Saturday, May 30, 2009

No more tall buildings in Penang’s heritage zone

There will not be any more new high rises in the heritage enclave.

The Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) officially endorsed the abolishment of exceptions to the council’s original 1996 policy of limiting the maximum height of buildings to 18m.

The proposal was endorsed during the full council meeting on Friday.

Previously, if the proposed highrise site had a minimum built up area of 50,000sq. ft. and the building was located next to existing structures that were higher than five storeys, the 18m restriction would not apply.

Council acting president Tan Cheng Chui said the exceptions would no longer be applicable.

Tan also warned that the council would not hesitate to act against premise owners who failed to obtain building plans and planning approvals before starting work.

He urged the public to make sure that proper procedures were followed when renovating or repairing their buildings.

“We will not hesitate to make sure that all repair and restoration works adhere to our guidelines, especially in the heritage zone,” he said.

The council had originally adopted the 18m maximum height policy in 1996 but the State Planning Committee amended the planning guidelines in early 2007 to facilitate the development and building of hotels.

Last November, controversy arose over four high-rise projects in George Town as they were found to exceed the maximum height of 18m allowed under Unesco guidelines for World Heritage Sites.

The four, are the Rice Miller, the Boustead Royale Bintang Hotel at Lebuh Downing, an E&O Hotel extension project and a 23-storey hotel project along Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah by the Low Yat Group.

It is learnt that the council’s decision was made in response to the Unesco World Heritage Committee’s three-day visit to the state recently.

All four projects are currently on hold pending Unesco’s decision next month.

Source : STAR
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Uphill Crag Hotel makeover

THE century-old Crag Hotel at Penang Hill will be given a new lease of life soon as the state government has planned to renovate the dilapidated building.

Also in the plan for repair and upgrading is the Canopy Walk - a hanging bridge on the hill.

An open tender for works to be carried out at the two sites will be called out soon.

1 19th century hotel up Penang Hill is marked for restoration

Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng said the tender for the hotel under the purview of the state government will close on Sept 1, while the tender for the walkway under the jurisdiction of the state Forestry Department will close on July 1.

He said the original hanging bridge was 290m long, and had been opened to the public since 2002 but due to felled trees in September last year, about 100m of the bridge was damaged.

“The attraction was closed to public for safety purposes.”

Treetop view: The Canopy walk at Penang Hill is currently closed after it was damaged by felled trees during a storm in September last year.

Lim said they have suggested constructing a 200m fork shaped bridge, which would be first of its kind in the country as part of the repair work.

“The bridge will have a triangle shape where visitors can either choose a straight route or stop-by the rest area to get a bird’s-eye view.”

Although it is a state funded project, he said they have not announced the allocation “as we want to get the cheapest cost without compromising the quality”.

Crag Hotel sits on a 3ha land and was established by the well-known Sarkies Brothers in 1929. The building was first built in 1890 and after the hotel was closed it housed the Upland School, before the school was moved to Burmah Road in the mid 1970s.

“Since then the building was left idle and now over-grown with grass. Besides it, there are another 18 dilapidated wooden and brick structured buildings at the surrounding area which can be developed, “ Lim told this to reporters after visiting the two sites yesterday.

Cool abodes: Part of the Crag Hotel destined for restoration.

He said the investment for the project will be high but the returns would be good.

“If the buildings could be restored to its former glory, people especially foreigners, would enjoy the panoramic view.”

The current market price for the property has been valued at RM4.2mil by the Property and Evaluation Department.

Lim said tourists especially those seeking for a private and peaceful environment would visit the area.

“It will be a good destination for those wishing to tie the knot and also for honeymooners,’’ he said.

Source : STAR
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An Iranian twin for Langkawi

THE Kedah Government will be working with the Iranian Government to conduct a twinning island promotion between Langkawi and Kish Island in Iran.

Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak said the idea was discussed with Iranian ambassador to Malaysia Mahdi Khandaghabadi during a luncheon at Wisma Darulaman here yesterday.

He said it would involve promoting both islands in tou-rism packages and also direct flights between Langkawi and Kish.

“Our tourism officers will discuss the idea with their Iranian counterparts.

“I was told by the ambassador that tourism players in Iran are interested in promoting Langkawi and Kish as twinning island,” he told newsmen when met after the luncheon here.

Kish Island is a free trade island located in the Persian Gulf. The island has an estimated population of 20,000 residents and about 5.5mil people visited the island annually.

Azizan said Langkawi had huge potential to be promoted to tourists from Iran because both places have similarity in religion and culture.

He said Iran was also inte-rested to send its students to study in Kedah and to share its expertise in agriculture with the state government.

Source : STAR
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Tourism industry affected by A (H1N1)

The tourism industry in Malaysia, like the rest of the world, has been affected by the influenza A (H1N1) outbreak, Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said Friday.

She said the international aviation association had reported a 10 percent drop in the number of air passengers worldwide.

"In Malaysia, we feel the effect, to a certain degree, but the number of tourists throughout the world has also dropped though the figures are not released yet," she said after visiting the Siti Khadijah market here. She is also meeting the Kelantan tourism industry players.

On another matter, she said the tourism industry in Kelantan could be further enhanced because the state had many interesting tourism products, some of which had yet to be developed.

"One example is the Siti Khadijah market. It fits the description of what tourists want to see. The traders at the market are not unfriendly. Tourists like to come to our country because they like our friendly people," she said.

She said the ministry had observed that many of the tourists to Kelantan came from "unexpected" countries like Croatia, Greece, Estonia, Holland and France.

The World Health Organisation said that 13,398 people in 48 countries had been infected with the virus, including 95 deaths, since it was first uncovered last month.

Source : STAR
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Gopeng residents want to keep landmark pre-war pipeline

Gopeng residents are planning a last-ditch effort to preserve the remnants of a century-old pipeline as the town’s landmark.

Muzium Gopeng ad hoc management committee secretary Phang See Kong said the residents want to appeal to Information, Communications and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim to retain the last 1.6km stretch of the pipeline, part of which was erected above the Gopeng-Kampar trunk road.

“For years, visitors to Gopeng have used the pipeline as a landmark for the town.

“The pipeline is also a reminder of the past glory of Gopeng as a major tin mining town in the Kinta Valley. We should be proud to have it as an icon for it reminds the world that hydraulic tin mining was first practised in Gopeng,” Phang said in an interview.

According to The Gopeng Consolidated Tin Mines written by A.G. Glenister, it was the Wickett-Osborne and Chappel Group which built the Kampar Water Supply pipeline in 1911.

Ancient structure: Gopeng residents want what remains of the century-old pipeline in the town preserved as a historical landmark.

Measuring 1.1m in diameter, the pipeline was completed four years later.

A construction company, Gopeng Bhd, which owns the 14.5km pipeline running from the Ulu Geroh water catchment area to Gopeng town, started taking apart the pipeline in 2007, apparently for safety reasons.

A spokesman for Gopeng Bhd had said that people had been stealing the metal structural parts supporting the pipeline, which posed a danger to the public as it could just fall on them.

However, the spokesman said the company planned to preserve certain sections of the pipeline as “monuments of history” near homestay locations.

Phang said his committee would also seek the assistance of state Health, Local Government, Consumer, Environment, Transport and Non-Islamic Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Mah Hang Soon and state Industry, Investment, Entrepreneur Development, Information Communication Technology, Tourism and Women’s Affairs chairman Datuk Hamidah Osman to help preserve the last stretch of the pipeline.

It is learnt that the pipeline has been sold by Gopeng Bhd to a second contractor, Global Terbilang Sdn Bhd.

