Traditional recipes

Union Bar and Kitchen's Seafood Delights Spring Street

Union Bar and Kitchen's Seafood Delights Spring Street

Jonathan Renert brings his imaginative menu to the downtown New York food scene

The hamachi tartare at Union Kitchen and Bar.

Restaurant openings are so common in New York City that they, like most events, tend not to faze the typical New Yorker. However, the newly opened Union Bar and Kitchen, brought to the city by owner, executive chef, and general manager Jonathan Renert, might actually stand out from the never-ending sea of newly opened eateries. Boasting a selection of new American classics with a global twist, the menu will immediately catch your attention with plates prefect for Instagram posts that you'll happily devour with both your eyes and mouth.

Seafood is prevalent on the menu, and at the UBK opening I practically inhaled the hamachi tartare (graciously prepared without soy sauce as per my gluten-free request) which was paired with freshly made chips. Other appetizer choices included panko fried oysters, baked Cherrystone clams, a raw bar selection, and more. Entrees swing towards a more classic assortment, with rotisserie chicken, crispy fish tacos, and hangar steak in house marinade; the steak prepared exactly the way this medium-rare snob likes it. As for the sides, be careful with the rosemary fries, as they are extremely addicting! Seasonal signature cocktails, like the East Side Cocktail, are also available, and are accompanied by a bar menu.

Overall, the food is delicious and beautiful, the atmosphere was delightful, and I would definitely recommend the restaurant as a whole. However, I'm still looking for that extra wow factor to make UBK a truly standout spot. In the meantime, lunch and brunch are next in line at Union Bar and Kitchen, so here's hoping that Renert and his talented staff will continue to impress.

Tourism Excellence, Spring 2016

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Collaborating for fresh ideasVOL 6, NO 1 SPRING 2016 $9.00 PER EDITION $34.99 ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION

2016 GALA CEREMONY BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOWDon’t miss the event of the year! The who’s who of the Victorian tourism and eventsindustry are getting together for the annual RACV Victorian Tourism Awards, and you’reinvited. Tommy Little, one of Australia’s favourite comedians, will take the stage as werecognise this year’s leaders across 27 business and 3 individual categories. Don yourdancing shoes, there will be an assortment of entertainment and music all night long. WHAT: Black-Tie Gala Ceremony. Three-course dinner matched with Victorian wines and beers. WHEN: 6pm till late. Thursday, 24 November 2016. WHERE: Palladium at Crown. Tickets are selling fast. Don’t miss out. Visit For tables of 10 call the Victorian Chamber on (03) 8662 5333 BROUGHT TO YOU BY #RACVVTAPARTNER ORGANISATIONS The makers of fine Italian wine varieties Style Guide

VTIC SPRING 2016 CONTENTS TOURISM EXCELLENCEWelcome2News round-up 3Reaching for the sky at Arthurs Seat 5 6 THE PERFORMANCE OF THE VISITOR ECONOMY DEPENDS ON A FAIR TAXATION SYSTEMVictorian Tourism Conference highlights 8 vticnewsFarm-to-fork philosophy in action 10 @vticnewsRASV on raising the stock of our state 12 @vticnewsQ&A with Peter Rowland Catering 14Local governments growing tourism 16Travellers Aid turns 100 18Focus on regional employability 22Leveraging Olympic fever at the MCG 23In pictures: Visitor Information Summit 24 Above: The Australian Kinky Boots cast at Her Majesty’s Theatre. Photo: Mathew Murphy This publication was printed by Cover: Sustainably grown produce and harvest cooking classes are among the many Sovereign Press Pty. Ltd. reasons to visit award-winning property Green Olive at Red Hill. Photo: Ewen Bell A low CO2 printer. Printed on Magno Silk1 TOURISM EXCELLENCE SPRING 2016 FSC Certified Paper.

VTIC Message from the ChairChief Executive welcomeIt’s hard not to be sentimental as I prepare to leave VTIC after five years On behalf of the industry I would like to thank Dianne Smith for heras Chief Executive to take on the role of Executive Director at the service and dedication to VTIC and to tourism over the past five years.Melbourne Chamber of Commerce. Tourism and events have and will Her commitment, skill and strategic thinking has helped drive the industryalways be my passion. I am intensely proud of Victorian tourism, and have forward on a course that facilitates strategic growth for us all. We wishrelished working closely with operators through my time at Melbourne Dianne great success and personal enjoyment in her new role at the headZoo, Parks Victoria and on the board of (VTIC predecessor) the Victorian of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce. Given her office is in the sameTourism Operators Association. It has been a privilege to work with the location as VTIC and 20 per cent of the Melbourne Chamber’s membershigh-calibre VTIC board and to represent operators who are so are also VTIC members I am confident we will continue to work closelycollegiate and passionate. going forward. I fondly remember the Premier’s mission to China that I attended in 2012, I would also like to thank Danielle Green MP, Parliamentary Secretarywhen I had the good fortune to travel with industry leaders including for Tourism and Major Events, for her support of our industry, particularlyJohn Forman of Red Rock Leisure, an enthusiastic advocate for Chinese with the added responsibilities she has taken on in the absence ofNew Year, and Melbourne Convention Bureau’s Karen Bolinger, who is Minister Eren – to whom we all wish a speedy and full recovery. unrelenting in her pursuit of business events for Melbourne. During thattrip Jeremy Johnson invited me to the opening of Sovereign Hill’s sales VTIC members had an opportunity to hear from Ms Green at this year’soffice in Shanghai, which was an Australian first. This is just one of many MPs4Tourism event. This function provides us an opportunity to meetjourneys I could mention when Victorian tourism has given me cause to with government face to face and discuss the importance of tourism to thebe immensely proud of my home state. broader economy. During discussions we highlighted many opportunities for the future, as well as the importance of collaborating in order to achieveI have had the privilege to lead the excellent advocacy work of VTIC and the state’s goal of $36.5bn in visitor expenditure by 2025. share in successes such as the securing of funding for the GrampiansPeaks Trail and Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre expansion. As the government develops its new Visitor Economy Action Plan, VTICI honour the vision of VTIC’s founders and thank you all for creating hopes to see clearly measurable KPIs and timeframes so that we, asand guiding such an important organisation, which assists and speaks partners, can properly track our progress towards the new 2025 targets. independently on behalf of tourism and event operators across the state. Wishing you all a great summer season ahead. Finally, I want to salute my team. I’m extremely proud of the growth of VTIC,which is due to the nature of our creative and effective team members past Charles Davidsonand present. I thank them sincerely for their dedication and support.I urge you to continue your support for the ‘one voice’ you have in VTIC,and hope you enjoy this edition of Tourism Excellence.Dianne SmithVTIC major partnersCorporate partners Industry partners EDITOR: FOR EDITORIAL FOR ADVERTISING Carlie Trotter ENQUIRIES: AND SUBSCRIPTION 03 8662 5207 ENQUIRIES: DESIGNER: 03 8662 5207 George F. StephenISSN 1835-873XTourism Excellence is published by Victorian Tourism Industry Ltd trading as the Victoria Tourism Industry Council (VTIC). ABN 85 152 248 541150 Collins Street Melbourne 3000 © Victorian Chamber 2016. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner or form without written permission from the Victorian Chamber. The views expressed in Tourism Excellence magazine are notnecessarily those of the editors or the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry or the Victoria Tourism Industry Council. You should also ensure that you obtain appropriate professional advice about the issues referred to in this publication.2 TOURISM EXCELLENCE SPRING 2016

VTICNEWS ROUND-UPClose look at cab VTIC’s Dianne Smith and Mark Stone of thefares essential Victorian Chamber with Danielle Green MPIn September, VTIC welcomed proposed Members have their say has doubled in the past year and international visitorchanges to taxi, hire car and rideshare expenditure increased by 20 per cent. Improvingregulation that will ensure consistency in In September we welcomed 13 members of the accessibility around Melbourne and the regions,alternative transport services. In particular we Victorian parliament and more than 100 VTIC including in national parks, was a hot topic duringapplauded changes to strengthen accountability members to a unique business breakfast at question time. VTIC Chair Charles Davidsonby requiring that all drivers be accredited. The Hotel Windsor in Melbourne. The annual described reinvestment in tourism as an investment MPs4Tourism event gave delegates the chance to in disability access because it is a no-brainer toWe are concerned, however, that tourists will share the daily challenges they face running their make your attraction as appealing as possible tobear the brunt of the new levy set to add $2 to businesses and articulate the growth potential of our more visitors.every fare. It is also vital that the new flexible fare industry, with the aim of influencing policy change.system enabled by the removal of the existing Attendees heard how airline capacity to Melbournetaxi licensing regime does not encourageprice-surging during peak periods. Such hikeswould only serve to discourage visitors fromexploring our cities when they are at their best.We hope too that the employees who relyon affordable taxi networks on a daily basisare not negatively affected by the changes,instead benefitting from improvements inservice and choice.While ridesharing has helped open up ourstate to visitors, all forms of private and publictransport have a major role to play in connectingpeople at the right time and at the right place.Bringing influencers together In August VTIC hosted the annual Tourism Legends Luncheon at the William Angliss Institute to acknowledge the contribution of life members and partners, and recipients of the Outstanding Contribution by an Individual honour at the Victorian Tourism Awards, including APT founder Geoff McGeary OAM SPRING 2016 TOURISM EXCELLENCE  3

VTIC Libby Webster from From the Strathbogie Shire Council headlines and Ian Firth showcased BACKPACKER TAX products from the region at a ABC Ballarat, 28 September live cooking station Dianne Smith says she welcomes the move by the federal government to decrease theVIC Summit sweeps through Shepparton proposed backpacker tax to 19 per cent, but considers it just a partial victory. SheTaking over Shepparton Eastbank Centre for local Indigenous communities, before Teresa says it will be a challenge to market Australiathree days in August, this year’s Victorian Visitor Mahood from Phillip Island VIC explained how as a backpackers’ destination after theInformation Centre (VIC) Summit brought together employees engage with Chinese travellers in controversy over the tax.a range of leading business thinkers and industry a culturally sensitive manner to boost senseveterans to provoke debate on best-practice of welcome and satisfaction. TAXI INDUSTRY SHAKE-UPapproaches to visitor servicing. One of the highlights of the summit was a Riverine Herald, 21 SeptemberAhead of the formal presentations and workshops, cooking demonstration commentated by Ian ‘‘VTIC hopes competition betweendelegates were invited on a series of famils to Firth from Fowles Wine and showcasing some [commercial passenger vehicle] providersexperience the diverse attractions of the Goulburn of the Goulburn River Valley’s most delectable under the new flexible fare system will keepRiver Valley Region. After starting at the life-size and souvenir-suitable produce. fares low and that price increases passedbronze statue of Black Caviar in Nagambie, one on from the levy will be kept to a minimum.’’group took to the water to visit the Tahbilk and Delegates were also interested to hear from – Chief Executive Dianne SmithMitchelton wineries by riverboat. Delegates then Paul Yeo of Tourism New Zealand about thesampled the delights of The Ministry of Chocolate economic contribution of the country’s i-SITES VIC TOURISM CONFERENCECafé before getting up close with the equine as gateways to unlock visitor spend, with theathletes of Swettenham Stud. network returning around $NZ8.70 for every dollar Bendigo Advertiser, 26 July of council funding. Yeo also outlined the trend ‘The [Victorian Tourism Conference] aimedA second group commenced their journey at for co-location of visitor information centres in to bring together people working in the state’sShepparton Art Museum, visited the SPC council service centres, museums and libraries, tourism industry to share ideas and promoteKidsTown amusement park and then headed and points of difference such as a New Zealand’s the growth of the sector, with about 360into the Dookie Hills to the Tallis Wine cellar door. greater focus on national touring and investment people attending this year. Dianne Smith saidMeanwhile, a third group explored the Vietnam in live customer feedback monitoring. this year’s theme encouraged reflection onVeterans Commemorative Walk in Seymour, where the industry had come from and whatfollowed by the RAAC Memorial and Army Tank In addition to hearing updates from Public it needed to do into the future to respond toMuseum in Puckapunyal. They also had the Transport Victoria and the City of Melbourne, changing desires. She said the operators thatchance to sample a drop at Fowles Wine in the summit attendees had the chance to share survived into the future would be those thatStrathbogie Ranges and see the Honouring ideas with representatives from the VIC reference were adaptable and fluid.’Our Heroes statues immortalising Victoria Cross group on topics such as visitor research andrecipients in Euroa. Delegates reunited later at collaborative partnerships, and to preview the WIN News, 25 Julythe Shepparton Motor Museum to network and recently revamped member portal for accredited ‘Victoria’s tourism operators have been toldswap stories of their discoveries while touring VICs. The portal, which is hosted within to get tech-savvy and ramp-up their onlinethe Murrindindi, Mitchell and Strathbogie shires., is continuously being updated presence to stay competitive. This was among with new supplier lists, travel research and the practical ideas revealed on day one of theLeadership coach Yamini Naidu kicked off day sector news to help VICs develop their offering. Victoria Tourism Conference, which exploredtwo with insights on the power of local knowledge the theme ‘Experience Evolution’ and featuredand storytelling when engaging commercially VTIC Chief Executive Dianne Smith said: expert insights from Google and TripAdvisor.’with visitors, before volunteering expert Andy “This year’s event was a robust and productiveFryar discussed the importance of leveraging summit focusing on the importance of ensuring Bendigo Weekly, 8 Julynew technology to manage a new generation VICs remain sustainable and continue to play ‘Dianne Smith said Bendigo was selectedof volunteers. an important role in delivering great visitor to host the conference because it shows experiences in Victoria.” leadership as a region, works collaborativelyFrom Bob Elkington, delegates heard how to develop rich cultural, artistic and historicinterpretive exhibits within Y Water Discovery The 2017 Visitor Information Centre Summit tourism experiences, and is a high-qualityCentre spark interest in the Yea Wetlands and will be hosted by Phillip Island and Bass Coast. leisure and business tourism destination.’4 TOURISM EXCELLENCE SPRING 2016

