Travel Update with Barb

An accomplished newspaper journalist (USA TODAY staff 2002-2013) and relentless social media enthusiast, Barb wakes up at dawn seven days a week to search for, write and edit stories that resonate with travelers and travel business insiders. She craves stories that teach us something about life or business, make us laugh, shed light on our future or help make our journeys a little easier– or at least more interesting.

Marriott takes cue from Hollywood and Red Bull to appeal to Millennial travelers

It’s not every single day that a big hotel chain makes Variety. But Hollywood’s Bible recognized Marriott International yesterday because Marriott’s going into the entertainment business. Variety tells us how Marriott, which manages 18 brands including Ritz-Carlton and Springhill Suites, said it’s launching a studio so it can develop, produce and distribute entertainment. Expect to eventually see Marriott-produced “web series, short films, TV shows, music events and movies,” sort of like energy drink maker Red Bull does quite well to generate buzz. INSTAGRAM: Join Barb on Instagram TWITTER: Join Barb on Twitter TOP 5: Last week’s Top 5 most-read stories on Travel Update Marriott hopes its strategy will appeal to those of the Millennial generation. “We’re saying we’re going to be the largest publishers of life style,” David Beebe, who is running the new studio, told Variety. “We’re going to be the Red Bull of this category. That’s where we want to get to.” Red Bull for years has been building its reputation with younger, adventurous people through sports stunts, TV shows and its Red Bull glossy magazine. “Everyone understands that all of us today are really media companies and content publishers,” Beebe told Variety. “It’s more about how do we do it? Read the piece for more details. Interesting no? Marriott’s not alone: Starwood has for years led content marketing concepts among the hotel giants by doing things such as running its own...

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Boozy popsicles, boozy sundaes – and now boozy sno-cones

WASHINGTON D.C. – A growing number of high-end hotel restaurant chefs are embracing adult frozen treats – and I’m not talking frozen margaritas and daiquiris. I stumbled upon an alcoholic sno-cone last night during the culinary fundraiser “Chefs Behind Bars” for Share Our Strength, which fights childhood hunger through its #NoKidHungry campaign. The ongoing event series features chefs from restaurants across the Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia region who try to outdo each other in concocting the most popular culinary inspired cocktail, so it’s a good time to see what chefs are thinking. The “drink” that caught my eye most was an alcoholic kaffir lime cocktail...

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Makeover Monday 7: San Antonio’s Sheraton Gunter hotel’s $6 million facelift

For this week’s Makeover Monday, we’re “following” loyal reader and road warrior Lin Humphrey to San Antonio. He recently stayed at the newly renovated Sheraton Gunter hotel in San Antonio, and kindly brought it to my attention via Twitter! (Thanks Lin!) The hotel’s within walking distance to San Antonio’s scenic River Walk, the Alamo, and the Majestic Theatre; the new Tobin Center for the Performing Arts and Convention Center are a few blocks away. MAKEOVER MONDAY: Starwood’s W New York Times Square to get a new restaurant MAKEOVER MONDAY: Marriott Cornhusker sports an $11 million renovation TWITTER: Follow Barb on...

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Qantas makes history; Airbus A380 now flies world’s longest route

Qantas has been making headlines today in Sydney and Dallas as it officially replaced its Boeing 747-400 with the Airbus A380 for Sydney-Dallas/Fort Worth service, which is the world’s longest route. The inaugural flight, Qantas Alan Joyce told The Australian.com.au, signals the airline’s confidence in the North American market. The aircraft – the world’s biggest commercial jetliner – has four classes, including first class. “We think this is first class market as well and first class will sell very effectively on it. So we’re very optimistic the economics will continue to improve and continue to offer us growth.,” Joyce is quoted as saying. Qantas recently expanded its presence in North America by announcing season flights to Vancouver and signing a codeshare deal with Canada’s WestJet, the paper says. Links to more coverage of the history making flight: The News.com.au, which includes video footage from an A380 test flight, and of course the Dallas Morning News. Readers: Comments?...

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Four Seasons drives food truck craze (and headlines) with East Coast tour

  It may sound counterintuitive, but Four Seasons – the luxury hotel chain where you can easily pay $300 for a night’s rest – is temporarily getting into the food truck business. Here’s what’s going on: Four Seasons is sponsoring a limited-time-only food truck tour that will let people who’ve never tasted a Four Seasons meal in their lives  get a taste for what they’re missing – without blowing their budget. All items will be priced at $10 or less. It’s a clever marketing move (see my quote in the ABC News story below). Four Seasons trucked along the West...

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Top 5 stories for week ending Sept. 27: Ever been walked in on in your hotel room while naked?

