I did a remote broadcast of my weekly radio show recently from the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, not far from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport. It’s the single most popular tourist spot in Minnesota and draws visitors from overseas who fly in only to shop there.
Coming in the future: The Mall of the World. In, where else? Dubai.
That’s the Emirate of Dubai where fantasies become islands and skyscrapers. Let me see if you can wrap your brain around this: An entirely indoor mall, a giant air conditioned bubble, that will measure eight million square feet . With parking for 50,000 cars.
The Mall of the World will have its own Oxford Street, Broadway, and Las Ramblas just like Barcelona. This will be a city, for all intents and purposes, whose sections will be connected by seven kilometers of trains that will link shoppers with stores, amusement parks, hotels, and even health care facilities.
Construction hasn’t begun—the project was just announced recently. But the emirate’s main man, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Maktoum, promises it will get built so you will come visit. If there’s not another global recession, that is. The last one caused dozens of major Dubai projects to wither on the vine.
Recently a guy got caught posing as an airline employee and buying employee-discounted tickets on Delta, JetBlue and others. He then sold them to the public, promising unlimited tickets for a year for $2,000. This is an unusual case, but in regards to hotel rooms and vacation homes, the same scam is much more common.
When the so-called “sharing economy” began and folks posted vacation condos and homes on sites such as Airbnb.com, it wasn’t unheard of for someone to sell a property that didn’t belong to them. The hapless traveler showed up to find no such address or a resident who had no intention of renting his living quarters to anyone.
According to the lobbying group for the American hotel and motel industry, there are web sites popping up that replicate the sites of well-known hotel companies, complete with logos. Book through them and if you do get a room, you may not get the handicapped-accessible room or early check-oin you requested. Worst scenario, you may not get a room.
I say if you book a hotel room on line, call the hotel shortly thereafter and make sure your reservation is in their system and all details are correct. You don’t want to start a trip out on the wrong foot.
I know people can get testy when they find unexpected charges on a hotel bill. Or their hotel is oversold or the air conditioner in their room doesn’t work. But a recent incident in Michigan puts those occasional gripes in perspective.
This one was a fight over a waffle. It happened at an America’s Best Value Inn in Mason County, MI, where a free breakfast buffet with a waffle maker is available in the lobby.
Reportedly, two women began arguing over whose waffle had just finished cooking. And their altercation eventually involved–get this—28 other guests at the motel. Which led to the police arriving to enforce the motel’s decision to kick all 30 guests out of the property.
Now, this was over a waffle. Imagine if it had been something serious.
I know travel can be stressful, though I’m not sure about waffle making. The point is, staying cool while on the road should be every traveler’s credo. New situations and new people demand patience, especially in different cultures. Like—apparently–in Mason County, Michigan.
It’s always shoulder or off season somewhere. For example, business travel drops off during the summer, so look for hotel deals, especially on weekends. Right now, Marriott is offering a summer discount at 1,600 of its properties if you stay two nights or more, Thursday through Sunday. You’ll get 15% off your room rate for stays beginning this coming Friday, June 12th, through August 15th.
But here’s the fine print: You must make your reservations by Friday.
And along with that drop off in business travel comes deals on business class airline fares. The difference between coach fares and front-of-the-plane fares is narrowing. Not because coach prices are rising—biz class fares are dropping. That means fewer easy upgrades for high-ranking, elite frequent flyers in an airline’s program, but it means cheaper fares for cash-paying customers.
A recent Delta, Dallas to Detroit flight cost $462 in coach, and only $30 more each way in first class—almost a no-brainer. So keep an eye peeled for deals—they’re out there.
It’s not unusual to find a fitness center at a hotel or motel these days. Some of them can be quite nice, other are deeply disappointing. Instead of a hotel company building a fitness center, how about a fitness company building a hotel?
One is about to.
Equinox Holdings operates almost 80 fitness clubs in the US, as well as one in London. And if it hadn’t been for the recession, Equinox would have moved sooner on its just-announced plan to build luxury hotels featuring extensive health clubs. First up is New York City in the Hudson Yards development where Equinox wants to open an upscale hotel with indoor and outdoor swimming pools and a 60,000 square-feet Equinox club by the year 2018. That, by the way will be the company’s largest club.
Other hotel companies such as Starwood, Intercontinental, and Wyndham’s new TRYP hotels are featuring muscled-up fitness facilities in some of their hotels. But Equinox, in conjunction with the big developer Related Companies, will be the first hotel chain where fitness is a focus and a major brand point.
The company is raising billions to open 75 hotels; LA would follow New York in 2019.