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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Premium Economy: An affordable compromise or waste?

Source: Australian Frequent Flyer

Premium economy was trumpeted to consumers as being a touch of luxury at an affordable price.

Many of our members seem to have adopted a general level of apathy towards the product. In describing their premium economy experience many of our members have used words like 'ok', 'average' and 'Waste of money'. Other members go as far to say that it is little more than a marketing gimmick.

THAI Airways Premium Economy
However, some members believe it fills a genuine gap in the market for an affordable compromise between first and economy class. One vertically blessed member finds premium economy an excellent and affordable alternative to being cramped in economy or broke in first-class. Many members have found premium economy offer the right price, right amenities and right service without breaking the bank. Airlines around the world have already begun ramping up their premium economy services and our members are hopeful that other airlines will follow suit.

Another member has discovered a unique way to add a touch of luxury. This member forgoes the premium economy and instead opts to buy two seats in economy class to provide more comfort. Two economy tickets costs roughly 1.5 times as much and by selecting the A and C seats, you are often lucky enough to pick up the B seat as empty as well. Tickets are only taxed on the first seat and there is leg-room galore and double the points and status credits to boot.

Other members use premium economy as the perfect way to circumvent their company travel policy that insists they fly 'economy'.

Read the full discussion HERE.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

THAI Launches 'Thailand Plus' Fare Promotion to Aid Bangkok Recovery

Thai has launched a series of special economy class fare initiatives to help boost seat sales in the wake of the devastating Bangkok flooding. Fares start from $852 return to Bangkok including all taxes, charges - and are non-seasonal with travel allowed from 1 Jan to 20 Jun '12...book and ticket by 29 Feb '12.

THAILAND Plus fares to Thailand gives one fare to all the popular destinations in the Kingdom including Phuket, Chiang Mai and Koh Samui (total fare payable is determined by travel dates and domestic taxes that apply).

THAILAND Plus fares also allow travel to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar with a stopover allowed in Bangkok if required.

Children aged up to 15 years get to travel at the child airfare rate (usually children aged from 12 years pay adult fares) to make it even more affordable to take the family along this time.

THAILAND Plus fares to EUROPE, JOHANNESBURG or LOS ANGELES allow a free side-trip within Thailand giving travellers a 'two in one' holiday opportunity. Fares to Madrid start from $2019 return; to Johannesburg from $2068 return and to Los Angeles from $2167 return.

Thailand side-trips can be taken return to Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Phuket or Koh Samui.

Contact travel agents for full details, bookings and ticketing or log on to thaiairways.com.au for more information about this fare promotion and others currently available.

Facebook:
Book a THAILAND Plus fare and take the kids up to 15 yrs at child rates; Thailand, Indochina, Europe, Jo'burg and LA. Details thaiairways.com.au.

Thai to Operate First Commercial Passenger Biofuels Flight in Asia

222379.jpg
A Thai Airways 777-200

Thai Airways International Public Company Limited (THAI) is set to be the first airline in Asia to fly a commercial passenger flight using biofuels to support the Company's Travel Green initiative that is part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program.

Mr. Piyasvasti Amranand, THAI President, said that under the CSR strategy, THAI has developed an important project on sustainability, in line with His Majesty the King's vision on renewable energy.  THAI, as the national carrier, is opting to operate a commercial flight using bio jet fuel as one way to help reduce global warming and carbon dioxide emissions.  THAI is pioneering the use of bio jet fuel in Asia and Southeast Asia, which in future other carriers in the region will hopefully follow suit.

On Wednesday, 21 December 2011, THAI will operate its inaugural biofuels flight TG8421 utilizing Boeing 777-200 aircraft.  Joining this auspicious occasion are members of the press and representatives from various organizations that support THAI's bio jet fuel project, such as PTT Public Company Limited, Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (AEROTHAI), Department of Civil Aviation, Rolls Royce, and The Boeing Company.

THAI has received support from petroleum producers, research firms, educational institutions, aircraft and engine manufacturers, and different government bodies affiliated with the aviation industry to develop bio jet fuel for aviation in Thailand.

Then on 22 December 2011, THAI will operate the first passenger biofuels flight in Asia, TG104 from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, whereby passengers can participate in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives.  Revenue from this flight will go towards developing renewable energy in Thailand.  THAI is inviting a total of 100 students and professors to join in the special flight TG104.

Friday, December 9, 2011

New era, new gondola for Niseko


Niseko-based Peter Murphy Managing Director of SkiJapan.com is very excited about the reopening of the resort's gondola this weekend.

"The new -eight seat Grand Hirafu Gondola has the double capacity and twice as fast as the original gondola it has replaced. This will provide a quicker and more comfortable ride, it will reduce morning bottlenecks and it offers quicker access, particularly on powder days, to ski or board iconic runs.”

Hirafu Gondola is the first new lift to be built at Niseko. It replaces a slower, four-speed gondola and the new cabins will provide sensational views of Mt Annupuri, the Mt Fuji-looking Mt Yotei and the ski town of Hirafu.

This is definitely the start of a new era for what was once the domain of the powderhounds but now entices Australian families and lots of first-timers from other, nearby countries such as China, Singapore and Hong Kong.

"Niseko is becoming more family-friendly after the powder boom a decade ago when the powderhounds put Niseko on the map," said Anthony Trovatello a key member of SkiJapan.com's team based in Niseko.

"There's a special energy right now. A lot of people here are dedicated and want to support Japan. It is the best start to winter I've seen in the four years I've been here. The amount of snow and the snow quality is amazing.”

For regular up-to-date Niseko snow reports check out www.SkiJapan.com

Rooms4You: South Oz

The key to finding where to stay and play in South Australia has just been handed to anyone who owns an iPhone, iPad or an iPod Touch.

It’s not your ordinary key, though. It’s an app called Rooms4You: South Oz.

Rooms4You has reviewed hotels, B&Bs, apartments and holiday homes all over the State and categorised them according to the style or mood they offer, their location, price and the special facilities they feature.

There are 63 properties featured - so far - in 17 categories: Beachside, Bed & Breakfast, Boutique, Business, Families/Groups, Getaways, Heritage, Holiday Homes, Luxury, Nature Escapes, Nightlife, Pubs, Romance, Room with a View, Unique/Quirky, Wine Stays and Island Escapes.

Each entry has photos of the property, a map and details of how far away it is, how to get there and how much a taxi will cost to get there.

There are also suggestions on where to eat and what to see and do while you’re there, with hyperlinks to websites for even more information.

For those looking for a room, the app is valuable tool. Want a romantic getaway in the heart of a wine region that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg? Rooms4You can help find it.

For property owners and managers, the app is a priceless marketing tool – it doesn’t cost anything to be listed. If app users like the look of the property, they can call direct to make a booking or link to their website.

Look for the pink keyhole icon in the App Store. Rooms4You: Sydney and Melbourne will be on-line soon.

* For a sneak preview of Rooms4You, go to
http://sutromedia.com/apps/Rooms4You_South_Oz

* Carolyne Jasinski is the creator. Ph 0423 024472 or email jasinskic@optusnet.com.au

Thursday, December 8, 2011

HERTZ CUSTOMERS IN UK CAN NOW RENT LEGENDARY SUPERCARS

HERTZ RENTAL CUSTOMERS OFFERED LEGENDARY SUPERCARS FOR HIRE IN THE UK  

Hertz UK announces partnership with luxury supercar hire company Première Velocity 

People seeking the ultimate driving experience in the UK will now be able to hire elite supercars with Hertz, the world's leading general use car rental brand.  Thanks to an exclusive partnership with Première Velocity, customers will be able to drive some of the world's most desirable super cars at a 5 per cent discount when they book via www.hertzsupercars.com.   

With an extra cache of exclusivity, the Lamborghini LP560-4 Bicolore, Porsche Carrera 4 GTS Cabriolet, Ferrari 458 Italia, Range Rover Evoque and Mercedes S Class Brabus are only available to renters through the Première Velocity service. Other super cars on offer include the Rolls Royce Phantom, the Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Aventador, Mercedes SLS AMG Roadster and McLaren MP4. 

