Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why I Don't Agree with MSNBC: 2009--not 2010--is the Year of the Travel Deal

A recent article on stated that 2010 will be the "Year of the Travel Deal". Respectfully, I disagree. Rather, 2009 will go down in the books as the "Year of the Best-Ever Travel Deals". As more people realize they can't live without travel, the bargain basement hotel rates, deeply discounted cruises, time sensitive promos & last-minute sales will become a thing of the past--a 2009 kind of thing.

How do I know this? Well, I'm seeing signs of it already. Just yesterday, I checked space for clients wanting to sail in style to Europe (next October!), and the top suites they wanted were totally booked. On several of the top cruise lines, I'm finding limited space still exists for some of the best cabins/coolest itineraries.

The reason? Smart travelers knew that the fares/rates we've been seeing all summer surely wouldn't last. Several cruise lines have even put out press releases--as they see next year's inventories fill--stating that fares will increase as of Oct 1. And don't be fooled by some of the "2-for-1" far promos we're seeing; I've already priced some of them and to be honest, the 2010 sailings still cost more at the end of the day than those in 2009.

As for hotels, how can it possibly get better than what we've seen in 2009? Never before do I recall so many luxury hotels offering free nights and ridiculous low rates. But, looking ahead, you'll see that most of these promos are only in effect from now through Christmas. People are putting 2010 travel plans on the books, leaving hoteliers slightly less panicked about the lack of advance bookings we saw in '09. My feeling is that the "Free Night" frenzy will also go down as a 2009 memory rather than something that lingers into 2010.

If the analysts are correct, and I do believe most of them are, it will take until 4th quarter for the hotel industry to show true signs of recovery. But with recovery is the goal, you certainly can't expect to see crazy creative promos like we have this year--solely to fill rooms.

My advice? There's still 3 months left in 2009. If you haven't taken advantage of the killer luxury travel deals still on offer for the balance of this year, what are you waiting for? There's still space over the holidays (!) at some of our favorite resorts (more on this, next post) and you can find all sorts of amazing deals on last-minute cruises, through the end of the year.

If you've got the time to travel, now's the time to do it. If you wait, you'll find out that I'm right--2009, not 2010, will go down as the Year of the Travel Deal.

For more information or to chat about future travel plans, contact Elite Travel International at 310.979.9036 or via email at Follow us on Twitter for more talk of luxury travel trends at

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

DOWN UNDER DIGS--Where to Sleep in Sydney

We pride ourselves on our ability to match each and every client to the absolute BEST hotel for his/her needs, budget & style. Thus, on my recent trip to Sydney, it only seemed right that I sample not one, not two, but three very different luxury hotels so as to determine first hand, which clients will be happiest where. Read on for my take on where to sleep in Sydney:

For those who adore elegant, intimate boutique hotels, The Observatory is the perfect fit. Part of the Orient-Express Hotels & Resort collection, this 100-room property (pictured) oozes warmth and charm; some say it is reminiscent of a 19th century Australian mansion. I've no way to verify this of course, but I do know that I loved the Observatory's cozy, residential-style suites, with custom mahogany furnishings & huge marble baths. The hotel's Day Spa is one of the best in the city, with La Prairie treatments and a heated indoor swimming pool. The impeccable service & ultra-friendly staff stand out as a reason to return, and for me (and those who enjoy a quiet, peaceful setting), the less than 10-minute walk to City Center was a great way to burn off the hotel's amazing & hearty Australian "continental" breakfast (which could go down as one of the best hotel breakfasts I've ever had!).

Travelers who like to stay right in the middle of the city, within just a few steps of the action (ie, shops, restaurants, bars, Circular Quay, the Opera House, Botanic Gardens, the ferries & more) can't do much better than the Four Seasons Sydney. Formerly the Regent Hotel, the 531-room Four Seasons Sydney is fresh from a room renovation that completely transformed the original rooms & suites into sleek, modern settings with chic furnishings and a bevy of high-tech accoutrements (loved the oversized flat screen in my harbor view corner room!). While in house, I learned that the huge lobby/public space and the restaurants are gearing up for a total redo as well--set for completion before this year's end. Four Seasons Sydney gets my vote for having the most comfortable beds in Sydney, and if you book into a corner room, also the BEST harbour views. Nothing like watching the sunrise over the Opera House with the Harbour Bridge also in view! Most impressive, though, was the kindness of Sam at the front desk who sent complimentary chicken noodle soup up to my room when he learned from my travel pal that I was not feeling well). It's these little things that we notice--and remember--long after our stay in a great hotel.
Fans of hip & trendy boutique hotels will no doubt enjoy Blue, a Taj Hotel located on the Wharf at Woolloomooloo (steps from the famous Harry's Cafe on Wheels and a short cab ride or walk to King's Cross or City Center). The former W Sydney, the 100-room Blue Hotel is part of the much larger Wharf complex which includes trendy indoor/outdoor restaurants (like China Doll & Otto's), a Chakra Spa, apartments (including Russell Crowe's waterfront penthouse) and a full-service marina. The hotel's "blue" theme carries through to the accent colors in the sparse-yet-chic rooms to the bag of all-blue M&Ms in the mini-bar. We prefer the rooms and loft suite on the hotel's western side, as they afford the best views of the marina and city skyline.

