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

Friday newsletters always feature luxury travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (June 30, 2017): July 2017 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. Six Senses plans to open its first resort in Switzerland
  2. Emirates introduces second daily flight to Brussels
  3. Hôtel De Crillon in Paris reopens as a Rosewood Hotel
  4. United Airlines introduces Boeing 777-300ER to additional routes
  5. USA’s controversial laptop ban officially comes to an end
  6. W Hotels opens its Shanghai property
  7. Wilderness Safaris opens Bisate Lodge in Rwanda
  8. Will the Air France and KLM merger come to an end?
  9. Norwegian to offer complimentary Wi-Fi on all routes
  10. Air New Zealand offers ‘A Fantastical Journey’ in latest safety video
  11. Alila Hotels will open its first USA property this fall

1. Six Senses plans to open its first resort in Switzerland

Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, one of my favorite luxury hotel brands in the world, announced its plans to open its first resort in Switzerland. Six Senses Crans-Montana will be located in one of the region’s most prominent ski areas, in the canton of Valais with Geneva only two hours away by car and train. Resort accommodations will include 47 guest rooms and suites, with 17 Six Senses residential units already available for purchase. Two restaurants are planned as well as a sun terrace and bar and retail space. Wellness offerings at the resort will include a 22,000 square foot (2,000 square meter) spa specializing in alpine treatments, gym and fitness studio, pool and suspended relaxation area. The spa will also include a dedicated area for children and teen treatments.  Consistent with Six Senses sustainability focus, recycled, local materials will be selected by the architect and design teams and repurposed materials will be used in the manufacture of finishes including flooring, millwork and fabrics. Energy and water conservation also plays a key role in the project’s design.


2. Emirates introduces second daily flight to Brussels

Emirates announced that it will introduce an additional daily flight to Brussels (my home airport), complementing Emirates’ existing schedule and providing a double-daily service to customers from 29 October 2017. Emirates is confident its analysis demonstrates that the high potential of the route more than justifies the addition of a second daily service between Dubai and Brussels, both to meet existing demand and to stimulate new growth. Inbound tourism is expected to receive a significant boost, the new flight creating an anticipated 50,000 more tourist arrivals and generating over USD 110 million of tourist revenues for the Belgium economy annually. The second daily flight, offering additional cargo capacity in the belly hold of the wide-body Boeing 777-300ER, will enhance trade links between Brussels and Dubai, transporting pharmaceuticals, perishables such as chocolates and automotive parts from Belgium to the U.A.E. and beyond. Flight EK182 will depart Brussels at 20:15 and arrive in Dubai at 05:55. The evening flight time out of Brussels makes Dubai itself an even more favourable option for a long weekend – the early morning arrival time allows Belgian travelers the whole day to kick start a holiday or short break in the U.A.E. I have previously reviewed the Emirates B777-300ER route between Brussels and Dubai here.

3. Hôtel De Crillon in Paris reopens as a Rosewood Hotel

Hôtel de Crillon reopened as a Rosewood Hotel after undergoing an extensive four-year restoration. Dating back to the 18th century, this historic treasure is decidedly reborn as a luxury hotel for 21st century travellers. Located in the heart of Paris at 10 Place de la Concorde, Hôtel de Crillon’s past provides a rich backdrop for its modern-day story. During the hotel’s closure, master craftsmen, artisans and designers worked tirelessly to strike a deliberate and delicate balance between conservation and transformation, and today the hotel emerges as an elegant expression of the spirit of Paris and a celebration of the French art de vivre. Hôtel de Crillon’s 78 rooms, 36 suites and 10 signature suites embody an expressly Parisian residential style that is equally warm and refined. The rooms and suites are elegantly decorated with bespoke furnishings, beautiful antiques and carefully chosen objets d’art. Karl Lagerfeld, renowned designer and a great 18th century admirer, has decorated two exceptional suites on Place de la Concorde and together called “Les Grands Appartements.”, which convey his personal vision of French chic and modernity. Hôtel de Crillon also features fine dining venues, a newly created swimming pool area, and a spa.


4. United Airlines introduces Boeing 777-300ER to additional routes

United Airlines announced additional Boeing 777-300ER service, the airline’s newest aircraft type featuring the all-new United Polaris business class seats, to its flight schedules. The airline expects to begin 777-300ER service on the following routes:

  • San Francisco (SFO) – Beijing (PEK) beginning September 6, 2017 westbound (September 8, 2017 eastbound)
  • San Francisco (SFO) – Frankfurt (FRA)** beginning October 5, 2017 eastbound (October 6, 2017 westbound)
  • New York/Newark (EWR) to Tokyo Narita (NRT) beginning October 28, 2017 westbound (October 29, 2017eastbound)

