Travel Unpacked: Emirates launches flights to Colombia, plus new hotels in Neom

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

Emirates is launching flights to Bogota this summer. Photo: Brian Kyed / Unsplash
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Dubai airlines are expanding their networks even further, as flydubai announces a new seasonal route to Sochi and Emirates introduces its service to Colombia.

Elsewhere, near the Arctic Circle, the Norwegian government is taking steps to protect its wildlife from the effects of tourism in Svalbard.

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

Emirates to expand its South American network

Emirates will launch new daily flights to Colombia's capital Bogota on June 3, making it the first link between the region and the northern part of the South American continent.

This will expand the Dubai airline's South American network to four gateways, following services to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, and Buenos Aires in Argentina.

Due to the high altitude of Bogota, non-stop flights from Dubai are not possible, so the service will also stop in Miami, Florida.

“We’ve long wanted to serve Colombia, and the addition of Bogota to our network is part of our strategy to deliver better connectivity, expand options and choice for travellers and provide unparalleled premium experiences on the ground and in the air,” said Emirates president Sir Tim Clark.

Neom unveils plans for two new hotels

Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megaproject Neom has unveiled plans for a nature-based wellness retreat called Elanan.

It will sit on the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba, where mountains meet the sea, in an area with ancient natural springs. The resort will feature 80 rooms and suites and take a modern approach to wellness, with a focus on new technologies. Other features will be large plazas, speciality private dining, a sun garden and an observation tower.

Meanwhile, Raffles Hotels & Resorts also announced last week that it will launch a new resort in Trojena, the year-round mountain and ski destination in Neom that will host the 2029 Asian Winter Games.

The hotel, set to open in 2027, will be perched amid the mountains and feature a ring-shaped design, with 104 guest rooms arranged around its perimeter.

It will be located in the Discover cluster, one of six that constitute Trojena, along with Discovery Tower, an open-air museum, a peak observation point and stargazing camp.

Flydubai adds Sochi to its seasonal summer network

Dubai's low-cost airline will introduce flights to Russia's Sochi International Airport from June 16 until September, with a thrice-weekly service from Terminal 2 at Dubai International.

Sochi is a seaside resort on the Black Sea that's home to beaches, forests and mountainous landscapes, famous for its cultural and historical sites, as well as nature reserves such as the Sochi Arboretum.

The flights will operate on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays, with return economy tickets starting from Dh2,500 ($600).

Mercure Dubai Deira opens its doors

Mercure Dubai Deira has opened near to the Gold Souk Metro station in the heart of Old Dubai. It has 152 rooms, including family suites, and a heritage-inspired treasure hunt for children to take part in on arrival.

The hotel's decor merges traditional design elements and modern functionality, with ocean-blue accents.

Dining experiences include garden-to-table spot Farmstead, which has indoor and outdoor seating, as well as pan-Asian kitchen Blue Panda, where Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Mongolian, Indonesian, Malaysian and Korean cuisines are on offer. Souk Nook Deli and Cafe serves quick bites, while Atmos Rooftop Lounge is for poolside meals.

Other features include a rooftop infinity swimming pool, a dedicated children's pool and a 24-hour fitness centre.

Portofino-themed resort to open in Dubai in 2026

InterContinental Resort Portofino will open in The Heart of Europe, World Islands Dubai, in 2026, it was announced last week.

The resort will feature 466 rooms and suites that blend Mediterranean design with Italian influence, inspired by the destination it's named after, as well as floor-to-ceiling aquariums that span six floors.

Other amenities include signature dining spaces, a roof garden, children's club, theatre, outdoor playground and water park.

The hotel will also be part of The Heart of Europe Coral Institute, which protects and rehabilitates marine life and coral reefs.

Alila Hinu Bay offers 11-day voyage through Oman's deserts

Boutique resort Alila Hinu Bay and Oman Expedition are offering guests an 11-day trip through Oman and the Empty Quarter.

The tour takes on 1,500km across mountains, sand dunes and desert that lies between Oman and the border of Saudi Arabia.

It begins with a drive to Jebel Akhdar, which reach 3,000 metres above sea level, by the Via Ferrata climbing route. From there, guests will cross the Sharqiyah Desert and trek over natural water pools, waterfalls and canyons at Wadi Hawer Oasis. It will then take four days to traverse the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter), before participants reach Salalah.

The expedition costs 11,700 Omani riyals per person ($30,390).

Deepak Chopra hosts new retreat with RAKxa Integrative Wellness

From March 20 to 25, alternative medicine pioneer Deepak Chopra will host a retreat in Bangkok, Thailand, in partnership with award-winning health resort RAKxa Integrative Wellness.

The Life and Soul Longevity Retreat, which only has 20 spaces available, will span advanced spiritual meditation techniques, personalised diagnostic assessments and treatment plans.

Guest speakers, including other noted alternative medicine doctors, will also join to give talks on the science and personalisation of wellness.

Norway to introduce new tourist regulations in Svalbard

From January 1, Norway will introduce new restrictions for cruise ships and other tourism activities in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago that's one of the world's northernmost inhabited areas.

The proposed regulations, which are pending parliamentary approval, are to protect the wildlife in the area – including polar bears, reindeer and walruses – and will include a cap on ship passengers and designated landing sites.

The use of drones will also be prohibited in protected zones in a bid to reduce disturbances to wildlife, while there is also a proposal to enforce a permanent ban on snowmobiles and other tracked vehicles on sea ice in certain fjords after Friday.

Updated: February 26, 2024, 2:26 PM