Travel news: last month (March 2016) in luxury travel

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (April 1, 2016): March luxury travel news.

Every last Friday of the month, you can read my news round-up of what’s happening in the world of luxury travel. However, due to the Brussels terror attack and my thoughts on these horrific events last week, I postponed the March newsletter by one week. In this issue:

  • Hyatt launches a new luxury brand
  • The Grand Hyatt Rio De Janeiro debuts
  • The Langham Hotel Group expands its USA portfolio
  • Rosewood Papagayo in Costa Rica to open in 2019
  • Emirates reveils ‘new’ Business Class seat
  • The St Regis Langkawi is now open
  • Starwood Hotels announces groundbreaking expansion to Cuba
  • Malaysia Airlines launches new A330 Business Class seats
  • Brussels Airlines presents its unique Magritte aircraft
  • Hawaiian to complete first A330 cabin overhaul this spring

1. Hyatt launches a new luxury brand

The Hyatt Hotel Group announced the launch of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, a global collection of unique and independent stay experiences. The Unbound Collection by Hyatt will include a portfolio of new and existing luxury properties that will maintain a distinct character while providing guests and owners Hyatt’s award-winning customer loyalty program, robust operational and marketing resources and trusted, quality brand. The properties within The Unbound Collection by Hyatt – which will include historic urban gems, contemporary trend-setters, boutique hotels, resorts, and more – will have their own individual brand identities, free from constraint or convention. At the same time, the brand will provide guests the freedom from worry by giving them the high-quality that comes with the Hyatt brand. So far, the Unbound Collection by Hyatt comprises a few properties around the world, including The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas; The Hôtel du Louvre in Paris, France; the Carmelo Resort & Spa in Carmelo, Uruguay; the Coco Palms Resort in Kauai, Hawaii; and the Thompson Miami Beach hotel.


2. The Grand Hyatt Rio De Janeiro debuts

There is some more exciting news from Hyatt as it opened its Grand Hyatt Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The 436 room hotel combines the brand’s effortless luxury experience with a Brazilian design and hospitality in an urban resort setting. Guests can enjoy its prime beachfront location in the exclusive Barra da Tijuca neighborhood and access to world-class shopping, dining, cultural and outdoor activities. As the second Grand Hyatt hotel in Brazil, Grand Hyatt Rio de Janeiro is a significant addition to Hyatt’s existing portfolio in South America and the growing brand portfolio. The hotel is meticulously designed to exemplify the Grand Hyatt brand’s signature level of grandeur with an abundance of options for creating spectacular experiences. Every aspect of the hotel, from simple delights to elaborate gatherings, embodies the brand mantra of Living Grand, an expression of the ways in which Grand Hyatt hotels deliver extraordinary experiences and infuse care into every encounter.


3. The Langham Hotel Group expands its USA portfolio

Langham Hotels & Resorts, the marquee luxury brand of Hong Kong-based Langham Hospitality Group, will manage three new hotels in the continental United States: Langham Place, Wade Park in Frisco, Texas; Langham Place, San Francisco; The Langham, Bishop’s Lodge Santa Fe in New Mexico. “We have chosen three exciting destinations in the U.S. in which to expand the Langham Hotels and Resorts portfolio,” says Robert Warman, CEO of Langham Hospitality Group. “Thanks to our successful hotels in the U.S., as well as our celebrated locations in London, Sydney, Hong Kong and Shanghai, our brand awareness among luxury travelers has never been stronger.”. All three hotels will be part of the established Langham Hotels and Resorts brand, the luxury hotel tier of Langham Hospitality Group, representing two styles – The Langham, which represents classic elegance and traditional decor; and the more modern, contemporary Langham Place. All the hotels will offer five-star service and the brand identifiers with which Langham has become synonymous – destination restaurants and bars, full-service spas and luxurious accommodations. I have previously reviewed the superb Langham Place New York and Langham Chicago.


4. Rosewood Papagayo, Costa Rica to open in 2019

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts – one of my favorite luxury hotel brands – announced the Rosewood Papagayo, Costa Rica, which is scheduled to open in 2019.   This luxury retreat will be situated on the northwest coast of Costa Rica within the province of Guanacaste which is renowned for its tropical forests, diverse wildlife and picturesque beaches. Located just 20 minutes’ drive from Liberia International Airport, the resort will be nestled into the hillside which gently cascades down to a golden-sand beach and the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean. Guests will enjoy panoramic views over the surrounding jungle canopy and the Gulf of Papagayo. Situated within a forested setting, the resort will offer 130 guestrooms and suites in addition to 50 residences.  The accommodations are designed to make the most of the natural surroundings, with features such as open-air living rooms, large terraces and plunge pools. The resort will have direct beach access and two swimming pools in addition to a fitness center and the brand’s signature Sense, A Rosewood Spa.  Dining options will include a poolside bar and grill, a restaurant offering informal all-day dining, a bar and a speciality restaurant.  The resort will also offer a total of nearly 1,100 square meters of event space including a ballroom with a large outdoor terrace.


5. Emirates reveals ‘new’ Business Class product

Emirates‘ brand new Boeing 777 Business Class seat has been showcased for the very first time at ITB Berlin (Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin), the world’s largest tourism trade fair. In fact, it’s not that new at all, but rather an update of the existing seat design. The newly enhanced seat features additional amenities like a conveniently located mini-bar and the latest touchscreen controller, allowing the seat to be electrically converted into a comfortable, flat sleeping position. The fully-functioning seat also has one of the industry’s largest personal TV screens at 23 inches, offering high quality viewing experience with Emirates‘ award-winning ice inflight entertainment. Unfortunately, Emirates will retain its current seat layout of 2-3-2 across its Boeing 777 Business Class cabins (who wants to sit in the middle seat?). The new seat is set to make its commercial debut on Emirates’ 170th Boeing 777 aircraft, a -300ER version which the airline expects to receive in November 2016. I have previously published a trip report about my experience in Emirates B777 Business Class, which you read here.


