Friday, 31 January 2014

Koala Set to Become Newest Zodiac for Chinese New Year

Spicers Hidden Vale
On the eve of the Year of the Horse busy Chinese travellers turn to Queensland’s koala for stress-free approach to life.

Move over Year of the Horse, Chinese travellers are flocking to Queensland’s Gold Coast in record numbers to celebrate Chinese New Year, this time in the spirit of the koala.

The Chinese lunar calendar traditionally claims 2014 as the year of the horse, but it’s the global appeal of the koala and its no-fuss approach to life that is still the number one drawcard for Chinese holidaymakers to Australia’s most popular beach-side tourist destination.

This year, the year of the horse, it is expected that the Gold Coast will welcome more than 200,000 Chinese visitors, a record 30 percent increase over last year with thousands holidaying on the Gold Coast over they next few days alone.

They come to experience the wildlife, the wide open spaces and the shopping.

Chines girl with koala
Many like Mr Fisher Yu, originally from Yueyang, Hunan, will also try their hand at horse riding, something that is difficult to do back home.

“Well in China we always celebrate (Chinese New Year) at home so we only can buy the horse toy but here we can ride the real horse and it’s big fun and I hope that success is coming soon,” he said.

Despite filly fever, the koala is still the clear favourite.

Director of Marketing for Dreamworld, a major theme park on Queensland’s Gold Coast, Annette Pearce, said, “We’re seeing some great bookings leading into the next 2 weeks, especially over the next few days as the Chinese start to arrive.

“One of the reasons they really like coming to the Gold Coast and to Queensland, is it’s one of the only places in Australia they can actually get to hold a Koala.”

“Chinese travellers often come from fast-paced and crowded cities, so we’d love it if they could embrace the unofficial Year of the Koala, slow down and enjoy the relaxed lifestyle of Queensland,” she added.

Little Gue (Maggie) Reilei, an eight year old visitor to Dreamworld’s Australian Wildlife Experience said she hoped one day the koala would join the line up of Chinese zodiacs.


Spicers Hidden Vale
“I love the Koala; (it) is very soft and very cute. I like to hold the koala to take a picture, I feel very funny about that,” the Beijing resident said.

“I hope the koala will be one of the Chinese animal in the New Year zodiac.”

Many Chinese visitors to the Gold Coast will make sure the Australian Outback Spectacular is also on the itinerary. A dramatic live show, it showcases life in the Australian Outback today and features 60 performing stock horses, stunt riding, trick riding and preshow entertainment.

In the year to September 2013, the state of Queensland welcomed close to 20 million visitors generating around $18 billion in overnight visitor expenditure.

Pattani ASEAN Tourism Festival and Limkoneaw Goddess Celebration 2014

The southern border province of Pattani will organize a week-long event “Pattani ASEAN Tourism Festival and Limkoneaw Goddess Celebration 2014.”

The event will be held between 11 and 17 February at the Culture Platform on Sai Buri Road and the Multi-purpose Platform on the Pattani riverside in Mueang district.

Pattani Governor Kwanchart Wongsuparanant told a press conference that this event aims to promote local cultural tourism and make Pattani better known among tourists. Pattani is famous for cultural diversity, with a harmonious mixture of Thai, Chinese, and Muslim cultures.

A light and sound presentation featuring the three cultures will be staged on the Pattani riverside from 12 to 14 February. The opening of the Limkoneaw Goddess Celebration will take place on 13 February at the Limkoneaw Goddess Shrine. The festival will include a lion dance contest, exhibitions, cultural performances, a bazaar of southern products, and a food fair, with a variety of delicious Thai, Chinese, and Muslim food.

The Limkoneaw Goddess Celebration is held each year as a major cultural event in this province. The goddess Limkoneaw is respected by local people, especially those with Chinese origin. A legend has it that Limkoneaw was born in the 15th century in China. An aristocrat made a false charge against her brother, who was a government official. Her brother decided to flee from China and boarded a ship to southern Thailand.

He arrived in Pattani and became a trader, and later, he was assigned by the Pattani governor to cast three big cannons. One of them is Nang Phraya Tani, the biggest cannon ever cast in Thailand. Because of his excellent work, the Pattani governor allowed Limkoneaw’s brother to marry his daughter.

Limkoneaw looked after her mother alone, while her brother lived far away. Feeling deep sympathy for her mother, she offered to travel to Thailand to persuade him to return home. Limkoneaw encouraged her brother to go back many times, but he refused, since at that time he was assigned to handle the important task of constructing the Krue Se (Kersih) Mosque. The construction began in 1578 but was never finished, yet the structure remains.

In order to show her sense of obligation to her mother despite her failure to persuade her brother to return home, Limkoneaw decided to commit suicide under a cashew nut tree. People who paid homage to her at her tomb were found to make considerable fortune. She was then called a goddess.

Pattani, which is predominantly Muslim, is being developed as a halal industrial center. The central mosque in Pattani is recognized as the most beautiful Islamic religious structure in southern Thailand.

Since the ASEAN Community will be in place in 2015, Pattani and other southern border provinces are expected to welcome more ASEAN visitors.

Showcasing Japan at AIME 2014

Japan received more than 10 million overseas visitors in 2013. 244,600 Australians visited the country, amounting for 2.4% of the total inbound arrivals to Japan.

One of 2013’s highlights for Japan MICE and tourism is winning the bid to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo. With many new infrastructure developments lined up in Japan, Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) hopes travellers will find it increasingly easier to travel throughout the country.
  • Influenced by the announcement that the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics will be held in Tokyo, a number of major international conferences with 4,000 or more attendees have elected to come to Japan, showing the growing appeal of Japan as a MICE destination. Some conferences include:
  • April 2017: The 22nd International Congress of Nutrition (ICN) to meet at Tokyo International Forumwith more than 4,500 attendees
  • September 2017: The World Congress of Neurology (WCN) plans to bring around 7,000 to ICC Kyoto
  • 2017: World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC) to be held in PACIFICO Yokohama
  • September 2018: IWA World Water Congress & Exhibition plans for a 6,000 attendees to meet at Tokyo International Exhibition Centre

Australians love Japan for various reasons; such as the white powder snow, the deep history and rich culture, the ethereal beauty of the land and the futuristic cities. Many return to Japan numerous times exploring more of the country and what lures them back is not only the fusion of tradition and innovation, but also the warmth and hospitality of the Japanese people and the diversity to be discovered across the country.

These strengths, complimented by highly-developed infrastructure, world-class venues and excellent facilities and the wide array of accommodations make Japan the ideal location for international conferences, events and incentive tours.

“This year, we’re delighted to have a larger representation at AIME with 7 co-exhibitors, such as Osaka International Convention Center, THE J TEAM, Prince Hotels, JTB, DMC JAPAN Network, Osaka Government Tourism Bureau and Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo. Please stop by and visit the Japan Booth (#3106) to pick up the latest information on Japan’s convention cities and tourist attractions. Furthermore, we will be hosting a Sake Tasting event on 18th February from 16:00-17:00 and a Happy Hour on 19th February from 12:30-14:00, serving fresh sushi and drinks. Join us for this special occasion to meet with the representatives from Japan”, commented Hiroshi Kuwamoto, Executive Director, JNTO Sydney.

The Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) is involved in a broad range of activities promoting Japan as a vibrant, beautiful destination, with unique cultural attractions, exciting cities, and friendly people, through various activities overseas as well as tourism-promoting activities in Japan.

Shanghai Spring Festival holiday will attract 3.4 million tourists

The Spring Festival holiday in Shanghai is estimated to attract 3.4 million tourists, about the same amount as the last year as predicted by the Shanghai Holiday Tourism Office.

27 percent of the city’s hotel rooms have been booked for the holiday, which lasts from January 31 until February 6, according to a press release from the Shanghai Holiday Tourism Office. The figure represents a slight decrease from the same period last year.

A total of 58,521 residents will travel overseas during the holiday, an increase of 12 percent over the same period in 2013. About 35 percent of the tourists will travel to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Macao or Taiwan.

The number of tourists who plan to travel to Japan or Korea is up 78 percent from last year. The figure is 75 percent higher this year for tourists planning to go to Hong Kong or Macao and 46 percent higher for tourists heading to Taiwan.

The office reported a drop-off in the number of tourists planning to go to Thailand due to the recent political instability there.

The Shanghai Tourist Distribution Center has sold 2,620 tickets to scenic spots in nearby cities such as Wuxi and Suzhou, Jiangsu Province.

Shanghai will also experience increases in railway, plane and highway traffic, according to the press release.

