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Thursday, July 31, 2014

Beauty queens and smiley balloons galore at Thailands back-to-normal Happiness Street Festival

With a parade of Thai beauty queens and a mass release of 10,000 smiley-balloons, the Thai tourism industry has told the world that it is back in business, safe and ready to receive visitors.

Over two days between 25-26 July, 2014, the primary business and shopping district of downtown Bangkok was the scene of a giant Happiness Street Festival marked by colourful parades, shopping, fashion shows, concerts and culinary delights.

Among the thousands of foreign and local revellers were more than 900 specially invited travel trade journalists, bloggers and celebrities from 47 countries around the world.


Their participation in “Thailand’s Best Friends Forever Mega Fam Trip” generated millions of dollars worth of publicity for the event through tweets, social media posts, blogs, live TV transmissions and print coverage. A real-time webcast of the event attracted 16,545,000 viewers over the two days, including a total of 157,257,193 views through various social media, such as; Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Line, TAT mobile applications.

Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) Governor Mr. Thawatchai Arunyik said, “We were very happy to see such a large turnout for what turned out to be a very unique event. Along with our project partners, Thai Airways International and Ratchaprasong Square Trade Association, we believe we succeeded in making this the biggest and best back-to-normal party Thailand has ever seen. Given the short time frame we had to get this organised, we believe everything went really well.”

In his speech at the welcome reception, Admiral Narong Pipattanasai, Deputy Head of National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) and Chief of the Royal Thai Navy said that the Council recognised the importance of travel and tourism to the national economy and was “strongly committed” towards promoting an environment of safety, security and stability in order to ensure the return of visitor confidence.


In addition to the publicity generated abroad, the event had an equally potent purpose to help bring the smiles back to the faces of the Thai people after several months of uncertainty, which impacted on businesses and jobs nationwide, especially among the small and medium sized enterprises.

The Street Festival extravaganza stretched from the Ratchaprasong intersection as far as Rama I Road, taking in Parc Paragon, CentralWorld Square, and The Platinum Fashion Mall along the route. Stalls and shops sold refreshing drinks and funky fashion to the delighted crowds. Famous Thai artists performed up and down the streets to put smiles on the faces of the crowds with fun songs, special effects, sound and light shows.

Both “happiness days” were dominated by the sound of music with a Happiness Concert featuring performances by contemporary musicians and traditional Thai folk singers, accompanied by sound-and-light theatrics at the CentralWorld Square.

At the Happy Gift Market, visitors found everything from antique products to trendy, brand-name clothes and fashion items. One section, called “Stars on Street” had booths manned by Thai celebrities and TV superstars selling footwear, T-Shirts, Green Gourmet, boutique apparel and even Thai desserts.

Another section, called Happiness Surprise allowed visitors to take Instagram pictures of smiling faces and win awards for the best smiles. The Happiness Activity section offered free lollipop containers. Hundreds of “Happiness balloons” were released into the evening sky followed by a parade unnamed (5)of beauty queens, fashion and flowers.

Mr. Thawatchai noted that the invited guests also took advantage of the Amazing Thailand Grand Sale now under way at dozens of department stores, shopping malls, restaurants, spas, and other retail outlets in the Thai capital and nationwide.

“Thailand is fortunate to have many friends and supporters worldwide, especially amongst our neighbours in the ASEAN countries. For them, Bangkok is only a short flying time away. We would very much like them to enjoy their next holiday in Thailand in line with the ASEAN spirit of friendship and fraternity.”

Other event partners included the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Ministry of Interior, Airlines, Thai Hotels Association, Thai Restaurant Association, Association of Thai Travel Agents and several other public and private sector organisations.

The Menzies Sydney Unveils a Brand New Look Ballroom

The Grand Dame of Sydney hotels, The Menzies Sydney just yesterday launched the new look 'Australia Ballroom' in a glitzy affair, after a radical facelift.

Over 200 people including corporate clients and media celebrated the launch in the Ballroom decked out in full glory of event offerings. This included beautiful table set-ups as well as pop-up food stations serving the likes of charcuterie and a create-your-own cheesecake dessert all night. The stand-out was the round bar set up right in the centre of the room and laden with colourful cocktails served all night.
With capacity for up to 500 people, the Ballroom now boasts new carpeting, paintwork, furniture and lighting, but still retaining its historical elegant charm with touches such as chandeliers.
The six-week refurbishment also features the installation of Fairchild's 'SeeMe Now' e-concierge tablet. Event organisers can now easily communicate requirements to the hotel staff with the touch of a button through re-installed requests such as AV equipment, air-conditioning and lights control. In addition, customised messages can also be sent through for other requests.
The Menzies Sydney is the sixth Accor hotel in Sydney to install the 'SeeMe Now' e-concierge tablet.
With 15 flexible functions rooms, The Menzies Sydney can cater for conference and events from 20 up to 500 people, catering to any business needs including exhibitions, product launches and corporate meetings.
Located near Sydney's famous attractions including The Rocks and Opera House, The Menzies Sydney boasts 446 beautifully-appointed guestrooms, two restaurants, four bars, a gymnasium and an indoor heated pool. The hotel overlooks Wynyard Park and is in a prime location with restaurants, boutique shops and theatres surrounding.

