Online and outspoken Chinas microblog craze

first_img Sponsored Stories “You get to know what people are saying and … it’s a way for the middle class to let off steam,” said Michael Clendenin, managing director of RedTech Advisors, a tech research company in Shanghai. “It’s better to let them blow off steam in a way you can control and delete rather than have 500,000 students all of the sudden show up at your doorstep.”And Weibo is heavily censored. Sina employs around 1,000 people who sift through the digital morass, catching sensitive material that keyword filters miss and deleting it. Not infrequently, they delete whole accounts. The government requires Sina and other Internet companies to do this in-house, and at their own cost, under threat of fines and shutdowns if they fail.The government too has a corps of Internet police, believed to be in the tens of thousands, who patrol the Web and its total population in China of 485 million. They even boast a mascot, a pair of cartoon police officers named Jingjing and Chacha, a play on the Mandarin word for police.Sina has domestic competitors that offer their own weibo, which means microblog in Chinese, but Sina’s service has become synonymous with the Weibo label and has attracted the most high-profile and prolific users. Though modeled on Twitter, Sina’s version has more bells and whistles, like embedded video and images for posts and threaded comments. Even with the weeding out of so much content, Sina Weibo’s data tsunami _ with more than 100 million messages posted each day_ is valuable intelligence to government officials, marketers and any curious China watcher. It offers a more unvarnished and personal glimpse of China than anything you will see on Chinese state-run television, or the scrupulously-vetted print media.Users try to fool the censors by posting blocks of text as images so they can’t be scanned by automatic keyword searches. They also make liberal use of puns, initials, nicknames and homonyms to dupe the digital knife.The evasions are hit and miss. Isaac Mao, a popular blogger in Shanghai, had more than 30,000 users when his Weibo account was deleted in June after he made a series of questioning remarks about China’s space program.Mao tweeted that it was “a waste of resources” for China to compete in the space race rather than pursuing less expensive cooperation with other space-faring nations. He said he was “heartbroken” when he found he could no longer log in. Sina’s customer service refused to give a reason for booting him off.He and others, including prominent blogger and social critic Wen Yunchao, have written to investors to urge them to dump Sina stock to express their disgust over its collaboration with government censorship. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq-listed company has struggled to find a way to monetize its hugely popular product. Still, Mao is bullish on Weibo’s potential to help make China a less repressive place. He says it’s teaching Chinese how to debate and tolerate diverse opinions while getting them used to the idea that an individual can take part in directing the public agenda. Mao said the platform is eroding the government’s grip on public opinion.“People are starting to know more. They’re not stupid like before,” Mao said. “The government wins some small battles but they are losing the (information) war.”___Associated Press researchers Zhao Liang and Yu Bing contributed to this report.(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) “The cat and mouse game is not only the government versus the netizens,” said Michael Anti, an internet researcher in Beijing. “You also have a local cat and a central cat … Weibo more and more is becoming a vehicle for the central government to control the local governments.”Provincial print and broadcast news are routinely censored at the source, while internal government reports are invariably burnished by the cadres preparing them. With Weibo, which is centrally censored by Sina with input from the government, Beijing has a valuable new national monitoring system _ one that should make lower-level officials more accountable and prevent them from covering up problems in their backyards.Jeremy Goldkorn, director of, a firm that researches Chinese media and Internet, says Weibo could add “flame to the fire of any kind of anti-government event,” but has also become an asset for the ruling Communist Party.“They’ve put a lot of energy and effort into understanding the landscape of the Internet and how to use it for their own benefit,” said Goldkorn. “I don’t really see Weibo as causing the next revolution anytime soon.” Arizona families, Arizona farms: providing the local community with responsibly produced dairy The site has been used to organize as well, a rallying point for real-world demonstrations, including rowdy protests against a paper plant last month in Qidong, near Shanghai. It is this utility that makes the Chinese government nervous and that has become the main focus of the censors, according to recent research.China’s online “censorship program is aimed at curtailing collective action by silencing comments that represent, reinforce, or spur social mobilization,” said a Harvard study led by social science professor Gary King that was released in June.The study found that about 13 percent of China’s social media content is routinely scrubbed _ up to tens of millions of disappearing tweets per day_ but surprisingly, a great deal of negative comments were allowed to slide.“Posts with negative, even vitriolic, criticism of the state, its leaders, and its policies are not more likely to be censored,” King’s paper said.Such criticism may survive because the regime realizes the value of seeing what’s on people’s minds. Complaints also give the central government in Beijing a relatively unfiltered snapshot of brewing crises in cities and provinces across the country, a huge advantage for top leaders. More Valley freeways to be closed this weekend for improvements Comments   Share   Meghan McCain to release audiobook on conservatism, family Clendenin calls it a `frankenclone.’“It’s taken a little bit of Twitter, of Groupon, of Hulu, or YouTube and essentially grafted all these pieces together. In aggregate it’s actually much better than what Twitter is.”Weibo power users are pop and movie stars. Leading the pack, with more than 22 million fans, is a pillow-lipped beauty with glossy black hair and a passion for refugee causes. No, not Angelina Jolie, but Yao Chen, a 32-year-old actress who frequently tweets about her handsome grey cat Badun _ named after U.S. Gen. George Patton.Weibo is rife with cat images and banal observations about pets, as well as entertainment gossip, jokes and the ravings of sports fans.“Chinese athletes, you are so great!!!,” Damengmeng Betty posted Thursday on how she felt watching so many of her country’s competitors at medal ceremonies. “I feel so excited! Tears fill up my eyes. Can’t use words to describe how that feels.”But the service has also given Chinese an unprecedented public platform on which to rage over serious social problems.When a bullet train crashed last year near coastal Wenzhou, killing 40, the fury that erupted on Weibo added to a pressure campaign that saw suspension of construction. National outrage over graphic photos of a young mother lying beside her dead fetus, which had been forcibly aborted by local officials, sparked a shame campaign and led to punishments in Shaanxi province. Think Tank analyzes the second round of Democratic debates Associated PressBEIJING (AP) – China’s Twitter was raucous Thursday with horn-tooting over Beijing’s gold rush at the London Olympics, a digital reflection of the nation’s exuberant mood _ embellished with flashing emoticons. Earlier passions have been ignited on the site by a deadly high speed rail crash and outrage over factory pollution.Launched in 2009, China’s leading microblog site, Sina Weibo, has given a digital megaphone to more than 300 million Chinese, prompting many to wonder if it might drive Arab Spring-style political change and democratic reforms. Others see the platform as a brilliant new surveillance tool for the communist government in Beijing. New high school in Mesa lets students pick career paths Patients with chronic pain give advice New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t like Top Stories last_img

