Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Dubai Opens New Cruise Terminal

Dubai has opened a new 300,000-square-foot cruise terminal capable of welcoming 14,000 passengers a day. It is the third cruise terminal in the Dubai’s port facilities at Mina Rashid.

“The new building will increase the handling capacity of the three cruise terminals in Dubai from 2 million tourists a year to 7 million,” said Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman of Dubai-based DP World, which operates 65 marine terminals on six continents. “The terminal is the largest and most modern cruise facility in the Middle East and the wider region, enabling award-winning Mina Rashid to now serve up to seven cruise vessels at one time and more than 25,000 passengers in its three cruise terminals. This expansion came in response to requests from cruise lines and will enable them to increase the number of their trips to Dubai.”

The terminal was inaugurated last week by Sheikh Hamdan Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai, on a day when Costa and Aida has ships in port with 4,000 passengers. The terminal is named after the prince and is officially known as Hamdan bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal.

“Dubai’s vision is to attract 20 million tourists by 2020, with the Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing anticipating cruise tourist numbers reaching the 1 million mark by that time,” Bin Sulayem said.

Dubai is expecting a 19 percent increase in cruise passengers in the current 2014-15 season, with 381,000 visitors arriving on 110 cruise ship calls.

Steele Luxury Travel

InterContinental Hotel Group Acquires Kimpton For $430 Million

InterContinental Hotels Group has reached an agreement to acquire Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants for $430 million in cash, adding 62 boutique-style hotels in 28 U.S. cities and resort areas to its already established portfolio of boutique and lifestyle hotels.

In a statement announcing the deal, IHG officials made it clear they felt the Kimpton brand, which includes 71 restaurants and bars, is a perfect fit with its Hotel Indigo and EVEN Hotels brands.
“The distinctive and innovative Kimpton brand will fit perfectly into the IHG brand family. Adding Kimpton to our portfolio of preferred brands creates the world’s largest boutique hotel business,” said IHG Chief Executive Officer Richard Solomons. “The acquisition is another step in IHG’s well-established asset-light strategy of investing in high-quality growth, building on a strong track record of developing iconic global brands.

“We will use our scale, network of owner relationships, and powerful digital platforms to accelerate Kimpton’s growth both within the U.S. and internationally.”

The acquisition doesn’t just give IHG key assets, but it gives the company cache in the industry’s hottest growing sector. Kimpton has been in the boutique business before it even became defined as a “thing” since founding the company in San Francisco in 1981 and is the world’s largest independent boutique hotel operator.

In its statement. IHG officials said the move will double the company’s EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes and amortization) from $20 million to $39 million by the end of 2017.

IHG is known more for chains in the U.S., with midscale brands like Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express and Candlewood Suites, and luxury-leaning brands InterContinental Hotels and Resorts and Crowne Plaza under its umbrella.

The company added EVEN Hotels to its Hotel Indigo brand last year as it tried to make waves in the boutique sector, a hotel style known more for smaller properties and local culture than cookie-cutter design.

With hotels already in the pipeline for 2015, the combined brands will operate more than 200 boutique and lifestyle hotels in 19 countries. Kimpton hotels currently run 11,300 rooms and will add another 3,000 rooms with the hotels in development and under construction.

The move, pending stockholder and regulatory approvals is expected to be completed by March 2015.
Kimpton COO Mike DeFrino will continue to lead the Kimpton team, according to Solomons.

“Kimpton and IHG have many things in common, not least our shared values and approach to building brands,” said Kimpton CEO Mike Depatie in a joint statement. “As an owner of a significant number of Kimpton hotels through our real estate investment funds, I am committed to developing additional Kimpton hotels and I look forward to seeing Kimpton go from strength to strength as part of IHG.”

Depatie sent a note to the 1.6 million members of the Kimpton Karma Rewards program Monday evening, saying it will be status quo for now, as both the Karma and IHG Rewards Club programs will run separately with no immediate changes to the Kimpton program.

Steele Luxury Travel

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Airbnb, KLM Announce Long-Term Partnership

Social networking service Airbnb and Dutch airline company KLM have announced a long-term partnership following the recent success of the latter's aircraft apartment competition, according to a press release.

The new partnership will allow users of KLM's website to search for accommodation on Airbnb when booking flights.

The airline has also developed a travel guide that details the lodging website's accommodations in more than 600 destinations.

"Airbnb and KLM both connect people around the world and our product portfolios are complimentary: no long flight without accommodation," said Martijn van der Zee, senior vice president of e-commerce at Air France-KLM.

"And since both companies share a passion in offering their customers an inspiring travel experience, it made perfect sense to join forces," he added.

