JAL to sell off hotel arm to Okura group

Cash-strapped Japan Airlines is to sell off its hotel management arm to the Tokyo-based Hotel Okura group, according to unconfirmed reports in the Japanese media.

JAL Hotels operates 41 hotels in Japan, 28 of which are under the Nikko Hotels International (NHI) brand and 13 of which belong to the Hotel JAL City chain. NHI also has 17 overseas properties, in locations across Asia as well as the Middle East and London. This represents an inventory of nearly 19,000 rooms worldwide.

A JAL statement issued after the news broke said: “JAL apologizes for any inconvenience or concerns caused by the media reports about JAL Hotels. The company did not make any announcement about this issue, and the business of JAL Hotel (Hotel Nikko, JAL City hotels) will continue.”

Nikko has recently been targeting China for international expansion. Two hotels are scheduled for Suzhou, the first in October this year the second in 2012, and there are plans to open in four more cities; Shanghai, Wuxi, Guangzhou and Xiamen before 2012.

Hotel Okura is said to be considering changing the hotel brand name from JAL Hotels to Hotel Okura.

The group also has Okura-branded properties in Amsterdam and Shanghai as well as two Korean properties, the Shilla Seoul and Shilla Jeju. It also manages one hotel in the US, a resort property in Hawaii.

Okura is planning to open new hotels in Macau (2011), Taipei (2012) and Bangkok (2012).

www.okura.com

Kenny Coyle

Shangri-La Lhasa, Tibet opens in 2012

Shangri-La Hotel Lhasa, Tibet is set to join the Asian luxury chain’s portfolio in 2012, with 350 guestrooms featuring modern interpretations of traditional architectural motifs using locally produced arts, crafts and fabrics.
 
The hotel’s arrival in the destination is significant, as not only are there no internationally branded properties in the city – except for the Four Points – but Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts takes its name from the fictional utopian lamasery high in the mountains of Tibet imagined by James Hilton in his novel, Lost Horizon.
 
A copy of the book is a standard amenity in every Shangri-La guestroom.
 
Located on Lingkor Road, the hotel is 1.5km from the Potala Palace, a must-visit attraction for every first timer to Lhasa. Other accessible landmarks include Chokpori, one of the four holy mountains of central Tibet, the summer palace of Norbu Lingka and the Tibet museum.

Taking into consideration difficulties travellers have acclimating to the high altitude, the hotel will invest in extensive landscaping to increase oxygen levels around the complex, while offering a full service clinic and 24-hour medical staff.

Greg Dogan, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts president and CEO, said their new project in the Himalayas would “support development efforts in the region” and “bring greater prosperity to Tibet”. The hotel is wholly owned by the group.

For more details, visit www.shangri-la.com

Margie T Logarta

New city guides added

Business Traveller’s city guides provide you with compact, indispensable guides to the sights you shouldn’t miss in cities around the world.

We add at least one new guide every month, and now have over 100 entries for cities around the globe. Whether you’re looking for ideas for shopping and culture in London’s Marylebone district, want to explore the stunning heritage of Montreal, or need advice on seeing African wildlife close to Kenya’s capital, don’t forget to visit our city guide section before your head off on your trip.

Each guide is formatted to be printed off to take with you on your travels, and includes a handy numbered map to help you locate the featured attractions. To browse our city guide section, visit businesstraveller.com/city-guides.

Business Traveller also publishes golfing guides, providing readers with indispensable information on the best golf courses in cities around the world. For more information visit businesstraveller.com/golf.

Korean Air passengers entitled to discounts at Incheon Airport

Korean Air passengers at Incheon International Airport can avail of discounts when using the Hub Lounge and other facilities in the transit area.

There are two of these pay-in lounges. They are located on the fourth floor – one on the east side and the other on the west side – along with other conveniences such as duty-free shopping. Originally open only to First and Business Class customers, the lounges now welcome all travellers for a fee of US$35. Those who present their Korean Air boarding pass are entitled to a 40 percent discount, and thus pay only US$21.

Inside, they can enjoy an extensive buffet, along with beer and hard liquor. Internet access is available as are shower booths, a range of reading material and areas to catch up on televised news. The Hubs can seat 300 passengers.

A 10 percent discount at Wells Cafeteria/Salad Bar is also extended to Korean Air clients.

This promotion runs until December 31, 2010.

