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Monday, February 28, 2011

The Niue Culture and Arts Festival 2011

Niue Festival

The Niue Culture and Arts Festival 2011 will showcase the best of Niuean traditional and contemporary music, dance, arts and crafts, food and more to be held in Niue on 23-30 April 2011.

Join us in this celebration of our culture, our heritage, our people and our home.

ILTM Asia: The world of luxury travel comes to Shanghai

With the World Tourism Organisation predicting that mainland Chinese travellers will take 100 million trips abroad by 2015.

Asia Pacific luxury travel planners will meet at the 5th edition of International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM) Asia, Shanghai in June to view the world’s increasing offerings in new and adventurous luxury experiences and prestigious luxury travel products.

“There is a huge growth to come,” commented Frank Zheng of Luxe China Club and VIP buyer at ILTM Asia 2011. “Chinese consumers are finding it a lot more interesting to travel and are increasingly interested in luxury and variety at the top end of the scale. The yuan is expected to rise in value and visa restrictions are diminishing every day.”

Founded on a strict qualification process for both buyers and suppliers, ILTM Asia only brings together the very best from the global luxury travel community to this exclusive, ‘invitation-only’ annual event.

The demand for a greater choice in elite travel from across Asia has encouraged many exciting new exhibitors at ILTM Asia 2011. Orion Expedition Cruises, for example is the leading expedition cruise operator across the Asia Pacific, venturing into locations that larger ships cannot access such as the Russian Far East's Ring of Fire, the culturally rich Inland Sea of Japan, the charismatic Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia, the diverse Borneo and the sub-Antarctic islands that so few can visit. With the introduction of Orion II in May 2011 Orion will double its capacity and give even more guests the opportunity to discover untouched places.

Six Senses Resorts & Spas will also reveal several new properties at ILTM Asia – Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives in April 2011 and Six Senses Meeraladuaa and Six Senses Before Galle – scheduled to open in 2012 – in Sri Lanka.

Another highlight will be Lodges of New Zealand – promising individual experiences in the country’s outstanding landscape be it either on a lake edge or river bank, perched on a cliff top or a mountainside, in glorious gardens or in the wilderness, set on a farm or a vineyard, on the beach or an idyllic island. First timer Tourism Fiji with its 333 islands – some inhabited, most not – has as much to offer: 5-star resorts with glimmering white beaches, snorkelling, diving, surfing or kayaking, trekking in the rainforests and experiencing sustainable living. Similarly, opening in November 2011, Song Saa Private Island in Cambodia comprises 25 luxury overwater, rainforest and beach villas built with sustainable materials.

Continuing to emphasise the fact that luxury is perhaps even more indefinable than ever, the event also welcomes XO Private, which represents countless luxury properties and high-end service companies around the world. Participating in ILTM Asia for the first time, XO Private will profile The Morocco Family in South Africa, Fregate Island – a tropical island paradise in the Seychelles, plus luxury lifestyle resorts Shanti Maurice and Sankhara Villas in the most untouched parts of Mauritius.

Orient-Express, which started in 1883 as one of the world’s most indulgent train journeys, today also embraces hotels, cruises and other luxury rail adventures in 24 countries across five continents. In addition, ILTM Asia will present The Maharajas’ Express – a perfect luxurious introduction to India for the single independent traveller from Asia and beyond, looking to explore India in style.

Within the region itself, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts has recently announced another 31 hotels to open in Asia, complementing their 50 existing hotels and amounting to a total of 15,000 hotel rooms in China alone. Many other renowned hotel brands will again showcase their products at ILTM Asia: The Ritz-Carlton Company will unveil details of their future openings such as The Ritz-Carlton Macao, Studio City and The Ritz-Carlton Bangalore and the expansion of their luxury resort brand, Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Turks & Caicos and the UAE .

For further information, please see

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Fiji just 11,000 Australians shy of best ever annual figure

Tourism Fiji is getting ready to celebrate a record year for the destination with November 2010 statistics taking the destination's Australian visitor arrival tally to just 11,100 shy of a best-ever 300,000 annual result.

Figures released this week by Fiji's Bureau of Statics show a total of 23,615 Australians visited Fiji across November, the figure taking the destination's 11-month tally to 288,884.

This in itself represents a massive 30 per cent over the 222,998 achieved for the same period in 2009.

As importantly, and again underlining the strength of the Australian market to Fiji, the 288,884 figure also represents 50 per cent of Fiji's total international visitor arrival tally – 576,987 - for the 11-month period.

Tourism Fiji's regional director Australia, Paresh Pant said he was "in no doubt whatsoever" that Fiji would cross the 300,000 mark with both local and Fiji industry partners indicating a very strong December from the Australian market.

The Australian result once again had major impact for Fiji's overall arrival figures with the destination now needing just 23,000 international visitors across December in order to pass the 600,000 mark for the very first time.

"In reality that should be a very easy task given that Fiji has on average hosted some 50,000 international visitors every December since 2007," Mr Pant said.

The 576,987 international tally for the 11-month period represents a 17.2 per cent increase over the 492,173 figure achieved for the same period in 2009.

Following the Australian lead, the majority of Fiji's key source markets also showed positive growth with figures from China and India – plus 86 per cent and 25.5 per cent respectively - leading the way.

Growth was also recorded from the USA (plus 7.2 per cent) and the UK/Europe (plus 7 per cent) while New Zealand numbers stayed positive achieving a one per cent increase.

Moon Tahiti from Avalon Travel

Avalon Travel Publishing has launched the 7th edition of Moon Tahiti by David Stanley. Since 1989, Moon Tahiti has been the leading travel guidebook to French Polynesia and this new edition incorporates the latest restaurant, resort, and transportation news. Stanley has been covering the South Pacific for over three decades and he knows the region better than any other travel writer.

Packed into Moon Tahiti's 353 indexed pages are 53 maps and 122 photos. The maps are clearly labeled without the confusing legends and keys which make other guidebooks hard to use. There are five maps of Tahiti, four of Moorea, and eight of the Leeward Islands.

The 24-page color section at the front of the book has been expanded with four suggested itineraries and three travel strategies. The six travel chapters offer detailed advice on sightseeing, accommodations, food, transportation, and facilities with exact prices are quoted. Must See and Top Pick codes help readers choose what to see and do. Moon Tahiti's 106
pages of reference material are tucked unobtrusively into the back of the book. The Background chapter introduces French Polynesia while Essentials covers getting there and around.

Moon Tahiti has been designed to compliment other media and internet addresses and emails are provided whenever possible. There is much information not found on commercial websites or in the free brochures.

David Stanley researches his books incognito and eschews the "hospitality" many other travel writers enjoy and the listings are thorough and critical. When one considers the high cost of a Tahitian vacation, the price of this guidebook is quite low and the savvy traveler will order a copy.

About Moon Tahiti
The 7th edition of Moon Tahiti (ISBN 1598807382 or 978-1598807387) was published by Avalon Travel Publishing of Berkeley, California. Priced at US$19.95, the book is distributed worldwide by The Perseus Books Group. To
order online, visit

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' Customer Magazine Wins Gold


Hapag-Lloyd Cruises Customer Magazine "Passagen" was awarded Gold at the International 2010/11 MERCURY Awards. Out of 750 magazines from more than 21 countries, the German language travel and lifestyle magazine "PASSAGEN" took top honors, winning the gold award in the "Tourism & Travel" category. This is the 24th annual MERCURY Awards, run by the independent organization, MerComm, Inc.

The judging panel was made up of advertising experts and creative executives from the International Academy of Communications Arts and Sciences (IACAS). The members of the jury come from 26 public relations, creative and advertising agencies in Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and the USA.

Since Fall 2009, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises has been collaborating with the Munich publishing house Journal International, one of the leading publishing companies in the world. With its more than 100 employees it processes and publishes approximately 40 national and international corporate media outlets in both print and online. "With this award the Journal International can emphasise its international competence in successfully producing high-class luxury magazines," said Gerd Giesler, Head of Journal International.

