Wednesday, July 29, 2009

AirAsia X to set up virtual hub in Middle East

AirAsia X Sdn Bhd, a long-haul budget airline and related company to AirAsia Bhd, is looking to set up its first ever virtual hub in the Middle East next year.

AirAsia X chief executive officer Azran Osman-Rani told reporters Wednesday that this hub would serve the region and beyond and was part of the airline’s expansion strategy.

He said the hub would be used for flights from Malaysia to Middle Eastern destinations as well as from the Middle East to Europe.

Source : STAR
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Tenaga Boost for Mega sale

The Tourism Ministry is negotiating with Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB) to get special electricity rates for shopping centres participating in the Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival (MMSC) 2009.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said the rate now was at the commercial rate just like other business premises.

She said the effort was to raise the image of MMSC, especially in terms of brightness of business outlets.

"Shopping complexes will have to be fitted with special meters for the new rates," she said after presenting prizes to winners of the MMSC Awards here yesterday.

Pavilion Kuala Lumpur and Sunway Pyramid won awards for being best in the Thematic Decoration category while Mid Valley Megamall and 1 Utama Shopping Centre were best in the Promotions and Events category.

Source : NST
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Marina Bay Sands Casino hotel eyes biggest trade shows

Marina Bay Sands expects MICE business to be in full swing in five years

Marina Bay Sands, the US$5.5bil integrated resort in Singapore, is expected to see its meeting, incentive, convention and exhibitions (MICE) business run at capacity in three to five years after the resort opens its doors early next year.

President and chief operating officer Michael A. Leven said it would take time for Marina Bay Sands to attract the biggest and leading conventions and trade shows but he was confident that Asia’s largest ballroom would see its enormous capacity taken up in a matter of time.

“It is going to take a couple of years. Usually in the hospitality and convention industry, the problem is some of these conventions get booked four to five years in advance, especially the very large ones,” he said in a briefing.

“It’s going to take some time before that frees up.”

Leven was speaking after the topping-up ceremony of Marina Bay Sands earlier this month.

The Marina Bay Sands construction site stands along a major highway in Singapore. The US$5.5bil Marina Bay Sands hotel and casino project is expected to open in January or February. – AP

When completed, the resort’s MICE facilities would cater to 45,000 delegates.

There will be 250 meeting rooms at the facility and the building is able to host 2,000 booths.

The ballroom alone can cater up to 11,000 people in a single event.

“I view this particular product as being the dominant Asian MICE building and Singapore has tremendous appeal internationally. I don’t see why this won’t be on the circuit of the major trade shows,” said Leven.

“The Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre is sold out and it is not very big, We get a shot at that (business).”

On its own, the MICE business will not be a tremendous profit centre for the resort as Leven said it would feed onto what the rest of the integrated resort had to offer.

The resort would be cashflow positive within the first couple of months of operations, said Leven.

Marina Bay Sands is the most expensive “casino” in the Las Vegas Sands group.

The iconic development features three 55-storey hotels that will have a 375m long SkyPark on the top of the hotels. The SkyPark will have 1ha of open space.

Leven said Marina Bay Sands would have greater variety than the group’s business in Macau in its present configuration.

“Macau is heavily gaming-orientated. We are in the process of building our MICE and tourist businesses there but it is a much smaller situation because of the nature of Macau as a destination,” he said.

Leven said Singapore was more couple- and family-friendly than Macau had traditionally been.

“A higher percentage of our business will come from non-gaming operations than Macau today. Over the future we expect Macau to change its percentage as the Cotai Strip gets more built up. Marina Bay Sands will be more typical of Las Vegas than Macau is today,” he said.

Leven was also cordial when discussing the competition between Marina Bay Sands and Genting’s Resorts World at Sentosa saying the two resorts complement instead of compete with each other.

“I think Genting is a significant addition. I like the idea. I know it sounds strange liking Genting there because I think it’s going to help the overall tourist attraction base to Singapore itself,” he said.

Leven said the promotional activity by both integrated resorts would only help and their respective themes and features would be enough to differentiate one from another.

“From a marketing perspective, Sentosa will be more a family-orientated resort than we will. There will be some meeting and small MICE competition.

“From a competition standpoint and from the business travel, there will not be a significant amount of competition.

“There is a very big difference between the two places,” he said, adding that competition would be limited to the VIP and premium players at their respective casinos.

