Daily Pampering: St. Regis Hotels & Resorts ‘Aficionado Experiences’

There’s one way to proclaim your luxury status, and then there’s the St. Regis way of proclaiming your luxury status. The luxury hotel group just rolled out their new events calendar and it’s nothing short of dreamy.

The St. Regis Aficionado Experience calendar hosts some of the most elite experiences, offered exclusively to St. Regis customers. Some of the Aficionado experiences are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, so listen close luxury-lovers:

  • The St. Regis New York introduces the Costume Institute experience celebrating The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute exhibition, American Woman: Fashioning a National Identity with a guided tour of the exhibit, a chauffeured and an exclusive shopping experience curated by influential stylist Cameron Silver. Furthermore, with the offer guests will stay in the hotel’s luxurious and fashionable Bottega Veneta Suite.
  • The Lanesborough in London invites guests to experience celebrated polo event, the St. Regis International Cup in Cowdray. With this offer, available in May, guests will have access to a personal stylist and shopper to get dressed for the exciting sporting event and exclusive VIP access and seating at the match.
  • Enjoy a day at the Sport Driving School at The St. Regis Atlanta where guests will receive private driving lessons from a professional instructor and experience firsthand Porches’ newest 911 Turbo model.
  • Throughout the year at The St. Regis Punta Mita Resort, guests can discover Mexico City’s most tantalizing cuisine with a private tour of the region’s charming San Juan Market led by the resort’s chef and topped off with an intimate four-course dinner.
  • A private tour of Beijing’s world-renowned modern art districts 798 and Caochangdi, where a cross-cultural exchange of cutting-edge contemporary art reflects visions of the future.

Other St. Regis Aficionado Experiences include the rare opportunity to taste the world’s most distinguished private label cognacs at The Lanesborough; a tour of Fendi’s design studios and the opportunity to custom design a coat available at The St. Regis Grand Hotel, Rome; a personalized luxury shopping spree featuring private showings at Prada, Gucci and more at The St. Regis Aspen Resort; a skating lesson with Kristi Yamaguchi at The St. Regis San Francisco; golf on the same course as Vijay Singh at The St. Regis Bali Resort, and so much more.

This is pampering at its best. If you crave a taste of the luxe-life, grab your Louis Vitton vintage, put on your Prada pumps and make a reservation with the St. Regis for a day of ultimate extravagance.

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Luxury hotels still discounting in 2010

If you didn’t book a luxury trip last year, don’t worry; you didn’t miss your big opportunity. Without a doubt, 2009 was hell on the luxury travel market. It was rough on just about every luxury business, frankly. And while the economy looks like its taking a step in the right direction this year, it’s not doing so fast enough for luxury travel providers. Look for another year of discounts, according to industry tracking firm Rubicon. Properties like the Four Seasons, St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Mandarin Oriental are going to have to bite the bullet again in 2010.

According to Rubicon, luxury hotels are booking more business at this point in the year than they did in the same period in 2009 – but only 4.6 percent more. Meanwhile, the average rate they’re fetching is off 13.2 percent. Clearly, the upscale properties are buying guests with discounts. Of course, luxury on sale still isn’t cheap. You’re looking at $325 a night instead of $389 a night a year ago, Rubicon reports, based on bookings made as of February 1.

“Hotel companies are not rushing to lift the rates and slow that tide of recovery,” Rubicon CEO Steve Swope told USA Today. “So the other good news is: there are some real bargains out there for consumers. Now’s a good time to get out and travel. In another 18 to 24 months, the rates seen today are not going to be there anymore.”

Starwood accuses Hilton of corporate espionage

Two of the largest hotel chains in the world are locked in battle — legal battle. Starwood Hotels has accused 44 of Hilton‘s top executives of stealing trade secrets. Christopher Nassetta, the CEO of Hilton, is alleged to have known about this activity, according to an amended complaint that Starwood filed with the Manhattan federal court. The object of affection thievery was the luxury category of Starwood’s portfolio, including the St. Regis, W and The Luxury Collection.