For more details, visit www.koreanair.com

Margie T Logarta

Thai government lifts Bangkok curfew

The Thai government has ended the curfew in Bangkok and 23 other provinces that had been in place since May 19, 2010.

Thai prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the decision followed assurances from security forces they had gained control following the weeks-long civilian hostilities that left 85 dead. However, the state of emergency, introduced on April 7 remains in force in Bangkok and 23 provinces, including four “hot spots” – Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani, Khon Kaen and Mukhahan.

Many countries, such as the US, UK and Australia, continue to warn their citizens to avoid either travelling to Thailand or maintain extreme caution when moving about the country.

Tourism authorities, as expected, are preparing a promotion campaign to revive the business, focusing on reliable source markets China, Hongkong, Japan and Asean neighbours but which tend to be highly sensitive about safety and security. The Tourism Council of Thailand said the events of past weeks could result in THB120 billion (US$3.63 billion) in lost revenue.

This is not the first time Thailand has had to coax visitors to return, having had to launch “welcome back” initiatives due to incidents such as the tsunami in the South in 2004, the Yellow Shirts’ occupation of Suvarnabhumi Airport in 2008 and various other civil disturbances throughout 2009.

The Bangkok Post reported Ampon Kittiampon, secretary general of the National Economic and Social Development Board, predicting a challenging marketing scenario for Thailand’s tourism players and saying that “recovery would rest mainly on the ability of Thailand to ensure safety measures for foreign tourists”.

Tourism revenue usually accounts for between 7 to 8 percent of the country’s GDP.

Margie T Logarta

Marriott signs up seven new hotels in China

MarriottMarriott International has recently signed up seven new hotels in China as the chain seeks to double its footprint in the fast-growing market during the next five years.

The new properties will be located in Dalian, Sanya, Zhuhai, Fuzhou, Kunshan, Hangzhou and Shanghai and are targeted for openinging between 2011 and 2015.

“We look forward to expanding our presence in our signature full-service and Courtyard brands,” the Marriott International chairman and chief executive J Willard Marriott Jr said. “Within the next 10 years, China is expected to be the world’s single largest source of international tourism and its number-one travel destination,” Marriott Jr. said.

The seven new Marriott properties in the country are:

  • The 320-room luxury JW Marriott Hotel Dalian (2013). When opened, the hotel will be Marriott’s first property in Dalian and the ninth JW Marriott-branded hotel in China.
  • The upscale 507-room Renaissance Sanya Resort & Spa (2011). When opened, it will be Marriott’s third property in the greater Sanya area.
  • The deluxe 269-room Renaissance Zhuhai Hotel (2013) It will open as Marriott’s first hotel in the city.
  • The moderate-priced 260-room Courtyard by Marriott Fuzhou Hotel (2013). When opened, the hotel will be Marriott’s first property in Fuzhou.
  • The moderate-priced 265-room Courtyard by Marriott Kunshan (2011). When opened, it will be Marriott’s first hotel in Kunshan.
  • The upscale 350-room Hangzhou Marriott Hotel (2014). When opened, it will be the fourth Marriott International flagged hotel in the city.
  • The upscale 330-room Shanghai Marriott Hotel Minhang (2015).

China is the hotel chain’s largest market outside North America. And Marriott expects to have 60 hotels open across six brands by year-end 2010. Among these are Ritz-Carlton hotels opening this year in Hongkong and Shanghai’s Pudong New District.

For more information, visit www.marriott.com

Joy Zhou

Last chance to win a hotel stay in Hong Kong or Istanbul

Business Traveller is giving away no fewer than four great prizes this month, in association with Regal Airport Hotel, Hong Kong, and Park Hyatt Istanbul – Macka Palas.

Regal Hotels is offering three prizes, including a two-night stay in a Deluxe or Royal Suite, a three-night stay in a Spa Suite with daily spa treatments, and the top prize of a four-night stay for two in a Duplex suite, with a two-hour spa or massage treatment.

Meanwhile the Park Hyatt Istanbul – Macka Palas is giving away a two-night stay for two in a Park Spa room, including breakfast and a 45-minute traditional Turkish bath treatment in your room.

For more information and the chance to win one of these great prizes, click here.

Return-to-Thailand special rates

Thailand is brimming with offers – don’t miss out. And here are a couple to whet your interest.

