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2007 HotelChatter Awards Epilogue

December 31, 2007 at 2:35 PM | by | ()

Thanks for joining us on the last working days of 2007 for the 2007 HotelChatter Year-End Awards. And thanks to all those Hotel Mavens out there who have contributed to our site with their reviews, photos, tips and gossip this year. Keep it up in 2008!

As always, there are at least four ways to contribute:

·Become a HotelChatter member and submit stories, releasing your inner travel writer.
·Become a HotelChatter member, comment on stories, and review hotels.
·Send us snapshots of your favorite and least favorite hotels.
·Shoot us an email tip.

Now for your viewing enjoyment, here is our complete list of winners. We will be back in full effect on Wednesday to kick-off the new year of stories.

· Best Celebrity Performance: Britney Spears, Again
· Best Hotel Hell: The Duck-Chomping Guest
· Worst Hotel Hype: Six Columbus
· Best Hotel Renovation: The Mandalay Bay
· Best Killer View: Hotel Bora Bora
· Best Anti-View: The New Nishino
· Best International Hotel WiFi: The Faena Hotel + Universe
· 2007 Must Have Amenity: iPod Docking Stations
· 2007's All-Star Hotel Map: The Japanese Love Hotels Map
· People's Choice Awards: Chateau La Rue
· Best Hotel Opening: NYLO Hotel Plano
·  Hotelier of the Year: Chip Conley
· Best Hotel Scene: Las Vegas

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Best Hotel Scene: Las Vegas

December 31, 2007 at 1:21 PM | by | ()

Best Hotel Scene: Las Vegas

Las Vegas is an easy choice for Best Hotel Scene because where else can you find thousands of hotel rooms, hundreds of restaurants and lots of nightclubs on a single 4-mile stretch of road?

But Las Vegas wowed us when we read that the average occupancy rate for hotels is something like 90%. That means these hotels are close to sold-out almost every night.

And there's no end in sight for the number of hotels in Las Vegas. We are anxiously awaiting the just-delayed Palazzo Hotel as well as the Palms Place which should open next month. Caesars is building yet another tower. Steve Wynn is opening up The Victory Hotel next to The Wynn and let us not forget the upcoming mega MGM Project CityCenter complex which will open in 2009 and feature two new hotels and condo buildings.

Aside from new buildings, the olds are thankfully starting to upgrade themselves. The Venetian redid its guest rooms, as did The Mandalay Bay. The old Aladdin was transformed into the Planet Hollywood which we actually liked a lot. At The Luxor while most of its interior and guestrooms are still ghastly-looking, they opened up two new clubs (LAX and CatHouse) as well added a hip restaurant, Company.

Speaking of restaurants, Las Vegas is now a top culinary destination with restaurants from celebrity chefs like Wolfgang Puck, Bradley Ogden, Guy Savoy, Bobby Flay, Joel Robuchon, Alain Ducasse, Mario Batali, Thomas Keller, Michael Mina and several more.

The nightclub scene is just as popping. Have you seen how many celebs are getting paid to host parties at nightclubs there over New Years? If you're not into drinking and dancing your face off, there's always concerts, magic shows, Cirque Du Soleil shows, comedy shows, Broadways shows and strip shows for you to check-out. Don't forget shopping too.

And of course, there's always gambling. But after eating, dancing, drinking and shopping, will you have any money left over for gambling? Or vice-versa?

[Photo: roadside pictures]

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Hotelier of the Year: Chip Conley

December 31, 2007 at 12:31 PM | by | ()

Hotelier of the Year: Chip Conley

Chip Conley of Joie De Vivre Hospitality wins this award for 2007 not only because was he the first hotelier to kick-off our new feature, Pitch Your Hotel (although that helped) but also because in 2007 Chip pushed on in expanding JDV to new locations (nothing outside of California though) while at the same time, remaining very true to the philosophy of JDV--the joy of life.

When we asked Chip why there were no JDV hotels outside of California he told us this:

I think that's because we are conscious of what JDV is all about. We describe our hotels as hand-crafted and soulful and we want to make sure they are still close to home.

This past year, Chip opened Hotel Tomo in San Francisco's Japantown (even holding a "Name that Hotel" contest before it opened), weathered two complaints of racial profiling at his hotel by publicly apologizing in a newspaper column for the treatment of a guest by his hotel staff and continued to scope out new locations for JDV Hotels. Coming up next? Sacramento and Santa Cruz.

Not only do we love him but so do his employees. The Wall Street Journal recently wrote about how Chip's management techniques have kept his staffers happy by offering sponsoring parties and awards, arranging paid annual retreats for employees, and offering free classes from computer courses to English as a Second Language.

Another example of how Chip tries to keep things fun? For JDV's 20th anniversary party, nearly 10,000 California residents named Joy were invited to the party.

