Friday, 31 August 2012

Cairns Festival Wraps Up this Weekend

After 17 days of entertainment, events and good old-fashioned fun in the sun, Cairns Festival 2012 will come to a close this Sunday having successfully delivered its biggest ever program.

Cairns Mayor Bob Manning said this year's Festival had been an overwhelming success in all aspects.

"Everything has gone to plan and we couldn't be happier.  On behalf of our team, I would like to thank and congratulate everyone in this community who came out and supported our talented artists, singers, dancers and entertainers performing and showcasing their creativity over the past two weeks," he said.

While the city's annual party is coming to a close on Sunday with Father's Day favourite, Carnival on Collins, there are still plenty of events to enjoy, including those with a strong musical focus. 

Tonight's concert line up includes Hilltop Hoods in Fogarty Park, The McMenamins at Centre of Contemporary Arts and Grace Knight at Tanks Arts Centre.  At the Village on Esplanade a local alternative four-piece rock band will play on the Cooked in Cairns stage.

Tomorrow serves up another big musical line up with Reggaetown World Music Festival at Kuranda Amphitheatre, Jazz Under the Stars in the Botanic Gardens, Comrade Z Cabaret Quartet at Centre of Contemporary Arts and a free performance in The Village On Esplanade's Peformery by TOPShelf - a huge 13 piece collaboration of some of Cairns most sought after professional musicians.

Cairns Festival 2012
 - This year's 51st season comprised well over 100 unique productions, events, exhibitions, and creative projects.

- It is estimated that Cairns Festival has been enjoyed by more than 100,000 people, including major events such as the Overflow FNQ Grand Parade (19,959), Cairns Indigenous Art Fair, Music Botanica, Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Tropical Pride Festival, Dein Perry's Tap Dogs, Reggaetown World Music Festival, Colin Hay, Grace Knight, The Australian Ballet's Don Quixote, Hilltop Hoods and today's Carnival on Collins.  Other events of note that have enhanced this year's Festival program and community enjoyment include Esplanart, The Village on Esplanade and Jonathan Brilliant's installation at Botanical Gardens Visitor Centre.

- Key venues The Tanks Arts Centre, Cairns Civic Theatre and Centre of Contemporary Arts, as well as smaller venues like Arthouse, played an integral role in providing quality content to this year's programming.  These included Colin Hay, Lanie Lane and Mia Dyson, Australian Ballet's Don Quixote, Tap Dogs, The Big Laugh Comedy, The Winner of the Sydney International Piano Competition, Frank Yamma and Dancenorth.

- The launch of this year's new The Village on Esplanade was deemed very successful in providing an interactive Festival hub in the centre of the city with programming that spanned music, comedy, roving entertainment, workshops, activities and a children's village over two weekends.

- 40 local volunteers provided amazing support in the day to day running of Festival's events and information services.

- A new website and program design, the Festival car, Festival HQ at City Place, a strong visual presence at key shopping centres as well as 30 tri-signs
throughout the city provided excellent communications support in terms of highlighting the events and supporting their subscription.

- Special thanks to this year's Festival partners. Gold Partner, James Cook University; Silver Partners Overflow FNQ, Cairns Central and Stockland; Bronze Partners McDonalds Restaurants Cairns, Pacific Toyota and The Good Guys; Distinguished Partner, Cairns Airport; and a large group of supporting partners.

Cairns Festival runs from August 17 to September 2, 2012 and is supported and presented by Cairns Regional Council with generous support from event partners and sponsors.

For more information,

Over 1.8 Million Foreign Tourists Visit HCMC

Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam has welcomed more than 1.8 million overseas arrivals in the first six months of 2012, up by 10 percent against the same period last year.

The City’s Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism announced the figures on June 20.

The turnover from tourists in the first six months of this year has reached 34,000 trillion VND, a 15 percent year on year increase and 50 percent of this year’s planned target.

Ho Chi Minh City
The City’s plans to promote tourism and improve domestic tourist products have now come to fruition.

In addition, it intends to work closer with Southeastern and Southwestern provinces and cities to develop local tour services.

The City has also been creating a safe, friendly and civilised environment to enable the tourist industry to thrive.

The Search is on for the Best BBQ Chef - Have You Got What it Takes?

The Regional NSW BBQ Challenge kicks off this Saturday, September 1 in Young NSW to find the best BBQ Chef. Contestants are invited from across the State and interstate to challenge amateur chefs, chefs, butchers and food aficionados in three outdoor cook-offs during September.

Registration is still open for contestants online at Teams of up to four are invited to compete for a $2,200 Everdure stainless steel six burner Stirling barbeque package, complete with rotisserie and cover. The winners from each competition in Young, Bowral and Inverell will have the opportunity to face each other at the Final being held at Eveleigh Markets on 20 October as part of the Crave Sydney International Food Festival.  

The NSW Regional BBQ Challenge and associated Regional NSW Showcase Dinners and Farmers Markets commence 31st August, 2012 in Young with the 'Hungry for Hilltops' Regional NSW Showcase Dinner. The dinner will feature a magnificent three course meal including wine and musical entertainment at the Young Town Hall, from 6pm. Tickets are $90 per head, and can be purchased online at or from M & M's Music Studio, Shop 2, 50-66 Boorowa Street, Young, phone (02) 6382 2836.

The Regional Showcase Dinner in Bowral is being held at the renowned "Biota Dining", Friday 14 September while the Northern Inland celebration is being held in the historic Inverell Town Hall on Saturday, 22 September, with tickets available online.    

All events will feature an impressive array of the best food and wine from local producers, as well as cooking commentary from renowned BBQ cookbook author Kim Terakes and wine commentary from 'The Wine Man', Peter Bourne. Musical entertainment will be provided at the Challenges by the BBQ Kings.

According to Inland NSW Tourism CEO, Graham Perry, the initiatives have been developed to highlight the abundance of food and wine experiences available across inland NSW.

"The inland regions of NSW offer some of Australia's best culinary adventures, in addition to the wide range of activities and attractions," says Mr Perry.

