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Thursday, February 28, 2013

PARKROYAL Darling Harbour, Sydney relaunches following $20m refurbishment

     


The PARKROYAL Darling Harbour, Sydney, one of Australia's most respected hotel names, has relaunched following an almost $20million interior redesign. The hotel now boasts a fresh, contemporary interior that incorporates the latest in hotel technology, offering a world-class hotel experience in the heart of the CBD.

The hotel's rejuvenation was a collaboration between Pan Pacific Hotels Group, owners of the PARKROYAL brand, and internationally-acclaimed design firm HASSELL. The designers introduced a fresh, contemporary aesthetic that employs a bright palette of natural and earthy shades and textures, inspired by the Australian landscape from bush to beach.  

A vital component of the redesign was balancing the new aesthetic with functionality, the latest in hotel technology being introduced to enhance every aspect of the guest experience. The new systems allow the preferences of guests such as their ideal check-out time and added touches they enjoy in their room to be conveyed to relevant staff ahead of their arrival. Room keys can track guest movements so that staff can be alerted if a guest with messages or a package waiting has just returned or even if they are leaving the hotel and their room has been left ajar. The new technology will soon also allow smartphones to be encoded as room keys, streamlining the check-in process even further.

"The rejuvenation of this hotel heralds a new chapter for the PARKROYAL brand in Australia," says Craig Bond, General Manager – Oceania of Pan Pacific Hotels Group, owners of the PARKROYAL brand. "Although PARKROYAL hotels offer exemplary service in half a dozen countries, the birth of the brand was here in Australia and it has been synonymous with travel in this country for decades. The redesign of the Darling Harbour property demonstrates to travellers both domestically and internationally that we will continue to provide a cuttingedge hotel experience well into the future."

The hotel's 340 rooms and suites offer stunning views across the Sydney CBD and the Darling Harbour precinct. All rooms have been furnished to create a residential feel, making the guest feel instantly at home. With modern amenities including LCD televisions, iPod docks and high-speed Internet access, each room becomes a comfortable oasis in the busy city. Guests can choose from a range of room sizes from the Superior and Deluxe Darling Harbour View rooms through to the larger Club and Executive Suites.

The hotel's restaurant, Barkers, offers a mouth-watering menu of contemporary Australian favourites from breakfast through to dinner. Housed within the hotel, it provides stunning views across the city, making it a relaxingplace to begin or end the day over a meal. For those wanting something lighter, Connections Bar & Lounge on the ground floor offers an extensive cocktail list and a selection of fine wines, the perfect spot to begin an elegant evening out. 

For corporate travellers, the PARKROYAL Club Rooms offer a range of additional facilities and services to make their stay as uncomplicated as possible. Priority check-in, free Wi Fi and a complimentary laundry service are all provided while guests can also access the Club Lounge on the top floor of the hotel. Here they can take in the stunning views across Darling Harbour overbreakfast daily or enjoy twilight drinks and canapés in the evening, all complimentary. Club Guests can also use the Club Boardroom for meetings, making it that much easier to do business while travelling.

Offering a personal level of service, the ten-storey PARKROYAL Darling Harbour, Sydney is conveniently located on the eastern fringe of the CBD, placing it within walking distance of many of the city's finest dining and entertainment options. With most of Sydney's iconic tourist attractions nearby, it is perfectly situated for guests to explore the city at their leisure.

 

Cape Panwa Hotel: Absolute Luxury at The Absolute Suite

Cape Panwa Hotel

Cape Panwa Hotel launches new luxury penthouse suite

With a private spa room, an infinity pool and your own chef on-hand to whip up whatever you fancy, Cape Panwa Hotel's new Absolute Suite offers the ultimate in luxury.

Located on the quiet south-eastern point of Phuket in Thailand, Cape Panwa Hotel, part of the prestigious Cape Hotel Collection, offers guests both luxury and privacy with the launch of its new Absolute Suite. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom sprawling glass-encased penthouse offers awe-inspiring 360 degree views across the beautiful Andaman Sea, allowing guests to feel a world away from home.

Cape Panwa HotelCape Panwa Hotel, which has hosted celebrities and VIPs including Leonardo di Caprio, is attractive to both couples and families with a range of accommodation, including large suites and pool villas and the three-bedroom Panwa Lodge. The new Absolute Suite has its own private elevator and a separate spa giving guests complete privacy from the rest of the hotel, yet is still able to take advantage of the eleven restaurants and bars and the hotel's three hundred metre private beach. The Absolute Suite's other privileges include use of a Mercedes-Benz during the stay, personal butlers and access to the hotel's yacht, for that true VIP experience.

Founded in 1987, Cape Panwa Hotel recently completed a full renovation, reducing the number of hotel rooms by converting them into suites, including The Absolute Suite, bringing the hotel to a much higher standard.

Commenting on the hotel's addition of The Absolute Suite, Director of Kasemkij Hotels Group, Tirawan Pangsrivongse said: "Phuket has always been one of the world's most desirable places, many celebrities and VIPs have headed to the island over the years.

"Cape Panwa Hotel is tucked away on a hillside with an exclusive beach, so it already offers privacy to guests. But The Absolute Suite gives guests a new level of privacy. We've included an array of exclusive privileges for Absolute Suite guests, but we've still kept it at a reasonable rate so that you don't have to be a movie star to afford it. It is a world-class addition to the rest of the hotel accommodation."

Prices for The Absolute Suite start at THB 35,000 (approx AU$1,150*) a night, with complimentary sparkling wine, afternoon canapés and private in-suite breakfast by a personal chef. Other accommodation starts from THB 3,500 (approx AU$115*).

For more information on The Absolute Suite and Cape Panwa Hotel, Phuket visit: www.capepanwa.com

Cape Panwa Hotel, Phuket

The Absolute Suite specification and privileges:

- Two en-suite bedrooms
- Separate living and dining room, with kitchen
- Full-sized infinity edge pool with large outdoor daybeds
- Private elevator
- Outdoor rain shower
- Private spa suite with double treatment room and steam room. Operated by Cape Spas.
- Latest technology including widescreen TVs with cable, stereo, DVD player, iPod dock
- Mini bar
- Free wi-fi
- Complimentary sparkling wine on arrival
- Personal butler on 24-hour call
- Private in-suite breakfast with personal chef
- Mini bar, complimentary fresh fruits and afternoon canapés
- Complimentary laundry service
- Complimentary airport transfers and use of a Mercedes-Benz for trips around Phuket
- Complimentary Siamese Touch massage (minimum 3 nights stay)

*Current exchange rate at 1 AUD = 30.4 THB


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Emirates adds Second Daily A380 Service for Sydney

Emirates flagship A380 aircraft will soon be operating on the
early morning service from Sydney to Dubai from 2nd June
– the second daily A380 for Sydney passengers.
Early morning A380 service from 2nd June 2013

Emirates has announced its early morning service from Sydney to Dubai will be operated by an A380 from 2nd June – the second daily A380 for Sydney passengers – demonstrating the airline’s commitment to New South Wales and demand for the flagship aircraft.

