A learning place, a teaching space at InterContinental Bali

Relying on the strength of “being in the know”, InterContinental Bali has created the first Inspiration Space product in the chain.

Located within the new Club InterContinental, this special environment offers a varied menu of recreational activities and interests, directly reflecting the island’s artistic legacy and cultural traditions. These take the form of themed lectures and demonstrations on topics such as  “The Language of Offerings” among others, and make CDs, DVDs and iPods available. The concierge is also able to furnish tour information and arrange outings, as well as suggest tips to heighten the experience.

For those who need to keep in touch with home or put in some work, there is internet access and equipment for photo editing, printing and scanning.

Refurbishment has resulted in the relocation of Club Rooms (which opened this month) to an outer wing of the property for more privacy. These measure 58sqm and feature ensuite bathrooms, 37-inch plasma TVs and espresso machines (for that touch of home). They look out to lush gardens, to which have been added a Balinese style bridge over the resort lagoon, a link to the exclusive club pool and lawns.

The Club Lounge, which is open 24 hours, provides air-conditioned indoor seating as well as an outdoor terrace, cocktail bar, free internet access, extensive reading material, DVDs and books.

Margie T Logarta

Singapore’s Budget Terminal set to grow

After two years in operation, Singapore’s Budget Terminal (BT) will conduct a US$7.2 million expansion to increase its handling capacity from the current 2.7 million passengers a year to seven million. In addition, the floor area will also be raised from 25,000sqm to 28,700sqm.

Since opening in March 2006, the facility has served about 2.9 million passengers, thanks to growing frequencies of scheduled flights operated by Tiger Airways and Philippine-based carrier Cebu Pacific Air. Today, BT is linked to 20 cities in the region, up from 12 cities when it made its debut.

Lim Kim Choon, director-general and CEO of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, said: “When we first decided to build the Budget Terminal, no one could accurately predict the success of low-cost travel in this region. With increased air transport liberalisation in this region, airlines, including low-cost carriers, have now great opportunities to rapidly expand their air network and increase their flight operations.”

Lim described improvements as timely with passenger traffic expected to increase further, given Asean’s goal to lift all restrictions on passenger flights between Asean capitals by year’s end.

The project involves adding seven check-in counters and installing more baggage-handling equipment. Also, three more passenger boarding gates will be constructed, bringing the total to 10. The kerbside at the arrival hall will be widened to create more room for vehicles dropping off passengers.

BT is a five-minute drive or less than two kilometres away from Changi Airport’s Terminals 1, 2 and 3. Free shuttle bus services ply routes between these facilities to allow for seamless connections.

A sense of place at The Opposite House

Just in time for the Olympic Games, The Opposite House is set to open its doors on July 1 in Beijing’s rapidly transforming Sanlitun district – the first luxury hotel of the newly formed Swire Hotels.

“The location has a certain character. It is a cultural and business melting pot. And we are keen to enhance this sense of place in our guests by imbuing our rooms with subtle touches of traditional Chinese décor, while keeping them uncluttered and contemporary with natural wooden floors, king-size beds and the most luxurious bathrooms,” said Anthony Ross, hotel general manager.

Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, known for his innovative retail and commercial spaces, was the unorthodox choice tapped to put a distinctive stamp on the 100-room hotel by redefining conventional boundaries and use of space.

“There are things that have never been done in a hotel before. It may not be for everybody but they will be a breath of fresh air,” Ross said. “We are hiring 360 staff for their personality. They must be spontaneous, warm and inviting, giving a service that is a little less formal, with an eye at pleasantly surprising our guests by not always looking at the playbook.”

The Opposite House will be an integral part of The Village, a swanky new open-plan shopping destination being developed by Swire Properties, parent company of Swire Hotels.

“Our vision is about building small-scale hotels of around 100 generously sized rooms that are defined by luxury that is more understated. We are not here to build cookie-cutter hotels. We are not even branding our hotels the same way. It will not be all style without substance. We are committed to underpin our property with service that is a little bit more individualised and personalised,” said Brian Williams, managing director, Swire Hotels.

The Opposite House will be followed by the opening next year of two Swire Hotels properties in Hongkong – a 117-room luxury hotel in Pacific Place and a 343-room lifestyle business hotel called East at Island East, Quarry Bay. Another 100-room hotel at Taikoo Hui in Guangzhou is expected to make its debut in 2010.

