I was pretty blown away by this concept, which I ran into on MSNBC yesterday. It seems that the Los Angeles Andaz hotel and the Andaz in New York City have both gotten rid of the front desk. Instead, the hotel is greeting guests with a “host” bearin wine, a great chair and the chance to choose a room by laptop. The move, intended to be high-touch and personal, has played differently in both locations – welcomed in LA and not so much in Manhattan.
Yet, it could signal the next big trend in the hotel industry. The personal welcomes do focus more on the guest, and the thought of waiting in a comfy lobby chair instead of standing in line laden with baggage is pretty attractive. So far, Courtyard by Marriott has moved away from the front desk concept in 201 of its 800 lobbies in the United States, favoring “welcome pedestals” instead. By 2013, it hopes to complete the transition.
Several thousand customers who already carried Starwood Preferred Guest cards were texted their room numbers before arriving at the Aloft Lexington in Massachusetts, allowing them to bypass the front desk and head to their floor. Once there, they simply tapped their preferred guest card on the door lock for room access. That pilot program is being expanded to Alofts in Harlem, Brooklyn, Jacksonville, Fla. and Brussels, Belgium.
James Sinclair, principal of OnSite Consulting, which focuses on the hospitality and restaurant industries, expects the front-desk concept to last another 36 months. In addition to appealing to many travelers, the move is expected to cut operating costs and give hotels a bit more breathing room follow a trying economic period.
How do people get to the United States? Well, most of them seem to come in through the same places, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. The top 15 ports of entry handled 83 percent of all arrivals in July 2010. This is a 2 percentage-point drop from July 2009, but it’s still a substantial concentration.
Three spots were responsible for 38 percent of all incoming visitors from outside the United States: New York JFK Airport, Miami and Los Angeles. This is off a percentage point from July 2009. Meanwhile, 13 of the top 15 ports of entry in the United States sustained traffic growth from July 2009 to July 2010, seven of them in double digits.
The locals hate midtown, and we just got another reason why.
It turns out that visiting the most heavily trafficked neighborhood in Manhattan could be hazardous to your health. Noise is the problem. Of course, it comes as no shock that parts of Manhattan can be quite loud. People, taxi horns and construction represent just part of the list that can rattle your ears and, eventually, cost you your hearing.
According to a study being released today at the International Conference on Urban Health at The New York Academy of Medicine, there are several neighborhoods where the risk to your hearing is substantial, especially for residents who become accustomed to it over time.
Most readings – even in several small parks meant to be oases of green and calm – were above 70 decibels. People whose daily noise exposure tops an average of 70 decibels can lose some of their hearing over time, said Richard Neitzel, a University of Washington research scientist and another of the study’s authors.
The result, of course, is that people have nowhere to go for a little peace and quiet.
Some of the noisiest spots in the city aren’t where you’d think to find them. Of course, midtown is noisy, but First Avenue above 14th Street? Broadway in Inwood? Well, these are the city’s trucking routes, which kicks up the decibels a bit. The Lower East Side, East Village and West Village, it seems, have fewer buffers and the added complication of nightlife – not a problem on the Upper West Side (I can assure you), which is fairly quiet.
I would not have been surprised to find the likes of Denis Diderot and Jean-Jacques Rousseau sitting across from me Friday night. Reviving a concept only too scarce since the end of the eighteenth century, the Roger Smith Hotel was host to a dinner that centered on the exchange of ideas and the appreciation of art. The creators themselves were in attendance, flanked by friends, admirers and even the lowly folks who sit on the sidelines and chronicle these affairs. In midtown Manhattan, known for flocks of tourists eager to consume the same eye-candy as the previous wave, it was a rare reprieve from the commodity norm.
The arts are important to the Roger Smith Hotel, evident from the Lexington Avenue sidewalk in front of the property. A look inside THE LAB, home to installation and performance art, shows what can be done with a converted storefront to provide intellectual depth and enrichment in a world characterized by the swift progress of passers by, not unlike the 25CPW studio on the Upper West Side and other non-traditional gallery spaces. As you move farther up the street and turn to the main entrance, the interactive display immediately to your right drives the point home. In fact, it was the reason I was at the hotel in the first place.
