Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Longest Yee Sang in Malaysia

THE longest yee sang in Malaysia will make its debut this Saturday at Jalan Bukit Bintang during the Kuala Lumpur Chinese New Year Open House 2007 in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

The yee sang will be 500m long and will feature 18 types of vegetables.

It will be arranged from the beginning of Jalan Bukit Bintang to the Jalan Pudu turnoff.

The current record for the longest Yee Sang is 304.5 metres.

Special gift: City Hall director-general Datuk Salleh Yusup (left) and Visit Malaysia Year 2007 secretariat head Hashimah Nik Jaafar look on as Abdul Hakim (right) gets an orange from the God of Prosperity.
“We have made a special container that looks like the scales of a dragon with different hues to make it more interesting,” said Bukit Bintang MCA chief Senator Datuk Dr Lee Chong Meng.

He was speaking at a press conference attended by Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Abdul Hakim Borhan last Monday.

The event is being organised with the help of Bukit Bintang MCA division, the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 secretariat as well as hotels and businesses in the vicinity.

The festival will include a unique Dragon Dance from 10 groups who will perform with Chinese drums along Jalan Bukit Bintang. The dragon is estimated to be 500m long.

Lee: We have a special container to make it more interesting.
Abdul Hakim said the location was chosen due to its popularity with tourists and City Hall's concept of “bringing the festival to the people.”

“We expect a crowd of 20,000 and we advise visitors to use public transportation,” he said.

“Train services will be extended to 1am to ensure visitors can go home easily.”

Those who are driving are advised to park at the shopping malls and walk towards Jalan Bukit Bintang as most of the roads will be closed for the event that begins at 8.30pm.

Jalan Bukit Bintang will be closed from the Jalan Sultan Ismail turnoff to the Jalan Pudu turnoff from 10pm to midnight on Mar 1 due to rehearsals.

During the event, one lane of the same stretch will be closed from 3pm to 5pm, while the whole road will be closed from 5pm to 11pm.

Source : STAR
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National Geographic Documentary on the Malaysian monarchy

KUALA LUMPUR: National Geographic will produce a documentary on the Malaysian monarchy and the coronation of Seri Paduka Baginda Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah, the country’s 13th Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

The initial footage of the documentary would be completed a few weeks before the coronation on April 26, said Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim.

The whole documentary would be ready after the coronation.

The National Geographic Channel (NGC) would air the film at a later date to introduce Malaysia to the world in conjunction with Visit Malaysia 2007 and the country’s 50th National Day.

Dr Rais said the documentary was a collaboration between the NGC and Malaysia’s National Film Corporation and would be among 11 programmes slated for the King’s coronation celebrations.

“The filming of the coronation would be done on the day of the King’s installation.''

Source : STAR
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More tourists came to Malaysia than ever before

KUALA LUMPUR: More tourists came to Malaysia in 2006 and spent more money here than ever before.

Malaysia registered a record-breaking 17.54 million visitors in 2006, which slightly surpassed Tourism Malaysia’s target of 17.5 million, marking an overall 6.8% increase from 2005.

Revenue from tourists went up too, with receipts of RM36.2bil in 2006, up 13% from the year before.

However, it was RM1.4bil less than the targeted RM37.6mil, Tourism Malaysia said in a statement on Wednesday.

Asians formed the bulk of the tourists (89.4%).

More than three-quarters of the total figure consisted of tourists from Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and Brunei, maintaining Asean market as the most lucrative tourism market.

There were also significant increases in the number of visitors from China, South Korea and Hong Kong.

Among the top 10 markets in 2006 were Singapore (9.6 million visitors), Thailand (1.8 million) and Indonesia (1.2 million).

In general, most markets displayed double-digit growths compared to the previous year.

The highest growth came from Brunei with 61.3%, followed by Russia (54.4%), Indonesia (26.4%) and China (24.8%).

Source : STAR
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Retail growth a positive sign

KUALA LUMPUR: The positive development in the retail sector is an indication of rising disposable incomes and increasing affluence of Malaysians, said Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting.

A report by the Retail Group Malaysia showed that the sector grew at a rate of 7.5% last year compared with the Gross Domestic Product growth of 5.8%, while Malaysia's per capita income was RM11,500 last year compared with RM6,100 in 2001, Ong said.

He said this in his speech at the Malaysian Retail Chains Association (MRCA) Chinese New Year gathering.

He said MRCA with its 93 members contributed at least RM4.2bil in annual retail sales which was a notable achievement for the 15-year-old association,

“As we progress, we have to compete with markets such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok for tourist dollars,” he said.

Ong urged the industry to step up customer service and refurbish stores during Visit Malaysia 2007.

“With the targeted 20 million visitors to our country this year, I am confident that tourism shopping will hugely benefit all members of the industry,” he said.

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Source : STAR
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First World Hotel in Genting Highlands is Bigger and better

THE MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas with its 5,005 rooms, used to hold the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest hotel.

But last year, a Malaysian contender, First World Hotel in Genting Highlands, broke that record by upping the ante with 6,118 rooms.

Not one to rest on its laurels, First World Hotel recently renovated its rooms to give guests a better deal. Measuring 32.5sqm each, the Superior Deluxe Rooms are fitted with either two single beds or a comfy king-size bed. For relaxation, one can either soak in the bathtub or watch in-house movies on the 74cm-wide televisions.

Securing a room on the 17th floor means you’ll get a grand view of the Theme Park.

And even if you don’t make it to the Outdoor Theme Park, there’s an indoor version at First World Plaza, a shopping mall that incorporates a theme park. There, you can simulate skydiving at Sky Venture, create snowballs at the wintry Snow World, take a ride on the 4D Motion Master or visit the Ripley’s Believe or Not Museum.

The World Club Room offers more space and is partitioned off to include a mini lounge area with a two-seater sofa and coffee table. The room comes with complimentary soft drinks, mineral water, welcome drinks and breakfast. And in the new tower, the queen-size beds ensure guests get a good night’s sleep.

If sleep eludes you, head over to the First World Plaza where you can shop till you drop, grab a bite at Lake View Seafood restaurant, catch a movie at one of two cineplexes or test your skills at the 28-lane bowling alley.

Also situated within the cool confines of Genting Highlands is the four-star Resort Hotel. Furnished with modern amenities and comfortable queen-size beds, the rooms cater to guests who stay for business or leisure.

The standard room offers in-house movies, in-house music, tea- and coffee-making facilities, shower, hairdryer and bathroom amenities. Internet access is available in selected rooms.

Within the hotel, a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf outlet offers one the chance to relax and chat over a warm beverage while those who feel peckish can check out the Resort Café and Kampong Restaurant which offers both local and western dishes.

Win a highland getaway

HERE’S your chance to win a stay at Genting’s First World Hotel.

All you have to do is answer the questions below and you could be one of 10 lucky people to win a package comprising lunch for two at Ming Ren Chinese restaurant, a night’s stay in a World Club Room at First World Hotel, and two tickets to Genting’s new international show, FLY: Defy Gravity.

Question 1: How many rooms does First World Hotel have?

Question 2: What Guinness World Record has First World Hotel recently broken?

All entries must include the participant’s name, address, IC number, gender, age, occupation, e-mail address and telephone numbers.

