Mid-century modern inspired hotel opens in the heart of Houston

Hyatt officially opened the Thompson Houston, Houston’s newest luxury lifestyle hotel offering a distinctive guest experience that celebrates the individuality of Space City overlooking the verdant Buffalo Bayou Park.

Set against the backdrop of rare unobstructed views of downtown Houston’s skyline, the hotel captures the vibrancy of the city with an unapologetically stylish design signature to the brand, a stunning spa sanctuary, world-class dining, and elevated spaces perfect for weddings and events.

Thompson Houston features 172 guestrooms, including 34 suites, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a residential feel designed to evoke the spirit of old Texas, with entirely custom-made furnishings and spacious en-suite bathrooms with marble vanities and custom wall treatments and tiling.

About Thompson Houston

The new-build hotel is housed within a sleek glass and exposed-steel building that displays curved lines designed by award-winning architect, HOK.  Interiors are designed by Houston-based architecture and design firm Abel Design Group featuring warm earthy colors, organic materials, brass fixtures, and hardwood floors paying homage to the hotel’s natural setting of nearby Buffalo Bayou Park.

Located on the seventh floor, the mid-century modern-styled lobby in the sky captures the spirit of Houston with an edgy spirit and sophisticated yet familiar contemporary design.

Thompson Houston offers one of the city’s largest outdoor rooftops, with a custom-tiled infinity pool boarded by cabanas, and a 2,500-square-foot greenspace, both providing views of downtown and creating an idyllic setting for outdoor weddings and events.

Additional hotel amenities include:

  • The hotel’s sixth floor is dedicated to the full-service Thompson Spa, featuring six treatment suites, indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, saunas, a salon, and a state-of-the-art 24-hour fitness centre.
  • Sol 7 is Thompson Houston’s signature all day dining restaurant located off the lobby, featuring rooftop seating where guests can enjoy creative cocktails and seasonal fare.
  • Opening soon are two additional restaurants operated by TableOne Hospitality: Chardon, a French brasserie that will debut in summer 2024, and Buck 40, an upscale supper club slated to open in fall 2024.
  • Thompson Houston is home to the first brick-and-mortar outpost of local coffee company, Maven Coffee Company, offering specialty coffees, pastries, and coffee-based cocktails.
  • More than 17,000 square feet of meticulously designed flexible indoor and outdoor event space to accommodate groups of up to 800 people.

Thompson Houston marks the fourth Thompson Hotels’ property in Texas, joining Thompson AustinThompson Dallas and Thompson San Antonio -Riverwalk, and is the 19th Thompson Hotels property globally.

For more information, visit www.thompsonhoustonhotel.com.

An expedition yacht with 6 suites arrives in the Galapagos

Conservation-led luxury travel company &Beyond has announced the extension of its South America portfolio with the launch of an expedition yacht in the Galapagos Islands.

Named the &Beyond Galapagos Explorer, the 38 m (124 ft) yacht will operate on two 7-night routes in the east and west of the famed Galapagos Islands.

Boasting just six suites and cabins, the yacht will cater for a maximum of 12 guests, with two expert guides present on each departure.

With only 12 guests on board, the elevated guest-to-staff ratio makes the Galapagos Explorer the most exclusive yacht operating in the islands. In addition to the highest level of guiding, the vessel will also offer beautifully appointed spacious indoor and outdoor guest areas, as well as four exquisite cabins and two luxury suites. Currently undergoing an extensive refurbishment of its interiors, the &Beyond Galapagos Explorer will set sail on its first departure on June 17,  2024.

About the Galapagos voyage

Operating on two different seven-night itineraries, the &Beyond Galapagos Explorer will offer the choice of discovering the east or the west of the main cluster of islands, while including the highlights of the destination in both.

Highlights of the eastern itinerary include the magnificent formation of Kicker Rock, located just off San Cristóbal Island, as well as sightings of the critically endangered waved albatross in Gardner Bay on Española Island. The western Itinerary features highlights that include exploring the geographical centre of the Galapagos Islands, Sombrero Chino Island as well as close encounters with the rare Santa Fe land iguana on Santa Fe Island.

Both itineraries present plenty of opportunities for land and sea adventures such as snorkelling, hiking and birdwatching, as well as a plethora of unique and interesting land, air and marine species. Rates for both itineraries begin from USD $10,950 per person sharing per seven-night cruise.

 

Cruise giant is expanding its fleet for 2028

Royal Caribbean Group has entered into an agreement with French shipbuilder Chantiers de l’Atlantique to order a seventh Oasis Class ship for delivery to its Royal Caribbean International fleet in 2028.