VTIC Reaching for the skyAfter 10 years navigating bureaucratic hoops, of government and never lost sight of ourlogistical challenges and the sceptics, the Arthurs long-term vision to build a viable business.”Seat Eagle gondola is set to launch this December. In its heyday the chairlift attracted around 100,000At the Victorian Tourism Conference in July, To ensure the ride can operate 360 days a year, visitors a year and sold more Peters Ice Creamsengineer Hans Brugman and consortium chief some of of the 24 eight-seater cabins are enclosed, than any other outlet in the state. ExpectationsSimon McKeon AO shared their journey so far at and one of the biggest considerations in their are high that this new iteration will be an eventhe head of this potentially game-changing project. design was making them easy for people with stronger magnet for visitors. disabilities to use.A decade after the original Arthurs Seat Chairlift When the Hon Richard Wynne MP, Victorianclosed, the project leaders claim excitement over “We have focused on inclusiveness throughout, Minister for Planning, stepped in to take controlthe upcoming launch of a state-of-the-art gondola and although adapting the infrastructure to be of the project away from the local council earlierattraction on the Mornington Peninsula is palpable. welcoming to people in wheelchairs or with this year, McKeon (who spent many years in walking frames or with prams comes at a premium, investment banking) said the state government’sBrugman explained: “The vision started out with the extra cost is worth it,” said Brugman. endorsement was the most comprehensive he hadwanting to save the icon and follow in the footsteps ever seen. For him, this is more than “just anotherof the original builder, who took a risk by erecting Other accessibility measures include a Changing business proposition” it is an attempt to open upa chairlift in 1960. We knew nothing about tourism Places facility, ramped access throughout the up new experiences for travellers with disabilitieswhen we started but I wanted to bring that feeling summit and base stations, and parking spaces and embody corporate citizenship. He explained:[associated with my childhood holidays on the for mobility scooters. Carers are also offered “It has been a long and frustrating process but wepeninsula] back to Victorians.” free entry and assistance dogs permitted to ride never once thought we were doing the wrong thing inside the cabins with their owners. because other tourism businesses have beenThough the project began as a $5m reinvigoration, waiting for this attraction to come back. Theinput from the local community and Parks Victoria On its mission to ensuring a positive visitor project is fundamentally commercial, but for mesaw designs morph into an all-weather, accessible, experience for all, the Arthurs Seat Eagle team the wonderful thing is that there’s so much more30-minute round-trip gondola ride complete has found a highly supportive partner in Parks than a cold hard business model behind this.”with café and interpretative centre detailing Victoria, with new walking tracks and signagethe indigenous and colonial settlement history in Arthurs Seat State Park designed to enrich The development has already generated more thanof the area. visitors’ appreciation of the flora and fauna they 50 local jobs, including for ticket sellers, café staff see during their ride. and lift attendants. The ride on the first gondola isBrugman continued: “The [Eagle] will be a being auctioned off to raise funds for Peninsulawonderful ride through the treetops to the Maintaining momentum on a public-private Specialist College and Dromana Primary School.summit, offering views from Point Nepean all the partnership over 10 years and 10 governmentway back to the Dandenongs and Westernport. departments is no small feat. Simon McKeon said: For both McKeon and Brugman, one of the keyIn response to market research, we’re retaining “We first won the tender for this project when John takeaways from the development process is tothe open-air feeling with what’s called a safari Brumby was Premier, and at one point had to have keep an open mind and not let setbacks diminishcabin, and actually soaring around 20 metres legislation changed, which takes about two years, your passion. McKeon added: “[Over the pasthigher than where the original lift used to finish.” but we have had fabulous support from both sides decade we have] spent hundreds of hours talking with experienced tourism operators, and I hope we retain that enquiring attitude in the years ahead in order to keep on learning.” SPRING 2016 TOURISM EXCELLENCE  5

POLICY Gaining ground on the backpacker tax After 18 months of uncertainty, By Kristina Burke we consider the outcomes of the recent Working Holiday Maker Visa Review. On 27 September Australia’s Treasurer Passenger Movement Charge (PMC) will be announced changes to the Working Holiday increased by $5 (9 per cent) from 1 July 2017. Maker program, including a reduction of the In our submission to the Working Holiday Maker proposed tax on these visa holders – now 19 Visa Review, we specifically called for a freeze per cent from the first dollar earned instead on any increases in fees or charges associated of the 32.5 per cent proposed in the 2016-17 with the Working Holiday Maker program. federal budget. Below are the headline announcements from While VTIC claims this significant backdown the Working Holiday Maker Reform Package. by the government as a partial victory, it A closer look reveals other changes, some of was soured by the announcement that the which we called for.VTIC’s recommendations regarding Government reformsthe Working Holiday (subclass 417) visa1. Reverse the decision to remove the tax-free threshold for Working Holiday From 1 January 2017, a 19 per cent tax rate will apply for all  Maker (WHM) visa holders. WHMs from their first dollar of income up to $37,000, with  ordinary marginal rates applying from $37,001. 2. Remove the six-month cap on employment to allow WHMs to spend more WHMs are now permitted to stay with one employer for up to  time with one employer, and extend the Northern Australia policy (whereby 12 months as long as the second six months is worked in a  WHMs may be eligible for an extension to work beyond six months with one different region.  employer in certain industries, including tourism and hospitality) to all states  and territories.  3. Grant a second year extension to WHMs who spend three months or more Not addressed. working in regional tourism and hospitality businesses (expanding eligibility  beyond the traditional realms of regional agriculture and construction).4. Remove the upper age limit, in line with other countries’ WHM programs or at The age limit has been extended from 30 to 35. least revise the qualifying age range from 18-30 to 18-35 years.5. Allow multiple visa applications, one between 18-25 years of age and a Not addressed. second between 26-35 years of age.6. Expand the program to include key international growth markets and remove Not addressed. need for it to be reciprocal.7. Develop and implement a dedicated global youth tourism marketing campaign Tourism Australia has been allocated a further $10m to put to counteract the detrimental effects of the proposed removal of the tax-free towards a global youth-targeted marketing campaign. threshold for WHMs.8. Provide Tourism Research Australia with resources to undertake targeted Not addressed. research into the value of WHMs to the tourism industry and broader economy.9. Develop sustainable long-term policies to address the labour and skills Not addressed. shortages in the tourism and hospitality industries and ensure supply of appropriately qualified industry professionals from the tertiary education system.10. Freeze any further increases in visa fees and charges associated with this visa Visa application charge reduced by $50 to $390 Tax on class, noting that the PMC already constitutes a tax on tourism. departed WHMs’ superannuation to increase to 95 per cent from 1 July 2017 to support Australians in their retirement and PMC for all departing travellers to increase $5 from 1 July 2017.6 TOURISM EXCELLENCE SPRING 2016

VTICThe Reform Package also include initiatives haul flights and second-highest long-haul rate. be overcharging travellers by $610m. At thedesigned to address concerns about the This latest announcement to increase the charge $60 rate the government will over-collectexploitation of working holidaymakers and to $60 will affect both international visitors and by $ ensure that tax changes are correctly Australians travelling overseas.implemented. These include: VTIC will continue to support industry efforts to According to the Australian Federation of Travel maintain the freeze on the Passenger Movement• Employers of working holidaymakers must Agents, at the $55 rate this tax will collect $1.03bn Charge and reverse the latest hike as further register with the Australian Taxation Office in for the federal government in 2016-17. Even when increases will be a significant deterrant to visitors, order to withhold tax at the 19 per cent rate. the total cost of the new automated departure especially the short-haul market. Those who do not will be required to withhold gates and yearly staffing costs are included at the 32.5 per cent rate and may be subject against the budget, the government will Kristina Burke is Policy Manager for to penalties. VTIC and VEIC.• If an employer withholds tax at the 32.5 per cent rate, working holidaymakers will have access to the 19 per cent rate upon lodgement of their tax return.• An additional $10m in funding will allow the ATO and Fair Work Ombudsman to establish a publicly available employer register and assist with ongoing compliance initiatives.In summary, the Working Holiday Maker ReformPackage is mixed bag for tourism. AllowingWHMs to stay with one employer for 12 months(with the second six-month period worked in adifferent region) is a positive change, though it willonly benefit those businesses with multiple worksites or branches located in different regions.Nevertheless, the reforms do address the issueof backpacker labour supply.The provision of $10m in additional funding forTourism Australia for a youth-targeted marketingcampaign is perhaps the best outcome, providinga new opportunity to speak to this cohort and tore-establish Australia’s credibility and desirabilityin in what is a competitive global market.VTIC’s long-held position is to maintain thefreeze on the PMC, which is already the highestdeparture tax in the developed world for short- SPRING 2016 TOURISM EXCELLENCE  7

