A Valentine’s Day package for Bachelor fans

Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is coming up really fast and those stuck without plans may think they are out of time to do anything memorable. Think again. Luxury hotels still have some packages available for those a bit light on the thoughtfulness with heavy, deep pockets.

The Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower in Panama is among the romantic destinations included in the 16th season of ABC’s The Bachelor and luxury resort is offering guests who book their stay now through March 31, 2012, the opportunity to experience the utmost in romance with the “Live Like The Bachelor” package.

Offering exclusive amenities, experiential activities and a savings of about 50 percent off rates, the package provides guests with the same romantic escape seen on The Bachelor. The “Live like The Bachelor” package includes:

  • Four-night stay in a spacious Executive Suite
  • Round-trip private transfer to and from the airport
  • Welcome bottle of champagne and rose petal turndown
  • Daily breakfast at BARcelona Restaurant
  • Romantic dinner for two at Tejas Restaurant
  • VIP helicopter excursion
  • Private tour of Panama City including visits to the Old Panama Ruins, Casco Viejo, the Panama Canal and Mi Pueblito
  • Signautre 60 minute couples massage
  • Exotic island expedition on a private yacht, including food, beverages and fishing equipment
  • Complimentary shuttle service to nearby shopping centers
  • $1,000 worth in shopping cards

The price? Rates start at $7,999, plus tax and service charge.

Too much?

The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale is a luxury oceanfront hotel on Florida’s Gold Coast that has water views from every room, balconies in every room, and legendary service plus two Valentine’s Day packages.

A Valentines Day One-Night Escape is $549 plus tax and includes a luxurious Partial Ocean View accommodations at The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale along with a gourmet three-course Italian-inspired dinner and breakfast for two in the oceanfront Via Luna restaurant, or in the privacy of your luxurious guestroom and an assortment of romantic welcome gifts including a bottle of fine champagne.

An Ultimate Valentine’s Day One-Night Escape with concert tickets is $1,999 plus tax and includes a One-Bedroom Oceanfront Residential Suite with Club Lounge Access and a dedicated concierge to assist with any reservations or travel plans, Two VIP tickets to the one-night only Andrea Bocelli Valentine’s Day concert, Tuesday, February 14 at the Bank Atlantic Center, private roundtrip transportation to the concert, breakfast for two in Via Luna or in the privacy of your guestroom and romantic welcome gifts of limited edition Jean-Paul Gaultier-designed, fishnet-laced Piper-Heidsieck Champagne and more romantic presents.

Still too much?
Launched this week on Best Western Hotel’s Facebook page is a new “Be a Travel Hero” Promotion which rewards business “travel heroes” for their time on the road away from friends and family. The promotion encourages Best Western Rewards members to build a virtual vacation for their family and friends for a chance to win a grand prize dream vacation and other great prizes, including Best Western Travel Cards and MasterCard Gift Cards up to $500 in value, Avis rental car vouchers and AAA/CAA memberships.

Still need more ideas? Try Gadling’s Couple’s guide to Valentine’s Day hotel packages.

Valentine's Day Flowers Guide - Buying Roses


Gift cards can stretch travel funds

Gift CardsGift cards often come with bonus offers and special deals that bump up the value and make a whole lot of sense for travelers. It’s like cutting expenses by 10% or more when we cash in on some great offers being made for the holidays.

Best Western Hotels has an offer where buying a $100 Best Western Travel Card online gets a $10 bonus gift card free. With this offer, we can get a $10 Best Western Travel Card or choose from a variety of restaurant cards. This one is especially good for international travelers as it can be loaded and reloaded with the currency of the country they will be traveling to.

“Whether gifting a Best Western travel card to friends and family or gifting one to yourself for travel in the new year, this limited-time promotion offers the perfect opportunity to rack-up cash at popular retailers,” said Dorothy Dowling, Best Western’s senior vice president of marketing and sales. “With this special holiday deal, it’s more rewarding than ever before to give the gift of travel – and get $10 back in your pocket.”

