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There's tons of New York hotel news flying around this week and we don't have time to give each and every story the love and attention it may deserve, so you will have to settle for some news briefs.
· Times Square Just Can't Get Enough Hotels: The previous statement happens to be very true this week, as both stranded travelers and commuters have become desperate for a place to stay in midtown. But in this case, we're not talking about Sandy at all—a new $2 billion project going up at 701 Seventh Avenue is making headlines this week as the next big thing to hit Times Square. And as The Real Deal reports, the development will almost definitely include a 500-room hotel that will sit on top of a 24,000 sq ft LED screen, the largest in Times Square.
Needless to say, hotels are falling over themselves to be chosen for the space.
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Airport hotels get a pretty bad rap. Sure, there are the greasy, grimy ones, but we like to think that for every one of those, there's a perfectly clean business-friendly oneor, even better, an airport hotel with the luxury of an airport view. All this week we'll be taking a look at a few of our favorite hotels for plane spotting.
Today: The Hilton Garden Inn at Frankfurt International Airport.
Not only is this hotel brand-spanking-new, but it has something others don't at FRA: affordable rooms with a view of the runways. You see, the Hilton Garden Inn sits within a shiny new building called THE SQUAIRE, full of offices, shops and even an international railway station. There's also a Hilton in the same complex, dead next to the Garden Inn, but having been to both we say go with the Garden Inn.
Anyway, let's get to the plane spotting.
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After undergoing a modernizing makeover a few years ago, the former Holiday Inn just steps away from the Hollywood Bowl, reinvented itself as the hip new Hollywood Heights Hotel.
Aside from good-looking rooms at decent prices, the hotel also hosted quite a few post-show themed bashes depending on whoever was playing that night at the Bowl. But will all that change now that the hotel is turning into a Hilton Garden Inn?
The changeover officially happened on March 6 and there have been quite a few changes made. For starters, the Hideout restaurant has been replaced with the Great American Grill which is serving cook-to-order breakfast and dinner as well as evening room service.
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Finally finally Frankfurt Airport has more hotels to offer than the Sheraton with the horrible internet situation. Both the Hilton Frankfurt Airport and Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt Airport debuted yesterday, though this December opening date is a long delay from March, when they originally planned on polishing the door handles.
Whatever. We're just happy we don't have to stay in that Sheraton again.
So, what does the duo of Hiltons have to offer? First off, they're in a striking new building with an odd name the "Squaire." It's connected to the airport via walkways, but it's got far more going for it than that; this is a mega center with restaurants, shops, landscaped atriums andthe real clinchera major transit hub on its ground level. Zipping below your hotel rooms are 185 daily high-speed rail links across Europe.
That's our most favorite featureits convenient location to both the airport and the German ICE trainsbut our second favorite is the promise of Free WiFi at the Garden Inn, and more:
Last week we learned about the bed dials at Hilton Garden Inn which are a part of the brand's new Garden Sleep System. While our Flickr pool member BNilsen thought the dials were "useless" a rep from Hilton Garden Inn tells us that the dials just need some time to adjust to your body.
When a guest turns the dial, it takes 2 ½ - 5 minutes for the bed to adjust, so you won’t feel the change immediately. But, the pressure relief you feel on your hips will be felt. Plus, the bed will never be “springy”—it’s not a spring mattress, so it will feel different. Essentially, it takes time for the baffles to self-adjust to the guest’s unique weight and shape.
Yesterday as we were bemoaning the anti-view from the Hilton Garden Inn we noticed that Flickr member BNilsen also dropped in a shot of an interesting looking dial on the side of the bed. Ever curious, we skipped over to the Hilton Garden Inn website to find out more.
It turns out this dial is just one part of the Garden Sleep System that's installed in most every Hilton Garden Inn. The "revolutionary" bed is created from a system of something called air baffles along with oxymoronic-sounding flexible wooden slats. The bed is supposed to contour to your body by "displacing air based upon your weight and shape."
You know the scene. You open the door to your brand new hotel room, run over to the window, open the blinds and bam, you are hit with the anti-view. Maybe you are looking down a dirty alley, witnessing a drug deal, staring at an air shaft in the face, or seeing a brick wall. Whatever you are viewing it is not extremely pleasurable. Help out your fellow hotel mavens by uploading your anti-views to the HotelChatter/Flickr photo pool, or by sending the photo along to us. Remember to tell us the name of the hotel and the room number with the not-so-easy-on-the-eyes view.
While the internet charges at Hilton Hotels vary in price, you can usually count on their budget brand, Hilton Garden Inn, to offer up free WiFi. But the tradeoff? This anti-view from your room. Yeah, and the snow piles aren't doing much to help.
HotelChatter Flickr member Bnilsen dropped this in our Flickr pool last month and while we don't expect much from a suburban budget brand hotel, this view still put us in funk.
