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Wednesday 31 January 2024

Do you have a community project that needs a little boost?

Do you have a bold and innovative project that could do with a little cash injection?

The inaugural Penfolds Evermore grant round has launched in Australia today, inviting applicants for a share of $200,000 to support projects that contribute to community and culture.

In 2023, the leading Australian wine brand announced a pledge of $1 million over five years towards the Penfolds Evermore Grant Program, administered in multiple rounds covering different territories around the world.

With a focus on three key areas: food, winemaking/viticulture and creative arts (including fashion, art and music), up to three grants will be awarded.

Starting in Australia, with France, USA and China to follow, the grant round focuses on the brand's positive contribution to sustainability globally.

“In life and in business, it’s important to give back," says Penfold chief winemaker Peter Gago.

"Penfolds has been blessed with 180 years of successfully making and selling wine. Our footprint may be found across many vineyards, across many countries.

"How good is it to vigorously embrace the future - to strategically create new legacies, to implement a more diverse global overview, to courageously seek new challenges - as of Day 1 of our next 180 years?”

Evermore is Penfolds first "brand-level coordinated sustainability platform" and underlines its aspirations as a global winemaker, employer, and leader to leave a positive mark on the places, communities and people it engages with.

The three strategic priorities that underpin Penfolds Evermore are:

1. Community and culture: supporting Penfolds communities, both local and global, to thrive by fostering connection and culture - with the grant program directly linked to this pillar.

2. Future winemaking: advancing winemaking and viticulture practices through ongoing innovation and supporting the next generation of bold and curious winemakers.

3. Towards sustainability: taking steps to help preserve our natural world focused on production practices, winemaking and viticulture.

Tom King, managing director at Penfolds, said since Penfolds beginnings in 1844, the merging of science, art and innovation have been represented using the catch cry “1844 to Evermore”.

“As Penfolds celebrates its 180th year in 2024, it’s an opportunity to look forward to what’s next - Evermore reflects Penfolds ambition to honour our storied past while creating a legacy designed to deliver positive impact for the future,” says King.

Expressions of interest are now open and will close on March 17.

# Penfolds Evermore is named after the company's well-known advertising slogan from the early 1900s.

For more details visit

Australian wines losing their global appeal

More bad news for the Australian wine industry today with news that exports declined by 2% in value to $1.90 billion and 3% in volume to 607 million litres in the 12 months to December 2023.

The Wine Australia Export Report released today said that although these figures are an improvement on than those reported in the September 2023 Export Report, the results are still well below long-term averages.

Particularly disturbing will be major falls in sales in the US, a declining market for Australian wines.

Wine Australia manager for market insights, Peter Bailey said that Europe and North America drove the reduction in Australia’s export value over the year, declining by 7% and 12% respectively.

“In Europe, exports to the top 15 markets declined in value as the region suffers through higher inflation rates than North America and Asia, as well as supply chain issues," he said.

"This includes the United Kingdom, Australia’s largest export market by volume. Pleasingly, Australia’s exports to the UK grew in volume for the first time since mid-2021.

“Both the United States and Canada contributed to North America’s decline in value. In 2023, packaged shipments to these markets continued their decline and unpackaged shipments, which were growing strongly, have started to ease off.

“The decline in exports to Europe and North America has resulted in their share of export value dropping to 29 and 27% respectively. Meanwhile, Asia’s share of export value has grown to 37%.

“Hong Kong and Singapore were stand out destinations for Australian wine in Asia, driving the growth of value to the region. Further, the number of exporters to Hong Kong also grew – up 138 export businesses to a total of 531 in 2023. Hong Kong and Singapore are key trading hubs in the Asian region and, as such, some of the wine is on-shipped to other markets.”

The decline in Australia’s exports comes at a time when most wine producing countries are reporting decreasing sales, Wine Australia says.

The global alcohol market is softening and impacting the entire wine category, especially in mature markets. This trend has been attributed to a combination of global economic tightening resulting in less discretionary spending and consumers being more conscious of their health.

Cool season deals on offer at Saffire Freycinet

A stay at Saffire Freycinet luxury lodge is one of Tasmania's most sought-after experiences with demand frequently exceeding supply. 

Studios are a little easier to book during the island state's cool season and Saffire has announced a new year offer with 25% savings offered on all stays of three nights or more.

The deal is on offer for stays between the dates of April 1 and September 30, spanning the autumn, winter and early spring seasons, when migrating whales frequently visit the east coast of the Apple Isle.

The offer aims to encourage guests to spend a little longer exploring the Freycinet region, enjoying fine local food and drinks with Saffire Freycinet as a luxury base.

Guests can enjoy calm sailing onboard the popular Seafood and Sparkling cruise and spot whales as they glide into the bay. 

Seals can be spotted basking in the sun during the Waubs Harbour Whisky experience - home to Tasmania’s maritime single malt whisky in the nearby coastal town of Bicheno. 

On the daily tasting menus created by Saffire executive chef Paddy Prenter - who I tip as a future superstar - guests can expect fresh, sustainably produced seafood with oysters coming from nearby Dolphin Sands, rock lobster from surrounding waters and octopus from Stanley in the state’s north. 

There is also Robbins Island wagyu beef and lamb and venison from Springfield Farm.

“We are spoilt with exceptional produce in Tasmania - including from our own new kitchen garden - and I’m privileged to take our guests on a culinary journey during their stay," says Prenter. "We are fortunate that our state teems with world-leading seasonal produce - including delights like winter truffles - so there is never a better time to enjoy our tasting menu."

Saffire Freycinet General Manager Patrick Barrie said the cool season offer was designed to offer guests an incentive to spend a little extra time on holiday.

