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Traditional travel agents: Yours to rediscover

Before the dawn of the Internet, travel agents were a dominant factor in the hotel industry because filling a travel itinerary — including booking a hotel property — was complex, and resources were limited. As electronic booking engines became commonplace, travel agents were scorched. Many dropped out. Those who remained offered their customers more than just the ability to book a trip, but that critical intangible: expert knowledge. As odd as it may seem to some, there is still a world beyond “the gospel according to TripAdvisor.” Decades ago, travel agents lost commissions on discounted air travel (overrides and commissions on full fare still exist). Thus, selling cruises and hotel rooms became the mainstay of their revenue stream. As such, they definitely have something to offer their clientele. Today’s travel agents have more than just a GDS terminal and access to the Internet. They have honed their own market, becoming …

Larry MogelonskyTraditional travel agents: Yours to rediscover
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Translation or transliteration?

A friend of mine recently traveled to Beijing and brought back a copy of the hotel’s rack brochure, the contents of which are reprinted below. As you can probably guess by the title, a lazy translation from Mandarin to English can create some very embarrassing moments. These sorts of conversions are usually the result of relying wholly on a computer program to do the work of a far more expensive native speaker. Well, native speakers still have the edge on translator programs. I’ll protect the property name so you do not feel compelled to visit its English website, which happens to be equally hilarious. Enjoy! Getting there Our representative will make you wait at the airport. The bus to the hotel runs along the lakeshore. Soon you will feel pleasure in passing water. You will know that you are getting near the hotel, because you will go round the bend. …

Larry MogelonskyTranslation or transliteration?
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No Carbs, Now What?

Cutting carbohydrates out of meals is a current nutritional trend that has gained mainstream acceptance. As such, hoteliers would benefit by appealing to adherents to this dietary choice through healthier menu options that are ‘carbless’. However, it may be quite difficult to adopt this trend as carbs are deeply ingrained in our culinary and cultural heritage. In particular, carbs are often essential to delivering meal satiety, which is a heavy factor for meal satisfaction. Without carbs on the plate, it thus becomes harder to satisfy your average restaurant patron. I offer a few creative solutions to help navigate you through this gastronomic change. Carbohydrates: bread, pasta, rice, risotto, corn, cereal, crackers, potatoes. They’ve nourished us for millennia, allowing civilizations to swell to unnaturally large numbers. Now, a nutritional trend reaching mainstream appeal stands to redact their gloriously supportive reputation. Followers of the latest chic diets widely classify carbs as ‘the …

Larry MogelonskyNo Carbs, Now What?
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Goodbye, F&B. Hello, F&F!

In the good old days of hospitality, food and beverage was part of the core. Management treated the department with the senior respect it deserved — not only in differentiating the property, but also due to the profit it delivered. The iconic hotel dining room was an important meeting place in the community it served, often considered the best table in town. Times have changed. Food is clearly important, as witnessed by a myriad of great chefs and restaurant brands associated with and located within hotels. But the beverage side of the equation has taken a heavy blow. And so, let me propose a departmental shift from F&B to F&F: food and fitness. A perfect storm Just take one look at any episode of the TV series “Mad Men.” The 1960s, it appears, were fueled by Canadian Club. Fine dining meant traveling to a hotel restaurant where multiple drinks were …

Larry MogelonskyGoodbye, F&B. Hello, F&F!
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A sense of arrival, a sense of departure

Most hoteliers intrinsically understand the concept of a sense of arrival. Broadly defined, this is that glorious moment (or what’s intended to be glorious) when a guest arrives at the threshold of your establishment. The goal of this is to quite literally wow your arriving guests from the get-go to reaffirm their hotel selection. I am confident most of you reading this have spent hours in planning committee meetings discussing this very topic. Your doormen are attired with distinctive uniforms designed to create a point of differentiation from the very moment a guest arrives. Operational funds are budgeted to continually refresh incredible floral displays in your lobby. Training for front desk staff includes exhaustive evaluation on welcoming, creating eye contact and ensuring a smile. And I am sure you personally have walked through your front door with eyes as a guest to ensure everything is just right. A sense of …

