Thursday, 31 October 2013

Vietnam, Laos, China Gather for ‘Con’ Throwing Festival

The third Vietnam-Laos-China ‘con’ festival wrapped up in the northern mountainous province of Dien Bien on October 27, gathering hundreds of artists and athletes from around the region.

A con is a colourful fabric ball which is thrown at a bamboo hoop as part of a folk game played during the festivals and New Year holidays of Thai ethnic communities. It is often held on a spacious and flat ground where a 15-20m high bamboo pole is erected with the target on top. The game has been adopted by people living in the border areas of Laos, China and Vietnam.

The Lao district of Nhot U, China’s Jiangcheng region, and Dien Bien and Lao Cai provinces in Vietnam take it in turns to organise the festival highlighting the game every year.

In addition to con throwing competitions, the three-day festival featured folk games, a cooking contest, a costumed beauty pageant, a trade fair on Vietnamese consumer products and cultural exchange activities.

According to Lo Van In, a Thai culture researcher in Dien Bien, the con symbolises Yang while the bamboo ring embodies Yin. The game shows the harmony of Yin and Yang, meaning that couples who wish to have children often take part to pray for a child.

The biennial festival is also expected to strengthen friendship and mutual understanding among three regional countries.

Celebrity Fans Agree with Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet has chosen the Kimberley in Western Australia's North West as one of the world's Top 10 Regions for the year ahead, in its 'Best in Travel 2014'. www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel

The Kimberley ranked second on the book's list of Top 10 Regions 2014, stating "it's one of the most sparsely populated regions on the planet and one of the most starkly beautiful," Lonely Planet says, "carved by giant gorges, dimpled with deep, cool pools, and home to a coastline that could make Australian east-coasters weep."

And it's not just the travel experts at Lonely Planet that think the Kimberley is extraordinary. In recent times, the region has attracted a plethora of high-profile guests including Sir Bib Geldof, Ewan McGregor, Jerry Hall, Miranda Kerr, Megan Gale, Nicole Kidman and many more - who've sung its praises to the world through traditional and social media channels.

When talk show host Elen DeGeneres asked Nicole Kidman where her favourite Australian destination was earlier this year - her answer was simple - "Kununurra".

Kidman fell in love with the Kimberley during the filming of Baz Luhrmann's Australia in 2007 and has been an advocate ever since.

Luhrmann spent almost a decade searching for the ultimate Australian landscape that would etch itself indelibly into the public imagination - he chose the Kimberley.

"What's so exciting about the landscape which is on the one hand, harsh, brutal and unforgiving - but at any given moment can become the most awesome, majestic, inspiring, poetic and lyrical place to be."

In May 2013, Sir Bob Geldof was on business in Perth when he decided he had to tick off one of his "bucket list" experiences - witnessing the awe-inspiring Bungle Bungle Range at World Heritage listed Purnululu National Park first hand.

"I absolutely love the Kimberley," said Sir Bob. "It's such a beautiful country and I got fed up not knowing this part of Western Australia," he explained.

"I flew up to Kununurra for the Ord Valley Muster and was fortunate enough to visit the Bungle Bungles whilst I was there. I had heard so much about them and had seen pictures, but had to go see them for myself. It was definitely worth the effort as both were simply spectacular in asymmetrical ways," Geldof said.

In the past twelve months several high-profile advertising campaigns were shot in the Kimberley - Myer at El Questro, David Jones at Eco Beach and Megan Gale's Isola swimwear range on Broome's Cable Beach to name a few.

The timing of the Lonely Planet announcement couldn't be better, with the Kimberley featuring in one of Tourism WA's two new Experience Extraordinary brand films

The Kimberley ad features locations including El Questro Wilderness Park, Home Valley Station, the Bungle Bungle Range, Cable Beach and Gantheaume Point, aiming to create an emotional connection by focusing on getting away from everyday life and reconnecting with those who matter the most in an extraordinary destination such as WA.

The Lonely Plant endorsement as one of the world's top tourism destinations is a huge boost for the Kimberley's national and international profile, and will hopefully inspire a new wave of visitors to this extraordinary, unique wilderness region.

To view the extraordinary Kimberley brand film visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jsmi66JV4Ho

To find out more about Western Australia visit www.westernaustralia.com 

2013 Sculpture in the Vineyards

Art and wine lovers are invited to make their way to the 2013 Sculpture in the Vineyards, held in the beautiful Wollombi Valley – Gateway to the Hunter Valley Wine Country – from Friday 1 November to Monday 2 December.

“Sculpture in the Vineyards is an unique annual exhibition of large-scale outdoor sculptures along the Wollombi Valley Wine Trail that will appeal not only to art lovers, but also those who appreciate fine wine and gourmet offerings, all set within our beautiful countryside,” Member for Cessnock, Clayton Barr said.

“Last year, 4,224 visitors attended Sculpture in the Vineyards with 2,724 of these out-of-region visitors, staying an average two nights, and contributing $730,032 to our local community.”

A not-for-profit association, Sculpture in the Vineyards will feature over 100 works by emerging and established artists. The event will see vineyards, cellar doors and Wollombi Village itself transformed into a spectacular series of sculpture parks.

Sculpture in the Vineyards’ month-long celebration of art and wine includes guided sculpture, food and wine and local Aboriginal artwork tours, as well as tailored educational tours and workshops for groups of all sizes.

Minister for Tourism and Major Events, George Souris said: “The NSW Government, through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, is pleased to support regional events such as Sculpture in the Vineyards as part of the 2013 Regional Flagship Events Program.”

Destination NSW CEO Sandra Chipchase said: “The 2013 Sculpture in the Vineyards is a key regional event listed on Destination NSW’s event calendar. The event is set to attract over 5,000 visitors to the Lower Hunter Valley.

“Sculpture in the Vineyards will appeal not only to art and wine lovers – the event also offers a chance to explore beyond the scenic Great North Road and delve into hidden corners of this picturesque valley. The Wollombi region is rich in history, ranging from Aboriginal rock engravings to the convict built Great North Road and historic buildings of the Wollombi village.”

For more information please visit: www.sculptureinthevineyards.com.au

Indian Cities Plan for the Celebration of Diwali with Great Fervour

Known as the festival of lights, Deepavali or Diwali is majorly an Indian festival rejoicing the triumph of good over the veil, light over darkness. On this day, the houses, streets, work places are decorated by colourful lights and candles (locally called diya).

Being prominently a Hindu festival, it is said that on the day of Diwali, Lord Ram, a King exiled for fourteen years in the forest, returns to the kingdom of Ayodhya. As stated in mythology, this day was devoted for reception and joy and the whole city of Ayodhya was lit with lamps.

Some of the major cities to visit during Diwali

Delhi: 

Diwali in Delhi starts from Dussehra itself. There are banners and placards everywhere in the National Capital Territory. Several temporary stages hosting the “Ramlila”, a dramatic depiction of the life of Lord Ram, culminating with the 10-days battle between Ram and Ravan (described in epic Ramayana) are performed on this day. The major commercial centres of Delhi get packed with shoppers and shopping offers. People start to splurge on new dresses, gifts, fruits, sweets and firecrackers for the preparation of Dhanteras and the Diwali

 

Jaipur, Rajasthan: 

a visit to the pink city during the Deepavali would remain as one of the memorable moments of life. Jaipur is a popular tourist destination both for domestic as well as for international travelers. The entire city remains decorated in bright and colourful lights. Handicrafts, firecrackers, gift items, and local traditional clothes also flood the marts during Diwali. Each year, notably, a contest is held to award the best-decorated market.

 

Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh: 

A remarkable place to celebrate Diwali is Uttar Pradesh. The state wears a colourful look throughout the festival of lights. If you have to choose one place in UP, then pick Varanasi – “the holy city of India.” On Diwali evening, the 50 odd Ghats of Varanasi are illuminated with thousands of diyas (i.e. earthen lamps) transforming the proverbial “city of lights” into mesmerizing reality.

 

Kolkata, West Bengal: 

“Shyama Puja” or “Kali Puja” is Kolkata’s answer to Diwali. The date of the puja coincides with Diwali. According to the Hindu mythology, “Kali” is treated as the “Shakti” (i.e. the goddess of Power). During the puja, which generally takes place at midnight, people try to appease the goddess with live offering of lamb or buffalo. The “prasad” (i.e. food offered to the deity) is then shared among the devotees. A day prior to the puja, little candles, diyas, and small-decorated electric bulbs, light up the “city of joy.” On the day of the puja, firecrackers cover the sky displaying a fascinating array of fireworks.

