FORMER UNITED STATES presidential candidate Martin O’Malley and renowned Australian Paralympian Kurt Fearnley AO will headline the Asia Pacific Cities Summit (APCS) in Brisbane later this year.

Announcing Governor O’Malley and Mr Fearnley’s attendance, Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner said the pair’s involvement was a major coup for one of the world’s leading summits for civic leaders.

Cr Schrinner said APCS would provide delegates from Brisbane, Australia and abroad with a chance to hear from a globally-renowned thought leader and one of Australia’s most inspirational athletes. 

Governor O’Malley and Mr Fearnley join a star-studded list of people who have previously featured at the summit including Olympian Lord Sebastian Coe, Netflix co-founder Marc Randolph, Amazon chief scientist Andreas Weigend, Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson, former New York Mayor Rudi Giuliani and former London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

“While events around the world continue to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve worked really hard to ensure this highly-regarded summit can go ahead,” Cr Schrinner said.

“This year will be a little different with those international delegates who cannot travel to Brisbane able to join and participate in the summit virtually.

“The decision to proceed with this important summit showcases how well Brisbane has been able to deal with the pandemic.”


Cr Schrinner said interest in Brisbane had climbed since it was named host of the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

 “For local companies and business leaders, this is a rare opportunity to connect with other major cities and hear first-hand from unique leaders like Governor O’Malley and Mr Fearnley,” he said.

Governor O’Malley is a former mayor of Baltimore, a 2016 US Democratic presidential candidate, the 61st Governor of Maryland and was named ‘one of America’s five best big-city mayors’ by Time magazine.

“I can’t wait to hear from Kurt Fearnley also, he’s one of Australia’s most well-known and respected athletes and his achievements, including 13 Paralympic medals spanning across five games, is an amazing achievement,” Cr Schrinner said.

“The knowledge to be gained from this event is invaluable and I urge anyone interested to get in quick and register to secure an opportunity to connect with local and international businesses as well as government leaders.” 

The APCS Summit routinely draws representatives from cities throughout the world and is regularly held in other countries. This year’s theme is ‘Redefining Cities through Opportunities and Challenges’.

The APCS, founded in 1996 by Brisbane, is the city’s signature, biennial, international event for driving economic growth for Brisbane, South East Queensland, Australia and the wider Asia Pacific region.

The Summit is an integral part of Brisbane City Council's economic development agenda to foster international networks and forge new business relations throughout the region.

The 2021APCS Special Edition will be held live online and in person at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre daily from September 8-12.


WITH 15,000 jobs already gone in Australia’s travel sector, the Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) today warned that ongoing Federal Government support until international travel normalises is critical.

National Cabinet’s 4-stage 'return to normal' plan relies on vaccination thresholds being reached, the specifics of which are yet to be released, according to AFTA. Given the Prime Minister’s statement today that “it will be the end of the year before all Australians who want to be vaccinated will be”, international travel for most Australians is at least six months if not a year away, according to AFTA chair Tom Manwaring.

He said Australia’s travel agents had played a critical role in supporting consumers navigate COVID lockdowns and border shutdowns.

This has included successfully securing $7 billion worth of credits and refunds on COVID-impacted travel from suppliers -- including hotels, airlines, tour operators, cruise lines and others -- on behalf of their consumers. 

"This is despite agents experiencing revenue falls of 90 percent-plus from the imposition of the international travel ban in March 2020," he said.

“We welcome the clarity that today’s National Cabinet 4-stage plan provides as to how Australia will re-open and return to normal.

“But the reality is that we have already lost approximately 15,000 jobs in our sector as a result of the COVID shutdown. These are highly-skilled and experienced individuals whom we simply can’t afford to lose and whom consumers are relying heavily on now to help navigate the multiple travel challenges created by COVID," Mr Manwaring said.