Send your entries to:

The Star-Room Stay contest
c/o Resorts World Bhd
Marketing Department
23rd Floor, Wisma Genting
Jalan Sultan Ismail
50250 Kuala Lumpur.

This contest closes on March 7.

Winners will be notified by Resorts World Bhd via telephone or mail. The judges’ decision is final.

Source : Source2 STAR
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Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort promote Sabah’s cultural heritage for tourists

TO promote Malaysia, particularly Sabah, as a tourist destination, a hotel here has organised a weekly cultural programme to give its guests a close look at the rich cultural heritage of various ethnic communities in this state.

Last week, for the first time, Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort treated it guests to such show.

The event, which will be a weekly fair, saw performances by a variety of Sabah’s diverse ethnic communities such as the Kadazandusun Sumazau, the Monggigol of the Rungus and DalingDaling of the Bajau-Suluks.

Taking aim: A visitor trying out a blowpipe.
Local craft makers exhibited their skills by stringing together beads and weaving baskets. There was also a demonstration on how sompoton, a Kadazandusun musical instrument, is made.

The resort’s guests also had the chance to participate in traditional games like gasing and blowpipe shooting.

Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort communications director Tulip Noorazyze said the event was part of the group's efforts to promote Visit Malaysia Year 2007 through its chain of hotels worldwide.

She said the resort would host cultural performances on a weekly basis to introduce Sabah to its guests.

On their feet: Children trying out the ting-ting traditional game.
“We also organise traditional games. In this way, we can introduce the games to them.”

She said the resort also organised Malaysian cooking classes for guests interested in learning how Malaysian food is prepared.

“We hope through these activities we can promote greater awareness of places of interest in Sabah and other places in the country.”

She said the guests were fascinated by the performances and games.

Richard Stapleton from Newcastle, England, said the performances were fascinating.

He said that traditional games like hop scotch (ting-ting) and chucks of five’s (batu simban) reminded him of his childhood.

Gamely: A visitor enjoying a horseback ride.
‘We have similar games. The last time I played them was some 60 years ago.”

He said he saw traditional handicraft on sale at the tamu, a traditional farmers market.

“The fair has given great insight to tourists like us.”

Source : STAR
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Restaurants vow cleaner loos for customers and tourists

KUALA LUMPUR: Restaurant associations have pledged to provide cleaner and better-serviced toilets for the comfort of customers and tourists.

Housing and Local Government Minister Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting said clean toilets in restaurants were like a “value added” service as customers not only want good food but also clean facilities.

The move, he added, was also timely for Visit Malaysia 2007.

Joint undertaking: Ong (centre) holding the memorandum with the presidents from the respective associations (from left) Datuk Ramalingam Pillay, Jamarulkhan Kadir, Steven Ngo and Deputy Minister Datuk Robert Lau yesterday.
However, local authorities would continue to enforce laws to ensure the cleanliness of restaurants, despite restaurant associations urging members to upgrade their toilets, he said.

“This is just an additional effort to ensure that the places are clean. Enforcement will continue,” Ong told reporters yesterday after witnessing a memorandum of co-operation signing ceremony by the Malaysia Singapore Coffeeshop Proprietors Association, Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners General Association and Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association.

The three associations, with 20,000 members between them, urged members to carry out basic repairs as soon as possible to ensure toilets are in working order, clean, and equipped with tissue paper and soap at all times, without imposing any charge for usage.

“Sometimes when I go into a toilet, I find only a small scoop and a pail of water. You need to have a clean toilet,” Ong said.

The memorandum also requires restaurants to have staff to keep toilets clean.

It was signed in cooperation with the National Toilet Cleanliness Committee, Quality Restroom Association Malaysia and local authorities.

Ong also urged Malaysians to make it part of their culture to keep public toilets clean.

He added that the ministry intended to continue its awareness campaign instead of creating laws to punish those who soil public toilets.

Source : STAR
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Heritage Trails new tourist attraction in Kuching

KUCHING: The Kuching Heritage Trails, which feature prominently the Brooke legacy, is a new tourist attraction to this city.

The trails, which comprise two routes, highlight 25 historical buildings that best capture the charm of the Brooke era.

The Brookes, who ruled Sarawak for 100 years (1841 to 1941), were responsible for most of the early archietectural and urban development of the state capital.

The landmarks built during the Brooke's reign include the old Courthouse, which has been renamed Sarawak Tourism Complex, Fort Margherita, the Square and the Pavilion.

A booklet helps visitors in a self guided tour along the trails, each of whiich takes about two hours of leisure exploration.

Both routes start at the old Courthouse which was the government adminstrative centre of the Brooke era.

Route one covers the eastern part of the old city while Route two covers the west end of the city.

An exhibition on the Kuching Heritage Trails opens on March 1 at the Sarawak Tourism Complex.

The weeklong show will features photographs and the backgrounds of the historical buildings that could be found along the trails.

Source : STAR
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Genting, Star Cruises not guaranteed casino licence

SINGAPORE: Genting International and Star Cruises are not guaranteed a casino licence in Singapore even if they sign a development agreement this week in the city-state, the government said Tuesday.

“The signing of the development agreement and the issuance of a casino licence are two separate matters,” a press release from Singapore's Casino Regulation Division said.

Star Cruises and Genting International, both part of the Genting group, are to sign today an agreement to develop a US$3.4bil casino and entertainment complex on Sentosa island.

The casino regulator said signing of the development agreement allowed the firms to proceed with construction, but “does not automatically qualify” them for a casino licence.

It said the Home Affairs Ministry had told Genting-Star that it would conduct suitability checks “to ensure that the consortium meets the suitability requirements before the casino licence is issued.”

The Singapore government had earlier sought clarification over a deal which would give Macau gaming tycoon Stanley Ho and a group of investors a 6.99% stake in Star Cruises. In return, Star and Genting International were to get stakes in a new boutique hotel and casino to be operated by Ho's Sociedad de Jogos de Macau.

A notice to the Singapore Exchange earlier this month said Star Cruises was “reviewing the structure in relation to its investment” in the Macau deal.

The pro-government Straits Times earlier reported that the deal with Ho had “raised a red flag” with Singapore authorities.

Source : STAR
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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Asmara Air likely to be new Penang-based airline

PENANG: Asmara Air, touted as the country’s second low-cost carrier after AirAsia, is likely to be the new airline to be based at the Penang International Airport.

A source said Asmara Air Services Sdn Bhd, which would focus on full-service charter flights including meals on-board and numbered seating, was likely to launch its maiden flight here soon.

“Besides Asmara Air, Malaysia Airlines too may be keen to venture into the charter flight business in Penang,” the source said.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy had on Saturday hinted that a new local airline would operate from the Penang International Airport by April.

Declining to name the airline, he said that the company was in the final stages of obtaining necessary permits to set up base at the airport.

Penang International Airport senior manager Abdul Wahab Mohd Yusof, when contacted yesterday, said although Asmara Air had principally agreed to operate from Penang, it had yet to confirm its flight schedules.

“We have not received any formal indication from both the Transport Ministry and Asmara Air to begin operations here by April.

“However, we will provide necessary assistance to enable any new airline company to be based at the airport,” he said.

