Story by Rod Charles
Vacay.ca Deputy Editor
Taylor L. Cole is no stranger to travel. The head of public relations for Hotels.com North America has more than 14 years of expertise in public and investor relations, marketing, social media and corporate communications.
In her current role, she leads North America public relations, global corporate communications and supports the social media strategy for Hotels.com. In Canada, Cole is the travel expert for a syndicated television program on the Rogers Network. In her spare time she enjoys traveling and thrill-seeking (skydiving, obstacle courses and not unexpectedly given her daredevil pursuit, ninja training) with her husband, Mike.
Vacay.ca teamed with Hotels.com to create a series of articles highlighting the best hotel travel experiences in Canada. We have spotlighted romantic hotels in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, as well as destinations for families, single travellers and chocolate lovers. As part of the series, we thought it would be interesting to chat with Cole about travel trends she is seeing in Canada and abroad in her role at Hotels.com.
Vacay.ca: What are the top three or four things Canadians are looking for in hotels?
Taylor L. Cole: We do an annual hotel amenities survey and found that Canadian travellers are looking for Wi-Fi and breakfast — but complimentary, of course. Aside from that, in-room favourites include high-end coffee makers, wired rooms and smartphone docking stations. Canadians are a pretty tech-savvy group.
Vacay.ca: What’s the weirdest things or amenities you’ve found in a hotel room?
Cole: During a stay at a Florida hotel I pulled back the bedding and found a half-eaten, sticky piece of hard candy between the bed sheets! That was an amenity I hadn’t requested!
Vacay.ca: Has the cleaning staff ever surprised you with a unique touch?
Cole: The Ritz-Carlton in Laguna Beach once creatively folded the towels in my room in the form of sea animals. I’ve also heard of housekeeping staff adding a twist to toilet paper — instead of the standard pointed edges at the end of the roll, one housekeeper created a rose!
Vacay.ca: We need to know — have you ever used the bathroom phone?
Cole: Confession. … YES! But only to answer (not make a call) when hotel staff tried to reach me. Sometimes you have to multi-task!
Vacay.ca: Can you name new innovations in business travel that have really impressed you?
Cole: Mobile check-ins like with the Apple Watch and mobile concierge services top my list.
Vacay.ca: If money is no object, what are the best luxurious hotels to visit?
Cole: In Latin America, try the one and only Palmilla in Los Cabos, Mexico and book a pool casita suite. In addition to the impeccable views of the Sea of Cortez, you’ll appreciate the services from your personal butler and a made-to-order breakfast delivered to your poolside dining area.
Closer to Land’s End in Los Cabos is The Cape, A Thompson Hotel, and one of the most breathtaking properties with views of The Arch and Lover’s Beach. Each room is oceanfront.
In North America, stay in Whistler at the Four Seasons private residences . Here you can appreciate the stunning beauty of the mountains and nature in an idyllic home-away-from-home setting, without getting dirty. A stay here comes with personal mountain guides, personal housekeepers, a ski concierge and the option of a private chef, personal butler, or personal chauffeur — essentially anything you could ever want.
When I stay in the APAC region I love boutique hotels with unique charm. Stay in the Viceroy Bali and book a 4,000-square-foot Viceroy Villa! The largest of the villas, the Viceroy often referred to as the presidential villa. Super private, it has two spacious bedrooms with luxurious ensuites and a large living and dining area. It also has its own private pool and picturesque views of the surrounding area.=
Vacay.ca: We know the big names. Are there any hidden gem hotels in Canada you would suggest?
Cole: The Sparkling Hill Resort in Vernon, BC. And speaking of gems, this hotel is literally encrusted with over 3.5 million Swarovski crystals!
Vacay.ca: Do you eat out of the mini bar?
Cole: I have to be really hungry to partake of a mini-bar. The last time I paid for overpriced pre-packaged food was after a series of week-long meetings and I broke down and ate a Munchie Bar because room service was closed!
Vacay.ca: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve heard of being stolen from a hotel room?
Cole: The appliances (microwave, refrigerator, blender).
Vacay.ca: Which are the best green-friendly hotels in Canada? Are there any hotels doing innovative things to protect the environment?
Cole: I think the Westin Harbour Castle Toronto is doing a great job. They have a lot of green practices and initiatives including emailing final bills, offering credits for guests opting out of daily housekeeping and using Bullfrog Power green electricity.
The Hazelton Hotel in Toronto is another great example of an innovative green hotel with their recycling, retrofit lighting and “green roof” which reduces the building’s carbon footprint and energy consumption by facilitating heat retention in the winter and natural air conditioning in the summer. It also helps reduce levels of carbon dioxide. But it’s also a beautiful hotel.
Vacay.ca: Canadians are very savvy at finding deals. Can you suggest some hotels that offer the best value for Canadians?
Cole: Using our bi-annual Hotel Price Index, we’re able to show what prices were paid in destinations around the world. We’ve found for hotel deals — say $125 a night or less — you can find five-star accommodations in Warsaw. For four-star properties, accommodations could be found in Bangkok, Budapest and Marrakech and there are a lot of choices in the three-star classification — from Las Vegas and Niagara Falls, to Berlin, Bali, and Melbourne.
Making use of loyalty programs like Hotels.com Rewards is another great way to save as members can earn a free night for every 10 nights stayed. What’s great about this program is that you’re not tied to one particular chain and with more than 200,000 participating hotels you can collect free nights quite quickly. At Hotels.com we’ve also just introduced Secret Prices which offer thousands of specially negotiated rates and subscriber-only deals to bring even greater savings to program members, app users and email subscribers.
Vacay.ca: Thanks so much for your time!
Cole: It was a pleasure!