MIDDLE EAST J A N U A R Y 2 0 1 8 $5.00 TOKYO TIPS How to navigate Japan’s capital DAWN BREAKS Why Verbier is perfect this month INDIAN AVIATION PLUS Primary and secondary cities raise connectivity Tried and Tested • Stockholm • Seychelles retreats... F A S H I O N A B L E UAE opens stunning resorts UAE DHS10 OMAN RO1 BAHRAIN BD1 SAUDI ARABIA SR10 KUWAIT KD1 JORDAN JD2 CONTENTS JANUARY 2018 REGULARS 08 UPFR ONT Airline and hotel news worldwide 18 FA SHIONABLE RE T RE AT S New stylish UAE resorts are suitable for bleisure or clocking off from work entirely, reports Dominic Ellis OPINION: TA XING IS SUE S 25 Will the onset of VAT this month make Gulf hospitality less competitive? F E AT U R E S 26 VISION OF T HE FU TURE An investigation of Hangzhou, China’s technological epicentre, reveals Bond-like gadgets and sci-fi aspirations 32 T HE R EP OR T 60 T R I E D & T E S T E D FLIGHTS flydubai B737 MAX-8 business class 62 S M A R T T R A V E L L E R H E AT H R O W London Heathrow to the city 64 T R I E D & T E S T E D LOUNGES American Express’ Centurion Lounge HKIA; Emirates’ London Heathrow lounge TRIED & TESTED R E S TAU R A N T S 65 London cocktail bars 66 T R I E D & T E S T E D HOTELS London hotels 38 D E S T I N AT I O N S UAE opens stunning resorts 42 26 NAVIG AT ING TOKYO INDIA FLYING 18 5 Top tips for getting around the super-connected Japanese capital Akanksha Maker recaps on major events in Indian aviation during the last two years ON TH E C OVER 44 32 42 F OUR HOUR S IN… STO CKHOLM Island-hop around the Swedish capital, taking in Baroque palaces and a well-preserved shipwreck 44 SLOPE OFF Why Verbier is perfect to visit in January 48 HE ALT H HACK S Asia’s city spas are your secret weapon when it comes to wellbeing, reports Catharine Nicol 54 54 48 VIR GIN L ANDS The Seychelles, in the heart of the Indian Ocean, remains determined to protect its natural attractions JANUARY 2018 WELCOME A new look for the new year! Complementing our magazine partners in the UK and Asia-Pacific, we’re proud to introduce our relaunched magazine. Inside you’ll find the latest news and reviews as you did before, with our team of writers continuing to report on destinations, and business and lifestyle stories. But you will notice some key differences. Sections now take on stronger identities, and feature sharper, more contemporary designs which we trust you will find eye-catching and stimulating. Business travel has changed beyond all recognition in the last 10 years. It’s fair to say, previously, it was something to be endured with variable hotel, airline and F&B standards and little focus on the consumer. Clearly, business travellers have changed too, and the twenty somethings now boarding planes have different outlooks to my generation and the one before. Talking to Global Brand Leader Brian Povinelli at the Renaissance Downtown Hotel Dubai launch recently, it’s clear major brands are now determined to make corporate travel more fun and enjoyable, and cognoscent of the changing needs of travellers. Hospitality ‘lifestyle’ is no longer the preserve of luxury resort guests and the boundaries between business and leisure are more fluid than they’ve ever been. The relaunched Business Traveller series reflects these changes. Now when you pick up any of our magazines, you won’t just be reading about the business of travel, but will find leisure articles designed to inspire you, and F&B reviews showcasing the best restaurants and latest trends. We are starting out on a new exciting journey. It will take time for the magazine to evolve and we welcome your feedback (facebook.com/BusinessTravellerME) but we know we are on the right journey, as technology and hospitality continues to change rapidly. Dominic Ellis, Editor THIS ISSUE’S PICKS 6 Business Traveller Middle East is jointly published by Motivate Publishing and Panacea Publishing M OT I VAT E P UBLI SH I N G Editor-in-Chief Obaid Humaid Al Tayer Managing Partner and Group Editor Ian Fairservice Editorial Director Gina Johnson Group Editor-Business Guido Duken Editor Dominic Ellis Senior Art Director Tarak Parekh Editorial Co-ordinator Londresa Flores Contributors April Hutchinson, Craig Bright, Tom Otley, Tamsin Cocks, Marisa Cannon, Michelle Harbi, Mark Caswell, Bhavya Aggarwal General Manager – Production S Sunil Kumar Production Manager Murali Krishnan Assistant Production Manager Binu Purandaran Chief Commercial Officer Anthony Milne Publisher Jaya Balakrishnan Senior Sales Manager Dane Hills PAN ACE A P UBLI SH I N G Managing Director Julian Gregory Associate Publisher Middle East Rania Apthorpe Global Editor-in-Chief Tom Otley FASHIONABLE RETREATS Don’t miss these striking new resorts taking UAE lifestyle to the next level. (Page 18) NAVIGATING TOKYO The cliché about getting lost in translation is one thing. Simply getting lost is another. (Page 32) DAWN BREAKS Verbier’s legendary skiing is part natural brilliance and part hard work – and January is the perfect time to visit . (Page 44) HEAD OFFICE: Media One Tower, Dubai Media City, PO Box 2331, Dubai, UAE. Tel: +971 4 427 3000, Fax: +971 4 428 2270, E-mail: email@example.com DUBAI MEDIA CITY: Office 508, 5th Floor, Building 8, Dubai, UAE. Tel: +971 4 390 3550, Fax: +971 4 390 4845 ABU DHABI: PO Box 43072, UAE. Tel: +971 2 677 2005, Fax: +971 2 677 0124, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org LONDON: Acre House, 11/15 William Road, London NW1 3ER, UK. E-mail: email@example.com Panacea Publishing International Ltd 41-43 Maddox Street, London, W1S 2PD Tel +44 (0)20 7821 2700 businesstraveller.com Panacea Asia Pte Ltd Spaces City Hall, 410 North Bridge Road, Singapore 188726 Tel: +65 6407 7300, Fax: +65 6407 7251 SUBSCRIPTIONS: email firstname.lastname@example.org; tel +971 4 427 3542 © 2018 PANACEA PUBLISHING LTD AND MOTIVATE PUBLISHING JANUARY 2018 PLAN YOUR TROPICAL ESCAPE Imagine a secluded beach. Fine, white sand and a turquoise sea. Warm breezes drifting through palms. Thai food for lunch. An aromatherapy massage in the afternoon. Italian or seafood barbeque for dinner. Escape to a tropical paradise this winter. With over 37 resorts in Thailand, Sri Lanka Vietnam, Oman and The Maldives, Centara can help you find your perfect destination. THAILAND · MALDIVES · OMAN · QATAR · SRI LANKA · VIETNAM Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives DISCOVER MORE AT centarahotelsresorts.com MEMBERS GET MORE CentaraThe1Card members receive 10% off any online rate, plus many more privileges. email@example.com +971 (0)4 433 5950 UPFRONT Business taste in Etihad economy ETIHAD AIRWAYS’ ECONOMY PASSENGERS can now pay for several F&B items and amenities. They include cold-brewed coffee from Coffee Planet ($4/AED15 a glass) on Paris, London and Australian sectors; PiperHeidsieck Cuvee Brut NV 8 BULGARI OPENS LANDMARK RESORT IN CENTRAL DUBAI BULGARI RESORT DUBAI WILL BECOME “THE THIRD LANDMARK IN DUBAI” after Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab, according to Bulgari CEO Jean-Christophe Babin. It may be a bold claim for a city filled with eye-catching hotels and attractions but the contemporary 101-room resort – adjoined by 20 villas, 173 residences and 15 mansions – is filled with bespoke designs, Italian residential furnishings and vintage celebrity photos. The four-floor resort, framed around a marina & yacht club, has been developed by Meraas and designed by Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel. Superior, Deluxe Beach rooms and Premium Ocean rooms cover 55sqm and four Bulgari suites spanning 120sqm are located at the end of each wing for maximum seaviews. For additional opulence and privacy, the two-bedroom villas comes with spacious lounges and terrace pools. Turn to page 18 to read more on new UAE resorts champagne ($8/AED 30 per glass) on all long-haul flights (except US); and Christian Lacroix branded sleepwear ($35/AED130) and amenity kits ($22, AED80) on all ultralong-haul flights (except US). From January, a snack box containing sweet and health snacks will also be introduced. Crowne Plaza welcomes OCEC delegates MICE DELEGATES VISITING OMAN Convention and Exhibition Centre Muscat (OEC) can now check in to the on-site Crowne Plaza. The 296-room hotel marks the brand’s second hotel in the Oman capital. When guests aren’t conducting business within the 22,000sqm exhibitions area – the hotel also contains a terrace-side ballroom – they can unwind in the two pools and fitness zone. F&B includes Mosaic (all-day dining), Charm Thai, Le Petit Belge and drinks can be ordered in the lobby and at the poolside. A 320-room JW Marriott hotel is also being developed. JANUARY 2018 Wellness Hours at Saray Spa. Renew for the journey ahead with 50% off massages. Surrender your senses with treatments designed to rejuvenate your body, mind and soul every Sunday to Thursday. Book any massage between 9am to 2pm and receive 50% off. Afterwards, treat yourself to a lunch at Lobby Lounge, grab a fresh sandwich from La Farine Café & Bakery or enjoy pool-views with bites at Aqua. Lunch is not included within the offer. The price is based on the spa treatment selected. Saray Spa received an award for Best Male Spa at the World Luxury Spa Awards 2017 and Best Hydrotherapy Treatment at the Middle East Pool & Spa Awards 2016. JW Marriott Marquis Dubai | Sheikh Zayed Road, Business Bay T +971 4 414 6754 | firstname.lastname@example.org | jwmarriottmarquisdubailife.com JW Marriott Marquis Dubai | @JWDubaiMarquis | jwmarriottmarquisdubai *Terms & Conditions: Offer is valid until 31st March 2018 and subject to availability. Indulge in additional facilities such as Swedish Dry Sauna, Steam Sauna, Circulation Shower, Jacuzzi and a relaxation lounge. Not valid on public holidays. The 50% off is applicable on spa only, and the offer is excluding lunch. UPFRONT Renaissance flagship opens in Business Bay New MENA hotels W AMMAN & ST. REGIS AMMAN The 280-room W is scheduled to open this month, St. Regis in March 10 The sharply designed Renaissance Downtown Hotel Dubai which combines business and lifestyle elements represents the brand’s flagship, according to Brian Povinelli, Global Brand Leader for Renaissance Hotels, Le Méridien, Westin and Autograph Collection. Renaissance Hotels is up to 160 hotels with 30 more due to open in the next four years, primarily in the US and Asia Pacific. But he believes the new Dubai property will serve as a “big impetus” for future Middle East growth. “We will always ensure we’re providing services and amenities to business travellers but the customer is changing,” he said. “Before they wanted a specific cookie-cutter experience, but now the younger generation don’t want to see business trips as boring and dull – they want it to be experiential. If you’re only travelling for business it doesn’t mean you can’t have a higher culinary experience or an attractive environment. It’s about giving travellers a more enriching experience.” He said Renaissance seeks to bring the local neighbourhood to life, through distinctive designs, deploying ‘navigators’ and hosting evening rituals. The Business Bay hotel opened in style with an exclusive concert by Gwen Stefani. Six Senses Spa Dubai, on level five, is due to open in February (pictured). FOUR SEASONS TUNIS Tunis resort opens, 107th hotel in the network. Introductory offer knocks 20 per cent off all room categories until March. ST. REGIS CAIRO Brand’s first hotel in mainland Africa scheduled to open Q1 SHOW STOPPER VISITORS TO DUBAI OPERA can now enjoy Japanese fine dining at Kohantei, located opposite the box office. The concept evolves around the ancient Japanese ‘Kaiseki’ menu and will continually evolve depending on ingredients that are in-season. Diners can choose between a la carte or five multi-course menus featuring premium Japanese beef and seafood. JANUARY 2018 JUMEIRAH Royal Saray Bahrain, Saadiyat Island Abu Dhabi and Muscat Bay all projected to open in 2018 (along with Nanjing and Bali) www.moorfields.ae/dubai Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai is the first overseas branch of Moorfields London, the oldest eye hospital in the world. We are one of the few medical facilities in the UAE licensed by the General Civil Aviation Authority to apply the rigorous eye screening tests for pilots and air traffic controllers required to ensure your comfort and safety. We have a dedicated team of consultants who are highly qualified in assessing Aviation professionals and authorised to certify them as fit-to-fly from a vision perspective. Our experienced Consultant Ophthalmologists deliver the same exceptional standard of screening, diagnosis and treatment to all of our patients. We provide the full spectrum of eye care services from simple eye tests to complex eye surgery including LASIK, glaucoma, cataracts, lazy eye, squints, corneal, ocluoplastics and retinal eye diseases associated with diabetes, as well as uveitis treatment, ocular oncology consultations and genetic eye disease testing and counselling. Your eyesight is very precious, if you or any of your family have any concerns, please contact us today as early detection and treatment can prevent more lasting and serious consequences. For more information visit www.moorfields.ae/dubai, or call +971 4 429 7888 today to book your appointment. LASIK CATARACT COSMETIC PAEDIATRIC OPHTHALMOLOGY RETINA CORNEA GLAUCOMA STRABISMUS MOH BM76019 Pilots trust us with their eyesight, shouldn’t you? UPFRONT Emirates to fly to Stansted from June TRAVEL UPDATES ME DUBAI Designed by the late architect Dame Zaha Hadid, the architecturally striking hotel (with just 93 rooms and suites, and 98 apartments) is targeting an end-of-year launch. RADISSON BLU HOTEL BEIRUT VERDUN The 127-room property marks the brand’s second Beirut hotel VR TAKES OFF IN SKY TE AM’S DUBAI LOUNGE Emirates will become the first Gulf carrier to serve London Stansted this summer when it starts daily services from Dubai on June 8, marking services to its third London gateway and seventh UK airport. The route will be served by the airline’s new three-class B777-300ERs with six seats in first class, 42 in business and 306 in economy. EK33 will depart Dubai at 0930 and arrive in Stansted 1410 while EK34 will leave Stansted at 2110 and arrive in Dubai 0705 the next day. More than 25 of the world’s largest corporations have established operations in the wider Cambridge and Peterborough area, with Airbus, Astra Zeneca and GSK amongst the multinationals in the vicinity. WYNDHAM GRAND MANAMA OPENS Entertainment options in Skyteam’s Dubai lounge have been enhanced with new VR headset trials showing films, documentaries and 360-degree content. Mauro Oretti, SkyTeam’s Vice President, Sales and Marketing, said its partnership with SkyLights gives passengers a chance to relax and immerse themselves “in a private IMAX-style movie theater from the comfort of their airport lounge seat.” BED DOWN ON SQ A380S Singapore Airlines has taken delivery of the first of five new A380 aircraft, featuring six suites and 78 business class seats on the upper deck. AVANI MUSCAT BAHRAIN’S NEW 50-STOREY LANDMARK, United Tower, is now drawing business travellers following the opening of Wyndham Grand Manama which occupies 19 floors. MICE is a key sector, reflected in the 1,840sqm of meeting space and rooftop ballroom on the 50th floor. The opening further raises the profile of Bahrain Bay, which is home to a Four Seasons hotel. 