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Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Sultanate of Oman travel profile

Take the rough with the smooth on an Arabian drive through Oman

From the vast barren deserts, rocky deepwater fjords and the beauty of the ancient forts, to the hospitality of the Omani people and the modern opulence of its luxury hotels, The Sultanate of Oman is a true joy to the senses for visitors taking a drive across this treasured land.

With so much opportunity for those wishing to experience both the 'glamour' of Oman, as well as its more traditional Arabic heritage and breathtaking landscapes, a good idea is to combine both aspects with a guided tour drive. With the use of an air-conditioned, comfortable 4WD vehicle - often a Toyota Land Cruiser - these tours come complete with a highly knowledgeable, English-speaking guide, who is ready to tailor-make a 'desert crossing' experience to your requirements.

Providing for the ultimate Arabian experience, many tours begin in the elegant capital, Muscat, a location which provides an abundant choice of the world's most exclusive five and six-star properties, all of which focus on quality and sustainability.

Names include The Grand Hyatt, Shangri-La's Barr Al Jissah Resort and Spa and The Al Bustan Palace – the truly magnificent six star property built to host royalty and some of the world's wealthiest nations, including the six member states of the Gulf Cooperative Council.

From Muscat, head north to the foot of the Hajar Mountains, following a mountain trail through dry wadis. Wadis are the key to understanding the Omani lifestyle outside of the capital. Seasonal riverbeds that flow throughout the country, and which only fill up from time to time after heavy rains, wadis have for centuries, provided a place for locals to wash, bathe and play. They also reveal an abundance of waterfalls, caves, oases and dramatic views.

Take the opportunity to go mountain climbing in the spectacular mountains, where the growing popularity of organised expeditions lends itself to some truly stunning experiences.  Take your pick from either a leisurely or an 'extreme' option, and after a day climbing the 3,000m high peak of Jebel Shams, an overnight accommodation option is to stay at a camp retreat set amongst the stunning landscape.

Accessibility is not a problem in The Sultanate, as your guided tour will take advantage of the new and extensive road network. Where there was once only 10 miles of asphalt road in the whole of Oman, now a program of building has created a network of more than 16,500 kms of asphalt roads and motorways which link the main cities in the north and south.

These roads provide discovery to a country which still has massive areas of unexplored wilderness, a fact which becomes apparent when you come face to face with the spectacular desert formations of the Wahiba Sands.

Here is the location for Desert Nights camp. 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 vacation, as well as the ultimate in personalised service.
Travelling on through beautiful and often diverse desert landscapes, and onto the great coastal road, the opportunity awaits for some camping of the more 'rugged' sort, amidst the stunning serenity and wildlife of locations such as Khaluf Bay. With help from your guides, you will be able to pitch a tent in the sand dunes, just metres from the sea, kms from anywhere and at one with nature. Pure bliss!
En route to your next destination, learn more about the unique Omani hospitality by paying a visit to a local Bedouin family. Within the confines of one of these remote homes, you will be welcomed with qahwa (traditional Arabic coffee) and dates. And like just about everywhere you may go in this deeply patriotic country, you will see a picture of Oman's deeply revered leader, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said, hanging on the wall.

There is a strong likelihood that your guide will inform you that in Oman, the people are indebted to their Sultan who has achieved so much for them.

Indeed they are, as for much of the last century, Oman was an insular society, virtually isolated from the rest of the world. It wasn't until the current Sultan Qaboos took over the country from his father in 1970, that the foundations of the new economy were built, with running water, electricity and free schooling available for all.

Signal the end of your great desert crossing with the drive into Salalah, the administrative capital of the Dhofar region of Oman and the country's southernmost city. Unlike other regions, lush greenery prevails here, as a result of being the only place in the peninsula that receives the South East monsoon showers from June to late September or early October.

