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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Luxperience: Meet 2017 Thought Leaders and Speakers

Leaders and visionaries within the premium business events market are getting ready to meet in Sydney, Australia this September for Luxperience, the only trade event in the Southern Hemisphere dedicated to high-end travel experiences for leisure and premium business events. This year we are looking forward to welcoming a number of exciting new exhibitors and highly qualified buyers who recognise the opportunity to meet in one of the world’s most desirable and dynamic destinations.

In this month’s issue of Events by LuxNews we introduce you to some of our Thought Leaders who will be presenting during our opening Forum on Sunday 17th September or our Business Sessions taking place during the exhibition. We are looking forward to enriching our community’s efforts to be creative; on trend and educated on how to take their business to the next level with inspiring meaningful connections.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

[watch] Hilarious new British Airways safety video with famous movie stars

A team of top celebrities including Gordon Ramsay, Rob Brydon, Sir Ian McKellen and Thandie Newton make appearances in British Airways’ entertaining new pre-flight safety video, which launches in September.

The new film features some of Britain’s best-loved personalities and has been designed to help customers absorb important safety messages, while boosting fund-raising for ‘Flying Start’, the global charity partnership between British Airways and Comic Relief.

Alex Cruz, British Airways’ chairman and CEO, said: “It’s extremely important to us that customers engage with our safety video, and involving some of the nation’s most well-known personalities has given us the chance to create something fun that we hope people will watch from start to finish - and remember.

“We’ve worked with Comic Relief since 2010 and our customers have already helped us generate £16.5 million for great causes. We hope the new video will enable us to exceed our goal of raising £20 million by 2020.”

Ten celebrities are seen auditioning in humorous sketches in front of comedian Asim Chaudhry, as his People Just Do Nothing character Chabuddy G, for a coveted part in the safety video, while simultaneously demonstrating the safety features and procedures on the aircraft.

Veriu Broadway - Sydney's newest hotel

Sydney’s newest hotel brand – Veriu Hotels– was officially launched last night at the group’s newly opened hotel, Veriu Broadway. Veriu owners, Rhys Williams and Alex Thorpe, highlighted the group’s commitment to providing guests with the opportunity to feel genuinely connected to their city as they prepare to open a number of hotels across Sydney’s inner city precincts.

“The vision for Veriu started way before any bricks and mortar were laid - It started with an idea to create a hotel brand committed to providing guests with an authentic experience of a local urban precinct that we felt passionate about and we wanted to do it in a way that a big hotel brand simply can’t,” said Rhys Williams.

“Living local is very much part of the brand’s DNA and we have incorporated elements into the guest experience to ensure they have every opportunity to experience Sydney’s diverse locations. When we consider giving a visitor the keys to our city we get very excited about putting them in places that we know will deliver.”

Veriu Broadway guests have an array of experiences on offer – all easily explored using the complimentary Dutch style retro bicycles from Sydney brand Lekker bikes (available at all Veriu hotels). From eating dumplings in Spice Alley, to enjoying fine dining at the Tramsheds or taking a walk around Darling Harbour. Active guests can swim at Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre or gourmets can stock up on fresh local produce at the Fish Markets and prepare a feast in their self-contained apartment.

To further enhance the guest’s connection to the city, Veriu have also tapped guests into their network of hotels in the city through their unique concept called ‘Veriu Connect.’

“Veriu Connect gives any of our guests the opportunity to explore the rest of Sydney by visiting any hotel in our network. They simply show their room key and they will be welcomed by our trained area guide with a drink and given a variety of tips of the best places to eat, drink and explore.”

By the end of 2019 Veriu will have hotels in Camperdown, Randwick, Broadway, Central, Surry Hills, Elizabeth Bay and Green Square, bringing the city to life for any guest with the desire to explore a local area. Using Veriu Connect, a guest can drop into a different Veriu hotel on every day of the week for an entire week and have a totally unique local experience each day.

Complementing the ‘living local’ guest experience and ‘Veriu Connect’, Veriu hotels passionately support the local community, showcasing works from local Sydney and Australian artists in keeping with the surrounding location, and sourcing food and beverage items from locally based suppliers. Furnishings and décor are also produced to create a bespoke environment with no hotel room the same and each hotel reflecting the history of the building and surrounding suburb.

Veriu Broadway’s conversion from the former leather factory warehouse combines both industrial and contemporary style. Rooms on the first three floors have exposed beam high ceilings and polished concrete floors while rooms on higher levels offer fresh modern décor and amazing views of the CBD. Sydney based artist Simon Lovelace has provided art pieces for rooms reminiscent of Ultimo and vintage Sydney streets, while Melbourne based stencil art aficionado Logan Moody has provided the stunning mural in the foyer. A custom made zinc roof –the largest of this style dome in Australia – completes the hotel’s unique look.

Coinciding with the Veriu Broadway opening was the rebrand of two properties - Veriu Camperdown and Veriu Randwick - following extensive refurbishments to bring them up to Veriu standard. More hotels are scheduled to open near Sydney’s Central Station, Surry Hills and Elizabeth Bay over the next year and at Green Square in 2019 in partnership with property fund managers, Folkestone.

Visit for further information about Sydney’s newest hotel brand.

Mantra Hotel at Sydney Airport now open

The new Mantra Hotel at Sydney Airport was officially opened today (19 July) by New South Wales Minister for Tourism and Major Events, the Honourable Adam Marshall MP, to help serve the 42 million passengers who travel through Sydney Airport each year, as well the thousands of visitors and staff who visit the airport precinct daily.

Mantra Group Chief Executive Officer Bob East said the new 136-room property provides much-needed hotel capacity to support the growth of aviation and tourism in the Sydney basin.

“Mantra Hotel at Sydney Airport addresses the demand for contemporary airport accommodation with vibrant, dynamic facilities and a slick service culture,” said Mr East.

“We're thrilled to partner with Sydney Airport on this project, which is a win for the economic growth of Sydney.”

The eight-storey landmark building is the newest hotel at Sydney Airport and Sydney's third on-airport hotel.

Sydney Airport Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Kerrie Mather said the opening of the new hotel so close to terminals would further improve the customer experience for airport visitors.

