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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

BANYAN TREE MAYAKOBA CELEBRATES A YEAR OF SUCCESS – FIRST ANNIVERSARY HIGHLIGHTS, AWARDS AND PROMOTIONS

As the first Banyan Tree property in the Americas, Banyan Tree Mayakoba has solidified its place along Mexico’s exquisite Riviera Maya coast as a premier destination for travelers seeking respite and a rejuvenating getaway. Celebrating its first anniversary this March, the resort reflects on a year of outstanding performance, awards and all-around success.

Recognized as an exceptional destination by guests and industry professionals, Banyan Tree Mayakoba has already been showered with multiple awards and accolades during its first year. Among TripAdvisor’s 2010 Travelers Choice’ Awards, the resort received five nods; including the No. 1 ranking in the category Top 10 Hotels for Romance in the Caribbean & Mexico. Banyan Tree Mayakoba also made its mark on several top U.S. travel publications, including a spot on Travel + Leisure’s venerable “It List,” highlighting the 45 best new hotels for 2009. Finally, the resort was honored with two Annual Boutique Design Awards for Best Lobby and Best Spa.

From March 1 – 15, guests who book a reservation online can take advantage of the resort’s “Karma” promotion. For every booking of two nights or more, guests receive resort credit equal to one night’s stay, up to US$1,860. Complimentary credits can be used to offset charges for spa treatments, dining, and purchases at retail galleries. The limited-time “Karma” promotion applies only to online bookings arranged March 1-15, 2010 at banyantree.com for stays from April 1-June 30, 2010.

As a leader in Asian hospitality and holistic wellness, Banyan Tree designed the Mayakoba property with innovative features to offer new experiences to discerning travelers. The property boasts five different villa types to cater to various market segments ranging from honeymooners and couples, to larger families and intimate groups of friends. In addition to the assortment of rejuvenating massages and beauty treatments inspired by traditional Asian remedies, the world-renowned Banyan Tree Spa also brought The Rainforest experience to Mayakoba, which offers spa patrons a choice of eight hydrotherapy treatments. Juxtaposed with Mayakoba’s tropical mangroves, lush lagoons and natural surroundings, the resort is truly a “Sanctuary for the Senses”.

Specially catering to couples seeking additional sparks of passion during their stay, Banyan Tree Mayakoba’s dedicated Romance Director is ready to help enhance each romantic getaway to create truly indelible memories for lovebirds. The resort’s chefs are also available to create a one-of-a-kind dining experience with a meat or seafood barbeque freshly grilled by the pools of individual villas.

Despite the difficulties for tourism in Mexico during 2009, Banyan Tree Mayakoba was able to rise above the external circumstances and provide world-class amenities and unparalleled services to guests. The property’s attention to detail has set it apart as a luxurious retreat and a place where pampering is never overlooked.

Banyan Tree Mayakoba's best available rates begin at US$565++ per night per villa for 2010. For reservations and enquiries, please contact Banyan Tree Mayakoba at +52 984 877 3688, toll-free from the United States at 1 800 591 0439, or log on to the website at banyantree.com.

There's nothing like Australia! New TA Campaign

Source: Travel Daily

Federal tourism minister Martin Ferguson has just officially launched Australia's new global tourism marketing campaign.

The promotion aims to harness the power of advocacy by the Australian people, with the first "invite" phase kicking off on 15 Apr by allowing consumers to tell the world about what is so great about Australia.

Photos uploaded to a special website will be geo-tagged to create a searchable online resource which TA md Andrew McEvoy described as the "ultimate insider's guide to Australia".

In May the second "inspire" phase starts, with the creation of an integrated campaign with print, online and video content incorporating some of the consumer submissions of their favourite Australian holiday experiences.

The third "engage" phase will encourage trade partners to join with TA to promote Australia to the world.

More information in today's Travel Daily.

Luxury Travel Magazine Gold List Awards 2010 Announced


David Hickey, Managing Director, Luxury Travel Magazine and Susan Borham, Editor-In-Chief, Luxury Travel Magazine. Photo Roderick Eime

The Luxury Travel Magazine Gold List Awards were held today at the Sheraton on the Park ballroom. The winners of the awards sponsored by Bentley, Virtuoso, Preferred Hotel Group, Ethiad, Sheraton on the Park, Five Star PR, and EvoTV were as follows:

