Underway to #itb09 In Berlin

Just a few observations:

  • I drove. I didn’t fly. Why? Because as a Hotelier I can’t fly. I never know exactly when I can leave. There is always something. Now I had to wait for a guest who was tied up in a traffic jam. After checking him in I could leave…and immediately drove into one traffic jam after another myself. Do I mind? Not at all. Nowadays I dont have to commute anymore’so I don’t get stressed by traffic jams anymore. I love driving my French built Limousine (which is something else than a ” Limo” in the USA. In 4 weeks I drove to 4 in Europe: Bern (well I drove past it to be honest), Paris, Londen and now Berlin. I even didn’t have enough time to report here about all thes trips in full. Coming soon.
  • Usually I take my Ipod. But it was frozen again. I have stated elsewhere that I’m always able to freeze an Apple thingy. Underway the Northern German radio stations offered very good music. The last hour was about Kraftwork and how many times Das Modell has been covered. Above some footage of one of the original Kraftwerk versions in English. Simple and still up to date and especially applicable to the travel and hospitality industry as a whole at itb. My association is with Cabaret depicting the Berlin of the late 20ies and beginning 30ies so well. Just after the big Depression ….
  • Speaking of the Depression: I saw train loads of BMW’s and truckloads of Mercedesses being being transported into The Netherlands and many many many Polish Vans transporting second hand cars into the direction of Poland. In addition I have never seen so many heavy transports coming to and fro the direction of Berlin in one evening. In a way it seems to level out a bit: Stock exchanges up a bit. Milan heavily beaten by Liverpool. Lufthansa agreing to pay their cabin crew (16,000 of them) an extra of 3% over 2008, plus a Euro 100 lump sum bonus plus a 4,4 %higher salary over 2009. So they didn’t strike and don’t keep up many who want to be at itb like the fresh snow did last year. I wonder how Lufthansa can earn that back with the big summer rate fight that is immanent now.


Street Art (4): The Berlin Billboard Single Room Pod Hotel Visited

When I wrote about this now closed Berlin object of art/experimental one room billboard hotel in December 2007, I didn’t imagine that people would actually sleep in it. I visited it in March when I was in Berlin for ITB Berlin. Henri Roelings, who is one of the guys behind WiWiH (Who Is Who In Hospitality) had booked it during ITB Berlin and had actually slept in it a during ITB Berlin.

The Berlin Billboard Single Room Pod Hotel Visited By Happy Hotelier

On the corner of Kommandantenstrasse and Neue Gruenstrasse one finds this billboard that hides the hotel room behind it. The room has no windows, so it is definitely a room without a view.

The Berlin Billboard Single Room Pod Hotel Visited By Happy Hotelier 02

Henri commented that when he stayed in the room, he had slept very comfy,but he was a little bit afraid that people could easily fire him up by making a fire under the room. Luckily the giant steel watchdog opposite of the hotel room has been watching over his safety.

Berlin Billboard Single Room Pod Hotel Visited By Happy Hotelier 02

Henri had the ladder to enter the room so that he could advertise WiWiH.

Berlin Billboard Single Room Pod Hotel Visited By Happy Hotelier 03

Once entering the hotel room I was surprised to find a real bathroom. There was water for the wash bin and the shower via a reservoir. There was a chemical toilet and there was electricity.

Berlin Billboard Single Room Pod Hotel Visited By Happy Hotelier 04

Here you can see that you could hang your clothes, had a TV set and a drawer chest and an easy chair. All very doable.

Berlin Billboard Single Room Pod Hotel Visited By Happy Hotelier 05

The Guest Book

Not only the hotel room is artsy. According to the Guest Book its guests are artsy a well and they liked it!

Berlin Billboard Single Room Pod Hotel Visited By Happy Hotelier 06

This Swiss comment reads: “First sushi, then Victoria, thereafter Paul and finally here: Reason: Birthday!”

ITB Berlin Blogger summit – Snow and Strikes, but Bloggers come through

Very unusual: I am the first to find the meeting room where the first informal get together, the ITB Berlin Travel Blogger Summit, is taking place. I have seen some of the fair. Almost lost my way on the fair and am not impressed by the way Berlin Messe provides road signs.

