Saturday, 30 April 2016

2016 Helpmann Awards Hosts and Performances Announced

With the 16th annual Helpmann Awards set to dazzle at the Sydney Lyric Theatre on Monday 25 July, Live Performance Australia (LPA) today announced the line-up of Hosts for the Ceremony, and Performances. Additionally it was announced that tickets will go on sale to this iconic live theatre event on Monday 2 May through Ticketmaster.

Hosts for the evening will be Adam Garcia, Helen Dallimore, Guy Noble, Simon Philips,Queenie van de Zandt, and The Umbilical Brothers.

The preliminary line-up will include performances by the casts of Matilda the Musical, The Sound of Music, and Singin’ in the Rain, with individual performances by Marina Prior & Mark Vincent, and Sarah Blasko, together with Bangarra Dance Theatre and The West Australian Ballet as well as the winner of the Sydney International Piano Competition.

The Helpmann Awards are the premier celebration of Australia’s vibrant live performance industry and recognise distinguished achievement and excellence in Australia’s live performance sectors, including musical theatre, contemporary music, comedy, opera, classical music, theatre, dance and physical theatre, children’s presentations, regional touring, and cabaret.

LPA Chief Executive, Ms Evelyn Richardson said last year’s Helpmann Awards sold out in record time. Given the extraordinary calibre of shows presented on stages across the country, we expect this year to be a night to remember.

“Audiences are integral to the success and vitality of the live performance industry. It is only fitting they join in the celebration of the Helpmann Awards alongside the industry’s biggest stars.”

“Tickets are limited so fans of the live performance industry are urged to purchase tickets to the Helpmann Awards today to avoid disappointment.”

NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres said, “The Helpmann Awards is the pinnacle celebration of Australia’s live performance industry and an opportunity to applaud and recognise our creative talent. As the nation’s hub of culture and creative industries, Sydney is a fitting home for the Helpmanns and the NSW Government is proud to support the event through our tourism and major events agency Destination NSW. I encourage everyone to start planning their visit to Sydney now to be a part of this spectacular occasion.”

Ticketing information for General Public:

Tickets On Sale 9am Monday 2 May


The Helpmann Awards are proudly supported by the New South Wales Government, through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.

The 2016 Helpmann Awards Ceremony will be performed on the set of Singin' in the Rain.

Tocal Field Days 2016

Tocal Field Days visitor entry
I was fortunate to attend the first day of the Tocal Field Days yesterday. This is an annual three day event held at the Tocal Agricultural College in the Hunter Valley of NSW Australia. It is on again today Saturday 30 April, with the last day on tomorrow Sunday 1 May.

Most people drive to the Field days, as it is just 14km and a 20 minute drive from Maitland. Volunteers efficiently guide the large numbers of cars arriving into organised free parking areas next to the Field Day site. Shuttle buses go around the furtherest parts of the car park to collect people and take them to the visitor entry gates.

However, this year I decided to use public transport to get to the Tocal Field Days. My well prepared travel plans went a little bit astray when the train trip from Muswellbrook was replaced by a longer trip by bus due to track works. (Mental thought - why doesn't The Australian Rail Track Corporation check out what major community events are being held to avoid track works clashing with them?)

The good news is there was a free shuttle bus that went from the Maitland Station to the Tocal Field Days. These travel on the hour from 9am, and return on half past the hour up to 4.30pm.

There is lots to see and do at the Tocal Field Days. There are displays, demonstrations, talks, competitions, and entertainment. 

Mowers... and more mowers
Exhibitors display the latest products for farmers on large and small acreages. Backyard farmers are also catered for. However, you do not need to be a farmer to come along to the Field Days, as there is something of interest for everyone. As well as numerous tractors on display, I noticed several stands with various types of lawn mowers, ranging from push mowers to ride on ones.

The Lifestyle Marquee has products for the home. The Good Food and Wine Area inside and near the College Hall has a range of wonderful food and drinks for sampling and buying. The Craft Area in and around the College buildings has various handcrafts on display and for sale. There is an area near the entrance to the Field Days site that features The Land, Plants and Environment. Of interest here are plants for sale from nurseries for the home garden and farm. 

Demonstrations include quad bike safety demonstrations, working dog displays, sheep shearing, worm farming, and a kitchen fire demo. The beekeeping demonstrations were a real buzz. 

There are fun things to see, such as piglet racing and a billy boiling competition that anyone can enter. Local talent is showcased, and various school concert and marching bands perform. You can listen to poets who have entered the Bush Poetry Competition.

The animal nursery section has various young animals on display, with some available for purchase, These include chooks, ducks, sheep, cattle, goats, and llamas. I especially liked the miniature goats and silky chooks. Down in the covered horse arena various horse displays were staged.

Tocal Homstead
I enjoyed looking through the Tocal Homestead that was open for inspection, and listening to one of the history talks held on the front lawn under the shade of one of the large trees. I had a horse and dray ride and saw a blacksmith in action. In contrast to all the history on show was a display of drones that can be programmed and used for farm monitoring.  

Snacks, meals and refreshments are on sale from commercial caterers, local schools and community groups. These are to be found in Eat Street, The Wedge, Children's Park, and the Good Food and Wine Area. Sit down meals are available in the Dining Rooms, and Devonshire Teas are provided by a local CWA group in the Chapel, and by the Friends of Tocal at the Tocal Homestead. I particularly enjoyed the scones freshly cooked in the wood oven at the Homestead.

Federal Scout 1927
As well as all the brand new modern farm machinery at the Tocal Field Days, there is also a display of vintage farm machinery from much earlier days.

On the home front there are home decor products, clothing, hats, and a Bake or Burn Competition. Children are well catered for with various activities they can join in.

A special event on Sunday is the Ute Muster, where people are invited to come and enter their utes in the various sections of the competition and be awarded prizes. 

A full list of exhibitors, maps and daily programs can be found in the 40 page Tocal Field Days Guide Book. This can be viewed online at the Tocal Field Days Website, or picked up at the entry gates.

"Harry" pulling the dray

Tocal Field Days 2016

Address: 815 Tocal Road, Paterson NSW 2421
Admission: Adults $18, Seniors $13, Children $1.
Come back pass: $10 to re-enter the following day  
Gate Open: Fri, Sat 9am-5pm; Sun 9am-4pm
Parking : free

What are the top 5 sustainable travel destinations for 2016?

The world’s changing fast. The climate is warming. Wildlife migration patterns are changing. Some of our natural resources are dwindling. And sometimes it feels like the people with power have no interest in doing anything about it. Sometimes, it seems, the rest of us – those without a lot of political or philanthropic sway, but who do want to do something about it – are powerless to stem the literal rising tide of ecological disaster.

But it’s important to know that we’re not powerless – and every little thing we do, no matter how seemingly small, can and does help. Whether it’s recycling cans and bottles in your own community, or participating in fundraisers, or even spreading awareness of environmental news on social media – if we all pitch in, all those “little things” can add up to a whole lot of momentum.

Probably the most impactful way you can show your support for the environment is with your wallet. Buying fair trade and organic food supplies, reclaimed or recycled furniture and toiletries, and clothing made with sustainably farmed and manufactured materials are all ways you can make a difference.

You can also help protect the environment while traveling (for fun!), without needing to participate in a volunteer program, to some of the world’s many sustainable travel destinations? You can indeed have an amazing vacation in an exotic locale and do it responsibly, sustainably, and in a way that supports local conservation and education initiatives. Every year our favorite sustainable travel destinations change, but here’s our list of the top 5 destinations (in no particular order) for 2016!