“There’s so much to discover here at Saffire on the beautiful Freycinet coast, from fine local wines with the winemakers, to walking adventures or savouring oysters shucked fresh from the lease. Plus, there’s the pure delight of kicking back to lazily watch the ever-changing views of the Hazards Mountains from our guest suites."

All-inclusive rates on the 25% Savings Cool Season offer start at $2250 per night for two guests. See 

Saffire Freycinet is a member of the Luxury Lodges of Australia collection.

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Farewell to one of the most famous business names in the Australian wine industry

Negociants International is one of the highest-profile and respected wine distributors in the business.

But say goodbye to the name.

Sixth-generation family-owned winemaker and global fine wine merchant Hill-Smith Family Estates announced today that its international distribution business, Negociants International, will retire its business name and operate as Hill-Smith Family Estates from February 1.

Established in 1985, Negociants International built a network of fine wine distributors across more than 50 major and emerging markets, representing family winemakers from Australia and New Zealand including HSFE brands Yalumba, Pewsey Vale Vineyard, Jansz Tasmania, and Nautilus Estate, as well as family winemakers Rockford, Henschke, Chris Ringland, Murdoch Hill, Gentle Folk, Ochota Barrels and New Zealand's Kumeu River.

Fifth-generation company head Robert Hill-Smith (above) says the transition from the Negociants International brand to Hill-Smith Family Estates is "part of a natural alignment of assets across international marketing and sales".

“The wine world is a very different place today than when we established Negociants International in 1985, both in the way sales channels are structured and how we bring wines to market,” Hill-Smith says.

“With that evolution, we must adapt, and this strategic change is an opportunity to better support the sales channels and the family-owned wine brands we represent by expanding our marketing and sales capabilities.”

Hill-Smith says the change better positions the business to achieve its future growth ambitions.

“As a family, we have been fortunate to see the resilience of the wine industry over our 175 years of existence, but this does not happen without terrific people who are committed to delivering not just survival but success and being willing to stay the course through thick and thin.

“As a business, we remain firmly committed to investing in our people, our brands, and the valued relationships we have built over many years with our distribution partners.

“We are a six-generation wine family, enthused for crafting and sharing great wine with the world for generations to come.”

Executive director of marketing and sales Jack Glover will lead the new Hill-Smith Family Estates global marketing and sales team and continue working with its established distribution network across all international markets, including the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, and Asia Pacific.

Flights between Israel and South Africa to suddenly end

Just ask the people of Gaza how accomplished Israel is at taking revenge.

And it now appears the national airline of Israel, El Al, is equally good at that art. 

El Al Israel Airlines has said it will scrap its South Africa route and end flights to Johannesburg within a few weeks.

Just coincidentally, the decision followed South Africa's International Court of Justice action against Israel over genocide against Palestinians.

The airline has said it will end all of its Johannesburg flights from the end of March 2024.

The long-standing service has been operated for close to 50 years, being an important link between South Africa and Israel.

The airline is the sole carrier operating flights between Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport and Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport.

This service is the only direct scheduled service between the two countries, meaning that it is an important connection for South African communities living in Israel, as well as South Africa’s Jewish communities who travel to Israel from Johannesburg.

There is a large Jewish population, particularly in Johannesburg's northern suburbs.

El Al Airlines said it will be scrapping its direct flights to South Africa due to "a significant fall in demand by Israeli travellers".

The axing of Johannesburg flights will allow El Al to expand the frequencies of its flights to other destinations, the airline said.

Monday 29 January 2024

Messi cashes in with controversial sponsorship deals

There is no doubt that Lionel Messi is one of the finest footballers of all time. 

Messi has starred for Barcelona, Paris St Germain and Argentina, earning multiple trophies, including winning the World Cup in 2022, in which he won a record second Golden Ball, scored seven goals including two in the final, and broke the record for most games played at the World Cup (26)..

But as Messi's career winds down with a spell at Inter Miami, he is raking in money from sponsorships.

Fresh from christening the world’s largest cruise ship, Messi is now fronting the latest Saudi Arabia tourism campaign, which critics say contrasts with his work as UNICEF Goodwill ambassador. 

Messi recently christened Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas, which has been slammed for its size given the cruise industry's long-term goals of sustainability.

Messi, a Saudi Tourism Ambassador on a deal reportedly worth $US25 million, is also the face of the ‘Go Beyond What You Think’ campaign, which is being launched in key target markets in Europe, India and China.

The campaign aims to dispel what is says are misconceptions about Saudi as a destination, and about its culture.

Visitors and Saudi residents are encouraged to share positive experiences and memories on TikTok and social channels using the bi-lingual hashtags #ShareYourSaudi ( #السعودية_بعيون .)

The latest spot in the ‘Saudi Welcome to Arabia’ barnd campaign will air on TV, social, digital channels and OTA activations over a three-month period, Travel Mole reports.

The message is to encourage travellers to "e open-minded to new cultures and destinations, holding an open heart while travelling".

The video showcases Saudi’s diverse locations and terrain and a number of high-profile female achievers are featured including the Saudi women’s national football team and Rayyanah Barnawi, the first Saudi woman in space.

But human rights organisation Amnesty International says: "The reality for people living in Saudi Arabia, is one where their basic human rights are ignored, their freedoms are restricted and punishment is severe."

Messi and his teammates at Inter Miami are in the country to play two games against Saudi clubs this week.   

Wine PR liked her favourite brand so much that she bought it

Wine industry public relations expert Claire Doughty liked the wines under the Tin Shed label so much that she and her partner decided to buy the brand. 