 

Amritsar, Punjab: 

The Golden Temple of Amritsar is draped with brightly lit diyas on the Diwali evening making it an extravagant spectacle for the onlookers. The reflection of the diyas on the water creates a truly magical environment. With weeks in advance, the authorities start to plan for the day. Each house is decorated with leaves, flowers and other pretty items with rangolis (i.e. a popular art form done with powder and colours) featuring on the entrance. All the locals prepare various sweets and dishes to share them with friends, relatives, neighbors and community. The Diwali night sees spectacular fireworks lighting up the night sky.

 

Sivakasi, Tamil Nadu: 

70 km south of Madurai in Virudhunagar district, one would come across this bustling industrial town, nicknamed as “Kutty Japan” (i.e. meaning “Little Japan” in Tamil.) This lively little industrial town is known to provide the logistics support to the fireworks that take place all over the country! About 90% of India’s fireworks solutions, which are mainly showcased on Diwali, come from the factories of Sivakasi.

Novotel Celebrates 100th Hotel in Asia Pacific with Novotel Phuket Kamala Beach Resort

Novotel - the world's leading midscale hotel brand - is celebrating its 100th hotel in Asia Pacific with the launch of Novotel Phuket Kamala Beach Resort. Having launched in Lille, France 46 years ago, Novotel has grown to 400 hotels in 60 countries globally. In Asia Pacific, Novotel made its debut in Singapore in 1982 and has since become so popular that the region accounts for a quarter of the brand's worldwide network.

Since its debut in 1967, Novotel has built a reputation for innovation, introducing many elements into its hotels which have since become industry standards. From its first incarnation in France - one of the first hotels to offer completely standardised rooms, all with en suite bathrooms - the Novotel brand has been at the forefront of hospitality.

"Novotel has really hit the mark with travellers in Asia Pacific by offering a consistently high quality of accommodation at an affordable rate in the most convenient locations," said Michael Issenberg, Chairman and Chief Operating Officer of Accor Asia Pacific. "We are proud that Novotel has firmly established itself as one of the most recognised and respected hotel brands in this region and Asia Pacific will continue to lead the way for the brand in the future."

In Asia Pacific alone, Novotel has almost 50 hotels in the pipeline for the next five years, so the region will be a key driver for the brand's continuing expansion.

Some of the highlights of Novotel's expansion in Asia Pacific include:
  • 1982 The first Novotel in Asia Pacific opens: Novotel Singapore Orchid
  • 1985 Novotel Guangzhou opens (the brand's first hotel in China)
  • 1989 Novotel Bangkok on Siam Square is the group's first new-build hotel in Asia and sets new standards in room design - it quickly becomes one of the city's trendiest hotels and paves the way for more upmarket Novotels in the region
  • 1991 Novotel Sydney on Darling Harbour opens in Australia and helps turn the Darling Harbour precinct into a tourist mecca
  • 1993 Novotel Seoul Ambassador opens and sets new benchmarks in Korea with seven restaurants and its own golf driving range
  • 1994 Novotel enters New Zealand with the opening of Novotel Auckland
  • 1997 The Novotel brand turns 30 and reaches 320 hotels in 53 countries worldwide
  • 2000 Novotel Sydney Olympic Park opens in time for the 2000 Olympic Games - the first hotel built in the heart of an Olympic precinct, it sets new benchmarks in hotel sustainability thanks to its enviro-friendly design
  • 2001 Novotel Hong Kong Century opens
  • 2002 Two new hotels open in Beijing - Novotel Peace and Novotel Xinqiao
  • 2006 Novotel Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport opens
  • 2008 Novotel introduces 100% eco-labelled bathroom products
  • 2009 Novotel Juhu Beach opens in Mumbai and Novotel Bali Benoa becomes the first hotel in Asia Pacific to achieve Green Globe Certification for its environmental commitments
  • 2012 Novotel Auckland Airport wins New Zealand Hotel Industry Conference Environmental Initiative Award

Along the way, Novotel has moved from being a predominantly business and meetings hotel to one designed equally for business and leisure travel, with an increasing number of resort hotels. The brand is also very focused on families with the Novotel&Family offer, which provides free accommodation and breakfast for up to two children 16 years and under when staying with their parents or grandparents. Novotel makes families feel even more welcome with a special gift for children, 50% off the second room for families who need more space, dedicated play areas and late check-out on Sundays.

Novotel was also one of the first international hotel groups to put environmental issues at the forefront of its operations and has won many awards over the years for its commitment to sustainability.

The landmark Novotel Phuket Kamala Beach is a newly-built beachfront resort located on the island's idyllic western coast. This upper-midscale resort boasts 166 guest rooms, suites and villas all with views over the lush gardens or Andaman Sea. With free Wi-Fi throughout, the resort's leisure facilities include three restaurants, a rooftop bar, lobby bar and pool bar, a kids club, In|Balance fitness centre, day spa and outdoor pool. Located on its own stretch of white sand, the resort is just 10 minutes from the nightlife and shopping of Patong Beach.

"We are very excited that Novotel Phuket Kamala Beach Resort has opened as our 100th Novotel in Asia Pacific," said Mr. Issenberg. "Novotel was Accor's first brand and our first brand to enter Asia Pacific and it remains one of our mainstays. It is especially fitting that our 100th Novotel should be a resort as the brand is increasingly focused on expanding its resort network in the most beautiful locations in the world.

"This milestone comes at a time of great excitement as Novotel will next year launch a new phase in its development which will ensure it continues to remain one of the strongest brands in the mid-scale sector both in Asia Pacific and globally.

KERRY HOTEL PUDONG, SHANGHAI CREATES THE LARGEST BALL PIT IN THE WORLD

On 30 October, the Kerry Hotel Pudong in Shanghai has created Guinness World Records™ Largest Ball Pit in the world. This event has also concluded the month-long Kerry Hotel’s “Pink October” campaign with a success.

The hotel has emptied its swimming pool (25 metre in length and 12.6 metre in width) and filled it up with one million pink and green bubble balls overnight. This has successfully broken the existing record both in pool size and amount of balls. The bubble balls went on sale from 1 October at the Hotel and throughout the community, and proceeds from the sale will benefit breast cancer education, awareness and action.

It is also the third year that Kerry Hotel joins hands with “More Than Aware”. With the support from “More Than Aware”, three hundreds of the guests that are recovering cancer patients volunteered from Shanghai Cancer Recovery Club entered the Largest Ball Pit at the same time.

“This is a record breaking achievement at Kerry Hotel Pudong,” says Peter Clarke, General Manager of the hotel, “In our daily operations, we are committed to provide our guests with a fresh and unsurpassed experience while maintaining an active corporate social responsibility calendar. This year, we’ve launched a Pink October activities campaign throughout October. We believe that this initiative helps in spreading awareness across both the local and expatriate population and encouraging women to be proactive in the prevention of breast cancer.”

In line with “Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” besides the record breaking event on 30 October, Kerry Hotel Pudong has also developed a daily calendar that offers special Pink October promotions and fun activities, including Pink Bazaar and “Pledge Your Ponytail” hair-cutting event, Pink Cider at The BREW, Pink Sunday Brunch at The COOK, Pink facial at The Spa, Pink exercise classes at the Kerry Sports and more.

For details of Kerry Hotel Pudong, please call (86 21) 6169 8888 or emailkhpu@thekerryhotels.com

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts remains committed to operating in an economically, socially and environmentally responsible manner while balancing the interests of diverse stakeholders. In striving to be a leader in corporate citizenship and sustainable development, a corporate-level CSR Committee drives the company's initiatives in the strategic areas of stakeholder relations, environment, health and safety, supply chain and employees. Under the umbrella of sustainability, Shangri-La's social responsibility programme consists of the two elements of "embrace" and "sanctuary". Embrace focuses on Shangri-La’s Caring People Project, which aims to promote the highest level of education and health support in underprivileged communities. In sanctuary, the programme concentrates on Shangri-La's Care for Nature Project, which promotes the conservation and restoration of biodiversity. For more information, please access the CSR section on www.shangri-la.com.

Sharjah Commerce & Tourism Development Authority Reveals Details of Sir Bu Nuair Island Development

The Sir Bu Nuair Project – at a cost of half a billion Emirati Dirham – is a massive development of the Arabian Gulf Island and a major beautification and preservation of its existing ecosystem. The aim of the project is to turn the island into a unique destination; one that offers a mix of high-end luxury and comfort, one that fosters a genuine sense of community, and one that captures the region’s vibrancy and cultural heritage in its architecture and offerings. Set to be completed in 2017, the island will host a luxury five-star hotel and resort, hotel apartments and villas, a camping village for those who love camping, retail shops, a souk, dedicated family areas, an amphitheatre, a museum, a mosque, an education centre, a harbour and an airport.

