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Monday, October 31, 2011

DESIGN HOTELS PRESENTS TEN NEW MEMBERS


DESIGN HOTELS BRINGS YOU THE POWER OF TEN…FIVE TIMES THE CITY GLAMOUR, FIVE TIMES THE GETAWAY GOODNESS
 
Whether it's Mediterranean warmth, Caribbean cool, dramatic snowscapes or big city thrills that engage attention this season, Design Hotels™ has them all.

"We are excited to welcome ten exceptional and diverse properties to our portfolio. We have not only increased our presence in major hubs like New York and London, but found natural luxury retreats in St. Barts in the Caribbean and in Rovinj, Croatia," says Design Hotels™ Founder and CEO Claus Sendlinger. "Although different in look and feel, the hotels all share one characteristic: they are deeply rooted in their neighborhood. They act as ambassadors for their region, offering guests meaningful experiences along with a connection to their surroundings."  

Grand Goes Glam
Legendary hotels in some of the world's most glamorous cities attain new-age relevance thanks to careful nurturing and original renovation work. In New York, this enormous task was carried out by the artistic touch of Julian Schnabel for Gramercy Park Hotel. Kissed by the bounteous (and city's only) private park, the curated art flourishing inside the property is an enviable contemporary collection. In the UNESCO-listed historic heart of Bern is Hotel Schweizerhof whose understated luxury and reclaimed glory also includes tech essentials for today's traveler. Therefore stuccoed ceilings, quaint Juliet balconies and grand chandeliers bestow the right kind of majesty to cozy modern furniture and conveniences. Across the channel in London is Blakes Hotel, the iconic property from Anouska Hempel that has recently undergone a multimillion pound refurbishment. With a fusion of eastern and western styles, the hotel rooms' eclectic design transports guests to other worlds and eras. In Barcelona, the 1920s-Chicago-skyscraper-inspired Grand Hotel Central goes back to the 20th century to invoke the romance of Catalonian high society, yet stays at the top of modern opulence with its rooftop pool. While in a quiet enclave hidden from the bustle of the wealthy Salamanca district in Madrid sits Hotel Único, a tranquil 19th century palace that belies the heart of a sophisticated, with-it hotel. Find iconic modern furniture alongside luxurious fabrics, mosaic floors and a quaint garden. 

Luscious Landscapes
At the other end of the spectrum, Design Hotels™ has fantastic new remote destinations. Perfect for the time of year, three are winter wonderlands: Nira Alpina, a sanctuary on the Swiss slopes, offers warm hospitality and an enviable ski in / ski out location. Opening in November 2011, it is just five kilometers from St Moritz and a great year-round destination. In Zermatt, Cervo Mountain Boutique Resort is a mini hamlet composed of five chalets each contemporary yet cozy, where clean lines and expansive interiors converge with local materials like felt and loden. Situated in Kitzbühel, the bosom of the Austrian Alps, is Hotel Kitzhof Mountain Design Resort, a farmhouse converted into an elegant retreat with a large spa and Tyrolean-style restaurant. In warmer climes, showing off Caribbean lifestyle at its best, is Hotel La Banane on St. Barts, an homage to '50s funk in vibrant colors. The nine bungalows of this intimate resort are named after well-known modernist architects from Pierre Jeanneret to Jean Prouvé. Design Hotels™' first member in Croatia is Hotel Lone in Rovinj. Thanks to the building's Y-shape, guests can enjoy uninterrupted views of the island-speckled coastline or the historical Mediterranean forest from each of the 248 rooms and suites.

The complete list of ten new members with opening dates is below.
To view them online please visit www.designhotels.com/newmembers

AMERICAS

FRENCH WEST INDIES
La Banane, St. Barts (November 2009)

UNITED STATES
Gramercy Park Hotel, New York (August 2006)

EUROPE

AUSTRIA
Hotel Kitzhof Mountain Design Resort, Kitzbühel (January 2005)

CROATIA
Hotel Lone, Rovinj (July 2011)

SPAIN
Grand Hotel Central, Barcelona (January 2006)
Hotel Único Madrid (April 2011)

SWITZERLAND
Cervo Mountain Boutique Resort, Zermatt (December 2009)
Hotel Schweizerhof Bern (May 2011)
Nira Alpina, Silvaplana (November 2011)

UNITED KINGDOM
Blakes Hotel, London (refurbishment: 2011)



Design Hotels™ Best Rate Guarantee

For reservations, please refer to the webpage www.designhotels.com or the appropriate Design Hotels™ toll-free number:

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Breaking news - All Qantas flights worldwide grounded

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Qantas grounds entire domestic and international fleet

Qantas has just announced that effective immediately there will be no further domestic or international departures of its aircraft anywhere in the world, with the carrier locking out all employees who will be covered by the industrial agreements currently being negotiated with the Transport Workers Union (TWU), the Australian Licenced Engineers Union (ALAEA) and the Australian and International Pilots Union (AIPA).

CEO Alan Joyce said the step is being taken under the provisions of the Fair Work Act in response to the ongoing industrial action taken by the unions, with the lock-out in place until the unions drop their "extreme demands".

