Thailand newest boutique hotel opening 1 Jan - 137 Pillars House Chiang Mai


From Historic Colonial Residence to Stunning 30 Suite Hotel

Opening January 1st, 2012

The stunning new 30 suite 137 Pillars House, Chiang Mai has a prime location in a tropical enclave near the Ping River; adjacent to the famous Wat Gate Khar Rham Temple.   The hotel will open on January 1st, 2012.

The hotel offers guests every modern luxury, combined with the revival of 19th Century oriental elegance and nostalgic ambiance from its former days as the homestead of the Manager of the British East Borneo Company. Nearby cultural treasures await discovery as do the spa's Thai and aromatherapy treatments.

137 Pillars House is managed by SilverNeedle Hospitality and is a member of Small Luxury Hotels.

Historic Past

Founded in 1296, Chiang Mai was a prosperous trading center on the route from China and Burma.   A city wall was built to protect the city, much of which is still visible and parts of which have been restored.   

Wat Gate, the area of Chiang Mai surrounding 137 Pillars House, was formerly designated to foreigners. The traditional Thai temple complex of multiple pagodas and living quarters is also home to Wat Gate Khar Rham Museum, founded by former 137 Pillars House owner Jack Bain.   It is filled with quirky memorabilia from ancient farm tools and pottery to ornate clothing of the Chiang Mai Royalty plus an extensive collection of historic photographs.

Guest Quarters

Four stunning suite types range from 70 square meters up to 135 square meters, each named after a famous Colonial settler.

Architectural historians and conservationists worked meticulously to retain the integrity of the original 1889 structure at 137 Pillars House. Tiled verandas, cane shades, rattan furniture and free standing Victorian baths are reminders of days gone by, blended with the modern facilities including outdoor garden showers, flat screen televisions and the all-important wi-fi access.  Private Pools (5.5 x 2.5 meters) are featured in the two Louis Leonowens Suites.

Grounds and Gardens

Prior to its transformation, much of 137 Pillars House was enveloped in tropical northern Thai forest.  The elegant Lady Palm and Mimosa trees were retained to honor the property's unique heritage while creating shade and breeze along the stone walkways. Fragrant, indigenous blooms line the original elephant path, a favorite outdoor reminder of 137 Pillars House's historical past.

In the hotel's Market Garden, the 137 Pillars House Master Gardener takes full advantage of Chiang Mai's cooler climate to grow organic fruit and vegetables.   He collaborates directly with the Executive Chef and is available upon request to guide guests through this edible landscape.

Guest entertainment on The Lawn is regularly scheduled, including Thai music and dancing, cocktails parties and cultural lectures.

Drinks and Dining - A range of options include:

The Library Bar - guests can linger over fresh fruit drinks, Italian and local coffee and teas, wines, brandy, port, sherry, cognacs and aperitifs.

The Parlor - afternoon high tea is served in the classic style as Chiang Mai's early foreign visitors enjoyed, with bespoke tea blends, coffee concoctions and complimentary Thai sweets.

The Wine Cellar – serving a selection of New and Old World vintages from around the world, including notable Thai wines. 

The Dining Room - for breakfast, lunch and dinner, The Dining Room adjacent to Pillars House is a stylish yet comfortable environment to savor our favorite recipes prepared with fresh organic ingredients.

The Kitchen - a showpiece and gathering place for Thai cooking demonstrations. 

Private Dining - in-suite dining or dine in a private spot on the grounds. Set at least one night aside for our chef's BBQ on the expansive verandah of your suite. For adventure filled days or upon departure, allow our kitchen team to prepare gourmet picnic baskets and light lunch boxes good to go.

Additional Features:

The Drawing Room

The 19th century directors of the British Borneo Company would certainly be impressed by our fully modern meeting facility supported by all necessary business centre services. It is the ideal venue for a small private dining function, social gathering or business meeting for up to 25 people.


Relaxation and Recreation

The Spa

Classical and current massage and spa treatments include Aromatherapy, Thai Massage and Yoga with private lessons available.   Beauty rituals integrate local organics and ancient secrets.  Essential oils are distilled on site and freshly made beauty products come straight from our organic garden.

The Gymnasium

The gym is equipped with the latest multi-station free unit and free weights as well as computer controlled cardio-vascular equipment.  

Swimming Pool

Dive into the shimmering 25 x 5.5 metre pool, where snacks, sweets and fresh fruit drinks, as well as items off the main menus are delivered by attentive staff who drop by with complimentary homemade sorbet, cool mineral water, cold towels and atomizer mist.  

Opening Rate

Opening rates start from THB 12,333 (USD 400) per night, plus applicable service charge and Government taxes. 

For more information and reservations, please contact Zulkifli Rahman, Director of Sales & Marketing for 137 Pillars House on:

Mobile:   +66 81 55 34 871


Website: (coming soon) or


Prestigious accolades for 2011 NSW Tourism Awards Winners

Winners of the Caravan & Camping Industry NSW

Tourism Industry Council NSW Chair, Ken Corbett

Minister for Tourism – George Souris
Winners of the 2011 NSW Tourism Awards
MC Mike Whitney, Jon Hutchinson and Minister George Souris
Mr Percival enthralling the crowd

From adventure pursuits such as Tri State Safaris in the outback and Sydney Harbour YHA backpacker accommodation, to Indigenous Tourism leaders Coffs Coast Aboriginal Discovery and major tourist attraction The Magic of Jenolan, NSW's most innovative and outstanding tourism businesses were recognised last night in Sydney as the winners of the 2011 NSW Tourism Awards.

