Skoosh Hotels Blog

Welcome to the Skoosh blog. If you have any thoughts, questions, suggestions or corrections feel free to let us know, either in a blog comment, to our social media accounts (see right) or via email to me on matt@skoosh.com.

Enjoy

Hong Kong Siri-style

Our colleague Siri has just returned from 2 weeks enjoying Hong Kong, and we asked her to sum up her experience and the best places to go. Here’s what she came up with:

 

Hong Kong can be described as the perfect mix between East and West. Greatly influenced by its role in British history, the city has an equally strong Chinese heritage and all buildings have to be built according to traditional Feng Shui rules.

Although almost half the size of London, there is always something to do in Hong Kong and you’ll never have to be bored.

An ideal day for me in Hong Kong would start with breakfast of congee; sort of a Chinese porridge made with rice, which is available from many restaurants and street vendors and very inexpensive. Eating out in Hong Kong in general can be done even on a low budget; it’s not difficult to grab a street lunch for less than 10 HKD (80 pence).

Temple Street Night Market

Temple Street Night Market can satisfy your shopping urges

After breakfast, take the MTR (metro) to Tsim Sha Tsui on the Kowloon peninsula and visit the Hong Kong Museum of History or the Hong Kong Museum of Art.  Then, make your way onto the shopping areas around Nathan Road, where there is something for every price tag, from international designer goods to their counterfeit  look-alikes. Further up Nathan Road, towards Yau Ma Tei station, markets like Temple Street Night Market  and the Jade Market  can further satisfy any shopping urges.

View from Victoria Peak

The view from Victoria Peak over Hong Kong is breathtaking

After lunch, head back to Hong Kong Island and take the historic peak tram to Victoria Peak for unrivalled views of the city.

Evenings in Hong Kong are best spent near the harbour, where a pyrotechnic fireworks show is displayed every night (subject to clear weather) at 8pm. Recommended dining has to be the traditional Cantonese Dim Sum.  I ate at Din Tai Fung in Tsim Sha Tsui, where both the food and the service were exceptional.

Later in the evening, Lan Kwai Fong is the place to be for late night bars and clubs. If you are the kind of person who likes belting out 80’s ballads until the early hours of the morning, Wan Chai has plenty of karaoke bars where live bands act as the backing track.

I was surprised how much nature Hong Kong is surrounded by and you don’t have to travel far out of the city centre to reach beautiful leafy forests, sandy white beaches or quaint fishing villages.

Giant Buddha Lantau Island

Find the Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island

If you have the time, a day trip to Lantau Island is highly recommended.  Apart from being a popular destination for both tourists and locals for swimming and hiking, Lantau is also where you can find the Tian Tan Buddha, a 34 metre tall bronze Buddha statue, which can be reached by bus or – if you don’t mind heights – cable car. The newest addition to the island is Hong Kong Disneyland which is smaller than its American versions and more suitable for younger children.

Hong Kong can be visited all year round, but September to February has the most stable weather forecasts.

There are plenty of hotels in Hong Kong, ranging from YMCA-like hostels to international luxury chains. I stayed at the Harbour Plaza North Point, a nice 4 star hotel with great transport links and a lovely swimming pool which came in handy on hot days.


Share

Great find on St Martins Island

 

Gina, Skoosh Reservations Manager, writes:

We have received a very positive review about the Divi Little Bay Beach Resort in St Martin, the Caribbean. This is the first review submitted on our site regarding this hotel and although not all reviews about this hotel are as positive across the internet, these are definitely some of the best shots taken of this property.

 

Divi Little Bay Beach Resort, St. MartinDivi Little Bay Beach Resort, St. Martin Divi Little Bay Beach Resort, St. MartinDivi Little Bay Beach Resort, St. Martin

 

The pictures wonderfully present the 3 fresh water pools the hotel provides, the simple but practical standard rooms and the beautiful views. The picture of the sunset has got to be my favourite; picturesque sky, the calm sea, the mountains and what looks to be a roof terrace which is always a bonus at a beach hotel. I would say that these shots match up to the hotels own photo gallery but are much more honest

 

The review itself goes as follows:

“This place is the most beautiful place in the island! They have very helpful staffs, and I was very satisfied with the service as well.”