“We're delighted to celebrate the opening of this fantastic hotel, providing even more value and choice for our customers – whether they want a convenient place to stay close to the airport or an easy commute to the CBD,” said Ms Mather.

“Mantra Hotel at Sydney Airport helps meet the need for additional hotel accommodation as we continue to experience strong passenger growth.”

NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events Adam Marshall congratulated Mantra Group on today's hotel opening and their commitment and contribution to the State's multi-billion dollar tourism economy.

“With record numbers flying into Sydney, new hotel openings such as the Mantra Hotel at Sydney Airport provide visitors to NSW with greater choices in accommodation location, style and price point,” said Mr Marshall.

“New hotels in key precincts play a critical role in promoting a vibrant visitor economy while meeting the needs of growing visitor numbers to Sydney, attracting first-time and returning domestic and international travellers.

“I also know that this hotel will be warmly welcomed by people living in rural and regional areas who are often after a nearby quality hotel to stopover for a night before having to fly out again the next day.”

Mantra Hotel at Sydney Airport is ideally suited for business and leisure travellers looking for conveniently-located accommodation close to the airport and terminals, while still only being 8km from the CBD.

The striking new-build hotel features 136 modern studio rooms, with many overlooking Sydney Airport's runways, an integrated reception and lobby with a 24/7 atmosphere and service, express check-out, internet kiosk and relaxed dining with a bold provincial menu of the finest regional NSW beef and sustainably-sourced local seafood, served with local draught beer, wines and handcrafted cocktails.

Mantra Hotel at Sydney Airport is located at 3 Ross Smith Avenue, just a short distance from Sydney Airport's T2 and T3 domestic terminals.

There is an opening special of $159* per night in a Studio King room including 1GB of internet access daily, a welcome drink voucher on arrival and room upgrade (subject to availability).

For bookings or further information, visit or call 1300 987 603.

Traveloscopy | 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Islands of Tahiti receives first UNESCO World Heritage listing


Just when you think The Islands of Tahiti couldn't possibly get any more special, that's precisely what happens. After a long and committed campaign, the Taputapuatea marae (sacred site) on the island of Raiatea was officially recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site earlier this month*.  

World Heritage Sites are those places deemed to be of special cultural or physical significance, and the Taputapuatea marae is most certainly both. An ancient sacred site where traditional ceremonies were performed, the site features hundreds of stones arranged by Polynesian ancestors – stones that are believed to hold Mana, a source of power and spiritual strength. The marae also marks the first cultural site to be recognized by UNESCO within French Polynesia.

The home of the marae, Raiatea, is just a 45-minute flight from Papeete, Raiatea is the second largest economic centre of The Islands of Tahiti and an important nautical base. The island is expected to benefit from the World Heritage listing through attracting additional visitors looking for travel opportunities that offer authentic historical and cultural experiences. A destination known for its idyllic landscapes, warm and welcoming people, and a vibrant culture, Raiatea is also already a favoured destination for hikers in particular. With a rugged coastline and mountains reaching as high as 1000 metres, the island's scenic hiking trails offer an abundance of opportunity to discover the island's incredible ancient civilization - which now includes a site of recognized international significance.

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Intrepid Travel Doubles Environmental Contribution on U.S. tours in Response to Paris Accord


In the wake of President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, Intrepid Travel, one of the largest carbon neutral travel companies in the world, has announced it will double its carbon offset contribution this year on all tours run in the United States. The global tour operator has cited that travel companies, especially those operating in the U.S., must still have a stated commitment to doing right by the environment despite the lack of government intervention.

Doubling their commitment means Intrepid will offset approximately 3,000 additional tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2017. This is on behalf of over 2,500 travellers from Australia, Canada, the UK and beyond travelling across 68 tours operating in the United States. These investments will go towards global energy projects as well VCS accredited renewable projects in the U.S. such as the Dempsey Ridge Wind Farm project in Oklahoma.

“We can no longer wait for our Government leaders to take action on climate change,” says Brett Mitchell, Regional Director - Asia Pacific at Intrepid Travel. “As an Aussie company operating in 120 countries across the world, we have a responsibility to actively seek out ways to minimise our environmental footprint. Offsetting allows us to make a postivie contribution while working towards long-term emission reduction strategies.”

As a signatory of the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), Intrepid Travel has also released its UNGC report for 2016. The report highlights Intrepid Travel's commitment to support public accountability in environmental stewardship and highlights how it has reached the following milestones:
  • Carbon neutral since 2010
  • 42,000+ tonnes of carbon offset globally in 2016
  • $1.1 million USD invested into renewable energy projects since 2010
  • 50,000 trees planted in Australia, Kenya & Thailand
To learn about Intrepid’s environmental policy visit

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Whales welcomed at North Stradbroke Island


Whales 'blow' tourism numbers skywards as North Stradbroke Island prepares for its biggest-ever "Welcome the Whales" festival – 29/30 July

 North Stradbroke Island – in Brisbane's Moreton Bay area – is looking to its best-ever winter season on the back of an early surge in the migration of humpback whales up the Queensland coast. The migration has gained world attention for the return of all-white humpback whale, Migaloo, this season.

North Straddie – as the island is known locally – is one of the premier locations to experience the whale migration, as they pass very close to the island and can be viewed easily from Point Lookout, along with dolphins riding the waves, and turtles and manta rays cruising through the waters.

The importance of whales to Indigenous Australians is recognised in the annual Quandamooka Festival, with this year's Yura Yalingbila (Welcome the Whales) comprising a weekend of traditional ceremonies, music, dance, interpretive tours – and the first ever Quandamooka Festival Gala Dinner.

The Yura Yalingbila weekend will be held on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 July, starting with the official welcoming ceremony and festival on Saturday 29 July (11am – 3pm) at Headland Park at Point Lookout on North Stradbroke Island.

The Festival is free to enter and will include traditional dance, arts, weaving, workshops, kids activities, food stalls, sand art and live music by Neil Murray (co-composer of My Island Home) and local female duo Blacksalt.

