New security requirements for tourists intending to visit the United States will become compulsory on January 12th.
The introduction of the “Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)” allows visitors from some 34 countries to enter the US without a visa and stay for up to 90 days. But they must apply to the US Department of Homeland Security online three days before departure.
The visitor will be required to give information including name, passport number, date of birth and destination – the same details previously entered on a form completed during the flight over.
The US authorities have said that they will not initially collect a fee for applications made under the electronic system, but have kept open the possibility of implementing one later.
They say that almost all applicants will be approved within seconds and that negotiating the country’s notoriously difficult immigration desks on arrival will become more pleasant. Queues will be shorter and video screens will be installed showing Americans saying ‘Welcome.’
by Andy Moreton
Melbourne’s own version of the London Eye – the Southern Star - opens officially on November 28th.
The observation wheel, situated on the city’s western fringe, is the biggest of its kind in the southern hemisphere, standing some 120 metres (394 feet) high.
On each 30-minute ‘flight,’ up to 420 people in 21 walk-round gondolas will get all-round views of the city skyline, docklands, Port Phillip Bay and, on a clear day, as far as Geelong.
The Southern Star cost A$100m (£43.5 million / $65 million) of private funds to build and is expected to attract some 1.5 million visitors a year. The State’s Tourism Minister, Tim Holding, is excited: “This is one of only three of these anywhere in the world and we think that makes it an amazing addition to Melbourne’s tourism line-up.”
by Andy Moreton
Luxique offers six of the finest luxury hotels in Melbourne – from a former pub (The Prince) to a warehouse conversion (Adelphi) and a century-old Italian mansion (The Hatton).
If there’s one upside to a downturn, it’s that the consumer suddenly has new power: it’s a buyer’s market.
Paradoxically, the eve of a recession might be just the time to consider that long-promised long weekend away because now, more than ever, those hard-pressed hotels want your business. So, in this season of mists, mellow fruitfulness and monetary meltdown, hunt around for a bargain.
Luxury hotels may not slash their rates by half, but there will be special seasonal offers and they’ll often reduce their guests’ bills in other ways such as free room upgrades, free meals or free spa treatments. The mantra is: Don’t Hesitate to Negotiate.
Many of Luxique’s selection of 60-odd luxury hotels in Paris, for instance, have special offers and packages. Le Meurice, which has a fine location on the fashionable rue de Rivoli, has a range of special offers including honeymoon and family deals as well as a Da Vinci Code package. This includes a private visit to the Louvre Museum with expert guide, a gift book about the Da Vinci Code and free access to the hotel’s sauna and fitness centre.
At another of the luxury hotels in Paris, the Plaza Athenee - located between the Champs Elysees and the Eiffel Tower - there’s a string of special offers. They include a festive winter trip that features ice skating and a tour in a horse and carriage. Fans of Sex And The City will know that part of the last TV episode was shot at the hotel, so it’s no surprise there’s an SATC package, promising a Carrie cocktail, a chocolate shoe made by the hotel’s renowned pastry chef and a ‘must have’ shopping booklet.
Even the smaller luxury Paris hotels are urging you to enter their elegant portals. The Hotel de Vigny, part of the Relais & Chateaux group, just wants you to wallow in the romance of it all. Its special offer is for a one-night stay with champagne, flowers, buffet breakfast, gourmet dinner for two and ‘a prestigious jewel.’
By the way, one of the great attractions of Paris is a visit to the magnificent Palace of Versailles, about ten miles from the city centre. It’s been undergoing a refurbishment and the latest section to be restored is the Petit Trianon, the mini-chateau where Marie Antoinette escaped for some rest and relaxation.
The neo-classical building has been renovated to recreate its intimate atmosphere. Curators said their intention was to avoid a stuffy museum feel, making it seem instead as though the 18th century queen and her entourage had ‘just stepped away for a moment.’
by Andy Moreton
With the Florida property market at a virtual standstill, a couple are offering the chance to bid for a luxury home for just £25 ($37).
