Romantic residence The Japanese government is encouraging some of the country's more than 10,000 short-stay love hotels (or rabu hoteru) to convert into "normal" hotels in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, according to local news media. The move comes amid worries there will not be enough accommodation in and around Tokyo for the millions of foreign tourists projected to arrive during the Games. (The idea isn't entirely original; a reported 4,000 love hotels in South Korea were rebranded "world inns" during the 2002 Fifa World Cup.)
Coincidentally, a Japanese company has just launched "Loveinn Japan", the first English-language website aimed at "introducing the culture of love hotels to the world!" The smart-looking site explains that while these facilities were once considered "cheap, somewhat unclean places", they are now "clean and luxurious accommodations not only for romance, but also for parties and reasonable overnight stays". A "First Visit" manga cartoon (above) does its best to make staying in a love hotel seem like the obvious choice for straitlaced foreign travellers in search of a cheap and interesting place to stay. A detailed photo-pictorial guide explains how to use the automated check-in and checkout procedures, as well as the many in-room amenities, and there are listings for hotels across the country, although direct online booking will not be available until next year. For your virtual key to the hitherto inscrutable realm of rabu hoteru, visit www.loveinnjapan.com.
Twin celebrations Two very different 80th anniversaries are being celebrated in the travel industry this month. The RMS Queen Mary embarked on her maiden voyage on May 27, 1936, and gala celebrations were held a couple of days ago in Long Beach, California, where the former Cunard ocean liner (now a hotel, museum and venue) has been moored since 1967. The other anniversary was marked just south of London, at Gatwick Airport, which waved off its first commercial flight, heading for Paris, on May 17, 1936. This was the year that Gatwick also opened The Beehive, the world's first circular airport terminal. Hong Kong's airlines have seen generally poor results flying to London's second airport. The short-lived low-cost Oasis Hong Kong Airlines flew to Gatwick from 2006 until it went belly up in 2008, and Hong Kong Airlines' all-business-class Airbus A330 Gatwick service only managed to stay in the air for six months, in 2012. Cathay Pacific first began flying to Gatwick, via Bahrain, in 1980, then non-stop from 1984. Heathrow slots were opened up to the carrier in 1991, and it pulled out of Gatwick in 1993. Cathay is expected to return to the airport with a scheduled service using its new Airbus A350 aircraft this September.
A place in Phuket A Hyatt Place hotel has just opened in Patong, Phuket's busiest tourist and nightlife spot. Hyatt's mid-range brand launched in 2006 but this is the first time it has appeared in Southeast Asia. All rooms have a balcony, and can, at a pinch, accommodate three people, with Hyatt Place's trademark "Cozy Corner", which is basically a sofa. Guests get free Wi-Fi, free breakfast and there's a 24-hour fitness centre and outdoor pool. For opening rates and reservations, go to www.phuketpatong.place.hyatt.com.
Deal of the week The Residence Maldives is offering 40 per cent off its best available rates for stays until the end of September, with a beach villa starting from US$540 per night. Two guests staying in a one-bedroom villa or four guests staying in a two-bedroom villa will also get free round-trip transfers, including flights between Male International Airport and Kooddoo Airport and a boat to and from the resort. The Residence is located on Falhumaafushi, in Gaafu Alifu Atoll, in the south of the Maldives, and is one of the better resorts in the country. For further details of the early-bird offer and reservations, visit cenizaro.com/theresidence/maldives-fm.