The holiday office predicted that the Shanghai Railway Bureau will serve about 1.2 million passengers traveling to and from Shanghai during the holiday, up about 12 percent from the same period last year. Train tickets to Chongqing and Yunnan, Guizhou and Sichuan provinces have already been sold out.

Shanghai Pudong and Hongqiao international airports will handle about 1.5 million passengers during the holiday, an increase of 5.2 percent over the same period last year.

About 4.35 million vehicles will travel the city’s highways during the holiday, an increase of 25 percent from the same period last year. The city will see the most out-bound highway traffic on February 1 and the most in-bound traffic on February 6.

Australian Tourism Awards Finalists Announced

Finalists for the 2013 Australian Tourism Awards have now been decided, with the winners to be announced at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards event on Friday 7 February 2014 in Sydney.

The awards are recognised as a mark of excellence in Australian tourism. Congratulations go to the NSW finalists listed below-
  • Major Tourist Attractions – Taronga Zoo
  • Tourist Attractions – Taronga Western Plains Zoo
  • Major Festivals and Events – Byron Bay Bluesfest
  • Festivals and Events – Deni Blues and Roots Festival
  • Ecotourism – Blue Mountains Tours
  • Heritage and Cultural Tourism – Jenolan Caves: Written in Stone
  • Indigenous Tourism – Tri State Safaris/Mutawintji Eco Tours
  • Specialised Tourism Services – Spa Sublime
  • Visitor Information and Services – Moree Visitor Information Centre
  • Business Tourism – Fairmont Resort MGallery
  • Major Tour and/or Transport Operators – Moonshadow Cruises
  • Tour and/or Transport Operators – Life’s an Adventure
  • Adventure Tourism – Life’s an Adventure
  • Destination Marketing – Tourism Southern Highlands
  • Tourism Education and Training – Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School
  • Tourism Restaurants and Catering Services – The Corner Restaurant
  • Tourism Wineries, Distilleries and Boutique Breweries – Margan Wines
  • Tourist and Caravan Parks – Nambucca River Tourist Park
  • Backpacker Accommodation – Sydney Harbour YHA
  • Hosted Accommodation – Honeycomb Valley Farm – Farmstay
  • Unique Accommodation – Billabong Retreat
  • Standard Accommodation – Eco Inn Warners Bay
  • Deluxe Accommodation – Fairmont Resort MGallery
  • Luxury Accommodation – Chateau Elan at The Vintage
  • New Tourism Development – TreeTop Adventure Park Sydney
  • Qantas Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism – Crystal Creek Meadows Luxury Cottages & Spa Retreat
  • Local Government Award for Tourism – Port Macquarie Hastings Council

We wish all the NSW contestants luck!

France wakes up to Chinese tourist potential

Chinese mainland tour operators are all praise for France’s decision to fast-track visas for Chinese tourists, saying the move will boost travel to the popular destination.

Against this backdrop, France has decided to take special measures to improve things further. A total of 97 million Chinese tourists travelled overseas last year, 14 million more than in 2012, according to China’s National Tourism Administration, making the country the world’s largest source of tourists.

Travel permits for mainland tourists will be processed within two days starting January 27, as part of measures announced by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Monday to mark 50 years of full diplomatic relations between Paris and Beijing.

“For us, the faster, the better,” said Shanghai-based travel agent Ye Xin, noting that the current processing period was between three to five working days,

France is the most visited country in the world and the leading European destination for Chinese tourists – a record 1.4 million of them visited last year. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said during his a five-day visit to Beijing last month that there were as many as 300 million potential Chinese visitors to France.

Last year, Chinese tourists pumped 102 billion yuan (HK$130 billion) into the economies of the countries they visited, a 40 per cent increase from the previous year, according to the latest Green Book of China’s Tourism.

Summer Isn't Over Yet, and Tasmania is Calling Your Name

The Apple Shed
The last long days of summer are approaching, but the action is far from over in Tasmania. From the age-old joy of sailing a vintage ketch, to enjoying pristinely produced apples and oysters from across the island, to turning the pages and bed sheets back at the boutique Library House in Hobart, late summer is a wonderful time to say hello again to your southern friend, Tasmania.

Get lost in the Library House, West Hobart

Library House
Want to live the romanticised life of an award-winning author in inner city Hobart? Originally the home of author Heather Rose and her musician partner Rowan Smith, the c.1900 Library House is an architecturally stunning alternative to a hotel, sleeping up to eight people in contemporary luxury. Add to that three separate living areas, three bathrooms, large modern kitchen, spacious laundry, and established gardens to enjoy the magnificent views in every direction. Rates from $750 p/n.Visit www.libraryhouse.com.au for more information.

Oysters as fresh as they get on Bruny Island

Have we told you to get shucked lately? Well Bruny Island’s much loved and lauded oyster farmers, Get Shucked, have now opened an oyster bar. This is the freshest possible way to eat oysters, overlooking where the oysters are harvested, sorted and shucked. Say that ten times fast. Fresh oyster dishes and a range of local beer, wine, sparkling and ciders are on offer, as well as drive-through oyster sales for those running late for the ferry. Learn more at www.getshucked.com.au

A taste of historic sailing in Devonport

The Julie Burgess
The Burgess family are maritime royalty in these parts – with five generations operating vessels in most Tasmanian ports, Sydney, Melbourne, Port Adelaide and even New Zealand, California and Mauritius. The last ketch left is the Julie Burgess of Devonport, an ex-fishing vessel now historically restored and hosting two-hour sailing sessions out into Bass Strait. Learn about the colourful maritime history of the north-west coast and hopefully catch the breeze and hoist the sails. Find out more about the two-hour sailings here – www.bassstraitmaritimecentre.com.au/julie-burgess

To learn even more about the turbulent history of this little oceanic stretch, visit Devonport’s interactive Bass Strait Maritime Centre – explore salty shipwrecks, learn to steer through a rip and take a tour around the Harbour Master’s house. www.bassstraitmaritimecentre.com.au

Mawson’s Huts replica museum opens in Hobart

Hobart’s newest attraction, the Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum, is a full size and historically accurate replica of the living and working quarters built in 1912 by Sir Douglas Mawson and the 18 men of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition. Constructed by heritage carpenters using Baltic pine from the same Scandinavian sawmill that supplied the original timber to Mawson’s expedition, the hut on Hobart’s waterfront is a faithful replica of the building that remains at Cape Denison in Antarctica. Enjoy exploring the fascinating minutiae of daily life in the hut as well as fabulous insight from experienced guides. Visit www.mawsons-huts-replica.org.au for more information.

New cider cellar door opens in the Huon Valley

After months of back-breaking work in the Huon Valley, an original apple packing shed and apple museum c.1942, has been restored to its former glory. The Apple Shed now houses the cellar door of Willie Smith’s Organic Cider, Australia’s first organic cidery, as well as a refreshed museum, cafe and providore. Order from the hyper-local menu, pick up produce like sourdough and cherries in the shop and of course, try Willie Smith’s famous cider. Visit www.williesmiths.com.au for more information, or call into see them at 2064 Huon Highway, Grove.

And while we’re talking cider, check out Huon Valley newcomer Pagan Cider with their range of whole fruit ciders using local apples, cherries and pears. The recently opened cellar door (at 7891 Channel Highway at Cradoc) is in the Lucaston Cherry orchard on the very pretty road into Cygnet. This is Tasmania in a bottle. Track down a taste at www.pagancider.com.au

Catch up with Mrs. Jones in Devonport

What do you get if you take a local boy, train him up as an executive chef around the world and return him to his hometown to open up a hot, new restaurant? You get James Lockett’s new modern Australian venue, Mrs. Jones. Overlooking the beautiful Mersey Bluff Beach in Devonport, Mrs. Jones is a stellar partnership with local restaurateurs, Jacqui Leary and David Aitken, formerly of Penguin’s renowned Wild Café. James’ Asian experience and the highest quality fresh Tasmanian produce is a winning combination. Call (03) 6423 3881 to make a reservation.

