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New York (USAsian Network Global News Alert) Sep 30, 2012

Airports Of Thailand Shares Hit All Time High Shares of Airports of Thailand (AOT) rose to an all-time high as expectations of strong traffic movement in the upcoming travel season and the scheduled reopening of its Don Muang airport in October bolstered the airport operator's earnings outlook. AOT shares were up 1.3 percent at THB77 baht (USD$2.49). The stock has gained 71.1 percent so far this year, well above a 25.8 percent gain of the broader stock market. "We believe AOT will report solid traffic movement in both passenger and aircraft during this high travel season (October - March). A strong growth rate year-on-year is expected due to the low base effect from last year's flooding," broker KGI Securities said in a report. The reopening of Don Muang airport should help ease congestion at Bangkok's main Suvarnabhumi airport, which handled 47.8 million passengers in the year ended September 2011, against its annual capacity of 45 million, KGI said. Sep 28, 2012

First-class airport lounges roll out the perks The first-class airport lounge in Sydney, Australia, features a day spa and a 98-foot-long vertical garden. That's just one of the sexiest lounges that made Details magazine's list. Other lounges worth traveling for include the Air France Business Class Lounge at Paris' Charles De Gaulle Airport, which features unlimited Champagne and wine. Sep 28, 2012

San Miguel Eyes Building New Philippines Airport San Miguel, the Philippines' most diversified conglomerate, said on Tuesday it was considering building a major new airport in the country with partner Lucio Tan, the country's second richest man. "We advise that the company and the Lucio Tan Group are jointly evaluating the possibility of constructing an airport which will serve as the country's main gateway," San Miguel told the stock exchange. San Miguel said the new airport would serve the requirements of flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) and its sister firm, Air Philippines. San Miguel and the Tan group jointly own PAL, which entered into a USD$7 billion jet order deal with Airbus last month. Sep 28, 2012

India Considers Airport Slot Auctions Airlines flying to Indian airports could face an auction for peak-time landing slots in a shake-up of aviation policy under the government's economic reform drive. Authorities are also in talks with suppliers to cut taxes on aircraft fuel, a move that would help local carriers which posted losses of USD2.5 billion last year as they grappled with high airport charges and below-cost fares. Debt-strapped Kingfisher Airlines, once India's number two airline, is operating only a quarter of its fleet while national carrier Air India is reliant on a USD5.8 billion taxpayer bailout to stay in the air. Earlier this month, India announced major reforms designed to revive economic growth and avoid a ratings downgrade. "The policies that are now in place were made several years back. Things have changed now. We need to adapt to the changing times," civil aviation minister Ajit Singh told reporters on Friday. He gave few details but analysts pointed out that Indian airport charges are already very high, with New Delhi the world's costliest, according to the International Air Transport Association. Singh also said he would "nudge" local carriers to operate more flights to smaller towns but did not elaborate. Analysts said the current system of allocating landing and takeoff slots on an ad hoc basis has become a major headache with the increase in traffic in Asia's third-largest economy and the emergence of low-cost carriers. The new developments come just weeks after India, which has an aviation market a fifth the size of China's despite comparable populations, relaxed rules to allow foreign airlines to own up to 49 percent of Indian carriers. Sep 28, 2012

Rosewood Hotels Set to Open Rosewood Phuket in 2014 Rosewood Hotels & Resorts said it is following an Asia expansion plan that will see the opening of the Rosewood Phuket in 2014, the second Rosewood property in Asia following Rosewood BeijingOs summer 2013 opening. The Phuket resort, which will include 87 villas, 20 residences and six homes, will be located on the 1,968-foot Emerald Bay beachfront in Western Phuket. All private and public areas will blend interiors and exteriors with retractable glass walls. Cantilevered structures will meld with the landscape. OGreenO rooftops of living plants will not only provide energy conservation but uninterrupted sightlines to the Andaman Sea. The resort will be designed to integrate organically into the hillside forest surroundings with an environmentally sensitive, contemporary architectural style showcasing the locationOs striking natural attributes.

