A leading retail expert has reassured the travel trade that supermarkets will not become travel agents as they “can’t be bothered”, although senior travel bosses disagreed as to the reasons why at this week’s WTM Vision Conference – London.
Former Selfridges Chief Executive Peter Williams told delegates at the CBI Conference Centre: “The supermarkets have not got into high street travel because of operational difficulties and it is a specialism.
“Supermarkets are simple. They have deskilled their business. For them to get into travel properly, they would need staff knowledge, and they can’t be bothered,” the ASOS Senior Independent Director said.
Delegates, led by The Co-operative Travel Managing Director Mike Greenacre, disagreed, saying that it was the low margins which were keeping supermarkets out of bricks and mortar travel.
In the final session - a panel discussion about the UK outbound and domestic market - Denis Wormwell, CEO of Shearings Holidays, agreed with Greenacre.
“We are working on 2.7% margins with inflation running at 5%. It is a very scary place to be in,” he said.
Wormwell quoted a colleague from outside the travel sector who said: “That’s a very long walk for a small beer”. Shearings has an average selling price of £300, making a profit of £8.20 on each holiday.
The panel concluded the industry must take cost out of the business to improve margins.
TUI Specialist Managing Director Clare Tobin said: “We need to grow the market and the margins are getting tougher, so costs will be the focus of the next five years. We need to find a more efficient way of operating.”
World Travel Market Chairman Fiona Jeffery said: “A key part of the WTM Vision brand is to foster intelligent and open debate. Bringing in senior speakers from outside the travel sector to offer different perspectives is proving a success.”
WTM Vision Conference – London was organised in association with Kingly Event Management and sponsored by corporate travel insurance firm Mapfre Assistance.
Supermarket's "Can't Be Bothered" With Travel, Retail Guru Tells WTM Vision Conference - London Delegates
Cairo, Egypt /Madrid, Spain, 31 May 2011
As the leading foreign exchange earner and representing one in every seven jobs, tourism is a crucial factor in Egypt's economic recovery, stressed the Prime Minister of Egypt, Essam Sharaf, during an official visit of UNWTO Secretary General, Taleb Rifai, and President and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, David Scowsill, to the country (Cairo, Egypt, 29 May). Meeting with the Prime Minister, the Minister of Tourism, Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour, as well as other public and private tourism representatives, Mr. Rifai and Mr. Scowsill expressed the commitment of the international tourism community to support the sector as a key component of Egypt's transition.
Prime Minister Sharaf confirmed the strategic importance of tourism for the country's economic recovery and social stability, especially in the current transition period. "We appreciate your visit and support; tourism is a critical activity for Egypt," he said. "This is a time for action which will help us get through the current bottleneck; the more we do together, the better," he added.
"International tourists are slowly beginning to return to Egypt. The sector is a lifeline for our economy and in 2010 accounted for 11.5% of our GDP and US$ 13 billion in revenues. We count on UNWTO and WTTC for the right advice and support," said the Minister of Tourism, Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour.
Mr. Rifai praised the high political support shown for tourism; the principal foreign exchange earner and a leading job creator in Egypt. "Tourism is clearly seen as a national priority involving all areas of public policy and thus can be a major contributor to consolidate the transition," he said. "Moreover, throughout my visit it has been very clear that the Egyptian tourism sector is fully operational and ready to receive visitors," he added.
Mr. Scowsill also highlighted the importance of close collaboration between global public and private tourism players, along with the need to clearly communicate the stability in the country. "Egyptian tourism has recovered quickly from setbacks in the past, and it is good to see that visitors are now coming back. Given the current difficulties in the region, it is important for the industry to get a clear message out that the new Egypt is stable and open for business," he said.
In his meetings with tourism stakeholders, Mr. Rifai underscored the importance of the backing of the international community to Egypt, both politically and financially, as witnessed by the recent announcements of the G8 and the World Bank to commit substantial funds for the country. "Egypt is not only the leading tourism destination in the region, but also a central piece for its political and economic stability," he said.
14 million international tourists visited Egypt in 2010, generating nearly US$13 billion in international tourism receipts. These receipts represent around 6% of the country's GDP and over 11% when the full sector is considered. International tourist arrivals saw a decline of 45%in the first quarter of 2011.
International Tourism: First results of 2011 confirm consolidation of growth: http://media.unwto.org/en/press-release/2011-05-11/international-tourism-first-results-2011-confirm-consolidation-growth
The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO: www.UNWTO.org), a United Nations specialized agency, is the leading international organization with the decisive and central role in promoting the development of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. It serves as a global forum for tourism policy issues and a practical source of tourism know-how. Its membership includes 154 countries, 7 territories, 2 permanent observers and over 400 Affiliate Members.
The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) was established in 1990 with Members representing the world's foremost leaders in the private sector of Travel & Tourism. It aims to promote the importance of the industry as a generator of economic growth, encourage public-private partnerships, and persuade governments to adopt policies that will allow the industry to thrive. WTTC's annual Global Travel & Tourism Summit brings together over 1,000 delegates to discuss the opportunities, challenges and issues facing the industry, while its Tourism for Tomorrow Awards recognise the industry's power to be a positive force in sustainability.
Queenstown has the opportunity to globally showcase its position as an international education destination next year after being confirmed as host venue for Australia and New Zealand’s largest education and student travel trade show.
Around 500 participants from 50 different countries are expected to attend the Australia New Zealand Agent Workshop (ANZA) to be held at Queenstown Events Centre from 29 February - 2 March 2012.
Formatted in a similar way to TRENZ*, which was recently held for the first time in Queenstown, the workshop facilitates one-on-one appointments between agencies that send student and edu-travellers to the region and those who provide educational and tourism services at the destination
Attendees are also offered professional development seminars or opportunities to showcase their own programmes, schools, countries and regions.
Destination Queenstown Convention Bureau Manager Kylie Brittain says securing ANZA is a strategic win for Queenstown which represents a ‘coming of age’ for the resort as an edu-tourism destination.
“Education is a major export earner for both Australia and New Zealand and Queenstown is now recognised as a credible international education destination with many options as a place for students to live and learn outside of their home countries.
