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Friday, February 28, 2014

South African Currency Devaluation Brings Tourists Flocking!

570554EVERY cloud has a silver lining, they say – for foreign tourists in search of the ultimate safari vacation, South Africa’s currency, the rand, makes for very shiny prospects as it has devalued by between 22% and 32% against major currencies over the past 12 months, meaning that dollars, euros and pounds buy so much more in South Africa.

Savvy travellers, who choose the right time of year, and perhaps lesser-known but just as good destinations, are lapping up the opportunity to experience South Africa’s “world in one country” at an impressive discount.
While the global economic downturn of the past few years put a dampener on international travel, those who stayed closer to home for their vacations are now seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and, thanks to the weak rand, they’re heading in their droves down that tunnel straight towards sunny South Africa!
570557The promise of an international tourism boost from South Africa’s hugely successful hosting of the Soccer World Cup in 2010 has been realised as visitor numbers have grown steadily ever since. That growth is now spiking upwards, boosted by the rand having lost so much of its value.
In the country’s Eastern Cape province, luxury game reserves are seeing increased numbers of visitors particularly from North America & Europe mapping out itineraries that maximise South Africa’s advantages of great value together with diverse experiences. From the Cape winelands, Robben Island, Table Mountain, history and seaside splendour of Cape Town – placed by the New York Times at the“No. 1 place to visit in 2014”–they’re heading along the scenic Garden Route for a Big 5 luxury safari experience in a malaria-free area.
570560The beauty of this route (Cape Town-Garden Route-Safari) is that it can be done in either direction with an easy self-drive along the coast, with a mid-way stop-over in any number of scenic small towns, at unbelievable prices (a 10-night itinerary spending 4 nights in Cape Town, 3 nights on the Garden Route and 3 nights on safari, including car hire and meals, will cost approximately US$1100/GBP650between May and August 2014). For those who prefer not to drive in an unfamiliar country, there are chauffeur-drive and shuttle options, or flights spanning the Garden Route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.
570563Adding to South Africa’s value proposition is that all costs are in rands, rather than the US dollars preferred by many other African countries. This means that, whilst South Africa has become cheaper due to its weakened currency, prices in neighbouring African countries like Botswana and Zambia have remained the same.
A quick shop around on prices reveals that the same bottle of red wine on a London menu at £25 (R450) is no more than £8 (R150) on a local restaurant’s wine list. A pint of beer that costs US$6 (R65) in New York will set the tourist back around a US$1.75 (R20) in a trendy Cape Town pub! For the price of a meal in one of London’s celebrity chef restaurants (£40-£50, or R720-R900, without drinks), tourists can indulge in a multi-course wine-paired dinner at a top winelands restaurant in the Cape. For South Africa, that’s really the top end of the scale and there are plenty of excellent restaurants where dinner and wine will make a much smaller dent in the tourist’s wallet.
570566And travellers are making the most of that extra value – latest figures from South African Tourism, the country’s official marketer, show that foreign tourists are spending on average two days longer in South Africa than they used to 3 years ago. Due to the rand’s devaluation, these “extra” two days are essentially for free because the tourists are spending the same amount of dollars or pounds as they used to 3 years ago.
Port Elizabeth, 750km from Cape Town and location of the main airport accessing the Eastern Cape and the Garden Route, is seeing increasing numbers of foreign visitors, according to the CEO of Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism.
570569An hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth, Lalibela Game Reserve founder Rick Van Zyl (pronounced “fun-sail”)echoes this, noting a marked increase in bookings from Europe, the UK and North America over the past year.
Most travellers to Africa and South Africa are looking for a safari experience and we have benefited greatly from the increased numbers of visitors to Cape Town. We are a short hop down the coast and a logical choice for travellers who want to avoid malaria areas,” he said.
The route between Cape Town and the Eastern Cape offers a huge variety of interesting diversions and adventurous excursions, he said, from the coastline with its thickly-forested mountains, wild seas and picturesque towns, to the arty communities, fruit orchards and history-laden quirky villages of the dusty Karoo. Along the way, there are tree-top forest canopy tours, the world’s highest commercial bridge bungy jump, boutique wine farms and historical sites related to South Africa’s frontier wars and colonial-era settlers to explore.
570580More than 90% of our foreign visitors combine a visit to the Cape with a safari experience in this way,” says Van Zyl, and a quick chat to guests at Lalibela bears this out.
At the tail-end of their first visit to South Africa, retired school teacher Margaret Campbell and school inspector husband David, from Stirling in Scotland, said their only regret was booking for only two weeks. “We thought two weeks would be more than enough, but there’s so much more we still want to see and do, we’ll have to come back. The rand might not be great for South Africans but it’s great for us – we can easily afford to come back,” she said.
Dubai-based UK engineer Harry Jones, 55, said his 10 days in South Africa had been “literally a world of experiences”.
“We loved the winelands and now here at Lalibela with the natural landscape and all the game, it has been a total African experience. And compared to what we would pay back home, the value is unbelievable,” he said.
Twenty-something Australians Dylan Taylor and fiancée Alison Smith were on a scouting trip for wedding venues, as South African-born Smith’s family are still mostly in the country. “It’s been amazing to see ‘my’ country through Dylan’s eyes,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to introducing the rest of our Australian family to all the experiences in South Africa. Apart from my family being South African, we want to get married here because it will be an experience like no other – a great holiday for everyone, and the best place to explore on honeymoon,” she said.
All complimented their experience at Lalibela for the warm Eastern Cape hospitality as much as the abundant game-viewing experiences. Similarly, South African Tourism’s research shows that almost 60% of visitors in 2013 said their most positive experience of the country was the “hospitality and friendly people”, closely followed by good infrastructure and service, beautiful scenery, value for money and diverse experiences.

Colin Fassnidge to Headline Taste Port Douglas Event

Tastebuds are sure to be tantalised and food lovers delighted as Port Douglas Carnivale's biggest foodie event, Taste of Paradise, returns with a new name and an impressive line-up of high profile celebrity chefs.