To preserve the 40-acre forest, including 150-year-old banyan trees, Bangkok-based P-Landscape will retain or carefully transplant every tree within the site. Any introduced foliage will be indigenous species. Singapore-based WOHA, principal architect, and Melbourne-based Bar Studio, which is handling the creation of restaurants and homes, will incorporate sustainable practices and indigenous materials wherever possible, with ample use of stone and timber. One- and two-bedroom beach, lagoon and pool villas will provide privacy and uninterrupted ocean views. At a minimum total area of 2,600 square feet, villas will include separate lounge and dining spaces, swimming pool, garden, deck and outdoor shower and bath. The 20 two- to-nine-bedroom tropical mansion residences are set on sites that average half an acre (quarter hectare), while the six two- to-three-bedroom forest hideaway homes are positioned on a steep slope with panoramic views of Emerald Bay, with a private gymnasium, 20-meter lap pool and lounge for exclusive use. There will be six restaurants and lounges, including a rustic Thai seafood restaurant on the beach, built with recycled teak wood; a hillside restaurant offering authentic Asian and Western cuisines; an all-day dining bistro; library lounge; spa caf; and sophisticated beachfront lounge and bar deck area. Sense spa will feature five treatment rooms, seven spa villas with steam and shower, a swimming and Watsu pool. A labyrinth garden, the central feature of the spa, will provide herbs and ingredients for the spa caf and use in specialized spa treatments. Rosewood Phuket will also feature The Pavilion, a new concept of residential-style meeting and function venue and a signature for all Rosewood hotels in Asia. Exclusive corporate retreats and social events of up to 300 for cocktail parties, will take place in a free-standing structure offering elegant relaxation areas, a residential-style kitchen, open terraces and a private entrance. A self-contained rooftop wedding pavilion and private outdoor garden will host ceremonies, receptions and banquets for up to 200 people. Steps from the beach, the pavilion will be encased in retractable glass wall panels which frame 180-degree bay views and can be opened to the sea breezes. Recreational facilities will include a free-form pool and childrenOs pool, a beachside lap pool and a cascading spa pool with naturally filtered waters set amidst forest foliage. Also on offer will be a health club with gymnasium, yoga pavilion, sea sports pavilion and rooftop tennis court. Sep 28, 2012

Dufry Close To Greek Duty Free Stake Buy Retailer Folli Follie said on Monday it was close to selling a controlling stake in its local duty free operations to Dufry, a Switzerland-based global travel retailer, in a rare deal to emerge from debt-laden Greece. Talks with Dufry are at an advanced stage, Folli Follie said in a bourse filing in Athens. "The final conclusion of the negotiations (will be) in the next 2-3 weeks," it added, without giving further details. Dufry is to buy a 51 percent stake in Folli's duty free operations, which have a monopoly, with a network of 90 shops at 45 locations throughout the country. Their operating profit reached EURU84 million (USD$109.11 million) last year, on sales of EURU290 million. The debt crisis has hurt tourism less than other sectors of the Greek economy. Tourism revenues are expected to decline just 5 percent this year, with more than 16 million visitors arriving, just slightly below a record 16.5 million tourists last year. Folli, one of Greece's most successful companies, has about 800 stores in Europe, Asia and the United States. The company took over Hellenic Duty Free Shops in 2010. Chinese private conglomerate Fosun owns 13.4 percent of Folli. Sep 28, 2012

Bali expects to receive 51 cruise ships in 2012 Bali has set itself the target of attracting at least 51 cruise liners, or around 24 percent of the 215 cruise ships expected to visit Indonesia this year, an official said. OWe expect that the island will be visited by at least by 51 cruise ships this year. The resort island currently has three harbors capable of receiving such visits: Benoa in Denpasar, Tanah Ampo in Karangasem and Celukan Bawang in Buleleng,O PT Pelindo III general manager Iwan Sabatini said. PT Pelindo III runs Benoa, the islandOs largest ferry harbor, as well as primary docking facility, for hundreds of fishing boats, which are the backbone of the islandOs tuna industry. The harbor lies in the central region of Bali, while Tanah Ampo is in the east and Celukan Bawang in the north. Sabatini said that cruise industry had good potential for boosting the islandOs tourist industry. Indonesia, including Bali, has yet to fully explore the possibilities offered by cruise line-based tourism. OThe country is yet to have, or construct, a harbor specifically designed and designated for cruise liners,O he stressed, adding that the harbors that currently were tasked with receiving cruise ships had been built as general purpose harbors, later on being upgraded with facilities to serve cruise liners. OThere are 20 harbors across the country that are being upgraded and prepared to be IndonesiaOs cruise ship destinations,O he said. He praised the decision as a wise move given that recent developments in the cruise line industry favor Indonesia. Sabatini pointed out that in the early to late 2000s, the number of cruise ships anchoring in the countryOs waters had been neither substantial nor consistent. In 2001 there were 50 ships. The number fell to 24 the following year, falling again to 19 in 2003. The number rose to 40 in 2004, 41 in 2005, 89 in 2006, and 97 in 2007, before plunging again to 43 in 2008. Sep 27, 2012

