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In the hospitality game, there are new players with familiar names

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Not just any bar in New York City will offer you corn nuts in a coupe de Champagne that took six artisans to craft from fine crystal. But that is how things are done in the Bar at Baccarat Hotel. With its prismatic glass facade and 114 light-filled suites (Champagne on speed dial, flutes at the ready), the entire property was created as a 21st-century embodiment of a French crystal brand founded circa 1764 by the royal decree of King Louis XV.

“I mean, listen, the name is worth 100 million bucks,” said Barry Sternlicht, the chief executive of Starwood Capital Group. Years after creating W Hotels — named after W Magazine, his target audience — the developer bought Baccarat as part of a French conglomerate. “The thought was we could grow this brand and make it relevant again.” So in 2015, he turned it into a hotel, “making it 3D,” he said, and “fun.”

Sternlicht, who recently signed deals for sister properties in Bordeaux, France, and Doha, Qatar, is not the only one building hotels based on brands people love. Fashion labels such as Armani and Versace have been dabbling in hospitality for years. And Nobu has spun its Japanese-fusion restaurant empire into an overnight experience in eight locations (expect 20 by 2020). Whether in Manila or Marbella, Spain, guests are welcomed with Oshibori towels and Ikaati tea, and can order the chef’s signature dishes, along with his riffs on local classics, via 24-hour room service.

But lately, there’s been a critical mass of companies getting into hospitality, including fitness clubs (kicking off next year in New York: Equinox Hotels) and film companies (Paramount Hotels & Resorts is bringing chiaroscuro lighting and Hollywood-themed suites to Dubai and beyond).

“Hotel brands are not overbuilt, but underdemolished,” said Chekitan Dev, a professor of marketing at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and the author of Hospitality Branding. “Too many hotel brands exist that do not have a compelling and defensible point of view,” he said, adding that millennials “love a unique point of view.” They also love travelling, already surpassing boomers in trips, according to Nielsen, the global market research company.

The generation’s disruptive rise has come with that of Airbnb and Amazon, causing some angst among traditional hotel and lifestyle businesses. As the hotels do some soul-searching and the lifestyle businesses seek new ways to engage customers, more of them are teaming up.

They call their “store managers ‘shopkeepers,’ and I call our GMs ‘innkeepers’ — I think this sealed the deal,” said the owner of Salt Hotels, David Bowd, also a co-founder of the hospitality management firm DDK and now principal of West Elm Hotels. Opening in Indianapolis by 2020, they’ll have local staff members trained at the new West Elm Academy, and buyable furnishings designed with regional makers.

Meanwhile, Restoration Hardware has been curating RH Design Galleries, where collections are showcased amid wine bars and rooftop parks, blending home retail and hospitality. The next one is scheduled to open in September in New York City’s meat packing district. Also coming to the neighbourhood: the first RH Guesthouse.

“The hotel business is becoming a lifestyle business,” Dev said. Having consulted with everyone from Bulgari — which just opened its sixth jewel-like hotel, in Shanghai — to InterContinental Hotels Group, he noted, “It is a lot easier for lifestyle brands to extend into hospitality” than the other way around.

As millennials prioritize experiences over things, it’s a way for these companies to keep themselves in the picture, ideally via Instagram feeds. And of course, guests might want to prolong their experience beyond a stay or a Snapchat story, and buy the brand’s products.

Hence this December, near its factories in Detroit, Shinola is extending its homegrown craftsmanship into a hotel: 129 rooms with American white oak furnishings, Shinola leather pillows and Bluetooth speakers, and bathroom fixtures inspired by the casebacks of its watches — like the one specially designed for hotel staff, to be sold exclusively on site.

But according to Shinola’s creative director, Daniel Caudill, “It’s not just about retail, it’s about creating a space that speaks to the local community.” With the Detroit-based real estate firm Bedrock and the hotel operator Mac&Lo, the brand is revitalizing an entire block of Woodward Avenue, the Motor City’s “Main Street,” where the country’s first concrete highway was built in 1909. Now, they’re building bike lanes — better for riding Shinola’s handcrafted cruisers, all for rent — not to mention a walkable Shinola Alley with local shops and beer gardens.

In the meantime, Muji, the Japanese purveyor of all things utilitarian-chic, just built its first hotels in Shenzhen and Beijing (Tokyo is next). Just about everything, including oak-framed beds and Muji Diner tableware, has been designed with what the company calls its “meticulous elimination of excess,” and can be bought from the in-house stores.

And Vipp — Denmark’s family-run trash can manufacturer turned modernist design company — has unveiled lodgings of its own, staging its “tools for living” in two one-room venues: the window-walled Shelter, near Sweden’s Lake Immeln, and the art-studded Loft in central Copenhagen. While the Vipp Hotel is growing — northern Copenhagen’s Chimney House opens soon — the co-owner Sofie Egelund said, “We will not be the new Marriott chain.”

Although it’s worth noting that another major hotel brand, AccorHotels, created a Lifestyle division, and has been looking for fresh concepts. Their latest find: Lola James Harper. What began with Rami Mekdachi’s scented candles — inspired by memories of places that Mekdachi, who is the founder, loves — has grown into a kaleidoscope of the Parisian’s creations, collaborations and favourite things: sun-drenched photos from family travels; perfume, coffee and music made with friends; basketball. Mekdachi describes the brand as a “holistic project about art, friendship, family, slow life and sunshine.”

And so later this year, the first Hotel Lola James Harper is set to open in Paris. It recently had a three-month, 3,230-square-foot lobby “activation” at Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche, with Mekdachi’s candles, prints and “pic-shirts” displayed around a bamboo bar serving the label’s coffee and tea blends, and with Acapulco chairs, palm trees and a music studio.

The hotel will complete the immersion with a room screening comedies all day, and, in lieu of a gym, “a pink room with a hoop and a blue basketball,” designed with Mekdachi’s friends at the Venice Basketball League. Each floor will have a different fragrance, while LPs will play from the lobby-cum-vinyl store; when the album changes, a new spray will be spritzed.

“Newness is not the point,” Mekdachi said. “The point is to stimulate imagination and poetry. Hotels are not anymore places where you go just to sleep and eat and shower. People want meaning.” According to the travel marketing organization MMGY Global, he’s right: For the first time in 12 years, American travellers plan to take fewer vacations, but to spend more on “meaningful” ones.

Thus, Accor is looking to spread Lola James Harper’s meaning far and wide. Still, Mekdachi said, “Little by little with joy — this is my motto.” It’s also the name of one of his eau de toilettes, which, with notes of orange blossom, will be made into bar soap exclusively for the hotel bathrooms. Both will be available for purchase at checkout.

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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)

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(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at marriott.com.

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel

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(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on Marriott.com.

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!

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Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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