Leven said that once Marina Bay Sands fully opened, the number of people on its premises should average between 50,000 and 75,000 daily.

It would go as high as 100,000 people on certain days. The visitors to the Macau Venetian is roughly 65,000 people a day.

Marina Bay Sands is counting on attracting a large number of visitors from Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Thailand.

Source : STAR
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Storm brewing in MATTA

The tussle for the leadership of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) has taken a controversial turn with allegations of phantom voters and a vote of no confidence against the new president and his deputy.

Even the vote of no confidence was controversial because it took place during an event to hand over duties last Thursday and those who voted for it were 16 members of the new exco of president Datuk Joshua Peter Tan.

This prompted Tan to call for a press conference on Wednesday to clear the air and reveal the results of investigations into the alleged phantom voters.

“There will be no cover up. The report will be open to all for scrutiny. We are quite certain that there are no phantom voters in the registry,” he said.

Tan labelled the meeting during which the no-confidence votes was tabled as illegal.

“It was an illegal sitting of past and present exco members which took place after the handover ceremony and before the new exco meeting. It is not provided for in the association’s constitution,” he said.

Tan said according to the constitution, any vote must amount to two-thirds of the 33 members of the exco.

On complaints that he had ignored requests by some current exco members to discuss issues during the hand-over ceremony, Tan said it was to be discussed during the exco meeting scheduled for later that day.

“We could not discuss it in the morning as the outgoing exco members were there and they had no locus standi,” he added.

Immediate past-president Ngiam Foon said the 16 exco members formed a majority out of the 24 current exco members present during the handover ceremony.

When contacted, each of the 16 members said they were from the current exco line up and they had all agreed to support the motion of no-confidence.

Kedah chapter chairman Ahmad Pishol Ishak pointed out that members respected the chair and was ready to work with him.

Federal Territory representative Ramchand D. said Tan ignored the fact that the minutes of the last exco meeting held on May 30 had to be discussed during last week’s handover.

“This is simply to ensure continuity,” he said.

Vice-president for ticketing K. Thangavelu said while he agreed with Tan in certain areas, he regretted the way the new president had conducted last week’s meeting.

“The other exco members just wanted to go through the items they wanted to be included in the agenda,” he said.

Ngiam claimed that Tan could not have legally adjourned the meeting and left the room with seven of his exco members.

Source : STAR
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Langkawi To Attract More Singaporean Tourists

More than 60 hoteliers and travel agents will join a three-day mission to promote Langkawi in Singapore beginning Monday.

The chairman of Kedah's Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents, Pishol Ishak said he was confident the mission could attract more tourists from Singapore as many airlines fly directly to Langkawi from Singapore, such as AirAsia, Singapore' Silk Air and Malaysian Airlines.

"We chose Singapore with the hope that more than 100,000 tourists from that country as well as international travellers visiting Singapore would visit Kedah including Langkawi," he told reporters here Sunday.

Statistics from the Tourism Unit of the Langkawi Development Authority showed that almost 38,000 tourists from Singapore visited Langkawi last year compared to 34,000 tourists in 2007.

Source : Bernama
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Monday, July 27, 2009

More air travellers shifting from economy to low-cost

Jimmy Lim Chin Hwa abandoned Singapore Airlines Ltd's coach class for budget carrier Jetstar Asia Airways Pte two years ago to save 65 per cent on the cost of flying. He's noticed more people following suit.

"Normally, the flights are half full but since the start of the year it's packed," said Lim, 50, a marketing manager at Unicane Furniture Pte, waiting to board a flight at Singapore's Changi airport to Indonesia. "The bigger airlines are just too expensive."

Losing economy-class customers like Lim adds to pressure on carriers such as Singapore Air, forecast to post its worst annual profit in two decades, as travel dwindles amid the global recession. Jetstar Asia, AirAsia Bhd and other regional discount carriers meanwhile are adding more planes after cut-rate fares helped double their market share since 2005.

"Low-cost carriers are making it so affordable now," said Tan Teng Boo, who oversees US$200 million (US$1 = RM3.54) as managing director at Kuala Lumpur-based iCapital Global Fund. "The full-fare carriers will have to sit down and think about reinventing themselves."

The potential for cheap flights in Asia, where half the world's population lives, has also attracted investments from billionaire Wilbur Ross in an Indian discount airline, and Virgin Group's Richard Branson in a Malaysian no-frills carrier.

