Travel Unpacked: Emirates expands premium economy and London's most exciting new hotel

The National rounds up the most interesting tourism news you might have missed

Raffles London has opened with 120 rooms and suites, nine restaurants, three bars and 85 residences. Photo: Raffles
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As a new luxury Raffles hotel opens inside Winston Churchill's Old War Office in London, at the other end of the spectrum Shrek's swamp is now available to rent on Airbnb.

In the UAE, Emirates has rolled out its premium economy offering on more of its planes, while one Maldives resort is offering free seaplane transfers this summer.

Here's a round-up of recent travel and tourism news – in case you missed it.

Emirates expands premium economy

Emirates Airline has announced that it is introducing its premium economy class, which launched during summer last year, to two more points in its network. The offering will be available on Sao Paulo flights from November 19 and to Tokyo Narita from December 20.

This will take the number of routes operating its newly retrofitted flagship A380 aircraft, which features the enhanced cabins, to 14, including launches to Mumbai and Bengaluru on October 29.

Each plane has 56 seats in premium economy, which offers more comfortable seats than in economy, plus extra legroom, and premium dining and beverages.

Shrek's swamp available to rent on Airbnb

A recreation of Shrek's home from the beloved DreamWorks Animation's film is listed on Airbnb for a one-off holiday experience on the grounds of a 19th-century mansion in the Scottish Highlands. It's described by host Donkey as a “mud-laden, moss-covered, murky-watered oasis”.

Bookings open on October 13 at 9pm GST for one two-night stay for up to three guests on October 27 until 29.

A stay at this “spectacularly secluded swamp-scape” includes the opportunity to “relax in the ambience of 'earwax candlelight'", to “kick your feet up with a parfait” and enjoy a stack of freshly made waffles in the morning.

As part of this package, Airbnb will also make a one-time donation to Hopscotch Children's Charity, which offers holidays to some of Scotland's most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

Raffles London at the OWO opens its doors

Sir Winston Churchill, Lord Haldane, Earl Kitchener and John Profumo are only a few of the well-known historical figures to have walked the hallowed halls of the Old War Office in London. Today, it's opened to the public for the first time as a Raffles hotel, which had its launch party this weekend.

The property is now home to 120 rooms, including 39 suites and 85 residences. Five Heritage Suites are found in the building's most storied rooms, formerly offices of political and military leaders, that have been restored to preserve their original features. Another eight Corner Suites are in the turrets overlooking Whitehall and are named after famous women, including spies and Churchill's wife, Clementine.

There are also nine restaurants on-site, including three exclusive venues by chef Mauro Colagreco, encompassing Mediterranean, Italian, Parisian and Japanese cuisines, as well as elevated fine dining. There are three bars, too, including the wood-panelled Guards Bar; The Spy Bar, a speakeasy hidden in the shadows; and a sake bar.

To top it all off, a four-floor spa offers nine treatment suites, a 20-metre indoor swimming pool, sauna and steam rooms, a gym and a health-conscious cafe.

London's secret Second World War tunnels to open to the public

Another historic London location that's set to open to travellers for the first time is the city's old Second World War tunnels, a network of secret passageways spanning 8,000 square metres about 40 metres below High Holborn.

An ambitious £220 million plan for a new museum and tourist attraction “as iconic as the London Eye” was unveiled last week, set to be designed by the architects behind Battersea Power Station if it secures planning approval.

Known as the Kingsway Exchange Tunnels, they were built in the 1940s to shelter residents from the Blitz bombing campaign during Second World War, which is the last time they were open to the public.

The tunnels also acted as a base for MI6 officials, and details of the passageways were covered by the government's Official Secrets Act for most of the 20th century.

If work goes ahead as planned, the new attraction will open in 2027.

Free seaplane transfers in the Maldives

The Standard, Huruvalhi Maldives is offering free seaplane transfers for two as part of its Stowaway Long Stay offer this summer.

When you book five nights or more at the Raa Atoll resort, visitors will get this and a range of other benefits, including 20 per cent off on dining and selected spa treatments, plus access to its private airport lounge.

The package also includes free use of snorkelling equipment, a 30-minute complimentary paddle-board or kayaking session per day, plus a weekly snorkelling tour of the house reef.

The property features 115 villas that are overwater, in the lagoon or on the beachfront, each with their own private lounge deck and pool. There are six food and beverage venues, including a glass-bottom, overwater nightclub, plus a spa that has a hammam, aroma steam room and daily yoga.

Potential tax for passengers transferring through Schiphol

A new proposal from the Dutch government might see taxes imposed on passengers transferring through Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, including those travelling on private jets, Airline Weekly has reported. The move is part of the country's climate policy and funds would reportedly be used to lower energy costs for Dutch residents.

This comes weeks after the government said it was going to cut the number of flights allowed to take off and land at the airport.

In a lengthy LinkedIn post, KLM's chief executive Marjan Rintel expressed concerns over the new proposal. “The imposition of such a tax is incomprehensible and very worrying,” he wrote.

He said six out of 10 of the airline's passengers pass through the airport on connections. “With this you stack tax on tax and chase passengers away to airports abroad. That does not ensure cleaner aviation.”

Updated: October 02, 2023, 10:31 AM