“What is clear is that “normal” travel for most Australians is still some time off even if there is a significant upturn in vaccination rates. Until that happens, we need ongoing support for Australia’s travel agents and businesses who are performing such important work in supporting customers and whose skill and expertise will be so heavily relied on as Australians start travelling again given the complexities of COVID-travel. This is important support for the remaining 30,000 jobs and 3,000 travel agency and businesses.

“We are very grateful for the Federal Government’s COVID-19 Consumer Travel Support Program which has seen $258 Million in support for Australian travel and tourism businesses including travel agents. But we need the support from Rounds 1 and 2 of the grants program to flow more quickly to those eligible agents and, given the ongoing pause in outbound travel, we need this support extended and supplemented urgently.”

Travel industry facts


  • Prior to COVID, the travel and tourism industry experienced year on year growth of 11 percent and maintained growth of 7.25 percent over the past five years;
  • In 2018-19, Australians spent over $46 billion on international travel, representing the largest import sector of the Australian economy;
  • 70 percent of this international travel was booked through Australian travel agents;
  • Each year travel agents collect taxes worth $1 billion and contribute $28 billion nationally to the economy;
  • 71 percent of staff and executives in the sector are women.


From Ellen Boonstra, Asia correspondent >>

THE Kuda Villingili Resort Maldives, a much-anticipated luxury island retreat in the Maldivian archipelago, opened its doors on June 6. It is within paddling distance of the world-renowned ‘Chickens’ surf break.

A remarkable five-star property located in the North Male Atoll, Kuda Villingili is the Maldives redefined: a unique, experience-driven concept, home to an impressive line-up of gourmet dining options, an idyllic beachfront spa, and an azure, spacious 150m pool, encircled by stylish sunbeds, cabanas and bars. 

Kuda Villingili Resort is the first property in the Maldives for Indian hospitality conglomerate MFAR. The group has, since its inception, demonstrated innovation and commitment, with a serious commitment to corporate social corporate responsibility (CSR).

Kuda Villingili Resort is pioneering a microfinancing program that supports a neighbouring island by purchasing all of the local people’s shrimp and lobster produce. The resort will also offer loans, training in sustainable and efficient farming and healthcare.

Providing prime access to one of the world’s top 10 surfing spots – known as Chickens – as well as a host of daily activities and nightly entertainment such as lobster and Champagne nights and sunset DJ sessions, Kuda Villingili Resort Maldives offers guests the opportunity to reconnect after a year of isolation, as well as space for privacy, luxury and rest.


The diversity of cultural expression is celebrated throughout the resort’s gourmet offerings.

With views of the idyllic beachfront, the resort’s signature dining establishment – The Restaurant – serves the freshest, handcrafted food for breakfast and offers three menus at dinner: Fire, Earth and Ocean. 

Inspired by the traditional American Steak House experience, Fire explores the art of grilling meats to perfection. Earth is an Asian-inspired concept that celebrates organic ingredients to enhance classic dishes like noodles and dim sum creations, and Ocean is a fine-dining experience championing seafood specialties, prepared with a European sensibility.

Relaxed, flavoursome and social, The Hawkers is an upscale three-stall street food market that sits poolside and serves up soulful, sharing-style options. The open kitchen dishes up Indian-Arabic inspired flame-grilled kebabs, charcoaled tandoor, and mouth-watering shawarma, along with Thai-Japanese delicacies such as robatayaki grill and sushi, and Italian-Mediterranean favourites like savoury wood-fired pizza.

A South American take on the classic lunch beach menu is available at The Beach Club, together with daily live DJ sets and an extended list of refreshing frozen cocktails and rosé wines. The resort’s two bars, the Main Bar and the Poolside bar, both offer classic cocktails, mocktails and hand-crafted beers.

And overlooking the lagoon, the resort’s cosy Cigar Lounge offers the finest international whiskies and cognacs and a wide selection of premium cigars in a warm, sophisticated and sumptuously leather-decorated ambience.


