Hotel News We Noted: April 5, 2013

the sirtaj guestroomHola and buenos tardes from sunny and warm Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, “Hotel News We Noted” readers. This week, as always, we round up the best, the worst and the most interesting news in the hotel industry, tracking resort openings, pampering packages and other reportings from our travels.

Stay tuned next week for a special edition, including a full recap of our Cabo exploration. We welcome your feedback and comments, so feel free to shoot us an email or leave a note below with ideas and thoughts.

Hotel Wi-Fi: IHG Announces Free Global Wi-Fi for Travelers … An Innovative or a “Finally, What Took You So Long” Moment?
Late last month, InterContinental Hotels Group announced that they were offering free Wi-Fi to all loyalty members worldwide, regardless of whether or not a guest was staying at the hotel. The announcement bandied about terms like “first in the hotel industry.” We wanted to do some digging before reporting this to you. The statement was bold, and in some respects, it’s true. When we asked, IHG told us the following:

While some of our competitors do offer free Internet in some of their hotels or in some regions, IHG is the first and only global hotel group to offer free Internet to all of our loyalty program members in all hotels, regardless of whether they are staying with us, conducting a business meeting with colleagues, or simply stopping in for coffee. In other words, our IHG Rewards Club, as the program will be named come July, members do not have to be staying in the hotel to take advantage of free Internet access.

Another key factor that separates IHG from our competitors is our sheer global scale – more than 4,600 hotels in nearly 100 countries and territories – and likewise for our loyalty program, which has more than 71 million members (the largest of all hotel loyalty memberships).

They are right: IHG is the first global hotel company we can find to offer free Wi-Fi to loyalty members, although there is a caveat: Wi-Fi is free to Elite status members from July 2013 on, and for all members beginning in 2014.

That said, they aren’t first to market. Luxury brand Capella offers gratis Wi-Fi to all travelers, as do most Four Seasons. Kimpton, which currently has only U.S.-based hotels, offers free Wi-Fi to loyalty members (without requiring a stay) and has since 2009. While we’re glad to see IHG touting their new benefit, perhaps they shouldn’t be so excited to push that they are offering a service that several of their competitors have been offering for years.
Hotel Openings: The Sirtaj Beverly Hills
Beverly Hills’ newest boutique hotel destination is now open. Marketed as a “chic, sexy retreat with a scent of spice and a nod to the east,” the SIRTAJ is named for the Indian word meaning “highest crown.” The 32-room hotel features contemporary decor and luxurious touches like 42-inch smart TVs and Lavazza espresso makers in each room. The indoor-outdoor restaurant dishes up organic cocktails and craft beers, and nice touches like complimentary breakfast either in-room or in the hotel restaurant are welcome perks.

Haute Hotel Package: Pie Camp at Paws Up
We’ve loved this ultra-luxe Montana resort ever since we visited a few years back to explore the glamping trend, and now Paws Up is at it again with a new “Upper Crust” weekend for baking enthusiasts. By day, visitors will enjoy baking, wilderness and food photography lessons from Kate McDermott, of the famed Art of the Pie in Seattle, and New York Times photographer Andrew Scrivani. At night, they’ll retreat to the resort’s private vacation homes and enjoy food prepared by Robin Leventhal (of “Top Chef” fame) and wine pairings. The event doesn’t take place until October, but spots fill fast. Three all-inclusive nights are $5,361 for two or $3,102 for one.

Luxe Hotel Amenity: Ritz-Carlton Turns to Asprey
The Ritz-Carlton has made the shift from Bvlgari in-room amenities to Asprey’s Purple Water fragrance. The ultra-luxe Brit-based brand boasts a purple jacquard print tube and will now be found in all guest rooms and suites. It’s a notable change for the brand, and, to the best of our knowledge, Ritz is the only hotel partnering with Asprey for in-room amenities.

Green Hotel: Fiji’s Turtle Island Goes Almost 100 Percent Solar
Fiji has always been an escape for travelers seeking extraordinary natural experiences, but now the island nation is better than ever. A multi-million dollar renovation has rendered Turtle Island the greenest place in Fiji, with nearly 1,000 solar panels providing, on average, an island powered by 85 percent solar power. The new solar installation on Turtle Island produces 1 mega watt of power a day, enough to cover 100 percent of the power needs of the island on a sunny day. Even on rainy or cloudy days, the backup generator reduces the total solar power to about 85 percent, maintaining outstanding energy efficiency. As if we needed yet another excuse to visit the all-inclusive luxury retreat.

[Image Credit: The Sirtaj]