Smart Traveller

Pain and pleasure ... the Kokoda Track.
Pain and pleasure ... the Kokoda Track. Photo: Sandra Jackson

TripAdvisor flies

With 50 million unique users a month and upwards of 60 million reviews, there's no denying the popularity and power of TripAdvisor, the world's largest travel social network. The company's global vice-president of sales, Julio Bruno, says TripAdvisor takes the validity of its hotel reviews "extremely seriously", with moderators and technology employed to ensure reviews are genuine.

"Anybody in the world has the ability to report something suspicious, both hoteliers and customers," Bruno says. The average rating of every hotel in the world is four points out of five, he says, meaning 76 per cent of reviews are four- or five-star (five being the best).

"Clearly people are wanting to share good news rather than bad news," he says. "Expectations and perceptions are very subjective and there will always be people who are disgruntled if they had a bad day and got a bad room."

Consumers' critical abilities should not be underestimated, Bruno says.

"We are living in a social network and new generations are very used to sharing lots of information," he says. "We have to give credit to people - we know how to read reviews."

The website's latest addition in Australia, TripAdvisor Flights, uses a metasearch system to show the cost of a flight, including taxes and other add-ons, in a single display.

See tripadvisor.com.

London's top tea

Afternoon tea is not to be taken lightly at London's Athenaeum Hotel, especially now the hotel has nudged out more than 200 rivals to win the London Tea Guild's Top London Tea Place award. Judges sipped and supped anonymously around the city's establishments before bestowing the honour on the hotel which serves brews including Formosa Kangaroo Lapsang and orange-blossom scones in its Garden Room.

Points were awarded for variety and service of the teas offered, quality of the food and ambience. The hotel's afternoon-tea spread costs £28.50 ($43.50) a person; £35 including a glass of champagne. Sittings take place at 12.30pm, 3pm and 5.30pm daily.

See athenaeumhotel.com.

Track survival measures

The chances of suffering a heart attack while on Papua New Guinea's Kokoda Track are thought to be no higher than the odds attached to other adventure activities. However, one Australian trekking company will this season include a defibrillator in the gear it has available on the 90-kilometre trail.

Peter Miller, of No Roads Expeditions, says guides will carry an automated external defibrillator (it weighs 490 grams). Miller says evacuation from the track, which has helicopter and fixed-wing access, can take up to 24 hours, depending on time of day and how busy flights are to the PNG capital, Port Moresby.

"We do understand that if the patient needs to wait 24 hours for evacuation, the chances of them having another cardiac arrest increase," he says. "Our guides, however, are well trained in patient care and understand the urgency for the patient to be sent to a hospital for full medical care."

See noroads.com.au.

Ride on

Holy smoke, Batman, Warner Bros Movie World's latest roller-coaster ride can achieve speeds of up to 85km/h. The Gold Coast park's Arkham Asylum — Shock Therapy is based on a Batman video game of the same name and has five stomach-churning inversions. There are restrictions on who can ride the roller-coaster - you have to be at least 140 centimetres tall for starters.

Meantime, Transformers: The Ride 3D at Universal Studios Hollywood, in the US, launches next month with the director of the three movies, Michael Bay, at the helm. The theme park says the ride will tell the Transformers story using 3D-HD media and special effects by the same creators of the movies.

See movieworld.myfun.com.au; universalstudioshollywood.com.

Another goal for the Gulf

Real Madrid Football Club fans, 300 million worldwide, will be able to show their allegiance at a new resort in Ras al Khaimah, one of the seven member states of the United Arab Emirates. A spokeswoman says the 50-hectare Real Madrid Resort Island, on the man-made Marjan Island, will have a five-star, 450-room hotel with lounges for watching the games. There will be 60 beach bungalows, a 10,000-seat football stadium, where Real Madrid will play, team museum and sports theme park with roller-coaster. It will open in 2015.

Middle East on report

The Media Line, a US-based news agency specialising in coverage of the Middle East, is co-hosting a tour to Israel and Palestine. The theme is "through a journalist's eyes". Newsman Marvin Kalb is the tour's scholar-in-residence and the itinerary includes a helicopter flight over the region, an overnight stay in Ramallah, a Jerusalem Town Hall public meeting and a meeting with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

The 12-day tour begins on August 31. See vipmideasttours.com.

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

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