Travel Weeklys Asia-Pacific E-letter: February 2, 2006

PIONAIR, a company that offers domestic air charters in New Zealand and Australia, launched an FIT business targeting the U.S. market. The company released its first brochure, on fly-drive opportunities in New Zealand and will follow it up with a brochure on Australia programs within six months. A sampling of its New Zealand product includes the 10-day Kiwi Express and 11-day Wild South, with prices starting at $4,595 and $4,460, per person, double, land only, respectively. U.S. agents can reach Pionairs FIT department in Christchurch, New Zealand, by calling a toll-free number for trip planning or booking: (877) 244-1775.

RAFFLES, one of Asias premier hotel bands, is about to get married to Toronto-based Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, and you can blame it all on Carl Icahn. To fend off an unwelcome takeover bid by Icahn, Fairmont has agreed to be acquired by a venture consisting of Kingdom Hotels International, which is already a minority shareholder, and Colony Capital, which owns Raffles. The parties described it as a $3.9 billion transaction, all cash. Colonys CEO Thomas Barrack said Fairmont and Raffles are an excellent strategic fit with rich histories, global brand recognition and complementary destinations. Joining the two luxury companies creates an ideal platform for continued international expansion. The Raffles portfolio consists of 33 properties, primarily in Asia and Europe, including its flagship, the Raffles Hotel, Singapore.

STARWOOD Hotels & Resorts signed three separate agreements recently to manage three newbuild hotels currently under construction in China under its Sheraton and Westin brands. The hotels are the 402-room Sheraton Dameisha Resort in Shenzhen, scheduled to open in early 2008; the 350-room Westin Zhejiang Resort at Nine Dragon Hill, China, scheduled to open in mid 2008; and the 350-room Sheraton Zhongshan Hotel in the Guangdong province, set to open in January 2009.

MAUPINTOUR, under its new ownership by Extraordinary Vacations, raised its base commission rate from 10% to 13%. Travel agents can earn volume overrides up to 16%; meanwhile, the company pays 10% on air booked through Maupintour. The operator offers trips to Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, India and the Orient (China, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Singapore). For information or bookings, call (888) 777-4307.

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