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Travel News 2006

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December 27, 2006

W Hotels to Offer Eco-Friendly Concept

Guests concerned about the environment don’t have many more options for showing their green tendencies than deciding to go a day without having housekeeping change the sheets. As recently reported on The, W Hotels is re-imagining the eco-hotel with ALOFT, its new division with a vision. The brand, to open in 2008, will boast a "see green" program that includes a shrubbery-enshrouded outdoor parking garage with preferential parking for hybrid cars. Compartmentalized shower dispensers for shampoo and lotions will eliminate the need for plastic bottles, and recycled building materials will be used throughout the properties.

To read more about ALOFT hotels, visit

December 20, 2006

Hawaii’s New Clean Environment Policy—Still a Smoking Ban


Los Angeles did it in its restaurants. Westin and Marriott did it in their hotels. As of November 2006, Hawaii has done it in public places. Smoking on the islands is definitely out—in eateries, bars, bowling alleys, shopping centers and airports. In a recent online article on Yahoo!, a tourism liaison for the state insisted that the law is being viewed as a clean environment policy and not as a smoking ban. But many in the hospitality industry see the law, whatever its emphasis, as a possible deterrent to tourism.

The 2005 Annual Visitor Research Report rendered by the Hawaii Tourism Authority indicates that visitors from the U.S. West make up the state’s highest primary visitor market. The U.S. East ranks second, and Japan ranks third. While Americans are used to smoking restrictions, the smoking culture in Japan is popular among Japanese men—45% of whom smoke. Ironically, according to a 2006 Tobacco Trends report by the American Lung Association, smoking by race is lowest among Asians due to the low rate of women who smoke. Special efforts to make Japanese tourists aware of the ban will be in place.

For more information, visit

December 13, 2006

Airports the New Downtown

Tom Hanks lived in one in the film, The Terminal. Apparently, the film’s premise wasn’t that far-fetched.

An airport planned as a city is known as an “aerotropolis,” a term coined by John Kasarda of the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina. This new type of architectural community represents a sociological trend whose time has come, Kasarda claims, according to a recent article published on

The article details that construction has begun on the multi-billion dollar master-planned Beijing Capital Airport City. Korea, India, the Netherlands—cities in these countries are following suit. The new Suvarnabhumi Airport complex in Bangkok, when finally completed, will include hospitals, hotels, golf courses, shopping malls and schools. These days, people even patronize art—rotating exhibits hang in concourses at airports in Philadelphia, Denver, Edinburgh, Tucson, London, Seattle, Stockholm, Raleigh-Durham, San Francisco and more.

A USA Today article claims that aerotropolises are the new downtowns. Development is burgeoning at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport with a vast retail, commercial, hospitality and residential community. The Albuquerque International Sunport is in the midst of construction of one of the largest developments in the world near an airport.

You may wonder, what about noise levels? Seems that nobody’s talking....

To read more, please see

*Image by Boonlert Tangtaveevech,
Copyright Airports of Thailand Public Company Limited

December 6, 2006

Homeland Security’s Traveler Profiling

Drug profiling is old news. It’s likely you’ve heard about drivers traveling along established drug routes, from Florida to New York or from Mexico to California and beyond, who are observed and identified for the purpose of determining whether or not they might be trafficking drugs. Is the person traveling alone? Is the car a late model vehicle? Are there children inside? Does the driver have that drug trafficker “look”?

Now we know that Homeland Security is doing the same thing with Americans and foreigners who enter the U.S.—only it’s being done by a computer program called the Automated Targeting System (ATS). Personal information being evaluated includes your departure and arrival destinations, how you paid for your ticket, and if you’ve ever traveled one-way. A traveler is then assigned a risk number. What that number means is known only to Homeland Security according to The Associated Press, which last week reported that the system has been in place for the past four years in an attempt to identify criminals, terrorists and other security threats.

According to the Homeland Security Department’s website, the ATS was originally designed to help identify illegal narcotics in cargo containers. The American Civil Liberties Union has condemned the program in a press release posted on its website. Government officials could not say whether the ATS has led to the apprehension of any terrorists.

For more information, visit the Homeland Security Department's website at

November 29, 2006

India's Booming Luxury Hotel Market

The economic boom in India officially includes the travel industry, which is scrambling to keep up with the demand for more hotels. Though Hilton, Four Seasons and Sheraton—which weighs in with a whopping twenty hotels—already have a presence in the country, there’s a critical shortage of mid-range venues due to an influx of mostly business travelers.

Hotel rooms at bargain rates until only a few years ago were plentiful in all of India's big cities. A night at a five-star establishment, which ranged from $50 to $60, today has escalated to an average of $325. According to official tourism stats for 2005, achieving a 13.2% growth rate over 2004 (which saw a 26.8% growth rate over 2003), India has enjoyed its third successive year of positive growth in foreign tourist arrivals.

According to a tourism ministry official, as reported this week by the Associated Press, a total of 300 hotel projects have been approved by the government. Luxury hotels represent almost half that number. Aided by recent changes to Indian law that allow full foreign ownership of hotels, foreign hotel operators are eager to invest. In addition to New Delhi, cities being targeted as outposts for new hotels include Agra, Bangalore, Goa, Jaipur, Rajasthan and Mumbai.