Recognising 30 categories of tourism operators from NSW's exciting tourism industry, the winners were judged from hundreds of entries covering restaurant and catering services, accommodation, tourism education and training, heritage and cultural tourism, festivals and events.

Now in its 22nd year, the NSW Tourism Awards managed by Tourism Industry Council NSW supports the development of the tourism industry which contributes $28.7 billion per year to the NSW economy.

The depth of offering and professional calibre of product has strongly grown since the awards began and Ken Corbett, Chairman, Tourism Industry Council NSW, said that the range of entries symbolises that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, especially in the many small businesses that make up the industry.

"Small businesses are a vital element to the NSW tourism landscape. The value that they bring to providing employment opportunities to their regions cannot be underestimated.

"This year the winners demonstrated an enormous amount of pride in what they do; this exceptional pride in their product is exemplified in the innovative thinking and dedication to client experiences that we see all around the state," said Mr Corbett.

Jon Hutchinson, outgoing CEO of Business Events Sydney was recognised for his Outstanding Contribution to Tourism and Lori Modde was recognised for her Outstanding Contribution to Regional Tourism.

The Young Achiever award was presented to Ollie Philpot, CEO of Central Coast Tourism.

The 2011 NSW Tourism Awards were announced at the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Centre in front of 700 people. The NSW Tourism Award winners will automatically become finalists in the National Tourism Awards, to be held in Cairns in March 2012.

The Full List of Winners:

Category                                                        Winner

Adventure Tourism                                          Tri State Safaris

Backpacker Accommodation                         Sydney Harbour YHA

Deluxe Accommodation                  Macquarie Waters Boutique Apartment Hotel

Ecotourism                                                    Lane Cove River Tourist Park

Festivals and Events                NSW Caravan, Camping, RV & Holiday Supershow

Heritage and Cultural Tourism                      Written in Stone

Hosted Accommodation                           Mollymook Beach Waterfront

Indigenous Tourism                          Coffs Coast Aboriginal Discovery

Luxury Accommodation                         Sheraton on the Park

Major Festivals and Events                     Bluesfest Byron Bay

Major Tour and/or Transport Operators            Moonshadow Cruises

Major Tourist Attractions                                   Taronga Zoo

Meetings and Business Tourism                   Shoal Bay Resort & Spa

New Tourism Development                              Tandara

Outstanding Contribution to Regional Tourism       Lori Modde

Outstanding Contribution to Tourism by an Individual          Jon Hutchison

QANTAS Award for Excellence in Sustainable Tourism  Lane Cove River Tourist Park

Specialised Tourism Services                      Newcastle Airport

Standard Accommodation                     Scone Motor Inn

Tour and/or Transport Operators             Tri State Safaris

Tourism Education and Training              Travel 21fiftythree

Tourism Marketing                             The Legendary Pacific Coast

Tourism Restaurants and Catering Services        Margan Restaurant

Tourism Wineries, Distilleries and Boutique Breweries       Wyndham Estate Winery

Tourist and Caravan Parks        BIG4 North Star Holiday Resort & Caravan Park

Tourist Attractions                             The Magic of Jenolan

Tourist Pubs                            Shoal Bay Country Club Hotel

Unique Accommodation                 Somewhere Unique – An Escape for 2 in the Hunter

Visitor Information and Services     Greater Port Macquarie Visitor Information Centre

Young Achiever in Tourism Award                 Ollie Philpot


New Sofitel opening in 2014 will become the city's tallest building

Sofitel Luxury Hotels today announced the opening of a prestigious, new 325-room hotel in the booming city of Foshan in 2014, which, at 236 meters tall, will become the city's tallest building. Foshan is a centuries-old but fast-growing city in China's Guangdong Province and has long been famous for its furniture, porcelain and martial arts industries.

Set to become one of Foshan's most instantly recognizable and luxurious hotels with unmatched visibility, the towering Sofitel Foshan will become a focal point of the 2nd phase of the Foshan Louvre International Furniture Exhibition Center – the biggest furniture exhibition mall in China. The Sofitel Foshan will feature 325 spacious hotel rooms and suites, four restaurants and three bars, a large pillar-free ballroom, ten meeting rooms of various sizes, the group's signature So SPA, a fitness center, a yoga room, a beauty salon and an indoor swimming pool. It will also have an executive lounge, which is complemented by a fully equipped business center, and 280 parking stalls. The stunning skyscraper will offer the first onsite luxury accommodation to Lecong's huge amount of daily furniture customers, as well as tourists and business travelers.

The Sofitel Foshan is being developed by Guangdong Louvre International Furniture Exhibition Center Co., Ltd. (whose parent company is Louvre International Furniture Group), and will be strategically located in Lecong – the largest high-end furniture trading center in the world.

Positioning the hotel in Lecong, where over 25,000 local and international customers including furniture wholesalers daily, makes the Sofitel Foshan an ideal choice for furniture shoppers as well as leisure and business visitors. For those wishing to visit the city's many cultural sites, the popular urban hub Dong Ping New Town is just five minutes away, downtown Foshan is a 15 minute drive and, for business, the Nanhai Financial District is 25 minutes away. Guangzhou is now easy to access from Foshan after the recent successful merging of the two cities by expressways and subways, while Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport is approximately 50 minutes away.

