Saturday, March 01, 2008

Sheraton, Marriott or Fawlty Towers?

The Norwegian Hotel market is small in volume. As you enter, you will see the absence of a few striking features. No stars, no exclusive American hotel brands, and relatively high prices. But there are changes in the Norwegian market that may bring it closer to the mainstream international reality.

Marriott to build its first hotel in Norway

Sheraton hotels tried to enter the Norwegian hotel market some years ago, as they built their first hotel at Sandvika, 15 minutes away from Oslo. Sheraton never made it, and today there is a striking absence of Hilton, Sheraton, or Marriott hotels within the Norwegian borders. This is now to change.

The Marriott chain has entered the competition for the international travellers at Oslo International Airport, and intends to build three other hotels, one at Kristiansund airport, and two in Norwegian winter resorts, at Trysil and in Hemsedal.

Norway is today dominated by a number of large chains, as Choice / Quality, Rica, Scandic, Thon, Radisson SAS, as Rainbow hotels. There are also a large number of different privately owned and run family hotels.

The successful owner of the Choice Hotels, Petter Stordalen has his doubt on Marriotts timing and whether Norwegian customers are willing to pay for additional luxury offered by American Hotel brands. He is also puzzled by the location chosen of their hotels at Trysil and Hemsedal.

I agree with Petter Stordalen that the American idea of luxury not necessarily correspond to those in the Norwegian market. Having stayed at Sheraton and Hilton hotels abroad, I personally do not think that they offer value proportionate to the price you pay, and I think that many Norwegians would think like me. One wonders why they do not build in Oslo itself, offering its brand to the large numbers of international (and US) tourists that visit the Norwegian capital every year.

Still, as somebody that wants the opportunity to choose, I wish the Marriott welcome to Norway, but if the chain do not turn its prices down to a realistic level, and adapt to Scandinavian standard, I fear that they will loose out rather quickly.

Starring Norwegian hotels

Looking for a five star hotel in Norway? Well, you are looking in vain, as an official hotel rating system is non-existent in the national market.

This is about to change.

Work is now in progress to get Norway in line with most other countries. It is the Travel Industry organization NHO Reiseliv that has started this work, not without protests.

You would think that the large hotel chains, with all their resources would approve, and that they would welcome the rating system and work to get the best rating, in order to attract more customers. Surprisingly not. They obviously fear that they will not manage to defend the standard that they claim they have.

As one representative says (translated)

"- Such a star rating will only consider the hotels physical features, but would not take into consideration the human qualities, and service received during the stay, values we emphasize on. "(Bjørn Kovacs - Choice Hotels)

He has a point. I have stayed in five star hotels, that did not meet my expectations, and in a one-star hotels that did. It does not help that you get a star for air condition and a swimming pool, if you experience, as we did in Barcelona last year, that they turned the AC off during night, and the pool had not been cleaned for months. Still one thing does not rule out the other.

Protests or not, the work rating the around 1100 Norwegian hotels that will get their stars is now in progress. It will be interesting to see how this will change the Norwegian markets. I'll keep you posted.

Cheaper than Moscow and New York, more expensive than Hong Kong

The British travel agency business Hogg Robinson Group (HRG) has checked the average price of a business class room around the world. The two most expensive cities are Moscow and New York, followed by Paris and Dubai. The most expensive Scandinavian capital is Stockholm as number 6. Oslo is number 9, interestingly more expensive than Hong Kong.

Krakow has two best hostels in the world

60000 users at the site Hostelworld, has awarded the Hoscar for 2007 to Flamingo Hostel in Krakow. Krakow snatched the 2nd price as well, as Mam's Hostel was voted as the second best.


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