Tasmanian Air Adventures gets you on holiday faster

Imagine this, you’ve stepped off the plane at Hobart Airport, fresh from your Sydney or Melbourne flight and in forty minutes you’re feeling the white sand between your toes at Freycinet, or enjoying a quick air transfer to places like Saffire, MONA, Sullivans Cove or Wrest Point. This will soon be possible with Tasmanian Air Adventures with their new amphibious seaplane, the latest addition to their fleet. Their airport transfers will be competitively priced, but with an oh-so-cool factor that’s off the charts. Also check out other incredible flights like Cradle Mountain, the wild capes of Port Arthur or a quick cruise over Hobart, from only $99. Find out more at www.tasmanianairadventures.com.au

Cascades Female Factory, South Hobart

Cascades Female Factory
Tasmania’s brutal history is none more apparent than when touring the Cascades Female Factory – a convict institution intended to reform female inmates. Thousands of women and children were imprisoned here, and many never left due to high rates of illness and infant mortality. New conservation works are now complete, rewarding visitors to the World Heritage site with new ‘footprints’ throughout and even more women’s stories to be interpreted. Enjoy a self-exploration tour, or join one of the daily dramatised heritage walking tours of the site. Visit www.femalefactory.org.au for more information.

See the museum from a new angle with a Mona-Rota chopper flight

Looking for a unique way to get about Hobart? Well a trip in the MONA ROTA purple chopper should fit the bill. For only $99 per person you can leave MONA and cruise down the Derwent River, over Salamanca, the Tasman Bridge and the foothills of Mount Wellington – a lovely little ten-minute helicopter ride. Catch the MONA ROTA directly from the airport or for those with more time, take an hour’s ride to check out the rugged Tasmanian coastline around Port Arthur and back to MONA. Now that’s a story for your mates. For more information visit www.mona.net.au/what's-on/tours/.

For a full and up-to-date listing of Tasmanian events, and information on travelling to Tasmania, visit the Discover Tasmania website www.discovertasmania.com.au.

Travel to Tasmania

Travellers can fly to Tasmania on Jetstar, Virgin Australia, Qantas, Qantaslink, Tigerair, Sharp Airlines or Rex Airlines, or take the Spirit of Tasmania ferry from Port Melbourne (VIC) to Devonport (TAS).

China tourism industry expects a boost from the Chinese New Year celebrations

The world travel industry is witnessing the biggest human migration of the year for the Chinese New Year ceremonies. Almost 3.62 billion people are expected to visit China during the eventful 15 days of the Lunar New Year also known as the spring festival in China. This year the celebrations will commence from January 31.

The travel industry in China along with the local industries has started their preparations for the Chinese New Year, predicting a busy and purposeful span to enhance their business.

The Chinese New Year marks the beginning of the lunar calendar and it generally falls in January or February of the international calendar.

The Chinese New Year is celebrated with a lot of enthusiasm. Red, the colour of strength and agility for the Chinese people can be seen in every decoration around the cities. Food is considered to be a huge crowd puller during these 15 days. The Lion and dragon dance is another attraction for local and international travelers in China during this festive season.

Marriott reports the fastest hotel development pipeline in 2013

The London EDITION
Adding more than one hotel per day to development pipeline in 2013, at the America’s Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) in Los Angeles, Marriott International, Inc. announced that it had the fastest-growing new-construction pipeline in the industry, worldwide, in 2013, based on information published by Smith Travel Research. In addition, Marriott reported that it signed more than one hotel project per day in 2013, totaling a record 387 hotels and 67,000 rooms. The company opened nearly 26,000 new rooms in 2013 and, given its strong pipeline, expects new hotel openings to accelerate in 2014 and 2015.

In 2013, Marriott increased its total development pipeline by over 30 percent. At year-end 2013, Marriott had more than 195,000 rooms under development across five continents, compared to 176,000 rooms at the end of the third quarter and 143,000 rooms just a year ago. At year-end 2013, the company’s global pipeline included 72,000 hotel rooms under construction, 83,000 rooms signed but not yet under construction, 11,000 rooms awaiting conversion to one of Marriott’s brands, and 29,000 rooms for projects that have been approved for development but not yet signed.

Fueling this success is Marriott’s extensive lineup of 18 brands, the broadest in the lodging industry, including its luxury and lifestyle portfolio, which accounts for nearly 25 percent of the company’s overall pipeline.

“Our luxury and lifestyle portfolio of 438 hotels across nine brands* is robust,” said Arne Sorenson, President and Chief Executive Officer of Marriott International. “The Ritz-Carlton is recognized as one of the world’s most iconic luxury brands and is expanding outside the U.S. At the same time, we are rapidly growing new brands such as EDITION, Moxy Hotels, AC Hotels by Marriott and Autograph Collection, all brand innovations that position us well with customers looking for a different type of experience.”

EDITION, an exciting full-service, luxury/ lifestyle brand conceived in collaboration with legendary hotelier Ian Schrager, continues to receive rave reviews following the opening of The London EDITION in 2013. EDITION is gaining ground, with 10 hotels open or in the signed pipeline, including The Miami Beach EDITION, scheduled to open later this year. Future hotels are planned for Abu Dhabi (2015), Gurgaon, India (2015), Manhattan Madison Avenue/NYC (2015), Sanya, China (2015), Bangkok (2016) and West Hollywood (2017), as well as the just announced Times Square EDITION in New York (2017).

Moxy Hotels is on track to open its first hotel in Milan, Italy, in August, and additional properties are expected to open in six other European markets in 2015. Combining contemporary design and approachable service at an affordable price, Moxy is projected to reach 150 hotels in the next 10 years.

The fastest hotel brand launch in the industry, the Autograph Collection has added nearly 60 hotels since its 2010 introduction at ALIS. A unique business venture, the Autograph Collection harnesses the power of Marriott’s global sales, marketing and revenue engines for independent hotel owners.

“Marriott’s determined focus on powerful brands and global growth has delivered unparalleled results,” said Tony Capuano, Executive Vice President and Chief Development Officer for Marriott International. “In 2013, we completed the largest number of new hotel deals in our company’s history, a pace of more than one new hotel project every day, benefitting from our partners’ improved access to capital, rising consumer demand in major markets, the impact of the growing middle classes in Asia and Africa, and greater international travel than ever before.”

In Africa, Marriott expects to complete the acquisition of the Protea Hospitality Holdings’ brands and its management business in April 2014. With Protea, Marriott will nearly double its distribution in the Middle East and Africa to 23,000 rooms and become the largest hotelier on the African continent.

In its Asia Pacific region, Marriott expects to open a hotel every week across 10 different brands, doubling in size, reaching 330 hotels with more than 96,000 rooms across 16 countries by 2016. In 2013, Marriott signed agreements to add 78 new hotels and more than 22,000 rooms in the Asia Pacific region, an industry-leading pace.

In the United States, Marriott ended 2013 with more than 22,000 hotel rooms under construction, representing the largest hotel construction pipeline in the industry, according to data from Smith Travel Research. In fact, Marriott operates or franchises one of every five new hotel rooms that opened in the U.S. in 2013. Driving these results is Marriott’s broad brand lineup, including the company’s newest brand in the U.S., AC by Marriott. Inspired by the fashion houses of Milan and already successful in Europe, AC by Marriott will open its first hotel in the U.S. in Miami this year, with 16 other projects under contract (totaling 3,215 rooms) around the globe.

 “Staying focused on our strategy of global growth and brand differentiation has paid off for Marriott and its owners and franchisees,” said Sorenson. “We look forward to opening even more hotels in 2014 and beyond, introducing Marriott and its brands to new guests and welcoming loyal customers to new and exciting locations across the globe.

Thai stir-fried rice noodle ‘Pad Thai’ ranked among world’s most iconic dishes

Thai stir-fried rice noodle ‘Pad Thai’ has been ranked among the world’s most iconic dishes by Virtual Tourist. The dish is popular in Bangkok’s street food scene and its rice noodles are fried with eggs and flavoured with fish sauce, dried shrimp, garlic or shallots,red chili pepper and served with lime wedges and roasted peanuts.

Other iconic dishes selected by travellers include pastrami sandwich in New York City, pizza in Naples, frites in Brussels, coffee and beignets in NewOrleans, steak in Argentina, sushi in Tokyo, gelato in Florence, crepes in Brittany, and chili crab in Singapore. VirtualTourist is community website featuring travel guides contributed byusers for locations around the world.

Khanh Hoa’s tourism sector ready for Tet

Khanh Hoa
The tourism sector of the central province of Khanh Hoa is ready to welcome an estimated 154,000 tourists, including 35,000 foreigners, in the first lunar week of the Year of the Horse (January 31-February 5).

The province has invested billions of Vietnamese dong to upgrade infrastructure and decorate the coastal city of Nha Trang.

It has also prepared a series of cultural and artistic performances to entertain festive visitors.

According to statistics, tourists have booked 85-95 percent of rooms at three to five-star hotels.

The provincial culture, sports and tourism sector has also forecast that during the Tet (Lunar New Year) holiday (lasting from January 28 to February 5), there will be 650,000 visitors to the province.