VTICVTC 2016 highlightsA record number of delegates attended the third annual VictorianTourism Conference at Bendigo’s Ulumbarra Theatre in July.Designed to provoke debate and stimulate icons to celebrating compact diversity to the same tools,” he said. “[When you get to theinnovation, the two-day event included today’s more emotionally driven campaigns. stage that] your fridge knows it’s going to bepresentations by a range of industry leaders, 40°C on Saturday and sends you an SMS to pickcustomer engagement specialists and Silicon Inaugural Visit Victoria Chief Executive Peter up some Frosty Fruits it’s an imagination game,Valley-educated technology experts. Bingeman, whose background is in FMCG not a technology game – this is the greatest time marketing, said the new state body will be both in history to bring more humanity into what you do.”In his ministerial address the Hon John Eren MP risk-taking and accountable. “[In an age where]said: “I’m very proud to say that I work very closely your campaigns have to touch every screen we’re Progress comes from co-creationwith VTIC every other state and territory wants going to have to pick the right markets to focus Using the example of the myriad steps requiredwhat we’ve got. We want to be a $36.5bn industry on, and I believe my lack of preconceptions will to produce and serve a single cup of coffee,associated with more than 320,000 jobs by be a strength,” he explained. Sammartino explored why division of labour and2025… so we need all hands on deck.” collaboration will always be the key to business “As Tasmania’s MONA has shown, one unique success. “You don’t need to understand theHe added that he expects to receive an action experience can have far greater value than an technology yourself, the garage heroes areplan from his Ministerial Advisory Committee by expensive marketing campaign,“ he added. waiting for you to connect with them,” he said.the end of the year, including direction on how to “Unless you’re on the bleeding edge you’re not He insisted the best results come from focusingaddress key issues such as skills shortages and going to move the dial.” on growing “the ecosystem” rather than viewinggaps in Victoria’s offering for Asian visitors. other operators in your area as competitors. We’re all startups now After all, billionaire inventor Elon Musk turned hisBelow are just a few of the takeaways from this Startup blogger Steve Sammartino said: “We competitors into customers when he gave awayyear’s evolution-themed conference, which we have a situation where as many tourists go down his patents for the Tesla electric car. “Siliconhope will help spark new growth within your alleys to see street art as go to the NGV [thanks Valley was built by entrepreneurs who understoodbusiness and in doing so enable our industry to rebels like Banksy] because the industrial-era ecosystems because it is cooperation insteadto take a leap forward. mindset of doing as you’re told is dead we can of competition that creates abundance,” added just invent what we want to invent in this world.” Sammartino.Don’t be afraid to fail He continued: “You’ve got to forget the businessMarketer Tim McColl-Jones explained it was model you had and think about the one you could Micro-experiences matterfeeling like Australia’s underdog that propelled have. So wineries should be investing in driverless “People are buying the before- and after-storythe erstwhile Tourism Victoria to instigate its cars, for instance.” more than they’re buying the experience itselfnow-iconic Jigsaw campaign. “The situation in these days,” said Sammartino. He believes it isthe state was dire [in those early days] because He went on to explain that today’s disposable the rush you feel as you exit an Uber car withouteveryone was heading north, but when things technology is merely a facilitator of the “connection having had to hand over cash, and the lazinessare bad the opportunity to bounce back and be revolution” and more streamlined service delivery, that one-time payment technology permits, whichbraver presents itself,” he said. rather than an end in itself. “Disposable technology makes people loyal to the ridesharing brand rather means that everyone here has the same power as than the ride experience itself.McColl-Jones highlighted how Victoria’s the biggest corporation because we’re all usingpositioning has moved from a focus on physical8 TOURISM EXCELLENCE SPRING 2016

VTICTo extend the longevity of experiences, mapped with Street View and our cars are owners should remember that employees ofSammartino urged attendees to sell their process connected to the internet, we can start [tourism] all ages continue to rate motivational leadershipas much as their product, in the way a berry farmer experiences earlier.” and investment in their personal goals as mostmight send visitors home with a bag of seeds. important. He also referenced a recent viral Trends are out, niches are in campaign started by outdoor retailer REI whenDougal Mckenzie, head of travel at Google According to social analyst David Chalke, distrust it ran ads saying ‘No shopping, go outdoors’Australia, alluded to the ‘micro-moments’ when of the establishment and the rise of self-curation on Black Friday, ultimately getting staff andconsumers reach for their mobile devices to have eroded “old tribes and allegiances”, making consumers to buy into why as well as what theresearch or make a purchase. With ‘near me’ it harder to cut through with anything other than company sells.searches doubling and travel-related conversions highly targeted and authentic messages. Heon mobile devices increasing 88 per cent last year, added: “We’ve now got so much stuff it’s almost Elzinga concluded his presentation by highlightingoperators who prioritise timely, localised messages obscene – self-storage is one of Australia’s biggest that in today’s ephemeral, digital world, tourismover long-term, mass marketing may gain the growth industries – so what we’re looking for are operators are fortunate to be selling a combinationupper hand. experiences and undiscovered treasures. We’re of story and space. saying to brands: ‘Got a new idea? Show it to me!’.“To win the moments that matter you don’t have The metropolitan venue set to host the Victorianto be everywhere all the time, you just have to be Chalke also pointed out that tourism operators Tourism Conference in 2017 will bethere for the intent, context and immediacy,” said should acknowledge changing family dynamics, announced soon. To downloadMckenzie. US-hotel chain Red Roof Inn recognised including pets having become a more common a copy of the VTIC Tourismthis when it harnessed aviation data to promote feature of Australian households than children. and Events Industryits offering to the 60,000 Americans stranded “Kids are gone, so accommodation for the Shih Policyevery day due to flight cancellations, boosting Tzu please,” he joked. Agendaoccupancy by 60 per cent as a result. 2016-17 Grow your business from the inside out launchedChange is exponential Didier Elzinga, founder of workplace culture at theEighteen years in, Google now receives 3.5 billion analytics tool Culture Amp, encouraged attendees conference,queries a day, of which up to 20 per cent have to revisit their mission statement and consider visit been asked before. Mckenzie said: “[This whether it presents a vision “most people afraid to policy-advocacy.acceleration is why we have to] ask ourselves are think of”. He explained: “If brand is your promise towe there for our customers in the moments that the customer, company culture is how you deliver Clockwise from top left: The Lynette Berginmatter? Do we embrace speed? Do we learn on that promise, so culture is not meant to be soft Tourism Award, Todd Blake Student Award andfrom everything we do? And can we imagine things and fluffy, it needs to be fit for purpose.” VTIC Small Business Award were presented todifferently?” He encouraged delegates to have Ashlee Kay (Peninsula Hot Springs), Simone Tyrell“a healthy disregard for the impossible” bearing in He added: “When we talk about values we’re (Victoria University) and Simon Milligan (Cave Hillmind the brand equity and reach that it took Hilton talking about the world we want to live in rather Ceek) respectively Google’s Dougal Mckenzie100 years to achieve, only took AirBNB seven. than the company we need to build, and when Deputy chair Wayne Kayler-Thomson introduced you act in accordance with values that someone the priorities of VTIC’s various policy committeesHe cited technology that allows diabetics to else believes are important you create energy Marketing specialist Rebecca King enlightenedmonitor their blood sugar via contact lens and for your business.” delegates on the use of camera dronesGoogle’s use of stratospheric balloons to expandinternet access as further inspiration for radical Instead of worrying about keeping Gen Y or Zthinking, adding: “Now that 187 countries are happy in the workplace, said Elzinga, business SPRING 2016 TOURISM EXCELLENCE  9

VTICUnearthing fresh opportunitiesGrowing interest in experience. We have a broad range of skills and Recipe for successlocal produce is turning backgrounds at the hotel, so why not use that?” Sharing the secrets of sustainable farming is oneagritourism into big of the central tenets of Green Olive at Red Hill,business. Here, we Running monthly in September, October and winner of the 2015 Australian Tourism Awardfind out about some of November, the new workshops for up to 14 people for Excellence in Food Tourism. Visitors to thethe latest experiential have sold well so far. Shurmann adds: “Some of 11-hectare Mornington Peninsula property caninnovations. our visitors have never grown a vegetable in their not only sample the olive oil, chutneys and wines lives, while others are experienced gardeners, grown and processed on-site but also take part inIt’s well known that the team at the Royal Mail and that inevitably generates conversation that farm tours, cookery classes, butchery workshopsHotel and its two-hatted restaurant live and can continue over dinner in the restaurant. A lot of and much more besides.breathe paddock-to-plate philosophy, with people have forgotten about the link between ourAustralia’s largest kitchen garden at their disposal food and the earth, but it comes into focus when Co-owner Greg O’Donoghue says: “Farming’s(pictured below). Building on the popularity of they see these elements together, and in a way tough, we’re not farmers, farming is just oneits complimentary chef-led garden tours, in that still allows them to indulge – we joke that it’s element of what we do. Having come from aSeptember the hotel launched a new package two-hatted soil they’re taking home.” corporate background, we always imagined thecombining accommodation and fine dining with a farm as an experience [and we’ve found that] atwo-hour organic gardening workshop. The $795 couples’ experience package includes lot of people are interested in The Good Life life, a five-course dinner on Sunday to incentivise especially those who grew up on the convenienceIn addition to learning some of the tricks to growing people to stay for a long weekend and, though foods of the 1970s.” He believes the resurgenceyour own organic produce from resident gardener it is not the first such horticulture experience to of community gardening and the popularity ofMichelle Shanahan, such as using ducks to control be offered in Victoria, the team is confident of cooking shows are part of the same societalpests like slugs, participants are given a bag of setting a new standard. desire to reconnect with our food sources. Heseeds and nutrient-rich soil to plant their own adds: “Even the guys who have never cookedpiece of the Royal Mail Hotel back home. They In line with its agile approach and focus on at home and were brought up on the Bunningsalso enjoy a gardener’s afternoon tea and get to collaborative partnerships, the Royal Mail sausage come enjoy themselves at our sausage-explore parts of the Dunkeld property not usually Hotel team called on Mat Pember of The Little making classes, then come back later in theopen to the public. Veggie Patch Co to help structure the workshops year talking about how they now make their and provide attractive souvenirs for guests. own sausages.” First launched five years ago,Marketing manager Kylie Shurmann explains: The relationship also led the business to add sausage-making classes now run every weekend“The kitchen garden, which has tripled in size a pop-up garden to its stand at the Taste of at the property. It is perhaps a similar desiresince [head chef] Robin Wickens started, is Melbourne festival. for self-sufficiency that sees as many femalesomething we’re very proud of and we saw a visitors opting to learn butchery skills as pasta-great opportunity to tap into Michelle’s wealth of Seasonality is of course factored into the making techniques. workshops, with the focus shifting from brassica in September to tomatoes in November. Giving As at the Royal Mail Hotel, O’Donoghue says the visitors a greater understanding of the parameters desire to maximise skillsets prompted the now- within which the Royal Mail Hotel chefs work their packed calendar of classes at Green Olive at Red magic surely helps them appreciate the restaurant Hill. “We knew we wanted to offer tapas and wine experience. Though the workshop calendar and but not the breakfast trade, so we thought about package details may be tweaked, Shurmann other ways we could grow Saturday morning expects them to become a key part of the hotel’s business and we already had the chefs working,” offering in the years ahead. he explains. The team of seven full-time staff and10 TOURISM EXCELLENCE SPRING 2016

VTICA Simply Tomatoes-style welcome 20 casuals also run hen dos and corporate days, visitors learn about how the family handpicks theGreen Olive at Red Hill, combining a wine tasting with a yoga session green tomatoes earlier than a traditional crop,Mornington Peninsula or a pizza-making class with a teambuilding then marinates, vacuum packs and stores them workshop for example. For schools they offer in naturally refrigerated underground containers. activity weeks, including seed-planting and farm They also stop by the woolshed where local art sessions, while the Meet The Farmer and craftswomen turn naturally processed Australian The Chef experience, in which visitors can pick wool into quilts and therapeutic heatpads, and the ingredients for a dish they later prepare, is a cockatiel sings the Collingwood theme song particularly popular with American visitors on on cue. high-end tours of the region. Lanyon says: “When people arrive I get on the In this agritourism model, hospitality revenue is coach and welcome them – dressed as a sheep. supplemented by retail sales. O’Donoghue says: This is happening while someone else from the “There’s a double bang every time [people buy a team dances around the vehicle dressed as a products to take home], plus we sell a lot online, green tomato, so I’d say the whole experience and that repeat business is key because we’re is lighthearted!” Having farmed through years not offering [high-margin] fine dining.” Next on the of drought, she says being forced to grow the agenda for the Green Olive at Red Hill brand is business slowly and diversify is now reaping opening a store in Chadstone Shopping Centre rewards. “We never get tired of telling our and launching a new line of olive oil-based body story,” she adds. She believes co-promotion of products pipped to sell well in Asian markets. Add neighbouring attractions to build the profile to that a website redesign and Q1 2017 is shaping of the shire is vital to growing the business up to be a busy one. “We’ve got the next five years further, as is membership of organisations planned out, with a lot of innovative stuff to come such as VTIC, Bendigo Tourism and the we want to be at the front of the pack and lead it,” Food Fossickers Network. adds O’Donoghue. Marketing to aged care facilities, gardening Seeding new growth clubs and retiree groups brings a steady stream After 30 years of growing tomatoes for big of visitors to Simply Tomatoes, for which the business over 400 hectares, Marilyn Lanyon at accessibility of the property is key. “It’s very Simply Tomatoes near Boort and her husband did important to look after everyone,” insists Lanyon. not see anything special about their one-hectare The team also hosts passers-by for tastings and green tomato operation until the local council informal tours, and offers RV drivers free overnight pointed it out. She explains: “Loddon Shire tourism parking on the farm. Lanyon continues: “The manager Robyn Vella seeded the idea that other last group of RV guests we had, who had been people might be interested in what we were doing, travelling for some time, said ours was the best in how we were harvesting tomatoes sustainably place they had been. So while they did not pay and using them in my nonna’s recipes.” anything to stay with us they bought about $350 worth of our products and will now be our finest Now the couple regularly hosts coach-loads of brand ambassadors they even took some of our visitors for tastings and tours of the property. After flyers with them.” enjoying a picnic lunch of tomato-themed delights, SPRING 2016 TOURISM EXCELLENCE  11

