InterContinental Hotels tests tiered WiFi options

It’s not free, but it’s something…

The InterContinental Hotels & Resorts chain are experimenting with a system of tiered WiFi in a few of its hotels.

Guests at InterContinental Times Square in New York City, InterContinental Chicago and InterContinental Mark Hopkins in San Francisco are being offered the choice of WiFi options: low-bandwidth WiFi for $10 or high-bandwidth service for $15.

InterContinental is not the first hotel company to test the tiered option – other hotel groups including some Hilton brands and Golden Tulip Hospitality Group have offered varying levels of WiFi access for a price, allowing guests to choose how much they want to spend. Still, we’re standing firm on the notion that hotel WiFi should be free.

Readers: What are your thoughts? Does a tiered WiFi plan seem logical?

Five signs that the hotel meeting business is recovering

Business meetings are back in style. Group customer is on the rise for the hotel business, signaling that the corporate crowd Is getting back out on the road. Joining the party are other groups, such as associations, sports teams, religious groups, social organizations and the military, according to USA Today.

The U.S. Travel Association is predicting a 7 percent increase in meeting and convention spending this year, with a forecast of $90.7 billion. Last year, this measure fell 15 percent, as the effects of the financial crisis and subsequent recession led to cancelations.

To get the big bucks back in the door, hotels and convention bureaus have been rolling out favorable pricing and sweetheart deals, and it’s starting to work.

So, how do we know this sector’s coming back? Here are five hints:

1. The meeting planners say so: A June survey by Meeting Professionals International showed 61 percent of respondents saying “that they’re seeing more favorable business conditions, including attendance, budgets and number of meetings,” according to a USA Today report. Only 15 percent responded this way in August 2009.

2. Hotel groups say so: InterContinental Hotels Group has announced that its group and corporate revenue climbed 10 percent in the first half of 2010 relative to the same period in 2009. Denihan Hospitality Group’s eight New York City hotels are showing an increase in group revenue of 26 percent year-over-year.
3. Even Grand Rapids has good news: The JW Marriott in Grand Rapids, Michigan has sold more than 1,500 group room-nights so far this year, up 20 percent from last year.

4. So does Fort Lauderdale:
In this Florida town, group revenue is up 30 percent at the Harbor Beach Marriott. Corporate deals are still down from last year, but other groups are more than making up the difference.

5. Hotels understand what’s going on: Even though the market is coming back, hotels realize that they still need to price aggressively. Notes George Aquino, general manager of the Grand Rapids JW Marriott Everyone’s felt the turmoil of 2009. We don’t want that to happen again.”

[photo by msprague via Flickr]

The InterContinental Times Square to open July 12

Times Square’s newest hotel is set to open its doors on July 12. The InterContinental New York Times Square will offer 607 guestrooms overlooking the Manhattan skyline, Hudson River or Broadway district.

The InterContinental New York Times Square was designed to capture the essence of chic Manhattan residence, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, oversized bathrooms with walk-in rain showers, a work station complete with touch screen computers, a 42″ HDTV and wired and wireless Internet. A 24 hour business center and fitness facility offer convenience and comfort. The hotel is located at 44th Street and 8th Avenue, two blocks from Radio City Music Hall and within steps from some of Broadways best theaters.

The InterContinental New York Times Square will also open the French inspired bistro Ça Va, created by celebrity chef Todd English. The restaurant and bar overlooks Broadway, giving patrons a stellar view while dining and drinking.

For those wanting to try out the new digs, The Intercontinental Times Square has introduced a special grand opening offer of 25 percent off the best available rate for stays from July 12 – September 8, 2010. Act fast: this promo is only good if you book by June 15, 2010.

Hotel Economics: Hotels plan growth as global economy recovers

Is the hotel industry ready for a rebound? Based on the recent news of expansions and new properties from global hotel groups, it seems the hospitality industry is poised for a pristine few years.

InterContinental Hotel Group is continuing on its quest to keep the title of ‘world’s largest hotel operator’, recently announcing a global expansion that would increase the amount of its hotel rooms around the world by nearly one-third in the next three to four years. InterContinental, which owns various hotel brands including Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge and Candlewood Suites, currently operates more than 4,400 hotels and has 1,400 more in the pipeline, the majority of which will open in Europe.

The hotel group’s expansion means more hotels, but also more jobs. More than 100,000 jobs worldwide will be created in the InterContinental family. In the UK, where InterContinental plans to set up at least 36 new hotels, the hotel will hire an additional 3,500 employees to service the new properties, according to a statement from the hotel company in The Scotsman. In addition, the paper reports the InterContinental is putting plans in place for Scotland’s first five-star InterContinental-branded hotel.

InterContinental’s expansion isn’t the first we’ve heard about. JW Marriott announced plans to build 40 hotels in India by 2013; Kimpton and Hyatt are opening various hotels throughout the U.S. and earlier this year, Ritz-Carlton President Simon Cooper gave us some insight into new hotels emerging in Asia and the Middle East. But the question remains: can the hotels sell the rooms? According to a recent study of hotel room prices in Europe from trivago, more rooms are already selling for increased rates, which means more travelers are loosening their purse strings.The study shows the average price of hotels in Europe has increased 12 percent from March to April 2010, the highest point since October 2009.

What’s this mean for hotels?
The travel industry stays afloat due to basic supply-and-demand principles. Based on these numbers, the demand for hotel rooms has risen causing hotel operators to raise their rates – a good sign for a rebounding economy.

Trivago reports that most European cities have experienced price growths of 10 to 20 percent, and in popular tourist destination cities such as Rome, Barcelona and Istanbul, prices rose by as much as 42 percent. Additionally, occupancy in the three- and four-star hotels – which make up the majority of the properties in the InterContinental Hotel Group – rose 2.7 percent in Scotland, against increases of 3.8 percent in regional UK, 3.7 percent in England and 9 percent in Wales.

If the numbers continue to increase across the pond, the InterContinental and other hotel groups could be right on target with their global expansions.

The Brando eco-friendly beach resort to open in 2011

Did you know that Marlon Brando owned (and now his estate owns) an entire French Polynesian atoll 35 miles from Tahiti? Did you also know that Brando dreamed of creating an eco-friendly resort on the atoll? Well both are true, and by 2011 Brando’s dream will be a reality, thanks to Richard Bailey, CEO of Tahiti Beachcomber.

Bailey was a longtime friend of Brando’s and had been working with him on the project before Brando’s death in 2004. Bailey owns four InterContinental resorts in Tahiti and will use some of the same sustainable technology used at those resorts to make sure The Brando has as little impact on the surrounding environment as possible. One technology will use a pipe to bring cold water up from the depths of the sea and use it to provide cool air to the rooms – a practice that will have zero environmental impact.

The resort, which will be the only one on the 13-island chain of Tetiaroa that Brando bought in 1965, will feature 47 luxury villas, each with its own plunge pool, plus a spa, fitness center, and a resort pool. Activities at the resort will include snorkeling, scuba diving, and exploring the nearby islands and Tahitian culture. No word on how much a stay at the luxury eco-resort will cost, but no one ever said saving the environment didn’t come with a price.

[via ShermansTravel]