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Sunday, October 28, 2012


Centuries of creative change and growth define the northeastern Tokyo neighborhood of Asakusa, from its time as the center for Kabuki theater during the Edo Period to its legacy as a Japanese entertainment hub in the 20th century. Now, the recently opened Gate Hotel Kaminarimon by HULIC offers a gateway to this founding district of Tokyo. Design Hotels™ latest member hotel in the city stands poised between one of the city's oldest districts and luminous, modern-day Tokyo. Shigeru Uchida, one of the country's most famous architects, has transformed the former office building into a crisp, clean, contemporary sanctuary.

The Gate Hotel Kaminarimon opened August this year and is a haven for art and creativity in the newly revitalized neighborhood of Asakusa. "I'm interested in something beyond the visible or touchable, that is, the existence within the invisible," says architect and interior designer Shigeru Uchida. The 13th floor lobby is impressive, with its contemporary furnishings, large marble reception desk and a gently curving panoramic view of the city. Each of the guestrooms feature floor-length windows with superlative perspectives on the historic neighborhood and the Tokyo Skytree – the highest freestanding broadcasting tower in the world. The hotel's design aesthetic combines subdued elegance with accents of bold, urban vitality, reflected through the clear commitment to art and design. Comfort is key in the 137 rooms and suites, each of which feature a spacious bed, textiles by Marimekko designer Masaru Suzuki and original artwork by the acclaimed Japanese artist Katsuhiko Hibino. Hibino specially created five abstract paintings influenced by the dynamic interplay between Uchida's architectural design and the bustling neighborhood surrounding the hotel, which is home to numerous markets, temples and Shinto festivals.

Just across from the hotel is the historic Kaminarimon (Thunder) Gate, housing historic sculptures of Shinto deities and a four meter tall lantern. Also nearby are the Sensoji Temple, Tokyo's oldest, and Asakusa Shrine, built during the Edo period. Back at the hotel, guests take in the cultural contrasts of Asakusa from the 14th floor terrace, open 24 hours a day, or visit the sleek R Restaurant & Bar, which offers a distinct take on casual French fusion cuisine.

Rooms start at JPY 16170.




They say that life is about the journey, not the destination; and Peppers Awaroa Lodge is a destination that is every bit as breath-taking as the journey to get there.

Located in the heart of the 22,000 hectare Able Tasman National Park, Peppers Awaroa Lodge is a peaceful haven like no other.  There is no road access to the Lodge, which can be reached only by foot, sea kayak, water taxi or air ensuring all guests 'tread lightly' on the stunning surrounds. The choice of how you get there once you reach the Park is yours and all choices ensure a memorable journey to a remarkable destination. 

Peppers Awaroa Lodge is one of seven stunning properties in the expanding Peppers New Zealand network. The Lodge has been closed over the winter months and spring will herald a re-opening of the newly branded Peppers property to guests on 22 September.

The opening of Peppers Awaroa Lodge coincides with the launch of the Peppers Gourmet Food Trail program – a series of packages and offerings across Peppers' seven properties in New Zealand all in celebration of local produce and fine wine.  Reinvigorate your taste buds and all other senses at Peppers Awaroa Lodge with the 'Gourmet Food Trail package' from NZ$367* per night for two nights including a regional tasting plate served in room, local food trail map inspired by the passionate local food and wine producers and full buffet breakfast for two served in the onsite restaurant.

Visit for bookings and further information or email

Guests will certainly work up an appetite with Peppers Awaroa Lodge situated just minutes away from the world renowned Abel Tasman Coastal track. Regarded as one of New Zealand's most scenic walks, the track climbs around headlands, native forests and beaches.

"As an eco-lodge, Peppers Awaroa Lodge strikes the perfect balance between natural comfort and contemporary style," says Suzanne Wells, General Manager Peppers Awaroa Lodge. "There are no televisions or mobile phones at Peppers Awaroa Lodge, creating the ideal environment to revitalise the soul and break away from life's distractions while soaking in picturesque views of wetlands and native bush."

The Lodge offers 26 standard rooms, superior suites and family rooms which are all designed with the location in mind and are uniquely fitted to complement the surrounding environment. The property is Green Globe 21 certified, a world recognised standard for eco-tourism and an important part of the way Peppers Awaroa Lodge is managed.

"As well as the impeccable standards and attention to detail synonymous in all Peppers properties, an eco-philosophy underpins every aspect of Peppers Awaroa Lodge," says Wells.  "All clean material is recycled, glass is crushed onsite and used in concrete products and all food scraps are recycled as fertilizer for the organic garden."

Peppers Awaroa Lodge embraces a true garden to table philosophy with seasonal vegetables and herbs fresh from the organic garden featuring on the menu in the fine dining restaurant and café.  The view of the wetlands from the restaurant conservatory tops off a unique and all-encompassing sensory experience.

To find out more about the Gourmet Food Trail visit

*Conditions apply, subject to availability. Minimum 2 night stay applies. Block-out dates apply. *Valid for travel 22/09/12-30/11/12.

New $30M Quest for Sydney Olympic Park

Quest Serviced Apartments' aggressive growth strategy continues to fire at a rapid rate, with the $30M flagship property Quest at Sydney Olympic Park opening tomorrow, 29 October.

Quest at Sydney Olympic Park is the fourth property that the company has opened since July.  The remainder of 2012/13 will see Quest expand into eight new locations in Australia and New Zealand, a total of 12 for the financial year.

The new 4.5 star property is Quest's second largest, boasting 140 studio, one, two and three bedroom apartments in metro Sydney's geographic centre.

Paul Constantinou, Chairman Quest Serviced Apartments, says the expansion will cater to the 12 million people who visit the area every year.

"Sydney Olympic Park presents an ideal market opportunity for our business – there are 6,000 events held here every year, including the AFL and NRL, major concerts and the V8 Supercars.  There is also the ever growing sporting community - athletes, trainers, visitors – and a solid business base," Mr Constantinou said.

"Flexible accommodation such as Quest's is scarce and we look forward to catering for the market we know exists now, and to support it as the area continues to grow into the future," Mr Constantinou added.

The Sydney Olympic Park Authority Master Plan predicts the area will be home to a daily population of 50,000 workers, students and residents and host 25,000 visitors daily by 2030.

"On behalf of the Sydney Olympic Park Authority and the wider Park community, I'm pleased to welcome Quest to the Park. With the ever growing number of events held in the Park, particularly business events, Quest's arrival is well timed to support the growth in both business and leisure visitors. I wish them every success" Alan Marsh, Sydney Olympic Park Authority CEO said.

Each apartment is fully equipped with kitchen and laundry facilities and the property boasts an on-site gym and conference room.  Guests of Quest at Sydney Olympic Park have access to a range of services including pantry shopping, breakfast packs, local restaurant chargeback, valet dry cleaning, baby sitting booking and business administration services.

For reservations at Quest at Sydney Olympic Park please call 1300 334 033 or visit

Major Refurbishment For Mantra On Queen, Brisbane

Mantra on Queen has enhanced its reputation as one of Brisbane's most comfortable and stylish city escapes with the completion of a major $2.2million refurbishment.

The makeover delivers a fresh new Brisbane city option for business and leisure travellers with living areas, bedrooms and public areas all featuring in the upgrade.

Hotel Rooms and spacious One and Two Bedroom Apartments have completed a major refurbishment which includes stylish and bold new furniture, new window furnishings, revamped bathrooms and kitchens/kitchenettes, new carpet and a fresh coat of paint.  Hotel Rooms have also received spacious desk workspaces with contemporary built-in cabinets to house 37" LCD televisions.

Be among the first to experience the new look Mantra on Queen with special rates available from just $119* per night in a Hotel Room or from $159* per night in a One Bedroom Apartment.  Call 13 15 17 or visit

Guests can also take advantage of Mantra on Queen's great rates for one of Brisbane's upcoming major sporting events such as Brisbane International Tennis Tournament (part of the Australian Open Series) on 30 December to 6 January, or the Australia v South Africa Test cricket match at The Gabba (held from 9 to 13 November).

With premier conferencing facilities in the Queen Anne function rooms for up to 120 guests banquet style and well-appointed accommodation, Mantra on Queen offers the ideal blend of business and leisure just minutes from the cosmopolitan city centre of Brisbane and just 20 minutes drive from Brisbane Airport.