VTICRaising the By Mark O’Sullivanstock ofour stateFor The Royal Agricultural Society ofVictoria (RASV), putting our premiumproduce and vibrant rural culture onshow is a year-round endeavour.For more than 160 years the Royal Melbourne opportunities to grow and promote their brands. Looking to the futureShow has been celebrating agriculture and In consultation with food industry experts, some We are committed to building a sustainable futureentertaining families. As the state’s largest annual categories were consolidated and new classes for the agricultural industry by both supportingcommunity event, it contributes more than $240m added for seafood, truffles, convenience foods our agrifood and fibre producers, and identifyingto the Victorian economy each year. The 11-day and organic wine to reflect consumer interest. and nurturing the next generation of leaders.spectacle offers unique experiences for families, RASV plays an important role in nurturingcombining the traditions of agricultural competition Demand for fresh, pure, quality produce is one talent and increasing youth participation,with a modern food offering and world-class of the reasons that organic grape production in as well as highlighting the diverse careerentertainment. Australia increased 120 per cent from 2011-2014. opportunities available. One of the key aims of the awards program isThis year, the show’s outdoor animal display to boost international awareness, interest and We do this through a number of scholarshipsmore than doubled in size to provide visitors investment in locally grown produce. and programs, such as the Emerging Leaders ineven more opportunities to get close to animals. Victorian Agriculture Awards recognising youngThe Winning Tastes Pavilion showcasing award- The awards program also gives entrants the people who significantly contribute to the industrywinning food and drink was also expanded, both opportunity to benchmark their offering against and their community. We also offer a bursaryin size and operating hours, to give attendees their peers and gain valuable feedback from called the Young Dairy Handlers Scholarship,the chance to sample more of Melbourne’s top industry experts. Medal and trophy winners which allows the recipient to travel to emergingeateries, including Pho Nom, Mr Claws, Bomba, have the opportunity to exhibit in the Winning dairy regions in south-east Asia, fund their studiesRoyale Brothers Burgers, Mr Miyagi and Burn City Tastes Pavilion at the Royal Melbourne Show and ultimately help grow the sector. Our sheep,Smokers. By representing the entire paddock-to- and integrate the AFA seal of excellence into poultry and beef cattle competitions for schoolsplate value chain through the hosting of pop-up their packaging and marketing. also give students with little or no agriculturalrestaurants and cookery demos, among otherculinary entertainment, the show is appealingto a broader audience than ever before.It’s important to note we could not run the showwithout the huge effort of our volunteers, witharound 1500 people donating more than 27,000hours to work as stewards, judges, vets andcustomer service representatives. We attractthese committed volunteers by leveragingindustry connections, partnering with universitiesand community groups, and running corporatevolunteer programs with businesses such asthe NAB.Taste of the nationThe annual Australian Food Awards (AFA),formerly the Royal Melbourne Fine Food Awards,is Australia’s leading premium food awardsprogram. We renamed the program in 2016 toreflect to the national nature of the awards andprovide producers of premium food with valuable12 TOURISM EXCELLENCE SPRING 2016

VTIC Images showcase the array of entertainment and catering options on offer at the 2016 Royal Melbourne Showbackground exposure to the industry and better artefacts. The pavilion opening was attendedunderstanding of the businesses involved. by provincial government leaders from China as well as Australian dignitaries, and preceded aSafeguarding our heritage for tourism business leaders’ forum for 200 delegates. AsRASV understands the important role it plays a platform for cross-border cooperation and ain promoting and celebrating Victoria’s quality demonstration of Victorian hospitality, we certainlyfood and fibre, and providing opportunities see this international pavilion as an ongoingfor producers to connect with consumers and part of the show. We also hosted dairy industryinvestors. With more than 165 years of heritage, representatives from Brazil and IndonesianRASV works to build on and promote our state’s television reporters, who broadcasted ouragricultural history, to educate both local and reputation for food quality and safety to millionsinternational consumers on the expertise of local of potential consumers and visitors.producers. Through international promotionand partnership, we seek to reinforce Victoria’s With more than 450,000 people attendingcredibility as an international food destination. the show this year and pre-event ticket sales significantly increased, RASV is in an excellentAs part of our mission to increase international position to promote Victorian heritage,participation in the Royal Melbourne Show, this productivity, rural culture and landscapesyear we launched a dedicated China as the far beyond the farmgate.Guest Nation pavilion in which 70 exhibitorscould display everything from Chinese teas to Mark O’Sullivan is Chief Executive Officer ofChinese-made work boots, cotton products and The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria. SPRING 2016 TOURISM EXCELLENCE  13

VTIC Catering to every need Lisa Patroni, We quiz John Isherwood, Chief Executive of Victoria Events Industry Peter Rowland Catering, about event trends Council Chair and effective collaboration. With our state’s hard-earned and Tourism Excellence: Which catering trends are How has your offering evolved over the past longstanding reputation as the events you embracing, or leading, at the moment? half-century? capital of Australia, it is easy to take for granted the calendar that both visitors John Isherwood: While respecting the heritage that has positioned and locals enjoy so much. But what We established The Chefs us as Melbourne’s go-to caterer we continually happens if an event comes to a close Collective, a network of review and try to evolve our business, and this or moves to a new location? At VEIC we Melbourne’s brightest culinary approach has brought us much success. Our have recognised the need for reflection creatives, long before ‘celebrity commercial and consulting division is growing on Victoria’s events program. How can chef’ joined the vernacular. We and we now deliver tailored catering experiences we keep our long-running events fresh help these chefs execute their and retail solutions to some of the country’s for changing markets? What plans are in own masterpieces, whether most established brands, including Deloitte place should one of our major events go that involves celebrating the National Gallery Australia, Mazda and Woolworths. We are elsewhere? Which home-grown events of Victoria’s A Golden Age of China: Qianlong following through on our ‘Anytime Anywhere’ could we nurture and grow? What might Emperor 1736-1795 exhibition with a Chinese positioning with the addition of the Chinese be the next Melbourne Food and Wine banquet, complementing James McNeill Whistler’s Museum Melbourne, Cloverdel in the Macedon Festival or International Comedy Festival? paintings with a unique high tea, or using Martin Ranges and Essendon Airport’s Hangar 5 to Scorsese’s films as inspiration for an Italian- our diverse portfolio of venues. The Regional Events Fund announced American menu at ACMI. in the 2016-17 state budget provides a Our service is much more than food, it’s about good opportunity for the development We continually draw inspiration from local creating immersive experiences that leave a lasting and support of events across Victoria. suppliers, and from around the world, to design impression. So what we do one day needs to be New funding guidelines address some menus that showcase seasonal produce in a completely different the next, and that innovation of the difficulties faced by applicants sophisticated and artistic way. is as important to our cultural institution clients as previously, and it is hoped the fund will it is to corporate buyers or private party planners. catalyse new and innovative events which Peter Rowland Catering also embraced the We never take anything or any client for granted. not only draw visitors to regional towns pop-up concept long before it became an industry but also help sustain and grow regional in its own right. We have now been developing Having said that, the Rowland Chicken Sandwich communities. Though budgeted over four bespoke events for more than 50 years, has become a somewhat iconic and indispensable years, it is vital the government commit combining our expertise in identifying unique part of our repertoire. It’s a dish we’ve tweaked to this fund for the long term to safeguard spaces – from unused warehouses to deserted over the years and that others have tried to a strong pipeline of regional events. beaches – with the vision of the best chefs and emulate but our clients seem united in their event stylists. love for the original. Business events are also integral to Victoria’s visitor economy. The recent Event planners are always challenging us to find What have been some of your recent Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World them the ‘undiscovered’ event space. highlights? Congress attracted almost 11,500 visitors from 73 countries, for example. Delegates A significant focus for us this year is the In March we partnered with the Virgin Australia came together to look for solutions for a development of The Australian Event Centre Melbourne Fashion Festival to create a new rapidly increasing population, including in Essendon, which will have capacity for experiential precinct at the Royal Exhibition the technology advancements required to 1000 dinner guests. With the opening scheduled Building containing bars, corporate lounges and support it – technology that will ultimately for 17 November, this state-of-the-art exhibition food experiences. We look forward to continuing impact tourism and events, how we travel and conference space represents a major to evolve this concept over the next four years. and do business. infrastructure investment in Melbourne’s inner west and a much-needed addition to the city’s Delivering Wesley College’s 150th anniversary These events don’t just happen. event spaces. celebration for 1600 guests was another amazing Rotational events such as the ITS World experience for our team, as was this year’s Bank Congress are years in the making and the work of organisations such as the Melbourne Convention Bureau is essential to the ongoing success of the visitor economy. Again, long-term funding commitments are required. With a fairytale win to cap off the AFL season and Spring Racing Carnival just around the corner, we can look forward to another bumper summer of cricket, tennis, music festivals, Chinese New Year celebrations and more. I hope to see you at Flemington, the ‘G, Rod Laver Arena or a live site at Fed Square in the coming months.14 TOURISM EXCELLENCE SPRING 2016

VTICof Melbourne World’s Longest Lunch on the our specialist teams. Working through multiple Top: A private event set-up at Mossgreen GalleryGrand Prix Circuit (pictured below). business streams within the organisation also allows employees to truly understand our values Middle: Philippe Mouchel designed a classicallyWe approach every event, be it lunch for 1600 and culture. French lunch for Peter Rowland Catering to celebratepeople or private dinner for 10, with the same Degas: A New Vision at the NGVcommitment to delivering an experience that will How would you characterise a Peter Rowlandbe talked about for years to come. We view every Catering employee? Below: Artist’s impression of The Australianevent uniquely because even events we have a Events Centrelong history of delivering can bring new learnings. Our employees take enormous pride in bringing the personal touch to busy events and are highlyHow central is collaboration to your success? regarded for always having a smile on their faces, despite some exceptionally long work hours.Peter Rowland Catering is an organisationthat places enormous emphasis on long-term With around 250 permanent staff and a casualpartnerships. We have carefully nurtured our workforce that grows to more than 3000 duringrelationships with Victorian produce suppliers, major events, we consider it essential to investincluding our 20-year relationship with Melba in training and career development. We recentlyFresh, 15 years with Poseidon Seafood and appointed a people and culture ambassador to12 years with PFD Food Services. These better connect with our people at all levels andlongstanding associations have mutual respect many of our managers started as casual their core and this allows us to continuallychallenge each other to evolve our businesses. I think there’s still a stigma attached to hospitalityBuilding this network of likeminded operators has that it’s purely a part-time industry, when actuallyseen us become a conduit for new partnerships. it offers numerous long-term career opportunities. The more we are able to educate people aboutInternally, we see great value in all members these opportunities, including providing seasonalof staff playing a frontline role in the delivery of work experience to students and new Australians,events and encourage idea-sharing between the more our industry will grow. SPRING 2016 TOURISM EXCELLENCE  15