"Pilots, licenced engineers and baggage, ground and catering staff are essential to Qantas operations and the lock-out will therefore make it necessary for all Qantas aircraft to be grounded," he said, with this occurring effective 5pm Sat 29 Oct 2011.

Aircraft currently in the air will complete the sectors they are operating, but all future departures are cancelled "until the ALAEA, the TWU and AIPA drop the extreme demands that have made it impossible for agreements to be reached," Joyce said.

Jetstar and QantasLink flights will continue to operate, along with Qantas flights across the Tasman operated by its NZ-based Jetconnect subsidiary.

The lock-out is effective from 8pm AEDT on Mon 31 Oct, and until it commences all employees are require at work as normal and will be paid. Once it commences, employees who are locked out will not be required at work and will not be paid; employees working overseas will not be locked out and will continue to be paid; and all other employees are required at work and will be paid as normal.

Customers booked on Qantas flights should not go to the airport until further notice. Qantas is offering full refunds to customers who choose to cancel their flights, while full rebooking flexibility will be available to customers who want to defer their travel.

Customers who are mid-journey will be given assistance with accommodation and alternative flights, Joyce said, asking that only customers travelling within the next 24 hours call Qantas contact centres.

"Qantas regrets that this action has become necessary and apologises sincerely to all affected passengers," Joyce said.

He said the cost impact of the grounding would be $20 million per day, but said that the move was necessary because "customers are now f.leeing from us," with key high value customers now actively seeking to fly with other carriers because of the ongoing strike action uncertainty.

Joyce urged the union members to "consider their own interests and tell their leaders they want to reach reasonable and fair agreements that will be good for them and for Qantas".

MEANWHILE Virgin Australia has also just issued a statement saying it will accommodate Qantas passengers on current services where possible, and is also looking at putting on additional flights to support affected travellers.

Special "Stranded Passenger" recovery fares will be offered for those who are at a port away from home and hold a QF ticket to return home, initially within the next five days, with details to be shortly available at www.virginaustralia.com.

More information in Monday's Travel Daily.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Nine reasons to dine at Australia's Best Restaurant in a Winery

Media Release

Tower Lodge's nine wins Best Restaurant in a Winery

Tower Lodge's restaurant nine has won the "Best Restaurant in a Winery" at the 2011 National Awards for Excellence held at Luna Park on October 24.

Tower's award is in succession to its win of Best Restaurant in a Winery" and "Restaurant of the Year in the Hunter Valley" at the 2011 Australia Restaurant & Catering Regional NSW Awards for Excellence.

Located nine feet underground in the original Tower Estate cellar, nine and its unique dining concept, was the brainchild of Andreas Breitfuss, Maître de Maison who developed the idea with the aim of offering different dining experiences for Tower Lodge guests.

Nine's private dining space is surrounded by warm earthy sandstone and wood surfaces providing an intimate and luxurious dining experience for up to 16 guests.

"To win the award of Best Restaurant in a Winery in Australia further reflects the hard work and dedication Andreas and his team put into Nine and Tower Lodge," said Matt Cowley, CEO, Tower Estate.

"It is also a reflection on my long term vision for Tower Lodge, to offer our guests a truly unique experience in the areas of dining and accommodation."

Nine features nine seasonal degustation menus (one vegetarian) using, where possible, local Hunter Valley produce paired with one of six optional wine lists, featuring a selection of premium local and imported varieties along with Tower Estate's own wines.

The National Awards for Excellence are the culmination of 10 regional Award events held throughout the year across the nation. Over 270 finalists in 34 categories competed at a ceremony at Luna Park to determine the best of the best of Australia's restaurants and caterers.

Restaurant & Catering represents around 4,000 restaurants and caterers across Australia. Each year over 900 members are reviewed in the Awards of Excellence.

nine Facts

opening times: Friday & Saturday nights 6.30pm to 8.30pm (last booking 8.30pm sharp)

menu type: 9 course degustation (chefs selection created seasonally) excl wines, $180 per person, or 9 course degustation paired with a selection of premium local and imported wines, including picks from the Tower Estate cellar, $250 per person.

wine list: selection of Australian premium wines and exclusive imported varieties including Champagne, sparking, red, white and dessert. The wine list includes specially selected Tower Estate wines.

Tower Lodge, part of the gold standard Relais & Chateaux association is Australia's best shared secret comprising of 12 distinctly different guest rooms including two premier suites. Each of the rooms are uniquely furnished with no room the same and feature a king size bed, deep soaking spa bath, complimented with antique pieces and rich fabrics creating an opulent setting for any guest.

For those who truly want to indulge and enjoy a Hunter Valley weekend, Tower Lodge has packages which include the following:

2 night's accommodation in a Lodge room
Dinner for 2 guest in Roberts Restaurant
Dinner for 2 guests dining in restaurant Nine
Complimentary upgrade to high tea
Breakfast
Pre- dinner beverages daily
Private wine tasting at Tower Estate Winery

Prices are based on twin share and start from $1,035 per room per night.

To make a reservation at Tower Lodge and/or nine visit www.towerestate.com or call (02) 4998 7022

About Tower Lodge

Opened in May 2001, and situated on the grounds of Tower Estate, Tower Lodge is the only 5-star boutique luxury lodge in the Hunter Region.