160-room hotel to open in Seeb district in 2020, followed 90 serviced apartments in 2022 25HOTELS Accor brand’s first hotel outside Europe due to open in Dubai World Trade Centre in 2020 JANUARY 2018 1 31 3 HOTEL & SERVICED APARTMENTS View from Penthouse* Premier Room* HAPPY NEW YEAR 2018! LUXURY OF A HOTEL WITH THE COMFORTS OF HOME Situated alongside Media City and Internet City with a much coveted address, Fraser Suites Dubai rises above Sheikh Zayed Road occupying the top 23 levels of Sidra Tower, overlooking the Arabian Sea and Mall of Emirates. 132 Hotel Rooms - 136 Serviced Apartments - Gym - Wellness - Multiple Restaurants - Tennis Court - Squash Court. With award-winning service and extensive gold-standard facilities; conference rooms that can cater up to 200 delegates; relaxed dining venues - Fraser Suites Dubai has it all. Book directly with us and receive a 10% discount on Best Available Rate. Reservations: +971 (0)4 4401400, Email: email@example.com dubai.frasershospitality.com - *Pictures are for illustrative purposes only. UPFRONT March end for new MCT airport, experience Oman in one website TOPGOLF SWINGS BY DUBAI Dubai Golf will be unveiling a new digital- Trials are underway at the new Muscat International Airport ahead of a planned end-of-March soft operations launch. Oman’s Ministry of Tourism has launched experienceoman.om, which is designed to serve as a single portal for all tourism-related information. This time next year we’ll all be visiting... GUANGZHOU friendly concept next year for those who don’t have time or inclination to play 18 holes. Topgolf will combine “play, food and music” in a threelevel venue spanning 60,000 square feet. Microchipped balls keep your score and the distance and accuracy of shots will appear on a TV screen, while year-round programming includes events for kids and families, social leagues, groups, golf tournaments and instruction. Dallas-based Topgolf continues to shoot into new markets, having expanded in Australia, Canada and Mexico. What’s on this month… E VITA The popular musical comes to Dubai Opera between January 22-February 3 – remember to bring your tissues. dubaiopera.com TORUK – THE FIRST FLIGHT EVEN BY CHINESE GROWTH STANDARDS, GUANGZHOU – currently expanding at 4.66 per cent a year – is an exceptional city, and if you haven’t visited it yet on business there is a good chance you will soon. The capital of Guangdong province boasts a population of over 13 million, making it China’s third largest city, and remains a bustling centre for automotive, hitech, petrochemicals, machinery, transport equipment and pharmaceuticals. Tourism is beginning to flourish too with Nansha Integrated Cruise Terminal aiming to open next year. More seats between Dubai and Nigeria The world-famous acrobatic spectacular Cirque du Soleil touches down in the UAE this month, with a new show inspired by Avatar. Head to Dubai World Trade Centre between January 4-17. tixbox.com DOUBLE HIT OF GOLF The UAE is firmly in the golfing spotlight this month with the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship being held at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club between January 18-21, which will be followed by the 29th edition of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club (January 25-28). abudhabichampionship.com, omegadubaidesertclassic.com Capacity on the Dubai-Abuja-Lagos sectors is stacking up with Nigerian carrier Med-View Airline recently launching three-times weekly services on two-class B767-300s (30 business, 191 economy) and B777-200s (24 business, 302 economy). Business class passengers receive a 75kg allowance and can check in up to three pieces. Med-View will compete with Emirates, which flies double-daily Lagos services and resumed Abuja flights in November. The Nigerian carrier said flights to Jeddah were also recently reintroduced. Singapore, Lisbon, Houston and Washington DC are also on the carrier’s wish-list as it aims to grow its international network. JANUARY 2018 1 51 5 UPFRONT SUPERSONIC SOUNDBITES 20 SCALINI AT FOUR SEASONS DUBAI JAL’s purchase options for the supersonic aircraft 45-55 Number of business class seats on board Suite stays 2025 Projected take-off date RIXOS PREMIUM DUBAI’s guests staying in one-bedroom suites receive up to four pieces free laundry (six pieces for two-bedrooms), airport transfers on minimum three-night stays and 4pm late check-out. The two-bedroom suites offer 360-degree views. If time is of the essence, JANNAH MARINA BAY SUITES’ Winter Day Pass offer allows you to use the pool, gym and Jacuzzi for AED99. $10M Japan Airlines’ investment in Boom Supersonic London Italian fine-dining restaurant, Scalini, is coming to Dubai and its Gulf off-shoot opens at Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach this month. Chef Monserrato Marini is overseeing the carefully curated menu in which guests will experience “the true essence of rustic Italy”. OBJECTS OF DESIRE 16 MONTBL ANC BONHEUR NUIT Montblanc is no stranger to intricate nibs but the Bonheur Nuit raises the writing bar with its Au750 handcrafted gold nib and delicate falling-star motif. Available in fountain, roller ball and ballpoint in boutiques worldwide. Priced between AED1,775-AED2,665 JANUARY 2018 NEW YE AR , NEW PHONE Model: iPhone X Colours: Space grey, silver Storage: 256GB, 64 GB Prices: AED4,729, AED4,099 Available at Jumbo Electronics BE ARD TRIMS ON THE GO If you’re a beard-owning business traveller and haven’t got time to go to the barbers, Panasonic’s ER-GD60 may be one for you. The three-in-one device can be used for ‘designing, trimming and lining’ and works vertically and horizontally. UPFRONT COMPETITION WIN A TWO-NIGHT STAY AT LE BRISTOL BEIRUT THIS MONTH’S fabulous prize comes courtesy of Le Bristol Beirut, which is a member of Preferred Hotels & Resorts. Le Bristol Beirut is an elegant awardwinning hotel located in the heart of Beirut, renowned as the ‘Paris of the Middle East’. The hotel offers 157 themed guestrooms – from modern contemporary and 1960s retro chic to rich Ottoman Empire-inspired designs that evoke the aura of Arabian nights – as well as restaurants such as Les Gourmandises Verdun, and nine meeting rooms. When you need to venture outside, travellers can enjoy close proximity to both Verdun Street, one of the city’s most popular shopping destinations, and Hamra Street, the hub of the Beirut’s club scene and vibrant nightlife. Click on our facebook page ( facebook.com/BusinessTravellerME) to find the competition question. Entries are valid until January 31 and the prize can be redeemed anytime in 2018. ROUTE NEWS ASCENT: ETIHAD AIRWAYS will raise Amman to double daily flights from March 25. The new service will be operated by two-class A320s. The airline will introduce its B787 Dreamliner on Casablanca services from May 1 (replacing A330). FLYDUBAI will fly two new seasonal destinations this summer – Dubrovnik and Kutaisi. Alongside flydubai, AIR ARABIA will also fly to Moscow SVO Airport soon, with four-times weekly services starting from Sharjah on February 1, which will upgrade to daily from March 1 (together with Domodedovo flights, Russian capital will be served double daily). AIR ARABIA will also launch a three-times weekly seasonal route to Bodrum from June 13. DESCENT: Fairmont Fujairah Beach Resort (lobby pictured) recently opened Lava Beach Club which brings a taste of ‘Marbella, Miami and Ibiza’ to the UAE east coast. The 180-room hotel has three meeting rooms and five F&B venues. Turn to page 18 to read more on UAE resorts ETIHAD is dropping Tehran flights from January 24 and reducing schedules from five to two services weekly until January 23. Passengers can rebook until the 23rd and receive full refunds for bookings from the 24th onwards. JANUARY 2018 1 71 7 D E S T I N AT I O N S Fashionable retreats UAE executives have several stylish new resorts to check out this winter which are ideal for bleisure or clocking off from work entirely WORDS DOMINIC ELLIS 18 JANUARY 2018 UAE RESORTS 1 91 9 The Bulgari Resort & Residences Dubai JANUARY 2018 D E S T I N AT I O N S 20 ABOVE AND RIGHT: The Bulgari Suite Bedroom; The Bulgari Spa pool; The Retreat Palm Dubai Lobby JANUARY 2018 don’t know where to look on entering the first Bulgari resort in the Middle East. In the space where most hotels would have car parks is a luxurious marina and as I’m sweeping round in a buggy for the launch press conference, I could be walking into a five-star hotel rather than a yacht club. Even by UAE standards, this is some property, where luxury starts at the entry level Superior rooms (AED3,500 a night) and keeps rising. I thought the four flagship Bulgari suites on the end of each corridor, each spanning 120sqm, couldn’t be eclipsed (AED9,000 a night) but that’s before I stepped into the 20 villas with their vast lounges, abundant light and terrace pools – one of which covers a mind-boggling 540sqm and can host up to 100 people. You’re looking at AED22,000 a night for a stay in the villas although if you want a luxury-budget UAE RESORTS 2 12 1 JANUARY 2018 D E S T I N AT I O N S 1 22 2 option (if such a thing exists) you can rent out the cabanas for AED2,000 a day. Walking through the grounds, enjoying the pleasant temperatures and lush landscaping, I could have been in any high-class Indian Ocean resort. Bulgari CEO JeanChristophe Babin gushed that it will be the “third landmark” in Dubai after Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab and whether you agree or not, it’s certainly distinctive with classy Italian residential furnishings and vintage celebrity photos. F&B looks every bit as sharp as the fixtures with an attractive Lobby Lounge, waterside Il Café, La Spiaggia (beach) and Il Ristorante by Nik Romito which features a striking steel and bronze oval bar. A seafood Italian restaurant is located in the yacht club, which also contains a 360sqm ballroom, and Il Cioccolato boutique serves up branded chocolates. Naturally Bulgari jewellery and watches are on display in another boutique. The attention to detail is pervasive. The Workshop Gym offers one-on-one training programmes, and you’ll find mosaic-lined pools and even branded coat-hangers in the cupboards. The spa contains eight treatment rooms and 25-metre indoor pool, complementing outdoor ones. The resort marks the fifth Bulgari property globally, with Shanghai due to open next Spring. THE RETREAT PALM DUBAI, MGALLERY BY SOFITEL The weather outside is uncharacteristically cloudy but the colours in the first MGallery in the region – and first wellness-focused resort in the Middle East – are warming me up. The Retreat Palm Dubai, MGallery by Sofitel, to give its full title, is clearly something different. No aspect has escaped the wellness microscope, from juices by the hour to sunny, leisure-themed lifts, and that’s before you get to the real health business and talk to the lifestyle 3 JANUARY 2018 UAE RESORTS consultants on hand to address your personalised needs. I thought it was directly by the Sofitel Palm but, this being Dubai, there are other developments sandwiched in between, one of which looks near completion. The synergies should extend along the crescent, given Accor and Rixos have now entered into a strategic partnership. Every MGallery has ‘personality’ touches, and in this case, the novelties included an attractive contemporary art display and curved Feng Shui designs. The wellness center is a labyrinth containing consultation and treatment rooms, steam, sauna, jacuzzi and cryotherapy chambers. It’s not tucked away, like so many hotels, but just off the lobby level, symptomatic of its pivotal positioning. Read more on the resort in the tourism and wellness section of the enclosed DXH supplement 4 INTERCONTINENTAL FUJAIRAH 1. Meeting rooms, The Retreat Palm RESORT Dubai An enduring hospitality anomaly, that 2. InterContinental InterContinental hasn’t had a regional resort, has Fujairah Resort 3. Aerial view, W been put to bed, with InterContinental Fujairah The Palm Dubai Resort recently opening its doors in Dibba. The five4. InterContinental Fujairah Resort star resort, comprising 190 rooms (44 Club rooms down to lights up); LIV (offering everything to and 38 suites), features a series of low-rise, Arabesque “Liv a Little” including a “Bucket List” of once in a village-style buildings and combines Arab influences lifetime items) and W Lounge (curated cocktails with contemporary designs. pre/post dinner). Amenities include a gym, O Spa by The hottest ticket in town will be the L’Occitane, four meeting rooms, a boardroom DND Suites – W’s version of the ultimate Walking through the and ballroom and two F&B options – Nama cabana. Flaunt your style to your heart’s grounds, enjoying the (international) and Drift (casual beach bar content with a private event within the three and grill). Worldly Classics cocktails can also exclusive DND Suites, elevated hideaways pleasant temperatures and be sipped on the Horizon outdoor terrace. adjacent to the lush landscaping, I could Alongside the family pool is a Kids’ and WET Deck. have been in any highTeen’s Club. The first AWAY Spa in the Middle East will contain 11 treatment rooms, steam class Indian Ocean resort. W DUBAI – THE PALM room, sauna and hammam. W Dubai – The Palm, slated to open in June, will house 350 sea-facing guest rooms and suites ANANTARA SHARJAH RESORT on the West Crescent of Palm Jumeriah. Designed Minor Hotel Group has announced the through the W lens, the Escape juxtaposes the man$140m, 233-room Anantara Sharjah Resort made geometric skyscrapers with the organic waves will open mid-2020, featuring a selection of the desert. of deluxe rooms and luxury suites at a prime On site will be six restaurants and bars, including beachfront location. Among the F&B options WET Deck; Torno Subito by Massimo Bottura will be a specialty dining restaurant located on