Currently serviced by the Boeing 777-300ER, upgrading Emirates’ flights EK 414 and 415 to the Airbus A380-800 will see an increase in capacity of 1890 seats per week.

“Emirates’ decision to commit a second A380 to Sydney is a clear indication of customer demand for the state-of-the-art aircraft and the growing travel between Dubai and Sydney on the early morning service,” said Barry Brown, Emirates’ Vice President Australasia.

“Australia represents an important market for Emirates and ranks in the top three countries on Emirates’ global network. The A380 is a core element of Australian activity, delivering considerable economic benefits through inbound seats and travel connections,” said Mr Brown.

“Adding larger capacity aircraft is central to our strategy of meeting growing passenger demand, while supporting trade between our two countries. A second A380 for Sydney also compliments our proposed plans for the partnership with Qantas,” he added.

According to a recent Deloitte report, titled ‘The Economic Value of Sydney Airport,’ the benefits of an additional Airbus A380 between Dubai and Sydney would contribute an estimated AUD$342 million to Australia’s GDP; AUD$206 million to Australia’s household income and AUD$213 million to New South Wales’ GDP.

The report also notes that 4,400 jobs would be created as a result of the additional A380 service, including 2,800 in NSW, where currently as a group Emirates directly employs 1,420 people.

Pending regulatory approval, the Qantas and Emirates global aviation partnership will commence 31st March, and will see Qantas and Emirates as the only airlines operating at Dubai International’s Concourse A, built exclusively for the A380. The two airlines will jointly offer 98 weekly services between Australia and the global gateway city of Dubai, including five daily A380 flights from 2nd June.

Concourse A has the capacity to handle 15 million passengers a year, offering customers a seamless and unrivalled experience in terms of comfort and convenience, as well the ability to connect to 20 Emirates A380 destinations around the world.

Emirates sets the pace for A380 deployment, with the aircraft having carried 14 million passengers on 35,000 trips spanning 200 million kilometres since A380 operations commenced five years ago. In 2012 alone, Emirates added 11 A380s to its fleet and remains the largest operator of the aircraft, with 31 in the fleet and 59 on order.

The Emirates A380 is set in a three-class configuration, with 399 seats in Economy Class on the lower level and 76 fully flat-bed, mini-pods in Business Class and 14 First Class Private Suites on the upper level. Passengers in the First Class cabin can freshen up in one of two on-board Shower Spas before joining fellow premium class travellers in the On-Board Lounge where they can enjoy complimentary beverages and canapés.

The second daily Dubai-Sydney A380 announcement compliments a flurry of recent upgrades of Australian services, including the introduction of a daily Melbourne A380, a daily Adelaide service and a three times daily Perth service to commence from 1st March.

For flight information and bookings for Emirates’ new twice-daily A380 service, contact Emirates on 1300 303 777, visit your local travel agent or www.emirates.com/au.



Monday, February 18, 2013

Anantara Opens the Xishuangbanna Resort & Spa



Anantara has opened the first five star hotel in China’s Yunnan province, making it one of the resort group’s biggest openings in 2013.

Anantara Xishuangbanna Resort & Spa is set within lush tropical gardens, flanked by the serene Luoso River and exotic unspoiled countryside, but only an hour’s drive from Jinghong International Airport.

Its stunning interior reveals Chinese accents blended with regional touches from Thailand, Burma and Cambodia, reflecting Anantara’s signature brand of luxury accommodation. The resort comprises 80 Deluxe guest rooms, as well as 23 one, two and three bedroom Pool Villas.

The influence of local tribes including the Dai, Jinuo and Hani people is evident not only in the architecture, but also in the resort’s culinary and leisure offerings.

Xishuangbanna’s guest experiences are enhanced with visits to the many ethnic tribes in the area such as a tea picking journey with China’s last minority group to be recognized - the Jinuo tribe. They provide tours through 1800-year-old tea plantations high in the misty mountains where guests will pick tea the traditional way before heading back to roast the leaves as they have done for centuries.

The Hani tribe will welcome guests into their home and sing traditional songs before sitting down to a home cooked meal.

Xishuangbanna has over ninety-five percent of its territory occupied by mountainous and hilly areas, creating ample opportunities for leisure activities including mountain hiking, bird and wildlife spotting, and boat trips along the Luosuo River. Nature pursuits include visiting a 900-year-old banyan tree, as well as spotting China’s last few Asian elephants in Wild Elephant Valley.

The destination is also home to one of the largest tropical gardens in the world. Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden is spread over an impressive 900 hectares, with 35 different garden habitats featuring a total of over 10,000 species of tropical plants.

Guests will be able to plunge into an expansive outdoor swimming pool set amidst extensive landscaping, or energise in the fitness centre 24 hours a day. From one of eight treatment suites at Anantara Spa, treatments sourced from Asia’s ancient wellness traditions and beyond will be tailored precisely according to each individual’s needs. Guests can stay in touch with WiFi in the guest library and a neat business centre kitted out with iPads.

Younger guests can be kept safely entertained at the kids’ club where a sizeable activity room of quiet and active areas will feature alongside a dedicated young children’s zone. Moving up the entertainment programme, a teen’s centre will offer a chill out zone and high tech entertainment such as Sony Play Stations, TV and DVD viewing, computers and WiFi.

Gastronomic journeys will capture diverse international cuisine at the all-day dining restaurant, accompanied by a lobby lounge bar and the poolside bar and snack zone, balanced by the rich flavours of local culture fused within an Indo Chine specialty restaurant.

The resort also offers Dining by Design, where guests to create their perfect menu in collaboration with a personal chef and to choose a dream location for a private table to be set up, whilst enjoying personal butler service.

By comparison in-villa dining options will include barbeques and specialist hotpot dinners, to be prepared by a master chef and served in the comfort and absolute privacy of the guest’s own villa.

Business and events become more pleasurable with a range of fully equipped venues, in the form of a large function room for up to 100 people, an additional two meeting rooms and a boardroom.

For more information on Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, please visit www.anantara.com


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ultra-Luxury Arrives in Brisbane as Seabourn Quest Makes Maiden Call

Seabourn Quest
Seabourn Quest in Elba - Italy

One of the world’s newest and most luxurious ships Seabourn Quest has made a romantic maiden visit to Brisbane today with passengers spending Valentine’s Day exploring south-east Queensland.

The US$300 million Seabourn Quest features the most exclusive all-suite accommodation available at sea, with top-of-the-range suites including a private solarium. The ship also offers the largest spa at sea on any luxury vessel, a 1060-square metre indoor/outdoor facility over two decks, providing the ultimate pampering experience with stunning ocean views.

Famous for its highly personalised service, Seabourn is known as the “caviar of cruising”. Carrying only 450 guests, the 32,000-tonne Seabourn Quest provides nearly one crew member for every guest, including concierges eager to respond to any request, from in-port shopping tips to creating the ultimate shore excursion and masseurs who offer complimentary poolside massages.

