Travel news: this month (June 2017) in luxury travel

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (June 30, 2017): June 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. In this issue:

  1. Mandarin Oriental announces its first Australia property
  2. Israel’s carrier EL AL reveals new B787 cabin interiors
  3. Raffles will open its first London hotel in a historic building
  4. Etihad Airways cancels its complimentary chauffeur service
  5. Rosewood will manage an ultraluxe hotel in Vienna
  6. Belmond acquires iconic Caribbean hotel, Cap Juluca Anguilla
  7. The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express train is getting even more opulent
  8. The Ritz-Carlton takes to the sea with its own super-de-luxe yachts
  9. Airbus presents an enhanced version of the A380, the ‘A380plus’
  10. Virgin Holidays announces the world’s first airport lounge on a beach
  11. The Toronto Trump hotel drops the USA’s president’s name

1. Mandarin Oriental announces its first Australia property

Mandarin Oriental announced its first property in Australia, to be developed in Melbourne and expected to open in 2023. The hotel and residences will be located on Collins Street, in an iconic, mixed-use 185 m (610 ft) tower which will play a part in the ongoing regeneration of the city’s Central Business District. The building’s innovative and distinctive design, created by the late award-winning architect, Dame Zaha Hadid, will become a landmark in the city. The Mandarin Oriental Melbourne will feature 196 spacious, contemporary guestrooms and suites designed to reflect local culture, together with features inspired by Mandarin Oriental’s oriental heritage. The hotel will feature an all-day dining restaurant and a bar with a landscaped roof terrace. A spa will offer the hotel group’s well known wellness, relaxation and beauty facilities, while further leisure options include a comprehensive fitness centre and an indoor swimming pool.


2. El Al reveals new B787 cabin interiors

Over the last 18 months, Israel’s national airline EL AL has worked closely with London-based PriestmanGoode on a complete programme that includes an update of the airline’s original livery, new brand identity for each class and new aircraft cabin interiors encompassing Business Class, Premium Economy – which is new to the airline – Economy Class, as well as entrance areas and galleys. The new designs will be rolled out across the airline’s new fleet of Boeing Dreamliner aircraft. Gonen Usishkin, VP of Commercial affairs at EL AL says: “The new cabins aren’t just a sophisticated representation of Israel that will appeal both to domestic and international passengers, they have also created a cabin our crew can be proud of, and which allows them to better serve our passengers.” Features of the Business Class cabin include 32 fully flat-bed seats, all offering aisle access. In a world first, the airline has opted for Recaro’s CL6710 seat (a seat design by Acumen and Recaro’s design in-house teams).

3. Raffles to open its first London hotel in historic Old War Office building

Raffles Hotels & Resorts, the top luxury brand of AccorHotels Group, announced that it will transform the iconic Old War Office building in Whitehall into the most unique hotel and deluxe residences in London. The Old War Office, with its 1100 rooms across seven floors, and two miles of corridors, was the office to many of the United Kingdom’s most important and influential political and military leaders of the twentieth century, notably Sir Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Lord Kitchener, Herbert Asquith and T.E. Lawrence. It was also the haunt of the British Secret Service who had their own, more discreet entrance. Close to 10 Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, the Raffles London will include 125 rooms (of which 40% will be suites), 88 private residences, restaurants and other amenities. Completion is expected in just over three years.


4. Etihad Airways cancels its complimentary chauffeur service

Etihad Airways, which is my favorite First Class product in the world has announced its latest service cut under an increasing amount of financial pressure. The airline is to amend its chauffeur policy following a review of usage by premium guests across all major markets. The complimentary chauffeur service will be retained at Etihad Airways’ Abu Dhabi hub and replaced with a paid option at specially negotiated rates in all other cities. The changes will be implemented from 3 July 2017. Guests travelling in The Residence onboard the flagship Airbus A380 fleet will continue to receive complimentary chauffeur services at all A380 destinations – Abu Dhabi, London, Paris, Sydney and New York. First and Business Class tickets issued prior to 3 July 2017 will not be affected by these changes and will receive complimentary chauffeur service across destinations where the service is currently offered. As part of the initiative to improve the value proposition for travelers, the airline will also extend the paid airport transfer option to all guests across all cabins and allow Etihad Guest members to accrue miles on their chauffeur bookings.