The top-quality editorial magazine PASSAGEN consists of 52 pages and appears quarterly with a circulation of 40,000 copies. With its targeted distribution to all Hapag-Lloyd Cruises customers, PASSAGEN reaches a 50+ upscale traveler. In addition, the best sales and cooperation partners of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises receive the magazine. Besides the three extensive travel reports in the magazine, readers encounter prominent personalities, experience gourmet tips by celebrity chefs, and insight into life on board the ships, inside the publication.

Friday, February 25, 2011


* V Australia commences service from Abu Dhabi to Sydney three times a week

* Provides direct access to Virgin Blue's extensive Australian domestic network and Pacific Blue's network in New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu

* Customers benefit from fully reciprocal Etihad Guest and Velocity frequent flyer programs

Australia-based Virgin Blue Group of Airlines yesterday launched its inaugural V Australia flight to Abu Dhabi, becoming the first Australian carrier to operate to the Middle East in 20 years.

Arriving at Abu Dhabi International Airport at 11.40pm GST last night, the Sydney-Abu Dhabi service included Virgin Blue Group CEO and Managing Director John Borghetti and Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan, along with the Australian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Mr Doug Trappett, and Virgin Blue Group's new ambassador and one of the world's most successful swimmers, Ian Thorpe, who has come to Abu Dhabi to continue training for the 2012 Olympic trials.

The V Australia and Etihad delegations were welcomed by Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) CEO, James E. Bennett and the Senior Vice President of Airports Operations at ADAC Ahmad Al Haddabi, along with senior representatives from the airport and the home carrier.

The new V Australia Abu Dhabi service is a key part of the partnership between Virgin Blue Group of Airlines and Etihad Airways which will see the airlines offer a total of 27 weekly services between Abu Dhabi and Australia – including double-daily services between Abu Dhabi and Sydney, daily Melbourne-Abu Dhabi flights and six frequencies per week between Abu Dhabi and Brisbane.

Virgin Blue CEO and Managing Director John Borghetti said that Australians were very excited about the new V Australia service and that the UAE would also benefit significantly.

"Since its launch in 2009, the award-winning V Australia service has provided a high-quality, competitive travel option for travellers on trans-pacific routes and we're very pleased to bring our service to Abu Dhabi," Mr Borghetti said.

"Etihad Airways has been doing a great job of promoting Abu Dhabi as a budding destination for Australian tourists and a stepping stone to Europe and beyond. Having a home-grown Australian airline offer services to the Middle East will build upon those efforts and help to increase the profile of the UAE in Australia.

"In addition to offering customers more flights to and from Australia, our partnership with Etihad Airways will provide access to Virgin Blue's extensive Australian domestic network and Pacific Blue's network in New Zealand, the Cook Islands, Fiji, Tonga and Vanuatu. This means that Etihad and V Australia guests will be able to earn frequent flyer points and status credits on our networks and receive reciprocal lounge and service benefits," Mr Borghetti said.


Etihad Airways Chief Executive Officer James Hogan said: "V Australia is the first Australian airline ever to serve the United Arab Emirates. That is no small matter, and is certainly a reflection of the growing strength and relevance of the Australia-UAE relationship.

"In partnering with Virgin Blue, Etihad is supporting the Government of Abu Dhabi's vision for the emirate by generating stronger inbound business and leisure traffic flows.

"Equally, the increased capacity into Australia will help us in achieving greater commercial scale, driving higher loads and yields on the African, European and Middle Eastern side of our network."

Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC) Chief Executive Officer James E. Bennett stated: "ADAC is pleased to welcome V Australia to its airlines' portfolio as the first new addition for 2011 at Abu Dhabi International Airport.  V Australia is recognised for its high quality service, in line with the levels of service we promise our travellers at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

"We applaud this partnership between Etihad Airways and V Australia as it paves the way for further development, improving the offer of choice and convenience to our clients, not only to Australia, but to our whole network."

V Australia now operates three Sydney-Abu Dhabi services per week and will operate an additional three Brisbane-Abu Dhabi services per week by February 2012, using its new fleet of three-class economically and environmentally efficient Boeing 777-300ERs. VA29 flies from Sydney to Abu Dhabi on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, departing at 4.05pm and VA30 flies from Abu Dhabi to Sydney on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, departing at 10.45am.

Virgin Blue Group's partnership with Etihad Airways delivers a combined global network of more than 150 destinations worldwide. This partnership is a key part of Virgin Blue Group's plans to build an international network of airline partners that can provide global coverage along with frequent flyer earn and redemption capabilities to benefit guests.

Bahrain GP Cancelled

This week’s decision to cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix due to civil unrest is expected to cost the organisers an estimated $100 million in contract cancellations.

The advertising revenue at F1 circuits is received by owns F1’s rights-holder, Formula One Administration, which also gets the race hosting fees. Bahrain’s royal family pays an estimated $34m annually but FOA’s chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone, has waived the fee since the race will not be taking place.

The biggest sponsor of the Bahrain Grand Prix is national airline Gulf Air, which pays an estimated $6m for naming rights to the race. This tab would be picked up by CVC, the private equity firm that majority-owns FOA.

According to data from F1’s trade guide, Formula Money, the 12 F1 teams collectively face losing around $40m due to penalty clauses in their contracts that apply if a race is cancelled.

Ferrari is expected to lose the most from the cancellation, with $11m in lost sponsorship revenues.

Last year 44,000 spectators paid a total of $14m to watch F1’s opening round at the Bahrain International Circuit, which is owned by the country’s royal family.

Meanwhile Ecclestone had already paid for shipping of tonnes of freight to Bahrain in advance of the race, which was scheduled to take place on March 13. The shipment will now be redirected to Australia, which will host the first race of the season on March 27.

Even if the political climate improves, it seems unlikely that Bahrain could host a Grand Prix later this year since the F1 calendar had already reached its limit with 20 races – the highest number ever held in one season.

One suggestoin accoridng to a senior FIA official is that Bahrain and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix could go back-to-back by rejigging the Formula One calendar for this season. But due to the packed calendar, this would mean pushing the finale rack in Brazil back to the first weekend in December.

Mohammed ben Sulayem, the World Motor Sport Council vice-president, said: “This is an emergency and in an emergency we need to work together.”

World Race 2011

Ride or Drive from Beijing to Paris As Part of World Race 2011 Staged by MIR Corporation

This 'round-the-world' adventure rally may be right up there with being a civilian on a space shuttle. MIR Corporation, a US-based specialist in active and cultural travel to Russia, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, is offering John Q Public a chance to ride or drive from Beijing to Paris as part of World Race 2011 – New York to Paris.

"This is a modern re-creation of the epic and grueling 1908 New York to Paris Race," explains Douglas Grimes, MIR Founder and President. "Not since then has such a monumental overland journey been attempted."

Participants can sign up a team consisting of driver and navigator for the entire journey from New York to Paris, or enter just the U.S. portion or just the international leg from Beijing to Paris separately. An individual can participate as a passenger in one of a few spots available in a support vehicle.

If driving the Beijing to Paris segment, participants would ship and then meet their cars in Beijing with time to visit the classic sites of Beijing while the cars are clearing customs. Comfortable hotel rooms wait ahead across China, Kazakhstan, Russia and Europe, with race support vehicles following along. From Beijing all the way to Paris, the World Race 2011 Tour Operator MIR Corporation takes care of the details.

Following is a snapshot of the Beijing to Paris tour:

Days 1-20: China

The longest driving day is only 350 miles, with extra time built in to appreciate the sights of Xi'an, home of the Terra Cotta Warriors; Lanzhou and Dunhuang along the ancient Silk Road; and Urumqi, where nomads of Mongolian, Kazakh and Uighur extraction have roamed for thousands of years.