Located 65km off the UAE coastline on the Arabian Gulf and stretching across a gigantic area of 13 km2, the predominantly uninhabited island is characterised by its natural scenery and beautiful beaches, and has yielded archaeological finds of pottery items dating back to approximately 3,500 BC, with other recovered items dating back to 1,500 BC.

Travelling to the island takes 2-3 hours by sea, 25 minutes by airplane from Jebel Ali and Abu Dhabi, and 40 minutes from Sharjah. The island is protected due to its significant environmental features, including geological formations, natural flora, marine birds, Hawksbill turtles, green turtles, rare fish species, marine plants, as well as numerous seaweed species. Sir Bu Nuair is also home to a number of important species of endangered animals and plants and is a refuge for certain wild birds such as the Alasard, the Alwaraqa, and the Alqoba, as well as birds of prey such as the Peregrine Falcon.

Sir Bu Nuair Island is already a favourite diving and snorkelling destination due to its bio-diversity and its coral reefs, but there is more that makes this Island an attractive destination for divers and sightseers. It is home to an annual environmental and sporting competition where fishermen, divers and seamen take part in a three-day treasure hunt and various sporting, cultural, heritage and environmental activities. It is also the starting point of the penultimate leg of the Al Gaffal Dhow Race, where one hundred 60ft dhows (traditional sailing boats) compete in a race from Sir Bu Nuair to Dubai. In recognition to the Island’s cultural and geographic value, Sir Bu Nuair has been listed as a potential UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012.

New Chairman and a New Direction for Business Events Tasmania

Malcolm Wells
The Business Events Tasmania (BET) Annual General Meeting 2013 marked a new direction for the organisation that will engage the wider Tasmanian community and industry going beyond tourism to deliver broader strategic objectives for Tasmania.

BET welcomed a new Chairman to the Board, Malcolm Wells, Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Business at the University of Tasmania, along with a new Director, Richard Matson of Matson Catering in Launceston. The membership also approved a new constitution that increases the size of the Board of Directors from 7 to 9, allowing the organisation to recruit new board members from broader industry and academic institutions outside of Tourism and hospitality.

BET CEO Stuart Nettlefold said that the changes align perfectly with the new strategic objectives of the organisation as laid out in the recently launched Three Year Strategic Plan.

"Our strategic plan focusses on increasing the total value of business events to Tasmania and our stakeholders - not just the direct economic value. This includes the social advantages of hosting events and the implications for trade and investment in Tasmania's key industries.

"While Business Events Tasmania will continue to drive the core business of securing business events for Tasmania, which saw 84 bid wins with a value of over $47 million in 2012/13, we will be strongly pursuing the additional social benefits of the sector into the future. In particular, engaging the Tasmanian community broadly to ensure the benefits are better understood more widely.

"We are also focussed, as always, on marketing and developing the business events sector in Launceston and regional areas such as Cradle Mountain, the East Coast and the North and West Coasts. In these areas links with industry is often the key to success, so engaging these sectors is crucial.

"Malcolm's academic, business and tourism credentials made him the ideal candidate to lead the Board of Directors through the next stage of Business Events Tasmania's growth," said Mr Nettlefold.

"In addition to being Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Business at the University of Tasmania, Malcolm is Deputy Chair at Destination Southern Tasmania, Chair of the National Parks Advisory Committee and principal of his own project management consultancy.

"Malcolm also has thirteen years' experience in the Tourism sector with Tourism Tasmania, including nine as Deputy Chief Executive. He was an architect of the Brand Tasmania initiative and a key player in the development of Targa Tasmania, the Three Peaks Race, Ten Days on the Island and the 1990 World

Rowing Championships. Malcolm is also a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. We are thrilled to have him join the team.

"The appointment of Richard Matson as a new Director will also set the board in good stead with the marketing and development of Launceston's business events sector. Richard is an enthusiastic and entrepreneurial businessman, with great local connections.

A presentation by Leo Jago, the Chief Economist for Tourism and General Manager of Tourism Research Australia, spoke to the AGM on "The True Value of Business Events".

"Leo's presentation was the perfect conclusion to the developments of the day, highlighting that the direct economic impact of business events, largely attributed to the tourism sector, is just the tip of the iceberg, it is the broader social benefits provided by the business events sector where the true value lies." said Mr Nettlefold.

"Now we have the exciting task of recruiting two new board members from the academic and business sectors in Tasmania."

ABTA Reveals Consumers’ Top 10 Essentials for Booking a Holiday

Consumers continue to seek protection and reassurance when booking a holiday, ABTA’s 2013 Consumer Trends Survey* has revealed. Financial protection, ABTA Membership and ATOL protection remain in the top 5 places of consumers’ holiday booking requirements, with the number of people citing these booking elements as essential or important increasing for all three.

Safe and secure accommodation topped the list of booking essentials with nearly nine in ten (86%) of customers citing this as essential or important, an increase from 83% in 2012. Value for money completes the list of the top 5 booking essentials, with seven in ten (70%) consumers citing this as important. This figure remains static from last year. Likewise the importance of having the lowest prices has decreased slightly and dropped below the range of holidays on offer.

Membership of ABTA has slightly increased in importance and overtaken value for money with 71% of people citing it as essential or important, compared with 68% in 2012. There was a significant jump among the number of Scots who view ABTA membership as a priority, with 86% seeing it as essential or important compared to 76% in 2012. Similarly, the importance of ATOL protection has seen an increase year-on-year, emphasizing the priority consumers place on peace of mind when booking a holiday.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said “We know how important holidays are for people both in psychological and financial terms, so it makes sense that safety, protection and value for money continue to be highly valued. With some signs of economic optimism, it is perhaps not surprising to see that lowest prices have fallen slightly as a priority and that instead people are focusing on assurance and quality so they can relax and enjoy themselves on holiday.”

Table 1.1 – Top ten booking elements rated as essential or important by consumers**


Consumer’s Holiday Booking Essentials 2013 % Consumer’s Holiday Booking Essentials 2012 %
1. Safe and secure accommodation 86 Safe and secure accommodation 83
2. Financial protection 79 Financial protection 77
3. ATOL protection 77 ATOL protection 71
4. ABTA membership 71 Value for money (but not necessarily the lowest price) 70
5. Value for money (but not necessarily the lowest price) 70 ABTA membership 68
6. Knowledgeable staff 67 Knowledgeable staff 68
7. Ease of transport connections to the airport 62 Ease of transport connections to the airport 60
8. Range of holidays on offer 58 Lowest prices 60
9. Lowest prices 57 Range of holidays on offer 58
10. Flexibility in arrangements 49 A well-known name in the industry 50

New Tourism Employment Forecast Report from Tourism Research Australia

Tourism Research Australia has published Tourism Employment in Australia, 2011-12 to 2029-30.

Tourism jobs in Australia are projected to grow at an average of 1.4% per annum, outpacing national population growth and overall workforce growth.

Education Tourism is forecast to show the strongest growth in tourism employment, leading to a significant demand for professionals compared to all other occupations.

Demand for transport and accommodation and transport services are also projected to grow strongly, and will generate high demand for intermediate production and transport workers and the advanced clerical and service worker occupation groups.

Tourism employment in NSW is expected to grow in line with the national tourism employment average growth of 1.4 % per annum, from 151,700 persons employed in 2011-12 to 190,400 by 2029-30. NSW is projected to continue to have the largest share of tourism employment in Australia in 2029-30 (29 per cent).

The report, Tourism Employment in Australia, 2011-12 to 2029-30 is available on the Destination NSW website and at www.tra.gov.au

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

AIME wins industry awards

The Asia-Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo (AIME) has been announced as the winner of multiple international awards, solidifying its position as a world-leading industry event.

AIME won Gold for Best Brand Marketing Campaign in the Meetings Industry Marketing Awards (MIMA) and Bronze for Best Live Marketing, with the winners announced at a gala dinner that took place in London late last week.

The MIMAs were established in 2002 by London-based meetpie.com - the British event industry's number one portal - and honour best practice marketing in meetings and events.

Jacqui Timmins, Exhibition Director at AIME and CIBTM, said this recognition reflects AIME’s commitment to remaining at the forefront of industry innovation to ensure relevance to audiences.

“We’re determined to ensure we keep one step ahead and constantly provide our audiences with the latest advances in the meetings and incentives industry, to help them keep one step ahead of their competition. It’s this commitment to being a business partner, not just an event, that sets us apart and keeps our audiences coming back year after year,” Ms Timmins said.

