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Olympic Games spur hotel growth... BRIC by BRIC

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The Times business section has a small story about the London Olympic Games spurring hotel development*:

The British Hospitality Association's trends and developments report says that 40k rooms are due on stream by 2015 ... the Olympics are 'an incentive to complete projects'
Indeed they are. And next time, they'll be in a BRIC economy for the second time out of three (Beijing, China in 2008; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016).

* Page is a news round-up, so scroll down a bit to find the story.

A print/web angle on the 'budget hotel' debate

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David Whitley started a good natter on his blog and Twitter after losing patience with loose definitions of 'budget hotel' in the media.

Why does it happen? Lazy writers, subs and editors are in the picture, but we also have to factor in the readership a mag/paper/site is targeting - as Jeremy Head pointed out in a comment.

 

A budget hotel?For the Sunday Times, from which David selects an example, that audience is affluent.

The Times media site says:

The Sunday Times has a higher number and concentration of ABC1 (88%) and AB (62%) readers than any other Sunday newspaper

The readers the ST wants to attract, and which its advertisers want to reach, have a different angle on 'budget'.

Likewise, a real budget traveller is going to go straight to a hostelbookers search and ignore the Sunday Times outright.

So far so good, but we're still in Printland. Our feature is only being read by Sunday Times buyers, who, having handed over their £2, presumably know what to expect.

But glossy print products no longer exist in cosy isolation - they port their content to the web. Now our feature is available out of context to a virtually limitless audience, which makes  promising 'budget' far more problematic.

So what are the options?

1. Tailor article content to a wider audience

I.e.: Select some different hotels for the web version of your feature.
Drawback: High-spending advertisers may perceive you to be moving downmarket, and take their online spend elsewhere.

2. Carry on as you are

I.e.: Just keep porting, and be glad of the search traffic coming in from 'budget hotel' searches.
Drawback: New readers coming in from search won't stick around; you risk bad PR as people mock you on blogs and forums.

3. Use anti-SEO

I.e.: Keep the feature as it is for print, but cut back on misleading (and high search volume) words like 'budget' for the online version.
Drawback: Requires honesty. And you won't get the short-lived traffic fix you'd get from carrying on as normal.

Hotel Blogs has posted about a blogosphere kerfuffle over mice at the InterContinental Grand Hotel Paris, and I've been adding a few comments.

Here's the video that started it off:

"Make a video in response," I said. Alex Bainbridge said that was "a very sensible idea" over on his blog, where he questioned whether the video should have been published in the first place.

Andy of Hobotraveler disagreed with me, arguing that mice are a pretty ordinary problem which it's best to solve quietly. Guillaume was of the same mind, saying "a quick apology should be enough".

Why is it an interesting discussion? Because two big questions arise from it:

  • Engage with public criticism or ignore it? A key decision for brands developing their social media strategy
  • Are we entitled to perfection? Mice aren't the end of the world, but they shatter the aspirational image for which customers are paying a premium. Is that a failing severe enough to merit 'trial by internet'?

And my answers, since you ask, are 'engage' and 'yes'...

Is this the mother of all misleading hotel photos?

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x5ljciodc5o8yhf9zin7.jpgHit the thumbnail photo on the right to see what is allegedly the same small Polish hotel from two different angles.

I was ready to call a Photoshop job on this when Gadling first posted it, but if you take a look at the hotel (the Alicja in Lodz, Poland) on Google Maps it really does seem to be right by a power plant.

So... is this picture for real? Convinced?

If so, it's surely one of the most extreme cases of brochure/reality slippage out there. Anyone know the Polish for Watchdog?


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New Zealand hotel puts scans of guest book online

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Weloveso.com is a nice public feedback idea from Hotel So, picked up by Guillaime at Hotel Blogs...

Hotel So

Seeing people's thoughts on page does give a sense of authenticity, which is something it has over TripAdvisor.

What it doesn't have over TripAdvisor, obviously, is that the hotel is in charge of what goes up - and maybe it's just an A1 hotel, but you'll struggle to find any negative comments here.

(Want more on hotels? Try Hotel Girl, by Travel Weekly's Chloe Berman.)

