Today (September 29, 2017): September 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:
- Four Seasons to open its first hotel in Greece
- Air France launches a new airline for millennials
- Rosewood to open a second hotel in London
- British Airways launches new Indian Ocean route
- The Ritz-Carlton unveils a tropical paradise in Malaysia
- The Ritz-Carlton brings its legendary luxury to Switzerland
- Cathay Pacific to launch non-stop services to Brussels, Dublin and Copenhagen
- St. Regis Hotels debuts in Kazakhstan’s glittering capital
- Qantas and Emirates extend their partnership
- Hurricanes Irma And Maria destroy Caribbean luxury resorts: an update
1. Four Seasons to open its first hotel in Greece
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts announced plans to bring the first Four Seasons property to Greece on the Astir Palace peninsula. Following extensive upgrades of the Astir Palace hotel, the new hotel will debut as Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens in spring 2018. Conveniently located 25 kilometres (16 miles) south of Athens along a pristine shoreline of the Aegean coast, the new hotel will bring Four Seasons’ signature service to Greece for the first time. The iconic Astir Palace has long been favoured by elite international and Greek clientele and stretches across 30 hectares (75 acres) of pine-dotted and scenic landscaped gardens. In preparation for the property’s rebirth as the new Four Seasons Astir Palace Hotel Athens, more than EUR 100 million is being invested into refurbishing its facilities. Features will include approximately 300 rooms, suites and luxury bungalows; spa and recreational facilities; state of art conference and event spaces; infinity pools; beaches; a unique beachfront promenade; and more. With interiors designed by Meyer Davis Studio, the concept draws heavily on inspiration from the beauty of the surrounding environment and local culture, embodying a contemporary yet timeless luxury design ethos with unique attention to detail, and establishes a connection to the property’s history. Select food and beverage outlets, conceived by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio, will introduce new culinary dining concepts of local and international cuisines.
2. Air France launches new airlines for millennials
Air France has revealed the name and branding for its new medium-haul airline: Joon. In its press release, Air France says that Joon has been “designed to meet the expectations of a new generation of travellers and is especially aimed at a young working clientele, the millennials (18 to 35 year-olds), whose lifestyles revolve around digital technology”. The press release also proclaims that “Joon is … a fashion brand, a rooftop bar, an entertainment channel, a personal assistant … and Joon does flying too!” Moreover, Joon “will be one of Air France’s priorities in its offensive to win back market share”. To do all this, the 140 Joon flight attendants and qualified pilots from Air France will provide Joon’s customers with a new generation travel experience to six destinations: Barcelona, Berlin, Lisbon, Porto, Fortaleza (Brazil) and – my favorite – the Seychelles. Flights will depart from Paris’ Charles De Gaulle airport and be operated by a combination of Airbus A320/A321 and Airbus A340/A350 aircraft. Air France says Joon will be a lifestyle brand but also a “state of mind”. Its visual identity will be based on an electric blue colour code symbolizing the airline’s dynamic attitude, as well as the sky, space and travel. With its chic sportswear look, the uniform of Joon’s 140 flight attendants will reflect the spirit of the company and be made up of classic and modern garments, with slimline trousers, sneakers, redesigned sailor stripes and a sleeveless quilted jacket. Air France is keen to emphasise that Joon will not be a low-cost airline “as it will offer original products and services that reflect those of Air France”, including the possibility of earning and using Flying Blue Miles.
3. Rosewood to open a second hotel in London
Rosewood Hotels & Resorts annouced that it will open a new, ultra-luxury hotel located on picturesque Grosvenor Square in London’s prestigious Mayfair district. Set to be housed in the iconic building which currently serves as the U.S. Embassy, the hotel will be the second Rosewood property in London (I review the first Rosewood hotel in London here) and will open as the sixth property in Europe. The announcement comes on the heels of Rosewood’s successful reopening of Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel in Paris. “We are thrilled to embark on this exciting new venture, which will bring new life to this iconic building. The prestigious Mayfair neighborhood embodies elegance, culture, and sophistication, making it the ideal location for Rosewood’s second property in London,” says Sonia Cheng, chief executive officer of Rosewood Hotel Group. The property will offer 137 spacious guestrooms and suites, as well as a variety of dining and entertainment spaces, including five gourmet restaurants. The property will also feature a signature spa, which will provide guests with a luxurious retreat from the bustling streets of London, as well as six flagship retail spaces and a grand ballroom with space for up to 1,000 guests. Esteemed British architect, Sir David Chipperfield, has been selected to oversee the design process, which will reimagine the mid-20th century listed building through elegant interior upgrades while still maintaining the integrity of the property through the preservation of the building’s original, Grade II listed façade.
