INCENTIVES | CONTESTS | WEBINARS | PODCASTS | EVENTS | JOBS
Those in the travel industry are free to reminisce during these days of non-travel about some of the intriguing locations they've visited during their peripatetic careers. And going hand in hand with intriguing locales are hotels that provided particularly memorable stays, perhaps because of the ambiance they offered or possibly because of their dazzling settings. Travel Courier now has four travel industry veterans recalling hotel stays that they found particularly memorable.
Eloy Govea says the time will again come when a good numbers of cigar enthusiasts will be able to light up a stogie in a hotel that proudly has a cigar theme in a country often quickly associated with the tobacco product.
Govea — who used to be director of the Cuba Tourist Board’s Toronto office and now works in tourism in Havana — says his homeland is the ultimate destination for those who enjoy cigars and Old Havana’s Conde de Villanueva hotel has an ambiance particularly suited for those who like to puff on a Cohiba or a Roméo y Julieta. The hotel has had a cigar theme since its opening.
Govea often strolls past the Conde de Villanueva when in Old Havana.
“While not being a smoker myself, I enjoy a good cigar,” he says. “Being born and raised in the province quintessentially associated with tobacco, Pinar del Rio, I pride myself in having in my veins the culture, the history and the spirit that comes with a true Cuban tobacco experience.
“The very Cuban identity is wrapped with tobacco leaves.”
Govea labels the Conde de Villanueva unique, noting it proudly celebrates the culture of “Habanos ” (Cuban cigars) even as the international smoking movement continues to gather strength.
He’s quick to suggest that tourists visit the hotel when coronavirus ends and tourism is back to normal.
“Cigar lover or not, anyone willing to understand the essence of Cuba will have a revealing experience in this hotel,” Govea continues. “Coffee, rum, the breeze coming from the Bay of Havana, the music filling the air, the amazing stories and the incredible energy of the Cuban people have a mysterious ability to make you ask for a cigar. You can’t help it. And not just any cigar, but the best in the world — the Habano.”
Mohd Akbal Setia’s preferred hotels provide two very different experiences in two very different settings.
The vice-president of Tourism Malaysia Americas’ choices include one that’s in an urban setting and another found in rainforest, choices he says underscores the variety of travel experiences that await those visiting Malaysia.
“I always say I have the best job in the world,” Akbal Setia says. “I get to rediscover my country, and share amazing experiences with friends, family and the Canadian travel industry. Needless to say, I am thoroughly missing home. Missing everything from Malaysia’s street food, to the hospitality and warmth of the Malaysian people, the beaches, the rainforests, the shopping….
“Like everyone else in the industry, we at Tourism Malaysia are dealing with a new normal. We continue to virtually engage our travel partners with updates on how Malaysia has dealt with the pandemic, and how we intend to move forward, assuring them that they have our support when the industry rebounds. We continually update our travel partners on new and exciting Malaysian destinations and products that they may not know about, and have stepped up our social media presence in order to have a better handle on products, services and destinations in Malaysia that excites the public. All this whilst reminding everyone that Malaysia Awaits you!”
Akbal Setia has experienced many resorts and hotels in Malaysia, and the two that stand out are the Clans Kongsi Georgetown in Penang and the Sukau Rainforest Lodge, in Sabah in Malaysian Borneo.
“Located in the core of the UNESCO World Heritage city of Georgetown in Penang, the Clans Kongsi Georgetown is a cluster of unique boutique residences, lovingly restored to preserve its ‘Peranakan’ heritage. Everything from the décor to the hospitality embodies the warmth of the Malaysian people. Conferred the title of UNESCO World Heritage City, Georgetown displays an eclectic assortment of colonial and Asian influences, seen in the city’s food, people, architecture, culture and heritage. I remember visiting the Wat Chayamangkalaram Thai Buddhist temple and was surprised to see the Dhammikarama Burmese temple across from it on the same street in Georgetown. On entering the Thai Buddhist temple, my friend decided to pick a ‘fortune stick’ offered to her for a small donation. She put it in her purse and forgot all about it. On returning to Canada, she found out she was with child, and a few months later, whilst rummaging through her purse, she found the fortune stick and opened it. She was dumbstruck. It read ‘you will bear a son soon.’ Today, she is a proud mother to her 16-year-old son.”
Akbal Setia’s other choice is the Sukau Rainforest Lodge.
