Following the relaxing of travel and trade relations with the United States, the accommodation game is starting to heat up in Cuba.
Starwood, one of the world's largest hotel companies, has announced plans to renovate and run three Cuban properties by the end of the year, making it the first US chain to return to the island since Fidel Castro's socialist revolution in the 1950s. All Cuban hotels are currently state-owned.
The company will invest millions to renovate and rebrand the Santa Isabel and Inglaterra hotels as part of its "Luxury Collection", and Hotel Quinta Avenida as a "Four Points by Sheraton".
Cuban hotels have a reputation for ramshackle furnishings and poor service. The Cuban Starwood hotels will be refitted with everything from new mattresses to improved kitchen equipment, and will be run by expatriate Starwood employees.
The number of visitors to Cuba surged nearly 20 per cent last year, with nearly 80 per cent more Americans flying to the island. The surge has overwhelmed Cuba's decrepit tourism infrastructure and its hotels are struggling. Numbers are expected to rise even more sharply this year with the start of as many as 110 commercial flights a day from the United States.
Meanwhile, website accommodation service Airbnb will allow travellers from around the world to book stays in private homes in Cuba from April 2, after they were granted special authorisation from the Obama administration.
The island nation has become Airbnb's fastest-growing market, with about 4000 homes added over the past year. Until now, Airbnb had only been allowed to let US travellers use its services in Cuba.
The Marriott hotel company is also exploring its options there. Watch this space.
Booking by the minute
A San Francisco company has created an app that allows users to book a hotel room for just US67c ($1) a minute, or US$40 an hour.
Recharge says it's targeting people who want time out to maybe tend a baby or get ready for an event after work, but we're sure it'll be used for much less innocent reasons than that.
The company uses Hyatt and Starwood properties in San Francisco and says it has had guests stay as little as 12 minutes or as long as 25 hours. It shares revenue with the property that changes depending on the day and time.
It plans to offer the service in LA, New York, and London next.
Yoghurt and yogis in Queenstown
In line with its community focus, Queenstown's hippest hotel, the Sherwood, has a range of workshops and events coming up over the next few months that are worth making the trip down for. Covered in its upcoming Sunday Workshop Series are bread-making and cultured milk, and there are a number of yogis, including Mark Robberds and Nik Robson, and a permaculture talk by Living Big in a Tiny House presenter Bryce Langston in May. Go to sherwoodqueenstown.nz for more info.
• Read more about the Sherwood in next week's
Top 10 Holiday Parks has added Nelson City and Foxton Beach to the many properties already on its books.
The two properties have run for several years as independent parks. The Nelson site, located in the town centre, has a capacity of just 140 guests across a mix of motel units, cabins, powered and tent sites. Foxton offers accommodation overlooking the beach in cabins and powered and non-powered campsites.