 

I have since had a browse through other reviews online and they are surprisingly varied. Although you do often have to take some peoples moans and groans with a pinch of salt, the general negatives are the staff and cleanliness of the rooms which this guest seems to not have had a problem with.

When reviews are overall 50-50 between positive and negative, pictures would always help sway my decision and in this particular case, if the price was right I know I would take the gamble over the negatives others had experienced.

This is why people’s pictures are always greatly appreciated by Skoosh as they give a genuine view of the hotel and they are always available on our site for others to see once they have been approved by our staff.

Many thanks to Istvan for sharing his holiday photos with us.

 

Gina

 

Share

Room with a view – Metropolitan Hotel Toronto

 

Another great review was submitted to Skoosh this week along with a number of great photos that we all loved here at Skoosh HQ, so good in fact we wanted to share with the world!

Michael from Australia visited the Metropolitan Hotel in Toronto last week, and left the following great review on his return, including some great city tips for Toronto:

 

I had arranged to be close to the bus terminal , the Metropolitan provided this and is close to all amenties , I am impressed with this hotel and can be highly recommended.the views from my room was exceptional as the CN tower and lake ontario can be seen, I have no issues with this hotel the room was perfect for me and the service was great. on one other note I found the transit system ideally suited around the metroplitan -when planning to visit Niagara falls I suggest that you look up megabus.com in advance to book your travel arrangements if you have not already done so , cost as low as $2.50 can be achived for the return trip , the falls is just spectcular you have to be there to appreciate, I hope you find this review helpful.


Well, that’s pretty much the perfect review, and great to hear he enjoyed both hotel & city. As well as enjoying his stay at the hotel Michael has given some great tips on staying & travelling to the beautiful Toronto.

Even better, he submitted a number of great photos alongside his review which really show Toronto at its best. You can see them all by looking at the hotel review page for the Met, however I’ve displayed my own two favourites below so you can appreciate them (as you may have guessed, I’m a sucker for water shots!). Incredible photos of a beautiful cityscape and lakeside!

 

Niagara Falls

Incredible picture of the Niagara Falls

View from Metropolitan Hotel

Toronto's Harbour Front Including The CN Tower

Thanks for submitting Michael.

 

We love seeing our guests’ photos on Skoosh and believe they really hold the key to discovering not only the true feel of a hotel, but an entire destination. That of course in turn means that people can find out even more about their trip before they travel.

 

Any thoughts? Let me know in the comments, @SkooshMatt on Twitter or via email to matt@skoosh.com.

Share

Marrakech – Exploring the Rose City

 

Located nearby to beautiful, towering mountains Marrakech is the hustling, bustling market and administrative centre of Morocco. The streets of the city have some of the best sights the country has to offer; head to El Badi Palace for a peek at its creepy underground dungeons, be wowed by the Islamic architecture of the Koutoubia mosque and drive along the pink ramparts that prompted Marrakech’s nickname “Rose City”.

Friend of Skoosh Rosie gives us her tips:

Getting There

Marrakech-Menara International Airport is located four kilometres southwest of the city.  To get to the centre, your best bet is probably to get a taxi which should set you back 30- 60dh (about £2.50 to a fiver) during the day, and closer to 60dh at night.

Ryad Mogador Marrakech

The Ryad Mogador Marrakech Hotel is regularly well reviewed on Skoosh

There are limited train services but they do provide cheap travel if you manage to get one. The trains go to and from Casablanca, Rabat and Fez with overnight services to Tangier. The main train station is at Avenue Hassan II in Gueliz; upon arrival you can get a taxi or numerous buses into the centre.

Long distance buses drop passengers off just outside the city walls; about twenty minutes walk away from Djemaa. It is possible to get a bus from the main terminal to the centre, or a taxi, which should cost around 8- 10dh.

