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Friday 31 January 2020

Airlines may fold in the wake of coronavirus

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce: "It's survival of the fittest"
The continuing coronavirus crisis could spell doom for some of the less financially secure airlines in Asia.

A prolonged outbreak could send some carriers with paper-thin margins spiralling into debt from which they may not recover, Travel Mole reported.

The outbreak, which originated in the Chinese city Wuhan, has claimed 170 lives. Total infections have soared past 7,700 in China, surpassing the country’s official number from the 2003 SARS epidemic.

Qantas group CEO Alan Joyce (right) said there are many airlines with heavy exposure to the China market that could suffer.

"A lot of airlines may not be able to keep some of these operations going. It's survival of the fittest," Joyce told Fortune Magazine.

"A lot of them have huge growth and not much profitability. Things like this can have an impact on these models."

Joyce said it is still too early to tell what the full impact will be.

"When we look at what happened around SARS, it impacted us by $55 million back in 2003. It meant we did cut back on some international capacity but it rebounded very fast."

Overall, SARS cost the global economy about US$40 billion, but the China travel market has grown about eight times as big since then.

The current crisis has heavily affected other tourism-reliant sectors such as hotels and retail, as well as the lucrative Macao gaming market.

There are now substantially more low-cost carriers which typically operate on thin margins, and many of these have gone all-in on the fast-growing China market.

How Glasgow reinvented itself

I was fortunate enough to spend several days in Glasgow late last year, discovering a city of art, culture and fun with a plethora of whisky, rum and gin distilleries and breweries.

Having spent some time in Glasgow three decades ago, when it was seriously run down, I was very pleasantly surprised to find a city on the move; home to friendly folk with fire in their bellies.

With a buzzy vibe and hundreds of historic buildings, Scotland’s biggest city also has plenty of surprises for visitors with a huge range of street art to be savoured and plenty of talented buskers.

What was once a bleak industrial wasteland following the closure of shipyards and heavy industry is today a vibrant city with its own style of sass.

Glasgow is lively, cheeky and irreverent and was recently the United Kingdom’s leading cultural and creative city by the European Commission.

Glasgow is home to more than 100 cultural organisations and five of Scotland’s six internationally renowned national performing arts companies. It is also home to music venues including the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, City Halls and the Old Fruit market.

More people visit Glasgow’s museums each year than in any other UK city outside of London, with both Kelvingrove Art Gallery and the Riverside Museum attracting more than 1.3 million visits each in the last year.

Glasgow’s nine city museums are home to Europe’s largest civic arts collection, with masterpieces by Dali, Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, Whistler and Monet all on show for free in the city’s museums.

The city is also the place to come to admire the genius of architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, or a gig at the futuristic-looking SSE Hydro, which in 2018 was named the world’s best performing music venue by size.

The city is also home to the Glasgow Jazz Festival, Glasgow International Comedy Festival and the Glasgow Film Festival.

I’d advise any first-time visitor to take a hop, on-hop off bus tour of the city to gain an idea of its size. The bus stops at highlights including Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow University (for some amazing views of the city), Glasgow Cathedral, Riverside Museum, the People’s Palace and Botanic Gardens.

Glasgow is an easy city to find your way around. Built on a grid system. It is compact to navigate, either on foot or public transport. If you get lost, the friendly, sassy locals will probably engage you in chat before giving directions.

Sports lovers, meanwhile, will want to take in the atmosphere of a home game at either Celtic or Rangers, two of the most famous football clubs on the planet – and fierce rivals.
Some gourmet highlights of my visit:

Glasgow’s cuisine is a million miles away from the Irn Bru and Deep-Fried Mars bar image of a couple of decades ago. Today, Glaswegians dine out at hip modern eateries like The Gannet (below), in the city’s lively West End.

This multi-award-winning restaurant celebrate the best of Scottish produce, dictated by the rhythms of the seasons. The service here is spot on, there is a terrific wine list and diners can choose from the likes of halibut caught of the isle of Gigha served with celeriac and grains and Cairngorm red deer game sausage with beetroots and wild mushrooms.

The food tastes as good as it sounds and the chefs have close links with Scottish scallop divers, oyster growers, fishermen, smokers, farmers and game producers.

For a more traditional experience, enjoy afternoon tea in the 200-seat Mackintosh at the Willow tea rooms on Sauchiehall Street. The famous Art Nouveau tea rooms first opened in 1903 and are of huge importance to Glasgow’s architectural and cultural heritage and are the only surviving tea rooms designed by famous local architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh for local entrepreneur Miss Kate Cranston.

Think elegant finger sandwiches, including Scottish smoked salmon and cream cheese, bite-sized plain and fruit scones served with homemade jam and clotted cream; a selection traditional cakes and a choice of leaf teas and freshly brewed coffee.

Another standout, for the atmosphere as much as the food, is the old-school Hutchesons City Grill, in an ornate city dining room furnished along the lines of a hunting lodge of gentleman’s club. Marquee dishes here include roast monkfish on the bone and Cote De Boeuf, made from Scottish Highland beef.

Other top dining options include Brian Maule at Chardon d’Or, Ox and Finch, Number 16 and Cail Bruich.

Serious coffee lovers will want to check out one of the Single End outlets, or Spitfire Espresso, while the SWG3 arts complex is the latesthub of creativity, live entertainment and partying .

The Clydeside Distillery (below), in an old pump house on the banks of the River Clyde, is one of Glasgow’s newest attractions; offering distillery tours, comparative tastings and lunches. The facility is Glasgow’s first single-malt distillery in over 100 years.

Also check out the Wester Distillery in the West End suburb of Partick for a tour, tasting and cocktail class and make an appointment to sample the gins and vodkas at the Glasgow Distillery in the outer suburb of Hillingdon. Try the Makar Glasgow Gin, the city’s first.

The Tennent’s Heritage Centre offers a journey through the colourful history of Scotland’s favourite beer, tracing the history of Tennent’s Lager from the 1556 to the present day. A fascinating insight into both Scottish history and culture.

