5.29.2015

Virtuoso Travel Week | presentation tips

Virtuoso Travel Week features thousands of 4 minute "speed dates"

Virtuoso Travel Week is just around the corner, a bit more than two months away. Travel Week's core activity is a schedule of hundreds of four-minute sales meetings with representatives of Virtuoso hotels and other suppliers. Lovingly referred to as speed dates, these are usually quite valuable encounters.

But not always! Here are some tips from a veteran about to attend his tenth Travel Week this August.

1. It's about the relationship. Nobody is going to remember how many guest rooms your hotel has, the names of the restaurants and bars, or the size of your spa. It's all about making connections. If we remember you, we'll want to sell your hotel. If you remember us, you'll do great things for our clients. So be yourself ... and engage!

2. Make eye contact. The iPad, in retrospect, is probably the worst thing that ever happened to sales meetings. If people are looking at the iPad, they're not looking at you. There's no engagement, no eye-to-eye contact, nothing to remember.

3. How NOT to use your iPad. True story: at last year's Travel Week, the rep of a small Italian hotel came to my table. He was half asleep, unshaven, with every sign of being hung over. He didn't even try. He just showed a slide show on his iPad with a one word commentary on each frame. "Room, another room, lobby, restaurant, bar." He was wasting his hotel's money. I have no idea who he was or what hotel he represented... and that's the point.

4. How an iPad might be useful. Use it as a resource. If someone wants to see your Deluxe room, you've got a picture. If a travel consultant is interested in your spa menu, or a map of the area, or other things to do in the destination, ditto. Your information is there, organized so you can quickly find it if someone asks.

5. Work on your opening line. Make the most of the next 60 days to come up with a creative way to begin your four minute infomercial. Your goals: (a) to intrigue us with your hotel and (b) to make your presentation stand out among the hundreds of other sales spiels we will hear during the week.

6. Some questions to ponder as you plan your 4 minutes:
  • Why should our guests visit your destination? Is there a fascinating cultural experience, gorgeous scenery, exceptional food and wine?
  • What's really unique about your hotel? 
  • What do your guests always remember about their stay?
  • Are there special experiences your guests can look forward to?
  • Can you think of a great story about an exceptional guest experience?

copyright (c) 2015 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

5.27.2015

four tips for the best gelato

Rialto Bridge, Venice (c) 2015 by David Ourisman, all rights reserved

After spending the day exploring Venice, Florence, Rome, or another destination in Italy, it's time for gelato. I just read an informative blog on the subject posted by Concierge in Umbria, one of the destination management companies we work with. Follow this link to see the article itself, or read on to read my four tips for the best gelato.

1. Gelato is softer and creamier than ice cream because it has lower milk fat and is served at a warmer temperature.

2. Stay away from brightly colored, fluffy waves of gelato. Bright eye-catching colors? This is your clue that food coloring has been added. Fluffy waves? Air has been pumped into the product to volumize. What you want is gelato with dull, natural colors that lays hard and flat in the tin.

3. Made in house? Hah! That doesn't necessarily mean what you'd think. Gelaterias can use prepackaged mixes and still legally advertise gelato fatto in casa.

4. Buy what's in season. Strawberries in winter? This gelato has likely come from a mix. Go for what's fresh and natural.

copyright (c) 2015 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

5.24.2015

Laguna | two SoCal beach resorts

view from Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

I was in Southern California for one night this week and spent the evening at Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel. While there, I had site inspections both of the Ritz Carlton and the Montage Laguna Beach. Here are my impressions of these two beach resorts.

I learned an interesting fact about Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel — it's the first resort that RC ever built. Located above one hundred feet above a long beach, the hotel offers incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. The beach view is so picturesque and inviting that there's a live web cam shown on four large screens behind the front desk... The resort has 396 rooms, and it's definitely worth getting a coastline view room for the beautiful view.

We were upgraded to a Garden View 1BR Club Suite. The rooms at RC Laguna Niguel have recently been renovated, and the results were very pleasant with a restful color scheme (blues and a pastel sea foam green) that gives a sense of place to this seaside resort. Our Suite had a powder room off the living room, and the main bathroom was large with dual vanities. A louvered door separated the vanity area from a smaller room with toilet and shower/bathtub combo.

