Tag Archives: Australia

12 Months, 12 Destinations

JANUARY: Australia

Australia – the land of kangaroos and koalas – is home to range of tourism icons from one of the most scenic ocean drives to the only natural wonder visible from the moon.

Apart from its picturesque beaches and iconic Opera House, Australia is known for its natural miracle – Uluru (also known as Ayer’s Rock). This huge monolith that changes colour according to the time of the day is also the world’s largest single rock mass. Then there is Vivid Sydney, the festival of colour and music in which the Sydney Opera House lights up like never before. Swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef or catch a crab at Terranora Lakes. Explore the exhaustive flora of the world’s oldest rainforest, Daintree or snorkel amidst vibrant coral and exotic fish at the world’s largest living organism. So refreshing and charming is the Great Barrier Reef that taking care of Hamilton Island off the reef coast has been mooted as the “Best Job in the World.”  And when you are done with everything, head northwest where Roebuck Bay offers you the romantic spectacle of a lifetime. On full moon nights at low tide, the moonlight gets so reflected on the undulating land and sea that a magical staircase leading to the moon appears! It is easy to fall in love.

FEBRUARY: New Zealand

From bungee jumping to zorbing to the more traditional activities of skiing and trekking, New Zealand has some of the best adventure sports facilities in the world.

For those keen on adventure, New Zealand is a heaven without limits. Taupo offers the opportunity to jump with a friend from a height of 5000 metres. Mount Cook has the fascinating provision of helicopter landing right on top of a glacier – an unforgettable experience. As if this was not enough, two of its cities are the world’s premier adventure sites – so much so that Queenstown is called the Adventure Capital of the World and Auckland is billed as the City of Sails. Apart from the world of adventure, New Zealand also offers some exotic experiences. Rainbow Springs in Rotorua boasts of a Kiwi encounter. Waitomo has underground caves which are illuminated naturally by thousands of glowworms. And the southernmost point of New Zealand, Stirling Point boasts of a “hundred percent pure” snow mountain experience not found anywhere else.

MARCH: Egypt

Egypt is not only home to the only surviving wonder of the ancient world.  The resort town of Sharm El Sheikh is world famous for diving and snorkeling

Does Egypt conjure up images of monuments thousands of years old? Cairo has so many tombs of the ancient pharaohs that a part of it is called the “City of the Dead”. Luxor, regarded as the largest open air museum in the world, is an entire city that has battled 4000 years of time. Abu Simbel is a millennia old temple carved out of a single piece of rock. Mount Moses was where the Ten Commandments were first spoken. But not many know that Egypt also has a lot to offer someone who wants a laidback holiday. With splendid beaches at Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh and the Pearl of the Mediterranean – Alexandria, along with a lazy trek through the Black Desert, it is a mixed bag.

APRIL:  Spain

Being a land of diversity – from bull fights to major sporting events to fine wines and diverse cultures to the most unusual festivals – Spain is a country worth exploring.

They say there is not just one Spain, but many. There is the Spain of Barcelona with its stunning Gaudi architecture and smart shopping streets. There is the Spain of historical landmarks like the world’s oldest lighthouse in Galicia, the medieval wonder of the Mosque of Cordoba and the romantic Moorish palace of Alhambra. There is the Spain of adventure with the active volcano treks of Tenerife and both skiing and sunbathing in the same place in Andalusia. The Spain of Ibiza with its dazzling beaches and exotic resorts is a different world altogether; the island is mooted as the Party Capital of the World. And then there is the most unforgettable Spain, that cannot be missed – the Spain of Seville’s amazing pre-Easter fiesta, Madrid’s unique bull-festival and Buñol’s ravishing La Tomatina food fight festival.

MAY: Turkey

Istanbul is the European Capital of Culture for 2010 and also the only city in two continents. It hosts the F1 Grand Prix in May 2010 and is the ideal hub to visit various wonders of Turkey.

