Smart Traveller

Yeosu Expo's marine life pavilion.
Yeosu Expo's marine life pavilion. 

All at sea in Korea

A simulated blizzard and the sound of an ocean breeze are just two of the sensory experiences in which visitors can immerse themselves at South Korea's Yeosu Expo, opening on May 12. The theme of the Living Ocean and Coast has attracted 100 countries, including Australia, to exhibit at Yeosu, a city that overlooks Hallyeosudo Marine National Park and Odong Island, about 310 kilometres from Seoul.

Visitors enter the Cosmic Tree waiting area of an overwater pavilion to hear the ebb and flow of waves, while the Extreme Climate Experience pavilion has an Arctic-style gale blowing and an ice ledge display.

At the international pavilion, Australia's exhibit, In Harmony with the Ocean, incorporates themes of coast, ocean and life. The centrepiece, a wave sculpture by Matthew Harding, is more than four metres high and 12 metres wide, and also acts as a projection screen for a multimedia show depicting Australia's relationship with the ocean, a Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson says.

An interactive video link to the coral reef tanks at ReefHQ, Townsville, will allow audiences in South Korea to speak to a diver while underwater. Artwork by leading Torres Strait printmaker Billy Missi, oral stories from Maningrida in north-east Arnhem Land and performances by Jessica Mauboy also feature.

However, the key photo- opportunity for expo visitors - sitting on a three-dimensional set recreating an Australian surf lifesaving boat steered by three model kangaroos - is expected to have the broadest appeal.

The Korea Tourist Organisation says the expo's busiest times are likely to be during local school and university holidays in mid-July until the show closes on August 12. The expo is open from 9am to 11pm daily. Yeosu is a three-and-a-half-hour rail journey from Seoul Yongsan Station. Tickets cost from $46, one way.

CTS Tours has a five-night package costing from $2300 a person, twin share, that includes return airfares from Australia, accommodation, a two-day expo ticket and return KTX train tickets between Seoul and Yeosu.

See chinatravel.com.au.

No ifs or butts

Swissotel The Stamford in the centre of Singapore's shopping, business and entertainment districts, and Swissotel Merchant Court, near Chinatown, became smoke-free last week. The hotels cater for business and leisure travellers. About 50 per cent of Swissotel properties across the world are smoke-free, including Swissotel Sydney and Swissotel Zurich.

See swissotel.com.

Family business

Independent and family-owned properties, a cornerstone of the Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) portfolio, have proved resilient during Europe's economic crisis, according to Ted Teng, the group's president and chief executive.

"I wouldn't say we're not affected but many of our operators have been in family hands for generations and what I notice is that they are conservative when it comes to debt ... they don't look at a property purely in terms of profit but in terms of assets for the next generation," he says.

In Italy, 10 LHW hotels are owned and have been run by families for at least three generations, including the Cacace family's Capri Palace Hotel and Spa, near Anacapri village.

Teng used to manage big hotel groups including Starwood Hotels and Resorts in the Asia-Pacific before switching to the boutique LHW group. He says member hotels represent the character of a local culture.

"Hotels are original and created by the community; they already have a sense of what hospitality is and how they want to showcase it," he says. "Chain brands do a wonderful job but there are not likely to be surprises."

See lhw.com.

Flinders Ranges in focus

Travel photographer Richard I'Anson will lead a photographic retreat at Arkaba Station in the Flinders Ranges in September, a region that has been a source of inspiration for generations of artists, including painter Hans Heysen. I'Anson, author of the best-selling Lonely Planet Travel Photography, will help photographers in the field and during daily review sessions.

The retreat is limited to 10 people and includes two nights at the Arkaba Homestead and two nights in permanent swag camps. The cost is $2825 a person, twin share, which includes all meals, transport and tuition.

See arkabastation.com.

Send news items to smarttraveller@fairfax.com.au.

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