Travel Weekly's Asia-Pacific E-letter: May 16, 2005

THAI AIRWAYS is offering an introductory commission rate on its new nonstop flights between New York and Bangkok, Thailand, which started May 1. The airline is paying travel agents 33% commission on its Royal Silk class and 13% on its premium economy and economy class seats. The 17-hour flights are the only non-stops between New York and Bangkok and cut at least five hours off the time of the trip. Thai Airways standard commission rate on its other flights is 8%. The reservations number, is (662) 280-0060 or see www.thaiair.com.

VIRGIN VACATIONS is offering a five-night package to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam priced from $899 per person, double. It includes roundtrip air from the West Coast, roundtrip airport transfers, a five-night hotel stay with taxes and service charges, daily continental breakfast and a half-day Ho Chi Minh sightseeing tour. Roundtrip air is available from New York from $1,019 per person, double, and from other gateways for more. Packages must be purchased by May 19 for travel between Sept. 5 and Oct. 23. See www.virgin-vacations.com or call (888) 658-4744.

THE CHINA NATIONAL TOURIST OFFICE (CNTO) hopes to boost interest in travel to China with a $1.6 million advertising campaign, the largest in its history, which will kick off June 2. Plans include mounting posters in the corridors of Grand Central Station in New York during June. In addition, CNTO will post billboards near the George Washington Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel and will also run ads in USA Today for 20 weeks.

CONRAD HOTELS, the luxury brand of Hilton International, will open two new properties in Asia over the next two years. On July 1, the company will open the 290-room Conrad Tokyo. A short walk from the Ginza district, it will offer panoramic views of the Hamarikyu gardens and the Tokyo Bay skyline. Conrad will open the Conrad Phuket Resort and Spa in early 2006 in Phuket, Thailand. The property will offer Panwa villas, private infinity pools, spa treatments, a fitness center, wireless Internet, private beach, flood-lit tennis courts and meditation platforms. For Hilton Reservations Worldwide, call (800) 266 7237, or see www.conradhotels.com.

SWAIN TOURS, a longtime specialist in high-end, personally tailored trips to Australia and New Zealand, introduced a series of small-group escorted programs to China. The groups are limited to a maximum of 12 members. Swain offers an 11-night Yangtze Cruise Adventure that includes stops in Beijing, Xian and Shanghai, as well as a four-night Yangtze River cruise from Yichange to Chongqing. The air-inclusive price starts at $2,540 per person, double. The 13-night Traditional China package cuts a broad swath through China and includes stops in Shanghai, Suzhou, Beijing, Xian and Guilin. The air-inclusive price starts at $3,402 per person, double. The reservations line is (800) 227-9246. The entire selection of tours can be seen at www.swaintours.com.

OKAY AIRWAYS became Chinas first private airline when it launched its first flight March 11 from Binhai International Airport in Tianjin. Chinas first non-government airline will offer charter services from its Tianjin base to Kunming, Changsha, Zhang Jiajie, Guilin, Hohhot, Taiyuan and Haerbin. Other routes will be added as the fleet expands.

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