Saturday, 19 September 2020

Welcome to Quincy: the latest hotel brand to debut in Australia

Meet Quincy - the latest hotel brand to launch in Australia. 

Signature dining destinations and a quirky approach to room service are among the promises being made for the brand-new Quincy Hotel Melbourne, when it opens later this year. 

TFE (Toga Far East) Hotel's CEO Antony Ritch said his team was excited to introduce the "colourful"  brand - which started in Singapore - into Australia.

“With Quincy we are bringing the sights, sounds and, most importantly, flavours of South-East Asia to Australia," he said. 

“And, while we have a way to go before opening, our team are busy setting the benchmark for Quincy Hotels Australia and putting the finishing touches on what we think is Australia's most exciting new hotel brand.”

The 241-room hotel will "immerse our guests in a colourful and contemporary experience unlike anything that's currently available in Australia” Ritch said.

Positioned in the upper mid-scale category, Quincy is aimed at social urbanites. The hotel will feature distinctive building and interior design, three food experiences, a rooftop pool with views of Melbourne CBD, and exclusive club levels and lounge access.

“And we've got a street address to match,” he said. “Right in the middle in one of Australia's best lifestyle precincts at the top of Flinders Lane (across the road from the Rialto and five minutes from the Crown Casino complex).”

Friday, 18 September 2020

West Coast attraction back on the rails

One of Tasmania's biggest tourism attractions is back on the rails.

The West Coast Wilderness Railway ran two preview trips this week ahead of re-starting journeys for visitors to Queenstown from Tuesday, September 22. 

“We are excited to be running these journeys this week and be joined by the minister and fellow tourism industry operators on board as we prepare to welcome back visitors next week” Anthony Brown, West Coast Wilderness Railway general manager said.

The railway was forced to suspend operating railway journeys in April 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

In the months since the suspension, the railway has maintained its core staff of year-round employees despite not qualifying for JobKeeper subsidies due to Government ownership. 

The team have completed a number of projects, such as scheduled and unscheduled maintenance on the track and rolling stock, station improvements across four remote stations along the line, upgrading on-board audio and visual delivery and adding an augmented reality experience.

“The shutdown has been hard on the team and we are very excited to be able to get back to doing what we do best," Brown said. 

"We’re really proud of the effort the entire team have put in over the last six months and especially in the last few weeks to get us ready.” 

The West Coast Wilderness Railway will run journeys from Queenstown from September 22.  Strahan journeys are due to resume in January 2021 on the completion of a planned track replacement project that was delayed due to the pandemic.

Major cruise line throws in the towel on 2020

P&O Cruises has again pushed back its planned restart date, with all sailings now cancelled until 2021.

All Caribbean cruises are cancelled until the end of January 2021 and cruises from and to Southampton are cancelled through February.

The cruise line had hoped to resume operations at the end of November, but said coronavirus restrictions have meant further changes to the planned schedule, Travel Mole reported.

P&O has already announced cruises on Arcadia and Aurora have been cancelled through to the end of their spring world cruises next year.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said: "With evolving restrictions on travel from the UK, unfortunately it is necessary to cancel these itineraries.

"These further cancellations vary according to ship as well as complexity and length of itineraries, advice and guidance regarding ports of call and current air availability for fly/cruises.

"We are continuing to monitor the overall situation closely and will certainly reintroduce cruises should the opportunity arise and it is feasible to do so."

Ludlow said the company is working with several of the "'most brilliant minds in science as well as government at the highest level" on approved and enhanced health protocols, which will be in place once the company resumes sailing.

"Whilst adherence to the protocols on board and ongoing vigilance will be critical, this will always be coupled with providing the well-deserved and memorable holidays for which we are known, with all the standout moments on board and experiences on shore. This is what we have always done and will continue to do.

"We cannot wait for restrictions to ease, borders to open and for us to once again be able to set sail for a new beginning."

All guests with bookings on a cancelled cruise will be notified and will automatically receive an enhanced 125% Future Cruise Credit or alternatively a 100% refund by filling out a web form.

Criminal investigation into pilots who flew without valid licences

Pakistan International Airlines is currently banned from flying to both Europe and the United States after a scandal involving dozens of pilots who had fake licences.

