Travel Weeklys Asia-Pacific E-letter: Aug. 3, 2006

TOUR OPERATORS who had planned to take groups to the Arirang, or Grand Mass Gymnastic and Artistic Performance, in North Korea watched the fruits of their labors dissolve instantly as the government of the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea canceled the event. The cancellation was attributed to the effects of severe flooding that has reportedly left several hundred dead or missing, thousands homeless and massive damage to infrastructure and the harvest. A planned mobilization to deal with the crisis took precedence over the countrys showcase event. The Arirang, originally scheduled for select dates from August through October, is a spectacular event featuring 100,000 gymnasts, synchronized dancers in brilliant costumes bathed in colored lights and people who hold up colored placards in the stands, becoming pixels in gigantic images. With the cancellation of the event, North Korea revoked its temporary exception to its rule against issuing visas to Americans. Tour operators are now busy putting together their plans B, in hopes of persuading their clients to still take the trips as scheduled, though theyll no longer include North Korea.

KEMPINSKI HOTELS signed an agreement with Okan Holdings, one of the largest real estate development companies in Kazakhstan, to manage two properties there. The first property will be a 230-room hotel in Almaty, Kazakhstans largest city. Scheduled to open in 2008, the hotel will be part of a mixed-use complex that will feature apartments, a 19-story office tower and a 486,000-square-foot shopping mall. A second hotel, also scheduled to open in 2008 in the capital, Astana, will be part of a mixed-use development that will include a shopping center and towers housing office and residential space. One tower will include an all-suite hotel on the top floors targeting extended-stay business travelers.

RAFFLES HOTELS & RESORTS reopened the Raffles Beijing Hotel after a nine-month, multimillion-dollar renovation. Established in the 1900s, the hotel is noted for its French-Orient colonnade facade, brass-bedecked doors and lofty interiors. The renovation included the hotels 171 guest rooms and suites; four restaurants and bars; and meetings space. The Raffles Beijing Hotel is located at the crossroads of Chang An Avenue and the Wangfujing shopping district. For information or reservations, visit

ORIENT-EXPRESS HOTELS agreed to acquire the Pansea Hotels Group for $25 million, marking a major expansion into Southeast Asia. The deal adds to Orient-Express roster six properties in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Indonesia. The move accelerates a buyout that was contemplated in 2004 when Orient-Express Hotels made a convertible loan to Panseas parent Hosia, with a buyout option to be exercised in 2009.

THREE SHANGRI-LA PROPERTIES in Beijing -- China World Hotel, Shangri-La Hotel Beijing and Shangri-La Kerry Center Hotel -- are offering tours that enable visitors to explore the citys architectural, cultural and shopping scenes. For example, the Shangri-La Hotel Beijing offers the Ultimate Chinese Experience tour that includes a calligraphy class, a tai chi lesson, a tour of the pagodas in West Beijing led by a Buddhist monk and a visit to the Houhai district that includes a meal with a local family. The program includes two nights in a deluxe room, daily breakfast and roundtrip airport transfers. The cost is $605 per person, double, through July 31, 2007. For information or reservations, visit

Asia-Pacific Editor:

Jorge Sidron

Phone: (973) 898-0011

[email protected]

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