Hotel Classifications

Hotel stars are a well-known tool for classifying the quality of accommodation world wide. However, the ranking is not unified and as a result, a visitor may receive much different experience from hotels that have the same number of stars. A five-star hotel in Uganda will most likely provide a different set of services than a five-star hotel in the U.S.

However, the problematic situation seems to be changing now. A new scheme has been recently founded under the patronage of HOTREC – Hotels, Restaurants & Café in Europe (a society of EU hotel and restaurant associations). On their meeting in Prague this December the hotel associations of Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland established a “Hotelstars Union”.

More than 17,000 hotels that are situated in these seven countries could be thus soon categorised based upon the same criteria. The new classification system will be launched in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany and Sweden from 1 January 2010. Hungary will implement the categorization in 2010, and Switzerland and the Netherlands in 2011.

So far, the countries use different classification schemes but as soon as they start to use the new system, it will be much easier for a guest to pick a hotel based on the number of its stars. The common classification is based on 270 criteria, which are based on guest surveys. Among the judged criteria is e.g. the width of beds, Internet-PC in the room, safe in the room or ironing service.

The idea of common hotel classification is not new but only now it can be actually implemented at least in some European countries. Other members of HOTREC are invited to join the Hotelstars Union and it is expected that the membership will grow to 15 within two years.

Not everyone, however, agrees with the idea of the common classification. For example, the International Hotel & Restaurant Association (IH&RA) considers current national hotel classification and grading systems as sufficient. They point out that standards as well as customer expectations vary country to country. According to the IH&RA, one single 5-star-system cannot capture the entire diversity of hotels worldwide. They also add that the cost for creation of a global standard would be extremely high.

New Luxury Hotels

TO open a hotel in 2010 — when the industry is in its worst slump in decades — requires chutzpah.

Who’s got chutzpah? Donald Trump, for one. The Trump SoHo (, a 391-room hotel in Lower Manhattan, is expected to open this spring, towering over its low-rise neighbors with a lot of razzle-dazzle.

Oh, and Kelly Wearstler has chutzpah. The former Playboy centerfold is putting the finishing touches on the Viceroy Snowmass in Colorado and the Viceroy Anguilla in the Caribbean ( Both have the kind of glamour that have made Ms. Wearstler a top interior designer and Bravo TV star.

And Giorgio Armani has chutzpah, or whatever it’s called in Italian. This spring, he plans to unveil the first in a much-hyped chain of Armani Hotels ( Where? In the Burj Dubai, the tallest building in the world. The hotel features lots of dark leather and wood and — given Dubai’s economic troubles — will stand either as a symbol of rebirth or of hubris.

It won’t be the only new hotel in the emirate. One & Only Resorts ( is set to open a new resort on the tree-shaped Palm Jumeirah Island. So what if there’s already a One & Only (the Royal Mirage) overlooking Palm Jumeirah Island? Call it the Two & Only.

Another desert emirate sprouting new hotels is Dubai’s oil-rich sister, Abu Dhabi. The biggest surprise there may be the Yas ( Designed by Asymptote, the hot architecture firm based in New York, the 499-room Yas Hotel is covered in a shell of diamond-shaped glass panels, like a high-tech veil. Even more surprising, it bridges Abu Dhabi’s new Formula One racetrack.

While new hotels in the Middle East are making bold architectural statements, European hotels seem to be slipping into older buildings unobtrusively. In Venice, Philippe Starck designed the modern, 26-room Palazzina Grassi ( to disappear behind a 15th-century facade. In Amsterdam, the 23-room Canal House Hotel ( is set to open in a group of charming old houses on the Keizergracht, with canal views and contemporary styling.

In London, the Dean Street Townhouse ( — a 39-room hotel in what was once the Gargoyle Club — has four-poster beds, hand-painted wallpapers and other retro-chic touches. And in Portugal, the Palácio do Freixo (, in Porto, occupies a magnificently restored Baroque palace and former factory next door.

