New air service expected to connect Chengdu with Melbourne

China-based Sichuan Airlines is expected to launch a service soon connecting Chengdu in China to Melbourne, Australia.

It is expected that an official communication in this regard from the Chinese airline would come soon. The plan to connect Chengdu with the Australian city assumes significance because of the fact that Chengdu is one of three new cities in China that Tourism Australia is planning to target next year. The funding for the initiative is to be derived from the Australian government’s new Asia Marketing Fund. The move is also part of the government’s broader China geographic strategy of deepening its marketing footprint into ‘smaller’ cities in China.

Chengdu is high on the list of priorities of the Australian government, and in April this year Tourism Australia led a high level delegation of Australia’s leading airports to attend Routes Asia 2012, an aviation route development forum. The importance afforded to Chinese cities is part of a plan by Australian tourism authorities to double overnight visitor expenditure to up to AUD140bn annually by 2020.

Andrew McEvoy, managing director, Tourism Australia, said, ‘Chengdu represents one of China’s fastest emerging secondary cities and largest aviation hubs in central western China, and has the potential to open up significant new markets for us. Our research has clearly demonstrated the appetite for travel amongst the new middle classes in these cities but, to fully realise these opportunities it’s critical that we get more capacity and, in particular, more direct flights.’

McEvoy added, ‘Securing more aviation capacity into Australia from China was a key feature of our discussions and networking in Chengdu. It was also a great opportunity to demonstrate to Asian carriers our industry’s renewed commitment towards speaking and acting with a single voice when it comes to marketing our country overseas. Melbourne Airport are to be congratulated for their foresight in developing such strong links with Chengdu, through the ‘sister airport’ relationship they established at Routes Asia. Their success in securing Sichuan Airlines represents a significant win for this ‘Team Australian’ approach and, together with Tourism Victoria, we plan to market this new route hard.’

Vietnam busy developing holidays for Aussies

The tourism department in Vietnam is busy developing holidays for Australians.

The tourism department said that it is developing programmes and packages to attract more tourists into the nation. However, there would be a special emphasis on attracting Australian tourists because Vietnam has been a favourite destination for travellers from Australia. The nation now has high class hotels and resorts, beaches and ethnic cuisine, which has been a hit with tourists worldwide.

Tourism statistics show that the nation receives 300,000 Australian tourists yearly. Further, it is also seen that the number of tourists is increasing at an average of 10 per cent annually. Members of the tourism department in Vietnam said that Australians are, of late, becoming increasingly interested in Vietnamese food and culture, noting that Australians are looking for authentic experiences in Vietnam and a deeper understanding of the country’s culture, food, history and everyday life.

Vietnam is not a mass-market tourist destination, with most travellers interested in the local culture. The tourism department said that the nation is becoming more and more recognized as a safe and favoured destination for high-end Australian tourists.

Vietnam has launched a new campaign to attract tourists from all over the world under the slogan of ‘Timeless charm.’

Tourism Australia to launch new campaign for mature tourists

Tourism Australia has announced that it is planning to launch a new tourism campaign to focus specifically on those travellers over 50 years of age.

The department said that the next phase of its ‘There’s Nothing Like Australia,’ campaign, it would target those above 50 years of age. It will be a global campaign and offer premium tourism opportunities. The department is to launch the GBP1m campaign in the UK on September 17. The event is to be partnered by Australian airline, Qantas. The campaign will involve television advertisements and awareness through online, mobile and print media.

The tourism department said that it was deliberately focussing on premium services to target potential tourists in the over-fifty age bracket. This is because that age group includes individuals who are prepared to spend more to receive better and more exclusive services. They are also less inclined to adventure, and prefer their trip to be well planned without last-minute surprises. People in that age group are also inclined to want the best that a holiday can offer, so the department is to showcase high-end tourism options.

Rodney Harrex, Tourism Australia regional general manager for the UK and Northern Europe, said, ‘This new campaign creative clearly demonstrates Australia’s distinctive and high quality tourism products and experiences that are amongst the world’s finest. When we first launched [the campaign] in May 2010, it was built to last and designed to be flexible. Now is the right time to evolve the campaign to remain competitive and position Australia as an achievable holiday destination that offers premium unique experiences. We want to inspire our primary target audience in the UK – an affluent long haul traveller aged 50 to 69 – to make this the year they travel to Australia.’

Among the attractions that are being promoted for the campaign are the Bungle Bungles in The Kimberley, Sydney harbour, Uluru or Ayers Rock, the Great Barrier Reef’s Lizard and Hayman Islands, Freycinet in Tasmania, and South Australia’s Kangaroo Island.

Organisers said that the campaign will run until 28 October, and will be rolled out to 18 of Tourism Australia’s key global markets by the end of the year.


New park added to BIG4 Holiday Parks

Australia-based BIG4 Holiday Parks has announced that it has added a new park to its existing chain of 180 parks.

The firm said that the new park, BIG4 Eden Gateway Holiday Park, is located on the Sapphire Coast of New South Wales. It is very close to the golden sandy beaches of Twofold Bay, and just about a kilometre from the town centre. The proximity of the park to the town centre offers customers a chance to partake of facilities that include fine dining and curio shopping at Eden’s historic attractions. Those looking for accommodation inside the park have options that range from stylish cabins and luxury spa villas, to grassy campsites with power.