See also hotel trends in China

November 22, 2006

Travelers Entering the United States Must Follow New Mandate

Under the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), travelers heading into the United States must comply with new requirements. Starting Jan. 23, 2007, all persons, including U.S. citizens traveling by air between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda, will be required to present a valid passport, Air Nexus card (enrollment is limited to citizens of Canada and the United States, lawful permanent residents of the United States and permanent residents of Canada) or U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Marine Document. The WHTI will not affect travel between the United States and its territories. U.S. citizens traveling directly between the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa will be able to use established forms of identification (valid driver’s license or government-issued ID card) to board a flight and for entry. The new mandate is a result of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, which requires the Department of Homeland Security and Department of State to ask all travelers to present documents that denote identity and citizenship when entering the United States. By standardizing documentation, it allows the Department of Homeland Security to accurately identify a traveler and facilitate entry into the country. For more information, visit

November 15, 2006

Bob Marley's New Resort

They’re jamming in the Bahamas. Rita Marley, Bob Marley’s widow, will open the sixteen-suite Marley Resort and Spa on Cable Beach in Nassau Feb. 6, 2007---the day would have been the musician’s 61st birthday. The resort, formerly a governor’s mansion, is located in an area known as the “Bahamian Riviera” and had been used as a summer getaway by the Marley family for years. Thirteen master suites will be named after Marley’s songs such as “Jammin” and “Three Little Birds.” The three royal suites will feature specific themes and furnishings, such as Rita Marley furniture in the Royal Rita suite, a separate living room and bar in the Legend suite and an in-room Jacuzzi and two rainfall showers in the One Love honeymoon suite. The menu at the resort’s restaurant, Simmer Down, will offer some of Marley’s favorite dishes accompanied by the sounds of acoustic reggae rhythms and live performances. Pricing starts at $495 per room, per night. For more information, visit

November 8, 2006

Even More Friendly Skies: Join United Airlines' Luxury Travel Club

Elite travel clubs are for discriminating professionals who expect the best but also love a bargain. United Airlines' luxury travel club Ameniti is currently offering great deals on car rentals. Now through Dec. 31, 2006, members can receive Special Rates plus Triple Mileage Plus Miles for the Jaguar X-TYPE ($95/day), Jaguar S-TYPE ($101/day), Jaguar XJ-8 ($105/day) and other posh rides. This is just one example of the many services and bargains offered to members of Ameniti, part of United Airlines. Other exclusive membership benefits include: free companion tickets on United or Singapore Airlines, double miles from top hotel (such as Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts and Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide), car rental and cruise partners, up to 25,000 additional bonus miles on qualifying cruise lines, two single-use United Red Carpet Club airport lounge passes and much more. For more information or to join, call 1-877-AMENITI.

November 1, 2006

Miami's Designer Hotel

Todd Oldham, former runway designer turned furniture and home accessories designer, and chef Tony Mantuano from Chicago’s Spiaggia Restaurant are teaming up to open The Fairfax, a luxury boutique hotel on a swank strip in South Beach, Miami. Located on 18th Street and Collins Avenue, the 53-suite fractional ownership hotel is scheduled to open in 2007 and will feature Enoteca Spiaggia, the first expansion of the acclaimed Chicago eatery.

Inspired by chef Mantuano’s unique take on Italian cuisine, Oldham is custom-designing all aspects of the hotel and restaurant—including everything from the bedding to the plates and cutlery—to reflect the whimsical yet sophisticated flavors in Mantuano’s cooking. Spiaggia, which means beach in Italian, will feature a coral bar that will serve Italian artisan mozzarella and crudo.

October 25, 2006

Doubletree dishes out free cookies

This Halloween, you don’t have to be a guest at your local Doubletree hotel to receive one of their freshly-baked cookies. On Oct. 31 from 12:01 a.m.-11:59 p.m., Doubletree hotel locations across North America will provide a complimentary chocolate chip cookie to anyone who walks in the door, from costumed treat-seekers to parents in plainclothes. On an average day, Doubletree hotels hand out 30,000 freshly-baked cookies to customers, but you won’t have to pay to get one this time. After one of these tasty treats, you’ll be hungry for more, but don’t go knocking on any hotel room doors—trick-or-treat only extends to the hotel lobby.

October 17, 2006

Disney Introduces Healthier Menus at Theme Parks

Winnie the Pooh’s honey pot may soon be replaced by a cup of apple sauce and carrot sticks. The Walt Disney Company announced this week that the menus in their American theme parks will now be comprised of healthier foods. The amount of calories, fats and sugars will be reduced in the park’s new food choices, while trans-fats will be eliminated entirely by the end of 2007. Even candy and bakery goods will be made healthier. In kids’ meals, Disney will replace soda with low-fat milk, 100-percent fruit juice and water, while unsweetened apple sauce and baby carrots will substitute for French fries. Parents will still be able to order the unhealthier items if they wish. In addition to in-park foods, Disney will gradually remove its name and licensed characters from foods that do not meet its new health guidelines.

“This is a terrific initiative because it makes it easier for parents, even while on vacation, to provide their children with a well-balanced meal with kid appeal,” said Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “An overwhelming majority of parents tell us they prefer the more nutritious meals for their children over other options.”

