Today: April 2022 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 and aviation. In this issue:
- Thailand opens up to international travelers
- Six Senses will open the world’s first energy positive hotel in Norway
- Etihad Airways’ A350 aircraft (finally) enters service
- W Hotels unveils W Dubai – Mina Seyahi
- The Andaz brand debuts in Czech Republic with the opening of Andaz Prague
- Air Canada offers Porsche chauffeur service
- Onguma will open a new flagship lodge near Namibia’s Etosha National Park
- Ritz-Carlton Reserve joins Marriott’s loyalty program Marriott Bonvoy
- Hilton announces plans to open a Waldorf Astoria hotel in Sydney
- German leisure carrier Condor unveils a new striking aircraft livery
1. Thailand opens up to vaccinated travelers
From May 1st, Thailand will no longer require visitors to get tested before coming or upon arrival, regardless of their vaccination status. While fully vaccinated travelers will be able to come into the country and travel freely without any quarantine restrictions or mandatory hotel stays, the rules are different for unvaccinated travelers. Visitors who are not fully vaccinated and arrive without a negative COVID-19 test will be required to book a minimum 5-day stay in an approved hotel, quarantine, and get tested with a PCR test on day 5 of their trip. Alternatively, unvaccinated travelers may skip quarantine and travel freely throughout Thailand if they arrive in the country with a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of their trip. This is excellent news of course for travelers and many hotels have launched some great deals to celebrate the occasion. This includes Soneva Kiri, my favorite hotel in South East Asia, where I can arrange some VIP perks for you (best rate + resort credit + two complimentary experiences; contact me for more information).
2. Six Senses will open the world’s first energy positive hotel in Norway
With booming demand for adventurous and eco-conscious travel, northern Norway is one of the last frontiers for a self-sustainable, off-grid destination. The region will become the home of the 94-room luxurious Six Senses Svart, which will combine a futuristic design and technological innovation with earthy, organic materials that use the least embedded energy. To minimize the on-site impact, Six Senses Svart will be poised on poles above the crystal-clear waters of the Holandsfjorden fjord, at the base of the glacier itself. The hotel will be the first building to be designed and built after the highest energy-efficiency standard in the northern hemisphere. It will harvest enough solar energy to go back into the system, covering the hotel, adjacent operations, boat shuttle, and the energy needed to construct the building – rendering it independent from the power grid. The property will be managed by Six Senses, one of my favorite hotel brands in the world.
3. Etihad Airways’ A350 aircraft (finally) enters service
Early April, Etihad Airways unveiled its new Airbus A350-1000, registration A6-XWB, on a special inaugural commercial flight from Abu Dhabi to Paris. The aircraft is the first A350 to be operated by a UAE airline, and the first of five A350s set to join Etihad’s fleet over the coming months. The aircraft, named Sustainability50, carries a unique livery in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the federation of the UAE and Etihad’s commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. It will join the airline’s industry-leading sustainability drive as part of a program aimed at decarbonizing aviation. Formed as a partnership between Etihad, Airbus and Rolls Royce in 2021, the Sustainability50 program will see Etihad’s A350s used as flying testbeds of new initiatives, procedures and technologies to reduce carbon emissions, building on the learnings derived from Etihad’s similar Greenliner program for the Boeing B787 aircraft type. The airline’s new A350-1000s will be deployed on a number of short to mid-range routes in Q2, including Mumbai and Delhi, before being introduced on ultra-long-haul operations to Chicago and New York from July.
4. W Hotels unveils W Dubai – Mina Seyahi
Situated on the highly sought-after Jumeirah Beach coastline, the 31-story W Hotel – Mina Seyahi boasts striking glass architecture with unobstructed views of the sun-soaked Arabian Gulf and Dubai’s iconic landmarks. The property features 318 rooms including 27 suites – all sea-facing with a private balcony – where guests can take in Dubai’s vibrant sunsets over the Arabian Gulf, Palm Jumeirah Island and iconic landmarks such as the Ain Dubai. The indoor & outdoor hotel lobby (alias W Lounge) is alive with nightly DJ beats, offering a stage for local talent to spin a soundtrack for guests flowing in & out of spaces, meeting likeminded creatives & just being their authentic selves. The W brand’s signature take on the poolside scene – WET Deck – offers guests a fresh space to soak up the sun poolside or under the refreshing shade of a cabana while enjoying cocktails, bites and eclectic music.
5. The Andaz brand debuts in Czech Republic with the opening of Andaz Prague
The 176-room Andaz Prague is located on Senovážné Square, within the magnificent and historical ‘Sugar Palace’ that dates back to 1916, orginally built for the influential Sugar Industry Insurance Association. The building has since been carefully restored and preserved. 176 thoughtfully-designed rooms and suites capture and combine the city’s rich heritage with modern creativity to deliver a luxurious respite with breathtaking city views. The hotel serves modern Czech bistronomy at its ZEM Restaurant, which combines bistro dishes created with haute cuisine methods. Guests can enjoy a rejuvenating workout in the fitness center with state-of-the-art cardio equipment and free weights. The property also offers spa services by Klara Rott, the award-winning, world leader in natural organic skincare. Situated close to Wenceslas Square, the Old Town Square, and the historic Municipal house (Obecní Dum), some of the most renowned historic sites in Europe are within walking distance.