4. British Airways launches new Indian Ocean route
Sun seekers wanting to discover paradise next year will now have even more choice as British Airways launches direct flights to one of the world’s most desirable and stunningly beautiful holiday destinations. From March 24 2018 customers will be able to fly direct from Heathrow Terminal 5 to the Seychelles, making British Airways the only airline offering a non-stop service from the UK. Scattered across the Indian Ocean and famed as some of the most idyllic islands on the planet, flights will take to the skies twice-a-week from March to October and will be operated by the airline’s newest fleet of aircraft, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. The Seychelles offers honeymooners, families and sun worshippers world-famous beaches, crystal clear waters, easy island hopping and colourful coral reefs. With flights taking off on Wednesdays and Saturdays, the route timetable is perfectly positioned for honeymooners and holidaymakers keen to immerse themselves in island-life for longer and book 10 night trips and extend their break. Sean Doyle, British Airways’ director of network and alliances, said: “The Seychelles is one of the most beautiful places on earth and we’re delighted to be adding this collection of islands to our extensive route network. Customers can now get into ‘holiday mode’ even earlier with British Airways’ direct flights from London taking 10 hours, instead of over 13 hours with a connection in the Middle East. As one of the leading luxury holiday destinations, the Seychelles offers customers a wide range of accommodation and activities in stunning natural surroundings”. Return fares start from £699 in World Traveller, £999 in World Traveller Plus, £2499 in Club World and from £3499 for First, and are available to book now on ba.com. You can read here (or watch below) my Business Class trip report onboard a British Airways B787 Dreamliner.
5. The Ritz-Carlton unveils a tropical paradise in Malaysia
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company announced the debut of The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi. Set in a tranquil private bay, the resort is surrounded by an ancient jungle, while its beachfront is shelter by trees and gently lapped by the Andaman Sea. Reflecting the beauty and vibrancy of the nearby traditional villages – which are known as Kampongs – The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi incorporates influences from local culture, creating a uniquely luxurious retreat with an authentic touch. Designed by Philippe Villeroux of Kuala Lumpur-based Tropical Area Architects, the resort has been carefully created to fully immerse travelers in the island’s natural ecosystem and local culture. Spacious interiors in the 70 guest rooms, 15 suites and 29 villas are framed by delicate references to Malay architecture, which can be seen in the intricately-designed features, large windows and gabled roofs. The rooms vertical lines fully integrate the living spaces into the surrounding jungle, while elegant overwater villas offer panoramic views of the sea, complete with magnificent Langkawi sunsets. Intended to allow guests to soak up the island’s rich culture and beauty from their first moment, the resort’s Walkway of Wishes entrance offers a warm welcome with a water fountain inspired by the island’s mystical granter of wishes, Tasik Dayang Bunting, ‘The Lake of Pregnant Maiden.’ Each guest will be invited to write their wishes on a flat stone, which is then placed into the water in hopes that it will come true, as the first of many special memories to be created during their stay. The resort is also home to a world-class spa and four distinct dining venues, each overlooking the glistening Andaman Sea offering striking views from sunrise to sunset. From the blend of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine in Langkawi Kitchen, to western favorites in the Beach Grill, and Chinese seafood in Hai Yan, there are options to delight the palates of all.
