Friday, April 30, 2010

Relax and rejuvenate with a weekend yoga escape by the seaside

Warm up to the idea of a weekend away that's all about you, your mind, body and soul.

Peppers Anchorage resort in the picturesque seaside town of Port Stephens, is hosting a Winter Yoga Escape from May 14-16, and you're invited.

Whether a beginner, a yoga enthusiast or an advanced practitioner, allow the sea to soothe your soul as you indulge in yoga, meditation, outdoor activities and relaxation treatments under the guidance of Yoga TV host Kris McIntyre.

Also enjoy specially prepared food coordinated by Kris McIntyre and Executive Chef Ludovic Poyer, to truly treat you to the very best that your body deserves.

The Winter Yoga Escape costs $235* per person to attend (excluding accommodation), with the weekend designed to be casual, relaxed and suited to all ability levels.

For your weekend course you will receive supper on Friday and Saturday nights, full buffet breakfast daily, lunch on Saturday and Sunday, yoga, meditation sessions, morning hikes to Tomaree Headland and outrigger paddle sessions, a yoga mat and full use of facilities at Peppers Anchorage resort.

Peppers Anchorage is offering special accommodation deals for anyone attending the Winter Yoga Escape – from $460* per person twin share, and $635* per person single share, with both deals including all of the above for the Winter Yoga Escape, as well as two nights accommodation at Peppers Anchorage resort.

There is also some free time each day to explore the beauty of Port Stephens, only two-and-a-half hours drive from Sydney, or perhaps relax at the resort or seek out some extra pampering (at additional cost) with on-site massage and beauty treatments available.

Call Peppers Anchorage on +61 (0)2 4984 2555 or email

*Conditions apply, minimum stays and blockout periods apply. Subject to change and availability

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A new exhibition at the Otago Museum offers a glimpse of some of New Zealand’s best modern architecture. Long Live the Modern will open THIS Saturday 1 May in the People of the World Gallery.

The exhibition explores ‘modern heritage’ with a number of unique and inspiring buildings. Many of these were seen as innovative at the time they were built, and are now considered landmarks, including Dunedin’s Civic Administration building, Public Library and University College.

Long Live the Modern is based on a project and publication which includes 180 public and private buildings, and is focused on initiatives from the twentieth-century which were ‘new’ in every sense of the word – from technology to ways of living.

“Architecture is a subject of significant appeal to Otago audiences and we are pleased to have brought this travelling exhibition to Otago Museum” says Clare Wilson, Director – Exhibitions, Development and Planning. “It is great to be able to draw attention to some of Dunedin’s striking modern buildings through this exhibition.”

The exhibition’s opening weekend will see public events including:
• A walking tour on Saturday 1 May of the University of Otago's modern architecture masterpieces with Associate Professor Linda Tyler, the Director of Auckland University's Centre for New Zealand Art Research and Discovery.
• A bus tour on Sunday 2 May with Associate Professor Tyler to six of Dunedin's modern architecture landmarks.
Bookings are essential and can be made at the Information Desk.

Long Live the Modern is toured by the Gus Fisher Gallery at The University of Auckland.

LONG LIVE THE MODERN: New Zealand’s New Architecture 1904-1984 Opens THIS Saturday 1 May 2010 People of the World Gallery, Level 2 Otago Museum FREE

Modern Treasures – A Walking Tour of Dunedin’s Modern Architecture Saturday 1 May, 1pm $6, bookings essential

Modern Icons – A Bus Tour of Dunedin’s Modern Architecture Sunday 2 May, 1pm $20, bookings essential

Tickets available at the Information Desk, ph 474 7474

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Chanthaburi fruit festival only two days away!

Chanthaburi's annual fruit festival takes place only a few miles away from Faasai, from May 1st-9th.

On the gorgeous lake waterfront of the city of Chanthaburi, you'll have the opportunity to try a myriad of some of Thailand's best tropical fruits and see floats crafted by the locals parade the streets, made from their bounty of fruit.

There are contests in boxing, kayaking, and the "Miss Garden" contest. Of course, if fruit alone can't quite satisfy your hunger, there are plenty of feshly cooked fish, cool drinks,entertainment and more. The event is only two days away, but the festival lasts for nine, so there's plenty of time to experience this unique cultural event in which Chanthaburi showcases its wares of fruit, herbs, spices, aromatic oils, orchids, honey and gemstones. Everyone at Faasai hopes to see you there!