Regular guest rooms feel spacious with the same color scheme as the suites. Additional space has been captured by removing the credenza from the wall opposite the bed, mounting the flat screen television on the wall, and moving the drawer space into a closet area. The bathroom had dual vanities and the same shower/tub combo. (The resort is 30 years old, and although it feels fresh, plumbing choices were made before separate step-in showers became the standard for luxury hotels).

I enjoyed the food. We ate Friday night at 180BLU, an open-air bar and restaurant overlooking the sea — very informal with a live musician playing an acoustic guitar. Our Saturday morning breakfast was enjoyed at Raya — we had a window seat in front of huge windows facing the sea from which we enjoyed watching the early morning surfers.

view from the lobby of Montage Laguna Beach

Montage Laguna Beach is a newer resort, built 7 years ago, just 10 minutes up the coast from the Ritz Carlton. A more intimate (just 248 guestrooms), our first impression of the property was the inviting lobby area with its inviting living room/lounge area overlooking the Pacific. Light and bright with a white wood cathedral ceiling, it feels like a casual yet elegant beach bungalow.

There are three categories of guest rooms at Montage. Every room faces the ocean, and Virtuoso guests receive an upgrade at the time of booking. You can see some ocean from the lead-in Horizon rooms, but Virtuoso guests are upgrade to Coastal rooms with quite a full view of the ocean. Book a Coastal Room, and you'll enjoy the upgrade to a Surf Room that has views of the ocean and the white sand beache. Guestrooms are a large 500 square feet, and bathrooms come with dual vanities, separate step-in shower and soaking tub, and a WC. The rooms have a residential feel that seemed just a bit tired to me; they could really benefit from new furnishings that reflect the casual elegance of the resort's wonderful lobby.

For a third option along the Pacific Coast in Orange County, consider Pelican Hill. A review from my previous stay can be found here.

copyright (c) 2015 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

5.19.2015

Dorado Beach, a Ritz Carlton Reserve | what to do

Positivo Sand Bar at Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve

I was asked today about my own personal suggestions for what to do while vacationing at Dorado Beach, a Ritz Carlton Reserve. The question brought back some fond memories of my stay a couple of years ago. Here's how I answered:

What to do at Dorado Beach...

1. Keep pinching yourself ... you really are in Paradise!

2. The spa is wonderful.

3. The ocean water is so warm! Get in the water, rinse, repeat.

4. Did I mention that the spa is wonderful?

A very simple list. Dorado Beach is a great summer vacation idea, especially with some outstanding promotions that are combinable with the Virtuoso and STARS amenities.

  • Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • Daily full breakfast, for up to two in room guests in Mi Casa by Jose Andres
  • $150.00 Resort credit to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full) 
  • Early check-in/late check-out subject to availability
copyright (c) 2015 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

5.13.2015

active adventure travel | Costa Rica



Looks like a fun family vacation with lots of active adventure travel opportunities for your kids including biking, white-water rafting on the Río Savegre, seeing the Arenal volcano, and learning about Costa Rica's fauna and flora. And for your down time, you'll have a chance to relax in natural hot water springs and enjoy the beach.

I love Backroads — I've been on four of their trips myself — and love helping clients find just the right trip to satisfy their longing for active adventure combined with cultural immersion. Give me a call, whether the spirit is beckoning you to go to Costa Rica, Asia, or Europe ... or just to explore some new destinations right here in North America.

Prefer premiere inns, more casual accommodations, or even glamping (your Backroads leaders set up and take down all the tents, cook your meals over an open fire, and clean up afterwords)? Give me a call or drop me an email, and we'll work on your next trip together.

copyright (c) 2015 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

5.12.2015

a guide to Hong Kong hotels

Statue of Hong Kong Film Awards, Ave. of the Stars, Kowloon (c) 2015 David Ourisman

Hong Kong is one of the world's most interesting cities. Whether you're traveling there for business, or just using HKG as a hub to elsewhere in Asia, it's worth an extended stay. Where should you stay when visiting Hong Kong?

Here are the questions I ask my clients:

1) Do you want to be on Hong Kong island itself ... or on Kowloon? Hong Kong is the old city with its narrow streets, small shops and restaurants, and the world's longest outdoor escalator. Kowloon is contemporary with modern shopping centers, and it boasts killer views of Hong Kong over Victoria Harbour (see my picture above).