The hotel also boasts an array of leisure facilities such as an outdoor swimming pool and spa, gymnasium and sauna plus undercover car parking, onsite restaurants and a 24 hour reception.

Mantra on Queen is the latest in a series of refurbishments undertaken by Mantra's CBD hotels throughout 2012. A $20million investment in refurbishments across Mantra's 21 CBD properties commenced in July 2011 and is part of a two year investment to upgrade city hotel product.

To date, this includes a $7million refurbishment across Melbourne properties Mantra on the Park, Mantra 100 Exhibition, Mantra on Russell and Mantra on Little Bourke; Sydney properties Mantra Parramatta and most recently Mantra on Kent; and in Darwin, Mantra on the Esplanade.

"Our city hotels are predominantly frequented by business travellers who will benefit from the refreshed product now on offer but leisure travellers visiting for city events will also enjoy the new look hotels," said Mantra Group CEO Bob East.

There are 51 Mantra Hotels, Resorts and Apartments around Australia in all capital cities and key holiday destinations including the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast, Tropical North Queensland and the NSW North Coast.

Whether for business or leisure, the extensive collection of hotels, resorts and apartments captures the natural charm and ambience of their diverse locations, from bustling cities to serene coastal escapes. Stylish decor, quality service and the best locations are all part of the offering at over 50 Mantra properties across Australia and New Zealand.

*Subject to availability. Valid at 15/10/2012. Minimum two night stay.



Last night's Travel Journalism Awards for Excellence dinner brought to a close the ASTW's 2012 AGM Weekend.

Held at the Novotel Lombok, around 90 guests attended the Travel Journalism Awards for Excellence.

With new categories on offer and more than 250 entries received, competition was fierce. Feedback from judges was positive and many exceptional entries were noted.

The winners of this year's Travel Journalism Awards for Excellence are:

ASTW Travel Writer of Year, Louise Southerden

ASTW Travel Photographer of the Year, Barry O'Brien

PR Communicator of the Year, Pongsak Kanittanon

Jack Butters Memorial Award for Most Outstanding Contribution to the ASTW, Louise Southerden

Best Australian Story Under 1000, Sean Mooney

Best Australian Story Over 1000, Kerry Van Der Jagt

Best International Story Under 1000, Robert Upe

Best International Story Over 1000, Brian Johnston

Best Journey or Adventure, Louise Southerden

Best Responsible Tourism Story, Luke Wright

Best Trade Story, Kris Madden

Best Online Innovation, Craig Platt

Best Travel App, Lee Atkinson

Most Outstanding Tourism Organisation, Canadian Tourism

Most Outstanding Travel Product, Accor

Friday, October 26, 2012

Launch of Secret Retreats, a New Collection of Boutique Hideaways Across Asia

A new collection of 33 inspiring boutique hideaways across Asia, SECRET RETREATS (, has launched in Singapore.

The bespoke collective of independent luxury retreats extends from Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam in South-East Asia to India, China, South Korea and Japan.

They all share a common philosophy "owned by passionate individuals, arts and antiques aficionados, and lovers of fine foods"

"We spotted a gap in the market for distinctive independently owned luxury properties that reflect Asian hospitality as we know it and formed a collection of them," said SECRET RETREATS Managing Director Stéphane Junca.

The unique collection is hand-picked for common individuality as:
  • Small tranquil properties in perfect harmony with their natural environments, exclusive and sometimes quite unusual.
  • Authentic experiences encouraged by owners whose passion for local traditions and culture is infectious, complemented by great attention to details, natural hospitality and seamless service.
  • Fine gastronomy with fresh flavours and traditional recipes from local ingredients sometimes re-worked by talented and creative chefs, refined yet unadorned.
  • Charming and luxurious 5-star residences reflecting their owners' personalities.
  • Bespoke service dedicated to pleasing and fulfilling guests' needs and desires.
SECRET RETREATS is the brainchild of three European travel and hospitality specialists based in Malaysia and Bangkok.

French Managing Director Stéphane Junca has been responsible for the development of various hospitality projects in China, was previously Director of Hotel Tugu Bali and was most recently Regional Director Asia Pacific for Relais & Châteaux.

French Executive Director Bruno Ferret is a leading expert in tour operations in Asia and beyond. He founded Ateliers du Voyages, which he sold in 2009, and has since launched a new company KHOWAN, comprising Samar Villas in Siem Reap, Villa Mathis in Bali and Muang La in Laos.

Italian Executive Director Federico Asarohas lived in Malaysia since the age of seven and is a hotelier/ restaurateur based in Kuala Lumpur. He owns five restaurants in Malaysia and recently opened two new dining establishments in Singapore. He is also the proprietor of Japamala Resort on Tioman Island and Villa Samadhi in Kuala Lumpur.

Born in the USA but raised in Paris and London, Director / Secretary Elizabeth Soriano is a specialist in culinary arts and travel. Based in Singapore, she trained under three 3-star Michelin chefs Roger Vergé, Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and has edited travel guides for Relais & Châteaux.

More information on SECRET RETREATS and the properties is at

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Singapore Airlines Celebrates A380 Milestone

Singapore Airlines wishes Happy Birthday to its largest passenger aircraft in the sky, the Airbus A380, as the airline marks the fifth anniversary of the A380's maiden flight from Singapore to Sydney in October 2007.

Singapore Airlines was not only proud to be the launch customer of the A380, but also lead the way in setting a new standard for luxury, space and comfort with the introduction of unique features onboard the superjumbo.

Over the last five years, SIA has carried more than 9 million customers over 24,000 A380 flights, and clocked approximately 240,000 hours.

Subhas Menon, Regional Vice-President South West Pacific, said: "We were so excited to be the first airline to introduce the A380 to much fanfare and five years on, the excitement around our A380 services continues, more recently with the introduction of a second daily service to Melbourne. The popularity of our A380s reflects the fact that we delivered on the brief given to us by our customers, and as this is a continuous process, we look forward to doing the same in 2013 when we unveil the next generation of Singapore Airlines' cabin interiors and seats."

Singapore Airlines now operates 19 A380s to 10 destinations worldwide, with London being the busiest route with 3 daily A380 flights, followed by Sydney and Melbourne with double daily A380 services. Daily services also operate to Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Los Angeles, London and New York. Customers from Sydney and Melbourne can enjoy "A380 all the way" connections to these destinations.

To mark the occasion, customers in Sydney and Melbourne travelling on A380 flights today will be treated to a special commemorative A380 gift pack and a few chocolate treats. As part of the airline's 45th anniversary celebrations since the start of services to Sydney, Singapore Airlines will be hosting a special reception at Sydney Theatre on 27 October, with an exclusive Gala Performance by Sydney Dance Company.

Digicel Fiji 7s celebrate win on Plantation Island

Pictured, members of the Digicel Fiji 7s and Plantation Island Resort staff celebrating the team's win at last weekend's Gold Coast International Rugby Sevens Tournament.

For more information on Plantation Island Resort visit

Hawaiian Airlines Expands Brisbane

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Honolulu Flights With 18 Extra Services Next Autumn

Hawaiian Airlines will operate 18 special flights from Brisbane to Honolulu between March and May next year, in addition to its new scheduled services on the route, departing three times a week from next month.

The special flights also will provide connections to Brisbane from a range of U.S. mainland cities including San Francisco, Las Vegas, Seattle, Sacramento and Phoenix, delivering new opportunities for American tourists to visit Australia's Sunshine State.

Hawaiian will commence Brisbane-Honolulu flights from 28 November, departing every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday evening. In doing so, the airline will become the only U.S. carrier to serve the Queensland capital.

Of the 18 additional flights, which will add more than 4700 extra seats to the route, nine services will operate in March, five in April and four in May.

Most of the extra flights will operate on Mondays, providing new departure opportunities for customers including newlyweds, who can jet off to Hawaii for their honeymoons after weekend weddings in Australia.

Hawaiian has scheduled the additional flights as part of a seasonal shift of aircraft capacity, to maximise service to markets where demand is greatest.

The schedule changes also coincide with the delivery of additional Airbus A330 aircraft into the Hawaiian Airlines fleet, releasing existing Boeing 767 aircraft to fly more sectors during this period.

