Today (May 29, 2015): May luxury travel news.
Every last Friday of the month, you can read a news round-up of what’s happening in the world of luxury travel. In this issue:
- Airline promotion of the month: British Airways’ Business and First Class sale.
- Germanwings rebrands as Eurowings this fall.
- The world’s largest hotel is coming to Mecca.
- St Regis Hotels & Resorts will open a property in Langkawi this fall.
- Finnair Airbus A350 tickets are now on sale.
- Starwood sells The Gritti Palace, Venice, for €105 million.
- Luxury Link has ceased operations.
- Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts will open a second property in Dubai.
- Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas is ‘unlikely’ to open this year.
- Manhattan’s trendiest property, the New York EDITION hotel, is now open.
1. AIRLINE OFFER OF THE MONTH: BRITISH AIRWAYS BUSINESS & FIRST CLASS SALE
British Airways has launched a new Luxury World Sale focussing on Club Europe, Club World and First, so now is your time to experience British Airways’ award-winning service and fully flat beds. You can take advantage of the offers which include travel for summer holidays, Christmas, New Year and beyond to 2016. Deals must be booked by 9th June, and all travel must originate in the USA or UK. To know what’s it like to fly Business Class aboard a British Airways plane, click here (Airbus A380) or here (Boeing 747) to read our trip reports.
- For travel originating in the USA, click here to access the sale
- For travel originating in the UK, click here to access the sale.
2. GERMANWINGS REBRANDING AS EUROWINGS THIS FALL
As reported in Business Traveller, the Germanwings brand will cease to exist from this autumn. The Lufthansa short-haul subsidiary will take on the new branding of Eurowings. Lufthansa had been planning to abolish the Germanwings name at some stage in the future, even before the recent disaster in the French Alps. Having two separate short-haul budget carriers, Germanwings and Eurowings, did not make sense. For the past few weeks and months, Lufthansa has been busy changing flight codes so that by November the 4U code used by Germanwings will switch to Eurowings’ EW code. In the case of flights between the UK and Germany, this has already happened. Germanwings serves Lufthansa’s non-core destinations. So when you request a flight, say, from London to Dusseldorf or London to Hamburg in the month of October, you’ll be presented with a 4U code. Book the same flight in November and you’ll find the code has been switched to EW. Eurowings fares are expected to be roughly similar to those of Germanwings. But, in any case, the Lufthansa group carriers in Europe will also change their tariff structures in the autumn when they begin to charge ancillary fees.
3. WORLD’S LARGEST HOTEL COMING TO MECCA
According to CNN, Abraj Kudai is set to become the world’s largest hotel by room count when it opens in 2017. The mammoth resort will be located at the Manafia area in Makkah’s central zone, only 2.2 km south of the Holy Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It will have 10,000 rooms and 70 restaurants, plus helipads, a bus station, a shopping mall, and a full-size convention center. Designed by architectural firm Dar Al-Handasah, the $3.5 billion site is currently under construction and will stretch across 1.4 million square meters. A ring of 12 towers will rise from a podium and five floors will be strictly off-limits to guests and reserved entirely for the Saudi royal family. Irfan Al-Alawi, director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, told The Guardian that the hotel was proof the city was “turning into Mecca-hattan”, and lamented the little heritage left in Saudi Arabia’s holy cities. Currently, Las Vegas is home to the world’s largest hotel in terms of the number of guest rooms, with the he MGM Grand holding a record 6,198 rooms.
4. ST REGIS HOTELS & RESORTS IS TO OPEN A PROPERTY IN LANGKAWI THIS FALL
St Regis Hotels & Resorts is set to open The St. Regis Langkawi, Malaysia, in November 2015. As reported by Breaking Travel News the hotel will be situated within an idyllic cove with 85 well-appointed suites and 3 water villas, each boasting a spectacular view of the Straits of Malacca. Each guestroom will also feature the signature St. Regis Butler Service with around-the-clock customised service, anticipating each guest’s every need. The hotel will be close to Kuah town, Langkawi’s shopping and commercial centre, and is approximately a 20-minute drive from Langkawi International Airport. “St. Regis is a game-changer to Langkawi’s luxury tourism offerings,” said Stephen Ho, president, Asia Pacific, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. Resort amenities will include a swimming pool, gym and function space, with access to expanded meeting facilities at the ultra-modern Langkawi International Convention Centre. We previously reviewed 2 other luxury properties in Langkawi, the Four Seasons Resort and the The Datai.
5. FINNAIR AIRBUS A350 TICKETS NOW ON SALE
Finnair has announced their A350 is ready for booking. It’s the first European airline to put the world’s most modern aircraft into service. Shanghai will be served with daily A350 service starting Oct. 25, with Beijing following Nov. 21. To Bangkok, Finnair will begin mixing in A350 service with its existing A330 service starting Feb. 1. Similarly, Finnair will begin mixing the A350 into its existing Singapore service starting May 5. Prior to those long-haul flights, Finnair will fly its A350 on “crew familiarization flights” throughout Europe during October (Brussels, Hamburg, London, Stockholm and Vienna). “Our A350 investment program is the largest in the company’s 92-year history, and these aircraft will form the backbone of our long-haul operations for years to come while also playing an essential role in our sustainable, long-term profitability”, says Finnair CEO Pekka Vauramo. The future fleet of 19 aircraft will be delivered in stages, with 4 being delivered this year, 7 the following year and the remaining 8 between 2018 and 2023. Finnair’s Airbus A350 impressive interiors are designed by Finnish design house dSign Vertti Kivi & Co.
