Travel Weekly's Asia-Pacific E-letter: July 12, 2004

STARWOOD and BEIJING JIN HAO REAL ESTATE CO. struck an agreement for Starwood to manage a 500-room Westin hotel in Beijing's financial district. Scheduled to open in 2006, the Westin Beijing Financial Street will be part of a multi-purpose complex that will include the hotel in one tower and private residences in a separate tower. The hotel will feature 27,000 square feet of meetings space, five dining outlets, a fitness center and spa, an indoor swimming pool and shops. This is the fourth development in China signed by Starwood in the last six months and will be Starwood's 25th property in the country.

VIRGIN VACATIONS launched the Beijing Super Saver -- a five-night package that includes roundtrip air fare, daily breakfast, hotel taxes and service charges. The price starts at $699 per person, double and is valid for travel that originates in Seattle, Los Angeles or San Francisco. The price covers accommodations in a "tourist-class" hotel. Packages must be booked by July 15 for travel Aug. 25 to Dec. 8 and Jan. 1 to Feb. 22. For information or reservations, visit www.virgin-vacations.com.

AUSTRALIA'S TOURIST COMMISSION was restructured and renamed Tourism Australia, in an effort to better market the country's tourism industry, according to Joe Hockey, Australia's minister for small business and tourism. The new organization brings together four separate entities responsible for marketing Australia as a tourist destination: the Tourist Commission, See Australia, the Bureau of Tourism Research and the Tourism Forecasting Council. The Tourist Commission's managing director, Ken Boundy, will head Tourism Australia until the group's board of directors names a successor.

P&O STEAM NAVIGATION sold its Australian resorts business to Australia's General Property Trust and Voyages Hotel & Resorts for approximately $152 million. The transaction, expected to close by the end of July, includes the island resorts of Bedarra, Brampton, Dunk, Heron, Lizard and Wilson off the Queensland coast, the eco-lodges at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania and Silky Oaks in Queensland, and the new "outback experience" lodge at Wrotham Park in Queensland. P&O said the sale is part of its strategy to focus on its high-growth ports business.

AIR NEW ZEALAND unveiled plans for a new long-haul product that includes replacing its first and business classes with a single "premium" class, with seats that convert into lie-flat beds. It also is creating a "super economy" section with more room and seats that recline more than in standard economy, plus on-demand entertainment at every seat. The airline said it will spend about $100 million to refit its 747 aircraft beginning the middle of next year; it expects to complete the work by early 2006. All of its eight new 777-200ER aircraft, which begin arriving in September 2005, will have the new features.

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