Conrad Jupiters completes US$10.5 million renovation

Conrad Jupiters on Australia’s Gold Coast has completed a AUS$16 million (US$10.5 million) room and meeting space renovation.

Wayne Pilgrim, the hotel’s director of sales, said: “The refurbishment means that our facilities can keep pace with the demands of leisure and business visitors. We have invested in improving and expanding our meetings and function space as well as the guestrooms.”

The renovation of the Broadbeach Island property includes the upgrade of 442 superior hotel rooms. Technological enhancements include high-speed broadband connection, high-definition 32-inch LCD television screens with an iPod-compatible slimline data panel.

The business centre has four workstations, including PCs, high-speed connection, printers and LCD screens. The executive reception and executive boardroom have also been revamped.

Located close to the Gold Coast Convention Centre, Conrad Jupiters is one of the region’s top meetings hotels. The refurbishment of the hotel’s convention centre has seen the upgrading of its entrances and as well as the re-carpeting of 1,600 sqm of convention space.

Pilgrim pointed out that Conrad Jupiters’ Pavilion Marquee has also undergone a major refurbishment, with the construction of solid walls, a timber deck entrance, new flooring and the installation of reverse-cycle air conditioning.

For more details see, www.hilton.com

Kenny Coyle

THAI takes two

Partners unite! Especially when flying on THAI Airways’s Double Happiness promotion starting from US$130 each person, Economy, that promises not just Bangkok but another 11 Thai destinations as well.

Tickets must be issued by March 31, 2009. Fares are valid for two adult passengers traveling together for the whole journey.

Travellers can choose from Chiangmai, Chiangrai, Phuket, Hatyai, Krabi, Ubon Ratchathani, Surat Thani, Koh Samui, Udon Thani, Khon Kaen or Phitsanulok as the second place to visit. 

Until March 31, THAI’s domestic ticket fares, except for the Chiang Mai-Mae Hong Son route, is subject to a 100 baht (US$2.77) discount on the normal fare per sector. (except V and  W class)

For more details on fares and conditions, visit www.thaiairways.com.

Margie T Logarta

Design Hotels to open Sanctum Hotel in London

Next month will see the latest London property to join the Design Hotels portfolio, with the opening of the Sanctum Soho Hotel.

The 30-room property is spread across two renovated Victorian townhouses on Warwick Street in London’s Soho, and is due to open on March 21. According to the group, designer Lesley Purcell has created spaces “that seamlessly reflect eccentric fun and frivolity alongside classical lines and intrinsic style”, with four colour schemes – brown, silver, pink and mauve present throughout the property. London artist Xavier Pick has been commissioned to paint artwork for the lobby area, which also features parquet flooring and two fireplaces.

Rooms have been individually designed, with the rooftop apartment featuring its own garden. Facilities include iPod docking stations, DVD players, Wii game consoles with fit boards, and complimentary wifi internet access. There is no gym onsite, but temporary membership to The Third Space (a nearby health and fitness club) can be arranged.

There will also be a 45-seat “Cinema at Sanctum”, which can be converted into a meeting space for up to 100 delegates, as well as a rooftop spa and “No. 20” restaurant serving Modern British cuisine.

Room rates start from £145 for a “crash pad”, rising to £260 for a superior double. For more information visit designhotels.com/sanctumsoho.

Report by Mark Caswell

Watch Rod and Duffy, stay at Marriott

Fans of British rock perennial Rod Stewart and Welsh soul singer, catching their performances in Hongkong on March 7 and 20 respectively, are in for a treat.

Hongkong SkyCity Marriott Hotel, which is connected via a pedestrian bridge to the concert venue AsiaWorld-Expo, is offering ticket-holders a Show-Stopper package.

The package is priced from HK$1,488 (US$192) based on twin sharing, with a host of privileges: accommodation in a Deluxe Ocean View Room, complimentary shuttle service from hotel to airport and Tung Chung shopping mall, a 1400 check out, gifts for guests and pre-show dinner buffet and breakfast for two at SkyCity Bistro. Access is complimentary to the health club with a 27m indoor pool, Jacuzzi, steam room, sauna and 24-hour gym.

Additional benefits include a 15 percent discount on services at the hotel’s signature Man Ho Chinese Restaurant, SkyCity Bistro or Lounge Bar, as well as extended hours (till midnight) at the Velocity Bar & Grill for post-concert cocktails.

For reservations, call 852 3969 1888 or visit www.marriott.com/hkgap.

Julian Tan

Tracking executive movements

The airport has been shut down by civil disturbance in Jakarta; an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude on the Richter scale has struck San Francisco; terrorists have commandeered a luxury resort in Turkey. Do you know where your staff are?

Travel consultant Abacus International can help in this department, with its new service that allows companies to keep track of travelling employees when emergencies explode.

Targeted at the corporate end-users and corporate travel agencies, the web-based service called Abacus TravelIntelligence provides map graphics showing at a glance where all travelling staff are at any time.

As a risk management tool, the system stores a company’s detailed air, car, hotel, rail and cruise information. This data is uploaded before a trip and are kept in the system for up to three years.

