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Swine Flu – Can You Catch it From Your Hotel Bedding?

How many times have you stayed in a hotel where you wondered about the hygiene and cleanliness of the bedding. What can you actually catch from sleeping on an unclean bed. Even if the sheets have been changed, what about the pillow or bedspread or blanket ?

Hepatitis A virus can survive outside the body for for months. HAV can survive certain acids and some heat and survive in dried feces. Other Hepatitis viruses such as HBV and HCV can live from 16 hours to up to a week.

Researchers have known since 2005 that “superbugs” like C.Difficille, which is found mainly in hospitals , can live for weeks in bedding and can be resistant to even bleach. Staphylococcus aureus ( MRSA ) is a relatively common bacterium found on skin and nasal surfaces of healthy people and animals. MRSA has cause outbreaks in schools and gyms, transmitted through contact with towels.

If bedding has not been changed or cleaned properly, transmission of bacteria and viruses is possible. Catching a virus from hotel bedding is not a common occurrence but it is possible, especially when you talk about padded headboards, quilted bedspreads and pillows , which can retain enough moisture to enable a virus to live long enough to infect. Bacteria, on the other hand, is a much hardier form of life.If the guest before you had a bacterial infection and deposited enough of that bacteria onto the headboard or pillow, then it’s possible you could be infected.

Molds responsible for respiratory and skin problems like eczema are virtually indestructible and can live almost anywhere. According to a 1999 Mayo clinic study, 93% of patients with chronic rhino-sinusitis ( CRS ) had allergenic fungal sinusitis. Molds thrive in damp dark areas, like the air conditioner area in tropical climates. That smell when you first turn on the air conditioner in your hotel could be symptomatic of a mold problem.

So what about swine flu ? Swine flu virus or the rhinoviruses that cause colds, needs living cells to stay alive. Without these cells, found in bodily fluids like blood,mucous or saliva, viruses have a short lifespan, between a few seconds and 48 hours, depending on the surface. Viruses tend to live longer on nonporous surfaces, like doorknobs, than on porous surfaces, like fabrics. But if the fabric is dampened with enough fluid, mucous, saliva or fecal matter, the virus may persist for much longer periods.

Can you catch swine flu from your hotel bed ? Not likely. You would have to lie down and put your face into a deposit of swine flu virus within minutes of an infected person lying there. But, if you should happen to come into contact with a damp spot of infected bodily fluids, well then it is very possible.

While it is highly unlikely that you will encounter a bed in a hotel which, not only has not been changed, but is still damp with the previous guests infected bodily fluids, “better safe than sorry”, in this day and age of pandemics and poor housekeeping, is a catch phrase to live by.

The same precautions and methods you should use for any hotel bed when checking for bedbugs, will serve you as well in checking for damp or unclean bedding. Don’t wait until you are ready to climb into bed after a long day of sightseeing, check as soon as you get into your room. GET RID OF THE BEDSPREAD ! Throw it into a corner and forget about it because the last time it was cleaned, Jimmy Carter was in office.Pull back a corner of the bedding closest to the headboard, check for rusty colored spots and bedbugs. Slide your hand and arm under the sheets on top of the mattress protector ( hopefully there is one ) and feel for any damp spots. Remember, you don’t know who slept in this bed before you. Maybe it was an incontinent senior, or a diaper changing mom and baby, what about a bed wetting child. Anything is possible, why not take a minute to make sure before you or one of your family hops in. Now smell your hand, if it stinks, wash and leave the room. Better your hand than the rest of you.

After checking the bed, move on to the headboard, if it’s quilted or fabric covered, just run your hand over it to check for dampness. Again, smell your hand and repeat above instructions. If your hand smells then your head will too once you lay you head there.

Now the most important item, the pillow. This lump of fiber or feather filled material is more than capable of absorbing and storing fluids, mucous, urine, sweat, and blood. All that separates it from you is a pillow case and hopefully a barrier pillow protector.Take the pillow in your hands and squeeze, hold the compressed pillow for 20 seconds, this will give you enough time to feel if any dampness is present. I do this a few times in different places on the pillow, to be sure it is dry.

After spending the 5 minutes it took to inspect the bed, headboard, and pillow, I STILL lay down a travel sheet like Allersac. If clean sheets are all that separate me from the mattress and pillow, then the added protection of my own travel sheet will serve to provide me with the peace of mind to relax and feel comfortable knowing I washed the sheets.

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Tourists Accommodation

Whether you are a business traveler or a holiday maker Accra has the capacity to accommodate you. Affordability is not an issue when it comes to hotels in the city because the city is well served by the budget hotels as well as luxurious ones. The staff is so friendly here that it will make you feel at home. So whenever you take Accra flights never worry about the place to stay at. Almost all the busy city areas and tourists spots are served by range of hotels.

Golden Tulip Accra: This is a first class hotel that is raked as a four star by visitor’s reviews. It is located at Liberation Road in the suburbs of Accra. The inside as well as outside area of the hotel is quite, clean, and peaceful. It has 234 rooms, tropical garden, and lush vegetation. Foreign visitors taken flights to Accra prefer this hotel for their stay because it is just five minutes drive away from Kotoka International Airport and also has close proximity to Labadi Pleasure Beach, and Kokrobite Beach. It is also equipped with Branche, Restaurant, Bar and Lounge.

