Hotel News We Noted: March 8, 2013

the jefferson boardroomWelcome to this week’s edition of “Hotel News We Noted,” where we round up the week’s best, most interesting and just downright odd news of note in the hospitality world. Have a tip? Send us a note or leave a comment below.

The hotel world has been buzzing this winter with new and planned openings, extreme amenities and packages galore. Here’s our take on what you need to know this week:

Shangri-La Goes After Saudi Princess Who Skipped Out on $7.5 Million Hotel Bill
The Shangri-La hotel in Paris is going after the Saudi princess who left in the dead of the night and skipped out on her $7.5 million hotel bill, Business Insider reports. The princess spent six months on the 41st floor of the hotel, and her father, the King, has refused to pay her debts. The king has since confined the princess to a palace in Saudi Arabia after she left a trail of unpaid debts across Europe. Nothing quite says “princess” like palace confinement, hmm?

Hotel Openings: ME London
The first ME by Melia hotel in the UK and the fifth in the brand opened last week in one of the world’s hottest cities for hotel growth – London. ME London is located in the heart of the West End, on the site formerly inhabited by the famous Gaiety Theatre. The 157-room property will feature a rooftop bar, Radio, offering panoramic views of the city, as well as the brand trademark penthouse, SuiteME – a two-level superlative experience offering a fire-pit warmed private terrace, a private lounge, separate dining room, three 3-D televisions, a pillow menu and much more. (Remember the crazy Cancun penthouse from the Real World Cancun?) NYC-based The ONE Group is the hotel’s official F&B provider, with two of its iconic brands opening venues within the property – STK London and Cucina Asellina.

Luxury Hotels Coming Your Way: Four Seasons Madrid, An Aman In Venice and Multi-Billion Dollar Las Vegas
While much of our hotel news is often focused on newly opened or revamped properties, this week seemed to have much to offer in the way of “soon-to-come” luxury hotels. Four Seasons announced their first property in Spain, Four Seasons Madrid, in the next four years, Aman is coming to the Grand Canal with a new ultra-luxury property opening on this summer boasting 24 suite-style rooms, and a Malaysian investment firm has paid $350 million for a multi-billion dollar hotel complex to come in the former Echelon site in Las Vegas, USA Today reported.Tech Tips: Eventi Offers Hi-Tech Amenities For Travelers
Sick of traveling with tons of gadgets? Eventi, a New York City Kimpton property, now has a “Business Bar” where travelers can rent gadgets ranging from iPads and MacBook Pros to Kindles, Nooks and even digital cameras. This free service is geared to help travelers who like to pack light, but who would love to sample some of these gadgets as a trial before buying, particularly the cameras!

Sleep Better: Accor’s Ibis Offers a Sleep App
We’ve certainly written about hotels with great sleep programs before, but this is the first time we’ve seen a hotel brand unveil their own sleep app. ibis Styles and ibis budget are transforming your restful night into a digital work of art. Every morning, it allows iPhone users to see how their night’s sleep has been transformed into an original digital work of art. Once the Sleep Art app has been programed, the iPhone becomes a sensor that captures movements and sounds. This data is converted real-time into a virtual “work of art” as the user sleeps. Every night is different. These virtual works of art are stored in the gallery and users can therefore compare each night’s sleep and share results by email or on Facebook, so that as many people as possible can also find out about this unique digital experience.

The President Dines at The Jefferson in Washington, DC
Much buzz has been heard in the news this week about President Obama’s dining with 12 republican leaders. But we’ve got the inside scoop on where he dined – most outlets only called it a “discreet” Washington hotel. The property was, in fact, The Jefferson, a Preferred Boutique property in downtown Washington. The congressmen and President dined on everything from Blue Crab Risotto to Lobster “Thermidor” to Peanut Butter Crumble. We hear that the president picked up the tab!

[Image Credit: The Jefferson Washington, DC]

Accor hotels adds TripAdvisor reviews to its hotel sites

While hundreds of hotels prepare to file a lawsuit against user-generated review site TripAdvisor.com, Accor hotels has decided to take another approach: promoting TripAdvsior.

The hotel group added feeds to TripAdvisor reviews on the homepages of each of its more than 4,000 hotels worldwide. The links include both good and bad reviews, along with the hotel’s overall rating on the site and a link to read user review. The hotel is even offering links to the official review on the TripAdvisor site.

Claire Wearne, Accor’s director of marketing, quality and consumer products, tells The Sydney Morning Herald that the decision to work with TripAdvisor is a nod to the importance of user-generated content. “We appreciate that the decision making of our guests is no longer limited to the information in our brochure,” she says. “We understand that they are making decisions based on valid information from other users.”

We want to hear from you. Is this a good move from Accor? Or, could TripAdvisor reviews do more harm than good?

[via HotelsMag.com]

In India, the Focus is on Mid-Market Hotels

A combination of growing demand from business travelers and a souring economy have led hotel developer Accor to focus on mid-range hotels in the world’s largest countries. So far in India, the formula seems to be a good one. As the country grows economically, more people will be traveling there for business purposes. Smaller businesses or independent entrepreneurs who don’t want to spring for a 5-star room have few options. Accor’s budget brand, Ibis, has already opened one location in Gurgaon. The company also has two Novotels in Hyderabad. These hotels are focused on providing solid service with a few extras, but nothing in terms of the over-the-top luxury seen at a 4 or 5-star. The strategy is to be attractive both to domestic and international business travelers.

Currently, over half of Accor’s India bookings come directly from corporate buyers seeking bulk rates. However, the mid-range prices and services could be attractive to independent travelers seeking an economical alternative to India’s current hotel options.