Saturday, 31 January 2015

Expansion in air services between Australia and China

Air China
Recent developments pertaining to China’s free trade agreement has seen an expansion in the air services arrangement between Australia and China.

Under the new arrangement, both Australian and Chinese airlines can now operate up to 26,500 seats per week, between Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane or Perth and Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou. An increase of approximately 18% on current routes.

This increased connectivity between the two economies opens up exciting opportunities for the Australian travel and tourism industry to capitalise on this fast-growing market. Last financial year, 760,000 Chinese travellers spent close to $5 billion dollars in Australia.

In a recent statement made by Trade Minister Andrew Robb, he said that “China is our most valuable tourism export market. This agreement – along with the launch of the recent pilot program for online visa applications by Chinese visitors – means our tourism sector is well primed for 2015,”

This landmark development is changing the face of the tourism industry between Australia and China.

New Thailand’s Tourism Campaign at ASEAN Tourism Forum 2015

The new Thailand’s tourism promotion campaign “2015 Discover Thainess” has been unveiled for the ASEAN countries at the ASEAN Tourism Forum 2015.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is participating in this forum in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, from 22 to 29 January 2015. The forum, largest regional travel and tourism event, is a cooperative regional effort to promote the ASEAN region as one tourist destination where Asian hospitality and cultural diversity are at its best.

TAT cited the launch of the campaign as important, as ASEAN countries are expected to be among the top sources of visitor arrivals in 2015, when the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) takes effect. It said that improved infrastructure will strengthen transportation networks between Thailand and its border-crossing neighbors, namely Malaysia, Myanmar, Lao PDR, and Cambodia.

The 2015 Discover Thainess campaign emphasizes the priceless treasures of Thailand and underpins the kingdom’s tourism competitive advantage. The marketing messages will highlight the concept of Creative Tourism, under which tourists can experience the Thai way of life, Thai culture and hands-on Thai activities, such as Thai boxing, Thai massage, Thai cooking, and Thai classical dance.

As part of the campaign, TAT is recommending 12 hidden gems – emerging new provincial destinations that ASEAN tourists should not miss, especially repeat travelers. All these places are renowned for their unique history, culture, and lifestyle. For example:
  • Northeast: Buri Ram and Loei – Loei is close to the border with Thailand’s neighbor, Lao PDR, while Buri Ram is on the border with Cambodia. Visitors can now drive across both borders.
  • North: Phetchabun, Lampang, and Nan: These provinces are important stopovers on the route to Chiang Mai in North Thailand.
  • East: Chanthaburi and Trat: These are also emerging provinces close to the border with Cambodia. Visitors can now drive across the border to Cambodia.
  • South: Trang, Nakhon Si Thammarat, and Chumphon: These provinces in southern Thailand boast beautiful beaches and wonderful new boutique hotels.
  • Central: Samut Songkhram and Ratchaburi: These are culturally-rich provinces on the route to the popular seaside resort of Cha-am/Hua Hin.

In addition, TAT has allocated specific “Happiness” activity themes for each month of this year.

In 2014, Thailand welcomed 24.77 million international visitors. Out of this number, 6.6 million were from ASEAN, accounting for 26.72 percent of the total market share.

In 2015, TAT has set a target of 28 million international visitors, generating an estimated 1.35 trillion baht (41 billion US dollars) from tourist arrivals. Out of this number, 7.4 million visitors, with 20.46 billion baht (6.2 billion dollars) in revenue are projected to come from ASEAN countries.

Indian travellers get maximum public holidays to plan their travel; survey reveals

In pursuit of a more successful work- life balance and more time to travel, Wego, India’s favourite travel search site, reveals which countries around the world have the most public holidays.

“There’s no better remedy for the post-holiday blues and start of a new year than to look ahead and plan your next holiday. However, depending on where you live some of us have a lot more days off to play with than others” said Joachim Holte, Chief Marketing Officer of Wego.

India has the most number of public holidays at around 21 days each year, even more depending on which state you live in,” he observed. “In the Asia/Pacific region, the Philippines follows with 18, 17 for China and Hong Kong, Thailand receives 16, 15 in Malaysia and Vietnam, 14 for Indonesia, 13 in Taiwan and South Korea, 11 in Singapore and 10 in Australia and New Zealand.

“China is not only one of the fastest growing travel segments in the world, their government makes it easy for workers to take longer breaks. Should the year’s public holidays fall on a weekend the government swaps the official dates with weekdays, maximising time off,” said Holte. “So this year, the total of 17 public holidays equates to 28 days off. Similarly the Taiwanese total of 13 public holidays results in 29 days off inclusive of weekends.” added Jaochim.

Europeans don’t fare too badly with Sweden and Lithuania offering the most at 15 (the latter with an additional 28 days of paid leave), followed by 14 in Slovakia, 13 in Austria, Belgium and Norway and 12 in Finland and Russia. Spain and the UK are not so holiday minded, with only eight. In the United Arab Emirates, another fast developing travel market, you can expect 11 public holidays in 2015.

Mexico has the lowest in the world with only seven public holidays each year although the government permits a few more ‘optional’ public holidays, at the employer’s discretion.

“Some countries however provide a little more in the way of statutory holiday leave which can top up public holidays nicely,” Holte continued. “The Philippines public holiday count of 18 is increased with an additional five days mandatory holiday leave, and while Australian workers receive around ten public holidays depending on which state you live in, annual holiday leave entitlement totals an additional 20 working days.”

“Travel is like a reward for all those hard working days we spend at the office but the amount of paid leave is what restricts us from making the most of those opportunities,” added Holte. “Combining public holidays with your annual leave is the best way to maximise time off, take trips and preserve a healthy life/work balance.”

VIA RAIL CANADA : The Prestige Class

Rediscover the romance of rail travel with VIA Rail, a transcontinental rail trip from cosmopolitan Toronto to beautiful Vancouver. Get pampered in the lap of luxury and experience ultimate comfort of Prestige Class, which offers a more luxurious experience in rail cars.

Started in August 2014, the introduction of the Prestige Sleeper class has made the legend more luxurious. Travel Prestige Class and enjoy personal bathroom with a shower in your cabin. It offers a convenient and comfortable way to see Canada from a unique perspective. The Prestige Sleeper Cabins are more spacious and tranquil.

It has personalized dedicated service provided by the Prestige Concierge. This is not the end; it also gives priority access to the call center, checked baggage, reservation in the dining car, access to the Prestige Park Car. The dynamic section also has an all-inclusive bar service.

Comfort being the top priority distinctive electric radiant heated cabin floors and walls that maintain a comfortable and constant temperature are been built-in. Travelling by train has never been so appealing, especially with an abundance of little extras worthy of the most luxurious trains in the world. Enjoy the elegance and comfort of VIA Rail’s Prestige Class.

Courtney Act and Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras invite visitors to Sydney in 2015

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras today launched its tourism campaign for the 2015 season.

International drag superstar, Courtney Act, is the face of the campaign and she has been pictured at Sydney’s most iconic locations including atop Sydney Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and at Bondi Beach. Since her star turn as a Top 3 finalist in season 6 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Courtney Act has been traveling the world as Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras’ Global Ambassador, inviting the world to visit Sydney in summer to experience all the colour, fun and general fabulousness of Sydney Mardi Gras 2015.

“As the world’s most spectacular celebration of pride and diversity, I’m very proud to represent Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras around the world as Global Ambassador,” Courtney Act said.

“Earlier in the year I made a flying visit home to shoot the 2015 Mardi Gras tourism campaign, which was incredible. I never imagined I’d be photographed on top of Sydney Opera House, let alone in full drag! I can’t wait to see these images start to appear around the world.

Sydney is the best summer city in the world, (and I’m not just saying that because it’s my home town!), and Mardi Gras is the ultimate time to experience all it has to offer. From the festival, the Parade, the parties and events, to Sydney’s buzzing culture, fantastic bars and restaurants, beautiful beaches…what’s not to love!”

Sydney Mardi Gras 2015 will of course feature world-famous events like the Parade and Party, as well as a 2-week program of special events that showcase Sydney’s unique summer lifestyle and open, friendly and inclusive nature. Key events includeHarbour Party, set in the sub-tropical surrounds of the Royal Botanic Gardens with views to the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge – a must-do event for any Mardi Gras visitor; Women Say Something, a gala event celebrating the achievements of women; and Parade Viewing on the parade route giving visitors the opportunity to watch the world-famous Mardi Gras Parade in style and comfort.

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is offering tour operators generous commissions on tickets to all major events. As Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras CEO Michael Rolik said, “Mardi Gras attracts on average 30,000 visitors each year and with the lower Australian dollar we expect this number to increase in 2015. Tour operators have the opportunity to tap into this growth and take advantage of our commissionable tickets scheme.”

Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is also teaming up with Planetdwellers, Australia's premier Gay and Lesbian tour operator, to once again offer visitors to Sydney a range of daytime activities during Mardi Gras. For more information:www.planetdwellers.com.au

Sydney Mardi Gras 2015 runs 20 February to 8 March 2015. Some key events will go on sale from October to November with the full program launched in early December. For more information: www.mardigras.org.au

Pitcairn Islands Tourism to Receive Boost With New Harbour

Pitcairn Island
Pitcairn Islands Tourism will receive a boost in 2015 with the completion of a new harbour.