This year, for the first time, the Yura Yalingbila weekend will include the first-ever Quandamooka Festival Gala Dinner. A pop-up dining venue will be established for all-day dining on Saturday 29 July in a breathtaking cliff-top position at Point Lookout where fine dining will be complemented by views of humpbacks breaching and passing by the headland.

Breakfast and lunch will be served, with the award-winning team from Whales Way Restaurant providing the on-site catering.

The bookings-only Gala Dinner will begin at five to watch the whales as the sun sets, with sparkling wine and canapés served on arrival and on sunset there will be a performance of traditional dances of the land, sea and ancient Quandamooka Aboriginal culture on the cliff top stage. A string quartet will entertain as diners enjoy a three course Australian traditional bush food inspired meal accompanied by quality wines. Limited places at the Gala Dinner are available for $120 a head.

Whale Watch Cultural Tours will offer whale watch tours like no other. Experienced Quandamooka tour guide Matt Burns (aka 'Quandamooka Man') will conduct tours throughout the whale season to give visitors to North Straddie a unique insight into the local history and science of whales passing up the Quandamooka Coast during guided walks. Along the way, Matt gives an Indigenous interpretation of the whale migration, as well as insights into the local area, its history, and the bush tucker and medicine plants that grow naturally.  

The whale focus continues with the 'Marine Mammal Forum: Sharing Scientific and Traditional Knowledge' on Monday 31 July organised by the University of Queensland at the Moreton Bay Research Station at Dunwich on North Stradbroke Island. The free open forum between 9am – 3pm will consist of  talks from both researchers and traditional owners over three sessions covering Whales, Dolphins and Dugongs.

Quandamooka Festival curator Avril Quaill said the weekend would celebrate everything that made the Quandamooka Coast region such a remarkable destination: "Yura Yalingbilla is a key event of the festival. We come together with the broader community to share culture and celebrate the majestic creatures that inhabit Quandamooka waters," she said.


A full range of accommodation options – camping, 'Flash Camping' and cabins – at a range of sires around North Stradbroke Island are available through Straddie Camping -

Full details and updates are available at and

Quandamooka Festival Indigenous / Aboriginal Culture ...
Yura! Welcome to the Quandamooka Festival 2017. The Quandamooka Festival – celebrating culture, country & people – is an annual three month calendar of events ...

Wanda Jin Hotspring Hotel Danzhai Grand Opening in Danzhai

Wanda Jin Hotspring Hotel Danzhai, the first hotel that highlights the essence of intangible cultural heritage under Wanda Hotels & Resorts, opened grandly amid a festive atmosphere with distinct features of the Miao ethnic group.

Wanda Jin Hotspring Hotel Danzhai, located in the Wanda Danzhai Tourism Town of Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture, is about a two-hour drive from Guiyang, the capital city of Guizhou Province. Featuring the design concept of "nestling below the mountains and wandering through the forests", the hotel combines the characteristics of a Chinese-style resort with Miao village. The buildings are well arranged with connected corridors, presenting a unique layout.

The hotel has a total of 95 rooms and suites featuring Miao elements, fully equipped with advanced facilities. The inclusive "Yunfu" Restaurant offers both Chinese and Western delicacies, and the private dining rooms mainly serve local specialties supplemented with selected Guangdong, Yunnan and Sichuan dishes as well as seafood, providing guests with a nutritionally balanced gourmet experience. Also, the well-equipped gym and "Yun Qin", the hotspring Spa can help guests ease up and relax during their trip.

In addition to the most advanced and complete service facilities in the area, the hotel is located in the Wanda Danzhai Tourism Town, which has been awarded as the "Best International Commercial & Special Project" at the 54th Annual Gold Nugget Awards by PCBC in the U.S. Featuring intangible cultural heritage and ethnic customs.

Wanda Danzhai Tourism Town mainly comprises landscape features such as the largest waterwheel in the Guinness World Records, a sea of beautiful flowers, three intangible cultural heritage experience yards (papermaking, batik and birdcage), three ethnic blocks and four folklore squares. It also has a Wanda Cinema and four blocks of folk boutiques, dining choices, local specialties and recreational water feature. Combining "food, lodging, transportation, tourism, shopping, entertainment and education", it is set to become a tourist and transportation hub in Qiandongnan Prefecture. The official debut of Wanda Jin Hotspring Hotel Danzhai sets a benchmark for international hotel services in the area. Mr. IIja Poepper, Vice President of Wanda Hotels & Resorts, said. "By following the hotel management philosophy of combining inherited local traditions and international elements, Wanda Jin Hotspring Hotel Danzhai will provide guests from all over the world with many 'Colorful Moments' during their stay."

SOURCE:Wanda Hotels & Resorts

Monday, July 10, 2017

First Air New Zealand flight touches down at Sunshine Coast Airport for 2017 season

The first 2017 non-stop Auckland – Sunshine Coast Air New Zealand flight touched down on Friday morning at Sunshine Coast Airport, bringing the first of thousands of visitors for the season from across the Tasman.

In its sixth year of operation, services will be available to and from the Sunshine Coast up to four times per week until October 29, 2017.

New Zealand is the number one international visitor market for the Sunshine Coast, with a total of 66,000 New Zealanders visiting the Sunshine Coast in the year ending March 2017, a 5.5% increase on the previous year.

Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Simon Latchford said the regional tourism organisation's investment in New Zealand was really paying off

"We are the only Queensland RTO with a representative in Auckland and that presence is allowing us to focus strongly on driving visitation from our number one international market," Mr Latchford said.

"Our recent Sunshine by Lunchtime campaign with Air New Zealand and Tourism Events Queensland was timed specifically to be in market in the chilly month of May and increase sales in the lead up to the flight services commencing today.

"The short direct flight is the perfect avenue for a holiday break to warm up our Kiwi friends and encourage them to enjoy the diversity of experiences, events, food and attractions available on the Sunshine Coast."

Sunshine Coast Council Tourism, Sports & Major Events Portfolio Councillor Jason O'Pray said the ongoing commitment by Air New Zealand and trans-Tasman alliance partner Virgin Australia had helped build the Sunshine Coast as a favourite destination for Kiwi visitors.

"Our visitor numbers from New Zealand continue to grow each year and this is in no small part due to the direct flights available between Auckland and the Sunshine Coast," Cr O'Pray said.