Featuring oversized stone baths, organic and plant-based products by Voya, the spa at Kuda Villingili is rooted in self-love, self-discovery and wellness.

Boasting eight self-contained oceanfront spa villas, each promises a holistic journey to reclaim self-connection, self-care and balance through an array of therapeutic and mindful practices.

Restorative leisure pursuits include an elevated yoga pavilion, Technogym and a recreation centre with table tennis, billiards, karaoke and table games. There are two state-of-the-art tennis courts, beach volleyball and island excursions that range from surfing, scuba and stargazing to wildlife encounters, sandbank dining and big game fishing.   


Conceived with nature in mind by the Maldivian architectural firm GX Associates, in collaboration with the Singapore-based interior design company URBNarc, the resort boasts 95 luxury villas – 36 overwater and 59 beachside.

All are inspired by the sprawling nature of the Maldives and offer panoramic views of the pristine ocean, allowing for the natural sounds of the sea to awaken the senses.

The resort’s interiors authentically reflect the natural beauty that surrounds the island.

Traditional Maldivian art pieces and textiles are dotted throughout, and the expert use of natural materials enhance the harmony between water, light and wind. Inspired by the ocean and local fauna, interiors feature custom, eco-friendly furniture and fittings (including carpets manufactured from recycled plastic bottles).

This mixed-use resort development also offers a variety of accommodation types to meet the needs of all – groups, couples, solo travellers and families. 


Guests are invited to snorkel amidst the majestic manta rays, reef sharks, hundreds of species of tropical fish and coral reefs and at sundown, they will be surrounded by the areas’ unique fluorescent marine life.

Kayaking, wakeboarding, jet skiing, windsurfing and surfing the majestic waves at nearby Chickens break, one of the world’s top 10 surfing spots, is also on offer. Back on land, sushi masterclasses, mixology courses, morning yoga sessions, fun-filled cardio lessons and tennis tournaments await – and they’re included in the price of the villa. 

Kuda Villingili’s littlest guests will be spoilt for choice. The resort’s experienced team will organise fun filled activities including crab discovery, treasure hunts, creative workshops and sandcastle competitions, all designed to ensure that a child’s experience on the island is as unforgettable as their parents’. 

André Kretschmann, general manager of Kuda Villingili Resort Maldives said, “I look forward to welcoming guests in this magic and unspoiled island.

“Kuda Villingili represents years of ingenious planning and successful collaborations with famous hoteliers and designers, not to offer yet another luxury resort but a place where time and space are redefined. The young resort team and I are here to help guests create ever-lasting memories.”


HILTON Surfers Paradise won top honours twice at the 20th annual Queensland Hotels Association (QHA) Awards for Excellence staged last week at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre – while also ranking as a finalist in another three award categories.

The iconic Gold Coast hotel took out the major award for Best Redeveloped Hotel Accommodation and Hilton Surfers Paradise duty manager, Lucas Evans was awarded the prestigious Hotel Industry Rising Star Award for 2021. 

The Hilton and its team were also finalists for Best Hotel Bar-Accommodation, Front of House Employee of the Year and Employee Excellence in Service. 

The win for Best Hotel Redevelopment was supported by the hotel’s $9million makeover in 2020 which saw the addition of nine new guest rooms and suites, the unveiling of a new full-service executive lounge, expansion of conference facilities, a reinvented lobby complete with a new cocktail bar, all day dining area and exhibition gallery, the implementation of Digital Key for guest rooms and digital ordering poolside, in-room and within the outlets.

Hilton Surfers Paradise general manager, Fiona Pryde said her team was “very fortunate” that despite a challenging 2020 the hotel’s owner continued in the property’s redevelopment.

“Renovating the entire ground floor during the COVID-19 pandemic created a sense of optimism within the team during challenging times,” Ms Pryde said. “It also gave the hotel something new and exciting for our loyal guests to experience once interstate travel resumed.”

