MAL­DIVES ON­MAIN

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

IT has long been a bug­bear of Depar­tureLounge’s that far too many hote­liers and guest­house and B & B op­er­a­tors see fit to name their prop­er­ties af­ter the world’s great beauty spots. The mes­sage seems to be that, say, Portofino or Ipanema or Mal­ibu are more de­sir­able than where we ac­tu­ally are. Which usu­ally is Mol­ly­mook or Ma­roochy­dore.

What is wrong with Aus­tralian names? And, bet­ter still, those of Abo­rig­i­nal ori­gin. Sub­urbs around Lounge’s NSW cen­tral coast beach-house have names as ge­o­graph­i­cally daffy as Copaca­bana, Wy­oming and Toronto. But things have reached an even sil­lier state in Queens­land.

Across Lounge ’ s desk has come what ap­pears to be a fan­tas­tic of­fer: guests who book four nights in a one-bed­room apart­ment in the Mal­dives — from a bud­get­friendly $144 an apart­ment a night — pay for just three nights. That is amaz­ing value for this luxe In­dian Ocean des­ti­na­tion and Lounge was about to pack her sarong and snorkel un­til she read a lit­tle fur­ther. Oh, it is the Break­Free Mal­dives at Main Beach on the Queens­land Gold Coast. Oh, that Mal­dives; silly old Lounge.

What mad­ness is this? Break­Free also has Copaca­bana, St Tropez, the Caribbean and Morocco in its ac­com­mo­da­tion port­fo­lio, and all with­out step­ping foot in Brazil, France, the West Indies or North Africa. Of course this ho­tel com­pany is not the only cul­prit; all around us at hol­i­day spots are names that smack re­sound­ingly of es­cape and mar­ket­ing gu­rus have al­ways seen the value in spin­ning dreams.

I would adore to get the fab­u­lous Ruth Wat­son of TheHotelIn­spec­tor (LifeStyle Chan­nel, Mon­days at 8.30pm) to sweep in and dis­pense with all the stucco, wrought­iron and faux-Moroc­can trim­mings that I feel sure are in­volved. ‘‘ Are they com­pletely in­sane?’’ she would growl, with her trade­mark de­spair­ing eyes and scrunchedup nose. Still, none of this trans­plan­ta­tion is as bad, per­haps, as ho­tels, re­sorts and apart­ment blocks with own­ers who have sought their care­free brand­ing in­spi­ra­tion from no fur­ther afield than sun­tan lo­tions and tam­pon man­u­fac­tur­ers.

IT’S been a buoy­ant sea­son for the lo­cal ski in­dus­try with vis­i­tor num­bers to the Aus­tralian Alps the third high­est on record and up al­most 17 per cent over­all on 2006 fig­ures. This year’s good snow con­di­tions at­tracted a to­tal of 2,034,000 so-called ‘‘ skier days’’, which is the in­ter­na­tional mea­sure of snow re­sort per­for­mance; one skier day equates to the pur­chase of a day lift pass. Ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian Ski Ar­eas As­so­ci­a­tion, this fig­ure rep­re­sents an in­crease of 2.6 per cent above the 10-year av­er­age.

Vic­to­rian fig­ures have been par­tic­u­larly good this year and Hotham Alpine Re­sort has fur­ther rea­son to cel­e­brate. It has been awarded Aus­tralia’s lead­ing ski re­sort for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive year at the 2007 World Travel Awards, which are de­cided by 167,000 travel agen­cies, tourism op­er­a­tors and trans­port com­pa­nies in more than 160 coun­tries. Hotham re­ports there’s no need to wait un­til win­ter to help cel­e­brate: scenic chair­lift rides will be avail­able De­cem­ber 29-Jan­uary 6 and over Easter while its Cool Sum­mer Fes­ti­val will take place in March. www.hotham.com.au. ■ HERE’S a feel-good Christ­mas gift idea. Karma Cur­rency sug­gests a tax-de­ductible char­ity or en­vi­ron­men­tal agency gift voucher. Re­cip­i­ents then do­nate to their se­lected cause on Karma Cur­rency’s web­site, which lists or­gan­i­sa­tions such as World Vi­sion, Care Aus­tralia, Aus­tralian Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion and Plan. www.kar­ma­cur­rency.com.au ■ WHAT’S new in travel? Flight Cen­tre’s gen­eral man­ager mar­ket­ing Colin Bow­man says the com­pany has iden­ti­fied trends this year such as in­di­vid­u­alised travel, short breaks, baby­moons and re­spon­si­ble tourism. He says the travel in­dus­try is ‘‘ see­ing peo­ple spend­ing more money on life-en­rich­ing ex­pe­ri­ences, from the en­er­getic to the per­son­ally ful­fill­ing’’. This trans­lates into more ‘‘ me time’’, as wit­nessed by the world­wide spa tourism boom.

