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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Intprepid's Top 10 Cycling adventures around the world



Say goodbye to your everyday cycling routines and bring your lycra on an adventure of a lifetime, to discover the world in a unique way. Intrepid Travel has seen a 55 per cent increase in cycling trip bookings demonstrating how travel can play a role in encouraging people to go outside of their comfort zones and challenge themselves.

To help adventurous travellers find their next challenging route, Frank Cheshire at Intrepid Travel has put together his top 10 cycling locations around the globe. Frank is a self-confessed cycling junkie and is addicted to the thrill of two wheeled adventures.

Frank's top ten places around the world for a cycling adventure:

Colombia is a cycling-mad destination and any country that closes its capital city's main streets every Sunday for 'Ciclovia de Bogata' - where over two million cyclists, or 30 per cent of the city's population, can enjoy traffic free riding. Prices for this eight day cycling adventure to Colombia start from $2,825*.

Camino de Santiago is a network of pilgrims in the northwest of Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of Saint James are buried. While most pilgrims slog it out on foot the path is growing popular with cyclists and the thrill peaks on the final hill where you'll see the towering steeples of the Santiago de Compestella Cathedral in the near distance. Prices for this eight day cycling adventure to Camino de Santiago start from $2,635*.

Iceland is known for its scenery and there's no better way to experience it than on two wheels. You will feel dwarfed by the majestic beauty of Vatnajökull, Europe's largest glacier where the lake glistens with diamond-like mini icebergs. Intrepid also take cycling groups out to the Glacier Lagoon at Jokulsarlon and Game of Thrones scenery. Prices for this nine day cycling adventure to Iceland start from $5,950*.

The Balkans include some of Europe's best landscapes spread over three countries. A pit-stop in the charming town of Mostar includes a stop at Stari Most (Old Bridge). Park the bike, grab a coffee and cake at a nearby cafe, and marvel at as locals dive almost 100 feet into the River Neretva below. This is a tradition for local boys, who are said to have a lifetime of bad luck if they do not complete the jump in order to become a man. Prices for this eight day cycling adventure to the Balkans start from $1,790*.

Japan is set to be one of the hottest destinations for 2019 and a great way to experience it is by cycling through the laid back and rustic Noto Peninsula. Its quiet roads, rugged coastlines, rice paddies, endless farmland and sleepy coastal fishing villages are the perfect antidote to the frenetic buzz of Japan's neon city of Tokyo. Prices for this 11 day cycling adventure to Japan start from $5,150*.

New Zealand's South Island has some of the finest 'rail trail' cycling routes in the world and few are better than the spectacular Otago Central Rail Trail. It's the oldest rail trail in New Zealand and the locals have voted 'New Zealand's Favourite Ride' for last two years in a row. Prices for this eight day cycling adventure to New Zealand start from $3,000*.

Eastern Cuba is where cyclists can explore a seldom-visited paradise not far from Varadero's popular beaches – the Yumuri Valley. Tucked behind the hills that line the province's northern edges, a bike tour of the Yumuri Valley will reveal a stunning mix of rolling pastures, fields of palm trees, small forests and agricultural plots. This is a genuine insight into Cuba away from the tourist crowds. Prices for this eight day cycling adventure to Eastern Cuba start from $1,550*.

Northern Vietnam and the ride to Mai Chao has you cycling through some of the country's most remarkable views including limestone karst peaks rising out of serene rice paddies. This is a ride when the end is almost as spectacular as the ride itself. The peaceful and friendly village of Mai Chau is situated in a valley surrounded by verdant green mountains and is famed for its breathtaking scenery. Prices for this eight day cycling adventure to Northern Vietnam start from $1,250*.

Kerala is state on India's tropical Malabar Coast and is a dream to cycle, from cooler climes of the hilly Western Ghats to the buzzing port town of Kochi. A highlight is the ride from Trivandrum to Varkala with Kerala on your right and nothing but long stretches of sand, palm trees and the Arabian Sea on your left. Best of all, Varkala has some of the most pristine beaches in India. Prices for this eight day cycling adventure to Kerala start from $1,290*.

