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  Those who have had their share of long layovers, delayed flights, arriving too early for check-in or even paying too much for a bed might be interested in what Hotel booking offers weary travelers. The Brazilian hotel booking site has almost single-handedly changed the hotel game in its home country. Thanks to...

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Those who have had their share of long layovers, delayed flights, arriving too early for check-in or even paying too much for a bed might be interested in what Hotel booking offers weary travelers.

The Brazilian hotel booking site has almost single-handedly changed the hotel game in its home country.

Thanks to this brainchild by Brazilian entrepreneurs Max Campos and Pedroboth business and leisure travelers now have the option to book shorter hotel stays (by blocks of three, six, nine and twelve hours) whenever they need them at a fraction of the regular nightly rate. This saves guests money as well as tedious hours waiting.

It also allows the company’s over 700 hotel partners to not only sell unsold rooms but also make extra revenue even at full capacity.

This coming April, HotelQuando.com is opening its doors to the US market, and it’s expecting to sign at least 500 partner hotels all over the country by the end of the year. TravelPulse chatted with Nicholas Ortegas, Sales and Marketing Manager for HotelQuando.com, to talk more about the company’s problem-solving concept, how they’re changing the landscape in travel and their plans for the future.

 

"HotelQuando.com is the first Latin American platform to book hotels by the hour. Basically, we give people the possibility to book a hotel room for less than the daily rate.

Every time we travel a lot, we have situations when we need a hotel just for a few hours. Sometimes, people, they don’t think of that possibility because there’s no such thing, so a lot of times we spend a lot of hours at the airport, at a restaurant. We arrive too early at a hotel, so we have to wait a lot of hours before check-in. A lot of situations like that made us think that we could create a new possibility.

The hotel market hasn’t changed in many, many years. Ever since the hotel market started, people have been booking rooms by daily rates, and there’s also the day-use rate. But what we do is different. You can pick what time you want to check-in, and for how long you want to stay at the hotel. So if you need to stay at a hotel just for three hours—to take a shower, to rest before a flight, to extend your check out, or get an early check in, you can have all these possibilities right now."

"Yes, everything is made online. We have a website—we started only with the website—and now we also have an app available for both iOS and Android. You can do the whole process online; and depending on the hotel, you can pay online or pay directly at the hotel."

"The idea actually came to Max because he had these situations happen all the time with him. He used to work in a big company in Brazil called Carvalho Hosken. It’s real estate, and he used to travel a lot for the company. He always had these situations where he would just go to a hotel late at night and then leave early in the morning. He had to pay for the full daily rate, and he would just stay 10, 11 hours at the hotel. And also sometimes, he had to wait a long time at the airport.

He dealt with a lot of these situations while he was working, and he had always wanted his own business. So he decided to quit his job and start HotelQuando.com because of the experiences he had."

“''Quando' is Portuguese, it means 'when.' We were thinking about names, and Max came up with it because the idea is like “a hotel whenever you want.” We talked to a lot of people, and everyone had good feedback saying that it’s exotic and different. So we thought we should keep the name.

That’s what it means. If you translate exactly how it is, it’s Hotel When."

How was it received when first launched in Brazil during 2014?

"At first, we had a lot of struggle with the hotel industry because it was a new thing. Every time you do something new, there’s a little bit of resistance. So a lot of the hotels, at first, thought it would be a lot more trouble, that it wouldn’t be good.

So we had to go to all the hotels, called all the hotels. Some of them really had an open mind, and they believed in our idea and that the hotel industry needed to create something new. After we got a few hotels, we also had a PR agency there help us with the press releases.

After we got the first hotels and they started doing reservations, people started to realize that our model could bring extra revenue, could bring new clients. And that started to spread. After a while, we got more hotels and we finally closed deals with the main hotel chains. Once we got our first hotel chain, all the other hotels started coming.

At first, it was hard to get hotels and we had to convince them. But now, we have over 700 hotels all over Brazil in all states, all the main airports. Now every day, we have hotels coming to us. So right now, we have a different scenario because the hotels are actually approaching us. And now we have all the main chains in Brazil: AccorHotels, Atlantica Hotels, Transamerica, BHG."