Arsonists blamed in major fire in central Spain

first_img Top Stories In Serbia, emergency official Predrag Maric said 10,000 acres (4,050 hectares) of forest have been destroyed in the past few weeks as the country was hit by more than 200 fires.“Huge damage has been done, forests cannot be replaced easily and quickly,” he said.But Maric said the only big fire still not fully under control was on Mount Tara in central Serbia.In neighboring Croatia, the army joined firefighters in battling dozens of wildfires but strong winds hampered their efforts. Some 120 workers were trying to tame a fire that was approaching homes near Rudine, close to the coastal city of Split.“The situation is serious,” firefighter commander Milivoj Taslak said. Two special aircraft and one helicopter had joined the firefighting efforts.Authorities in Montenegro were battling over 60 fires but rain had helped those efforts.___Jovana Gec from Belgrade and Amer Cohadzic from Sarajevo contributed to this report(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.) Bottoms up! Enjoy a cold one for International Beer Day Comments   Share   Construction begins on Chandler hospital expansion project Mary Coyle ice cream to reopen in central Phoenix Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement Early signs of cataracts in your parents and how to help Associated PressMADRID (AP) – Arson was suspected in a wildfire that forced the evacuation of 2,000 people just west of Madrid, while firefighters in Bosnia used military helicopters Tuesday to battle blazes there.A fire affecting three towns near the Spanish capital was started in six points almost simultaneously, indicating it was arson, regional justice department chief Regina Planol told Cadena SER radio.She called it “environmental terrorism” and urged residents to help police catch those responsible. Sponsored Stories Alvaro Santamaria, the mayor of Valdemaqueda, one of the affected towns, said the fire came as close as 100 meters (yards) but firefighters were confident it could be brought under control Tuesday.No one was injured and those evacuated were expected to return later in the day.Spanish National Television said some 20 square kilometers (8 square miles) of land have burned. In all, Spain has seen 1,500 square kilometers (580 square miles) of land hit by nearly 12,000 wildfires this year _ more than triple the amount burned last year.Labor unions say Spanish government cutbacks have led to a lack of resources to help firefighters battle blazes.In southern Bosnia, military helicopters were sent in to help villagers and firefighters battling devastating wildfires in a region that has seen record high temperatures and no rain.Pero Pavlovic, spokesman for the regional Civil Protection Agency, said the most critical situation Tuesday was around Glogosnica, where two blazes were creeping down inaccessible mountain slopes toward the village.Wildfires were also burning near the Bosnian towns of Trebinje, Gacko, Nevesinje and Mostar and in other Balkan countries, including Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia. How Arizona is preparing the leader of the next generation Quick workouts for menlast_img read more

Turkey 1 killed in attack on Kurdish party campaign vehicle

first_imgThe attack comes weeks after bomb explosions at two local HDP offices injured six people in southern Adana city and neighboring Mersin and days after officials said two supporters of a small Islamist party were killed in a fight with Kurdish party supporters in southeastern Turkey.The motive for the latest attack was not known but the party is frequently accused by the ruling AKP party and by nationalists of links to Kurdish rebels fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.On Thursday, clashes broke out in the northeastern city of Erzurum between HDP supporters and people opposed to the party staging a rally there. The state-run Anadolu Agency said dozens of people were injured and a HDP election campaign car was set on fire.The rally went ahead and the HDP blamed the clashes on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu who have been leading a fierce election campaign, often speaking out against the Kurdish party.“If the prime minister and president target us, if they call us traitors who are trying to divide the country, then some people see it as their duty to attack us,” HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas told supporters in Erzurum.The HDP, which has expanded its appeal beyond Turkey’s Kurdish regions and is attracting liberal and left-wing voters from the rest of Turkey, is playing a key role in the election. If the party reaches the threshold of 10 percent of total votes required to take seats in parliament, it could make it impossible for the ruling AKP to reach a supermajority in parliament. That would scuttle the AKP’s ambitions to introduce a new constitution to give executive powers to the president. 5 greatest Kentucky Derby finishes Former Arizona Rep. Don Shooter shows health improvement ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Assailants fired on a campaign vehicle belonging to Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party and killed its driver, officials said Thursday, in the latest violence against politicians or political parties ahead of Sunday’s general election.The governor’s office for Bingol province said the 35-year-old driver was found shot dead near the hired minibus of the People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, late Wednesday. It said an investigation had been launched. Milstead says best way to stop wrong-way incidents is driving sober Top Stories Meanwhile, the Anadolu Agency said an independent candidate reported missing four days ago was found alive on a highway in southern Gaziantep province. He had been kidnapped. His captors’ motive was not disclosed.In other election-related violence last month in Adana, an AKP candidate was stabbed while electioneering and an opposition party candidate was shot in the knee.Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Sponsored Stories Ex-FBI agent details raid on Phoenix body donation facility Check your body, save your life Comments   Share   New Valley school lets students pick career-path academies New Year’s resolution: don’t spend another year in a kitchen you don’t likelast_img read more