Acclaimed celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge will headline the newly rebranded Taste Port Douglas with guest appearances throughout the day by other renowned chefs, as the Sugar Wharf is transformed into a foodlover's paradise for the day on Saturday, May 24.
570457This all day event will showcase the region's best produce with cooking demonstrations plus food, wine and beer tastings from many well-regarded suppliers including Wonga Foods, Julatten Earth Foods, The Hungry Hummingbird and The Tea Chest.
Clovelly Estate and Samuel Smith & Sons have been confirmed and will represent Queensland and other Australian wine and beer suppliers as part of the event, and local restaurants Harrisons, Bucci, Nu Nu, 2Fish, Seabean Tapas Bar, Sassi Cucina E Bar and Origin Espresso are also excited to come on board selling tasting size dishes from their menus.
The event will open at 10am with cooking demonstrations on the main stage. There will be appearances by Colin Fassnidge of Master Chef and My Kitchen Rules fame, celebrity chefs Massimo Mele and Ian Curleyas well as local chefs Nick Holloway,Tony Sassi and Todd Malone.
570460Spencer Patrick will emcee the event with plenty of playful banter between himself and the other celebrity chefs before the event winds up at 4pm.
Taste Port Douglas event organiser Reina Patrick said she was thrilled the event continued to attract high calibre guests and hoped they could beat the 3000 people who attended last year's event.
"We are very excited to be welcoming Colin Fassnidge to Port Douglas as he has quite a number of fans and is known for his honesty and passion when it comes to food.
"We can't wait for him to sample our local produce and see just what our region has to offer," she said.
This year Taste Port Douglas will be a ticketed event with tickets on sale from February 28. General admission, pre-purchased and online tickets are $10 per person.
Tickets at the door will be $12.50 per person and front row gold class reserved seating is $50 per person. Children under the age of 5 are free.
Other exciting events at this year's Port Douglas Carnival include Yabusame, a traditional horseback archery tournament which has never been seen outside of Japan before, a medieval jousting tournament and the popular sandcastle building competition, all highlights of the Family Beach Day.
Carnivale will also host the Port Village Shopping Centre Street Art and Music Festival, Palates of the Port (an eight-course degustation) and the Sheraton Mirage's Longest Lunch, as well as many other events throughout the festival.
For more information visit

Christchurch tipped as top tourist destination

Three years after a devastating earthquake,Christchurch’s tourism industry is resurging and opportunities abound for those wanting to invest in the city’s tourism infrastructure.

Christchurch is being consistently singled out by travel-writers,as one of the most exciting destinations in the world to visit.
unnamed (1)In recent months,the New York Times, Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor,and Architectural Digest have all hailed the city for its creativity, and recommended people visit.
The influential New York Times,ranked Christchurch at number two on its list of 52 places to go in 2014, while travel website Trip Advisor put Christchurch at the top of its list of South Pacific Destinations on the Rise.
Christchurch & Canterbury Tourism Chief Executive Tim Huntersays:‘‘Clearly people are excited about what they see happening in Christchurch and share our belief that a very bright future lies ahead for our city.”
The New Zealand government, local government, insurance companies,and private investors are ploughing about NZD$40 billion into the rebuild of Christchurch, making it the largest economic undertaking in New Zealand’s history.
unnamedWork is underway to build a new city centre that capitalises on Christchurch’s natural assets – its stunning river and parklands – and features state-of-the art facilities for sports and the performing arts.
‘‘The earthquake of three years ago was devastating but it has presented us with a unique opportunity to re-invent ourselves and to create something truly special in Christchurch’s central city’,’ addsMr Hunter.
The creation of a new river park that will form a green ribbon through Christchurch’s new central business district is well underway,and will be the first of a series of anchor projects that will completely transform the central city.
Work is also underway on a new US$100 million retail and entertainment precinct that will front onto the river park and be known as The Terrace.
‘‘We have 850 cafes, restaurants and bars open now in the city and hospitality outlets are now at more than 85% of pre-quake levels’,’ says Mr Hunter. ‘‘All of the city’s icon tourist attractions are operating, including the distinctive heritage Tramway, the Port Hills Gondola and the double-decker Discover Christchurch bus tours. They provide a great way for visitors to explore and learn more about the city as it evolves.’’
Later this year work will start on Christchurch’s new convention centre precinct,which is planned to open in 2017. With flexible space options, the centre will be able to host several events at the same time, starting with space for up to 2,000 people and expanding to 2,500 in future years.
Mr Hunter is keen to see more investment in tourism infrastructure and believes there are great opportunities in Christchurch for savvy investors.
The interest in Christchurch is evidenced by the growing number of domestic and international air services into the city.
Singapore Airlines has committed to operating 18 extra services to Christchurch over the 2014/15 summer in addition to their already daily B777 services, and is soon to treat passengers to its new seating and interior cabin design. China Southern Airlines has just brought a new B787 Dreamliner to Christchurch, as part of a one-off charter programme for Chinese New Year.
‘‘The extra airline services reflect the growing demand for travel to Christchurch and should lead to some healthy growth in our visitor numbers,’’ says Mr Hunter.
‘‘In the year ended June 2013 we had 205,000 visitors come through the Christchurch i-SITE centre.  We’re anticipating a 20 per cent increase on that number this year and strong growth in the following years. The potential of Christchurch as a destination is huge.''

Centara Grand introduces 24/7 Butler Service

It's a Grand life with your own private Suite or Villa Host at Centara

Guests staying in the topmost tier suites and villas at Grand branded properties in the portfolio of Centara Hotels & Resorts will have their own personal suite and villa host to assist their every need 24 hours a day.

Centara Grand hotels, Centara's 5 star brand,  are currently located in Bangkok, Pattaya, Hua Hin, Samui, Phuket, Krabi, Bali, Maldives and Mauritius.

The suite and villa hosts will constantly be available to accommodate guests' special needs and assist them in any special requirements and requests such as private dinners, spa treatments and excursion bookings.

Each carefully selected Host had to follow a detailed and extensive training programme provided by Paul Brown, formerly butler to the United Kingdom's Queen Elizabeth II. Centara Grand Suite  and Villa Hosts who have completed training under Paul have been awarded the White Glove Certificate of Recognition, meaning they have achieved the highest standards of service that are required by a royal household.

Chookiat Hoijang, Suite Host at Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao Bangkok, says that the training has prepared him for every aspect of this high standard of service and shown the importance of service personalisation.

"I have learned how to be more focused, how to place more emphasis on details, and how to provide a refined service that is discrete and attentive," he says.

"This is a very exciting development for me, and I believe this very personalised service will be greatly appreciated by our special guests."

Centara Hotels & Resorts is Thailand's leading operator of hotels, with 47 deluxe and first-class properties covering all the major tourist destinations in the Kingdom. A further 18 resorts in the Maldives, Vietnam, Shanghai, Bali Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Mauritius Indian Ocean, Ethiopia brings the present total to 65 properties. Brands and properties within Centara ensure that specific categories such as couples, families, individuals, and meetings and incentives groups will all find a hotel or resort that is appropriate to their needs.

Macau Tourist Office launches first walking tour app

Macau Tourist Office launches first walking tour app

The Macau Government Tourist Office has launched an iOS app designed to complement four recently created walking tours that take visitors off the beaten tourist trail.

The new app, titled ‘Step Out, Macau’, allows users to explore the walking tours in greater detail, while on the move, to give a greater travel experience.

Available to download for free from the iTunes Store or MGTO website, the app includes maps and videos of the four walking routes as well as further detailed information on key tourist sites, transport links and stop off points to savour local cuisines.

Other functions include real time directions while en route, the option to share details of your walk seamlessly through social network platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and picture functions to capture your discoveries using different frames and backgrounds.

The four walking tours, titled ‘Step Out, Experience Macau’s Communities’, are each themed to take in a different aspect of Macau: ‘A Tour of Historical Trails’, ‘A Tour of Nature and Creativity’, ‘A Tour of East meets West’ and ‘A Tour of Arts and Culture’.