Melaka Art and Performance Festival 2012 a resounding success The largest and only site specific art and performance festival on a UNESCO World Heritage site ended on a high note today as artists and performers celebrated a successful three-day festival. From September 21-23, Melaka was filled with art installations and performances by more than 50 renowned local and international artists. Artists from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Australia, France, Ghana, South Korea, Ireland, Brazil, Italy, the Netherlands, Morocco, Canada, Poland, and the USA performed in the streets along St. PaulOs Hill where the asphalt became their canvas. Running for the fourth year, the Melaka Arts and Performance Festival (MAPFest) is an innovative contemporary festival featuring dance, performance art, visual art, film, and music. The closing of the festival culminated in the gathering of all MAPFest artists and performers as they performed OEulogy for The Living,O a large-scale performance, which provided a spectacular and soulful finale to the festival. The play was directed by the Founding Creative Director, Tony Yap, accompanied by live music and projections by Khaled Sabsabi. OWe were overwhelmed by the response throughout the festival. These three days has truly shown that Melaka has the potential to be an international hub for arts and performances. We are definitely looking forward for a bigger and better festival next year,O said Andrew Ching, Founder and Producer of the Festival. As a supporter of the festival, the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) shares the same vision. Zulkefli Sharif, Chief Executive Officer of MyCEB, said, OOur collaboration with MAPFest this year is a successful one as it proves that Malaysia can be a center stage for global events. Melaka, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, was the ideal venue to host such an inspiring showcase of the arts.O The event attracted over 20,000 attendees, including an estimated 4,000 overseas visitors. Festival goers participated in a dance workshop by Australia's leading Afrocontemporary dance practitioner, Appiah Annan of Asanti Dance Theatre, as he introduced traditional and contemporary approaches to dance from his motherland, Ghana. Many people also took part in a forum discussion themed, OMelaka intersections: Living space/museum townO by Associate Professor Cheryl Stock, Director of Postgraduate Studies Creative Industries Faculty of the Queensland University of Technology. MAPFest 2012 was directed by Tony Yap, in his capacity as the Founding Creative Director. He was one of the principle performers with IRAA Theatre (1989-1996) and has worked extensively in Australia and overseas including the Agamemnon Festival Colline Torinese, Italy, and The Trojan Woman, Vienna International Art Festival. As the founding Artistic Director of Mixed Company (now The Tony Yap Company) in 1993, he has made a commitment to the exploration and creation of an individual dance theatre language that is informed by psycho-physical research, Asian shamanistic trance dance, butoh, voice, and visual design. MAPFest 2012 is produced by Arts & Performance Festival Melaka Sdn Bhd and is supported by Tourism Malaysia, the Melaka State government, together with the efforts of E-Plus Entertainment, Mercatus Plus Malaysia, Badan Warisan Malaysia, Kingdom of the Netherlands, the French and The Netherlands Embassies, the Australian government, the Australian High Commission, Australia Malaysia Institute, Multicultural Arts Victoria, the Embassy of France, The Tony Yap Company, Nyoba Kan, Simone Lourey, and William Randall. Sep 27, 2012

