Hamish and Zoe Foster Blake’s cheeky holiday to Great Barrier Reef and the Otways


If you’re going to see Australia, you need to see it in a big way.

That’s the message from comedian Hamish Blake and his wife Zoe Foster Blake who have teamed up again with Tourism Australia for a new campaign that urges Aussies to plan a “big” extended escape to bring some love back to the regions around Australia.

From beach-hopping to bush-bashing, Australian’s backyard really does have it all.

RELATED: Hamish and Zoe Foster Blake encourage big city escapes

RELATED: Hamish, Zoe Foster Blake spruik Aussie holidays in campaign

In their new ad, which is part of Tourism Australia’s Holiday Here This Year campaign, the couple showcases some of the “big” ticket items Australia has to offer for a domestic getaway.

While Tourism Australia has found domestic travellers have been shunning cities in favour of regional areas due to health and safety concerns, there has been a surge in shorter, more frequent, trips rather than traditional month-long getaways typically reserved for European summer holidays.

Couple visit incredible spots for ad campaign

The new $9 million ad campaign features the popular duo exploring some of Australia’s most scenic spots, including the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, the Otways in Victoria, and WA’s Purnululu National Park in the Kimberleys.

“Making this was complete stuff of dreams,” Foster Blake said on her Instagram alongside the new ad.

“My husband and I are the luckiest pigs in Australia getting to shoot (together!) at these breathtaking locations – places we’d always dreamed of visiting … but “never made the time.”

“If you’ve been thinking about – or putting off – a trip to one of Australia’s many epic spots, well, this is your year.”

Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Dan Tehan said the new campaign will hopefully encourage Australians to travel more “further afield”.

“Australians typically spend more overseas than foreign tourists spend in Australia, so we want Australians to treat their domestic holiday this year like an overseas trip,” Mr Tehan said.

“The net impact of Australian tourist spending in Australia was a positive benefit to the economy of around $7.5 billion in the December quarter; and in 2019, holidays of five nights or longer contributed $31.8 billion to the economy.”

Longer holidays better for health and better for businesses

A recent report released by Tourism Australia revealed that Australians need to extend their holidays to be happier, healthier and more productive at work.

Dubbed the ‘Annual (leave) report’, the study showed that while Australians took 29.4 million overnight trips in 2020 – with 82 per cent of those trips being one to four nights – just 18 per cent were five nights or more.

Of those 18 per cent who took a longer break, the respondents noticed they were happier, less irritable and three times less likely to argue with their family, friends or partners. In addition, they were more likely to stick to healthy habits such as good diets and regular exercise programs after a longer holiday.

“With a backyard as vast as ours, Australians are spoiled for choice when it comes to epic destinations and holiday experiences,” Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison said.

“We have a reef so big you can see it from space, the world’s greatest rock formation, and mountain ranges that dominate over three states and more.

“To make the most of these epic holiday opportunities, we’re urging Australians to take a bigger break of five days or more and explore those parts of the country that are especially reliant on international visitors. Taking a longer break is not only good for our personal wellbeing but also for Australia and the many communities and businesses that rely on tourism.”

The Epic Holidays campaign will be rolled out across a range of channels including TV, print, online, social media, content partnerships, search, radio, cinema and outdoor advertising from today.



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Mandatory RTPCR Test or 14-day Room Isolation for Domestic Travellers to Kerala as Covid Cases Peak


Amid a massive rise in coronavirus cases, the Kerala government on Sunday issued a directive to all domestic travellers coming to the state to undergo RT-PCR tests or undergo 14-day room isolation. All travellers would also mandatorily have to register themselves in the COVID-19 related Jagratha portal.

Even vaccinated individuals would have to undertake a SARS-CoV-2 RT-PCR test within 48 hours prior to entering the state or immediately after reaching it. Those taking the test on arrival would have to isolate themselves at their respective places of stay till the test report is available. Those who would not undergo an RTPCR test have to stay in isolation for 14 days. If tested positive, the person should seek medical attention. If negative, the person should follow all guidelines, including wearing of masks, observing physical distancing.

International travellers should continue to follow the present protocol at the airports upon arrival, the order said.

Kerala registered 18,257 new COVID-19 cases and 25 deaths on Sunday, pushing the infection load to 12.39 lakh and toll of fatalities to 4,929. As many as 4,565 people have been cured with the total recoveriestouching 11,40,486. The total number infected so far has reached 12,39,424, said an official press release.