Tin Shed Wines was founded by chef Peter Clarke in 1997, and the first vintage was harvested in 1998. This wine was Single Wire Shiraz, produced using grapes from a low-yielding Eden Valley vineyard.

Now, 25 years later, and after a five-year break in production, the 2021 vintage of the Tin Shed Single Wire wine ($65) has been launched.

It's elegant, savoury, food-friendly and probably worthy of a couple more years in the cellar. 

The re-birth of Single Wire comes along with the brand’s acquisition by Claire Doughty and Daniel Killey, both long-time friends of founder Clarke.

Tin Shed consumers and lovers, the new owners purchased Tin Shed Wines in 2019, allowing Clarke to focus on his other business, legendary Barossa restaurant Vintners Bar & Grill. 

Doughty has worked for BRL Hardy and Yalumba before starting her own PR agency, Brand Warrior, while Killey has worked with Samuel Smith & Son and Negociants International and is now CEO of Pure Wine Co. 

“I was introduced to Tin Shed wines in 2006, and since then, these wines have been on pour in our house," says Doughty, pictured above with Clarke. 

"The story, flavours and personality of these wines resonated, and through the wine community, we became great friends with Clarkey, who is one of the most generous people we know. His staying on as Tin Shed’s winemaker has been instrumental. 

"While he continues to guide the wines, he influences so much more with his industry and wine knowledge, and there’s a reason we call him the master of flavours!

“We have a lot of fun collaborating as we continue to push Tin Shed’s mantra of ‘minimal intervention and loads of attention’."

Tin Shed grapes are all sourced from growers across the Barossa and Eden valleys, using organic and minimal intervention processes - and all are vegan friendly.

The 2021 Single Wire is dark and savoury with quality French oak playing a key role.

The range also includes the 2023 Wild Bunch Riesling [Eden Valley] RRP $28; 2023 All Day Rosé [Barossa Valley] RRP $28, 2022 Lazy Arvo Grenache [Barossa Valley] RRP $32, and 2021 Melting Pot Shiraz [Barossa Valley] RRP $32. 

My favourites for drinking right now are the great value Melting Pot ( and the very slurpable rosé, a delicious summer drink for enjoying well chilled. 

The fruit for this wine comes from one of the most famous names in the region, the Tscharke family. 

For more details see: 

Sunday 28 January 2024

Bold chardonnay project an instant success

Winemaker Alex Beckett spent seven successful years at Briar Ridge in the Hunter Valley before his recent switch to Marnong Estate in Victoria.

But he also has a little side project with Jan Taborsky, a former journalist from the Czech Republic with a love of wine, devoted to just one grape variety: chardonnay.

Meet Origines Wines, which has debuted with an exceptional wine from a most unlikely source, the New England district in northern New South Wales, a minor wine producing region at best.

The result, however, is hugely impressive: the Origines 2022 New England Chardonnay ($55). 

Think quality wine made in the style of the Macon region of Burgundy; cool-climate chardonnay with real personality. This is concentrated and elegant with terrific palate drive and has what the French call a certain je ne sais quoi. It's super stylish.   

Origines is described as a "micro-negociant project" that aims to explore the various terroirs of cool-climate areas of New South Wales, and produce chardonnays - and only chardonnays - that express their origins.

The project began two years ago, with a focus on vineyards that use sustainable farming practices.

The pair says its winemaking philosophy is "to capture every aspect of the grape in each glass".

That involves hand picking fruit from low yielding sites (at almost 1000 metres altitude in the case of the first wine), carefully selecting the best grapes, then whole bunch press and fermentation with natural fruit solids and ambient yeasts in, most unusually, Austrian oak casks.

Long maturations on yeast lees follows without any additions and, finally, natural clarification and bottling without any finings or filtration.

A 2023 vintage New England wine is currently in barrel, along with a 2023 Orange chardonnay (from Orange, not made in the orange style). 

Head to  but don't hang around. Quantities are small and word will soon get around. 



Travel magnet: Vilnius lights up for summer

Until this month the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius had not been on my travel radar.

I knew it was a lovely city, but not a lot more.

But the Lithuanians have upped their PR game with some interesting stories abut festivals - including the Vilnius Light Festival, which is being held this weekend,

Residents and visitors have the chance to experience 20 pieces of light art by creators from Lithuania, as well France, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands.

The sixth annual festival marks Vilnius celebrating its 701st anniversary on January 25.

Here are some of the terrific images they supplied, which I think speak for themselves. I'm hoping for an invite to visit soon (fingers crossed).

Go Vilnius is the official tourism and business development agency of the City of Vilnius

Saturday 27 January 2024

Minor Hotels plans major expansion

Minor Hotels, the group behind brands including Anantara and Adina, has announced it is targeting more than 200 new openings globally within three years.

The Bangkok-based hotel owner and operator has unveiled details of its commercial strategy for 2024 and beyond, Travel Mole reports.

The target for new hotels would increase the group’s global portfolio by almost 40% from its current count of 540 properties, as well as adding more than 30,000 rooms to its present inventory of almost 80,000.

The rapid acceleration of Minor’s global growth ambition builds on a record financial performance in 2023 and will be driven by a multi-pronged commercial strategy that will see the company enhance its portfolio of brands and overhaul its digital strategy, while pursuing a more balanced mix of management and franchise operating models.

Under its long-standing "asset right" strategy, Minor Hotels owns or leases almost 70% of its global portfolio of 540 hotels.

That percentage is expected to decrease to approximately 50% as the group pursues a more aggressive mix of management and franchise agreement options.

Minor is targeting more than 150 new management agreements over the next three years.