Michel Taride, President, Hertz International and Executive Vice-President, Hertz Corporation, said: "By partnering with Première Velocity, we are able to offer an exhilarating and truly memorable drive for our customers. The full range of cars will be available on the Hertz website, so customers will have access to sporty, high end vehicles for their driving pleasure. The new partnership perfectly complements our own existing Prestige Collection of luxury vehicles."    

Starting prices for the super cars include Mercedes C63 AMG from £201.25 and the Audi R8 from £362.25, with a 5% discount for booking through www.hertzsupercars.com. 'The full Première Velocity collection – super, sports, luxury, prestige and 4x4 cars will be available from as little as £150 per day. Customers can be provided with a meet and greet service that delivers cars to an agreed location such as home, hotel, office or airport. 

Stephen Price, Managing Director of Première Velocity, said: "We specialize in elite vehicles for discerning clientele – and, like Hertz, combine experience in the rental industry with the advantage of knowing what the customer wants. We're extremely excited to be partnering to offer Hertz renters the opportunity to experience some of the most beautiful, powerful and thrilling cars built today, that they ordinarily they may not have access to." 

Première Velocity and Hertz supercars are available for hire by customers over 25 years of age and with no more than six points on their driving license (subject to previous convictions and accident terms). 


About Première Velocity 

Since 2008, Première Velocity have been leading the way in bespoke car hire, offering the world's finest vehicles to discerning clients. World exclusives in the hire industry are few and far between, but Première Velocity continues to offer the most sought after marques for clients anywhere in the UK.

MSC CRUISES TO LAUNCH “GODDESS” DIVINA

A defining feature of MSC Divina is the redesign of the Infinty/Garden

The latest addition to the MSC Cruises ever-expanding fleet – MSC Divina – will boast a mythological Greek influence when it is launched in France in May, 2012.

Thirteen of the new luxury ship's 18 decks will be named after the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece, among them Aphrodite, the Olympian goddess of love, and Apollo, the Olympian god of music.

Zeus, the king of gods and ruler of Mt Olympus, will also have a deck named after him along with Uranus, god of the heavens.

Furthermore, MSC Divina's expansive 1603-seat theatre will be named the Pantheon, a Greek word aptly meaning "to honour all gods".

"We are truly looking forward to the much-anticipated launch and naming of the MSC Divina, the 12th valued member of our fleet," said Lynne Clarke, managing director of MSC Cruises Australia and New Zealand.

"Every new ship MSC builds is exciting and with our 12th build it will take us to new heights," she said. "We are thrilled to offer another superb class of ship for sale to the Australian New Zealand market. The fact that MSC Divina will be cruising the beautiful East Mediterranean is a bonus as capacity has always been at a premium to this part of the Mediterranean."   

After its maiden six-night Mediterranean May 27 cruise from Marseille to Venice, the MSC Divina will take on a series of seven-night Eastern Mediterranean round cruises from Venice to Italy's Bari, Greece's Katakolon, Turkey's Izmir and Istanbul and Croatia's Dubrovnik, such cruises priced from $939 per person twin share.

Despite its ancient Greek influences, MSC Divina is very much a contemporary addition to the cruise line's fleet. However, finding a suitable name wasn't as straight forward.

Originally named Fantastica, the family-owned Italian company looked to the cruise line's famous godmother, glamorous screen legend Sophia Loren, a family friend of MSC president Gianluigi Aponte, before deciding on a change.

"In an evening chat with our president, Sophia said it was her dream to have a ship named after her," said Mrs Clarke. "He immediately suggested 'Divina' in place of 'Fantastica', adding that a 'fantastic experience is fleeting, whereas a divine experience gives you memories that will last forever'. A new name was born," she revealed.

MSC Divina will be the centre of attention in the French port of Marseille on Saturday, May 26, when Ms Loren makes a special appearance at the gala event to "christen" the ship with the traditional smashing across the bow of a bottle of champagne.

Measuring the length of more than three football fields, MSC Divina will be the third member in MSC Cruises' Fantasia class, joining MSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia, also christened by the famous Italian actor.

A defining feature of MSC Divina is the redesign of the Infinty/Garden at 7.35 metres wide and 7.60 metres in length, the infinity edge pool will allow clients to experience a spectacular view of the sea from the ship's stern.

The multi-million dollar newcomer will also have more cabins and suites (1751) than its predecessors (1637) and will herald a state-of-the-art concept in design and unprecedented comfort with as many as 1125 cabins offering balconies, while of the 97 suites, 69 will be dedicated to MSC Yacht Club over decks 12, 15 and 16.

MSC Divina's Yacht Club – the "ship within a ship" for passengers seeking to be pampered in elegant surrounds – is renowned for its priority check-in and butler service. Along with the designer suites, it will have an exclusive restaurant with free seating for guests for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including complimentary alcoholic and non-alcoholic refreshments in the restaurant as well as in your mini bars.

A sun deck with exclusive pool, whirlpool baths and solarium, a Top Sail Lounge (open all day) and private lift to the lavish MSC Aurea (day) Spa which will accommodate 48 guests are also a part of the exclusive area of the ship.

"In more ways than one, our latest addition to MSC Cruises will live up to its name," said Mrs Clarke.

MSC Cruises is the world's leading cruise company in the Mediterranean, South African and Brazilian markets and operates across the globe. Its modern fleet comprises eleven ships: MSC Splendida and MSC Fantasia (the largest ships ever built for a European ship owner), MSC Poesia, MSC Orchestra, MSC Musica, MSC Sinfonia, MSC Armonia, MSC Opera, MSC Lirica and MSC Melody. MSC Magnifica, the newest ship, was launched in March 2010. The fleet cruises year-round in the Mediterranean and seasonally in Northern Europe, the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean, North America and Canada, South America, the Indian Ocean and South and West Africa. MSC Cruises is the only company in the world to receive the "6 Golden Pearls" award from the Bureau Veritas in recognition of its high level of quality management and environmental responsibility. MSC has also achieved ISO 9001 and ISO 22000 certification for the quality and food safety of all aspects of its catering, both onshore and onboard. MSC Cruises cares about the welfare of children, and as a responsible market leader believes in making a positive impact in the regions where it operates. To this end, the company recently formed a partnership with UNICEF to fund a community project aimed at providing disadvantaged children in Brazil with a quality education.

Details: MSC Cruises, phone 1300 028502, www.msccruises.com.au

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Polynesian Blue to be rebranded Virgin Samoa


The government of Samoa has just revealed a new brand and livery for the country's national airline, which is operated together with Virgin Australia.

To be known as Virgin Samoa, the carrier will have a "fresh, contemporary and sophisticated look, consistent with its partner Virgin Australia but with a uniquely Samoan flavour," according to ceo Mark Pitt.

Samoan Prime Minister, The Hon. Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, said that the government's vision when it entered the Polynesian Blue joint venture in 2005 had been to create a national airline that would be "financially strong and that would provide growth opportunities and financial stability for our country.

"We have achieved these goals," he said.

The livery features elements such as a palm tree motif on the fuselage and a specially designed 'tatau' pattern on the engines, created by a Samoan master tattooist, with the aircraft to enter service with the new look and an upgraded interior in the first quarter of 2012.

"As we now move into an even brighter future as Virgin Samoa we felt it important to include a respectful reference to our culture and our past," Pitt said.

The new airline's flights and fares will be detailed in a new website at www.virginsamoa.com but at this stage the site appears to not yet be live.

More information in today's Travel Daily.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Holiday Warning - Put Travel Insurance at the top of the Christmas List


Almost 40 per cent of Australian holidaymakers fail to buy their travel insurance until a week before their holiday, putting themselves at financial risk, according to leading online travel insurance company Travel Insurance Direct (TID). 