Karen Bolinger, Chief Executive Officer of the Melbourne Convention Bureau, which owns AIME, said winning these awards strengthens AIME’s position as a globally renowned, world-class event, which attracts high volumes of business and interest from overseas.

“AIME is a cornerstone of Australia’s highly successful business events industry and contributes substantial economic benefit to the local economy each year,” Ms Bolinger said.

“Wins like these highlight how well regarded our event is to an international audience and how we continue to be the must-attend event in this space, showcasing industry best practice.”

AIME is also nominated for Best Exhibition in the 2013 Australian Event Awards (AEA). The AEAs recognise the most innovative and outstanding events in Australia, with AIME selected from hundreds of entries to make the list of just four finalists in the category.

Winners of the AEAs will be announced in November at a reception being held at Doltone House in Sydney’s Hyde Park.

AIME, now in its 22nd year, is the largest exhibition in the Asia-Pacific region showcasing Australian and international products and services for the meetings, incentives, conference and exhibition industries (MICE). The two-day event sees over 750 Exhibitors from five continents converge on Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre to showcase destinations, venues and a wide range of products and services to industry buyers.

AIME will take place on 18-19 February, 2014. For further information about the event, please visit the website.

The Gurus Explore South Korea this Saturday on Channel Nine 4pm

Be inspired by tuning into ‘The Gurus Explore South Korea’ on Channel Nine in Australia at 4pm this Saturday. Join the presenters from Perth based Guru Productions Pty. Ltd., Trevor Cochrane and Kim Syrus as they explore Korea. The program highlights many of the fun and adventurous activities that Australians can enjoy in Korea like scuba-diving and paragliding on the beautiful sub-tropical island of Jeju off the southern coast of Korea.

The action packed one hour program includes the atmosphere of a major league baseball game in the port city of Busan between the Lotte Giants and the NC Dinos. Trevor and Kim joined the amazing atmosphere and fan support that these games generate in Korea They also met and filmed the Australian connection at the Lotte Giants, the lead pitcher Chris Oxspring who was an Australian Silver medalist from the 2004 Athens Olympics.

The program highlights many unique aspects of Korea to help educate Australians about the many adventures and fun activities they can enjoy in South Korea. They also enjoyed the unique experience of the Templestay program where visitors can stay overnight in a Buddhist temple and join in the prayers, meditation and activities of Korean Buddhist temple life.

Along with the highlights of the capital city of Seoul they program will share many experiences that tourists to the country can enjoy such as a ‘food tour experience’ and ‘wine train experience’. This can be a great way to get off the beaten tourism track and enjoy an authentic Korean experience.

It is expected that the ‘Gurus Explore South Korea’ program broadcast this weekend will encourage many more Australians to explore Korea and discover new and exciting ways to enjoy the very best the country has to offer.

Further information on the adventures and activities featured in the program can be obtained by contacting Korea Tourism Sydney office for a free information pack to be mailed out.

Email: visitkorea@knto.org.au Phone: 02)9252-4147/8

Royalty on Show in Canberra's Golden Summer of Arts and Culture

The king of rock 'n' roll will headline a season of exceptional exhibitions hosted by Canberra's premier arts and culture attractions.

Exclusively showing in Canberra at the National Portrait Gallery from December is a photographic exhibition of Elvis Presley as a newly-signed recording artist.

Elvis at 21, Photographs by Alfred Wertheimer

(7 December 2013 to 10 March 2014) showcases a collection of images taken by photojournalist Alfred Wertheimer who was hired by Elvis' new label RCA Victor in 1956 to shoot promotional images of the then relatively unknown artist.

Wertheimer's instincts to 'tag along' with the artist after the assignment and the resulting images he took provide a candid look at Elvis before he exploded onto the international music scene and became one of the most exciting performers of his time.

The Gallery's associate registrar, Maria Ramsden, said Wertheimer got unprecedented access to the singer resulting in very intimate and emotive imagery.

'(Elvis) was so caught up in the moment of whatever he was doing Wertheimer could get within four feet of him and get incredibly photographs and very natural photographs,' Ms Ramsden said. 'You get an incredible glimpse of the real Elvis Presley before the legend was born.'

The National Portrait Gallery is currently the only institution outside of the United States to be granted access to the ticketed exhibition, which was developed collaboratively by the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, the Smithsonian Institution Travelling Exhibition Service and the Govinda Gallery.

Director of Australian Capital Tourism, Ian Hill, said as well as experiencing the charms of Elvis visitors to Canberra can also immerse themselves in a rich and varied summer exhibitions program.

'The quality of blockbuster exhibitions that will be on show in the national capital add to the already thriving arts and culture scene Canberra is renowned for,' Mr Hill said.

Canberra will host the first exhibition of Peruvian art ever staged in Australia over summer. Gold and the Incas: Lost worlds of Peru (6 December 2013 to 21 April 2014) opens exclusively at the National Gallery of Australia and reveals the splendour of ancient pre-Hispanic cultures of Peru, with more than 200 objects that will transport visitors back in time into the world of the famous Incan empire and their predecessors. The exhibition is a ticketed event.

 

Mapping our world: Terra incognita to Australia 

(7 November 2013 to 10 March 2014) draws on the world's great map collections to bring together spectacular maps, atlases, globes and scientific instruments for a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition as part of Canberra's Centenary celebrations.

A celebration of some of the world's most significant discoveries, Mapping Our World is also a re-evaluation of Australia's mapping past, with unique works by the most eminent names in the history of cartography including James Cook and Matthew Flinders. The exhibition is free but tickets timed entry passes will apply.

At the National Museum of Australia you can see the cultural attraction's first ever exhibition of bark paintings, Old Masters: Australia's great bark artists (6 December 2013 to 20 July 2014). Drawn exclusively from the Museum's bark collection, which is the largest of its kind in the world, the exhibition celebrates the genius of Australia's great bark painters.

It explores the artistic achievements of Aboriginal master artists who established the signature styles of their communities and regions in Arnhem Land. The works typify an Australian 'high art' that is intimately connected to history, environment and culture. Techniques passed from generation to generation mirrors the European tradition of master teaching student. This is a ticketed event.

Roll Yourself in the Annual Celebration of WURSTFEST Festival

Located near the headwaters of the beautiful Comal River in New Braunfels, Texas, the 10 day WURSTFEST festival offers celebrations like no other. It would be a memorable event to join the annual celebration which is so rich in German culture and full of Texas fun.

Enjoy the good food, music, dancing, exciting carnival rides and games, German, Texan and domestic beer, special events and the finest in Alpine and Bavarian Style Entertainment.

Since 1961, New Braunfels has been home to one of the biggest and best events in the state of Texas. The annual WURSTFEST festival offers a unique blend of German heritage and Texan fun! It’s an opportunity for folks from far and wide to come together for great food, good beer and live entertainment from over 40 local, national, and international performers.

10 days of unrivaled fun

Traditional German costumes, crafts, souvenirs, and delicacies rule the day in this Texas-style Oktoberfest. From carnival rides to polkas to sausage on a stick, there’s something here for everyone. Located on the spacious family-friendly and accessible Wurstfest grounds, the festival begins every year on the first Friday in November and runs for 10 days. This year, the fun will be raging from Friday, November 1 through Saturday, November 10. Several corresponding community events also spring during that same time throughout New Braunfels.

A big event for a big state

Begun as a promotional event for the city’s sausage-making industry, Wurstfest has exploded into one of the largest and most exciting cultural events in the country. Fifty-two years after its humble beginning, Wurstfest is better than ever and was recently rated the #3 event in the state of Texas, behind only San Antonio’s annual Fiesta celebration and the Texas State Fair.

Event Date: November 1- November 10, 2013
Venue: New Braunfels, Texas, USA

Novotel Sydney Parramatta Unveils Multi-million Dollar Renovation

Novotel Sydney Parramatta
It has been a huge 12 months for Novotel Sydney Parramatta following its rebrand from Sebel to Novotel in October 2012. After undergoing an extensive renovation campaign which saw guestrooms and the atrium refurbished, the hotel has unveiled the results of its multi-million dollar makeover just 12 months after joining the internationally renowned Novotel brand.

As part of the renovation, all of the hotel's 194 guestrooms have been tastefully decorated with new contemporary furniture, carpets and soft furnishings, while the bathrooms have received a complete makeover with rich red splashbacks a feature, new showers, vanities and mirrors.

The striking atrium which adorns the lobby of Novotel Sydney Parramatta has also received a fresh new look with chic furniture creating an inviting space for guests to relax. The porte-cochere now boasts a fresh coat of paint, new red pot plants and lounge chairs add to the sense of arrival.

