Thursday, 19 May 2016

Face to Face with Federico J Gonzalez Tejera, CEO of the NH Hotels Group - A Transformation Affair

Lyssiemay Annoh chats to the Madrileño making radical changes at the NH Hotels Group 

Madrileño Federico J Gonzalez Tejera, CEO of NH Hotel Group had a lot to “grin” about as he officially launched the NH Collection in Germany on 12 May 2016.  He comes to the NH Hotels Group with a personal vision a goal for the company.  Ultimately, he wants every traveller to seek an NH Hotel first before settling for any other hotel at any destination that they travel to.

After 16 years with Procter and Gamble, 8 years at Disney, Federico J. Gonzalez Tejera switched to the NH Hotel Group where, as Chief Executive Officer, he manages all areas of the company with the responsibility of complying with the strategic five-year business plan*, expanding and developing the different areas as well as consolidating NH brands.  These are exciting times for the Madrileño, who since 2015 has been a member of the Executive Committee of the World Travel and Tourism Council

Lyssiemay Annoh, Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller Magazine met with Federico J Gonzalez Tejera in Berlin on 12 May 2016 in a bid to discover the real person behind the NH Group transformation.

From a multinational consumer company to Disneyland and now you are leading the NH Hotels Group, how does it feel?
It feels good because I joined the company at an exciting time of transformation.  I am here to see the transformation through, add value and have fun while doing so and this is really happening.

Who is the man behind Federico J Gonzalez Tejera?
He is a curious man who is trying to do well.  I like finding interesting projects to challenge myself but above all, I like to have fun while implementing them.

What drives you?
As I have grown in my career, I am conscious of how many people I affect in my life. Leading a hotel business with a community with a diverse workforce of almost 19,000 employees of 141 different nationalities, nearly 15% of which work in countries other than their home nations, who work 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, makes me proud; because every day, these people go through experiences and I share these experiences with them.

I envisage opportunities, and then I want to get it done quickly because I want to increase the Group’s hotel assets and this makes me ambitiously impatient. My philosophy is that if you envisage something positive, why wait?

What personal achievement or legacy do you want to leave with the NH Hotels Group?
I am revitalizing a company with over 18 million employees all full of pride and very passionate about their jobs.  I have been fortunate to manage a transformation that has provided adequate financial tools to enable us to create a picture of the future.   At the end of it all, my ambition is that when anyone travels for leisure or business, they will always ask themselves if there is an NH Hotel in the area first before going for a second option.  This goal summarizes my ambition from the beginning of the process and the employees agree with me and this makes them happy.

What is the rationale behind the VIP Level at the NH Collection hotels?
We created the VIP Level because for me, luxury is subjective to the user.  Our VIP status is a matter of segmentation to the user.  By this I mean that a 3-star hotel could be luxury to someone who usually uses 1-star hotels.  Many of our NH hotels especially the NH Collection could be classified as a five-star hotel but businesses today do not want to be seen as using five-star properties especially as they are conscious of sending the wrong messages by allowing employees to stay in five-star properties for business purposes.  For this reason, and in order not to lose our business clientele, we created a VIP status to offer them a little more.  It is all a matter of expectations and the service is available at all our NH Collection hotels.

Do you seek to surprise your guests?
Yes, all the time.  I have an obsession to excel with our basics so as to achieve the surprise element. We do this very well with our showers for example where we provide large shower heads in most rooms or rain showers in some of the rooms.  We also use symbols on the telephone to facilitate dialing the reception desk for example.  There is also an element of surprise with the lighting and televisions.  As a matter of fact, I tend to surprise myself by trying some of the products we have developed in the hotel in my own home to see how it feels.

Finally, if you had to change anything at all in the world, what would it be?
It will have to be starvation.  I don’t have a plan yet, but I will work on it.  I am also happy to work with anyone who has a plan.