'Kitchen Battles' Raises Over $32k for Cure Kids

Accor's inaugural event 'Kitchen Battles' was a culinary success, raising over $32K for Cure Kids. 
Taking place last Friday in Pullman Auckland's Princes Ballroom, 'Kitchen Battles' was attended by over 500 guests including All Black Jerome Kaino, celebrity fashionista Colin Mathura-Jeffree and 'The Block'
winner, Ben Crawford.
Pop star, Lizzie Marvelly, kicked off the night with a pitch perfect performance of her newly released song 'Collisions' from her latest EP, before joining famed kiwi Chef Michael Meredith and Dollop Kitchen owner, Julia Crownshaw as an official judge for the night.
Host Jesse Mulligan entertained the crowd as the Accor hotel GMs and local suppliers tried every trick in their repertoire to skew the voting in their favour. From plate smashing to Brazilian dancers, this competition was a no holds barred contest where any and all tactics were embraced.
“There was definitely strong rivalry between the hotels”, says Chef Michael Meredith. They have truly put everything on the line to be crowned the winner which made it a very entertaining night to be part of”.
 “Julia, Lizzie and I had lots of fun interacting with the stall owners and judging the dishes. It was all about having fun, says Michael, “I have to say though I don't think we have ever been offered so many complimentary room nights in exchange for winning votes – it was hilarious”.
In the end there could only be one winner and Julia Crownshaw of Dollop Kitchen was quick to share what won the judges votes on the night.
“As judges we all bought our own experience and expertise to the table” says Julia Crownshaw. “There was a lot of talent shown on the night, but in the end it was a consistent combination of flavours and simplicity and that won our vote.”
That winning vote was awarded to 'Roberto's', a Mexican taco food stall led by General Manager of Pullman Auckland and Head Chef for the night, Rob McIntyre.
“We were very happy to get recognised for our culinary skills by the esteemed judges”, says Rob McIntyre, “In fact I believe the bottle of Tequila is on its way to the judges at present”.
Close Runners-Up were Sofitel Auckland Viaduct Harbour and their Greek stall 'Zeus's Kouzina', with the 'People's Choice Award' being received by Novotel Auckland Airport for their 'Big Bad Wolf' pork inspired food stall. The full costumed 'three little piggys' being a crowd favourite on the night.
Cure Kid's Philanthropy and Fundraising Manager Dellwyn Stuart who attended the night was full of praise for the fundraising effort.
“We are so grateful to have Accor as one of our key partners and supporters”, Says Dellwyn, “This event was so much fun to be a part of and with the end result being over $32K raised for Cure Kids, it was a great success”.
Plans are already underway for next year's event with the intention to build on the momentum and success from this event.
“This year's event was such a great success”, says Pullman Auckland GM, Rob McIntyre, “We are looking forward to hosting the event again next year and raising even more funds for this fantastic charity.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Plaza Premium Lounge Celebrates Opening at Macau International Airport

Plaza Premium Lounge Management Limited is pleased to announce the upcoming opening of their premiere lounge at Macau International Airport (MIA).

Pier One Sydney Harbour offers guests a unique way to see the iconic sights of Sydney with the suite-est package available

Pier One Sydney Harbour Balcony and Harbour View Suites are tucked up against one of the most scenically beautiful waterways in the world and are the ideal space for guests seeking to experience a balance of calm within the luxurious surrounds of their room coupled with the excitement of getting out and about and exploring Sydney’s vibrant streets.

And what better way to experience the city than jumping on a bike and peddling your way through the cobblestone pathways of the famous Rocks precinct, then riding down to the iconic Opera House and breathing in the fresh sea air as you embrace the majesty of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Botanic Gardens. 

The recently renovated suites offer a fresh and contemporary palette with luxurious fixtures and fittings unmatched in any other Sydney CBD hotel. Maximising the already generous space, the designers created bathrooms that seamlessly transition into the bedrooms and four of the suites on level two boast large balcony spaces, allowing guests to lounge outside, taking in the fresh harbour air.

All of the suites feature king size beds, a marble topped wet bar with Nespresso coffee machine, marble topped working desk, two LED flat screen TVs – one of which rises from the bed base, Foxtel, iPod/iPad docking stations and fast WiFi internet access.

Pier One Sydney Harbour is offering a ‘suite’ package that includes overnight accommodation for two guests, $200 credit per stay to be used at any of the food and beverage outlets in the hotel, evening chef canapés and an inclusive mini-bar and Aesop amenities to ensure a truly memorable stay. Harbour View Suite Packages start from $799.00 per night*. For guests wanting to cruise the city on a bike, the hotel can arrange for two complimentary bicycles for a half-day. Request at time of booking.

Each suite is as individual and unique as the guests staying with level 2 of the hotel offering wrap-around balconies around three of the suites providing generous space with divisions to ensure privacy while the fourth offers an impressive 40 metre squared balcony jutting over the Pier. This outdoor space makes for an ideal setting for private alfresco dining, sunset drinks or simply taking in the beauty of Sydney Harbour and watching the mega yachts sail past.

Two of the balcony suites have designer day beds and arm chairs which are positioned to maximise the panoramic views. Each of the bathrooms have decadent, deep standalone bath tubs, rain water heads with side jets, double brass bowl vanities and deluxe amenity kits from Aesop.

From the hotel’s premier Harbour View Balcony Suite at the northern end of the Pier, guests will feel like they’re floating on water, particularly from the deep-set bathtub, which is the feature piece of a bathroom that overlooks the water and the imposing Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Those looking to get a little higher will benefit from the suites located on level three with raw woodwork of overhead beams in the three top-floor suites, where part of the century-old architecture was re-exposed, providing the spaces with the feel of a New York loft or Hamptons Beach House.  These suites are harbour side with panoramic views but no outdoor spaces.