Days 21-27: Kazakhstan

Land-locked Kazakhstan is the world's ninth largest country. Stops include Almaty, the country's largest and most cosmopolitan city; Lake Balkhash, one of the largest lakes in Asia; and the capital-by-decree, Astana, surrounded by the windy steppe of north central Kazakhstan.

Days 28-38: Russia

Russia is accessed at the western end of Siberia where the roads are more frequented than along the country's midsection. Stops include Ekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains where the last czar met his end; Izhevsk, capital of the Republic of Udmurtia; Kazan, a beautiful Tatar city on the Volga River; and Nizhny Novgorod, Maxim Gorky's hometown. In Moscow, capital of all Russia, visit Red Square and the mighty Kremlin.

Days 39-49: Europe

This is a Grand Tour through Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Czech Republic, Switzerland and finally France. Most of these driving days are short, giving time to admire the landscapes beyond the motorways, as well as the art, architecture and ambience of Old Europe. The finish line is in Paris with a farewell dinner celebration.

The land tour cost for a driver and navigator is $26,695 per person twin/double (single supplement $4,350). To travel as a passenger in a support vehicle for a leg of the journey, per person rates start at $5,895. The Beijing to Paris leg departs the U.S. on June 3 and concludes in Paris on July 23.

MIR Corporation, is a tour operator celebrating 25 years of logistical experience in the region. Contact MIR or visit for the details.

About MIR Corporation

MIR Corporation, whose name means "peace" and "world" in Russian, has been specialized in Russia (and neighboring countries) since 1986. Offering scheduled and custom journeys to Russia, along the Trans-Siberian and across the Silk Route, MIR's Seattle-based experts design imaginative trips that take travelers far from the familiar and work closely with local affiliates in Western Russia, Siberia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan to carry them out. MIR has twice been named one of National Geographic Adventure's "Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth," and is a preferred operator for museum, alumni and special interest organizations across the country.

Pullman launches five star international brand Hotel in Bali

Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana has this week launched as the only five star, resort style hotel, linking the prime entertainment and shopping areas of Kuta and Legian.

Pullman today announced its entry into the Indonesian market with Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana opening the doors to guests for its first 140 of 353 rooms on February 24, 2011. The balance will open over the next few months.

It is strategically located opposite the white sands of Legian Beach, and within easy access to many of the area's retail, dining and entertainment options. Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana offers numerous guest rooms overlooking both Kuta and Legian beaches, or lush courtyard gardens and pool views.

The design of Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana is inspired by the frangipani flower which is native to the island, invoking a sense of urban living with exotic accents and a design-form that will have guests wanting to explore all corners of the hotel's confines and resort's facilities.

Discover the meaning of hospitality

Spreading its iconic message of 'Check in - Chill out', this full service resort style hotel offers 353 well appointed rooms and suites, restaurants and bars, premium conference spaces, full fitness facilities and the latest mobile technologies enabling guests to stay connected.

All accommodation is designed with attention to detail, from the deluxe Pullman bedding, iPod dock, LCD flat screen, WiFi hotspot and broadband internet connection, right through to a personal yoga mat in every room. The guest rooms at the Pullman Hotel are a genuine oasis of comfort, with connectivity, where travelers can relax and recharge their batteries.

Ultimate Relaxation at Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana

Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana will open its spa in late February 2011 and offers traditional spa services including Balinese massage, Tjakra art movement, warm stone massage, purifying Swedish massage, reflexology, and foot massage. Starting on April 1st, 2011, the spa services will be extended to a wellbeing concept, where - among other innovative offer based on bio energy – there will be a vitality pool and hydrothermal therapies, and non-invasive holistic treatments.

Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana has both a garden swimming pool with a spacious sun deck as well as a roof top infinity pool, and sun deck, providing an ideal spot to take in breath-taking sunsets.

Philippe Battle, General Manager, Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana comments on the hotel. "We are delighted to be opening the Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana and bringing a new generation of hotel for visitors to Bali.  The Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana like hotels of the brand around the world, is designed with today's modern traveler in mind with smart use of technologies, reinvented services that focus on indulgent yet efficient stays, and facilities that will appeal to leisure travelers from all parts of the globe as well as events participants and their organisers.

Creativity and contemporary dining at its finest

Step within, for a privileged moment in "Deli @ Pullman", where the guests will be embraced by the charm of a paradise smile, a dedicated instant – from the heart of a spiritual influence. It is a distinguished Brasserie style restaurant, offering a delightful "a la carte" menu, reflecting French culinary heritage, inspiration from centuries of fine cuisine made for today's delivery. Hotel guests can also enjoy a large selection of fine wines, antipasti and tapas at IP, the trendy roof top bar.

Impeccable facilities for meetings and events

The hotel offers a perfect setting for high impact, medium sized, meetings and events. The hotel has facilities to cater for up to 350 guests in facilities and services specifically designed for incentive and retreat style meetings. The complimentary 'Chill-out' space is designed cleverly for such opportunities - to relax and socialise before, after, or during events. A dedicated Pullman Event Manager is ready to handle every detail with creativity and precision, while the IT Solutions Manager is on hand to deliver all the multimedia and technology requirements needed.

Gerard Guillouet, Vice President for Accor in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, said, "Tourism in Indonesia and in Bali in particular, is enjoying a period of extraordinary demand, driven by strong growth from the domestic market as well as short haul destinations in Asia Pacific.  This strong demand factor when combined with opportunities in the affordable five star segment in the central tourist areas, made a compelling reason to launch the Pullman brand first in Bali. Accor is the largest international operator of hotels in Indonesia and now has comprehensive brand presence on the island of Bali with hotels covering all segments, and with six hotels operating."

Bali has continued to become a primary destination for foreign and domestic tourists. Data from Statistics of Bali Province (BPS Bali) revealed that the number of foreign tourists coming to Bali during January to December 2010 has reached around 2,600,000 foreign visitors, increasing by around 8 percent compared to the same period in 2009.  Meanwhile, an estimated 3 million domestic tourists came to Bali in 2009 (data from Bali Tourism Authority, 2010). The increase shows that the Balinese tourism sector development has an impact on hotel establishment in the province of Bali. To accommodate visitors – business travellers and tourists - developments of hotels are continuously taking place.

Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana is located only 20 minutes from the Ngurah Rai airport. It is set in a natural, green, tranquil and tropical oasis across from the Legian beach-front and close to the heart-beat of Bali's shopping and night life areas. Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana room rates start from USD116++ per night.

To book at the Pullman Bali Legian Nirwana in Australia please visit or call 1300 65 65 65

About Pullman

Pullman is Accor's upscale hotel brand, 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 groundbreaking technologies, and "Co-Meeting", a new approach to organizing meetings, seminars and high-end incentives. At Pullman hotels, business travelers can choose between being independent or choosing help from staff available around the clock.

Further information  -

About Accor - the world's leading hotel operator and market leader in Europe, is present in 90 countries with 4,100 hotels and close to 500,000 rooms.

Accor's broad portfolio of hotel brands - Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Novotel, Suite Novotel, Mercure, Adagio, ibis, all seasons, Etap Hotel, Formule 1, hotelF1 and Motel 6, and its related activities, Thalassa sea & spa and Lenôtre - provide an extensive offer from luxury to budget. With 145,000 employees worldwide, the Group offers to its clients and partners nearly 45 years of know-how and expertise

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Uniworld Raises the Bar in River Cruising with Their New S.S. Antoinette


Uniworld Boutique River Cruises' official season will kick off in late March, and the countdown has begun as Uniworld will unveil its new Super Ship, S.S. Antoinette, sailing along the Rhine River. Newly built at the De Hoop shipyard in The Netherlands, the S.S. Antoinette will be Uniworld's largest ship length-wise at 443 ft. and width-wise at 37.5 ft. The public space per passenger, along with the staterooms and suites, will be significantly higher than on comparable vessels.