Landing on remote Pitcairn Island is often an adventure in itself. Pitcairn Islanders have for years honed their seamanship skills riding the waves through the reef into Bounty Bay. Steering the islands two longboats into the Pitcairn's only harbour is a memorable and at times hair-raising experience.

But this is about to change. With the assistance of the European Union (EU), a new alternate landing area is being built on the more protected western side of the island known as Tedside. This is great news for the islands fledgling tourism industry. Pitcairn's Travel Coordinator, Heather Menzies, says “Around 12 cruise ships per year call past Pitcairn. Many of the larger liners cruise off shore and islanders sell their souvenirs at market stalls set up on board. With the development of the new harbour many more passengers will be able to come ashore and enjoy the treasures our special island has to offer. We are hoping this will encourage more cruise companies to call at Pitcairn”.

The project is a major effort for Pitcairn's small workforce and with a new road, landing area and other facilities all being built the harbour is due to become operational late in 2015.

“Visiting Pitcairn, with our warm and hospitable people, living history from the Bounty mutiny in 1789 through to being surrounded by an endless horizon of pristine waters, is a truly unique and unforgettable experience”, says Menzies. “The new harbour development provides improved access to the island and we look forward to welcoming more visitors to Pitcairn.

Full details about travelling to Pitcairn Island and current shipping schedules are available on the Pitcairn islands Tourism website www.visitpitcairn.pn or contact Tropics Marketing toll-free on 1300 713 132 and email pitcairn@tropicsmarketing.com.au.

Major Events Make Summer 2015 In Philly Another One For The History Books

Philadelphia is well known as the nation’s birthplace, and in summer 2015 the city will make history once again with blockbuster events and exhibits filling the calendar all season long. Festivities sail into Philadelphia in June with the arrival of the Tall Ships Philadelphia Camden and the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s major exhibition of impressionist works.

Come July, the 50th Anniversary of the Gay Rights Movement marks a half-century of activism in the place where it all began, and Wawa Welcome America! throws the country’s biggest birthday party. As summer fades into fall, all eyes will be on Philadelphia when Pope Francis makes his first U.S. visit during the World Meeting of Families and celebrates a public mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Here are more details about this historic summer in Philadelphia:

The 50th Anniversary of the Gay Rights Movement kicks off in June with the opening of the exhibition Speaking Out for Justice: Gay Rights, the Supreme Court and the Constitution at the National Constitution Center. Other exhibitions and activities celebrating LGBT culture and heritage are planned for the William Way LGBT Community Center, the Free Library of Philadelphia, the National Museum of American Jewish History, the Opera Company of Philadelphia and Taller Puertorriqueño, among others. The celebration’s signature events take place over Fourth of July weekend, with a reenactment of the Reminder Day demonstrations in front of Independence Hall, a wreath-laying ceremony at the historic marker that acknowledges the site of the demonstrations, panel discussions, a festival, concerts and more. June-December 2015.

When the Tall Ships Philadelphia Camden pulls into port this summer, visitors can watch the colorful parade of sail led by a giant floating rubber ducky—the world’s largest—and tour L’Hermione, a replica of the ship that brought General Lafayette to the aid of the fledgling United States during the Revolutionary War, along with more than a dozen vessels from around the world. Ships will be docked on both sides of the river at Penn’s Landing and along the Camden Waterfront. Boat lovers and landlubbers can also enjoy live entertainment, hands-on activities and a dazzling fireworks display. June 24-28, 2015.

Discovering the Impressionists: 

Paul Durand-Ruel and the New Painting celebrates the ambitious and visionary Parisian art dealer who supported and helped elevate a new style of painting. On view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the exhibit, showcasing approximately 95 impressionist works, is bigger and more comprehensive than its showings at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris and the National Gallery in London. Art lovers will view works by Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Sisley, Degas, Manet and others. June 24-September 13, 2015.

Philadelphia celebrates America’s birthday like no place else. 

In the week leading up to Independence Day, Wawa Welcome America! and other celebrations will light up the city’s historic district and Delaware River Waterfront with concerts, fireworks, historic re-enactments, Wawa Hoagie Day and other family-friendly activities. Then on July 4, the granddaddy of all concerts will take over the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with chart-topping artists hitting the stage prior to a grand-finale fireworks display. June 27-July 4, 2015. Various locations.

Tens of thousands of people from around the globe will converge on Philadelphia for the eighth World Meeting of Families. 

Throughout the week, approximately 100 speakers will lead panel discussions and workshops at the Pennsylvania Convention Center focused on the theme “Love is our Mission: The Family Fully Alive.” Museums and area attractions will also offer special programs and exhibits geared towards families. The highlight of the event will be the arrival of Pope Francis at the end of the congress. He’ll make his first visit to the United States and will celebrate a public mass on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. September 22-27, 2015.

VISIT PHILADELPHIA®, formerly known as Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, makes Philadelphia and The Countryside® a premier destination through marketing and image building that increases the number of visitors, the number of nights they stay and the number of things they do in the five-county area.

On Greater Philadelphia’s official visitor website and blog, visitphilly.com and uwishunu.com, visitors can explore things to do, upcoming events, themed itineraries and hotel packages. Compelling photography and videos, interactive maps and detailed visitor information make the sites effective trip-planning tools. Along with Visit Philly social media channels, the online platforms communicate directly with consumers. Travelers can also call and stop into the Independence Visitor Center for additional information and tickets.

Things to do on Penang Hill

Penang Hill Funicular Train
To enjoy cooler temperature and fresh-smelling air, head up to Penang's popular peak Penang Hill where there are plenty to see and do. Cheng Sim shares the things you shouldn’t miss.

Explore the Aviary Ginger Garden

For a small garden, Bellevue Hotel’s Aviary Ginger Garden houses a sizeable collection of Zingiberales, in other words, an order of flowering plants. Stroll along its maze of greener and spot the heliconia, bird of paradise and prayer plants to name a few. What’s not to miss is the different species of birds in the likes of hornbills, pheasants and parrots in garden that were largely rescued. At time of writing, the entrance fee is RM8 for adult and RM5 for children.

Profess your love at Love Lock @ Penang Hill

You don’t have travel as far as Pont des Arts in Paris or Germany’s Hohenzollern Bridge to profess your love to your better half. Enjoy a smooth ride to Penang Hill and visit their famous Love Lock fence that overlooks a lovely view of George Town city. It is a norm to see lovebirds flocking the fence. Each padlock is priced from RM25 and there are permanent ink pens to put your sweet promises in writing.

Visit the heritage bungalows

Due to the hill’s long trace of history during the British settlements, it is to no surprise to find heritage bungalows dotted around Penang Hill. As you step off from the train and walk along the elevated walkway, you will spot The Woodside Bungalow, which is the chosen site for the filming of drama series, Indian Summers. Apart from that, a walk around Penang Hill will guarantee glimpses of other heritage bungalows built in the Colonial Era including the White House, The Nook, Camville and not forgetting Sheriff William Harrinburton’s former bungalow, which is now transformed into Bellevue Hotel.

Fuel up at David Brown Restaurant & Sky Terrace

What’s an evening at Penang Hill without warm scones and a cup of Darjeeling? Teatime is best spent at David Brown Restaurant but if you have an appetite for larger mains, sample their rib eye steaks, chicken Maryland, oxtail stew and roast sirloin with Yorkshire pudding. If refreshment is all you need from all the sightseeing, head over to their Sky Terrace for beautiful view of George Town while enjoying drinks ranging from coffee to Carlsberg.

Admire owlsome pieces at Owl Museum

Sprawled with all things owlsome, this is Southeast Asia’s first owl museum of its kind. Expect floor-to-ceiling collection of owl-themed paintings, sculptures and among its 2,500 pieces sourced from various countries around the globe. If you wish to have a piece to call your own, there are owl-inspired accessories to jazz up your outfit and even, fridge magnets for souvenirs. The admission fee is RM10 for adult and free for kids below 12 years old.

Love Lock @ Penang Hill 
19 Jan 2015: The multi-storey car park right by Penang Hill entrance is now open. Its convenient location is said to increase visitors to the hill by five per cent and has 310 parking bays. A fee of RM2 per hour has been set and it's free for motorcycles.

Central localities announce joint tourism campaign

Da Nang City
Thua Thien Hue and Quang Nam provinces and Da Nang City recently unveiled a joint campaign to promote tourism in the Central region, home to a slew of famous beaches and world heritage sites.

It will introduce the "paradise-like beaches, islands, and world heritage sites".

According to Tran Chi Cuong, Vice Chairman of the Da Nang Department of Cultural, Sports and Tourism, the campaign will focus on new tourism options in all three localities in 2015, including a number of fascinating events, festive activities, and tourism packages.

Da Nang will introduce new river tours, the Helio entertainment complex, a French village, the Asia Park, a night market on the Han River, and Vincom commercial centre.