"The purpose of the BBQ Challenge is to encourage people to explore beyond their own backyard, while having fun engaging in one of Australia's favourite pastimes - barbequing - and discovering just what Inland NSW has to offer."

Competitors for the Regional NSW BBQ Challenge and attendees at the Regional NSW Showcase Dinners can log on to for details and to register.

Funding support for the Regional NSW BBQ Challenge was received from Destination NSW through its Regional Tourism Product Development Program.

The initiatives also include support and participation by Young, Wingecarribee, Inverell, Tenterfield, Tamworth and Glen Innes Councils, and a number of associations, including the Hilltops Harvest NSW, Southern NSW Harvest, the Southern Highlands Food & Wine Association, RDA Southern Inland and RDA Northern Inland, the Poachers Way and sponsors Everdure and MAN LAW BBQ Tools.

CITF 2012 is set to be held at the Century City New International Convention & Exhibition Center, China

Western China will welcome the first ever mega-scale tourism exhibition, the Chengdu International Travel Fair (CITF) 2012 which is set to be held at the Century City New International Convention & Exhibition Center from 30 November to 2 December 2012.

With strong governmental support from the Chengdu Municipal Tourism Administration and the Chengdu Municipal Bureau of Exposition, CITF 2012 will serve as an enriching travel platform in the Sichuan province and the western region of China as the country gears up for the globalization of the tourism industry.Chengdu has been elected as the emerging business hub in China and has been

ranked first as the fastest growing cities in China in the next 10 years. Outbound tourism consumption is also projected to reach a new high of $80 billion, an increase of 16% from 2011. With much opportunities and potential in the future years to come, CITF 2012 is indeed the event to launch and expand the travel and tourism in western China.

In order to better integrate corporates into the growing tourism and travel market in Chengdu and beyond, CITF 2012 will present a variety of programmes to suit the needs of all exhibitors, buyers and trade visitors. The Pre-Scheduled Appointment (PSA) system allows exhibitors and buyers to arrange for one-on-one appointments prior to CITF 2012 via to optimize the best result possible.

Organised by Conference & Exhibition Management Services of Singapore; CITF 2012 will also launch a series of forums, meetings and seminars for industry trade visitors and buyers. Participants will be treated to an extended insight on the outlook of the tourism and travel industry in Chengdu and western China in the years to come.

This is also an opportunity for interested industry players to find out what is the best way possible to position their business in this challenging and lucrative market. “CITF marks a new beginning in Chengdu’s exhibition industry! Positioned as the firstof-its-kind event dedicated to the travel and tourism industry of western China, CITF has the right formula for you to propel your business to greater heights! Chengdu is the up and rising marketplace teeming with business opportunities and it is only apt that CITF is launched to meet the increasing challenges and needs of this fast growing industry!,” shared Mr. Edward Liu, Managing Director of Conference & Exhibition Management Services Pte Ltd, the organizer of the event.

At the heart of China’s western region’s tourism and travel business, Chengdu plays an important part in ensuring continuous growth for the industry. Set foot on the journey of discovery of new business opportunities which will propel your business to greater heights, only at CITF 2012!

TAT Researches Ways to Sharpen “Thainess” Campaign Imagery

A broad-based destination image research study conducted across 14 countries by the Tourism Authority of Thailand has provided clear pointers on ways to sharpen the imagery and message of the country’s upcoming “Thainess” tourism campaigns.

Approved at the TAT’s annual Action Plan meeting in July 2012, the “Thainess” campaigns will highlight unique selling propositions such as Thai boxing, Thai cuisine, Thai health & wellness, Thai culture and heritage and many other such characteristics of the country’s identity.

Thailand has a broad range of products in each of these categories nationwide, and the TAT feels that they need to be given greater prominence as part of the marketing mix.
Because all the categories of the “Thainess” campaigns lend themselves to powerful imagery, the research study was designed to identify the “trigger points” that will convince the potential visitors to move from “looking” to “booking.”

The countries included Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, U.S., United Arab Emirates, Australia, China, South Korea, India, Russia, Germany, Sweden, and Italy. A total sample of 3,000 were surveyed including both those who were first time or repeat visitors.

The study used secondary and primary data and both quantitative and qualitative surveys. Interviews conducted included a broad cross-section of stakeholders, including Thais and foreigners, working both in and out of the industry.

Said TAT Governor Suraphon Svetasreni, “The most important factor in the advertising message always has been the quality of the imagery. But with the many changes taking place these days, both the content and means of delivery of those images had to be re-examined within the context of our “Thainess” campaign strategies.”

He noted that some target groups felt attracted by a “story-telling” strategy. Others favoured a more static approach or responded to powerful images delivered via mobile devices. In all instances, the response differed depending on such factors as gender, age, location and the number of times the potential customers had visited Thailand.

“We found that some of the traditional perceptions of Thailand were still strong, such as those related to fun, excitement, good service, hospitality,” Mr. Suraphon said. “This works well when trying to attract the family market, for example. Other images may need to be reinforced in other ways.”

He added, “Altogether, it has been an interesting and challenging exercise. We became much more aware of how the world is changing and the constant need to keep up with these changes in order to maintain visitor flows.”

NSW Calender of Events Pocket Guide Launched

Deniliquin Ute Muster
A pocket guide to the Destination NSW Financial Year 2012-2013 NSW Calendar of Events is now available to view and download online.

The calendar features a:
- nnual, signature events including the Crave Sydney International Food Festival and the Deniliquin Ute Muster,
- 'Only in Sydney' events including Alexander the Great: 2000 Years of Treasure and
- fantastic things to see and do in Sydney and Regional NSW.

Crave Sydney International Food Festival
The NSW Government, through Destination NSW, is committed to staging the nation's leading events calendar - including a world-beating roster of major cultural, sporting and lifestyle events.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Big Toys for Boys -a Fun Day for Men and Everyone

The fourth annual Big Boys Toys Day will be held at Aberdeen, NSW Australia this coming weekend.  The day will give all BIG boys (and little ones too) the opportunity to share their hobbies,  whether it be old, new or unique cars, bikes, trucks, hot rods or vintage machinery.

