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Q+A Series from PhoCusWright 2013: Cheryl Rosner of Stayful.com

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At this year’s PhoCusWright Conference—an annual gathering of the world’s most influential travel innovators—all eyes were on the Innovation Summit and the presenting entrepreneurs. But not all of the talent in attendance was on stage. In a short Q+A series we will introduce you to three new companies that are also poised to change the way we travel.

First up, is Cheryl Rosner, the visionary behind Stayful.com, a website whose proprietary bidding system allows travelers to suggest their own rates at amazing independent and boutique hotels in six (soon to be 10) U.S. cities. As the former Hotels.com president and president of Expedia Corporate Travel, Rosner is a discerning traveler who prides herself on seeking out unique properties with great design and enduring character—but who also likes a bargain.

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(Travel) Agents of Change: PhoCusWright Announces Winners of its 2013 Travel Innovation Summit

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All sweat and nerves and butterflies last night, some 30 next-gen travel innovators eagerly awaited the results of this year's PhoCusWright Travel Innovation Summit. Which start-up would be crowned the industry's next change agent? After two days of schmoozing, courting VCs, and convincing the travel industry's top players they they were the Next Big Thing, only one young company would walk away with the coveted top prize: General Catalyst Award for Travel Innovation.

The competition was stiff—and the stakes high. A win all but guaranteed a steady stream of calls from investors.

“This year’s presenting companies are amongst the most exciting we’ve seen present to date at The Travel Innovation Summit,” said PhoCusWright vice president, research Douglas Quinby.

Not surprisingly, it was a tough decision for this year's panel of judges—made up top travel and technology experts—to choose from this already elite group of companies hailing from across the U.S., and as far away as Russia, Melbourne, and India. But there could only be one winner.

SafelyStay, an Atlanta-based start-up that powers safe and instant vacation rental reservations for online travel agencies, vacation rental marketplaces and property managers, walked away with the title, and $250K.

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Q+A with My Yacht Group Founder Nicholas Frankl

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The Formula One U.S. Grand Prix—where some of the world's fastest and most expensive cars will compete—kicks off tomorrow in Austin, Texas. People travel from all over the world to attend.

On the eve of the second-to-last race of the season, we thought we’d check in with Nicholas Frankl, die-hard F1 fan, founder of My Yacht Group, Olympian bobsledder (who has a friendly but competitive bobsledding rivalry with HSH Prince Albert of Monaco), and collector of many things—yachts, cars, and, yes, even refrigerator magnets.

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Emirates Debuts First Transatlantic Flight

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Beginning today, Oct. 1, Emirates Airlines launches a new route: JFK-Milan. Why is this big news? Because the expanding UAE-based airline will offer the only first-class service between the two popular cities. And, it's the first flight of the airline’s that does not touch down in Dubai before flying on to other gateways.

We expect Emirates’ first transatlantic service to be a big boon for business and leisure travelers, and are already imagining the crush of Louis Vuitton suitcases during Milan and NYC’s Fashion Weeks.

Departure and arrival schedules are timed to sync with flights going to and from feeder markets, especially those on JetBlue (US) and easyJet (Europe).

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Q+A: James Cluer, Mountaineer and Master of Wine for Qatar Airways

When Napa-based wine master James Cluer told his client, Qatar Airways, that he would be out of contact for a month and a half, the airline asked questions. Where was he going? And why for so long? Cluer disclosed he was planning to fulfill a lifelong dream and climb Mt. Everest (29,000 feet above sea level)—a trip that had been years in the making. Qatar Airways suggested he might want to conduct a wine tasting to learn how altitude affects the palette outside of a plane cabin. Cluer agreed. Enter a few seasoned sherpas.

The story is a funny one—either the ultimate marketing gimmick, or an extreme experiment in satisfying one’s curiosity. Turns out, it was the latter. Cluer and Qatar Airways both take wine seriously. The Doha-based airline has won numerous awards, including Best Airline Wine List, and all of its flight attendants are WSET certified and able to provide sommelier services. And Cluer has dedicated his life to the grape. In addition to consulting, buying, and selecting what wines to serve onboard Qatar Airways flights, he also runs 16 wine schools in the U.S. and Canada and operates a luxury wine tour business called Fine Vintage Ltd.

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Q+A: Sarah Simmons of New York City’s City Grit Culinary Salon

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One recent evening in New York City, I traveled to Memphis, and back. At City Grit, a culinary salon founded and nurtured and helmed by Food & Wine’s 2010 Home Cook Superstar Sarah Simmons, diners are invited to new tastes and experiences, often supplied by guest chefs who sometimes fly in just to make a single meal. It’s one of the coolest ways we know to travel and still stay at home.

The evening’s spotlight was on two Tennessee chefs, Michael Hudman and Andrew Ticer, whose restaurant Hog & Hominy blends Southern and Italian cooking, and has earned legions of pork-loving fans.

Tonight the duo is back. To celebrate today’s release of their new cookbook “Collards and Carbonara,” Ticer and Hudman are again firing up the stove at City Grit, with Simmons playing back-up. 

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Video: How to Eat a Lobster with Seafood Expert, Luke Holden

Last week, a six-clawed lobster was found off of Midcoast Maine, and just a week earlier a two-toned lobster was pulled from similar waters. But most lobster fans have been buzzing over the rare affordability of lobsters these days—prices per pound are the lowest they've been in 20 years. Maybe this is the one good side of Global Warming?

Americans consumed 231 million pounds of Maine lobster last year—a record high. The conclusion? A trip to Maine—especially in the late-summer or early fall—is not complete without eating lobster. In warmer months, lobsters molt, and their shells become so soft you can eat them with your hands, without the aid of crackers. Just ask for a "shedder" and you'll sound like a local. Maine native Luke Holden, of Luke's Lobster in New York City, shows you just what to do.

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Grace Hotels Acquires Two Top New England Properties

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Grace Hotels has acquired the distinguished Mayflower Hotel & Spa in Washington, Connecticut and one of Maine’s premier properties, the White Barn Inn.

Their new names will be ‘The Mayflower Grace’ and ‘The White Barn Grace.’

The boutique hotel group makes no secret of its plans to expand, opening beach resorts, residences, and city center properties in such diverse locales as Beijing, Santorini, and Cafayete, Argentina. And now, it also has the corner on New England. The Mayflower and White Barn will join the Vanderbilt, in Newport, Rhode Island, giving the Grace family the reins of three of the region’s most prestigious hotels.

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100 Ways to Travel Better: We want YOU!

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Travel + Leisure is joining forces with CNN for 100 Ways to Travel Better, the definitive go-to resource for our best expert travel tips—and yours.
 
We want to know your tips and tricks for making the most of your trip—avoiding hidden fees, getting free upgrades, beating the crowds, and enjoying travel without all the stress.
 
You can share your tips from the road by going to CNN’s iReport page. There, we’re asking smart travelers to submit their best advice, along with a vacation photo.

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Huge Fire Shuts Down Kenya’s Main Airport

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Travel to East Africa came to a halt this morning as fire raged for several hours at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, suspending international arrivals traffic on Wednesday. Most international flights were diverted to the coastal city of Mombasa.

Flames and a massive cloud of dark smoke could be seen from the center of Kenya’s capital city, as part of the airport—the region’s largest—became a blackened shell. Emergency vehicles were immediately dispatched only to be caught in rush hour traffic on the main road to the airport. Fire trucks were faced with low water supplies at the site of the blaze.

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