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Yesterday, we looked at what it means to be eco-friendly in Costa Rica. Today, we're looking at how Down Under does eco-friendly.
Tucked off the coast of Queensland, Australia sits Fraser Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site that offers picturesque settings and incredible wildlife sightings. This contributor recently had the opportunity to experience first hand why many visitors rave about the island with a stay at the upscale, yet laid back eco-lodge, Kingfisher Bay Resort.
The entire stay got me thinking about what a hotel has to do in order to be considered an eco-resort.Thanks to a framed explanation in our room from the Ecotourism Association of Australia, we know that there are five points to consider.
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When thinking about a trip to Australia, visions of Sydney's Harbour Bridge, the laneways of Melbourne or swimming the iconic Great Barrier Reef come to mind. Well, now let us draw your attention to a hotel that's not only in the middle of "Crocodile Country" but is also shaped like a giant man-eating reptile.
Far away from all of the typical Aussie tourist spots, is the Northern Territory which is locally known as the "top end" since its, well, on the top of the country. It's home to not-so-little rock called Ayers Rock, but even further north is the Kakadu National Park, the largest national park in Australia and a great place to see real Aussie crocs.
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After a batch of 500 hotels last year, and upgrades in Latin America, Accor Hotels is taking another step towards its hinted-at group-wide free WiFi with the news that all properties in the United Kingdom will offer this gratis going forward.
Thatís 194 hotels in one fell swoop, across ibis budget, ibis, ibis Styles, Novotel, Mercure, Pullman and MGallery brands. Pullman only recently entered the UK market amidst plans to double the number of upscale hotels carrying the name to 150 by the end of this decade. The three Sofitel hotels (London St. James, Heathrow and Gatwick Airport) already offer free WiFi today.
Many hotels will fit out a room that's accessible for people living with disabilities. The Mercure Hobart in Tasmania has made it even easier for guests require more than a wider door or a shower with no step. The property also has 8 rooms specifically for guests who are hearing and vision impaired, and is the first hotel in Australia to provide more accessibility for guests with disabilities not limited to mobility.
Each one of the eight rooms will feature tactile technology such as an alarm clock with strobe light and under pillow vibrating pad, which is responsive to the hotelís fire alarm, independent room door bell and telephone unit.
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Stay at the Sofitel Rio, and you can join the A Club.
When we first heard about the A Club, we wondered whether it was anything like the A-Team. We hoped it had something to do with Bradley Cooper. Alas, the two aren't related. But we couldn't be too bummed because the A Club is actually the new loyalty program for Accor Hotels, and we love hotel loyalty programs just as much as A-Team's pretty Face.
A Club gives you rewards at more than 2,000 hotels worldwide, including the Sofitel brand. For every dollar or Euro spent at a Sofitel a Pullman, a Gallery Novotel, a Suite Novotel, a Mercure and an Adagio hotel, you'll earn two points. You get awarded one point for every dollar or Euro spent at Ibis or All Seasons hotels.
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In need of a cheapo vacation? Thinking that the $100 and $150 deals we were talking about here are out of your price range this time round? Itís time to rediscover the joys of the budget hotel.
And while Europe doesnít have quite as many as America (in other words, there isn't a choice of about five chain motels at every motorway exit), itís still possible to know roughly whatís in store when you book into a budgie room. Here are our Five Best Budget Brands in Europe. Tune in tomorrow for our picks for the worst.
Similar to the Australasia-wide sale Accor had going a few months ago, this one just runs for a few days, and the rates they're offering are up to 50% off standard.
The deals work like this: at every Novotel in Vietnam that includes the Novotel Dalat and the Novotel Nha Trang the rates are just $45 a night across the country. At fancier Accor properties like the Grand Mercure Phu Quocor the La Residence Hue, there's a flat rate of $75 a night in this sale. There are also $45 rates on a couple of Mercure hotels due to open soon, in Hanoi and Hue.