“While we eagerly anticipate the debut of Royal Caribbean’s Utopia of the Seas this summer, we’re already dreaming up her sister ship and the next installation in the brand’s extremely popular Oasis Class,” said Jason Liberty, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group. “Across our three brands, we are focused on continuously challenging ourselves to deliver the ultimate vacation experience.”

The recent announcement follows Royal Caribbean Group’s recent introduction of three new ships including Silver NovaCelebrity Ascent and Icon of the Seas.

“These are exciting times for Royal Caribbean, and we have an incredible partner in Chantiers de l’Atlantique to bring to life the lucky seventh Oasis Class vessel of what is a remarkable class of ships,” added Michael Bayley, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean International.

Cruising innovation

Since the 2009 introduction of the original gamechanger, Oasis of the Seas, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class has delivered memorable vacations to millions of families and adventurers of all ages. The renowned ships revolutionized cruising with innovations, from the debut of the neighborhood concept to the first-ever split superstructure design and entertainment across air, ice, water and stage, and the next in the lineup will continue that legacy with the latest combination of bold revolutionary, evolutionary and signature experiences.

“This order signals Royal Caribbean Group’s continued confidence in our partnership that has delivered some of the most innovative ships at sea,” said Laurent Castaing, general manager, Chantiers de l’Atlantique. “We look forward to building upon this relationship as we help bring this ship to life.”

This order is contingent upon financing, which is expected to be completed later this year.

For more information on Royal Caribbean Group and its brands, visit www.royalcaribbeangroup.com.

Popular tour operator leading trips to Bosnia & Herzegovinia

G Adventures will soon be offering an extended program of trips to Bosnia and Herzegovina that are designed to support local communities, while showcasing the Balkan nation’s distinctive culture, nature and heritage.

The new trips are launching as the result of a collaboration between the U.S. Government’s USAID Developing Sustainable Tourism in Bosnia and Herzegovina (USAID Turizam) initiative, the Global Travel & Tourism Resilience Council (GTTRC), and G Adventures.

Yves Marceau, vice-president of product for G Adventures, welcomed the partnership and opportunity to expand the operator’s trip offerings in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The Balkans is a special part of the world that is growing in popularity as people move beyond traditional European destinations. As more travellers start to visit, it’s important that tourism develops the right way – a way that supports local people and communities. Travel is a two-way exchange, and we’re excited to introduce our new trips in 2025,” Marceau said.

A "model for tourism development"

Karl Wurster, Director of the Economic Development Office at USAID/BiH says the success of this collaboration will serve as a model for tourism development, not only in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but worldwide.

“We are pleased to launch our collaboration with G Adventures, a company that takes travellers from around the world to more than 100 countries. What’s most impressive is G Adventures’ commitment to community tourism, which will ensure the long-term sustainability of tourism development in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Wurster.

As part of the new partnership, representatives from G Adventures will be visiting Bosnia and Herzegovina to explore new destinations, services and experiences to expand existing itineraries and introduce new and extended trips. Here, USAID Turizam will introduce G Adventures to suppliers and service providers to discuss ideas for future on-trip experiences.

For more information on G Adventures, please visit www.gadventures.com.

You can now fly directly to Osaka, Japan from Toronto

Air Canada has unveiled a new seasonal, direct service between Toronto and Osaka.

Flights between Pearson International Airport and Kansai International Airport will run three times a week from June 17 to Oct. 25, 2024, onboard the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Paired with increased frequency on their popular Vancouver-Osaka flight, this will more than double Air Canada’s capacity to Osaka, compared to the previous summer.

Direct service to Japan

Japan continues to be an expanding market for the airline, which has steadily increased both their capacity and number of direct routes to accommodate the demand.

During peak summer season this year, Air Canada will offer more than 12,000 seats a week between Canada and Japan, resulting in an overall capacity increase of approximately 20 per cent compared with last summer.

Air Canada currently runs direct flights between:

  • Toronto-Osaka (KIX) *Seasonal
  • Toronto-Tokyo (HND)
  • Toronto-Tokyo (NRT)
  • Montreal-Tokyo (NRT)
  • Vancouver-Osaka (KIX) *Seasonal
  • Vancouver-Tokyo (NRT)

A vibrant city

Thanks to its continual growth and development, Japan is now more accessible than ever for Canadian tourists, opening a direct gateway for visitors to experience the land of the rising sun for themselves.

Osaka is a vibrant city best known for its food, fun and nightlife.  A convenient 30-minute train ride from Kansai International Airport, it is a gateway not only to the Kansai region but to the rest of Western Japan, with convenient access to the many attractions in Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Nagasaki and beyond.

Here’s why getting a Canadian passport might take a little longer

In the winter months, Service Canada has traditionally experienced spikes in demand for passport services.