To mark the romantic visit, an array of floral arrangements plus more than 500 roses, including 350 red roses, were delivered to the ship by a Brisbane wholesaler this morning. Each female guest will receive a Valentine’s Day rose at dinner.

Seabourn Director of Sales Australia Tony Archbold said the cruise line sent two of its newest ships down under this season to cater for the growing interest in luxury cruising.

Arriving at the Brisbane Cruise Terminal from Noumea, Seabourn Quest is in the middle of a 116-day world voyage from Fort Lauderdale to Venice. The ship will sail this afternoon for Sydney before cruising back into Queensland waters and calling at Hamilton Island, Townsville, Cairns and Thursday Island on its way to Asia.

In addition to Seabourn Quest’s call today, sister ship Seabourn Odyssey will make her second visit to Brisbane on March 1, 2013, before heading north to Asia following a summer season in Pacific waters.

“With its beautiful coastline and great activities, Queensland is a very popular destination amongst our passengers so we’re thrilled to be making so many calls to Queensland ports this summer,” Mr Archbold said.

Seabourn Quest passengers were offered a range of shore excursions in Brisbane including:
  • A 4x4 adventure through Gold Coast hinterland and Tamborine Mountain including lunch on a private property, a visit to a local winery to taste fine Australian wines and a sightseeing drive through the city
  • A visit to Australia Zoo and the charming village of Montville
  • A panoramic drive through historic Brisbane, to Mt Cootha lookout and a visit to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary
  • An insight into Brisbane’s Aboriginal heritage with a visit to a local Aboriginal tribe to learn about traditional song and dance and tribal fire-starting.
Launched in June 2011, Seabourn Quest boasts 225 luxurious and spacious suites, 90 per cent with private verandas, and features four dining venues, six bars and lounges and a host of other amenities including two swimming pools, six whirlpools, boutiques and a unique marina with an array of watersports.

For more information contact a travel agent, call 1300 987 323 or visit www.seabourn.com

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New Seoul Subway Guide & Pavement QR Codes Assist visitors to Korea


Seoul city is becoming a more tourist friendly city with the latest Subway Guide for Visitors and pedestrian QR Codes on the street in Korean singing sensation PSY's neighborhood of Gangnam.

QR Codes have been around for a number of years in Korea on bus shelters and elsewhere, but it is the first time that the QR codes have appeared on the pavement right in the eye of pedestrians.

The QR Codes can be accessed with a smartphone and provide tourist information about major attractions in the Gangnam area.  By simply scanning the QR Code visitors can read numerous information and materials taken from printed brochures about the Gangnam, Garosu-gil, and area surrounding COEX.

Using the QR Codes is quick and easy.  You simply scan with the code-scanning app on your phone and the information will automatically pop up about the area you are visiting with information regarding shopping areas, restaurant locations and directions in English, Chinese or Japanese.

The new Seoul Subway Travel Guide (Lines 1-8) has been published in four languages including English to make it easier for visitors to the city to get around the Seoul CBD to go sightseeing, shopping and more.  The Travel Guide has a lot of  useful information for visitors such as how to buy a single journey ticket, how to use the transportation card recharging machine, tour courses available by subway and other essential information for getting around the city.  Seoul city's subway is super efficient and very safe and clean and incredibly cheap to get around with a ride costing less than a dollar.

The Seoul Subway Travel Guide is available in (44) Seoul subway stations frequented by foreign visitors and Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) plan to have the guides on their official travel website (www.visitkorea.or.kr) in the near future.

For more information on QR Travel Codes and the Seoul Subway Travel Guide visit the official travel website for Korea www.visitkorea.or.kr or pick up the guide at the nearest subway station on arrival in Seoul.

 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Best Western launches luxury beach resort in Khao Lak, Thailand


Best Western International – the World's Largest Hotel Chain® – has announced the launch of a new luxury resort on the golden beaches of Khao Lak in southern Thailand; the BEST WESTERN PREMIER Khaolak Southsea.

Located on Thailand's glittering Andaman Coast, just an hour's drive north of Phuket, BEST WESTERN PREMIER Khaolak Southsea represents the very best of southern Thai hospitality. The 125 guest rooms are all perfectly appointed to offer incredible views of Andaman's azure waters and breathtaking sunsets.

As a BEST WESTERN PREMIER hotel - the highest of the company's three brand tiers - rooms come equipped with all the luxury trimmings one would expect from a five-star hotel, including flat-screen LCD televisions with USB ports, spacious bathrooms, minibars, and private balconies or terraces.

The modern classic design of the hotel makes the most of its tropical surroundings, with light-filled public areas and a sun-drenched outdoor swimming pool. There are also two restaurants: Anda, which offers all-day international dishes, and Chai Lay, a specialty restaurant serving the freshest local seafood and a selection of exquisite southern Thai delicacies.

"We are delighted to expand our footprint to yet another fantastic Thai tourism destination – the stunning beach resort of Khao Lak," said Glenn de Souza, Best Western International's Vice President International Operations – Asia & the Middle East.

"The stunning shores of Khao Lak's Andaman Coast offer some of Asia's most beautiful beaches, and with a vast array of leisure facilities close-by, including world-class diving sites in the Similan and Surin Islands, this exciting destination has something to offer everyone. I am sure that luxurious BEST WESTERN PREMIER brand will be the perfect fit for these stunning surroundings," Mr. de Souza added.

The BEST WESTERN PREMIER Khaolak Southsea becomes the 16th Best Western hotel in Thailand, and with the addition of Khao Lak, Best Western is now present in no fewer than eight unique Thai destinations. It also boosts Thailand's BEST WESTERN PREMIER collection to four hotels – the most of any country in Southeast Asia.

Bali Update Edition 858

This week’s lead stories: An Australian tourist has been found dead in a Sanur hotel room; Bali police are increasing surveillance of small informal sea ports in the period leading up to the 2013 APEC Summit; Judges have begun hearing a legal suit challenging the lease of the publicly-owned mangrove forest by the Governor to a private company; and 9,000 police will be deployed to ensure a smooth election process when the people of Bali vote for the man to be their next governor on May 15.

There’s also an article on why Bali’s governor thinks the Island would be better governed if granted “special province” status.

Thank you for your patience as we finally present the latest installment of “Bali by the Numbers” with the total foreign tourist arrivals for 2013 and how they stack up with results over the past 5 years.

We also look at the impact of Chinese New Year on Bali tourism and share information on the nation's tallest Buddha statue now being erected in West Bali.

Be sure to see our snapshots from a delightful morning spent with AC Milan last week at The Westin Resort in Nusa Dua.

In other hotel news, we share more details on the new Sofitel property currently being built at Nusa Dua and luxuriate at the utterly amazing Sundara Restaurant now open at the Four Seasons Resort at Jimbaran Bay.

Aviation news looks at Garuda Indonesia’s plans to recommence flights to London and the signing of an air services agreement between Indonesia and Australia that will provide 10% more passenger seats between those two countries.