Novotel Hotel: It’s a four star hotel with ideal location of few kilometers distance from Accra International Airports, as well as a few minutes walking distance from Accra Conference center, and major commercial buildings. Visitors taking flights to Accra like it most for it’s out class rooms equipped with all modern age facilities including; restaurant, bar, fitness center, swimming pool, business center, parking area, tennis court, and its friendliest staff. It has every thing you would wish a top class hotel would have.

La Palm Royal Beach Hotel: This premier resort was opened in 1999 in Accra, Ghana as an elegant four star hotel. Established just a few years back the hotel has now earned its fame as Accra’s principal address for businessmen, government delegations, and tourists on holidays. All the prominent figures taking cheap flights to Accra like to stay here for its executive environment and close proximity to financial centre, the Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, and State House.

Holiday Inn Accra Airport: Part of the world famous African Sun group, Holiday Inn is the premier hotel in the city. As the name suggests the hotel is closest one to the Kotoka International Airport located just a one kilometer away from the airport. With its 168 appointed rooms, Wi-Fi access, Television and Mini Bar the hotel is most preferred among business travelers and foreign delegates taking flights to Accra from UK and other destinations.

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Is Your Hotel Ready for the Millennial Traveler?

Before I continue, let’s first make sure we’re on the same page about who were referring to when we use the expression ‘millennial traveller’.

Millennials, also more commonly referred to as Generation Y or Generation Next, are people who were born between the early 1980s and early 2000s. They make up about 20% of international travellers and it is estimated that by 2020, they will account for more than 320 million international trips.

Phew. Those are some staggering numbers right there! It’s no wonder that hotels are wooing them with everything they have. But for all the effort they’re making, do hotels really have what Millennials want? Do they even know what Millennials are looking for?

If you’re not quite sure, let me drop a few hints your way

Hint No.1: Technology is their life force

Technology is to Millennials what water is to fish – life itself. The perks that most of us consider good to have – Internet, Wi-fi, hi-speed mobile data – are essential to their way of living.

What this means for hotels

According to a report, almost 71% of Millennial travelers considered free Wi-fi an important factor when choosing a hotel. So hotels, pull up your socks and put the technology in place for them. Or they’re likely to walk up to your competitor and book a room with them.

Hint No.2: Millennials love their smartphones

‘Technology at your fingertips’ is an expression that’s taken very seriously by the Millennials. He is likely to go for hours without food and water, but not without checking his smartphone. He works, plays, chats, networks, writes emails, watches videos, and stays up to date on news using his phone. Other more complicated actions like booking tickets, making hotel arrangements, and paying bills can also be competently handled by his handset.

What this means for hotels

It’s absolutely imperative that hotels invest in superior mobile technology, starting with a website that adapts to different screen sizes and resolutions. With more than half of millennial travelers using mobile devices to discover and book hotels, the hospitality industry is paying a heavy price for not investing in a mobile responsive website. You might also want to consider getting an app for your hotel, to facilitate functions like mobile check in, check out, payments, and en-cashing loyalty points.

Hint No.3: Millennials are ‘social’ creatures

Generation Y is often criticized for shirking the forms of social interaction that their parents were fond of. They’re considered aloof, standoffish, and a little bit asocial. But the truth is that Millennials do tend to connect to each other, just not in ways that are familiar to us. The online world, especially social media, takes precedence in their social life. Facebook, Twitter, What’sApp, GChat, and Snapchat is where they hang out, check in, upload pictures, start conversations, and share details of their life.

What this means for hotels

Given that social media is one of the biggest influencing factors in the life of a Millennial, hotels must make a concerted effort to have a presence on various platforms. In fact, they must go beyond the token Facebook and Instagram page and build a community online. Reach out to your audience, engage them, solve their problems, and invite them to leave reviews. An active social media profile inspires confidence among Millennials and is likely to win you brownie points in the long run.

Hint No.4: Millennials place great faith in peer reviews

Generation Y is a suspicious lot and they can recognize a marketing gimmick from a mile away. For this reason, they rely heavily on ‘peer review’ to gather information about a place. Whether they’re buying a new gadget or trying out a restaurant in the neighborhood, you’ll see them pouring over reviews before deciding to do anything. They consider it a more authentic and ‘real’ source of information. And you can be 100 per cent sure that they’ll be reading up about your hotel before deciding to stay there.

What this means for hotels

Do not try to patronize or trick the Millennial traveller. All your online properties (website, blog, social media profiles) should display accurate information, accompanied by up-to-date pictures. If you’re offering a deal or discount, lay out the terms in black and white. Encourage your visitors to leave you a review on platforms like Trip-advisor or your Facebook page; incentivize the process, if you have to. Should you receive a negative review, take steps to address it and resolve the situation.

Millennials don’t expect you to be flawless. However, they do expect you to be transparent and sincere. Mistakes are an inevitable part of your industry and if you’ve taken every possible step to rectify the problem, you will be forgiven. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself at the receiving end of a nasty review posted for the entire world to see.