For anyone wanting to uncover a world of ancient civilizations, Turkey is heaven. From the ruins of Troy to the Roman remnants of Ephesus and from the ancient mosque of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul to the sculptures of Mount Nemrut, Turkey is soaked in history. Yet it also has unique experiences to offer. Experience what it would be like to live in a cave hotel at Cappadocia. Raft along the rapids of Çoruh River – one of the fastest in the world. Gaze in wonder at the cotton castle of Pamukkale – hot springs naturally filled up in spectacular rock formations. Trek up Mount Ararat which legend says was the only place high enough for Noah’s Ark to land. And lap it all up with a historic Blue Voyage cruise along the Turkish Riviera. And last but not least, experience the city at the crossroads of cultures and continents as well as being a European Capital of Culture in 2010, Istanbul.

JUNE: South Africa

South Africa – the Rainbow Nation – has hosted a myriad of Indian experiences from Bollywood shoots, fashion extravaganzas, IPL and now hosts FIFA 2010 – the biggest sporting event of the year.

South Africa boasts of the Big Five of Africa’s greatest wild animals – the lion, leopard, elephant, wild buffalo and rhinoceros – all of which can be found roaming oblivious to the ruckus of the world in their natural habitats at Kruger National Park, one of the most beautiful nature reserves of the world. Even outside of Kruger, South Africa offers unique glimpses into the lives of animals, rarely found elsewhere. Stroll with penguins at the Cape Peninsula. Cage dive at Gansbaai to experience the thrill of being within inches of perilous white sharks. Pet a cheetah near Cape Town. And when done with it, explore the other fascinating facets of this country which is also well known for its beautiful cities and archaeological marvels. The city of Cape Town has been rated the “World’s Best City” by London newspaper, Telegraph. Durban boasts of Africa’s largest shopping mall. Vredefort Dome offers a peek at the biggest meteor crater on Earth. And Sterkfontein presents the fascinating opportunity of seeing 2 million year old human bones being excavated.

JULY: Scandinavia

The National Geographic channel has rated the Fjords of Norway as the best place to be in the world and Denmark and Sweden are ranked amongst the top 5 happiest nations – thus making Scandinavia a must visit for all.

Scandinavia provides a refreshing world in summer when it is known as the “Land of the Midnight Sun.”There is also the beauty of snow-peaked mountains from the Bergen to Kirkenes Cruise in Norway that the Fjords through which the cruise passes have been declared the “Best Place in the World” by National Geographic. Not far behind is the Copenhagen Cruise which is Europe’s leading cruise destination. An interesting fact about Scandinavia is that it offers natural attractions like no other country owing to its cold climate. Travel on a reindeer sled as you watch the Northern Lights or watch polar bears at Svalbard. Feel how it is at Andenes, a place where the sun never sets. Live in the world’s largest ice hotel which is rebuilt from fresh ice every year in the Swedish Lapland. Simulate the experience of skiing and jumping down 60 metres of slope from one of the world’s oldest ski-jumps. And then of course there is something about the Scandinavian Christmas that no one can beat – meeting the real Santa at the Arctic Circle.

AUGUST: France

Fashion, gastronomy, the fastest train, fine beaches, castle stays, wine and romantic river cruises make France a country that appeals to all.

The Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum are so popular throughout the world that France hardly needs any introduction. Not many know however that France also offers many more unforgettable experiences that have made it the most visited tourist destination in the world; Like barging along the river Seine at twilight as the majestic Eiffel Tower slides by; Or living in a 200 year old heritage castle in the Loire Valley; Or tasting one of the world’s best champagnes in the region of Champagne in northern France; or forgetting the cares of the world while relaxing on a beach at the French Riviera; Or gasping with excitement while travelling in the world’s fastest train from Paris to Lille; Or enjoying tantalizing delicacies served in chivalrous French fashion at Lyon – the gastronomical Capital of the World; Or witnessing the Wonder of the Western World that Mont St Michel is regarded as; Or taking part in one of the world’s largest Christian pilgrimages at Lourdes; France is a must-visit destination in 2010.