Hamilton Island launches new campaign encourages international market

first_imgHamilton Island team Hamilton Island has reported a strong 2009 despite the “doom and gloom of the GFC” due to an overwhelming positive response from international markets, according to General Manager, Sales Phillipa Harrison, speaking at a trade function in Sydney last week. Ms Harrison said they had entered a new era following Robert Oately’s acquisition of Hamilton Island in 2003, and has been able to flourish due to continued investment by the Oatley group. The opening of the six star Qualia resort, as well as the only 18-hole championship golf course in Australia and more recently, the Hamilton Island Yacht Club, has all attributed to the tourism boom according to Ms Harrison.International markets attribute 20 per cent of business growing 15 per cent in 2009, with Japan as a standout growth market of 66 per cent.  The largest international market remains as the UK family market while China has been pinpointed as a future growth market.However, Hamilton Island continues to receive its largest visitation from the domestic market, which makes up 80 per cent of its business.  This is further encouraged and supported by the launch of daily direct flights from Sydney operated by Virgin Blue. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: D.Mlast_img read more

Flight Centre revises profit expectations again

first_img<a href=”” target=”_blank”><img src=”;cb=INSERT_RANDOM_NUMBER_HERE&amp;n=a5c63036″ border=”0″ alt=””></a> Source = e-Travel Blackboard: J.L Flight Centre Limited is expecting an even larger pre-tax profit, the company upgrading its guidance yesterday for the 2009/10 fiscal year to between $190m-$200m.In January, FLT had revised its profit expectations from and initial target of $125m-$135m to $160m-$180m.The new guidance will represent a 90%‐100% growth on the company’s $99.8million normalised 2008/09 pre‐tax result.“Sales volumes have remained healthy globally and trading conditions have gradually started to improve in most of our overseas businesses during the second half” said Turner.“The Australian business has continued to perform strongly and has not yet experienced the slowdown in demand that some retailers have reported recently.“New Zealand and Canada have recorded significant year‐on‐year growth from a relatively small base, while the UK business should again make the largest profit contribution of any of FLT’s international businesses.“In the USA, losses have decreased substantially year‐on‐year. The corporate business is again trading profitably, wholesaler GoGo continues to contribute positively and the Liberty retail network is on track for healthy profits in the peak May‐June booking period.”FLT added the company was likely to hold up to $1billion in company and client cash at June 30 this year, and expected to have a positive operating cash flow for the full year.last_img read more

Disney explodes in a rainbow of color

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: D.M Hollywood celebrities, VIP guests and an array of Disney characters sauntered down the blue carpet at Disney California Adventure park on Thursday evening to attend the premiere of its latest star attraction, “World of Color”, which attendees immediately herald a stunning success.The dazzling show uses advanced technology to combine light, water and other special effects, combined with Disney’s most beloved characters, animated scenes and music to create a magnificent 26 minute open air programme.“The inspiration for the show comes from Walt,” The Walt Disney Company, President & CEO, Bob Iger said, referring to the 1961 production Wonderful World of Color.“‘World of Color’ is a testament to the creativity, passion, innovation and talent of people throughout our organization.  Our philosophy is to keep setting the bar higher, keeping guests asking what will Disney think of next.” Five years in the making, the show took 15 months to transform Paradise Bay into one of the world’s largest projected water screens and at 120 yards, longer than a football field, and cost a rumored $75 million.“This show is going to blow you away,” Chairman Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, Tom Staggs said.“World of Color represents the best of what makes Disney, Disney.”Perhaps the most recognizable celebrity of the night, Mickey Mouse, with a wave of his wand commenced the show to the packed crowd which included guests Teri Hatcher, John Stamos, Vanessa Hudgens, Gina Davies and Jamie-Lee Curtis, to name a few.The new night time entertainment brings animation to life with 1200 powerful and programmable fountains, which was outlined as both one of the biggest costs and most complex production areas for the show.  Spurting water 50 feet high, 380 feet wide and 19,000 square feet in all , the show is expected to be a massive draw card for Disney California Adventure park and to further promote the benefits of purchasing park hopper tickets combining Disneyland entry. The show brings back to life beloved Disney and DisneyPixar characters including Pocahontas, Simba, Woody, Bambi, Aerial and Aladdin, in a colorful, imaginative story taking water-based entertainment to new levels.Guests will now also be able to enjoy newly designed viewing areas and special dining options including sit-down dinners or picnic meals upon reservations.Below are the videos of the event: Blue Carpet at the premier of “World of Color” World of Color Show B-Roll and Soundbiteslast_img read more

South African business events ride World Cup wave

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: G.A It may have been over six months ago, but the South African tourism and business events industries are still talking about the positive impact of hosting the FIFA World Cup 2010.At the official opening of Meetings Africa 2011 in Johannesburg, South African Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk made clear the importance of “leveraging the success and learning of the World Cup”. “It is clear business tourism has been bolstered by a new sense of energy and direction and I believe this will make a significant contribution to consolidating our continent’s position in the global arena and demonstrating our capabilities in terms of hosting international events,” he said.According to Mr van Schalkwyk, the World Cup altered international perceptions in regards to South Africa’s safety and infrastructure, leaving behind a legacy that is set to translate into tangible business.“There’s a lot we must do to lift our profile as a MICE destination,” Mr van Schalkwyk told reporters, adding that he hoped South Africa’s recent joining in the Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) partnership, would positively impact the country’s business tourism.“South Africa stands to gain tremendously from our inclusion into the BRIC partnership.“Amongst others, we expect that increased levels of trade and investment activity between South Africa and the other partner countries will also lead to increased business travel and business meetings,” Mr van Schalkwyk said.last_img read more

