Historic Jakarta hotel gets makeover

Jakarta Indonesia’s most historic property is to reopen in late August property is to reopen in late August.

The rebranded Hotel Indonesia Kempinski (www.kempinski-jakarta.com) was the country’s first deluxe hotel when it was opened by the country’s independence hero and then-president Sukarno in 1962, under the name Hotel Indonesia.

The fully renovated hotel will have 289 guestrooms and suites (artist’s rendering of executive lounge and junior suite above), including a 412-square-metre presidential suite with private spa and butler. The hotel will combine old and new by featuring contemporary Indonesian art and design throughout as well as a mini-museum of mementoes from the original 1962 property, including the ribbon and scissors used by Sukarno at the official opening ceremony.

Guestrooms will come fitted with flat-screen TV, grand deluxe beds, rain showers, Wi-Fi and broadband access. Event planners will be well catered for as the hotel with the largest ballroom in the city, the 3,000-square-metre Kempinski Grand Ballroom, along with a 1,000-square-metre Bali room and eight other meeting rooms. A centrepiece of the hotel’s wellness facilities will be a 3,000-square-metre spa, a rooftop pool and botanical garden.

Ten bars and restaurants are planned including the German-style Brauhaus pub, Asian and Italian eateries and the modern Chinese Green T House.

Located in Jakarta’s Jalan Thamrin strip in the heart of the city’s commercial, retail and diplomatic heartland, the hotel will sit alongside a major shopping experience, the Crossroads of the World, and a 52-storey office tower.

In addition, a second 59-storey residential tower will have 260 Kempinski Residences, featuring 126- to 252-square-metre fully serviced luxury apartments.

Kenny Coyle

United’s new features to tickle techies

United Airlines’ Asian passengers not only get new luxurious First and Business Class suites (no longer just called seats) but also added technical features including an iPod adapter that enables passengers to play their own music and videos on the entertainment unit while recharging the iPod, and a USB port to charge personal electronic devices such as PDAs, mobile phones and digital cameras.

The Business Class product (below, right) reclines to a 180º, six-foot-four inch lie-flat bed in a forward- and rear-facing configuration tailored to maximise personal space and privacy. Its seat is up to 23.5 inches wide and adjusts to a broad range of positions.

In First Class, the product (right) is nearly 7.6cm wider than the previous First Class seat, reclining to multiple angels and serves as a 180º, two-metre fully flat bed. Its 39-centimetre wide-screen flat 15.4-inch panel monitor comes with on-demand digital video and music system offering multiple selection of movies, TV programmes and video games. There will be 50 channels of XM-branded audio content, delivering more than 3,000 songs and a jukebox to create customised playlists.

Other suite features found in both classes include four-way lumbar support and six-way adjustable headrest, ottoman providing additional storage for a laptop and personal items (editor’s note: First Class has extraordinary amount of storage space around the seat area, apart from the overhead bins), standard 110V power outlets requiring no adapter, adjustable LED reading light with dimmer and noise-cancelling headphones. These enhancements will be introduced to Asian routes from December onwards.

Currently, United is the only US airline offering three cabins of service on all of its international, overseas flights: First, Business, Economy and Economy Plus seating as well as being the first US carrier to offer 180 fully flat beds in First and Business. “Our First and Business Class cabins reflect United’s investment and commitment to delivering a rewarding and relaxing experience to our most valued customers,” said Mark F Schwab, the airline’s vice-president, Pacific.

Instant workrooms at M Hotel

Boutique property M Hotel not only provides stylish lodging but also corporate space, introducing its level.8 in the form of 40 fully furnished units, occupying an area of about 743sqm.

With weekly leases starting from S$1,000 (US$731) – the maximum leasing period is one year – these offices are equipped with digital telephone sets, wired and wireless broadband internet access, secretarial support, meeting rooms with teleconferencing, Apple iMac and PC workstations in the business centre, a spacious lounge, a pantry with coffee and tea, 24-hour access, air-conditioning and security. Privileges such as preferred room rates for overseas clients, special rates for the spa, gym, pool and F&B outlets and discounted season parking rates are also enjoyed.

