London The Royal Horticultural Society, the charity that organises the annual Chelsea Flower Show, is to launch holidays for the first time. The trips, run in conjunction with Collette Worldwide Holidays, begin in May 2013 and will include visits to private gardens, expert-led tours of key botanical gardens, and the chance to see rare plants in their natural habitats. Destinations range from France and Italy to South Africa and Japan. The move follows the appointment in 2010 of Sue Biggs, the former managing director of Kuoni, as director-general of the RHS.
Geneva The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has released figures suggesting 2012 is on course to be the safest year on record for aviation. During the first 11 months of the year, there were 401 fatalities across all airlines, compared with 490 last year, and, for the first time since the 1950s, none of the 243 Iata member airlines lost a western-built jet. Based on the figures up to the end of November, “if you were to take a flight every day, the odds are that you would fly 14,000 years without an accident”, said IATA’s senior vice-president, safety and operations Günther Matschnigg.
Penang George Town, the capital of the Malaysian state of Penang, has seen a wave of new hotel, restaurant and gallery openings since it was awarded Unesco World Heritage status in 2008. The latest, and perhaps most unusual, is Macalister Mansion, a hotel housed in a 100-year-old colonial home, named after Colonel Norman Macalister, the former British governor. The eight-bedroom property is the first Malaysian member of the Design Hotels group, and the rooms blend original features with dramatic modern design. The mainly white dining room, for example, features an artificial tree under which pink and pale blue deer graze. Doubles from M$800 (£161).
New York After “bath butlers” and “tea sommeliers”, the latest must-have for luxury hotels seems to be the specialist concierge. First came the “teen concierge”, introduced earlier in the year by several US hotels in order to suggest activities for young guests. Now, in New York, Thompson Hotels is offering “food truck concierges” to help guests find the best mobile restaurants; while in London, the Stafford has launched a “horcierge” to arrange riding lessons, stable tours, or “to assist buying jodhpurs”.