Monthly Archives: May 2011

Conrad New York Slated To Open In 'Q4 2011

Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Worldwide’s global luxury brand, will raise its flag in New York’s Financial District in the fourth quarter of 2011.

The Conrad New York will be the brand’s fifth property to open in the United States and the first Conrad hotel in New York City. Existing Conrad properties in the United States include Conrad Miami, Conrad Chicago, Conrad Indianapolis and Conrad San Juan.

Located at the current site of the Embassy Suites New York, situated at 102 North End Avenue (at Vesey Street), the hotel will house 463 luxury rooms in a prime location in the heart of New York City’s Financial District, adjacent to the Hudson River to the west and the new Freedom Tower (One World Trade) to the east. The hotel will be situated within a short distance of downtown Manhattan’s historic landmarks and popular attractions, such as the New York Stock Exchange, City Hall, Trinity Church, South Street Seaport, Battery Park, and the trendy neighborhoods of Tribeca, SoHo and Greenwich Village.

The soaring, sunlit 15-story atrium lobby features a dramatic Sol LeWitt art piece rising 13 floors above the check-in desk. Each luxuriously appointed guestroom will feature an average of more than 550 square feet, a minimum of two flat panel televisions and a full complement of contemporary electronic features. Conrad New York will also feature upscale dining and beverage outlets that are consistent with Conrad’s global definition of luxury. Interior design is being styled by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, Office dA and Remedios Studios.

In addition, more than 15,000 square feet of flexible meeting space will ensure that guests can stay connected and meet in comfort, supported by state-of-the-art technology and meeting facilities. A 6,000 square foot Grand Ballroom is designed to accommodate conferences and social gatherings for more than 600 participants.

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Marriott Sees Business And Leisure Travel Increasing

Marriott Hotels & Resorts

Hotel room rates have risen in the last year but they are still down 10 percent from before the 2008 economic downturn, Arne Sorenson, president of Marriott International, told CNBC Thursday.

Now, however, he sees business and leisure travel increasing at all Marriott’s brands, including its luxury Ritz-Carlton and its Courtyard motels for business travelers.

He said Marriott expects to spin off its time-share business in October or November.

Is Mexico's Violence Overblown?

Mexican President Felipe Calderón is touting 2011 as the year of tourism, and the Mexico Tourism Board is spending millions of dollars on ads.

Yet the nation’s deadly drug wars have led the U.S. government to widen its travel warnings in recent weeks, throwing a wrench into Mexico’s effort to attract foreign visitors.

Nearly half of all available rooms in 70 major resort centers in Mexico have been vacant this year, except for the Easter crowd that nearly filled the hotels for a few days over the holiday weekend, according to the tourism board.

Some U.S. travel agents and Mexican officials believe news about the violence has been overblown. “Bad things can happen anywhere,” said Rita Wilcox of Rocky Point Reservations travel agency in Phoenix. “But people are afraid, so even those who have the money to go might not. It’s affected every business down there tremendously.”

In Acapulco, the occupancy rate at major resorts slid 7 percentage points to 38.4 percent last year from 2008. In that period, Cancun’s rate tumbled to 57.4 percent from 72.1 percent, according to the Mexico Tourism Board. Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Riviera Maya have seen similar declines.

Overall, the number of international visitors has fallen 13 percent to 79.8 million last year from 91.5 million in 2008, according to Banco de Mexico. The trend isn’t looking better this year: In January, 3.8 million day-trippers crossed the U.S. border into Mexico, down 16 percent from the same month last year.

It was the violence that prompted the State Department advisory as well as a separate warning from the Texas Department of Public Safety urging spring-break vacationers to give Mexico a wide berth.

As lawlessness escalated last year, 111 Americans were killed in Mexico, compared with just 35 in 2007, authorities said. Others have been kidnapped from hotels, carjacked at gunpoint and targeted for extortion.

The State Department has urged travelers to avoid the states of Tamaulipas and Michoacan and parts of Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sinaloa, Durango, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi and Jalisco.

Is Calderon Telling The Truth About Drug Violence In Mexico?

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said Thursday that drug violence in Mexico isn’t hurting international tourism or the country’s plans to grow the industry.

Calderon told a group of travel industry executives in Las Vegas that international tourism was up 6 percent last year in Mexico, with 10 percent more American tourists visiting the country.

With 23 million international visitors last year and 6 million on cruise ships, Calderon said there were “almost zero” incidents of tourists encountering crime related to drug cartels.