The active cases have mounted to 93,686 while the toll climbed to 4,929 with 25 new fatalities. Ernakulam continued to record the highest number of fresh cases (2,835), Kozhikode (2,560) followed by Thrissur, Kottayam, Malappuram, Kannur and Palakkad.

As part of mass testing in the state, 3,00,971 samples were collected on Friday and Saturday. In the last 24 hours, 1,08,898 samples were tested and the positivity rate was 16.77 per cent. So far, 1,42,71,741 samples have been tested, the release said.

Of the positive cases, 67 were health workers, 269 from outside the State and 16,762 infected through contact. At least2,37,036 people are under observation, including 11,353 in hospitals.

(With PTI inputs)

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Ski pass sale starts March 31, new activities and events announced for The Mountain


Season passes are back, kid’s programs will return, and brand new experiences will be unveiled when Thredbo kicks off one of its most anticipated ski seasons ever this year.

The NSW alpine resort is bracing for a roaring trade this winter, following a muted 2020 that saw visitor numbers limited and some attractions shuttered due to the pandemic.

Now, with restrictions continuing to ease in NSW and borders reopened nationwide, Thredbo plans to bounce back with even more action on the slopes and in the village when the ski season officially kicks off on June 12, subject to snow conditions.

“I think the demand will be unprecedented,” Thredbo general manager Stuart Diver told news.com.au.

“It’s definitely shaping up to be a good season and hopefully with the easing of some of the COVID restrictions we’ll be able to get back to some fairly normal operations.”

Mr Diver said more people were rediscovering Thredbo as overseas ski resorts remained off limits and domestic travellers sought more options for holidaying at home.

“I think a lot of people who hadn’t skied at Thredbo for a couple of years and have come back have been surprised at how good the skiing is here,” he said.

“The experience of skiing in Thredbo when the day is good, is as good as you’ll get anywhere in the world. I think a lot of our guests were reminded of that last year, and hopefully we’ll be able to get more of them experiencing it this year.”

Thredbo has confirmed today its season passes will go on sale on March 31 while day passes, lessons and rental will available through a staggered release, based on intended travel dates, in April.

“That will be a staggered approach because we believe the demand will be fairly large and we want to make sure we can service all those guests,” Mr Diver said.

“It’s an exciting time for us, especially with season passes coming back — we didn’t have season passes last year, and it’s an part of our product mix to get back for our loyal skiers who come down to ski more than a few times each season.”

While avid skiers and snowboarders still came flocking when last year’s ski season was given the green light, COVID-19 restrictions forced Thredbo to axe favourites like the children’s snow sports program, live music and events in the village.

This year they’re all coming back, along with a full calendar of events and some exciting new additions.

One of those newer features is the Merritts Gondola, Australia’s only alpine gondola, which was installed at Thredbo last year.

It’s the centrepiece of a new experience at Thredbo this winter — Saturday night rides up to Merritts restaurant for a Bavarian-inspired feast.

“That will be an awesome on-mountain experience, and on top of that we’ve got a new snowcat with a people mover that fits 18 people, so we’re going to do some tours of the mountain on the Flare Run nights,” Mr Diver said.

The resort will also a host four-course dinner and wine experience at the Kareela Hutte restaurant, with guests also taken to the restaurant by snowcat.

“In the mornings, we’ll have Sunrise Sessions, which is the same thing in reverse – we’ll take people out to the highest lifted point at 5am to watch the sunrise and come down and have breakfast and get the first ski on the mountain before anyone else gets up,” Mr Diver said.

And what are the signs for weather this season? No one wants to make a call this early, but it seems we could be in for a winter wonderland.

“The weather professionals and local pundits are generally pointing at it being a cold season with above average precipitation, so I think if that goes well, we’ll get a good snow cover,” Mr Diver said.

“We do have a huge snow making system which we use to top up the snow, but it would be great to have a normal season – especially with the volumes of people who we believe will be coming down.”