Miners help rid Laos of unexploded bombs Gold miners are eager to exploit the rich mineral deposits of Laos, but along the way they're also helping to rid the country of nearly 90 million unexploded bombs left over from the Vietnam War. Many companies are engaged in "mining as demining," experts say, clearing land of unexploded ordnance before beginning to mine in earnest. "In Laos, before you do anything or go anywhere, you have to get the bombs cleared," says researcher Xiaoxuan Lu. Sep 27, 2012

Celebrate Seychelles keeping islands in the spotlight International press from all corners of the world continue to zoom on the Celebrate Seychelles Events for new angle of media coverage of events with a difference and which are staged in total safety on the worldOs most beautiful islands. The Celebrate Seychelles Events Department has been doing everything to keep the name Seychelles in the forefront. Last week, the country reported on the South African newspaper that gave Seychelles their front page and dedicated it to the islandOs Ocarnival of carnivalsO in which South Africa actively participates year after year to showcase their own rich culture and the diversity of their proud people. Today it is a report by the Mauritian journalist George Michel from the newspaper OLe MauricienO that is being covered. George Michel flew to the Seychelles for the 15th Feast of the Assumption in August to cover the event that is also known as the Lafet La Digue and that attract year after year thousands to the tourist paradise of La Digue island. The Mauritius journalist wanted through his report to draw to the attention of the readers the importance of this annual feast to Seychelles and to the island of La Digue where the celebrations have traditionally taken place. In two full pages of article in the Le Mauricien of Mauritius dated August 21, 2012, journalist George Michel brings the highlights of the Feast of the AssumptionOs open-air mass attended by a large crowd of worshippers, heartened by the presence of the Roman Catholic Bishop Denis Wiehe who was presiding over the mass and the roaring success of the religious event. In a separate article heading, OThe small queen of La Digue,O makes reference to the island bicycles and the friendly attitudes of the islanders. The article says: When extolling the virtues of the island of La Digue, visitors can appreciate the picturesque beaches and the warmth of the people.O For the OLe MauricienO newspaper, the bicycle is the most popular means of transport and is even better than what we are all used to these days. The two-wheeled vehicles are making such a sensation to the point that the Mauritius OLe MauricienO has dedicated a full-page report on the bicycle-friendly amenities on La Digue island. Sep 27, 2012

Christchurch launches campaign to lure back Australian tourists Christchurch is launching a campaign to lure Australian visitors back to the earthquake-ravaged city, the same day New Zealanders are being urged to dive under their desks to get ready for another massive quake. A tourism campaign, Christchurch Reimagined, was launched yesterday, telling Australians Christchurch ''has moved on'' since last year's deadly quake. It is the same day the country holds a nationwide earthquake drill, with everyone encouraged to dive for cover. Canterbury tourism bosses say the city is now one of the most creative and exciting cities in New Zealand. Since the February 22 quake last year, the number of Australians visiting Canterbury has dropped by 43%. Sep 27, 2012

Tourism Day message by Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture The Seychelles Minister for Tourism and Culture, Alain St.Ange, has appealed for better understanding of the tourism industry in his World Tourism Day message. In his message, Minister St.Ange reiterated that tourism is everybodyOs business. OPeople of Seychelles, tourism is the pillar of our economy. As I welcome you all at this event to mark World Tourism Day, let me start by saying Happy Tourism Day to one and all. Today we join those nations in the world of tourism who are serious about tourism and who believe in their tourism in celebrating Tourism Day,O Minister Alain St.Ange said. The Minister also called on every Seychellois to be more pro-active in the development and in working for the consolidation of Seychelles tourism industry. OMy call to every Seychellois and to everyone who is involved in the tourism industry is for us all to understand the tourism industry, to appreciate the tourism industry more, and to see how we can enrich and improve our tourism industry. One of the primary challenges for the tourism industry is to ensure that Seychelles remains attractive as a tourism destination. In todayOs busy world, there are few countries which are not engaged in the tourism, and we are in a very competitive marketplace. Worldwide there are many places for people to visit, many holiday choices to make, and many alternatives are today available. As a destination we must, to coin a phrase, dress ourselves up in our Sunday best, if we are to continue to attract our customers,O the Minister said. Sep 27, 2012