Happy travels, and we hope you have a fun and responsible journey!


This growing African country played second fiddle to the likes of Kenya and South Africa for decades, but in the last few years, it’s quickly grown into one of the world’s most popular safari destinations. That’s because a Botswana safari is a true wildlife lover’s paradise, as the country boasts more protected and endangered animals in their natural habitat than any other country on the continent. It’s also extremely ecologically diverse – from enormous red sand deserts to lush and watery deltas, Botswana’s geography will constantly keep you on your toes.

This year, Botswana is celebrating 50 years of independence. Within those 5 decades it has progressed from a wild, impoverished country into a thriving, economically stable, politically progressive, and conservationally-focused society that concentrates resources on the development of its infrastructure alongside the protection of its natural environment.

In fact, over 17% of the country is protected as National Park land, and your tourism dollars get funneled directly into conservation programs therein. The famed Okavango Delta became UNESCO’s 1,000th World Heritage site in 2014, and is a major focus of wildlife rehabilitation initiatives in the country. A major 2015 initiative helped rehome over 100 endangered rhino from South Africa through a program called “Rhinos Without Borders” – the rhino were at high risk of poaching, and the undertaking was the largest of its kind, but every rhino was successfully rehomed and they are now protected in Botswana’s huge (and extremely poacher-unfriendly) parks.


The stunning Pacific island nation of Palau is one of the world’s foremost snorkelling and diving destinations – and it’s fighting to stay that way!

The President of Palau – Tommy Remengesau Jr. – famously stated in a 2014 UN oceans conference that “The economy is our environment and the environment is our economy.” He said this on the eve of his declaration that 100% of his nation’s territorial waters would become a marine sanctuary – there would be no commercial fishing tolerated in any of Palau’s waters. No other nation has a 100% protected marine ecosystem. This decree came just a few years after Remengesau created an enormous shark sanctuary in those same waters.

Since Palau’s waters became protected conservation territory, they have come to be known colloquially as the “Serengeti of the Sea.” The sanctuary itself is roughly the size of Texas.

The nutrient-rich waters are home to countless beautiful and exotice marine wildlife, and for this reason there are few places in the world more thrilling and wondrous to.dive or snorkel. Some proceeds from a Palau snorkeling expedition go to protect the ocean habitat.


When it comes to environmental protection and conservation, few countries are as forward-thinking as Uruguay. The nation has fully embraced the idea and implementation of green energy. In fact, they have some of the most progressive green energy policies in the world – 21 wind farms were in development at the beginning of 2014, and the country’s environmental cabinet made a goal back in 2005 to have 90% of the country’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2015; instead, they actually hit 95%.

The country hasn’t always been this way. As recently as 15 years ago oil made up almost 30% of the country’s imports, and a gas pipeline between Uruguay and Argentina was under construction. The turnaround has been fast, dramatic, and effective. The country has made a commitment to green policies rarely seen in the modern world, and any travel dollars spent there will inevitably make its way back to green development in some way.

If that’s not enough to tantalize you, Uruguay is home to several beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and it also earned extremely high scores from Freedom House in the categories of Political Rights and Civil Liberties.


Greenland is home to the world’s smallest population density, but a comparatively high concentration of wildlife. Polar bears, humpback whales, musk oxen, sea eagles, walruses, and reindeer all call this vast and untamed wilderness home. And while the human population is relatively sparse, there are plenty of Greenland safaris you can undertake!

As for sustainability, Greenland is big on climate change. Global warming is a huge concern for Greenland, as they stand to see waters rise as much as 20 feet if warming goes unchecked. Therefore, the country’s scientists are working hard researching the problem and trying to come up with ways to reverse or at least slow climate change. Greenland doesn’t have a huge tourism income – they’re not the flashiest, trendiest country to visit, after all – so your tourism dollars make a big difference in funding environmental research.

Another cool thing about Greenland: the country’s tourism board encourages travellers to experience Greenland “like a local”, even going so far as to suggest tourists actually stay in local homes and eat dinner with their hosts. Part of this is due to the fact that the island has very little agriculture and public transportation, so eating locally and spending time touring local hotspots is almost a necessity.

Klemtu, British Columbia

Located in the Great Bear Rainforest in the northwest coast of British Columbia, Klemtu is a small Kitasoo First Nation community you can only access by boat or plane. The community focuses on natural and cultural tourism, with a conservation model of international significance with the community’s Spirit Bear Lodge playing a central role in the conservation economy.

Kitasoo “Spirit bears” are fascinating animals that for the most part do not exist outside of the Klemtu island. Kitasoo spirit bears are white-colored black bears – but it’s not albinism that gives them a beautiful and ghostly (hence the name) coat, but a rare recessive gene. Isolated from mainland black bears, Kitasoo spirit bears keep their white-furred genes in the family.

Source: TIES


Due to popular demand, the Sydney-exclusive exhibition – The Art of the Brick: DC Comics – by legendary LEGO® artist Nathan Sawaya has been extended by six weeks until 13 June 2016.

Showing at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, the exhibition features Sawaya’s interpretations on the characters, vehicles, environments and themes found in DC Comics.

Using over one million LEGO© bricks, Sawaya has created more than 120 large-scale sculptures of the most famous superheroes and super-villains – from Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, to The Joker and Harley Quinn.

NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres said “We are delighted the exhibition has been extended due to popular demand, having already sold over 110,000 tickets. It was a real coup for Sydney to secure the world premiere of The Art of the Brick: DC Comics and I encourage everyone to see this world class exhibition before it closes.”

Artist Nathan Sawaya said, “The Powerhouse Museum must have super-powers because the success of the show has exceeded my wildest expectations. Thank you to the Australian audiences who have embraced this exhibition. We are thrilled that we have been able to extend the season in Sydney.”

Supported by the NSW Government, through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW, The Art of Brick DC Comics brings together Nathan Sawaya with Warner Bros. Consumer Products and DC Entertainment, to create the world’s largest collection of DC Comics-inspired LEGO® artwork.

International kite festival comes to Ecopark

Kites of all shapes, sizes and colours will fill the skies over Ecopark in Ha Noi this coming April 30-May 3, as the first-ever international kite festival of the suburban township takes flight.

The festival is expected to attract 600 people from professional and amateur kite fliers to vendors and spectators, say the organizers, coming from the five foreign countries of Canada, Germany, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

One of the top kite flyers in the world, Lam Gia Hoac, a Vietnamese national currently living in Canada, will also be on hand, they said. Scheduled events include demonstrations, kite battles, kite-making competitions, mass ascensions and fireworks.


The breathtaking scenery, world-class food and wine experiences, major events and festivals in NSW including the spectacular Vivid Sydney, is being showcased to Chinese audiences this month with two different online tourism magazines issued across China via online distribution and trade partners.

NSW Minister for Trade, Tourism and Major Events Stuart Ayres said the magazines produced by the State’s tourism and major events agency Destination NSW, highlight the many great things to see and do across Regional NSW, and also showcase the world’s largest festival of light, music and ideas – Vivid Sydney, both in Mandarin.

“This is the first time we have issued translated versions of the Regional NSW and Vivid Sydney tourism magazines for distribution in China, and we are delighted to be providing additional international exposure for our fantastic State,” Mr Ayres said.

The Regional NSW magazine features key themes including romantic escapes, NSW aquatic and coastal and food and wine experiences, festival and event highlights and Aboriginal culture, whilst the Vivid Sydney magazine showcases the stunning 2016 event program for light, music and ideas.

Destination NSW CEO and Executive Producer of Vivid Sydney, Sandra Chipchase said Vivid Sydney is a unique and unmissable event that gives visitors an experience of a city like no other.