Closer to home, the hotel boom doesn’t seem to have slowed much in New York City. Vikram Chatwal, the hotelier behind the Dream Hotels in New York and Bangkok, is opening the Chatwal ( in the former Lambs Club on West 44th Street designed by the great Beaux-Arts architect Stanford White. An outpost of the Mondrian Hotel ( is coming to SoHo, with design based on the 1946 Cocteau Surrealist film “Beauty and the Beast” and the “Top Chef” alum Sam Talbot manning the kitchen.

Also expected to open are the W Downtown (, with views of the World Trade Center site, and Fashion 26 (, a Wyndham Hotel that takes its cue from the Fashion Institute of Technology, its 26th Street neighbor. The Kimpton chain, known for its affordable, boutique-ish hotels, will open the Eventi ( in the Chelsea neighborhood. And Patrik Horstmann, the longtime manager of the Gansevoort Hotel, will open the Nolitan (, a boutique hotel just north of Little Italy.

Not all the openings are in Manhattan. The 321-room Sheraton Brooklyn (, near the MetroTech Center, is expected to open in March, and will be one of the borough’s largest new hotels in decades. Elsewhere in the Americas: In Cartagena, Colombia, the Sofitel Santa Clara ( is opening in a former monastery that dates from 1621. And in Mexico, in another sign of Acapulco’s rebirth, Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts, the Singapore-based chain, plans to open the Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués (

Asia, meanwhile, continues to add hotels at a furious pace. In Thailand, Ritz-Carlton Reserve opens Phulay Bay (, a 54-villa resort in the southern town of Krabi that offers private butlers and meditation classes taught by monks. Not far away, W Hotels is planning to open the W Retreat Koh Samui (

Anantara, a resort chain based in Bangkok, is opening the Anantara Kihavah Villas in the Maldives (, a secluded 82-villa resort with private swimming pools, thatched roofs and an underwater restaurant.

Don’t confuse Anantara with Aman — the ne plus ultra chain that is set to open Amanfayun (, a spectacular 42-room resort that evokes an ancient Chinese compound, about 20 minutes from Hangzhou, China. It’s just one of hundreds of hotels expected to open in China in 2010, including three hotels from Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts (, in Beijing, Guilin and Shanghai.

Another growth market is India, where Starwood has more than a dozen hotels in the pipeline, including three Aloft hotels ( and the Westin New Delhi Gurgaon (, scheduled to open in July.

The St. Regis is set to open its first hotel in Japan, in the heart of Osaka ( In Tokyo, the Tokyu hotel group plans to open the Capital Hotel Tokyu ( near the Imperial Palace. This is no capsule hotel — the smallest room will be more than 400 square feet.

Singapore is also bucking the global hotel downturn. The Wangz Hotel ( on Tiong Bahru Road occupies a futuristic cylindrical building (the shape is said to induce relaxation). Even more spectacular — or gaudy — is the Marina Bay Sands (, a giant resort composed of three 55-story towers, with a giant park on their shared roof. When it opens, the hotel-casino-resort is expected to feature a production of “The Lion King,” and restaurants by Mario Batali, Wolfgang Puck and Daniel Boulud. All three are known for their cuisine and for their chutzpa

Russian Ice Hotel

Do not remain aloof from the fashionable trends to build snow hotels, Russia is also ready to open the country’s first ice hotel. The hotel is going to be open on Feb. 14, 2010 in Ustyansk area of the Arkhangelsk region, Russia. Presentation of the hotel will take place within Russia’s Ice Sculpture Festival, which will start ten days earlier.

The hotel will comprise nine residential rooms, all the furniture there will also be made of ice. In addition, a theater will be opened inside the hotel with 70 seats. There will be a conference hall, bar and even the palace of weddings. For Russian Ded Moroz, who arrives from the Great Ustyug, the separate apartments already booked. According to calculations of the creators, the construction will last until 30 March,

Moscow Hotels Most Expensive

Hotels in Moscow have been revealed as the world’s most expensive for a fifth consecutive year. Average room rates in the Russian capital were £265 a night, down by £37 on 2008. However they were still more than £40 dearer than the second most expensive destination, Abu Dhabi.

