No 1 Traveller and Hong Kong Airlines announce new partnership

Passengers travelling on Hong Kong Airlines’ new London Gatwick route can now gain free access to the No 1 Traveller’s lounge in the North Terminal.

As part of this new partnership, passengers travelling on the carrier’s all-Club Class Gatwick to Hong Kong route can access the lounge and take advantage of complimentary hot and cold food, including a new a la carte menu (see online news March 8), a fully-tended bar, business centre, games room, travel spa and free wifi throughout. Hong Kong Airlines passengers will also be able to enjoy champagne, cocktails and spa treatments for free.

Howard Ebison, head of commercial at No 1 Traveller said: “Both business and leisure travellers will find that the premium lounge compliments the all-Club Class ambiance of the Hong Kong flight perfectly. Whether guests wish to relax in our Spa or Games Room or tend to last-minute business requirements, No 1 Traveller is the perfect answer for a smooth pre-flight experience.”

The lounge opened in May last year and is available to all passengers using the North Terminal for a fee of £22.50 for adults and £10 for children, if booked in advance.

For a full review of the No 1 Traveller Gatwick North Terminal facility following its opening last year, including images, click here.

For a Tried and Tested review of Hong Kong Airlines flagship all-Club Class A330 Gatwick to Hong Kong service, click here.

For more information visit No1Traveller.com

Report by Scott Carey

Rail companies urge early booking for Olympics travel

Business travellers planning trips to London during the Olympics are being urged to book their rail tickets when they go on sale this week.

Train companies attending Capita Business Travel’s rail forum in London last week told an audience of travel buyers that there would be capacity on their trains travelling into the capital during the games which run from July 27-August 12.

Tickets for rail travel during the Olympic period are due to start going on sale on May 4 – although passengers with tickets for Olympic events have been able to book their train travel since June 2011.

Martin Turner, head of sales at East Coast Rail, said: “The over-riding message is don’t be put off coming to London if your only reason for not coming is that you won’t be able to get on a train. We will be able to get you to and from London during the Olympics.”

UK train companies have planned extra services to cope with the expected influx of passengers coming to see the Olympics but rail operators told the forum that demand for train tickets from the UK regions had been slow so far.

“There will be less people travelling from the north by train for the Olympics than originally anticipated,” added Turner. “The long distance train operating companies’ message to business travellers is that there will be capacity.

“Additional services are being run and the evening peak for business travellers is not expected to be particularly affected, as people going to Olympic events are going to be travelling back a lot later than business travellers.”

Turner said that fares during the Olympics would be “fair” and are due to be announced imminently. Rail tickets can be booked 12 weeks ahead of travel for those without tickets to Olympic events.

“We cannot just add 40% to the price of fares as the structure doesn’t allow us to do that,” he added.

“Fares will be no higher than the minimum walk-up fare on each route. But cheap advance purchase tickets will sell out fast. If you know you have to go to London during the Olympics buy it straightaway and make a reservation.”

Jayne Moyses, sales and customer relationship manager at East Midlands Trains, added: “Managing demand is going to be a challenge. There will be an additional eight million journeys due to the Olympics.

“We always see a dip in business travellers during this time of the summer – it’s normally about 30% for East Midlands but the drop will be more this year.  Public transport will be the key to the games as 80% of spectators are expected to arrive by public transport.”

For more information visit nationalrail.co.uk

Report by Rob Gill

Renaissance Barcelona Hotel opens

The 211-room Renaissance Barcelona Hotel opened its doors last week, to further increase Marriott’s presence in Spain.

Previously known as the Diplomatic Hotel, the Renaissance is located in a prime site in central Barcelona, and offers features including a rooftop bar and lounge area and a selection of business and meeting facilities. The hotel opened on Friday April 27, following a total refurbishment.

Renaissance Hotels’ parent company, Marriott International, already has a considerable presence in Spain, with some 80 properties around the country following its merger with local hotel chain AC Hotels last year (see online news October 11, 2010).

“We are thrilled to expand our Renaissance Hotels portfolio in Europe and to celebrate the opening of this new gem in Barcelona,” said Amy McPherson, president and managing director of Marriott International in Europe. “We look forward to welcoming guests to enjoy the many discoveries within this incredible city.”

Its prime location puts it close to Barcelona’s attractions such as Gaudi’s Casa Batlo, and it is also within a block of the Mandarin Oriental, which could make for competition between the two properties.

The opening was marked with an event featuring music from Spanish musician Rebeka. The show was part of the Renaissance brand’s RLife Live programme, which aims to promote both emerging and established musicians at on-site events around the world. 

For more information, visit renaissancebarcelonahotel.com

Report by Lucy Douglas

Skyteam to launch Go Russia pass

Skyteam will launch a Go Russia pass on May 2, allowing passengers to save on domestic flights around Russia operated by member airline Aeroflot.

