Month: October 2015

Hotels target creative travelers with do-it-yourself activities

Historically, travelers who shell out for pricey hotels have done so in order to forget their lives of responsibility and be waited on hand and foot. But these days, many travelers are paying a pretty penny for hotels that allow them to do some work. The upscale DIY trend is here and growing. These are some hotels who are using DIY activities to appeal to creative guests:

1. Hyatt (various locations):

Hyatt has designed residential meeting spaces in order to make business retreats feel less sterile and more, well, retreat-y. Many of Hyatt’s larger hotels offer these spaces, which include open-plan boardrooms and large kitchens where groups can store snacks and even cook late-night snacks together. The Campus is a university dorm-inspired space (see above) where meeting attendees can brainstorm around the foosball table…likely with the help of some herbal refreshment. The idea is to take the “boring” out of standard meeting space and add a bit of creativity. Hotels with these residential setups include the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok, Grand Hyatt Melbourne, and Hyatt Regency Chongming, China.

2. Four Seasons (various locations): Several Four Seasons hotels are launching an Entertain U program of classes that coach people on how to succeed in service professions or organize group events. The Orlando Resort property, for example, features a barista boot camp which instructs participants in how to prepare artisinal coffee and espresso. And at Four Seasons-Bahrain Bay, wannabe-hosts are trained by Wolfgang Puck’s culinary team. Want to take control of your own nutrition and dietary health? The Farm to Fork series of cooking classes at the Four Seasons Westlake Village in California offers regular cooking classes and demonstrations by licensed experts.

You hook it, we cook it program at Los Suenos Marriott Costa Rica is popular with those who love fresh seafood. Photo credit, Marriott

3. Los Suenos Marriott Ocean and Golf Resort (San Jose, Costa Rica):

This resort offers a “you hook it, we cook it” program where guests can catch their own fish to give to hotel chefs, who will prepare them to the guests’ preference in the restaurant. In fact, Los Suenos Marina is known internationally as the “fishing capital of Costa Rica” since more trophy fish are caught here each year than anywhere else in Central America. There’s nothing better than bragging to your dining partners about your own dinner!

4. AYANA Resort and Spa (Bali, Indonesia):

Guests at this resort can visit the onsite perfumerie, where the staff will help them mix fragrant notes from almost 100 different origins in order to craft their own personalized scent. The only one of its kind in Indonesia, guests follow traditional French processes to create perfumes that fit their own personality. There are 45 different essences, fragrances, and raw materials that form the base notes of the final product. The staff then helps guests bottle it, including a label with any name that a guest chooses, and place it in a gift box. Believe it or not, one of the scents is civet, the cat-like creature whose droppings are used to make Kopi Luwak, one of the world’s most expensive and gourmet coffees.

5. Regent Singapore

At the Manhattan Bar of the Regent Singapore, guests can fill and bottle their own barrel-aged Negroni. While pricey, the experience is popular among cocktail aficionados. The experience takes a full three hours, but includes a tour inside the world’s first in-hotel rickhouse (where barrels of bourbon are stored while being aged) and a peek at the collection of unusual ingredients from around the world like schisandra berries and dandelion root. Of course, there’s a tasting flight of aged Negronis to better prepare participants for their own bottling session.

Learn to blend your own wine at the Grand Bohemian, Autograph Collection in Charleston, S.C. Photo credit, Marriott

6. Grand Bohemian Hotel (Charleston, South Carolina):

This hotel, a soon-to-open member of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, will allow guests to blend their own wine under the tutelage of master sommeliers who guide them through flavor palates as they customize their own bottles of wine to take home. Guests can sip and savor different flavors as they create the perfect bottle that meets their own personal preferences. They can then purchase them to enjoy at home or to give as gifts to friends and family.

Green wall at 1Hotel South Beach. Guests can build their own organic terrariums here. Photo credit, Ramsey Qubein

7. 1Hotel South Beach (Miami Beach, FL):

Earth-friendly 1Hotel South Beach in Miami Beach allows guests to build their own terrariums in a lobby-located workshop behind its eye-catching living wall. Guests and locals can be inspired by the public area’s living walls and artistic terrarium and floral displays. Across from reception, a garden shop offers tutorials on how people can customize their own using the plants and flowers that most appeal to them. Staffers can help to package them for travel or ship them home for guests.

Photo credit, Nortonius

8. Penha Longa Resort (Sintra, Portugal)

This Ritz-Carlton family hotel gives artsy guests the chance to paint their own traditional Portuguese tiles, which are seen in architecture and murals throughout the country. The tile painting sessions school participants in a variety of techniques giving guests the chance to put their creativity to the test. Tile masterpieces are packaged up for guests to take home.

The nation’s newest start-up airline is New Orleans-based GLO

A New Orleans outfit revealed plans Tuesday for the nation’s latest start-up carrier. GLO will launch this November, connecting New Orleans to three cities in the USA’s “Mid-South” region.

GLO will fly nonstop from New Orleans to Memphis, Little Rock and Shreveport, La., with 30-seat Saab 340B turbo props. The airline will offer two daily round-trip flights on weekdays and one on weekends for each of the three routes.

“Additional Gulf and Mid-South destinations planned for the future,” GLO promised on its website.

The New Orleans-based company hopes to appeal to customers who need to travel between cities within the nation’s Gulf Coast and “Mid-South” region.

