Global Traveler: Tell us about the Audi test drive program at North American hotels.
Johan de Nysschen: Overseas, Audi is a very successful, well-known and highly-regarded luxury brand. The company had placed emphasis in Europe, and Audi has become the fastest-growing brand in volume in the premium segment. Recently, Audi has turned to Asia and North America to stimulate interest and growth in its product. In the United States, the Audi brand is not as familiar as it is in Europe. One strategy we employ to raise awareness of our brand is to partner with luxury hotels in the United States that have similar core values and appeal to discerning customers.
We have a particular set of criteria that hotels have to meet — not every 5-star hotel qualifies — and the number of cars located at each hotel differs. Many of the hotels package the use of an Audi vehicle as an amenity with their VIP suites during the period of the guest’s stay. This puts our vehicles in the hands of discriminating customers so they can experience our cars firsthand in a leisurely setting. We know from feedback from our hotel partners and customers alike that this program is translating into sales. The Lodge at Torrey Pines, Hotel Bel-Air and the Wynn Las Vegas are some of the properties that have the Audi test drive program.
GT: Since the readers of Global Traveler are frequent international travelers, please elaborate on Audi’s overseas delivery program.
JDN: Audi sells 50,000 vehicles a year through our customer delivery program in Germany, with most of the customers originating from Germany and Europe. In 2006, Audi made it possible for U.S. customers to plan a European vacation around their pick-up of an Audi. The process is quite special and includes VIP pick-up at your gateway in Germany and a factory tour. The entire process is very personal and special from arrival until departure. Custom-made interiors are available to make your car unique; we have had very favorable feedback. For the convenience of the traveler, there are drop-off points throughout Europe and then the car is delivered through our North American Audi network. So far this year we have delivered 200 cars to buyers from the United States and we have more than 300 on the books.
GT: What changes are in store for Audi’s larger upscale vehicles?
JDN: Both the A6 and the A8 are successful vehicles. The A6 is its segment leader worldwide as far as sales are concerned. The A8 has been Audi’s flagship since the mid 1990s, not only in size but also technology, craftsmanship, and performance. In addition to the 100-percent aluminum body shell in its second generation, the interior is second to none and an overall benchmark among its German and Japanese luxury competitors. In fall 2007, we made subtle changes such as grillwork, taillights, materials and richness of the interiors and technological advances such as iPod connections, and we now offer added value options such as blind spot detection (Audi side assist) and lane departure warnings (Audi lane assist). Audi is always looking at the fuel efficiency of the engines and overall performance, which has become our trademark. We offer normal wheelbase models with eight and 10 cylinders (S8), and long wheelbase versions in eight- and 12-cylinder models. And don’t forget quattro allwheel drive, which has been standard equipment on the Audi A8 for close to two decades.
Once you’ve boarded Regent’s Seven Seas Grandeur, it is immediately apparent this recently launched cruise ship delivers what the name promises. Jewel box opulence dominates in most of the public areas, while quiet luxury teamed with clever function defines the cabins (save for the individually decorated top-tier suites). The ship, designed by internationally acclaimed Studio DADO and constructed by Ancona, Italy, ship builder Fincantieri, holds up to 746 guests and is serviced by a staff of 548 for optimal passenger-to-staff service.
Whether it's the people, the craic (fun) or the coasts, travelers always find something to love about the island of Ireland. What fills your heart?
The St. Regis San Francisco recently debuted a Lunar New Year-themed The Art of Tea to celebrate the Year of the Dragon. Available for only a few more days, through Feb. 25, the afternoon menu boasts Asian-inspired sweet and savory items, a selection of tea and a complimentary welcome toast with Champgane Lallier R.018.
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After a stressful pre-holiday season and a busy work schedule, there was no better time for a relaxing spa experience than during my recent trip to Pasadena with the FXExpress Publications, Inc. team. We headed to The Langham Huntington, Pasadena for the 20th anniversary of the GT Tested Reader Survey awards, which meant a jam-packed trip, but I managed to carve a little time out of our busy schedule to visit Chuan Spa at the hotel.
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Keep New Year’s resolutions going with a stay at The Westin Tempe. The hotel recently launched a wellness stay offer in partnership with Lululemon. The limited-time Lululemon In-Room Fitness Experience includes accommodations in a guestroom equipped with a Lululemon-branded yoga mat and yoga block.