Boeing 777-300ER aircraft are already in service on United’s San Francisco – Hong Kong (HKG), San Francisco to Tokyo Narita, and New York/Newark – Tel Aviv (TLV) routes and will begin service from San Francisco to Taipei (TPE) on August 1. United expects to place into service all 14 aircraft in its first 777-300ER order in 2017. The airline recently announced an order for four additional 777-300ER aircraft. United’s 777-300ER aircraft offers a modern, spacious interior envisioned in partnership with design firm PriestmanGoode, including the airline’s all-new United Polaris business class seat. Each United Polaris suite-like pod features direct access to the aisle, a 180-degree flat-bed that measures 6’6” and 23 inches wide with infinite seat recline options and one-touch lumbar support, ample storage, multiple surfaces that enable passengers to dine while working, universal A/C power as well as 2-USB ports, a 16-inch high-definition entertainment screen, electronic privacy dividers for seats in the center of the cabin, mood lighting and an illuminated “Do Not Disturb” sign. Additionally, a marble-topped bar unit offers customers in business class a place to grab a mid-flight drink or snack. This new seat represents the latest in the continued roll-out of United Polaris, the airline’s most significant product transformation in more than a decade, featuring a reimagined, sleep-enhancing experience for intercontinental travelers.

5. USA’s controversial laptop ban officially comes to an end

According to the NY Times, passengers flying into the United States from airports in 10 Muslim-majority countries affected by the ban may now take their laptops and other large electronic devices into the cabin with them. Security officials imposed the ban in March, warning then that the Islamic State was developing bombs that could be hidden in portable electronic devices. But the airlines and airports affected by the ban have all complied with the initial phase of the new security standards, allowing the prohibition to be lifted. The ban on portable devices created a headache for carriers flying into the United States from the affected airports in Qatar, Egypt, U.A.E., Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Many airline passengers expect to use laptops and tablets as a matter of course, for both entertainment and to get work done. Analysts feared it would reduce the number of people visiting the United States. The commercial aviation industry expressed alarm after security officials said in May that they were considering expanding the ban to all flights to the United States from Europe, a huge market for both leisure and business travelers. Instead of carrying out that broader ban, new security standards for carriers flying into the United States were announced. The first phase of those new rules required airports with carriers flying to American destinations to quickly demonstrate that they had the ability to screen passengers for trace amounts of explosives. More than 280 airports – including those targeted by the original laptop ban – now complied with that rule.


6. W Hotels opens its Shanghai property

Hotels Worldwide, part of Marriott International, unveiled W Shanghai – The Bund, located in the heart of one of the world’s most energetic cities. Designed by the acclaimed G.A Design, the hotel showcases an exciting combination of historic and modern influences, such as Hai Pai – the art of combining the old and the new, East and West. This is evident in both the hotel’s location, perfectly positioned between the Suzhou Creek and the Huangpu River, as well as the surrounding locale, where Art Deco buildings sit alongside opulent Chinese mansions. W Shanghai – The Bund draws upon colonial gamour and futuristic motifs, with nearly all guestrooms featuring views of the Huangpu River due to the uniquely curved frame of the building’s edifice. The hotel features 374 stylish guestrooms and suites, each appointed with the signature W bed adorned with a cheeky pillow in the shape of Shanghai’s famous Xiaolongbao (soup) dumpling and chopsticks. The duplex Extreme WOW Suite (the brand’s take on the presidential suite) boasts more than 4,000 square feet of living space, along with a hanging neon installation in the shape of lips blowing out dragon smoke. W Shanghai – The Bund offers five intriguing places to socialize and dine as well as an AWAY Spa offering massages, body treatments, facials and quick fixes, all set to leave guests glowing.


7. Wilderness Safaris opens Bisate Lodge in Rwanda

Wilderness Safaris opened its Bisate Lodge, situated next to the renowned Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Comprising just six spacious forest villas, Bisate offers a luxurious base from which to enjoy an extraordinary gorilla conservation experience and life-changing journey to this beautiful region. Situated within the amphitheatre of an eroded volcanic cone, the 42-hectare Bisate site is incomparable in terms of its natural splendour, with sweeping views towards the Karisimbi, Bisoke and Mikeno volcanoes. It is close enough to Kinigi (the Volcanoes National Park Headquarters) to be convenient for guests’ morning gorilla treks, but far enough away so as to feel remote and even – as a result of the pioneering onsite indigenous reforestation project – part of the spectacular Park. Each spacious forest villa comprises a generous yet intimate combination of bedroom, reception area and bathroom, all warmed by a central fireplace and with breathtaking views out across a private deck towards Mount Bisoke. Bisate’s sophisticated architectural and interior design is rooted in Rwandan building tradition as exemplified in the design of the Royal Palace of the traditional monarch. This spherical, thatched structure echoes the thousands of hills that dot the Rwandan landscape, while the richly-detailed interiors exhibit surfaces and screens made from a variety of woven materials with strong resonance in Rwandan culture.


