Emerging Brands, Oh My!

Many of you are familiar with our handy, dandy, OHLA Brand Guide which offers a great breakdown of brands across all tiers in our industry. Each year the guide is reviewed, edited between tiers, new brands added, other brands removed, and every single year… we are surprised (and excited) by the changes and additions we see.

Here is a quick review of the changes we made to our brand guide for 2020:

Thompson Hotels – In October of 2018 Hyatt acquired the luxury line of Thompson Hotels and in March of 2019 the 8 existing Thompson Hotels were transitioned as part of Hyatt

Signia by Hilton – In February of 2019 Signia by Hilton was announced. This brand offers a new approach to your standard rooms to space ratio with a meetings & events focused approach.

 

Aiden – Best Western added this brand to reflect a casual, eclectic, and trendy boutique hotel to their portfolio.

 

SADIE – Also by Best Western, this boutique brand will help capture the playfulness of travel and embody the creative and unique culture of the neighborhood of where each property sits.

 

 

MOTTO by Hilton – City life encompassed within small rooms with flexible furniture set-up to offer a true urban experience.

 

Miraval – An all-inclusive wellness resort dedicated to their guests finding balance and their best selves

(In addition to these brands being added to the guide, other brands moved within their chain scale. If you’d like a copy of our brand guide to see everything in the big picture, please send me an email at Lauren@ohla.org!)

Though we aren’t seeing any of these brands in Ohio currently, it does not mean we won’t see them in the future. Just think, it was not all that long ago that brands like AC by Marriott and Tru by Hilton were emerging and here we are… with close to 6 of each within the state either opened or underway.

We are looking forward to another year of growth and new potential.

 

Until Next Time,

Lauren

A Destination in Pennsylvania – Nemacolin Woodlands Resort

Labor Day weekend is always special to me. My husband and I were married over Labor Day weekend in 2015, so every year we try to take advantage of the long weekend to celebrate our anniversary. This year, we spent the weekend at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort nestled in the rolling hills of Farmington, Pennsylvania and an easy commute of just over 3 hours from Cleveland or Columbus.

Nemacolin - Farmington, PANemacolin is an extensive experience with three lodging establishments on site: Chateau Lafayette, The Lodge and Falling Rock plus townhomes and luxury vacation homes. We stayed at the French inspired Chateau Lafayette, a true grand European resort.

Once we began approaching Nemacolin, we could see the Chateau perfectly situated on the hilltop. As we approached the curvy, steep driveway, we were quickly greeted by the security gate attendant and continued our way up to this beautiful architectural gem.

We were immediately assisted out of the car, luggage loaded, and went to check-in. Upon check-in we gladly accepted a glass of champagne (or sparkling cider), were warmly welcomed with a “Happy Anniversary!” and were promptly on our way to our room.

The Chateau in one word is GRAND. Marble flooring, wood paneled walls, an extensive art collection, sparkling chandeliers, beautiful floral arrangements, statues and elaborate draperies are just a few of the décor qualities you’ll find throughout the property.Nemacolin - Farmington, PA

Chandeliers are sparkling everywhere you look. The hallway leading to our room is chandelier lined, the entry way of our room had a chandelier, a large chandelier hung over the bed… just beautiful. Our room had two large windows with a stunning view of the fog settling in the hills.

Nemacolin - Farmington, PADuring our stay we took advantage of the many activities available to us. The first day we went clay shooting (yes, they trusted me with a rifle!), we shared relaxing time poolside, enjoyed dinner at Rockwell’s (a steakhouse) and rounded out the evening at Sean’s favorite, the cigar bar.

Day two started off with pouring showers and thunderstorms. However, this did not stop my husband from golfing one of his favorite courses, Mystic Rock. I took the much more warm, cozy and indoor approach… I started with a cup of coffee in one of the many parlor/nooks throughout the resort. This parlor offered a large standing birdcage with beautiful chirping birds, century furniture, big windows and sparkling chandeliers. It was so peaceful and quiet.Nemacolin - Farmington, PA

Once I finished every last drop, I headed to the Nemacolin Spa. The spa was so beautiful and calming. The “waiting” area offered chaise  loungers, with faux fur blankets and a massive wood-burning fireplace in the middle. It was a perfect fit for a dreary morning. Luckily, by the afternoon, we got to soak in a few additional rays at the pool and partake in an overly competitive game of putt-putt (I need a vote… Sean won by a few strokes BUT I got a hole-in-one, that has to count for something!).

I could go on, and on, and on, and on about Nemacolin Resort. There is just SO much you can do either as a couple, a family, with co-workers, etc. There is truly something for EVERYONE from accommodations to activities to food.

This is a place we will return to without a doubt in my mind. It has a new, special place in our hearts and we look forward to making many more memories here!

 

Until Next Time,

Lauren

Nemacolin - Farmington, PA

Nemacolin - Farmington, PA

 

Beauty & Grandeur in Baha Mar

I just got back on Sunday from a destination wedding at Baha Mar located on the island of Nassau, Bahamas.  Baha Mar is a one-of-a-kind experience from beginning to end. It is made up of three excellent hotels: Grand Hyatt, SLS and Rosewood. Each hotel offers their own unique style, experience & luxury.

We stayed at SLS and it was by far one of the most stylish resorts I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. At SLS and throughout Baha Mar, there is no detail left out. Everywhere we went, we had a new conversation about something interesting that we noticed.SLS Baha Mar - Bahamas

Our room was bright and airy with clean whites and splashes of other neutral colors. The focal point of the room was the main wall that featured a vinyl depiction of windows leading out to a pier. Upon arrival I had thought this was wallpaper, but after going up and physically touching it, it was a vinyl tapestry.

SLS Baha Mar - BahamasA white bar cart sat below our television. The cart was full of all kinds of goodies separated into two boxes labeled ‘Sinners’ (candies, alcohol, etc.) and ‘Saints’ (sunscreen, natural trail mix, etc.). An espresso machine also sat atop the cart, a fun change from your typical coffee maker. I enjoyed an espresso or two during our stay! The television had imagery and a warm greeting of “Welcome, Mr. Stazen!”, which was an unexpected detail.

