In Search of Hotel Excellence: The William Vale

The millennial revolution has turned Brooklyn from a place you came from to a highly sought-after destination. And no part of Brooklyn has witnessed a broader transformation than Williamsburg. The William Vale is located at the northernmost edge of this part of the borough, on land that once housed waterside manufacturing facilities. Despite its newfound hipness, Williamsburg’s street life is still in its infancy. Hence, to build a 183-room hotel in an area that has no considerable amount of pre-existing sidewalk life or nearby landmark attractions is risky business. So, as Sebastien Maingourd, the property’s general manager, remarked, “From an architectural standpoint alone, The William Vale attracts an audience just to check us out. We are creating our own foot traffic!” The sheer brilliance of the property’s imposing facade is evident from very far away. In fact, the design is so iconic that I was easily able to identify the …

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Renovation While Treading Lightly on Tradition

For over 100 years, the Ritz-Carlton Montreal has been more than just a hotel; it has been a bastion of the city’s ‘Great Gatsby’ society. Through its doors, royalty and those of privilege have passed countless times. The hotel has hosted the finest social functions and weddings including the impromptu nuptials (only two hours’ notice) of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. If these walls could talk, I am sure that they would speak volumes. For those whose knowledge of Montreal is limited, a short history lesson is mandated. The province of Quebec, including Montreal, is predominantly French-speaking. Yet, there is a distinct Anglophone culture in this its largest city which steadfastly had maintained a strong influence over the province through political appointments and strong financial influence. This led to a mini-rebellion (quite significant in a Canadian context) in the late 1970s, ultimately culminating in a vote to separate from Canada …

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In Search of Hotel Excellence: Kapalua Bay

In the rarefied world of uber-luxury resorts, $1,000+ nightly rates are de rigueur (in season). Rooms, facilities, amenities, F&B, and guest services must be delivered flawlessly and all in perfect harmony. The GM tends to be more symphony conductor than hotelier in the traditional sense, as every member of the resort’s team hones their performance daily, knowing all too well the importance of delivering consistent, quality service. Maui, recognized as the jewel in the Hawaiian archipelago, serves as ground zero for several examples of the world’s finest resort chains, notably Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton and Waldorf Astoria. A recent entry (opened mid-2014) by Montage provides a further refinement to the definition of the ultimate resort. Located at Kapalua Bay and next door to the Ritz-Carlton, the property comprises just 50 residences tucked into a larger residential complex. All accommodations face the ocean with spectacular views of the property’s grounds and, in …

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In Search of Hotel Excellence: The St. Regis Princeville Resort

In the 1949 Rogers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific, a mystical island that’s visible but not reachable is referred to as Bali Ha’i. In the 1958 movie adaptation, they filmed on the breathtaking north shore of Kauai – Hawaii’s fourth largest island – with Mount Makana used as a substitute for Bali Ha’i. This jaw-dropping view sets the stage for the St. Regis Princeville Resort, and I was fortunate enough to sample this utopian setting for two nights while touring the 50th state. There’s trouble in paradise, however, or at least the potential for it. At first glance, you’d think this property’s occupancy would teeter on triple digits year-round for now until the end of time. But the reality is a Hawaiian resort of this celestial caliber requires a perfectly oiled machine to stay afloat. For the rate they command, expectations are likewise through the roof, and the competition is …

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In Search of Hotel Excellence: The Meritage Resort & Spa

Just an hour from San Francisco or Oakland International airports and buoyed by Silicon Valley money, California’s Napa Valley is an eclectic mix of boutique inns, quaint B&Bs, chic ultra-luxury hotels, gourmet restaurants and, of course, some of the finest vineyards this side of Europe. It’s this last aspect which serves as the main draw, but also perhaps a slight drawback for larger groups that need scale and facilities unavailable this far north of San Francisco. Their loss, really, as this area is home to some spectacular properties with important lessons for all hoteliers. I was fortunate enough to find myself staying at a true Napa gem during my most recent trip there. Checking in at The Meritage Resort and Spa, a member of the Meritage Collection, my initial thought was one of awe. Along with the adjoining timeshare property, this hotel has over 500 guestrooms and suites spread across …

lmaadminIn Search of Hotel Excellence: The Meritage Resort & Spa
Pouring water from bottle into glass on blue background

How Much Is Too Much For Hotel Bottled Water?