Global Terbilang executive director Raja Amir Firdaus said the Public Works Department had given the green light for the pipeline across the trunk road to be dismantled as it was a danger to heavy vehicles.

Raja Amir, however, said he was prepared to discuss the issue with the residents.

Source : STAR
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Touts menace at LCCT

SOME passengers arriving at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) are unhappy with the way touts operate at the terminal.

While the touts provide a much-needed service, they definitely tarnish the country’s image among tourists.

During a recent three-hour stake-out at the LCCT bus terminal, the StarMetro team saw some youths with walkie-talkies communicating with the bus counter clerks at the arrival hall, asking them to direct passengers to the waiting buses.

For faster service: Passengers buying tickets to board a bus at the LCCT.

And since the touts provide a convenient and efficient service, commuters do not mind paying a little extra to enable them to leave the place faster.

However, regular travellers are not happy with the way the touts operate at the LCCT terminal.

A regular traveller said the “touting” actually starts at the bus counters located in the arrival hall where counter clerks tell passengers about the buses “scheduled to move immediately” and those in a hurry take up the offer.

“However, this is not so. The bus only leaves when full,” said C.K. Lim, who had arrived on an afternoon flight from Solo, Indonesia.

Lim said travellers prefer to buy their tickets from touts at the bus terminal as they could then hop into the first bus leaving the place.

“I was told on two separate occasions that the bus would leave at a certain time. It did not depart at the said time and I had to wait in the bus for 20 minutes. I would have been on my way if I had bought my ticket outside,’’ added Lim.

It was noticed that although many flights had landed that afternoon, most of the travellers pushed their baggage past the ticket counters to buy tickets from the touts at the bus terminal located about 100m away.

The situation at the LCCT is unlike that at the KL Sentral bus terminal where commuters have complained of being harrassed by touts all the time.

Commuters as well as travellers who had just arrived at the LCCT did not seem to mind paying extra to get to their destinations as there were many bus services to choose from and most had similar departure times.

The touts know which bus was leaving the terminal and would direct the travellers to the waiting bus.

However, travellers who bought their tickets online, as in the case of the Skybus with the AirAsia logo which includes the RM8 fare to KL Sentral, would have no choice.

LCCT-KLIA manager Raghbir Singh said if it was found that the counter clerks at the arrival hall were indeed “touting” and giving wrong information to arriving passengers, action would be taken against them.

However, he added that Malaysia Airports was unable to take action against the “touts” operating at the bus terminal as the bus services come under the jurisdiction of the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB).

Raghbir said Malaysia Airports was aware of touts operating at the bus terminal and therefore it was for the bus operators to solve the problem as it would mar the image of the LCCT.

“We have had meetings with the bus operators and CVLB to bring all the bus companies under a common umbrella body but there seems to be differing ideas,’’ said Raghbir.

He said both Aerobus and Skybus have their own operating schedules but it would be wise if they could work out common rules and regulations as well as departure times to overcome the problems of touts.

Source : STAR
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Transport Ministry Concerned Over Delay In Airport Projects

The Transport Ministry is concerned over the delay in completion of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport and Labuan Airport projects.

Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abd Rahim Bakri said the delay should not have happened as the projects involved public interest.

"Any project, particularly airports, the Minister and Deputy Minister are accountable. We are answerable in Parliament, not contractors. My only concern is to see this project is completed on schedule or within the stipulated time," he told reporters after a briefing by Malaysia Airport Berhad at the Labuan Airport terminal here Thursday.

The RM36 million Labuan Airport project was originally scheduled for full completion on Nov 8, 2008, but this has been extended to end of July 2009 due to internal problems concerning the main contractor and land issue.

A total of 20 houses in Kg Pantai were affected by the airport upgrading project, of which the landlords have been compensated at end of last year.

"Set aside the company's internal problem and let's focus on completion. Labuan is not a busy airport as compared to other airports. Work can still be done during night time," he said.

Rahim said the government was trying to do away with the various charges like landing and other related charges in order to encourage more airlines to come to local airports.

"We want to make our airports competitive and be able to compete with others around the world," he said.

Rahim also urged airport authorities to diversify their business activities rather than focusing only on passenger and cargo services.

"The Kuala Lumpur International Airport is a good example. It has been able to reap millions in profit through its oil palm plantation surrounding the airport runway," he said.

"Perhaps other local airports should also look into ways to get involved in downstream activities or be creative in maximising their income," he added.

Source : Bernama
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Gardens And Parks To Be Next Tourism Products

The Tourism Ministry is planning to develop gardens and parks all over the country as tourism products as they have the potentials to attract foreign as well as local tourists.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said local gardens and parks such as the Titiwangsa and Taiping lake gardens and parks in Putrajaya, Melaka and Johor Baharu could be developed into signature tourism products.

"The gardens must be beautifully designed, taking into account the colour combination and lightings, and they should showcase mostly the country's native flowers and plants," she said during a press conference, here Thursday.

She said during the ministry's sales mission to Europe recently, they visited gardens in the Netherlands and France and found out that people were interested in flowers and plants that were easily found here in Malaysia.

"In the gardens' greenhouses, they exhibited the plants as 'exotic' plants. Whereas we in Malaysia, we don't see them (the plants) as the wealth of this country," she said.

She said the ministry would be working with garden designers, including looking at getting the services of the chief gardener of the Monet Garden in France.

"I have asked our ambassador in France to ask the chief gardener of Monet Garden if he can come down to Malaysia and give his advice on gardens here," she said.

On another note, Ng said the ministry wanted to upgrade the floral festival in Malaysia to another level such as the Chelsea Flower Show in the United Kingdom.

"We will study in great depth before preparing for this year's floral festival that we hold annually in Putrajaya," she said.

Source : Bernama
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Firefly gains from domestic operations

Firefly Sdn Bhd’s domestic operations are very profitable while its international sector is sustainable just after two years of taking to the skies, says managing director Eddy Leong.

“We make money from all our domestic routes, they are exceptionally profitable.

“As for our international sector, it is seasonable traffic and some routes have their own geopolitical issues but by and large, we can sustain the operations,’’ he told StarBiz.

He did not give any figures as Firefly is a wholly-owned unit of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), which is expected to announce its first-quarter results tomorrow.

Firefly flies to 16 destinations currently. Of these, nine are domestic and seven international.

The carrier, which operates using the turboprops, has a load factor of 72%, despite the challenging times airlines are facing due to lack of demand for air travel and the A (H1N1) virus scare.

This airline will add five new routes to its network soon. On July 1, it will begin mounting flights from Subang Skypark to Singapore, followed by Ipoh-Singapore by July 12, then Kuala Terengganu-Singapore, Kuantan-Singapore and finally, Malacca-Singapore.

Today, the airline will announce details of its expansion into Singapore, including fares and flight timings. It is learnt that fares may be from RM88 one-way, even for its Ipoh-Singapore sector.

Expansion aside, Leong said more importantly, it was about providing connectivity from the secondary points in the country to Singapore, whose Changi Airport is a known transit hub in this region.

“(Connecting to) Singapore is to complement our network. It used to be a lucrative route because capacity was controlled but now, airlines are dropping fares and we would be happy to break even for the Subang-Singapore route.

“We are also not expanding aggressively like other airlines as we want to provide just enough flights to serve the people. We want to be commuting people and facilitating trade and development to benefit the states in which we operate,’’ he said.

The fare from RM88 for one-way travel to Singapore includes 20kg of baggage, a snack on board and assigned seating.

