Mix and dis­patch

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

LENDED fam­i­lies and step-fam­i­lies are prov­ing a lu­cra­tive new mar­ket for hol­i­day op­er­a­tors. Spe­cial­ist agency Travel with Kidz says such non-con­ven­tional units ac­count for the fastest grow­ing fam­ily type in Aus­tralia (up 50 per cent dur­ing the past decade). The team at Travel with Kidz reck­ons it has short-listed the world’s best ex­pe­ri­ences ‘‘ that ad­dress the var­i­ous de­mands of blended fam­i­lies, of­fer­ing a range of di­verse in­ter­ests while pro­vid­ing a fo­cus of en­joy­ment for the fam­ily as a whole’’.

Gen­eral man­ager Lise An­gus and part­ner Jim Fan­ning took their blended fam­ily on their first hol­i­day to­gether in Viet­nam.

Be­tween them, An­gus and Fan­ning have five chil­dren, from 14 to 21, ‘‘ all with vary­ing de­grees of fit­ness and in­ter­est in travel and Asian cul­ture . . . The only thing they have in com­mon is a slight re­sis­tance to the con­cept of shar­ing time to­gether and a de­pen­dence on their iPods’’.

The Viet­nam trip, in a group of 16 or­gan­ised by World Ex­pe­di­tions, was a cycling hol­i­day along a route via re­mote vil­lages, away from the ob­vi­ous tourist at­trac­tions. The trip ap­par­ently was a great suc­cess be­cause a flex­i­ble pro­gram gave all the par­tic­i­pants a de­gree of free­dom to set their own pace. ‘‘ Every­one was so blown away by the scenery, the cul­ture and the peo­ple that the iPods only got an oc­ca­sional look-in,’’ An­gus says. Travel with Kidz, 1300 729 541; www.trav­el­with­kidz.com.au.

DE­PAR­TURELounge looks for­ward to be­ing a grand­mother one day, al­though her two 30-some­thing sons show scant in­ter­est in mar­riage or fa­ther­hood. Lounge would be a great granny guide, even if said sons would at­test oth­er­wise. They would no doubt warn any fu­ture off­spring how Lounge has driven on the wrong side of the road in France and the US, caused small in­ter­na­tional in­ci­dents at air­ports with nail clip­pers, hot rollers and un­pas­teurised cheese and, on one no­table oc­ca­sion, sailed into the wrong sa­fari tent late at night and at­tempted to get into bed with a cou­ple from Ham­burg. Lounge thinks she’ll start an agency and call it Gal­lop­ing Gran­nies; the best bit would be hand­ing back the kids to their par­ents at the end.

AS a fol­low-up to last week’s item on new tourism words and phrases, Rosa Del­gado of Ho­bart re­minds Lounge that baby­moon has be­come part of con­tem­po­rary tourism par­lance. And Chris­tine Allen of Ka­toomba, NSW, has come up with a self-coined corker. ‘‘ We travel on a mod­est bud­get,’’ she writes. ‘‘ Clean self-con­tained rooms, prefer­ably with a lit­tle char­ac­ter, are all we re­quire . . . but we have oc­ca­sion­ally been mis­led by an at­trac­tive en­trance and re­cep­tion area, only to find our­selves shown to a shabby room with frayed car­pet, dust bun­nies un­der the bed and cracked tiles in the bath­room. San Fran­cisco used to be no­to­ri­ous for this kind of de­cep­tion, for which we coined the word foy­erism.’’

This re­minds Lounge of check­ing into a frayed ho­tel in In­dia and ask­ing if there was a room with a bath. Yes, she was told, and a pho­to­graph of said room in the ho­tel brochure was shown to her by the front-desk clerk. With key in hand, Lounge went to her as­signed room, which turned out to have no tub. ‘‘ You said you had a room with a bath,’’ she squealed as she stomped back to the front desk. ‘‘ Yes, madam, we do, but it is presently oc­cu­pied.’’ Ah, the va­garies of the English lan­guage.