As Canadians plan for March break travel or other winter getaways, they may be experiencing longer queues for in-person service at passport offices.

“Passport offices are often busy at this time of the year as people consider warm and sunny getaways, which can sometimes lead to line-ups at passport offices. Service Canada offers several flexible options for people wanting to apply for their passport, including by mail, at a passport office, or a Service Canada Centre,” said minister of citizens’ services, Terry Beech. “We are making government services more convenient and accessible, which is what Canadians expect.”

How to get a Canadian passport

Canadians are reminded of the range of options available for passport service, in addition to passport offices, that can help them avoid lineups:

  • They can apply in-person at one of more than 300 Service Canada centres and scheduled outreach sites located throughout the country. The processing time is within 20 business days.
  • Applicants can also apply by mail, and it will be processed within 20 business days.
  • A select number of Service Canada centres offer service in 10 business days instead of 20 business days.
  • For passports needed in less than 10 business days, Canadians must visit a passport office that offers urgent or express pick-up services.

Canadians can also take advantage of the online Passport Application Status Checker, to find out where their application stands in real time. The status of the application submitted in person will be available after five business days, and 10 business days for those submitted by mail.

Quick facts about Canadian passports

  • The service standard for applications submitted at passport offices and Service Canada Centres offering 10-day passport service is 10 business days.
  • The service standard for applications submitted at regular Service Canada Centres, scheduled outreach sites and by mail is 20 business days.
  • The performance target for application processing is for at least 90% of complete applications to be processed within these service standards.
  • For 2023-2024, the total forecast volume is between 4.5 million and 4.7 million.
  • Passport program statistics are published online, and all data is updated monthly.

For all the details on passport offices, Service Canada centres, and scheduled outreach sites, including the estimated wait times at passport offices, visit the Find a Service Canada Office webpage.

Travel to Europe is almost at pre-pandemic levels

Towards the end of 2023, European tourism continued its robust recovery, nearing pre-pandemic levels despite inflationary pressures.

Across reporting destinations, foreign tourist arrivals stand at 1.6 per cent below 2019 figures, with nights 0.6 per cent below, showcasing a resilient travel demand across the continent – a trend which is expected to continue into 2024.

This is according to the latest edition of the ‘European Tourism Trends & Prospects’ quarterly report released today by the European Travel Commission (ETC), which looks at the region’s tourism performance and economic indicators over the last months of 2023.

Long-haul arrivals recovering nicely

The recovery is fuelled by strong intra-European travel, primarily from Germany, France, and the Netherlands. Long-haul arrivals are also bouncing back, but at a slower pace and showing significant variations between regions such as the Asia-Pacific and North America.

“The high travel demand seen in 2023 provided a significant boost to European economies and will help improve the balance sheets of tourism companies, which were hard hit by travel restrictions,” said Miguel Sanz, ETC’s president. “However, the return to pre-pandemic levels will also put pressure to accelerate the sustainable transition of the travel industry.”

Value for money in demand

European travel remained resilient in the last months of 2023, with two-thirds of destinations reporting either a full recovery or recording arrivals and/or overnights within 10 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Among these, Southern European destinations continue to be the frontrunners, boosted by favourable weather extending into the shoulder season.

Serbia saw the largest surge in arrivals (+15%), alongside Portugal (+11%), Montenegro (+10%), Türkiye (+9%), and Malta (+8%). They are also popular destinations for all-inclusive holidays and more affordable travel costs, which has been key to attracting price-conscious travellers.

Other countries also achieved a significant rebound compared to 2019: Iceland saw a 12 per cent increase in arrivals even amidst volcanic eruptions, while the Netherlands grew tourist nights by 16 per cent despite a smaller two per cent rise in arrivals, indicating longer stays.

In contrast, Eastern European destinations bordering Russia experienced a slower rebound, with countries like Lithuania (-32%), Latvia (-29%), Estonia (-27%), and Finland (-24%) lagging behind.

For the full report, click here.

Five-star luxury hotel will transform Toronto’s skyline

An $800 million-dollar skyscraper is set to debut at Adelaide and Duncan streets in Toronto.

Dreamed up by real estate developer Peter Freed of Freed Developments, the first-ever Freed Hotel and Residences tower will bring both Katsuya by Sam Nazarian’s Disruptive Group by sbe and artwork by renowned Japanese artist Takashi Murakami to Toronto

Designed by Chicago-based tall building experts Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture, renowned for the next world’s tallest and most luxurious skyscraper Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia, as well as  Central Park Tower in New York, the project will feature 100 five-star luxury hotel rooms and 400 luxury condominiums with a world class Skybar/restaurant on the 63rd floor, boutique spa, and a 10,000 sq ft Katsuya Restaurant on the 2nd floor.