Memphis and New Orleans, for example, are two of the region’s biggest cities. But travelers going between the cities must either make an 800-mile round-trip drive or take a connecting flight via a hub like Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth or Houston.

“These cities right now are basically not reachable, for – say – a day trip,” New Orleans lawyer and GLO founder Trey Fayard says to WDSU TV of New Orleans. “All of our services will allow you to go to these cities and back in the same day– conduct your business, see your family, whatever you like to do … and be back in time for dinner. So that was our motivation for what we’re doing with GLO.

“The need to drive results in an enormous waste of valuable time and loss of productivity driving to destinations that should have air service,” GLO adds via its website.

Fares will start at $163 each way. GLO will allow each ticketed passenger to bring up to three bags and one personal item at no extra charge. GLO’s public charter flights will be operated by Corporate Flight Management, a Tennessee-based charter outfit.

Flights to Little Rock will launch Nov. 15 while flights to Shreveport and Memphis begin Nov. 29, according to GLO’s website.

GLO’s upcoming nonstops to New Orleans are being received enthusiastically in the three other cities. In Shreveport, the flights will give the city its first nonstop link to New Orleans since 2004.

“Of all the requests for different routes we get, New Orleans is always up there near the top,” Mark Crawford, Shreveport Regional Airport Authority spokesman, says to The Timesof Shreveport.

Crawford anticipated most traveling on the service will be corporate travelers, saying: “We get a lot lawyers, medical professionals and others who travel down south often so we expect to see this used more in the business community.”

Still, Crawford adds there may be a market for leisure traffic, too. He cited north Louisiana residents traveling to New Orleans for sporting events in or near the city

Four of the best cabin seating concepts we’ve seen (and one truly awful one)

There are only so many inches in each airline cabin, but the carriers themselves are always trying to figure out how many additional seats they can shove into limited space, and it seems like they’re not going to stop until the boarding process becomes a game of Human Tetris. So thank goodness there are other engineering and design firms trying to work in the opposite direction, by maximizing that square footage without sacrificing passenger comfort.

These are a few of the most promising (and one completely awful sounding) seating configurations or cabin designs that have been proposed or submitted for patents this year.

1. Side-Slip: This seating concept would not only improve and speed up the boarding process, but would also turn the middle seat into prime real estate, as it would be a full 2 inches wider than the seats on either side of it. The Side-Slip works just as its name suggests: the aisle seat slides up and over the middle seat during boarding and deplaning, widening the aisle from its standard 19 inches to 41 inches, allowing two passengers to walk or stand side-by-side, and even to allow for a wheelchair to be rolled through the cabin. Side-Slip designer Hank Scott told ABC News that his company is “preparing for production” of the seats and that, so far, 23 airlines have expressed interest.

Photo: B/E Aerospace

2. B/E Aerospace Smart Seat Wireless Actuator System: This concept doesn’t have a catchy or memorable name, but if it really increases leg room, then they could call it the Wireless Boiling Garbage Stack and I’d be delighted by it. This economy-seating configuration would allow the seats to move forward or backward along a grooved track in the cabin floor, adjusting the amount of leg room according to the height of each passenger. The flight crew would control the system using an app on their tablets during the boarding process. The B/E Aerospace engineers said that there would only be a “modest” increase in the amount of legroom, but an increase is an increase.

Diagram: SII Deutschland

3. SANTO Seat: The SANTO (Special Accommodation Needs for Toddlers and Overweight Passengers) Seat isn’t for everyone, but it could make flying more comfortable for both overweight passengers and the person seated beside them. The seat, which would be located in the rear of the cabin, is one and a half times the width of a standard airline seat, so it can either be used to accommodate a passenger of size or to hold a child’s booster seat. “The beneficiaries of this concept are both operators and travelers alike, as for a moderate surcharge, the safety of traveling infants can be significantly increased and the comfort of oversized travelers drastically improved,” Peter Miehlke of SANTO Seat designer SII Deutschland said.

Photo: Air Astana Official

4. Air Astana Economy Sleeper: This isn’t a new seating concept as much as it’s a repurposing (and rebranding and upselling of) the existing row of seats on Air Astana flights from Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, to London-Heathrow, Frankfurt and Paris. If you’re willing to pay an extra $910 –$2,290 instead of a $1,380 economy fare – you will receive a mattress to place over a standard row of three seats, ensuring that you’ll sleep just as well as the guy who snagged the empty row at the back of the plane. But the Economy Sleeper is a bargain compared with Air Astana’s full-fare business class cabin, which would cost $5,565 for those same flights. Nothing makes me sleep more soundly than an extra three grand in my pocket.

Photo: Zodiac Seats France

5. The Economy Class Cabin Hexagon, aka The Devil’s Configuration: No. Just no. This proposed layout (which was pulled from a forgotten filing cabinet in the bowels of Hell) wouldreplace the traditional middle seat with a slightly offset rear-facing seat, forcing those passengers to either make or avoid eye contact with the people on either side of them for the duration of the flight. It would also make the boarding process even more awkward, as it seems like passengers would have to crawl on all fours to reach the window seat, so not only would you have to try not to look at that guy for an extended period of time, you’d also have the image of his bobbing hindquarters seared onto your already overworked retinas. Go home, seat designers. You’re drunk.