“We are delighted to be providing Chinese audiences with an opportunity to learn more about Vivid Sydney 2016 as well as great ideas to encourage visitors to experience Regional NSW,” Ms Chipchase said.

“This is a very exciting time in the evolution of our marketing activity in China to drive additional growth into Sydney and Regional NSW and we look forward to showcasing our State to even more Chinese travellers through these magazines.”

Friday, 29 April 2016


Take off for the weekend and head to Wings Over Illawarra. A must-do for aircraft, classic motor vehicle... and road-trip buffs! A great family outing with a Kids Zone for the little co-pilots, Saturday 30 April to Sunday 1 May.

Australia’s only Fw-190 will be one of the star attractions in the 2016 flying display. The aircraft, owned by Raptor Aviation, arrived in Albury, NSW in July 2015 and Wings Over Illawarra will be the first opportunity for members of the public to get up close to this magnificent aircraft.
Focke-Wulf 190-A8 werk nummer 173056 was manufactured in Cottbus, Germany in July 1944. The original data tag for the aircraft displays the letters “NAT” which suggest it was manufactured at the Focke-Wulf plant in Marienburg, Germany however this plant was destroyed in an air raid on the 9th of October, 1943 while producing Fw190D-9 long range fighter bombers. It is believed a number of aircraft sub-assemblies including w/n 173056 were rescued from the Marienburg ruins and transported to Cottbus, Germany for final assembly.

History suggests w/n 173056 joined Gruppe I of Jagdeschwader 11 (I./JG11) in late July/early August 1944. Jagdgeschwader 11 was a German fighter wing operating under Luftflotte 3 (Air Fleet 3) - one of the primary divisions of the German Luftwaffe in World War II. On August the 17th 1944, Luftflotte 3 was ordered to withdraw to Reims after concentrating most of its efforts on attempting to hamper Allied tanks pushing on towards Paris. By August the 30th 1944 Reims was liberated by allied ground forces and almost immediately, the United States Army Air Forces IX Engineer Command 850th Engineer Aviation Battalion cleared Reims airport of mines and destroyed Luftwaffe aircraft.

It is not known exactly when w/n 173056 was retrieved from Reims however in 2000 Don Hansen of Louisiana USA and his engineering firm PAI Aero commenced the restoration project. Major components were supplied by Flug Werk of Germany while the engine is a 1900HP Russian Ash 82T. An original BMW801D engine was available at the time however it was deemed too complex and unreliable in comparison to the Ash 82T. After a ten and a half year restoration Fw 190A-8, w/n 173056 took to the air on October 9th, 2011.

From 2011 to 2014 the aircraft completed its test flight regime at the hands of experienced test pilot Klaus Plasa. In late 2014 the aircraft was purchased by Raptor Aviation P/L of Australia and in July, 2015 the aircraft arrived in Albury NSW where it was re-assembled by Hazair P/L and once again test flown by Klaus Plasa.

The Fw190 is painted in the scheme of “Red 1” flown by German Luftwaffe Ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, Hans Dortenmann. Hans Dortenmann was credited with 38 victories in some 150 combat missions, with 16 victories over the Eastern Front and 22 over the Western Front. He recorded 18 victories with the Fw 190 D-9, the most successful fighter pilot with this type.

The aircraft will be based in Albury for the foreseeable future while Hazair P/L and the owner become familiar with the equipment. In due course the cockpit will be returned to its original condition including all original German instruments. The Fw-190 will visit various airshows around the country for warbird enthusiasts to enjoy this important piece of history.

For more information:

New-look ‘Lost Highway Bluegrass Music Festival’ at Karuah in Port Stephens

The small Port Stephens township of Karuah will host a bigger, rebranded ‘Lost Highway Bluegrass Music Festival’ this year from Friday, May 6 to Sunday May 8, 2016, with 15 leading acts, circus performances, bluegrass yoga, music workshops, bush dances, a bluegrass gospel concert and a pink hoola hoop contest for charity set to ‘jam’ the town.

The historic and picturesque riverside town of 1500 people, nestled by the Karuah River on the Old Pacific Highway two hours north of Sydney, will be transformed into a jiving hub of bluegrass music. For the first time, three venues – including a new circus big top – will host a variety of bluegrass acts headlined by Tamworth Country Music Awards winner Catherine Britt, country music legend Bill Chambers and Newcastle singer Deanna Rose who starred on ‘The Voice’ TV show last year.

Sponsored by Port Stephens Council and supported by Destination Port Stephens, the new-look Lost Highway Bluegrass Music Festival will include a talent contest, banjo, guitar, fiddle and mandolin workshops for budding musicians, circus performances, a bluegrass yoga session each morning, bush dance, jam sessions and a program of non-stop music. On Sunday a bluegrass gospel concert will be followed by a David Bowie tribute concert.

Among the bill of 15 acts at the family-friendly festival are Sprowell, Rose and the Sea, The Three Marketeers, The Martins, Coolgrass, The Plough, Sunny and the Dark Corners, Den Hanrahan and the Rum Runners and Whistle Dixie.

The popular, annual event, formerly called the Karuah Bluegrass Music Festival, will also feature market and food stalls, fresh local oysters and a bar serving Port Stephens craft beer from Murray’s Brewery. A pink hoola hoop contest will also be held on Sunay, May 8 – Mother’s Day – to raise money for breast cancer research.

Indonesia named best destination in 2016 by TripAdvisor

TripAdvisor has named Bali as Asia best tourism destination in its 2016 ranking of the “best of the best”. The same ranking saw Bali named the 5th Best Island in the World with and the Bali destination of Ubud named as the 10th Best Desination in the World.

TripAdvisor is an authoritative voice in travel with an estimated 350 million visitors browsing their website every month to view the more than 290 million community-member opinions regarding 5.3 million accommodation providers, restaurants and tourist attractions.

Selection to TripAdvisor’s list of the “best of the best” is based on algorithms that for an entire year count the quantity and quality of visits to the pages on TripAdvisor detailing accommodation, restaurants and tourism objects in a given destination.

The 10 best islands in Asia according to TripAdvisor are.
  • Bali, Indonesia
  • Phuket, Thailand
  • Ko Samui, Thailand
  • Koh Tao, Thailand
  • Lombok, Indonesia
  • Gili Trawangan, Indonesia
  • Boracay, Philippines
  • Langkawi, Malaysia
  • Havelock Island, India
  • Taketomicho Iriomote-jima, Japan

State-of-the-Art Gateway to Welcome Canberra's First International Flights

Canberra Airport has unveiled designs for the new international departures lounge and arrivals hall in preparation for the capital's first international flights this September.

The designs form part of the facility's $18 million international fit-out, which Canberra Airport Managing Director Stephen Byron said had been 18 years in the making.

“We are on the cusp of global connectivity, with one of the world's greatest carriers, Singapore Airlines, connecting us with 100 locations in 35 countries around the world,” Mr Byron said.

Designed by Guida Moseley Brown Architects, the new 2,750m2 public departure lounge and 2,400m2 arrival hall will build upon the existing terminal's main hall, incorporating folding ceiling panels and skylights to create a generous, contemporary and light-filled space.

The departure lounge will feature state-of-the-art business and media lounges, private meeting rooms, an expansive bar and café dining area, and a variety of different seating and meeting options, ranging from formal business oriented spaces to relaxed social and private spaces.

Mr Byron said the design was more akin to the quality and standard expected from airline club lounges that an airport waiting area.