And the scene looking in wasn't that much better either.
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We got this room at the Affinia Chicago for $159 a night. And we liked it!
A new report released by J.D. Power & Associates says hotel guests are more satisfied this year with their hotel stays and hoteliers have reasonable room rates to thank for that.
Because of the recession, hotels have had to drop room rates and as we've known here at HotelChatter for quite some time, when we get good deals on rooms, we're happier guests. Also thanks to the recession, hotels have had lower occupancy levels so more guests have gotten room upgrades at check-in. J.D. Powers' Mark Schwartz told the LA Times:
“If occupancy is lower, we find satisfaction with the speed of check-in is higher,” he said. “Guests are spending less time in line, are less likely to face overbooking and are more likely to be able to get an upgrade because more rooms are available.”
And guests are probably happier because hotels are rolling out all sorts of new amenities and services to keep them happy, from free WiFi to wine-tastings to cool in-room technology and upgraded lobby cafes.
Looking to get your curling on this weekend? No, not hair curling. Real curling, the Olympic sport where people throw a kettle down a sheet of ice and start sweeping up immediately after it.
Ok, so maybe that isn't the most technical way to describe curling but if you are curious about this sport and want to learn how to play it, pop into the Hilton Garden Inn at 14th and I streets NW in Washington DC where the hotel will be hosting a three-day curling exposition.
This particular hotel is actually the official hotel of the US Curling Association and the hotel's general manager (a curling fanatic) has gone to great lengths to get the curling expo set up at the hotel, including making a few trips to Canada. But he still needed the help of others. The Washington Post reports:
Finally collecting the world's sustainable hotel properties and top eco destinations into one list, Travelocity has launched the Green Directory with the aim of connecting travelers to "options that will help to diminish the footprint their trips leave on the planet."
All we can say is that it's about time a popular booking engine drew attention to these properties working to improve and innovate. Showcasing approximately 250 environmentally responsible hotels on the international list, Travelocity points out some obvious choices like the LEED platinum Proximity Hotel and Element Hotels while surprising us by including affordable chains like Hilton Garden Inn and Kimpton Hotels. The list includes properties doing more than just planting saplings, but serving organic and local cuisine, reducing water usage, recycling, and even going so far as carbon neutrality.
Matching the dedication of these hotels is Travelocity itself as they have joined in the talks for Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria; this means that one day, hotels hoping for the "earth-friendly" label will have to run through Travelocity's eco-gamut first. The Green Directory may be one small step for hospitality, but it's totally one giant leap for the "greenvolution."
[Fairmont St. Andrews photo: Travelocity]
Okay, so we're not sure whether this is some sort of comprehensive official training program or just something that supplements training programs to add a little bit of fun and dorky excitement, but Hilton Garden Inn has designed a PSP game for employees called "Ultimate Team Play" (officially, the name of the game is supposed to be in all caps if that gives any indication of how intense and serious this game is meant to be).
Via Kotaku, the official description:
ULTIMATE TEAM PLAY puts the player in control of key Hilton Garden Inn hotel roles including front desk, housekeeping, maintenance and food service. As players roam the virtual hotel they interact with guests as they would in the real world seeking to perform their jobs in specific ways to improve customer service scores using a unique scoring system that drives all brand service assessment for hotels that are part of Hilton Hotels Corporation.
Yeah. It's no Halo or Call of Duty or whatever, but surely someone out there is into this, right? And it probably beats scavenger hunts and pop quizzes during formal training.
Some gamers, however, see a bit more potential for excitement in the game and have delicately inquired over at CityPages about whether a somewhat notorious incident at HGI Minneapolis that involved some sort of employee orgy happens to be incorporated into the game anywhere. How lovely. Um, we don't think that's what they mean by "team play."
[Photo: Matthew J. Stinson]
Russia's sixth biggest city, Perm, may not be too famous yet, but it is at least notable for being the first Russian city to get a Hilton Garden Inn. Perm is 700 miles east of Moscow and is an important city industrially with lots of rail and shipping links; it's also on the famous Trans-Siberian railway route.
Incredibly, they say that the city of Perm and its one million people have been served by only 500 hotel rooms in the whole city until the Hilton Garden Inn Perm opened, so it certainly sounds like it was needed. The Hilton brand--not just their Garden Inns, but standard Hilton and Doubletree hotels too--is focusing on Russia as a growth region and we reckon they're pretty on target with that.
Perm's Hilton Garden Inn has 102 rooms and all the Hilton Garden Inn stuff we like, and it's got free WiFi too in guest rooms and other areas. Room rates begin at RUB 2900 (US$115) a night. Doesn't sound like much but it's probably a fair bit pricier than the other 500 rooms in Perm.
[Photo of Perm Station: musatych]