The city is also preparing for the 2015 Da Nang International Fireworks Competition, which will feature contestants from South Africa, Poland, Australia, the US, and Viet Nam.

Thua Thien Hue will continue to highlight the UNESCO-recognised Complex of Hue Monuments in Hue city with new art performances and by displaying traditional crafts at the heritage sites.

LEGENDS ON BOARD FOR SURF EVENT

Australian surfing legends Mick Fanning and Steph Gilmore have this week confirmed they will compete in the 2015 Hurley Australian Open of Surfing at Manly.

The Open, supported by the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency Destination NSW, is shaping up to be a highlight on the summer calendar. Three-time World Surfing Champion Mr Fanning also has 19 career World Championship Tour (WCT) wins under his belt and finished second in the 2014 WSL Men’s World Title race.

Six time Women’s World Champion and current number one WCT surfer in the world, Steph Gilmore will compete in the Open Women’s Division. The event, which is free and open to the public, will see the top five female surfers in the world go head to head right on Sydney’s shores.

Tyler Wright (2015 WCT 2), 2014 Hurley Australian Open of Surfing champion Carissa Moore (2015 WCT rank three), local Sally Fitzgibbons (2015 WCT rank four) and Malia Manuel (2015 WCT rank five) have also been announced to battle it out in the Manly waves next month.

Joining the all-star crew is Sydney local Laura Enever (2015 WCT rank 10) and Victorian Nikki van Dijk (2015 WCT rank 15). Coco Ho (2015 WCT rank 13) and Tatiana Weston – Webb (2015 WCT rank 16) will join Moore to represent their home state of Hawaii, USA.

The Open will be held at Manly Beach on 7 – 15 February.

For more information and to view a full list of competing athletes go to australianopenofsurfing.com/2015/athletes

Friday, 30 January 2015

Fly from Sydney to Europe in 4 hours

The European Space Agency is working a new plane that will travel so fast it makes the Concorde look like the Belphegor – the world’s slowest aircraft.

The jet project called LAPCAT or Long Term Advanced Propulsion Concepts and Technologies is to develop a high-speed aircraft that can fly up to five times the speed of sound.

At that speed, it will be able to take travellers anywhere in the world in just four hours. So just to be clear from Sydney to London – four hours; Perth to Argentina – four hours; and the Northern Territory to Dubai – four hours.

Expected to be up in the air for testing by 2019, the team behind the new engine – Reaction Engines – say the aircraft will be fuelled by hydrogen fuel – making it one of the greenest planes in the sky.

Additionally, it will use new precooler technology that allow the engine to be cooled by 1,000 degrees Celsius in 0.01 seconds. This allows it to travel faster.

The aircraft itself will only be 267 feet long and carry around 300 passengers.

She will go by the name of Skylon [does the name sound familiar to any Battlestar Galactica fans?].

Unlike other plans, Skylon won’t have any windows.

Last year, a similar high-speed aircraft concept named Space Aerospace s-512 was unveiled. She too had giant displays instead of windows.

According to the S-512′s creators going windowless cuts down the weight of the jet, which makes it travel twice as fast as a regular commercial aircraft.

Earlier this month, a British Airways plane flew at almost the speed of sound and broke the record for flying from New York to London in just over five hours.

Winds of more than 200mph pushed the Boeing 777-200 to a ground speed of 745 mph, which is just 16mph below supersonic speed.

IT&CM China 2015 Reveals New Players Among Loyal Returning Exhibitors

Bolstered by untiring efforts from the IT&CM China organisers on several fronts including strong educational sessions and industry partnerships, more than 600 international and domestic buyers can be expected at the 2015 show. These initiatives not only have secured the participation of long-time exhibitors but also attracted new players such as Berlin Tourismus & Kongres GmbH and Business Events Australia.

Speaking highly of IT&CM China, Heike Mahmoud, CMP, Director Conventions of Berlin Tourismus & Kongress said, “The Chinese market is becoming more and more important for the Berlin Incentive and Congress business. Our goal is to develop and expand our network in China and to promote Berlin’s diverse offers – the modern hotel landscape, the city’s exceptional incentives and high-class restaurants. With its good networking options, IT&CM China 2015 will be a great opportunity to intensify our cooperation with Chinese partners.”

Echoing her agreement is LC Tan, Regional Business Director – Greater China, Business Events of Business Events Australia. “Trade events like IT&CM China have strategic importance to deepen and strengthen Australia’s relationship with Chinese buyers and business partners as well as create awareness for its trade engagement programme and tailored tools for the Chinese market. In addition, the business appointment facilities and one-on-one business meetings enable us to reach out to quality Chinese buyers.”

In the 2014 event, over 600 international and Chinese buyers were in attendance, with close to 490 coming from the various regions of China. This surged the ratio of Chinese buyers to an all-time high of 70% of the buyer delegation.

‘The results reflect the strength of the organisers’ network and resources to reach valuable segments that both our international and domestic exhibitors desire,” commented Ooi Peng Ee, General Manager of TTG Events, one of the show’s three co-organisers.

Returning exhibitor Bobby Ong, Vice President, Sales & Marketing – Greater China of Accor Hospitality revealed their motivation to return. “The Chinese market is important for Accor. There is a lot of demand in the second and third tier cities in line with business growth and travel, and hotels are predominately catering to the Chinese market. IT&CM China allows us to build brand exposure for our new hotels where we can secure new leads and businesses from the one-to-one appointments we have with these buyers.”

Vichaya Soonthornsaratoon, Director of Meetings, Incentives and Conventions Department of Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau mirrored his sentiment, “China has been one of Thailand’s top three market sources for MICE travellers for the past five years. In 2013, it rose to claim the number one spot. With such a strong performance record and bright prospects, we need to deepen our focus on China. Through our continuing participation at IT&CM China, we will also create more opportunities for our Thai MICE suppliers to meet Chinese MICE buyers.”

IT&CM China 2015 will take place from 14 to 16 April 2015. For more information on IT&CM China, visit www.itcmchina.com

London topples Paris on being the most visited city in the world

Paris has been toppled by London; its cross channel rival for being the most visited city in Europe by figures recorded by Euromonitor International. Britain recorded a high of 16.8 million arrivals this year as opposed to France which recorded 15.2 million international tourist arrivals.

The other top three cities on the first hundred lists are Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok; they have retained their positions since 2012 and continue to enjoy the tourism inflow from China owing to its proximity to the place.

Chinese tourists are heavily responsible in increasing the statistics of these countries but somehow the numbers do not get translated in China’s inbound market.

Turkey enjoyed a good inflow of Russian tourists . Antalya, Istanbul and Artvin have received more visitors than last year.

Zurich in Switzerland too boasted high visitation rates with arrivals touching up to 23.6 per cent – it welcomed 2.26m arrivals in 2013 with more Chinese and Russian visitors.

Chinese and Russian travellers are making a huge impact. United States is being regarded as the second larger source market for outbound travel. Since 2013 it has continued to maintain this trend and will do so in 2015 according to Eurometer.

Outbound travel had reached its peak in 2007 in the US but went down in 2012. However, with better economy, stronger dollar and lower gas prices there will be a boost in outbound tourism. Caroline Bremner, Euromonitor’s Head of Travel and Tourism said that the neighboring cities Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean will most likely find increased visitation from US travelers.

The figures released by the UNWTO the World Travel Barometer revealed that international tourist arrivals have reached 1,138 million in 2014, a 4.7 per cent increase on last year.

Europe will continue to be the most visited continent with one half of the world international tourists about 558m visitation. The historical values that the Western European cities are attached with continue to attract visitors especially from the US. There has been a marked rise of 22m in the last year.

Tjungu Festival returns to Ayers Rock Resort

Following a sell-out success in its first year, the Tjungu Festival returns to Ayers Rock Resort from Thursday 23 to Sunday 26 April 2015. Tjungu, (pronounced tjoo-ngoo), means meeting together in local Anangu language and will celebrate the best of Australian Indigenous culture. There will be a lively timetable of events featuring everything from culture to film and art, from sport to music, food and fashion.

“Last year’s Tjungu Festival was everything we had hoped it would be – an event that not only showcased Indigenous Culture but had many different highlights that truly did offer something for everyone. This year we hope to not only build on that success but also to add new elements,” said Voyages CEO Andrew Williams.

Australia’s top Indigenous model Samantha Harris will return to once again lead the inspirational Tjungu Fashion Parade, while Mark Olive will also return to present the ‘Tastes of Tjungu’ under the stars dining experience that features an afternoon Master Class and special musical entertainment. Interactive markets showcasing Indigenous art and bush tucker will also return, as will the popular Tjungu Short Film Fest and performances from the Mutitjulu Ninja Circus, a lively youth circus from the local community who perform breathtaking acrobatic stunts.

The festival will kick off with a local Anangu welcome to country with Inma dance and the Tjungu Cup AFL match with special guest’s ex-Melbourne Football Club players, the legendary Russell Robertson and Anangu man Dom Barry.