Now Pakistan has started a criminal probe into dozens of pilots and at least five aviation officials over the fake pilot licence scandal.

It comes after numerous pilots were grounded after bogus credentials were used to get their licenses.

The criminal investigation by the Pakistan Federal Investigation Agency is targeting up to 50 pilots and aviation officials who allegedly facilitated the scam. 

It aims to prove 'alleged corruption, violations, malpractices in issuance of flight crew licences'.

"The Cabinet was told that FIA has opened proceedings into the pilots whose licences were revoked, and the civil aviation officials who connived with them," according to the Reuters news agency

The scandal came to light after officials opened an audit into Pakistan International Airlines following an air crash.

It found dozens of pilots received their licences even though they paid others to take pilot exams on their behalf.

The Express Tribune reported that 82 pilots had been using fake licences but the remaining 180 pilots under investigation had been cleared. 

The pilots investigated included 141 at state-run Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), which employs 450 pilots. The remaining pilots worked for private airlines and charter services. 

Thursday, 17 September 2020

Fly direct from Hobart to Flinders and King islands

The Tasmanian Government has announced new direct flights from Hobart to King and Flinders islands - which will be a boon for golf enthusiasts.

Sharp Airlines will be operating three services per week to each island on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday on its 18-seat aircraft. 

It will be the first time flights have been offered as a regular passenger transport service to the islands direct from Hobart.  

There will be early arrival times on Wednesdays and Fridays and a later departure from King Island on Sundays – maximising the opportunities for golfers.

King Island has two new golf courses in Ocean Dunes and Cape Wickham (above) which are ranked among the best in the world.

King Island is also famous for food exports with a range of produce being sought by the world’s top chefs. Succulent beef, rich gourmet cheese and crayfish plucked from the Island’s crystal clear waters

Flights from Hobart to King Island will start at $460 return with Hobart to Flinders Island starting at $478 return. The first flights start on September 30, ahead of the school holiday period.

The Tasmanian Government is supporting the services for an initial 18-week trial period. If the demand remains then the services could be offered on regular basis.

Tourism Tasmania will be promoting the flights through the Make Yourself at Home campaign with print ads, content and a special lift-out booklet on Tasmania's island experiences in newspapers statewide. 

Flights can be booked now via

Clare Valley winemaker thriving in "retirement"

What do you do when you retire from the family business after 40 years of crafting fine wines - particularly riesling. 

If you are Neil Pike you start your own wine label, and relax by spending some time in the kitchen. 

Pike retired from the family Clare Valley winery last year but has now started his own label: Limefinger, with a 2020 riesling grown just a couple of minutes from Watervale Township. 

The Limefinger 2020 The Learnings Riesling was made in tiny quantities - just 3,000 bottles - and retails for $37.50. 

"After 40+ vintages working in the Clare Valley/Watervale one learns a few things along the way," Pike says. It has been a privilege to be able to apply those learnings to such a gorgeous parcel of fruit." 

Pike has also been cooking up a storm, including crafting some Limefinger lemon/lime oil pickle that he recommends using when cooking chicken. Paired with riesling, of course. 

See (soon).      


Wednesday, 16 September 2020

Auckland's latest five-star hotel opens its doors

New Zealand's newest hotel, the Park Hyatt Auckland, opened its doors this week, offering a new luxurious place to meet, drink and dine in a prime waterfront location. 

The first Park Hyatt in New Zealand is a 195-room hotel that features four restaurants and bars, a day spa and fitness centre as well as versatile event spaces. 

Park Hyatt Auckland also marks the return of Hyatt hotels to the land of the long white cloud. 

“We are delighted to welcome the first guests to Park Hyatt Auckland, a waterfront location steeped in New Zealand's rich culture," said hotel general manager Brett Sweetman. 

"Discerning domestic travellers as well as the local community can expect a host of exciting gastronomic delights and rare culinary moments, delivered with intuitive personalized service.

“As part of Hyatt's global care and cleanliness commitment, we have enhanced safety and cleanliness protocols to protect the wellbeing of our colleagues and guests ensuring their peace of mind throughout their stay.”