Colin and Sue Stafford, who moved from the UK to America in 1997, are running an online raffle for their five-bedroom villa in Orlando, which is worth £841,000 ($1.25 million).
The couple hope to sell 45,000 tickets, which would net them £1.125 million ($1.67 million). As well as the house - set in five acres - the winner will receive a new car, passes to Disneyworld, membership of a local spa and 40 rounds of golf. There will be cash prizes for the runners-up.
Some previous attempts by homeowners to raffle property have fallen foul of gambling laws, so the Staffords have set up a competition in which entrants must answer three trivia questions (www.perfectholidayhome.co.uk).
Entries will close when 45,000 tickets have been sold or on April 30th next year, whichever is the earlier.
The Staffords say they’ve enjoyed living in Florida, but they’ve recently become grandparents and want to spend more time in the UK.
by Andy Moreton
If you love the Sunshine State but don’t particularly want a home there, Luxique can help you find and book the finest luxury hotels in Florida.
It’s been a rite of passage for countless student backpackers making their way around the world.
And this month, the bungee jump has been celebrating its 20th birthday in the country where it all started – New Zealand.
AJ Hackett and Henry Van Asch opened the first commercial jumping station in 1988. Twenty-eight thrill-seekers queued to pay for the chance to take a terrifying leap off the 140ft Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown with just a rubber cord tied round their ankles.
They turned out to be the first of several million people with a sense of adventure (and a head for heights) who would perform the modern version of an ancient manhood ritual from Vanuatu.
Bungee-jumping is now a global leisure phenomenon which, it’s estimated, has brought in NZ$ 1 billion (£386 million / $564 million) for the country’s economy. Tourism is New Zealand’s biggest foreign exchange earner and bungee jumping typifies the adventurous spirit that is one of its greatest attractions.
Couples have even been known to get married on the high platform before jumping off to celebrate.
Hackett, 50, and Van Asch, 45, celebrated their 20-year success story with a tandem jump from the same bridge where it all started. Hackett thought they’d still enjoy the thrill in another 20 years’ time – although he said they’d probably need to jump with Zimmer frames.
by Andy Moreton
Fast becoming one of the ‘must see’ destinations in the world and Luxique offers a choice of eight luxury hotels in New Zealand, including Millbrook Resort and The Spire in Queenstown.
Venice is stepping up its campaign to try to encourage badly behaved tourists to show more respect for the city.
Twenty million people visit Venice every year and boorish visitors are a source of extreme annoyance to the residents and the city authorities.
The ‘clean-up tsar,’ Augusto Salvadori, says large posters will go up in prominent positions with the message Tenere La Città Pulita (Keep the City Clean).
There will also be reminders to tourists using the Vaporetti (water buses) to give up their seats to elderly people and pregnant women and to backpackers to remove their unwieldy loads before boarding. Foreign fare-dodgers will also be targeted.
The moves are the latest phase of a campaign started two years ago to spruce up the city’s image and clamp down on unacceptable tourist behaviour. A ban on street vendors selling grain led to a significant decrease in the estimated 20,000 pigeons in St Mark’s Square.
Now, a group of young women called City Angels aim to stop visitors dangling their feet in fountains, walking around shirtless and throwing food wrappers on to the ground. In addition, the Venice authorities want to deter people from lowering the tone by eating fast food and packed lunches in popular locations.
One city official commented: “Tourism has a huge impact on Venice – there are 60,000 inhabitants but 20 million tourists. It’s a matter of trying to get along together.”
by Andy Moreton
Browse Luxique’s unrivalled selection of luxury hotels in Venice, including the world-renowned Cipriani, Gritti PalaceBaglioni. and
One of the most famous cruise liners in the world, the QE2, is on her final voyage before she comes a floating hotel – in Dubai, where else?!
The Grande Dame of the seas had a slightly inauspicious entry into her home port of Southampton when she ran into a sandbank at dawn. But she was pulled off quite easily and arrived just 25 minutes late.