“We are a good alternative, given our location, and passengers pay less in taxi fare to go to Subang SkyPark instead of the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal or KL International Airport.

“At RM88 one-way, we are offering value and I am confident we are offering the best fares. You have to look at the total experience,’’ Leong said.

Source : STAR
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Tourism Ministry Aims To Attract 100,000 French Tourists

The Tourism Ministry aimed to attract 100,000 tourists from France this year, said its minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen.

Towards this end, she said the ministry encouraged Malaysians who were proficient in French to become tour guides.

"The French prefer tour guides who are able to speak French. Presently, we have made our policies more flexible and are able to engage French residents in Malaysia for this (act as tour guides).

"One positive outcome of this is that they can help train Malaysians to become French speaking tour guides.

"The ministry is willing to help in their training and those interested are encouraged to register with us," she told reporters after holding a dialoge session with tourism industry players here Wednesday.

She added that France was a huge market for tourism and that last year some 90,000 French tourists visited Malaysia whereas Thailand was able to attract over 400,000 visitors from that country.

Source : Bernama
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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Vote Sipadan for New 7 Wonders of Nature

The only oceanic island in Malaysia which rises 600 meters from the seabed, Sipadan Island is a world wonder in its own right. It is formed by living corals engulfing an extinct volcano cone which took centuries to develop. Located at the centre of the Indo-Pacific basin, Sipadan Island has one of the world’s richest marine biodiversity in its ecosystem.

Emerging from 222 participating countries, Sipadan Island has been nominated as one of the 261 qualified national and multinational nominees.

Your votes will decide which of these nominees will make it to the top 77 in each group category.

For more information, please contact:

Corporate Address:51 Gaya Street, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Malaysia.

Postal Address:Mail Bag 112, 88993 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.

Contact Numbers:Tel: +6088-212121 Fax: +6088-212075, 219311, 222666

Email Contact:

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Raffles Hotel Kuala Lumpur - Opens at Pavilion KL in 2011

Raffles comes in 2011 to Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

KL's most exclusive commercial district

will be elevated with an award-winning name,

renowned for its heartfelt service

"like a gentle breeze", Soon, you will be

captivated by this sophisticated gem

in the heart of bustling Bukit Bintang.

Our heartfelt gratitude to

YB Dato Sri Dr Ng yen Yen,

Minister of Tourism Malaysia,

for witnessing the signing ceremony of

Raffles Kuala Lumpur between

Harmoni Perkasa Sdn Bhd

and Raffles Hotels & Resorts

A foretaste to Raffles at Cafe Stelle

Attentive service meets Italian flavours at Cafe Stelle

in Pavilion KL , Level 2

Raffles Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Aquaria Marine Parks School Holidays Family Package Promotion

Aquaria Marine Parks School Holidays Family Package Promotion

For the first time, experience up close the beauty of

Malaysia's Marine Park right in the heart of KL City.

Be spellbound by

Life-sized replicas of the Hammerhead Shark, Anglerfish & Barracuda

Unique wall to wall images of the park's beautiful islands

Learn more about Malaysia's Marine Parks

Collection of butterflies, moths and beetles plus many more exciting exhibits


30 May to 14 June 2009

2 Adults + 2 Children

RM88 (with Mykad)

RM118 (without Mykad)

Aquaria KLCC

Concourse Level

Kuala Lumur Convention Centre

50088 Kuala Lumpur

Tel 603 2333 1888

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Sunway Hotel Georgetown - From RM99

Sunway Hotel Georgetown - From RM99

Stay in the heart of Georgetown within walking distance from famous

New Lane haweker stalls and the UNESO World Heritage historic enclave.

Foodies, heritage buffs and holidaymakers can now enjoy an

unbeatable offer in conjunction with Sunway Hotel Georgetown's

15th anniversary celebration.

For Reservations call 604 229 9988

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

State fund to focus on tourism, oil and gas

SHAHROL Azral Ibrahim Halmi, 39, was initially sceptical when he first heard about Terengganu Investment Authority Bhd (TIA).

He wondered, not unlike many others, if the scheme was just another way for a select few to experiment and benefit from the state’s oil money at the expense of the state and its people.

So, two months ago, when the executive partner at Accenture Malaysia was approached and offered the job of TIA CEO, he thought the decision would be easy, given his misgivings.

But he had a change of heart after an audience with the Sultan of Terengganu Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin, who is also the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Shahrol Azral

“I consider myself an idealistic person wanting to improve things for the country. The turning point came when I saw Tuanku’s passion and what he wanted to achieve with TIA,’’ he tells StarBizWeek in an interview.

“I keep telling people this is a unique opportunity to make a difference in the country.’’

While Shahrol may be convinced, he now shares the heavy load of convincing sceptics, of which there are many, about TIA’s mandate to bring socio-economic development to the state and its people and its ability to invest prudently to generate recurring income, while upholding the strictest form of transparency and corporate governance.

TIA will have an initial fund size of RM11bil, of which RM5bil will be raised via a government-backed 30-year Islamic medium-term note – the first 30-year paper ever issued in the country – and RM6bil via a derivative programme that essentially sells forward the state’s oil royalties for immediate payment today.

When you view that against the fact that TIA, as it stands now, has a paid-up capital of RM1mil and a few staff at its initial stages, it would be hard to believe that it can pull it off.

Shahrol points out that TIA will raise its paid-up capital to RM200mil very soon and RM1bil in due course. The agency has also embarked on an aggressive recruitment to hire up to 100 employees within the next year.

Funding structure

TIA executive director of business development, Casey Tan, says the money being raised by selling forward the oil royalties is net of what the state would use for its developmental budget.

“It will not stretch the government’s finances. Funds for TIA will be raised from domestic and international investors,” he said.

He is eager to point out that the funds raised from the assignment to TIA of some of the future oil royalties currently due to the state is “not borrowed money”, as they are essentially “sales proceeds from the sale of receivables”.

He explains that TIA has monetised the royalties in a way that will allow it to enjoy the upside if oil prices rise while limiting the downside losses if oil prices fall.

“If the oil prices fall below the floor, the investor who bought our derivatives will have to absorb the losses. If it goes higher than specified, then TIA and the investor will be able to share in the upside,” he says.

As for the other part of the financing which involves the issue of RM5bil debt papers, the book-building process closes on Monday at 5pm. The lead manager and underwriter for the medium-term notes is AmInvestment Bank while Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan are advisors for the financing structure related to the future oil royalties.

So far, the signs are encouraging. Shahrol says the take up rate for the bonds have exceeded RM8bil in value and the yield on the 30-year bonds is 5.75%, which an analyst says is quite good considering the fact that it’s a long-term paper. So far, some 55% of the subscribers involve foreigners.

Tang also explains that the Government guarantee was needed for the bonds to lower its cost of borrowing.

“The Federal Government does not come up with the cash. But it allows TIA to rely on its credit rating to raise the funding from public markets at a lower cost of capital,” he says, adding that this way, it subjects TIA to the “discipline of managing the funds prudently and professionally to ensure that the investment returns exceed the ongoing costs of the financing.”

Shahrol adds that the Government guarantee enables TIA to raise the money, as it is a new fund without a track record, and also helps lower the cost of financing.

He points out that the interests of the Federal Government and TIA are fully aligned as Minister of Finance Inc (MOF Inc) will be issued with a special share that entitles it to certain special approval rights as well as 10% of TIA’s annual after-tax profit.

“MOF Inc will enjoy profits derived from TIA’s entire capital base, although the Government guarantee covers RM5bil. And the profit share will remain in force even after the Government guarantee has expired, so long as MOF Inc continues to hold the special share,” he says.