8. Will the Air France and KLM merger come to an end?

Although Air France merged with Dutch airline KLM 13 years ago, the relationship between the two carriers is still not harmonious. According to Business Traveller and Dutch public broadcaster NOS, the co-operation between these two airlines is so stiff that executives doubt the survival of the French-Dutch airline combination in today’s competitive market. To compile the report the Dutch and French researcher spoke with 50 managers at Air France and KLM. When interviewing Air France it’s reported that “The French have the impression that the Dutch think only of money and are always ready to fight for profit. They are not afraid of anything”. Conversely “The Dutch think that the French are attached to hierarchy and political interests which are not necessarily the same as the interests of the company”. All is not lost, however. It is noted that “there are plenty of employees with a positive attitude and that “there is still a desire to break free from stereotypes hindering the success of Air France and KLM”. In a statement, KLM said it takes the feelings of the workers “very seriously” and wants “to achieve improvements where necessary”. From the passenger’s viewpoint (once you leave aside Skyteam membership, FFPs, connectivity and so on) these could be two different airlines. For starters each carrier’s hub at Amsterdam and Paris CDG is different in concept, size and layout. And each carrier continues to operate with different onboard products. KLM remains a two-class airline. It scrapped first class many years ago and even today, it still has no proper premium economy cabin. By contrast Air France has a more upmarket image with its four classes product. It retains a highly respected first class on many routes and it provides a proper premium economy cabin. It also operates the A380 super jumbo.


9. Norwegian to offer complimentary Wi-Fi on all routes

You would normally associate free Wi-Fi on board with Premium cabins on legacy carriers, but all that is about to change. According to The Points GuyNorwegian (a low-cost carrier) will be the first to offer passengers complimentary Wi-Fi on its transatlantic routes. A Norwegian spokesperson confirmed that the carrier plans to offer free connection for all passengers, regardless of class of service, within one year on both its Boeing 787 Dreamliners and MAX 8 aircraft. Once Wi-Fi technology has been installed on its aircraft that are operating transatlantic routes, Norwegian will be the first low-cost carrier to offer this perk for free on long-haul routes. Other carriers, such as legacy US carriers, British Airways and more offer Wi-Fi, but at a cost to the passenger. The implementation of the complimentary connection would be huge for Norwegian in helping to separate its in-flight experience from that of the competition. What makes this decision particularly interesting is that because Norwegian is a low-cost carrier, travelers are required to pay for essentially everything else. Unlike its legacy counterparts, Norwegian flyers must pay for baggage, meals on board and seat selection. So, giving something such as Wi-Fi for free to passengers is a bit unexpected – let alone being the only low-cost carrier to offer it on its long-haul routes. Norwegian already offers passengers free Wi-Fi on most of its flights within Europe and on its flights between the US and Caribbean.


10. Air New Zealand offers ‘A Fantastical Journey’ in latest safety video

The video is an Alice in Wonderland inspired adventure featuring a number of iconic locations throughout New Zealand including the Southern Alps, Otago – including Dunedin and the Moeraki Boulders, the Conway River in Canterbury, Wellington, Mt Taranaki, Waitomo Caves, Rotorua, Cathedral Cove in the Coromandel, Tolaga Bay north of Gisborne, White Island and the Auckland Harbour Bridge. New Zealand singer and songwriter Gin Wigmore has also recorded her own unique version of the song ‘My Little Corner of the World’ as the backing track for A Fantastical Journey. Katie Holmes says it’s been fun working alongside Cuba Gooding Jr. and the Air New Zealand crew to produce A Fantastical Journey: “I was really excited to be a part of this project – the safety video is creative, magical and funny. The scenery is also beautiful and makes me want to get down to New Zealand”. Cuba Gooding Jr. says he wanted to get involved in Air New Zealand’s latest safety video as he does a lot of travelling and loves the fun and different approach:”They make you laugh, smile and pay a little bit more attention. I’ve also enjoyed working with Katie Holmes and Kiwi artist Gin Wigmore – her voice is enchanting and soothing, exactly what you need for safety video”. Air New Zealand’s safety videos have collectively generated more than 108 million views online to date along with significant international media exposure including the likes of CNN, BBC and the Daily Mail.

11. Alila Hotels will open its first USA property this fall

When the Ventana Inn reopens this fall, the Big Sur hotel will be Alila Hotels‘ first U.S. property, according to Travel Weekly. The hotel closed in February after heavy rain caused a mudslide that dislodged one of the support columns of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge on Highway 1. The bridge was condemned and torn down in March. Caltrans, California’s transportation department, anticipates the replacement bridge will be completed in September. The hotel, expected to reopen after the bridge opens, will be renamed Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort. When the hotel closed, it was part of Joie de Vivre Hotels. Two Roads Hospitality owns both the Alila and Joie de Vivre brands. Singapore-based Alila has 14 hotels and resorts in Asia, including eight in Indonesia. Two Roads acquired the luxury boutique brand in 2014. “As a brand that is long synonymous with opening resorts in spectacular, bucket-list destinations, it couldn’t be more fitting that Alila’s U.S. debut will be along the iconic Big Sur coastline,” said Two Roads Hospitality CEO Jamie Sabatier. Before reopening, the Ventana Big Sur will undergo a multimillion-dollar renovation that calls for a rejuvenation of its 59 guestrooms, the addition of an infinity-edge hot tub, an outdoor event space called Ocean Meadow Lawn, and a redone and renamed restaurant — the Sur House. The Social House will be a space for guests to connect and socialize. The hotel will continue to have Japanese-style hot baths and luxury camping tents. The “glamping” area will have a new name, Redwood Canyon Glampsites.


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