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Hoshinoya smartphone app monitors onsen crowd size

Filed by Lucire staff/July 1, 2020/10.59


Karuizawa, one of the 15 resorts where the new app is first deployed

In response to the coronavirus, Hoshinoya Resorts has rolled out a new smartphone app at 15 properties, which monitors the size of crowds at their popular onsen, public hot springs.
   Onsen, which is one of the highlights of going to a ryokan or resort, allows guests to release themselves from the stress of “stay-home” practices. But overcrowding can compromise the experience. Hoshino’s app will lead to safer and more comfortable use of the springs, as it creates an environment that avoids the occurrence of the “three Cs”: close contact, confined spaces, and crowded places.
   The app detects real-time crowd size via use of distance sensors which communicate with IoT-sensitive devices. The IoT device can count accurate numbers of people, make real-time connections between data and the cloud, adapt to different environments, and help guests stay informed of the optimal hours for onsen visits.
   Though Hoshino provides the download to guests, the information can easily be obtained through a web browser. But the innovative app is a convenience enabling visitors to read QR codes through their smartphones and to be informed in real-time about the perfect moment to immerse oneself in the healing waters.—Stanley Moss, Travel Editor

 


Maldives plans to open up July 15; Las Vegas says flights continue to increase

Filed by Lucire staff//8.30

We’re not entirely sure about the wisdom of some destinations telling us they are reopening, while COVID-19 is still very much present in our world.
   In a regular analysis by Lucire publisher Jack Yan, where infections as a percentage of tests done are analysed—a figure not adopted by mainstream media—there are some countries still with very high numbers.
   France, one European country opening up, still has a high (and rising) infection rate at 11·90 per cent at the time of writing, three times higher than Germany’s (3·62 per cent) and the UK’s (3·32 per cent). Sweden is on 13·19 per cent, and falling.
   The Maldives, on 4·69 per cent, tells Lucire that they will reopen on the 15th, with resorts and hotels on uninhabited islands accessible, while those on local islands open on August 1.
   Tourists do not need to pay extra, or produce a certificate showing that they are COVID-19-negative prior to entering the country. Those without symptoms will not be required to quarantine. Travellers will need to fill out a health declaration card on the inbound flight or at the airport, and those who have symptoms en route need to inform their Health Protection Agency. They are also advising those who have symptoms, and those who have had contact with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 cases in the past 14 days not to travel there.
   Arrivals must wear masks and be thermal-screened, and physical distancing needs to be maintained.
   Those who arrive with symptoms will be given a PCR test at their own cost, then sent to isolation, either at the resort (if its policy allows) or a state-run facility.
   There is contact tracing and random testing, and a set of restrictions on inter-island travel.
   The other requirement is that travellers must have a confirmed booking with a Ministry of Tourism-registered establishment.
   When departing, tourists will undergo an exit screening, and symptomatic ones will be subject to a PCR test.
   Further updates are on their foreign affairs’ ministry website, www.foreign.gov.mv.
   Given that the Haj is cancelled this year, it is a brave step for the Maldives to open up for tourism again, especially while COVID-19 runs rampant in some countries.


Mark Damon/Las Vegas News Bureau

   Las Vegas, meanwhile, has sent us news that their summer flights continue to increase.
   This is up from 110 a day during the ‘lowest point of travel’ during the pandemic to 280 a day in July. By August, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors’ Authority forecasts the figure will rise to 330. This points to demand as well as ‘renewed confidence in air travel’, says the Authority.
   The US is on a falling national infection rate figure of 7·98 per cent; the state of Nevada is on 5·71 per cent.
   By comparison with other countries where Lucire has a notable readership, New Zealand sits on 0·38 per cent, and Australia on 0·32 per cent. European countries once considered hot spots, Italy and Spain, are on 4·46 and 5·44 per cent respectively.
   Potential travellers are advised to consult with their own country’s health authorities as well as the WHO’s website on COVID-19.

 


Mannequins wearing the latest fashion help “social distancing” in Vilnius cafés and restaurants

Filed by Lucire staff/May 25, 2020/12.11



With an easing of restrictions in Lithuania as the country gets its COVID-19 infection rate down into the 10s and single digits, bars, cafés and restaurants are now open, but with customers expected to be seated indoors only. Some business owners in the capital, Vilnius, have had an ingenious idea: instead of removing tables to maintain distancing rules, why not put mannequins at the ones people cannot sit at, and clothe them with the latest fashions, to showcase what local boutiques offer?
   The idea has gained interest across Vilnius, after it began with Cosy restaurant owner Bernie Ter Braak and fashion designer Julija Janus. ‘Empty tables inside our restaurant look rather odd, and we don’t have any way to remove them. Therefore, we decided to reach out to our neighbours, fashion boutique stores, and invited them to use our empty tables to showcase their newest collections. The news spread, and well known designers joined this project, which keeps gaining interest across the city.’
   Janus said, ‘The fashion industry is particularly affected by the lockdown. Local boutiques used to sell the niche, original pieces created by local designers. As they are currently closed due to the quarantine, designers do not have many opportunities to showcase their latest collections, and in general, the consumption is down. We hope that this campaign will move the waters and local designers will gain some visibility.’
   She adds, ‘Crises like this call for all of us to unite and help each other—together, we can achieve much more than being alone.’
   A few dozen cafés and restaurants in Vilnius’s Old Town Glass Quarter are participating, with over 60 mannequins seated at unused indoor tables wearing fashion items from 19 boutiques, showcasing the work of local fashion designers and brands. Each table has information about what the mannequins are wearing and where they can be purchased.
   IDW, a leading mannequin manufacturer, has supplied its wares for free for the collaborations, which are expected to end at the end of May.
   Earlier in May, Janus and other designers organized the world’s first Mask Fashion Week. Other initiatives in the city included a giant open-air café and an airport drive-in cinema.
   Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius said, ‘While the quarantine restricts us in many ways, I have always believed that it also gives us many opportunities, which we can use creatively to unveil the boundless charm of our city. This current initiative is a perfect match of communal spirit and creativity working side by side—and it also brings us some tangible material benefits.’












