks for properties with exceptional character and a commitment to classic hospitality, and whittles his list based on his 30 years of experience.

The 21-suite Southern Ocean Lodge in Australia wins Harper’s most coveted title for 2012, “Hideaway of the Year.” It’s perched above Kangaroo Island’s rugged southern coast. Harper considers the hotel’s Great Room a highlight, with its floor-to-ceiling windows and furniture by Malaysian-born designer Khai Liew.

Tour Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report’s 2012 hotel winners

Luxury travel expert Andrew Harper of Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report today will reveal his 2012 Grand Award hotel winners – and, just like last year, Hotel Check-In has an exclusive peek at the winners.

PHOTO GALLERY:  Tour Andrew Harper’s picks for best luxury hotels

The list of 2012 winners includes luxurious, mostly small hotels in every corner of the globe, in places such as Rome; Hangzhou, China; Corsica, France, and Quito, Ecuador.

A few hotels in the USA also receive Harper’s accolades.

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Harper, for instance, gives the “best spa” title to Montage Deer Valley in Park City, Utah, a mountain Craftsman resort with ski-on/ski-off access that opened in December 2010 (see photo). Operator Montage Hotels and Resorts also runs a luxury hotel in downtown Beverly Hills and an oceanfront resort in Laguna Beach, Calif.

Chef Michael White’s restaurant, Ai Fiori, on the second floor of the luxury Setai Fifth Avenue hotel in New York City won one of Harper’s “best restaurant of the year” titles.

See our photo gallery for photographs of Montage Deer Valley, the Setai Fifth Avenue and the other winners, and keep reading this story for a full list of the winners.

How Harper picks the winning hotels

To assemble the list of winners, Harper picks his favorite properties visited over the past calendar year.

He doesn’t use a checklist, but determines winners by finding those with exceptional character, a commitment to classic hospitality and a profound sense of place. He’s been tracking luxury travel since 1979.

The No. 1 winner this is year is the Southern Ocean Lodge, a tiny hotel perched above Kangaroo Island, Australia’s southern coast. It has just 21 suites with sweeping ocean views.

ALSO ONLINE:  Nightmare boss makes employee share room – and more

Most of the hotels that Harper declares winners are small.

But for the second consecutive year, Harper gives Chicago’s Trump International Hotel and Tower the “Grand Hotel” title as the top large hotel of the year.

And the winning hotels are…

Hideaway of the Year: Southern Ocean Lodge (Kangaroo Island, Australia)

North America winners: Ocean House in Watch Hill, R.I., and Glenmere Mansion in Chester, N.Y.

Central/South America winners: Panamonte Inn and Spa in Boquete, Panama, and Hotel Plaza Grande in Quito, Ecuador

Caribbean winners: Jumby Bay on Antigua and Hôtel Le Toiny on St. Barths

Africa winners: Sasaab in Samburu, Kenya and Elsa’s Kopje in Meru National Park, Kenya

Europe winners: Casa Manni in Rome, La Coquillade in Gargas, France, The Yeatman in Porto, Portugal, and Domaine de Murtoli in Corsica, France

Asia/Pacific winners: Amanfayun in Hangzhou, China, Four Seasons in Hangzhou, China, Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa in Blue Mountains, Australia, and The Louise in Barossa Valley, Australia

Grand Hotel: Trump International Hotel in Chicago

Grand Resort: Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport, Calif.

Hotel Manager of the Year: Joost Heymeijer of Australia’s Wolgan Valley Resort

Sommelier of the Year: Cara Schwindt, Glitretind in Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley, Utah

Chef of the Year: Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park in New York City

Best Spa: Montage Deer Valley in Deer Valley, Utah

Best Cruise: Hebridean Princess, Scotland

Restaurants of the Year

Gastronomic – Ai Fiori at New York City’s Setai Fifth Avenue hotel

Informal – Primo in Rockland, Maine

Restaurants of the Year outside the USA

Gastronomic – Matsalen in Stockholm, Sweden

Informal – Septime in Paris, France

The Hideaway of the Year and the rest of the Grand Award winners will be profiled in the January 2011 issue and listed on

Readers: Enjoy the photo gallery!

Triangle Hotels Have Good Fall, Not as Good as Neighbors

Triangle Hotels Have Good Fall, Not as Good as Neighbors

By Desiree Parker

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fall hotel occupancy rates in the Historic Triangle were consistently up over last year, but still significantly lower than nearby locales. Top-tier hotels grabbed the biggest share of visitors each of the three months.

According to Smith Travel Research hotel occupancy numbers (which do not include Colonial Williamsburg properties), occupancy in the Triangle in September was 39.9 percent, or 4.2 percent higher than September last year. October occupancy was 45.4 percent, up 7.7 percent, and November was at 32.7 percent, up 11.8 percent over last year.

“This increase is a glimmer of good news for the hotel industry,” said Williamsburg Hotel Motel Association President Billy Scruggs. Though this is good news for hoteliers, “we need to get up 10 percent in demand, and that would help bring us back to a healthy market,” he said.

According to STR, Virginia Beach, the Norfolk and Portsmouth area, and the Newport News and Hampton area each were roughly 10 percentage points higher in occupancy or more across all three fall months.

In September, these areas were at 67.1 percent, 58.4 percent and 57.2 percent, respectively. In October, they were at 54.9, 55.3 and 55.7 percent, and in November they reached 43.4, 48.8 and 52.8.

Scruggs said the reason that Virginia Beach is doing so much better is because “Virginia Beach reinvented itself just over 10 years ago when they were on an unsustainable path. They’ve been successful in turning themselves around.”

To get numbers higher in the greater Williamsburg area, “it takes more marketing dollars,” Scruggs said.

