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Thursday, March 28, 2019

Laura on TV: Talking Bargain International Travel on WGN in Chicago

Looking to take a bargain international vacation this summer? Here are some of the suggestions I offered today on WGN's Midday News. And here's the segment itself for those who prefer watching to reading!

Strategies for Finding Inexpensive International Destinations

  • Look for countries where the currency is weak against the U.S. dollar
  • Look for airlines that offer low international fares 
  • Look for destinations where summer is the off-season, like the Caribbean

Bargain European Destinations

  • Portugal, including Lisbon, The Algarve Coast, the Duoro Valley and Sintra. New nonstop air service from Chicago to Lisbon via TAP Portugal starts in June.
One of the castles of Sintra

  • Greece, including Athens, the islands and all those historic ruins. New seasonal nonstop air service from Chicago to Athens via American Airlines starts in May.
  • Turkey, including Istanbul, Cappadocia and the the Turquoise Coast.


Other Money-Saving Strategies

  • Be flexible with dates and destinations
  • Comparison shop on last-minute deal websites or flight scanners like Hopper and Skyscanner
  • Use airline-branded credit cards to book flights. The caveat--you must book the flights on the airline's website. But in return, you get free checked bags and early boarding, so you don't have to scour the plane for overhead bin space.
  • Look for hotels that include value-added extras in the room rate, like free parking or an ample breakfast (stale doughnuts don't count). At the same time, make sure the hotel isn't tacking on a daily resort fee.
  • Book on Airbnb

Monday, March 18, 2019

Ooh, La, La: A Tasty Luxury Hotel Arrives in Paris

Courtesy: Fauchon

Fauchon has long been in fashion among epicureans. The Paris-based gourmet food purveyor has been around since 1886, and has outlets in 20 countries around the world. And now, it has a hotel.
Last fall, the company opened Fauchon L’hôtel Paris by  Place de la Madeleine. There are plans for 19 more openings around the world in the next decade. Next up is Kyoto in 2020.
We know…ho-hum, another new luxury brand. Except that, after speaking with Jacques-Olivier Chauvin, president and CEO of Fauchon Hospitality, it does appear that this one is actually fashioning itself in ways that might differentiate it from the competition. The idea is to win guest hearts through their stomachs.
Fauchon L’hôtel Paris has a certain je ne sais quoi 
“Fauchon has deep roots in French culture and French gastronomy,” said Anders Justenlund, a hospitality consultant and lecturer at University College Northern Denmark. “When you are talking about branding today, you are talking about engaging with the product, which in the case of Fauchon is food and beverage products. Fauchon Hospitality offers them a new way to market their main business.”
Indeed, in creating the new hotel, Chauvin said the idea was to enhance customer engagement by “finding the essence of what Fauchon is about and capitalizing on that. We asked ourselves what can we bring to this industry? Since everything we do is about glamour and gourmet experiences,” the answer was to create a hotel brand with an emphasis on French food and beverage, “from street level to the top floor.”
Image result for fauchon hotel
At street level, guests find Grand Cafe Fauchon, naturally a gourmand affair. But the in-room food and beverage offerings are what distinguishes Fauchon from its competitors.
“To us,” said Chauvin “room service is the future of a different hotel experience.”
Reinventing in-room dining starts with the choice of furniture. Instead of wall-facing desks, rooms come with a table and chairs oriented toward windows. In other words, Fauchon guests will be using their dining tables for work, instead of using work spaces for dining.
Rooms come stocked with a tablecloth and Limoges tableware. So, transforming into an in-room restaurant is as simple as unfurling the linens, setting the table, ordering from the complete restaurant menu via tablet voice technology, and then awaiting the meal, brought to the room in individual courses.
Each room also sports a customized gourmet bar, designed by Sacha Lakic for Roche Bobois. It’s packed with Fauchon treats, from truffles and foie gras to macarons and champagne. And what guests don’t eat, they can take home with them, gratis, a smart move, said Justenlund, for extending the brand experience beyond the hotel stay.
Image result for fauchon hotelThese in-room food offerings might be considered part of Fauchon’s X factor, as in the desire to appeal to Generation X (aka The Forgotten Generation among travel marketers). Chauvin says Xers are Fauchon’s sweet spot, with their interest in “elegant comfort, food and their interest in learning about other cultures.”
Unlike many so-called millennial brands, where room space is sacrificed in the name of creating cool lobby hang-outs, Fauchon wants guests to luxuriate in their rooms.
“A room is where you want to enjoy the city where you are,” said Chauvin. “We are providing more than a place to sleep. We want the room to be spacious. To provide a view to the city. To allow guests to have a proper dinner experience.”
Fauchon is smart to distinguish itself through food, said Justenlund: “What is making the difference is that this is not a hotel company; it’s an F & B company opening a hotel to lift the entire brand.”
Naturally, Chauvin, a veteran of both Louis Vuitton and Relais & Chateaux, agrees.“We are capitalizing the Fauchon name, providing a thorough brand experience, and putting an umbrella over the brand…from food to cafes to hotels,” he said.