Round-the-clock services like food service, IT butler assistance and laundry can be accessed via 1 Touch telephone function.

For those constantly on the move, there are virtual office packages with individual mailboxes and staff who will handle mail and answer calls in the company’s name.

Fraser’s prime location in Hongkong

Hongkong’s serviced residence inventory expands with the arrival of Fraser Suites Hongkong, which is slated for an August launch. It forms part of the growing portfolio of the Singapore-based Frasers Hospitality, while another investor is local company, Harvest Capital Partners.

Designed by architects KplusK Associates, the property will be located in the prime business and entertainment district of Wanchai, conveniently accessible to transport links. It will consist of 87 suites, measuring 40 to 82sqm across 23 floors. According to Frasers executives, the place is expected to fulfill “the exacting needs of corporate executives who appreciate the finer things in life”.

Amenities in the fully furnished units feature LCD TVs that offer cable network programming and broadband internet access among others. Also available is a range of leisure facilities such as a well-equipped gym, jet pool and whirlpool, while a business centre provides executive help if needed.

Banking on the increasingly growing demand for quality serviced residences, Frasers Hospitality is projected to have some 8,000 apartments by 2012, with future properties to rise in cities like Manama and Sydney.

Kenneth Cheong

Shared experiences at Starwood

Well aware that business travellers detest cookie-cutter surroundings and impersonal service, Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ Sheraton Hotels came up with Link@Sheraton that is fast redefining the traditional lobby concept.

“We’re creating a ‘park’ in the lobby that’s aimed at fostering a sense of belonging,” observed Paul Tribolet, Starwood’s senior vice-president, marketing for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, who visited the Asia-Pacific last May to present key clients with the latest company updates. “It’s to give guests a chance to be part of the community, and they don’t have to talk to other people if they don’t wish to, to feel that way.”

That shared space (which in some hotels features long tables to creating a cosy atmosphere) also provides constant connectivity – with Microsoft’s help – to office and home. At the Westin, evening rituals highlight engaging cultural activities such as candle lighting or playing of the drums to help combat homesickness.

Said Tribolet: “More and more, we are finding that our customers are loyal to our hotels, not just to earn points, but because they find the same culture and values wherever they stay. That’s why our brands are so in demand by the market.

“We may have several brands (in the Starwood portfolio), but they are each very distinct. In one city such as Dubai or Rome, you could find six or seven of our brands present as they cover the needs of different travellers.”

Tribolet informed Business Traveller that new Starwood properties would reach the 100-mark globally by year-end, and one of its fastest-rising chains, W would witness tremendous expansion over the next 18 months. Recently launched W Istanbul (opened May), will be joined by W Doha (September) and in succeeding months, by hotels in St Petersburg, Amman, Marrakech, Athens, Milan, Verbier, Barcelona and Dubai (two for the city).

Tribolet discussed the repositioning of Le Méridien, acquired by Starwood in 2005. Based on the group’s core values of French heritage, culture and discovery, initiatives to heighten the guest stay are being put forward. Room keys not only unlock guestroom doors but are also passports to events in museums, art galleries and performance venues. The current inventory of some 650 restaurants in Le Méridien hotels across Europe, Africa and the Middle East will increase to about 800 by 2010.

In order to promote the finer things in life, the chain is in discussion with a prestigious French culinary school to set up satellite kitchens in the lobbies of certain Le Méridien hotels for classes of 10 or so students. “You don’t just get a room at Starwood; you get a memorable experience,” Tribolet said.

Korean Air makes it easy to know Seoul

Clueless about Seoul? Korean Air makes it easy for first-time visitors seated in First and Business Class by providing a new English guidebook, One Fine Day in Seoul.

The foldable guide introduces the city in various themes according to shopping, accommodation and places to eat among others. A small map of Seoul is also included.

There are also suggestions as to how to use spare hours productively with a listing of half- and one-day tours. The restaurants – a mix of Korean and international – cited are recommended by travel writers and other reliable sources. Also included are hot nightspots, promenades and interesting streets.