"It is wonderful to see so many New Zealanders making the Sunshine Coast part of their annual winter getaway."

Welcoming the first passengers this morning, Sunshine Coast Airport General Manager Peter Pallot said the Air New Zealand flights broadened travel horizons for New Zealand residents and Sunshine Coast locals alike.

"The flights provide easy access for our New Zealand passengers, allowing them to begin their Sunshine Coast escape the moment they step off the plane," Mr Pallot said

Fast Facts:

  • Air New Zealand Sunshine Coast – Auckland direct flights began in 2012
  • More than 13,500 passengers travelled on the winter services in 2016, a 12% increase on 2015
  • Flights operate between 7 July – 29 October 2017
  • Friday and Sunday flights are available throughout the season
  • Wednesday flights are available from 12 July to 18 October with additional Monday flights available from 10 to 24 July and 25 September to 9 October 2017


The Finalists - ASTW Awards of Excellence 2017

The 2017 ASTW Awards of Excellence received record-breaking entries this year in a total of 19 categories.

Here is the full list of finalists for the awards, which will be presented at a gala event to be held at Novotel Twin Waters Resort on the Sunshine Coast on Saturday 19 August, 2017 as part of the ASTW Conference and AGM. The ASTW would like to thank the judges, who are non-members from the national and international travel writing industry, and all of the sponsors involved in the awards this year, and who support the ASTW on an ongoing basis.

ASTW Travel Writer of the Year – sponsored by Visit USA Australia

Penny Watson

Meals on Wheels - Traveller/Fairfax Media
A Taste for Incognito - Vacations & Travel
Rolling with the Locals - Traveller/Fairfax Media

Catherine Marshall

Great Southern Land - Qantas Spirit Magazine
After the Big Chill - The Australian
Africa's great Bat Invasion - Traveller/Fairfax Media

Mark Daffey

The Avocado Canoe Club - Wild Magazine
Polar Opposites - The Johnnie Walker Edit
Here be dragons - Great Walks

Kerry Van Der Jagt

On the dreaming track - QantasLink Magazine
South Pacific spring - Nat Geo Traveller
Life in the deep freeze - Traveller/Fairfax Media

ASTW Photographer of the Year – Sponsored by Abercrombie and Kent

Danielle Lancaster
Badlands Sunrise – Vacations & Travel Magazine
Sand dunes – Vacations & Travel Magazine
Lester – Vacations & Travel Magazine
Solomon Islands – Travel2Next
Whale tail – Where Gold Coast

Dan Avila
Vanishing Warmth – Vacations & Travel magazine
Spa Pool – Caravan and Camping with Kids magazine
Snowy Istanbul – Just Luxe
Ranger Sarah - Kimberley & Pilbara Holiday Planner 2017
Washed stones – Vacations & Travel Magazine

Mark Daffey
Winter wonderland – The Johnnie Walker House Edit
The Usual Suspects – Get Lost Magazine
Perahera Partying – Lonely Planet Asia
Mirror Image – Get Lost Magazine
Bo-Kaapster – Lonely Planet Asia

Communicator or Communications Team of the Year – Sponsored by TravMedia

Janaya Birse - Hawaii Tourism/The Walshe Group, Sabi Sabi Private Reserve
DC&A Worldwide – Destination Canada (Pip Macken/Donna Campbell)

Best Travel Photograph – Sponsored by Tourism Authority of Thailand

Kara Murphy - Richelieu Rock star - Boat International
Mark Daffey - Usual Suspects – Get Lost Magazine
Dan Bannister - Ancient Stepwell in Jodhpur - Holidays for Couples
Dan Avila – Miles Away – Club Marine Magazine
Mark Daffey – Mirror Image – Lonely Planet Asia

Best Story about the AGM Host Destination – sponsor tba

Angela Saurine - Safari Surprises - Mamamia
Aleney de Winter - Bites and sites on the streets of Stellenbosch - Boy Eats World
Shirley Sinclair - Drink in the rugged beauty - Sunshine Coast Sunday

Best Family Travel Story – Sponsored by Bound Round

Penny Watson Rolling with the Locals – Traveller – Fairfax Media
Tiana Templeman Land Ahoy – Flight Centre Travel Ideas
Aleney de Winter - Angkor Away – Holidays with Kids magazine
Julie Miller - Jumbo Tales – Flight Centre Travel Ideas
Sheriden Rhodes - Family Face Time – Traveller – Fairfax Media

Best Travel Blog – Sponsor tba

Have Wheelchair Will Travel - Julie Jones
The Global Goddess - Christine Retschlag
Boy Eats World - Aleney de Winter

Best Tourism Organisation or Travel Product – Sponsored by Nugggit

Kyoto Tourism - Alison Roberts-Brown
The Rees Hotel - Caroline Davidson
Glasgow Tourism - Laura Speirs

Best Travel Broadcaster – Sponsor tba

Ben Groundwater
Pamela Wright
Greg Grainger

Best Australian Story under 1000 words – Sponsored by Tourism Australia

Ben Groundwater - A taste of the original Australia – Traveller/Fairfax Media
Marian McGuinness - A little Night Music in Sydney – The Australian
Mark Daffey - Luck Be a Lady – Escape/News Ltd

Best Australian Story over 1000 words – Sponsored by Tourism Australia

Craig Tansley - It's a long way to the top – Traveller/Fairfax Media
Kerry Van Der Jagt - On the Dreaming Track - Qantaslink Magazine
Andrew Bain - Camel trekking in the Flinders Ranges – Traveller/Fairfax Media

PR Campaign of the Year - Sponsor tba

Relaunch of the Ultimo Hotel - Kim McKay - Klick Communications
Royal Caribbean - Arrival of Ovation of the Seas to Australia - Gail D'Arcy
Experience Aloha – Hawaii Tourism Oceania/Walshe Group - Janaya Birse

Best Food Story – Sponsored by Outrigger Resorts

Julie Miller - Eating in New Orleans- Traveller/Fairfax Media
Catherine Marshall - Great Southern Land – Qantas
Jennifer Ennion - Arctic Jewels - Nourish