Dillip Rajakarier, Group CEO of Minor International and CEO of Minor Hotels, said: “2023 has been a record year and the figures, both financial and regarding the group’s expansion, confirm this.

"Looking ahead, we intend to increase this pace of openings, expanding our brands within our existing areas of operation and growing our global footprint into new regions in which we are not yet present.”

The Anantara, Avani, Oaks, Tivoli and NH Hotels brands are expected to be the key drivers of portfolio growth.

Image: Anantara Iko Mauritius. Supplied.  

Emirates to add second daily Perth-Dubai flight

Emirates is boosting its already high profile in Australia by announcing that it will launch a second daily flight from Perth to Dubai later this year.

The new service - to start from December - will be supported by the Western Australian Government in partnership with Perth Airport.

It will will bring more than 129,000 new inbound seats to Western Australia every year.

The new flight will operate on a 777-300ER alongside Emirates' existing A380 daily service.

This returned service will provide further flight options for travellers from Western Australia's priority tourism markets, including Europe, the UK and US, during Western Australia's summer season.

Latest figures show Perth's international aviation capacity has now recovered to 94% of pre-Covid levels with the state on track to restore aviation capacity before the end of the financial year.

Western Australia is the only Australian state or territory with non-stop aviation connections with the UK and Europe with services between Perth and London, Rome, and a soon-to-launch Paris service.

For more information visit

Friday 26 January 2024

Enjoying the Cape Winelands in serious style

Nowhere does gourmet tourism better than South Africa's Cape Winelands region.

It is a region where stylish luxury is de rigueur if you have cash to splash.

One of the prestige addresses in Franschhoek is La Residence (, part of the Royal Portfolio group and a 16-suite boutique hotel that has just undergone a complete refresh.

It is somewhere that is definitely on my bucket list.    

Expansion plans include the opening of a new wine tasting barn in February, and a flagship family villa towards the end of the year.

Tucked away from the main hotel, all five Vineyard Suites now each have Mediterranean-style pools with large outdoor entertainment areas and mountain views.

"Revitalising the design at La Residence was an opportunity to breathe new energy into the hotel, ensuring our guests continue to enjoy a unique and luxurious experience," said founder and co-owner Liz Biden.

"Our commitment to creating an environment of comfort and splendour is reflected in every aspect of the property's fresh, new look."

La Residence’s dining experiences have also been enhanced with chef Gregory Henderson offering interactive South African cooking courses that include collecting and using La Residence seasonal farm products such as vegetables, herbs, honey and lavender.

Other food experiences include personalised cookery demonstrations at the Chef’s Table in the dining hall, afternoon teas inspired by the seasons, La Residence cheese and wine pairings and picnics set up in the estate vineyards

For further information please visit

Room rates are seasonal and start from ZAR 8,700 ($695) per person sharing, including breakfast, full mini bar and complimentary shuttle service to Franschhoek town centre.

La Residence forms part of The Royal Portfolio that also includes The Silo Hotel on Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, Birkenhead House in Hermanus and Royal Malewane in the Greater Kruger National Park.

Special treats for Margarita Month

Cocktail lovers have a full 29 days to celebrate Margarita Month, which runs throughout February.

Pre-mix artists Curatif are urging tequila lovers to embrace their inner cocktail connoisseur with a limited-edition Masterita Box available in February only. Then they ride off into the Mexican sunset.

Curatif has released six incarnations of its ready-to-serve Margarita formats: Salted Blueberry, Pineapple, Cherry, Blue, Mango, and Mezcalita, in a box that yields a dozen agave spirit cocktails.

The range of flavours features a hand-picked selection of premium tequilas, mezcals and liqueurs from makers including Tequila Tromba, Los Arcos, Ilegal Mezcal and Melbourne’s own Marionette.

Curatif, regular readers will recall, was named 2023 RTD Producer of the Year at the prestigious IWSC Awards in London - the second year in a row it had triumphed.

“We’re mad for margaritas," says Curatif founder Matt Sanger. "I mean, really we love all cocktails, but a great margarita is a time-machine that transports you from a dreary Thursday to a sandy-toed, sun-drenched afternoon on the beach.

"We spent years getting our Tommy’s Margarita perfect before we launched, and I think that relentless pursuit of better than bar quality has been the perfect foundation for this project."

An instant success since launching in 2019, Curatif is 100% Australian and produced locally in Melbourne, with all of the brand’s packaging being recyclable and mostly made from recycled products.

“We have launched the Masterita box so that cocktail lovers can enjoy impeccably crafted and convenient cocktails wherever they are celebrating this Margarita Month - from a dinner party with friends to date night," says Sanger.

Curatif’s Masterita Box is exclusively available on during Margarita Month for an RRP of $130.00 (box of 12).

Thursday 25 January 2024

UN tourism organisation splashes cash on a global scale

Farewell to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Hello to UN Tourism. 

Yep. Another rebranding that sounds like it cost a whole lot of money. 

But there is a whole lot of hype to back up the name change. 

"The new brand expression is not only limited to words and messages but also expands into a reinvented visual discourse," says a rather wordy press release explaining the change. 

"UN Tourism has a new design language starting from its symbol. Bringing the world closer' is the new tagline that inspires the concept of a Pangea shaping a human figure in action. 

"This drastic evolution from the former aseptic globe symbol signals the profound humanistic change within the organization. Beyond the symbol, the rebrand also includes a revamp of the entire visual system, which is now based on a grid of geographical coordinates meant to help people navigate the brand’s touchpoints, both offline and online, such as events, website, reports, social media channels and campaigns."


But they are not finished. 