“No one on board was injured. A lot of people will have been in bed when it happened and wouldn’t have noticed,” said a spokesman for the owners, Cunard.
The Duke of Edinburgh was at Southampton to lead the farewell ceremonies for the ship, which has carried more than two-and-a-half million passengers since being launched by the Queen in 1967. It served as a hospital ship during the Falklands War in 1982.
Tickets for this last voyage were quickly snapped up, with the highest-priced berths going for around £28,000 ($41,000).
With the Queen Mary 2 now the flagship of the Cunard fleet, and with other vessels due to join, the company announced last year that the QE2 would be sold for £50 million ($73 million).
She’ll reach Dubai on November 26 and be handed over to Nakheel, part of the Dubai World company, which created the planet’s largest man-made island, the Palm Jumeirah.
After refurbishment over the next few months, the ship will dock permanently at a specially constructed berth to add yet another astonishing feature to an island that’s fast becoming one of the wonders of the modern world.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique offers the best rates at a dozen superb luxury hotels in Dubai.
Kenya is likely to reap considerable benefit in tourism from Barack Obama’s election as US President as people seek to trace his roots.
The country’s Tourism Minister, Najib Balala, is predicting a 10 to 15 per cent increase in the number of American visitors and says there will also be interest from Europe, particularly the UK.
Officials have already visited Obama’s late father’s birthplace - the once-sleepy village of Kogelo in the west of Kenya. The President-elect’s paternal grandmother and an uncle still live there.
“Kogelo is now in the international spotlight as a tourist attraction,” said Anastasia Wakesho, who chairs the Domestic Tourism Council. “As stakeholders, we are thinking of coming up with programmes to make the place attractive to local and foreign visitors.”
by Andy Moreton
Luxique can help you book some of the finest villa accommodations and luxury hotels in Kenya at the best rates.
I see our old friend Alain ‘Spiderman’ Robert has been up to his tricks again – scaling the 33-floor City Tower in the Indonesian capital, Jakarta.
He made the climb without the use of safety devices, just as he had done at 90 other buildings worldwide, including the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State.
He had intended to scale Jakarta’s Menara Mulia building, but police denied him a permit. Eight hours later, he thought he had secured permission to tackle the City Tower and completed the job in 45 minutes.
However, Robert was brought in by the police after finishing the stunt. “It’s hard to say whether we’ll charge him or not. We’re just asking for more information about his climb,” said a spokesman.
Thousands of people, mostly employees of businesses near the building, witnessed his amazing feat. Their view: ‘brave, but crazy.’
by Andy Moreton
Luxique can offer rooms at three luxury hotels in Jakarta hotels, including one of the prestigious Four Seasons range.
New Zealand’s green, sustainable tourism initiatives have been named the best in the world.
The country won the ‘overall winner’ and ‘best destination’ categories in the 2008 Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism awards. These recognise destinations and organisations that are making a positive contribution to local cultures, economies and the environment through tourism.
The panel of judges congratulated New Zealand for setting an example of what governments could achieve in partnership with the private sector to harness the tourism industry for the benefit of a country’s people and the environment.
“If more national governments followed their example, tourism would make a much more positive contribution around the world,” said the citation.
The Chief Executive of Tourism New Zealand (TNZ), George Hickton, said the win recognised that the country was doing its best to look after its ‘100 per cent pure’ brand image and protect the future of its multi-billion dollar tourism industry.
TNZ’s website urges travellers to ‘explore the youngest country.’ “With vast open spaces filled with stunning rugged landscapes, gorgeous beaches, often spectacular geo-thermal and volcanic activity, a temperate climate and fascinating animal and plant life, it is no surprise that New Zealand’s pure natural environment is so attractive to visitors from other countries. ”
For all those reasons, New Zealand is becoming one of the ‘must see’ destinations in the world and Luxique offers a choice of eight luxury hotels in both the North and South Islands.
by Andy Moreton