Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Brisbane's most luxurious hotel rooms

I came across a good article about some of the best rooms that Brisbane hotels have to offer. While I've visited all of the hotels mentioned, I'm yet to stay in any of the suites listed. Will have to work on that!

Oh what a night: Brisbane's most luxurious hotel rooms

Looking for a night at the height of Australian hotel luxury without the hassle of chartering the private jet?

Don't fret. Brisbane has you covered but don't think you'll save much coin. A night in the city's best room is comparative to the top suites in the country.

With rates starting from $4000 per night, the Stamford Suite at the Stamford Plaza Hotel is Brisbane's most expensive space and shares price parity with the Royal Suites at Sydney's Sheraton On The Park and the Sofitel Melbourne.

Not bad for a city less than half the size of its southern cousins, though even this premium pales in comparison to one night spent in the "invitation only" Georgian Manor Villa at Melbourne's Crown Towers, which comes in at a cool $27,500 a night.

But how far does four grand go when it comes to luxury living?

Well, it gives you a room literally fit for a queen, with Queen Elizabeth II famously shunning traditional lodgings at Government House for a stay at the Stamford suite during her visit to Brisbane in the 1970s.

Featuring a private foyer, butler's quarters and grand piano the top floor suite has sweeping river views and opulent furnishings updated through the Stamford's recent $10 million makeover.

Of course if this suite offers little more luxury than you'd bargained for the Presidential Suite at the Marriott offers high style at just over half the price.

Here around $2500 buys you 131 square metres of turndown service, marble bathroom, separate lounge and dining areas, king-sized bedding and access to complimentary canapes and drinks served in the executive lounge.

Or there are the two levels and spiral staircase of the Opera Suite at the recently refurbished Sofitel available from $885 per night, where guests have ample space in which to entertain the envious.

However, price is not always indicative of quality and a number of relatively new boutique hotels amply answer the burgeoning demand for premium accommodation without the lofty fee.

Brisbane's Emporium Hotel, which opened in June 2007, was announced Best Boutique Hotel at the Queensland Hotels Association (QHA) Awards for Excellence recently, beating fellow finalist Peppers Spicers Peak Lodge.

Touted as the first true luxury boutique hotel in town, the best rooms at the glitzy hotel are the new Corner Suites which, from $495, come with separate sleeping and living areas, kitchenette, king-sized bedroom and furnishings drenched in rock star sex appeal.

And competition among the boutique market is set to heat up as more players come online with the newest contender, the Urban Hotel, housed on the former Terraces on Wickham site and offering $10 million worth of refurbished rooms.

The Urban joins the Portal Hotel, opened in March, and the celebrated Limes Hotel which, since its June 2008 launch, has became the city's first member of the exclusive, international Design Hotels group.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Queensland praised on Oprah

After my earlier post about the Best Job in the World contest, its great to see that a tourism campaign has gone so well (considering the "Where the bloody hell are you" mess).

Here's the latest update about Ben being interviewed on the Oprah show:

Best Job winner sings Queensland's praises on Oprah

Tourism Queensland's Best Job Island caretaker Ben Southall has hit the big time, with a guest appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show.

Queensland's popularity as a world-renowned holiday destination is sure to skyrocket following Ben’s interview with the Winfrey.

"Ben recently spoke to Oprah by satellite from Hamilton Island and I know he has been singing the praises of our beautiful state," said Premier Anna Bligh.

Bligh sees Ben’s Oprah appearance as a major tourism coup, which will directly promote Queensland to more than seven million US TV viewers and 145 countries around the world.

"Oprah has been the number one US talk show for 23 seasons and Ben's appearance will deliver an unprecedented level of publicity for Queensland.

"This is another major coup for Tourism Queensland during what has been a very challenging time for operators."

The Premier said Ben was more than half-way through his six-month stint as Caretaker for the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

"He is doing a great job and everyone's primary focus now is on harnessing the excitement he has generated to motivate viewers to act on their desire to visit Queensland," he said.

Tourism Minister Peter Lawlor said that as part of the Best Job promotion, an audience member of the Oprah Winfrey show will win a trip to Queensland.

"During Ben's five minute chat with Oprah he was able to give a first-hand account of what it's like to have the Best Job in the World and enjoy a range of fantastic Queensland experiences, such as snorkelling, diving and bushwalking," he said.