But why the rush to raise money now? “Given the current volatile market conditions, timing is of essence. We want to capitalise on opportunities as they arise ... whether it means taking advantage of fund-raising windows in the market or pursuing quality investment opportunities at attractive valuations,” says Shahrol.

Given that the fund is borrowing to invest, some observers have said that it should be referred to as a hedge fund instead of sovereign wealth fund. Tang replies: “We don’t borrow to do a portfolio allocation. We are putting the money into productive projects which have to be viable and have an economic agenda that creates jobs and foreign direct investment.”

He says TIA’s hurdle rate for investments is 8% and it has a internal rate of return target of between 15% and 20%, which some have described as rather ambitious, especially amidst the current environment.

“It’s a little on the high side ... unless the fund is also involved in the market trading, although that would mean it is exposing itself to the vagaries of the financial markets,” says an observer.

The mandate

The idea for TIA was mooted by Tuanku Mizan, who had visited Abu Dhabi and was keen to set up an agency akin to Mubadala, that country’s strategic investment arm.

“We are modelling ourselves after Mubadala and are differentiating ourselves against Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Temasek or GIC because the idea is more towards catalysing economic growth in certain regions,’’ says Shahrol.

Although Terengganu has a large portion of the country’s hydrocarbon reserves, it remains one of the poorest states.

Nonetheless, its GDP is over 75% dependent on oil and gas and the plan is to lower that portion. That can be achieved by growing other sectors of the state’s economy, and that is what TIA aims to do.

“We want to catalyse economic growth in the different sectors and make their contributions to GDP bigger and also drive sustainable growth when oil and gas runs out,’’ says Shahrol.

“The target is for the state to be self sufficient in 2020,” says Tang.

Tang says that by the matching FDI concept, the RM11bil TIA raised would actually be worth RM22bil in investment, which changes the scope and type of investments TIA will handle. The matching investment from Mubadala and other foreign investors is expected to start rolling in from July onwards.

He points out that TIA needs to have a sufficiently large capital base to make significant high-impact investments, capitalise on economies of scale and minimise concentration risk while taking on large scale long-term projects.

The investment proposition

“We have the projects and they have been planned for over a year. We are in execution mode and our partners are all ready,’’ he says.

The plan, says Shahrol, is to “create the largest independent oil and gas exploration and production company” in the region and for this purpose, TIA is in final stages of negotiation with Mubadala, which is keen to expand its energy assets in the region via Pearl Energy. TIA expects to invest some US$1bil while Mubadala, if all turns out as planned, will invest some US$1.2bil in the venture, he adds.

The other plan involves boosting tourism, already one of Terengganu’s main strengths, by developing several islands off the coast into world-class resorts through partnerships with several foreign parties.

To get better yields, he says, TIA will not just focus on the hotel business but is “taking a masterplan approach to build a resort with private villas and other amenities as well as retirement homes”. Towards this end, TIA will invest some US$1.8bil while it expects the sum to be similarly matched by a foreign investor for the project.

“It will be a tourism play. The land will be acquired from the state and sold at a higher price to the master developer. There could also be opportunities later to package it into a real estate investment trust (REIT) to get the desired returns,” says Tang.

But observers say such a massive tourism play may also be fraught with difficulties. The year-end monsoon has traditionally curtailed large-scale tourism projects in the East Coast and there are a number of holiday spots in the region, such as Bali and Phuket, that offer competition.

Also, connectivity to Terengganu needs to be improved.

- - - - - - - - -

IT ought to be one of the country’s greatest paradoxes – that oil and gas rich state Terengganu is one of the country’s poorest states. And the main culprit is without a doubt the political wrangling over the state’s major lifeline – oil royalties – and the cloak of uncertainty over its disbursement and utilisation.

There are still some outstanding issues, both legal and otherwise, involving Terengganu’s most hotly disputed oil royalty of an estimated RM1bil a year, but even as that plays out, the clearest evidence that something is amiss is that the over a million population in the state have yet to truly feel the benefits of the oil riches.

Think about it – oil was first discovered in the eastern coastal state over three decades ago and apart from the major shift in the state’s main economic engine from farming and fishing to oil and gas over that period, it still ranks poorly in the social development indices.

Toss in the fact that the state’s mean household income is one of the lowest in the country, second only to Kelantan and it can be appreciated that oil is a major slippery point for many.

Against that, it is easy to understand the overwhelming scepticism triggered by the establishment of the Terengganu Investment Authority Bhd (TIA), the country’s first state-owned sovereign wealth fund, which plans to kick off soon with an initial fund size of RM11bil, of which RM5bil involves government-backed debt papers and another RM6bil to be sourced from the assignment to TIA of some of the future oil royalties. TIA is wholly owned by Menteri Besar, Terengganu (MB Inc).

The most vociferous protests stems from two points – TIA is starting from the position of debt (government-backed at that) and it is merely creating another layer of oil royalty recipient to feed vested interests, again, at the cost of the state’s natural resources.

There is also the worry of whether or not the returns from TIA’s investments will be able to match or exceed the cost of financing (estimated at between 5.5% and 6%), which in a nutshell is the single most critical point in which TIA’s performance will be judged as a success or a failure.

Fanning such scepticism is, of course, the blemished track record of many state-controlled investment agencies which more than adequately highlight the perils of getting involved in business without the necessary professional expertise nor proper governance structure in place.

The thing is that the state is currently faced with a development logjam – there is no clear plan on how to bring prosperity to the people or how best to use the oil royalties it will soon be able to enjoy as an annual payment made directly to the state. The urgency is apparent – what will the state do when it runs out of oil? And that’s not too far off. It is estimated that it may even take place as soon as 15 years from now.

Clearly, in an attempt to fill in this void is TIA, the architect of which is the Sultan of Terengganu and Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin and its much-vaunted promise that it will prudently manage the state’s oil wealth for the long term, encourage a flow of talent, economic activity and most importantly, prepare the state for the post-oil era.

That agenda is accompanied by another promise – to uphold the best form of governance. Towards this end, it has structured a triple-tier check and balance system comprising the board of directors, a board of advisers and a senior management team with relevant industry experience.

And while the board of directors will comprise representatives from the three stakeholders – MB Inc, Minister of Finance Inc and TIA Foundation (each own a preference share) – it promises too that none of the board members can hold positions in the government or occupy any political positions and that they will comprise “professionals with extensive experience in industry and priority investment sectors”.

Truth is, the bar, at present is so low and in the absence of any concrete plan elsewhere, it may be worth giving TIA a shot. As it stands now, the discrepancies on the data on how much oil royalties have actually been paid out to the state varies depending on who you ask. Clarity on this issue is imperative.

TIA’s newly appointed CEO Shahrol Halmi appears genuine when he promises transparency on the use of the funds and its investment decisions. “We intend to incorporate best practices of sovereign wealth funds from around the world,” he says.

The fund is fashioning itself after Mubadala Development, Abu Dhabi’s Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) which not too long ago surprised the world by making public for the first time, its annual report and by doing so, furnishing details that matched up to the disclosure levels of public listed companies.

It marked a refreshing break from the general perception that most SWF’s operations are shrouded in secrecy. Mubadala hopes that in sending out the signal, that it has nothing to hide, the world will be more embracing as it pushes forth its strategy to expand overseas. Indeed, a move worth following for TIA.

A main element of TIA’s strategy involves a tourism slant and that may not be too hard to wing considering the state’s long coastline is already a sweet tourism spot and some of the islands are touted to be some of the world’s most popular diving destinations.