SLS Baha Mar - BahamasThe lobby was extraordinary and oh so stylish. It was a huge open area that opened to a balcony above The Bungalow pool. Within the lobby was Monkey Bar, Cleo, a Mediterranean restaurant and direct access to the casino. The ceiling is wainscot with white beams and warm lighting. Soft seating throughout the lobby is unique to each other with a variety of lighting fixtures from pendants to chandeliers. The lobby was not just a place to check-in, it was a gathering spot for great cocktails and conversation. In the evening there was a DJ and it was transformed into a lounge atmosphere.

SLS Baha Mar - BahamasWe spent most of our time at the pool by day. Bugalow Pool Bar & Grill is so picturesque. Walking down the stairs from the main lobby you see a long rectangular pool anchored on the opposite end by a white and black pool bar. The lounge chairs are in an array of pastel colors and are perfectly aligned. With the resorts being interconnected, we had access to the other pools as well. Offering options from day club to family friendly. One pool has a cave that we swam into, inside there were glass windows into their conservancy area which allowed us to watch turtles, sharks and fish swim right before our eyes. There was also an area with flamingos!SLS Baha Mar - Bahamas

Baha Mar is a cashless resort, meaning, you only purchase items as a hotel charge to your room and you can do this at any of the three hotels, any of the restaurants or lounges and any of the shops. This was a nice feature as we did not have to carry our important personal cards or identification in our beach bags.

Our trip was a quick one, but while we were there we dined at Cleo, a Mediterranean Restaurant, at SLS. IT WAS DELICIOUS. They have a variety of shareable plates along with small plates and entrees. We shared house made hummus topped with crunchy artichoke hearts, my husband devoured lamb with saffron rice (served in a beautiful Moroccan dish!) and I had the shrimp skewers. Everything was perfect.SLS Baha Mar - Bahamas

We also visited Blue Note Jazz Lounge where we sipped martinis and listened to talented musicians singing everything from Stevie Wonder to Etta James. For the cigar smokers of the world, there is an excellent open air, outdoor cigar lounge called T2 (Tiger Woods & Justin Timberlake’s concept!). On the rooftop, is Skybar, a lounge with dynamic views of the crystal blue ocean.SLS Baha Mar - Bahamas

Saturday morning we visited Café Madeline, a French Café & Bakery, within the Grand Hyatt. We shared a fruit filled, flaky, soft croissant and a Greek yogurt parfait with local honey and house made granola. My other love besides my husband and my dog is a good croissant. This croissant was one of the best I have ever had….sigh…..do you think they can ship me a few?

Even if we had stayed a week, we still would not have been able to experience all the restaurants and activities Baha Mar had to offer. Sean mentioned (more times that once), “We have to come back here!” and I hope we do just that.

The service, cleanliness, attention to detail, food… everything was top notch and very impressive.

 

Until Next Time,

Lauren

 

SLS Baha Mar - Bahamas

SLS Baha Mar - Bahamas

That’s a Wrap! 2018 Edition

2018 has been a big year for me, OHLA and our industry as a whole! I’ve had a blast telling you about my trips, site tours, overnight stays and hearing from our guest bloggers. I hope you have had as much fun as I have since I joined you in March. It has been an exciting year of personal travel (mainly wedding-related, thanks for hanging with me), exploring new brands, seeing complete renovations and meeting so many of you and your many beautiful properties.

Let’s look back through our year together…

January

Arizona

It is always fun to kick off a new year with a vacation! We started 2018 in exciting fashion with Halle and her husband TJ. Halle shared the details of their babymoon getaway to Phoenix & Marana, Arizona. Here we explored the Royal Palms Resort & Spa, which had recently joined the Hyatt family, introducing us to our very first Unbound Collection property. Then off to the The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain we went! Nestled tightly within Tortolina Mountains, sat the sprawling luxury 5 star resort. Both resorts were dripping in luxury accommodations, breathtaking views and unmatched hospitality.

February

The Victorian Tudor Inn - Bellevue, OH
The Victorian Tudor Inn (Bellevue)

First, we took a road trip to Northern Ohio and toured Victorian Tudor Inn, an eclectic inn featuring antiques & collectibles with a story for each and every one. It would have been easy to have stayed all day listening to Richard, the innkeeper, and the fascinating stories behind his many collectibles & the home itself. Next, we explored ideas for the lovebirds looking for a Valentine’s Day Getaway in Ohio. From the small towns, donuts, big city ideas, museums and pampering… it’s all here!

We ended the month featuring a Columbus hotel, Le Meridien Columbus, The Joseph, located in the Short North Arts District. The Joseph is owned by the Pizzuti family, also known in Columbus for their art collection. Even if you aren’t staying at The Joseph, you can easily enjoy the space by coming in and having a drink at SOUL, or wandering up the stairs to a wide variety of art, from paintings to photographs.

 

 

March

Hotel LeVeque, Columbus, OH
Hotel LeVeque (Columbus)

We covered a lot in March… Mackenzie shared her AMAZING trip to Bangkok and the modern beauty of the Park Hyatt Bangkok. The designer of the interior space wanted to embody “livable luxury”, and it’s obvious. Her favorite feature? The pool & rooftop entertainment area (and the Thai food!). After being swept off to Bangkok we brought it back home and took a peek at the art-focused design of 21c Museum Hotel in Cincinnati and its lively restaurant & bar, Metropole. Off to Columbus to look at Marriott’s first-of-its-kind Marriott & Residence Inn Dual Property near The Ohio State University’s campus and the first property in Columbus, Hotel Leveque (this was also my blog debut!). Hotel Leveque has so many intricate and unique features; such a fun visit!

 

April

Marriott Columbus University Area
Marriott Columbus University Area

Mackenzie also shared her trip to Sri Lanka which was her stop after Bangkok. Since 2009, tourism in Sri Lanka has increased by 300%, and it was easy to see why. She ventured along the streets and wandered through most of the properties she passed, including the Fort Bazaar, a boutique property on Church Street. You enter through a breezy front porch with artsy tables and then enter a secluded lobby where a bar and private room are off to either side. All of these properties felt like you were walking into someone’s home, where you can wind down a hallway and discover a hidden bar or art room. After hearing about Mackenzie’s sightseeing, we learned about the historic Residence Inn Columbus Downtown (within the 1927 Buckeye Bank & Loan Company Building) and Buckeye Bourbon House, then saw the new modern ways of the Courtyard brand by visiting the Courtyard by Marriott in Downtown Akron.