The Upper Hunter Motoring Association will be one of the many groups participating. The second annual Shannons Show and Shine car competition will be held on the day.

There will be live entertainment, business displays and market stalls for all the family.  Lunch and cool drinks will also be available. For the first time this year there will be helicopter rides available.

The Big Boys Toys day will take place on 1 September 2012 from 10am - 2pm at Jefferson Park, Aberdeen,   NSW, Australia. Admission is $2 per person, with children under 5 free.

Saigon’s 100 Exciting Things are Named

Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica,
The list of HCM City’s 100 exciting things was made public on August 21. The list includes famous architectural works and special cuisines.

Earlier, on June 14, 2012, the Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism of HCM City launched a campaign that seeks and votes on 100 “exciting things” about Ho Chi Minh City. The campaign aims to recognize and promote the city’s outstanding cultural values and prominent tourism products and services.

The campaign was launched after six months of preparations. Its advisory board gathered and short-listed 218 “candidates” that people would vote on to decide the final list of 100 things.

The “candidates” were categorized under 20 groups, consists of luxury hotels, business hotels, tourist restaurants, exhibition-conference centers, travel tours, tourism events, health and beauty care, by-night entertainment locations, sightseeing locations, artistic, cultural and historic vestiges, transport companies, art performance locations, Southern delicacies, varieties of fruit, architecture, museums, markets, coffee shops, shopping centers and souvenir products.

HCM City Post Office

People contributed to this campaign by vote on these “things” between June 14 and July 30, 2012. Beside the online voting, 2,500 ballot papers for each category were sent to experts in the mail and distributed to tourists via travel companies.

 According to the organizing board, they received 29,000 paper votes and over 6,200 online votes. A similar vote was organized two years ago.

The voting results

Five outstanding museums: War Remnant Museum, HCM City History Museum, Ho Chi Minh Museum, HCM City Museum and HCM City Art Museum.

Five outstanding architectural works: Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, HCM City Post Office, HCM City Opera House, Giac Lam Temple, Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street.

HCM City Opera House
Five outstanding historical and cultural relics: Cu Chi tunnel, Independence Palace, Rung Sac-Can Gio military base, Thien Hau temple, Ngoc Hoang Palace.

Five interesting entertainment sites: Suoi Tien Park, Dam Sen Park, Binh Quoi Tourist Site, Saigon zoological and botanical garden, Mot Thoang Viet Nam tourist site.

Five typical traditional markets: Ben Thanh, An Dong, Binh Tay, Soai Kinh Lam and Tan Dinh.

Five outstanding forms of tourism:
ecological tourism, gastronomic tourism, city tour, shopping and waterway tourism.

Five typical tourism events:
Nguyen Hue flower road, HCM City tourism festival, Southern fruit festival, Tao Dan New-year flower festival, international food festival.

Five luxurious hotels: Sheraton, Caravelle, Majestic, Park Hyatt Saigon, REX.

Giac Lam Temple
Five business hotels: InterContinental, Asianna Saigon, Windsor Plaza, Legend Saigon, Continental.

Five exhibition-conference centers: White Palace, Saigon Fair and Exhibition Center, Phu Tho Sports House, Van Thanh Tourist Zone, Tan Binh Conference and Exhibition Center.

Five favorite shopping sites:
Tax Trading Center, Vincom, Cresent Mall, Miss Ao Dai, Minh Phuong lacquare and fine-art shop.

Five favorite restaurants of tourists: Muoi Xiem banh xeo (Vietnamese crepe) restaurant, Cham Charm, Com nieu Saigon, Mandarin, Ngon.

Five typical souvenirs:
ao dai, non la (conical hat), manually embroidery items, silk and sandy paintings.

Five favorite southern cuisines:
banh xeo, goi cuon, com tam (broken rice), cha gio and caramel fish.

Five interesting entertainment sites at night
: Semi-circle Lake, Pham Ngu Lao Street, Hard Rock Café, Megastar and Saigon Saigon Bar.

Five top beauty salons and spas: Ngọc Anh Spa, Sen Spa, La Cochinchine, Authentic Spa and Anam QT Spa.

Hai Thuong Lan Ong Street.

Five interesting coffee shops: Highlands, Trung Nguyen, Gloria Jeans, Central, Windows.

Five typical transport firms: Taxi Mai Linh, Taxi Vinasun, Phuong Trang, Vietravel, Hoa Binh Travel.

Five favorite fruits: mangosteen, mango, star apple, pomelo and pitaya.

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament

Medieval Times Entertainment launched in Majorca, Spain, in 1973, and opened its first North American Castle in Kissimmee, Fla., in 1983.

Now regarded as North America’s longest running and most popular dinner attraction, more than 50 million guests have experienced Medieval Times at Castles in Buena Park, Calif., Schaumburg, Ill., Hanover, Md., Lyndhurst, N.J., Myrtle Beach, S.C., Dallas, Atlanta, Orlando, Fla. and Toronto, Ont., Canada. In 2007, the company moved its North American headquarters to Irving, Texas, close to the company’s Chapel Creek Ranch in Sanger, Texas.
Medieval Times is online at and reachable at 1-888-WE-JOUST (888-935-6878).

Irish Food and Drink Festivals to Tantalise Your Taste Buds

Taste of West Cork Food Festival
Ireland has a frenzy of food festivals set to entice and excite your taste buds this September and October. Highlights not to be missed include the Galway Oyster Festival, Arthurs Day, the Taste of West Cork Food Festival and the Savour Kilkenny Food Festival to name just a few.

Taste of West Cork Food Festival, 10th-16th September
Something is brewing in the south of Ireland’s gourmet capital, the Taste of West Cork Food Festival. The main highlight of the festival is the much anticipated ‘Celtic Cook Off’ which showcases some of the best local produce and talent on offer from across the Celtic Isles. Watch chefs cook off against each other using only local produce plus one ‘wild card’ ingredient from their local area. Pick up some new cookery skills throughout the festival while you sample some of the freshest and finest local produce that Cork has to offer.

Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival , 28th- 30th September
Ireland has a long standing reputation for producing some of the finest seafood in Europe so it comes as no surprise that we are home to the oldest oyster festival in the world. Recommended by Lonely Planet and noted by the AA Travel Guide as one of ‘Europe’s Seven Best Festivals’, there is something for everyone to enjoy from the uniquely Irish opening ceremony to the World Oyster Opening Championships and the city-wide celebrations. Start practicing your shucking technique and spoil yourself with the abundance of fresh seafood and oysters on offer, guaranteed to satisfy!

Arthurs Day 2012, 27th September
On September 27th at 16:59 Guinness Fans worldwide will be encouraged to ‘Raise a Glass to Arthur’ and where better to celebrate than in the heart Ireland! The country is set to come alive with electric festivals and events that always aim to delight and top previous years. Expect impromptu performances from international artists, parties to last long into the night and of course, a pint of the ‘black stuff’ in everyone’s hand!

Savour Kilkenny Food Festival, 25th - 29th October
What better location to sample gourmet delights than against the regal backdrop of Kilkenny Castle on an Autumnal evening? Acknowledged in Ireland as one of the main counties leading a food revolution, discover how local chefs mix their favourite Irish produce with flavours from around the world, to give you exciting and new dishes that will leave you hungry for more.
Savour Kilkenny Food Festival
And if that is not enough don’t forget The Clarinbridge Oyster Festival, 15th - 16th September; Taste of Monaghan Food Festival, 4th-7th October; The Dingle Peninsula Food and Wine Festival, 5th -7th October; and The Kinsale Gourmet Festival, 12th-14th October.

For more information, visit or contact Donna Campbell 

New Consortium To Bring Singapore River to Life

Singapore River
A new non-profit organisation that aims to develop the Singapore River into one of the country's top attractions was officially inaugurated on Monday.

Working in tandem with the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Singapore River One (SRO), which comprises 20 private sector stakeholders whose businesses span the length of Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay, intends to execute a five-year business plan to make the precinct more attractive to local and international visitors.

Tyrone Tabing, newly appointed executive director of SRO, said the revamp of the river was vital for Singapore to fulfil its goal of becoming a world-class destination.

“Despite the (Singapore River) district’s inherent (tourism) potential, there has not been any real holistic effort in the past to drive traffic to the river. There’s definitely a real need to market and promote all three quays in a synergetic manner to make the river a focal point of visitor activity,” he said. 

According to Tabing, events will play a pivotal role in SRO’s vision of “bringing the river to life”. “SRO is currently working on an events strategy that will draw visitors to this area – probably through a series of festivals, tournaments, dinner cruises or even entertainment barges. Nothing has been set in concrete, but we are keen to pursue these avenues,” he said.

Singapore River
Other plans in the pipeline include a more comprehensive pedestrian and signage system which will help improve connectivity between Boat Quay, Clarke Quay and Robertson Quay, a mobile application to access maps and information about the area, as well as a loyalty programme for the water taxi service scheduled to launch in the new year

Thailand Tourism Receipts Up 30%, Highlighting Value for Money Factor

Thailand recorded a 31% increase in tourism receipts in 2011 over 2010, according to Ministry of Tourism and Sports figures. The total earnings of 776 billion baht (US$25.45 billion) were also well above the original target of 716 billion baht (US$ 23 billion).

The figures show that Thailand has recorded clear increases in both quality and quantity of visitor arrivals. The growth in total number of visitors is being matched by increased average length of stay and average daily expenditure, further underscoring the role of tourism as one of the most important economic sectors and contributor to job creation and nationwide income distribution.

According to the Ministry, Thailand recorded 19.23 million international visitors in 2011, up by 20.67% over 2010. With an average length of stay of 9.64 days, and an average daily spend of 4,187.12 baht (US$137) per person, the Thai tourism industry generated 776 billion baht in earnings.

By regions, the East Asia (+39.40%) recorded the largest increase in receipts in 2011, followed by South Asia (+33.27%), Oceania (+32.84%), Africa (+32.21%), Europe (+26.20%), the Americas (+20.36%) and Middle East (+19.79%).

Europe holds the largest share of international tourism receipts in absolute numbers (38.23% share), reaching US$ 9,733 million in 2011, followed by East Asia (37.33% share or US$ 9,505 million), the Americas (7.10% share or US$ 1,807 million), Oceania (7.30% share or US$ 1,858 million), South Asia (4.85% share or US$ 1,235 million), The Middle East (4.29% share) earned US$ 1,093 million and Africa (0.88% share) US$ 224 million.

According to the per capita daily spending, the top 10 ranked tourism spenders in 2011 were UAE (US$175.21), Saudi Arabia (US$166.92), South Africa (US$164.10), India (US$161.78), Hong Kong (US$161.63), Singapore (US$160.96), Kuwait (US$159.66), Australia (US$159.19), Brunei Darussalam (US$155.30) and Korea (US$153.17).

Amongst Asian visitors, the lowest daily spend is by Laotians (US$101.99) and amongst Europeans, the lowest daily spend is by Germans (US$115.46). 

In terms of total expenditure by all visitors, the top five nationalities were Russia, China, Australia, Malaysia, and United Kingdom. Here is a brief snapshot summary of each:

Russia: Thanks to the increasing number of charter flights, Russia is now the top generator of arrivals from Europe, up 63.45% to 1,052,361 in 2011. In 2011, Russian tourists spent a total of US$1,970.84 million (60 billion baht), based on an average length of stay of 13.29 days and an average daily spend of US$140.92 per person. 

China: In 2011, China was the second largest source of visitors after Malaysia, with total arrivals of 1,704,800, up 50.57% over 2010. Based on an average daily spend per person of US$146.63, and average length of stay of 7.61 days, Chinese visitors generated tourism revenue of US$1,902.32 million (58 billion baht).

