This is the first instalment of a new twice-weekly online column highlighting the latest travel news and trends, plus notable destinations.
It's just about Valentine's Day – that time of year when hotels try to cash in on husbands and wives looking for a quick getaway, or just a quickie, with package deals for breakfast in bed, or flickering candles with chocolates and champagne. This year, they've been a sexy gift with the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey film, based on the scandalous book of the same name, on Friday, Feb. 13.
Properties around the world are thrusting related S&M-themed deals on their customers. In New York, guests at Eventi and Ink48, two Kimpton properties, can "dominate the night" and release their inner Christian Grey or Anastasia Steele with such in-room treats as a bottle of bubbly and a kit from a sex shop that includes satin bondage gear, a paddle, "spanking powder" and a necktie. The hotels are also offering aphrodisiac room-service items such as oysters, bananas and avocado, plus a $200 credit to a New York lingerie shop and two tickets to the Museum of Sex (which I found quite boring on a visit many years ago).
At the Nira Caledonia Hotel in Edinburgh (those crazy Scots) you can get a black box with a spanking ruler and wrist ties put in your room as part of the 50 Plaids of Wa-hay special. Even the Fairmont is getting in on the action: The Mr. Grey Package at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver includes a lace eye mask, chocolate-dipped strawberries and private shopping experience at Christine Lingerie.
But top prize goes to Personality Hotels in San Francisco, where booking a "Fifty Shades of Women … Come Again" package at one of three properties will get you such goodies as a Minna Limon vibrator, Art of Lust condoms, Bondaids handcuffs, a "silky sash restraint," a "fringe whip," a paddle and a feather tickler.
Whatever happened to the simplicity of a heart-shaped tub in Niagara Falls?
DELTA DAMAGE CONTROL
Marriott had to do a little backpedalling last week when it announced it was planning to take over Delta hotels, a major Canadian company in the travel industry.
It was not clear from the stories I saw online what would happen with the Delta brand, so I sent them a note on Twitter asking for clarification.
The reply I got said this was "still being determined." So that's what I tweeted.
Ten minutes later my phone rang . It was a Marriott spokesman in Washington.
"We are not getting rid of the Delta name," he said. "We're Canadian too."
It was a minor bit of confusion – but it shows Marriott is sensitive to the "Canadian thing" and to how we feel about foreign takeovers.
DESTINATION OF THE DAY
In each of these columns, I'll give a short shout-out to one of my favourite destinations. My first one is for the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, home to fabulous resorts such as Painted Boat and Rockwater Secret Cove, plus a great B&B in Sechelt called Absolute Heaven. You can fiill your days with lovely and relatively easy hikes, great restaurants or quiet drives. For a bit more excitement, try a kayak ride in the Sechelt Inlet with Pedals and Paddles, or take a fun SloCat tour of gorgeous Pender Harbour. Added bonus: No nasty exchange rate.
Jim Byers is a travel journalist who knows the industry inside and out. Follow him on Twitter @jimbyerstravel.