Best overseas City: Paris France

Best Australian Hotel: Palazzo Versace Gold Coast

Best Overseas Hotel: Peninsula Hong Kong

Best Australian Resort: Hayman

Best Overseas Resort: Likuliku Fiji

Best Australian Boutique Property: Jonahs Whale Beach

Best Overseas Spa Resort: Chiva Som, Thailand

Best Australian Spa: Angsana Resort and Spa QLD

Best Australian Golf Resort: Hyatt Regency Coolum

Best Overseas Golf Resort: St Andrews Links Scotland

Best Australian Ski Resort: Thredbo NSW

Best Overseas Ski Resort: Whistler Blackcomb Canada

Best Family Resort: Sea World Gold Coast QLD

Best Luxury Travel Professionals: Abercrombie &Kent

Best Luxury Cruise Line: Silversea

Best Luxury Cruise Ship: Large - Cunard QM2

Best Luxury Cruise Chip: Small - Silver Whisper

Best Business Class Airline: Qantas

Best Luxury Airport for Duty Free: Dubai

Best First Class Airline: Singapore Airlines

Best Luxury Rail Journey: Great Southern Rail Australia - the Ghan and the Indian Pacific

Best Luxury Eco Tourism: Daintree Eco Lodge & Spa QLD

Favourite Luxury Brand: Chanel

Which newly opened hotel/resort would you most like to visit?: Wolgan Valley

Monday, March 29, 2010

King's Cup Elephant Polo comes to a close

Audemars Pigeut Triumphs over King Power to Win the Ninth

King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament 
 
This year's annual King's Cup Elephant Polo tournament held in the idyllic surroundings of the Anantara Golden Triangle Resort provided spectators with nail biting matches, a beautiful setting and a great cause to rally around.  

From March 22nd to March 28th, twelve elite teams from all around the world descended upon Chiang Rai in the North of Thailand and battled it out for the championship of this unique and increasingly-competitive sport. The real winners, however, were the elephants themselves – over US$300,000 has been raised since the tournament started in 2001 to help provide protection and support for the embattled Thai elephant. 

Expanding in popularity, The King's Cup Elephant Polo has gone from a small two day event with six teams into a week long extravaganza with the 2010 tournament featuring twelve teams from four continents, encompassing forty players from a least fifteen different countries.  

As anticipated by the experts, the finale pitted King Power against the Audemars Piguet team. A close game until the second half, where Audemars Pigeut's superior polo-skills and greater reach eventually won out with the team coming from behind to take the overall tournament.  

King Power look set for a win early in the game by firmly planting the first goal of the game in the first thirty seconds but it was the unbeatable performance and teamwork of team captain Peter Prentice and brothers Uday and Angad Kalaan that took the Audemars Piguet team to a resounding four point win over Kings Power; the final score being 10 to 6.  

To top everything off, a gala dinner held during the tournament garnered 1.8 million Baht for the Thai Elephant Conservation Centre and the National Elephant Institute, the official beneficiaries of the annual event. 

Final Results (Placing) of the King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament:

1. Audemars Pigeut
2. King Power
3. Mercedes Benz
4. SOCO International
5. Four Seasons Tented Camp
6. Veuve Clicquot
7. PricewaterhouseCoopers
8. TAT
9. KBank
10. IBM
11. Anantara Golden Triangle
12. PTT AMEX

The on-site Elephant Camp at Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa's 160 acre lush jungle setting plays host to the annual King's Cup Elephant Polo Tournament.  The game, which showcases the skillful grace of its rescued elephants, has become Thailand's 6th largest annual tourist event according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand.  The 2010 event, to be held on 22nd March, promises to enthrall spectators for the 9th year running, thanks to all our valued sponsors.

Viva Macau halts operations





Viva Macau has had its Air Operator Certificate revoked by the Civil Aviation Authority of Macao SAR (AACM), meaning the airline is no longer able to operate.

It is understood Viva Macau cancelled services on March 26 because of “fuel payment issues” and didn’t cooperate to help passengers, according to a statement on the government’s website. Air Macau has ended a sub-franchise contract with Viva Macau at the request of the government.

“The government was greatly concerned with the negative impacts of the Viva Macau incident towards passengers and the community,” the statement said, citing Chan Weng Hong, president of the AACM.

In addition, Hong said legal actions will be taken regarding the $28.5 million loan granted to the low-cost carrier between 2008 and 2009. No further details were given on this matter.

Viva Macau’s online booking site was still in operation last Friday and Saturday despite the government being aware of the carrier’s financial conditions.

AACM has urged Viva Macau to terminate its commercial activities including online ticket sales.

Calls to Viva Macau chief executive Reg Macdonald were not returned in time for publication.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fiji continues strong start to 2010

-          Australian figures for February increase by 24.8 per cent 

-          International figures up by 11.5 per cent

24 March 2010 – Topping off a strong January performance Tourism Fiji visitor arrival statistics released this week show Australian visitor arrivals for February have again increased substantially.

A total of 12,777 Australians visited Fiji in February, a 24.8 per cent increase over the 10,239 figure recorded for the same period in 2009.

Tourism Fiji regional director Australia Paresh Pant said the destination's ongoing success from this market could be attributed to an intensive east coast TV advertising blitz launched in mid-January offering a range of all inclusive holiday deals.