*Under the NH Hotel Group five-year plan drawn in 2014, CEO Federico J Gonzalez Tejera will concentrate particularly on:
  • 1.       Clear segmentation of the hotel portfolio under the new overall brand
  • 2.       Promotion of customer satisfaction through high quality products and services
  • 3.       Increase in brand recognition though enhanced communication activities in the context of a comprehensive advertising campaign for NH hotels
  • 4.       Optimization regarding technical equipment

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

African Food & Drink: Patti Sloley - The Best Kept Secret of Ghanaian Cuisine

Lyssiemay Annoh chats to Ghanaian Chef, Author and Tutor Patti Sloley

Patti Sloley was born, raised and educated in Ghana; the Land of many bountiful resources; gold, oil, diamond, bauxite (aluminium), timber, lush forests, beautiful people, rich culture and good food. Ghana has abundant seafood because of its coastal location and good game and wildlife from hinterland.  Fruits and vegetables are always fresh. 

Patti has spent the last 23 years living with her family in the UK and is Ghana’s best export in the food and drink sector.  She works as Front of House and a resident Chef at the Novelli Academy and runs an African dining course titled ‘A Plate in the Sun’ at the Academy.
Jean-Christophe Novelli’s Queen of Spice and culinary spiritual sister is something special.  Putting aside her youthful refreshing looks and excellent physique, Patti is definitely getting something right with her Ghanaian cuisine.   Like most African cuisine, Ghanaian cuisine is very varied and tasty.  The choices are endless and sometimes challenging to prepare by the non-Ghanaian because of all the fuss created by tradition during preparation.

 A Ghanaian with true spirit, Patti makes this challenge achievable through preparation alongside her unique way of teaching at the African dining course she provides at the Academy.  Her enthusiasm is hard to beat! She is passionate about the things she loves and is clearly on a mission to introduce the world to her truly delicious Ghanaian and indeed African cuisine through her fusion-inspired cookbooks ‘A Plate in the Sun’ and ‘A Date with Plantain’.

Patti sees food as a great communicator that can bring diversity and enjoyment to your table.  Her bubbly personality adds a fun factor to cooking and her creative style shows African foods in a light you may not have seen before.  I was keen to find out more when I caught up with the Chef making waves with Ghanaian cuisine in the UK.

How did it all start?
I've always loved good food but never imagined that I would express it this way.  Halfway through writing my first cookbook 'A Plate in the Sun,' I met a charming lady in a nail bar. In conversation I mentioned I was writing a cookbook. She happened to be Jean-Christophe Novelli's fiancée, Michelle, and that's how my work with the Novelli Academy in Hertfordshire began.  They say 'Life, is what happens to you when you're busy making plans'.  Perhaps it was meant to be and I feel very lucky to be able to express my passion for food.

What inspires you most about cooking?
Eating! My earliest inspiration comes from my mum's fantastic home-cooking. I'm inspired by the adventure in flavours, inviting aromas, experimenting with new ingredients, creating and innovating.  I love seeing the happiness on people's faces when they enjoy my cooking and want the recipe.

What's the secret behind the delicate Ghanaian dishes that you create?
There's no secret really. Cooking, I believe, is a form of art and food is all about the senses. I've always enjoyed fashion and interior decor and feel that I'm able to draw on these when it comes to creating and presenting my dishes.

How does Ghanaian cuisine compete with other international cuisines?
Call me biased, but Ghanaian cuisine for me is probably one of the culinary world's best kept secrets. I have often been asked to describe it in three words and it's always flavour, flavour, flavour. With our great combination of ingredients and aromatic spices, it's exciting to see the interest it's generating and I'm delighted that it's finally starting to get the recognition it deserves.

Would you say that anyone who reads one your cookbooks can successfully create a beautiful Ghanaian dish?

I'm thrilled at the number of people who have cooked dishes from both books and have proudly commented or posted pictures about of their efforts on Facebook.  I use readily available ingredients and the recipes are easy to follow. Whether you're vegan, vegetarian, meat-eating or gluten-free, there's something for everyone. Some of my dishes are becoming part of their weekly repertoire and that excites me.

What is your favourite past-time?
This is a difficult one as I have lots of interests. I enjoy a great laugh with friends and family around a table with good food of course, before or after a good movie.