Ms Chen Gui Fang, General Manager of Louvre International Furniture Group, said, "Louvre International Furniture Group is one of the largest furniture wholesale and retail companies in China with customers from all over the world. Proving that high-end furniture shopping is big business in Foshan, Guangdong Louvre International Furniture Exhibition Center Co., Ltd. is committed to its first international brand hotel, the Sofitel Foshan, and the unparalleled convenience it offers in this bustling district."

Responding to the new project, Markland Blaiklock, Senior Vice President of Sofitel Asia Pacific said "Sofitel Foshan will be an inspiring project in Foshan, the fast growing city in Guangdong Province. With its latest address Sofitel Luxury Hotels will further reinforce its strong presence in the Pearl River Delta with hotels and resorts already established in Dongguan, Macau and most recently in Guangzhou."

Discover Sofitel on

Wolgan Valley Honoured with Condé Nast Traveler's World Savers Award

Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa General Manager Joost Heymeijer hands the Conde Nast Traveler's World Savers Award to Phil Cram, Facilities Manager and Ben Boothby, Senior Field Guide with the resort's Conservation Team.
Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa, the world's first internationally accredited carbon-neutral resort, has been honoured at the prestigious 2011 World Savers Award for its pioneering work and commitment to wildlife conservation.

The Condé Nast Traveler's fifth annual World Savers Awards acclaims travel companies from around the world for their leadership in social responsibility. The rigorous process is judged across six categories including wildlife conservation, poverty relief, environmental and cultural preservation, education, and health initiatives.

"In just two years of opening, we're incredibly humbled to receive another global accolade for our commitment to wildlife conservation. From the outset, the resort has been built on the philosophy of complete integration with the Australian environment and a focus on endangered species protection," said Joost Heymeijer, General Manager, Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa. 

Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa
A scenic three-hour drive from Sydney, Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa is nestled between two of Australia's most prominent national parks and borders the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. The resort itself occupies just two per cent of the Emirates-owned 4,000-acre property, and combines the expectations of the high-end traveller with a commitment to broader social, ecological and environmental sustainability.

Travellers have become sensitive to environmental issues - in particular their own impact on the locations and communities they visit. They are equally are not expecting to lower their standards, and the quality of their experiences when travelling. 

"When guests stay at Wolgan Valley, they immediately recognise our ethos and ongoing commitment to be truly environmentally and socially responsible; and of course also appreciate the unique, luxury world-class experiences delivered by Emirates have not been compromised.

"We commend our colleagues in Australia and around the world who are making contributions to become more socially responsible. We hope these efforts continue to protect our naturally beautiful landmarks and locations, ensuring our industry grows and prospers," concluded Mr Heymeijer.

With approximately 4,000 acres of land dedicated as a wildlife reserve, the Wolgan conservancy project re-establishes and secures a future for many of the region's indigenous and endangered species, which were under critical pressure from introduced flora and feral predators – the major cause of species extinction in Australia.

To date, over 175,000 indigenous trees have been planted in wildlife corridors and along creek banks at Wolgan Valley. The resort also incorporates many Ecologically Sustainable Design principles and resource-saving technologies, ranging from rainwater collection, full recycling of all domestic water, heat exchange technology to reduce electricity consumption and the use of solar panels for all hot water systems.

For further information on the conservation policies and work at Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa please visit

It's Official ...The Villas Voted Indonesia's Best Spa Resort

The Villas Bali Hotel & Spa in Seminyak has been announced as Indonesia's Leading Spa Resort 2011/2012 by Indonesia Travel & Tourism Award Foundation and The Board of Advisors at a glittering awards ceremony in Jakarta.

Industry representatives gathered at the gala dinner, which has been dubbed the Oscars of the Indonesian Tourism Industry, to recognise outstanding success by Indonesia's tourism businesses.

General Manger Andrew Keating said, "on behalf of our loyal staff I am delighted to have The Villas recognised by the renowned Indonesia Travel & Tourism Award Foundation and look forward to continuing to build the strong brand position The Villas & Prana Spa already enjoys".

The Villas Bali Hotel & Spa has established itself as one of Bali's finest and most enchanting villa style hotel resorts. The consistent level of service through high staff-to-guest ratios combined with an exceptional range of pampering treatments in Prana Spa ensures a true indulgent experience which has resulted in the Villas not only being awarded this latest award as Indonesia's Leading Spa Resort, but also joins the prestigious Trip Advisor award earlier this year having been voted in the Top 10 Relaxation/Spa Hotels across Asia.

The Villas has invested strongly through innovation in a range of areas to keep the Villas & Prana Spa top of mind among potential visitors. "This ITTA category win recognises the important work we have done and continue to do in this area."

"Spa culture has gained significant importance over the last few years and we made the conscious decision not to limit ourselves, we have created a great range of treatment options in line with the latest innovations and evolved The Villas into a sanctuary of well-being dedicated to relaxation," Mr Keating continued.

Timed to coincide with the winning of such a major award, The Villas and Prana Spa has a special deal on offer for direct bookings only, for a holiday of 3 nights or more, each new booking will enjoy a complimentary 2 hour Ayurvedic Simple Bliss Package in Prana Spa for each adult within the booking. (T&C's apply including - Must be booked and taken between 18th November 2011 and 29th February 2012 also not available from the 19th of December 2011 till the 5th of January 2012, subject to availability, please ask for further information).

