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Hotel News We Noted: June 14, 2013

rancho las palmas
Rancho Las Palmas Image Courtesy of Omni Hotels
Happy Friday, "Hotel News We Noted" readers. Summer is heating up, and that means that the hotel world is in full swing, promoting summer travel, touting new resort openings and even launching new initiatives. This column brings you the best, the weirdest and the most interesting news of note from the hospitality world each week. Have a tip, comment or question? Leave your note below or shoot us an email. We'd love to hear from you!

News of Note: Omni Gets Five
Dallas-based Omni Hotels & Resorts has gotten even grander as of July 1 with the acquisition of five of the country's best-known resorts. The five properties are Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, TX; La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, CA; Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, CA; The Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC; and The Homestead in Hot Springs, VA. We're excited for the addition of these new properties to the brand's portfolio – it gives us an even better way to use our loyalty points!

Wellness World: Trump Launches New Wellness Endeavor
We all know that Donald Trump doesn't do anything halfway. It's all in or "you're fired," as the catchphrase goes. So now, the brand has launched a comprehensive wellness program that blends healthy menus (Trump's "Nourish") with a healthy kids menu and super-fast-delivery menus ("Quick Bites"), plus has a fitness component ("Travel Fit") that includes delivery of equipment to the room plus apparel, footwear and an iPod. In addition to working with two of the best brands in the biz (Technogym and Under Armour), Trump has done a brand-wide sweep of all in-room dining, quick dining and minibar options to make them all healthier and locally focused wherever possible. Kudos to Trump for going over the top – in a very good way.

Hot, Tired Airline Patrons Sing R. Kelly's 'I Believe I Can Fly' In Protest To Long Wait Times

In a now viral video, passengers on an Allegiant Air flight from Phoenix to Las Vegas this past Sunday took matters into their own hands after allegedly being delayed on and off the tarmac for several hours – often with no air conditioning in the hot Nevada weather. Their solution to the high temperatures and tempers? Playing and singing along with R. Kelly's hit song, "I Believe I Can Fly."

User qtip83 posted the original link to Reddit, stating that he was flying back from a bachelor party with 15 of his friends when their flight was stuck for several hours due to mechanical problems.

This incident is raising concerns about passenger safety and the overall length of time people can be kept on the tarmac with mechanical problems.

Private Jet Travel For The 99 Percent: Book Your Private Jet Via Facebook Or App

jetsuite jet
Image via JetSuite
It's easier than ever to travel like the 1%. Tech-savvy travelers know that they can use services like Uber in many major cities to call a town car or SUV on demand. But what about air travel? Historically, private jets have been reserved for the ultra-wealthy and celebrities who can afford to keep that G-4 on 24/7 call.

Companies like NetJets have attempted to democratize the private airline industry, offering purchase of private jet hours at much lower price points than full ownership, but the barriers to entry are still there. A NetJets Marquis Jet Card allows people to purchase as few as 25 or 50 jet hours, but the cost is still around $120,000 for just a few hours in the air.

Of course, this may not seem pricey to companies who need to get somewhere now or those people who are already used to chartering planes for private use – the cost has been proven to be money saving, in some instances, for groups of business travelers used to traveling first class commercially.

But now a new breed of private jet companies has infiltrated the marketplace. Names like JetSuite and BlackJet are revolutionizing private aviation, transforming the term "jetsetter" into something nearly anyone can afford.

JetSuite, a private jet airline that launched in 2009, offers a guaranteed price quote for flights to more than 2,000 airports across North America and the Caribbean. CEO Alex Wilcox, a founder of JetBlue, certainly aims high – his goal is to make JetSuite "the Southwest Airlines of private jet travel."

He's well on his way. Through the company's "SuiteDeals," released daily via Facebook and Twitter, consumers can find empty leg sales opportunities ranging from $499 to $1,499 for next-day, one-way trips. The price isn't per person; it's per aircraft – on a Phenom 100 (seats four) or a Citation CJ3 (seats six). The type of aircraft is confirmed after booking.

Today, for example, one could fly from San Diego to St. George, Utah, for $536.43. A commercial flight on Delta would be $406, economy, with one stop in Salt Lake City.

BlackJet is essentially the Uber of private jets. The company lets you book private flights via iPhone app, reserving seats two days in advance on flights between San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and South Florida. Other cities are coming soon, like Chicago and Washington, D.C. Well-behaved pets are even permitted. The company has generated some serious buzz, raising over $3 million in funding with names like celebrity Ashton Kutcher and SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff backing the company.

It's a bit less populist than Uber. You have to be a "member" to book a trip – which means signing up online and waiting for approval. There's also a $2,500 "member fee" for your first flight. You won't get charged until you book that first ticket, but it's there. After that the flying part is pretty easy. You travel, then pay, and members enjoy guaranteed seats on flights. The cost is a bit more than JetSuite too, but the planes are bigger and the flights often longer.