Though the Triangle saw increases in each month, upper-tier hotels gobbled up a big share of the pie. Each of the three months, the most expensive hotels had higher occupancy than mid-tier and lower-tier hotels.

“What you see is a great disparity between the tiers,” said Scruggs. “In our market, I think we have lost the lower-tier attraction. Here, it is a different socio-economic model now.” Anecdotally, he has heard that much of this lost traffic is going to Virginia Beach.

He said he expects the numbers will be better than last year for the winter season, too. “With December’s mild temperatures, more holiday programming than ever, and consumer confidence rising, there are indications that continued increases could be in store.”

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Four Seasons hotels promise room service in 15 minutes

The Four Seasons is re-doing room service, fast-food style.

The hotel chain recently launched 15-Minute Room Service at 86 hotels and resorts worldwide. At some resorts, however, the name of the new program is a bit of a misnomer, as the company is giving employees an extra five minutes to allow for long distances between the kitchen and rooms.

And guests are not guaranteed a free meal if their food doesn’t turn up on time. “There is no ‘free’ guarantee if you will. Should it arrive late for whatever reason, each hotel would handle it in a way which exceeds guest expectations but we have not mandated that from corporate,” said Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts spokeswoman Laura Fairweather.

Still, she said, the hotels are committed to speedy delivery of food and beverages.

Some hotels are offering full meals while others are serving a la carte options to mix and match. Many of the items can be taken to go, can clear airport security, and can even be delivered to the driveway as guests catch their rides to the airport.

READ MORE:  Hotels let guests order room service from iPads

READ MORE:  Chicago hotel has a Candy Man

“Ideally, every meal would be enjoyed at leisure, but at times we really just need to grab a bite quickly – and there’s no reason that it can’t be freshly made with quality ingredients, and entirely delicious,” Christopher Hunsberger, executive vice president of global product and innovation for Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, said in a statement.

In other words, this isn’t exactly your typical fast food. Here’s a sample of some menu items:

At the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, one dish includes local cheese, olives and sliced chorizo with an Arizona wine, while a to-go lunch includes a tequila-lime chicken wrap with slaw, kettle chips, iced tea and a chocolate chip cookie. (You might have to wait an extra five minutes for those.)

At the Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire, England, you can order a traditional ploughman’s lunch and English-style nachos with Winchester cheese and chive crème fraiche. And if you so desire, you can see how fast the kitchen can get a pain au chocolat or tomato soup with warm garlic bread out to you as you lounge creek-side.

At the Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza, you can order the signature salad of lettuce, asparagus, cucumber and tomato with lemon dressing, along with a variety of mezzah such as fatoush salad, hummus, and stuffed vine leaves.

And at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, you can try the wonton noodle soup with Chinese greens or burrata cheese and heirloom tomatoes on a baguette.

Thankfully, there’s no time limit on how long you can take to enjoy your meal.

Ex-Div Reminder for Choice Hotels International

Looking at the universe of stocks we cover at Dividend Channel, on 12/30/11, Choice Hotels International, Inc. (NYSE: CHH) will trade ex-dividend, for its quarterly dividend of $0.185, payable on 1/18/12. As a percentage of CHH’s recent stock price of $38.85, this dividend works out to approximately 0.48%.

Below is a dividend history chart for CHH, showing historical dividends prior to the most recent $0.185 declared by Choice Hotels International, Inc.:


In general, dividends are not always predictable; but looking at the history above can help in judging whether the most recent dividend from CHH is likely to continue, and whether the current estimated yield of 1.90% on annualized basis is a reasonable expectation of annual yield going forward.

Click here to find out which 9 other stocks going ex-dividend you should know about, at »

CHH operates in the Hotels, Lodging, Restaurants Travel sector, among companies like Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc (NYSE: CMG) which is down about 0.1% today, and Wynn Resorts Ltd (NASD: WYNN) trading lower by about 1.2%. Below is a three month price history chart comparing the stock performance of CHH, versus CMG and WYNN.

CHH,CMG,WYNN Relative Performance Chart

In Wednesday trading, Choice Hotels International, Inc. shares are currently off about 1.3% on the day.

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New year, new hotel deals in New York City

New York City hotels are some of the most expensive to stay at in the country. But after the new year, they could get cheaper.

Hotel deals abound after the holidays, one of the slowest periods of the year for tourism in New York.

This winter, NYC Company, the official marketing and tourism organization for the city, is launching its first-ever Get More NYC hotels promotion. From Jan. 2 to Feb. 29, visitors can get complimentary upgrades, a free night for longer stays, complimentary breakfast, or discounts on shopping, hotel dining and more. The hotels are grouped under four categories, depending on which deal they’re offering: Upgrade More, Stay More, Enjoy More, and Discover More

MORE DEALS:  NYC ‘Hotel Week’ rates as low as $100 a night

More than 120 hotels are participating. For booking information, go to And be sure to read the fine print: Advance reservations and prepayment may be required, and blackout dates may apply.

Jan. 2 also marks the return of NYC Company’s Third Night promotion. Book two consecutive nights at any of the 20 hotels within The Signature Collection, a group of luxury hotels such as the London NYC and the Pierre New York, until Feb. 29, and you get a complimentary third night.

This year, there’s an added perk: a Key to Madison Avenue card, which gives visitors access to more than 70 special offers at boutiques, spas, restaurants, art galleries and other establishments in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Booking information can be found Advance reservations are required, and once again, there may be blackout dates.

If neither of these promotions appeals, there’s always New York’s first-ever “Hotel Week,” which runs from Jan. 6 to Jan. 15. Modeled after the popular Restaurant Week, the eight participating hotels will block out rooms for $100, $200 or $250, depending on the property.

And of course, all deals are subject to availability.