Wealthy and intrepid travellers are being offered the chance to ascend 20 miles above the surface of the earth attached to a balloon.
For $75,000 (£45,000) – less than a third of what it costs to secure a place on one of Virgin Galactic’s proposed space flights – passengers will be provided with similar views to those seen by Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian skydiver who leapt back to Earth from 24 miles up.
Up to eight passengers will board a capsule, attached to a high altitude balloon. It will ultimately detach from the balloon and float back to Earth by parachute. They will spend around two hours floating at peak altitude, and will be able to share their experience with friends and family thanks to on board internet access.
World View’s “Voyager” experience was announced last October, but tickets did not go on sale until this week. A $5,000 (£2,987) deposit is required to secure a reservation, with the inaugural flight planned for 2016.
“A luxury experience from launch to landing with the same ease as traveling via commercial airline, Voyagers will board a stylish, fully pressurized space capsule for a gentle ascent to 20 miles above Earth,” the Arizona-based company said in a statement. “Passengers will marvel at Earth in all its glory, seeing the world in a way that only astronauts have – suspended against the backdrop of a vast, black and infinite universe.”
Jane Poynter, president of World View, offered some reassurances to nervous fliers back in October. "There are balloons this size that have already flown up many, many times for decades," she told Telegraph Travel. "From a technical point of view this is incredibly doable, low risk."
Although the capsule will not actually reach “space” – which is commonly said to begin at the Kármán line, around 60 miles from Earth - the Federal Aviation Administration, the US equivalent of the Civil Aviation Authority, has classified it as a spacecraft, according to the company.
It is the latest in a series of “space tourism” projects.
Virgin Galactic, created by Sir Richard Branson, aims to begin flights to the edge of space in 2014. It has already sold nearly 650 tickets, with prices rising from an original $200,000 (£124,000) per person to $250,000 (£155,000). It hopes to take passengers beyond the Kármán line. They will, according to the firm, experience approximately six minutes of weightlessness during what will be a two-hour flight.
This week Sir Richard said he would be "very disappointed" if Virgin Galatic's first flight didn't happen this year.
Meanwhile, Xcor Aerospace is developing a Lynx spacecraft which it says will take passengers on a half-hour suborbital flight to the edge of space and back. A ticket aboard Lynx Mark I is $95,000 (£56,753) per flight and Lynx Mark II is $100,000 (£59,740) per flight, including medical screening and G-Force training at one of its operating locations.
Oliver Smith, The Daily Telegraph, May 15, 2014
Steeped in history, yet humming with contemporary energy, Istanbul gets under your skin like no place else on earth. Dynamite cuisine, sophisticated nightlife and major international events like the Contemporary Istanbul art fair and Turkish Airlines Open (Tiger Woods shut down traffic on the Bosphorus Bridge in November while hitting a golf ball from Europe to Asia) contribute to a constant buzz to this city which straddles Asia and Europe.
We love that Turkish Airlines has expanded operations with frequent, inexpensive departures from major U.S. cities. The new Business Lounge at Ataturk International Airport is also worth writing home about—and we hear there’s a new Istanbul airport in the works that will be the world’s biggest.
Then there’s the new Shangri-La Hotel, where you can sit all day and watch the boat traffic on the Bosphorus, a kind of theater that’s mesmerized spectators for millennia.
Fresh from a stay in this beguiling city, we’re armed with insider tips. But we say beware; when it’s time to brave the traffic and head back to the airport, you might just end up extending your stay.
First-time visitors should devote at least a day to checking out the sites in Sultanahmet. After gaping at the Hagia Sophia, the Blue Mosque, Topkapı Palace, and the Basilica Cistern, head to the Grand Bazaar and Spice Market for shopping (or at least bottomless cups of tea as you peruse Turkish rugs).
The sprawling city has more neighborhoods than you can count on your fingers, so best to focus on a chosen few. The hilly streets of Çukurcuma, a rakishly tumble-down district, are now lined with antique stores and trendy design shops. This is where interior designers likeOytun Berktan have set up shop. (We stopped by his studio to learn about his hotel projects like Urban Suites and Argos in Cappadocia.) You’ll also find the Museum of Innocence, created by Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk. Jammed with tzotchkes describing the memories of a fictional character’s life, the museum provides a lens for looking at a changing Turkish society from 1950 to 2000.