No dope for Dutch tourism

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J. In a bid to promote health and deter drug tourism, the Netherlands has placed a ban on its cafes selling marijuana to travellers.To be implemented by the end of the year, the new rule only permits local coffee shops to sell cannabis to Dutch citizens, however, they too will face tougher restrictions, NY Daily News reported.Critics against the coalition government have claimed restrictions could devastate tourism as well as result in a growing black market. However, the government sees it is a chance to clean up crime on the streets. “In order to tackle the nuisance and criminality associated with coffee shops and drug trafficking, the open-door policy of coffee shops will end,” a letter from the Dutch health and justice ministers to the parliament read.last_img read more

JQ turns on inflight entertainment rollsout iPads

first_imgJetstar iPad launch_Aucklander Sam Mason tries out the new iPad 2 Taking on board entertainment to the next level, Jetstar has commenced the roll-out of tailored iPads on board its aircraft.With the first flight fitted with the technology flying out of Auckland this morning, the carrier said it will initially roll-out up to 3,000 of the devices on its Asia network with plans to increase the number overtime. Offering access to a range of TV shows, movies, games, e-magazines and e-books, the iPad 1 and 2 will be available on flights longer than two hours.From today the iPad will be available on the carrier’s A320/321 aircraft on the trans-Tasman, Australia domestic, short-haul international routes as well as the Australia and New Zealand services.While it will make its way across Jetstar’s A330 domestic, trans-Tasman, short haul international and long haul operations from December this year. Jetstar Group chief executive Bruce Buchanan said rolling-out the tech was part of the carrier’s success and explained the new service would offer travellers a “fantastic in-flight… experience”.“We’ve listened to our customers and know in-flight entertainment is an important part of their overall travel experience, so we’ve made sure the new iPads offer the very best viewing experience,” Mr Buchanan added.  Working with a range of major motion picture houses, the carrier has uploaded some of the latest release movies including Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows Part 1 & 2 and Horrible Bosses as well as collaborated with the gaming industry to offer customers next-generation games.“Jetstar’s  iPad  roll-out  will  join  other  recent  innovations  like  SMS  boarding  that  offer customers flexibility and convenience,” he explained. “As the first Australasian carrier to fly the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Jetstar is currently assessing what in-flight entertainment options it will offer on these aircraft from 2013.”   The cost of the device varies depending on the aircraft, with the A320/321 charging up to AU$10 per sector, the A330 pre-book starts at $12 per sector while the A330 onboard purchase charges from $15 per sector.The carrier added that it would continually review customer feedback on the product and update iPad offering and entertainment to meet demand. Meanwhile, earlier this morning the carrier unveiled its first-ever official agreement with Tourism New Zealand to attract new visitors into the country for the Asia Pacific region.Click here for more information on the airline’s new marketing venture. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: N.Jlast_img read more

2012 a tough year IATA

first_imgSource = e-Travel Blackboard: N.J More political capital is needed to make 2012 a stable year in aviation after the International Air Transport Association (IATA) found the industry to be very contrasting in 2011.A report from the Association read that although passenger demand remained healthy in 2011 with a 5.9 percent increase compared to the prior year, an offset in cargo tipped the growth balance.IATA chief executive Tony Tyler explained further contrasts were seen in the upward growth of China and the tip in Europe.“Ironically, the weak euro supported business travel demand,” Mr Tyler explained. “But Europe’s primarily tax and restrict approach to aviation policy left the continent’s carriers with the weakest profitability among the industry’s major regions,” he said.  The aviation leader said that while improving business was “heartening” in regions such as the US, ultimately it was too soon to predict a “soft landing” this year and failure to achieve durable solutions to the euro zone crisis could see the industry fall into decline. “Cautious improving business confidence is good news,” he noted. “But 2012 is still going to be a tough year,”He added that more political capital was needed to support major aviation project that could benefit the industry as whole. IATA’s report found that with the overall 5.9 percent growth in passenger demand last year, 6.9 percent was lead by international interest and 4.2 percent in domestic compared to 2010. North American carriers reported the highest load factors for the year with 80.7 percent while Asia Pacific’s average load factor sat at 75.9 percent. last_img read more

Trio of Industry Organisations presents Australian Event Symposium 201

first_imgSource = Australian Event Symposium The Australian Centre for Event Management (ACEM), International Special Events Society (ISES) and Australian Event Awards, have today announced that they will join forces to present the 2012 Australian Event Symposium at Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre. The Symposium will be staged on September 13 and 14 and will incorporate:– The ISES Australasia Conference for Event Practitioners – The ACEM International Event Research Symposium – The Event Education & Research Network Australasia Forum – The Australian Event Awards Industry Night of Nights The parties are now calling for expressions of interest from the national and international events community to present papers at the Symposium. “This is a rare opportunity to explore excellence in event delivery from all angles – to consider cutting-edge research, hear from the best practitioners from around the world and also to learn from the experiences of colleagues from across all event sectors and from around Australia,” said Jennifer Trethewey, Australasian Chair of ISES. The organisations have indicated that their shared interest lies in the development of excellence in the events industry. “It’s that focus that draws us together,” said Rob Harris, Director of ACEM, “a shared belief that while Australians are really good at staging excellent events, we can always learn more and do better. Combining the research and educational capacity of ACEM, the only international industry body for special events in ISES and the Event Award – the symbol of excellence in practice – allows us to present material and insights that are quite unique.” More details on the Symposium program will be released shortly, and will be available on the Symposium website. To suggest a topic, present a paper or suggest a speaker, visit the website and click “Make a Suggestion”.last_img read more