Getting Around

There are buses all over the city during the day and at night; these are quite reliable but do tend to get pretty crowded so be prepared to stand up during your journey. Petite taxis are beige in colour and can be hailed off the street; they should be charged by the metre and remember to make sure it’s on before you get in.

Grandes taxis are old Mercedes and fit up to six people. They’re usually used to take people to sights a little further out of town and have a fixed fare, which you should agree upon before you get in If you like to travel in style the Caleches might be up your street. These are horse drawn carriages holding up to five people. They have a fixed hourly rate, displayed on the side of the carriage.

Kenzi Semiramis

The luxury Kenzi Semiramis Hotel, Marrakech

When to Go

The hottest months of the year are July and August but I would say that the most pleasant time to visit the city is in spring. If you are around in early June be sure to check out the Gnaoua and World Music Festival which commemorates the abolition of slavery, and brings people from all walks of life come together to watch the free open air music concerts. Another festival to catch if you can is the weeklong Marrakech International Film Festival in November and December time, it attracts streams of people from the film industry and is a good chance to see some African and Arab movies.

Health and Safety

Morocco is one of the more liberal Muslim countries but you still need to be respectful; don’t show too much flesh, especially if you are a woman, I would save the short skirts for a holiday in Benidorm. Be aware that homosexuality is considered a criminal offence in Morocco so keep public displays of affection to a minimum. There are strict anti-drug laws in Marrakech so if you are offered kif, the local marijuana, turn it down.

Avoid walking alone at night and take extra care if you are a woman. A number of female travellers have reported being harassed by tour guides, so be on your guard. You might get a few men offering you camels in exchange for your hand in marriage; it’s probably best to just ignore them, unless you are particularly partial to a camel or two.

You don’t need any jabs for Morocco, the most common ailment is an upset stomach but as long as you watch what you eat you should be fine.

Sights

El Badi Palace

Riad Carina

The 3 Star Riad Carina Hotel has great views of El Badi Palace

Originally Sultan Ahmed el Mansour’s residence, this palace is comprised of three hundred and sixty rooms, underground dungeons from the sixteenth century, orange orchards, a large lagoon and four pools. One of the main draws are the nesting stalks littering the edges of the pools, an afternoon at the palace is one well spent.

Sa’adian Tombs

Opened to the public in 1917 these tombs house numerous royals from back in the day. With enclosed gardens between two domed mausoleums and over one hundred graves decorated with mosaics the tombs are definitely worth the queue.

Koutoubia Mosque

This Moorish mosque embodies Islamic architecture dating back to the twelfth century.  Highlights of the mosque include the three golden orbs, a large plaza, the walkways and gardens.

Ramparts

The best way to see the ramparts is to drive along the outside of them. The salmon pink walls give Marrakech its nickname “Rose City” and were originally used to stop people getting into the city. They are thirty-three feet high with a fifteen-kilometre circumference, and have been round Medina since the Middle Ages.

 

Itinerary- A Top Day Out

I would start my day with breakfast at my hotel and a cup of the ever-popular green tea with mint before heading over to the Koutoubia mosque, the largest mosque in Marrakech. I would stare up at the minarets with their golden orbs on top and stroll through the surrounding gardens. Next I would wander through the souk market by Djemaa el Fna. I would put my haggling skills to the test as I picked up some keepsakes for people back home, and myself, to remember my trip by.

For lunch I would go to one of the food stalls at the market, lunch is the most important meal in Morocco so I think I would have to try out some traditional cuisine. I might go for a tagine or stick to couscous, as I’m sure to like it. After filling up on lunch I would make my way over to the Sa’adian tombs. Although the queue for the tombs is always long I know it would be worth it. I would walk through the enclosed gardens, gawp at the carvings and elaborate gold designs in the two mausoleums and wander amongst the graves richly decorated with mosaics.

After all that I think I would need to sit down so I’d make my way to a café to have a drink outside in the sunshine. I would watch the sun go down before finding a restaurant for dinner and finally head off to find a bar in the Gueliz area. After a couple of drinks I would jump in a petits taxi back to my hotel ready for another top day out tomorrow.