The musical line-up this year includes performances throughout the weekend from Kristal West, popular performer from The Voice’s ZK, Dewayne Everttsmith who wrote and performed the song featured in Tourism Australia’s latest campaign, NAIDOC artist of the year Jacinta Price and Stewart Gaykamangu, whose song Lorruphu won the NT pop song of the year in 2013.

This year the festival will also feature an Indigenous Anzacs at War Exhibition that allows guests to uncover the individual and family stories of the service and sacrifice of the First Australians. Another new element will be a fascinating presentation by Professor Ray Norris, who will explain how Aboriginal people use the sun, moon and stars for practical and social purposes.

“The exceptional quality of the Indigenous tourism experience at the Resort is already well established and is reflected in a number of recent awards including Best Indigenous Tourism Experience in the Northern Territory. Tjungu is an essential element in taking that experience to an even higher level,’ said Andrew.

“Also important, the majority of Tjungu’s activities are free to all guests which makes this a great value weekend. The only exceptions to this are the Taste of Tjungu, Indigenous Australians at War lunch and the VIP lounge,” added Andrew.

A variety of packages are available for the event:
  • Tjungu 2 Night Package 
From $252 per person twin share
Includes accommodation, access to Tjungu Festival events, return Ayers Rock Airport transfers and free Indigenous activities program.
  • Tjungu 3 Night Package
From $330 per person twin share
Includes accommodation, access to Tjungu Festival events, buffet breakfast daily, return Ayers Rock Airport transfers and free activities program.
  • Tjungu 5 Night Package 
From $380 per person twin share
Includes 5 nights for the price of 3, access to Tjungu Festival events, return Ayers Rock Airport transfers and free Indigenous activities program.

ADD ON: Tastes of Tjungu signature event $250 per adult
Includes Mark Olive masterclass and dinner under the sparkling night sky

For further information go to: https://www.ayersrockresort.com.au/events/detail/Tjungu-Festival
For bookings contact travel@voyages.com.au or 1300 134 004.

Korea Tourism rolls out “Extraordinary Tourist Train”

The Seohae Golden G-train, featuring the world’s first train rooms with “ondol”, Korea’s floor heating system, will be kicking into high gear on February 5, 2015.

The train will depart from Yongsan Station and travel along the west coast to Iksan Station. The route of G-train is specially designed for travelers stopping by major tourists. These seven top tourist spots are nestled along the west coast, and for convenient access, the train will make stops in Asan, Yesan, Hongseong, Boryeong, Seocheon, Gunsan and Iksan.

The train is made up of seven cars, divided into three sections; an engine, a generator and five cabin cars. One car is constructed with ondol, where passengers can stretch their legs out in the room and chat with others. Ondol maru rooms can accommodate three to six people. Also, passengers can relax their feet in a foot spa while sipping tea. Tickets for the foot spa and ondol rooms are available in the train café, located in the third train car.

ROCKING GOOD TIME FOR AUSTRALIA DAY 2015

This year’s The Rocks Australia Day celebrations were a unique blend of culture and community with music fans and families turning out in their thousands despite the weather to experience the best Sydney has to offer.

The Rocks precinct was transformed into a hub of celebration for Australia Day 2015, while the free musical performances featured some of Australia’s best bands and entertainers.

The two live music stages featured an array of musical acts – showing off the diversity of Australia’s musical landscape.

Brisbane’s Thelma Plum impressed with a stunning set – bringing her expansive soundscape to the stage. The stirring live set from her debut EP included the lead single “How Much does Your Love Cost?” and comes off the back of sold-out nationwide shows. Electronic beat makers – Fishing featured special guest, Al Wright, from last year’s headline act Cloud Control and had crowds raising their hands in the air.

Other musical highlights included Saskwatch with their mix of classic soul and R&B, the funky beats of The Bombay Royale, the harmonies of female folk trio Little May and Central Coast Folk Duo, Winterbourne – all of which kept feet shuffling throughout the day on stages at First Fleet Park and The Laneway at Atherden Street.

Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority Chief Executive Officer, Catherine Gallagher said, “We are thrilled to develop an event that energizes our precinct in such a positive way. It is a wonderful way to celebrate Australia Day in The Rocks, promoting local talent, superb musicians, dynamic entertainment and activities.”

“The day went wonderfully and we look forward to rolling out more special events in The Rocks throughout the year.”

In addition to the stellar live music performances George Street played host to the exciting annual GIO Oz Day 10 K wheelchair race supported by the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority. Then from midday George Street South was transformed into ‘The Common’ – a relaxation zone, complete with astro turf, greenery, performances and street party games.

Visitors were encouraged to join in playing a game of croquet as they listened to the count-down of Triple J’s Hottest 100 - proving to be a major event as people came together to celebrate another year of great music.

The returning ‘Sound Garden’ proved popular, with festival-goers creating their own distinct style of music with instruments constructed from recycled materials. George Street was transformed into a living instrument by this hands-on, interactive experience.

Framed by the majestic views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House, and nestled on the edge of the world-famous Sydney Harbour, The Rocks offers an unrivalled blend of the old and the new. From heritage architecture and cobblestone laneways, to stylish modern bars and world-class restaurants it once again provided the perfect setting for Australia Day celebrations.

Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority (SHFA) is proud to manage The Rocks: traditional land of the Cadigal people and the birthplace of European settlement in Australia. Whilst preserving The Rocks’ unique heritage, the Authority produce large scale and intimate quality events, outdoor markets, and educational tours.

TripAdvisor Names World's Best Hotels in 2015 Travelers' Choice Awards

The Langham Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 


TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site*, today announced the winners of its Travelers’ Choice™ awards for Hotels. The 13th annual awards showcase 8,151 winning properties worldwide, covering eight regions around the globe. Travelers’ Choice award winners were determined based on the millions of reviews and opinions collected in a single year from TripAdvisor travelers worldwide. The hallmarks of Travelers’ Choice winners areremarkable service, quality and value.

“TripAdvisor’s community of millions of travelers has helped us highlight some of the very best hotels from around the world,” said Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer for TripAdvisor. “The Travelers’ Choice list of thousands of award-winning properties is perfect to inspire travelers as they think about their 2015 travel plans. From opulent, luxury hotels to budget-friendly B&Bs, those looking for an accommodation can research, compare prices and book a Travelers’ Choice property on TripAdvisor, or any other hotel that meets their travel needs.”

Travelers’ Choice awards take into account the quality and quantity of traveler reviews and opinions and traveler ratings specific to each award category. While these are the favorite hotels of travelers around the world, there are some great bargains available when booking on TripAdvisor. The average nightly rate of Travelers’ Choice award-winning Top Hotels on TripAdvisor is $357; Bargain is $91; B&Bs and Inns is $136; Family is $250; Luxury is $482; Romance is $539; Service is $467 and Small Hotels is $563.

A recent survey of TripAdvisor travelers revealed 82 percent of U.S. respondents feel Travelers’ Choice award recognition is important when considering a hotel.

Top 10 Travelers’ Choice Hotels in the U.S:

1. The Langham Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 

– 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $442. Least expensive month to visit: January ($347)
Since its opening in September 2013, this elegantly modern hotel has impressed TripAdvisor travelers with its commitment to service, luxury, and beyond. Guests praise its 316 spacious rooms that overlook the Chicago River, Mediterranean-inspired Travelle restaurant, and 22,000 square-foot Chuan wellness facility. A TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “This hotel is simply the best; every effort is taken to make you feel appreciated and comfortable. You are treated like royalty throughout your entire stay.”

2. The French Quarter Inn, Charleston, South Carolina

– 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $465. Least expensive month to visit: January ($360)

Located in the center of historic Charleston, this 50-room boutique hotel combines the warmth of Southern hospitality with old world elegance for a memorable experience. Guests will feel pampered by the classic, warm décor in shades of red and gold, as well as the host of complimentary snacks and beverages. A TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “The location is perfect, the rooms immaculate, the wine and cheese, cookies and other surprises were awesome. I could not have had a better night in Charleston.”

3. Bardessono, Yountville, California 

– 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $805. Least expensive month to visit: December ($545)

In the heart of Napa Valley, travelers are invited to immerse themselves in contemporary luxury at this sustainable LEED certified hotel. Each of the 62 guestrooms can accommodate private in-room spa treatments, while the rooftop pool allows guests to unwind under the California sun. Guests won’t have to travel far for an exquisite meal, as the on-site Lucy Restaurant and Bar offers mouthwatering local fare. “Everything about the Bardessono is wonderful. It is peaceful and quiet. It is beautiful. The service is perfect, with every staff member making clear that their goal is to be helpful,” noted a TripAdvisor reviewer.

4. The Grand Del Mar, San Diego, California 

– 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $602. Least expensive month to visit: January ($507)

Located within the Los Penasquitos Canyon Preserve, this 249-room Mediterranean estate boasts a state-of-the-art spa, outstanding restaurants and boutique shopping. Outdoors, guests can lounge by the adults-only relaxation pool, hike along the trails surrounding the magnificent property, or hit the links at the championship golf course. A TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “The Grand Del Mar is the perfect oasis for mind, body, and spirit. From the moment you arrive, the entire staff treats you like royalty, and the facility is elegantly lavish in all the best ways.”