October 11, 2006

A Southern California Landmark Reopens

On your next visit to the City of Angels, make sure to visit Griffith Park Observatory, the legendary cultural landmark atop Mount Hollywood. After five years and a $93 million renovation, it is ready to offer close-ups of the universe when it reopens November 3. This 1935 Art Deco masterpiece has been a star in its own right, immortalized by James Dean in the movie “Rebel Without a Cause” and is the place where Arnold Schwarzenegger emerged as a cyborg from the future in “The Terminator.” Visitors can now experience this state-of-the-art facility which features exhibits where you can touch a 395-pound meteorite and learn about the seasons, tides and phases of the moon. There’s also the main event planetarium which has been upgraded with plush seats, a new dome and a Zeiss projector from Germany. Wolfgang Puck’s Café at the End of the Universe offers nourishment and special presentations will take place at the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon theatre. But mostly, the Griffith Park Observatory is a place where you can gaze at stunning 360 degree views of the city. Reservations are now required both for the Observatory and for seats on the shuttle to and from the park. For more information and to make reservations, call 888-695-0888 or visit,

October 4, 2006

Stardust Vegas Razed to Make Way for Luxury Resort

Come November 1, the Stardust Resort and Casino, a hold-out from the 1950s Vegas hey-day, will cease to exist. For stalwart Stardust fans, that means no more dynamic duo performances by Steve (Lawrence) and Eydie (Gorme) or Tim Conway and Harvey Korman. The property, located at the northern end of the strip, will be razed to make way for a $4 billion Echelon Place development slated for completion in 2010. The new mega-complex will include four hotels—the Echelon Resort and three other Vegas-style versions of well-established luxury brands. The Shangri-La Hotels, which includes some of Asia’s premiere properties, will open a 400-room hotel and spa. Morgan’s hotel group known for their popular boutique brands, will launch in Sin City with a Vegas version of their Miami hotel, the Delano (600 rooms) and their West Hollywood hot spot, the Mondrian (1,000 rooms). Included with development is Echelon’s Las Vegas ExpoCenter, a proposed 140,000-square-foot casino and retail promenade.

September 27, 2006

TSA Partially Lifts Liquid Travel Ban

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that starting Sept. 26, it is lifting the total ban on liquids, gels and aerosols in baggage carried on board. Travelers will be allowed to carry travel-sized toiletries (three ounces or less) that fit comfortably in one quart-size, clear-plastic, zip-top bag. Once through security, they will be able to buy items, like beverages, from secured airport areas and take them on-board.

“After the initial, total ban, we have learned enough from the UK investigation to say with confidence that small, travel size liquids are safe to bring through security checkpoints in limited numbers,” Assistant Secretary for TSA Kip Hawley said. “We have also taken additional security measures throughout the airport that make us comfortable allowing passengers to bring beverages and other items purchased in the secure area on board.” For more information visit

September 20, 2006

LAX Introduces Remote Check-In to Shorten Lines

With recent security measures causing more passengers to check their luggage, the already long check-in lines at Los Angeles International Airport have gotten even lengthier, sometimes snaking outside the terminals. In an attempt to combat these long queues, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has announced the creation of remote check-in, a program that allows passengers to drop their bags off and pick up their boarding passes at one of four locations before arriving at the airport. These locations are Van Nuys FlyAway, Union Station FlyAway, the Los Angeles Convention Center and the Port of Los Angeles World Cruise Center in San Pedro. From there, the bags are transported to an LAX facility where they are inspected by the Transportation Security Administration and placed on passengers’ flights. Bags are accepted up to two and a half hours before take-off. The $5 service is only for domestic flights operated by American, Alaska, Continental, Delta, Horizon, Northwest and United. Although this program is in theory a useful way to ease airport line times, it seems more remote locations are needed before a significant difference will be noticed. Only the Van Nuys location is in a convenient residential area, while the others cater to a very specific type of traveler. For more information, visit

September 13, 2006

Celebrate the Fall Harvest by Picking Your Apple a Day

With the fall harvest upon us, now may be the ideal time to plan a visit to one of the many apple festivals happening in October across America. Taste test apple butter, apple pie, apple sauce, apple cider and maybe even take a few recipes home with you. Learn the difference between a Blushing Gold and a Melrose and, if you like, go into the orchards and pick familiar favorites like Fuji and Granny Smith. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll stumble upon some Applejack, a strong alcoholic beverage made during the Colonial Period from—you guessed it—apples.

To learn more about all the apple festivals in the U.S., as well as in Britain, Canada and Australia, go to

September 7, 2006

The New Eco-Friendly Fleet at Hertz

With gas prices soaring and the threat of global warming looming, Hertz is making it easier for travelers to help save the environment and money on fuel with their new Green Collection. All of the 35,000 cars in this fleet are EPA highway rated at 28 miles or more per gallon, including models such as Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Buick LaCrosse and Hyundai Sonata. Most carry the EPA's Smartway certification and are available at 50 major airports nationwide.

For more EPA-certified tips on improving gas mileage while driving your rental or personal car, visit

August 24, 2006

New Electronic Passports to Contain Computer Chips

From now on, would-be spies looking to forge a passport are going to need a lot more than a photo and Elmer’s glue. By the end of this year, all American passports will be issued with a highly secure integrated computer chip that will possess all of the physical document’s information. Not only will the new chip made by Infineon speed up inspection times, but more importantly, with more than 50 individual security mechanisms, it will significantly improve the passport’s privacy and resistance to forgery. The U.S. government estimates that 15 million of these new electronic passports will be issued in its first year, joining or replacing the more than 67 million already in circulation. The 27 countries that participate in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (most Western European countries, plus Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore) will be required to start issuing electronic passports by October 2006, and many have already done so. The chip itself is read by a scanner operated by an immigration officer and contains the bearer’s name, date of birth, validity period and a digital photo that is compatible with facial recognition technology. The electronics passports will also incorporate a new colorful design that includes background photos of Mt. Rushmore, the Liberty Bell and a satellite orbiting the Moon.

