Toronto's ritziest hotel debuts just as Calgary's seediest motel goes down
It's not quite a tale of two cities. But you gotta appreciate the juxtaposition of the hotel/motel news in Canada today.
Out in Calgary, the big tourism news was the the legendary (for all the wrong reasons) Savory Lodge on the Motel Village strip is finally shutting its doors. A woman was tortured and murdered at the motel back in 2004. Many a drug deal has gone down there, and the place was renowned as a hotbed of crime.
“Back when I worked as a chambermaid at one of those Motel Village establishments back in the late 1970s, it was already well known that there were a few places you didn’t venture over to, ones that were frequented by prostitutes, drug dealers and were hotbeds of criminal activity,” wrote the Calgary Herald’s Valerie Fortney in a recent column.
Online reviews of the Savory wax lyrical on bed bugs, mould, drug deals and sheets that no amount of bleach could clean. Oddly enough, however, Trip Advisor lists the place as only 34th on a list of 46 establishments of its type in the city. Makes me wonder what the lower-rated places must be like...
Among the headlines on Trip Advisor: "Absolute garbage," wrote one critic. "Never stay here," warned another. One fellow said he thought it was fine, except for being woken up at 1 a.m. by cops wanting to know if he'd called 911.
From the reviews I read, it sounds like he probably would've ended up calling at some point anyway, so perhaps the police were just taking pre-emptive action.
On a more serious note, it seems the Motel Village area is about to get a serious upgrade from the city. There's a new development plan in the works and it's said that the Savory Lodge will be replaced by a Holiday Inn Express.
It makes me think about how the old Mom and Pop motels are doing out in Etobicoke's motel strip and along Kingston Rd. in Scarborough. I've never had the pleasure of staying at any of them, but I've always loved the name of the Hav-a-Nap. I was surprised to find they have their own website, too. Some of the Trip Advisor reviews are pretty good, and it's rated 90th out of 120 such places in Toronto, which isn't great but it's not quite at the bottom, either.
On a more luxurious note, however, it was with interest that I read Star business reporter Sue Pigg's story in our paper today. She writes that the new Shangri-La hotel at University and Adelaide next Aug. 7 at precisely 1:30 p.m.
The unusual time is linked to a Buddhist issue of some kind; perhaps because it'll be Aug. 8 (the eighth day of the eighth month of the year, eight being a lucky number in China) over in Asia by the time the front doors open.
Either way, the place looks pretty sensational. I'm a little tired of brown and white decor in hotel rooms (wait a minute, those are the colours in my bedroom at home), but this certainly looks like a first-class joint with very little likelihood of 1 a.m. calls to the cops.
Pigg's report mentions that the Shangri-La, of course, is just one of several five-star (they hope) places that have opened or are set to open in our fair metropolis. The Ritz-Carlton opened up on Wellington in the Entertainment District a while back, while the Trump Tower at Bay and Adelaide this week announced it will fling open its doors on Jan. 31, 2012. The new Four Seasons will open in Yorkville (anyone remember Yorkville?) next summer some time.
Some observers are calling it the five-star faceoff. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. As readers of Star travel may recall from a story I wrote this summer, there was only one five-diamond property in Canada, as rated by the Canadian Automobile Association, as of last week. That would be the Four Seasons in Whistler.
But officials at the CAA told me today that they just this week added Toronto's Ritz-Carlton to the list, making it the second five-diamond spot in Canada and the only one in Toronto.
“CAA is honoured to recognize The Ritz-Carlton’s commitment to excellence,” said Nick Parks, President and CEO, CAA South Central Ontario. “Five Diamond establishments consistently deliver a high level of hospitality and comfort to their guests.”
No other Canadian properties made the list, although there are a ton of four-star hotels in the country. I was surprised to see the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, B.C. not on the five-diamond list. Ditto for the Hazelton in Toronto and Auberge Ste. Antoine in Quebec; a personal fave of mine.
CAA officials say there are plenty of five-diamond properties in terms of physical amenities, but that it's service that makes the difference when they do their ratings. It's also good, I think, that they're pretty hard on hotels. I mean, anyone can SAY they're a five-star property. There are hotels in the world that claim they're seven-star accomodations, whatever that means. But you know that if the CAA gives a Canadian property five diamonds, it means something. And that's good.
It'll be interesting to see the ratings down the line and to check if any of the hotels that claim they'll be five-star get the nod from the CAA. I suspect at least one will be disappointed....
GREAT NEWS FOR AIR CANADA USERS
We'll have to see how it shakes out in terms of the actual deal, but it's certainly awesome news for Canadians that Air Canada flight attendants won't be going on strike.
Labour Minister Lisa Raitt today applauded news that the airlinea and the flight attendants' union have agreed that an arbitrator will issue a binding agreement within two weeks. That means no job actions are allowed.
Raitt says the deal will bring stability to the airline while addressing issues raised by the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
"This negotiated settlement is unquestionably in the best interest of employees, the travelling public and the Canadian economy," she said in a statement. "I commend both parties for their continued efforts in resolving this labour dispute. This was a difficult set of circumstances, and clearly both parties were able to come together and resolve their differences in a timely and mutually beneficial fashion without any negative impact or disruption to the public."