Σάββατο, 30 Μαΐου 2015

The legendary Orient-Express embarks on a new journey to Berlin

orient express luxury
The legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express embarks on a new journey to Berlin taking guests on a fascinating journey through time. In the tradition of the first pioneering days of rail travel, this new route links three historic European cities, London, Paris and Berlin.
The inaugural departure leaves from London to Berlin via Paris on Thursday 2 June 2016.
Travelling in the original art-deco carriages of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, evokes the glamour of the roaring 1920s when Berlin was a post-war metropolis with a flourishing arts and cabaret scene. Today, Berlin is a monument to living history as well as the emblem of reunified Germany with striking architecture, a thriving contemporary arts scene, lively bars and gourmet restaurants.
Departing London on Thursday 2 June, the 2 day, 1 night journey from London to Berlin allows guests the time to slow down, relax and enjoy the journey as the train makes its way through Northern France; traversing the German countryside and arriving in time to spend the weekend in one of Europe’s most fascinating cities.
Venice Simplon-Orient-Express brings to life the romance and nostalgia of the golden age of travel within luxurious vintage carriages. The decorative wooden marquetry and ornate furnishings provide the stylish setting for memorable experiences from the fine dining in the elegant dining cars, to classic cocktails, champagne and entertainment in the bar car. The sleeper cabins are attended to by personal stewards to ensure both a comfortable journey and memorable experience.
The Venice Simplon-Orient-Express makes its return journey from Berlin to Paris or London on 4 June 2016. Prices start from £2,210 per person sharing a double cabin include all meals served on board.
For further departure dates or to book please visit belmond.com or call 0845 077 2222.

Half Price ski lift pass with Inghams

In preparation for the winter 15/16 ski season, Inghams has an amazing half price lift pass offer on all adult lift passes for bookings made between Wednesday 27th May to Sunday 28th June 2015 inclusive, with savings of up to £235 per couple. This offer is applicable to bookings made for chalet, Chalet Hotel and selected partner hotel stays on most dates.
Example packages
Tignes, France-Ski the 300km of the incredible Espace Killy ski region in Tignes this winter by taking advantage of the half price adult lift passes available by booking through Inghams. Inghams is offering 7 nights half board (including breakfast, afternoon tea and a five course evening meal) at the 3.5 diamond Chalet Hotel Dôme, Tignes from £495 per person departing 16th April 2016. Half price lift pass available for all adults (excludes half term, terms and conditions apply). Price includes return flights from London Gatwick to Geneva airport and resort transfers. For more information visit www.inghams.co.uk or contact 01483 791 114.
Val Thorens, France- Not only can Inghams’ guests benefit from the amazing half price adult lift pass deal but they can also enjoy this great saving in Val Thorens, the highest ski resort in Europe. Inghams is offering 7 nights, half board (including breakfast, afternoon tea and a four course evening meal) at 3.5 diamond Chalet Maryse from £425 per person departing 5th December 2015. Half price lift pass available for all adults (excludes half term and the week commencing 19th December, terms and conditions apply). Price includes return flights from London Gatwick to Geneva and resort transfers.
Grindelwald, Switzerland- Set at the foot of the Eiger and in the incredible Jungfrau ski region Grindelwald offers an incredible array of skiing, especially with Inghams’ half price adult lift passes available with booking made between the 27th May and the 28th June. Inghams is offering 7 nights half board (including breakfast and up to 5 course evening meal chosen from the à la carte menu) at the 4* Hotel Eiger, Grindelwald, Switzerland from £795 per person departing Saturday 2nd January 2016. Half price lift pass available for all adults (excludes half term and the week commencing 19th December, terms and conditions apply). Price includes return flights from Gatwick to Geneva and resort transfers.
Cortina, Italy- Inghams guests can ski to their heart’s content in Cortina this winter, one of the most filmed, skied, photographed and visited resorts in the Italian Alps. They can do this by making the most of Inghams’ latest half price list pass deal available on adult lift passes (excludes half term and the week commencing 23rd January and 12th March, terms and conditions apply). Inghams is offering 7 nights half board (including breakfast, afternoon tea and a 5 course evening meal) at the 4 diamond Chalet Hotel Park Victoria from £549 per person departing Saturday 12th December 2015. Price includes return flights from London Gatwick to Innsbruck and resort transfers.
Terms and conditions apply
This offer is valid from Wednesday 27th May and expires on Sunday 28th May, is on adult lift passes only, the existing 2-for-1 ski hire is not combinable with these bookings. This offer is subject to availability, offer applies to any existing group discounts, only valid when using Inghams charter flights, offer excludes selected dates including half-term.

International Visitor Arrivals to Asia Pacific destinations are on track

International Visitor Arrivals to 25 Asia Pacific destinations in the first quarter 2015 show that a combined inbound total of more than 101 million. This is just 1.9% off the forecast volume for that period as predicted in the ‘PATA Asia Pacific Visitor Forecasts 2015-2019 - Volume II’.
Across the region, the Americas (2 destinations) is performing at 4.9% above the first quarter forecasts, while South Asia (2 destinations) is performing at 3.2% above them. Northeast Asia (6 destinations) is just 2.2% behind the first quarter forecast, while six destinations in Southeast Asia are collectively -4.2% behind the forecast volumes. The Pacific (9 destinations) is less than one percent (-0.7%) under forecast.
Year-on-year, the first quarter results for this cluster of 25 destinations is 5.1% better than the first quarter of 2014, with an additional 4.9 million arrivals added to the collective total for the period. The strongest performers in terms of period-to-period growth are Palau (+46.6%), Japan (+43.7%), Thailand (+23.5%), Sri Lanka (+13.6%) and Korea (ROK) (+13.4%).
China has reported a first quarter gain for the first time since 2012 and, with growth of four percent, has added 1.195 million additional arrivals to the count over that of the first quarter of 2014. While it is a significant increase, it ranks third behind Japan (+1.257 million) and Thailand (+1.501 million).
The PATA Asia Pacific Visitor Forecasts 2015-2019 are a joint production of the Tourism Forecasting Unit within the School of Hotel and Tourism Management (SHTM) at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and PATA, and provide detailed projections for individual source and generating markets at both quarterly and annual levels over the same period, along with a number of other metrics including tourism receipts and where data availability permits, departures predictions.

