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Monday, November 28, 2016

Virtuoso Luxe Report 2017, Australia

Where we'll be heading next
Australian’s are heading to Cuba and Iceland, looking for adventure in Antarctica and South Africa and honeymooning in the Maldives.  Revealed in the 2017 Virtuoso Luxe Report Australia, these are the luxury trends being seen by the network’s Australian based advisors for the coming year.

The annual report, which for the first time included a breakdown from the Australian market, is the leading trend predictor for luxury and experiential travel globally. Also for the first time, the report looks at destinations which are rapidly changing or at risk of disappearing in the coming decade.

 Iceland: 'Nicely Icy' by Ewen Bell

Here are Virtuoso’s travel recommendations for 2017:

  • Head now for destinations with a sense of urgency: ones that are changing rapidly or even disappearing. Cuba tops the list as both an emerging destination and one in danger of losing its distinctive character. The Arctic is another must-see, with melting glaciers impacting the region’s unique wildlife. Closer to home, the Great Barrier Reef ranks second in the list of most endangered.
  • Seek out active journeys, as adventure travel soars even higher this year as a dominant trend. Virtuoso’s Australian advisors are rating South African safaris, exploring Vietnam and the Galapagos Islands, and New Zealand as a closer adventure option.
  • Multi-generational travel remains hot, and families are looking to relax in Fiji, Hawaii and Thailand or explore the US or Italy.  Take the opportunity to live like a local by with a cooking class, perusing the markets, hunting for truffles or even opting for a private, in-home dining experience.
  • Pack the bathers as island destinations are the top-tip for honeymooners. The Maldives offers the No.1 romantic get away and Fiji provides a destination closer to home for Australian newly weds. 
“We are starting to see movement outside of the mainstream travel agenda with people taking the current global turbulence as a prompt to look all the way down their bucket list,” Virtuoso Asia Pacific Managing Director, Michael Londregan said of the report.

“Instead of sticking with their tried and true destinations, people are looking at some options further down the list, and that's why we are seeing other less common options gaining momentum.

“Lets face it, there is no point having a bucket list if you don't look beyond your top three destinations."

Another trend identified in the report is a move towards longer international holidays and shorter domestic trips.

“People are starting to think about their holidays in really distinct blocks because their asset is not the money they have in the bank, it’s how many days they have off each year.

“People are taking their 20 days of holiday and planning out their year with a two week adventure, three long weekends, and a family get away for example - we are seeing people thinking more strategically about investing their travel time.

“No longer are we looking for what’s on special or just going where we normally go, people want to be more imaginative  - the world is their oyster and we no longer just live in one corner of it.”

Key findings from the 2017 Virtuoso Luxe Report:

Top five "emerging destinations" for 2017

    •    Cuba
    •    Iceland
    •    Japan
    •    Sri Lanka
    •    Myanmar/Burma

Most popular international leisure destinations 

    •    Italy
    •    United States
    •    France
    •    Spain
    •    Canada

Most popular destinations for family travel 

    •    Fiji
    •    United States
    •    Thailand
    •    Italy
    •    Hawaii

Most popular adventure destinations 

    •    Antarctica
    •    South Africa
    •    Vietnam and New Zealand
    •    Galapagos Islands

Most popular honeymoons 

    •    Maldives
    •    Fiji
    •    Italy
    •    Bali
    •    Thailand

Top Endangered/Changing Destinations

    •    Cuba
    •    Great Barrier Reef
    •    Antarctica
    •    Venice
    •    Maldives

Biggest trends for 2017

    •    Family and multi-generational
    •    Active and adventure / Luxury cruise
    •    Celebration

Length of trip with increased demand for in 2017

    •    2 + weeks international
    •    3-5 day domestic
    •    Week long international

Friday, November 25, 2016

Finnair adds Bocuse d’Or candidate as its new Signature Menu chef

Eero Vottonen

Finnair has announced a new partnership with Finnish Chef Eero Vottonen for the airline's latest Signature Menu collaboration. The Signature Menu cooperation with Eero Vottonen will bring true Nordic elements to Finnair's long-haul business class customers flying out of Helsinki to all destinations as of 11 January 2017.

Last year, Eero Vottonen was selected as Finland's candidate for the prestigious Bocuse d'Or competition taking place in Lyon, France in 2017. The Bocuse D'Or is arguably the biggest culinary competition in the world, bringing 24 chefs from different countries to compete on the international stage. During his career, Vottonen has worked in the top kitchens of Finland including restaurants such as Chez Dominique, Luomo, G.W. Sundmans and Olo.

"Eero has fast become one of the best chefs in Scandinavia and we are very excited to offer our long-haul business class passengers with his exceptional food," said Finnair Head of In-Flight Service, Maarit Keränen.

"With next year marking Finland's centennial anniversary, it's a great opportunity for us to collaborate with Finland's candidate for the Bocuse d'Or competition. We'd like to wish Eero all the best as he sets his sights on the final preparations for the prestigious event in January."

"Throughout the past few years, I've been fortunate enough to have the chance to work with many top chefs and I've learned a wide variety of ways and views on food through these experiences," said Eero Vottonen.

"The philosophy I bring to cooking is actually quite simple, the flavour always comes first and I want to use quality ingredients that are sourced from nearby suppliers."

Finnair flies between Asia, Europe and North America with an emphasis on fast connections via Helsinki, carrying more than nine million passengers annually and connecting 17 cities in Asia and 3 cities in North America with more than 60 destinations in Europe.

