Island dressed up
For years, Fitzroy Island's main claim to fame was Nudey Beach, a delightfully secluded beach where cossies were optional and rarely worn.
Though only a 45-minute ferry trip from Cairns and Port Douglas, the island remained "au naturel" with one serviceable resort and camping area. Backpackers, locals and day trippers loved it. Few others outside those demographics bothered, although Fitzroy has some of the most accessible rainforest and fringing coral on the Great Barrier Reef.
But the Fitzroy Island of 2009 is vastly different, courtesy of a $100 million makeover by Queensland builder-developer Josh Hunt, who closed it as soon as he bought it in October 2006.
Today, Fitzroy Island Hunt Resort is making claims to the top end of the market and Hunt describes what he has created as a mini-Hamilton Island able to accommodate 450 people in a variety of hotels, suites and one- and two-bedroom apartments.
The new resort has two restaurants, taverns, conference facilities, theatre, retail and, as fans of Channel Ten's The Biggest Loser are aware, an extremely well-equipped gym. Fitzroy Island was home to the contestants for the first weeks of the weight-loss reality show.
Hunt has renovated the camping area and a new adventure centre will be open by mid-year. He anticipates the island will remain popular with backpackers and day trippers.
The resort has a slew of opening specials - with rooms ranging from $175 a double a night to $840 for the four-bedroom penthouse - available until March 31. See fitzroyisland.com.au.
Jetstar reaches out
Jetstar has signed what is called in the airline industry an interline agreement with Asian and European carriers, which will take its reach well beyond the 50 destinations it now services across the Asia-Pacific region.
For passengers, this means you will be able to board Jetstar in your hometown, transfer to an Asian airline mid-point on your journey and then jump on board a European carrier to move across Europe.
The agreement is akin to a code-share but Jetstar passengers will get what they pay for - and that won't include the "free" products handed out on the other airlines they travel on.
The agreement takes effect next month with Qantas being the first airline involved. Jetstar hasn't released the names of the other nine carriers in the agreement.
Also, Jetstar has dropped the surcharges on its international flights, saving $25 on trans-Tasman services, $35 on short-haul Asian services and $68 on international long-haul flights.
There is much that is uncertain about this year but you can count on one thing - travel bargains will abound.
Even at this early stage, it is going to be hard to beat the offer by the Indian travel industry.
In a bid to counteract the negative impact of last year's terrorist attack on Mumbai, the Indian Government has devised what is virtually a two-for-one holiday package for international travellers, which includes flights to the subcontinent and across it.
Starting on April 1, Visit India 2009 works on the concept of providing one additional or complimentary service to the tourist for every service paid for.
Unfortunately for would-be Australian tourists, the airlines participating in the scheme - Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher - don't fly out of Australia. But the Indian Tourist Office here recommends flying to the nearest port serviced by the airlines.
Aside from the free flights, India's top hotel chains - including the Taj Group, Ashok and HRH, the only privately owned chain of palace resorts - are offering various add-ons in the form of bonus days. International travellers also get one free sightseeing tour per couple in one city visited and there is an offer of a free night in 15 rural resorts across the country.
Visit India 2009 starts on April 1 and runs until the end of the year. See incredibleindia.org.
Tourism in Victoria has taken a dreadful battering from the recent fires but the industry Australia-wide is rallying around.
The Victoria-based touring company APT is auctioning three category-A cabins on its 15-day Magnificent Europe river cruises departing July 29.
The retail price of the Budapest-Amsterdam cruise is $14,980 for two people. The auction ends tomorrow between 10am and 11am and the proceeds will go to the Australian Red Cross fund.
Peregrine Adventures is offering to match staff donations dollar for dollar up to $20,000 and has conducted three charity auctions (now finished) on eBay, for berths on expedition cruises to the Arctic, Antarctica or the Galapagos worth $18,725.
For more information, see aptouring.com.au and peregrineadventures.com.
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