Saturday, 31 December 2011

2012 New Years Eve Fireworks in Sydney

New Years Eve in Sydney, NSW Australia is is an exiting time to end the year and say hello to 2012.  Two huge fireworks sessions will be held on Sydney Harbour at 9pm and midnight. Various free vantage points will be available around the Harbour to see them, but the advice is to get there early and reserve your spot with a picnic rug or chairs or otherwise you might miss out. Yes, you will be one of more than 1.5 million gathering around the Harbour to celebrate the start of 2012. Most of the spots have controlled access points, with a set number of people allowed to get in, then the gates will be closed and no one else allowed in. Some places hold only 1,000 people, while others hold 20,000 people, but the majority reach capacity and are closed.

6pm Pre Show Entertainment

8pm  Acknowledgement of Country

9pm Family Fireworks
 Designed and choreographed specifically for children, these fireworks will delight and dazzle audiences as the night sky fills with colour. This eight-minute performance is accompanied by a music soundtrack which features chart hits from 2011 including songs by Rhianna, JLo, Wes Carr and Jessica Maubuoy that will entertain the whole family and provide an upbeat and fun atmosphere for this family show.

9.15 - 11.30pm Harbour of Light Parade
Following the 9pm Family Fireworks, a flotilla of vessels switch on their lights and begin a spectacular parade around Sydney Harbour. A crowd favourite, the Harbour of Light Parade features specially lit vessels sailing on a 15km circuit around Sydney Harbour. Selected from design entries, the vessels chosen to take part in the Parade will be illuminated to represent the 2011 Sydney New Year’s Eve theme Time to Dream. The Parade will include tall ships, Sydney’s Heritage Fleet, commercial charter vessels and Sydney Ferries.

12am Midnight Fireworks.
At the stroke of midnight, we celebrate the start of a new year! Sydney does this in style by lighting up the night sky with a spectacular Fireworks Display launched from seven barges on the Harbour, the rooftops of seven city skyscrapers and, unforgettably, from Sydney Harbour Bridge. Bringing more than 1.5 million people to the Harbour, this majestic 12-minute Fireworks Display is the reason why Sydney is the New Years Eve capital of the world.

Las Vegas Trades Show Generates Billions In Meetings Business

Post-event visitor and exhibitor statistics reveal impressive picture of IMEX America.

An exit survey of hosted buyers attending the inaugural IMEX America in September 2011 indicates that the exhibition will help to drive US$2.8 billion in business for the US and global meetings, events and incentive travel industry.

Some 700 of the 2,000 hosted buyers at the event contributed – a representative sample of 35%. Their responses revealed that total orders placed onsite amounted to US$281 million with an expected US$1.9 billion worth of orders to be placed with exhibitors in the next nine months or so.

The average value of orders placed by hosted buyers during the show was US$496,000 each, with post-show average orders expected to be worth US$1 million each. This suggests that IMEX America hosted buyers will generate a total of US$2.2 billion in business with the show’s exhibitors.

Hosted buyer breakdown
Of the 2,000 hosted buyers that attended the first ever IMEX America, which to place at the Sands Expo in Las Vegas, 75% were from the USA and 5% from Canada. The remaining 20% traveled from 34 other countries, with Brazil, the UK, Germany, Mexico, India and Australia accounting for significant numbers.

Some 65% of hosted buyers came from the incentive, agency or third-party sector. Meanwhile, 25% were corporate buyers, 11% were from the association sector and 53% of all hosted buyers at the Las Vegas trade show were responsible for budgets in excess of US$1 million.

Exhibitors and visitors
A total of 1,867 companies exhibited at IMEX America representing 147 countries. With US destinations accounting for 27% of all booths, these results bode well for US suppliers, as well as those international exhibitors who attended in order to capture new business from US buyers.

An exit survey was also conducted among IMEX America non-hosted buyers (known as buyer attendees). This group placed business in the region of US$89 million with exhibitors during the show, and expects to place US$538 million of orders within the next 10 months. These figures support the feedback from many hundreds of exhibitors who testified that both hosted and non-hosted buyers came to the show with business in hand and ready to be contracted.

From the stands…
Exhibitor feedback also supports the survey’s findings, with the show’s organisers reporting praise for the quality of buyers from all parts of the globe, and especially from North America.

“We’ve had many one-on-one appointments,” Michelle Saran, executive director of the Canadian Tourism Commission was reported as saying. “Our team pre-planned appointments, but we’ve also had a lot of people walking on to the stand for ad-hoc meetings.”

Meanwhile, Kaaren Hamilton, vice president of global sales at Carlson Hotels Worldwide, commented during the show: “We’re actually conducting and transacting business (on the stand).”

Education first
Meeting Professionals International’s (MPI’s) education programme for IMEX America attracted more than 1,100 participants (both hosted and non-hosted buyers, and exhibitors) during Smart Monday, a day of dedicated learning which took place immediately before the show.

Leveraging MPI’s MeetDifferent style of professional development for the day of innovation and education, the programme received strong satisfaction results.  Additionally, hundreds of attendees also enjoyed dynamic MPI keynote speakers in general sessions each morning of the show. MPI also contributed to the development of the IMEX America mobile app, which had thousands of users interacting with education and data daily through their smartphones and tablets.

“I love it when a plan comes together,” said MPI president and chief executive Bruce MacMillan. “Seeing this exceptional event come to life after two years of collaboration was an incredibly rewarding experience. We look forward to even greater collaboration in 2012 and into the future to assure that we continue to deliver exceptional professional development and business opportunities at IMEX America.”

Industry fundraiser
IMEX America also hosted its official party in conjunction with Pure Rendezvous. The event was a fundraiser for the MPI Foundation, yielding more than US$23,000, which will be reinvested in education and research for the industry.

“IMEX America has succeeded in bringing the US and global industry the business, education and networking benefits we planned for,” concluded IMEX chairman Ray Bloom. “Our fresh new business model, centered on a strategic partnership with MPI and strong partnerships with the other leading industry associations, meant that IMEX America truly provided a global marketplace on American soil. We are now looking forward to developing several aspects of the show over the next few months in order to sustain that debut success and to build on the market momentum we’ve established.” with their hosted buyer participation.”

Travel to Sydney, Snowy Mountains and South Coast Up

Sydney remains Australia’s magnet for domestic travellers, with the city recording an eight per cent increase in visitors to 7.7 million in the year to September 2011. These results are from the latest National Visitor Survey (NVS) released by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism.

Other highlights for NSW in the NVS results were:
- NSW received a total of 24 million visitors (up 2.5 per cent), who spent 81 million nights (up 1.5 per cent) and $12.9 billion (up 2.6 per cent)
- Visitors to the South Coast increased by 22 per cent in the September quarter
- The Snowy Mountains received a 25 per cent increase in visitor nights for the year.

