New Four Seasons ups ante in Toronto ... Hobbits to rescue in New Zealand?
And then there were four. Or five. Or maybe, kinda six.
The new Four Seasons opened officially in Toronto last Friday, with much fanfare and, of course, an appearance by nattily attired Four Seasons head guy Izzy Sharp (see photo below, courtesty of digital journal).
It was handled with a fair bit of humour and a lot of style. Sharp said the hotel is in a category by itself.
The new, updated version is at the northeast corner of Bay and Yorkville and looks considerably more appealing from the street than its predecessor with its giant garage entry. I’m not so sure I find the giant, Paris-style fountain out back to be so attractive, but perhaps it needs some more flowers and gardening to soften the impact.
The interior is what you’d expect from Four Seasons; quiet and sophisticated and serene. There’s lots of local art and soft colours and it’s quite the soothing interior.
The bar on the lobby level looks like a great spot to unwind after work, too.
It’s going to be fascinating to watch how the new boys in town duke it out for the five-star ratings. The Ritz-Carlton is the only property in town that has a five-diamond mark from the Canadian/American Automobile Association. But the new Four Seasons is aiming to duplicate that feat, as is the just-opened Shangri-La down on University and the downtown Trump on Bay St. And don’t forget the Hazelton, where I’m told Bruce Springsteen commanded a fine suite during his recent stay.
And there’s still the Thompson, which is probably aiming for a younger set and, I suspect, isn’t as worried about five star status.
It’s interesting how the Film Festival’s move to the King West area has spurred such development. The Ritz is on Wellington, just steps from the TIFF Lightbox, and the Shangri-La is on Adelaide at University; right around the corner. The Trump is only a few steps further east, which gives you three superb properties in the downtown/Entertainment District area, and then the Hazelton and Four Seasons up in Yorkville.
CAN HOBBITS DELIVER FOR NEW ZEALAND?
The New Zealand government gave Warner Bros. as much as $25 million in subsidies two years ago to make sure The Hobbit movies were filmed in the land of the Kiwi. With the first of the two Hobbit movies being released in New Zealand next month (Nov. 28), it’ll be interesting to see if they get their money back.
It’ll be tough to match the surprising impact of The Lord of the Rings, which I was personally scared would be a terrible trio of movies. Of course, 30 seconds into the first one I was grinning like a kid and looking forward to the next two flicks.
I love the movies and I adore New Zealand, which I like to think of as a more pastoral, greener version of Canada south of the equator; a mix of Canadian sensibilities with California weather and food.
Twenty five million dollars probably isn’t a lot, and we’re already seeing lots of stories about folks visiting NZ to check out the movie set. We’ll have a story in Star Travel coming up, and the New York Times just ran one on Sunday.
Still, times are tough in New Zealand. When the first Lord of the Rings came out, Bloomberg notes in a story in today’s Star business section, the New Zealand dollar was way down around 40 cents vs. the U.S. dollar. It’s now up at 83 cents. Saving 17 per cent on your currency is still a good deal, but NZ is nowhere near the bargain it was eleven years ago. And it’s not a cheap country to get to from North America, of course.
New Zealand certainly is banking on The Hobbit to make a difference. Tourism New Zealand in August began a “100 per cent Middle Earth” ad campaign that capitalizes on scenes from the movie series.
Tourism officials concede they can’t simply rely on folks wandering over to New Zealand simply to check out a movie set. Which means they need to remind folks of all the other great things to do in their country.
You probably know about the bungee jumping and the fjords of the South Island and the sheep and maybe the hot springs and the Maori culture, which is outstanding. But there’s so much more: great cities like Auckland with smart shopping and great restaurants; incredible beaches, some of them right out of a Tahiti movie set; world-class vineyards in absolutely stunning settings, fabulous skiing and luxurious eco-resorts and golf resorts with some of the best courses you’ll find on the planet.
I’d be hard-pressed to think of another country that offers such diversity in such a small package.