Finnair offers excellent connections from Australia with oneworld partners and was named Best International Airline – Offline Carrier in the prestigious AFTA National Travel Industry Awards in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Celebrity Solstice $11 Million Modern Luxury Makeover

Australia's highest rated ship returns better than ever, boasting a brand new Tiffany & Co. boutique

Celebrity Solstice is already Australia's highest rated* cruise ship, and today she arrives in Sydney more stunning than ever following a multimillion-dollar makeover - including Australia's first Tiffany & Co. store at sea.

Australians will be amongst the very first guests to experience the new and improved Celebrity Solstice. The Sydney-based ship offers even more modern luxuries to revitalise the bodies, minds and spirits of her guests – and a holiday onboard is eleven million times more fun.

"We've added more of the things that Australian guests love," says Adam Armstrong, managing director, Celebrity Cruises Australia.

"Throughout the ship, guests will find new features and fresh touches that have been carefully designed with luxurious, modern travel in mind. We've invested so significantly in Celebrity Solstice, home-ported in Sydney between October and April, so our Australian guests can feel relaxed, refreshed and revitalised after a holiday onboard, and leave feeling like a million dollars," Armstrong concluded.

Highlights of Celebrity Solstice's revitalisation include:

Tiffany & Co.

Tiffany & Co. will sail on Celebrity for the first time. You'll find the distinctive Tiffany Blue Box®—which has contained gifts befitting life's most important occasions for almost two centuries—in a special boutique exclusively on Celebrity Solstice. The legendary jeweller will offer its exclusive designs, the ultimate symbols of style and taste, with tax-free and duty-free savings.

Lawn Club Cabanas

Six brand new alcove-style cabanas border the real grass lawn for additional seating and relaxation space. Guests can adjust the cabanas to their preferred view throughout the day, whether it be out to sea or towards the outdoor movie screen, and enjoy service from a private butler, chilled towels and fresh fruit ice-blocks to cool off on hot summer days

A new outdoor cinema and 'A Taste of Film'

A large movie screen has been added to The Lawn Club where guests can watch movies in the open, sitting on real grass in the middle of the ocean – it's an experience only Celebrity Cruises can provide. In addition, Celebrity Solstice will offer a gastronomic and cinema adventure, "A Taste of Film" which pairs big-screen movies that evoke a specific cultural, culinary or destination experience, with cuisine that brings the scenes on the screen to life through guests' taste buds. Celebrity Solstice will feature 'The 100 Foot Journey' and 'Chef'.

Sushi on Five:

Celebrity's hotly anticipated newest dining experience takes the place of Bistro on Five and feature an expertly crafted à la carte menu, curated by sushi chef Yoshikazu "Yoshi" Okada. Sushi on Five will offer hand-rolled sushi, fresh tableside grated wasabi, house-made soy sauce, Asian-inspired cocktails, Japanese beers and premium sakes, plus an array of mouth-watering starters and entrees.

Photo Gallery:

Guests can now have easier access to keepsakes of their time onboard. Celebrity Solstice's Photo Gallery received a full modern luxury makeover – out are the traditional panel display of printed photos and now the ship has 25 state-of-the-art touch screen kiosks, where guests are able to use facial recognition technology to view their professional photos taken throughout their cruise and purchase a variety of photo formats. Guests are able to download their purchased photos direct to their mobile device at any time during their cruise, and instantly share their cruise memories with friends and family back home via social networking, email or messaging.

Other updates include an expansive Art Gallery featuring a dedicated auction location with contemporary art lining the freshly renovated space, while suites received modern luxury enhancements such as lavish new patio furniture added to the balconies.

This summer cruise season, the newly revitalised Celebrity Solstice offers a series of picturesque itineraries with calls to the green natural oasis of New Zealand, the exotic escape of Indonesia, and to sought-after destinations across Australia.

Fares start at AU$1529 for a balcony stateroom on a seven-night South Pacific Getaway cruise, departing from Sydney on 13 April 2017. The cruise will call at the pristine island of Lifou in the Loyalty Islands and vibrant Noumea in New Caledonia, before returning to Sydney. Guests who book before 30 November 2016 will enjoy savings of up to $400 per person, and up to US$300 onboard credit per stateroom, plus Oceanview bookings and above receive a free Classic Beverage Package, as part of Celebrity's Global Cruise Sale.

For more information about Celebrity Cruises or to book a cruise, visit, call 1800 754 500 or contact your travel agent.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Whitsundays has been named the ‘Best Destination’ in Australia


The Whitsundays has been named the 'Best Destination' in Australia, thanks to tens of thousands of backpackers selecting the Whitsundays as their favourite region.

The prestigious award was presented at the 2016 Golden Backpack Awards, which were held on the Gold Coast last night.

The Whitsundays' Great Barrier Reef was also awarded 'Best Visitor Attraction', with the judges' comments acknowledging the Whitsundays' reef tours had seen the largest number of visitors throughout the year.

Tourism Whitsundays Chief Executive Officer Craig Turner said he was extremely proud to see the Whitsundays recognised as the best within the backpacker and adventure tourism sector.

"These awards are a true testament to the hard work and determination our tourism operators put into their products and indeed the region's tourism sector.

"I commend all of our backpacker and adventure tourism operators for their continued commitment to provide exceptional customer service and unique holiday experiences that set the Whitsundays apart from the rest," Mr Turner said.

The Golden Backpack Awards are now in their 21st year and are Australasia's biggest independent backpacker and adventure industry awards.

Further information and a full list of the winners will soon be available at

Macau ups Michelin Star dining

MACAO’S reputation for serving quality cuisine has jumped a few more notches with news that 19 restaurants earned star ratings in the recently released 2017 edition of the “Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau”.