According to the survey by the Hogg Robinson Group (HRG), an international corporate travel services company, average room rates (calculated in local currency) fell in most cities, as hoteliers sought to entice travellers during the financial downturn with cut-price deals.

However for British travellers the falling value of the pound during 2009 meant that the cost of hotels in many cities actually increased. Average room rates in Abu Dhabi were £32 more expensive, accommodation in Geneva in £6 dearer, and prices in Washington were £9 higher.

In New York, the third most expensive city on the list, rates fell by 23 per cent (from $414.52 to $318.98), but due to the weak pound, this represents a fall of less than £20 for British visitors.

Average room rates in London fell by five per cent to £151.45, placing the capital in 29th position on the list

Tuscany brings to light Vie degli Etruschi

The Tuscany Region’s effort to re-launch interest in the Etruscans and develop the places and itineraries of ancient Etruria will have to continue even in the next legislature. The Regional Council has approved a proposal for the support of projects to reconstitute the federation of Etruscan cities and create the ‘Vie degli Etruschi’. The project will include trekking itineraries, horseback riding routes, and cycling paths that are characterised by a coordinated graphic, a common logo and an illustrative set of brochures that will make it possible to visit the archaeological areas, monuments and museums with Etruscan collections as well as other cultural assets or territorial offers.

Valentine’s Day St Valentine’s land

Umbria, the land of St Valentine and St Francis of Assisi is the pretty green heart of Italy of rolling green hills, woods with secluded monasteries, meadows, vineyards and olive groves. It has it own micro climate spring arriving much earlier than at neighboring provinces like Lazio,the more southerly region of Rome.

The celebrations of St. Valentine Day on February 14th go back to pre-Roman times and started as pagan fertility festivities of the Umbri and Etruscan peoples celebrating spring, rebirth and mating time.

Although similar to Tuscany, which it borders, Umbria is slightly less well-known, quieter and with gentler landscape of medieval hamlets and Roman-style villas with serpentine roadways fenced by needle Cyprus trees.

While Umbria is totally land locked in the center of Italy, it has a lively beach-like lifestyle in the summer along Lake Trasimento, the largest lake in the region ideal for water activities.

Umbria is also the legendary land of a thousand saints, among them Saint Francis of Assisi and St Valentine, the third century bishop of Terni. (105 km from Rome)

Italy Religious Holy Shroud Turin

For the first time after its restoration in 2020, the Holy Shroud will once again be on display in the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in Turin from April 10 to May 23, 2010

The shroud was only displayed 4 times in the 20th century and it will not be again on display until the year of 2025, 15 years from now.

The Shroud of Turin (or Turin Shroud) is a linen cloth bearing the image of a man who appears to have suffered physical trauma in a manner consistent with crucifixion. It is kept in the royal chapel of the Cathedral of Turin, Italy. The origins of the shroud and its image are the subject of intense debate among scientists, theologians, historians and researchers.
Believers contend that the shroud is the cloth placed on the body of Jesus Christ at the time of his burial, and that the face image is the face of Jesus. Non-believers claim contend that the artifact postdates the Crucifixion of Jesus by more than a millennium.
The shroud exhibition is not only a pilgrimage opportunity but also a chance to visit Italy’s less know region of Piedmont and the city of Torino
Piedmont this mountainous northern region of Italy at the borders of France and Switzerland renowned for its rugged castles, unique northern cuisine especially its tasty truffles as well as world-class vineyards. It is the ancient dominion of the Savoys, the ill-fated royal family who ruled Italy from the Unification in 1870 until abdication in 1946. With its many picturesque lakes and hills, many more than you can find in celebrated Tuscany, Piedmont can be a real surprise for visitors.