a (his first venue outside Italy); Akira Back (Korean pier. Other facilities include a male and female spa culinary master); SoBe (rooftop bar with a South and wellness centre, a kids’ club, a pool and a ballroom Beach vibe and 360 panoramic views from sun able to accommodate up to 540 guests. BT JANUARY 2018 23 23 13th edition BEST OF THE BEST abudhabichampionship.com 18-21 JANUARY 2018 @ADGOLFCHAMPS Dustin johnson Paul Casey Tommy Fleetwood Matt Kuchar Henrik Stenson Rory MciLroy Justin Rose OPINION Taxing issues Will VAT tariffs coming into effect this month make Gulf hospitality less competitive? DOMINIC ELLIS EDITOR T he UAE and KSA will introduce 5 per cent VAT tariffs from January but other GCC states, such as Bahrain and Oman, are unlikely to come on stream until mid-2018. Consumers need to be on their toes as it’s a mixed picture – several key sectors are exempt while others are chargeable. Transport is one which has escaped charges in the UAE with international and domestic flights exempt along with goods supplied by air, land and sea. In the hospitality sphere, however, all rooms and F&B are taxed at 5 per cent and the levy will be added on top of bills alongside service charges. Municipality and tourism dirham charges, while not vat-able as they are considered non-income to hotels, also have to be paid for; it may not feel an especially happy new year for many inbound travellers. F&B in particular is causing angst for operators who have yet to finalise systems and clarify payments – possibly because 100 items which were originally expected to be zero-rated were later added to the tax bracket. Many hotel operators declined to comment, reflecting the mood of uncertainty. Commentators have highlighted some other grey areas, notably over what constitutes “recipient of services”, recovery on fees, charges relating to loyalty schemes and vouchers, and transactions covering different jurisdictions, which have been sources of litigation in other markets. and the UAE authorities should look at our As per the Federal Tax Authority (FTA) industry and recognise we are part of the in the UAE, businesses with an annual overall mix.” turnover of AED375,000 must complete He added the introduction of VAT online registration through the authority’s will necessitate “a lot of time and care” website and voluntary registration is also over every single invoice and receipt. “I being encouraged for small businesses (click think it will take at least six months for on https://eservices.tax.gov.ae to sign up). it to be understood and how it affects us Retailers will have to display VAT separately become apparent.” on their bills. As costs come into focus with the Simon Casson, introduction of VAT, Dirk President Hotel van de Haar, Director at Operations - Europe, Creneau International, cited I think it will take at Middle East and Africa, high rents as a more pressing least six months for said it is not expecting issue. “I cannot explain to it to be understood any meaningful a customer they are being impact. “It has been charged AED400 for a meal and how it affects us well communicated due to high rent – they are become apparent. and is a mandatory not going to accept that. Government tax and That is really where we need so is easy to explain to to start tackling the issues.” guests as such.” Designed to diversify the But leading figures in the region’s revenue sources, VAT restaurant and café sector, is likely to generate AED12 which has seen rapid billion income in the UAE in growth in the last decade, its first year and may collect up to have expressed concern. AED20 billion in 2019. Naim Maadad, CEO of What is less clear is the impact it will Gates Hospitality, which have on Gulf states’ competitiveness and has opened restaurants such as Reform tourism perception. The VAT levy, while Social & Grill, Folly, Publique and Ultra small, comes on top of municipality Brasserie, said: “The independent food and tourism charges – and that’s before and beverage industry really supports the you take into account variable exchange economy – but we are not isolated from the rates, which can make everything – fluctuations in that economy as well. There particularly already-high drinks prices – are many factors that are making life tough, additionally expensive. BT JANUARY 2018 25 D E S T I N AT I O N S 26 JANUARY 2018 HANGZHOU 2 72 7 VISION OF THE FUTURE An investigation of Hangzhou, China’s technological epicentre, reveals Bond-like gadgets and sci-fi aspirations WORDS CRAIG BRIGHT JANUARY 2018 D E S T I N AT I O N S 28 L ABOVE AND RIGHT: Alibaba’s futuristic corporate campus covers 150,000 sqm in Hangzhou’s Yuhang district; a Hikvision drone and rifle-like drone signal jammer JANUARY 2018 ining the walls of a large, white, circular room are dozens of CCTV cameras, their all-seeing lenses trained on the crowd below. As people walk about, portraits start to appear on mounted TV monitors, along with personal statistics such as height and gender. I see my own face pop into view, along with an estimation of my age, which, to my dismay, is off by about ten years – and not in the flattering direction. HANGZHOU Being displayed on another screen is a veritable army of small orange robots zipping across a post office warehouse. The fully automated bots are using HD cameras and QR codes placed on the floor to move about and sort packages into their correct locations. “When they run out of electricity, they calculate the route they have to take to get to the charging stations and then charge themselves,” my guide explains. In the middle of the room, sitting atop a white plinth, is a large remote-controlled drone about a metre wide. Next to it is a rifle with what can only be described as a television aerial sticking out from the barrel. According to my guide (who I’m tempted to call “Q” at this point), the aerial gun blocks a drone’s remote radio signal – using jamming equipment used in China’s space technology – thus causing it to fall from the sky. This is the headquarters of Hikvision, a multinational technology company that has its head office in Hangzhou, the capital of eastern China’s Zhejiang province southwest of Shanghai. While its name may not be as familiar as other tech behemoths like Alibaba or Huawei, the 16-year-old Chinese company is a giant in its own right, with a market capitalisation of more than US$20 billion and a 19.5 per cent market share of the global video surveillance industry. The company has more than 20,000 employees worldwide, with its products being utilised all over the world from the Brazil World Cup Stadium to Milan’s Malpensa Airport. Hikvision’s technological prowess is not an unusual story in Hangzhou: Net Ease, an internet technology company located in the city’s Binjiang district, was founded in 1997 and helped spearhead the development of internet services in China. Zhejiang Dahua Technology – another video surveillance company – is also headquartered in Binjiang. Meanwhile, telecommunications giant Huawei – headquartered in Shenzhen – has a large research centre in Hangzhou. In fact, the proliferation of powerful tech companies has given rise to the moniker “China’s Silicon Valley”. That’s a title also used in association with Shenzhen and a few other Chinese cities – yet none of China’s home-grown tech companies is as Alibaba is a beacon internationally renowned as Alibaba. for the spirit of Famously founded in Jack Ma’s onebedroom Hangzhou apartment in 1999, entrepreneurialism the company is now in a head-to-head that has rippled with Amazon to achieve a US$500 billion valuation. Spreading out over 150,000 sqm in throughout the city the city’s Yuhang district, its greenery-laden corporate campus boasts an iconic spider-web exterior. Inside it’s a hive of innovation, home to more than 9,000 employees and a beacon for the spirit of entrepreneurialism that has rippled throughout the city. Alibaba’s presence in Hangzhou extends far beyond its headquarters. Each October, the company hosts The Computing Conference, which attracts tens of thousands of attendees from across the globe. At this year’s event, Ma announced a US$15 billion investment in the company’s new Alibaba DAMO Academy, an initiative aimed at tackling research in areas such as data intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), JANUARY 2018 29 29 D E S T I N AT I O N S 30 financial technology (fintech), quantum computing and human-machine interaction. As part of the effort, the company will open seven research labs across the globe: as well as Hangzhou, they’ll be located in Beijing, Singapore, Moscow, Tel Aviv, and San Mateo and Bellevue in the US. Earlier this year, the company also unveiled a more “offline” development. Despite making its name as an e-retailer, July saw the launch of Alibaba’s “Tao Café”, an unmanned shop concept that sees tills and cash replaced by smartphone payments. By scanning a QR code on the Taobao app at the entrance of the store, patrons are tracked with cameras for facial recognition. Customers can then automatically make a purchase through their smartphones without needing to head to a register, and be able to leave the store with their items in hand. LEVERAGING MOMENTUM Keen to capitalise on the presence and start-up spirit of these tech giants, the city’s government has begun to actively promote Hangzhou as a key technological hub. According JANUARY 2018 HANGZHOU to the Hangzhou Tourism Commission (HTC), “Hangzhou has introduced a series of policies to attract high-tech enterprises to settle in Hangzhou. Among these, the ‘Hangzhou Silicon Valley incubator’ has contributed 21 outstanding high-tech enterprises that have settled here.” This incubator project comes in two forms: a US$50 million cross-border venture-capital guidance fund aimed at exploring the establishment of overseas equity investment enterprises; and the implementation of overseas venture-capital enterprises and seeking out angel investors to invest in the pilot work of Hangzhoubased, non-listed enterprises. But the city’s promotion of its tech-hub credentials isn’t limited to direct funding of such initiatives. “Hangzhou has spawned a large number of well-known internet companies, but the superior entrepreneurial environment has also encouraged a proliferation of financial enterprises, cultural and creative enterprises,” said an HTC spokesperson. In particular, the events industry is seen as a major player in the city’s ongoing economic development. “The MICE industry is seen as an important breakthrough in the transformation and development of Hangzhou’s tourism industry, the promotion of urban internationalisation, and the creation of a high-end international conference destination,” stated the HTC. “Development of MICE will promote the regional economy and will also serve as a potential attraction for high-tech enterprises.” The city certainly aims high in its hosting of major international events: in September 2016, Hangzhou hosted the G20 summit, attended by world leaders from China, the US, Russia, Germany, France, the UK, Japan, South Korea and India, among others. This was the summit that saw the ratification of the Paris Agreement by then-US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping (the same agreement from which current US President Donald Trump controversially announced the US would withdraw). As well as being the first G20 Summit to be held in China, it was also one of the few in the conference’s history held in a secondary city. Visitors to Hangzhou can view the very halls where key meetings were held – the Hangzhou International Expo Center has kept key rooms from the G20 Summit set up as exhibits. The Expo Center is also home to one of Alibaba’s aforementioned unmanned convenience stores, located outside the main entrance. Further down the line in 2022, Hangzhou is also set to play host to the Asian Games. With major developments in business, MICE and CLOCKWISE FROM OPPOSITE TOP: One of Alibaba’s unmanned, appoperated Tao Cafés; inside an Expo Center hall used for the G20 Summit; the Hangzhou International Expo Center 3 13 1 tourism, it comes as no surprise that air connectivity to the city has also been increasing. Xiamen Airlines started flying between Hangzhou and Melbourne last month, while Beijing-based Capital Airlines’ one-stop service to Lisbon via Beijing took off in July – the Beijing-Lisbon leg being the first non-stop connection between China and Portugal. American carrier United Airlines also launched a San FranciscoHangzhou service, though this was stopped in October after being deemed “no longer economically viable”. The Hangzhou Tourism Commission states that more than 200 domestic and international routes now connect the city with the rest of the world, adding that “the opening of these intercontinental routes has allowed Hangzhou to take a big step towards becoming an international city”. Then again, if the rate of technological advancement continues, it might not be too long before visitors can be airlifted by drone, or simply beamed to their desired location via an app… The city has aimed high in its hosting of major international events, such as 2016’s G20 Summit JANUARY 2018 D E S T I N AT I O N S NAVIGATING 32 he cliché about getting lost in translation is one thing. Simply getting lost is another. Tokyo has always been notoriously difficult to get around, from the confusing address system (not based on street addresses) to a mindboggling network of train lines. Wifi hotspots, accessible data and English-language apps have also typically been few and far between. Short of a personal guide, a good GPS system (and a stellar sense of direction) used to be the only hope for foreigners to the city. However, with the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games on the horizon, and not forgetting the 2019 Rugby World Cup, Tokyo is seeing a swathe of tech infrastructure and service industry upgrades that promise to make the city more accessible and easier to navigate for the growing number of foreign visitors. JANUARY 2018 APP-ROPRIATE SOLUTIONS Tokyo has one of the most efficient public transport systems in the world – a train company’s recent apology for a 20-second delay made headlines around the world – but the sheer size and complexity can be confusing to say the least. This is especially true at major stations like Shinjuku and Shibuya, where the crowds and vast number of exits and platforms are overwhelming. To combat this, the government has implemented more tourist information offices dotted around the city. One recent service has been the addition of nonJapanese guidance staff at busy locations such as