While travellers often purchase their airfares up to a year in advance to secure a bargain, research shows travel insurance was being pushed down the list and bought much later, TID (www.travelinsurancedirect.com.au) spokesman Graham Kingaby said. 

Mr Kingaby warned that the time lag was placing consumers at risk unnecessarily. 

"As we've seen in recent weeks there are many unforeseen issues, from airline strikes to floods, which can jeopardise your holiday plans at the last minute.  

"But if disaster strikes before your holiday and you haven't bought travel insurance, you'll lose your cash as well as your vacation." 

Mr Kingaby said that TID's research showed around two-thirds of travellers bought their insurance in the four weeks before they travelled, with almost 40 per cent waiting until the final week before departure. 

"The trend in travel at the moment is to buy airfares early - up to a year before departure - to get the best deals, but to wait until the last minute to get a bargain on accommodation," Mr Kingaby said. 

"Unfortunately too many people are delaying their travel insurance purchases also. 

"Travel insurance isn't a last minute bargain – you get the best benefit by purchasing early, as soon as you book your flights. Otherwise you are leaving yourself very exposed." 

Mr Kingaby said that in the case of the Icelandic volcano eruption in April 2010, which led to an estimated 300,000 flight cancellations, travel insurance exclusions on cancellation and delay came into effect the day after the eruption. 

"Those who had bought their insurance before the eruption were fine. But anyone planning to travel in the week after the volcano erupted who didn't already have travel insurance would have been cursing their tardiness." 

Mr Kingaby urged travellers to move their insurance to the top of their list as they prepare for Christmas holidays. 

"If you buy your policy when you buy your airfare, not only is that investment covered, but so too are all your subsequent holiday purchases like accommodation and car hire," he said. 

Mr Kingaby said that travel insurance was far cheaper than most consumers believed.  

"A single person's policy for a week in Bali is about $40. When you consider the cost of losing your luggage or having to seek medical treatment overseas, that's clearly money well spent."

Women Admit to Becoming a 'Stress-Head' Prior to a Holiday

Image: lastminute.com.au

Press release

One in three women admit to becoming more of a 'stress-head' in the lead up to a holiday and 34% want to join the 'mile-high club', according to new research from Australia's leading travel and lifestyle website.

The findings of an online survey of more than 6500 Australian women are revealed in the lastminute.com.au 2011 Female Travel and Lifestyle Report.

Covering everything from using Facebook when holidaying overseas, to how they fund their travel plans and which celebs they would most like to rendezvous with on a getaway, the report provides an insight into what makes the modern female traveller tick.

Announcing the survey results, lastminute.com.au spokesperson Kirsty Harrison said:

"With this year's Female Travel and Lifestyle Report our aim was to gather a stack of information on the role travel plays within the lives of Aussie women. Given that us chicks typically make the majority of spending and travel decisions, we believe what women think counts for a lot and we were quite surprised with a number of the findings."

Some key snippets:

Have passport, will travel

If money was no obstacle, nine in ten women would choose to holiday overseas.

Relaxation is the number one reason most women travel, favoured by 87% of respondents. Surprisingly, only 4% admit that they travel to enhance their career, 3% do it for the brag factor and 2% are in it to find love.

The look of love

However, that's not to say the lure of love doesn't impact travel plans. For 21% of single women (and interestingly, 43% of men!) the reputation of a destination for attracting other singles influences their holiday decisions.

For those hoping to boost their sex appeal, it's worth considering travel as a means to an end, with 70% of single ladies finding a prospective partner more attractive if they're well travelled.

Go $AUD, go

While it might be fair to assume the strong Australian dollar in 2011 would have heavily impacted travel plans, 44% of women claim it hasn't influenced them at all.

However, 37% of women admit they're going overseas because it's better value for money, 22% are choosing destinations they haven't previously considered and 9% are exchanging US dollars now for future travel.

Seeing stars


Also playing a part in influencing travel plans is 'star factor'. One in four Gen Y women admit that if a destination is frequented by celebrities, they are more likely to travel there.

"It might be wishful thinking, but given the chance, women would most like to holiday with Hugh Jackman, George Clooney and Bradley Cooper. That's a pretty impressive wish list," said Ms. Harrison.

Safe and Secure

Mother Nature sure has shown us who is boss in 2011 and she's made a mark on travel plans.

40% of women are now ensuring travel insurance is factored into their trips and 14% won't book a hotel or holiday that doesn't include a cancellation policy (just in case).

Communication 3.0


While relaxation is high on the holiday agenda, that doesn't stop 54% of women from checking or updating their Facebook or Twitter profiles when on holidays, compared to 38% of men.

"It pays to think twice before accessing social media from your mobile phone. 31% of women surveyed have suffered from 'bill shock' on their return home. That's not the return to reality most of us are looking for," said Ms. Harrison.

An online version of the full report is available here: http://www.lastminute.com.au/femaletravelandlifestylereport

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sydney to integrate terminals

Source: Travel Daily

New vision for Sydney Airport


Sydney Airport has today launched a proposed reconfiguration which would see the current separate domestic and international terminals altered to create two "alliance-based" precincts, each of which would accommodate "the entire operations of one of our major domestic airlines and its international partners".

Airport ceo Kerrie Mather said the move has the potential to transform aviation in NSW by improving the airport's attractiveness as a global hub and making connections between international and domestic services much easier.

"Under the proposal, the passenger experience is improved through faster connect times and more efficient airline and airport operations," she said, with the new configuration minimising operating disruptions which would have positive flow-on effects to the rest of Australia's aviation network.

The plan would see the current domestic terminals T2 and T3 accommodating the Qantas Group, including Jetstar and international partners.

The current international precinct, T1, would accommodate Virgin Australia and its international partners - along with other international airlines as at present.

The proposal would also guarantee ongoing access by regional airlines and other domestic carriers to Sydney Airport, with the precinct for carriers such as Tiger, Regional Express, AeroPelican and Brindabella "the subject of consultation".

The concept also includes the construction of a new Qantas Engineering complex for line maintenance, and a new Virgin Australia hangar which would serve as a dedicated maintenance base in Sydney.

Mather said that from the airport operations perspective the proposed configuration would also reduce aircraft turnaround times, largely eliminate towed main runway crossings and produce a better environmental outcome through reduced aircraft emissions.

Qantas and Virgin Australia have both backed the plan, with QF ceo Alan Joyce saying the proposal would have "significant benefits for all passengers travelling with both Qantas and Jetstar".

And Virgin Australia ceo John Borghetti said the concept has potential, adding "we support any proposal that improves services to the travelling public and grows tourism in Australia".

Both carriers have signed non-binding Memoranda of Understanding with the airport to progress the proposal, along with agreements to extend the current international aeronautical pricing arrangements to mid-2015.

Mather said the plan envisaged that the airport reconfiguration would see the respective alliances operating international, domestic and regional services under the one roof by 2019.

More information in today's Travel Daily.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thailand newest boutique hotel opening 1 Jan - 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai

137 PILLARS HOUSE CHIANG MAI

From Historic Colonial Residence to Stunning 30 Suite Hotel

Opening January 1st, 2012

The stunning new 30 suite 137 Pillars House, Chiang Mai has a prime location in a tropical enclave near the Ping River; adjacent to the famous Wat Gate Khar Rham Temple.   The hotel will open on January 1st, 2012.

The hotel offers guests every modern luxury, combined with the revival of 19th Century oriental elegance and nostalgic ambiance from its former days as the homestead of the Manager of the British East Borneo Company. Nearby cultural treasures await discovery as do the spa's Thai and aromatherapy treatments.

137 Pillars House is managed by SilverNeedle Hospitality and is a member of Small Luxury Hotels.

Historic Past

Founded in 1296, Chiang Mai was a prosperous trading center on the route from China and Burma.   A city wall was built to protect the city, much of which is still visible and parts of which have been restored.   