“We are breaking the rules here. All our customers will be treated as club lounge members with the best of design, furnishings and amenities in the general public areas,” he said.

Canberra Airport's international departures area will also offer new food and beverage facilities as well as duty-free shopping.

“We are working closely with the Australian Border Force towards the implementation of customs, quarantine and immigration facilities,” Mr Byron said.

“We have delivered the best domestic terminal facility in the country, and will deliver the best international terminal to match it.”

The first international flight with Singapore Airlines will arrive in Canberra from Singapore on 21 September at 8.50am and then depart for Wellington at 10.15am.

The new 'capital express' route will operate four services a week to both capital cities on a Boeing 777-200 aircraft.

Halong Bay gets first five-star hotel

Wyndham Legend Halong lobby
Halong Bay’s first-five star hotel, Wyndham Legend Halong Bay, is slated for a June opening in Vietnam’s Quang Ninh Province.

Located close to Halong Bay Pier, the property features 217 rooms – including a Penthouse Suite – with views of the ocean and Bai Chay Bridge. Facilities include five restaurants and bars, an outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre, spa and Kids’ Club.

Barry Robinson, president and managing director, Wyndham Hotel Group South-east Asia and the Pacific Rim, said: “Tourism is on the rise in Vietnam and Halong Bay is gaining more attention from tourists who are interested in seeking out the town’s natural beauty and local culture. (Wyndham) is the first global hotel chain to enter the market with an upscale property to meet the growing tourist demands for a premier hospitality product.”

Wyndham Legend Halong Bay also offers over 1,055m² of flexible function space with four event halls and two boardrooms for meetings and events. The largest grand ballroom can accommodate up to 1,280 guests for a seminar or 650 people for a gala dinner or wedding.

Managed by Kosmopolitan Hospitality, the US$40 million property is owned by Ha Long Star Service & Tourist Joint Stock Company.

Victoria tourism to shine with two popular sports events

Victoria has locked away the Australian Motorcycle Grand 2026 and the Australian round of the FIM Superbike World Championship until 2027.

The two events are among world motorsport’s most anticipated fixtures, attracting visitors from all over Australia and the world.

They keep Phillip Island’s bars, restaurants and hotels busy, and provide new opportunities for Gippsland’s tourism operators and small businesses.

“Our motorsports events at Phillip Island are flagship dates on our calendar, and they’re going nowhere. Phillip Island will remain at the centre of world motorsport for many years to come,” Victoria’s Minister for Tourism and Major Events John Eren said.

The Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and the Phillip Island round of the FIM Superbike World Championship are key contributors to Victoria’s economy. The MotoGP delivers a $48.5 million economic benefit to Victoria, while the FIM Superbike World Championship adds $20 million annually.

“These events create a unique buzz around Phillip Island, attract visitors to Victoria from all over the globe, and show the world we have the best of everything,” the minister added.

An estimated 85,000 spectators converged on Phillip Island for the 2015 Pramac Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, while more than 42,000 turned out for the 2016 Superbikes. It’s why the Bass Coast Shire Council estimates motorsports events on the Island are worth $107 million to the local economy.

Nha Trang: Festival commemorates Goddess Ponagar

The annual Ponagar Festival, the biggest of its kind in the central coastal province of Khanh Hoa, opened in Nha Trang City on April 27 (the 21st day of the third lunar month), drawing a crowd of pilgrims from the surrounding provinces.

The three-day event commemorates Goddess Ponagar or Thien Y A Na – Holy Mother of the Cham community in the central region, who is believed to have taught the locals to grow rice, raise silkworms and weave fabric.

Rituals such as a requiem and the release of floating flower candles will be accompanied by a ceremony to pray for peace, happiness and prosperity for the nation, with cultural activities honouring the spiritual life of the ethnic people in the southern central region.

A 1,200 year old tower dedicated to Ponagar, built using a unique Cham technique, was recognised as a national historical relic site in 1979.

In 2012, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism named the Ponargar festival a national intangible heritage.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Kyushu shinkansen bullet train line is now back

Kyushu shinkansen bullet train
We greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers concerning the Kumamoto Earthquakes that occurred two weeks ago in Kyushu.

In good news, the Kyushu shinkansen bullet train line is now back up and running the full length of the island between Hakata Station and Kagoshima-Chuo Station.

For updates on the current situation, please refer to

Free Scottish tourist attractions prove ‘doubly’ popular

‘Free’ is the magic number when it comes to visitor attractions in Scotland, according to new research by Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development.

Findings from the Centre’s annual Visitor Attraction Monitor showed free admissions welcomed more than double the number of visitors as paid admissions in 2015, despite over half of Scotland’s attractions including an entry charge.

More than 41 million people flocked to free attractions last year, up by 1.6% on 2014. Free Edinburgh attractions such as the National Museum of Scotland and Scottish National Gallery continue to draw huge numbers of visitors, whilst 67% of all Greater Glasgow & Clyde Valley attractions are free admission, amassing more than 17 million visits.

The detailed data, which covers 720 Scottish attractions, showed a 2.2% overall increase across the country, with attractions in the Kingdom of Fife boasting the greatest increase in visitors and the greatest spend per visit.

It also found transport-themed attractions like the Falkirk Wheel, Edinburgh Bus Tours and the Strathspey Steam Railway were particularly popular in 2015, recording a collective 10% increase.

Professor John Lennon, Director of the Moffat Centre for Travel and Tourism Business Development at GCU, said: “It may come as no surprise that tourists love free attractions, but paid attractions can take solace that overall visit numbers have also increased. Scotland boasts a fantastic breadth of options for tourists and the Visitor Attraction Monitor provides Scottish attractions with detailed, consistent and reliable data to shape their future planning.”

The findings follow the results of the top ten tourist attractions revealed in February, which showed seven Scottish attractions achieved more than one million visitors each. Edinburgh Castle remained Scotland’s most popular attraction overall, with over 1,568,500 visitors.

The Visitor Attraction Monitor, published today, has provided unrivalled annual analysis of Scottish attraction performance since 1999.


Wild lights ahead!

Taronga Zoo will light up with an illuminated trail of giant animal light sculptures for ‪#‎VividSydney‬

Amway China to boost New Zealand's tourism fortunes with 2018 event

David Craig,
Tourism New Zealand
general manager Asia
New Zealand has bagged hosting rights to Amway China's 2018 Leadership Seminar, its biggest incentive business to-date since entering the MICE market three years ago.

The event will see Amway China sending 10,000 elite distributors to Queenstown for a five-day programme that is expected to generate a revenue of NZ$50 million (US$34.3 million) and an estimated shopping consumption of NZ$10 million.

David Craig, Tourism New Zealand general manager Asia: Hosting is what New Zealanders do best

The event will play a prominent role in promoting New Zealand's tourism and economic development, said a media release by Tourism New Zealand.

Amway China's president, Audie Wong, shared that New Zealand was chosen for its "excellent hard and soft tourism conditions" and "high flexibility and creativity it exhibits as a business events destination".

Commenting on the win, New Zealand prime minister and minister of tourism John Key said: "This is by far the biggest incentive business New Zealand has ever won, and it sends a strong message that New Zealand is a serious contender in the global incentive market.

"China is now our second-largest and fasting growing tourism market, contributing nearly NZ$1.7 billion to the economy in 2015. And Chinese tourists have the highest daily spend of any of our visitors."

Key pointed out that in 2013, the New Zealand government committed an additional NZ$34 million over four years for the purpose of securing international business events and incentives like the 2018 Leadership Seminar, because of the value they bring to the economy.

