A unification of hotel classification systems has started in Prague where representatives of hotel associations from 7 European countries founded a Hotelstars Union. Its members will use the same criteria to determine how many stars a hotel should get.

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.

Top 5 Destinations for Chocolate Lovers

Don’t you love the ecstatic feeling when you get hold of your favorite chocolate delicacy? If chocolate is your cup of tea then here is your chance to get some ideas for your next holidays. What is the country to get the best pralines? Where do people eat the most chocolate? Where can you become a chocolate chef?

Zürich & Bern, Switzerland
Where else to start then in Switzerland, the country that has the highest per capita rate of chocolate consumption world wide (11.6 kg per capita per annum)! Switzerland is also home to TOBLERONE, the famous triangular chocolate bar created at the beginning of 20th century in Bern. In Zurich there are based three well-known chocolate producers namely Sprungli, Lindt and Teuscher. Here in the largest Swiss city you can spend hours admiring and tasting the hundreds of different shapes of chocolate bars, figures and desserts in local cafés and shops. Close to the lively Paradeplatz Square you will find for example the big chocolate shop called Confiserie Sprüngli which is simply heaven for all chocoholics.

As the locals boast “Belgian chocolate has been the food of champions, a lure for lovers, the indulgence of the rich and later, the favorite of the masses.” The country is home to more than a dozen chocolate factories, sixteen chocolate museums and 2000 chocolate shops. Basically, every town or even small village has its own chocolate store with luxurious pralines. Producing 172,000 tons of chocolate per year Belgium is regarded as top chocolate destination of Europe. Especially the various flavors of chocolate pralines are popular. Many Swiss chocolatiers still make their pralines by hand.

Tain L’Hermitage, France
Tain L’Hermitage is a small old French town in a wine-growing district near Lyon where Valrhona is based. Valrhona is a premium chocolatier founded by a pastry chef Monsieur Guironnet in 1922. Today it is one of the leading chocolate producers in the world focusing mainly on top-quality luxury chocolate as well as vintage chocolate. The company also maintains its own École du Grand Chocolat, a school for professional chefs, chocolate makers and caterers. Even amateurs can learn here to prepare delicious desserts through a three-day course for $1000.

Villajoyosa & Alicante, Spain
The oldest gourmet brand for chocolate and pralines in Spain, Valor, is based at La Villajoyosa which is sometimes nicknamed “Chocolate City”. The town offers many delights like for example the local chocolate museum where you can find out how your favorite treat is produced. The fame came to this town when it started importing cocoa beans from Ecuador and Venezuela in the 18th century. The Valor brand is well known not only in Spain but all over Europe. In their flagship boutique and cafe in Alicante you can try besides delicious chocolate mousse or ice chocolate drinks a local specialty – chocolate with churros. This sweet pastry is ideal for a cup of hot chocolate.

San Francisco Bay Area, USA
The San Francisco Bay Area is definitely one of the world’s chocolate capitals. In San Francisco you will find the legendary Ghirardelli whose chocolate is as much a San Francisco icon as the trolley car. The company was founded in 1852 and is the second oldest chocolate company in the U.S. Across the bay you can find the Scharffen Berger, a chocolate manufacturer and first American company founded in the past 50 years that made chocolate from “bean to bar”. Six times a day visitors can tour their factory for free.


The British Airways claim next year tourism will be determined by eco tourism and sport events. Among the major attractions should be the 2010 FIFA World Cup and the Winter Olympics.

According to the British Airways’s recent survey the major drives for international tourism in 2010 will be sport events and eco tourism. More specifically these factors will be behind picking a destination as a spot for one’s vacation.

If the prediction is correct the South African Republic will be among the winners as it is going to host the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which is expected to lure approximately half a million fans to the country. Similarly Winter Olympics should make Vancouver a very popular tourism destination with many tourists.

Among other popular destinations for 2010 will be, according to the BA, Istanbul in Turkey. Tourists are expected to come to the cultural centre of the country to admire the local Roman and Byzantine tourist attractions. The capital of Lithuania, Vilnius is also listed as one of the top destinations for 2010. This city is actually the European Capital of Culture for 2009, which definitely has a positive impact on visibility of a city as a tourism destination.