Share

Skoosh adds Facebook “Send” to enable easier sharing

Good afternoon, here at Skoosh we hope the Spring is treating you well and that as many of our customers as possible have enjoyed the sparkling summer-like weather that we have in our little corner of the world.

This is just a quick word to let everyone know that we have added a new feature this week that will allow anyone on Skoosh who has a Facebook account to send a hotel to friends, family and travel partners the information on a hotel you have booked or are thinking about booking. This makes Skoosh a great place to discuss and deliberate the best hotel option for your trip

 

Facebook Send On Skoosh

Simply click 'Send' on the hotel page to share the details via private Facebook message

 

Skoosh has had the Facebook “Like” button for a little while now, and the addition of the “Send” option should make it even easier for all our customers to use Skoosh in any way they wish to find the perfect hotel for everyone.

We’re always looking for new ways to help our customers use Skoosh how they want to. If you have any ideas of what would make it easier for you, please let us know.

Matt

Share

A great deal for customers and Alpharooms?

Alpharooms Groupon

A great deal from Alpharooms?

 

It was an exciting week for fans of great travel deals last week as independent OTA Alpharooms put on an almost-too-good-to-be-true hotel voucher offer onto Groupon, the local & national group deal provider.

A £20 for a £50 Voucher to spend on any hotel accommodation at alpharooms.com really is a great deal – we’re certainly not trolling the deal here at Skoosh HQ – in fact we’re really impressed, especially as there doesn’t appear to be any catches that you wouldn’t expect in this case. In fact, with such a great offer you would expect, for example, a minimum spend clause or a limitation on the destinations you can book for. But no – it appears it’s for any hotel booking, anywhere, at any price. That is a great deal, no doubt.

The question we’ve been asking ourselves (with of course an eye on delving into this world ourselves) is how big were the marketing costs of this offer and will it all be worth it in the long term? As you can see to the right, by the time the deal ended 11870 vouchers were bought. Let’s do a few (admittedly very rough) sums:

  • That means £593500 worth of hotel vouchers were bought by UK Grouponers.
  • Those Grouponers spent £237400 on those hotel vouchers.
  • Given that Groupon apparently take around 50% commission on deal promos, that leaves Alpharooms 20% back, or £118700 if  (and it is of course a huge if) all coupons are redeemed.

So – is this a great deal for Alpharooms? It’s hard to say really. If the revenue from actual bookings – especially return bookings – that they generate cover their marketing costs then of course this will be a stroke a genius. Alpharooms aren’t small but even a larger OTA would feel the hit if, for example, all vouchers were used on low value bookings, as at that point the marketing costs become unmanageable.

Of course like all these things it’ll probably fall somewhere between the 2, and I’m sure Alpharooms are loving all the attention they are getting at least!

At Skoosh this is certainly the type of deal we’d like to do, especially to promote our new Hotel Gift Vouchers that are now available to buy through our site. To get the balance between making an interesting and valuable offer to customers and not bankrupting the business at the same time is the key challenge here and one we’re hoping to crack very soon.

Any thoughts from customers, competitors and ‘gurus’ please do let us know!

Matt

Share

New York – A Skoosh Perspective

I would love to go to New York, and hopefully will do very soon. The setting for some of my favourite films – Ghostbusters, The Godfathers, the seminal Maid in Manhattan - it is a city full of excitement, wonder and, I’m led to believe, the Beautiful People.

Doing some research, I looked back through our previous guests’ photos I found this delightful Day/Night view taken from the Affinia Dumont on 150 East 34th Street looking towards the Chrysler Building back in 2008 by UK guest ‘mx5madness’. Some great shots I think you’ll agree (aren’t our customers SO talented!):

Daytime: View from the Affinia Dumont

Daytime view from the Affinia Dumont courtesy of mx5madness, Clitheroe, United Kingdom.