The hotel has been designed by Ali Reda from ar+d in Singapore in collaboration with local Bossley Architects, the hotel's architecture is conceptualised as a Māori wharenui (house) – to be a place of gathering that brings families and communities together. 

The hotel's double-layered exterior echoes a Māori cloak. 

The culinary team is led by executive chef Brent Martin, a New Zealander who has returned home after a career spanning six countries and more than 20 years managing restaurants in some of the world's top hotels.

Guests booking a Waterfront Escape package before October 31 to stay at the hotel before December 31 will receive NZD$50 credit per night to spend on site, as well as a complimentary room upgrade to a room with waterfront views. 

An eight-year-old red at a seriously keen price

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Shiraz - formerly known as Hermitage - is one of the great reliable "go to" choices for Australian wine drinkers on a budget.

Retailing at under $25, it always delivers on quality and value. 

What is less appreciated is that it is also a very good cellaring prospect for a decade or more for those who like their wines a little more mature than the current release 2018 vintage.

Dan Murphy's to the rescue. Dan's are selling the very impressive 2012 vintage - eight years on and drinking very impressively - for just $20.99; or $15 to their members. 

That means Wynns and Dan's have done all the cellaring for you - and are offering a wine at its peak without you paying a premium. 

Wynn's Coonawarra Shiraz has been made since 1952 - and gets just as much attention from chief winemaker Sue Hodder as more expensive wines in the excellent Wynns range. 

This has dark fruit flavours, is medium bodied with French and American oak laying a structural platform and has dark pepper and Asian spice notes. Very stylish.  

Take one of these to a dinner party and you will be a welcome guest. 


Tuesday, 15 September 2020

Special deals at one of Tasmania's icon destinations

I've been visiting Cradle Mountain Lodge for three decades, during which it has evolved without losing any of its charm.

A while back there was basic accommodation; no TV signal, no mobile phone access and no wifi.

Times change, but what was once a collection of basic wilderness shacks has been transformed to a quintessentially Tasmanian luxury experience.

One of the state’s iconic retreats underwent a facelift during the Covid-19 shutdown with a multimillion-dollar upgrade to its accommodation, dining, and spa facilities.

The five new King Billy Suites (below) are a delight. These offer central fireplaces, outdoor spa baths and elevated mini bars featuring a variety of items from high-end Tasmanian producers. Think heated towel rails, satellite TVs and serious rural spoiling.

With walking trails and waterfalls at your doorstep, you don’t have to look too hard to find wombats, wallabies, possums, pademelons and a Tassie Devil or two - and you can still chill out in the expanded Waldheim Alpine Spa, which has has a range of couples treatment options enhanced by the sensational views of the King Billy pines and fresh mountain streams in the heart of the Tasmanian wilderness.

Spring is among the most beautiful times of the year in this delightful part of the world with brilliant displays of wildflowers including waratahs, boronia, orchids, banksias, flowering snow gums and much more.

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is also a bushwalker’s paradise with trails to suit every age and pace, and ability. Click here to view a range of self-guided walks at Cradle Mountain.

All the cabins are set discreetly in the wilderness - and none are more than a few minutes from the lodge itself. 

Cradle Mountain Lodge has taken additional steps to improve the hotel experience and general safety of guests, including advanced technology, an increased cleaning schedule and the provision of hand sanitisers around the property. 

The special offer for Tasmanians and anyone given an exemption to visit the state is: Stay two nights or more during spring and save up to 15% off the best rate of the day! Valid for stays until November 30. 

Full details and bookings see

Major milestone for McLaren Vale organic wine pioneers

Joch Bosworth and Louise Hemsley Smith were way ahead of the curve when they decided to convert their McLaren Vale vineyard to organic.

Back in the mid 1990s, very few consumers had any idea what organics involved - and organic wine-making is still niche today.

The couple behind Battle of Bosworth and Spring Seed were the first to convert in McLaren Vale - and this year marks their 25th anniversary.

McLaren Vale now has the highest number of organic vineyards in Australia - and it all started with back in 1995.

Converting to organics was then a radical move - although extremely foresighted in hindsight. Organic wine sales in Australia have soared in recent years.