Regardless of whether you are staying at Blue, be sure to check out The Water Bar, named "Bar of the Year" by the Sydney Morning Herald and "One of the top 10 bars in the world" by Condé Nast Traveler. (FYI: The hotel is also just across the water from my favorite yoga studio in Sydney, Yoga BC (
Unfortunately, I only had time for three hotel stays on this weeklong Sydney trip or I would have certainly booked a few nights (instead of just stopping by for an amazing lunch) at the newly renovated, harbourfront Park Hyatt Sydney. I'd have also tried the Diamant, the former Millennium Hotel now run by Eight Hotels which has been getting rave reviews from the style & design-conscious fashion/music crowd.
For more information on any of these Sydney hotels, including current pricing, promos & exclusive amenities we can offer, contact or call 310.979.9036.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Sydney Scene...Part 1

It's rare that I actually get to spend more than a few nights in any one destination, so a full week in Sydney--one of my top 5 fave cities--has truly been a treat. I thank V Australia for launching a terrific product at an amazing fare for inspiring me to return. Here are just a few of my observations & tips for those considering a trip Down Under.

For starters, spring (NOW) is a great time to come! Days are bright and sunny, temps in the 60s/70s. Perfect weather for walking around town, not too hot, not too cold. Make sure you plan to spend a weekend in Sydney, for several reasons. First, the markets are a dont-miss. From The Rocks and Paddington Markets on Saturday and Bondi Markets on Sunday, you'll find jam-packed stalls of locally made clothes/jewelry (many of Australia's top designers get there start at the markets).

The weekends (Thurs to Sat) are the best eves to enjoy Sydney nightlife (my favorite hot spot is The Ivy, a multi-level, open-air complex of bars/restaurants/lounges w/great music and a fun local crowd). On Sunday afternoons, no better place to be than N. Bondi Italian (the casual sister to famous Icebergs), sipping local wine, grazing on Italian fare and soaking up the views of the world-famous beach just steps away (we met the owner, so be in touch for more details & VIP attention!). Before settling in for the day, start w/an invigorating oceanfront cliffside walk (shown in photo) from surfer-filled Bondi Beach to Bronte Beach and back. IMHO, it puts Newport (RI)'s cliffwalk to shame.
Also try to plan your visit when there's a great show or cool concert at the iconic Sydney Opera House. It's an experience in and of itself... especially if you're as lucky as I was to catch a huge talent like Ben Folds. On a sunny day, spend the afternoon on the harbour with SeaSydney; you'll see & learn about who lives where (ie, Nicole Kidman's former $14 million home is on the waterfront route).

If you're a yoga addict like me, check out Lululemon's website as they have a store on George Street that offers free classes 2x/week. Other fitness fanatics will be in good company--running through the Royal Botanic Gardens is a great way to burn off the meals you won't want to miss. My faves: Jimmy Liks on Victoria Street for flavorful Thai/Vietnamese & creative cocktails and Pony, an indoor/outdoor spot on Argyle Street in The Rocks for delicious tapas, grilled meats and fish. Both hot spots highlight a seemingly new trend--communal dining tables, a fun and different way to meet people while enjoying a great meal.

One of my fave finds in Sydney is The Wine Odyssey. This incredible wine-tasting concept store, allows you to help yourself to as many local wines as you'd like (tastes start at $2) and then graduate if desired to a half or full glass. Located on Argyle St. in a stylishly decorated house, there are multiple rooms/outdoor spaces where you can lounge with your liquor or pair it with light bites. Should you find a wine you love, just walk next door to the retail store. Brilliant. And saves a trip to wine country should you be pressed for time.
Next Sydney Scene post will highlight my thoughts on top Sydney hotels. I've stayed in 3 on this trip, so as to sample a variety of styles & neighborhoods. Stay tuned. And give some serious thought to a trip Down Under!

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