The guide is distributed on all Korean Air flights bound for Korea to non-Korean passengers in First and Prestige (Business Class). But those in Economy don’t have to miss out as they can easily download the information for free from http://travel.koreanair.com/en

Buying spree in Singapore

It’s not too late to cash in on the Great Singapore Sale (GSS), now in its 15th year of providing tempting offers and exciting events.

The last day is August 20 and until then, discounts are up to 70 percent on a wide range of products, including S$15 (US$11) deals to mark the milestone of having reached 15. Over 200 stores, spas, restaurants, attractions and nightspots are participating in the promotion. Around 11 major stores and malls in Orchard Road, Marina Bay and city fringe areas are extending their trading hours to up to 2300 or midnight on weekends.

Visitors are encouraged to take advantage of these extra benefits:

• Best Buys of the Season – generous discounts on Tech Toys, Timepieces, Beauty & Scents;

• Hot Deals – attractive incentives such as instant rebates and gifts with purchase to reward visitors who spend at the GSS;

• Tourist Privilege Card – gives visitors the chance to enjoy exclusive sightseeing, dining, clubbing and pampering. This year, big-name fashion brands such as Topshop, Topman, Warehouse, Miss Selfridge, Karen Millen and Ben Sherman will be offering 50 percent discount.

• Partner Promotions – exclusive tourist privileges from MasterCard, Global Refund, Premier Tax Free and DHL. With each transaction made during the sale with MasterCard, shoppers automatically get a chance to win S$1,000 (US$731). Any purchase over S$300 (US$219) made on MasterCard will generate a free S$25 (US$18) taxi voucher.

Other incentives include Global Refund cheques, available at affiliated stores displaying the Tax Free Shopping logo, on purchases of at least S$100 (US$73). These can be used to claim tax back for more savings and will entitle shoppers to win more bonus giveaways. DHL is also offering a Tourist Express promotion of up to S$20 (US$15) off shipments until July 31.

There are two other promotions: Uniquely Family Fun 1+1=3 (until August 31) where when purchasing two adult tickets, one child aged 12 or below will enjoy free admission to 16 attractions across Singapore and the Singapore Food Festival (until July 27).

Hassle-free arrival with Fast-Track

For business travellers who have no time for airport hassles, Fast-Track by Business Alliances Solutions could be the solution.

Offered at the Bangkok International Airport, its Meet and Assist packages consist of various perks at varying rates and may or may not include limousine transfers. The most comprehensive package at Bht5,800 (US$176) for one person consists of a Meet and Assist and escort through formalities on arrival and departure, round-trip transfers between airport and city in a Toyota Camry and business lounge access at airport on departure. Additional person is Bht1,900 (US$58).

The list consists of Meet and Assist for one person and escort through formalities on arrival or departure only at Bht1,300 (US$39). Additional person is Bht600 (US$18).

Porter service at the luggage carousel is provided as well. Bookings can only be made online at www.fasttrack.in.th using VISA or MasterCard.

Reviving Ninoy Aquino’s mothballed project

It seems there is still hope for the all but abandoned Terminal 3 of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Officials of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) will attempt a partial opening of the controversial facility this month with trial operations by local carriers. They said they were in discussion with Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines to move forward on the matter.

The terminal was over 90 percent completed in 2002 when the Philippine Supreme Court voided a multi-billion dollar contract between the government and an international consortium over graft issues. In 2007, efforts to open it were aborted after engineers discovered structural problems, including a ceiling that collapsed and weakened beams. Repairs are still being conducted, which led MIAA development and corporate affairs chief Tirso Serrano to report that portions of the building are now safe for operation. “It’s not all that bad,” he said.

He continued: “We will identify a section that can be safely operated. It will be a phased transfer. We can say that for sure Terminal 3 will operate international flights eventually.”

But how long that would take, Serrano could only say: “It could be one year; it could be three years.”

