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Throwback Monday to… a time when Aleppo was a popular tourist destination.
The Baron Hotel was one of the finest hotels in Syria when it opened in 1911. Charles de Gaulle stayed here. So did Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express in room 203. “Hotel Baron, the only first-class hotel in Aleppo” says a poster from the 1930s strung up in reception. It’s the oldest hotel in Syria.
Or, rather, it was until last week, when its owner revealed he’s closed it.
“It's been nearly four years since the war began and I see nothing that inspires any optimism in me, quite the contrary,” Armen Mazloumian told AP. “Honestly, the hotel will never go back to how it was.”
Look. We're not stupid. We know that several, many, maybe hundreds of people have stayed in a hotel room before we got there. We know this.
Which is why we always throw the comforter or top blanket on the bed to the floor and why we avoid touching the remote control and never drink out of the bathroom glasses. But just when we think we had mastered the germs in hotel rooms, here's come another new report just reminding us how filthy hotel rooms can be, even after housekeeping has come by.
A new study from The Rossen Reports team went into hotel rooms at five major hotel chains after housekeepers finished cleaning the rooms and began conducting bacteria tests. They also waved the trusty old backlight over the room. Bacteria was found in the in-room telephones (Ew) and suspicious stains were found throughout the room (Ew but also, eh). However, the remote control proved once again to be the filthiest object in the room.
In August, we were completely pissed off that a hotel outside New York City posted a note on their website about how they would charge guests $500 for leaving a bad review of the place on any online review website. After the policy made national news, the owner backed down saying, "it was just a joke." Of course, we don't believe it was a joke but regardless, the terrible policy has inspired another hotel to do the same thing.
The Broadway Hotel in Blackpool, England actually charged two guests 100 pounds for writing a negative review of the hotel online where they called the place a "dirty rotten stinking hovel run by Muppets." (Hey now, no need to involve our beloved Muppets.)
Unbeknownst to the guests, the hotel included their "No bad reviews" policy in the booking documents. Here's what it says:
"Despite the fact that repeat customers and couples love our hotel, your friends and family may not. "For every bad review left on any website, the group organiser will be charged a maximum £100 per review."
Man. This hotel must be raking in money. Go to TripAdvisor and check out all the terrible reviews of the place. It really is a dirty rotten stinking hovel. Following up on this, The Daily Mail pulled some photos from TripAdvisor to further show off the hovel and they are frightening. Doesn't the hotel have health standards it needs to abide by?
However, there will be happy ending. Word is the couple will have their money refunded and the hotel will stop enacting the policy. Now, all it needs is a renovation and for someone to remove those dirty socks from the nightstand drawer.
How do you know when not to stay at a hotel? Check out the celebrity guestlist. And if you’ve got Kerry Katona, Danielle O’Hara and one of the Black Eyed Peas, you have your answer.
The hotel is a five star, all inclusive resort, with 1251 “units” (rooms, apartments and villas). According to the Daily Mail, there’s an acre of pool-age, a fitness center and spa, five restaurants and – the telling bit if you’re wondering who they’re going for – 14 bars. By the looks of the photos, they also have (or had, for the opening party), staff dressed as mermaids and Jack Sparrow.
Charges for keeping your own stuff in the hotel minibar – that’s so Vegas. Our sister site VegasChatter spotted a $50 “restocking fee” at MGM Grand last year, and the story went round again last month at MGM’s sister property Mandalay Bay.
But a “corkage fee” for merely having a bottle of water in your room? Now that’s a new one.
This was a note we saw in the info book at the Fairmont Monte Carlo when we stayed earlier this year. The Fairmont is one of Monaco’s iconic hotels, right on the Mediterranean. At check in, we were impressed that staff went out of their way to tell us that we should sign up for the President’s Club in order to get free WiFi (if you can’t be bothered to do it now, do it at some point during your stay and we’ll take the charge off at check out, they said, which was awesome).
And then we stumbled upon this note. This penny-pinching, parsimonious note. “A corkage fee will be charged on an item purchased outside and consumed at the hotel”, it said. €15 for champagne and spirits. €10 for wine. €5 for soft drinks and water – water! Not bottles illicitly stored in the minibar, remember – bottles merely kept in the room.
There are so many problems with this. For starters, the sign wasn’t prominent – it was buried in the info guide, which is only read properly by geeks like us. Not a peep on the minibar, not a squeak on the bedside table.
For another, how can the hotel distinguish between drinks consumed in-room and bottles from drinks you bought earlier and didn’t bother to throw away? Chuck out that empty bottle of water in your bag you’ve been carrying around all day, and suddenly it’s chargeable.
In the spirit of both Monday, October 13th and Halloween, here are 13 Hotel Trends We Wish Would Die.
1. FRIENDING: We blame the Millennials for this one. To all the new hotels out there, and all the hotels considering a rebrand, we don't want to be friends. Yes, we like friendly faces at check-in and peppy voices answering the phone, but we don't need to be reminded constantly to "Friend" you on social media or tag our photos with a ridiculous hashtag that you made up.
2. ANNOUNCING OUR ROOM # AT CHECK-IN: Yup, we've griped about this one before but seriously, STOP DOING THIS.
3. MINIBAR SENSORS: Nothing says "Relax! Enjoy our hotel" like a minibar security sensor just waiting for you to touch an item in the minibar so it can ring up a $8 bill for Pringles on your folio.