The strong Australian result helped take Fiji's international visitor tally to 35,010 for February, an 11.5 per cent increase over the 31,386 achieved for the same period in 2009 with most of the destination's key source markets showing positive growth.

This includes a 20.9 per cent increase from the New Zealand market.

The national tourist office also recorded strong results from several emerging Asian markets where its strong promotional efforts in recent months are beginning to pay off.

While base figures remain relatively small from China, Taiwan and South Korea, respective visitor arrivals increases of 111.2 per cent, 92 per cent and 44.3 per cent demonstrate strong potential for Fiji from all three markets.

Released by Tourism Fiji 

Visit: www.fijime.com


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

WEIGHING UP CRUISING’S BIG AND SMALL

A conference of cruise-specialist travel agents in Canberra has been shown something of the diversity in size of cruise ships now available to holidaymakers.

After hearing about the merits of ships big, ships small, ships medium-size, European river cruisers and Asian river-adventure boats, this picture was shown of the truly Big and the Small

It's Royal Caribbean Line's brand new Oasis of the Seas (225,282 tonnes, 5,400 passengers and 2,165 crew) dwarfing SeaDream Yacht Club's SeaDream I (a tiny 4,300 tonnes and just 112 passengers and 95 crew) as they shared a berth in St Thomas in the Caribbean this month.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Machu Picchu reopens in April

By Charlie Mills

Finally, the Inca ruins site at Machu Picchu will reopen to international visitors as of April 1st. This reopening comes following a closure of two months caused by flooding. This is good news for this area, which makes a lot of money off the tourists that come from all over to visit these ruins.

Officials from PromPeru, the nation’s tourism body, did go on to confirm the reopening of the site. The reopening is made possible thanks to the repairs being successful to the rail links. These rail links had been damaged in the flood earlier this year.

The nearby Vilcanota River overran its banks back in January. It destroyed the rail and road links to the site. This had a severe impact on tourism to the area and even stranded many tourist at the site or many days. The tourists finally had to be airlifted out of the area by helicopter.

It took a long time for officials to airlift everyone out of the area for many reasons. First of all, bad weather continued to make it impossible to fly helicopters into the area. Second, many hikers, who had started on their joinery to the site many days before continued to show up at the site long after the flood waters had destroyed the link to the area. During this time, people had to deal with a very small supply of food and water.

Originally, repairs to the tracks were not expected to be done until mid-April. However, favorable weather conditions have allowed work to be completed way ahead of schedule. PeruRail will recommence its Vistabome train service to Agus Calientes on March 29th. However, Inca Citadel of Machu Picchu will not reopen to tourists until April 1st

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fiji remains on full alert as Cyclone Tomas approaches

Nadi, Fiji islands – With tropical Cyclone Tomas expected to make landfall within the next 12 hours, Tourism Fiji had advised heavy winds, high seas and strong wind generated by the cyclone are now being experienced in the destination's north-eastern division.

However the national tourist office has advised while the region remains on high alert, the organisation has to date not received any reports of tourists being endangered or tourism plant suffering structural damage.

Tourism Fiji CEO Josefa Tuamoto said his Nadi-based team was remaining in regular contact with resort and hotel operators on Vanua Levu, Taveuni and Savusavu, the key tourist areas in the north-eastern area of Fiji.

While the region was experiencing heavy wind and rain squalls, no damage to date had been reported.

In instances where electricity had been shut down for safety reasons, most resorts and hotels were maintaining their own power via generators.

All resorts in the region – and in fact across the entire destination – have been on full alert since Friday and are fully equipped with food, water and emergency medical supplies and communication equipment.

Mr Tuamoto said events taking place in the north-east were a far cry from the situation in the resort areas located in western Fiji.

These, he said, included the big island of Viti Levu and the Mamanuca and Yasawa Islands, which, while maintaining a high degree of vigilance, were generally experiencing fair weather.

Disruption to services in these areas, he said, had been limited with the exception of local cruise schedules and inter-island ferry and flight services.

While all major airlines servicing the destination from Australia and New Zealand have cancelled services today (Monday), full services are expected to be resumed tomorrow (Tuesday) following individual airlines' assessment of the situation when the cyclone will have passed through the region.

Continental Airlines has rescheduled all its Guam-Nadi services.

Air Pacific services ex-Honolulu and Los Angeles to Nadi have been delayed for 24 hours.

(Full details of all Air Pacific services can be viewed at the airline'travs website located at www.airpacific.com.)

Korean Air Seoul-Nadi services are still on hold until Wednesday.

All domestic inter-island air services to Savusavu, Taveuni, Kadavu, Lavuka, the Lau Group, Mana Island and Malololailai have also been cancelled until further notice.
 
Intra-island services between Nadi and Suva have also been cancelled until further notice.