Further information -

Romantic Bali Spa Resort The Dreamland Joins Worldhotels

Global network attracting independent and unique properties

Global network for independent and unique properties Worldhotels has welcomed one of Bali's most romantic spa resorts, The Dreamland Villas & Spa, to its fast-growing Asia-Pacific portfolio.

The boutique resort is blessed with a spectacular location on the southernmost peninsula of Bali, overlooking Uluwatu's historic Hindu temple and Jimbaran's famous surfing beaches.

It is just minutes from Padang Padang beach, location for the recent Hollywood movie Eat, Pray and Love starring Julia Roberts.

Ideal for similar romantic adventures, The Dreamland Villas & Spa features 42 luxury villas, each with their own swimming pool, private courtyard and open-air pavilion.

Inspired by Indonesia's wealth of healing and beauty traditions, The Dreamland Spa is a journey of indulgence, from sauna to plunge pool, flower or milk bath, and pampering that can be shared with loved ones.

The idyllic retreat also neighbours the New Kuta championship golf course, with some of the most challenging links holes in the world.

A complimentary shuttle service links the romantic resort to nearby beaches and tourist centres of Kuta and Nusa Dua. For guests staying 3 consecutive nights, the hotel offers 10% off and return airport transfer.

Worldhotels Vice President Asia-Pacific Roland Jegge said: "The competitive edge to be gained from joining our global marketing and distribution network is proving increasingly attractive to both independent hospitality brands and unique boutique properties such as Dreamland."

For the most up-to-date news follow Worldhotels on Facebook and Twitter.

Australia Toll free: 1-800-55 35 49 For groups:  61-2-8399 2210

Traveltalk November 2011

Australia's favourite travel news magazine now online

Stranded passengers forced to pay airline fuel bill

Source: TravelMole

Passengers on a flight from India to Britain claim they were forced to fork out more than $31,000 in cash to pay for fuel to allow the plane to complete the journey, UK media reports.

More than 180 passengers on a chartered Austrian Comtel Air flight from Amritsar to Birmingham were stranded on the tarmac in Vienna during a refuelling stop after being told the airline "ran out of cash to fund the last leg of the trip", London's Daily Telegraph reported.

Passengers said the airline then threatened to remove their luggage from the plane if they did not pay up.

The passengers, who reportedly paid about $780 each for their flight, refused to get off the plane in a six-hour standoff.

The dispute was finally resolved when Austrian police were called and the passengers were escorted to ATMs to withdraw cash.

Bhunpinder Kandra, director of passenger services for Comtel Air, told BBC News that "there may have been some operational problem" in Vienna but denied people were asked to pay towards more fuel.

But the Press Association reported him saying: "I have heard what happened, it shouldn't have happened, and I will investigate why it happened.

"The people who had to pay the money will receive a refund."

Skimax New Zealand Winter Holiday Packages

Skimax has been creating well-priced winter holidays to New Zealand's North and South Island for well over a decade.
As always, the competitive cost of its skier and boarder-friendly winter holiday packages to NZ's most popular ski areas is a major factor. However, for this winter there are additional offers that will entice more Australian skiers and boarders across the Tasman.
One. which is bound to appeal to cost-conscious families, is Kids 10 years and under stay and eat Free at selected Methven (Mt Hutt's closest ski town) hotels and there's no charge for using Mt Hutt's ski lifts if accompanied by one paying adult.
A Skimax consultant can provide all the details of that offer and its one Free night and one day's Free car hire with a large variety of Skimax New Zealand Earlybird packages.
Some examples of Skimax Ski New Zealand 2012 Early Bird offers:

Ski Queenstown from $579 pp twin share includes the use of a rental car for seven days, seven nights  accommodation at Sherwood Hotel and a three-day ski pass valid at Coronet Peak or The Remarkables.

An earlybird weeklong holiday in picture-postcard Wanaka, the closest ski town to Treble Cone and Cardrona, costs from $565 pp twin share with seven nights accommodation at Base Backpackers and a three day ski pass valid at Treble Cone or Cardrona.

 A Methven-based Earlybird package costs from $629 pp twin share. Included is seven days use of a rental car, seven nights at Forest Lodge, daily continental breakfast and a three-day ski pass for use of all lifts at Mt Hutt.

 For even more Ski New Zealand Earlybird Savings, which must be booked and paid for by 15 January 2012, visit the Skimax website 

Or call its National Reservation number 1300 136 997

Phuket renewed in chic style at Club Med


For Easter enjoy a taste of Thai at Club Med's amazing beachside Resort

Club Med Phuket will be looking brand new later this year after a stunning makeover that highlights its Thai culture, French influence and all set in the breathtaking seaside location of Phuket - the Pearl of the Orient. The new look oozes splashes of traditional Thai colours of purple and gold, and reflects French flair with design elements that will delight all guests from tots to teens and mums and dads to grandparents alike, wherever they turn.

Hugging the white sand beach in the peaceful and still waters of Kata Bay, the established tropical gardens encircle the accommodation wings, and a Mandara Spa secluded under the canopy soothes frayed nerves and eases tired muscles into holiday mode.