Summer ends strong for Hawaii tourism economy Total expenditures by visitors who came to Hawaii in August 2012 rose 14.6 percent (or +$151.4 million) compared to the previous year to $1.19 billion1, according to preliminary statistics released today by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. Higher daily spending and an 11 percent growth in total arrivals (to 725,642 visitors) contributed to this increase. Among Hawaii's top visitor markets, arrivals by air from U.S. West grew 7.6 percent from August 2011 to 307,192 visitors, the tenth consecutive month of growth. Total U.S. West visitor expenditures increased 13.6 percent to $423 million. Arrivals from U.S. East in August 2012 rose 9.6 percent compared to last August at 143,785 visitors. Increased daily spending also boosted U.S. East total visitor expenditures (+19%) to $277.1 million. Japanese arrivals rose 12.8 percent to 155,318 visitors in August 2012, but remained lower than the August 1996 record of 205,025 visitors. A drop in daily spending (-4.0%) resulted in a moderate; 5.6 percent, increase in total expenditures to $248 million. Canadian arrivals totaled 27,282 visitors, slightly lower (-0.6%) compared to August 2011, while total visitor expenditures declined 1.4 percent to $45.3 million. All Other2 markets showed strong growth in total visitor expenditures (+29.2% to $194.4 million) and arrivals (+28.8% at 90,182 visitors) compared to August 2011. Visitor arrivals by cruise ships rose 3.8 percent (to 1,883 visitors) over August 2011. Year-to-date 2012: For the first eight months of 2012, total visitor expenditures rose 20 percent to $9.59 billion, with increases from U.S. West (+10.3% to $3.1 billion), U.S. East (+10.9% to $2.4 billion), Japan (+23.4% to $1.7 billion), Canada (+10.7% to $682.1 million) and All Others (+62.9% to $1.8 billion). Total arrivals grew 10 percent to 5,378,263 visitors, with arrivals from All Other markets climbing 28.2 percent. Total visitor expenditures on each of the four major Hawaiian Islands increased by double-digits compared to year-to-date 2011. Sep 27, 2012

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts named Best Business Hotel Brand in Asia-Pacific for 12th year in a row Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Asia Pacific's leading luxury hotel group, received the highly coveted title of Best Business Hotel Brand in Asia-Pacific plus six other titles at the 2012 Business Traveller Asia-Pacific's 21st Travel Awards. Regarded as one of the travel industry's most anticipated events, the Business Traveller Asia-Pacific Readers' Poll is held annually, surveying its readers mainly in Asia Pacific, both frequent business and leisure travellers. For the 12th consecutive year, the title of Best Business Hotel in the World went to Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, and the title of Best Business Hotel in Manila went to Makati Shangri-La, Manila. Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong won Best Business Hotel in Asia Pacific and in Hong Kong; Futian Shangri-La, Shenzhen and Pudong Shangri-La, East Shanghai each won the Best Business Hotel awards in their respective cities. "We are honoured and delighted that Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has been named Best Business Hotel Brand in Asia-Pacific for the 12th year running and we would like to sincerely thank our guests and the readers of Business Traveller for their support. We will continue to offer our distinct brand of hospitality from the heart to guests from all around the world," said Greg Dogan, president and chief executive officer of Shangri-La International Hotel Management Ltd. The results of the 2012 Business Traveller Asia-Pacific Readers' Poll will be published in the October 2012 edition of the magazine. Sep 27, 2012

In-flight entertainment evolving in mobile era Airlines are rethinking the way they offer in-flight entertainment as more passengers bring mobile devices on flights. Many are upgrading seat-back systems to interface with personal devices or doing away with them altogether in favor of mobile devices that are either rented out or brought by passengers. Sep 27, 2012