"All of Fiji will continue to remain on high alert until the full extent of the situation has been revealed, most likely by first thing tomorrow morning," Mr Tuamoto said.

Oman has so much to offer both the young and the young at heart

From the great sandpits of the deserts, the stunning wildlife and natural wonders, to the friendliness of the Omani people and the modern comforts of its luxury hotels, The Sultanate of Oman offers so many ingredients for perfect family holidays.

Begin your trip in the elegant capital Muscat, a location which provides an abundant choice of the world's most exclusive five and six-star hotels, all of which hold the needs of younger travelers close at heart.

Just a few names include The Al Bustan Palace, The Grand Hyatt and Shangri La's Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa, where children will love the thrill of floating down the Lazy River. Inspired by the centuries-old falaj system that brought fresh water to remote Omani villages, the Lazy River winds for a delightful half-kilometre between the resort's Al Bandar and Al Waha hotels.

Choose between pool side play and relaxation – or indeed one of the many beautiful beaches, or heading out to explore the fascinating sights and sounds of the Old Town. The location for where much of the city's rich heritage has been preserved, here children and adults alike will be able to step back in time into old world Arabia.

Walk in the area around the Sultan's palace and see remnants of Muscat's original clay wall and three access gates – Bab al Matha'eeb, Bab al Saghir and Bab al Waljat, which for centuries fortified the capital.

In addition to exploring highlights such as the magnificent Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, children will love the interactive Oman Children's Museum. Located near Qurum Nature Park, off of Sultan Qaboos Street in Muscat, the museum has 45 exhibits and is visited by around 50,000 visitors annually.  

With many hands-on displays, the museum addresses the scientific ways of human life with the exhibition section divided into three parts: The Human life, Physics and Observation which investigates the progression of science through the ages.  

Take the family on a 4WD trek and just 190km out of the capital, you will come across the Wahiba Sands, one of the world's most fascinating and beautiful desert formations. Covering an expansive distance of 180km from north to south, 80km from east to west and exceeding 150 metres in height, Oman's ancient desert is pure magic, especially when the shifting golden hue dunes are dappled in early morning sunlight.

Children will thrill at the excitement of seeing gazelle, white tailed mongoose and Bedu tribesman who for centuries, have herded the region's goats, sheep and camels.

Overnight 'glamping' is sure to delight children of all ages at Desert Nights. A true reflection of Oman's authentic Arabic style and just a two hour drive from Muscat, Desert Nights offers an oasis of untamed spectacular open spaces within the beauty of the Wahiba sands. Sprawled across 10-acres of silken sands, luxurious Bedouin-style tents await those who seek the ultimate desert adventure, as well as the ultimate in personalised service.

At Desert Nights, children will love to experience the true spirit of Arabia as they take a ride on a camel, or for older children, a ride on a quad bike across the sand dunes.

The north-east of Oman boasts the enchanting region of Ash Sharqiyyah, with its diversity that beckons visitors from far and wide. The Sharqiyyah coast stretching from Tiwi, Sur and Ras Al Hadd in the east to Barr Al Hikman and Masirah Island in the south abounds with coral reefs, rare turtles and dolphins.

Taking a boat trip and witnessing the wildlife at first hand will be a highlight of family holidays in these regions.

Meanwhile, the pristine beaches of the sparsely inhabited Ras Al Hadd coastal region are a safe haven for the breeding habitat of the green sea turtles. The nesting season is anywhere from July to December when hundreds of turtles come ashore at night to lay their eggs.

The government has set up a reserve to allow the public to view this amazing spectacle, with the area  limited to the beaches at Ras Al Jinz. The Ras Al Jinz Scientific and Visitors Centre is located in the Ras al-Jinz Sea Turtle and Nature Reserve. Established in 1996, it covers a total protected area of 120 square kilometers.

Watching the turtles dig their nests and lay eggs, or watching the young turtles hatch and then make their hazardous dash for the sea will be a lasting memory of a visit to Oman for any child.

For further information, please contact:

Mona Tannous, Manager, Sultanate of Oman Tourism, Australia/NZ,

      Level 6, 117 York Street, Sydney NSW 2000 , Ph: 02 9286 8930 Email: info@tourismoman.com.au  Website: www.omantourism.gov.om

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sydney Airport Australia’s worst four years in row


Image: Sydney Airport Corporation Limited

Written By: eGlobal Travel News contributing editor William Sykes

Sydney Airport, Australia’s main international gateway, has been ranked the worst for customer satisfaction among the country’s five biggest airports – for the fourth consecutive year.The airport is a privately owned monopoly and airport users have long criticised its prices. A bottle of mineral water can cost nearly A$6 to take aboard a plane. Bottles of water cluster around airside newsagents to tempt the thirsty. The “no liquids” rule means passengers can’t bring drinks with them through security.

