Today (February 23, 2018): February 2018 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:
- Singita will open a lodge in Rwanda
- Qatar Airways takes delivery of the world’s first Airbus A350-1000
- Four Seasons will manage a luxury hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam
- Meridiana is relaunched as Air Italy
- Botswana’s most exclusive safari camp (Mombo) re-opens
- Airbus A321 takes first transatlantic flight
- Lufthansa presents a new brand design
- South African Airways introduces new Business Class on London route
- Six Senses Kaplankaya is set to reopen after rebranding
- Rosewood Phnom Penh (Cambodia) is now open
- Mandarin Oriental annouces a new project in Viña del Mar, Chile
1. Singita will open a lodge in Rwanda
Singita – one of Africa’s most exclusive safari lodge operators – will open Kwitonda Lodge in late 2019 in Rwanda, an extraordinarily beautiful, small country where more than one third of the world’s remaining mountain gorillas live in the high-altitude cloud forests of Volcanoes National Park. Besides gorillas and golden monkeys, there is much to see and explore, from the Afro montane forests of Nyungwe National Park and primordial Lake Kivu to the vibrant and sophisticated capital city, Kigali. Singita Kwitonda Lodge will be located on a breathtaking, isolated but contained 178-acre piece of land right on the edge of Volcanoes National Park. The presence of the lodge on the park border will help to improve the function of the buffer area between agricultural plots and the habitat of the estimated 320 mountain gorillas that find sanctuary here. Set within a landscape of wetlands and lush meadows, there will be eight suites and a four-bedroom villa linked by volcanic rock pathways to a central lodge. Singita Kwitonda will be built to embody the spirit of Rwanda and offer a tribute to the lodge’s namesake – Kwitonda – a great silverback gorilla whose legend lives on in Rwanda and was known for his humility and gentleness.
2. Qatar Airways takes delivery of the world’s first Airbus A350-1000
This week, Qatar Airways celebrated the delivery of the world’s first Airbus A350-1000 before an audience of international media at the Airbus Delivery Centre in Toulouse, France. It is the first Airbus aircraft to be fitted with Qatar Airways’ revolutionary Qsuite Business Class seat. Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency Mr. Akbar Al Baker, said: “Qatar Airways always demands the very best for its customers, so it is right that we are the first airline in the world to take delivery of the very first Airbus A350-1000. This remarkable state-of-the-art aircraft will be the first of 42 to be flown on our expanding global route network. It will become a firm part of the Qatar Airways fleet, making us the biggest operator in the world of this aircraft type and maintain our status as flying one of the youngest fleets in the sky, with an average age of just five years.” As the global launch customer, Qatar Airways will be the first airline to fly the A350-1000, which will go into service on the Doha-London route this month. The airline was also the global launch customer for the A350-900 in 2014, and now operates 21 in its fleet. Compared to the A350-900, the A350-1000 features 44 extra seats, with a two-class cabin of 46 award-winning Qsuite Business Class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, featuring 80-inch fully flat beds and 22-inch HD in-flight entertainment screens. Economy Class will contain 281 seats, each 18-inches wide in a 3-3-3 configuration, with up to a 32-inch pitch.
3. Four Seasons will open a luxury hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam
Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, one of the world’s leading luxury hospitality company, will open a new hotel – known as the Four Seasons Hotel Hanoi at Hoan Kiem Lake – in the heart of Vietnam’s capital city. The new hotel will offer views of Hoan Kiem Lake and the bustling streets leading to the Old and French Quarters, and be located a short walk or scooter ride from many museums and galleries, shopping, and the city’s vibrant culinary scene. “Hanoi is an incredible city, with a great deal to offer international and local travellers, and we look forward to expanding in the region with first-time partners BRG Group on this exciting project. This is a fantastic opportunity to offer travellers a Four Seasons experience in Hanoi, with partners who are truly passionate about the future of this city, and this hotel in particular,” says J. Allen Smith, President and CEO of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. Designed by international award-winning firms WATG Architects and SRSS Interior Design Studio, Four Seasons Hotel Hanoi at Hoan Kiem Lake will draw from the French Colonial inspirations that are characteristic of Hanoi and include 95 rooms and suites as well as a spa and fitness centre, pools, and event and meeting spaces. Joining the dynamic culinary landscape in the city, Wimberly Interiors, experts in cosmopolitan design, will develop the dining and lounge offerings, including an all-day restaurant, lounge and rooftop bar. Four Seasons Hotel Hanoi at Hoan Kiem Lake will be the company’s second location in Vietnam, joining Four Seasons Resort The Nam Hai, Hoi An (which I reviewed here).
