This month’s travel news, buys and curiosities.
Tourism vs. residents on Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is on a Goldilocks mission: trying to find just the right amount of visitors that keep both businesses and residents happy.
For starters, it’s turned a group once responsible for marketing the island into one that works for residents to ensure “these great places to live are great places to visit,” Brian Cant, acting CEO of 4VI (formerly Tourism Vancouver Island), said.
For many Islanders, things had to change after a tourism boom in 2019 when an island with just over 80,000 residents hosted more than 10-million travellers. “A lot of residents on this island were very frustrated by what they felt was too many visitors,” Cant said.
Part of 4VI’s efforts is to make life more sustainable by decarbonizing the visitor’s experience. Recently, the organization completed one of the largest tourism carbon audits in North America by going through the 2019 numbers. In that banner year, Vancouver Island’s visitors generated the carbon equivalent of 540,000 cars driving for a year.
To reduce that number, Cant says 4VI is working on carbon-offset programs for tourism operators, as well as more tangible changes, such as creating a master map of EV charging stations on the island to encourage visitors to drive electric cars. There are also plans to create a carbon sink by planting seagrass and eelgrass in the ocean. Cant notes these are early steps to help cut Vancouver Island’s tourism emissions in half over the next decade.
This month, the Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations in Wendake, Que., opened 24 new and renovated suites. It’s the first part of a hotel-wide refresh of the 79-room property that’s been wowing visitors to the Wendake Nation for 15 years. New colour palette (greens, golds, pale wood) reflect the forest and river just outside each room’s patio doors. Gleaming, modern ensuites, eye-catching side tables and plush ottomans are also welcome decor updates. Happily, Nespresso coffee machines make the in-room coffee option stronger, too. What’s missing in the new rooms are many of the animal pelts that gave the original decor a “Wow” factor – how many hotel rooms offer beaver-pelt pillows, wall hangings and throw skins? But during a visit earlier this year, Wendat hoteliers reported that many guests find the furs off-putting while others steal the pelts. (And so, note the long cable locks that ensure furs draped over the couches and armchairs in the lobby remain in place.) Later this summer, expansion of the restaurant and conference rooms begins, and a lobby bar will be added.
The Indigenous-owned, run, designed and decorated boutique hotel continues to be a great opportunity to learn about the Wendake Nation’s culture and history and foods. At La Traite, the hotel restaurant, French chef Marc De Passorio fully immerses himself in Indigenous cuisine and offers creative platings of local ingredients, while also training the next generation of Indigenous chefs. And storytelling sessions in the enormous longhouse next door are as entertaining as they are informative. The hotel’s newly renovated rooms simply help elevate and pamper guests who’ve really come for the cultural experience.
London fashion designer Paul Smith has long enthralled devotees with his colourful bespoke suits and expert tailoring. Brown’s Hotel, one of London’s best – pays its own homage with a new suite decked out in the colours, stripes and whimsical details that make the independent designer famous. The Mayfair hotel is just steps from Smith’s flagship store, and he helped plan the décor in collaboration with Rocco Forte Hotels’ director of design Olga Polizzi. The one-bedroom suite shows off not only Smith’s signature fabrics but also its sense of fun: pull on the banana door handle and guests step into a suite with floor-to-ceiling windows that overlooks Dover Street and Smith’s own 1970s leather office chair. Shelves of books and a wall covered in art and photographs all reflect his interests, not to mention blankets and cushions from the designer’s homeware collection. Look for the special “emergency kit” complete with a white T-shirt, socks and cuff links. The Paul Smith Suite starts at £5,500 and includes breakfast. roccofortehotels.com
Follow your nose
In the always interesting ways the travel industry uses and abuses the term “sommelier” (water sommelier, pillow sommelier, cigar sommelier, tea sommelier and so on) – the Swiss region of Graudaben has outdone itself. A recent release from the canton trumpets that the “world’s first Mountain Air Sommelier” is now ready for bookings. Visitors who sign up for olfactory outings in the Alps with Patrick Stebler, a perfumer from Chur, can choose from hay-filled hikes, herb journeys into the Safien Valley or foraging for cloves and larch wood in Vals. Many walks include some kind of meal or snack connected with the scent of the day. The alpine excursions run all summer long and end with chestnut season in early October. If nothing else, visitors can breathe easy while immersing themselves in mountain culture. graubuenden.ch/de/bergluft/tastings
Summer travel often means a return to the baggage carousel; after all, not everyone wants to cram an extended vacation into a carry-on. Rimowa’s latest colour release is called Petal and this delicate shade of pink may be just what you need to help your luggage stand out amongst the sea of black roller bags. It’s part of Rimowa’s Essential line, which ensures the entire piece is a monochromatic celebration of pastel pink – from handles to zippers to locks – in a rugged polycarbonate shell. The pricey bags do come with a lifetime guarantee but since not every customer wants to keep the same bag for a lifetime, Rimowa has come up with ReCrafted, a recycling program of sorts. ReCrafted promotes a more sustainable approach to those who covet the brand by celebrating the dings and scrapes luggage picks up on its travels. Owners of Rimowa’s classic aluminum-sided pieces who still decide to trade in their luggage for a store credit might see them in the airport again one day. Those old cases (which retail between €1,000 to €2,000 when new) are now being refurbished and resold at “a significant discount,” according to a company spokesperson, to those who don’t mind carrying a scraped-up statement bag. ReCrafted is currently available in the U.K., and a North American launch date has not yet been announced. Rimowa’s Essential Check-In, $1,375