Now, Australia’s consumer watchdog, the Government-run Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has issued a report showing that in 2008-09, Sydney Airport actually managed to increase its profit while passenger numbers fell. Its aeronautical revenue rose by A$23 million, or 5.4 per cent, to A$446 million – yet passenger numbers plunged by 500,000 – or 1.4 per cent – to 32.7 million.

The ACCC concluded that the airport had enjoyed persistent increased profits by allowing its quality of service to fall at the expense of airlines and passengers.

The performance of Sydney Airport was “of greatest concern,” ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel declared. “The indications are that Sydney Airport has increased profits by permitting service quality to fall below that which the airlines reasonably expect. Airport users, including passengers and airlines, rated Sydney Airport last amongst the monitored airports for the fourth consecutive year and it appears that investment in the international terminal has been slow. And while Sydney Airport was the only airport to report a fall in passenger numbers, its revenue and profit margins still increased.”

Airlines aren’t happy with Sydney Airport either. The Board of Airline Representatives of Australia (BARA), representing international airlines flying to and from Australia, hears constant complaints about the way Sydney Airport is run. Airports typically charge airlines on a per passenger basis for using their facilities, and charges are often set in advance for several years at a time. Sydney Airport recorded the highest average prices at $13.63 per passenger, compared to the lowest of $7.96 at Melbourne Airport.

“While airlines lowered their airfares to attract business in the current global economic slowdown, the airports appear to have enjoyed the security of guaranteed prices as well as benefiting from the airlines’ efforts to encourage travel,” Mr Samuel said.

Formerly in public hands, Sydney Airport was sold in 2002 by the Howard Government to the Southern Cross Consortium, led by Macquarie Bank, for a fraction less than A$5.6 billion. The airport is still backed by Macquarie Bank. MAp Airports (formerly known as Macquarie Airports) and other entities related to the bank have stake in Australia’s largest airport exceeding 80%.

Parking fees at the airport draw regular fire, while rail travellers are incensed that the cost of getting to and from the airport greatly exceeds that of any other comparable rail journey in Sydney. That’s because the rail line is in private hands while the rest of the system belongs to the NSW State Government. Consumer calls last year for the NSW Government to renegotiate the contract with the private company that runs the airport and surrounding stations have come to nothing. The high cost of the rail journey ($15 one-way to Sydney) deters passengers. If travelling as a family or group, it’s cheaper to catch a train to a nearby publicly owned station, such as Hurstville, and catch a cab the rest of the way.

Price-gouging over airport car parking is another source of consumer ire. The price of short-term parking has almost doubled over the past financial year, from $28 to $50 for four hours. ‘‘Car parking revenue was considerably above operating expenses over the whole reporting period,’’ the ACCC said. Other big airports in Australia also use their monopoly situation to change extortionate parking fees. “The ACCC has observed that some airports may affect the cost or convenience of potential alternatives to on-airport parking, which could contribute to the high margins reported for on-airport car parking.”

Sydney Airport management has reacted predictably to the criticism. It has challenged the methodology used by the ACCC and it claims things have changed since the report was released. Passengers are now “appreciating the improved travel experience that is being produced by the ongoing upgrade’’ according to an airport spokesman.

THAI Advises Passengers Travelling From Bangkok To Allow Extra Travel Time

In the view of the Political Rallies from the 12th March 2010 onwards, Thai Airways International Public Company Limited has an Operational Plan prepared for the situation. Passengers are reminded to spare time to get to Bangkok Airport early.

Mr. Piyasvasti Amranand, THAI President, said that due to the political rallies starting from Friday 12 March 2010 onwards, for passengers' convenience and as there may be traffic congestions, THAI requests passengers traveling by THAI on domestic routes to arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport three (3) hours prior to the flight time and those traveling on international routes to arrive at Suvarnabhumi Airport four (4) hours prior to the flight time.

THAI's Ticket Offices on Larn Luang and Silom Road will be closed on Saturday 13 March and Sunday 14 March 2010. Passengers may contact and purchase tickets at the THAI Headoffice on Vibhavadi Rangsit Road as following details:

Saturday 13 March 2010 Opening hour 08.00 – 17.00 hrs

Sunday 14 March 2010 Opening hour 09.00 – 13.00 hrs

Furthermore, THAI will temporarily close the THAI Contact Center at Larn Luang during the political rallies and will transfer THAI Contact Center staff to THAI Headoffice until the situation is back to normal. THAI apologizes for any inconveniences caused.

For more information on traveling information, flight schedule and reservation, please contact THAI Contact Center at Bangkok 0-2356-1111, 24 hours or at www.thaiairways.com or www.thaiairways.co.th.

For Australian travellers, THAI reservations 1300 651 960 or reservations@thaiairways.com.au. Australian online offices are closed Sat/Sun but staff are reviewing the Bangkok situation.