Beyoglu is the beating heart of the modern city; its main artery, Istiklal Caddesi, leads from Taksim Square to Galata Tower. Indeed, its denizens call Taksim the “center of the world” and the meyhanes are thronged with happy diners feasting on mezes. The Nisantasi district beckons for chic shopping, while Ortakoy—right under the Bosphorus Bridge—has lively cafés within walking distance to the Shangri-La.
When it’s time to get a taste of contemporary culture, let InS Luxury Travel arrange the details. The preferred partner of Shangri-La, InS puts you in the shoes of an in-the-know Istanbullu for the day. InS also arranges spectacular events—like birthday parties and weddings—for international celebrities and business tycoons.
In the good hands of InS, we discovered the Sakip Sabanci Muzesi, a hilltop mansion that’s now a private museum overlooking the Bosphorus. Guarded by a bronze horse statue, the museum hosts major exhibitions of international artists. Our visit coincided with Anish Kapoor’s first solo show in Turkey. Tip: The museum’s design-driven café is a great spot for lunch.
Nearby, the corporate offices of Borusan Holding create a unique venue for an acclaimed contemporary art collection. Decorated with new media sculptures and interactive installations, Borusan Contemporary is open to the public on the weekend, so employees must completely clear their desks on Friday.
A word about the Shangri-La. Gorgeous guest rooms aside, this is a hotel with a soul. Originally built in 1929 as a tobacco warehouse on the Bosphorus, the neoclassical building was painstakingly restored for its new life; even the sycamore trees in the courtyard, one 350 years old, were protected. There’s a serious wow factor here. Consider the lobby, where a crystal chandelier cascades over the central staircase, commanding your gaze from multiple levels of the hotel. The abundant use of marble is a nod to both the Ottoman palaces and the hammams that are a fixture in Turkish culture. As you ride the elevator to your room, you’ll notice a giant painting suspended in the atrium. Resembling a parchment scroll, it was created by 12 Chinese artists who flew to Istanbul just to paint the Shangri-La story on a silk canvas.
In-room check-in is accompanied by a tea service, and therapists at Chi, the spa, transform the traditional hammam experience into a luxurious respite under a mountain of bubbles in your own private hammam. At Shang Palace, the signature gastronomic restaurant celebrated for Cantonese cuisine, the “Kung Fu Tea Master” delights diners with his theatrical tea-pouring skills straight from Chengdu.
Of the 186 rooms, 28 Deluxe rooms are the largest of that room category in the city, resembling private apartments decorated with framed Chinese ink drawings and stocked with all the mod cons (Nespresso machines, TVs embedded in the bathroom mirrors, Bulgari bath products). Request Bosphorus views (60 percent have them) and you’ll reign over your very own waterfront fiefdom. The 17 suites make for a decadent hotel experience, especially the five Deluxe Bosphorus Suites, each occupying a corner of the building so the views are expansive—taking in the city’s domes, minarets, and the twinkling Bosphorus Bridge. The crème de la crème is the Shangri-La Suite, equipped with three private terraces.
The breakfast buffet at Ist Too has a vast array of choices—from dim sum to thick Turkish yogurt served with organic honeycomb. The lounge offers an afternoon chocolate bar (sculpted creations include chocolate stilettos), and the bar serves handcrafted cocktails (like the Fleur de Istanbul) with traditional snacks (pickled okra). We also suggest the Peking Duck at Shang Palace.
For VIP reservations at the Shangri-La Istanbul, contact Director of Sales and Marketing Figen Caglar (firstname.lastname@example.org; 011-90-212-310-5163).
Enlist the help of the Shangri-La concierge team, led by industry veteran Fetih Gucluer (email@example.com; 011-90-212-275-8888). Concierge LeaderBahar Turkon (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a wealth of information: “Frankiehas great Mediterranean cuisine and live jazz music on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. Park Fora is one of the best seafood restaurants, while Kosebasi inNisantasi is a good option for classic Turkish cuisine.”