"Our decision to commence flights from Brisbane is in response to strong demand for additional flights from Australia, in particular from the Queensland market," said Peter Ingram Chief Commercial Officer of Hawaiian Airlines.

"With additional aircraft capacity now becoming available between March and May, we have the added opportunity not only to increase the number of seats on the Brisbane route during this period, but also to explore some different schedule options for the future," Mr Ingram said.

Departing Honolulu early in the afternoon, these flights will enable travellers from Hawaiian's North America gateways in Seattle, San Francisco, Sacramento, Las Vegas and Phoenix to begin their trip in the morning and make a seamless one-stop connection to Brisbane via Honolulu. Complete schedule information for the special flights is available online at

The introduction of scheduled flights from Brisbane will take to 10 the number of Hawaiian Airlines departures from Australia each week, with daily Airbus A330-200 services from Sydney and three Boeing 767s per week from Brisbane.

This is double the number of departures at the same time last year, when Hawaiian operated five B767 flights per week from Sydney.

All of Hawaiian's flights from Sydney and the new services from Brisbane connect with onward connections to the neighbour islands of Maui, Kauai and Hawaii Island, plus 11 US mainland destinations.

For more information or to make a booking, contact travel agents, call Hawaiian Airlines toll free on 1300 669 106 or visit

Australian arrivals to Taiwan increases again


Australian visitor arrivals to Taiwan have again increased with figures released by the Taiwan Tourism Bureau this week showing a total of 6051 Australians visited the destination in September 2012.

The figure represents an 8.4 per cent increase over the 5578 visitor tally achieved for the same period in 2011 and helps take figures for the period January-September 2012 to 55,051.

This in itself represents an 8.09 per cent increase over the 50,933 figure achieved for the same period in 2011.

The release of the figures follows news that the Taiwan government has announced plans to spend TND463 billion (NZD19.3 billion) on a new third terminal and other facilities at Taoyuan International Airport, the country's main international gateway.

Work on the new terminal, the centrepiece of a proposed 'Taoyuan Aerotropolis' project, is set to begin in 2014 with the development becoming operational in 2018.

International visitors to Taiwan reached a record 6.08 million in 2011.

Current figures for the January-September period show the total number of international visitors for the year to date have topped the 5.32 million mark, a 24.20 per cent increase over the 4.28 million achieved for the same period in 2011.



Photo caption: Yanty Siregar, Sydney Station Manager, Garuda Indonesia, Beverly Malzard, President ASTW and Kirk Wong, Senior Marketing & Media Executive, Garuda Indonesia pictured at the Garuda Indonesia check-in at Sydney Airport.

Sydney, AUSTRALIA, 25 October 2012: Indonesia is the focus for Australia's travel writing community this week, with around 70 members of the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW) travelling to Lombok for the organisation's Annual General Meeting and Awards nights on Saturday, October 27.

Garuda Indonesia, the airline of Indonesia, Visit Indonesia Tourism Office (VITO) and the Accor hotel group are the major sponsors of the event, which also includes pre- and post-conference familiarisation tours to all corners of Indonesia.

Bagus Y. Siregar, Vice President for Garuda Indonesia Australia and SWP said: "We're looking forward to showcasing our home of Indonesia and the beautiful island of Lombok.

"It was a natural fit for Garuda Indonesia to partner with ASTW and take its AGM to Indonesia especially as our vast domestic route network and visa-onboard services make it very easy and convenient to explore the largest archipelago in the world.

"It's also important that we showcase Indonesia as a viable stopover option for travel on our worldwide network covering Asia Pacific, Europe, The Middle East, Africa and North America," continues Mr. Siregar.

Bev Malzard, President, Australian Society of Travel Writers said: "It is very exciting for the Australian Society of Travel Writers to be heading to Lombok, which is part of the Lessa Sunda Islands, with the Lombok Strait separating it from Bali to the west and the Alas Strait between it and Sumbawa to the east. Our members will stay at the stunning Novotel Lombok on the southern shore of Lombok Island - the perfect base to discover this unspoilt destination.

"We are privileged indeed to be hosted by Garuda, Indonesian Tourism and Novotel Lombok and are looking forward to a successful and rewarding annual general meeting, the travel writing awards and the fun side of the destination."

The program will end with the ASTW Gala Awards Dinner which will be attended by up to 100 ASTW members and sponsors representing Australia's top travel media outlets and PR organisations. A post AGM familiarisation will take off to Yogyakarta on the Sunday, October 28.


Federation Square: Melbourne's place to meet

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Since its opening in October 2002, Federation Square has become the place for Melburnians and visitors to the city to meet.

Over the last 10 years Federation Square has developed into the new centre of the city and a natural place for Melburnians to come together to have fun, watch major social and sporting events and participate in the life of the city.

Urban historian and Monash University lecturer Associate Professor Seamus O'Hanlon, from the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies explores the place of Federation Square in the city of Melbourne in his latest book Federation Square Melbourne: the first ten years.

"Since its birth 10 years ago, Federation Square has become the new centre of Melbourne - from a place that was once so reviled it has ended up popular and successful; it is now a place that brings the people of Melbourne together," Associate Professor O'Hanlon said.

Designed to link the city, the Yarra River and the adjoining Riverside Park, Associate Professor O'Hanlon sees Federation Square as a symbol of the 'new' Melbourne.

"This 'new' Melbourne emerged as a post-industrial leisure and tourism-oriented city after the factories closed in the 1970s and 1980s and Federation Square has certainly embraced the leisure and tourism nature of this new city," Associate Professor O'Hanlon said.

"Throughout the book I have aimed to locate Federation Square within the roles of city centres in the economy and culture of the globalising world."

While covering the history of the Square, Associate Professor O'Hanlon also explores its design and management structure, the tensions between its public and private roles and where the line is drawn between public and private spaces.

"With any spaces like Federation Square, there is a need to find a balance between the public's right to the space and the social and commercial needs in managing the site,"

"In looking at the Civic and Cultural Charter under which the Square operates, and which mandates if there is a conflict between public and commercial use, the public will always win."

"With over nine million visitors in 2011 Federation Square has certainly become the public space it was designed to be."

Federation Square Melbourne: the first ten years is available through Monash University Publishing.

'Federation Square Melbourne: the first ten years' will be launched on Friday 26 October at BMW Edge, Federation Square as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations. For more information on the launch visit the Monash events website.

Sofitel appoints new Regional Director Sales and Marketing for Australia, New Zealand and Fiji


Sofitel has announced the appointment of Andrew Hartley to the position of Director of Sales and Marketing for Sofitel Melbourne On Collins and Regional Director of Sales and Marketing for Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

Andrew is excited to return to the Sofitel brand after his most recent position as Director of Sales and Marketing with the Intercontinental in Shanghai. He has previously worked at Sofitel Jing'An Huamin in Shanghai and spent three years as Director of Sales & Marketing for the iconic Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi.

With over 18 years of experience in hotels across the globe including Oman, Scotland, London and Bangkok, Andrew brings a wealth of sales knowledge and great leadership skills to what is one of Sofitel's key roles in the region.

"Having spent the last four years in Asia, I am delighted to be heading up Sales and Marketing for Australia, New Zealand and Fiji and to be based at Sofitel Melbourne On Collins, in the world's most liveable city," said Andrew of the new role.

Andrew replaces Blair Weir who has moved from Sofitel Melbourne On Collins to take on a new role at the Sofitel Vienna Stephansdom.

World Class Hotels & French Elegance

Sofitel is the only French luxury hotel brand with a presence on five continents with 130 addresses, in almost 40 countries (more than 30 000 rooms). Sofitel offers contemporary hotels and resorts adapted to today's more demanding and more versatile consumers who expect and appreciate beauty, quality and excellence. Whether situated in the heart of a major city like Paris, London, New York or Beijing, or nestled away in a country landscape in Morocco, Egypt, Fiji Islands or Thailand, each Sofitel property offers a genuine experience of the French "art de vivre".