Sony to launch flat external batteries for phones, tablets using in-house tech Sony will launch a new line of small, flat, external batteries to provide extra juice for tablets and smartphones, the first such products to use its thin "laminate" technology, it said Monday. Sony's new line of super-thin batteries, based on its in-house laminate technology, will join the ranks of similar products that provide extra juice for mobile products. The Tokyo-based electronics firm announced several models, including one with 7,000 mAh capacity, that it says provides about three full charges to a typical smartphone, at 2.1 amps when both of its USB ports are used. The battery weighs 198 grams and measures 130.6 millimeters by 70.4mm by 12.9mm, on a par with many smartphones. "This thin type of battery is Sony's strength," said spokesman Jin Tomihari. "The smartphone market is growing, so the battery market is also growing accordingly." The company is marketing the new batteries as having the same thin profile as modern phones and tablets, making the two easier to store together. Sony will also launch a slightly smaller model that holds 3,500mAh, as well as a colorful batch of smaller cylindrical 2000mAh batteries. This is on par with modern smartphones: Apple's new iPhone 5 is said to have a 1440mAh battery, while Samsung's Galaxy S3 has a 2100mAh battery. Sony is know mainly for its electronics, games and media holdings, but the company also has advanced battery technology, including for batteries in which the components are laminated together, cutting weight and materials as well as allowing a greater variety of forms. Sep 26, 2012

Sony Computer Entertainment Launches Digital Games on the Same Date as Retail Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) has launched PSN Day 1 Digital for its PlayStation Network, offering downloadable video games on the same date as brick-and-mortar retail offerings. The service will begin Oct. 2, with PlayStation 3 owners able to order Resident Evil 6 and NBA 2K13. Other titles available later in October include Dishonored, Doom 3: BFG Edition, 007: Legend, Medal Of Honor: Warfighter, Need For Speed: Most Wanted and Assassin's Creed III. OPSN gamers have been ecstatic with recent day-and-date digital launches of AAA games like Mass Effect 3 and Borderlands 2,O said Jack Buser, senior director of PlayStation digital platforms for SCEA. OOur upcoming 'PSN Day 1 Digital' lineup in October is exceptional and demonstrates our commitment to delivering the best games to the devoted PlayStation community as soon as they're available. OAdditionally, with our new PlayStation 3 models on the horizon offering up to 500GB of storage, there's never been a better time to experience PS3 games digitally through PSN.O Sep 26, 2012

Sita Air Dornier 228 crash kills 19 A Sita Air Dornier 228 turboprop has crashed in northern Nepal, reportedly killing all 16 passengers and three crew on board. According to local media reports, the aircraft came down minutes after take-off from Kathmandu, crashing into a river bank on the outskirts of the city. The flight was bound for Lukla, a trekking center near Mount Everest. The tail number was reported as 9N-AHA, although this is unconfirmed. A bird strike has been suggested as a possible cause. One of the crew members reportedly told air traffic control that the aircraft had hit a vulture. He attempted to land, but the aircraft crashed into a river bank and caught fire. Local police have been quoted as saying that there were no survivors among the seven Britons, seven Nepalese and five Chinese said to be on board. Photos from the scene show the aircraft in flames and police recovering the flight recorders from the wreckage. Sep 25, 2012

DOT issues first tarmac delay fine for international flight The US Dept. of Transportation (DOT) has fined Pakistan International Airlines $150,000 for a tarmac delay of 4 hr. and 47 minutes at Washington Dulles (IAD) last October. The fine is the first for an international flight violating the DOT consumer protection rule. The rule, which took effect in August 2011, prohibits tarmac delays of longer than 4 hr. for international flights. OWhile other lengthy tarmac delays that occurred on the same day are still under review, the PIA incident was the only one occurring at Dulles Airport, which was not subject to the weather, equipment, infrastructure, and international arrival limitations that existed at other affected airports,O DOT said. OAlthough the captain and first officer were able to safely deplane the aircraft by air stairs in order to conduct external safety inspections of the aircraft, airline officials believed that deplaning passengers by air stairs may have been unsuitable due to the inclement weather, as well as the number of passengers requiring wheelchairs and the number of small children on board. However, PIA made no other attempts to deplane passengers by any other means or to seek assistance from the airport operator in deplaning before the tarmac delay exceeded four hours, in violation of DOT rules.O Sep 25, 2012

Four Seasons Kyoto in the works Four Seasons reached an agreement to operate a 186-room hotel in Kyoto. It will be the company's first hotel in the city and third in Japan. The Four Seasons Hotel Kyoto will sit on a five-acre site in the historic section of Kyoto. No date has been set for the hotelOs opening. Kyoto, a city of about 1.5 million people, is about 250 miles west of Tokyo, where Four Seasons has two hotels. Sep 25, 2012

