DO NOT DISTURB FOR 2010

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MICHAEL MATTHEWS
Michael Matthews has managed and marketed fine hotels around the world for 50 years. He spent 14 years based in Hong Kong building the Regent International group and has also worked with St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels. He began his career in 1959 at the then newly opened Carlton Tower Hotel in London, the first five-star hotel in more than 50 years to be built in the city. He was most recently general manager of the Ventana Inn in Big Sur, California. Matthews is based in Arizona and began writing Do Not Disturb in early 2004.

December 9: A RESORT WHERE EVERYBODY KNOWS YOUR NAME
Sitting at dinner with a group of friends, the talk turned to the inevitable question: What did I think was the best hotel or resort in the world? It's a question I field perhaps half a dozen times a month and I really don't have a simple answer. Yet now I think I have finally found what can only be deemed the nirvana of resorts. My wife and I traveled down under and, in the Taupo region of the north island of New Zealand, we found heaven.

October 7: A VIRGIN WALKS INTO A HOTEL...
I wonder if Sir Richard Branson hasn't finally gone off the rails. He's created airlines, record companies and a number of other (mostly) successful ventures. Now he claims he wants to create a chain of four- and five-star hotels. But why? Does the world really need Virgin Hotels? We'll find out, won't we?

September 23: CRYING IN MY BEER ABOUT TRAVEL REWARDS PROGRAMS
For 30 years, I've been campaigning against frequency programs in the travel industry. When I ran St. Regis, in fact, I unsuccessfully tried to take it out of Starwood Preferred Guest. But now that Marriott has added Ritz-Carlton to Marriott Rewards, I've had to rethink my stance. My new conclusion: I'm against them.

September 2: THIS COLUMN IS GOING TO BUG YOU
You might not want to read this, either because you are squeamish or you're already bored with the media's saturation coverage. Sorry if your thinking is either way because I am going to tackle the subject anyway. In 2004, I said they were becoming a damned nuisance. Now they are more than that. They are, well, a "plague." After all, if you can have a plague of locusts, why not a plague of bedbugs?

August 5: HOW DO AMERICA'S HOTELS RATE NOW?
What do Ritz-Carlton and Drury Hotels, a little-known limited-service chain, have in common? They have just topped the annual J.D. Power ratings of American hotels. More than 50,000 travelers rated 64 hotels in six categories from budget to luxury. The results are guaranteed to surprise you.

July 15: IS REGENT A HOTEL PHOENIX?
In its prime, Regent International was arguably the world's finest luxury hotel company. Founded in the mid-1970s, six of Regent's then-14 hotels rated in the top ten in the world by the mid-1980s. It's an accomplishment that has never been duplicated. Then a succession of new owners messed it up. Will the latest owner be able to revive the shriveled chain?

July 1: MAD MICHAEL: BANNED IN AUSTRALIA
I am, in all probability, now banned from Australia. My big crime? I brought a bag of trail mix into the country and it had a single nut in it. Australia's system of on-the-spot fines and its regimen of guilty-of-snacking-until-proven-innocent has made me a fugitive from justice.

May 13: A BUCKET FULL OF BOUTIQUE HOTELS
This week's column is going to be the start of yet another bucket list. My list of ten, twenty, or maybe more, "boutique" hotels and resorts that I think you must experience before you depart for that greater bucket in the sky. I start with the best lodging experience on America's West Coast: The San Ysidro Ranch in Santa Barbara, California. In short, it's perfect.

April 1: WHAT AM I BID FOR THIS FINE HOTEL?
A hotel owner needs to charge $10 a night for every $10,000 spent per room to buy the property. But if it's all so simple, why do some hotels sell for sums of money that make absolutely no sense? From overpriced trophy properties to hotels selling at absolute auction, these are interesting times indeed.

March 4: YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK ON THE ROAD
What if the Federal government stepped in and took over bankrupt hotels, buying the properties with your tax dollars and then operating them? Don't laugh, it was already done here during the S&L crisis 20 years ago. But now an Irish government agency finds itself on the verge of owning some of the world's great hotels. Should we care?

February 11: DROPPING LIKE FLIES IN THE HOTEL BUSINESS
When lavish Ritz-Carlton hotels close, you know the lodging business is on the verge of a financial meltdown. The latest from the lodging nightmare that has been good for our pocketbook but absolutely brutal for hotels, resorts and the companies that own them.

January 7: THE 2009 REVIEW IS GOOD FOR US, BAD FOR HOTELS
In short, 2009 was a much better year for guests than for hoteliers. For once it is a buyers market. From the lodging industry's perspective, the worst trend of the year was the inordinate number of hotel bankruptcies from one end of the country to the other. Plus several new hotels for your bucket list.

Copyright 1993-2010 by Michael Matthews. All rights reserved.
ABOUT MICHAEL MATTHEWS Michael Matthews has managed and marketed fine hotels around the world for more than 45 years. He spent 14 years in Hong Kong building the legendary Regent International group. He has also worked with St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels. Matthews is currently based in Arizona. He began writing Do Not Disturb in early 2004.

THE FINE PRINT Joe Brancatelli makes this space available to Michael Matthews in the spirit of free speech and to encourage editorial diversity and the wider discussion of important travel issues. All of the opinions and material in this column are the sole property of Matthews. This column may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Michael Matthews.

This column is Copyright 2010 by Michael Matthews. JoeSentMe.com is Copyright 2010 by Joe Brancatelli. All rights reserved.