You’ve trained your bellman, concierge and front desk staff to a tee. Your guests immediately feel welcome at your property with the awful nightmare of security lines, air travel and bag collection finally behind them. They enter their guestroom, just starting to unwind, and then prominently displayed is a bottle of water with an unmistakably exorbitant price tag. And it is all for naught. Why is it that this one markup grinds guests’ gears more than almost everything else? Perhaps the wording of ‘unmistakably exorbitant’ offers a clue. When a commoditized item like bottled water, is commonly understood to be sold at a certain base price – let’s say $1 for 300ml for simplicity’s case – then any inflated price that’s paid forward to the customer will be instantly discernable. And when you charge, say, seven bucks for what generally costs only one in the supermarket, then it is builds …

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In Search of Hotel Excellence: Fogo Island Inn

If you want to experience Canada – I mean, really, truly, authentically experience the heart of our great ‘northern’ nation– Fogo Island Inn is one of the few places you must visit. Opened three years ago along the windswept coast of Newfoundland, this 29-room independent property already has more than its share of accolades, all driven by its improbable architecture, fantastic F&B, remarkable interior design, and prearranged activities that immerse you with the barren landscape and its people. Looking at the photo of this contemporary box of a hotel sitting on stilts over jagged rocks, you are probably asking yourself: Why? How was this even funded? The story of Fogo begins with Zita Cobb, a local who made her fortune in the tech industry then decided to reinvest it back into her hometown. Warm and friendly, the community of some 2,607 fishermen and related occupations has for centuries eked a …

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In Search of Hotel Excellence: Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World® Resort

I admit, I am a Four Seasons junkie. Having worked for them for seven years during my former life at an advertising agency, you could say that I’ve drunk the Kool Aid. It’s also worth noting that Forbes has bestowed their prestigious five-star rating on more Four Seasons properties than any other chain in the world (and every property in the brand is at least a four-star). Every Four Seasons marks an improvement from the last. When the company opens a new resort property, it is something that one takes seriously as it is an opportunity to observe the latest standards of excellence. Opened in August 2014, Four Seasons Resort Orlando raises the bar even further. With 443 rooms, this makes the Orlando property one of the largest properties in the chain. For those who have been to the hometown of Disney World® and the amazing series of related theme …

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In Search of Hotel Excellence: Crown Towers Melbourne

During a brisk tour of the Land Down Under, I found myself in the Australia’s Second City – the begrudging nickname belonging to none other than Melbourne, a metropolis that’s in a near perpetual rival with Sydney. While conducting travel research for downtown hotels, it’s all but impossible to avoid hearing or clicking on one of the many Crown Resorts properties in the greater Melbourne area. As an entertainment and gaming corporation that is characteristically Australian, it was an easy choice to decide to stay in the heart of the action with a local hospitality provider. That choice was the Crown Towers, a five-star property with over 480 rooms. Needless as it is to say, the experience floored me and left a fantastic first impression on a city that I must now visit again. As is customary, I sought out the upper echelons of the hotel’s management to delve into …

lmaadminIn Search of Hotel Excellence: Crown Towers Melbourne

Hotel Exterior Restorations to Enhance Sense of Place

Hotel architecture is one of the more intricate and creative aspects of our industry. Even though most of us will never have any input in the design of a new property from the ground up (leave that to the accredited architects), there are still numerous opportunities to leave your mark on a hotel via smaller-scale refurbishments projects – necessary tasks to keep up with the times. Guestrooms need reconfiguration and new furniture purchases to better accommodate the modern, tech-centric business traveler. Lobby spaces require alterations to enhance their ‘third space’ hybrid functionality. Restaurants that feel dated should be renovated as should their menus. Bathrooms are constantly audited. And all other soft elements must go through the necessary cycle at least once a decade. An aspect of architecture and design that is often neglected, though, pertains to that of a hotel’s exterior and how you populate these spaces to create dramatic …

lmaadminHotel Exterior Restorations to Enhance Sense of Place