4. PEEK-A-BOO BATHROOMS: How many more times do we have to say this? No one wants to watch someone else go to the bathroom. If that were true, then we'd just stand outside of the Meadowlands watching people who've been tailgating too long pee into a bottle instead of spending money on a hotel room.
In two days time, Scotland will go to the polls to decide whether it wants to become an independent state or remain part of the United Kingdom. Politicians and business people are tussling over what would be better for the country.
In the meantime, Scotland’s most expensive hotel ever – the first to charge £1000 a night – has quietly closed its doors.
The Atholl, in the West End of the city, opened in 2012 after a £5m conversion project. And now, according to owner Alison Davies (and the Daily Mail), it’s closed for good. No more Hermes wallpaper, no more Albert Roux restaurant, no more “award-winning garden”. The hotel will be converted into apartments.
Surrounded by two hectares of grounds in the modern Palmeraie district. A beautiful hammam. Eight beautiful suites, including some freestanding ones in their own pavilions. Like the Pavillon à la Rotonde, which is “romantic and secluded”, “ideal for an intimate getaway” with its “private garden and jacuzzi”. How glorious! Until you come to the booking page, and it describes it as “Poo Suite: Rotonde”.
Yes, of course this is an extremely juvenile thing to be giggling over. But it’s also a serious reminder to hotels to check through every page of your websites, and to keep names uniform across the site – because even if it said “Pool Suite: Rotonde”, we’d be wondering whether that was in fact the Pavillon à la Rotonde we’d so wanted to book.
Every so often, the mainstream media gets fired up about hidden hotel fees. This usually happens when it's revealed how much hotels are making off these miscellaneous yet maddening fees. This year it will be about $2.25 billion, according to a new NYU report.
Us, being both regular hotel guests and hotel trend watchers, have become somewhat accustomed, but no less outraged, to the random fees that pop up during a hotel stay.
Back in 2010 we detailed 10 Most Ridiculous Hotel Fees, included the heinous WiFi charges, the confusing room service charges and the annoying resort fees.
The next year, we followed that up with 5 Hotels That Are Acting Like Airlines with Extra Fees and made it clear we did not like the fees for making a reservation over the phone, nor the early check-in fee and certainly not the baggage storage fee.
Just last year, we uncovered more hidden fees, including the fee for the bottled water on the night stand, the towel at the pool and the safe in the closet. And soon after that, we were blindsided by a random newspaper charge. #GRR. Most recently, we uncovered another sinister type of fee creeping around London, the minimum spend fee during peak hours at the bar.
But hotels want to make money, so fees for things you would expect to be free have long been how they do business. The only way to avoid these fees is to assume that everything you use inside your hotel room, save for the water, towels, and toiletries, will cost extra. Study the little notes placed around the room by the hotel, whether it be the mini-bar menu, or the note about WiFi placed on the desk, to see if there is a charge and how much it will be.
And of course, if a fee pops up unexpectedly on your bill, head right down to the front desk to dispute it. Just make sure you know how to effectively complain to them.
[Photo: Cynthia Drescher/HotelChatter]
The types of crazy demands celebrities make when staying in hotels are tales as old as time, or as old as the hotel business. But requesting white tea candles and expensive linens are small-time compared to the outrageous behavior demonstrated by these 5 Worst Celebrity Hotel Guests. Here's who they are and why we hope they start using AirBnB more often:
LINDSAY LOHAN: Aside from ignoring a hotel's no-smoking rules, Lohan uses her guest room as a mini-storage space, carting in tons of clothing and jewelry that she probably won't wear but thinks she needs to wear to keep the paparazzi from catching her in the same outfit twice. Yet the smoke damage and the hoarding can be dealt with. Even the security logistics she requires can be managed. Lohan's biggest problem is that she doesn't have much money yet books suites at nice hotels and is known to run up the tab without ever paying it. And no hotel needs the "exposure" that badly.
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UPDATE: The hotel told CNBC the policy was a joke and "It was meant to be taken down long ago and certainly was never enforced." We say, "That's convenient."
UPDATE, 8.6.14: The owner has posted this apology and update on the hotel's Facebook page. While the negative review policy may have been a joke gone wrong, the hotel still has a bunch of other ridiculous policies. Be sure to read those in our story below.
Hotels have been striking back at online guests reviews over the past few years in various ways. The most popular and most sensible way is the constant responding of management to all reviews--good and bad (so long as you aren't a dick about it.) Then, there's the requesting of really bad reviews to be removed from the site, which TripAdvisor has agreed to recently, especially if the property has been renovated since the negative note. Hotels have also gone straight to the guests,
bribing them offering them perks during their stay or discounts for future stays if they write a positive review.
"There will be a $500 dollar fine that will be deducted from your deposit for every negative review of USGH place on any internet site by anyone in your party and/or attending your wedding even if you stay here to attend a wedding anywhere in the area and leave us a negative review on any internet site you agree to a $500 fine for each negative review.”
The policy is in effect for wedding guests in the area and wedding parties at the Inn, not regular guests (although this a strange distinction to make.) The hotel will also refund the $500 if the review is taken down.
Um, yeah, well now that this policy is being condemned on the news, we can safely say this has back fired for the hotel.
Today all eyes are on the opening of the 67th edition of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival on the French Riviera. And where better to stay than right across the road at the five-star Cannes Majestic Barrière Hotel whose rooms have an unobstructed view of the red carpeted stairs so many have dreamed of ascending?
That’s what we thought too, until we actually stayed at the hotel and witnessed how its low standards are making an utter mockery of the luxury hotel industry.