While the Grand Lisboa’s two premier restaurants – Robuschon au Dome and The Eight – maintained their three-star billings, Chinese eatery Feng Wei Ju and Japanese restaurant Mizumi jumped from one to two stars.

Feng Wei Ju specialises in Chuan-Xiang cuisine, a spice-heavy cuisine from the regions of Sichuan and Hunan and one of the eight major cuisines of China.

Mizumi is helmed by three renowned Japanese chefs and flies in fresh produce from Japan daily.

Their elevation meant that Macao now boasted five restaurants with the two stars, the pair joining the established Golden Flower, Jade Dragon and The Tasting Room.

Food for thought is that the one-star rating list grew to 12 with three Cantonese restaurants - Lai Heen, Ying and Pearl Dragon – earning the star for the first time.

They joined restaurants King, 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo, Shinji, Terrazza, The Golden Peacock, The Kitchen, Tim’s Kitchen, Zi Yat Heen, and Cantonese fine dining eatery Wing Lei, located inside the Wynn Macau.

In addition, Macao boasted 12 Bib Gourmand Michelin rated restaurants, recognised for their high quality affordable street food offerings.

Among those listed was Lord Stow’s Bakery, renowned for its creation of Portuguese-style egg tarts. Fong Kei Pastelaria, which has sold pastries for more than 120 years, and Mok Yee Kei, where durian ice cream is said to have originated, also made the grade.

“With the opening of new international hotels such as The Wynn Palace, Studio City and The Parisian we can see a few more restaurants aiming for star ratings,” said Helen Wong, general manager of the Macao Government Tourism Office (Australia and New Zealand).

“Early next year, we will also see the highly-anticipated Louis XIII open, along with the MGM Cotai, thus offering more restaurant options worth considering,” she said.

Details: Macao Government Tourism Office, phone (02) 9264 1488 or

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

AVANI Riverside Bangkok Hotel Offers a Brand New Outlook over the River of Kings

Rising above the banks of Bangkok’s picturesque Chao Phraya River, the world’s first purpose designed AVANI hotel, AVANI Riverside Bangkok Hotel, offers a smooth blend of contemporary style, modern warmth and stunning views across Asia’s most dynamic city.

From the top of the 26-storey hotel at the rooftop bar and pool, to the lobby, AVANI Riverside gives guests a place to relax and unwind, and a base to start exploring nearby neighborhoods and popular tourist sites along the ‘River of Kings’.

On arrival guests are immediately greeted by an arresting view of the Chao Phraya River from the vast lobby, located on the eleventh floor. The open plan design blends reception, lounge, meeting, chill out and restaurant spaces. The interiors are spacious, the driving ethos is modernity, fused with comfort and great craftsmanship.

The interconnected communal spaces encapsulate the idea of mixing business with pleasure. Whether checking in or checking emails, here guests can connect with fellow travellers. The Long Bar serves a variety of refreshments, guests can enjoy sunrise breakfast or sunset dinner at Skyline and The Pantry serves a mix of comfort food and artisanal deli snacks around the clock. In addition the lobby also includes a secluded space for meetings or catching up with friends.

All of the hotel’s 248 stylish guest rooms and suites, boast uninterrupted city and river views and attention has been given to guests wellbeing with all the elements required for a relaxing stay and a good night’s sleep.

The neutral décor is a blend of comfort and modernity, natural materials and high-tech equipment, along with extra conveniences such as a rain shower, dedicated work station with free WiFi and a media hub docking station. Each of the spacious River View Junior Suites features a bathroom with a view, outfitted with a freestanding tub where guests can soak whilst taking in the ever-changing river scene below and the glittering Bangkok skyline.

Reaching new heights, the rooftop space on the 26th floor is the ideal place to take in uninterrupted views of the city while relaxing at the infinity pool, enjoying a sundowner or hosting a business dinner in style. Alongside the impressive pool is a living wall, both lying parallel to the river, giving a sense of continuity. A multi-purpose sunken lounge area located in the middle of the terrace has a retractable roof providing sunlight or shade, whatever the mood.

At the other end of the terrace is ATTITUDE, Bangkok’s newest rooftop hot spot to see and be seen. Different areas of the restaurant and bar, intimate or collective, are designed for socialising and include an indoor lounge with a DJ booth, an open show kitchen, wine wall and outdoor lounge-style restaurant and bar. Cocktails are courtesy of a world class mixologist, with the creative cocktail menu split into “House Alternatives”, “Historically Classic” and “Mixology Interfusions” where you’ll find new cocktails such as the Molecule of Love, a mellow blend of Chambord raspberry liqueur, Malibu and strawberry flavoured caviar pearls to make it pop.

Exercise is a great way to recover from jet lag or blow off some steam and the gym offers a world class river view. AVANIFIT features the latest cardio equipment enabling guests to maintain their usual workout routines.

Contemporary, pure and relaxed, AVANISPA offers a tailored experience focusing on guests physical needs such as the signature touch treatment; a soothing oil massage coupled with stretching techniques.

AVANI Riverside raises the bar for conferences and meetings in Bangkok. The new multi-purpose events complex on the 10th floor offers over 4,500 sqm of flexible space for gala banquets for up to 1,300 guests or small intimate meetings and every option in between. It also offers an open kitchen - a highlight for any wedding, party or business function.

The hotel’s riverside location makes all of Bangkok’s attractions easily accessible. Shuttle boat services link to the Asiatique night market and entertainment complex, and also the BTS Skytrain at the central Saphan Taksin boat pier for swift connections to major commercial, shopping and entertainment districts. For those who prefer not to stray too far, Riverside Plaza adjoins AVANI Riverside Bangkok Hotel offering a variety of restaurants, bars and shops.

