Travel news: this month (August 2018) in luxury travel

Friday newsletters always feature travel conteststipsseries, or news.

Today (August 31, 2018): August 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:

  1. LATAM announces a new Business Class product
  2. Grand Hyatt Athens opens in the Greek capital
  3. Grand Hyatt Bogota opens in the capital of Colombia
  4. Hyatt and Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) announce partnership
  5. Qatar Airways will launch its QSuites on the Tokyo and Singapore routes
  6. One&Only Resorts will launch a beach property in Malaysia
  7. Auckland will welcome a flagship InterContinental hotel in 2022
  8. Emirates revamps its Business and First Class amenities
  9. Primera Air launches transatlantic flights for $150 USD one way
  10. Raffles Hotels & Resorts will manage a Maldives property
  11. The St Regis brand slated to debut in Australia


1. LATAM announces $400 million cabin upgrade programme

LATAM – South America’s largest carrier – announced plans to upgrade the cabins on two thirds of its global short and long-haul fleet. The $400 million USD investment will cover over 200 existing and forthcoming aircraft, with the work to take place over the next two years. LATAM Airlines Peru will receive the first new-look aircraft before the end of the year, followed by LATAM Airlines Brazil at the start of 2019, providing passengers travelling via LATAM’s Lima and São Paulo hubs with the first opportunity to experience the new cabins. For passengers travelling on long-haul routes, LATAM will transform the cabins of its Boeing 767 and Boeing 777 wide-body aircraft as well as apply the revamped design to new Boeing 787-9s and Airbus A350-1000s due for delivery over the coming years. The cabins will offer:

  • A new Premium Business Class seat by Thompson Aero with trim and finish from cabin design partner Priestmangoode. Each seat will have direct aisle access and offer seating options for both individuals and couples as well as a full-flat bed. It will also feature the latest generation in-flight entertainment with an 18” personal screen and have ample space for personal items
  • On new aircraft, the Economy Class cabin will feature ergonomically designed Recaro seats, offering greater comfort, fast-charging USB power ports, larger 12” individual seat-back screens and a state-of-the-art inflight entertainment system
  • Passengers in economy will also have the option to upgrade to LATAM+ Seats, offering increased space, greater recline and premium services such as priority check-in and boarding.


2. Grand Hyatt Athens opens in the Greek capital 

The opening of Grand Hyatt Athens marks the first Hyatt hotel in the Greek capital. The luxury property is located on Syngrou Avenue next to the Onassis Cultural Centre and combines dramatic architecture with innovative design, easily accessible to historic sites and best-in-class restaurants. Celebrating iconic Greek culture, the 309-room hotel incorporates curated art reminiscent of ancient Athens. Alongside original pieces from the Museum of Cycladic Art, the hotel also showcases a glamorous lobby with an extraordinary art installation called The Coin, which is made from replicated, ancient Athenian coins representing the Greek economic supremacy in the fifth century BC. The property’s rooftop also offers the spectacular Penthouse Restaurant and an outdoor swimming pool with impressive views of the Acropolis. The wellness center features four private treatment rooms, an indoor heated swimming pool, relaxation lounges, a sauna and a Turkish bath, known as a Hammam (to open in early 2019) – offering a destination of serene luxury and relaxation. Grand Hyatt is situated within walking distance of the beautiful old town of Plaka and the infamous Acropolis site, while golf courses, the passenger port terminal of Piraeus and the golden beaches of the Athens southern suburbs are just a short car ride away.


3. Grand Hyatt Bogota opens in the capital of Colombia

There is some more exciting news from the Hyatt brand, with the opening of the first Hyatt hotel in the Colombian capital and the first Grand Hyatt branded hotel in Colombia. The Grand Hyatt Bogota is located in the heart of Ciudad Empresarial Sarmiento Angulo commercial district, up the road from the Corferias and Ágora Bogotá convention centers, and minutes from the ultramodern Gran Estación Mall, El Dorado International Airport, and Bolívar Square. Designed with bold and vibrant features, the hotel has 372 beautifully decorated guestrooms, including 50 suites, with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lush inner atrium garden, multicolored lights of the metropolis, or the cloud-topped majesty of the Andes Mountains. Additionally, suites and club room guests have exclusive access to the Grand Club Lounge, which provides an elegantly designed space with personal concierge services and culinary highlights throughout the day. Guests will discover great dining inside Grand Hyatt Bogota with some of the best Japanese and Colombian food in the city. The hotel also invites guests to schedule time for themselves at Zaitania Spa, one of the largest urban spas in Latin America.