 

May

South Eden Plantation - Thomasville, GA
South Eden Plantation (Thomasville, GA)

I love a good sneak peek! I had so much fun seeing the new Renaissance Westerville and sharing with you a preview of this stunning, now open, property. Then, we took it down a notch to find our inner Zen (which I found at Victorian Village Guest House). This cozy guest house and pristine garden truly is an urban oasis located in the heart of Victorian Village (super close to downtown Columbus, Short North Arts District and OSU’s campus). Oh gosh…. then came an all-time travel favorite, my trip to South Eden Plantation in Thomasville, Georgia. I can still see the winding pebble road, lined by overgrown willow trees and hanging Spanish moss, just like every picture you can imagine of Georgian charm. I closed out the month by a visit to the ultra-modern, art-centric new property in Cincinnati, The Summit, A Dolce Hotel and a part of Wyndham Hotels.

 

June

Mills Park Hotel - Yellow Springs, OH
Mills Park Hotel (Yellow Springs)

The beginning of summer calls for ice cream! My husband and I traveled to Yellow Springs where we got to experience the cozy comfort of the Hearthstone Inn & Suites in nearby Cedarville, the beautiful, detail driven Mills Park Hotel and an ice cream cone from Young’s Jersey Dairy, which came highly recommended. Well, I didn’t exactly get a cone… I got the gigantic, big-as-my-head Buckeye Sundae (no regrets, here!).

Hilton Easton - Columbus, OH
Hilton Easton (Columbus)

If you are looking for a weekend trip, Yellow Springs is such neat town! In the spirit of summer, Halle shared her evening with us from the rooftop lounge, VASO, at AC Hotel Dublin located in the new Bridge Park Development. Then, we rounded out the month with seeing the new fresh looks of the Hilton at Easton and the Marriott Dayton (they look awesome!).

 

July

Hyatt Regency at The Arcade - Cleveland, OH
Hyatt Regency at The Arcade (Cleveland)

Wedding season? Perhaps… considering two posts this month revolved around my wedding ventures. I loved writing about the Hyatt Regency Cleveland at the Arcade. The architecture and history of this building is just amazing. After the Hyatt, we went south to The Cloister in Sea Island, Georgia, the most picturesque fairytale location I am sure I will ever visit (it just oozed with Southern Hospitality). Then we got centered and dove into the world of Westin, their wellness initiatives and the three Westin properties we have in our state in Cleveland, Columbus, & Cincinnati. The end of the month we got caught up on our pipeline… the ever-growing & ever-changing pipeline.

 

August

Cherry Ridge Retreat - Hocking Hills
Cherry Ridge Retreat (Hocking Hills)

I enjoyed spending time in the Polaris area as we celebrated Hilton Polaris’ 10th anniversary and toured the comforts of home that the Staybridge Suites by IHG offers. We then got to join Halle & TJ once again on their trip to Cherry Ridge Retreat in Hocking Hills. Halle characterizes her stay at Cherry Ridge as “almost heaven”, if you read this post, I’m sure you know why by now! August wrapped up with the old & the new.

Renaissance Toledo, OH
Renaissance Toledo Downtown

Our guest blogger & Halle’s sister, Jackie, told us about her stay at The Whitley, a part of The Luxury Collection (Marriott), located in the upscale neighborhood of Buckhead, just north of Atlanta. The Whitley was formerly a Ritz Carlton property, in her exploration through its halls she felt like they did an excellent job mixing that elegant “formal” charm (from its Ritz days) with contemporary, more casual touches that leisure and business travelers alike have come to expect. We then turned the page to the brand-new Renaissance Toledo Downtown Hotel. If you did not read this blog, I recommend you do so, this Renaissance certainly sets itself apart with its locale-driven décor (there is a military-style Jeep parked in the lobby!).

 

September

BrewDog DogHouse Hotel - Canal Winchester, OH
DogHouse Hotel (Canal Winchester)

BEER HOTEL. That’s all. Ohio welcomed its first beer hotel in Canal Winchester, Brew Dog’s Doghouse Hotel located on site of the Brew Dog brewery featuring beer taps, stocked shower fridge and much more. On theme of new things coming to Ohio, we looked at the projected and recently developed dual properties around the state and why they make sense from an operational standpoint. Then, I had another wedding which took me to my hometown of Warren, Ohio. I loved having the opportunity to write about The Avalon Inn Resort & Spa (literally grew up with this beautiful golf & country club in my backyard!).

 

October

The Cincinnatian Curio Collection - Cincinnati, OH
The Cincinnatian, a Curio Collection by Hilton (Cincinnati)

October welcomed the Fall season and a trip to Cincinnati where I had the opportunity to tour the first Curio Collection property in our state! The Cincinnatian Hotel, a Curio Collection by Hilton. This historic masterpiece is just gorgeous and was such a treat to tour. My favorite part was seeing all the amazing artwork and hearing about the history of the building. After seeing the first Curio Collection, I quickly turned our sights on the future as we discussed other recent openings & new brands coming to our state like Canopy, Aloft and Avid.

 

November

AC Hotel - Beachwood
AC Hotel by Marriott (Beachwood)

During my trip to Cincinnati in October, I also got to go see the Renaissance located in downtown. The sophistication, design and décor of this property was on point and effortlessly mixed with its historic past. I just loved the interior design of this property! I then had a trip to Beachwood, Ohio where I got to see the new AC Hotel Cleveland Beachwood. It was fun to learn about AC’s brand initiatives, standards and stylish design.

 

December

Our Annual Conference went off without a hitch this November, thanks to Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center. This was an easy post to pull together after I spent three days there. I loved reading about Cindy’s trip to Cleveland over the holidays and share the details my amazing trip to Maui with all of you.Maui, Hawaii

Here we are. The end of 2018… can you believe it? I can’t. This year FLEW by! Without further ado, I wish you a prosperous & joyous 2019. I look forward to meeting you and touring your property this year.

 

Cheers to 2019!