What does the Future Hold for Dubai? The run up to 2020

A home near the waterfront has often been the preferred choice for many posh and elite property owners, specifically in Dubai. No wonder the emirate has been expanding its coastline and creating new man-made islands in order to provide potential residents with as much waterfront living space as possible. Come 2020, there may be a large number of homes overlooking the water. Bayut.com has dug deep into the Dubai market to bring its readers up to date with upcoming projects in the emirate.
Regarding waterfront developments, work is speedily underway to make the dream a reality through the Dubai Water Canal Project, estimated at AED 2 billion. The project is nearly 40 percent complete and is due for completion by mid-2016. The development will include shops, hotels, restaurants, and luxury housing complexes. Gaining success from its first The Beach and the City Walk Projects, the company is planning two new waterfront projects which include Jumeirah Bay Island and Blue Waters. These are anything but ordinary projects as Jumeirah Bay Island offers an extraordinary view of the city’s skyline and Blue Waters plans to have a 210-metre high Ferris wheel matching the London Eye, along with the usual retail and residency units. These projects are due for completion next year.
Nakheel’s Deira Islands are not far behind as the four man-made masses will contain a 12 million square foot retail, residential, and leisure development called Deira Islands Mall, Towers, and Boulevard accommodating approximately 10,000 people. Mid 2017 will mark the opening of the night souk containing more than 5,000 outlets and catering to every imaginable desire of the late-nigh consumer. The project is due for completion in time for 2020.
Going green
While Dubai is known for its lavish construction and using every square inch of land possible to create majestic man-made projects, developers have realized the need for nature to be fully involved in the beautification of residential and luxury spaces. Using the waterfront as an attraction has been widely popular as mentioned above, but greenery is also an essential addition to the decoration process.
Damac’s Akoya Oxygen development recognizes this need and is called the “first green luxury residential address” with energy-efficient homes surrounded by an expanse of lush green fields and trees situated in the midst of an 18-hole golf course.
The whole purpose of the project is to reduce the carbon footprint on the environment, provide cleaner air and cooler temperatures in the midst of the scorching desert. The master plan has been designed very carefully and serves to minimise pollution. However, the amazement does not stop there as Akoya Oxygen will have its very own rainforest containing mahogany, teak, rosewood, and other trees with tropical fruit, nuts, rubber, and rattan. Akoya clearly defines what is expected of Dubai in the future and the expansion and evolution expected in the coming years.
The city is all set to expand in as many directions as possible over the coming years with an addition of new neighborhoods such as Mohammed Bin Rashid City which is due to be completed by the end of 2018 or early 2019. The project will have all the required components of future residential sites in Dubai including man-made beaches, retail and luxury strips, and a lush expanse of greenery while it will also house Mulberry at Park Heights. Dubai Creek Harbour and Dubai Creek Residences are also expected to add to the residential units offered by the emirate and will include Dubai Twin Towers, a yacht club, and will be connected to open parks. Sustainability is one of the key aims of the communities in question as they attempt to reduce the ecological footprint and Dubai Creek Residences is due to Ras Al Khour wildlife Sanctuary to cultivate and promote the diversity of wildlife.
Dubai is focusing on greenery and sustainability, but that definitely does not mean that there is an end to luxury residences. Branded residences are still the norm for Dubai in the future as well as the emirate will house Versace and Fendi branded residences. Trump PRVT will also house properties worth AED 6.5 billion fit with their personal swimming pools, spacious balconies, personalized golf buggy, and the luxuries offered by the Trump card worldwide. Likewise, Jumeirah Bay Island is set to feature Dubai’s first Bulgari-branded residences and will offer the most exciting and exclusive experience.
The run up to Expo 2020 seems rather exciting, not to mention versatile with waterfronts, greenery, sustainability, and branded residences all in the realms of the master plan. Residents purchasing property in Dubai in 2020 and afterwards are likely to have a lot to choose from!

How to Cope With the Australian Sun?

True Blue Migration has shared useful advice to follow when visiting Australia and how to cope with the sunshine. It’s easy to see why 1.2 million UK citizens have set up permanent residency Down Under but it’s always important that they remember how hot the sun can be. With 3200 hours of sunshine per year there will be times when the sun can become a little too much, but if you bear in mind the advice in this info-graphic you can enjoy the nice weather without the dangers that come alongside it.
 australian sun

Five of England’s Finest Heathland Courses Join Forces as Southern Counties Heathland Golf Tour

Five of some of the finest heathland courses in southern England have joined forces to market themselves as the Southern Counties Heathland Golf Tour.

West Sussex, the number one course in the county, Hampshire’s top heathland layouts of Liphook and Blackmoor, and Hindhead and Hankley Common in Surrey, will together present a formidable golf tour in the heart of the English countryside.