“Hosting ANZA gives us the opportunity to display our offering to this market niche. It’s an international platform that can promote the resort as a superb study destination,” she says.
Queenstown’s ‘live and learn’ opportunities have been profiled and organised through Study Queenstown, a specialist organisation set up two years ago which brings together the education institutions offering services in Queenstown to provide a one-stop-shop for people considering study in the region.
Study Queenstown spokesperson Charlie Philips says the organisation works hard to present Queenstown as a credible, well established edu-tourism destination.
“Study Queenstown represents all the education providers in the area from secondary school to tertiary and language institutions. We work together to present Queenstown as a serious education destination with organisations that are experienced in hosting, teaching and supporting international students.”
Mr Philips believes hosting the ANZA workshops offers an opportunity for Queenstown to forge new relationships with international agencies and to showcase the synergies between education and tourism.
The 2011 ANZA workshop was held in Royal Pines Resort on Gold Coast and welcomed 519 participants representing 357 organisations from 52 countries with a total of 4582 pre-scheduled meetings taking place over two days.
For more information about The Australia New Zealand Agent Workshop visit www.anzaworkshop.com.
For more information about Queenstown please visit www.queenstown-nz.co.nz.
micenet AUSTRALIA magazine and American Express have formed a strategic alliance. American Express Meetings & Events, an extension of American Express Business Travel, has agreed to make micenet magazine available to some of its key meetings and events decision makers. American Express is a leading travel management company and meetings, events and incentive provider that reaches customers around the world.
This strategic alliance will extend micenet AUSTRALIA’s readership to an even greater audience of highly qualified convention and incentive travel buyers. For advertisers, the strategic alliance will result in greater exposure to an extended, sophisticated and highly resourced sector of the market that has been relatively untapped by business event publications in the past.
Helen Batt-Rawden, Publisher of micenet magazine says, ‘selecting effective distribution channels is a key component to a company’s marketing mix and integral to the successful operation of an organisation. We constantly strive to research and introduce more qualified and exclusive distribution channels that will not only give our advertisers more exposure within the niche C&I buyer arena, but will also maintain our leading status in the marketplace and ensure the magazine is more widely read by QUALIFIED buyers than any other C&I/MICE-related magazine in the Australian marketplace'.
The rush to buy duty-free items before boarding is now over for some lucky passengers. Korean Airlines took delivery of its first A-380 Airbus, which has been fitted with an enviable, built-in duty free shop for premium passengers.
The first of 10 super jumbos on order was delivered by the French aeronautical manufacturer in Seoul this week.
With 407 seats, including 12 first-class suites, 94 business-class seats and 301 in economy, the Korean national carrier also boasts the lowest number of seats.
The world’s sixth largest carrier is scheduled to receive nine additional A380s over the next three years. And in a bid to rival Singapore Airlines, Korean will actively woo business travellers into the jaws of the plane’s entire upper deck.
The aircraft is Airbus’s eighth A380 delivered this year out of a proposed assembly line of 24 in 2011. There are now a total of 49 A380s flying the global skies.
TravelCandy.com.au, Australia’s specialist invitation-only travel club is signing up members so fast that they have had to hire two new staff members to cope with demand.
TravelCandy.com.au CEO Sam Friend says, “We always thought there was a need for hand picked travel deals but we had no idea just how popular it would be in the Australian market. We have been pleasantly surprised by the response and we have had to grow rapidly to accommodate the demand.”
The site, which has only been live for three months, has already signed up over 10,000 members, lwith numbers growing steadily each day.
Friend attributes the surge in numbers to the power of word of mouth and increased consumer demand for handpicked travel deals and quality content. “Wotif’s offering is largely the same as it was 10 years ago, no reviews, generic content but good at processing bookings. We are about inspiring people to get more balance, take a holiday and plan it in advance to save some money.”
“Australians are very comfortable with purchasing in advance if they are getting a great deal. On our site, we sell limited numbers of exclusive holiday experiences at extremely good prices. We have sold everything from Daintree Ecolodge escapes to Sydney Harbour Sailing packages. We have one customer who has bought something every week!”
For further information or to sign up for a free VIP membership, please visit www.travelcandy.com.au/free
Travel Insurance Group Raises Concerns Over Ash Cloud Flight Guidelines
"A myth" says Ryanair chief
Travel insurance provider WorldNomads.com says safety must be put ahead of profit as airlines push for more lenient guidelines for flying through ash clouds.
After clouds of volcanic ash caused the cancellation of 1600 flights in Scotland, England and Germany this week, the heads of two of Europe's biggest airlines have questioned the need to close airspace.
Both Ryanair and British Airways flew test flights through areas that Britain's Met' Office said contained extremely high densities of ash, without ill effect.
Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary went as far as to describe the ash clouds as a myth.
In an opinion piece published on the WorldNomads.com, travel safety specialist Phil Sylvester said,
"Mr. O'Leary might be right. I hope he's acting on the advice of his aircraft engineers, but it worries me when travel safety decisions are influenced by people who have one eye on the bottom line."
Mr. Sylvester said his concerns were sparked when he read reports that the British Transport Secretary had made changes to guidelines, allowing aircraft to fly under areas of high ash density, after lobbying from the airline chiefs.
"Of the thousands of people inconvenienced by Grimsvotn's eruption, I didn't hear one of them insisting their plane should fly regardless of safety doubts," said Mr. Sylvester. "The only people making that demand are the bosses of British Airways and Ryanair."
"These would be the same two businessmen who were part of an industry that incurred losses of $1.7 billion dollars when that other ash cloud closed European airspace in 2010. They are under enormous pressure to make sure that doesn't happen again; the very existence of their businesses depends on it." Mr. Sylvester said.
While acknowledging that it wasn't in the best business interests of the airlines to put passenger safety at risk, Mr. Sylvester said he is worried by the apparent process.
He added, "We could organize a conga line of scientists from both sides of this argument to take part in an enormous game of 'yes it is safe - no it isn't', but are you comfortable with profit-and-loss being part of the equation?"