From those early days, Bosworth Wines now produce more than 20 wines from their certified organic, family-owned estates under two labels – Battle of Bosworth and Spring Seed - and export to close to a dozen countries.

As there was no existing methodology for modern McLaren Vale vineyards wanting to convert to organic, viticulturist Joch Bosworth (who is also the co-founder and co-owner of Bosworth Wines together with his partner Louise Hemsley-Smith), had to largely invent his own after returning home to the Vale after a stint working in the US.

This included pioneering the use of the local yellow soursob under the vines for weed control, and the modification of a rotary hoe to cultivate only the soil under the vines in order to remove weeds

Today, many of McLaren Vale’s organic growers use Joch’s rotary hoe technique in their own vineyards. And the humble soursob (Bermuda buttercup) has become the Bosworth Wines logo.

“I realised that McLaren Vale’s Mediterranean climate was well suited to organic viticulture”, said Joch.

“Personally, I’d never been too keen on using chemicals, so I took what I knew and made a start, devising the process as I went using some ideas and advice from a few old growers in the district.”

Organic wine - which is wine produced from grapes grown without the use of synthetic or artificial chemicals, pesticides, herbicides or fungicides - must also be subject to restricted levels of sulphur dioxide that can be added to the wine, as well as the chemical fining agents used.

For details see

Monday, 14 September 2020

Drink wine; help struggling musicians

Montara Wines has launched a new range to help support musicians and entertainers facing tough times due to Covid-19 restrictions that have prohibited some live shows and limited their work opportunities.

The Billie & Co range consists of a cabernet merlot and a sparkling rosé. The Victorian winery will donate a percentage of proceeds from sales to Support Act, an Australian charity that delivers relief to music industry artists and workers.

Montara Wines has been owned by the Stapleton family since 2006 and managing director Billie Stapleton says music has been a family pillar since she can remember with several of the family having worked in the industry. 

“Our love of music and the arts has always been at the heart of Montara Wines," she said.

"With most of the Stapleton family being involved in the entertainment industry at some point of time, it was only fitting to give back to not only the musicians but all the crew and backstage workers. 

“That is what is so fantastic about Support Act. It helps not only musicians in crisis, but music workers too.”

Established in 1970, Montara is situated 200 kilometres west of Melbourne, in the Grampians region. See

Sydney wining and dining favourite gets a new look

Popular Sydney wining and dining destination NOMAD will have a new look when it reopens next month. 

After a fire caused major damage last September, the Surry Hills restaurant and cellar door will reopen in its original Foster Street home on Tuesday, October 20. 

Owners Al and Rebecca Yazbek have commissioned extensive renovations to the venue with the new-look NOMAD featuring a larger kitchen, twice as much seating around the open kitchen, and the addition of a stand-alone deli.

Executive chef Jacqui Challinor will create a menu that centres around the signature wood-fired oven.

“I'm so happy to have the fire back so it's no surprise it's the primary focus of the new menu," she says. "There's a lot of new dishes we’re working on, but the staples have remained, some with a few little updates and tweaks. The heart and soul of NOMAD’s food will stay the same.”

Signature menu items to return include a house-cured charcuterie selection; smoked ocean trout basturma; haloumi, date-glazed Wagyu tongue and olive oil ice cream sandwich, with sesame, pistachio and honeycomb.

The launch of the NOMAD Deli will feature a range of take-home products, changing weekly. 

The wine list selection will be available for take home and delivery, still with a focus on small producers from Australia and beyond. 

Seating capacity for NOMAD is 200, reduced to 110 during current Covid-19 restrictions.

NOMAD will open for dinner seven nights a week and for lunch Friday to Sunday.

Reservations are now available via or on (02) 9280 3395.

Sunday, 13 September 2020

Are you being hacked? Why your travel data is at risk

Despite many warnings, major travel organisations are again under fire for putting their customer's travel data at risk of being hacked.

British consumer organisation Which? has found firms including Marriott Hotels, British Airways and easyJet had "serious data security vulnerabilities" on their websites, TravelMole reported.

Image: Nour Chamoun
The investigation saw Which? scrutinise the security of websites operated by 98 travel companies, including airlines, tour operators, hotel chains, cruise lines and booking sites.