If you had to do it all again, what would you change?
Change? I don't think I'd change anything. I'm loving what I do and feel lucky to be able to indulge my passion.

What's your favourite destination?
I love going home to Ghana, for the glorious sun and spending precious time with family and friends, but outside Ghana, I have to say Manhattan. It has a buzz and energy I love.

Try these two recipes below and follow Patti @PattiSloley She enjoys demonstrating at food festivals and shares her exciting menus at exclusive private dinners and pop-up suppers in a local Harpenden wine cellar.  She regularly uses African ingredients and has the cultural credibility and skills to speak with authority on her recipes and techniques. She is lively with a pleasant personality, very enthusiastic and passionate about the things she loves.  A Ghanaian with a truly international perspective.
Agushi - Palaver Sauce
Another classic West African dish, based on ground melon seeds and spinach, it is typically cooked with palm fruit oil although vegetable oil works equally well. In Ghana it’s also known as aketsua frowee or palaver sauce (palaver - a West African word for trouble - because of the arguments over how to cook it). I like to use both breasts and stewing lamb. I occasionally use other meats and with fish I use firm white varieties like cassava fish or monkfish with smoked or salted fish to add depth. Agushi is a delicious eating experience and I’m sure, like Oliver Twist, you will ask for more.

Serves 4 – 6
700g/24oz lamb breasts, chopped
700g/24oz stewing lamb, bone-in, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2cm/1 inch ginger, sliced
1 scotch bonnet chilli, pierced
4 guinea peppers, optional
salt to season
small handful of basil or thyme
1ltr/36floz Maa’s Tomato Sauce (page 33)
200g/7oz agushi (ground melon seeds)
600g/21oz baby or chopped spinach

1. Place all the ingredients, except the Maa’s Tomato Sauce, agushi and spinach into a saucepan. Stir, cover and leave to simmer and steam in its own juices until the juices run clear. 

2. Add enough water to just cover the meat and form a stock, bring to the boil, and skim any froth that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat and simmer until the meat is tender and the stock reduced. Remove from the heat.   

3. Simmer the Maa’s Tomato Sauce in a large pan. Sprinkle in the agushi, stirring until the texture resembles fine scrambled eggs.

4. Add the meat and stock and stir in the spinach. Gently simmer until the spinach has wilted and combined.

Stuffed Medjool Dates
Serves 4
½ plantain - ripe - yellow skin
12 medjool dates
50g/2oz cream cheese

1. Cut off and discard the plantain ends. Slice in half crossways and then lengthways. Discard the skin. Steam for 5-8 minutes and allow to cool.
2. Slice the dates lengthways to make room for the filling. Be sure not to cut right through. Discard the stone.
3. Mash the plantain and mix in the cream cheese.
4. Stuff each date with some of the mix and gently squeeze the date back to almost its original shape.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Great Names Behind Hotels – A Designer’s Perspective

One-on-One with Jan Wilson, Founder and Owner of RPW Design

You walk into a beautiful luxury hotel and you are greeted by a well-appointed lobby, check into your room and are so delighted by the way it has been set up and above-all, how functional it is.  What do you do next?  Evidently, you begin to wonder about the person who created something so alluring and want to know more.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Jan Wilson a great name behind hotels.  Australian born Jan Wilson founded RPW Design to do what she loves best – creating beautiful interiors for luxury hotels. Jan is widely recognised as an innovative designer with a unique understanding of the operational and commercial issues fundamental to client satisfaction and the successful outcome of any design project.  She has been pivotal to RPW’s Development and collaborated with some of the big names in the industry to create a variety of projects of great artistic and historic value.

Jan’s RPW Design counts some of the World’s most luxurious hotels among their clients.  They include the Dorchester, Hyatt, Mandarin Oriental, JW Marriott, Kempinski, Fairmont Raffles, Ritz Carlton, Okura, Waldorf Astoria, and InterContinental among many other luxury brands. 

For Jan, it is all about property owners giving her pleasure of using their money to improve their assets.  The objective is to add-value and enjoy the process while doing so.