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

World's First Armani Hotel Unveiled in Burj Khalifa, Dubai

The world's first Armani Hotel was opened today by fashion maestro Giorgio Armani and Mohamed Alabbar, Chairman of Emaar Properties PJSC.

With its landmark location inside the iconic Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building developed by Emaar, Armani Hotel Dubai occupies floors concourse to 8 and levels 38 & 39 of Burj Khalifa. It has 160 guest rooms and suites, eight restaurants, exclusive retail outlets and a spa.

Every aspect of the hotel has been designed by Giorgio Armani. He said: "It has long been my dream to have a hotel in which I myself would like to stay and entertain family and friends, where the Armani aesthetic is combined with Italian-style warmth and hospitality. I am thrilled to open the doors of Armani Hotel Dubai and invite my guests in to experience my world."

Mohamed Alabbar said: "Armani Hotel Dubai is a celebration of superior aesthetics and world-class project development competencies. It will be a referral point for luxury hospitality projects and brings global attention to Dubai and Burj Khalifa. This project required extraordinary attention to detail and a commitment to luxury, perfection and excellence. Our guests will experience the passion that has gone into its development across every touch point."

Marking the designer's first foray into the world of hospitality, Armani Hotel Dubai brings to life the Stay with Armani philosophy, promising a "home-away from-home" experience. This approach goes beyond visual aesthetics, offering a new level of service under the Lifestyle Services department. Each guest is assigned a personal Lifestyle Manager who serves as a personal contact from booking through the stay.

The hotel restaurants offer cuisines from Japanese, Indian, Mediterranean and fine-dining Italian. Leisure options include the world's first in-hotel Armani/SPA; Armani/Galleria a haute couture boutique; Armani/Dolci, a luxurious confectionary; and Armani/Fiori, a floral boutique.

Complementing the hotel and located on levels 9 to 16 of Burj Khalifa are Armani Residences, featuring 144 luxurious private residences. A collaboration between Giorgio Armani S.p.A. and Emaar Properties, Armani Hotel Dubai is the first in a collection of hotels, resorts and residences to be unveiled in international destinations.

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Queenstown’s Winter Festival big on laughs

Take a gaggle of gifted comedians, mix in some razor sharp wit, add a dash of sarcasm, the obligatory slagging off a deserving politician or two, and there you have it - a four-night comedy fest guaranteeing giggles galore at this year’s American Express Queenstown Winter Festival.

The cream of New Zealand’s comedians – along with a few up-and-comers making a name for themselves on the comedy circuit - will be doing it for the laughs from 28 June to 1 July.

It all kicks off with the new Canadian Club Comedy Gala, a side-splitting stand-up show hosted by funnymen Ward & Tuthridge.

Jeremy Corbett, Steve Wrigley, Paul Ego, Dai Henwood, Ben Hurley, Jeremy Ellwood and Michelle A’Court bounce off each other during a night of hilarious standup comedy and live stage performance of TV3’s rapid fire satire show ‘7 Days’.

“Picture this,” says Festival Director Simon Green. “It’s Monday night and it’s been a big weekend - there’s been stupid news, big news, unbelievable news and news about us right here in Queenstown.

“Enter two teams of New Zealand’s finest comedic talent to blast the news out of the water, dissect it, lambast each other and take the mickey out of anything and everything, but mostly all the news of the week and each other.”

The comedy gala will be held at the Memorial Hall on Monday 28 June from 7.30pm. Seating is theatre-style and tickets are $69.

The laughs continue on Tuesday 29 and Wednesday 30 June with the Canadian Club Late Night Laughs at the new American Express Ice Box, a silked and chandeliered downtown temporary venue hosting a number of festival events.

The Tuesday night lineup features Dai Henwood as MC, Ben Hurley and Steve Wrigley, three of the funniest chaps in New Zealand who will keep the laughter flowing with their unique and hilarious stand-up routines.

On Wednesday night Jeremy Corbett (MC), Paul Ego, Jeremy Elwood and Michele A‘Court take to the Ice Box stage to deliver a stand-up show guaranteed to have people rolling in the aisles.

Both shows start at 9.30pm and cost $39.