4. Hyatt and Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) announce partnership

The Hyatt Hotel Group announced plans to partner with Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) by the end of the year. Hyatt, a leading hospitality company with more than 700 hotels worldwide, and SLH, a collection of more than 500 independently owned luxury hotels around the world, are working together to offer World of Hyatt members the opportunity to earn and redeem points during stays at participating SLH hotels when they book through Hyatt channels. “This is another example of how Hyatt continues to listen to the wants and needs of World of Hyatt members and take meaningful action,” said Mark Hoplamazian, president and chief executive officer, Hyatt. “SLH’s high-end collection of boutique hotel experiences means our members will soon be able to earn and redeem World of Hyatt points in more places, including many new locations in Europe and Asia.” “We are constantly looking for ways to add value for our many independently spirited hotels. This coming alliance with World of Hyatt does just that,” said Filip Boyen, chief executive officer, Small Luxury Hotels of the World™. “Our work together will allow World of Hyatt members to enjoy loyalty benefits across a wider choice of small independent luxury hotels. For SLH, our hotels are our brand, and we look forward to expected increased occupancy with significant exposure to the World of Hyatt program’s more than 10 million members.” IMHO, this is an amazing addition to the value of Hyatt hotel points. You can read my review of World of Hyatt here.


5. Qatar Airways will launch its QSuites on Tokyo and Singapore routes

Qatar Airways announced that the world’s most technologically advanced passenger aircraft – the A350-1000 – equipped with the airline’s luxurious, award-winning Qsuite will be available on flights to and from Singapore’s Changi Airport from 1 November 2018. Two of Singapore’s triple-daily A350-900 services will gradually transition to the A350-1000 starting from 1 November 2018. The route is expected to be served entirely with the A350-1000 by April 2019. The aircraft will also be introduced daily to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport from 1 January 2019. The two cities will be the first of Qatar Airways’ growing Far East network to welcome the ultramodern A350-1000 equipped with Qsuite. One of the latest additions to the Airbus family of twin-aisle, widebody jetliners, the A350-1000 offers 327 seats across two cabins – 46 Business Class seats and 281 extra-wide 18-inch seats in Economy Class. Business Class passengers will be treated to the Qsuite experience, featuring the industry’s first-ever double-bed in business class. Sliding panels allow passengers in adjoining seats to transform their space into private cabins so business colleagues, families and friends can work, socialise and dine together during the flight. These revolutionary features led Qatar Airways to win the ‘Best Business Class Seat’ and ‘Best Business Class’ awards at the 2018 Skytrax World Airline Awards. I will publish my review of the QSuite later this year.


6. One&Only will launch a beach resort in Malaysia

A 128-acre beachfront development, One&Only Desaru Coast will be located in a premium integrated destination located in the south-eastern region of Malaysia, in the state of Johor.  Inspired by the azure ocean waters and lush tropical landscape, the property will provide modern Malaysian elegance, showcasing the incredible natural elements of the region. Like all properties within the One&Only collection, the resort, designed by award-winning architectural firm, Kerry Hill Architects, will place an emphasis on privacy, providing the ultimate hideaway. There will be 42 suites, 2 luxury suites and an exclusive 4-bedroom villa, as well as approximately 50 One&Only private homes available for purchase. The resort will become a culinary destination, offering three restaurants, a dynamic bar for the latest in mixology and a beach club, each defined by their own distinct ethos, energy, design and flavour, showcasing the bounty of the region. One&Only Desaru Coast will also be home to an indulgent destination spa, introducing traditional and holistic practices fused with modern spa therapies, with overall wellness at its core.

One&Only Desaru Coast


7. Auckland will welcome a flagship InterContinental hotel in 2022

InterContinental Auckland will enjoy an unrivalled location on the city’s waterfront, with a halo address at 1 Queen Street that will inevitably become a destination in its own right. It will complete the $1 billion Commercial Bay mixed-use development, which boasts the largest concentration of high quality retail facilities in the city and a new 39-level office tower with 39,000m2 of premium office space. The world-class waterfront development is also destined to become Auckland’s newest, shopping, dining and social hub, offering a vast range of food and beverage outlets that are perfectly complemented by the hotel’s luxury dining experience, which includes all-day dining and bars. The hotel will be dedicated to those who appreciate and enjoy The InterContinental Life, featuring the brand’s signature Club InterContinental experience, as well as a gym and meeting facilities. In order to give guests an unparalleled experience that shows off the best of the ‘City of Sails’, 90% of the hotel’s 244 guest rooms will offer water views. InterContinental Auckland will be the second for the brand in New Zealand, after InterContinental Wellington, and adds an important piece to IHG’s Australasia luxury credentials, complementing InterContinental Hotels in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Sanctuary Cove, as well as the 194 globally.