See www.thaiairways.com.au for updates and check DFAT's Smart Traveller site for traveller information : www.smartraveller.gov.au.

Monday, March 8, 2010

VIRGIN BLUE TO LAUNCH BRAND NEW DIRECT SERVICES FROM SYDNEY-AYERS ROCK (ULURU)

Virgin Blue has announced plans to launch flights to one of Australia’s most iconic and revered tourist destinations.

From Monday 2 August, the airline will begin direct flights from Sydney to Ayers Rock (Uluru), providing some much needed competition on the route.

Both Australian and international leisure travellers will have the opportunity to fly with Virgin Blue to visit the landmark that is undeniably Australian and recognised both in this country and globally.

Virgin Blue will commence with a daily flight, operating an EMBRAER E-190 aircraft to carry 104 Guests to and from this iconic attraction.

Chief Executive, Brett Godfrey, said, “Virgin Blue turns ten in August and what better way to celebrate than with the launch of new services to the heart of Australia.”

“The timing is right for us to launch a new route as we take delivery of a new E-Jet later this year and we looked at a number of options before deciding Ayers Rock (Uluru) was the ideal destination to commit our new resources to. The decision reflects our view regarding the importance of Ayers Rock (Uluru) to the tourism industry and indeed to visitors from our own backyard, as well as from all over the world, who flock to the rock each year to marvel at the natural landmark.”

Virgin Blue will launch a special “Rock Across to Ayers Rock” celebratory fare of $149* one way on the internet which is on sale from now until midnight 21 March 2010 for travel between 3 August 2010 – 23 September and 12 October - 16 December 2010. Everyday fares will start from $199* one way on the internet.

Brett Godfrey added, “We expect to find the only airline currently operating on the route will see fit to suddenly offer more reasonable fares. As the airline that introduced low fares to Australia ten years ago, we are excited to be expanding our route network to include Ayers Rock.”

Connecting flights will also be available from a number of other Australian destinations including Adelaide, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, Melbourne and Perth.

Virgin Blue has worked closely with the Ayers Rock airport authority to ensure the airport infrastructure will be ready in August for Virgin Blue flights to commence. The airport will upgrade existing check-in counters as well as build additional baggage belt facilities.

Premium Economy will also be available on the new route.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Alice in Wonderland locations on show in England

Don’t Be Late – You’ve Got a Very Important Date with VisitEngland

It’s time to follow in the footsteps of Alice and enjoy an essentially English Wonderland!

To celebrate the release of the much-anticipated Disney’s Alice In Wonderland, National Tourism body VisitEngland has created a dedicated website to showcase various locations associated with the great English children’s tale, as originally penned by Lewis Carroll more than 140 years ago. There is no longer a need to be curiouser and curiouser about what inspired the adventures down the rabbit hole, as all is revealed at www.visitengland.com/alice

Disney’s latest adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, released March 4, brings a wealth of comedic talent to the big screen and depicts the essence of wry English wit, with renowned actors such as Helena Bonham Carter as The Red Queen, Matt Lucas as Tweedledee and Tweedledum, Stephen Fry as The Cheshire Cat and Alan Rickman as the Blue Caterpillar. Not forgetting of course, Johnny Depp as the ultimate English eccentric, the Mad Hatter and Australian newcomer, Mia Wasikowska playing Alice - see www.disney.com.au/disneyfilms/aliceinwonderland

The National Trust’s Antony House, a classic, 18th century mansion in Cornwall, was the main ‘real’ site for the filming of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. To commemorate this, the National Trust is transforming Antony into the fantasy land envisioned by Lewis Carroll, comprising a rabbit hole entrance into a magical garden (where everyone will feel smaller than usual!), giant caterpillars, croquet on the lawn and Mad Hatter tea parties, from now until end the end of October.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, or Lewis Carroll as he became known once published, is said to have based his fictional colourful characters both on people he knew, as well as experiences he had during his time living in Cheshire, Yorkshire and Oxford. His legacy lives on throughout all corners of England.

Take a trip to Daresbury, Cheshire, to the birthplace of Carroll and the church where he was christened, which houses a stained glass window of Alice in Wonderland characters, including the White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter. The nearby Hat Works Museum is a shrine to fancy headwear – no need to be as mad as a hatter to enjoy a visit there! It’s claimed, however, that the cat with the incredibly large grin was not from Cheshire, but from Yorkshire, where a carved face of a smiling feline can be seen in St Peter’s Church in Croft on Tees, where the author spent the latter years of his childhood.

A very important date for Carroll was his move to Oxford, where he met Dean Liddell, whose daughter Alice was to become the protagonist in the enchanted tale, after a memorable river trip. After messing about on the water, why not stop off at ChristChurch College, where Carroll studied and lectured, for an Alice tour (by appointment) and view the original rabbit hole? Make time to visit the Oxford Museum and see the White Rabbit’s fob watch and the famous drink me bottle on display. And be sure to pop in to Alice’s Shop, to discover an emporium of curiosities, see where Alice Liddell used to buy barley sugar sweets and view original artwork illustrations on the Alice in Wonderland theme.