"This system unlocks a rich universe of elements including imagery, fonts, colors, and pictograms all designed to personalize social media campaigns, events, posts, and videos. The new brand will be gradually implemented across all UN Tourism touchpoints over the next few months, beginning with digital channels such as the website, social media accounts and newsletters, followed by physical spaces such as offices and events, and elements such as reports and station."

Apparently the new name and brands sees "the organization aim to reaffirm its status as the global leader of tourism for development, driving social and economic change to ensure that 'people and planet' are always center stage."

Leading global branding agency Interbrand was charged with creating "a new visual identity and brand narrative". 

This involved renaming the institution, transitioning from UNWTO to UN Tourism. 

"At the same time, a new brand narrative was meticulously crafted, one that seamlessly aligns with UN Tourism’s central mission and priorities."

The only thing we are not told is how much it cost. 

Sponsorships push the boundaries of good sense

Money 1, Good Taste 0 

Sponsorship is a necessary evil in the world of sport, but sometimes companies push just a little too hard.

For instance, the Red Bull-owned Scuderia AlphaTauri Formula One team will be renamed Visa Cash App RB for the 2024 season.

It's hard to imagine even the fiercest of fans cheering on a team with such an absurd name.

And Visa Cash App RB is the third different name for the former Minardi team in the past six seasons, following Toro Rosso and Alpha Tauri.

Visa will apparently be a global partner for both the senior Red Bull Racing team and its little brother.

Visa Cash App RB will reveal its new look for the 2024 season at a launch event in Las Vegas on February 8 featuring drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda with the promise of a “newly designed Visa and Cash App-inspired car livery”.

In another sponsorship-driven move the Sauber racing team will now be known as Stake F1 team: named after the sponsor: a cryptocurrency-based gambling company. Wonder how winemaker/driver Valtteri Bottas feels about that?

Red Bull is also responsible for naming football teams its sponsors like RB Liepzig and RB Salzburg, but naming teams for sponsors is fortunaely banned in many countries.
Some of absurd exceptions to that rule have included the hilarious Insurance Management Bears in the Bahamas, Prima Ham FC in Japan (now thankfully renamed as the slightly less absurd Mito Hollyhock), and Botswana Meat Commission FC in Botswana.

How low can we go? 

Hotel promotion is written in the stars

When it comes to hotel promotions there is nothing that is too whacky.

I had to make sure it was not April 1 when an email landed touting a collaboration between Moxy Hotels and leading astrology platform Sanctuary.

Apparently the pair has launched "a transformative astrological travel partnership, sparking cosmic curiosity in travellers across the globe".

Stop sniggering up the back!

Travellers apparently now have "the opportunity to take trips "that are literally written in the stars".

The partnership will feature Cosmic Curations, astro-adventure guides, and harnessing the power of astrocartography to bring consumers free personalsed travel recommendations including when to travel, where to travel and even who to travel with based on their birth signs.

I'm already hopelessly lost in space.

Moxy guests will also experience things such as:

# Sip by Sign at Bar Moxy: a new menu of cocktails and cosmically-inspired coffee foam patterns, manifesting an incredible stay from check-in.

# Bedtime Stories - Moxy’s signature Bedtime Stories program sees guests using their in-room rotary phones to hear their 2024 predictions by star sign element, listen to a serene sound bath, or journey through the universe and their psyche with dream interpretations.

# Localized Programming - Every destination has its own lore, and Moxy and Sanctuary want to highlight those. These include Aura Photography at Moxy Virginia Beach, full moon parties at Moxy Lisbon City, and many more.

I'm still not sure this is a real thing, but I do known Moxy is a brand with over 125 hotels across the world.

"Now, through our partnership with Sanctuary, guests can choose their destination in a way they never could before, and have it come to life during their stay,” says Brian Povinelli, senior vice president, Global Head of Marketing and Brand at Marriott International,

“Sanctuary was truly our ‘compatible sign’ for this initiative, as they share the same optimistic, colorful and playful point of view about the world as Moxy. We can’t wait for our guests all around the world to see it first-hand.”

Find out more at or check out #atthemoxy on Instagram.

Wednesday 24 January 2024

Golf courses in Tasmania ace national list

Tasmania may be the smallest state in Australia, but it is home to three of the best five golf courses in Australia, Golf Australia magazine's latest national rankings for 2024 show.

Royal Melbourne's west course took top spot, while another Victorian course, Kingston Heath, was second.

Then came Cape Wickham links on King Island (image) , followed by two Barnbougle courses outside Bridport in the state's north-east.

"Cape Wickham is one of the most visually perfect courses I’ve ever played," said judge Steve Davis."The dramatic views combined with pure surfaces makes it a world-class links course.”

Barnbougle Dunes was ranked fourth, ahead of its younger brother, Barnbougle Lost Farm.

Judge Peter Robertson described Barnbougle Dunes as “the Tasmanian course that started it all. Still one of the best in the country and some of the best-value golf on the planet.”

Judge Adrian Logue said of The Lost Farm: “There really is something about Lost Farm that entices the player into thinking they’re a chance of making a good score. Certainly, great shots are rewarded but the punishment for a poor shot at the wrong time is just as able to cruel a whole round.”
The magazine said 163 courses across Australia received votes from its judges over a two-year rolling ranking period.

Other Tasmanian courses to make the list were the Tasmania Golf Club near Hobart Airport at 73,  Royal Hobart Golf Club at 67, "mini" course Bougle Run at 40 and Ocean Dunes on King Island at 17. .  
For the full list see

Scammers aiming to pull a swifty on Swifties

Planning a trip to Sydney or Melbourne for a Taylor Swift concert?