Discover Sofitel on

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Toga Hotel: Vibe Hotel and Conference Centre Marysville

Toga to develop and manage a brand new hotel and conference centre, helping revitalise Marysville in Victoria

Toga Group is pleased to announce an agreement with the Deputy Premier of Victoria and Minister for Regional and Rural Development, Peter Ryan, to develop and manage a brand new hotel and conference centre in Marysville, Victoria: Vibe Hotel and Conference Centre Marysville.

Located approximately 100 kilometres east of Melbourne, the township of Marysville was devastated by the Black Saturday bushfires of 2009. Toga is excited to be involved in the $28 million development of the brand new hotel and conference centre, set to play a major role in the rejuvenation of this beautiful region of Victoria. The hotel and conference centre will be fully integrated with the local community; providing ongoing employment opportunities and attracting increased numbers of local visitors.

Vibe Hotel and Conference Centre Marysville will be a contemporary, 4 star hotel and conference centre featuring:

·         100 guest rooms, including 5 suites
·         A conference centre and associated conferencing/exhibition spaces for up to 300 people
·         A restaurant/café
·         A wine bar/pub
·         A spa/health and wellbeing centre
·         Gymnasium
·         Outdoor pool

Allan Vidor, CEO of Toga Group, said: "Toga Group is thrilled to announce the upcoming development of Vibe Hotel and Conference Centre Marysville. The town of Marysville is close to the hearts of Australians following the devastation of the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires. Toga is honoured to play a key role in the revitalisation of this stunning part of regional Victoria with the development of this brand new hotel and conference centre, and its subsequent management. We are delighted to be working in partnership with Metier3 on this project and applaud the vision of the Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development, Peter Ryan, which has made this development possible."

Peter Ryan, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional and Rural Development, said: "This exciting development will add character, quality and social benefit to Marysville and at the same time provide a tangible economic stimulus to tourism and private sector business investment right across the region."

The construction of Vibe Hotel and Conference Centre Marysville will commence mid-2013. The hotel and conference centre is expected to be open to welcome guests in late 2014. The new hotel is a joint venture with Metier3, the architects behind the fresh and innovative design.

Vibe Hotel and Conference Centre Marysville will be a place where visitors and locals alike will look forward to staying and hosting conferences and events. Along with chic accommodation and conferencing options, guests will relish great dining, a day spa and the hotel's lifestyle facilities.

Both the exterior and interior of Vibe Hotel and Conference Centre Marysville will embrace the local natural environment along with the sophisticated edge that Vibe Hotels are known and loved for. Additionally, Vibe Hotel and Conference Centre Marysville will be purpose built to include all of the features required to obtain a 5 Star Green Rating from the Green Building Council of Australia.

About Vibe Hotels

Stylish Simplicity

In concept and performance, Vibe Hotels are dynamic and individual. Vibe Hotels offer a fresh alternative to traditional hotels. Every aspect of Vibe Hotels represents a great lifestyle. Vibe Hotels are always part of their local environment, allowing guests to experience and absorb the essence of the destination. Each Vibe Hotel is an original expression of the village in which it is located. There are seven Vibe Hotels located across Sydney, Melbourne, the Gold Coast and Darwin. Coming soon: Vibe Hotel and Conference Centre Marysville (2014).

About Toga Hotels

Toga Hotels is a leading Australian accommodation provider, responsible for 53 hotels across Australia, New Zealand and Europe. That equates to over 6, 700 apartments and hotel rooms which vary in price, location and design in order to meet a range of different accommodation needs. For more information about Toga Hotels, visit:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Winners of the 2012 World Travel Awards announced

Europcar wins gold at the World Travel Awards

Europcar has won the prestigious title of Australasia's Leading Car Hire at the World Travel Awards for the third year in a row.

The World Travel Awards, now in their 19th year, support the global travel and tourism industry by identifying and rewarding excellence, with the winners chosen by travel agents across the globe.

Europcar Sales and Marketing Director (Australia and New Zealand), Mike Warmington, attended the ceremony in Singapore on Thursday 18 October 2012 to receive the award among the world's travel elite.

"We are honoured to receive the Leading Car Hire Award for the third year running and for the sixth time in the past seven years," Mr Warmington said.

"Europcar is continually innovating and adapting to improve the customer experience so it is fantastic to be recognised in the industry as the best vehicle rental company in our region."

The World Travel Awards were established in 1993 to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the tourism industry. Each award is recognised globally as the ultimate hallmark of quality, with winners setting the benchmark for all other competitors.

Mr Warmington said the award reaffirms the company's refreshed brand and customer promise, with the company having unveiled a new global tagline – Moving Your Way – earlier this year.

"Moving Your Way is about providing customers with diversified travel solutions and continually evolving to meet their changing needs," Mr Warmington said.

"We want to be the best car rental company with respect to customer experience, quality of service, value for money and product. In short, we want people to trust us – and recommend us."

Europcar also won Europe's Leading Car Hire and Europe's Responsible Tourism at this year's World Travel Awards.

An interview with Mr Warmington from the awards night is available on the World Travel Awards website:

Australasia's Leading Car Hire Award History

2012 Europcar
2011 Europcar
Car Rental

Car Hire Australia

2010 Europcar
2009 Avis
2008 Europcar
2007 Europcar
2006 Europcar
2005 Hertz
2004 Avis
2003 Hertz

Christchurch makes Lonely Planet Guide's Top 10

Discovery Stream launches to celebrate the ever-evolving city

Lonely Planet has announced placement of Christchurch at number six on its list of 'Top 10 Cities for 2013'.  This recognition is being hailed as game-changing news for the city's tourism industry.

"To have such a respected world-wide publication single out Christchurch as an exciting, vibrant place to visit is an incredible boost for our city and has the potential to make a huge difference to the speed at which our tourism industry recovers," says Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism chief executive Tim Hunter.

Christchurch is the only New Zealand city to make it into Lonely Planet's annual Best in Travel publication – a collection of the world's best trends, destinations, journeys and experiences for the upcoming year.

The city was singled out by Lonely Planet for the way it was "bouncing back with a new energy and inventiveness''.  "New Zealand's second largest city is rising from the rubble … with a breath-taking mix of spirit, determination and flair," Lonely Planet writers say. "The recovery effort is well under way and 2013 will be an intriguing year to join the rebirth of this proud southern city.''

"We believe 2013 will be a great year to visit to Christchurch and experience the amazing energy of the city in its rebuilding phase," says Lonely Planet's Asia Pacific Sales & Marketing Director Chris Zeiher.

While the city is in planning mode with a new vision recently laid out, there are plenty of things to do and see in Christchurch now.  Many of the activities re-opened in a very short time after the quake last year and new businesses have sprung up through the resilience of the local Cantabrians.  Project Re: START – the brightly coloured shipping container mall - provides a great afternoon of shopping and new bars and restaurants such as Smash Palace, built in an old bus, sit alongside existing attractions such as punting on the Avon River or the Antarctic Visitors Centre.  And with the re-opening of the Ibis and several other hotels to follow soon after there are now more places for visitors to stay.

Capitalising on the increase in new activities in the city, Christchurch and Canterbury Tourism has also launched their "Discovery Stream" creative campaign which can be found at

The Discovery Stream is a micro-site that will incorporate real-time content from visitors and residents documenting what they are seeing in the city.

The Stream pulls from Twitter and Instagram to uncover what people are doing and saying, in and around Christchurch at any hour of the day whether that is sitting in one of the new pop up bars, attending an event in the city or shopping. People are encouraged to take photos of Christchurch, tag it with #chch, and share it on Twitter and Instagram, in addition to uploading images on Facebook.

A grassroots campaign has been launched simultaneously in the city through tourism operators to encourage visitors to share their images.

This campaign sets out to address Australia's misconceptions of Christchurch as a tourist destination, by replacing the images of the earthquake that visitors have previously held onto. The Discovery Stream provides Christchurch with a world first, a platform that crowd-sources and broadcasts the visitor experience in real-time, showing all the big things happening in and around the city.



The future of Australia's tourism industry, and the highly price sensitive youth market, is under threat with reported plans to increase the price of some tourist visas.

"Australia's tourism industry urges Wayne Swan to think closely about the affects any increase to visitor visas will have on our competitiveness in the international market," ATEC Managing Director, Felicia Mariani said.

"This Government needs to look beyond the short-term tax grab and recognise the significant economic benefit created by the tourism economy in this country.