Intended to be leisurely strolls, the shortest of the four walks takes approximately 90 minutes to complete while the longest takes approximately 130 minutes to complete.

MGTO is also currently designing further walking tours, including an island tour, as well as an Android version of the app to be made available soon.

YTL Hotels presents the fully refreshed Vistanas

This month Vistana Hotels, the first city hotel brand under YTL Hotels, has been given a complete facelift, promising a brand new experience for business and MICE travellers.

Vistana was re-launched in three simultaneous ceremonies in Kuala Lumpur, Kuantan and Penang with the theme ‘Times Change, So Do We’ underscoring the pillars of the upgraded product.
Vistana Kuantan City Centre - Lobby
Vistana Kuantan City Centre - Lobby
YTL Hotels has upgraded and refreshed Vistana Kuala Lumpur TitiwangsaVistana Kuantan City Centre, and Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul with the Vistana brand’s new ethos of ‘Vibrance, Verve and Value’, which promises a modern and comfortable ambience coupled with great services offered at competitive prices.
The upgrade has seen Vistana guest rooms and public spaces fully refurbished, providing an accommodation experience of comfort and practicality, with new facilities such as 24-hour gyms, Barista – the grab-and-go coffee bars, and HUB247 – the business solutions centre, also on offer. Guests are now provided greater connectivity with free WiFi throughout the hotels.
Reflecting on the birth of this brand in the mid-90s to today’s transformation, Dato’ Mark Yeoh, Executive Director of YTL Hotels said, “When the prospect of starting a city hotel came up in 1995, YTL recognised that the market in Kuala Lumpur was ripe for the smart, stylish accommodation targeted at business travellers that we envisioned; thus, we seized the opportunity.”
For business meetings and social events the Vistanas offer a range of options and services to make each event a success including: Vistana Kuala Lumpur Titiwangsa’s 12 meeting rooms and 330-seater banquet room, Vistana Kuantan City Centre’s eight meeting rooms and 480-seater ballroom room, and Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul’s 10 meeting rooms and 500-seater ballroom room.
Their strategic locations provide ease of travel for business travellers and meetings and incentive travellers:
  • The Vistana Kuala Lumpur Titiwangsa, close to Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and Bukit Bintang.
  • The Vistana Kuantan City Centre, close to the Indera Mahkota Industrial Area, Kuantan Port and the famous Teluk Cempedak.
  • The Vistana Penang Bukit Jambul’s, close to Bayan Lepas Free Industrial Zone, Subterranean Penang International Convention and Exhibition Centre (SPICE), Bukit Jambul Complex and Penang Golf Club.
Since the opening of the Vistana Hotel Kuala Lumpur in 1995, followed by Vistana Penang and Kuantan in 1999, the company has strived to evolve the brand to suit the needs and trends of travellers. YTL Hotels has also since grown to encompass 24 properties across the globe, including the award-winning private island Pangkor Laut Resort.

Paradise Found: Natural Splendor in Saxon Switzerland

Nothing spells excitement quite like city lights, but sometimes you need to escape the metropolitan hustle and bustle for more natural pastures.

Where to spend your next journey? Saxon Switzerland National Park has your name written all over it, and the travel experts at HiVino are here to give you the inside scoop.
Mother Nature’s Masterpieceunnamed (18)
Take it from HiVino’s network of in-the-know travelers: This magnificent area is one of Germany’s best-kept secrets. Nature lovers flock to its mountainous terrain, relaxation seekers bask in the region’s hideaway vibe, and honeymooners revel in the romantic vistas. From soaring peaks and rocky canyons to gorge forests and river valleys, the landscapes here create a stunning interplay that dazzles every visitor who gets the chance to experience it.
What’s more, Saxon Switzerland National Park is home to one particularly marvelous spectacle: the Bastei. Soaring above the Elbe River, this rock formation is famous for its volcanic cones and sprawling mesas, and its craggy peaks hint at the planet’s geological past. It’s truly one of Europe’s last untouched wonders.
Did Someone Say Adventure?
Of course, there’s more to Saxon Switzerland than its never-ending cascade of panoramic views. If adventure is up your alley, you’ll find plenty of activities designed to get that adrenaline pumping. Start with a trek through one of the 755 climbing summits, spend an afternoon blazing along the biking trails, or hop aboard the paddle steamers for a cruise down the Elbe.
Want to combine outdoor excitement with a jaunt through history? Set aside some time to explore the Basteibrucke. This sandstone bridge leads directly to the 14th-century fortress of Neurathen, and it’s among the best spots to sneak a peek at the Elbasandsteine.
Uncover the Beauty
Whether you’re ready to unwind or craving a few thrills, the insider’s community at HiVino has the perfect recommendations for you. Plan a getaway to Saxon Switzerland, and you’ll be well on your way to experiencing a natural paradise that feels miles away from the daily grind. allows travelers to venture off the beaten path to experience unique destinations in Germany.  The community created the most exciting and useful database of hidden gems. The database features complete travel information, including distances from major cities, airports, and tourist hubs.
If you are interested in getting the insider scoop directly from our community as a high quality articles, please contact us. let’s share the beauty with a world of travelers together.

Emerging resort island Ko Lipe receives medical assistance

The Southern Andaman Medical Clinic and Bangkok Hat Yai Hospital recently joined forces to provide emergency transportation and medical escort services for any tourists or patients who need to be transported from the island to the mainland hospital for professional medical treatment.

Mr. Thawatchai Arunyik, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) said, “This collaboration and the availability of professional medical treatments and medical escort services will increase the confidence of tourists when travelling in this increasingly popular area around Ko Lipe and other islands in the Andaman coastal areas. When they know they can rely on high-standards of medical care should an emergency arise, tourists are more likely to come here and explore the lovely region.”
“This new service will not only help to ensure that visitors to this area can travel safely, but will also help to enhance the international image of Thailand as having first-class healthcare for tourists from around the world. This is also a positive development for the kingdom’s southern islands which are popular tourist destinations for domestic and foreign travellers alike.”
Because of this collaboration between the two medical institutions, the resident physician at the Southern Andaman Medical Clinic will be able to provide a diagnosis of symptoms in emergency cases and ensure that the primary correct treatment is given to patients.
In more complex emergency situations, the physician will consult with the specialists at the Bangkok Hat Yai Hospital via a video link to get initial advice. The results of the primary medical check-up by the Southern Andaman Medical Clinic can then be sent online directly to a referral centre, so that the mainland specialist has all the information on hand.
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Medical escort services by speedboat from Ko Lipe to the mainland
If the patient needs to be transported to the mainland hospital, this can be arranged by the medical centre working hand-in-hand with the Bangkok Hat Yai Hospital Referral Centre.
The transportation from Ko Lipe will be done by speed boat. While being transported, patients will be escorted by a medical team with life-saving support expertise and apparatus. The medical staff of Bangkok Hat Yai Hospital will be on standby at Pakbara Pier to take over and deliver patients quickly and safely to the mainland hospital.
Bangkok Hat Yai Hospital is one of the leading private hospitals in southern Thailand and offers fully-integrated medical services which meet and exceed all international standards. The hospital’s Referral Centre has often facilitated medical care for patients who require treatment when visiting islands in the Andaman Sea. Now travellers from Ko Lipe, one of the emerging island destinations for international travellers visiting Satun province can benefit from the hospital’s expertise and facilities too.
The Southern Andaman Medical Clinic is privately-owned and is the only medical centre on Ko Lipe with a fully-qualified physician and 24-hour medical services. Run by Dr. Pitaya Laorakpong MD and MPH, the medical centre boasts advanced communication technology to provide medical treatment for patients.
Also on Ko Lipe, is one state-run health station and three privately-owned pharmacies. A new privately-owned medical clinic is currently under construction.
The Southern Andaman Medical Clinic is open from 08:00-20:00 hrs. In case of emergency, call +66 (0) 87 9006889.
To see a video about the clinic and its medical escort services, click here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Tourism and Events Queensland Reveal #Room753 at Peppers Broadbeach

