Searching for a Cool Maastricht Hotel in a Busy Weekend – Nothing Zen!

hotelicopter-output-for-maastrichtThe Helicopter search result

Actually I’m proud of my Zen series of posts. It describes from time to time how much effort it takes me to find a nice last minute hotel room. I consider myself reasonably knowledgeable about hotels and enough of a geek to find a cool hotel room via internet. But each time I am asked to find somebody a cool hotel, I find it becoming more difficult to find something special at a reasonable price via internet. It demonstrates to me time after time that the internet is not such a nice tool as everyone, including travel marketeers wants us to believe. To me these exercises demonstrate time after time again the Hospitality- and Destination marketing industry still has waaaay to go before they “get it”.

This time my unfortunate dance partner “Dancegirl” asked me to find her a nice hotel in or around Maastricht for tomorrow. As Asuncion Day is a Dutch Bank Holiday and the weather is nice, this is even more difficult, as there will be not many vacancies in and around Maastricht tomorrow.

So, actually the “Zen” tag is sometimes more of an euphemism for a good old rant….

This time my first search was on Hotelicopter. Please note it is spelled with one ‘l’ in the middle – just wondering why they didn’t scoop up the hotellicopter domain.

Recently I ranted really about them.
They rate the Maastricht Kruisherenhotel as the best of their Maastricht portfolio. That goes without saying, because I know, as my own review of the Kruisherenhotel on their site is a raving one. Only Dancegirl won’t be able or willing to pay their rate.

My rant about Hotelicopter is still valid: Despite Adam Healey promising me that “their own” – I mean their community’s, more precisely “our” reviews – which they hid when they relabeled themselves from VibeAgent into Hotelicopter, will be back soon, you still cannot check those reviews on their site. How long do we have to wait, Adam?

On a positive note: Their search machine doesn’t confine itself to an area within country boundaries. Especially important in the case of Maastricht as it is located near our borders with Germany and Belgium.

On a negative note: they didn’t catch the euro 150 no refund St Gerlach offer described here below.

I looked at Tripadvisor with and without availability search and it didn’t come up with something interesting quickly enough.

I looked at Booking.com, but got lost in the preferred position of various big chain hotels.

Then I looked at my favorite Dutch Hoteliers site. Already my favorite because I use them as a white label online booking engine for my Haagsche Suites (and consequently am always featured on their home page as the second best guest rated hotel of their portfolio in The Netherlands), but also because the site is easy to use. Their model is a fee based one. Nothing commissions from the hotels. They came up with a non refundable offer from St Gerlach, owned by the same owner as the kruisherenhotel and they happen to be a member of the same small chain of Historic Hotels of the Benelux we’re a member of.

In the meantime, via Twitter, I got two suggestions from twitter followers:

One very funny one from Patrick Geoff twittering as @HotelDesigns who suggested Haagsche Suites and referred to his own kind review. He wasn’t aware that my search was was for Dancegirl She actually does know Haagsche Suites by heart, as she replaces us in minding the guests occasionally. Some guests even prefer her minding them over this old goat:-).

The second suggestion came from Hotel Calculator. They did come up with the same St Gerlach offer, but now via Agoda. Hotel Calculator quoted Euro 154, but when you landed on Agoda, the price reduced by a sort of refund policy of Agoda… When I asked Hotel calculator about the difference, he answered that it probably is due to exchange rate imparities in the scraping process.

Agoda being the same OTA that Hotelicopter came up with, this also shows that not all meta search engines are equal. In an earlier post I commented that there was apparently a lag between Hotelicopter’s availability and Agoda’s availability. Hotel calculater claims their engine scrapes real time….

As Dancegirl liked this offer and booked it, this ends as a bit less time consuming and more zen alike post:-)

I’ll keep your posted about Dancegirl’s verdict of the St Gerlach.

Vibeagent drops mask: Hotelicopter – I feel Fooled

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Helicopter Crash. Photo by Tidewatermuse

In a Press Release dated April 9, 2009 Hotelicopter is presented as a “New” Totally Awesome Hotel Search Engine after “The Hotelicopter had attracted wide media coverage with its April Fools Prank”

Almost everybody in Bloggistan loves the way Hotelicopter was launched as an April Fools prank and then turns out as a hotel booking engine. “Good marketing” they say. I beg to differ.

Although I can appreciate a good joke or to be fooled and certainly can laugh about myself, I feel fooled by Vibe Agent in another way:

First the search engine is not at all new. Basically it is the same search engine as it was three days ago under the name VibeAgent.

Secondly I have been involved as a very active “beta tester” in the building of VibeAgent. I’ve posted two posts about it here and here and referred to it in many other posts.

I wrote:

It is meant to be a community that shares hotel reviews on the one hand and combines that with best price searching on the other hand.

The members are called Agents. They write the reviews. They are unpaid.

VibeAgent has teamed up with an impressive list of travel and hotel portals at the back end, like Price Line, Booking.com and many others.

So: It started out as a community driven hotel search engine. As a sort of mini Tripadvisor, but a bit more advanced. In the meantime Tripadvisor has overhauled its website entirely and became part of Expedia.

Now with this repackaging of the site as Hotelicopter VibeAgent has wiped away its entire own community.

Where are your approximately 5,000 plus Agents, Adam?

Was that part of the deal with TripAdvisor? You being able to show Tripadvisor reviews provided you did away with your own base of hotel reviews?

I’m not amused and I believe many with me.

Update April 9 16.00 hr (04.00PM) local time:

Again this is a matter of lack of communication: See the comments below. Feeling a bit better now.