Asia's budget carriers control about 10 per cent of the market by seat capacity currently, according to the International Air Transport Association, or IATA. At least 20 low-fare airlines have started in the continent since 2000.

"During a recession, we also prosper because people are coming down market," said Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, chief executive officer of AirAsia, Southeast Asia's biggest budget airline. "We are no different from McDonald's or Wal-Mart. Our goal is to fill up our planes."

AirAsia filled 80 per cent of its available seats on average in June, the best ever for that month, Fernandes said. Jetstar Asia, partly owned by Australia's Qantas Airways Ltd, flew 15 per cent more people in the first six months compared with the year earlier period.

In contrast, Singapore Air's passenger numbers slumped 19 per cent in June, the eighth consecutive drop. Thai Airways International Pcl's numbers declined 18 per cent last month, the 12th straight decline.

Singapore Air, the world's second-largest airline by market value, Malaysian Airline System Bhd, and Thai Air, are altering networks and cutting capacity. Singapore Air is parking planes, lowering pay, and removing 11 per cent of capacity in the year ending in March. The airline said last week it will reduce seats on some planes by 14 per cent as part of a cabin upgrade.

"We are morphing our marketing," Singapore Air chief executive officer Chew Choon Seng said on July 1. "If at times like these, people want more value for money, then we adapt our marketing accordingly."

The carrier may post a full-year profit of S$627 million (S$1 = RM2.45) in the year ending in March, the worst in at least two decades, according to the median estimate in a Bloomberg survey. The airline reported its first operating loss in six years in the quarter ended March.

Performance at Thai Air was "pretty bad in the last two months," executive vice president Pandit Chanapai said July 16.

PT Lion Mentari Airlines, Indonesia's biggest low-fare carrier, is buying 178 Boeing Co planes, the highest number for the aircraft maker in Asia over the last five years. Malaysia's AirAsia, with a tagline "Now Everyone can Fly," has ordered 175 aircraft from Airbus SAS, the largest client for single-aisle models in the region for the world's biggest planemaker.

AirAsia last month lowered ticket prices by scrapping administrative charges. Tiger Airways Pte, a no-frills carrier partly owned by Singapore Air, is selling tickets at 9 Singapore cents, excluding taxes, to more than a dozen destinations.

Source : Business Times
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Tourist Arrivals Up Last Month Despite H1N1

Although the number Influenza A(H1N1) cases continued to rise in the country, tourist arrivals last month achieve an impressive 7.5 per cent growth compared with the 0.3 per cent drop in May.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said the number of tourist arrivals to Malaysia was 11.35 million last month, a 3.5 per cent increase from the 10.96 million for the corresponding period last year.

She believed that medical tourism was one sector that could bring great benefit to the country, with a projected contribution of RM540 million in 2010 with 625,000 medical tourists flowing into the country to get medical service.

This was possible for the fact that Malaysia offered a wide range of state-of-the-art private medical centres and an impressive array of sophisticated diagnostic, therapeutic and inpatient facilities.

"In addition, Malaysia is also the place to see the fusion of Eastern traditional healing methods blending with the modern sciences of the West," she said in her speech at the International Healthcare Conference and Exhibition 2009.

Her speech was delivered by the ministry's deputy secretary-general (Managment), Dr Junaida Lee Abdullah, who also launched "Patients Beyond Border" a book by Healthy Travel Media CEO and a reputable author in Medical Tourism Josef Woodman.

Dr Ng said Malaysia was also reported in the recent Deloitte Medical Tourism report 2008 to be the most preferred destination in East Asia for medical treatment.

She urged the private hospitals promoting medical tourism to work closely with tourism operators to capitalise on every opportunity available to promote Malaysia's natural and multi-cultural attractions.

On the book, she said it was the first comprehensive, easy-to-understand guide to medical tourism for Malaysia and was published with the collaboration and support of the Association of Private Hospitals Malaysia (APHM) and Tourism Malaysia.

Source : Bernama
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Malaysian hotels hit by foreign thieves: Bolder Latin American syndicates

LATIN American syndicates have struck again and they are getting bolder. Smartly dressed, they easily pass off as hotel guests or tour agents.

Six hotels in the city have been targetted with the latest reported on July 15, though it is still unclear whether this is a single group or several acting with the same mode of operation.