VTIC Photo: Visions of VictoriaPurposeful approachto tourism Royal Botanic Gardens CranbourneTourism Excellence explores how local governments visitors to our sub-region are VFR and short dayare adapting, collaborating and lobbying to ensure trips, a contribution of around 4 million visitorscommunities outside Victoria’s big-name destinations to Melbourne’s annual total of 20 million is notreap big rewards from the visitor economy. insignificant,” he says. A recent Ernst & Young study found that the Werribee Park TourismFar from a side project or burden, visitation growth gems remain hidden,” he adds. As such, Ponsford Precinct alone contributes $224m in visitoris considered by some councils as integral to their hopes to see more of a precinct-based approach expenditure each in infrastructure development, investment to tourism marketing, epitomised by Discoverattraction, city branding and community leadership. Los Angeles’ neighbourhoods campaign, to give In addition to the growing interest of travellersAs Melbourne’s population spreads outward, the inner-west villages like Yarraville and areas such in neighbourhoods where they can ‘live like asharing economy blurs the line between resident as the Maribyrnong River valley their long-overdue local’, local councils are well placed to benefitand visitor, and ‘near me’ geolocation technology time in the spotlight. “While a large proportion of from new visitation patterns resulting from thedirects travellers to businesses off the traditional changing social fabric of our urban centres.tourist trail, the tourism opportunities for outer Emerald Lake Park in the Cardinia shire Ponsford explains: “The traditional enclaves ofmetropolitan and fringe areas are numerous. The multiculturalism near the city centre have shiftedchallenges, however, are also numerous. to places such as Dandenong and St Albans, and this brings with this new food, events and festivals.Richard Ponsford, Executive Officer of WesternMelbourne Tourism (WMT), a sub-regional tourismassociation building synergies between six citycouncils, says: “People’s interest in places,attractions and community attributes doesnot align neatly with the local government areaframework. At WMT we recognise that we canachieve more than as individual entities, which alsomakes us more attractive when applying for statefunding and more powerful in our advocacy.” He isdisappointed that Visit Victoria’s current focus onregional dispersal skips over greater metropolitanareas. “Often parts of greater Melbourne fallbetween the cracks in the architecture of tourismdevelopment and management you only needlook at a visitor map of the city to see how many16 TOURISM EXCELLENCE SPRING 2016

VTIC Photo: Visions of Victoria Werribee Mansion sits within the Wyndam local government area“I’m not sure whether the state government is help it grow, and this is where our independent market through multigenerational experiences is akeeping up though, we should be trying to build board leadership structure assists with opening “no-brainer”, says Grigoriou. “We endorse inclusiveintrigue beyond the CBD,” he adds. up partnership opportunities with the trade and tourism as a point of difference,” she continues, other stakeholders.” adding that a lack of accommodation and facilitiesInvesting in and promoting public transport links for groups and families is currently one of theto new districts is just part of the puzzle. “There Establishing the most effective governance model region’s main a great opportunity to expand the base of for tourism growth has also been a priority for the In addition to a strengthened relationship with stateMelbourne’s umbrella events with more satellite Cardinia Shire Council. Business Development government, the council is looking forward to theevents, creating what are essentially temporary Officer Frances Grigoriou says: “Cardinia Shire completion of the $125m Bunjil Place civic facilitydestinations that draw visitors and engage local Council’s approach has always been to have the and Puffing Billy Discovery Centre. It has developedtraders who don’t necessarily consider themselves industry lead on tourism with our support, which a visitor map in conjunction with Cardinia Tourism‘in tourism’,” says Ponsford. This is why Western is why one of our first actions was to establish a and continues to advocate for an airport inMelbourne Tourism is working to integrate the St Tourism Advisory Committee comprising operators Melbourne’s south-east.Albans Lunar New Year Festival (pictured right), from across the region.” In partnership with the In their collaborative, open-minded approachesand its 70,000 visitors, into the city’s growing City of Casey, the shire council is now developing a and strategic intent, both of these evolvingcalendar of Chinese New Year events. “The governance model that will transition the advisory organisations demonstrate how local governmentspromotion for Chinese New year has traditionally committee into an independent regional tourism can become catalysts for sustainable tourismfocused on the CBD, but there are a range of organisation as well as building a holistic Casey development.weekend events across St Albans, Footscray, Cardinia Visitation Strategy.Dandenong and Box Hill through January and SPRING 2016 TOURISM EXCELLENCE  17February that we should also be talking about,” Grigoriou explains: “We don’t limit our visionhe adds. we understand the industry may look different in another three, five or 10 years so we continuallyCouncils cannot afford to wait for investors to catch look to other regions and at other structures foron to the demand for accommodation outside new ideas.” Last year the council ran the firstmajor tourist hubs, says Ponsford. Earlier this year, ever Casey Cardinia Tourism Conference, whichWMT hosted a forum with Airbnb to explore how returned this year under the management ofhomesharing could help propel the region’s tourism the tourism operators themselves with councilgrowth. The association has also developed a new as a sponsor. “It’s vital to build up local industrymap of the region, hosts an annual conference leadership and skills because a successfuldubbed Tourism for the West Fest, undertakes destination requires an agreed vision and resilientsocial media marketing and helps drive product industry with clearly defined roles,” she says.development. A new awareness campaign is also “This requires deliberate effort and resources fromin the works based on detailed visitor research, councils and, importantly, an ability to stand backas well as a new destination management plan in at times and let operators get on with what theypartnership with Destination Melbourne. Ponsford do best.”says: “We are trying to put the right structures andprograms in place to engage local industry and Given that Casey Cardinia is one of Australia’s fastest growing housing areas, targeting the VFR

VTIC 100 years strongIn the centenary year of Travellers Aid Australia, we Our service is complementary to that of visitorask Chief Executive Elias Lebbos about keeping information centres and the City of Melbournepace with visitor needs, building a workforce of ambassadors have a good understanding ofeveryday heroes and championing accessibility. what they can refer people to us for.”Founded in 1916 to help women arriving in He says that when making the call on whether Helping individuals displaced by war, domesticMelbourne to assist the war effort, Travellers to spend donated funds on service delivery or violence or homelessness is unfortunately anotherAid went on to support the welfare of migrants marketing, the former wins nine times out of 10. key component of the work done by Travellersthrough the post-WWII era and into the 1960s “That’s why our relationship with Public Transport Aid, as is advancing the conversation around theas international students began making their Victoria (PTV) is great, a lot of our awareness inclusiveness of our infrastructure and attractions.way here in large numbers. campaigns are funded by them, including the “One of the constants throughout our history has wrapped VLocity train you may have seen been our ability to adapt to the needs of society,”The not-for-profit diversified its services further around the state recently,” he adds. says Lebbos. “Success for us is not about howfollowing the deinstitutionalisation of people many ‘likes’ we get it’s about making journeyswith disabilities in the 1980s, and today its role Sustained by a mixture of government funding, more comfortable, safer, and for some people,in helping passengers of all ages, abilities and corporate sponsorship, private donations and making them possible,” he adds.backgrounds use the Victorian public transport fee-for-service revenue, Travellers Aid offers asystem is as vital as ever. diverse range of services from its bases at key When reflecting on what the next 100 years will railway stations. These include buggy transport, look like, Lebbos expects the ageing populationIn 2015-16, Travellers Aid services were a companion service for those who require help to drive new groups of people in the direction ofaccessed 223,000 times. navigating the city, personal care assistance and Travellers Aid. He says: “We’re seeing an increase emergency relief. Other facilities such as luggage in older people visiting Melbourne from out ofChief Executive Elias Lebbos says: “A lot of storage, accessible showers and internet access town because we are more adventurous in ourpeople are surprised to learn we’ve been around mean Travellers Aid is often the first port of call travel habits these days. At the same time, people100 years but we’re not offended by that because for an out-of-towner in distress. with disabilities are increasingly independent andthe people who receive our support and their looking for ways to enjoy the same experiences asfamilies are very much aware of us, some over Lebbos explains: “Travellers come to us for able-bodied people.”several generations. Though we’re an integral everything, including when they’ve split their pantspart of the transport system, we’re what you or broken a high heel, and because we’ve seen it He continues: “An emerging supporter basecould call the quiet achievers in the background.” all we know where to refer those travellers on to. for us is the person who doesn’t live near their aged parent and needs help getting them to18 TOURISM EXCELLENCE SPRING 2016 appointments. So the traveller using a service like our medical companion service is our first beneficiary, and the family member that it frees up is our second beneficiary.”

VTICAs part of its aim to connect more people In addition to sitting on various committees and 60 volunteers is delivering maximum essential services, events and attractions, focused on enhancing the visitability of our Volunteers are treated exactly the same asTravellers Aid is working on expanding its state, Lebbos often receives calls for advice employees, receiving the same level of trainingcompanion offering to deaf-blind people from businesses and councils across Australia. in areas such as first aid, OHS, manual handling(in addition to existing support for those “We’ve been in discussions with the City of and dealing with challenging behaviour. The onlywho are deaf and those who are blind). Sydney and advised the City of Gold Coast difference is that volunteers are not expected on mobility equipment needed for the 2018 to be responsible for personal care services orLebbos says: “We’re working on offering more Commonwealth Games, but no other state comes high-level emergency relief. Lebbos says: “We onlyservices beyond the train station boundary close to doing what we do,” he says. Besides a take on three to four volunteers at a time becauseand generating awareness that we do more small office in Adelaide, Travellers Aid is unique we are serious about finding the right volunteerthan help get people from A to B.” He adds: to Victoria. Even in the US, where the Travelers Aid for the right job.” With multiple members of staff“One of the things we’ve been talking to the Society has a huge footprint, few outlets offer the now having been with the organisation more thanCity of Melbourne about is what we can do to same depth of services to people with disabilities 20 years, it seems travellers in Victoria couldhelp people remain social, to continue to attend or mobility challenges as Travellers Aid Australia. not be in safer hands.sporting events and engage with the arts astravelling becomes difficult for them – we want There are, however, still pain points. Lebbosto make transport accessible throughout explains: “There are pain points everywheresomeone’s life journey.” and every interest group has a different viewpoint, but in the nine years I’ve worked for Travellers AidIn partnership with the William Angliss Institute, there has been a definite increase in and focusthe Travellers Aid team is also developing a on accessibility. I think PTV has realised youdisability awareness course designed to break don’t fix anything by simply saying ‘you have todown communication barriers between travellers be Disability Discrimination Act compliant’ andwith disabilities and tourism professionals. it now encourages planning staff to come out to“We’re about pushing awareness of disability our office and discuss issues with members ofand accessibility,” says Lebbos, “which is a the travelling public face-to-face.” He says he isbroad term that most people associate with always looking for examples of best practice whilewheelchair access but which also covers things travelling overseas and believes there should belike how easy it is for a parent with a pram to more services at Melbourne Airport for peopleuse public transport.” with disabilities.He adds: “We shouldn’t be simply aiming to be By maintaining constant dialogue with differentthe most ‘liveable’, we should be aiming to make disability organisations and advocacy groups,Melbourne the most accessible city in the world.” Travellers Aid makes sure its team of 25 paid staff SPRING 2016 TOURISM EXCELLENCE  19