AVANI Riverside gives the modern traveller a space to stay, work, meet and relax while encouraging them to embrace their #AVANIattitude.

For more information of AVANI Riverside Bangkok Hotel please contact +66 (0) 2431 9100 or email reservations at

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

New Campaign Encourages Aussies to Fly Smarter with AirAsia


In conjunction with its 9th anniversary in Australia, award-winning low-cost airline AirAsia has taken the wraps off its latest campaign to help educate consumers about how they can 'Fly Smarter' with AirAsia.

The airline has unveiled a series of short videos where a brand personality shares insider knowledge on the not often talked about lengths that AirAsia goes to keep costs low for long haul travel to Asia. The savings are passed directly back to customers in the form of low fares, but never at the expense of legroom, comfort, convenience or safety standards.

AirAsia Head of Marketing for Australia Linda Na said, "Our new campaign will appeal to Aussies who choose to Fly Smarter, to save money on their flight and spend the savings at their destination.

"There is a common misconception that low cost airlines cut corners to offer low fares. We are able to offer low fares because of our meticulous low cost management measures and by carrying only what passengers need and choose.

"We're a business that is focused on offering a great travel experience for the real travelling public who, like us, are focused on flying for less rather than first class luxuries, which are experienced by few. All savings are passed back to passengers in the form of low fares. Every decision is made with the budget cost traveller in mind.

"It's all about flying smarter to offer low fares."

Considerations underpinning the campaign show:

  • How AirAsia operates a modern fleet of aircraft and is able to keep planes as light as possible, which saves on fuel costs.
  • An AirAsia Airbus A330 economy seats has the same legroom as expensive airline A330 economy seats.
  • Having no first class and less business class space and more room for economy mean more passengers travelling on the aircraft, which splits fuel amongst more passengers.
  • AirAsia's tablet inflight entertainment cuts out heavy seatback hardware and wiring, which adds to fuel costs even when the seat is flying empty. Instead passengers can choose to BYO device loaded with the content they want to watch, or hire AirAsia's light entertainment and enjoy the fuel cost savings.
  • Pay as you go means crews aren't handing out unnecessary extras, which means less waste for AirAsia and passengers.

The series of videos, which are stored in an online content hub and backed by a digital marketing campaign, show a number of examples which illustrate this low cost efficiency.

E.g. AirAsia's personality bobs up in the economy seating area.

MAN: AirAsia don't have a first class cabin.

Which means more room for economy, so fuel costs are split amongst more people.

MAN: Do you 'really' want to pay for someone else's champagne?

SUPER:  AirAsia. Fly smarter.

From Australia, AirAsia X flies daily to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, from Perth (14 flights per week) Sydney (17 flights per week), Melbourne (18 flights per week), Gold Coast (11 flights per week) and Auckland (7 flights per week).

AirAsia Indonesia flies up to four times daily to Denpasar, Bali from Perth and four times weekly from Darwin.

World's largest cruises ships meet at sea

Royal Caribbean International's Oasis-class ships, Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and the new Harmony of the Seas, struck a chord over the weekend, greeting each other at sea for the first and possibly only time. In a meeting of unprecedented proportions, the three record-breaking sisters came together to celebrate the U.S. arrival of Harmony of the Seas on the eve of the ship's debut in her new permanent homeport of Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Oasis-class ships are architectural and engineering marvels, boasting industry-changing and unexpected onboard experiences. Each ship features seven themed neighbourhoods – a distinctive feature of the Oasis-class ships – and a number of spectacular amenities, adventures and thrills, including the lush and tranquil Central Park with nearly 12,000 plants and trees, FlowRider surf simulators; a thrilling 25 metre long zip line that races guests nine-decks in the air, luxurious multi-level loft suites with expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, the outdoor AquaTheater that hosts dazzling high-diving, aquatic and acrobatic performances, a Boardwalk with a hand-carved carousel, and The Rising Tide Bar, the first moving bar at sea.

The newest and youngest of the three ships, Harmony of the Seas, officially claimed the title of world's largest cruise ship, beating her sisters by a mere 30 centimetres in length and nearly 1,700 gross registered tons. The ship features a bold lineup of new thrilling experiences, imaginative dining, unparalleled entertainment and the latest technology, including VOOM, the fastest internet at sea. Harmony combines the iconic seven neighbourhood concept with some of the most modern and groundbreaking amenities and offerings that will appeal to guests of all ages. From The Ultimate Abyss, a dramatic 10-story tall slide, to unparalleled entertainment including Broadway's hit musical Grease, sophisticated dining in venues ranging from Jamie's Italian Cuisine by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to Royal Caribbean's whimsical restaurant Wonderland, which is a unique culinary adventure for the senses, and robot bartenders, there is an adventure for everyone onboard Harmony of the Seas.  

The world's largest cruise ship now joins her sister ships Oasis of the Seas homeported in Port Canaveral, and Allure of the Seas homeported in Port Everglades, sailing from the east coast of Florida. Harmony offers seven-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries, providing new adventures from the islands of the Caribbean to the shores of Mexico.

For further information or to book a Royal Caribbean cruise, visit, phone 1800 754 500 or see your local travel agent.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Sporting passions ignite tourism in the Gulf, the leading travel search site in the Middle East and Asia Pacific, reflects on the tourism value of one of the most global unifying passions in the world: sport.

The Gulf has invested heavily in what is an impressive annual calendar of international events, beginning in November and continuing through to April, when the temperature is more conducive to sporting activities.