Tokyo Station who can give directions and other information in a variety of languages. Service providers are also upping their app game to help people navigate Tokyo and beyond. The Japan National Tourism Organization ( JNTO), for example, TOKYO O T O KY Find your way with ease on your next trip to the Japanese capital WORDS ROB GOSS 33 JANUARY 2018 D E S T I N AT I O N S 34 34 recently launched the Japan Official Travel App (jnto. go.jp/smartapp/eng) available in Chinese (simplified and traditional), English and Korean, offering a mix of content such as travel articles with practical information on how to get around, route searches for trains, maps, and guides to manners and customs – quite a handy free resource to have in your pocket. Another new app that could be useful for anyone aiming to get out of Tokyo is the Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen Reservation App (smart-ex.jp/en/lp/app). With it, JR Central and JR West have teamed up to create the first app in Japan that allows train bookings in English – in this case for the bullet train – and also allows you to change bookings up to four minutes before departure. It’s currently available for download in the US, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore, although a spokesperson for JR says it will soon be rolled out in other countries and similar English apps will hopefully be following to allow bookings on a greater number of trains and lines. THIS PAGE FROM LEFT: JAL Explorer app; and Tokaido Sanyo Shinkansen reservation app JANUARY 2018 GETTING CONNECTED Of course, apps aren’t much good if you can’t access them, and despite Japan’s hi-tech image, it’s been something of an oddity that wifi accessibility has long been extremely patchy while out and about in the capital. However that appears to be changing. Teaming up with rail and bus operators, plus certain tourist spots and public facilities, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government’s Free Wi-Fi & Tokyo (wifi-tokyo.jp) delivers connectivity in an increasing number of locations around the city. It still isn’t perfect but it is a move in the right direction. Another app offering this service is Travel Japan Wifi (japanfreewifi.com) from Wire and Wireless Co. A recent partnership with flag carrier Japan Airlines (JAL) has also seen the launch of an upgraded version, the JAL Explore Japan Wifi app, available for both Android and Apple devices. With this app, travellers can automatically connect to more than 200,000 wifi hotspots operated by the company across Japan in public areas such as airports, major train stations, restaurants and key tourist locations. The app is specifically designed to cater to foreigners – residents in Japan are not even able to download the programme, and it’s available in English, traditional and simplified Chinese, Korean and Thai, while Japanese is not supported. If, however, you want guaranteed data during your stay, sort out pocket wifi when you arrive at Narita or Haneda airport. Alternatively, a free SIM card courtesy of new start-up Wamazing was rolled out in February 2017. Foreigners can pre-register for the service and then pick up their free SIM from vending machines at Tokyo Narita airport. The SIM also comes with 500MB of data or usage for five days – whichever you hit first. Additional data can be bought through the Wamazing app (apps.wamazing.jp), plus access to services such as hotel reservations, taxi hailing or booking activities. So far the app is only available in traditional Chinese, aimed at travellers from Hong Kong and Taiwan, but Wamazing TOKYO LEFT: Tokyo Edition Ginza plans to offer English, simplified Chinese and Korean in the future. FUTURE-TECH Given Japan’s reputation for robotics, it comes as no surprise that Tokyo is also turning to automatons to help visitors. In November Tokyo’s governor, Yuriko Koike, unveiled five multilingual robots at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building as a test run before the 2020 Games. The five – all of which can communicate in Japanese and English, with some able to use Chinese and Korean, too – will be in place until February 2018 to see how well they can assist visitors with tourist information and directions. Taking things even further into the future, you will soon be able to pay for and access a range of services with the tap of a finger. The new “Touch & Pay” authentication system is part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s efforts to promote biometric identification services, and since October it is gradually being rolled out at hotels and tourist sites across Tokyo. By 2020, it should allow travellers (after registering passport, credit card and fingerprint data at the airport or a tourist office) to check in, buy tickets, use lockers, and more across Tokyo usingMobile fingerTraveller scans or e-passport FA.pdf 1scans. 10/29/17 THIS PAGE: Multiple smartphone apps provide easy access to travel information, or simply ask your friendly neighbourhood robot With the JAL Explore Japan Wifi app, travellers can connect to more than 200,000 hotspots countrywide ROOM FOR GROWTH 4:07 PM Japan’s target of 20 million inbound travellers annually by 2020 was reached four years early – the government has now revised that target to 40 million. To cater to that growth, an additional 10,000 rooms are slated for the capital before the Games, many of them ticking all the five-star boxes. Looking at the newest offerings, Hoshino Resorts Co opened the Hoshinoya Tokyo early in 2017 in the central Otemachi district, not far from Tokyo Station, offering a blend of high-end resort and traditional Japanese inn. The Aman group has launched a similarly sleek, relaxation-focused property nearby: the Aman Tokyo. In November, Marriott introduced the group’s millennial-focused lifestyle brand with the opening of Moxy Tokyo Kinshicho, and also has a pair of Marriott Edition properties scheduled for 2020, one in the Toranomon business district and another just off the main avenue in the prestigious Ginza area. Looking forward also reveals that Accorhotels will make a brand debut in the Japanese capital when it opens its 143-room Pullman Tokyo Tamachi in autumn 2018, while luxury serviced residence Oakwood Apartments Nishi-Shinjuku is scheduled to open in the summer. A 190-room Four Seasons property is also planning to open in Otemachi by 2020. 35 PLAIN SAILING 36 If trains, buses and taxis aren’t your thing, and you have some spare time in between meetings, Tokyo has another mode of transport up its sleeve: water buses. Aiming to offer an alternative to the city’s highly congested roads, a number of companies have launched services around Tokyo Bay, mainly operating routes around Odaiba and up the Sumida River to Asakusa. Tokyo Cruise Ship company offers the most daily services, with the scenic journeys lasting between 20 minutes and an hour, and starting at ¥780 (US$7; suijobus.co.jp/en). If the schedules don’t suit, there’s also a flexible on-demand service. Tokyo Water Taxi (pictured below) began operating its first diesel-powered vessels in mid-2016 around Tokyo Tokyo has one of the Bay’s waterways, and plans most efficient public to have a total of 60 iconic transport systems in yellow boats operating by the time the 2020 Olympic the world... but it can Games rolls around. Some be very confusing landings welcome visitors without a reservation, but it’s best to book (there’s a maximum capacity of six people). Journeys cost around ¥2,000 (US$18; watertaxi.tokyo). ESSENTIAL APPS FOR NEGOTIATING JAPAN GOOGLE TRANSLATE This app allows you to translate to and from multiple languages by typing or pasting in text or by speaking into your phone’s microphone. Its finest feature, however, is the camera input. With it, you can scan something like a Japanese menu and get a fairly accurate translation appear over the top of the words it detects. HYPERDIA Free for 30 days after you first install it, this app makes navigating public transportation easy, providing timetable information and detailed route searches for trains, subways and planes nationwide. GURUNAVI Type in parameters such as your location, the kind of food you want and even your budget, and this app will list all the options, including info on whether or not the restaurant has an English menu or English-speaking staff. JANUARY 2018 AV I AT I O N 38 PICTURED: An airplane flies above the Qutb Minar Complex in Delhi JANUARY 2018 I N D I A N AV I AT I O N INDIA F LYING Compilation of major developments in Indian aviation during the past two years WORDS AKANKSHA MAKER W hile writing this article in November 2017, I had completed a year of heavy domestic and international travel. This included flying out of a few tier II towns (Porbander, Lucknow and Guwahati) and some tier I cities (Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru), where I observed a few evident changing trends such as airlines’ on-time performances, easy connectivity and increased security at airports. The improved on-time performances by airlines could be on the basis of the new rule that was imposed by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) back in September 2016. According to the new regulation, if the flight fails to takeoff within five minutes of getting a green signal from the airtraffic control, it will have to be pushed to the back of the queue where it will have to wait until the next available time slot. Earlier, if the flight scheduled to take off didn’t do so on time, it in turn delayed others in the queue behind it too. With the new order, those organised for a timely takeoff as per procedures aren’t inconvenienced any further as defaulters are pushed back endlessly. Hence, Indian airlines now make a conscious effort to avoid a tardy performance on the runway, which would in turn garner a poor track record and reduced priority for sought-after slots during peak hours. Along with this, there has been an evident escalation of flight frequencies, routes and passengers numbers in Indian aviation. International Air Transport Association (IATA) had published an interesting report in 2017 that forecasted major upcoming travel trends worldwide. It forecasts around 7.8 billion passengers will fly in 2036 globally; a near doubling of the four billion air travellers expected to fly in 2018. From these numbers, the maximum demand is deemed to be out of the Asia-Pacific region. It will be the source of more than half the new passengers over the next two decades. In terms of market size, the UK will fall from the third to the fifth place. India will overtake the UK as the third largest aviation market in the world by 2025. By 2026, the country (India) will have 337 million new passengers and a total of 478 million air travellers. This will be more than that of Japan (just under 225 million) and Germany (just over 200 million) combined. The prediction that India is projected to overtake the UK as the third largest aviation market by 2025 has surely been sweet to the ears of our hospitality industry and tourism bodies. It has encouraged the government to further uplift the aviation sector, as it has visibly been doing so since a few years. The government realises the potential of this industry and India’s strong middleclass population of about 35 crore that enjoys an accelerating spending power. In order to make flying affordable for all, airfare JANUARY 2018 39 AV I AT I O N DOMESTIC TO INTERNATIONAL in 2016 was reduced by 18 per cent than that in 2015. According to the Civil Aviation Policy of 2016, if each Indian from the middle-class bracket takes one annual flight, it will result in the sale of 35 crore tickets. Indian aviation is strongly relying on the ability of the middle-class Indian to take to the skies. REGIONAL CONNECTIVITY 40 Limited regional connectivity is another reason why middle-class India didn’t take to the sky much, until recently. The country’s age-old train system has always been reliable; however thanks to the fall in airfare and the increasing convenience of air travel, there’s been a noticeable transition in the way the Indian masses travel. To further encourage this switch, a government initiative called the UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik) Scheme — literally translating to “flies the common man of India” — was announced by the government in October 2016 and put in action in April 2017. It has been launched to connect India’s under-served and unserved airports to larger metros, and also aims to make air travel affordable for the every Indian citizen (under-served airports do not have more than one flight a day operating out of them. Unserved airports have no flights operating to and from them). Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated three routes to kickstart this ambitious scheme — Shimla-Delhi, Kadapa-Hyderabad and Nanded-Hyderabad — last April. Post this, India’s regional connectivity has seen a drastic upward traction. Under the UDAN Scheme, the government has chosen five airlines to operate on 128 routes — Alliance Air (15 routes), Air Deccan (34 routes), Air Odisha (50 routes), SpiceJet (11 routes) and Turbo Megha Airways (18 routes). Together, they will connect 27 served, 31 unserved and 12 under-served airports. In UDAN’s second bidding launched in August last year, the government has acquired 141 more proposals that cover a total of 502 routes, exemplifying the growing importance of regional connectivity to India’s civil aviation. Tier II destinations including Haridwar, Tezpur, Tirupati, Srinagar, Shillong and Imphal are being included in the scheme. JANUARY 2018 ABOVE: SpiceJet aircraft at Indian airport Prior to the launch of the UDAN Scheme, the civil aviation authorities announced two amendments that transformed the way India’s aviation industry conducts business. The first being the amendment of the 5/20 rule — the long-standing norm of the Indian Aviation Ministry under which national carriers were required to complete five years of operational experience and a minimum fleet of 20 aircraft to fly overseas. In February 2016, Tata Sons (the Indian holdings company that maintains joint ventures with AirAsia and Singapore Airlines for AirAsia India and Vistara respectively) had openly voiced its opposition to the 5/20 rule. “The 5/20 rule has thus far principally benefited only foreign airlines, who have captured 70 per cent of the international traffic from India, taking Indian jobs and revenue with them. The removal of the rule is estimated to boost international traffic to and from India to over 100 million passengers by 2021 and will stimulate the domestic market. Increased competition within the country will further contribute to lower (airfare) prices and greater accessibility of air travel to common people,” said a company official in a statement. By March in the same year, a discussion headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh had reportedly concluded with the decision to scrap the 5/20 rule. A formal change was announced by the Civil Aviation Policy in June 2016, thereby doing away with a part of the restriction. Going forward, carriers no longer need to have completed five years of service on domestic routes to fly international; but they still require to operate a fleet of at least 20 aircraft or reserve 20 per cent of their fleet for domestic routes, whichever is higher, before they can expand their horizons globally. Out of the seven domestic players in India’s civil aviation industry, the joint ventures of Tata Sons — AirAsia India and Vistara — have benefited the most from the policy change. Both airlines began operations in 2014 and 2015 respectively. “Though a 0/0 or 0/10 would have been more than welcome, the amendments that have been made to the policy are encouraging. We will now focus on aggressively investing in India and increasing the fleet size to 20 aircraft,” says Amar Abrol, CEO of AirAsia India. In fact, AirAsia India plans to start international flights in the second half of 2018, after deploying 20 aircraft in its fleet (it currently owns 14 airplanes). Abrol further confirmed this in an interview with LiveMint in November 2017: “We are on target to launch our international routes the minute we achieve 20 aircraft in India next year (2018). We foresee our Indian operations to be very profitable once we start flying regional routes and connecting them to our wide network.” Vistara is also rumoured to begin its international operations around the same time. The Tata Sons-Singapore Airlines joint venture currently owns 16 aircraft and has I N D I A N AV I AT I O N announced that it would receive its 20th aircraft by the end of the current financial year, that ends on March 30. It will then receive two more aircraft by mid-2018, that will primarily serve on its international operations. EASING INVESTMENT The second big amendment followed a week after the announcement of the Civil Aviation Policy in June 2016. In an effort to seek greater investment flows into the country, India opened up to 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) by overseas entities (excluding airlines) in domestic airlines. Although, foreign airlines are only permitted to invest up to 49 per cent in an Indian airline, the rule has made it easier for international carriers to set up a domestic carrier in India. Airlines no longer have to look for an Indian partner, but can join hands with private investors abroad. SECURITY MAKE-OVERS Along with implementing amendments that alter the aviation business on a macro level, the security arm of Indian aviation — Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) — announced the gradual doing away of the dated practice of hand-baggage tagging during security scan, post check-in. This elimination was initially launched in December 2016 as a pilot project at six airports — Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai. To ensure easy functioning of this new protocol, a committee comprising of the CISF, the BCAS (Bureau of Civil Aviation Security) and airport officials was set up in 2016. Recently, Goa, Pune, Nagpur, and Trichy airports have also joined the bandwagon that has done away with baggage tags after security check. With this development, a total of 23 airports across India have stopped the redundant and time-consuming practice — making security check comparatively swift and uncomplicated. At the time of going to press, about 27 other Indian airports, falling under the Central Industrial Security Force — including Jodhpur, Port Blair, Aurangabad, Bhopal, Tirupati, Imphal and Jorhat — were being reviewed for this process. BELOW: Security check in progress whatever liabilities it may have attached to it.) Currently, Air India has a debt of about `52,000 crore. Its assets are worth `30,000 crore and include engineering items, property, a few art pieces and subsidiary businesses. Further, an updated version of the country’s foreign direct investment document restricts Air India from being sold to a 100 per cent foreign company/airline. It can, however, be sold to a joint venture wherein one partner company is registered in India and has a minimum shareholding of 51 per cent. This has opened doors for Vistara and AirAsia India to bid for the national carrier. If rumours are to be believed, Tata Group has been eyeing Air India since a while. However, IndiGo Airlines is the only airline to openly show interest in Air India’s international operations. In an internal discussion on IndiGo Airline’s future plans regarding long-haul international flying — Business Traveller India spoke to Rahul Bhatia, co-founder of IndiGo Airlines. He says, “Quite simply, we are interested in the airline operations of Air India. And more specifically, we are focused narrowly on Air India’s international operations and Air India Express. That is what we have communicated in our one-on-one discussions with the government officials.” In September 2017, the government of India had invited applications from investment bankers, law firms and other entities to advise on the strategic stake sale of Air India. However, there seems to be an indefinite delay in the disinvestment of the troubled state-run carrier. It is unlikely to take place in the fiscal year 2017-18, a divergence from the initial plan of completing the process by early 2018. A lot has transpired in our aviation business in the last couple of years. These milestones and happenings have made it quite an eventful time for the industry and especially the middle-class consumer. From favourable government policies, eased investment openings and proactive players, the forecast seems exciting. Whether the predicted numbers will actually play out is only for time to tell. Until then, let’s keep our seat-belts fastened. BT 41 FALL OF THE GIANT SPICEJET | DREAMSTIME While mentioning the landmark happenings of Indian aviation, it’s impossible to omit the disinvestment of India’s national carrier — an announcement that caused a stir in the industry. It was in June 2017 that the Government of India decided to disinvest the loss-making Air India. Since then, a group of ministers, headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley, has been working out details on how to take this forward. There are two options that have been laid out — the first includes selling off the airline’s subsidiaries before the final sale of Air India; and the second option is to sell the airline on an “as-is-where-is” basis. (The latter is a legal term that means the buyer purchases the item on sale in whatever condition it is in and with JANUARY 2018 4 HOURS IN... 42 Stockholm WORDS TOM OTLEY Island-hop around the Swedish capital, taking in Baroque palaces and a wellpreserved shipwreck JANUARY 2018 1 Ralambshovsparken Stockholm is a walkable city that also has excellent public transport. Assuming you only have half a day, it’s a good idea to stay above ground and see as much as possible, so this tour can all be done on foot with the odd boat trip. A good place to start is the island of Kungsholmen, once known for its small-scale industries in the 19th century but now an elegant residential area of apartment blocks and a lovely park – the Ralambshovsparken. Created in 1935, it links in with other parks on Kungsholmen to make a delightful place to stroll year-round. You’ll find cafés, play areas for children, a beach, a skate park, an open-air theatre (in the summer) and sculptures by modern Swedish artists. The Monument over Yxman (1967) by Eric Grate will see you off as you begin the attractive 20-minute walk to the next stop, at the eastern tip of the island. 2 Stadshuset Kungsholmen is also home to the stunning Stadshuset (City Hall). It was designed by Ragnar Ostberg in 1923 in the Swedish National Romantic style, although parts look almost as if they have floated in from Venice – monumental yet playful, and an arresting sight both from across the water and from its attractive terrace, with steps leading down to the Riddarfjarden bay flanked by two statues, Song and Dance, by Swedish sculptor Carl Eldh. The golden crest on top of the 106-metre-tall tower is the Three Crowns or Tre Kronor of Sweden, its heraldic sign dating from the 1300s. You can take a guided tour of the interior if you have time (or if it’s raining), taking in the Golden Room, the Prince’s Gallery and the Blue Hall, where the Nobel Prize banquet takes place each December. 90 kr (£8). international.stockholm.se 3 Royal Palace Cross the bridge next to City Hall and go via Norrmalm then the tiny island of Helgeandsholmen to reach Gamla Stan (the Old Town). Take a little time exploring its winding streets and souvenir shops before making your way to the Royal Palace. You could spend all day here. As well as the huge expanse of buildings, there are several museums including the Treasury and the Royal Armoury. With time tight, simply wander through the palace itself, the rooms of which are impressive examples of late Baroque opulence with their furnishings and paintings. Must-see sights include Queen Kristina’s silver throne, looking very empty now but for all the visitors taking selfies; and the richly decorated Royal Chapel, which is up some stairs close to the entrance and exit. Open Tues-Sun 10am-4pm; 160 kr (£14.75). kungahuset.se STOCKHOLM 4 5 3 43 4 Vasa Museum 5 Moderna Museet From the Vasa Museum, you can jump on one of the circular boat trips that stop off here (single tickets from the pier at Allmanna Grand to Skeppsholmen cost 30 kr/£2.70). These range in length from a few minutes to a tour of the whole archipelago, or you can just pick and choose your journeys. A short one would be across Ladugardslandsviken bay to the island of Skeppsholmen opposite, where the chief attraction is the Moderna Museet (modern art museum). Collections change regularly but it is well worth a visit and is a great spot for lunch in the restaurant, where there are views across to Djurgarden. The permanent collection features works by Picasso, Dali and Rauschenberg. Open 10am-8pm Tues and Fri, 10am-6pm Wed-Thurs, 11am-6pm weekends; entry free to permanent shows. modernamuseet.se BT 2 STOCKHOLM 1 2 3 5 4 VISIT STOCKHOLM Swedes aren’t naturally boastful, but it can sometimes feel that way after listening to some of the recorded commentaries you get on the city’s open-top buses and boat cruises. Everything from Ikea and Tetra-Pak to the pacemaker and dynamite is a Swedish invention, not to mention car brands such as Volvo and the muchmissed Saab. If you’ve had to listen to a lot of this self-congratulation, the antidote is to swing by the wreck of the Vasa. Intended as a mighty warship, even its own designers doubted it would stay float, and so it proved – having launched into the harbour in 1628, the first gust of wind caused it to capsize, killing 30 and sinking into mud, where it remained remarkably intact for 333 years until 1961. It was then raised and restored. Open daily 10am-5pm (8pm Wed); 130 kr (£12). vasamuseet.se/en JANUARY 2018 D E S T I N AT I O N S 44 Verbier ’s legendary skiing is part natural brilliance and part hard work WORDS TOM OTLEY JANUARY 2018 VERBIER 45 A t around seven in the morning, while the Swiss resort of Verbier is still in darkness and the surrounding mountains indistinguishable from the night-time sky, the patrouille (ski patrollers) begin their day’s work. Overnight, in preparation, as skiers fill the après-ski bars then move on to restaurants and nightclubs, the lights of the snow cats can be seen grooming the slopes ready for the next day. That job completed, now it is time to make those same pistes safe before the day’s skiing can begin. To see what is involved, I met up with a member of the patrouille – Victoria Jamieson. One of 28 people patrolling the Verbier Four Vallées area (and one of only two women), her working day starts at 7am and ends at nearly 6pm. In between, it involves everything from making sure the pistes are safe by checking they are correctly marked and coming to the aid of injured skiers to, depending on snow conditions, setting off controlled avalanches with bombs. To get up there, we took the Médran gondola from Verbier (1,200 metres) up to Les Ruinettes (2,200 metres), and as the tops of the mountains became clearer against the lightening sky, stopped for a minute to watch a faint pink edge the horizon as this beautiful part of the world awoke. From one point of view, the patrouille are the security team ensuring the safety of the resort before it opens, except here there are no intruders to worry about – only nature. As well as 410km of pistes, Verbier has 11 “itineraries”, which are marked but ungroomed, and endless off-piste opportunities. JANUARY 2018 D E S T I N AT I O N S 46 46 NEED TO KNOW TOURIST INFO verbier.ch/en ACCOMMODATION Hotel La Rotonde +41 27 771 65 25 hotelrotonde.com LIFT PASS An adult Verbier day pass is priced from 66CHF/£50; an adult six-day pass is priced from 357CHF/£273. SKI RENTAL Ski Service skiservice.com Faction Skis factionskis.com European Snowsport +41 27 771 21 76 europeansnowsport. com LESSONS ISTA +41 79 385 02 20 ista-education. com/en TAXI Taxi Alpina +41 79 442 55 55 taxialpina.ch JANUARY 2018 Verbier has to strike a balance between being a resort where skiers can challenge themselves, but also one where safety is paramount. To that end, a recent innovation has been the International Snow Training Academy (ISTA). For skiers who do not intend to leave the piste, there is also the assurance that no avalanches will occur, and if they do fall and hurt themselves, help will be swift in coming. For both of these tasks, the resort relies on its patrouille. Returning to skiing after a decade, I was more concerned about staying safe and enjoying myself without injury than with testing my limits. I had spent the previous day with a ski instructor from the European Snowsports ski school. He took me across the whole of the Verbier ski area as I progressed from a nervous snowplough down an easy red run, to remembering how to do carving turns and, then, finally, heading for black slopes. It’s possible that many people have had a bad experience in the types of group lessons that were common 20 or 30 years ago and either been put off skiing (or put off lessons), but teaching techniques have changed