Wage rise would make things tougher AAA

first_imgThe Accommodation Association of Australia has opposed the Government’s decision to increase the industry’s minimum wage rates, claiming it would make business “even tougher”.Accommodation operators will face a financial impost increase of almost three percent on the minimum wage, according to the group, a rise that should be capped at 2.25 percent.“It’s well documented that broadly speaking, trading conditions for tourism businesses are far more difficult than other industries,” Accommodation Association chief Richard Munro said.The Accommodation Association argued that increases to the minimum wage should be capped at 2.25 percent. “Given labour is one of the highest costs for tourism accommodation businesses, the decision makes doing business even tougher than it already is,” Mr Munro said. “On top of this increase, the accommodation industry is struggling to quantify the financial impact of the introduction of the carbon tax – which comes in exactly one month from today.”Increases in the Passenger Movement Charge and the proposal to lift the Managed Investment Trust Withholding Tax by the Federal Budget are additional issues faced by the accommodation industry. Source = e-Travel Blackboard: P.T “For tourism accommodation businesses, it makes the task of continuing to provide some of the highest levels of customer service in the world more expensive.”last_img read more

Aussies soft spot for Bali continues

first_imgAussies’ soft spot for Bali continuesThe latest Hotel Price Index™ (HPI™) from™ has revealed Aussie travellers continued their long love affair with Bali in 2015, with Indonesia’s tropical paradise ranked as the most popular international holiday destination for Australians last year.The data also revealed a resurgence in the popularity of Thailand, with the southern beach resort of Phuket and the capital, Bangkok, both creeping up in the top 10 leader board of the most popular international destinations for Aussie travellers in 2015.Despite the weakening Aussie dollar, the US cities of New York, Honolulu and Las Vegas made the top ten, with New York ranking as the second most popular destination for two years in a row. Las Vegas also re-entered the list and claimed tenth spot after falling off in 2014.Meanwhile, Singapore held its position as the third most popular international destination for Australians for a third year running, while London moved down a spot from 2014 to fifth position. Both Hong Kong and Tokyo slipped back in 2015 to the eighth and ninth most popular international destinations respectively.The HPI is a regular report on hotel prices in major destinations across the world. The data is drawn from bookings made on the hundreds of thousands of hotels on the websites worldwide.Commenting on the latest figures, Katherine Cole, Regional Director for Australia, New Zealand & Singapore for brand, said: “From north to south of the Equator, Aussies love to travel, and 2015 was a year where they travelled the globe, creating new international travel trends. While hot spots in Asia feature in the list where Aussies continued to get more bang for their buck, little deterred our love affair with the United States.”“To ensure Aussies make the most of international travel, Rewards™ is the industry leading loyalty rewards program where travellers stay for 10 nights to get 1 free. The mobile app will also come in handy while travelling with a wide range of hotels in all corners of the globe available at the touch of your screen on the go,” said Ms Cole. Hotels.comSource = Hotels.comlast_img read more

Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki undergoes 554 million dollar redevelopme

first_imgHawai‘i Prince Hotel Waikiki undergoes 55.4 million dollar redevelopmentHawai‘i Prince Hotel Waikiki undergoes 55.4 million dollar redevelopmentHonolulu’s beloved Hawai‘i Prince Hotel Waikiki and Golf Club, a favourite retreat for global travellers and Hawai‘i residents for the past 25 years, has recently undergone an extensive $55.4 million redevelopment – set to attract the next generation business and leisure traveler heading to the Aloha State.Hawai‘i Prince Hotel Waikiki – Club RoomThe twelve-month evolution marks the hotel’s first major remodel since its grand opening in April, 1990. The redevelopment is due for completion in April 2017, with the 563 transformed oceanfront guest rooms and suites, all-new dining options and the refreshed lobby already complete. Still to come is a new infinity pool and outdoor entertainment area, enhanced meeting and wedding spaces and of course, the new elevated personalised services culture.“We’re innovating the overall resort experience to meet the needs and expectations of today’s traveller by creating a sanctuary within Waikīkī that focuses on setting a higher standard for guest services with an eye on quality,” said Hotel General Manager Chuck Abbott. “Our remodeled guest rooms with floor-to-ceiling panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean will emphasise relaxation with their natural color scheme, décor, furniture and appointments.”Hawai‘i Prince Hotel Waikiki undergoes 55.4 million dollar redevelopmentThe culinary refresh welcomes three new culinary adventures, including 100 Sails Restaurant & Bar, Kastumidori Sushi Tokyo and Honolulu Coffee Company. 100 Sails Restaurant & Bar offers a whole new dining experience for the property, showcasing an extensive buffet and a la carte menu. Kastumidori Sushi Tokyo flaunts original Japanese cuisine by Executive Chef Noboru Nagumo, harmonizing flavours of Japan’s four seasons with local Hawaiian ingredients, while Honolulu Coffee Company can be found in the lobby, for light refreshments and beverages.Focusing on upgrading the services, Prince Waikiki will offer an all-new experience with thoughtful design touches and new amenities. Guests will immediately feel a Hawai‘i sense of place at the hotel and discover the rich history of its location.The hotel has repositioned itself as a sanctuary in Waikīkī, becoming more intimate in scale and offering exceptional services. Guests will also discover a connection to the area’s fascinating culture and history, portrayed through the art and installments throughout the property – an example includes the newly commissioned art sculpture designed by acclaimed local artist Kaili Chun.Ideally situated at the gateway to Waikīkī overlooking the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, Prince Waikiki is a choice location at the epicenter of O‘ahu’s four most exciting neighborhoods – downtown/Chinatown Honolulu, Kaka‘ako, Ala Moana and world-famous Waikīkī.Housed in such a central location allows guests to explore the newest and most desired attractions Honolulu has to offer, from world-class beaches and shopping of Waikīkī and Ala Moana, to all of the multicultural and multifaceted food and restaurant neighborhoods that residents love. Just a short stroll away from outdoor adventure and some of the world’s most iconic hiking trails, the concierge team will help coordinate any adventure you’ve heard about – and make recommendations to some beautiful hikes only locals know about.For the best rate guaranteed, book direct HEREAbout Prince Resorts HawaiiPrince Resorts Hawaii Inc., operates three luxury hotels and golf courses on two of the Hawaiian Islands. The Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki and Golf Club on the Island of O‘ahu, and on the Island of Hawai‘i, the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel and Golf Course and Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Golf Course on the Kohala Coast. Prince Resorts Hawaii is unique in offering all oceanfront locations along with championship golf courses, gracious island hospitality and award-winning cuisine. Each hotel and resort is dedicated to providing exceptional value and guest experiences with no mandatory resort fees. For more information, call 1-866-PRINCE6 (866-774-6236)About Prince Hotels & Resorts Prince Hotels & Resorts owns and operates 41 hotels, Ryokan, Ski and Golf facilities, and aquariums, across Japan and seven others worldwide (Hawai‘i, Taiwan and Malaysia). Prince Hotels & Resorts is committed to environmentally friendly operations. For more information visit Source = Prince Resorts Hawaii – Hawai‘i Prince Hotel Waikiki and Golf Clublast_img read more