Steve and Beverley Watson own the park, having taken over BIG4 Eden Gateway in 2012. Since the takeover about six months ago, the owners have been adding new features to the park.

Steve Watson said, ‘The park is a holiday playground for kids and adults alike. We’re working to create precincts within the park that cater specifically to families, couples, campers and caravanners – a whole range of guests. We’re a dog friendly park too, so even four legged friends are welcome to join the family on holiday.’

The park claims to offer a variety of facilities that are perfect for a holiday break. In addition to existing facilities such as pedal karts and a jumping pillow, the owners will soon be adding a mini golf course and a bike track. In the coming years, the park will also acquire an indoor play centre and an onsite cafe. The facility is also located close to historic marine museums and the Ben Boyd National Park, where visitors can trek along the rugged and beautiful coastline on the Pinnacles track.

Eden is well known as a whale-watching location, and it is home to a vast array of marine life. Holidaymakers regularly visit the spot for marine tours, fishing charters and whale spotting cruises. Each November, Eden celebrates the southern migration of the humpback whales on the far south coast of New South Wales, and there is an annual Whale Festival for travellers to experience the magnificence of different species of whale.

UN Advises Australia to Relax Visa Norms

The UN World Tourism Organisation has suggested that Australia relax visa norms for tourists from developing nations.

The organisation said that Australia could attract more tourists from emerging and developing nations, especially China and India, if it relaxes its visa norms. According to the UN World Tourism Organisation, Australia has a strict visa regime that is discouraging tourists from emerging nations.

Referring to Australia’s security concerns, the UN organisation’s secretary-general, Taleb Rifai, said that tough entry conditions did not always ensure security. He said that Australia and other developed countries should ease their tough visa regimes to attract more tourists.

According to ‘The Australian’, while speaking at a tourism conference in Melbourne, Rifai said, ‘Visas are becoming a real nightmare. It is not reasonable to still see long lines, very cumbersome, uneasy, complicated, lengthy, overpriced entry formalities all over the world, particularly facing nationals from countries that are rising and countries that are providing the base for future incoming tourists. There is no evidence to establish that there are close and very strong links between visas and security issues.’

He also observed that even though Chinese and Indian visitors have been contributing the most to the annual growth in tourism in the nation over the past decade, they had to face a number of bureaucratic hurdles. He said that those travelling to Australia for the first time had to provide bank statements or other financial information, as well as a letter from their employer, authenticating their identity and purpose of visit. If first timers were visiting relatives or friends, a copy of an invitation from the relative or friend in Australia may also be required.


Australia Eases Restrictions For British Migrant Workers

British workers that are keen to start a new life in Australia have had their chances of doing so improved by an announcement that the Australian government is ready to ease the country’s immigration requirements.

The Australian government has announced that the current pass mark in its visa application process will be reduced. Such is the need to attract more skilled workers from Britain, that the government is reducing the pass mark from 65 to 60.

The reform will come into place from July 1, as part of a raft of measures designed to improve Australia’s skilled workforce. Another of the measures is the SkillSelect scheme, which will do away with the need for British workers to be sponsored by an Australian employer in order to apply for a visa. Instead, the prospective migrants will have to complete an Expression of Interest, after which they will be assessed on their skills and attributes. Having convinced the authorities of their value, they will be invited to submit a Skilled Visa application.

Paul Arthur, director of migration specialists, the Emigration Group, is reported to have commented, ‘Australia is conducting one of its biggest migration drives in 40 years and the reduction of the pass mark is part of this initiative, which will make it easier for Brits to get a visa to live and work down under.’

Australia has long been a popular destination for British citizens seeking a new challenge and lifestyle overseas, so the added encouragement that this easing of the immigration rules provides, coming at a time when the cloud of recession and austerity hangs over the UK, is likely to inspire even greater numbers to explore the possibilities.

Australia Plans to Extend Marine Parks

Australia has revealed plans to extend its national marine parks to make them the largest marine park network in the world.

Already famed for the quality of its beaches and the diversity of its sea life, the country intends to increase its marine reserves from the current 27 to 60, with the inclusion of 3 million square kilometres, or around a third of its waters. The new reserves will mainly be created between the Perth Canyon in the southwest, and the southern coast’s Kangaroo Island, but the Coral Sea off the Great Barrier Reef in the northeast is a key area to benefit from the protection that its new status will afford.

Commenting on the Coral Sea’s inclusion, Australian environment minister, Tony Burke, said, The Coral Sea marine national park, combined with the Great Barrier Reef area, becomes the largest marine protected area in the world.’

Marine Park status will include a ban on oil and gas exploration and the protection of sea creatures, including the blue whale, green turtle, grey nurse sharks, and dugongs, but it will undoubtedly affect the fishing industry. A 60-day consultation period will include talks with the industry regarding compensation.

But the fishing industry is not the only body to see negatives in the new proposals, on the other side of the coin, environmentalists feel that the provisions fall short of their expectations.