5. Old Edwards Inn and Spa, Highlands, North Carolina 

– 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $312. Least expensive month to visit: March ($228)

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Old Edwards Inn and Spa offers European-style luxury in a tranquil, rustic setting. Guests will enjoy endless recreation exploring nearby hiking trails, lakes, and waterfalls, while the renowned spa invites travelers to kick back for some world class pampering. “The rooms are beautifully appointed, complete with automatic fireplaces and extra jets in the shower. The staff was friendly and responsive; a truly relaxing place in beautiful surroundings,” added a TripAdvisor reviewer.

6. The Oxford Hotel, Bend, Oregon 

– 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $370. Least expensive month to visit: January ($306)

Downtown Bend, just steps from shops, art galleries and world-famous micro-breweries, this “eco-chic” boutique hotel blends luxury, ambiance and outstanding service in all 59 rooms. The premier Cascade Suite comes with a kitchen, large living area, and balcony with sweeping views of the mountains, while the smaller Terrace Suites offer an exclusive King bed and a luxurious bathroom complete with a steam shower and soaking tub. A TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “Very centrally located, accommodating as well as super kind and friendly. So nice to be right in the hub and still have peace and quiet.”

7. 21c Museum Hotel Bentonville, Bentonville, Arkansas 

– 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $251. Least expensive month to visit: February ($224)

Boasting 104 rooms designed by architect Deborah Berke, this boutique hotel is also a contemporary art museum that displays curated rotating exhibitions, dynamic installations and live art events. The inviting accommodations feature high ceilings, custom furnishings, and large windows, while maintaining a warm, residential vibe that TripAdvisor travelers rave about. “Details matter and the 21c Museum has them figured out. Check-in is fast, the rooms are very comfortable. The service exceeded any reasonable expectation,” noted a TripAdvisor reviewer.

8. Villas of Grand Cypress, Orlando, Florida 

– 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $387. Least expensive month to visit: August ($240)

Offering world class amenities, spectacular accommodations, and lush, manicured grounds, this luxurious resort is located within walking distance of a premier golf course. Travelers can also visit nearby amusement parks for a day of fun in the sun, or enjoy a game of tennis or a dip in the pool at the property’s facilities. A TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “Our villa was spacious, clean and very modern. The bathrooms are beautiful, the beds super comfortable, and the kitchen well-equipped. It was so nice to be able to stay in a villa together rather than separate hotel rooms with no common area.”

9. Tivoli Lodge, Vail, Colorado

– 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $327. Least expensive month to visit: May ($147)

Located between Vail Village and Golden Peak, where skiers head onto the mountain, the 66-room Tivoli Lodge is a fantastic option for travelers. Most rooms come with a fireplace and stunning views of the snow covered peaks, while amenities include a fitness center, two outdoor hot tubs, and complimentary fresh baked cookies, hot chocolate, cider and tea. “The rooms are spacious and first-class. The views are breathtaking. The staff was superb. I can honestly say it was one of the finest lodging experiences I have ever had,” noted a TripAdvisor reviewer.

10. The Inn at Lost Creek, Telluride, Colorado 
– 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $295. Least expensive month to visit: May ($203)

Peacefully surrounded by the San Juan Mountains, this luxury slope side hotel offers 29 charming suites and three studios in the heart of Mountain Village. After a day on the slopes, guests can warm up by a roaring fireplace, or venture out and explore the nearby shops and restaurants. A TripAdvisor reviewer commented, “From the well-appointed rooms with spectacular views, to the private rooftop Jacuzzi, and the tasty breakfast, this place has it all!”

Additional Select 2015 Winners:

Gili Lankanfushi Maldives


Top Hotel in the World – Gili Lankanfushi Maldives, Lankanfushi, Maldives

2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $1,733

Top Luxury Hotel in the World – The Place Luxury Boutique Villas, Ko Tao, Thailand

2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $274

Top Luxury Hotel in the U.S. – The Langham, Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $442

Best Bargain Hotel in the World – Lawton Court Hotel, Llandudno, United Kingdom

2015 average nightly rate: $117

Best Bargain Hotel in the U.S. – SeaCoast Inn, Hyannis, Massachusetts

2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $181

Best Hotel for Families in the World – Cavallino Bianco Family Spa Grand Hotel, Ortisei,
Italy

2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $646

Best Hotel for Families in the U.S. – Woodloch Pines Resort, Hawley, Pennsylvania

2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $507

Best Hotel for Romance in the World – The Place Luxury Boutique Villas, Ko Tao, Thailand

2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $274

Best Hotel for Romance in the U.S. – Inn on Oak Creek, Sedona, Arizona

2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $203

Top Small Hotel in the World – The Place Luxury Boutique Villas, Ko Tao, Thailand

2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $274

Top Small Hotel in the U.S. – Palm Springs Rendezvous, Palm Springs, California

2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $230

Best Hotel for Service in the World 

– The Place Luxury Boutique Villas, Ko Tao, Thailand 2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $274

Best Hotel for Service in the U.S. – Hotel California, Palm Springs, California

2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $139

Best B&B and Inn in the World – Millgate Bed & Breakfast, Masham, England

2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $119

Best B&B and Inn in the U.S. – The Welsh Hills Inn, Granville, Ohio

2015 average nightly rate on TripAdvisor: $140

Free Access to Dias Museum on its 26th birthday

The Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex was established on 3 February 1989 as a culmination of the 1988 Dias Festival. Previously known as the Post Office Tree Provincial Museum, it is a government institution which is mandated to preserve and conserve local cultural and natural heritage resources for education and appreciation by local and foreign visitors alike. Since its inception, the museum has become a cornerstone of the tourism industry in Mossel Bay. It contributes to the economic growth of the area by attracting visitors from all over the world who spend money locally. Many people who travel along the Garden Route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth stop off in Mossel Bay to visit the museum and other local tourist attractions.

Members of the public are invited to join the 26th Dias Museum birthday celebration on Sunday, 1 February 2015 at 10:30. The Mayor of Mossel Bay will address the event. Portuguese dancers will entertain the audience. A birthday cake will be cut and shared with those who attend. Everyone is welcome. Entrance to the museum will be free for the whole day.

Western Cape Minister of Cultural Affairs and Sport, Theuns Botha, congratulated the people of Mossel Bay on their museum, and for successfully attracting visitors from around the world for 26 years. “The people of Mossel Bay can be proud of this heritage. I encourage them to take up the invitation and visit the museum on 1 February. It is an opportunity to reinforce your knowledge of the history of Mossel Bay and its people.”

New Year, New Global Initiatives at Best Western

Best Western Australasia, part of The World's Biggest Hotel Family, has ended 2014 with unprecedented success in RevPAR performance and an overall 10% increase in bookings delivered to its member hotels in Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.

The company's revenue was strongly supported by a record 27% rise in Best Western Rewards business. With over 23 million loyalty members worldwide, Best Western Rewards was recently named one of the top three hotel rewards programs by U.S. News and World Report in 2014.
Rob Anderson, Best Western Australasia's Chief Executive is pleased to report the total business delivered to members in the past six years has doubled and new global initiatives are now underway.

Anderson revealed that the brand is looking to deliver even stronger support to member hotels and has pooled global budgets to build a dynamic digital platform.

“The way people book hotels has changed. Best Western International is developing a new digital platform to power our internet and mobile strategies to do things faster and better. This will vastly improve our marketing, content management and time to market,” he said.

Also starting this month (January 2015) is the Best Western Design Excellence Program. The program focuses on creating great property design to produce the best return on investment for member hotels.

Anderson continued, “This program was launched in the United States a few years ago and has proven to be one of the most successful and popular initiatives with members in Best Western's 65-year history. Over the next five years, each hotel will be visited by a design specialist who will formulate a customised property improvement plan.”

New deals were signed in 2014, including a new build of 80 apartment-style rooms on the Sunshine Coast and the signing of The Haven Inn hotel in Sydney's Inner Western suburb of Glebe.

“The quality of our hotels continues to be our greatest strength and something we are all extremely proud of. Last year we saw over 30% of our hotels in Australasia receive a TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence. Our Net Promoter Score, which we regard as the benchmark in customer satisfaction research, has also doubled in the last six years.”

In Asia, the brand's footprint in Indonesia continues to rapidly expand with Best Western International looking to open at least six hotels in 2015, adding to 11 hotels already operating in the country.

“Overall, Asia has experienced spectacular growth for the brand and is a region of focus for Best Western in 2015,” Anderson added.

About Best Western Australasia
Best Western Australasia is part of Best Western International, the World's Biggest Hotel Family, with over 4,000 hotels in more than 100 countries. There are over 170 independently owned and managed Best Western hotels across Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Discover Best Western's three hotel types: BEST WESTERN, BEST WESTERN PLUS and BEST WESTERN PREMIER. Make a reservation at www.bestwestern.com.au or join us at joinbestwestern.com

Follow Best Western:
Facebook: /BestWesternAustralasiaTwitter: @bestwesternoznzInstagram: @bestwesternauLinkedin: Best Western Australasia

Electrosonic Provides AV Support to New “Scotland’s Time Lords” Exhibit at Edinburgh’s Our Dynamic Earth Attraction

Fifteen years after providing the complete audio-visual system for the Our Dynamic Earth attraction, Electrosonic returned to help the science center bring “Scotland’s Time Lords” to life. Electrosonic was charged with the design and systems integration of the AV elements, under subcontract to Studio MB, engineering the new exhibition with reliable components within a simple system architecture.