Strassbourg

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During our journey to the Swiss Alps we’ve visited Strassbourg shortly “zum bummln” which is German for doing some shopping.
Usually we tend to race along without paying any attention to this French city bordering on the river Rhine which forms the border between France and Germany.
Its center is well preserved. My first photo shows the cathedral with its characteristic unfinished one spire tower. Apparently the canals are used for cooling some local industries, as they are not frozen and the swans can peacefully use them.

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The second photo shows some of its ancient housing with an almost full moon.

For these posts I’m working on a new eee Asus netbook. First I tried to resize my photos with Irfanview, but that shareware programm crashed time after time. Now I’ve done the resizing with an ACDsee trial version. Not sure whether the photos are sharp enough as my working screen is only 9 inch….

Twitter and Preparing for #WTM08 and #TBC08

The Airlines did it again for me. I’ll hop over to London by car tomorrow. Nothing Zen in trying to get a last minute flight at a decent rate.

Travel Blog Camp 2008

I’m looking forward to meet about 80 to 100 fellow travel bloggers and industry persons at Travel Blog Camp 2008 (Registration is closed) set up by Darren Cronian of Travelrants in a London Pub tomorrow evening.

The header of this post is a bit cryptic. It means that those in the know who are attending WTM 2008 will keep contact via Twitter on a self created Twitter “channel” that can be found when you do a Twitter Search on the #hashtag #WTM08 or #TBC08. If you follow the link you get a view of the discussion like this:


Twitter Search for #WTM08

Quite funny to see the Dockland Light Rail being out of order for some time at the first day of WTM 2008.

And here the result for #TBC08:


Twitter search for #TBC08

You see me spreading the word via the T-list Group on Twitter.

If you are interested, you can read back the wider discussion between the Travel Twitterati at Travel Twit {a site discontinued since]

If you want to follow me, look at: Twitter | Happy Hotelier

So now you are all geared up to follow us….off I go….

New to Twitter? Get a heads up by Sarah Evans at Mashable

Last edited by GJE on November 29, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Review: Grasse – Bastide Saint Mathieu – A Real Gem!

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Bastide Saint Mathieu: Entrance

I’ve preluded to this review a long time ago in French Riviera and The Art of Booking Online: Nothing Zen! Part 3. I didn’t publish this review earlier, because I had terrible problems organizing my photos last year. That problem I only solved recently.

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Front

In July 2007 we were probably among the last guests of the Dutch couple who had started Bastide Saint Mathieu:

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View from our James Gordon Bennet Suite

A French Bastide recently restored with meticulous care, surrounded by 2 hectares of its own gardens and parkland. It Sleeps 14/17 in beautiful large bedrooms, with marble ensuite bathrooms. Fine terracing and gas flare lit cuisine d’ete for outside parties and entertaining. Huge swimming pool, boules piste. Great views; splendour and privacy in the triangle between Mougins, Grasse and Valbonne; 15 minutes Cannes, 25 minutes Nice.

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our beautifully appointed sitting room

It is a villa with 2 suites and 4 rooms, 1 of which is a single room.

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Our Bathroom

All rooms are individually and elegantly decorated with period pieces, open log fires, air conditioning and all of today’s facilities. The property is also available fully staffed on an exclusive basis with catering arrangements made available to suit the individual wishes of guests. In a corner of the typical Provencal garden is a lovely pool and sun deck overlooking the olive groves and hills of Mougins. There guests can spend some lazy hours soaking up the sun rays and enjoying the fragrances of lavender, flowers and herbs bordering the area. It is surrounded by various old villages and a vast choice of restaurants and golf courses,

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View from the outside breakfast area over the garden

Bastide Saint Mathieu offers a truly unique ambiance of luxury, charm and tranquility.

The former Dutch owners had sold to the present British owners who would start operating it August 2007. That was another reason for publishing this not immediately. It is my view that a lot of the fun of a staying in a hotel is made out by the way the owners/staff receive you. I am glad I could find two recent positive reviews in the meantime.

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The Pool

We stayed two nights in the James Gordon Bennet Suite, which has a separate sitting room and bedroom and we were pampered well by the former owner Inge.

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La cuisine d’été

Since our stay they have added a pergola to the swimming pool and made a covered area on the terrace for Al Fresco breakfasts, lunches and dinners. They have a marvelous photo gallery on their site.

I wouldn’t mind going back.

Post Alia: Still Nothing Zen!
While doing online research for this post, I found out that sites like Tripadvisor really are putting the smaller hotels like Bastide Saint Mathieu to a disadvantage vis a vis the big chains: Usually not many guests do write in a hotel’s guest book, I would estimate one out of 4 guests. If they write in the hotel’s guest book, they are not likely to write an online review. So my estimate is that less than one out of twenty guests writes an online review. Then the big question is where the review is written online, as there are many possibilities….
So Bastide Saint Mathieu has only 3 reviews on the US Site of Tripadvisor and the same three on Tripadvisor’s UK site. However when I looked at their UK an French sites three weeks ago, the UK site couldn’t find Bastide Saint Mathieu and the French site had 7 reviews….I see now the same 3 reviews. Probably they have now acknowledged he change of ownership…

It used to be a member of Chateaux et Hotels. I’m not sure it is now. Ah, darn, they still are! I wasn’t sure, because Chateaux et Hotels deemed it feasible to change their site. If you now are searching a hotel on their site you only can search for available hotel rooms. If the hotel is fully booked, you can’t find the hotel on the very site of their own marketing organization. This is Mighty Stupid! Chateaux et Hotels took away their maps……Why make it easy (as they did in an earlier version of their site) when you can make it difficult?

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