As to snow: Detlef , who is from Berlin, comments this is the start of ITB and the first snow of Berlin this winter.

A huge strike lames the whole Berlin public transport system, but at around 11.30 I count around 25 Bloggers.

Chapeau to the Bloggers! Not even do they prove to be able to maintain the uphill struggle to keep a travel blog in the air, but they seem also able to beat difficulties as public transport out of function because of a strike and a traffic infarct in Berlin due to the first snow!

Booking a Hotel Online in Berlin: Nothing Zen Part 6


Where to stay in Berlin?

So I will be meeting a couple of fellow Travel Bloggers (T-Listers) at the PhoCusWright Travel bloggers Summit.

As a hotelier, my primary focus is Luxury Hotels, although I must admit that anyone who sees the various subjects covered here, might doubt that.

I use the tag Nothing Zen, because when you want to find a real gem, something special, something that doesn’t appear so easy on one of the big sites like Booking or Expedia or so, you have to spend still an enormous amount of time.

When I started this Zen Series I reached as conclusion:

My first conclusion is: Look at various dedicated hotel sites, be it luxury, design, romance or whatever you have in mind and then check back with the bigger sites as Booking, Expedia and the like.

And that still is basically my approach. Cumbersome? Yes! Time consuming? Yes! Stupid? No! The main reason for this approach is to see whether the search possibilities for the real small real luxury hotels (maybe B&B’s) are getting better on the Internet.

For the question “Where to stay in Berlin?” I did even more research than for the same question in prior posts of my Zen Series because there are a lot of hotels in Berlin and there is a bit of progress online:

  1. I discovered Tumblr and used it to scrap and paste a lot of Berlin Hotel related stuff (over 80 items thus far) in Happy Hotelier | Tumblr.
  2. Some fellow Travel Bloggers that I will meet in Berlin, posted about their hotel reservations earlier:.
  3. Tripadvisor is now totally UGC oriented.
  4. Booking.com now is more UGC oriented and getting some weight.
  5. Venere was already UGC oriented much earlier an has tons of reviews.
  6. Unfortunately Kango is developping the technique of review scraping, but has that only implemented for a few USA cities, fortunately, recently they have implemented a dedicated Google derived Travel Blog search engine that is helpful to search the Travel Blog scene
  7. I was a beta tester at VibeAgent and although it has some very nice features and is constantly developing new features and additions, it takes some more time until it is fully usable.
  8. I discovered Hoteltip.

Some Finds collected in Tumblr that have my attention:

  • Hotel De Rome. Gee I would love to stay there!
  • Spreebogen. Near the Hauptbahnhof;
  • Hansablick, mentioned positively on various sites.
  • ArtOtel Center West;
  • Bleibtreu;
  • Lux 11, also mentioned positively on various sites;
  • Hotel Qmentioned positively on various sites;
  • Radisson SAS With the famous Aquadome in its lounge: Alas fully booked;
  • SORAT ArtOtotel Berlin;
  • Generator Hostel in east Berlin,where Europe A La Carte stays, cheap, but a bit too basic for this spoiled hotelier :-);
  • Honigmond Garden Hotel;
  • Kuntlerheim Luise, a tip from Willem my co author at Dutch Weekendhotel Weblogand already on my wish list for quite some time.
  • Miniloft Mitte also a tip from Willem;
  • Ackselhause Berlin, again from Willem. Ouch It has a Flash website. Hoteliers should be forbidden to use flash on their websites
  • Corbusier Hause, Willem again;
  • Grand Hyatt Berlin Hotel ;
  • Mitart, very interesting, unfortunately no TV that I need to get asleep and no Internet connection, a necessity when you attend a Bloggers Summit.
  • ELLINGTON HOTEL BERLIN a find of Guardian writer Sean Dodson who initiated my Zen Series
  • Hotel Concorde; huge;

While Tumblring around I found out that Hotel Chatter is easy navigable and quick and to the point (easy to Tumblr, Gridskipper is also good navigable, but has clustered 10 hotel suggestions around themes like Cheap, Historic, Pensions and so on. The creative Bloggers sites like Les Explorers and Wandalust are unsearchable. The International Herald Tribune Travel blog has hardly anything worthy to say about Berlin Hotels. The Guardian Site is very good navigable and searchable.

