Dirty hotels in Ontario...Hotel Internet fees; arrgh...Jim's deals of the day...
TripAdvisor today issued a list of the 10 dirtiest hotels in Canada, and there are going to be some pretty upset hotel operators here in Ontario.
The list, which is based on reviews by TripAdvisor travelers, includes six hotels/motels in Ontario; two in the city of Toronto, two in Niagara Falls, one in Barrie and another on Gore Bay, Manitoulin Island.
We're not judging the accuracy of the results, but here's their top 10 list of Canada's dirtiest places to stay:
1. Arkona Motel, Niagara Falls
2. The Bay Street Motel, Toronto
3. Gordon's Lodge, Gore Bay, Manitoulin Island
4. Howard Johnson Inn & Suites, Toronto East
5. Drumheller Inn, Alberta
6. Hotel Eureka, Montreal
7. Admiral Inn by the Falls, Niagara Falls
8. Howard Johnson Hotel Edmonton
9. Howard Johnson Express Inn, Barrie
10. Battery Hotel and Suites, St. John's, Newfoundland
That's three Howard Johnson properties, for those keeping score at home, and that can't be good for public relations.
CRAZY HOTEL INTERNET FEES
Spotted a good piece in USA Today Travel this morning, where Barbara De Lollis was talking about a new survey of Internet usage in hotel roms in the U.S.
She reports that a study by iBAHN, which provides Internet service for 2,200 hotels around the world, found that guests spent 60 per cent more time on the web in 2009 than the year before, and dowloaded 50 per cent more data. Apparently a lot was to do with downloading videos from YouTube or music for their iPod and, yes, probably a little porn, she writes.
Business folks have been clamouring for major hotel chains to provide free Internet. I was at a hotel in Key West recently, the Casa Marina, where they charge $12 a day or so for the Internet, but I was told it would soon be folded into the daily resort fee because people expect free Internet.
Yes, we do expect free Internet. Jack up your rates if you have to, but don't nickel and dime (or 10 and 12-dollar) us with Internet fees.
Hotels don't charge us (yet) for toilet paper or towels, why charge for Internet? Using the web is as much a part of daily life as soap and water (hey, considering some folks out there, maybe more). It should be free. End of story.
IBAHN says hotel operators have no choice but to charge because the files being downloaded are so large. Okay, Internet costs them money. But charge more for the rooms and don't hit me with extra fees. Quite often folks are busy making last-minute plans, especially business people, and they don't always have time to check out every kind of fee before booking a room. If we book a room and it says $149, then leave at it $149. Don't go adding more and more charges like they do in the airline industry, fergawdsake.
The Star booked several rooms at the Carmana Plaza Hotel for the coming Winter Olympics. The rooms were booked through the Vancouver Organizing Committee, and I thought they'd make sure Internet fees were included. The rooms are quite reasonable (organizers need media to come to the Games and they don't want lots of stories about hotel gouging), but now I'm told it'll cost our reporters $15 a day to sign on to the hotel's Internet.
It's just wrong.
Maybe there are some decent deals out there for the Olympics after all.
A report from Home for the Games says folks can go to www.homeforthegames.com and find homes in Vancouver starting at $100 a night, with proceeds going to charities tackling homelessness. Home for the Games is a non-profit, web-based system that "matches Winter Games visitors with Metro Vancouver hosts for short-term stays, with half of the nightly fee directed to charitable organizations."
Accomodations range from entire houses down to single rooms.
Also on the accomodation front, the folks at Norwegian Star say their cruise ship is offering special sale rates as low as $275 U.S. per night, based on double occupancy. The rate is good until Feb. 5.
Officials say the deal is even better because it includes three meals a day, although you'd expect folks might miss a couple of meals each day by being out and about in Vancouver watching Olympic events, which is kinda the point. Folks also get access to spa and fitness facilities on board, nightly entertainment, gift shops (gee, really? Thanks, guys!) and more.
For more information, go to www.vancouver2010cruiseship.com.
Of course, many folks don't care about affordability. They're simply worried about the effect the Games will have. Recent studies have suggested there's no great long-term effect by having the Games, which brings up a point I've made for years. If you want to do the Olympics, do them right. Rework your city like Barcelona did, and leverage the Games for improvements from senior levels of government. If you try to do it like Atlanta, you're left with damn little to show for your efforts and no lasting legacy.
A group called Pivot Legal Society in. B.C. is asking city council for permission to give out red tents for homeless people to sleep in during the Games, a move they no doubt hope would raise awareness of the city's homeless issues (although how anyone with a brain isn't already aware is another story). They want the tents to have stickers that say "housing is a right" and "end homelessness now."
Well intentioned, but I can't see city government allowing it go ahead.
SKIP THE SEA TO SKY
Here's a thought. Instead of sitting in traffic on the Sea toSky Highway from Vancouver to Whistler, folks at Sea to Sky Air suggest you take daily flights to Whistler. Mind you, the cost is "as low as" $339, and let's put "as low as" in giant, BOLD italic print. Geez, guys, that ain't much of a deal if you ask me.
On the road front, the next phase of street closures in downtown Vancouver go into effect this week in preparation for the Games, which start Feb. 12. Officials say a record number of commuters took public transit to get into downtown Vancouver last Friday. No doubt those numbers will increase as more road closures take effect.
Folks in Olympic cities always grumble about transportation planning, but, in the end, things usually work out just fine. L.A. was a ghost town during the 1984 Summer Games, and things seemed to work quite well in Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008. Of course, in Beijing the government was able to pretty much do whatever it wanted. It's a little trickier in a democracy.
PORTER TO SUDBURY
Porter Airlines is introducing year-round flights between Sudbury and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport (that's still a real mouthful, guys), beginning March 31. There will be a daily, non-stop flight, with one-way fares starting at $99, plus taxes. Go to www.flyporter.com for more information.
Porter earlier added Thunder Bay to its roster of cities, and they're also adding Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in the next couple months.
I've yet to try them, but these guys obviousy are doing SOMETHING right.