Gigi Onag

Asia serviced apartment brands glad to be of service

From playing second fiddle to hotels, serviced apartments are now fast becoming mainstream, especially in Asia where booming economies have fuelled demand from corporate travellers for a “home away from home”. Not a month passes without news of the launch in this market niche. Here are some of the latest to begin business.

Singapore

Working from home takes on new meaning when Pan Pacific Serviced Suites debuts along Singapore’s Orchard Road this month. Residents can choose to turn their suites into offices and benefit from personal assistants on call 24/7. Pan Pacific Serviced Suites is the flagship luxury extended-stay product of Pan Pacific Hospitality, a subsidiary of UOL Group which owns Pan Pacific Hotels & Resorts.

These 126 one- and two-bedroom Executive and Premium Suites as well as penthouses provide direct train links from Somerset MRT station to Raffles Place CBD and the Suntec City International Convention & Exhibition Centre. All suites are equipped with Bose home entertainment systems, Loewe LCD televisions, iPod connectivity, wired and wireless broadband access and toiletries from Molton Brown of England. Paintings by Chua Ek Kay, a Cultural Medallion recipient and local ink painter, hang on the walls.

Residents will also enjoy personalised welcome hampers, airport transfers, grocery shopping and delivery, pillow and bath menus, complimentary pressing upon check in and a familiarisation tour to help them locate nearby banks, convenience stores and a variety of dining and entertainment options. Facilities onsite include a hydrotherapeutic spa, mineral-water pool, state-of-the-art Technogym, library, lounge and gardens offering views of the city skyline.

Gwee Lian Kheng, group president and CEO, UOL Group, said these serviced suites provide “a differentiated stay experience that recreates a home advantage with local connection to the city so that overseas professionals will feel less of a foreigner”.

Hongkong

V Serviced Apartments joins this growing hospitality niche, recently fattening its portfolio with V Causeway Bay, its third property after V Happy Valley and V Wanchai. Currently, it is the largest in the group with 133 units, ranging in size from 26.22sqm to 147.20sqm. “With over 40 different layouts, every room is a surprise,” said Anna Mae Koo, director of V.

Highlights include multifunctional cabinetry, hidden storage space, closets with dual access from both the bedroom and bathroom and full-fitted kitchens among others. Standard perks include 42-inch TVs, NOW TV, IDD, Wi-Fi, daily cleaning and laundrette. V Causeway Bay 2 and V West Kowloon will have their launches later this year and in early 2009 respectively.

Making its debut next month, the HarborView Place has been conceptualised by Signature Homes of the Sun Hung Kai Properties group as a “serviced suite hotel”. It will be offering long-stay guests these room categories: Studio (pictured above), Studio Deluxe, One-Bedroom Suite, One- Bedroom Deluxe Suite, Two-Bedroom Deluxe Suite and Three-Bedroom Suite.

Located within Kowloon’s latest landmark, the International Commerce Centre Complex (ICC) along the northern edge of Victoria Harbour, the property occupies the 50th to the 70th floors of The Cullinan II, one of the twin towers in the complex. Complementing Signature Home’s other success, Four Seasons Place, this product promises to raise the bar again on luxury living.

The first batch of 70 suites is now ready for advance booking.

TOKYO

For its latest foray into the North Asia market, Fraser Hospitality has chosen one of Tokyo’s liveliest districts to introduce Fraser Place howff Shinjuku. The building, owned by re-plus inc, has 175 units in the East Tower and will have an additional 200 units in the West Tower by year end. The configurations feature one-, two- and three-bedrooms and triplexes.

In keeping with the group’s policy of offering customers convenient locations, the property is a short walk to the Shinjuku Station, a hub for the subway and train networks. Also nearby are major office and commercial buildings as well as shopping and entertainment attractions.

Margie T Logarta and Julian Tan

Kempinski’s rolling luxury in China

Luxury hits the tracks in China with the Tangula set to depart from Beijing for Lhasa and Lijiang in September. Kempinski is managing the new train.

Featuring 15 passenger cars – six accommodation cars flank two dining cars and a scenic car on each side – the locomotive can take up to 96 guests. The interiors are a mix of the modern and traditional Chinese with neutral colours used throughout creating a subtle backdrop for the vivid panorama outside. Oversized windows enhance the viewing experience.