The Lodge features 12 rooms including two suites accommodating up to 24 guests. Room rates range from $720.00 per night and include accommodation for two, full buffet and a la carte cooked breakfast, complimentary afternoon tea, a pre-dinner drink and an evening turn down service

Website www.towerestate.com

Tower Lodge is a member of Relais & Châteaux.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

NORFOLK ISLAND TOURISM'S HERITAGE OFFERING GETS 'SIRIUS'

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Norfolk Island tourism's Heritage offering has been bolstered with today's elevation of the Sirius shipwreck site to National and Commonwealth Heritage status.

Norfolk Island's Chief Minister, David Buffett joined local school children at the Norfolk Island Central School for a Video Link to participate with Australian Government Environment and Heritage Minister Hon Tony Burke , MP at the National Maritime Museum in Sydney.

The event also commemorated the 225th Anniversary of the Sirius commissioning.  Today, the HMS Sirius artefacts are mostly all housed in the Norfolk Island Museum.  They compromise the most significant display of First Fleet cultural heritage held anywhere in Australia and its territories.

The new national and Commonwealth heritage listing follows the recent addition of Norfolk Island's Kingston and Arthur's Vale Historic Area (KAVHA) to the World Heritage List, as part of the Australian Convict Sites inscription.

Mr Buffett spoke on the Video Link following Mr Burke's announcement of the listing both welcoming and congratulating the Australian Government for its timely initiative.

"The listing properly recognises the significance of the site as this is perhaps Australia's most important shipwreck.  The Sirius' role as the lead ship for the First Fleet places her at the very start, and heart of the Australian Nation," Mr Buffett said.

"And, of course, she was the only link the fledgling communities of Port Jackson and Norfolk Island had to the outside and was critically important to the survival of both colonies," he said.

"It was on our small isolated Island 1500 kilometres north east of Port Jackson that HMS Sirius was lost on 19 March, 1790," the Chief Minister said. 

Her demise caused great distress to both settlements and as Capt Arthur Phillip, Governor of New South Wales recorded at the time,  "You never saw such dismay as the news of the wreck occasioned amongst us all; for, to use a sea term, we looked upon her as our sheet anchor."

"The story of the life and wrecking of HMS Sirius is completed with the story of the recovery of her artefacts from the reef at Norfolk Island.  This rich source provided answers to the circumstances of British Settlement in Australia, the Sirius' construction as a Baltic trader, and the perilous state of the fledgling Nation of Australia when she was lost," Mr Buffett told the children.

Mr Buffett thanked Minister Burke for inviting the Norfolk Island community to be part of this historic occasion.

"The full story of the life, wrecking and recovery of the Sirius artefacts can be found at the Norfolk Island Museum website www.hmssirius.com.au.," the Chief Minister advised.


Caravanning and Camping- the Experts Advice

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Caravan and camping holidays have been the fastest growing tourism sector in Australia for the past 15 years and definitely don't appear to be taking a back seat. Caravan and camping getaways are the number one choice for many holiday makers throughout Australia and as the trend continues more families and couples are likely to dip their toes into the water and trial this great holiday option. However, there are a couple of things that everyone should know before they purchase a caravan or set up camp for the night.

We asked Barry Baillie, the CEO of the Caravan and Camping Industry Association of NSW for any tips and hints he has for beginners.

"The best thing about a caravan or camping holiday is that there is something for every budget. From a $200 tent to a $500, 000 motorhome whatever you choice of accommodation everyone can still enjoy their greatly deserved holiday.

Many caravan parks throughout NSW are situated in some of the best locations throughout Australia, often neighbouring shopping centres, national parks and pristine beaches. You can have a five star holiday without the expensive price tag.

Caravan and camping holidays cater for every lifestyle and the first step of any touring holiday is finding the type of holiday that suits you. Generally speaking, retirees travel in caravans or motorhomes, depending on how they feel about towing. Families and young couples usually prefer camping or staying in a cabin.

I would suggest that beginners who want to go caravanning should hire a van first to see if they are happy towing and, most importantly, like the lifestyle. First time buyers should also do a towing course. 

Comfort is another must when going camping and there is definitely no shortage of luxury accessories available to give you that home away from home feeling. You won't regret the choice of a good quality mattress or camp chair.

Two elements that are crucial on any caravan or camping holiday are the first aid kit- health and safety are always a priority and… a great esky to keep the beer cold. An increasing number of parks are accepting dogs so you don't have to leave your favourite pet behind any longer.

My greatest piece of advice would be to try to get the best equipment you can so you can spend more time relaxing and enjoying your holiday and less time doing the dirty work.  Find a park with a good feel about it with lots of trees, grass and water. Make the most of interacting with the great outdoors and the new friends you will make along the way. Take the time to say G'day."

For more information on caravan and camping and for a comprehensive listing of parks and product providers go to www.caravan-camping.com.au


THAI Launches Direct Flights to Brussels, 14th European City on The Network


Mr. Pandit Chanapai , Executive Vice President, Commercial Department of Thai Airways International Public Company Limited (THAI), chaired the press conference that officially launches THAI's newest and 72 nd destination (14th destination in Europe)  Brussels, Belgium with direct flights to and from Bangkok beginning 17 November 2011.