A new US site is putting sociable airbed owners in touch with budget-conscious travellers.

AirBed and Breakfast screenshotThis is rather similar to the Couchsurfing trend, but seems to be more heavily monetised. Oh, and you get an airbed.

According to TechCrunch, "prices range from $20 a night for an airbed to $3,000 for an entire house," and "50 to 100 new listings appear every day".

This isn't going to take any business from the travel or hospitality trades - the 'forget hotels' strapline is frankly a bit optimistic - but as TC points out it could be very useful for last-minute, budget-conscious travel to big festivals and conventions.

Could be interesting to scan its pages in the run-up to e.g. South by Southwest or Sundance, where hotel space always ends up severely limited.

It's still very much at-your-own-risk travel, though, as the terms and conditions make clear:

Our Site is merely a venue for users to learn about one another and, if they wish, arrange stays with one another. Compensation for the stays may be involved, but AB&B is a stranger to any such transaction.

We are not involved in the actual contact between users. As a result, we have no control over the conduct of our users or the truth or accuracy of the information that users post on the Site.

Me? I'd do it for SXSW, but then I'm the type that doesn't mind camping on grotty music festival sites. I certainly wouldn't be rushing to AB&B for a proper holiday though.

The New York Times reports that Los Angeles hotelier Doug Manchester is facing calls for a boycott of his properties after he donated $125,000 to an anti-gay marriage campaign.

As far as issues go, it's a non-story - Manchester can support whatever legal cause he wishes, and his opponents can boycott whatever they wish.

But it does highlight the potential buying (and perhaps more importantly, blocking) power of niche groups, in which the consumer's use of tight-knit community and advice sites means word can spread quickly.

I'd be interested to know if readers boycott a brand - travel or otherwise - for any reason?

Some impartial advice

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Although it is safe to drink our tap water, we recommend you drink mineral water

Oh... you mean the stuff in the minibar? Thanks for the tip.

There's a feature on fam trip etiquette going in Travel Weekly this week, to which I can add my own tip: when a hotel rep at Cliff Bay in Funchal shows you the sea view from a new top-floor room class, don't comment on the great view of iconic rival Reid's Palace. And definitely don't take a photo.

Reids Palace

Oops. My bad.

The rep didn't really mind, of course, and Cliff Bay is a fine property in its own right.

It's a spa and sun-deck kind of place, so doesn't have the character you'd get in a quinta, but spa and sun-deck properties are great for the wealthy, often slightly older couples that come back to Madeira year after year.

Cliff Bay's two sun decks are particularly impressive: the upper has an indoor-outdoor pool that runs into the spa area, while the lower (a long way down, and reached by lift) has a saltwater pool, a restaurant-bar and access to the ocean.

Saltwater pool at Cliff Bay Resort, Funchal, Madeira

 

Ocean access at at Cliff Bay Resort, Funchal, MadeiraThere are 40 of the new rooms we were shown - their configuration is much the same as standard rooms, but they include superior decor, in-room interweb access, a pillow menu and breakfast in the a la carte restaurant.

It's a good seller for Inghams, apparently, but I was interested to hear that their most popular property is Quinta Bela Sao Tiago, where the focus is on character - it's in Funchal's old town, so there's no ocean access, and the pool/spa facilities are less extensive than at Cliff Bay.

But in the words of Pierre from Inghams, it's a property that 'presents well'. The terrace and gardens in particular are beautiful - there's actually a small banana plantation guests can wander through. Put next to Cliff Bay, it gives you a good sense of the range of hotel product available here.

Video: suite at the Classic Savoy, Funchal

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While I was out in Madeira I shot a quick walkthrough of my suite at the Classic Savoy in Funchal. Apologies for the not-fantastic quality - all I had was the movie function on my stills camera.

The hotel has been there since the early 1900s (though not in exactly its current form) and even if it occasionally it shows its age - the knob on my radio simply fell off when I went to use it - retains a good deal of character.

And if you do start hankering for the comforts of modernity, guests are free to use the facilities at the new Savoy Royal, connected to the classic by a footbridge.

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