among the ski schools that have blossomed across the Alps in the intervening period. On that first day back as a returning intermediate skier, I skied dozens of kilometres of red runs, had lunch at the sun trap of La Chaux (2,260 metres) at Le Dahu restaurant, and took the cable car up for the stunning views from Mont Fort (3,330 metres), from where confident skiers can take a black run down – and the rest of us can simply take the cable car. Switzerland in general, and Verbier in particular, is an expensive place to ski. Yes, there are ways of reducing the cost – staying in Le Chable further down the valley for instance, or travelling at an off-peak time. January, if possible, is best, as the school holidays have ended, the price of ski passes drops, the snow is good and you will have quiet slopes and mountain restaurants, and less expensive accommodation. But whatever you do, you will be paying a lot of money, so it’s gratifying that the money is reflected in the experience, both onand off-piste, in the town. Perhaps you would expect free sets of tools at the tops of lifts to help complete minor repairs to ski equipment, or slopes regularly blasted by snow cannons, or poles straightened on an almost hourly basis, or lifts replaced to speed them and make them more comfortable, but in Verbier (and many ski resorts across Switzerland) there is a recognition of the importance of preserving the natural environment, not least since the tourist authorities want to attract visitors in the summer, when the snow has disappeared and the resort and its mountains need to look as unspoilt as possible. To that end pistes are not blasted out during the summer to make them uniformly blue or red in difficulty, and even the avalanche bombs are in bags made of a biodegradable tissue paper. VERBIER RESTAURANTS AND BARS FER A CHEVAL The “Horseshoe” is open all day and very popular for après-ski on the bustling Rue de Médran – great music and food. Rue de Médran 16 • +41 27 771 26 69 • feracheval.ch RESTAURANT LE CAVEAU The place to head for a traditional raclette or fondue. Place Centrale • +41 27 771 22 26 • theplacetobe.ch/ restaurant-le-caveau ← BOT TLE BROTHERS VERBIER Underneath the Hôtel Nevai, this is a modern sister restaurant to the one in Geneva – sleek and stylish, with smaller visually led portions and an extensive cocktail list. Route de Verbier Station 55 • +41 27 775 40 00 • bottlebrothers.ch Still, there’s no doubt that the prices reflect the visitors and a visit to the Vinabagnes shop in the centre of town (www.vinabagnes.com) leaves little doubt about the budget that some can afford, with its extensive range of Swiss wines along with French, Italian and Portuguese wines and a lot of magnums of extremely good wines for entertaining in chalets. It was only the early start which prevented me from buying a bottle for later enjoyment. Back up on the slopes as sunlight lightens the skies, we ski down the virgin pistes with Victoria. It’s hard to know which is more enjoyable: skiing slopes completely free of others, as though this was all for ourselves, or clocking the looks of those passing overhead in the cable cars, them wondering who we are that we managed to get up here so early. For the patrouille, though, this is just the beginning – hours of vigilance and ensuring the safety of skiers lie ahead. Verbier’s website promises that “pure energy lives here”. It’s something to live up to, but only after a leisurely breakfast on the mountain. BT LE MILLENIUM Underneath the Hotel La Rotonde, this serves stylish food in large portions, attractively plated with excellent service. Route de Médran • +41 27 771 99 00 • lemillenium.ch ← LE DAHU The best pizzas on the mountain, as well as a wide choice of pasta dishes and salads. La Chaux• 41 27 778 20 00 • ledahu.ch CHALET CARLSBERG This Italian restaurant sits right next to the Attelas ski slope. It has stunning views down to Verbier and across the mountains. There are lovely sheepskin-covered chairs as well as an outdoor terrace with a self-service snack bar. It shuts at 4.30pm though. Chalet Carlsberg, 1936 Bagnes • +41 27 775 26 73 • verbier.ch/en/fppoi-chalet-carlsberg-200.html JANUARY 2018 47 48 JANUARY 2018 SPA Health hacks Asia’s city spas are your secret weapon when it comes to wellbeing WORDS C ATHARINE NICOL 49 49 JANUARY 2018 50 D isconnecting from everyday pressures gives you time to reboot. Physically, your body lets go of chronic tension, initiating a mini-detox and essential self-healing. Mentally, your brain de-stresses, and this psychological space can throw up solutions to problems, bring creative ideas to the fore and maximise sleep quality. Relaxing is good for your heart and immune system, memory and decision-making, mood and weight loss. However, like all valuable skills, relaxing needs to be practised, and when you’re on the road, spas are your secret weapon. Book in for a little – or a lot of – guided relaxation targeted to your specific needs, and ideally learn some new habits to take home. PREVIOUS PAGE: Mandarin Oriental Shanghai Pudong, luxury spa suite CLOCKWISE FROM THIS PAGE: Cordis Hong Kong’s traditional Chinese medicineinspired Chuan Spa; Waldorf Astoria Shanghai; Panpuri Organic Spa at Park Hyatt Bangkok JANUARY 2018 UNWIND IN BANGKOK The city’s most anticipated hotel opening of 2017, the flawlessly stylish Park Hyatt Bangkok includes the calming and already award-winning Panpuri Spa. Start disconnecting from the day’s stress in the whirlpools, crystal steam and laconium sauna. Then try the mini Gentlemen’s Retreat comprising a delicious skinstimulating body scrub, muscle de-knotting massage and blissfully relaxing facial, a trifecta of healing that leaves you feeling simply good. TIP: Hydrotherapy helps lower the blood pressure and calm the mind. bangkok.park.hyatt.com Across the Chao Phraya River, the leafy green Anantara Riverside Bangkok feels like a resort, and to accompany the laid-back atmosphere offers one-, threeor five-day Balance Wellness programmes, combining mind-body classes, spa treatments and healthy food. Start your day with yoga and meditation overlooking the river, followed by a day of juices, beautifully prepared wellness meals and spa treatments, finishing with a healthy dinner and goodnight foot massage. Longer programmes also include a “before and after” consultation to set goals and measure benefits. TIP: Meditation trains the brain to quieten, resulting in increased productivity. bangkok-riverside.anantara.com DETOX IN HONG KONG In the heart of Mongkok, the Cordis Hong Kong combines fitness, pool time and hydrotherapy with your spa visit. Earn your spa indulgence in the gym or doing laps in the rooftop pool, before continuing the detoxing process with the Chuan Tao of Detox. From movement to enforced stillness and silence, don’t fight the downtime while you’re cocooned in a warm wrap – instead let your thoughts ebb and drift. The following back, neck and shoulder massage targets typical tensions, and the facial refreshes skin and mind for an all-over rejuvenation. TIP: Exercise and stillness activate feel-good endorphins and detox the brain. cordishotels.com/hongkong SPA prepares the body for a deep slumber. The blissfully unhurried two-hour massage uses soothing Swedish and neuromuscular techniques, enhanced by a calming oil blend of vetivert and camomile. Give in to the gentle strokes and aromatherapy and for best results, book your treatment for just before bedtime. TIP: Relaxing downtime before bed improves the quality of your sleep. fullertonhotels.com For some real time out, the ESPA at Resorts World Sentosa tempts you onto Singapore’s holiday island for its day-long De-Stress programmes, combining fitness, nutritious meals and juice shots. Peppered with sleep-inducing treats, stay at the Beach Villas and check in for your lifestyle and skin analysis consultations before embarking on your two treatments a day, like the cleansing, calming hammam ritual and stress-relieving scalp and shoulder massage. You’ll be given a sleeppromoting aromatherapy blend and unlimited time in the Sleep Zone too. TIP: A few drops of lavender essential oil on your pillow helps nudge you into sleep. rwsentosa.com Relaxing is good for your heart, immune system, memory, mood and decision-making. However, like all valuable skills, relaxing needs to be practised JET LAG RECOVERY IN SHANGHAI At the Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund, even if you arrive mentally stressed and jet lagged, you can’t help but feel rejuvenated after its Reconnect Ritual. This starts with your body being cosseted in a warm wrap, literally hugging you with TLC healing. Next is one of the most mentally relaxing treatments around: Shirodhara is the pouring of warm oil on the “third eye” and feels like it is actually massaging your brain. With a bit more time, head out of the city into the verdant New Territories to find Fivelements Hong Kong at the Hong Kong Golf & Tennis Academy. The Balinese-themed spa offers half- or day-long programmes. The four-hour Detox Rejuvenation works on internal organ and digestive cleansing via a Dan Tien abdominal massage, a powerful experience if you’ve never had one before. It’s followed by the Black Diamond Detox combo of body exfoliation with toxin-absorbing, mineral-rich carbonised black bamboo powder, as well as a massage. Feeling squeaky clean you’ll then get a taster of the spa’s phenomenal living cuisine as a lunch or post-treatment dinner. TIP: A body scrub is an easy way to feel cleansed from head to toe. hk.fivelements.org SLEEP IN SINGAPORE We all know how important sleep is to a quality waking life. At The Fullerton Spa, within the stunning neoclassical Fullerton Hotel Singapore, the Sleep Deeply treatment coaxes the mind to switch off and JANUARY 2018 5 15 1 52 JANUARY 2018 SPA Finally, the Hydro Quench Facial breathes life into your complexion. You’re pretty much guaranteed to nod off during one or all of these treatments. TIP: Short naps boost your performance and mood without impacting sleep. waldorfastoria3.hilton.com Meanwhile, the Mandarin Oriental Pudong’s Ban Ri Xian Half Day Reviver combines a body composition analysis (it’s always motivating to know where you stand on the wellness scale), with a tough love PT session that takes into account your current state of wellbeing and offers a tailor-made workout. The recovery massage and hydrating facial are the sweet treats, and the combo creates an ideal way to shake off jet lag. TIP: Exercising can help beat time-zone tiredness and reset your clock. mandarinoriental.com/shanghai DE-STRESS IN KUALA LUMPUR Relinquishing your phone for some spa time may have you sweating (in a bad way) to begin with, but ultimately it will be refreshing. At the Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur, the Digital Detox Retreat gently relieves you of your gadgets, before a scrub and massage focuses on your head, neck and shoulder muscles while your brain clears. It will then be in a receptive state for the mindfulness activities that follow, such as journaling, doodling or colouring. It may sound childish but don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. TIP: An enjoyable, creative pastime with no pressure or deadline releases stress. mandarinoriental.com/kualalumpur A short drive out of the city, The Chateau Spa & Organic Wellness Resort offers a Stress Relief programme that ranges from two to seven nights. The five-night version includes stress management counselling, while the seven-night programme adds horseback riding. Add La Exercising can help beat time-zone tiredness and reset your clock, while the power of touch is proven to decrease stress and promote wellbeing Santé Spa treatments, such as the de-stressing seaweed peat ritual herbal baths and salt grotto mud treatments, plus classes in yoga, breathing, chanting, meditation and yoga nidra (yogic sleep) to accompany your stay. TIP: Slowing your breathing can minimise stress in seconds. thechateau.com.my CLOCKWISE FROM OPPOSITE BOTTOM: Resorts World Sentosa’s ESPA; Le Chateau Malaysia The Chateau Salt Pool; Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur luxury spa treatment room ALL OF THE ABOVE IN MANILA At the Fairmont Makati’s Willow Stream Spa the Executive Retreat is a two-hour soothing massage that encourages a quick nap and relaxes tension held in the upper and lower back. The therapist will use hot compresses aiding detoxification, and stretches to exercise the body and increase flexibility. Using sampaguita oil for a natural uplifting effect, stress will diminish while energy levels will be boosted. TIP: The power of touch is proven to decrease stress and promote wellbeing. fairmont.com/makati Take a drive out of the city to The Farm at San Benito, where its Wellness Experience programme harnesses nutrition and hydration, exercise and sleep, detoxification and relaxation for graceful ageing. Tailor-made for your specific needs and for as many nights as you have time for, consultations and lab diagnostics point to the best combination of medical techniques, natural therapies, exercise and diet. TIP: Wellness leads to quality of life, vitality, contentment and happiness. thefarmatsanbenito.com JANUARY 2018 53 53 D E S T I N AT I O N S VIRGIN LANDS WORDS APRIL HUTCHINSON The Seychelles, in the heart of the Indian Ocean, remains determined to protect its natural attractions 54 JANUARY 2018 SEYCHELLES 55 ew places on Earth are as hopelessly idyllic and exotic as the Seychelles, where prehistoriclooking giant tortoises amble between towering granite boulders and flour-soft beaches demand to be adored. This Indian Ocean archipelago is fairly new to the tourism game, with the international airport only having opened in the early 1970s. The country is still blissfully undeveloped, with the powers that be taking a measured, low-impact approach. Even more commendable is the placing of more than half the country’s land under the protection of national parks and reserves. The population of just under 95,000 people is spread across 115 jewel-like islands, with much of the tourism and hotels concentrated on the main island of Mahé. The second most touristy island is Praslin. But where the Seychelles comes into its own is in its array of castaway luxury resorts set on their own remote islands. Little wonder then that the country has become the favoured destination of many celebrities, from George and Amal Clooney to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. The Seychelles’ appeal runs much deeper than mere celeb-spotting though. The islands the stars adore for beauty and privacy are actually pioneers in