WHAT TO KNOW

• 2021 season kicks off (weather pending) on June 12

• Thredbo 2021 season passes on sale from March 31. Midweek value season pass from $799 for kids and $1315 for adults; Value season pass for $899 for kids and $1479 for adults; Premium from $999 for kids and $1649 for adults

• Day passes on sale in April. Cost is $89 for a one-day child pass, $169 for one-day adult pass

• Private lessons, group lessons, children’s program, rental and back country tours on sale in April. Visit thredbo.com.au for more.

• Extra flights: QantasLink has announced extra flights to Australia’s snowfields — including Cooma, which services Thredbo — this season. Flights from Sydney to Cooma are timed to allow travellers to depart after work on a Thursday or Friday and return Sunday evening, while flights from Brisbane to Cooma will be Queensland’s only direct airline connection to the snowfields this season.



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AFP and Sydney Airport relaunch campaign to crack down on crime


Australians are being urged to look out for criminal activity at the nation’s major airports as authorities prepare for an influx of domestic travellers and, with it, a potential surge in crime.

The Australian Federal Police on Thursday relaunched its Airport Watch program, as domestic travellers are anticipated to return to the skies in droves.

The program runs in a “neighbour watch” style in which members of the public or airport staff, including hospitality and retail employees, are encouraged to dob in suspicious behaviour by calling a hotline.

“If you see it, hear it, please report it,” AFP airport police commander Matthew Parsons told reporters on Thursday.

“It doesn’t matter what the person looks like, it matters what they are doing that is strange and unusual.”

Airport Watch runs across nine major airports – Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Perth, Cairns and Canberra – and officially launched in 2012.

But authorities are renewing the campaign as travellers return to major air travel hubs after COVID-19 virtually cleared out the nation’s airports.

Commander Parsons said the pandemic had significantly impacted the aviation industry, and he was concerned criminal networks would “attempt to exploit the disruption”.

He said airport staff and members of the public were encouraged to look out for key signs of criminal activity that could be as subtle as someone paying an unusually keen interest in security procedures or recording or taking photos in areas they’re not supposed to.

Other red flags include people acting strangely, asking questions to gain suspicious information about the airport or trying to access secure areas.

Another example is human trafficking, which can be hard to recognise.

Commander Dyson said telltale signs included noticing whether a person might be heavily controlled by another individual.

“They might not be making eye contact at all or they may be making lots of eye contact to help get someone’s attention,” he explained.

“They may not be within reach of a communication device … or they may try to escape.”

In January a 29-year-old Sydney man was sentenced for using threats, coercion and deception to force his wife and baby to return to India, making him the first person in Australia to be convicted for an exit human trafficking offence.

Before COVID-19 more than 44 million people would travel through Sydney Airport alone every year. That figure was down 70 per cent domestically in February.

But Sydney Airport general manager of operations Matt Duffy anticipates between 60 to 70 per cent of usual Easter travellers will return to the skies over the holiday break.

“It’s growing pretty rapidly now,” he said.

With that, Commander Parsons said the growth in numbers served as a timely reminder to crackdown on these types of crimes.

“People use the aviation industry to conduct their business, which could be the movement of drugs or money,” he said.

“Or the movement of people that are known to police.

“Yes, the increased travel means increased flow, and that is why we are asking members of the public to be reminded (to look out for potential crime).”

He said people should take note of the time, date and place of any suspicious activity while also noting the description of a potential criminal before calling the hotline on 131 AFP (237).



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Hamish and Zoe Foster Blake encourage big city escapes in Tourism Australia campaign


From beach-hopping to bush-bashing, Australians have been enjoying our new-found travel freedom since border restrictions relaxed, but there’s one area we’re criminally overlooking – our big cities.

So travel-loving couple Hamish Blake and Zoe Foster Blake have teamed up again with Tourism Australia for a new campaign that urges Aussies to plan a city escape to bring some love back to the big smoke.

In their new ad campaign, which is part of Tourism Australia’s Holiday Here This Year campaign, the popular couple showcases what our cities have to offer for your next domestic getaway.

Speaking to news.com.au about the City Escapes campaign and their upcoming travel plans, the pair explained how Australia’s excellent cities leave us spoiled for choice.

“No offence to other countries, but let’s say if you go to America, you’ve got some good capital cities in America but you’ve got some duds. In Australia, we’ve got no duds. If it was up to me, the campaign would be called Australia: No Dud Cities,” Blake said.

“Every capital city is awesome in its own unique way. I do love that so much about Australia. Cities that are smaller, population-wise, are kind of even cooler because they’ve got their own art, culture, food, geography, cool hotels. The cities have boomed.”