Lauren

 

P.S. I am headed to Los Angeles this weekend to cheer on the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl. I can’t wait to report back to all of you about my trip & stay! (It is a brand we’ve never written about before…)

From the Land Where Palm Trees Sway…

Aloha! I just got back from a lovely getaway in the gorgeous Hawaiian Islands. I have always been a person who has said, “Why would I travel all the way to Hawaii when I can be in the Caribbean within two hours?”. Well, my friends, I am here to say it, it is just different. It is beautifully imperfect with its abundant palm trees; stunning views of land & sea and the people bring hospitality to life. After all, the pineapple is the international symbol of hospitality.Maui, Hawaii

This is going to be a fun one, let’s take a minute to hear about our trip from Columbus, an overnight in L.A., and of course Maui. My husband, our two dear friends and myself have been eagerly awaiting this trip since we booked it late this summer. It was perfect timing as the winter moves in quickly and a new year approaches.

Maui, HawaiiWe left out of Columbus’ John Glenn International Airport and spent the night in Los Angeles. On the way to Maui we stayed at the Renaissance Los Angeles Airport Hotel and on the way back we stayed at Los Angeles Airport Marriott. Both hotels were just so beautiful, decorated festively, convenient and so hip. The Renaissance, in true Renaissance fashion, made you feel like a local celebrity. Large posh silver lion statues sat alongside the stairs leading to the elevator banks and the silver holiday decorations glimmered in the dim lighting.

The Marriott on our return was a saving grace as we were exhausted and starving. We made ourselves comfortable at Hangar 18 Bar + Kitchen to grab a (very) late night dinner and we were so thankful that it was still open! I wish I had a little more time to spend in the Marriott, but we were up and out by 5am the next day. When we were in the elevator, I noticed their floor instructions, for the meeting & event spaces, each space was named after cities across the United States (i.e. Boston, Miami, Dallas, etc.) Then, the smaller breakout spaces were named after regions in California (i.e. Irvine, La Jolla, Long Beach, etc.)

Marriott LAXOk, off to Hawaii! Our trip took us to Maui County. (I learned a lot during our visit including that Maui is Maui County and is made up of 5 islands: Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe and Molokini.) We were on the west side of the island of Maui on Kaanapali Beach. From the minute we touched down at the airport and walked through the open-air baggage claim, it was easy to see why Hawaii is such a favorite among many travelers. THE VIEWS. EVERYWHERE.Maui , Hawaii

Our drive from the airport along Hawaii Route 30 to our resort was breathtaking. No matter where we were our entire trip, we could look in one direction and see the West Maui Mountains and look to the other for the deep blue Pacific Ocean. The photo to the right is from a scenic lookout on our drive!

After two flights accumulating 10 hours, an overnight stay in L.A. and a 45-minute car ride, we finally arrived at our home for the next week, Honua Kai Resort & Spa. We walked in the front doors to an open-air lobby (all the hotels had open air throughout their lobby, isn’t that awesome?) and a direct view to red umbrellas, pools and the ocean. Our accommodations were perfect for four traveling together as we had a two bedroom suite with separate rooms & bathrooms along with a spacious living room, kitchen and lanai. We got to our room and we couldn’t move fast enough to get unpacked and into our swimming suits.Honua Kai - Maui

First stop: Duke’s Beach House. Duke’s sat on our resort grounds and we spent A LOT of time here. Amazing breakfast, lunch and dinner options, all open air and on the ocean, live music in the afternoons featuring your favorite holiday tunes played by the light sounds of a ukulele. At 3 o’clock each day (my husband had an alarm set on his watch… not joking.) they featured Aloha Hour (happy hour), with specials highlighting their Mai Tai and quick bites.

We were located just north of Whalers Village which had outdoor shopping along the ocean with a few restaurants (we tried them all). Leilani’s was known for their fish tacos (we now see why), MonkeyPod featured the best Mai Tai on the island (from many references) that is topped with a house made lilikoi (passion fruit) foam and Hula Grill is where we had dinner our first night in Maui. Mahi Mahi was the highlight of just about every menu as it is caught fresh daily and boy was it delicious!Maui, Hawaii

The city center of Lahaina is a quaint town along the shore with many boutique type shops, restaurants, hole-in-the-wall bars & quick bites. One of our favorites was called, Down the Hatch, the food was so, so good and was within an open-air atrium surrounded by a multi floor area of shops.

I could go on all day about the friendly people, the views, the food, etc. So, I really need to narrow it down and round out this blog with my two favorite memories: The Mill House and whale watching.

*Cue Jurassic Park theme song.* The Mill House sits nestled on a tropical plantation along the West Maui mountains. (Do you remember what Jurassic Park looked like prior to destruction? This is it. Ok, well maybe not literally, BUT, the 1993 classic was shot on Kauai with one scene on Maui.) Here we enjoyed true farm to table hospitality. The menu changes daily. I had THE FLUFFIEST gnocchi with root vegetables while my husband enjoyed shrimp dumplings in a shellfish broth. I will never forget this meal or the view for that matter.Mill House Maui

I am not a big excursion gal. I am just as happy sitting on a beach or floating around a pool. However, I’d go whale watching time and time again. It was by far one of the coolest things I have ever experienced. Though it was still a few days before whale season, we were so lucky, and saw a ton of activity. We even saw two whales breach (jump & flip out of water)! This is the most uncommon occurrence for whales to do and we saw two. If you look closely in the photo below, there is a whale tail!Maui, Hawaii

It is amazing to think creatures like these are swimming around our oceans. Whale season peaks during this time of year because the whales travel from Alaska to Maui to mate in the warmer waters. Baby whales do not have a blubber layer built up when born and cannot be birthed into the cold waters of Alaska (like I said I learned a lot on this trip).Maui, Hawaii

We also had the great opportunity to attend a traditional Polynesian Luau characterized by celebration with family (ohana). We thoroughly enjoyed the lively dances, traditional Polynesian food and the excitement that comes with a luau.

Maui has left a stamp on my heart and I hope to return. In the spirit of the holiday season, let’s keep our hospitable nature alive. Thank you for reading and hanging with us through 2018. Happy Holidays, Mele Kalikimaka and cheers to 2019!