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Best Hotel Opening: NYLO Hotel Plano

Go To The Hotel's Web 
  Site Where: 8201 Preston Boulevard [map], Plano, TX, United States, 75024
December 31, 2007 at 11:53 AM | by | ()

Best Hotel Opening: NYLO Plano

2007 did not see as many hotel openings as we would have thought, especially in New York City, where most of the expected '07 hotels have been put on hold 'til next year. But one hotel did open on time and seamlessly so, The NYLO Hotel in Plano, Texas.

This hotel is the first of many planned NYLO hotels which will open in similar secondary and tertiary markets like Plano throughout the country. Started by a bunch of former Starwood Hotels execs, NYLO (short for New York Lofts) aims to provide both business and leisure travelers with "high design" at affordable prices.

We spoke with the General Manager of NYLO Plano, Patrick O'Neil who also does double-duty as the Senior VP of operations for the NYLO chain on the eve of the hotel opening and asked him what made NYLO different from the rest. He said:

In the markets that we are competing in, we are going to be able to offer our guests something totally different. Some examples...we run on 50 percent windpower, the only hotel in the area to do so. We also offer 32-inch HDTVs in every room, no other hotel around here does that. And we don't charge for the little things. We have free wireless, the bottled water in the rooms is free and parking is free.

Meanwhile, Starwood's similar competing brands aloft and element hotels have yet to open despite a barrage of press releases announcing expected locations around the world.

[Photo: Stranger on a Train]

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People's Choice Awards: Chateau La Rue

Where: 4735 Olive Hill Road [map], Fallbrook, CA, United States, 92028-8063
December 31, 2007 at 9:30 AM | by | ()

People's Choice Awards: Chateau La Rue

Despite being nothing more than a set for a faux-reality TV show that never hosted any actual real guests, Chateau La Rue was the most popular hotel of 2007.

Tori Spelling and her trophy husband Dean McDermott got into the B&B business at the start of the year after much hype that Tori Spelling was using her tiny inheritance to set up shop. The two seasons of Tori and Dean: Inn Love that aired were pretty painful to watch. We actually blame our ever-growing alcohol problem on having to watch this show.

Aside from the pain of watching Tori and Dean pretend to run a B&B, potential guests were totally frustrated when they couldn't ever book a room at the inn nor in some cases, even get a reply from the reservations hotline.

Things got worse in the spring, when we discovered (not so surprisingly) that Tori and Dean didn't actually own their B&B, despite an entire episode centered around placing a bid for the inn.

Then this fall was capped off with a threat of a raging wildfire before Tori and Dean finally decided to throw in the towel and open a gourmet french fry business instead. The inn is now set to go back to its old name under the original owner, Patricia King, who wrote to us last month:

You are correct, Tori and Dean will not be running Chateau La Rue any longer, but I, the true proprietor of Oak Creek Manor am accepting reservations for Friday December 14th, on.

The Inn will maintain most of Tori and Dean's new room colors, but will return a couple of rooms to their original splendor which matches the architecture: Colonial.

Rates range from $150 to $295 should you want to book a room in 2008. The runner-up for the People's Choice Awards? A real hotel, The Bowery Hotel in Manhattan which opened in March.

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2007's All-Star Hotel Map: The Japanese Love Hotels Map

Where: Japan
December 31, 2007 at 9:15 AM | by | ()

2007 All Star Hotel Map: The Japanese Love Hotel

In 2007, we decided to map out some of Japan's most interesting love hotels with our Japanese Love Hotels Map.

Some of these love hotels have sexy themes like Hotel Chapel Sweet and some have random names and decor like Gang Snowman's, which actually closed. RIP tommy gun-toting snowmen. From a hotel with an S&M Hello Kitty room to the Alcatraz-inspired Rock Hotel, there should be a love hotel for everyone's fetish.

If you're a map-addict, check out more of the HotelChatter Maps like the Green Hotels map, the Eurail Hotel Map or the map of Hotels Near MLB Stadiums.

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2007 Must Have Amenity: iPod Docking Stations

December 31, 2007 at 9:00 AM | by | ()

This year the iPod docking station became totally ubiquitous at hotels. What was once a perk of hip boutique or tech-forward hotels, the iPod docking stations can now be found at Sheratons, Westins, and Hyatts alike. They are practically as common as hairdryers and minibars.

However, we give props to the hotels that give guests pre-loaded iPods to listen to during their stay as the Tides Zihuatanejo does. Also Gramercy Park has 10 custom playlists they created on the in-room nanos for guests but should you want a 10-finger discount, the hotel will charge you $750. At the Angler's Boutique Resort, they have bumped up their iPod docking station with hardwired surround sound.

And on the subject of iPods, a totally bogus service we discovered this year at the Sheraton Delfina is the use of a Nano for two hours for free but then for $15 each hour after that.

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Best International Hotel WiFi: The Faena in Buenos Aires

Go To The Hotel's Web 
  Site Where: 445 Martha Salotti Street, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 1107BDA
December 28, 2007 at 3:52 PM | by | ()

Best International Hotel WiFi: The Faena Hotel + Universe

Each year we release our Best and Worst Hotel WiFi Lists and in 2007 we decided to add an international component. Using our far-flung contributors and our own experiences, we kicked off a list of hotels with good and bad WiFi policies from Australia to the Argentina.