August 18, 2006

Fairy Tale Flights of Fancy in Frankfurt

Should you find yourself in the Frankfurt, Germany, airport, the guy on a stage spouting gibberish in Hungarian is not crazy. Rather, he is one of nine story tellers from across Europe who have been invited by Lufthansa to recite and perform fables, legends and fairy tales in their mother tongue. Stories from Germany, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Hungary will be orated for passengers without props, relying simply on their voice and gestures.

“We want to span a bridge with this event between languages, cultures and countries,” said Andreas Döpper, Lufthansa station manager at Frankfurt Airport. “Our aim is to stimulate the curiosity of our passengers and encourage them playfully and imaginatively to take an interest in foreign languages.”

One has to wonder if seeing these fairy tale orations will be like watching a foreign film without subtitles, but without any accompanying images. Regardless, it should make waiting for your Lufthansa flight a little more interesting.

August 9, 2006

New Manhattan Bohemian Hideaway

Entrepreneur Ian Schrager has opened the bohemian Gramercy Park Hotel, with design help from painter Julian Schnabel. The lobby hosts a fusion of design schemes, furnished with hand-woven rugs, Moroccan tiles and 3-D paintings. The guest suites are intended to mirror European hotel rooms through their use of Renaissance color palettes and unique art, while the private roof club and landscaped garden are inspired by turn of the century rooftop entertaining. Says the man behind the Delano in Miami Beach and the Mondrian in West Hollywood, Calif., “The Gramercy Park Hotel is the ultimate anti-brand and anti-design hotel. It is a celebration of the idiosyncratic.”

August 9, 2006

New Barrière Hotel Opens on the Champs Élysées

Experience all the lights and romance of Paris this fall at the Hôtel Fouquet Barrière, a new hotel located just steps from the culture, fashion and luxury of the Champs Élysées. Copying the nearby Hausmanian building’s exterior, architect Edouard François transformed a block of historic buildings into one hotel built around an indoor garden. This was done to accommodate Paris’ strict historic building protection laws. The landmark Fouquet’s restaurant not only serves as the inspiration for the hotel’s name, it’ll also serve its guests a taste of classic Paris with its French cuisine and turn-of-the-century décor. For private functions, a rooftop terrace will be available that affords sweeping views of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower. Its 120 luxury rooms will be complimented with a trendy bar, spa, fitness center, steam room, an indoor swimming pool and Le Diane restaurant set in the indoor garden.

August 2, 2006

San Diego’s Keating to Blend Historic and Modern Italian Design

Opening this fall in the heart of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter is The Keating, a chic boutique hotel. Conceived by Italian design house Pininfarina, which is famous for creating Ferraris, The Keating will feature a sleek, modern Italian interior contrasted by a Romanesque Revival façade. The 35 guestrooms or “stanzas” will boast high ceilings, exposed brick walls and oversized windows in combination with color and modern, custom furnishings to create a thoroughly chic environment. Walls that traditionally separate “warm and wet zones” (bedroom and bathroom to you) have been omitted to provide an open feeling. The hotel’s small size will also lend itself to a greater amount of personalized service, as well as a guests-only lounge under the hotel.

“The Keating is one of San Diego’s oldest buildings, which will now become one of San Diego’s newest attractions…combining historical architecture, cutting edge design and innovative services, to evoke a modern destination with subtle sex appeal,” said Robert Watson of the hotel’s operator BOND Urban Habitat.

For more information, visit

July 26, 2006

Hilton Sisters Dive Into the Family Business

They got their fame and fortune from the hotel business (well, maybe not the fame). Now Paris and Nicky Hilton are carrying on the family legacy with new hotels of their own. The younger and less notorious sister announced her new luxury brand Nicky O first, an all-suite hotel/condo concept debuting in South Beach, Miami, and later Chicago. Both will be renovated existing hotels and will feature a look described as French Regency meets modern Hollywood. Nicky has been involved with much of the design elements, from all common areas to the guestrooms and even the staff’s uniforms. “Having grown up in the family business, I certainly have an understanding of the day-to-day operations at a successful property,” Nicky said.

Paris, meanwhile, announced she will be starting her own chain. "It's going to be lots of fun," Paris told "My hotels will be like the Sanderson…The first one will be in Las Vegas. I love poker and blackjack. And I always win—I've played it since I was 12, when I won $15,000." There’s no word about what Paris' hotel will be called, but it’s a safe bet it’ll be something "hot."

July 19, 2006

Marriott Hangs No Smoking Sign on All Hotels

Where there’s smoke…there’s certainly no Marriott hotel. In September, every hotel and corporate apartment in the Marriott International, Inc. group in the United States and Canada will be completely smoke free, from the guest rooms to the restaurants, lounges, meeting rooms, public spaces and even the employee work areas. Ninety percent of Marriott’s guest rooms are already non-smoking, but reacting to new information from the Surgeon General on the hazards of second-hand smoke, the company decided to go completely smoke free: “Our family of brands is united on this important health issue and we anticipate very positive customer feedback,” said J.W. Marriott, Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of Marriott International, which operates and franchises hotels under the Marriott, JW Marriott, The Ritz-Carlton and Renaissance brand names, among many others.

July 12, 2006

Bermuda Hotels Offer Hurricane Guarantee

Grotto Bay Beach Resort

Their national drink might be the Dark ‘n Stormy, but Bermuda’s taking steps to make sure its tourists’ vacations are anything but. Sixteen Bermuda resorts are offering a “Hurricane Guarantee” that gives travelers refunds and rain checks should their trips be cut short or cancelled by a hurricane.