It is the aim of these traditional, yet forward-thinking, clubs that this new offering will act as a catalyst to open up the allure of heathland golf in the area to UK golfers whilst at the same time showcasing a stunning grouping of heathland courses set in England to the international golf market.

These established tracks all bear the heathland trademarks of sweeping swathes of vibrant heather and gorse and fairways lined with pine trees and the occasional magnificent oak which all combine to form some of the most picturesque courses in the world.
Meanwhile the fast-draining sandy soils and typically-undulating landscapes of heathland layouts make the terrain ideal for fast, challenging golf.

“With the launch of the Southern Counties Heathland Golf Tour, we have put together a trail of some of the most authentic, yet natural heathland courses of England which until now have been a fairly well-guarded secret as far as the rest of the world was concerned,” comments Andy Stubbs of West Sussex Golf Club. “For any golfers wishing to discover the sheer pleasure of playing classic, well-designed heathland layouts, our collection of courses would be an ideal place to start.”

To launch the initiative, the Southern Counties Heathland Golf Tour has joined Golf Tourism England (www.golftourismengland.com) to give itself some immediate profile to the international golf travel market.

Indeed Andrew Cooke, founder of Golf Tourism England, has been instrumental in encouraging the group to link up and to promote themselves as a premier heathland tour to national and international golfers alike.

“By joining together as the Southern Counties Heathland Golf Tour, these clubs form an extremely attractive cluster of high quality golf courses in southern England, an area already well known for heathland masterpieces such as Sunningdale, Wentworth and Walton Heath. Though quieter in profile to date, these courses are all well established and highly regarded and are regularly included in the various UK golf course rankings, with the likes of West Sussex and Hankley Common often appearing in the top 20,” comments Cooke 

“These clubs are together leading the way in marketing themselves as a credible golf tourism offering to a wider audience and helping to reinforce the country as one of the foremost golfing destinations in the world,” concludes Cooke.

The five clubs in the Southern Counties Heathland Golf Tour can all be found within an hour of each other and are easily accessed via the M25 and A3 roadways and are just over an hour and a half from London’s international airports of Heathrow and Gatwick.

The Old Thorns Manor Hotel Golf & Country Estate near Liphook is centrally located to act as a base for golfers taking on the new tour. Set in 400 acres of rolling Hampshire countryside, the Hotel offers a range of rooms and apartments, a spa, various bars and restaurants ideal for the requirements of golfers.

In blazing the trail, the Southern Counties Heathland Golf Tour hope to follow in the footsteps of other great heathland trails such as the Melbourne Sand Belt, home to one of the world’s most heralded courses, Royal Melbourne in Australia and the Sand Hills of Pinehurst in America.

Wales established itself as leader in reducing carbon emission

The figures, taken from the Recycling Carbon Index Report, show Wales as the clear leader, with 84 kg CO2 eq saved per person in 2013/14, compared to 67 and 65 in England and Northern Ireland respectively.
The Local Authority Recycling Carbon Index measures the environmental performance of councils’ recycling services. When products are recycled it avoids the need to extract and process new raw material, reducing carbon emissions. The size of the reduction depends on the material recycled. The Carbon Index uses the amount of each material that a council collects to calculate how much carbon is saved.

Carl Sargeant said:
“Wales has established itself as one of the leading nations in the world in terms of recycling and these figures further demonstrate the good work being done here in Wales.
“We saved over 25% more CO2 than both England and Northern Ireland last year, which reflects the higher recycling rates achieved here in Wales and reinforces that we are recycling more of the right materials in the right ways.
“It is clear that efficient recycling has real benefits for communities and businesses as well as being vital for protecting our future generations and it’s pleasing to see so many local authorities reporting an improvement in emissions compared to the previous year. I hope and expect this trend to continue over years to come and that the Welsh Government can continue to be recycling pioneers and reap the obvious benefits that stem from doing it well.”

New technology group bridges gap between concept and delivery in the travel industry

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - The Travel Development Group, launched in May 2015, began providing industry-leading technology and operational solutions to travel management companies (TMC's) as well as financial and operational solutions to global enterprises. With over 20 years of industry experience, this team of seasoned professionals is dedicated to solving problems faced by the travel industry for years by providing viable and cost-effective solutions.

The Travel Development Group works with TMC's of all sizes helping review processes, recommending technology products, and providing custom configuration and development solutions to reduce cost, improve efficiency, and increase overall sales. With decades of experience, the team can speak and recommend, without bias, products and offerings from all technology providers, including industry leaders such as Concur, Cornerstone Information Systems, Grasp, Booking Builder, and more. After tool selection, the Travel Development Group can configure, program and support all facets of technical operations. In the absence of a viable tool or if no existing tools provide the precise solution required, a custom solution can be requested and deployed internally.

Developers at the Travel Development Group have built cutting-edge and innovative solutions for the travel industry for more than 20 years. These unique solutions include the first fully-automated corporate hotel rate scanner including savings reporting and full rebooking capabilities, video-chat functionality for mobile-apps, pre-trip approval for financial and non-financial needs, and systematic review of the total trip cost, not just segment-level processes.

The leadership of the Travel Development Group has significant experience in all aspects of the travel industry and are able to provide consultation and executive-level support to small, mid, and global enterprises to improve their travel program, reduce overall spend, and improve employee satisfaction. Corporations can request assistance in TMC selection, policy review, and contract negotiation.

The Travel Development Group's staff skillset is diverse, ranging from Concur Compleat development, web service development, GDS scripting, .net development, operational and financial reporting, and much more. No request is too large or small for the group to review and provide a viable and cost-effective solution.