VTICShort-stay successin the sharing economyWith homesharing platform Elizabeth White Neil DevonportAirbnb now boasting around75,000 listings across Australia, Chair of VTIC’s Accommodation Policy Director, Apartments of Melbourneand the state government Committee, and Chief Executive of theintroducing its first penalties Victorian Caravan Parks Association The sharing economy is creating new marketsfor landlords operating short- for our business, opening up new opportunitiesstay party houses, we asked Professional accommodation businesses and new styles of travel that feature a morefive accommodation providers suffer because the less regulated Airbnb-type casual, personal relationship between travellerabout the impact of peer-to-peer competitor operates under a compliance and host business. Never before has ourmarketplaces on their business. regime that is dramatically lower in cost. industry had so much change thrust upon it, but While market competition ultimately benefits I believe the opportunities outweigh the risks. the whole tourism industry by allowing more people to attend major events during periods The challenge is to keep redeveloping and of accommodation scarcity, we must have refreshing your business. Many operators are a level playing field for all providers. Regulatory desperately scrambling to update technology requirements and costs should be equal for systems to engage with and learn from the all businesses. homesharing market. We have completely replaced our management systems in the past Every segment of our wide-ranging industry year, and have more changes scheduled for has had to adjust to shorter booking lead times the coming months in order to connect better and the changing demands of consumers in to both legacy OTAs and newer networks such the digitised era, including the expectation of as Airbnb. We are developing new content to free Wi-Fi and a higher standard of customer showcase our neighbourhoods and the way service. Our response must be to install efficient local residents live, for example. guest management technology and embed strategies for upskilling staff. I fear the government’s short-sighted legislation of short-term leasing will create uncertainty We should never lose sight of the fact that when for investors and apartment owners, and place people choose to stay with us they like to be tensions on the relationship between residents, treated as special. Having access to an effective owners and short-stay operators. The legislation website, streamlined booking technology and is broad-brush rather than a strategic bullet and comfortable and clean accommodation is a I believe inclusion and relationship-building is given now, so the standout for most people likely to deliver a better result for all than is the quality of the staff interaction they divisive legislation. experience during their stay. This need for personalisation will never change.20 TOURISM EXCELLENCE SPRING 2016

Al Fresco..

An outdoor authentic Thali treat..

Something a bit different this week as I reflect on the Spring and start of Summer and look forward to writing more in the coming weeks. We have had some wonderful weather which has lead to some smashing outdoor dining opportunities.

Leading from the front, I got to trial some authentic Thali dishes alongside some spice kits from the Spice Sultan company. These kits are not for the casual cook, you go out and source your own ingredients and use the provided spices to add the authentic touches. I found it quite challenging cooking 6 dishes for a table of 4 but it was massively rewarding. The result = a stunning Goan pork vindaloo, coconut rice, dhal, sweet potato curry, pickled onion salad and a coconut and ginger chutney. It looks stunning in the Thali dish and a real treat to enjoy together as a family.

Another effort at my signature BBQ Paella..

We have managed two paella BBQs this Summer and also a Chicken Fajita effort, a really interesting way to bring everything outside when the weather is so nice, look at those wonderful colours.

A week off prompted a trip to Swanage and the good old classic crab sandwich was lovely touch in the sunshine. The food and views were so good my parents returned days later for a crack at this stunning seafood selection.

We made some simple pan fried mackerel, salad and roasted beets, lovely and light.

Finally, what better way to finish off the day than getting the fire pit going and toasting marshmallows until they are crispy on the outside and soft and sticky in the middle.

So a teaser on what is coming up later into the Summer and beyond on the blog. We will be taking a long awaited look at a cheese and wine belter of a restaurant, a new addition to the Bournemouth dining scene, some dinner party recipes and advice and a handful of new additions to the kitchen heroes hall of fame.

In the meantime, make the best of this Summer weather and get Al Fresco if you can!

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Monday, 12 November 2012

Strawberry cordial / strawberry soda, with a hint of galangal

homemade strawberry cordial + sparkling mineral water = homemade strawberry soda.

I don't use galangal very often. I should. They're fabulous in so many Asian recipes, with their mystical aromatics - a little woody, like pine or cedar a little spicy, like ginger yet not quite.

When I bought a large chunk recently, I was too lazy to use it in a traditional Asian dish, which tends to be a little more work. Instead, gazing upon the punnets of springtime strawberries sitting pretty in the fridge, I decided to make a strawberry galangal cordial. With, of course, a strawberry galangal soda to follow.

So gloriously red. So seductive.

Of course, a pure strawberry cordial, and the ensuing pure strawberry soda, is amazing with its pristine fruity flavour. You may omit the galangal to do just that. But on those occasions when you're feeling a little bit experimental, and you don't think you'd mind an exotic frisson of mystery in your refreshing strawberry drink, well. why not try it with a hint of galangal?

strawberry and galangal.

strawberry cordial / strawberry soda, with a hint of galangal (if you like)

250g strawberries (1/2 lb), hulled and halved
5cm galangal (2 inches), peeled and thinly sliced (use a sharp knife as they can be tough and fibrous)
1 cup water
1/2 cup raw sugar

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil, then simmer for 15 - 20 minutes, mashing up the strawberries with a fork towards the end as they lose colour and soften. Let the mixture cool then strain through a fine sieve, pressing down on the strawberry pulp with a fork or spoon to extract as much liquid and flavour as you can.
This cordial will keep in an air-tight jar or bottle in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.*
To make strawberry soda, simply pour in some cordial into a glass, then top up with soda water or sparkling mineral water, plus ice.
Bonus round: You may also add this cordial to freshly boiled hot water to make a soothing strawberry galangal tea.

*I sterilise my jars by washing them thoroughly and then letting them sit in boiling water for a couple of minutes.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Much ado about matcha. weekend baking adventures

Kitchen disasters. We've all had them.

But oh, the joy when you salvage the mess and rise from the ruins!

I don't usually post my creations when I don't have a recipe to go along with it, but I'm a bit more relaxed these days. Plus, I was actually quite proud of how I saved the day, so here we go. My only regret is that I didn't take a picture of how awful the batter looked at the beginning, which would make the results here look all the more impressive. Hey, we can't have everything.

It all started with an idea. Gluten-free buckwheat matcha cookies.

gluten-free buckwheat hazelnut matcha cookies.

When I have an idea, I like to draft out a recipe and then adjust it in the real world, adding and subtracting as I mix, knead and taste.

In this instance, I had underestimated the amount of buckwheat flour I needed. and not only that, I didn't have any more of it left in the pantry. The batter was neither liquid nor solid, and it was crazy sticky. Shaping or cutting it into cookies was out of the question. I made a makeshift piping bag by cutting a hole in a plastic sandwich bag, and forced in the batter. Bad idea. The consistency wasn't good for piping either. And the batter was so gluey, I now had trouble getting it out of my makeshift piping bag.

My typically trusty spatula looked dirty, tired and helpless. SO I DECIDED TO USE MY HANDS. Desperate times call for desperate measures, or rather, they drive you to insanity. I know that now. Feeling wretched and with gummy green goo all over my hands, I imagined I looked not unlike a forlorn swamp monster.

I still refused to throw the lot away. Organic buckwheat flour ain't cheap, y'all.

Thinking hard, I remembered the hazelnut meal I bought a few weeks ago. Oh, come here, my pretties, and rescue me from the mire of despair! I finally had a workable batter, which I rolled into balls, then pressed down with a fork on the baking sheet. Fifteen minutes later, we have these babies. Not bad, really.

Cross-section of gluten-free buckwheat hazelnut matcha cookies.

But wait, there's more!

At some point during these calamitous proceedings (it's all a blur to me now), and before the hazelnuts came sprinkling at me with heroic exultation, I had, in a moment of resignation, decided to go with the flow, as you do, stirring more cream into a small portion of the batter, and pouring it into a cupcake/muffin case. Amidst the confusion, I nearly forgot about this little cake-in-waiting, but spied it in the nick of time and it went into the oven with the cookies.

gluten-free buckwheat matcha cake.

It looked alright. It tasted even better. I mean, it tasted really, really good. The cookies were not bad, but this mini cake, soft, moist, and rich, was seriously luscious.

I didn't share it with anyone. It was only tiny, after all.

cross-section of gluten-free buckwheat matcha cake.

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Friday, January 15, 2016

What Up, What up? Week 2

Once again, as I sit down to start writing, I realize that the weekend has really flown by. (I write a little each day). This weekend was a whirlwind. Friday night when I got home, I really had no plans but my friend Alycin called and asked if Lizzie and I wanted to meet her and her girls at Beef O'Brady's, which was the perfect invite because I had JUST been considering that as a dinner option. I got the Prime Rib sandwich which was a switch from my usual wing basket. It was ok. the bread wasn't really crispy like I like it and the au jus was really thick. however, the Blue Moon was delicious.

Later that night Daniel arrived home. He's working in St. Augustine for a couple of weeks and it's really crappy because he has to drive his government vehicle there and can only bring it home when training there is over. We looked into rental cars but it was over $200 for a couple days. I really want him to be able to come home so Thursday at work, I looked up coupon codes for rental cars and was able to reserve him a Ford Fiesta for $72. Even better is that two other guys were able to come with him which was nice so he had company to and fro (and it doesn't hurt that they split the cost). Now, I will say that even though the Ford Fiesta is not as nice as the two cars we have now, it wasn't bad. Back when Daniel and I were dating, he had to put his truck in the shop and he was given a mint green Ford Fiesta Hatchback that sported a hot pink zig zag line down the side. Imagining him driving that car down I-64 on the way to the Coast Guard station gets me laughing a little every time I think about it.

Saturday morning, Lizzie and I got our nails done. I love spending this time with her and I love getting my nails done every week. I've been a bit miffed lately though because my polish is chipping after a few days and then my nails look like crap until the weekend. My girl told me that my nails are dry and she thinks that's why so I am super excited to have reserved a Toi manicure for next weekend. It involves hot oil and a paraffin wax dip, which I LOVE! This week I changed things up a bit and had my nails painted a royal blue. totally different than my usual colors but I really like it and told Daniel it reminded me of Laker Blue (Laker Blue is the school color of Ben's old school which I miss terribly).

After nails, Daniel and I went to Sawgrass Mills Mall. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a good outlet mall but I can only handle this place for a few minutes for about 2 times a year. It is so crazy busy. I wanted to go to the J Crew store to try on some shorts before ordering online and it was an excuse to eat at Grand Lux. which is kinda like Cheese Cake Factory. They have an amazing Santa Fe Salad and that is what I have. They also have a delicious turkey and brie sandwich that I love. We didn't spend too much time at the mall. I just can't handle it. People have the tendency to annoy me, especially there. Daniel did swoon over some Brietling watches that he's been coveting and I was able to figure out what size shorts to order. because I can't find shorts in South Florida at any of my favorite stores. they are selling winter stuff even though it's hot! That really irritates me. If you have a store in an area that does not get cold, why do you have to sell the stuff the rest of the country is selling. Ugh!

Ben's football banquet was Saturday night and we are so happy to announce that he received the award for "Most Improved." We are thrilled! Ben has put in so much time. That award made all the 6:30 a.m. wake ups over the summer to take him to lifting so worth it. He lifted all summer, he takes lifting as an elective every day and stays after to lift. He is dedicated and it just goes to show that hard work pays off. He got so much playing time this past season and I had a feeling he may be getting an award but I didn't want to get my hopes up. I ended up emailing his football coach who is also his lifting coach at school to ask if Ben could take the same elective again next year as we are signing up for 11th. grade courses this week. He wrote back and said absolutely he could. He went on to tell me that Ben is improving so much everyday and he is so excited to see him on the field for spring football.

Speaking of signing up for courses for next year, how did my baby Ben end up in the 11th grade. This boggles my mind. Once again, he's chosen a pretty tough course load full of honors courses. Aside from the regulars he'll be taking an Probability and Statistics Honors course and an Anatomy course. I'm sure he'll be fine. It's sink or swim, ya know. We are at the point, that even though I am very educated, I can't help him with his work and he does just fine without my help. Sad to think that this time next year, we'll be signing up for his last year of high school. I never realized this time would come so quickly.