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A deluxe ocean view suite at the award winning Peppers Broadbeach has been selected as the room with a view to inspire high-profile digital opinion-makers from across the globe, as part of a landmark new Tourism & Events Queensland (TEQ) initiative titled '#Room753'.

Twenty-two high profile Bloggers, Instagrammers and videographers with a combined social media audience reach in excess of six million people will stay in #Room753, following week long visits exploring Queensland destinations on itineraries designed to match their passions and inspire creativity.  The purpose of #Room753 is 'rest, recuperation and writing' with a magnificent panoramic backdrop of Broadbeach to complete the picture.  #Room753 translates to Room 'Q.L.D.', based on the corresponding numbers and letters on a phone touchpad.

Peppers Broadbeach GM Craig Smith said he and his team were excited about the opportunity to showcase the Gold Coast and provide a much needed haven following a hectic travel schedule for these VIP guests.

"We have gone to great lengths together with the TEQ team to create a home away from for each of the Influencers ensuring #Room753 transforms into a unique space for each visitor.  What remains consistent however is the phenomenal view of one of the finest stretches of coastline in Australia and a property that embodies everything that is modern day Gold Coast – sleek and stylish with great service."

Peppers Broadbeach was recently awarded the Best Hotel for Families in the TripAdvisor 2014 Travellers Choice Awards following last year's awards for Best Property in Queensland and No. 2 in Australia, and consistently rates at the top of the list for hotels on the Gold Coast.
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Tourism and Events Queensland CEO Leanne Coddington said the #Room753 initiative was one of the most progressive campaigns in the digital space and would result in a permanent digital footprint documenting the unique travel experiences available across Queensland.

"It's not only the Digital Influencers that are travelling to our great destinations the length and breadth of Queensland – it's also their legions of followers. We wanted to round out their travels with a quintessential Queensland experience in #Room753, and Peppers Broadbeach offered a premier accommodation option on the Gold Coast while its status as an Australian hotel brand was a great fit."

The first visiting influencer was Canadian Rob Lloyd, whose blog "" has over 120,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  Australian Blogger Michael Turtle – – followed reaching over 35,000 followers and Blogger Liz Carlson – "" – from the US is now occupying #Room753 sharing her experience with over 137,000 followers.  Influencers to follow will come from the China, UK, India, Singapore, Korea, the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates as well as home grown Australian bloggers.

For the Australian owned and operated Peppers brand, the opportunity to reach a global audience aligns with the brand's intended expansion into Asia and the Pacific.

"The #Room753 project provides Peppers with a unique opportunity to reach a global audience in the growing digital space and we are both excited and honoured to be involved in this great initiative," said Kent Davidson, Executive Director – Sales, Marketing & Distribution for Mantra Group who manage the Peppers brand portfolio.

Key social media accounts to follow the 22 Digital Influencers throughout the six month campaign include:

@queensland #Room753 @peppershotels @visitgoldcoast #thisisqueensland

Further information provided in Ministerial release:


‘Sno joke – MTA’ers enjoy luxury winter Japan experience

FPictured enjoying the snow capped beauty of Japan's Mount Takao, MTA – Mobile Travel Agents' Penny Hickey and Alysha White.

The two MTA Members visited Japan as guests of the Japan National Tourist Office and Japan Airlines, part of an industry educational designed to showcase the luxury side of Japan's tourism infrastructure. In and around Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.

Trip highlights included Mount Takao, the Omotesando Oriental Bazaar, Asakusa, a Sumidagawa River cruise and Nakanoshima,



QT Hotels & Resorts - Entering Canberra on the QT

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The former Rydges Lakeside Hotel will be transformed to the QT

QT Hotels & Resorts is excited to announce it will be opening a QT in Canberra. QT Canberra is set to open in the emerging cultural precinct of New Acton in early April this year.

QT Canberra is set in the iconic Canberra establishment of Lakeside Hotel, with a redesigned exterior and interior by renowned designer Nic Graham, the building will embrace new technology, distinctive art and cutting edge design.

The building is steeped in Canberra history; Prime Ministers have been made and ousted to iconic acceptance speeches and back-room meetings. The unique designer space celebrates this history through bold design, a mix of quirky artefacts, bespoke furniture, a daring use of colour and art, and the ultimate food and beverage offering.

Working with one of Canberra's most iconic buildings, the Lakeside hotel that has been the scene of many a handshake deal and long lunch. The hotel will have 200 guest suites which are kitted out with designer décor and all the business savvy mod-cons the astute businessman or woman needs to get the job done, from seamless technology offering to a team geared to assist you with any left-field requests.

QT Canberra will become a culinary journey with a concept restaurant created by QT Hotels Creative Food Director, Robert Marchetti, offering a choice of fine wine and a menu of bistro classics and future favourites with an Italian twist - perfect for a power dinner.

QT will also offer a number of exclusive retreats with secret rooms, private hideaways and secluded spaces for those wanting to take the edge off a long day in the trenches or hold private meetings all with fully stocked bars and a loaded bar snack menu.

QT Hotels and Resorts is the concept of AHL, one of Australia's premier entertainment, hospitality, tourism and leisure companies. Other properties currently in the portfolio for QT Hotels and Resorts include the flagship QT Sydney, QT Gold Coast and Port Douglas resorts, and ski resort QT Falls Creek with other hotels flagged to open in the next 2 years.

Accor Staying the Course with New Look Ibis Budget Hotels

Accor has unveiled an innovative new interior design at three Ibis Budget hotels in Queensland and Victoria, following the re-branding of all Formule 1 hotels to the new Ibis Budget brand.

Part of Accor's Ibis economy family of brands, Ibis Budget continues to evolve and has embraced the new design vision 'Avanzi' by Paris-based Philippe Avanzielicit. Guests will experience the new 'Avanzi' look and feel which features generous bold designs, natural materials, bright colours and attractive lighting at Ibis Budget Brisbane Airport, Ibis Budget Melbourne Airport and Ibis Budget Dandenong.

