Las Vegas hotels The Venetian and The Palazzo join InterContinental Alliance Resorts

Two of Las Vegas‘ most loved hotels, The Venetian and The Palazzo, are the first two properties to join with IHG’s new Intercontinental Alliance Resorts program.

What does this mean for you, dear reader? If you were already a fan of the properties, never fear – the properties will remain independently branded and under their current names, but with the added benefit of InterContinental Hotel & Resorts membership, meaning that guests can book rooms and earn points through their IHG rewards program.

What is the program, exactly? The Alliance Resorts program is more of a marketing partnership than anything else – these resorts aren’t owned, operated or managed by IHG, but rather “aligned with the spirit” of the brand and “complement the InterContinental portfolio.” For guests, this means that Priority Club Rewards and InterContinental Ambassador programs can redeem points at these “sister properties”.

At present, the Alliance Resorts program has just three properties, including Scottsdale’s Montelucia Resort & Spa.

At present IHG’s Priority Club Rewards program is the world’s largest hotel loyalty program with 56 million members.

Daily Pampering: InterContinental Hong Kong’s million dollar Valentine’s Day date

Looking for a totally over-the-top way to spoil your special someone this Valentine’s Day? The InterContinental Hong Kong has planned the ultimate Valentine’s Experience for only HK$1 million (approximately $130,000 USD) Valentine’s Day Date in the hotel’s Presidential Suite.

The package includes one-night stay in Hong Kong‘s largest Presidential Suite (at 7,000 square feet), which includes a duplex living room, rooftop terrace with a private swimming pool and jacuzzi overlooking Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island and a master suite and bathroom, with a jacuzzi and rain forest shower for two, plus a private sauna and steam room. The suite at the InterContinental Hong Kong also has a private dining room, gym and study.You’ll also get:

  • Chauffeured airport transfers via the hotel’s Phantom VI Rolls Royce.
  • A bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé 2004Champagne served with fresh strawberries in the Rolls Royce, in transit to InterContinental Hong Kong
  • A personalized premium bar set-up in the Presidential Suite for your enjoyment throughout your stay.
  • Our Phantom VI Rolls Royce limousine with private chauffeur — on call for your use throughout your stay.
  • A special welcome gift and amenities in the Presidential Suite upon your arrival.
  • Your selection of pampering spa treatments in the private couple’s Spa Suite at the hotel’s feng shui inspired I-Spa during your stay.
  • Arrangements for a Personal Shopper to help you select your designer wardrobe for the evening at the brand name boutique of your choice (to the value of HK$150,000).
  • A custom-designed Valentine’s message displayed by banner via a private boat at a designated time as seen from your rooftop terrace.
  • Personalized floral décor in the suite
  • A premium private bar set up in the suite.
  • 1,000 roses delivered to the Presidential Suite – just for her
  • A “declaration of love” gift from (valued at HK$100,000) from him to her from a designer brand store of her choice.
  • Pre-dinner cocktails and aperitifs served with deluxe hors d’oeuvres in the Presidential Suite
  • A romantic dinner fit for a prince and princess, with your choice of a custom-made menu from one of the hotel’s two 1-Michelin star restaurants
  • Yan Toh Heen (for exquisite Cantonese cuisine), or SPOON by Alain Ducasse (for contemporary French cuisine) or NOBU InterContinental Hong Kong (celebrated for its innovative new-style Japanese cuisine), paired with vintage wines.
  • The romantic candlelit dinner can be served in the Presidential Suite by your personal butler or in the private room at SPOON by Alain Ducasse, Yan Toh Heen or NOBU InterContinental Hong Kong.
  • Live music performed by a string quartet throughout the evening in the Presidential Suite.
  • A Champagne and caviar breakfast served in the privacy of Presidential Suite on your private harbourview terrace overlooking Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island.
  • Monogrammed His and Hers Shanghai Tang silk bathrobes.
  • A butler-drawn rose petal bath in the Presidential Suite’s romantic harbourview Jacuzzi with sweeping views of Victoria Harbour.
  • Chanel bathroom amenities
  • Access to the exclusive Club InterContinental (Executive Lounge) where you can enjoy afternoon tea and evening cocktails, as well as complimentary high-speed internet access and personalized concierge services.