The concierge team can arrange a sunset cruise on a luxury yacht, so you can sip wine while ogling the old Ottoman mansions on the banks of the Bosphorus (one is listed by Sotheby’s for over $100 million.) For an over-the-top experience, consider a helicopter or seaplane tour. The concierge team can even privatize the Basilica Cistern, a magical underground site, for a concert.
On our epicurean itinerary through Istanbul, we found a few noteworthy spots. Scenesters flock to Ulus 29 for gustatory delights and sweeping city views. Smartly dressed waiters crisscross the room with plates of mezes and freshly grilled fish, while the French sommelier, who’s worked with star chefs like Gordon Ramsay, charms diners with his wine knowledge. (He also consults for Turkish vineyards.) Kick off your soirée with a cocktail on the outside terrace; creatures of the night can party with the in-crowd at the adjacent club.
Istanbul Modern, the not-to-miss art museum, has a good restaurant with Bosphorus views. Try a lahmacun (a thin-crust pizza topped with minced meat) at Tatbak, a hole-in-the-wall eatery in Nisantasi. Always thronged with locals, Tatbak appeared on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations TV show. For regional dishes from Anatolia, you can’t go wrong with a meal at Galata Kiva.
It can be challenging to find an untouristy spot while touring Sultanahmet’s ancient sites, but Armaggan fits the bill. A luxury store known for quality handicrafts and Turkish objets d’art, the Armaggan Nuruosmaniye’s location offers Anatolian specialties just a stone’s throw from the Grand Bazaar.
Insider Istanbul Tips
Koray Sahmali, managing partner of InS Luxury Travel, (email@example.com; 011-90-212-219-2440) creates personalized itineraries based on clients’ passion points. “Istanbul is cosmopolitan, but it’s always been that way, with a mix of culture, heritage and religion, everyone living peacefully together,” says Chief Guide Fatih Copuroglu (firstname.lastname@example.org).
His favorite neighborhood is the chic waterfront enclave of Bebek, with great fish restaurants. For breakfast, he suggests Kale café, and for a fun nighttime scene,Lucca. Sahmali also loves a family-run sweets shop in Bebek called Meshur Bebek Badem Ezmesi.
Karen Fedorko, president of Sea Song Tours, has a team of experts who create customized itineraries for travelers. Here, Fedorko shares some recommendations.
“I am really liking the Park Hyatt these days, located in the upscale residential neighborhood of Nisantasi. The hotel is small, only 78 rooms, and the location couldn’t be better for restaurants, cafes, and shopping; it just has a great vibe. My new favorite hotel is going to be the Vault Karakoy, The House Hotel, which had a soft opening in March in the heart of the city’s art scene. It’s located in a beautiful turn-of-the-century bank building that has been beautifully restored to its old glory but with the luxury touches demanded by guests today. The location is great and out of the dense traffic patterns.
“I enjoy the Vogue Restaurant, located in the Macka neighborhood, as the Mediterranean cuisine is excellent and the view of the Bosphorus, spectacular. A wonderful, high-end, local crowd is there every night and it is a great dining experience and actually low-key. My other local favorite is Meze by Lemon Tree, located in the Pera neighborhood with only 10 tables. The chef uses only the freshest ingredients for delicious cuisine. Reservations are a must.
“The Blue Mosque is now closed on Fridays until 2 p.m. for tourists and after that time it is very crowded. I suggest avoiding this site on Friday. Don’t miss arranging a private Bosphorus cruise, as it is a wonderful experience and a great way to understand the lay of the land in Istanbul. The entire city evolves around the Bosphorus and to cruise on this waterway is magical. Along the route, you’ll see the private villas (yalıs), palaces, and small villages. Be sure to see a carpet demonstration as this magnificent art form has been a part of the Turkish culture for centuries and you can see the ladies still weaving today, and perhaps try yourself. Apple tea is a must.”