In January, Khanh Hoa has welcomed over 225,000 tourists, up 29 percent against the same period last year. Of the total, 73,000 were foreigners.

The province received more than 3 million visitors, including 724,000 foreign arrivals last year.

Learn How To Sail In The Whitsundays

Imagine you're amidst turquoise blue waters, a slight breeze wafting across your face and the sun slightly warming your skin.

Now you're pulling the ropes, the breeze is picking up and you're ready to set sails and continue on your adventure around the lush green islands that dot the Coral Sea.

You're on your sailing adventure in the Whitsundays - the playground of experienced sailors and novices.

Have you ever wanted to learn how to sail?

Do so in the Whitsundays - The Whitsundays provide sheltered seas, fantastic sailing conditions and superb beaches.

At Sunsail's Sailing School, you can learn how to sail with courses for beginners through to experienced sailors seeking professional qualifications, along with every level in between.

Whatever your level, Sunsail will get you out on the water, experiencing the incomparable thrills of sailing for yourself.

www.sunsail.com.au

Thursday, 30 January 2014

19th Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Night Parade

One of the most anticipated events of the New Year celebrations in Hong Kong, the 19th Cathay Pacific International Chinese New Year Night Parade takes place tomorrow, the 31st of January!

Follow the parade as the vibrantly coloured floats and exciting lively acts from local/global performers weave through Tsim Sha Sui and the harbour, culminating in one big street party!

To find out the best vantage points and how to get there, click http://www.discoverhongkong.com/eng/see-do/events-festivals/highlight-events/chinese-new-year-celebrations.jsp

Meetings with More at Mandarin Oriental, Macau

Mandarin Oriental, Macau offers everything you need to plan a successful event: the perfect central location for the city's myriad attractions and UNESCO heritage sites, contemporary and stylish accommodations, flexible and tranquil meeting spaces, as well as a professional team of experts that provides the legendary service associated with Mandarin Oriental. To add some fun and excitement to your meetings, try the tailor-made team-building activities such as "Sky Walk at Macau Tower" or "Mandarin Oriental Macau Discovery", which are designed to ensure that your event is a productive, enjoyable and memorable one.

The Meetings with More* package starts from just HKD 1,900 per room per night. A full-day meeting package supplement is HKD 730 per person per day.

Enjoy the following valued-added privileges for any meeting hosted on or before 31 December 2014:
Pre-meeting light continental breakfast or upgrade to daily buffet breakfast at supplement of HKD 100 on the room rate**
  • Complimentary room upgrade to whole group
  • Internet access within hotel during the stay
  • Tailor-made coffee-break items

For additional services such as spa treatments or team-building activities , please contact the sales team at +852 3690 9888 or email momac-sales@mohg.com.

Philippines unveils First of its kind Drive Tourism

From January 29 to February 2, the first Asia Pacific Drive Tourism Conference, Auto and Travel Show, to be held at the Subic Bay Exhibition and Convention Center in Zambales province. The conference will help to launch the market of the DOT’s Drive Tourism program in coordination with the AAP, which aims to combine the components of all tourism-oriented road and driving activities.

The five-day conference and expo is presented by the Department of Tourism (DOT), the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP), the National Auto Club and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority. The conference will see the groundbreaking of the Subic Children’s Road Safety Park, which will serve as an educational platform to instill in children the culture of road safety and discipline.

Tourism Secretary, Ramon Jimenez Jr., said, “Drive Tourism is where participants move through a tourism highway or road network that allows them to see diverse attractions on the road and experience the local way of life, the pioneering event will include presentations on the latest innovations in the automobile industry, road safety, mobility, motorsports, and travel and tourism from both local and international specialists.”

The Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP) has been holding caravans in different provinces to enhance domestic tourism and provide income opportunities to people in the countryside. Unlike seat-in-coach tours, Drive Tourism participants are allowed to tailor-fit their itineraries based on their preferences—culture and heritage, water sports or culinary adventure—for a complete travel experience, the tourism chief added.

Regional Produce on Menu for Long Lunch

Indulge in a unique dining experience as part of the Roaring 20s Festival and all that Jazz! on Saturday 1 February with the inaugural Long Lunch in Leura.

Once the Blue Mountains Charleston Challenge Guinness World Record attempt dancers have finished flapping, visitors are invited to retire to a marquee on the road in Leura Mall, which will be closed to traffic.

Dressed in your 1920s finest, treat yourself to a generous picnic hamper of delicious locally made and sourced fare, including antipasto with locally grown vegetables from Leura’s Princess Pantry, cold cuts of slow roasted meats from the ovens of Vesta at Blackheath, fresh tossed salads from Wentworth Falls’ restaurant Nineteen23, cheese and fruit from The Carrington Cellars & Deli and a wickedly indulgent Josophan’s chocolate dessert. Matching local wines and beverages will be for sale at Leura Cellars in the mall on the day.

Options range from a gourmet hamper for two ($160, includes $25 gift voucher for Leura Cellars and two seats in the marquee) to one seat in the marquee ($30, BYO hamper). Bookings are essential. Hampers are for sale independently of the marquee seats.

Don your best 1920s garb for a chance at prizes for best-dressed lady, man or couple. There will also be prizes for the best hat and best dressed table, so bring your finest picnic tableware and decorations.

The day will also feature vintage cars and plentiful live music (including Cookin’ with Gas 1920s band and the Blue Mountains Ukulele Group).

For more information please visit: www.roaring20s.com.au/events

Innovative tourism body “Brand Dubai” installed to enhance inbound tourism

With a vision to attract more than 20 million visitors to Dubai every year by 2020, the ruler of Dubai establishes an office in key cities around the world to market “Brand Dubai”. HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on Sunday announced that this tourism body will be responsible to enhance the inbound travel and trade.

The new department will be affiliated to the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTM) and will take direct responsibility for marketing and promotion of the Emirate of Dubai.

“In the lead up to 2020, there is a need for us to continue to develop and enhance our tourism and trade marketing and compete as peers with the world’s leading global cities. The creation of the Corporation and the focus it will provide to the marketing and promotion of Dubai will enhance coordination of activities and help to amplify our efforts to promote the strengths and diversity of our city globally,” he added.

Dubai authorities are aiming to attract 20m visitors a year by 2020 as part of targets set out in the DTCM’s Tourism Vision 2020.

In light of Dubai’s successful bid to host the World Expo 2020 last year, officials expect this figure to rise to 25m between October 2020 and April 2021.

A Right Royal Destiantion - Shoalhaven

Mayor of Shoalhaven, Joanna Gash has announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been invited to visit Shoalhaven City as part their upcoming Australian tour.

The Mayor has pointed out that the Shoalhaven area has strong links with the Royal couple.

The history goes that Alexander Berry – who, along with Edward Wollstonecraft established the first European settlement on the NSMayor of Shoalhaven, Joanna Gash has announced that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have been invited to visit Shoalhaven City as part their upcoming Australian tour.

The Mayor has pointed out that the Shoalhaven area has strong links with the Royal couple.

The history goes that Alexander Berry – who, along with Edward Wollstonecraft established the first European settlement on the NSW coast in the early 1820s – attended St Andrews University in Fife, Scotland before immigrating to Australia.

On Alexander Berry’s death in 1873, his estate was bequeathed to his only living relative, his brother David Berry. As part of his brother’s final wishes, David Berry bequeathed £100,000 (approximately $16 million in today’s currency) to the St Andrews University on his own death in 1889 as recognition of Alexander’s indebtedness to the institution.

Reports at the time indicate that the money bequeathed to St Andrews University helped St Andrews University save itself from financial ruin.

In 2005, while studying at the university, Prince William met his future wife, Kate Middleton.

Mayor Gash said that had it not been for the donation provided by Alexander Berry it was extremely likely that the royal couple would not have met.

“Shoalhaven City is extremely proud to be extending this very special invitation to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge,” said Clr Gash.

“Although he could not have known it at the time, Alexander Berry’s extremely generous donation to St Andrews University has helped make one of the most famous relationships in the world possible.

“It is extremely remarkable to consider that some of the most everlasting images of the past decade, including the Royal wedding and the birth of Prince George, may not have been possible without the Shoalhaven,” she said.

“Looking back through hindsight, David Berry could be described as both the world’s most famous and most unlikely Cupid.”

Mayor, Gash said that Council had compiled a full four-day itinerary for the royal couple as part of the invitation, inclusive of a visit to Coolangatta Mountain, the final resting place of David Berry.