Jan has travelled the world and worked on a variety of projects which have all turned out to be very successful. She likes hotel rooms so much so that she designed a whole suite for herself.  I have to say that even using the loo at Jan’s is an experience!

How did it all start?
I trained and qualified as an architect in Australia in 1976, got married a year after and then moved to London to take my career to the next level.  After ten years working with one of the big names in the hospitality and design business, RPW Design was born.

What makes a good designer?
Any designer who has taste knows how to ask the right questions and by asking the right questions you can understand what the client is hoping to achieve.  The ethos is to ask the intelligent questions and have a prominent eye for detail.  You have to understand the people you are working for and their guests.  You should also not confuse impressing people with real comfort.

A good designer will also collaborate well with other design specialists such as lighting and security for example to achieve their goal.  They must also know who to call on to assist with a project.

What are some of the things that you consider when designing a hotel?

For me, the locality is very important.  The hotel has to reflect its location.  I like someone who understands the locality to be involved in the room design.  I like to meet the local craftsmen, artists, visit the local markets to get a feel of the location and select beautiful artefacts.

I especially want to be surprised when I walk into a hotel.  Whenever I walk into a hotel, it is always the visionary memory that has delighted me.  I believe that the visual memory should be particular, I would like to think that everyone who stayed in a hotel that I designed would come back to request or inquire about my work.

And for hotel bedrooms?
We design rooms to increase room rates.  Guests who stay in hotel rooms do not want to be frustrated during their stay.  We sit with the client to understand what they want to achieve and then advise them on how to achieve their vision.

Some cultures only want to impress.  However, travelling is hard work so simplicity must come before comfort.  Today’s luxury is not about space but volume.  First things guests do when they arrive in a room is walk to the window.  Switches need to be in the right place; corridors must not be noisy, there should be mobile phone charging stations by the bed for example. 

Would you say that a beautiful design is the answer to any hotelier’s business dream?
No.  However beautiful the design concept, I would say that service is key.  Guests are immediately awed with the opulent design when they walk into a hotel and naturally expect the same quality of service to follow and quite right too.  Take the Claridges model for example, the hotel exudes grandeur and service is paramount.  An excellent service must always be delivered to compliment a beautiful design, right acoustics, good smell and feeling.  Everything they do at the Claridges has the same goal of excellence; from how you are received, to attention to detail.  Great service comes naturally, you do not have to ask for it.
What would you say is the perfect hotel lobby?
It all depends on the hotel and its operations however, I would say the Oberoi Mauritius with its warm “meet and greet” on arrival without the infrastructure sets a good example.

Who buys the artworks and ornaments?
I buy most of the pieces to make sure that they are different from competitors. I search for interesting pieces and propose them to my clients.  Usually they like them.

What is your favourite destination?
London makes a great destination but I like Mauritius.

What keeps you motivated?
I have got the most exciting job in the world.  My clients give me an opportunity to enjoy my hobby.  They give me the pleasure of using their money to improve their assets. 

I have a job where I can work with creative people and when people like my work, it is my satisfaction.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Luxury Branding Expert Certified Indigenous: One-on-one with Meredith Dichter

Meredith manages The Luxury Collection brand; a glittering ensemble of 90 one-of-a-kind hotels and resorts providing unique, authentic experiences that evoke lasting, treasured memories designed for the global explorer. 

Hello Meredith, how long have you worked in luxury branding

After more than fifteen years in luxury marketing working for brands such as Gucci and Boucheron, I have now spent over ten years working on brands under the Starwood Hotels & Resorts umbrella.  In 2008, I became the company's Director of Global Brand Marketing developing its Luxury Collection.

What is the brand “Meredith Dichter”?

I was born and raised in New York and I am very well-travelled.  I have always loved and have been fascinated by the luxury culture.  I love and believe in what I do; that is why I enjoy it.

What makes a good luxury brand?

I would say authenticity; it is important to remain true to your identity.  Above all, service delivery should be personalized and tangible. 

What is "The Luxury Collection" and who created it?