He said apart from allowing the aircraft to use the main airport terminal, Malaysia Airports Bhd would provide necessary check-in and passenger processing facilities at the airport.

“There is no need to add special counters for the new airline. They can use our existing 32 check-in counters,” Abdul Wahab said.

In October last year, Asmara Air Services chairman Datuk Fuad Hassan had said that the company would operate from its base in Penang.

Source : STAR
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Putrajaya Out to lure more tourists

THE newly established Putrajaya Tourism Action Council will focus its efforts on drawing more tourists to the garden city.

Set up recently under the Tourism Ministry, the council will seek to increase local and foreign tourist arrivals in Putrajaya through various means, especially in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

A total of 1.1million tourists visited Putrajaya between 2000 and 2005. Statistics up till October last year showed that 122,472 visitors were recorded at the Putra Mosque, a popular destination for local and foreign tourists alike.

Elaborating on the means to boost tourist arrivals in Putrajaya, Federal Territories Minister Datuk Zulhasnan Rafique said the month-long Federal Territory Day celebrations in the federal administrative capital was an example.

All ears: Zulhasnan (second from left) listening intently as a vendor (right) explains the benefits of honey jam at the Agro Bazaar at Taman Warisan Pertanian.
He said this after visiting the four-day Agro Bazaar held in Taman Warisan Pertanian in Precinct 16 in conjunction with Federal Territory Day.

With him were Putrajaya Corporation president Tan Sri Samsudin Osman and their respective spouses Datin Nooriah Ana Razak and Datin Seri Suslita Abdul Majid.

Zulhasnan and his wife spent an hour visiting the various stalls offering flowers, plants, herbs and garden necessities and chatting with the operators. They also toured a small section of the agricultural park.

“Many attractions of the park and Putrajaya must be promoted often and one of the ways to do this is for the local authority and park operators to work with private companies,'' he said.

Meanwhile, Samsudin said the Putrajaya Tourism Action Council secretariat would be based at the Putrajaya Corporation Complex in Precinct 3.

He also said a letter was sent to the Economic Planning Unit recently asking for a review of the decision regarding the monorail project that was shelved due to lack of funds.

Samsudin said a better public transport system in Putrajaya would draw more visitors to the capital. Several park-and-ride venues are already in place.

Source : STAR
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Sarawak finds niche in musical tourism

MIRI: Following the global attention to the Rainforest World Music Festival and the Miri International Jazz Festival, Sarawak is ready to stage more music fests to draw visitors.

“There is no doubt that such festivals have extraordinary power to attract tourists.

“We are going for more such festivals in the future,” said Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Gracie Geikie.

“What we want to do is promote such festivals by integrating them with tourism products that we already have, such as our natural assets,” she told The Star yesterday.

She said the STB has found that musical fests have extraordinary drawing power to bring in the tourists.

She added that the two annual events have attracted a huge online response, even though there are several months still to the festivals.

The Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival in Kuching is due to be held in July but to date, more than 6,000 tickets have been sold via the Internet.

More than 1,000 tickets for the Miri jazz fest have been snapped up.

As far as music fests are concerned, the two festivals are the main tourism draws for Sarawak at the moment.

At the same time, there is also an annual cultural festival in Sibu, which emphasises more on dances and food.

Geikie said Singapore had held successful music fests and Sarawak could do the same.

“Ours will have their own unique qualities.

“For example, no other place can offer a package deal that has a Mulu adventure and a jazz festival together,” she said.

Source : STAR
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Middle East has huge investments and tourism potential

JEDDAH: The Middle East is an important and strategic region for Malaysia as it has huge potential in investments and tourism, said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

The Deputy Prime Minister said while it was just a coincidence that both he and the Prime Minister were in the Middle East at the same time, both of them consider the region to be of vital importance.

“We think that the region deserves focus and that’s why the Prime Minister is also here (in the Middle East). We will continue our efforts here ,” he told a press conference on Tuesday.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is in Syria and Yemen for an official visit, while Najib is in Saudi Arabia, also on a working visit.

Najib said trade with Saudi Arabiahas grown by 27% from RM5.574bil in 2004 to RM7.651bil in 2006.

The trend, he said, was very encouraging.

A number of Malaysian companies were already in Saudi and if they performed well and delivered what they promised, Saudi Arabia would have confidence in Malaysian companies and then there will be “more opportunities for our companies.”

He added, “I hope Malaysian companies will look at the opportunities.”

Najib also pointed out that Saudi tourists are big spenders and stayed in Malaysia for an average of 10.1 nights.

He said the Tourism Ministry was targeting 100,000 Saudi tourists for this year.

“This is a positive trend. We hope it will continue,” he said, adding that MAS was also planning to have its fourth flight from Jeddah to Kuala Lumpur using Boeing 747 aircraft for bigger passenger load.

Source : STAR
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Eastern Europeans flocking to Sarawak in droves

KUCHING: An increasing number of tourists from eastern Europe are coming to Sarawak, drawn by the state’s nature attractions and tropical weather.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) chief executive officer Gracie Geikie said some 5,900 visitors from the region came last year; almost triple the number of arrivals in 2005.

She said the surge was significant as the board had not carried out any tourism road shows there, like it had done in western Europe, its traditional market.

Ironically, the number of visitors from the western European countries had slipped to just 1,900 last year, down from 2,300 in the previous year.

She said this was largely because of the rationalisation exercise by Malaysia Airlines, which saw the rural air service, including flights to Mulu, handed over to Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) in August last year.

Geikie said the hard work by Tourism Malaysia and local tour operators had helped to make Sarawak the new destination for holidaymakers from eastern Europe.

“It is a totally new market for Sarawak, with most of the tourists coming from Poland in big groups.

“They are attracted to nature and the tropical weather.

“They also like the beaches and five-star hotel facilities,” she told The Star yesterday.

Geikie said the eastern Europeans stay between seven and 10 days and their favourite spot is the Mulu National Park, a world heritage site.

She said the STB would consider tourism campaigns in eastern Europe.

On western Europe, which is Sarawak’s key long haul market, Geikie said visitors from there normally stay between 14 and 21 days, spending an average of US$1,500 (RM5,200) each during their stay.

“They like culture, adventure and nature - the state’s main tourism attributes which are 60% rural-based,” she said.

On the drop of visitors from the west, she said the airline switch created interlining and connectivity problems to rural destinations and resulted in some 70% of the 16,000 rural air services bookings with MAS cancelled.

Block bookings of series groups up to next month were also suspended, she said, adding that major tour wholesalers, including some 300 in Europe, were still unable to have seamless bookings for their clients.

Geikie said although between 10% and 15% of European tour wholesalers had resumed selling Sarawak packages, they have yet to re-market the Mulu packages.

“We will try to convince major tour wholesalers to reinstate Sarawak and Mulu packages at next month’s International Tourism Bourse,” she said, referring to the world’s largest travel exhibition that would be held in Berlin.

FAX officials are expected to join the 11-member STB delegation, which comprises hoteliers and tour operators.

Source : STAR
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Monday, February 26, 2007

Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Female Butler

The idea of a female butler would have seemed funny to many people a few years ago. But some hotels are finding that guests prefer "a feminine touch" sometimes.