"We started in Brazil during the low season, because Brazil was facing a big crisis. So it was a good time for us to start and understand. As I said, we are platform of extra revenue, so we register maybe one to ten percent of the hotel rooms. We don’t register a lot of rooms because we want to sell what the hotel is not selling.

We also have the information because we have been working in the hotel business for the last two years, so we’ve been studying it a lot. And we found out that even the hotels that have 100 percent occupancy, most of the people arrive late at night at the hotels. So they already work the overbooking concept.

If you can work with this, you can book flights, for example, if you know that 30 percent of your guests are arriving late at night and you have a staff right there in the afternoon, you can book the hotels for three hours in the afternoon. And you have your staff there to get the room ready and clean for when the next guest arrives at night."

"Yes, because we are very flexible with the hotels. We have four different packages. We have three, six, nine and twelve hours, and the hotels can pick which packages they want to work with and what times they want to offer the check-in.

So it’s not like they're going to sign all the packages and check in 24 hours a day. If a hotel has a high occupancy, they can do what I just told you. If they have a low occupancy, they can register more rooms, register more packages and more check in times. It’s really easy, and it’s very flexible.

Another thing that’s very important that the hotels should really know is that we don’t take commissions from the hotels. Right now, especially in Brazil, there is this big movement in which the hotels are trying to get away from and stop working with OTAs because they are working with very high commissions, taking a lot of the hotels’ money.

We want to work together with the hotels, so we don’t charge any commissions. We only have a small fee that we charge the guests, but it’s a hundred percent free for the hotels. It’s extra revenue at zero cost."

"The US is the biggest market in the world. If you have a list of the twenty biggest airports in the world, maybe half of them are in the US. We have Chicago, which is the airport with main connections in the whole world; we have Atlanta, which is the biggest airport. Hotels near the airport are very important to us.

We are already in South America—we are also expanding to the rest of Latin America. Right now, we are only in Brazil, but we are also expanding to Colombia, which is going to be the main headquarters in Latin America that can talk to all the other countries that speak Spanish. We picked these two countries (US and Colombia) because we think they are very strategic to us.

And also, it’s a very new concept in the US that is starting now. In Europe, there are a few websites that do something similar so we thought that the US would be more important."

"We actually have two different types of consumers. We have the business travelers, because as I said, that’s where the idea came from. We actually have an extranet for companies where they can register and book hotels for their employees. 60% of our clients right now are business travelers.

And also—this is something we communicate a lot to people—the local guests, the people from their own cities who, if they knew that there’s this possibility of booking a room for a few hours and paying a fair price, could book a room to relax, get out of their routine, and enjoy the nice pool at the hotel.

For example, Sao Paolo is the city in Brazil where HotelQuando has more hotels. It’s a big city and it’s not on the coast, so in the summer it gets really hot. So we have a lot of people that book hotels to enjoy the pools, enjoy the room service.

So we have two types of clients: the corporate travelers and the people that need a hotel in their own cities to enjoy or if they’re going to travel and they need early check in, late check out."

I’m glad you brought up the hotel pools because I wanted to ask, how much or how many of the hotel facilities and room amenities would HotelQuando.com guests have access to?

"When a person books a hotel for a few hours, it’s exactly the same as if he booked for a full day. The only difference is that his stay is going to be shorter. But he can use all the facilities.

If the hotel has room service, he can do room service. If it has a restaurant, he can eat at the restaurant. If there’s a pool, he can use the pool. We even have some hotels that offer breakfast for overnight bookings of 12 hours in Brazil. The guests have access to all the amenities."

"Yes, right now we have a call center in Brazil. On the website, we also have online chatting to get answers.

It’s a good thing that you mentioned that because in the beginning, we had an extranet for the hotels so that every time there was a booking, this booking is sent to the hotel, and sometimes we had a little confusion. The guest would get to the hotel, and they wouldn’t find his reservation. So what we did was, right now we have a connection in Brazil with a hotel channel manager called Omnibees. The hotels connect all the OTAs in the same place.

So when a person books through us, the information goes directly to the hotel through the same channel they use with all the other OTAs. So the problem of a reservation not getting to the hotel, we don’t have that anymore."