“The state of Aloha can be created in an instant. It is a decision to behave with kindness, with generosity, wanting to give joy to another.”  – Irmgard Farden Aluli (Hawaiian Composer)

A Hui Hou (until we meet again),

Lauren

Maui, Hawaii

Here Comes the Future!

It is hard to believe we are well into October, my favorite time of year, and approaching the end of another amazing year of growth in our industry statewide. We’ve added new first-time brands in the state, are adding rooms to existing properties and local flare & innovation is all the rage.Canopy by Hilton - Nationwide Blvd.

Looking at the blogs of the past, there are certainly familiar themes that connect them all in some way. Lifestyle brands, creative marketing, leaders challenging the status quo and the importance of your service culture.

Now, more than ever, OHLA focus’ on empowering our upcoming leaders through education and workforce development opportunities. Many of the commonalities will be addressed at our upcoming Annual Conference this November to help prepare our industry for the future.

What is behind the mass emergence of the Lifestyle Brands?All Brands

Multiple major lifestyle brand developments are happening essentially simultaneously in Columbus, within just a few miles of each other. It is a major BOOM for the area!

AC Hotel by Marriott (Park St.)

Aloft by Marriott (Olentangy River Rd.)

Aloft by Marriott (Easton Town Center, Alston St.)

Canopy by Hilton (Arena District – Nationwide Blvd.)

Moxy by Marriott (Short North Arts District – High St.)

In the Northwest region of our state development of a Tru by Hilton and a proposed AVID by IHG is in the pipeline. In Northeast, another Tru and near Cincinnati an Aloft. Best Western is also at the forefront with brands like Glo & Vib.

What questions do you have about these brands? Brand longevity? Differences between them? Hear from our Lifestyle Brand Panelists: Jenny Aboudou,Senior Brand Manager, Canopy by Hilton; Michael VanAkkeren, Senior Director – Marriott Global Operations Design & Development, Distinctive Brands; Michael Morton, Vice President of Owner Relations, Best Western; Kip Vreeland, Chief Officer of Full Service Franchising, Marriott International.Moxy Rendering - Columbus, OH

Brands like these are trying to give the ultimate local, fresh, new vibe that our younger and up and coming travelers yearn for. Our Unique Lodging of Ohio (ULO) properties are truly already hitting the nail on the head. From a one bedroom guest house, to cabins in the Hocking Hills area, to a 200-room independent hotel. Each of these properties present a unique experience for their guest. Some of our properties have renowned restaurants, excellent spas, all encompassed within a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

WelshHills - Granville, OHWe will be presenting our ULO Property of the year award at our annual Gala to pay tribute to a very special ULO. Last year, The Welsh Hills in was our winner. This award-winning Bed & Breakfast is nestled in the historic Granville’s Welsh Hills Equestrian Countryside. It is complete with perfectly appointed guest rooms, a complete signature breakfast each morning and picturesque courtyard with a heated pool. (If you have stayed at, work in or have worked with a ULO property; we want to hear about it! Submit a ULO Property of the Year nomination!)

Industry progression is marked with innovation and technology. The Westin & Marriott brands are embracing this through Amazon Alexa Echo, to offer a voice activated hotel butler of sorts. Need more towels? Ask Alexa! We are driven on warm, fuzzy hospitality. Are you as curious as I am on how integrations such as this may work and affect our clientele? We’ll be hearing from Greg Pappas from Evolve Controls, who will walk us through what the hotel integration looks like. Evolve Controls works with Volara to integrate solutions such as those listed above: voice activated thermostats with Honeywell and concierge services with Amazon Alexa.

There is A LOT happening in our state and industry and we are here to help you manage it. I hope to see you at our annual conference this November to learn, network and toast to our future!

Until Next Time,

Lauren

Sightseeing in Sri Lanka

Scrolling through beachy spring break albums on my social media feeds this week has me reminiscing (and missing) my February travels. Last month I shared my stay in Bangkok, but I actually visited four countries while I was away (because why not spend your whole trip on a plane?) Just kidding, I am glad I got to see SO much during a short period of time. This week I’m taking you Inn Lovers to Sri Lanka! Aside from the stunning coastal towns and welcoming culture, I LOVED the unique properties everywhere we turned. Come with me as I explore The Fort Bazaar in the historic town of Galle.

The Fort Bazaar, Sri LankaYou may be thinking that Sri Lanka seems like an odd choice for a vacation, and in recent past, you would have been right! After 26 years of conflict, the Sri Lankan Civil War ended in 2009. The country has been recovering since and building its tourism numbers along the way. Since 2009, tourism has increased by 300%, and it was easy to see why after visiting cities like Galle. The narrow streets are lined with art galleries, restaurants, and boutiques. Dogs and roosters wander freely and school kids all hold hands leaving class as they walk along Galle Fort, built by the Portuguese in 1588!

The Fort Bazaar, Sri LankaWe ventured along the streets and wandered through most of the properties we passed, including the Fort Bazaar, a boutique property on Church Street. You enter through a breezy front porch with artsy tables and then enter a secluded lobby where a bar and private room are off to either side. All of these properties almost felt like you were walking into someones home, where you can wind down a hallway and discover a hidden bar or art room.

We continued through the lobby to an open-air seating area that had a “distinctly middle eastern” design. I was taking a picture at every step, not just for this blog, but for my own design inspiration. Everything felt so fresh and modern, but you could still see the cultural influences. It was so beautiful.The Fort Bazaar, Sri Lanka

The far end of the seating area led to an amazing courtyard, connecting all the rooms, but also providing a private outdoor space below. There were couches, tables, stools, and even candles hidden in cutouts in the walls lining the courtyard. And the greenery was incredible, we all sat down for a few minutes and just stared around us! My friends had to drag me away to our dinner reservation, but I think you’d all agree with me after seeing the photos!

The Fort Bazaar, Sri LankaAnd the rooms were no different, clean lines, unique art, and of course, more outdoor space. And the food, it was some of my favorite from the trip. The authentic dishes were a lot of lentils, fresh veggies, and hands down the best bananas I’ve ever tasted…but the flavors in these simple dishes were so memorable. I’ll have to start practicing some Sri Lankan dishes myself, but I know it will never be the same!