Hotel check: Mercure Eastgate Hotel Oxford

BACKGROUND The hotel is one of 24 properties
acquired from Macdonald Hotels by Moorfield Real Estate Fund in January last
year. In April 2007, a long-term management contract was signed by Accor
resulting in the rebranding of the property as a Mercure, the company’s
non-standardised mid-market chain. The Eastgate Hotel has a four-star status
but, due to the number of single rooms, can only technically be labelled as a
three-star hotel. The hotel is one of 29 Mercure properties in the UK, with the
Mercure Point Hotel Edinburgh and the Mercure London Gatwick Airport having
opened this spring.

WHAT’S IT LIKE? This “townhouse” property has a
warm homely feel to it as you walk in, with low ceilings, a sit-down check-in
area in the lobby and a personal welcome from the staff, who will take your
bags to your room. The public areas recently underwent a complete refurbishment
by interior design company Blacksheep, which also saw the addition of a 80-seat
brasserie, a big change from the student hangout that existed previously. The
ground floor lounge/bar between the entrance area and the restaurant has been
fitted with classic armchairs, timber floors and an unusual style of wallpaper
sporting a life-size black-and-white print of book spines, creating a fitting
“academic” flavour to the place.

WHERE IS IT? On a small, peaceful road just off
the main High Street and opposite the Oxford University Examination Schools, it
is within walking distance of the shops and colleges and a short cab ride from
the station.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 63 en suite rooms (three of which
are smoking) in two categories, Classic and Superior. There are 11 Classic single rooms, 20 Classic double rooms, ten
Classic twin rooms, 16 Superior double rooms and six Superior twin rooms.

ROOM FACILITIES The moderately sized rooms, off
narrow corridors, all have air-conditioning, a limited minibar stocked with essentials
like beer, water and Coke, pay-per-view TV (the older sets are due to be
replaced with flatscreen ones in the next couple of months), a telephone, a
small workdesk, an iron and ironing board, a trouser press and a couple of
armchairs. The simple white bathrooms come with a combined bath/shower,
own-brand toiletries (shower gel and shampoo), heated towel rail and a
hairdryer. My west-facing Superior double room, decorated in soft creams with
dark wood furniture, overlooked the lawns in front of the Examination Schools
and was filled with sunlight in the evening. It also had windows which could be
opened to let in fresh air. Wired internet access is available throughout
bedrooms and the boardroom, while wifi is available in the public areas at a
cost of £5 per hour or £10 for 24 hours.

RESTAURANTS AND BARS The newly renovated bar and
restaurant, The High Table Brasserie and Bar, is popular with local residents
as well as guests, thanks to its good-value menu and wine list and High Street
location. The interior is fitted with white glass-topped tables, wooden floors,
white chairs and dark padded banquette seating, giving it a contemporary yet
cosy atmosphere. The restaurant, which was just awarded its first AA Rosette at
the beginning of June, serves several daily specials as well as a seasonal menu
created by head chef Christopher Bentham, offering modern English cuisine with
a French slant. A breakfast buffet is served here from 7am while coffee,
pastries and lunch are served from 12pm-7pm. Last orders for dinner are taken at
10.45pm. The High Table also features Mercure’s own specially selected wine
list – Les Grands Vins – offering high-quality wines with a minimum mark-up
price. For private fine-dining, there is a glass-walled room in the corner with
a capacity for parties of up to eight people, but for those who just want a
drink and some snacks, there is the bar next door.

BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES There is
currently one boardroom – the Ruskin Suite ­–with
a capacity for 16 people but there are plans to convert this room back into its
original use as a bedroom suite within six months. The venue has plenty of
natural daylight, wifi internet access, and traditional furniture such as brown
leather armchairs and a long dark wood table.

LEISURE FACILITIES None.

VERDICT A comfortable mid-range option which
manages to imbibe the atmosphere of Oxford as a historical, academic city. The
staff are professional and friendly, and the new restaurant is a convenient
dining venue for the business traveller to entertain clients or grab a bite to
eat without leaving the premises.

PRICES Room rates start from £139 including
breakfast and tax.

CONTACT Mercure Eastgate Hotel Oxford, 73 High
Street, Oxfordshire; tel +44 (0)1865 248 332; mercure.com.

Jenny
Southan