Australia: In 2011, Australian visitors to Thailand totalled 835,719, up 18.89% over 2010. Based on an average length of stay of 12.78 days and an average daily spend of US$159.19 per person, Australians generated US$1,700.27 million (51.8 billion baht) of tourism income.

Malaysia: Malaysia is Thailand’s largest source of visitor arrivals with a total of 2,492,034 in 2011, up 21.73% over 2010. Based on an average length of stay of 4.78 days and an average daily spend of US$137.10 per person, Malaysia generated US$1,633.15 million (49.79 billion baht) in tourism receipts.

United Kingdom: The United Kingdom is the second largest generator of arrivals from Europe with a total of 771,466 visitors in 2011, up 1.48% over 2010. Based on an average daily spend of US$121.84 per person and an average length of stay of 17.35 days, the UK generated US$1,630.80 million (49.72 billion baht) in tourism receipts.

Overall, the figures show that the recent strengthening of the baht against the US$ is having little impact on expenditure patterns and Thailand remains good value for money for visitors across the board.

Disabled Access Proving Popular at Metro Hotel Miranda

Metro Hotel Miranda
The introduction of disabled facilities into several of its new Superior rooms on the top floor of Metro Hotel Miranda is proving popular with disabled and senior guests.

Metro Hotel Miranda's Superior rooms with disabled facilities are part of its recent addition of 14 new Superior rooms, all of which are fitted with oversized low windows to allow guests to fully appreciate the stunning views of Sydney and the Royal National Park offered.

The rooms are wheelchair accessible from all levels of the hotel and can be offered with an adjoining room for family or friends, giving guests the option of having a carer nearby yet with separate sleeping and bathroom facilities.

All disabled rooms are fitted with a queen and a single bed. The bathrooms are large enough for a wheelchair to manoeuve easily, with all fixtures wheelchair accessible. Bathrooms are fitted with a shower seat and grab rail, and all rooms are safe and secure with wide doorways and level, non-slip surfaces.

Metro Hotel Miranda is a non-smoking hotel and offers quality accommodation at affordable prices for all its guests. Disabled rooms are priced the same as equivalent Superior Queen rooms, with all rooms on the top floor of the Hotel having spectacular views over Sydney, Botany Bay and the Royal National Park.

Located at the highest point of Miranda and popular with business and leisure travellers alike, Metro Hotel Miranda added the 14 Superior rooms to its offering of 40 family and standard rooms earlier this year, converting the top floor of the hotel. Corner suites have kitchenettes and rooms are modern and tastefully decorated, providing a new level of outstanding comfort and quality without hefty prices.

Located across the road from Westfield Miranda and close to Cronulla Beach, Brighton Le-Sands and the Royal National Park, many leisure travellers use Metro Hotel Miranda as a holiday base, also enjoying the convenience of shops and restaurants nearby.

All rooms at Metro Hotel Miranda have ensuite bathrooms, air-conditioning, telephones, television with selected Foxtel

channels, wireless internet, tea and coffee making facilities and a bar fridge.  A two room apartment with a kitchenette and family rooms are also offered. DVD players and movies are available for hire. A barbecue is available on the balcony for guests to use. Laundry and dry-cleaning services are also available, as is parking for all guests.

Metro Hotel Miranda
To book accommodation at Metro Hotel Miranda, contact (02) 9525 7577. Alternately, guests can call the toll free Central Reservations line on 1800 004 321 or online at

Metro Hotels is the public face of Transmetro Corporation, an Australian owned public company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange. The Group currently provides a national accommodation network of properties, with over 1000 rooms in key locations and major cities across Australia.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Hanoi Tops List of Cheapest Tourist Cities

Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam, has topped the list of cheapest global tourist destinations in 2012 summertime, according to the Trip Index recently announced by the world’s largest travel website ‘TripAdvisor.’

The rating is based on the average cost of one night’s accommodation for two at a four-star hotel, inclusive of dinner and return taxi fares over a 3.2 kilometre route.

The other cities from Asia are Beijing in China, which came second, closely followed by Bangkok in Thailand and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia .

HanoiAdd caption
Cities in Europe have once again come out as the most expensive destinations to visit.

The most expensive is London in the UK, followed by Oslo in Norway, Zurich in Switzerland, Paris in France and Stockholm in Sweden

The results were from a survey of 48 cities, which receive the largest number of international visitors during the period from June 1 to August 31.

Oberon And Surrounds - Blooming Lovely

Daffodils at Rydal
Different from urban gardens, those of Oberon and surrounds, in NSW Australia,  have often been developed from virgin bush or lush farmland. Many are also works in progress, a great drawcard for visitors to return often to check out developments.

Here's a few to pick from:

Oberon Spring Garden Open Weekend (October 27-28, November 3-4): Six gardens around Oberon and Titania Estate. Local stone mason will display products at Bridie Park and refreshments at Willow Dale Garden.

Daffodils at Rydal (September 15-16): Thousands of daffodils in bloom in private and public gardens. Refreshments available along with a variety of musical entertainment. Limited midweek group bookings from September 11 to 13. Cost: $10 includes gardens and musical events. Details: Lindsay Green 6359 3237 or

Tarana Red Cross 7th Annual Art Exhibition, Tarana Bushfire Shed (10am - 4pm September 28-30): Guest artist. Australian Red Cross The Power of Humanity. Devonshire teas available. Cost: $5, $15 opening night (September 28, 7pm-9pm).

Falkirk Farm Spring Spectacular
Falkirk Farm Spring Spectacular, 2070 Edith Rd, Oberon (September 12, October 6): More than 2500 varieties of daffodils on display throughout the 2.5 acre garden, with more than 80 potted varieties for sale. Also wild bird life and farm animals from 10am to 4.30pm. Morning and afternoon tea available. Large coaches and group packages welcome. Cost: $7.50 adults, $4 children (5-16 years). Details: 6336 1282 or

The Rotary Club of Oberon Daffodil Dawdle (September 22): View seven large country gardens showing their yellow splendour. Details: Brenda Lyon 6336 5182.
Anglican Parish Open Garden Weekend (October 27-28): Visit the 6ha Currumbena parkland.