Elsewhere, Alice fans can shop ‘til they drop at Selfridges in London, where a magical pop-up shop has transformed the Wonder Room into a Wonderland, selling such desirables as Stella McCartney specially-designed Alice jewellery and a host of other memorabilia to coincide with the launch of the Tim Burton re-make of the film.

And finally, what better way to end the adventure, than with the great English tradition of afternoon tea? Head to The Langham London’s prestigious Palm Court, a spectacular setting for the Wonderland Afternoon Tea, which absolutely screams eat me!

For further information see www.visitengland.com/alice

Cruise Ship Hit by Tsunami-like Wave. Two dead.

Freak tsunami-like waves measuring almost 30ft high ploughed into a Mediterranean cruise ship today, sweeping two passengers to their deaths and injuring many others.

Cyprus-based Louis Cruise Lines says the incident occurred aboard the 1,790-passenger Louis Majesty as it was sailing from Barcelona to Genoa, Italy. The line says the "abnormal" waves smashed windows as high as deck five on the vessel.

"The windows in a public area on deck 5 on the forward part of the vessel smashed resulting (in) the fatal injury of two passengers of German and Italian nationality while 14 more passengers suffered light injuries," the line says in a statement.

The horrific tragedy unfolded on the Cypriot-owned Louis Majesty near the French port of Marseilles after the walls of water appeared from nowhere.

‘There were at least three abnormally high waves which broke windshields and cascaded along the decks,’ said a local coastguard spokesman.

There were around 1350 people on the ship, including crew. The casualties were very serious, with a German and an Italian passenger dying. At least six other people suffered injuries.’

The Marseilles coastguard spokesman said the waves were approaching 30ft high and may have been part of an isolated tsunami.

Source: ETN

PACIFIC BLUE ANNOUNCES DIRECT BRISBANE-QUEENSTOWN FLIGHTS FOR THE SKI SEASON

SWAP QUEENSLAND FOR QUEENSTOWN!

SALE FARES AVAILABLE NOW FROM JUST $249*

Thursday 4 March 2010: Pacific Blue will be flying Queensland skiers straight to the slopes this winter with two direct flights a week from Brisbane to New Zealand’s ski capital of Queenstown from the end of June.

The seasonal flights on Fridays and Sundays will double Pacific Blue’s international services into the winter resort, which are currently two flights a week from Sydney operated on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

To celebrate the new services snow bunnies are invited to hop aboard early with internet sale fares for the non-stop flights from just $249* one-way, available now until midnight 11 March or sold out.

Virgin Blue CEO Brett Godfrey said Queenstown was an iconic ski destination for Australians and he was sure the new low fares to fly direct from Brisbane would be warmly welcomed.

“We know that many Queensland skiers currently fly via Christchurch to get to Queenstown so we’re sure they’ll be delighted to be able to get across the ditch in a single hop.

“Since we began our Sydney and Auckland services to Queenstown in September last year we’ve seen very good loads and we expect these to be even stronger during the ski season, especially if New Zealand experiences the fantastic snow conditions it had in 2009.”

The seasonal Brisbane-Queenstown flights will begin on 25 June and the last seasonal service will be on 12 September, providing a total of 22 return ski flights and adding over 3,000 seats to the Queenstown market from Australia.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Getting back to nature in the Barossa Valley

by Courtney Alderson for Barossa Blends


With national parks, passing vineyards, historic towns and areas of stunning natural beauty, the Barossa is a dream destination for hikers and nature-lovers alike.

Start your nature escape by exploring the gateway of the Barossa – Gawler. The town’s many parks, gardens and walking trails offer visitors a truly serene experience.

A must family visit is the Clonlea Recreation Park, home to Gawler first settlers. Enjoy a picnic on the lawn, while taking in the nearby Indigenous species garden, as the children take pleasure using the onsite recreational facilities.

Pack up the picnic hamper and head to Pioneer Park. Best known as the Remembrance Garden, Pioneer Park was the original site of Gawler’s first cemetery. Jodie Granthan, Gawler’s Manager of Economic Development says many of the town’s natural wonders hold historical significance also.

“Gawler has a range of park areas in which to get back to nature with,” she said. “Apex Park is a beautiful picnic and barbeque area that lights up during the festive season with its Christmas Riverbank display.

“The historic Dead Man’s Pass has a great walking track for the family to enjoy, as well as, barbeque facilities and nesting boxes for birds located by the North and South Para rivers. A project undertaken by the Rotary Club of Gawler to promote habitats for wildlife. “

Once you’ve spent a few hours in Gawler, it’s time to drive approximately 15 kilometres north-east of the town and stop at the Lyndoch Lavender Farm. Take a stroll through more than two hectares of this multi-award winning lavender farm, touching and smelling more than 90 different varieties.