Larry MogelonskyA sense of arrival, a sense of departure

A Canadian in Paris: Hotel Esprit Saint Germain

I’ve been to Paris about half a dozen times and have yet to settle on a hotel worthy of a return visit. The Hotel Esprit Saint Germain might be the one to change this hotel merry-go-round, and for all the right reasons. There are probably more hotels in Paris than any location on earth (aside from perhaps London or New York City), ranging from small B&Bs to the world-renowned Four Seasons George V or The Bristol. In Paris, location is critical. Visitors choose staying on the right bank (traditional) or left bank (historically considered quite bohemian). The Esprit Saint Germain could be considered a typical left bank property, at least from a size standpoint, being only 28 rooms including five suites. I met Francesca La Mastra, the hotel manager, in the dining room. Here is the story. The property originally was a town house. The owners purchased the adjacent property …

Larry MogelonskyA Canadian in Paris: Hotel Esprit Saint Germain
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Gray is the new green, part 4: Time ain’t on our side

This summer’s holiday traveling abroad has helped put an additional perspective on the issue of retirement: being time and its finite nature. Let me explain. When we are in our 30s, 40s or 50s, we may talk about taking a trip abroad, with no pressure as to when this might actually occur. We can plan many years in advance and can even plan multiple trips to different destinations. It’s fun, and the future looks bright. As I sat in my Paris hotel suite while on vacation, I wondered how many times I will be able to return to this property or, for that matter, this beautiful city. While I am only 60, the reality sets in that opportunities for extensive travel overseas are dwindling. Will I be able to take such trips throughout my 60s? Yes, I certainly expect to make many. How about my 70s? Yes, I hope so, …

Larry MogelonskyGray is the new green, part 4: Time ain’t on our side
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Infamous interns

For a long time now, unpaid internships have acted as a pseudo rite of passage for new entrants to various fields. First to mind where this practice is normal are fashion houses and the communications industry — magazines, news outlets, PR firms and, to bring things close to home for yours truly, advertising agencies. Such apprenticeships have acted as a more-or-less testing ground: are these trainees passionate about this line of work, or do they in their heart-of-hearts wish to be somewhere else? As with many others things, Hollywood has sent the intern zeitgeist into a tailspin. A landmark case dealing with interns suing a subsidiary of 20th Century Fox recently met the gavel to land on the side of employees. The federal court ruled that having unpaid interns complete tasks similar to other paid workers violated the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act. This has led to an armada of …

Larry MogelonskyInfamous interns
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Educating guests on BAR

Do your guests know what “BAR” stands for? Not likely. Unless they have worked or are presently working in the hotel industry, chances are correctly expanding that acronym out to “best available rate” isn’t snap-your-fingers knowledge, nor is its implied meaning. In its simplest terms, BAR ensures that the low prices for nightly room rates on third-party suppliers will be matched by the hotel when the consumer contacts the hotel with “parity” in mind. This BAR, also known as best rate guarantee, is adeptly used by revenue managers worldwide to incentivize guests to make their reservations directly through the brand.com booking engine as opposed to the OTAs. I’m preaching to the choir on the definition. However, BAR should also be a primary tool put forward by your sales team and marketers, not just something stowed away in the aft section of your website. The advantages to booking through your brand.com …

Larry MogelonskyEducating guests on BAR

An Inside Look at Spanish Hotel Luxury

While extending a pre-arranged conference in Europe into a full-fledged summer vacation, I embarked on the task of touring a country that has long been on my ‘to do’ list but for which business has never prompted me to visit. Spain was this place, a country for which, outside of their wines, I have very limited knowledge. I only had enough time for city though. The choices came down to Madrid or Barcelona and after a coin toss, the latter won. After arriving and briefly walking around this magnificent town, it was clear that I was the real winner no matter which way I choose because Spain is just that remarkable. However, without any prior recommendations or word of mouth tips to guide my hotel selection, I had to rely solely on internet research. In the end, I chose the Mandarin Oriental Barcelona (MOB) for a variety of favors, key …

Larry MogelonskyAn Inside Look at Spanish Hotel Luxury