Getting There: Most visitors will arrive at Sydney Airport (also known as Kingsford Smith International Airport). Sydney Airport is the world's oldest continually operated commercial airport and a major hub for Qantas (www.qantas.com). The entire airport is currently undergoing a large expansion, scheduled for completion in 2025. The effort will add high-rise offices and a multilevel car park, and expand both the international and domestic terminal.
Australia's newest international airline, V Australia (www.vaustralia.com), has announced daily direct Los Angeles-Sydney flights as its inaugural transpacific route when it takes to the skies on December 15. V Australia Airlines will offer three classes of travel including International Business, International Premium Economy and International Economy. The launch of V Australia means the Virgin Group is offering for the first time a global network of airlines that allows travelers to fly worldwide on Virgin airlines. To celebrate, V Australia Airlines is offering American travelers 1,000 International Economy seats between Los Angeles and Sydney for $777 round-trip. This is an Internet sale, and taxes, fees and restrictions apply. Everyday economy fares will start from $2,019 round-trip, exclusive of taxes and government-imposed fee.
Selling Sydney: Tourism Australia recently launched its new Aussie Week marketing campaign. The group's contention is that travelers in the U.S. think nothing of taking short trips to Europe, but they're convinced that they need two or three weeks to visit Australia. The campaign makes the case that Americans—who regularly take seven-day trips to destinations such as Tuscany and Shanghai—can easily include Australia in their plans for shorter trips. The trick is to pick a region of Australia to explore in depth, instead of trying to experience the whole country in one visit. To this end, Tourism Australia has created three packages to Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, costing $1,699 per person. A five-star upgrade is available from $1,999. These packages include round-trip air with departures from San Francisco and Los Angeles and four-star accommodations for seven nights.
The "Only in Sydney" package includes round-trip Economy Class airfare from Los Angeles to Sydney on Qantas Airways, seven nights' accommodations in Sydney and a five-day Sydney Pass. Upsell options include Sydney Wildlife World, Bridgeclimb or Skywalk; a city tour; a lunch or dinner Sydney Harbour Cruise; a backstage Sydney Opera House tour; and a Rocks (historic area) walking tour. Packages and itineraries for all three cities are available on www.aussieweek.com.
Selling Surfing: I had the chance to talk surfing with John O'Neill, the executive director and general manager of tourism for New South Wales, a region that will heavily promote surfing for the first time this year.
"We'll be targeting absolutely everybody," said O'Neill. "We have 1,200 miles of surfing coast, with towns all along the way." O'Neill notes that New South Wales has more than 30 accredited surf schools, which accounts for half the surf schools in the whole country. He also says that the surf demographic is larger than some might realize. Forty percent of the surf market is 25 to 45 years old and a rising trend is whole families learning to surf together.
"We want to promote surfing to the extent that having a surf in Sydney is as much a part of a New South Wales vacation as diving the Great Barrier Reef," O'Neill said.
Visitors to Sydney will find it easy to hit the beach. Popular Bondi Beach is only about a 20-minute drive from the city center.
Accommodations: The five-star Westin Sydney Hotel (www.westin.com.au/sydney) combines the best of two worlds, being both modern and steeped in history. Part of the redevelopment of Sydney's historic General Post Office on Martin Place, the hotel is surrounded by some of Sydney's best restaurants, shops, theaters and nightlife. It's also close to attractions like Darling Harbour, the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. For the best views of the city, book your clients into one of the Tower Rooms on the higher floors of the hotel's 31-story tower; for the most comfortable accommodations, book a room in the Superior King category. Rooms in the Heritage Wing of the hotel—the former historic General Post Office building—have higher ceilings and all of the same amenities as the Tower Rooms. Travel agents can direct questions to Nina Pennisi, the hotel's business development manager (612-8223-1124, [email protected]).
The five-star Observatory Hotel (www.observatoryhotel.com.au) is in the historic Rocks district and near the Central Business District. The Rocks, the oldest area of Sydney, has recently undergone a rebirth of sorts, with the old district seeing the opening of vibrant new cafés and restaurants. Even as The Rocks is transformed, the city is taking measures to preserve the historic ambiance and character of the district.
The Observatory Hotel, a member of the Orient-Express group of Hotels, Trains and Cruises, has 78 Deluxe Rooms, nine Junior Suites and 12 Executive Suites. The top-end Observatory Suite has a four-poster bed, fireplace and options to connect to four additional bedrooms. Another standout feature is the mahogany dining room table that seats eight. The Observatory Hotel's signature restaurant is Galileo Restaurant, where Chef Haru Inukai prepares dishes that fuse traditional French and Japanese styles. The hotel's general manager is Patrick Griffin ([email protected]), and the chief concierge is Michael Anderson ([email protected]).
Restaurants: Like any large city, Sydney is always seeing the addition of new restaurants. The Fat Olive is a new rustic, bistro-style Mediterranean/Australian restaurant on Bondi Beach. Fat Olive showcases fresh and local produce paired with excellent Australian wines and specializing in a shared-plate atmosphere (164 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach, 02-9130-1440).
Ivy Restaurants (www.merivale.com.au) comprises two restaurants in the same building. They're the latest creation from hotelier Justin Hemmes. Downstairs at Mad Cow, prime beef is the order of the day, while upstairs at Teppanyaki, sushi magician Shaun Presland reworks Japanese classics (320-330 George Street, Sydney, 02-9240-3000).
Tour Operators: Here's a partial list of tour operators with programs to Australia: Abercrombie and Kent (www.abercrombiekent.com, 800-323-7308); Brendan Worldwide Vacations (www.brendanvacations.com, 800-421-8446); Classic Vacations (www.classicvacations.com, 800-221-3949); Collette Vacations (www.collettevacations.com, 800-832-4656); Gate 1 Travel (www.gate1travel.com, 800-682-3333); General Tours World Traveler (www.generaltours.com, 800-221-2216); Globus (www.globusjourneys.com, 866-755-8581); Mayflower Tours (www.mayflowertours.com, 800-323-7604); Orient Flexi Pax Tours (www.orientflexipax.com, 800-545-5540); Pacific Delight Tours (www.pacificdelighttours.com, 800-221-7179); Pleasant Holidays (www.pleasantagent.com, 800-448-3333); Qantas Vacations (www.qantasvacations.com, 800-641-8772); SITA World Tours (www.sitatours.com, 800-421-5643); Swain Tours (www.swaintours.com, 800-22-SWAIN); Tauck World Discovery (www.tauck.com, 800-468-2825); Trafalgar Tours (www.trafalgar.com, 800-854-0103); Travel Bound (www.booktravelbound.com, 800-808-9541); and TRAVCOA (www.travcoa.com, 800-992-2003.
Contact: Tourism Australia: tel: 310-695-3200; fax: 310-695-3201; www.tourism.australia.com.