In addition to being confronted by astronomical hotel prices and absurdly hiked airfares, fans are also being warned to take steps to check that tickets to her upcoming Eras Tour concerts being re-sold on social media are legitimate.

Consumer advocate organisation CHOICE has reported a surge in scam reports.

As the tour dates approach, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's (ACCC) Scamwatch say they have received 273 reports of people being scammed buying Swift tickets on social media, with over $135,000 lost so far.

Scammers are using hacked social media accounts to put up posts or send messages to friend lists that include a story about how they can no longer attend the concert and are wanting to sell their tickets at cost price.

These posts are sometimes posted in community groups or among friends and appear to be from a trusted source. After the ticket is paid for, the contact disappears and the ticket never arrives.

ACCC deputy chair Catrina Lowe says they are working with law enforcement to combat the scams, which she is concerned will only increase in frequency as the concerts draw closer.

"We are urging fans to be alert to scammers and think twice before seeking to buy a ticket on social media, even if it's from a friend or community page you trust," Lowe says.

"Be mindful that scammers have been hacking genuine accounts to appear legitimate and are tricking trusting friends or connections into buying Taylor Swift tickets that don't exist."

The ACCC and CHOICE have warned customers against purchasing tickets from re-selling websites that who sometimes mark-up tickets to concerts at illegally inflated prices and have also been susceptible to scam activity.

The ACCC says if you are considering buying re-sold tickets through social media (which they advise against), you should independently contact the friend who is selling the tickets via a different channel and check it is legitimate.

They warn that scammers will often create a sense of urgency, but you should not be rushed or pressured into a quick purchase. Where possible, use platforms like Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal rather than paying by bank transfer.

If you do fall victim to a scam, they urge you to contact your bank immediately, report it to Scamwatch, alert the platform you were scammed on and warn your friends and family.

CHOICE campaigns and policy advisor Yelena Nam says digital platforms need to do more to prevent scams and that the government should strengthen their proposed scam reforms to ensure there are new obligations on the companies.

"It's disappointing that well-resourced tech companies continue to fail to detect, prevent and respond to scams exploiting weaknesses in their platforms," she said.

"The government must urgently force digital platforms to comply with strong, mandatory obligations to protect people from harm.

"At a minimum, digital platforms should be required to detect and prevent user accounts from being hacked by scammers and quickly restore affected user accounts to their owners. If these companies had effective measures in place, scammers would have a much harder time targeting victims."

New beachy retreat designed for families

Melanie Horner used to be a leading travel publicist, working for Destination NSW.

She learned a thing or two along the way and is now a hospitality entrepreneur who has just opened her third South Coast holiday property - Uma on Werri.

Newly built as a dedicated holiday property, it joins two other popular South Coast holiday properties, Mandala and Sundara, as beach homes in the portfolio.

Uma on Werri is designed for large family groups. It has seven bedrooms, each with their own bathrooms, and is located in a quiet pocket of Gerringong, across the road from Werri Beach.

The house has been styled by Jessi Eve, a South Coast-based interior stylist.

Guests can pop across the road for an ocean dip, surf, a sunrise beach run, or an early morning headland walk along the Gerringong to Kiama coastal walk.

The brief for Uma was for a "barefoot luxury experience". So think multiple indoor living and entertaining spaces, al fresco entertaining, and saltwater pool.

Built over two storeys, the property offers both upstairs and downstairs lounge room spaces. 

The kitchen adjoins the dining space with long table seating for 14 guests, then flows out via sliding doors to a large entertaining terrace. 

For families, there is a kid’s playroom with a hand-picked selection of books, games and toys. 

"We wanted to create the ideal beach house so that friends and families can come together in our living and entertaining spaces and create precious holiday memories," says Horner.  

"Thoughtfully designed, spacious, private spaces for guests to retreat and refresh at the end of each day was also key to our brief.”

Accommodation features six king-size beds, plus a bunk room made up of one queen bed/king single. 

Bookings can be made at

Images: Louise Wellington

Tuesday 23 January 2024

Flight cancelled after pilot found with taser

Americans like to be well armed.
It is, of course, their God-given right to be armed to the teeth. 

Even international airline pilots, apparently. 

A flight from Edinburgh, Scotland, to Newark, outside New York, was cancelled over the weekend after airport security discovered a taser in the pilot's bag. 

The pilot was scheduled to fly the United Airlines plane but instead found himself under arrest and facing firearms charges. 

Non-police issued tasers are illegal in the UK unlike in Bumfluff, Iowa, or wherever the 56-year-old pilot comes from. 

The airline said the pilot was "removed from service" leading to the last minute cancelation of the flight.

“We are fully cooperating with local authorities,” the airline said.

The US Federal Flight Deck Officer program allows certain qualified pilots to carry firearms in the cockpit to defend against hijacking attempts.

The service disruption left passengers unable to get back across the Atlantic on time. 

Image: Jan Niepel, 

British Isles lashed by winter storms

This week is probably not the best time to be visiting the UK.

Parts of the British isles have been brought to a standstill by Storm Isha with flights, trains and other transport in disarray, Travel Mole reports.

The storm has battered regions across parts of Northern Ireland, England and Scotland, grounding many flights.

One flight bound for Ireland had to divert hundreds of kilometres to Paris and a flight from Tenerife in Spain to Edinburgh, Scotland, was diverted to Cologne in Germany.

ITV reported that five people and thousands were left without power - and all rail services in Scotland were halted.

Gales reached over 160kph in places after wind warnings were issued by the Met Office.

"Danger to life" amber warnings were posted around the country on a ‘wild night’ on Sunday while parts of north Scotland had more severe red warnings.

Most offshore ferry services in Scotland were cancelled on Monday while huge waves battered coastal towns almost the entire length of the country.