The new lobby & Reception welcomes travelers with a Thai inspired temple style entrance in red and gold. Comfortable sofas and low tables add a royal ambiance.

The new focal point of the resort will be a new and spectacular Thai boat oval bar. The color purple takes centre stage with a mix of bright colors to add modernity to traditional Thai design. It is an ideal spot for conviviality and meeting new friends. The expanded lounge is surrounded by armchairs and sofas that all reflect the same color and pattern effects. Together with its low wooden tables by local artisans, it is the perfect place to unwind with a cool drink or a snack.

Bali's hugely successful "quiet pool" concept is being replicated in the Phuket Resort, with an adults only pool area and tranquil zone with spectacular views right onto Kata Bay. Surrounded by super comfy long chairs and gazebos, it provides peace and intimacy for over 18's.

The restaurants have been divided into "stylized boutique zones' each with a different interpretation of Thai culture and offering gourmet cuisines from around the globe, many cooked before your eyes at food stations to ensure fresh and appetizing options. The 5 senses  theme will enable our customers to choose an ambiance, with an international gourmet buffet loaded with a variety of culinary experiences.

The 5 different pavilions will be named Saveurs (taste), Fragrances, Music, Colors and Material. Four of the pavilions are air-conditioned and one is al fresco. The restaurant is overlooking the quiet pool and offers a direct view through to the ocean.

The Spa has received a makeover too, and guests will be welcomed in a Thai reception pavilion sunken in a Zen garden, specializing in Thai massages and a wide range of spa treatments.

A purpose built area houses all that is the Kid's Club and Baby Cub – (the first Baby Club in Asia Pacific) – with its own sheltered swimming pool, playground and interactive play area.

For the active guests there is a 9 hole golf course, multiple tennis courts, daily yoga and water fitness classes, a gym, and many sporting areas offering complimentary equipment and tuition.

Start planning for an Easter break now and you can take advantage of some great savings following price reduction earlier this year. For land content only, the 2nd person stays for half price - if you book and pay before December 4, 2011,  and cost from $1970 (first adult), $1042 (2nd adult), $1168 (1st child 4-11 yrs) and $611 (2nd child 4-11).

If you book after Dec 4, 2011 – Early Bird rates are $1148 per adult, and $668 per child (4-11). Prices include return airport transfers and membership.

The renovations will be completed and the Resort ready to welcome Australian school holiday makers in 2012. Bookings are now open for Easter school holidays, and expected to fill very fast. Phuket bookings for Club Med have jumped a massive 123% in the past 12 month, so be quick and book early to avoid disappointment.

About the Designer

MARK HERTICH Graduated from a French Art school (Ecole Boule, Paris)

He worked on his first big projects under Michel Boyer, a famous architect in the late 1960s. He designed the Swiss luxury hotel Le Richemond. He has a career in luxury architecture including jewelry shops, restaurants, etc and has redesigned several exceptional resorts for Club Med, including Bali, Cancún Yucatán, Agadir, Ixtapa Mexico, and Albion in Mauritius.

To book - visit your preferred travel agent

 Call Club Med on 1800 258 263 or go to


Are 'Guaranteed Departures' really guaranteed?

Every year, an alarming number of Australians have their dream holidays ruined by tour companies who cancel group departures because they haven't reached what they may deem to be viable passenger numbers.

According to European tour specialists, Albatross Tours, to encourage bookings and gain the trust of travellers, a growing number of tour operators are skirting around this issue by offering 'Definite Departures'.

Managing Director, Euan Landsborough comments, "As reassuring as this sounds, only a limited percentage of their overall departures attract this apparent 'guarantee' and even those 'definite' departures are by no means certain."

"Travellers who read the fine print will learn that these operators can still cancel a tour at the drop of a hat. When Aussie's have planned a trip half way around the world and parted with their hard earned cash, this is a huge disappointment – not to mention a blow to their hip pocket."

Albatross Tours is one of the few tour operators in the industry who offer totally transparent 'Guaranteed Group Departures'. This means every one of their tours is guaranteed to depart with as few as seven passengers.

When a tour is cancelled due to lack of participation, the travel agent, hotels and other operators all have their businesses affected too. The Albatross Guarantee has secured strong relationships with suppliers who know they can rely on Albatross Tours for this invaluable commitment.

Leanda Blank, a travel agent from West Coast Tours and Travel in Perth knows first-hand how troublesome cancelled tours can be; "We book our clients tours in good faith that they will be departing. I've had as many as 23 passengers cancelled by one tour operator in one year. When tours are cancelled it creates a lot of stress for our clients and is costly exercise for us to rectify. Our repeat business is built on our reputation for being, reliable and easy to book with – when tour operators cancel, it reflects badly on us as a business."

The Hotel Dei Duchi in Spoleto, Italy comments, "It has been wonderful that every departure within two separate tour programs has been fulfilled with Albatross. It is a pleasure to be able to safely welcome our Australian guests and not suffer cancellations."

Travellers should be wary with 'Guaranteed Departures' as the terms and conditions could state there is still a chance that their holiday could be cancelled. The usual condition states it is only guaranteed once a certain number of bookings have been reached.

Euan said, "Albatross is unusual within the industry as we're prepared to underwrite our tours at a loss. We'd rather do this than disappoint not only travellers, but suppliers, agents and hotels too."

