Travel Unpacked: One&Only opens new urban resort in Dubai and new China cruises launch

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

One&Only One Za'abeel has begun welcoming guests in Dubai. Photo: One&Only Resorts
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Dubai has been crowned the top global destination in the Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice Awards, while Paris has been named most romantic place in the world to propose in another survey.

Qatar Airways has launched direct flights to AlUla and three new, first-of-their-kind cruise itineraries are setting sail in China.

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

Dubai named top global destination by Tripadvisor

For the third consecutive year, Dubai has been named the top global destination in the Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice Awards 2024.

The winners were identified by the quality and quantity of reviews and ratings on the online platform and separated into several award subcategories, including accommodation, restaurants and things to do in destinations between October 2022 and September 2023.

“Everything feels extra-spectacular in Dubai, from the ultra-modern Burj Khalifa to the souqs and malls filled with gold vendors,” said Tripadvisor. “It's a place where if you can dream it, you can do it, whether that means skiing indoors, dune-surfing in the desert, or zip-lining above the city.”

Bali came in second place, followed by London, Hanoi and Rome. The top 10 is rounded off by Paris, Cancun, Marrakesh, Crete and Hoi An, a second destination in Vietnam.

One&Only One Za'abeel opens in Dubai

The much-anticipated One&Only One Za'abeel hotel has opened in Dubai, and describes itself as the city's “first urban vertical resort”.

It is in the One Za'abeel development, which features dual skyscrapers intersected by The Link, the world's longest cantilever is a futuristic boulevard 100 metres above street level.

The hotel has rooms, suites and a 755-square-metre Villa One penthouse, featuring an outdoor infinity pool, cinema, in-suite gym and private chef. All accommodation interiors draw inspiration from the Za'abeel area.

The Link also houses restaurants by award-winning such as Anne-Sophie Pic, Mehmet Gurs, Dabiz Munoz and Paco Morales. On top of The Link is Tapasake, One&Only's Nikkei cuisine destination, and the UAE's longest suspended infinity pool.

The hotel also has a children's club with activities inspired by the UAE's space mission, and the Longevity Hub by Clinique La Prairie.

Banyan Group unveils 19 properties to open this year

Banyan Group, which has changed its name from Banyan Tree Group, is marking its 30th anniversary with 19 openings this year and has announced that last year's business performance beat pre-pandemic levels.

The expansion will include properties and residences in China, South Korea, Vietnam and Mexico.

Other highlights include the first hotel in Cambodia, called Angsana Siem Reap, plus an inaugural property in Japan named Banyan Tree Higashiyama Kyoto.

It will also launch Laguna Lakelands in Phuket, a nature-integrated development across 110 hectares and encompasses a rainforest park, more than 10km of treetop skywalks and six distinct zones, including orchard, lagoon, valley and forest.

Qatar Airways launches first flights from Doha to AlUla

The Royal Commission for AlUla officially inaugurated Qatar Airways' direct flights between Doha and AlUla in Saudi Arabia last week.

“The launch of flights from Doha to AlUla represents an important step in affirming the role of the Culture, Tourism and Entertainment Committee of the Qatari-Saudi Coordination Council to further enhance the joint action and highlight its role in strengthening cultural ties,” said Qatari's Minister of Culture, Sheikh Abdulrahman bin Hamad Al Thani.

“Cultural heritage is a crucial factor in shaping awareness, renewing people’s thoughts about it, and preserving it. It is one of the components that unite the societies and reflect their expression of pride in their shared heritage.”

The RCU is working to establish more routes with various international and local destinations, boosting AlUla International Airport's capacity from 400,000 to six million annually.

Sunset Downer Cruise sets sail in Ras Al Khaimah

InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah Mina Al Arab Resort & Spa on Sunday launched its first Sunset Downer Cruise, an adult-only experience that sets sail on the Arabian Gulf. The cruise combines the sunset, unlimited beverages and views of the mountains, desert and sea.

A traditional dhow embarks every Sunday for two hours with capacity for up to 16 guests. Chilled lounge music sets the mood for a relaxing evening.

It is Dh395 per person for a minimum of six guests and private buyouts are available upon resort. Booking is requested 72 hours in advance.

The pick-up spot it at Hotel Main Porte Cochere at 4.30pm, with sailing between 5pm and 7pm.

Paris is the most romantic place in the world to propose

Paris has been named the most romantic place in the world to propose, according to a new study by customisable jewellery giant Glamira.

The research analysed a list of 134 destinations and counted proposal hashtag counts on Instagram and TikTok. Paris had 23,335, with social media users using #parisproposal 661 per cent more than in Venice, which ranked 10th on the list. The hashtag has been viewed 72.9 million times on TikTok alone.

In second place was Bali, with 8,317, and in third position was Sydney, with 6,740. Santorini came fourth with 6,235 and the second-highest TikTok video count, as the hashtag #santoriniproposal has had 10 million views.

Maui, London, Disneyland, Rome, New York's Central Park and Venice complete the top 10.

Three new itineraries provide exclusive access to China

Viking has announced three new voyages in China that range from 10 to 20 days, offering exclusive access across Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Each itinerary includes a domestic sailing of China's coast, highlighting rarely seen destinations and ports to which Viking claims it has exclusive access.

The cruises will operate from September to November on the ship Viking Yi Dun, formerly the Viking Sun, a sister ship in the company's ocean fleet of “small ships”.

Wonders of China offers a 20-day itinerary across Beijing, whereby guests can meet a Tibetan family at their home, walk on the Great Wall, see the Terracotta Army, see the coasts of Dongtou and explore the Unesco World Heritage Site of Gulangyu Island in Xiamen and Shenzhen, a Unesco Design City.

Classic China & the Coast goes from Beijing to Hong Kong in 15 days, taking in the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and the Terracotta Army. Meanwhile, the 10-day China Discover tour goes from Shanghai to Hong Kong, allowing guests to experience the Buddhist shrines of Zhoushan, the cliffs of Dongtou, Gulangyu Island and try Cantonese dim sum in Shenzhen.

Virtuoso names nine must-try travel experiences in new report

Luxury and experiential travel agency Virtuoso has released the results of its 2024 Luxe Report, compiling nine must-try travel experiences according to more than 2,000 advisers from around the world.

Number one is to discover dark sky tourism with a trip to Norway, Iceland or Canada to see the Northern Lights, or witnessing the total solar eclipse on April 8 in Northern Mexico.

Second is a slow safari in Africa, whether gorilla trekking in Rwanda or bird watching in Botswana, as wildlife conservation has proven to be a top priority for travellers in the report.

The third is to take a wellness trip to Bhutan or Thailand, followed by experiencing Japan and exploring the remote wilderness of Antarctica or the Galapagos Islands aboard an expedition cruise.

Other highlighted experiences include journeying from Paris to Istanbul by rail on the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express; pursuing pastimes in a new setting (for instance, avid gardeners could attend the RHS Chelsea Flower Show); and discovering cultural cuisine while supporting local communities.

Updated: February 07, 2024, 6:47 AM