New Year’s Eve Party Cities, the Best and Worst

New Year’s Eve parties will be happening all over the USA tomorrow night, from the charmingly small and nerdy to the wildly extravagant. But where to party the night away?

fireworksWith so many cities known for their NYE extravagance, how do you choose? Well some are just better than others. In fact, TravelMag.com recently published a survey comparing New Year’s Eve hotel rates for 30 major destinations in the USA as well as a comparison to regular rates.

The prices shown reflect the rates on December 31, 2014 for the cheapest available double room in a centrally-located hotel that is rated at least 3 stars. Regular rates reflect the price for the least expensive double room the week that follows (January 7–8, 2015). Here’s the Top 10

1. New Orleans $359 (+ 302%)           6. Nashville $284 (+ 167%)
2. Atlantic City $350 (+ 586%)            7. Denver $269 (+ 108%)
3. New York City $345 (+ 287%)        8. Las Vegas $249 (+ 117%)
4. Miami Beach $313 (+ 144%)            9. Savannah $223 (+ 153%)
5. Honolulu $284 (+ 162%)                 10. Los Angeles $209 (+ 36%)

Ok, so you can drop the Big Easy from your list…so where can you score that midnight kiss? How about Louisville, Kentucky? What about the Galt House Hotel? It boasts as the most elaborate in town, with three parties in three locations, each offering a variety of packages that range in cost from $50 per person to $375 for two.

How about San Juan, Puerto Rico? With warm temps and plenty of cocktails, San Juan is an excellent destination for winter visits and a party-hopping New Year’s. Even without the coquito—a Puerto Rican version of eggnog popular this time of year—San Juan ranks in the Top 10 for looks, style, and friendliness.

Or just around the corner from us in Atlanta, the quaint coastal city of Savannah offers a carefree New Year’s Eve, and is pedestrian-friendly as well as being just plain old friendly. There’s plenty that’s free and easy here on December 31: fireworks at Tybee Pier and a free music festival at City Market. If you’re up for it on January 1, you can also do the annual Polar Bear Plunge into the chilly Atlantic.

Wherever your NYE travel plans take you, book your hotel with XciteGO and be sure to get the best price!

not another tie! this year give the gift he really wants–travel!

What did you get for your SO last year? What about for dad? Can you recall? Consumers wrap up a lot of presents that are quickly forgotten. Consider a new approach…

So this year, why not give the gift of travel?

The great thing about the gift of travel is you build memories together as a family or a couple. It also gives you something to look forward to and helps break up the monotony of winter. If this winter is anything like the last, we’ll all need a break.

Not an expensive trip to Jamaica, but rather an affordable weekend getaway somewhere to unwind. You can buy packages to ring in the new year somewhere or simply slip away in January or February when many hotels slash their rates. In fact, you can save between 20 to 50 percent off. Places you may have never considered because you thought it was out of your price range may not be if you book now and travel this winter.

A trip to Wales that’s just for women:
Caerphilly_Castle,_Wales
The June 15-26, 2015 departure comes with a early booking bonus of five per cent off, when you book and pay in full by Jan. 31. The trip focuses on experiences and includes a hands-on cooking demonstration at the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre in Conwy Valley, a wine tasting in Nantlle Valley and a Welsh-language lesson.

There’s also a garden tour in Abergwyngregin and a visit to a sheep farm in the Snowdonia Mountains. There’s even a “game of bowls” at a Bowling Club in the village of Penmaenmawr. The group size for the Women Only Wales tour is capped at 22 people and nine of the 10 nights are at Can-Y-Bae hotel in the seaside resort town of Llandudno. The trip is priced at $3,875 per person with a $500 deposit required at time of booking. Airfare is not included. See dhgrouptours.com.

Let It Sonoma
Sonoma California

The upscale Farmhouse Inn in California’s Sonoma County has a new package for holiday travel. Available through Jan. 11, Let It Sonoma includes a two-night stay, mulled wine or spiced cider upon arrival, daily three-course breakfast and wine tastings with local winemakers. The price is $1,395 (U.S.) per couple for two nights. Accommodation is in a king deluxe barn room, which sounds rustic, but, in fact, offers 51 square metres of space, a tub with jets and views of the forest, an indoor-outdoor fireplace and a deck. See the Packages & Specials link at farmhouseinn.com.

Celebration Rate at Delta Toronto
Toronto

Friends and family visiting Toronto have a new hotel choice and a new deal for the holiday season. The Delta Toronto has opened on Lower Simcoe St. The hotel has 567 rooms and suites and is within walking distance of the Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre, the CN Tower and Ripley’s Aquarium. Introductory rates start at $169 per night for stays Dec. 18, 2014-Jan. 11, 2015, excluding Dec. 31. The deal is subject to availability and a two-night minimum stay applies. See deltahotels.com (promo code HF2).