"This business strategy has been successful for us in the long term, as we've built valuable relationships with customers, who rely on us when making travel plans."

"Guaranteed Group Departures also mean that travellers can safely book and pay for early bird flights and their tours in advance.

So why do tour operators offer guarantees at all if they don't plan on honouring the promise?

"It gives people a sense of confidence and peace of mind. My advice for travellers is to always read the fine print before booking a tour. The safest option is to choose "Guaranteed Group Departures", which are provided with every Albatross Tour.

For further information about Albatross Tours and upcoming departures, please visit or visit

New website for Best Western Fiji hotels

Discover Fiji from your desk – Best Western's new Fiji website introduces you to the culture, experiences and accommodation options available in Australia's favourite playground.

The website offers cultural tips in everything from race and religion, to etiquette for a village visit and even how to pronounce Fijian words.

Visitors to the new website can also view Best Western's three Fiji hotels in Nadi and Suva – with fantastic travel deals available all year round, like the "Internet Saver Rate", which can only be booked online.

Kimi Anderson, General Manager of Sales and Marketing said, "The new website also features a direct link to view live rates, availability and to book the Fiji hotel you want".

Best Western's Fiji hotels, which joined the global brand in June 2011, offer unique Fijian friendliness, global quality standards and affordable prices for families, business or leisure travellers.

Visit for more.


Koh Samui, Thailand - Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary & Holistic Spa was honoured with three awards in the last two months, including two awards for its cuisine. In October, Kamalaya was voted winner of Best Conscious Cuisine at the 2011 Crystal Awards Asia Pacific in Singapore. Then at a ceremony in Hong Kong on 9 November, Kamalaya was named Best Spa Retreat of the Year and Best Spa Cuisine of the Year at the 7th Annual AsiaSpa Awards.

This is the first time Kamalaya has been awarded for its cuisine, which is an integral part of the spa's holistic wellness concept. Over the past two years Kamalaya has invested in sharing its healthy eating message, something that Karina Stewart, Kamalaya Co-founder and the creator of the cuisine concept, is passionate about. "The things we do regularly have the biggest impact on our health, and because food is an essential part of our daily life, it is the perfect vehicle to provide the support necessary for enhanced vitality and optimal health. Not everybody has the means to visit Kamalaya, but everybody can eat healthier. That is why we decided to make our recipes and healthy eating principles more readily available. We published a cookbook edition of Reconnect, began sharing recipes through our Healthy Living newsletters and next month we will release a DVD collection. Hopefully these latest awards will help to create awareness about our healthy eating message so that more people will be inspired to take advantage of what we are offering."

The Crystal Awards Asia Pacific is an annual event organized to honour and give due recognition to the crème de la crème of the spa and wellness industry. The awards are given to properties and individuals that not only spearhead trends, but also enhance the industry and influence its overall future direction.

The AsiaSpa Awards were created in 2005 in order to recognise the best spas in Asia, setting a benchmark for spas in the region, as well as around the world. The awards have grown to encompass 25 categories and are judged by the industry's top leaders.

These latest awards follow on from Kamalaya's success in the prestigious Prime Minister's Export Awards in Bangkok on 19 September, when the Wellness Sanctuary and Holistic Spa was named The Best Service Provider – Spa Category. Since opening in 2005, Kamalaya has won more than 15 awards.

"It really is a great honour to win these awards. Our vision has always been to inspire our guests and our team, and hopefully people everywhere, to live with greater health and harmony. Each award is a reminder of that vision, a confirmation that we are having an impact and a motivation for us to continue evolving and improving," said John Stewart, Kamalaya Chairman and Co-founder. "We applaud our team as this is very much their success and it is wonderful to see their work and dedication acknowledged," he said.

Kamalaya is located amid a lush, tropical landscape on the southern coast of Koh Samui, Thailand. The resort integrates healing practices and treatments from East and West, a beautiful natural environment, inspired healthy cuisine, customised programs and wellness retreats to offer a unique concept in personal well-being and holistic lifestyle possibilities.

For bookings and enquiries please visit

Opera Australia coming back to Brisbane after two decades

The 2012 Brisbane season by Opera Australia has been announced today, with tickets going on sale to the public from Monday 21 November, through QPAC. In May and June 2012 Australia's national opera company will present two spectacular and engaging operas, The Magic Flute and A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre for the first time. The casts include Queensland-based singers, Conal Coad, Andrew Collis and Milica Ilic as well as some of Opera Australia's most renowned stars such as Taryn Fiebig, Lorina Gore and Jacqueline Dark.

Lyndon Terracini, Artistic Director of Opera Australia and former director of the Brisbane Festival and Queensland Music Festivals, said: "From the moment I joined Opera Australia I knew I had to bring the Company to Brisbane. The Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) is a magnificent space for opera, and I'm delighted we can present two such magnificent productions.

"The Magic Flute is like nothing you have ever seen. Giant puppets, sculptural costumes and dance convey the fantastic world of Mozart's final opera. This is a night in the theatre for the whole family.

"Baz Luhrmann's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream breaks all the rules – Shakespeare's masterpiece is transported to India, the orchestra is on the stage, and Puck is a blue-faced Hindu god! We've assembled a dream cast and one of the world's greatest authorities on Benjamin Britten, Paul Kildea, is conducting. It will be, in a word, magical."