SEPTEMBER: Germany

2010 is a year of several celebrations for Germany – from the Passion Play to 200 years of Beer Fest, 300 years of Porcelain and the 200th birthday of Robert Schumann, Germany is a nation of unity amongst diversity.

2010 is definitely the year to visit Germany. Along with the Ruhr Valley being a European Capital of Culture, the “world’s biggest party” Oktoberfest will also celebrate its 200th anniversary in Munich when more than six million people are expected to surrender themselves to a festival of food, shopping and beer. The legendary Oberammergau Passion Play which takes place every 10 years will also occur in 2010. To make it even better, shop at Europe’s best Christmas Market in Nuremberg. Traverse the scenic locales of the Romantic Road and Black Forest. Experience the magic of the fairy tale castle of Neuschwanstein. Stroll through the biggest cities of the world in miniature at Hamburg. Taste a slice of history at the tallest church in the world at Ulm. And be mesmerized at nature’s diversity as you take a peep at 1400 species of animals at Berlin Zoo – the largest in the world.

OCTOBER: Central Europe

Central Europe – still to adopt the Euro currency – is a great value for money region comprising of the Visegrád quartet of Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.

If all of Europe’s prime temptations were bundled up and offered at a discounted price, we would be talking of Central Europe. The Czech Republic abounds with castles hundreds of years old including the largest castle in the world – the Prague Castle. Prague itself boasts of a subtle blend of a glorious past and excellent modern infrastructure and is aptly called the City of a Hundred Spires. And as if to make up for the elegant charms of Paris, there is Budapest – the Paris of the East. Relax in the lap of nature at Masurian Lake district which boasts 2000 lakes. Trek at the Tatra Mountains, long favoured by Bollywood to portray natural beauty. Enjoy adventure sports at the world’s leading green resort AquaCity in Slovakia or dine at Europe’s oldest restaurant in Krakow.

NOVEMBER: Austria

From Sachertorte to Mozart’s birthplace to imperial palaces, Austria is truly a class apart.

Just over 250 years ago, Austria’s love affair with music began when Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. It continues till today at Mozart’s birthplace of Salzburg – which hosts the world famous Salzburg Festival of Music every year. It is therefore not a surprise that the Academy Award-winning musical “Sound of Music” was shot almost entirely in Austria. But music is not Austria’s only asset. Its capital Vienna offers such a varied cocktail of architectural specimens, shopping and cuisine that it is often called “Europe’s Main Street.” Austria is also home to the world’s most expensive crystal – the Swarovski crystal which has an entire museum dedicated to it near Innsbruck. Nature too has been very kind with this cultural paradise. The Hohe Tauern National Park is the Alps’ largest Nature Reserve while Eisriesenwelt has the world’s largest ice caves. And for the historically inclined there is the archeological park of Carnuntum where a 2000 year old Roman city has been reconstructed.  To add to all this is the unique Museum of the Future in Linz completed in 2009 which depicts the state of Earth decades from now.

DECEMBER: Jordan

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is easily accessible with visas on arrival for Indians and offers a truly royal experience.

If one phrase had to describe what Jordan has to offer, it would be “The Land of History, Mystery and Mythology.” At Jerash in northern Jordan, actors immaculately dressed as Roman Warriors enact a stunning display of ancient civilizations with fast paced Chariot Races and Gladiator Fights. The desert castles of the east are some of the finest and earliest examples of Islamic art in the world. Incidentally one of the holiest places for Christians around the world is in Jordan too. “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” is where Jesus was baptized. For a cocktail of adventure and history, follow Lawrence of Arabia’s trail in the Wadi Rum desert or explore the Treasury of Indiana Jones fame at Petra. And to relax royally as the kings of yore, take a dip in the 1700 year old Turkish bath at Aqaba. Interestingly, as if to add a modern touch to its glorious historical heritage, Jordan’s capital Amman has one of the best collections of super luxury vintage cars in the world belonging to the royalty and are now part of the Royal Automobile Museum.