ArrivalGuides content now available in Google’s destination apps

GOTHENBURG, SWEDEN – ArrivalGuides has partnered with Google to push content, including photos, into Google’s destination specific apps – Google Field Trip and Google Now.

ArrivalGuides has over 300 major global brands, including rentalcars.com, AAA and SAS, as their distribution partners, pulling in content and points of interest from over 550 destinations which populate the ArrivalGuides library. Destination partners from around the globe input their content into the ArrivalGuides content management system, including photos and videos, which is then used by their distribution partners online and in digital formats, including destination directories, booking confirmations, apps and SmartTV pre-installations, inflight entertainment systems and newsletters.

Google Field Trip and Google Now are mobile tour guides that use your phone’s location to check for nearby points of interest, which are pulled in from ArrivalGuides’ content management platform. Everything from local restaurants to notable architecture is covered, with many ideas of what to see and do while you are on the move.

Points of interest will be displayed as ‘cards’ which will automatically populate Google maps. Whether researching a destination or standing physically within proximity of a point of interest, key information about the things to see and do around the app user will appear, on both Android and iPhone smartphones.

“Field Trip is a highly curated experience, and ArrivalGuides is an excellent addition to the base product, providing the highest quality, up-to-date content on a global scale,” says Gijs van der Hulst, Senior Business Development Manager at Niantic Labs, a division of Google.

“We are thrilled to be have been approved by Google to deliver updated destination information to their apps”, says Magnus Aideborn, CEO of ArrivalGuides. “This is a unique opportunity for our destination partners, DMOs and tourism bureaus, to get their content accessible by millions of travellers using these Google apps”.

Collinson Group and Zurich Insurance join efforts to deliver a unique airline

LONDON - A new airline solutions partnership was announced bringing together the world's leading providers of customer travel insurance solutions and loyalty to the airline industry.

Collinson Group and Zurich Insurance will work together to combine their respective strengths in terms of customer understanding, innovative technology, dynamic insurance products, claims services and impactful marketing.

Addressing the global airline industry, the collaboration will provide state of the art technology platforms to deliver enhanced customer services and benefits. The joint propositions will also enable a holistic approach to travel insurance sales, allowing airlines to gain richer customer insight and achieve greater ancillary revenue.

Built to integrate with the core booking pathway, the combined platforms and expertise will allow for other channels to be integrated, maximising the customer experience and engagement.

David Evans, Director Collinson Group says, "As the leading loyalty specialist in the airline and hospitality sectors and with our expertise in customer understanding, we see the opportunity for airlines to significantly enhance their offering to their customers. This joint venture provides a unique proposition by incorporating the strength of Zurich's trusted brand and global footprint with Collinson Group's 28 years' experience in memberships and loyalty.

Our planned products and services will allow for convergence across ancillary revenue and loyalty. The quality of information generated will allow for increased penetration and yield both within and outside the traditional booking pathway and deliver deeper customer insight.

The collaboration further offers the airline industry greater choice of providers where the combined, complementary capability positions us as a unique global specialist."

Philippe Cornet, Global head of travel insurance at Zurich: "Zurich is a leading global provider of insurance solutions, and working from best in class platforms we are able to deliver customised solutions backed by exceptional service at the time of claim. Our platforms combine the traditional features of travel insurance with increased flexibility to adjust the product offering to the local markets. Airlines will benefit from innovative and unique product features including augmented helplines, lounge access, assistance services and a true concierge approach to insurance.

We are confident that joining efforts with Collinson Group will enable efficient integration and minimal cost to the airline to enhance their customer offerings."

Jonathan Cooper, Insurance Consultant for Collinson Group, who will support this new partnership, commented: "This is a really exciting opportunity that will bring a range of know-how, relationships and proven ability to deliver effective insurance solutions to airlines and their customers. We bring a truly different way of thinking and doing that will add significant value to our partners."  

New app promotes whale friendly tourism in Iceland

WASHINGTON - The free 'Whappy' app, launched in Reykjavik by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), contains information about whale friendly restaurants, which have pledged not to serve whale meat, as well as whale watching operators, whale friendly souvenirs and an identification guide for whales and dolphins that can be seen in Icelandic waters.

IFAW opposes all commercial whaling as it is inherently cruel; there is no humane way to kill a whale. Instead, IFAW promotes responsible whale watching as a profitable and sustainable alternative that is better for whales and coastal communities.

Sigursteinn Masson, IFAW's Icelandic representative, said: "The new app is another way of informing tourists visiting our beautiful country about the wonder of whale watching, but it also helps them make whale friendly decisions and ensure their trip does not leave a bad taste in their mouth.

"Many tourists are not fully aware of the contradiction of going whale watching then later eating whale meat. Icelanders have very little appetite for whale meat these days, so if tourists sample whale meat in our restaurants they are contributing directly to the number of whales being killed."

In collaboration with Icelandic whale watching operators' coalition IceWhale, IFAW operates a summer 'Meet Us Don't Eat Us' campaign in Iceland with volunteers informing and educating tourists about the realities of whaling and whale meat consumption. The project was launched in 2010 after it became apparent that with only a tiny percentage of Icelanders claiming to regularly eat whale meat (3% according to most recent Gallup polling*), tourists had become a significant part of the domestic market for minke whale meat.