But the overriding factor in judging TIA is the extent of financial discipline it will employ to meet its financial obligations, its returns on investments and its commercial integrity even as it pursues the developmental agenda which is to ensure the future prosperity and long-term sustainable economic development of the state and the well being of its people.

TIA seems to have everything in place, on paper, that is. Now all it needs to do is live up to its word. Otherwise, the issue of royalty that has long been an issue in Terengganu, will have an added dimension.

Source : STAR & STAR
[tags : ]

Singapore's hotel revenue plunges 40% in April

Singapore's hotel revenue plummeted 40 percent in April as owners slashed room rates amid the global drop-off in travel.

Revenue fell to 110 million Singapore dollars ($76 million) from SG$184 million a year earlier and SG$122 million in March, the Singapore Tourism Board said Wednesday.

Singapore's mainstay industries - tourism, manufacturing and finance - have all been battered by the global economic slowdown.

The government expects the economy to contract as much as 9 percent this year.

The average hotel room rate of SG$186 in April was down 27 percent from a year earlier and 8.4 percent lower than in March, the board said.

Tourist arrivals dropped 6.1 percent to 779,000 in April from 829,000 in the same month a year earlier, the board said.

Arrivals fell 1.5 percent from March.

The hotel occupancy rate slid to 71 percent from 83 percent a year earlier.

Tourist income will likely fall to between S$12 billion and S$12.5 billion this year from S$14.8 billion last year, the board said in February.

It expects tourist arrivals to drop to between 9 million and 9.5 million in 2009 from 10.1 million in 2008.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside School Holiday Escape

Pullman Putrajaya Lakeside School Holiday Escape

From RM199 ++ per room per night

Complimentary breakfast for 2 adults and 2 children below 12 years

2 children stay free when sharing a bed with parents in the same room

Enjoy leisure facilities - kids club, games room, swimming pool, fitness centre

Valid on Friday, Saturday & Sunday

Call Tel 603 8890 0000

Visit now

[tags : ]

Emirates Time To Fly Promotion

Emirates Time To Fly

Travel to exciting destinations with special fares

that include fuel surcharge. Offer ends 30 June 2009

From Economy Class

London - RM1300

Bahrain - RM1000

Doha - RM1000

Dubai - RM1000

Kuwait - RM1000

Tehran - RM1000

India - RM900

Pakistan - RM900

Visit now

[tags : ]

MAS Everyday Low Fares

MAS Everyday Low Fares

Log on for Everyday Low fares

Experience 5-star MH, everyday

This is Malaysian Hospitality.

Booking Period : 25 May - 7 June

Travel Period : 25 June - 30 November

Visit everyday!

Malaysia Airlines (MAs) will be offering more all inclusive low-fare bargains starting from RM48 for domestic travels beginning June 25 to Nov 30.

MAS Network and Revenue Management senior general manager Dr Amin Khan said the offer demonstrates the company's commitment to provide customers with quality, affordable and convenient services.

The public can make their reservations at from May 25 to June 7.

"With such competitive fares, customers can now consider travelling to destinations that previously did not fit their budget.

“For instance, fares from Kuala Lumpur to Cape Town are now going for as low as RM 988 while Los Angeles or Buenos Aires start from RM 1888," he said in a press statement Sunday.

According to Dr Amin, travellers on these low fares will still enjoy premium services such as snacks and meals on board, convenient schedules, punctual departures and a minimum 20kg baggage allowance.

Trips to Asean countries start from RM 198, one way trip from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore RM 98, Hong Kong from RM 398 whilst Seoul would cost RM 388 and Chennai RM 398.

Perth on the other hand starts at RM 498, Tokyo RM 688 and London RM 888, he added.

Source : STAR

Berjaya Travel Marvels

Marvelous Holidays! Take a break with Berjaya Travel Marvels

Berjaya Langkawi - 3D/2N - RM418
Berjaya Redang - 3D/2N - RM598
Berjaya Tioman - 3D/2N - RM398
Berjaya Hills, Pahang - 2D/1N - RM178
Berjaya Times Square - RM348
Berjaya Georgetown Penang - RM178
Berjaya Singapore - S$228
Call 603 2141 0088

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Flu scare affecting Johor tourism

The influenza A(H1N1) virus has come as a double whammy to the tourism industry that is still reeling from the effects of the global recession.

Tour groups in Singapore have cancelled plans for travel in June, which is a popular holiday period during the island republic’s school break.

Malaysian Tourist Guides Council president Jimmy Leong said there was also a slowdown in bookings from countries like Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

“The industry has already seen a 40% slump in the past six months due to the economic uncertainties.

“We expect to see a drop in revenue as people hold back their travel plans because of the unpredictable situation of the pandemic, he said.

However, Leong said the real impact of the flu on tourism would only be felt in the next few months as those, who had paid in advance for their tours, would usually continue with their plans.

“Johor is particularly vulnerable as it is dependant on Singapore for the bulk of its tourist arrivals,” said Leong.

The last time the tourism industry was badly hit by a pandemic was during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

He said hotels had learnt from the SARS episode and were now prepared to separate and isolate their guests in special rooms if any showed signs of illness.

“It is worrying as the livelihood of those dependent on the tourism industry is also at stake,” he said.

However, Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Ngiam Foon said the outbreak had yet to affect outbound travel, with many Malaysians still going ahead with their vacation plans.

He said Malaysians did not panic easily although they would monitor the health status of their destinations before departing.

“At present, there is minimal impact on Malaysian travellers. There are no cancellations as yet.

“The consumers are smart as they will find out the true status of their intended destination before travelling. Regional travel is not affected,” he said.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

MAS has strong forward bookings

Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) forward bookings until year-end look “positive and strong’’ despite the turbulence in the aviation sector with the A (H1N1) flu creating chaos on top of a slowing global economy, according to senior general manager of sales Datuk Bernard Francis.

“Demand for flights did decline since November but we are in a transformation mode and therefore we quickly shifted our strategy to focus on the retail market by undertaking aggressive promotional activities to stimulate demand.

“In the current circumstances, innovation is key and being in the retail market has helped us maintain our load factors from June to December 2009 at the same levels as last year. Load factor was 68%-69% in the period last year,’’ he told StarBiz.

Currently, MAS’ load factor stands at 65% and the airline has not reduced capacity apart from the earlier announced 6%.

Francis said the airline had for a long time relied on group sales, which only contributed 30% to the group revenue, and reaching out to the retail market had proved to be fruitful.

MAS has organised several Malaysia International Travel Fairs (MITFs) in foreign countries and this has boosted forward bookings.

“We need to offer the best deals out there with no fuel surcharges to stimulate demand and our fares are truly competitive.

“Our MITFs are about anchoring on big results fast and, as our managing director Datuk Seri Idris Jala says, we need to do everything possible to survive,’’ he said.

MITFs have since been organised in the United States, Europe, Britain, China, India, Hong Kong and one is currently being held in Jakarta. Another is scheduled for Japan next week.

“We had good response for our recent fair in Britain. It not only brought the bookings but created greater awareness for the airline and Malaysia as a tourist destination,’’ he said.

MAS has seen a 4% rise in forward bookings for June to December 2009 compared with the same period last year for South Asia, 10% increase for the United States after capacity cuts, but 5% down for Australia due to intense competition.

“With our everyday low fares we have seen our bookings rising 3% (for the June-December period) from last year for Asean,’’ Francis said without revealing last year’s figures.

The global load factor has come to a standstill this month and not many want to predict which way it will go given the chaos in the aviation industry. Traditionally, the third quarter is the strongest for global airlines and if there is no uptrend, then it should be a gloomy summer ahead for most airlines.