These increases are comparing the September 2011 figures with the corresponding period in 2010

Friday, 30 December 2011

Increased Readership of The Holiday and Travel Magazine

A remarkable milestone was reached on 27 December when the 9,000th person read The Holiday and Travel Magazine. I initiated the Magazine at the beginning of 2011, with readership figures increasing as the months went on.  It took 5 months to reach the first 1,000 readership mark, then progressed to 1 month, then 3 weeks, and most recently 2 weeks to add another 1,000 readers.

The monthly readership figures for 2011 are:-
January – 10
February – 150
March – 149
April – 260
May – 539
June – 1,189
July – 809
August - 861
September – 962
October – 1,097
November - 1,405
December – 1,581

The 10 most read articles to date are:-  
3) Travel Smarter Dec 2, 2011
8) Horse Art Exhibition May 10, 2011

Readership has come from countries all over the world. To date the top 10 countries with the most readers are:-
Australia 3,155
United States 2,064
United Kingdom 355
Russia 315
Philippines 272
China 263
Malaysia 234
Germany  214
India 189
Singapore 142

Some of the other countries readers have come from this month include:-
Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Macedonia,  Mauritius, Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, Serbia, South Korea, Switzerland, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekista

VisitEngland Announces Latest Domestic Tourism Figures

VisitEngland, the national tourist board, has announced domestic tourism figures for January to August this year. The number of overnight holiday trips in England increased year on year by 4 per cent, with holiday spend growing by 12 per cent.

Over the three months from June to August, which includes the key school holiday period, a total of 17.8 million holiday trips were taken in England - up 3% from 2010. As witnessed throughout the year, tourism spend has grown much faster than trip volumes; however, VisitEngland advised that this in part reflects inflationary pressures, with many operators seeing profit margins squeezed by mounting operating costs.

VisitEngland’s Chief Executive James Berresford said: “It is heartening that the number of people choosing to take a holiday in England remains above pre-recession levels. It is vital that we continue to work very hard together to maintain this trend as we approach one of the most potentially exciting years for English tourism.”

Invitation to Attend Europe+Asia Event Forum (EFEA)

R&C Market Research Company have pleasure in inviting you to participate in Europe+Asia Event Forum (EFEA), which will take place on 18-20 January 2012 in St. Petersburg.

EFEA is a communication site for the events industry professionals that provides an opportunity to establish international relations, attract investment and expand business networking in the Russian and global MICE market.
EFEA is truly unique:
  • Plenary Session and Panel discussion, where participants will discuss changes taking place in every sector of the business meetings industry.
  • Regional sessions: Discussions of possibilities, peculiarities and  challenges of the exhibition and meetings markets  in the CIS countries (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, and Georgia), countries of Scandinavia, the Baltic States and Poland.
  • Matchmaking Centre provides opportunities for individual meetings
  • Jobs Fair for the exhibition and conference industry
  • Online discussions on the dedicated MICE Club website
The Forum is second to none in Russia:
  • EFEA is a new project with a great potential in fostering regional and international cooperation. The choice of St. Petersburg as a venue is not accidental – it is not only one of the most beutiful   Russian cities, but it is also a rapidly growing dynamic business centre, of interest to many companies as a venue for exhibitions and conferences.
  • EFEA is a great opportunity to meet a large number of foreign industry players, those that have been present on the Russian market for a while and those just entering it alike.
  • EFEA is an innovative event where participants of thematic blocs of the programme are a target audience to each other.
Participation in the Forum is a guarantee that you will learn all about the most recent trends of the exhibition and congress industry, gain a maximum of useful and topical information, and it will also provide you with a chance to present your own plans and ideas to the professional community and expand your business network!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

BOI Fair Ready to Boost Flood Recovery and Investor Confidence

The Office of the Board of Investment (BOI) is gearing up for the BOI Fair to be held from 5 to 20 January 2012. The fair was earlier postponed from 10 to 25 November 2011 because of severe floods in Bangkok and adjacent provinces during the period.

The Fair will take place at IMPACT Muang Thong Thani, Nonthaburi province, under the concept “Holding Hands and Going Green for the Future.” The concept derives from His Majesty the King’s Sufficiency Economy philosophy, which is the basis of sustainable development.

The BOI Fair is part of an activity to celebrate the 84th birthday anniversary of His Majesty King on 5 December 2011. It will also showcase the potential of Thailand’s industrial sector and exhibit the latest innovations and advancements of the country’s industry. The fair will demonstrate the readiness of the country's industrial sector to follow a sustainable, eco-friendly course in future development. BOI has long supported green business, investment, and technology, such as renewable energy and alternative fuels.

Industry Minister Wannarat Channukul said that the upcoming fair would serve as a forum to assist flood-hit people and boost investor confidence, as well. It will include a bazaar of low-priced products, flood-relief activities, and counseling services for repairing houses damaged by floods. Proceeds from the sale of goods at the fair will be presented to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn to help flood victims.

BOI Secretary-General Atchaka Sibunruang said that the BOI Fair would play an important part in rebuilding confidence in Thailand among business people and investors in the aftermath of the flooding. This will help promote Thailand’s investment, tourism, and the overall economy.

BOI has offered assistance measures to flood-hit companies, which may seek import tax exemptions on machinery brought in to replace equipment damaged by the flooding. The affected firms will also be allowed to outsource some parts of the production process to maintain business continuity.

Around 500 executives from all over the world will join the CEO Forum, one of the highlights at the fair. The forum provides an opportunity for top executives from leading international companies to meet and discuss business with investors from Thailand and abroad.

There will be 84 pavilions with 3,200 booths. Among them are the Royal Pavilion, Thailand Pavilion, and BOI Pavilion. The Royal Pavilion, in particular, will feature an exhibition on His Majesty the King’s activities and projects, which will reflect his ideas and principles in connection with nature and the environment. The latest technologies and innovations at the fair include 3D cartoon animations and 3D LED screens.

The fair is expected to attract five million visitors, which will also contribute to the country’s economic recovery efforts.

New Year Countdown Celebrations Ring in the New Year Hong Kong Style!

You're sure to feel a rush of adrenalin when you join the hundreds of thousands of revellers along both sides of Victoria Harbour to ring in 2012.

Make a Wish on a Shooting Star:
Every 15 minutes starting at 11pm until 11:45pm, a pyrotechnic display will be launched on the rooftops of the 10 participating buildings to light up the sky with shooting stars.
The stars will come in four colours to symbolise good wishes for four areas:
-Silver for Career
-Green for Health
-Gold for Fortune
-Red for Love

For the first time, the words "Happy New Year" created with pyrotechnic effects will appear above Victoria Harbour. Also, under the theme song of "Soaring Dragons with a Happy Heart", there will be a "golden dragon" circling around the façade of Two ifc before flying into the sky.

