Today: July 2023 luxury travel news
Every last Friday of the month, you can read my news round-up of what’s happening in the world of luxury travel. In this issue:
- The superjumbo returns: Etihad Airways’ Airbus A380 returns to the sky
- Virgin Atlantic plans to operate the first transatlantic flight using 100% SAF
- MGM Resorts will join Marriott’s loyalty program
- The Ritz-Carlton debuts in Fukuoka, Japan
- COMO Hotels will open a property in Singapore next month
- W Hotels debuts in Budapest, Hungary
- The Rome EDITION is now open
- Mandarin Oriental announces a new hotel in Miami, USA
- One&Only One Za’abeel Dubai is now accepting reservations
- Air New Zealand is serving the flavors of Aotearoa in a new onboard menu
1. The superjumbo returns: Etihad Airways’ Airbus A380 returns to the sky
Etihad Airways, the award-winning national airline of the United Arab Emirates, celebrated the return to service of its Airbus A380 on its popular route between Abu Dhabi and London Heathrow. Etihad’s A380 Economy cabin features 68 Economy Space seats offering an additional 4 inches in leg room, and 337 Economy Smart seats that come with Etihad’s signature fixed-wing headrest and large pillows for added comfort. There are 70 Business Studios available on Etihad’s A380 upper deck, granting privacy to customers and creating a serene atmosphere. On the upper deck, guests can also enjoy access to The Lobby, a serviced lounge and bar area located between the First and Business Class cabins. Guests can choose from nine First Apartments featuring a private living space with exquisite amenities and designer tableware, a wide leather lounge chair and a separate ottoman which converts into a lie-flat bed. First Class guests can freshen up in the comfort of the Apartment with personal vanity units, as well as take advantage of the First Class shower room (read my review here). The A380 is also home to the Residence, the world’s only three-room suite in the sky with guests able to enjoy service and hospitality from a dedicated team of Etihad cabin crew. Available to book for up to two guests, The Residence features a private living room, bedroom and ensuite bathroom where guests can refresh in a shower at 40,000ft.
2. Virgin Atlantic plans to operate the first transatlantic flight using 100% SAF
Virgin Atlantic and Rolls-Royce performed a successful Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) blend ground test on the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine. The test marks a key milestone in the project which will see the world’s first 100% SAF flight travel across the Atlantic Ocean from London Heathrow to New York JFK on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, set to take off on 28 November 2023. SAF typically delivers CO2 lifecycle emissions savings of more than 70% whilst performing like the traditional jet fuel it replaces. SAF has a fundamental role to play in aviation’s decarbonisation and pathway to Net Zero 2050. Today, SAF represents less than 0.1% of jet fuel volumes and fuel standards allow for just a 50% SAF blend in commercial jet engines. The one-off Virgin Atlantic flight in November will demonstrate the potential of SAF as a 100% drop-in replacement for fossil fuel today. Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic, commented: “The 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel transatlantic flight will be a historic moment in aviation’s roadmap to decarbonisation. Alongside fleet transformation, SAF is the most readily available way for our industry to decarbonise.”
3. MGM Resorts will join Marriott’s loyalty program
Marriott and MGM Resorts announced an exclusive long-term strategic licensing agreement and the creation of MGM Collection with Marriott Bonvoy, which will launch in October 2023, and encompass 17 of MGM’s resorts, representing more than 40,000 rooms in Las Vegas and other cities across the USA. Of the 17 MGM resorts that will join MGM Collection with Marriott Bonvoy, four properties will also be affiliated with existing Marriott collection brands: Bellagio Resort & Casino will join The Luxury Collection, ARIA Resort & Casino will join Autograph Collection, Park MGM will become part of Tribute Portfolio, and The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas will continue its affiliation with Autograph Collection. Eight MGM resorts in Las Vegas will join MGM Collection with Marriott Bonvoy: Vdara Hotel & Spa, MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, NoMad Las Vegas, The Signature at MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, New York-New York Hotel & Casino, Luxor Hotel and Casino, and Excalibur Hotel & Casino. Five MGM Resorts in other USA locations will also join MGM Collection with Marriott Bonvoy: Borgata (Atlantic City, New Jersey), Beau Rivage (Biloxi, Mississippi), MGM Grand Detroit (Michigan), MGM National Harbor (Maryland), and MGM Springfield (Massachusetts).