I’m not sure if I’ll be lucky enough to make it back to this beautiful country, but if any of you have the opportunity, take it! It’s a trip I will never forget.

The Fort Bazaar, Sri Lanka

The Fort Bazaar, Sri Lanka

Happy travels!

Mackenzie

New Year, New Experiences: Part I – Phoenix

What better way to start a new year than on vacation – am I right?!  If you’re in the industry, you’ve probably heard of the term “babymoon” – essentially an excuse to get in one more amazing trip before the arrival of a baby.  You can bet I was all set to take advantage of any “excuse” to travel.  Trouble was, we needed somewhere warm in January. Not hard, you say?  You forgot about Zika. Sadly, this mama-to-be wasn’t heading anywhere south of Florida and Hawaii seemed like the most financially irresponsible decision one could make before swamped with all of the costs of a newborn. So where did we decide, might you be wondering?  Sunny, dry and BEAUTIFUL Arizona. TJ’s first time to AZ and certainly not my last, we set out to make this a trip filled with grand accommodations, delicious food and luxury services.  And Arizona, my friends, did not disappoint.

What a view!  We stepped out of the car at the Royal Palms Resort & Spa and knew it was going to be a good day.  This boutique style property recently joined the Hyatt family, introducing us to our very first Unbound Collection property.  The Royal Palms is an historic hotel (my fave!) and has hosted many of the rich and famous throughout its years.  The property itself is smaller than when it was first established as a residence in 1929.

Royal Palms Resort - Phoenix, AZWe walked through the breezeway where we were greeted by a warm, sunny courtyard begging for us to kick back and order lunch. For the first time ever in my life, I was glad our room wasn’t ready.  Oprah says there is no such thing as a coincidence and on this day, she was right.  We settled into the courtyard to wait for our room and devour a delicious lunch, when suddenly a friendly, familiar face approached our table.  Little did I know, one of my friends from college, a fellow U of Cinci Hospitality graduate, was now the Director of Engineering at this beautiful resort.  You have to understand, despite Facebook, I had no idea this friend was working at The Royal Palms or even lived in Arizona!  Needless to say, Jeremy made sure this was going to be one trip we wouldn’t forget.

We checked into our (now upgraded) room and I was blown away. From the sitting area, complete with sparkling apple cider and chocolate covered strawberries, to the enormous soaking tub – the room was immaculate.  Jeremy informed us that the rooms recently underwent renovation and from my perspective, they did a fabulous job.

Even with all of the traveling I do, it’s rare I get to indulge in the luxuries a resort has to offer. But this is our babymoon, after all!  The Royal Palms has a gorgeous pool (and hot tub, but I’m not allowed in those!), a poolside restaurant, a full service spa & salon, a famous, fine dining restaurant, T. Cook’s.  Good news, I experienced it all!  We spent every day poolside, soaking up the Arizona sun, eating fresh foods and sipping fresh squeezed juices.  (One thing I love about Arizona – these people seem to appreciate high quality, natural food and healthy cooking. Everything was crisp and fresh. Even the french fries!)

When we weren’t by the pool, we’d alternate walks through the Jardin d’Amore (Garden of Love!), the Orange Grove and the Alegria Lawn.  One of my favorite parts of this resort were the pathways that led to hidden seating areas, orange groves, and flowers teaming with hummingbirds. If you stepped out in the morning before other guests were awake, a stroll to this part of the resort was one of the most romantic places you could find.

Although we didn’t get a chance to enjoy them, the Royal Palms offers daily group fitness classes, a guided History & Art Tour, mixology classes, regular live music, and games. I totally did have my eye on those group fitness classes, but I was easily swayed into a walk to breakfast each morning!

And certainly, all that walking and sunning definitely leaves you hungry.  Offsite, we found two fantastic breakfast spots within walking distance (2 miles is walking distance, right?)  La Grande Orange – a super funky, local grocery and cafe serving up amazing pizza and delicious egg dishes, and one of our

new favorite breakfast spots, O.H.S.O. – a cyclist and dog friendly brewery conveniently located on a bike trail (!) and serving up some of the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time.  We loved that nearly every diner on the outdoor patio brought a pooch. Each doggy guest received his/her own water bowl with their name.  Too bad Mr. Zeus was back in Ohio!  On property, you’ll find T. Cook’s, a famed Phoenix area restaurant.  We enjoyed a fabulous dinner there on our very first night and our server, Sasha, was extraordinary. T. Cook’s serves breakfast, lunch and dinner if you visit and at dinner I’d recommend reservations.

The Mix Up Bar ultimately ended up being TJ’s favorite hangout spot and where we spent our NYE.  On this particular holiday occasion the place was glitzed up with NYE hats, beads, and decor; there was a great duo serenading us and lots of inspiring appetizers. We settled in at one of the last empty tables and enjoyed people watching and “noshing”.  To ring in the new year on our last night at The Royal Palms, we eventually retired to the courtyard where it all began and watched the guests attending the blowout party hosted by the hotel on the opposite lawn… TJ with his cigar and bourbon and me with a mocktail.

If this is how 2018 starts, I can’t wait to see how it ends.

A sincere thank you to the staff of the Royal Palms Resort & Spa for treating us to one of our most memorable and top of the chart hotel experiences.

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

That’s a Wrap! 2017 Edition

What a year! This was a year of some serious travel for me and also some big life changes.  If you missed the memo – TJ and I are expecting a baby boy in March, so we did as much traveling as we could, and hopefully you did too! If you didn’t make it to any of my favorite stops in 2017, now is your chance to make your 2018 bucket list.  Where will you be off to?  Let’s talk about some favorites from the year so you can plan to make 2018 your best travel year yet!

January

Looking for a different Caribbean Getaway! Check out La Martinique!

How can you have a bad travel year when you kick it off on a French Caribbean island?  I was fortunate enough to start the year in Martinique with my family.  It was our first visit and I’m still reminiscing about the amazing French food, beautiful beaches and perfect weather.  On this trip I also discovered Norwegian Airlines for the first time, which was definitely a highlight of 2017.  If you haven’t looked for an international trip on Norwegian yet, I can’t help but ask, what in the world are you waiting for?! They’ll spoil you rotten in the air, deliver you to some dreamy international destination and you won’t even have to pay much for it.