Best Responsible Tourism story – Intrepid Travel

Mark Daffey - Thunder on the Mountain - Wild Magazine
Louise Southerden - Lighting Up Kolkata's Slums - Momentum.Travel
Ben Groundwater - Poverty as a tourism attraction: Can travel to a developing country really make a difference? – Traveller/Fairfax Media

Best Adventure Story – Sponsored by G Adventures

Jayne D'Arcy - A Sacred Journey – Jetstar Magazine
Tracey Croke - The Revival of Mavrovo – Adventure.Travel
Andrew Bain - Test your limits – Qantaslink magazine
Catherine Marshall - Africa's great bat invasion – Traveller/Fairfax Media
Andrew Bain - Grampians Peaks Trail - Traveller/Fairfax Media

Best Cruise Story – Sponsored by Cruise Lines International Association

Christine Retschlag - Beyond Bali - Holidays for Couples
Helen Hayes - She Sells the Seychelles - Vacations & Travel
John Borthwick - Passage to Paradise - Weekend Australian
Jocelyn Pride - A Voyage for the Soul - Cruise Passenger
John Borthwick - Lao and Now - The Australian

Best International Story Over 1000 words – Sponsored by AccorHotels

Louise Southerden - Morocco Unplugged – Traveller/Fairfax Media
Catherine Marshall - On Board the Eastern & Oriental Express – Traveller/Fairfax Media
John Borthwick - Maldives Surfing - Trailblazers' Incredible Legacy – Traveller/Fairfax Media

Best International Story Under 1000 words – Sponsored by

Belinda Jackson - Of Pharaohs and Heroes - Luxury Travel Magazine
Ben Groundwater - Mongolia's Milk of Human Kindness - Traveller/Fairfax Media
Kerry Van Der Jagt - Ice and Isolation - Luxury Travel Magazine

Best Travel and Tourism News Story - Sponsored by Zoik

Mark Daffey - Let the Games Begin - Vacations & Travel
Angela Saurine - Hot travel destinations - Weekend Australian
Christine Retschlag - All Things Spice - Travel Bulletin

Traveloscopy | 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Mantra Group's New-Build Melbourne Hotel


One of Greater Melbourne's fastest growing areas will benefit from a $70 million hotel development that will service the rapid increase of activity in Melbourne's booming northern suburbs.

Epping will be the site of the 214-room hotel that is being designed to capitalise on both the history of the northern suburbs and the unique attributes of Epping today.

Located right near Melbourne's new wholesale fruit, vegetable and cut flower market and The Northern Hospital, construction is due to start in the latter part of 2017 with opening scheduled for mid-2019.

The hotel is being developed by Too Build and will be operated by Mantra Group.

Operating as Mantra Epping Hotel, it will feature both hotel rooms and apartments, a café/restaurant, brewhouse, conference and meeting facilities, gymnasium, and an open car park containing 143 marked bays and secure bicycle storage.

Occupying a prime corner position at 250 Cooper Street within the prestigious Northpoint Enterprise Park at Epping, Melbourne's fastest growing expansion corridor just 18km north of the CBD, the four-star, two-wing hotel has been designed by leading architect Peddle Thorp and Bruce Henderson Interiors.

One of Australia's largest construction companies, Hacer Group, has been engaged to complete the project build, creating an expected 300 construction jobs.

Mantra Group Chief Executive Officer Bob East said the Group is thrilled to operate this new-build hotel under a hotel management agreement.

“This acquisition comes at an opportune time in the Australian hotel market, with hotels in Melbourne and surrounds experiencing substantial uplift in demand in recent years,” said Mr East.

“This strong performance is set to continue with further domestic and international visitation uplift forecasted for the greater Melbourne market.

“Mantra Epping Hotel will complement our extensive Melbourne portfolio and reaffirms our strategy of securing desirable new properties in Australian capital city metropolitan markets.

“With its strong and varied accommodation demand drivers, we're confident this hotel will provide a market-leading hotel offering, well positioned to become the region's premier corporate, meetings and leisure hotel.”

Too Build Chief Executive Officer Ian Wilson said the project is perfectly timed to accommodate the next stage of growth for Epping.

“What's exciting to me is to create something I know the local community – traders and residents alike – will really want to spend time in whether they have guests staying at the hotel or not. Mantra Epping Hotel will become a proud part of the local community and a favourite meeting spot,” said Mr Wilson.

“Mantra Epping Hotel is surrounded by an array of retail shops, showrooms, business and industrial premises, plus The Northern Hospital and the newly relocated Melbourne Market are both situated nearby, which will all provide important business opportunities for the property.”

Epping is located within the City of Whittlesea, one of the largest municipalities in metropolitan Melbourne covering an area of approximately 489 square kilometres.

Traveloscopy | 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Two International Awards for The Rees Hotel Queenstown


The Rees Hotel Queenstown has yet again scooped up two major international wine awards for its True South Wine List Dining Room. True South, one of New Zealand's exclusive top tier restaurants, has been awarded a 2017 Wine Spectator Award by respected US wine and hospitality magazine, Wine Spectator for its wine program for an amazing sixth consecutive year.
Additionally, True South Dining Room's wine list has achieved a two-star award in the World of Fine Wine World's Best Wine Lists for 2017.

The internationally acclaimed Wine Spectator's annual Excellence Awards recognise a wine list of 100 or more quality wine selections that thematically match a restaurant's cuisine.

The World of Fine Wine  World's Best Wine Lists are designed to highlight excellent and interesting wine lists on a global scale. The judging criteria focuses on the breadth, depth, quality, interest, and more, rather than simply length, to determine the winning lists, which then receive an esteemed one, two, or three-star award.

True South Dining Room has an exclusive library of Bordeaux and Burgundy wines with vintages selected from many of the great houses. Wines from world-renown chateaux such as Romanee Conti, Chateau d'Yquem, Latour, Margaux, Mouton Rothschild and Lynch Bages nestle with some of the great wines of Central Otago, New Zealand, Australia and Italy in the professionally-managed, temperature-controlled wine cellar servicing the hotel and restaurant's Bordeau Wine Lounge.

