Sunday, January 22, 2012

Luxury Hotels I LOVED in 2011

Some hotels just do everything right. Or nearly everything. And, as we roll into another busy year of booking luxury travel for some of the coolest people on the planet, I've been reflecting on those properties I personally visited in 2011 that top my list of winners. These are the hotels that have earned a spot on my "top of mind" list, for various reasons ranging from impeccable service to ultra-cool design to impressive renovations to tiny details that wow every time.

There are of course, SO many phenomenal hotels we love, and will add to future lists as we revisit them this year or in the future. But for now, in no particular order, here is my personal Top 10 List of Hotels I Visited & Loved in 2011:

1) Four Seasons Lanai at Manele Bay
If you watched recent episodes of "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills", you got a glimpse of this gorgeous Hawaiian property on lush Lanai. I easily could have stayed a few weeks, working from my oceanview terrace in between phenomenal massages and delicious meals (both here and at sister property, the Lodge at Koele). The General Manager and his entire staff from the sales/marketing team to the reservation directors to housekeeping all go the extra mile for our Preferred Partner clients.

2) Mandarin-Oriental, Barcelona
An amazing location overlooking Passeig de Gracia, sleek/chic rooms and suites (my favorite are those with a private terrace), a fantastic spa, outdoor pool with stunning views, and an uber-friendly staff anxious to share tips about their terrific city are what put this hotel on the top of my list in Barcelona.

3) Montage Deer Valley, Deer Valley Utah
Hands down, this the best new luxury resort to open in the mountains in years. The newest in a trio that already includes favorites in Laguna and Beverly Hills, Montage Deer Valley (pictured) is as much fun in the summer (think amazing hiking, biking, white water rafting) as it is during ski season (the slopeside location is key). A gorgeous spa, terrific dining options, incredible service, and even a billiards room & bowling alley set this resort apart from others in ski country.

4) Hotel Le Bristol, Paris, France
Fresh from a multi-million dollar renovation, this classic Parisian hotel is THE place to stay for impeccable service in a traditional French setting with a modern twist. The new suites (especially those with Eiffel Tower views) are over-the-top, and the city center location is always a draw.

5) Beach Village at Hotel Del Coronado, San Diego
Want your own beach house but not ready to totally commit? No need to, as you can simply book a stay here at Beach Village on the grounds of famous Hotel Del. The only difference is, when you stay at Beach Village, you're literally steps from the sand in your private oceanview residence yet you still get to enjoy the beauty and benefits of the iconic (and newly renovated) Hotel Del.

6) The Ritz-Carlton Kapalua Resort, Kapalua, Maui
Every family we booked here this year had the same thing to say: This place is phenomenal! From the awesome views to spacious, family-friendly suites to the delicious cuisine to the friendly staff, it's a winner all around. Personally, I loved the spa/fitness center (especially the yoga classes), the stunning setting and overall vibe of this Hawaiian resort.

7) The Marbella Club, Marbella Spain
I dream about a return visit to this Costa Del Sol beach resort that exceeded all of my expectations, by a lot! Lounging by the oceanfront pool, spending time at the Thalasso Spa and relaxing on my gardenview terrace were highlights of my too-short visit to the only place I'd ever want to stay in Marbella.

8) Acqualina Resort, Sunny Isles, FL
This is truly the example of a resort that gets it right. From the minute you arrive and are welcomed by name to the warm hospitality extended til the minute you leave, coupled with gorgeous (and huge) oceanfront suites, a beautiful spa, fantastic food (delivered to your beach chair if you desire) and a gazillion activities for kids, everyone is easily pleased at Acqualina. Delicious sushi (perfect for a room-service snack) and an Il Mulino on-site are added bonuses I loved!

9) Le Royal Monceau, Paris
The oh-so-chic Royal Monceau hotel is definitely the place to stay for the stylish, fun, "not into cookie cutter hotels" crowd. Everywhere you turn is an unexpected surprise from designer Philippe Starck, but in a good, grown-up way. Lush colors and fabrics blend perfectly with the funky furnishings, and the suites (especially where JLo stayed) are simply gorgeous. The Italian and French restaurants are notable both for their whimsical decor and their sublime cuisine, with incredible service to match.

10) Four Seasons Los Angeles and Four Seasons Westlake Village
This last spot goes to sister properties as they're both on my list of faves for similar reasons: Close to home! An oldie but goodie, Four Seasons LA makes the list after super-impressing me on a "bizcation" I took in my own town last spring. I truly loved every moment of Four Seasons service at its best, and the Sunday brunch remains the best in town. And, having just revisited Four Seasons Westlake, I'll go on record saying it's my favorite spot to "get away" when I don't have time (or the desire) to get on a plane. My perfect 48-hour retreat came complete with spa time (I adore the private spa suites), fitness classes and delicious healthy food in a Zen-inspired, art-filled, pet-friendly setting (they know how to VIP the dogs!).

All of the above properties offer exclusive VIP amenities/perks to Elite Travel International clients, ranging from breakfast-inclusive rates to resort credits to spa treatments, priority upgrades, late check-out and more. For details or to book an upcoming stay at any of my favorites, send me an email or call 310.979.9036.

Friday, January 6, 2012

An Optimistic Take on 2012

While I don't agree with the title "Travel Agents Set to Bounce Back in 2012" of this article written by Adam Leposa, it's always refreshing to read anything that validates what it is we at Elite Travel International do for our clients! I've long believed that even our most tech-savvy and sophisticated clients fully understand and appreciate my expertise and continue to witness how our extensive worldwide connections benefit them as they jetset around the globe. An excerpt of the article is below in case you missed the link on my Facebook page or Twitter feed.

According to Adam Leposa of "Travel agents received a nice Christmas present when the Miami Herald spoke of their successes. The Herald cited a study by Forrester Research that found the number of leisure travelers who enjoyed using the Internet to book travel fell from 53 percent in 2007 to 47 percent in 2010, as well as a survey by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) that showed 44 percent of agents said they had more clients in 2010 than in 2009."

“[Travelers] don’t have hours to spend on research to compare multiple flights, multiple cruises, multiple packages,” Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Forrester Research, told the Miami Herald. “It’s not unlike doing your taxes. Depending who you are, what your priorities are, there are some people who will choose to do it themselves or to use a professional.”

2011 also garnered increased publicity for travel agents after President Obama made comments implying that the Internet had replaced travel agents, sparking a flurry of counterarguments by industry groups like ASTA that underscored just how important the travel agent industry is.

“Travel agents work as personal advisors to provide their clients with the best travel experience before during and after their trip,” ASTA CEO Tony Gonchar wrote in a letter to the President. “Thanks to their in-depth knowledge, experience and industry connections, travel agents are able not only to save their clients money, but their most valuable possession—their time.”

Looking ahead, organizations from around the industry are forecasting positive trends for 2012. Travel Leaders’ annual Travel Trends Survey shows that over 91 percent of Travel Leaders members expect clients to spend the same or more on travel in 2012 as compared to 2011. The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) in its annual member survey revealed that 75 percent of its members are confident of sales growth in 2012. Finally, in the 2012 Travel-Ticker Traveler Intentions survey of consumers 44 percent of respondents planned to travel more in 2012 than 2011.

For more information on how we can assist with all of your travel needs, email me directly or phone 310.979.9036