6. The St Regis Langkawi is now open

Officially, it’s only opening on April 6th, but the resort has been accepting guests for a few weeks now. The St Regis Langkawi is situated in an idyllic cove in the south of Langkawi, the first five-star hotel to launch on the Malaysian island in almost a decade. With input from San Francisco-based architectural firm Gensler and Bangkok-based landscape architect Bill Bensley, the St Regis Langkawi Resort overlooks a private white-sand beach fringing the Andaman Sea. It features 85 suites, including 20 pool suites, and four overwater villas, each boasting a spectacular view of the Straits of Malacca. All guestroom feature the signature St. Regis Butler service with around-the-clock customised service, anticipating each guest’s every need. The hotel is close to Kuah town, Langkawi’s shopping and commercial centre, and is approximately a 20-minute drive from Langkawi International Airport. Resort amenities include a swimming pool, gym and function space, with access to expanded meeting facilities at the ultra-modern Langkawi International Convention Centre.


7. Starwood Hotels and Resorts announces groundbreaking expansion to Cuba

According to Reuters, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. signed three new hotel deals in Cuba last month, marking the first U.S. based hospitality company to enter the market in nearly 60 years. This announcement follows receipt of authorization from the U.S. Treasury Department for Starwood to operate hotels in Cuba. Long-time Havana icon, Hotel Inglaterra, will join The Luxury Collection and Hotel Quinta Avenida will become a Four Points by Sheraton. Both hotels will undergo renovations before raising their new brand flags later in 2016. The Company also announced that it has signed a Letter of Intent to convert the famed Hotel Santa Isabel into a member of The Luxury Collection. Thomas B. Mangas, Starwood’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Starwood’s history of creativity, innovation, sustainability and being a first mover is core to who we are and what has made us a formidable competitor in the industry with a long, global lead. I am proud of our team who worked tirelessly to make today possible. With Cuba’s rich history, natural beauty and strong culture, there is no question the entire U.S. hospitality industry has watched Cuba with great interest, and we are thrilled to lead the charge and bring our sophisticated, high-end brands into the market at this inflection point”.


8. Malaysia Airlines launches new A330 Business Class seats

Malaysia Airlines unveiled its first A330-300 aircraft fitted with the new Business Class seats. The Business Class seat pitch, which measures at 44 inches with a width of 20 inches and length of 76 inches (fully flat), is one of the best received business class seats in the industry. The seats come with increased working space with 90% of all seats having direct aisle access due to the 1-2-1 and 1-2-2 seat layout, with extra stowage space for personal items. Each seat is equipped with a 16-inch touch screen in-flight entertainment system. Every aspect of the new product has been carefully designed with the passenger’s comfort and needs in mind. The Business Class cabin refurbishment will be carried out in stages on all 15 of Malaysia Airlines’ A330 aircraft by September 2016. The new Business Class seats are available on Malaysia Airlines’ A330 flights between Kuala Lumpur and Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, China and India from March 2016 onwards. The newly configured A330 will have 27 all new Business Class seats and 263 Economy Class seats.

9. Brussels Airlines presents unique Magritte aircraft

Brussels Airlines presented its long-awaited Magritte aircraft, a flying piece of art, dedicated to the famous Belgian artist René Magritte. Following in the footsteps of Rackham, the Tintin aircraft that the Belgian airline unveiled last year, “Magritte” is the second aircraft in a series of Brussels Airlines planes with a special design, inspired by Belgian icons. The plane, an Airbus A320 baptized Magritte, is a 37m long flying piece of art that has come to life thanks to a close cooperation between Brussels Airlines and the Foundation Magritte, the organization that safeguards René Magritte’s oeuvre. On the outside, the design incorporates two of Magritte’s paintings, La Clairvoyance (1936) and Le Retour (1940). The cabin interior has undergone a surrealist makeover as well and features a flock of cloud-filled birds, taken from Le Retour (1940) and als the work La Belle-Société (1965-66), which features the famous man in the bowler hat. The design of the aircraft was created by three young Belgian designers, working in the Brussels Airlines marketing team. The painting of the aircraft was realized by airbrush artist Andre Eisele, who previously had also worked on Rackham. He had the challenging task to translate the Magritte design onto an aircraft fuselage. The entire paint job took place in the painting facilities of Eirtech in Ostrava, Czech Republic.

10. Hawaiian to complete first A330 cabin overhaul this spring

Hawaiian Airlines intends to complete its first Airbus A330 cabin overhaul this spring, with the entire fleet expected to be updated by mid-2017. Speaking with Flightglobal in Washington DC, Hawaiian chief executive Dunkerley revealed more details about the cabin overhaul effort, which will see the airline replace 18 traditional First Class seats on its A330s with lie-flat seats, and add 28 additional Premium Economy seats to the type. The first cabin retrofit will be complete before the summer, but during the summer Hawaiian will break from the project, Dunkerley says. That hiatus will enable Hawaiian to keep all its A330s in service during the busy summer travel season. Instead of buying off-the-shelf lie-flat seats, Hawaiian designed a new seat that has fewer physical barriers. “None of the seats out there in general production at the moment suited our needs,” says Dunkerley. “Almost all lie-flat seats are designed around the notion that people pay for seclusion.” By contrast, Hawaiian primarily caters to leisure travellers who do not like to be distanced from family, he says. The company hopes lie-flat seats will position Hawaiian to be more competitive on long-haul routes to Asia.


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