Craft beers are also popular, Check out Brew Dog, West and the Drygate Brewing Company.

At night, pop into the Ben Nevis bar for a whisky tasting and some live music.

# The writer was a guest of Glasgow Life and the Moxy Hotel Merchant City. 

The Moxy Hotel Merchant City is just a short stroll from the city centre and is a busy area known for its many eateries, student bars, art galleries and coffee shops.

The funky Moxy is part of the Marriott group and is just a short walk from both Glasgow Cathedral and the landmark George Square.

There is a casual vibe with friendly staff and the rooms feature complimentary wifi, flat-screen TVs and tea- and coffee-making facilities.

Amenities include an industrial-chic 24-hour cafe/bar with a lively vibe, a lounge and a fitness centre. Prices start from around $80 per night but rise steeply in peak periods, so it pays to book in advance.

210 High Street Glasgow G4 OQW. +44 141 846 0256.

# This is an edited version of a story that first appeared in Ciao Magazine.

Thursday 30 January 2020

South African Airways saved by cash bailout

Troubled South African Airways (SAA) will survive a while longer after being given a Government-backed bailout of R3.5 billion ($AU3.6 million).

The money has been diverted to the ailing airline by the Development Bank of Southern African (DBSA).

SAA said in a statement: "Stakeholders of the airline should have more comfort now that the rescue operation is on a more sound footing. Passengers, travellers and airlines may continue to book with SAA with renewed confidence."

The airline last week cancelled several flights but denied it was on the brink of collapse. It was placed in a local form of bankruptcy in December last year.

SAA has been loss-making since 2011 and has survived on government bailouts and state-backed guarantees on external loans.

Its business-rescue experts have until the end of next month to provide a complete turnaround plan.

SAA flies routes to 21 destinations across Africa and cities further afield, including New York and London. It has daily flights from Perth in Western Australia.

Wednesday 29 January 2020

After the bushfires, positive news for two wine producers

It has been a summer to forget for many Australian wine regions, including the Adelaide Hills, Kangaroo Island, the Hunter Valley and Alpine valleys all hit by bush fires.

After weeks of living under the shadow of the Mount Buffalo bush fires, Bright-based winery Billy Button finally has something to celebrate. After months of planning - and plenty of setbacks - Billy Button and Bush Track Wines today opened a joint cellar door in Myrtleford.

Bob McNamara and Jo Marsh

The new facility will feature tastings of wines from both Billy Button and Bush Track wines, which will be available by the glass or for bottle purchases.

There will also be a regional spotlight shined on other local wineries including Bike & Barrel Wines, Mayford Wines and Dalbasco Wines.

Cheese platters will be readily available, along with deli items and other gourmet goods from local producers including The Peaks Artisan Cheesemakers.

The partnership between the two businesses goes back many years. Jo Marsh (Billy Button) and Bob and Helen McNamara (Bush Track Wines) already enjoy a close relationship.

Bob is a well established wine grower in the region and Jo has been making his wine along with her own for many years.

“Our region is going through a really tough time, but together we know we can be stronger," she said. "The opening of our joint cellar door in Myrtleford signifies much of the camaraderie between us all. It’s the ideal excuse for people to come together and get a taste of just how distinctive the wines from our region are."

The loss of visits from tourists over the summer has had a huge impact on the region and the amount of smoke in the area may also add an extra layer of complication for growers and winemakers.

In the short term, though, it is business as usual as much as possible. The existing Billy Button cellar door in Bright still continues to welcome visitors and will continue to be open seven days a week.

The Myrtleford cellar door is at 161 Myrtle St, Myrtleford. Opening hours: Thursday 11am-6pm; Friday 11am-7pm; Saturday 11am-7pm; Sunday 11am-6pm.

There is also a Bushfire Support Mixed Dozen featuring Billy Button, Bush Track Wines, Bike & Barrel Wines, Mayford Wines and Dalbasco Wines. Available at cellar door or online at

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Australian artist makes his mark in Cambodia

Australian artist Morrison Polkinghorne has drawn on his base in Cambodia for the inspiration for his grey- and black-toned paintings made from lotus stems and artisanal petal ink.

His new exhibition, entitled Khmer Impressions/Les Impressions Khmères, runs from February through April at Sofitel Phokeethra Hotel Gallery in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital.

Monochrome ink wash paintings, classically from China and Japan, are among the world's oldest artistic traditions. In his contemporary take, Polkinghorne adapts pointillism to this classic art form: first by using lotus stems as his brush, and secondly by creating an organic ink from its flower petals that is both holistic and spiritual in nature.

Lotus is the ideal imagery for Cambodia, as the lotus flower symbolises Buddha’s spiritual awakening, emerging from the muddy dark depths into light, and finally transmuting into a flash of beauty.

“I envision my pieces ecologically and holistically, with Cambodia's nature and environment as the inspiration,” says Polkinghorne.

“Lotus stems are my paintbrush, while its flowers create my tones.”

Emphasis is placed on the refinement of every individual stroke's varying depths of tone.

Each row complemennts the last, expressing simple beauty and elegance in the final compositions. The resultant works evoke myriad Cambodian images, from its vast rivers and Tonle Sap lake; Angkorian pillars; to ancient landscapes of misty mountains and tumbling waters.

Morrison left Australia six years ago, and now presides over Bric-a-Brac, an award-winning lodgings in Cambodia's second-largest city, Battambang, with partner Robert Carmack.

Khmer Impressions/Les Impressions Khmères is at Sofitel Phokeethra Hotel, The Gallery, Phnom Penh, Cambodia from February 3.

Monday 27 January 2020

Pamphlets will make sure Australians are safe from coronavirus

Are Australians safe from the fast-spreading coronavirus? The Federal Government is relying on pamphlets to do the job.

China's health ministry said on Monday that "it seems like the ability of the virus to spread is getting stronger.”

Despite five cases already in Australia - the latest on a flight from Wuhan - the Government of Scott Morrison has ruled out screening all incoming passengers from China, or temporarily halting flights.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said: “Every flight is being met by officials, and officials I’m advised, will be boarding the flights and ensuring each individual who has travelled on those flights is directly receiving information."

