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Tourism advertisements are meant to attract more travelers to visit a certain region or country and there's no doubt that the most creative get the most attention. This week was like any other for Tourism Australia's official Facebook page as they posted stunning shots of sunsets over city skylines, beach vistas, and cuddly animals. Sounds innocent enough, right? Not so much.
The profile page then posted a picture of Baz the Kangaroo chillaxing at the Featherdale Wildlife Park in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and that's when it all when haywire. The roo was posing quite, well, provocatively, as if he was ripped from the pages of an adult magazine. While this natural display of the animal kingdom should not normally be racy, Tourism Australia made it so by pixelating his "anatomy," as if to maintain his modesty.
For travel geeks who follow the often-dry travel industry, the intrigue surrounding l'affaire Tourism Australiawhich has seen Australia's national flag carrier Qantas sever an agreement with Australia's official tourism agency over charges of sabotageis kind of entertaining.
Here's the gist of it: the airline halted a $50 million deal between it and Tourism Australia over charges that Tourism Australia's chairman was involved in a "syndicate committed to unraveling Qantas' structure and direction," and that was trying to overthrow the current management and buy out the company. The partnership had lasted 40 years. Scandalous.
If you're actually in the travel industry, let alone involved with tourism boards that try to promote travel to Australia, the situation is much less amusing. In that case you're scrambling right now to deal with the fallout and telling newspapers about all the "damage" that needs to be "contained."
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It's an unfortunate fact of life that sometimes politics impacts travel. It's an even more unfortunate fact of life that sometimes politics impacts travel so much that we have to write about it on a Friday afternoon instead of easing you into the weekend with baby animal pictures. And yet here we are, with flights being emptied or cancelled across three continents because of a variety of geopolitical flare-ups.
The most dramatic bit of travel politics comes out of Japan, where no less than 40,000 seat reservations to China have been canceled. China has been on a bit of a tear recently, claiming a bunch of islands that by and large aren't straightforwardly quite theirs. The campaign has put them on a collision course with various other countries in the region (obviously) and one of those countries is Japan. There have been anti-Japan protests in China and, apparently, lots of Japanese people are sufficiently pissed off to cancel vacations to China.
Hertz / Rental Cars / Australia Travel / Australia / Rent2Buy / Car Rentals / Cars / → All Tags
After a successful launch of the same program here in the US, the rental car giant is taking their negotiating skills Down Under. Potential car buyers will have the option to purchase late model vehicles previously rented to travelers. All cars come with the promise that they've been well-maintained and priced competitively, as in under the recommended resale value based on RedBook the Aussie version of the Kelley Blue Book. So, no lemons!
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The never-ending saga of Qantas and the rebuilding of a reputation continues and today the process got a boost. While Barack Obama was touring Oz, John Travolta made a surprise appearance on a flight from Sydney to Melbourne. He wasn't a passenger but he was in the business class cabin of the B767.
We know that the Saturday Night Fever star is a world ambassador for the flying kangaroo and actually has a retired Boeing 707 parked in his driveway. We also know that he has been featured as a captain in the in-flight safety announcement. Now, he turns up to present the most frequent flyers with Qantas' top status, Platinum One. Unfortunately, this was a one-off presentation; he was just in town for a 91st birthday bash Qantas decided to throw for the elite status flyers.
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We already talked about how the CEO of Qantas decided to counter industrial action by shutting down the complete worldwide operations. Since that weekend, Qantas is back up in the skies with a new motto, "Book with confidence and certainty," and a lot of explaining to do for the more than 70,000 passengers that were left stranded.
Leaving travelers stranded and with unanswered questions, Qantas had to do something. During the shutdown, the company offered to reimburse those who needed to re-book on different airlines, even pay the difference of airfares. For those who decided to stay in the city in which they were stranded, Qantas paid hotels, meals and phone calls up to a certain amount. If you were one of the unlucky passengers and you're still struggling to figure out what you get from all this, visit Qantas' website for more details.