Read more about Volcanic Ash & Safety Decisions http://ow.ly/54pei
Phil Sylvester is a journalist and travel safety specialist at travel insurance provider WorldNomads.com based in Australia. He can be contacted for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org
One of New Zealand's most significant new hotels
The $65 million hotel project has been developed by one of New Zealand's largest Maori entities, Tainui Group Holdings, in partnership with Auckland Airport and Accor, who operate the hotel.
Auckland Airport handles over 13 million passengers annually, projected to grow to 24 million by 2025, with 73% of all international visitors to New Zealand arriving or departing from Auckland. That figure is expected to grow substantially in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake, making the opening of the Novotel highly strategic for the country's short-term and long-term tourism needs.
It will also significantly benefit most international visitors, as many flights to Auckland arrive late at night and connections to key regional airports are not till the following morning. International flights departing Auckland often leave early in the morning, making an overnight stay at the airport necessary, especially as it can take up to an hour's drive to reach downtown Auckland.
A contemporary, stylish hotel that pays homage to New Zealand's heritage and traditional culture
"For the majority of visitors to New Zealand, the Novotel is the first and last impression they have of the country, so the design of the Novotel has been infused with subtle references to New Zealand's natural environment, culture, art and heritage," says General Manager, Paul Columbus. "We believe it will be a showcase for the best New Zealand has to offer.
"Part of the New Zealand experience is the close encounter with nature, so the hotel has been surrounded with distinctive indigenous plants, including Pohutakawa (NZ Christmas) trees, while the triangular architectural features of the building are designed to reflect the bows of traditional Maori 'waka' canoes, which first arrived here at Manukau Harbour many hundreds of years ago."
There is a distinct green theme in the hotel's lobby where guests are greeted by a 'living wall' of indigenous plants that are nurtured by a hydroponic system. All the timbers used in the Novotel are 100% FSC-accredited Southland maple beech, which are harvested on a sustainably-managed basis, and are part of the hotel's commitment to become a fully certified Earthcheck hotel. Major effort has also been made to reduce energy and water usage in the hotel's daily operations.
The design of the hotel has been undertaken by leading New Zealand architect and designer, Warren & Mahoney. Some of New Zealand's most promising designers and artists have been commissioned to work on the hotel's fit-out, and the locally-produced items range from a vast, self-supporting spiral steel staircase in the lobby to a Maori patterned 'Patiki' screen in the restaurant, designed to represent abundance and 'manaakitanga' (caring for people).
While paying homage to the past and to Maori heritage, the Novotel is also very much a reflection of contemporary New Zealand, with the latest in communication technologies, including full arrival and departure monitors in the lobby to ensure that guests are kept fully informed of the latest plane movements.
A room that features the latest interior design trends and anticipates new ones
Novotel Auckland Airport is the first hotel in the Pacific region to have Novotel's new NEXT concept room. The room has been designed to give a maximum impression of spaciousness and freedom of movement. The bathroom is a key design feature and marks a significant shift from traditional hotel rooms. It is separated from the rest of the room by a transparent glass partition that can be covered by an internal privacy screen.
Windows are larger than standard and are double glazed so that there is no noise even from an Airbus A380 taking off. The lighting systems provide light where guests most need it. The bed is one of the new room's fundamental and most striking features and central to all guest activities: sleeping, working or reading. The bed is raised and framed by an upholstered headboard that follows the contours of the back perfectly, while providing another opportunity for New Zealand theming, with images of the graceful, undulating indigenous toi toi grasses
"We offer the most innovative connectivity with a proper working desk and communications panel that can help convert a room into a mobile office," says Columbus. "We will also eventually be able to introduce room access via mobile phone – the first in New Zealand – so that a guest will be able to get off the plane and go straight into their room.
"A key to an airport hotel is its flexibility. Hence our 263 rooms offer everything from deluxe suites to superbly designed accessible rooms, which have been designed in consultation with experts rather than being just after-thoughts.
"Fitness is an important part of an airport hotel experience, so our in-Balance Fitness gym has the most sophisticated equipment and we will also have special facilities for airline crews."
There are a surprising number of activities in close proximity to the airport. Wine tastings and dinners can be organised at one of New Zealand's most renowned wineries, Villa Maria, and Butterfly Creek is a vast tourist park offering everything from a tropical butterfly house with over 750 species to New Zealand's only saltwater crocodiles.
A comprehensive meetings hub
A major feature of the hotel is its conference centre, with 12 meeting rooms, capable of hosting conferences for up to 315 delegates theatre style
An international restaurant offering the finest in local cuisine and wines
The Square restaurant offers all-day dining, with a menu featuring the finest in local produce. The Novotel is just a short drive from one of New Zealand's most famous vineyards, Villa Maria, and the wine list contains many Auckland-based premium wines. Novotel Auckland features specially designed individual dining pods for solo diners, with private TV screens so guests can watch a full range of programming while they eat. There is also a separate private dining area for small groups.
Special Opening Deal Rates start from NZ$179 per night, but until the end of August, a 25% discount is offered on all fully flexible rates. Bookings: www.novotel.com or via Accor Reservations Service or through travel agents.
The Novotel Auckland Airport is managed by Accor, New Zealand's largest hotel group with over 30 hotels in operation. Accor will open a second hotel at Auckland Airport later in the year – Formule 1 Auckland Airport. Hotel brands operated by Accor in New Zealand include Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Mercure, All Seasons and Ibis.
Nestled on 100-acres, among century old elm and pine trees and under the shadow of Bowral's iconic Mt Gibraltar, is the new Gibraltar Hotel, the most luxurious and modern hotel accommodation available in NSW's Southern Highlands.
Just one and half hours easy drive from Sydney and Canberra, Gibraltar Hotel offers 76 luxurious suites each with vistas of beautiful Bowral woodland or Mt Gibraltar itself.
The Hotel also features a challenging 18-hole golf course, the largest conference centre in the region with a unique, elegant ballroom, 6 breakout meeting rooms, a wedding chapel with a full organ, as well as its own heated indoor swimming pool, cardio centre and luxurious Day Spa and Grooming Lounge.
Owner John Uliana says: "We wanted to create a destination where guests can simply relax and enjoy the Resort's facilities or venture out and take pleasure in some of the many activities the Southern Highland's has to offer."