And in other news, I finally ran my Cup Cake Virtual 5K that I was supposed to run on Dec. 15. I love the virtual races because I can run on my own time and don't have to get up early for a race. and I still get the medal. I am addicted to the bling. I think this week I have signed up for 4 or 5 races. One of the medals is a diamond ring! For real, it's amazing! I also joined a Hogwarts Running Club online that has Harry Potter themed virtual races. I love Harry Potter so I can't wait to start running those races and earning that bling. Races I have coming up to finish by the end of January are: Princess 4 miler, New Year's race, The Molly Weasley Ugly Jumper Run (this is the Hogwarts one), and the Ground Hog's day Race. I am going to run that one before Ground Hog's day because I will be in Key West for Ground Hog's day and there is no guarantee I'll want to be running Duval street the morning after being there. So far, for February, I have signed up for a Valentine's Day race (for which I will run on the cruise ship) and a Leap Year race. And for March, I have signed up for the Bling race which is the diamond ring. I also plan to run a Final Four race in March. And finally, I am signed up for the MADD race in April. I'm well on my way to reaching my goal of 12 races for the year. I thought about running a race to benefit the Davie Police next weekend but let's be real. I don't want to get up early so that probably won't happen. Why can't regular races be at like 11:00 in the morning. That would be great for my schedule.

(If anyone is interested in the Hogwarts race series, the website is

And finally, I started watching the Netflix series "Making a Murderer." Wow, is all I have to say right now. I'm on episode 2 and plan to binge watch this weekend.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nightclub & Bar Media Group And Jon Taffer Uncork The Ultimate Party. "on The Rocks Las Vegas"

Engaging the Las Vegas community of more than 20 nightclub, bar, lounge and entertainment destinations, On the Rocks Las Vegas will offer a comprehensive schedule of parties, performances, contests, celebrity-integrated events and more! True to the indulgent image of Las Vegas, the festival will feature a number of headliner events, as well as a breadth of exciting programmed activities. They include:

- Signature Parties - Party like a rock star along the Vegas strip with live concerts and entertainment from the hottest entertainers, bands, DJs and comics.
- Competitions and Tastings - Exciting and energetic competitions featuring celebrity and industry judges and experiential education featuring well-known brands: from wines and beers to vodkas and tequilas.
- Lifestyle and Learning Programs - Fun interactive events with renowned authors, experts & celebrities and exclusive behind-the-scenes tours of some of the premiere bars, nightclubs and restaurants in Las Vegas.
- Happy Hours - Las Vegas' biggest Happy Hour party will featuring exclusive entertainment, celebrities, music and more.
- Vegas Shows - Las Vegas is known worldwide for its amazing entertainment. On The Rocks Las Vegas will feature exclusive performances from some of the hottest shows on the Strip.

"People come to Las Vegas to have fun, memorable, unique experiences. 'On the Rocks Las Vegas' is like a VIP pass for the very best events, experiences, nightlife and entertaining lifestyle forums Vegas can offer in one massive three-day party," explains Jon Taffer, producer of On the Rocks Las Vegas and president of Nightclub & Bar Media Group. "Las Vegas is a city like none other - but there has never been an event like this, whether in Vegas or anywhere else."

About the Nightclub & Bar Media Group
The Nightclub & Bar Media Group provides information and resources for owners and managers of bars, nightclubs, independent and chain restaurants, hotels, resorts, and casinos. The Nightclub & Bar Convention and Trade Show is the country's pre-eminent beverage, bar and nightclub event which attracts more than 31,000 industry professionals. The Group's leading content found on includes coverage relating to beverage training, staff and management issues, operations, responsible service, equipment and cutting-edge promotion and marketing practices, as well as in-depth analysis of on-premise drink, product and consumer trends. The group's e-newsletters are targeted to specific segments within the on-premise market and include NCB Promo Power, NCB Nightclub Confidential, NCB Mix, NCB Bar IQ and VIBE.

About Questex Media Group LLC
On the Rocks Las Vegas and the Nightclub & Bar Media Group are properties of Questex Media Group, a global media organization serving multiple industries including hotel and hospitality, travel, technology, beauty, spa, among numerous other specialty industries with its well-established, market-leading publications, events, interactive media, research, and other marketing and media related services.
Ron Hofmann / Steven Wilson
BWR Public Relations
[email protected] / [email protected]

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Kristen’s aside: Just swapped driving duties with Em, my turn! As a non-basketball fan, I must stress just how exciting watching a UConn game with Connecticut natives is. Try it sometime.

My cultural Connecticut experience was definitely complete with both UConn basketball AND my first trip to Stew Leonard’s. I wish we could reap the same free-ice cream-with-certain-amount-of-grocery-purchases rewards at our local Wegman’s as at Stew Leonard’s. (Though, it’s not as if we need any incentive to buy more groceries…) As an added bonus, I now have the image of a cha-cha-cha-ing banana (presumably female) wearing a Spanish dress and sombrero permanently embedded in memory.

Lessons learned: How to prepare an artichoke and carve out a lobster, that squishing Emily’s dad’s baseball cap may be a capital offense (sorry Mr. A!), and UConn cupcakes are LUCKY.

Vacation-Worthy Mussels

Slice the fennel into thin strips to do this, cut off the stalks if there are any on the bulb. Cut the rough bottom of the bulb, but keep a little bit of the root to keep it easy to manage. Cut the bulb in half such that each half still has part of the base attached – as in, if the bulb is sitting bottom down on the cutting board, cut it in half with a vertical cut, not a horizontal cut. Take the core out of each side of the bulb, lay it flat on the board, and slice it into thin strips, each about an 1/8 of an inch wide.

In a bowl, combine the wine, lemon juice, melted butter, salt and pepper. Put off to the side.

While mussels are cooking, slice the baguette the long way into a few slices. Brush a little bit of olive oil on each, and top with a bit of salt and pepper. We also added a pinch of the chopped parsley to each one! Broil or toast these until just slightly browned serve on the side.

When mussels are done, pour the whole pan, including liquids, into a big bowl and serve family style. Be sure to dip the bread into the delicious broth!

Serves 5 hungry people as an appetizer. Note: this recipe is not for the dish-shy, but it's well worth the mess!

How to Spend a Perfect Day in Athens, Greece

View of Acropolis Hill at night, from Acropolis Hill Hotel’s roof garden © 2015 Karen Rubin/

By Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate

If you only have a single day to spend in Athens, resist the temptation to rush to the Acropolis Hill and the New Acropolis Museum first – these most popular sites in the city which birthed democracy and Western Civilization, are overrun by 9 am with tour groups (though you can visit as early as 8 am), creating a line of people like ants and a cacophony of sound like a noisy schoolyard. Instead, here is an itinerary that gives you the full span of history and culture and gives you time to really appreciate the marvels on display.

The stunning life-size bronze of an African boy jockey on a racehorse, one of only five bronzes to survive the ages, on view at the National Archeology Museum in Athens © 2015 Karen Rubin/

9:15 am: Start the day at the National Archaeology Museum, a 10-15 minute walk from the Omonia Metro Station (1.2E, about $1.50 a ride, or 4E for a full day of travel).Take a guided tour (50E for up to five people – we were lucky enough to have Andromache as our guide, [email protected]) – otherwise, you will be awed by what you see, but not understand their importance or context, even with the good labels and explanations in English. This is a spectacular museum that is not to be missed – only place where you will see archaeology representative of all regions of Greece over all its eons and periods (even surpassing the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection, and what a marvel to see the items in context): beginning with the Neolithic period, 6500-3300 BC (and what extraordinary pieces! including gold objects and stunning clay figures that showed a devotion to Mother Earth, Gaia, and hinted at the matriarchy that preceded a patriarchal religion and society).

The famous Mask of Agamemnon is thrilling to see “in the flesh” at the National Archaeological Museum, Athens © 2015 Karen Rubin/

You will be able to see the Golden Mask of King Agamemnon, excavated by Heinrich Schliemann at Mycenae in 1876, (which we learn is actually centuries older than Agamemnon’s reign, but they keep the name for “marketing” purposes), spectacular gold ornaments and funeral objects that suggest a belief in an afterlife, There are two of only five full-scale bronzes left in the world – one, a national symbol of a standing god (Zeus or Poseidon, it isn’t clear because the tool that he would have held, a lightening bolt or a trident, perhaps, has been lost to time) was saved because as it was being taken to Rome by boat to be melted down for weapons, the boat sank and was found in 1926 by fisherman, plus a bronze statue of an African boy on a racing horse that was saved by being shipwrecked, made during the time of Alexander the Great, when the expansion of Greek’s empire brought exotic themes into the art (Alexander was also the first person to have a portrait in a statue). You also see a vase with the first sentence (or rather, the oldest known sentence) written in Greek language: “Now I belong to the man who is the best dancer.” (I think to myself, what pressure on a person to write the first sentence to go down in history! Or, for that matter, the inventor of the “space” between words, which had not existed in Greek.).

Also, there is an astonishing special exhibit,” The Antikythera Mechanism,” about an astrological clock invented in 150-100 BC – centuries before Columbus used an astrolobe to explore the globe – that could predict planetary events 19 years ahead. The Mechanism, made with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker (how did they get the parts so thin and flat?), was found in 1900-1, in the wreck of a ship sunk off Antikythera. Seven large fragments and 75 minor pieces have survived. “Their exact position and the original structure of the Mechanism are still a matter of intense investigation,” though an extraordinary video suggests how the machine, containing at least 30 gearwheels as well as dials, scales, axles and pointers, was put together. The notes say that the Greek astronomical inscriptions on the surface of the Mechanism refer to astronomical and calendar calculations, while the inscriptions on its metal protective plates contain instructions for its use. The Mechanism was protected by a wooden case, which had a bronze plaque on the front and the back side.

“The Antikythera Mechanism is the earliest preserved portable astronomical calculator. It displayed the positions of the Sun, the Moon and most probably the five planets known in antiquity, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. It was used to predict solar and lunar eclipses, it kept an accurate calendar of many years, and displayed the date of Pan-Hellenic games that took place at Nemea, at Isthmia, at Delphi, at Dodona and at Olympia.

“Its construction dates to the second half of the 2nd century BC. Its technology, which recalls the successors of Archimedes and the school of Poseidonius on the island of Rhodes, was the result of the development of philosophy and of exact sciences that took place in Greece until this era, and also draws on knowledge of the Hellenistic Age (celestial parameters, mechanical design and use of epicyclic gearing). The Mechanism bears witness to the astronomical, mathematical andmechanical ingenuity of ancient Greeks in Late Hellenistic period.”

It was the computer, the cell phone and the calculator of its day, and makes you realize that in every age, it only takes one genius to transform the world.

(National Archaeology Museum, 44 Palision St.,

View of Acropolis through Hadrian’s Gate, once the entrance to Athens. © 2015 Karen Rubin/

11:30 am: From the National Archaeology Museum, hop back on the metro (the stations are beautiful, and each one features an exhibit of archaeological discoveries excavated when they dug the metro, but you are repeatedly warned to watch out for pickpockets, and we personally know several people who were in fact pick-pocketed) to the Acropolis stop, and walk through Hadrian’s Gate (the original entrance to Athens), to the Temple of Olympic Zeus, one of the largest temples in Greece.

12:15 pm Walking through the Plaka, we stop for lunch under an umbrella, beside an arbor – relaxing and checking WiFi (just about all the tavernas have free WiFi. Greece offers exceptional value now – not only is the dollar strong against the Euro, but prices in Greece have been cut with the economic downturn, to make them more affordable. Our lunch cost less than 30E for 3 people, or about $10.

1:15 pm We walk past The Library of Hadrian (a gift of the Roman Emperor supporting education and exercise in Athens) and the Roman Agora (a commercial marketplace) in order to have enough time in the Ancient Agora – an exceptionally important site, where you will stand over the first House of Parliament, literally the birthplace of democracy.