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The Best Backpacking Holiday in the World (Queensland)

*          Balunjali Cultural Kayak Tours in Gold Coast

*          Visit Theme Parks in Gold Coast

*          Explore the Great Barrier Reef

*          Tjapukai Aboriginal Culture Park in Cairns

*          Visit World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest

*           Zorbing in Gold Coast

The Best Adventure Holiday in the World (Queensland)

*          Jet Skiing in the Whitsundays

*          Sand Tobogganing and Quad Biking at Tangalooma

*          Feed the Kangaroos at Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Gold Coast

*          Snorkel or Dive in the Great Barrier Reef

*          Bungee Jumping in Cairns

*          Skydiving in the Whitsundays

*          Storey Bridge Climb in Brisbane City

Book the Best Adventure Holiday in the World with…

The Best Honeymoon Holiday in the World (Queensland)

*          Hot Air Ballooning in Cairns and Gold Coast

*          Sea Plane Ride over Heart Reef at Whitsundays

*          Q Bar and Q Deck

*          Sunsets at Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort

*          Indulgent Romantic Spa treatments

*          Helicopter Ride to White Haven beach from Hamilton Island

The Best Family Holiday in the World (Queensland)

*          Visit Theme Parks in Gold Coast

*          Feed the Wild Dolphins at Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort

*          Get Up Close with Animals at the Australia Zoo on the Sunshine Coast

*          Tamborine Trolley Tour in the Gold Coast Hinterland

*          Experience World Heritage listed Rain Forest on Kuranda Scenic Rail and Sky  Rail

*          Outer Barrier Reef Cruise in Great Barrier Reef in Glass Bottomed Boat

Interview with Anthony Hayes, CEO of Tourism Queensland and Wendy Harch, Executive Director International of Tourism Queensland

Anthony Hayes – CEO of Tourism Queensland, and Wendy Harch – Executive Director International of Tourism Queensland share with us why Queensland is the perfect holiday destination for everyone.


What are your roles and responsibilities as CEO and Executive Director International of Tourism Queensland respectively?

Anthony: Our job involves anything and everything. We are responsible for marketing Queensland to the world and the rest of Australia. We work closely with the local travel industry to develop new products and look for new opportunities that perhaps have not been touched before. The Australian government provides us with a significant fund for marketing and development initiatives and we look after our shareholder by creating innovative and effective strategies to attract more visitors to Queensland. Overall, it is a very exciting and satisfying business.

Wendy: My role focuses specifically on the international market.  The objective is to bring as many international visitors into Queensland as possible. First, we have to create the awareness and accessibility through our network around the globe. We have 8 Regional Directors based in key markets that report to the head office in Brisbane.

Queensland’s top five largest international markets are New Zealand, Japan, United Kingdom, United States and China. When you look at the forecast however, India and China are the two markets chosen by economists with the strongest growth potential. Our job is to build and strengthen the right relationships to turn these forecasts into reality.

What is the potential from the Indian market and what do you expect to achieve from this visit?

Anthony: The potential is almost limitless. We’re only just beginning. There were about 125000 Indian visitors to Australia in 2009 of which about 35000 were holidaymakers. India is a significant market but it is still quite small in comparison to where it can eventually be. The huge potential for the holiday market to grow is very exciting and fortunately Queensland is the quintessential holiday state.

There is a huge opportunity for us over the long term if we strengthen the relationships today. We invite members of the tourism industry to Queensland so they can experience for themselves what we have to offer. We also bring members of the Queensland tourism industry to India to meet with agents and wholesalers. We are building good solid relationships and we are doing it together.

Anthony joined Tourism Queensland in 2005 after a long tenure with Qantas and Wendy has been with Tourism Queensland for 15 years. How has tourism to Queensland evolved during your tenure in terms of products and trends?

