Travel Watch | February 2006
NO SMOKING! Last month, Westin Hotels & Resorts became the first major hotel chain in the world to attempt a smoking ban. The company is currently smoke-free at all 77 properties in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean; talks are under way for other regions. Guests who are caught lighting up in rooms or public spaces will be charged an additional $200.
ALL-INCLUSIVE INTERNET Now that Wi-Fi is a given at most high-end hotels, a handful of them are taking the revolutionary next step: eliminating Internet charges. Although some properties, like the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, Arizona, are absorbing the cost through higher service fees, others, such as the new Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, say that unlimited Wi-Fi should be included in the room rate.
ON-LINE ACTIVISM Expedia and the United Nations Foundation have launched the World Heritage Alliance, a partnership to promote UNESCO World Heritage Sites to a broad group of travelers. Expedia now sells 30-plus World Heritage trips to destinations including Machu Picchu, Luxor, and Tucson; all profits from these trips will be donated to the Friends of World Heritage (www.friendsofworldheritage.org), a foundation that supports development projects at Heritage Sites around the globe. In addition, both Expedia and the UN Foundation will match donations to the FWH of up to $50,000.
LICENSED TO DRIVE Avis, Budget, and Hertz have finally dropped their rental age restrictions from 25 to 21. But there's a price for this new privilege: drivers under 25 will have to pay a daily "age differential charge," ranging from $25 to $45 (depending on branch location and car make). So far, Hertz is the only one of these agencies to rent to drivers between the ages of 18 and 20, and it does so only in New York and Michigan, for an even higher rate.
MOHAWK LESSONS? Rosetta Stone, a company that makes language-learning software, has added two endangered languages to its repertoire: Mohawk and Inupiat. The cd-rom's will be sold by the Mohawk Nation (near Montreal), and the Inupiat of Alaska, respectively. Next up?Inuktitut and Miccosukee.
THE NEXT BIG AMENITY: GPS Guests staying at three Rosewood Hotels & Resorts properties—the Carlyle, in New York, and Dallas's Mansion on Turtle Creek and Hotel Crescent Court—now have free use of pocket-sized GPS devices. The so-called NaviGuides are preprogrammed with street maps of each city and the locations of restaurants, shops, and museums. Type in your destination and a 3-D route will appear on the 2.3-by-2.85-inch color monitor; the gadget will even give you voice prompts and an ETA. Rosewood will be rolling out NaviGuides to other North American properties throughout 2006.