Roman Coppola And W Hotels Release Four Travel-Inspired Films


With the help of filmmaker Roman Coppola, son of director Francis Ford Coppola, W Hotels and Intel recently held a travel-inspired screenplay competition. Out of more than 1,000 online entries, four scripts were chosen by Coppola, who then used his production company, The Directors Bureau, to match the winning scripts with emerging directors and actors.

The result are the short films below, each of which takes place at a W Hotel around the world: in Doha, Qatar; Mexico City, Mexico; Washington, DC; and the Maldives. The only other stipulation for screenwriters was that the films had to feature an Intel Ultrabook – kind of like the secret ingredient in an Iron Chef competition. The results are quirky, touching, and sometimes eerie, but most of all great ways to inspire travel and help emerging talent get their feet off the ground.


Modern/Love: Two 20-somethings take the next step in their long-distance cyber romance, meeting in person for the first time during an exotic vacation in Doha, Qatar. Will their tech-enabled feelings hold true in real life?
Screenplay by Amy Jacobowitz
Directed by Lee Toland Krieger
Featuring Robert Schwartzman and Naomi Scott

¡El Tonto!: A socially challenged vacationer in Mexico City, Mexico, strikes up an unlikely friendship with one of the country’s best-known luchadores.
Screenplay by Ben Sayeg
Directed by Lake Bell
Featuring Kyle Mooney and Kyle Mooney


Eugene: A traveler in Washington, DC, gets a mysterious gift: an Ultrabook that grants all his wishes. How will he wield his unexpected powers?
Screenplay by Adam Blampied
Directed by Spencer Susser
Featuring Michael Govier and Karolina Wydra


The Mirror Between Us: Two young women embark on a dream-like adventure through the islands of the Maldives after an event turned both their worlds upside down.
Screenplay by Nicole Beharie
Directed by Kahlil Joseph
Featuring Dan’ee Doty

The continuing rise of Gulf state carriers

gulf state carriers

The rise of Gulf state carriers continues to impress. These airlines, which have defined themselves in part as hub-and-spoke carriers linking Europe (and the eastern coast of North America) to Asia, have developed exciting route maps over the last several years with a particularly strong reach into the Arabian Peninsula and India.

While other airlines have recently attempted to develop their hub airports for intercontinental hub-and-spoke connections as well – Finnair‘s recasting of Helsinki as a northern Europe-Asia hub is one example – the Gulf carriers really stand out in global terms.

Yet, awareness of their services remains far lower than it should be among Americans, despite the presence of Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar Airways at a handful of major US airports.

The Gulf state carriers’ key consumer product is a luxury flight with premium class service and a truly over-the-top experience on all three airlines. On Emirates, first class passengers are treated to private suites. Etihad’s Diamond First Class features flatbeds, personal mini-bars, and anytime dining, while Qatar Airways’ First Class offers turndown service with an amenity kit including products by Prada. With perks like these, it is clear that these carriers are establishing new standards for premium class service.

Even in coach, however, these airlines are delivering a decent product. I experienced the Qatar Airways economy treatment on a recent mid-haul journey from London, via Doha, and back. There was more legroom than in standard coach and the ongoing parade of meals and snacks was, if not exactly delicious, then without question, a cut above average airplane food.

Route maps, however, provide the most interesting dimension of the rise of the Gulf state carriers. While there is quite a bit of overlap between airlines, each airline covers some original territory. Let’s look at where these airlines fly.Etihad flies from Chicago, New York, and (as of March 31) Washington, D.C., to Abu Dhabi. Etihad also flies direct routes between most major European hubs and Abu Dhabi, in addition to a few surprising ports of call (Minsk, anyone?). In addition to eight destinations in India, Etihad’s more popular Asian destinations from Abu Dhabi include Bangkok, Colombo, the Maldives, and Seychelles.

Qatar Airways links Houston, New York, and Washington, D.C., to Doha. The airline flies to 31 destinations in Europe (including 2012 launches), 12 destinations in India, four in Pakistan, and four in China. Other destinations of note include Zanzibar, Ho Chi Minh City, and Denpasar.

Emirates boasts the best links to the US of all with direct connections from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Houston, and New York to Dubai. Of these, Seattle and Dallas are new routes. The former begins on March 1 and the latter route kicked off on February 2. Emirates’ reach is particularly remarkable. The airline flies to 28 destinations in Europe, 15 destinations in sub-Saharan Africa, 10 destinations in India, and four in Australia; all but a handful of these routes are direct.

With beefed up links to major US airports, premium services to lure business and moneyed travelers, and route maps that show no sign of contracting, the Gulf state carriers look set to be important long-haul standbys for some time to come.

[Image: Flickr | jmmcdgll]

Etihad Airways launches direct service to Washington, DC

etihad airwaysEtihad Airways will begin daily nonstop flights from Washington, DC to Abu Dhabi on March 31, the airline announced.