The suites provide all the amenities of a five-star hotel and come with king-size or twin beds, ensuite bathroom and shower, flat-screen TV and entertainment system, service bar, safe and the services of a butler on call 24 hours. In-room wellness therapies are also available. Gourmet meals matched with fine wines and spirits are part of the experience.

A five-day Beijing-Lhasa or Beijing-Lijiang journey starts from US$4,000 per person and a four-day journey is from US$3,000. These include off-train excursions, meals, beverages, wines, spirits and service charge. For more details, go to www.tangulaluxurytrains.com

Flight numbers

Businesstraveller.com brings you the news that counts. This week: Sheraton, New York, Singapore, VLM, Finnair, Oman Air, Summit Hotels, Bmi and Easyjet

3.7 billion The amount in US dollars being spent on revamping the Sheraton hotel brand. Starwood says it will upgrade 100 Sheraton properties in the US, upgrading 50,000 rooms and redesigning more than 100 lobbies.

109,983,372 The number of passengers served by JFK International, Newark Liberty International, Stewart International and La Guardia airports in 2007, an increase of more than 5 per cent from 2006 levels.

811,000 The number of people visiting Singapore during February, up 7 per cent on the same period in 2007. The UK contributed 51,000 visitors to this figure putting it in the top five visitor-generating markets.

745,781 The number of passengers travelling with VLM during 2007, up 9 per cent on 2006. The Belgian carrier will celebrate its 15th year of operations this year.

200 The number of aircraft now delivered to Finnair during the history of its fleet. The carrier’s 200th plane (an Embraer 190) was delivered this weekend, with the airline celebrating its 85th anniversary this year.

22 The percentage growth in passenger numbers on Oman Air last year. The carrier flew over 1,500,000 passengers to and from Muscat in 2007.

14 The number of new properties added to the Summit Hotels and Resorts portfolio in the last six months. Among the new additions are the Grand Pacific and Hotel Pacific in Tokyo.

Three The number of successive years Bmi has been named the UK’s most punctual airline. According to official statistics by the CAA, more than 90 per cent of the airline’s flights were on time during the period of January-December 2007.

Two The number of new routes being launched by Easyjet from London Luton. The budget carrier is starting flights to Jersey and Pisa from Luton, and expects to carry over 100,000 passengers on each of the routes in the first twelve months.

Report by Mark Caswell

Just landed

Businesstraveller.com compiles stories from the lighter side of business travel. This week: Easyjet, Swissotel, Hesperia Hotels, Garde Robe and Robert de Niro.

Pull the udder one

Passengers on Easyjet’s inaugural flight from London Luton to Jersey were met by an unexpected guest at arrivals – a bright orange Jersey cow. Sounds like a mooving experience for all concerned, although we at businesstraveller.com haven’t herd of anything like this before, and can’t help feeling Easyjet was milking the whole occasion.

Something in the air

Swissotel Hotels & Resorts has created a signature scent at its hotels designed to offer guests “recognition value via the olafactory senses”. Un.wind with the wind will await guests as they enter the hotel, and is infused with “tones of alpine flowers, real gentiane, sleek blond woods and a touch of wild red berries”. Will the hotel chain enjoy the sweet smell of success, or are guests going to turn their noses up at the idea?

Pretty in pink

Hesperia Hotels has launched The Pink Room, bedrooms designed specifically for female guests. The chain is donating €1 per stay to the Spanish Association Against Breast Cancer, with room features including a pink bathrobe, women’s magazine, and a cooling gel eye-mask in the minibar. Should be enough to leave female guests tickled pink by their stay.

Baggage handling

Luxury wardrobe storage and valet service Garde Robe has launched its latest offering in Tokyo. Well-heeled business travellers can browse images of their stored outfits online at garderobejapan.com, select items for cleaning or delivery to their hotel, or have a suitcase of clothes and toiletries packed on their behalf. If only they could do the actual travelling for us too and be done with it.

You lookin’ at my hotel?

Hollywood legend Robert de Niro has opened a luxury hotel in New York’s Tribeca district. The 88-room Greenwich Hotel has features including hand-loomed Tibetan rugs and terracotta floors, an Italian restaurant and Japanese spa. With rooms starting from US$625 per night, you can expect celebs, sports stars and other Goodfellas to be among the guests.