Hint No.5: Millennials are into Bleisure

Generation Y is relatively unencumbered by responsibilities at home and are more open to taking business trips. However, unlike the previous generation, almost 62% of millennial travelers will extend their business vacation to explore the place and gain cultural experiences.

What this means for hotels

Gone are the days when that solitary desk in the hotel room took care of any ‘business needs’ that travelers had. Millennials do not like working inside their rooms. This is the generation that steps out to a coffee shop to sit with their laptops and work for hours. The concept of the ‘third space’, independent of home and office, has been popularized by them. Design hotel lobbies to cater to this demand, so that when they step out in search for a place to work, they don’t have to go very far.

Hint No.6: Millennials look for authentic experiences

Despite what might look like their preoccupation with the cyber world, Millennials are always looking for unique and meaningful travel experiences. They want their stay personalized and won’t pass up an opportunity to learn something valuable. Not content with hitting the high spots of a tourist destination, they crave interaction with locals and enjoy immersing themselves in a variety of cultural experiences.

What this means for hotels

Reject the cookie cutter approach to the services you offer your guests. Offer them a genuine travel experience, one that is immersive, interactive and hands on. Don’t just take them on a regular sightseeing tour that showcases the city from behind the panes of a bus or car window. Take them to meet local artisans, show them the way to the hip and happening underground bar, and expose them to interesting customs and traditions. That’s the only way to add true value to their life and create an experience they will cherish for life.

There’s no denying that Millennials are driving the hospitality industry with full force. They already account for a third of the hotel guests in the world, and by 2020, the figure is expected to climb to 50 per cent.

To keep pace with growing demands, hotels must show a willingness to evolve and reinvent themselves. They have to put aside traditional methods of functioning, revisit their marketing strategy, and curate unique experiences for Generation Y.

Besides, it is in their best interest that hotels up their game. By updating their offers, hotels stay relevant within the industry and equipped to deal with the demands of changing times. Millennial travelers are the cash cow that every industry dreams of, and by catering to them, hotels are ensuring themselves a solid revenue stream for the next few decades, at least.

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How Mobile Engagement Can Be Used To Reshape The Hospitality Industry

Smartphones dominate our attention throughout the day. They have come to change the very nature of how we interact with the world around us, including the way we do businesses.

When it comes to the travel and hospitality space, mobiles have drastically reshaped their functioning, that too in the favor of the consumer. And, with expectations regarding mobile interactivity rising, consumers have become more demanding regarding the kinds of services they have at their fingertips.

Here are some statistics that will help you grasp the extent to which mobile has penetrated the industry:

  • TripAdvisor is the travel industry’s most popular mobile app, with more than 230 million downloads and 150 million monthly active users.
  • Mobile bookings in travel have grown by 1700% between 2011 and 2015, moving from 1 per cent to 18 per cent of online revenues.
  • 40% of travel sales have come from mobile in 2017, which is posited to reach 50 per cent by 2021.
  • 88 per cent of leisure travelers will switch to a different app or website if yours isn’t meeting their needs
  • More than 50 per cent of travelers don’t have a set destination in mind when planning a trip – and 60% will search their next trip from a mobile device
  • 1 in 3 boarding passes will be delivered via mobile by 2019
  • 66 per cent users prefer restaurants with a reward scheme, and 78% will use a mobile app if offered discounts.

The bottom line is, mobile is here to stay. In fact, it will only occupy more importance in the consumer’s daily life, so fine tuning your hospitality venture to make to most of mobile is imperative.

The hospitality industry invests heavily in online marketing (about $6 billion in 2016, to give you an idea) and uses it to engage customers and drive conversions. However, online engagement using only paid advertising is fast losing its appeal.

More and more companies are re-looking their strategy and trying to incorporate the mobile experience at each stage of the travel experience – right from research to sharing feedback about the journey and their stay in a hotel.

The Role of Mobiles in the Research Phase

Earlier, your travel research didn’t necessarily involve surfing the net. You’d call a travel agent after a brief search online, and trust him to get you a discount on the whole ‘package’.

Travelers these days pride themselves on their ‘researching skills’ and their ability to curate a great experience while also bagging the best deals for themselves. And a lot of their research takes them to social networking sites, like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram and user review platforms like TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet.

This means that you have to incentivize your existing customers to share their journey online. Check-ins, reviews, sharing photos, using customized hashtags, and writing blogs are popular strategies to invite contributions.

But don’t just leave it all up to the guests. Hotels should also actively participate in creating and distributing high quality content. Focus on value-driven stuff that gets your potential consumers to think, “These guys seem to know what they’re talking about when it comes to travel, so I’ll check them out!” And don’t forget to optimize the content for reading on smartphones, because looking up on PCs is so old-fashioned. Also, partner with experts, specialists, and influencers to enrich your content and give it credibility.

Now that you’re creating valuable content, ensure that it’s discoverable on Google. Have a robust SEO strategy so that you feature in top search results. Also, get a Google Business Listing for your hotel, and make maintain NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number) consistency across platforms like Yelp, Yahoo, Foursquare, and TripAdvisor.

A virtual concierge is even better. Guests can access this service on their mobile, allowing them to see the amenities of your hotel, check out local attractions, or even look at upgrade opportunities. You should use the power of video to your advantage to give them online tours as well.