A seat on a flight from DC to San Francisco for next week would cost $3,351 per person, compared with commercial economy flights from $253 (with stop) or first class from $732 (with stop). It's pricier than flying with the public, but still a lot cheaper than the comparable $20,000 to charter that plane on your own.

What do you think, readers? Would you try one of these new private jet models? We'd be thrilled to test either – but probably need to check our savings accounts first!

Government Drops Plan To Allow Small Knives On Planes

Flickr via Trevor Manternach
The TSA today announced that they are dropping the plan that would have permitted passengers to carry small knives and other previously banned items, like bats and golf clubs, on planes. These items have been banned since the attacks of September 11, 2001, when terrorists famously hijacked planes using items like box cutters as weapons.

TSA Administrator John Pistole formerly announced the plan to allow small knives (those under 2.36 inches long) and certain club-like sporting equipment back into carry-on luggage on March 5. Pistole had argued that relaxing the ban would allow security screeners to focus on items that posed a greater risk to air safety, such as explosives.

See TSA To Permit Pocket Knives And Golf Clubs On Planes (But Still Not Liquids

Back in April, CNN reported that the TSA was hearing additional testimony about the proposed ban reversal, and, as of today, the plan has officially been dropped.

The TSA had faced strong opposition to the ban reversal from airline CEOs, lawmakers, and relatives, friends and victims of terrorist attacks, among others. In total, nine groups petitioned legally against TSA and the Department of Homeland Security, USA Today reported.

Congressional representatives Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) also proposed legislation to ban the TSA from allowing knives and clubs back onto planes. At present, the TSA finds about 2,000 small knives per day during routine security searches.

"We will continue to take steps to improve our ever-evolving security posture while also improving the experience of the traveling public," Pistole said. "Risk-based security enhances the travel experience while allowing TSA to continue to keep passengers safe by focusing on those we know less about.

Are some groups still unhappy? Sure they are. The knife industry, for example, tried to fight back. But what do you think? Should the ban have been lifted? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Summer Travel: Luxe Hotels In Or Near National Parks

grand canyon
Flickr user YoTut
Planning a trip this summer? Why not make it family friendly with at trip to a national park? While we love spending our days hiking, biking or riding the river, we're not always about camping out or grabbing the nearest roadside motel after a long day outside. Here are some of our favorite luxe hotels in or near national parks:

Budget Tip: Time it right by visiting a National Park in the US on August 25th (National Park Service Birthday), September 28th (National Public Lands Day) or Veterans Day Weekend (November 9-11th), the parks won't charge admission!

Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone National Park is the world's first national park with 2.2 million acres of natural wonders and wild animals. Top sights include the Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Prismatic Spring on the Lower Loop, Mammoth Hot Springs on the Upper Loop and Yellowstone Falls near the shared section of the two. At the southern edge of Yellowstone Park lies Grand Teton National Park, which boasts majestic views of the jagged peaks of the Teton Ranges and miles of hiking and wildlife watching by Snake River.

Stay here:
Hotel Terra Jackson Hole (Jackson Hole, Wyoming)
Located at the gateway to Grand Teton National Park and a short one hour drive to the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park, the LEED-Silver Certified and AAA Four Diamond luxury Hotel Terra Jackson Hole's has a special "Passport to the Parks" package that offers three nights lodging, a seven-day park pass and more.

Or Try:
Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa (Teton Village, Wyoming)
The AAA Four Diamond Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa is also steps from the entrance to Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park and one hour south of Yellowstone. Their "National Park Explorer" package includes a $50 gas voucher and daily breakfast credit for a three-night stay, as well as a seven-day park pass.

Hotel News We Noted: May 31, 2013

hilton coffee display
Courtesy of Hilton Hotels
It's the last "Hotel News We Noted" of May, and we have lots of news to report. If you're just tuning in, each Friday, "Hotel News We Noted" brings readers the latest, most interesting and downright oddest news of note from the hospitality world.

Have a tip or a comment to share? Leave a note below or shoot us an email.

Wellness Lovers Unite: Miraval Comes to ... New Jersey?
When we envision a wellness retreat, New Jersey might not be the location we'd choose, but Miraval is betting that its loyal clientele will want to take their retreats east. Earlier this week, the brand announced plans to open a second resort in Somerset County on a property formerly owned by the King of Morocco. Dubbed "Miraval at Natirar," the property should open in 2014.

New Brand Alert: Tommie Hotels
Commune Hotels & Resorts, the parent company behind Thompson and Joie de Vivre hotels, this week announced the launch of Tommie, a value-oriented brand for stylish young travelers. Rooms are called "crash pads," meeting spaces are "incubators," and lounges are called "reading rooms." Self-check in, eclectic retail and gourmet grab-and-go foods should appeal to on-the-go travelers. The first location will be on 31st Street in Manhattan, and a West SoHo location is also planned, both of which anticipate a 2015 opening. What do you think?