6. STARWOODS SELLS THE GRITTI PALACE, VENICE, FOR €105 MILLION
Starwood Hotels & Resorts announced that it sold The Gritti Palace, Venice to Nozul Hotels & Resorts, the owner of W Doha Hotel, and a wholly owned subsidiary of ‘Jaidah Holdings’ for €105 million (approximately $117 million USD). According to Hotel News Resource, Starwood will continue to operate the hotel under The Luxury Collection brand flag under a new long-term management agreement. Adam Aron, CEO of Starwood on an interim basis, commented: “As we said on our quarterly earning’s conference call on April 29th, Starwood reaffirmed our confidence that, as part of our asset light strategy, we would complete $800 million in hotel dispositions in the balance of 2015, while maintaining these hotels’ continued participation in the Starwood system. The sale of The Gritti Palace is an important and positive step toward achieving our 2015 target”. Built in 1525 as the private residence of Doge Andrea Gritti, The Gritti Palace has built a reputation as one of the world’s most iconic and luxurious hotels. Many of the property’s 82 rooms (including 21 suites) offer breathtaking views of the Grand Canal and Santa Maria della Salute. You can read our review here.
7. LUXURY LINK CEASED OPERATIONS
As reported by several travel resources such as Flyertalk and Forbes, Luxury Link, an online travel website specializing in selling discounts at luxury hotels and resorts has ceased operations and entered into a General Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors, following which all of its assets will be sold. Unfortunately, many travelers are affected by this event since Luxury Link is not longer able to honor the travel they had booked through it. Luxury Link made a statement that affected travelers should contact their credit card issuer for their options regarding any charges to their credit card and/or contact the destination property directly to see what arrangement they can make with it. As Luxury Link is no longer operating, it is also unable to assist anyone in rearranging their travel plans or obtain a refund. I actually loved to book holidays through Luxury Link. There were numerous deals I got in on that offered a much better value than what I could get through any other channel, For example, they used to have some tremendous deals (more than 50% discount) to One&Only Reethi Rah in the Maldives, Banyan Tree Mayakoba in Mexico, and Soneva Kiri in Thailand, which made a stay at these super-expensive properties affordable. Too bad they are gone now.
8. FOUR SEASONS TO OPEN A SECOND PROPERTY IN DUBAI
Within months of the successful opening of its first hotel in Dubai on Jumeirah Beach Road, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts announces the development of a second, complementary location in the heart of the city’s International Financial Centre. The Four Seasons Hotel Dubai International Financial Centre, expected to open in 2016, is conceived as a sophisticated oasis where international business travellers in particular will find their every need anticipated. The new Four Season’s 106 rooms will be characterised by impeccable craftsmanship, bespoke details and high-tech efficiency. With Dubai now the world’s number one air travel hub, a 24-hour restaurant is one of many thoughtful features and amenities designed for the international business traveller. A lobby level tea lounge and terrace will provide a relaxed setting for casual meetings or shopping breaks, while the 8th floor sky bar and cigar room on the mezzanine will be the perfect places for after work cocktails with breathtaking views of the Burj Khalifa. An intimate spa and fitness centre will offer a haven of relaxation and rejuvenation, and a rooftop garden will feature an above-ground glassed-in pool surrounded by private cabanas as well as a juice bar.
9. BAHA MAR RESORT IN THE BAHAMAS ‘UNLIKELY’ TO OPEN THIS YEAR
Baha Mar is a new luxury development on the idyllic Bahamas, that is slated to include the 1,000-room Baha Mar Casino & Hotel, the 707-room Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar, the 300-room SLS Lux at Baha Mar and the 200-room Rosewood at Baha Mar. However, the project is plagued by massive construction delays because of a standoff between the resort and its construction company. As a consequence, many travel plans have been interrupted, For example, Tribune 242 is reporting that a bride and groom who were scheduled to have their wedding in June at the SLS at Baha Mar are now unable to get a refund nor answers to their many questions from SLS and Baha Mar. They are also trying to wrangle refunds for 100 of their guests, who had booked hotel rooms and flights to The Bahamas. And the troubles seem far from over. According to Travel Weekly, Baha Mar executives and the mega-resort’s contractor are trying to reach a deal to finish Baha Mar before the end of the year, but they are unlikely to meet that deadline since Baha Mar does “not have the cash to finish the project or pay the contractor”. The project’s fifth hotel and lone pre-existing property, the Melia Nassau Beach, remains open as it completes its renovations and conversion to the Melia at Baha Mar early next year.
10. THE NEW YORK EDITION HOTEL IS NOW OPEN FOR BUSINESS
Four Magazine reports that the long-awaited New York EDITION hotel has finally opened its doors, celebrating its inauguration with a series of fabulous events including a launch party in partnership with the launch of W Magazine Art Issue. The mastermind behind the transformation of New York landmark the MetLife clocktower, Ian Schrager, has proved yet again why he is the pioneer of the boutique hotel concept. The New York EDITION has breathed new life into the southeast corner of the Madison Square Park area, known as the NoMad neighbourhood, with the introduction of the exceptional high-end hotel. The former Metropolitan Life 700-foot office tower at Madison Avenue and East 24th Street used to be the world’s tallest building for a few years in the early 20th century. The complete remodeling of the building has converted the space from an office block into a 50 floor, 273 bedroomed boutique hotel with panoramic views of the city. The hotel features all the signature elements of the EDITION brand: comfort, extraordinary style that mixes modern décor with classic furnishings such as Louis XV mirrors and Ruhlmann game tables, and most importantly, exceptional service.
Enjoy the weekend and stay tuned for Monday when we reveal a new top 10 travel list.