conservation. Take Fregate; the size of Monaco yet with only 16 villas, it’s a Jurassic Park-like retreat. The current 2,200-strong population of Aldabra giant tortoises were bred from a population down to just 150 only 25 years ago, and they now roam freely across the island. Fregate is JANUARY 2018 D E S T I N AT I O N S RIGHT: Diving with a hawksbill turtle BELOW: A Seychelles magpie robin 56 also responsible for saving the little Seychelles magpie robin from disappearing forever, and there are now more than 200 of these dainty little birds back in the archipelago. Fregate’s popularity is further bolstered by its seven beaches and the excellent Rock Spa resort. North Island – which has just 11 villas – is also known for its conservation work, with its “Noah’s Ark Project” involving rehabilitation and restoration of a once ecologically devastated island. Like many in the Seychelles, North Island’s natural state was destroyed by intensive plantations more than a century ago, but the mission since has been a return to its pre-human state: many species of birds have returned, while hawksbill and green turtles nest on its beaches once again. One of the best examples The eco-mission on many of the Seychelles’ Eden-like of the Seychelles’ islands paradise – and one you don’t to be a guest at a luxurious has been to return them have private island to experience – is to their pre-human state Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve, the only place with all six of the country’s endemic palm species. Set deep in the heart of Praslin, this UNESCO-recognised site exists almost in its prehistoric state and is famous for being the home of coco de mer, a palm tree that produces the largest seed in the plant kingdom and now found only in the Seychelles. The utter beauty of Praslin’s beaches will impress even the keenest beachcombers; two of the best are Anse Georgette and Anse Lazio, fringed by takamaka trees and bordered by the large granite boulders so typical of the Seychelles. Places to stay include the highly JANUARY 2018 desirable hillside villas of Raffles Praslin, or the more established Constance Lemuria, which has the country’s only 18-hole golf course and three beaches on site. A ferry runs from Mahé to Praslin, but from May to September, it’s not so pleasant if seas are rough; it is also possible to fly between the two. Praslin is also a handy island-hopping base, with Cousin and Curieuse islands nearby, both with strong conservation stories to tell. Curieuse is the only other island where coco de mer grows today; but in its past, the island was destroyed by fire, pillaged of its resources and tortoise population, and used as a leper colony. Its story now is a very positive one, as it’s managed as a reserve you can visit by day trip. Cousin Island Special Reserve is another success story. This former coconut plantation is now a speciessaving sanctuary, and has become the most important nesting site in the western Indian Ocean for the critically endangered hawksbill turtle. The Seychelles’ third most populated island is La Digue, a charming place where most people use two wheels to get around. Boat tours from Praslin usually include bike hire, so you can soak up local life there and head to beaches such as Petit Anse, Grand Anse and Anse Source d’Argent, one of the Seychelles’ most famous. Félicité is a larger island where the new Six Senses Zil Pasyon took up residence this year, occupying less than a third of the island, with 30 villas and 17 private residences. The hot new hotel opening for 2018 will be Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island, which will open on March 1, 2018, as the only resort on that island. Home to 40 suites, here days might be spent SEYCHELLES INFORMATION Seychelles Tourism Board seychelles.travel WHERE TO STAY LEFT: Palms fringe many island tracks BELOW: The seed of a coco de mer palm BOTTOM: A giant tortoise on Praslin Island with a picnic and hike into the jungle, checking out 15km of beaches, or bumping into some of the 150 giant Aldabra tortoises. You could pair a stay at Desroches with the new British Airways flights – after a decade, direct flights will resume from Heathrow on March 24, with a twice-weekly service to Seychelles International airport in Mahé. There’s plenty to see and do on the main island too, where the capital Victoria is about as bustling as the Seychelles ever gets. For a moment of respite, step inside Kenwyn House, one of the oldest and best examples of French colonial architecture on the island and a place to shop for arts and crafts. Another popular option on Mahé is the island’s rum distillery, Takamaka, where you can learn about rum making – and get a little taster. If you’re craving healthier, outdoor activities, head to the highest point in Seychelles, Morne Seychellois – at 905 metres. It’s a three-hour hike and sits inside a national park that claims an impressive 20 per cent of the whole island. Culturally, Seychellois are mainly descended from African slaves brought by the French and later freed by the British, while Chinese merchants and traders also started arriving about 150 years ago, contributing to the Creole mix. Festival Kreol is a big deal for the Seychelles (in late October 2018). If you’re visiting at that time, expect a week of events showcasing the colours, sounds and flavours of Creole culture. Joining in with the hip-swaying, foot-shuffling Sega dance will be a must – especially if you’ve had a drop of that rum to give you a boost of confidence. BT Constance Lemuria constancehotels.com Four Seasons Resort Seychelles at Desroches Island fourseasons.com Fregate Island Private fregate.com North Island north-island.com Raffles Praslin raffles.com Six Senses Zil Pasyon sixsenses.com WHAT TO DO Vallée de Mai Nature Reserve sif.sc Cousin Island Special Reserve cousinisland.net Curieuse Marine National Park seychelles.travel Takamaka takamakarum.com Morne Seychellois National Park seychelles.travel JANUARY 2018 57 HOTEL LISTINGS MIRFA HOTEL WALDORF ASTORIA RAS AL KHAIMAH AL MARFA Away from the bustle of city life, overlooking the azure blue waters of the Arabian Gulf, the Mirfa Hotel offers 114 newly renovated rooms. The hotel provides excellent accommodation for the business and leisure traveller, state-of-the-art conference facilities, a fully equipped gym and ample parking. +971 2 8953009 firstname.lastname@example.org RAS AL KHAIMAH Cradled by the Hajar Mountains, a championship golf course, sandy beaches and the azure waters of the Arabian Sea, Waldorf Astoria Ras Al Khaimah is 50 minutes from Dubai Airport and brings true Waldorf service to the most alluring beachfront location in the UAE. +971 7 2035555 email@example.com waldorfastoria.com/rasalkhaimah CROWNE PLAZA DEIRA, DUBAI SHANGRI-LA HOTEL, DUBAI HOTELS COLLECTION Business Traveller Middle East magazine is available in all of these exclusive hotels GRAND MILLENNIUM DUBAI HOTEL 58 DUBAI The 340-room five star hotel features awardwinning restaurants and bars, spa and health club, stateof-the-art meeting rooms, a magnificent ballroom and exceptional banquet facilities. +971 4 429 9999 firstname.lastname@example.org grandmillenniumdubai.com gb digital edition strip ad 174 x C M Y CM MY CY CMY K JANUARY 2018 DUBAI located in the cultural heart of Dubai, Crowne Plaza Dubai – Deira lies at the convenient gateway between the old and new districts of the city. Features 300 guest rooms and suites, and an array of meeting rooms, 6 restaurants and bars, a dedicated and fully equipped fitness centre with outdoor swimming pool, the hotel is the perfect place for both leisure and business guests. +971 4 262 1555512/24/17 4:34 PM 74mm.pdf email@example.com crowneplaza.com/deira DUBAI The award-winning Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai offers luxurious accommodations, exceptional dining and gracious hospitality in the heart of one of the world’s most dynamic cities. The hotel’s 302 superbly appointed rooms and suites offer a combination of traditional luxury and modern functionality. Spatial elegance, awesome views and thoughtfully selected furnishings create an experience of unparalleled style and comfort. +971 4 3438888 shangri-la.com/dubai TRIED & TESTED FLIGHT the eport TRIED AND TESTED AIRPORT LOUNGES LONDON COCK TAILS LONDON HOTELS • flydubai DUBAI-KILIMANJARO, B737 MAX BUSINESS CLASS • American Express Centurion lounge HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL • Jean-Georges at the Connaught LONDON, UK • The Lalit London LONDON, UK • Emirates lounge LONDON HEATHROW TERMINAL 3 • Ella Canta LONDON, UK • The Westbury LONDON, UK • The Hari LONDON, UK JANUARY 2018 59 TRIED & TESTED FLIGHT 60 flydubai B737 MAX-8 business class DUBAI-KILIMANJARODAR ES SALAAM-DUBAI B A C K G R O U N D Six MAX -8 aircraft are now in flydubai’s fleet and plenty more are coming – the original order in 2013 covers 76 aircraft and 150 were ordered at the Dubai Airshow in November. In time, the regular 737s will be phased out as more MAX come on stream. I was part of a delegation on a flying visit to mark the resumption of Kilimanjaro flights (introduced October 2014) and the route is served six-times weekly, three linking with Dar Es Salaam. The aircraft was used to mark the relaunch but isn’t on the first wave of routes (see panel). Tanzania is now served with 14 flights a week with Dar and Zanzibar too. JANUARY 2018 C H E C K - I N The dedicated business class check-in is at the end of Terminal 2 departures near immigration. I passed through the e-gate (no Smart Gates yet) and relaxed in the lounge. T H E L O U N G E Split over two levels, the bottom floor contains a dining area and selection of hot dishes, snacks and drinks and upstairs offers more comfortable lounge seating. B O A R D I N G We walked through the business class lane at the end to a holding lounge and onto the bus. This unassuming corner of Dubai Airport not only had the new MAX with its distinctive split-design winglets but also the 7000-liveried B737 was parked opposite. We boarded the front and you immediately enter the 10seat business class cabin (two less than normal B737s, the highlight being the two single seats on the second row). The overhead lockers are deep enough for carry ons but this is a narrowbody aircraft and it felt busy with 10 people settling in; take care not to bump your head if you’re in the window seats. T H E S E A T The custom-made Thompson Vantage seats are comfortable and Whether it’s the ‘re-engined’ aircraft or the noisecancellation headphones, I found it quieter than your standard B737. The 15.6inch HD touchscreen shows a good selection of films – if not quite in partner Emirates’ ICE league – and the audio was very clear. TRIED & TESTED FLIGHT BEST FOR Two ‘throne’ seats PRICE Business class return fares start from AED4,525 including taxes and 40kg checked baggage. Economy fares start from AED1,395 with 7kg hand baggage. FLIGHT TIME 6 hours 5 minutes C ONFIGURATION 2-2 (1-1 second row) SE AT WIDTH Seat width 20.6-22.3in SE AT RECLINE 180 degrees CURRENT ROUTES thoughtfully designed with headphone and USB ports by your shoulder (on older B737s, the headphone jack is by the screen which can be awkward if passengers need to step out). A narrow storage area is thick enough to hold your travel documents or mobile, and there is a section for a small water bottle, and more storage by your feet. The seat reclines into a 180-degree flatbed by sliding the first button forward and there is a small handset which I didn’t use much with basic volume/brightness controls. I enjoyed the ‘throne seat’ (2B) on the way out and slept soundly for most of the night flight, and returned in 1A which was fine; each seat is encased in its shell and the fold-down table fixture doubles up as a privacy divider. Another innovation is the car-style seatbelt although I didn’t find it easy to loosen and sometimes it tangled up with the headphones. Economy passengers have adjustable headrests and the emergency exit rows (15/16) offer extra legroom (AED200 surcharge). it so soon. DXB is busy at this time and we left half an hour after our 0240 scheduled departure. Whether it’s the ‘re-engined’ aircraft or the noise-cancellation headphones, I found it quieter than your standard B737. The 15.6-inch HD touchscreen shows a good selection of films – if not quite in partner Emirates’ ICE league – and the audio was very clear. I found the F&B adequate. On the way out I had a standard-plane egg (‘scrambled egg’) and chicken sausage and the return meal, I wasn’t offered bread, though it was available, and there was a mix-up with the menu cards. This might be an area that needs some attention, particularly now flydubai is codesharing with Emirates. Amenity bags are being considered for longer flights. We had some moderate turbulence as we met a jet stream on the return, around Salalah, but otherwise it was smooth both ways. T H E F L I G H T I saw this aircraft (A6- the best as they have a storage cupboard and space either side where you can keep your laptop and spread out. MAX) at the Dubai Airshow static display so it was an unexpected treat to fly on B E S T S E A T The single ‘throne’ seats are The MAX -8s are initially flying on Bangkok, Kiev, Moscow SVO, Bucharest, Prague and Asmara. CONTACT flydubai.com A R R I V A L We had a warm African welcome in Kilimanjaro with dancers and drummers by the apron. It was a tight hour on the ground in which a press conference, gift exchange and cake-cutting were completed before we took off to Dar, which took on new passengers, and was cleaned, prior to returning to Dubai. It would have been great to spend more time in green Tanzania but it was a good opportunity to test the MAX to the max. V E R D I C T This is a sharp product and marked improvement, and perfectly comfortable for flydubai’s longer flights. I felt fine arriving back in DXB at the end of the 18-hour travel day. It’s still early days for the MAX though and some services will need to bed in. Dominic Ellis JANUARY 2018 61 SMAR T TR AVELLER How to get from London Heathrow to the city centre... 