The “Classic” approach as per my earlier Zen Series posts:

  • The Hedonist Guide (Hg2),

    Style 8, Atmosphere 7, Location 8
    Arcotel Velvet
    Smart but simple, this design-friendly hotel has a great location in the heart of Mitte…
    From EUR 138

    I skipped the really expensive ones here

    Style 7, Atmosphere 7, Location 8
    Westin Grand
    Luxurious, classically designed five star hotel in Mitte – perfect for shoppers and gourmands…
    From EUR 390

  • Mr and Mrs Smith: No Berlin Hotel in their Portfolio!!!
  • Relais et Chateaux: just one: Bayerisches Hous;
  • Luxury Culture:No Berlin Hotel in their Portfolio!!!
  • The Kiwi collection: They have 8

    One of the latest boutique hotels in Berlin. After reunification, the Dorint chain carefully converted the structure into an upscale hotel of artfully simple, Zen-like minimalism.
    Enjoy the opulent splendour of a castle full of history and charm. Now a luxury hotel, the Schlosshotel is an oasis of calm within easy reach of Berlin’s city centre.
    Known for its personal service and classic elegance, The Regent Berlin is one of the most prominent hotels in the capital city.
    A holistic atmosphere, where spaciousness, brightness and outstanding service combine to create an exceptionally personal ambience as tranquil as the countryside, all in the very heart of Berlin…Welcome to the Mandala Hotel!
    Like its famous predecessor, the Hotel Adlon Kempinski which was reopened in 1997, is a symbol of luxury. Modern upgrades and uncompromising service standards have kept it a premier location in Berlin for either the business or leisure traveler.
    Hotel de Rome, originally an old bank, was converted to make use of the buildings full architectural splendor, thereby offering guests an authentic Berlin experience.
    Amid the energy of the city, The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin welcomes guests with a gracious atmosphere, exquisite amenities and impeccable service.

  • Travel Intelligence have a few: They do not allow you to kwout, but via Tumblr I could go around that:

    Travel Intelligence

  • Hotel Designs UK reviewed 3 Berlin Hotels:
    • Adlon
    • Rezidors Regent
    • Park Inn
  • Great Small Hotels:: No Berlin Hotel in their Portfolio!!!
  • Epoque Hotels have the Bleibtreu
  • Avant Garde Hotels have the Bleibtreu and the K Damm 101
  • Design Hotel have the Bleibtreu, the Lux 11 and the Mandela
  • Small Luxury Hotel has the Brandenburger Hof.
  • Alastair Sawdays has no German hotels in his portfolio!!
  • Room For Romance have no Berlin hotels in their portfolio!!
  • XO Private Collection have improved their site considerably and have 3 Berlin Hotels in their portfolio:
    1. Adlon Kempinski, off course
    2. Brandenburger Hof and
    3. Schlosshotel im Grunewald.
  • Perfect Escapes Improved their site and offer 5 or 6 Luxury Hotels In Berlin (one problem is that they didn’t get their addresses right yet) easily to click trhough to availability and in that respect an example for other OTA’s
  • I-Escape has 3 hotels:

The OTA Sites

Haha I spent so much time on the research for this post that I almost forgot to make a reservation. Berlin is quickly selling out…