5. Rosewood will manage an ultraluxe hotel in Vienna 

Rosewood Hotels & Resorts will open a hotel in the Austrian capital of Vienna in 2021, the brand’s fifth property in Europe. Housed in an historic 18th century building which was the former headquarters for Erste Group Bank AG, Rosewood Vienna will be ideally situated on Petersplatz, one of the most famous squares in Vienna’s Old Town. Located just steps away from the city’s most luxurious shopping and dining and its most famous historical sites, Rosewood Vienna will serve as an unsurpassed gateway to one of Europe’s most charming destinations and combine the best of European architecture and design with a refined yet modern style. The hotel will offer 99 spacious guestrooms and suites, all of which will feature separate spaces for entertainment and relaxation. The contemporary accommodations will merge the past and present through a thoughtful combination of elegant textural and artistic elements and the latest technological features. The property will feature a variety of dining and entertainment options, including a rooftop bar with exceptional views of the city and an intimate restaurant in a garden setting serving European cuisine and carefully crafted beverages appealing to guests and locals alike.


6. Belmond acquires iconic Caribbean property, Cap Juluca Anguilla

Belmond is enhancing its unique blend of iconic hotels, trains and cruises; offering luxury travellers an exceptional range of experiences across the world, from outbound adventures to once in a life time journeys and the ultimate choice in chic, beach hideaways. The addition of the elegant, 96-room Cap Julaca resort marks an important milestone in the strategic development of the Belmond brand, which is committed to doubling the size of its portfolio by 2020.  Set on one of the Caribbean’s most beautiful beaches, overlooking the aquamarine waters of Maundays Bay, the unspoilt setting of Cap Juluca encourages guests to unwind to the slow rhythm of Caribbean island life. The multiple award-winning property features Greco-Moorish architecture spread over two crescent-shaped coves with ocean view suites and villas that offer secluded privacy set within lush tropical gardens. Belmond will carry out a top to toe renovation and develop a further 25 new beachfront villas or suites, bringing the resort’s total inventory to 121 rooms. The renovation – expected to complete by the end of 2018 – will be respectful of the surroundings, maintaining the authentic charm of the iconic resort.


7. The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express is getting even more luxurious

There is some more exciting news from Belmond. According to CNN, Belmond has revealed the design of three new Grand Suites to be added in 2018 to its iconic Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, the luxurious European sleeper train that’s known for its romantic old-world charm and fleet of vintage carriages from the 1920s and ’30s. Each of the suites will have a double/twin bedroom, a living area – which includes a dining area and a sofa that can be converted into an additional bed – as well as an en suite bathroom with shower, washbasin and toilet. Like the rest of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, the interior designs of the new rooms will stay true to the train’s opulent historical style. Inspired by and named after three of the destinations the train covers –Venice, Paris and Istanbul – the carriages will be furnished individually, from Italian Baroque-style silk and glass lamps in the Venice suite to hand-carved timber and lavish metal details in the Istanbul suite. Other exclusive perks for guests of the Grand Suites include a dedicated steward, bespoke amenities, complimentary caviar on arrival and free flow champagne during the journey.


8. The Ritz-Carlton takes to the sea with its own super-de-luxe yachts

The Ritz-Carlton hotel group, part of the Marriott imperium, announced its entry into luxury yachting and cruises, bringing the award-winning luxury hotel brand’s service and timeless style to sea. The first of three lavish cruising yachts in this series is scheduled to take to sea in the fourth quarter of 2019, and distinguishes Marriott International as the only provider of luxury accommodations both on land and at sea. Each custom-built yacht will offer an intimate journey with space for only 298 guests. Accommodations will include 149 suites, each with its own balcony, and several luxurious duplex penthouses. The modern craftsmanship and interior finishes will be jointly designed by The Ritz-Carlton and leading cruise ship design firm, Tillberg Design of Sweden. Throughout the journey, guests will indulge in a cruising style that is unparalleled in the ultra-luxury cruise and private yachting sectors. The Ritz-Carlton yachts will feature a restaurant by Sven Elverfeld of Aqua, the three Michelin-starred restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Wolfsburg; a signature Ritz-Carlton Spa; and a Panorama Lounge and wine bar, offering a wide variety of on-board entertainment. Additionally, the yacht will offer one-of-a-kind curated destination journeys through collaborations with local chefs, musicians and artists, allowing guests to experience the locations in unique and experiential ways, both onboard and ashore. Voyages will range from 7 to 10 days and include overnight and daytime ports of call.