2) Do you prefer traditional Asian hotels ... or contemporary hotels?

3) Do you want a view of Victoria Harbour from your room?

4) Do you want to be in Central? Or another way of asking the question: how comfortable are you with the subway system?

With these questions in mind, here are my tips on where to stay in Hong Kong:

Peninsula Hong Kong has recently finished a thorough renovation, and the results are absolutely stunning. A traditional hotel, located in Kowloon, many guests enjoy the sheer luxury of round-trip airport transfers in a Rolls Royce and the uniformed Peninsula doormen who open the doors when you enter its magnificent Lobby. Rooms in the tower have commanding views of the harbour.

Four Seasons Hong Kong is one of the finest city hotels in the world with superb service, large and beautiful rooms, and a great view of the harbour. FS Hong Kong is the only hotel in the world with two three-star Michelin restaurants, and the rooftop infinity pool overlooking the harbour is something special.

Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong is located right in Central. A traditional Asian hotel with dark carved wood decorating the lobby ... and its Harbour Rooms come with a coveted view of the harbour.

Ritz Carlton Hong Kong has the distinction of being the highest hotel in the world. Occupying the top floors of the tallest building in Hong Kong, you're sometimes above the clouds! The Club Lounge has wine on tap ... and the Island Harbour View rooms have a birds-eye perspective on Victoria Harbour.

InterContinental Hong Kong has the best view of all. Located in Kowloon right on the boardwalk, guests staying in Harbour View rooms have an unobstructed view of the harbour and Hong Kong beyond... a perfect place to sit and watch the evening light show (while listening to the music through your in-room TV).

Upper House is a special hotel. The lobby feels like a living room, and guest rooms are extremely spacious and beautiful. Located a couple of subway stops north of Central, if you're comfortable using public transportation, this could be the place for you in Hong Kong.


Tip: for a better-than-internet deal, book these hotels through a Virtuoso, Four Seasons Preferred Partner, Peninsula Pen Club, Mandarin Oriental FAN Club, Ritz Carlton STARS travel consultant for free breakfasts, upgrades, hotel credits, and more.

copyright (c) 2015 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.

5.06.2015

weekend trips in the Bay Area

view from One Bush Plaza, San Francisco

Looking for something to do over a weekend? Here are some thoughts if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Weekend in the City. Spend a couple of nights in the city. My favorite SF hotel is the Four Seasons San Francisco. I like its location right on Market Street. If you take BART into the City, you can get off at the Powell Street station and walk into the hotel without ever crossing the street. It's an easy walk from the Four Seasons to Union Square, Chinatown, and AT&T Park where you can see the world champion San Francisco Giants baseball team.

Wine Country — Napa County. Napa County, one of the best wine growing regions in the world,  has some fabulous resorts. Auberge du Soleil, Meadowood, Bardessono, and Calistoga Ranch are all wonderful, but each is so different. Give me a call to find the right resort for you.

Wine Country — Sonoma County. Less famous and less crowded, Sonoma County attracts Bay Area residents who want to avoid the Napa County crowds. The Farmhouse Inn is something quite special with a Michelin-starred restaurant,  and you can make complimentary S'Mores at night with gourmet Valrona chocolate. Prefer to stay in the town of Healdsburg? We were very impressed by Hotel Les Mars just a block off the square.

A room with a view of the Golden Gate. We're spending a couple of nights at Cavallo Point at the end of May. Located in Marin County, you'll enjoy views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge from this renovated historical resort.

A room with a view of the Pacific Ocean. So many great options for Bay Area residents. Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay has a great golf course, and Post Ranch Inn is a dream destination in Big Sur for a romantic weekend getaway.

Lake Tahoe. Just a three hour drive to the mountains for skiing (in the winter, if it bothers to snow) and mountain biking and outdoor adventure in the summer months. Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe is our favorite resort here, located mid-mountain at Northstar.

Email me for added-value amenities at each hotel or resort I've mentioned that you can't get when you book online.

copyright (c) 2015 by David Ourisman LLC. All rights reserved. We provide Virtuoso and other Preferred Partner amenities as an affiliate of Brownell Travel. If you have comments on this column, or questions about booking travel, email me or visit my website.