Known as the Khareef (winds of plenty), this is the season when people flock to see the land of mist and mountains in all its glory. The entire region is swathed in green, with the showers causing a significant drop in temperatures, thus ensuring the cool capital city of Salalah a permanent place on the Oman tourist map for visitors escaping the searing summer heat of the Gulf.

For further information, please contact:

THE SULTANATE OF OMAN MINISTRY OF TOURISM

Ph: 02 9286 8930

Email: info@tourismoman.com.au 
Website: www.omantourism.gov.om

 

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Best Western Opens New Phuket, Thailand Hotel

Best Western International – The World's Largest Hotel Chain® - has opened its latest resort on Phuket, Thailand. The new Best Western Sawaddi Patong Hotel truly is located in the 'heart of the action', superbly situated in the island's most popular tourist enclave of Patong.

Its location means an abundance of shopping, dining, recreational activities, nightlife and other entertainment opportunities are within walking distance. Patong Beach with all its watersports, beach chairs and swimming is also a short distance from the resort.

Best Western's 13th property in Thailand and fourth on Phuket, Best Western Sawaddi Patong Hotel's 146 fully-appointed deluxe rooms and suites are unassumingly comfortable and pleasing to the eye. Whether a Standard, Superior or Deluxe room or a Suite, all enjoy fully wired convenience characterised by complimentary internet access and 32" LCD TV with cable channels.

The array of facilities at Best Western Sawaddi Patong Hotel includes the Roydi restaurant serving Western and Oriental cuisine, Poolside bar and Ploendi Lobby bar, swimming pool, fitness room, games room, Kid's Club, business centre, meeting room and Vara Spa.

"Best Western Sawaddi Patong Hotel is a much welcome addition to the Best Western family in Thailand. This beautiful property offers guests a sanctuary of comfortable, value-for-money accommodation and fine service, while all the sights and sounds of exciting Patong can be explored right outside. It really is a great location for a Phuket stay" said Glenn de Souza, Vice President International Operations-Asia, Best Western International.

The Jungceylon shopping and entertainment centre is five minutes drive from the resort, offering brand name shops, a movie theatre and also a Carrefour supermarket. Phuket town is a mere 20 minutes drive, while getting to and from Phuket International Airport is also a breeze, at 45 minutes. Many other attractions like Simon Cabaret and Phuket FantaSea are also easily reached by road.

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Mary Rossi Travel Celebrates 40 years of Travel Excellence

Claudia Rossi Hudson, Managing Director of the award winning agency Mary Rossi Travel, starts off celebrations of the company's 40 years in travel, hosting a client luncheon at the Royal Sydney Yacht Squadron on Wednesday 24th February 2010. 

Guest of honour at the function will be the founder of the company, Mary Rossi O.B.E., who led the company for its first 30 years, before handing over the reins to her daughter Claudia in 2000. 

A mother of 10 children and with an established career in television, Mary Rossi started the business in 1970 in response to a request from the shipping company, Lloyd Triestino, to lead a tour to places of Christian significance in Europe. Her ability to graciously combine a rich family life with a successful career was an inspiration to women around Australia. 

The first tour departed in 1971 on the stylish 'Galileo' with over 300 passengers on a four month round-world tour. On board was Mrs Rossi and many of her children. The company diversified over the coming years with innovative tours taking in cooking schools and wine appreciation courses in France and Italy and special interest trips created for music lovers and those interested in art and culture. 

A passion for beautiful hotels and a close personal relationship with hotel owners around the world led the company to establish a representative arm with a portfolio of well known names such as the Seiyo Ginza Hotel, The Phoenician, Rosewood Hotels and for many years Relais & Chateaux.  The company is currently the GSA for a number of specialist tour operators such as Butterfield and Robinson, Living Italy, Hidden Italy, Sea Cloud and River Cloud. 

Throughout its history Mary Rossi Travel has received numerous awards from the industry and consumers alike. It was  nominated as the Best of the Best by Courvoisier in the 1990s and Best Luxury Travel agent three times in recent years. 