The Luxury Collection brand began when ITT Sheraton purchased a controlling interest in CIGA (Compagnia Italiana Grandi Alberghi, or Italian Grand Hotels Company), an Italian hotel chain, in 1994. Those hotels, as well as a number of top-tier Sheraton Hotels, were then marketed as ITT Sheraton Luxury Hotels. After Starwood bought Sheraton, they established a separate brand identity for The Luxury Collection and expanded it.

What would make a property qualify to be branded as a Luxury Collection?

The Luxury Collection is strictly controlled, the process of joining is fast and simple for most established independent luxury hotels. The requirements vary but they are mostly one-of-a-kind properties. Some are palaces, others range from remote retreats to timeless modern classics.  There are also some basics requirements to follow such as bathroom amenities, room size, quality of linen service, branding of toiletries etc.

Would you say that the luxury collection is standing tall on its own?

Yes and we are continuing to develop and welcome new properties.  There are for example new openings like the Excelsior Hotel Gallia, a Luxury Collection Hotel in Milan owned by Katara Hospitality, the unique Augustine in Prague and the Porto Piccolo in Trieste, Italy. Starwood understands the allure of uncompromising style as well as their unique operational requisites.

What is the concept behind the book "Certified Indigenous".

Certified Indigenous was created to celebrate the concierges of the luxury collection and the wonderful service that they provide to guests.  It showcases how guests can spend 24 hours usefully at a destination.

What do you say about Service versus Fabric?

It is a combination and they go hand-in-hand.  Guests are usually looking for a home away from home so they are looking for appealing surroundings together with an excellent service to match.

What are some of the things to avoid when luxury branding?

Avoid appealing too much to the trend; be true to your identity and do not “insult” the consumer’s intelligence.

What are some of the “must haves” in luxury branding?

Authenticity, core values of the brand, know your guest because “one size doesn’t fit all

Monday, 13 April 2015

Great Names Behind Hotels: One-on-One with Deepak Ohri, CEO of lebua Hotels & Resorts

Lyssiemay Annoh chats to Deepak Ohri, CEO of lebua Hotels & Resorts over a bottle of Vintage Blanc de Blanc

I crave to meet with anyone who really knows about luxury so I simply could not pass on the opportunity of conversing with the luxury experience guru behind lebua Hotels and Resorts.  Award-winning Deepak Ohri is the Chief Executive Officer of lebua Hotels & Resorts, an international luxury hospitality company. Lebua has a collection of 5-Star hotels and fine restaurants in Thailand, New Zealand and India, His contribution to the hospitality industry has been recognized by most of the big wigs of the industry.  Deepak joined lebua at its inception in 2003 and has brought the vision of the brand to reality as well as expand it across continents with several of the world’s finest five-star hotels, restaurants and bars.
He introduced The Dome at lebua, Bangkok’s preeminent culinary destination, which includes Sirocco (the world's highest open air restaurant), Sky Bar (named "the most stunning rooftop bar you’ll ever see" by The New York Times in 2013), Breeze (highlighted by USA Today as one of the world’s “10 most cutting-edge restaurants” in 2014); and Mezzaluna (honoured as a ‘Foodie Top 100’ fine-dining mecca in 2013). 

Our meeting

Deepak Ohri greets me with a very warm smile at first sight then orders a bottle of Blanc de Blanc an organic commercial vintage from Champagne Salon, a small producer of critically acclaimed Champagne made in the Blanc de Blanc style.  I was impressed – that was certainly a man who knows a thing or two about my favourite drink.  Salon, along with Delamotte, has been part of the Lauren-Perrier group since 1989. It is regarded as one of the greatest Champagnes on the market.  I was definitely meeting the man renowned with the term “luxury experience”.

The conversation:

How did you get into the industry? 

I got into the industry by default.  As a youngster, I needed to work to pay my way through education as well as for sheer survival and since the hospitality industry is that largest employer it became the obvious choice. 
Nevertheless, I love to talk, meet and understand people so I knew that it was an industry that I wanted to work in.  I fulfilled my dreams when I formally entered the industry after graduation and 28 years on I am still enjoying my biggest hobby.