The Tornado and Storm Research Organisation (Torro) warned of possible tornados in England and Wales on Sunday night but the risk later abated.

“Due to adverse weather conditions across the UK, temporary air traffic restrictions are in place," National Air Transport Safety officials said. "Restrictions of this sort are only ever applied to maintain safety.

“Our teams are working closely with airports and airlines to minimise disruption. Passengers should check the status of their flight with their airline.”

Several flights were cancelled at London Heathrow and residents were warned that Storm Isha was set to be followed by another winter storm: Storm Jocelyn. 

Image: ITV

Pamper yourself with a Mornington Peninsula treat

So you really want to celebrate summer in style?

How about a collaboration between Mornington Peninsula winery Ten Minutes by Tractor and Alba Thermal Springs & Spa in conjunction with Ultimate Winery Experiences.

A new Summer Serenity package, available until the end of February, starts starts with a glass of Ten Minutes by Tractor wine as you bathe in the restorative Alba geothermal springs.

You can then enjoy an indulgent tasting menu at the 10 Minutes by Tractor restaurant, featuring fresh seasonal produce paired with award-winning wines. Learn more at

The package is available on Fridays and Saturdays starting from 3pm at Alba Thermal Springs & Spa. The cost is $460 per person (minimum two people).

The inclusions are a bathing experience at Alba Thermal Springs & Spa, a glass of Ten Minutes by Tractor Rosé at Thyme Restaurant, located in Alba Thermal Springs & Spa, the tasting menu at Ten Minutes by Tractor two hatted restaurant paired with wine to match each course.

Monday 22 January 2024

Travel to Romania and Bulgaria about to be less of a hassle

Want to venture behind what used to be called the Iron Curtain?

Intra European travel will become less of a hassle from March 31 when Bulgaria and Romania join the Schengen zone, which allows free movement between member states for 400 million citizens.

The two countries have been members of the European Union (EU) since 2007 but as they were not part of the border-free area, travellers were still required to show passports upon entry.

In 2024, border controls for the two countries will be simplified, Euronews reports.

The two interior ministries announced in December that some border checks will be lifted.

Travellers arriving by air or sea from other Schengen zone countries will no longer have to show passports upon arrival. This means passengers on flights, cruises and ferries will not be subject to checks.

If you are driving or arriving by train or bus into Romania or Bulgaria, however, you will still need to carry ID as rules governing land borders have not yet been confirmed.

The most recent country to join the Schengen zone was Croatia in 2022.

Every year, 1.25 billion trips take place within this area and 3.5 million people cross the borders of its member countries every day.

Not counting Romania and Bulgaria, the zone comprises 27 states. Twenty-three belong to the EU and four are associated states of the European Free Trade Association: Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

The Schengen zone was created in 1995 following the signing of the Schengen Agreement 10 years earlier between five member states of the European Economic Community: Germany, Belgium, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

Several other agreements followed until the 2007 enlargement, integrating nine additional countries into the free movement area.

Travellers without EU citizenship are advised that stays in Bulgaria and Romania will now count towards time spent in the Schengen zone, which cannot be longer than 90 days in 180 days.

New horizons for global giant Turkish Airlines

Australians will have a new option for flying to the Middle East and Europe with Turkish Airlines boosting its long-haul route network by adding Melbourne to its schedule. 

The Turkiye flag carrier has scheduled three flights a week from Istanbul to Melbourne from March 15, initially flying via Singapore.

Australia becomes the airline’s 130th country served and its 346th global destination, Travel Mole reports.

Turkish Airlines will, surprisingly, be the only European airline to currently operate flights to and from Melbourne Airport.

“As we bring the Turkish and Australian people closer, we aim to increase bilateral tourism, trade, and business opportunities,” said Prof. Ahmet Bolat, the chairman of Turkish Airlines. 

Melbourne was chosen over Sydney as it is home to Australia’s largest Turkish community.

Turkish Airlines aims to eventually operate non-stop direct flights to Melbourne and other Australian cities with the acquisition of new long-haul aircraft. It has connections to cities across Europe through Istanbul. 

Sunday 21 January 2024

Subiaco celebrates Italy over 10 days

Get even more of a taste of Italy at the annual Subi Spritz festival at Subiaco in Perth from March 8-17. 

Think negronis, cannoli, burrata and pizzas over 10 days that aim to re-create the atmosphere of the Med. 

Subiaco's streets will become a hub for events that celebrate all the best elements of Europe including pop-up al fresco restaurants in parklands, daily aperitivo hour, Italo disco-themed DJ sets, a cinema under the stars and deep dives into European wine and food at hands-on workshops.

AHOY Management joint director Brianna Delaporte said the 2024 festival would be the biggest yet, with more than 25 European-themed events across the 10 days.

'Many festival favourites are making a comeback like the Long, Long Lunch where we build a pop-up restaurant in Subiaco Theatre Gardens and invite four WA chefs to come play, as well as the Conti Roll Contest which sees conti roll creators from across Perth battle it out to be crowned conti roll champions,' she said.

'We're so excited to bring a brand-new concept to the festival this year called Pasta Lane, which will see three of Subiaco's laneways transformed into al fresco dining hotspots, serving up delicious meals in the style of a traditional Italian streetside trattoria.

'We also welcome back many of Subiaco's standout venues including Juanitas, Bar Amelie, 4Sisters Paint and Sip, Dilly Dally, Bark, Lums, Refuge and Lady of Ro, as well as welcoming newcomers Bar Banter, Subi Continental and Storehouse.

City of Subiaco Mayor David McMullen said: “Subi Spritz is our iconic event showcasing Subiaco food and beverage experiences to the whole of Perth. 