"There's a buzz in the region right now in preparation for some of the richest and most sought-after sporting crowns in the world," said Mamoun Hmedan, Managing Director, Wego Middle East, North Africa and India.

"The Gulf's passion for global sports has been reflected in the development of numerous cutting-edge stadiums and circuits that now attract the world's sporting elite. The commitment is evident in the growing number of proactive pitches to hold even more international events in the region," Hmedan continue.

The UAE will host the AFC Asia Cup in 2019; the tournament to be held across eight separate venues in four cities. Expansion plans are underway with the Zayed Sports City Stadium increasing its capacity to 63,000.

Also in 2019, Doha successfully beat Barcelona and the US to win the World Athletics Championships to be held at the Khalifa International Stadium, home of the Qatar national team.

"The highest profile event is the 2022 FIFA World Cup also to be held in Qatar," added Hmedan. "Held in the Middle East for the first time, plans are in place for at least eight (possibly 12) planned new venues, making it the highest profile sporting event in the region's history."

"Apart from these upcoming giant events, the Gulf's regular sporting agenda kicks off this month with the prestigious DP World Tour Championship - known as the 'Race to Dubai' as part of the European Golf Tour's final," added Hmedan. "In the 2013 cycle alone, it was estimated that this event brought in as much as US$44 million to Dubai."

The prestigious final is held at the acclaimed Jumeirah Golf Estates: a series of top-quality championship courses designed by golfing legend Greg Norman.

It's followed by the hugely popular Dubai Rugby Sevens in early December hosted at Dubai's Sevens Stadium, built to host the 2009 World Cup.

"The Sevens is part of the World Rugby Sevens Series and attracts an annual attendance exceeding 100,000. These prestigious events are an expression of the dedication to boost tourism as well as feed the Gulf's love of sport, and we are expecting a lift in searches to the UAE on," Hmedan observed.

"Another big yearly drawcard is the Dubai Marathon which attracts around 30,000 participants from all over the world, including some of the world's elite international distance runners. Numbers are expected to increase as this event continues to gain popularity," said Hmedan.

The tourism industry is also proactively participating in promotion of these events with huge sponsorships.

"A number of representative airlines have invested as sponsors with Emirates hosting the Rugby Sevens and Gulf Air sponsoring the Bahrain Grand Prix; the first Formula One event ever to be held in the Middle East," continued Hmedan.

Bahrain will offer a single entry Formula One visa to suit visitors from 113 countries, waiving their usual visa application process.

"Sport sponsorships are big business and Gulf airlines continue to integrate their branding associations with events, teams and stadiums, which has been very effectively undertaken by Emirates and Etihad Airways. Just a few months back, Saudi Airlines announced their sponsorship of the Saudi national football team in their bid to secure a place in the 2018 Russia World Cup," Hmedan added.

"Continued investments in sporting tourism have resulted in impressive stadiums and sporting facilities, in particular the US$1.3 billion 250 hectare Aspire Zone in Doha, which could see Qatar win an Olympic bid in the near future," said Hmedan.

"Sport and tourism go hand in hand," Hmedan said in conclusion. "International events unify cultures through a singular passion, provides opportunities to explore otherwise unknown destinations, and helps grow and deliver business directly to the travel industry."

Interesting facts

Dubai Rugby Sevens
  • The Sevens Stadium has eight rugby and six cricket pitches, seating a capacity of 44,000, parking for 15,000 cars, with 4,000 competitors
  • New Zealand have won most titles (x 12), and Fiji second (x 3)
  • Annual overall attendance exceeds 100,000 people

Bahrain Grand Prix
  • First Formula One event held in the Middle East
  • The US$150 million Bahrain International Circuit is built for six separate possible layouts to suit drag racing, GP2 and the Grand Prix
  • Formula One visa waiver for 113 countries

World Tennis Championship
  • Abu Dhabi's International Tennis Complex seats a capacity of 5,000 spectators on its Centre Court, and is part of the Zayed Sports City
  • High profile participating tennis pros include Novak Djokovic (3 x winner), Andy Murray (2 x winner) and Rafael Nadal (3 x winner).

DP World Tour Championship (Race to Dubai)
  • Prize fund in excess of US$8 million, one of the largest in the world
  • The tournament record is held by current 2016 winner, Henrik Stenson, set back in 2013

Dubai World Cup
  • Operated by the Emirates Racing Authority, led by Sheikh Mansour, the deputy prime minister of the UAE
  • The Meydan Racecourse is home to the single largest structure on the planet (its grandstand), and can host up to 80,000 spectators.
  • Covering over seven million square meters, it has both a turf and dirt track
  • Boasting only pure thoroughbred horses 
  • Stadium has hosted big name performers including Lady Gaga, Janet Jackson and Elton John

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Solomon Islands tourism on track for record year


Strong August visitor arrivals and increased cruise arrivals keep Solomon Islands on track for record year


A strong increase in international visitor arrivals in August, a bumper Australian performance and a major upturn in the destination's ever-building positioning as a new and exciting cruise destination has helped Solomon Islands tourism stay on track for what is shaping up to be one of its best years in recent times.

Official figures released by the Solomon Islands National Statistics Office this week show a total of   1918 international visitor arrivals arrived across the month, the figure eclipsing the 1426 recorded for the same period in 2015 by 34.5 per cent.

The August figures bring the destination's eight-month tally for 2016 to 14, 953, a more than 11 per cent increase over the 13, 464 figure achieved for the same eight-month period in 2015.

This has kept the Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau bang on track for its projected 9 per cent visitor arrival increase in 2016.

