Starwood’s St Regis brand to debut in Bermuda

Starwood has announced its first property in Bermuda, with the luxury St Regis brand due to debut in the British overseas territory in 2013.

The St Regis Bermuda will feature around 140 rooms and 80 serviced residences, along with a Remede Spa, signature restaurant, wine bar, library, and rooftop conservatory. The hotel will be located in Bermuda’s capital Hamilton, with Starwood saying it will be the first luxury hotel to open in downtown Hamilton for more than 50 years.

Guests will enjoy butler service, as well as access to the nearby St Regis Beach Club, with amenities including a salt-water infinity-edge pool, private serviced cabanas, and indoor recreation centre, spa services, and the Beach Club Restaurant.

For meetings and events the hotel will offer around 12,000 square feet of space, including a 4,000 square foot ballroom.

For more information visit stregis.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

AA completes Sao Paulo lounge refurb

American Airlines has completed renovations to its Admirals Club lounge at Sao Paulo Guarulhos International airport.

The refurbishments have seen the lounge extended by 1,200 square feet to over 6,600 square feet, with seating for more than 220 passengers. New features include showers, an upgraded business centre, flatscreen TVs, complimentary self-service food and beverage sections, and a children’s room. The lounge also features free wifi internet access.

Located in Terminal 2, Wing D on the mezzanine level of the airport, the lounge is open from 6.30am-10.30pm until the end of October, and 7.30am-midnight from November until February.

For more information visit aa.com/admiralsclub, and for a look at 50 of the top airport lounges in the world, subscribe to the July / August issue of Business Traveller.

Report by Mark Caswell

Airbus A310 crashes in Indian Ocean

An Airbus A310 aircraft flown by Arabian airline Yemenia has crashed in the Indian Ocean near the Comoros Islands. The flight took off from the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, although many of the passengers onboard are reported to have started their journeys in France.

A statement from Airbus has confirmed that flight IY626 was involved in an accident shortly after 0150 (local time) near the Comoros Islands. The A310 aircraft had been on its way to the Comoros capital Moroni.

According to reports on the BBC website there were more than 150 people onboard the flight, many of whom are believed to be French or of dual French-Comoran citizenship. A search is currently underway, and according to latest BBC reports “some bodies have been found and a child rescued alive”.

For more information visit bbc.co.uk/news, yemenia.com. Please note that at 1030 BST the Yemenia website was unavailable.

Report by Mark Caswell

Hongkong airport renovation is on track

Three and a half years after the Airport Authority Hongkong (AAHK) announced a HK$4.5 billion (US$580.6 million) terminal upgrade project, its recently released 2008/09 annual report shows renovation works are on track.

A total of 19 enhancements to both the passenger terminal building and airfield of the Hongkong International Airport (HKIA) are scheduled to finish by 2011. Of the 19 enhancements, a number have already been completed.

Within the airport terminal, the restricted area of the departures hall now boasts an added 1,670sqm of retail space and more than 200 new LCD monitors in check-in aisles, baggage reclaim, departure and arrival halls.

Reconfiguration works are also underway to allow passengers to clear security before proceeding to immigration, increasing efficiency and security screening capacity by about 40 percent.

The number of airline and ferry transfer desks has been increased and two security screening channels added.

Also on the list of completed works is the widening of taxiway shoulders and repositioning of runway holding points for the Airbus A380, the first of which will be flown into Hongkong by Singapore Airlines and arrives at HKIA on July 1.

In addition, a permanent SkyPier, which offers ferry services to destinations in the Pearl River Delta region, and a North Satellite Concourse featuring 10 bridge-served stands for smaller narrow-bodied aircraft will be put into operation by the end of this year.

“Projects under the enhancement programme have been making good progress while some of them have already completed and are running well now,” said an AAHK spokesperson.

The AAHK is also currently working on the HKIA Master Plan 2030, which looks at updating air traffic forecasts, predicting capacity requirements and future development and growth strategies.

One of the major airports in Asia-Pacific, HKIA handled 47.7 million passengers in the year ending March 31, a drop of 2.5 percent from the same period a year before.

For more information on HKIA, visit www.hkairport.com

Joshua Tan

Quintessentially launches Blackberry pocket city guide

Tech-savvy travellers tired of carrying around paperback travel guides can now use their trusty BlackBerry to move around when visiting overseas destinations.

Quintessentially, a private members’ club and concierge service, has launched a city guide application for BlackBerry users. The software is free for members and non-members alike.

The guide was first made available for iPhone and iPod Touch devices.

The guide covers 47 cities across the world including Amsterdam, Hongkong, Singapore and Paris, and newest additions Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Bogota, Rome, Venice, Florence and Beirut.

The Quintessentially guide provides travellers with regularly updated information on a destinations – how to get around, must-sees places, where to eat and stay, not-to-be-missed events and many more.

Quintessentially members who download software also get special offers and privileges from across the world when they use the travel guide.

To download the guide, visit www.quintessentially.com/blackberry for the Blackberry version and www.quintessentially.com/iphone for the iPhone and iPod Touch version.

