The £180m Sofitel London Heathrow at Terminal 5 is due to open in "late spring" 2008, and Business Traveller went along for a sneak preview at the hotel's topping out ceremony.
The Sofitel property will be the only hotel with direct access to T5, and while much of the 605-room hotel is still a building site, it's already clear that it will play an important part in the success of the new terminal. Stretching along much of the western length of the terminal structure, the low-rise building will be linked to the airport by a foot bridge, and over 30 per cent of the hotel will be housed below ground level, including much of the property's conference and car parking facilities.
The interiors of the hotel are being designed by KCA International Designers (responsible for the interiors of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, and the Four Seasons Hotel, Hong Kong), and will focus on a concept of "the gateway to the world". The hotel's reception area will have an Antartica theme, with a water fountain centrepiece, while other public areas will encompass Asia, Africa, Europe and the Americas.
The Sofitel London Heathrow will be one of the largest meetings and conference venues in Europe, with the largest meeting room capable of holding up to 1,700 delegates. There will also be a health centre with pool, spa treatment rooms, gym and aerobic studio.
Sofitel's owners Accor will operate the hotel under a franchise agreement with Arora International Hotels, the second such partnership after the opening of the Sofitel London Gatwick in 2005. The topping-out ceremony (a tradition designed to bring good fortune to the property) took place in what will be the hotel's Zen garden, and Michael Flaxman, Accor's COO Northern Europe said:
"The Sofitel London Heathrow will be a premium brand, in keeping with Terminal 5. The hotel will be adapted to its airport environment, and will be contemporary in design, but with a French touch."
Aside from the Sofitel Heathrow, the brand is due to open hotels in Cairo this month, Dubai in October, and Luxembourg later this year, with a Macao hotel slated for 2008. It also opened the Sofitel Wanda in Beijing in August. For more information visit sofitel.com.
Report by Mark Caswell