Tourism Queensland acting CEO Steve McRoberts said Ben was the perfect tourism ambassador for Queensland.

"Since arriving as the Island Caretaker on July 1, Ben has continued to fuel the buzz surrounding the Best Job in the World and sustain interest in Queensland," Mr McRoberts said.

"In addition to his guest appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, since arriving in Queensland Ben has fielded more than 150 media interviews from prominent outlets around the world such as the BBC, Le Parisien, CCN, Shanghai Morning Post, The UK's Daily Telegraph, CBC, Sky News, Germany's RTL and Israel's Yedoith.

"He has also hosted documentary crews and celebrities from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Japan and Hong Kong around his 'office' - the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

"More than 8.4 million visitors have logged on to www.islandreefjob.com since the Best Job in the World campaign was launched in January and Ben has approximately 3500 followers on twitter."

Mr McRoberts said the Best Job in the World promotion has delivered an unprecedented level of exposure for Queensland and it has also helped convert awareness into tangible sales for Queensland tourism operators.

"German travel wholesaler FTI recently commented that while overall bookings to Australia were slow compared with this time last year travel to Queensland out of Germany was still up by nearly three percent," he said.

"Austravel and Travelmood in the UK also reported that Queensland had maintained a healthy share of Austravel's overall room nights, helping to secure more of the company's passengers than any other state in Australia.

"A recent comment on Ben's blog from a Kansas family also proves that Ben's experiences are converting into more visitors to Queensland - Our family began following your blog several months ago, long story short we booked a 10 day holiday cruising the Whitsundays so, if anyone is wandering if the marketing efforts are playing off let them know a family from Kansas, USA are the newest fans of Australia and the Islands."

Ben's guest appearance on The Oprah Winfrey show aired in the US on Thursday 22 October, an Australian air date is yet to be confirmed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hotel Urban sale

I came across this really good special/sale today:

Urban Hotel Group Throws One-Week Summer Sale

With the first days of summer only one month away, designer hotel group Urban is throwing a seven-day sale with its luxury hotel rooms available for just $99 per night.

Starting this Sunday 25 October, and running for one week until Saturday 21 October, travellers can book rooms at any of the three Urban Hotel locations during the period of 18 December - 18 January 2010 (at the Sydney and Melbourne properties) and 18 December - 14 February 2010 (at the Brisbane property) for the half price rate of $99 per room per night (average full price room is $199).

Urban Hotels are the contemporary choice for the country's leisure and business travellers elegant locations, chic interiors, independent gourmet restaurants, unique little touches, and some serious customer service together create a trio of hotels that are the perfect place to lay your head away from home.

Urban Brisbane's art deco exterior features a Manhattan-style pool terrace and the team have just added the finishing touches to a top floor penthouse suite for intimate functions. Urban St Leonards lies on Sydney's North Shore, a favourite with business travellers thanks to the soothing surroundings, on-site putting green, and organic restaurant. And Urban St Kilda is a funky haven in the heart of Acland Street, complete with the popular 'round bedroom' and Suger cocktail bar.

The Urban Summer Sale applies to king, queen or twin rooms and is subject to availability. Visit www.hotelurban.com.au for more details.

Andre Rieu is back!

After wreaking havoc on the accommodation market when he was here at the end of 2008, I had been counting down to his concert tour this year. No, not because I wanted to go, but I really hoped he would have the same effect on the demand for city hotels.

Adam and I discussed it last year and because he wasn't bringing the same level of show that he put on last year and was performing at Boondall rather than Suncorp Stadium, our expectations were lowered. Thankfully tho, I was pleasantly surprised at what ended up happening.

As well as Rieu in town there was also a large science conference at the convention centre and this was what first drew my attention. I then remembered the concerts were on at the same time so I knew it had to be a busy few nights for the Brisbane hotels and prepared accordingly. I was disappointed at how late the actual demand came but when it happened it delivered!

I was at the Sofitel Brisbane Central for a breakfast meeting on Wednesday and as I was leaving I actually saw Andre Rieu in the lobby. (For me, the highlight of the morning was definitely the breakfast buffet tho!) When I got back to the office there were a LOT of messages on the voicemail and the enquiries didn't stop for the next day and a half. The well of available rooms eventually ran out yesterday at 4pm and unfortunately I was unable to assist the last couple of enquiries.