“Shoalhaven City offers visitors an unmatched array of amazing sights and scenes, making it the ideal destination for the average family or the most celebrated couple in the world,” said Clr Gash.

“From Booderee National Park and Jervis Bay to Bundanoon, Kangaroo Valley and the area’s fabulous wineries and restaurants, the area boasts a unique and unmatched mix of natural beauty and attractions.

“The Shoalhaven has a lot to offer as a destination, the Duke of Cambridge might even consider a visit to HMAS Albatross in line with his career as a Royal Navy helicopter pilot,” Clr Gash said.

“I would certainly like to warmly encourage both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to accept the Shoalhaven’s invitation to visit the area and see for themselves why the area’s unspoilt natural beauty makes it one destination that is truly fit for a (future) king.”

Mayor Gash said Council would hand deliver a specially prepared invitation the royal couple to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canberra. W coast in the early 1820s – attended St Andrews University in Fife, Scotland before immigrating to Australia.

On Alexander Berry’s death in 1873, his estate was bequeathed to his only living relative, his brother David Berry. As part of his brother’s final wishes, David Berry bequeathed £100,000 (approximately $16 million in today’s currency) to the St Andrews University on his own death in 1889 as recognition of Alexander’s indebtedness to the institution.

Reports at the time indicate that the money bequeathed to St Andrews University helped St Andrews University save itself from financial ruin.

In 2005, while studying at the university, Prince William met his future wife, Kate Middleton.

Mayor Gash said that had it not been for the donation provided by Alexander Berry it was extremely likely that the royal couple would not have met.

“Shoalhaven City is extremely proud to be extending this very special invitation to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge,” said Clr Gash.

“Although he could not have known it at the time, Alexander Berry’s extremely generous donation to St Andrews University has helped make one of the most famous relationships in the world possible.

“It is extremely remarkable to consider that some of the most everlasting images of the past decade, including the Royal wedding and the birth of Prince George, may not have been possible without the Shoalhaven,” she said.

“Looking back through hindsight, David Berry could be described as both the world’s most famous and most unlikely Cupid.”

Mayor, Gash said that Council had compiled a full four-day itinerary for the royal couple as part of the invitation, inclusive of a visit to Coolangatta Mountain, the final resting place of David Berry.

“Shoalhaven City offers visitors an unmatched array of amazing sights and scenes, making it the ideal destination for the average family or the most celebrated couple in the world,” said Clr Gash.

“From Booderee National Park and Jervis Bay to Bundanoon, Kangaroo Valley and the area’s fabulous wineries and restaurants, the area boasts a unique and unmatched mix of natural beauty and attractions.

“The Shoalhaven has a lot to offer as a destination, the Duke of Cambridge might even consider a visit to HMAS Albatross in line with his career as a Royal Navy helicopter pilot,” Clr Gash said.

“I would certainly like to warmly encourage both the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to accept the Shoalhaven’s invitation to visit the area and see for themselves why the area’s unspoilt natural beauty makes it one destination that is truly fit for a (future) king.”

Mayor Gash said Council would hand deliver a specially prepared invitation the royal couple to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in Canberra.

Yue Xing Jin Jiang International Hotel Kashi to open at the frontiers of the silk road in March

The centrally located property Jin Jiang International Hotels officially announces the opening of Yue Xing Jin Jiang International Hotel Kashi and is currently scheduled to open in March, 2014. The hotel is situated in Kashgar, Xinjiang province, China’s westernmost city bordering five countries – Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Conveniently located in Kashgar, it will be within easy access to all the main transportation links and will serve as an ideal base from which visitors can explore the city. Kashgar is a large oasis and continues to be a key city and important trading point along the Silk Road, and has a long rooted Muslim heritage with a population predominantly of Muslim Uyghurs. Kashgar’s Old City, is one of the most well preserved traditional Islamic city’s in Central Asia and offers many attractions from the largest mosque in China, the Id Kah Mosque, to an 18m high statue of Chairman Mao, and the Kashgar Grand Bizarre, with over 2000 years of history, it is renowned as one of the biggest markets in Central Asia.

This five-star luxury hotel and will cover an area of 32,600 square meters and feature 323 well-appointed, elegantly designed and spacious guestrooms and suites, equipped with modern, high-end amenities. The hotel will feature a range of multi-functional rooms to host conferences, meetings, special events and high-end banquets. There will be several dining options including a Teppanyaki restaurant and a restaurant serving a combination of gourmet Chinese cuisines including traditional Xinjiang dishes. The Chinese restaurant will have 15 private dining rooms with a capacity to accommodate up to 110 people. Additional facilities are to include a fully equipped business center, a luxurious modern fitness center, heated indoor swimming pool, spa, beauty salon and games room.

“We look forward to and welcome the opening of Yue Xing Jin Jiang International Hotel Kashi which will be joining our growing portfolio of properties and expansion towards the Northwest China region. It will be the first Jin Jiang branded five-star hotel to open in Kashgar, therefore building a strong brand presence in the city. Kashgar is fast becoming a thriving destination attracting a growing number of leisure and business visitors, and our luxury hotel will set the bench mark for top quality services in the region.”

Jin Jiang International Hotel Management Company Ltd. (Jin Jiang International Hotels), the largest star rated hotel management company in China, has a portfolio of over 116 distinctive star rated hotels with a room inventory of over 35,000 hotel rooms spread across 74 cities in China. Under the Jin Jiang branding concept, the company has a new premium “J” hotel brand, five-star properties which include the renowned heritage collection and their four-star Jin Jiang properties.

Jin Jiang International Holdings Company Ltd. (“Jin Jiang” or the “Group”), is China’s premier hospitality conglomerate, owner, developer and operator of hotels across all market segments. The Group manages, through its wholly owned subsidiary Jin Jiang International Hotels Management Company Ltd., the entire portfolio of owned and/or operated three, four and five-star hotels and its sister company Jin Jiang Inn which focuses on budget hotels. Jin Jiang International Hotels (Group) Company Ltd. is the leading operator and manager of hotels in China. Overall, the Group owns and operates a collection of over 1,460 distinctive hotels and inns in more than 230 cities and towns within 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities across China with a total room inventory in excess of 223,000 and is ranked as the 9th largest hotel company globally.

Every Jin Jiang hotel is a memorable reflection of its destination’s unique style and culture. Jin Jiang International Hotels, with its qualified hotel management background and passion for excellence, dedicates itself to offering reputable hospitality services to its valued customers. With experience originating from the 1920s, its core competitiveness has accelerated in recent years. Together, the professional corporate and hotel management teams have extensive international hospitality experiences and backgrounds. This renowned company is rapidly growing and continues to strengthen and build its brand presence in China in addition to building into a strong internationally known brand.

With Chinese New Year Approaching, U.S. Cities Lure Chinese Tourists

As Chinese New Year celebration is approaching, rich Chinese are heading abroad in larger numbers than ever. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, the U.S. has become a leading getaway destination, with million Chinese tourists visiting the U.S. in 2012, and spending more than $8.8 billion. The number is expected to quintuple by 2020.

A latest Travelzoo-Asia Pacific survey, says that 29 percent of Chinese respondents were preparing to travel to the United States, anxious to stay away from packed train stations and busy tourist attractions at home. Shop owners are decorating their shops with this year’s zodiac symbol, the Horse, and Mandarin-speaking staffs appointed, as shopping, is “a main priority” for their Chinese leisure visitors.

Director of Sales and Marketing, Matt Zolbe, said, “Making Chinese clientele feel at home is a main priority for the Waldorf. While the hotel “does not have extraordinary gestures targeting the Chinese New Year” they have at least one Mandarin-speaking staff member at the front desk and at each of their three restaurants year-round, one of which serves Chinese breakfast specialties like congee and dim sum.”

Another attraction is the state’s reputation as a tech center and for academic excellence at the preparatory, undergraduate, and graduate levels. As Massachusetts is famous for colleges, Chinese people with discretionary income desire to send their children to universities in Massachusetts.

Because so many rural Chinese have migrated to the cities in search of work in the past three decades, they done have enough time to travel back home and celebrate new year with their family members. This year’s holiday celebrations begin the evening of 31 January, when families will gather to eat a traditional meal of dumplings and other delicacies representing wealth and good fortune.

Turtles Ride the Wave of Resilience Back to Queensland

One year after record floods devastated the region, hundreds of sea turtles are fighting back against Mother Nature to make their annual egg-laying pilgrimage on Queensland’s beaches. And thousands of nature-loving tourists from around the world are flocking to get a front row seat to the show.

