When Muchi Gubwe was a fledgling hotel concierge in Cape Town, he would often refer to his seasoned colleagues as “moving encyclopedias.”
“Forget Google,” Mr. Gubwe, now the head concierge at the Mount Nelson, a Belmond hotel in the city’s Gardens neighborhood, said on a video call last month. “These are the people you need to speak to.”
The Times took Mr. Gubwe’s advice. We asked him and four of his counterparts at luxury hotels around the world — including Gurkan Aslan, from the Peninsula Istanbul; Pissinee Rajatabhothi, from the Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok; David Gonzalez, from the Langham, Chicago; and Igor Alvim, from the Fasano Rio de Janeiro — to recommend experiences in their cities that would be stellar gifts for the holidays.
All five are members of Les Clefs d’Or (in English, the Golden Keys), a professional association of hotel concierges headquartered in Paris.
Like Mr. Gubwe, Mr. Gonzalez and Mr. Alvim spoke with The Times via video call, while the interviews with Mr. Aslan was in person and Ms. Rajatabhothi, by email. Their remarks were edited and condensed for clarity.
A must is a Bosporus cruise because that’s the most magical part of a visit to Istanbul. We advise a minimum of two to three hours.
Picture yourself sailing between two continents. It’s very special, especially for proposals. Many guests prefer to do that right in the middle of the Bosporus with a romantic private dinner on a private yacht during sunset, with champagne. We arrange catering from the hotel. And we have our own pier here.
Cruising up towards the Black Sea, you see all the old Ottoman houses on the water. As you go north, it gets more beautiful, more green. We have created some seasonal experiences such as in May, when the Judas trees bloom — they look like lollipops, with a very special purple color.
Sometimes, guests are looking for different things to see and do, especially in the summertime, and want to get out of the city and swim, which you cannot do on the Bosporus. If you have the day, you can rent a boat to visit the Princes’ Islands, a group of nine islands in the Sea of Marmara. During the Ottoman period, some of the princes were exiled there.
Only four of them are open for public visits: Kinaliada, Burgazada, Heybeliada and Buyukada. The islands are quite famous for their fresh seafood.
Sedef, the island farthest from the city in the archipelago, is private. It belongs to one of the wealthiest families of Turkey. They have a small private beach, as well as a restaurant open to the public called Elio Sedef. We can arrange swimming tours there.
Every hour of the boat rental is 500 euros [$530] plus tax, plus catering. For the Princes’ Islands excursion, you need at least seven to eight hours.
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Bangkok is an all-you-can-eat buffet feast for the senses – the sights, the sounds, the sensations, even the smells. But for all its golden brilliance, and its full hand of markets, temples, palaces and world-class food and nightlife experiences, the Thai capital can be overwhelming in large doses.
The UK Short-Term Accommodation Association (UKSTAA) conducted new research that identified nearly 2 million homes that local authorities consider “deliverable,” with as many as 1.5 million of them in the next five years.
It's one thing to book a lie-flat business-class seat to travel overseas with some added comfort. What might qualify as "next-level," though, is doing so on a private jet that will fly you around the world, stopping on every continent (excluding Antarctica) along the way.
Since its inception, Alpine’s vision has been and continues to be, to ensure students gain the specific skills, professional attitude, updated knowledge and practical experiences in the hospitality industry that employers want and need, now and in the future.
The European cities with the largest pipelines at the close of the quarter are led by London with 79 projects/14,078 rooms and Istanbul, up 20% by projects YOY with a record 48 projects, accounting for 7,936 rooms. Next is Lisbon, with 37 projects/4,070 rooms, then Dublin with 34 projects and a record 6,492 rooms, and Dusseldorf with 30 projects/5,465 rooms.
Bangkok is the Asian megacity incarnate. Its vast urban sprawl – home to 22% of the Thai population – is studded with gleaming golden wat (Buddhist monasteries), towering skyscrapers, teeming markets, multi-lane highways, and clusters of village-style houses that show just how far Bangkok has come over the last 50 years. Needless to say, there's a lot to see and do!
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