February

February introduced me to some great independent properties, both new and old across the state. From Unique Ohio Lodging @ Sebring Mansion & Spathe massive overhaul happening in Salem, OH of the Stables Inn & Suites to the relatively new Mills Park Hotel in YellowSprings, seeing the success and growth of independent properties has a special place in my heart. One of my favorite visits was to the Sebring Mansion.  This romantic, luxurious inn and spa is tucked away in Sebring, OH.  Haven’t heard of it?  Don’t worry, neither had I.  And I think that’s part of the charm. Sebring was actually once known as the Pottery Capital of the World!  Quite a bit of pottery is still made in Sebring and you will find some at the mansion.  The guestrooms here are absolutely phenomenal, each with a hand selected bed and whirlpool.  You can’t help but feel the romance when you walk into these individually appointed rooms. This adults-only retreat should not go unnoticed. If you haven’t spend a girls weekend or a romantic night away here yet, do so in 2018.

March

March was an amazing month for me. I was able to travel to Europe for the first time. TJ and I embarked on a 2 week adventure to Italy and France.  We ate and walked (so much walking!) first through Venice, then the Cinque Terre, over to Nice and Eze along the French Riviera and finished in Paris.

There were so many wonderful memories of this trip, I have to encourage you to go back and read each post for yourself.  Some of the highlights were definitely our trip to  in NYC en route, visiting the often missed Venitian island of Burano, hiking the Cinque Terre and some of the most spectacular views I’ve ever seen, the richness of the French Riviera – the teas, the perfumes, the cheese, and wine, the people!! And the romance of Paris.  Even writing this recap I find myself yearning to return.  I swear I will retire one day to the French Riviera…until then…

April

After weeks on the road in March, is was refreshing to be home.  My home, but also my hometown.  If you haven’t learned yet, I don’t slow down for long and I was on the road for work within a week of our return from Europe.  Luckily, I was able to stay at the chic St. Paul Hotel in downtown Wooster.  The St. Paul has been around a while, but when you live next door, you don’t often know what’s in your backyard.  Two things that impressed me most about the St. Paul – the attention to detail in decor and attention to detail in service.  The lobby and rooms are filled with locally sourced and many custom pieces of furniture and decor, including the massive room dividers, headboards and case goods and the beautiful hearth in the lobby.  And the service? Flawless. I still remember how exhausted I was when I arrived at check in and the desk agent personally walked me to my room, perhaps fearing I might fall asleep en route.  I’m so proud this hotel is in my very own Wayne County, don’t miss it!

May

By May, I was already thinking summer.  I spent a good part of the month traveling around to properties

perfect for a weekend getaway, whether it’s to Ohio’s wine country or the shores of Lake Erie, this month reminded me how many great places Ohio has to offer.  I discovered for the first time Geneva/Geneva-on-the-Lake.  We have a number of great members there, yet it isn’t an area I visit often.  On this particular trip I was able to get a sneak peek at a brand new cottage style property, Vineyard Woods and have a fantastic farm-to-table style dinner at Crosswinds Grille, the on-site restaurant of the Lakehouse Inn & Winery. Set among Ohio’s vineyards, Vineyard Woods offers guests a charming, bungalow experience deep in the woods, while Lakehouse Inn & Winery sits right on the water with spectacular views.  Next time you’re up visiting for a glass or two of vino, consider staying a night or two, there are plenty of awesome places that await.

June

New lodging option in small town Ohio, close to Akron, Wooster

June was all about what’s new. New builds. New brands and new discoveries.  I am still super excited about the new Cobblestone brand that made its grand entrance into Ohio in my very own hometown of Orrville. This new brand only builds in small towns – what a concept!  Capping around 40 rooms with a bar, pool and some meeting space, this type of small chain is perfect for a small town that might not be able to support a large chain brand.  Cobblestone made it’s debut in May and I’m still hearing about it!

Next up on my list of faves is the makeover happening at the Avalon Inn & Resort.  I was completely unaware of this sophisticated golf and spa oasis on Ohio’s eastern edge.  Surrounded by golf courses and dripping in class, this spot needs to be on your bucket list. I was there midweek and this place was packed.  With multiple on-site restaurants, a beautiful indoor pool (outdoor coming soon!), tennis courts, a rec room, an expansive gym, spa and outdoor (and indoor!?) golfing, you could spend days here. I was only sad my time was so limited!

Upscale lodging, resort in Eastern Ohio

July

Great, new lodging in Eastern, OH

In July I realized that Best Westerns aren’t Best Westerns anymore, well, not what I remembered anyway.  The brand has embraced a lot of individuality over the past few years and it shows in the new projects coming online.  I visited a new member in Steubenville, OH to make this discovery.  A former BW was torn down to be replaced by a fresh one and wow! is all I can say.  The Best Western Plus The Inn at Franciscan Square is brand spankin’ new and beautiful. Throughout the lobby and rooms are subtle nods to Franciscan University which sits on top of the hill, just across the street from the inn. If you didn’t know to look for it, these small details would probably go unnoticed by your average traveler, but you my friend, are not the average traveler. Next time you’re headed to Pittsburgh, stop by and check it out, or stay a while!

August

Speaking of brands coming to life, I am just so impressed with the new concepts rolling out in lodging.  Greater Cincinnati Area Lodging, MarriottFive to ten years ago, you wouldn’t have to work too hard to convince me that a Marriott is a Marriott, a Hilton a Hilton, etc. Now?  Try blindfolding someone and dropping them in a lobby of your favorite chain, I bet they wouldn’t know where they were.  I visited two vastly different chains in August, proof that the brand concept has taken a turn in a direction I quite like. First, the new Marriott concepts – I visited the Cincinnati Marriott North only to be swept off my feet by the changes. I had just been here a year or so before, right before renovations went underway and WOW.  You need to check these out.  My favorite part is the massive, jaw dropping chandelier that greets you upon arrival.  What’s even cooler though? Marriott lobby after Marriott lobby and the chandelier won’t be the same. 🙂

Historic lodging in downtown ClevelandLater in August, I got to visit a DoubleTree, but not just any DoubleTree, Cleveland’s own Tudor Arms.  You may recall that back before Curio became a thing, DoubleTree was Hilton’s go to brand for conversions and historic properties, so this brand was already taking individuality in stride and the Tudor Arms was no exception. With a massive, spectacular ballroom and a unique Romeo & Juliette style loft overlooking the ballroom, it’s no wonder this venue is jam packed with weddings weekend after weekend.