From the Booking to Arrival

There is always a time-gap between the time guests make reservation to the time they arrive at your hotel. This period is rarely utilized by businesses, but with some thought, you can reach out to your guest and offer value added services.

Communicate with your guests on their mobiles, but in a way that isn’t considered spamming. Give them useful information about the locality, introduce them to sightseeing options, and inform them of events happening around the hotel. And should they like something, let them reserve seats using their smartphones.

You can even eliminate the check-in line and other procedures with the help of a mobile app. Guests can choose their rooms, opt for add-ons and have a hassle-free check in to give them greater control over their stay. Not only will this free up your staff for other aspects of the business, you will also earn brownie points for being proactive.

The Hotel Lobby & The Stay

People would ignore your lobby because there isn’t anything there to capture their interest, apart from droll seating arrangements and eerie silence. You can change that, and use this space to actually interact with guests, using mobiles.

SoftBank’s humanoid robot Pepper is one of those innovations that really caught my eye. This robot makes a great way of channeling customers to use the gamut of mobile services that you might have in place, while also paving the way for affiliate services and programs.

Pepper can be programmed to chat with customers, answer questions and give directions – its functionality is like Amazon’s Alexa. With Pepper, however, there’s a robot in front of customers that can dance, look around, play music, light up, blush and even take a cool selfie with passersby.

Pepper can even capture email addresses and phone numbers, and can be programmed to send customers messages with links to your mobile app, loyalty programs and other things pre-and-post their stay at the hotel. With Pepper, you can capture the data you need to create a truly personalized experience for your guests, which is the reason for most hotels now looking at mobile favorably.

Finally, your App

Maybe you were wondering when we would get to this, since we’ve covered pretty much everything else. We won’t try and convince you why you need an app, but know that having a mobile site isn’t enough. Apps themselves take your customer engagement to the next level, and given the competition in the industry, you should leverage your mobile advantage as much as possible.

An ideal app should have the following characteristics:

  • Ergonomic Design, intuitive User Interface
  • Careful selection of essential features
  • Brand consistency
  • Cross-platform compatibility (iOS, Android etc.)
  • Convenient booking options
  • News – Local and industry related
  • Analytics at the back end
  • Image gallery / virtual tour
  • Floor plan
  • Loyalty program integration
  • Event Calendar
  • Flight information, weather updates, dynamism
  • Social network sharing prompt

As technology becomes increasingly personalized and mobile, your engagement in the realm of hospitality should not fall behind. While these suggestions are extensive, consider implementing a few (if not all) of them to see the kind of boost you receive in your engagement – personal experience is the best teacher.

All things said and done, mobile engagement truly lets you interact with your guests in a personalized and more proactive manner, which does wonders for your brand image. In addition, it also lets you rise above the competitive clutter, which sounds like a win-win to me!

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Circus Circus Vs Excalibur – Which One Is Better for You?

If you are planning to go to Vegas and are looking for a place which may be suitable for the whole family (where there are children), you are probably going to ponder booking the Circus Circus or the Excalibur, in the hope that your children won’t hate you forever because you dragged them to an adult-oriented place. This page will also discuss pros and cons of these 2 Vegas resorts for the adult-only visitors.

First of all, I have to highlight that Las Vegas (and in particular all the main resorts and casinos), is not the place I would take my children (for reasons that range from the heavy smoke everywhere, to the high level of alcohol-related ‘bad’ behaviour). However, if you really need to take your children there, then you’ll probably want to offer them something that they will also enjoy. Therefore, the budget resorts Circus Circus and Excalibur will be on the shortlist, understandably. But… Which one is best for your family?

In terms of ‘things do to’ for children, Circus Circus has the best set up, thanks to its huge Adventuredome: here you have a wide range of rides which cater to all ages, from toddlers to teenagers; the more sophisticated rides are great fun for adults too and, I must admit, I would have stayed there all day if it weren’t for my partner who literally had to drag me away. Even if you decide not to stay at Circus Circus, if you have children you will probably want to take them there for a full day of fun: they will thank you for it.

However: their pool is small and it certainly does not offer a range of rides which would be ideal for children; the rooms are very clean although I could not describe them as ‘comfortable’ (the mattresses were too hard); the casino is ‘depressing’ in my opinion, although, to be fair, since Circus Circus targets families they might have decided that a casino is not going to be a key factor.

Despite the Disneyesque look, Excalibur is really not suitable for children. Yes, they do have a basement area where children and families can find games to play together, but they certainly cannot even compare to the great Adventuredome of Circus Circus. I view Excalibur as a mediocre compromise for those who seek budget accommodation with something for children in a slightly better location than Circus Circus’. A positive feature is, however, their huge pool area, with a large enough section designed for children, with kids water slides (which can be used by adults too, of course).

The rooms and the corridors at Excalibur could hardly be described ‘child friendly’: all of them are smoking (well, the non-smoking floors have people smoking in the rooms, mostly drunks, and everywhere you go you can smell and breathe smoke, no matter how hard you try not to). If you don’t mind your children breathing smoke, then Excalibur is worth considering by families. However, bear in mind that it’s extremely loud, with semi-naked girls dancing on several casino tables with extremely loud music, and it’s filled with drunk middle age men holidaying on the cheap; we were surrounded by them on the ‘non-smoking floor’ (filled with smoke).