Mr. Chanapai said, "Brussels was chosen as THAI's new destination to facilitate the growing number of passengers travelling between Australia, Thailand and Europe and for travellers' convenience via a direct route.   It is in line with THAI's strategy for expanding and serving other European cities, through a feeder city such as Brussels.   Today approximately 12-15% of passengers from Belgium and neighboring countries, especially those destined for Australia, make their connections in Frankfurt.   THAI expects these passengers will appreciate the convenience of the route to and from Brussels to Southeast Asia and Australia."

Flight TG934 from Bangkok will depart three times per week - on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 00.30 hours, arriving in Brussels at 07.00 hours the same morning.   Flight TG935 from Brussels will depart the same days at 13.30 hours, arriving in Bangkok at 06.20 hours the following day.  Direct connections are available to/from these flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth and outbound from Brisbane.

Thai Airways Boeing 777-200 ER
Flight reservations opened in July 2011 and the seating capacity on the Boeing 777-200 ER aircraft has already reached 80% full for the first flight to Brussels on 17 November 2011.   THAI's Boeing 777-200 ER aircraft is configured for 30 seats in Royal Silk Class and 262 seats in Economy Class, with all 292 seats equipped with personal screen and the latest in-flight entertainment system.

THAI is the first carrier in Southeast Asia to operate direct flights between Thailand and Belgium, adding convenience for passengers travelling from Belgium's capital, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and France.   These passengers may also take advantage of direct flights into Bangkok, then traveling beyond to Thai domestic destinations and other parts of Southeast Asia and Australia.

Fares to Brussels start from $1,767* per person including taxes for travellers taking advantage of THAI's Europe 'Earlybird' Deals on sale until 20 Nov '11, travel from 01 Mar - 30 Sep '12.  Fares are available for travel from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth.  Bonus special offer of a free overnight stay in Bangkok is added for travellers who book and ticket by 31 Oct '11 and 30kgs luggage allowance offered.

Contact travel agents for more information and bookings; call THAI on 1300 651 960 or log on to www.thaiairways.com.au.

For THAI's Royal Orchid Plus frequent flyer members, THAI is offering the following special launch promotion from 17 November 2011 to 31 January 2012:

-          Earn 2,000 Bonus Miles for each way in Royal Silk Class between Bangkok and Brussels on THAI

-          Earn 1,000 Bonus Miles for each way in Economy Class between Bangkok and Brussels on THAI

-          Redeem 97,500 miles for award travel in Royal Silk Class between Bangkok and Brussels (25% discount)

-          Redeem 52,500 miles for award travel in Economy Class between Bangkok and Brussels (25% discount)


For more information on frequent flyer promotions, contact THAI on 1300 651 960 or visit www.thaiairways.com.

Friday, October 21, 2011

TripAdvisor's Top 10 all-inclusive resorts in the world




All of the details are taken care of. Relax in these best-of-the-best resorts.


1. Iberostar Grand Hotel Paraiso
Playa Paraiso, Mexico
"We felt like we were living in a palace..." more



2. Garonga Safari Camp
Makalali Private Game Reserve, South Africa
"sooooooooooo good" more



3. Le Blanc Spa Resort
Cancun, Mexico
"Where A Travel Agent Honeymoons" more



4. Drowsy Water Ranch
Granby, Colorado
"Best Family Fun!" more



5. Nukubati Private Island Great Sea Reef
Labasa, Fiji
"Unbelievable Honeymoon!" more



6. East Winds Inn
Gros Islet, St. Lucia
"Absolutely Amazing" more



7. Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
"Great resort, great holidays!" more



8. Ceylon Tea Trails
Hatton, Sri Lanka
"Unique" more



9. Iberostar Grand Bavaro Hotel
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
"Treated like royalty..." more



10. The Caves
Negril, Jamaica
"Fantastic stay, best trip ever!" more

Thursday, October 20, 2011

MSC DONATES $NZ1 MILLION TOWARDS MARITIME CLEANUP


Deeply concerned and saddened by the New Zealand accident involving container ship Rena, the Mediterranean Shipping Company is to donate $NZ1 million towards the clean up in the Bay of Plenty.

The goodwill gesture comes in the light of the environmental and economic damage such an incident would have on the Bay of Plenty region.

"We are deeply concerned about, and saddened by, the environmental damage, economic impact and disruption to lives caused by the accident involving the Rena," said Kevin Clarke, managing director of the Mediterranean Shipping Company (Australia and New Zealand).

"We acknowledge the distress and concerns of local residents, businesses and individuals, as well as those with cargo aboard the vessel," he said.

"Our own staff in Tauranga are part of the local community, and are as concerned about the grounding and its implications as everyone else in the Bay of Plenty - and throughout New Zealand."

In speaking of his concerns and the generous donation to accompany them, Mr Clarke emphasised that MSC did not own the Rena.

Furthermore, Mr Clarke said his company did not employ the ship's crew and was not responsible for the maintenance and operation of the vessel.

"From the outset we have been working behind the scenes with the authorities, including Maritime New Zealand and Ports of Tauranga," he said.

"We have put our resources at their disposal and have been in constant contact with the Rena's owners Costamare," Mr Clarkes added.

"At our meeting with the Minister of Transport yesterday (Monday, Oct 17) we discussed other ways in which we might support the cleaning operation.