Joshua Tan

Air France signs new code share agreements

Air France passengers can enjoy better air connectivity between Asia and Europe as the carrier recently signed new codeshare agreements with two Asian counterparts.

Using AF flight numbers, the airline has forged an agreement with Bangkok Airways to offer customers six new destinations: Phuket, Chiangmai, Koh Samui and Trat in Thailand, Phnom Penh in Cambodia and Luang Prabang in Laos.

These destinations will be offered to Air France customers from tomorrow, July 1 and will be operated by Bangkok Airways aircraft whose schedules will ensure rapid connections with Air France’s long-haul flights between Paris-CDG and Bangkok.

In another agreement, Japan Airlines will start codesharing flights operated by Air France between Paris and Istanbul from July 7.

The two carriers have been in a code sharing partnership since 1960 with Air France connecting Japan to 11 other destinations in Europe via Paris.

The existing agreement includes code share flights from Tokyo’s Narita International Airport and Osaka’s Kansai International Airport to Paris. The other codeshare flights connect Paris to Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, Dusseldorf, Hamburg, Lyon, Munich, Nice, Prague, Stockhom and Warsaw.

With the addition of the Paris-Istanbul route, the total number of destinations in Europe share by codesharing flights between Air France and Japan Airlines increases to 13.

For more details, visit http://corporate.airfrance.com, www.bangkokair.com and www.jal.co.jp

Gigi Onag

Rezidor to open Radisson Royal hotel in Moscow

Rezidor Hotel Group has announced it latest project in Russia’s capital. The landmark Hotel Ukraina, one of Moscow’s famous “Seven Sisters” skyscrapers, is to be transformed into a Radisson Royal property.

Due to open on December 1, the Radisson Royal Hotel, Moscow will feature 507 guest rooms and 38 serviced apartments, as well as four restaurants, a 31st-floor bar, a conference centre accommodating up to 1,000 delegates, and a 4,000sqm wellness centre and spa, including a 50m swimming pool, Turkish bath and Finnish sauna.

The hotel will be housed with the building presently known as Hotel Ukraina, one of seven Stalinist skyscrapers constructed in the city during the last years of the dictator’s life. The Russian Baroque and Gothic-style constructions still dominate Moscow’s skyline, with Hilton recently opening a hotel within the 136metre-high Leningradskaya building (see online news August 27, 2008).

Hotel Ukraina is the second highest of the Seven Sisters at 206m in height (including a 73m spire), and is currently undergoing extensive renovation before reopening as a Radisson Royal property at the end of the year. Guest rooms will average 32sqm, with suites from 50sqm, and the hotel will also retain around 1,000 original paintings from the socialist realism period, along with several huge murals and ceiling frescoes in the public areas.

The property is located on Moskva River, at the junction of Kutuzovsky Prospect and Novy Arbat, and within walking distance of the House of Government of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Rezidor currently operates two properties in Moscow – the Radisson SAS Slavyanskaya Hotel and Business Centre Ltd, and the Park Inn Sadu, Moscow, with three further Radisson SAS hotels due to open in the city by 2011.

For more information visit rezidor.com.

Report by Mark Caswell

Wyndham hotel brand enters China

The US-based Wyndham Hotel Group has launched its first property under its upmarket brand Wyndham with a 588-room hotel in Xiamen.

“Xiamen is clearly a key gateway city with strong commercial links to Hongkong, Macau and Taiwan,” said Thomas Monahan, executive vice- president for international development at Wyndham Hotel Group. “As the city continues to grow and flourish with increased commerce and tourism, we expect the number of business and leisure travellers to do the same.”

The 26-storey hotel situated in the heart of the city’s booming business district is also the first Wyndham-branded property managed by the group in Asia-Pacific.

The top five floors are occupied by the Wyndham Club, with 90 executive rooms, library, business services, meeting room and split-level lounge.

To mark the opening, Wyndham Xiamen Hotel has introductory packages starting from CNY899 (US$132), inclusive of a free upgrade to a Deluxe Sea View Room, a complimentary breakfast, a free buffet lunch or dinner, a round-trip hotel transfer, complimentary internet and full access to the gym. The deal is good until August 31.

The centrepiece is the 1,260sqm pillarless grand ballroom that can cater to up to 1,000 guests. The hotel also has 11 meeting rooms for small- and medium-sized groups, as well as a multilingual staff who can speak five international languages.

Monahan noted: “We anticipate this hotel will be a flagship for what the Wyndham brand stands for and this will lead to increased opportunities for the brand in the country.”

Already, a second Wyndham property in China is under construction. The Wyndham Shanghai Baolian is scheduled to open in 2010.

Click here for more information.

Sandy Goh

Hilton announces Doha Residence

Hilton is to manage a 288-room residential hotel in Doha from 2012, located next to the forthcoming Hilton Doha.

The new-build property will feature studios and apartments from one to three bedrooms in size, as well as a restaurant and outdoor swimming pool.

Slated to open in 2012, the Hilton Doha Residence will be located in the West Bay business and diplomatic district of Doha, adjacent to the 324-room Hilton Doha which is due to open in the first quarter of 2010.

For more information visit hilton.com.