SHE knows exactly how much sugar to put in the cup of tea, how warm the water temperature in the bath should be, and which side of the bed the guest favours.

But she is neither a waitress nor a maid.

She is Tan Fooi Loo, one of three women in the Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel’s team of butlers.

Yes, despite the authoritative definition by the Oxford Dictionary on the term "butler" — chief manservant of a house, Fooi Loo is a woman.

"Some guests were surprised to see me as their butler, but most usually take it in their stride now. I guess the trend of female butlers is growing everywhere," says Fooi Loo.

The 24-year-old IT-degree holder has been a butler with the five-star hotel for eight months.

"Frankly, I didn’t even know what a butler was when I first applied for the job. But a friend recommended it, saying it suits my inclination to serve others."

Serena (not her real name) is another female butler who has had her fair share of surprised guests.

"Female butlers aren’t exactly a new breed, but the general perception remains that butlers should be males," says the 28-year-old, who holds a diploma in hotel management and currently works at another five-star hotel.

The main culprit, says Serena, is conventional thinking and movies like Batman, which has made the prim and proper butler, Alfred Pennyworth, almost as recognisable a face as Bruce Wayne himself.

"Being a butler is more than just being a maid or a waitress. We are our guests’ personal assistants," says Fooi Loo.

"We don’t just serve them blindly. We need to anticipate their needs.

"A good butler is one who can serve the guest without having to be told what is needed."

Mohd Ilyas Zainol Abidin, president of the Malaysian Association of Hotels Board, says males used to dominate the scene, but the trend has now shifted.

"In the hotel line, there is no more mono-gender dominance today. Waiters used to be just males and maids, females. But it’s all mixed up now," he says.

"A butler is someone who looks after the well-being of a guest from the moment he steps into (the hotel) until he leaves. A female can carry out that duty too, as well, if not better, than her male counterpart."

In terms of neatness and attention to details, Ilyas says female butlers may have the advantage "but that doesn’t preclude male butlers from doing their job well".

Serena says the increase in female butlers could also be in tandem with the increasing number of female travellers around the world today.

There are also more female travellers from conservative Muslim communities.

"Middle Eastern couples prefer female butlers because the husband will only allow a female to attend to them in the room when the wife is present, due to the sensitivity of their culture and religion."

Serena has been asked a few times by such couples to take their picture in the room, often when the lady guest has taken off her burqa.

Female butlers, she says, are also more competitive than their male counterparts.

"Most of us jostle to serve the guests better and compare notes to see who are those favoured."

She says the competitiveness among her colleagues is healthy, "because it spurs us on to outperform each other and up the quality of service".

So what makes a good butler?

A paramount requirement, to Fooi Loo is learning not to "see" stuff.

"For example, I unpack for a guest and his luggage is filled with packs of condoms. I cannot show alarm or surprise. I must just smile and get on with work."

One must also have a strong stomach — when unpacking dirty clothes or checking the guests’ bathroom for any stray hair or towel out of place.

Serena says a butler also needs to be fluent in English, patient, hardworking, committed, able to anticipate needs, discreet, soft spoken, efficient and most of all — friendly.

The days when butlers must be stiff and serious are over.

"Guests want butlers who smile at them, someone whom they can have a conversation with. Someone who is almost a friend but also an assistant because that makes it easier for them to tell us their needs," says Fooi Loo.

The butler service at the Renaissance is only offered to the hotel’s VIP suites from the 24th to the 27th floors. The hotel has nine butlers in its team and each of the four floors is serviced by at least two butlers at one time.

"I’m proud to be one of the few female butlers on the team. I think I’ve done my job well and guests generally like me more than other male butlers because I smile more and seem a lot more approachable."

There are three butling shifts, 7am to 3pm, 3pm to 11pm, and 11pm to 7am, but "women never take the graveyard shift of 11pm to 7am", says Fooi Loo.

The same goes for female butlers in The Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur, unless they are on a 24-hour shift, says one of its nine female butlers, Elaine Tan.

"If we have been specifically asked to serve someone for 24 hours, we sleep in a separate room in the hotel."

The Ritz has 35 butlers in total and is the first and only hotel in town with a personalised butler service on all its 15 floors.

"We don’t select our butlers on technical skills — that we can teach them. The most important thing we look for is a person who is naturally warm and caring towards others," says Stephen A. Cokkinias, the hotel’s general manager.

After the managerial staff, butlers are the ones with the best knowledge on the workings of a hotel.

"They are also the ones closest to our guests as they deal directly and exclusively with them. They are the only ones who know what’s going on and how best to serve our guests," says Cokkinias.

If the wastepaper basket in a room is filled with sweet wrappers, Elaine knows that the guest has a sweet tooth, and will leave some candies on the table the next time she goes in for inspection.

As a result of the nature of the job, butlers don’t have much time to themselves, but many love their job for its uniqueness, says Serena, who has been in the line for four years.

"I’m on call 24 hours a day, and as such, I’ve to adapt my lifestyle to suit the guests. When they have their meals, I’ll quickly have mine, and when they rest, I rest.

"Should they need anything at any time of the day, I have to be there to provide it."

There were occasions when she had to go out to get souvenirs, Malaysian delicacies, as well as personal items such as contraceptives and sanitary napkins.

But the job has its rewards.

"I receive a lot of praises and tips from guests who are generous," says Serena, flashing a thank-you card with a US$100 (RM350) tip from a guest.

But for this bubbly woman, her biggest achievement is not the praise or the cash, but a simple "thank you".

"Some guests are very cold — they instruct me in a haughty manner and never say a word of thanks — but I don’t get discouraged.

"This only spurs me on to be even more warm, friendly and attentive towards them. And when they finally smile and say the two magical words, that’s what is priceless."

As it is customary for butlers to smile and look their best every day, it is probably unavoidable for some female butlers to attract extra attention from guests of the opposite sex.

Serena has come across a handful of young, rich guests who have tried to flirt with her.

"They don’t dare to make physical contact with us, knowing the dire consequences of doing so. However, they still indirectly try to work their charm on us."

She cited several occasions when some guests had asked her when she would be going off duty, "hoping that we could meet up with them somewhere".

Serena admits to having an American guest as an admirer for quite some time.

"He is in his mid-forties and always asks me out whenever he is in town but I always decline because work still comes first."

Some male guests who had sought her company did so not because they were attracted to her.

"Once, this male guest asked me into his room and I was quite apprehensive at first. But it turned out that he only wanted someone to talk to because he missed talking to his wife and proceeded to tell me all about her.

"Still, we have to keep a certain distance from the guests whenever we are in a room with them."

As far as she knows, there have been no cases of sexual harassment in her hotel involving female butlers, as the staff take precautions such as leaving the door open while in a room with a guest.

During the first few months of her job, Fooi Loo encountered a male guest who insisted that she unpack his luggage with the door closed, while he hovered nearby in only his bathrobe.

"It was a little scary actually. I didn’t know what to do because he refused to listen to my explanations.

"The matter was only settled when I called my manager and had him confirm for me that the door must never be closed — that it’s a strict hotel policy."

Source : NST
[tags : ]

Johor sees more tourists from across Causeway

JOHOR BARU: The state has received about 120,000 tourists on weekends since January, a 54 per cent increase compared to the corresponding period last year.