Emirates teams up with Google for creative onground digital experienc

first_imgEmirates teams up with Google for creative on-ground digital experiencesEmirates teams up with Google for creative on-ground digital experiencesEmirates and Google are engaging visitors at this year’s Emirates Airline Festival of Literature with innovative on-ground experiences ranging from virtual reality 3D painting tools to an e-book reading lounge. Emirates’ on-ground activations run until 11th March at the InterContinental Hotel Festival City.Boutros Boutros, Divisional Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, Marketing and Brand for Emirates said: “Technology impacts our lives in different ways, and this year we wanted to meaningfully connect with visitors in an immersive manner at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. We wanted to make sure that our activations are cutting – edge so we partnered with Google for some of the latest virtual reality innovations to showcase the breadth of our destination network and onboard product. We also wanted to extend the successful partnership we had with Google last year by continuing to celebrate books, and have introduced a ‘reading lounge’ for visitors to relax and explore some of the world’s most popular English and Arabic titles through the Google Play Books Store.”Tarek Abdalla, Head of Marketing for Google Middle East and North Africa, said: “Google in MENA has always been dedicated to helping promote and preserve local Arabic content on the web and empowering internet users with knowledge. Whether it was through the Google Play store or through Virtual Reality technologies like Tilt Brush and DayDream, we hope we can make Arabic literature more accessible and enjoyable than ever.”Emirates is partnering with Google to feature Google Tilt Brush, a virtual reality tool that allows users to paint, draw and even sculpt in a 3D space. Specially commissioned artists and Emirates Cabin Crew recreate famous landmarks through three-dimensional strokes in some of Emirates’ most popular destinations on a large screen for visitors to see. Visitors are also able to try the technology and draw their own life size paintings, using features that recreate stars, light and even fire. This is the first time that Google Tilt Brush will be showcased in the region to the public.Emirates and Google are also offering visitors the chance to explore popular titles in English and Arabic at a specially designed reading lounge.  Visitors will be able to flip through and read a vast selection of e-books in the Google Play Store on tablets. Last year, Emirates and Google collaborated to reach millions of smartphone users in the region, to support the UAE’s Year of Reading efforts to nurture an entire generation of lifelong readers in the region.In addition, those visiting the Emirates stand can experience Google Daydream and put on the virtual reality headset to simulate strolling through the Emirates A380 on Google Streetview. In addition to virtual reality experiences, visitors can play the Emirates ‘Destination Dash’, an augmented reality game where they can connect routes across the airline’s network.Children will also be able to interact with Emirates onboard animals at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. They will be able to have a traditional Polaroid photo taken by Cabin Crew with Emirates onboard animal mascots, Shane the Koala and Leila the Camel.Emirates has been the title sponsor of the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature since its inception in 2009. The Festival is another channel of sponsorship which allows the airline to engage with its existing customers as well as offer an opportunity to support the growth of arts and creative industries in Dubai.Source = Emirateslast_img read more