• If a storm is predicted to pass within 200 miles of the islands, guests will be able to cancel their reservations without penalty within five days.
• Should a hurricane strike during a stay, room, food and beverages will be provided gratis until the hotel’s normal operations can resume.
• If the hotel is damaged and unable to resume normal operations, guests have one year from the property’s reopening to resume their vacation.

Participating hotels include: Cambridge Beaches, Coral Beach & Tennis Club, Elbow Beach Bermuda, Fairmont Hamilton Princess, Fairmont Southampton, Fourways Inn, Granaway Guest House & Cottage, Grape Bay Hotel, Grotto Bay Beach Resort, Harmony Club, Horizons & Cottages, The St. George’s Club, Rosedon, Surf Side Beach Club, Waterloo House and Wyndham Bermuda. For more information, visit or check out our Bermuda Travel Guide.

July 5, 2006

James Bond Hooks Up with Virgin...the Airline

The last virgin James Bond allied with was Jane Seymour's Solitaire in 1973's "Live and Let Die." Thirty-three years and three Bonds later, 007 has gotten together with an entirely different type of Virgin: the airline. Along with its founder and chairman Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic will make an appearance in "Casino Royale," the newest Bond adventure starring Daniel Craig as the timeless British spy. Branson (pictured with film co-star Caterina Murino) will make a cameo during a check-in scene at the Miami airport.

"James Bond is original, cool and sophisticated—just like an airline I know," Branson said. "Having met Daniel Craig and the rest of the team on set, I have no doubt 'Casino Royale' will be one of the most successful James Bond films ever."

Bond movies practically invented the art of product placements, and Virgin's participation is only one of the new film's partners. Ford will debut its new Aston Martin DBS in the movie, along with the 2008 Ford Mondeo. Bond changes airlines almost as often as women. In the past, 007 has flown Pan Am, British Airways, Lufthansa, and an Air France Concorde.

June 21, 2006

Heralding Holistic Wellness at Jamaica's Half Moon Resort

In the spring of 2007, Jamaica's Half Moon resort will welcome the Fern Tree Spa. The $4 million project will begin this summer, and will focus on converting the property's signature Fern Tree House accommodation into a modern 68,000-square-foot wellness sanctuary. While maintaining the villa's original colonial design, the renovated and expanded complex will include private treatment rooms opening onto garden terraces, a plantation-style couples massage room and a spa cottage for families, wedding parties and other groups. A relaxation lounge, yoga pavilion, hydrotherapy swimming pool and sculpture garden will round out the facilities. Drawing on modern techniques and Jamaican healing traditions, treatments will incorporate native herbs, fruits and botanicals. Unique to the retreat will be a Spa Elder, who will customize individual experiences. To complement the complex, six beachfront spa suites will come with personal studios that can be used for en suite treatments, fitness or yoga. More information at

June 16, 2006

Putting on the Ritz in Downtown L.A.

Continually striving to be a dynamic urban hub, downtown L.A has yet another plan for enticing visitors and Angelenos. With the help of the Marriott hotel group, the area will see the creation of a single, glass-and-metal, landmark building to house the Los Angeles Marriott Marquis, The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles and The Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles. This 54-story triumvirate will be located in the LA Live sports and entertainment district, which is currently under construction and will include the Nokia Theater, a fifteen-screen movie complex, the Grammy Museum, restaurants, nightclubs and cafés. Serving as the headquarter hotel for the Los Angeles Convention Center, the 876-room Marriott will include the city's biggest ballroom, with seating for up to 3,000. The Ritz-Carlton, a 124-room luxury boutique hotel, will sit atop the Marriott and feature an outdoor rooftop swimming pool. Inhabitants of the additional 216 private condominiums may access all Ritz-Carlton amenities, including concierge, valet, housekeeping, spa and fitness center. They will also enjoy VIP access to events at the STAPLES Center, Nokia Theater Los Angeles and Club Nokia. Residences will go on sale at the beginning of 2007. All properties are slated to open in 2010.

June 14, 2006

Cruising into Luxury with Four Seasons' Adventure at Sea

As the cruise world grows more sophisticated, it's no surprise that the Four Seasons hotel group is getting into the luxury-at-sea act. The company recently launched the Four Seasons Explorer, a 129-foot, triple-decker catamaran, in the Maldives. With just ten cabins and one suite, the vessel offers a more intimate atmosphere than a Four Seasons hotel or resort, but provides the same level of service. The crew of 24 includes a marine biologist, dive instructors, underwater videographers, a massage therapist and a Four Seasons chef. The three spacious decks house an upper sun terrace with a private spa treatment nook, a lower sundeck with a Jacuzzi and bar, a restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining, and a lounge and library. There is also a fully equipped PADI dive center with Nitrox on board. Customized dive, surf, educational and leisure cruises can be arranged, and passengers may also schedule private charters for three nights or more. The Explorer is affiliated with the Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, which will open in November 2006. For more information visit Four Seasons Resort Maldives.

June 7, 2006

To the Max on the Vegas Strip

Just when it seems Las Vegas can't bear the weight of one more high-powered resort, a scheme for yet another high-rolling destination is revealed. Rumors have it that Maxim, the sexy mag for boys who like sophisticated toys, will put its name to a property on the site of the Stardust Resort & Casino, which will eventually be demolished. Proposed amenities include the requisite spa, celebrity chef restaurants, plenty of shops and indoor and outdoor concert venues. The Maxim Hotel & Resort will go for the same young, pretty people that flock to the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and The Palms. No doubt to compete with the latter, which will resurrect the Playboy Club after its twenty-year absence this August, it will include a Maxim Lounge, from nightclub impresario Rande Gerber. Although we're growing a little weary of the homogenized hip hotel du jour-style, and the unspoken city code dictating that every new Vegas hot spot have Gerber involved, we still hold out hope that this unapologetically flashy new joint will put a little sin back in the city.