That means they are given a pamphlet advising them to contact a doctor if they feel unwell.

Announcements are also being made in airport arrival halls.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said closing Australia’s borders due to coronavirus “would be a very significant step”.

The virus, which started in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has now claimed 80 lives in China and infected over 2700 people.

The Chinese government has also reported five cases in Hong Kong and two in Macao. Small numbers of cases have also been found in Thailand, Taiwan Japan, South Korea, the US, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal and France.

Australia’s chief medical officer Brendan Murphy told The New Daily he had sent a letter to every GP in Australia, asking them to consider any recent arrival from Wuhan with flu-like symptoms a potential coronavirus case.

“They will probably turn out to be negative, but they should be treated that way, isolated and then referred to the nearest emergency department with calling ahead,” Dr Murphy told the ABC.

China’s National Health Commission said the incubation period for the virus could range from one-to-14 days, during which infection can occur.

But it is OK. The Government says everything in Australia is under control and it has a terrific track record in emergencies. Oops. Sorry.

2020 Tokyo Olympics to showcase Japanese technology

Japan aims to use the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games to underline that it remains a major global force in innovation and technology.

Visitors can expect to encounter driverless cars, multilingual robot volunteers and ultra-high-definition TV replays.

“Tokyo is at the front of innovation and technology and we are hoping to develop and popularise a diverse range of technological innovations,” says Hidetoshi Fujisawa, Tokyo 2020’s executive director of communications and engagement. 

“The 2020 Games are an opportunity for Japan, for its capital and for the Japanese business community to amaze the world.”

Robots made by Japanese car manufacturer Toyota will be deployed across the Tokyo 2020 sites to aid both workers and attendees at the Games later this year.

Toyota will provide 16 support robots to assist sports fans with tasks such as carrying food and drink, guiding people to their seats and providing event information.

Hirohisa Hirukawa, leader of the Tokyo 2020 Robot Project, says: “The Tokyo 2020 Games are a unique opportunity for us to display Japanese robot technology. This project will not simply be about exhibiting robots, but showcasing their practical real-life deployment helping people.

“So, there will be not only sports at the Tokyo 2020 Games, but some cool robots at work to look forward to as well.

"Robot technology will help deliver a safer and smoother Games and, while robots will be deployed only in specific roles during the Games, the project is expected to showcase their potential for wider application in everyday life."

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has also unveiled the “G-SATELLITE Go to Space” project, which plans to manufacture a small satellite and deploy it in orbit around the earth.

Aimed at both promoting and enlivening the Tokyo 2020 Games from space, the satellite’s payload will include “GUNDAM” and “ZAKU”, two of Japan’s most popular animated characters.

The last time Japan hosted the biggest sporting show on the planet – back in 1964 – it wowed the world by unveiling the shinkansen, the sleek high-speed bullet train that has led the world ever since.

Bullet trains remain a benchmark for ultra-fast and efficient transport.

Japan also used the 1964 Tokyo Games to show off technology including Sharp's LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screens, the first global satellite feed for TV coverage and the Sony Walkman music player.

Japan now faces business challenges from China, South Korea and the United States when it comes to the latest in technological innovation but organisers of the 2020 Games aim to dazzle once more.

“Our vision for the 2020 Games includes an aspiration to make them the most innovative in history," says Masa Takaya, a spokesman for Tokyo 2020.

Japan Inc. is ready to use the occasion to show off innovative new products, said Masanori Matsushima, manager at Panasonic's Olympics department, who oversees an entire exhibition space devoted to Games-time tech.

When overseas visitors arrive at Tokyo’s two airports – Narita and Haneda - they will be greeted by multilingual robots primed to assist them and automatic chairs designed to take them to a destination selected by smartphone.

A man-made meteor shower is projected to be part of the opening ceremony and drone-based surveillance technology will be used to supplement human security guards at venues.

Technology giant NEC is deploying a facial recognition system for 300,000 athletes, staff and journalists that will identify people within 0.3 seconds—speeding up access to venues and bolstering security.

Fujitsu, meanwhile, is working with the International Gymnastics Federation to use laser technology to provide data that will be used by judges to supplement what they see with their own eyes.

NHK hopes to impress a global TV audience with programming of events in ultra high-definition 8K but the main sector hoping to use the games as a spur to innovation is transport.

Toyota will be rolling out its futuristic e-Palette, a driverless car without a steering wheel “which will be able to move around in a pre-defined zone," says Yasunobu Seki, Department General Manager at Toyota's Olympic and Paralympic division.

All Nippon Airways recently tested a driverless bus at Haneda Airport and some driverless taxi services aim to be fully functional in time for the Olympics.

The satellite project, meanwhile, is the result of collaboration between Tokyo 2020 and the University of Tokyo, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and three companies in Fukui prefecture.

This will be the first time in Olympic and Paralympic history that a satellite commissioned specially for the Games will orbit the earth independently.

It will be transported to the International Space Station by rocket and launched from there. It will contain a cubicle housing the two animated figures GUNDAM and ZAKU and an electric bulletin board, which will appear once the satellite is in orbit.

Seven cameras in the satellite will record and transmit their movements. Measuring just 10cm x 10cm x 30cm, the G-SATELLITE will orbit the earth for the duration of the Games, broadcasting images of the planet.

Shinichi Nakasuka, a professor at Intelligent Space Systems Laboratory, University of Tokyo, says: “When I heard about this project, I wondered whether they would really go through with it. We’ve put satellites into orbit before, but then I thought we might be able to do something in space to help cheer on the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“I’m feeling a bit of pressure as the creator of the satellite for this project, but I will turn that pressure into enjoyment and do my best.”

Tokyo 2020 has begun nationwide collections of discarded and obsolete electronic devices, including smartphones, digital cameras, hand-held games and laptops, in order to use the metal they contain in the production of the medals that will be awarded to athletes at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Tokyo 2020 partner companies have also been supporting the project in various ways, for example by collecting their employees' used mobile phones.