Hoteliers are now deeply concerned with the number of incidents that have occurred since May.

These sets of pictures show foreigners, believed to be Latin Americans, at work. (Click here to see CCTV images)

In one, a woman, elegantly dressed, snatches a purse as she walks past a table at a hotel coffee house at breakfast time. The crime went unnoticed and was only later detected on closed circuit television CCTV cameras. She was not caught.

Malay Mail in the past, has carried several articles on Latin American syndicates targetting hotel guests and making off with their belongings.

Some have been arrested while some are still at large. Those arrested have been prosecuted, jailed and deported.

These are images taken from several hotels in the city which have become the syndicates latest victims.

In the latest case on July 15, the suspects, in a group of three - two males and a female - made off with a luggage belonging to a hotel guest.

Their act was caught on CCTV cameras in which they seemed to have followed the victim into the hotel.

The victim placed his backpack on the floor behind him. A male suspect, wearing a black jacket, pretends to be a tour agent, with a white tag on his jacket.

Meanwhile, the female suspect pretends to be a hotel guest while another male suspect observes the surrounding.

It was so well planned, that the victim did not notice his bag had been stolen at first. The hotel was alerted to the incident later.

The syndicate not only strike at the lobby but also coffee houses and conference rooms, mingling with the crowd before making their move.

They have made off with laptops, digital cameras, purses, handbags and luggage all in broad daylight.
In one case, a suspect was arrested while trying to escape with a luggage.

He was caught by a bell boy who noticed him walking away with a bag belonging to a hotel guest. He was stopped and arrested. His accomplice, a woman, however, managed to escape. This attempted theft occurred on July 2.

Recent cases of foreigner hotel thieves

July 8, 2008: The “Snake Charmers”, a Middle- Eastern couple, with a child, stole money through hypnotism and sleight of hand. They were spotted near a five-star hotel in Jalan Bukit Bintang approaching its entrance at 11pm. As the child played around the entrance the couple scouted for potential victims. However, they were recognised by hotel security and ran off before they could be caught. The “snake charmers” are believed to have struck more than 10 times in Kuala Lumpur and other States in the last two years.

Sept 20, 2008: A suspect, believed to be Middle Eastern or Latin American caught on CCTV footage, stole a room key card from a guest at the poolside and immediately went up to the room and stole her valuables. The guest went back to her room with a replacement key, to discover her laptop, wireless mouse, Internet cable and plug, computer case and digital camera missing. Earlier that same day at 3pm, the suspect had struck at another hotel and stole a woman’s handbag while she went to the toilet with her children. Though she was with her husband, he was too busy reading the newspapers to realise what had happened.

Sept 26, 2008: A hotel burglar, thought to be of Middle Eastern or Latin American origin, was caught on CCTV in five-star hotels in the city. In a late night incident on Sept 18, a hotel guest checking in at the counter, placed his luggage beside him on the floor. While the guest was busy, a man stood behind him, as though he was also queuing behind him but calmly bent down and took the guest’s hand-carry luggage, placed it on his shoulder and stood there for a few seconds before walking off.

Aug 23, 2008: A woman, masquerading as an Arab during the “Arab season”, snuck up to an Arab family having breakfast at a hotel in Batu Ferringhi and grabbed a handbag that was on a chair. However, the theft was noticed and she was held by the father of the family and sent to the Batu Ferringhi police station.

Aug 24, 2008: A female guest from a hotel in Penang was checking out and had placed her handbag next to a sofa in the hotel lobby before going to the reception counter to settle her bill. She returned to the sofa minutes later and found her handbag missing, losing her IC, credit cards, car keys and RM3,000. CCTV recordings showed three South American men sitting down on the sofa next to the woman, eyeing her handbag closely. They had dropped a set of keys on the floor to distract the woman.

April 17, 2009: Korean national Kevin Kee Bung Rhee, 46, lost his laptop, pda, and camera to a wily thief when he was at the check-in counter of the Petaling Jaya Hilton. He had placed his hand luggage beside him and it suddenly went missing. CCTV footage showed a man dressed in a T-shirt, long pants and sneakers, reaching out beside Kee and making off with his luggage.

CCTV images of foreign syndicates at work


A sequence of A woman and a man believed to be Latin American went in a coffee shop and made off with valuables including a purse which victims left on their tables while they went to get the food from the buffet counter during breakfast time. They were all smartly dressed and walked out of the hotel coolly minutes later.

cctv1 cctv2cctv3 cctv4

A Peruvian detained by hotel secuity personnel
after he tried to escape with luggage belonging
to a hotel guest.