This one-of-a-kind Valentine’s Date Experience in the Presidential Suite is exclusively for reservations between February 11-14, 2011.

Get more luxury travel ideas from daily pampering.

InterContinental Hotel Group prepares for 2011 openings in Russia, Portugal, Qatar, more

A new year brings new hotels. While travelers are prepping their calendars in anticipation of 2011 trips, hotel groups are working hard to open new properties around the world for guests. International expansion in Asia and Europe are top priorities for hotel groups including Marriott, Starwood and Hilton. Next up: InterContinental Hotel Groups plans their 2011 expansion including hotels in Russia, Portugal and a second property in London.

I caught up with my contacts at InterContinental to get a sneak peak at what’s to come:

InterContinental Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (February 2011)

The InterContinental Kuala Lumpur is a 473-room hotel located at Jalan Ampang, a prestigious upscale address in the heart of the capital’s business, shopping and entertainment district. The hotel is a short distance to the iconic Petronas Twin Towers and the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. There will be five restaurants, offering Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian and international cuisine.

InterContinental Moscow Tverskaya, Russia (July 2011)

Situated on the site of the former Minsk Hotel at Number 22 Tverskaya, InterContinental Moscow Tverskaya will be part of a brand new 64,000 square-meter development with luxury retail outlets and state-of-the-art offices. Within a short walking distance are the Kremlin, City Hall and Pushkin Square. Guest rooms with have hardwood parquet flooring, built-in TV in both the bedroom and bathroom, and bespoke furniture, including one-of-a-kind credenzas featuring etchings of Seven Sisters skyscrapers that were planned but never built. InterContinental Porto Palacios das Cardosas, Portugal (July 2011)

The hotel will occupy what was once the Palace of the Cardosas, located on the main square of Porto, Portugal‘s second largest city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There will be 105 guestrooms, with Penthouse suites located on the 7th floor. A main feature of the hotel will be the Cafe Astoria, once part of a bank that occupied the palace, which will have its original Belle Époque elements restored. The hotel will also have an urban spa with pool and sauna.

InterContinental Doha West Bay, Qatar (late 2011)

InterContinental Doha West Bay will be part of a 60-storey tower located in the Doha city center, close to the main shopping and business districts. The 540-room hotel will have suites and serviced residences, as well as a Club InterContinental. There will be extensive dining options, including a steak house, sushi bar and dim sum restaurant. Some of the restaurants will be located on the 55th and 56th levels, with views of the city. Another standout feature: an outdoor sky pool located on the 46th floor.

InterContinental London Westminster, England (early 2012)

InterContinental London Westminster will occupy the former Queen Anne’s Chambers, originally built in the 19th century. The 254-room hotel is InterContental’s second London property and only a short walking distance to major landmarks including Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Royal Parks and the London Eye.

Oprah’s lucky audience lands in Australia, begins eight-day adventure

There are a number of times we wish we’d been audience members on Oprah, but none more so than the day when she gave away a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Australia to celelbrate her 25th and final season.

Dubbed “Oprah’s Ultimate Australian Adventure,” the journey for 302 lucky individuals officially begins today as show members arrived on a 747 in Sydney, Australia.

The audience members hail from 38 U.S. states, as well as 13 from Canada and one from Jamaica. Audience members will be staying at Intercontinental Sydney, their home for the duration of their stay in the harbour city.

Comprising 242 women and 60 men, including 48 couples, and ranging in age from 18 to 75, the audience will travel throughout Australia, with various groups visiting all eight Australian states and territories. Following their excursions, the audience members will reunite for two tapings of “The Oprah Winfrey Show” at Sydney Opera House on December 14. The programmes are scheduled to air in the U.S. in syndication in January 2011.

Said Andrew McEvoy, Managing Director, Tourism Australia, “We are thrilled that viewers of these shows will get to see a broad spectrum of life throughout Australia, with all eight states and territories on the itinerary. We’re proud to welcome Oprah’s ultimate audience members to Australia.”

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,