I am often asked how we select hotels. There is no short answer to that question, thus I decided to write about what goes into hotel selection with some practical examples from one of our cycling itineraries: Western Sicily.
First, we don't design itineraries around hotels. Some very high-end travel companies take that approach, selecting 5-star stays and then routing the rides to, from, or around there. As you can imagine that can be a limiting factor, but in their case is consistent with what they are offering: the best hotels. The itinerary will follow.
But when I look at those itineraries - and having designed or improved many tours myself - I see that the trade-off is just too much to justify going down that path. The rides seem amorphous.
On the other end of the spectrum, low-budget travel companies are doomed to select only the cheapest stays. Here, the rides still seem amorphous and the hotels are - you guessed it - cheap.
Tourissimo's approach and best practice is to design the itinerary for the best scenery and riding/hiking experience. And then seek the best available hotels close to our desired path.
Now, let me define what I mean by "best available." If you follow our blog you realize that we strive for authenticity. We know - and most industry studies confirm it - that luxury in travel is now identified with authenticity, transformative experiences, and insider access. A four of five star hotel might or might not fulfill our prerequisites. When they do AND they are near the itinerary we drafted, Bingo!
Sometimes a charming B&B or a boutique, family run agriturismo can be our first choice. We are ok trading stars for authenticity and charm.
In some regions - more rural and less developed tourism-wise - there's not much on offer. A few times, we've had to go back to the drawing board because nothing was available.
In Sicily, we knew that we wanted to incorporate a wine experience (western Sicily is a land blessed by the wine gods), and the salt farming ponds between Trapani and Marsala (yes, marsala).
Our man in Sicily - Giuseppe Di Giorgio - went on the road and delivered.
Foresteria Planeta is owned by the Planeta family, one of the most prominent wine producers in Sicily. Their hotel is nestled among vineyards and overlooks the Mediterranean. It is a place where all details are about charm, home feeling, and authenticity. And it all translates to the concept of luxury just described.
A copy of The Leopard is available in each room. Almost a soft spoken suggestion: "if you want to - try to - understand Sicily, take this book to the terrace and enjoy."
And then, one of my favorite hotels thanks to its setting. To fully appreciate Relais Antiche Saline, one would have to get to know what salt has been over millennia. I'll give you a hint: the word salary comes from salt. Salt - the White Gold - meant wealth and power. In ancient Rome, salt on the table was a mark of a rich patron; those who sat nearer the host were "above the salt" and those less favored were "below the salt."
Luckily, just a salt farming pond across from our hotel a well preserved wind mill houses the salt mining museum. The hotel itself used to be the facility in support of the salt business of the Culcasi family (4 generations in the salt business).
These are just two examples of our accommodation portfolio. If you have a memorable hotel that you still dream about, we would like to hear about it!
Magnifica Sicily will kick off our 2017 bike tours on May 6th. To reserve your spot go to the tour page.