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Saturday, October 31, 2009

How the hospitality world changes in just 25 years ...

R-L: Sally Sneddon, Rebecca Montague, Lisa Dawson, Andrew Montague, Bill Sneddon, Alan Jurd, Sandra Jurd and Julie Mollenaar 

Peppers celebrates its 25th anniversary

Peppers Retreats, Resorts and Hotels celebrated its 25th anniversary on Monday evening (26 October) with a cocktail party event at Peppers Guest House in the Hunter Valley, the home of the original Peppers.

Peppers Retreats, Resorts and Hotels CEO Bob East said the celebration was an opportunity to focus on the personalised service that sets Peppers apart from other boutique properties with a philosophy of “we’re all about you”.

“Twenty five years ago, a luxury holiday usually meant spending a week at a big international hotel, with the formality of traditional hotel systems. Peppers changed this holiday mentality when it opened Peppers Guest House in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales and Peppers and consequently redefined the top-end Australian holiday market,” said Bob.

“The Peppers concept was a big risk at the time, as the short-break holiday market was still in its infancy. But a combination of a personalised approach to service, luxurious surroundings and a focus on quality holiday experiences such as food, wine and spa encounters paved the way for the redefinition of an Australian holiday escape.”

As part of their silver anniversary celebrations, Peppers will be slipping slipping a surprise, in the form of designer jewellery, under the pillow of one lucky guest each week in November. Every Peppers property in Australia will present one lucky guest each week with an elegant CarneyMcCarthey necklace which features 25 scattered silver pebbles in a cascading design.

Since the opening of Peppers Guest House in the Hunter Valley, 25 years ago, there are now 27 Peppers Retreats, Resorts and Hotels throughout Australia and New Zealand. Each Peppers property has its own style and charm and experiences range from luxury outback cattle stations, intimate vineyard retreats, tropical rainforest lodges, mountain resorts, golfing getaways, grand country estates, to tropical islands. All are within easy reach of a capital city or major town.

For more information, visit

Susan Boyd spent a few minutes with Mike O'Connor, the original owner of Peppers Guest House, the original Peppers Guest House retreat owner, Mike O'Connor

What was your vision for Peppers when you opened the doors to Peppers Guest House on 26 October 1984?
Our vision was to move to the country, build a stylish hotel, unlike anything then in existence. We decided to call it a Guest House because we didn't want it to be a hotel in the traditional sense.

Why 'Peppers'? How did you choose the name?
We called it Peppers because the old house that stood on the site of the current courtyard (we moved the house to it’s current location and called it the homestead) was surrounded by pepper trees.

What was opening day at Peppers Guest House like?
Fairly chaotic. It was a Friday night; I was in Sydney getting the liquor license in the court and didn't get back to the Guest House until 7.00pm. The place was packed to the rafters and we had forgotten to order an ice machine. The first chef we employed did not cope well. All very stressful.

And the opening party?
The opening party was the next weekend, Sunday I think. We had Suzi Cruckshank singing and her Jazz group playing on the lawn in front of the main building. All was going well until the biggest thunderstorm you have ever seen enveloped the valley. We had 4 inches of rain, the roof leaked and the power went out for 8 hours. It was only then that we realized that when the power was off, not only did we have no lights, but also no water. Chaos reigned for some time until we all crowed into the lounge and bar to listen to Suzi sing around the piano. We drank and feasted on anything that could be cooked on a gas stove.

What was the hospitality industry like then?
Just as it is now, very competitive. There were fewer operators but also fewer visitors.

And how has it changed since?
It was very difficult to get everyone to work as a group and market the Valley as a destination. That changed over time and by the late 80’s the Hunter Valley was the most dynamic destination outside Sydney.