“No other UAE carrier is offering nonstop services between DC and the UAE, so this capital-to-capital link is a huge opportunity for Etihad Airways,” said James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ chief executive.


The Washington region is home to America’s second largest market flying to the Middle East, after New York.

We’re wondering if the highly-acclaimed airline’s new route will cut in to Qatar Airways‘ market share. The airline had previously captured the luxury route with directs to Doha and easy UAE connections.

Last week, the US Department of Commerce released data showing that total trade volume between the US and the UAE rose to $18.3 billion in 2011, a 43 percent increase from the year before. This increase represents the highest trade volume to date between the US and UAE.
It also means that, for the third consecutive year, the UAE is the single largest export market for US goods in the Middle East.

The US is the fifth largest trade partner worldwide for the UAE.

“The point-to-point traffic between DC and Abu Dhabi is expected to contribute significantly to overall loads on the route,” Hogan added.

The direct flights will be operated by a three class A340-500 aircraft. Each flight will offer 12 Diamond First class, 28 Pearl Business class, and 200 Coral Economy seats.

Etihad, the “fastest growing airline in history,” won World’s Leading Airline, World’s Leading Airline First Class, and World’s Leading Airline to the Middle East at the World Travel Awards earlier this year.

[Flickr via rogerbarker2]

Mathaf: Doha layover suggestion

mathaf

With the rise of Qatar Airways as a long-haul airline, Doha has become an increasingly easy short-term layover destination. The Qatari flag carrier boasts especially good links between Europe and Asia via Doha. Its route map include a whopping 12 cities in India, three in China, and four in Pakistan; notably, the airline also shuttles European tourists to the Indian Ocean holiday playgrounds of the Maldives and Seychelles. In 2012, Qatar Airways will introduce an additional slate of fascinating destinations, including Kiev, Kigali, Perth, and Zanzibar.

Doha’s got plenty of tourism draws, including the renovated Souq Waqif, the Museum of Islamic Art, and its Corniche. Qatar is terribly rich, with the world’s highest or second-highest GDP, depending on the evaluation matrix. As you might expect, Doha’s infrastructure for visitors is undeniably impressive. The city is also in the midst of a major construction boom. The stadiums under construction for the 2022 World Cup alone will keep construction humming through the end of the decade.

Since the tail-end of 2010, Doha has been home to Mathaf, Qatar’s Arab Museum of Modern Art. Mathaf’s current show, Cai Guo-Qiang’s Saraab, features 16 impressive commissioned pieces and scores of past works. Guo-Qiang is a major artist, famous for his large-scale projects involving gunpowder and fireworks. He is particularly well known for orchestrating the extraordinary fireworks displays at the 2008 Beijing Olympics’ opening and closing ceremonies.

In Arabic, “saraab” means mirage. The exhibition endeavors to explore connections between Quanzhou, Guo-Qiang’s hometown, and Doha, as well as between China and the Arab world more generally. Trade links between Quanzhou and the Arabian Peninsula are not difficult to trace–the former was once the starting point of the Maritime Silk Road–and Guo-Qiang makes the most of this connection. One particularly appealing piece, titled Endless, consists of three boats, one Chinese and two Qatari, sitting side-by-side in a shallow pool, shrouded in mist.

The museum, located in a former school building, was revamped smartly by the French architect Jean-François Bodin. Other notable features of the museum include a library with a great magazine selection and a cute café.

Mathaf is a good 14 kilometers (about eight miles) from central Doha. The going rate for a taxi from a hotel is 60 riyal ($16.50). Admission to exhibitions costs 25 riyal (just shy of $7) per person. The museum is closed on Monday. Saraab runs through May 26.

Sustainable cities to watch in 2012

sustainable citiesThink of sustainability, and San Francisco is probably the first city to come to mind. But a new crop of green urban centers is emerging, and they’re not where you might think.

Leon Kaye, editor of GreenGoPost.com, recently published a list of his picks for emerging sustainable cities to watch in 2012. Some spots were to be expected, like Detroit, with its preponderance of urban renewal projects, and Accra, which recently topped Siemens’ and Economist Intelligence Unit’s index of Africa’s greenest cities.

But there were also a few wild cards. Mexico City made the list for its 10-point Climate Action Program, which aimed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 7 million metric tones between 2008 and 2012. The plan included massive improvements to the public transportation system, including the construction of Latin America’s largest rail system and investments in green roofing, water conservation, and waste management.

Also on the list was Naples, Italy, whose trash crisis has made headlines since 2008. Once city residents started realizing that the government wasn’t going to take action, they started taking matters into their own hands. Through grassroots activist movements, like guerrilla gardening and flash mobs, Neapolitans are slowly beautifying their city, and this year will host the UN’s World Urban Forum.

The other cities on Kaye’s watch list were Adelaide, Australia; Belgrade, Serbia; Brasilia, Brazil; Doha, Qatar; San Jose, California; and Seoul, Korea.

[Flickr image of Mexico City via Alfredo Gayou]