HOTELS

AETAS Bangkok has an opening promotion, which offers a stay in a Superior room for THB$2,750 (US$85) per night and THB$4,750 (US$146) per night in an Executive Suite. Benefits include daily breakfast for one person, complimentary unlimited local calls, 15 percent discount at all restaurants and food outlets, 10 percent discount on laundry services and late check out until 4pm. The package is valid till October 31, 2010.

www.aetashotels.com

The Anatara Golden Triangle in Chiangmai now offers a Spa Essence package starting from THB$10,500 (US$323) per night, available for stays until July 31, 2010. The package includes one night’s stay with breakfast, complimentary vouchers to the World Class Hall of Opium, and a choice of a one-hour spa treatment, choosing from an aromatic facial, a Thai massage, an Indian head massage or an Oriental foot massage.  

http://goldentriangle.anantara.com/

Centara Hotel & Resorts is launching the Centara Boutique Collection brand with introductory packages starting from THB$1400 (US$43). The room features air-conditioning, complimentary use of the mini bar, safety box, satellite TV, high-speed internet access, and a DVD and CD player. The package runs til October 31, 2010.

www.centarahotelsresorts.com

Take advantage of the City Express Package at Northgate Ratchyothin Serviced Residence where a Studio Room is priced at THB$2,500 (US$77) per night or a two Bedroom Suite at THB$5,000 (US$154) per night. The package includes a complimentary one-day pass MRT subway pass per person per night, daily breakfast for two, free Wi-Fi internet access and free use of the swimming pool, gym and tennis court. This package is valid through July 31, 2010.

The Sukhothai Bangkok has a Welcome Back package from now til the end of August, offering a Superior Room for THB$4,900 (US$150), an Executive Deluxe Room for THB$5,900 (US$181) and a Deluxe Suite for THB$6,900 (US$212). Perks include a daily breakfast at the Colonnade Restaurant, free high speed internet access, in-room mini bar items such as softdrinks and beer, free one-way transfer for Executive Deluxe Rooms and Deluxe Suites per stay and complimentary Thai massage for a minimum of two consecutive nights’ stay for Executive Deluxe Rooms and Deluxe Suites per stay.

www.sukhothaihotel.com

VIE Hotel Bangkok has the VIE Gourmet Experience package at THB$5,591 (US$172) for single rooms and THB$6.709 (US$206) for twin-share rooms. The offer includes an upgrade to Deluxe Suite rooms, a grand breakfast at the VIE Wine & Grill, MGallery Buffet Dinner with wine flights at the VIE Wine & Grill (except Sundays), high tea and evening Thai Tapas at the VIE Lounge, a 20-minute massage and special discounts on other spa treatments, a spa rebate voucher of THB$500 (US$15) per day, champagne cocktail and free Wi-Fi at the VIE Lounge. The package is valid from now until December 20, 2010.

www.viehotelbangkok.com

AIRLNES

AirAsia is offering “free seats” to Bangkok from its various hubs. The only catch is that airport taxes and surcharges are not included. Bookings must be made by June 1, 2010 for travel from June 7 to August 31.

www.airasia.com

Sarah Spaeth

New Tried & Tested reviews added

Businesstraveller.com is constantly adding flight reviews to its website, all of which can be viewed at businesstraveller.com/tried-and-tested. In the last couple of weeks the following reviews have been published:

Flights

    Hotels

      To read these and hundreds of other hotel and flight reviews worldwide, visit businesstraveller.com/tried-and-tested.

      Update your profile at businesstraveller.com

      The businesstraveller.com forum continues to grow rapidly, and we’ve been busy behind the scenes adding new user features. It’s now possible to see all past posts and comments made by a particular user on their personal profile page, by clicking on the relevant screen handle next to a user’s post. 

      Here you’ll see links to all posts made on the businesstraveller.com forum, comments posted under news articles, and reviews left on our sister website seatplans.com. 

      Users can update their profile pages by logging in and clicking on “Your Account”, then “Change your public profile and account settings”. Here you can add a profile introduction, post links to your own website, Twitter or Linked In pages, and upload a profile image.

      Any users who would rather remain anonymous can opt to hide their public profile via their account settings. Please note that confidential account details such as email addresses and contact information will not be shown on public profile pages.

      For examples of public profile pages, see two official Business Traveller accounts at:

      http://www.businesstraveller.com/members/BusinessTraveller
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      The new profile pages make it easy for users to browse reviews left on our sister website seatplans.com, as well as leave their own thoughts on recent flights. Each month the site gives away a great prize for the best user review, and this month we’re offering a two-night stay for two people at the Hilton Antwerp.