Contemporary furnishings and clever layouts will bring a new energy to the existing Ibis Budget hotels and bring with it a complete change from what was once associated with Formule 1 hotels in Australia.

The $3.2 million refurbishment rollout across the three hotels has seen the lobby areas, breakfast rooms and guestrooms receive a new lease of life, reflecting the comfort and innovation that the Ibis brand essence represents.

The redesign in Ibis Budget Brisbane Airport, the first to complete the refurbishment, includes a new breakfast room, an open plan check-in desk and new furnishings set against sky blue walls. Ibis Budget Dandenong and Ibis Budget Melbourne Airport see new furnishings as well as colours in the breakfast rooms and lobby area. All three hotels feature cocoon-style guestrooms with contemporary furnishings and vibrant colours, creating an environment of modernity and freshness.

"This is a testament to Accor's confidence in continuing to strengthen its economy portfolio. Since the announcement of the three-tiered Ibis brand restructure in 2011, we have seen strong positive results across the Ibis brand family," said Simon McGrath, Accor Pacific Chief Operating Officer.
"Accor is committed to revolutionising economy hotels and will continue to invest in the Ibis brand portfolio in Australia."

In line with this, Windsor's former Formule 1 hotel in Brisbane is targeted to re-open on 1 April 2014 as Ibis Budget Windsor, incorporating the same 'Avanzi' design across the lobby, public areas and all 50 guestrooms. The hotel was closed in August 2009 due to construction and access issues associated with the Inner City Bypass connecting the Brisbane CBD to the Brisbane Airport precinct.

Work has commenced on the Windsor property, which will become the 20th Ibis Budget hotel in Australia.

Last year, the revenue growth for Accor's Ibis Budget portfolio saw 5% RevPar growth against relatively flat competitor and market conditions, while consumer satisfaction exceeded expectations, with positive increases in guest sentiment. | |

Follow Accoron Twitter: @AccorAustralia


Australian skiers rejoice - Niseko, Japan is now on the one Epic Pass

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Ski and ride the best of the world on the one Epic Pass; now including access to world-renowned Niseko Resort offering ease of access for Australians

2014-2015 Epic Pass holders receive five free days at Niseko, Japan, as well as unlimited, unrestricted skiing in Colorado, Utah, and Tahoe, on the Epic Pass

The Epic Pass pays for itself in just over five days of skiing or riding – and will be available for purchase beginning March 10, 2014, at and via preferred travel partners across Australia

 Vail Resorts, Inc. (NYSE: MTN) has announced an epic partnership with one of the snowiest and most celebrated powder skiing resorts in the world—Niseko, Japan.

The partnership represents the first Asian partner for the company, further enhancing the already incredible value of its flagship and industry-changing season pass. Epic Pass holders have the opportunity to experience unlimited and unrestricted skiing and riding at the best of the USA, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Canyons in Park City, Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Lake Tahoe; and now five complimentary consecutive days at Niseko, Japan, for the 2014-2015 winter season.

In less than a week of skiing and riding, the Epic Pass pays for itself and continues to offer the best value in the snow sports industry, with access to 28,830 skiable acres and 27,136 vertical feet in the best resorts in the U.S.; as well as addition complimentary access across multiple continents.

"We're excited to announce a partnership between Vail Resorts and Niseko, Japan, providing access to a part of the world that is legendary for its endless powder, overall incredible guest experience and ease of access for Australians; some of our most loyal pass holders. Epic Pass holders now have access to the epic skiing and riding for which Japan is world-renowned" said Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. "It's no wonder that we have Epic Pass holders in 80 countries around the world, including many in Australia given that the pass pays itself off in so few days. They enjoy an incredible resort experience and unmatched value, with unlimited, unrestricted access to Vail Resorts' 10 ski resorts, including Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone,  Canyons, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood as well as Arapahoe Basin in Colorado, and Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mt. Brighton in Michigan."

"We couldn't be more thrilled about our partnership with Vail Resorts, as the pre-eminent mountain resort company in the U.S.," said Colin Hackworth, Representative Director of Nihon Harmony Resorts, representing Niseko United. "Niseko, Japan, is revered around the world for its consistently light, dry powder snow and warm Japanese hospitality. We welcome the opportunity for more Epic Pass holders to experience this very special part of the world and look forward to seeing them on our trails."

In 2008, Forbes crowned Niseko one of the Top 10 International Ski Resorts, and more recently, National Geographic voted Niseko as the best powder snow resort in the world. It's no wonder, given that the resort boasts an average jaw-dropping 590 inches (15m) of snow per year. Located 100 kilometers south of Japan's fifth largest city, Sapporo, in the southwest corner of the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, Niseko Annupuri is a part of the Niseko-Shakotan-Otaru Kaigan Quasi-National Park and is the most eastern park of the Niseko Volcanic Group. Seasonal winds from the Eurasian continent blow in some of the driest, lightest and plentiful powder snow in the world. Set against the backdrop of Mt. Yotei—an active volcano similar to Mt. Fuji—the Niseko region boasts not only epic skiing and riding, but also breathtaking scenery. At night, the mountain is lit up with stadium-style lights which brighten 2,560 vertical feet of skiing and riding. Deep-powder trails through lit birch trees are a Niseko staple, offering sheltered stashes of untouched powder skiing.

Niseko United, as its commonly referred to, is made up of four base areas—Annupurri, Grand Hirafu, Niseko Village and Hanazono—that access one mountain, Niseko Annupuri. With wide open trails, incredible tree runs, epic backcountry, first tracks and night-skiing, Niseko caters to all abilities, from beginner to expert. For the adventurers, hiking trails lead from the highest lifts to the summit. An extensive lift system of 26 chairlifts and three gondolas accesses 72 trails.

Aside from world-class skiing, the Niseko area is known for its premium agriculture and locally brewed alcohol. Local restaurants import fresh seafood from nearby towns and villages and the area is home to a vast array of restaurants and bars with everything from authentic Japanese fare to European cuisine. Being a volcanic island, Hokkaido is also well-known for its thousands of natural hot springs, or 'onsen'.    

Non-stop flight service is available between all major Australian cities and Tokyo, with connecting flights onwards to Sapporo. A two hour time difference between East Coast Australia and Niseko and proximity to Australia makes for an even more compelling reason for our loyal pass holders to enjoy a ski or ride holiday in Japan, in addition to Vail Resorts eight world-class resorts. Niseko is typically open from November through May.

The five free consecutive days of skiing and riding will be reciprocated for Niseko All-Mountain Season Pass holders, allowing more guests from Japan, China and surrounding areas to experience Vail Resorts' world-class mountain resorts. The Epic Pass will be available for purchase on March 10, 2014, at, as well as through Vail Resorts' preferred travel partners across Australia, found at

Vail Resorts also offers other pass options for guests next winter:

The Epic Local Pass™ is perfect for guests who can navigate a pass with a few more restrictions on their winter vacation. The Epic Local Pass offers unlimited and unrestricted skiing or riding at Breckenridge, Keystone, Afton Alps, Mt. Brighton and Arapahoe Basin, with limited restrictions at Canyons, Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood. Also includes a total of 10 days at Vail and Beaver Creek with US holiday restrictions. At the spring rate, the Epic Local Pass pays for itself in just over four days.