The investigation found that hotel chain Marriott not only had the most vulnerabilities on its websites but the most critical issues.

Researchers found almost 500 in total and more than 100 of these were judged as 'high' or 'critical'.

Of the 18 critical issues exposed, three were found on a single website of one of its hotel chains.

Which? said it could allow attackers to target the site's users and their data.

Looking at British Airways, the probe unearthed 115 potential vulnerabilities with 12 judged critical.

Most flaws were software and applications that appeared to have not been updated, Which? said, making them "potentially vulnerable to being targeted by hackers".

EasyJet - which earlier this year had a data breach affecting around nine million customers - had 222 vulnerabilities across nine of its domains uncovered by security experts.

Which? said all the issues gave hackers a "backdoor into the system in order to mount a range of attacks".

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: “Our research suggests that Marriott, British Airways and easyJet have failed to learn lessons from previous data breaches and are leaving their customers exposed to opportunistic cybercriminals."

Saturday, 12 September 2020

Distillery and history make a perfect day-trip destination from Hobart

Take a historic sandstone house built in the 1840s; add in one of Tasmania's best boutique distilleries; a country-style cafe with friendly service and a courtyard with live music on summer weekends.

Throw in beautiful gardens and whisky tours and tastings and you have Old Kempton Distillery - just a 40-minute drive north of the Tasmanian capital of Hobart.

In addition to a range of single malt whiskies, distlller Matt Fontaine (below) crafts Embezzler Gin, Barley Vodka, Lavender Malt and Apple Liqueur - distilled from Tasmanian apple cider.

The whiskies are matured in 20- or 100-litre single casks, previously used for ports, sherries or pinot noir wines.

Dysart House was once a colonial inn; nowadays it is a stylish spot in which to sink into a leather chair and sip on something special.

It was built in 1842 by convict embezzler turned-innkeeper, William Ellis, and was one of the finest inns on the road from Hobart to Launceston. It was recently home to writer and arts patron Leo Schofield before being purchased by businessman John Ibrahim (not that one). 

The brick stables, once home to 22 horses, now house Old Kempton’s Tasmanian-made copper still, while a new distillery is almost completed.

The on-site distillery tour offers the chance to see how the various spirits are made in copper pot stills and aged in small oak casks, followed by a bespoke tasting of your favourite styles.

Non-drinkers can enjoy freshly made scones, a gourmet platter or a choice of daily lunch specials - house-made pies anyone?

For serious whisky lovers there is the membership of the Tasmanian Whisky Club, which offers exclusive releases four times a year, while there are also regular three-day distillery courses offering an up-close look at the distilling business.

Old Kempton Distillery, Dysart House, 26 Main St, Kempton, Tasmania. (03) 6259 3082.

Mapping the whole world of wine

Map designer Martin von Wyss has just released his most ambitious project: an atlas of the world's 1800+ wine regions. 

Wine lovers will recall the wine maps of Australia, Victoria, and Tasmania that he published with Max Allen and Graeme Phillips, along with a gin map that sits just above my desk. 

The new online atlas World Wine Regions is designed to be both useful and fun for wine enthusiasts, educators, publishers and wine sellers. Anyone, in fact, who wants to drill down on the places where grapes are grown and wine is made.

The business plan for the atlas is to license maps in the atlas to publishers. A customisable map can let readers explore by zooming in to see the vineyards and zooming out to see the region's location in the bigger picture. 

Von Wyss can add geology overlays, climate overlays, and so on. 

World Wine ranges from the 606 AOCs and IGPs in France to the single Nashik region in India, plus emerging, yet-to-be declared regions in Bhutan and China, among others.

Map readers can zoom in to see individual vineyards or zoom out to get a global perspective.

“The revelation, for me, was seeing how the regions of one country abut the regions of a neighbouring country," said von Wyss. "Borders are meaningless to the terroir that shapes our wines.

"The atlas also includes climate details, and all map information sits on a base that reveals the landforms and terrain that influence how vines are exposed to rain, wind, and the sun’s rays."

vW Maps is the publisher of the Australian Wine Maps series and trusted cartographer for National Geographic and publishers including Penguin, Bloomsbury, Hardie Grant and Melbourne University Publishing

Friday, 11 September 2020

Singapore Airlines slashes jobs

Singapore Airlines - once the gold standard in long-haul flying - is slashing 4,300 jobs in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than half of the job losses will be forced redundancies, TravelMole reported.