"Today (Tuesday, Oct 18), we thus want to put at disposal of the relevant authorities NZ$1 million as a voluntary donation.

"We also would like to thank the professionals and the dedicated volunteers who are helping and spearheading the cleaning."

The Chic Tourism Collection Launches First Cultural Experience In Their Travel Anthology


ACCLAIMED AUTHOR, THOMAS KENEALLY TO HEADLINE "THE AUTHOR'S TALE" AT THE TENNESSEE WILLIAMS / NEW ORLEANS LITERARY FESTIVAL

The Chic Tourism Collection is proud to announce that the prize-winning author, Thomas Keneally will headline The Author's Tale, the first program in The Chic CULTURAL Collection, one of six featured in the company's travel anthology.

 "An Evening With Thomas Keneally" in New Orleans is one of the many thrilling and exclusive experiences guests will enjoy in The Author's Tale, which incorporates the 2012 Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival and other literary-themed venues in New York and Beverly Hills.

"I am delighted to be visiting New Orleans again to speak about books and writing with The Chic Tourism Collection. I am also excited about attending the Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival, which connects major writers from throughout the world," says author, Thomas Keneally.

Winner of the prestigious Man-Booker Prize for Schindler's Ark (later republished as Schindler's List, which was adapted into the Academy Award-winning film by producer/director, Steven Spielberg), Mr. Keneally was also shortlisted for The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith, Gossip From The Forest, and Confederates and twice won the Miles Franklin Literary Award for The Widow and Her Hero and Three Cheers for the Paraclete. His more recent titles include Searching for Schindler: A Memoir and Australians: Origins to Eureka.

"We are honoured to have Thomas Keneally host an exclusive dinner in New Orleans.  Not only is Mr. Keneally an Australian icon and giant in modern literature, he is one of the few world-acclaimed authors who can eloquently engage his audience on the correlation between words, language and historic themes in literature and enrich the minds of his readers through his impressive body of work," says Elizabeth Laursen, Executive Director, The Chic Tourism Collection.

Throughout the festival The Chic Tourism Collection guests will enjoy the VIP literary parties, panel discussions, writing workshops and literary readings with the guest authors along with other events relating to American literature and the arts.  Other prize-winning authors and playwrights who have attended the festival over the past few years include Robert Olen Butler (A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain), Michael Cunningham (The Hours), Edward Albee (Who's Afraid Virginia Woolf), Margaret Atwood (Alias Grace), Richard Ford (The Sports Writer and Independence Day) and historian, Stephen Ambrose.

Complementing the event are a number of sumptuous dining experiences and a luxurious six-night stay at International House, one of New Orleans' finest properties located near the French Quarter. 


 "THE AUTHOR'S TALE"

Priced at $ 13,100 per person, double occupancy or $ 14,990 per person, single occupancy, the 11 day / 10 night travel experience commences in New Orleans, Louisiana, on March 20, 2012 and concludes in Beverly Hills, California, on March 30, 2012.

The Author's Tale features an exclusive event with author, Thomas Keneally, a host of VIP receptions and literary events at the Tennessee Williams / New Orleans Literary Festival and a surprise cocktail reception in New York, five-star dining at Bayona, Commander's Palace and Broussard's in New Orleans, dinner at Daniel - one of New York's most lauded cuisine experiences, fine dining at Wolfgang Puck's new five-star establishment at Hotel Bel Air, cocktails at the Beverly Hills Hotel's famous The Polo Lounge, night time jazz at Preservation Hall and a Broadway show and dinner.

The travel experience also includes six nights accommodation at the luxury boutique hotel, International House, three nights accommodation at New York's Midtown boutique property, The Muse, one night's accommodation at the luxurious Montage Beverly Hills – a Preferred Hotels & Resorts property, daily breakfast including a lavish brunch at Brennans in New Orleans, a walking tour of New Orleans' Garden District, a nighttime New Orleans Ghost Tour, high-tea at Lady Mendl's in Gramercy Park, a New York Museum Pass and an Edith Wharton literary walk in Gramercy Park, economy flights from New Orleans to New York and Los Angeles, taxes, porterage and meal gratuities, airport, hotel and venue transfers.

In New Orleans, The Chic Tourism Collection can arrange an optional airboat trip to Jean Lafitte Swamp in Louisiana's backcountry, a Steamboat Natchez Harbour Jazz Cruise or an excursion to Oak Alley Plantation on Louisiana's historic River Road, in the 'shadow of the slave master.'

"The Author's Tale is truly a magnificent cultural journey and once-in-a-lifetime experience that is exclusive to The Chic Tourism Collection, where guests meet and interact with the world's most celebrated authors; most notably with Thomas Keneally at an private dinner in New Orleans," adds Ms. Laursen.

In addition to enjoying a variety of 'Chic' travel experiences and program surprises, The Author's Tale has been customised so that guests have personal time to explore New York and New Orleans at their leisure including the bustling downtown district of Manhattan, the jazz bars and antique shops that flank the French Quarter and the literary establishments that were once home to playwright, Tennessee Williams and authors, William Faulkner, Truman Capote, John Kennedy Toole, Elmore Leonard, Anne Rice and Lillian Hellman.