Night-time from the Affinia Dumont

View from the Affinia by night, also courtesy of mx5madness, Clitheroe, United Kingdom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To get a genuine feel for the place I asked a friend of Skoosh, Rosie, what a good day in New York would be. Here’s her unique take on the perfect Big Apple experience:

“I would start my day with a hot steaming cup of coffee at my hotel before making my way to the Statue of Liberty to check out the views of the city and indulge in a bit of tacky tourism. I think I would have to resist buying myself one of those Statue of Liberty hats, although I may get one as a present for people back home.

Next it would on the ferry to Ellis Island to get the immigrant experience. I would take a tour of the museum, looking at all the things people brought from home and try and imagine how scary it must’ve been to travel thousands of miles in search of the American Dream. After that I think I would need to recharge my batteries so I would find a coffee shop in which to have a bagel and a sit down. Naturally the sun would be shining as this is my perfect day out, so I would go for a stroll around Central Park. I would look at the different fountains, maybe go rowing in one of the lakes in the afternoon sun and buy myself a big ice cream.

I would definitely have to have a look in the Strawberry Fields, a garden built for John Lennon around the place he was shot. Next, if there was time and I wasn’t too worn out, I would head over to the Met for a peek at some of the art on display. I would probably only spend an hour or two there as time would be getting on, but I’m sure it would take days to soak up all the museum has to offer. By this point I think it would be time for dinner so I would head over to Chinatown for some oriental cuisine.

Later on I might catch a Broadway play, or hit a drum n bass club, the club scene doesn’t hot up until at least midnight so I could even do both. After a night of pounding music and dancing with the best of them I would flop into one of those famous yellow taxis back to my hotel to catch up on some much needed sleep.”

 

Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge November 2010!

I’ve also asked around the guys here at Skoosh – I think I’m the only one in the office not to have crossed the pond – and they came up with plenty of great tips for a New York trip. Here’s the best of them:

Our own Pete recommends the Carnegie Deli for gargantuan sandwiches and the “Top of the Rock” experience at the Rockerfeller Centre (much better than Empire State) for views of the city, and ferry tours down the Hudson and rowing on Central Park lake.

Lua recommends going to Canal Street as the best great shopping area and she also loves the Greenmarket on Union Square, a world-famous farmer’s market.

Mark recommended some more great links from other sites too: Time Out New York recommend some great free stuff, while our friends at Eurocheapo have a great page dedicated to some of the best ‘cheapo’ places New York has to offer.

 

Of course if you’re just looking for a cheap hotel, check out Skoosh’s New York Hotels.

Any thoughts? Let me know in the comments, @SkooshMatt on Twitter or via email to matt@skoosh.com.

Share

April update from the OFT

The Office of Fair Trading have this week updated the case that they are investigating regarding the price fixing complaint brought by Skoosh. The update read as follows:

 

The OFT are continuing their investigation

“The OFT is continuing with its formal investigation into suspected breaches of competition law in the hotel online booking sector.

The investigation remains at a relatively early stage. However, after a preliminary review of the evidence gathered to date, the OFT continues to consider this matter as an administrative priority and is pursuing the investigation further.

The OFT though will not be in a position to conclude whether it considers the law has been infringed until it has progressed its investigation further, including obtaining and assessing additional evidence.”

 

While this currently seems to be an issue that has been of interest only to the travel industry itself, that it is being considered an administrative priority means it will have clear repercussions for consumers. We’ll be looking a little closer at what it really means for travellers everywhere in a future post.

For any press enquiries regarding the case for Skoosh, please contact us at press@skoosh.com.

Matt

Share

Travel more securely with online travel vouchers

 

Making travel bookings such as for hotels, flights, train tickets online whilst travelling abroad can feel a risky business. In an unfamiliar surrounding – be it an internet cafe, an unsecured wireless connection found near the hostel you’re staying in or even the hotel’s own (all too often costly) Wifi connection – we can’t be entirely sure that the same security we afford ourselves at home or in our workplaces can be relied upon to make any online transactions we want to make securely.