The theme song was composed by Mr Chiu Tsang Hei, renowned music producer and composer. From 27 December 2011, the theme music can be downloaded from this webpage or Commercial Radio's HK Toolbar.

Spectacular Pyrotechnics Display to Welcome 2012
At the stroke of midnight, a dazzling pyrotechnics display will be unleashed from the façade and rooftop of Two ifc and the tops of the nine other buildings producing a radiant shower of light, the likes of which you have never seen. It's a stunning spectacle that is sure to leave you in awe. There's also the theme song that perfectly complements the illuminations and makes it a truly sensational event. So, come and join us for an inspirational evening to welcome the new year!

Vantage Points
- Along Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront between the Avenue of Stars and the Hong Kong Cultural Centre (Spectators can listen to a live broadcast of the theme song)
Directions: MTR East Tsim Sha Tsui Station Exit J, and follow the signs.
- Along West Kowloon Waterfront Promenade (Spectators can listen to a live broadcast of the theme song)
Directions: MTR Jordan Station Exit C1 or MTR Kowloon Station Exit

Hong Kong
- Along the promenade at the Golden Bauhinia Square in Wan Chai (Spectators can listen to a live broadcast of the theme song)
Directions: MTR Wan Chai Station Exit A5. Take covered walkway and follow the signs to Golden Bauhinia Square. It's about a 15-minute walk.
- Area around Central Piers
Directions: MTR Hong Kong Station Exit E1. Walk through ifc mall to the Central Piers.

Victoria Harbour
- Join a New Year Countdown cruise and experience the stunning pyrotechnics show from the deck.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Countdown Events And New Year Festival In Thailand

A number of major countdown festivals, new year celebrations, and travel-related events which are to be held in December 2011 and early 2012, will ensure a lively and vibrant calendar of activities over the holiday season. Here are some that have been confirmed:

Bangkok and Central Region
- Bangkok Countdown Ha Ha Ha 2012 on 31 December 2011 at CentralWorld Square, Ratchaprasong
- Make a Wish Countdown 2012 on 31 December 2011 at the Park Paragon, Siam Paragon
- Ploenchit Happiness on 18 December 2011 / 14.00-22.00 hrs between Ploenchit and Chidlom Roads
- 9 Sacred Places on 17-18 and 24-25 December 2011 and 1-2, 7-8 and 14-15 January 2012 at Rattanakosin Island and along the Chao Phraya River
- Miracle Smile@Thailand on 24-25 December 2011, at Khao San and Tanao Roads
- Annual Merit Making 2012 on 1 January 2012 at the urban area, BMA Office
- New Year Festival at Bang Nam Pheung Floating Market on 31 December 2011, Samut Prakan province
- Christmas@Chachoengsao on 24-25 December 2011, near Bang Pa Kong River, Chachoengsao province

Khon Kaen
- Amazing Fantasy World on 29-31 December 2011 at Si Chan Road, Khon Kaen province

Hat Yai
- Night Paradise Hat Yai Countdown 2012 on 30-31 December 2011 at the Odeon Fashion Mall, Hat Yai, Songkhla province

-Colorful Phuket Countdown 2012 on 29-31 December 2011 at the Sanamchai Ground
- Phuket Electronic Music and Dance Festival 2012 on 30-31 December 2011, Karon Beach

Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai
- Countdown 2012 on 31 December 2011 to 1 January 2012 at the Chalermprakiat Hall
- New Year’s Eve and Happy New Year 2012 on 30 December 2011 to 1 January 2012 in Chiang Saen district

Tourism Vital to Regional NSW

Tourism is the lifeblood of many of the State’s regional towns and the NSW Government was committed to promoting tourism in the regions, Minister for Tourism and Major Events.

In regional NSW, the value of tourism is more than $8.9 billion in overnight visitor expenditure, based on nearly 18 million overnight visitors.

George Souris, Minister for Tourism and Major Events said that under the Regional Flagship Program, one-year grants of $10,000 or grants of $20,000 each year for three years are provided to successful campaigns and activities to support the marketing and advertising of events. Events supported through this program are run by the local community and involve local producers, artists, craftspeople, sportspeople and musicians.

Mr Souris told the hearing that the 2012 Regional Flagship Event Funding round received 118 Expressions of Interest (EOIs) from events across the State. The Assessment Panel invited 54 events to submit a detailed application.

He said this year’s recommendations include support for events in every region of NSW. Twenty eight events throughout regional NSW will receive an annual one-off grant of $10,000 in 2012, while four events will receive funding of $20,000 a year over three years.

“This Government is committed to growing regional tourism and has delivered on its election promise of additional funding, for regional NSW,” Mr Souris said.

He said the three-year Regional Tourism Partnership Program provides $5.133 million per calendar year to Regional Tourism Organisations or RTOs and to the Forum of Regional Tourism Organisations (FORTO).

“Funds from this Program are used to assist RTOs with operational costs and funding for the marketing of regional NSW matched dollar-for-dollar by the tourism industry. In addition, Destination NSW and Tourism Victoria worked together, along with representatives from industry and local government, to create the Murray Regional Tourism Board, which will manage the marketing and development of tourism along the Murray River. The new $5 million Regional Tourism Product Development Program – officially opened for applications on 28 September 2011 and closes this Monday. The overall goal of the program is to create, grow and enhance tourism products available across regional NSW, which in turn will help to attract more visitors."

"The NSW Government also continues to develop and invest in year-round marketing campaigns to promote destinations and key experiences in regional NSW to keep it high on the list of preferred holiday destinations. Through Destination NSW the Liberal and Nationals Government supports the development of visitor numbers through the regional calendar of events and we look forward to adding to this bumper crop in 2012. We are committed to supporting events that create local jobs and provide a boost to regional economies,” Mr Souris told the hearing.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

New Year’s Eve in Spain

In Spain, 31 December is a very special celebration, where the fun and partying go on well into the early hours. If you want to get the year off to a good start, then come and celebrate New Year’s Eve in Spain. You will have a great time eating the traditional “lucky grapes”… And the rest of the night too!

Would you like to know how people see in the New Year in Spain?

Eating Twelve Grapes.
Tradition has it that you have to eat them one by one, in time with the striking of the clock at midnight on 31 December. What is more, if you manage to eat all the grapes on time, you are in for a year of prosperity and good luck. Whether or not you believe in magic, come and try the experience – it is great fun.