Mayfield Garden, Mayfield Rd, Oberon (9am to 4.30pm October 6, October 20-21, October 27-28, November 3-4): One of the largest privately-owned cool climate gardens in the world, located within a 5000 acre working farm includes a maze, oak forest, walled potager, 80m cascade, extensive parterre gardens and more. Cost: $25 adults, $10 children (7-16 years). Details: 6336 3131 or

Gairloch Open Garden Weekend, 27 Blenheim Ave, Oberon (October 20 & 27, November 3): Cold climate garden features varied use of water, croquet lawn, timber and masonry structures, garden chess, vertical and parterre gardens, alpine phlox and blossom trees, metal artwork, birdlife, water features and hedging terracing. Details: 6336 0291.
Mayfield Garden

Visit or Oberon Visitor Information Centre for more details.

Go to for more garden and other nature-based spring activities

There's Much More to Peru than Machu Picchu

Recognised for its colourful textiles and traditions, friendly culture, and picture-perfect mountains, Peru is known for many dazzling sights and sounds, but most famously for "The Lost City of the Incas", Machu Picchu.

Yet, even though this celebrated site is Peru's star attraction and a must-see for first time visitors, travellers,  wanting a unique glimpse of Peru's historic past, should consider one of the many alternative ancient sites located around this extraordinary country.

Kuelap, the City amongst the Clouds.
Containing more than 450 stone houses, this fortress is the largest stone structure within South America and long considered Machu Picchu's northern counterpart. Located at the peak of a mountain, higher than Machu Picchu, it's often hidden by cloud forest mist and it dates further back than the Inca Empire. Little is known about the Chachapoyan people, also known as the Cloud Forest People, who constructed this impressive site sometime between 900 and 1100 AD, and the complex remains relatively unknown in this remote zone of Peru.

Visitors to this hidden site enjoy breath-taking mountaintop vistas that few others can boast of. Discover the wonders of Kuelap on a classic five day trek, or shorter programs are also available.

Marcahuamachuco, an Unknown Wonder of the Andes
Marcahuamachuco, an enigmatic 1600-year-old archaeological complex built from stone in the northern Peruvian Andes, for long has stayed in the shadows. However, it is slowly emerging from Peru's deep and significant past attracting local and international visitors alike.

Covering more than 240 hectares on a high plateau, more than 3700 metres high in the mountains, this pre-Incan site is full of mystery and the undiscovered. Though experts say Marcahuamachuco was northern Peru's most important political, economic, and military centre, built sometime between 400 and 1000 AD, today locals live among the archaeological site and let their livestock graze inside the complex. The Global Heritage Fund, an international conservancy for endangered cultural heritage sites, has now taken this site under its guidance with the goals of restoration, preservation, and sustainable tourism. Experienced trekkers can visit the site on an organised three to five day, challenging hike.

Vilcabamba, the Last Inca City
Few know that the site of Vilcabamba actually lies behind the discovery of its more well-known counterpart, Machu Picchu. The celebrated explorer, Hiram Bingham, stumbled across the world-famous site when he was in fact on an expedition to discover the real 'lost city of the Incas' and the last refuge of the Inca Empire, also known as Vilcabamba.

The spectacular Vilcabamba trek is one of the many hidden gems of Peru. Taking approximately five days, the Vilcabamba to Machu Picchu trek takes in a wealth of flora and fauna, impressive valleys and snow-caped mountains along the way.

Choquequirao, Machu Picchu's Sacred Sister
Sitting 3000 metres above sea level, Choquequirao is also known as Machu Picchu's sacred sister due to the similarities in design, size and ceremonial format to that of its more famous equivalent.

Choquequirao's history is a matter of speculation and only 30% of the site has been uncovered, leaving the rest to the visitor's imagination. Surrounded by spectacular snow-capped peaks and flanked by plunging, forests, this ancient city site is a serious adventurer's alternative to the well-trodden tourist trail. Treks to Choquequirao take approximately five days and are extremely diverse, taking in the lofty mountains of the Cordillera Vilcabamba, the Apurimac River and surrounding glaciers.

Caral, America's oldest civilisation
The oldest civilisation in the Americas, Caral is an unknown treasure of dusty temple mounds, sunken amphitheatres and the remnants of spectacular stone structures. Little is known about the culture that built this impressive 626 hectare urban centre, located just north of Lima, but unearthed evidence suggests that monumental architecture here was under construction as early as 2627 BC.

This enormous and often overlooked site is breathtaking in many respects, and being located so close to Peru's entry city of Lima should not be bypassed on a visit to this enchanting country. Full day excursions are available from Lima, or alternatively visitors can stay overnight in Caral from December 2012 in the ancient city's first hotel, Empedrada Fundo Hotel & Spa -
Getting to and from Peru's ancient sites:
A number of well-known Australian tour operators offer sensational itineraries and treks to the many of the spectacular ancient sites in both south and north Peru. Contact your nearest travel agent for more information.

For further information on Peru please visit

China, Malaysia Cross One Million Arrivals Mark in First Half 2012

The Thai tourism industry continued its strong performance in the first six months of 2012, with total arrivals of 10,496,789, up 7.60% over the same period of 2011.

The most important contributor to this growth was arrivals from China which, for the first time, crossed the one million arrivals mark in the six-month period to record a total of 1,124,234, up by a robust 28.87% over January-June 2011.

Here is the listing of the Top Ten Source Markets of Visitors to Thailand in the first half of 2012:
Jan – Jun 2012
Jan - Jun 2011
% Change
United Kingdom

Below is a summary of the overall figures for the period of January – June 2012, with the percentage change over the same period of 2011, tabulated on arrivals by nationality at all points of entry into Thailand:

East Asia recorded 5,486,941 arrivals (market share 52.27% of total arrivals). Europe 2,971,939 (market share 28.31%); The Americas 545,042 (5.19% share); South Asia 632,976 (6.03% share); Oceania 477,894 (4.55% share); Middle East 296,653 (2.83% share); and Africa 85,344 (0.81% share).

