Conrad counts down to Tokyo opening

Conrad’s next hotel opens in Tokyo and will be home to the first Gordon Ramsay restaurant in Japan.

The Conrad Tokyo, due to open in July, will have 290 rooms and is located near the exclusive Ginza district. It occupies the upper floors of the mixed-use Tokyo Shiodome building.

The Gordon Ramsay restaurant, open for lunch and dinner, will offer fine dining and more casual all-day dining. Regional specialities will be served in the hotel’s Chinese and Japanese restaurants. Ramsay, the British celebrity chef with seven Michelin stars under his belt, will advise on the menu, ingredients and cooking methods and instruct the chefs.

In addition to the restaurants, the hotel will have a lobby bar and lounge where afternoon tea is served, and later on cocktails with a backdrop of live music.

As well as becoming famous for its Ramsay restaurant, the hotel’s wedding chapel is sure to court publicity ? an ideal place to establish or renew vows, according to the website.

Guests who want to work off the excesses of Ramsay’s cuisine can use the hotel’s fitness centre and pool, or simply relax in the spa, which offers internationally-inspired treatments include grape seed aromatherapy from California and natural bio-cosmetics from Germany.

Rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, some with views of the Hamarikyu gardens, a former Royal residence. They also feature all the mod cons ? 37-inch plasma television screens, DVD and video on demand, wired and wireless internet access and electronic safes.

Conrad is the luxury brand of the Hilton International chain. Openings planned over the next two years include properties in the US, Thailand and Dubai. Go to www.conradhotels.com.

Waldorf gets Hilton treatment

London’s historic Waldorf Hotel has been given a £30 million contemporary new look by its owners Hilton International.

Purchased by Hilton a year ago, the hotel ? now called the Waldorf Hilton – has been undergoing a gradual renovation of all its public areas and its 300 bedrooms.

Divided into two themes ? Contemporary and Design ? all the bedrooms now have Ligne Roset beds, pique linen, plasma screen TVs, power showers and high-speed internet access. Vast illuminated artbox headboards, commissioned and created by Peter Millard, dominate each room.

A spokeswoman said technology and meticulous detailing has been used to create a minimalist environment.

?The objective was to maximise the use of space by providing glass interiors between bedroom and bathroom, mirrored doors and glass case goods,? she said.

?Each room features a modern interpretation of the traditional valet stand made of polished aluminium, timber, stainless steel and retractable brass breastplate.?

A new restaurant, Homage, has been created by Roy Ackerman in the style of the Grand Cafes of Europe and will serve meals all day, from breakfast to dinner.

To read an exclusive review of the hotel, watch out for the March 2005 edition of Business Traveller.

Size matters

Airbus has unveiled its twin-deck A380 aircraft, the largest aircraft in the sky, heralded to change the future face of travel.

The first test flight of the A380 will take place in April although Airbus has not yet revealed the exact date.

Some 11 airlines, including Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Malaysian, have ordered the aircraft, which will come into service in 2006.

Built at a cost of £6 billion, Airbus is banking on future demand for large planes offering cheaper seats between the world’s major cities.

But its main rival, Boeing, is focusing its future investment on smaller aircraft designed to fly direct to more destinations.

Boeing’s new 7E7 ?Dreamliner’ project, which will enter service in 2008, has already secured orders from Continental Airlines and Japan Airlines.

VLM debuts at Southampton

VLM Airlines has stepped in to launch flights from Southampton to Brussels following a decision by British Airways to scrap the route.

The VLM flights launched on January 10 and operate twice a day except on Sundays when there is one return service. It is the airline’s debut at Southampton.

Flights leave Southampton at 7.55am and 6.50pm and arrive in the Belgian capital at 10.15am and 9.10pm respectively. Return flights leave at 7.10am and 6pm and touch down at 7.35am and 6.25pm respectively.

BA scrapped Southampton to Brussels flights, operated by franchise carrier Citiexpress on December 24. The carrier still operates flights from Southampton to Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

VLM is the largest carrier operating out of London City Airport, with flights from the London Docklands airport to Brussels and Antwerp, alongside flights to UK domestic and European cities.

Fares start at £155 return including taxes. Go to www.flyvlm.com.

Wizz eyes business market

Wizz Air is attempting to woo business travellers with dedicated tickets offering greater flexibility.

The tickets are set at a price of £70 each way plus taxes, which average around £20. This applies to all tickets for flights out of the UK regardless of timing. The business tickets are fully flexible up to three hours before departure and can be bought up to 40 minutes before departure.

The Polish low-cost airline, which operates out of London Luton and Liverpool, is calling the product “Wizz Bizz”. In order to buy the tickets, business travellers need to register on the website, which involves providing contact details and supplying a password.

For travellers who can afford to travel with less flexibility, Wizz Air has launched a sale this week with free seats on flights from London to Budapest, Katowice and Warsaw and from Liverpool to Katowice and Warsaw – customers just need to cover taxes and charges. These tickets are subject to availability. Go to wizzair.com.