What were guests seeking then that they may or may not be seeking now?
I think they are seeking the same thing today they were seeking 25yrs ago. A relaxing weekend getaway in a cozy environment with good food and wine

How did you intend to set Peppers apart from competitors?
We wanted it to be everything a hotel wasn't. Hopefully our guests would feel as if they were staying in a friends house

Has this changed?
I don't think so

What was your biggest challenge back then?
Convincing our bank manager that although we were spending twice as much as it would cost to build an equivalent motel we could achieve an average room rate, three times that of a motel.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in retreat accommodation today?
Today there is so much competition in this sector; you need to differentiate your product.

Did you imagine 27 retreats and resorts throughout Australia and New Zealand?

What inspired you to open Peppers Guest House in the Hunter Valley?
We were seeking a life style change (at the time we owned and ran a contract cleaning business in Sydney). We looked in Thredbo and the Blue Mountains but the Hunter Valley accommodation stats showed the area had the highest occupancies and the highest room rates in NSW. We were confident that we could build the best in the area and therefore take the top end of the market. In the first 5 years of its operation the Guest House ran at an average annual occupancy above 91%

Do you keep in contact with any past guests?
No but I am constantly meeting people who have stayed there. Last weekend in the Port de Soller in Mallorca, I met an Aussie guy on a boat who attended an insurance conference at the Guest House in 1986. Needless to say we shared a few drinks.

How much did a night at Peppers Guest House cost in 1984?
Around $115

Describe your funniest Peppers moment?
Caught swimming naked in the pool house with the staff from the Cellar Restaurant by my wife Suzi, at 3.00am

And your happiest Peppers moment?
Swimming with the staff of the Cellar restaurant

And your biggest Peppers achievement?
Selling Peppers Guest House for $10 million in1989 and buying it back 2 years later for $5.5 million

Any tales of famous people who have stayed?
My lips are sealed

Where are you now?
Living in Mallorca, in a beautiful stone villa, in an ancient town called Soller

If you could open another Peppers Retreat in Australia or New Zealand now, where would it be?

Do you have any advice for the Peppers team now?
Market the product to women, because in the short break segment it is the woman who makes the decision. Men just want to be organised.

Any stories you would like to share?
We originally bought the land where the Guest House now sits from a man in Cessnock called Laurie Murphy. After concluding the sale we took him to lunch and we all had much to drink. As we were leaving he offered some fatherly advice. Clearly he had a skeptical view of our proposed project, and took me aside suggesting we should change the design so if it didn't work as a guest house we could convert it to a retirement complex. I now wonder if he was just ahead of his time.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Clean Me, Green Me, Fiji Me

Fiji sets world mark becoming first country to implement a national low carbon travel and tourism sector initiative

With international focus starting to turn towards Copenhagen as the Danish capital gears up to host the UN Climate Change Conference in December, Fiji has stolen a march on the rest of the planet becoming the first country to launch a national low carbon travel and tourism sector initiative.

The national tourist office and key players in the destination's tourism, hotel and business sectors have aligned resources with Australian-based clean technology specialist Greenlight Technology Group (GLTG) and the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP) to help advance Fiji as a low carbon tourism destination.

According to GLTG CEO Chris Andrew the first phase of the initiative, the establishment of an alliance amongst all key players in the Fiji tourism industry and clean technology businesses, is already underway.

The next step, he said, will be for the alliance to work together to prepare an advisory paper on how best to bundle a range of individual hotel initiatives into a larger Clean Development Mechanism* (CDM). The proposed Fijian Hotel CDM Program will be a world first for the tourism sector

When this has been completed, a pilot project deploying energy efficiency technologies and small-scale renewable energy sources will be rolled out across the destination over the next 12-15 months.

"Tourism is critical to Fiji's economy, contributing approximately 25 per cent to GDP," Mr Andrew said.

"Bringing together all the key players in tourism is really what will ensure that the maximum benefits are achieved while helping to keep Fiji solidly positioned as an environmentally responsible destination.

"The May 2009 World Economic Forum report 'Towards a Low Carbon Travel & Tourism Sector' notes that tourism destinations that pro-actively work on sustainability initiatives will be better positioned than their competitors to survive in an era when international tourists are growing more environmentally conscious in choosing their holiday destinations.