“These corporate end-users are typically regional companies or multinational corporations with a sizable number of frequent travellers,” said Brett Henry, vice-president for agency marketing at Abacus International. “They place focus on employee welfare and are conscious about business risks. They see great business value in the ability to initiate extraction procedures immediately after a crisis occurs, such as the recent Mumbai attacks”

He said: “The common lesson learned from these incidents is that time is of the essence, and the faster the company is able to begin extracting its employees, the faster its people can be removed to safety. The solution has worked well for travellers who were able to leave Mumbai on the first flight after the airports re-opened.”

The service, which has over 200 corporate customers worldwide, was recently rolled out in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. It will be released in phases this year across all markets in the region.

Henry said Abacus TravelIntelligence is doing well in the Asia-Pacific, signing up more than 10 corporate users in less than a month after it launched.

Meanwhile, corporate travel agent Safe2Travel, which used Abacus TravelIntelligence to help customers stranded in Bangkok during the airport crisis last December, has also found the web-based service an effective operations tool.

“The system allows us to manage our corporate clients’ travel policies for the maximum number of employees permitted on the same flight. Once this threshold is reached, both our corporate clients and our team members are duly informed,” said JK Lim of Safe2Travel.

He added: “The web-based application also means that we are able to access travellers information anywhere and anytime even if it’s in the middle of the night. This allows us to provide a round-the-clock service that is in line with the mobile nature to the travel business.”

For more details, visit www.abacus.com.sg.

Gigi Onag

Ryanair to charge for in-flight toilets?

Ryanair’s CEO Michael
O’Leary has said in a BBC interview that the budget carrier has considered
installing coin slots on its cabin toilets and charging £1 to use them.

O’Leary was
discussing the removal of Ryanair check-in desks at airports (see online news February
25
) during an interview with the BBC this morning, and said that the airline
had also looked at the possibility of installing coin slots on its toilets, “so that people might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny
in future”.

When questioned about what passengers
without cash would do when they required the toilet, he responded that he didn’t
think there was “anybody in history that has got on board a Ryanair aircraft
with less than a pound”.

Conusmer body
Which? has condemned the possibility of charging customers to use the toilet
in-flight, but what do you think? Let us know your comments below, or join in
the debate on our forum.

For more
information visit ryanair.co.uk.

Etihad launches UK seat sale

Etihad Airways is
offering return flights from London to Abu Dhabi for just £247, for flights
booked before March 9 and taken by the end of May. These are perfect for
business travellers as they do not include restrictions on Saturday night
stays.

The sale
officially starts on March 1, although when Business Traveller checked today we
found flights in early May (departing Sunday May 3 and returning Thursday May
7) were already bookable for £253. Indeed the difference in price between Etihad
and BA on these dates was staggering – Etihad came in at £253, with BA charging
£1,394, mainly because the flights do not include a Saturday night stay.

The sale also
covers routes to Mumbai (£275), Sydney (£505) and Melbourne (£533), with the
fares guaranteed at these prices on all available economy seats throughout the
promotional period. The sale runs from March 1 to March 9, and all outbound
travel must be completed by May 28 and inbound by May 31.

In addition
members of the carrier’s Etihad Guest programme will earn full miles on these
promotional fares, as well as a bonus of 2,500 miles for all online booking
made before April 1.

For more
information visit etihadairways.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Business Traveller March edition now live

You may not be aware that subscribers to the print version of Business Traveller
can access the edition online a whole month before everyone else. All
of our special reports, destination features and tried and tested
reviews are uploaded to businesstraveller.com each month, and the March edition has just gone live.

Subscribe to Business Traveller today for just £38, and as an added bonus you’ll receive a complimentary Regus businessworld gold card, worth an amazing £199.
The card gives members access to 950 business lounges worldwide, with
complimentary internet and refreshments as well as preferential rates
on meeting rooms and offices. For more information and to subscribe visit businesstraveller.com/regus.

This month’s packed issue includes:

  • How to survive Rome on a budget

  • 21 ways to cuts travel costs

  • A special report on the UK’s regional airports

  • Expansion at Dusseldorf airport

  • Golfing around Singapore

  • Dubai’s meeting spaces

  • How in-flight meals reach your seat

  • Destination features on Colombo, Malta and Warsaw

If you are already a subscriber to Business Traveller, simply log in here
for full access to our archive, using the email address attached to
your subscription. If you are unsure of your log in details, or have
any problems accessing the archive as a print subscriber, click here to send us an email.

Bmi: the mid-haul airline

Bmi is cementing its future as a mid-haul carrier with new services to the Middle East and Moscow this spring

Bmi sees its core business as a mid-haul airline and is expanding on profitable routes to the Middle East, according to Katherine Gershon, sales and marketing director at the carrier.

“It’s 18 months since we acquired British Mediterranean Airways and we are becoming predominantly a mid-haul airline,” she said. “We are going twice daily to Tel Aviv from the end of March, and we are daily to Moscow, Cairo, Beirut, Damascus, Riyadh and then on to Jeddah.”