In the realms of re­spon­si­ble travel, Bow­man points out that ‘‘ agents, air­lines, ho­tels and car hire com­pa­nies now of­fer trav­ellers the op­por­tu­nity to off­set their car­bon emis­sions from their hol­i­day. Trav­ellers are re­search­ing ho­tel and tour op­er­a­tor poli­cies for the more eco-friendly op­tions’’.

In one of our first is­sues in 2008, Travel&In­dul­gence will do a full anal­y­sis of tourism trends and pre­dic­tions of the year’s must-go spots. It won’t take one of Lounge’s old crys­tal balls to iden­tify the clear lead­ers, though. Fiji, Viet­nam and In­dia are hot, hot, hot. ■ FIND of the week: Lounge, who is just back from the new Qualia on Queens­land’s Hamil­ton Is­land, is mad about the Tead­rop ‘‘ silken pyra­mid teabags’’ range in­cluded in each guest pavil­ion’s tea and cof­fee mak­ing set-up. This clever Melbourne com­pany pro­duces divine teabag blends such as laven­der grey and hon­ey­dew green plus a range of fra­grant leaf teas. www.tead­rop.com.au. ■ LOUNGE loves: Se­lect Ho­tels is cel­e­brat­ing three wins in TheAus­tralian 2007 Travel & Tourism Awards by in­clud­ing a bot­tle of French cham­pagne with all book­ings un­til De­cem­ber 23. Chris Hart­ley of The Lodge at Tar­raleah in Tas­ma­nia, win­ner of the best lodge ac­com­mo­da­tion cat­e­gory, says the of­fer is ‘‘ to help pro­long the cel­e­bra­tion’’. Se­lect’s other two suc­cesses were Lil­ian­fels Blue Moun­tains Re­sort & Spa in NSW, which took hon­ours for best lux­ury ac­com­mo­da­tion, and Kims Beach Hideaway at Toowoon Bay on the NSW cen­tral coast, win­ner of best hosted ac­com­mo­da­tion. (02) 8968 2777 or 1300 368 925; www.se­lec­tho­tels.com.

Visit Bri­tain has launched a Bri­tain Rocks cam­paign with a map and liftout guide fea­tur­ing mu­sic trails, fa­mous mu­si­cal haunts (in­clud­ing Liver­pool’s Cav­ern Club, birth­place of the Bea­tles, which cel­e­brated its 50th birth­day this year), and de­tails of fes­ti­vals, birth­places of the greats and best venues. www.vis­itbri­tain.com.au/mu­sic. ■ LOUNGE loathes: The fact that fed­eral gov­ern­ments of both stripes have never seen fit to be­stow tourism with a stand­alone port­fo­lio. Out­go­ing min­is­ter Fran Bai­ley was also in charge of small busi­ness; no doubt there is syn­ergy be­tween the two but the tourism in­dus­try surely is suf­fi­ciently im­por­tant and lu­cra­tive to war­rant its own min­istry. At time of writ­ing, Martin Fer­gu­son had just been an­nounced as min­is­ter for re­sources, en­ergy and, al­most as an af­ter­thought, tourism. The Tourism Fore­cast­ing Com­mit­tee says the con­tri­bu­tion of tourism to the Aus­tralian econ­omy is set to in­crease from $84 bil­lion in 2006 to just over $100 bil­lion in 2016.

State gov­ern­ments are no bet­ter when it comes to this port­fo­lio. Some bracket tourism with rac­ing and gam­ing; in Queens­land, where tourism is king, min­is­ter Des­ley Boyle rep­re­sents re­gional de­vel­op­ment and in­dus­try as well as tourism. In NSW, it’s even nut­tier: San­dra Nori is min­is­ter for tourism, sport, re­cre­ation and, like a Pythonesque post­script of the silly walks ilk, women.

It’s just not good enough. Th­ese and other money-sav­ing of­fers are fea­tured in Travel&In­dul­gence ’ s hol­i­day deals, up­dated daily, which can be found via our up­graded and di­rect link. ■ www.theaus­tralian.com.au/travel/dd DEALS OF THE WEEK World Ex­pe­di­tions cuts the price of ad­ven­ture hol­i­days; 12 of the best at Syd­ney’s Dar­ling Har­bour; free nights in Fiji; wave good­bye to the QE2 in style.

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