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Laura Ashley, the textile company that celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, has opened its first hotel. The company, known for its quintessentially English designs, although it is controlled by Malaysia’s MUI Group, bought the Edgwarebury Hotel in Elstree last year, and set about a major refurbishment using its own products.
Somewhat awkwardly rebranded as “Laura Ashley The Manor Hotel, Elstree”, the Victorian-era hotel opened last week with 49 rooms, a restaurant, bar and 10 acres of woodland and gardens. The company said it had no other hotels in development but was “on the lookout for international licensing opportunities”.
Rooms cost £150 to £500 per night.
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Earlier this year American Safari Cruises, a US cruise line, rebranded to emphasise its difference from conventional operators. Now called Un-Cruise Adventures, the Seattle-based company runs a fleet of four yachts and three expedition vessels, which will be joined this week by the SS Legacy, a replica of a Victorian steamer.
It will carry up to 88 guests on coastal trips in Alaska and along the Snake and Columbia rivers in the northwestern US.
The newly refurbished ship is only 30 years old but is designed to recreate late 19th-century steamers, complete with costumed characters telling stories from the Alaskan gold rush of the 1890s.
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Passengers running late at London’s Heathrow airport could find themselves turned back by automated gates because of a new system designed to reduce flight delays. Passengers previously had their boarding passes checked by a member of airport staff before entering security but, under the “positive boarding” system, bar codes on boarding passes are scanned by an automatic gate linked to a central computer that also monitors flight schedules. If time is short, passengers are given a message telling them to hurry to their gates.
If a minimum time – typically about 30 minutes but varying according to distance to the gate and airline preference – has passed, the passenger will be refused entry, while a message is sent to the airline so it can begin to unload the passenger’s luggage. The system is operating in terminals one and three and starts at terminal four in September.
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Headwater, a tour operator specialising in walking and cycling holidays, has announced a trial of electric bikes on four of its Austrian itineraries, as well as others in Switzerland, Portugal and Italy.
The company says it is responding to rapid growth in the popularity of “e-bikes” and points to a threefold rise in sales in Germany, and the fact that in Holland, one in eight bikes sold is now electric. Upgrading from a regular to electric bike will add £50 to the cost of the self-guided holidays, on which luggage is transferred between hotels by staff while guests ride to the day’s destination. If the trial is successful, the company says it will roll out the bikes across its portfolio of trips next year.