Gershon said Bmi still had a strong domestic network but that it now played two roles. “There is the point-to-point traffic to and from Heathrow, but there are also passengers flying into our hub and on to our mid-haul network,” she explained.

Gershon said that about 20 per cent of passengers were transferring from one Bmi flight to another at Heathrow, with the proportion of passengers from Star Alliance carriers being higher.

The airline has made several important cuts to its services this year, following on from closing its flights from Manchester to destinations such as Chicago and Las Vegas (see online news February 19).

The Heathrow slots that have been freed up by the cuts are now being used to increase frequencies, though not necessarily at times that are convenient for UK passengers.

“Some 40 per cent of traffic on a route such as London Heathrow to Beirut is originating in the US, either on United Airlines, our Star Alliance partner, Air New Zealand from Los Angeles, or airlines such as Virgin Atlantic, so we look at convenient connecting times for them as well as the UK,” Gershon said.

Bmi’s long-haul aircraft, the A330, which is configured in three classes with 30 premium economy seats and 18 fully-flat business class seats, will be used on routes such as Tel Aviv.

“We are going head-to-head on the Tel Aviv route with British Airways and El Al,” Gershon said. “BA has a four-class configuration on the route so I don’t think the flat bed will be wasted on only a four-and-a-half-hour sector. If there are people prepared to pay for Club World then they will certainly be tempted by our flat-bed product, which is priced considerably lower than the Club World flat bed.

“It may be a short sector but it means you value every minute you can sleep. Our premium economy seats, which are the old business class seats, have 50 inches of leg room compared with BA’s World Traveller Plus, which is 38 inches.”

Bmi is also improving its lounge offering at Heathrow Terminal 1. At the moment it has three lounges – one for domestic flights, one for international, and the Star Alliance lounge, although you have to be a gold card Star Alliance member to access this.

“The whole lounge plan got thrown out with the T5 debacle,” Gershon says. “We should have moved into our new international lounge in November last year, but instead building work didn’t start until last month.

“It will now open on 1 June this year and we’ve designed it so there can be dining before night flights. The old international lounge was focused on Europe and didn’t have a kitchen. The new one will have showers and areas where you can work, rest and eat. We don’t have the budget to create something like the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, but I think people will be impressed.”

In addition to the new chauffeur drive being rolled out on routes from Heathrow to Moscow and Saudi Arabia (see http://www.businesstraveller.com/news/bmi-launches-business-class-chauffeur-service), this service is now being offered for fully-flexible business class ticket holders on routes such as Cairo. At Terminal 1 there will be six branded parking bays for the E-class Mercedes to pull into by the end of March.

Tom Otley

NB: Bmi will operate its twice-daily service from London Heathrow to Tel Aviv on an A321 aircraft from 30 March, with a two-cabin configuration of 31 business class seats and 118 economy seats. From 3 May it will use its A330 aircraft, which has 18 business class fully-flat beds, 30 premium economy seats and 170 economy seats.

Flight schedule (local times):

BD761  depart Heathrow 1115, arrive Tel Aviv 1805 (Mon-Sun)
BD762  depart Tel Aviv 0630, arrive Heathrow 1000 (Mon-Sun)
BD763  depart Heathrow 2155, arrive Tel Aviv 0445 (Mon-Sun)
BD764 depart Tel Aviv 1920, arrive Heathrow 2250 (Mon-Sun)

A321 fares start from £306 return for economy, including taxes, and £781 return for business class; A330 fares start from £306 return for economy, £699 return for premium economy and £799 return for business class.

Free chauffeur drive will be available at both ends of the route on bookings made from March on selected business class fares only. 

Firmer handshake across the Strait

Deepening of Cross-Strait ties between China and Taiwan have been ramped up even further with the arrival of a large delegation of Mainland tourism bigwigs in Taipei on Wednesday, February 25. This follows on the heels of a series of flights last December from 12 Chinese cities to four Taiwanese cities.

Shao Qiwei, director of China’s National Tourism Administration, led the 458-member party, which also included representatives of several local governments and 113 Chinese travel agencies approved to organise tourist groups to what was referred to in the past as “China’s renegade province”.

During the high-profile visit, participants will be inspecting various well-known Taiwan attractions such as Sun Moon Lake in Nantou, Taroko Gorge National Park and outlying islands Penghu and Kinmen among others. Some will head for golf courses, hoping to design options for the Chinese golf sector, which may be still small but is projected to grow rapidly. Taiwan’s green fees are reportedly cheaper than China’s.

It is expected that after conditions are deemed safe for Chinese nationals, their officials will aggressively encourage trips to Taiwan.

Business Traveller learned also yesterday that direct marketing giant Amway China is arranging an incentive travel cruise experience to Taiwan in mid-March for about 17,000 of its top producers and their families. The group will depart from Shanghai on several vessels and arrive in the port city of Keelung, after which it will tour the country’s coastline.

In another development, international cruise company Costa Cruises received approval from China’s transportation ministry to operate three special cruises between the Mainland and Taiwan.

Margie T Logarta