Where did you start?

As a youth I was a dishwasher for 3 years, then after graduation, I became a trainee manager.

Education versus training - What is your view on this?

Most companies think that one is more important than the other but I think both.  As a young “dishwasher” employee in a hotel, I saw first-hand how junior employees were treated and made a vow to myself that when I entered a managerial position in the industry, I would ensure all my employees are treated the same, irrespective of their career level. 
At lebua, all employees benefit from the private health scheme and enjoy the same amount of holidays.
With regards to education, we outsource to English Business schools in Bangkok and offer our managers the unique opportunity of studying the worldwide renowned INSEAD MBA graduate programme.  It is also important to ensure that all our staff receives adequate on the job training.

Lebua appears to take its F&B businesses very seriously – what is the notion behind the concept of a Restaurant before a Hotel?

Food and Beverage makes better investment.  Food and beverage dictates the economy.  When you arrive at any destination and visit a McDonald’s, you can judge the economy or standard of living of that destination by the cost of the “Big Mac”.
The lebua F&B businesses have been very successful. The Dome at lebua is Bangkok’s preeminent culinary destination, which includes Sirocco, the world's highest open air restaurant, Sky Bar.  We also has Breeze and Mezzaluna.
We know our trade.  We have studied our markets and know the most important things that can go wrong.  One must not fail to fully develop a compelling value proposition for their guests. Know whom you want and whom you do not: you cannot be all things to all people. A second major cause of failure is "cut and paste." No two locations are the same, no two managers are the same and no two clients are the same. A third common cause of failure is interior designers. This is a critically important part of any restaurant and getting the interior ambience wrong is deadly.
Create a successful restaurant and then follow it up with a complete luxury experience for the guest in a place to stay.

What would you say to any young person who wants to enter the industry?

Clear the difference, create a difference, appreciate that hospitality changes all the time and understand that service has no barriers; it is one hospitality, one world.
Above all, remember that hospitality means having an emotional connection with the consumer. 

Where do you see lebua in the future?

I am now focusing on expanding the lebua brand globally.  We are expanding our dining concepts to Europe through a strategic partnership with Steigenberger Hotel Group, starting with the 2015 launch of the Breeze restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany.
However, it is not all about Food and Drink with lebua.  For Deepak, luxury is about experience and rarity, not necessarily the “excess”.  It is not about a price tag. I believe that hospitality has an emotional connection with the consumer.  In this regard I want to ensure that lebua hotels connect emotionally with all its guests.  In my visionary future, check-in desks will be a thing of the past.  They will not be the first thing that greets a guest when they arrive at the hotel.  Guests will be greeted by a guest relations manager who will be subtly aware of all the guest’s needs and will fulfil them without the bother of a check-in desk.

How do you feel when you stay in other hotels?

There is something to learn from every property and I use the opportunity of staying elsewhere to see what I can improve in our hotels because everyone is doing very well.
When it comes to luxury brands’ value to the consumer, and their ultimate success, I think the key is staying humble. We all have a lot to learn and we should stay close to the customer so that we can learn properly. Things will inevitably go wrong but only true luxury brands will do what it takes to make it right.

Deepak join lebua as its first employee and created Bangkok’s best culinary destination – The Dome at lebua in 2004. The Dome houses a collection of stunningly beautiful restaurants & Bars such as Sirocco, Mezzaluna, Breeze, Distil and Sky Bar which are of international culinary acclaim and have won countless awards.
After the success of The Dome, Mr. Ohri rechristened the Meritus hotel as lebua, an all-suite luxury hotel in 2006. Then, he launched lebua Hotels and Resorts as a luxury hotel chain that includes exclusive properties in Thailand, an ultra-luxury lodge in New Zealand and India. He launched a new level of luxury hotel, Tower Club at lebua in 2008. The suites are located on the top floors (51st to 59th) featuring exclusive privileges; such as complimentary soft drinks and high speed Internet, Acca Kappa amenities as well as access to Tower Club Lounge. With Mr Ohri’s leadership, lebua & The Dome have won over 60 world awards.