4. Meridiana is relaunched as Air Italy
Meridiana, Italy’s long established privately owned airline, has announced a new phase of growth and development with its new identity as Air Italy. Qatar Airways previously strengthened its commitment to Italy in 2017 with the acquisition of 49 per cent of AQA Holding, the new parent company of Air Italy, while the previous sole shareholder Alisarda kept 51 per cent. Air Italy aims to have approximately 50 aircraft by 2022 and is already committed to receiving 20 of the brand new Boeing 737-Max aircraft type from April 2018, over the next three years. Air Italy will also receive five Airbus A330-200 aircraft this year from the Qatar Airways’ fleet, prior to these being further replaced by Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft, commencing May 2019. Network destinations will also enjoy continued expansion, with new long-range routes from Milan to New York and Miami already announced recently, that will soon be followed by new short-haul routes connecting Milan and the airline’s long range destinations to Rome, Naples, Palermo, Catania and Lamezia Terme. Further plans also include strengthening the short-range network to improve connectivity and launching the first long-range destination from Rome Fiumicino in 2019. Air Italy aims to fly more than 50 year-round routes and reach a goal of transporting 10 million passengers per year by 2022.
5. Botswana’s most exclusive safari camp (Mombo) re-opens
Wilderness Safaris announced the official opening of its newly-rebuilt flagship camps, Mombo and Little Mombo, situated in the heart of the Okavango Delta, Botswana. Whilst comprising the most appropriate and sustainable luxury required of such a leading destination, the new camps are rooted in an authentic bush-camp offering to ensure that the original Mombo experience is retained. “In short, the new Mombo is a show stopper”, commented lead interior designer, Caline Williams-Wynn. “As the Rolls Royce of the Delta, we have combined traditional and vintage elements with a modern elegance that truly embraces the real essence of Mombo. We have used deconstructed furniture in classic styles, antique brass finishings, vintage leathers, copper lighting and copper-cladded fire places combined with marble and natural oak floors”. The nine large tented suites (including a family room) are elevated above the ground, so that those views out towards the floodplain can be enjoyed from the veranda and pergola, to say nothing of the pool deck with its private plunge pool. Inside, a sitting room, separate bedroom and bathroom, indoor and outdoor showers and a bathtub with copper and brass finishings all contribute to the Wilderness ideal of responsible luxury. World-renowned as “the Place of Plenty”, Mombo’s location on Chief’s Island within the Moremi Game Reserve attracts an enormous number and variety of animals, which makes it a hugely sought-after destination.
6. Airbus A321 takes first transatlantic flight
The best-selling A320 Family marked a new milestone this month with the first Paris-to-New York nonstop flight flown by the A321LR – demonstrating this jetliner version’s ability to serve new markets and operate on heavily-travelled North Atlantic routes with the highest levels of efficiency and comfort. The LR designation is for ‘long range’ and with good reason: the A321LR has the longest range of any single-aisle commercial aircraft today, able to fly 7,400 km (4,600 mi) nonstop. Its ‘long legs’ are signified by the No. 1 A321LR’s livery featuring the Eiffel Tower and Statue of Liberty – a representation of the Paris/New York route flown this week from Le Bourget Airport near the French capital to the New York region’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The aircraft also is well suited for intra-regional airline segments in Asia, the United States and other markets. The A321LR’s unrivalled efficiency – driven by aerodynamic improvements and state-of-the-art efficient turbofan jet engines – has established its popularity among airlines, with Airbus already notching more than 100 orders for the aircraft; the first customer delivery is expected in late 2018. The A321LR is the next evolutionary step of Airbus’ twin-engine A321neo that has captured more than an 80 percent share in its middle-of-the-market category. Airbus expects the A321LR to continue this trend, as it offers a thoroughly modern replacement for the large number of ageing narrowbody and widebody aircraft facing retirement in the coming years.
7. Lufthansa presents a new brand design
Lufthansa revealed its new, modernized brand image to customers and employees at two major events at the Frankfurt and Munich hubs on Wednesday, the 7th of February. The most visible change is the new aircraft livery. In front of more than 3,000 guests in Frankfurt and Munich, Lufthansa officially presented a Boeing 747-8 and an Airbus A321 with the new design. In the previous week, individual details created interactive discussions, especially on social media. The response to the new appearance was predominantly positive, although some people missed the traditional yellow tone; nevertheless, it will receive a specific function to serve as a means of orientation and differentiation. The crane, designed exactly 100 years ago by graphic artist Otto Firle, a distinctive icon in the sky, remains the airline’s iconic symbol. In the future, it will be slimmer and fit for the digital world. A thinner ring makes the crane look more elegant, bringing it into the foreground and granting it more space. All in all, the trademark will gain lightness and elegance. The familiar blue-yellow color combination of Lufthansa will also be retained – but the use of these primary colors will be redefined. The blue specially developed for Lufthansa is somewhat darker, more elegant and is becoming the leading brand color. It stands for reliability, clarity and value. In the cabin, guests will encounter the modernized design within the crew’s uniform in the form of new – and often yellow – accessories. On-board articles such as tableware, amenity kits, blankets or pillowcases will carry the new design in future. Around 160 million items will be exchanged over the next two years.