“Last year the challenge was to manage the high fuel cost in addition to decline in demand for travel. This year the sector is hit by the H1N1 and no one can predict how long the flu will linger on,’’ Francis added.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Starwood's new Meetings Promotion includes a chance to win a private concert

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc and PepsiCo., Inc. joined forces to offer meeting planners unprecedented savings for their meetings and events and a unique opportunity to give back to the community. This new promotion is part of a larger effort by Starwood to stimulate the hard hit meetings industry by offering value added incentives that provide a great benefit to group customers, including small businesses, large corporations and associations.

Now through August 31, 2009, meeting planners that book a new meeting with 10 or more room nights will receive four percent (4%) off of their master account plus a complimentary morning or afternoon refreshment break from PepsiCo. Additionally, companies will have a chance to win a private concert with Grammy-nominated British songstress Natasha Bedingfield for a charity of their choice. Famous for her hit singles, “Pocketful of Sunshine” and “Unwritten,” the pop star will perform an intimate concert in the name of the winning company’s favorite charity in November or December 2009. This exciting group program is bookable at more than 290 North America hotels across eight of Starwood’s brands including Westin, Sheraton, Le Méridien, W, Luxury Collection, Four Points by Sheraton, Element and Aloft.

Starwood’s latest meetings promotionis one of the best deals in the industry, appealing to meeting planners and their attendees alike. The complete offer includes:

  • 4% off the master bill
  • A complimentary morning or afternoon refreshment break sponsored by PepsiCo
  • Starwood Preferred Planner signing bonus of up to 100,000 Starpoints
  • The opportunity to win a concert by Natasha Bedingfield for the winning company’s charity of choice

“Meetings and incentives are a critical component that will help jump start business and ultimately serve as a catalyst to economic recovery,” said David Marr, Senior Vice President of Brand Management, North America at Starwood Hotels & Resorts. “That said, we understand that our customers’ budgets are tighter than ever, and ultimately the more value we can provide to them, the more likely they are to proceed with their meeting programs which support their business goals. We created this initiative to strike the right balance between providing value for meetings in today’s tough economic reality while at the same time supporting philanthropic efforts that are important to our customer’s local communities. In collaboration with PepsiCo and Natasha Bedingfield, we are delighted to offer an innovative meeting experience to planners and their meeting attendees.”

“PepsiCo’s mantra is Performance with Purpose – growing our customers’ businesses through a wide variety of beverages, snacks and foods while acting as responsible citizens of the world. This promotion with Starwood truly reflects this mission by offering meeting attendees nourishing experiences while touching the community in a very meaningful way,” said Margery Schelling, Chief Marketing Officer PepsiCo Foodservice Division.

The Value Meetings Promotion is bookable now through August 31, 2009 and is eligible for meetings redeemed before March 31, 2010. The concert must be held prior to December 20, 2009. St. Regis is launching a similar meeting promotion and offers meeting planners the opportunity to donate their Starwood Preferred Planner signing bonus to a select list of charitable platforms. The promotion also offers 4% off the master bill and a complimentary break.

Source : ETBMice
[tags : ]

Shangri-La launches maximice to help meeting organisers maximise returns

Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Asia Pacific’s leading luxury hotel group, launches MaxiMICE – an initiative designed to maximise the returns of delivering successful events. Meeting organisers can enjoy a 10 per cent credit by booking a meeting group and save the credit for the next meeting at any Shangri-La hotels and resorts. Meeting organisers can receive a credit to a maximum of US$5,000, the credit can be used for any hotel services on their next meeting group at any of Shangri-La hotels and resorts. This offer is applicable when confirming a meeting between 1 May and 31 December 2009.

MaxiMICE aims to bring meeting organisers the best and most flexible rewards within the strong network of 62 Shangri-La hotels and resorts, and will assist meeting organisers easily find an ideal location, whether in a city hotel, resort or a Traders hotel. Shangri-La offers total meeting space of over 130,000 square metres (over 1.4 million square feet), more meeting capacity than any other Asia Pacific luxury hotel group, featuring pillarless, high-ceilinged ballrooms up to 2,240 square metres in key city locations, and coupled with exceptional Shangri-La service. Shangri-La guarantees meeting organiser a streamlined and successful event.

“At Shangri-La, we understand that busy event organisers are constantly looking to maximise their returns without compromising the standard of excellence in delivering successful events. We are committed to partner with meeting organisers in making their event a stress-free and efficient affair,” said Kent Zhu, group director of sales and marketing.

Hong Kong-based Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts, Asia Pacific’s leading luxury hotel group, currently owns and/or manages 62 hotels under the deluxe Shangri-La and mid-market Traders brands, with a rooms inventory of over 28,000. The group has over 40 projects under development in Austria, Canada, mainland China, France, India, Macau, Maldives, Philippines, Qatar, Seychelles, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.

Source : ETBMice
[tags : ]

Langham Hotels International Develops No Strings Attached Pledge to Help Recession-Ravaged Meeting Planners

Langham Hotels International has launched the No Strings Attached Pledge to take out the sting for event planners who organise meetings in today’s recessionary climate.

Alison Styles, Vice President – Sales for Langham Hotels International said: “The hospitality industry understands the economic challenges only too well. Globally, budgets are under stress and corporates don’t want to be accused of extravagance.

Meeting planners around the globe have shared with us the challenges they are facing. We’ve listened and created a Pledge which helps them to continue to do business effectively.”

“Planners still want to conduct business but they want the venues, especially hotels, to be more flexible and responsive. They want a ‘get out of jail’ card – as well as a cost effective value for money deal. The hotel that offers this combination is the one most likely to win the business.”

“In this climate, it’s about sharing the risk and Langham Hotels International is offering flexibility with a human face. It’s not purely a numbers game. This approach demonstrates to our partners that we are committed to long term business relationships,” she added.

Langham Hotels International No Strings Attached Pledge is valid for new bookings from now until March 2010 and takes away the major hurdles to booking a venue for a business meeting.

Cancellation Terms Waived
Traditional meeting contracts include cancellation clauses which carry substantial penalties. No Strings Attached offers complete flexibility:
Zero penalties if a meeting is cancelled at least 60 days prior to the event.
50% of your cancellation fee credited to your next meeting in 2010 at any Langham property around the world should you cancel within 60 days of the meeting.

No Attrition Rate Charges
Meeting contracts carry a penalty if the minimum hotel room number is not met.
This is now waived under Langham’s No Strings Attached Pledge

No Food and Beverage Minimums
Most meeting contracts stipulate a minimum food and beverage requirement.
Langham Hotels International waives this for group bookings

Internet Charges Waived
Internet Charges will be waived at all participating hotels for all delegates staying in the hotel and general session meetings.

Ms Styles said: “Meetings today and yesterday have always been about providing a good return on investment for the planner. While we’re in the business of luxury hospitality – it should be remembered that we’re also in the business of service. That means being flexible, innovative and tailoring our event solutions to their needs.”

The No Strings Attached Pledge is the latest initiative from Langham Hotels International to assist meeting planners. It follows the recent launch of takethelead ( which takes the best of a convenient online platform, service commitments for meeting planners, combined with the best available facilities while injecting the magic ingredient of a human service element.

Source : ETBMice
[tags : ]

Quarantine ends for 169 passengers and crew members

The 149 flight passengers and 20 crew members are due to be released from home qua­ran­tine today, Health Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Ramlee Rahmat said yesterday.

The 169 people who had been monitored by the ministry over the last one week were from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH091 and AirAsia Flight AK5358.