"Any increases in visa costs would be a short-lived budget gain that puts at risk the $27 billion contribution inbound tourism makes to the Australian economy and its potential growth, which is estimated to be over $30 billion by 2020."

Of particular concern to the industry is the reported $70 increase to the Working Holiday Visa (WHV), as part of the Mid-Year Economic and ­Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO).

"This represents a 25% increase that takes the cost of a Working Holiday Visa (WHV) from the current $280 to $350.

"This kind of gouging will have a critical impact on our international competitiveness in the lucrative youth market.

"This increase would be on top of the 17% increase to the Passenger Movement Charge in the recent budget; an efficiency dividend of $34 million to passenger facilitation services of the Customs Department, which has resulted in a cut to front-line staff from our major gateway airports; and levies thrust upon our national airports for security services provided by the Federal Police.

"Australia is already way ahead of most of our competitor countries on fees associated to travelling here, with the WHV fees amongst the highest of most western countries.

"Since 2005, WHV fees have nearly doubled going from $180 to the currently proposed $350.

"In broad terms, over this 8-year period, the result has been a trebling in fees for the Brits – our weakest market – a 2.5 increase for our US Working Holiday Makers and a doubling for the Europeans.

"At the same time, the high Australian dollar has taken a real toll on our performance in the Youth Sector which is only just beginning to show signs of resuscitation.  Adding another tax increase to this fragile part of our industry will put us off the map for many young travellers.

"ATEC has previously outlined to Government the significant potential economic benefits that will flow from improvements to the Working Holiday Visa guidelines which have the capacity to increase annual GDP by over $85 million."

Ms Mariani said the recommended changes have the potential to significantly increase the $2.3 billion dollars already being spent by Working Holiday Makers by around $700 million over a 10-year period.  This contribution would be in jeopardy if the visa fee increases go ahead.

"Most significantly, this decision will impact on regional areas of Australia that heavily rely on tourism expenditure from this sector.   For many of these communities, tourism is the primary economic driver and their tourism businesses are already suffering from recent pressures felt by our industry.

"This proposal will only serve to increase the burden on the businesses and communities that can least afford it."

The current WHV already requires applicants to secure $5,000 in savings to gain entry to the country, plus they must have a return ticket to their home destination – putting Australian requirements well in excess of competitor destinations such as Canada and New Zealand.

"Such a short term measure may bring minor benefit to the Treasurer's efforts to balance his budget, but will deliver maximum negative impact to our industry."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dive the SS President Coolidge warship in Espiritu Santo 70 years on

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This month sees the 70th anniversary of the sinking of the US warship, the SS President Coolidge off the coast of Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu.  This wreck site and diving in Espiritu Santo is now a major tourist attraction for Aussies and divers from around the world with great diving packages on offer.

Aussie dive operators are offering fantastic 70th anniversary specials to dive the Coolidge as below:

Dive Adventures has a six night trip to Espiritu Santo which includes eight dives from only $1529 per person.  This is based on return flights with Air Vanuatu from Sydney to Espiritu Santo via Port Vila, twin room accommodation at Deco Stop Lodge, transfers and taxes.  The price is for travel until 31 March 2013 and is subject to availability with blackout dates. Contact Dive Adventures on 1800 222 234 (toll free) or visit

Allways Dive Expeditions is has a seven night land only trip to Espiritu Santo with 10 shore dives from $899 per person.  This is based on twin room accommodation at Beachfront Resort including breakfast, tanks, weights, airfills and dive guides and return transfers.  Flights are not included in this package. The price is subject to availability and blackout periods.  Contact Allways Dive Expeditions on 03 9885 8863 or visit

Espiritu Santo was a major weapons and manpower base for the US in World War II due to its position in the Pacific.  The day the SS President Coolidge sunk, on 26 October 1942, it was sailing into to the designated rendezvous point through the Segond Channel and struck a mine which had been laid earlier in the year to thwart entry by midget submarines.  On board was over 5000 Army personnel, medical supplies, field weapons and motor vehicles and within 90 minutes of being run aground she was lying on the sea bed with all but two of her crew having safely abandoned ship.

After the salvors had gone in the 1970's, tourism has been developing on the island and thousands of divers have explored the ship, with many returning to further explore and push their diving skills.

Diving the President Coolidge is not just an amazing wreck dive but it has formed a large artificial reef where a large variety of marine life can be seen, from sharks and large pelagics to smaller marine critters.

Allan Power from Allan Power Dive Tours comments:

"When I first started my dive operation in Santo I predicted that the Coolidge would become the premier wreck of the Pacific.  Not only has this prediction proven right but one could say the wreck of the president Coolidge is now world famous.  Now thousands of divers have dived the wreck of the President Coolidge since I first dived it in 1969.    The Coolidge has stood up well to ravages of time and will continue to delight divers for many years to come."

For information about diving in Espiritu Santo Australians can also visit the following dive operator websites:

-          Allan Power Dive Tours
-          Bokissa Eco Dive
-          Coral Quays Fish & Dive
-          Santo Dive and Fishing

For more information on Vanuatu please visit

Departing Singapore, Voyager of the Seas soon calls Australia home

After a massive debut Asian season, today Voyager of the Seas says farewell to Singapore as she makes a bee-line for her new home Down Under.

Voyager of the Seas, the biggest and most innovative ship to be based in the region, is carrying over 3,200 guests on an Asia and Australia cruise. The 14-night voyage will take guests to Bangkok (where they will stay for a night) and Ho Chi Minh City, before sailing to Port Hedland, then arriving in Perth on November 5.

"While her debut Asian season had been very popular, I am very confident that Voyager of the Seas' Australian season can top that.  I know that the crew on Voyager of the Seas are very much looking forward to sailing in Australia and can't wait to say "G'day". They have been very excited about coming here since the announcement Voyager of the Seas will call Australia home," says Adam Armstrong, commercial director, Royal Caribbean Cruises Australia.

When she arrives, the 137,270 tonnes Voyager of the Seas will demonstrate why the Royal Caribbean brand is synonymous with innovation, showcasing concepts never before seen at sea in Australia and New Zealand. These include a 900-seat ice skating rink; an exclusive DreamWorks at Sea experience; the Royal Promenade – a four-deck high food, shopping and entertainment "main street" within the ship; and interior cabins with a view, overlooking the Royal Promenade. There's never a dull moment onboard with a plethora of facilities to enjoy: an in-line skating track; a 9-hole miniature golf course; a grand three-deck high restaurant (the largest restaurant in Australia); and a full-sized sports court for basketball and volleyball; a two-deck nightclub; the 1,350-seat Coral Theater featuring Broadway-style production shows ; as well as a beautiful Skylight Chapel.  Families will love the massive kids and teens Adventure Ocean Club situated close to the Adventure Beach water park; and Po and Shrek will be among the many "celebrity" DreamWorks characters that will engage guests of all ages, day and night, with unique experiences - including special parades, interactive character breakfasts in the main dining room, and plenty of photo opportunities.

After her Australian summer season, Voyager of the Seas will return to sail in Asia from March to October. She will be joined by sister ship, Mariner of the Seas, which will sail her first season in Asia in 2013. Following her 2013 Asian season, Voyager of the Seas will return to Australia again in summer 2013-14.


A new brochure dedicated to Silversea's 2013 Alaska voyages aboard the 382-guest Silver Shadow is now available to agents. Between May and September 2013, the all-suite luxury vessel will embark on 15 sailings departing from Anchorage, Vancouver and Seward, taking in the spectacular scenery, wildlife, native culture and gold rush history of the region.

All-inclusive fares start from AU$3,549 per person, double occupancy for a series of 7-day sailings between Seward and Vancouver, cruising the Inside Passage and visiting the Alaskan ports of Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Sitka, as well as Tracy Arm Fjord and Sawyer Glacier.

Also on offer is an 11-day round-trip voyage from Vancouver departing in July 2013, taking in the additional destinations of Wrangell and the Canadian ports of Prince Rupert and Victoria on Vancouver Island. Fares start from AU$5,949 per person, double occupancy.

Karen Christensen, General Manager and Director Sales and Marketing Australasia for Silversea, commented: "Our Alaska voyages are always immensely popular amongst Australian travellers and each season is a sell-out. Unlike larger vessels, Silver Shadow is agile enough to get up close to the breathtaking sights and wildlife of this region. It also offers every luxury along the way – from butler service for every guest to free flowing Champagne!"

