Wednesday, 18 July 2018

There was an incident at our destination, so we'd better cancel our holiday

Travel operators in Phuket are reporting thousands of cancellations following a recent tour boat sinking that saw 47 people die. 

The sinking was a one-off, yet thousands of would-be vacationers were scared enough to change their holiday plans.

I doubt anyone would cancel a holiday because of a bus crash. 

Other tourists, meanwhile, are stupid enough to get close enough to active volcanoes so that molten lava hits their boat, or to fly when there is a major risk of flight cancellations leaving them stranded. 

People are strange; no doubt about it. 

Kongsak Kupongsakorn, president of the Southern Hoteliers' Association, told Thai media that 19 member hotels have reported cancellations and an estimated 7,300 Phuket room bookings for July and August have been cancelled by Chinese customers.

Chiaya Rapuepol, president of the Andaman Sea tourism business association, estimates the fallout could hit Phuket by as much as $1 billion in lost business. 

One has to wonder why the tourists don't simply avoid tour boats if they are scared of a repeat sinking. Easy to do. And a lot easier than re-booking an entire holiday.  

Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Singapore Airlines and AirAsia take Skytrax honours

Singapore Airlines, Qatar Airways and AirAsia were the big winners at the respected Skytrax World Airline Awards announced overnight in London.

Singapore won best overall airline for the first time in 10 years and edged out last year's winner, Qatar Airways, for the top spot.

"We're ecstatic," Yeoh Phee Teik, Singapore's senior vice president of customer experience, told CNN after his carrier also took out best first class, best airline in Asia and best first-class seat.
Qatar, a four-time winner, won best business class, best airline in the Middle East and best business class seat.
Asian airlines dominated the list, with seven of the top 10 coming from the region. Lufthansa was the only European airline to make the list and US airlines failed to earn a single award.

The results are based on surveys of more than 20 million travellers, who rated more than 335 airlines they flew between August 2017 and May 2018.

Third place went to Japan's All Nippon Airways, fourth to Emirates, fifth to Taiwan's EVA Air and sixth to Cathay Pacific. Lufthansa was sevenths ahead of China's Hainan Airlines in eighth, Garuda Indonesia ninth and Thai Airways in 10th.

Qantas climbed from 15th last year to 11th but is no longer a serous contender, while Virgin Australia plummeted from 13th place in 2017 to 22nd this year (the judges were probably sick of eating 60 grams of dried biscuit as a snack).

Qantas was successful in the Australia-Pacific region, taking out best airline, best first class, best business class, best economy class and best staff.

Malyasia-based AirAsia (one of my personal favourites) was named world's best low-cost airline for the 10th year in a row.

As part of its celebrations, AirAsia will be offering special low fares from July 23-29 on and AirAsia mobile app.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Tired of paying solo cruise supplements? At last, a solution.

Solo travellers often get asked to share rooms or a cabins with complete strangers, or are forced to pay hefty single supplements. 

Riviera Travel has come to the rescue of solo voyagers by increasing its solo-river cruise offering for 2019. All cabins covered the by deal are for sole occupancy with no single supplement – potentially saving saving customers thousands of dollars. 

The British-based river cruise company has added four European river cruise itineraries reserved exclusively for solo travellers.

* A seven-night, round-trip cruise from Porto along the Douro River in Portugal from March 31, 2019
* Two seven-night, round-trip cruises from Budapest on the Danube River departing April 1 and October 28, 2019
* A seven-night cruise on the Rhone and Saone Rivers from Lyon to Avignon in France on October 31, 2019.

The two spring sailings next March and April will coincide with the start of the summer cruise season.

Riviera Travel’s International Sales Manager, Thomas Morgan, said solo cruises address a gap in the market for people who wish to enjoy a river cruise but are travelling on their own or simply prefer to have a cabin to themselves.

“We know solo travellers enjoy our river cruises and to meet growing demand, we have upped the number of cruise itineraries exclusively for solo travellers to four in 2019,” Morgan said. “Our five-star ships provide the perfect base and our itineraries offer opportunities to share wonderful experiences with like-minded travellers. 

"The cruises have been planned for spring and autumn, 2019, when the destinations visited will be more relaxed so customers don’t have to jostle with the summer crowds They can choose any cabin or suite on each ship and there will be no additional single supplement to pay whatsoever.”

Fares start at $2769, are subject to availability and include daily visits and guided excursions, all on-board meals, wifi and the services of a Riviera Travel cruise director and tour manager.

For general information on Riviera Travel’s river cruises, visit

New accommodation option for visitors to Brisbane

Visitors to Brisbane have a new accommodation option in the heart of the city with TFE Hotels opening the new Adina Apartment Hotel Brisbane, which features sweeping views over the Brisbane River. 