Wat Gate, the area of Chiang Mai surrounding 137 Pillars House, was formerly designated to foreigners. The traditional Thai temple complex of multiple pagodas and living quarters is also home to Wat Gate Khar Rham Museum, founded by former 137 Pillars House owner Jack Bain.   It is filled with quirky memorabilia from ancient farm tools and pottery to ornate clothing of the Chiang Mai Royalty plus an extensive collection of historic photographs.

Guest Quarters

Four stunning suite types range from 70 square meters up to 135 square meters, each named after a famous Colonial settler.

Architectural historians and conservationists worked meticulously to retain the integrity of the original 1889 structure at 137 Pillars House. Tiled verandas, cane shades, rattan furniture and free standing Victorian baths are reminders of days gone by, blended with the modern facilities including outdoor garden showers, flat screen televisions and the all-important wi-fi access.  Private Pools (5.5 x 2.5 meters) are featured in the two Louis Leonowens Suites.



Grounds and Gardens

Prior to its transformation, much of 137 Pillars House was enveloped in tropical northern Thai forest.  The elegant Lady Palm and Mimosa trees were retained to honor the property's unique heritage while creating shade and breeze along the stone walkways. Fragrant, indigenous blooms line the original elephant path, a favorite outdoor reminder of 137 Pillars House's historical past.

In the hotel's Market Garden, the 137 Pillars House Master Gardener takes full advantage of Chiang Mai's cooler climate to grow organic fruit and vegetables.   He collaborates directly with the Executive Chef and is available upon request to guide guests through this edible landscape.

Guest entertainment on The Lawn is regularly scheduled, including Thai music and dancing, cocktails parties and cultural lectures.

Drinks and Dining - A range of options include:

The Library Bar - guests can linger over fresh fruit drinks, Italian and local coffee and teas, wines, brandy, port, sherry, cognacs and aperitifs.

The Parlor - afternoon high tea is served in the classic style as Chiang Mai's early foreign visitors enjoyed, with bespoke tea blends, coffee concoctions and complimentary Thai sweets.

The Wine Cellar – serving a selection of New and Old World vintages from around the world, including notable Thai wines. 

The Dining Room - for breakfast, lunch and dinner, The Dining Room adjacent to Pillars House is a stylish yet comfortable environment to savor our favorite recipes prepared with fresh organic ingredients.

The Kitchen - a showpiece and gathering place for Thai cooking demonstrations. 

Private Dining - in-suite dining or dine in a private spot on the grounds. Set at least one night aside for our chef's BBQ on the expansive verandah of your suite. For adventure filled days or upon departure, allow our kitchen team to prepare gourmet picnic baskets and light lunch boxes good to go.

Additional Features:

The Drawing Room

The 19th century directors of the British Borneo Company would certainly be impressed by our fully modern meeting facility supported by all necessary business centre services. It is the ideal venue for a small private dining function, social gathering or business meeting for up to 25 people.


 


Relaxation and Recreation

The Spa

Classical and current massage and spa treatments include Aromatherapy, Thai Massage and Yoga with private lessons available.   Beauty rituals integrate local organics and ancient secrets.  Essential oils are distilled on site and freshly made beauty products come straight from our organic garden.

The Gymnasium

The gym is equipped with the latest multi-station free unit and free weights as well as computer controlled cardio-vascular equipment.  

Swimming Pool

Dive into the shimmering 25 x 5.5 metre pool, where snacks, sweets and fresh fruit drinks, as well as items off the main menus are delivered by attentive staff who drop by with complimentary homemade sorbet, cool mineral water, cold towels and atomizer mist.  

Opening Rate

Opening rates start from THB 12,333 (USD 400) per night, plus applicable service charge and Government taxes. 

For more information and reservations, please contact Zulkifli Rahman, Director of Sales & Marketing for 137 Pillars House on:

Mobile:   +66 81 55 34 871

Email:   info@137pillarshouse.com

Website:   www.137pillarshouse.com (coming soon) or www.slh.com

Facebook:   www.facebook.com/137pillarshouse.com

Prestigious accolades for 2011 NSW Tourism Awards Winners

Winners of the Caravan & Camping Industry NSW

Tourism Industry Council NSW Chair, Ken Corbett

Minister for Tourism – George Souris
Winners of the 2011 NSW Tourism Awards
MC Mike Whitney, Jon Hutchinson and Minister George Souris
Mr Percival enthralling the crowd

From adventure pursuits such as Tri State Safaris in the outback and Sydney Harbour YHA backpacker accommodation, to Indigenous Tourism leaders Coffs Coast Aboriginal Discovery and major tourist attraction The Magic of Jenolan, NSW's most innovative and outstanding tourism businesses were recognised last night in Sydney as the winners of the 2011 NSW Tourism Awards.

Recognising 30 categories of tourism operators from NSW's exciting tourism industry, the winners were judged from hundreds of entries covering restaurant and catering services, accommodation, tourism education and training, heritage and cultural tourism, festivals and events.

Now in its 22nd year, the NSW Tourism Awards managed by Tourism Industry Council NSW supports the development of the tourism industry which contributes $28.7 billion per year to the NSW economy.

The depth of offering and professional calibre of product has strongly grown since the awards began and Ken Corbett, Chairman, Tourism Industry Council NSW, said that the range of entries symbolises that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, especially in the many small businesses that make up the industry.

"Small businesses are a vital element to the NSW tourism landscape. The value that they bring to providing employment opportunities to their regions cannot be underestimated.

"This year the winners demonstrated an enormous amount of pride in what they do; this exceptional pride in their product is exemplified in the innovative thinking and dedication to client experiences that we see all around the state," said Mr Corbett.

Jon Hutchinson, outgoing CEO of Business Events Sydney was recognised for his Outstanding Contribution to Tourism and Lori Modde was recognised for her Outstanding Contribution to Regional Tourism.

The Young Achiever award was presented to Ollie Philpot, CEO of Central Coast Tourism.

The 2011 NSW Tourism Awards were announced at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre in front of 700 people. The NSW Tourism Award winners will automatically become finalists in the National Tourism Awards, to be held in Cairns in March 2012.

The Full List of Winners:


Category                                                        Winner

Adventure Tourism                                          Tri State Safaris

Backpacker Accommodation                         Sydney Harbour YHA

Deluxe Accommodation                  Macquarie Waters Boutique Apartment Hotel

Ecotourism                                                    Lane Cove River Tourist Park

Festivals and Events                NSW Caravan, Camping, RV & Holiday Supershow

Heritage and Cultural Tourism                      Written in Stone

Hosted Accommodation                           Mollymook Beach Waterfront

Indigenous Tourism                          Coffs Coast Aboriginal Discovery

Luxury Accommodation                         Sheraton on the Park

Major Festivals and Events                     Bluesfest Byron Bay

Major Tour and/or Transport Operators            Moonshadow Cruises

Major Tourist Attractions                                   Taronga Zoo

Meetings and Business Tourism                   Shoal Bay Resort & Spa

New Tourism Development                              Tandara

Outstanding Contribution to Regional Tourism       Lori Modde

Outstanding Contribution to Tourism by an Individual          Jon Hutchison

QANTAS Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism  Lane Cove River Tourist Park

Specialised Tourism Services                      Newcastle Airport

Standard Accommodation                     Scone Motor Inn

Tour and/or Transport Operators             Tri State Safaris

Tourism Education and Training              Travel 21fiftythree

Tourism Marketing                             The Legendary Pacific Coast

Tourism Restaurants and Catering Services        Margan Restaurant

Tourism Wineries, Distilleries and Boutique Breweries       Wyndham Estate Winery

Tourist and Caravan Parks        BIG4 North Star Holiday Resort & Caravan Park

Tourist Attractions                             The Magic of Jenolan

Tourist Pubs                            Shoal Bay Country Club Hotel

Unique Accommodation                 Somewhere Unique – An Escape for 2 in the Hunter

Visitor Information and Services     Greater Port Macquarie Visitor Information Centre

Young Achiever in Tourism Award                 Ollie Philpot

SOFITEL'S LANDMARK NEW HOTEL IN FOSHAN, CHINA, WILL BECOME CITY'S TALLEST BUILDING


New Sofitel opening in 2014 will become the city's tallest building


Sofitel Luxury Hotels today announced the opening of a prestigious, new 325-room hotel in the booming city of Foshan in 2014, which, at 236 meters tall, will become the city's tallest building. Foshan is a centuries-old but fast-growing city in China's Guangdong Province and has long been famous for its furniture, porcelain and martial arts industries.