After an energized day of city exploration you can then return to your perfectly picked suite and luxuriate in a bubble-bath with a glass of wine or dine waterside at the hotel’s restaurant and bar. 

Additionally with the hotel’s prime harbour frontage, guests can arrive by yacht or water taxi via the hotel’s private pontoon, which provides direct water access to nearby attractions including the Opera House, Luna Park and Taronga Zoo.

Pier One Sydney Harbour is not only a unique Sydney Harbour property, but a well placed, innovative hotel offering guests a truly one of a kind Australian experience.

*Suite Packages start from $799.00 per night, subject to availability at time of booking. For full booking conditions and further details please visit:

New hiking experience blends eco with luxury

Visitors to the Margaret River Region can now experience the ultimate blend of luxury and eco tourism, with the launch of new luxury hiking tourism product 'Walk into Luxury'. 

Walk into Luxury offers all-inclusive walks of the Margaret River Region's spectacular Cape to Cape Track, coupled with exclusive luxury accommodation and outstanding local food and wine experiences.

Voted as one of Australia's top ten tracks by National Geographic, the Cape to Cape Track is a spectacular and varied section of coastline running from Cape Naturaliste (near Yallingup) past Margaret River to Cape Leeuwin in the South-West corner of Western Australia. The terrain includes pristine beaches, limestone cliffs and granite boulders, coastal bushland and the majestic Boranup Karri forest.

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The walk packages range from four days for those chasing a high-impact short break, to a more leisurely eight day experience.

Walk into Luxury owner Nikki King advised that the product was designed to allow people to experience the beautiful Cape to Cape Track in style.

"We identified a niche for people wanting to experience the spectacular beauty of the Cape to Cape walk trail, but aren't necessarily keen on camping or 'roughing it'", said Ms King.

"Our packages include luxury accommodation, post-walk massages, daily in-villa canapés and wines, exclusive dining and wine tasting experiences at renowned wineries and restaurants - it really is a feast for the senses," she said.

Augusta Margaret River Tourism Chief Executive Officer Pip Close said she thought a luxury hiking product was a fantastic idea.

"The Margaret River Region boasts a diverse array of natural attractions, and the Cape to Cape Track certainly showcases our rugged coastline, beautiful wildflowers, unspoiled beaches, towering karri forests and wonderful native flora and fauna," said Ms Close.

"To be able to experience the fresh air and stunning scenery of the Cape to Cape Track, then return to your luxury spa villa and enjoy a glass of top-quality Margaret River wine or a local craft beer and some freshly prepared canapes - what an iconic Margaret River experience!" said Ms Close.

Walk into Luxury offers private walks year-round with no minimum numbers. Private guides are available or guests can elect to walk self-guided with all maps, safety gear and a monitored GPS device.

Bookings are now being taken for walks commencing mid-August 2014. Introductory pricing is available for all walks booked by 30 September 2014.

Flavours From the Rock of Polynesia

Niue is full of surprises and possibly none less than its fantastic food scene, which draws on fresh local produce from the land and sea.

Niue's inaugural food festival kicks off this September and will run from 19-22 September. The festival will be a showcase of local cuisine, producers and also a coupe of very special guest chefs.

Taking part in the four-day event will be award winning author and chef, Robert Oliver who was recently filming in Niue and is renowned as a strong advocate for increasing the use of local Pacific foods in island cuisine. Also joining the lineup is top New Zealand chef, Michael Meredith, of Meredith's restaurant who has a strong affinity to the Pacific through his Samoan heritage. Completing the culinary trio is Tongan born, Auckland based chef, Alex Kaihea, owner of The Beach House at Bucklands Beach.

In addition to showcasing local cuisine and produce from the sea and land, the trio of chefs will be demonstrating and cooking alongside locals as well as producing an exclusive luncheon on the lawns of the New Zealand High Commission. The festival promises to be a feast of food and culture with a local village hosting a traditional Umu feast, alongside a Kai Makete 'tasting market' in the centre of Alofi and special ticketed events.

Recognising that this tiny Pacific nation's star is very much on the rise and that food and travel go hand in hand, one of New Zealand's favourite food personalities, Helen Jackson has together with Niue Island Tourism put together an escorted 'food lovers' tour to the Kai Niue festival.

Spaces are strictly limited with guests staying at the Matavai Resort and enjoying all of the festival highlights.

For more information contact Niue Tourism on 1300 136 483.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Park Hyatt Sydney Offers Complimentary Digital Newspapers and Magazines to Guests with PressReader

Park Hyatt Sydney is making guest stays even more comfortable and luxurious with PressReader, a digital all-you-can-read newspaper and magazine service, now available as a complimentary amenity.

PressReader is a website and mobile app that provides guests with unlimited access to more than 2,500 local, regional and international publications using their laptops, tablets or smartphones.
Park Hyatt Sydney
“PressReader offers guests access to a portable newsstand where they can get full editions of their favorite international newspapers or magazines downloaded to their own device,” said Igor Smirnoff, chief commercial officer for PressReader. “Guests can wake up and read their hometown paper in their native language from the comfort of their room, even before the issue hits their doorstep at home. We're proud to offer an eco-friendly newspaper and magazine service to meet the global needs of hotels and travelers with the amount and selection of content we provide.”