8. South African Airways introduces new Business Class on London route
South African Airways (SAA) has announced plans to introduce the new A330-300 on the Johannesburg London route from March 2018. The airline has also decided to adjust frequencies on the route to a single daily service. “We have decided to focus on those areas of our business that will enhance our efficiencies, bring more value to our customers and produce improved overall performance of the airline. Network optimisation is one such area that can contribute towards containing our costs and we introduced some initiatives that must yield dividends to return the business to commercial sustainability in the shortest time possible,” said SAA CEO, Vuyani Jarana. “We have also decided to upgrade the service operating between Johannesburg and London Heathrow to the new Airbus A330-300 with effect from Sunday, 25 March 2018. With effect from 20 April 2018, SAA will operate a single daily flight from Johannesburg to London Heathrow replacing the double daily service operating on the route currently.” Business Class on the new A330s is set to make customers between London and Johannesburg feel at home in their very own ‘living space’. Seating in Business Class cabins is in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration, offering all customers a forward facing, lie-flat seat, increased privacy and direct access to the aisle. To give customers the best possible viewing experience, each seat is fitted with its own high-tech, 15” easy-to-use touchscreen.
9. Six Senses Kaplankaya set to reopen after rebranding
Six Senses Kaplankaya, which joined Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas on May 1, 2017, opens its doors for the new season on May 1, 2018. The transformation will bring the property in line with Six Senses design, sustainability and wellness standards to create a unique guest experience that addresses all the senses to achieve balance and well-being. The magic touch comes from Clodagh Design, the New York based multi-discipline design house. The firm originally attracted Six Senses with its eco-conscious spirit and project portfolio, and is also behind the award-winning renovation of Six Senses Douro Valley in Portugal. Located across the bay from Bodrum, the vision for Six Senses Kaplankaya is to offer a pioneering approach to wellness while preserving the natural surroundings steeped in history and culture. Seamlessly bridging old and new, the resort combines contemporary architecture and high tech comforts for its 141 guestrooms, six suites, 66 Ridge Villas and residences. The resort is carved into giant rock formations with green roofed buildings layered down towards the coastline to offer everyone a view across the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea. For a resort that will provide guests and residents a truly integrative approach to optimal wellness, it is no surprise that Six Senses Spa Kaplankaya is an expansive 107,640-square feet (10,000-square meters).
10. Rosewood Phnom Penh (Cambodia) is now open
Rosewood Phnom Penh is nestled in the iconic 39-story Vattanac Capital Tower prominently located in the central cultural and business district along Preah Monivong Boulevard. At 188 m (618 ft) high, atop the tallest building in the Cambodian capital, the hotel boasts breathtaking views of the city and offers leisure and business travelers to the city a stately vantage point to witness the revival of what is considered one of the most charming capitals in Southeast Asia. Designed by Melbourne’s BAR Studio, with two restaurants created by Tokyo-based Bond Design Studio, the interior of the ultra-luxury hotel aims to capture the essence of the country with a blend of Khmer architectural aspects, the country’s French colonial heritage and Cambodian craft techniques, all embraced by a subtle classic-meets-contemporary style. The hotel’s residential-style guestrooms are among the largest in Phnom Penh, with a total of 175 rooms including 37 suites. Their design includes large, round, window-facing tables that double as dining or work spaces, inviting guests to soak in vistas of the city skyline and tranquil Tonle Sap and Mekong Rivers. Guestrooms at Rosewood Phnom Penh start from a spacious 50-square-meter Executive Room to the signature Norodom House at 225 square meters. Guests can maintain their healthy regime by taking advantage of the fitness center, which features an array of cardiovascular, strengthening and weight training equipment.
11. Mandarin Oriental annouces a new project in Viña del Mar, Chile
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has announced that it will manage a new urban resort that is currently under development in Viña del Mar, Chile. The property will be a natural partner to Hotel Santiago, which the Group manages and will rebrand as Mandarin Oriental, Santiago following the first phase completion of a renovation later in 2018. Mandarin Oriental, Viña del Mar is scheduled to open in 2020 with 195 guestrooms and suites. The property will have a prime oceanfront position with direct beach access and proximity to the city’s main shopping destination. Facilities at the hotel will include an all-day dining venue and bar, as well as a range of flexible meeting facilities, ideal for social and business events. There will also be a boutique Spa at Mandarin Oriental, a fitness centre, a large indoor swimming pool and a dedicated children’s swimming pool. James Riley, Group Chief Executive of Mandarin Oriental said, “We look forward to further extending our brand into South America and to introducing Mandarin Oriental’s renowned standards of luxury to Viña del Mar. This resort will provide a complementary experience for guests at our Santiago hotel.” Located on central Chile’s Pacific coast, Viña del Mar is within the Valparaiso region, known for its historic quarter and as an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Often referred to as the ‘Garden City’, and visited for its parks, beaches, entertainment venues and close proximity to the Casablanca Valley vineyards, Viña del Mar has long been a popular weekend destination from Santiago.