The eating of grapes is the high point of New Year’s Eve. In fact, the striking of the clock is broadcast live on television throughout Spain. On this day, family or friends usually get together for a delicious dinner and then the twelve grapes. In many villages, towns and cities, people head to squares or other emblematic places with a clock to eat them together and share the last minutes of the “old” year. If you would like to take part, head for the local tourist office for full details.

The Striking of the Clock in Puerta del Sol Square
In Spain there is one place that is especially famous for this tradition: Puerta del Sol Square in Madrid. Thousands of people converge in front of the clock here to see in the New Year, and the square becomes one huge party. The atmosphere is amazing: confetti, music and streamers everywhere; people dressed up with wigs, hats and masks; and above all, everyone is up for a good time.

After eating the grapes there is a mass explosion of joy. Bottles of cava are uncorked and everyone toasts everyone else, friends, family and the people around. Laughter, jokes, congratulations… This is just the beginning though – hours and hours of fun remain. You will see that it is impossible not to be carried away by the excitement.

The streets fill with groups of young people, music and cars that greet the New Year with their horns. At pubs, bars and clubs there are New Year’s parties with dancing through to dawn. There are also many hotels and restaurants that organise special celebrations, including dinner, grapes, dancing and entertainment. If you decide to go for one of these, you should buy your ticket or book your table in advance.

Remember that timetables for public transport services tend to be affected. For example, on the night of 31 December, bus and metro services normally finish earlier than usual, and start later on the morning of the 1st. Furthermore, if you need a taxi at New Year it is best to order it in advance by telephone, because there is so much demand.

How long do the New Year celebrations last? Until your body gives up. To finish off the night, before you go to bed, there is nothing better to recover your strength than having the traditional hot chocolate with churros (flour fritters). They will taste delicious! On the following day, New Years Day, you can take it easy – the shops are closed and most bars and restaurants too. A stroll in the park or an afternoon cinema session are ideal.

Would you like to try an original New Year’s Eve? Then come and eat grapes in Spain. You will have an unforgettable fiesta.

Newcastle to Shine in Global Surfing Spotlight

Surfest 2012 has successfully achieved ranking as a six-star World Qualifying Series Men’s and Women’s event, as part of the Australian Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Tour.

This is great news for Newcastle and takes Surfest to a new level. 

Tim Owen, Local Member for Newcastle, said “On behalf of the NSW Government, through Destination NSW, I am extremely proud to have played a role in ensuring continued support for such a prestigious event in 2012, which showcases the best of NSW’s surf and coastline. It is wonderful to see big sponsors have joined to support the event and help it achieve six-star status amongst the World Qualifying Series.”

Destination NSW’s support of the event includes funding for a seven day webcast; two days of live streaming on FUEL TV over the final weekend; a one hour documentary to be distributed internationally and the development of an iPhone app. This will promote Newcastle and the NSW Coastline to surfing fans across the globe. 

“Over the years Surfest has already attracted some of the world’s top surfers and now with the new six-star status we can expect the event to become bigger and better,” he said.

Four-time world champion surfer Mark Richardson said the upgrade of the event rating will attract the world's best surfers to Newcastle. “And now to host a six-star men's and a six-star women's event at my home break, Merewether Beach, is unreal,” he said.

Surfest is a key international surfing event on the NSW Events Calendar, driving tourism, attracting investment and generating economic benefit for the local community and the State.

NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events, George Souris said Tim Owen was instrumental in securing funding for the event which has ensured the six-star rating. “Strengthening major events like Surfest forms a key part of the NSW Government’s strategy to rebuild the NSW economy. Surfest is a world class event for participants, visitors and locals, and a great opportunity to enjoy Newcastle’s beach culture on the NSW coastline. I strongly encourage surf lovers to experience Surfest and all the great attractions on offer in Newcastleand the Hunter region,” Minister Souris said.
Surfest 2012 runs from 7 - 18 March, 2012.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Yangon Capital City of MyanmarI.

Yangon is  the cosmopolitan capital city of MyanmarI.  It still maintains its colonial charm with wide tree lined avenues, tranquil lakes, and gracious turn of the century architecture. The magnificent Shwedagon Pagoda dominates the city skyline, while at street level Yangon is a paradise for hunting out a variety of exotic arts and crafts. Of particular interest in the many shops of Scott Market, and of world renown, are Myanmar’s precious stones – rubies, sapphires and jade. At night time Chinatown comes alive with its pungent aromas and delicious street food.
The history of Yangon is intertwined with the history of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Wherever one may be in Yangon, in the busy town center, in the new towns of the east, in the industrial zone of the west, in the paddy fields of the north, the golden form of the Shwedagon will be seen on the skyline rising above the foliage of the tropical trees.
The founding story of Shwedagon reaches back to the days of the Enlightenment of Gaudama Buddha when He discovered the cause of universal suffering and the way to its elimination. It was on the 49th day after the Enlightenment when two brothers, Taphussa and Bhallika, merchants from Ukkalapa in the land of Mon people in Lower Myanmar, came before Buddha. A nat (spirit) who had been the mother of the two brothers in a previous existence had guided them to the Buddha. The brothers offered honey cakes. After Buddha had eaten the cakes, the brothers asked for gift. Buddha passed His hand over His head and, obtaining eight Hairs, gave them to the brothers. Buddha, perceiving that the three previous Buddhas had caused their possessions to be enshrined in a pagoda on Singuttara hill in the country of the two brothers, bade them to do likewise.

The brothers returned home and made landfall at Pagoda Point in the south-west coast of Myanmar. They sent word to king Ukkalapa of their arrival with the sacred Hairs. The King welcomed the Hairs with great ceremony at Asitanzana.  The king and the brothers next sought for a man who could tell them the location of Singuttara Hill. No human knew the location but Sakka, King of the nats did, and guided them to the Hill. Singuttara Hill is known by seven names of which one is Trikhumba, meaning 'three pots' and signifying three pot-shaped hills. Tikhumba became Tikun.