Violence has been a consistent problem in Mexico, with frequent reports of killings and kidnappings related to the nation’s drug war. Late Tuesday, gunmen opened fire in an auto body shop in the Gulf Coast state of Tabasco, killing nine people. In the southern state of Guerrero, six people were killed earlier this week, including four police officers.

The U.S. State Department has warned Americans to stick to tourist areas and legitimate businesses, avoiding areas where criminal activity might happen. The department said that while there is no evidence of criminals targeting Americans because of their citizenship, the number of Americans killed in Mexico increased from 35 in 2007 to 111 in 2010.

Texas also warned college students earlier this year about going to Mexico for spring break, but Calderon said the vacationers encountered no problems.

“Let me tell you, I saw thousands, thousands of spring breakers in Mexico having fun,” Calderon said. “And from my understanding, the only shots they received were tequila shots — a lot of them.”

According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, international visitors spent $15 billion in Mexico in 2010, up from $12.3 billion in 2009. Domestic travel spending was also up to $78.9 billion, from $68.2 billion in 2009, and the council projects both figures will be up again in 2011.

Calderon said Mexico is proving to be an attractive investment for foreign travel companies, with $4 billion in investments in Mexico during the first quarter this year.

“Mexico is a safe place to visit,” Calderon said.

“Yes we have problems… We are dealing with that, we are facing it,” he said. “But at the same time, we have everything.”

Earlier this year, Calderon pledged with state governors to declare 2011 the year of tourism in Mexico, the start of a campaign to push international visits to the country even higher by 2020.

Calderon said that right now, Mexico is the 10th most visited country in the world by international travelers, and he wants that to improve to 5th by the end of the decade.

Best U.S. Family Beaches

If you’re looking for vacation ideas, there’s always the classic American getaway: the beach vacation. And fortunately for Americans, some of the world’s best beaches are well within reach. Whether it’s the cool shores of Malibu, the dramatic sands of Hawaii or the festive spots in the east coast, these U.S. beach destinations will not disappoint.

Kihei Beach Maui

Maui – While cost is a barrier for any family beach vacation, it’s an especially large barrier in Hawaii. Still, Maui contains some of the most abundant and exotic family beach attractions in the United States. Writers especially recommend spending at least a day along and around the famed Road to Hana, as well as enjoying a hike along the beaches of Waianapanapa State Park. The beaches on the island’s southwest side are usually the calmest. Children will also enjoy the Maui Ocean Center to see the underwater creatures that populate the Pacific.

North Carolina’s Outer Banks – North Carolina’s Outer Banks has a wide array of large beaches that are especially prized for their consistent, but manageable, waves and for great summer weather. Most families rent a house or condominium near the water. The area is also home to Kitty Hawk, the site of the Wright Brother’s First Flight, which is appealing to both adults and children.

San Diego – San Diego remains a top-ranked family beach destination for its access to calm and lifeguard-patrolled beaches and its proximity to adult-friendly and child-friendly attractions. San Diego contains one of the most well-reviewed beaches in the United States: La Jolla Beach, commonly known as the “Pacific Riviera,” is considered one of the best beaches on the West Coast for its access to calm water and its general cleanliness. The beaches at La Jolla and elsewhere throughout San Diego are also situated near some of the most family-friendly attractions in the United States, most famously SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo.

Myrtle Beach – The oceanfront at Myrtle Beach is famous for attracting families to sunbathe and swim on the East Coast. But writers and travelers always give the same advice: Wear plenty of sunblock, as the South Carolina sun can be unforgiving.

Ft. Lauderdale – Like Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale has the reputation for rowdiness. But beyond that veneer lies a quality family getaway. Family venues are located throughout the area, especially along the canal, where you can find exciting family-friendly restaurants. The resorts along the beach also contain many child-friendly amenities, including large kids’ clubs, pools and playgrounds.

U.S. Virgin Islands – One of the most affordable and accessible Caribbean destinations (and one of the few eligible for “American” status), the US Virgin Islands contains a welcoming host of beaches, family-friendly hotels and genuinely interesting historic attractions. The Virgin Islands National Park provides accessible hiking trails for family excursions, and many resorts and hotels are renowned for their hospitality toward families.

South Padre Island – When it’s not hosting Spring Break, South Padre Island makes a great beach getaway for you and the kids. The calm waters of Laguna Madre are perfect for young swimmers, while opportunities to kiteboard, dive and surf will keep the more adventurous teens occupied. When they tire of the beach, take your family to Sea Turtle, Inc. to learn about local wildlife or to Schlitterbahn Beach Waterpark for a splashing good time.