6. Air Canada offers Porsche chauffeur service
Air Canada has signed an agreement with Porsche to supply cars for its chauffeur service at Toronto Pearson airport. Eligible connecting International Signature Class (Business Class) passengers arriving from within Canada will be met by a Concierge before being whisked away on the tarmac in a Porsche vehicle to the distinctive Air Canada Signature Suite. The fleet of vehicles will be electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, including the Porsche Taycan, Panamera and Cayenne, supporting Air Canada’s commitment to reach a goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions throughout its global operations by 2050. With the restart of many international routes in response to pent-up demand following border measures being eased worldwide, Air Canada has welcomed back premium passengers to its exclusive Air Canada Signature Suite and its range of luxurious services, such as a menu curated by Chef David Hawksworth and exclusive wines selected by Véronique Rivest.
7. Onguma will open a new flagship lodge near Namibia’s Etosha National Park
Last year, I stayed at Onguma The Fort, one of the best lodges near Namibia’s famous Etosha National Park (read my review here). Onguma has now announced a new flagship lodge call “Onguma Camp Kala”, which will open on 1st November 2022 (and the renderings look quite spectacular). Elevated on wooden stilts, the lodge’s conical, mud plastered central tower will resemble a termite mound. The thatched camp will be centered around game viewing with numerous vantage points to take it all in – be it the comfortable lounge, the intimate cocktail bar or the beautiful deck, which is sunny by day and warmed by a fire pit at night. Camp Kala will consist of just four open-plan guest suites, linked by raised walkways . Each suite will have its own deck with fire pit, outdoor shower and wood-fired hot tub. Guests who want to relax will be able to while away the hours in comfort in the ground-level photographic hide, enjoy a massage in the treatment room or practice yoga on the yoga deck.
8. Ritz-Carlton Reserve joins Marriott’s loyalty program Marriott Bonvoy
Marriott’s loyalty program Marriott Bonvoy now includes the Ritz-Carlton Reserve brand. The move means Marriott Bonvoy members will now be able to earn and redeem across Ritz-Carlton Reserve properties worldwide. Marriott Bonvoy members will earn 10 points per US dollar spent at the properties, plus bonus points depending on their elite tier status. Redeeming stays at Ritz-Carlton Reserve properties will fall within the range of 80,000 to 240,000 points per night. Marriott says the rates reflect the “high level of service and unparalleled on-property offerings at Ritz-Carlton Reserve properties worldwide.” Members will be able to book cash and points rates subject to availability, and will also be able to get a free night on award stays of five nights or more. Currently Ritz-Carlton Reserve has five locations:
- Dorado Beach is a 115-room Ritz-Carlton Reserve property in Dorado, Puerto Rico
- Higashiyama is a 50-room room Ritz-Carlton Reserve property in Niseko, Japan
- Mandapa is a 60-room Ritz-Carlton Reserve property in Bali, Indonesia
- Phulay Bay is a 54-room Ritz-Carlton Reserve property in Krabi, Thailand
- Zadun is a 115-room Ritz-Carlton Reserve property in Los Cabos, Mexico
9. Hilton announces plans to open a Waldorf Astoria hotel in Sydney
Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, one of Hilton‘s iconic luxury hotel brands, announced its expansion into Australia with the signing of Waldorf Astoria Sydney. The hotel will be part of AW One Circular Quay’s mixed-use development, which is considered one of the few prime harborside sites in Sydney. Waldorf Astoria Sydney will offer unrivaled views of the city’s famous Harbour Bridge and Opera House, bringing Waldorf Astoria’s internationally acclaimed service to the heart of Australia’s eastern metropolis. Construction has commenced on the 28-floor, 220-key luxury hotel, which is expected to open in early 2025. Tokyo-based firm, Kengo Kuma & Associates, and Sydney-based Crone Architects, will oversee the architecture of Waldorf Astoria Sydney, whoch will feature 179 guest rooms and 41 suites. Staying true to Waldorf Astoria’s commitment to culinary expertise, the luxury hotel will celebrate Sydney’s gastronomic excellence with two original restaurant concepts, as well as a rooftop bar featuring uninterrupted views of the stunning Sydney Harbour.
10. German leisure carrier Condor unveils a new striking aircraft livery
Germany’s leisure airline Condor has unveiled a new brand identity, inspired by parasols, bath towels and beach chairs. “Condor has undergone a transformation over the past two and a half years: From a subsidiary of a vertically integrated travel group to an independent airline that looks back proudly on its history and tradition, while at the same time embarking on the path to the future. We want to express this unmistakably through our corporate identity: Condor is vacation and Condor is unmistakable – like our new design, with which we are now launching into the future,” says Ralf Teckentrup, CEO of Condor. The conception and creation of the new brand identity came about under the direction of Remo Masala, owner of the creative agency vision alphabet in Berlin. The stripes come in five colors – yellow, red, blue, green and beige – which the airline says “stand for the facets of the diversity of Condor’s guests, employees and the multitude of opportunities to discover the world with Condor”. The fuselage also features the carrier’s name in lower case, while the aircraft tailfin is painted with a refreshed version of the Condor signet.