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Today, Best Western International officially began a partnership with Google to put together virtual tours of all 2,200 of its properties. The plan is to have Google professionally photograph the entire hotel, then string them together to create a "walk-through" experience on the hotel's website.
“Best Western’s leadership and owners acted strongly and decisively on two superior market insights: consumer decision making in the hospitality category is increasingly moving online, and the internet is becoming more of a visually-driven medium,” said Best Western’s Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president of marketing and sales.
While there's no question Dowling is correct in her assessment on a general level when it comes to the Internet, we're still wondering how consumers feel about hotel websites. When we talked about them this summer, photos were definitely something potential customers enjoyed looking at, but experienced hotel-goers also noted how misleading "professional" photos can sometimes be, showing the hotel at its absolute best and not necessarily how it looks day-to-day.
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We've started a series of what’s trending in hotels these days: What’s Out, What’s In. Do we like what we see? Think it's a dud? You be the judge!
What’s Out: Hotel-recommended city tours
What’s In: Hotel-led cultural immersions
Hotels are taking a lead in ensuring guests remember that they’re actually in a foreign city when they travel. Except for some solid holdouts, gone are the days when you walk into your hotel in Amsterdam, say, and you could just as easily be in Istanbul or Portland. Whether through design details, cuisine or cultural tours, hotels are proudly showing their roots.
The Fairmont Kea Lani Maui offers guests a full gamut of authentic Hawaiian experiences led by the hotel’s full-time Cultural Coach. Not only can you explore some historical sites, you can learn the basics of Hawaiian paddling and the canoe's importance to the culture, the uses of native and non-native plants by the Hawaiian people, plus the history of the Hawaiian language, which you can then try to pronounce what seems to be unpronounceable. Rates at the resort start at $519.
The Goring –- the hotel with the Royal Warrant –- is launching their High Days and Holidays walking tours. Six tailor-made tours, all celebrating special occasions (or High Days in London-speak), were designed by Art History UK’s founder Rose Balston. Art’s on the menu but, as Rose says, “Think juicy tales, conversation, challenging ideas and plenty of hidden corners of London, past and present…” We’re talking tours that include dragons, pagan rituals, ghosts and treason. Does it get any better? Rates for the package start at 595 GBP ($902).
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Some of us are old enough (gulp) to remember the evening soap Dallas which began in the 1970s and ended in 1991. In it, that darn oil-rich Ewing family was always getting into trouble, but boy, did they live life to the fullest. However, if you happen to be one of the lucky ones who doesn’t remember the original show, you, too, can become a believer: We hear that the new version of Dallas has just been renewed by TNT for a second season.
To celebrate, The Fairmont Dallas wants you to try out the Ewing lifestyle with their "Dallas Oil Baron Experience” package. With the recent news of Larry Hagman's passing, maybe this is a way to let folks honor the 81-year-old actor's most memorable character, so we say, "go for it."
The package offers a minimum of two nights’ accommodation in a Fairmont Gold Room; access to the Fairmont Gold Lounge with its complimentary breaky and afternoon appies; a private tour for two of Southfork Ranch – the Ewing family’s abode; champagne; and a ride in a chauffeured BMW to Neiman Marcus for some shopping therapy. And because you’re special, you even get a signed copy of the Neiman Marcus Taste cookbook as a memento of your weekend of wealth.
Rates for the “Dallas Oil Baron Experience” package start at $469/night. Oh, and don’t forget your cowboy boots. The hotel doesn’t say they’re necessary, but if you’re going to walk the walk….
[Photos: The Fairmont Hotels and Resorts]
Chicago's Palmer House Hilton has a rich 140-year history—the place claims to have created the brownie, among other highlights. You can find out more tidbits about the hotel on a new behind-the-scenes history tour and luncheon that launches today. The program sounds like it was named by Paris Hilton: "History Is Hott."