The last laugh (on the comedy nights anyway!) comes on Thursday 1 July in the form of the all-singing all-dancing SKYCITY Cabaret Night. It’s an hilarious evening of non-stop music and comedy from Queenstown’s very own Screaming Banshees, the award-winning Chris and Chet Show and, straight from the NZ International Comedy Festival, Greg Ward and ‘A Brief History of Music’.

Greg Ward is New Zealand’s consummate musical comedian and his show gives the audience a laugh-a-minute look at how music has evolved, from the Big Bang to today’s lip-synching Britney Spears.

Chris Powley and Chet O’Connell will entertain with larger than life impersonations of New Zealand personalities such as the Topp Twins, Dame Kiri te Kanawa and Billy T James. This duo was voted ‘NZ Top Comical Act’ by the Variety Artists Club in 2009.

The cabaret night is R18 and will be held at the American Express Ice Box from 7.00pm. Tickets cost $39.

Mr Green is thrilled with the Festival’s comedy line up.

‘Our comedy nights have always been a real highlight so this year we thought we’d make them bigger and better than ever before,” he said.

Tickets to the Festival’s comedy events can be purchased from TicketDirect online, by phone 0800 224 224 (03 450 9110), in person at the Queenstown Events Centre or Queenstown i-Site (corner of Shotover and Camp streets), or via the Festival website

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010


LAN is again expanding its South American network, with daily flights to the remote and unique Galapagos Islands from September, 2010, and twice-weekly services from Lima, Peru, to the mystical Chilean territory of Easter Island, commencing in November.

From 16 September, LAN Ecuador will fly from the cities of Quito and Guayaquil to Galapagos, a chain of 13 islands located 1000 kilometres west of the South American mainland.

The volcanic islands are rich in history and amazing wildlife, with native animals including the Galapagos Hawk, the Frigate Bird, the Swallow-Tailed Gull and the Galapagos Marine Iguana.

The Galapagos wildlife also played an important part in the theory of evolution espoused by the famous anthropologist Charles Darwin, who arrived on the island of San Christobel in 1845.

Darwin noted physical differences between Galapagos creatures and similar mainland varieties, and concluded that the Galapagos wildlife had physically adapted to the local environment.

LAN Ecuador will operate Airbus A320 aircraft from the mainland to the Galapagos Islands.

Further south and later in the year, LAN Peru will commence twice-weekly flights from Lima to Easter Island, linking two of the most popular destinations in South America, and providing an exciting new itinerary option for tourists.

Easter Island is said to be the world’s most isolated inhabited island. It is estimated by archaeologists to have been discovered by Polynesian explorers in about 400AD, and is best known for its unique “moai” – the giant carved stone statues dotted around the island.

LAN already flies from the Chilean capital Santiago to Easter Island, and the new LAN Peru flights will enable travellers to continue from Easter Island to Peru, or to fly Lima – Easter Island – Santiago.

From Australia and New Zealand, LAN – a member of the global oneworld airline alliance - offers a daily Airbus A340-300 service to Santiago, with onward connections to destinations throughout South America.

LAN Airlines

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Brisbane to lead airport growth

Brisbane is to become the fastest growing airport in Australia by 2030, according to a new government report.

Brisbane will grow 4.9% reaching 51.2 million passengers, while Perth is to grow 4.7%, Darwin 4.4% and Melbourne 4.2%. Sydney is expected to grow only 4%.

The number of people transiting through capital city airports is set to increase by 140% to 235 million by 2030.

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Oberoi Reopens Luxury Property in Mumbai

Nearly 18 months after The Oberoi was reduced to a burnt-out shell by Islamist militants in a three day siege that gripped Mumbai, the luxury property reopened its doors to 40 guests today in a low-key ceremony.

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Airfare prices still dropping for Kiwis

For the period from January to March this year, average airfares still continued to sit at record low prices, with fares dropping both internationally as well as domestically.

In the first quarter of 2010, international airfares fell 8.3% and domestic airfares fell 3.9%, says the Consumer Price Index compiled by Statistics New Zealand. Combined with current exchange rates, the value of international holidays still sit at record lows, says Travel Agents' Association of NZ (TAANZ).

International airfares do traditionally fall in March after airfares peak over the festive season.
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Wine aficionados can become wine makers for a day by learning to bottle their own wine at the Producers of McLaren Vale on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia.