62 ...by road H eathrow is 25km west of central London, with many (mostly) efficient public transport options. Consider the alternatives before hiring a car, and if you are heading for the centre of town, make sure you factor in any extra costs. Most vehicles have to pay a congestion charge of £11.50 per day for driving inside central London between 07001800 Monday to Friday (see tfl. gov.uk for more details); enforcement is strict and fines for non-payment are severe. Traffic congestion is often heavy – the average speed on central London’s roads is currently around 8mph. In outlying traffic arteries congestion is also commonplace, including the routes to and from Heathrow. JANUARY 2018 BLACKCABS These tend to be expensive – fares can average around £1 per minute, meaning a trip into London might cost around £45£90. The advantage is that they can use the (faster) bus express lanes on the M40 when there’s traffic congestion in other lanes. Gett and Hailo are black cab-hailing apps that allow you to pre-book or request last-minute pick-ups. MINICABS Many local companies serve Heathrow, so depending on where you are heading in the Greater London area, it may be worth finding a mini-cab or chauffeur company. TAXIPICK-UP If you arrange a taxi or mini cab pick-up, there are Authorised Vehicle Areas where taxis of all types are expected to wait if, for instance, your flight is delayed. They can then go to the Short Stay SMAR T TR AVELLER Car Parks (at Terminals 2,3,4 or 5). Drivers have to pay to park, and wait there or come into the airport to collect you. UBER You can request a fare estimate based on your destination without having to confirm. Expect to pay around £45 to reach central London. Pickup is at each terminal’s Short Stay Car Park. At the time of going to press, Transport for London, the transport licensing body, has chosen not to renew Uber’s operating licence in London – but Uber’s 40,000 London drivers continue to operate while the case is contested in further court appeals. CARHIRE Primarily useful if your onward destination is not central London. There are car hire operators at all terminals, with reception desks from Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, Hertz, National and Sixt. To drive towards central London from Heathrow, take the M4, which is connected to the M25 – the main orbital motorway that encircles most of Greater London. CARSHARE This is a car hire model that allows rental by the minute, hour or day. Cars are accessed electronically and can be parked across Greater London. Currently, Zipcar dominates; the Zipcar Flex scheme, new in 2017, allows you to collect a car in one location and leave it in another. The main disadvantage is that you need to register beforehand. The Zipcar collection point at Heathrow is at Terminal 5. Other options include Sixt’s Drivenow (which also has a Heathrow depot) and Carplus. Other companies such as Blue City, Co-wheels Car Club, E-Car Club, Hertz24/7 and Enterprise Car Club don’t currently have car share depots at Heathrow. COACHES National Express is the UK’s largest scheduled coach operator, offering more than 200 services every weekday to and from Heathrow from 154 pick-up points. Coaches call at all Heathrow terminals and have air-conditioning, leather reclining seats and wifi. Oneway fares start from £6. Many Heathrow services go directly to the terminals, while others from around the UK involve a change at Victoria Coach Station before onward travel to Heathrow. BT 63 Transport for London, the transport licensing body, has chosen not to renew Uber’s operating licence in London – but Uber’s 40,000 London drivers continue to operate while the case is contested in further court appeals JANUARY 2018 TRIED & TESTED AIRPORT LOUNGES American Express Centurion lounge H O N G KON G I NT ERN AT IONA L B A C K G R O U N D Unveiled in September, the 740 sqm Centurion lounge was the first to open outside of the US (additional locations include Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston and Dallas). It’s near Gate 61 in Terminal 1. The bright, open reception stands behind sliding glass doors, in front of a “living wall” of foliage. Amex platinum card and Centurion members get free access for themselves and up to two guests. One-day passes for additional guests cost US$50. W H A T ’ S I T L I K E ? To reach the main 64 part of the lounge, guests walk down an open corridor with views over the concourse. On the way is a reading and meeting room containing a long table, TV and computer bar, as well as a private phone room. The central part of the lounge features restaurant seating, a staffed bar and a buffet of local and international dishes. The breakfast menu, available until 11am, features French toast with maple syrup and mixed berry compote, and assorted dim sum. Lunch and dinner options include gnocchi with tomato sauce or pan-fried sole fillet with caper cream sauce. A free bar serves signature cocktails inspired by the surrounding region, and there’s a good wine selection chosen by expert Anthony Giglio of US-based Food & Wine magazine. There is one unisex shower cubicle with L’Occitane amenities. A more private area is exclusively available for Centurion members and their guests. This includes more seating options and staff to help with any travel or card service requests. The section also features an à la carte menu created by chef Lau Yiu Fai of the Michelinstarred Yan Toh Heen restaurant at the Intercontinental Hong Kong. Cantonese dishes include spring rolls with kimchi and pork, prawns with black truffle, and baked egg tartlets with bird’s nest. Emirates lounge LO N D ON H E AT HR OW T ER MIN AL 3 B A C K G R O U N D The Emirates’ lounge in Terminal 3 was last renovated and expanded in October 2015 and accommodates 400 guests. F A C I L I T I E S Up a spiral staircase, the lounge is a vast, U-shaped space comprising numerous living areas furnished with potted plants, posh artwork and glossy coffee tables. Armchairs upholstered in caramel and grey leather line the space, offering passengers the option to work in privacy, watch the news or recline facing the runway. Passengers can board the aircraft directly from the lounge. There are plug sockets at every armchair, and there is a business centre near the boarding door with four Lenovo computers. There are JANUARY 2018 Veuve Clicquot bubbly is free-flowing but there are also reds and whites including two buttery Burgundies men’s and women’s shower facilities where towels, dental kits and toiletries are provided. The food and drinks offering is impressive, with a dedicated dining area at the back of the lounge and well-stocked The private Centurion area features an à la carte menu created by chef Lau Yiu Fai of Michelin-starred Yan Toh Heen restaurant V E R D I C T The menu was a highlight, while the open design and colour scheme create a stylish place to relax. The lounge is a great perk for Amex platinum and Centurion members. Tamsin Cocks bars at intervals throughout. Veuve Clicquot bubbly is free-flowing, but there are also red and white wines. When I was there, these included two buttery Burgundies, a Mosel Riesling, a bighitter of a Bordeaux red from 2006, and a younger Spanish Priorat with strong red berry flavours. There is also a good selection of quality spirits next to a coffee maker and a wide variety of teas. The back wall of the canteen is reserved for hot dishes such as braised lamb, roasted peppers, fish pie and salmon teriyaki. Juices include kale, spinach and apple; tomato; and cloudy apple. A free-standing station is dedicated to cold dishes, including pulled duck confit, grilled tuna salad, caramelised goat’s cheese and beetroot horseradish salad. There is also a dessert station with a broad cheese selection, pavlova and rhubarb crumble. V E R D I C T A well-equipped lounge with outstanding food and drink, and plenty of secluded spots to work or relax. The facility to board directly from the lounge is also a huge plus. Marisa Cannon T R I E D & T E S T E D LO N D O N R E S TAU R A N T S Jean-Georges at the Connaught THREE HOTEL COCKTAILS Ella Canta ◆ FLEMING SWEEP Vong restaurant (1995-2002) was Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s last major foray in London. This time, the Connaught hotel offers a very different setting for the French-born, US resident chef’s work – a relaxed, yet high-end all-day dining room in an attractive light-filled space. Vongerichten is best-known for fusing classic French techniques with Asian flavours. The crab crostini with lemon aioli and dill was generous with a subtle chilli kick, while the Cornish Dover sole was served with plump padron peppers and a frothy Sriracha sauce. The black truffle and Fontina pizza had truffle shaved generously across rich cheese that pulled away in ribbons. A truffled cheeseburger came with melted Somerset Brie, black truffle mayonnaise and yuzu pickles, with none of those strong flavours overpowering the others. For dessert, the chocolate caramel peanuts was like a fancy version of a deconstructed Snickers bar. VERDICT Ingenious flavour combinations, a luxurious setting and warm, informed service make this a great spot for impressing clients or marking a special occasion. Michelle Harbi Tanqueray No 10, Cocchi Americano, elderflower, sour dry hop, champagne Gong bar, Shangri-La at the Shard ◆ BLACK DIAMOND Woodford Reserve, Mr Black’s cold press coffee liqueur, Campari, salted Lapsang Souchong syrup, Haeckel’s Black Diamond incense American Bar, the Savoy The Intercontinental London Park Lane’s latest fine-dining restaurant is run by Martha Ortiz, best-known for her restaurant Dulce Patria in Mexico City. The understated design, by David Collins Studio, makes the most of a long, unprepossessing space with its entrance on the corner of Park Lane and Piccadilly. The à la carte menu is short – with about eight starters and nine main courses. Appetisers include a velvety black bean soup with pork skin, foie gras and mezcal, as well as pickled salmon tostada. Mains range from black cod with potato and chilli – the fish moist and tasty, served with a fresh cactus salad – to delicious Michoacan-style fatty pork carnitas and salsa. Churros, for dessert, didn’t quite have the wow of the rest of the food, although the caramels and chocolates to accompany coffee were delicious. The wine list has a strong Latin American focus, while the service is friendly and knowledgeable. VERDICT Excellent – from the intriguing interior design to the choice of drinks and the newlyimagined Mexican food. Tom Otley ◆ MMM HOP HOURS PRICE CONTACT 7am-11am; 12pm- Starters £10-£25; Carlos Place; 2pm; afternoon mains £15-£45; +44 (0)20 tea 2.30pm/ wines from £39 7107 8861; 4.30pm; by the bottle the-connaught. 6.30pm-11pm co.uk Fords gin from London’s Thames Distillers, tree sap cordial, bitter hibiscus and fizz Dandelyan, the Mondrian London HOURS PRICE CONTACT 11.30am-1am Mon- Starters £9-£13; One Hamilton Place, Wed; 11.30am-3pm mains £18-£37; Park Lane; +44 Thurs-Sat; 11.30am- wines from £35 (0)20 7318 8715; 6pm Sun by the bottle ellacanta.com JANUARY 2018 65 TRIED & TESTED LONDON HOTELS The Lalit London W H A T ’ S I T L I K E ? Open since February, the Indian group’s first European hotel is a conversion of the 19th-century St Olave’s grammar school, about a five-minute walk from London Bridge station. Offering quiet respite in a hectic area, it’s set back from the road and is almost country-house like with its red-brick exterior. The £50 million renovation is a triumph, introducing plenty of Indian decoration that doesn't seem incongruous. F A C I L I T I E S The 70 rooms range from 16 sqm Cosy Classroom up to the 120 sqm Legacy suite. All have hand-embroidered silk bed headboards and heated marble floors in the bathroom. Baluchi restaurant is in the former Assembly Hall and features Hyderabadi chandeliers. 66 V E R D I C T Handy for the City of London, with friendly service, great style and a good-looking restaurant. Tom Otley The Hari W H A T ’ S I T L I K E ? A new name for a hotel that has been through several incarnations and now is a member of Preferred Hotel and Resorts’ Lifestyle Collection. Glassfronted, it normally has a smart doorman on duty and bikes lined up for guests’ use. It has an intimate, almost nightclub feel, and features eclectic furniture and art by Mario Testino and Tracey Emin. Located in the centre of Belgravia but away from its main roads, on the corner of Chesham Place and Pont Street, it’s between Knightsbridge and Sloane Square stations, and about five minutes’ walk from Hyde Park. F A C I L I T I E S There are 85 rooms starting from 23 sqm, plus 14 suites. My second- JANUARY 2018 BEST FOR… B E S T F O R … Design fans who love seeing a modern take on India coupled with the very English architecture. The initial welcome, tastefully refurbished rooms and exemplary service. DON’T MISS… Dinner in the stunning Baluchi restaurant. PRICE Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in December started from £340 for a Cosy Classroom room. CONTACT 181 Tooley Street; +44 (0)20 3765 0000; thelalit.com/the-lalitlondon The Westbury W H A T ’ S I T L I K E ? The Westbury has recently rebranded itself as the fourth member of the Luxury Collection of independent hotels, and is nearing the end of a comprehensive refurbishment of its rooms by Alex Kravetz Design. Doormen in top hats welcome guests into a marblefloored, pillared lobby. I was struck by the number of employees on duty. F A C I L I T I E S There are 225 rooms (starting from 24 sqm) including 64 suites. All feature a workdesk, minibar, free wifi for Starwood SPG members when booking direct, and Handy smartphones for free local and international calls. The best of the restaurants, Alyn Williams at the Westbury, holds a Michelin star. D O N ’ T M I S S … The restaurants. P R I C E Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in December started from £293 for a Signature room. CONTACT 37 Conduit Street; +44 (0)20 7629 7755; westburymayfair.com V E R D I C T Excellent service in all areas of the hotel, and a good location for anyone wanting to be close to London’s Mayfair or Oxford Circus. Mark Caswell floor Studio King Suite (44 sqm) featured wood panelling, good blackout blinds and soundproofing, a Nespresso machine, free and fast wifi, and a Handy phone for free calls and data. Italian restaurant Il Pampero is a well-designed space with a central bar and plenty of booths. Upstairs, the Snug bar offers afternoon tea and late-night drinks. Behind it is the Garden Terrace with lots of greenery and a retractable roof. There’s a meeting room for 24 people, and a small gym. V E R D I C T Many hotels in this area are corporate or have a mannered, “townhouse” feel – the Hari is very different, and all the better for it, with good staff and amenities. Tom Otley B E S T F O R … Boutique hotel lovers seeking a quiet location. D O N ’ T M I S S … The leafy Garden Terrace for a cheeky cigar. P R I C E Internet rates for a flexible midweek stay in December started from £229 for a King Superior room. C O N T A C T 20 Chesham Place; +44 (0)20 7858 0100; thehari.com, preferredhotels.com While at Raffles, why not visit Dubai?