  • Expedia.com is, as Booking, a huge OTA. What I don’t like is that they list all hotels, even if there is only partial availability. You have to click through many screens. On the other hand that is helpful if you want to break up a stay of several days and stay in two accomodations. Also clever is that you can click up to 4 accomodations in order to compare them. I like their maps!
  • Tripadvisor: Although great for it reviews, it is not very helpful for direct booking. If you try to get a price comparision your screen gets full of new windows and then you have to do a lot of DIY….
  • Booking.com Thusfar my trusted one, you can search on guest reviews. It tends to be a bit slow. Its availability is very reliable.
  • VibeAgent Unfortunately not there yet at all for direct bookings. One example: Radisson SAS was sold out according to several sites, but open according to VibeAgent…when clicking on Rates to Go rate that popped up. I only got a few (very few compared to the other sites Bookings had availability on 50 and Rates to Go only 7 or 8) available hotels…No Radisson SAS. Therefore I have the distinctive impression that the deal between Rates to Go and VibeAgent is only to lure visitors into visiting the Rates to Go Site. It became worse when I clicked another hotel that via Venere (while not visible on Verere’s own site. Venere in VibeAgents frame gave the impression that there were rooms available. It asked me to fill out my credit card details, which I did and only thereafter came back with the announcement that there was no availability…Very disturbing and now I have to check my creditcard invoice if nothing is happening with it….
  • Hoteltip. It comes fast with some interesting deals, but has as a trade in for its speed not very much details, so you need other sites for the backup info.
  • Hotels Combined.Com I had seen it once, but it was Europe A LA Carte who drew my attention to it again. Much Sleeker than Hoteltip, but for the details of the rooms you have to click trough to another OTA. Hm after a few trial and errors the site kept coming up with Asiativ, but there you have the same problem as with tickets for flights: You can only book 14 days in advance. Grrrr.

Updated Monday March 3, 18.00 hr

Finale Verdict

Finally I found a moderately priced place to stay in Pension Elite through Booking.com. I have not looked into Priceline.

My conclusion is that the aggregators like Hoteltip. Hotels Combined.Com and VibeAgent are becoming stronger and offer some help, but you need the reliability of a real OTA and you cannot book something without having checked out the property on Tripadvisor.

To to my view it is still much more of a hassle than would be necessary to DIY hotel bookings if you want something special, especially when you have time constraints or are a notorious late booker like myself.

Updated March 4, 2008 14.00 hr

Preparing for the Travel Bloggers Summit in Berlin: Nothing Zen Part 5


The Event

I am looking forward to the opportunity: On March 5 and 6, 2008 I will be meeting a couple of fellow Travel Bloggers (T-Listers) at a Travel bloggers Summit at ITB Berlin (International Travel Boerse (or Fair), Berlin.

More about the Summit itself later. For now a link to the Blog that has been launched to keep the community informed: ITB 2008 Tips From The T-List

Nothing Zen
In December 2006 I started my Zen series as a sort of status report about how the Internet is developing to help you with planning and booking a trip. Nothing better than to report about your own travel preparations to see how advanced or not the Internet is with respect to DIY Travel.

My 5 Areas of Interest
As I said earlier traveling is about 4 distinctive areas of interest, but actually there are 5 (I now have added as nr 2: “Where to stay in B?”, because that is also the main focus of this blog). Here is the list:

  1. How to travel from A to B? Like: by plane, train, car or by boat? (I hate buses).
  2. Where to stay in B?
  3. How is B looking? Maps, pictures and descriptions (what you usually look for in a paper guide)
  4. How are the people of B?
  5. Things to do in B? Bars, restaurants, theaters, musea, scenic parts

1) How to travel from The Hague to Berlin?
Well this one is simple this time. First, as a hotelier, it is always difficult to plan well ahead of time as there are always last minute guests and/or last minute changes of guests. I have a decent car. The trip to Berlin is 703 km according to my Tom Tom. Main part of the trip is over German motorways without speed limits, so I can burn the rubber a bit. I also like to tour around a bit by car at destinations, because it gives me a better feel of the geography. I have a laptop and some camera gear to take with me which would be a lot of weight for an airplane and last, but not least I like to smoke which is not allowed anymore in planes and trains. Finally, with the very low level of service at airports (I always feel like being in a lorry of pigs heading to the slaughterhouse) and in airplanes and all the delays, there is not so much time to gain when you travel up to 700/800 km. So I decided to go by car.

More to follow, because I hit the “Publish Button” far too early this time:-)

And p.s.: Happy Leap Day!