Australian arrivals continue to dominate, the 836 Aussie August intake up 46.6 per cent over the 570 total achieved in August 2015 and representing 41 per cent of all international visitation.

The 6212 Australian total for January-August 2016 is now 6.38 per cent ahead of the 5839 achieved for the same period in 2015.

The United States has maintained its second spot, figures for August climbing 25.2 per cent from 111 in 2015 to 139 this year.

Collective US figures for the eight-month period January-August show a 14.3 per cent increase from the 931 recorded in 2015 to 1065 in 2016.

Solomon Islands Visitors Bureau CEO, Josefa 'Jo' Tuamoto said it was particularly pleasing to see New Zealand visitor arrivals start to climb with a total of 139 New Zealanders visiting the destination in August compared to 121 for the same month in 2015 – an increase of 14.8 per cent.

The August Kiwi figures take the eight-month tally for New Zealand visitors for the year to 1037, a 9.7 increase over the 936 visiting last year and holding New Zealand firmly in place as the destination's third most important visitor source.

While the visitation figures, all recorded at Honiara International Airport, are extremely encouraging, Mr Tuamoto drew strong reference to the Solomon Islands' ever-increasing positioning on the international cruise scene which so far this year has seen 10 major vessels entering Solomon Islands' waters.

"We have long recognised how tight our current hotel room inventory is and this does have impact on our ability to host more international visitors," Mr Tuamoto said.

"Having said that, we do know that the hosting of the Pacific Games in 2023 will play a role in seeing our overall tourism infrastructure expanded exponentially in the lead up to the event.

"But in the meantime, our ongoing success in building ever-growing cruise visitation is certainly bearing fruit for our tourism aspirations."

Mr Tuamoto pointed towards the return last week of P&O's Pacific Eden, visiting Honiara and Gizo for the second time this year with more than 1200 passengers on board.

Three more vessels - Zegrahm Expeditions' Caledonian Sky, Costa Cruises Costa Atlantica and Compagnie du Ponant's L'Austral are all due to visit before the end of the year.

"We can readily attribute all these results to efforts our government and tourism industry have gone to as part of a very vigorous process to seize on the opportunity tourism presents to the Solomon Islands,"  Mr Tuamoto said.

"It's taken a great deal of hard work by everyone involved to turn what represents huge potential into a hard reality and that is exactly what we are seeing as we move towards the close of 2016.

"There can be no doubt the platform has been laid this year and it has been a solid effort.

"But we will need to redouble our efforts if we are to continue in the same vein in 2017."


Skype: mike.parker.brown

Friday, November 4, 2016

British Airways - a smart way to travel to London

British Airways is offering a smart way to travel to London and beyond with a new range of early bird special offers on flights from Australia to the UK, Europe and Asia. The offers are available for booking from now until midnight on 30 November 2016. Return fares in World Traveller economy class to Asia start from $768*, and $1,374* to the UK and Europe.

BA uses Boeing 777-300ER aircraft on the route to London (Airplane-Pictures)

Nicole Backo, British Airways’ regional general manager, South West Pacific, said, “With the range of great low fares across all cabins, British Airways is offering a truly smart way to travel to London, the UK and over 110 cities in Europe. Travel in comfort and style as we take you from Sydney to London via the award-winning Singapore Changi Airport, hailed as one of Asia’s premium gateways to the UK and Europe. Early bird fares are available for booking now, and with the long travel window, customers can make travel plans that go well into 2017.

“There has never been a better time to visit this part of the world and take in its rich heritage and breath-taking countryside. We encourage travellers from Australia to take advantage of our early bird fares, either to conclude 2016 with a great trip to the UK or Europe, or to embark on another exciting year of travel in 2017,” said Backo.

British Airways’ customers from Australia are in for a special experience when they fly to the UK, as they will be able to travel through two of the world’s award-winning airports. Singapore Changi Airport was named as World’s Best Airport at the 2016 World Airport Awards, while London Heathrow Airport won Skytrax’s Best Airport Shopping Award in 2016. London Heathrow Terminal 5, exclusively serving British Airways and Iberia Airlines, has also been named the Best Airport Terminal of Skytrax for the fifth year running.

Customers travelling in Club World business class and First can also enjoy British Airways’ dedicated lounge at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 1. The lounge, which features the finest in modern British design and style, offers premium customers an upgraded space to work, relax or dine as they choose. The stylish lounge was the first location in Asia to offer the airline’s Concorde Bar, a private area exclusive to customers flying in First.

To Singapore - The special fares on flights to Singapore are valid for travel from now until 10 June 2017 and start from $768* in World Traveller economy class; $1,818* in World Traveller Plus premium economy; $3,288* in Club World Business class; and $4,788* in First.

To London - The special fares on flights to London are valid for travel from now until 25 November 2016, and from 27 September to 31 October 2017. Fares start from $1,439* in World Traveller economy class; $3,199* in World Traveller Plus premium economy; $6,699* in Club World Business class; and $10,199* in First.

To Europe - The special fares on flights to Europe are valid for travel from now until 25 November 2016, and from 27 September to 31 October 2017. Fares start from $1,374* in World Traveller economy class; $3,060* in World Traveller Plus premium economy; $6,576* in Club World Business class; and $10,076* in First.

For bookings and more information please visit

Air France announces low cost subsidiary for Asia flights

Air France-KLM has outlined plans to establish a new low cost subsidiary flying to Asia with the proposed name of

Air France-KLM chairman and ceo Jean-Marc Janaillac yesterday said Boost would be a two-class cabin product, offering a lower price point than its main-line operation out of CDG.