The Epic 7-Day ™ is ideal for guests who only plan to ski seven days throughout the winter season. It features seven unrestricted days of skiing and riding at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Canyons in Park City, Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in Tahoe, Mt. Brighton and Afton Alps.

For more information, visit Passes will be available for purchase beginning March 10, 2014, as well as through Vail Resorts preferred travel partners across Australia.

For more information about Niseko, and to book, visit

Sydney's The Star gets kitted out for baseball

It's no secret that Sydney's The Star is a hot-spot for both tourists and Sydneysiders. With premium fine dining, prestige nightlife, live music, a state of the art theatre, world-class event centre and first-rate casino, it's little wonder that The Star has become Sydney's ultimate must-see destination.

But despite all that's on offer, there is one main attraction at The Star that people can't seem to get enough of – THE STAR sign.

Installed along the main entrance on Pirrama Road during the property's $870 million refurbishment, the larger than life letters that spell out THE STAR have fast become the object of fascination with not only travelers, but also Sydney locals passing by on their lunch break or weekend walk.

In fact, it has now become somewhat of a rarity to see THE STAR sign without people draped over it posing for photos, or for the more adventurous, climbing on top of the letters for a very Instagram-worthy snap.

The ever-changing face of THE STAR sign has been keeping people intrigued and excited since its installation, with its colours, prints and themes changing according to events and activities across The Star and Sydney.

The past few months have seen THE STAR sign change its façade in celebration of a variety of events including Valentine's Day, Sydney Festival, Chinese New Year, Christmas, the NRL finals series and Sydney Spring Racing Carnival.

And this week will see THE STAR sign will be kitted out in baseball theming for the arrival of the LA Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks for the Major League Baseball opening series in Sydney.

Quite fitting really, as Major League Baseball will literally be taking over The Star during this time. Both of The Star's five-star hotels, Astral Towers & Residences and The Darling, completely booked to capacity with baseballers. The Star will also be playing host to a number of Major League Baseball events, including a media welcome at rooftop bar Sky Terrace for US journalists making the trip down under; as well as an exclusive welcome event for the baseball players, also on Sky Terrace.


Tassie Produce Delights To Be A Hit At The Taste Of Sydney - March 13 - 16 2014

Taste the coolest food from the wildest place  in the Taste of Sydney's Tasmanian Pavilion

This year's Taste of Sydney will see a gourmet line up in the Tasmanian Pavilion. The impressive line up of local Tasmanian produce will educate and excite visitors with gastronomic delights and classy beverages from Tasmania's wild places. The Tasmanian pavilion will be the largest on site and it will showcase why Tasmania has earned the reputation of 'the gourmet state of Australia'.

Inside the pavilion visitors can sample some of Tasmania's best known produce grown and harvested in its world-renowned cool climate, clean air, fertile soils and pristine waters.

A selection of Sydney's fabulous chefs and industry experts will be cooking up a storm in the pavilion's demonstration kitchen using the best fresh Tasmanian produce. The impressive  line up thus far includes Jimmy Campbell – MoVida Sydney, Shaun Presland – Sake, Hamish Ingham – Bar H, Grant Croft – The Cut, Peter Ridland -  Jonah's and Somer Sivrioglu – Efendy.

Ben Farley from the BBQ School will also be sharing how to become a BBQ star using quality Tasmanian beef.

So come and enjoy a glass of wine or cider, some fresh Tasmanian salmon, and learn more about Tasmania's fine whisky and wallaby. The Tasmanian pavilion has all of this and so much more………….

The Tasmanian Pavilion will entice visitors with:

Atlantic Salmon and Ocean Trout from Huon Aquaculture  – sashimi stand + new premium product testing on Sydney's discerning palates. Do we like the sound/taste of cider infused ocean trout ?

Cape Grim beef and Robbins Island Wagyu – both favourites of Tetsuya's.  They'll be offering some of the Retail Ready range for tastings and if that's not enough you can find their delicious produce at Rockpool, and Hudsons Meats…..just to name a few.

Gourmet pies from Tasmanian Bakeries – using all local and quality Tasmanian produce these are a 'must' to sample.  Showcasing their FANCY LITTLE PIES, which are little gourmet party pies, made with 100% Tasmanian meat, baked at their bakery in central Hobart. They are available in 5 varieties: Wagyu Beef, Peppered Beef, Chicken & Camembert, Minted Lamb, and our newest variety, Wallaby & Stout.

Beer from Moo Brew – from the home of MONA and Tasmania's largest locally owned and operated brewery.   They will be showcasing 5 of their most prominent beers: Pilsner, Pale Ale, Hefeweizen, Dark Ale and Belgo.

Tasmanian Single Malt Whisky bar- Tasmania is highly regarded as a place of origin of extremely high quality produce and Tasmanian Whisky continue to gain internal recognition. The whisky this year features Lark Distillery –  Lark Distillery whisky's are popular with the likes of Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) and Barack Obama; Old Hobart Distillery, Belgrove Distillery  and Tasmania Distillery. The World Of Whiskey, The Oak Barrel and the Baxter Inn all stock Tas Whiskey supplies.

Tasmanian Wine Bar showcasing wines from Clover Hill – A James Halliday Australian Wine Companion 2014 named 5 Star Winery will be sampling and selling their accolade winning wines; Josef Chromy Wines – will be showcasing 7 of their spectacular wines (all award winning) all available for you to sample.  The will also be selling bottles to take home; and Heemskerk – Will be sampling a selection of award winning Heemskerk wines.  They'll also be sampling and selling some of their Abel's Tempest wines; with something for everyone you will be more than satisfied.

Cider from Franks Cider – featuring apple, pear and the new pear & cherry cider from the fruit fields in Southern Tasmania. Sample the quality award winning cider then grab a take home pack of your favourite.

Lamb and Wallaby from Flinders Island Meat – The Lamb recently received gold for its special 8-10kg Milk Fed Lamb it also took gold for the Open Class Champion at the Sydney Royal Show.  The ABC delicious. Produce Awards named Flinders Island Meat as overall Category Winner for their Milk Fed Lamb product.

Taste of Sydney is Sydney's premier food festival for food and wine lovers.  It will be held in the beautiful alfresco setting of Centennial Park from 13 - 16 March 2014.

Further information can be found at:
Tasmanian Pavilion

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok offers Couples The Chance To Say I Do and The Perfect Riverside Wedding Experience

Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok invites couples to say “I do” and have a memorable wedding experience by 
the legendary Chao Phraya River. The hotel’s experienced wedding specialists can help couples select the perfect wedding options and ensure that their once-in-a-life-time event is perfect as they can imagine. 