When the brothers asked Sakka where the Hairs should be shrined, Sakka could not tell them where the earlier relics were enshrined because they were of such antiquity and he was not that old. However, Sule Nat knew where Kakusandha Buddha's staff was enshrined, Yawhani Nat knew where Konagamana Buddha's water-dipper was enshrined. Hmawbi Nat revealed that he had been assigned to guard the sacred objects. Finally, Gautama Buddha's Hairs were enshrined and stupa consecrated.
Along time after that, there that, there being no one to worship at the Lagun shrine, it fell into ruin and was covered with jungle.Tradition states that 200 years after Buddha's Parinirvana in 543 BC. Sona and Uttara, two monks from Sri Lanka brought King Asoka to the Pagoda. The King had the jungle cleared and the Pagoda repaired. In the fifth century A.D. King Duttabaung paid homage at the Pagoda. In the 11th century, King Anawratha of Bagan offered gold and silver umbrellas and built a pagoda near the town of Twante across the Yangon River. Dalla, which is now a town on the bank opposite Yangon, was then located on the Twante Ridge and was more important than Dagon. Dagon at that time lay in low lying often water-logged land. Sule Pagoda, now in downtown Yangon, stood on a small island in the swamp, to the west down to he Hlaing River and Yangon /River to the south .
The discovery of a votive of the Bagan period at Tadagale to the north of Yangon shows that the laterite ridge at the end of which Shwedagon lay was a scene of activity in the Bagan period and the ridge may have provided a road southwards to the Shwedagon Pagoda and Dagon Village beyond.
After the founding of the Shwedagon Pagoda. Alaungpaya's conquest of lower Myanmar is the second most important event in the history of Dagon. May 1775 marks the beginning of the modern town when Alaungpaya.Alaungpaya's Yangon was basically a log fortress, with the river frontage in the south, the site of the present 30th street in the west, a line of about 3300' cutting across the modern Maha Bandola Garden, Pansodan and Bo Aung Gyaw street in the north, and Theinbyu Street in the east. The town lay well to the east of the Sule Pagoda.

New Year Festivals in Thailand

A number of major countdown festivals, new year celebrations, and travel-related events which are to be held in December 2011 and early 2012, will ensure a lively and vibrant calendar of activities over the holiday season. Here are some that have been confirmed:
Bangkok and Central Region
- Bangkok Countdown Ha Ha Ha 2012 on 31 December 2011 at CentralWorld Square, Ratchaprasong
- Make a Wish Countdown 2012 on 31 December 2011 at the Park Paragon, Siam Paragon
- Ploenchit Happiness on 18 December 2011 / 14.00-22.00 hrs between Ploenchit and Chidlom Roads
- 9 Sacred Places on 17-18 and 24-25 December 2011 and 1-2, 7-8 and 14-15 January 2012 at Rattanakosin Island and along the Chao Phraya River
- Miracle Smile@Thailand on 24-25 December 2011, at Khao San and Tanao Roads
- Annual Merit Making 2012 on 1 January 2012 at the urban area, BMA Office
- New Year Festival at Bang Nam Pheung Floating Market on 31 December 2011, Samut Prakan province
- Christmas@Chachoengsao on 24-25 December 2011, near Bang Pa Kong River, Chachoengsao province
Khon Kaen
- Amazing Fantasy World on 29-31 December 2011 at Si Chan Road, Khon Kaen province
Hat Yai
- Night Paradise Hat Yai Countdown 2012 on 30-31 December 2011 at the Odeon Fashion Mall, Hat Yai, Songkhla province
-Colorful Phuket Countdown 2012 on 29-31 December 2011 at the Sanamchai Ground
- Phuket Electronic Music and Dance Festival 2012 on 30-31 December 2011, Karon Beach
Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai
- Countdown 2012 on 31 December 2011 to 1 January 2012 at the Chalermprakiat Hall
- New Year’s Eve and Happy New Year 2012 on 30 December 2011 to 1 January 2012 in Chiang Saen district

JTG Campaigns Continue High Visibility For NSW

Destination NSW is continuing its work with The Jetset Travelworld Group (JTG) to promote Sydney and NSW, as part of our $4 million partnership announced in August this year.

The latest round of activities include:

- 72 Hour Sale Campaign with Qantas Holidays and Viva! Holidays – The November campaign promoted packages to Sydney and the Hunter Valley and included print advertising in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth and a 30 second segment on the Today Show.
- Picasso exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW – Campaign with Viva! Holidays included trade advertising and online activity in late October. Consumer advertising commences in late November and again in January.

- The Harry Potter exhibition – Qantas Holidays campaign commenced on 9 November promoting packages to Sydney including the exhibition.

- Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour – Trade advertising as part of a Qantas Holidays campaign promoting packages for the Opera has commenced. 

- Destination NSW will work with Harvey World Travel to promote the State at the Harvey World Travel 60th Anniversary Business Symposium in Sydney (1 to 4 December). Around 270 domestic travel agents are expected to attend. Our NSW online training module for agents will be promoted to accredit more agents as “NSW Gurus”.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas !

Wishing all readers and their loved ones of The Holiday and Travel Magazine a wonderful Christmas ! Thanks for reading the various article since the magazine commenced at the start of 2011. I welcome any contributions of articles readers would like to offer during the coming months.

Christmas Lights

Not sure where this is, but the contrast between the two homes Christmas lights setup is interesting ....
I guess the electricity bill at one house would be slightly less than the other ...

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Wat Phu, a Protected Lao Heritage and World Heritage Site

Wat Phu (or Vat Phu) which means "temple on the mountain" in Lao language and it is one of the oldest archaeological site in Laos, located in Champassak province along the Mekong River in the southern most part of the country. It is 670km from the capital Vientiane and 50km from Pakse. 
The area of Wat Phu encompases the islands of Siphandone, where there's 4,000 islands on the Mekong River. In Lao language, "si phan" means 4,000 and "done" means island. The water in this part of Laos is very clear and fresh. 
Champassak is one of ten districts in Champassak province. The district has much evidence of past civilisation, including sandstone palaces, buddhas and an ancient town that is part of the rich history of Laos. The Mekong River can be compared with an ocean of wealth, with nine mountains surrounding this historic town of Champassak which is filled with an eternal graceful and warm nature. 
Linkhaparavata Mountain
Champassak, the southern city was the place where the indigenous Lao, Mon-Khmer and Lua (or Lawa) people lived. Hinduism was a major influence in the third century. Archaeological sites are focused in the south east, with this centre a Champhukaow (or Summit Mountain) stretching on the east and west of the mighty Mekong River. 

On top of Champhukaow were stones which were similar to the hairstyle shape which were worn by Lao women who the Hindus worshiped. Lao people like to call this mountain "phu nom" meaning "breast on the mountain" because the mountain also looks like a womens breast. Siva Linga is the emblem of the Hindu's most respected god, called in sanscript "Linkhaparavata" (or monk). Sivatheps Linkha Mountain is 1,400 metres high, sandstone palaces were built at its foot for worship and religious activities.
Wat Phu Sandstone Palaces
Before walking up the sandstone palace, one can notice large tanks called "sa taow" and "sa nang". In Lao language, "sa taow" means a bathing tank for men and "sa nang" is for women. These were to wash in by worshiping pilgrims. At the bottom of Wat Phu is the first step, and has two palaces done in sandstone. Features such as window frames were carved and were based on the event Siva tap. The eastern Palace is called the Mens Palace, the western one is the Womens Palace. The activities inside the two palaces is unclear at this stage. Before reaching the two palaces, one passes through a 280 metre long causeway. There are stonely columns between the Palaces which give the form of a linear blooming lotus, this is the emblem of the Linkha temple. 