"Guests can enjoy cuisine from the Hotel's restaurant, Gibraltar Grill, or dine in Harvey's Bar overseen by internationally acclaimed Food & Beverage Manager, UgoBisognoand Chef, Jonas Ottosson," says Uliana. "Ugo and Jonas have cleverly blended a mix of contemporary Australian fare with an international touch to deliver a menu which utilises fresh local produce, and is accompanied by a selection of the best Southern Highland cold climate and Australian wines available."
Ottosson's famous Grill is a key draw card for local and visiting food aficionados. Returning to the Highlands after a stint overseas, Gibraltar Grill is fast becoming renowned for featuring prime meat cooked to absolute perfection.
"It's all about attention to detail so our guests can enjoy their steak just as they like it, every time" says Ottosson. "
Gibraltar's modern décor is an eclectic mix of Indian artefacts, paintings and sculptures by local Bowral artists, and New York City Chic.
"It's a true blend of city chic meets country warmth with its individual stamp of luxury and comfort which will be appreciated by every guest and visitor," says Uliana.
Surrounded by Gibraltar Country Club's challenging 18-hole golf course, the Hotel will appeal to golf enthusiasts wanting to enjoy a round or two during their stay.
"After a challenging day on the golf course, visitors can relax and enjoy the cocktail of the day or a glass of award-winning wine in Harvey's Bar, named after one of Australia's best loved musicians and local Bowral resident, Geoff Harvey," says Uliana.
Harvey's Bar is open daily from 11am with live entertainment each Friday and Saturday night.
"It's fast becoming a favoured spot for Hotel guests and locals alike," says Uliana. "Enjoy a lingering glass of wine while listening to Geoff tinkering on the ivory keys…. it simply doesn't get more relaxing than that. "
Gibraltar Hotel is close to over 60 Southern highland's wineries, 16 cellar doors, Bradman's International Cricket Hall of Fame, antique trails and Gibbergunyah Walking track where walkers can mingle with kangaroos, echidnas and wombats before returning for a meal at the hotel's landmark Gibraltar Grill.
The Gibraltar Hotel offers a number of affordable packages which combine meals, spa, and golf and of course, a stay in one of its elegant suites.
The specially commissioned and designed AH Beard Continental King beds are so comfortable the Hotel claims guests have been known to ask to purchase the bed or pillows on leaving. The spacious suites all feature digital flat screens TVs, Wi-Fi, glorious resort-like marble bathrooms including plush towels and robes.
"We know our suites are the most comfortable, relaxed and stylish in the Southern Highlands," says Uliana, "and we look forward to welcoming you to the Highland's best kept secret soon!"
For more information, visit www.gibraltarbowral.com.au
The world is full of secret and exclusive places that we either don’t know about, or simply couldn’t visit if we wanted to. This list takes a look at ten of the most significant places around the world that are closed to the general public or are virtually impossible for the general public to visit.
Mezhgorye is a closed town in Russia which is believed to house people working on the highly secret Mount Yamantaw. The town was founded in 1979. Mount Yamantaw stands at 1,640 metres (5,381 ft) and is the highest mountain in the southern Urals. Along with Kosvinsky Mountain (600 km to the north), it is suspected by the United States of being a large secret nuclear facility and/or bunker. Large excavation projects have been observed by U.S. satellite imagery as recently as the late 1990s, during the time of Boris Yeltsin’s pro-Western government after the fall of the Soviet Union. Two garrisons, Beloretsk-15 and Beloretsk-16, were built on top of the facility. Repeated U.S. questions have yielded several different responses from the Russian government regarding Mount Yamantaw. They have said it is a mining site, a repository for Russian treasures, a food storage area, and a bunker for leaders in case of nuclear war.
This has been mentioned on a previous list – the archives are not secret despite their names. You can view any document you wish. But you cannot enter the archive. You must submit your request for a document and it will be supplied to you. Despite the foolishness of the recent junk from Ron Howard and Dan Brown (Angels and Demons) the documents are all available and there are no copies of suppressed scientific theories or great works that were banned. The only documents you can’t access are those which are not yet 75 years old (in order to protect diplomatic and governmental information). Indexes are available for people who want to see if a document exists in the archives. The Vatican Secret Archives have been estimated to contain 52 miles (84 km) of shelving, and there are 35,000 volumes in the selective catalog alone.
8. Club 33
Contrary to popular belief, Disneyland has a full liquor license which is used when the place closes down to the general public to accommodate private parties. But there is one place in Disneyland that is always open to sell booze: Club 33. Club 33 is a private club located in the heart of the New Orleans Square section of Disneyland. Officially maintained as a secret feature of the theme park, the entrance of the club is located next to the Blue Bayou Restaurant at “33 Royal Street” with the entrance recognizable by an ornate address plate with the number 33 engraved on it. Fees for joining range from 10 – 30 thousand US dollars and membership comes with a car park. If you want to join the club, you have to go to the end of the fourteen year waiting list.
Metro-2 in Moscow, Russia is a purported secret underground metro system which parallels the public Moscow Metro. The system was built supposedly during (or from) the time of Stalin and codenamed D-6 by the KGB. Russian journalists have reported that the existence of Metro-2 is neither confirmed nor denied by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) or the Moscow Metro administration. The length of Metro-2 is rumored to exceed even that of the “civil” (i.e. public) Metro. (It is said to have 4 lines and lie 50 to 200 m deep. It is said to connect the Kremlin with the FSB headquarters, the government airport at Vnukovo-2, and an underground town at Ramenki, in addition to other locations of national importance. Needless to say, the fact that no one confirms its existence makes it pretty difficult to visit.
White’s is the most exclusive English gentlemen’s club. It was founded in 1693 by Italian Francesco Bianco (Francis White) to sell the newly discovered hot chocolate but eventually became a typical (but extremely private) gentlemen’s club. The club is famous for its “betting book” in which members make bizarre gambles. The most famous of which is a 3,000 pound bet on which of two raindrops would slide down the window first. So why is this club on the list? Women are excluded completely from membership, so that is half our audience out. Secondly, men who want to join this exclusive club can only do so if invited by a sitting member who has the support of two other members. Unless you are a member of royalty, or are extremely powerful in politics or the arts, you are unlikely to ever see the exclusive White’s invitation.