The airline said 1,900 positions will be cut through natural attrition, a recruitment freeze and voluntary departure schemes, leaving 2,400 staff facing redundancy in Singapore and overseas.

The losses will be delivered across the Singapore, Scoot and SilkAir brands as the carrier said it expects to operate under 50% of its capacity in 2020/21.

In a statement, Singapore said it was particularly vulnerable as, unlike some competitors, it does not have a domestic market.

"Domestic will be the first to see a recovery," the airline said. "In order to remain viable in this uncertain landscape, the group's airlines will operate a smaller fleet for a reduced network compared to their pre-Covid operations in the coming years." 

Singapore Airlines Chief Executive Goh Choon Phong described it as an "agonising" period for the company as it adapts to an "uncertain future".

"When the battle against Covid-19 began early this year, none of us could have predicted its devastating impact on the global aviation industry," he said. "From the outset, our priorities were to ensure our survival and save as many jobs as possible. Given that the road to recovery will be long and fraught with uncertainty, we have to unfortunately implement involuntary staff reduction measures.

"Having to let go of our valuable and dedicated people is the hardest and most agonising decision that I have had to make in my 30 years with SIA.

"This is not a reflection of the strengths and capabilities of those who will be affected but the result of an unprecedented global crisis that has engulfed the airline industry.

"The next few weeks will be some of the toughest in the history of the SIA Group as some of our friends and colleagues leave the company. We will conduct this process in a fair and respectful manner and do our best to ensure that they receive all the necessary support during this very trying time."

It's a miracle. The power of prayer helps sell excess wine

The power of prayer has helped sell 20,000 bottles of excess wine.

If that sounds like a tall story, the wine-making nuns at Sint Catherinadal convent in Oosterhout, Netherlands, will be happy to correct you. 

The religious order was stuck with the excess wine when "a major Dutch airline" pulled the plug on an order because of coronavirus, Dutch News reported. 

The nuns at the oldest order in the country are partly dependent on the sale of the wines they make with the help of South African consultant Andries Mostert. 

Thibaud van der Steen of online platform Breda Maakt Mij Blij (Breda makes me happy) came to their rescue. 

The platform helps farmers and others who have trouble selling their produce because of the coronavirus crisis by featuring them on their site.

"We made a little video a couple of weeks ago to market the wine and then the sales snowballed," van der Steen said. "The nuns think it’s a miracle."

All of the bottles have now found a home, just in time to make room for the next load.

"The 2019 wine is almost ready and that needs to be sold as well - and later this year we will asking volunteers to help pick this year’s grapes,’ van der Steen said. 

The sisters have been making mostly white and rosé wines since 2017 using chardonnay, pinot gris, pinot blanc, pinot noir, auxerrois and gamay, they say on their website.

Thursday, 10 September 2020

A fascinating vogage of vinous exploration

In late 2017 and again in 2018, uber-talented winemaker Peter Dredge set of on a voyage of vinous exploration.

His mission: to explore the varied terroirs in the fast-rising, cool-climate wine region of Oregon in the north-west of the US.

Dredge, also known as Dr Edge, or Dr Ongo, sourced pinot noir fruit from two different parts of Oregon: making a Williamette Valley blend along with individual wines from two of its sub-appellations: the Chehalem Mountains (organic and biodynamic) and Eola-Amity Hills (sustainable). He also made a gamay I'm saving for the weekend.

Those wines arrived in Australia late last month and provide a counterpoint to Dredge's various regional Tasmanian wines under the Dr Edge label as well as his work for Meadowbank.

The former Petaluma and Bay of Fires winemaker is also behind rebel brand Brian, made in collaboration with Joe Holyman and Mike Bennie, and is a finalist in this year's Gourmet Traveller WINE Magazine winemaker of the year awards.

There were not enough of his 2017 Oregon production to make it home to Australia, but the 2018s are fascinating and thrilling pinots at the cutting edge.