The well established destinations in the USA, Las Vegas and New York are expected to remain among the major draws for tourists in 2010 according to BA. Dominican Republic is expected lure growing numbers of people to the beaches of Punta Cana. Another popular destination mentioned in the BA survey is Maldives.

Back in Europe there is one more destination that will be very popular in 2010, at least according to the survey, and it is Dubrovnik in Croatia. The city is a prime tourism destination in the Adriatic and it is also included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. Among the top ten is also an Indian destination, Delhi which is likely, apart from other attractions, to lure visitors to the 2010 Commonwealth Games.

Tour of Christmas Markets in Alto Adige

Alto Adige has opened its Christmas Markets, one of the most traditional events of the holiday season in Italy. Five destinations are involved: Bolzano, Merano, Bressanone, Brunico and Vipiteno, through which visitors can take a tour this year following an enchanting “five star” route along 135 kilometres, even taking the new panoramic train of Alto Adige, using the mobilcard, which provides visitors with free use of public transportation for 3 to 7 days.

Vienna looks to hasten inbound visitors

Despite the Austrian capital always being likely to attract a large number of visitors due to its charm and the fact that the whole centre is a UNESCO heritage site, the Vienna tourist board is keen to urge tourists to visit now rather than later. It seems that the supposed eternal charm has also its downfall.

Many tourists having visited or planning to visit the Austrian capital say that a major plus point for the city is its eternal charm. This is the same as if people would say there is no rush in visiting Stonehenge, as it will always be there.

This discovery of such attitude was made by the Vienna tourist board, which asked around 11000 visitors what their opinion of the magical city is. Eternal beauty and charm nearly always came up.

However, this is now seen as a disadvantage as people are not rushing to get to Vienna. It seems to often be on the list of places to see yet not necessarily now. The Viennese tourist board has reacted to this situation by introducing a “now or never” campaign, trying to urge potential visitors that the best time to come is now and that the classic beauty may not last forever.

Indeed, like most European cities, Vienna is undoubtedly changing and its centre does not particularly look the way it did 15 years ago. The trendy “sand in the city” area on the Danube canal is an example of the way modernisation is inevitable.

The new campaign has been launched in countries with the traditionally high amount of inbound tourists. For example, the “now or never” slogan recently appeared on the side of a London bus. The British market is hugely important for Austria, thus targeted first.

Central European Spas Popular among visitors from the Middle East

Despite the current difficult economic situation in most developed countries many incoming tour operators in the Czech Republic offering niche travel products have recorded moderate growth in terms of both tourism arrivals and revenue. The latest statistics however show significant changes in the source countries of travelers visiting Central and Eastern Europe.

Since 2007 the local spas have been recording a growing demand from customers in Middle Eastern countries. Today, two thirds of foreign guests in Czech spas are patients from UAE, Jordan, Saudi Arabia or Egypt. Although the growing numbers of guests from the Middle East or North African regions are the trend of only few last years, the local health service providers are well aware of specific aspects related to this type of clients.

People from the ME&NA region often require more sophisticated services, such as special diets or more intensive treatment programmes. However, they mostly stay longer than other foreign guests, take their whole families with them, and also spend more money.

A recent survey carried out in UAE by the international research organization YouGov for National newspaper, revealed that over 70% of UAE residents would seek treatment abroad, if they fall seriously ill. Based on the reactions of the respondents the researchers stated that despite all the modern diagnostic equipment and up-to-date facilities in the country, the overall health care services do not meet the patients’ expectations. Therefore they look to other destinations offering quality healthcare with favorable prices.

As a result the Central European incoming tour operators of both leisure and medical segments have started discovering the new business opportunities in the Middle East and North African countries and began marketing their products in the region. Although many providers and regional boards from the Central Europe fail to promote their destinations and services efficiently countries like Hungary, Slovakia or the Czech Republic remain attractive destinations for travellers from the ME&NA countries.

Top 10 Party Hotels

Travellers who enjoy the night more than the day on holiday are looking for a hotel with a relaxing atmosphere, with a trendy design, located in the heart of the action.

If flirtation is also on the cards, then nothing stands in the way of an exciting trip. The hotel price comparison site trivago has investigated the most popular cities in the world and has found the top hotels that are ideal for couples and singles alike. This top ten guarantees a boredom free holiday.