“We provide scenic walks and gourmet food tasting,” Manager Mat Allanson said. “There’s a sheltered cafe offering light meals and wine tastings and a shop with a fantastic range of lavender products including toiletries, household products, plants and gifts.”

Fresh lavender scents will linger as you make your way to discover the wildlife and unforgettable scenery that’s to be found along the tracks of Mount Crawford Forest, near Williamstown.

Enjoy picnicking, bushwalking, camping and more at this 12,000-hectare belt of planted pine and native forest on the edge of the Barossa Ranges. With hundreds of kilometres of paths ranging from forest management tracks to ambling trails, it’s an ideal spot for hiking and mountain bike riding.

Close by, and very much suited for the fortune hunter, the Barossa Goldfields can be found within the Para Wirra Recreation Park. See the remnants of the gold-hunters labours by following along two interesting walking trail loops (1.2km and 5km). Each trail has interpretive signs that illustrate mining techniques, geology, treatment of ore and the lifestyles of people who lived there.

While in Williamstown, visit the Whispering Wall. Be fascinated by its unique acoustic effect that allows you to whisper at one end and have a friend hear your whisper more than 100 meters away. It is in fact, a retaining wall for the Barossa Reservoir and provides a scenic view of the reservoir.

Escape from the reservoir and let yourself wander away from the hustle and bustle of the main roads to the tranquillity of the Barossa’s less-trodden areas, starting at two of the state’s most well known long-distance trails, the Heysen and Mawson Trails.

Both trails have undergone re-developments allowing more options than ever for undertaking day trips and short overnight stays along the trails that conveniently start and finish in towns and make use of rural facilities on offer.

“Both trails offer a broad range of experiences and scenery as they traverse different landscapes, from the rolling valleys and orchards of the Mount Lofty Ranges and the famous vineyards of the Barossa and Clare Valleys, to the ancient rocky peaks and gorges of the Flinders Ranges,” Office for Recreation and Sport’s Project Manager Marty Krieg said.

The Kidman Trail also touches on the outskirts of the Barossa and offers visitors a multi-use horse riding, cycling and walking trail that traverses 269 kilometres of roadsides, forest tracks, private land and unmade road reserves, providing a scenic trail that highlights the natural beauty, cultural history and major points of interest.


Trail and Tour Listing
  • Altona CSR Landcare Reserve and Walking Trail
  • Barossa Bushgardens Regional Native Flora Centre
  • Barossa Goldfields Walking Trail
  • Barossa Heritage Trail
  • Barossa Scenic Heritage Drive
  • Church Hill State Heritage Walking Tour
  • Gawler Historic Main Street Walking Tour
  • Gawler Driving Tour
  • Jenkins Scrub
  • Lavender Federation Trail
  • Little Kaiser Stuhl
  • Mount Crawford Forest Summit
  • Mount Pleasant Summit
  • Para Road Wine Path
  • Steingarten
  • Tanunda Heritage Trail
  • The Heysen Trail
  • The Kidman Trail
  • The Mawson Trail
More information about Trails and Tours
http://www.barossa.com/experiences/walkingtrailsscenicdrives.aspx

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Costa Europa accident kills three in Egypt

AL-ARISH, Egypt – A luxury cruise liner carrying nearly 1,500 passengers slammed into the pier as it docked Friday at an Egyptian Red Sea resort in fierce winds, leaving three crew members dead, officials said.

The ship's owner, Costa Crociera, said the vessel sprung a leak on the right side after banging into the dock at about 4:45 a.m.

"We sadly have to confirm the deaths of 3 crew members," the company said in a statement. "The ship is now safely docked in port."

Other passengers were being put up in hotels and arrangements were being made to return them to their home countries, according to the company.

Witnesses said fierce winds had rocked the area overnight and the ship was slammed part way onto the pier.

Bad weather was believed to be the cause of the collision, which left a 2 meter (yard) hole in the body of the ship, according to an Egyptian security official.

The Costa Europa ship had been on an 18-day cruise from Dubai to Savona and had 1,437 guests on board, Italy.

Police and rescue officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to release the information, said the three killed include an Indian, a Brazilian and a Honduran, but the company did not confirm nationalities.

Mohammed Fayez, head of South Sinai ambulance services, said the bodies were still being removed from the ship. The vessel had arrived in Sharm el-Sheik from another Red Sea port in Safaga, local officials said.

The 55,000-ton ship, which was built in 1986, was restored and entered into service with Costa in 2002, the company said.

It's one of 16 cruise ships belonging to the Genoa, Italy-based Costa Crociera line, the Italian subsidiary of Carnival Corp.


Source:

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