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Australia's flagship carrier Qantas had been having labor problems for months. Within the last few weeks the union representing the airline's mechanics, pilots, baggage handlers and caterers escalated the dispute, launching a series of rolling work stoppages that triggered dozens of cancellations and created general chaos.
Then, over the weekend, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce re-raised by straight-up shutting down the airline, essentially forcing the situation.
As management no doubt hoped would happen, a hastily-called court brought the parties together, turned to the unions, and told them to get back to work. Qantas will now spend the next few days picking itself off the floor as flights begin again. Our backgrounder on the strike itself and the slow recovery is here, including details on how the airline tried to mitigate the pain over the weekend.
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Well this is getting kind of tired. In March Big Ash Problems caused by erupting volcanoes grounding flights throughout Japan. Then in May it was Europe's turn, with the ash cloud from Iceland's Grimsvotn eruption disrupting air travel first in Scotland and then in other parts of the continent.
Now the Puyehue volcano in Chile has blown its top. First the ash cloud first wrecked havoc on Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Then over the weekend it traveled across the Pacific and shut down airports from Melbourne to New Zealand. With some flights still grounded indefinitely, 2011 is shaping up to be even worse than 2010, the year of vengeful air travel volcano gods.
Experience the Australian Alps from the comfort of a movie theater
Film, at its best, has the ability to transport us to a different time, place or state of mind. The great leisure of cinematic travel is that you do so parked in a plush theater chair for two or so hours, with a jumbo pack of Milk Duds and Red Vines by your side. The Fifth Annual Backcountry Film Festival aims to take theatergoers on a tour of wintry locations the world over, from Vermont to Japan.
Your lift ticket to mountainous and blistering-cold regions comes in the form of films shot in the backcountry of different nations, including unlikely places such as Australia. It's a little-known fact that there is snowboarding along with surfing down under.
Is it just us, or did Andrew Zimmern kind of take this week off? Sure there was a new episode of Bizarre Foods, but it was decidedly un-bizarre; we'd eat all of it no problem.
Andrew was in Eastern Australia this week in what seemed like a less-intense mode after a rough time in the Outback. What we mean is, he went to the Sydney Opera House and Bondi Beach and ate Vegemite; is this "Bizarre Foods" or "Bridget's Sexiest Beaches"?
We will concede that he did find some bugs to eat, but even those were in a stir fry—not exactly the slimy and hardcore chewing we expect of Andrew. In all fairness, he does a great job as a not-so-crazy travel host, since he actually got us pretty excited about hitting up Oz for some tiger pie and Wagyu steak.
We're hoping to get our usual dose of gross eating next week when Zimmern heads to Singapore. Just promise us one thing, Z: no more steaks!
· Eastern Australia Travel Guide [Bizarre Foods]
· The Real Outback Stekhouse [Jaunted]
· Bridget's 'Sexiest Beaches' Is Not Exactly Blowing Our Minds [Jaunted]
[Photo: Travel Channel]
Is V Australia about to officially announce LAX-SYD service at a press conference? That is the likeliest first route--or perhaps SFO-SYD--for the international arm of Australia's Virgin Blue Airlines.
We hear there's an "event" happening in Los Angeles this Monday, 3/31. Let's say this is the big shebang and we get an official ticket sale date and launch date (probably early fall '08) for LAX-SYD...will they give us cabin details? And more importantly, PRICING? Where do you think V Australia is going with these details?
We say: hopefully, as far as pricing goes, to the sub-$1000 (round-trip) sweet spot...sweet spot for flights between the U.S. and Australia, that is. Oh, the soothing lullaby of skies opening up...
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Up in Queensland, the Qantas Founders Outback Museum has got a new baby this week. A very special Boeing 707 has been recovered from the scrap heap in the UK, restored and now flown back to Australia, ready for a new home in the Qantas Museum.
It's special because in 1959 it was the first commercial jet in Australia, and some would say that made it the beginning of mass tourism in Australia--it made the trip from Australia to the US or Europe much shorter and finally affordable for more normal people. And like most Qantas plans, it never crashed: yet. It's got a few demo flights to do before it gets tied down permanently for you all to visit in Longreach, but we're confident the Flying Kangaroo can make it.