Set to become one of Foshan's most instantly recognizable and luxurious hotels with unmatched visibility, the towering Sofitel Foshan will become a focal point of the 2nd phase of the Foshan Louvre International Furniture Exhibition Center – the biggest furniture exhibition mall in China. The Sofitel Foshan will feature 325 spacious hotel rooms and suites, four restaurants and three bars, a large pillar-free ballroom, ten meeting rooms of various sizes, the group's signature So SPA, a fitness center, a yoga room, a beauty salon and an indoor swimming pool. It will also have an executive lounge, which is complemented by a fully equipped business center, and 280 parking stalls. The stunning skyscraper will offer the first onsite luxury accommodation to Lecong's huge amount of daily furniture customers, as well as tourists and business travelers.

The Sofitel Foshan is being developed by Guangdong Louvre International Furniture Exhibition Center Co., Ltd. (whose parent company is Louvre International Furniture Group), and will be strategically located in Lecong – the largest high-end furniture trading center in the world.

Positioning the hotel in Lecong, where over 25,000 local and international customers including furniture wholesalers daily, makes the Sofitel Foshan an ideal choice for furniture shoppers as well as leisure and business visitors. For those wishing to visit the city's many cultural sites, the popular urban hub Dong Ping New Town is just five minutes away, downtown Foshan is a 15 minute drive and, for business, the Nanhai Financial District is 25 minutes away. Guangzhou is now easy to access from Foshan after the recent successful merging of the two cities by expressways and subways, while Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is approximately 50 minutes away.

Ms Chen Gui Fang, General Manager of Louvre International Furniture Group, said, "Louvre International Furniture Group is one of the largest furniture wholesale and retail companies in China with customers from all over the world. Proving that high-end furniture shopping is big business in Foshan, Guangdong Louvre International Furniture Exhibition Center Co., Ltd. is committed to its first international brand hotel, the Sofitel Foshan, and the unparalleled convenience it offers in this bustling district."

Responding to the new project, Markland Blaiklock, Senior Vice President of Sofitel Asia Pacific said "Sofitel Foshan will be an inspiring project in Foshan, the fast growing city in Guangdong Province. With its latest address Sofitel Luxury Hotels will further reinforce its strong presence in the Pearl River Delta with hotels and resorts already established in Dongguan, Macau and most recently in Guangzhou."


Discover Sofitel on www.sofitel.com


Wolgan Valley Honoured with Condé Nast Traveler's World Savers Award

Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa General Manager Joost Heymeijer hands the Conde Nast Traveler's World Savers Award to Phil Cram, Facilities Manager and Ben Boothby, Senior Field Guide with the resort's Conservation Team.
Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, the world's first internationally accredited carbon-neutral resort, has been honoured at the prestigious 2011 World Savers Award for its pioneering work and commitment to wildlife conservation.

The Condé Nast Traveler's fifth annual World Savers Awards acclaims travel companies from around the world for their leadership in social responsibility. The rigorous process is judged across six categories including wildlife conservation, poverty relief, environmental and cultural preservation, education, and health initiatives.

"In just two years of opening, we're incredibly humbled to receive another global accolade for our commitment to wildlife conservation. From the outset, the resort has been built on the philosophy of complete integration with the Australian environment and a focus on endangered species protection," said Joost Heymeijer, General Manager, Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa. 

Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa
A scenic three-hour drive from Sydney, Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa is nestled between two of Australia's most prominent national parks and borders the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. The resort itself occupies just two per cent of the Emirates-owned 4,000-acre property, and combines the expectations of the high-end traveller with a commitment to broader social, ecological and environmental sustainability.

Travellers have become sensitive to environmental issues - in particular their own impact on the locations and communities they visit. They are equally are not expecting to lower their standards, and the quality of their experiences when travelling. 

"When guests stay at Wolgan Valley, they immediately recognise our ethos and ongoing commitment to be truly environmentally and socially responsible; and of course also appreciate the unique, luxury world-class experiences delivered by Emirates have not been compromised.

"We commend our colleagues in Australia and around the world who are making contributions to become more socially responsible. We hope these efforts continue to protect our naturally beautiful landmarks and locations, ensuring our industry grows and prospers," concluded Mr Heymeijer.

With approximately 4,000 acres of land dedicated as a wildlife reserve, the Wolgan conservancy project re-establishes and secures a future for many of the region's indigenous and endangered species, which were under critical pressure from introduced flora and feral predators – the major cause of species extinction in Australia.

To date, over 175,000 indigenous trees have been planted in wildlife corridors and along creek banks at Wolgan Valley. The resort also incorporates many Ecologically Sustainable Design principles and resource-saving technologies, ranging from rainwater collection, full recycling of all domestic water, heat exchange technology to reduce electricity consumption and the use of solar panels for all hot water systems.

For further information on the conservation policies and work at Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa please visit www.wolganvalley.com.

It's Official ...The Villas Voted Indonesia's Best Spa Resort

The Villas Bali Hotel & Spa in Seminyak has been announced as Indonesia's Leading Spa Resort 2011/2012 by Indonesia Travel & Tourism Award Foundation and The Board of Advisors at a glittering awards ceremony in Jakarta.

Industry representatives gathered at the gala dinner, which has been dubbed the Oscars of the Indonesian Tourism Industry, to recognise outstanding success by Indonesia's tourism businesses.

General Manger Andrew Keating said, "on behalf of our loyal staff I am delighted to have The Villas recognised by the renowned Indonesia Travel & Tourism Award Foundation and look forward to continuing to build the strong brand position The Villas & Prana Spa already enjoys".

The Villas Bali Hotel & Spa has established itself as one of Bali's finest and most enchanting villa style hotel resorts. The consistent level of service through high staff-to-guest ratios combined with an exceptional range of pampering treatments in Prana Spa ensures a true indulgent experience which has resulted in the Villas not only being awarded this latest award as Indonesia's Leading Spa Resort, but also joins the prestigious Trip Advisor award earlier this year having been voted in the Top 10 Relaxation/Spa Hotels across Asia.

The Villas has invested strongly through innovation in a range of areas to keep the Villas & Prana Spa top of mind among potential visitors. "This ITTA category win recognises the important work we have done and continue to do in this area."

"Spa culture has gained significant importance over the last few years and we made the conscious decision not to limit ourselves, we have created a great range of treatment options in line with the latest innovations and evolved The Villas into a sanctuary of well-being dedicated to relaxation," Mr Keating continued.

Timed to coincide with the winning of such a major award, The Villas and Prana Spa has a special deal on offer for direct bookings only, for a holiday of 3 nights or more, each new booking will enjoy a complimentary 2 hour Ayurvedic Simple Bliss Package in Prana Spa for each adult within the booking. (T&C's apply including - Must be booked and taken between 18th November 2011 and 29th February 2012 also not available from the 19th of December 2011 till the 5th of January 2012, subject to availability, please ask for further information).

Further information - www.thevillas.net

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Romantic Bali Spa Resort The Dreamland Joins Worldhotels


Global network attracting independent and unique properties

Global network for independent and unique properties Worldhotels has welcomed one of Bali's most romantic spa resorts, The Dreamland Villas & Spa, to its fast-growing Asia-Pacific portfolio.

The boutique resort is blessed with a spectacular location on the southernmost peninsula of Bali, overlooking Uluwatu's historic Hindu temple and Jimbaran's famous surfing beaches.