“Scotland’s Time Lords” introduces visitors to the Scottish scientists who laid the foundation for the modern paradigm of plate tectonics. Three new interlinked galleries take visitors from an 18th century themed classroom with magic blackboards and talking portraits back through Deep Time to the Big Bang and beyond. Visitors learn the impact of James Hutton and Arthur Holmes on the evolution of earth science, and celebrate the fact that scientific discovery is at the heart of Scottish culture.

The journey begins when the visitor passes through oak paneled doors and steps into a 19th century styled lecture room. Eminent geologist and ‘first Time Lord’ James Hutton demonstrates his theories on how the Earth was formed while large blackboards with animated imagery and text stand on either side. Hutton appears to be in the room through an application of the Pepper’s Ghost technique; his image is actually presented on a horizontally-mounted 63-inch Samsung LCD screen. He’s flanked by blackboard-style projection screens, fed by Optoma projectors, illustrating his talk. Portraits of later geologists, all with Scottish ties, are actually 55-inch Samsung LCDs, which come to life to comment on the importance of Hutton’s insights.

The second section looks at the contributions of Arthur Holmes, a professor of geology at Edinburgh University in 1942, whose studies led to the concept of plate tectonics. Visitors view a suspended globe presenting animations explaining plate tectonics and their relevance to earthquake and volcano zones. The globe is a Puffersphere, which uses a ceiling-mounted projectiondesign F32 video projector with a custom lens to project onto the internal surface of the sphere; a computer plays out source images and provides the geometric corrections required to deliver distortion-free images on the globe’s surface.

The Deep Time Machine comprises the third and final portion of the new exhibits. Styled as a large elevator operated by an AMX controller, the gallery transports visitors back in time to the Big Bang, showcasing giant images on 55-inch Samsung LCDs. In a collaboration between Our Dynamic Earth and ISO, new footage offers visitors the chance to witness the development of the universe and the early days of Earth.

When the “elevator doors” open at the conclusion of the journey, visitors exit to the science center’s existing spaceship-themed “How It All Started” show which features a new film produced by National Space Centre Creative (NSC Creative).

Audio equipment for the “Scotland’s Time Lords” exhibit includes Tannoy loudspeakers, Cloud and RSF amps and AMX Precis signal processing.

Most source and control equipment is housed in the existing AV racks in the central control room. HD players for the Time Machine are adjacent to the displays they serve.

The new exhibition was designed by award winning Edinburgh-based exhibition and interpretive design team Studio MB, and the fit-out contractor was Paragon Creative. Show content was conceived by Studio MB and produced by ISO Design of Glasgow. Project management and contract administration was also by Studio MB. Electrosonic supported the project through its local Edinburgh office.

About Electrosonic

Electrosonic, celebrating its 50th anniversary, is an international audio-visual company that creates tailored, state-of-the-art solutions for a wide range of markets including theme parks, museums, control rooms, and corporate meeting rooms. Since its founding in 1964, Electrosonic has built a strong reputation for working on complex projects, both large and small, and has developed lasting partnerships with customers and suppliers. Beyond complete integrated systems, Electrosonic provides a comprehensive scope of services including technical design, projector lamp sales, maintenance and operational support.

Learn more about Electrosonic. Visit http://www.electrosonic.com

New Year - New Side to the Whitsundays

Whitsunday Segway Tours
The Whitsundays has a brand new, land based tourism experience.

Whitsunday Segway Tours commenced operations in December with tours operating in the Conway National Park and along Airlie Beach's scenic Bicentennial Boardwalk.

Owner Zak Kelly said he was excited to launch the business which had been almost two years in the planning.

“We have purchased 8 brand new, top of the range i2 genuine Segways which are solid and stable, with multi-terrain capabilities offering a smooth ride for our guests,” Mr Kelly said.

“We offer two different tours – the first through the Conway National Park commencing at Brandy Creek Road going 9km into the rainforest to Impulse Creek for morning tea; and the second is a sunset tour along the Bicentennial Boardwalk in Airlie Beach, with a stop at Abell Point Marina's 'Barcelona' for Tapas,” he said.

“Having another land based activity will add to the increasingly diverse product offering in Airlie Beach, and shows visitors a different perspective of the area,”

“Both tours are led by an experienced local guide who will offer a personalised experience for our small groups of guests,”

“Guests do not need any previous experience – Segways are very easy to ride and included in our tour is an induction for each rider to ensure they are comfortable,”

“We have invested a lot of time in ensuring we are offering a unique experience of the region, on the very best equipment, and we are excited that all of that has come to fruition with our first guests already raving about the experience."

Whitsunday Segway Tours is open for guests aged 12 and over, weighing between 40kg – 145kg, with the ability to stand unaided. The tours can operate in most weather conditions, subject to safety requirements.

Guests can book direct via the company's website or through local agents and tour desks at accommodation throughout Airlie Beach.

Whitsunday Segway Tours is a locally owned and operated business offering Segway tours through the Whitsundays rainforest or along Airlie Beach's scenic boardwalk. Guests are led by an experienced local guide, each on their own multi-terrain Segway, gaining a unique perspective of these stunning sights. Tours operate daily for small groups of 7 guests each. Private, corporate or group bookings are available.
www.whitsundaysegwaytours.com.au

George Town Walkabout Tour

The George Town Walkabout Tour summarises the UNESCO World Heritage Site's two centuries worth of history into a condensed yet insightful 1.5 hour tour. Cheng Sim found out that is indeed insightful.

If you only have a day to explore George Town, the George Town Walkabout Tour is an affordable introductory tour of what this UNESCO World Heritage Site has to offer. Introduced by Penang Global Tourism, the tour condenses the city’s two-centuries history into an insightful 1.5 hour tour.

The George Town Walkabout Tour begins from the Tourist Information Centre at The Whiteaways Arcade on Lebuh Pantai before making its way to Logan Heritage along the same road that once served as the workplace of lawyer James Richardson Logan in the 1860s. Follow the guide’s lead from Lebuh Pantai to Lebuh Light where you’ll spot the Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower towering over you.

Then take a slow stroll and spot more historical sites like Fort Cornwallis, Esplanade, Town Hall and City Hall, each filled with history and stories of their own - for instance, did you know that Town Hall was featured in one of the courtroom scenes of the 1999 movie ‘Anna and the King’?

street art in George Town.
After venturing into British’s colonial past, the tour makes a turn into Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, the start of George Town’s Street of Harmony where different places of worship exists almost side by side harmoniously. The first to welcome you at Street of Harmony is St. George’s Church, Malaysia’s oldest Anglican church that also houses the Francis Light Memorial. Then, continue to spot other places of worship like Goddess of Mercy Temple, Sri Mahamariamman Temple and Masjid Kapitan Keling.

Saving the best for last, the tour group will then proceed to Lebuh Armenian comprising of traditional shophouses and some shopping. At the start of Lebuh Armenian, take a whiff of the spicy mee goreng from a popular corner stall or sip a refreshing coconut drink. Then peek into one of the few souvenir shops filled with postcards, note books, Penang memorabilia and t-shirts. If you have a bit of time after the tour, there’s also a Batik Painting Museum and the famous ‘two kids on a bicycle’ mural to discover. The tour wraps up with two other murals on Gat Lebuh Armenian painted by Artists for Stray Animals (ASA) before making its way back to Tourist Information Centre at The Whiteaways Arcade.

Queen Victoria Memorial Clock Tower
'George Town Walkabout Tour' is open to local and foreign tourists who wish to explore George Town. This specially-designed tour which is conducted in English, takes 1.5 hours and is priced at RM25 per person. The tour operates every Tues, Thurs and Sat at 10.30am for registered participants and last minute walk-in. Contact Tourist Information Centre at 04-263 1166 for more details or see our tour listing.

Mercure Kicks Off International Casting for a Trip Around the World to Check the "Six Friends Theory"

Mercure has decided to check the well-known six-degrees-of-separation theory, which claims that we are all only six people away from everyone else on the planet. Mercure is introducing a worldwide digital operation, "The Six Friends Theory", based on this principle and leading to an unprecedented human experience combining the power of social media and candid face-to-face encounters. The worldwide selection process will run on Facebook from January 20th to February 10th, 2015, and an internet user will soon be able to experience the extraordinary!

An unprecedented story

The goal is to select a candidate, somewhere around the world, and take him or her to meet an Aboriginal man from the Bundjalung tribe in Australia, and prove that they are only 6 degrees of separation away from each other! They do not know each other yet but will be meeting via a chain of friends, and of "friends' friends" that connects them.