Though still at school when the company was founded, Claudia Rossi Hudson, has been involved in the business from the earliest days. She had a six year absence from the business after completing her MBA in 1994 and establishing a career in financial planning. 

Claudia returned to the industry in 2000 to take over Mary Rossi Travel with her husband, Roger Hudson, thus keeping it a family company. 

Since she stepped in to lead the company in 2000, Claudia has led Mary Rossi Travel through some of the most turbulent times ever experienced in the travel industry. The business continues to flourish with a strong team of experienced travel consultants and growing list of loyal clients who appreciate the high touch service and creative itinerary planning. 

Mary Rossi Travel is a founding Australian member of the exclusive VIRTUOSO international network of agencies, hotels, resorts, and "in country expert on site" representatives. Mary Rossi Travel is also a member of the Travelscene Corporate travel network. 

The resilience, energy and expertise of its management has led Mary Rossi Travel to grow its business from organising guided cruise tours to Europe in 1971 to today's full range of services to Leisure, Corporate/Business Travellers, Incentive Groups and Special Interest Tours. 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Paradise Koh Yao Resort & Spa in Thailand.

Aviation & Tourism International has been appointed to represent The Paradise Koh Yao Resort & Spa in Thailand.

Located on Yao Noi Island, North East of the Island of Phuket, and set in the middle of Thailand's Phang Nga Bay National Reserve area, Koh Yao is reached by taking a flight to Phuket and boat transfer to  Paradise Koh Yao Resort & Spa.

The Paradise Koh Yao is a blend of boutique beach resort and health spa; a tasteful and simple symbiosis of nature, comfort and style, amongst protected national parkland. Private villas and studios nestle adjacent to 400 meters of private untouched beach providing year-round natural luxury.

where in the world?

The Paradise Koh Yao, Boutique Beach Resort and Spa is set in the middle of Thailand's Phang Nga Bay National Reserve area, an emerging hidden treasure which remains one of the world's best kept secrets. Since its discovery by a western traveler back in the 19th century, this geological wonderland teeming with indigenous plant and animal life has captured the imagination of the world.

Phang Nga Bay's towering limestone crags never fail to stimulate speculation of massive geological upheavals in ancient times. It is visually stunning to say the least and yet there is so much more below the surface: under the azure crystal waters are coral reefs, living fortresses evolved over countless years.

Koh Yao Island is set into the heart of these incredible natural phenomena.

For information:
www.aviationandtourism.com.au



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Small Luxury Hotels of the World™ Roars into the Year of the Tiger With the Opening its New Regional Office in Singapore

Small Luxury Hotels of the World announces the official opening of its Asia Pacific Regional Office in Singapore. The addition of the new office will strengthen the luxury hotel brand's network in the Asia Pacific region, complementing the existing offices in Sydney, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Paul Kerr, CEO of Small Luxury Hotels of the World said: "The opening of the Singapore office is a key strategic move for us as a brand. We are investing in this region to fuel growth – both in terms of growing reservations through the SLH channels, particularly www.slh.com, and building our portfolio which currently stands at 100 properties in this region.

Since establishing the brand in 1991 with 70 hotels in 12 countries we have built a very strong base of loyal guests in Europe and the US where brand awareness is high. We want to mirror this success in the Asia Pacific region which holds huge potential for us as a global brand. With over 500 independently-owned hotels in 75 countries worldwide, we are in an excellent position to cater for the demand from discerning travellers in this region."

Mr Kerr continued: "Adding new properties helps to reinforce the brand awareness of Small Luxury Hotels of the World in local markets and increases understanding of our proposition to both consumers and hoteliers.

Our hotels are amongst the best of the best in each area and have such an excellent reputation locally that this helps demonstrate the quality of all the hotels in our portfolio. However, as well as adding new hotels our main priority is to maintain the quality of hotels in our portfolio and the emphasis is on monitoring standards at existing hotels. We are keen to grow but we remain extremely selective - only five per cent of hotels applying to join are accepted."