Rachel Siewert, a marine spokeswoman for the Green party, said ‘The boundaries the minister has determined have been very strongly determined on oil and gas prospectivity, and clearly determined by lobbying from the oil and gas sector.’

Buck the Summer Holiday Trend and Plan a Long-Haul Fly-Drive in 2012

With January blues now in full swing, over a million Brits* will book their next break in the sun this month and, according to independent car hire price comparison website, it looks like most will be jetting off to Spain and Portugal come Springtime. Based on last year’s booking trends, Ibiza, Palma de Majorca and Faro were the top destinations for a sunny break, but car hire bookings for locations further afield look to be on the increase, suggesting Brits are becoming a bit more adventurous.

Around £500 million will be spent this month* on holidays, but instead of following last year’s trend, why not think about heading further afield? A fly-drive vacation promises independence, freedom and the ability to explore an abundance of landscape and scenery. has put together its top five destinations for a fly drive holiday outside Europe in 2012:

1.) North America – What better way to explore the states of the USA or Canada than with your own hire car? The sheer size of the states and provinces lend themselves to being explored with the ease and flexibility of your own vehicle, and with wide, well-signposted roads, the superb scenery and sites can easily be enjoyed.

2.) Australia – In such a vast country like Australia, a fly-drive holiday is the ultimate way to be in full control on your holiday and ensure you experience the very best that a huge, dramatic and varied landscape has to offer. If some of the drives do seem just that bit too far, why not arrange some inbound flights in-between so the wonders of the Blue Mountains, Ayres Rock, Sydney and The Great Barrier Reef can all make an appearance on your itinerary. You can even drive on the left hand side!

3.) New Zealand – Known for some of the best and diverse scenery the world has to offer, a fly-drive holiday in New Zealand is a fantastic way to embrace the stunning views and explore the uncongested open roads. Rugged mountain ranges, fresh flowing rivers and deep blue oceans can be etched in your holiday memories and in just a two week holiday you should be able to see many of the beautiful main attractions on both the North and South Island.

4.) South Africa – If you fancy a holiday filled with beaches, huge open spaces, mountains and of course, game parks, a fly-drive holiday to South Africa might be just the get away to book this January. Visit some of South Africa’s highlights including Victoria Falls, Swaziland, Kruger Park Cape Town and Garden Route at your own pace. Add to this the fantastic weather and extensive road network and you have an out-of-the-ordinary fly drive destination perfect for the avid traveler.

5.) Malaysia – If you are looking for a more culturally-diverse break, then the architectural history, heritage and lifestyle of Malaysia could be just what you are after. The energetic capital city of Kuala Lumpur and the stunning east coast are definitely worth a visit; and with modern highways, English road signs and driving on the left you’ll soon be familiar with your surroundings. There are good links to key destinations and by making your own way round you are much more likely to stumble upon sites that most tourists never see.

For more information on travelling abroad and great value car rental, car hire comparison or for more information on car hire destinations or airport car hire, visit

Brits set for weekend hotter than Bahamas

This weekend Brits will be treated to temperatures reaching as high as 28C this weekend. If your thinking of getting away, you may need to think again. The UK will see temperatures today match those in the Bahamas and even parts of Australia.

The forecast suggest the hot weather is set to stay for the weekend, with many Brits heading for the coast to soak up the late summer sunshine.


York yesterday saw the hottest September 29 since 1895, when the mercury reached 27.8C.


According to the Met Office website, the outlook for Saturday through to Monday is ‘fine’.


It said: ‘Outbreaks of rain continuing across northern and western UK. England and Wales fine and very warm over the weekend, then turning cloudier and less warm. Breezier on Monday.’


This weekend will see temperatures sore more that 10C over the usual temperature for this time of year.


Paul Mott, meteorologist for MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: ‘We are still on for some exceptionally warm weather until Sunday.


‘Temperatures today will probably reach 28C over the London area. Central and eastern England could reach up to 27C, so it is very warm indeed.


‘That is a good 10C to 11C warmer than what we would expect for this time of year.’


Jersey saw the hottest weather for the UK yesterday, in St Helier – were it reached 27.3C.


Male, female, or X – third option now on Australian passports

Male, female or indeterminate, a third gender option has now been added to Australian passports.


Travellers are usually only able to change gender on their passport if they have received surgery. However now transgender people can choose male or female as long as their choice has the support of their doctor. Intersex people, biologically not entirely male or female, can list their gender as ‘X’


In the UK people who have not had gender changing surgery can change their passport details if there is evidence to prove they are permanently living under in a new gender role.


Now any nation under the International Civil Aviation Organization’s authority can add the category ‘X’.


Australian Senator Louise Pratt, has said this is a major coup for anyone travelling whose gender does not match their appearance.


She said: ‘”X” is really quite important, because there are people who are indeed genetically ambiguous and were probably arbitrarily assigned as one sex or the other at birth.


‘It’s a really important recognition of people’s human rights that if they choose to have their sex as “indeterminate”, they can.’


Kevin Rudd, Australia’s foreign minister, said: ‘This amendment makes life easier and significantly reduces the administrative burden for sex and gender diverse people who want a passport that reflects their gender and physical appearance.’