Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Expert travel advice from an expert

Five Prime Reasons for 50+ Travel in 2013
TravelManagers offers intimate tours of the majestic western fronts of Alaska and Canada

Get Up & Go guest blogger Sara Birtwhistle, Founder and Director of the 50+ Travel Club, has shared several strong reasons why those considering an once-in-a-lifetime trip abroad should take the plunge this year. 

A mature-travel expert with more than 13 years’ experience in the industry, Sara cites the following top five reasons for 'grown-ups' to explore beyond our shores:

1. Holidays can be booked from home
“It’s no longer necessary to visit travel agencies in person and queue to arrange your holiday”, says Sara, who is a member of TravelManagers - a network of personal travel experts across Australia who can arrange complete holiday experiences over the phone or via email. 

2. Travel easy with an expert
While escorted travel is nothing new, Sara believes that this remains one of the most important offerings in this market. “I personally accompany select tours of the 50+ Travel Club and this means that I’m there 24/7 to manage every aspect of the trip. Being on-site with tour guests means that travellers have the confidence to focus on enjoying their experiences, rather than thinking about things like logistics and transport”, shared Sara.

3. All-inclusive packages mean no more unexpected costs
Increasingly popular with many travellers, all-inclusive packages can alleviate the financial pressures of international holidays. “Companies like 50+ Travel Club work with customers to ensure they can budget for the trip of their dreams and can tailor holidays to different budgets”, says Sara.

4. Online feedback means operators are on their A game
With travellers increasingly influenced by online reviews, travel operators are wise to heed the feedback provided by their customers, “Acknowledging online feedback is so important in this age of technology and it means that we’ve been able to improve our tours based directly on the recommendations of our guests”, says Sarah.

5. The world isn’t getting any smaller
… and we’re not getting any younger, reminds Sara. “It’s just about finding the right operator who you feel comfortable with – there’s no reason why age should be a barrier in 2013”.

Sara will be personally escorting a 37-day tour to the remote wilderness of Alaska and Canada’s Rocky Mountains, departing on Saturday 20 July 2013. A round-journey embarking from Vancouver, the itinerary includes activities to cater to all tastes and levels of adventure, from national park visits, vintage bus tours and gourmet dining to catamaran cruises and grizzly bear spotting.
The tour takes in the majestic western fronts of Alaska and Canada by luxury motorcoach, Rocky Mountaineer train and the Alaskan Railway and closes with ten nights at sea aboard the Oceania Regatta. For full details of the Canada and Alaska tour, visit www.50plustravelclub.com.au, email info@50plustravelclub.com.au or call Sara and 50+ Travel Club on 1300 689 461.

About Travel Managers
TravelManagers is part of a trans-Tasman travel agency group. Its parent company House of Travel has been operating since 1987 and employs mor than 1,350 people across Australia & New Zealand. TravelManagers Australia has a service focused network of Personal Travel Managers throughout every state and territory in Australia. 
Every Personal Travel Manager is an experienced travel professional with a wealth of knowledge and skills to tailor travel arrangements for specific needs. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Taipei's market colour

The bustling modern city of Taipei, capital of Taiwan, still retains many traditional areas and attitudes which add to the colour and vibrancy of a place that deserves days of exploration. The Flower Market for an early morning visit shows the extent of the orchid brigade on sale and the jade and antique market across the road has tables to forage - jade trinkets, beads, bangles and a quirky collection of tea pots. Men sit around and discuss the merits of pieces of jade - old and new.

And for fun, check out the little tomatoes on sticks dipped in sweet toffee. Delicious and reminded me of my grandmother's tomato jam.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Miss itty bitty Kitty rules the rooms!

I don't get Hello Kitty. I do get Hello Kitty. I get the merchandising, the appeal to pre-adolescent females and the cutesy factor that seems to adorn all young Asian girls and indeed little girls all over the shopping world. I get that it's a character of fiction - I don't get the look (Kitty is portrayed as a female white Japanese bobtail cat with a red bow), I don't get why Kitty doesn't have a mouth.

Researching the erstwhile feline, I found out she was created by Yuko Shimizu in 1974, and first appeared on a vinyl coin purse, introduced to the Japanese public and then Kitty conquered the US in 1976.
The character Hello Kitty is a staple of the kawaii segment of Japanese popular culture. She is a Sanrio character (there are many Kitty family members - now I'm creeping myself out as I'd like to meet them), and Sanrio has groomed Hello Kitty into a global; marketing phenomenon worth $5 billion a year.  
(In 1962, Shintaro Tsuji, founder of Sanrio, sold rubber sandals with flowers painted on them. He noted profits soared with the addition of cute designs on sandals and hired cartoonists to design cuties for his merchandise. )
Anyway chubby kitty cat is all over the world now - and every little girl knows her. And surprisingly (not) many adults have embraced her too . . . I don't get it. But I'm starting to . . .
The target market for Hello Kitty broadened to include teens and grown-ups as a retro brand - for those who could not get her when they were young. In 1999, 12,000 different products had Kitty appearing on them worldwide.  And now it gets silly - in 2009, the Bank of America began offering Hello Kitty-themed cheque accounts, where the account holder can get cheques and a Visa debit card with Kitty's mouthless face on it = MasterCard debit cards have featured Kitty as a design since 2004.
(Thanks to Wikipedia for some of this info - hope it's correct.)
And now to the Grand Hai-Lai hotel in Kaohsiung, Taiwan where I stayed last week. A wonderful hotel with elegant rooms and friendly staff AND a Hello Kitty Suite. It features a living room, dining room and a master bedroom, and it offers 50sq.m of space.

In the delightfully pink suite, decorated with sweet Hello Kitty miniature vases and paintings, residents will find a Hello Kitty mini-studio and a complete Hello Kitty tea set. The large bathroom has a jumbo sanded Kitty mirror - take your time and enjoy a Kitty bubble bath!
Grand Hai-Lai and Sanrio Corporation of Japan present the "Hai-Lai Kitty House" situated in the hotel lobby, where Hello Kitty limited editions and gifts are exclusively sold. Enjoy shopping in pink-decorated romance! All Hello Kitty amenities provided in the rooms are available in store.
I purchased a Hello Kitty pair of slippers - at the Hello Kitty store in the hotel, and one of my travelling companions, writer Christine Retschlag tried out the Hello Kitty bicycle. There's a Hello Kitty car for bride and groom who come to the hotel to have a Hello Kitty wedding.
The Hello Kitty breakfast features a Kitty face stamped in the toast and a Kitty moulded sweet. There's even a Hello Kitty face drizzled in tomato sauce on the fried egg.
It was a Hello Kitty overload looking at the HK scene but one can't be cynical or churlish while the young woman showing us with giggles and glee all the hotel has to show of Kitty - they softened all the kitsch blows and were delighted with my slipper purchase - I would go so far to say they were impressed with me - and I got a discount.

, www.grand-hilai.com.tw/english/room_04.htm