At the time, whale meat could be found on the menu of all but a handful of restaurants in downtown Reykjavik. The percentage of tourists who say they have tasted whale meat has more than halved over the last five years from 40% in 2009 to 18% in 2014. In addition, the 'whale friendly restaurants' scheme has resulted in less than 50% of restaurants now offering whale meat on the menu. The rest have pledged not to serve whale meat and display a whale friendly sticker in their windows.

Masson added: "We hope tourists and tour operators will use our Whappy app and help enhance tourists' experience. Iceland is one of the best destinations in Europe for whale watching with the opportunity to see a huge variety of species of whale and dolphin."

Whale watching is now one of the top tourist attractions in Iceland, generating around £10 million annually and attracting more than 220,000 tourists each year, proving that whales are worth far more to the Icelandic economy alive than dead.

The 2015 minke whaling season has already begun with unconfirmed reports that the first two minke whales have been killed, although the hunt is being delayed because of a strike by veterinarians who are needed to inspect the catch. Fin whaling, which is carried out primarily for export to Japan, is expected to start around June 15 this year.

Iceland's self-allocated kill quotas allow whalers to harpoon up to 229 minke whales this summer. A quota of 239 was issued for last year but only around 10% of the catch limit, 24 minkes, were killed. This year's catch limit for fin whaling is 154. Last year Iceland's whalers took 137 endangered fin whales.

The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts celebrates the grand opening of the iconic Excelsior Hotel Gallia

Excelsior Hotel Gallia, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Milan - Exterior (Photo: Business Wire).

MILAN - The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts, part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. announces the official opening of Excelsior Hotel Gallia, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Milan. Owned by Katara Hospitality, this Milanese landmark recently emerged from a meticulous, all-encompassing renovation of the historic building, whilst adding a new contemporary wing. Formerly known as “Palace Gallia”, the hotel is strongly rooted in Milanese history, located in the heart of the new Porta Nuova district. Excelsior Hotel Gallia is the latest gem to be unveiled by The Luxury Collection as part of a multi-million Euro investment to restore the brand’s most iconic European hotels.

“With The Luxury Collection set to reach 100 hotels by the end of the year, this is an exciting time to unveil Excelsior Hotel Gallia, right on the heels of the annual design fair Salone del Mobile and the recent launch of EXPO Milano 2015,” said Hoyt Harper, Global Brand Leader, The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resorts. “As art, design, fashion and culture collide in this dynamic city, we are proud to unveil the work of local artisans and architects who reimagined this icon for today’s luxury travellers and the local community.”

“Excelsior Hotel Gallia is a magnificent property that has undergone a meticulous renovation and strategic expansion that marries contemporary design with the hotel’s Belle Epoque architectural style, ensuring that this remains as one of Milan’s historic landmarks,” said Sheikh Nawaf Bin Jassim Bin Jabor Al-Thani, Chairman, Katara Hospitality. “This Luxury Collection hotel is one of Katara Hospitality’s flagship international investments and we are proud of what has been achieved together with our partners such as Starwood. Excelsior Hotel Gallia is a true reflection of our vision to ensure the heritage of such iconic properties continues around the world” added Hamad Abdulla Al-Mulla, CEO and Board Member, Katara Hospitality.

“It brings us great pleasure to strengthen our partnership with Katara Hospitality as we continue to grow The Luxury Collection in Italy, the birth place of the brand,” said Michael Wale, President, Starwood Hotels & Resorts – Europe, Africa and Middle East. “This has been one of the most prestigious hotels in Milan since it opened in 1932, and today, the new Excelsior Hotel Gallia yet again reflects the city’s rich history, sophisticated style and vibrant energy.”

Led by the award-winning Milan-based Studio Marco Piva, the extensive architecture and interior design project marries contemporary aesthetics with the hotel’s original Belle Epoque style. The renowned design firm also curated a unique collection of more than 500 pieces of art, including paintings, sculptures and photographs. The interiors feature distinct references to Milanese lifestyle and the timeless elegance of the Art Deco era, including furnishings exclusively created by Italian designers and craftsmen.

Excelsior Hotel Gallia comprises two buildings – the fully restored historic palace and a new modern wing with a facade that resembles a delicate steel and glass curtain. The striking juxtaposition is inspired by the hotel’s luminous past and the emerging skyline of the Porta Nuova area. Guests entering the hotel are welcomed by the dazzling sight of a custom-made 30-metre Murano glass chandelier created by De Majo, depicting a waterfall of 180 light cylinders which illuminates the eight-story monumental stairwell. The historical lobby pays tribute to notable Milanese architecture of the 1930s, such as La Scala Theatre, Vittorio Emanuele Gallery and Villa Necchi Campiglio. The public spaces have been outfitted by B&B Italia using aluminium, glass and marble.

Excelsior Hotel Gallia features 235 luxurious guest rooms, including 53 suites. The 1,000sqm Katara Suite – one of the largest Presidential Suites in Italy – is situated on the seventh floor, offering two terraces, four bedrooms and a private spa. The two-bedroom Gallia Suite mimics a sophisticated private residence with its beautiful loggia surrounded by historical columns and statues. The other 51 suites revolve around five distinct themes: Design Suites, dedicated to a renowned Milanese designer or architect, namely Vico Magistretti, Achille Castiglioni, Gio Ponti, Luigi Caccia Dominioni and Franco Albini; Art Suites, which overlook the square and feature a large sliding panel with photos of the hotel’s historic facade; and Atelier Suites, evoking the ambiance of creative workshops. The hotel’s Signature Suites have been conceived as art galleries with theatrical use of lighting, colour, and artwork, while the Executive Suites are inspired by the elegant atmosphere of Milanese lofts. All the rooms are outfitted by Cassina Contract with the exception of the Katara Suite which has been furnished by B&B Italia.

