Charterhouse unveils iPhone check in

The Charterhouse Causeway Bay in Hongkong has jumped on the iPhone bandwagon with its iPhone Express Hotel Check-in service set to launch on February 1.

The iPhone Express Hotel Check-in page allows guests to pre-register from their iPhones, a service designed to ease the check-in procedure.

Guests accessing the hotel’s website from their iPhones will have the page automatically resized for user convenience. The website allows travellers to access contents, comprising hotel introduction and guestrooms and dining information, in both English and Simplified Chinese.

Emails notifications will be sent to the guests’ emails two days prior to their arrival. Personal details can be updated from the iPhones for faster check-ins.

For more details, visit www.charterhouse.com

Jarrel Tan

Jumeirah to sink footprint in Bangkok

Jumeirah Group continues to flex its muscles beyond its Dubai base with the signing of a recent management agreement to handle a new five-star hotel in Bangkok.

The 305-room Jumeirah Bangkok will be situated along Chao Phraya River, close to the Sathorn Bridge and Bangkok’s Central Business District. It will be easily accessible from the expressway or by boat through in-house docking stations on its 200-metre riverfront..

The urban resort is set to open in 2014.

It will feature the Talise spa, signature F&B outlets, retail units and an art gallery. It will also boast a banquet and conference centre that will have a 1,200sqm ballroom looking out onto an array of immaculately designed gardens.

Jumeirah Bangkok is the second management agreement signed by the group in Thailand, following the Jumeirah Private Island Phuket in 2008.

The group now has a total number of 41 properties under development or in operation worldwide.

For more information on Jumeirah, visit www.jumeirah.com

Jarrel Tan

CotaiJet to launch new Macau-Kowloon ferry

CotaiJet, the high-speed ferry service owned by Las Vegas Sands Corporation, is launching a new route between Macau and Hongkong.

The route from Taipa to China Ferry Terminal will start on February 7, with three return trips every day. Taipa is the closest terminal to the Cotai Strip, the Las Vegas Sands-funded entertainment and meetings district, which is home to the Venetian Macau, its flagship property in the territory.

CotaiJet also runs regular services linking Macau and Hongkong Island’s ferry terminal.

For more information about CotaiJet, visit www.cotaijet.com.mo

Kenny Coyle

New Ryanair lounge for Stansted

A new lounge has opened for passengers flying with Ryanair out of Stansted airport.

The No.1 Traveller lounge, which costs £17.50 per visit, has a bistro, fully-tended bar and business facilities – printing, fax and scanning facilities are available.

The lounge, which can seapt up to 50 people, also offers free UK landline calls, free wi-fi internet access, newspapers, magazines, board games and televisions to watch.

It is located opposite Gate 49 on Satellite 3, where most Ryanair international flights depart from, and is the second No.1 Traveller lounge to open at the airport.

No.1 Traveller is owned by British theatre producer Phil Cameron. Commenting on the launch of the new lounge, he said: “Stansted is a major airport, with discerning passengers, creating their own travel itineraries.

“Low-cost travel often puts pressure on the passenger to arrive in good time and we recognize that many would welcome an opportunity to get the formalities out the way, and head out towards their gates to eat, drink and enjoy our unique service.”

No.1 Traveller launched its first lounge at New York’s JFK International airport in 2007, entering the UK market with a lounge in Gatwick airport, which opened in April last year.

On Monday (February 1), No.1 Traveller will be launching a new travel service for companies or individual travellers, combining chauffeured airport transfers, airport concierge services and access to the lounges.

Cameron said: “As a frequent traveller, I know how stressful and unpredictable getting to the airport can be.  We’ve created No.1 Traveller to take the hassle and stress away, and to let the traveller actually enjoy catching a flight again.”

He plans to extend the service to major airports across the UK, with coverage of over sixty percent of the UK travel market in the next eighteen months.

Visit no1traveller.com

Indonesia visa change under fire

Indonesia’s scrapping of its US$10 week-long visa-on-arrival (VOA) will damage the business events sector and could inhibit regular business travellers, according to its own tourism ministry and industry figures.

The decision to impose a single 30-day VOA, costing US$25, was made by the country’s immigration ministry, but the tourism ministry said it was urging a review.

Firmansyah Hakim, the ministry’s director general of tourism destination development, told the Jakarta Globe newspaper that he was “worried the regulation would affect foreign tourists who make frequent short stays”.