May 23, 2006

Hyatt Launches Spa Residences

In these uncertain times one thing’s for sure. There’s money to be made with spas. Picture a minimum one-third of your hotel room taken up by soaking tubs, wet rooms, rain showers and treatment benches. Such wellness oases can be found at select Hyatt Hotels and Resorts. The group’s so-called “residential spa” concept addresses the needs of a new market of lifestyle travelers, folks who are devoted to wellness and health. The idea was launched in 2004 with the 80,000-square-foot Plateau (pictured), a $10-million project at Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, featuring fourteen spa guestrooms and suites. The year 2005 brought i.sawan at the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok (a fifth-floor "garden in the sky" featuring six spa cottages) and Amara at Park Hyatt Dubai. In 2006, Hyatt will launch spa residences in Washington D.C., Buenos Aires, Beijing, Shanghai, Moscow and Goa. Each spa room is “culturally appropriate,” meaning that factors like local customs and climate are considered. Hyatt says it’s worth the investment of time and money; its wellness rooms are already popular, enjoying a seventy percent occupancy rate. More information at

May 16, 2006

Playing Doctor the Virgin Way

Why fret over the skyrocketing cost of health insurance when you can book a flight instead? We love Virgin Atlantic for its preflight Champagne, snazzy amenity kits, individual TVs, fully flat Upper Class beds, and—as of this month—cutting edge medical care. With the introduction of Tempus, the saucy airline adds advanced medical technology to its already impressive list of offerings. Designed for remote emergencies, Tempus uses satellites to transmit real time medical information as well as video images from in-flight airplanes to experts at the MedAire Centre in Arizona. Ground-based doctors guide medically trained cabin crew in differentiating between serious and non-serious incidents, so that crew members do not have to interpret medical information or make crucial medical decisions on their own. With its entire fleet fitted with Tempus equipment by 2009, Virgin Atlantic is expected to set an industry standard. To find out more, go to

May 10, 2006

Water, Water in Bora Bora

From spa treatments to air-conditioning, the new InterContinental Resort & Thalasso-Spa Bora Bora is staking its reputation on the benefits of water. The Thalassotherapy Deep Ocean Spa by Algotherm—opening in September 2006—will use seawater extracted from 2,500 feet below sea level in its therapies, and the eco-friendly air-con system relies on ice-cold water plumbed from the depths of the sea. September will also bring an over water wedding chapel with glass-bottom floor. Water plays a significant role in the 80 accommodations. This is the first hotel in French Polynesia to offer all over water bungalows. Living rooms feature glass-bottom coffee tables that double as aquariums; private terraces are equipped with freshwater showers; and baths open onto a lagoon. Enhancing the liquid appeal of this $70 million resort are the works of local artisans, including woodcarvings, pandanus weavings, tapa cloth and mother-of-pearl engravings. To find out more, visit

May 5, 2006

An Extravagant Facelift for Lake Arrowhead Resort

When it comes to nips and tucks, SoCal has the monopoly. So it's no surprise that one of the region's favorite destinations is having some work done. Following a $12 million redesign and renovation, Lake Arrowhead Resort will debut as Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa in the fall of 2006. Among the changes planned are a re-imagined restaurant, BIN189, serving modern California cuisine, and a new spa, featuring a VIP couple's suite with a separate entrance. Overhauled accommodations will bring the guestroom count to 173, including ten suites and The Summit, a 1,178-square-foot presidential suite. All rooms will receive upgraded amenities such as 32-inch flat-panel TVs and Anichini linens. Additional alterations will include a fresh layout for the lobby and a state-of-the-art boardroom with wet bar, lounge and business center. To reflect the resort's San Bernardino Mountains setting, granite and pine indigenous to the area will be incorporated into the interior design. Ninety miles east of Los Angeles, Lake Arrowhead Resort will be open during reconstruction. To find out more, go to

April 26, 2006

New "Signature" at the MGM Grand Isn't Playing Games

Doubling down on the success of the SkyLofts, an exclusive boutique hotel perched atop the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, the mega-resort is preparing to open The Signature at MGM Grand. Non-gaming, non-smoking and all-suite accommodations set The Signature apart from its Vegas brethren. The concept is a smaller, service-oriented property, complete with a separate private gated entry, that offers access to the Grand's "Maximum Vegas" experience, including L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon and Emeril's New Orleans Fish House restaurants, Cirque du Soleil’s KÀ and an Art Deco-style casino. The junior, one- and two-bedrooms suites feature Strip and mountain views, and are equipped with Sub-Zero and Bosch kitchenette appliances and ultra-thin LCD flat-screen high-definition TVs. With 576 suites, the first tower will open in May 2006; towers two and three will follow in December 2006 and May 2007. The hotel is already sold out for its grand opening. To find out more, go to