Along the western pathway at the back of the womens temple is a sandstone palace name the Cattle Pen. The Cattle Pen was used to keep the Royal or nantin cows as a means of regular conveyance of the Queen Paravati and King Pasiva.
On the second step of the pathway, one finds the carved statue of the guardian Phratavaraphan usually called Priyacomata by local people. The standing statue holds a hammer in his right hand, while the left holds the chest indicating respect for worshipers. This sandstone statue has been standing for hundreds of years. Although it is not compulsory, it is customary for visitors to make a small donation and kneel down to pray for good luck and success before climbing up the next set of steps.

Newcastle Host Inaugural Junior Ironman Classic

Newcastle is the venue for the New South Wales round of this summer’s Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IronMan Series and IronWoman Series.

Newcastle has pulled off another coup in the surf. Nutri-Grain Series co-promoter and former ironman star Guy Leech have announced that Newcastle will play host to the inaugural Junior Ironman Classic for athletes in the under 17 age group on the same weekend as the sport’s elite take to the surf in the Nutri-Grain IronMan Series and IronWoman Series.

The Junior Ironman Classic is set to become a major first step along the pathway to the professional ironman and ironwoman series and will feature on the program at both Newcastle (January 21/22) and Noosa (February 18/19) this summer.

Leech said the Junior Ironman Classic and Newcastle was a great fit. “We have been very keen to provide a stepping stone to the Nutri-Grain IronMan Series and IronWoman Series for aspiring young athletes for some time and the Junior Ironman Classic is that pathway,” Leech said. “There are so many talented young ironmen and ironwomen out there and this event will give them a chance to pit themselves against the best in their age group around the same course as the elite in the Nutri-Grain IronMan Series and IronWoman Series.”

“Newcastle as a region has a proud surf life saving history and we thought it would be a great place to kick off this event. We are hoping it will expand into a bigger development series and be a feature at more venues in the future.”

Member for Newcastle Tim Owen said it was great to have another top class event in Newcastle. “This is another major events coup for Newcastle delivered by the NSW Government. It will be the first of two locations across Australia to host the Junior Ironman Classic,” Mr Owens said. “On behalf of the NSW Government, through Destination NSW, I am extremely proud that Newcastle has been recognised amongst Australia’s most iconic beach locations to stage both the Junior Classic and the third round of the overall 2011/12 series.”

“Newcastle provides the perfect backdrop for the event and I’m sure visitors and viewers alike will enjoy all that it has to offer. Summer in NSW is a wonderful time with sparkling surf beaches, pleasant weather and warm water temperatures. The event will also provide another opportunity to showcase Newcastle as a truly natural highlight of NSW, boosting its significance as a major tourist attraction on Australia’s premier surfing and beach coastline.”                  

Fast Facts
- The Junior Ironman Classic will have male and female races and be open to members of surf life saving clubs.
- The Junior Ironman Classic will be in Newcastle (round 3 of the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain -IronMan Series and IronWoman Series) and Noosa (round 6)
- The Newcastle round will be the first ever Junior Ironman Classic race
- Open to U17 male and female competitors
- Ironman / Ironwoman race with no ski leg (swim/board/run)
- Up to 80 competitors broken into 4 heats of 20 on Saturday
- Top 5 from each heat to final to be run between IronWoman Series race and Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IronMan Series race on Sunday

Friday, 23 December 2011

Hong Kong WinterFest

Love Christmas - Love Hong Kong
Every winter, the Western tradition of Christmas and the Eastern love of festivals meet, mix and make merry in Asia's world city. Up until 1 January 2012, the merriment will be here with 2011 Hong Kong WinterFest.

Victoria Harbour will live up to its role as the throbbing heart of the city, with a glamorous Tiffany & Co. Christmas tree on one side, Sino Group's ice-skating surface on the other, carnivals and thousands of sparkling Christmas illuminations adorning both as Hong Kong indulges in a festive head-to-toe makeover. The city's popular food districts will be serving up seasonal treats and all across town there'll be winter sales and special offers. Then, to top off all the celebrations, the city's indulge in a giant dazzling party to welcome in 2012.

So, in keeping with Hong Kong Winterfest tradition, shop, eat, drink and be merry!

Tiffany & Co
A Holiday of Tiffany Treasures – A Season of Wonder
This holiday season, Tiffany & Co. continues its tradition of spreading love with a glamorous centrepiece for Hong Kong's WinterFest celebrations. Statue Square will feature a beautiful Christmas tree surrounded with a festive touch. Celebrate Christmas in the city by taking a ride on the enchanting carousel, enjoying the carols beneath the tree, or by sending a personalised Tiffany postcard to your loved ones to share some holiday treasures!

When: to January 2012, 3pm – Midnight
Venue: Statue Square, Central, Hong Kong Island
Charges: - Admission Free
- Carousel: HK$50 per ride
- Tiffany postcards with customised stamps: HK$20 per set
- Photo booth photography services: HK$30 per session
- Candy: HK$20 per pack
Entertainment: On Christmas Eve, Christmas day and New Year Eve, Tiffany & Co. will sponsor Christmas Caroling, Handbell performance, A Capella performance and other musical performances at its 18-meter

Skiing in Spain

If skiing is your thing, you should already be thinking about Spain as a destination for next season. Spain is ideal for the sport. There are loads of reasons to come to one of the many ski resorts to be found all over Spain. Quality snow and plenty of winter sun, along with first-rate facilities and a broad range of complimentary activities are bringing more and more people to Spanish slopes every year. Why not come and join them?

Spain is Europe's second most mountainous country, with a long skiing tradition, and provides all the necessary facilities for you to practise the sport. Spain has 33 ski resorts spread all around the country. You just have to choose which one.

Constant Renovation
From the moment the skiing season ends in spring, through to the following December, our ski resorts undergo continuous renovation, with work on lifts, pistes, infrastructure, machinery, access, accommodation and services. Investments of millions of Euros are made each year, to improve on what are already resorts of the highest quality, with respect for the environment and the natural surroundings being of paramount importance.

Resorts of all Sizes
Spain has a wide range of winter resorts. They are equipped with excellent infrastructure, lifts, chair-lifts, and pistes to suit all levels. Spanish resorts are ideal for beginners and experienced skiers alike. Many of them are small resorts with easy runs, ideal if you want to learn as a family and make your first forays into this winter sport, whether in downhill, cross-country or Nordic skiing. Just choose the resort that suits you best. Come and try for yourself.