One likely casualty are the Indonesian island resorts of Bintan and Batam just a one-hour ferry ride from Singapore. These are favourite weekend destinations for locals and visitors and a major weekday venue for offshore meetings and teambuilding by Singapore-based companies.

Asad Shiraz, director marketing, Bintan Resorts International, said: “We are definitely concerned and disappointed, as most visitors to Bintan Resorts combine their trips with Singapore and do not stay longer than seven days. Hence, the US$15 increase in VOA fee does add substantially to the cost of a quick getaway, especially for frequent golfers and day-trippers. The business events and other sectors are expected to be similarly affected.

“When the VOA facility for 64 countries was implemented, it was definitely a step in the right direction to boost tourism as Bintan Resorts is one of the major international gateways to Indonesia, with a record high of 410,454 visitor arrivals in 2009.”

While a number of southeast Asian citizens, such as Singaporean, Thai, Filipino and Vietnamese passport holders have visa-free arrangements. Citizens of the majority of countries must use VOA facilities or apply in advance.

Kenny Coyle

Air China to serve Bangalore and Manila

Air China will start new services to the Indian IT centre of Bangalore and the Philippine capital Manila in February and March of this year.

Beginning February 27, the airline will operate a twice weekly Shanghai-Chengdu-Bangalore service.

CA425 departs from Shanghai Pudong International Airport on Wednesday and Saturday at 1700, arriving in Chengdu at 2000, arriving in Bangalore at 0020 + 1. The return CA426 leaves Bangalore on Thursday and Sunday at 0140, arriving in Chengdu at 0830, then leaves Chengdu at 1000 and lands in Shanghai at 1230

A thrice-weekly Beijing-Manila service starts up on March 29, with CA179 departing Beijing Capital International Airport on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday at 2000, arriving in the Philippine capital at 0055 + 1. The return CA180 leaves Manila Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 0630 and arrives Beijing at 1110.

For more details, visit www.airchina.com

Margie T Logarta

ANA increases routes for 24-hour Haneda hub

All Nippon Airways (ANA) Japan’s second-largest airline has announced several new international routes, increased frequencies to key regional business destinations and plans to capitalise on Tokyo’s Haneda Airport’s transformation into a 24-hour operation later this year.

The expansion contrasts with national flag carrier Japan Airlines’s move to slash jobs and routes.

ANA is to start flying from Tokyo’s main existing international hub at Narita airport to Munich, Germany, seven times a week from July 1. It is also increasing frequency between Narita and Vietnam’s business capital Ho Chi Minh City from five to seven times weekly as well as frequency on services between Narita and the Chinese cities of Shenyang and Hangzhou to seven times weekly.

ANA will expand international routes from Haneda, starting with a new Haneda-Taipei (Songshan) route 14 times a week and increase the frequency of Haneda-Seoul (Gimpo) to 21 times a week. Haneda-Shanghai (Hongqiao) and Haneda-Beijing will now have 14 flights per week.

Haneda airport has largely been the Japanese capital’s domestic airport since Narita opened in the late 1970s. However, it is currently building a fourth runway on an artificial island in Tokyo Bay away from the mainland’s crowded residential areas that will enable it to operate around the clock. The project is scheduled to be completed by October 31 this year.

ANA is considering using Haneda for night-time routes to the west coast of the US and to destinations in Southeast Asia.

www.ana.co.jp

Kenny Coyle

SAS launches cashback offer

Scandinavian Airlines has launched a corporate promotion offering companies up to £80 cashback per flight when they make at least six one-way flights or three return trips per month.

The cashback offer is valid for flights taken between February 1 and June 30, and September 1 and November 30, 2010. Companies register for the promotion at flysas.co.uk/cashback, and use a specific link to make all bookings, which registers the number of flights taken.

The company starts to receive cashback once a total of six one-way flights or three return trips have been made in any one month during the periods above. The rate of cashback depends on the class of travel, with a one-way economy ticket attracting £15 cashback (£30 return), an economy extra flight earning £30 (£60 return), and a business class ticket attracting £40 (£80 return).

The offer is valid on SAS flights on the following routes:

  • London Heathrow – Copenhagen/ Oslo/ Stockholm

  • London Heathrow – Stavanger/ Gothenburg

  • London City – Copenhagen

  • London Gatwick – Bergen

  • Birmingham – Copenhagen

  • Manchester – Copenhagen/ Oslo/ Stockholm

  • Aberdeen – Stavanger/ Bergen/ Copenhagen

  • Newcastle – Stavanger

Blue 1 flights between London Heathrow and Helsinki also qualify for this promotion.