The wine making course has been designed to reflect a growing trend where people are becoming increasingly interested in a more holistic and seasonal way of living. Participants of the course are involved with every step of the process from hand picking the grapes to bottling the wine.

Tourism Australia New Zealand Regional Manager, Jenny Aitken says "South Australia already has such a great reputation for its wine tasting trails, this course really builds on that experience".

After picking the grapes then crushing, plunging, measuring and pouring wine into barrels the course participants have lunch at Producers of McLaren Vale where they can enjoy the farm's produce with a selection of local wines.

Producers of McLaren Vale is only 39km from Adelaide. McLaren Vale is famed as one of Australia's best wine producing regions and boasts over 70 cellar doors.

In addition to wine tours, there is also an abundance of restaurants and other culinary experiences to discover in the region.

March saw the new vintage commence in South Australia but Producers of McLaren Vale offer a number of other seasonal hands-on courses throughout the year where guests can learn to make their own cheese, olive oil, and preserves.

"The extreme pleasure of pulling out a cork, popping the crown seal of your own wine, or tomato sauce, is a sense of moulding destiny" says Producers of McLaren Vale co-owner David Arbon.

Producers of McLaren Vale grow for flavour while ensuring that their everyday management includes care of the environment, wildlife and future of the region.

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To celebrate the launch of its new services to Moscow, Cathay Pacific has released two special introductory offers.

For people heading just to Moscow, Cathay Pacific is offering a special return economy class fare from Auckland to Moscow, starting from just $1919 return plus taxes of $85.00.

Cathay Pacific will start flying from Hong Kong to Moscow three times a week from July 13, and this fare will be available for departures from Auckland from July 12 to November 30. Tickets must be purchased by May 28, 2010.

Cathay Pacific has also released a special fare to London, via Moscow, of just $$1969 + taxes and surcharges of $362.

This airfare is available for departures from July 13 through to November 30 and tickets must be purchased by May 28. Travel on this fare must be via Moscow in both directions and passengers will travel between Moscow and London on Cathay Pacific’s oneworld partner airline, British Airways.

Passengers are permitted to stop over in Moscow in either direction if they wish. However for those that take a stopover on the way to London, on the return journey there is a quick two hour connection from British Airways to the Cathay Pacific flights to Auckland. Alternatively, passengers can pay a surcharge to travel on a direct Cathay Pacific flight from London

Cathay Pacific will be operating to the preferred international airport serving Moscow - the refurbished Domodedovo International Airport - which offers all the facilities expected of a modern international airport.

It should be noted that New Zealand passport holders do not need visas for Russia if they transit and stay airside at Domodedovo airport. Passengers stopping over will require a visa.

Cathay Pacific

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Monday, April 26, 2010


Rydges Hotels and Resorts in Tropical North Queensland has the perfect antidote to winter blues.

Until 17 September, 2010, getaway and stay three nights for the price of two at any one of its four Tropical North Queensland based hotels and resorts.

Choose between Rydges Esplanade Resort, Rydges Tradewinds, Rydges Plaza Cairns or further north at idyllic resort, Rydges Sabaya in Port Douglas. Perhaps the hardest decision will be where to stay and for how long!

This offer can be booked now and is subject to availability for travel up until 17 September 2010. Visit or call the hotel/resort direct as follows:

Rydges Sabaya Resort Port Douglas - phone: 4099 8900
Rydges Esplanade Resort Cairns - phone: 4044 9000
Rydges Tradewinds Cairns - phone: 4053 0300
Rydges Plaza Cairns - phone: 4046 0300

Don't forget the dialling code .... +61 7 !!

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Blasts wound 75 in Thailand

Whilst a little out of date, we felt we should blog this as it details areas to possibly avoid if you are still heading to Bangkok....

Friday, 23 April 2010

Several grenade blasts between pro- and anti-government protesters in Bangkok have killed three and injured more than 70 people overnight.

The blasts occurred in the Silom Road commercial district just after nightfall where pro-government demonstrators had gathered to show their opposition to the Red Shirt protests.

The violence between the two political factions escalated after the five explosions, caused by M79 grenades, with both sides hurling bottles, rocks and firecrackers at each other for more than four hours.