“There is a reason why this resort has won numerous awards,” he states. “Built on the premises of preservation and environmental sustainability, the Sukau Rainforest Lodge (which by the way, is on National Geographic’s list of Unique Lodges of the World), is nestled within the dense Borneo rainforest right on the banks of the Kinabatangan River. I remember waking up to the soothing sounds of the rainforest, followed by a hearty breakfast and the much anticipated wildlife river safari down the Kinabatangan River. On my very first safari I encountered a quora of proboscis monkeys with its dominant male perched higher than the rest in his group, proudly displaying his famous protrusion, his ginormous nose. And whilst I missed the shy pigmy elephants, I saw their footprints by the river banks and heard them bellowing from deep in the rainforests. Birds of numerous species whistled and chirped throughout the safari, and on our way back to the lodge we were lucky enough to see a couple of orangutans, foraging for food, swinging from one tree to the next.. After lunch at the lodge, we prepared for our night safari on the river to view the nocturnal creatures that flanked the river banks. The adventure continues…”
There will come a day when the coronavirus pandemic ends and it of course will be a day that Akbal Setia welcomes with “a sense of relief, and gratefulness. If anything, this pandemic has taught me to count my blessings, and not take things for granted, and to treasure every memory of places I’ve visited, people I’ve met, and all the amazing experiences I have been privy to in the course of my travels in Malaysia, and the work I do at Tourism Malaysia. I do have the best job in the world!”
Talk about a wealth of choices when it comes to choosing some particularly great hotel stays…
Malia Asfour, who oversees the Jordan Tourism Board North America, says her diverse homeland has a huge number of fascinating lodging experiences that make it difficult to identify one as being the best.
“It is really hard to say, every location in Jordan has some different, unique properties,” she says. “I would say though that I feel very relaxed when I visit the Feynan Ecolodge, which is on the Meaningful Travel Map, and when I camp in Wadi Rum. Feynan is a full sustainable eco-system with an immersion into local experiences with the local Bedouin community and residence. It is located in a beautiful valley and part of the Dana Nature Reserve. A great location for outdoor space with easy self-distancing protocols and measures in place.”
Feynan Ecolodge uses solar power and candlelight as it seeks to minimize its environmental footprint.
Asfour says camps in the desert setting of Wadi Rum are ideal for those who are “yearning to connect with nature and family in open spaces. I took my family to Wadi Rum this last Christmas break and we stayed at an incredible camp in the bubble tents where you can watch the stars at night.”
Asfour adds there are many other intriguing lodging options in Jordan. “In the northern parts of Jordan in Um Qais we have some unique bed and breakfast facilities that are also on the Meaningful Travel Map, where you can have local immersive experiences and learn about beekeeping, cooking, foraging, etc. Also, close to Petra in Shobak we have a hotel called the Montreal Hotel that is run by veterans. This property overlooks the Shobak Crusader Castle. In Amman, we have so many new boutique hotels opening up all over the city and they are lovely. Most are located in the older parts of the city and they carry the history of Amman and a mixture of old and new for travellers and their food is so authentic and local and extremely delicious.”
The U.S.-based Asfour says she misses travel and is eager for a return visit to Jordan and to reconnect with family.
“It is hard being far from home and unable to go,” she states. “So I will be one of the first people on the first flights that open up and I cannot wait. What I look forward to is driving down to Aqaba and just soak up some vitamin D on the Red Sea. It is so breathtakingly beautiful there and I yearn for that!”
Javier Monje’s preferred hotel is in an enviable setting to say the least.
Monje is with RIU Hotels & Resorts’ Mexican-Caribbean division, which has numerous upscale oceanside properties in popular vacation spots.
“It’s a very difficult question… In addition to excellent service and gastronomy, all of our hotels have a great combination of location and design. Maybe I would choose the Riu Palace Peninsula, due its original architecture that makes the hotel a landmark of the destination,” he says of a resort that on June 8 became Riu’s first Mexican-Caribbean hotel to reopen.
The Riu Palace Peninsula is found on the white-sand beach and faces the aquamarine water that continually dazzles Cancun visitors.
Monje concedes that coronavirus has led to trying times for those in the hotel industry but says the reopening of the Riu Palace Peninsula underscores that he can now see light at the end of the hospitality industry tunnel.
“There have been very difficult weeks for me and my mates,” he says. “For weeks, there was nothing but cancellations. Fortunately, we see that in the last days, the reservations have increased. I think we should highlight all the effort made by the tourism industry and authorities to recover the customer’s confidence through the creation and establishment of strict protocols that allow the guests to enjoy a satisfactory experience and, at the same time, a safe experience.
“I am very excited,” Monje continues. “All the frustration caused by the closing of our hotels is now (changing to) enthusiasm and happiness knowing we can start receiving guests and operating our hotels again.”
|Pack Your Bags For Punta Cana|
|Grand Palladium Hotels & Resorts Jamaica|
|Staycations are out. Explore everyday low fares to Mexico and the Caribbean with WestJet|
|Grand Palladium Hotels & Resorts Riviera Maya|
|Qatar – World's Best Airline for the sixth time|
|Tips for converting "staycations" into vacations|
|TRS Yucatan Hotel – Winter Sale – Save up to 35% plus $1500 resort credit|
|INCENTIVES | CONTESTS | WEBINARS | PODCASTS | EVENTS | JOBS|