The inside wall of the Roger Smith Hotel’s entrance changes regularly based on the whim and fancy of anybody who chooses to walk by. Framed magnetic pop art images from the “iheart” project are stacked on the floor when not stuck to the wall, and staff, guests and just about anyone else can pick them up and rearrange them in an attempt to make a point or express a feeling. It’s fun, hands on and expressive. You become a part of the exhibition.
The crip autumn air and accompanying glass of white wine provided the perfect frame of mind for the iheart dinner: it was impossible to avoid clarity, openness and a sense of excitement after viewing the city below with the lubricating effects of the vino, of course.
The room had filled in my absence, and upon first inspection, it was evident that a varied crowd would make for a lively and insightful evening. Salient eccentricity made the artists easy to identify, and clusters of conversation indicated which guests were present in support of the creators. Interestingly, the artists were not holding court in these disparate collections of discourse. Rather, their palpable humility made interpretation the main event, as observations tended to trump explanations. Underscoring this dynamic was a video projected on a screen at the front of the room, showing the variations on the front door display that had already come to life … and departed. Punctuating the conversation were pauses to look up, yielding the knowing looks of some and the expressions of awe by others.
With iheart being the guiding theme of the dinner, it followed naturally that the artists in attendance were responsible for variations on the original, having put their own imprimaturs on this spirited concept. In a sense, it was a vast, asynchronous collaboration, involving unique and divergent perspectives that nonetheless came together into a cohesive whole. An international effort representing three continents, a bevy of accents and broad range of experiences came together seamlessly, demonstrating that a shared mission can translate to a spectacular outcome, even without strict and rigid control.
As the meal was served and the table filled with plates, wine glasses and the spoken word shooting to and fro, with the original conversation groups mixing into new pockets of insight on art and art market issues. It was impossible not to share ideas, even while chomping on the pasta served by the hotel, given the diversity sitting elbow-to-elbow. I was particularly excited to speak with Kosuke Fujitaka, co-founder of NY Art Beat, which has an iPhone app listing in granular detail the city’s many (and perhaps otherwise unknown) art exhibitions.
The evening drew to a close, and I again retired to the rooftop bar to smoke a Guillermo Leon Signature cigar, sip my final glass of wine and watch the staff collect the blankets from the chairs (a nice touch for combating the late-night chill) as they wound down, too. The direct exchange of ideas was ending, though it would doubtless continue through the Roger Smith’s interactive exhibition, the online presence of the iheart project and, of course, the collective and separate efforts of the artists and onlookers.
Doubtless, Diderot and Rousseau would have been proud. If slightly divergent from their experiences, the spirit was certainly present, contrasting wildly with the relative mayhem of the streets 16 floors below. ArtWeLove, iheart and the Roger Smith created an experience nearly absent from today’s social lexicon, reviving the art of thinking for its own sake.
If you want to travel like a local, then it makes sense to know something about your destination … and isn’t the best city to live attractive? It’s the kind of place you’d want to explore and see why it’s so loved. And at the same time, you’d probably want to avoid the worst of the worst – who would want to go there?
Well, a new Harris Interactive poll makes this thinking hard to execute, USA Today reports. According to 2,620 Americans, the best and worst are exactly the same. Asked the city in or near which they’d most like to live, New York came out on top. This hasn’t changed (except once) since Harris began posing the question in 1997.
Now, the other side of the issue, what is the most loathed city in America? Well, it seems to be New York. San Francisco and Los Angeles also made both lists.
To see the top and bottom 10, take a look below:
Top of the heap:
1. New York
2. San Diego
3. Las Vegas
5. San Francisco
6. Los Angeles
7. Atlanta (a tie)
Bottom of the barrel
1. New York
3. Los Angeles
10. Phoenix (tied with New Orleans)