Two suspects made off with a bag belonging to
the woman seen in the image. She left her bag
at the table while she joined her husband and
son at the buffet counter.


Two men believed to be Latin American leaving
a hotel. The guy in front has a camera bag slung
on his shoulder. The camera which was worth
about RM1,300 was stolen from a lounge of a hotel
in the city. They were believed to be the same
suspects that struck a hotel in Ampang last month.


A suspect carrying a laptop bag which was said
to have been stolen from a function at a hotel.
He easily moved in and mixed with the crowd and
no one noticed anything amiss as no one knew
each other.


The foreigners said to be a Latin American Gang
that made off with a luggage belonging to a hotel
guest. There are three of them.

Source : Malay Mail
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Theme park a good sign for Pahang

The opening of a water theme park in Pahang shows that economic activities are flourishing in the state, said Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob.

In welcoming another theme park to Pahang, the Mentri Besar said he was happy to note that such a big project could still proceed as planned despite the current global economic crisis.

“This shows that with the right approach and good management, any business venture can succeed,” he said after opening the Bukit Gambang Water Park in Gambang near here.

“In this regard, I urge all businessmen particularly bumiputras, to emulate our Chinese counterparts in ensuring the success of their projects,” he said.

Adnan said he was confident that the park would attract more visitors both Malaysians and foreigners to the state, echoing the success of Genting Highlands.

He said visitors could enjoy a smoother and faster journey via the East Coast Expressway.

The theme park is the first in the east coast offering an 8.1ha man-made lake, largest wave pool with eight modes of waves, longest family raft ride and six-lane racer slide complete with timing scoreboard.

It is part of the development of Bukit Gambang Resort City, an integrated resort city, built based on the concept of nature preservation and family-oriented attractions.

Source : STAR
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Absent ads blamed for fewer Arab arrivals

The number of Middle Eastern tourists visiting Malaysia this month and next could plunge by half based on initial data obtained from travel agencies.

Traditionally, more Arab tourists reach Malaysia in the third quarter alone than in the first half of the year.

They also spend three times more than the average tourist.

Based on the RM6,070 spending per person, a 50 per cent drop in arrivals could result in potential revenue loss of RM300 million for the country.

While the tourism industry had expected a decline in arrivals given the shorter summer prior to the fasting month of Ramadan, they did not expect the number to be halved.

Factors cited for the decline, apart from the global economic crisis and influenza A(H1N1), included the lack of advertisements in the Arab world this year.

In July-September last year, Middle East tourist arrivals fell 6.3 per cent to 108,665 from the comparable period in 2007.

Travel agents are bracing for worse this year.

Asia Overland Services Tour And Travels group managing director Anthony Wong said its inbound market from the Middle East had dropped 40-50 per cent.

"We used to bring in 18,000 to 22,000 in July and August. Now, we are not busy at all," he told Business Times.

"This time around, we have been told by our agents in the Middle East that there has been a lack of advertisements compared to previous years," Wong said.

World Express Tours group president Tunku Iskandar Tunku Abdullah said that business at his agency had fallen 70 per cent in terms of tourist arrivals as well as value.

"Currently, even forward booking is down due to the lack of advertisements in the Middle East," Tunku Iskandar said.

He said that agents in the Middle East had told him that there had been a significant drop in advertisements on Malaysia compared to previous years.

"They tell me that there is very little promotion that consumers can see compared to previously and to advertisements to other destinations like Thailand, Singapore and Australia."

Asia Experience Tours, touted as the largest agency for inbound travel from the Middle East, is expecting a more than 40 per cent drop in business in terms of tourist numbers and value.

Its chief executive officer Ngiam Foon described this year as a "disaster", citing the economic crisis, H1N1 outbreak and other, better, deals offered by regional competitors.

"This year, they are not coming in big numbers," he said.

Calls to the secretary-general of the Ministry of Tourism went unanswered.

It is understood that the advertisement and promotion budget alone for Middle East countries in 2007 and last year was around RM20 million.

In reality, the amount is far more when the cost of its officers' fees, mega familiarisation programme, agent incentives and contributions from airlines are taken into account.