Bringing Opera Australia to Brisbane is no small undertaking. The sets and costumes for the two operas will travel from Opera Australia's workshop in Surry Hills, Sydney, to Brisbane on large semi-trailers. The sets and costumes for The Magic Flute, have been rebuilt specifically for the Australian production, from the original model of New York's Metropolitan Opera. Director Julie Edwardson, who has worked on many revivals of A Midsummer Night's Dream, will restage Baz Luhrmann's legendary production for the Lyric Theatre.

"At Opera Australia we take our role as Australia's national opera company very seriously," said Opera Australia Chief Executive, Adrian Collette. "Given the complexity of fully-staged opera and the vastness of our country, it is not always easy, but we are passionate about making opera available to the widest possible audience. So it is with great pleasure that in 2012 we expand our range of presentations to include this inaugural Brisbane Season at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre

In addition, we will bring our new travelling production of Mozart's Don Giovanni directed by Michael Gow to regional Queensland as part of Oz Opera, the touring arm of Opera Australia."

QPAC Chief Executive John Kotzas said that the Opera Australia productions were one of the highlights of the Centre's 2012 program which featured a diverse mix of live performance experiences that would resonate deeply with the Queensland community.

"It has been over two decades since there has been a season by the national opera company in Brisbane. Opera Australia's season in 2012 in QPAC's Lyric Theatre will be definitely worth the wait and will complement the already rich program of opera on offer in Brisbane."

"Brisbane will be the only city in Australia where audiences can experience Opera Australia's performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2012."

Tickets and packages range $60-$165* - Available through QPAC Box Office - Phone 136 246 -

Port Moresby’s newest hotel - Grand Papua Hotel joins Summit Hotels & Resorts

Summit Hotels & Resorts™, a brand of Preferred Hotel Group™, is pleased to announce its first member property in Papua New Guinea – Grand Papua Hotel. The collection includes more than 150 internationally acclaimed hotels and resorts that celebrate local luxury.

Opening on 1 December, 2011, Grand Papua Hotel will be the flagship hotel and the 9th property in the Coral Seas Hotel group collection. Located in the city centre of Port Moresby, the 161-room hotel will offer the latest in technology with innovative paperless check-in system using tablet technology. As the first newly built hotel in Port Moresby in over two decades, it will be the most technically advanced building in the country with a fully integrated building management system to maximize energy efficiency.

Situated on the highest point in the city, the hotel is ideal for both corporate and leisure guests with only a short walk to Ela Beach, the craft market and the city's business and commercial centre. Guestrooms and suites are contemporary in feel with local indigenous accents and features a 32-inch LCD screen cable TV, Wi-Fi internet connection and other international standard amenities. Balconies at every room offers spectacular views of Ela Beach and Fairfax Harbour. The most exclusive executive lounge in the country is housed in Grand Papua Hotel providing all the standard benefits and services as well as three executive boardrooms.

Equipped with state-of-the-art audio visual equipment, there are 6 conference rooms that can accommodate meetings and private functions for up to 200 participants. The hotel's facilities also include three levels of underground secured parking, 24-hour security, 330sqm of spa and beauty treatment services, outdoor Jacuzzi, a 15-metre swimming pool and a fully-equipped fitness centre. Two atmospheric venues offer a creative modern menu with Asian influences and drinks in a colonial setting.

Opening offer:    20% discount off Best Available Rate including breakfast for one person. Valid from 1 Dec 2011 to 30 June 2012.

# # #

 About Summit Hotels & Resorts
The Summit sensibility is world-wise with a local point of view. It is a global concierge, multi-lingual and multi-cultural, providing guests in every location with an insider's knowledge of the neighborhood. Ranging from historic urban hotels to exclusive beach resorts, the distinctive hotels and resorts of Summit can be found in many of the world's most enticing destinations. Summit Hotels & Resorts is a member of the Preferred Hotel Group™ family of brands which also includes: Preferred Boutique™, Preferred Hotels® & Resorts, Sterling Hotels™ and Historic Hotels of America®. For reservations and a complete description of the Summit Hotels & Resorts collection, please visit

Summit Hotels & Resorts guests are eligible to enroll in the I Prefer™ Guest Benefit Program, featuring benefits such as early check-in/late check-out, space-available upgrades and more. For more information, please visit

Sculpture at Scenic World inaugural event

Scenic World to host Australia's first ancient rainforest sculpture exhibition

The Blue Mountains World Heritage Area will be transformed into one of the world's most spectacular art galleries for the inaugural Sculpture at Scenic World cultural event.

Australia's only ancient rainforest sculpture exhibition will feature 26 unique artworks in a pristine Jurassic valley, from 16 February until 11 March 2012.

Artworks selected from Katoomba to Belfast will be judged for the $20,000 Scenic World Acquisitive Award during this major event where you can meet the makers at artist talks and view the pieces on guided and independent tours.

The dynamic program of curious, grand, emotional and thought-provoking works can be observed from the elevated Scenic Walkway that winds its way through old growth tree ferns and dappled sunlight.

More than 800,000 visitors experience Scenic World each year for its range of experiences found nowhere else on Earth: the world's steepest incline to the Jamison Valley floor, the Scenic Cableway overlooking the rainforest canopy 200m below, and the Scenic Walkway through this unique ecosystem.