4. The Ritz-Carlton debuts in Fukuoka, Japan
The Ritz-Carlton, part of Marriott’s portfolio of 31 hotel brands, announced the opening of The Ritz-Carlton, Fukuoka on the island of Kyushu in Southern Japan. Rising above Fukuoka, the luxury hotel is situated within the 364 ft (111 m) main tower of Fukuoka Daimyo Garden City, the tallest urban lifestyle complex in the city’s core commercial district. Overseen by Melbourne-based Layan Architects + Designers, the hotel’s interior design and art take inspiration from Fukuoka’s traditional yarn-dyed silk and kimono weaving craft, called “Hakata-ori”. The hotel features 167 generously sized guestrooms (including 20 suites), four restaurants, two bars, and a spa with indoor pool. The Ritz-Carlton, Fukuoka brings the brand’s famous service and contemporary aesthetic to one of Japan’s fastest growing cities famous for its thriving start-up scene as well as for its enduring history, traditions, and outstanding culinary culture. Fukuoka was once a key waypoint of Silk Road trade routes, and today the city remains a major gateway between Japan and the rest of Asia. The destination is famous for its annual festivals, such as the 800-year old Hakata Gion Yamakasa summer festival, designated by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage.
5. COMO Hotels will open a property in Singapore next month
COMO Orchard on Bideford Road will become the newest destination concept by COMO Group, the Singapore-based, family-owned portfolio of luxury lifestyle companies created by founder-owner Christina Ong. Opening in successive phases, starting in September, the 156- room COMO Metropolitan Singapore will be the Group’s first hotel in its home country. The property will feature a beautiful rooftop pool and bar. The rest of the 19-floor building will include two floors of fashion retail curated by Club21 for seasonal collections and pop-up partnerships. The hotel’s spa – COMO Shambhala – aims a thoughtful, diagnostic approach to holistic wellbeing, and will offer numerous classes, workshops and multi-day wellness paths. The new COMO Cuisine restaurant will expand the brand’s commitment to creating some of the best food in Singapore, celebrating the debuts in Asia for internationally-acclaimed French pastry chef Cédric Grolet and restaurateur Simon Kim of COTE Korean Steakhouse, the beloved Michelin-starred restaurant in New York and Miami. Known to never repeat herself with her creative collaborations, owner Christina Ong has also engaged the award-winning talents of Italian architect Paola Navone (Otto Studio), Japanese interior design-consultant Koichiro Ikebuchi (Atelier Ikebuchi), and Norwegian digital artist Thomas Hilland in the development of COMO Metropolitan Singapore.
6. W Hotels debuts in Budapest, Hungary
W Hotels, part of Marriott, announced the highly anticipated debut of W Budapest, marking the brand’s first opening in Hungary. Housed in the historic Drechsler Palace, W Budapest is set to become an evolutionary heartbeat of the city with visionary design, eclectic gastronomy and a socially driven spirit drawn from the cosmopolitan capital. Located on Andrássy Avenue, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the city’s most luxurious shopping street, W Budapest features 151 stylish guestrooms and suites as well as three innovative dining concepts, all influenced by Budapest’s rich history, creativity and diversity. Interior designers Bowler James Brindley (London) and Bánáti + Hartvig (Hungary) have carefully restored and reimagined Drechsler Palace, drawing inspiration from its rich cultural history and multiple identities as a café, social hub and Hungarian State Ballet Academy, to create captivating design narratives. From soft layering to the use of metallic meshing to create perspective and intrigue throughout the hotel’s public spaces and guestrooms, the design concept has created spaces that reveal new depths each time they are experienced. Further inspiration has been sourced from the grand French Renaissance architectural aesthetic throughout the city, leading to a spirited modernization with color palettes of green, coral and deep blues and paired with contemporary Zsolnay inspire tiles, stained glass features and jewelry-inspired light fittings.
7. The Rome EDITION is now open
Conceived, concepted, and programmed by the visionary entrepreneur, Ian Schrager, executed and interpreted by the hotel owners, Statuto Group, the intimate Rome EDITION sets a new standard in the Eternal City. Its sophistication, attention to detail, refinement, and high design aesthetic make it set to become a meeting place for Romans and travelers alike. Positioned in one of the most enviable areas of Rome, the hotel is only a few short steps from Via Veneto, the most sought-after street in all of Italy. It was immortalized in La Dolce Vita and embodies Italian flare in all its glory. Not only that – all the major attractions are within easy reach, including the Piazza Barberini, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and the ever-beautiful Borghese Gardens. The hotel has three unique bars, a rooftop lounge, bar and pool, a show-kitchen restaurant, a well-appointed urban wellness space with gym and treatment rooms, and a courtyard garden where guests can while away the time sipping their favorite drink or sampling the peerless food menu from adored Roman Chef Paola Colucci, the hotel’s chef partner. The 91 rooms, including 17 suites, have all the design elements the brand is renowned for: the muted tones, the accents of walnut wood and stunning custom designed furniture.