I have put this so high on the list because it is the one place most readers are likely to expect to see. Area 51 is a nickname for a military base that is located in the southern portion of Nevada in the western United States, 83 miles (133 km) north-northwest of downtown Las Vegas. Situated at its center, on the southern shore of Groom Lake, is a large secretive military airfield. The base’s primary purpose is to support development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons systems. The intense secrecy surrounding the base, the very existence of which the U.S. government barely acknowledges, has made it the frequent subject of conspiracy theories and a central component to unidentified flying object (UFO) folklore. The sign above states that deadly force can be used if people enter the Area 51 zone.
Room 39 or Bureau 39 is arguably one of the most secretive organizations in North Korea that seeks ways to obtain foreign currency for Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s Chairman of the National Defense Commission. Room 39 was established in the late 1970s. It has been described as the lynchpin of the North’s so-called “court economy” centered on the dynastic Kim family. It is unknown how the name originated. Very little is known about Room 39 due to the secretive nature surrounding the organization, but it is widely speculated that the organization uses 10 to 20 bank accounts in China and Switzerland for the purposes of counterfeiting, money laundering, and other illicit transactions. It is also alleged that Room 39 is involved in drug smuggling and illicit weapon sales. It is known, however, that the organization has 120 foreign trade companies under its jurisdiction and is under the direct control of Kim Jong-il. North Korea has denied taking part in any illegal activities. Room 39 is believed to be located inside a ruling Workers’ Party building in Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea.
The Ise Grand Shrine in Japan (which is actually a series of over 100 shrines) is the most sacred shrine in Japan. It is dedicated to Amaterasu (the Sun goddess) and has been in existence since 4BC. The main shrine is alleged to hold the most important item in Japan’s imperial history: the Naikū (the mirror from Japanese mythology which eventually ended up in the hands of the first emperors). The shrine is demolished and rebuilt every 20 years in keeping with the Shinto idea of death and rebirth (the next rebuilding will be in 2013). This ranks very high on the list of places you will never go because the only person who can enter is the priest or priestess and he must be a member of the Japanese imperial family. So unless we have a Japanese prince or princess reading the site, no one here will ever see anything more than the thatched roof of the Ise Grand Shrine.
This is a place that is not only closed to the public, but it is a place that the public hope to never have to enter! In most “end of the world” films we see these days, there is always a highly classified area where US government officials and a chosen few get to go in the hopes that they can escape the impending doom. The Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center is the real thing. It was set up in the 1950s due to the cold war but continues to operate today. It is a “last hope” area. For obvious reasons its operations are highly classified. It is run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The center is already functioning and even in small local disasters in the US, much of the telecommunications traffic is routed through it.
RAF Menwith Hill is a British military base with connections to the global ECHELON spy network. The site contains an extensive satellite ground station and is a communications intercept and missile warning site and has been described as the largest electronic monitoring station in the world. The site acts as a ground station for a number of satellites operated by the US National Reconnaissance Office, on behalf of the US National Security Agency, with antennae contained in a large number of highly distinctive white radomes, and is alleged to be an element of the ECHELON system. ECHELON was reportedly created to monitor the military and diplomatic communications of the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc allies during the Cold War in the early 1960s, but since the end of the Cold War it is believed to search also for hints of terrorist plots, drug dealers’ plans, and political and diplomatic intelligence. It has also been involved in reports of commercial espionage and is believed to filter all telephone and radio communications in the nations which host it – an extreme violation of privacy.
The report says the move is part of a restructure that will see 60 to 70 jobs go - some 15 per cent of total global staff.
Chief executive Matt Goldberg is quoted as saying: "Lonely Planet is facing a series of financial challenges from external forces beyond our control – a sluggish global economy, the troubled retail sector, a declining print market and, quite significantly, the effects of the strong Australian dollar".
The company blames the strong dollar for revenues losses of $13m in the year to March.
Founded in 1973 by Melburnians Tony and Maureen Wheeler, Lonely Planet is now owned by British broadcaster BBC Worldwide.
Wego.com Puts the Power of Connecting with Millions in the Hands of Hotels with the Launch of a Brand New Hotel Editing Tool and Premium Hotel Listing
“Hotels are rewarded with a free one month premium listing when they sign up for account and answer a few questions about their property.”
Travel comparison site Wego.com today launched yet another groundbreaking marketing tool providing hoteliers greater control of the appearance of their property’s listing on the popular site. Hotels are now able to manage and update property details including images, descriptions, amenities and location maps instantly using Wego’s specially designed editing tools.
Hotels can take ownership of their listing by creating their own account on Wego.com and with the launch of the Premium Hotel Listings product, properties can now also add their website URL, contact details and also highlight special offers on Wego.com and sites powered by Wego.
These listing tools place the power of instant connection with millions of Wego travelers, directly into the hands of property managers without paying any commissions. Hoteliers can sign up to manage their hotel listing and receive a free premium listing by visiting http://hoteliers.wego.com/.
“We recognise the need for hotel owners to be able to market their direct booking channels and special offers on Wego. A lot of Wego travelers also express a preference to make their bookings on the hotels own website,” explained Craig Hewett, Founder & CCO of Wego.com.
Andrew Hickey Vice President for Rooms, Resorts World Sentosa applauds the tool. “It’s becoming increasingly difficult for hotels to get noticed online so we welcome Wego’s Premium listings as a tool for us to stand out from our competitors,” he said.
Wego’s Premium Hotel Listings are sold on a flat-fee subscription basis, with costs varying based upon a property’s number of rooms. Rates start from $25 per month.
Hotel Special Offers are created in minutes with a choice of customised pre-built offers, including:
Percentage discount on room
Dollar discount on room
Food and beverage credits
Complimentary Value Adds (e.g free internet access)
Advance purchase rates
Free night Stays (e.g. stay 3, pay 2)
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San Francisco served daily by an A380
Lufthansa’s seventh A380 enters into service as scheduled. The aircraft (registration DAIMG, “Mike Golf”), which was ferried to Frankfurt from the Airbus plant at Hamburg-Finkenwerder last weekend, will further increase Lufthansa’s capacity.