According to Starwood’s complaint, Nassetta is said to be under “intense pressure” to deliver the financial returns expected by the Blackstone Group, the private equity firm that paid $26 billion for Hilton in 2007. The complaint further states, “Intense pressure — whether from Blackstone or otherwise — is no excuse for corporate espionage, and it is no excuse for the massive theft and widescale use of confidential and proprietary Starwood information.”

According to a USA Today report, Hitlton’s spokesman, Aaron Radelet, declined to comment, because the company doesn’t discuss pending litigation.

Starwood is looking to appoint monitors to make sure that Hilton complies with all injunctions, and it’s also seeking a court-imposed “time out” period during which Hilton wouldn’t be able to move forward with its luxury brands.

[Photo by p c w via Flickr]

Missing your pet when you travel? Just borrow one

I love my two cats and I miss them dearly them when I travel for extended periods of time. Though there are more and more options for traveling with a pet, I’m still not about to bring them with me. It’s just too expensive, too much of a hassle, and too much stress on the pet to fly them with me for a two-week jaunt. So they stay home and I snuggle-attack any furry friends I happen to make along my travels.

For dog lovers, there’s another option available. As Peter Greenberg showcases in a video posted on his site, several hotels around the country are now offering special pet “rental” programs. At select Fairmont hotels, guests can borrow a dog for a day to take it out on a walk around town.

At the Fairmont Tremblant in Quebec, Gracie the canine ambassador is available for walks. At the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston, Catie the former guide-dog fills the role. Other hotels offer similar programs, like the Ritz Carlton Bachelor Gulch in Beaver Creek. Greenberg also highlights a program run by a shelter near Aspen. The shelter “rents” out dogs up for adoption for play dates. Many local hotels like the St. Regis and The Little Nell even allow the dogs to stay overnight. Of course, as Greenberg points out, the hope is that the temporary owner will then become a permanent one.

So next time you are traveling and missing your pets at home, you may not be out of luck. Just look for a hotel that offers one of these innovative pet-lover-friendly programs.

[via Peter Greenberg]

New Nicklaus course to open in Punta Mita next month

A new Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Course is opening next month, so you may want to start planning immediately. On November 16, 2009, Nicklaus himself will hit the ceremonial first tee shot at the new Punta Mita Bahia golf course. This is the second of his courses at Punta Mita – he designed Punta Mita Pacifico, which opened in 1999. Both Bahia and Pacifico are part of the private Punta Mita Club de Golf and are reserved for Punta Mita homeowners and guests.

The new course is just shy of 30 miles from the Puerto Vallarta International Airport and is on a peninsula in the Pacific Ocean that boasts 9.5 miles of beach. So, even if you aren’t a golfer, there’s a reason to head out to Punta Mita. But, this really is a golfer’s escape. Five holes play along the ocean, and another two have views of the water. From December to April, you can get a great look at the humpback whale migration from the course.

“You would be hard-pressed to ask for a more beautiful backdrop for a golf course than Punta Mita,” says course designer Jack Nicklaus. “To be given spectacular oceanfront land as a canvas not once, but twice, here at Punta Mita is exciting for a designer, and it reflects a commitment from ownership to provide a memorable golf experience. I’m confident people are going to enjoy the challenge and beauty of this golf course, as well as the incredible scenery.”

Holes 15 and 17 on Bahia are said to be the most memorable. For 15, the approach shot gives you a great view of Banderas Bay and the Puerto Vallarta skyline. Look out, though, it’s green has a tricky drop-off and a nasty bunker. The 17th hole – a 387-yeard par 4 with a short dogleg left – follows the contour of a cove and offers a small waterfront green.

The new course is a par 72 and has Miniverde greens built to USGA standards. There are five par 3s, eight par4s and five par 5s. Both courses wrap around both the residential communities and the St. Regis Punta Mita Resort.