Companies must register before February 19 to qualify for this offer. For more information visit flysas.co.uk/cashback.

Report by Mark Caswell

Marriott unveils video-conferencing suites

US hotel chain Marriott has opened the first of its Telepresence video-conference meeting rooms in New York and Bethesda, near Washington DC.

The Cisco-designed technology, which provides high-definition screens with cameras offering near-perfect eye contact and directional sound, will be rolled out across 25 hotels around the world in the initial phase.

The first “Go There Virtual Meetings” studios have opened in the New York Marriott East Side and the Bethesda North Marriott. The JW Marriott Hong Kong, Renaissance Sao Paulo, JW Marriott Marquis, Renaissance Washington DC, Atlanta Airport Marriott Gateway, and Dallas/Fort Worth Airport Marriott will follow suit in the next couple of months.

In the UK, the Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott hotel on London’s Park Lane, will open its first Cisco Telepresence room in April or May. Anthony Stewart-Moore, general manager of the hotel, said: “It will be good for our customers. We have hosted a lot of global-partner type meetings, whether they be for legal, accounting or consulting firms, and quite often they bring in their own temporary infrastructure to do these ‘satellite conference calls’. They spend tens of thousands of pounds putting that infrastructure in place, but now we are going to have it there ready and convenient for them.

“What’s exciting is that when we do awards-type events and a recipient can’t be in attendance, we will be able to stream a Telepresence call into our Great room, so 2,000 people can watch what’s going on here, right now.” He added: “We are also in the heart of Mayfair, in the middle of the diplomatic area of London, so I think we will see a lot of late-night meetings between diplomats.”

The high-tech video-conferencing suites, which cost about US$75,000 to install, are available to book through gotherevirtualmeetings.com at a rate of US$500 (or the local equivalent) for one hour. Bookings must be for at least one hour, with incremental half-hours available after that.

The rooms seat six people at a semi-circular desk with three screens displaying live feeds from the remote participants. Cisco also offers a larger version of the suite for up to 18 people. Delegates can connect with as many locations as they like, as voice-activating audio means that as soon as someone who is not already visible starts to speak, they will appear on one of the screens.

Mark Weidick, Cisco’s vice-president and general manager of the Telepresence business unit, said: “In terms of capacity, we have used it with up to 64 locations at one time. That’s not to say there aren’t limits to the technology, but we haven’t met them yet.”

Kathleen Matthews, executive vice-president of corporate communications at Marriott, said: “The experience is so seamless – the way the camera follows you, the way you can physically take a piece of paper and show it to someone [in another location] by placing it under the remote camera – I think the longer you are in the experience the more you forget that you are not all in the same room.”

Business Traveller tried out the technology at the launch yesterday (January 28) in Cisco’s London office, and experienced close to no time lag in audio, with sound and images synchronising smoothly. And although it seemed a little disconcerting at first, with the help of a list of participants, logos for each of the companies taking part, and an event host to direct questions and maintain a focus, it soon became apparent how to behave, where to look and how to take part in the virtual meeting.

Click here to watch a film demonstrating Marriott’s Go There Virtual Meetings.

Visit marriott.com for more information.

Report by Jenny Southan

Cathay Pacific bumps up Seoul frequencies, reschedules Mumbai

Cathay Pacific adds flights to Seoul and retimes Mumbai flights.

From March 28, Cathay Pacific’s CX685 which flies daily to Mumbai, will have a retimed departure, making it more convenient for travellers and for those connecting from key markets such as the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The departure has been retimed from 1415 to 2150, with the evening flight allowing travellers, whether on business or leisure, to enjoy a full day in Hong Kong. 

CX685 now arrives in Mumbai at 0200, while the return CX684 departing from Mumbai at 0320 arriving in Hongkong at 1140.

Cathay is also increasing its flights to Seoul from May 2, adding a further four flights a week, followed by a further three flights a week from July 1, bringing the level to the 2008 level of five flights a day to and from the city.

 Sluggish demand due to the global recession last year forced the carrier to reduce frequencies to destinations such as Seoul, Sydney, Bangkok and Taipei.

 For more details, visit www.cathaypacific.com