6. The Ritz-Carlton brings its legendary luxury to Switzerland
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, together with the Manz family, announced the completion of the renovation of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel de la Paix, Geneva, the legendary luxury hotel brand’s debut in Switzerland. Formerly known as Hotel de la Paix, Geneva, the 152-year-old hotel underwent a multi-million dollar renovation, extensive re-design and refurbishment, marking a new era in the evolving story of one of Geneva’s most elegant and historic hotels. Positioned on the shore of Lake Geneva, with exceptional views of the city’s famous Jet d’Eau and Mont Blanc as a timeless backdrop, Hotel de la Paix has defined luxury in Geneva since its inception in 1865. It has also stood at the crossroads of history, inspiring many memorable gatherings including the International Congress of Peace, and has welcomed high-profile guests from across the globe, such as the Monaco Royal Family and notable American actor Orson Welles. The Ritz-Carlton Hotel de la Paix, Geneva has been thoughtfully renovated to seamlessly blend modern design, functionality and the hotel’s heritage. The newly restored public areas reflect a design concept created around art, time and nature, representing the hotel’s lakeside setting and the city of Geneva. In the hallways of the hotel’s atrium, guests will find an exhibition of tapestries that feature historical figures who played a role in attaining peace, from Giuseppe Garibaldi to Victor Hugo. Its 74 guestrooms, including 14 elegant suites, have been re-styled with a sleek and modern design. Floor-to-ceiling windows fill each room with natural light and are further enhanced by stunning views across Mont Blanc Square, Lake Geneva and the Jet d’Eau. The Grace Kelly Suite, named after the Princess of Monaco who was a regular guest at the hotel, is the hotel’s Presidential Suite, offering sophisticated art deco design and gold leaf gilding, creating an elegant sanctuary.
7. Cathay Pacific to launch services to Brussels, Dublin and Copenhagen
Cathay Pacific continues to grow Hong Kong’s connections to the world. From summer 2018, the airline will launch pioneering non-stop routes linking Hong Kong with Brussels (my home airport), Dublin and Copenhagen, further strengthening the airline’s network and providing new trade and tourism opportunities between Asia and Europe. Cathay Pacific Chief Executive Officer Rupert Hogg said that the announced services will meet customer demand for non-stop travel to these vibrant cities, while at the same time providing Europe-based passengers with more convenient access to key destinations in Asia and Southwest Pacific through the airline’s home in Hong Kong. “We’re excited to offer the only direct flights between Hong Kong and Brussels, Dublin and Copenhagen. These are all fantastic destinations and attract business and leisure travellers from the world over. We listened to our customers’ demands for more options and greater flexibility and have responded by building direct air links with these great cities,” said Mr Hogg. “Growing our reach to new destinations that aren’t served from Hong Kong boosts the city’s status as Asia’s largest international hub and enables us to capture new and important sources of revenue.” Following the recent launch of services to Gatwick, Madrid and Barcelona, Cathay Pacific’s European expansion continues. With the commencement of the new routes, the airline’s network will cover 15 European destinations served direct from Hong Kong. The three new routes will be operated by Cathay Pacific’s state-of-the-art Airbus A350-900 aircraft, which feature the latest seats and cabin design and which have been especially well-received by the airline’s customers. All flights to Brussels, Dublin and Copenhagen are equipped with the aircraft’s enhanced inflight entertainment system and Wi-Fi on board. You can read here (or watch below) my Business Class trip report onboard a Cathay Pacific Airbus A350 from Hong Kong to Düsseldorf (a route that will be axed next year).
8. St. Regis Hotels debuts in Kazakhstan’s glittering capital
St. Regis Hotels & Resorts announced the opening of The St. Regis Astana, marking the debut of the brand in Kazakhstan. Created by award-winning WATG and Wimberly Interiors, the hotel’s design takes inspiration from the horsemanship and nomadic culture of Kazakhstan, providing guests with a link to the country’s ancient past. A vision of contemporary living, guests are greeted by a courtyard layout inspired by that of an indigenous yurt. The avant-garde interior combines modern and neo-classical elements with over 400 pieces of contemporary art created by both local and international artists. Catching the eye of visitors, a captivating hallmark mural found in The St. Regis Bar depicts the golden Samruk, a Phoenix-like bird, which is an important part of Kazakh mythology. The hotel boasts 120 luxuriously appointed guestrooms, including 23 suites with private Juliette terraces presenting unforgettable views of the Astana Park and Ishim River. The St. Regis Astana features two distinct dining venues including The Grill, a contemporary fine dining experience with a personalized table-side presentation serving Astana’s best cuts of meats, fish and vegetables, grilled to perfection. La Rivière, the city’s renowned restaurant, has found a new home at The St. Regis Astana, offering a wide selection of the finest cuisine and wine in the city. The St. Regis brand’s signature Iridium Spa is located on the hotel’s 3rd floor and enables guests to indulge in a range of decadent and specialty treatments in a tranquil environment.