PressReader offers publications from more than 100 countries and in 60 languages. Popular titles include The Australian, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Business Traveller, Harper's Bazaar, Golf Digest and more. Using PressReader is easy. Guests connect to the hotel Wi-Fi, go to using the latest version of their Web browser, or download the free PressReader app and choose the desired country, language, category and publication. The service is available in all Wi-Fi accessible areas, with reach throughout the entire hotel property. 

InterContinental Hotels Group Inspires Future Leaders

As accommodation partner of The Sir Peter Blake Trust, InterContinental Hotels Group New Zealand demonstrated its commitment to encouraging future leaders through a number of leadership events and activities this week.

An internal Leadership Workshop was held on Thursday 26 June at Crowne Plaza Auckland, at which Sir Peter Blake Trustee and former Chief Executive of Business in the Community, Sarah Trotman, shared her ideas about great leadership with 20 members of the IHG management team.

This was followed by a highly secret afternoon tea prior to the Trust's annual Gala Dinner on Friday 27 June, at which the hotel hosted the Board of the Sir Peter Blake Trust and this year's Leadership Award winners. The exclusive 10th Anniversary Gala Dinner itself was a star studded affair held at Shed 10 and was attended by Area General Manager, Wim Ruepert and Area Director of Sales & Marketing, Franck Hesse.

On Monday 30 June, Kristine Kilpatrick, Area HR Director for IHG, who is based at Crowne Plaza Auckland, and one representative from each of the five IHG hotels in New Zealand, joined the prestigious Sir Peter Blake Dream Team. Led by New Zealand's Governor-General, Lt. Gen. The Rt. Hon. Sir Jerry Mateparae, the close to 300-strong Dream Team of leaders spoke to classrooms throughout New Zealand in a bid to inspire young Kiwis to 'make it happen' - the theme of this year's Sir Peter Blake Trust Leadership Week.

In addition to Kristine, Sam Swaffield (Holiday Inn, Auckland Airport), Kent Breeze (Holiday Inn Rotorua), Guy Robinson (Crowne Plaza Queenstown) and Jason Eade (Intercontinental Wellington) were joined in the 2014 Dream Team by other high-profile leaders. These included business leaders, Sir Ron Carter and Sir Eion Edgar, politician and TV personality Tamati Coffey, television psychologist Nigel Latta, scientist and inventor Sir Ray Avery, TVNZ presenters Rawdon Christie and Toni Street, ZB radio host Rachel Smalley, Air New Zealand Chief Pilot Capt. David Morgan, sporting greats Hamish Carter and Beatrice Faumuina and a wide-ranging list of New Zealand adventurers, CEOs and business leaders,
doctors, politicians and community champions.

Franck Hesse, Area Sales and Marketing Director said:
“As one of the world's leading hotel groups our aim is to create 'Great hotels guests love'. In order to do this, good leadership is vital and we invest a lot of time and money in developing future General Managers and department heads. We are extremely happy to be able to support the Sir Peter Blake Trust in its quest to inspire future leaders throughout New Zealand. We will all be wearing our Red Socks on Friday 4 July!”

On Friday 4 July, all IHG colleagues across New Zealand will be sporting either the signature Red Socks or leadership pins for which the Trust is famous. These items will also be available in the hotels for guests to buy.

Immerse yourself with the humpbacks at Hervey Bay

Hervey Bay’s renowned whale encounters are about to get even more up close and personal with the launch of one of the world’s first immersive humpback experiences this winter.
Immerse yourself with the humpbacks of Hervey Bay (857x1280)

Fraser Coast Opportunities has announced that select charter operators will host immersive whale tours on a trial basis this season, allowing visitors to take the plunge into the humpbacks’ domain and share life-changing connections with the gentle giants of the deep.

Tourism manager for Fraser Coast Opportunities Robbie Cornelius said the immersive whale experience would consolidate Hervey Bay’s reputation as Australia’s premium humpback viewing destination.

“We have been working very closely with the State Government and our tourism operators to get the project to trial stage,’’ Mr Cornelius said.

“Obviously the welfare of the whales is paramount, as well as the safety of the participants, so we wanted to ensure all the checks and balances were in place before we could officially welcome our first customers.

“Needless to say, the whale watch operators involved will be required to abide by the existing regulations under the Nature Conservation Act, as well as the conditions of their existing permits.

“Nowhere else in Australia or even the world offers a humpback whale experience comparable with Hervey Bay because the whales stay to play for extended periods and are not just migrating through,’’ Mr Cornelius said.

Member for Hervey Bay, Ted Sorensen, said the immersive experience would be a huge tourism drawcard for the region.

“No other destination provides anything as intimate, up close and personal as the Fraser Coast whale watching experience which will enter a whole new dimension with this exciting new offering for visitors to our region,’’ Mr Sorensen said.

“For the first time, people will be able to venture into the water with the whales and totally immerse themselves in their world.

“Innovative experiences such as this are well suited to the world class natural attributes of the Fraser Coast region, and will greatly assist the industry in reaching its 2020 visitor expenditure target of $759 million.” he said.

General Manager for Fraser Coast Opportunities David Spear said the program would provide significant economic benefits for the Fraser Coast.

“We have worked very carefully to ensure we would introduce an innovative and world-class product befitting our unique natural environment that had upsides for the whole community,’’ Mr Spear said.

“We are optimistic of a successful trial period and then making the immersive whale experience a permanent inclusion in our tourism offering.

"More than 7,000 whales visit our protected waters each season and stay for up to 10 days at a time. This happens nowhere else along the migration where the whales are moving through the open ocean," he said.