The Author's Tale caters for small groups of up to a maximum of 20 travellers over the age of 18 years, and will be expertly hosted with a guaranteed departure.  Packaged as a 'land-only' experience so guests can choose to fly with their preferred airline carrier, the fully-escorted 'Chic' program can be personally customised to include pre or post travel itineraries and international flights in conjunction with the company's licensed travel partner, Momento Travel Services.

The Author's Tale's is price-guaranteed until December 15, 2011 and all bookings must be confirmed by February 10, 2012 (terms and conditions apply).

For further information on The Chic Tourism Collection's 2012/2013 travel anthology -


Email:  travel@thechictourismcollection.com

Website: www.thechictourismcollection.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/thechictourismcollection                                                         


ABOUT THE CHIC TOURISM COLLECTION:

The Chic Tourism Collection is an independent, boutique tourism operator based in Sydney, Australia, which was first established nearly two decades ago as a destination marketing and media company. Its special interest travel division was created in 2010 to showcase some of the world's finest travel and cultural experiences via the talented creators at the core of fashion industry, the arts (film and literature) and wildlife conservation.

Featuring incomparable and bespoke travel experiences in six 'Chic' collections – The Chic LUXURY Collection, The Chic DELUXE Collection, The Chic CULTURAL Collection and The Chic SPORTS Collection, The Chic GASTRONOMY Collection, The Chic WILDERNESS Collection – each program has been meticulously produced so that every journey is exclusive, evocative and unforgettable.

The Chic Tourism Collection's hospitality partners have earned the highest levels of professional recognition, with each selected by the Chic team for their dazzling locations, luxury amenities, exemplary service delivery and environmental conservation policies (in South Africa). The company's program partners in Australia and New Zealand include Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Preferred Boutique Hotels, Baglioni Hotels and Dorchester Collection. 


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

FOOTSTEPS IN ASIA GOES RETAIL WITH WHOLESALE PRICES

Australians travelling to South East Asia will gain direct access to exceptionally competitive packages to Asia hot spots from 1 November with popular boutique wholesale tour operator FOOTSTEPS IN ASIA offering retail bookings to travellers at great wholesale rates.

After nearly 18 years of creating unique adventure and tailored holiday packages for the world's most iconic tour companies including Peregrine Adventures, Gecko Adventures and Exodus Travel, John Powell and his team at Footsteps are making South East Asian destinations directly available to the public.

Powell said that direct bookings will provide independent and small to large groups with exciting Asia travel options tailored to suit all budgets, styles and departures - many of them guaranteed – at difficult to match prices.

"By offering retail services for the first time, Footsteps in Asia is able to better share its experience, know-how and buying power with consumers who book direct or go through their local travel agent."

Powell, founder of fully accredited tour company Footsteps in Asia, has organized more than 250,000 visitors to Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with tailored options ranging from backpacking to five star comfort.  Activities include trekking, cycling, cultural, eco and home stays as well as gourmet and special interest tours.

Based in Bangkok, Footsteps in Asia has offices in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and has a team of professional English speaking local guides recognized for their deep knowledge of the regions and friendly support.

The guides, Powell admits, are the secret to FIA's huge travel industry success.

"To ensure customers obtain a great travel experience, Footsteps' guides are continually undergoing training and building on their skills," he said.

"They often share special relationships with the regions they work in and are very sensitive to local people and their customs and the environment.  As a result, they have earned a wealth of local knowledge very difficult to find elsewhere."

Powell said the company's highly experienced hands-on western management team living in Asia provided the foundation for the design and administration of the quality Footsteps in Asia tours.

"Ongoing feedback and research gives us a greater understanding of the expectation of our clients. And we certainly deliver," said Powell.

"We pride ourselves on creating safe, sustainable, quality tours and our attention to detail in selecting accommodation and transport guarantees an enjoyable and fulfilling travel experience."

John Powell and his team at Footsteps in Asia tours have organized SE Asia tours for Peregrine Adventures, Gecko Adventures and Exodus Travel.   More recently, it has managed the tours for The Imaginative Traveler, Sawadee Reisen and The Adventure Company.

For further information on tours:  www.footstepsinasia.com


Park Hyatt Sydney Due to Unveil end 2011

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THE UNVEILING OF AN ICON

Marking twenty one years of hospitality in Sydney's most sought after waterfront location, Park Hyatt Sydney will soon reveal a spectacular rebuilt residence, pairing an unrivalled location with an unrivalled hotel.
 
In the most dramatic transformation of Sydney's harbour frontage, Park Hyatt Sydney has closed its rooms, spa, restaurant and bars for most of 2011 to undergo a complete rebuild.
 
When Park Hyatt Sydney re-opens its doors it will feature three rooftop Suites built on a new fourth level. This new level boasts, just shy of 360-degree, views spanning Sydney's iconic Sydney Harbour, the Opera House and Harbour Bridge and includes the city's largest suite at 350sqm, offering the most discerning guest, Sydney's absolute finest.
 
Importantly Park Hyatt Sydney honours its' heritage by ensuring original Sydney Sandstone and local woods are incorporated in the rebuild. The hotel has undertaken to commission a number of Australian artists including sculptors, painters and photographers for artworks designed especially for the new hotel. The twenty one years that Park Hyatt Sydney have called their Circular Quay pier home, is respected and celebrated throughout the hotels' redesign.
 