However, 70 passengers and one cabin crew member from the two flights had not responded to the ministry’s call to come forward.

“The A (H1N1) patient in Sungai Buloh Hos­pi­tal and the one in Penang Hospital are up and about in the ward,” he told a press conference.

There are 9,245 confirmed A (HINI) cases and 75 deaths worldwide to date.

The number of countries affected reached 40 yesterday, the latest being Chile with two cases.

There was no new case in Malaysia apart from the two 21-year-old male and female students who returned from the United States and were detected last week, he said.

The man who was warded at Sungai Buloh Hospital was confirmed A (H1N1) last Friday and the woman in Penang Hospital the next day.

She had boarded Flight AK5358 from the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal in Sepang to Penang last Wednesday.

In Sabah, Dr Ramlee said two foreign tourists were quarantined in a house in Kota Kina­ba­lu because they had flown in the Cathay Pa­ci­fic Flight CX831 where an A (HINI) case was onboard.

The flight from the United States landed in Hong Kong last Saturday where the two took a connecting flight, Dragon Air Flight KA061, to Sabah.

Dr Ramlee said the two had landed at Kota Kinabalu last Sunday before the Sabah Health Department tracked them down.

Both were fine and should be released from their home quarantine this Saturday, he said.

The ministry had tested 134 suspected cases between April 27 and yesterday and 130 were confirmed negative.

Meanwhile, Bernama reports that six people, including two Swedish tourists, are under quarantine in Pahang since May 13 for suspected A (H1N1).

Pahang Health committee chairman Datuk Hoh Khai Mun said that the couple from Sweden had been quarantined at a hotel in the Jerantut district while a family of four had been quarantined at their house in Bentong.

None of them had shown any symptoms of the disease so far, he said.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Walk-in sous chef fills hotel’s job vacancy

Opportunities sometimes show up in unexpected ways, as a hotel executive discovered when conducting a job interview at Studio V, 1 Utama Shopping Centre.

“It so happens that we are looking for a sous chef, and one candidate turned up with the qualifications we wanted, including overseas experience,” said Rosma Ishak, who is The Legend Hotel Kuala Lumpur Human Resources assistant director.

The Legend Group of Hotels and Resorts is participating with The Star this week at the Star-Jobs h.e.l.p Career Centre at Studio V.

The group comprises several business units including The Legend Hotel, Grand Seasons Hotel and Legend Worldwide Holidays.

Rosma said the group had more than 50 vacancies waiting to be filled at management level and various departments.

“We have many vacancies for the front-line departments, such as guest service officers, concierges and telephone operators,” she said.

On what the group looked for in potential candidates, Rosma said those in the service line must possess a “can do” attitude and communications skills.

“As for those at managerial level, we want those able to contribute new ideas and know how to capitalise on the Internet as the trend is shifting towards this platform.”

She said the group was keen to hire local talents, but they must be willing to work shifts – a key element in the hospitality industry.

Rosma advised candidates to come with an open mind and be versatile.

“The job prospects are good. If employees are keen to try different departments, we are able to accommodate, provided they have a good working track record,” she said.

The Legend Hotel Kuala Lumpur will be conducting walk-in interviews from 2pm to 6pm tomorrow at Studio V.

Positions available are in accounts, catering sales, reservations, concierge, sales, security and safety, food and beverage and telemarketing.

To register, log on to Applicants are advised to bring along their resumes.

The Star-Jobs h.e.l.p or the Star-Jobs Hope and Employment Lifeline Project is aimed at assisting those seeking re-employment during these critical times.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Win a hotel stay for Fathers Day

Win a hotel stay and GPS system for Father’s Day.

WANT to win a three-day, two-night stay in the Executive Suite at the Sheraton Subang Hotel & Towers, plus a Garmin Nuvo GPS automobile navigation system?

If you’re a father, you could win those prizes by entering the ParenThots Father’s Day Contest. If dads are too busy, mums or the kids can enter the contest on their behalf.

All you have to do is go to the ParenThots Father’s Day Contest page (, log in and tell us why you are a deserving dad. You can tell us about your contributions to the family and what makes you stand out from other fathers. Winners will be chosen based on originality as well as the most deserving father.

Grand Prize

·A 3 day/2 night Weekend Retreat at Sheraton Subang Hotel & Towers – in the Executive Suite (inclusive of breakfast for two) in Selangor.

·One Garmin Nuvi 205 GPS automobile navigation system.

1st Prize

·A 3 day/2 night Weekend Retreat at Sheraton Subang Hotel & Towers – Deluxe Room inclusive of breakfast for two.

·One Garmin Forerunner 50 watch together with heart rate monitor.

2nd Prize

Buffet dinner for two at Terazza Brasserie, Sheraton Subang Hotel & Towers.

Father’s Day promotions

In conjunction with Father’s Day, Sheraton Subang Hotel & Towers is offering a special package just for dads. The package, priced at RM890++, is inclusive of a three-day, two-night stay in the Junior Suite with buffet breakfast for two. In addition, fathers will be invited to a Father’s Day High Tea which is valued at RM69. For more pampering, the package offers a complimentary one-hour spa massage at Tanjung Wellness Spa worth RM230. The package also includes a complimentary two-hour personal trainer session at the Clark Hatch Fitness Centre. The normal value of the whole package is RM1,863.

Fathers can then unwind at the Piano Lounge and enjoy a 50% discount all day long. To experience a variety of cuisine from around the world, fathers will be given a 50% savings at all F&B restaurants at the hotel. Kinslager tailor and boutique (in the hotel) is also giving a discount for all suits made during the Father’s Day Month.

The hotel is also having Father’s Day lunch/high-tea/dinner at its restaurants. Prices start at RM69++.

Meanwhile, Garmin is offering a 10% discount for the Nuvi 205 or 205W navigation systems from June 21-27. Readers need to print out the voucher (available on the contest page at ParenThots) to get the discount from Aeco Technologies stores (addresses available in the contest page).

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Famosa Resort Malaysia Individual Package

A Famosa Resort Malaysia Holiday Package

Pack our bags now and indulge in the wonder HOLIDAY @ A'Famosa!

Individual Package

2 Days 1 Night

- Animal World Safari

- Carnival

- From RM98 per pax

3 Days 2 Nights

- Animal World Safari

- Carnival

- Water Wolrd

- From RM168 per pax

Family Package

2 Adults 2 Children

2 Days 1 Night

- Animal World Safari

- Carnival

- From RM318 per unit

Contact Tel 603 2781 8888

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hotel crime rises in recession, but hotels say they're still safe

Mary Catherine Tubbs was an experienced hotel manager, but that didn't save her from becoming a crime victim at a hotel 10 years ago.

Like two women tied up last month in New England hotel rooms by an assailant dubbed the "Craigslist killer," Tubbs was tied up by a man who followed her into a hotel room in Northbrook, Ill.

He threw her to the floor, tied her hands behind her back with a bathrobe sash, put a pillowcase over her head and choked her.

"I resisted vigorously, and he left," says Tubbs, a hospitality consultant in Nashville, who managed hotels from 1990 to 1998.

"We're absolutely seeing an increase in crime at hotels," says Philip Farina, CEO of Enterprising Securities, a San Antonio company that designs security programs for hotels.

Security industry veterans like Farina say that the hard economic times are especially driving up incidents of theft, including the amount perpetrated by hotel staff. Hard times are also prompting cuts in security at some hotels. As a result, they say, guests must take more responsibility for their own safety by being more vigilant when they arrive and after checking in.

