Anthony Melchiorri has come a long way since working as the director of front office operations for New York's iconic Plaza Hotel. Now, more than 20 years and a fair share of hotel management jobs later, the Brooklyn-born hospitality expert has taken on the role of "hotel fixer" for the Travel Channel's Hotel Impossible. And After Anthony, a one-hour special looking back on Season One, airs February 4 at 10 p.m.Here, Melchiorri reflects on the properties he visited, describes his perfect hotel room, and more.
T+L spoke with Gloria Guevara, Mexico's Secretary of Tourism, in the closing days of the administration of Felipe Calderón, in whose cabinet she served, and days before the end of the cycle of the Mayan calendar and the beginning of a new era.
Q: Mexico is the number one international destination for U.S. travelers. In fact, it has grown by record numbers in 2011 and is on track to exceed these figures in 2012. To what do you attribute the growth?
A: Yes, in 2011, we had a record number of international visitors, 23.4 million. Of these, 10.1 flew into Mexico, and of those 5.7 were from the United States. First, I would have to say that the increase is due to an increased interest and appreciation in Mexico, that is, in the richness of the destination: the natural landscape, from Baja California to the Yucatán, our beaches and colonial cities, history, arts and culture, cuisine, and, of course, the hospitality of our people. But the growth in tourism also is a result of the creation, and for the first time, of an overall tourism business plan.
Q: Tell us about the plan.
A: President Calderón dedicated one full year, 2011, to tourism, to building the foundation of an integrated tourism plan and strategy, involving federal, state, and local governments, as well as the private sector and enterprise. This overall plan was unprecedented, involved major investment, increased budgets for infrastructure–several billion dollars alone spent on airports, railroads, and highways in the past five years–to marketing. We diversified our product, developing various segments, including multi-faceted cultural and adventure and eco-tourism programs, in addition to the ever popular sun and beach segment. And a part of our strategy also involved diversifying our outreach to foreign nationalities.
Q: From which countries come the largest number of your visitors?
A: First, the United States, then Canada, which has grown significantly, the UK, Spain, and Argentina. However, in a close sixth place is Brazil. And some months, Brazil moves into fifth place. Overall, we have visitors from more than 130 countries. And notably an increase by more than 87 percent so far this year compared to last from Russia. There is a direct flight from Moscow to Cancún but Russian tourists travel everywhere from the Copper Canyon in the state of Chihuahua in the north of the country, where I encountered a group, to Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast, and Mexico City, of course. Also, the Russians spend on average $1,000 per person per day, which is very high.
Q: Are there new destinations on the horizon?
A: Yes. As you know, Cancún, was the initiative of Fonatur, one of the arms of the ministry of tourism. Prior to its development, nothing existed there. We have developed others, notably Los Cabos and Huatulco. All are known as fully-integrated centers. The new development is Playa Espiritú on Mexico's Pacific coast, approximately 80 kilometers south of Mazatlán. The plan would be for it ultimately to be twice the size of Cancún in terms of hotel rooms, with approximately 44,000. It would include a marina and golf. We are in the process of building the infrastructure and we are including all the experience we have gained from the other developments so that Espiritú is 100% sustainable.
Q: Traditional Mexico cuisine was recently designated by UNESCO to its list of intangible cultural heritage or cultural treasure. Along with the traditional French gastronomic meal, this citation represented the first time UNESCO considered food. What does this signify?
A: As part of the declaration, we completed a data base and were able to determine that there exist at least 1,500 traditional dishes, which speaks to the diversity of the foods as well as the forms of cooking. Partly as a consequence, we have developed 18 gastronomical routes, which can take the traveler throughout the country, allowing them to try various specialties, learn to cook some of them, and visit cultural sites along the way. Particularly interesting are the cocinas tradicionales of the indigenous people in Michoacán, tied to the Day of the Dead celebrations. The UNESCO designation offers a great opportunity for us to share what we have. There are seven different levels of Mexican cuisine, the most sophisticated and difficult to prepare involves ingredients that are not found outside of the country. Like the notion of terroir and French wine, the ingredients depend on the type of soil—and certain foods and ingredients grow only in Mexico.
In Kati Marton’s candid memoir, Paris: A Love Story (Simon & Schuster), the journalist and widow of American diplomat Richard Holbrooke looks to the city for inspiration.
Q: Why did you base the book in Paris?
A: I discovered a box of letters I had written to my father when I was a young woman living there. I wanted to find that girl again, so avid for beauty and life. Richard and I spent a lot of time in Paris; it was neutral, away from Washington, D.C., and New York.
Q: You return for Christmas every year to visit your sister. Where do you stay?
A: I still have a little apartment that I love on the Rue des Écoles in the Fifth. The area hasn’t changed; it has the same bookstores and bistros.