“It not only draws visitors to the City of Subiaco during the festival, it keeps them coming back all year round once they discover what our fantastic venues have to offer.”

Visit for more info. 

An art history of Vietnam through the eyes of maverick Bill Bensley

Bill Bensley is one of the world's leading architects and hotel designers - and he will curate an adventure through the past, present and future of Vietnam during the Tết festival with an original art exhibition.

The InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort will host a Lunar New Year event that will see “The History of Vietnam (According to Bill Bensley)” transport art lovers on a journey from the 17th to the 22nd centuries with a collection of approximately 30 whimsical paintings that Bensley has created especially for this occasion.

The artworks will focus on the rich heritage of Danang and Hoi An through "a collection of vibrant contemporary paintings". 

From early international voyages to Vietnam in the 1600s, to the start of trading with Europe and Korea in the 1700s, ships venturing as far as southern Chile in the 1800s, and the departure of the French in the 1950s, history will be depicted in Bensley’s irreverent style. 

The exhibition will also offer a glimpse 100 years into the future, with a temple in Danang designed by AI. 

The Bensley Art Show will be launched at the Bensley Outsider Gallery, a dedicated exhibition space on the Sky Level of InterContinental Danang, on February 11 to coincide with Lunar New Year, and will run through until April 30. 

Visitors will be able to purchase the artworks and proceeds will be donated to charitable causes, including Bensley’s Shinta Mani Foundation. 

The artist will also host a lecture entitled The Light-Hearted Works of Bill Bensley at the Moulin Rouge Theatre  on February 9.

“We are thrilled to host this unique show honouring the history of Vietnam in Bill Bensley’s signature style," said Seif Hamdy, the resort’s general manager..

"Our resort strives to give our guests unique, authentic and entertaining experiences that also communicate the richness of Vietnam’s culture – and this show delivers on all fronts.” 

For more information see

Saturday 20 January 2024

Is the wine industry in trouble in the US?

Declining wine sales in the US loom as a major problem for the industry in 2024, a new report says. 

The annual Silicon Valley Bank’s wine industry report reveals “near 0% value growth” and warns that “flash sales” and “increased discounts” will become more commonplace in the US, industry authority The Drinks Business reports.

Wine sales in the US are predicted to continue their slow decline during 2024, although tasting room visits and direct-to-customer sales are expected to slightly increase during the year, as will premium wine sales, according to the 23rd annual wine report issued by the bank this week. 

Preliminary 2023 year-end estimates show a decline in wine volume sales of 2%-4%, and final value sales figures for 2023 are expected to “hover near 0% growth,” the report says, although adding, “Total premium wine sales by value will improve in 2024.”

A further issue for US producers is that exports are relatively minimal with global markets not keen on wines made with sweetness and lashings of new oak. 

A continuing healthy American economy is key to predictions, says the report’s author, Robb McMillan, who predicts that “the US economy is  unlikely to enter a recession in 2024.

“Wholesalers are full up, as far as they can go,” McMillan says, which is making them “more picky” in what they buy from wine producers. 

Wholesalers “are more afraid of being stuck with inventory that they may have to discount,” McMillan says, than they are with inflation and “the costs of carrying inventory.”

One concern the report cited was continued over-production in two of the three major wine states - California and Washington - even though sales have declined for three years. Oregon production was assessed to be “in balance with demand”. 

Image: Filoteo Ventiuro, 

Pink soup and thousands of singers in Europe's G-Spot destination

They do things a little bit differently in Lithuania.

While other countries might promote their amazing architecture or fabulous wines, the good folk of Vilnius highlight their famous pink soup and festival of massed choirs.

A very chatty email landed this week from Go Vilnius, the official tourism and business development agency of the capital city.

They are keen for visitors to enjoy a giant slide into a bowl of cold pink soup during Pink Soup Fest or tens of thousands of folk singers and dancers at The Lithuanian Song Festival.

They also have a very cheeky G-Spot promotion (“Nobody knows where it is, but when you find it, it’s amazing”).

The Vilnius Pink Soup Fest is on June 8 as thousands of Lithuanians and city guests will celebrate their affection for a cold beetroot soup, the most popular Lithuanian summertime dish, mainly made from boiled beetroots, cucumber, and kefir.

Dozens of partners, including restaurants and bars to museums, will offer various versions of the pink soup, pink-infused coffee, beet-flavoured desserts, tours, exhibitions, and workshops. 

The event’s purpose is not only to taste the iconic Lithuanian soup but to celebrate all things pink. Last year, over 15,000 people, many dressed up in pink, joined the festival, taking part in a sliding competition and other attractions.

The Lithuanian Song Festival, meanwhile, is a once-in-four-year opportunity to witness a massive concert of hundreds of choirs and thousands of people singing at once on a huge open-air stage.

This year, the Festival will be celebrating its centenary, marking a century of the Lithuanian nation coming together to celebrate the country's cultural heritage through dancing and singing. 

The festival holds deep importance due to its role in preserving Lithuania's national identity during times of Soviet occupation, which is why it was dubbed the “singing revolution.” Expect around 40,000 singers, and dancers, alongside an audience of over 300,000.

Readers of GoTR might prefer Gastronomy Week in November.

The local tourism folk assure me that "Vilnius is fast establishing itself as a gastronomic hotspot".

Think the chance to taste historical dishes like goose with cabbage and hazelnut sauce - a meal that dates from the 17th century.

# The European Commission announced Vilnius as the winner of the 2025 European Green Capital Award, recognising the city's ability to integrate sustainability efforts with the well-being of its residents.