 


Alana aims to ‘save the high street’, offers fashion retailers an accessible e-commerce platform

Filed by Lucire staff/May 16, 2020/0.12

Recognizing the impact of COVID-19, Alana, a start-up HQed in Cork, Ireland, offers high-street and independent retailers a virtual shop front, with a single check-out, a same-day delivery service and a flat delivery fee of €3·99. The company sees it helping retailers who have already developed a strong e-commerce offering.
   The start-up expects to expand its offering, by partnering with hotels and tour operators.
   The Alana CityStyleBot is powered by artificial intelligence, recommending styles and brands based on each customer’s preferences and tastes. The new partnership is designed to give customers ‘the ultimate city break,’ where they can use the virtual services and have their orders delivered to their hotels, allowing them to enjoy their destinations with style—all while practising social distancing.
   ‘Alana allows women the luxury of having their own personal stylist at an affordable rate from the click of a button. It is fast, efficient, and affordable. We bring style to your door,’ says Chloe Markham, Alana’s head of fashion.
   Alana’s community manager Simone McCarthy adds, ‘For retailers, it will boost online sales as well as showcasing their offering through the influencers affiliated with Alana. It is especially valuable for small independent boutiques who are not set up for online sales. There are so many independent fashion retailers that are not online and [the] Alana app is a lifeline for them during COVID-19 as there is a ready-made audience eager to keep up-to-date with fashion and indulge in some retail therapy.’




Above, from top: Alana founder Niamh Parker with her daughter Alannah. Alana head of fashion Chloe Markham. Alana community manager Simone McCarthy.

 


Letter from the Veneto, April 16, 2020

Filed by Lucire staff/April 16, 2020/11.01



Top: Webcam view of Piazza San Marco, April 15, 2020. Above: Nature is taking back its territory. At left, the paper sign taped to the dock reads, ‘Caution! Duck eggs.’ In the background of the photo at left, you can see the controversial Calatrava Bridge. At right, a pair of germano reale (wild ducks) have made a nest on the vaporetto dock.

This week we had the pleasure of a lively conversation with our old friend Gianmatteo Zampieri, general manager of the Baglioni Hotel Luna in Venezia. Currently all Baglioni properties in Italy, UK, France and Maldives are shuttered, but plan to reopen after the virus crisis resolves. The Baglioni Group’s main phone lines in Roma and Milano are open to receive queries, cancellations and rebookings.
   Though its doors remain closed, the Luna in Venezia has a skeleton crew on site attending to maintenance and security. Non-residents can’t get into town without an official document which declares the reason for their travel or presence. You’ll be stopped at the train station if you even try to enter Venezia, and the city is quiet and tranquil, with only the occasional pedestrian or military team in sight. Mr Zampieri recommends logging into the live cams at www.skylinewebcams.com/it/webcam/italia/veneto/venezia/piazza-san-marco.html for a real time view of Piazza San Marco and other Venetian locations. The Rialto Bridge is deserted, and uncrowded phantom vaporetti lazily float by. The St Mark’s Basin stands empty, with only stray small craft passing.
   ‘The Lagoon is like a mirror,’ Mr Zampieri said. ‘There’s not a boat to be seen, the water is crystal clear, and schools of little fish are swimming in the canals. We have a gondola landing at our entrance, and we are seeing little crabs crawling up the gondola poles. Ducks are nesting on the vaporetto docks, and laying eggs there.’
   Mr Zampieri has an optimistic perspective on all this. He says that following these difficult times we’ll be given a chance to return to a Venezia renewed, where the air and water are clean, landmarks uncrowded and Baglioni’s teams rested and ready to welcome back guests.—Stanley Moss, Travel Editor

 


Oberoi One: a new loyalty programme

Filed by Lucire staff/March 6, 2020/13.10


Word reaches us that the Oberoi chain is about to announce a long-overdue top-tier loyalty programme, something that’s been absent in the brand while competitors have refined the art over recent years.
   Following our stay at Oberoi’s Wildflower Hall property in Shimla last year, we acquired a rosy glow for the brand. The remarkable level of service and attention impressed us—every detail of our stay was picture-perfect. This under a wave of adverse conditions, not the least of which was a freak snowstorm that closed the mountaintop. We could go on at length about the beautiful repair of the property, its situation atop the venerable hill station, the high professionalism of staff, the richness of the welcome, and the component of over-the-top attention. Exceptionalism at every aspect. While our experience with Oberoi has been routinely excellent, the Shimla property put our opinion into the stratosphere.
   We are looking forward to learning more about Oberoi One, the brand’s guest recognition programme, which promises a spate of exclusive personalized benefits and privileges. While member-only rates on the website, happy hours at the bar, complimentary stays and upgrades sound alluring and in keeping with competitor brands, the advantage of flexible check-in and check-out timings has an enlightened aspect that can only sweeten the otherwise long-awaited offering for the frequent traveller.—Stanley Moss, Travel Editor

 


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