"With this global trend in mind, GLTG and the Fiji alliance will consider and agree on methods for deploying energy efficiency technologies and small-scale renewable energy sources suited to hotels in the Pacific region.

Tourism Fiji CEO Josefa Tuamoto, who sits on the committee of the newly formed group, said the CDM was intended not only to benefit the people of Fiji but provide a model for low carbon tourism to Fiji's immediate neighbours.

"We intend showing the world that even as a small nation, we can set the pace when it comes to critical international action in an area that is affecting each and everyone one of us today.

"As the world becomes more and more aware of the efforts needed to protect the global environment, a subject that has become an everyday issue for people all over the world, it is inherent on the world to unite to ensure that we leave our children and our children's children and the generations to come with a world fit for everyone to live in and prosper.

"It has long been a dream of mine that Fiji and particularly Fiji's tourism industry becomes a leader in this area and helps us become a nation recognised for its efforts on behalf of the entire global village.

"To this end we hope in the not too distant future to unveil the plans that we and our industry colleagues plan to establish and in the process shine a spotlight on a new capability for Fiji and its people."

For further information on the Greenlight Technology Group visit

For more information the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership visit

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Accor Positioned for Cairns Recovery

Special location report for HM Magazine by Roderick Eime

Despite the widespread disappointment and cynicism at the deferral of the promised Jetstar direct flights to Japan, Accor is demonstrating its confidence in the Cairns/Port Douglas region’s recovery by investing millions of dollars in key properties.

Currently Accor manages or brands eight properties across five badges ranging from the recently rebranded, 5-star Pullman Reef Casino to the 3.5-star All Seasons Cairns Gateway Resort.

Two new properties to join the Accor family include the landmark Oasis Resort on Lake Street and one of the region’s best known properties, Treetops in Port Douglas. Both properties had fallen into decline and required substantial modernization and refurbishment.

Accor Vice President Australia, Simon McGrath, said in a recent press statement that the addition of Mercure Port Douglas Treetops was a significant milestone for Accor and the Australian hotel industry.

“The addition of Treetops marks a very special occasion for Accor as it will take our Australian network to over 20,000 rooms – the first hotel group to achieve such a mark in Australia.

“Not only will the hotel benefit from our partnership, but it will bring Port Douglas to an even wider audience. The destination achieved a very high-profile in recent decades, and we will use our vast distribution channels to revitalise interest in what is one of the world’s most attractive destinations.”

The 224-room resort is located a short walk from Four Mile Beach and is five minutes drive to the centre of Port Douglas village (a shuttle bus service operates throughout the day).

Over the past six months, the hotel has received an extensive, multimillion dollar renovation, including upgrading of rooms, the restaurant and public areas and a fresh new paint scheme throughout the resort.

Now carrying the Novotel logo, the Oasis Resort in Cairns received a radical $7 million bare shell makeover almost as soon as the resort changed hands in August 2007.

“The Oasis was one of those typical ‘80s ‘tropical’ resorts needing lots of TLC,” said director of sales, Philip Newland, “and now we have a totally new look ... much more contemporary. The previous AAA 4-star rating was generous, now we are a confident 4.5 rated property.”

Just down the road and occupying the prime location adjacent Cairns’s Trinity Wharf, is the Pullman Reef Casino. Newly-installed GM, Adrian Williams, relishes his new post and strongly believes 2009 represents the bottom of the current cycle.

“Like many destinations reliant on tourism and corporate travellers, Cairns has been responsive to the difficult GFC period and demonstrated new adaptability and innovation.”

$4.5 million has been spent on the property up to May this year in a continual process of upgrading rather than a debilitating refurbishment.

Despite Williams’s disappointment at the deferral of the Jetstar flights, he considers this a minor hiccup that “provides tourism operators, marketers and travel agents with a better lead time in which to properly prepare a strategy to sell on the back of the forthcoming Osaka services.”