Whether couples are planning a wedding ceremony for 300 or 1,500 guests, the hotel offers luxury venues in various sizes, including Garden Gallery, Corundum, Ballrooms, Salathip with its backdrop of a lush tropical garden and river view and a luxurious Horizon Cruise. There are also three wedding packages exclusively tailored to create a cherished memory for bridal couples to choose from.
- The "Elegance Wedding Package" includes a five-tier wedding cake, complimentary corkage charge for 10 bottles of wine or whisky, one complimentary night in a Deluxe River View Room with breakfast for two and celebration sparkling wine servied with canapés in the room and a release massage at CHI, The Spa.
- The "Glamour Wedding Package" includes a seven-tier wedding cake, complimentary corkage charge for 15 bottles of wine or whisky, one complimentary night in a Deluxe Balcony Room with breakfast for two, celebration sparkling wine servied with canapés and afternoon high tea in the room, one-hour CHI Balance treatment and an anniversary dining voucher at NEXT2 Cafe.
- The "Indulgence Wedding Package" includes a nine-tier wedding cake, complimentary free-flowing soft drinks and carbonated mixer, champagne tower with a bottle of sparkling wine, complimentary corkage charge for 20 bottles of wine or whisky, one complimentary night in an Executive Suite with breakfast for two, celebration champagne with canapés and afternoon high tea served in the room, a two-hour Ying Yang Harmonising Massage for couple and a voucher for an anniversary dinner aboard Shangri-La's Horizon Cruise.
All wedding packages are applicable for a minimum of 300 guests and include a choice of cocktails, Chinese or International buffet menus and the necessary wedding arrangements, such as blessing books, elaborate garlands for the bride and groom, corsages for the parents and honorary guests, ice-carved items and floral decoration. Couples with a minimum spending as required by the hotel for each wedding package are entitled to a complimentary night’s stay with dining credit at Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok or two complimentary honeymoon nights at Shangri-La Hotel, Chiang Mai
The Engagement Ceremony Package is also available from Bt25,000 net, depending on the wedding couples’ preference. Packages include the Monk Ceremony, Water Pouring Ceremony or Christian Ceremony. Couples may choose the Chinese or dim sum set lunch, Thai or international buffet, Thai set lunch or a coffee break for the engagement party.
Wedding couples may contact The Signature Celebrations Room on the Lobby Level to discuss any engagement and wedding requirements on (66 2) 236 7777 extensions 6873 and 6893 or e-mail

Kamalaya Koh Samui Is Awarded Destination Spa Of The Year: Asia & Australasia At The World Spa Awards For The Second Time In The Awards’ History

Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary & Holistic Spa was honoured for the second time since the awards began,
Kamalaya Koh Samui with the award forDestination Spa of the Year: Asia & Australasia at the World Spa awards in London last night. 

The World Spa & Wellness Awards were hosted at the Guildhall, located in the heart of London and acknowledge the global excellence of care, service and standards within the industry. Launched in 2012, the awards recognise the work that spas do around the globe, honouring hotels and destination spas in Western Europe & Scandinavia, Middle East & North Africa, North & South America and Asia & Australasia.
Kamalaya was shortlisted alongside three top finalists from Indonesia, Thailand and Australia for the Destination Spa of the Year and John Stewart, Kamalaya Chairman and Co-founder was in London last night saying “It was heart-warming to collect this award on behalf of our unbelievably dedicated Kamalaya team. It is a great honour to win this accolade again and witness first-hand how the industry is evolving to improve wellness services worldwide. Our Kamalaya vision to inspire people to live with greater health and harmony remains the same – we constantly seek to enhance our wellness offering and take care to listen to our loyal guests and their valuable feedback.”
This latest award follows on from Kamalaya’s success in 2012 winning the award for the first time and going onto win further awards in 2013 such as the Spafinder Wellness 365tm Readers Choice Category Award for Best Eco Spa. Kamalaya has won more than 25 awards since its inception in 2005, and as part of The World Spa & Wellness Awards Kamalaya was assessed alongside all shortlisted spas by an independent judging process of experienced industry professionals.
Kamalaya is located amid a lush, tropical landscape on the southern coast of Koh Samui, Thailand. The resort integrates healing practices and treatments from East and West, a beautiful natural environment, inspired healthy cuisine, customised programs and wellness retreats to offer a unique concept in personal wellbeing and holistic lifestyle possibilities.

100,000 Tour Guides, 1 Journey of a Lifetime

Inspired By Iceland Launches Search for the Worlds Most Intrepid Tourist

Inspired by Iceland has today launched a global search for the 'World's Most Intrepid Tourist'.  The unique opportunity will offer one individual the chance to win a place for them and a friend on the ultimate Secret Tour ofIceland, a magical 7-day tour that will see them travel across the country, uncovering its best kept, most colourful and often surprising secrets as they go.

The intrepid tourist will follow a surprising and secret itinerary curated by Iceland's 100,000 strong army of Facebook fans, who over the next two weeks, are invited to submit their very own Iceland secret, with a chance that it may be used on the ultimate secret tour itinerary.
Inga Hlín Pálsdóttir, Director for Tourism & Creative Industries at Promote Iceland said, "Iceland is a country full of wonderful places to explore. We're looking for someone with an open mind to come and discover the joy of Iceland's secrets and help us share them with the world. We’ve already had a astounding number of secrets shared through social media and are looking forward to bringing these to life."
The winner will be joined by a film crew who will capture the discoveries along the way, documenting Iceland's most inspirational, cultural and geographical secrets as they are discovered.
The Secret Tour of Iceland comes as part of Share the Secret, the latest creative drive from Inspired by Iceland, the countries annual tourism initiative. The campaign draws on local knowledge to reveal some of the country's hidden treasures by encouraging Icelanders and tourists to share their secrets and offer visitors the opportunity to discover unique experiences around the country.  The past 5 months has seen the world share its secrets about Iceland.  Now it's time for one lucky person to discover them for themselves.
The 'Secret Tour of Iceland' will form the basis of a short film created to celebrate Iceland across the world. Made by Promote Iceland, it will be aired exclusively online in April 2014.
People can enter to win the title of 'World's Most Intrepid Tourist' by answering the question 'Why do you want to discoverIceland's secrets?'.  To enter visit  Terms and conditions apply. Competition closes on the 7th of March 2014. Winners must be able to travel for 6 nights from the 14th - 20th of March 2014.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Celebrate The Tranquil Moments Of Nyepi Day At Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort

Tirta Empul Temple - BaliSheraton Bali Kuta Resort invites travellers to celebrate the most special day of the year on the Balinese calendar -- Nyepi Day, also known as “the day of silence” – by booking either the Simply Nyepi or Nyepi Retreat packages at the stunning resort.