A key positive feature, however, is that the Excalibur casino is undoubtedly much more fun than the one at Circus Circus; children are not allowed on the casinos floors but, if you manage to get a baby sitter whilst you want to gamble nearby, this casino will provide better fun.

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The Truth Behind All-Inclusive Resorts in the Riviera Maya – What You Need to Know

The Riviera Maya is one of the hottest vacation spots (no pun intended) and accounts for 40% of the tourism dollars of Mexico. All-inclusive resorts line the Riviera Maya coast to facilitate massive numbers of visitors, and these tourists often feel secure staying at a resort in a foreign land such as Mexico. But in determining whether an all-inclusive resort is right for you, you should consider some little-known facts about such resorts, regarding eating at the better restaurants, the type of alcohol you consume, and the tours outside the resort when you want to venture off the property. This article will aim to show you a few of the snags when staying at an all-inclusive resort and what other options you have in the Riviera Maya.

If you desire more than just buffet food for the length of your stay at a resort, be aware that many Riviera Maya resorts have deterrents in place to not make it too easy to eat at their better sit-down restaurants. Oftentimes, the resort will require you to make a reservation if you want to eat at a sit-down restaurant. While this seems reasonable on the surface, it is actually designed to discourage numbers of tourists from eating at the better restaurants. First, the resort may often require you to make such reservations a day in advance. So, at the very least, if your resort requires this, you will not be able to eat at a sit-down restaurant the first day of your stay!

And they may be able to only take such restaurant reservations during certain hours in the morning, further limiting when you can secure a meal at one of their better restaurants. If you have been up late drinking the night before or if you have a tour reserved outside the resort in the morning, this can be a very inconvenient time. And then the resort will require you to wait in line for the concierge to make the reservation. It is only one line and because of the limited time allowed to place the reservations, the line is often long and requires a long wait, something you may not want to do on your vacation. This is even more frustrating when in the evening, if you stop by one of the restaurants, you may notice that a particular restaurant has many open tables but will not allow you to eat at the restaurant without a reservation. So when researching to stay at any Riviera Maya resort, consider contacting the resort and asking their policy for making dinner reservations.

Another concern if you are thinking about staying at an all-inclusive resort in the Riviera Maya is the quality of their alcohol. Some resorts will advertise that they serve certain top-shelf alcohol. But be aware that some resorts, while they advertise they serve top-shelf alcohol, may only offer such top-shelf alcohol only at particular bars. These bars may not always be accessible or easy to get to. So, if top-shelf alcohol is important to you, inquire with the resort before making your reservations to determine whether they provide such top-shelf alcohol at all their bars or only a select few and how easily accessible those bars are. An excellent tool is the Riviera Maya EZ-Locator which will allow you to search for vacation rentals by owner instead of resorts, and locate only those villas or condos that meet certain conditions, such as whether restaurants are within walking distance or if top-shelf alcohol can be provided in your vacation rental on the Riviera Maya.

Finally, many tourists do not realize that Riviera Maya resorts want to keep the tourists on the property, spending money at the resort. The resort knows it has tourists locked-in, so to speak, so it charges a premium for many services. Tours to explore the Riviera Maya outside the resort are another way that resorts like to charge premium prices. For example, at one resort I know, the resort charges $100 per person for a tour to a nearby ruin. And this is on a crowded bus with other tourists. Now if you like to stay with a group like that and not venture off on your own, then this may be for you. But one can simply grab a private cab outside the resort, pay $25 for a one-way trip to the ruins, and pay $5 for the entrance fee. Round trip that’s $55 and you get the privacy of your own cab, you can explore the ruins at your own leisure, and you didn’t have to wait in line at the resort to book the tour. Consider venturing outside the resort for better deals on tours or exploring the Riviera Maya yourself via a cab or rental car.

So you can see that an all-inclusive resort may offer roadblocks to enjoying yourself, at your leisure, in terms of access and price gouging. If a resort appears too restrictive, an alternate option is to stay at a vacation rental in the Riviera Maya, such as a villa (vacation house) or a condo. All-inclusive resorts can provide a no-worry vacation in the Riviera Maya, but vacation rentals by owner may be excellent options that give you more freedom, choice, and value to explore the Riviera Maya at your leisure.

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Beijing Dorm Accommodation For Exchange Students at BLCU

When preparing to go to Beijing, whether for student exchange or travelling purposes, it’s a good idea to have a look over the different types of accommodation available. This article will focus more on the dorm accommodation found at Beijing Language and Culture University (BLCU) for students, but tourists planning to stay in the university area in Beijing may also want to look into BLCU dorms as a cheap form of accommodation.

TJ and I did a quick check over which BLCU dorm buildings were good, or at least were decent, to stay in. It didn’t take long for us to work out that Dorm 17 is the most popular and most difficult to book, one of our BLCU classmates stayed at Dorm 17 only because he booked and paid for it the semester before. [Note: The cost of accommodation in each dorm varies]

    The actual process of booking the dorm room involve:

  1. Calling up BLCU accommodation department
  2. Explaining it to staff (mostly in Mandarin, although some of them know a bit of English)
  3. Making a payment (1 month)
  4. Showing them your proof of payment when you get there

I did it the easier way by just rocking up and asking for a room. It seemed to me that the BLCU dorm accommodation is a lot more like a “first come first serve” basis because they’ll always say they’re “fully booked” but somehow magically find a room when needed.