"Yes, once we start, we are also going to have a call center team in the US and also in Colombia."

We also have an extranet for travel agencies. If they want to register in the platform to book hotels for their clients, we have a special extranet for them.

Are there any US hotels already in your roster right now?

"We are still in the early stages. We are talking to some hotels. But I can’t actually say the names right now because we haven’t completely closed the deal yet. But before we came to the US, we started talking to some of the hotels because some of the chains we have in Brazil also have hotels in the US. Once we get everything ready, the platform, the call center, we can disclose the hotel names."

When is your target launch date for HotelQuando US?

"We are planning to launch in the second half of April. We’re very close. We’re just finishing the last details, starting to finish the legal aspects so we can start it!"

"Well, I think it will impact it in a very big way. As I said before, ever since the tourist market started, it hasn’t changed a lot. The hotels have been booking for daily rates, and right now a different kind of market coming up—Airbnb, for example.

So the hotel market needs to do something to reinvent itself, putting technology in its services and offering the clients what they need.

And it’s a trend. Everybody knows that this is a trend. People right now are only paying for what they use, pay-per-use, services that really fit their needs. So we’re doing something new in a market that hasn’t done something new in a long time. We’re trying to change something that has been done for many years, which is the daily rate, and we’re trying to break that into small parts in a way that is going to be good for the clients and that is going to be good for the hotels.

I think it’s a big change, and it’s a good change for both sides.

It’s not a lot of trouble to expand. If the hotels are willing to offer the service, we can register them on the same day and we can start selling. Because they don’t have to pay us anything, there’s no bureaucratic situation, it’s very easy to register. And it’s very easy to expand to other countries.

We have a very big expectation for 2017. We believe that 2017 is going to be the greatest year in HotelQuando history.

HotelQuando.com came as a new tool to solve a problem for everyone who travels, everyone who needs another option. We wanted to do something different, and we wanted to work together with the hotels. It’s very important that the hotels are satisfied; that they are seeing that it’s good for them. That’s why we don’t charge them anything. HotelQuando.com is a hotel-friendly company."

 

AAA announced Friday that it has added six hotels and one restaurant to its coveted Five Diamond list, a prestigious group that represents just 0.3 percent of the nearly 59,000 AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants around the globe.

Hawaii's Four Seasons Resort Lana'i, the St. Regis New York, Grenada's Spice Island Beach Resort, Mexico City's Four Seasons Hotel Mexico D.F., Puerto Rico's Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve and Richmond, Virginia's Jefferson Hotel have earned the stellar rating.

New York City's New American restaurant The Modern was also added as a Five Diamond honoree.

Three of the six hotels recognized have recently undergone renovations, including The Jefferson, which has undergone a three-year renovation that eliminated more than 80 guestrooms and suites, adding 150 square feet to each of the remaining rooms.

Enhancements also include walk-in showers, luxe soaking tubs and dual vanities boasting televisions in the mirrors.

"It is hard to imagine taking The Jefferson to the next level but that is exactly what has happened with more spacious and impressive guest rooms that will further enhance the guest experience and public areas that will continue to impress even the most distinguished visitor," manager of public and government affairs for AAA Martha Mitchell Meade said in a statement.

In his own statement, The Jefferson's manager director Joe Longo said the "three-year project has been a complete transformation of our guest rooms and suites, taking our guest experience to the next level of luxury while maintaining the historic charm and authenticity that is so unique to The Jefferson."

The Four Seasons Resort Lana'i and Four Seasons Hotel Mexico D.F. have also undergone renovations of late, with the former boasting exciting in-room technology including panel controls for lighting and window coverings and the latter receiving a top to bottom makeover.

Meanwhile, the St. Regis New York was recognized for its unrivaled combination of style, luxury and services.

Spice Island Beach Resort in St. George's, Grenada is the only new addition to the list. The all-inclusive resort boasts white sand beaches and suites equipped with private plunge pools.

Offering stellar ocean views and a five-acre spa, Dorado, Puerto Rico's Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve was another no-brainer.

The five-star Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado is the only hotel to maintain AAA's Five Diamond rating for 41 straight years.