Competing against five other outstanding finalists, Hilton Surfers Paradise duty manager Lucas Evans took home the Hotel Industry Rising Star Award, “an incredible testament to his bright future in hospitality” according to Ms Pryde. Having worked his way up from a concierge intern in 2017, Mr Evans has big dreams of one day becoming a general manager of a Hilton hotel.

“The QHA Awards for Excellence is acclaimed for shining a spotlight on the hotel industry and we are grateful to be recognised among the many talented people and great hotels that make up the outstanding and resilient Queensland hotel industry,” Ms Pryde said. 

She said the hotel was also proud to be recognised as a finalist for Best Hotel Bar-Accommodation after introducing the brand new bar and eatery during the major refurbishments, Ms Margot’s Bar and Eats. The new bar and eatery brings the lobby to life with a variety of informal spaces to meet and eat over a coffee or curated cocktails.

Ms Pryde said the bar is proudly named after regular Ms Margot, who has been visiting daily for over a decade for her morning coffee and breakfast.

“We chose to name the bar after our beloved Ms Margot who keeps coming back, for her daily dose of the famous Hilton hospitality we provide,” she said.

“We wanted to create a beautiful space where guests and locals will keep coming back to, just like Ms Margot, to eat, drink and make connections.”

Lindee Brophy, Hilton Surfers Paradise’s guest service agent was recognised as one of three finalists for the Front of House Employee of The Year award for the outstanding service she delivers and HR assistant manager Lisa Galway was also recognised as one of five finalists for the Employee Excellence in Service. Ms Galway will be celebrating her 17th year of service with Hilton in December 2021.


FCM, one of the world’s largest travel management companies, is planning for a significant rebound in its global corporate travel business by year-end, possibly to about 50 percent of its pre-COVD levels.

FCM is projecting business activity steadily increasing and is counting on stronger returns on the multi-million dollar investments the Flight Centre-owned brand has made in its offerings during the pandemic.

The FCM business, which operates in more than 95 countries, is tracking sales that will continue to increase globally and is targeting 50 percent of pre-COVID levels by the end of the year. With vaccination programmes well underway in key markets, and gaining momentum globally, and as consumer confidence increases, the corporate business’s profitability remains on track to return late in 2021, as the company has previously forecast.

At the end of April, Flight Centre Travel Group’s corporate business, of which FCM is the flagship multinational focused division, was trading at 29 percent of prior year levels globally, but had developed a strong organic growth profile, fuelled by a combination of high customer retention rates and record new account wins during the pandemic. 

Recent wins have included large and high-profile accounts, such as Procter & Gamble and Atos.

FCM global managing director Marcus Eklund said: “Based on early signs that vaccines are effective in preventing symptomatic infection, and with healthy vaccine rollout rates in key markets such as the Australia, New Zealand, the US and UK, we expect health risks to reduce. 

“In the absence of disruptions such as new strains, this should lead to an easing of government-imposed restrictions on domestic and international travel, and a partial rebound of the global business travel market by year end.

“Based on our experiences, travel immediately rises by 20-30 percent when restrictions are relaxed. A healthier rebound will occur if international borders remain open.”

FCM’s diverse customer base is playing a key role in future growth, he said, with recent focus groups indicating high levels of pent-up demand.  

“The mining, construction, pharma, energy and resources, FMCG manufacturing industries and their associated supply chains, together with governments and other growth companies, were responsible for most business travel activity during 2020,” Mr Eklund said.

“They will also drive early growth in travel activity this year, as their C-suite, customer-facing and sales executives recommence their traditional customer and team engagement.

“Confidence in business travel will fundamentally change as a result of consolidation and structural changes in the market. It is essential for the corporate travel industry to be highly adaptable to rapid change.

“It must also offer a greater number of services in health, safety and customer communication, and expedite their delivery, to remain relevant in this environment. These are the areas we have focussed on and invested heavily in for the benefit of our customers during the pandemic and during the recovery phase.”

