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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41 Chinese-owned Australian wineries and vineyards on boycott list

Wine lovers across the nation are reeling after a viral list revealed that dozens of Australian vineyards were actually owned by Chinese companies.

The list, shared by the Vino e Amigos Facebook page, has sparked boycott calls as Beijing’s brutal trade war against Australia continues to escalate, and has also kicked off an uncomfortable national conversation about foreign ownership.

But how much do we really know about what’s going on in vineyards across the country?

When contacted by news.com.au, Wine Australia – a government agency dedicated to the industry – confirmed it did not record ownership of wineries according to nationality.

RELATED: Push to boycott list of Chinese-owned wineries

The Foreign Investment Review Board also does not specifically include vineyards and wineries in its latest Register of Foreign Ownership of Agricultural Land, although it confirms the estimated proportion of agricultural land with a level of foreign interest at June 30, 2019 was 13.8 per cent.

The lack of official data means it’s next to impossible to discover just how many are really in foreign hands, but a string of high-profile sales to major Chinese corporations in recent years provides a glimpse into the extent of the issue.


The majority of the nation’s Chinese-owned vineyards are located in South Australia, with the Barossa Valley proving particularly popular with Chinese buyers.

In fact, scores of lucrative deals have been struck in the region over the past decade, resulting in estimates that around 10 per cent of the area was now owned by Chinese nationals.

In 2010, 1847 Wine was snapped up by businessman Arthur Wang, who also picked up Chateau Yaldara in 2014 for $15.5 million.

Located near Lyndoch, Château Yaldara is one of the best-known wineries on the list, and was founded in 1947 by Hermann Thumm.

Auswan Creek is also owned by Chinese company Swan Wine Group, while Max’s Vineyard was bought by firm Jia Yuan Hua Wines for more than $3 million in 2017.

RELATED: China bans yet another Aussie product

In 2018, Cimicky Wines and Burge Family Winemakers were both sold to Chinese parties.

Interestingly, Auswan Creek was one of around 50 wineries to be singled out by the Chinese government when the tariff hikes were announced, but it was slapped with the lowest hike out of the group.

Another big name on the list is Kilikanoon in the Clare Valley, which made headlines in late 2017 when an 80 per cent stake in the company was sold to Changyu Pioneer Wine Co, China’s largest wine company.


Over in WA, a Chinese company took over a majority stake in popular Ferngrove Wines in 2011, while Margaret River’s Woodside Valley Estate and the Perth Hills Western Range were acquired by Palinda Wines – owned by Chinese businessman Jacky Wong – in 2012.


Nocton Vineyard, located in the Coal Valley, was established by Chinese owners in 1999 and is one of the Tasmania’s biggest vineyards.


In NSW’s famed Hunter Valley, Chinese investors purchased Allandale Winery in 2016, while in 2011 the 16-hectare Capercaillie Wine was sold to Chinese buyers after being listed for $1.89 million.


Most of the Chinese-owned vineyards and wineries in Victoria are located in the Yarra Valley, with the Hillcrest Winery purchased for a rumoured $4.6 million in 2018.

Wild Cattle Creek is believed to have sold for $8.5 million while Badger’s Brook also sold the same year for an unknown amount, with all three properties going to Chinese parties.


The explosive list prompted many social media users to vow to avoid Chinese-owned wines in future as a result of the trade war.

“I’ve (taken a) screen shot (of) the list and will steer clear. Sorry to the Aussie workers at these wineries,” one Facebook user wrote, while another said: “We will not be purchasing from any Chinese owned wineries until all our wine producers have fair and transparent access to Chinese markets without politically motivated tariffs”.

However, while the list has drawn attention to the number of vineyards and wineries owned by Chinese interests, a far larger slice of the industry in Australia is actually owned by parties from other countries, including France and the US.

And there are hopes that the tariffs will be temporary – and that the industry can pick up where it left off with China soon.

RELATED: What’s next in China’s firing line

Stephen Strachan, the director of Langley and Co, a firm involved with wine industry acquisitions, told news.com.au China had traditionally been very important to the industry, and would be again.

“China is still very important and everyone is keen to resolve the issue,” he said.

“Nobody could have foreseen this and so many people in the wine industry have such strong relationships with Chinese buyers and customers and all those people see a future with China.

“Chinese people clearly like drinking our wine, which is a positive, and the tariffs put in place on Australian sales ironically are hurting Chinese companies at the same time.”


In a statement, government industry body Wine Australia said the tariffs imposed by China were a devastating blow.

“The Australian wine sector has made a long-term commitment to building the market for Australian wine in China and building close ties with the China wine trade and consumers,” the statement reads.

“The November announcement by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce of temporary tariffs of between 107.1 per cent and 212.1 per cent on bottled Australian wine is extremely disappointing.

“The announcement will significantly impact Australian grape and wine businesses.”

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