Bridget Catterall, General Manager of the Best Management Group, who are contracted to manage the Treetops Resort & Spa under the Mercure franchise contract sums up the climate:

“Travel to Australia and Cairns has never been cheaper, and with Port Douglas boasting such a high profile in the American, European and Australian markets, we believe there is great potential to grow our business substantially over the next few years.”

Discover a World of Boutique Adventure in Nicaragua

Aventura Lodge is the latest hotel to open its doors in the beautiful beach town of San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. The boutique adventure hotel is a tropical oasis, complete with a pristine swimming pool and waterfalls. The hotel has a variety of accommodation to suit all travelers, from the luxurious Jungle Suites to the Tree House beds.

A lush jungle garden is the setting for this intimate lodge. The tropical canopy provides the perfect place to relax and escape the heat. Relax by the refreshing swimming pool or swing in a hammock in the garden. It’s a different world inside the gates of Aventura Lodge.

San Juan del Sur is a tranquil and laid back town on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua. It’s the perfect place to spend a week, month or even years. San Juan del Sur is the hub for exploring Nicaragua’s best surf beaches and all the country has to offer. The friendly locals will happily show you around and point you in the right direction of the best bars and places to eat.

Adventure comes in many forms in San Juan del Sur and Aventura Lodge can create unique experiences for each guest. Whether your idea of adventure is surfing, climbing volcanoes or exploring coffee plantations, the team at Aventura Lodge will make your vacation come to life. And at the end of an active day, you can relax by the pool with an ice-cold drink or treat yourself to a rejuvenating massage perhaps.

The hotel has 5 luxurious and individually decorated Jungle Suites from $50 per night; a 2 bedroom Canopy Apartment from $80 and for those on a slimmer budget the 4 Tree House beds from $15. Breakfast is included and the hotel has Wi-Fi. The Jungle Suites and Canopy Apartment have air-conditioning and cable television.

Your next adventure awaits you at Aventura Lodge.

For more information, visit

Media contact information:
Kate Jenkins or Daniel Lloyd
Aventura Lodge
(+505) 89037622 or (+505) 83585924

Pullman positive despite delayed Jetstar Cairns-Japan route

The Accor group’s flagship Cairns property, the five-star Pullman Reef Casino Hotel, is still looking forward to the launch of Jetstar’s new route between Japan and Cairns, despite an announcement delaying the first flight until April 2010.

Jetstar has postponed the creation of flights between Cairns and Japan to April next year after it was unable to reach an agreement with the Cairns International Airport.

Pullman Reef Casino Hotel General Manager Adrian Williams says, the new Cairns-Osaka route is still great news for the region, inspiring confidence that the city may be about to embark on a positive new growth phase

“It was originally hoped the four weekly flights to Japan would launch in December,” said Mr Williams.

“The delay however is just a minor hiccup, and essentially provides tourism operators, marketers and travel agents with a better lead time in which to properly prepare a strategy to sell on the back of these services.

Mr Williams said Jetstar’s commitment and ‘aggressive’ marketing approach to Japan has overall been encouraging for Cairns tourist operators and hoteliers.

“Jetstar’s new Osaka service to Cairns is still the first real sign that the destination may be poised to start a positive new cycle in 2010,” he said.

“The Osaka service is an opportunity to grow Japanese visitation that will ease the pressure on hotels, restaurants and attractions.

Mr Williams said he strongly believed that 2009 would represent the bottom of the current cycle. “Like many destinations reliant on tourism and corporate travelers, Cairns has been responsive to the difficult GFC period and demonstrated new adaptability and innovation.

“The domestic market of course has naturally been a priority. Tourism Australia and Tourism Queensland’s national campaigns have been the perfect complement to the marketing support and activity that hotel, airline, and local tourism offices has undertaken over the past 12 months. We’ve seen some encouraging results from our wholesale and retail partners as a result.

Mr Williams added that since he came on board as General Manager at the beginning of the year that he has seen Cairns take on a fresh new approach to business events.

“Although a challenging time for a new brand to come into Australia, let alone Cairns, it has also been a great opportunity for us to reposition and rebadge the Reef Casino Hotel with the benefit of Accor network and all that Pullman represents behind us.