Looking Ahead:
  • Soori “Artist in Residence” Program Hosts Bori Benko February 15-28, 2013.
  • Enjoy Valentines at the Ayung Resort Ubud on Thursday, February 14 with a special “aphrodisiacal menu.”
  • A Kitchen Troika of talented chefs convenes for one night at Mozaic Restaurant Gastronomique on Saturday, February 23, 2013.
  • Oakley Pro Surfing Event in Bali – Part of the ASP World Championship Tour June 18-29, 2013.
  • Fremantle to Bali Yacht Race May 4, 2013.
  • Early Bird Discounts now available for 7th BIZNET Bali International Triathlon on Sunday, June 23, 2013
Follow on Twitter http://twitter.com/BaliUpdateEd

J.M. Daniels, Editor
Bali Update

Monday, February 11, 2013

Thailand wins for the third consecutive year the International Snow Sculpture Contest at the Sapporo Snow Festival, Japan



The title of Grand Champion has again been bestowed on Thailand's master ice craftsmen as they produced the winning entry in the 40th International Snow Sculptureat the 64th Sapporo Snow Festival, Japan, held during February 5-11, 2013.

For this year, there were 11 international teams participating in the completion. The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) sponsored an ice sculpting teamand entered the snow statue The Artist from the Wild which represented the figures of 4 elephants, the national animal of Thailand. The statue depicted the elephants holding a paintbrush in their trunk and doing a delicate painting. The act symbolized the amazing artistic skills of Thai elephants that are in contrast to their size and strength. Such unique displays can only be found in Thailand. Elephants in Thailand are also very close to people as they are treated as members of mahouts' family. The sculptor team included Mr. Kusol Bunkobsongserm, Mr. Kritsana Wongtes and Mr. Amnoaysak Srisuk.

On this occasion, Thailand also received the honor by the festival organiser HBC to showcase Thainess at the Odori Site, HBC Thailand Square. The snow statue of 28x15x21 meter Wat Benchamabophit or The Marble Temple, sculpted by Japan's Ground Self Defense Force, the Northern Army Signal Group and the Northern Army Logistics Support Unit has been a hit with people attending the fair.

In the past competition, Thailand has won the Grand Champion title 4 times in 2000, and 2008-2010. This is the first time of its history that the champion won for the third consecutive year. The award ranking is as follows:
  1. Thailand
  2. Finland
  3. Indonesia
  4. Sweden
  5. Singapore


In Photo: (From Left to Rright) Mr. Sugree Sithivanich , Executive Director, Advertising and Public Relations Department, the sculptor team from Thailand, and Mr. Kitsana Kaewtumrong, Director, International Advertising Publicity Division.

 
    

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney Launches New Residential Meeting Suites


– The New Way to Meet

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney is redefining the way guests meet, offering a bespoke home-style approach with the launch of four stunning new residential meeting suites.

Created by award-winning designer Michael McCann, the Hotel has transformed the entire level two space overlooking the atrium lobby from the hotel's former Kable's restaurant and two Private Dining Room to four creative and flexible meeting suites – Studio One, Studio Two, Studio Three and The Residential Suite.

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney has set itself apart from traditional hotel meeting rooms with a focus on creating a stylish yet relaxed and homely environment, offering ample lounge space to ensure clients meet in comfort.  Menus have been redesigned to offer bespoke home-style cuisine each day of the week, ensuring a variety of options across multi-day events.

With a capacity of up to 120 guests, The Residential Suite – resembling a designer lounge-cum-boardroom – offers state of the art technology with projector screen and a LED 60 inch television stored inside a stunning hand-crafted timber side-board. Adding to the room's namesake is an adjoining lounge area featuring Italian fabric, custom-made lounges and armchairs, a central hand-made timber coffee table, brass trunks. Warm timber shelving houses a range of quirky home wares including a woven rubber bowl with white marble eggs, copper shoe and plaster roller-skate.

The Studios offer our guests flexible space, catering from 18 to 180 guests in a range of configurations. These suites offer all the latest state-of-the art audio visual technology. Sound proof and visual room dividers provide separation from one large space to three more intimate rooms.

In keeping with the residential ambiance, the Studios feature a stunning collection of original ceramic, stone and porcelain artworks designed by top artists from the UK including Richard Godfrey, Craig Underhill and Peter Beard – representing one of the largest collections of its kind in the world.  These pieces create a gallery-like appearance, individually showcased on floating glass shelving around the perimeter of the space.

In addition, the Hotel has transformed the former Café into a relaxing lounge area available exclusively for guests using the Studios and Residential Suite.  Two breakout areas featuring hand-crafted tortoise-shell inspired wooden and leather veneer armoires are located at either end of the Studios allowing guests to enjoy all day self-serve beverages and snacks.

Four Seasons Hotel Sydney General Manager, Vincent Hoogewijs, said the meeting suites are a welcome addition to the Hotel, "this is the final phase of a large scale three-stage refurbishment and one we are extremely proud to share with our guests.

The suites are not only an ideal place for large-scale meetings and conferences, but the residential feel we've chosen creates an ideal venue for weddings, while the Residential Suite transforms from meeting by day to private dinner by night, anything is possible!" Mr Hoogewijs affirmed.

For information, bookings visit www.fourseasons.com/sydney or contact our Catering Sales department on (61 2) 9250 3100.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Australasian cruise industry celebrates excellence with ICCA awards

image via www.eglobaltravelmedia.com.au

Cruise lines and travel agent partners from across Australia and New Zealand gathered tonight in Sydney for the International Cruise Council Australasia's annual awards night.

Guests dressed to the nines for the event, which was hosted by Deborah Hutton and included a presentation from Cruise Lines International Association president and ceo, Christine Duffy.

The coveted Neil Frazer Award for contribution to the cruise industry went to APT founder Geoff McGeary.

The full list of award winners is:
  • Agency promotion of the Year - Australia - Travelrite International, Balwyn VIC - "Film Festival at Sea"
  • Agency promotion of the Year - NZ - iCruise - "September iCruise Month"
  • Network Promotion of the Year - Australasia - Mondo Travel (NZ) - "Let's talk cruising with Jackie"
  • Media Award - Brian Crisp "Simple changes lift Aussie Spirit" - CarnivalCruise Lines, News Limited Escape section
  • Rising Star Award NZ - Andrew Lennox: Cruiseabout, Wellington
  • Rising Star Award Australia - Emma Blacklow: RACT Travelworld Collins St, Hobart Tasmania
  • Consultant of the Year Australia - Robert Watson, Cruiseabout, Turramurra
  • Consultant of the Year NZ - Sarah Goldfinch: Cruise Republic Auckland
  • Bronze Agency of the Year NZ - Let's Cruise: Auckland
  • Silver Agency of the Year NZ - Cruise Republic: Auckland
  • Gold Agency of the Year NZ - Cruiseabout: Parnell
  • Bronze Agency of the Year Australia - Cruiseabout Turramurra
  • Silver Agency of the Year Australia - Our Vacation Centre: Gaven Qld
  • Gold Agency of the Year Australia - Phil Hoffmann Travel : Glenelg SA
  • Neil Frazer Award - Geoff McGeary

Congratulations to all the winners from Cruise Weekly and Travel Daily.