Another offer that can stretch travel funds is Mastercard’s $20 gift card offer. On this one, Mastercard will send us a $20 gift card with any $200 spent online using a Mastercard. To be eligible to receive the MasterCard gift card, enroll a MasterCard card here. They need a card number to qualify online spending, and an email address to alert buyers when they have earned their gift card.

Looking to make a difference in a really easy way? We can take care of that when we fly with an offer from American Airlines. This one earns travelers a donation of $5 for every $50 travel card purchased to either Susan G. Komen for the Cure® or the USO.

10% might not seem like much but these things can really add up.

Reloadable gift cards often carry bonus offers to encourage their use. Using them on the road eliminates some of the need for cash and often translates to bonus value as well.

Starbucks reloadable gift cards are a good example. Once registered, the holders online account can also be accessed by iPhone or Android app and bonus offers are given as usage increases. Subway Restaurants has a similar program, giving a free sub with every time users add $25 back on the card.

These and many other cards make great gifts for travelers that are easy, safe and fun to use.

Photo: Chris Owen

Gift Cards and Gift Certificates

Best Western produces indie film series

Best Western just commissioned a series of indie films telling the story of some of their properties and the people who run them. While not the most altruistic of stories (of course they’re going to paint a good portrait of the brand), it’s an interesting experiment in indie film making for a large scale hotel chain, and the stories seem well thought out and composed. Now all they need is the momentum that the BMW Films gained (and perhaps the employ of Clive Owen) and they’ll be hits. You can see the rest of the series over on their site.

Free: 250 American Airlines AAdvantage miles for joining Best Western Rewards

American Airlines AAdvantage Best WesterLooking for a quick and painless way to top off your American Airlines mileage account? Sign up for a Best Western Rewards card (free) and provide them with your AAdvantage number.

You’ll earn an instant 250 miles, and bonus miles each time you stay in a Best Western property between February 6 and April 11, 2011. On your first stay, you’ll get another 500 miles, followed by 750 on your second, and 1000 on each following stay.

Even if you don’t have any Best Western stays planned, the 250 miles may be all it takes to keep an otherwise dormant account alive, or to get your account to the point where you can actually use your miles for something worthwhile.

The promotion page is here – which is where you’ll find more details on the stay-to-earn deal.

Need another 150 miles? Check out this American Airlines Bose promotion!

Gadling Q & A with Daniel Edward Craig, author and hotel consultant

Daniel Edward Craig shares a name with the current James Bond, and like 007, he’s a world traveler and a man of many hats. He’s taken a career in hotel management and a keen ear for storytelling and parlayed it into a murder mystery book series, an engaging industry blog, and a hotel and social media consultancy. Here he tells Gadling about his history in the travel world, who’s providing the best social media content for travelers, and what’s next in hotel trends.

Tell me about your history in the hotel and travel business.

I’ve worked in hotels off and on for about twenty years. I started on the front desk at the Delta Chelsea Inn in Toronto and went on to work for a range of hotels, from big-box to boutique, in positions ranging from duty manager to vice president. Most recently, I was vice president and general manager of Opus Hotels in Vancouver and Montreal.

What title do you think best captures your profession these days

These days I work as an author and hotel consultant. I left Opus at the end of 2007, shortly after my first novel was published, to complete the second and third novels in the Five-Star Mystery series. Now I am working on a fourth book as well as various consulting projects for the hotel industry, ranging from social media strategy to executive coaching. I also continue to write my blog and articles about the hotel industry. It’s been a rough few years for hotels, and I think we could all use some levity, so in my writing I try to take a lighthearted look at issues.

Do you think you’ll ever go back to managing a hotel?

I hope so. Hotels are my first love; writing is secondary. As a hotel manager, I feel fully engaged and at my best, whereas as a writer all my neurotic tendencies come out. Writing is a solitary profession, and I’m better as part of a team. Once I finish my current book at the end of this year, I’ll decide what’s next, and that could very well involve a return to hotels full-time. I’ll always write, but after a year of 4:00 AM mornings and late nights, I promised myself never to write books and manage a hotel at the same time.