AS more and more ho­tel-go­ers pur­chase bedding and ac­ces­sories from their favourite ac­com­mo­da­tion groups, Lounge has be­come fas­ci­nated by the no­tion of the take­away ho­tel. So, too, is reader Mar­garet Barca of Vic­to­ria, who stayed in Oc­to­ber 2007 at the re­fur­bished Ho­tel Metropole in Viet­nam’s Ho Chi Minh City. She re­ports that the num­ber of items guests were re­quested not to re­move from the room (but could pur­chase at the front desk) ran to 79. Th­ese ranged from a dou­ble mat­tress, bed skirt (sin­gle or dou­ble) and fa­cial tis­sue box to notepad holder, shoe­horn, adap­tor, shower cur­tain, plug, wash ba­sic (sic), toi­let bowl, toi­let lid, toi­let tank cover, decor light, three-seater sofa, re­mote con­trol, re­mote con­trol holder, room ser­vice menu and shower head.

At this rate, per­haps Me­d­ina, Meri­ton, Quest and the like could con­sider let­ting guests pur­chase kitchen sinks from their ser­viced apart­ment blocks.

SYD­NEY pho­tog­ra­pher Brian Geach writes to point out the anom­alies of ho­tel tar­iffs in th­ese com­pet­i­tive times. He says on one trip he paid the same rate for a stay at the Dia­mant in Can­berra (‘‘great staff, taste­fully dec­o­rated rooms, an un­prompted up­grade at check-in, free in­ter­net con­nec­tion and comfortable beds’’) as he did at a mo­tel ‘‘ in a well-known NSW coastal re­sort town’’ where ‘‘ ser­vice was per­func­tory, rooms were noisy with circa 1970 decor, sleep­ing ar­range­ments fea­tured a stained bed­spread and pil­lows that felt like bags of con­crete, and in­ter­net con­nec­tions were charged at $6 for 15 min­utes’’.

But best of all, re­ports Geach, a sign in the bath­room warned guests not to use the bath tow­els for re­mov­ing make-up or clean­ing fish­ing gear. ‘‘ Both es­tab­lish­ments had two things in com­mon, though: equal star rat­ings in their pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial and overnight tar­iffs of $140.’’

IT’S been fan­tas­tic to see how many travel op­er­a­tors and tourism or­gan­i­sa­tions have got be­hind the Red Cross Vic­to­rian Bush­fires Ap­peal. For ex­am­ple, Pere­grine Ad­ven­tures has raised more than $200,000 through matched do­na­tions and on­line auc­tion.

In an or­gan­ised cam­paign ef­fort, Vic­to­ria’s top tourism at­trac­tions will be do­nat­ing their gen­eral ad­mis­sions tak­ings to the Red Cross fund on Labour Day hol­i­day (Mon­day, March 9). Mean­while, Ca­role O’Neill of Finches of Beech­worth writes, ‘‘ We need your help . . . Vic­to­ria has suf­fered some of the worst fires in his­tory. The towns of Marysville and Kinglake have suf­fered greatly. How­ever, may I make an ap­peal on be­half of the tourist in­dus­try in Beech­worth? The Beech­worth fire started about 4km out of town and caused hor­rific dam­age to the for­est and lands to the north­east. There was loss of life, stock and wildlife, [yet] the town­ship of Beech­worth is still stand­ing un­touched . . . [but] it is empty. Tourists, nat­u­rally, are stay­ing away. The roads are open and many of them were un­touched by flames. Half-price Euro­pean river cruises; sa­fari op­er­a­tor throws in Cape Town stay; bonus night in By­ron Bay; pop­u­lar China tour gets cheaper. Th­ese and other money-sav­ing of­fers are fea­tured in Travel&In­dul­gence’s hol­i­day deals, up­dated daily:

www.theaus­tralian.com.au/travel/dd

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