More in next week's issues of both publications.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Delta Air Lines and Starwood Introduce Industry-Leading Joint Loyalty Partnership

Delta Airlines and Starwood merge on loyalty scheme
Crossover Rewards™ allows Delta SkyMiles Medallion members and SPG elite members to share program benefits and earn more miles and Starpoints when traveling with either brand

Today, Delta Air Lines, Inc. (NYSE: DAL) and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT) announced a comprehensive new partnership that offers exclusive new benefits to Delta SkyMiles Medallion members and Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG®) elite members. The program, called Crossover Rewards, begins March 1 and provides elite members of both loyalty programs reciprocal benefits.

Crossover Rewards allows Delta and Starwood elites to share program benefits and earn more miles and Starpoints. SkyMiles Diamond and Platinum Medallion members will have access to added benefits including priority check-in, 4pm late checkout and free in-room internet access when staying at Starwood Hotels and Resorts. All Delta Medallion members also will earn one mile per dollar spent on eligible room rates when staying with Starwood in addition to the Starpoints usually earned for their stay. In turn, SPG Platinum members will receive one free checked bag, priority check-in and priority boarding when flying Delta. SPG elite members will earn one Starpoint per dollar spent on eligible flights in addition to the miles usually earned for their flight.

"Crossover Rewards allows Starwood and Delta to extend loyalty outside of our hotels and beyond the window seat by giving our respective elite members reciprocal benefits and earning power," said Frits van Paasschen, president and CEO of Starwood. "This enriches the experience for our most valuable travelers, and gives both Delta and Starwood an opportunity to target frequent travelers who aren't already part of our programs, enabling us to capture greater share of the global, high-end traveler."

"Crossover Rewards is another example of Delta's commitment to making the travel experience more beneficial and enjoyable for our customers," said Tim Mapes, Delta's senior vice president - Marketing. "For our loyal customers, hotel accommodations are a vital component of the travel experience, which makes this new alliance with an innovative brand like Starwood a strategic addition to the SkyMiles program."

The companies' global alignment was key to uniting the two organizations for the creation of Crossover Rewards. With flights to more than 300 destinations and hubs in markets like Tokyo, Paris, New York City and Atlanta, Delta's global reach complements Starwood's worldwide hotel footprint including nine hotel brands in 100 countries around the world.

"SPG continues to invest in one-of-a-kind benefits to truly reward those who reward us with their unwavering loyalty and business," said Mark Vondrasek, senior vice president - Distribution, Loyalty and Partnership for Starwood. "More and more we look to extend our relationship with our guests beyond the four walls of our hotels, which we believe is a way to cultivate 'loyalty beyond reason.' Delta shares with Starwood a spirit of innovation and a truly global reach that aligns with our global footprint, and we are thrilled to welcome their most loyal Medallion members as our own."

Beginning March 1, customers can register for Crossover Rewards by linking their Delta SkyMiles and SPG accounts at delta.com/crossoverrewards or spg.com/crossoverrewards. Benefits will begin once Delta Medallion or SPG elite status is reached. For additional information on Crossover Rewards and to view a complete list of benefits, please visit delta.com/crossoverrewards or spg.com/crossoverrewards.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Thailand Ranked Second Best Long-Haul Destination in Kuoni Travel Trends Report 2013




Thailand has been rated the second best long-haul destination in the 2013 Travel Trends Report issued by the UK tour operator Kuoni. It has also been rated amongst the Top Ten in other categories such as for Weddings, Honeymoons and for Singles.

Listing the top three selling destinations for 2013 as the Maldives, Thailand, Sri Lanka, the report says, "The fact that Thailand occupies the No 2 slot in our Top 10 Destinations is no surprise. The country offers holidays for everyone from captivating cities such as Bangkok with its floating markets to small island hideaways to languish in, overlaid with a friendly, open culture."

It adds, “The world's austere economic outlook will drive a greater need for opportunities to escape the doom and gloom. The power of a holiday will not diminish and the allure of the Maldives, Thailand and Sri Lanka will continue."

Kuoni has been undertaking the annual Travel Trends Report since 1980. Figures in the 2013 Report are based on statistics from booking patterns made between January to December 2012 for holidays during 2012 and 2013, actual passenger numbers, customer behaviour and feedback. The figures are based on holiday bookings made up until December 2012.

Said TAT Governor Suraphon Svetasreni, “The trends indicated in the Kuoni report are proof that the entire Thai tourism industry has got its marketing and product-development strategies right. Keeping a watch on lifestyle trends and demographic changes has helped us to ensure that we target our customers correctly. We are very happy to see the results.”

The following is a compilation of the mentions of Thailand and its various tourism products in the report:

Top 10 Destinations: The fact that Thailand occupies the No 2 slot in Kuoni Top 10 Destinations is no surprise. The country offers holidays for everyone from captivating cities such as Bangkok with its floating markets to small island hideaways to languish in, overlaid with a friendly, open culture. Thailand also retains it second spot. Synonymous with excellent value and outstanding service, in 2013 Kuoni is offering ten exclusive properties, from Trip Advisor’s top choice – Rocky’s in a private location on the lush island of Ko Samui – to the new, laid back charm of Let’s Sea in Hua Hin and the family friendly Holiday Inn Mai Khao in Phuket, which offers Kids Suits including play corner, games console, iPod docking station and so on.

Top 10 Wedding Destinations: Thailand in sixth place, up from seven last year, is another great value destination. Hotels such as the secluded Centara Villas on a private beach offers a “Just the two of us” packages for approximately £450 that takes some beating.

Top 10 Honeymoon Destinations: Thailand in third place, up from fourth last year, excels in smaller hideaway resorts perfect for honeymoons. Places such as Six Senses Yao Noi, Ko Lanta, and Khao Lak are making their mark alongside Thailand's excellent beach and city-based resorts. At Yao Noi, Mountain View villas are elevated above lush, tropical forest while at Ko Lanta each of the 55 hideaway villas have private pools and are set into the hillside that is part of a mature rubber tree plantation.

Top 5 Holidays for Singles: Thailand stays firm in the Number 1 slot, with a host of tours to choose from, renowned personal service, iconic sites and fabulous food. Single travellers can choose between a volunteering holiday in Chiang Mai, unspoilt beach resorts to languish in, rich cultural traditions to dip in and out of and unparalleled landscapes to marvel at.

Kuoni was established in 1906 in Switzerland. Today the tour operator has branch operations in over 40 countries. Further info: www.kuoni.co.uk

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Anantara Announces Dates of Thailand's Largest Charity Event - The 2013 King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament


Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas has announced the dates of the highly popular King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament for 2013. The charitable event, now in its twelfth year, has to date raised over US$600,000 to help Thailand's elephants. This year's event will be held in the Thai royal seaside town of Hua Hin from August 28th – 1st September and promises to have more nail-biting action both on and off the field.