On the corner of George and Elizabeth streets in the city centre, the new hotel is housed in a restored Heritage-listed building that was opened in 1922 to house the Queensland Government Savings Bank. 
Several original features have been retained and the hotel now offers 220 luxurious rooms and suites, and includes an extra five levels designed to complement the historic building. Some will love the juxtaposition of old and new; others will hate it. 
The banking hall has been transformed to accommodate a new hotel lobby and restaurant, with a bar below. The lobby celebrates the building's 1920s origins. 
Facilities include a gym alongside a heated pool on the ground floor, which is enclosed on each side but open to the Brisbane sky. 
TFE Hotels chairman Allan Vidor said: “The hotel creates a real point of difference for the Brisbane market with its magnificent sense of history, and its wonderful setting, just a few steps from the waterfront and close to the heart of the city. 
"This will be a flagship for the Adina brand, which has developed since its beginnings in Sydney in 1982 into a collection of apartment hotels in Australia, New Zealand and Europe.”
The apartments are described as "spacious and contemporary". Each has its own kitchen, laundry and living room with full hotel services including 24-hour reception. 

The ground floor restaurant, Donna Chang (the name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to a Seinfeld episode and far too clever by half) will open soon. It is described as a “dining experience for the senses” with Sichuan and Cantonese flavours. 
Below the restaurant will be a 250-seat bar called Boom Boom Room.
Rooms are currently available at the 25% off introductory rate, starting from $135.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Queensland Wine Show result sparks a controversy

Are wine shows designed to help consumers discover excellent wines, to "improve the breed" or to help boost the morale of winemakers in an emerging region? 

That question was bought into focus by the results of the Royal Queensland Wine Show released over the weekend. 

The wine at the centre of much social media attention was the Symphony Hills Wines 2017 Gewurztraminer. 

This wine was named The Courier-Mail Best Queensland Wine of Show "for the best Queensland wine made and produced in Queensland by a Queensland winery ". 

There was only one problem. The grapes used for the wine came from New England in New South Wales. 

What does it say about the Queensland wine industry that the wine judged the best in the state is made from grapes grown in another state? A slap in the face for Queensland viticulturists? 

The problem for chief judge David Bicknell and his team was that no Queensland wines won a trophy, or gold medal, at the show. Although it should be pointed out that several leading Queensland producers do not enter.

Either way, it does not seem that the show committee are being totally open and honest with consumers reading their results catalogue. 

Chief judge Bicknell said on Twitter: "The elephant in the room - no gold-medal-winning wines grown in Queensland. One outstanding wine from a local producer. As an emerging area, better to focus on the positive rather than dwell on the negative?"

Vastly experienced wine show judge Iain Riggs agreed, saying: "Give recognition where due. Don't think any subterfuge intended in results."

But Peter McGlashan, winemaker at leading Queensland winery Ridgemill Estate, clearly thought no trophy should have been awarded if there was not a good enough wine from Queensland. 

"I worry it sends the wrong message about our GIs (geographic indictators)," McGlashan said on Twitter. "It is awesome to have multi-regional wineries in our area, and the great wine they produce. But those wine, according to the Label Integrity Program, are not Queensland wine.

"Hence the issue is not with the wine but with how the award is awarded by the show society."

The wine at the centre of the controversy, should you be tempted, retails for $45.

Friday, 13 July 2018

TCA-free corks coming soon, Amorim says

Haven't we heard all this before? 

The head of the world’s largest cork manufacturer, Antonio Amorim, says that his Portuguese company will have achieved the total eradication of cork taint across the billions of corks it produces by 2020.

“We will have a non-detectible TCA guarantee for everything, it’s in our company strategy for 2020; we are working as fast as ever,” he told The Drinks Business.

Amorim said that he is financing research and development that will eradicate TCA from all Amorim natural cork stoppers. The news just comes a couple of hundred years too late.

“We don’t want to segregate corks that are contaminated, we want to eliminate TCA – that’s what we are planning with our new technology, and we believe it is possible,” he said.

Amorim said he has been testing such technology over the past 12 months, noting that initial results were “very positive”. 

“But we are not here to minimise TCA; we are here to eradicate it.”

Amorim sold 5.4 billion corks in 2017 but New World producers are increasingly preferring screw caps to natural cork as a closure for their wines. 

Special wine release marks 90th birthday for De Bortoli family

The De Bortoli family is releasing a very special wine to make the 90th anniversary of its involvement in the the wine industry.

The milestone will be marked by a limited edition of Black Noble, the world’s only fortified made from botrytis grapes.

Black Noble was first created De Bortoli managing director Darren De Bortoli in 1998 in the NSW Riverina region, inspired by a wine his grandfather - and company founder - Vittorio De Bortoli produced in the 1930s.

Black Noble is crafted from the same botrytised semillon grapes harvested for the company's iconic Noble One stickie, which was developed by Darren and his father Deen in 1982.

The limited edition Black Noble is crafted from parcels of wine with an average blended age of 20 years in barrels.

"We have been setting aside portions of these parcels since 1982, with a selection of exceptional quality blended to deliver structure, strength and complexity in this limited edition," says Darren De Bortoli.

"A little fermentation occurs before fortification when a grape spirit is added to inhibit further fermentation. The wine is then clarified, and a touch of brandy is added for extra complexity before being transferred into used Noble One barriques."

The 90th Anniversary limited-edition Black Noble is presented in an elegant bottle and gift box, each marked with its own serial number.

Every staff member at De Bortoli will be presented with a bottle, or it can be purchased for, you guessed it, $90, at leading liquor outlets across Australia.