Sydney Airport Terminal Consolidation Proposal

Destination NSW CEO Sandra Chipchase welcomed the announcement by Sydney Airport to consolidate domestic and international terminals into two "alliance based" precincts.

Ms Chipchase said Destination NSW supported Sydney Airport’s airline-alliance precinct plan as a positive strategy to enhance efficiency and customer experience.

“Air travel is the lifeblood of Australia’s $94 billion tourism industry, so we welcome any initiative to reinforce Sydney’s position as the entry to Australia,” Ms Chipchase said.

"This is a landmark plan to provide Australia's gateway city with seamless connections, improve the visitor experience and reduce turnaround times.

“I congratulate Sydney Airport on this bold initiative and look forward to providing input to their program of extensive community and stakeholder consultations.

Ms Chipchase said that Destination NSW also recently joined forces with Sydney Airport to boost tourism, attract new airlines and increase airline services to Sydney as part of a new Visitor Economy Partnership Agreement.

“These latest initiatives contribute to our goal to double current overnight visitor expenditure to NSW by 2020.”

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Dazzling Christmas Light-up in Singapore

FairyTale Character Appearances - to 2 Jan 2012
Straight from the Grimms’ Fairy Tale world of folklore and make-believe, 18 fairytale characters including Red Riding Hood, Snow White and Prince Charming will appear in the resort as they make their way to the Christmas Tree at the Bull Ring. Have your camera with you!
Where and when:
Waterfront, Bull Ring, Hotels, Forum & Festive Walk
Weekdays (Mon to Thurs): 5.30pm to 9.30pm
Weekends (Fri to Sun) and Daily to 25 Dec: 3pm to 9.30pm

Musical Performances
Music is in the air as live band and choir group perform at the Waterfront!
Where and when: to 2 Jan: Every Fri, Sat, Sun
Daily to 25 Dec
Live Band: 6.30pm and 7.45pm @ Waterfront
Chorale Group: 7.15pm and 8.30pm @ Bull Ring

Precinct Light-up
With the region’s tallest Christmas Tree standing at the Bullring™ of Resorts World Sentosa, VivoCity’s iconic 105 feet high Christmas tree, along with its illuminated Promenade and Sky Park, Resorts World Sentosa’s iconic facades aglow, and the Sentosa Boardwalk alit with fairy lights – all these coupled with the scenic view of docking ships and lights of cable cars glistening in the distance from The Jewel Box - the Sentosa HabourFront will make for a picturesque Christmas this year.

Brought to you by Sentosa Development Corporation, Resorts World Sentosa, VivoCity, HarbourFront Centre and Mount Faber Leisure Group.

International Tourists Staying Longer

NSW has recorded strong growth in international visitor stays and expenditure compared to the previous year, according to latest official figures, Minister for Tourism and Major Events, George Souris. He said NSW remains Australia’s top tourist destination, with strong growth of nearly six per cent in visitor expenditure and almost five per cent in nights by international tourists for the September year end International Visitor Survey.

“NSW is performing above the national average with international visitors staying longer and spending more in NSW,” Mr Souris said.

“Expenditure by international visitors totalled $6.5 billion in year ending 2011, up nearly six per cent, well above the national average of less than four per cent. That represents a $6.5 billion injection into the NSW economy…more than a third of total international visitor expenditure in Australia. This is an encouraging result despite tough global economic circumstances. It’s positive news for NSW Government’s goal of doubling overnight tourism expenditure by 2020”.

Mr Souris said the survey showed continued robust growth in tourists from China, which has become the third biggest market for visitors to NSW.

“The latest data shows the growth in overnight stays and expenditure has come from significant growth in spending from visitors from Malaysia and Hong Kong, up 75 per cent and 41 per cent respectively. Ongoing economic turmoil in the United States and Europe has impacted international travel, with Australia and NSW experiencing a downturn from many of the Western markets, including the UK and the USA."

“However, NSW continues to experience growth in visitor numbers and expenditure from visitors from most Asian countries. The latest figures underscore our strategy to place increased focus on attracting visitors from Asia is paying dividends. The survey results reflect a trend in the global shift of economic prosperity within the Asia region which provides tourism opportunities for NSW on which the Government is eager to capitalise.”

Mr Souris said the Government has set up the Visitor Economy Taskforce (VET) to develop a strategy to grow tourism in NSW and double overnight visitors’ expenditure by 2020. The VET is inviting tourism operators across the State to submit their ideas on how to propel tourism from international and domestic visitors.

“Destination NSW also continues to work with industry to market Sydney and NSW abroad”.

Mr Souris said visitor numbers from India also grew strongly with 31 per cent growth in visitor nights and nine per cent growth in total visitors to September year end.

“This data underscores the Government’s recent announcement to open a stand-alone tourism office in Mumbai, to exploit the rapidly-growing Indian tourism markets as a key part of the strategy of reinforcing Sydney and NSW as Australia’s premier destination,” Mr Souris said. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Singapore Lights Up For Christmas

Singapore’s highly-anticipated ‘Christmas in the Tropics’ is on now and runs to 2 Jan 2012. This year, in addition to the festivities along Singapore’s prime shopping belts, Orchard Road and Marina Bay, the Sentosa HarbourFront precinct stakeholders will also come together to present a special Yuletide experience.

“Singapore’s ‘Christmas in the Tropics’ celebrations has almost become a tradition for locals and visitors from the region. This year, the two major precincts – Orchard Road and Marina Bay– have each designed their Christmas experience to feature a special and distinct focus. The Sentosa Harbour Front precinct has joined in to present even more fun and festivities to merry-makers this Christmas,” said Mr Andrew Phua, Director of Precinct Development, Singapore Tourism Board.

The Christmas Light-Ups at the precincts are led by their respective stakeholders and precinct associations. Each precinct’s creative light-up design is aimed at strengthening their individual identities as well as offer variety to appeal to different crowds.


The Christmas Light-up on Orchard Road continues into its 28th year. In 2010, about 27 per cent of visitors to the light-up were tourists, marking a slight increase from the previous year’s 23 per cent.

The theme for this year's Christmas light-up is "Starlit Christmas" with the decorations revolving around the star representing love, peace and joy. As such, Orchard Road has been divided into three colour segments - pink representing peace, blue representing joy and purple representing love.

Having been ranked third in Lonely Planet’s list of “Top 10 Christmas Markets of the World”, and by Frommer’s as one of the “Top 10 World’s Best Holiday Lights 2010”, the 2011 edition of the Christmas Light-Up @ Orchard is set to once again delight visitors with its brilliant display of Christmas lights.

