Discover Los Angeles, West Hollywood Travel & Tourism Board and Universal Studios Hollywood, in conjunction with Delta Air Lines and Virgin Australia, hosted a special early Thanksgiving feast at Glass Brasserie in Sydney for 25 luxury travel advisors on Monday night (19 November 2018).
The function was held to thank a group of the top luxury travel retailers and home-based agency supporters of Los Angeles and West Hollywood, and included a chance for one participant to win a trip for two to California.
Guests were treated to a menu handcrafted by Virgin Australia’s own Resident Chef, and Glass Brasserie’s head honcho, Luke Mangan, inspired by the US holiday. The menu included roast turkey with stuffing, cranberry sauce, broccoli and cheese gratin, kale and apple salad with pancetta and candied pecans and sweet potato casserole, followed by the traditional pumpkin pie with buttermilk sorbet.
Craig Gibbons, Regional Director for Australia and New Zealand for the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board (LATCB) addressed agents on the current situation in LA, making mention of the devastating fires which impacted surrounding areas of the city in recent weeks.
“It’s a very poignant time given the wildfires in California, and in particular Southern California. I can confirm that no major tourism infrastructure or hotels have been affected in LA. The fires affected the surrounding areas of LA, but not in the city itself. So if your clients are enquiring about those areas, it is all virtually still open for business in LA and Southern California,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons also presented an update on the changing face of the luxury hotel-front in Los Angeles, noting the opening of Nobu Ryokan Malibu last year, which is part of the Virtuoso network. Positioned adjacent to Nobu restaurant, the beachfront property features 16 rooms and offers guests priority dining at the restaurant.
Other recent additions include The NoMad Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. It has opened within the historic Giannini Place, originally built in the 1920s as the headquarters for The Bank of Italy, and which had laid dormant since 1965. “It has now been fully renovated and reopened with one of the hottest rooftop pool-and-bar areas and the most amazing restaurants, with incredible architecture,” he said.
The former Hyatt Century City, previously very popular with the Australian market, is set to reopen next year after a major refit under the luxury Fairmont brand as Fairmont Century Plaza. It will complement Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica. Next door to Fairmont Century Plaza, Westfield has just completed a brand new luxury shopping centre, Westfield Century City.
Los Angeles International Airport is also going through another overhaul, this time to the tune of US$14 billion which will include a new monorail that will connect travellers to the multiple terminals at the airport, and connect with the Metro Rail and car rental dealerships. Construction began this year and will be completed in 2023, making it easier, faster more efficient to navigate.
In terms of luxury products, LAX also has the new Private Suites which feature their own TSA private security and lounges. This ultra-luxe product is available through Virtuoso and is commissionable to travel agents, with enquiries able to be processed through the Discover Los Angeles office here in Australia.
Upcoming new experiences for LA include the Academy Museum on the “Miracle Mile” which focuses on The Oscars and will feature one of the largest collections of movie memorabilia. Additionally, movie producer George Lucas is building his own $1 billion museum just south of Downtown, near The Colosseum. It is set to open in 2021.
Gibbons told attendees the Discover Los Angeles office in Sydney is also able to assist agents with concierge services for VIP clients for items such as restaurant reservations or awards show tickets, such as the Oscars or luxury vehicles.
Discover Los Angeles also produces a 32-page Luxury Guide for holiday inspiration, which highlights shopping, dining, VIP experiences, hotels and a collection of 72-hour itineraries in Los Angeles. A soft copy can be accessed online here. Hard copies of the guide can also be ordered by emailing oceania@LAtourism.org.
Tahnee Perkins from West Hollywood (WeHo) Travel & Tourism Board said the district is the heart of LA.
West Hollywood is the “home of the icons and rebels, the insiders and the open-minded, the famous and the infamous,” Perkins said. “It’s where rock and roll meets fashion, art merges with lifestyle and everyone is free to be different.”
In her hotel update, Perkins informed guests of the upcoming name change for The Jeremy West Hollywood, to be known as 1 West Hollywood, along with The Chamberlain‘s redesign features sophisticated interiors “reflective of old Hollywood glamour”. Le Montrose Suite Hotel has rebranded as the Montrose West Hollywood; a boutique property by OLS Hotels & Resorts.
In early 2019, The West Hollywood EDITION will be launched by Marriott International and featuring 190 guest rooms and suites and 20 luxury residences. Meanwhile, Pendry Hotel & Residences will add West Hollywood to its portfolio in around 12 months, a new luxury hospitality brand from Montage International.
Nicole Bennett, Head of Sales for Delta Air Lines and Rob Hamer Jones, State Sales Manager NSW, Virgin Australia said the seven-year transPacific joint venture is going strong, and is referred to as “two airlines and unlimited rewards” with customers able to earn frequent flyer points and status credits on each airline.
Bennett said the introduction of the Delta One Suite from April 2019 would be a game-changer for the US carrier, offering a sliding door – the only airline flying non-stop between the US and Australia offer a Suite in Business Class product.
“What is also exciting for Delta in this market is that we’ll be introducing a true Premium Economy product for the market. It will feature 48 seats in the cabin,” Bennett said. “In addition to the Delta One Suite and Delta Premium Economy we’ll also have Comfort Plus seating. It’s an Economy product but offering four inches more legroom and 50% more recline. Currently, it’s a fare product and will be sold as an ancillary, and there will be 90 Comfort Plus seats on the aircraft from April.”
Bennett also said Delta was injecting $1.9 billion in the Los Angeles Terminal and the new Sky Way, with the enhancement to benefit Virgin Australia’s operation at LAX.
With increasing gateway points into the USA by rival airlines from the Oceania region, Bennett’s message to luxury travel sellers was clear.
“Do not be scared to sell Los Angeles. It is a great gateway city still and it’s going to get better and better over the years to come.”
Nicole Bennett, Delta Air Lines’ Head of Sales, Australia
Also representing Universal Studios Hollywood, Tahnee Perkins said the popular theme park is continually evolving and redeveloping with “the latest ride technology” and TV & film productions on site. She also encouraged the advisors to recommend the VIP Experience to their clients. It includes exclusive guided access to Backlot sets not open to the general public; unlimited priority access to every ride, attraction and show; and entry to the VIP Lounge and a gourmet lunch in the VIP dining room.
Perkins also noted that Universal Studios Hollywood tickets sold through travel agents from Australia provide clients with early entry (30 minutes) to the theme park every day before the doors are opened to the general public. The offer is available up until 24 May.
After Monday night’s Sydney event, a similar Thanksgiving Dinner was thrown for a select group of luxury travel advisors in Brisbane on Wednesday night, where another lucky advisor also won a trip to Los Angeles.
Lead image: Craig Gibbons, Regional Director for Australia and New Zealand for the LATCB; Ashlea Sweet from Concierge Traveller (lucky prize draw winner of a trip for two to Los Angeles, including four nights accommodation and a VIP Experience at Universal Studios Hollywood), Tahnee Perkins, West Hollywood Travel & Tourism; Nicole Bennett, Delta Air Lines and Rob Hamer Jones, Virgin Australia.