January 21st 2014: One of the world’s largest concentrations of nesting marine turtles is proving as tough as nature itself.

As many as 350 threatened loggerhead turtles have launched themselves onto a beach along Australia’s Southern Great Barrier Reef region, just one year after flood and cyclone events affected the breeding season.

The Mon Repos Conservation Park near Bundaberg is home to the largest loggerhead turtle rookery in the South Pacific and is a regular nesting site for loggerhead, flatback and green turtles between November and March each year.

Combined with record high tides, the weather events of 2013 caused serious beach erosion, sweeping away an estimated 60 percent of last year’s clutches of eggs.

Now, at the height of the season, the turtles are back and in a spectacular display of Mother Nature’s bounty, hundreds of hatchlings are emerging from their nests and heading into the big ocean unknown.

Between November and January, mature female turtles burrow deep into the sand in the darkness of night to lay as many as 130 eggs per clutch before returning exhausted to the water. The hatchlings then incubate for eight weeks before breaking out of the nest and hurling themselves toward the ocean.

Head of Queensland's loggerhead turtle research program Dr Col Limpus said the tireless efforts of volunteers and rangers over the past four decades to protect loggerhead turtles in the state’s national parks was yielding amazing results.

“This [Mon Repos] is now supporting the biggest concentration of loggerheads for the whole of the South Pacific.

“The extensive protection of turtles in the national parks system, this is all way ahead of what almost all other countries are doing on the sort of grand scale for looking after sea turtles.”

For more than 40 years Queensland’s Environment and Heritage Department has tagged nesting turtles at Mon Repos with special GPS tracking devices, providing vital information about turtle migration and breeding patterns.

“We've got a green turtle population that is one of the biggest in the world nesting on our islands right now, offshore,” Dr Limpus said.

The sight of an ancient mariner dragging its body up the beach for nesting followed by the moonlit scurry of hundreds of hatchlings into the ocean has become a popular tourism attraction, with ranger-guided turtle tours running seven nights a week during the season.

Dubbed one of Australia’s greatest conservation and educational experiences, these tours attract as many as 30,000 tourists from around the world, signalling a global trend towards ecotourism and natural attractions.

Many local Australian residents, like Diane Anderson, fall in love with the experience and end up volunteering as tour guides and turtle researchers.

“I think it is something everyone should have on their bucket list. The turtle is such an ancient creature and we are just so privileged to have them on our coast, and you see the whole life cycle here,” she said.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services officer, Lisa Emmert, explained that turtle hatchlings are born with an inbuilt GPS system that is tuned into nature's magnetic field.

“The hatchlings, once they leave our shores, orientate with the magnetic fields of the earth. As they enter the water they ride this incredibly huge current around the Pacific Ocean, which goes along the shores of South America, and then they enter back into our waters, and find their feeding ground.

“When they reach 30 years of age, that connection with the magnetic field brings them back into this area to lay their eggs as adults.”

Despite Mother Nature’s recent setbacks, Ms Emmert said the turtles had returned to Mon Repos in solid numbers.

“We are really excited to be here and seeing the whole process continue as it does and has done for thousands of years.”

This year, French woman Elisa Detrez was lucky enough to experience the turtle breeding season first hand.

She beat 10,000 applicants worldwide for the Best Job In the World tourism campaign. For six months Elisa is acting as a Queensland Park Ranger – hiking, sailing and diving around the state as a virtual tourism ambassador.

Elisa, who speaks four languages fluently, this week witnessed the dramatic and awe-inspiring spectacle at Mon Repos.

“This turtle experience is the most unique thing I have done in my life. I love wildlife and nature, Ms Detrez said.

“[The] turtle is something really exotic for me coming from France so I think I am the luckiest girl in the world to have seen that, and yeah, to experience this.”

Elisa Detrez should feel right at home at Mon Repos. The French name reflects the country’s connections to the area, when it was owned by the French Government. They laid the first telegraph cable from Australia to New Caledonia, which came ashore on Mon Repos beach.

From now until March, hatchlings will emerge from the sands of Mon Repos and make their own way into the world’s vast oceans.

It’s an arduous and dangerous voyage they undertake, but at least this year many more are likely to survive, throwing their own challenge back to Mother Nature.

One of the world’s largest concentrations of nesting marine turtles is proving as tough as nature itself.

As many as 350 threatened loggerhead turtles have launched themselves onto a beach along Australia’s Southern Great Barrier Reef region, just one year after flood and cyclone events affected the breeding season.

The Mon Repos Conservation Park near Bundaberg is home to the largest loggerhead turtle rookery in the South Pacific and is a regular nesting site for loggerhead, flatback and green turtles between November and March each year.

Combined with record high tides, the weather events of 2013 caused serious beach erosion, sweeping away an estimated 60 percent of last year’s clutches of eggs.

Now, at the height of the season, the turtles are back and in a spectacular display of Mother Nature’s bounty, hundreds of hatchlings are emerging from their nests and heading into the big ocean unknown.

Between November and January, mature female turtles burrow deep into the sand in the darkness of night to lay as many as 130 eggs per clutch before returning exhausted to the water. The hatchlings then incubate for eight weeks before breaking out of the nest and hurling themselves toward the ocean.

Head of Queensland's loggerhead turtle research program Dr Col Limpus said the tireless efforts of volunteers and rangers over the past four decades to protect loggerhead turtles in the state’s national parks was yielding amazing results.

“This [Mon Repos] is now supporting the biggest concentration of loggerheads for the whole of the South Pacific.

“The extensive protection of turtles in the national parks system, this is all way ahead of what almost all other countries are doing on the sort of grand scale for looking after sea turtles.”

For more than 40 years Queensland’s Environment and Heritage Department has tagged nesting turtles at Mon Repos with special GPS tracking devices, providing vital information about turtle migration and breeding patterns.

“We've got a green turtle population that is one of the biggest in the world nesting on our islands right now, offshore,” Dr Limpus said.

The sight of an ancient mariner dragging its body up the beach for nesting followed by the moonlit scurry of hundreds of hatchlings into the ocean has become a popular tourism attraction, with ranger-guided turtle tours running seven nights a week during the season.

Dubbed one of Australia’s greatest conservation and educational experiences, these tours attract as many as 30,000 tourists from around the world, signalling a global trend towards ecotourism and natural attractions.

Many local Australian residents, like Diane Anderson, fall in love with the experience and end up volunteering as tour guides and turtle researchers.

“I think it is something everyone should have on their bucket list. The turtle is such an ancient creature and we are just so privileged to have them on our coast, and you see the whole life cycle here,” she said.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Services officer, Lisa Emmert, explained that turtle hatchlings are born with an inbuilt GPS system that is tuned into nature's magnetic field.

“The hatchlings, once they leave our shores, orientate with the magnetic fields of the earth. As they enter the water they ride this incredibly huge current around the Pacific Ocean, which goes along the shores of South America, and then they enter back into our waters, and find their feeding ground.

“When they reach 30 years of age, that connection with the magnetic field brings them back into this area to lay their eggs as adults.”

Despite Mother Nature’s recent setbacks, Ms Emmert said the turtles had returned to Mon Repos in solid numbers.

“We are really excited to be here and seeing the whole process continue as it does and has done for thousands of years.”

This year, French woman Elisa Detrez was lucky enough to experience the turtle breeding season first hand.

She beat 10,000 applicants worldwide for the Best Job In the World tourism campaign. For six months Elisa is acting as a Queensland Park Ranger – hiking, sailing and diving around the state as a virtual tourism ambassador.

Elisa, who speaks four languages fluently, this week witnessed the dramatic and awe-inspiring spectacle at Mon Repos.

“This turtle experience is the most unique thing I have done in my life. I love wildlife and nature, Ms Detrez said.

“[The] turtle is something really exotic for me coming from France so I think I am the luckiest girl in the world to have seen that, and yeah, to experience this.”

Elisa Detrez should feel right at home at Mon Repos. The French name reflects the country’s connections to the area, when it was owned by the French Government. They laid the first telegraph cable from Australia to New Caledonia, which came ashore on Mon Repos beach.

From now until March, hatchlings will emerge from the sands of Mon Repos and make their own way into the world’s vast oceans.

It’s an arduous and dangerous voyage they undertake, but at least this year many more are likely to survive, throwing their own challenge back to Mother Nature.

Be a Valentine in romantic Ireland

The Emerald Isle has the answer to all your Valentine’s Day dilemmas, whether you are choosing it to ask that all important question, or you just want to really treat that someone special.