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Luxury Travel Advisor
Last week saw the highly-anticipated debut of the Shangri-La Hotel at the Shard—the talk of the town in London. As befits such a buzzed-about hotel opening, the Mayor Boris Johnson himself led the official ribbon cutting. With a crowd of distinguished guests including Lord and Lady Coe, the ceremony featured the traditional “awakening of the lion” dance procession. This is the third hotel in Europe for Shangri-La, after the elegant Paris palace (2010) and the Bosphorus-facing Istanbul hotel (2013). The London property is he 83rd hotel globally for the Hong Kong-based hotel group.
What is so extraordinary about this property is its location on floors 34-52 in the tallest building in Western Europe. Simply put, the views over London are jaw-dropping.
We can’t wait to behold the Shangri-La London with our own eyes; stay tuned for details and insider tips in a future issue of Luxury Travel Advisor. In the meantime, we have the skinny on the facilities:
There are 202 guest rooms—each with a view, Acqua di Parma bath products, and free Internet—and at 452 square feet on average, these rooms are amongst the largest in town. There are three F&B outlets, including Ting restaurant; Láng patisserie and deli; and Gŏng, London’s highest champagne and cocktail bar, which will open on May 19, 2014. The 24-hour gym is located on the 52nd floor, and the infinity pool—the highest in London—will open this summer. Overlooking the Thames, the event spaces on the 34th floor will no doubt be coveted venues for parties and business events. The entire floor can be privatized for a reception with 200 guests.
Opening room rates start from £450 (approx. US$759) per room per night, including VAT. The “Room With A View” package starts from £530 (approx. US$894) per night with breakfast for two and two tickets to The View from The Shard. For more information, visit www.shangri-la.com/london
By: Mary Winston Nicklin
Luxury Travel Advisor
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While U.S. boards have curtailed company-paid perks like hunting lodges and golf club memberships, CEOs are cranking up personal use of corporate jets.
The boards defend the perk as a tool to guarantee security and reduce wear and tear on globe-trotting executives. The result: Nonbusiness travel expenses rose for the third straight year in 2013, proxy filings show. Gone is the outrage at CEOs flying in high style that peaked during the recession.
"If your CEO is on vacation and you need him or her to come back quickly, you'd much rather have them be able to hop on a plane and fly back for a meeting as opposed for them waiting to catch the next commercial flight," said Aaron Boyd, director of governance research for Equilar, a Redwood City, Calif.-based company that compiles data on executive pay.
General Electric Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Immelt racked up $343,121 in personal use of the corporate plane last year, and the tally for JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s Jamie Dimon doubled. Meanwhile billionaire Larry Ellison leased his own aircraft to the company he runs for $1.5 million.
Spending on jet travel rose 61 percent last year among the 10 biggest Standard & Poor's 500 Index firms that reported such data and 3.1 percent for the top 50, according to proxy filings.
Companies like Boeing and Halliburton mandate the use of corporate jets for leisure trips. And flying enthusiasts like Ellison, the 69-year-old founder of Oracle, and Google's Eric Schmidt are taking it to the next level by renting their own jets to the company.
Oracle paid Wing and a Prayer, operator of Ellison's aircraft, a total to $4.3 million over three years. At Google, Schmidt was reimbursed $1.4 million as executives,
including the CEO himself, flew on his private aircraft in 2013. Schmidt, a billionaire, doesn't profit from the deal, the company said.
Steve Wynn, the billionaire founder of Wynn Resorts, had one of the biggest bills for personal trips in 2013 -- $927,829.
This year, the 72-year-old CEO will have to reimburse for "certain expenses" of such trips on the corporate jet, according to the casino company's proxy filing.
Wynn also lost a villa perk and was asked to pay an annual rent of $525,000 for the house he uses as personal residence at Wynn Las Vegas.
At the other end of the spectrum: Warren Buffett, 83, who reimburses Berkshire Hathaway for items down to postage stamps and phone calls that are personal.
The chairman and CEO uses company-owned aircraft exclusively for business purposes. For personal trips, Buffett flies like a regular manager and gives some money back to his Omaha, Neb.-based company.
