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On the heels of our 2013 Hotel WiFi Report, we've got some very good news from the upcoming Virgin Hotels. The hip four-star hotels from Sir Richard Branson's Virgin company will be offering not just free WiFi in their hotels but "secure, reliable and fast" WiFi. Glorious!
Here's what Doug Carrillo, Virgin Hotels VP Sales and Marketing told us:
Virgin attracts travelers who like to mix business with pleasure, whether they are checking their inbox during a getaway or checking out new restaurants and local entertainment inbetween business. Like our sister Virgin companies, we at Virgin Hotels will offer guests a distinct and better experience at a great value and product innovations that aren’t bells and whistles but that will result in a productive and enjoyable stay. We already love our guests so much that we plan to give them all the tech amenities they need -- starting with wifi that is secure, reliable, fast, and free.
Hotel News / Richard Branson / Virgin Hotels / Luxury Hotels / All-inclusive Resorts / Beach Resorts / Beach Hotels / Caribbean Hotels / Island Hotels / Eco-Hotels / Eco-Friendly Hotels / → All Tags
Well, now the world is saved! Okay, we’re being facetious, of course: It’s a noble thing to take a stand and do some good for the planet and, after all, we all need to do our part.
But we do have to ask: Just how much bottled water are they consuming over there on Necker Island? There are only six houses (aka rooms) holding a maximum of 28 guests. And at a cool $29,000 (single or double) for a seven-night stay during “Celebration Weeks” (the only time you can book individual rooms; otherwise it’s the whole island or nothing for $42,500 per night.
Is his British Virgin Island's nirvana really fully booked all the time to need to make a big deal of letting us know Sir Richard is trying to get green while collecting that green? Forgive us if we smirk just a tad.
Celebrity Scoop / Richard Branson / Caribbean Resorts / Necker Island / Dominica Hotels / → All Tags
We all know Sir Richard Branson has a sh*tload of money. Who else sends other billionaires to outer space? That said, he owns some crazy-expensive resorts he calls his second and third home, like Necker Island in the Caribbean and Kasbah Tamadot in Morocco.
Throw in a mansion, homes all over the world, land in Antigua, a super-yacht and, most recently, a private island retreat in Bali, why would he even consider staying (and paying) for a hotel room?
Well last year, he did, and staff at Rosalie Bay Resort in Dominica remember him quite well. One source says, "He was very nice. He came and stayed in two of our riverside suites with his family. He was just really a nice guy."
So what makes Rosalie Bay Resort good enough for Richard?
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It seemed so far off and almost unreal, until now; we just learned from Crain’s Chicago Business that construction on Richard Branson’s first ever Virgin Hotel set to open in Chicago will begin this May. No change to the opening date, so we’re still planning to kick back in pop Branson-esque rooms there by Fall of 2013. (How do you do neon right in a luxury hotel?)
In a surprise brilliant move last fall, Virgin threw the ultimate nod to Chicago by announcing the purchase of the Old Dearborn Bank, a landmarked Art Deco building originally built in 1928. Starting in May, Virgin will redevlop the 27-story, 136,000-square-foot office space into 250 hotel rooms. According to Crain’s, the rehab will come complete with pools and saunas. (Will there be both a rooftop doozy and one that takes advantage of Millennium Park views?)
Well, here's the news we've been waiting for for over a year now. The location of the first-ever Virgin Hotel has been announced, and it's not quite what we were anticipating: Chicago—specifically the Dearborn Bank Building in the north Loop—will welcome the brand's 250-room debut in Fall 2013. And boy have they put a lot of thought into this decision!
Virgin announced this morning at 11am that Chicago was chosen because it's "economically vibrant, culturally exciting, and a sports and entertainment hub." They neglected to mention that this yet-to-be renovated building also finds itself smack in the middle of an area populated by tons of other hotels.
Whether this is just a way to show their own superiority over lesser hotel beings, or tap into a well-visited section of the city (or both), we can't say. But to forgo the expected cities like NYC, SF or Miami is obviously Virgin's way of saying they want to establish their presence as a major player in the up-and-coming hotel world from the get-go. And really, who's about to stop them?