Strangely, the 1500 riot police stationed along Silom Road did nothing to stop the fighting, instead taking shelter in building entrances and under highway overpasses, according to the Globe and Mail.

Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban said that three people were killed while 75 others, including an Australian, were wounded.

The government has said the grenades were fired from the Red Shirt encampment and noted that the M79 grenade launchers had been used before by the Red Shirt demonstrators earlier this month.

However, Red Shirt leaders have denied responsibility for the attack, saying their protest was peaceful.

But whether the explosions came from the pro- or anti- government protesters, the violence, which has gained widespread international attention, has already hampered travel to the capital.

A Tourism Authority of Thailand spokesman told e-Travel Blackboard this morning that a number of MICE groups from Australia had already cancelled their trips to Thailand.

He said around 25 percent of MICE bookings had been lost, including bookings from Orient Express, Access Advance and Stella Travel Group, which was a group of 720 people.

The spokesman added that forward bookings have also “really slowed down.”

DFAT has also increased its travel advisory rating for Thailand, up from ‘high degree of caution’ to ‘reconsider your need to travel’.

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Airlines lose $1.7 billion from volcanic ash

Airlines lost more than $1.7 billion in revenue during the six days after the initial eruption of the Icelandic volcano, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) estimated on Wednesday.

During the three-day period from 17-19 April, when disruptions were greatest, the lost revenues reached $400 million per day.

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Early Easter Drives Record Australian Arrivals

The early Easter break has helped drive a record month for Australian visitor arrivals, with more Australians visiting New Zealand last month than any previous March on record.

Statistics New Zealand figures out today show there were 17,000 more Australian visitors to New Zealand in March 2010, compared with 2009, an increase of 19.8 per cent. This growth helped boost overall visitor arrivals for the month of March by 7.4 per cent compared with last year, to a total of 243,000 visitors.

Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive Kevin Bowler said this marked 12 months of strong growth out of Australia, with holiday arrivals up 26.2 per cent (100,000 visitors) for the year to date. However he noted that the full effect of Easter would not be seen until April figures were available.

“Australia has been our banker market for the past 12 months. High-profile marketing activity has helped keep awareness high, and good deals on travel combined with the favourable exchange rate are keeping interest in New Zealand strong. It is fantastic to see these factors positively impacting travel to New Zealand over Easter,” he said.

“Feedback from the industry suggests we can expect more of the same from Australia for the coming months, with ski season bookings already tracking above last year.

“Joint-venture campaigns with the Regional Tourism Organisations have been underway since February and we are beginning to see early results from that activity.”

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For the first time in New Zealand, the National Geographic channel will broadcast a documentary on one of Victoria’s most prized possessions, the Great Ocean Walk.

Premiering on the 2nd May at 7.30pm, ‘The Art of Walking’ documents the most scenic route in Victoria, 104 kms of wild and rugged coastline stretching from Apollo Bay to the world famous Twelve Apostles and gives insight to the pristine sanctuaries and wildlife walkers will come across on their journey.

The documentary, produced by Tourism Victoria, follows three significant figures embarking on their journey along The Great Ocean Walk on a path to discover ‘The Art of Walking.’

John Francis an Environmentalist and ‘planet walker’, Katrina Witt a former ice-skating champion and Michael Milton a paralympian come face to face with staggering natural scenery that can only be appreciated when taking the journey by foot.

Already popular with Kiwi holiday-makers, The Great Ocean Walk is a must-do Victorian experience that ‘The Art of Walking’ and the National Geographic Channel is bringing to life for New Zealand viewers.

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SKYCITY Auckland’s newly refurbished street-side cafĂ©, Rebo has launched its brand new Express City Lunch Menu which is available Monday to Friday between 12.00pm and 2.00pm. Diners can select one of the delicious options from the menu and pay only $12.00.

On offer are:
· Gourmet pie, Garden salad, Kumara crisps and garlic aioli
· Grilled tiger prawns, Olive oil bread, a Greek salad and basil oil
· Confit duck leg, Potato gnocchi, Green beans, Portobello mushrooms and pan juices

The new menu has been designed to entice the taste buds of regular Rebo visitors, casual SKYCITY visitors, hotel guests and corporate business diners in Auckland’s CBD. The new menu was launched on 19 April and is proving popular with the lunch time crowd looking for a quick, tasty, good value lunch in a stylist environment.