Tokyo 2020's mission statement when bidding to host the Olympics for a second time was to use the "world's best technologies" when developing operations for the Games. It appears to be living up to its promise. 

# This is an edited version of a story that first appeared in Quest Kudos magazine.   

Sunday 26 January 2020

Coronavirus: Whatever you do don't panic - it's only a global crisis

Containing unnecessary panic over the coronavirus outbreak in China is as vital as stemming the spread of the virus itself, global tourism chiefs are warning.

The crisis escalated over the weekend with airports near the city of Wuhan (below) closed and flights cancelled. Flights from many Chinese cities, however, did continue as normal.

The World Travel & Tourism Council said unless lessons are learnt from previous viral epidemics there could be a damaging and lasting economic impact on travel and tourism globally.

But the WTTC is an organisation that has tourism as its raison d'etre and speaks from the point of view of operators, not tourists.

"Previous cases have also shown us that closing airports, cancelling flights and closing borders often has a greater economic impact than the outbreak itself," said Gloria Guevara, WTTC president & CEO. 

Which glosses over the potential for deaths and serious illness.

Guevara really should know better. She was the former Tourism Minister of Mexico and was closely involved with the aftermath, and then recovery, of the Mexican outbreak of the H1N1 influenza virus in 2009 which led to dozens of deaths.

The WTTC said it supports actions by the Chinese to restrict movement in the affected areas and additional measures being taken further afield, across the Asia Pacific and Europe.

"The most effective management of a crisis requires rapid activation of effective emergency plans, and we can see that in the early days of this outbreak, the Chinese government has acted rapidly," Guevara said.

"Quick, accurate and transparent communication is also crucial in order to contain panic and mitigate negative economic losses. Containing the spread of unnecessary panic is as important as stopping the virus itself.

"We analyse many global crises within WTTC and previous cases have shown us that the economic losses from health epidemics are avoidable, through the effective use of crisis preparedness and management procedures, as well as through managing public panic and making rational decisions through travel."

PHOTO: Workers from local disease control disinfect a
residential area in Ruichang, Jiangxi province in China. (Reuters)

So, basically, it's all about the money.

Analysis of previous major viral epidemics by WTTC experts shows that the average recovery time for visitor numbers to a destination was 19 months, but with the right response and management destinations could recover in as little as 10 months, Travel Mole reported.

The potential future lack of inbound Chinese tourists to destinations in Asia, Australia and the UK looms as a major issue.

Chinese travel agents have been told to stop selling tours and packages - both domestic and international.

As the coronavirus claims more victims, Beijing's Forbidden City palace complex, Shanghai's Disney Resort and other tourist attractions have been shut down, while hotels and airlines are waiving cancellation fees.

Share prices for China's three major airlines - China Southern, China Eastern and China Air - all took a dive when Chinese authorities said they should refund passengers for cancelled flights.

Vietnam and Singapore are the latest countries to confirm new cases of the virus. Cases have already been confirmed in Thailand, Australia, South Korea and Japan.

In Beijing, all "major events" are suspended indefinitely, which includes those for the Chinese New Year holidays, and The Forbidden City is closed.

In Hong Kong, an international carnival and annual football tournament have been cancelled, as have traditional Lunar New Year celebrations in Macau.

Saturday 25 January 2020

Tahbilk winery celebrates a major milestone

Victoria’s oldest family owned winery and vineyard is celebrating its 160th anniversary in 2020 Tahbilk aims to make a noise about the milestone.

Established in 1860 and situated in the Nagambie Lakes region of Victoria, the name Tahbilk means "place of many waterholes".

Tahbilk’s water system is a vital contributor to the viticultural conditions that exist on the estate, creating a unique and valuable mesoclimate.

As custodians of some of the oldest shiraz vines in the world, planted in 1860, Tahbilk plays an important role in the preservation of Australia, and the globe’s, vinous history.

Tahbilk’s contribution to its local community and the broader wine community is unquestioned and as an iconic destination, Tahbilk continues to be a beacon for wine tourism.

An ongoing plan to extend and develop its tourism experience with upgrades to its cellar door and vineyard experiences are approved and happening right now.

Tahbilk’s commitment to the environment and sustainability remain at the forefront of the Purbrick family’s ethos. They have overseen the redevelopment of the internal wetlands precinct over the past 25 years at a substantial financial investment by the family.

Tahbilk has also been accredited as a CarboNZero operation since 2012 and this obvious passion for the environment continues under the keen eye of fifth-generation Purbrick, Hayley.

With a year of domestic and international activity planned to celebrate their 160th milestone, the family also has an eye to 2025 which will herald a century of Purbrick family ownership, another significant anniversary on the horizon.

Current CEO and fourth-generation family member Alister Purbrick said, “We are delighted to celebrate our 160th anniversary in 2020 and have a full year of activities planned.

"Family, our wines and a sense of place are at the heart of our story as we look ahead to 2025 as our next big milestone. Our 160th anniversary gives a respectful nod to the past and a view to the future as we transition the next generation of Purbrick family members to the forefront of our proud family brand.”

Hayley Purbrick, fifth-generation family member, has overseen Tahbilk’s environmental strategy in her role as the Environment, Business Improvement and Digital Content Manager.

“I’m incredibly proud of my family’s immense contribution to the Australian wine landscape and we take this knowledge and experience forward into this fast-moving and modern age," she said. "I look forward to our next chapter with all the passion and enthusiasm of my forebears. Bring it on!”

See for more information.

Friday 24 January 2020

Margaret River wine producers show their empathy

With several Australian wine regions having been devastated by bush fires, the vignerons of Margaret River have stepped up the plate to help.

Over 50 local businesses in conjunction with the Margaret River Wine Association and Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association the have donated prizes for an online auction, with all proceeds going to help the Australian Red Cross Bushfire Disaster Relief and Recovery Fund and regional causes recommended by Wine Australia and the Australian Grape & Wine.

Bidding is now open with rare wines, luxurious stays, helicopter rides, private vineyard and winery tours and sumptuous meals just some of the auction prizes available for wine lovers to bid on.