David Craig, Tourism New Zealand general manager Asia, said: "Hosting is one of the things we New Zealanders do best. In Maori, we use manaakitanga to express our concept of hosting: we view our visitors as friends. Precisely because of this, I firmly believe that New Zealand can provide distinctive incentive business experiences, just as our slogan Naturally Beyond Convention implies."

The winning bid was supported by Tourism New Zealand, Immigration New Zealand, Queenstown Council, Destination Queenstown and Air New Zealand.

Wings Over Illawarra - Albion Park Rail

The best annual airshow in NSW, and situated right on Sydney's doorstep! See jaw-dropping aerobatics, relive the past with a spectacular display of classic warbirds and amazing vintage aircraft of yesteryear. 

Be inspired by the Australian Defence Force as they present the best Australia has to offer. Loud, fast jets and formation flying will delight and provide you with an unforgettable experience as they perform breath-taking manoeuvres above the beautiful Illawarra.

 Enjoy a joy flight in a helicopter before immersing yourself in history as you wander through rare displays of vintage and classic aircraft including the fully-restored 1955 Super Constellation and the history making Qantas 747 VH-OJA. 

Don't miss heart stopping aerial antics, flying displays, fantastic static displays, classic cars and motorbikes, a free Kid's Zone presented by McDonalds Illawarra, souvenirs and simulators - there is no better way to spend an unforgettable day with family and friends!

Wings Over Illawarra 

Saturday 30 April 2016 to Sunday 01 May 2016
Where: Albion Park Rail
For more information:

Leading Reef Operator Sunlover Reef Cruises Calls on Industry and Visitors to Tropical North Queensland to Share Their Experiences of the Great Barrier Reef with the World

In a response to the recent reports of coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, Sunlover Reef Cruises joined with Calypso Reef Imagery to record firsthand the views and experiences being had this month by visitors to the companies pontoon at Moore Reef, 25 nautical miles off Cairns.

The short video which features guests from all over the world sharing their thoughts and impressions of the reef together with footage taken on the 12th April has been shared with industry colleagues, tourism bodies as well as a growing social media audience who are tuning into this issue, with great concern for the health of the Great Barrier Reef.

View film here

As evidenced by cameraman, Stuart Ireland from Calypso Reef Imagery – himself a Marine Biologist and underwater photographer with over 30 years' experience, as well as those guests that were interviewed, Moore Reef; the reef system to which Sunlover operate daily is still as healthy and as vibrant as it has ever been.

Mr Ireland said, “I was pleased to hear from Sunlover's Marina Biologist, Pablo Coggolos that affected areas are now in a stage of recovery with water temperatures now seasonally dropping. The expected recovery seems to be progressing well. In the many years that I have lived and worked with the Great Barrier Reef, I have always been impressed by its ability to regenerate and recovered from these bleaching episodes which have occurred in the past.”

Martina Neidig, Group Sales and Marketing Manager for Sunlover Reef Cruises said, “Our team plan to back up this content with regular video's and images via social media, to ensure both industry and visitors understand that our section of the Great Barrier Reef is alive and well.” She also said “it's important our visitors keep coming, experience how beautiful it is, and ensure the reef remains is very much on everyone's bucket list”.

Sunlover Reef Cruises is a Green Travel Leader in the Australian tourism industry, having held Ecotourism Certification for 10 years now. As such Sunlover has for many years played an active role in the Crown of Thorns Starfish watch and Coral recovery Programs. Our operations department oversees the dive team and qualified Marine Biologists who have the responsibility of carrying out a coral health survey.

The maintenance program also covers research of coral diseases and corals damaged by rough sea conditions, mostly seen during strong Northerly winds or Cyclones.

Sunlover Reef Cruises is dedicated to the preservation of the Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Listed natural wonder by embracing best environmental practices.

Tourism is great for the Reef because it provides an opportunity to educate people about its

World Heritage values so they support its conservation and care. Sunlover Reef Cruises also works very closely with the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre in Cairns and on Fitzroy Island.

Julie Duncan, Group General Manager said, “our reef team strive to educate all guests on the importance of preserving the Great Barrier Reef and its inhabitants. We advise guests of key ways that they can contribute to the Great Barrier Reef's protection and preservation.

China becomes world's biggest business travel market

China surpassed the US as the world’s highest-spending business travel market, having ended 2015 with US$291.2 billion in business travel spending as compared to the US$290.2 billion recorded for the US in the same year, according to a Visa-sponsored report by the GBTA Foundation.

The GBTA BTI Outlook – China 2016 H1 report projects the trend to persist – with China’s business travel spend forecasted to grow 10.1 per cent to US$320.7 billion, compared to an increase of 1.9 per cent to US$295.7 billion in the US market.

Despite heightened concerns about a potential hard landing for China as a result of the early 2016 volatility in its financial markets, there has been continued investment in travel infrastructure in the country.

A plan to open 82 new airports has been underway since 2011 and hoteliers are also continuing to increase their presence in China. Over 70 per cent of the hotel construction pipeline in Asia-Pacific can be attributed to China.

Economic pressures are however, expected to slow the rate of growth of the Chinese domestic market, which accounted for 95 per cent of total business travel spend in 2015. Nevertheless, domestic business travel spending is expected to grow roughly 10 per cent from 2016 to 2017.

“Despite a relative slowdown, China’s business travel market remains one of the fastest growing in the world,” said Michael McCormick, executive director and COO, GBTA.

“China surpassing the US in business travel spending marks a major inflection point and truly demonstrates the global nature of today’s economy.”

Northern Territory plans to develop its Casuarina Coastal Reserve to promote tourism

The Minister for Parks and Wildlife Bess Price has approved the Management Plan for Casuarina Coastal Reserve.

The Country Liberals plan promotes a balanced environment that sets out the direction for the Reserve’s future management. The significant investment in this public asset outlines how the interests for the community and conservation will be served.

This is the third management plan and was prepared with significant input from key stakeholders including the Casuarina Coastal Reserve Advisory Committee.

Minister for Parks and Wildlife Bess Nungarrayi Price said Casuarina Coastal Reserve was one of the most beautiful places to visit so close to the city.

“Last year Casuarina Coastal Reserve had 935,000 visits, so this Plan of Management is vital to our preparation for the future increase in the community visiting our Reserve.

“The Reserve is also important for conservation. It has important feeding and roosting sites for migratory waders and shorebirds, the most significant seagrass meadows in Darwin Harbour and nesting sites for two marine turtle species.

“By working with community groups and locals it will be possible to promote public awareness of the importance of the Reserve in protecting these areas.”

The key management priorities in the Plan include:
  • implementing the Experience Development Plan
  • educating the public about the new Domestic Animal Regulations promoting more public involvement in the Reserve and working with the community, environmental and recreational user groups, including the Casuarina Coastal Reserve Landcare Group; and
  • continuing to work with local groups to encourage public awareness of the importance of all wildlife and native flora in the Reserve and significant species such as migratory waders, shorebirds and marine turtles.

The plan includes changes to the Domestic Animal Regulations, which will help protect the key environmental values and improve the visitor experience.

A key management priority, being the implementation of the Experience Development Plan, is being delivered through the $10.68 million upgrade to Casuarina Coastal Reserve.

Currently work is occurring on upgrades to Lee Point, Dripstone Park and the Free Beach areas, which sees a new toilet block and three new modern picnic shelters at Dripstone Park, including a larger one for functions. BBQs and picnic tables are being upgraded and drinking water fountains at Dripstone Park and the Free Beach car park just to name some of the works.