Japan Airlines to Launch New NYC-Tokyo Route this Spring

Japan Airlines announced Thursday that it will add nonstop daily service between New York and Tokyo beginning this spring in a move designed to "enhance customer convenience."

Launching April 1, 2017, the new route will travel between New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Tokyo's Haneda Airport and will join the carrier's existing route between JFK and nearby Narita International Airport.

Haneda, which is about an hour's drive away from Narita, is closer to downtown Tokyo. Therefore, the new route is likely to be a hit with international travelers hoping to cut down on their travel time to one of Asia's premier destinations.

Once service begins in April, the airline will operate one daily round-trip flight on a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.

In order to open up a slot at Haneda and make the new route possible, Japan Airlines shifted its Honolulu-Haneda route to Narita.

In addition to the new route, the carrier will add more seats to its existing daily evening flight from Narita to JFK by switching to the aforementioned 777-300ER aircraft, which boasts 244 seats compared to the 161 currently available onboard the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner the airline uses now.

The switch to the 777-300ERs will also make eight first class seats available on the two routes.

The airline also announced Thursday that it plans to ramp up service between Narita and Moscow, Russia, as well as between Narita and Honolulu amid increased demand.

7 Cool Things To Do in New Providence Island, Bahamas

One of the most romantic days of the year is fast approaching and we have to ask, ‘what are you doing to celebrate your love?’ How about escaping it all and taking your dearest on a trip to the beautiful island of New Providence in the Bahamas for Valentine’s Day, or pretty much any day of the year.

This island is the largest in the Bahamas and most well-known, albeit because of the capital city of Nassau, to which people most commonly refer to it by.

However you slice it, it’s all about the water, fun in the sun and some private cuddle time.

While you are there, here are seven of the coolest things you can both do:

Dinner for Two: You, your loved one and a beautiful beach all to yourself. Isn’t that the dream? Add in a delectable dinner and your night becomes magical. Enjoy a private dining experience for two under the stars at Super Clubs Breezes Resort & Spa in the Bahamas where you’ll be pampered with personalized service and an exquisite menu for you to choose from.

Blue Lagoon Island: It’s exactly how it sounds – soothing blue waters waiting for you to just dive right in. Try one of their many water sports that are available, such as paddle boarding, snorkeling and, if you can imagine it, underwater scooters where you can swim along just like one of the fish. While you’re at Blue Lagoon Island, otherwise known as Salt Cay, sign up for a once-in-a-lifetime, up-close-and-personal encounter with sea lions and dolphins. If you would prefer to explore the beach, hop aboard a Segway and discover the island and its native flora and fauna.

John Watling’s Distillery: When it’s time to just sit down and throw one back, head over to John Watling’s Distillery. Home to their own “Spirit of the Bahamas” rum, there are complimentary tours of the home, called the Buena Vista Estate, which was founded in 1789, and, of course, rum for you to bring home.

Fort Fincastle: This is an interesting old fort, built in 1793, that offers great views of Nassau when you get to the top. These views made it perfect for use as a lighthouse and signal station. It was named after British captain Lord Dunmore and Viscount Fincastle who wanted to keep the residents safe from pirates. You can also see The Queen’s Staircase from here.

The Queen's Staircase: You wouldn’t think that a staircase could be so riveting, but you have probably never been to one with such a great historical story behind it. The Queen’s Staircase, otherwise known as 66 steps, is located at the Fort Fincastle Historic Complex and is free to visit. It was named after Queen Victoria, who reigned Britain for 64 years, and the steps were made by slaves out of solid limestone rock. The slaves were honoring the Queen’s help in abolishing slavery.

Graycliff Cigar Company: Love a good stogie? Look no farther. Head over to the Graycliff Cigar Company, which began its cigar production in 1997. Here you can see the masters roll them by hand. While you are there, take a cigar rolling lesson and or a cigar-and-rum pairing session.

Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Centre: It’s the only zoo in the Bahamas, designed in 1937. Today, it is home to more than 135 animals, especially its famous long-legged flamingo and three Bahamian boa constrictors, a native species to The Bahamas. Three times a day you can watch the flock of flamingoes dance their dance. You can also feed the colorful Lories.

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