1. Andaz London

London is the top destination for party people worldwide and Hotel Andaz, the new luxury brand of the Hyatt Group offers trendy design in a Victorian building. There is no reception, the lobby is a spacious living room and check-in occurs on a laptop on the way to the room. The rooms are minimalistic, well equipped and include biological juices, an iPod and DVD’s. Tourist hot spots such as the Tower of London or the Tate Museum are in walking distance, and the closest underground station to the city centre is around the corner. A highlight for party people is the proximity to the East End and its galleries, bars and nightclubs.

2. Tres, Palma de Mallorca

The Hotel Tres in the old town of Palma de Mallorca offers a blend of old and new. In the remnants of the city palace a house has been cultivated with a pure style and exclusive roof terrace: it does not only offer a beautiful view of the cathedral, but also of the pool, the sundeck and the sauna. Alternatively guests can relax under palm trees in the inner court or in the lounge. The hotel is located in the party district La Llonja and the Abaco Bar is directly around the corner. Discotheques and clubs on the harbour promenade are only a stone’s throw away.

3. Villa Emilia, Barcelona

The Zinc Bar in Villa Emilia is the place to be seen in Barcelona; however the hotel also allures guests with its Zen style design and high-tech equipment with WiFi and Plasma TV. Close to the Plaça Espanya and the underground station, the centre of Barcelona is easy to reach. The sea is less than two miles away. In addition guests can sample wines from the hotel owned wine cellar, try Catalonian dishes or view the city from the sun terrace and from there begin the night.

4. Marmara Pera, Istanbul

Hotel Marmara Pera is located in downtown Istanbul, in Beyoğlu, where the nightlife is in full swing. This luxury accommodation has been designed with a retro feel. The roof terrace offers a swimming pool with a bar and a view over Bosporus. On the top floor of the hotel, the panoramic restaurant “Mikla” serves Turkish-European food prepared by star chef Mehmet Gürs. Hotel Marmara Pera is where the designer scene in Istanbul meets. For travellers who want to dive into the nightlife, the hotel is close to Taksimplace and the party district Istiklal with bars, clubs and discotheques.

5. Hotel Ellington, Berlin

Whether in the 20s in the “Femina” swing palace or in the 70s in the discotheque “Dschungel” – in the Ellington Hotel dancing is a tradition, the new hot spot is the 5055Club in the lounge. The hotel with its historical facade takes its guests back to the „Golden Twenties“, and offers everything of a modern design hotel, with elegant rooms, a bar and the Duke restaurant. Besides this the hotel is located close to Kudamm which is an ideal starting point for tourists and night clubbers.

6. Hotel Panorama, Alanya

The Hotel Panorama is situated in the centre of Alanya, on the beach in the heart of the nightlife. The majority of guests who stay at this hotel are from Germany. The highlights include the pool which is close to Olympic sizes, the panoramic bar and the sports facilities which include a fitness studio and tennis courts. At night an entertainment programme is offered in the hotel, but the nightlife in the closely located club district also has a lot to offer. Travellers can visit the Auditorium – one of the largest open air discotheques in Turkey – to dance until the early hours of the morning.

7. Phoenix Hotel, San Francisco

The Tenderloin district in San Francisco is not necessarily a good neighbourhood, but the Hotel Phoenix in retro style makes it better than good. At the entrance visitors are greeted by a frog sculpture, art can be discovered everywhere, the mosaic pool is even an architectural monument of the city. The hotel is famous for its rock and roll clientele; Little Richard, Pearl Jam and Franz Ferdinand have been spotted here. The Bambuddah Lounge is a trendy meeting point and at the weekends and wild pool parties are a part of the standard programme.

8. Hotel V Frederiksplein, Amsterdam

In 2008 the Hotel V Frederiksplein opened in the centre of Amsterdam, a chique hotel behind a traditional exterior, close to the trendy Pijp Viertel with a tram stop in front of the door. The lobby is an “open space” with a rubber reception, wooden bar and leather lounge including a fireplace and soul music. Travellers can enjoy the hectic street life in peace or surf the internet on a Mac. The rooms are furnished with chrome, wood and retro objects. As a special the hotel offers an overnight stay with entrance to the world famous “Supperclub”.