The $1.38million contract for work at Lee Point, Dripstone Park and the Free Beach was awarded to local Darwin company Rusca Bros Services Pty Ltd which is an indigenous, Territory owned and operated firm, which will see more local jobs for local businesses.

The picnic shelters have been designed by Darwin-based firm Troppo Architects which will add some panache to the Reserve; Troppo has attracted a number of national architecture awards. In 2002, it won the Australian Institute of Architects National Sustainable Architecture Award.

Government has also awarded a contract earlier this month for stage 2 of the CCR works at Dripstone Cliffs and Rapid Creek.

The $4 million project was awarded to local company BMD who will employ 25 local workers.

Stage one of the upgrades sees 36 local workers employed and is expected to be completed by 13 May.


More than 2.1 million spectators will descend on New York City in June for the largest LGBT Pride event in the world

NYC & Company, New York City’s official destination marketing organisation, invites visitors from around the world to New York City for the 2016 annual Pride celebration which takes place from June 19–26. This year’s NYC Pride theme is “Equality Needs You.” Beyond the events taking place in Manhattan this June, Pride will also be celebrated in unique events throughout the City’s five boroughs. A comprehensive list of 2016 Pride activities can be found at

The first NYC Pride March occurred in 1970, a year after the Stonewall riots, which are considered to be the birth of the modern LGBT liberation movement. In 2019, on the 50th anniversary of the riots, New York City will host WorldPride, the first time the two-month series of events will be held in the United States.

“As the most diverse and welcoming destination in the world, New York City embraces LGBT visitors year-round, but NYC’s Pride celebration is a particularly exciting time to be in the City,” said Fred Dixon, president and CEO of NYC & Company. “Whether it’s in the West Village—the birthplace of the modern gay rights movement—Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, the East Village, Williamsburg or Jackson Heights, we encourage visitors and residents to participate in the iconic and vibrant Pride events taking place throughout New York City this June and July.”

Heritage of Pride organises and produces many of New York City’s annual Pride events in Manhattan including the Pride Rally, VIP Rooftop Party, Teaze, the March, PrideFest and the Dance on the Pier.

“More than 2.1 million spectators will descend on New York City in June, and NYC Pride is thrilled to welcome them once again for the largest LGBT Pride event in the world,” said Chris Frederick, Managing Director of NYC Pride. “Our theme for 2016 is ‘Equality Needs You,’ which serves as a reminder of the continuing fight for full equality and the effect a single individual can have on their world."

More information on the flagship Manhattan Pride activities can be found at Highlights include:
  • The Rally: The NYC Pride Rally officially kicks off Pride in New York City on June 24 at 7:00 p.m. at Hudson River Park’s Pier 26. The first rally occurred one month after the Stonewall riots in 1969. The tradition to gather and remember the origins of the Pride celebration takes place each year since then. Attendance is free and open to the public.
  • Fantasy: This year’s Fantasy party theme is “Neon” and guests are encouraged to dress in their brightest colors at one of NYC’s newest and most popular clubs, The Diamond Horseshoe, located beneath the Paramount Hotel in Times Square. Fantasy starts on June 24 at 10:00 p.m.
  • VIP Rooftop Party: Billed as the hottest Pride party of the year, the VIP Rooftop Party takes place at Hudson Terrace, one of the most exclusive rooftop venues that overlooks the greatest city in the world. The party is set for June 25 from 2:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
  • Teaze: Teaze (formerly known as the Rapture on the River) is exclusively for women and celebrates new ways for all women to come together and celebrate Pride. The dance party takes place on June 25 from 3:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. at Hudson River Park’s Pier 26. This year’s DJs include Samantha Ronson and Toni K.
  • The March: The March on June 26 begins in Murray Hill at 36th Street and Fifth Avenue and culminates at Christopher Street and Greenwich Street in the West Village. Hundreds of organisations representing nonprofits, corporations and activist groups, along with many public figures, participate in the March each year. Led by grand marshals Jazz Jennings (the youngest grand marshal in NYC Pride history), Subhi Nahas (co-founder of the first LGBT magazine in Syria), and Cecilia Chung (an internationally recognized LGBT advocate), the NYC March is the largest pride march in the country and is expected to have more than 2 million people lining the route. 
  • PrideFest: Immediately following the March on June 26, PrideFest is the annual LGBT street fair on Hudson Street, between Abingdon Square and West 14th Street, that combines vendors, entertainment acts and activities for a day of fun and celebration in the name of equality. PrideFest is free and open to the public. 
  • Dance on the Pier: Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2016, the Dance on the Pier at Hudson River Park’s Pier 26 in Manhattan is one of the most anticipated music events of the year. Taking place on June 26 from 2:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m., this year’s DJs include Ben Baker, Honey Soundsystem, Hoxton Whores and Alain Jackinsky.

Additionally, many local Pride events take place in NYC’s boroughs leading up to the citywide Pride celebration including the Bronx pride celebration on the evening of June 1 at Salsa Con Fuego; the 20th annual Brooklyn Pride march on June 11, on Fifth Avenue between 3rd and 9th Streets in Brooklyn; and the Queens Pride parade and festival on June 5, on 37th Avenue from 89th to 75th Streets in Jackson Heights. Coinciding with the NYC Pride events will be Harlem Pride Day, taking place on June 25 at Jackie Robinson Park. Staten Island hosts its Pride Fest following the citywide Pride festivities on July 16 at the historic Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden.

Victoria Needs To Maintain Momentum In Growing Visitor Economy

The Victorian visitor economy is strategically positioned to seize the title of Australia’s leading destination for international visitor expenditure if it can maintain momentum with a Budget that invests in the sector, according to the Tourism & Transport Forum Australia’s (TTF) pre-budget submission.

Victoria has achieved a strong surge in international visitor expenditure in 2015 to reach $6.52 billion (up an incredible 30 per cent) compared to NSW’s $8.449 billion (up 19 per cent) and bolting away from Queensland’s $4.934 billion (also up 19 per cent).

International visitors traveling to Victoria spend more per person ($2691) when compared to NSW ($2470).

“Victoria has aggressively targeted the visitor economy as a growth sector over the past two decades and this has certainly paid dividends with a strong performance across key international visitor indicators,” said Margy Osmond, TTF CEO.

“If Victoria can maintain this competitive growth rate it could overtake NSW as the leader in international visitor expenditure by the end of 2018.

“Now is not the time for the Victorian Government to take its eyes off the prize by limiting the investment that it makes in the visitor economy.

“The Victorian Budget needs to consolidate the work that has been done in reforming Victoria’s tourism agencies into Visit Victoria, by ensuring it has long-term, dedicated and competitive funding to continue the impressive growth rate that is being achieved.

“It is crucial to provide Visit Victoria with adequate funding to support activities beyond major events to include business events, tourism marketing and regional tourism.

Ms Osmond said the Victorian Government should ensure Visit Victoria has untied funding so that it can remain an agile marketing body able to leverage opportunities presented by high-yield visitor markets, such as China and Korea, as well as respond to new and emerging demand.

“Victoria is in the right position after years of building its visitor economy to give NSW a run for its money in attracting high spending international visitors.”

Trang An festival held in Ninh Binh

The two-day Trang An festival began at Suoi Tien temple within Trang An scenic complex in the northern province of Ninh Binh on Apil 24.

Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue attended the opening day and beat a drum to open the festival.

The festival is annually held on the 18th day of the third Lunar month to celebrate Saint Quy Minh Dai Vuong, a general under the reign of the 18th Hung King.

It is occasion for locals to pray for peace, happiness and bumper harvests.

This year, the event features traditional rituals and musical performances.