“Accor’s loyalty programs including AClub and Advantage Plus have been a powerful backbone generally for the hotel with leisure guests, however AClub’s new focus on incentivising the meetings and conference market has also proved timely for Pullman.”

Pullman hotels in Australia are offering a new ‘Delicious Escapade’ package which has an even more delicious incentive of a $7,500 prize of a holiday for two in Bangkok, including airfares, 5 nights accommodation and breakfast at the stylish Pullman Bangkok Kong Power, $350 towards dining and limousine transfers.

Entry to the competition is available to travellers who book the new Pullman Delicious Escapade package at Pullman Reef Hotel Casino and stay before 6 January 2010.

The Pullman Delicious Escapade package includes 10% discount on stays of two nights or more, daily breakfast for two, late check out and a $30 voucher for use in the hotel’s bar and restaurant.

The Pullman Delicious Escapade offers a 5-star experience at great value rates: from $170 a night at Pullman Reef Hotel Casino.

The Pullman Reef Hotel Casino is in the heart of Cairns, overlooking Trinity Inlet and packed with great dining and entertainment options. Each room has its own private garden balcony and spa bath, and there is a rooftop swimming pool, full gym, Cairns Wildlife Dome and the Reef Casino.

The prize features 5 nights at the Pullman Bangkok King Power, one of the city’s newest 5-star hotels, conveniently located near Victory Monument BTS train station. The Pullman offers a wide range of restaurants and bars, a luxurious spa, a vast swimming pool and a large Kingpower duty-free complex next door.

Pullman, is the upscale hotel brand of Accor. It was designed with the requirements of business women and men in mind. Located in the main regional and international cities, Pullman hotels provide an extensive range of tailored services, access to ground-breaking technologies and the “Co-meeting” offer, a new approach to organizing meetings, seminars and high-end incentives. At Pullman hotels, business travelers can choose between being independent or relying on the staff available round the clock. End of 2009, the Pullman network will consist of 50 hotels in 23 countries across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Soon, we expect over 300 establishments around the world. All information regarding the hotels is available on the website

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Piracy fears force cancellation of Indian Ocean cruises

By Wolfgang H. Thome, eTN Africa

The first of possibly more cruises in the Indian Ocean and along the Eastern African countries has now been canceled and the vessel is due to be moved to the Caribbean instead of the Indian Ocean in 2010.

Cruise line company Yachts of the Seabourn decided to move its Seabourn Legend, which was scheduled to sail during the 2010 and 2011 seasons between the Seychelles, Kenya, Zanzibar and Madagascar, among others, after the latest spate of attacks on vessels along the Horn of Africa.

The decision may have been influenced by the growing radius of pirate attacks further out into the open sea, the latest being the reported hijacking of a Chinese ship. The company has a special appeal to cruise aficionados as the company uses smaller vessels offering a true luxury hospitality environment and fear for their very posh and wealthy clientele being taken hostage by Somali ocean terrorists may have been a major factor to avoid the Indian Ocean in the immediate future.

Passengers already booked now have the option to select other itineraries operated elsewhere in the world or else get a refund for deposits made.

No response was yet received from tour and safari operators lined up to handle the ship during port calls and take the passengers on safaris or island tours, but the loss of revenue is thought to be considerable.

This loss will undoubtedly add to the sentiments against the Somali pirates and bring about even stronger calls for a more robust and determined engagement against their safe havens, their mother boats and skiffs out on the ocean, including hot pursuit into waters claimed by Somalia as their own.

The Seychelles, in particular, depend on tourism as one of the main sources of their national income and has openly embraced overtures of the naval coalition partners for more support to patrol and police their extensive national waters, which extend 200 nautical miles around the archipelago.

Subsequently, the capacity of the Seychelles Coast Guard and related units has been substantially boosted in recent months in regard of both surface as well as aerial capabilities in a bid to create a credible deterrent.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Jetstar, V Australia granted Fiji capacity

The International Air Services Commission has granted Jetstar and V Australia capacity on the Fiji route.