April 19, 2006

Rock On: A Hip Resort Near the Red Rocks of Vegas

With this week's opening of Red Rock Casino Resort Spa, Las Vegas gets its first billion dollar property off the Strip. Ten miles from the action, this cool lodging occupies seventy acres near the Red Rock Mountains. The resort attempts to avoid the frenzied atmosphere prevalent at so many area hotels with a separate entrance that bypasses the casino, and the relatively-small-for-Las-Vegas room count of 850, half open now and half at the end of the year. Among the draws are a three-acre pool complex with swim-up blackjack tables and nine restaurants, including Salt Lick BBQ, T-Bones Steakhouse and Terra Rosa Italian Bistro. For the "in crowd," nightclub impresario Rande Gerber crafted Cherry, and for spa groupies, the 35,000-square-foot Spa at Red Rock Las Vegas offers a yoga garden, treatment suites that appear to float on water and adventure activities such as rock climbing and whitewater rafting. For information, visit

April 11, 2006

Charlie Palmer Cooks up a New Hotel in Vegas

These days, the launch of a swanky celebrity chef-owned restaurant in a Las Vegas hotel comes as no surprise. But entrepreneurial über-chef Charlie Palmer aims to give the trend a fresh twist. Slated to break ground this year and open in 2008, the Charlie Palmer Hotel will showcase three signature restaurants, including a sushi bar (his first) suspended over the lobby, as well as a cigar bar, spa and rooftop lounge. The only thing missing: a casino. Designer du jour, Adam Tihany, who crafted the interior of Palmer's Aureole, will take responsibility for the hotel's aesthetics. With only 400 guestrooms and condominiums in the land of mega resorts, Charlie Palmer Hotel will be considered a boutique property, and unlike many current projects in the city, it will not be part of a larger development. This is Palmer's second hotel venture, after the Hotel Healdsburg in Sonoma County. For more information visit

April 4, 2006

Taking It to the Max

While major airlines continue to suffer financially, many small, exclusive lines are expanding. MAXjet, which launched in November 2005 with flights between JFK International Airport and Stansted, UK, is now offering added service between Washington, D.C. and London. The luxury airline features all-business class seating at value fares, comparable to economy class rates on standard airlines. They utilize a fleet of reconfigured Boeing 767s, seating 102 passengers in a space usually crammed with 200. The seats are designed with plenty of legroom and lumbar support, and recline nearly flat. The best news for last-minute planners: their planes contain no middle seats. While other airlines are cutting back on food and beverage service, Maxjet passengers get to choose from several multi-course meals served with restaurant china, cutlery and stemmed glassware, and washed down with vintages from boutique wineries and complimentary premium liquor. Dedicated departure lounges offer full business centers with free wireless Internet access, plasma screen TVs and leather loungers. Fares start at $1,750. For more information, call 888-I-FLY-MAX (435-9629).

March 29, 2006

A Top Flight Commute Between Manhattan and JFK Airport

Traffic jams, crowded parking lots and long security lines: these are the bane of the air traveler's existence. They are also the impetus behind US Helicopter's new shuttle service between the Wall Street Downtown Manhattan Heliport and JFK International Airport. Designed for business travelers, this eight-minute shuttle began operating this week in partnership with American Airlines. Travelers flying on American can obtain boarding passes, check luggage and clear security (administered by the Transportation Security Administration) at the heliport, while those traveling other airlines must go through all check-in procedures at the airport. Certified by the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration, flights cost $159 one way and run hourly on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Carrying eight passengers per trip, the company's Sikorsky S-76 helicopters operate on a dedicated flight path, to eliminate delays. By the end of 2006, added services will include the E. 34th Street Heliport and W. 30th Street Heliport. Flights will also be available to LaGuardia and Newark airports.

March 21, 2006

Walking Tall in Northern California

One of California's lesser known wine regions—the Lake Country, located two-and-a-half hours north of San Francisco—welcomes the return of an old friend in April 2006. The Tallman Hotel dates back to the 1800s, when it served as stage stop, lodging and saloon. Completely renovated, it now features antiques, custom-crafted furniture and materials salvaged from the original building, enhancing the character of its Victorian architecture. The addition of new garden cottages gives the property a total room count of seventeen. Located in the town of Upper Lake, the Tallman Hotel is attached to the re-created Blue Wing Saloon & Café. Gardens on the grounds furnish the restaurant's menu of California comfort food.

March 14, 2006

The James Makes Itself at Home in Chicago

This March, more than just wind is blowing into Chicago. Riding the success of its inaugural Scottsdale location, James Hotels is opening an outpost just steps from The Magnificent Mile. The group's creators include a founding member of W Hotels, so the décor at James Chicago should come as no surprise: sexy, minimalist and geared toward an urbane crowd. Bedrooms are equipped with all the expected post-millennium bells and whistles, including plasma screen TVs, complimentary WiFi and iPod/MP3 docks. The hotel also houses David Burke's Primehouse, serving Modern American cuisine, and the signature J Bar.

February 15, 2006

Wet and Mild in the Bahamas

Water, water everywhere takes on new meaning at the Kamalame Cay spa, which opened in early 2006. This two-story 2,000-square-foot sanctuary was built at the end of Kamalame Pier and is the Bahamas’ first over-water spa. It was designed so that treatment rooms feel as if they are floating above the sea. Biotropica provides the all-natural body scrubs and oils, and signature treatments include the total body, deep heat Bahamian Boreh experience and the Kamalame Coconut Body Glow for Sensitive Skin. Custom packages come with Champagne lunch. Kamalame Cay is an exclusive, 96-acre, 19-room private island resort off Andros Island in the Bahamas archipelago.