Set to open in September on the seventh floor, the hotel’s roof-top mixologist bar and signature restaurant Terrazza Gallia will be managed with the advice of the renowned Cerea family. With the three Michelin-star duo Enrico and Roberto Cerea providing culinary guidance on Terrazza Gallia, diners can savour the best of traditional Italian and Lombard cuisine with a contemporary twist. Guests seated on the covered and heated outdoor terrace will enjoy a panoramic view of Milan, including the landmark Central Station and the adjacent Pirelli skyscraper by Gio Ponti. The Cerea family will also lend their gastronomic expertise to the hotel’s banqueting and events services. The Gallia Restaurant on the ground floor offers the ideal location for a breakfast meeting, smart business lunch, or private dinner, whilst the Wine Cellar is the ideal setting for an intimate private lunch or dinner.

Featuring the first Shiseido Spa in Italy, guests can enjoy treatments at Shiseido Spa Milan, the largest hotel spa in Milan, spanning over 1,000sqm. Located on the sixth and seventh floors of the hotel, the spa provides a relaxing and tranquil ambiance with natural daylight, offering a wide range of beauty and wellness rituals as well as a swimming pool and fitness area with the latest equipment from Artis by Technogym.

The hotel’s historical Cupola room on the seventh floor houses a modern, multifunctional space equipped with the latest audio-visual technology, making it a spectacular and unique venue for celebrations and events. Connecting the historical centre of the hotel with the main hall of the new building is the indoor “Promenade”, a charming 100-metre walkway with large boutique windows from the fashionable Montenapoleone Street. The ground floor of the new wing features 12 meeting rooms, spanning across 1000sqm, as well as 700sqm of foyer space

Starwood currently operates 24 hotels in Italy representing five of its lifestyle brands – St. Regis, The Luxury Collection, Sheraton®, Westin® and Four Points by Sheraton. The Luxury Collection portfolio in Italy includes the legendary Gritti Palace and Hotel Danieli in Venice, as well as three remarkable resorts in Costa Smeralda in Sardinia – Cala di Volpe, Romazzino and Pitrizza.

Aviation industry heads to Bahrain for Routes Middle East & Africa

The inaugural Routes Middle East & Africa will open this weekend in Manama, capital city of the Kingdom of Bahrain. The event, which takes place 31 May – 2 June, will be hosted by Bahrain Airport Company (BAC) managing body and operator of Bahrain International Airport (BIA).

Designed to build on the success of Routes Africa 2014 Routes Middle East & Africa will bring together over 300 delegates from across Africa and the Middle East to meet and discuss route development opportunities across the region.

The event will see representation from almost 50 airlines and over 70 airports along with tourism authorities and other industry stakeholders from across the region. All the major Middle Eastern carriers will be in attendance including Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Saudia and Gulf Air along with a strong representation from African carriers such as Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways. In addition several out of region carriers will be in attendance including British Airways, Brussels Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air and Vueling.

Mr. Mohamed Khalil, Chief Commercial Officer at Bahrain Airport Company commented on the event, stating: “We are excited and look forward to welcoming all delegates to the inaugural Routes Middle East & Africa. We have received a tremendous response from the regional aviation community and have secured an exclusive list of high-calibre experts spanning the aviation sector to shed some light on very current topics affecting our industry. There is no doubt this forum will be an incredible knowledge pool and will facilitate plenty of networking opportunities. It has been a pleasure working with the Routes team to bring this prominent industry event to the Kingdom of Bahrain; this is our chance to showcase Bahrain’s capabilities as both aviation leaders and exemplary hosts”.

“We are delighted to be holding the inaugural Routes Middle East and Africa in Bahrain,” said Adrian Newton, Group Director Aviation & Technology, UBM EMEA: “Africa and the Middle East are two of the most dynamic aviation markets in the world and this event will bring the wider aviation community to the Kingdom of Bahrain providing our Hosts with the ideal opportunity to showcase their destination, and reaffirm their status as an aviation hub for the region. The decisions taken at Routes Middle East & Africa will be decisive in shaping the future of aviation in the region for years to come.”

In addition to around 1,000 face-to-face meetings to discuss air services taking place at the event, Routes Middle East & Africa will open with the hard hitting Strategy Summit, which will include a welcome address from H.E. Engineer Kamal bin Ahmed Mohammed, Minister of Transportation and Telecommunications for the Kingdom of Bahrain.

Taking place over two days, the Summit will provide a valuable insight into aviation across the region through a series of moderator-led panel discussions and presentations. Confirmed speakers from across Africa and the Middle East include; Adel Ali, CEO of Air Arabia; Paul Byrne, CEO of Flynas; Dr. Elijah Chingosho, Secretary General of AFRAA; Richard Bodin, Chief Commercial Officer of Fastjet and Mohamed Khonji, Regional Director, Middle East Office, ICAO.

Airline passengers happiest when using technology

GENEVA – Happy passengers are the ultimate goal of airlines and airports and new research from global IT provider SITA proves that technology can help. In a ground-breaking survey, SITA investigated the connection between a passenger's use of technology and their emotions to discover how passengers around the world feel at every point of the journey. The results reveal that airline passengers are happiest and most excited when using technology for travel tasks. It is now clear that technology is helping make flying more enjoyable.

The 10th annual SITA/ATW Passenger IT Trends Survey was conducted in the first months of 2015 across 17 countries, representing 76% of the world’s passenger traffic and forms a guide on overall levels of passenger satisfaction. It indicates that for the vast majority of passengers most steps of the journey were a positive experience and passengers were happiest using self-service.