Costa Rica's shores of Lake Fortuna, in the shadow of Costa Rica's Arenal Volcano, is a must do in this area of stunning natural beauty. In between pedalling, you can check out Costa Rica's reggae bars and even take a chocolate tour. Prices for this eight day cycling adventure to Costa Rica start from $1,905*.

Intrepid's 2019 Cycling Brochure is out now. For more information on cycling adventures, head to https://www.intrepidtravel.com/au


*Prices per adult twin-share.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Banyan Tree garners 241 global awards in 2018


Celebrating the year that was, in 2018 Banyan Tree Group were awarded 241 global award for their branding and exceptional experiences as a leading hospitality leader.

An international operator and developer of premium resorts, hotels, residences, spas, golf and integrated resorts, Banyan Tree continues to lead the luxury travel category, having won 117 international benchmark awards including:

·       Travel+Leisure US World's Best Awards 2018 Top 20 Hotel Brands in the World
·       DestinAsian 13th Readers' Choice Awards 2018 Best Hotel Brands for Leisure
·       Beijing News The Best Hotel Brand 2017.

The wide spread achievement across Banyan Tree's portfolio recognises the uniqueness and spirit of adventure found at each location. Banyan Tree began building retreats of rest and rejuvenation, championing the ethos of "Embracing the Environment, Empowering People". Their approach to sustainability means each building is built in harmony with nature, contributing to the growth and development of the community.

As a pioneer in sustainability, the Group was named Shanghai Morning Post Tourism Awards 2017 Best Social Responsibility Brand.

Offering a deep sense of place, across all locations, Banyan Tree highlights and infuses the uniqueness of the locale through design and build, guests' and associates' experiences to sustainability impacts.

With this in mind, Banyan Tree resorts were also awarded:

·       Top 50 Hotels of China for the new design-savvy Dhawa Jinshanling
·       Voyage Travel Awards 2018 Best Overseas Hotel  for Banyan Tree Tamouda Bay
·       Travel+Leisure US World's Best Awards 2018 - Top 10 Resort Hotels in Mexico for Banyan Tree Cabo Marqués
·       DestinAsian 13th Readers' Choice Awards 2018 Best Hotel in Macau for Banyan Tree Macau

Inspired by the romance of travel, Banyan Tree will continue to increase its global presence and foray into unique exotic destinations across the Europe, Asia-Pacific, Oceania and other regions.

Banyan Tree Spa is well loved for its art of touch and luxurious spa experiences by skilful therapists. Some of the awards it received include:

·       The 2018 TTG Travel Hall of Fame - Best Spa Operator for the 4th year since induction.
·       13th China Hotel Starlight Awards 2017 Best Spa Operator of China for the 10th consecutive year.
·       Shanghai Morning Post Tourism Awards 2017 Best Spa Brand for the 6th consecutive year.

Ms Ho Ren Yung, Vice President, Brand HQ of Banyan Tree Holdings said, "We value the importance of accreditations bestowed by the industry partners and our guests, which spur us to continually raise the bar in providing exemplary products and services. I would like to thank our guests and business partners for the ever-strong support and our associates, our pillar of success, for the dedication in delivering exceptional experiences and pioneering sustainability which Banyan Tree is synonymously known for."

"Sustainability has been ingrained as part of our corporate DNA from the very beginning and it is one of the key areas that we are truly proud of. Celebrating our Group's 25th Anniversary in 2019, these award recognitions reinforce our passion and commitment to grow our brands globally. We aspire to journey our guests to more exciting destinations around the world and foster our ongoing commitment towards driving sustainability for a better world," added Ms Ho.

With 26 successful signings of new hotel agreements for its four brands during 2018 there are now 48 hotels in operation with 7 new hotels slated to open in 2019.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Australia's Most Welcoming Places


Today Booking.com, one of the world’s leading digital travel platforms, is honouring its accommodation partners who consistently deliver great customer experiences with a prestigious Guest Review Award. For the seventh annual edition of the popular awards, 759,845 properties across 219 countries and territories are being given an award, with 3,394 properties receiving awards in Australia.