Hawaii's Halawa Valley fosters deeper ties with nature The diverse plant and animal life in Hawaii's Halawa Valley entice visitors to commune more intimately with their natural surroundings, this feature says. With the help of a guide, hikers may gain a deeper understanding of the local traditions through a visit to the area's most significant cultural and natural attractions. Sep 24, 2012

Rosewood to open second resort in Asia in 2014 Rosewood will open its second hotel in Asia in 2014. The Rosewood Phuket resort will boast 87 villas, 20 residences, six homes, and six restaurants and lounges. It will also feature rooftop gardens and retractable glass walls. Sep 24, 2012

Hilton Waikoloa Village Property Update Hilton Waikoloa Village has something for everyone. Its 62 acres encompass multiple swimming pools, an ocean-fed snorkeling lagoon, trams, boats, restaurants, dolphin encounters, shopping, art, wildlife, tennis, a putting course, a chapel, a convention center, children's program, a spa and a luau. But even though it's clearly the total package, the 1,240-room Hawaii Island mega-resort has been systematically evolving and sprucing itself up to make sure it maintains widespread appeal. I recently revisited the property to check out the results of a $15 million renovation - completed in August - of its lobby and 245-room Lagoon Tower, and I'm happy to report that the hotel continues to look and feel great. Hilton Waikoloa Village spokesperson Leanne Pletcher told me that resort occupancies in 2012 are on pace to match 2011 results. "The first half of 2013 is looking stronger than the same period in 2012," Pletcher said. "To help boost our business we are looking at increasing our banner ads with online sites such as TripAdvisor.com, along with exploring new ideas with our wholesale partners and stepping up specials for our group customers." Fresh Look for Lobby and Lagoon Tower The renovated lobby sports a chic scheme of tan, purple and gold, with culturally inspired touches. The design of its new chandelier is based on the Hawaiian concept of piko waena (a place of gathering), and its hanging lights represent past, present and future generations of resort visitors. The transformation of the Lagoon Tower rooms focused on upgrades to the bathrooms, linens and furnishings. The carpet features handsome images of naupaka - a Hawaiian beach plant - and a blend of lavender, white and beige highlights. The bathroom now boasts a crystalline stone countertop with dual sinks and a spacious walk-in shower. Half of the Lagoon Tower units offer prime views of the dolphin lagoon and ocean, while the remaining rooms provide vistas of either the Mauna Kea and Hualalai mountains or Waiulua Bay. Pletcher said that the Lagoon Tower is particularly favored by families because it offers the closest accommodations to the dolphin lagoon and the Kona Pool, which is home to water slides, waterfalls, an interactive fountain and a sand-bottom kiddie pool. "Couples prefer the Ocean Tower because it's more remote and quiet, while groups gravitate toward the Palace Tower which is located near the convention facilities," said Pletcher. The transformation of the lobby and guestrooms comes on the heels of the $1 million renovation in 2011 of the Naupaka and Naia suites, the most luxurious accommodations available at the resort. New Options for Dining and Water Sports In late May 2012, Hilton Waikoloa introduced Dona and Toni's Pizza to its range of dining outlets. Another new addition to the resort's eateries is Boat Landing Cantina, offering Pacific-Mexican cuisine. In July, the hotel debuted a unique food and beverage service called Evening on the Water, allowing clients to cruise around the property in one of its mahogany boats while sipping and supping at sunset. The Nanea Kai (play at the ocean) Beach Boys program is yet another relatively new addition to the Hilton Waikoloa Village experience. Fourteen friendly, knowledgeable watermen assist guests at the hotel's saltwater lagoon, doing things like launching and landing beach toys, demonstrating stand-up paddling and preparing clients for snorkeling. Lest anyone assume that the hotel's upgrades have ended, Pletcher promised some minor upgrades around the property in 2013, followed by renovations in 2014 to the conference center and Big Island Breakfast at Water's Edge restaurant. In other words, any time is a good time to visit Hilton Waikoloa Village. Sep 24, 2012 2154-2260

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