Newly appointed General Manager of Novotel Sydney Parramatta, Michael Daviss, said the hotel has undergone a renaissance over the past 12 months and its new look along with its new name has revitalised the hotel.

"The completion of our refurbishment could not have come at a better time, with major events such as the NRL Grand Final and upcoming Sydney Festival bringing thousands of people to the area. We've been receiving great feedback from guests on our new look rooms and lobby and it is great to see guests enjoying the full suite of benefits which come with Novotel. The values the brand encompasses relating to family, healthy eating and professional meetings tie in superbly with our hotel and what we deliver to our guests, and helps sets us apart from our competitors," said Daviss.

With Novotel's focus on healthy living, guests of Novotel Sydney Parramatta have access to a dedicated yoga channel and yoga mats are available at reception. Organic menu items are also a feature on the breakfast menu.

The hotel's contemporary Two Forks Restaurant & Bar has a picturesque outlook onto Prince Alfred Park and is the perfect place to unwind with a morning coffee or evening beverage. The addition of a brand new steam room adjacent to the hotel's revamped outdoor heated pool and spa area has also been a welcomed addition to the new look hotel.

Situated just 24km from Sydney CBD and with Riverside Theatre, Parramatta Stadium, Rosehill Racecourse, Sydney Olympic Park and many other local attractions just moments away, Novotel Sydney Parramatta is in an ideal position to take advantage of all that Greater Western Sydney has to offer.

Novotel Sydney Parramatta Lobby
Novotel Sydney Parramatta is offering guests a Shop 'til You Drop package which includes overnight accommodation, buffet breakfast for two, complimentary parking and a $50 Westfield voucher. Rates start from $199 per night.

For more information, head to www.accorhotels.com

VisitNorway By Innovation Norway Joins Forces With Disney

Norway’s national tourist board, officially joined forces with Disney to celebrate the upcoming big-screen comedy adventure “Frozen” and its stunning look and setting, inspired by Norway’s beautiful landscape, culture and heritage. The unique collaboration and marketing initiative is designed to drive tourism to Norway, while boosting enthusiasm for the film, which opens in U.S. theaters Nov. 27, 2013.

Visitnorway and Disney will begin working immediately to create a global marketing campaign around the new animated adventure. The campaign will see Norway’s spectacular scenery, folklore and culture showcased on an unprecedented scale and will position Norway on the world stage in a way not seen before.

The “Frozen” script called for a dramatic setting, complete with ice and snow, castles and mountains. Filmmakers from Walt Disney Animation Studios realized that Norway had it all. “We wanted to create an intimate world with an enchanting and dynamic setting that would be immediately identifiable for generations to come,” says Mike Giaimo, art director for the film. “Norway offered a cultural backdrop we’d never explored before and we thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to blend its dramatic natural environment, architecture and folk costume aesthetic?’ It feels like a world from a classic Disney film, but it’s completely new.”

The production team referenced details from Norway for the fictional kingdom of Arendelle, which sits on a fjord and includes elements of classic Norwegian architecture like a stave church. Its steep, majestic backdrop serves as the perfect setting for the journey Anna undertakes with rugged mountain man Kristoff in search of her sister Elsa. Filmmakers were also inspired by Norwegian bunad—traditional folk costumes that feature elaborate designs—and select characters actually speak Norwegian in the film or use an accent that is reminiscent of the region.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for us to promote Norway as a wonderful tourist destination,” says Per-Arne Tuftin, director of tourism at Innovation Norway. “Disney is well known around the world, and we hope that in providing the inspiration for the backdrop to this film, Norway will appeal to the film’s fans—viewers of all ages who will be inspired to visit Norway and explore our beautiful country in the years ahead.”

The campaign will feature joint promotional activities and special events throughout the film’s theatrical run and home entertainment window, plus social media and website exposure, including a dedicated section about “Frozen” on visitnorway.com.

Walt Disney Animation Studios, the studio behind “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph,” presents “Frozen,” a stunning big-screen comedy adventure. Fearless optimist Anna (voice of Kristen Bell) sets off on an epic journey—teaming up with rugged mountain man Kristoff (voice of Jonathan Groff) and his loyal reindeer Sven—to find her sister Elsa (voice of Idina Menzel), whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom of Arendelle in eternal winter. Encountering Everest-like conditions, mystical trolls and a hilarious snowman named Olaf (voice of Josh Gad), Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom. The film is directed by Chris Buck (“Tarzan,” “Surf’s Up”) and Jennifer Lee (screenwriter, “Wreck-It Ralph”), who also wrote the screenplay. It is produced by Peter Del Vecho (“Winnie the Pooh,” “The Princess and the Frog”). Featuring original songs from Tony® winner Robert Lopez (“The Book of Mormon,” “Avenue Q”) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (“In Transit,” “Winnie the Pooh”), and an original score by Christophe Beck (“The Muppets,” Oscar®-winning short “Paperman”), “Frozen” hits theaters in 3D on Nov. 27, 2013.

AIME extends early bird savings for Hosted Buyer applications

Prospective buyers looking to participate in the popular Asia-Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo (AIME) Hosted Buyer Program in 2014, have only a short amount of time remaining to take advantage of the ‘Early Bird’ savings.

Hosted Buyers will receive a 10 per cent saving on all applications submitted by close of business on 6 November, 2013 for all
regions around the globe.

AIME 2014 will be held on 18-19 February at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) in Melbourne, Australia. The event provides a great opportunity for buyers to make important business connections with more than 750 international exhibitors.

Successful Hosted Buyer applicants will be provided with a personalised diary of Pre Scheduled Appointments with their preferred exhibitors, in addition to receiving flights, accommodation, pre touring in Melbourne and regional Victoria, post touring opportunities and access to networking and education sessions.

Sydney Wins a A Top Award

Sydney has been voted the number one city in the US Condé Nast Traveller 2013 Readers’ Choice Awards in the Australia and Pacific Islands category.

NSW Minister for Tourism and Major Events, George Souris, said: “It’s yet another great accolade in addition to Sydney’s recent ranking as the world's safest and friendliest city, beating London, Paris, New York and Rome,” Mr Souris said.

“Winning this influential award reinforces our Harbour City’s position as a leading international destination and the gateway to Australia.
“Sydney is Australia’s leading tourism and major events city and recognition at these awards will further raise our profile among potential travellers and help the NSW Government in reaching its target of doubling visitation to NSW by 2020.”

More than 79,000 Condé Nast Traveller readers participated in the survey which ranks the best cities, islands, cruise lines, airlines, hotels and resorts in the world – with voters rating cities according to ambience, friendliness, accommodation, restaurants, culture and shopping.

Sydney was also voted one of the world’s top twenty cities overall, beating Melbourne which rated number 22. Sydney hotels also scored well, with six of the top 10 hotels in the Australia and the Pacific Islands region including, Park Hyatt Sydney as the top hotel.

The top 10 also included Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, Westin Sydney, InterContinental Sydney, Shangri-La Hotel Sydney and Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel at Circular Quay. Condé Nast Traveller readers are mostly based in North America, which is one of our largest international tourism markets, worth more than $571 million to the NSW economy.

“This award will go a long way in ensuring visitors from North America have Sydney and NSW on their radar when planning their trips to Australia, particularly for events such as the Opening Series of the Major League Baseball in Sydney in March next year between the LA Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks, and popular festivals such as Mardi Gras,” Mr Souris said.

CEO of Destination NSW, the NSW Government’s agency for tourism and major events, Sandra Chipchase, said: “Voters recognised Sydney as ‘a cosmopolitan and sun-tanned’ city with diverse attractions, tremendous sightseeing, top-notch music, theatre and dance performances, great shopping and cultural attractions, and world-class food. There’s no doubt Sydney has all this and much more.”Sydney Wins Another

Thirumeyyam’s in Tamil Nadu Attracts Tourists to its Heritage Site

Thirumeyyam is situated in Pudukottai district in Tamil Nadu. Situated 13 Km away from Pudukkottai on the south direction it can be reached by road and rail found between pudukottai Kaaraikudi, it attracts many tourists both from India and abroad. Bus facilities are also available but the place lacks good hotels and therefore it is a good idea to make a one day trip to this place.

Thirumayam is a historic village which is located around 6 kms from Kadiapatti, its central attractions being the Thirumayam Fort and the temples of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu.

Situated atop a hill, the Thirumayam Fort was built in 1687 AD by Sethupathi Vijaya Ragunatha Thevar, the ruler of Ramanathapuram.