Directed by the Orchard Road Business Association (ORBA), the light-up on Orchard Road is themed “Christmas Blooms in Singapore”, where the 2.2 km Orchard Road will be lit up like a tropical garden with a specially designed three-dimensional flower as the central icon to communicate the message of love and joy this Christmas.

“In the spirit of love and giving this Christmas, we hope to add a sparkle to the lives of those less fortunate even as our festive décor on Orchard Road is lit during the Switch-On Ceremony. A new ORBA charity initiative, we want to Light Up Beyond the Light-Up,” said Mrs Sng Ngoi May, Chairman of Orchard Road Business Association. “With every CCIS Candle lit by volunteers and members of the public on the night of the Ceremony, ORBA will donate a dollar to Community Chest.”

“Beyond charity, visitors can expect a visual and aural treat in our elaborately decorated precinct which will be enlivened with live musical performances. Visa cardholders can also look forward to exclusive shopping deals. With so much lined up this Christmas, we hope to bring exceptional experiences to everyone visiting Orchard Road.”

The Hitachi Group of Companies, the main sponsor of the Christmas Light-Up @ Orchard since 1991, is an important partner to bring the festive cheer to the crowds.

“The Hitachi Group is delighted to continue our support for the Christmas Light-up, a tradition that both locals and visitors look forward to annually. Our partnership with Community Chest to raise funds for the needy is in line with Hitachi's commitment to contribute to society wherever we are located and we are glad that we are able to play a role in helping to spread cheer to the less fortunate during this festive period,” said Mr Makoto Nagashima, Managing Director of Hitachi Asia Ltd.

The theme for this year's Christmas light-up is "Starlit Christmas" with the decorations revolving around the star representing love, peace and joy. As such, Orchard Road has been divided into three colour segments - pink representing peace, blue representing joy and purple representing love.
Over at Marina Bay, the Marina Bay Business Association unveils a dramatic bayside experience with “Christmas Alive at Marina Bay”, a daring breakthrough from conventional street decorations that throws the spotlight on musical performances, art installations and interactive street decorations.

“This year, we have partnered the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts for the first time to create an arts-inspired Christmas experience against the stunning backdrop of Marina Bay. We look forward to seeing Marina Bay come alive with spectacular night displays and a host of exciting fringe events—from choral performances to land and sea cruises, charity events involving a specially designed Gail Pantin umbrella and even a Christmas food trail,” said Michelle Koh, President of Marina Bay Business Association


For the first time, stakeholders from the Sentosa HarbourFront precinct have come together to organise a precinct-wide Christmas Light-Up to celebrate the festive season with the crowds. On 19 November, thousands of iridescent lights were lit in synchrony, turning the spotlight on the vibrant and charming Sentosa HarbourFront.  Adding to the splendour, a there is a special minute-and-half light-and-sound show at the waterfront area of Resorts World Sentosa along with roving characters on stilts.

“In the jolly spirit of Christmas, the precinct’s leisure, entertainment and retail giants will put up a mesmerising display of the most sparkling Christmas lights,” said Noel Denis Hawkes, Vice President of Travel Partner Relations at Resorts World Sentosa on behalf of Sentosa HarbourFront.

“Precinct-wide celebratory promotions from Mount Faber to VivoCity, HarbourFront Centre, Resorts World Sentosa and Sentosa Island will ensure everyone shares in the Christmas cheer.”

This holiday season, merry-makers can look forward to new retail concepts and first-to-market brands including Orchard Road’s Knightsbridge, Scotts Square, H&M and Abercrombie & Fitch. Event organisers and businesses have also prepared a host of lifestyle offerings and experiences ranging from entertainment, dining to retail options.

A first for Singapore and the ‘Christmas in the Tropics’ celebrations is the introduction of the Elephant Parade, the largest open-air art exhibition worldwide that seeks to generate public awareness and support for the preservation of the Asian elephant.

Hundreds of brightly painted life-sized elephant statues will be displayed prominently on the streets of Singapore, including Orchard Road. Painted by local and international artists, each elephant is a unique piece of art. All elephants will be auctioned off after the exhibition, of which a significant portion of the benefits will be donated to the Elephant Family, the largest elephant charity in the world.

The malls along Orchard Road are decked out in their holiday best as the “Best Dressed Building Contest” will takes place.

Celebrate Christmas in Singapore (CCIS) takes place on Orchard Road and Marina Bay from 16 to 25 December this year. For the last eight years, CCIS has told the story of Christmas in various entertaining ways, expressed through song, dance and theatre. During the ten days of CCIS, spectators can revel in the festive spirit with nightly music and drama performances, as well as a drive past of spectacularly decorated Christmas floats.

In addition, Singapore’s two integrated resorts, Marina Bay Sands and Resorts World Sentosa, will celebrate the Christmas cheer with visitors and locals through their festive décor, hotel packages and special events.

At Marina Bay Sands, visitors can look forward to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Exhibition from 3 December 2011 to the end of January 2012, which will offer the young and old alike a world of adventure, inspired by the legendary C.S. Lewis. In the spirit of the holiday season, all proceeds from the sale of exhibition tickets will go to the Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund. Broadway’s biggest blockbuster WICKED will also fly into Singapore to cast its magical spell on audiences at the Grand Theater from 6 December 2011 to 26 February 2012.

A Fairytale Christmas at Resorts World Sentosa will see the integrated resort transformed into a magical fairytale land with the most dazzling lights, iconic arches, fairytale tableaus, roving characters and Southeast Asia’s tallest Christmas tree at 38 metres with 20 carollers performing at the foot of the tree. From 12 November to 31 December 2011, visitors can enjoy fairytale-themed events, festive promotions at RWS’ hotels and attractions, dining privileges and daily entertainment from carollers and musical bands. Come 3 December 2011, TRANSFORMERS The Ride will also make its world debut at Universal Studios Singapore®.

No Christmas is complete without shopping. Shoppers will have plenty to be excited about during this festive season as they get more value out of their spending.

Visa, as a strategic partner, is once again partnering STB to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. Tourists visiting Singapore during the ‘Christmas in the Tropics’ period will enjoy shopping privileges when they pay with their Visa cards.

A Visa spokesperson said: “Visa is excited to be working in partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board to support the Christmas in the Tropics celebrations, which is fast becoming one of the highlights of the Singapore festive season. This year, Visa has a series of attractive cardholder promotions to reward shoppers including a S$10 voucher when they spend S$200 with their Visa cards at any of the participating shopping malls in Orchard Road, and the chance to purchase a limited edition Gail Pantin umbrella for just S$15 with every S$80 spent at Marina Bay, with part of the proceeds going to the Singapore Community Chest.”