From yesterday, 10 May, it will be deployed daily on the Frankfurt – San Francisco route. A total of seven A380s will now take off daily for five destinations. Lufthansa flight attendants will welcome passengers aboard an A380 70 times per week – on the airline’s routes between Frankfurt and Johannesburg, New York, Beijing, Tokyo and now also San Francisco. Each week, almost 37,000 passengers will have an opportunity to fly on a Lufthansa A380.
Lufthansa expects to take delivery of the eighth aircraft of this type next month. Another two A380s will be delivered in 2012. The airline has ordered a total of 15 Airbus A380s.
Most fuel-efficient aircraft
The Airbus A380 is the world’s most fuel-efficient aircraft, burning about 12 percent less fuel than other wide-body jets, and is approximately 30 percent quieter than the current generation of wide-body aircraft. Currently, Lufthansa provides A380 service to Tokyo, Beijing, Johannesburg, and New York, and will begin service to Miami on June 10, 2011. The airline has ordered a total of 15 A380 aircraft, all scheduled for delivery by 2015. This will make Lufthansa the largest A380 operator in Europe.
Lufthansa’s A380 is configured with 526 seats and features the airline’s new First Class product. Located on the upper deck, the First Class cabin is the quietest in commercial aviation and boasts an air humidification system – the first of its kind to be installed on a commercial aircraft – that improves air humidity to help fight off jet lag. Two large, luxurious bathrooms with separate changing and lavatory areas offer enhanced personal space and storage. The cabin’s eight generously proportioned, ergonomic seats measure 6’9” feet in length and 2’7” feet in width and provide the ultimate in comfort and innovation for an exceptional travel experience.
Also located on the upper deck is the award-winning Business Class cabin with 98 seats featuring improved functionality, including more storage and a power supply that works with all worldwide connections.
The main deck is home to an impressively spacious Economy Class cabin. Each of its 420 seats features an in-seat video screen, an optimized ergonomic design and a slimmer seat back that adds two inches of personal space per passenger.
All the details on the Lufthansa A380 are available at www.lufthansa.com/A380.
Galaxy Hotel™, the signature hotel of Galaxy Macau™ – the newest five-star integrated destination resort in Macau – has joined Worldhotels, the global network for independent and unique properties. With 1,500 magnificently appointed guest rooms, including 150 suites, Galaxy Hotel is scheduled to open together with the highly anticipated Galaxy Macau on May 15, 2011.
The palatial new HK$14.9 billion Galaxy Macau brings its “World Class, Asian Heart” approach to the Cotai entertainment area with a focus on authentic Asian-style hospitality and true resort features – both firsts for the market. Featuring the world’s largest skytop wave pool, the sensational 52,000 square-meter Grand Resort Deck also includes a 350-ton white sand beach, offering guests the ultimate in relaxation amidst a landscape of magnificent pools and lush gardens. Galaxy Macau will have more than 50 food and beverage outlets, with the widest selection of pan-Asian cuisine under one roof, as well as vibrant bars, lounges and retail boulevards, to present a leisure experience unmatched in the city.
Representing an evolution in resort accommodation, Galaxy Hotel provides luxurious five-star amenities throughout its 1,500 contemporarily-designed rooms, complete with stunning views. The rooms also afford guests a level of deep comfort that conveys the kind of respect only a host with true Asian Heart can present.
Located just a short stroll from the glitz and glamour of Cotai, Macau’s hottest and most dynamic tourism and leisure destination, Galaxy Hotel is only a 5-minute drive from Macau International Airport and Taipa Ferry Terminal.
Owned and operated by Galaxy Entertainment Group (“GEG”, or “the Group” – HKEx stock code: 00027), Galaxy Hotel will join its sister property, the luxurious Five-Star Diamond StarWorld Hotel and Casino, as Worldhotels’ second affiliate in Macau.
Welcoming Galaxy Hotel as a Deluxe Collection affiliate, Worldhotels Vice President Asia-
Pacific Roland Jegge said, “Galaxy Hotel, and the entire Galaxy Macau development, is setting a distinctive Asian-style hospitality benchmark in Asia’s gaming and entertainment capital.”
Mr. Heinz Roelz, Director – Hotels & Hospitality for Galaxy Macau, said, “Worldhotels is a network for unique properties, and both Galaxy Macau and Galaxy Hotel fit that description in every way. This is the only true destination resort in Macau and the first authentically Asian property of its kind anywhere. We are excited about the prospect of opening our doors to the world on May 15, and we are delighted to do so as part of the Worldhotels network.”
by Peter Needham - eglobaltravelmedia.com.au
An apparently crazed passenger holding a Yemeni passport rushed down the aisle and tried to break into the locked cockpit of an American Airlines flight from Chicago bound for San Francisco.
The man, identified as Rageh Ahmed Mohammed Al-Murisi, 28, was brought down when crewmembers and passengers – including a retired Secret Service agent – acted together.
He was charged in US District Court in San Francisco with interfering with a flight crew and is due to appear in court with an Arabic interpreter, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Almost immediately, relatives of the accused in the US came forward, telling media that he wasn’t a terrorist, he was a “nice guy” who spoke limited English.
Authorities said flight safety was not compromised. Passengers reported Al-Murisi was mumbling and then yelling “God is great” in Arabic – not something to put passengers’ minds at ease in the current climate.
Cockpit doors on US passenger aircraft have been fortified since the deadly terrorist attacks of 11 September 2011, in which hijackers armed with boxcutter knives gained control of four planes.
The latest incident comes at a time of heightened security, with concerns that terrorists might try to attack the US in retaliation for the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. Yemen is home to renegade Yemeni American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a fanatical Islamist believed to have masterminded two attempts to bomb US-bound aircraft since 2009.
These are twitchy times in US skies. At the weekend, a man tried to open a door during a Continental Airlines flight from Houston to Chicago. The flight landed safely in St Louis, where the man was arrested and charged.