Here are the top five tips on how to celebrate romance in a unique Irish setting.

1. Bless your rings at St Valentine’s Shrine

Tip number one is head to the straight-to-the-heart setting of the shrine of man himself, St Valentine. How many brownie points could you score by taking your someone special to visit the patron saint of lovers?

St Valentine’s Shrine is in Dublin’s Whitefriar Church on Aungier Street, a few minutes’ walk from the centre of gravity for shopping, culture and craic in Grafton Street, St Stephen’s Green and Temple Bar.

If you can, visit the shrine on 14 February itself, the saint’s actual feast day and the origin of the annual celebration of love, as there is a special Blessing of the Rings ceremony for those about to marry, although it’s still a place of pilgrimage for those celebrating love at any time.

This year the ‘Big Day’ falls on a Friday, the perfect chance for a long weekend in the Irish capital. With its winding streets, cute cafés and cosy hotels Dublin can rival anywhere for romantic encounters.

2. Do a Kate and Leo

Everybody knows the scene at the prow of the Titanic, the iconic moment when Leonardo Di Caprioshows Kate Winslet how to fly. That photo opportunity awaits all over Titanic Belfast, the world’s largest visitor experience dedicated to the world’s most famous ship.

And on Valentine’s Day there’s a special after hours Friday night experience organised. Spend a night to remember with your loved one in the opulent surroundings of this amazing attraction, taking in the stunning surroundings of the banqueting suites with views of Belfast Lough and Cavehill. Then have your photograph taken on the world famous grand staircase. Kate and Leo would be proud.

3. Splash out in Claddagh country

The Claddagh ring is popular the world over as a friendship, engagement and wedding ring. A quintessential Irish symbol, it is worn by millions, including by the likes of U2 front man Bono. According to legend it originated in Claddagh in Galway in the 17th century.

No romantic soul could miss the symbolism of a stroll through Claddagh, which was once an old thatched-cottage fishing village area at the mouth of the River Corrib flowing into Galway Bay.

Taking your loved one to the place that gave the ring its name is a pretty romantic touch. Then wander over to Quay Street to Thomas Dillons jewellers, the original makers of the ring. At its gift shop and Claddagh museum you might splash out on a special ring.

4. Propose at the Cliffs of Moher

Love is in the air at the Cliffs of Moher – the outstanding beauty of this natural wonder makes it one of world’s most romantic attractions outdoors.

Offering stunning views over the wild Atlantic Ocean, the cliffs are an ideal way to woo your loved one on Valentine’s Day. They provide the perfect setting to pop the question.

The area around O’Brien’s Tower is the most popular for wedding blessings and proposals. Just make sure to check the weather before you plan your proposal. It might be high winds that sweep your intended off their feet.

5. Say I love you Ireland’s most romantic castle

Looking for a love nest? Kylemore Abbey in Connemara is the original fairy-tale destination. Built in 1867, this stunning building in an equally spectacular setting was built as a lover’s gift and is known as Ireland’s most romantic castle.

A vast inheritance funded the construction of the magical castle, which Mitchell Henry intended as a testament to his wife Margaret. They had visited Connemara on honeymoon and were enchanted by the beauty of the landscape. However Margaret died suddenly in 1874, never seeing her castle fully complete.

At first a heartbroken Mitchell couldn’t bear to spend much time in Kylemore and avoided it when possible. His broken heart, however, finally couldn’t stop him from building his wife one of the most elegant final resting places money can buy.

Today, couples fall for the gothic romance of the magnificent castle, walled Victorian gardens and lush woodland walkways, all steeped in love, legend and history.

If you stand with your back against the wishing stone in the grounds and are successful in throwing a small pebble over the stone three consecutive times, your wish will be granted.

Qantas Goes Daily To Queenstown

Qantas announced it will increase its services between Sydney and Queenstown during the Easter school holidays and peak ski season.

Qantas currently operates three flights per week between Sydney and Queenstown and will add two extra services per week to support demand over the Easter school holidays and support the Queenstown ski season with daily flights through to the end of October.

Qantas CEO International Simon Hickey said the additional services would meet increased demand over Queenstown’s busiest periods.

“Qantas will add more than 650 seats each week and the additional services will mean greater flexibility and a premium experience for our customers travelling to Queenstown during the ski season,” said Mr Hickey.

“Our seasonal services reflect the continued popularity of the surrounding ski fields and will represent a boost to the New Zealand tourism industry, particularly as Emirates will codeshare on all the existing and additional services.”

The additional* services will be operated by Qantas’ fleet of Boeing 737-800 aircraft and offer inflight entertainment, food and wine and checked luggage as part of our full service offering. *operated by Jetconnect for Qantas

The additional services will commence on 7 April and finish on 24 October 2014. The amended schedule as follows:
7 April – 2 May: 5 per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
3 May– 4 June: 3 per week (Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday)
6 June – 02 July: 4 per week (Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday)
4 July – 24 October: Daily

Qantas also operates a weekly Brisbane-Queenstown service on Saturdays during the peak ski season from 28 June to 27 September.

The Qantas Group currently operates more than 200 flights each week between Australia and New Zealand.

Universal Orlando announces and reveals plans of the Harry Potters Wizard World

Harry Potter
Harry potters wizard world is expanding. The Universal Orlando Resort and Warner Bros. Entertainment have announced that the favorite among visitors, “Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade” attraction with “Diagon Alley,” will now be expending much to the delight of tourists.

The extended area will include shops, restaurants and a “revolutionary” new ride called “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts,” described as a “multi-sensory, multi-dimensional journey that will take theme park attractions to a new level.”

Well within the Universal Studios there will be a link between the Universal Studios and Harry Potter – Hogsmeade which is situated at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park through the iconic Hogwarts Express.

The “Diagon Alley” will be open to visitors for
  • Riding the Hogwarts Express between King’s Cross and Hogsmeade Stations, enjoying views of the British countryside along the way;
  • Navigate their way through the Gringotts vauls on the “Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts” ride;
  • Witness firsthand the “magical experience of a wand choosing a wizard” at “Ollivanders” wand shop;
  • Venture through the darkness of Knockturn Alley and “Borgin and Burkes,” a shop specializing in the Dark Arts;

Also visit a number of famous Diagon Alley establishments including “Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes” novelty shop, “Madam Malkin’s Robes for All Occasions,” “Magical Menagerie” stuffed animal store, “Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment,” “Quality Quidditch Supplies,” stationery shop “Scribbulus,” the “Leaky Cauldron” restaurant and “Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour.”

Fly Melbourne-Ayers Rock Direct in 3 Hours. The Perfect Australian Weekend Escape Just Got Even Better

Victorians can now experience the spiritual heart of Australia faster and easier with a direct 3 hour flight from Tullamarine to Uluru from Friday 4 April 2014. The return service is the ideal break from the city - departing Melbourne after breakfast at 9am Friday and departing Ayers Rock Airport after lunch at 3pm Sunday - allowing for time to relax and rejuvenate in the quiet of Australia's Red Centre.

The service will run every weekend for an initial 13 week season finishing the last weekend of June 2014.

"Ayers Rock is a popular destination with Victorians, however feedback indicated that there was a real desire for a direct flight that allowed guests to make the most of their weekend," said Ray Stone, Executive General Manager Sales, Marketing and Distribution.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for Victorians to visit Uluru and connect with this special part of Australia. Ayers Rock Resort itself has undergone a complete rejuvenation over the last two years and with a three hour direct flight from Melbourne it is the perfect time to enjoy a short break and reconnect with your loved ones," said Tony Mayell, CEO Tourism Northern Territory.

The Uluru Weekend package is designed to make the most of the weekend - from just $899 per person twin share it includes:
  • Return flights from Melbourne
  • Return nairport transfers 2 nights' accommodation with full buffet breakfast
  • Indigenous activities program including cultural dance performance, guided garden Walks, spear & boomerang throwing and Indigenous story telling experience
  • Children 15 years and under stay free using existing bedding including breakfast
  • Early check-in & late check-out subject to availability at time of check-in 20kg and 7kg carry-on check-in luggage per passenger
The flight schedule on both the Easter (18-21 April) and Queen's Birthday (6-9 June) has been extended to a three, night package, priced from $999 per person.

The flights will be operated by Alliance Airlines with complimentary tea, coffee and water and a range of snacks available for purchase.

For more information or to make a booking contact Voyages Travel Centre on 1300 034 004.

Increase in foreign tourists to Vietnam in January

Vietnam
The number of foreign tourists is estimated at 722,349 for January 2014, an increase of 7.5 percent since December 2013, according to the General Statistics Office. This is a 21 percent increase compared to the same period last year.