Mark Rose, The Rees Hotel Queenstown's General Manager, says it's the restaurant's ability to match exquisite wine with fresh local dishes in addition to an holistic wine programme - which includes tastings, wine pairing and the True South Culinary Series events - that distinguishes the restaurant internationally for these awards. True South Dining celebrates their ongoing support of local vineyards through their Culinary Series dinners held throughout the year.

Mark Rose says both these awards are important ongoing recognition of the effort put into building and maintaining a world-class cellar while confirming True South Dining Room as one of New Zealand's elite dining experiences. "To be recognised yet again by two of the most prominent and respected international reviewers for our cellar choices, is an outstanding achievement and a great outcome for The Rees in 2017".

This will be the sixth consecutive year that the Queenstown restaurant has received accolades for its fine dining and wine list. The restaurant was been a Wine Spectator award winner each year since 2012 and a World of Fine Wine award winner since 2014.  

Executive Chef Ben Batterbury has been similarly internationally recognised for his cuisine by a variety of awards since 2012 including the NZ Beef & Lamb Excellence Awards, the Ora King Salmon Awards and  Australia/New Zealand/ Pacific HM Awards, hosted annually by Australia's HM Magazine.

Red Rock recognised for Industry Excellence in Tourism & Hospitality

Forget the American Oscars - North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP) Red Rock is celebrating its finalist nomination for the region's 'Oscars' of Business Excellence, the 2017 Sunny's Business Awards.

The popular holiday park, which is part of the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Group (NSWCHPT), has been named as a finalist in the 'Tourism & Hospitality' category with winners to be announced 29 July 2017. The Sunny's Business Awards are an initiative of the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce and celebrate the achievements of outstanding businesses within the Coffs Coast Region.

Park Managers Kylie and Geoff Wruck were over the moon when they heard the news of their finalist nod, calling it great recognition of their work over the past four years.

"It's wonderful to be acknowledged for our four solid years of tenure with NSWCHPT," Kylie said.

"We have certainly based those years on providing an all-encompassing experience to guests of Red Rock through providing a high standard of park accommodation, our goods and services through Red Rock Shop and our maintenance of the 83 hectares of Reserve.

"We do our utmost to provide the quintessential Australian escape to our little corner of the Coffs Coast. Winning this award would be an amazing achievement and recognition for all the hard work and passion that our team shares for the industry and our beautiful area."

NSWCHPT CEO Steve Edmonds called the finalist nomination a testament to the hard work of the Red Rock team and said that it echoed a similar standard of excellence across the wider Group.

"It is exciting to see that our parks are consistently being recognised by local business communities for their hard work and great contributions to the areas in which they are based," Mr Edmonds said.

"As a Group our mission is to energise the local communities in which we operate and to showcase these sensational NSW locations to both Australian and international tourists.

"This nomination reflects our promise to provide improved services to our park visitors as we look to become a leading provider of recreational destinations which showcase the best of NSW."

Mr Edmonds congratulated all finalists for the Sunny's Business Awards and said the Coffs Coast Region was an incredible destination for visitors.

"Our parks in the region are filled with guests who can't get enough of this exciting pocket of NSW."

Book your next holiday at North Coast Holiday Parks today! For a full list of parks head to


Solomon Airlines and Air Kiribati to partner on new Brisbane-Honiara-Kiribati service

Solomon Airlines and Air Kiribati have announced the commencement of a new service linking Brisbane with Tarawa via Honiara commencing 30 August 2017.

The new service, which will operate ex-Brisbane every Wednesday and ex-Tarawa every Thursday, has been scheduled as per the following:


IE 701   Depart BNE 1100          Arrive HIR 1515

IE 720   Depart HIR  1615          Arrive TRW 2000


IE 721   Depart TRW 1000         Arrive HIR 1145

IE 700   Depart HIR 1300           Arrive BNE 1515

The new service builds on an Air Service Agreement (ASA) and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Solomon Islands and the Republic of Kiribati last November.

Welcoming the commencement of the service, Solomon Airlines' CEO, Brett Gebers underlined the importance of the aviation partnership as a catalyst for both nations' economic development.

"This service is more than just a link between two nations – it also represents an avenue for both nations to grow and prosper as we walk forward together," he said.

To make a booking on the new service and for more information, visit

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

AccorHotels expands in Myanmar

AccorHotels and LP Holding have signed a joint agreement to develop three new hotels in Myanmar. The partnership will see the opening of Mercure Mandalay Hill Resort in the second quarter of this year and the development of Pullman Yangon Centrepoint and Mandalay Hill Resort MGallery by Sofitel slated to open in 2017 and 2020 respectively.

“We are very pleased to partner with LP Holding with the development of these three new properties in Myanmar. The three hotels are situated in strategic locations in Yangon and Mandalay, for tourists and business guests alike,” says Patrick Basset, Chief Operating Officer of AccorHotels, Upper Southeast and Northeast Asia. “Pullman, our upscale hotel brand, is designed to cater to the requirements of cosmopolitan, seasoned travelers, as well as meetings and incentive events while MGallery by Sofitel is a collection of high-end boutique hotels, each with its own unique personality and story that are experienced by guests through the architecture, interior design and services. Mercure hotels, our midscale brand, are always unique because they are rooted in their local communities and meet shared quality standards. Combined, the three hotels will add to the Group’s growing portfolio, which ranges from luxury to economy,” Mr. Basset adds.

“LP Holding’s partnership with AccorHotels combines the expertise of a global hospitality company with a strong local market expertise,” says Lertsak Nopburanand, Director of LP Holding Co., Ltd. “After the sanctions were lifted, Myanmar became one of the most sought-after destinations in Southeast Asia. These three hotels will give travelers additional hotel choices with the growing tourism in the country particularly in Mandalay, as the city continues to develop.”

In 2015, tourism was the driving force in the Myanmar economy where revenue grew by 19% as inbound traffic increased totally $2.1bn or more than 4% of the country’s GDP. In the next 10 years, the World Travel and Tourism Council projects that Myanmar’s tourism industry will rank second out of 184 countries for long-term growth. It was ranked 15th globally in 2016.[1]

Mercure Mandalay Hill Resort

Set on 11 acres of tropical gardens, Mercure Mandalay Hill Resort features 206 rooms with spectacular views of Mandalay Hill, the Royal Palace, the Irrawaddy River and the city of Mandalay, once the Royal Capital of Myanmar. Dining outlets include three restaurants – Yadanabon, Mings Chinese and Kinsana Garden and two bars - Kipling’s Lounge Bar and Garden Tivaratee. MICE facilities include a conference centre, a ballroom and three meeting rooms.