    These are the pros of Dorm 17 from my experience. Please take into account that I never actually stayed in dorm building 17.

  • It’s newer (clean)
  • The fuyuans are nicer
  • It’s “off campus”
  • The rooms are bigger (although this is questionable)
  • Closer to Wudaokou and train station
  • Private gate keepers (students not staying there are meant to sign in and sign out)
  • Buzzing with international students

The downside of Dorm 17 would be that it’s the dorm furtherest away from Building 1 (BLCU main study building), this means waking up extra early in the mornings to get to class or even buying a bike (highly recommended). I also question the rumour that Dorm 17 has bigger rooms because I discovered some super-huge dorm rooms in dorm building 4 (I snuck peeks while walking past open doors).

TJ and I were tossing up between Dorm 4 (old international student dorm) and Dorm 6 (near the basketball courts). TJ arrived at BLCU before me and had settled in Dorm 4, so when I got there I checked out one of Dorm 4’s rooms, and then decided to check out one of the rooms in Dorm 6 too. The major downside was that Dorm 6 didn’t have elevators.

Before my final decision, I went around checking out the apartments nearby (some of which also do not have elevators). There were apartments still under renovation, rooms for rent, people looking for an extra roommate etc. My conclusion was that living off-campus would not be beneficial for someone staying short term (up to 6 months), so I went back to Dorm 4. By that time, a lot more international students had arrived and the available rooms in the building was running out fast!

There’s a huge number of apartments around Wudaokou and BLCU because of the many schools in the area. There’s also quite a lot of hotels within walking distance which you could stay in temporarily if need be. The cost of staying in an apartment is relatively cheaper than staying in the dorms, but the dorms can be more convenient and less troublesome (especially if you have a bad landlord).

At first, I didn’t understand why fuyuans at BLCU always get you to check out the dorm room before you agree to move in, but it didn’t take long for me to realise that EVERY dorm room I went to was DIFFERENT. Most of the rooms are standard in size (sorry, I never took a photo), with bathroom/toilet in each room. TJ had a smaller room compared to mine because hers had a balcony, but some other friends didn’t even have a balcony like TJ ‘s or the extra space I had.

I didn’t think the rooms at Dorm 17 were bigger than compared to my dorm room though, and I’m sure that there are bigger rooms than the one I had… You just need to know which ones they are!

    Pros of Dorm 4

  • Very central (convenient)
  • Hope internet café/restaurant downstairs (you can leech off it in the stairwell on the 1st & 2nd floor, sometimes the 3rd floor)
  • They don’t lock the doors when it’s past curfew
  • Some of the fuyuans are nice
  • Newly installed security cameras
  • Buzzing with international students

On a side note, the “24” on the ‘Hope Cafe’ sign doesn’t mean 24hrs a day! They’ll stay open for as long as people are there, but sometimes close quite early (1-2am).

The furniture found in each room is the same: wardrobe, 2 study tables, 2 beds, mini fridge and TV. I like the fact that there’s a lock on the wardrobe as well as the drawer of the study table. But don’t expect all furniture to be functioning 100%.

If you decide to stay in Dorm Building 4, try and avoid the first floor!! It’s been told that there was a death in one of those rooms at the beginning of 2007. Also, the dorm rooms on the first floor seem to be prone to mould and gets quite stuffy when the heaters are turned on in Winter.

Beware, the elevators in Dorm building 4 can jam up. You might not want to stay on the top floors on the off chance you get stuck inside the elevator (it’s happened to a friend!). I was on the 3rd floor which was close enough to ground floor use the stairs when the elevators were off or out of function. It’s not fun climbing 9 floors after a long night out intoxicated with sore feet.

And last of all, I just want to mention that I had a look at the single dorm room in building 8. Just seeing the room made me glad that I was in a shared room because it’s very small, and the room looks very lonely. But of course, there are downsides of a shared dorm too (bad roommate, no privacy etc).

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P.S. BLCU Scholarship students are put into Dorm 1 or 2 (I’m not sure if there’s other buildings). That means communal showers and toilets (http://www.selinalai.com/2008/05/squat-toilet-troubles

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Canada’s Romantic Hotels

There is romance to be found in the great north. Canada is a country full of majestic scenery in its many lakes, and rivers, mountains and forests, and wonderful cosmopolitan areas. There are many hotels that stand out either for their history and beautiful surroundings, or for their luxurious accommodations and amenities in the midst urban sophistication. Either of these scenarios make these hotels a perfect setting for a romantic interlude to not be forgotten.