Small Luxury Hotels of the World has already established its core team in Singapore with the key appointments of Mark Wong as Area Director and Brandon Chan as Director of Sales. Mark Wong will oversee all areas of operation in the region, reporting directly to Paul Kerr. Bryony Gammon, PR Manager for the Asia Pacific region, has relocated to Singapore from the Sydney office. Anita Chan, Director of Development, Asia Pacific, is based in Hong Kong.

With 508 hotels in the portfolio with an average of 49 rooms at each hotel, SLH has over 25,290 rooms in total worldwide. Despite the global recession over 65 hotels were accepted into the brand in 2009. The brand recently added two properties in Japan where it previously did not have a presence - Hoshinoya Karuizawa (www.slh.com/hoshinoyakaruizawa) and Hoshinoya Kyoto (www.slh.com/hoshinoyakyoto). The brand is also committed to strengthening its presence in markets where demand is high. For example, in Malaysia Small Luxury Hotels of the World has just welcomed three new properties in the Sari Pacifica Resort & Spa family - Redang Island, Lang Tengah Island and Sibu Island.

Other new hotels include Crystal Resort Sun Moon Lake in Taiwan and Serene Pavilions in Sri Lanka. The development team will be focusing on China, India and Japan over the next 12 months.

As well as building its portfolio of hotels, Small Luxury Hotels of the World is committed to ensuring that the brand is accessible to key markets within the region. Within the next two months the corporate pages of www.slh.com will appear in Simplified Chinese and Japanese. An iPhone application will be launched by April 2010. The long-term goal is to offer a completely multi-lingual end-to-end website and booking solution.

Small Luxury Hotels of the World provides toll-free numbers for key markets in the Asia Pacific region and guests are assisted by highly trained reservation agents who are fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese. The Club of Small Luxury Hotels of the World was recently relaunched with additional benefits for members including complimentary upgrades, late check-out, breakfast and access to a Club Concierge. Guests are invited to join The Club of Small Luxury Hotels of the World at www.clubslh.com.

Overall, 65 per cent of bookings through the Small Luxury Hotels of the World reservation channels are made through the GDS which means that travel agents are critical to the brand's success. Small Luxury Hotels of the World recently launched a dedicated website for travel agents – www.slh.com/travelagents. The brand will be increasing its presence at key trade shows this year including ALTM in Shanghai, ITB Asia in Singapore and Blossom in Tokyo. Brandon Chan will be responsible for building relationships with key agents in the region.

To make a reservation at any one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World properties go to www.slh.com or call +65 6232 5060. For a list of toll-free numbers go to http://www.slh.com/reservationnumbers.html. Hotels interested in joining the brand can apply online at www.joinslh.com.


About Small Luxury Hotels of the World
The Small Luxury Hotels of the World™ (SLH) brand is an unrivalled portfolio of some of the world's finest small independent hotels. Comprising over 500 hotels in more than 75 countries, the diversity of the individual hotels, and the experiences that they offer, is exceptional. From cutting-edge design hotels to palatial 17th century mansions, city centre sanctuaries to remote private islands, historic country houses to idyllic resorts, Small Luxury Hotels of the World offers only the very best. Reservations can be made at any Small Luxury Hotels of the World property by calling +65 6232 5060 or via www.slh.com. Travel agents need only remember the GDS code LX for LuXury.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Fiji caps off ‘toughest year in history’ with record breaking six month run


-     Destination sees out 2009 just 0.5 per cent Australian visitors shy of 2008 result

-     Australian arrivals constitute 43 per cent of all arrivals to Fiji in 2009

-     Fiji now targeting 270,000 Australians in 2010

Capping off an unprecedented six month period of growth which saw all previous Australian visitor arrival records for the July-December period fall by the wayside, Fiji has seen out 2009 just 0.5 per cent down on its record breaking 2008 performance.