Q: What are a few of your favorite haunts?
A: I love the Hammam de la Mosquée (39 Rue Geoffroy St.-Hilaire, Fifth Arr.), a real Turkish spa and bath. There are a few cafés I visit regularly, like Café Rostand (6 Place Edmond Rostand, Sixth Arr.; 33-1/43-54-61-58) and La Palette (43 Rue de Seine, Sixth Arr.). And, with the way the French arrange shop windows and food displays, Rue Bonaparte is still a feast for the eyes.
Photo courtesy of Kati Marton
For most, a cross-country road trip with Mother would end in tears or bloodshed (or both). But for screenwriter Dan Fogelman (Crazy, Stupid, Love; Cars), one he took inspired this month’s The Guilt Trip, starring Seth Rogen and Barbra Streisand. Here, Fogelman reveals a few parent-approved pit stops.
Q: What were some highlights from the road?
A: We drove to Memphis to see Graceland—you have to do that. I tried to stay on Route 66 to go through small towns; it’s like stepping into the 1950’s.
At last month’s PhoCusWright Conference, the travel tech industry’s much-anticipated annual event, some of the most exciting, buzz-worthy attendees were the wunderkinds behind travel start-ups and high-profile online products. Travel + Leisure sat down with select Millennial entrepreneurs—or maybe a better moniker is disruptors?—shaping the next generation of Travel:
Ruzwana Bashir, the British-born 29-year-old co-founder of Peek.com, is part of the exclusive club of PhoCusWright “Young Leaders.” In October of this year, she launched a new website that provides an attractive, centralized place to book vacation activities. It also highlights “Perfect Day” itineraries supplied by travel insiders, luminaries, and in-the-know locals.
The Brazilian director is best known for his visually arresting films, such as 2002’s City of God, set in a Rio de Janeiro favela. His newest, 360, with Jude Law and Rachel Weisz, goes global. Shot in five different countries, it touches on the Arab Spring, euro crisis, and prostitution.
Q: You were filming on the road for almost 20 weeks. Any favorite hotels?
A: We were in London for three months, so I rented an apartment. But I like Hazlitt’s Hotel ($$$). You get a key to the front door, and it’s like your own home. In Vienna, we stayed at the 25hours Hotel Wien (1-3 Lerchenfelder Str.; $). There are bicycles for guests, and the staff doesn’t wear uniforms. After a week or two, we were hanging out with the hotel crew.
Members of the band, from left: Ed Droste, Chris Bear, Chris Taylor and Daniel Rossen
Ed Droste—front man of the Brooklyn-based indie-rock band Grizzly Bear, whose long-awaited fourth album Shields comes out on September 18—reflects on some of his favorite destinations and findings from around the world.
Q: It’s been three years since the band’s last album, what can we expect from Shields?
A: It’s charged, and sort of raw, energetic and exposed. I started out work shopping ideas in Todos Santos, Mexico with our drummer Chris Bear. We often go on little writing retreats together. We went there for a month and wrote ten songs, then the whole band reconvened in Marfa, Texas for a month to start recording.
The former queen of mumblecore movies, Greta Gerwig, is now starring in such high-profile projects as Woody Allen’s To Rome with Love (out now). Here, her thoughts on truffles, art, and other Italian greats.
Q: Where did you stay while filming?
A: The cast stayed at the Parco dei Principi ($$$),near the far side of Villa Borghese. It was very fancy, but old-school, like seventies-style, which makes sense given Woody Allen. It was definitely built when you wanted to use as much chrome as you could get.
André Hermann, a 38-year-old photography instructor at San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, has a rather interesting pastime: After creating 20 photography booklets filled with street images taken from his iPhone, he hides them all over the city, posting a clue to his blog each time. Why? To get people outside, of course, and to have them experience something new in their own home turf. With over 100,000 followers on Instagram and a huge fan base that covers several continents, the project has evolved into something much bigger, something that Hermann plans on expanding. We sat down to talk with him about how this project came about and where he sees it going in the future.
Q: So did you do this project to get to know the city more?
A: I actually know San Francisco really well. I made it my mission to walk all around. It’s finding the pulse of the city, finding its beat. You connect to it as a photographer and you find places that are overlooked, places that are new and or that you knew of already and had passed it, without ever exploring it. It’s street photography. I like watching people and look for things that catch my eye: similarities, contrast, contradictions. Thing like these moments that are overlooked because we’re too busy with our noses buried in our phones.
Q: What was your first cruise-related job?
A: While attending the University of Miami in 1973, I worked weekends on the pier at NCL. We delivered and picked up the ships’ mail, assisted guests going through customs, ran errands, and sold baggage insurance. I also worked part time in the mail room.