Thirumayam is a place of historical importance and contains three celebrated monuments. They are the Thirumayam Fort and the famous rock-cut shrines of Siva and Vishnu, hewn out of the same rock. The entrance to the fort is beautiful and relives the old architecture. The fort is still intact and lies about 1 km south of the remaining fort. The fort has been partially destroyed due to weathering. Pillared corridors and carved sculptures can be seen within the fort which is an architectural wonder.

Thirumayam Fort, Siva and Vishnu temples are protected and controlled by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and are declared as National Monument

New Museum and Galleries of NSW Website

NSW’s visual arts and cultural heritage sector have received a tourism boost with the recent launch of the new Museums & Galleries of NSW website.

The website allows people to discover hundreds of museums, galleries and Aboriginal cultural centres across NSW. Visitors can create trip itineraries and share their experiences via social networks. Because the site uses geo-location technology on a mobile-friendly interface, visitors can find a great cultural experience nearby no matter how remote.

Michael Rolfe CEO M&G NSW says the two-year-long website project offers clear benefits,

“Given that many smaller museums have only a minimal web presence, the range of activities and events they offer are now more visible though their presence on the M&G NSW website.”

The official launch of the site by the NSW Minister for Tourism, Major Events, Hospitality and Racing, and Minister for the Arts, The Hon. George Souris took place on Tuesday 1 October at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Destination NSW hopes this project will actively support their commitment to doubling the total regional NSW overnight visitor expenditure to meet their 2020 target. Museums & Galleries of NSW plans to share much of their content with Destination NSW to boost the regional cultural profile on the Visit NSW website.

For a quick tour of the website, please click here

Photo: Accessing the M&G NSW website on iPad outside Elizabeth Bay House. [With thanks to Sydney Living Museums for permission to use their property.]

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Cherry Queen Hopefuls Head to Sydney for a Good Cause

Young's 'Cherry Queen' Hopefuls are heralding the upcoming National Cherry Festival by accompanying the season's first fruit to the Cherry Auction at Sydney Markets, the home of Fresh Food, Flowers and Paddy's Markets this Wednesday morning, 30th October 2013.

Organised by the Sydney Markets Foundation, as is tradition, the first box of Cherries will be auctioned to raise funds for local charities and two Cherry Queen Hopefuls will be on hand to represent Young's produce and the 64th National Cherry Festival, being held 6-8 December.

According to Young's Tourism Manager, David Newberry, the pair are hopeful the produce they represent will form part of the hand-selected cherries for auction.

"Blessed with near perfect growing conditions, Young is the Cherry Capital of Australia," said Mr Newberry, "so we're hopeful our cherries are well represented as part of the auction.

"Since the first cherries were auctioned in 1980, over $1 million has been raised for charities through the annual Cherry auction, so we're delighted to be a part of the proceedings to help raise funds for the causes.

"Our two attending hopefuls, Rachel Walker and Simone McLachlan, will also be raising awareness of Young's flagship event - the National Cherry Festival - and the fantastic range of activities we have on over the three action-packed days, including the chance to 'pick your own' and sample our wonderful cherries to see what all the fuss is about.

"Friday 6 December will also be the night when one of our four* hopeful Young natives will be crowned "Cherry and Charity Queen" for the year, to promote the region's events and activities and share what's so special about living in Young."

The Cherry Queen Hopeful's profiles can be viewed at http://www.visityoung.com.au/Visit-Young/Whats-On/National%20Cherry%20Festival/CherryQueens

* Additional contestants Brooke Waugh and Tika McInerney were unable to attend the Sydney Cherry Auction

Event details:

Date: Wednesday, 30 October 2013
Time: Arrival at 7.00am, Auction starts at 8.00am, Event ends at 8.45am
Venue: Sydney Markets Flemington (Canopy between Building A and B, Second Avenue.
Enter via Austin Ave Entrance, Sydney Markets, Homebush West)

2013 Eden Whale Festival: Have a Whale of a Time!

Whale lovers as well as fun lovers of all ages are invited to attend the annual Eden Whale Festival, held this weekend in the picturesque township of Eden.

“If you want to get up close and personal with these magnificent animals, there is no better place to be in Australia this weekend than Eden on NSW’s beautiful Sapphire Coast,” Member for Bega, Andrew Constance said.

“Last year, 5,750 visitors attended the Eden Whale Festival. Of these, 4,370 visitors came from outside the area, staying an average three nights, and contributing $1,704,300 to our local community.”

The Eden Whale Festival celebrates the southern migration of the humpback and other whales. Timed to coincide with the migration of the whales along the coast, the Eden Whale Festival showcases not only the whales – which can be seen in large numbers in the town’s stunning Twofold Bay – but also an action-packed program of activities and events.

Highlights include a spectacular street parade, live music, vibrant market stalls, educational marine displays and presentations, great local food and wine, an Oyster Shucking Competition and of course, whale watching tours. Other attractions are open gardens, golf days, exhibitions, and competitions.

Minister for Tourism and Major Events, George Souris said: “The NSW Government, through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, is pleased to support regional events such as the Eden Whale Festival as part of the 2013 Regional Flagship Events Program.”

Destination NSW CEO Sandra Chipchase said: “The Eden Whale Festival is a uniquely Australian event.

“For one weekend each year, the rich maritime and whaling history of Eden becomes the centrepiece for festivities, attracting visitors and locals alike. Visitors should also make time to explore this beautiful region – with its forests, lush pastures and sparkling coastline, the Sapphire Coast is a perfect holiday destination at any time of the year.”

For more information please visit: www.edenwhalefestival.com.au

Auckland One of Lonely Planet's Top 10 Cities

Auckland
Auckland has been rated as one of the world’s Top 10 Cities to visit next year in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014.

Auckland sits alongside cities such as Paris, Zurich, Shanghai and Vancouver in the ninth annual guide which highlights the best trends, destinations, journeys and experiences for the upcoming year.

In addition to Auckland’s “Top 10 Cities 2014” ranking, West Coast New Zealand has also been selected as one of the “Top 10 Regions to Visit in 2014”.

Auckland is recognised for its cuisine, culture and coastal scenery with Lonely Planet saying: “Food, arts and exploring the coastal hinterland are all excellent reasons to extend your stay in New Zealand’s biggest and most cosmopolitan city.”

Tourism New Zealand General Manager Tim Burgess says the accolade from the world’s number one independent guidebook is well-deserved.

“Auckland is not only the largest Polynesian city in the world but a combination of magnificent natural scenery and a vibrant city lifestyle,” Mr Burgess said.

Auckland is praised in ‘Best in Travel’ for its newly revitalised waterfront districts like Wynyard Quarter, and shopping and dining precincts like Britomart.

The region’s west coast beaches, canyoning and abseiling in the Waitakere Ranges and the Hauraki Gulf and islands, including Waiheke Island’s vineyards are also singled out.

Auckland’s many festivals and events, its vibrant Māori and Pacific culture and impressive line up of major sporting events also received special mention.

ATEED (Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development) Chief Executive, Brett O’Riley says this accolade adds weight to Auckland’s marketing efforts to attract domestic and international visitors to the region.

“Third party endorsements like this provide an outstanding independent platform for us to showcase all that is so special about Auckland to a global audience,” Mr O’Riley said.

The Top 10 Cities were independently nominated by more than 500 Lonely Planet authors and staff and selected based on topicality, excitement and that special x-factor.

Tastes at the Bay Festival 2013

Everyone with a taste for fine food, wine and jazz is invited to head for the 2013 Tastes at the Bay Festival, held in Nelson Bay from Friday 1 to Sunday 3 November.

“The Tastes at the Bay Festival is a not-to-be-missed event that sees our local community come alive to the sounds of jazz played by some of Australia’s best musicians. Food and wine lovers are also catered for with a diverse array of gourmet offerings and fine wines,” Member for Port Stephens, Craig Baumann said.

"Last year, more than 28,000 people attended the Tastes at the Bay Festival, with more than 24,000 coming from outside the area, staying an average three nights and contributing more than $10 million to our local community.”

The Tastes at the Bay Festival features an extensive line-up of top talent, including the amazing Wizard and Oz performing on the main stage while the Australian Navy Admiral’s Own Big Band is set to get everyone dancing with its irresistible up tempo beats.

A huge program of fun and entertainment starts in the main township of Nelson Bay and continues onto the waterfront where visitors and locals will find a great selection of gourmet food, local wines, and colourful markets. There is also plenty of family fun on offer with special performances and activities for the children.