Qantas Group was awarded 852 seats of capacity per week which must be used no later than April 2010.

V Australia has been awarded 907 seats of capacity per week, but the carrier must launch services by December 31 this year.

The Commission said it expects Jetstar and V Australia to compete strongly on the leisure market.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Caledonia Reports Record Growth in 2009

New Caledonia Tourism (NCT) Australia has reported record growth for inbound Australian tourist numbers during the months of July and August 2009.

Both months have seen increases in arrivals, with July up 31% from 2008, making it the best July in nine years. Meanwhile August also saw promising growth with a 7.8% increase in comparison to the same month in 2008 – the best figures for the month in eight years.

Diane Moynihan, General Manager for NCT Australia said, "to have two outstanding months at such a tough time is reassuring for the future of tourism in New Caledonia. So many Australians are embracing the unique experiences this Pacific destination has to offer. We're pleased to be seeing tourist numbers continually increase as a result of the gourmet campaign and look forward to the new directions 2010 will bring for our marketing and PR initiatives."

The figures also come with the news that New Caledonia has been listed as one of the top 10 travel destinations for Australians, as announced by

As a result of increased visitation to New Caledonia over the last three years, the destination has attracted a number of new hotel developments.

Most recently Starwood announced a new property, the Sheraton New Caledonia Bourail Resort & Spa. Due for completion in January 2013. The property will cater for both the leisure and business traveler, offering 120 guest rooms and suites, as well as 60 free-standing villas.

The TERA Hotels & Resorts chain has also confirmed to develop the Nouméa Tera Beach Resort at Anse Vata beach on the previous Club Med site. The resort will offer 112 three star apartment style rooms and is scheduled to open at the end of 2010.

For information on New Caledonia visit or phone New Caledonia Tourism's Sydney office on 1800 673 745.

Qantas Loses Out to Virgin Blue in the Best Brand Battle

The Brand Surgeon, Paul Harmer, surveyed 2,092 people aged 19-66 to help compile a list of the top 10 most liked and disliked brands on the market. Options covered a range of traditional commercial brands, internet and social media sites and personal brands.

The survey reveals that of the options Google (1) is the most liked brand out there, closely followed by Obama (2). On the flipside, surveyed individuals reacted most negatively towards brands such as Twitter (1) and Telstra (5). Comparisons of similar brands showed Virgin Blue (10) beating out Qantas (17) comprehensively for the title of best airline brand.

"What made this survey even more interesting were the two or three word comments made by participants. Whilst everyone voted for their top ten best and worst, there were some brands that polarised or stimulated intense opinion" said Paul Harmer, founder of The Brand Surgeon.

"Interestingly, some of the brands near the top of the best-brand list also appeared in the top ten most disliked brands. Commonwealth Bank showed this polarisation of opinion, with 906 people for (9) and 1146 against (2)".

Over the past 25 years, branding strategist and author Paul Harmer has learned from the experts experiencing what it takes to achieve brand success. Harmer has worked with psychologists, top executives and some of the most successful brand owners on the planet. He has seen brand owners both struggle and thrive in creating the right powerful brand experience, producing the recipe for brand glue and greater profits. 

The top 10 most liked brands on the survey were:

The Body Shop
Commonwealth Bank
Virgin Blue/ Samsung

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Taihape is Back on the Kiwi Railway Map

The central New Zealand North Island town of Taihape is back on the railway map. Dropped from the train timetable in 2005 due to falling numbers, Taihape will be reinstated from the 23rd October, following renewed interest and growing passenger numbers on the Overlander.

"After careful consideration of the potential passenger numbers for a Taihape stop on the Overlander, we have decided to include Taihape as a scheduled stop," comments Tranz Scenic marketing manager, Richard Keenan.

"We have been impressed with Taihape's commitment to regular train services, including enthusiasm for events and attractions which will add to the appeal of Taihape as a destination. We have also seen increasing passenger numbers on the Overlander."