Best buy of the week
Cruise Lines

South America and Panama Canal cruises onboard NCL’s Norwegian Pearl and Norwegian Sun are on sale. A new promotion entitled “Buy One, Get One Half Off” (BOGOHO) means two passengers travelling together get their second cruise fare half-off. Bookings must be made by Dec. 14. See ncl.com.

‘Tis the Season for Houseguests, but Not if You Live in Portland…

House GuestsIs your guest room (and likely your couch) already full? Here’s a few Portland hotels that are ready to take some of that burden off your hands and give you some much-needed R&R this season.

The Ace Hotel offers a deal on holiday shopping with its Stick It to the Man package, which gets you 10% off accommodations (excluding shared bathroom guest rooms) and wares from local retailers, artists, and designers. Book and stay by January 31. 1022 SW Stark St

Hotel deLuxe’s Romance Holiday package offers a night of snuggling, while watching Roman Holiday, sipping local Pinot Noir, and munching on Portlandia popcorn and chocolates. 729 SW 15th Ave

The Benson Hotel gives the gift of shopping with a Holiday Shopper packages, which includes deluxe accommodations, a $25 Macy’s gift card, shopping tote, %10 savings pass, and a free photo coupon for Macy’s SantaLand. Valid through December 30. 309 SW Broadway

Play Santa with St. Lucia’s holiday deal, which includes discounts on local boutiques and a gift bag full of goods from Steven Smith Teamaker, Bee Local Honey, Jacobsen Salt, and Oregon Olive Mill olive oil.Valid through January 1. 400 SW Broadway (P.S. sister hotel The Sentinel offers the same holiday package at 614 SW 11th Ave)

Save this winter at the Hotel Rose with 15-20% discounts on one- or two-night stays, pineapple cupcakes included. Book by January 19, valid through February 28. 50 SW Morrison St

Hotel Monaco’s Sleep with Hazel deal celebrates one’s of Oregon’s locally grown specialties—hazelnuts! Stay and share your hotel room with native hazelnut tree seedling, hazelnut amenities, and a hazelnut Christmas ornament. Available all December. 506 SW Washington St

Spend New Year’s at The Nines, where special holiday offerings include accommodations for two, parking, and breakfast at discount rates. 525 SW Morrison

Book the Paramount Hotel’s Season’s Giving package and donate a toy at check-in to KGW Great Toy Drive to receive a $25 gift card to Powell’s City of Books and valet parking during your stay. Available until December 14. 808 SW Taylor St

Counteract your shopping coma and book a relaxing stay in the Columbia River Gorge at Skamania Lodge. Choose from three holiday packages, which feature cozy rooms, dinner with credit at $100 for two, a $50 gift card, and a collectible ornament. 1131 SW Skamania Lodge Way, Stevenson, WA

The SEC Championship is coming to ATL! Here’s the best places to stay in town.

SEC LogosThe 2014 SEC Championship Game will be played this Saturday, December 6, 2014, at Atlanta’s very own Georgia Dome. The game will determine the 2014 football champion of the Southeastern Conference (SEC) and will be played between Alabama and Missouri.

And of course, the game is drawing quite a crowd to downtown ATL with many hotels already booked up. Some still have space and are hoping to attract those procrastinators with a little love…

The Artmore Hotel has rates starting at $189, including free wifi and 2 drink coupons. They are also conveniently located across the street from MARTA’s Arts Center station giving you direct access to the GA Dome. Their relaxing courtyard features a fire pit, for a pre and post game cocktail. But the offer is only available by phone! Call now to take advantage 404.876.6100.

Two more comfortable hotels on call for SEC weekend are Homewood Suites by Hilton Atlanta Midtown and Hilton Garden Inn Atlanta Midtown, right down the street from the Georgia Dome, so you don’t have to worry about traffic on game day. And of course, what’s game day without food?! Atlanta has several amazing restaurants that will fill you up and keep you full through the game. We’re looking forward to seeing the top two teams at the SEC Championship Game!

The best new (and comeback) hotels in the world: Readers’ choice awards 2014

Read full article here.

Six properties with barely opened doors have already made it onto your list of favorite hotels—from the cheerful Hotel Vermont in New England to the ultra-romantic, adults-only Nayara Springs in Costa Rica. This year, two iconic properties that had been closed for lengthy and extensive renovations—the 489-year-old Gritti Palace in Venice and the 259-year-old D’Angleterre in Copenhagen—are right back on the Readers’ Choice Awards list.