Minister for Tourism and Major Events, George Souris said: “The NSW Government, through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, is pleased to support regional events such as Tastes at the Bay Festival as part of the 2013 Regional Flagship Events Program.”

Destination NSW CEO Sandra Chipchase said: “The 2013 Tastes at the Bay Festival is set to attract over 35,000 visitors to the township of Nelson Bay, a major tourism centre and the perfect location for dolphin and whale watching, surfing, diving, fishing and other recreational aquatic activities.

“The event also offers visitors the opportunity to explore the beautiful Port Stephens region, which boasts local arts and crafts, family-friendly beaches, stunning scenery, Tomaree National Park and Nelson Head Historic Lighthouse.”

For more information please visit: www.tastesatthebay.com.au

Monaco Announces a Full Calendar of Motorsport Events in 2014

Once again the glamorous Principality of Monaco has a big year ahead. The calendar of events 2014 will not only feature top class sport events such as the Monte-Carlo Tennis Rolex Masters, the Grand Prix Formula 1 and the Monaco Yacht Show but also the best of cultural highlights including the annual International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo, the Sporting Summer Festival, Television Festival and the International Fireworks Competition to name only a few.

The year 2014 will particularly make the heart of each motorsport lover leap for joy with a diversified line up of world-class motorsports competitions held in Monaco:
  • 17th Rallye de Monte-Carlo Historique
  • Grand Prix Historique de Monaco
  • Grand Prix Formula 1 of Monaco
  • Monaco Automobile Elegance Competition

All four events will showcase the most unique cars of all times and will particularly impress all car enthusiasts, collectors and drivers and just everyone who has a passion for cars and competitions.

17th Rallye de Monte-Carlo Historique / 22-29 January 2014

The 2014 edition of the Rallye de Monte Carlo is a fascinating one week event open to cars that have participated in the Rallye Automobile Monte-Carlo between 1955 and 1980. Participants will start on 22 January from 6 different departure cities: Barcelona, Glasgow, Monte-Carlo, Oslo, Stockholm and Reims. Before reaching the Principality of Monaco, the final stage of the competition, the challengers will have to go through several challenges and successfully reach different rallying points across the French Riviera. To conclude the event in style and glamour the last stage of the challenging Rallye week will be the highly appreciated Award Ceremony Gala held on 29 January in the Salle des Etoiles of the Monte-Carlo Sporting Club to celebrate and congratulate the winners of the race.
More info: http://www.acm.mc/page-tab-histo.php?id_menu=5&id_sousmenu=27&lg=en

Grand Prix Historique de Monaco / 9-11 May 2014

The Grand Prix de Monaco Historique will celebrate its 9th edition in 2014, an event not to be missed by worldwide collectors, classic motorsport fanatics and ardent supporters of former days’ mecahnics. Organised since 1997 by the Automobile Club de Monaco, this “biennial” event will take place two weeks before the Grand Prix de Monaco and is a real sprint race, contested on the legendary circuit of Monaco.
More info: http://www.acm.mc/page-tab-gp-histo.php?id_menu=3&id_sousmenu=16

Grand Prix Formula 1 of Monaco / 22-25 May 2014

Without a doubt one of the most sought-after events worldwide, the Monaco Grand Prix is a mythical race each and every driver dreams to win on the circuit of the Principality considered to be the most challenging circuit of the Formula 1 World Championship. William Grover-Williams won the first Grand Prix of Monaco. There after great names followed such as Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Fangio, Graham Hill – and Michael Webber in 2012.For more info on the programme please visit: http://www.grand-prix-monaco.com/formula1monaco/


Monaco Automobile Elegance Competition / 27-29 June 2014

Thirteen years after the last event in September 2001 the Automobile Club de Monaco has revived the Automobile Elegance Competition. The “Concours d’Elegance Automobile” will present around fifty vintage cars ranging from pre-war models through to post-war cars and concept cars for the future. To kick off the competition the participants will be welcomed on 27 June in the luxurious Hotel de Paris located on the world-famous “Place du Casino”. On Saturday 28 June, there will be a tour to the hinterland with an authentic lunch celebrating the traditional French Riviera quality “cuisine”. The highlight of the 3 day programme will be an exhibition and a parade of the participating cars in the Palace of Monaco square, followed by their assessment for excellence by a jury of renowned experts and celebrities, chaired by HSH Pricess Charlene of Monaco. The weekend will conclude with a unique and sumptuous Gala Dinner held at the Prince’s Palace.
More info: http://www.acm.mc/page-actu-elegance.php?id_menu=7&id_sousmenu=34&lg=en&id_actu=59&lg=en

More info on Monaco and its calendar of events:

http://visitmonaco.com/

Melboune Convention Bureau Starts Financial Year with Ten Wins for Melbourne

The Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB) has had a flying start to the 2013/14 financial year with 10 major international conference wins for Melbourne, Chief Executive Officer of the Melbourne
Convention Bureau (MCB), Karen Bolinger, announced recently.

These international conferences combined will inject an estimated AU$55 million into the Victorian economy and attract in excess of 10,500 delegates over the next five years, and include:

• Childhood Trauma: Understanding the Basis of Change (August, 2014)
• International Feng Shui Convention (November, 2014)
• ACM International Conference on Management of Data (May, 2015)
• Annual Conference on Global Economic Analysis (June, 2015)
• 69th Annual Assembly and International Conference of the International Institute of Welding (July, 2016)
• International Biotechnology Symposium (October, 2016)
• Annual World Conference on Carbon (July, 2017)
• International Union of Phlebology Xviii World Meeting (October, 2017)
• World Congress on Intensive and Critical Care Medicine (September/October, 2019)
• World Engineers’ Convention (November, 2019)

Ms Bolinger said that winning these conferences is a testament to the strength of Victoria’s priority sectors of medicine, science and the environment, technology and engineering, and business and education.

“Winning events in these sectors exposes our scientists and industry leaders to international best practice, boosts the skills and experience of our local workforce, and increases access for Victorian industries to international markets,” Ms Bolinger said.

“In addition, business events create positive flow on benefits for small to medium businesses throughout the state by creating significant revenue opportunities for hotels, restaurants and other service providers.

“The competition to attract these valuable international conferences from other states in Australia and countries across the globe is fierce, so it is essential that MCB takes a strategic approach to win these bids; researching, planning and bidding for business events as far out as 2028, and it’s fantastic to see it all pay off.”

Ms Bolinger concluded by saying that in securing these events, Melbourne had once again proven that it is a superior destination when it comes to access, research and technology, infrastructure and accessibility.

Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre
“Winning these events for Melbourne is a great start to the financial year and I am thrilled we have been able to achieve these results so early on; this wouldn’t have been possible without the support of MCB’s strategic partners, members, bidding partner organisations and local and state government.”

Eight out of these 10 meetings will be held at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC).

MCEC’s Chief Executive, Peter King, said, “We look forward to welcoming delegates from around the world to MCEC for these international conferences, which are major wins for Melbourne and a significant boost to the Victorian economy.”

Sharjah Named 2014 City of Islamic Culture

Sharjah has been named the Capital of Islamic Culture for 2014 in recognition of its remarkable contributions in preserving, promoting and disseminating culture at local, Arab and Islamic levels, under the guidance of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi Member of the UAE Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah. The new title provides a boost to Sharjah’s cultural development and comes as a tribute to the Emirate’s offer of its Islamic cultural panorama, in the form of a host of cultural and Islamic events. The new cultural achievement crowned Sharjah for its leading cultural role at local, regional, Arab and international arenas.

With 1,000 mosques built in keeping with local architectural heritage, Sharjah qualifies to the capital of Islamic culture in 2014, according to Salah Butti Al Muhairi, head of the Sharjah Directorate of Town Planning and Survey (DTPS)..

Al Muhairi said this during a session of the Sharjah Advisory Council to discuss the policies of the DTPS. Al Muhairi said the directorate is planning many projects in the field of religion, culture and education. He said the emirate has 277 schools at present and there are proposals to build 150 new ones. There are also 32 cultural centres for various age groups and women in the emirate besides 21 museums.

Among the most prominent cultural achievements in Sharjah is the ‘Culture without borders’ project of establishing a library in every home. Based on the directions of The Ruler, 50 books will be distributed to every local family in the Emirate. The organizing committee is headed by Her Highness Sheikha Bedour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, and the aim of this project is to promote and to emphasize the importance of cultural development among the families, especially the children. With a budget for the project of Dhs 150 million, diverse books in the fields of religion, health, history and children’s stories will be delivered to 42,000 families.

Traditional Arts & Crafts

Sharjah has maintained its cultural traditions that date back to the days of the desert tribes and the influences brought about by their migration. Such skills and trades have been handed down by word of mouth and are still evident for visitors to discover and appreciate.