A worldwide casting for everyone

The process to take part in this all-new experiment is simple. Starting on January 20th, internet users will be welcome to post a video up to 1 minute long on Facebook, capturing their personality, what they like, what drives them, their plans, their talents and so forth. Candidates will need to appear in their videos and explain why they believe they are the world's best friend.
Link to apply : www.facebook.com/MercureHotels.fr

Once the videos are up on Mercure's Facebook page, the 50 candidates with the most votes will be short-listed for the final recruitment phase. So candidates will need to get their networks involved and share their videos to get as many votes as possible! A panel of 6 people including Jean-Fran￧ois Julian (a Film Director) and Isabelle Musnik (Editor-in-Chief of INfluencia) will select the winner among the 50 selected candidates, after a final interview.

The casting will run from January 20th to February 10th, 2015 and the results will be announced between February 17th and February 24th, 2015. So it is time for daring ideas and piles imagination to stand out, and for networks to back up their friends and vote them to the top!

Watch the film teaser announcing the operation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-0rO8VTiSg

Friends plotting a trip around the world

This game's first prize is a trip around the world staying in the Mercure network hotels, packed with encounters, discoveries, journeys and all-new experiences!

The winner will spend 7 weeks on the road starting at the beginning of March! "The Six Friends Theory" will encompass 6 encounters, 6 trips and 6 Mercure hotels around the world. At each stop, the Mercure hotelier will welcome the winning candidate and tell him/her where to find his/her next friend. And friends will then treat the candidate on an unprecedented experience, immersed in their local culture, or the friend's pursuits, and then point him/her towards the next step towards the final encounter with the Aboriginal man. This adventure will be creative, human and a lot of fun.

Throughout the journey, the winning candidate will be escorted by a filmmaking team led by Jean-Fran￧ois Julian. This sharp film director has traveled around the world several times and worked on Les Nouveaux Explorateurs, a broadcast on the French channel, Canal+. His job will be to capture these first-ever encounters between the winning candidate and his friends, for posterity.

There will also be something for the other 49 short-listed candidates: they can win nights at Mercure hotels, Samsung tablets or "The Six Friends Theory" prizes.

The more than 700 hotels in Mercure's worldwide network strive to highlight local distinctive features and thereby treat each traveler to a genuine experience in touch with others and sharing with them. That is precisely why this brand has decided to run "The Six Friends Theory", based on a concept imagined by the W&Cie agency. This operation is Mercure's way of showing once again that it is in touch with its time, meaning connected and innovative.

Mercure on Facebook: www.facebook.com/MercureHotels.fr

About Mercure

Mercure is the midscale non-standardized brand of Accor, the world's leading hotel operator with over 3,600 hotels, 460,000 rooms and 170,000 employees in 92 countries. Mercure hotels share common quality standards and are driven by passionate hoteliers. Whether they are located in major city centers, by the seaside or in mountain resorts, each establishment offers an authentic experience for both business and leisure travelers. The Mercure network spans 707 hotels in 53 countries around the globe, represents a real alternative to standardized or independent hotels, and combines the power of an international network with professional and digital expertise. For more information, visit http://www.mercure.com.

Ca Mau looks to earn 13 million USD from tourism

The southernmost province of Ca Mau hopes to receive 970,000 tourists in 2015, including 21,000 international visitors, generating 280 billion VND (13 million USD).

In order to achieve the target, the province aims to establish connections with nearby localities to develop eco-tourism potential in the region, including the Dat Mui commune, Hon Da Bac, and national parks in U Minh Ha.

The province has worked with Ho Chi Minh City, Can Tho City and the provinces of Bac Lieu and Kien Giang to attract more visitors, said Duong Huynh Khai, Director of the provincial Department of Culture, Sports, and Tourism.

The department has submitted to the provincial People’s Committee for approval a 700 billion VND (33 million USD) project on tourism development until 2020.

Ca Mau has also focused on improving the quality and safety of its services, holding promotion events, building staff capacity, and encouraging community-based tourism.

Ca Mau boasts numerous attractive eco-tourism sites, including Hon Khoai Island , a cluster of five islets in Ngoc Hien district covered in undisturbed primeval forests and listed as one of the 10 most beautiful islands in the country in the Viet Nam Book of Records.

Other leading tourism sites in the region include the Dat Mui commune in Ngoc Hien district, Hon Da Bac site in Tran Van Thoi district, the Ca Mau Cape which is the southernmost point of Vietnam and Vo Doi national parks in U Minh Ha area and wild bird gardens.

In 2014, the province welcomed 920,000 tourists, earning 230 billion VND (10.5 million USD), up 9.57 percent from 2013.

ALBERT ‘TIBBY’ COTTER WALKWAY TAKING SHAPE AS WORLD CUP APPROACHES

NSW Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay this week announced a significant milestone in the construction of the Albert ‘Tibby’ Cotter Walkway at Sydney’s Moore Park precinct, with the first main steel bridge spans going into place.

When finished, the bridge will provide a more direct connection between the Sydney CBD and the Moore Park sports precinct, which includes the Sydney Cricket Ground and Allianz Stadium.

“In a few short weeks, the historic walkway will provide visitors and residents of Sydney safer and more direct access to major sporting events and the CBD,” Mr Gay said.

“The first major event will be the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, which was last held in Sydney 23 years ago and will be a proud moment for NSW and our national game.

“The new walkway will benefit close to 1.5 million spectators who visit our major sporting hotpots every year as well as hundreds of thousands of residents travelling to the city every day,” he said.

The Sydney Cricket Ground will play to host several high profile matches during the World Cup, including Australia v Sri Lanka, a Quarter Final and a Semi Final.

NSW is also set to host six free warm-up matches in the lead up to the World Cup, including three in the heart of Western Sydney.

From Monday 9 February, Blacktown International Sportspark and the Sydney Cricket Ground will host matches featuring the likes of England, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the West Indies.

For more details on the event or to arrange a free ticket to a warm-up match go to cricketworldcup.com

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Tjapukai appoints new CEO

Strengthening Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park’s reputation as a leader in Indigenous tourism and employment in Australia will be a priority for incoming Chief Executive Officer Greg Erwin.

Tjapukai Board Chairman Bruce Glanville announced Mr Erwin would step into the role on March 2 so outgoing CEO Geoff Olson could oversee the final stages of the Cultural Park’s $12 million redevelopment.

“Greg has a wealth of tourism experience having spent 20 years in the industry with the past four years as General Manager at Mossman Gorge Centre and 15 years in various management roles with Accor including General Manager of Novotel Cairns,” he said.

“Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park will enter a dynamic new phase in its 28-year history when we unveil the Park’s extensive revitalisation in April.

“The Board is looking forward to be working with Greg as we take Tjapukai forward as Australia’s leading venue to experience Indigenous culture.”

Mr Erwin said he was thrilled with the appointment and was keen to build on Tjapukai’s rich and proud history as the cornerstone of Indigenous tourism in Tropical North Queensland.

“The investment of Indigenous Business Australia in the redevelopment of the Cultural Park underlines their commitment and creates a wonderful opportunity to write a new chapter for Tjapukai,” he said.

“Australian Indigenous tourism is attracting worldwide attention and the redevelopment will enable Tjapukai to benefit from this growth.

“Working with the team at Tjapukai I will ensure we are focused on delivering a world-class product as we strengthen Indigenous employment, build on trade partnerships and maintain a healthy relationship with the Indigenous community.

“We will need to innovate and work hard to ensure the Tjapukai experience matches the fantastic new facilities.”

Tourism Malaysia October Tourist Arrivals Show Positive Growth

Tourist arrivals to Malaysia from January to October 2014 continued to grow, registering a hike of 9.6%. The country received 22.9 million (22,859,448) tourists compared to 20.9 million (20,863,045) tourists for the same period in 2013.

The top 10 tourist generating markets to Malaysia from January to October 2014 were Singapore (11,583,654), Indonesia (2,321,027), China (1,386,053), Thailand (1,102,146), Brunei (985,111), India (643,335), the Philippines (513,313), Australia (479,829), Japan (460,774), and the United Kingdom (377,208).

The number of foreign tourist arrivals in October rose by 6.7% to 2,247,666 tourists from 2,106,569 tourists for the same month in 2013. ASEAN countries continued to be the dominant market in Malaysia’s tourism, accounting for 74.9% share (1.7 million). Among ASEAN countries, Indonesia registered the highest growth of 23.3%, followed by Myanmar (+19.0%), Cambodia (+13.2%), Thailand (+9.8), Brunei (+9.8%), Vietnam (+9.7%), and Singapore (+1.3%).

Garuda Indonesia’s move to increase its Jakarta – Kuala Lumpur flight frequency from 14 flights per week to 18 flights per week since August, as well as the 20% discount offered by AirAsia for its Medan-Kuala Lumpur and Medan-Penang sectors in September, were the major factors that contributed to the upsurge of Indonesian travellers to Malaysia.

Participation in various tourism fairs at major cities in the region, such as Pasai City in the Philippines and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, contributed to the increase of tourist arrivals from ASEAN countries. A joint cooperation with local bank, radio station, and tourism agencies in Brunei, as well as Malaysia Airlines helped increase tourists from Brunei.