It's a win, win with the chance to do some good and possibly snag an unforgettable vinous experience.

The prizes include a collection of all six Margaret River Jimmy Watson Trophy-winning wines; a 12-bottle vertical of Leeuwin Art Series Chardonnay; a luxury stay at Voyager Estate; and a personal tour of the Oates End vineyard with winemaker Cath Oates.

Other prizes well worth bidding on include a stay at Cape Lodge; ocean-view accommodation at Hamelin Bay Holiday Park or two nights at Wyadup Brook Cottages with a picnic lunch and Cape to Cape Track transfers.

Ticket to Cape Mentelle International Cabernet Tasting and a helicopter tour of the region also sound enticing.

The auction aims to raise $100,000 and is a collaboration between the Margaret River Wine Association and the Margaret River Busselton Tourism Association. 

The auction aims to raise $100,000closes on Friday, February 7.  Visit to place a bid. 

Another auction being run by Amato Vino also has some terrific prizes on offer as part of the Fire Break charity.

Thursday 23 January 2020

Is this the most beautiful place to stay in New Zealand?

Otahuna Lodge, New Zealand's most historic luxury lodge, is celebrating its 125th birthday in 2020 - and it remains a benchmark destination with its remarkable architecture, award-winning gardens and sophisticated cuisine.

The primary residence of noted New Zealand politician Sir Heaton Rhodes for over 60 years, the property was purchased in 2006 by Hall Cannon and Miles Refo, who, committed to maintaining its legacy, transformed the property into a seven-suite colonial-style lodge. 

It is, quite simply, a beautiful place to stay. Very grand, but with a relaxed vibe. 

The name Otahuna means 'little hill among the hills' in Maori. Perched on a hill, the lodge lies between the rocky outcrops of the Banks Peninsula with views of the Southern Alps and vast Canterbury Plains. It is just 30 minutes from Christchurch. 

The Relais & Chateaux property's distinctive features such as a hand-carved Kauri staircase, Rimu panelling, original lead lights and 15 working wood-burning fireplaces. 

Otahuna Lodge is a Category 1 icon listing with the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

A decade ago the grounds of the property were recognised as “A Garden of National Significance” by the New Zealand Gardens Trust. 

The 30 acres contain an orchard with peach, pear, plum, quince, walnut and hazelnut trees; a 1⁄2 acre potager, a mushroom garden; a windmill-shaped Dutch Garden and a field that blooms with millions of daffodils each September.

An equally significant feat to the estate's portfolio is the private art collection; including works by well-known artists such as Peter Beadle, Anna Caselberg and Craig Primrose.

The menu at Otahuna Lodge is a celebration of fresh, seasonal flavours inspired by the 120 varieties of fruits and vegetables grown organically in the lodge's garden and orchard. 

Each evening at the lodge sees the chefs orchestrate a five-course degustation menu paired with fine New Zealand wines.

Visit for more information.

Wednesday 22 January 2020

A five-star hotel for Rotorua

The popular North Island destination of Rotorua in New Zealand has a new premium hotel with the opening of the Pullman Rotorua by Accor, New Zealand’s largest hospitality operator.

It is first international five-star hotel to open in the Bay of Plenty region – famous for its geothermal attractions.

The new-build hotel provides guests with a choice of five accommodation options - superior king rooms, superior twin rooms, deluxe rooms, deluxe twin rooms and executive suites.

“We are so excited to open the doors of the Pullman Rotorua and build on our already established presence in the region, delivering the destination its first true five-star accommodation experience,” said Senior Vice President Operations for Accor New Zealand, Fiji and French Polynesia, Gillian Millar.

"Pullman Rotorua is perfectly suited for travellers, especially families, couples and business leaders looking for a world-class stay and a touch of luxury in one of the country’s most attractive tourist destinations.

“The city has beautiful forests and lakes for mountain biking, lugeing and water sports, spas for relaxation and wellness, and renowned geothermal attractions.

"No matter what visitors are in Rotorua to experience, we’re in the centre of it all at the Pullman and we’re addressing a need at the top end of the market, which wasn’t being met before.”

The 130-room hotel offers guests panoramic views of the city and lake area and features a bar, gym and executive lounge.

The Pullman’s modern brasserie, Barrel & Co Bar and Grill. is set around an open kitchen. It has a focus on locally sourced produce, a premium grill selection and an impressive craft beer and local wine menu.

In addition, Pullman Rotorua provides conference facilities including four private event spaces for 120 people theatre-style, and a boardroom/private dining room catering to a diverse range of business event needs.

Pullman Rotorua is the second Pullman hotel in New Zealand, joining the existing Pullman Auckland, and part of a network of more than 130 Pullman hotels and resorts worldwide.

The new hotel is Accor’s 46th property in New Zealand and the group’s fourth in the ‘Geyser City’ joining the Peppers on the Point Rotorua, Novotel Rotorua Lakeside and the ibis Rotorua.

Opening rates at the new Pullman Rotorua start from NZ$349 per room per night.

Is this the worst travel idea ever?

I'm no businessman, but I can tell when something smells wrong. 

Fosun Tourism Group is reported to have recruited several former Thomas Cook executives ahead of a relaunch of the Thomas Cook brand as an online travel company.

Fosun Tourism Group operates as a leisure-focused integrated tourism group providing resort management, tourism destination development, and other related services from its Hong Kong-base. 

Travel Mole reports Thomas Cook is set to be relaunched in June after hiring a dozen former company executives and will apply for an ATOL licence from the Civil Aviation Authority.

Before Thomas Cook collapsed in September 2019, Fosun was its biggest shareholder.

The brand was acquired by Fosun in November for £11 million. At the time, the union TSSA described the sale price as "a paltry sum". And there is still lots of ill-feeling following the collapse. 

A report in The Times report says: "Fosun is said to be keen to quickly re-establish the 179-year-old tour operator as an online business."

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Producers fighting back after fires on Kangaroo Island

The Kangaroo Island fires were this morning officially declared contained after more than three weeks of firefighting by hundreds of volunteers on the South Australian island.

