I’m often critical of hotel and travel surveys that ignore Canada. But I can’t complain about this year’s reader survey from Travel and Leisure magazine.
In a pretty remarkable coup, magazine readers have named the spa at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Toronto the best hotel spa on the entire planet. And that’s saying something when you consider how many awesome spas exist in the world.
I was only there once and found it very relaxing, with excellent service. I haven’t been in nearly enough hotel spas to say how it compares, but it certainly was one of the better ones I’ve experienced.
There were several other nods to Canada, although not in the world best categories. Most notable was having Prince Edward Island named best island in the continental U.S. and Canada region.
Travel and Leisure readers named the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver the best city hotel in Canada and voted the Post Hotel and Spa in Lake Louise the top resort in the country. The Four Seasons Resort in Whistler, B.C. was named Canada’s top family hotel.
Other winners in the world’s best category include Bangkok as world’s best city, the Mombo Camp and Little Mombo Camp in Botswana as world’s best hotel and, Palawan in the Philippines as world’s best island, which is pretty cool as it’s on the cover of Thursday's Toronto Star travel section. Singapore Airlines was named the world’s top airline, while Singapore Changi Airport got the nod as world’s best airport.
The award for best large city hotel in the continental U.S. went to the Peninsula Beverly Hills in California and the top hotel award for the Caribbean, Bermuda and the Bahamas was given to Jade Mountain in St. Lucia. The Ritz Carlton in Berlin, Germany was named best large city hotel in Europe and the Peninsula Hong Kong was named top city hotel in Asia.
Air Canada rouge is off and running
The new, discount arm of Air Canada, Air Canada Rouge, sounds at first blush like a potential game changer, with personalized service and solid routes that could inflict some damage on some of the competition.
Vanessa Lu and Kamila Hinkson had a great story on the Rouge debut in today's Toronto Star business section, describing in detail some of the personal touches Rouge is using to separate itself from the crowd. Among the touches on or before a flight to Jamaica were steel drum music and flip flops.
Lu and Hinkson said Rouge will have buttons so flight attendants know if travellers are celebrating a birthday or flying for the first time. Customs declaration forms are filled out in advance with flight numbers (now that's smart) and arms rests are up so folks can more easily slide into their seats.
Yeah, those are all little things but they help. I remember when I covered the Blue Jays back in the 1990's and they were attracting free agents from all over the baseball world. Many players said one of the things they like about the Jays was that they did the little things, such as sending flowers to a player's wife if they were celebrating an anniversary.
"What we will now need to ensure is when customers board our airplanes, the experience they will have for that very competitive price will be an experience that they will appreciate," said Michael Friisdahl, president and CEO of the new airline.
Rouge started with flights to Kingston and Costa Rica. They were due to fly to Athens on Canada Day and will soon fly to 23 destinations.
Hotels go high-tech
The hotel experience is evolving rapidly, with new apps and new mobile check-in opportunities and new TV's that work more like a smartphone.
In a good story in USA Today, Nancy Trejos writes that some guests can now "log onto Facebook or Skype, get information about local attractions, browse the room service menu, and even sync the TV with your Smartphone or tablet."
"The same content and services you see at home are now arriving at the hotel level," says Mike Brooks, senior director of program management for Philips Hospitality Video Solutions.
More travelers are showing up at hotels with their own tablets loaded up with their own entertainment, eliminating the need or desire to order videos on demand that cost more than a movie theater ticket.
Tom Storey, president of Hospitality for Sonifi Solutions, a content provider to about 1.5 million hotel rooms worldwide, says company research has found that 75% to 80% of guests travel with at least two devices, such as a mobile phone, tablet or computer.
"Imagine buying a movie from the hotel and watching it on your tablet at the lobby bar? Or taking a show you've already downloaded onto your tablet before you checked in and watching it on the hotel TV? That's all a possibility with Quadriga Worldwide's Personal Media Network, which can be downloaded from the App Store or from a Web link once you check in. Once you've paired your device to the TV, you can use your mobile device as a remote control. You can stream the video on demand content and free channels onto your device using the hotel's Wi-Fi network. You can also stream personal videos, photos and music from your device to the TV."
In another item in USA Today, Trejos writes that "guests at hundreds of Marriott hotels will now be able to check-in with just a few taps of their mobile phones."
Marriott Hotels, Marriott international's largest brand, said it plans to roll-out mobile check-in at 325 hotels in the U.S. and Canada. Already, 31 Marriott hotels have introduced mobile check-in.
"All Marriott Rewards members will be eligible for the service. They will be able to check in after 4 p.m. the day before their arrival. Once their room is ready, they'll get an automatic notification. Because their credit card information is already stored in their Marriott Rewards profiles, all they have to do once they arrive at the hotel is walk up to a mobile check-in desk and pick up their pre-programmed key card."
Sounds cool to me.
Aeroplan gets thumbs down
The best airlines for redeeming travel awards are Alaska, Southwest, and American, while Delta and Air Canada were the worst according to a new survey conducted by Frequent Business Traveler magazine.
Alaska Airlines took top honours with an overall satisfaction rating of 91 percent. Southwest and American received ratings of 79 and 81 percent, respectively. Members of Air Canada's Aeroplan program voiced the greatest dissatisfaction, with only 32 percent indicating that they were satisfied with their ability to redeem miles for flights. Ouch.
Only five per cent of the 231 Aeroplan member respondents surveyed indicated that they were very satisfied and 27 per cent said they were satisfied.
Last year, Aeroplan was number 10 out of 15 programs surveyed. They recenty unveiled a new program that makes it easier to redeem points and wipes out the policy of cancelling points that are more than seven years old.
Jaunt.ca deal of the day
Jaunt.ca, a division of Torstar, has a deal on offer today for a bus tour of New York City, priced at just $389, all taxes included.
- Includes guided tour of New York City with stops at Central Park, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral and more
- See all the iconic sights of New York City in one trip
- Free time lets you explore the parts of the city you most want to visit
- A variety of travel dates give you the option of seeing New York in any season
- Valid for travel on the following departure dates: October 11, 2013 (Thanksgiving)
- This is an exclusive offer brought to you by Omega Tours
- Pricing (includes taxes):
Single: $589 per person
Double: $389 per person
Triple: $369 per person
Quad: $319 per person
Child (2-11 yrs sharing with 2 adults): $319 per person
- Depart from any of the following pick-up locations:
7:00 PM: Scarborough Town Centre (near YMCA)
230 Town Centre Court
No parking available.
8:00 PM: Sarracini Travel (near Vaughan Mills Shopping Centre)
55-3175 Rutherford Road
8:45 PM: Square One Shopping Centre (In front of Tim Hortons)
151 City Centre Drive
No parking available.
9:45 PM: Real Canadian Superstore
361 South Service Road
No parking available.
- Please arrive 30 minutes prior to pick-up time. All departure times are dependant on traffic.
- Please indicate in the requests box at checkout the specific pick-up
- Valid passport is required. If you are born outside of Canada, you must have a valid passport along with a visitor's visa. We do not take responsibility for anyone who is denied entry into the United States
- This offer is refundable until 5PM EST on July 3, 2013. After that time, this offer is 100% non-refundable