Earlier, Ninh Binh hosted the Truong Yen Festival 2016 at the Hoa Lu ancient capital historic site from April 15 to 17, aiming to commemorate King Dinh Tien Hoang who established the first centralised feudal state in Viet Nam in 968.

The Trang An scenic complex was recognised as world Cultural and Natural Heritage by UNESCO.


Vivid Ideas this week finalised its 2016 program with more than 180 events and over 400 speakers from across the world. Launching its official event guide in Sydney this week, Vivid Ideas unveiled several major new events and an expanded list of world-class speakers to the line-up, confirming the 2016 program as the most ambitious yet.

Highlights include an ‘In Conversation’ event on 16 June with internationally acclaimed director of The Dressmaker, Jocelyn Moorhouse, who has worked with some of the biggest names in film, and 2016 NSW Woman of the Year Jen Armstrong, who will share insights into promoting a culture of innovation by learning from our mistakes, at Mistakability on 7 June.

In an Australian-first, Vivid Ideas will also host the nation’s very first Women in Electronic Music Symposium on 18 June, bringing together some of this generation’s trailblazing female dance music artists, DJs and emerging producers.

Tickets continue to sell quickly for the Vivid Ideas highlight Game-Changers talks featuring legendary filmmaker Spike Jonze, House of Cards creator Beau Willimon, and Orange is the New Black writer and creator Jenji Kohan, and Australian global fashion influencer Margaret Zhang.

Running 27 May to 18 June, Vivid Ideas is part of Vivid Sydney, the world’s largest festival of light, music and ideas. Speakers and subjects span the creative industries including technology, start-up smarts, film, storytelling, design, architecture, visual arts and communication. For more information about Vivid Ideas, visit

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Spring in Japan

Good morning!

Seasons of flowers. 

Tulip is full bloom in Japan now. 

Really awesome beauty of nature.. Amazing

Photo taken by Yasufumi Nishi @ Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo. 22/04/16.

Sydney's Premier Cultural Institutions Go National (2017, 2019, 2021)

Three of Sydney's premier cultural institutions – the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW), Carriageworks and the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) – are establishing a major new exhibition partnership surveying the latest ideas and forms in contemporary Australian art: The National: New Australian Art.

The National: New Australian Art will take place over a six-year period, with three editions presented in 2017, 2019 and 2021. Connecting three of the city's key cultural precincts – The Domain, Redfern and Circular Quay – it will add a new and exciting element to Sydney's calendar of major arts and cultural events.

The exhibition will continue Sydney's long and distinguished history of showcasing the art of our times and reinforce its position as the national leader in presenting relevant and engaged contemporary arts and cultural programs.

A single curated program presented across three landmark institutions, the large-scale exhibition will further extend the already significant Australian arts commitment of each institution, and enable a strategic approach to programing grounded in collaboration and innovation. It will present local artists among their national peers, bring the best work from across the country to Sydney, support artists in the realisation of new work and consolidate the profile of Australian arts practice both locally and internationally.

Dr Michael Brand, Director, Art Gallery of New South Wales, said: “This major new initiative highlights what Sydney's leading art institutions do best, that is, create a vibrant cultural life for the city and state.”

“It's fantastic that through this partnership, colleagues across all three institutions are working with Australian artists at various stages of their careers to create dynamic displays of art that also express the individual voice of each institution,” he added.

For each iteration of the project, the AGNSW, Carriageworks and MCA will work collaboratively to develop the curatorial rationale and select emerging, mid-career and established Australian practitioners. The project will forge close relationships with artists through commissioning and developing new work.

Artists will be drawn from across NSW and Australia including Australian artists living overseas, charting important global connections. The work of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists will feature prominently.

Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE, Director, MCA, explained: “The project's artistic emphasis will be on profiling new work and enabling innovative new commissions over six years – providing substantial opportunities for professional development, exposure and career sustainability for our nation's living artists.”

“It will also enable our three institutions to reach, engage, share and grow diverse audiences through free and low-cost public programs, fostering participation and knowledge sharing,” she added.

Collaboration between the partners on delivery of audience engagement programs will continue in the periods between exhibitions, with a focus on generating meaningful encounters with artists, participatory experiences and innovative digital content.

Lisa Havilah, Director, Carriageworks, commented: “The National: New Australian Artwill chart the rich diversity of contemporary practice featuring artists that work in dialogue with other disciplines including performance, dance, music and screen. Over the six years and three iterations, the project will make a significant investment in Australian artists through the extensive commissioning of new work that reflects contemporary Australia and our place in the world. This collaboration creates an exciting and distinctive new arts and cultural event in Sydney for local, national and international audiences.”

As a counterpoint to the Biennale of Sydney, The National: New Australian Art will be the only large-scale multi-venue exhibition series in Sydney focused solely on contemporary Australian art.

Ben Strout, CEO, Biennale of Sydney, concluded: “This is good news for Australian artists and arts audiences in our city. The National: New Australian Art will provide tremendous opportunities for engagement with contemporary Australian art in the years between the Biennale's international exhibitions. We are keen to work with our exhibition partners to help make the project a success and to generate even more interest in the art of our times.”

Development of The National: New Australian Art is led by Suhanya Raffel, Deputy Director and Director of Collections, AGNSW; Lisa Havilah, Director, Carriageworks; and Blair French, Director, Curatorial & Digital, MCA.

Curators for the 2017 edition of The National: New Australian Art are Anneke Jaspers, Curator Contemporary Art and Wayne Tunnicliffe, Head Curator Australian Art, AGNSW; Lisa Havilah, Director and Nina Miall, Curator, Carriageworks; and Blair French, Director, Curatorial & Digital, MCA.

The National: New Australian Art 2017

Exhibition Dates:
Art Gallery of New South Wales: 30 March – 16 July 2017
Carriageworks: 30 March – 18 June 2017
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia: 30 March – 18 June 2017

HKTB targets Singapore and Malaysia with latest campaign

Ngong Ping 360, Lantau Island
The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) is collaborating with international attractions, hotels and airlines in an effort to entice Singaporean and Malaysian families to visit Hong Kong during the school holiday season.

“Singapore and Malaysia are strategic markets for Hong Kong with over 1.2 million visitors in 2015; making up 43 per cent of the total South-east Asia arrivals last year,” said Simon Wong, regional director, South-east Asia, HKTB.

For both markets, travellers can expect deals such as a Hong Kong Disneyland family package, and a complimentary child ticket for every two paying adults at Madame Tussauds Hong Kong and Ngong Ping 360.

Participating hotels for the promotional period include Best Western, Marco Polo and The Peninsula Hong Kong, among many others.

Promotional airfares to Hong Kong can also be obtained when flying aboard Cathay Pacific, while Singaporean travellers can additionally get discounted rates from Singapore Airlines.

Turpan China to attract tourists with cockfighting

A remote city in North West China, Turpan has planned to attract tourists with cockfighting. The sport is 280 years old in Turpan and the city hopes that the popularity of the sport will be more widespread and attract tourists from other parts of the country.

The country authorities felt that just like Spain is famous for its bullfighting; cockfighting can place Turpan is the same light in the eyes of tourists.

A cockfighting association is being planned to be established in the end of this year. The association will be responsible in promoting sports and the arenas will be set up in the local markets and bazaars keeping the tradition of the sport alive. The sport will be brought out in the open so that illegal gambling associated with this sport can be eliminated.

However, critics in China are not supporting the sport and consider it to be an enormous suffering for the birds. The sport was played earlier in England and Wales and Scotland 60 years ago, but was made illegal in 1835.

Inspired by bullfighting if China wishes to popularise the sport they may actually end up receiving a good amount of tourists who enjoy watching animal fights.