Customers can choose from a minimum of three to a maximum of 16 flight coupons, which can be used on flights from Moscow to 30 domestic destinations, including the industrial cities of St Petersburg, Surgut and Tyumen. 

The pass offers passengers discounts of up to 20 per cent off standard fares, calculated based on the number of miles flown per coupon. Go Russia applies only to travellers who fly into Russia from a desination outside of the country in economy class and on a flight operated by another Skyteam alliance member. The coupons require no minimum length of stay and “open jaw” itineraries are permitted, allowing passengers to stop in each city multiple times and greater flexibility in planning trips.

“The majority of Skyteam airlines fly to Moscow and the Go Russia pass enables customers to visit multiple cities in one trip, maximising the potential for business travel and tourism,” said Alfredo Frassoni, Skyteam’s manager of revenue management and fare products. 

To purchase the pass, customers need to contact travel agents or a Skyteam member airline directly.

For more information, visit www.skyteam.com

Alisha Haridasani

China Airlines launches flights to Seoul Gimpo

China Airlines has launched thrice weekly flights from Taipei Songshan to Seoul Gimpo Airport, complementing the carrier’s other flights to Seoul Incheon from Taoyuan and Kaohsiung. 

The flight, operated on Mondays, Thursdays and Sundays with a Boeing B737-800 aircraft, will depart Taipei at 0925, arriving in the South Korean capital at 1245. The return leg will depart at 1345, arriving back in Taipei at 1525.

With the addition of this flight, the carrier flies between Taiwan and South Korea 18 times a week.

For more information, visit www.china-airlines.com

Alisha Haridasani

Jet Airways increases Kolkata-Bangkok frequency

Jet Airways will launch an additional daily service between Kolkata and Bangkok on May 10, bringing its total number of flights on this sector to 14 per week.

The extra flight will depart Kolkata at 1100, arriving in Bangkok at 1510, while the return leg will depart at 1600 and arrive back in Kolkata at 1705. The flight will utilise a Boeing B737 aircraft.

According to a statement from the carrier, the additional service is expected to cater to “enhanced demand” for business and leisure.

For more information, visit www.jetairways.com

Alisha Haridasani

 

New Tried and 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

Lounges

 

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

Business Traveller‘s sister website seatplans.com gives readers the chance to leave their own flight reviews, with the best reviews winning fantastic prizes each month. For more information visit seatplans.com.

Magdalen Chapter to open in June

The Magdalen Chapter in Exeter will open on June 25. This will be the second hotel opening from Chapter Hotels, the UK-focused sister brand of Swire Hotels.

The property, a 19th century building that was once the West England Eye Hospital, has been converted into a 59-bedroom hotel, incorporating original features into the new contemporary design.

The hotel will offer hi-tech touches – with iPad 2s and free wifi in every room – and there will be various corporate facilities available, including the “potting shed” building in the grounds that has been refitted for meetings and private dinners.

Other features of the hotel include a spa and the restaurant, where the classic British menu has been created by BBC television cook Simon Hopkinson alongside head chef Ben Bulger.

The brand’s flagship UK hotel, The Montpelier Chapter in Cheltenham, opened in 2010 (see online news November 11, 2010).

For more information visit chapterhotels.com.

Report by Lucy Douglas

Barcelo UK becomes Puma Hotels Collection

Spanish chain Barcelo Hotels has terminated the lease on its portfolio of British properties, which have been relaunched under the Puma Hotels Collection portfolio.

The group has 21 four-star properties in England, Scotland and Wales, including Billesley Manor in Stratford-Upon-Avon (pictured below).

“In such an exciting year for British tourism, we are delighted to have successfully launched Puma Hotels Collection,” said the group’s head of marketing and e-commerce, Jane Rawlinson.  

Barcelo took on the lease for the portfolio in September 2007, before which they were owned by Puma Hotels and operated under Puma’s Paramount Hotels brand. Control of the hotels has now been transferred back to Puma following an agreement that was reached earlier this month.

Puma had originally intended to revive the Paramount brand, but the properties will now operate under the Puma Hotels Collection.

Across its portfolio, Puma Hotels Collection has around 20,000 square metres of conference and meeting space, and from May 1 will offer guests free wifi throughout the hotel.

“The new brand will focus on the unique characteristics and location of each hotel, whether through the local cuisine, the grounds, or nearby facilities and attractions,” Rawlinson added.

Barcelo still operates more than 142 hotels across 16 countries around the world.

For more information visit pumahotels.co.uk, and for Business Traveller‘s look Barcelo’s UK properties (published prior to the relaunch) click here.

Report by Lucy Douglas