What are you most critical of as a hotel guest?

I’m extremely service oriented. I’ll cut a property a lot of slack if it isn’t my style or if facilities are limited, but bad service can ruin my trip. In particular, I dislike overly scripted, apathetic service. I love a hotel with originality and a lot of life in the lobby. And I look for soul, a combination of design, culture, clientele and spirit, that intangible feeling that I’m in the right place. That’s why I prefer independent boutique hotels – it’s easier for them to do these things well.

What’s your favorite hotel?

Don’t make me choose! It depends on my mood and the nature of travel. I was just in Chicago and was blown away by the new Elysian Hotel. If I’m relaxing or working, I like the Four Seasons. I can’t always afford to stay in them, but I will splurge on a drink in the lounge and will hang around until I’m asked to leave. My favorite is the Four Seasons Georges V in Paris. But I also love contemporary boutique hotels. I’m a city boy, and when I feel like socializing I want to stay in a hotel with a scene, like the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York, the Mondrian in Los Angeles, and the Clift in San Francisco. XV Beacon in Boston is also one of my faves.

Given the many social media experts today, how do you stand apart?

I’d never call myself a social media expert. Who can keep up? I’m a hotelier first, who happens to know a lot about social media and reputation management. Social media allows me to combine my two professions as a hotelier and an author, because essentially it’s about storytelling. Social media touches every department in a hotel, and as a former general manager I understand the interplay and interdependence involved, and to rise above individual departmental interests to develop a strategy that benefits the hotel as a whole.

What hotels/travel companies do you think are doing social media “well”?

I think there are a number of hotel companies that do certain aspects of social media well, but nobody is doing anything particularly innovative. HKHotels in New York are doing a great job of reputation management. Best Western runs a good Facebook page. InterContinental Hotel Group makes great concierge videos. The Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee manages Twitter well. Red Carnation Hotels in London and Pan Pacific Hotel in Vancouver have good blogs. Joie de Vivre Hotels does great contests.

Hoteliers are great storytellers, and with all the comings and goings of guests we have a rich resource of content to draw from, and yet this isn’t translating to social media. A lot of hotel content is trite and uninspiring, and most of the voices sound the same: perky and vaguely annoying. Hotels can learn a lot from online reviewers, who spin the best stories, with strong points of view, hooks, humor, trivia and facts. I think there are huge opportunities for the hotel industry, and I’d love to help a hotel become the social media hotel in a given destination.

What made you start writing murder mysteries?

I always wanted to write, and naively thought that writing a mystery would be fun and easy. They say write what you know, and at the time I was working as a duty manager, so I set it in a hotel. Ten years later, Murder at the Universe was published. For me it was a one-off, but my publisher liked the idea of a hotel manager who writes mysteries set in hotels, so they contracted me to develop it into a series. Since then I’ve published Murder at Hotel Cinema and Murder at Graverly Manor.

After three novels, I started to get bored with my protagonist, the hapless hotelier Trevor Lambert, and all that whining. And there could only be so many murders in his hotels before people started suspecting him. The book I’m finishing up now is non-fiction, an irreverent insider’s look at hotels, written for travelers.

What do you see as the next big trends in hotels?

Mobile is huge. Increasingly, people are researching, booking and recommending travel via smart phones. Social media will grow as people continue to bypass travel journalists and hotels for travel information in favor of travelers, friends and social networks, all from the palm of the hand. When it comes down to it, however, above all hotel guests still want comfort, convenience and value. They just have much larger audiences to air their grievances to when they don’t get what they want.

What’s next for you?

After I finish the book, I’ll put book writing on hold for now and will continue to work on hotel projects, to blog, and to write articles. I’m starting to book quite a few speaking engagements in 2011. My platform as an author and hotelier is quite unique, and social media reputation management are hot topics. If I find a good job with a progressive hotel company, great, but until then I have no shortage of things to keep me occupied.

Read all about Daniel Edward Craig, his books, and his blog at his website, www.danieledwardcraig.com