SKYCITY Auckland

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Crown Metropol Opens in Melbourne

Billionaire James Packer and Victorian Premier John Brumby officially opened the 658-room Crown Metropol in Melbourne on 21st April.

Over 250 guests turned out to celebrate the official hotel opening including: Anthony Pratt, Jennifer Keyte, Kate Langbroek, Lillian Frank, Deborah Hutton, Lady Susan Renouf, the Packer clan, top chefs Neil Perry and Guillaume Brahimi, Eddie McGuire, Shane Warne and outspoken chef Gordon Ramsey.

Crown Metropol is home to Ramsay's first Australian restaurant maze and maze Grill.

Crown Metropol also boasts a sky-high residential day spa and a rooftop bar with 180-degree views of Melbourne's skyline.

The hotel was built over 27 months and is expected to accommodate 250,000 guests in its first year.

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Queenstown guided experience specialist, Pure Adventure, is further expanding its share in the luxury holiday market with the purchase of Wanaka based Alpine-Class Tours.

Alpine-Class Tours provide privately guided chauffeured tours and tailor-made holidays for the luxury traveller and has been operating for the last five years.

Pure Adventure owner Steve Robertson believes Alpine-Class Tours is a great fit with his Queenstown company.

“We’re really excited to have this opportunity as Alpine-Class Tours is effectively an extension of our Pure Adventure brand. They too provide unique travel experiences and we look forward to growing both companies together,” he said.

Alpine-Class Tours offers South Island-wide tours, including special interest wine or farm tours, Milford Sound and West Coast excursions and off-road adventures in its supremely comfortable VX Landcruiser.

It can provide luxury airport transfers or transfers between hotels and lodges around the South Island.

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EU sends pensioners packing..

No – this is serious (It’s NOT a late April Fools day joke!) and was announced yesterday in the UK…(!!)Why do you go on an overseas holiday? – Most likely to reward yourself and your partner/family for a years hard work..Aha! Not any more! Now the gnomes in Brussells have declared that that tourism is also a human right and pensioners, youths and those too poor to afford it should have their travel subsidised by the taxpayer. Under the scheme, UK pensioners could be given cut-price trips to Spain, while Greek teenagers could be taken around disused mills in Manchester to experience the cultural diversity of Europe. (whassat?) The idea is the brainchild of Antonio Tajani, the European Union commissioner for enterprise and industry, who was appointed by Silvio Berlusconi, the Italian prime minister. (aha! – that’s the connection = Italy=no work=free holidays!)

The scheme, which is estimated to cost hundreds of millions of pounds a year, is “intended to promote a sense of pride in European culture, bridge the north-south divide in the continent and prop up resorts in their off-season”. (C’mon Aussie C’mon.. how about a Melbourne – Queensland deal like this?) Tajani, who unveiled his plan last week at a ministerial conference in Madrid, believes the days when holidays were a luxury have gone. “Travelling for tourism today is a right. The way we spend our holidays is a formidable indicator of our quality of life,” he said. Tajani, who was a transport commissioner, said he had been able to “affirm the rights of passengers” in his previous office and the next step was to ensure people’s “right to be tourists”.

(The European Union has some experience of subsidised holidays already….In February the EP (European Parliament) provided contributions of up to 50% towards a skiing trip in the Italian Alps for 80 children of Eurocrats…(Shhhh..!!)

Tajani’s scheme will be a pilot project until 2013 and is then planned to be put into full operation. It will be open to pensioners and anyone over 65, young people between 18 and 25, disabled people, and families facing “difficult social, financial or personal” circumstances, with the disabled and the elderly accompanied by another person. In the initial phase, Southern Europeans will be encouraged to visit Northern Europe and vice versa. Details have not yet been finalised, but it is expected the EU will subsidise about 30% of the cost. Officials have envisaged sending Europeans to Manchester (why?) and Liverpool (That will be funny – Italians talking to ‘Scousers’ – need a interpreter for that!) on a tour of “archeological and industrial sites” such as closed factories and power plants. Tajani’s spokesman said: “Why should someone from the Mediterranean not be able to travel to Edinburgh in summer for a breath of cool, fresh air; and why should someone from Edinburgh not be able to travel to Greece in winter?”