It is just minutes from Padang Padang beach, location for the recent Hollywood movie Eat, Pray and Love starring Julia Roberts.

Ideal for similar romantic adventures, The Dreamland Villas & Spa features 42 luxury villas, each with their own swimming pool, private courtyard and open-air pavilion.

Inspired by Indonesia's wealth of healing and beauty traditions, The Dreamland Spa is a journey of indulgence, from sauna to plunge pool, flower or milk bath, and pampering that can be shared with loved ones.

The idyllic retreat also neighbours the New Kuta championship golf course, with some of the most challenging links holes in the world.

A complimentary shuttle service links the romantic resort to nearby beaches and tourist centres of Kuta and Nusa Dua. For guests staying 3 consecutive nights, the hotel offers 10% off and return airport transfer.

Worldhotels Vice President Asia-Pacific Roland Jegge said: "The competitive edge to be gained from joining our global marketing and distribution network is proving increasingly attractive to both independent hospitality brands and unique boutique properties such as Dreamland."

For the most up-to-date news follow Worldhotels on Facebook and Twitter.

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Australia Toll free: 1-800-55 35 49 For groups:  61-2-8399 2210


Traveltalk November 2011

Australia's favourite travel news magazine now online

Stranded passengers forced to pay airline fuel bill

Source: TravelMole

Passengers on a flight from India to Britain claim they were forced to fork out more than $31,000 in cash to pay for fuel to allow the plane to complete the journey, UK media reports.

More than 180 passengers on a chartered Austrian Comtel Air flight from Amritsar to Birmingham were stranded on the tarmac in Vienna during a refuelling stop after being told the airline "ran out of cash to fund the last leg of the trip", London's Daily Telegraph reported.

Passengers said the airline then threatened to remove their luggage from the plane if they did not pay up.

The passengers, who reportedly paid about $780 each for their flight, refused to get off the plane in a six-hour standoff.

The dispute was finally resolved when Austrian police were called and the passengers were escorted to ATMs to withdraw cash.

Bhunpinder Kandra, director of passenger services for Comtel Air, told BBC News that "there may have been some operational problem" in Vienna but denied people were asked to pay towards more fuel.

But the Press Association reported him saying: "I have heard what happened, it shouldn't have happened, and I will investigate why it happened.

"The people who had to pay the money will receive a refund."

Skimax New Zealand Winter Holiday Packages

Skimax has been creating well-priced winter holidays to New Zealand's North and South Island for well over a decade.
 
As always, the competitive cost of its skier and boarder-friendly winter holiday packages to NZ's most popular ski areas is a major factor. However, for this winter there are additional offers that will entice more Australian skiers and boarders across the Tasman.
 
One. which is bound to appeal to cost-conscious families, is Kids 10 years and under stay and eat Free at selected Methven (Mt Hutt's closest ski town) hotels and there's no charge for using Mt Hutt's ski lifts if accompanied by one paying adult.
 
A Skimax consultant can provide all the details of that offer and its one Free night and one day's Free car hire with a large variety of Skimax New Zealand Earlybird packages.
 
Some examples of Skimax Ski New Zealand 2012 Early Bird offers:

Ski Queenstown from $579 pp twin share includes the use of a rental car for seven days, seven nights  accommodation at Sherwood Hotel and a three-day ski pass valid at Coronet Peak or The Remarkables.

An earlybird weeklong holiday in picture-postcard Wanaka, the closest ski town to Treble Cone and Cardrona, costs from $565 pp twin share with seven nights accommodation at Base Backpackers and a three day ski pass valid at Treble Cone or Cardrona.

 A Methven-based Earlybird package costs from $629 pp twin share. Included is seven days use of a rental car, seven nights at Forest Lodge, daily continental breakfast and a three-day ski pass for use of all lifts at Mt Hutt.

 For even more Ski New Zealand Earlybird Savings, which must be booked and paid for by 15 January 2012, visit the Skimax website www.skimax.com.au 

Or call its National Reservation number 1300 136 997

Phuket renewed in chic style at Club Med


RENEWED PHUKET - SET TO DAZZLE

For Easter enjoy a taste of Thai at Club Med's amazing beachside Resort

Club Med Phuket will be looking brand new later this year after a stunning makeover that highlights its Thai culture, French influence and all set in the breathtaking seaside location of Phuket - the Pearl of the Orient. The new look oozes splashes of traditional Thai colours of purple and gold, and reflects French flair with design elements that will delight all guests from tots to teens and mums and dads to grandparents alike, wherever they turn.

Hugging the white sand beach in the peaceful and still waters of Kata Bay, the established tropical gardens encircle the accommodation wings, and a Mandara Spa secluded under the canopy soothes frayed nerves and eases tired muscles into holiday mode.

The new lobby & Reception welcomes travelers with a Thai inspired temple style entrance in red and gold. Comfortable sofas and low tables add a royal ambiance.

The new focal point of the resort will be a new and spectacular Thai boat oval bar. The color purple takes centre stage with a mix of bright colors to add modernity to traditional Thai design. It is an ideal spot for conviviality and meeting new friends. The expanded lounge is surrounded by armchairs and sofas that all reflect the same color and pattern effects. Together with its low wooden tables by local artisans, it is the perfect place to unwind with a cool drink or a snack.

Bali's hugely successful "quiet pool" concept is being replicated in the Phuket Resort, with an adults only pool area and tranquil zone with spectacular views right onto Kata Bay. Surrounded by super comfy long chairs and gazebos, it provides peace and intimacy for over 18's.

The restaurants have been divided into "stylized boutique zones' each with a different interpretation of Thai culture and offering gourmet cuisines from around the globe, many cooked before your eyes at food stations to ensure fresh and appetizing options. The 5 senses  theme will enable our customers to choose an ambiance, with an international gourmet buffet loaded with a variety of culinary experiences.

The 5 different pavilions will be named Saveurs (taste), Fragrances, Music, Colors and Material. Four of the pavilions are air-conditioned and one is al fresco. The restaurant is overlooking the quiet pool and offers a direct view through to the ocean.

The Spa has received a makeover too, and guests will be welcomed in a Thai reception pavilion sunken in a Zen garden, specializing in Thai massages and a wide range of spa treatments.

A purpose built area houses all that is the Kid's Club and Baby Cub – (the first Baby Club in Asia Pacific) – with its own sheltered swimming pool, playground and interactive play area.

For the active guests there is a 9 hole golf course, multiple tennis courts, daily yoga and water fitness classes, a gym, and many sporting areas offering complimentary equipment and tuition.

Start planning for an Easter break now and you can take advantage of some great savings following price reduction earlier this year. For land content only, the 2nd person stays for half price - if you book and pay before December 4, 2011,  and cost from $1970 (first adult), $1042 (2nd adult), $1168 (1st child 4-11 yrs) and $611 (2nd child 4-11).

If you book after Dec 4, 2011 – Early Bird rates are $1148 per adult, and $668 per child (4-11). Prices include return airport transfers and membership.

The renovations will be completed and the Resort ready to welcome Australian school holiday makers in 2012. Bookings are now open for Easter school holidays, and expected to fill very fast. Phuket bookings for Club Med have jumped a massive 123% in the past 12 month, so be quick and book early to avoid disappointment.


About the Designer

MARK HERTICH Graduated from a French Art school (Ecole Boule, Paris)

He worked on his first big projects under Michel Boyer, a famous architect in the late 1960s. He designed the Swiss luxury hotel Le Richemond. He has a career in luxury architecture including jewelry shops, restaurants, etc and has redesigned several exceptional resorts for Club Med, including Bali, Cancún Yucatán, Agadir, Ixtapa Mexico, and Albion in Mauritius.

To book - visit your preferred travel agent

 Call Club Med on 1800 258 263 or go to www.clubmed.com.au

 

Are 'Guaranteed Departures' really guaranteed?


Every year, an alarming number of Australians have their dream holidays ruined by tour companies who cancel group departures because they haven't reached what they may deem to be viable passenger numbers.

