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Menu Mind Games

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Ever wonder where that sudden craving for pork belly comes from while perusing the latest it restaurant’s menu?  It may have less to do with spontaneous pig lust and more to do with what—and how—you’re reading.

“Menus are essentially mini-billboards,” says Brian Buckley, a chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City who teaches a class on opening restaurants.  And like all advertising, plenty of forethought goes into the concept, design, and execution.

A major tactic: menu layout.  “Restaurants use boxed items to single something out as the specialty of the house or the evening,” says Buckley.  Of course, these specials are often big-ticket items, or dishes that the house has a vested interest in selling.

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Interest Grows in Trans-Atlantic Travel to Europe

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Despite the ash cloud that closed European airports and stranded passengers in April, more Americans intend to travel to Europe this year. Yet many would-be vacationers are considering traveling by ship instead—and reliving the glory days of trans-oceanic travel.

“There’s definitely an upsurge in interest, which is terrific,” says Peter Shanks, president of Cunard Cruise Line which operates the Queen Mary 2’s six-night crossing between New York and Southampton, England. “There’s a feel-good factor about trans-Atlantic travel. It’s back on people’s radar.”

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Hotel Buzzz: Apiaries are the Bee’s Knees

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Recently I went to a Toronto tourism event that featured a honey tasting. My favorite nectar—a luscious caramel-brown with herby mint notes—belonged to the Fairmont Royal York’s 14-story-high rooftop hives (called the Honey Moon Suite), and is served to guests at tea service and in specialty cocktails. The mint flavor (someone snootily insisted it was a hint of “eucalyptus”) comes from the rooftop garden’s herb plots, where the bar gleans much of their greenery for muddled mojitos and caipirinhas.

The apiary is a cross-brand initiative with hives already set up at the Fairmont Algonquin in St. Andrews and the Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver with more on the way.

Honey—golden, sticky, amber goodness—turns bitter and looses nutrients during pasteurization. Hotels looking for an eco-luxe draw are turning to the home-grown raw stuff like, well, bees to honey.

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Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah: 3 New Ziplines Offer Extreme Thrills

Remember that time I said I would never go bungee jumping or even entertain the notion of ever going on any of these extreme rides? But then I went ahead and threw a curve ball by saying I wouldn't even hesitate to swim at the edge of Victoria Falls? Well, here's another one of those kinda sorta crazy things I'd love to try: Ziplining.

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U.S. Hotel Chains Expanding into Asia

New York Times |  ASIA is beginning to look a lot more like America—at least when it comes to hotels.

Major United States hotel chains are aggressively expanding into Asia, creating new options for travelers looking for familiar brands abroad. Starwood Hotels & Resorts plans to open 34 to 40 properties in the Asia Pacific region this year, or about three hotels a month, including the first St. Regis in Japan, the first W in Thailand and the first Le Méridien in Taiwan. Hilton plans to open new hotels in Japan and China by year-end. And Marriott will add about 20 properties, including four JW Marriott properties in India, four Courtyard by Marriott properties in China, and a Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai.

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Child-Free Dining: The (Blissfully) Silent Trend

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Call me a grinch, a misanthrope, a DINK (dual-income-no-kids), or the anti-cute-police, but I hate (hate a thousand times over) ill-behaved children/infants/screaming banshees in upscale restaurants.

Upon doing some research, it turns out I’m not alone. Not only are there message boards, websites, even petitions to promote child-free dining, it turns out there’s an international social club devoted to the baby-free lifestyle.

I’m not a card carrying NoKidding member yet, but for now I plan on asking restaurants what their child policy is before attending.

Here, a few pre-screened restaurants that refuse to break out the coloring books and crayons:

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Trend Alert: Bacon Cocktails

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Sure sure, bacon is as ubiquitous a guilty pleasure as the Twilight saga, but with more bars serving pork by the glass, this trend might have some highbrow staying power. Here are just a few spots where you can sip some smoky goodness:

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Survey Puts Italy First for Packaged Travel in 2009

200912-b-italy-03jpgTravel Pulse | Despite the worldwide recession, Americans’ love affair with Italy continues, with the country ranked first as top international destination for packaged travel, according to the U.S. Tour Operators Association (USTOA). In USTOA’s annual informal poll of member companies, Italy—for the seventh consecutive year—placed as the top international country for packaged travel, as well as the top destination overall for packaged travel.

For the second year in a row, Egypt ranked second to Italy, as well as the hottest up and coming country. Australia ranked third as most popular international destination.

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Fashion Moment: Copenhagen’s Cutting-Edge Boutiques

200910-b-copenhagenjpg Pristine Copenahagen, famed for its ancient canals and post-modern architecture (not to mention Tivoli, the most spectacular amusement park I have ever visited—and I'm a connoisseur), has  added another series of tourist attractions—an array of cool fashion designers, many of whom have shown at Copenhagen Fashion Week. The town is insistent that one day soon it will be considered, after Paris, Rome, Milan, and New York, as the fifth fashion capitol. Here is where to find some of the leaders of the pack:

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Live from T+L MarketWatch: Is "Luxury" a Dirty Word?

Is luxury a dirty word? That’s the question T+L Publisher JP Kyrillos just posed to the audience and an expert panel that includes:

Javier Barrera, EVP of Grupo Posadas
Erik Blachford, Chairman and CEO of Butterfield & Robinson
Marcus Samuelsson, Chef/Owner of Aquavit
Lisa Sun, Associate Principal of McKinsey & Company

The response was an unequivocal “no.” But, says Sun, it’s important for companies to communicate the value and authenticity behind the word. Companies like American Girl and The North Face have built premium products but have achieved success by creating a sense of value behind the products.

Samuelsson added that a new sense of luxury will come out of this downturn. People, he says, are getting back to the value of time—time spent together and the experiences they share.

And, says Blachford, that’s exactly what companies like his are trying to do—deliver value even if it comes with a high price tag.

JP also posed the following questions to the audience and asked them to indicate their answers by holding up either a green (“yes”) or red (“no”) index card:

- Do you believe in advertising in a recession? Green cards went up all around.
- How about discounting in a recession? A mix of green and red.
- Is the economy on a rebound? Lots of green, but a few reds.
- And is Twitter here to stay? Most people said no.

And as he closed the presentation, he asked, “Did everyone have fun today?” A sea of green cards filled the air.

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