Nigel Pickford, Director Market Insight, SITA, said: “As passengers become more connected and airports more crowded the move to providing additional self-service continues. However, at SITA we wanted to get a better understanding of the connection between a passenger’s emotions at different stages of their journey and the technologies that have been used. Our survey shows that not only are passengers willing to use technology throughout their journey, but they have a clear preference to use their own technology when they have the choice.”

Participants were asked to review each stage of their journey and identify their range of emotions with an emotion scale tool adapted from Plutchik.The intensity of four emotions - happiness, excitement, anger and anxiety - at each of nine stages of the journey from booking to bag collection were recorded.

Booking the flight is one of the best parts of the travel experience in fact, 91% of respondents experienced positive emotions at this stage. During the journey when they are able to relax, such as dwell time before boarding and onboard the aircraft, were the other times that passengers felt the most happy and excited. An impressive 95% of passengers experienced positive emotions during dwell time and 91% while onboard.

SITA’s survey shows that technology is playing an increasing role in the passenger journey. This year the proportion of passengers carrying smartphones has nudged up to 83% from 81% last year, while 15% travel with three mobile devices (mobile phone, tablet and laptop). And these ‘connected travelers’ are happiest when using their own devices throughout their journey.

When booking their flight the technology that makes passengers the most happy and excited is an app on their smartphone - 94% experienced these positive emotions using the app compared to 90% booking at a travel agent or an airline office.

Looking at check-in it is clear that technology is also making the experience more enjoyable. Overall, check-in is rated positively by the vast majority of passenger (86%) but more passengers had a positive experience when they used self-service check-in. In fact, 97% of passengers who used web check-in experienced excitement and happiness compared to 83% using the airport desk.

Not surprisingly, the least popular stages of the journey were at security, and to a lesser extent bag collection. The majority however, still felt positive at these stages; 64% at security when the negative emotions were mainly driven by anxiety, and 69% at baggage collection.

Pickford added: “Armed with the knowledge that technology helps passengers to experience positive emotions while traveling, airlines and airports now have the opportunity to look at security and baggage collection to see how technology can further improve the passenger experience. For example, increasing the use of automated border control kiosks and gates may reduce the anxiety passengers feel at this stage of the journey.”

SITA’s survey also showed some interesting trends for the use of technology at different points of the journey with significant changes expected over the next year:

  • Booking flights – Though booking flights on a PC remains popular with 62% of passengers doing this, it is expected to fall to 53% over the next 12 months. At the same time there is a move to using tablets and smartphones with the proportion of passengers booking flights on these devices rising from 27% now to 37% by 2016.
  • Check in – Passengers are increasingly using a combination of self-service on phones and computers to check in rather than at a desk in the airport. The biggest change over the next year will be an increase in the use of mobile apps for check-in – currently 8% of passengers use them and this expected to double to 16% by 2016.
  • Baggage – Self-service has made traveling with carry-on bags the quick and easier way to fly and SITA’s survey indicates nearly one in five passengers now travel this way. In addition, passengers are moving away from staffed check-in counters and happy to use dedicated bag drops and self-service areas. Within a year, 31% of passengers will do this, up from today’s 20%.
  • On Board - Passengers are keen to make better use of their time during the flight with a preference to use their own devices. Two-thirds of passengers (67%) said they would “definitely” want access to their own devices for entertainment compared to 56% for airline-provided content. Passengers also want to stay connected so that they can send and receive text/emails (60%), as well as stream live content (56%).
  • Boarding Passes – Passengers are making the move to printing their own boarding passes or having them on their mobile phone – the trend is a rise from today’s 30% up to 42% by 2016.

SilkAir Launches its Inaugural Flight to Cairns

SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines, today launched its inaugural flight to Cairns, the second Australian city in its route network, after Darwin. The addition of Cairns will increase the number of destinations in SilkAir’s route network to 49 destinations in 12 countries.

The inaugural flight departed this morning at 1.40am* from Changi Airport and is expected to arrive at Cairns International Airport at 10.25am. The return flight will take off at 11.55am and is expected to land in Singapore at 5.50pm.

Flights to Cairns will operate on a thrice weekly basis service on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, through a circular routing with Darwin. The inaugural flight and subsequent Saturday flights will depart Singapore for Cairns non-stop and then return to Singapore via Darwin. The Monday and Thursday flights will fly to Cairns via Darwin and then return to Singapore non-stop.

With the launch of Cairns, SilkAir together with parent company Singapore Airlines, offers a total of 121 services each week to seven points in Australia, namely Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

The new services will be operated with SilkAir’s latest Boeing 737-800 aircraft, featuring both Business and Economy class cabins. Customers will enjoy a full service experience, including in-flight meals, wireless inflight entertainment through SilkAir Studio, where movies, TV features and music tracks can be wirelessly streamed to customers’ personal device, baggage allowance of 40kg and 30kg for Business and Economy class respectively, as well as through check-in if they are connecting to or from another SilkAir or Singapore Airlines point via the Singapore hub.

To mark this special occasion, customers on the first flight out of Singapore were presented with a luggage tag, a turtle plush toy from Cairns to represent the nature and wildlife of the area, and inaugural flight certificates personally signed by Chief Executive SilkAir, Mr. Leslie Thng, and the flight commander.

