Thursday, 28 February 2013

New York - the good, the bad

Taking to the big apple for the fourth time is when you begin to get a greater understanding of how this city operates and the mentality of New Yorkans. I always make comparisons to London - and as two major global cosmopolitan cities its no wonder - and really begins to dissect their differences.

Coffee shops - the chillax
Both cities are fast-paced yet the attitudes of residents are somewhat different. Firstly lets take the age old coffee shop, whether its the Starbucks on every street corner or the humble independent one thing is for certain - don't expect to be welcomed to come sit and chillax in New York! Limited seating, lack of real coffee cups, no couches or comfortable arm chairs and many don't have plug points for charging laptops or phones. Styled so you are in and out as quick as possible - you don't stop to enjoy coffee, you run to neck coffee in NYC. This so goes for the bars, high stools and limiting seating again - almost encourages people to come and go, losing any sense of commitment to any venue. In fact the only I found plush seating areas are in hotel lobbies - here the atmosphere thrives as business people, tourists and locals all fight to rest their bums and simply take time from the fast-paced city live.

So fast-paced is NYC that it seems the waiting staff get a little 'pissed' if you don't know what you are ordering within 5 minutes of seating. In fact of 4 meals I had over the past week I felt obligated to make a rushed decision for the sake of my waiter, no sooner had I ordered was I eating and then being ushers with evil eyes out of the restaurant. There's nothing like enjoying a relaxed meal! In fact I was in Williamsberg on my last day, in a busy coffee shop for brunch, we ordered the bill and I nearly fell off my chair when the waitress said "take your time"

The subway - don't get caught out like i did:
1 - you can top up a metro card, don't lose those remaining dollars
2 - beware, if you miss you stop you may not be able to simply cross over to the other track, it may well be another fee to return 1-2 stops
3 - check that you're on the right train and that train stops at the stop you need. Like the A,C,E trains are in the same tricks but they all don't stop at every track
The great thing about the NYC metro is that it is 24-hour, but what I now appreciate about London are the new trains, looked after tube stations and ongoing upgrade work that does make the system much better regardless of the disturbance it can cause.
OMG - in my best American twang - there are NO motorbikes in NYC! Nor bicycles. Ok, there are the odd one but having gone Vespa mad in Vietnam, and regularly dodging speeding scooters in London, NYC is devoid of the vroom that's actually missed.

Check out the differences in business in my next post!

What are you experiences of NYC vs London?

Thursday, 21 February 2013 crowns the next Gay Travel Guru!

By Sophie Needelman

Traveling the world is the dream of a lifetime. This dream is made even better when traveling is your job- and when, as a member of the LGBT community, you get to represent a segment of the population while exploring, demanding, and experience gay friendliness in the destinations you visit.’s ( Gay Travel Guru campaign made this dream a reality for one lucky winner, as well as for the incredible finalists along the way. For Guru winner Bryan Kosarek, this dream will continue to be reality as he leaves last month’s Guru finale at Aspen Gay Ski Week to begin his gay-traveling journey around the country.

Not only is being the Gay Travel Guru an absolute dream job, but also it is the ultimate way to serve the gay community as its representative in travel. With its Guru campaign, ( brought to the attention of the LGBT community the importance in engaging in gay and gay friendly travel- as well as the importance of engaging in specific LGBT oriented travel while visiting any of the world’s incredible travel destinations. ( provided all of the Guru finalists with the opportunity to expose themselves to the gay travel community which truly gave a voice to this progressive body of travelers. The Guru campaign unfolded over the course of six months, where applicants submitted various forms of travel content and social mediaengagement to best advocate for their inner Gay Travel Guru. Some of these contributions included photos, videos, blog articles, and more. Finalist Jared reflects on his Guru experience: "The entire process, from start to finish, was an amazing experience. I learned a lot about about myself by venturing out of my comfort zone. expects a lot from the Gay Travel Guru, so you must be willing to push your boundaries to generate interesting content for viewers. I met a lot of amazing people on this journey and made memories that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It was a lot of work but it was more than worth it!"
What began for Jarred, Bryan, and all of the other finalists as simply pressing a button to submit an application turned into the adventure of a lifetime as the finalist pool was flown to Aspen Gay Ski Week where an epic finale took place to crown Bryan Kosarek as the Gay Travel Guru. The incredible Guru finale was just icing on the cake of a legendary campaign by in the attempt to bring the LGBT community together under the umbrella of the love of travel- as well as to grant one lucky winner the chance of a lifetime!

Joey Konecek,’s Community Director who spearheaded the Gay Travel Guru campaign, reveals essential details about the campaign, the finalists, and the grand finale at last month’s Aspen Gay Ski Week:

SN: What were the main events held over the course of the Guru finale? (overview of events basically) 

JK: “The finalists were really put to the test throughout our time in Denver and Aspen. Aside from having only 1 day to create a video about the destination and hotel sponsors they were also asked to sell raffle tickets, do a modeling shoot, compete in the downhill costume contest and host parties. And if that wasn't enough they were also being filmed throughout the week which meant doing confessionals and getting very little time to themselves. Aside from that each finalist was also doing a ton of social media and self promoting online and in person at Gay Ski Week.”
SN: What about Aspen made it a great place to hold the Guru finale? 
JK: “Winter in Aspen is magic! The city is clean and beautiful and all around a great place to film.”

