FEEL LIKE SCOTTISH ROYALTY WITHOUT THE BLOODSHED
For those who are seduced by the vast verdant Scottish countryside seen on Game of Thrones or even J.K. Rowling’s Casual Vacancy, there is a place travelers can now visit. Though at Alladale Wilderness Reserve, there are no worries of beheading here; instead, a welcoming staff is at your beck and call.
In the Highlands of Scotland, Alladale Wilderness Reserve is a nature-lover’s paradise. Encompassing 23,000 acres of land, visitors can enjoy the stunning coastline, golf, catered picnics, and wilderness activities. In fact, naturalist and owner Paul Lister’s long-term vision includes plans to re-introduce wolves and bears into Scotland which were hunted out 500 years ago—around the time of the fictional Westeros.
The lodge accommodates 12 to 14 guests. It can be a romantic getaway or a dream trip for a group of friends. A butler and personal chef is provided so a private getaway is definitely a reality as is a never-to-be-forgotten adventure.
THE FIRST Cut IS THE DEEPEST
Sometimes the road to trouble is paved with good intentions. To curb wasteful government spending, Indonesian President Joko Widodo banned civil servants from hosting meetings in hotels late last year and cut the allowances they would get for attending. The hotel ban saves the government 24 trillion rupiah ($1.9 billion), according to the proposed 2015 budget.
However, as this move slashes hotel revenues in resort destinations like Bogor (where government events have accounted for as much as 60 percent of the hospitality business), it has caused an uproar among hoteliers and others in related industries. In response to complaints, the administration announced in February that it would relax the ban.
Yanti Sukamdani, head of the Indonesian Hotel & Restaurant Association and director at Hotel Sahid Jaya, told Bloomberg Business that the move will reduce tax revenue for local and central administrations, and the administration is not taking into account the multiplier effect of the hotel trade from transport to insurance. She adds that government business is even more important for hotels in remote areas across the archipelago.
“Hotels can survive if the occupancy rate is 55 percent,” said Sukamdani. “Anything below that would lead to layoffs in an industry employing 11 million people,” she noted. The government’s 2015 growth target “cannot be achieved if there is a slowdown in hotel business.”
THE JAILHOUSE ROCKS!
Premier Traveler recently gave you the scoop on Latvia’s Karosta Prison, which guarantees the ultimate, pre-Glasnost KGB jail experience, complete with bad food, humiliation, and emotional torture included in the package. The flip side of that comprises former prisons that not only reformed their former tenants, but were reformed themselves into conversation-starting hotel properties with unusual features and perks.
In Boston, Charles Street Jail was transformed from a former 19th-century prison in a state of disrepair into an astonishingly luxurious four-star jail with posh, plush suites and gracious public areas. The Jail Hotel Loewengraben, a 19th-century prison in Lucerne, Switzerland, offers simple and clean overnight rooms—visitors can upgrade to luxury suites built out of the former library and the director’s office. Every part of the prison has been chicly repurposed while maintaining the essence of the original layout.
Oxford Castle has a storied 1,000-year-old history, most notoriously as a prison in the 1800s. Now known as the Malmaison Hotel complex, the monolithic building has overnight rooms, apartments, restaurants, and bars. Much of the prison infrastructure is still visible to visitors, though everything has of course been upgraded, remodeled, and refurbished.
CUBANS WELCOME AMERICANS “HOME” VIA AIRBNB
Thanks to Airbnb, a country that’s been off limits to Americans for 50 years is now opening its doors and its arms to visitors. The online home rental service’s decision to expand into Cuba is illustrative of the Obama administration’s loosening restrictions from the former U.S. trade embargo to encourage the growth of the island’s small private sector. Typing “Cuba” in Airbnb’s search engine yields 1,000 properties across the island, with 40 percent in Havana and the rest in resort areas such as Cienfuegos. Airbnb has been sending teams of representatives to Cuba for three months to sign up interested homeowners, and plans to expand further in the coming months.
“We believe that Cuba could become one of Airbnb’s biggest markets in Latin America,” said Kay Kuehne, regional director for Airbnb. “We are actually plugging into an existing culture of micro-enterprise in Cuba. The hosts in Cuba have been doing for decades what we just started doing seven years ago.”
The service for now is only open to those Americans traveling on the existing 12 government sanctions for travel to Cuba, including family visits, educational activities, and humanitarian projects.