Scenic World Joint Managing Directors, Anthea and David Hammon, said more than 60,000 international and national visitors were expected to visit the iconic attraction for the event.

"Sculpture at Scenic World will be an annual exhibition and one of the most innovative events staged here since our family opened the doors three generations ago," Anthea said.

"This exhibition is part of our new direction of further connecting and educating our visitors to the World Heritage listed environment. Alongside our Advanced Ecotourism Certification, Sculpture at Scenic World will establish a solid reputation for its benchmark artistic and environmental standards."

Sculptures for display have been selected by prominent judges, Macquarie University Sculpture Park Curator, Leonard Janiszewski, and University of Western Sydney Collection Curator, Monica McMahon.

Further information visit

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Tourism hit hard by the Qantas grounding

The Qantas grounding that saw 98,000 passengers disrupted and 108 aircraft immobilised is having a negative impact on an already struggling Australian tourism industry, according to an expert from The University of Queensland.

Associate Professor
Brent Ritchie
The UQ School of Tourism's Associate Professor Brent Ritchie said the tourism industry was already in poor shape prior to the grounding.

“The industry is losing market share to more cost-effective international destinations,” Dr Ritchie said.

“Barriers of distance, a high Australian dollar and competition from other more cost-effective tourist destinations are already impacting our tourism industry, any industrial action which risks access to destinations will only cause more harm,” he said.

The Global Financial Crisis, January floods and the industrial action that occurred in the months prior to the Qantas grounding left their mark on Australia's regional tourist hot spots.

The Australian Tourism Export Council reported a loss of 16,000 full-time jobs in the regional tourism industry.

“The areas where travel is primarily recreational will be hit the hardest, while destinations with a high proportion of business travellers are less likely to be affected in the long term,” Dr Ritchie said.

The full extent of the damage to the industry will continue to unravel in the months ahead.

However, the impact is expected to be felt beyond the current customers whose travel plans were disrupted, to future travellers within Australia and international inbound tourism.

“If people perceive a risk to their ability to access destinations and have confidence in planning a trip they may look at other destinations,” Dr Ritchie said.

“As an international travel destination, Australia is already falling behind in market share with outbound tourism growth of 9 percent and inbound tourism growth of just 0.5 percent.”

The effects of the industrial action will be felt across the entire industry including accommodation providers, transport companies, tour operators, and businesses in regional communities.

According to Dr Ritchie, Australian event organisations in the professional conference market field were likely to take a “long time to recover” due to the large financial investment for conference events and the “difficulty of making alternate arrangements for delegates, speakers and locations” if industrial action occurred.

While not commenting on the reasons why Qantas made the decision to ground the fleet, Dr Ritchie believed the loss in customer loyalty would be most significant in their international bookings.

“Domestically there is a reliance on Qantas as one of the few major domestic carriers, and some people will go back to them based on necessity. Internationally, they will face more of a struggle to get customers back with many more competitors often with lower pricing and operating costs,” he said.

Singapore Airlines reveals plans for Scoot, a new low-cost long-haul carrier

Singapore Airlines has confirmed details of the worst kept secret in aviation – revealing its new long-haul budget carrier will be called Scoot.The carrier will fly to destinations in Australia and China, with Singapore Airlines outlining longer-term ambitions to reach Europe.

No-frills carriers are booming in the region, with AirAsia X leading the way and established carriers, including Qantas, unveiling rival services.

From mid-2012 Scoot will operate a fleet of four Boeing B777-200 aircraft. It will be wholly owned by Singapore Airlines, but managed independently.
According Scoot chief executive, Campbell Wilson, the airline will operate as many as 14 planes by 2016, charging passengers some 40 per cent less than rival, full-service, airlines.

The airline will operate from Changi Airport Terminal 2, with bookings being taken from early next year.AirAsia X – the long-haul arm of Malaysia-based AirAsia - is likely to be the main competition for Scoot in the short-term.The carrier presently flues to several destinations including London, Taipei, Tehran, Paris, Seoul, Tokyo and a number of cities in China and India.Qantas has also unveiled plans to launch a rival carrier.Singapore Airlines is considered as offering the World’s Leading Airline Inflight Entertainment by the prestigious World Travel Awards.


Whether it's Mediterranean warmth, Caribbean cool, dramatic snowscapes or big city thrills that engage attention this season, Design Hotels™ has them all.

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

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

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

The complete list of ten new members with opening dates is below.
To view them online please visit


La Banane, St. Barts (November 2009)

Gramercy Park Hotel, New York (August 2006)


Hotel Kitzhof Mountain Design Resort, Kitzbühel (January 2005)

Hotel Lone, Rovinj (July 2011)

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

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

Blakes Hotel, London (refurbishment: 2011)

Design Hotels™ Best Rate Guarantee

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

Breaking news - All Qantas flights worldwide grounded


Qantas grounds entire domestic and international fleet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information in Monday's Travel Daily.

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

Media Release

Tower Lodge's nine wins Best Restaurant in a Winery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nine Facts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Tower Lodge

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

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


Tower Lodge is a member of Relais & Châteaux.



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caravanning and Camping- the Experts Advice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on caravan and camping and for a comprehensive listing of parks and product providers go to

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact travel agents for more information and bookings; call THAI on 1300 651 960 or log on to

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on frequent flyer promotions, contact THAI on 1300 651 960 or visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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