SwissBelhotel International continues expansion in Saudi Arabia

first_imgSwiss-Belhotel International continues expansion in Saudi ArabiaContinuing its expansion in Saudi Arabia, Swiss-Belhotel International (SBI) has signed Swiss-Belhotel and Suites Jazan. The announcement was made by Mr Laurent A. Voivenel, Senior Vice President, Operations and Development for the Middle East, Africa and India, Swiss-Belhotel International. Featuring 210 keys, the upscale 4-star property is owned by Cardamom International Property Management LLC and is superbly located in the port city of Jazan with direct access to the beach.Swiss-Belhotel and Suites Jazan enjoys close proximity to Red Sea coast merely 20 minutes’ drive from Jazan regional airport. Boasting 210 keys including 140 well-appointed rooms and 70 studios plus apartments, the hotel is being designed to cater to a diverse mix of travellers. Included in its extensive facilities will be an array of business and lifestyle features making it the ideal address for both corporate and leisure guests. On site are four dining outlets, a spectacular ballroom and three meeting rooms, a health club with steam and sauna and a swimming pool. Among these a key highlight is the beautiful marina and restaurant on the beach that will be exclusively dedicated for the hotel guests.Mr Nawaf bin Mansour bin Saleh Al Sharif, Owner of Cardamom International Property Management, stated, “We are delighted to collaborate once again with Swiss-Belhotel International and are confident together we will make Swiss-Belhotel and Suites Jazan a preferred choice for residents and travellers to Jazan. It is a market that is currently under supplied in terms of hotels and is, therefore, projected to show strong growth in the near future and we are keen to take advantage of this massive opportunity.”Mr Gavin M. Faull, Chairman and President of Swiss-Belhotel International, said, “As part of our global expansion strategy, we are dedicated to enter new markets and particularly excited about our debut in Jazan with a reputable partner like Cardamom International Property Management. Jazan is witnessing major economic development in KSA and we believe our brand will be ideally placed to cater to the needs of travellers to the city with an exceptional property like Swiss-Belhotel and Suites Jazan.”Mr Voivenel, stressed, “We are delighted to expand our footprint in Saudi Arabia strengthening further our relationship with Cardamom International Property Management LLC with whom we had recently signed Swiss-Belhotel Al Aziziya Makkah. The new agreement demonstrates the confidence of the owners in the strength of Swiss-Belhotel International brand. Jazan City is a significant market with a growing demand for hotels. The development of Swiss-Belhotel and Suites Jazan will enable us to cater to travellers looking for quality accommodation with world-class facilities at a great value”.Saudi Arabia currently has the most hotel rooms under construction in the Middle East and North Africa, with 36,742 keys in 85 projects. In addition to massive development of hotels, the Saudi government is investing in major infrastructure projects to grow tourism. Jazan has got some of the largest and most significant infrastructure projects in the country worth billions of dollars including Saudi Aramco’s 400,000 bpd refinery with associated terminal facilities on the Red Sea.To find out more about Swiss-Belhotel International CLICK HEREAbout Swiss-Belhotel InternationalSwiss-Belhotel International currently manages a portfolio of more than *145 hotels, resorts and projects located in China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Australia, New Zealand, Bulgaria, Georgia, Turkey and Tanzania. Awarded Indonesia’s Leading Global Hotel Chain for six consecutive years, Swiss-Belhotel International is one of the world’s fastest-growing international hotel and hospitality management groups. The Group provides comprehensive and highly professional development and management services in all aspects of hotel, resort and serviced residences. Offices are located in Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, Europe, United Arab Emirates.Source = Swiss-Belhotel and Suites Jazanlast_img read more

Anantara Vacation Club to open new Bali Club Resort

first_imgSource = Anantara Vacation Club Anantara Vacation Club to open new Bali Club ResortAnantara Vacation Club to open new Bali Club ResortAnantara Vacation Club, a leader in Asia’s shared vacation ownership industry and established by Minor International in 2010, is pleased to announce the acquisition of new inventory located in Legian, Bali. Once open, the property will be the ninth member of Anantara Vacation Club’s Club Resort collection. Set to open in June 2018, Anantara Vacation Club Legian Bali will offer visitors spacious accommodations, fantastic facilities, and more flexibility. As the second Club Resort in Bali, its seaside location offers convenient access to some of the island’s best beaches and entertainment venues.“We are delighted to be opening a new Club Resort in beautiful Legian,” said Daniel Collins, Vice President of Construction and Development. “We are enjoying unprecedented growth in Club Points Ownership as an increasing number of people are discovering the value of Anantara Vacation Club’s unique offering. Having a new resort in a popular destination such as Legian offers our Club Points Owners even more ways to experience the unique charm of Bali.”Anantara Vacation Club Legian Bali is a newly acquired boutique luxury resort featuring a selection of family-friendly accommodations with rooms ranging in size from studios to three-bedroom duplexes. Suited to a range of travellers, the spacious one, two and three-bedroom suites offer kitchens, separate living and dining areas and luxuriously appointed baths. The resort currently features a fitness centre, swimming pool, a refreshing spa and a spacious restaurant opposite the beach, making it an ideal destination for couples and families.“One of the greatest things about this new property is that it offers guests a completely different experience than they would receive at our signature Seminyak, Bali Club Resort,” said Maurizio Bisicky, Chief Operating Officer of Anantara Vacation Club. “The location is right by the beach. There’s a surfing school minutes away, and the neighbouring restaurants and bars are famous for their entertainment and nightlife. It’s the perfect holiday destination, particularly amongst younger couples and family members.”Anantara Vacation Club Legian Bali is idyllically positioned for visitors to enjoy the best of everything the island has to offer. Experience fantastic surfing, swimming, shopping, dining, and local culture, all within walking distance. In addition, the resort is located just 30 minutes from Ngurah Rai International Airport in Denpasar, which provides flight connections throughout Asia.The new Club Resort will be available for bookings as of 1 June 2018. Stay tuned to Anantara Vacation Club’s website for more information.last_img read more