Based on the share of properties receiving an award in 2018, for the first time ever, Booking.com has revealed the most welcoming places in Australia according to customer reviews.

Most welcoming places in Australia

The top 10 most welcoming destinations in Australia include*:
  1. Bendigo, Victoria (71 winners)
  2. Hervey Bay, Queensland (65 winners)
  3. Halls Gap, Victoria (61 winners)
  4. Ballarat, Victoria (67 winners)
  5. Townsville, Queensland (71 winners)
  6. Hobart, Tasmania (154 winners)
  7. Launceston, Tasmania (70 winners)
  8. Margaret River Town, Western Australia (88 winners)
  9. Warnambool, Victoria (65 winners)
  10. Canberra, ACT (84 winners)

This is especially relevant for nearly two thirds of Aussie travellers (69%) that say friendly and interesting locals are one of their top considerations when selecting a destination for their next trip.**

When it comes to the most welcoming types of properties, globally the winners were all from the alternative accommodation segment, which highlights the ongoing traveller appreciation for unique stay experiences, including Bed and Breakfasts, ApartHotels, Motels, Apartments and Holiday Homes.***

Apartments and unique places to stay remain firm traveller favourites

For the second year in a row, apartments were the top-awarded accommodation type, making up more than a third (36%) of the award-winning properties globally in 2018. In fact, while hotels came in as the second-awarded accommodation type, nearly three quarters (73%) of all the winning properties are homes, apartments and other unique places to stay, including everything from boats and igloos to homestays and country houses.

The ongoing appreciation and interest from global travellers to experience a wide variety of unique stay experiences is also reflected in recent research by Booking.com which asked 21,000 travelers across 29 countries about their travel habits – this highlighted that more than a third of Aussie travellers (33%) would prefer to stay in a vacation rental (holiday home or apartment) over a hotel in 2019.

In addition, almost 17% said that they would consider listing their own home on a travel accommodation site over the coming year. With over a third of Australians also wanting to stay in an accommodation type they’ve never experienced before in 2019, the consumer demand in this segment is growing.

“No matter the type, size or location of the property, what we see from our customers is that they value a human connection when they travel, whether it’s some extra attention to detail or a truly individualized approach to service,” said Olivier Grémillon, Vice President at Booking.com.

“With these awards, we celebrate and thank all of the amazing accommodation providers who create special travel experiences for our customers on a daily basis.”

A SELECTION OF OUTSTANDING PROPERTIES IN AUSTRALIA RECEIVING A 2018 AWARD

Grand Hotel and Apartments, Townsville, QLD
Avenue Hotel, Canberra, ACT
Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, TAS
Somerset on the Pier, Hobart, TAS
Vintages Accommodation, Margaret River Town, WA
Hervey Bay Colonial Lodge, Hervey Bay, QLD
Salamander Bay Bed and Breakfast, Salamander Bay, NSW
Southview Guest House, Wollongong, NSW
The Playford Adelaide – Mgallery by Sofitel, Adelaide, SA
Best Western Olde Maritime Motor Inn, Warrnambool, VIC


To be recognized with an award, properties had to have an average review score of 8.0 or higher based on at least 5 reviews as of 11:59pm (CET) on October 31, 2018. Only customers that have actually stayed at an accommodation can leave a review of their experience on Booking.com. After they have checked out of the property, they are invited to rate their accommodation experience against six categories: cleanliness, comfort, location, facilities, staff and value for money. As these reviews are never edited or adjusted in any way, travelers can reference them for an authentic account of what the real guest experience is like at every place to stay on Booking.com.

*Cities were sorted by the total share of 2018 Guest Review Award winners when compared to the total amount of eligible properties in that city. Cities also had to have an above average amount of winners to be included on this list (60 award recipients or higher)

**This is defined as the percentage of respondents who rated this aspect a 7 out of 10 or higher. Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 53,492 respondents across 31 markets. In order to participate in this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have travelled at least once in the past 12 months and be either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. The survey was taken online and took place between October 16 and November 12, 2018.

