Quantcast

10 things about new Aloft hotels

IMG_2704

Over the last year, I’ve been hearing a lot about the new Aloft hotel brand from Starwood. Since I have not had the chance to sleep over in one yet, I asked for a tour of the Aloft San Francisco Airport, one of the three Aloft hotels in the Bay Area—all of which have opened in the last year.

With my camera and notepad I met up with hotel sales & marketing manager Janfred Agarao who showed me around the hotel located on Millbrae Ave just south of SFO.

(click here for my Google+ slideshow of the Aloft at SFO)

Here’s what I saw and learned.

>The Aloft brand is billed as “A Vision of W Hotels” and it’s clear that the W is from where the new chain’s quirky and colorful spirit comes. The SFO property was the 62nd Aloft hotel to open—Starwood expects to have 80 by the end of this year. The other Bay Area locations the Aloft Silicon Valley, located in Newark, which used to be the old W Silicon Valley, and the Aloft Cupertino, near the Apple campus.)

>Most Aloft hotels are built new-from-the-ground-up, but this building started out in the 60’s as the Thunderbird Hotel (which starred in the film, Bullitt), and most recently was a Clarion hotel. Starwood came in and took the building down to the studs and added brand new space, so the look and feel is brand spanking new.

IMG_2751

>The six story Aloft at SFO opened last September with 252 rooms. Its average rate is about $239 per night. Occupancy is healthy—the hotel regularly sells out on midweek on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but struggles to fill up on weekends (which is when rates take a tumble to the $150 range).

(click here for my Google+ slideshow of the Aloft at SFO)

>Most Aloft hotels are located in suburbs, near airports or on the fringes of major downtown areas. For example, New York City locations are in Harlem and in Brooklyn.

IMG_2723

>The lobby of the Aloft at SFO is big, bright and lively—the hotel calls it the “remix area” and there’s room for small groups to gather, communal tables, an unusual blue pool table, free wi-fi, and electrical outlets all over the place. Stationary iPads are available for browsing or making reservations via OpenTable. There are also two desktop computers and a printer.

>Food service is “grab and go” with a wide variety of snacks, such as prepared salads and sandwiches Butterfingers, trail mix or Doritos, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or It’s It bars are available for sale. Guests who want a full service meal can walk across the parking lot to the Westin hotel.

IMG_2722

>Agarao said that the busiest time in the lobby is morning and during happy hour, from 5-8 pm when there’s live acoustical music and discounts on snacks, beer and designer cocktails at the WXYZ bar- muddled watermelon martinis anyone?

(click here for my Google+ slideshow of the Aloft at SFO)

>While Starwood is clearly trying to cater to a younger crowd with the Aloft brand, Agarao said guests generally range from 20 to 50 years old.

IMG_2735

>Beds in nearly every room at the Aloft are placed opposite the window instead of lining up along side it as they do in most hotel rooms. Good feng shui? Who knows? But rooms appear modern, comfortable and well appointed with Bliss bath products, coffee makers and quirky touches like retro-clocks.

>Rooms located on the hotel’s 6th floor offer excellent views of planes taking off and landing on SFO runways…a hypnotizing sight…and only minimal rumbles from jet blasts.

(click here for my Google+ slideshow of the Aloft at SFO)

Have you stayed at an Aloft hotel yet? Let us know what you think! Please leave your comments below! 

-Chris McGinnis

***

Are YOU signed up for The BAT- The Bay Area Traveler? If not, why not? Subscribe to The BAT via e-mail!

 

Two exotic new hotels in Paris (Slideshow)

Earlier this month in Paris, I had a chance to swing by two of the city’s newest hotels: The W Paris- Opera and the Shangri-La.

Wow! The city of lights hotel scene has got it going on.

The W hotel is so new that the cab driver from the Gare du Nord did not know what I was talking about when I said,  ”S’il vous plaît me prendre à hotel W.” (Thank you, Triplingo!) I had to find the Google map on my mobile phone to show him the way.

This brand new 91-room hotel is located in the center of the city near the famous old Opera House. As in most W hotels, there’s always a scene in the lobby (spilling out onto the sidewalk in summer), with DJ’s, models, wannabe models and assorted poseurs. 

Rooms are small and unusually appointed… for example, there are stickers on the wall and pillows on beds with caricatures of famous French men and women. Throughout the hotel are walls of black enameled sheet metal punctured with holes through which lights sparkle— I was told this sparkle was supposed to represent the melding of New York and Paris.  In the less expensive rooms, bathrooms are separated from the room by a sink and mirror- not a wall or a door. This offers a bare minimum of privacy- the small, black-walled closet-like room for the toilet is separated from the rest of the room by only a sliding door. (See slideshow above) That’s no problem if you have the room to yourself… but not great if sharing with another.

On the upside, the hotel is brand new…and new is good in a popular city like Paris where much of the hotel stock is overused and outdated. Basic wi-fi is free. It has a super-convenient location in the center of the city with easy access to several metro lines. There’s a clean, bright fitness studio on the top floor. Speaking English is no problem, and the young, toned, well-coiffed  staff is eager to please— not a hint of French snootiness. High demand is keeping base rates this fall in the $500 per night range.

The chic new Shangri-La hotel opened in late 2010 and is giving established 5-star hotels like the Four Seasons Georges V or the Le Meurice the jitters. It took four years to restore this building- which was once the home of Napoleon’s grand nephew Roland Bonaparte- located in the Trocadero, a posh neighborhood of embassies and mansions between the Arc d’ Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower.

You’ll find a comfortable blend of Asian hospitality (hot tea delivered to rooms at check in, congee on the breakfast menu) and chic French design.  It’s not a huge hotel- only 81 rooms- about half of which offer dramatic views of the Eiffel Tower. Elegance like this does not come cheaply… room rates start at $900 per night. The Shangri-La suite in the penthouse fetches a cool $23,000 per night. (Flip through the slideshow above for a peek of this spectacular suite!)

And it’s not just the Shangri-La that is giving luxury hoteliers in Paris heartburn… a new Mandarin Oriental just opened near the Place Vendome this summer- just a few blocks away from the famous Paris Ritz hotel, which is closed for the next two years for a complete re-do.

What are your favorite Paris hotels? Please leave your comments below. 

*****

Subscribe to The BAT via e-mail!

Follow @cjmcginnis

Welcome new readers! If this information was helpful to you, please subscribe to The BAT via e-mail- and tell your friends about it, too!

*****