The idea is supposedly based on a project in Spain in which holidays in the winter off-season are subsidised by the government for European residents aged 55 and over. Spain calculated that for every €1 it spent in subsidies, €1.6 was gained for its resorts.

Filed by London Based e-Global Travel News Correspondent

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Singapore’s first Banyan Tree Spa to be unveiled at Marina Bay Sands

Marina Bay Sands has added another world-class brand to enhance its guests’ experiences. After more than a decade spent amassing a portfolio of properties around the world,the award-winning Banyan Tree Holdings Limited (“Banyan Tree”) founded by the entrepreneurial Singaporean husband and wife team Ho KwonPing and Claire Chiang, is set to open its very first Banyan Tree Spa on its home ground.

This is a long-anticipated move for what is widely recognized as Singapore’s most successful global hospitality and leading spa brand. This is expected to be a fruitful homecoming for the Singapore-headquartered company which started out as a single resort in Phuket in 1994. The company has since transformed itself into an innovative, vertically integrated business model comprising multiple business segments ranging from architectural and interior design, to hotels, spas, and retail galleries.

“Marina Bay Sands will welcome our first guests soon, and we’re committed to showcasing the best of Singapore – be it brands or people. There’s no better way to do this than to bring home one of Singapore’s most established global brands – Banyan Tree,” said Marina Bay Sands President and CEO Thomas Arasi. “With Banyan Tree’s strong spa management expertise and unparalleled luxurious treatments, we are confident that the spa experience at Marina Bay Sands will be highly sought after by international travelers and Singaporeans alike.”Banyan Tree will design and operate the 20,000 square feet Spa and Health Club located on the 55th floor of the spectacular Marina Bay Sands Hotel, which offers panoramic views of the city.

The Spa will consist of 15 uniquely designed treatment rooms with nature-inspired themes. In addition, the Health Club will feature a gym and cardio corner, Pilates and yoga, as well as a juice spa. On its inaugural opening in Singapore, Banyan Tree Executive Chairman Ho KwonPing said, “We’ve always hoped to have a presence in Singapore and are delighted to be working together with renowned partners such as Marina Bay Sands to launch the first Banyan Tree Spa in Singapore. Banyan Tree is all about creating and delivering unforgettable and memorable guest experiences, and our spas are an integral component of this unique experience. The spectacular location we have found to plant our first flag in Singapore will no doubt reinforce our positioning as a premier spa operator and I am confident we will continue to exceed our customers’ expectations.”

All Banyan Tree spa therapists undergo a certified proprietary training program at the Banyan Tree Spa academies in Phuket and Bangkok, Thailand and Lijiang, China to ensure a consistently high level of service and quality. A pioneer of the tropical garden spa concept, Banyan Tree Spa operates over 60 spas spanning more than 20 countries around the world today, and has close to 50 more spas scheduled to open
by 2013.

The Health Club at Marina Bay Sands will be opened first in mid-2010, followed by the Spa. The two facilities will be enjoyed by guests staying in the hotel. In the pipeline are exclusive memberships for a select group of clientele. With 2,560 rooms and suites, Marina Bay Sands Hotel will set new benchmarks with its luxury accommodation, personalized service and round-the-clock dining options. Its three stunning hotel towers are capped by the Sands SkyPark, creating a new landmark in Singapore with its iconic design.

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Soak in the old world charm of Luang Prabang, Laos, at Maison Souvannaphoum Hotel and receive the royal treatment with ‘A Princely Experience’.

The former residence of Prince Souvannaphouma – where the Maison Room was the Prince’s bedroom – the hotel has since been restored, providing travellers a tranquil retreat within the historic UNESCO world heritage city. ‘A Princely Experience’ is valid from now to 23 December 2010 and starts from USD 360++ per night in the Maison Room with a minimum two-night stay.

Princely Pursuits
Package highlights include US$100 complimentary spending credits which can be used to offset charges for spa treatments, dining and purchases at Angsana Gallery and two 90-minute “A Royal Treatment” sessions at Angsana Spa, designed to relieve stiffness and promote flexibility using a combination of Thai massage techniques with western aroma massage.