Rosa De Los Vientos, Ushuaia

Online vouchers can be used even in the most remote places if you can get online

It is however sometimes essential to make such bookings. Last minute changes of plans can affect us all and sometimes we might just be travelling at leisure without a firm destination. In reality to book online is often the only option available. And, with a little pre-planning this is where an online travel voucher could come in.

A gift voucher or similar is essentially a form of credit for the store/agency that you hold it for. Thus if you have credit with that company that covers what you need to pay for there should be no need to enter any payment details for your booking. This of course is especially true of pre-payment websites where you shouldn’t need to pay any more for your booking directly. So all you need to do is:

  • Before you leave top yourself up with relevant gift vouchers that can support your journey up to an amount you feel will be suitable to help you out.
  • Store either in relevant website account or in your inbox.
  • When you need to make a booking simply apply or enter the voucher on the payment page.
  • Confirm your booking without entering any credit card details whilst you’re away.

It’s almost like a traveller’s cheque you can use online. You can even use it to send money to someone travelling around the world in a difficult situation or to remotely organise business travel for employees abroad. The key is the flexibility.

But hey – why isn’t everyone doing it?

Good question.

The truth is not many companies offer this option. Obviously this article has put to one side the main purpose of gift vouchers – as gifts – but that alone would surely be an attractive product for many customers. There are those companies that require payment at the hotel which probably can’t, but anywhere that pre-payment is accepted, including all airlines and flight sellers, could consider this as an additional service to offer. None of those that do offer online travel gift vouchers could consider themselves to have universal applicability, usually limited by geographic limitations, time limitations or are limited to just one service.

From a UK point of view, those that do offer pre-paid hotel vouchers include LastMinute.com, Ryanair and Eurostar, and of course since the launch of our own Hotel Gift Vouchers recently, this is possible for booking over 50000 hotels worldwide on Skoosh. We think that’s pretty great for anyone travelling anywhere given their flexibility. From a passionate traveller’s point of view, it would be great to see more options to provide, either as gifts or as in this article to help us travel more securely.

 

As usual, any thoughts please comment on this blog, email me or let us know on Twitter @skooshhotels. Matt

Share

New to Skoosh: Hotel Gift Vouchers

 

This week Skoosh has launched its very own gift vouchers to be used for all hotels booked on the site. If you want to go straight to the page to check it out you can visit our hotel gift voucher page.

These days nearly all the big hotel chains have gift vouchers that you can buy for friends and relatives who like to stay in those particular chains. For example, a £50 Marriott voucher that can be put towards any stay at a Marriott hotel is great for anyone that books only directly through Marriott and I’m sure would be gratefully received.  The coverage of these chains is often vast and many have a high proportion of good quality hotels that will easily satisfy those guests.

However, at Skoosh we think that some people might appreciate a bit more choice in the hotels they can book with a hotel voucher, and so we have now created the facility to create & send a Skoosh hotel gift voucher that can be used with any hotel booking. So that includes:

Skoosh Hotel Voucher

  • Over 50,000 hotels in 188 countries worldwide.
  • A number of the major chains including Marriott, Best Western, Intercontinental and Holiday Inn covering all major world cities.
  • Smaller, independent hotels and more “off the beaten track” destinations than you can shake a stick at!
  • A high level of customer service and a personable approach so you know your hotel booking is being taken care of.

Simple and flexible way to book hotels

We think our new vouchers have great value due to their flexibility and applicability and are a great present for anyone who uses hotels. Simply put, the way it works is as follows:

  • Go to our vouchers page and click ‘Buy Gift Voucher’.
  • Enter in the amount you want your voucher for (this can be between 1 and 999 of your chosen currency) and choose if you wish to send it to a friend or use it yourself.
  • If you’re sending it to a friend then just enter in their details and your own payment details and your away.
  • When your friend receives it they just need to enter in the code and click add to get the voucher ready to use!
  • Alternatively you can send it to yourself, print it out or forward it via email to someone else, or even just save it to your own account to use on a future booking.

There are no limits as to when the gift voucher will be used and we’ll remind anyone who has one that they still have it every once in a while.

 

If anyone has any questions about our new vouchers please contact us.

 

Share