Vladivostok – the furthest eastern city in the territory of Accor’s far-flung northern-Europe boss Duncan O’Rourke (who starts his travels west, in Ireland, but that is a story for another time) – will finally have a brand hotel. No, it is neither Accor nor Hyatt, which did announce something eight years ago but that was aborted. The 221-room Hotel Okura Vladivostok will be near this Russian city’s Golden Bridge over Zolotoy Rog, a sheltered horn-shaped bay on the Sea of Japan. Toshihiro Ogita, President of Okura Nikko Hotels, says he is delighted to have a project in Vladivostok, which is, by the way, starting point of the Trans-Siberian Railway. President Putin, meanwhile, has made Russian Far East a key element of the country’s overall development, and various business initiatives are underway in both Japan and Russia.
Far away in California, Four Seasons Napa Valley opens in Calistoga CA this year. The 85-room hotel has 20 residences and six acres significant vineyards. The hotel, led by GM Mehdi Eftekari, is partnering with an unusual winemaker, Thomas Rivers Brown, who, after majoring in Economics and Literature at UVA in Charlottesville VA, travelled west without any viticulture knowledge. 15 years later, he has achieved two 100/100 ratings from Robert Parker and, as a ‘flying winemaker’, he has 45 clients, including Four Seasons Napa Valley, and Robert Mondavi, and apparently some pay him up to $700,000 a year.
Girlahead predicts that winery travel, which allows exploring vineyards and perhaps even helping in them, will soar. Interestingly the excellent daily Monocle online briefing said yesterday that as there is a need for meaning and a grander purpose in travel, speciality tour providers are taking note. Black Tomato, for instance, offers swimming with whales in Iceland as well as riding a slow riverboat down the Nile: London-based Black Tomato is led by CEO Tom Marchant, who always takes an old-fashioned notebook with him on his own travels.
And for grander purpose in travel, do not forget Six Senses’ Israel resort, Six Senses Shaharut, opening this June (58 rooms, GM Manish Puri). It has a camel stable. Listen, perhaps again, to Six Senses’ CEO Neil Jacobs, below.