The medium-haul markets contributed 18.3% or 411,335 tourists to Malaysia’s total arrivals in October. Countries that registered double-digit growth in October were Oman (+55.5%), India (+50.3%), South Korea (+45.4%), Bangladesh (+33.7%), and Pakistan (+21.3%). Malaysia’s favourable exchange rate contributed to the upsurge of arrivals from India. Tourist arrivals from China registered a 5.9% increase, which signalled a recovery from this important market.

A total of 151,397 tourists or 6.7% of Malaysia’s total arrivals in October were contributed by the long-haul markets. The countries that posted double-digit growth were Poland (+35.5%), Spain (+22.1%), France (+15.1%), Germany (+14.7%), South Africa (+14.5%), Russia (+13.6%), the Netherlands (+13.5%), Denmark (+12.6), and Italy (+11.6%).

The strong promotional efforts in France and Spain contributed to the increase in the number of tourists from both markets. The significant growth in arrivals from Spain was also due to the sponsorship on Sevilla football club since March. Besides that, the set-up of a facebook page in French and Spanish since 2013 has also brought positive results on the arrivals from both countries. The increase in arrivals from Italy was attributed to school holidays and cheaper flight tickets. Many advance bookings were made by European tourists to visit Malaysia as a result of the various joint promotions conducted with the local operators in the European markets.

Meanwhile, arrivals for September 2014 recorded a hike of 6.7% with 2,233,545 tourists compared to the same month of 2013. From January to September 2014, Malaysia welcomed a total of 20.6 million (20,611,782) tourists, registering a hike of 9.9% compared to 18.8 million (18,756,476) tourists for the same period in 2013.

TripAdvisor survey reveals 84% Indian travellers’ hotel choices are influenced by awards and recognitions

  • 6th Edition of the India Awards recognizes 131 Indian Hotels across 8 categories
  • As per a survey conducted along side, 32% Indian respondents plan to stay up to 3-4 times at a hotel in 2015 vs 25%globally
  • Bargain is the most preferred category of hotels to stay in 2015 for Indians with 46% votes (global 33%) followed by All-inclusive- 40% (global 26%), Family – 38% (global 23%), Chain Hotels -33% (global 48%) and Luxury – 30% (global 29%).
  • India shines on Asia map with 28 winsto share the 2nd spot with Thailand, Indonesia leads with 35 wins
  • Sai Vishram Byndoor, Karnataka and The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Rajasthanwin accolades across all three regions: World,Asia and India
  • India leadsinthe Family, B&Bs and Innsand Bargain hotels categoriesin Asiawith 6, 5 &6awards respectively
  • Hotels from Delhihave won12 awards

TripAdvisor®, the world’s largest travel site, today announced the winners of its 2015Travellers’ Choice® awards for hotels. In its 6th year in India, the awards have recognized 131 Indian properties winning 230 awards across 8 categories–BestService, Top Hotels, Bargain, B&Bs and Inns, Family, Luxury, Romance and Small Hotels.Travellers’ Choice award winners were determined based on the millions of reviews and opinions collected in a single year from TripAdvisor travelers worldwide. The hallmarks of Travelers’ Choice winners are remarkable service, quality and value.

Best Ranking Hotels Across Categories in India

# 1 Luxury Oberoi Vanvilas, Rajasthan
# 1 Best Service Oberoi Vanvilas, Rajasthan
# 1 Romance Pearl Palace Heritage – The Boutique Guesthouse, Rajasthan
# 1 B&B SupyarMahal, Rajasthan
# 1 Family Sai VishramByndoor, Karnataka
# 1 Small The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Rajasthan
# 1 Top Wildflower Hall, Himachal Pradesh
# 1 Bargain Kaiya House

Speaking on the announcement Mr. Nikhil Ganju, Country Manager, TripAdvisor India said
“If you’re in the middle of planning your 2015 holiday breaks – both long and short, the Travellers Choice Hotels Awards 2015 lists are the definitive places to start. As we all start gravitating towards experiential holidays and ‘hotels as destinations themselves’, these lists offer enough and more inspiration for discerning travellers looking for remarkable memories, either by themselves or with their loved ones. As ‘lifestyle’ hotels come to dominate these lists, a parallel survey concurred with findings indicating that almost 45% of travellers would opt to stay at ‘Small’ or ‘B&B’s/Inns’ in 2015. The lists have arrived and it’s time for some holiday daydreaming!”

Top 10 Hotels in India

1. Wildflower Hall, Shimla in the Himalayas
2. UmaidBhawan Palace Jodhpur
3. The Oberoi, Mumbai
4. Taj Lake Palace Udaipur
5. Orange County, Coorg
6. Orange County Resorts Kabini
7. The Oberoi, Bangalore
8. The Oberoi Udaivilas
9. Taj Rambagh Palace
10. The Oberoi, Gurgaon
All the lists for 2015 Travellers’ Choice Awards for India can be found here:
http://www.tripadvisor.in/TravelersChoice-Hotels#1

TripAdvisor also revealed results from its survey1conducted to understand traveller preferences regarding ‘Hotel stays’ in 2015. The survey received 19,446 responses across 12 countries including 1,226 responses from India.
  • 84% Indian and 76% globaltravellers said that TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice award recognition is ‘important’ when considering a hotel.
  • 85% Indian and 72% globaltravellerssurveyed said that awards or “best of” recognitions (such as TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice awards) influence their decision to book when researching a hotel.

Commenting on the awards Shri Ramesh Tiwari, IAS, Managing Director & CEO, Delhi Tourism & Transportation Development Corporation says”Delhi is a wonder city. From heritage monuments nestled among modern skyscrapers to fashionable boutiques existing in harmony with Haats, Delhi gives immense opportunities to the explorative lot. Many call Delhi an introductory window to India, and TripAdvisor’sTraveller’s Choice awards for hotels are a measure to the growing popularity of Delhi’s choicest destinations. 12 hotels of Delhi bagging awards in various categories form a raw expression of tourist’s perception and experience in the capital. It is a happy moment for all of us and we take pride in the fact that Delhi is flourishing with a tourist-friendly and hospitable environment.”

Indian Hotels Shine in Asia

India shares the 2nd spotwith Thailand with 28 awards in Asia close on the heels of Indonesia with 35 awards. In fact, 14 Indian hotels have secured spots in the top 10 ranks across 6 categories – Bargain, Family, Luxury, B&Bs and Inns, Small and Top. And though there is a representation in each category in the Asia list, India dominates in theFamily, Bargainand B&BsandInns categories.

Indian Hotels amongst the Top 10 Ranks in Asia

Top Luxury Family

• Wildflower Hall, Himachal Pradesh (#10)
• The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Rajasthan (#4)
• Sai VishramByndoor, Karnataka (#1)
• Marigold Regency, Maharashtra(#8)
• Bamboo Banks Farm Guest House, Tamil Nadu (#9)

B&Bs and Inns Bargain Small

• SupyarMahal, Rajasthan (#3)
• Royal Mist, Kerala (#5)
• Capella, Goa (#7)
• Jaipur Friendly Villa,
Rajasthan (#9)
• Saubhag Bed and Breakfast, New Delhi (#10) • Kaiya House, Kerala (#2)
• Bougainvillea Guest House, Goa (#4)
• Sajhome, Kerala (#7) • The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Rajasthan (#4)

Indian Hospitality Sector

  • Rajasthan once again leads the pack with 36 properties winning 74 awards across 8 categories as against 57 awards last year. The other top performers include Kerala with 35 (26 in 2014), and Karnataka with 28 awards (30 in 2014)
  • The independent hotels successfully continue to grow stronger giving toughcompetition to hotel chains. While Luxury and Top categories are still dominated by hotel chains, standalone and boutique properties dominate rest of the categories

On winning an award, Rajat Verma, Owner, Shanti Home says“TripAdvisor is the Google for the travel world!! If you’re not listed then you’re not in the reckoning. Today when anyone books any hotel anywhere in the world the first thing before booking the guest does is read reviews on TripAdvisor. The rankings and candid reviews are the benchmark between choosing to book or not. As a hotelier and owner of two highly rated properties in India I can only express my gratitude to our guests who reviewed us and to TripAdvisor for creating a level playing field for all hotels regardless of their size and stature. It is TripAdvisor that allows smaller players like us to exist and compete.”

- New Entrants who stole the show:
o SupyarMahal, Rajasthan secures the #1 spot for B&Bs and Inns category in the India list and #2 in the Asia list
o Bamboo Banks Farm Guest House, Tamil Nadu and Keys Hotel Temple Tree, Maharashtra mark a debut in the Family list in India as well as Asia region

- The Oberoi Vanyavilas, Rajasthan has won the most number of awards this year – 8 awards across Best Service, Romance, Luxury and Small categories in the World, Asia and India region.

- Kaiya House, Kerala continues to be number #1 in the Bargain category fourth year in a row

- Delhileads amongst the metros with 12 awards following by Bangalore with 5, Mumbai with 4 and Kolkata with 3 awards