According to European tour specialists, Albatross Tours, to encourage bookings and gain the trust of travellers, a growing number of tour operators are skirting around this issue by offering 'Definite Departures'.

Managing Director, Euan Landsborough comments, "As reassuring as this sounds, only a limited percentage of their overall departures attract this apparent 'guarantee' and even those 'definite' departures are by no means certain."

"Travellers who read the fine print will learn that these operators can still cancel a tour at the drop of a hat. When Aussie's have planned a trip half way around the world and parted with their hard earned cash, this is a huge disappointment – not to mention a blow to their hip pocket."

Albatross Tours is one of the few tour operators in the industry who offer totally transparent 'Guaranteed Group Departures'. This means every one of their tours is guaranteed to depart with as few as seven passengers.

When a tour is cancelled due to lack of participation, the travel agent, hotels and other operators all have their businesses affected too. The Albatross Guarantee has secured strong relationships with suppliers who know they can rely on Albatross Tours for this invaluable commitment.

Leanda Blank, a travel agent from West Coast Tours and Travel in Perth knows first-hand how troublesome cancelled tours can be; "We book our clients tours in good faith that they will be departing. I've had as many as 23 passengers cancelled by one tour operator in one year. When tours are cancelled it creates a lot of stress for our clients and is costly exercise for us to rectify. Our repeat business is built on our reputation for being, reliable and easy to book with – when tour operators cancel, it reflects badly on us as a business."

The Hotel Dei Duchi in Spoleto, Italy comments, "It has been wonderful that every departure within two separate tour programs has been fulfilled with Albatross. It is a pleasure to be able to safely welcome our Australian guests and not suffer cancellations."

Travellers should be wary with 'Guaranteed Departures' as the terms and conditions could state there is still a chance that their holiday could be cancelled. The usual condition states it is only guaranteed once a certain number of bookings have been reached.

Euan said, "Albatross is unusual within the industry as we're prepared to underwrite our tours at a loss. We'd rather do this than disappoint not only travellers, but suppliers, agents and hotels too."

"This business strategy has been successful for us in the long term, as we've built valuable relationships with customers, who rely on us when making travel plans."

"Guaranteed Group Departures also mean that travellers can safely book and pay for early bird flights and their tours in advance.

So why do tour operators offer guarantees at all if they don't plan on honouring the promise?

"It gives people a sense of confidence and peace of mind. My advice for travellers is to always read the fine print before booking a tour. The safest option is to choose "Guaranteed Group Departures", which are provided with every Albatross Tour.

For further information about Albatross Tours and upcoming departures, please visit www.albatrosstours.com.au or visit http://www.facebook.com/AlbatrossTours


New website for Best Western Fiji hotels


Discover Fiji from your desk – Best Western's new Fiji website introduces you to the culture, experiences and accommodation options available in Australia's favourite playground.

The website offers cultural tips in everything from race and religion, to etiquette for a village visit and even how to pronounce Fijian words.

Visitors to the new website can also view Best Western's three Fiji hotels in Nadi and Suva – with fantastic travel deals available all year round, like the "Internet Saver Rate", which can only be booked online.

Kimi Anderson, General Manager of Sales and Marketing said, "The new website also features a direct link to view live rates, availability and to book the Fiji hotel you want".

Best Western's Fiji hotels, which joined the global brand in June 2011, offer unique Fijian friendliness, global quality standards and affordable prices for families, business or leisure travellers.

Visit www.bestwestern.com.fj for more.

KAMALAYA KOH SAMUI IS HONOURED WITH THREE NEW AWARDS


Koh Samui, Thailand - Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary & Holistic Spa was honoured with three awards in the last two months, including two awards for its cuisine. In October, Kamalaya was voted winner of Best Conscious Cuisine at the 2011 Crystal Awards Asia Pacific in Singapore. Then at a ceremony in Hong Kong on 9 November, Kamalaya was named Best Spa Retreat of the Year and Best Spa Cuisine of the Year at the 7th Annual AsiaSpa Awards.

This is the first time Kamalaya has been awarded for its cuisine, which is an integral part of the spa's holistic wellness concept. Over the past two years Kamalaya has invested in sharing its healthy eating message, something that Karina Stewart, Kamalaya Co-founder and the creator of the cuisine concept, is passionate about. "The things we do regularly have the biggest impact on our health, and because food is an essential part of our daily life, it is the perfect vehicle to provide the support necessary for enhanced vitality and optimal health. Not everybody has the means to visit Kamalaya, but everybody can eat healthier. That is why we decided to make our recipes and healthy eating principles more readily available. We published a cookbook edition of Reconnect, began sharing recipes through our Healthy Living newsletters and next month we will release a DVD collection. Hopefully these latest awards will help to create awareness about our healthy eating message so that more people will be inspired to take advantage of what we are offering."

The Crystal Awards Asia Pacific is an annual event organized to honour and give due recognition to the crème de la crème of the spa and wellness industry. The awards are given to properties and individuals that not only spearhead trends, but also enhance the industry and influence its overall future direction.

The AsiaSpa Awards were created in 2005 in order to recognise the best spas in Asia, setting a benchmark for spas in the region, as well as around the world. The awards have grown to encompass 25 categories and are judged by the industry's top leaders.

These latest awards follow on from Kamalaya's success in the prestigious Prime Minister's Export Awards in Bangkok on 19 September, when the Wellness Sanctuary and Holistic Spa was named The Best Service Provider – Spa Category. Since opening in 2005, Kamalaya has won more than 15 awards.

"It really is a great honour to win these awards. Our vision has always been to inspire our guests and our team, and hopefully people everywhere, to live with greater health and harmony. Each award is a reminder of that vision, a confirmation that we are having an impact and a motivation for us to continue evolving and improving," said John Stewart, Kamalaya Chairman and Co-founder. "We applaud our team as this is very much their success and it is wonderful to see their work and dedication acknowledged," he said.

Kamalaya is located amid a lush, tropical landscape on the southern coast of Koh Samui, Thailand. The resort integrates healing practices and treatments from East and West, a beautiful natural environment, inspired healthy cuisine, customised programs and wellness retreats to offer a unique concept in personal well-being and holistic lifestyle possibilities.

For bookings and enquiries please visit www.kamalaya.com.

Opera Australia coming back to Brisbane after two decades


The 2012 Brisbane season by Opera Australia has been announced today, with tickets going on sale to the public from Monday 21 November, through QPAC. In May and June 2012 Australia's national opera company will present two spectacular and engaging operas, The Magic Flute and A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre for the first time. The casts include Queensland-based singers, Conal Coad, Andrew Collis and Milica Ilic as well as some of Opera Australia's most renowned stars such as Taryn Fiebig, Lorina Gore and Jacqueline Dark.

Lyndon Terracini, Artistic Director of Opera Australia and former director of the Brisbane Festival and Queensland Music Festivals, said: "From the moment I joined Opera Australia I knew I had to bring the Company to Brisbane. The Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) is a magnificent space for opera, and I'm delighted we can present two such magnificent productions.

"The Magic Flute is like nothing you have ever seen. Giant puppets, sculptural costumes and dance convey the fantastic world of Mozart's final opera. This is a night in the theatre for the whole family.

"Baz Luhrmann's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream breaks all the rules – Shakespeare's masterpiece is transported to India, the orchestra is on the stage, and Puck is a blue-faced Hindu god! We've assembled a dream cast and one of the world's greatest authorities on Benjamin Britten, Paul Kildea, is conducting. It will be, in a word, magical."

Bringing Opera Australia to Brisbane is no small undertaking. The sets and costumes for the two operas will travel from Opera Australia's workshop in Surry Hills, Sydney, to Brisbane on large semi-trailers. The sets and costumes for The Magic Flute, have been rebuilt specifically for the Australian production, from the original model of New York's Metropolitan Opera. Director Julie Edwardson, who has worked on many revivals of A Midsummer Night's Dream, will restage Baz Luhrmann's legendary production for the Lyric Theatre.