He has fractional ownership at NetJets, a Berkshire Hathaway unit, and pays standard rates, the proxy filing shows.
Return of the perk
Personal use of corporate jets is making a comeback after some corporations took the perk away five years ago following the financial crisis. The outrage peaked when auto chiefs including Ford's Alan Mulally and Rick Wagoner, then at General Motors, flew on company jets to plead with Congress for bailout money.
The stock market gains of the past two years -- the S&P 500 has jumped 34 percent -- helped diffuse criticism over some perks, paving the way for more travel on the corporate jet, said David Schmidt, a senior consultant at executive compensation firm James F. Reda & Associates in New York.
"If the company is performing poorly, it's a red flag and people are going to be upset," Schmidt said. "If the company is performing wonderfully, who cares?"
A look at the numbers
Personal use of the corporate jet at Fortune 100 companies plummeted 35 percent to a median of $92,421 in 2010 from 2008. The average climbed back to $116,292 in 2012, according to Equilar, which hasn't yet compiled the data for last year.
Companies are required to report any use of $25,000 or more. For the 50 largest S&P 500 companies that reported data, the average rose to $284,682 in 2013 from $276,014 in 2012, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. For the 10 largest, the average jumped to $259,643 last year.
While Dimon's use doubled to $125,973, it's below average. The New York bank uses an independent source to calculate the amount of personal use attributed to Dimon that includes fuel, lubricants, landing fees, crew expanse and even catering, according to its proxy filing. Joseph Evangelisti, a JPMorgan spokesman, declined to comment.
The boards of GE and Wynn Resorts, like at Boeing, require their CEOs to use the corporate plane for all travel. Seth Martin, a spokesman for Fairfield, Conn.-based GE, declined to comment. Michael Weaver, a Wynn spokesman, didn't comment in an email.
Oracle pays "at or below market rate" for Ellison's aircraft and pilots, according to its proxy. Deborah Hellinger, a spokeswoman for Oracle, declined to comment.
Google's Schmidt, 59, is reimbursed at $7,500 per hour for the company use of his aircraft, which is less than operational costs, the search engine said in its proxy.
Google didn't return calls and messages seeking comment.
The winners of the rebound in corporate flying are jet makers like Gulfstream, a General Dynamics Corp. unit, and Bombardier Inc. The delivery of large jets including Gulfstream's G650 and Bombardier's Global 6000 rose 32 percent to 249 jets last year from 2011, while medium and small planes dropped 15 percent.
In name of security
Most companies cite security as the reason they pay for CEOs to take nonbusiness trips on the plane.
Personal jet usage by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and his guests totaled $650,164 in 2013 and accounted for 99.5 percent of his total compensation. The 29-year-old billionaire CEO, who takes a $1 salary, flies on chartered aircraft "in connection with his overall security program," the social-networking company said in its proxy. Tucker Bounds, a spokesman, declined to comment.
Halliburton, the Houston-based oilfield-services company, goes a step further. After a threat analysis from a third-party security firm, the board has directed CEO David Lesar, his wife and children to use the company's aircraft for all travel. The personal use of company planes attributed to Lesar was $463,329 in 2013, up 35 percent from the previous year.
"There are companies with legitimate security risks," said Alan Johnson, founder and managing director of the New York-based compensation consultant Johnson Associates Inc. "Having them fly on the company aircraft with more security is probably a really good idea."
Unlike small jets and turboprop aircraft that are flown by the owner, corporate jets match the safety record of airlines.
Since 2005, there have been no fatal accidents in the U.S. involving company-owned business jets flown by professional pilots, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, a Frederick, Maryland-based trade group.
Not all onboard
Not all companies agree with paying for jaunts on the business jets.
Goldman Sachs doesn't allow executives to use private aircraft for personal use, and Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman has had an aircraft time-sharing agreement since 2010, under which he reimburses the bank for his own use of the company aircraft.
Apple, Microsoft and Wells Fargo & Co. don't list personal use of corporate planes.
Bloomberg News May 10, 2014
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