Australian hotel design firm, BARstudio are creating a new intimate and stylish interior, featuring an art gallery of interior pieces, including artefacts, books and artworks on the bedroom shelves and walls in all 155 bedrooms, and unique items throughout the hotel. Floor-to-ceiling glass doors open onto spacious private balconies for most bedrooms, which no other accommodation in Sydney can provide. Custom-designed lighting and new natural tone furnishings and fixtures enhance the indoor-outdoor lifestyle that Park Hyatt Sydney observe.

The multi-million dollar renovation includes a total reconfiguration of the low rise serpentine designed building, introducing a new and larger day spa, restaurant, bars, private dining rooms, enhanced and larger conference facilities, gymnasium and recreational spaces in addition to Sydney's largest guest rooms.
 
The new restaurant, The Dining Room is led by country Australia born chef, Andrew McKee, who brings with him a fundamental appreciation of the premium quality of Australian produce. Offering guests his authentically inspired cuisine, sourced from specialty local farmers and fishermen, his meals can be enjoyed while relishing the clean air and sunshine from one of the hotel balconies or open dining areas, making a uniquely Australian experience.
 
Park Hyatt Sydney's general manager, Andrew Mensforth stated, "Park Hyatt Sydney is close to the completion of the rebuild of this fine property. We continue to target a late 2011 opening. We are delighted with the progress so far, having undertaken a total rebuild with only the external wall remaining and we look forward to showcasing the new hotel to our ever discerning local and international guests".
 
General Manager, Mr Mensforth will advise the opening date via video announcement, once it is determined with the hotel's construction team. The hotel is now accepting bookings from 1 February 2012.
 
sydney.park.hyatt.com
PH: (02) 9256 1234
 

Amex Survey Predicts Increase in American Holiday Travel Spending

Forty-two percent of Americans plan to increase their holiday travel budget compared to last year, according to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker. The average family of four intends to spend $2,636 on holiday travel, or $659 per person, an increase of nearly $200 from last year.

No matter where consumers choose to go, there is a clear interest in getting more out of travel, according to the study. From dining to adventure, it’s all about making memories. More travelers are flying, with just over one-third (36 percent) flying to their destination (versus 26 percent last year). More consumers also plan to dine out (31 percent versus 20 percent in 2010) and take part in entertainment-focused activities (24 percent versus 20 percent in 2010).

Twenty-one percent are taking a longer trip, 19 percent are staying in better accommodations and 17 percent are traveling with more people. Twelve percent are choosing a more-expensive destination and 6 percent are flying first or business class.

A growing number of consumers expressed interest in doing more while they’re away this holiday season. When asked how they would spend an extra $500 if it were available, nearly one quarter (24 percent) of consumers said they would rather use the extra funds for new experiences than to extend the length of their stay (18 percent).

When asked which travel experiences they would be most interested in trying, consumers ranked outdoor adventure first (19 percent), followed by a mystery vacation (16 percent), culinary-focused experience (13 percent), holistic spa retreat (12 percent), volunteerism trip (5 percent) and a ski holiday (4 percent).

Even though consumers expressed a desire to have more unique travel experiences, budget (40 percent) still trumped all as the key decision making factor when making holiday travel plans. Destination (25 percent) and experience (11 percent) came in second and third.

The majority of consumers will pay for travel with credit or charge cards, and 26 percent of travelers are turning to rewards points or miles as a primary way to pay for all or part of their trip. Fifty-six percent of Americans do not plan to travel this holiday season, significantly down from 61 percent in 2010. On average, Americans are early birds when it comes to booking holiday travel, with most booking their holiday travel three months in advance. However, 21 percent will book less than a month before their trip, with the vast majority of late bookers (73 percent) waiting until one week or less before holiday vacation. Late-bookers are also more likely to purchase using online travel engines and drive to their destinations.

Consumers are also looking to travel experiences as a source for creative gift giving this holiday season. More than one in four consumers have received and given a vacation as a gift. Many affluents and young professionals similarly have given a vacation as a gift (41 percent and 38 percent, respectively).

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hotel is ‘worst building in the world’


By Roderick Eime

Rivalling the famous Barcelona Cathedral for accolades as huge, ugly and unfinished, Pyongyang’s Ryugyong Hotel may be shedding one of those attributes at least; unfinished.

With the approaching centenary celebrations for the founder of the world’s most reclusive, secretive and oppressive nation, the "Eternal President" of North Korea, Kim Il-sung, it appears the 105-storey, 330m building may be nearing some type of completion.

Begun in 1987 by the specially-formed Ryugyong Hotel Investment and Management Co, the objective was to create the tallest hotel in the world. But construction of the quasi-pyramidic, 3000-room structure stalled in 1992 soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was hoped that the over-optimistic tower would attract US$230 million in foreign investment with one North Korean official promising a relaxed oversight: "The foreign investors can even operate casinos, nightclubs or Japanese lounges if they want to."

The money never came.

Without funds and facing issues with building materials, construction only resumed in April 2008 after a deal was struck with Egyptian telecommunications company, the Orascom Group, who are also installing a 3G mobile phone network for North Korea (where mobile phones are banned).