The fire destroyed Southern Ocean Lodge and came within four kilometres of Kangaroo Island Spirits, one of a number of Cygnet River businesses near Kingscote Airport on the Playford Highway.

KIS owners Jon and Sarah Lark were evacuated to Kingscote and also shifted large amounts of stock away from the approaching fire front on January 3, including a number of barrels of the island’s first whisky, which were taken to Penneshaw.

“The whisky is very precious to us because it obviously hasn’t been released yet,” Jon Lark said.

KIS re-opened its cellar door on January 6 and today began producing its first gin since December 20.

“Fortunately we had quite a lot of stock but we didn’t plan on being closed this long,” Lark said.

“We’re all pretty exhausted and the water is pretty bad so we’re having to make gin using cask water at the moment because our rainwater tanks are full of ash and while the mains water is safe to drink, it tastes terrible.”

The Kangaroo Island fires burnt 211,000 hectares – almost half of the island – mainly at its western end.

Ferry companies SeaLink and Kangaroo Island Connect are offering discounted passenger fares from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw to encourage tourists to return to Australia’s third-largest offshore island.

“There’s starting to be a few tourists now but we’re certainly way down on last year. We have a good peak at Easter again and it’s quite possible that we’ll see an even greater surge than we’re used to – let’s hope because the island’s economy certainly needs it,” Lark said.

Spring Road Wines is run by Joch Bosworth and Louise Hemsley-Smith, who also own McLaren Vale winery Battle of Bosworth.

Hemsley-Smith said it was still unclear if their Cygnet River vineyard, planted with shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay, would be affected by smoke taint from the fires that passed within a few kilometres.

“Joch’s about to go over to pick some samples and if we get a smoke taint reading back we won’t even bother netting the vines to keep the crows off,” she said.

“At this stage we’re open and we’re just keeping on and waiting to see what’s going to happen but the damage so far has been from a falling off of visitor numbers.

“We only opened the cellar door in December 2018 so we don’t have any long-term figures but it’s definitely been quieter.”

Islander Estate Vineyard suffered significant fire damage to its 12-hectare vineyard but has managed to reopen its cellar door to visitors.

Trivago has been lying to us all along

I hate those television adverts for Trivago with a passion.

I detest that smarmy know-it-all Aussie almost as much as that self-centred American.

And who seriously gets a four-star hotel room for $120 anyway?

Anyway, it turns out that both of those characters have been lying to us for years.

An Australian court has ruled Trivago breached Australian consumer law by making misleading representations about the hotels featured on its website and television advertising for nearly three years.

It found the company favoured hotels that that paid the highest cost-per-click, rather than offering the lowest prices.

In a judgement made in the Australian Federal Court on January 20, the online hotel comparisons site was found to have misled consumers since at least December 2016 by representing its website as helping to quickly and easily help identify the cheapest rates available for a given holiday globally.

In reality, its site algorithm placed significant weight on which online booking site paid Trivago the highest cost-per-click (CPC) fee to advertise its offering, contradicting its marketing message.

The court ruling followed proceedings launched by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

The ACCC welcomed the court’s decision, with its chair, Rod Sims, calling Trivago’s conduct “particularly egregious”. Along with finding Trivago had misled consumers about the prices advertised, the judge ruled the company misled consumers to believe its website provided impartial, objective and transparent price comparisons across hotel room rates.

“Many consumers may have been tricked by these price displays into thinking they were getting great discounts. In fact, Trivago wasn’t comparing apples with apples when it came to room type for these room rate comparisons,” Sims said.

“By prominently displaying a hotel in ‘top position’ on its website, Trivago represented that the offer was either the cheapest or had some other extra feature that made it the best offer when this was often not the case.”

Trivago is a German transnational technology company specialising in internet-related services and products in the hotel, lodging and metasearch fields. The United States travel company Expedia Group owns a majority of the company's stock.

Monday 20 January 2020

Melbourne hotels make canine companions welcome

Canines and their human companions are now welcome to stay in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD with as Citadines on Bourke Melbourne transforming into a dog-friendly retreat, complete with a rooftop courtyard where pups can stretch their legs. 

Having recently welcomed four-legged guests to a selection of apartments at Somerset on Elizabeth Melbourne, The Ascott Limited has decided to spread the doggy joy to a sister property.

Positioned in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD and comprised of spacious apartments with separate living and dining areas, Citadines on Bourke Melbourne offers guests and their pups a city base to stretch out, relax and explore the city’s many sights and sounds at an affordable price.

Four-legged guests will be catered for with a bed fitted for the furry traveller, water and food bowls, and a welcome pack including treats, toys and a special gift.

Pups on their first city-break will get a true taste of the high life, experiencing their very own New York moment at the aparthotel’s rooftop courtyard.

Back on ground level, dogs will also have plenty of opportunity for exercise with neighbouring parks in Carlton and Fitzroy Gardens both within close walking distance.

The guest services team will be well-versed in many of the dog-friendly activities on offer around the city, including Tom and Captain who guide dogs on adventurous walks around Melbourne, and Gourmet Pawprints who offer pup-friendly experiences such as Paws and Pours High Tea and Doggy Winery Tours.

Happy times for pampered hounds. 

For further information about Citadines on Bourke Melbourne, please visit

How many brands does one hotel group need?

Global hotel chain Hilton has announced it is to introduce yet another new brand - its 18th.

Joining brands like Doubletree, Conrad and Waldorf Astoria, Tempo by Hilton will be targeted at "a growing segment of modern achievers" and will be "an approachable lifestyle brand' that has been designed with input from experts in the well-being, food and other lifestyle spheres." 

Hilton CEO Christopher J Nassetta said: "Tempo by Hilton is the latest example of our ability to anticipate what our guests are looking for.

"I think this will be one of our larger brands in the US - and ultimately globally."

He says there could be as many as 500 locations for Tempo over the long term.

Confirmed locations for new hotels so far include New York, Maui, Los Angeles, Nashville, San Diego, Houston and Atlanta.