The Wedgewood Hotel and Spa, Vancouver, British Columbia

The Wedgewood Hotel and Spa, located on Vancouver’s chic Robson Square, is a romantic European boutique-style hotel. Privately owned and operated, it is smaller and more intimate than some other local hotels. All of the 83 luxurious rooms at the Wedgewood feature private balconies and beautifully crafted plush furnishings. You can relax at the spa and fitness centre, which carries the renowned Epicuren cosmetic line. The Award-winning restaurant Bacchus offers outstanding dining with live entertainment nightly and is known for its exceptional weekend brunches and afternoon tea. The Wedgewood Hotel is close to many attractions in Vancouver, and there is no shortage of activities to choose from. Suites and romance packages are available.

Chateau Lake Louise, Lake Louise, Alberta

Discovery Travel voted Chateau Lake Louise as one of the ”World’s Top 10 Honeymoon Hot Spots” and did so for a very good reason. The scenery is breathtaking and the hotel is grandiose. Chateau Lake Louise is surrounded with snow-frosted Rocky Mountain peaks and secluded next to a legendary lake. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise has a full range of newly renovated rooms and elegant suites featuring either a mountain or lake view, with facilities befitting one of the world’s finest mountain resorts: award-winning cuisine in eight restaurants and lounges, and a gallery of unique boutiques to shop at. Your adventure starts right outside the Chateau’s doors. You can go hiking, canoeing, mountain biking, fly fishing, horseback riding, skiing and snowshoeing (depending on the season of course!). Or you can kick back and relax in the spa, indoor pool or hot tub.

Windsor Arms, Toronto, Ontario

Step through the Gothic inspired doorways and you will find a luxurious, two-storey lounge, richly panelled in dark oak and offering 26 suites and two luxury rooms across four floors of this deluxe boutique hotel. Located centrally in Toronto in the upscale Yorkville area, this discreet small luxury hotel offers guests Toronto’s only caviar and champagne lounge, a dance and live entertainment club, a luxury spa and an indoor pool, complete with poolside fireplace and gourmet restaurant. Traditional tea is served at 1:30pm and 3:30pm daily. Shopping and entertainment are only steps away.

The Marriot Niagra Falls Fallsview and Spa, Niagra Falls, Ontario

We all know that Niagra Falls is one of the honeymoon capitals of the world. Something about those majestic falls inspires the romantic side in couples. A room with a view is a must in this location and this new luxury property boasts that it’s the closest hotel to Niagara Falls. The hotel has 427 Fallsview guestrooms overlooking Niagara Falls. The Deluxe Fallsview Fireplace and Whirlpool Suite is an intimate Suite featuring a King sized bed, a large 2-person Whirlpool and a fireplace. This suite is located on one of the hotel’s higher floors, and offers an extraordinary view of both the Canadian and American Falls.

Chateau Montebello, Montebello, Quebec

Nestled in the midst of a private 65000 acre estate, Le Chateau Montebello is located on the shores of the Outaouais River, halfway between Ottawa and Montreal and is a great place to get away from it all. This resort opened in 1930 as a private club and became a hotel in 1971. A legendary log chateau, being the largest log-cabin in the world, the hotel is an idyllic four-season resort offering a wide range of indoor and outdoor activities including: curling, cross country skiing, skating, dog-sledding, snow-shoeing, and sleigh rides in the winter and boating, fishing, jet-skiing, lawn games, outdoor swimming, tennis, and an 18 hole golf course. Jacuzzi suites and romance packages are available.

Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City, Quebec

This is a magnificent castle-like structure with copper turrets and stone towers, Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac is over 100 years old and a historic landmark of Quebec City. Situated on top of the Cap Diamant Cliffs in the heart of the old walled-in city, Le Chateau Frontenac overlooks the St. Lawrence River and provides some great views. Romance packages are available for any of the beautifully furnished 618 guestrooms and suites. There are exquisite restaurants, an elegant, beautiful bar and a more casual veranda bar. The Chateau also has many upscale boutique shops, art galleries, a florist and hair salon. There is also an on-site indoor pool and fitness center. When do venture out, a stay at the Chateau Frontenac permits you easy walking access to all of the wonderful sites and romantic experiences that Old Quebec has to offer.

The Casino Nova Scotia, Halifax, Nova Scotia

The Casino Nova Scotia is the only hotel located directly on the waterfront, in the heart of downtown Halifax. Guests enjoy convenient access via the walkway to Casino Nova Scotia, many boutiques, shops, restaurants, banks and entertainment hot spots. Casino Nova Scotia is located next door to the Hotel and offers you gaming, entertainment and restaurants. The hotel has two popular restaurants, with outdoor patios featuring a spectacular view of Halifax Harbour, offering an eclectic menu, two lounges, and an indoor heated swimming pool with a large modern fitness facility and full spa services. The rooms offer spectacular views of Halifax Harbour, Historic Properties, the city, or of the courtyard. . The Casino Nova Scotia offers full Concierge services, where sightseeing tours, Harbour boat ours, whale watching, deep-sea fishing, golf and other activities can be arranged. One-bedroom suites or Luxury suites are available.

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Bangkok Hotels: Where to Stay?

Finding a Thailand hotel is super easy these days. Do a search at google, and you’ll have some pretty good idea of where you want to stay. Plus, you can just go ahead and book for a Bangkok Thailand hotel right online.