"We have a large concentration of whales gathering within the relatively small space of the bay and thanks to the protection offered by Fraser Island, we have this safe sanctuary for the whales and the perfect platform of calm waters for people to engage and interact with these incredible creatures.”

Book your Hervey Bay whale experience now at

Monday, July 28, 2014

Relax, Rewind and Rejuvenate the Senses at the Milkwood Collection In Knysna

On the shores of the famous Knysna Lagoon, lies a village of timber log chalets amongst majestic Milkwood trees which is called Under Milkwood Chalets.

The tranquil resort offers guests a haven of leisure and comfort, wonderful views of the lagoon and the Outeniqua Mountains in the background

Each chalet has two bedrooms, a twin and a double room; a fully equipped kitchen with all the modern conveniences such as microwave, fridge-freezer, stove, TV and Le Creuset cookware. Each chalet has its own sundeck and BBQ facilities, and is serviced daily. 

Milkwood Bay is a luxurious contemporary guest house with direct access to a stunning beach on the Knynsa Lagoon providing unique Knysna Accommodation. Private patios offer guests breathtaking views across the tidal waters to the distant Outeniqua Mountains. With five en-suite bedrooms, a partially enclosed heated swimming pool and a sauna, Milkwood Bay is a most comfortable and elegant retreat for the discerning traveller.

Each room is individually decorated and stylishly furnished offering comfort and space and magnificent water views. En-suite marble tiled bathrooms, underfloor heating, satellite television and a telephone ensure a luxurious feel and experience in this Knysna accommodation.

Sonomara is tucked away at the Heads on the edge of the Knysna Lagoon, a stones throw from the water's edge, you will discover… Sonomara. This 352382_num910558_600x600self-contained, self-catering Knysna Holiday Home offers the discerning guest a combination of comfortable spacious living and breath-taking views over the scenic Knysna lagoon. 

There are a total of 5 spacious bedrooms. Three rooms offer indoor – outdoor flow, to either private balconies or garden access. Two master bedroom's situated on the 1st and ground floors offer en suite bathrooms. The remaining bedrooms are furnished with three single, two single and one double bed respectively. 

Sonomara offers a large and comfortably furnished living room, a casual TV room and a separate dining room leading to a long balcony, all overlooking the Knysna Lagoon. The kitchen is equipped with modern cooking utensils as well as a full range of cutlery and crockery. A Weber gas cooker facilitates outdoor entertaining. A stroll through the lush indigenous garden leads directly onto the beach.

A stunning beach where families can enjoy swimming and canoeing or relax on the sundeck and barbeque/braai. Beach equipment is provided for games for the enjoyment of the whole family as well as buckets and spades for the smaller members. Board games and the library of DVDs are available for the quieter moments. Babysitting services are available.

Guests can take a gentle stroll to the famous Knysna Heads, or simply relax on the patio, at the private pool or on the beach. Swimming, canoeing, windsurfing, hiking, golf, birdwatching and many other leisure activities can be enjoyed in the area.

The Brides Have Spoken: Villa Botanica Best QLD Venue

The Whitsundays' claim as The Wedding Heart of Australia was further proven this week when boutique wedding venue Villa Botanica was voted Queensland's Best Ceremony Venue at the 16th Queensland Annual Bridal Industry Awards (ABIA) on Tuesday , 22 of July 2014.

The ABIA are a much sought‐after award for Australian wedding suppliers as they are determined by the votes of past brides. Each year over 30,000 brides are registered to vote for their most outstanding wedding suppliers. Villa Botanica was nominated for an ABIA based on the quality of product, quality of service, value for money and the attitude of the staff who serviced the bride's needs, before, during and after their wedding day.
Villa Botanica was the winner out of 275 state-wide nominees, and 22 finalists, all rated 95 per cent or more by their clients. An amazing score of 99.75 per cent gave Villa Botanica the top spot, with locations as diverse as Maleny Manor and Sea World Resort joining them in the highly competitive category. 
The Chairman of the ABIA, Mr John O' Meara congratulated Villa Botanica on their achievement as the best in their category. Owners of Villa Botanica, Janet and Ralph Hogan, said “We couldn't be prouder of our amazing staff. This award might be for the best venue, but such an amazing rating makes it clear to us that the incredible care and attention of our team is what has really won the day.”
For more information about Villa Botanica visit For more information on weddings in the Whitsundays,
Nestled in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, with 74 tropical islands set amongst the azure waters of the Coral Sea, and a reef shaped like a heart, the Whitsundays is Australia's premier romance destination. With idyllic warm weather and beautiful sunshine throughout the year, the Whitsundays is well-known for its uncrowded tropical beaches and the many experiences that create the ultimate romantic escape. 

Tie the knot at one of the top ten beaches in the world as white as any wedding, under a swaying palm tree with the turquoise waters lapping the shore or in a picturesque island chapel set amongst a stunning panoramic background of the Coral Sea – there is a location to suit any style of wedding.

The Whitsundays hosts more than 1,500 weddings a year and our wedding and honeymoon experts have the necessary experience and expertise to make your special day a memorable event for everyone. Where to start planning? Find all the necessary inspiration, information and contacts

Madrid Will Have the World's Largest Novotel

Accor and the Hotel Convención property have signed an agreement and plan to open the new establishment in 2016. It will be operated under a franchise contract under the Novotel brand. The hotel, which will be completely redesigned and refurbished, will be transformed into a preferred benchmark destination for international congresses.