"At Opera Australia we take our role as Australia's national opera company very seriously," said Opera Australia Chief Executive, Adrian Collette. "Given the complexity of fully-staged opera and the vastness of our country, it is not always easy, but we are passionate about making opera available to the widest possible audience. So it is with great pleasure that in 2012 we expand our range of presentations to include this inaugural Brisbane Season at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre

In addition, we will bring our new travelling production of Mozart's Don Giovanni directed by Michael Gow to regional Queensland as part of Oz Opera, the touring arm of Opera Australia."

QPAC Chief Executive John Kotzas said that the Opera Australia productions were one of the highlights of the Centre's 2012 program which featured a diverse mix of live performance experiences that would resonate deeply with the Queensland community.

"It has been over two decades since there has been a season by the national opera company in Brisbane. Opera Australia's season in 2012 in QPAC's Lyric Theatre will be definitely worth the wait and will complement the already rich program of opera on offer in Brisbane."

"Brisbane will be the only city in Australia where audiences can experience Opera Australia's performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2012."

Tickets and packages range $60-$165* - Available through QPAC Box Office - Phone 136 246 - www.qpac.com.au

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Port Moresby’s newest hotel - Grand Papua Hotel joins Summit Hotels & Resorts

Summit Hotels & Resorts™, a brand of Preferred Hotel Group™, is pleased to announce its first member property in Papua New Guinea – Grand Papua Hotel. The collection includes more than 150 internationally acclaimed hotels and resorts that celebrate local luxury.

Opening on 1 December, 2011, Grand Papua Hotel will be the flagship hotel and the 9th property in the Coral Seas Hotel group collection. Located in the city centre of Port Moresby, the 161-room hotel will offer the latest in technology with innovative paperless check-in system using tablet technology. As the first newly built hotel in Port Moresby in over two decades, it will be the most technically advanced building in the country with a fully integrated building management system to maximize energy efficiency.

Situated on the highest point in the city, the hotel is ideal for both corporate and leisure guests with only a short walk to Ela Beach, the craft market and the city's business and commercial centre. Guestrooms and suites are contemporary in feel with local indigenous accents and features a 32-inch LCD screen cable TV, Wi-Fi internet connection and other international standard amenities. Balconies at every room offers spectacular views of Ela Beach and Fairfax Harbour. The most exclusive executive lounge in the country is housed in Grand Papua Hotel providing all the standard benefits and services as well as three executive boardrooms.

Equipped with state-of-the-art audio visual equipment, there are 6 conference rooms that can accommodate meetings and private functions for up to 200 participants. The hotel's facilities also include three levels of underground secured parking, 24-hour security, 330sqm of spa and beauty treatment services, outdoor Jacuzzi, a 15-metre swimming pool and a fully-equipped fitness centre. Two atmospheric venues offer a creative modern menu with Asian influences and drinks in a colonial setting.

Opening offer:    20% discount off Best Available Rate including breakfast for one person. Valid from 1 Dec 2011 to 30 June 2012.

# # #

 About Summit Hotels & Resorts
The Summit sensibility is world-wise with a local point of view. It is a global concierge, multi-lingual and multi-cultural, providing guests in every location with an insider's knowledge of the neighborhood. Ranging from historic urban hotels to exclusive beach resorts, the distinctive hotels and resorts of Summit can be found in many of the world's most enticing destinations. Summit Hotels & Resorts is a member of the Preferred Hotel Group™ family of brands which also includes: Preferred Boutique™, Preferred Hotels® & Resorts, Sterling Hotels™ and Historic Hotels of America®. For reservations and a complete description of the Summit Hotels & Resorts collection, please visit www.SummitHotels.com.

Summit Hotels & Resorts guests are eligible to enroll in the I Prefer™ Guest Benefit Program, featuring benefits such as early check-in/late check-out, space-available upgrades and more. For more information, please visit www.iprefer.com.



Friday, November 4, 2011

Sculpture at Scenic World inaugural event



Scenic World to host Australia's first ancient rainforest sculpture exhibition


The Blue Mountains World Heritage Area will be transformed into one of the world's most spectacular art galleries for the inaugural Sculpture at Scenic World cultural event.

Australia's only ancient rainforest sculpture exhibition will feature 26 unique artworks in a pristine Jurassic valley, from 16 February until 11 March 2012.

Artworks selected from Katoomba to Belfast will be judged for the $20,000 Scenic World Acquisitive Award during this major event where you can meet the makers at artist talks and view the pieces on guided and independent tours.

The dynamic program of curious, grand, emotional and thought-provoking works can be observed from the elevated Scenic Walkway that winds its way through old growth tree ferns and dappled sunlight.

More than 800,000 visitors experience Scenic World each year for its range of experiences found nowhere else on Earth: the world's steepest incline to the Jamison Valley floor, the Scenic Cableway overlooking the rainforest canopy 200m below, and the Scenic Walkway through this unique ecosystem.

Scenic World Joint Managing Directors, Anthea and David Hammon, said more than 60,000 international and national visitors were expected to visit the iconic attraction for the event.

"Sculpture at Scenic World will be an annual exhibition and one of the most innovative events staged here since our family opened the doors three generations ago," Anthea said.

"This exhibition is part of our new direction of further connecting and educating our visitors to the World Heritage listed environment. Alongside our Advanced Ecotourism Certification, Sculpture at Scenic World will establish a solid reputation for its benchmark artistic and environmental standards."

Sculptures for display have been selected by prominent judges, Macquarie University Sculpture Park Curator, Leonard Janiszewski, and University of Western Sydney Collection Curator, Monica McMahon.

Further information visit http://www.scenicworld.com.au/sculpture

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Tourism hit hard by the Qantas grounding

The Qantas grounding that saw 98,000 passengers disrupted and 108 aircraft immobilised is having a negative impact on an already struggling Australian tourism industry, according to an expert from The University of Queensland.

Associate Professor
Brent Ritchie
The UQ School of Tourism's Associate Professor Brent Ritchie said the tourism industry was already in poor shape prior to the grounding.

“The industry is losing market share to more cost-effective international destinations,” Dr Ritchie said.

“Barriers of distance, a high Australian dollar and competition from other more cost-effective tourist destinations are already impacting our tourism industry, any industrial action which risks access to destinations will only cause more harm,” he said.

The Global Financial Crisis, January floods and the industrial action that occurred in the months prior to the Qantas grounding left their mark on Australia's regional tourist hot spots.

The Australian Tourism Export Council reported a loss of 16,000 full-time jobs in the regional tourism industry.

“The areas where travel is primarily recreational will be hit the hardest, while destinations with a high proportion of business travellers are less likely to be affected in the long term,” Dr Ritchie said.

The full extent of the damage to the industry will continue to unravel in the months ahead.

However, the impact is expected to be felt beyond the current customers whose travel plans were disrupted, to future travellers within Australia and international inbound tourism.

“If people perceive a risk to their ability to access destinations and have confidence in planning a trip they may look at other destinations,” Dr Ritchie said.

“As an international travel destination, Australia is already falling behind in market share with outbound tourism growth of 9 percent and inbound tourism growth of just 0.5 percent.”

The effects of the industrial action will be felt across the entire industry including accommodation providers, transport companies, tour operators, and businesses in regional communities.

According to Dr Ritchie, Australian event organisations in the professional conference market field were likely to take a “long time to recover” due to the large financial investment for conference events and the “difficulty of making alternate arrangements for delegates, speakers and locations” if industrial action occurred.

While not commenting on the reasons why Qantas made the decision to ground the fleet, Dr Ritchie believed the loss in customer loyalty would be most significant in their international bookings.

“Domestically there is a reliance on Qantas as one of the few major domestic carriers, and some people will go back to them based on necessity. Internationally, they will face more of a struggle to get customers back with many more competitors often with lower pricing and operating costs,” he said.

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