Guests can enhance their experience with a range of exciting pre- and post-cruise Land Adventures that include Denali National Park, a floatplane ride to bear country and a tour of the Canadian Rockies. Those embarking or disembarking in Seward will also enjoy a complimentary Scenic Train Transfer along the famed Alaskan Kenai Peninsula to or from Anchorage Airport.

Silversea's fares include all-suite accommodation with butler service; gourmet meals with menus designed by Relais & Châteaux; complimentary wines, Champagne and spirits served throughout the ship, and all gratuities.

Contact Silversea Cruises on +61 2 9255 0600 or toll free 1300 306 872 (Australia) or visit


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Asia and Australasia’s World Travel Awards announced

Le Meridien Bora Bora (French Polynesia) was voted “Australasia’s Leading Luxury Hotel”.

The travel elite of Asia, Australasia and the Indian Ocean have walked off with top honours at a World Travel Awards (WTA) ceremony hosted in Singapore on Thursday 18th October 2012.

Mandarin Oriental, Tourism New Zealand, Banyan Tree, Baros Maldives, Cathay Pacific and Pan Pacific were among the brands to emerge victorious at WTA’s Asia, Australasia & Indian Ocean Ceremony 2012.

A packed delegation of VIPs, senior tourism figures and international media travelled from 42 nations to attend the event at InterContinental Singapore, which was held in partnership with Singapore Tourism Board and TravelRave 2012, Asia’s most influential travel trade festival.

It was an evening of sweet success for countries across Asia. The region’s booming aviation market was acknowledged with Singapore Airlines picking up awards for “Asia’s Leading Airline” and “Asia’s Leading Airline Business Class”. Korean Air was named “Asia’s Leading Airline First Class” whilst Cathay Pacific was voted “Asia’s Leading Airline Economy Class”.

Meanwhile Sands Cotai Macao was voted “Asia’s Leading Tourism Development Project” and Marina Bay Sands was named “Asia’s Leading Casino Resort”.

India’s ascendancy up the tourism order was reflected with it fending off stiff competition from the likes of Thailand, Sri Lanka, Bali, Malaysia and Shanghai to win the coveted title of “Asia’s Leading Destination”. Meanwhile Incredible India was voted “Asia’s Leading Tourist Board”.

In Australasia, Taveuni Palms (Fiji) won the coveted title of “Australasia’s Leading Villas”, Sydney Airport picked up “Australasia’s Leading Airport”, whilst Le Meridien Bora Bora (French Polynesia) was voted “Australasia’s Leading Luxury Hotel”.

The Maldives was voted “Indian Ocean’s Leading Destination” and LUX* Maldives was named “Indian Ocean's Leading Hotel”.

The WTA awards programme, hailed as the ‘Oscars of the travel industry’ by the global media, highlights and rewards those travel brands that have made the greatest contribution to the industry over the past year.

Graham E. Cooke, President & Founder, WTA, underlined the depth and quality of the travel and tourism sector across the three regions.

He says: “Our winners are drawn from the breadth of Asia, Australasia and the Indian Ocean, reflecting the strength and depth of the travel and tourism sector in the regions. I am sure these organisations will fare strongly in our Grand Final, which takes place in New Delhi, India on 12 December 2012.”

“The ceremony has also served as a glittering spotlight for Singapore – a tourism miracle that is bearing the fruits of its investments and creative flair. It is little wonder that this dynamic destination has recorded a double-digit growth in international arrivals over the past year.”

Singapore Tourism Board notes the added dimension this prestigious awards programme has brought to TravelRave’s mix.

Andrew Phua, Director, Exhibitions and Conferences of the Singapore Tourism Board said, “We congratulate the winners of World Travel Awards 2012 Asia, Australasia & Indian Ocean Ceremony 2012. As part of TravelRave, Asia’s most influential travel trade festival, the prestigious awards are an excellent platform to honour and celebrate the outstanding achievements of the various businesses that make up Asia Pacific’s dynamic travel and tourism industry.

WTA’s Asia, Australasia & Indian Ocean Ceremony 2012 marked the final leg of WTA’s Grand Tour, a global search for the world’s leading travel brands, which also included regional heats in Dubai, Portugal and Turks & Caicos. The winners of these legs go head-to-head at WTA’s Grand Final, which takes place at The Oberoi, Gurgaon, New Delhi, India on 12 December 2012.

To see the full list of winners and to download hi-res images visit

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Carnival Spirit sails into Sydney


Carnival Spirit, the newest and largest ship to be home ported year round in Australia, got an Aussie welcome as she sailed into her new home of Sydney Harbour today.

The arrival symbolised the culmination of months of planning and millions of dollars' worth of major Australian modifications made by the world's largest cruise line to Sydney's latest holiday resident.

Playing on the "big is better" theme, Carnival has made some big changes for Spirit's big arrival. Two bespoke upgrades created specifically with Australians in mind are Green Thunder, the steepest and fastest waterslide at sea and Serenity™, a huge, luxurious child-free retreat with panoramic views of the big blue.

The new additions are just two examples of more than 40 Zen to adrenalin activities that Australian families and couples can enjoy on Carnival Spirit every day of their holiday, any time of year.

American-turned-Aussie, Jennifer Vandekreeke, Director Carnival Cruise Lines Australia & New Zealand, has been instrumental in creating the vast range of onboard activities which make up the new and unique holiday option for this market.

"We originally came to Australia because we felt Carnival Cruise Lines would be a great fit with the Aussie personality – both being playful, outgoing and fun-loving. We also knew we'd need to make some changes to ensure our first ship, Carnival Spirit, was equipped to give the discerning Aussie audience an amazing holiday experience.

"We've demonstrated our commitment by spending more than $AUD7 million in upgrades which capture the perfect mix of Aussie personality and American style and service which is evident from Green Thunder to the Aussie coffee and even the Aussie backyard BBQ now installed onboard. We're convinced Australians will love the collaboration as much as we'll enjoy having them aboard. "

Sociable and outgoing Australian couples looking for options and-then-some on holiday, will delight in Sydney's newest entertainment quarter featuring unlimited evening activities to suit everyone's taste. From singing your heart out at SuperStar Live to laughing out loud at up-and-coming comedians at The Punchliner or sampling some of the 20 restaurants, bars and lounges, Spirit has something to suit everyone's taste.

Families looking for fun and memorable holidays at great value will find the right combination of 'we-time' and 'me-time' with unlimited family-friendly activities including WaterWorks –the ship's aqua adventure playground and award winning youth programs that engage, inspire and entertain kids from two to 17-years of age.

Whether it's ultimate relaxation or action-packed adventure, Aussies and Kiwis can explore every speed of holiday on sailings year round from three to 12 night voyages that explore the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Melbourne and in 2014, Tasmania.


·         If tipped on her stern, the 292.6 metre long Carnival Spirit would stretch more than 42 metres above the observation deck of Sydney Tower, the city's tallest building
·         Holds up to 2,680 guests
·         Too big to get under the Sydney Harbour Bridge
·         Over 1000 crew
·         Over 40 onboard activities per day 
·         Features the steepest and fastest waterslide at sea
·         With 1062 staterooms, Carnival Spirit offers more accommodation than Australia's largest hotel, the 658-room Crown Metropol in Melbourne
·         20 restaurants, bars and lounges
·         Serenity – a huge child free, open air retreat with 270° ocean views
·         60 per cent of the cabins are balcony cabins – 682 in total – more than any other ship based in Australia

Carnival Spirit will be docked at the Overseas Passenger Terminal from Wednesday, 17 – Friday, 19 October before undertaking her first official cruise – an eight-night sailing to New Caledonia on Saturday, 20 October.

Cairns adds another Pullman to its inventory as The Sebel Cairns joins Australia's fastest growing 5-star hotel brand



There are many more reasons for The Sebel Cairns to be celebrating its imminent rebrand to Australia's fastest growing 5-star hotel brand, as the hotel scooped two coveted accolades the Tourism Tropical North Queensland Awards– one for Business Tourism and the other for Young Achievers.