One hotel stood out the Faena Hotel + Universe in Buenos Aires which ultimately made our Best Geek Hotels in the World list thanks to their savvy tech offerings.

For those looking to surf the web at this hotel, you should be more than satisfied. The entire property has a strong internet connection, 802.11 present throughout, and a healthy bandwidth well into the megs. Topping that, you can work poolside even using VOIP while you sip an açaí smoothie. If only all international hotels would offer the same service.

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Worst Anti-View: Chunky Iron in Kagoshima

Go To The Hotel's Web 
  Site Where: Tenmonkan, Kagoshima, Japan
December 28, 2007 at 1:13 PM | by | ()

Worst Anti-View: The New Nishino

Rooftop views (like this one and this one and even this one) seemed to be the biggest Anti-View trend in 2007 but this hotel view takes trumps all, even the Penis Man.

The New Nishino Hotel in Kagoshima, south-west Japan had this ghastly view of corroded iron from one of its rooms. It's "views" like these that make us wish some hotels wouldn't even offer windows.

However, don't let this view deter you from visiting Kagoshima one day. The city boasts the reputation of "the Naples of the Eastern World," has an exotic aquarium and an active volcano, Mount Sakurajima. If you do have to shack up here and take this view, we say consume a lot of local-made sweet potato alcohol to make it "go away."

[Photo: Minamitane]

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Best Killer View: Hotel Bora Bora's Overwater Bungalow

Go To The Hotel's Web 
  Site Where: Point Raititi | Nunue, Bora Bora, French Polynesia, 98730
December 28, 2007 at 12:52 PM | by | ()

Best Killer View: The Hotel Bora Bora

We have seen a lot of great Killer Views over the past year but looking back through all our stories, we kept coming back to this one.

It's the view from an overwater bungalow at the Hotel Bora Bora(We have a bit of an overwater bungalow obsession here.) The picture was dropped into the HotelChatter Flickr Pool by an employee of the resort which would normally raise our suspicions but this Aman Resort gets consistently good reviews.

If you do want to stay here, these overwater bungalows cost around $1,200 a night (!), so we say heed a recent guest's tip to book a bungalow further out as some of the over water bungalows near the docks have less privacy.

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Best Hotel Renovation: The Mandalay Bay

Go To The Hotel's Web 
  Site Where: 3950 Las Vegas Boulevard South [map], Las Vegas, nv, United States, 89119
December 28, 2007 at 11:27 AM | by | ()

Best Hotel Renovation: The Mandalay Bay

The Mandalay Bay has come a long way baby. In order to keep up with the insane amount of new hotel construction and renovation going on in Las Vegas as well as keep up with the super sweet rooms of THEhotel, Mandalay Bay wisely redid all their guestrooms this past year.

Rooms range in size from 550 to 1,500 square feet with floor-to-ceiling windows, separate his-and-her closets, spacious multi-jet spa tubs, separate glass-enclosed showers, twin vanities, fully stocked minibars and two flat-screen televisions - a 42-inch plasma in the bedroom and a 15-inch LCD in each bathroom.

Other state-of-the-art amenities include wireless high-speed Internet access, cordless phones with dual lines and iHome clock radios for iPods.

Aside from the rooms looking more like 2007 than 1985, the rest of the hotel has kicked it up a notch. We stayed there in April and had a far better experience than when we stayed there in 2005 which was an infamous hotel stay. The elevators were faster, the check-in was hassle-free, and the front desk bought us two tubes of toothpaste when we told them we had forgotten ours. Even better, we paid $169 a night (before taxes) which in Vegas these days is practically a deal.

Picture of a Mandalay Bay room in 2005 after the jump.

more ›

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Worst Hotel Hype: Six Columbus

December 28, 2007 at 11:25 AM | by | ()

Worst Hotel Hype: Six Columbus

Six Columbus made us wait over two years for essentially a hotel renovation. In 2007, we were told of four different opening dates--January, April, June and the vague "Summer"--before the hotel actually opened on October 1st.

Now, that it's finally open the hotel is doing rather well (according to recent reviews on TripAdvisor. We even spent a night there and thought it not a bad place to stay in Midtown but it's still not really a must-visit, gotta-see-it spot in NYC. Although, we do hear its Blue Ribbon Sushi restaurant is doing well. As one guest wrote to us:

It's really not the best hotel ever. I mean, it's fine, it's nice, but totally not game changing or earth shattering as we (maybe) thought.

The hype machine should continue for Thompson Hotels in 2008 as they set to open a bunch more hotels across the U.S. Hopefully, none of these new projects will take as long as 6Co.

Note to Aloft Hotels: If you don't open a hotel in 2008, then you will find yourself the winner of this award next year.