Rooms will be "reinvigorating and relaxing" with "cocoon-like beds featuring wraparound headboards". 

Hotels will have a complimentary tea and coffee bar in the lobby (why not in the rooms?), a casual café and craft cocktails.

Each location will also feature versatile meeting space for small groups or social events.

The trouble is that the image offered to the media looks like any generic hotel room - and Nassetta is merely spouting hotel speak.
I can see nothing in the publicity blurb that merits a new brand. It sounds just like any other mid-scale chain to me. 

Tempo will be part of Hilton's loyalty program as well as the Travel with Purpose sustainability program.

The first Tempo by Hilton hotel is expected to open in mid-2021.

But at least Hilton still has a long way to go to match French chain Accor, which at my last count had 35 different brands in its voluminous portfolio.

These include Raffles, Fairmont and Sofitel; MGallery, Pullman, Sofitel, Swissotel, Novotel, Mercure and ibis. 

In my opinion all these brands just lead to confusion among consumers - but this has nothing to do with consumers. It's all about enticing investors with something new. 

Sunday 19 January 2020

Ibiza and Majorca have had enough of boozy Brits

The holiday islands of Ibiza and Majorca have long been magnets for booze-fuelled British tourists. 

But now the Spanish have had enough of the pink pissed pests. 

he regional government of the Balearic Islands has passed a bill clamping down on alcohol-fuelled antics in resorts that have a reputation for rowdiness and excess drinking, Travel Mole reports.

Happy hours, free drinks and the advertising of pub crawls are now illegal in the West End of Sant Antoni on Ibiza and Playa de Palma, El Arenal and Magaluf (above) on Majorca.

The laws, drawn up in consultation with the tourism industry, also bans two-for-one drink offers, prohibits the sale of alcohol in shops between 9:30pm and 8am and forbids advertising party boats in designated areas. Alcohol vending machines have also been outlawed.

In addition, no new licences will be granted for the notorious booze cruises. 
The regional government said the measures will "fight excesses in certain tourist zones" and "force a real change in the tourism model of those destinations".

Tourism Minister Iago Negueruela described the move as "an exceptional law for a particular area and a specific problem".
A ban on 'balconing' - when holidaymakers jump from a hotel or apartment balcony into a swimming pool - has already been in place in some resorts and has been extended across the whole region. 

British tourists have helped make these resorts notorious. Magaluf, for instance, has been nicknamed 'Shagaluf' because of its reputation.

"With this, the Balearic Islands become the first destination in Europe to fight back against tourism based on excess," Negueruela said.

Saturday 18 January 2020

What do Caracas, Port Moresby and Pietermariztburg have in common?

Caracas in Venezuela (below) is the most dangerous city in the world, Numbeo's latest international crime index reveals. 

Numbeo is the world's largest database of user contributed data but I call complete bullshit on its figures. 

Analysis of the Numbeo figures shows the Venezuelan capital has a crime level of 84.92, while Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea has one of 83.22. Next comes Pietermaritzburg in South Africa.

Pretoria, Durban and Johannesburg, all in South Africa, rounded out the fourth, fifth and sixth places on the list followed by San Pedro Sula, Honduras, Rio de Janeiro,  Recife and Salvador in Brazil. 

Cities with crime levels lower than 20 are considered to have very low crime. Between 20 and 40 is low, between 40 and 60 is moderate, between 60 and 80 is high, and higher than 80 is considered very high.
Three US cities (Memphis, Baltimore and Detroit) made the top 20, with Port of Spain in Trinidad, where I have happily strolled the streets solo, comes in at No.14.

Australia’s most dangerous city is apparently Darwin (55.30), sitting way down the index at 86. Canberra (19.32) is listed as Australia’s safest city on the 375-city list. 

Why is it, then that I feel far safer wandering around beachfront Durban than I do in San Francisco, and certainly a lot safer in Pietermaritzburg than in Naples? 

The fact is there are lies, damn lies and statistics and these figures simply do not reflect crime reality. 

The vast majority of all crime in South Africa, for instance is black-on-black violence in remote ghettos, or townships. Few, if any tourists are likely to enter Gugulethu, or Kwa Mashu. 

In Pietermaritzburg (above), a city of fewer than a quarter of a million people, the crime hotspots are Imbali, Edendale, Dambuza and Plessislaer - all outlying townships with gang issues, political violence and vicious taxi company rivalries. 

Tourists will not be visiting shanty towns or open-air garbage dumps populated by dump divers.   
The same story in Brazil. Much of the crime happens in favelas, hillside shanty townships in which rival gangs wreak violence on each other and into which no sane visitor would set foot. 

Caracas is not not on my list of cities to visit, so I cannot verify what happens there, but WorldNomads says violent crime is rife and foreigners are prime targets. 

Violent crime, including armed robbery, carjacking, home invasions and sexual assault is common, too, in Port Moresby, but that city is hardly a vacation hotspot.  

Perhaps avoid Caracas and Port Moresby - but I would not not allow statistics to scare me away from holiday destinations in South Africa or Brazil. 



Friday 17 January 2020

Step back 200 years with Sydney's new museum drawcard

The new Hyde Park Barracks experience aims to offer a journey through Australian history.

The UNESCO World Heritage-listed building, which dates back to 1819, reopens on February 21 after a complete refurbishment and is hoping to redefine the museum experience.

Led by ground breaking audio technology, visitors won’t just follow in the footsteps of real people who encountered the Barracks – they will re-live their experiences.

With immersive activations over three storeys, visitors will walk through history: stand where they stood and listen to their stories. 

“Audiences around the world are looking for more from their museum visits than merely seeking information,” said Adam Lindsay, the executive director of Sydney Living Museums.

Hyde Park Barracks is one of the most significant convict sites in the world. Commissioned in 1817 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, the building was designed by convict architect Francis Greenway, and almost 100,000 people passed through its gates over 68 years during the time that it served as a convict residence, immigration depot and female asylum.

“The Barracks has been central to the many chapters of Sydney’s emergence as a diverse, multicultural city,” said Don Harwin, Minister for the Arts.

