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Tue 26 Aug: 10 things you need to know today

We’ve done all the hard work, so you don’t have to! Read on for our top ten travel industry news stories of the day we think you need to know.

We’ve done all the hard work, so you don’t have to! Read on for our top ten travel industry news stories of the day we think you need to know.

1. Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour to open as new ICC Hotel

Accor has signed a management agreement to operate its luxury brand Sofitel as the new ICC Hotel when it opens in 2017 in Sydney’s Darling Harbour.

Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour is part of the NSW Government’s $2.5 billion transformation of Darling Harbour, which includes the creation of Sydney’s new convention, exhibition and entertainment precinct.

“Australia is becoming a hot spot for international luxury brands and the increasing number of ultra-high net-worth individuals. Foreign capital, higher disposable incomes and independent Chinese travellers are fuelling the growth, and in recent months, Australia has seen strong demand from offshore investors for 5-star hotel assets.  Financial institutions from leading economies such as Abu Dhabi, Korea and Singapore have been acquiring hotels in Sydney, driven by the huge potential in the Australian luxury market,” Accor Pacific Chief Operating Officer, Simon McGrath said.

Construction of the 35-storey hotel will commence later this year, and will even perhaps include a helipad on the top of the hotel to allow more direct access for business and convention delegates. The group said it would feature “a unique and instantly recognisable architectural design” with around 600 rooms to support the new ICC Sydney and the city’s growing accommodation requirements. Read more


2. THL reports 192% profit jump

PROFITSTourism Holdings (thl) has reported an annual profit up 192% as profitability soars from its Australian, New Zealand and US businesses. Reporting NZ$11.1 million in the year ending June 30, the company said it expects profits to grow by another 35% to NZ$15 million due to growth in its New Zealand and Australian rental businesses and cost cutting strategies.

“From my perspective I have been encouraged that the turnaround in profitability has been driven by both revenue growth in most business units, and cost reductions. We are focussed on both,” Chief Executive Officer, Mr Grant Webster said.

“Every business unit within thl has improved profitability. Importantly, this is not just a market led recovery. We have had clear plans for improvement and business model changes that we see the benefits of within the FY14 results.

There is still lots of work to do in this business and we can now aggressively focus on growth strategies as well as ensuring returns improve on the current capital employed”.

The company’s rental business in Australia almost tripled with earnings reportedly NZ$3.7 million, even despite revenue dropping to NZ$56.9 million.


3. Shangri-La’s Traders to rebrand into Hotel Jen

HotelJenShangri-La Hotels has launched a new brand, Hotel Jen, to cater to a new ‘Jeneration’ of independently minded business and leisure travellers, as part of a strategy to rebrand its Traders Hotels across Asia Pacific.

“The Hotel Jen experience delivers what matters most to guests with a millennial mind set. They appreciate important things done well; demand quality, comfort and value, together with honest, authentic service; and want privacy and efficiency without unnecessary fuss or intrusion,” Greg Dogan, president and CEO of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts said.

The group is already underway to transform Singapore’s Shangri-La Traders Hotel to Hotel Jen OrchardGateway by September, and plans on opening a further 9 Hotel Jens in major cities across the Asia Pacific by March 2015. Read more


4. Cleared for take-off

karryon_mobileusePostBoth Virgin Australia and Qantas domestic have been given the all-clear to allow customers to use personal hand-held electronic devices gate-to-gate, effective immediately.

Virgin says the approval applies to all Virgin Australia mainline domestic and short-haul international flights, including Boeing 737, Embraer 109 and Airbus 330 aircraft. Restrictions still apply on flights to or from NZ, the Cook Islands, Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu or Fiji as those approvals are required by CASA NZ. The personal devices must weigh less than 1kg, and provided flight mode is selected, will be permitted at all stages of flight.


5. New OTA to do for the golf industry what Expedia did for flights  

GolfHalf of golfers worldwide book their golf holiday via a golf tour operator or travel agency, while the remainder book direct.