It will comprise 10 jets, sourced from AF’s existing fleet, with a lie-flat Business class product.

It will launch sometime in the winter of 2017 taking over some of Air France's least profitable routes.

Staff deployed with Boost would be on lower wages and Air France pilots would work longer hours for the same pay, the company said.

Although few specific details have been disclosed, onboard service would be pared down compared to the current Air France in-flight experience but would be more comprehensive than a typical LCC.

The airline plans to use Airbus A340 quad-jets (pictured) on so far unannounced routes to Asia.

The airline said Asia will be the initial focus before possibly expanding to transatlantic flights to the US.

Air France-KLM is looking to claw back market share lost on lucrative Europe-Asia routes since the emergence of Gulf carriers such as Emirates and Qatar Air.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort opens in Oman

Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort Invites Travellers to Experience New Heights of Luxury 

Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas opens the doors to the highest five-star resort in the Middle East with the launch of Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort. Perched 2,000 metres above sea level on the curving rim of a great canyon, the imaginative luxury resort beckons the intrepid traveller for immersions in a rich local culture and indulgent adventures into the otherworldly mountainscape of northern Oman.

Long inaccessible, Al Jabal Al Akhdar, Arabic for ‘The Green Mountain’, is a towering massif on the Sultanate of Oman’s vast Saiq Plateau. The arrival experience takes guests on an adventurous drive – two hours from Muscat International Airport or four and a half hours from Dubai – past date plantations, historic forts and dry riverbeds known locally as wadis. The resort echoes the fortified architecture of the region, ensconcing guests in modern ramparts inspired by the commanding mountain citadels and re-imagined with sophisticated contemporary interiors.

A total of 115 luxury guest rooms and villas overlook either the dramatic canyon or tranquil gardens. The resort’s 82 Premier and Deluxe Canyon View Rooms boast a spacious bedroom, amongst the largest in the country, and a spa-like bathroom complete with a rain shower and separate bath alongside a balcony. Meanwhile, the 33 One- or Two-Bedroom Villas grant guests an intimate escape, each with personal villa host services and a private infinity pool overlooking the cliffs or hidden in an exotic garden. 

Culinary desires are well catered for at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort with a collection of six restaurants and lounges. Al Maisan, meaning ‘The Rising Star’, allows guests to embark on a gastronomic journey around the world with live cooking stations from breakfast through to dinner, whilst Al Qalaa, translating to ‘The Fort’, showcases inventive Omani cuisine. With panoramic views stretching across the canyon, Bella Vista serves Roman-inspired cuisine while those looking for something lighter can enjoy the courtyard café, Al Baha. For a leisurely evening, guests ascend to the rooftop shisha lounge Al Shourfa or savour tapas in a Moroccan-inspired setting at Al Burj.

The ultimate gastronomic experience, Anantara’s ‘Dining by Design’ gives guests the chance to dine on a spectacular cliff-edge platform known as Diana’s Point, named after Diana, Princess of Wales, who visited the exact spot in November 1986.

Another of Anantara’s signature concepts is the ‘Spice Spoons’ cooking school experience. Guests accompany a chef to the local souq to source fresh ingredients and return to the resort for an interactive culinary class, creating exotic dishes from Omani and Thai cuisine.

Cradled by soaring mountains and graced with pleasant temperatures throughout the year, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort invites guests to venture through the valleys on foot, haggle over scarves and perfumes in the souqs, rise early to practice mountaintop sun salutations or gaze at the awe-inspiring sky on the fort star-gazing platform. For those ready for a rush of adrenaline, a ‘via ferrata’ climbing route, right on the resort’s doorstep, allows guests to hang from the cliff as they scale its side. The nearby terrain is ideal for explorers who can discover the labyrinth of narrow roads via mountain bike, wonder at the marvels of the canyon during a hike, abseil from a sheer cliff or try their hand at the ancient sport of archery, whilst culture aficionados will appreciate the richness of nearby heritage sites.

Renowned for opening the door to authentic experiences in each destination, Anantara’s ‘gurus’ are a quintessential part of guests’ journeys. Expert ‘Mountain Gurus’ from nearby villages share their unsurpassed knowledge of the area and provide inside access as guests explore the surrounding landscape and its ways of life. Impressive facilities at the resort itself include a cliff-edge infinity swimming pool, floodlit tennis court, fully-equipped gym with a rotating Freedom Climber wall, and an indoor-outdoor kids’ and teens’ club. The Anantara Spa harnesses the essence of Arabia with ancient hammam rituals as well as signature spa treatments using indigenous ingredients and traditions from the region. For those who wish to take advantage of the drama and beauty to stage a one-of-a-kind event, extensive meeting and banqueting facilities can host weddings, conferences, celebrations and team building activities.

For more information or to make a reservation, go to

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Taveuni Palms Resort, Fiji win's World Luxury Hotel Award

The opulent Taveuni Palms Resort, Fiji Islands has won best Luxury Private Pool Villa at the World Luxury Hotel Awards held at the St Regis in Doha. This is the third international award the resort has won in October.

The World Luxury Hotel Awards is the pinnacle of recognition of accomplishment by a hotel in the luxury hospitality industry. The awards are voted for by the public and reward luxury hotels, their world-class facilities and service excellence provided to guests.

"We are delighted to have won this prestigious award again.  From 5-star accommodation to 5-star dining with your personal chef, the resorts number one priority is to provide an exceptional experience for all our guests in a private and luxurious setting." Says Colleen O'Neill, Owner, Taveuni Palms Resort, Fiji.

"Winning this award recognises our team's constant hard work and that our high standards are being appreciated by our guests." Continues Mrs O'Neill.