On 17th October 2012, the city's largest 5-star hotel will rebadge to Pullman Cairns International as part of Accor's rapid expansion of the Pullman brand in Australia, following the acquisition of the Mirvac hotel portfolio. The move to Pullman will result in the city being home to two Pullman hotels, Pullman Cairns International and Pullman Reef Hotel Casino.

As part of the rebrand, the hotel will incorporate Pullman's Co-Meeting virtues of seamless events, which considering their latest win for outstanding business and meeting operations, will make it even more of a popular destination for holding meetings and events in Tropical North Queensland.

Specialising in conferences, trade shows, meetings, gala dinners, weddings and boasting world-class facilities including 11 flexible event rooms, Pullman Cairns International will assist in bringing even more international business tourism to the region, as international travellers familiar with the Pullman name can rest assured their needs will be met.

General Manager for Pullman Cairns International, Craig Syphers, said winning TTNQ's Business Tourism award for maximising the tourism experience for meetings and business travellers was a coup for the hotel, particularly as it is about to take on the Pullman name.

"The timing of the win for Business Tourism could not have been more perfect, as the hotel which is renowned for its conference facilities is set to take on the Pullman name which is widely regarded as an international, premium business hotel brand.

"Now having two Pullmans in Cairns I believe it will have positive flow-on effects to business and tourism in the area, and I look forward to seeing the corporate, leisure and conference market which Pullman Cairns International already dominates in, grow as a result of our international branding."

The second TTNQ Award went to Assistant Manager Matthew Brown who was awarded the Intrust Super Young Achiever Award for his contribution to the development of a vibrant and professional tourism industry. Matthew commenced work in the hospitality industry in 2008 before arriving at The Sebel Cairns in 2010. In less than two years, Matthew worked his way up from a Porter to his current role as Assistant Manager and is an integral member of the team.

Craig Syphers said Matthew's dedication in providing the utmost care and hospitality to guests at the hotel was to be highly commended and guests and staff are thrilled he has been recognised for his efforts.

Pullman Cairns International is located right in the heart of Cairns CBD and only 8km from the airport. Built in 1987, the heritage-style hotel has 321-guestrooms which boast spectacular views of the city, harbour and mountains.

The hotel's Mii Spa Day Spa offers rejuvenating treatments with the luxurious Pevonia Botanica and Li'Tya product range a feature, while ten state-of-the-art treatment rooms, including a Dreamtime couples suite with private outdoor bath and garden ensures a memorable and relaxing experience.

The distinctive lagoon style pool is surrounded by palm trees and luscious poolside furniture and becomes a haven for guests in the Tropical North Queensland heat.

The hotel's dining facilities are extensive as the Lobby Bar provides the perfect ambience for social drinks and light snacks, while Coco's Restaurant serves modern Australian cuisine, with an emphasis on fresh seafood. The hotel's Flavours of the World Seafood Buffet is arguably Tropical North Queensland's best seafood buffet, with people known to come far and wide to feast on Tasmanian oysters, Gulf prawns, spanner crabs, mussels and more.

As the hotel takes on its global Pullman branding, it will be joining over 60 hotels throughout 21 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia Pacific and South America. In Australia, there are currently six Pullman hotels, with at least five more hotels primed to take on the Pullman name by mid-2013.

Further information concerning the Pullman hotels is available on


First Mantra Resort in Asia to open in Bali

Popular Australian accommodation brand, Mantra Hotels & Resorts, is set to open its first hotel in Asia with a new resort development in Bali opening in December.

Located in Bali's famous resort enclave, the Mantra Nusa Dua is conveniently situated just 10km from Denpasar Airport and will offer 172 spacious guest rooms including 24 suites, a spa & wellness facility and extensive conference space.

Mantra Group CEO, Bob East, said Mantra's 52 Australian hotels and resorts are already a popular choice with domestic travellers, who will now enjoy the same level of service and product they have become familiar with in a destination already popular with this market.

"It is an exciting time for Mantra and we are so pleased to be opening our first Asian property in Bali, combining a familiar brand name with a popular destination for Australian travellers and further expanding our growing hotel network," said Mr East.

The new 172 room resort will offer an exclusive onsite spa & wellness facility; state of the art fitness club; a unique indoor/outdoor pool with pool bar & lounge plus separate children's pool; a restaurant serving Asian and western cuisine and sports bar.

Guest rooms and Suites will offer modern decor; high speed internet access, flat screen TVs, tea and coffee making facilities and private bar – Suites will also offer a DVD/CD player and separate dining and living room.

Extensive conference space with a ballroom catering for up to 400 delegates and eight meeting rooms and boardrooms with dedicated business centre is also on offer. The resort is also a perfect destination for weddings.

Mantra has partnered with MJB Hoteliers on this exciting new project and Managing Director, and well known hotel identity in Indonesia, Michael Burchett said he was very positive about the impact of the Mantra brand in the region.

"The Mantra brand has excellent traction with the Australian market and to be the first Mantra hotel in Indonesia is a very exciting prospect," he said.

"The extensive distribution network and the dynamic marketing campaigns that Mantra has built around the association with Pat Rafter will create some amazing opportunities for us."

The Mantra Nusa Dua is the first of a series of properties to be opened in Bali by Mantra Group with properties also planned for development in Lombok and Seminyak over the next two years under the Group's luxury Peppers accommodation brand.

The expansion into Asia complements the Group's extensive growth in the Pacific which has seen a further five properties added to the Australian and New Zealand network of Peppers retreats and resorts this year.
The New Zealand network will see another Peppers property in Marlborough Sounds and a Mantra in Lake Tekapo join the network by the end of 2012.

A new Peppers development on Naisoso Island in Fiji is also set for opening in 2014.


Have you joined Club.CuSoon yet? Enjoy great savings and benefits at Peppers, Mantra and BreakFree – and it's FREE! Join now at


Watch Turtles Nest on Heron Island

The annual turtle nesting season is set to begin on Queensland's Heron and Wilson Islands, with an abundance of green turtles coming ashore to nest on these two Great Barrier Reef coral cays.

It's a spectacular sight watching turtles coming out of the ocean and laboriously pulling themselves up the beach to lay their eggs, all under cover of darkness at night and in the early hours of the morning.

From November through to March every year, a breeding population of turtles comes ashore on Heron and Wilson Islands to nest, approximately three to seven times during a season. The turtles lay their eggs at the same location where they were born, laying on average 120 eggs in one clutch.

With careful guidelines for viewing, families can immerse themselves in all the action on a casual walk around the islands' beaches.

Turtles migrate to Heron and Wilson Islands from as far afield as the Solomon Islands, Cape York and Harvey Bay, returning after an absence of 35 to 40 years since their birth here.

By Easter, both Heron and Wilson Islands offer the captivating opportunity to see one of life's natural wonders close up as thousands of baby turtles emerge from their nests to make the annual scurry to the safety of the sea.

True coral cays that sit right on the World Heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, Heron and Wilson Islands boast some of the most amazing snorkelling and diving year round, just minutes from the beach.

Heron Island is also home to one of Australia's most important reef Research Stations. Administered by the University of Queensland, it provides accommodation, boats, diving gear, laboratories and a seawater aquarium system for researchers and student groups. Guests at Heron Island Resort are actively encouraged to learn more about the Research Station and its work to get a better understanding of the delicate underwater world that surrounds them.

Most recently Heron Island reinforced its position as one of the most spectacular underwater environments when it was linked to the launch of the Catlin Seaview Survey.

This critically important series of expeditions, which run from September through until the end of December, will take in 20 specially selected coral reef locations in northern Queensland and will be the first comprehensive study to benchmark the health of the Great Barrier Reef and assist in understanding changes to these critical marine environments.

The Shallow Reef Survey uses state of the art digital technology including a purpose built camera to capture tens of thousands of 360 degree panoramic images necessary for the monitoring project. This camera equipment was trialled over multiple dives which took place on Heron Island over recent months.

This unique underwater experience will invite the world to watch this science in the making for the first time when it appears in the Street View feature within Google Maps, Panoramio, Google+ and Google World Wonders.

Summer Island Deal:

Stay for three nights on Heron Island in a Turtle Room for just $999 plus enjoy two-for-one return boat transfers from Gladstone. All meals are included, plus kids stay and eat for free. This summer island deal is available for sale until 30th November and for travel until 20th December.