And last Friday, security fears saw three imams, including an American Muslim, evicted from a US domestic flight (on the ground). Ironically, they had been heading for a conference on Islamophobia.
From the end of April tourists can now simply go to www.machupicchu.gob.pe, reserve tickets, pay by VISA, print out tickets and go directly to the Historic Sanctuary.
Peru's Tourism Board coordinator for Asia Pacific, Rosana Guinea comments: "Having an online booking portal where tourists anywhere in the world can plan trips to Machu Picchu does make it a lot easier. It also allows us to understand the visitor profile to Machu Picchu as we capture information such as nationality, age and gender.
We also plan to develop this site further with more information and have other cultural tours and activities available to book."
Machu Picchu is on everyone's wish list when booking a trip to Peru and 2011 is a very important year as it marks 100 years since the American explorer and politician, Hiram Bingham, rediscovered this lost city of the Incas for the world to see.
The Inca citadel of Machu Picchu remains Peru's top tourist attraction and the first quarter of 2011 saw visits to Machu Picchu increase by 33,000 people compared to the first quarter of 2009 to 127,963 visitors (figures are compared to 2009 and 2010 as the citadel was closed between January and April 2010 due to heavy rain and mudslides).
Online booking site: http://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/
Identical Type Xian MA60 aircraft in Merpati colours
Officials in Indonesia have told state-run Merpati Nusantara Airlines to stop buying the Chinese-made Xian MA-60 aircraft involved in a Saturday’s fatal crash. The airline last year announced an order for 15 new Chinese-made turboprop planes, 13 of which have been delivered. In the wake of the crash of a Merpati MA-60 in West Papua last weekend however, Members of Indonesia’s House of Representatives have urged an immediate investigation into the planes.
“If the aircraft are not proper to fly, we have to return the 13 planes and cancel the purchasing order of two more planes,” the Jakarta Post quoted house member Ahmad Muzani as saying.
The West Papua crash was the third safety incident affecting a Merpati MA-60 since their delivery. Local news portal, tempointeraktif.com reported that an electrical problem affected one of Merpati’s MA-60s in West Nusa Tenggara province in July 2010, while in February this year another MA-60 skidded off the runway at Kupang airport in East Nusa Tenggara. Philippine-based low-cost carrier, Zest Air has also experienced two incidents with its MA-60s, including one occasion in 2009 when a plane veered sharply on landing, before colliding with a concrete barrier. Other safety incidents involving the aircraft have been reported in Africa and South America, involving Air Zimbabwe and TAM Bolivia.
Merpati’s safety record is also questionable however; in 2009 one of its Twin Otter planes crashed in West Papua province, killing all 16 people on board, and in April last year a Boeing 737 operated by the airline overshot the runway at Manokwari in West Papua, injuring 44 people. Merpati is one of the Indonesian airlines still on the EU aviation blacklist.
Meanwhile it has been reported that the flight data recorder from Saturday’s crash has been discovered. The cause of the incident is still unclear, but bad weather has been cited as a possible factor. All 27 passengers and crew died when the plane crashed into the sea 500 metres short of the runway at Utarung Kaimana airport in West Papua province.
More: Aviation Safety report
Heavy traffic on Halong Bay (file picture)
A group of French travelers had a lucky escape in Vietnam when their tour boat sank on Halong Bay, the party's leader said on Monday, in an eerie echo of an accident earlier this year that killed 12.
There were no injuries in the latest incident, which involved 28 French tourists on Sunday afternoon at the popular visitor attraction, said Josette Farret, a 65-year-old who was among those on board.
“We felt that there were some technical problems before the departure of the boat, which was in poor condition,” she said.
According to Dang Huy Hau, government vice-president in Quang Ninh province, the boat went down after a collision with another craft delivering water, but Farret insisted there was “absolutely no collision”.
Hau said an investigation would be conducted after the boat is salvaged.
“Everybody aboard the tourist vessel was transferred to another boat before it completely sank,” he said.
In Vietnam's worst tourism accident, 11 tourists and their guide died in February when a boat sank in Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its stunning limestone cliffs, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) from Hanoi.
A senior provincial official said water leakage resulting from human error was the most likely cause. The boat's captain and engineer were arrested for investigation over alleged safety violations.
The local travel agency that organized the February tour was unlicensed and the tour guide unregistered, officials said.
After the tragedy, a safety inspection of 135 tour boats found 98 with a variety of minor technical or safety problems, Hau said, adding that owners of the boats had been ordered to correct the problems immediately.
Jonathan Galaviz, a tourism sector economist at Galaviz & Co. consultancy, said in February that the fatal sinking was an indication of a continued lack of attention to safeguards.
“Safety standards for tourism must be taken seriously by the Vietnamese government if the country wants to protect its long-term tourism image,” he said.
“The public relations impact of incidents such as these are far and wide.”
Russian Soyuz Spacecraft
World's first space tourism agency Space Adventures plans to offer the first trip around the moon as early as 2015, the company announced on Thursday.
The Virginia-based space travel firm, which is the only company to have booked and offered commercial rides to the International Space Station, will double the room in the Soyuz spacecraft for the flights.
Soyuz spaceship, which was provided by Russia's Federal Space Agency, has carried seven passengers since 2001 to Space.
A trip for two around the moon in the bigger spaceship will cost around $150 million per passenger.
According to Space Adventures, the circumlunar trip will require at least two months of training to help familiarize the passengers with spacecraft and the outer space environment.
As commercial space travel continues to draw private investment, Space Adventures officials expect the lunar trip to be a landmark in the history of space exploration.
"The moon holds a special place in all of our hearts. It's a symbol of the space future that humanity wishes for, a symbol of our curiosity, and something that we see every night. When the private moon mission launches, the eyes of the world will truly be upon those people, and it will truly be an extraordinary event," said the company's chairman Eric Anderson.
Air Tahiti Nui and Viva! Holidays are offering hot new deals on a selection of Tahiti holiday packages and fares booked in May.
The "You Deserve Tahiti" packages from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane include return Economy Class flights with Air Tahiti Nui, transfers, accommodation and multiple bonuses.