Country manager for Airbnb Nordics & Netherlands Even Heggernes shared in van der Zee's enthusiasm:

"Airbnb guests and KLM travellers look for many of the same things when they travel; homey comfort, great experiences and a personal touch. With KLM’s great flight connections to off-the-beaten-track destinations such as Bogota and Almatay, there's plenty of opportunity to explore Airbnb listings in 190 countries, including apartments, houses, villas, tree houses, boats and even igloos," said Heggernes in a statement.

Some of Airbnb's unique accommodations will be available on KLM's website homepage in early 2015.

The two companies kicked off their partnership with the aforementioned aircraft apartment competition, in which KLM transformed an airplane into an apartment and listed it on Airbnb.
The three winners were offered the opportunity to experience the unique apartment.

Steele Luxury Travel

Monday, December 15, 2014

United Airlines is Going Paperless via the iPhone 6 Plus!

All United Airlines Flight attendants will soon be given the iPhone 6 Plus in the airline’s effort to become paperless, according to a recent statement. Delivery of a phone for each of the more than 23,000 attendants will begin the second quarter of 2015. They will initially be used for all retail transactions on flights, and provide access to company email, and employee areas of the website.

Coming soon will be the attendant’s safety manual in electronic form, plus in an effort to keep them well-informed, real-time data regarding cabin issues and repairs. Tools for customers on their own iPhones will be coming soon as well. Pilots aren’t getting left out, receiving iPad Air 2s, taking the place of iPads issued to them in 2011.

"We are thrilled to make this investment in our flight attendants," said Sam Risoli, United's senior vice president of inflight services. "iPhone 6 Plus will enable them to deliver an even higher level of flyer-friendly service and will offer our flight attendants simple, one-touch access to valuable work information, enabling them to better serve our customers."

Steele Luxury Travel

On the Go // Mountain High, Valley Low: CHILE!

It’s long, it’s strong, and it’s covered in condors.

It’s Chile, a land that manages to cover just about every biome known, from the Atacama Desert (so dry that years go by without a drop of rain) to the Andes Mountains (whose heights are outdone only by the Himalayas) to the Chiloe Archipelago (which gets so much rain the woodlands count as rainforests). Needless to say, whatever your nature fetish, Chile has you covered.

Being 2,670 miles long but only 217 miles wide at the thickest, all roads in Chile tend to go in one direction. Nevertheless, they still manage to lead to Santiago, the capital. Set more or less midway between north and south in a deep valley, with the Andes on either side, Santiago is the starting point for all things gay and glorious in Chile.

Founded in 1541 as part of the Spanish Empire, Santiago is drenched in colonial architecture but is in fact a very modern city and, thanks to an extensive subway system, easy to navigate. Incongruously, you may find yourself stumbling upon vineyards enveloped by the city, a hint that while you may be in the middle of the Andes, you are also in the middle of wine country. Chile has some of the most vaunted wineries — Undurraga and Viña MontGras among them — on the planet, and a tour through one will give you a rough-n’-ready primer as you head out for a night on the down.

While Santiago may come off as a little more stately compared to frenetic Rio or Buenos Aires, that does not mean the city is a backwater. Bellavista and Providencia are the gayborhoods of town, and are home of hangout spots like Bunker and Fausto; the later is the oldest gay bar in Latin America. And being the thinnest country on the planet means that the beaches at near-by Valparaiso and Viña del Mar are never too far away to see some of the finest Latin flesh on display (but FYI, that water is COLD).

The geography also means you are also at the foot of a ski resort no matter where you go. Yes, in Chile you can start the day in shorts and a tank-top at a winery, and finish bundled up and zipping down virgin powder on skis and technically not travel more than a mile to do it. The Andes are so high that the peaks can stay snow-covered all year.

Interested? Check out for more information or contact Steele Luxury Travel to plan your trip at 646-688-2274.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Top Five Reasons Everyone Should Fly Business Class at Least Once

By Patrick Clarke

There's no shortage of amazing perks for air travelers who step up to business class.

What's more, a recent study produced by Expedia, Inc and the Airlines Reporting Corporation reveals that the gap between the average price of a coach ticket and a business class ticket appears to be shrinking, which means air travelers don't necessarily have to splurge to see how the other half lives.
It's in that spirit that we review five reasons why everyone should fly like a king or queen at least once.

1. You Can Sit, Lie and Everything in Between

Who doesn't get a little sleepy on a long flight?

Well, good luck finding a seat in coach that reclines into a flat bed with the simple touch of a button. On select aircraft, business class customers can adjust their seat with a touchscreen controller.

Most of these seats also feature plenty of nearby workspace, but who needs that when you have access to your own personal entertainment system and a built-in mini-bar.

You can find the aforementioned relaxing features on all Emirates A380 aircraft as well as most of the airline's Boeing 777 aircraft.

2. World-Class Dining Options

Typically, food selection in the sky is based on the distance of your flight, as it is when you fly business class with Delta Air Lines, but that doesn't mean you'll have to sacrifice quality simply because you aren't flying all the way across the country.