Pullman Yangon Centrepoint

Situated opposite Yangon’s iconic High Court building and the famous Independence Monument Park, the newly built Pullman Yangon Centrepoint will be part of Centrepoint Towers, one of the tallest commercial buildings in the city. The hotel features 300 guest rooms, an all-day-dining outlet, two specialty restaurants, a destination sky bar and lobby lounge. Meetings and events space include a ballroom and ten meeting rooms. Leisure facilities include a pool, fitness centre and a spa.

Mandalay Hill Resort, MGallery by Sofitel

Debuting in 2020, the newly built Mandalay Hill Resort, MGallery by Sofitel will offer a high-end experience in a truly unique atmosphere. Situated near Mandalay’s most iconic cultural monuments, the luxury boutique hotel will feature 150 guest rooms and villas, a restaurant and bar. The stunning outdoor pool and spa, shared with neighbouring Mercure Mandalay Hill Resort, promise memorable moments.

Traveloscopy | 

Macao and Xiamen Airlines launch “One Fare – Two Cities”

click to enlarge flyer
Macao has linked with Xiamen Airlines to launch a new “One Fare – Two Cities” product aimed at further boosting numbers of Australians travelling to the former Portuguese enclave.

With return air fares to Macao beginning from as little as $768 per person from Sydney or Melbourne, the campaign offers an alternative route to the traditional Hong Kong flight path with travellers having the chance to visit and explore the beautiful Chinese coastal city of Xiamen en route to Macao.

It’s the first time the Chinese airline has teamed with the Macao Government Tourism Office (Australia) to offer a dedicated fare, the offer including a complimentary night’s stay in Xiamen (6-24hrs) along with free coach tour (4 -24hrs) of a city popular for its beaches and colonial past.

In addition, passengers would not require a China visa if spending up to 72 hours in Xiamen.

Macao is visa free for Australian passport holders staying no more than 30 days.

Helen Wong, general manager of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO) Australia
welcomed the new multi-destination route and the dedicated fare and accompanying bonuses.

“This is a very exciting venture between airline and destination which should build on our numbers of Australian holidaymakers to Macao,” she said. “Merge the low air fare with some attractive accommodation offers and we have the makings of an affordable Macao experience.”

In 2016, more than 93,000 Australian passport holders visited Macao, an increase on the previous year’s figure. A majority arrived from Hong Kong via the high-speed ferry transfer.

Xiamen Airlines Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
The new Xiamen Airlines product will allow Australians to fly from Sydney and Melbourne to Xiamen for a night’s stopover before boarding the connecting short-haul flight to Macao International Airport.
Mr Yang Hua Chen, general manager of Xiamen Airlines (Australia), also welcomed the new link with Xiamen and Macao and said it was yet another example of Mainland China’s “One Belt, One Road” economic and strategic initiative. In further emphasising the importance of the Australian route to Xiamen Airlines, Mr Chen said his airline was the only Chinese-based carrier to service Australia with the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. (pic: NewsCorp)

Both MGTO and Xiamen Airlines will host a series of travel industry workshops in Sydney over the next two months to coincide with giant shopping centre exhibitions for consumers. Those expos will be highlighted by the exclusive 360-degree (virtual reality) showings of Macao and the airline, beginning with a four-day event at Parramatta Westfield on July 6-9, 2017.

Further shopping centre events will be staged at Castle Towers, Castle Hill from July 20-23, Chatswood Chase from August 3-6 and Eastgardens Westfield from August 17-20. Travel industry workshops will also take place in Melbourne.

The Xiamen Airlines $768 fare to Macao applies to tickets booked before October 30, 2017.

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

 Traveloscopy | 

Whale watching in Byron, Ballina and Beyond

A fluke might be a rare thing, but not when it comes to whale watching along the NSW North Coast with guests of North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP) in Byron, Ballina and beyond currently being treated to the playful sight of whales fluking and breaching as they undergo their annual migration.

With daily sightings being made across the Region, North Coast Holiday Parks in Brunswick Heads, Byron and Lennox Head are reporting a rise in guests booking in who are hoping to take advantage of this year’s Whale Watching season. The 2017 Whale Census hosted by the National Parks and Wildlife Service and ORRCA is reporting record numbers and the east coast will see as many as 30,000 of the gentle giants in migration mode this year.

NCHP Clarkes Beach Manager Nancy Sparkes said Whale Season had hit Byron Bay in a big way with many guests captivated by the gentle giants as they swam in their family units and enjoyed the water.

“There are plenty of whales to see at the moment whilst they are embarking on their migration north with guests reporting how breathtaking it is to watch tens of whales at a time flapping around, breaching, or just cruising through the bay,” Nancy said.

“It is certainly a major drawcard for our guests at this time of year and overseas backpackers making their pilgrimage to Byron Bay often report the Whales as a major drawcard in visiting the area.

“It’s like a water park with the all the blowholes going off directly in front of the park; anytime you get to see the massive humpbacks breaching it’s a special moment with the majestic beauty, sheer size and power leaving you with a feeling of awe and wonder.

“We especially love it at Clarkes Beach from September to early November when the newborn calves swim with their parents a lot closer to shore.”

NCHP Lennox Head park managers Deb Smith and Aaron Matenga said they regularly spot a number of Whales during their daily morning walks along the beach and make sure they do the rounds to guests to ensure they are able to take advantage of this majestic sight.

“The most common Whale to sight is the Southern Right Whale, who are easily spotted as they are famously slow swimmers who tend to rest with their calves in shallow water just below the surf line,” Deb said.

“It truly is a special experience to see the Whales on their migration and there are plenty of great spots to see them in Lennox Head. Aaron and I recommend checking out the Whales from the Pat Morton Lookout or going for a stroll along the Lennox Head Boardwalk, though you’ll also have a strong chance of seeing Whales breaching the water at Seven Mile Beach and Flat Rock.”