September 

September was once again one of our craziest months of travel.  Fortunately, all of those weekends included fantastic overnight accommodations and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the historic and lovely Renaissance Cleveland.  This hotel has sat on Public Square for a long, long time and it remains a focal point of beauty.  We were there for a wedding, which gave me a new perspective on the hotel, a property I have visited many times before for business meetings. Of course, the couple did an amazing job highlighting the charm of venue, but also to note was wonderful food and great service. It was also my first time dining at Sans Souci, the onsite restaurant.  My parents told me this used to be the place to go for dinner, way back when. We were there for breakfast and the buffet was seriously one of the best I’ve ever had.  The wait staff has been there since “way back when” and even if the restaurant doesn’t boast the same reputation it once did, the service staff would never let you know it.  Great food, great hotel, great people. We will be back!

October

Looking back, I’m not 100% sure what I was talking about. Every month was a busy travel month for us, and October was no exception. I’m having a very difficult time deciding which visit to highlight from October, because I got to see some of Ohio’s best properties, quite literally. Perhaps I should do that, focus on the best?  But I’m not the only one to judge, The Welsh Hills Inn in Granville, OH has others convinced too.  This property has been on the TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice list for the past 5 years, even in its top spots including #1 B&B and Inn in the U.S. in 2015. HERE! Right in Ohio!  Guys, if you haven’t been, you are crazy. I was crazy, until October.  From the beautiful grounds, to the adorable house dogs to the innkeepers themselves, this B&B tucked away just East of Columbus is truly one of my most memorable visits of 2017. I hope to stay sometime soon and experience it the way so many others have.

November

By November, I’m sure you feel like you need a break from all of this travel. I sure did! I started off the month with one final trip to Cincinnati and then I took a much needed break to help prep for the reason I do what I do – a celebration of the lodging industry in Ohio at OHLA’s Annual Conference. My highlight for November really is all of you. The people who make this industry what it is, together we are stronger, and I am so proud to be a part of Ohio’s amazing travel industry.

December

It doesn’t take much to remind myself how fortunate I am.  To be a part of such a fun and growing industry is amazing. Each December, when I get to wrap my year by traveling to an inspiring & gorgeous domestic location to share with others all of the great things we are doing in Ohio, it gears me up for the year to come. I return from this trip thinking, how can I and we grow?  Who should I visit? Where should I travel?

This year, that inspirational trip took me to St. Pete Beach to an historic hotel masterpiece. If you didn’t know, visiting every Historic Hotel in America is on my bucket list… which get’s harder as more hotels are added to the registrar, but I try to notch a few off the list every year. The Don Cesar was one of the coolest hotel experiences I’ve had in a while. The history behind the oceanfront Pink Palace is one of the best love stories I’ve ever heard and you can feel it in the walls. If you missed this posting, don’t let the year end without a dive (pun intended!) into the romance and lure of the Don Cesar.

Looking back at the year, I really set myself up for high travel expectations in 2018. But, I have one small little bundle of joy that might slow us down. I’m counting on you, my readers, my coworkers and friends to make 2018 your year of exceptional travel. Where will it take you? Want to share it with the travel community?

So grab your passport, strap on your backpack – whether it’s around the corner or across the ocean, let’s experience something new…

Here’s to 2018, a year of travel experiences for all.

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck

Guest Blog: CUBA – A Bucket List Must

I couldn’t help but wrap the year with a sneak peak on a bucket list item for many Americans.  I too have long awaited my chance to see the beautiful island of Cuba.  Unfortunately, with a bun in the oven, any Zika territory is off my radar.  But as you might expect, I come from a family of travelers and if my mom and dad weren’t some of the first to jump on the Cuba bandwagon, I don’t know who else would be.  To round out the year and for a quick read during the holidays, read on for some inspiration into your next trip – could it be Cuba?

It’s Linda again, back for my second guest blog!  I know it’s a busy holiday season for many of you, and as retail business owners, it certainly is for us too.  We always try to squeeze in a trip before the holiday rush hits and this year was no exception. Luckily, our plans landed us on one of our very own bucket list trips – Cuba!

Although we crossed Cuba off our bucket list, many things were left for a future trip. The necessary educational criteria that we used for this trip to Havana included a three night cultural weekend with a personal guide and bus with a professional driver. Our stay at the NH Capri La Habana, a government owned modern hotel,  was very comfortable with a rooftop pool and bar and a fine-dining Italian restaurant. The hotel was approved for American tourists and there were many tour groups using this as their base.

Several highlights included visiting Fusterlandia where famous Cuban artist Jose’ Fuster has turned his talents to creating a tourist attraction from a heavily populated impoverished neighborhood into an outdoor virtual museum of his works. His studio and neighborhood  is a colorful burst of ceramic tiles inlaid into the homes and buildings with unique sculptures and artwork tucked in every nook and cranny. Excellent private lunches are arranged with the travel companies and are served family style.

A visit to Cuba must include a stop at El Floridita, the small bar where Ernest Hemingway frequented and where mojitos originated! Go ahead, be a tourist and enjoy one with guests from all over the world. If you’re interested in touring Hemingway’s home in Cuba, you’re somewhat out of luck, so this is the next best thing.  His home on the island can be toured only from the outside because of all the artifacts and the cost to protect them!

One of the coolest things in Cuba are all of the vintage cars! One hour of cruising the streets in a ‘59 hot pink Bel Air was an absolute blast with Cuban music playing on the old radio. The cars are in tip top shape with components replaced when they are needed. The driver made sure to mention the recent celebrities who enjoyed his tours!

The Cuban country, people, culture and food are delightful. They enjoy sharing with visitors and it is a very safe travel destination. Most locals speak English a bit and with a tour guide always ready to intervene, Cuba is a relatively easy place to visit. I’m sure it’s on your bucket list, but if not, it should be!  What a wonderful experience we can’t wait to visit again.

“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” – John Steinbeck