8. Emirates revamps its Business and First Class amenities

Emirates has refreshed its premium offering with new luxury products in First and Business Class for a more comfortable travel experience. The new products stem from Emirates’ collaborations with BYREDO skincare, Bowers & Wilkins and Bulgari:

  • Emirates First Class customers will find the BYREDO travel wellness range of skincare in their private suites. The allergen-free and Chamomile collections were exclusively created for Emirates for a relaxing and hydrating experience inflight. The collection by European luxury brand, BYREDO, was first introduced in Emirates’ new fully enclosed suites on the Boeing 777 last year and is now being rolled out across the fleet. All the products in the collection are manufactured using the best raw materials with a distinct focus on craft and quality. The kits are paired with a faux leather notebook and branded pen.
  • To amplify the viewing experience on ice, Emirates’ award-winning inflight entertainment system, the airline is rolling out brand new Bowers & Wilkins Active Noise Cancelling E1 headphones in First Class. These headphones were designed by award-winning audio brand Bowers & Wilkins and created exclusively for Emirates using a unique hybrid noise cancellation technology optimised for the Emirates First Class cabins.
  • Emirates continues its longstanding partnership with Bulgari for the latest designs of the airline’s exclusive kit bags. The new set of amenity kits for both First and Business Class feature Bulgari’s fragrance – Eau Parfumée Au Thé Vert (Green Tea) – and contain skincare essentials to keep customers feeling fresh and pampered throughout the flight. The First Class kit bags, made from faux leather, come in eight designs with a new range of colours for men and women. Eight additional designs are available in Business Class – four for men and four for women. The amenity kits are available on long-haul overnight flights and designs are refreshed every nine months. The bags have been designed for multipurpose uses after the flight to store headphones, make up or jewelry. In addition to the Bulgari amenity kits, First Class customers will also be given Hydra Active moisturising sleep suits on long haul overnight flights.


9. Primera Air launches transatlantic flights for $150 USD one way

Brussels Airport – my home base – will be welcoming the new airline Primera Air in May next year. The airline will start direct flights to New York (EWR) as of May 2019, and direct flights to Boston (BOS) and Washington DC (IAD) as of June 2019. The flights will be operated by the new, high technological Boeing 737 Max 9. Two aircraft will be based at Brussels Airport. Primera Air is a low-fare Nordic airline that operates flights from Europe to more than 70 destinations across the Mediterranean, Middle East, Asia, Caribbean and North America. Anastasija Visnakova, Chief Commercial Officer of Primera Air: “Our mission is to make expensive transatlantic travel a thing of the past and we are glad to bring low fare, long-haul flights to Brussels. It will give an opportunity for local travelers to fly to the US and Canada in a more affordable way as well as bring more North American travelers to Brussels.” Tickets for the transatlantic routes are now on sale for $150 USD one way. Primera Air already operates transatlantic flights to Newark, Boston and Toronto-Pearson from London Stansted and Paris Charles de Gaulle with a fleet of 8 Airbus A321neo aircraft. Primera Air pricing policy on these routes allows it to compete with the low-cost carrier Norwegian.


10. Raffles Hotels & Resorts will manage a Maldives property

The iconic Raffles Hotels & Resorts brand – now part of AccorHotels – announced its first luxury destination in the Maldives. Set on the private island of Meradhoo, the current resort – previoulsy known as Jumeirah Dhevanafushi (which I reviewed here) – will be repositioned following great enhancements in late 2018, before joining the exclusive collection of Raffles Hotels & Resorts. Raffles Maldives Meradhoo Resort boasts 21 island villas and 16 ocean villas with private pools, 3 restaurants, a scenic cocktail bar and an array of facilities and activities to relax, rejuvenate and reinvigorate the body, mind and spirit. These facilities include an award-winning luxury spa, over-the-water fitness centre, yoga programmes, water sports, private dining options, 24-hour butler and private chef service, along with snorkelling and diving at its finest. The resort’s PADI-certified dive centre offers adventures through the wonders of some of most breath-taking coral reefs in the world.  A 55-minute flight from Male Airport and a 15-minute speedboat transfer can access the resort, located on Meradhoo Island on the Gaafu Alifu Atoll in the Maldives.  Below, you can watch my clip of the hotel, when it was still a Jumeirah property.


11. The St Regis brand slated to debut in Australia

St. Regis Hotels & Resorts announced the signing of The St. Regis Melbourne, marking the first hotel in Australia for the renowned luxury brand. Located in the luxury mixed-use precinct Flinders Bank on the corner of Spencer and Flinders Streets, the new St. Regis Melbourne will serve as a landmark gateway to the city’s bustling Central Business District.  The 33-storey Flinders Bank will house the St. Regis Melbourne across levels 2 to 11 and include 168 luxuriously appointed guestrooms and suites, all of which will offer sweeping views of the Yarra River or city skyline. With interiors created by world-leading interior design studio, Chada, and the building designed by Fender Katsalidis Architects, The St. Regis Melbourne will be an instant icon and stylish addition to the city’s skyline. Refined food and beverage offerings will include a specialty restaurant in addition to a sophisticated Drawing Room space and the St. Regis Bar, which will serve up the local rendition of the brand’s signature cocktail, the Bloody Mary. Guests will also be able to immerse themselves in leisure facilities, such as a fitness and wellness center with a large indoor swimming pool and an Iridium Spa and beauty salon. Guests of The St. Regis Melbourne will also experience the renowned hallmarks of the St. Regis brand, including the legendary St. Regis Butler Service that personalises each stay according to guests’ unique tastes and preferences.


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