State Tourism and Environment Committee chairman Freddie Long said about 90 per cent of the tourists entered via the Causeway.

"On weekdays, the number is about 60,000 per day," he said, adding that day-trippers made up the bulk of the tourists from Singapore.

Malaysian Association of Hotels Johor chapter president John Roozemond said hotels in the state had recorded an impressive occupancy rate.

The year started out slow due to floods but has since picked up, with a rising number of bookings from March to October.

Johor Tourist Guides Association (JTGA) chairman Jimmy Leong said an average of 20 to 30 tour coaches crossed into Johor from the republic daily, while on weekends and public holidays, the figure was between 80 and 100.

He said a decision by the government to stop heavy vehicles, including tour coaches, from using the Causeway beginning from March next year was expected to hurt the tourism sector.

"The association will make its stand on the matter known to the state government.

"Coaches using the Causeway will take 45 minutes but the time will increase three- fold if they are forced to use the Second Link.

"There should be review on the proposed ban or tourism will be badly affected."

Works Minister Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu recently said heavy vehicles would have to use the Second Link for six months beginning from March next year to facilitate construction of an access road at the new Customs, Immigration and Quarantine complex.

Source : NST
[tags : ]

The "Eye on Malaysia" is attracting more than tourists.

Representatives from "charity homes" have been harassing visitors to the latest tourist attraction in the city.

Walking around Taman Tasik Titiwangsa, they solicit funds for their "causes" which include underprivileged children.

A New Straits Times survey showed these groups operate in different ways.

A teenager representing a training centre for special children in Cheras said he had strict orders to sell tubes of perfume at RM10 each and to refuse donations.

For this, he receives a 30 per cent commission from a private company that hired him.

"We have an authorisation letter to solicit funds through the sale of perfume but we are not allowed to collect donations," said the 17-year-old, who also issues receipts.

There was also a group handing out a "prayer book" containing excerpts from the Quran in return for a contribution. They, however, did not issue receipts.

Federal Territory MIC chief Senator M. Saravanan, who went for a ride with his family last Sunday, was approached by representatives from three organisations.

"One of them told me that receipts would be issued only if I donated RM10 while another didn’t issue any," he said.

He said such a practice was inappropriate, especially in an area frequented by tourists.

Sources from the City Hall enforcement unit said they had advised such people to leave but they kept returning.

"We can’t take any action against them but we will work with bodies like the Welfare Services Department to ensure they don’t harass the public," the source said.

Source : NST
[tags : ]

Terengganu banking on stars to promote tourism

KUALA TERENGGANU: It’s not just wholesome entertainment, but a little plugging for the state’s tourism industry as well.

The state government will take advantage of the array of stars who will be in Kuala Terengganu till tomorrow to promote tourist attractions in the state.

More than 40 entertainment personalities are already in the state for Azwan Ali’s Mesra Sokmo Cit Cat Azwan ke-7 three-day programme, which began yesterday.

The state government is now banking on stars like Ning Baizura, Aziz Satar and Ferhad to help promote some of the tourism products here.

State Infrastructure, Public Utilities and Communication Development Committee chairman Datuk Wan Hisham Wan Salleh said the programme could act as a catalyst for tourism similar to the Monsoon Cup.

That is why the state government is providing board and lodging for the 41 celebrities who make up part of the 250-member delegation for the event.

More than 50,000 people are expected to show up for the open air concert and the telematch.

"We want to take advantage of the artistes’ popularity. When people outside Terengganu see someone famous like M. Nasir eating keropok lekor, they may be tempted to do the same."

Wan Hisham said Azwan Ali Production selected Terengganu after attending the Monsoon Cup and was impressed with what the state offered.

"We have proven that we can organise good, clean, fun activities and that is why they chose Terengganu," he said.

The programme saw celebrities visiting Losong for its keropok lekor, the Terengganu Equestrain Resort and also having lunch with 200 orphans at a fast food joint.

A gala dinner to collect funds for the Johor flood victims will be held tonight at the Terengganu Heritage Bay Club.

The state will use this event to promote Visit Terengganu Year 2008.

Source : NST
[tags : ]

Complaints of Cancellation of FAX Flights in Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: The state tourism ministry has been asked to discuss with Transport Ministry officials over public complaints on frequent cancellations and delays of flights between Kota Kinabalu and the east coast towns in Sabah.

"I have asked them to talk to those concern and find out ways to overcome the problems faced by air travellers," he said on Sunday after attending a Chinese New Year open house organised by the Liberal Democratic Party.

He was commenting on LDP Karamunting division chief Peter Pang En Yin who called on the Transport Ministry to improve flight schedules between the city and east coast towns of Tawau, Sandakan and Lahad Datu.

He said Fly Asian Express should be more responsive to the numerous complaints over sudden flight cancellations and delays as this was causing inconvenience to air travellers.

"I hope that they make sure they improve the services," Musa said, adding that Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat, who is state Tourism, Culture amd Environment Minister had been directed to discuss this with the relevant authorities.

Chong, who is former LDP president, told reporters that they brought up the matter with Transport Ministry officials together with other airlines officials in Miri last month.

"They (FaX) had told us that they took note of the problem," he said without indicating whether a solution was forthcoming.

Pang said that the persistent problem had recently forced some family members to miss the recent Chinese New Year eve family dinner apart from forking out more money for accommodations before reaching their respective destinations.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

New local airline to operate from Penang

BUTTERWORTH: A new local airline will operate from the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas by April.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said the airline was in the final stage of obtaining the permits to set up its base at the airport.

“We hope the company can start operating by April. It will use Penang as its main hub to fly to other parts of the country and to Asean countries,” he told newsmen at the Bagan MCA division’s Chinese New Year open house yesterday.

The minister, who is the MCA deputy president, said the airport in Penang, which had the capacity to handle five million passengers annually, only handled about three million last year.

“We hope this (the new local airline) will boost the tourism industry in Penang,” he said.

Asked if the move would affect Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia, Chan said: “Healthy competition is good for the aviation industry.”

Chan said that the Penang Government was also working closely with his ministry to turn the airport into a regional hub for budget airlines.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Sarawak plans to lure visitors from China and mideast

KUCHING: Sarawak, which has projected four million visitor arrivals this year, plans to lure more tourists from China and the Middle East, State Assistant Tourism Minister Hamden Ahmad said.

He said the government’s tourism agencies and local industry players were now intensifying their promotion campaigns to attract the Chinese and Arabs with the help of the federal Tourism Ministry during the ongoing “Visit Malaysia Year.”

“China and the Middle East are chosen based on their population volume and their similarities, including food and culture, thus making them feel at home,” he told reporters after a joint live radio talk show “Destinasi” over Radio Television Malaysia’s (RTM) Sarawak FM and Terengganu FM at the RTM premises here on Wednesday.

The weekly programme, conducted in collaboration with other RTM radio stations nationwide, is aimed at promoting Sarawak as a popular tourist destination.

He also said local tourist operators such as hoteliers, should give equal service and attention to foreign and domestic visitors to the state, which anticipated a revenue of over RM5bil from four million visitors this year.