Guests will also enjoy a daily international breakfast buffet at Elephant Blanc, round-trip car transfers and a specially prepared dinner featuring traditional Lao cuisine that were the Prince’s favourites. The set dinner features larb sin moo (spicy pork salad with herbs and lime juice) and ping pa ho baitong (grilled marinated fish in banana leaves), alongside a glass of champagne. During the course of their stay, guests can also relax at the Pool Bar with a complimentary ‘Prince’ cocktail – a refreshing blend of Malibu, orange and pineapple juices, specially created for this package.

Tastefully furnished with a blend of French colonial style, traditional Lao design and contemporary amenities, the 68sqm Maison Room comes with a balcony where guests can enjoy a private meal or drinks in the evening. Guests can also enjoy a romantic aromatherapy bath in the bathtub after a day of visiting temples and villages.

Maison Souvannaphoum Hote at +856 71 254609

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Skydive Lake Wanaka purchases new aircraft

Skydive Lake Wanaka has purchased a $2 million purpose-built Cresco Xstol aeroplane that will help increase passenger capacity.

The larger interior of the aircraft will double the current passenger capacity and the Pratt and Whitney 750 horse powered turbine engine will lower noise levels.

The aircraft features more comfortable seating and larger windows for jumpers to capture Wanaka’s spectacular mountain and lake views on their way to altitude.

“The purchase of the new plane follows 15 years of reinvestment in to the business. We are constantly striving to enhance our customers’ experience as well as undertake steps to be environmentally responsible operators,” said Skydive Lake Wanaka owner Jools Hall.

The Cresco Xstol is the next model up from the Cresco aircraft, currently used by Skydive Lake Wanaka. It is expected to be delivered in November 2010.

The company has achieved Tourism New Zealand’s Qualmark Green rating for environmentally responsible tourism attaining an Enviro-Silver ranking this year.

Last year, Skydive Lake Wanaka was presented with New Zealand Tourism Award for the best small operator in New Zealand.

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Freedom camping in NZ - on its way out?

Is it really about the environment, or is it more about the money to be made, especially during RWC?!

Forum takes firm stand on freedom camping

Campervan hirers are to be told it is not acceptable to camp anywhere but designated camping areas, the New Zealand Freedom Camping Forum has agreed.

People hiring non-self-contained vehicles will be instructed not to freedom camp. They will be directed to designated camping areas, like holiday parks, Department of Conservation (DOC) camp sites and other designated camping spaces.

The Forum – which includes representatives from rental vehicle operators, local government, tourism organisations and central government – met in Auckland yesterday to discuss growing concerns about the impacts of freedom camping in several parts of New Zealand.

Tourism Industry Association Advocacy Manager Geoff Ensor, who chaired the meeting, says all parties recognised the increasing public antagonism to freedom camping and were committed to taking action.

“The right to freedom camp is a New Zealand birthright and we don’t want to see it banned, but we must take action to protect our environment and our international reputation as a friendly, welcoming destination,” Mr Ensor says.

The Forum agreed on a set of more than 30 actions that will be undertaken by rental vehicle operators, local government and tourism organisations to improve the behaviour of campers.

These included a commitment from the rental vehicle operators at the meeting to inform clients from the time they book vehicles that it is not acceptable to camp outside designated camping areas.

“This is a huge step forward. Operators representing about 80% of the rental vehicle fleet and the New Zealand Motor Caravan Association, which represents 80% of private motor home owners, were at the Forum and agreed to these actions. They will also talk to others in the industry to ensure this happens across the board,” Mr Ensor says.

Local government representatives will advocate for legislation establishing a national instant fine system that councils will be able to use to better enforce freedom camping rules in their areas.

They will also work to better inform people about where they are allowed to camp in each region. Efforts will also be targeted at people buying private vehicles to use while camping around New Zealand.

“At present, each council has different rules about freedom camping. Local government has agreed to develop a model bylaw and share best-practice freedom camping management models from around the country. We will also be making more effort to ensure travellers are aware of the rules as they move about the country, through the i-SITE information network, DOC visitor centres, holiday parks, tourism operators, websites and social media,” Mr Ensor says.

The Forum is confident that the actions it will undertake over the next few months will make significant improvements to the management of freedom camping, Mr Ensor says.

“The industry and local government recognise that the time has come for decisive action. We will continue to work closely together to ensure we are doing all we can, particularly in the run-up to Rugby World Cup 2011,” Mr Ensor says.

Visit the Freedom Camping Forum website

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