My favourite was clearly the edgy and ethereal Dr Edge Chehalem Mountains Pinot Noir from a steep, cool site, followed by the blend. Another tester's preference was for the 2018 Dr Edge Eola Amity Hills Pinot Noir, a more rugged and savoury individual.

Dredge's connections with Oregon stretch back to his days as a winemaker at Petaluma in the early 2000s - while he has long had an obsession with pinot noir.

In Oregon, which is warmer than Tasmania, he was able to source fruit from two sustainable/organic vineyards. The three pinots together cost just $195 - superb value, but they are already in very short supply.

Move quickly - or miss out.

One of the world's grandest hotel brands to debut in Australia

In Canada, the Fairmont hotel brand is linked with historic, iconic hotels like fairytale destinations Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

Now Accor is set to bring the Fairmont brand to Australia for the first time, with the announcement that the Fairmont Port Douglas is set to open in Far North Queensland in 2023.

Set on the edge of two UNESCO World Heritage sites – the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree rainforest - the hotel has been sustainably designed to give back to the environment.

“We are excited to bring the extraordinary Fairmont brand to Australia and are confident that Fairmont Port Douglas will deliver a new level of luxury and sophistication to one of the country’s most glamorous resort towns,” said Simon McGrath, Chief Operating Officer, Accor Pacific. 

“Accor continues to expand its luxury offerings in Australia and, as our first Fairmont, this is going to be a truly special resort, whose architecture mimics the rich biosphere of the Daintree rainforest and, which is centred on well-being, nature and cultural immersion.”

Fairmont Port Douglas will have 253 "glamorous" rooms, several restaurants and bars, a day spa, a treetop walk and conference and wedding facilities, all designed around resort-style pools. 

The hotel is also looking to work with the local Kuku Yalanji community, traditional owners of the land, to provide Welcome to Culture and Smoking Ceremonies for special events.

“We are proud to deliver such a high quality project to the people of Port Douglas and believe the Fairmont brand will bring the right mix of local focus, sustainability and global expertise to the hotel,” said developer Paul Chiodo.

 “Chiodo Corporation seeks to create spaces that are built around the environment and local culture and we believe that the Fairmont brand shares this ethos. Together, we will deliver a meaningful connection to the local community through this stunning hotel.”

The coastal town of Port Douglas is located an hour’s drive from Cairns. 

With the brand established in 1907, Fairmont hotels are usually signature destinations and Fairmont Port Douglas will join some of the world’s most iconic hotels including The Savoy London and The Plaza New York (both managed by Fairmont); the Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai; and the Fairmont Vier Jarhreszeiten in Hamburg. 

I've stayed at Fairmonts in Vancouver, Victoria BC, Whistler and Toronto and all have offered a memorable experience. None of them, however, were new builds, relying on their historic charm. A challenge awaits.   

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

New international airline has plans for Australia

Bamboo Airways, a new Vietnamese carrier, has revealed  plans to open a direct regular route between Hanoi and Melbourne Tullamarine early next year using the wide-body aircraft Boeing 787-9.

The airline made the announcement after conducting its first flight to Australia last Sunday to carry nearly 300 Vietnamese workers and students home, Retail News Asia reported.
Nguyen Ngoc Trong, the deputy CEO of Bamboo Airways, said in a statement that Australia was one of the most important aviation markets for Vietnam.
The airline is preparing to operate international flights once the Covid-19 situation has been contained globally. It is eyeing in particular flights connecting Vietnam with destinations in Oceania, South-East Asia, and Asia.
For the remaining months of this year, Bamboo Airways will continue to operate charter flights to international destinations like South Korea, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, mainland China, Prague, and the US, Trong said.
The airline was launched in January last year and was operating 40 domestic and international routes before the pandemic struck Vietnam earlier this year. 

At last. Diners and drinkers can enjoy a night at the Opera

Sydney Opera House has announced that its popular harbourside dining venues Opera Bar and Opera Kitchen will be open for business from tomorrow, Thursday, September 10.

The Opera House has been closed to the public since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The reopening of Opera Bar and Opera Kitchen marks the initial return of public-facing activities on site.