  • 1. Nayara Springs, Arenal, Costa Rica

    Courtesy of Nayara Springs

    This new boutique hotel is a Costa Rican dream for anyone looking for a secluded vacation spot. Nayara Springs is perched at the top of a rainforest, surrounded by tropical plants and creeks with gorgeous views of Arenal Volcano. Sixteen private villas include plunge pools, gardens, and open-air showers. Located 2 ½ hours from San Jose, this adults-only hotel gets high scores for service, and the spa has indulgent treatments with volcanic mud and chocolate clay.

  • 2. The Langham, Chicago, IL

    Courtesy Langham Chicago

    The Langham Chicago’s airy lobby boasts accents of pink—the hotel chain’s signature color. (It’s even available in a nail polish hue, for sale in the hotel’s charming gift shop). The ceiling sculpture, one of many interesting works of art collected for the hotel, was designed to reflect the flow of the Chicago River. Decorated in two different color tones, guest rooms feature stunning views of the Chicago River, frosted privacy glass concealing the bathroom, and—our favorite feature—a fantastically slick bespoke “cellarette” (a small, portable wine cooler). The rooms’ clean lines and simple elegance pay homage to Mies van der Rohe’s minimalist aesthetic.

  • 3. The Thompson, Chicago, IL

    Courtesy The Thompson

    Four things really stand out at the Windy City’s 247-room Thompson hotel: the superlative service, the location (in the heart of the Gold Coast), the rooms (with their jewel-toned furniture, enormous windows, especially huge showers, and REN products), and, most of all, the restaurant. Ambitious and delicious, Nico Osteria is noted Chicago chef Paul Kahan’s first venture in a hotel. For breakfast, try the tripe alla romana with a sunny-side up egg on top. At dinner, there’s crudo and house-made pasta, like the killer squid ink bucatini with pine nuts, chili, mint, and sardines in carpione.

  • 4. Hotel Vermont, Burlington, VT

    Courtesy Hotel Vermont

    The hotel, opened in 2013, is country-contemporary: modern and sleek, yet also warm and welcoming. It hotel stays true to its home state, offering both locally manufactured products and local food—showcased by three great dining establishments, including the second outpost of ‘Vermont’s favorite restaurant,’ Hen of the Woods. Burlington’s urban center—with great shopping, cuisine, and nightlife—is just a few short books away, while Lake Champlain, framed by the distant Adirondacks, remind you that nature is just at hand.

  • 5. The Gritti Palace (Luxury Collection), Venice, Italy

    Courtesy The Gritti Palace

    Built in 1525, this Venetian-Gothic palace is the former residence of the Vatican ambassadors to Venice. You can’t beat the location on the Grand Canal; interiors present a hand-painted grand piano, woven rugs, marble tiles, and gold-trimmed ceilings. Rooms are done in green, blue, yellow, rose, and ivory and furnished with period antiques. Take in views of the Grand Canal at Club del Doge while dining on Venetian cuisine prepared with local ingredients from the Rialto Market.

  • 6. The Pearl, Rosemary Beach, FL

    Courtesy The Pearl

    Lovers of both technology and luxury will find a happy mix of both at The Pearl, which features in-room iPads and Apple TVs alongside poolside mani-pedis and private balconies overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The hotel boasts a stretch of private beach, and you can opt for spa treatments in a cabana next to the beach. For a truly luxe experience, book the Pearl Suite, an observatory room inside the resort’s clock tower, which provides gorgeous ocean views from nearly every angle.

Indonesia Grows Its Hotel Capacity

Read full article here.

Indonesia Grows Its Hotel Capacity
PHOTO: The Fairmont Sanur Beach Resort is located on the beach where Balinese tourism began. (Courtesy of Fairmont Sanur Beach Resort)

The first Western impressions of the islands we call Indonesia today inspired Jonathon Swift to write “Gulliver’s’ Travels.” Dutch sailors returned to Europe with tales, often embellished, of thousands of islands each containing completely separate cultures. Out of these stories he created the divergent islands in his classic.

Modern tourism to Indonesia began at Sanur Beach on the island of Bali. Originally a fishing village, Sanur started to evolve in the 1920s into a bohemian community and later, a preferred holiday destination of socialites, celebrities and royalty. Bali really took off when James Michener included an idyllic island of Bali in his Tales of the South Pacific.

Of course, that island was located thousands of miles away, but the traveling public latched onto the notion of a heavenly island of Bali and misconstrued the two. The Indonesian Bali was paradisiacal enough to stand in.