Anthony: Between global financial crises and flu epidemics, I don’t think I could have chosen a more challenging time to take the helm. But I think entering a tough situation like that gives you the opportunity to step back and see if the way we have always been doing things still works for us or if we need to evolve. It has given us a chance to be more creative and more aggressive and to try new things which haven’t been tried before.

For example, the Best Job in the World campaign was specifically designed to introduce the Islands of the Great Barrier Reef to the world. We felt there was almost zero awareness of our islands in the international market place. People certainly know about the reef, but we felt there was a brilliant opportunity to introduce the world to our island experiences. It was a good opportunity to try something different in terms of making an impact instead of the usual line of action. The campaign hinged on the concept of a ‘big idea’ and was followed up by a series of sales campaigns. As the awareness and interest grew, the product was ready to be presented to the consumer. In the end, the campaign received over AUD 400 million worth of publicity and over 8.5 million hits on our website. I think it is safe to say that the goal of awareness was achieved in totality.

Wendy: I have always been involved in tourism. Before joining Tourism Queensland, I worked for a Japanese inbound operator on the Gold Coast. Tourism is about the destination and informing people about the variety of activities to do when visiting. We always strive to come up with new products as well as innovative ways of presenting the classic products. One thing is for sure: tourism gets into your blood and it is very hard to leave once you’ve been bitten.

What are the travel experiences available in Queensland which are different from the rest of Australia?

Wendy: The great thing about Queensland is the variety of different products available. There is truly a holiday for every type of person. Brisbane provides brilliant nightlife and shopping opportunities. Cairns is the gateway to the Daintree Rainforest which is more than 135 million years old making it the oldest rainforest in the world. In fact, it contains the highest number of plant and animal species that are rare or threatened with extinction anywhere in the world. And of course, the islands of the Great Barrier Reef undoubtedly provide the most extraordinary experiences for families, couples and adventurers.

Anthony: I don’t think Australia is just about lying on the beach and watching the sunset. Of course that experience is available in abundance, but I doubt Indians will visit Australia just to do that. I am sure they would rather experience Australian culture and share our lifestyle. It is a different way of living for a few days and that is what makes a holiday more pleasing and memorable.

What were the challenges faced by Tourism Queensland during the recent economic decline and how were they dealt with?

Anthony: We are still facing the challenges of the economic decline. It is fair to say that the market has not picked up anywhere near to where it had been previously. We are in for a challenging 6 to 12 months ahead. We need to be realistic about the financial situation and certainly also the recent negative press Australia has had in India. The relationship between India and Australia must be strengthened, especially in the face of recent tragic events.

The cultural links between India and Australia are so strong. The opportunities for a stronger relationship are obvious. Despite the challenges, we have to keep our eye on the long term goal. We know that within the next 10 years, the growth will be fantastic.

The goal is to structure ourselves today to be prepared for the future. This includes establishing our products and relationships with the travel industry, setting up training programmes for staff, developing partnership marketing with airlines and even establishing a digital strategy.

How has digital marketing played a role in increasing awareness and accessibility to Tourism Queensland and its products?

Anthony: The Best Job in the World was primarily a digital campaign which certainly got the desired message out effectively and more importantly, cost-effectively. Anyone who doesn’t think that digital marketing is the future is fooling themselves. It is a cost-effective and efficient way to spread your message. The Best Job in the World was just a simple way of saying to the world, “Hey, did you know that we have all these amazing islands in Queensland?” We are now seeing a fantastic increase in bookings to the islands because that message was shared effectively.

We will certainly continue to work with social media and other avenues of digital peer review. The effects are staggering. It would be easy for us to publish an advertisement with pictures and content chosen by us, but social media is about you experiencing something for yourself and then sharing it with your friends. It is much more genuine. If someone returns from a holiday and genuinely says that they had a fantastic time in Queensland, that has much more credibility than a traditional advertisement.

Now that you have attained a high level of consumer interest in the Islands, how do you plan to convert this into increased visits?

