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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, September 17, 2006

Volunteers needed to evaluate small luxury hotels

USA Today

Doesn't this sound like a dream assignment? Stay free at world-class hideaways, and all you have to do is write up your opinion of them.

It's for real. Small Luxury Hotels of the World is seeking about 200 volunteers in the United States, Europe and Asia to check out member lodgings that need to be inspected. To qualify, you need to be what SLH calls a "discerning, experienced" traveler familiar with high-class hotels. And these hotels are just that: They include the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, Calif., Turtle Island in Fiji, the Banyan Tree Phuket in Thailand and Ikal del Mar in Mexico's Riviera Maya (part of a tour recently, and it's proven to be a gem of a rustic/elegant jungle love nest).

You'll check in anonymously, evaluate in secret, then fill out a report. Volunteers pay their own transportation but get reimbursed for one- or two-night stays, plus meals and drinks.

Interested? Go to www.slh.com and click on "We need you."


World's top hideaways: The tribe of Andrew Harper's Hideaway Report, a bible for luxury travelers, has spoken. Among the hideaways highlighted in its 25th annual readers' survey:

  • Top U.S. city hotel: Peninsula Beverly Hills, for the third time in the past five years. A lot of the credit has to go to Energizer Bunny general manager Ali Kasikci. Peninsula Beverly Hills doesn't have the most lush grounds or the most up-to-date rooms in L.A. But personalized service and ambience make it a star.

  • Top international city hotel: Four Seasons George V Paris, for the sixth consecutive year. I can't afford to stay there but always enjoy the elegant, flower-decked lobby and the divine restaurant for lunch (which costs as much as a nice hotel room in most U.S. cities but is worth the splurge).

  • As recently reported in this section, Four Seasons Hualalai on the Big Island was voted the best resort in the United States.

  • Best international resort: Four Seasons again, with its Four Seasons Punta Mita in Mexico.

    Lots of publications do readers' surveys, but this one is of particular interest to luxury-minded travelers, because Hideaway says more than 80 percent of respondents have the title of CEO, president, partner or owner, and 92 percent traveled outside the United States in the past year.


    And in other news, with the International Housekeepers Week, it's time to celebrate and appreciate those who clean up after us, including hotel room attendants.

    As you may know, after working for a day alongside a hotel housekeeper, they're unsung (and generally underpaid) heroes on the travel scene. They play a key role in whether your stay is comfy, and even veterans can make less than $10 an hour. Tips are not as bountiful as some may think.

    A new contract with two dozen Chicago-area Hilton properties provides that union room attendants now get $13.20 an hour. And when checkouts are particularly heavy, they don't have to do their usual quota of 16 rooms daily (changing sheets on those now-standard, heavy pillowtop mattresses is an athletic feat and hard on the body).

    So which city ranks first in U.S. housekeeper pay, according to the Unite Here union? New York, where since July 1, room attendants get a $21.23 hourly rate in a new contract involving 138 hotels. Among them: two Manhattan Ritz-Carltons, Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental.


    And what's this about Andre Agassi being the new hotel ace?

    Just days after he retired from pro tennis in an emotional final appearance at the U.S. Open, Andre Agassi is serving up a new venture.

    He and tennis-star wife, Steffi Graf, have finalized an agreement to develop an Idaho hotel/condo project to be managed by Fairmont.

    The luxury lodging and Willow Stream Spa, due in 2009, is to be at the Tamarack Resort (www.tamarackidaho.com), which boasts a ski area and championship golf course.

    The resort, overlooking Lake Cascade and about 90 miles north of Boise, already has an 8-month-old boutique hotel called The Lodge at Osprey Meadows, plus about 150 cottages, chalets and homes.