De Hoop, who has been building ships for over 120 years, has partnered closely with Uniworld, and their sister company, Red Carnation Hotels - a collection of four- and five-star boutique hotels - to set a new standard in river cruise ships. According to Patrick Janssens, owner of De Hoop, "The S.S. Antoinette is a highly customized vessel, more so than any other vessel, and we have used new techniques to optimize it and to make sure that it really is the next generation of vessels for the luxury cruise market."

Several unique features will make the S.S. Antoinette the most innovative, efficient, and luxurious river cruise ship in the marketplace today. All top deck suites and staterooms offer full open-air private balconies that, with a touch of a switch, will raise the glass to create a completely enclosed conservatory. All staterooms throughout the ship will have their own LCD flat-screen infotainment center, including movies-on-demand, music, news, sports, hotel services, and more. And each suite has an extra TV located on the balcony.

For those who wish to view movies in a more traditional venue, the S.S. Antoinette features the first movie theater on a river cruise ship. Equipped with a 20-seat movie theater, guests can view a range of movies on a state-of-the-art flat screen with Dolby surround sound.

Surround sound is also a feature that can be found as guests swim in the inviting, blue-tiled mosaic, heated swimming pool. With a water depth of five feet, guests can listen to underwater music being piped in as they swim. The swimming pool together with the Serenity River Spa™ and fitness center, provide a host of options for guests to maintain their overall well-being throughout their trip.

The S.S. Antoinette has impressive green credentials as well with a waste-management system consisting of a food macerator and tank, and glass-crunching and compactor machines. Further, she will be powered by a newly developed noise and vibration reduction feature consisting of double-resilient mounted frames for the engine and thruster. And De Hoop has designed the S.S. Antoinette for the highest degree of safety—beyond existing rules and regulations.

"Our goal is to make the S.S. Antoinette set a really new standard in luxury river cruising. Together with Uniworld and the Red Carnation Hotel team, we are going to make this happen, and we are going to be even more proud when the vessel sets sail," furthers Janssens.

About Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

Los Angeles-based Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, the world's only authentic boutique cruise line, is recognized in Travel + Leisure's World's Best Top Small Ship Cruise Lines; Condé Nast Traveler's prestigious Gold List and their Readers' Poll for Top 25 Small Ships, and their Readers' Choice Awards for World's Top Small Ship Cruise Lines and Best River Cruise Ships; Cruise Critic's Editors' Pick for Best River Cruise Line and Best New River Ship for the River Beatrice; and Top 3 cruise line ranking in Zagat Survey® in the categories of Top Cabins and Top Dining, and is the only river cruise line represented in their cruise survey with the best of the best in the cruise industry. Uniworld features luxuriously appointed boutique cruise ships with an average capacity of 130 guests; expertly planned itineraries with custom-blended, included shore excursions; world-class, gourmet cuisine; and award-winning hospitality from an all-English speaking staff. The company offers over 500 departures on 39 itineraries sailing on 12 rivers in 20 countries throughout Europe, Egypt, Russia and China.

For more information, please contact your Preferred Travel Professional, Call Uniworld at 800-733-7820 or visit

Uniworld is a member of CLIA, Cruise Lines International Association

Burma poised as Asia’s next tourism hotspot

Burma has been on the travel no-go list for decades, but after its first democratic elections in 20 years and growing international support calling for an end to the travel boycott, the nation’s tourism economy is set for a boom.

Last year alone, Burma enjoyed a 30 percent year-on-year increase in international tourism arrivals to 300,000 according to the Pacific-Asia Travel Association.

The contribution of the travel and tourism to employment is expected to rise from 1,228,000 jobs in 2010, 5.2 percent of total employment or 1 in every 19.1 jobs to 1,612,000 jobs, 5.6 percent of total employment or 1 in every 17.8 jobs by 2020, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Although these numbers are tiny compared to neighbouring Thailand (15 million arrivals annually), Burma, also referred to as Mekong, is a land of mystical pagodas, pristine beaches and ancient cities that will appeal to travellers looking for authentic experiences.

The release last November of the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is seen as another crucial step in Burma’s return from the cold. Suu Kyi had previously called for a tourism boycott, saying that visiting her country would merely fuel the military dictatorship.

As leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, she responded to the official “Visit Mekong” tourism campaign by highlighting the use of forced labour to build new airports and luxury hotels. The suppression of the Burmese monks’ protests in 2007 served to highlight the brutality of the regime.

This political stigma has led to key source markets such as the UK shunning Burma in favour of Cambodia, Laos and Thailand.

Suu Kyi told the Associated Press that while she discouraged large
scale package tourism, “individuals coming in to see,
to study the situation in the country might be a good idea”.

Win Tin, a senior member of the NLD, and a former political prisoner, recently repeated his view that tourists were welcome to travel to Burma.

Tourism would provide the country with a desperately needed economic stimulus. In 2009, tourism revenue is estimated to have reached $200m, a figure twice what it was in 2002.

The government is becoming less involved in tourism, with state-owned services being sold to private investors. Using privately owned hotels and other tourism services is a way of financially supporting the people of Burma without money being absorbed by the state.

One travel company operating within Burma claimed that tourism is now the largest private-sector employer, indirectly benefiting thousands of small suppliers and contractors.

A spokesman said: “As we witnessed after the cyclone in 2008, the junta would rather tourists stay away than contribute to the opening of the economy and the country. The hundreds of small tourism enterprises played a key role in rushing vital aid and supplies to the delta, in spite of the government’s efforts. They were able to do this more effectively because of their overseas networks and client bases.”

Population: 52 million
Capital City: Naypyitaw (population 200,000). Major Centre of Population: Rangoon (population 5.8 million).
Languages: Burmese is the official language. There are numerous other ethnic minority languages.
Religion(s): Buddhism is the predominant religion. The other main religions are Christianity, Islam and Animism.
Currency: Kyat
Major political parties: Burma is ruled by a military junta known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC). The main democratic opposition party was the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi, but the party was dissolved in May 2010 after deciding not to participate in general elections.
Government: Military junta.
Head of State: Senior General Than Shwe
Prime Minister/Premier: General Thein Sein

Travel behaviour trends surveyed

According to HostelBookers survey,‘Sightseeing and culture’ (80.7%) is the main reason customers choose to travel followed by ‘city break’ (47.0%) and ‘visiting friends and family’ (44.6%).

Travellers have upped their accommodation budget: In 2009, 28% of them spent over $/GBP/EUR30 compared to 40% spending the same in 2010, but it also appeared people are feeling the pinch as the number of them taking ‘no trips’ increased from 2.4% in 2009 to 5.4% in 2010.

It also emerged that the Internet remains the number one resource for our customers, whether booking hostels ( online or keeping in touch with friends and family. Over 86% of those surveyed check the Internet at least twice a week on holiday. To respond to this demand for Web access, many of our hostels now supply guests with Wi-Fi and Internet kiosks.

The survey results show that the English (8.3%) followed by Australian (8.2%) and Italians (7.8%) make the best lovers. Bottom of the list for the second year in a row are the Irish.

More travellers are enjoying nookie in dorms, 16% in 2010 up from 14% in 2009. The results also show an increase in the number of people taking precautions and having protected sex on their travels: 92% practiced safe sex on holiday in 2009 but last year this figure rose to 94%.

David Smith, COO at HostelBookers, said: “Last year we carried out the biggest ever travel survey to find out more about our customers and their needs in order to maintain the great service we deliver. It is interesting to see that people consider hostels the best choice for atmosphere, unbeatable prices and that they offer better city centre locations than many hotels.”

IATA: Aircraft accident rate is lowest in history

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced the aviation safety performance for 2010 showing that the year’s accident rate for Western-built jet aircraft as the lowest in aviation history.