Monday, 9 March 2015

London’s South Bank celebrates Year of Mexico in the UK

Between Wednesday 25th February and 11 March 2015, 2015 Mexico is launching an interactive and immersive exhibition displayed at London’s Potters Fields Park where visitors will be able to discover the inspiring story of Mexico, as part of the official Year of Mexico in the UK celebrations. The pop-up which comes in the form of a stunning white dome is housed adjacent to London’s Tower Bridge alongside the River Thames.  The exhibition is open to visitors of all ages from 10.00am – 20.00pm.

This “must-see” captivating experience features state-of-the-art innovation that tell Mexico’s story, using cutting-edge modern technology.  The dome has travelled from Madrid and Beijing.  Visitors travel on a fascinating journey to this incredible country, beyond imagination.  They feel the rush of riding rapids, soar over Mexico City by hot air balloon and be transported into some of Mexico’s world famous sites and bustling cities, through interactive 360 degree tours and augmented reality.

Also featured within the dome is one of the world’s most unique pieces of art - The "Vochol" – a Volkswagen Beetle decorated with more than two million beads - a feat that took 8 artists over 9,000 hours of work to design and decorate.

Mexico, the only nation to have its cuisine designated by UNESCO as of Intangible Heritage of Humanity, is no doubt very proud of its rich culinary heritage.  Visitors can sample authentic Mexican cuisine outside the exhibition, with fresh market food prepared by acclaimed Mexican restaurant, Wahaca.

Other exciting elements of the exhibition will include:
·         Interactive touch screens which display Mexican art through advanced 3D technology
·         A virtual dressing room, where visitors can virtually try on the latest in Mexican fashion or traditional dress
·         Amazing visual displays and audio storytelling, using touch screens, to explore a variety of tourism offerings: Culture, Sun and Beach, Adventure and Nature, Business and Luxury.
·         A virtual 360 degree tour of the country’s 32 states, that include archeological sites, bustling cities and world heritage sites, nature zones, and magical towns
·         Photo opportunities where visitors can select up to three backdrops: Chichen Itza, City of Campeche and Paseo de la Reforma to share with friends via social media
·         A visual introduction to Mexico with a selection of 11 videos on a range of topics that include aerospace, automotive, creativity, sustainability, gastronomy, economy and more.
·         An interactive table that visually highlights Mexico’s accomplishments in agriculture, automotive, silver and creative industries, to name a few
·         More than 15 of Mexico’s famous pre-Hispanic artifacts on display, through the power of holographic imaging

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Business Travel – Is Flying Economy really worth the saving?

Franc Jeffrey, CEO of EQ Travel says that it is important to research all aspects when considering business travel options

Most business owners are acutely aware that every penny they spend on what might be considered non-essentials is a penny that’s not being invested back in their business, whether it’s flying three executives from London to New York to meet with a prospect, or flying 100 executives from Manchester to Frankfurt to attend a major conference or event.

There’s a lot of time and energy spent on financially planning these all-important trips. But there’s one cost-saving measure that you should simply skip.  And that's flying anything less than business class is not only a strategic mistake, but could hurt a potential deal.

Companies should be asking the question – if we expect our executive to win a major piece of business, how can we expect this if they are being asked to make a presentation if they are exhausted after getting up a 4am or within a few hours of landing of a transatlantic flight?”

Franc Jeffrey, CEO of EQ Travel commented “it is important to research all aspects when considering business travel options – particularly when business travel remains the third highest expense for most organisations.  A short haul flight averaging four hours can easily equate to an eight hour working day, when you consider travelling to and from the airport, check-in, security and immigration queues.  “At all times, the purpose of the trip must be taken into account to ensure employees can perform to their best ability.

“You may find that pivotal business results – such as winning that crucial contract - are not being achieved due to inefficient travel policies, which could have a serious financial impact on the business.”  It seems quite clear that companies should consider more than simply the cost when it comes to booking travel for their employees. Businesses instead should be making travel plans that are based around what the executive or company wants to achieve from the trip, and understand that important contracts can be lost as a result of staff arriving fatigued by their travel experience.