Last year Sarawak recorded three million visitors, mostly from Western Europe and the Asean region, generating a revenue totalling RM5bil.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Aman signs MoU on resort

JOHOR BARU: Aman Resorts Ltd will have a resort in the Iskandar Development Region by 2009.

Khazanah Nasional Bhd said in a statement that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Kota Selat Tebrau Sdn Bhd (KST), Symphony International Holdings Ltd and Aman Resorts to develop the resort.

KST is a joint venture between South Johor Investment Corp Bhd (SJIC), Danga Bay Sdn Bhd and Kumpulan Prasarana Rakyat Johor Sdn Bhd (KPRJ).

Aman Resorts has 18 resorts in 12 countries.

In another statement, Tune Hotels.Com said it would launch its first no-frills hotel in Danga Bay.

The hotel will have 250 rooms and offers attractive room rates starting from RM9.99.

The company signed a conditional agreement with Danga Bay Sdn Bhd yesterday to launch the state’s first Tune Hotel in early 2008.

Met after the signing ceremony, AirAsia Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes, who is a major shareholder of Tune Hotels.Com, told reporters that the growth potential was huge both for his hotel and airline due to the Asean region having some 500 million people and Johor’s proximity to Singapore.

“One of the beauties about the hotel business is that you are not constrained by nationalism – you don’t have oil (to worry about) and you don’t have a national hotel chain.

“I have to say it is a sexier industry in that way. I don’t have to compete with a national hotel chain that wants to be protected,” he said with a laugh.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

One World Hotel at Bandar Utama to Open in May

WITHOUT doubt, this will be a busy year for the See Hoy Chan Holdings Group with several projects in different sub-sectors of the property sector pending launch. One thing though has not changed – its founder and chief steward Datuk Teo Chiang Kok continues to remain hands on as far as the group's operations are concerned.

Every once or twice a week, on a working day, he takes a 5km walk around the old and new wing of the 1 Utama mall by himself. (See Hoy Chan's flagship development is Bandar Utama in Petaling Jaya)

“I want to know what’s the feeling on the ground,” Teo, 60, says.

“Developers want to create an address but essentially, it is the residents themselves who create the address,” says Teo.

On its focus on condominium development from now on, Teo says phase one, 1 Bukit Utama, sits on 15 acres. It has 586 units and was completed more than a year ago and purchasers have moved in. Phase one is currently in the RM500,000 region. Developer’s price was about RM400,000 four years ago.

“Our second central park Westlake will be for residents only. There will be a full Olympic-sized pool, multipurpose hall and squash courts, with options to join. That way, if you do not choose to join, you will still have your own pool and tennis courts below.

“The next thing is a nine-hole golf course, which adds to the green and acts as a buffer. Maintenance cost will be minimised because we will use cow grass, instead of Bermuda grass, which does not need fertiliser or only a tenth of it. Indigenous trees will not need pesticides and hormones.

With his fingers in every pie, Teo will also be commencing construction of a new 25-storey new office block between 1 Utama shopping mall and the five-star One World hotel.

One World Hotel is expected to start operations by May and will be managed by the group. The group will manage most of the commercial and retail properties they own.

“Through that, we hope to create the expertise to manage more hotels which we would acquire or construct on our own. That is our plan. We are already in the game, with a team which runs the retail property from 1 Utama to entrepoint.”

One World Hotel
first avenue, off dataran bandar utama, 47800 petaling jaya, selangor, malaysia
telephone: 603 7681 1111
facsimile: 603 7681 1188
One World Hotel Website :

Travel packages - All at your Fingertips Now on Malaysia World

IN this information technology age, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a click of the mouse.

You can now conveniently book air tickets and plan for your holiday on the Internet.

It also the same with domestic vacation and as such, when Reliance Pacific Bhd's travel division launched Malaysia World that offers a series of local travel packages, it is giving equal attention to the booking portal

Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai officiated at the launch held recently at Reliance's headquarters.

“About two weeks ago, it was reported that the United States-based Global Travel Magazine voted Malaysia as the best destination in the world last year. The survey was based on several criteria and there were 15,000 respondents. It is important for us to know our home better,” said Lim.

He said tourism is recognised as the nation's third economic pillar and the second largest source of foreign revenue and that the government has allocated under the Ninth Malaysian Plan RM1.8bil to the tourism industry from last year to 2010.

Domestic tourism, he said, is undoubtedly an important stimulus for the country's economy and has shown healthy growth in recent years following rising household incomes, changing lifestyles, introduction of low-cost carriers and five-day work week for the public sector, among others.

Lim said although Malaysia World was targeting Malaysians, tourists and businessmen are welcomed to visit the site.

“The country's business turnover was RM1 trillion last year. Businessmen who are in the country for several days can make use of such services to explore the country further. This is a very big market,” he said.

Lim also called for collective efforts to give tourists a good impression of the country.

“If you look left and right, there are still a lot of places not clean enough. The ministry is monitoring this closely by heeding to all related complaints highlighted in the media and we want local authorities to look into this, too,” he added.

On another matter, Lim said the ministry has not received any application from Batu Caves' management for RM10mil allocation to beautify the tourist destination and so they could not make any decision yet.

He said the ministry welcomed such applications but they should be done in black and white and better still, through local councils.

Reliance's group chief executive officer Datin Irene Gan said the promotion of domestic tourism is not alien to the company, which operated cruise packages between Penang and Langkawi as early as 1983 and promoted Go Around Malaysia in 1990.

“UN World Tourism Organisation projects an increase in worldwide tourist arrivals to be around 4% but Asean can expect 8% increase.

“Against the backdrop of the forecast, it is timely to have the third instalment of Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) and I believe it will surpass the successes of the previous VMY campaigns held in 1990 and 1994” she said, adding that the country will be able to attract the targeted 20.1mil visitors by end of the year.

“With Malaysia's population of 26mil, the domestic market is a sizable captive market,” she added.

As a start, Malaysia World is offering 300 products and the number is expected to grow to 1,000 by end next year. The products are available from RM55 per person for a two-night package.

The products are grouped according to six lifestyle categories, namely City, Hustle and Bustle, Sun, Sea and Sand, Cool Mountain High, Jungle, Deep and Wild, Walk in the Past, and Just the Two of Us.

Showcase Cities is another category, and Putrajaya and Cyberjaya are the firsts to be highlighted.

In conjunction with the launch, a day trip to Putrajaya is available at RM1 per person for the first 100 customers who book online by Feb 14.

“We are targeting Malaysia World to sell at least 30,000 packages in the first year and double the figure to 60,000 in the following year. Through our online shop, we expect to generate a revenue of RM40mil,” she added.

Malaysia World

MalaysiaWorld is a trading name belonging to TravelEasi Sdn Bhd.


Block A Ground Floor

A-0-4 Megan Avenue II

12 Jalan Yap Kwan Seng

50450 Kuala Lumpur


Our office is opened 9.00am - 6.45pm weekdays, 9.00am - 1.15pm Saturdays.

We are closed on Sundays and Public Holidays.

If you experience any technical problems, please call our contact center at 1300 88 0000.

Tour 51 - Tour Operator with a Difference

Dr Amir Hashim Abdul Rahim or Mark Amir is a tour operator with a difference – he has a doctorate in tourism.