For further information on Heron Island visit: and

Monday, October 15, 2012

Sydney and NSW Uncovered, October 2012

Dinosaurs Take Up Residence At Taronga Zoo

A Brachiosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Australia’s own dinosaur, the Muttaburrasaurus, will join lions, giraffes and seals at Taronga Zoo from 1 November. The 16 life-size and life-like robotic dinosaurs are travelling all the way from North America to Sydney for a new exhibition - Dinosaurs in the Wild. An encounter with these moving, roaring dinosaurs is included in the standard entry ticket to Taronga and tells a very important story about how humans can help prevent extinction of wonderful creatures today like the Tasmanian Devil and Sumatran Tiger.

Dress All White For The Night

For the first time ever,Sydney will play host to the spectacular event, Dîner en Blanc® on 27 October. Launched by a group of friends more than 20 years ago in Paris, this impromptu pop-up dinner now brings together over 10,000 people each year, in cities such as New York, Barcelona, Mexico City and Singapore. Bring your own gourmet hampers and dress in your best whites for a dazzling picnic outdoors. The location remains secret until the day of the event. Registrations to attend the Sydney event are open now at

Plunge Into SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium

Discover treasure in a pirate den, touch a sea urchin and get up close to stingrays at the new look SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium. The 1.5 million litre Oceanarium is home to 1700 marine animals from 16 unique species, and now boasts the largest variety of sharks and rays in the world. The $10million renovation also includes 14 newly-themed zones as well as interactive and educational experiences.

Australia’s First Dedicated Children’s Theatre Opens in Darling Quarter

The Darling Quarter Theatre has opened with a focus on introducing young people to the arts. The 236-seat theatre in Darling Harbour is the only purpose-built performance space for children in Australia and complements the existing playground and community green at the Darling Quarter. The new space is home to Monkey Baa Theatre Company which is dedicated to presenting quality theatre to young audience.

Parramasala Announces 2012 Program

Now in its third year, Parramasala, Australian Festival of South Asian Arts, has an exciting four day program celebrating South East Asian culture from 8–11 November. Staged at various venues in Parramatta, the schedule features an opening night Bollywood-style party, a wide variety of contemporary music, comedy, delicious cuisine, hawker market stalls, a South Asian film program and free outdoor entertainment. The façade of Parramatta Town Hall will be illuminated throughout the festival with stunning digital projections by Australia’s internationally famous masters of the art form, The Electric Canvas.

New Touring Route In Regional NSW

The Backroads Trail takes travellers on a self-drive journey through the Riverina and along the Murray River from Moama to Barham, weaving together themes of heritage, environment, food, wine and culture. Be delighted by delicious produce, stunning sculptures, leafy bushland walks, relaxing river cruises and country hospitality. The area offers quirky events for a truly memorable experience from the monthly Koondrook - Barham Farmers Market, the annual Caldwell Craft Community Market and the annual Mathoura Fishing Competition.

Sydney in Summer: Love Every Second

Sydney is a dynamic city, always evolving and setting new trends in dining, entertainment, fashion, arts and lifestyle. Here are some of Sydney's best new things to do over summer that will inspire and move you. Read more

Experience The Fresh Face of Bondi

Bondi is buzzing in the lead-up to summer, with new cafes, shops and markets popping up all over this iconic beachside village. Freelance stylist and passionate Bondi local, Jason Grant reveals his favourite things to do in Bondi.Read more

Snowball Into Summer

There is plenty to do in the Snowy Mountains this spring and summer. Read on for a must-do list of things to see and do.Read more

Sydney Events

ARIA Week, Sydney, 26 - 29 November: This year the inaugural ARIA Week event is a week-long celebration of live music events, conferences, master classes and forums. Check out amazing live performances throughout the week and join the conversation through the conferences and forums that will be attended by Australian and international leading music industry figures.Read more

Regional Events

Jazz In The Vines, Pokolbin, 27 October: A picnic with good friends, fantastic food and great Hunter Valley wines all wrapped in the beautiful surroundings of the Brokenback Mountains. Darren Percival from The Voice will perform live for the 20th Anniversary. Sit, relax, indulge and enjoy Jazz in the Vines style.Read more

Cicada Lodge taking bookings


Construction on Cicada Lodge, the new luxury accommodation property being developed in Nitmiluk National Park in the Northern Territory's Top End, is on track for a 1 March 2013 opening, with reservations open for bookings.

"The construction is at the point where the property is really starting to take shape – the accommodation wings are up and ready for interior fit out, the reception area is well underway with the pool  and deck already completed,  giving us a real taste of what it will be like to sit here and soak up this amazing destination", said property Marketing Director  Mr Clive Pollack.

"We are on track to present a truly unique property to the market - an exclusive touring program is being developed;  we are in discussion with one of Australia's more unique chefs to develop menus;  and have a few exciting entertainment programs planned for guest who book early in the first few weeks of opening – all of this will be announcied in early November".

Located on a ridge overlooking the Katherine River, all 18 rooms of Cicada Lodge have uninteruppted views out over the surroundng vast rock country and are completely surrounded by native flora and wildlife.  The large open balconies feature floor to ceiling moveable louvres to allow for privacy or to open the balcony competely.

Each room features unique and distinctive artwork from local Top End indigenous artists, many of whom are recognised in galleries around the world. All this artwork is for sale to guests.

The central reception and welcome area features an open deck pool looking out over the Katherine River, a cool fully air conditioned bar and intricate water feature  - the perfect place to relax after a day touring.

Cicada Lodge is located inside Nitmiluk National Park, home to Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge. This deep gorge carved through ancient sandstone by the Katherine River draws thousands of visitors to the Jawoyn-owned Nitmiluk National Park each year.

Distinct sandstone country is featured above the gorge, lush gullies full of flora inhabit giant cracks in the gorge walls, and broad valleys meander through both the high and the low country.

This diverse and spectacular landscape is also a cultural landscape, where the Jawoyn people continue to live and work while sharing their culture with visitors to their country.

For bookings and enquiries please contact Nitmiluk Tours Ph: 1300 146 743 (Australia), Ph: +618 8971 0167 (international); or Or log onto for more details.

Avalon adds the mighty Mississippi to its collection

Avalon Waterways has added the mighty Mississippi to its collection of luxury river cruises, introducing two new itineraries on America's greatest waterway.

To be operated by the largest river steamboat ever built, the 127m American Queen, the new itineraries are on sale now and will offer unforgettable journeys through the American heartland between March and December, 2013.

The Mississippi cruises join Avalon's existing selection of more than 40 different itineraries on the great rivers of Europe, on the Nile, the Yangtze, the Mekong and among the Galapagos Islands.

The two American Queen itineraries are the first offered by Avalon in North America:

America's Heartland: From Music City to the Big Easy – a 12-day journey from Nashville to New Orleans, travelling through Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana. Priced from A$4461* per person twin share (departures Mar-Dec, 2013).

Fall Foliage Spectacular: From the Windy City to the Twin Cities – an 11-day seasonal journey from Chicago to St Paul, travelling through Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota at the height of the autumn colour.  Priced from A$4101* per person twin share (departures Sept-Oct, 2013).

Avalon Waterways Marketing Manager Australasia Christian Schweitzer said the new itineraries were a natural addition to the Avalon selection of river cruises.

"The popularity of river cruises has grown enormously among Australians in recent years and Avalon Waterways has been an industry leader in that growth," Mr Schweitzer said.  "Our new Mississippi cruises will offer the same level of luxury and service as our other cruises, not only on board but throughout the entire journey."

With its distinctive tiered balconies and traditional paddlewheel, the six-deck American Queen combines Victorian charm with modern luxury.  Serving regional cuisine by talented American chef Regina Charboneau, it offers a choice of dining options including its elegant Dining Room, the River Grill and the 24-hour Front Porch Café.

Other facilities include the American Queen Spa, a pool, fitness centre, several lounges and bars and a nightly program of showboat entertainment in the Grand Saloon.

For full details and bookings see licensed travel agents, visit or phone 1300 230 234.

*Subject to availability and conditions. Gratuities not included.

The Expeditionist

The Expeditionist
Venturing to the world's special places