While the market is buoyant on the green, there’s a new player outside of tour operators and direct bookings – a start-up called Golfscape, which describes itself as a “golf OTA”. According to a tnooz interview with the founders, it has positioned its services as “the modern golf concierge for luxury destination golf”.

Co-founded by Michael Galasso and Raghad Mukhaimer, Golfscape targets travellers who wants to book online but prefers to search and shop on their own. Read more


6. Hyatt opens flagship New York hotel

One57 New York City SkylineHyatt Hotels has opened its flagship Park Hyatt New York in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, within walking distance to Central Park and across the street from the historic Carnegie Hall. The luxury hotel features 210 guest rooms, including 92 premier suites, all with floor-to-ceiling windows. “At 475-square feet, the standard rooms at Park Hyatt New York are among the largest in New York City and the majority of the hotel’s deluxe rooms span 530 square feet. Nightly rates for a standard room currently range from US$795 to US$1,295,” the hotel stated.

“The opening of Park Hyatt New York marks a significant milestone for the Park Hyatt brand, giving it representation in a key market and boosting the brand’s global visibility. It introduces a new way of defining and delivering luxury for both guests and locals,” Vice President of Luxury Brands for Hyatt, Katherine Melchior Ray said.


7. India to install safety cams

India_KarryOnIn a bid to combat a spate of negative reports that India is unsafe for tourists, in particular female visitors, the government has set up web cameras in high-tourist locations across the country.

The live webcams are also said to be an effort to counter travel advisories by foreign countries on a real-time basis. Sources quoted by etn said five locations for each state had been identified as part of the pilot project. “We plan to establish web cameras in five places in each state for now. This is to allow tourists to see for themselves that one incident of law and order problem or disaster in another place is restricted to just that area and that India being a vast country remains largely unaffected,” a source told etn.


8. Qantas opens up Taiwan with codeshare

TaiwanFrom mid-October, Qantas will offer direct access to Taiwan with the launch of a new codeshare agreement with China Airlines.The services will be operated by China Airlines from Sydney and Brisbane to Taipei, with up to ten return services per week available between Australia and Taipei during peak seasons.

“We’ve seen a growth in the number of our customers travelling to Taipei via our Singapore and Hong Kong hubs,” Qantas Executive Manager International Sales Stephen Thompson.

The new codeshare agreement follows other recent initiatives to strengthen Qantas’ presence in growth markets, including a recent expansion of its codeshare with LAN across South America and the new codeshare agreement with Bangkok Airways to resort destinations in Thailand and Cambodia.


9. Dubai on track for bumper year

One & Only the Palm Dubai – Dubai, United Arab Emirates

One & Only the Palm Dubai – Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Dubai hotels has reported the busiest half-year welcoming 5.8 million visitors, with growth attributed to top source markets including Australia and New Zealand. Reporting a 6% growth in visitors from Australia and 8% increase on visitors from New Zealand, Dubai is said to be continuing its strategy as “the must-experience family destination”.

“The figures show an increase in visitors from many of our key source markets – for example we are seeing strong growth from China, Brazil, Australia and many countries in Europe. The increase comes despite the reduction in flights due to the refurbishment and upgrading of the runways at Dubai International, which is testament to the work conducted by Dubai Airports and our industry partners in ensuring minimal disruption,”  His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director-General of DTCM said.


10. Hello Kitty Con is happening

HellokittySanrio, the lifestyle brand best known for Hello Kitty, has revealed details for Hello Kitty Con 2014, the first official Hello Kitty fan convention in the world. To be held at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA (The Museum of Contemporary Art), in Downtown Los Angeles over four days from October 30, the event is expected to draw fans around the world to “immerse themselves in a never-before-seen environment where the world of Hello Kitty is celebrated, explored and experienced,” organisers stated. Hello Kitty will also be on hand for special appearances and to hug fans as part of her global Share a Hug with Hello Kitty! campaign throughout the convention.


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