IN the tourism industry, Dr Amir Hashim Abdul Rahim who goes by the moniker Dr Mark Amir, stands out. He has been in this line for more than two decades and is probably the only tour operator who holds a PhD in tourism.

Commander of his fleet: Mark Amir is director at Tour 51 Sdn Bhd which does city bus tours for mainly hotel guests.
Yet, he remains unassuming. Every morning, he is at the Malaysian Tourism Information Centre (Matic) car park on Jalan Ampang, checking his coaches and talking to his guests before sending them off on a city tour. If his guide doesn’t show up, he takes over. After all, as director of Tour 51 Sdn Bhd, he has the responsibility of ensuring all tours run smoothly.

“It’s important to make sure my guests know what they’re in for and are comfortable. Service is my top priority. Otherwise, it will reflect badly on my company,” says Dr Mark.

Like most people in the tourism industry, Dr Mark started off as a tour guide with a travel agency before becoming a freelancer. With two young kids, he wasn’t keen on doing outstation tours too often. So, he sourced for contacts in city hotels and established his company in 1984. It’s one of the largest daily tour companies specialising in city tours at affordable rates, catering mostly to hotel guests.

“These are the simplest tours to conduct because we know hotels are in need of such tours. We don’t keep the guests overnight . . . we just take them around and send them home. I’d rather stick to the tried and tested method,” he shares, adding that Tour 51 services around 75,000 passengers yearly.

For RM50, you can hop onto a coach and get a three-hour tour of the city. Highlights in Kuala Lumpur include a stop at the Petronas Twin Towers, visits to jewellery showrooms, Istana Negara, National Monument, National Museum, National Mosque and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.

While the company continued to expand, Dr Mark decided to take a sabbatical overseas and pursue his interest in golf management. Home for the next two years was San Diego, California. He learnt everything there was about golfing and upon returning, took up a position as national coach for junior golfers at the National Sports Council.

It was a short stint and one he doesn’t have many fond memories of. Soon, he was back full-time in the tour business.

“I used to hang out with my buddies quite a bit but once we returned from the US, my wife wouldn’t let me go out at night!” he chuckles.

With so much time on his hands, Dr Mark decided to pursue his post-graduate studies and eventually, embarked on a doctorate programme. It was during 1998-1999 and tourism was booming. His dissertation was entitled Key Success Factors for the Tourism Industry in Malaysia: A Comparative Story. No one had written on the topic.

Customer service is important to him.
“With my experience, I thought the PhD would allow me to contribute more to the tourism industry. My intention was to join a think-tank to formulate policies.”

But the going was tough. He recounts the stumbling blocks he encountered to obtain information from local officials.

Dr Mark complains, “I literally had to go begging for statistics. The officials were extremely uncooperative. They don’t have any supporting documents or any literature in their research department! Can you believe that?”

Left with scarce material, his research hit a snag and it took him a longer time to finish.

Among the things his research revealed was that the industry has not kept up with times, there was a lack of innovation in terms of marketing our products and the unwillingness of the authorities to introduce new elements for the growth of tourism.

His key findings further showed that certain elements could be promoted on a wider scale but were under-utilised. These include culture, infrastructure, political stability and the relationship between government and private sector.

“We have so much to learn from Thailand. We need to shape the demand of tourism instead of delivering what we have. Our industry is stymied.

Checking that all are safely onboard. — GLENN GUAN/The Star
“For example, look at how often our entertainment proposals are hindered by bureaucracy and authorities not related to tourism,” he points out.

“We don’t have products that can keep our tourists longer. After a few days, they usually want to go to Singapore or Thailand. We can no longer sell multiculturalism as a product; we need to move to other areas.”

Indeed, with the emergence of low cost airline Air Asia, it is cheaper to go out of Malaysia than travel domestically. Also, people have more cash to splurge so they prefer travelling out of the country.

For his business, he says there has been no increase in tourist numbers this year. Rather, the figures for January remain the same as last year.

Dr Mark believes he can change things so he is running for the presidency of Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) come June. He has got his manifesto ready and intends to reorganise things in the industry.

He says, “It’s about time someone does something. I hope I can offer my knowledge to improve things, especially with this being Visit Malaysia Year and all.”

Intent on developing the industry further, Dr Mark also offers free tuition on the subject to students and interested parties. He provides his office facilities for research purposes, interviews, distribution of questionnaires and puts them in touch with the right people.

“We have to start somewhere so this is my way of giving back to the community,” he says.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Open Sky Only if Beneficial

KUALA LUMPUR: The Government will take all views into consideration before entering into an “open sky” agreement with specific countries.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said it was the country’s policy to have such pacts with as many countries as it would enhance the position of KL International Airport.

“Air travel and air links are very crucial in trade and tourism, without them, you don’t talk about trade and tourism,” he said after witnessing a signing ceremony on a charter flight programme between Taiwan’s Far Eastern Air Transport and Sanbumi Air Transport Sdn Bhd.

He was commenting on a recent Malaysia Airlines Employees Union (Maseu) statement that the agreements could pose problems to Malaysia.

Maseu general-secretary Ab Malek Ariff had said that the pacts could place the country at great risk because any aircraft could declare itself a commercial craft and enter Malaysian airspace.

Chan lauded Sanbumi for having the programme with Far Eastern, saying that since Malaysia and Taiwan practised the “open sky” policy, there was a lot of room for development.

“This is a good partnership, I hope they will help to play an active role and contribute tremendously to the development of air travel and tourism in the country.

“When it comes to charter flights we are very flexible,” he said, adding that such partnerships with tour agencies were welcomed.

On another matter, Chan said the ministry and the Department of Civil Aviation would never compromised on safety aspects.

“Therefore, all airlines flying into the country must comply with standards outlined by the International Civil Aviation Organisation,” he said when asked of the safety procedures imposed on foreign low-cost carriers.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Focus Shifts from Arrivals to Tourist Spending

KUALA LUMPUR: Tourist spending increased by 13.5% last year, proving that government efforts to draw in tourism are on the right track, said Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor.

He said the ministry had set its focus on promoting tourist spending rather than on tourist arrivals.

Speaking on the matter, the minister expressed disappointment that the target of RM37.5bil for 2006 in tourist spending was not achieved, which was the reason for the change in strategy.

“Our target of 17.5 million tourist arrivals last year was met, although we can’t say the same for tourist spending. We cannot rate the industry's success based on arrivals simply because many do not stay here long enough. There is definitely a need to change this.

“This year, we have set our sights on achieving RM44.5bil in tourist spending,” he said, adding that the ministry had taken numerous measures involving promotions and events to ensure Visit Malaysia 2007 was a success.

New book: PR Consultant Sdn Bhd account executive Sharizatul Nazira Salehuddin showing the book 'Halal Food: Kuala Lumpur' yesterday.
Tengku Adnan, who earlier officiated the second edition of Halal Food: Kuala Lumpur – A Guide to Good Eating here yesterday, acknowledged that food was a living testament of the country's fusion of cultures.

He added that the publication of the guide by KasehDia Sdn Bhd was timely as it supported the Government's effort to make the country a global hub for the production and trade in halal goods and services.