The US$400 million deal apparently involves rendering the building to a point where it no longer resembles a concrete monstrosity. As of September 2011, some glass panels, the spire and telecommunications antennae were installed and its appearance altered to merely glass monstrosity. The resemblance and connection to the fabled pyramids of Giza is only coincidental, and by many accounts, the ancient Pharaohs were better builders.

Dubbed the Hotel of Doom, the Phantom Hotel and the Phantom Pyramid, some are calling for the estimated US$750m tower’s demolition. Inspection of the structure by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in Korea (EUCCK) a decade ago found the elevator shafts were crooked and the building “irreparable”. And even if by some re-engineering marvel the rooms were complete, where was North Korea going to get enough visitors to fill 3000 rooms?

Perhaps then, the Ryugyong Hotel will serve merely as a gleaming monument to the Stalinist regime's failed ambitions.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Celebrity Movember at Byron at Byron

The 25th of November at The Byron at Byron will see many mustachioed men, and their supporting ladies, enjoying the inaugural Sports Charity Lunch as a culmination of the Resort’s month-long support for Movember. The delicious three course meal will be graced by celebrity sports stars and feature an auction of money-can’t-buy prizes. Proceeds will go to the Movember charity to raise awareness for men’s health including depression and prostate cancer.

Celebrity sports guest speakers include legendary NRL coach Wayne Bennett, Peter Jacobs who recently finished second in the grueling Hawaii Ironman Triathlon and ex-professional world famous surfer Wayne "Rabbit" Bartholomew. Other sports persons who will be interviewed on the day and sitting amongst the 120 guests include Trevor Hendy and Karla Gilbert two of Australia’s all-time great Surf Life Savers and ex-NRL player and commentator Ben Ikin. Network Ten’s Brad McEwan will act as MC, overseeing the auction of prizes with all proceeds going to Movember including private dinner for two with head chef Gavin Hughes, a complete spa indulgence package, a round of golf with the resident professional at the Byron Bay Golf Course and a NRL State-of-Origin jersey signed by all players from the 2011 series.

Tickets to the event hosted in The Restaurant at The Byron at Byron are $95 with $5 from each booking being donated to raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health. Tables of 8 and 10 are available for bookings. It promises to be a great celebration for all those who have cultivated their mo’s throughout November and all their other-halves who have had to put up with them! Seats are limited! Alternatively, book a weekend for two including two night’s accommodation in a Standard Suite, buffet breakfast daily and two tickets to the luncheon for $495 per person.

The Byron at Byron will be supporting Movember for the entire month with male staff growing moustaches and seeking sponsorship. Other Movember fund-raising initiatives will see the ‘Mo-Burger’ and ‘Mojito’ served in The Restaurant and ‘From Mo’s to Toes’ spa treatments available in the Spa and Wellness Centre.

Since the first annual ‘Movember’ in 2003 The Movember Foundation has raised an astonishing $170+ million to continue to change established habits and attitudes men have about their health. They seek to educate men about the health risks they face, thereby increasing the chances of early detection, diagnosis and effective treatment, specifically in regards to depression and prostate cancer. Many more men are expected to join the 1.1 million who have registered with Movember in the past when they will clean-shave their faces on 31 October.

Clearly an important cause, it is no wonder that The Byron at Byron, a resort and spa that promotes well-being, has got involved with Movember. Set within a stunning subtropical rainforest The Byron at Byron Resort provides an idyllic escape in a relaxed atmosphere whilst offering all the special touches you expect. The spacious resort comprises ninety-two one-bedroom suites set within forty-five acres so you truly have the space you need to unwind. Stroll the boardwalks to nearby Tallow Beach, enjoy daily yoga or simply retreat to the resort Spa & Wellness Centre for the ultimate indulgence.

The Byron at Byron Resort and Spa

77 – 97 Broken Head Road, Byron Bay NSW Australia

+61 2 6639 2000 or 1300 554 362 | www.thebyronatbyron.com.au

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Grand Mauritian Destroyed by Fire


The Starwood managed Grand Mauritian Resort & Spa has been ravaged by fire.

A wildfire originating in the neighbouring cane fields is understood to have spread to the property causing extensive damage to several villas, rooms, suites, restaurants, reception and conference rooms.



All guests were safely evacuated and relocated to other properties. In light of this event, no further bookings are being accepted and the hotel's website [http://www.thegrandmauritian.com/] carries the following message:

On October 9th at 12 noon local time, a wild fire originating from the surrounding area spread to the The Grand Mauritian Resort & Spa in Turtle Bay, Mauritius. The hotel was promptly evacuated and the local fire brigade got on site to control and extinguish the blaze. Thankfully, none of our hotel guests, associates or other persons were injured. All guests have been offered the opportunity to relocate to other properties nearby, including the resort's sister property, Le Méridien Ile Maurice. Currently, the hotel is not accepting any reservations.
Hotel management is working closely with the local authorities to investigate the cause of the fire. The safety, security and well-being of our guests and associates is our paramount priority.
For more information please contact our temporary Control Centre on +230 2043416.
For more information on Reservations, please contact our reservations office on +230 2043415.

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The Expeditionist
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