East Asia (+5.73%)
• Japan is the fourth largest source of visitor arrivals to Thailand with total of 630,058, up 11.47%.
• Korea is the fifth largest source of visitor arrivals with total of 540,523, up 4.88%.
• Arrivals from the neighbouring ASEAN countries also showed good growth, e.g., Vietnam (+24.96%), Brunei Darussalam (+20.15%), Cambodia (+12.32%), Myanmar (+12.30%), Laos (+9.16%), Indonesia (+4.40%), Singapore (+4.53%). Only the Philippines was down (-3.44%).

Europe (+11.12%)
• Russia remained ahead of the UK and Germany as the largest source market from Europe, with total arrivals of 634,312, up 12.21%.
• The UK and Germany ranked the second and third largest sources of visitor arrivals – 433,989 (+1.52%) and 357,472 (+9.71%), respectively.
• French visitor arrivals totalled 304,717 (+17.11%).
• Arrivals from the Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark grew by 17.59%, 16.45% and 14.84%, respectively.
The Americas: (+10.58%)
• The US is the tenth top source-market of arrivals to Thailand with a total of 379,430 (+8.63%).
• Canadian visitors grew by 10.62% to 114,678.
• Brazilian visitors grew by 23.65% to 14,965.

South Asia (+5.83%)
• India is the biggest source of visitors in South Asia and the sixth largest source of total arrivals. Arrivals were up 6.32% to 504,634 arrivals.
• Pakistani visitor arrivals totalled 34,809 (-2.65%).
• Bangladeshi visitor arrivals totalled 33,494 (-0.20%).
• Visitors from Sri Lanka grew by 20.85% to 32,878.
Oceania: (+9.45%).
• Arrivals from Australia and New Zealand were up 9.63% to 427,096 and 8.15% to 49,365, respectively.

Middle East: (-0.15%)
• The UAE experienced a decline of -0.76%.
• Visitors from other Middle East markets (such as Iran) were down 7.08%.
• However, other Middle East source markets were up, especially Saudi Arabia (50.51%) and Kuwait (19.97%). Arrivals from Egypt were up by 22.49%.

Africa: (+28.88%)
• The most important source market of South Africa was up 13.99% to 35,319.
• Other countries are also showing considerable promise with a total growth of 41.97% to 50,025.
For 2012, TAT has set a target of 20.5 million total international visitors. This is a conservative estimate but is certain to be exceeded if the international economic and geopolitical situation remains stable.

Saddle Up For Cycle Queensland

If it’s got wheels, chances are you’ll spot it under one of the 900 riders taking part in Cycle Queensland 2012: Gayndah to Noosa.

Organised by Bicycle Queensland, riders have registered ‘modes of transportation’ including road bikes and tricycles to tandems and mountain bikes for the 542km ride. The pedal-mad entourage will start in Gayndah on Saturday 8 September and will pedal via Biggenden, Maryborough, Hervey Bay, Tiaro, Gympie and Cooroy before finishing in Noosa on Sunday 16 September.

The recreational ride attracts a wide range of riders - from an 18 month old (being towed in a bike trailer) to an 88 year old (lycra is optional).

Along the way, the riders camp in specially organised campsites and are encouraged to explore the town, with locals organising tours and entertainment. Activities planned this year include a Mary Poppins Sing-a-long (Maryborough),  Bullock Display (Gayndah), Turtle Tours (Tiaro) and much more.

The riders will be accompanied by a support crew of more than 180 people, of whom 130 are willing volunteers responsible for tasks including marshalling, catering, first aid, campsite set up and logistics.

Cycle Queensland is in its 11th year – past events have included Port Douglas to Mission Beach, Goondiwindi to the Gold Coast and Miles to Mooloolaba. What a way to see Queensland.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Final Chance to Make History at Scenic World

Blue Mountains visitors have only one week dig through their shoeboxes and photo albums and join other Australians who are making history at Scenic World.

The Make History competition is part of a $30 million redevelopment of the iconic Scenic Railway which has transported passengers down to the Jurassic Jamison Valley rainforest floor for the past 67 years.

Visitors past and present are being asked to share their memories of Scenic World and the Blue Mountains through moving and still imagery. The best memories will find a permanent home onsite as part of the reimagining of the Scenic Railway.  

The major upgrade of the site will include a new train, new top and bottom platforms with historical interpretation, and a new track.

Scenic Railway
Scenic World is offering five double tickets from anywhere in Australia to share in the official launch event, experiencing first hand the new train which will continue to be the steepest railway decent in the world at 52 degrees.

Scenic World’s Joint Managing Directors, Anthea and David Hammon, said submissions received so far have become an intriguing time capsule of Australian travel.

“Capturing and documenting written memories, photographs and video, has given us a wonderful opportunity to see Scenic World from our visitors’ perspective over many decades,” they said.

“We’ve been moved by the beautiful and personal memories that our visitors have shared.
“We’ve learnt that Scenic World is a life-long experience and we have been a part of many Australian childhood memories. We have also found our service is a major highlight and we are viewed as an international-standard attraction.”

Submissions will be displayed on Scenic World’s Facebook timeline and viewed by more than 100,000 friends. Some of the entries will also be placed on the attraction’s website with curator’s selecting the best entries for a permanent onsite gallery.

Scenic Walkway
Competition winners, judged on entries from each decade, will experience the new Swiss-made railway first hand, with the competition winners receiving return domestic flights, transfers, two nights at Lilianfels Resort and Spa, double pass to the exclusive railway launch party, and annual passes.

To enter, participants can upload images and videos, along with a short description, on a custom-built tab on the Scenic World’s Facebook page, and enter via the website

Mount Wilson/Mount Tomah - Blooming Lovely

Windyridge Garden
Step back in time and imagine yourself as Jay Gatsby or Daisy Buchanan while exploring the many privately-owned cool climate exotic gardens for which Mt Wilson in the Blue Mountains region of NSW Australia is renown:

Merry Garth, Davies Lane, Mt Wilson: 9am to 6pm daily, $5 adults, children free.
Details: 4756 2121.

Windyridge Garden, Queens Ave, Mt Wilson: 9am to 5pm daily, $9 adults, $3 children includes refreshments. Details: (02) 4756 2019,

Yengo Sculpture Garden, Queens Ave, Mt Wilson: 10am to 6pm weekends, $7 adults. Details: (02) 4756 2002,

Breenhold Gardens, The Avenue, Mt Wilson: 10am to 4pm weekends, $7.50 adults, $2 children. Details: (02) 9968 1232,

Nooroo, Church Lane, Mt Wilson: 10am to 4pm, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from September 3 to November 13; $8 adults, $2 children. Details: (02) 4756 2018.

Bebeah, The Avenue, Mt Wilson: 10am to 5pm daily, $8 adults, $2 children. Details: (02) 4756 2014.

Of course you cannot drive up the Bells Line of Road without stopping in at Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah. Garden entry is free.

Yengo Sculpture Garden
Home to thousands of species of cool climate and southern hemisphere plants, the 252 ha garden is a year-round delight with beautiful gardens, rainforest walks and an interesting round of events and workshops for all ages including Wild about Waratahs in September.

Contact Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah on (02) 4567 3000, or visit for details.

Go to for more garden and other nature-based spring activities.

Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament’s New Show Opens To Rave Reviews

Earlier this summer, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, North America’s longest running dinner attraction, invited guests to travel back to the 11th Century with the premiere of the dinner theater’s first new show since 2007.  The new show has boosted attendance and has received rave reviews from both domestic and international guests.

 “Our new live performance is giving guests a one-of-a-kind experience that is keeping first-time visitors and returning fans on the edge of their seats,” said Medieval Times Florida Castle’s General Manager Jose Lopez.  “Also, our food consistently ranked among the best dinner theater menus in the country.”  The updated show, which debuted in late June, offers many new elements while retaining some of the most popular traditions. The live show still features two- and four-legged performers (knights and horses) with a utensil-free meal served in a castle-inspired arena.

The Media Reviews
Medieval Times hosted many members of the media and VIPs for the premiere of the show.  Following are some of their reviews:

“I can’t say much of anything because I was screaming and cheering so much that I lost my voice.  I highly recommend everyone make a stop at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament when you are in Orlando. Your family will have an amazing time and eat some delicious food … without utensils!”

 “I came away impressed again with the amount of choreography required with not only horses and riders but also the “squires” who rearrange props and sets. It requires cooperation and timing, down to the second.  Another thing I appreciated: Medieval Times is committed to its theme. The knights are not modern and the king does not implore guests to “make some noise.” Crowd participation is encouraged by the action.”

 “I really enjoyed the feast; it was scrumptious and to our delight the roasted chicken was moist and meaty, the soup was hot and the pastry served at the end was light and tasty. Several of the portions are bigger and the potatoes are now easier to eat. One new delight for me personally was the Medieval Village where you get a glimpse of what life was like back then including a medieval torture display. Needless to say, we had a lot of fun and are looking forward to going back again soon.”

The New Show
Almost two years in the making, the new live production presents even more audience favorites such as live jousting, sword fights, horsemanship and falconry. Guests are taken back in time and encouraged to cheer for one of six “Knights of the Realm.” In addition to a new story, the production includes new lighting, choreography and battle scenes, costumes, new horse dressage elements, and a new musical score custom created for Medieval Times and recorded in Kiev, Ukraine.

“In a sense, we went back to the basics,” said Leigh Cordner, Medieval Times creative director. “Guests will see a celebration of the horses along with more action and elements of high drama. The streamlined plot allows more concentration on the action. When we started to put pen to paper, we knew from the start we wanted to grab guests’ attention from the moment they take their seats. This led us to the creation of the opening moment, when Liberty Horse enters the arena.”

With authentic weaponry and enhanced armor, the new production presents non-stop action timed to the tempo of the music. And while there’s still a general theme of “good versus evil” throughout the show, guests will see much more of what they like most about the show – fight scenes that maintain the highest quality and safety standards.

The Horses
While almost all of the royal subjects at Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament stand on their own two feet, the most celebrated members of the Kingdom are best known for their trot, gallop and canter.

“Audiences will witness authentic jousting and equine presentations that would not be possible without four special breeds of horses,” said Victor de Lara, a veteran horse trainer at Medieval Times. Pure Spanish Horses, Quarter Horses, Friesians and Menorcan – from the Mediterranean island for which it is named – complete the mix of horses at each of Medieval Times’ nine North American Castles.

For the new production, de Lara and Baker worked with all of the horses and knights to incorporate authentic dressage elements.  “Each horse is unique,” said de Lara. “Like any of the actors and actresses in our show, each horse has its own personality, so with our new production, we started the training process several months in advance to develop new routines that are exciting for the horses, their riders and, especially, the audience.”

The Music
Audiences may sense a familiar note behind every clash of swords. For the third time, award-winning IMAX and feature film score composer Daniel May has provided all of the dramatic musical elements that complete the Florida Castle experience.

“Creating music to build the best possible 11th Century experience provides many challenges, but the reward comes in knowing that millions of people are hearing my creation over the next few years,” said May.  Highly acclaimed musicians in Kiev, Ukraine, recorded the new score in one day. “The vibe of the city is classic medieval with a strong artistic soul. It was the ideal location and group of musicians to ensure the score was a perfect match for Leigh’s script,” said May.

The Feast
Guests will enjoy an upgraded menu for the utensil-free meal during the new show.  The menu includes:
- Tomato Bisque
- Garlic Bread
- Oven Roasted Chicken
- Larger BBQ Spare Rib
- Herb-Basted Potato Split into Quarters
- Braided Apple Strudel
- Larger Beverage Servings and Coffee

Get Tickets
Guests can purchase tickets online at or by calling 1-888-WE-JOUST. For show times, visit

Guests also can find Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament on Facebook and Twitter,