Destination Kuala Lumpur unveils new brand

Kuala Lumpur City Hall has unveiled a new destination brand for the city yesterday, as well as committing to between two million ringgit (US$512 thousand) and three million ringgit in funds on advertising to promote the brand in Malaysia first, before going global.

Titled Kuala Lumpur a City of Contracts and Diversity, the branding seeks to represent the diverse populace, architecture, cuisine, accommodation and shopping options that can be found in the capital of Malaysia.

“The branding exercise will help expand our marketing capabilities with promotional campaigns and eye-catching logos to set Kuala Lumpur as the region’s forefront destination for business and leisure,” said Mohd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz, mayor, Kuala Lumpur City Hall.

He added: “By successfully branding Kuala Lumpur, we will be able to stimulate an increase in tourism, investment, job opportunities, business development and events hosting.”

According to Amin, the campaign hopes to boost three key indicators – visitor arrivals, average spend per night and average length of stay.

In the government's Kuala Lumpur Tourism Masterplan 2015-2025, targets are for Kuala Lumpur to reach 16 million foreign arrivals and to generate 79 billion ringgit in receipts by 2025. This translates to about five to six per cent annual growth.

Branding of the city is also in line with the masterplan which had prescribed that to position Kuala Lumpur competitively, it needed to have a distinctive brand.

Man Tripping: Hit the Highway for a Weekend Rugby League Road Trip from Newcastle to Tamworth

NRL fans are in for a treat when two of the most exciting matches on the 2016 Rugby League representative calendar are hosted in regional NSW across one glorious weekend from 6-8 May, offering the perfect opportunity to grab a group of friends for a weekend footy road trip.

Kicking off a mere 48 hours apart, NRL fans can watch Australia v New Zealand on Friday in Newcastle, before hitting the highway for some great regional NSW experiences and arriving in Tamworth ahead of Sunday afternoon's City v Country clash.

Destination NSW Chief Executive Officer, Sandra Chipchase, encourages fans planning on travelling to attend either of the NRL representative matches in regional NSW to consider taking in both games and making a great weekend of it.

“NSW is the home of rugby league and this rugby league feast is a great opportunity for fans to get their footy fix with two stand-out representative matches scheduled on the same weekend, both in Regional NSW locations, only a short drive away from one another.

“NRL fans and their friends or family can make the most of this bumper weekend of first class football by planning a weekend road trip from Newcastle to Tamworth, making stops to enjoy Regional NSW,” Ms Chipchase said.

Hotels, restaurants, retailers and attractions in Newcastle and Tamworth are already preparing for the increase in visitors ahead of these key rugby league representative matches. Fans are encouraged to get their tickets and book accommodation early.

To assist fans considering attending both games, here is a suggested weekend road trip itinerary, travelling from Newcastle to Tamworth over Friday May 6 to Sunday May 8:

DAY 1 – Friday, May 6 (Newcastle)

  • Set off for Newcastle with the aim of arriving early afternoon. There will undoubtedly be a great buzz in the air with the Australia v New Zealand Trans-Tasman Test in town so make the most of the atmosphere
  • On arrival, head straight to your accommodation to drop off your things and get ready for the big game. There are lots of great options for travelling groups within close proximity to Hunter Stadium. Check out the Quality Suites Boulevard on Beaumont (2.1km from stadium), Quest Newcastle Apartments (3.8km from stadium) or the Crowne Plaza Newcastle (4.4km from stadium). It's a good idea to book early as hotels, motels and apartments will fill up quickly
  • Late afternoon, at around 4pm grab the boys and head to one of the local pubs for pre-match food and drinks. Newcastle is packed with great bars and pubs with the Star Hotel, an institution in Newcastle, The Edwards, FogHorn Brewhouse or The Lucky Hotel perfect for footy fans to meet ahead of a big game
  • It's 6:30pm and after a good feed, it's time to make your way to Hunter Stadium. The Australia v New Zealand Trans-Tasman Test kicks off at 7:50pm but allow yourself plenty of time to get there as you and thousands of other fans will all be heading to the same location. This match is set to be a thriller with Mal Meninga making his debut as coach of the Kangaroos!
  • With the match due to wrap up at approximately 10:20pm, make your way back to your accommodation, hopefully basking in the glow of an Aussie win, for a good night sleep.

DAY 2 – Saturday, May 7 (Newcastle, Hunter Valley)

  • Nothing aids a post-match debrief like a big breakfast. After checking out of your accommodation, head down towards Newcastle Beach and to Estabar Cafe. Grab a coffee and an Estabar breakfast favourite such as the avocado and Hunterbelle fetta and lemon served with toasted sourdough, or the scrambled open-range Papanui eggs. Sit back and soak in the fresh sea air
  • After breakfast, load up the car and head towards the Hunter Valley just 68kms or an hour away. The Hunter is a playground of activities, experiences and establishments so there are a lot of options to make the most of the day with your mates. Consider heading to the Hunter Distillery for a top shelf spirits tasting or head straight to the Matilda Bay Brewhouse for lunch. Get the sampler paddle with six different brews and play a game of pool, or just relax under the outdoor enormous sail. There are also a number of world-class golf courses in the Hunter Valley where you can take in a quick 9-holes such as Cypress Lakes Golf and Country Club
  • After a busy day, pull up stumps at Harrigan's Irish Pub and Accommodationfor the night. With a sports bar and bistro onsite it's the perfect place to relax, unwind and set yourself up to watch NRL's Super Saturday of football while you enjoy classic pub-grub with your mates.

DAY 3 – Sunday, May 8 (Hunter Valley, Scone and Tamworth)
  • It's game day so making your way towards Tamworth for this afternoon's City vs. Country match is priority. Check out of your accommodation by 8:00am and make your way onto the New England Highway heading towards Scone, approximately 70km, or an hour and five minutes' drive through Muswellbrook. On arrival in Scone, make a beeline for Crowded House Café on Kelly Street to get your coffee fix and a great brunch
  • The journey to Tamworth from Scone is 132km and should take a little over an hour and a half, passing through a number of great NSW regional towns including Murrurundi and Willow Tree
  • Tamworth is the capital of country music so ahead of the game head to The Country Music Hall of Fame. Head through the Walk a Country Mile exhibit featuring an unmatched collection of memorabilia from Australian Country music artists including clothing, musical instruments and other collectibles from the earliest pioneers of Australian country music such as Smoky Dawson, Buddy Williams, Tex Morton June Holms, Shirley Thoms right through to current artists Beccy Cole, Adam Harvey, Amber Lawrence and more
  • Come 2:30pm head five minutes down the road by car towards Scully Park, West Tamworth for the final match of this epic footy road trip, City v Country.Kicking off at 4:00pm the City v Country clash is sure to be a shop-stopper as coaches Brad Fittler and Craig Fitzgibbon showcase squads filled with NRL stars pushing their claims for a NSW State of Origin game one position
  • After the final siren has sounded, stay the night in Tamworth with accommodation at the Quality Hotel Powerhouse. As the match wraps up at approximately 6:00pm there is also the option to finish up the weekend road trip and head back home, ready for Monday morning and the week ahead!

For tickets and further information on the NRL regional test matches visit Ticketmaster for Australia v New Zealand or Ticketek for City v. Country.

If you're planning to travel from interstate to attend either match, flights arrive in to Newcastle Airport through Jetstar, Rex and Virgin Australia and into Tamworth Regional Airport through Qantas, Jetgo Australia and Virgin Australia.

More information on where to stay and what to do in NSW including major events happening can found at