 

Key features & design elements

Key features of the Freed Hotel and Residences project include:

  • Freed Hotel Debut: Freed Hotel and Residences marks the introduction of the first-ever Freed hotel in Canada, offering an unparalleled blend of luxury, style, and sophistication through hotel-style living.
  • Multi-Functional Tower: The project will feature 100 luxury hotel rooms and 400 luxury condominiums with a world class Skybar/restaurant on the 63rd floor.
  • Katsuya, Contemporary Japanese Restaurant: The hotel will house the exquisite Katsuya Japanese restaurant by Sam Nazarian’s Disruptive Group by sbe on the second floor.
  • Takashi Murakami Art IntegrationTakashi Murakami will bring forward his famous artwork, “Together with the flower parent and child,” that will be featured prominently inside the lobby of the first-ever Freed Hotel and Residences.
  • Amenities include: 62nd floor Sky Lobby with grand staircase leading to 63rd floor restaurant and bar featuring 70 ft tall space below a sloping skylight, boutique spa, terrace and outdoor garden, private spaces for entertaining and dining, fitness and yoga studio, private theater room, valet parking and full-service concierge, and more.

The Freed Hotel and Residences is scheduled to begin sales in March 2024 and will be located at 240 Adelaide Street West. 

Potential buyers can expect a diverse range of units ranging from 270 sq.ft. to over 9,800 sq.ft. For further information on Freed Developments, click here

Luxury beach hotel debuts in iconic Costa Rican surf town

Silvestre Nosara Hotel & Residences, a sustainable, luxury hideaway with beach access, opened Feb. 1 in Playa Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica– bringing a new level of luxury to the iconic surf town.

Silvestre Nosara features just nine expansive residences; rooftop pool, bar and lounge; elevated family-friendly amenities; onsite surf school and studio set to host wellness sessions and a world-class speaker series.

About the property

Set on the iconic Playa Guiones, the property seamlessly blends luxury, connection and learning, steps away from Nosara’s restaurants, shops, bars, yoga studios and a surf break renowned for pristine waves 330 days a year.

The design-forward property reflects a commitment to sustainability through careful design, water conservation, insulation, and energy efficiency.

For more information, visit www.silvestre.cr.

A 507-room adults-only resort just opened in the Mexican Caribbean

Hyatt Hotels recently opened the Secrets Playa Blanca Costa Mujeres in Mexico.

Part of the Inclusive Collection, the 507-room, adults-only resort further strengthens Hyatt’s leisure portfolio throughout the Mexican Caribbean, with continued growth expected throughout 2024.

Situated along the oceanfront coast, guests can choose to stay on property or explore the town, with only a short ferry ride to the nearby island of Isla Mujeres or Isla Contoy National Park.

Also within close proximity is the Playa Mujeres Golf Course, a Greg Norman signature 18-hole course with exceptional ocean and tropical views, as well as the Puerto Cancun Shopping Centre.

Opening in a three-phased approach over the next six months, guests can expect the spa, fitness center, and theatre to be fully operational by June of 2024.

Luxurious accommodations

Placing an emphasis on thoughtful architecture, suites are designed in a staggered configuration to showcase the breathtaking views the resort provides including landscape, serene pools, and the Caribbean Sea.

All guests will enjoy Unlimited-Luxury inclusions such as 24-hour room service, daily refreshed in-room mini bar, endless daytime and nighttime entertainment, pool and beach wait service, and more. For guests looking for an elevated stay, Preferred Club accommodations provide an extra level of luxury with elevated room categories including swim outs and a host of upgraded oceanfront suites, all touting an oversized soaking tub on the terrace, as well as upgraded amenities such as personalized check-in and checkout, upgraded mini bar and bath amenities, concierge services, and more.

Additionally, Preferred Club guests have exclusive access to the Preferred Club Lounge, an oceanfront Beach Bar, and an infinity pool.

Culinary offerings

Local and international cuisines take centre stage at Secrets Playa Blanca Costa Mujeres with nine dining establishments, including gluten-free and vegetarian menu options.

With options ranging from El Patio, offering a taste of authentic Mexican cuisine to traditional Japanese Tatami rooms serving handmade sushi and Pan-Asian cuisine, there is something for everyone to indulge in.

The Italian restaurant, Portofino, offers one of the most exclusive and extensive wine cellars with one of the largest wine selections in the destination.

Eight bars and lounges serving top-shelf spirits and premium brand domestic and international beverages offer guests the opportunity to socialize, while those looking for a varied and special dining experience can book an array of culinary experiences such as the Chef’s Table, tequila tasting, wine tasting, and romantic dinners for an additional cost.

To learn more about Secrets Playa Blanca Costa Mujeres, visit the resort’s website here.