9. Airbus presents an enhanced version of the A380, the ‘A380plus’

Airbus has presented its plans for an enhanced A380 aircraft, the “A380plus”. The study includes aerodynamic improvements in particular new, large winglets and other wing refinements that allow for up to 4% fuel burn savings. Added to an optimised A380 maintenance programme and enhanced cabin features, the overall benefit is a 13% cost per seat reduction versus today’s A380. John Leahy, Airbus COO Customers, explains: “The A380plus is an efficient way to offer even better economics and improved operational performance at the same time”. John adds: “It is a new step for our iconic aircraft to best serve worldwide fast-growing traffic and the evolving needs of the A380 customers. The A380 is well-proven as the solution to increasing congestion at large airports, and in offering a unique, passenger-preferred experience”.  The optimised cabin layout allows up to 80 additional seats, with no compromise on comfort: redesigned stairs, a combined crew-rest compartment, sidewall stowage removal, a new 9-abreast seat configuration in premium economy and 11-abreast in economy. With all A380 cabin enablers, the A380 average seat count would move from 497 to 575 in four classes, and generate significantly more revenue for airlines. The A380plus will also feature longer maintenance check intervals, a reduced six-year check downtime, and systems improvements, which will reduce maintenance costs and increase aircraft availability.

10. Virgin Holidays announces the world’s first airport lounge on a beach

According to the Manchester Evening News, Virgin Holidays has plans for an innovative ‘Departure Beach‘ lounge so travelers can enjoy every last minute of their holiday. The facility, in Barbados , will include a private air-conditioned lounge, premium bathroom and showering facilities, bar and restaurant and a Virgin Atlantic check-in, all on the beach.  Until now, hanging around at the airport on departure day has felt like the inevitable price for going on an exotic holiday – particularly as the majority of accommodation and cruise-ships in Barbados require customers to check out before midday. With many flights not returning until late in the evening it led to a ‘lost day’ of holiday with travellers killing time rather than taking a dip in the Caribbean Sea, topping up the tan to impress workmates, or sipping rum punch under the Bajan sky. The Departure Beach is the first of its kind and can be booked by travelers at any time before they depart. Guests will be picked up from their hotel after breakfast, while their luggage is taken straight to the airport. They can check-in on the beach, pick up their boarding pass, indulge in food, take a dip in the ocean and relax on the beach until it’s time to transfer to the airport.


11. The Toronto Trump hotel drops the USA’s president’s name

According to The Globe and Mail, the Trump International Hotel and Tower in downtown Toronto will soon lose theUSA President’s name, as the luxury property is rebranded only five years after opening its doors. The owner of the Trump Hotel, JCF Capital ULC, announced a deal on Tuesday to buy out the Trump Organization’s management contracts for an undisclosed amount. The deal closes a chapter in the troubled story of Toronto’s Trump Hotel. The 65-storey hotel and condo in the heart of Canada’s financial district has been plagued with problems, starting with slow construction, a delayed opening, financial woes, investor lawsuits and bad press. And that was before Donald Trump became U.S. President and anti-Trump protesters started demonstrating outside some of his hotel sites. Conceived when Toronto had only a few luxury hotels, the Trump-branded hotel was supposed to be a sure thing. But by the time it opened in 2012, it would face increased competition from other high-end hotels, such as Ritz-Carlton, Shangri-La and Four Seasons. Mr. Trump never owned the hotel, but he licensed his name and managed the property through his family’s company Trump Hotels, which is now being run by his two eldest sons. Marriott’s St. Regis hotel chain is expected to take over the property’s brand and management.


*** Follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook for a daily moment of travel inspiration ***



  1. Any thoughts on how long the A380 will be around? It’s such a huge plane, I wonder if it really delivers on cost per mile per passenger compared with other but smaller long haul planes such as the 777 and the 787. Thanks for your amazingly informative newsletters and videos!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.