The majority of those deciding on business travel policy, whether it is HR, finance or procurement personnel tend to base policy on their own science, but almost exclusively base that decision from a cost perspective.  However, to ensure that the process of travel is efficient, effective and safe, a much wider focus is required.

Travel is a tiring experience for the employee and particularly so when travelling economy. Work productivity in economy is limited, due to lack of space, facilities and distractions. With long haul destinations, economy flights can have an even greater negative impact upon the performance and well-being of the employee.

Those in charge of booking travel should consider a higher class of cabin with flat or partially flat beds to ensure the employee is comfortable and well rested. And a number of airlines have been doing their part to see that top executives and other business travellers arrive at their meeting at the top of their game.

Lufthansa Airlines offers first-class passengers a dedicated lounge featuring beds, showers, office space, and special security screening and chauffeured limousines directly to the aircraft.
Don Buckenburg, Lufthansa's managing director for sales, North America, says that many airlines offer a suite of enclosed space with a door, creating a passenger's “own little cabin."
"When we developed first class, we asked customers what they wanted, and our customers responded that they like open space, but they also like privacy,” says Buckenburg. "So now you have a seat, but a wall that separates you. You press a button, and a wall comes up." The retractable wall allows couples or fellow travellers to decide whether to be connected or separated.

In addition, according to Buckenburg, flight attendants are specially trained to serve first class, knowing how to “read” the passenger differently and knowing the wine and menus with precision.
Bountiful food, sparkling champagne, walls that go up and down, are all very nice. But ask business travellers what they want most on their flight and the overwhelming majority will respond in unison—“More legroom.”  Bottom line: Nobody wants to limp into an important business meeting.

Flying economy tends to be uncomfortable for anyone of larger than average height or weight. The legroom is limited, so your knees might be cramped against the seat in front of you, and you might find your shoulders are pressed against your neighbour. Plus-size passengers might also find that the armrests are too close together to sit comfortably in one seat.  And sleeping is hard for some, because the seats only recline a few inches in economy.

Airlines such as British Airways short haul business class services now have a central console table in the middle seats (B and E) providing Club customers with improved functional space.   The table provides additional space for drinks, snacks and personal devices, freeing up the main table for work or a meal.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Events Highlights in Cape Town - South Africa

Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts, every Sunday 1January April 2015
An experience not to be missed on a Cape Town holiday, the concert series offers a scintillating smorgasbord of Sunday sunset live music performances in the century-old Kirstenbosch Gardens, one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world. Grab your picnic baskets, lather on that sunscreen, throw on those forgotten sandals and enjoy a vast and varied line-up of both local and international artists that will appeal to all music lovers. Cape Grace offers complimentary transfers in the hotel’s luxury BMW to Kirstenbosch so that guests can thoroughly enjoy the concert.

Cape Town Carnival, 14 March 2015
A must-see annual event on the international tourism calendar, the Cape Town Carnival is a glamorous celebration of African identity, diverse communities and cultures, and the transformative power of creativity. Over 2000 dazzling costumed performers and musicians entertain viewers with magical floats and vibrant dance routines. The first annual Cape Town Carnival was held in 2010 amidst the electrifying festivities that characterised South Africa’s hosting of the Soccer World Cup tournament. Close on 11 000 people enjoyed this spectacle and, since then, spectator crowds at the Carnival event have swelled to over 50 000. The carnival takes place within a 15 minutes’ walk from the Cape Grace so it is definitely worth seeing.

Cape Town Fashion Week, 24 – 26 July 2015 
Rub shoulders with stylish celebs and local designers at the annual Mercedes Benz Cape Town Fashion Week at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Get a preview of what to expect on the fashion front, and treat yourself to a sneak peek of Mzansi’s most renowned and hottest up-and-coming designers’ 2015 spring/summer collections. Budding fashionistas can also look forward to informative seminars and a showcase by interns associated with African Fashion International (AFI).