The event has gone from a small two-day event in 2001 to one of Thailand's major and internationally best loved events. Last year's tournament featured 12 teams encompassing over 40 players, including German royals, Prince Carl-Eugen Oettingen-Wallerstein, his wife Princess Anna, the New Zealand All-Blacks rugby team and Thailand's famous transgender cabaret team Miss Tiffany's.  

Fundraising from last year's event has, to date, been donated to a number of projects in Thailand. The first is to continue to support research and clinics using elephants in therapy sessions for children in Thailand living with autism. Last year saw the research to date published and a continuation of the free clinics for Thai children is planned.  In February the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation (GTAEF), based at Anantara Golden Triangle Resort and Spa, will host a landmark 'positive reinforcement training' workshop with traditional elephant trainers from throughout South East Asia, guided by world renowned trainer Dr Gerardo Martinez and featuring guest speakers from Thai Universities. This will be the first time positive reinforcement training for elephants will be introduced and discussed on a large scale in the range states.  GTAEF's work with Thailand's wild herd has continued with Human Elephant Conflict mitigation and partial sponsorship of the Wild Elephant Counting Week in Kui Buri Royal Project area.

"One of the main aims of this event is to take as many elephants off the streets of Thailand as possible during the event. Last year we were able to take over forty street elephants and make sure they were properly fed, and received vitamins and veterinary care while at the event," said Mr. Bill Heinecke, CEO Minor International and owner of Anantara. "We must never forget the true meaning of holding this event and that is to raise awareness and as much money as possible towards the conservation and welfare of Thailand's elephant population."

For more information on King's Cup Elephant Polo, please visit www.anantaraelephantpolo.com

New cruise ship for Perth home port

MS Astor will be based in Perth from summer 2013
620-passenger Astor to be based in Western Australia

CMV expands into Australian market in 2013

Established UK-based cruise company Cruise & Maritime Voyages (CMV) announced in Europe last night its scheduled expansion into the Australasian market.

From December 2013, the 620 passenger, premium cruise ship the ASTOR will operate itineraries throughout the Australian summer, from the Port of Fremantle, in Western Australia. CMV also announced its plans to open a dedicated sales office in Sydney.

The ASTOR has seven passenger decks and four restaurants, the highlights being the Waldorf Restaurant and the Ubersee Club Bistro. It also boasts five lounges, an extensive Sports Deck, including a golf driving range, two swimming pools and other modern facilities that the growing numbers of cruise passengers around the world have become accustomed to. She underwent an AUD$18.6 million refurbishment in 2010.

She is no stranger to Australia having visited the east coast during a Round the World voyage in 20II.

In announcing the move into the Australian market and the basing of the ASTOR in Fremantle, Mr. Christian Verhounig, Chairman and CEO of CMV UK said, ``We are extremely pleased to be entering the Australian cruise market and to introduce a new era of luxury ocean cruises on a premium ship from Fremantle Port to the loyal WA Cruising market.

``We are shortly to release our summer 2013/14 itineraries and will be offering a total of 15 cruises during the Australian 2013/2014 summer. The vessel will depart Rome on November 5, 2013 on its Southbound Voyage and will end its Australian season with a northbound around-Africa cruise departing Fremantle on April 1, 2014, arriving in to London on May 11, 2014.''

``The success of the mid size traditional ship business model, since it was launched in 2004, demonstrates that this niche sector has a significant place in the Australian cruise industry; a market and philosophy that is a perfect match to our UK operation. Our combined worldwide teams are thrilled to be part of the exciting WA Cruise industry. Travel agents and locals will be enthralled with the product offering that the ASTOR, and the support that our teams, will provide.''

The ASTOR is scheduled to arrive in to Fremantle from Rome on Wednesday, December 11, 2013. She has been confirmed for an initial schedule of three Australian summer itineraries.

For a limited introductory period, CMV Australia is offering generous early booking deals for the inaugural 2013/14 summer cruising season. Saver Fares offer discounts of up to 25% on full published fares, applicable to a limited number of twin and single cabin bookings made prior to May 15, 2013. This discount is not applicable to the New Year's Eve celebration cruise.

``Our popular Voyager Fares offer further savings on selected cruises. With these limited availability 'cabin guarantees', passengers can choose either an inner or ocean view cabin type and their category of accommodation and cabin number are confirmed at the ticketing stage. Also look for our Combination Cruise offers including an additional saving, or book two consecutive cruises at the same time and save up to an extra 5%,'' Mr Verhounig said.

Passengers will be able to book with their travel agent or direct via www.cmvaustralia.com.au from next week.


About ASTOR

Length - 176.5m / Width - 22.61m / Draught - 6.1m
Gross tonnage - 20,606 tonne
Cabins / suites / premium suites - 247 / 39 / 3
278 international officers and crew

- The ASTOR was built in Germany in 1987 and underwent an AUD$18.6 million refurbishment in 2010 to the cabins and public areas. She has cruised in Europe for the demanding German market for the past 10 years.

- The ASTOR has seven passenger decks and is a premium, fully stabilised and air-conditioned cruise liner with a maximum capacity of 620 guests.

- The ASTOR boasts the impressive Waldorf Restaurant, which offers traditional cruise two sitting, fixed-time dining options. Alternatively, passengers can opt for the more informal experience of the sun-drenched Übersee Club Bistro.

- The ASTOR has five lounge areas - the theatre style ASTOR Lounge, for some truly sparkling entertainment from the highly acclaimed show-team; the elegant Captain's Club, a perfect venue for pre-dinner cocktails with the resident pianist; the intimate Hanse Bar which leads onto the stylish Sonnen (Sun) Terrace Bar, with wonderful panoramic ocean views; and the Poolside Bar.

- A popular feature of the ASTOR is the Sports Deck, with a volleyball court, half court tennis, jogging track, golf practice facility, big board chess and space for yoga.

- Other facilities include the ship's Library, the Card Room, an internet café, a shopping arcade featuring a boutique, jeweller, perfumery and the Wellness Centre, which offers hairdressing and beauty treatments, an indoor swimming pool, ocean view fitness and exercise equipment, and sauna and massage facilities.

- There is an outdoor, plus an indoor swimming pool, two whirlpools and, in keeping with her heritage, a traditional walk around promenade deck. There is a very good selection of comfortable modern cabin accommodation from Standard to De Luxe with 70% of cabins having an ocean view and with individually controlled air-conditioning.

ASTOR 2014 Australia highlights

35 nights Grand Round Australian Circumnavigation

Sails from Fremantle on Tuesday, January 28, 2014. Routing - Kangaroo Island, Adelaide, Hobart and Port Arthur, Melbourne, Eden for Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Darwin, Lombok, Komodo Island, Broome, Fremantle.

24 nights Far East Delights

Sails from Fremantle on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. Routing - Singapore, Port Klang for Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, Straights of Malacca, Phuket, Phi Phi Island, Penang, Bali, Fremantle.