"The current (economic) downturn is associated with significant cuts in security," says Dave Wiggins, a member and former president of the California Tourism Safety & Security Association. At the same time, he says, hotel employees are working fewer hours and making less money, which "may be pushing some otherwise honest people toward dishonest behaviors."

Many in the hotel industry dispute that hotels are any less safe now, especially after security was beefed up following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Joe McInerney, president of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, disagrees with the security experts. He says there is no evidence crime is on the rise.

John Wolf, spokesman for Marriott International, says, "The incidence of crime within our hotels remains far below the rest of society."

Car break-ins also a problem

The fact is nobody knows how much crime is committed in hotels vs. elsewhere. Police don't keep statistics on that, and no hotel companies responded to USA TODAY's requests for crime data. However, hotel security experts such as Farina estimate that at least one crime may occur daily in a big-city hotel. And, they say, most are thefts.

A 2009 study that examined crimes reported by 64 Miami Beach hotels to the Miami Beach Police Department in 2002 and 2003 shows that theft is the chief problem.

The study, authored by criminology professors at Ball State University and a hospitality professor at Florida International University, found 756 crimes against guests were reported during the two years. The hotels, meanwhile, reported that they were the victims in 84 crimes — primarily burglaries.

Nearly half those crimes against guests were thefts, and 38% occurred in the hotel rooms. Car break-ins in hotel lots represented 13% of the crimes. More crimes occurred in the afternoon than any other time during a day.

Insurance claims also don't give an accurate gauge of how much theft occurs.

Richard Dahm, whose division of Wells Fargo Insurance Services insures about 50 Florida hotels primarily in Tampa, Clearwater and Sarasota, says each hotel files a couple of claims a year for crimes involving guests.

Hotels, though, may not file insurance claims just as they may not report crime to police, Farina says. "Hotels are notorious for wanting to protect their brand or image," he says.

Michael Brown, a Ball State criminology professor and co-author of the Miami Beach crime study, says guests also may not make reports.

"Hotel guests may also assume that they misplaced their items or the lost property is not worth the time and hassle to report the incident to hotel staff or police," Brown says.

Brown says that while there are no reliable data, "Research strongly suggests that most hotel crimes are committed by hotel employees."

Security in parking facilities

In many instances, it's easy to do. An employee at a luxury San Antonio hotel was arrested last year for stealing iPods and other items from guest rooms, says Farina, who wouldn't identify the hotel. The employee also ripped out checks from the middle of guests' checkbooks, apparently hoping the thefts would go undetected, he says.

But hotel employees certainly aren't entirely to blame, and guests have to bear some responsibility. Hotel parking facilities, which may be owned by a hotel, a municipality or a contractor, are vulnerable, too, if people leave their belongings in their cars.

Frequent business traveler Matthew Daecher of Harrisburg, Pa., says his 2006 Chevrolet Impala was broken into in September in the parking garage at Hilton Garden Inn in Secaucus, N.J. The car's door handle was pried away to access the lock.

"I guess it didn't go as quickly as planned, because they didn't get in and just damaged my car," says Daecher, the president of a transportation risk consulting company. "Or they decided to concentrate on the truck next to my car, where they did get in and stole a laptop and other items."

Hotel crime can be violent, too, as the "Craigslist killer" crimes at New England hotels pointed out.

Prosecutors in Suffolk County, Mass., have accused Boston University medical student Philip Markoff of tying up and robbing a prostitute at gunpoint in the Westin Copley Place hotel on April 10 and fatally shooting a 25-year-old masseuse April 14 at the Boston Marriott Copley Place.

The women reportedly met their assailant by posting ads for their services on the Craigslist classified advertising website. Prosecutors in Rhode Island allege that two days after the killing in Boston, Markoff assaulted a prostitute at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites in Warwick, R.I.

Markoff has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping and armed robbery. And Marriott International did not comment on the slaying at its Boston hotel. Marriott takes "the safety and security of our guests very seriously," and its hotels have "many protections and procedures" in place, spokesman Wolf says.

But those incidents aren't isolated ones.

A woman was allegedly raped May 1 at the Radisson Hotel Boston parking garage by the same man who allegedly raped another woman in the garage on April 19. Jose Ruben Rivera III, who is homeless, pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Two gunmen killed a man and a teenage boy, and wounded three others, on April 11 in a second-floor room at the Knights Inn in Rosemead, Calif. The Los Angeles County sheriff's office said the shooting occurred during a large party.

In Galena, Ill., a guest found the front-desk clerk unconscious after a man walked through the front door of the DeSoto House Hotel on April 4, assaulted the clerk with a knife and stole $500. In March, the clerk was robbed by another man with a gun who also stole $500.

Violent crimes such as armed robbery occur more frequently at small hotel properties near highways or in high-crime neighborhoods, says Norman Bates, a security consultant and former security director at three Boston hotels.

'Responsible for myself'

McInerney of the hotel association says hotels understand the importance of guest safety and — despite a severe downturn in travel — have made few cuts in security staffs.

Many hotels have security staff that periodically patrol hallways on guest-room floors, and many limit access to some floors with rooms for high-paying and frequent guests. But, at most hotels, non-guests have easy access to guest-room floors.

"Allowing non-guests on guest floors provides opportunities to commit crimes," Brown says. "It is perhaps the best practice to require guests to chaperone non-guests."

Security experts such as Farina say a hotel's security precautions can easily be compromised, and hotels need to take other measures. For instance, he says, using security staff to perform other hotel duties during tough economic times is asking for trouble.

"Security staff may be asked to deliver a meal to a room or taken off security for 20 minutes to help with housekeeping," says Farina. "Twenty minutes is a lot of time for something to happen."

He also says that hotels should require housekeepers and other employees to politely confront non-guests in hallways and ask whether they need help finding their room. "The last thing a criminal wants is for an employee to remember them," he says.

Tubbs, the former hotel manager who was assaulted in an Illinois hotel, says other steps need to be taken.

Check-in, shuttle-bus and restaurant employees need better security training, she says.

Keep room number private

Staff at front desks shouldn't announce a guest's room number at check-in, Tubbs says, because it could be valuable information for a criminal targeting a traveler. Nor, she says, should drivers or restaurant staffs call out guests' room numbers.

"One of my pet peeves is hotel breakfast staff asking for my room number," she says. "Why should everyone in the general vicinity hear my room number?"

Despite her concerns, Tubbs says, she feels safe at the hotels she chooses.

"Since my encounter in 1999, I have rejected hotel rooms because they were too isolated or across from stairwells, or because the clerk announced my room number aloud," she says. "I take responsibility for making myself safe."

These tips from government officials and hotel security experts may help ensure a crime-free hotel stay:
  • Before booking a hotel, make sure that guest-room doors have multiple locks, including a deadbolt.
  • Consider using a valet, or park your car in a well-lit area as close as possible to the hotel lobby. Before getting out of the car, scan the parking lot for any possible assailants. Lock the car and do not leave any valuables inside.
  • In high-rise hotels, request a room on the third floor or above.
  • If hotel personnel mention your room number during check-in or another time during your stay, ask for another room.
  • Don't enter an elevator if someone inside seems suspicious.
  • Don't open the room door to anyone without verification from the front desk, and do not use your name when answering the phone.
  • Make sure you know how to use the phone in your room and that you can dial 911.
  • Place all valuables in the in-room safe.
  • Hang the "do not disturb" sign on the door and leave a light and radio or TV on when leaving.
  • At night or any time there's concern about safety, request a hotel staff member to accompany you to your room to inspect it.

Source : USAToday
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