Commenting on the launch, SilkAir’s Chief Executive, Mr. Leslie Thng said: “We are excited to be adding Cairns in our growing network and we look forward to connecting thrill-seeking leisure travellers with Australia’s adventure capital. This new route will also allow us to provide connectivity to travellers from Australia to Singapore and the rest of the world via our joint SilkAir-Singapore Airlines network of more than 90 destinations in 35 countries.”

Located in Queensland, Cairns is home to two of the world’s greatest natural wonders: the UNESCO listed Great Barrier Reef and 170 million years old Daintree rainforest. The dazzling natural environment shapes the region’s stunning landscape, from secluded island hideaways to eco-lodges, creating the perfect getaway for couples, friends and families. Be it whitewater rafting or diving, skydiving, zip-lining, walking amid primeval ferns or cuddling koalas, Cairns has something exciting for everyone.

Cairns Airport Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Brown, said: “The connectivity with Singapore that the new SilkAir service provides will be a great boost for the Cairns and Great Barrier Reef destination.

“It is an exciting day here at Cairns Airport as we welcome SilkAir as a new international carrier to our city. This Singapore service is a key link in our international network, giving holiday visitors from Asia and Europe a new option for easy access direct into Cairns,” Mr. Brown said.

“It also offers convenient new options for local people to travel overseas, whether to enjoy Singapore as a destination in its own right or to connect through to other destinations.”

Australian customers visiting Singapore can look forward to a myriad of attractions such as Universal Studios Singapore, Marine Life Park, River Safari, Jurong Bird Park, and Gardens by the Bay to exploring cultural neighbourhoods such as Kampong Glam and Little India. Singapore is also known as a gastronomic city and shopping paradise with abundant options around the city.

Detailed flight schedules to Cairns are as follows:

From Singapore:
Days of Operation

Mon, Thu
Singapore 0140hrs
Cairns 1150hrs (via Darwin)
Singapore 0140hrs
Cairns 1020hrs

To Singapore:

Days of Operation

Mon, Thu
Cairns 1240hrs
 Singapore 1720hrs
Cairns 1110hrs
Singapore 1720hrs (via Darwin)

Etihad Airways Hosts Anti-Smoking Campaign For Staff

Etihad Airways is hosting a week-long anti-smoking campaign among its UAE-based workforce to coincide with World No Tobacco Day which takes place tomorrow (Sunday 31 May).

The campaign activities, which will be run throughout the airline’s Abu Dhabi offices and accommodation buildings, aim to reduce the number of smokers within the business by providing education, tools and support to those who are willing to quit.

The campaign includes carbon monoxide testing for staff as well as the visit of experts who will support employees who are keen to give-up tobacco and tobacco related products.

The visiting specialists include respiratory and oral health physicians, psychologists, pulmonologists, oncologists who will offer alternative therapy programs, detox plans and quitting aid samples.

Other activities include an all staff walkathon in support of employees who wish to quit, ex-smoker support programs and carbon monoxide reduction competitions.

Dr Nadia Bastaki, Vice President of Medical Services at Etihad Airways said: “The drive to support people to quit smoking is a key focus for the Etihad Airways wellness team.

“Smoking is a known cause of cancer, cardiovascular disease, skin disorders, dental issues and accelerated ageing among many other illnesses and it is our duty as medical professionals to provide willing employees with the support to stop smoking for good.”

The anti-smoking campaign is one of many initiated by the Etihad Airways Medical Centre. Earlier this year the team hosted a general health wellness day at their Abu Dhabi Headquarters for employees and their families. Other initiatives include the introduction last year of a staff ambulance service and travel clinic for those travelling for work purposes and several free fitness facilities across Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi based employees also have access to world-class medical care at the Etihad Airways Medical Centre, including full laboratory services, physiotherapy, radiology, dental, nutrition counseling, ear, nose, throat (ENT) services, primary care, and aviation health services.

The centre, which is regulated by Health Authority – Abu Dhabi (HAAD) and the UAE General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), was awarded the ‘Clinic of the Year 2013’ by GCAA in recognition of its status as one the leading aero-medical centres in the UAE. It is located at Etihad Plaza and staffed by 30 medical experts, including 10 fully-qualified doctors.

Air Arabia named ‘Best Low-Cost Carrier’ at World Tourism Forum Awards in Istanbul

Air Arabia has been named “Best Low-Cost Carrier” at the World Tourism Forum Awards in Istanbul, Turkey. The World Tourism Forum is an annual gathering of leading business figures and industry experts to discuss the future direction of the global tourism sector. Among the topics discussed were online tourism, destination marketing and the economic benefits of tourism.

Air Arabia took home the award for “Best Low-Cost Carrier” based on its performance over the last year, which has included the opening of two new international hubs in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE, and Amman, Jordan, and increasing its global network to 104 destinations.

The airline also reached another major milestone during the period when it became first low-cost carrier from the Middle East and Africa to enter the Chinese market with the start of regular non-stop services to Urumqi, the largest city in Western China.

Adel A. Ali, Group Chief Executive Officer of Air Arabia, said: “It is a source of great pride for everyone at Air Arabia that our contribution to the aviation sector continues to be recognised, not only within the Middle East and North Africa, but also by our peers around the world. We thank the organisers of the World Tourism Forum for this accolade and we would like to express our gratitude to the millions of loyal customers who have enabled our success for more than a decade.”

This is the latest in a series of recent accolades won by Air Arabia including “Low Cost Carrier of the Year” from Aviation Business, “Middle East’s Leading Low-Cost Airline 2014” at the 21st World Travel Awards, and the “Airline Business Award” at the Airline Strategy Awards 2014.