About CMV

CMV is Britain's premier privately-owned cruise line and 2013 is its fourth year of operating cruises from a variety of UK ports. Since its launch in 2009, over 120,000 mainly British guests have happily cruised with CMV with 95% of its guest's having rated the enjoyment of their cruise experience as either excellent or good. CMV is an established United Kingdom-based independent cruise line and part of CMV Holdings London Ltd with an associate North American sales office in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

CMV operates the 800 passenger MARCO POLO and the 700 passenger DISCOVERY and in 2013 AND AGAIN IN 20I4 will offer 129 cruises from a variety of UK ports. CMV Australia will be structured as a sales office to support the new Australian cruise operation in conjunction with the Global Maritime Group, CMV's majority shareholders.



For more information, visit Cruise & Maritime Voyages at www.cmvaustralia.com

New Toga Hotel: Travelodge Hotel Hobart



Toga Hotels takes its first bite into the Apple Isle & extends its portfolio Australia-wide with the 17th Travelodge Hotel

Toga Hotels is proud to announce the arrival of the Travelodge Hotels brand in Hobart. As of late March 2013, the Leisure Inn Hobart Macquarie will be known as Travelodge Hotel Hobart.

The 131 room hotel is newly refurbished and undoubtedly offers the best value hotel option for guests in Tasmania's dynamic and exciting capital city. Its features include: 24 hour Reception, a breakfast lounge, room service and complimentary parking. The guest rooms are complete with: LCD televisions, ensuite bathrooms, kitchenettes, heating and views overlooking the beautiful Mount Wellington or Hobart city.*

Travelodge Hotel Hobart is centrally located – the charming dining and shopping spots of Battery Point, Salamanca Place, Constitution Dock and the waterfront are just a relaxed stroll away. The hotel is also a great base from which to explore attractions such as: the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and the ever intriguing Museum of Old and New Art. For corporate travellers, key businesses are located close by to the hotel as is the Royal Hobart Hospital.

Allan Vidor, Managing Director of Toga Group, said, "We are delighted to announce the acquisition of a new hotel in Hobart – to be known as Travelodge Hotel Hobart. The Tasmanian location of the 17th Travelodge Hotel marks an important milestone for Toga Hotels, now proudly operating hotels and apartment hotels in each state and territory of Australia. Toga Hotels is thrilled to be working in partnership with the Zonie Group on this new hotel acquisition."

Mr Nick Tizzone, Director of Zonie, said, "Zonie Group is excited to have acquired the Leisure Inn Hobart Macquarie which is a significant hotel in a tightly held market. We are also pleased to have expanded our relationship with Toga Hotels which has operated our Adina Apartment Hotel Coogee (formerly Medina) property for the last [15] years with great success."

The acquisition of Travelodge Hotel Hobart is in line with Toga Hotels' ongoing ambitious growth strategy. Other upcoming new hotels include: Adina Apartment Hotel Bondi Beach (2013), Adina Apartment Hotel Mascot (2014), Adina Apartment Hotel Royal Randwick Racecourse (2014), Travelodge Hotel Mariners Tuggerah (2014) and Vibe Hotel and Conference Centre Marysville (2014).



For more information about Toga Hotels, visit: www.togahotels.com.au

*Facilities dependant on room type.

Cathay Pacific unveils new look flagship The Wing First Class Lounge


 



Cathay Pacific Airways has reopened the First Class Lounge in The Wing, the airline's flagship lounge at Hong Kong International Airport, following an extensive renovation. The newly opened 1,697-square-metre lounge, together with the Business Class Lounge, where renovations were completed last year, offers unparalleled levels of comfort and service to passengers flying out of Hong Kong.

The Wing set a new standard in airline ground service when it opened its doors in 1998. With a vision to elevate the passenger experience to the next level, Cathay Pacific commissioned world-renowned architectural firm Foster + Partners to redesign The Wing. Work on the complete renovation of the facility commenced in late 2010.

Cathay Pacific Chief Operating Officer Ivan Chu said: "The refurbishment of The Wing highlights our commitment to offering the highest level of products and services to our valued customers. We will continue to make significant investments to ensure we deliver the very best to our passengers both on the ground and in the air."

Among the many changes is an upgrade to The Haven, the iconic feature of the First Class Lounge. This popular dining area has been expanded to more than double its original capacity and features an expanded buffet counter that offers an extensive range of appetisers, Asian and Western dishes, and delicious desserts. The passenger dining experience has been further enhanced by a reinvented à la carte menu complemented by recommended wine pairings.

Outside The Haven is a full-service bar - a newly created space where passengers can relax and enjoy a view of the airport runway over pre-meal drinks. Also new to The Wing is The Champagne Bar, where passengers will be greeted with a welcome drink upon arrival at the First Class Lounge. The bar offers a free flow of champagne selections throughout the day, providing passengers with a touch of indulgence before they head to the main lounge.

The Cabana, one of the classic features of The Wing, has also been refurbished to provide a new level of comfort to passengers. Each of the five Cabanas now features a spacious shower, a full-sized bath and a comfortable day bed, providing a calm, relaxing and private sanctuary for passengers to unwind before their journey. There are also 12 luxury shower suites available for those who simply wish to freshen up before departure.

The Wing's design has also incorporated a number of environmental features. For example, the architects selected bamboo and eucalyptus – both from sustainable sources - as two of the key materials in The Wing, and natural light is utilised to the full throughout the lounge.

The Wing's First Class Lounge is open to First Class passengers, Diamond Marco Polo Club members and Emerald oneworld members. Opening hours are from 5:30am until the last departure.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Garuda Indonesia reinstates direct daily service between Perth and Jakarta


Indonesia's flag carrier responds to increased demand in Western Australia

Garuda Indonesia, Indonesia's national carrier, has today announced non-stop flights from Perth to Jakarta, starting from June, 28 2013.

Lifting the existing capacity from 14 to 21 flights per week, the new direct service will provide passengers with easy access to Jakarta while offering a smooth and seamless connection to Garuda Indonesia's vast network.

Bagus Y. Siregar, Vice President for Garuda Indonesia Australia/SWP commented on the new service: "Western Australia is a very important port for Garuda Indonesia, and we are always working to create a more convenient offering for our passengers.

"We've launched this service to respond to the growing demand, particularly from the business community. With the new non-stop flights Jakarta is just under 5 hours away, which makes it very convenient for our corporate travellers. We foresee that the daily service will also attract many leisure travellers, as Jakarta is not only a popular Indonesian destination but also known as Asia's newest gateway to the globe."

The non-stop flights are on sale now and will commence under the following schedule from June, 28 2013

Daily flights will be operated by Garuda Indonesia's B738 aircraft also currently servicing the twice daily Perth-Denpasar-Jakarta route. The aircraft all feature Garuda Indonesia's new signature interior and individual touch-screen LCD TVs throughout business and economy classes with Video on Demand (VOD) entertainment systems offering 25 feature films and 250 audio tracks.