Report by Mark Caswell

Austrian celebrates 50th anniversary

Business Traveller looks at the future of Austrian Airlines, 50 years after its first commercial scheduled flight took off from Vienna bound for London

Passengers on board flight OS201 to London on March 31, 1958 were flown in a turboprop Vickers Viscount 779 aircraft, with routes to Frankfurt, Zurich, Stuttgart, Paris, Warsaw and Rome also being added in the first year of service.

Fifty years on and the airline’s expansion is very much focussed on Central and East European (CEE) countries, with new routes for the summer schedule including Nizhny Novgorod (Russia’s fourth largest city), the southern Russian city of Sochi (hosts of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games), and Baia Mare in northern Romania. Austrian’s Focus East strategy means the carrier now serves 24 CEE countries, with over 580 weekly connections.

At the celebrations for Austrian’s 50th anniversary, Rudolf Mertl, executive vice-president of network and sales for the airline, described the CEE routes as the “backbone” of the carrier, adding the it is now the market leader in terms of the number of weekly connections and destinations offered in the region, and second to Lufthansa in terms of traffic numbers.

Mertl said: “We’re looking at adding, three, four or five [CEE] destinations per year. Some of these countries will join the EU in time, which will also make access to traffic rights easier.” He added that Austrian is employing a “first-mover” strategy in the region, going after secondary destinations not yet served by a low-cost airline.

Elsewhere he pointed towards Middle East expansion, with flights to Riyadh and Jeddah due to come online in August this year. Indeed, the planned investment of 150 million euros into the airline by Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber demonstrates the carrier’s ambitions for this region.

The Saudi businessmen has Austrian citizenship and owns a number of hotels in the country, and such an investment would effectively equate to around 20 per cent ownership in the carrier. Austrian will serve these Middle Eastern destinations with A320 aircraft configured with 24 business class seats (46-inch pitch, 2-2 across) in what it is calling its “Austrian Premium Service” concept.

Of course, eastern European and Middle Eastern expansion has come at the expense of some long-haul flights, with routes to Australia scrapped (see online news August 3, 2006), although Mertl pointed out that through its codeshare with Thai Airways, Austrian now offers a significant number of connections Down Under via Bangkok.

The carrier also launched flights to Chicago last year, feeding into fellow Star carrier United’s hub. The airline is working on a general long-haul rule of return rotation of flights being under 24 hours (Chicago, Toronto, Washington, New York, Beijing, Mumbai and Delhi all come in under this marker), allowing it to increase aircraft usage.

Austrian should move into the new Skylink terminal at Vienna Airport in summer 2009, and will be joined there by other Star Alliance carriers, which should make the airport’s already impressive 25-minute minimum connection time even more appealing.

The airline also plans to launch an inflight business magazine called SucCEEd, and has recently employed top-end inflight caterer Do and Co to provide its onboard meal service.

For more information visit austrian.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Hyatt opens sixth San Antonio property

Hyatt has opened a 1003-room hotel in the Texan city of San Antonio.

The Grand Hyatt San Antonio is located adjacent to the Henry B Gonzalez Convention Centre and the city’s River Walk, and has over 10,000sqm of indoor and outdoor meeting space, with the largest ballroom measuring just under 3,000sqm.

All guestrooms include Hyatt Grand Beds, 32-inch flatscreen HDTVs with digital video-on-demand, wifi internet access, large workstations and natural stone bathrooms. The 37-storey hotel also includes a 350-seater Achiote River Cafe with views of River Walk, as well as a gym and heated outdoor pool.

The property is the sixth Hyatt-branded hotel in the San Antonio area, and the 12th in Texas. For more information visit grandsanantonio.hyatt.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Free wifi in BA lounges

BA is to offer free wifi internet access through BT Openzone across all of its UK lounges.

The carrier had already announced that internet access would be free in the new Galleries lounges at T5 (see online news February 21), but this agreement has now been extended across its 25 lounges in the UK and Jersey. Up until now passengers have paid for internet usage in the lounges either in the same way as at any other BT Openzone hotspot.

From April 1 passengers will be directed to the BA website when logging on, from where they will be able to connect to BT Openzone without needing a voucher.

Says Emily Clark, British Airways’ Lounges Development Manager: “An integral part of the travel experience for our premium customers is the lounges and their ability to work or relax as they choose there. For business customers, free wireless will enable them to be connected to the office, right up until they fly.”

For more information visit ba.com, btopenzone.com.

Report by Mark Caswell