British Airways just got a little more British

first_imgBritish Airways just got a little more BritishBritish Airways just got a little more BritishBritish Airways is celebrating its centenary year in style with the launch of its own English Sparkling Wine.  Customers will be able to enjoy the bubbles from the award-winning Hattingley Valley from July 1 and raise a toast to the airline’s milestone birthday.British Airways’ team of wine experts worked with Hattingley Valley’s talented crew of wine makers to create a 2015 Blanc de Noir that will be exclusively available to customers from this summer.The wine is a Pinot Noir dominant blend that will work perfectly at altitude.  The grapes were hand-harvested and gently pressed, before being bottled at Hattingley Valley’s winery in Hampshire.Kelly Stevenson, British Airways’ Wine and Beverage Manager, said: “There’s no better, or more British way to toast our milestone year than with an English Sparkling Wine.  We’ve loved working with Hattingley Valley to create something really special for our First customers and this will be the first time we have ever served an English Sparkling Blanc de Noirs on board. This blend will excel at altitude as the notes of red apple skins and light red fruits really shine through.”The premium sparkling wine will be available exclusively in British Airways’ First cabin as well as the airline’s flagship lounge, The Concorde Room in Heathrow Terminal 5, from July 1. Get a very first taste of the new sparkling at the winery’s Mad Hattingley Tea Party pop-up at TASTE of London in Regents Park from June 19 to June 23.Emma Rice, Hattingley Valley’s Director, Head Winemaker and Winemaker of the Year in 2014 and 2016, said: “English Sparkling Wine is now incredibly popular around the world so we’re thrilled to have partnered with British Airways to create an exceptional wine that can be enjoyed on the ground and in the air across their network.”Founded in 2008, family-owned Hattingley Valley specialises in making premium English Sparkling Wine with distinctively rich flavours. A hallmark of their style is fermenting a small proportion of each year’s wine in oak barrels, creating award-winning wines including the Classic Reserve, Rose and Blanc de Blancs.British Airways has released a series of centenary editions in partnership with British brands during its centenary. The airline has partnered with Scottish craft brewers, BrewDog, who created a transatlantic IPA for customers and Fife-based distillers, InchDairnie have created a limited-edition whisky. British Airways has also teamed up with Marmite, who have created a centenary branded jar. As Marmite is the most confiscated brand at airport security, the travel-sized jar is conveniently sized to fit within the liquid allowance.The centenary editions come as British Airways is investing £6.5 billion to improve its customer experience over the next five years, including new aircraft, a new business class seat, new cabins, new catering, new lounges, WiFi, and new routes.Source = British Airwayslast_img read more

Princess Cruises Ranks number 1

first_imgPrincess Cruises Ranks number 1Princess Cruises Ranks number 1 in Australia and New ZealandRecognised as a destination leader, taking guests to more than 380 worldwide ports of call, Princess Cruises has been awarded three first-place accolades in Cruise Critic’s fourth annual “Cruisers’ Choice Destination Awards.” Based entirely on consumer ratings, the awards name the world’s most popular cruise destinations – as well as the best cruise line’s to visit each region. In the Large Cruise Ship Category Princess Cruises was named Top Cruise Line in Australia & New Zealand, the Baltic & Scandinavia and the U.S. & Canada.In addition, the cruise line ranked in the top three as best in the British Isles & Western Europe (#2); the Eastern Caribbean, Bahamas & Bermuda (#3); Hawaii (#2); Mexican Riviera (#2); the Panama Canal & Central America (#3); South America & Antarctica (#2); the South Pacific (#2) and the Western Caribbean & Riviera Maya (#2) – all in the Large Ship Cruise Line Category.“It’s an honour to be recognised as the top cruise line to so many bucket-list destinations in this Cruise Critic destination awards,” said Jan Swartz, Princess Cruises President. “Our dedicated team of destination experts, with decades of experience planning itineraries and shore excursions, offer our guests what we believe are the best in the cruise industry.”One of the best-known names in cruising, Princess Cruises was founded in 1965 with a single ship sailing to the Mexican Riviera. Today, the cruise line is a global premium cruise line and tour company operating a fleet of 17 modern cruise ships, carrying two million guests each year on more than 150 award-winning itineraries to destinations around the globe.Cruise lines awarded in this year’s awards stood out among all of the lines that sail in each region, receiving the highest ratings from cruisers who sailed with the line over the past year and shared their experiences on Cruise Critic.“For most travelers, the decision of where to cruise is made before they think about all the other pieces of the cruise planning process,” explains Colleen McDaniel, Editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. “And for those looking for incredible cruise destinations and experiences, there’s no better way to narrow your options than by seeing which destinations and cruise lines are rated most highly by cruisers who have already been there, done that.”Source = Princess Cruiseslast_img read more

Florida hits alltime record high for tourism

first_imgFlorida welcomed 57.4 million tourists in the first six months of 2016, disclosed Florida’s Governor Rick Scott.“It’s exciting that we are starting the first half of 2016 off with back to back record quarters which puts us on pace to reach our goal of 115 million tourists this year and $100 billion in visitor spending by 2020. In Florida, the health and safety of our visitors is a top priority and we look forward to welcoming even more visitors to the Sunshine State this year,” Scott said.The record accounts for a 4.3% year-over-year increase. In the first quarter of the year, Florida had 30.1 million visitors. Another 27.3 million came in the second quarter, a 3.1% increase over the second quarter of 2015, said Scott. The average number of direct travel-related jobs in quarter two of 2016 was also a record high, with 1,255,200 Floridians employed in the tourism industry– up 4.3% year over year.William D Talbert, III, CDME, Chair of the VISIT FLORIDA Board of Directors, said, “The success of Florida tourism is directly attributable to the strong alignment between VISIT FLORIDA and our tourism industry Partners, and their continued investment in strengthening the state’s incredible tourism product.”Tourism and recreation taxable sales for Florida increased 6.1% year over year for January through April 2016. The demand in rooms sold grew 1.1% and the hotel occupancy rate was down 0.3% compared to quarter two of 2015.Last year, Florida recorded 105 million tourists, becoming the first state to cross the 100-million mark for out-of-state and international visitors.last_img read more