I haven't seen the Brisbane accommodation market that full for a long, long time. So once again, thank you Andre!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sir Richard Branson interview

I came across this interview earlier in the week with Sir Richard Branson. Most people know that I'm a big fan of Sir Richard so I thought it was worth sharing. Surprisingly, he tells a couple of stories I hadn't actually heard before. Not surprisingly, he doesn't miss a chance to mention his rivalry and "getting one up" on British Airways.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Chateau Royale Maroochydore

I spent last weekend with friends up the coast at Maroochydore. Not surprisingly the accommodation was given to me to arrange at late notice. Availability was limited and we needed a three bedroom apartment to cater for our group (5 of us).

For our corporate clients we tend to use Sebel Maroochydore and the Horton Apartments but neither had suitable bedding so I came across Chateau Royale. It was available and without pushing for an industry discount (because we needed 2 nights on a weekend) we paid just $40/person/night which is a steal for a three bedroom ocean view apartment.

Its not as modern a place as I'd normally book but the price and the location were right. Chateau Royale is in Cotton Tree just 20 metres from the beach. Our apartment didn't have aircon (which is normally a must for me) and having only seen the property online I talked it down to my friends before we arrived to make sure expectations were managed. Thankfully tho I was pleasantly surprised as the apartment was in good condition, had a large kitchen & lounge room, a wrap around balcony and great views.

I had hoped to spend a bit of time on the beach because I'm so white but due to the weather that didn't happen. It was blowing a gale when we arrived on Saturday afternoon and Sunday was raining and overcast. However, Monday when we left was perfect ... surprise, surprise. So instead, we spent the weekend playing cards (not poker believe it or not), eating and drinking.

The property is undergoing renovations at the moment but it didn't affect us as the work was being done midweek.

Mantra on Queen refurbishments

I ducked out of the office yesterday afternoon to have a look at the recently refurbished Mantra on Queen. Pre-GFC (global financial crisis) we used to make a lot of bookings at this hotel but it had been a while since I've actually seen the rooms.

Mantra on Queen has always been good value and great for longer stays but some of the furnishings were starting to date and I'm glad to see they've done a nice job of updating them. The main changes in the apartments are the TV's, beds, bedspreads, bedheads, paintings and some of the furniture.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Rooftop movie at Limes Hotel

Susan had been a couple of times when it first started but I was yet to experience a rooftop movie at the Limes Hotel until this week. When the hotel first opened Adam and I met with the owner, had a look around and on other occasions I've had a few drinks in their bar.

On Tuesday, Limes had a giveaway of tickets to Slumdog Millionaire which I loved the first time I saw it so jumped at the chance to enjoy it in their rooftop cinema.

After picking up my date for the evening we got stuck in some serious traffic on the way to the hotel but thankfully the movie didn't start on time so we had a chance to grab a glass of wine and order some food.

It was a great night, the outdoor movie experience was excellent and the highlights of the food we ordered were the grilled haloumi cheese and the home-style chips.

We finished the night by running into Lime's owner Damian who had obviously been working too hard and was grabbing a late dinner at the bar.

Tickets for the rooftop cinema are normally $12 and can be purchased through their website which also has the schedule for upcoming movies.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Travel funnies

I've been a bit slack in reading industry newsletters of late, but I found some funny travel stories in one of them today. The first appeals to me because I spend so much time online and the second is funny because one, I used to work for Starwood and two, the crooks had to be drunk or stoned when they first thought of the idea.

1. Whoever devised the acronym for the Wisconsin Tourism Federation clearly isn’t a twitterer and doesn’t frequent Internet chat rooms. Not unreasonably, the Wisconsin Tourism Federation called itself WTF. But anyone who is au fait with pop culture will probably know that WTF isn’t generally translated as Wisconsin Tourism Federation but a more robust phrase, “What the f***”, in case anyone didn’t know.

2. Colin Bennett, former gm for Starwood Hotel Group, recounted the most brazen theft he had ever seen. “I walked into the lobby of one hotel and immediately realised something was missing. It transpired that three people had strolled into reception, dressed in overalls, and had wheeled the grand piano out of the hotel...never to be seen again.