Those passenger numbers grew by over 25% in just 18 months, prompting Tranz Scenic to bring peak seven day services forward to September rather than the usual December. "Passengers are responding, with a 70% jump in numbers from last year over the school holidays just gone," adds Mr Keenan. "We are also seeing renewed interest in all our scenic services, and in visits to heartland New Zealand by train."

Commenting on the return of Taihape as a scheduled stop for the Overlander, Taihape Community Development Trust manager Elizabeth Mortland commented; "Fantastic. Really wonderful news."

The regular northbound service will arrive at 11:21am, and the southbound at 3:03pm, with a scheduled 2 minute stop to allow for passengers to board, disembark, and for luggage handling. Services will start on Friday 23rd October 2009, and run initially as a one year trial period

"We look forward to working with the town to make Taihape a successful permanent stop on the Overlander journey," Richard Keenan says.

More information on The Overlander is available from

Monday, October 12, 2009

New Executive Chef for Park Hyatt Sydney

Andrew McKee returns to Sydney to take the reins of harbourkitchen&bar

Park Hyatt Sydney is pleased to announce that Andrew McKee will take the reins as executive chef of iconic waterfront restaurant harbourkitchen&bar, effective 12 October 2009.

McKee returns to Sydney after five years working as a chef at leading hotels in Asia, and will manage Park Hyatt Sydney's day-to-day catering and lead the acclaimed waterfront restaurant harbourkitchen&bar.

With a wealth of experience under his belt and having cooked for some of the world's leading celebrities, McKee prides himself on sourcing the finest local seasonal produce, cooked simply and presented minimally with style.

McKee joins Park Hyatt Sydney from his most recent position as executive sous chef at Hyatt's flagship hotel, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong. However, while in Asia, McKee also had the pleasure of cooking for such high-profile celebrities as Johnny Depp, Cameron Diaz, Orlando Bloom and more at one of Japan's most famous restaurants, the New York Grill in the renowned Park Hyatt Tokyo. Prior to that, McKee enjoyed his first international role at Aria Restaurant in the China World Hotel, Beijing.

Working internationally gave seasoned culinarian McKee the opportunity to work with world-renowned chefs, including Christian Le Squer (at the three Michelin star Pavillion de Ledoyen), Albert Portale (Gotham Bar and Grill, New York), Daniel Beloud (Daniel, New York), Shannon Bennet (Vue de Monde) and George Calombaris (The Press Club).

Before leaving Australian shores for Asia, McKee worked with some of Australia's best-loved chefs, including celebrity chef Darren Simpson at the famed Aqua Luna, and Paul Wilson and his team at radii in Park Hyatt Melbourne; he then followed Wilson to Botanical to take up the role of senior sous chef. McKee also assisted Damien Pignolet with the opening of the Bellevue Hotel in Sydney.

Thanks to its celebrated waterfront position, harbourkitchen&bar guests enjoy direct views of the Sydney Opera House and can hear water lapping through floor-to-ceiling folding glass doors. In the coming months, diners will be able to experience a new modern Australian menu created by executive chef Andrew McKee.

For bookings at harbourkitchen&bar, please call +61 2 9256 1661 or email The hotel is located at 7 Hickson Road, The Rocks, NSW Australia.

About Park Hyatt
Intimate and residential in style, Park Hyatt hotels promise elegant and gracious service on a personal scale, and are further distinguished by prime locations and exceptional interior design. Hyatt Hotels & Resorts and its subsidiaries operate 24 Park Hyatt hotels, with an additional 10 properties under development. Current locations include: Baku, Beaver Creek, Beijing, Buenos Aires, Canberra, Chicago, Dubai, Goa, Hamburg, Istanbul, Melbourne, Mendoza, Milan, Moscow, Paris, Philadelphia, Saigon, Seoul, Shanghai, Sydney, Tokyo, Toronto, Washington DC and Zurich.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Samoa Tourism Industry progresses to Recovery mode

Samoa’s Tourism Industry is making a sure and steady recovery despite the effect of the Tsunami that struck Samoa on Tuesday 29th September 2009.