Video: Red Bull's Cliff Diving World Series Kicks Off In France


For its fifth year, the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series has begun, offering daredevils around the world the chance to compete for a championship title and bragging rights.

Held for the fourth time in La Rochelle, France, the competition lasts for five months and through eight separate competition events, during which the cliff diving elite will launch from almost three times the Olympic diving height (a total of 27 meters high) in venues all over the globe, showing their most spectacular and difficult tricks, and overcoming rational fear to impress the judges and spectators alike. And to spice it all up, the 2013 World Series comes to its scariest location first: La Rochelle, France.

The above video highlights some of the weekend's craziest stunts and the winning dive by 29-year-old Russian Artem Silchenko. During the two-day event, nearly 70,000 fans watched jumpers take to the catacombs of the Saint Nicolas Tower, where they flipped, twisted and turned in a three-second free fall from a 27 meter platform into 12°C water below, falling at speeds up to 85 kph. This year's competition was made even more difficult by the cold temperatures and the 50kph winds.

The tour has several stops with a select pool of divers moving to each next round. The next stop on the tour is Copenhagen, Denmark, on June 21 and 22, followed by Portugal, Italy, Boston, the United Kingdom, Brazil and Thailand.

Can you think of a more extreme vacation activity? We sure can't.

TripAdvisor Dealt Another Blow: Hotel PR Exec Admits To Posting 100 Fake Reviews Online

trip advisor
Hotel and travel review site has come under fire in recent years for the abundance of fake reviews on its website, but many travelers still see the platform as the industry's leading place for "real" information about a hotel or destination.

But the site was dealt another blow this week when Peter Hook, a general manager of communications with Accor hotels in Sydney, Australia, admitted that he has posted 100+ anonymous reviews online in recent years, Travel Mole reported. Most of Hook's reviews were positive reviews about Accor hotels or critical reviews of the brand's competitors.

The company Kwikchex, which specializes in online reputation management, identified Hook, who wrote reviews under the name Tavare. Hook admits to writing the reviews, but claims that each "resulted from personally experiencing the product."

A spokesman for TripAdvisor told the Telegraph: "It would clearly be inappropriate for a senior executive of a hotel company to review hotels within their own company. All hotel reviews posted by this member are being removed pending investigation."

Hotel News We Noted: May 25, 2013

margaritaville complex hotel
Courtesy of Resorts Casino Hotel

Welcome to the long weekend, "Hotel News We Noted" readers. It's time for three days of sun, fun and relaxation – or, in our case, a wedding.

But before you jet off (or drive away, as the case may be), we wanted you to have your weekly dose of the best news from in and around the hotel world.

As always, send comments, questions and feedback to our inbox, or leave a note below.

Luxury Hotel Amenity: Gold-Plated iPads for Everyone
Dubai's Burj Al Arab has just upped the ante on the in-room iPad trend, The Telegraph reports. The hotel, which already is one of the world's tallest, might also offer the most expensive guest device, a 24-carat gold-plated iPad worth £6,715, upon check-in. The iPads have a special app that acts like a virtual butler. Of course, guests only have use of the technology while they are staying in the hotel.

Money Saver Alert: Room Service Gets Cheaper
According to a new article in Bloomberg Business Week, room service is one hotel amenity that's actually decreasing in price. Room service is becoming simpler – both in delivery and in the scope of offerings. Hotels like Public in Chicago actually deliver items in a brown paper bag, a streamlined concept that fits with their chic, yet price conscious model.

Amazing Time-Lapse Video Of Vivid Sydney Light Show

"TIMELAPSE - Vivid Sydney 2013 Launch" from Vivid Sydney on Vimeo.

The video above captures an incredible light show happening at the Sydney Opera House as part of the fifth annual Vivid Sydney festival.

The largest light, music and ideas festival in the Southern Hemisphere, Vivid Sydney features lighting installations around the harbour foreshore, live music performances at Sydney Opera House and over 120 creative industry events.

Part of a tourism push, the festival has grown year over year and is expected to attract 550,000 visitors this year alone.

The artists making up the show come not only from Australia but from the USA, Germany, Italy, Greece, Malaysia, Korea, Poland, Brazil and New Zealand.

For the first time this year, the area's famous Harbour Bridge will also be lit up on its western face, and, with a creative touch, the light show will be controlled by the public from an interactive touch screen, through a collaboration with Intel and with Sydney's 32 Hundred Lighting.

The Darling Harbour is also part of the show, featuring water fountains, water projection screens and light shows.

We love the above video and only wish it was set to music so that we could feel more like we were really there! If you're in the area, please send us your comments below – we'd love to hear how it looks, sounds and feels to be there live!

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