Before getting the grand tour, you'll sit down to a three-course prix-fixe lunch in the Palmer House's American restaurant Lockwood. The best part is that you will get a glass of wine and the hotel's famed brownie to-go so you can booze it up on the tour.
Perhaps now known as the hotel where Sarah Palin checked in as "Tina" before making her campaign-time appearance on SNL, Manhattan's Omni Berkshire Place is a solid Midtown offering in an otherwise oversaturated market. It also happens to be one of our favorite places to sit away from the holiday shopping crowds, grab a bite and access their free WiFi, but last week we were treated to a tour of the hotel's Madison Suiteroom 1612.
It's not the major Rodgers & Hammerstein Suite because someone was staying there and we wouldn't want to bother them, but it is 781-square feet overlooking 52nd Street and Madison Avenue. And in a town where it's far too easy to find a hotel that calls itself trendy, it's getting more difficult to find a classic and comfortable, not astronomically priced hotel like the Omni Berkshire. Book 21 days in advance or more, and this suite can be yours from $433, half the price of the tiniest closest at places like The Pierre and The Mark.
Chicago Hotels / Hotel Openings / Hotel Tours / Hotel Restaurants / Doubletree Hotels / Hotel Rooftop Bars / → All Tags
For this week that we spent in Chicago, we had a few must-sees on our list: the improvements in Millennium Park, the lakefront beaches, and The Wit Hotel in the north Loop. A new concept from Doubletreewho'd have thoughtThe Wit opened its doors at the end of May and quickly rose to the top of the Chicago nightlife scene.
Intent on snooping about the hotel, which is obviously very inspired by the more scene-y Manhattan Hotels (60 Thompson, The Hotel On Rivington), we headed to the loop for dinner at one of their restaurants and a drink on the rooftop, and we can say that The Wit definitely packs a few impressive punches.
Want to see where all the celebrities stay and party in Los Angeles, but don’t have the cash to actually get in? Spring for the $75 tickets, and take the "West Hollywood Structures & Style: Hotels on the Cutting Edge of Design" tour instead on Saturday, May 30 from 11:00 am – 3:00 pm.
You’ll get to see six of our favorite Hollywood hotels…or at least ones we talk about a lot. The visit includes time at the Andaz West Hollywood, The London West Hollywood, the Palihouse Holloway (pictured), Mondrian, Sunset Marquis Hotels and Villas, and The Sunset Tower Hotel.
Still not keen to spring for a night at The Plaza Hotel despite our secret discount? There may still be a way into the grand dame without having to endure the painful silence of its Retail Collection: free architecture tours!
Beginning this week, the revered old property will launch twice-weekly public tours of its spaces, such as The Oak Room, The Palm Court and the Grand Ballroom, as well as peeks behind some closed doors. Led by architectural historian, author and teacher Francis Morrone, the 45-minute tours will happen Tuesdays and Saturdays at 3pm, and will be limited to 20 people who must reserve a spot by calling The Plaza Boutique at 212-588-8012.
As you can be sure we're all over this and itching to get our toes in those private spaces, expect a full tour report in the future. For now, however, we recommend giving them a ring to schedule your own Plaza spelunking.
Armistead Maupin if you don't know him, is the author of the Tales of the City series about life for a group of eclectic individuals in San Francisco. Basically, he was Candace Bushnell (the author of Sex and the City) of the late 1970s except he's a gay man who doesn't seem to have a Manolo Blahnik obsession--that we know of. He even had a character named Connie Bradshaw. Hmmm...draw your own conclusions.
Maupin is also a pioneer for the LGBT community because during a time when these topics were still considered taboo, he wrote about the random sex, gay men, lesbian socialites, transsexuals, and AIDS. Yet he always made love--searching for it, having it, losing it-- the constant theme running throughout his books and in his characters.
Anyways, Maupin recently put out another book in the Tales series called, Michael Tolliver Lives. We were thrilled to get the latest installment but we were even more thrilled to learn that Maupin has been blogging about his world-wide book tour and dishing on all the hotels he's been staying in.