The 790-room establishment is Madrid's third largest hotel and one of the capital's most historical, since it opened in 1978. The future Novotel Convención Madrid is located in Calle O´Donnell, just five minutes from the Parque del Retiro, right in the center of Madrid.
Before it reopens in 2016, the building will undergo complete a refurbishment and redesign. The new hotel will meet all Novotel's quality and modernity standards. Novelties will include new amenities such as an outdoor pool on the roof terrace, a fitness center, business floors, a children's corner and broadband Wi-Fi. The hotel's 2,400 m2 of meetings space will be equipped with the latest technologies, making the hotel a preferred MICE destination capable of hosting events for up to 1,500 people.
This transformation of the current offering will allow the establishment to welcome Novotel's clientele of business and leisure travelers as well as families.
The Hotels Division of Irea Corporate Finance acted as a consultant in this operation. With the signing of this new franchise contract, the first for the Novotel brand in Spain, Accor continues to consolidate its position as Spain's leading hotel franchisor, with 23% of its portfolio of 86 hotels operated under this type of contract in the country.
Novotel currently has three hotels in Madrid: Novotel Campo de las Naciones, Novotel Puente de la Paz and Novotel Sanchinarro.

Villa Sungai The stylish way to do the real Bali

On an island renowned for its great hotels, luxury accommodation, cutting edge service and uncompromising attention to detail, it's a joy to find retreats that combine all of the above and make you feel completely at home at the same time.

Set in the tranquil Cepaka village in the island's south-west, Villa Sungai is 10 minutes inland from the exclusive hotspot, Canggu, on the south western coast of Bali, just north of Seminyak and Legian.

From its immaculate, elegant interiors to the extraordinary service, this villa is the last word in spoiling and relaxation, taking the 5-star hotel experience to the next level.

"At Sungai we like to think of ourselves as a luxury private villa with a difference," says Pamela Hayes, the Australian mastermind behind Villa Sungai. "Unlike most resorts and villa complexes, at Sungai we have no reception desk, lobby or bellboys – we have designed it that way to give the impression to guests that they are staying in a private residence, who indicatively are met at the airport by the villa manager."

Pavilions perfumed with tuberoses, a standout 18m horizon pool spilling into the valley, palms and frangipanis, khaki and whitewash, and sleek and sexy white on white…. here time stands still.

Floating above a river, beneath a towering canopy of rainforest, Villa Sungai has everything you expect from the finest hotels, but with exclusivity. It is Bali's version of a luxury lodge - intimate and bespoke, tailored to the sophisticated and discerning experiential traveller looking for luxury Bali accommodation with access to local experiences.

The service begins the moment you step off the plane with the VIP airport butler service and the chauffeured transfers that whisk you to the villa where the chefs and staff are dedicated to you alone. "We aim to offer a guest experience that is intimate and discreet while providing the highest level of service, exceptional but not intrusive or invasive."

The three-suite flagship Sungai and the two-suite 'Owner's Villa' Sungai Gold next door can be booked individually, or groups can take over both for the ultimate glamorous house party in one of the most distinguished luxury Bali villas.


Friday, July 25, 2014

APT and AmaWaterways Celebrate AmaSonata Christening

unnamed (3)Award-winning river cruise lines APT and AmaWaterways have this week officially christened their newest European rivership, the luxury 164-passenger vessel the MS AmaSonata, in Vilshofen, Germany.

The christening, attended by AmaWaterways Co-Founders Rudi Schreiner and Kristin Karst, along with the line’s first-ever Canadian Godmother – Brenda Kyllo of the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), included a traditional Bavarian lunch, live Bavarian music and waltzes.  A traditional Bavarian shoot by professional riflemen off the ship’s sundeck delighted the ship’s guests, Vilshofen locals and government officials.

Commenting on the occasion, APT’s General Manager Marketing and Sales, Debra Fox, said, “In March we welcomed theAmaReina, and now we are thrilled to officially welcome her sister ship, the AmaSonata, to our expanding fleet of European riverships. Both ships offer the most innovative and luxurious facilities, including twin balcony suites, chef’s table fine dining and their very own fleet of bicycles, to name but a few.”

AmaSonata joins the APT and AmaWaterways fleet alongside sister ships AmaPrima and AmaCerto, as well as AmaReina.AmaSonata features spacious staterooms and suites, multiple dining venues, onboard massage and salon services, a heated swimming pool with swim-up bar, fitness room, complimentary bicycles and many other upscale amenities and innovative design elements.

The christening of a ship is a time-honored tradition that dates back more than 4,000 years. The Godmother is entrusted with blessing the ship and ceremonies often 

To find out more about APT’s European River Cruise program for 2014 call 1300 196 420, visit or see your local business development manager.

Newcastle, Port Stephens and Hunter Valley Launch New 'Altogether Perfect' Campaign in the Nation’s Capital

More business travellers could soon be a reality in Newcastle, Port Stephens and the Hunter Valley following the first two showcases for the region’s new ‘Altogether Perfect’ campaign which aims to boost high-yield business tourism across the greater Hunter Region.

AP team at Canberra Associations conference4

Representatives of the Altogether Perfect team from the Newcastle Convention Bureau, Destination Port Stephens and the Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association – travelled to Canberra for the Associations Forum National Conference on July 16 and 17 and will travel to the national capital again for the Executive Assistant Network Congress on July 24 and 25.