4 nights Tahiti from AUD$1555 ex MEL, $1575 ex SYD and $1579 ex BNE: For a short break you can't surpass this package which includes four nights for the price of three at the Radisson Plaza Resort in a Deluxe Ocean View Room plus a bonus gift from Radisson Le Spa.
7 nights Tahiti & Moorea from AUD $2150 ex MEL, $2169 ex SYD and $2175 ex BNE: Experience the beauty of Tahiti and Moorea with a night at the Manava Suite Resort Tahiti at either end of your holiday, and 5 nights in between at the Moorea Pearl Resort in a Garden View Room, with bonus daily breakfasts.
7 nights Tahiti & Moorea from AUD $2439 ex MEL, $2459 ex SYD and $2465 ex BNE: Spoil yourself with 2 nights at Manava Suite Resort Tahiti on arrival and departure, and 5 nights at the Hilton Moorea Lagoon Resort and Spa in a Garden Bungalow with a private plunge pool. This package includes bonus daily breakfasts in Moorea.
7 nights Tahiti & Bora Bora from AUD $3045 ex MEL, $3059 ex SYD and $3069 ex BNE: Indulge in the ultimate island getaway with 2 nights at Manava Suite Resort Tahiti, 5 nights at Le Maitai Polynesia, Bora Bora in a Garden View room, and bonus daily breakfasts, lunches and dinners in Bora Bora.
Air Tahiti Nui is also offering the "Magical Autumn Special" with return airfares from $AU1227 per person ex Sydney. These fares include pre-payable taxes.
Packages and airfares must be booked before 23 May 2011 and are subject to availability.
The autumn airfare is valid for departures between 1 May and 15 December, 2011.
The Radisson Plaza Resort package is valid for travel from 16 August to 15 December 2011 and all other packages are valid from 1 November to 15 December, 2011.
Packages are priced per person, twin share.
To book the packages call Viva Holidays on 13 14 15 or visit or www.airtahitinui.com.au. For more information on the airfare contact your travel agent or Air Tahiti Nui on 1300 732 415.
Flights to Tahiti are with Air Tahiti Nui, the international airline of Tahiti and her islands.
Nestled among a plethora of palm trees under the soaring karst limestone mountains of Khao Sok National Park, Thanyamundra launches this Spring as a one-of-a-kind luxury retreat on a working organic farm.
The first-ever organic boutique resort in southern Thailand offers nine Asian antique filled rooms and suites in two modern, Thai inspired villas. Formerly the home of a European entrepreneur committed to health, fitness and sustainable living, Thanyamundra has been reimagined to deliver the finest hotel service, gourmet organic cuisine, and holistic wellness in one of Thailand's most breathtaking natural environments at the edge of one of Earth's oldest rainforests.
Two hours drive from Phuket International Airport, with its comprehensive regional and international air connections, Thanyamundra provides an easily accessible escape from urban life on the most intimate scale. Personal service under the leadership of butlers trained at some of Thailand's finest hotels, an English-speaking chef with an extensive Thai and international repertoire and talented massage therapists on call are matched at Thanyamundra by visiting experts and teachers, world renowned in their fields, from sports to yoga and meditation to environmental science and visual arts.
Thanyamundra's dedicated butlers lead their guests on arrival to the retreat's seven elegant guest rooms and two spacious master suites split across the two contemporary villas. All are fully equipped with modern comforts from high-speed wireless Internet and LCD flat screen televisions to Thai silk interiors and spacious private bathrooms with separate rain showers. Suites with generous terraces overlook the verdant panorama of rice paddies and fruit trees to the wild bamboo jungle and ancient rock formations of Khao Sok National Park.
At all times of the year, Thanyamundra welcomes its guests, limited to twenty at a time, to explore the groundbreaking 12 hectare (1600 square metre) organic farm with charismatic Pierre Larigaldie who oversees these visionary crop fields. Since Larigaldie began preparing the earth here four years ago, all plantings have been 100% organic and chemical free and today Thanyamundra's organic farm is the only one in southern Thailand with an Agricultural Certificate of Thailand (ACT), part of the International Organic Accreditation Service. Rows of aromatic Thai and Italian basil, dill, coriander and chilies run parallel to white and purple eggplants, red snake beans, winged peas, bitter gourd and morning glory, then onward to avocadoes, papaya, passion fruit, mango and a variety of banana trees.
Reach down to taste ingredients like fresh rocket leaves straight from the earth for sublime edible memories not soon forgotten. Guests are encouraged to pick their produce under the guidance of Thanyamundra's dedicated chef who leads custom organic cooking classes back in the main villa's show kitchen. Learn to make Thai classics like tom yum goong hot & sour soup or kaeng kheow waan green curry from entirely organic ingredients. Linger over all Thanyamundra's fresh from the garden meals enhanced by sommelier selected Old and New World wines on the villa's panoramic terrace as butterflies of kaleidoscopic hues flutter past, in the elegant Chinese style dining room with high back polished wood chairs or at a table specially set up outside among the retreat's rustic natural charms, under the unpolluted, constellation filled sky.
Thanyamundra boasts a variety of invigorating fitness and leisure facilities. Swim laps or sun bathe alongside the 50-metre hilltop infinity pool, stay fit with the latest Technogym equipment in gym open around the clock, or take to the blissfully quiet surrounding roads for running or cycling. Equally restorative and invigorating are Thanyamundra's Thai and holistic spa treatments, meditation, yoga and Pilates sessions.
To take full advantage of the surrounding national park, join Thanyamundra's guided jungle trek with resident and visiting naturalists, in search of the lar gibbon whose females can be heard calling out on mist filled mornings, plus long-tailed macaque monkeys, Malay sun bears, tapirs, monitor lizards and even elephants and the endangered clouded leopard that inhabit Khao Sok National Park.
Guests who want to delve deeper into these exceptional natural surroundings may participate in the Thanyamundra Adventure Experience with river kayaking, tubing, lake swimming and elephant trekking inside the national park, active pursuits equally suited to corporate groups and incentive trips. In addition, individual guests or groups can work alongside the onsite farm team or reserve the entire farm to host uniquely memorable private functions for up to fifty.
Sales & Marketing Representation for Thanyapura
Mobile: +61 45 865 7701