9. Qantas and Emirates extend their partnership
Qantas and Emirates have extended their cornerstone partnership for another five years, making changes to reflect customer demand, new aircraft technology and each airline’s respective network strengths. The key change will see the airlines better leveraging each other’s networks, by providing three options to Europe – via Dubai, Perth and Singapore. Qantas will re-route its daily Sydney-London A380 service via Singapore rather than Dubai and upgrade its existing daily Melbourne-Singapore flight from an A330 to an A380. The existing Melbourne-Dubai-London service will be replaced with its Dreamliner service flying Melbourne-Perth-London. Customer demand for flights between Australia and Dubai will remain well served by the 77 weekly services that Emirates operates from five cities – Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney – including seven daily A380 flights. Qantas passengers will still be able to fly on Emirates to Dubai, where they have access to over 60 onward connections on Emirates to Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said the changes represent an evolution of the partnership to deliver additional benefits for customers, including the millions of frequent flyer members of both airlines. “Our partnership has evolved to a point where Qantas no longer needs to fly its own aircraft through Dubai, and that means we can redirect some of our A380 flying into Singapore and meet the strong demand we’re seeing in Asia. Improvements in aircraft technology mean the Qantas network will eventually feature a handful of direct routes between Australia and Europe, but this will never overtake the sheer number of destinations served by Emirates and that’s why Dubai will remain an important hub for our customers”. You can read here (or watch below) my First Class trip report onboard a Qantas Airbus A380 from Dubai to London, a route that will soon be history.
10. Hurricanes Irma And Maria destroy Caribbean luxury resorts
Category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria have caused apocalyptic destruction on the Caribbean islands of Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin, Anguilla, the Virgin Islands, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti and Puerto Rico. These extremely powerful hurricanes rank among the strongest ever observed in the Atlantic Ocean in terms of maximum sustained winds and struck the Caribbean region within a time span of only two weeks. During their journeys across the Northeastern Caribbean, both hurricanes have left a trail of catastrophic damage, with many people being killed and some communities being entirely wiped out (such as Vieques Island near Puerto Rico and Barbuda near Antigua). While it cannot compare to the loss of human life and household, many travelers are concerned about their future holiday plans and what damage the hurricanes have caused at their hotels. Several sources are providing daily information and updates regarding the damage of resorts and expected reopening dates, such as the Caribbean Hotel and Tourist Association and Forbes magazine. Here are some updates – as provided by Forbes magazine – for the Caribean most luxurious hotels:
- Belmond Cap Juluca (Anguilla): as closed for the season and had no major structural damage. The resort was already in the process of a remodel and will not open until November 2018.
- Four Seasons Resort and Residences Anguilla: Experienced major damage to the resort and Barry Sternlicht, the CEO of Starwood Capital Group says “The property was ripped apart and it looks like a nuclear bomb went off. Over $20 million in damage”.
- Necker Island (Virgin Islands): Richard Branson’s home and hotel property suffered severe structural damage.
- The St. Regis Bahia Beach Resort (Puerto Rico): received exterior damage and flooding and is assessing new opening date.
- Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve (Puerto Rico): received major damage and is not taking new reservations for an unspecified amount of time.
- The Eden Rock Hotel (St Barth): received heavy structural damage and flooding and are in the process of cleanup and rebuilding. Will not open for visitors until the end of 2018.
- Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France (St Barth): was closed for renovation and received extensive exterior damage. Not re-opening until 2018.
- Amanera (Dominican Republic): hotel had already closed for maintenance until November ahead of the storm. Experienced minor damage and is structurally intact. Will open as planned.
- Amanyara (Turks & Caicos): hotel had already closed for maintenance until November ahead of the storm. Experienced minor damage and is structurally intact. Will open as planned.
- COMO Parrot Cay (Turks & Caicos): experienced minor damages, mostly exterior (landscaping). The resort was already closed, until November, for renovations so no guests were on the property during Irma. Property in the process of clean up.
- Belmond La Samanna (St Martin): badly damaged. According to the resort “based on our assessment at this time, we do not anticipate opening until at least April 2018”.
Sir Richard Branson, who lost his house in hurricane Irma, has the following message for you: