Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Sydney nominated in World Travel Awards

Sydney has been nominated as Australasia’s Leading Destination in the annual World Travel Awards. The Awards recognise, acknowledge and reward excellence in the travel, tourism and hospitality industry worldwide.

Professionals working in travel, tourism and hospitality are encouraged to visit the World Travel Awards website to cast their votes before voting closes on Sunday 20 July, 2014.

Frontier Forts Day

During this free, two-day heritage event, the Stockyards National Historic District is transformed into an authentic representation of Texas frontier life. Exchange Avenue in the Stockyards will be lined with encampments of historic fort sites from the Texas Forts Trail and elsewhere in Texas.

Approximately 10 forts and related programs will participate in the event. Designed to highlight frontier-era life, Frontier Forts Days brings together authentic wagons, flags, music, colorful unifo
rms and military gear from Texas landmarks. Infantry, artillery and cavalry demonstrations and military parades will fill the event schedule on Friday and Saturday. Re-enactors will also be on hand to discuss frontier life.

Frontier Forts Day

May 09, 2014 - May 10, 2014
Address: 140 East Exchange Avenue, Fort Worth, TX 76164
Admission: Free
Venue: Stockyards National Historic District
Visit Website


  • “Treehouse Masters” Pete Nelson welcomes the new furry friend with deluxe digs 
The San Francisco Zoo is thrilled to announce the arrival of an adorable new red panda! On May 7 from 9:00 – 10:00 am, Guardian Members and select members of the media will be the first to see this adorable 10-month-old male red panda in his new enclosure and hear the big announcement of his name by Emeritus Board Member, Barry Lipman, and his wife, Marie, who generously pledged $31 thousand to name what may just be the Zoo’s cutest creature. What’s more, Pete Nelson from the Animal Planet hit show, “Treehouse Masters,” will be on hand to see how this new resident likes his custom-made enclosure, which was built by Pete and his famed Treehouse Masters crew in March. The show featuring the SF Zoo’s red panda treehouse construction will air in June for the show’s 1.3 million viewers. The San Francisco Zoo is thrilled to welcome this species, which is native to the eastern Himalayas and western China and faces the threat of severely reduced habitat due to human encroachment. More about red pandas.

The Red Panda exhibit will open to the public on May 10, with an exclusive preview for SFZS Members from 9:00 – 10:00 am that morning.

San Francisco Zoo

The mission of the San Francisco Zoo is to connect visitors with wildlife, inspire caring for nature, and advance conservation action. Nestled against the Pacific Ocean, the SF Zoo is an urban oasis. It is home to over 1,000 exotic, endangered, and rescued animals representing more than 250 species and lovely peaceful gardens full of native and foreign plants. The majestic Roberts African Savanna offers a multi-species landscape with giraffes, zebras, kudu, ostriches, and more. At Hearst Grizzly Gulch, visitors can get nose-to-nose with rescued grizzly sisters Kachina and Kiona. Lemurs leap through the Lipman Lemur Forest, the largest outdoor lemur habitat in the country. Penguin Island is home to the largest colony of Magellanic penguins outside of the wild. The Zoo’s troop of gorillas lives in the lush Jones Family Gorilla Preserve. Farm animals for feeding and petting can be found in the popular Fisher Family Children’s Zoo. The historic 1921 Dentzel Carousel and the 1904 miniature Little Puffer steam train are treasured by generations of visitors and the newly renovated $3.2 million Elinor Friend Playground re-opened in fall 2013 to rave reviews. The SF Zoo offers a
rich history for its guests, including fun rides, educational programs, and exciting events for children of all ages. The SF Zoo is proud to be accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). More about the SF Zoo.

"Treehouse Masters”

Often described as a tree whisperer by his clients, colleagues and contemporaries, Pete Nelson dedicates himself to granting people's dreams of turning peaceful nooks in nature into the ultimate escapes. In “Treehouse Masters,” Nelson and his team execute the most outrageous treehouses designed to delight every whimsy, form, and function. Whether he's contriving magnificent multi-bedroom treehouses with state-of-the-art kitchens and bathrooms or rendering simpler, peaceful, one-room escapes, Nelson always goes out on a limb to create the most breathtaking treehouses with spectacular vistas. More about “Treehouse Masters.”

Introducing Sule Shangri-La, Yangon

Shangri-La Hotels and Resortsrecently announced Traders Hotel, Yangon in Myanmar has rebranded to operate as Sule Shangri-La, Yangon following an extensive renovation that took two-and-a-half years to complete.

The 484-room hotel, which is positioned on Sule Pagoda Road near the landmark namesake pagoda that is over 2,000 years old, has been a major fixture in the city's central business district since it opened in November 1996. Nearly two decades on, the hotel continues to be Yangon's most popular gathering and networking spot for businesspeople and hotel guests.

A key port in the British Empire, Yangon still boasts vestiges of its colonial past after nearly a half-century of isolation. It is the essence of this history and Myanmar's rich culture that the newly branded Sule Shangri-La, Yangon captures with a design that effortlessly mixes elegance and simplicity.

While the exterior of the building is modern, the lobby of Sule Shangri-La, Yangon evokes bygone colonial days with imposing white columns and a grand staircase that ascends to an open balcony. The classic impression extends to the adjacent double-height lobby lounge where a tiered crystal chandelier highlights a wall mural and panel details with intricate peacock motifs. (The Green peafowl, called the U-Doung in Burmese, is one of the country's national animals.)

Hotel staff uniforms celebrate Myanmar's colourful history, incorporating the traditional longyi (a large sheet of cloth folded to form a cylindrical shape) in unique styles specially designed for the hotel. Doormen proudly wear a range of seven different uniforms, each representing the seven states of the country.

A walk through the public areas reveals more cultural components of the property with tall ornate Burmese vases, panes of intricate woodcarving and specially commissioned art pieces by local artists such as Ba Khine and Hla Phone Aung, whose artworks decorate the hotel's café, conference rooms and suites. The hotel is a showcase for local artists and craftsmen, and their works are creative depictions of Burmese stories.

For dining, the hotel's updated restaurants and lounges offer a variety of choices. Summer Palace, Shangri-La's signature Chinese restaurant, overlooks street activity through large window alcoves. Red and mahogany accents contrast against the light-coloured walls and patterned ceiling, and Chinese paintings and fabric finishes around light fixtures complement the restaurant and its six distinctive private dining rooms specialising in Cantonese dim sum and authentic Chinese dishes.

The Gallery Bar was modified to reflect a public drinking house from the past British era. Half-curtained glass windows allow a peek of the dark wood interior with wraught iron and brass details. Memorabilia and photographs from the early 1800s fill the walls and add nostalgia to the comfort menu of homemade shepherd's pie, steaks, light bites and crisp cold beers. Its balcony has an encompassing view of the Lobby Lounge which constantly bustles with patrons.

The hotel's renovation also included the three other venues – Café Sule for international flavours and Asian favourites; the Peacock Lounge, an informal meeting ground for catch-ups between friends or executives, and the Gourmet Shop serving freshly baked goods, snacks and beverages. All outlets are the first in Myanmar to be awarded the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point System (HACCP) certification for world class standards of food management and hygiene.

For recreational pursuits the Health Club, which is bathed in natural light and overlooks the outdoor pool, offers an expanded space of over 850 square-metres of fitness equipment, sauna, steam and massage rooms. The hotel's meeting spaces – regular hosts of delegations and dignitaries – span three levels at Sule Shangri-La, Yangon and were refurbished in a modern palette with gold accents.

While the décor references the past, guestroom amenities are thoroughly modern. The hotel's 484 remodelled guestrooms present large picture windows that frame the city, river or Shwedagon Pagoda. Flat-screen televisions, complimentary Wi-Fi, 24-hour room service, fine linens and marble bathrooms complete the guest experience. Vibrant pictures of local life grace the walls of each room to balance the modern touches.

On the top floor of the hotel are three refashioned suites bordered by views of Yangon city or Yangon River. Incorporating artefacts to display Myanmar's much-admired handicraft, they are swathed in plush fabrics and trimmed with dark wood. The suites, including the city's largest Presidential suite, measure between 66 and 189 square-metres and are comfortably designed for relaxing and working in separate areas. Spacious bathrooms are fitted with a bathtub, rainforest shower and quality amenities.

Travellers in search of an exclusive retreat will enjoy the new Horizon Club Lounge. The executive lounge was relocated to level 21 to offer an unobstructed view of Shwedagon Pagoda and enlarged to over 490 square meters to provide additional seating and two private meeting rooms.

As part of the Horizon Club benefits, guests will enjoy personal check-in and late check-out at the lounge, complimentary beverages and refreshments all day, a dedicated concierge and Wi-Fi access. Other guest privileges that come with Horizon Club floor accommodation, on levels 18 to 22 of the hotel, include complimentary breakfast, in-room wine and snacks upon arrival, suit pressing and daily fruits.

"It's exciting to see the luxury enhancements of the hotel and to introduce Shangri-La's signature touches in such a desirable destination," said Philip Couvaras, area general manager of Sule Shangri-La, Yangon. "We look forward to continuously providing our guests with new and personal experiences, and to help immerse visitors into the local culture."

To mark Sule Shangri-La, Yangon's rebranding, the hotel is introducing a "Celebration Package" priced from US$215 per night, subject to tax and/or service charges, until 31 July 2014. A minimum two nights' stay in a Deluxe Room includes one way airport transfer (pick up or drop off) and US$40 hotel credit which may be used for hotel food and beverage, laundry, massage services and at the beauty centre. Golden Circle members can also earn double GC Award Points. For enquiries, telephone the hotel on (95 1) 242 828 or e-mail

Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, one of the world's premier hotel companies, currently owns and/or manages more than 80 hotels under the Shangri-La brand with a room inventory of over 34,000. Over four decades the group has established its brand hallmark of 'hospitality from the heart'. The group has a substantial development pipeline with upcoming projects in mainland China, India, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, Qatar, Sri Lanka and United Kingdom. For more information and reservations, please contact a travel professional or access the website at

Bushwise Guides Nature Lovers to a Far-Reaching Career in the Bush

One thing has become certain about the economic upheaval of the last decade: nothing is certain. Many of the jobs have become redundant, new careers and industries have sprung up and others have died out. Tourism has become more important than ever to the economies of countries with abundant natural resources.

This is why working with endangered wildlife in conservation and ecotourism is becoming a vitally important and increasingly attractive career option for school-leavers and nature-lovers in South Africa and around the world. More and more young adults are choosing to follow their dream of contributing to the conservation and continuing survival of the pristine habitats and endangered species of Southern Africa and are seeking accreditation with FGASA (Field Guides Association of South Africa) to allow them to achieve the required qualifications to reach their goals. Bushwise has built a reputation of excellence as a leading FGASA-accredited training provider in the Safari Tourism industry through the top-ranking courses they offer and provides students with all the necessary skills and qualifications required to not only enter, but excel in, one of the most exciting and rewarding careers in the world. The Bushwise courses are some of the most inclusive and well reputed available and career prospects include not only field guiding but high level jobs in safari tourism, reserve management, conservation research and big game management.

Bushwise's reputation spreads far and wide and employers are seeking Bushwise graduates to add professional excellence to their establishments. Jason Kipling, rose through the ranks quickly after completing the Bushwise FGASA course and is now employed as Head Ranger at Sabi Sands, one of South Africa's most exclusive private game reserves:

“The Bushwise course was inspirational – some of the best months of my life. For somebody like me who has a passion for the bush and for nature in general, to be constantly surrounded by instructors who have a massive wealth of knowledge which they were only to excited to share was definitely a highlight of the Bushwise course, as well as being surrounded by like-minded individuals all on the same path to learn and experience the bush on a far deeper level. I am now working in Africa's premier safari destination and that is a privilege!”

Bushwise offers a 23 week training course including both the essential theoretical and practical elements that blend together to take raw young environmental enthusiasts and turn out well-balanced, highly knowledgeable and well qualified, career-ready individuals. From the theoretical part of the course, soaking up the wisdom and life lessons of experienced, qualified rangers and environmentalists, to the practical element in the bush where students will hone their bush skills from 4x4 driving and certification, wilderness first aid, exposure to dangerous game, advanced rifle handling, trails guide theory and extensive bush knowledge - including FGASA Level 2 knowledge base, geology, reserve management, animal behaviour, birding and cyber tracking, the Bushwise FGASA training courses are some of the most comprehensive of their kind.

The course can be followed by a 6 month work placement, arranged by Bushwise, allowing students the invaluable experience that is strongly required by future employers and a unique and enviable foot in the door to a far-reaching career. Placements are arranged at some of South Africa's most exclusive game reserves and pioneering wildlife research bases, and options in 2015 will spread into neighbouring countries such as Namibia and Botswana and internationally.

Bushwise also offers Hospitality Internships at South Africa's finest luxury safari lodges providing those with experience or training in the hospitality industry with unique safari industry experience to take their Hospitality career to the next level.

For more information visit:

Or contact


Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Vietnam strives to attract more foreign visitors by sea

According to Deputy Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Ho Anh Tuan, about 3-5 percent of international tourists visit Vietnam by sea each year.

Asia is now considered an attractive destination for big tourism ships with many modern seaports, Tuan said, adding that an estimated 3.7 million foreigners will choose cruise ships to go to Asian countries by 2017.

Vietnam defines its maritime economy, including maritime tourism, as one of its key development orientations in the time ahead. This is clearly reflected in the tourism development strategy by 2020 with a vision to 2030, approved by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

Accordingly, the country will focus on increasing the quality of maritime tourism products, improving the capacity of hospitality staff serving tourists by sea and simplifying customs and administrative procedures they face, the deputy minister added.

During the conference, participants proposed encouraging investment in modern shopping centres and entertainment services near beaches and seaports to lengthen visitors’ stay and increase their expenditure.

They also suggested relevant agencies coordinate with the Asia Cruise Association to attract more international tourists using cruise ships to Vietnam.

Welcoming Chinese Visitors Program

Destination NSW is inviting tourism businesses to participate in a Welcoming Chinese Visitors Program.

China is the number one international visitor market for NSW, making it an ideal time to learn more and refresh your knowledge about this market during a full day of China Ready Training, delivered by AVANA.

Destination NSW, in partnership with ATEC, will hold the workshops in the Blue Mountains on Wednesday 28 May at the Fairmont Resort Blue Mountains and in Sydney on Monday 16 June at Rydges Sydney World Square.

The full day workshops are designed to equip tourism operators with an understanding of how to work with the Chinese travel trade and deliver a product or service that meets the needs of Chinese visitors. The workshop consists of three two-hour sessions: Product Ready, Sales Ready and Service Ready.

The workshops cost $50 per person with registrations submitted online.

On Safari With the Big, the Shy and the Ugly

Black Wilderbeest
What's your lucky number? If you're on safari in South Africa, it's likely to be a Big 5 – or a Shy, Little or even Ugly Five.

The well-known Big 5 – Cape buffalo, African elephant, leopard, lion and rhinoceros –along with diverse unspoilt landscapes and scenic beauty, are one of the top reasons for visiting South Africa. The name was coined by colonial-era big-game hunters who considered them to be the most difficult to hunt on foot, but in these more environmentally conscious times has been adopted by wildlife guides and the tourism industry.

The Big 5 today are “hunted” for the visual appeal of their sheer size and dominance of the wild landscape, and are much more likely to be aimed at through the view-finder of a camera.

The rarest is the critically endangered black rhinoceros, while its cousin the white rhinoceros and the leopard are classified as near threatened, the lion and the African elephant as vulnerable, and the Cape buffalo falls in the low risk 'least concern' category.

If biodiversity and natural resources were the measure of a nation's wealth, South Africa would be the third wealthiest country on the planet, says Wilderness Foundation CEO Andrew Muir (

South Africa's rich biodiversity spans eight biomes – broad zones of distinct climatic, landscape and vegetation types, or habitats, which support diverse flora and fauna. This diversity supports the Big 5 and also means there's much more of the animal kingdom to see.Eco-tourism operators and marketers have spun the concept further into the Little 5, Ugly 5 and Shy 5, giving tourists a whole range of interesting “must-see” lists.

On a recent visit to Lalibela Game Reserve in South Africa's Eastern Capeprovince,London cousins Kate Brown, 8, and Anna Simons, 9, marvelled at being introduced to an almost knee-high leopard tortoise. The excited girls brushed aside a lengthy encounter with a large and calmly-munching male white rhinoceros – the day's highlight for their parentsand a tick-off on their Big 5 list – in favour of looking out for more tortoises and the other members of the Little 5.

The leopard tortoise is one of the biggest found in South Africa and can live up to 80 – 100 years, weighing in at over 20kg. It's also the largest and slowest of the Little 5, which were chosen for the similarity of their names to the Big 5 in order to raise awareness of the diversity of species that South Africa boasts.

Luckily for the girls, their sharp-eyed game ranger found another two Little 5's for them, including the rhino beetle, one of the region's biggest beetles with a horn as distinctive as its namesake's. Then they watched in fascination as a sneaky ant lion, a tiny insect also known as a doodlebug for its spirally sand trails, burrowed a trap in the sand and pounced on an unsuspecting ant with its fearsome pincers.

The remainder of the Little 5 – the buffalo weaver and the elephant shrew – were not spotted by the young safari enthusiasts at Lalibela, but that didn't stop the girls peering intently into the bush at every turn.

Seven of the eight biomes found in South Africa meet in the Eastern Cape, and Lalibela is home to five of them – valley bushveld, savannah grassland, fynbos, riverine forest and acacia woodland. The result is a great variety of animal, plant and bird life in their natural setting, and the possibility of not only ticking off the Big 5 but making a big dent in the other lists too.

The name may seem a little cruel, but the Ugly 5 are a reminder that not everyone's perfectly beautiful, and these really are not the prettiest of animals.

The wildebeest, an antelope also known as a gnu, is well known for the herds that annually risk a host of predators to cross from the Serengeti of Tanzania to the Maasai Mara in Kenya. Also found in numbers in South Africa, it's the biggest of the Ugly 5 and looks a little like an assemblage of spare parts with its blunt muzzle, strangely forward-curving horns and oddly blonde horse-like tail.

Wildebeest are a frequent sighting at Lalibela along with the scavenging hyena; that balding janitor of the wild, the vulture; and the warthog with the fatty wart-like protrusions on its head that give it its name. The marabou stork with its plodding gait, mat of fuzzy hair and undertaker's cloak-like wings, rounds out the Ugly 5.

Ticking off the Shy 5 takes some careful spotting and a cautious approach, as these are mostly nocturnal animals and quick to disappear down a burrow when disturbed. They're entirely different to the bigger and bolder Big 5, the only similarity being, that if lucky enough, all can be seen at Lalibela.

The most likely to be spotted is the insect-eating meerkat, or suricate, as they're not nocturnal. The elegant bat-eared fox is a master at hunting down insects, while it's easy to see where the aardvark has been from the damage done to termite mounds. Similarly, the porcupine itself is not often spotted, but the quills it leaves behind are. Although the aardwolf looks like a miniature hyena, it's another termite-eater, with weak jaws but able to frighten off predators by making roaring noises and puffing out its mane.

“Big 5 encounters are obviously the first prize for visitors to Lalibela, but there are hundreds more species living here, with the Little 5, Ugly 5 and Shy 5 well represented. Guests enjoy the challenge of looking out for them as well, and it's a neat way of highlighting the diversity of game we have here,” said Lalibela head ranger Kelly Pote.

More about Lalibela Game Reserve:
Lalibela is a Big 5 game reserve on the Eastern Cape coast of South Africa, 90km east of Port Elizabeth, the nearest airport. In addition to the Big 5 (lion, rhino, elephant, leopard & buffalo), the 7 500 ha (about 18 500 acres) reserve is home to other predators such as cheetah, hyena, jackal and lynx, as well as numerous plains animals including giraffe, zebra, warthog, impala, wildebeest, blesbok and various other antelope species. Overlooking indigenous bush and watering holes, accommodation is in a luxury tented camp and cosy safari lodges. The reserve is known for its relaxed informality and warm hospitality, with buffet meals enjoyed at communal tables or under the stars in an outside dining boma.


Luxperience 2014 and the Rising Importance of the Female Travel Market in Asia Pacific

The rise of the female traveller, on business and leisure, in Asia Pacific continues to grow at an exponential rate. By 2030, it is estimated that it will have increased by as much as 400%[1]. Luxperience 2014 is working with its exhibitors to ensure that they are responding to and capitalising on this market trend.

Lindy Andrews, CEO of Luxperience says, “There is no doubt that there has been a rise in female travellers across Asia. The majority of these affluent Asian women travelling are from the wealthier areas of Asia, such as Tokyo, Singapore, Taiwan, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong or Seoul. Just as an example, in Singapore 32% of all business travellers are female and Hong Kong has the largest percentage of female business travellers at 36%[2]. At Luxperience 2014, we are happy to share these learnings with our exhibitors to ensure they have the market knowledge prior to their joining us so that they can cater to these all-important markets and are thus able to establish meaningful connections with our international buyers.”

Some pointers from the Luxperience 2014 team on how to cater even more effectively to the female travel market in Asia Pacific:
  • Solo travel is a growing trend amongst female travellers – consider introducing a no-single supplement during your shoulder months
  • Include an experiential aspect to your product - experiential packages have gained traction with many women citing adventure sports rather than shopping as the past time for their holiday[3].
  • Women are known to do their research through peer-to-peer recommendation – win over the female travel sector through “real” and effective engagement on your social media channels
  • For hotels – consider introducing women-only floors
  • Hotel spas – offer a health and wellness centre as opposed to a fitness studio, or if space and investment in your property are a concern, look to providing in-room spa services and/ or partnering with a local accredited alternative therapy practitioner
  • Guided shopping – have ready a list of top 10 shops in your city / location for women travellers looking for some retail therapy. This responds to a market trend amongst Asian female travellers in particular. Research shows that many purchase travel as a gift for themselves, or as a reward or an opportunity to celebrate a special occasion. On a trip like this, spending levels reach between $5,000 and $20,000. In fact, a recent survey[4] shows that affluent Asian women are more likely to purchase an overseas holiday than men (96% vs. 89%) and these women have the financial power to buy luxury premium goods. In China alone, female consumers dominate the purchase of luxury goods.

Lindy says “Given the massive spending power of the Asian woman, tourism operators need to think about tapping into this market. The number of women travelling in Asia will continue to rise, especially as Asian economies and the travel industry continues to mature; tourism operators need to respond to this.”

Exhibiting at Luxperience 2014, Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau share that they have not only seen a rise in female Asian travellers, but also male. In fact, shopping from Asia visitors (both male and female) yields the highest revenue to the destination. Some of its luxury retailers say as much as 50% of purchases are made by Asian visitors. The wide acceptance of China Union Pay debit and credit cards in Beverly Hills adds convenience to shopping from mainland China.

To ensure they are 'China ready', the Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau (BHCVB) has ensured that several of its five star hotels include amenities such as Chinese breakfasts, tea and packaged noodles with kettles in each room, Chinese newspapers and slippers. They are also working closely with a local affiliate of China National Television in Guangzhou to investigate adding Chinese TV stations in their hotel rooms. The Visitor Center also employs bilingual staff who are trained to assist visitors with directions, suggestions and collateral all in-language. BHCVB will use their participation at Luxperience as a platform to update Asian buyer delegates at the global business exchange, on these initiatives.

Luxperience 2014 will take place from 31 August to 3 September 2014 in Sydney Australia.

For further information on participation at Luxperience 2014, please contact: or visit

Shangri-La Commissions Life-Sized Artwork In Support Of Elephant Parade Hong Kong

In support of the Asian Elephant Foundation, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has commissioned acclaimed Hong Kong-based contemporary artist Man Fung-Yi to craft a life-sized infant elephant statue for Hong Kong’s Elephant Parade – the world’s largest art exhibition of decorated elephant statues, in aid of Asian elephant conservation – that will take place from 1 August to 9 September 2014.

Entitled “Suspended Moments”, Shangri-La’s 1.5-metre-tall elephant is a collaborative effort between Man Fung-Yi and Mok Yat-San, and it will be based on Man’s signature style of sculpture, in which synthesised metal strands are intricately woven to form an expressive artwork. The Shangri-La installation, when completed in July, will be displayed at Swire Properties’ malls including Pacific Place, Cityplaza and Citygate Outlets this summer, along with a colourful herd of 100 one-of-a-kind baby elephant statues to form one of the world’s largest exhibits of decorated elephants.

“We’re thrilled to lend our voice to Elephant Parade’s global movement to support the conservation and protection of elephants,” said Patricia Gallardo, Shangri-La’s director of corporate social responsibility and sustainability. “The integration of education with visual arts is creative, meaningful and aligns perfectly with Sanctuary, Shangri-La’s Care for Nature projects around the world.”

Following the exhibition, Shangri-La’s elephant sculpture and approximately 20 statues will be auctioned at a gala dinner on 11 September at Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong. Proceeds from the auction, conducted by Sotheby’s, will benefit the Asian Elephant Foundation, an international conservation organisation that promotes awareness of endangered species.

Monday, 28 April 2014

New fact sheet on internet usuage by visitors to NSW

The internet has changed the way consumers plan and book their travel and also how they stay connected while they travel. A new factsheet on internet use by visitors to NSW is now available on the Destination NSW website.

The paper highlights the following:
  • The internet is the most commonly used source of information for both the international and domestic markets to NSW.
  • International visitors, especially Western markets, are more likely to use the internet before and during their trip than domestic visitors.
  • The four biggest international markets in terms of number of visitors who use the internet during their trips in Australia are New Zealand, United Kingdom, USA and China.
  • The trend of using mobile phones for accessing the internet, especially amongst the Asian markets, means that businesses should ensure their websites are optimised for mobile viewing.
  • Internet users from the international market are more likely to be aged 15 to 29 years while internet users from the domestic market are more likely to be aged 30 to 44 years.
  • The most commonly pre-booked items on the internet among international visitors are international airfare and among domestic visitors was accommodation.
  • Smartphones and notebook/laptop are the most common devices used by international visitors. A lower proportion of international visitors use hand held devices to access the internet. Maps are the most popular information accessed via hand held devices for international visitors.
  • Making Wi-Fi available, especially free Wi-Fi, is also critical to visitors being able to easily find information and book travel arrangements during their trip.

To view the fact sheet, visit the Destination NSW website.

Historic Macau Arts Festival Has a Silver Lining

Ruins of St Paul's
The iconic and much photographed Ruins of St Paul's and the 1920s built Tap Seac Gallery are among a host of historic venues in the limelight for this year's annual 25th Macau Arts Festival.

The 1860-built Dom Pedro V Theatre – the first western style theatre to open in China – will also play a starring role along with Lou Kau Mansion, built in 1889 as the former residence of Lou Sio Wa (also known as Lou Kau), a prominent Macau businessman.

Set to begin on May 2, the month-long Silver Jubilee event (until June 8) has attracted an international array of performers from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Portugal, UK, France, USA, Canada, Argentina, Japan, and Singapore.

There will be 31 acts in 16 different venues, more than half of which will be local productions.

Organised by the Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Macau SAR Government, the festival will also feature comprehensive exhibitions and outdoor programs - more than 200 events “striving to vitalise the citizens' cultural lives and to broaden their artistic horizons”.

Shows for all tastes will take to the stage, at the city's performing arts venues as well as the many UNESCO World Heritage sites.

This year, the festival will be themed 'Impulse' . . . a metaphor for the surging power of the arts which not only nourishes sentiments but boosts creativity.

Opening the festival will be a concert featuring local musical elites in Tap Seac Square.

A Dream of Light, bringing one more original audiovisual mapping show to the Ruins of St. Paul's from May 31 to June 8 (at 8pm and 9pm), is set to bring the festival to a “scintillating close”.

On May 3 and 4, at 8pm, the Dom Pedro V Theatre will host Venetians Want to Get a House, the most recent production by the Macao Experimental Theatre.

An adaptation of Clybourne Park, a recent play by American playwright Bruce Norris, awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play, the play explores the impact of fast-paced urban development.

Details: Macau Government Tourist Office,

Top 10 Travel Trends for 2014 announced by Benchmark Hospitality

Benchmark Hospitality International®, a leading U.S.-based hospitality management company, announced the “Top Ten Travel Trends for 2014″ as observed through a survey of the company’s extensive database of professional travel agents. In a Benchmark-commissioned study, over 20,000 travel professionals were provided a comprehensive survey on consumer and business travel in 2014, for review and submission to an independent market research firm for compilation and analysis. Hospitality industry experts domestically and internationally, Benchmark introduced two of the hotel industry’s newest consumer brands in February: the Personal Luxury Resorts & Hotels® and the Benchmark Resorts & Hotels® collections.

“The objective for this research study of travel professionals,” said Ted Davis, chief marketing and sales officer for Benchmark Hospitality International, “was to gain insights into current and anticipated travel trends, and also solicit candid observations on how our company’s Personal Luxury and Benchmark Resorts collections can better serve the needs of the travel community.” Mr. Davis continued with, “We greatly value our partnerships with travel professionals and take a sincere interest in understanding their needs and how we can better serve them and the changing travel expectations of their customers.”

Trend #1 The Travel Industry is Poised for Strong Growth! Eight out of ten travel agents surveyed are highly upbeat about industry growth through 2014 and beyond. Over half are projecting “strong growth.”

Trend #2 Leisure Travel Leads The Way Nearly 75 percent of growth in travel is leisure related, with half of this growth coming from the luxury segment. It’s travel at a personal cost, however. A quarter of the travel professionals felt that the line of demarcation between business and personal travel is further blurring, with many executives bringing work with them on family and romantic vacations — aided in large part by advances in communications technology.

Trend #3 The Specter of Direct Bookings What keeps travel agents up at night? It’s not terrorism affecting travel, or elevated costs or even OTA competition. It is customers increasingly bypassing the agents and booking directly. TAs see this as the greatest potential negative effect on their business in 2014.

Trend #4 Hit the Beach, See the World After six years of the greatest recession in living memory, travelers are ready to pack their bags, drop in a beach towel, and see the world. TAs are seeing strong expenditures in domestic beach-related travel – nearly 50% and with particular emphasis on Hawaii, the south and southwest, which following the winter of 2013-2014 may not be a surprise. Caught up on their tan, leisure travelers are boarding planes and heading abroad with the remaining 50% trekking across the Atlantic to Europe. Those who still need more sun are flying south to the Caribbean or on to South America.

Trend #5 Who is Spending? It’s the Boomers by far. Nearly 60% of travel agent bookings last year were from this group of consumers, followed by Seniors and GenXers both coming in at about 15% of bookings. The much focused-on Millennials account for less than 9% of travel expenditures for the year. Boomers may be spending, but they still demand value for the dollar. Nearly 50% of travel professionals view rate as the critical factor in the consumer travel decision process.

Trend #6 Online Travel Reviews and their Effect It’s huge, according to TAs, and growing. An overwhelming number — 80% — feel we’ve only seen the beginning of this consumer phenomenon. And over 50% of the travel agents surveyed use these online reviews in determining booking decisions for their customers. Hoteliers and airlines take note!

Trend #7 Most Important Features at Hotels & Resorts Well, yes, location is #1 for apparent reasons. But #2 isn’t free parking, or the availability of spa services, or numerous other possible traveler concerns. It’s Free Internet, and properties that continue to charge for this service should take note that this is deemed more important for travelers than the number of stars or diamonds a property achieves. Free Internet access is seen as a traveler’s right!

Trend #8 Hotel Websites Sell An attractive, appealing and user-friendly website with a direct booking option generates reservations. Maybe not a surprise to most, but what is interesting is that travel agents use this method 34% of the time for making reservations (GDS is 38% of TA bookings). You can toss your fax machine, though; it’s used for bookings only 1% of the time according to the study.

Trend #9 This Changes Everything! Well over half of the travel agents responding felt a paradigm shift occurred when the world went mobile. With around the clock accessibility, pop-up travel deals, immediate rate checks and even securing directions on your phone en route to a destination has given travelers, for the first time, the world at their fingertips no matter where they are on the globe. Hotels and resorts without mobile sites are left in the dust. A few key words from the TAs: mobile sites should be relevant, brief, readable, and formatted for ease of use.

Trend #10 Advice to the Hotel Industry from Travel Agents Ok, maybe not officially a trend, but this is increasingly top of mind with travel professionals and they wanted to share these words of advice with hoteliers: Keep your rooms and water glasses clean. Replace worn carpet. Invite us over — FAM trips are back and there’s no better way for us to meet you and experience your property. Never forget the importance of customer service, ever! Partner with us for a win-win. We understand what “incidental revenue” means, but please don’t nickel & dime our customers. Your websites are beautiful, but we urge you to have your vital information just one click away. Always deliver value. And finally, we’ve said it before and we’re saying it again – travelers want Internet access to be FREE!

Shangri-La Hotel, Lhasa Opens

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts’ new 289-room urban retreat in Lhasa awaits guests eager to explore one of the world’s most storied destinations. The debut of Shangri-La Hotel, Lhasa today marks a sort of homecoming for the hotel group, as the legendary Shangri-La – the mythical “paradise on earth” set in the Himalayas – was the inspiration for the Hong Kong-based luxury hotel brand.

The newly-built Shangri-La Hotel, Lhasa has been designed to provide guests with an authentic window onto Tibetan culture and hospitality. While every Shangri-La hotel is known for its warm welcome, in Lhasa guests are greeted with the offering of a hada (a traditional ceremonial white silk scarf) and the throwing of barley on the chema (a wooden container used by Tibetans to pray for a bumper harvest) before being escorted to their guestroom. There, they are served yak butter tea in Tibetan pots. Upon departure, guests are sent off to the sound of the hotel staff singing traditional Tibetan songs and playing Tibetan string instruments.

“It is extremely important wherever we operate hotels that we embrace the local community and culture and our hotels reflect this authentically in both their design and offerings,” said Ester Marcaida, general manager of Shangri-La Hotel, Lhasa. “We are excited to open our doors today and welcome our first guests.”

Travellers to Lhasa won’t find a better home base for taking in the stunning scenery or exploring Lhasa’s culturally significant Buddhist sites, including the Potala Palace and Norbulingka Palace, both of which are within walking distance from the hotel. Lhasa, the administrative centre of Tibet, is set on a plateau soaring 3,650 metres above sea level and is encircled by mountains, glaciers and desert-like landscape. To help guests make the most of their visit, agents located in Routes, the hotel’s one-stop business centre, can arrange group and individual travel, tours and sightseeing for them.

Guests will catch one of many enchanting views of the Potala Palace upon arrival at the hotel. But first, after passing through the hotel’s impressive Tibetan gate, they will discover a traditional Linka garden planted with indigenous plants and flowers and bookmarked by two hand-crafted pavilions illuminated by yak butter lamps in the evening.

Inside the hotel, the lobby’s design pays homage to elements found in traditional Tibetan culture. The visual anchor of the lobby lounge is a 6.5-metre bell-like chandelier made from 61,000 pieces of crystal and draped in flowing red fabric. The chandelier is reminiscent of a prayer wheel and is complemented by the lounge’s warm tones and earthy colours which are drawn from thangkas (Tibetan paintings). Next to the lounge is reception, where a floating cloud installation creates a dream-like space. Signifying unity and strength, the ancient Tibetan symbols of swirling clouds are made into a contemporary work of art using hammered oxidised bronze.

Warmly lit corridors and colourful carpets embedded with the cloud motif lead the way to the hotel’s 262 luxurious guestrooms and 17 expansive suites. Rooms are spacious with a minimum size of 42 square metres. Each room category highlights the bold colours and delicate details found in Tibetan culture, dress and art. The stay experience is enhanced with garden, mountain or Potala Palace views as well as complimentary mini-bar upon arrival and free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel. In addition, the hotel’s signature Horizon Club Rooms and Horizon Club Lounge, which open in July, provide a host of extra benefits to guests including Club concierge service, breakfast and evening cocktails.

Visitors to Lhasa are advised to acclimate to the altitude, and Shangri-La Hotel, Lhasa offers the most comprehensive well-being facilities in the city to help facilitate this, including the first oxygen lounge in a hotel as well as a full-service clinic. Inside the glass-walled lounge the oxygen level is the same as that at sea level, so guests can breathe comfortably while relaxing and enjoying reflexology treatments. In addition, guests can unwind in CHI, The Spa, which offers signature massages and facials along with a menu of Tibetan-inspired treatments. Leisure facilities also include a fully equipped gym and a 25-metre indoor swimming pool.

Among the extensive entertainment outlets is Shambala, the hotel’s signature restaurant and bar on Level 3. Shambala specialises in Tibetan and Yunnan cuisine and opens in July. The venue features a dining area and lounge, bar and outdoor patio seating. Shambala’s warm interior is dimly lit by lights reminiscent of oil lanterns carried by monks, while the walls are draped in Tibetan hand-crafted carpets. Other Tibetan influences include decorative metal fixtures across low ceiling beams and the repetitive use of the auspicious endless knot.

On the same level is Lodger’s Lounge, where guests can relax and enjoy light snacks and beverages. Sharing a patio with the lounge is Altitude, the hotel’s all-day dining restaurant serving a variety of local and international cuisines. Lavish buffets for breakfast and dinner are on offer (with an a la carte menu at lunchtime). Guests can indulge in range of items, everything from fresh imported seafood to local cheese and cold cuts to yak steaks hot off the grill.

Shangri-La’s signature Chinese restaurant, Shang Palace, serves Sichuan and authentic Cantonese. It blends traditional Chinese and Tibetan styles in a contemporary fashion. The corridor leading to the restaurant is lined with six illuminated Tibetan drums – measuring 150 centimetres in diameter – gracefully hung against the wall. Just beyond the majestic entrance is the main dining area decorated with floor-to-ceiling screens. For intimate gatherings, the restaurant offers 10 lavishly decorated private dining rooms. Shangri-La Hotel, Lhasa also offers extensive event and conference facilities, including the city’s largest ballroom and an event terrace overlooking Potala Palace and the surrounding mountain range.

Turbo-charged action set for 2014 Gauteng Motor Show

The annual Gauteng Motor Show is once again gearing up to deliver it’s highly anticipated one-stop extreme ‘moto-tainment’ show, merging the thrill of live-action performances with audience entertainment aplenty.

A new year of automotive action brings with it a new show venue in the form of the well-known Rock Raceway circuit on Johannesburg’s East Rand, where the Gauteng Motor Show will run from 25 – 27 July.

Providing pulse-racing excitement for petrol heads and motoring enthusiasts as well as an octane-fuelled day out for the whole family, this popular automotive show is proudly brought to you by Thebe Reed Exhibitions, Southern Africa’s leading exhibitions and events company.

Driven by these big-name event organisers, this year’s show is firmly on track to deliver a power-packed entertainment line-up; a multi-layered experience with displays of the dazzling and daring, as well as a plethora of high-performance automotive products.

Rene Staack of Thebe Reed Exhibitions says, “We’re very excited about this year’s event! The Gauteng Motor Show is really on the ‘move’; we are now bringing the event to the East Rand crowd and providing them with a truly action-packed show. Highlights of the 2014 Gauteng Motor Show will undoubtedly include the popular Supadrift Series, Drag Racing, Hot Laps and a host of exhilarating driving experiences.”

Visitors can also look forward to driving simulators, cool competitions and bike stunts, whilst a wide range of kiddies’ entertainment and live music will keep both young and old enthralled!

The wide range of show experiences will be complemented by over 150 exhibitors featuring an abundance of products representing multiple aspects of the motor industry, meaning visitors will have a dynamic showcase of drive technologies, products and services to choose from.

Thousands flock to enjoy vibrant Hue Festival

The “Dem Hoang Cung” (Royal Night) event, one of the highlights of the festival, took place on April 15 on an evening packed with music, dancing, games and cuisine once favoured by Hue’s royal court.
Visitors were taken back in time for some lively scenes, including a royal feast and a changing of the guard ceremony. They were also offered the chance to see historical remnants from the royal era, including the imperial autographs of the Nguyen Dynasty’s kings.
Meanwhile, a “Dem Phuong Dong” (Oriental Night) event celebrating the beauty, glamour and distinctive characteristics of many Asian countries’ costumes was held on the same evening in Thai Hoa Temple, inside the Hue Royal Palace.
Taking part were designers from 11 countries, including Japan, China, India, Mongolia and Thailand.

Earlier in the day, an Asian food festival was held in Hue’s Phu Xuan Park, featuring dishes from many regional nations, including Vietnam.

According to Nguyen Van Tuan, Director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, the event helped promote the host country’s culinary tradition and improved tourism links between participating nations.

The festival, which will run until April 20, has also offered performances from artistic troupes hailing from all around the world – from Japanese drum performances to Belgian stilt walking demonstrations.
More than 97,000 holiday-makers have flocked to the central province of Thua Thien-Hue for the festival, 48 percent of them from overseas (spread across 103 nations).
The number of French tourists accounted for the highest rate, with 7,263 people, followed by 6,271 from Thailand.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Las Vegas Monorail carries its 60 millionth passenger

The Las Vegas Monorail Company carried its 60 millionth passenger recently with the lucky rider receiving enticing gifts including a weekend stay, souvenirs and tickets to iconic Las Vegas shows and attractions. Steve Riley from San Diego was the lucky passenger who was greeted by Las Vegas Host Committee Chairman & official ambassador of Las Vegas, Oscar Goodman with his signature martini, traditional showgirls, Monorail representatives and a showering of Las Vegas prizes.

When asked why they chose the Monorail to navigate the Las Vegas Strip, Steve said, “[The Las Vegas Monorail] is a very convenient and effective way to get around Las Vegas, and we take it every time we are here.”

The prize package the lucky passenger received included:
  • 2 night stay at Bally’s: Caesars Entertainment
  • Dinner for 2: The Palm Restaurant at Caesars Palace
  • 2 Tickets to Jubilee: Caesars Entertainment
  • 2 tickets for High Roller at The Linq: Caesars Entertainment
  • 2 tickets to Absinthe: Outdoor Solutions
  • Dinner for 2: Pampas Brazilian Grille
  • Las Vegas Night Strip Bus Tour w/Champagne Toast: Grayline Las Vegas
  • Las Vegas Strip helicopter flight for 2: Papillon Grand Canyon Helicopters
  • Raft Trip for 2: Black Canyon Adventures
  • Bootleg Canyon Zipline Tour for 2: Flightlinez
  • CSI: The Experience Gift Package
  • myVEGAS hat & travel mug
  • Admission for 2: Mob Museum
  • Welcome to Las Vegas light up sign: LVCVA

Ninh Binh festival worships Saint Quy Minh Dai Vuong

Quy Minh Dai Vuong is worshipped across Ninh Binh province for his contributions to defending the country during the reign of the 18th Hung King. Legend has him as one of three generals in Vietnamese history to be apotheosised. The others are Saint Tan Vien and Saint Cao Son.

Alongside thousands of visitors and locals, Vice President Doan joined in a fish-releasing ceremony, a water procession and an incense offering to pray for the peace and prosperity of the nation and for favourable weather conditions, bumper crops and happiness among the people.

Those in attendance were also offered a chance to take free ferryboat rides to contemplate the imposing and picturesque scenery of the Trang An–Bai Dinh complex.

In recent years, the Ninh Binh provincial authorities have placed the festival within its tourism promotion scheme in a bid to gain assistance from international friends to help Trang An scenic landscape complex win the title of ‘natural wonder of the world’.

ATM ups the ante with expanded line-up

The latest statistics from ATM organiser, Reed Travel Exhibitions, indicate that demand from new exhibitors at ATM, which takes place at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre from 5-8 May 2014, has merited the addition of an extra hall bringing total event floor space to 23,500 square metres – an increase of almost 7% on 2013.

In addition more than 100 new exhibitors will make their ATM debut including Kenzi Hospitality, IMG Worlds of Adventure, Al Rais Tours & Holidays LLC, Al-Futtaim Travel LLC, Kuwait Airways and Akbar Gulf Travels of India, adding their voice to over 2,500 confirmed exhibitors ready to welcome an expected 21,000 trade visitors.

Vertical sector growth has been repeated yet again, with travel technology company presence up 14% as technological innovation and online booking trends dominate strategic development. In terms of geographical regions, the number of Middle East and UAE exhibitors has increased by an impressive 11% with Asia exhibitors rising by 7% on 2013 attendance.

“An increasing number of home-grown hotel brands along with our spotlight on luxury tourism have contributed significantly to the 5% growth we have experienced in the hotel sector at ATM. Add to that our 120 targeted Hosted Buyers, who represent the luxury sector, cruise, medical and leisure markets, and we have the makings of an incredibly diverse event this year,” said Mark Walsh, Portfolio Director, Reed Travel Exhibitions.

The newly launched ‘Spotlight on Luxury’, which holds particular relevance for the region, will feature luxury-focused seminar sessions and invited hosted buyers directly responsible for this valuable market segment. High-end hotel and destination exhibitors will also showcase their luxury positioning with well-known hospitality brands such as Anantara, Mandarin Oriental, Raffles, Oberoi, Bulgari and The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company taking part, along with luxury destinations such as Monaco, Mauritius, Maldives and the Seychelles.

“Luxury is one of three major global trends that we have identified and incorporated into this year’s programme and offers priceless opportunities for the industry, both inbound and outbound, with GCC nationals in particular spending 260% more on airfares than other nationalities and 430% more on accommodation when they travel,” noted Walsh.

“At the other end of the spectrum, we are also seeing ongoing interest and discussions around the opportunities for development in the mid-market tourism category, from accommodation to activities, and specifically for destinations such as Dubai as it begins the countdown to its hosting of Expo 2020. And this also ties in with the third trend – the growth of home-grown brands and independent chains across the Middle East, many of which are making their presence felt at a ‘local’ level as well as looking beyond regional borders and going global as part of ambitious growth plans,” he added.

Another new feature for 2014 is the centrally located ATM Live Wall, where participants will be able to view live streaming of industry interviews, seminar excerpts and other show highlights. This will be complemented by the introduction of an Exhibitor Showcase Theatre in the heart of the action on the show floor, and the location where exhibitors will be able to present their products and services at a 30-minute session.

The ATM 2014 calendar also encompasses more than 30 wide-ranging seminar and tech theatre sessions covering aviation, cruise tourism, mobile trends and the rising demand for wellness tourism. Some of the region’s most influential business leaders including Adel Ali, CEO of Air Arabia; Simon Lynch, Director of Business Development, Abercrombie & Kent; and Mohammed Al Dhaheri, Strategy & Policy Director, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority will be speaking, supported by an international line-up of respected industry experts.

Sabre, the technology solutions provider to the global travel and tourism industry, has been named as sponsor of the popular Travel Technology Theatre where 16 dedicated sessions will address key industry topics from hints and tips for building a brand online to how to find and work with travel bloggers.

Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, Ruler of Dubai, the show has grown to become the largest showcase of its kind in the region and one of the biggest in the world.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Myanmar Tourism invests 486 million – set to attract 7 million tourists by 2020

Myanmar, one of the exotic destinations of Asia plans to woo global travelers in the days to come. The Myanmar Tourism Master Plan 2013-2020 has identified 38 projects that require USD 486 million of funding to bring tourist attractions up to an international standard, said Thein Sein, President of Myanmar. Tourist arrivals are expected to reach over seven million in 2020, and revenue from the tourism industry should reach USD 10.18 billion in the same year, which indicates explosive growth.

This is a window of opportunity for investors and tourism developers from the Gulf, as companies feel definitely enticed by the new open access to the country, with the two most remarkable developments being Qatar’s Ooredoo investing billions of dollars in Myanmar’s telecom infrastructure and Qatar Airways having opened direct flights from Doha to Yangon in October 2012, as per a report on

Tourism in Myanmar is witnessing an unprecedented boom with an astounding surge in international tourist arrivals. Tourism receipts were also skyrocketing and reached USD 926 million in 2013 as against some USD 400 million in 2012, according to official government figures. The country is confident that visitor numbers will more than double, from two million in 2012 when the reclusive nation started to make it generally easier for tourists to visit and move around, to five million by 2015, said Sein at a speech he gave earlier this month to tourism organisations in Yangon.

This is the upside of the development. The downside is that the country is in dire need of tourism and hospitality infrastructure and depends to a great extent on foreign investors to build enough hotels, resorts and roads, as well as develop formerly almost inaccessible areas that hold enormous potential for tourism such as the southern island in the Andaman Sea and the northern mountainous regions, which boast South East Asia’s highest mountains but are practically out of reach for tourists due to non-existing roads or airports.

In the tourism sector of Myanmar, practically everything is needed, most of all, hotels and related leisure facilities, together with appropriate infrastructure, the report states. Yangon, for example, is suffering from a strong undersupply in hotel rooms, which has led to extreme price distortions in the hospitality market

New Urban Adventure in Singapore makes stopover sightseeing easy

Travellers with a brief stopover in Singapore can now get under the skin of the city and experience it ‘like a local’ in just a few hours, thanks to global city tour brand, Urban Adventures.

On its new Chinatown Food Adventure (3.5 hours, US$52), travellers can tuck into an authentic local breakfast at Singapore’s largest hawker centre, with a local guide to help them navigate the 220 stalls in search of mouth-watering specialties such as toast with kaya (coconut and egg jam), chwee kueh (water rice cake) and chee cheong fun (rice noodle rolls). On a walk through Chinatown, travellers will learn about Singapore’s origins and culture as they visit the city’s oldest Chinese temple, last remaining wells and the landing place of early immigrants, before savouring a delicious local lunch.

Urban Adventures in other major stopover hubs include:

Hong Kong

With a few hours to spare, travellers can practice their bargaining skills and snap up precious gems as they are guided Around Kowloon in 8 Markets (3 hours, US$49); walk the Sun Yat-Sen historical trail and visit landmarks that tell The Story of Hong Kong (3 hours, US$49); or discover Hong Kong’s journey from fishing harbour to financial powerhouse on Old vs. New Hong Kong (3 hours, US$49).

Los Angeles

Travellers can enjoy sweet treats and impressive artworks as they explore Beverly Hills: Beyond the Botox (3 hours, US $69); savour delicious, diverse foods on the award-winning Ethnic Neighborhoods Food & Culture tour (3.5 – 4 hours, US$85); or prop up the bars frequented by Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe and Ernest Hemingway on the Historic Hollywood Stars & Bars evening tour (3 hours, US$69).


With an evening to spare, travellers can hang out in shisha bars, dance at local hotspots and wind up at the city’s best beach bar as they experience The Bright Lights and Nightlife of Dubai (4-5 hours, US$148 incl. shisha & drinks); or visit the Women’s Museum, wander the Gold Souk, cross Dubai Creek by boat and learn about local culture on The Spice of Life in Dubai (3.5 hours, US$119 incl. snacks & drinks).

Mexico City

Travellers can get a taste of the city’s bustling markets and savour local specialties, such as tamales and a steaming atole (corn-based beverage) on the Mexico City Markets and Food Tour (4 hours, US$35); or experience an unforgettable evening with drinks, dinner, Mariachi music and a Lucha Libre free-style wrestling match on a Mexican Night Out (5 hours, US$43).

The 6th Samui Bike Week ready to roar into life

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) in collaboration with the Samui Rider Club, Surat Thani Provincial Administration, Samui Hotels Association, Ko Samui Police Station and local tourism operators have come together to stage the 6th Samui Bike Week, an annual event for bike lovers and riders, from enthusiasts to professionals.

Both local and international motorbike riders and fans are invited to join the event which will take place on 2-3 May, 2014, at Chaweng Lake in the Bo Phut district of Ko Samui, Thailand.

Mr. Thawatchai Arunyik, TAT Governor said, “For bike lovers, Samui Bike Week has become something to really look forward to, as enthusiasts not just from Thailand but from all over the world come together to show off their bikes, share tales and enjoy the island. Even visitors not usually interested in the machines find it fascinating.”

The Samui Bike Week is another initiative tourism event, which aims to draw a different group of travellers to fun-loving Samui. The event also aims to promote motorbike travel as a safe and eco-friendly way of getting around Samui and beyond.

This year’s event starts on 2 May when everyone taking part comes to register. Then there will be an official opening ceremony followed by live music concerts from well-known bands. Throughout the 2-day event, bike riders will be encouraged to join the many safety campaigns aimed at spreading the message that bike helmets save lives.

A more positive side to the event, and that is the promotion of road safety among bike riders. The Samui Bike Week offers a good way to send a message that riders need to be cautious when riding around Samui and of course everywhere else.

During the bike parade that will take a tour around Ko Samui, every rider and passenger will be wearing a helmet. There will also be demonstrations and workshops in safe riding given by professional bike riders as well as exhibitions of motorbikes, competitions, booths selling biking accessories and gear, and lots of stage performances.

The TAT Governor said, “Motorbike travel is normally convenient and safe, but we want to send the message that people should wear helmets, never drive drunk and to always drive defensively. If people follow these guidelines, we can keep Samui safe for riders who know that two wheels is the best way for tourists to enjoy this lovely island in the Gulf of Thailand.”

Formerly known as Coconut Island, thanks to its hills and groves being covered in vast coconut plantations, Samui is now more famous as a holiday destination. Visitors now have a great deal more entertainment than watching monkeys harvesting coconuts, though this is still an option.

Ko Samui is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand, offering local and international visitors a range of activities to enjoy from beaches and islands to scuba diving and Muay Thai training. It is also possible to learn new skills, and enjoy sports and health activities by taking Thai cooking lessons, playing golf, or doing yoga and relaxing in a range of lovely spas.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Lest we forget

Aussies offered more ‘magical’ winter adventures in NZ

More magical winter adventures are being offered to Australians as Tourism New Zealand's successful annual ski campaign kicks into gear.

Tourism New Zealand has partnered with the Ski Tourism Marketing Network (Ski TMN) and Air New Zealand to encourage Australians to discover more magical days, nights and adventures with friends ‒ and drive visitor arrivals from this key market.

"This is the third year for the 'more magic in every day' theme, which has proven to be very effective in enticing Australians to travel to New Zealand for a winter holiday experience," says Tony Saunders, TNZ's General Manager - Australia.

"This year's campaign, running from 13 April-30 June, will take that proposition one step further as we work to attract occasional winter holiday makers and skiers with the many other attractions New Zealand has to offer in addition to snow activities."

TNZ and Air New Zealand's joint online activity is being run in conjunction with media activity across Australia, with the aim of driving visitors to the dedicated ski hub on The hub also highlights other New Zealand experiences that can complement snow activities.

New Zealand South Island ski and snow holidays have been on the increase for Australians since 2005. Over the last decade arrivals have grown significantly, especially direct arrivals into Queenstown during the winter peak months from July to September.

In response to the winter demand, Air New Zealand and Virgin Australia have announced they will operate an additional 40,000 seats to and from Queenstown over the peak winter period, while Jetstar and Qantas have also each announced extra seasonal flights between Sydney and Queenstown.

TNZ's research shows Australian ski and snow visitors are more likely to be on their first visit to New Zealand, indicating that ski and snow activities work well in attracting new visitors to our country. Many will weave other activities into their ski and snow holiday, such as adventure, luxury, and food and wine activities.

"Australia is New Zealand's largest international market for ski and snow sports, with approximately 16 per cent of Australian visitors skiing while on holiday in New Zealand. Holiday arrivals from Australia continue to peak during the winter season and our aim is to ensure this trend continues," says Tony.


Lou Kau Mansion
The iconic and much photographed Ruins of St Paul’s and the 1920s built Tap Seac Gallery are among a host of historic venues in the limelight for this year’s annual 25th Macau Arts Festival.

The 1860-built Dom Pedro V Theatre – the first western style theatre to open in China – will also play a starring role along with Lou Kau Mansion, built in 1889 as the former residence of Lou Sio Wa (also known as Lou Kau), a prominent Macau businessman.

Set to begin on May 2, the month-long Silver Jubilee event (until June 8) has attracted an international array of performers from Mainland China, Hong Kong, Portugal, UK, France, USA, Canada, Argentina, Japan, and Singapore.

There will be 31 acts in 16 different venues, more than half of which will be local productions.

Organised by the Cultural Affairs Bureau of the Macau SAR Government, the festival will also feature comprehensive exhibitions and outdoor programs - more than 200 events “striving to vitalise the citizens’ cultural lives and to broaden their artistic horizons”.

Shows for all tastes will take to the stage, at the city’s performing arts venues as well as the many UNESCO World Heritage sites.

This year, the festival will be themed ‘Impulse’ . . . a metaphor for the surging power of the arts which not only nourishes sentiments but boosts creativity.

Opening the festival will be a concert featuring local musical elites in Tap Seac Square.

A Dream of Light, bringing one more original audiovisual mapping show to the Ruins of St. Paul’s from May 31 to June 8 (at 8pm and 9pm), is set to bring the festival to a “scintillating close”.

On May 3 and 4, at 8pm, the Dom Pedro V Theatre will host Venetians Want to Get a House, the most recent production by the Macao Experimental Theatre.

An adaptation of Clybourne Park, a recent play by American playwright Bruce Norris, awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play, the play explores the impact of fast-paced urban development.

Details: Macau Government Tourist Office,

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Expanded Vivid 2014 Music Program

With music events a favourite in the Vivid Sydney festival program, a contemporary line-up of performances and talent to support the expanded Vivid Music 2014 program has been announced. This year will see venues including the Seymour Centre, and new precincts such as The Basement, Spice Cellar and Home Nightclub at Darling Harbour play host to the most varied Vivid Music program delivered to date.

Brand new event Modulations at Carriageworks (6-9 June), curated by Stephen Pavlovic, welcomes headliners Pet Shop Boys plus the additions of experimental musicians Liars, iconic Sydney restaurateurs Porteño, and artists from LA indie label Wild Records.

Three performances by multi-award winning electronic pop legends Pet Shop Boys offer a rare opportunity to experience a spectacular multi-media production in an intimate and immersive environment, and their only Australian performances of their 2013/14 Electric World tour.

Cutting edge Brooklyn artists, Liars, have been pursuing the art of music and performance for over 15 years, and have just released their seventh studio album, Mess. The Quietus describe Liars shows as ‘beautiful, bizarre and brilliant”, and they’ll be performing at Modulations on Friday 6 June.

Porteño is collaborating with their favorite LA based record label Wild Records to present an unforgettable experience at Wild Porteño, a pop up restaurant / bar open each night of the Long Weekend. On Monday 9 June, they present the ultimate Porteño live experience with performances from Wild artists The Delta Bombers, Gizzelle and Luis & The Wildfires.

The Basement at Circular Quay, one of Vivid Music’s most exciting new venues boasts a full performance schedule that features shows from incredible local talent such as Fishing, one of Australia’s most exhilarating electronic acts, who will exclusively launch their debut album only at Vivid Music. Brisbane’s Laneous & The Family Yah, The Big Village and the rap-obsessed Halfway Crooks will make their Vivid debuts, alongside Australia’s future-soul beacon Ngaiire, whose first Vivid show will introduce keen new audiences to a wild, deeply moving and renowned live performance featuring soon to be announced special guests.

In a first for Vivid Music, Spice Spektrum, hosted at The Spice Cellar, will treat audiences to a fusion of food, music and mood. A visual twist on SPICE will light up each night of the week with different colours. Each colour will be interpreted through music, food and visuals to stimulate the senses during Vivid Sydney. Each evening will be represented by different colours to offer a unique emotional, culinary and entertainment experience.

Other newly announced talent for Vivid Music includes Holeandcorner, performing at Home Nightclub during the Queen’s Birthday week, in an event which will see the club host its most varied electronic music line-up ever, including DJ’s Hot Chip and Mathew Dear, Guy J, Henry Sais and Cosmin TRG.

Further additions to the Vivid Music 2014 program will be announced shortly including Spectrum at The Argyle.

The centrepiece of Vivid Music, Vivid LIVE at the Sydney Opera House features a stellar 2014 line-up, curated by Fergus Linehan, including Pixies, Giorgio Moroder, and Timeline, a special collaboration between the Australian Chamber Orchestra, led by Richard Tognetti and electro-pop duo The Presets – in which they present the history of music in two hours.

The Vivid Sydney 2014 program is available at

China’s Shandong Airlines to purchase 50 Boeing 737 worth $4.6bn

China’s Shandong Airlines has placed an order for 50 Boeing 737 aircraft worth $4.6bn (£2.7bn) at list prices. Boeing has not officially confirmed the order, but China is looking to increase its fleet to meet the domestic demand. The Chinese government too has not officially approved the order.

Boeing however said in an official statement that, “Boeing is delighted with Shandong Airlines’ strong interest in the efficient 737 airplane and we continue to work with them and the Chinese government to determine the best way to meet their requirement,” the plane maker said in a statement.

The 100-200 seat narrow-body, or single-aisle, aircraft market is forecast to generate $20 trillion (£12.8tn) worth of sales for plane makers over the next 20 years. Also a growing number of fuel efficient plane makers are reaching out to the growing number of airlines, and the completion is increasing. Airbus’s A320 and Boeing’s 737 aircraft are ruing this sector.

With this win Boeing will not only be competing with Airbus but also with China’s domestic state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac). Comac is also targeting the 100-200 seat plane market with its C919 aircraft.

The firm has already got 400 orders for the C919 – mostly from China – and many analysts expect it to win more orders, especially from domestic carriers.

Chinese airline, Air China reported that the first quarter will be 65% lower compared to the last year due to the falling value of yuan. Since the aircraft purchase is mostly done in US. dollars, the state owned aircraft recorded a net profit of 249m yuan (£23.7m) in the first quarter of 2013. Rival China Southern Airlines warned on profits for the same reason last week.

According to a statement of Air China the yuan fell by 2.7% against the US dollar in the first quarter of the year. The financial expenses have grown higher compared to this time in 2013 due to the loss in exchange price.

Play to Stay with #D2orange for a chance to win a 2-night stay at dusitD2 Phuket Resort!

On the eve of the launch for its newest resort to open in Thailand, Dusit International invites its online community to participate in a fun, interactive game to welcome the dusitD2 Phuket Resort to its growing family of international hotels and resorts.

From 22nd April through 25th May 2014, friends and fans of the Dusit International and dusitD2 Phuket Resort’s Facebook pages are invited to post a photo of themselves with anything bright orange, the signature colour of the dusitD2 brand, along with the hashtag #D2orange on the Dusit International Instagram page. Qualifying photos will count as one entry towards the draw for the grand prize: a 2-night’s stay at the new resort, inclusive of breakfast for two.

Located only one block from Phuket island’s popular Patong Beach and within walking distance to the Jungceylon shopping and leisure complex, the vibrant dusitD2 Phuket Resort aims to become a destination in its own right, boasting 390 stylish guest rooms and suites and an array of iconic lifestyle and entertainment outlets, including a Hard Rock Café. Additionally, a scenic rooftop bar is currently under construction, designed to add to the hotel’s destination appeal.

The opening of the new resort is in keeping with the company’s aggressive expansion plans for the vibrant, young “next generation” dusitD2 brand. “With eight dusitD2 hotels in the pipeline, from California, USA to Nairobi, Kenya, 2014 will certainly see a spotlight on the dusitD2 brand,” says Dusit International Group Director of Development, Mr Rustom Vickers.

“We eagerly look forward to the dusitD2 Phuket Resort being the first of these hotels to open this year, and we are confident that its location on Phuket Island and comprehensive selection of attractions will make it a great success.”

The dusitD2 Phuket Resort slated to host its Grand Opening event on 16 May 2014. For more information on the hotel’s special opening rates, please visit

Additional Links:
Dusit International Facebook page:
dusitD2 Phuket Resort’s Facebook page:
Dusit International’s Instagram page:
“Play to Stay with #D2Orange” Rules and Regulations:

Around America in 6 Months - An Australian family explores the U.S. in an RV rental camping adventure loop of North America

David Nelson and Kirsten Swick and their three children Eleanor, Jacqui, and Stephanie will be seeing more of the U.S. this year on their vacation than most Americans see in their lifetime. The Australian family from Perth rented a motorhome from El Monte RV and left the companies’ Los Angeles location on April 25th. They won’t be returning until October 10th. Their plans start with visiting a variety of sites including national and state parks on the west coast, Las Vegas, then across the southern U.S. to Florida. From Florida the family will then travel up the east coast of the United States to end up in Montreal, Canada. Following Montreal they will then be visiting sites throughout the mid-west. After all this they will travel across the northern U.S. and then return back to Los Angeles to return the vehicle.

The couple, who will start the trip travelling with little one year old Stephanie, told us they expect New York City, Mt. Rushmore, and the National Parks to be highlights of the vacation. Eleanor, 10, and Jacqi, 8, will soon join mom, dad, and little sister in Las Vegas.

This is the family’s first RV rental trip and they are excited to explore the possibilities. David, who spends a great deal of time sailing and is used to the tight quarters involved, said he thinks the family will enjoy spending time together and appreciate that the vehicle doesn’t rock while its stationary.

The couple pointed to the favourable exchange rate between U.S. and Australian currencies as one of the primary motivators in their decision to make the trip at this time. “It is much less expensive than it used to be.” Said Kirsten.

“Normally when we come to the U.S. we fly from city to city or drive around,” said David, when discussing the trip. “We wanted to experience as much of America as possible.”

When asked what recommendations they had for others that might want to plan a similar trip, Kirsten replied, “Allow sufficient time for proper planning and preparation. You should give yourself at least 3-4 months to plan your route, camp sites, destinations, etc.”

About El Monte RV

Headquartered in Los Angeles, El Monte RV is one of America’s leading motorhome rental and sales companies, catering to both international and domestic travellers. The company has experienced rapid growth throughout the United States, thanks to its reputation for exceptional customer service. For more information about El Monte RV, contact +612 8354 5400 or visit