Business class passengers on some airlines are granted access to world-class delicacies and even complimentary champagne to wash it all down with.

Plus, some of the cuisine is even good for you. Emirates is one such airline that offers both healthy and delicious dining options:

"Our award-winning chefs have created a range of healthy meal options with an emphasis on preserving original flavors and essential vitamins, while avoiding the addition of saturated and trans fats, salt, and added sugars."

3. No More Getting Up Just to Stretch Your Legs

It's one thing to relax in your own seat during a flight, but it's another to be able to lounge and mingle with fellow passengers after take off.

Emirates business class customers aboard the A380 are presented exclusive access to an onboard lounge, where a bartender serves up cocktails and passengers are treated to five-star creations from renowned chefs while they chat and unwind.

4. Privacy? No Problem

An airplane may be the last place you'd ever hope for privacy, but not in business class.
If you need some rest, are craving some peace and quiet or have just had your fill of human interaction, the average business class cabin has you covered. With privacy dividers, like the ones provided to American Airlines business class passengers, and other unique features, travelers can experience the privacy of a photo booth, but in the sky.

5. The Land-Based Perks

Perhaps the biggest advantage of flying business class is the fact that often times the perks stick around after you touch down.

Many airlines offer access to exclusive airport lounges and even provide customers with complimentary car service. Southwest Airlines offers business select customers priority boarding and Fly By lane access to quickly get through ticket counters and security checkpoints.

You may not covet privacy, complimentary cocktails or seats that transform into beds with the touch of a button when you fly, but there's no denying that less standing and fewer long lines are always better when it comes to traversing the airport.

Steele Luxury Travel

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Email One Year Later, American Thriving After Merger

By Rich Tomaselli

One year later, after the merger heard ‘round the aviation world, American Airlines is slowly on its way to becoming the great American airline after a robust 2014.

At least, that’s what the carrier’s new marketing slogan is. “Going For Great.” Who would have thought it on Dec. 9, 2013, when American Airlines emerged from post 9/11 bankruptcy and officially merged with US Airways to become American Airlines Group?

And after a year of record profits and achieved goals associated with the merger, frankly who can blame them for their confidence and optimism?

"I feel really good about where we are in 2014,” American CEO Doug Parker told the Arizona Republic.

But now comes the hard part.
Everything American and US Airways did in 2014 was, well, like getting into college. They filled out the applications, paid the proper fees, wrote the essays, maintained their grades and outside activities … everything required to get in.

In retrospect, all relatively easy accomplishments compared to actually enrolling and getting a degree in four years. It’s the same thing with the merger.

Painting the new livery on the planes? Easy.

Integrating reservations systems? Not so easy.

That’s not to minimize the extraordinary strides American made this year. Merging with US Airways meant a combined 6,700 flights a day to almost 350 destinations in 54 countries, serviced by nearly 120,000 employees. American and US Airways have synched operations at more than 90 airports in the U.S. The codesharing plan was implemented, and reciprocal frequent flier miles were offered to customers of both airlines.

It is, indeed, the world’s largest airline in every sense of the word.

The relatively turbulence-free ride American enjoyed this year resulted in record profits — $2.4 billion through the first nine months of the year, including a record $942 million in the third quarter alone. That was enough for the carrier to produce its first dividend in 34 years and initiate a $1 billion stock buyback plan.

Yet even Parker acknowledges the most difficult part of integration is yet to come.
“Next year is arguably a bigger year,” he told the Republic.

American’s New Year’s resolutions for 2015 are daunting. The airline has three major issues to resolve.

1) Negotiate labor peace and merge the unions that serve the two airlines. American had hoped to have one major labor hurdle out of the way already with its flight attendants, but a new contract was rejected in October by just 16 votes out of 16,000 cast.

2) Merge the two frequent flier clubs by bringing US Airways’ Dividend Miles program into AA Advantage. That’s 100 million people if you’re counting at home. American hopes to accomplish this by late spring, mostly so it can turns its attention the second half of the year to ….

3) Merging computer reservations into a single system. We’ve already seen the nightmares this can cause, as in 2011 when United and Continental merged and the reservations system crashed, cancelling and delaying thousands of flights and stranding thousands of passengers. In fact, Parker himself has witnessed it – and presumably learned from the mistakes – when he led US Airways’ 2005 merger with America West and the same types of problems occurred.

"Not getting these things done would mean we haven't done our jobs,” Parker said. “I expect we will. Frankly if we don't it certainly doesn't mean we've failed. It just means delayed, which isn't good.''
In the meantime, American announced it would be investing $2 billion in upgrading its seats, in-flight entertainment and more.

“One of the things we’re going to do in 2015 is make sure we’re improving the product and investing in the product,” Parker told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “and not just working on integration.”

Steele Luxury Travel