Always acknowledged as one of the leading luxury resorts in the industry, this award is the third award Taveuni Palms has won in the past month, also winning the "Best Resort and Hotel in Fiji" at the 2016 Seven Stars Luxury Hospitality and Lifestyle Awards (SSLHLA) and the "Australasia's Leading Luxury Boutique Island Resort" at the 23rd annual World Travel Awards™.

Previously, Taveuni Palms Resort has won Australasia's Leading Boutique Island Resort at the World Luxury Hotel Awards in 2012, 2011 and 2010, won the SSLHLA in 2013 and won the World Travel Awards for the past 6 consecutive years in a range of categories. The resort has also consistently won TripAdvisor People's Choice awards.

The five stars Taveuni Palms Resort, situated on Taveuni Island, Fiji is the ultimate in boutique luxury. Set amongst swaying coconut palms, on the edge of a golden sandy beach and surrounded by Fiji's crystal clear blue waters, the resort is a private hideaway perfect for honeymooners, weddings or that vacation of a lifetime.

Taveuni Palms has two luxury villas, the Beach Villa and Horizon Spa Villa.

The Beach Villa features two bedrooms and two bathrooms, while the Horizon Spa Villa features two bedrooms and two bathrooms in the main villa and one bedroom and one bathroom in a separate air-conditioned bure. The villa also features a luxury Spa Pool.

Both villa's are on their own private acre of absolute beachfront and boasts their own private pool, beach and personal staff of seven. Villa's are air-conditioned and include super king beds, Pure Fiji toiletries, bathrobes, outdoor honeymoon showers, full entertainment centre (TV, DVD, iPod and portable Bose speakers), library of DVD's, books, board games, large outdoor furnished deck, daybed sofas and hammocks.

Dining at the resort is an experience in itself with each villa featuring five special private dining locations. Villa's come with a personal chef who designs guest's breakfast, lunch and four course dinner menus based on their likes and dislikes. Whatever the menu, guests will be taken on a mouth-watering culinary journey through the South Pacific.

From the time guests wake there is always something magical to experience. From hiking to waterfalls, coastal walks, horseback riding, pearl farm tours, snorkelling, deep-sea fishing to island beach picnic's, dolphin watching, paddleboarding, kayaking or diving trips to famous world-class sites. Be part of traditional Fijian cultural ceremonies or try a cooking lesson with each villa's personal chef.

From the privacy of each magnificent villa, Taveuni Palms offers a variety of relaxing spa treatments, using only the finest "Pure Fiji" products and designed to rejuvenate the mind, body and soul.

Prices start from USD$1500 per day for two people per villa and includes champagne upon arrival, all meals and non-alcoholic beverages (Breakfast, lunch and a 4 course dinner), all day complimentary room service, a personal staff of seven, resort activities including kayaks, paddle boards, snorkelling gear, bikes, and cooking lessons with your personal chef, Fijian LOVO feast at the local village, Grand Fijian welcome with "salu-salu's" and "bula-drinks" upon arrival, 1 hour after flight recovery massage upon arrival, roundtrip transfers from Matei airport to Taveuni Palms, use of iPad during stay and unlimited wireless internet usage.

For further information, visit:

New high speed ferry for Sydney

SeaLink Travel Group (SLK: ASX) (SeaLink) has welcomed into Sydney the arrival of its largest and fastest catamaran ferry. The commuter ferry joins the Captain Cook Cruises fleet and will help meet a growing demand for services on Sydney Harbour.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Intrepid helps African women climb Kilimanjaro to highlight female land rights


Female farmers will be joined by Women’s AFL players

This week, Intrepid Travel will lead over 30 women farmers from all over Africa to the peak of Mt Kilimanjaro, to help them raise awareness for women’s land rights.

Led by Intrepid’s expert guides and in partnership with ActionAid, travellers will trek alongside these courageous African women, in a show of support as they fight for land rights and gender equality.

On October 15, to coincide with the UN International Day of Rural Women, the climbers will join over 250 African women at a mass assembly, where those involved will produce a charter of demands for equal land rights to be presented to the United Nations and the African Union. The climb and assembly comes during the African Union’s yearlong focus on the “Rights of Women” in 2016.

In rural Africa, smallholder farmers (the majority of whom are women) produce close to 80% of the continent’s food. From sowing, weeding and fertilizing, to processing and transporting, these women form the backbone of Africa’s food security and production industry. Despite their vital contribution, most African women lack secure rights to their land and any access is usually through a male relative.

Geoff Manchester, Co-founder of Intrepid Travel and Chairman of The Intrepid Foundation said: “Gender issues are very much in the news right now. And while women from all over the world face challenges in their workplaces, these African rural women are trying to overcome a struggle for the most basic equal rights on the land that they work on. Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak and it’s a tough climb by anyone’s standards – and overcoming it will give these strong women the highest possible platform to show the world that it’s time to change the outlook for rural women on the continent.”

Intrepid Travel leads hundreds of travellers up Mt Kilimanjaro every year. Intrepid provides fair working conditions to all of their porters, often beyond government regulations, and employs locals from disadvantaged communities.

Women’s AFL players – Katie Brennan of the Western Bulldogs and Melissa Hickey from the Melbourne Demons – are also joining the climb to support gender equality.

ActionAid has been working with women farmers in rural Africa, to help them seek justice and fight for the basic rights they deserve to give their families a chance for a secure future.

Together, Intrepid Travel and ActionAid are helping lead the way for women’s land rights in Africa. Together, they will help women move mountains.

For more information visit:

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The Expeditionist
Venturing to the world's special places