Hotel Fires / Richard Branson / Necker Island / Hotel News / Private Island Hotels / Kate Winslet / Celebrity Scoop / → All Tags
We used to think Sir Richard Branson was untouchable with his death-defying stunts, jet-setting lifestyle and nonstop partying but last night, Branson and his family narrowly escaped a dramatic fire at the Great House on his 74-acre personal paradise, Necker Island.
While family (including Branson's 90-year-old mum), friends (including Kate Winslet) and staff escaped unharmed, the Great House building suffered substantial damage and is according to Branson's blog still burning:
We had a tropical storm with winds up to 90mph. A big lightning storm came around 4am and hit the house. My son Sam and nephew Jack rushed to the house and helped get everyone out and many thanks to Kate Winslet for helping to carry my 90 year mum out of the main house to safety wondering when a Director was going to shout CUT!
The main house is destroyed and the fire is not yet completely out. My office was based in the house and I have lost thousands of photographs and my note books which is very sad. But all family and friends are well - which in the end is all that really matters.
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Last night in a terrifically rainy Chicago, Virgin top dog Richard Branson filled up theWit Hotel with VIPs and held court on the roofdeck, joined by celebrities just in on one of Virgin America's first flights to Chicago from LAX and SFO. We caught Tim Meadows in the elevator, Adrian Grenier shying away from cameras, and Creed Bratton from The Office chilling...just to name a few. Of course Creed was our absolute favorite spotting of the eve.
It was a motley bunch, but in true Virgin style. The purpose of the whole thing was to announce to the Windy City that Virgin America has finally begun flights here, after three straight years of battling it out with the legacy airlines. It's such a big deal, that the party to celebrate the flights' arrival was also a Virgin Atlantic and Virgin Wines affair. And it's rumored that Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel joined Branson in his suite for pow wow.
UPDATE: a tipster in the know says that although the spaceport is in the works, the first Virgin Hotel will, as planned, still open "in a major US city". They tell us to expect an official announcement "within 45 days".
We've spent the past few months racking our brains trying to guess which city will get the first Virgin Hotel treatment, and while we suspected San Francisco, we never thought that it'd be in the middle of nowhere in New Mexico. But, according to The Independent, Richard Branson is looking to begin with a property overlooking the still-under-construction Virgin Galactic Spaceport headquarters.
We just waded through a tough-to-chew article on the forecast for the hotel industry in the New York Times to find the answer to something we've been dying to know--how much longer until we sleep inside a Virgin Hotel?
The answer: 12 to 18 months.
That timeline is not quite what we were hoping for but at least we can start counting the days. And we suspect that in a short while we'll at least know where this very first Virgin Hotel will open. (Hint, Hint.)
Right now, Virgin has only stated that they will open about 25 Virgin Hotels in major cities across the world but the U.S. will probably get first dibs. (We think San Fran might be the very first Virgin Hotel.)
But there's something else we're concerned about.
The hotels will be inspired by the cool Virgin Atlantic Clubhouses aka airport lounges and according to Sir Richard Branson, they will be "the hippest most comfortable new hotel in any city. Anyone's who anybody will know to go there."
Even better for us Yanks, Virgin Hotels has their eyes set on Virginizing North America first instead of the UK. The list of cities put forth are the following:
In chatting mid-flight with Sir Richard Branson back in June, we only had thing on our mind--When will Virgin Hotels open? And the answer he gave us had us tingling for a few days after we landed even if it was rather vague. He said then that Virgin was "not many months away from making an announcement" regarding their first hotel.
There's a cheeky Do Not Disturb sign anchoring the page ("Opportunity knocking", "Shall we go back to your place?", etc) but most of the information is aimed at developers who want to partner with Virgin for a hotel brand. Still, we do learn a little bit about Virgin Hotels' philosophy and more importantly, their locations.
Richard Branson / Necker Island / British Virgin Island Hotels / Most Expensive Hotels in the World / Insane Hotel Packages / → All Tags
Necker Island has been reserved as Richard Branson's hideaway and the backdrop for the occasional Victoria's Secret catalog photo shoot, but now you have a chance to hang in the beautiful locale in the British Virgin Islands. And no, we aren't suggesting you become a scantily clad VS model to do it.
Normally the entire private island is rented out, but during Celebration Weeks—which take place select times throughout the year—couples, singles or families can book one of 14 rooms individually and share the island.