Rome Italy Palace concerts

The absolutely gorgeous Doria Pamphilj Palace in Rome, dating back to the 15th century released its new spring concert schedule. In addition to being one of Rome’s largest palaces, the Doria Pamphili Palace is one of Rome’s most important picture galleries privately owned.
The Pamphili family private art collection has over 600 paintings including masterpieces by Velazquez, Titian, Caravaggio. Many of the private apartments have the original furnishing dating back mostly to the 16ht-17th century.
It is already the palace’s 32nd concert season with chamber music performances taking place in the Throne Room fit for a royalty. The Throne Room is part of the private Doria Pamphilj Apartments of the Doria-Pamphilj-Landi, a princely Roman family. The chamber spring concert series starting on 10 April 201, feature works by Alessandro Scarlatti, Antonia Vivaldi and several other Italian composers.
It is also possible to arrange private, exclusive concerts on different dates, either in Palazzo Doria Pamphilj or in other historical buildings or churches.
For information contact [email protected]

Brussels to Recover Hub status thanks to Star Alliance

When Belgium’s national carrier, Sabena, went bankrupt 8 years ago the nation’s number 1 gateway lost fully one-third of its traffic overnight. Now that Sabena’s successor is a fully fledged member of the Star Alliance, Brussels Airport stands poised to recoup a significant chunk of that traffic.
The failure of Sabena meant that regional carriers serving BRU lost their long-haul feed, and they pulled back on frequencies. Meanwhile, other European long-haul airlines like Air France, British Airways, KLM and Lufthansa boosted frequencies to their home bases to fill the Sabena void. Almost 40% of Sabena’s traffic was on a transfer basis and it was lost overnight. Now that Brussels Airlines is a member of the Star Alliance it can once again focus on transfer traffic.
Many predict that BRU will become a significant Euro-hub for the Star group; in particular for its North American members, which have announced major route additions. Air Canada will inaugurate daily year-round service from Montreal next June, United will add daily Chicago service to its daily Washington operations next March, and US Airways is adding a Philadelphia service on top of Continental’s daily Newark flight.
Brussels Airport has a capacity for 28 million passengers per year and currently it has only 18.5 million per year so it has a lot of room for the Star Alliance to grow there.


Since 2009, St. Petersburg proudly presents yet another tribute to the work of one of Russia‘s greatest figures, Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Reval Hotel Sonya was dedicated solely to his most famous novel, Crime and Punishment.

St. Petersburg belongs to one of the most fascinating cities in Russia. It is a crucial financial and industrial hub as well as a culturally diverse place with more than 300 years of history. Undoubtedly a must-see, tourists come here to admire the typical cathedrals and churches, picturesque parks and the breathtaking views over local canals. There are many hostels and hotels in St. Petersburg, yet one of the latest additions to local hospitality scene undoubtedly deserves all the praise; the new Reval Hotel Sonya is solely inspired by the great novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Dostoyevsky remains one of the most praised authors, whose “Crime and Punishment” has been inspiring artists for many decades. The Norwegian chain Reval Hotel, which had dominated the Baltic market, decided to expand to Russia and chose St. Petersburg for their first hotel. When searching for the right theme, the link between the city and Dostoyevsky, whose “Crime and Punishment” takes place here, seemed perfect.

The 4-star hotel is situated in the heart of the city in the vicinity of the Neva river. It features 173 beautiful rooms, an amazing restaurant and lively bar, a fitness centre, 24-hour room service and WiFi coverage. Reval Hotel Sonya is a tribute to Dostoyevsky and his Russian culture. The interior design possesses a light Russian touch and naturally, the Metamorfos restaurant’s menu does not fail to combine the best dishes of Russian cuisine with delicacies and flavor from all over the world.

The hotel happily assists foreign guests with their visa requirements and diligently caters for all their wishes. Local library is a rather amusing highlight as all the books it features are copies of none other than “Crime and Punishment” in many languages.