Travel Weekly's Asia-Pacific E-letter: Dec. 27, 2004

MANDARIN ORIENTAL INTERNATIONAL said it will spend $110 million to renovate the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, creating what the company called its flagship property. The renovation will maintain the hotel's classic, Chinese-influenced design while modernizing and enhancing facilities, including a new spa. The hotel's rooms will grow in size, although the overall number of rooms will shrink from 541 to 515; the number of suites will grow from 55 to 75. The hotel's public areas, restaurants and bars will be updated and refurbished in the first phase of the program. The renovation will start in December 2005 and be phased over a 19-month period. The hotel will close from late December 2005 to mid-April 2006, and again from mid-December 2006 to mid-March 2007. At other times, only half of the guest rooms will be available, with the work to be completed by summer 2007.

HORIZON & CO., formerly Horizon Holidays, introduced a 10-night Vietnam program as part of its Exploratory Series, which is intended to "create opportunities for immersion in the culture through the vehicle of various activities," according to the company's creative director, Norman Howe. Activities include attending a fine arts class in Hue with Vietnamese students and entering a Vietnamese lantern factory to see how the product is made. Horizon runs private group trips to Vietnam, but this is the first it has put on the open market. The program focuses on culinary experiences, environmental wonders, culture, history and shopping across Vietnam, including Hanoi, the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City. The program is priced $4,470 per person, double occupancy, with departures scheduled for March and early and late October. Call (800) 387-2977 or visit Horizon-co.com.

ACCOR said it will manage the Sofitel Wanda Beijing in the new Wanda Plaza urban development project. The Sofitel is scheduled to open in 2006. The 453-room hotel on Jianguo Street will be part of the Wanda Plaza Beijing development, one of the largest-ever integrated urban development projects undertaken in Beijing's central business district. The project involves the construction of office towers, a major retail center, restaurants, entertainment complexes and residential apartments. The Sofitel will have five restaurants, a bar lounge, a ballroom, a business center and spa.

THE PEAK TOWER, Hong Kong's top tourist attraction, drawing approximately five million visitors a year, will be renovated next year. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd., which owns the attraction, plans to invest close to $13 million on a makeover to create a market-style shopping, dining and entertainment center. The Peak Tower renovation is scheduled to begin at the end of February 2005 and be completed in early 2006. The Peak Tram will continue to operate as normal throughout the renovation period. The redesign will move the principal viewing gallery to the roof of the tower.

THE HONG KONG TOURISM BOARD launched a leisure guide for business travelers. The guide was designed with tips and recommendations on shopping, sightseeing, sports activities and after-hours activities. There is a section with information on investment and currency, fax and free Internet access points, hotel reservations options, major transportation routes and area maps.
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