Here’s the rundown of the five most-popular stories on the Travel Update blog for the prior week ending Sept. 27. Note: I usually run the Top 5 list on Sundays, but food shopping took priority over blogging after 10-year-old son’s fencing tournament in Richmond, Va. 🙂 TWITTER: Join Barb on Twitter MORE ONLINE: DCA airport to get new shops, restaurants MORE ONLINE: Spirit Airlines makes Cleveland its 57th city in network After having worked for years in USA Today‘s Travel section and knowing what attracted eyeballs, I am definitely not surprised that the No. 1 most-read story involved the word “naked” in the headline. The second-most-read post last week grew out of a popular discussion on Facebook that earned some 45 comments alone, excluding likes, but on Travel Update, you told me that it was in poor taste! My apologies. Here are the links: 1. Been walked in on while naked in hotel room? Yes, it does happen 2. View from my economy class seat 3. 9-seat turboprop will keep this California city on U.S. aviation map 4. Deals: IHG’s PointBreaks discounted rooms for Sept. 29-Nov. 30 5. Chicago luxury hotel to sell a $1,000 boozy ice-cream sundae (and cheaper ones, too) Readers:...

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Hotels will try to revamp traditional room service in 2015, 87% of hotel asset managers surveyed say

  Finally! It seems that four-star hotels have woken up to the fact that many guests consider traditional room service too costly, too time consuming and just not relevant – and they’ll likely mix it up in the next year. I say that based on my coverage of the experiments by Hilton Worldwide and also Marriott International, but more recently, the results of a new poll of 114 hotel asset managers. Hotel asset managers are the folks who manage hotels on behalf of real estate investment trusts, private equity funds and other ownership groups. Nearly 87% of them surveyed recently said they believe hotels...

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New fee? U.S. hotels might experiment with charging mandatory gratuities, report says

Is it possible that tipping housekeepers can be the next mandatory hotel fee? Yes, according to CNBC’s story published today. In fact, consumers should start watching for a hotel or a chain of hotels to begin experimenting with mandatory gratuities as soon as the upcoming Thanksgiving season, New York University hotel school professor and veteran PricewaterhouseCoopers hospitality consultant Bjorn Hanson told CNBC. A chain could “take this move by Marriott and start to add a mandatory gratuity as an experiment,” Hanson told CNBC, although it “will be a long time before there’s an expectation of an automatic housekeeping gratuity or surcharge.” It’s worth nothing that Hanson for years has been tracking the growing stream of hidden hotel fees in the U.S., with the industry this year projected to rake in more than $2 billion in fees. TWITTER: Join Barb DeLollis on Twitter MORE ONLINE:  Are printed newspapers in hotels a ‘massive waste of paper?’ MORE ONLINE: Houston airports roll out free Wi-Fi What’s the Marriott reference about? In case you missed it, Hanson is referring to Marriott International’s recent announcement to put envelopes that encourage (but do not require) guests to tip low-wage housekeepers into about 160,000 hotel rooms across the USA, from Ritz-Carlton properties to less-expensive Courtyards. The move sparked controversy, with critics – including Travel Update readers – perceiving Marriott’s move as a way to encourage guests to subsidize employees’ hourly pay. Some hotels – including...

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Reader discussion: Are printed newspapers in hotels a ‘massive waste of paper?’

Do you care if your hotel offers you a print newspaper anymore, whether at your door or in a public space? If you receive one, do you take it with you? I’m raising this issue again in light of the comments on last week’s story about how the Park Hyatt hotel on West 57th Street in New York opened with a digital-era perk: Guests receive free digital access to newspapers and magazines via an app called PressReader. When I posed the question about where you stand on the digital-vs.-print question, the two people who replied essentially said: Bring on the digital! See their replies below: Reader Scottrick: “(The digital app) was easy enough to use at the Andaz Maui and Hyatt Regency Waikiki last year, but I have my own subscriptions so it wasn’t really necessary. I prefer paper when it’s available, but I don’t think every guest needs their own copy. I think the real waste of paper is when hotels deliver a paper to every room without asking a guest if they want it.” GET SOCIAL: Join Barb on Twitter and Instagram MORE ONLINE: Washington Reagan National gets new stores, restaurants Reader disqust101: “Give me digital every time. I hate print – messy, slow to navigate and full of stuff I’m not interested in. Good riddance. And the massive waste of paper is ridiculous.” Readers: Do you see print newspapers in hotels...

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Sneak peek at IHG’s PointBreaks hotels for Sept. 29-Nov. 30

Travel Update’s here with a sneak peek of IHG’s latest list of PointBreaks hotels that will go on sale on Monday, Sept. 29, for bookings through Nov. 30. Instead of paying up to 50,000 IHG Rewards Club points per night at these hotels, you’ll pay just 5,000 points. The list of PointBreaks hotels changes regularly, depending on high and low season in each destination but can include some IHG’s priciest hotels in the Intercontinental chain. TWITTER: Join Barb DeLollis on Twitter for travel tweets These PointBreaks deals are good for stays through Nov. 30. Stay tuned on Monday, when the rest of the hotels will be identified on IHG’s special website. For now, here are seven hotels with PointBreaks availability if you book fast enough: Crowne Plaza Hotel Huizhou – Huizhou, GD Crowne Plaza Kumamoto – New Sky, Kumamoto, Japan Crowne Plaza Dublin- Northwood, Ireland Holiday Inn Sydney – Waterfront, Sydney, NS, Canada Holiday Inn Express – Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico Staybridge Suites – San Diego Rancho Bernardo Area, California, USA Candlewood Suites – Washington- Dulles Herndon, Virginia, USA Readers: Have you ever gotten a great deal using PointBreaks or a similar deal from another hotel...

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