Vietnam hotel market is definitely heating up and Accor has another ten projects in the pipeline there, with tourism booming so this kind of sale might have the lowest prices you see in a while. You need to book through the Vietnam Super Sale website to get these prices and remember, by the end of today it'll all be over.
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Accor Hotels in the Asia Pacific are getting ready for a three-day sale--they say there'll be a million rooms in 250 hotels up for grabs at rates discounted by more than 75%. The sale runs from February 24 to 26 and is for stays between April and July.
Right now at the super sale website all you can see is a tantalizing "Coming soon", but we'll be there early on February 24. We're after an Adelaide hotel room in May and we'll let you know what kind of bargain we snag.
Hotels know that some guests are starting to prefer eco-friendly hotels, but the Mercure Hotels chain in Australia have decided that this particularly applies to business guests, and have launched a "carbon-neutral conferencing" option as part of the Mercure Meetings range of services.
That means that if you attend a conference being held at a Mercure Hotel in Australia, you can sit through the presentations with an easy conscience: because part of the conference package involves the hotel paying up for the full value of carbon offsets to emissions produced by the conference.
With those Beijing Olympics really knocking on the door, it's not surprising that we keep hearing about new hotels opening up in China. In February we are expecting the opening of the Mercure Wanshang Beijing, west of the city center, with 281 rooms to add to the accommodation possibilities for Beijing.
The Mercure Wanshang advertises itself as being close to all kinds of Beijing attractions, including Tian An Men Square, the Laoshan BMX Arena and even the Great Wall of China, but we're guessing that "close" here doesn't mean a two-minute stroll away. Interestingly only 43 out of the 281 rooms are being labeled as non-smoking rooms, so perhaps they are expecting a lot of local Chinese guests who expect to be able to smoke wherever they please. There will also be two swimming pools and four indoor tennis courts, though, so the healthy and fit are also invited.
It looks like WiFi in your room will be a standard state of affairs at the Mercure Wanshang, although the website is a bit ambiguous at this stage as to whether this will be complimentary or not. Even if it is, there are plenty of websites you just can't access from inside China, so it might not make that much difference.
Online bookings are available from February 18, with basic doubles going for as low as US$50 on a no-change, no-cancellation deal, or from $93 for the regular rack rate.
Over in Shanghai (home of the spit sack), fancy hotels are getting fancier. Formerly known as the Baolong Hotel, Shanghai, an ongoing renovation and a recent takeover means that the now-named Grand Mercure Baolong Hotel Shanghai is about to receive a five-star rating from the China National Tourism Association.
Launched as a Grand Mercure as recently as Jaunary 26, the two-phase renovation (much needed, according to some reviewers) is due to take another 12 months, so it should be fully five-star in time for the tourism rush of the Beijing Olympics. There'll be a new rooftop swimming pool, new gym and (something they seem quite proud of) a ballroom that has no columns.
With a location near Duolun Road, you can shop for antiques and handicrafts when you get sick of swimming or dancing in the column-free ballroom. It's not central Shanghai, but in an historic area instead; so beware if you think you'll be staying centrally. And it's probably bes to wait until it really turns 5-star.
If you've never been to the Mercure Resort Great Keppel Island in the tropical paradise of coastal Queensland, Australia, don't go just yet. A lot of previous guests reckon the island is great, but the accommodation needs some work: so wait until the new owners finish a multi-million dollar upgrade after its sale to a Sydney-based private investment group. The same guys also bought the nearby underwater observatory and plan to tie up the two properties and give resort guests tours of the underwater wonderland of fish and coral there.
What no renovation will change are some of the best points of a holiday at Great Keppel: there'll still be 17 beaches to choose from (some of which you won't need to share with anyone) and the glorious ocean's also not going anywhere. Neither, though, are a few nasties that pop up in the water sometimes:
Potentially dangerous marine stingers can be present in these waters between November and March each year. Whilst the risk of a sting is low, Management advise guests and visitors to take precautions and seek local advice before swimming in the ocean at these times.
So hopefully the new reno will be swish enough to keep you inside your rooms or at the pool over Australia's summer months.