Reader-generated hotel reviews – and the sites that host them – have gotten a bad rap lately. But, it’s for a good reason. In July, TripAdvisor came under scrutiny when it was revealed that some hotels were paying TripAdvisor users to post positive reviews of their properties. There have also been concerns that hotel employees and management were posting positive reviews of their properties in order to improve their online ratings and, thus, improve their rankings and visibility.
Knowing that a few bad reviews can break a hotel, hotel companies understandably have been resistant to allow customers to post reviews on their websites. This week, however, Starwood announced that it will be the first hotel company to host reader-generated ratings and reviews on its websites. Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the parent company of such brands as Westin, Sheraton, W Hotels, St. Regis, and Le Meridien, will allow hotel guests to post both positive and negative reviews in order to provide a more honest and transparent relationship with its customers, particularly members of the Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) program. In turn, potential reviewers must have verified hotel reservation confirmations in order to post a review. Customers will be able to post reviews and ratings on room comfort, staff helpfulness, cleanliness, and SPG recognition, among other factors, as well as provide context to their reviews, such as purpose and frequency of travel. Users also will be able to share Starwood reviews on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Starwood’s move to allow reviews on its websites is a way to bring more customers directly to the source rather than via third-party booking and review sites. Says Chris Holdren, Senior Vice President of Starwood Preferred Guest, “Our goal is to provide everything a guest needs to select and book their best hotel experience and there’s no better place to offer this information than on our own websites.”
In an effort to cater to the surge of tourism from China, both Hilton Hotels and Resorts and Starwood, which includes the Sheraton, Westin, and W brands, are launching Chinese hospitality services in their hotels. The welcome program includes special breakfast items, such as congee rice porridge, fried rice, and dumplings; in-room amenities like tea kettles, a selection of Chinese teas, and slippers; and a fluent Chinese-speaking staff member to assist Chinese visitors.
San Francisco, where tourism from China increased more than 50 percent between 2009 and 2010, will be one of the first cities in the U.S. to roll out the test programs. Hilton Huanying (“Huanying” means “welcome” in Chinese) will launch in three San Francisco hotels and at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) on August 16. Starwood Personalized Travel, the pilot Chinese welcome program from Starwood, is currently being tested in 19 properties across the globe, including San Francisco’s Westin St. Francis and the W in New York’s Times Square. Starwood plans to offer this service at all of its hotels by 2012.
While these free hospitality programs are aimed at the Chinese traveler, there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy a little touch of China during your hotel stay, too. So next time you’re planning to stay at a Hilton or Starwood, check to see if they are offering the Chinese welcome service. Then sit back and enjoy a little chai and congee. It’s an easy way to make a typical hotel stay a touch more exciting.
[Photo credit: Flickr user sparkieblues]
When I was in college, relaxation came from the best six-pack of beer I could find for under $5. But, it looks like times are changing. The W’s Bliss spa chain is kicking in 20 percent discounts on spa treatments for college kids this year. With fewer business travelers on the road, it looks like Bliss wants to get at least some cash from someone.
For Bliss, targeting the coed demographic is a first. The 21-location spa has typically stayed with a target market that can afford its luxury offering.
So, what’s it take to get your 20 percent discount? Well, you’ll be expected to bring your student ID with you. Wearing sweatpants and smelling like you haven’t showered in three days doesn’t constitute evidence of being a student … though it probably should.
[Photo by Design Packaging via Flickr]
Downtown New York has been slowly building up its reputation for years, but 2010 seems to be the year of openings. In June we showed you the exclusive images of the first hotel to be open in the Wall Street area with views of Ground Zero, and now more planned hotels are finally opening their doors to travelers in an effort to help rebuild the downtown New York area.
The W New York Downtown – the newest W Hotel in Starwood’s collection – finally opened the doors to the Downtown and The Residences at W New York, offering another hotel options for business travelers and leisure guests looking for a place to stay in the downtown Manhattan area. The hotel is located in New York City’s Financial District on the corner of Washington and Albany Streets.
The 58-floor, 217 guest room and 223 W-branded residences is placed perfectly to give guests city views of the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, Hudson River and Battery Park. The hotel will offer the Living Room Bar & Terrace on the fifth floor with floor-to-ceiling window views of New York City, featuring specialty cocktails from resident mixologist Charlotte Voisey and light bites provided by BLT Bar & Grill, the hotel’s signature restaurant. The second floor dining room features a larger menu of fresh salads, grilled meats, market-driven pastas, pizzas, sandwiches and the signature sides and desserts.
The W New York Downtown will offer the same guest amenities typical in W hotels – W signature feather-top mattresses, 350 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets, goose down comforters and pillows, state-of-the-art in-room entertainment and a fully stocked Munchie Box (the W brand’s take on the hotel mini bar).
Basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal bounced his way into Boston today to meet with his new team, the Celtics. While he’s on the court, his reps are hitting the streets looking for a place tall enough to accommodate the 7′ 1″ athlete when he’s here.
The Celtics signed Shaquille O’Neal to help win another NBA title, but The Boston Herald is reporting one luxury address could also score big with Shaq’s arrival to the Bay State. Reports say Shaq’s reps are looking at the W Boston Hotel & Residences, which have suffered a bit of a lag in sales since opening.
The W could actually be a great fit for Shaq. It’s a new building with high-end security, valet service and a 24-hour concierge. The downside – it’s not very close to the TD Garden, where the Celts play during the season. Other hotel residences in the running include the Residences at the Mandarin Oriental, the Four Seasons and the Residences at the InterContinental.
This wouldn’t be the first time contracted sports stars have shacked up in posh Boston hotels. Red Sox slugger Manny Ramirez called the Ritz-Carlton home during his time with the team. The four-bedroom condo is currently available for rent at $25,000 a month (in case you’re interested).