North Coast Holiday Parks are part of the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust (NSWCHPT), which is committed to providing unforgettable holiday memories in iconic destinations across NSW. NSWCHPT also manages the operations of Inland Waters Holiday Parks (IWHP) and South Coast Holiday Parks (SCHP).

NSWCHPT CEO Steve Edmonds said the Group was dedicated to providing guests with a unique experience not found in other holiday destinations, noting the opportunity to see Whales in their natural habitat as a particular example of this.

“We pride ourselves in the fact our parks are located in some of the most idyllic tourism hotspots in NSW,” Mr Edmonds said.

“We can offer our guests experiences that may not be found on your typical holiday and we look forward to welcoming anyone hoping for the opportunity to Whale Watch.

“Our goal is to be recognised as a leading provider of recreational destinations in NSW and we certainly see our parks’ vicinity to popular Whale Watching areas as a strong example of our ability to offer our guests exciting and exceptional experiences.”

A Winter getaway in Byron Bay and surrounds provides the perfect prospect to scout out the Whales. With six parks in the local area there is no shortage of accommodation options for your animal adventure.

For a full list of parks and to book your next holiday visit North Coast Holiday Parks

Traveloscopy | 

Monday, July 3, 2017

All new glass bottom kayak tours on Rarotonga ­ Cook Islands

Ariki Adventures on Rarotonga in the Cook Islands has introduced an all new experience to view marine life and coral formations, with guided glass bottom kayak tours.  The glass bottom kayaks are modified so the usual plastic base is replaced with clear viewing glass.  Guests need only bring swimmers, sunblock and a hat.

Rarotonga's world renowned Muri lagoon is the launch pad for the tours, which venture out to accessible tiny islets, known as motus, nestled invitingly in the lagoon.

Home to countless varieties of brilliantly coloured tropical fish and marine life, Muri lagoon also offers some of the best snorkelling and swimming spots on the island of Rarotonga for guests who want to take a dip in the crystal clear waters.

Glass bottom boat tours operate twice daily with a minimum of four people.  Tours for single glass bottom kayaks are $59pp, while double kayak's are $99.  For bookings see

Ariki Adventures is also the only sea scooter snorkelling operator on the island of Rarotonga, offering sea scooter tours both inside the lagoon and also outside the reef to a shipwreck.  The sea scooters act as an under water towing device travelling at 4km p/hr pulling guests along effortlessly as they swim through schools of fish and coloured coral.

For information on visiting the Cook Islands see

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Cairns secures direct mainland China flights

Tropical North Queensland will deliver tens of thousands of visitors to Queensland with the announcement today (June 30) that China Southern Airlines will operate three flights a week direct from Guangzhou to Cairns from December with modern Airbus A330-300 260-seat aircraft.

Tourism Tropical North Queensland (TTNQ) Chair Max Shepherd said it was incredibly rewarding for the destination to have direct China services confirmed as it would provide a substantial opportunity to build on the growth in arrivals from the region's number one source market.

"Established under the Queensland Government's $33.5 million Advance Queensland: Connecting with Asia initiative, this will be the first direct year-round service from mainland China to Cairns," he said.

"The China Southern flights will inject $30.8 million in overnight visitor expenditure for the region in the first year and $90 million over three years with three flights per week delivering 33,852 seats on an A330-200 aircraft.

"The establishment of scheduled services from the world's largest tourism market will connect new consumers to Australia and create profound opportunities for the Tropical North Queensland industry.

"TTNQ developed the concept for Australia's Tropical Resort Holiday Destination two and a half years ago as a catalyst for the introduction of direct flights to Cairns.

"Since then we have worked diligently with our partners to position our region not only as a group holiday destination, but as a potential mono-destination for the Chinese market, tapping into the rapidly growing free independent traveller (FIT) market.

"Australia caters very well to the multi-destination visitor, but a very large proportion of the FIT market is currently travelling to Guam, Singapore, Malaysia, the Maldives and Hawaii.

"The State Government investment in partnership with Cairns Airport, Cairns Regional Council and TTNQ will open this very rich vein of opportunity, not only for Tropical North Queensland, but for Australia as a whole.

"It will also offer the opportunity for visitors to stay longer and disperse further throughout the region.

"Growth from China continued for the year ending March 2017 delivering 218,000 visitors to Tropical North Queensland, an 8.8 per cent increase which represented more than half of Queensland's 406,000 Chinese holiday visitors.

"Direct flights will allow us to tap into the positive response from both the Chinese travel industry at the recent Australian Tourism Exchange and the rapidly growing online travel agents in China."

Cairns Airport Chief Executive Officer Norris Carter said this was great news for Cairns to receive during the 2017 China Australia Year of Tourism.

"We look forward to rolling out the red carpet for China Southern's first flight in December," Mr Carter said.

"The service from Guangzhou will provide more convenient access to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef for the world's largest visitor source market.

  "In addition, it opens up the 'Canton Route' for travel between Europe and Cairns.

"Whether as a standalone visit or as part of a longer Queensland and Australian itinerary taking advantage of our extensive domestic connections, visitors from mainland China, other parts of Asia and Europe using the China Southern service will be able to spend more of their time enjoying their holiday rather than travelling.

"These flights will also offer new opportunities for our region's high quality primary produce to be exported to China."

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said it was wonderful news for the region and something the Council and its partners had been working toward for a long time.

"Cairns' tourism product continues to grow and the addition of any new international flight contributes to our region's success," he said.

"The introduction of year-round flights will further increase Chinese access to Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef, with the benefits to flow through to every part of our local economy.

"I'd like to thank Tourism Minister Kate Jones and everyone involved in delivering this great boost for Cairns' and Queensland's tourism industries."

Mr Shepherd said the direct flights were an outstanding example of a great partnership between China Southern Airlines, Cairns Airport, Cairns Regional Council, TTNQ, Tourism Australia and Tourism and Events Queensland to collaboratively develop, invest in, and deliver a fully integrated campaign to market Tropical North Queensland to the resort holiday traveller in China.

The Expeditionist

The Expeditionist
Venturing to the world's special places