The overnight packages are available exclusively during the Nyepi period marking the New Year – enable guests to enjoy the serene side of Bali and share the remarkable holy moment at the best resort in Kuta. In addition to the package offerings, resort guests can enrich their stay experience with an array of activities specially prepared to welcome the Caka New Year, ensuring a memorable celebration to be cherished with family or friends. Simply Nyepi or Nyepi Retreat starts at IDR 1,350,000++ per room per night and are available March 28 through April 3.
The day of silence, Nyepi Day, falls on March 31, and is a favorable opportunity for families to gather, as well as for guests to reconnect with their senses encouraging a relaxed state of mind through meditation or spa treatments. The Simply Nyepi package unnamed (1)starting at IDR 1,350,000++ per room per night includes a complimentary buffet breakfast daily. By booking the Nyepi Retreat package, guests receive one all-inclusive lunch and one dinner as part of their stay for only IDR 1,650,000+ per room per night. These package offerings are only available to Indonesian citizens or KITAS/KIMS holders for a minimum two-night stay, valid from March 28 to April 3, and must be booked by March 30, 2014. The package price is subject to a 21% service charge and government tax.
The Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort team also offers an array of relaxing in-house activities for guests to perfect their stay experience. To be completely refreshed on the peaceful Nyepi, guests can pamper themselves at Shine Spa with the special indulgence of a 60-minute complimentary Aromatherapy Swedish Massage when they book any other spa treatment (excluding hair and nail treatments or other 30-minute treatments).
Guests can also gather the family for a fun reunion with table games or a movie showing in the Sahid Ballroom, watch the parade of mini ‘Ogoh-ogoh’ -- the spectacular bamboo monster that resembles evil spirits being torched -- through the resort the evening before Nyepi Day, or serenely bring together body and soul with Sunrise & Sunset Yoga under the guidance of the resort’s experienced Yogi. Fun activities designed especially for the youngest guests include story-telling, a traditional dance class, muffin-making, rainbow creation, and a painting class at the resort’s Kids Corner on the ballroom level.
Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort offers an exclusive retreat, with a spacious open-air terrace, outdoor rooftop pool, and unrivalled panoramic views of the ocean. The resort offers 203 generously-appointed guest rooms and suites ranging from 46 to 265 square meters, each fitted with the signature Sheraton Sweet Sleeper® Bed and featuring a spacious private balcony with uninterrupted unnamed (2)views of the Indian Ocean or the resort’s signature social courtyard.
To keep travelers fit and energized, Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort introduces Sheraton Fitness by Core Performance™ with lifestyle designed training programs and encompassing a fully equipped fitness center, Shine Spa for Sheraton that will pamper and rejuvenate guests with signature treatments blending from the East to the West with local Balinese touches.
Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort houses three dining venues where travelers can enjoy Sheraton’s signature restaurants – the all-day dining Feast® with its vibrant open-kitchen, located alongside beachwalk patio overlooking the Kuta Beach -- or indulge at Bene, a light-hearted Italian restaurant with oceanic setting, where guests can also relish mesmerizing views of the beautiful Bali Strait on the rooftop deck level. The Lounge offers a locally inspired cocktail menu, with open-air setting and Indian Ocean scenery. Travelers can stay connected with the exclusive Link@Sheraton® experienced with Microsoft® that provides a connectivity hub, with complimentary Wi-Fi and Personal Computer stations.
For reservation and more information about Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort, please visit

Sydney Sparkles as Baz Luhrmann Directs the Largest Outdoor Ballroom Dancing Event Ever Seen In Australia

Hundreds of couples have danced on the forecourt of Sydney Opera House today in a specially choreographed Strictly Sydney moment. 

This event, under the direction of international celebrity, Baz Luhrmann, celebrates the forthcoming opening of Strictly Ballroom The Musical with previews from 25 March. Strictly Ballroom The Musical is exclusive to Sydney, secured by Destination NSW, the lead Government agency for the New South Wales (NSW) tourism and major events sectors.
Sydneysiders had been invited to register to participate in this event which was truly a Sydney community event.  Dancers of all abilities arrived on site early to register dressed in every conceivable style of ballroom dancing attire.  Emulating Scott Hastings from the film Strictly Ballroom all the men were given an iconic white Chesty Bonds singlet to wear and each participant received a memento specially designed by Catherin Martin.
Excitement reached fever pitch when the two stars of Strictly Ballroom The Musical, Thomas Lacey and Phoebe Panaretos, emerged in glittering costumes atop the sails of the Sydney Opera House.  A chopper circled high above Sydney Harbour and captured the entire event.
Baz Luhrmann said "Most people know Strictly Ballroom as a movie but it began, as a piece of theatre and now it is an all-singing, all-dancing, live, stage musical.  But it is more than that. As a show it reaches out not only to the audience but also to the community to become involved. That's what dancing does. It allows everybody to participate so it seemed like a fun and a fitting idea for us all to meet on the forecourt of the Opera House and create a scene together from Strictly Ballroom."
Strictly Ballroom the Musical opens exclusive to Sydney, on March 25 2014, at Sydney Lyric Theatre, The Star. Travel packages are available from Showbiz at

Protecting the traditions of Muay Thai at the 10th World Wai Kru Ceremony

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and the Professional Boxing Association of Thailand are preparing to stage the 10th Wai Kru Muay Thai Ceremony to showcase some of the sacred rituals of Thai boxing – a martial art that has kicked itself into the world’s spotlight over the years and gained fans the world over.

This year, the event will take place on Monday, 17 March, 2014, at Wat Mahathat in the Ayutthaya Historical Park in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, about an hour’s drive north of Bangkok.
The objective of this event is to help people to understand the meaning of the Wai Kruceremony which is an important element of Thai boxing. The Wai Kru ceremony is a sacred ritual in which fighters show their respect to the Muay Thai masters.
Mr. Thawatchai Arunyik, Governor of TAT said, “As the home country of Muay Thai, it is our responsibility to protect and promote Thai boxing. Muay Thai is now popular all over the world with competitions held in many countries, but we want to ensure that all the traditions of this art are respected.”unnamed (13)
On 17 March, 2014, the event will start early in the morning when a ceremony will be held to pay respects to the Nai Kanomtom statue at the provincial sports stadium. Nai Kanomtom was the most famous Muay Thai warrior of the Ayutthaya period and is greatly respected by Thai boxers to this day. In the afternoon, the Amazing Thai Boxing Tournament will take place at Wat Langkhakhao (opposite Wat Mahathat).
The Wai Kru Muay Thai Ceremony will take place at 18:00 hrs. and everyone is invited to see this artistic and often heart-warming display, as fighters show their dedication to their trainers and the ancient masters of the Muay Thai art.
This sacred ritual is part of the festivities for Nai Khanomtom Day, which will be held from 13-16 March, 2014, at the Ayutthaya Sports Stadium.
Throughout the three days, visitors will be able to see other forms of Thai martial arts including an ancient Thai boxing competition. There is also an exhibition to teach people about Thai boxing as well as other arts; such as, Thai tattooing and weapon making – visitors can even learn how the famous Aranyik swords are forged.
In addition, there will be presentations from various Muay Thai camps and gyms, which offer everyone the chance to learn a little of the ancient art for themselves. Last but not least, there will be Thai cooking shows and plenty of Thai food stalls.

The Expeditionist

The Expeditionist
Venturing to the world's special places