The amount of Russian tourists rose 89 percent year-on-year, Chinese tourists increase 87 percent year-on-year , and German tourists increased 58 percent year-on-year.

This year, the country’s tourism industry is expected to welcome more than 8 million foreign visitors.

In January, Ho Chi Minh City welcomed around 382,000 foreign tourists, up 12 percent year-on-year. The number of tourists flying in was estimated at 300,000, up 10 percent year-on-year, and the number of tourists entering by land and sea are 82,000, up 20 percent.

The Whitsundays Goes Green

Cedar Creek Falls
While bright blue azure seas are generally the colour that people take away with them after a Whitsundays holiday, February/March sees the greens of North Queensland's tropical green season really take the cake.

Cruising the Whitsunday Islands you will see the azure blues meeting the lush greens of the island hills.

The island vegetation is a thick and luscious forest green, dotting the horizon of the Coral Sea and the bright colours make a spectacular sight.

The cane fields of inland Proserpine are in full growth, a lime green winding and undulating carpet of colour leading towards Airlie Beach.

The rainforest is cool and bright, with sub-tropical species blooming and growing throughout the wet.

The summer rain isn't cold, and the tropical green season introduces a new range of sightseeing throughout the Whitsundays, including:
  • Cedar Creek Falls - the stunning natural waterfall and waterhole really come to life during the rains of green season (see picture).
  • The rain bringing out all kinds of wildlife. Birdwatch for Magpie Geese, Brolgas and Jacanas, and species migrating from Papua New Guinea such as Spangled Drongos and Buff-breasted Kingfishers. Frogs are also out and about, filling the air with raucous calls.
  • A guided tour; the Whitsunday Crocodile Safari on a calm river cruise spotting crocs, and a wetland tour within the Goorganga Plains.
  • Sitting in one of the cosy, sheltered restaurants enjoying great food and wine on the Airlie Beach Esplanade/Main Street. Cuisines are very multi-cultural from fresh local seafood (the rains make for excellent Barramundi catching) to Indian, Italian, Mexican, Moroccan, modern Australian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese.

It's raining - so what? Check out our guide to wet weather activities around the Whitsundays.

And if you're wet already, then why not get out and do all the activities you'd planned - snorkelling, sailing, cruising and exploring the Whitsundays.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

INAUGRUAL FORT WORTH FOOD + WINE FESTIVAL TO BE HELD IN MARCH 2014

Fort Worth
  • The City of Cowboys and Culture will celebrate local cuisine during four-day festival
The inaugural Fort Worth Food + Wine Festival (FWFWF) is set to kick off March 27-30, 2014, and will infuse homegrown flavors of celebrated local chefs and wine makers for a taste-filled weekend. Home to some of the greatest culinary artists in the country, the festival will showcase Fort Worth’s distinctive gastronomic traditions, while educating the public on the unique culinary offerings of the region, including: “Cowboy Cuisine,” Haute Continental Fare, trendy farm-to-table, Tex-Mex and more.

Fort Worth sets out to honor an innovative style of cooking well-known for its reflection of the city’s deep Western heritage and unrivaled world-class art - Cowboy Cuisine. Melded with the flavors of Southwestern, Creole, Southern, Mexican and traditional steakhouse, Cowboy Cuisine is an inspiration to chefs such as Tim Love and Jon Bonnell, to name a few, who have produced dishes such as Kangaroo Carpaccio Nachos, Pepper-Crusted Buffalo Tenderloin and Crab-Stuffed Jalapenos. Bayou-inspired fare, fine Tex-Mex and locally distilled artisanal bourbon are among the many that will also be available for tasting.

In true Texas style, the FWFWF opening event will be held at Billy Bob’s Texas – the world’s largest honky-tonk, on Thursday, March 27, from 7-9 p.m. Twelve of the most sought-after local chefs will be in attendance, including: Jon Bonnell (Bonnell’s Fine Texas Cuisine and WATERS Bonnell’s Coastal Cuisine), Terry Chandler (Fred’s Texas Café), Keith Hicks (Button’s), Mark Hitri (Billy Bob’s Texas), Lanny Lancarte (Lanny’s Alta Cocina), Tim Love (Lonesome Dove Western Bistro), Molly McCook (Ellerbe Fine Foods), Dena Peterson (Café Modern), Juan Rodriguez (Reata Restaurant), Blaine Staniford (GRACE), Michael Thomson (Michael’s Cuisine) and Donatella Trotti (Nonna Tata). Chefs will prepare tastings paired with three Texas craft beers, three Texas wines and three Texas spirits. Space is limited and tickets are $65.

FWFWF events:
  • Grand Tasting - Friday, March 28, 2014

Renaissance Worthington Hotel – Sundance Square, 200 Main Street, Fort Worth, 76102
A tasting event as big as Texas, with over 70 wineries, craft breweries and distillers in attendance alongside chefs, restaurateurs, celebrated vendors and food artisans. Tickets: $125. Time: 7-11 p.m.
  • Tastes of the World - Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bass Performance Hall – Sundance Square, 555 Commerce Street, Fort Worth, 76102
Experience fine art entertainment alongside exquisite cuisine as Chef Dean Fearing of Fearing’s at the Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, treats guests to a progressive lunch on the renowned Bass Performance Hall stage. Each course will be paired with a unique performance by the finest talents in the city. Space is limited. Ticket price is $500. Time: 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
  • Burgers, Brews & Blues - Saturday, March 29, 2014

Edwards Ranch/Heart of the Ranch - 5000 Clearfork Main Street, Fort Worth 76109
Enjoy a trio of all-American classics, as 26 craft breweries and 13 restaurants offer beer and sliders, accompanied with live blues bands. General admission is $60, and VIP is $75. Time: 6-10 p.m.
  • Sip + Savor - Saturday, March 29, 2014 & Sunday, March 30, 2014

Renaissance Worthington Hotel – Sundance Square, 200 Main Street, Fort Worth, 76102
Savor over 100 wines and small bites from Fort Worth’s most celebrated food artisans. Admission is $75 per day. Time: 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
  • Meals on Wheels for Meals on Wheels– Sunday, March 30, 2014

Coyote Drive-In – 223 NE 4th Street, Fort Worth, 76164
Fort Worth’s famed food trucks will serve up delicious grub, while live music and chuck wagons (the original food truck) serve as entertainment. The event benefits Meals on Wheels, Inc. of Greater Tarrant County. Tickets are $50. Time: 5:30-7:30 p.m.

In addition to celebrating the Fort Worth culinary scene, the FWFWF serves to assist in sustaining chefs, restaurants, and the local ranching and farming community. For additional information on participating chefs, events, Fort Worth culinary itineraries or high-resolution photography, please contact Jessica Dowdy at jessicadowdy@fortworth.com or Sarah Covington at sarahcovington@fortworth.com.

Philippines to celebrate Chinese New Year as sign of solidarity

The Filipino-Chinese population may comprise a small portion of the population, under the Aquino administration but the Philippines began celebrating the Chinese New Year as a non-working holiday in 2012.

In Proclamation No. 295 issued in November 2011, Aquino said the declaration of the Chinese New Year as a special non-working holiday would allow Filipinos and Filipino-Chinese to celebrate the holiday.

It is said that Aquino’s declaration is a nod to his ancestry as the Cojuangcos – his matriarch’s clan – are themselves Filipino-Chinese.

In his declaration, Aquino said the celebration of Chinese New Year “is a manifestation of our solidarity with our Chinese-Filipino brethren who have been part of our lives in many respects as a country and as a people.”

At present, the Philippines and China are embroiled in a territorial row over the West Philippine Sea or the South China Sea. Yet, a look at the latest economic data would reveal the close ties between Manila and Beijing.

China’s contribution to the economy does not end in trade. Chinese tourists are also among the country’s top visitors. The Department of Tourism said Chinese tourists were the fourth largest group of visitors in the Philippines from January to September in 2013. A total of 327,054 tourists from China came to the country, increasing by 66.08 percent and the fastest growth among the country’s top markets for tourists.

According to the National Statistics Office, China was the country’s third largest export market behind Japan and the US, accounting for 12 per cent of the total $4.3 billion export revenues in November .

More significantly China’s share represents a 38.2-per cent growth over the previous month, the fastest among all trading partners of the Philippines.

Through such cooperation, both countries will be able to maximize the benefit from China’s further liberalization minimizing the negative effects. Some broad areas of possible cooperation are: merchandise and service trade, tourism, and investment and development cooperation,