The 2010 global accident rate (measured in hull losses per million flights of Western-built jet aircraft) was 0.61. That is equal to one accident for every 1.6 million flights. This is a significant improvement of the 0.71 rate recorded in 2009 (one accident for 1.4 million flights). The 2010 rate was the lowest in aviation history, just below the 2006 rate of 0.65. Compared to 10 years ago, the accident rate has been cut 42% from the rate recorded in 2001. A hull loss is an accident in which the aircraft is destroyed or substantially damaged and is not subsequently repaired.

“Safety is the number one priority. Achieving the lowest accident rate in the history of aviation shows that this commitment is bearing results. Flying is safe. But every fatality is a human tragedy that reminds us of the ultimate goal of zero accidents and zero fatalities. We must remain focused and determined to move closer to this goal year by year,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.

In absolute numbers, 2010 saw the following results:

*2.4 billion people flew safely on 36.8 million flights (28.4 million jet, 8.4 million turboprop)
*17 hull loss accidents involving western-built jet aircraft compared to 19 in 2009
*94 accidents (all aircraft types, Eastern and Western built) compared to 90 in 2009
*23 fatal accidents (all aircraft types) compared to 18 in 2009
*786 fatalities compared to 685 in 2009

IATA member airlines outperformed the industry average with a Western-built jet hull loss rate of 0.25. That rate is equal to one accident for every 4 million flights. The IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) became a condition of IATA membership from 1 April 2009. All 234 IATA member airlines are now on the IOSA registry. The IOSA registry is open to all airlines and it currently consists of over 350 airlines.

“The numbers tell the story. In the first full year after the IOSA became a condition of IATA membership, the accident rate for IATA carriers has never been so low. The data confirms that IOSA is helping to drive safety improvements around the world. It is an important part of a comprehensive safety strategy involving governments and industry working together to further reduce the number of accidents and fatalities,” said Bisignani.

There are significant regional differences in the Western built jet hull loss accident rate:

*North America (0.10), Europe (0.45), North Asia (0.34) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (0.0) performed better than the global average of 0.61
*Asia-Pacific was higher than the global average at 0.80 in 2010 and about the same from the previous year (0.86)
*The Middle East and North Africa region saw its accident rate fall significantly to 0.72 (compared to 3.32 in 2009) with only one accident involving a carrier from the region
*Latin America & the Caribbean reported a higher accident rate of 1.87 with four airlines from the region involved in accidents, compared with a zero accident rate in 2009
*Africa had an accident rate of 7.41, which was lower than the 2009 rate of 9.94. While showing improvement, Africa once again has the worst rate in the world. There were four Western-built jet hull losses with African carriers in 2010. African carriers are 2% of global traffic, but 23% of global western-built jet hull losses.

Safety in Africa

In 2010, the accident rate of IOSA carriers in Africa (for all aircraft types) was more than 50% better than non-IOSA airlines. Among IATA’s efforts in Africa, it established the IATA Program for Safe Operations in Africa (IPSOA). IPSOA ensured that flight data analysis tools are available to all IATA carriers in Africa, and as of the last quarter of 2010, all IATA carriers have this essential safety tool in place. IPSOA will provide IATA with the data needed to develop safety programs targeted at specific challenges in the region.

“Flying must be equally safe in all parts of the world. An accident rate in Africa that is over 12 times the global average is not acceptable. Improvements can happen. IATA’s African carriers performed significantly better than non-IATA airlines in the region. I encourage all governments in the region to make use of the IOSA tool to boost the region’s performance,” said Bisignani.

An analysis of the causes of the 2010 accidents focuses on several areas:

Runway excursions, which are instances when an aircraft departs the runway during takeoff or landing, were once again the most common cause of accidents, accounting for 21% of all accidents in 2010 (vs. 26% in 2009). The number of industry runway excursions accidents dropped by 13% (20 vs. 23 in 2009) and IATA members have reduced their runway excursion accidents by 43% since 2008 (4 vs. 7 in 2008).

IATA analysis shows about 35% of runway excursions on landing occurred on wet runways. Another leading cause of runway excursions on landing is an “unstable approach,” where the aircraft is approaching too fast, too high, or touches down beyond the desired runway touchdown point. IATA is working with industry and regulators to address this safety challenge.

In 2009, IATA released the Runway Excursion Risk Reduction (RERR) toolkit which provides high-level reference material as well as an in-depth analysis of runway excursion accident data and a compilation of significant risk factors. The toolkit also provides recommendations for operators, pilots, airports, air traffic management, and regulators. A major update to the RERR toolkit is planned for the spring of 2011 and will bring together all major international safety organizations in a collaborative effort to eliminate these types of accidents.

Ground damage accounted for 11% of all accidents in 2010, improved from 17% in 2008 when IATA launched the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) to address this challenge. ISAGO is the industry’s first global standard for the oversight and auditing of ground handling companies. The program, containing over 400 standards, was launched in February 2008 and the first audits took place in May of the same year. To date, a total of 288 audits have been conducted and 56 providers operating at 81 different locations are already on the ISAGO registry. The program has gained broad support from several aviation authorities and airports and has been mandated in Lebanon and Turkey.

Data Driving Further Improvements

Further improvements to the industry’s safety performance will be guided by data that can assist airlines in identifying trends and initiate preventive measures. IATA established the Global Safety Information Center (GSIC) in 2010. This interactive website is a one-stop resource combining safety data from sources such as IOSA and ISAGO audits, flight data analysis, pilot reports and accident investigations without compromising commercial privacy.

“Safety is a constant challenge. Industry and governments need to accelerate their efforts on data sharing. In 2010, IATA launched GSIC providing its members with unprecedented access to safety information. More than 430 different organizations are already submitting safety data into the GSIC, and over 50% of IATA member carriers are participating. Substantial GSIC expansion is planned over the next few years and the industry will reap the benefits,” said Bisignani.

In September 2010, IATA signed an historic agreement with the International Civil Aviation Organization, the US Department of Transportation and the Commission of the European Union to launch the Global Safety Information Exchange. This first global private/public partnership will exchange safety information aimed at improving safety by reducing risk.

“Safety is not a competitive issue—among carriers or governments. Improvement is in everybody’s interest. By sharing data and best practices we will continue to drive improvements to make a safe industry even safer,” said Bisignani.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Accommodation solution in the palm of your hand

click to enlarge
Rooms4You: South Oz                   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For a sneak preview of Rooms4You, go to

Carolyne Jasinski is the creator. Ph 0423 024472 or email

BBC buys last of Lonely Planet

Source: Reuters

We were alerted to this little newsflash by Matador Radar. According to The Guardian, BBC is set to acquire the remaining 25% of Lonely Planet. The BBC bought 75% of the shares back in 2007 for a paltry £88.1m. The remaining 25% were put options left in the hands of Tony and Maureen Wheeler — the founders of Lonely Planet — who have decided to exercise them. The buyout will cost the BBC £42m.

Explains Marcus Arthur, chairman of Lonely Planet and managing director of BBC Worldwide’s global brands division:

The put option enabled us to benefit from the Wheelers’ experience over the last three and a half years. They have supported Lonely Planet’s ongoing migration from a traditional book publisher to a multi-platform brand.

Of the initial decision to purchase LP, BBC News reported that “The purchase fits in with BBC plans to grow online revenues and expand operations in America and Australia.”

After the initial acquisition, the LP brand saw a fall in revenue, reporting a loss of £3.2m loss in March 2009. Since then, though, its digital (non-print) revenues — which include 140 applications and 8.5 million unique visitors to — have risen by 37% in the year ending March 2010. LP’s print magazine, launched in 2008, has seen a 33.4% year-on-year increase in the UK and Ireland.

Little plug: whoever said print is dead?

Keeping Up with the Travel Media

If you want to know how to work with the tourism and lifestyle media effectively then ask a travel journalist.

Leading travel journalist, Rachael Oakes-Ash, has developed a number of workshops specifically for tourism operators, in house marketers and public relations professionals. Her PitchIt2Me series of PR training for the tourism industry will be in Sydney and Melbourne this March.