If you plan to find a Bangkok hotel, you have tons of choices. Stay at Kaosan road if you’re a backpacker. If you’re not one, then stay close to the skytrain if you love shopping. If you’re into good atmosphere and don’t care much about getting around the city, then stay close to the Chao Phraya river, which is the main river of Bangkok.

If you want to stay at Kaosan road, you don’t even need to book in advance. You can just walk around to see the guesthouse you like, and then just walk in. They always have a vacancy.

If you prefer to stay in the city center in order to get around easily for shopping, (and let me tell you, Bangkok is shoppers’ paradise — Hong Kong isn’t cheap… but Bangkok is) then I suggest you check out Patumwan Princess hotel Bangkok. It’s right in the MBK shopping center (fake jeans, watches and bags) and also right at the Siam Square skytrain station. Grand Hyatt Erawan hotel Bangkok, Le Meridien and the Four Seasons hotel Bangkok are more luxurious. They’re right at the intersection where you can see Zen and Isetan shopping malls right across the street. The Siam Square (where they sell funky clothing) and the Chidlom (Central shopping mall) skytrain stations are within minutes away.

A lot of tourists like to stay at the Asia hotel Bangkok, which is right at a Rajdevi skytrain station (one station away from MBK shopping center). It may be cheap, but it’s kind of old. Well, very old actually. I don’t recommend it. But it’s totally up to you.

If you don’t care much about shopping in Bangkok, then I’d really suggest you stay at the Sukothai hotel Bangkok. It’s a classy and luxurious Thai-styled hotel –but you’ll have to take a taxi if you want to go anywhere. Or even better, stay by the Chao Phraya river if you can. It will give you a different feel of Bangkok, especially at night. It’s rather expensive though, especially if you want to stay at the world-renowned Oriental hotel Bangkok or the Peninsula hotel Bangkok. If these two are too expensive for you, try Shangri-la hotel Bangkok. It may be a little bit cheaper. And don’t forget to book a Bangkok river cruise dinner at your hotel. The Chao Praya river is glamorous at night — with a view of well-lit Wat Arun.

To get around town from your Bangkok hotel, you can ask the hotel’s doorman to help you get a taxi. It’s not expensive at all.

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How Hotels in Paxos Island Are Different From Regular Hotels

Visiting the Paxos Island for the first time will undoubtedly offer you the lifetime experience of going on a memorable vacation with your family. Well, there is not one reason behind this statement but there are lots of things which make this island a heaven for the peace lovers. Anyhow, before discussing the reasons that will make your holiday an unforgettable period of your life, or make the Paxos island different from others, let us talk about the Paxos Island.

Where is Paxos Island? As you know that the country of Greece is known for its beautiful islands, and surprisingly Paxos is one of them. Although the island is the smallest among all the islands located in the Greece, despite this it is visited by the huge crowd of visitors across the world, especially who are in search of some tranquil and romantic location for their holidays. The island is located in the arms of Ionian or Heptanese island and is at the distance of nine miles from the Corfu, which is its nearest city. The Greek mainland is located at the distance of ten miles from the Paxos. To reach the Paxos, you will have to hire a boat from the Corfu, because the island doesn’t have its own airport, and the only airport to reach there is located at Corful only.

But, surprisingly, the absence of an airport could not stop the nature and peace lovers from coming there. In fact, it would not be wrong to say that the absence of an airport has proved to be a boon for the Paxos as it has kept it unspoiled from any type of pollution that would have taken place due to the arrival of aircraft. The island is mainly covered with the olive groves, which is also is the main source of income for the natives, apart from fishing and small commercial activities.

The eastern coast of the island has pebbles, whereas the western coast has only rocks and limestone cliffs.

Hotels in Paxos Island: If you are concerned about your staying facilities at the island, then you should not think much about it. Because, like other developed cities, Paxos is also blessed with all those facilities and amenities that you have been finding in other cities, and therefore finding hotels in Paxos island is not an exception to it. However, these hotels are different from the regular hotels that you have been staying while visiting to someplace during the holidays.

The hotels of Greece are similar to your personal home, that offer you the facility to enjoy the same freedom that you have been enjoying at your home. As a general practice when you stay in some hotel you have to book your room before reaching there, although for staying in these hotels you need to book them prior to your arrival. But, here you will not have to follow the restrictions of living in a single or double room or eating the food provided by the hotel. On the contrary here you will large rooms with king size beds, a living room with sofa set and other furniture, facility of cooking your own food in the kitchen. One more thing which differs the hotels of Paxos from other hotels in the presence of balcony, swimming pool and terrace, which is not offered by the regular hotels.

All these three facilities offer you the privilege of viewing the iconic view of an island and the surrounding area from the balcony and terrace, whereas separate swimming pool offers you the facility of enjoying the swimming according to your mood. Whereas, when you stay in some hotel you will not find a balcony or terrace to view the surrounding areas, and swimming is also allowed during the specific hours of the day.

What activities you can enjoy at the Island: Although the island of Paxos is small as compared to other islands, still it has everything to offer the visitors coming there. Here you can enjoy the pleasure of playing different types of water sports, sailing to nearby towns, walk on the beaches, enjoy the mesmerizing view of fireflies in the evening, learn about the lifestyle of the natives, culture of Greece, and of course a romantic and peaceful vacation.