“This was stipulated in the Third Industrial Master Plan launched last year.

“Muslim tourists, particularly those from West Asia, are a discerning lot and this guide allows them to have access to more sophisticated halal dining,” he said, adding that this would indirectly encourage tourists to extend their stay.

Tengku Adnan also urged others to come forward with such guides in promoting the country, adding that they need not only promote halal food.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

73 chartered flights from Taiwan arranged for VM2007

KUALA LUMPUR: Seventy-three chartered flights from Taiwan have been arranged for Visit Malaysia 2007.

Under a joint venture between Taiwan’s Far Eastern Air Transport and Sanbumi Air Transport Sdn Bhd, the maiden charter flight would touch down in Kota Kinabalu in Sabah during the first week of April.

Sanbumi general manager Low Yuh Wen told reporters that each Boeing 757-200 charter flight could take 175 passengers.

He said Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Penang, Kuantan, Langkawi and Terengganu were the destinations for the charter flights.

“An average Taiwanese spends about RM2,000 to RM3,000 and this will definitely help with the country in promoting VM2007,” he added.

At the same function, Sanbumi Holiday Sdn Bhd also launched an innovative tour package known as Kenali Malaysia.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, who witnessed the signing of the agreement between both companies, said the venture would enhance inbound tourism from Taiwan.

“From January to November last year we recorded 166,700 tourists from Taiwan, an increase of 5.9% compared to the same period in 2005.

“This year we hope to boost the arrivals to 400,000,” he added.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Puteri Bayu Beach Resort won "garden resort by the sea"

Puteri Bayu Beach Resort of Pangkor Island came out tops with a strong 'garden resort by the sea' theme that won over the judges.

The hotel went ‘wild' with a wealth of orchids, roses, carnations, hibiscus, helliconia and island ferns indigenous to Pangkor Island, said its general manager Kamarull Zaman Abd Rahim.

“Our team of 15 staff members also added replicas of butterflies and fish, an aquarium and fountains to go with the seaside garden resort theme.

“We wanted to use flora and even fauna which you might find in the natural surrounds of Pangkor,” he said after receiving RM5,000, plaque and certificate in Ipoh recently.

It was the first time hotels had taken part in such a contest held in conjunction with the Floral Fest 2007.

Best decorated lobby:The entrance to the Puteri Bayu Beach Resort decorated with various kinds of plants and flowers.
The second prize went to Impiana Casuarina Hotel in Ipoh for the use of birds of paradise, fresh yellow helliconia, monstera leaves, red ginger and orchids gracing tabletops, reception counters and the lounge.

“We also offered flower-based cocktails and teas such as hibiscus, roselle, jasmine and chrysanthemum,” said hotel public relations officer Mai Basariah Abdul Rahman.

The Pangkor Island Beach Resort took third place with the lobby sporting a profusion of pandanas leaves, ferns, orchids and replicas of the famous hornbills for which it is known.

During the prize presentation ceremony at Greentown Mall in Ipoh, Tourism Malaysia Perak director Rohaiza Haris said the Flora Fest 2007 was one of the 50 main events of Visit Malaysia 2007.

“The different types of our colourful blooms represent multi-racial Malaysia. The flowers clustered together on the logo denote the closeness of Malaysians living in perfect harmony,” he added.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Tune Hotels & Aman Resorts to be Developed in Johor

PULAI, Malaysia: Malaysia has attracted a fifth of its initial investment target for a huge development project close to Singapore, and signed leisure deals for the project with luxury Aman Resorts and a budget hotel linked to no-frills carrier AirAsia, officials said.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Friday the project in Johor state has won endorsement from an advisory panel that includes Southeast Asia's richest man, Johor-born Robert Kuok.

The target of attracting almost 50 billion ringgit (US$14.29 billion; euro10.9 billion) to the South Johor Economic Region project over the next five years is on track, Abdullah told reporters.

Government investment wing Khazanah Nasional Bhd. aims to attract about US$105 billion (euro80.1 billion) over 20 years, managing director Azman Mokhtar said.

The prime minister said the zone should ideally "represent the best Southeast Asia has to offer'' in order to compete with economic hubs in Dubai, UAE, Shenzen in China and the Indian city of Bangalore.

"I'm personally very happy,'' he said after a meeting with the advisory panel.

"They believe that the South Johor development region will be successful. We have to work hard to be competitive.''

Reclusive billionaire Kuok, who declined comment, is one of five members of the panel, which also includes former Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam.

Government investment arm Khazanah Nasional Bhd said it has "received specific letters of intent or indications of interest'' for about 10 billion ringgit (US$2.85 billion; euro2.17 billion) in investment from the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

The project, with a development area of 2,217 square kilometers (856 sq. miles), includes business, leisure and manufacturing facilities, as well as an Islamic financial hub, biofuels processing facilities and educational institutions.

Two theme parks will also be built. Azman said his officials have been speaking to a number of developers, but not Universal Studios, which is building a park in neighboring Singapore.

The project is intended to boost Johor's economy by an average 7 percent a year over the next 20 years, Khazanah said in a statement.

Officials have said the project should create 800,000 by 2025.

Khazanah said Aman Resorts is expected to complete a resort in the area, the company's first in Malaysia, in 2009. No figures were disclosed.

"Aman Resorts fell in love with our mangroves,'' Azman said, adding that a slew of incentives to attract companies would be unveiled soon.

Apart from tax breaks, he said they could commit companies to development and higher education aid for local residents to help eliminate problems faced in other areas when locals have been forced out of the area.

Aman has resorts in Indonesia, Thailand, Bhutan and Sri Lanka, among others, and was named the world's leading international hotel group in a survey by hotels survey firm Zagat in 2006.

Tune Hotels, a no-frills hotels chain partly owned by AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes, said Friday it will open at the project's leisure site in Danga Bay early next year.

Tune's project is valued at 15 million ringgit (US$4.28 million; euro3.27 million), Fernandes said.

It intends to sell rooms from March 2008 and will offer packages with AirAsia.

Abdullah said members of the advisory panel were not asked to invest in southern Johor, but to provide opinions and advice.

Source : STAR
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Thousands have Fun in Genting during CNY

Spectacular: Visitors enjoying fireworks display during Chinese New Year Eve.

FIREWORKS TREAT: One tomorrow and another on March 4.

MORE than 30,000 people was at Genting - City Of Entertainment to enjoy the spectacular 10-minute fireworks display and other attractions during the auspicious Chinese New Year eve.

The fireworks were set-off by Resorts World Bhd (RWB) chairman Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay at the Genting Hotel open-air car park near midnight.

Accompanying him was RWB’s chief operating officer Lee Choong Yen and Resorts Operations executive vice president Alan Teo.

Until March 4, the resort will be filled with lots of fun where a variety of attractive activities will be held during this meaningful festival.

There will be another fireworks display tomorrow at midnight and March 4 at 8pm.

In addition, First World Plaza Times Square entertains with the Four Season Group, The Rhythm Mix Group, Brazilian Dance performance and Traditional Lion Dance performance from 2pm to 8pm.

While up at the peak, look out for the God of Prosperity at First World Plaza.

He will be giving away fortune cookies with wishes on paper just for you.

Source : STAR
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