The world of traditional travel reporting has changed and understanding which PR strategies work and which ones are obsolete will help your tourism product stay ahead of your competitors. PitchIt2Me has surveyed the travel media for you with surprising results that will change the way you promote your tourism product or client.

PitchIt2Me has trained delegates from Abercrombie & Kent, Hilton Hotels, Vail Resorts, Huka Retreats, Leading Hotels of the World and more. Choose from the original half day Pitch It To Me workshop for a comprehensive overview of tourism PR and travel media or focus purely on press releases in the Write On workshop. If pitching to media is a challenge then the So You Think You Can Pitch workshop will get your voice heard every time.

For more information on the Sydney workshops on March 22 and 24 and the Melbourne workshops on March 30 and 31 visit or email

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Quake Rocks Christchurch - Major Damage, Casualties

Rescue workers search for survivors in Christchurch. Photo: Martin Hunter/Getty Images

Source: Travelmole

A large 6.3 magnitude earthquake has struck Christchurch leaving badly damaged buildings in the city centre and reports of extensive casualties.

It is the second quake to hit New Zealand in five months. A 7.1 magnitude quake caused extensive damage in the city last September.

First photographs carried on news websites show badly damaged buildings around Cathedral Square, one of the city’s tourist draw cards.The cathedral itself was extensively damaged.

There were reports of people being trapped in buildings across the city and bus passengers were reported to be trapped under falling debris.

The airport was closed after its tower collapsed.

Christchurch YHA reported to be badly damaged

The YHA building in Christchurch was badly damaged in the earthquake that struck the city today.

Bodies were seen being removed from the building, local media reported.

Early reports indicate IHG’s three hotels in Christchurch have suffered damage in this afternoon’s earthquake.

All guests and staff at Crowne Plaza Christchurch, Holiday Inn City Centre Christchurch and Holiday Inn on Avon Christchurch have been evacuated.

All three hotels are now closed until such time as a full damage assessment can be undertaken.

Hospitals around the South Island of New Zealand have been cleared to take the earthquake injured.

St John's Ambulance had run out of ambulances and was using four-wheel drives to get the injured out.

Defence forces have been called in to assist with the earthquake recovery.

Christchurch Cathedral, the heart of the city, has largely collapsed.

Dean of Cathedral Peter Beck said they tried to get out whom they could but it was now in the hands of emergency services. "It doesn't look good".

A police statement said the earthquake struck at 12.51pm local time on Tuesday.

The statement went on, “Multiple fatalities have been reported at several locations in the central city, including two buses crushed by falling buildings.

“Other reports include multiple building collapses, fires in buildings in the central area and persons reported trapped in buildings.

“Christchurch Hospital is not evacuated and is in operation. No injuries reported at Christchurch Airport."

The Upper House awarded "Hotel of the Year"

By Preferred Hotels & Resorts 

The Upper House has been awarded "Hotel of the Year" after 16 months of opening, by Preferred Hotels & Resorts.

Preferred Hotel Group recognised the best of the best in awarding "Hotel of the Year", honours to hotels and resorts in each of its brands.  Hotels were selected based upon excellence in customer service, guest satisfaction and the embodiment of Preferred Hotel Group's value.

Preferred Hotel Group represents more than 800 independent, best-in-class hotels and luxury shared-ownership residences in over 70 countries across a collection of six distinct brands.

Dean Winter, General Manager of The Upper House said, "The award is a reflection of the hard work and strong customer commitment of The Upper House team.  It also demonstrates the development of Swire Hotels into a preferred brand for business and leisure travellers globally – it is a great honour."

"All of this year's award recipients are the embodiment of Preferred's 'Standards of Excellence' which is the defining element of our brands," said Lindsey Ueberroth, President of Preferred Hotel Group, "We applaud their continued commitment to excellence in hotel keeping and their ongoing leadership within the industry."

Since opening in October 2009, The Upper House has scooped top awards and is recognised for its fresh approach to personalised service and stylish design by Andre Fu of AFSO. Fu has been hailed by Vogue UK as 'Design Wunderkind' and Conde Nast Traveller US as an 'Asian Design Sensation'. Café Gray Deluxe by celebrated chef Gray Kunz has recently been awarded one star Michelin at the Michelin Guide Hong Kong and Macau 2011.

Expedia expands into Southeast Asia with the launch of new Singapore site

Expedia, Inc., the world's leading online travel company, has announced the launch of its new Singapore website – – a travel booking website designed specifically to meet the needs of travellers from Singapore.

The new website marks the company's entry into Southeast Asia, and is the fifth Expedia® site in the Asia Pacific region, adding to its existing regional presence in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and India. Expedia, Inc. also has a presence in China through a controlling investment in eLong™.

The new Expedia Singapore website currently offers hotel bookings and will include air fares and packages later this year.

"As one of the fastest growing online travel markets in the world, Southeast Asia represents an extremely important part of our Asia Pacific growth strategy. In 2011, you will see a significant acceleration in the points of sale that we actually launch. There is plenty of scope for growth in the online travel market in Asia as recent survey findings have shown that travel purchases top the list of online shopping here, a trend that is set to grow exponentially, presenting us with great opportunity for Expedia. The launch of the Expedia Singapore website is the first step of further investment in this region with new sites in Malaysia, Korea and Thailand to follow within the first half of this year," said Dan Lynn, Vice President and Managing Director, Expedia Asia Pacific.

"Singaporeans are keen travellers and with the launch of our newest website, we empower the customer to research and book their perfect holiday, selecting from Expedia's global product range and highly competitive prices. The new website will also provide in-depth travel and destination information, trusted by more than 25 million shoppers per day on Expedia globally," added Lynn.

"Expedia's unrivalled technology, unique product offering and global foot print give us the confidence to replicate the success of our operations in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and India," Lynn concluded.

Expedia also has localised sites for travellers in the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Mexico.



Accor has added the Grand Mercure Apartments Cable Beach Resort to its fast-growing franchise network, with the former Broome Sanctuary Resort (originally opened by Rendezvous) rebranding from 1 March. The resort comprises 150 studios and self-contained one- and two-bedroom apartments and three-bedroom villas, some with private plunge pools.

To celebrate the rebranding the Grand Mercure is offering a special relaunch offer of 20% off when you stay five nights, valid from 1 April to 31 May 2011 across all room types.

Set around a huge tropical lagoon-style pool and located just a short walk from what is arguably Western Australia's most beautiful beach, the Grand Mercure Apartments are close to all the attractions of Broome and provide a gateway to the Kimberley region.

All apartments have covered courtyards or balcony areas and feature modern décor which draws on the rich colours of Broome. The resort features five swimming pools including a kids' pool, Pindan restaurant and bar and Sorbet, one of Broome's premium Day Spas which offers extensive water therapies and body treatments. There are also conference facilities for up to 100 delegates.

Gail Gower, General Manager of Grand Mercure Apartments Cable Beach Resort said she is excited to be working with Accor to relaunch the property

"To be able to access the extensive network of support services that Accor offers is very valuable and we have no doubt we will see an increase in business through the exposure of the property, especially to Accor's loyalty programs such as Advantage Plus and A|Club members," she said. "It is a real benefit for Broome as a premier tourism destination to have another well-recognised luxury brand coming into the town."

Cable Beach is renowned as one of the most stunning beaches in the world, with 22 kilometres of powdery white sand fringing the turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. Situated in the State's north, Broome is an oasis of colour, culture and characters, with a relaxed vibe and a vibrant landscape. It boasts a lively arts scene, sophisticated dining and plenty of attractions from the famous "Staircase to the Moon' and a rich pearling history to dinosaur footprints said to be 130 million years old.

Accor also manages the 136-room Mercure in Broome, which has been performing very strongly thanks to a booming economy in the far north of Western Australia.

