Travel Unpacked: Saltbae Burger opens in an airport and Emirates halts Tel Aviv flights

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

Nusret Gokce cooks at the first Saltbae Burger in an airport, in Turkey. Photo: Istanbul Airport
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After selling or renting out their homes, some of the people who signed up for a much-anticipated three-year world cruise are now stuck in Istanbul after the operator cancelled the trip two weeks before departure.

Also in Turkey, Salt Bae has opened his first airport burger joint and cooks up a storm for travellers.

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

Saltbae Burger opens in Istanbul airport

Nusret Gokce cooked up at storm in Istanbul last week as he opened a Saltbae Burger in an airport for the first time.

On Friday, the celebrity chef known as Salt Bae was at Istanbul Grand Airport for the opening of his gourmet burger joint, alongside the airport's acting chief executive Selahattin Bilgen.

On Sunday, Gokce posted videos of himself on Instagram cooking at the 24-hour restaurant, which he describes as a "machine".

Saltbae Burger, the first branch of which opened in Dubai International Financial Centre in 2019, is a more casual version of Gokce's high-end steakhouse Nusr-Et. Its New York outpost shut this summer after being criticised for its "absurd menu", featuring a $99 milkshake, and was called the "worst restaurant" in the city by Gothamist.

Emirates halts Tel Aviv flights 'until further notice'

Emirates has confirmed it has suspended all flights to and from Israel indefinitely.

"We are closely monitoring the situation in Israel and are in close contact with the relevant authorities," the Dubai airline said in an update on November 19.

"Customers with onward connections to Tel Aviv on Emirates flights will not be accepted for travel at their point of origin until further notice. Customers affected by the suspension should contact their booking agents for alternatives, refunds, cancellations or for rebooking their flight itineraries."

The carrier first suspended flights in early October after the war broke out in Gaza. It previously extended the suspension three times – until October 26, then until November 14 and again until Thursday.

The first Emirates flight to Tel Aviv took off in June last year, carrying 335 passengers from Dubai International Airport.

UAE National Day offers across Hyatt hotels

Ten hotels under the Hyatt banner are offering deals in time for the UAE's 52nd National Day and long weekend. Travellers from the UAE can take advantage of discounts of up to 52 per cent, as well as special dining packages.

This includes Alila Hinu Bay in Oman, where prices for a night start from 75 Omani rials ($195) for stays until December 9, including breakfast and children's activities.

Hyatt Place Riyadh Al Sulaimania in Saudi Arabia and Grand Hyatt Kuwait are offering 15 per cent off on room rates.

In the UAE, Andaz Capital Gate Abu Dhabi is offering free breakfast for two, free stays for children under six and 52 per cent off on a la carte food and soft drinks at Cyan Brasserie between December 1 and 3, for a minimum of two nights.

Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas has 20 per cent discounts on all room types, restaurants and spa treatments, inclusive of daily breakfast for two adults and children.

Hyatt Place Dubai Jumeirah, meanwhile, has 20 per cent off on room rates with free breakfast.

Three-year world cruise cancelled

Two weeks before the much-talked-about three-year world cruise was to set sail, it was cancelled.

More than 100 people signed up for Life at Sea Cruises' inaugural voyage, but now the company has acknowledged it cannot afford its ship and has cancelled the trip, promising to refund in monthly instalments anyone who spent up to hundreds of thousands of dollars on the journey, CNN reported.

The cruise was originally scheduled to depart from Istanbul on November 1, but that was then postponed until November 11 and then again until Thursday, beginning instead in Amsterdam. On November 17, less than two weeks before the rescheduled departure, passengers were told the trip was off.

Some passengers sold or rented out their homes before their lengthy adventure, and even wound up businesses. Some are still in Istanbul, having travelled there for the original departure date.

“I’m very sad, angry and lost. I had the next three years of my life planned to live an extraordinary life, and now [I have] nothing," one would-be passenger told CNN.

World Travel Awards grand final to take place in Dubai

Burj Al Arab is to host this year's World Travel Awards grand final, as the tourism honours organisation celebrates its 30th anniversary.

The ceremony, which will feature the winners of the world categories, will take place on Friday.

Graham Cooke, founder of the World Travel Awards, said it was an honour to host the awards at the famous landmark. "This iconic hotel has played a significant role in putting Dubai on the global luxury tourism map, and exemplifies the meteoric emergence of the emirate into a powerhouse of tourism and hospitality," he said.

“I look forward to joining the most senior travel industry figureheads from across the world for what promises to be a fabulous, historic event that will last long in everyone’s memory.”

China to offer visa-free entry to citizens of six countries

Travellers with passports from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia will be able to enter China visa-free for up to 15 days, as of Friday. The trial programme will be in effect for one year.

The announcement comes as China looks to attract more visitors for business and tourism, after strict Covid-19 pandemic measures that discouraged foreign travellers from entering for nearly three years.

The aim is “to facilitate the high-quality development of Chinese and foreign personnel exchanges and high-level opening up to the outside world”, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said last week.

Before the pandemic began, China allowed citizens from Brunei, Japan and Singapore to enter without a visa. Since reopening, it has resumed visa-free entry for Brunei and Singapore, but not Japan.

W Edinburgh opens this week

Scotland's first W hotel is to open on Wednesday, seven years after the project was first announced. W Edinburgh is within the St James Quarter, in the east of the city, and has 244 rooms, including 45 suites with outdoor terraces.

The top floor of the hotel features a SushiSamba restaurant with 360-degree views of the city skyline – similar to its Dubai counterpart – while the W Lounge will feature Gaelic cuisine.

“W Edinburgh does more than put you at the centre of Scotland’s historic and culturally rich capital city – it immerses you in the spirit of the festival capital of the world," general manager Ken Millar said.

Updated: November 27, 2023, 2:01 PM