Pottery Jars 

Discovered at every archaeological dig are earthenware jars used for storing water and grain. Today, these are still fired in manmade wood-fuelled kilns. The various shapes and sizes of the water, grain and later oil jars, are displayed in theSharjah Heritage Museum. New locally made pots are on sale in the Plant Souk in Al Jubail.

Bridal Chests 

These old Arabic chests, which are hard to come by were made throughout the Gulf, characterized by the solid wood (usually rosewood) with inlaid brass decoration and often secret compartments. Smaller wooden chests, with carved decoration only and many compartments were made specifically for the pearling industry. Pearls would be graded and stored in the boxes according to size, along with scales and other pearling paraphernalia.

Weaving and Embroidery 

In the past, girls in the family assisted in the making of their wardrobe, and traditional patterns of embroidery and dress style were handed down from mother to daughter. Arabian embroidery is a combination of rich and harmonious needlework on strong coloured textiles, characterised by a close worked, open chain stitch. Wrists, ankles and necklines are generally embroidered, often with fine gold and sliver thread, and sequins added for embellishment. The trim on the trouser is made from a narrow strip of foil to create a decorative edging. These traditional crafts are still popular pastimes amongst the national women.

Daggers and Knives 

Even up to the middle of the last century men would complete their attire by wearing a broad, silver embroidered waist belt and Khanjar (dagger). The coastal dagger of the emirates (Khanjar Sahily) is made of silver and highly decorated. Quite often, the bishak (knife) was worn instead of the dagger, particularly in the eastern area of the UAE. The carved wooden scabbard with chased and stamped silver decoration is further embellished with silver on both the wooden hilt and the iron blade.

Doors 

Traditional Arabic doors from the region are unique pieces of local heritage dating back 500 years. As well as being functional they are one of the most important forms of decorative expression to be found in the region’s forts and houses. The amount and quality of the carving depends on the price of the door and therefore the status of the household.

The Date Palm 

In eastern Arabia alone, there are over 50 different varieties of date palm, bearing many types and qualities of fruit at different times of the year. Here the natural maturing time for dates is in the summer between June and July.

Not so many years ago this precious tree was vital for survival in a land of scarcity. The fruit provided a major natural source of highly nutritious food that could be eaten (fresh, dried or drunk as a juice) all year round and all parts of the tree were utilised in various ways; the long thin leaves were dried and then woven to make mats, baskets, brushes, bags and bowls and used as roof matting for insulation; the mid-rib was a vital component in the construction of the Shashah traditional fishing boat; the trunk was hollowed out to form a mortar with the rest carved for the pestle for crushing wheat. Locally woven mats, baskets, bags and bowls are on sale in Souk Al Arsah and Souk Al Bahar.

Perfume and Incense 

These are an integral part of Arabic life for both men and women and are usually family run businesses. The three types of perfume and how they are mixed are a closely guarded secret. Attar is the oil based perfume, bukhoor is the fragrant burnt incense (formed by burning the wood chips) and the third is a wax sachet, which when burnt gives off a charcoal odour. You will find many perfume shops to explore in the area between Al Bourj Avenue and the Arts Area that sell the oils, the incense woods, perfume bottles and traditional burners made from clay, porcelain or silver.

Henna 

Made from the leaves of the lawsonia inermis shrub, Henna has been used for centuries to enhance beauty in the Middle East and India. Traditionally, henna is used to colour hair and to decorate the palms of hands and the soles of feet, especially for weddings and Eid celebrations. The colouring, which also contains cooling properties, will remain on the skin for several weeks before fading. In addition to Indian and Arab beauty centres which provide this treatment, you can buy henna in Souk Al Bahar, just in front of the Arts Area.

Airlie Beach Makeover Sparks Retro-fabulous Flashbacks

Things sure looked different in the ‘90s.

Billy Ray Cyrus wouldn’t stop crooning about his “achy, breaky heart”, Hypercolour T-shirts were a wardrobe must-have, and Will Smith was still an up-and-coming Fresh Prince.

And if you were in Airlie Beach in the ‘90s, chances are you would have been wearing neon shorts and carving up the dance floor at Magnums. But the recent $22 million redevelopment of the Airlie Beach main street means the town is looking fresher than a Kardashian post-Botox.

Airlie Beach has long been seen as a backpackers’ nirvana, and rightly so, but with trendy new cafes that will satisfy any caffeine addiction, upmarket serviced apartments with sweeping views, restaurants worth flying to, and the chance to jump on a yacht and sail around 74 island wonders, it’s obvious the town has had more than a celebrity nip and tuck.

A new competition promises to take revellers of the past on a trip down memory lane and offers the chance for one lucky winner and three mates to ‘flash-forward’ for a Whitsundays getaway.

The #loveairliebeach social media campaign will be highlighting how far Airlie Beach has come in the past 20 years and with the inaugural Airlie Beach Music Festival kicking off on Friday 8 November, 74 bands, including The Hoodoo Gurus, Mental as Anything and Diesel, will have the place hopping like it’s 1993.

Check out the ‘then and now’ gallery of Whitsundays photos to see how far we’ve come.

South African Hotel Awarded Best Hotel In The World At The Conde Nast Traveler Reader Choice Awards

It was an impressive accolade for South Africa when The Royal Portfolio’s La Residence in Franschhoek was voted The Best Hotel in the World by Condé Nast Traveler magazine’s discerning readers.

This was announced at the annual Readers’ Choice Awards that rates the world’s best cities, islands, cruise lines, airlines, hotels, and resorts.

“I am truly honoured and humbled by the award and I am pleased South Africa has been recognised internationally as a luxury destination,” says Liz Biden, the owner of three exclusive private hotels operating under The Royal Portfolio umbrella. They include Royal Malewane, a safari lodge in the greater Kruger area; Birkenhead House in Hermanus; and La Residence in Franschhoek which together offer luxury beach, bush and wine-land experiences. “This could not have been achieved without the dedication and hard work of the La Residence and The Royal Portfolio teams that uphold our strong company purpose: ‘To give guests a complete experience and a perfect stay’,” she adds.

La Residence:

La Residence - in the heart of the Franschhoek Valley, one of South Africa’s most picturesque wine regions and the country’s food and wine capital – is encircled by vineyards, plum orchards and olive groves. It represents the epitome of grandeur and grace. From the lavish suites and villas to refined dining and uniquely-crafted, wine-tasting experiences, La Residence radiates sophistication. Biden has instilled consideration and respect into her team so here you’ll find warm, authentic hospitality. It’s what memories are made of - a place you’ll want to revisit.


This year the survey recorded an astonishing reader participation of 79,268 entries – almost doubling the number of contributions in the 2012 competition. These astute and dedicated travellers cast 1,3 million votes for more than 16 000 properties around the world, resulting in the most comprehensive “best of the best” travel awards to date.

For all booking enquiries please contact Reservations by telephone on: +27 15 793 3977 or by email on reservations@theroyalportfolio.com

Revitalisation of Darling Harbour Gathers Pace: Sydney's Largest Hotel to Expand

Sydney’s largest hotel is set to become even bigger, with the expansion of Darling Harbour’s Four Points by Sheraton Sydney given the green light by the NSW Department of Planning.

NSW Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner said the $160 million, 230-room redevelopment complements the NSW Government’s plans to revitalise Darling Harbour.

“The expansion of Four Points by Sheraton Sydney is a strong vote of confidence in the NSW visitor economy and the NSW Government’s vision to transform Darling Harbour into one of the world’s best areas to live, meet and be entertained,” Mr Stoner said.

“The NSW Government, in partnership with the private sector, is constructing new world-class convention, exhibition and entertainment facilities at Darling Harbour as part of the biggest redevelopment of the area in a generation.

“The expanded Four Points by Sheraton Sydney will provide more space to accommodate the increased number of people expected to visit Darling Harbour and dovetails with the Government’s vision for the precinct,” he said.

“The NSW Government has set an ambitious target of doubling overnight visitor expenditure by 2020 and, together with the new premium International Convention Centre hotel at Darling Harbour, the Four Points expansion will help us meet that goal by addressing the shortfall of hotel accommodation in Sydney.

“The Four Points is already the largest hotel in Sydney with 683 rooms, and the construction of a new tower with 230 additional rooms will bring the total number of rooms to more than 900.

“This redevelopment will create 2,250 direct and indirect jobs during construction and a further 92 when operational as a full service hotel.”

The expansion of Four Points by Sheraton Sydney is due to begin in early 2014 and to be completed within two years.