You need to allocate at least one hour at the Ancient Agora in order to have time to visit a superb museum, housed in the reconstructed Stoa of Attalos, a 2nd C BC building that was restored in 1952-56 by the American School of Classical Studies to exhibit the artifacts collected at the site (it was renovated in 2003-4). Here you will see how citizens (a minimum of 6000 were necessary) could vote to “ostracize” a politician accused of corruption. (Pericles, who we regard today as marshalling the Golden Age of Greece, received 43 of these “votes” recorded by scratching the name into a broken piece of pottery to avoid prosecution, which could have resulted in being exiled for 10 years, Plutarch suggests that Pericles started the Peloponnesian War).

A lottery “machine” for selecting jurors, on display at the museum at the Ancient Agora. © 2015 Karen Rubin/

You also see the lottery system used to pick jurors (they paid 1/3 drachma to buy a strip in which to write their names, and if selected, would receive a drachma’s pay), and the devices used to record their verdict. Also, there are a collection of small cups used by prisoners to take hemlock – one of the cups could well have been used by Socrates, who was sentenced to death for teaching the heresy of denying 12 gods at a time when paganism was the official religion (he supported the idea of a single spirit, which gets me thinking that he might have been influenced by the Jewish community that was already established in Athens at the time – in fact, we visit the site where signs, etched in marble, announced the Jewish synagogue, near where the House of Parliament stood. The original artifacts are at the museum, but not on display).

Then walk down the street lined with statues of Giants (in Greek tradition, Titans were first, then the Giants, then the Olympian gods), to a headless torso of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who respected and admired Athenian culture and enhanced it with his Library and other institutions, but threw Christians to the lions (and wasn’t so great for Jews, either). The homage paid to him by Athenians was shown in the decoration on his breastplate, depicting the goddess Athena standing on a wolf suckling the twins, Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome. But the headless statue was contemptuously thrown into the sewage ditch by early Christians (who also defiled the Parthenon and most of the statues denoting devotion to paganism), and only discovered in the sewer when they excavated.

The Hadrian Statue stands near the Bouleuterion, or Council House, where the 500 representatives of the 10 tribes met, would have been – in essence, the first House of Parliament.

Above, on a hillside, is the beautiful Temple of Hephaistos (5th C BC) but just to the side is believed to have been a synagogue, serving a Jewish community that had existed in Athens at least since 3 rd C BC and possibly as early as 6th C BC. This is based on finding etched marble – in essence, a sign for the synagogue, which comes from the Greek words “synagein,” which means “to bring together” and the same root word as “agora” which means “a place of assembly.”

The Agora was the political center for Athens, and because it was a gathering place, also became a commercial center. It was there that courts were held (but capital crimes were tried outside its boundary, so the blood on a murderers’ hands not pollute the public space).

2:30 pm: Walk around the Acropolis Hill up Apostolou Pavlou, a beautiful wide cobblestone boulevard, lined with crafts people, street musicians (and virtually no cars), where you also see ruins of early neighborhoods, as well as peer into contemporary neighborhoods.

For the moment, we bypass the entrance to Acropolis Hill and the Parthenon (though you can buy your ticket, 12E, which gives free entry to the New Acropolis Museum and four other important archaeological sites, which can be used for one visit each over the course of four days), and head straight to the New Acropolis Museum. The entrance to the Museum is on another marvelous cobblestone pedestrian boulevard, Dionysiou Areopagitou.

3 pm: The New Acropolis Museum: Here at the museum, you will get the best orientation to what you will see at the Acropolis – it is a modern museum that opened in 2009, displaying in the most magnificent fashion the most incredible statues and art gathered (saved, preserved and conserved) from the Acropolis. On the top floor, from which you see the Acropolis just in front of you through a wall of windows, the statues and art are arranged exactly in the same way as they would have been on the Parthenon itself – indeed, the room is the same size and proportion as the Parthenon, with columns spaced just as they would have been in marble. The presentation is exquisite.

Here, there is a superb video (presented in Greek and in English) that explains the history of the Acropolis, the artwork, and really prepares you for what you will see with a context. I watched the film in both Greek (English subtitles) and English (Greek subtitles), to absorb it all.

The second floor has statues and figures that are breathtaking – imagine, such features and dynamism in marble 2000 years before Europe’s Renaissance. Here we also see a “portrait” in marble of Alexander the Great – significant because he is the first person to have a likeness of himself in a statue.

We stop at the Museum’s gorgeous café, sitting outside on a rooftop restaurant just beneath the Acropolis, getting a pick-me-up with freddo cappuccino, freddo espresso and a double espresso (coffee and cocktails can be as expensive as a meal). The cafe is fabulous for lunch, as well.

Spend 2 1/2-3 hours going through the museum.

Parthenon, on Acropolis Hill, at the closing hour © 2015 Karen Rubin/

6 pm: Now walk back up Dionysiou Areopagitou to enter the Acropolis. This late in the afternoon is a magical time, when the city has cooled down and there are a fraction of the number of people who visit in droves during the morning hours. Now, it is so peaceful, you can linger, stroll around, read the markers, even get photos without hordes of people standing in front. We sit on a promontory that offers an amazing view of the city laid out in front of you, waiting for the sun to get lower and the colors to get more golden, and then go around shooting photos again, the colors of the stone columns becoming gold and orange. We even momentarily catch the Parthenon with no one else in front of it. For that instance, you feel as if the Parthenon is yours alone, as if you hold Western Civilization in your hands. I am struck by a bit of sadness, too, when I realize that the Parthenon is but a scabby skeleton of what it was (now that you have seen the video and the art in the museum), and what has been stripped away and lost forever. But the Greek Government is working to restore the Parthenon – a process that has been going on since Greece became an independent country, in 1821. After various false tries because of inadequate technology and knowledge in restoration, the government is working to replace the fabulous statuaries with replicas in just the exact places, leaving the originals in the museum where they are properly cared for.

(There is also a vigorous campaign to recover the artwork looted from the Acropolis by Lord Elgin when he was ambassador to the Ottoman Empire two centuries ago, and is pointedly made the villain in the museum’s video history of the Parthenon. Since 1816, the marble statues and reliefs taken by Elgin have been prize exhibits of the British Museum. Meanwhile, the Greeks had to make do with the leftovers, housed in a ramshackle museum built in 1874, that is still on the Hill. The Greeks built the New Acropolis Museum expressly as an argument that the Elgin marbles should be returned to Athens from the British Museum because there is finally a proper place to house and display them.)

What gets my eye is the Erechtheion, built about 420 BC, an Ionic temple that on one side, is supported with the six Caryatids- stunning statues of women– five of the originals are at the New Acropolis Museum (the sixth was one of the many artworks taken from the Acropolis by the British Lord Elgin).

The city of Athens sprawls out in front of you from the Acropolis Hill © 2015 Karen Rubin/

People wait here until the light is best – you only have a 10-minute window or so when the light is great and before the guards shoo you out

We leave finally when we are pushed out at around 7:30 pm by the guards – and get to watch the nightly formality as a contingent of soldiers come to secure the Acropolis). We come down to where people are on a rocky hill, with an incredible view of the sunset. We climb up, too, to take in the view.

Our perfect day is far from over, though.

Cocktails at the Hedrion Hotel’s Rooftop Garden Bar, with a splendid view of the Acropolis © 2015 Karen Rubin/

8 pm: We walk down the Dionysiou Areopagitou (I use this wonderful boulevard as much as possible), cutting over to Rovertou Gali to the go to the Roof Garden Bar at the Hotel Herodion, with a stunning view of the Acropolis, lighted at night, a short walk after our late-afternoon visit, and a stone’s throw from the New Acropolis Museum (we can look through its windows at late-museum goers the museum is open until 8 pm normally and until 10 pm on Friday nights). The Herodion’s bar offers a selection of imaginative cocktails. We enjoyed “Wisecrack Fizz,” with Pisco Barsol, st. Germain elderflower liqueur, fresh grapefruit juice, fresh lemon juice, and soda a Hellas Fashioned, made with Metaxa 5, sugar, angostura bitters and rose water (one of the clever inventions of ‘Lefty’ the bartender), and 3 Cardinalsa, made with Midori, Frangelico, elderflower syrup, frsh lime juice and fresh orange juice, another of “Lefty’s” creations. the hotel also has a very fine restaurant (Hotel Herodion, 4 Rovertou Galli, Acropolis,

Nightlife in Athens © 2015 Karen Rubin/

9:15 pm We get a couple of suggestions for our dinner, which gives us another wonderful excuse to walk through the Plaka to the Monastiraki district.

Thanassou restaurant is packed with people – we notice they are not tourists, but local people, enjoying the souvlaki and gyros. This part of the Monastiraki district is a little outside the most popular tourist area – in fact, restaurants and bistros and clever bars and coffee houses are opening throughout the district taking over where shops – like fabric stores – have been shuttered. The chicken souvlaki, served on pita, with yogurt, onions and tomatoes and french fries, is well done (about $12).

Acropolis Hill Hotel

By now, it is nearly midnight and I walk back to the Dionysiou Areopagitou toward my hotel, the Acropolis Hill Hotel, enjoying the street musicians virtually all along the way,

The new Acropolis Hill Hotel, which opened in the fall of 2010, is an “urban chic” luxury boutique hotel (at three-star hotel prices), nestled in the serene green, upscale residential area of Filopappou, virtually under the sacred rock of the Acropolis and a 15-minute walk from the Plaka. From the roof garden, it offers a lovely view of the Acropolis. It also has an outdoor swimming pool (in season), a lovely breakfast room where an ample buffet is served daily (including freshly prepared eggs, bacon and sausage a selection of cereals, breads, cheeses, yogurt and fresh fruits), and a lobby lounge, plus free WiFi. My room also has a balcony, refrigerator, and flat screen TV with a selection of programming (7 Mousson Street, Gr 11 742, Filoppapou, [email protected],

The Acropolis Hill Hotel is one of five hotels in the Tour Hotel Group group:

The Arion Athens Hotel offers a wonderful from the roof top garden, free Wifi (18, Agio Dimitriou St., 105 54 Athens,, [email protected]).

Achilleas Hotel is a totally renovated hotel right in the heart of Athens commercial and business center, a two minute walk from Syntagma Square, a location next to the Acropolis Museums, Parliament, Emou shopping Street and the Syntagma metro station. It offers suite rooms ideal for families (Lekka 21 Str., 105 62 Athens, Greece,, [email protected]).

For a different experience, the Kalamaki Beach Hotel is a resort-style property in the Peloponnese in a verdant area next to the emerald waters of the Saronic Gulf. It offers a swimming pool, tennis courts and children’s playground (

(For more information, visit Tour Hotel Group,

If you have more time in Athens, here are some recommendations:

Take a walking tour such as Context Travel‘s “Acropolis Seminar” and Context Travel’s “Daily Life in Ancient Athens which together give a very comprehensive understanding of ancient Greece in a very intimate setting so that the guides can be very responsive to your interests and questions ([email protected], (story to follow).

See Athens with a Native: “This is My Athens” program offered through the official city of Athens visitors’ website pairs visitors with a local Athenian volunteer who goes beyond the traditional guidebook sights to take you to local neighborhoods. You get matched with a volunteer by filling out a form at . For more info: (story to follow)

The Jewish Museum of Greece offers fascinating exhibit where you can learn about Europe’s oldest Jewish settlement, 39 Nikis St., 105 57 Athens, Greece, [email protected], (hours are Monday-Friday, 9-2:30 pm, Sundays, 10-2 pm).

This is an exceptional time to visit Greece – the dollar is strong against the Euro and prices in Greece have been reduced. I had expected to see the kind of blight and deprivation that the US experienced as a result of the financial crisis of 2008, but apart from some graffiti (“We are artists, not vandals,” one proclaims), and some closed shops, the city is absolutely magnificent, vibrant and bustling, with many chic, new enterprises opening, and the people are welcoming and good natured.

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Watch the video: Metro Detroit BBQ Tour. Scottman895 Travel Delights (October 2021).