Drawing more than 500 delegates from Australia and NZ, the Associations Forum National Conference is a premier event drawing together industry and charity associations, with many seeking new destinations and venues for their own conventions and events. Meanwhile, the Executive Assistant Network is the onlynational membership organisation for senior EAs and PAs (Personal Assistants) in Australia with over 4900 members from over 2500 companies.  Company executive assistants are commonly tasked to source destinations and venues for conferences, with the Canberra expo providing fertile ground for Newcastle, Port Stephens and the Hunter Valley to showcase their appeal under their new ‘Altogether Perfect’ umbrella.

Altogether Perfect spokesperson, Mr Danny Eather – Marketing Executive of Hunter Valley Wine and Tourism Association, said the group manned booths at both Canberra trade shows to promote the region as the ideal destination for business events for up to 1200 delegates.

“We expect both shows – our first for the Altogether Perfect campaign - to heighten awareness and desire of the unique qualities our region can offer. We anticipate more business events for our areas will flow from these two key events,” said Mr Eather, who attended the two trade exhibitions in partnership with Cassie Mackay from the Newcastle Convention Bureau and Rebecca Morley from Destination Port Stephens. “The new $4 million Hunter Valley Conference & Events Centre opening later this year for up to 1000delegates is one of our key selling points. The group is also promoting the soft adventure and relaxed seaside appeal of Port Stephens and the many historic, large-scale venues we can offer beachside in Newcastle. Of paramount importance is the education of direct air access to the region from major interstate hubs via Newcastle Airport,” Mr Eather said.

He said the $270,000 Altogether Perfect campaign would target more business trade shows over the next year to grow the appeal of the greater Hunter region as the leading business tourism destination.

Launched this year, the ‘Altogether Perfect’ campaign is the name for the collaborative marketing efforts undertaken by regional partners in the Hunter Region to attract and secure business events tourism. 

Backed by Newcastle Convention Bureau, Hunter Valley Wine & Tourism Association and Destination Port Stephens and supported by dynamic industry operators, the joint marketing group attends trade fairs and sales missions and host visits to the region by key conference organisers and media to build the appeal of the Hunter region as THE number one business tourism destination. The campaign received funding through the Regional Visitor Economy Fund (RVEF) which is managed and administered by the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.

Dress to Impress for Ladies Day at Anantara's Elephant Polo Tournament

351890_num910100_600x600Ladies, mark August 30th in your diaries because this day is all about you! Get your girlfriends together and dress to impress for the “13th Annual King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament Ladies Day” for a fun day of fashion, giggles and bubbles.Special fashion police will be patrolling the pitch and the best dressed ladies will be given a ticket.

The ladies with a ticket will then go into the final round to win a dream holiday which includes five nights at Niyama by Per Aquum in the beautiful Maldives. The prize includes: A Water Studio with pool for two people with all breakfasts and dinners included, plus couple's massage all valued at BHT 250,000.

Ladies can also indulge and be pampered at the Elemis Spa with skin mapping, skin analysis demonstrations and mini massages to help you relax pitch side. So whether you are watching the exciting trunk to trunk action on field, sipping champagne in the VIP area or simply there for a good old-fashioned girly day out make sure you do it in style!

The 13th Annual King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament is one of the largest charity events in Thailand and has raised over US$750,000 which has been donated to various projects to better the better the lives of Thailand's wild and domesticated elephant population. The event will be is held at the Siam Polo Park at VR Sports Club in Bangkok from 28th – 31st August.

New Director for Switzerland Tourism Australia & New Zealand

Switzerland Tourism has announced that Evelyn Lafone, Director of Australia and New Zealand, will be leaving her post in Sydney on 25 July 2014 to head up the Switzerland Tourism office in Canada and oversee the tour operations of America's Mid West from mid August.

In May 2010, Evelyn left her position as Director for UK and Ireland to set up the ANZ office in Sydney. Having established Switzerland Tourism's presence in the region over the last four years, Switzerland has enjoyed a healthy and consistent 11% increase of visitors from Australia and 8% from New Zealand each year.

Replacing her position in Sydney is Mark Wettstein, who will officially commence his role as Director for Australia and New Zealand in late October. Mark brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience in travel having come from the airlines industry.

Executive Vice President of Switzerland Tourism, Urs Eberhard, says, "Evelyn has laid a very solid foundation and implemented a series of successful strategies to educate the Australian and New Zealand markets encouraging travellers to visit Switzerland.

"Now, Mark has the task and challenge of continuing that engagement with the trade and consumer markets and further improve our market share of Australian and New Zealand travellers," he says. "His experience and fresh eyes will no doubt be of great value to the team here and we look forward to his plans for the region."

Mark will begin work in the Sydney office in late November. Prior to this new role, Mark was Manager of Airlines Affairs for Asia Pacific and Eastern Europe at Zurich airport and prior to that, he was Account Manager of Business Sales in Switzerland for Lufthansa Switzerland.

Evelyn Lafone will take up her new position heading up Switzerland Tourism Canada, also overseeing tour operations in America's Mid West from August 2014.

Mark Wettstein will be replacing Evelyn Lafone as Director Australia and New Zealand from end of October 2014.