Things have certainly changed. These days Bali vies with the Thai island of Phuket for the title of top vacation island in Southeast Asia. Despite efforts by Indonesian tourism officials to highlight its many other islands, developers continue to add to Bali’s hotel inventory. This year Indonesia for the first time became the top destination for Australian tourists overtaking New Zealand.

Though Americans may think of Bali as an exotic long-haul destination known for its sensual brand of Hinduism, its proximity to powerful source markets in Asia and Australia has increasingly reinforced its identity as a beach destination despite efforts by Balinese Hindu leaders and environmentalists to dial back tourism and preserve the island’s cultural heritage. The Indonesian Hindu Association hopes to stop plans by the Indonesian government to develop tourism sites around the Besakih temple and the volcanic Mount Agung.

While Balinese Hindus see Mount Agung as the center of creation, developers continue to see Bali as the center of Indonesian tourism. “Moving into 2015, Bali is looking at a mass-market strategy backed by the Indonesian government announcing visa waivers for five countries – China, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Australia,” said C9 Hotelworks Managing Director Bill Barnett. “It’s a pointed market pivot as it recognizes the potential of both the island’s core business and the leading emerging markets. At mid-year 2014, over 90 percent of visitors to Bali came from Asia Pacific source markets.”

Fairmont is the latest big brand to plant their footprint the sand at Sanur Beach. The Fairmont Sanur Beach Bali, a 120 all-suite-and-villa resort situated along the southeastern shore of the island was formerly the Regent Bali, a Condé Nast Traveler’s 2014 Hot List property. The resort joins Fairmont just as the chain readies to open the Fairmont Jakarta in 2015, and a second Fairmont property in Bali in 2016.

According to Barnett “there is an expanding halo effect from the existing critical mass of destination visitors and recently improved infrastructure that is now expanding into Lombok, the Gili Islands, Sumba and Flores. Not only is tourism seeing expanded demand in these areas, but property developers are starting to recognize that opportunities are on the rise to tap into a Greater Bali economic picture.”

In 2011, the new Lombok International Airport replaced Selaparang Airport, which had been the main gateway into Lombok. Lombok’s emergence as an alternative to Bali is driving growth in the island’s room inventory, which is expected to double to 4,500 rooms by 2022. The island of Sumba, 250 miles southeast of Bali and twice its size, is also adding hotels.

Two Americans, Claude and Petra Graves created the Nihiwatu Resort (pictured below) with a desire to protect Sumbanese culture through The Sumba Foundation. The resort was then acquired by hotelier James McBride, the former president of YTL Hotels and brand building entrepreneur Chris Burch in 2012.

Nihiwatu has 21 villas built from thatch and wood. The resort sits on 580 acres of land (only 10 percent of which is developed) and one and half miles of beach. The majority of the grounds were left in their wild natural state. Terraced villas, bar and restaurant pavilions, boathouse and jungle spa give the resort a feel of rustic luxury. The villas overlook a sweeping bay on the Indian Ocean. All have sand-floored bathrooms and private pools. The emphasis is on open plan living that reflects the simplicity and beauty of Sumbanese architecture.

The mile-and-a-half-long beach is bracketed by two rocky headlands and fronts one of the world’s great surfing waves that delivers left-folding tubes (and the surfers inside) to within a hundred yards of the resort’s boathouse; and Nio Beach Bar. Besides world-class surfing, the resort offers sport fishing, hiking through dramatic waterfalls, ancient villages and butterfly trails, stand-up paddling down the Wanukaka River and spa treatments by the beach.


PHOTO: Indonesia’s roaring economy is driving new hotel creation in Jakarta like this DoubleTree by Hilton. (Courtesy of DoubleTree by Hilton)

Business travelers are also driving hotel growth in the nation’s capital of Jakarta. Indonesia is a major economic power and a member of the G20. In June, Hilton opened the first DoubleTree by Hilton in Jakarta. DoubleTree by Hilton is Hilton’s fastest growing brand. The 253-room hotel offers three F&B outlets, an outdoor pool and more. The hotel is located about three miles from Jakarta’s Central Business District in an area popular with multinational companies, embassies, government offices as well as shopping, dining and entertainment landmarks such as Plaza Indonesia and Grand Indonesia.

The Regent Jakarta, a luxury hotel and residential project, will open in early 2018. The new property will be a mixed-use development that’s comprised of a hotel with 126 guestrooms and suites, 107 exclusive residences, dining, and meeting facilities within Mangkuluhur City.

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