9. Hotel Eurostars Das Letras, Lisbon

Located in the centre of Lisbon, the lavish five star city hotel Eurostars Das Letras was opened in 2008: with an impressive lobby, nobly furnished rooms in walnut and marble plus a sauna and fitness centre. Travellers can end the day or start the evening in the restaurant or the cocktail bar. In the later hours of the night the nightlife starts in the trendy district Bairro Alto which is not too far away. A must see is “Pavilhão Chinês”, a cult bar with a twist and city museum in one.

10. Hotel Gansevoort, New York

The meatpacking district is considered a hot spot in New York and those who can afford it stay in Hotel Gansevoort. Its silver exterior looks like a jewel and the interior is also stylish, whether in the lobby or in the rooms, the Gansevoort Spa or Restaurant Ono. However the actual jewel is on the roof: the pool with underwater music and the popular “Plunge” Bar with a DJ and a view over the Big Apple. Models, rock stars and trendsetters all meet here – an ideal starting point to explore the party district between Greenwich Village and Chelsea.

Tourism and the Global Recession

The 5th UNWTO International Conference on Tourism Statistics – Tourism: An Engine for Employment Creation took place in the spring of 2009 in Bali. The Conference was organized by UNWTO and by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia. It was also supported by other organizations.

The speakers agreed that the tourism sector is an important employer and contributor to national GDPs. Its role is especially important during the current global economic crisis. The participants emphasized that public – private cooperation is quite essential for further development of the sector. They also agreed on further promotion and protection of the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA). The TSA is a statistical accountant framework for measurement of the economic contributions of tourism which allows comparisons from country to country.

According to the Taleb Rifai, Deputy Secretary-General of the UNWTO, it is crucial to offer technical assistance to Member States so that they can measure how many jobs tourism generates and how much does it contribute to their national GDP. Mr. Taleb Rifai also says that nowadays there is a rising awareness of tourism as an important part of the economy. In the past the tourism industry was often underestimated and there was no political will to further develop the sector. This has changed and now the industry may efficiently help fight off the impacts of the economic crisis.

As the tourism industry is vital for some countries’ economies according to the experts it is important to include it in the stimulus packages. It is a significant sector even in G20 countries, where it creates 5 per cent of GDP and 6 per cent of jobs. Tourism is also the main growth and trade driver for the world’s poorest countries.

Length of Stay now the top Challenge for U.S. Tourism

The world has come up to a good number of economic challenges in recent years, most of which have been focused on the economic giant – the USA. Dollar has weakened significantly and the world economic situation has sunk into crisis leaving people frightened to spend money on so-called luxury items such as holidays or cars.

However, the tourism industry is not suffering as much as some would make out, if we take the exception of the airline companies, and people are still travelling. Admittedly, Americans are spending less of the green stuff on their travels yet the new situation has opened up a host of new challenges for the American tourism sector.

On the basis of a Travelhorizon’s survey conducted by Ypartnership and the U.S. Travel Association it was revealed that Americans in general plan to stay for fewer nights at the place of their destination when on a business or leisure trip. In fact, over half of the 2.270 American respondents that were surveyed said that they plan to cut the length of their trips.

This is clearly related to the hefty hotel rates in the USA. So the challenge now is clearly to make Americans stay longer. Getting them to travel and attracting them to places is apparently no problem. It is keeping the fish in the net, which seems to be the difficulty.

This is also linked to the fact that around 70% of those interviewed for the survey admitted that saving money is a primary aim when either taking a business trip or going on leisure break. If hotels and tourist resorts can manage to persuade people to stay longer, then the amount they spend would surely increase.

USA loves Italy: will be the top EU destination in 2010

Italy will be the top tourism destination amongst European countries for American tourists in 2010-2011 according to a market study done with US tour operators. Some sector magazines, like Travel Leisure, Condè Nast Traveler, and Recommend have assigned numerous awards to Italy: Rome, Florence and Venice as the top European destinations; the Aeolian Islands as the top European islands and Italy as the top destination in Europe. In 2009 ENIT USA organised seminars for more than 1400 travel agents and brought more than 650 people, including tour operators, travel agents and media, to Italy, who were able to visit Puglia, Marche, Sicily, Lazio, Veneto and Piedmont