Hotel in Vancouver, Canada, puts a new spin on in-room iPads

No need to worry about tipping your tour guide on your next trip to Vancouver, Canada, as the OPUS Vancouver hotel has recently added iPads to each of their 96 guest rooms to act as personal tour guides of the city. While the trend of adding tablets to hotel rooms is not a new concept, the OPUS adds a new spin by having the technology reflect the guests’ personality and show them around the city.

First, guests choose their rooms based on what they like: Red Modern and Minimalist, Blue Stylish and Sophisticated, Green Artful and Eclectic, Orange Vibrant and Outgoing, or Taupe Daring and Dramatic. Your in-room iPad concierge and guide will then give you a personalized tour of the city based on your personality. To make these fictional guides more human, they’ve been given names, professions, and home cities. Guides include:

  • Pierre, a food and wine critic from Paris
  • Billy, a cultured rock star from London
  • Susan, a fashion executive from Toronto
  • Mike, a doctor from New York
  • Dede, an actress and prima donna from Los Angeles

And no need to worry about Wi-Fi as the virtual guides work offline, as well. For more information, click here. To get to know the tour guides a little bit better, you can also visit the OPUS Hotels’ Blog to read some posts written by the fictional characters.

Uniquely designed luxury hotel and office complex in China resembles ocean waves

It’s truly amazing what architects can do nowadays in terms of innovative design, and the Hangzhou Waves, a new luxury hotel and office complex proposed in China, is a perfect example of this. While the structure is a 5 star accommodation, it is also a work of art, as it actually resembles the natural waves of the ocean.

Hangzhou Waves is a project of JDS Architects, a firm known for its unique approach to design and architecture. In fact, it says right on their website that their approach is “affirmatively social in its outcome, enthusiastic in its ambition and professional in its process. At the core of our architecture is the ability to take a fresh look at design issues through experienced eyes”.

The technique used to create the hotel and office space was to use ascending and descending cubes to create the two buildings, which mirror each from a back-to-back point of view. And just like the ocean, the building plays host to plots of lush plant life.

For a better idea of the project, check out the gallery below.


Affinia Hotels launches Tender Loving Comfort movement

This week, Affinia Hotels launched their new Tender Loving Comfort movement in New York, Washington D.C., and Chicago. The program is based on deep-customer service as well as the body language of guests. In fact, earlier this year the company partnered with body language expert Patti Wood to train hotel staff to know how to respond to body language cues.

Tender Loving Comfort staff and hotel managers will be interacting with guests during their new Comfort Hour, where guests will get the opportunity to sample snacks, test out new items like tech gear and pillows, and give feedback on what makes them most comfortable when staying at a hotel.

Some interesting findings of the studies so far include:

  • For 68.5% of travelers, little extras at check-in make a big impact
  • 75% of travelers have lied to get a better room or free amenity
  • 43% of travelers say that a warm and friendly hotel staff that anticipates everyday needs is important

Click here to learn more about the Tender Loving Comfort program or to book a hotel room with Affinia.

Top 10 hotels in Vietnam

When I first went to Vietnam in the mid-90’s, Hanoi was still a fairly sleepy town where cyclos could go everywhere and the buzz of motorcycles was a once in awhile occurrence. Most places to stay were family-owned guest houses and luxury meant air conditioning and a TV that worked and offered more than a couple of channels.

One morning, I stood on the corner of a street in Hoi An taking pictures of people on bicycles gliding past a yellow building. In Hue, I waited for people to pass in cyclos to see what the cyclos carried. One had a coffin. Each time I’ve returned to Vietnam the changes have been substantial. On my fifth visit, although the bicycles were a fixture, they were dwarfed in number by motorcycles, and cars had become king.

Like the vehicles, the options of where to stay has expanded as well. While the guest houses have still remained a solid option, for anyone looking for more upscale digs, there are plenty of choices. Big business tourism hit Vietnam awhile ago and the results show.

To help people find the best places to stay, Vietnam Travel culled through 16,000 reviews of 350 hotels to pick out the top ten. The ten are in six of Vietnam’s popular destination spots that range from beach locations to historic cities. Each entry is linked to descriptions and photos of the hotels which have me salivating for my sixth trip.

Here are the results that attest to Vietnam’s change when it comes to where to slumber scenery. If you head to Hue, there are three hotels that made the cut. I wonder if you’ll see any one pedaling a cyclo carrying a casket? I doubt it.

This list is in order of which hotels were given top ranking from number 1 to number 10.

  1. Cham Villas, Phan Tiet
  2. Hanoi Elegance 4, Hanoi
  3. Novotel Nha Trang Hotel, Nha Trang
  4. Park Hyatt Saigon Hotel, Ho Chi Minh City
  5. Gecko Hanoi Hotel, Hanoi
  6. Pilgrimage Village Hue-Boutique Resort & Spa, Hue
  7. Grand Mecure La Veranda Resort, Phu Quoc Island
  8. Camilla Hue Hotel, Hue
  9. Orchid Hotel, Hue
  10. Life Resort, Quy Nhon

Travelers’ Choice Awards 2009: The best of the best

Trip Advisor has just released its Travelers’ Choice Awards. The several pages missive provides a hefty selection of the best hotels in various categories. This is the opposite end of the spectrum of the worst hotels. It’s not uncommon that the best can be had for less money than a dump.

Sea Coast Inn in Hyannis, Massachusetts has held onto its first place spot as the Best Bargain from last year. Interestingly, it has kept its spot as “Best Hidden Gem” as well.

Of the other top10 bargains in the U.S., five of them are in California, two are in Florida, and Colorado and Utah have one each. When it comes to overseas bargain shopping, several countries have options. Italy does have two slots in the top 10.

Organized by categories, the Travelers’ Choice Awards are a great place to start when planning a trip whether you’re looking for luxury, romance, a bargain or a family destination.

Keeping with this month’s theme of bargain destinations, here are the number one places to stay in each of the bargain categories. Browse through each list, however, because one hotel further down might catch your eye–or a destination might beckon. Egypt has several listings for top places for families in Africa, for example. That has me thinking.

Best Bargains

Click here for the pdf file for the whole list. The photo is of Hotel Vecchio Asilo.