Garuda Indonesia will continue to invest in enhancing its service offerings in order to become a five star carrier by 2015.

For all travel bookings contact your preferred travel agent or call Garuda Indonesia on 1300 365 330 or visit www.garuda-indonesia.net.au.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Travel Agents Key to Increased Airline Profits in 2013



MTA - Travel Agents Key to Increased Airline Profits in 2013

"2013 will not be a banner year for profitability but we should see some improvement on 2012" - IATA director general and chief executive Tony Tyler

  MTA Managing Director, Roy Merricks has reminded his aviation colleagues of the value travel agents represent to airlines and the impact they have on an airline's profitability.

Calling on all airlines to work with travel agents into the future – as opposed to against them - Mr Merricks described consultants as the most cost effective sales force any airline could ever wish for.

His comments follow those made last week by IATA director general and chief executive Tony Tyler who said his organisation was approaching 2013 with "guarded optimism" after a lack-lustre 2012.

Mr Merricks said that airline profitability is critical for the long-term stability and security of the travel industry.

"The last thing anyone wants to see is another Air Australia collapse," he said.

"But equally important, airlines need to understand they can't sell all of their tickets via the Internet and travel agents will always have a place in the ticketing process.

"It's not that surprising to us, that after testing the water with unsupported direct bookings on airline websites, many clients have come back for the experience and safety net an experienced travel agent provides.

"However, certain airlines unfortunately seem intent on tilting the playing field away from agents, offering consumers a small percentage saving and negating credit card charges for direct online bookings.

"But all that will ultimately do is add to further client confusion.

"What I would say to those airlines is, work with us and not against us - we are the most cost effective sales force you could ever have working with you and for you.

"Be fair and keep the playing field level… that's all we ask and we'll do the rest for you."


Monday, February 4, 2013

Sofitel to open four new hotels in Asia Pacific in 2013


Sofitel So Singapore
Sofitel Luxury Hotels has announced plans to open four new properties in Asia Pacific this year, further strengthening the brand across the region. The new openings will bring Sofitel’s regional portfolio to 42 hotels in operation. Sofitel’s Asia Pacific expansion is part of the company’s plans to be present in all of the world's major cities, with a target of 150 hotels by 2015.

The four openings include Sofitel Shenyang Lido on the famous Qingnian Street, the most bustling commercial boulevard in the heart of the city, Sofitel So Singapore, the first Sofitel hotel in Singapore located in a heritage building, Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua, a lavish beachfront retreat in Nusa Dua, one of the Bali’s most affluent addresses and Sofitel Shanghai Jing’an, a 590-room flagship hotel in the historical Jing’an district of Shanghai.

“Sofitel has long been recognized for delivering the utmost in elegant hospitality and artistry based on our French heritage and collaboration with famous architects and designers. Asia Pacific is a key region for us and we aim to expand our luxury footprint here with another 12 properties committed to be in operation by 2016,” said Markland Blaiklock, Senior Vice President, Sofitel Asia Pacific. “Our recent signings demonstrate our commitment to the region, and our four upcoming openings in 2013 will help reinforce Sofitel’s positioning as the luxury French brand of choice.”

Sofitel also has plans to grow its presence in India and China over the next two years. It aims to sign another 5 properties in India by 2015, and has 10 projects currently under construction in China, expanding its foothold in both tier one and tier two cities.

The group signed four new hotels last year in key cities including Bali (Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort), Guiyang (Sofitel Guiyang), Shenyang (Sofitel Shenyang Lido) and Wellington (Sofitel Wellington).

Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort
Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua

Scheduled to open in September 2013, Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort will introduce its brand blueprint that combines French luxury with the essence of local tradition to one of the world’s most sought-after holiday destinations.

A lavish beachfront retreat in Nusa Dua, one of the island’s most affluent addresses, Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort will be located 40 kilometres from Denpasar, the provincial capital of Bali, and is poised to set international standards in resort hospitality with the brand’s hallmarks of service and quality excellence.

Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort will have 415 rooms including 17 private villas. The hotel will also have a ballroom, five meeting rooms, a multi-function room, three restaurants, a bar and lounge plus wellness facilities. Guests will be able to relax in the infinity pool, get active at So FIT, the state-of-the-art fitness centre equipped with a range of innovative activities, or rejuvenate at So SPA, Sofitel’s spa concept offering a selection of the best and most effective treatments combined with refined French cosmetology.

Sofitel Guiyang

At 57 storeys high, the new Sofitel Guiyang will become the city’s tallest building and landmark. Guiyang is the provincial capital of Guizhou Province as well as a major city in South West China, and has long been the manufacturing base of Mao Tai, the most well-known national spirit of China. The new 231-room hotel in the burgeoning city of Guiyang is set to open end of 2014.

Set to become an iconic business hotel in Guiyang, the Sofitel Guiyang will feature 231 spacious hotel rooms and suites, three restaurants including a roof-top all day dining restaurant, two bars, a dividable ballroom, five inspired meeting rooms of varying sizes, the group’s signature So SPA, fitness centre So FIT, and a swimming pool. It will also have a Club Millésime executive lounge, complemented by a fully equipped business centre, and 100 parking stalls.

Sofitel Shenyang Lido

As the leading luxury hotel in Shenyang, the Sofitel Shenyang Lido features 590 spacious hotel rooms and suites, four restaurants, two bars, two ballrooms, five meeting rooms, a Spa, a fitness centre, a swimming pool, a table tennis room, a squash court and 30 parking stalls. It will also have an executive lounge, which will be complemented by a fully equipped business centre.

Sofitel Shenyang Lido will be the ideal choice for leisure and business travellers with its prime location on the famous Qingnian Street, the most bustling commercial boulevard in the heart of the city. The hotel is also conveniently located within close proximity to new and modern office buildings, government agencies, shopping malls and International Exhibition Centre, at the gateway point entering the city centre. For those wishing to visit the city’s many tourist attractions, the Imperial Palace, along with other popular sightseeing attractions, are all reachable in a 30 minute drive, while Shenyang Taoxian International Airport is approximately 20 minutes away.

Sofitel Wellington
Sofitel Wellington

Sofitel Wellington, the third Sofitel in New Zealand and the first in the nation’s capital, will open in mid-2014. Located on Bolton Street, in the centre of the city, Sofitel Wellington will be within walking distance of Parliament House, the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand, the harbour and a great selection of boutique shops, restaurants and bars.

With Sofitel’s strong affiliation with the arts, the hotel will play an important role in the capital’s thriving creative scene, with Wellington’s famous theatres and museums.

The Sofitel Wellington will have 130 rooms and 15 suites. It will also boast a ground-floor restaurant that will showcase the best local produce and wines from the surrounding Hawkes Bay, Malborough and Martinborough regions as well as a good selection of French and imported wines.

Sofitel Wellington will also feature excellent function and meeting rooms including a 120-square metre conference room and two smaller meeting rooms. In addition, the Sofitel will feature a fitness centre and an indoor pool.

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