Figures released this week by Tourism Fiji for the 12 month period January- December 2009 show the destination attracted a total 232,680 Australians, just 1121 shy of the 233,801 figure achieved in 2008 which still stands as Fiji's best ever result.

The result is a huge cry from the massive drop the destination experienced from Australia, its worst on record, following heavy flooding in January, the natural disaster seen as a catalyst for a more than 27 per cent drop in Australian business for the first three months of 2009.

Tourism Fiji regional director Australia Paresh Pant said that one of the main reasons for the destination's ultimate success in rebuilding its Australian business had been ongoing support received from the local industry and the general public.

"Both the local industry and the people of Australia in general know our destination very well. 

"Through the years they have come to accept that while there have been political issues and natural calamity, there have never been instances where tourists have been harmed or were in any danger.

"One of the keys to our success has been our ability to instigate appropriate crisis management plans during times of natural and man-made calamities.

"These have proven effective in minimising concerns for travellers as evidenced by the fantastic results we have seen in the last six months.

"The devaluation of the Fiji dollar in April has also played its part in helping to revitalise the numbers," he said.

Mr Pant said the overall 2009 result, which represents 43 per cent of Fiji's entire international visitor intake of 538,523, provides with an excellent platform with which to reach the 270,000 Australian figure Tourism Fiji has set itself in 2010.

"The commencement of Jetstar services in just under two months, adding to existing services already being provided by Air Pacific, V Australia and Pacific Blue, will also play a major role in seeing us achieve our objectives, "he said.


Friday, February 5, 2010

Sydney's tartan invasion pipes in record tourism results for the city


Edinburgh Military Tattoo surprises Sydney tourism officials with piping hot results

5 February 2010: While major events such as the Australian Tennis Open, Grand Prix and Ashes cricket predictably fill city hotels to capacity, the most surprising "house-full" event in Sydney for a number of years has been the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which will sell out Sydney's hotels for up to four days straight.

This weekend, visitors to Sydney without pre-arranged hotel accommodation will struggle to find a room any closer than 50km from the Sydney Football Stadium, where the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is being staged.

The Accor hotel group, Sydney's largest hotel operator – with over 30 hotels ranging from the luxury Sofitel and Pullman brands through to the economy and budget Ibis and Formule 1 hotels – has reported that all of its hotels have put up the "house full" signs for three days in a row, with the group recording an occupancy rate of 96.7% for the week, the best performance in over two years.

Accor's Darling Harbour hotels – Novotel, Grand Mercure, and Ibis – have gone one night better with four nights in a row of 100% occupancy.

"It has been phenomenal," says Accor's Darling Harbour General Manager, Lorraine Mercuri. "There are a few small conferences going on in the precinct, but basically this has been a tartan-led tourism boom for Sydney.

"We started getting bookings mid last year when details first came out, but the scale of the demand didn't really come onto the radar until late last year when hotels throughout Sydney had to start declining regular business because groups from NSW regional centres, interstate and even overseas started taking up sizable allotments specifically for the Tattoo.

"It certainly has attracted the more mature market, but we also have seen younger fans book in. And fortunately, most have elected to leave the bagpipes to professional players, even if the city has been awash with tartan this week.

"I think the fact that so much business has come from regional areas it is a vote of confidence in the economy. With all the rain over the past six months and greater optimism about the future of the agricultural sector, many people from regional Australia have decided to come to the 'big smoke' for a show and an extended break. The whole of the city will benefit, even if it has disrupted the travel arrangements for some business travelers who simply can't get a room at short notice."

Ms Mercuri said that the strong tourism flow extends throughout the month, with corporate travel and conferences taking over when the tartan brigade returns home. After a strong January performance, Sydney hotels are set to enjoy their strongest first-quarter since 2007.


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