Sydney Opera House CEO Louise Herron AM said: “We are thrilled to begin welcoming the public back to the Opera House. The reopening of two of our popular dining venues is a positive first step in our phased approach to resuming events and experiences across the site. 

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of everyone on site, and we are closely following New South Wales health guidelines and advice. We look forward to welcoming people back to our theatres, tours, other dining venues and shops soon and will provide more detail in the coming weeks.”

To celebrate its reopening, Opera Bar will offer a new food, wine and cocktail menu that features Australian producers, a series of new experiences for Sydneysiders to enjoy, and live music celebrating local artists and DJs. 

Opera Kitchen will reopen for all-day dining from breakfast through to dinner. 

For information about the Opera House’s Covid-19 health and safety measures, reopening plans and frequently asked questions, visit the Opera House’s website:

From politics to pinot noir

David Llewellyn traded the rough-and-tumble of Tasmanian state politics for the altogether more genteel world of wine production.

Llewellyn was a Labor Party member of the Tasmanian House of Assembly from 1986 to 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018, when he retired. He had a stint as Deputy Premier.

Nowadays, Llewellyn, 78, and his wife Julie - who manages the business - concentrate on producing fine wines from their Priory Ridge vineyard inland from the Bay of Fires on Tasmania's East Coast.

"We both enjoy drinking wine, so it is a pleasure to be able to produce our own," he says. "And politics is a young person's game."

Priory Ridge is a boutique vineyard on 20 hectares with north-facing slopes which maximise sunlight. The soil is Devonian granite, which is rich in mineral content. 

Formerly known as Tarpot Farm, the property has been in the ownership of Julie Llewellyn’s family (Reid/Clifford) for over 120 years. 

Before its conversion to grapes the property was mainly used to graze sheep as an adjunct to a much larger property, grazing sheep, cattle and some cropping. 

Priory Ridge has the George River as its Northern boundary and the vineyard draws its water from a small dam on the property, although Llewellyn prefers his grapes dry grown if possible. 

The vineyard was first planted in 2008 after an enthusiastic assessment by viticultural expert Richard Smart and Llewellyn does much of the vineyard work himself. 

Priory Ridge produces pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay and riesling with the red wine made by Brian Franklin from Apsley Gorge and the whites at Tasmanian Vintners. The vineyard also produces a small amount of the rare variety siegerrebe, which is sold to Rivulet Wines.
All the grapes are hand-picked and indigenously fermented - and the wines a very fairly priced given their quality. 

Priory Ridge is the only cellar door in the St Helens region, with tastings conducted in an atmospheric 80-year-old shearing shed. There are many objects of local and family history to engage visitors. It is well worth a visit for both the wines and the views. 

The cellar door is currently open weekends and during the week by appointment. Phone (03) 6376 1916. 

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

New Zealand Government to the rescue

The New Zealand Government has announced a program to support travel agents in securing credits and refunds for clients from overseas travel suppliers.

New Zealand Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi said the program aimed to assist New Zealanders who have their "money locked up offshore due to cancelled travel plans as a result of Covid-19".

Under the program, travel agencies will be paid 7.5% of the value of any cash refunds they secure on behalf of their customers, or 5% of the value of travel credits.

"We know the travel sector and their customers have taken a massive hit due to the disruption caused by Covid-19," Faafoi said, with an estimated NZ$690 million of client funds currently locked up because of cancelled travel.

"We want to get that money back for Kiwi customers and into the local economy as quickly as possible," he said.

"I know that travel agents and wholesalers have been working hard to recover funds and credits owed to New Zealand consumers, but are under severe financial pressure, with many facing the prospect of insolvency.

“The travel reimbursement scheme will help increase the likelihood of consumers recovering refunds and credits owed to them. It will also give greater confidence to the travel industry by limiting further insolvencies.”

Faafoi said the scheme would be established as soon as practicable, with details such as eligibility to be "worked through over the coming weeks".

Four major travel agencies – Flight Centre, House of Travel, First Travel Group and Helloworld – had lobbied the Minister for funding, and they said in a written statement that they were grateful their pleas had been heard.

In Australia, the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) has lodged a formal submission seeking $125 million in Government support for the industry, with concerted lobbying now under way in the lead-up to next month's Federal Budget.