“And also whether you’re going with children, or just your partner, or you’re going for nature, or you’re going for shopping – you’ve got all of it,” Foster Blake added. “Art galleries, museums – they’re smashing it.”

The couple said they already had a hit list of cities they planned to go to next with kids Sonny, 6, and Rudy, 3.

“We were just saying we feel embarrassed we haven’t been to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart,” Foster Blake said.

“Our kids like to be a bit free-range and barefooted and feral, so we’ll definitely head to somewhere that affords that sort of environment as well. That might be Perth, or Brissie.”

Blake agreed he was “dying to get back to Perth”.

“I haven’t been for a couple of years and again, I think one of my favourite things about Perth is that it’s that perfect mix between big and small,” he said.

“It’s obviously a big city but it’s spacious, there’s lots of little great pockets and there are amazing beaches.”

Tourism Australia has found domestic travellers have been shunning cities in favour of regional areas due to health and safety concerns.

Spending on overnight trips across Australia fell by $27.1 billion, or 34 per cent, in the year ending September 2020, compared to the previous year.

It has especially been felt in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Perth.

Hotel occupancy has also taken a dive, with Melbourne, Sydney and Hobart the hardest hit – their occupancy rates have plunged to 33 per cent, 40 per cent and 49 per cent respectively.

Tourism Australia managing director Phillipa Harrison said tourism operators in Australia’s cities were still struggling almost a year after the country’s international borders snapped shut and lockdown restrictions inhibited domestic travel.

“Our cities are the key international gateways to Australia and transit hubs for travellers, so it’s no surprise that they’ve been hit the hardest in terms of tourism spend, hotel occupancy and aviation capacity over the past year,” Ms Harrison said.

“While our international borders remain closed and travel restrictions continue to fluctuate around the country, our cities run the risk of continuing to bear the brunt of this pandemic despite offering so many incredible, safe experiences and being more affordable than ever.

“As part of this campaign we are calling on Australians to help support their fellow Australians by booking a city escape, which in turn will help to support the thousands of city-based hotels, restaurants, bars, cultural attractions and experiences that rely on tourism for their livelihoods.”

As Hamish and Zoe look forward to their next city escape, they admitted there was one thing they’d have to contend with – their very opposing approaches to packing.

“He doesn’t pack until the night before, which gives me hives the morning of,” Foster Blake told news.com.au.

“I pack a week out, constantly curating, editing … and I do the kids’ suitcases as well. That will be our point of tension the night before.”

Blake admitted his packing habits were somewhat chaotic.

“For some reason, even though I know where we’re going and I know the temperature, as soon as I open my wardrobe my brain is filled with wild, 1 per cent contingencies,” he said.

“I’m packing wet weather gear on a whim, maybe three woolly jumpers for a beach holiday.

“Then when I get to the destination … it’s like a theatre sports game where I open up a bag and have no idea what’s in there.”

“But he’ll live in the same pair of shorts for seven days,” Foster Blake laughed.



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Capacity boosted for Howard Springs


The capacity at the Northern Territory’s major quarantine facility will be ramped up to allow more Australian to come home from overseas.

Under an agreement between the federal and Territory governments, the capacity will increase from 500 arrivals per fortnight to 850 per fortnight next month at the Howard Springs facility.

There are 542 people isolating at the camp, located on the outskirts of Darwin.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the federal government was in control of where the repatriated Australians would arrive from.

“We are in charge of looking after them when they get here,” he said.

“While the rest of the country understandably needs to reduce the number of international roles they bring in, we can safely and responsibly increase our numbers because we are the safest place in Australia with the best quarantine facility.

“We are stepping up, we are doing heavy lifting, not just for the territory but for the nation.”

Mr Gunner said the facility was “gold standard” and better than hotel quarantine.

“We still have a queue of returning Australians that want to come back. That’s where we’re taking those people from,” he said.

“With the reduction in caps in places like Sydney, there’s even more need to try and get those get those Australians home.

“This year we can start talking about international students, seasonal workers, those other things that we do need.

“We need people to come in and out of this country in a way that we can manage, but the priority … remains getting Aussies home.”

The facility has been zoned to ensure domestic travellers, international arrivals and Territory residents are segregated within the site.



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