Grand Mercure is Accor's upscale apartment brand, designed to meet the requirements of long-stay business guests, families and groups who prefer the 'home away from home' comfort found in an apartment. Located in major city, regional and resort locations, Grand Mercure provides stylish apartments and villa-style accommodation, often with extensive leisure facilities.

The deluxe brand targets discerning travels with the best in boutique-style accommodation and convenience of self-contained facilities. The new branding will help to bring more international visitors to Broome and attract more business tourism to the area.

With 22 hotels across Australia, the Grand Mercure brand is also represented in New Zealand, China and Thailand, with than 4800 rooms globally. Grand Mercure Cable Beach Resort joins other apartment hotels in the Hunter Valley, the Whitsundays, Melbourne's Docklands, Hervey Bay, Townsville and other key locations.

For bookings go to

Friday, February 18, 2011

Are You a 'California Gurl' (or Guy) in Training?

California Travel and Tourism Commission rewards its online training graduates with Katy Perry California Dreams concert tickets.

California Travel and Tourism Commission (CTTC) has launched the coolest Californian incentive to Australian and New Zealand travel agents to complete its online travel training program, California Expert.

Any graduating agents who complete the program via the online training site and successfully graduate as 'California Experts' will be entered into a draw to win one of 20 double passes to see superstar Katy Perry live in concert when she tours Australia for her California Dreams tour in April/May 2011.

"We have tickets for Katy Perry concerts across Australia and New Zealand - some of which have sold out - and all agents have to do to be eligible to win is to complete all seven modules of the California Expert training program by March 31," says Tristan Freedman, CTTC's Australia/New Zealand Account Manager.

Part of a worldwide training program, "California Expert" was launched in October 2010 and is an effective learning tool for travel agents, designed to equip them with the highest level of California product knowledge and assist them to sell California to consumers. Awarded with a certificate upon completion, travel agents will find themselves armed with all the necessary tools and know how to sell California to their clients.

"It really is a fantastic training program. The different modules are a great way for agents to learn about the huge potential of California as a holiday destination. Not just Los Angeles and San Francisco, but the plethora of regional destinations such as Sonoma, Palm Springs and Lake Tahoe that are all just a short drive from those gateway cities," says Freedman.

To be eligible to win tickets to see Katy Perry agents need to go to - click on the relevant country flag, register and complete the training by the end of March. All winners will be notified by email and will be posted in the travel media the week of April 4.

British Airways Uses Comedy to Support Charities

Last year British Airways launched 'Flying Start' - its global partnership with charity Comic Relief, to support vulnerable and disadvantaged children in the UK and around the world.

As part of this partnership, the airline is supporting Comic Relief UK's bi-annual fundraising event - Red Nose Day. The event will be taking place on Friday 18th March, when the great British public will be asked to Do Something Funny For Money.

To date, twelve Red Nose Days have raised more than £500m. That money has helped, and is helping, to give extremely vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the UK and Africa a helping hand to turn their lives around.

To mark the occasion, British Airways is undertaking a number of fundraising initiatives; this includes hosting the Guinness World Record for the 'Highest Stand-Up Comedy Gig in the World' (taking place in the UK), as well as painting red noses on a number of its fleet, that will fly around the world.

Furthermore, the airline recently hosted a trip to visit some of the projects funded by Comic Relief UK in Cape Town, South Africa.

British Airways chief executive, Keith Williams, who attended the visit, said: "Having recently seen first-hand where the money goes, I am more enthusiastic than ever about Flying Start.

As a global airline, it is important for us to spread the positive message about Comic Relief and do our best collect loose change from customers. Every penny, cent and dime will go towards helping the most vulnerable children in the cities we fly to."

Keith Williams and the Comic Relief UK teams visited a number of projects in Cape Town last month, including mothers2mothers - a mentoring program offering comprehensive support for HIV-positive pregnant women and new mothers - and Grassroots Soccer, which uses the power of football to educate, inspire and empower communities to stop the spread of HIV.

Customers can get involved by donating money on board flights, as well as online at

Comic Relief UK is a UK wide charity, which aims to create a just world, free from poverty. It launched in 1985 and is perhaps best known for two major fundraising campaigns in the UK that take place in alternate years - Red Nose Day and Sport Relief. Thanks to the incredible generosity of the British public, Comic Relief UK has raised over £650million to help change lives.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Fisherman Harbour Company Limited Sign Agreement To Develop Four Points By Sheraton And Aloft Hotels In Patong In Phuket

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (NYSE: HOT) announces that it has reached an agreement with Fisherman Harbour Company Limited to develop Four Points by Sheraton and Aloft hotels in Patong in Phuket, Thailand. Both the hotels are scheduled to open in 2014.

Four Points by Sheraton with its timeless and stylish comfort offering, has proved a huge hit for Starwood worldwide, because of the "halo" of the iconic Sheraton brand. While Aloft, the sizzling tech-savvy brand that has rocked the U.S. hospitality industry, is Starwood's design-led, social-experience brand that has enjoyed the fastest ramp-up of any brand in
hotel history.

"Starwood has responded to Thailand's need for mid-market lodging by working with proven development partners to open best-in-class hotels throughout this dynamic market," said Wayne Buckingham, Regional Vice President, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. "We are delighted that our expansion plans are going from strength to strength in Thailand with
the signing of Aloft and Four Points by Sheraton Hotels in Patong, Phuket.

"We are delighted to have Starwood on board for our two upcoming hotels. The process of selecting and appointing the hotel operators has been well assisted by the CB Richard Ellis team in Phuket. We are upbeat on the hotel market in Patong and believe both Aloft and Four Points by Sheraton brands are good match for the location. Patong lacks mid-tier international branded hotels which offer both affordability and quality." Said Mr. Wittaya Thaweewongsap, Owner, Fisherman Harbour Company Limited

"With Phuket International Airport undergoing a major expansion which will double its capacity, we are confident about the future of Phuket's hotel market. The airport expansion will also help generate growing tourists demand in the mid-market and those looking for quality and value for money accommodation which both Aloft and Four Points by Sheraton deliver," said Ms. Khanitha Jarukirati, Associate Director of Investment and Resort Land at CB Richard Ellis.

Four Points by Sheraton Patong
Located 800 meters from Patong, situated across the Jungceylon shopping complex which is one of the biggest shopping center in Phuket, the hotel will feature 290 comfortable and stylish guest rooms and all the amenities guests need to travel the way they like, for a great price. The guest rooms will be minimum size of 35 square meters of which approximately 15 percent of the room inventory will have direct pool access. The hotel will boast an array of facilities and amenities including 4 food & beverage outlets, which will offer all-day dining, a beer bar featuring great local craft beer, courtesy of the brand's signature Best Brews® program. In addition the hotel will also feature a spa, gym with state-of-the-art equipment, an outdoor swimming pool and a Kids Club. The hotel is scheduled to open on January 1, 2014.

Aloft Patong
Aloft Patong will offer an ideal location at the southern end of Patong; 600 meters away from Patong beach, less than 5 minutes' drive from the Jungceylon shopping center, and a 10-minute drive away from Karon and Kata. The new Aloft will offer 300 guest rooms with a minimum size of 30 square meters, 3 food and beverage outlets, including the signature grab
and go deli (re:fuel) and the w xyzsm bar. The hotel will also offer feature flexible meeting space, an outdoor pool, and Kids Club for the young guests. Aloft is scheduled to open in July 2014.

About Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the leading hotel and leisure companies in the world with 1025 properties in 100 countries and territories with 145,000 employees at its owned and managed properties. Starwood Hotels is a fully integrated owner, operator and franchisor of hotels, resorts and residences with the following internationally renowned brands: St. Regis®, The Luxury Collection®, W®, Westin®, Le Méridien®, Sheraton®, Four Points® by Sheraton, and the recently launched Aloft®, and Element SM.
Starwood Hotels also owns Starwood Vacation Ownership, Inc., one of the premier developers and operators of high quality vacation interval ownership resorts. For more information, please visit

About Fisherman Harbour Co.,Ltd.
Fisherman Harbour Co., Ltd is owned by Mr. Wittaya Thaweewongsap, a successful entrepreneur in retail, hotel and real estate developments in Patong. His key developments are OTOP Shopping Centre Patong and Centra Ashlee Hotel Patong which opened in December 2011. His future projects include Aloft and Four Points by Sheraton in Patong, opening by 2014 and Fisherman's Harbour, his latest integrated development to be located on 78 rai of prime land in Patong which will comprise 6 hotels, an international convention centre and 2 condominium projects.

About CB Richard Ellis
CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc. (NYSE:CBG), a Fortune 500 and S&P 500 company headquartered in Los Angeles, is the world's largest commercial real estate services firm (in terms of 2009 revenue). The Company has approximately 29,000 employees (excluding affiliates), and serves real estate owners, investors and occupiers through more than 300 offices (excluding affiliates) worldwide.

CB Richard Ellis established an office in Bangkok in 1988, followed by its Phuket office in 2004. CB Richard Ellis (Thailand) Co., Ltd. has grown to be a leading real estate services provider, offering strategic advice and execution for sales and leasing for all types of property, property and facilities and tenancy management, valuation and advisory, and research and consulting. In addition, CB Richard Ellis offers CBRE Hotel services focused exclusively on hospitality including strategic direction and operational advice, which may include positioning the property for sale, selecting the appropriate brand, evaluating management agreements and valuation and advisory services. For more information, visit the company's website at .

Luxury Koh Samui Private Villa 'SURALAI' Joins Elite Resorts of Asia Pacific

Sublime Thai hideaway is the first private residence in the network of region's finest luxury travel experiences

The Elite Resorts of Asia Pacific is pleased to welcome SURALAI, a stunning holiday villa in the scenic northern hills of Koh Samui as the first private residence to join the region's premier internet showcase for sublime luxury resorts and travel experiences.

The six-bedroom tropical hideaway ( is now part of an elite collection of 40 of the Asia-Pacific's finest luxury experiences in 12 countries.

Taking its name from the 'residence of the angels' in Thai mythology, SURALAI joins an exclusive network of beach and island resorts, destination spas, lodges and mountain retreats - as well as a small ship, expedition voyager and luxury train - on the luxury online showcase.

The unique concept ( is a "popular hub for those searching for luxury resort accommodations chosen with excellent taste", said Chief Executive and co-founder Mark Greedy.

The network includes such exclusive brands as Mandarin Oriental , Banyan Tree , Oberoi and Capella.

On a hilltop in Bophut commanding breathtaking panoramic vistas of Thailand's popular island and the Bay of Siam, SURALAI is styled as an ultra-exclusive boutique resort; accommodating parties, families or groups of up to a dozen.

The luxury residence features an expansive sun-terrace, 20-metre infinity swimming pool, private gym and lush landscaped gardens. Six spacious contemporary bedrooms all feature elegant en suite bathrooms.

Guest services include a resident manager, housekeepers and private chef, serving daily continental or full international-style breakfast and both Thai and western cuisine. An optional driver is also available for exploring the idyllic island, browsing local markets or experiencing Koh Samui's eclectic nightlife and popular tourist spots.

SURALAI is owned by Samui Concepts, a joint venture company comprising Paul Hicks and Lynn Grebstad, founders and partners of Hong Kong-based public relations agency Grebstad Hicks Communications; and the villa architects, Hong Kong architectural firm MAP Architecture and Planning ( ); with their Thai partners.

"We are delighted to become part of one of the most exclusive collections of luxury travel experiences in the Asia-Pacific," said co-owner Mr Hicks.

"Elite's portal gateway to unique luxury experiences immediately suggests to online visitors 'Wow, I must go there!'. SURALAI is such a destination, leaving lasting memories of a magical experience."

Elite co-founder Jim Smith said: "SURALAI is a welcome addition to our network of experiences embracing the spirit of individuality as an ultra-exclusive private boutique resort in one of the region's most desirable destinations."
SURALAI is just 15 minutes from the main shopping and entertainment area of Koh Samui, Chaweng - with its stunning white sand beach and busy, mile-long strip of beachfront resorts, countless restaurants, bars, shopping arcades, open-air markets and eclectic nightlife.

Koh Samui is also one of Thailand's newest golf destinations with two championship courses, Santiburi Samui Country Club and Royal Samui Golf & Country Club, plus the fun 9 hole, par 3 Bophut Hills Country Club which is just minutes walk from the residence.

Koh Samui is easily accessible via daily direct flights on Bangkok Airways from Hong Kong or Singapore, as well as frequent direct flights from Bangkok.

New Executive Chef Plates Up at Novotel Twin Waters Resort

Novotel Twins Waters Resort has appointed a new Executive Chef who has orchestrated culinary experiences for political heavy weights including the Prime Minister of Australia, visiting heads of state and the King and Queen of Spain.

Born and raised in Australia, Executive Chef Steven Forrester commenced his career as a Sous chef at the Lakeside Hotel in Canberra before embarking on an international career which took him to Westminster London, Switzerland and a private VIP Chalet in France where only the finest refined French cuisine was served.

Classically trained in French cuisine, with his own blend of modern Australian cuisine, Forrester
Is a self confessed foodie who loves eating, cooking, growing and reading about food. His particular passion is to create dishes using fresh seafood and sweets or desserts using chocolate.

Most recently, Steven held the position as Head Chef at Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley and prior to that Head Chef at Parliament House Canberra.

While working in Canberra he was elected President of the Australian Culinary Federation, ACT Chapter which involved hosting and judging culinary competitions, presenting at industry events, organising a chef mentor program and being an industry spokesperson on various radio and TV programs.

Novotel Twin Waters Resort General Manager, Mark Wilkinson said that he was thrilled to have an Executive Chef of Steven's caliber join his team.

'Not only is he highly experienced but he is also a team player with a passion for training and developing young chefs and seeing them succeed in the industry," he said.

Chef Forrester will personally oversee the direction and operation of Novotel Twin Waters Resort's three restaurants and extensive banqueting department.

1001 Nights at Riad Enija in Marrakech, Morocco - New at Welcome Beyond

Welcome Beyond is happy to announce that Riad Enija in Marrakech, Morocco is now part of our selection of unique vacation homes & boutique hotels worldwide.

Riad Enija, called the mother of all Riads in Marrakech, is a 'thousand and one nights' experience. With 4 palace houses connected through corridors and only 9 suites and 6 rooms, Riad Enija is the perfect place to escape the lively Medina in Marrakech.

After having looked at more than 200 properties in Marrakech, the owners fell in love with the aristocratic beauty of this Riad, restoring it with respect to the Islamic art and architecture.

For the interior, the owners have mixed furnishings, art pieces from their own collection and a lot of candles with old antique Berber carpets. The property also features a big garden and several roof terraces. As Ursula, the owner, describes: 'We want to give people the dream they had before coming here.'

Staying at Riad Enija is like 'a journey to the sublime realm of peace'. Ursula: 'The kind of luxury we offer is for people who understand this philosophy.' Guests should experience the house and not be distracted by a mini bar, a television or telephone. There are even no locks on the beautiful historic doors. 'We offer the possibility to wind down, to be and enjoy.'

For more information about Riad Enija please visit:

For more information about Welcome Beyond and other properties

About Welcome Beyond: is a website promoting the most beautiful and unique vacation homes & boutique hotels worldwide.

We hand-pick places that we feel are truly original. Many reflect their owners' passion for distinctive architecture and design. Some border on quirky (and may have crossed over the line). Several are quite posh. And a few are downright rustic. But what all of our properties have in common is that they're authentic — be it a tree house, a yurt, an igloo, a cottage, a beach house or a castle. Each is singular, memorable and definitely worth writing home about.

The Expeditionist

The Expeditionist
Venturing to the world's special places