“The renewal of such an iconic heritage landmark promises a bold, new look at the interwoven, challenging and often inspiring stories of Sydney’s early history.”

At the heart of the new experience is our globally significant Archaeological Collection. More than 4000 original objects will be on display, many for the very first time.

The collection of items worn, touched and treasured by past residents is considered one of the best preserved examples of 19th-century institutional life anywhere in the world.

The renewed Hyde Park Barracks tells a significant part of Australia’s convict story and the site’s early role in immigration and institutional care. But the impact of this place on Aboriginal land, culture and communities is also acknowledged and told.

Tickets to visit the museum will cost adults $24, concession $20 and children $16.

The Historic Houses Trust of NSW, incorporating Sydney Living Museums, cares for significant historic places, buildings, landscapes and collections. It is a statutory authority of, and principally funded by, the New South Wales Government.


Discover why cruise passengers want to spend less time at sea

Cruise passengers are looking to expand their horizons in 2020 with an increased demand for far-flung, pristine destinations. 

Cruisers also want yo immerse themselves in each location, a survey by global luxury travel network Virtuoso reveals. 

The network is revealing its top cruise trends for the year in time for “wave season,” occurring each January through March, when savvy travellers book voyages to benefit from special incentives. 

Virtuoso’s cruise portfolio includes 33 ocean, river, yacht and expedition partners offering thousands of itineraries to global ports-of-call.

“In 2020, cruisers are choosing itineraries based on destinations and the more unusual and faraway the better,” said Beth Butzlaff, vice-president for cruise sales at Virtuoso. 

“Cruising used to be considered more passive, but lines have overcome that misperception with [ships spending] more time in port and passengers enjoying experiences that are unique to the destination. 

"Passengers want to enjoy the essence of these places through interactions with local people and culture, and the industry has responded with innovative offerings to satisfy evolving preferences."

Virtuoso’s top cruise trends for 2020 include: 

Distant Destinations
The No.1 reason travellers are interested in cruises is the ability to visit multiple destinations. No longer just focused on the Caribbean or Mediterranean, cruise ships visit ports as diverse as Muscat, Oman; Manta, Ecuador; Tasmania  and Rarotonga in the Cook Islands. 

In-Port Immersion
Cruise lines are creating new itineraries and shore excursions to provide more destination immersion. Azamara offers three ways to further that connection with a locale: late-night and overnight stays, complimentary evening performances in port and shore excursions that encourage deeper connections with local people and cultures. Seabourn also offers cultural, culinary, adventure and mindful-living experiences during shore excursions, bringing the destination to life for passengers. 

Cold is Hot
Lines as varied as Crystal, Seabourn, Viking and Ponant are offering more expedition cruises as the boom in adventurous cruising continues building. Passengers seeking pure, scenic destinations are attracted to chilly locales such as Antarctica, the Arctic, Greenland and Norway’s fjords. 

Conscious Travel
Cruise lines are responding to consumers’ growing awareness of sustainability by implementing more environmentally friendly technology and programs to boost the destinations they visit, both economically and culturally. Hurtigruten, Lindblad Expeditions, Aqua Expeditions and Royal Caribbean International are among those leading the way. 

Micro-trips – short jaunts for people with more money and desire to travel than time – are trending in the cruise world in North America. Lines such as Norwegian Cruise Line, Celebrity and Virgin Voyages offer two- to five-night Caribbean cruises. Equally convenient, passengers have multiple options for their port of departure, with Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa, New Orleans and Galveston, Texas, all offering micro-cruises. 

Cruise lines featuring U.S. sailings are flourishing, with American Queen’s Mississippi River cruises in particularly high demand. The appeal extends beyond Americans, with Australians who want to cruise the legendary river also booking voyages.  

The Suite Life
Some cruise devotees only travel in style by booking a suite, and if the category they desire is not available, they push their sailing date further into the future. Suite inventory is relatively small, specifically for spacious owner’s and penthouse suites, so this demand has inspired lines to open itineraries well in advance, especially for world cruises. With 2020 bookings strong, cruisers are bumping sailing dates out as far as 2022. 

Travellers who want to take advantage of wave season and book through a Virtuoso advisor will receive complimentary amenities on select sailings. To view cruises from Virtuoso’s partner lines visit

Thursday 16 January 2020

Global investment giant puts its trust in Australian wine

Global Investment giant BlackRock has bought more than $250 million worth of shares in Australia’s largest wine company in recent weeks.

Treasury Wine Estates, which includes Penfolds, Wolf Blass, Wynns Coonawarra Estate, Seppelt and Rosemount Estate in its portfolio announced to the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) this morning that BlackRock had increased its stake in the company to 8.32%.

Those shares are valued at more than $1 billion Australian dollars. This followed a buy up of 7.3 million TWE shares by BlackRock in December, taking its stake from 6.21% to 7.22%.

US-based BlackRock is the world’s largest investment manager and manages about $7 trillion for its investors around the globe.

It initially purchased almost 38 million TWE shares – 5.14% of the company – in March 2017 when the share price was a little over $12 before increasing its holdings to 6.21% in April 2019.

TWE’s share price has rallied in recent weeks from $16.13 on January 3 to $17.47 this morning but is still down on its six-month high of $19.17 on September 20 last year.

The BlackRock investment announcement follows news that it would shift its focus towards sustainability-focused companies in 2020.

BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said his firm would make a series of moves to place sustainability at the centre of its sustainability approach.

The bulk of Treasury Wine Estates’ premium Australian brands produce wine in South Australia.
TWE announced a $419.5 million profit for the financial year to June 2019, up 16% on the previous year.

The company also announced in August it would spend up to $215 million at its Wolf Blass Bilyara winery in the Barossa Valley over the next 24 months to expand production, processing and storage infrastructure.

The investment is part of TWE’s “premiumisation strategy”, which also includes buying production and vineyard assets in the Bordeaux region of France.

Australian wine exports for the 12 months to June 2019 increased by 4% in value to $2.86 billion over the 12 months, driven by exports to China and a return to growth in the United States.