SN: What other cities were involved in the Guru process? Why were they chosen and how did they contribute to the atmosphere of the entire Guru campaign? 

JK: “Aside from our sponsor destinations like Thailand, Dallas, and Key West we would really like to thank Denver, in particular the Hotel Curtis, The Westin Denver Downtown, and the arts community for being such gracious hosts.”

SN: How did Aspen Gay Ski Week set the stage for the finale? 

JK: “We really could not have asked for a better backdrop for the finale! Vegas was great last season, but Aspen was the perfect setting and being Gay Ski Week made it even better. Pamela Herr who manages the events really rolled out the red carpet for our finalists and the team. We also had amazing participation from her staff and the board of directors such as Todd Heimel, President.”

SN: How did the finale contribute to the atmosphere at Aspen Gay Ski Week? 

JK: “The patrons and staff of Aspen Gay Ski could not have been more accommodating. Having the cameras around made our finalists very popular among the crowds and trust me; they ate it up.  Our team also had the opportunity to help in raising funds for amazing non profit organizations that Aspen Gay Ski Week supports.”

SN: What were some highlights from the finale? 

JK: “The finale was extremely emotional for everyone involved. We were all a family in Aspen; the staff, the finalists, and the camera crew all became very close over the duration of the trip and it showed at the finale event. I personally cried my eyes out, it was six months of hard work for everyone followed by a week of exhausting events, tasks, and challenges, it was the end and I couldn't hold it back.  Some were happy and some were sad but for the most part they finalists really supported Bryan in his victory.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Video: Vietnam puppet show

Check out the Traditional Water Puppet Show in Vietnam, performed by local farmers

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Boutiques take unique approach to marketing

Boutiques take unique approach to marketing

This is an interesting development and one that many hotels should consider. What package can I offer travelers? Keep in mind your hotel, the type of guest you get and their interests. Really add value that is going to gain you in reputation.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Madrid - a gay night out. Hostal Orly & Cheuca

Finally I get to spend a night out in Madrid and discover the gay scene. It's been over 10 years since I visited the gay night life of Madrid and it's great to be back. I really do Like the city and people are so open about homosexuality - it's great. So many gay couples walk hand-in-hand in the street.

On living the grand travel event of Fitur on the Friday, I headed to Hostal Orly, I wanted something cheap for the night, £35, on and I must say - what a surprise. I didn't have high expectations, but these superseded anything. Yes, the room is a private hostal room with ensuite, but it's no different than a cheap 2* or 3* hotel and better prices.

The room was big and clean with lots of light overlooking the Gran Via. There was a TV with nearly 50 TV channels, I could have had more electric points, but what I really liked was the added touch of the bathroom with hairdryer and soap. It's so hard to find this in some hotels, let alone a hostel.

It was quiet and I slept incredibly well, I had heating from the Air Con, there was a decent sized wardrobe and the staff there were incredibly friendly. There's no bad word to say about this place, furthermore they are soon to undergo a rennovation.

Gran Via is also incredibly central and right next to the gay district of Chueca where we visited Liquid, Ohmm and a few other bars. It was quiet for a Friday, but I am told Saturday is the best night now in the tight economy where over 1 in 4 youngsters are unemployed. You may also experience one of the many day and night demonstrations that are happening daily...

Head to Madrid - I love it

Friday, 8 February 2013

Madrid hotel - Dormirdcine

What an amazing place!If you're looking for a unique stay then this hotel certainly delivers. It has style and each room has its own quirky cinematic design. Although I couldn't quite figure out what room I was in, maybe you can guess?
There were rooms dedicated to cinematic icons and the walls are covered with bright artistic animated designs of some of the most influential films of all time.

The service was professional, the lounge relaxed and warm, and the breakfast was top class - especially the pain au chaolat.

Visit the website for more details

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Customer Centric Web – Service Doesn’t Start in the Hotel, by Michael McCartan

Customer Centric Web – Service Doesn’t Start in the Hotel, by Michael McCartan

Check out one of the articles I ghost wrote looking at how to address customer service from on to offline.

Same same but different - UK marks gay marriage

I just cannot believe it - seriously! Learning the Uk parliament of the House of Commons passed gay marriage in such a landslide simply demonstrates how far we have come in my lifetime.

The last conservative government (ok so yes we are in a coalition right now) but either way they brought the gay movement nearly to its knees with the Aids campaigns and the Section 28 that prevented, pretty much, any mention of homosexuality in schools!

Yet today I learn that in very few areas I have become an equal. It'd be nice to be able to give blood! But also to know that many friends and acquaintance can now get married of their choosing makes me very happy.

Yes - it is brilliant to be different, but we all need the same treatment.

With love, unity, freedom and equality

Ryan x