Sofitel Luxury Hotels celebrates 50th anniversary with iconic photo exhibition




Captions (l-r): Images by Jon Rendell - Café Les Deux Magots, January 1978; Eiffel Tower Paris, January 1987; Le dejeuner sur l'herbe, Musee d'Orsay, Paris January 1978 (Iconic Paris, photographs by Jon Rendell - Sofitel 50th anniversary)


French hotel brand Sofitel Luxury Hotels is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014, a special milestone that marks a half-century since the brand launched its first hotel in Strasbourg to now offer more than 120 luxury addresses in 40 different countries worldwide.

To celebrate the occasion, Sofitel's hotels across Australia has commissioned Donald Williams of Global Arts Projects to curate an exhibition of compelling and evocative images of Paris (in homage to the brand's elegant French origins and art-de-vivre) by San Francisco based, Melbourne born photographer, Jon Rendell.

Titled Iconic Paris, Photographs by John Rendell, the free public exhibition has commenced a national tour for display in Sofitel's hotel lobby galleries over the next six months.

Launching at the Sofitel Brisbane Central this month where it will stay until 24 August, Iconic Paris By Jon Rendell will then travel to the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth from 1 September to 5 October, the Sofitel Gold Coast Broadbeach from 8 October until 9 November, and conclude after a summer season at the Sofitel Melbourne on Collins where it will be on public display from 9 December until 30 January 2015.

Most of the Paris photographs in this exhibition were taken by Rendell in January 1978 and ten years later in January, 1987 just after the opening of the Musée d'Orsay. The exhibition features beautiful black and white photography which as the artist explains; "I began with black and white and limited finances meant that a jump to colour was unattainable in the 70s and 80s, but nowadays with colour everywhere, all the time, I believe that black and white photography, more than ever, has something new for us to observe".

While not clichéd, Rendell's subjects are the familiar iconic images of Paris that we have all grown to admire. They follow in the tradition of other photographers of that city including Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Brassaï, and Eugène Atget.

Over the course of its 50 years, Sofitel has continuously strived to be the symbol of French elegance in luxury hospitality. Sofitel's anniversary year offers a nod to both its history and traditions, while simultaneously looking ahead to the future, with more than 30 hotel openings planned around the world through the second half of 2014 and 2015.

"Fifty years is a major milestone by any measure. We are looking forward to marking this event throughout the year with our loyal guests and our more than 25,000 Sofitel ambassadors, or employees, around the world," said Rick Harvey Lam, Senior Vice President Sales, Marketing and Communications for Sofitel Worldwide. "With a special focus on Sofitel's design, gastronomy and culture themes, 2014 is the most magnifique year of our history yet."

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Khao Sok Eco-Guides Make the Grade with Khiri Travel Support

Nick Grady-Grot_CertificateChaiSeven guides have completed their Khao Sok national park guide-training course supported by Khiri Travel. Six of the seven scored over 75%, which lead trainer Michael Clark said was "excellent," adding: "The future is bright for all of these young Khao Sok citizens."

The guides, who received certification on 11 July, are available to guide all wildlife-based activities in and around Khao Sok National Park in southern Thailand.

The focus was on improving English skills, group leadership, knowledge of flora and fauna, safety standards, first aid, confidence building, and initiative. The training took two months, with up to three days of each week allocated for training. Each guide completed 200 hours of training.

Nick Grady-Grot_CertificateBerm
"It has always been my dream to share this forest with visitors, and now I have the skills to make this dream a reality," said graduate Viphada Jitsom. "The training had many surprises, such as rescuing a mountain goat from a hunter's trap."

The certificates were presented by the Surat Thani Local Guide Association. The training initiative, by the Khao Sok Jungle Academy had financial support from Khiri Travel, Andaman Discoveries and Our Jungle House.

The pictures below (all by nature photographer Nick Grady-Grot) show the certificate presentation and the guide training process.

Nick Grady-Grot_HikingReview

The Australian Schoolboys Rugby Union Kicks Off With the Sebel Residence Chatswood

The Sebel Residence Chatswood has been unveiled as the new sponsor of the Australian Schoolboys Rugby Union Championships, in yet another nod to Accor Australia's support for Australian sports.

The two-year sponsorship agreement saw the newly-branded 'The Sebel Premier Apartments Australian Schools Rugby Union Championships 2014' held recently at the nearby Saint Ignatius' College Riverview. Players travelled from all states across Australia to play off in 22 games amongst 12 teams, including two each from NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Players selected for the Australian Schools Team will be touring New Zealand and competing in the Tri-Nations tournament against Fiji Schools and New Zealand Schools, as well as the New Zealand Barbarians.
General Manager of The Sebel Residence Chatswood, Sandra Crisafi said, “This is the 40th year of the Championships and we are honoured to be supporting this great milestone achievement, with the travelling players staying with Accor hotels within Australia and New Zealand.”
“The Sebel Residence Chatswood has had a long-standing relationship with the families of students attending the local boarding schools. We appreciate the continued support from our boarding school families and enjoy welcoming them back. Our relationship with the Australian Schools Rugby Union is a natural fit for us and we look forward to being their home away from home.”
Australian Schools Rugby Union Executive Officer, Andrew Elliot reinforced, “The Australian schools are excited to be in partnership with The Sebel Residence Chatswood – the relationship will assist in ensuring our teams can stay in quality accommodation which contributes to performance on the field.”
This year's Championships was taken out by team NSW 1, with team NSW 2 taking the runner-up position. NSW will defend its title in the 2015 Championships, to be held next year again at Saint Ignatius' College Riverview, supported by The Sebel Residence Chatswood.
For more information and to book The Sebel Residence Chatswood,

The Expeditionist

The Expeditionist
Venturing to the world's special places