***Accommodation types were sorted by the total share of 2018 Guest Review Award winners when compared to the total amount of eligible properties globally in each property type.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Sydney Secures Tennis ATP Cup Finals



Sydney has secured the finals matches of a major new global event to launch the tennis season, the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Cup, hailing a new era in men's tennis to commence from 2020.

Minister for Tourism and Major Events Adam Marshall said the NSW Government had won the hosting rights for the ATP Cup finals matches until 2022 and would also host group matches alongside other Australian cities.

"Our city offers excellent facilities, first class hospitality and has a proud track record of hosting major tennis events," Mr Marshall said.

"This is another coup for our State, not only for athletes and sporting fans but the wider NSW community who are set to win from the estimated $36.5 million injection into our local economy.

"I'm proud of NSW's exceptional capability to host blockbuster events that are lucrative, entertaining and ensure we're the envy of our interstate rivals.

"We're building a world-class calendar of events to drive tourism across NSW and put more heads on hotel beds, diners in our restaurants and shoppers in our boutiques."

Following the recent announcement that Ken Rosewall Arena (pic above) at the Olympic Tennis Centre will receive a $50.5 million upgrade, Minister for Sport Stuart Ayres said the NSW Government is committed to working with Tennis Australia and Tennis NSW to deliver an outstanding event.

"The NSW Government has made a commitment to bid for 10 World Cups for the next decade and we're well on our way to reaching our goal only six months after embarking on our ambitious target," Mr Ayres said.

"Tennis continues to form the cornerstone of our country's sporting landscape, capturing the hearts and minds of sport fans each summer and attracting international spectators to our locally-hosted matches.

"I look forward to welcoming tennis greats to our State for the ATP Cup group and finals matches that will no doubt provide a sensational showcase of sport and opportunity for NSW to shine on the world stage."

Tennis Australia Chief Executive Officer Craig Tiley said, "With more than 100 players from 24 nations vying for $22 million in prize money and 750 ATP ranking points, the ATP Cup will help us launch the global tennis season every January in Australia."

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Banyan Tree Bangkok marks two decades of fun, fitness and social goodwill

20th annual stair step footrace to benefit infants and nursing mothers

Banyan Tree Bangkok proudly announces the Vertical Marathon 2019, its perennial running event to benefit worthy causes and representing one of the city's most distinguished and challenging charity athletic events.

Scheduled for Sunday 10 March 2019, the Vertical Marathon features a 61-floor stairway course that rises more than 1,000 steps through the 5-Star Banyan Tree Bangkok Hotel. The once-a-year race attracts dozens of devoted competitors—young, older, experienced and not—whose collective dash to the top ends at the award-winning Vertigo Grill and Moon Bar, the rooftop dining venue renowned as one of Southeast Asia's highest-altitude outdoor restaurants. For those not wanting to run the 61 floors can enter as a team of two or four people and share the fun.

Registration fee for the Vertical Marathon 2019 is Baht 400 per runner, which includes an official event T-shirt, while those who succeed in summiting the nearly 200-metre tower on North Sathon Road will receive a commemorative medallion in recognition of their achievement.

All proceeds from the event go to the Thai Red Cross HIV Formula Feeding Fund under the patronage of Her Royal Highness, Princess Soamsawali. The fund provides essential infant formula for babies of HIV afflicted mothers.

Runners who think they have what it takes to meet this uniquely demanding physical challenge may register online at http://www.gotorace.com/event/vertical-marathon-2019 or at the front desk in the lobby at Banyan Tree Bangkok, now through 1 March 2019, or for further information call 02 679 1200, or visit banyantree.com

To support persons who are living with HIV, runners are asked to wear a red ribbon and take a selfie at the event, then public-post on Facebook with the hashtag: #RedVM2019. One lucky-draw winner will receive a gift voucher for set-menu 3 course dinner for two from Vertigo restaurant. (Winner will be notified by 20 March 2019.



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