February 8, 2006

Whistle While You Play Your Way through British Columbia

On May 1, 2006, Canada's newest tourist train will take to the rails. Whistler Mountaineer will transport passengers on a three-hour journey between Vancouver and Whistler, through some of British Columbia's most dramatic scenery. Along the majestic Sea to Sky Corridor, views encompass North America's southernmost fjord, old growth-forests, the impressive Brandywine Falls, the volcanic peak of Mount Garibaldi and potential sightings of black bear and eagles. Passengers will be able to choose between two types of experiences: Glacier Dome, in a single-level, glass-dome coach, and Coast Classic, in a traditional 1950s remodeled rail coach. Including onboard dining experiences, Whistler Mountaineer will operate twice daily from May to October. It will also link with the Rocky Mountaineer's new Fraser Discovery Route, which will also launch in May and offer two-day, all daylight rail journeys between Whistler and Jasper.

February 1, 2006

Dolphin Bay Provides a Californian Beachside Sanctuary

San Louis Obispo County’s Shell Beach is expecting a new residence this March, the picturesque Dolphin Bay Hotel and Residences, a luxury oceanfront resort. Part of the resort is composed of 70 residential units, 900 to 2,000 square feet each in size, with the remainder of the area being dedicated to the hotel. The lodgings are outfitted with Italian linens, gourmet kitchens with granite countertops, plasma TVs with surround sound, and tightly woven wool carpets, with select units featuring fireplaces and Aire Jet tubs. Amenities include the Lido Restaurant, La Bonne Vie Spa, fully-equipped fitness center, infinity pool and Jacuzzi spa.

A Landmark Loss and Gain on Hawaii's Kahala Coast

March 1, 2006 brought a noteworthy change to Hawaii's hotel scene, when Kahala Mandarin Oriental, Hawaii became The Kahala Hotel & Resort. As Landmark Hotels, Inc. takes over from the prestigious Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, more than just a new name is planned. Landmark intends to keep the sumptuous essence of the property while investing $20 million to upgrade the guestrooms and public areas. This follows recent renovations that included custom-designed pool cabanas equipped with mini bars, iPod Nanos, flat-screen TVs and wireless Internet access. Originally opened in the 1960s as the Kahala Hilton—a name still used by many locals—the property is a favorite with visiting diplomats, celebrities and royalty. >> Going to Hawaii?

A Beloved Parisian Property Breeds a New Luxury Hôtel Chain

Long a symbol of uninhibited extravagance in the City of Lights, the Hôtel de Crillon will soon become the flagship property for a new luxury hotel group. Starwood Capital Group, helmed by Barry Sternlicht, former CEO and founder of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, intends to use the Crillon name and reputation to brand a collection of luxury hotels in destinations as far flung as Barcelona, Beijing and Dubai. Sternlicht intends to create this new chain in much the same way he did with the St. Regis Hotels & Resorts group. There was only one St. Regis property when Starwood took it over; today there are twelve, the most recent being the St. Regis Hotel, San Francisco, which opened in November 2005. The Hôtel de Crillon is housed in a building dating back to 1758 and first opened its doors to guests in 1909. >> Going to Paris?

January 19, 2006

Scottsdale's Revamped Valley Ho is Both Homey and Hip

In the 1950s it was the playground of Hollywood’s A-list. After an $80-million facelift and grand re-opening in December 2005, the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale is cool again. Friendly and comfortable it offers mid- to high-level quality at a decent price. It has an all-American feel with comfort cooking at Café Zuzu, but the modern, mid-century stylings were kept and are ultra hip—again. VH Spa, which offers a lovely hammam-inspired treatment, isn’t buried in the basement but sits proudly on the second floor, with a great view of the skyline. In fact, the Hotel Valley Ho has the distinction of being the only hotel in downtown Scottsdale, within walking distance to stores and attractions. Brought to you by the people behind the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain, it can also accommodate weddings, bar mitzvahs and smaller company meetings.

January 11, 2006

Betting on Wellness in Las Vegas

Best known for egalitarian establishments such as Barbary Coast Hotel & Casino and Sam's Town Hotel & Gambling Hall, Boyd Gaming Group is preparing to break with tradition and bring a high end Shangri-La hotel to Las Vegas. The Shangri-La Hotel, Las Vegas will be a main component in the 63-acre Echelon Development planned for the Strip on the site of the existing (and soon to be demolished) Stardust Hotel & Casino. The third U.S. Shangri-La property after Chicago and Miami, this one will feature the hotel group's signature CHI spa, a 20,000-square-foot space whose treatments are based on the Chinese philosophy of individual life force. The hotel will maintain the current standard for spacious accommodations in Vegas—the slated 300 guestrooms will measure in at a minimum of 550 square feet and the 100 suites at a minimum of 900 square feet. Scheduled to open in early 2010, the Echelon Development will also include three other independent hotels, a retail promenade, convention space and an anchor casino. >> Going to Las Vegas?

January 4, 2006

Camping Hits a New High at the Four Seasons in Northern Thailand

Early this year, those intrepid travelers who prefer their tents with hardwood floors and copper-hammered bathtubs will find a new place to play at the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, Thailand. Reached by river, the remote hotel is located on a hill overlooking the Ruak River near the Burma-Laos border. The property is a significant departure for the Four Seasons group, not only for its tented accommodations—they do come with air-conditioning and high-speed Internet access, after all—but also for its approach. The hotel will offer two- to three-night all-inclusive stays, which incorporate everything from breakfast to sundowners to activities such as elephant training and Mekong River excursions. Facilities include a freeform swimming pool, spa pavilions and Nong Yao restaurant. Along with formal, five-course meals, guests may dine around a campfire at Elephant Camp or enjoy barbecues under the stars.

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(Updated: 08/30/11 BH)

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