The owners of the affected properties which make up less than a quarter of all accommodation (resorts, beach fale and day visit properties) in Samoa have a realistic and positive outlook on where they will go from here.

The plan of action for most if not all those owners affected is “Rebuilding”. These owners are determined and adamant to move onwards and forward in spite of the damage done to what has been their home, their source of income, their lives.

“This is our livelihood… of course we will rebuild”, firmly states Koroseta, owner of Faofao Beach Fales at Saleapaga, one of the worst affected areas along the South-South East Coast.

Ms. Sose Annandale has assessed the damage to Sinalei Reef Resort & Spa and expects to reopen by 1st November 2009.

Coconuts Beach Club and Resort is aiming to reopen on 1st February 2010, as stated on its website “with fresh beginnings”.

Though the task seems daunting from the outside looking in, the owners have a confident outlook.

The support from the local tourism Industry and Government ensures that this positive stance becomes an actual accomplishment.

The Hon. Deputy Prime Minister, Afioga Misa Telefoni Retzlaff has confirmed that Government through the Samoa Tourism Authority (STA) and KVA Consult “will carry out a study to assess the damage and provide advice on a roadmap to total rehabilitation in the least possible time”. The Australian Government is providing financial assistance for this study which is expected to be completed in 2-3 weeks.

Samoa Tourism Authority is restarting its destination marketing initiatives on the 12th October 2009. STA’s tourism campaigns have currently been withdrawn in consideration of the situation at hand. STA with assistance from international tourism organizations as well as the foreign travel media and marketing agencies, will step up its promotional strategies upon resumption.

South Pacific Tourism Organisation’s CEO, Mr Tony Everitt, put it aptly in an interview with the New Zealand Herald. According to the article, Everitt emphasized that it would not help if people stayed away from Samoa from some misguided sense of decorum.

"It is quite important that as we grieve for those who have been severely impacted by the disaster we keep it in context and understand that there is a lot of Samoa that - while they will be in mourning for some time - is quickly going to be back in business as usual."

In the meantime, STA continues its humanitarian efforts to assist all those that have been affected by the tsunami.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Strategic applies for Bali capacity

Newly certified carrier Strategic Airlines has requested capacity from the International Air Services Commission which would allow it to operate services to Indonesia, with plans to commence a once weekly A330 service from Bali to Denpasar from 06 Dec.

The carrier said it plans to introduce a second weekly service from 30 Jun 2010, with the capacity requested being a reallocation of seats currently allocated to OzJet Airlines, which Strategic purchased from its administrator earlier in the year.

Confidence returns with strong accommodation forward bookings

Holidaymakers are pre-booking their Christmas accommodation in advance, with Mantra Group properties in south-east Queensland, North Queensland and northern NSW experiencing their strongest forward bookings yet, the leading hospitality group says.

Mantra Group - one of Australia’s leading operators of branded corporate and leisure accommodation with over 140 properties under the Peppers, Mantra and Breakfree brands – has recorded strong bookings, particularly on the Tweed Coast.

Mantra CEO Bob East said the results showed a marked increase in consumer confidence.

“We’ve had particularly strong bookings at Mantra on Salt Beach and Peppers Salt Resort and Spa, both at Kingscliff, where we operate over 750 rooms,” Mr East said.

“After a tough year and pent-up demand, customers are booking early to ensure they secure their preferred accommodation over the Christmas holiday accommodation.

“This shows how highly Australians value local holidays, especially beachside resorts.

“People are feeling better about the economy and life in general, and are very much looking forward to the Christmas holidays.

“Our call centre is now receiving over 1500 calls a day, more astounding is the Web traffic numbers over the last month, we have averaged 25 500 unique visitors a day.”

In comparison to last year the group is holding 15% more occupancy than the previous year.

With 3,500 employees, Mantra Group manages around 140 properties and approximately 15,000 rooms across the corporate and leisure market in Australia and New Zealand.

The Expeditionist

The Expeditionist
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