Global research has revealed the emergence of a new hybrid working model, Mr Eklund said, with more than half of all employees expected to work from home several days a month.[1]

As a result, Mr Eklund expected some pre-pandemic travel activity would shift to virtual working models,  leading to further consolidation in the corporate travel industry, as organisations increasingly seek travel management providers that are secure and demonstrate a strong duty of care.

FCM is in a strong position to take advantage of a smaller industry and evolving business and travel environment, he said.

“Our investment ensures we can boost the confidence of businesses resuming travel, thereby servicing a greater volume of customers and increasing market share. In this fast-changing, unpredictable world, health and safety will remain the single biggest priority.

“Our FCM team is monitoring the changing risk and regulatory environments daily and providing solutions within 24 hours. Now helped by our new AI capabilities, we can offer 24/7 travel monitoring, live information updates and instant communication with travel managers and travellers,” Mr Eklund said.



[1] Cisco Webex, October 2020: The Rise of the Hybrid Workplace: A Global Survey of Executives, Employee Experience Experts, and Knowledge Workers

THE Accommodation Association today welcomed the Federal Government’s temporary COVID disaster payment and added a call to loosen the eligibility criteria so that all workers severely impacted by lockdowns are supported.

The eligibility requirements for the financial support weekly payment currently include requirements that a person must be in a declared Commonwealth hotspot and that the lockdown has lasted for more than a week.

Under this approach, only people in Greater Melbourne currently qualify with workers in the rest of the state who are also impacted by the lockdown ineligible, according to Accommodation Association CEO Dean Long. 

The Accommodation Association alongside other industry bodies continues to engage with State and Federal Government to bring about a proportionate business support package for the sector, he said.

“We welcome the announcement of the emergency funding for our teams that have been stood down due to the outbreak and subsequent lock down,”
Mr Long said.

“These are important payments to hospitality, accommodation and hotel workers who have borne the brunt of the health response but, while this is a support for Greater Melbourne, it does exclude workers in regional Victoria who will continue to be highly impacted by the travel restrictions.

"These workers are just as vulnerable and deserving of support and we ask the Federal Government to consider widening the net to help them as well. We look forward to seeing the outcome from today’s National Cabinet in terms of additional business support.”


THE Victorian Government’s new support packages of up to $25,000 for business events incentives in Melbourne, has the support of the Accommodation Association.

The Association said the program would provide “a desperately needed bookings boost for struggling CBD hotels and accommodation providers”.

With the corporate travel market still crippled by COVID, the Accommodation Association said the incentives would ignite business traveller confidence in choosing Melbourne for accommodation and events. 

“Forward bookings for Victorian accommodation in the second half of the year are still at 2020 levels and event investment is currently extremely prudent, so we welcome this much needed support from the state government,” Accommodation Association CEO Dean Long said.

“With consumer confidence at critically low levels due to ongoing border shutdowns, more business events in Melbourne will have a positive impact on hotel and motel occupancy in the CBD through kick starting corporate travel spending which means more overnight stays with Victorian accommodation providers.

“As the Melbourne corporate travel market begins to recover, the wider Victorian market will also enjoy flow on benefits from heightened travel and hospitality spending which will support the state’s economic recovery,” Mr Long said.

“Our Melbourne hotels and motels have endured an incredibly tough time and are looking forward to increased interest from corporate travellers and business events clients as they take advantage of this program.”

According to the Accommodation Association, nearly 40 percent of all visitors to Melbourne are corporate travellers and providing reason to travel beyond reconnecting is critical for the accommodation sector.

Mr Long said supporting business events would kick start the tourism industry in Victoria, as events drive overnight visitation and are critical to rebuilding the domestic corporate travel market which the state’s hotels and motels rely on.
Applications are open until June 30, 2021 for new event bookings held in Melbourne through to December 2022.


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