8. Mandarin Oriental announces a new hotel in Miami, USA
Mandarin Oriental has announced an agreement to manage a new Mandarin Oriental hotel and branded residences in Brickell Key, one of Miami’s most prestigious neighborhoods. The project is being developed by Swire Properties, Mandarin Oriental’s joint-venture partner at the existing Mandarin Oriental, Miami, and will form part of the One Island Drive development, consisting of two towers connected by an amenity podium. The new-build hotel will feature 151 guestrooms including 60 suites, as well as 61 private Residences and 28 hotel Residences, all enjoying spectacular ocean and city views. Kohn Pederson Fox will design the exterior architecture and Parisian designer Laura Gonzales will create the hotel interiors. Thai firm Shma will lead the lush landscape architecture throughout the property. A variety of dynamic restaurants and bars, flexible meeting and event space as well as an expansive Spa at Mandarin Oriental will offer guests and local residents a compelling lifestyle choice. Adjacent to the hotel, a stand-alone tower will house 220 Residences at Mandarin Oriental, comprising 2-4 bedroom residences and two exclusive penthouses. The Residences will be designed by Parisian designer Tristan Auer and all residences will be managed by Mandarin Oriental providing a unique lifestyle with the best of both worlds: the comforts of a private home combined with the unsurpassed amenities and legendary service for which the brand is renowned. The new Mandarin Oriental, Miami is set to open in 2030.
9. One&Only One Za’abeel Dubai is now accepting reservations
Located in the beating heart of one of the world’s most dynamic cities, the first-ever vertical urban resort from ultra-luxury hospitality brand One&Only is set to welcome guests from 1 December 2023. Designed by Jean-Michel Gathy, One&Only One Za’abeel‘s interiors will take their cue from the Za’abeel location. Meaning ‘white sand’ in the local Emirati dialect, Za’abeel’s soulful narrative is intuitively woven into the fabric of the resort, with a soothing neutral colour palette and subtle sand motifs in the textiles, artworks, and sculptural lighting. For example, the Sanctuary Suites will include a massage table, meditation and stretching zone, exercise equipment and in-room spa treatments, while the Creative Suites will feature acoustic panelling and the latest AV technology. The property will feature a floating boulevard with culinary concepts from Michelin-lauded chefs including Anne-Sophie Pic, Bo Songvisava and Dylan Jones, Mehmet Gürs, Paco Morales and Tetsuya Wakuda. The resort will also feature a rejuvenating Spa Clinic, state-of-the-art fitness hub, an inspiring KidsOnly Club, luxury retail boutiques, with a handpicked collection of fashion, fragrances, and accessories. One&Only One Za’abeel will also feature two gala ballrooms, six meeting rooms, a private club on the 53rd floor, and an events lawn overlooking the city.
10. Air New Zealand is serving the flavors of Aotearoa in a new onboard menu
Air New Zealand has unveiled its latest culinary and beverage menu that showcases the largest range of New Zealand suppliers and native ingredients than ever before. A Taste of Aotearoa is the next evolution of Air New Zealand’s popular Aotearoa on a Plate dining concept. Inspired by the rich heritage and diverse bounty of New Zealand, the new menu brings together indigenous flavors and contemporary cuisine. The new menu is onboard Business Premier cabins now, and is available on all long haul flights out of New Zealand. Air New Zealand Chief Customer and Sales Officer Leanne Geraghty says the new onboard food and beverage offering was inspired by manaakitanga – the Māori tradition of hospitality – and is a true celebration of Aotearoa New Zealand’s incredible culinary heritage.”There’s something truly magical about the native flavours of New Zealand – from the peppery spiciness of horopito to the earthy goodness of kawakawa. By infusing our dishes with native ingredients, we pay homage to the traditional uses of these ingredients while creating a modern and memorable dining experience for our customers.” Some of the delicious A Taste of Aotearoa cuisine found on select premium menus departing from New Zealand include:
- Superfood Salad with horopito dusted New Zealand salmon
- Creamy kawakawa mushrooms on rye toast, sautéed spinach and grilled tomatoes
- Ahia smoked moki on kawakawa blini
- Grass fed New Zealand lamb rump with horopito rub