Anthony: After raising over AUD 400 million in publicity and receiving about 8.5 million hits on our website during the campaign, we are more than happy with the fantastic results. But if it doesn’t translate into the eventual selling of the product, the project would not be a complete success.

We have seen however that in some destinations such as Hamilton Island, sales have increased by 25% versus last year.  Some of our smaller operators have seen their sales increase by 80%. We are even finding that some of these operators are getting their first bookings from India. The numbers have been very positive in spite of it being a tough year. In 2010, we hope to reap the benefits of our planning and hard work.

Are you planning similar campaigns for other Queensland products?

Anthony: We definitely will not repeat the same concept such as the Best Job in the World Part 2. We doubt it would be as effective as the original. We have seen other people copy the concept and it didn’t work out too well for them.

Regardless, we are always working on the next ‘big idea.’ Our board has recently approved a project that we are currently laying down the foundation for. Will it be as big as the last one? We don’t know, but we have to try.

We are looking at a launch in the beginning of 2011. It may seem like the very distant future, but given the amount of work involved with these big ideas, earlier is always better.  Such projects require tremendous planning and preparation.

Tourism Queensland employs about 145 people around the world. Consequently, every one of us is a multi-tasker. And fortunately because we are a relatively small group of people, when a big idea takes off, we are flexible enough to mobilize everyone towards a common goal – which was one of the reasons for the success of the Best Job in the World campaign. If you’re on a winner, you should ride the wave.

Which are the key global markets for Tourism Queensland and what are the strategies for 2010?

Wendy: We do have our top five markets and they will continue to be very important. But we also see massive potential from other countries. The real opportunity for us is to look at the growth markets and India is certainly at the top of the list. It is very exciting for us to be here and lay the foundation for stronger relationships in the future – not just for the next 12 months, which is very important, but also for the long haul.

Anthony is also a board member of Queensland Events Corporation. What are some of the popular events taking place in Queensland?

Anthony: We wish we were hosting the IPL next year. That would be fantastic. But the majority of events taking place in Queensland are currently more suited for the domestic market than the global or Indian markets. One of the biggest events this year is the Ashes cricket tournament where we expect over 20000 people to visit Brisbane, many of them from England. It is one of the best examples of how an event can complement tourism. As the brilliant cricket rivalry between India and Australia continues to grow, we would love to see thousands of Indian tourists accompany the Indian cricket team.

Which are your favourite holiday destinations in Queensland?

Wendy: My last two holidays have been on the Gold Coast. Everything I want is nearby and it is a great destination for kids. It is perfect for a relaxing family holiday. You can stay in an apartment with your own kitchen and cooking facilities. If your kids are tired or hungry, you can maintain the comfort and convenience of home. And of course, the theme parks on the Gold Coast are fantastic. The cliché rings true again that there is something for everyone. If dad wants to play golf and mom wants to go shopping, everything is possible. Dining options are also full of variety. There are even numerous Indian restaurants. The Gold Coast is simply a very fun and convenient destination for a family holiday.

Anthony: My last holiday was at Noosa on the Sunshine Coast. It is a very different experience from the Gold Coast. It is much more about the natural landscapes and local dining. My son and I like to go for bush walks and look for wildlife. At certain times of the year, the whale watching is absolutely amazing along the coast. As I mentioned earlier, I feel a holiday is not about lying on a beach all day, but about truly experiencing your surroundings.

Lastly, your message to readers:

Wendy: We take the Indian market very seriously. We recognize and respect the fact that there are many people here who will continue to be very important partners. We are building these relationships for the long haul.

Anthony: It has been a difficult six months with recent tragic events weighing on people’s minds when considering travelling to Australia. It is my belief that the more tourism exchange we foster, the more we will be able to understand each other’s cultures and constrain racism and ignorance. It is an old cliché, but beyond the business, there is a greater goal of building bridges and sharing each other’s cultures and treasures.