Last week, the Minister of Tourism revised downwards the projection for tourist arrivals this year to 19 million from 20 million.

Source : Business Times
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Malaysia tourist arrivals numbers still growing

As international traveller numbers drop around the globe, Malaysia is bucking the trend reporting an increase of 3.5% in the number of international travellers arriving in the country in the first half of the year.

11.3 million international visitors stepped past the country’s borders this January to June period, a 3.5% increase when compared to the same six months in 2008. ?June alone saw a 7.5% jump in international travellers to 2.1 million travellers.

“The top ten tourist generating markets for June 2009 were Singapore (1,222,096), Indonesia (215,948), Thailand (107,526), Brunei (107,083), China (including Hong Kong & Macau) (58,351), India (57,603), Australia (39,536), the Philippines (37,701), the United Kingdom (32,962) and Japan (25,924),” said Tourism Malaysia in a statement.

Surprisingly Iranian arrivals were the biggest growth market, jumping some 94.2% in June when compared to June 2008.? Iran was followed by and Canada, with massive 65.5% and 51.7% growth rates respectively.

Slightly closer, New Zealand and Australian arrivals also jumped 33.4% and 24.9% reaching 4,105 and 230,117 in total visitor numbers respectively.

Of its top three countries, Singapore performed incredibly well, jumping 25.1%, but this was counterbalanced by a similar drop of 25.4% from the Thailand market, Indonesia edged up slightly by 3.3%.

Tourism Malaysia notes that the big drops from Asian source markets were likely “due to the global economic crisis, as well as the effect of Influenza A(H1N1)”.

Source : Travel Blackboard
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Tourist Arrivals In Sarawak To Drop 5-10 Percent This Year

Tourist arrivals in Sarawak are expected to drop between five and 10 percent due to the Influenza A (H1N1) virus and the global economic downturn, state Urban Development and Tourism Minister, Datuk Michael Manyin, said on Tuesday.

He said the state tourism players were bracing for a drop in tourist arrivals as most countries now were amid global travel slowdown.

"The worldwide recession and fears of the flu will definitely affect the state's tourism industry. If the situation continues, tourist arrivals in the state will drop between five to ten percent.

"We hope the Influenza A (H1N1) situation will improve and the economy situation recovers soon so we can pick up by the end of this year," he told reporters at a news conference here today.

Manyin said Sarawak targeted 3.4 million tourist arrivals this year.

"I doubt we can achieve it if the situation persist," he said.

Earlier, Manyin said the 18th Kobe Osaka International (KOI) Karate World Cup will be held here beginning July 23-26 at the Sarawak Indoor Stadium, Petra Jaya.

He said about 2,000 exponents from 35 countries including, Scotland, Italy, Greece, India, Egypt, Holland, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam, Australia were scheduled to compete in more than 30 categories (aged eight to 45 and above).

Malaysia will be represented by the national team and clubs from Pahang, Labuan, Sabah and Sarawak.

Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Ahmad Shabery Cheek will declare open the event on Thursday.

Source : Bernama
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Resorts World Singapore Opens Early 2010!

Resorts World at Sentosa today announced that it will top out its first hotel, Maxims Tower, by the end of February 2009. The structural completion of the 11-storey hotel marks yet another major milestone in the development of the Resort, which remains on track for a soft opening in the first quarter of 2010.

Maxims Tower will open with three other hotels - Hotel Michael, Festive Hotel and Hard Rock Hotel - as well as the casino, Le Vie Theatre, a 7,300-seat Grand Ballroom, and Universal Studios Singapore. Installation of ride equipment for the many attractions at Universal Studios Singapore has also begun, with testing and commissioning of the attractions scheduled to begin in October 2009.

In the course of the past year, changes have been made to the design and architecture of the integrated resort to substantially improve its entertainment and fun offerings, including enhancements to its casino and Universal Studios Singapore. Improvements were made to the quality of interiors as well as foot traffic accessibility to retail and dining outlets.

Executive Vice President of projects at Resorts World at Sentosa, Mr Michael Chin said: “The Resort site has been totally transformed over a span of just 22 months since we broke ground in April 2007. Visitors to Sentosa today can see the well-advanced super structures of our hotels and Universal Studios Singapore attractions. We are committed to deliver a top-class destination to Singapore and at the same time, create jobs for Singaporeans.’’

Resorts World at Sentosa is expected to increase its investment in the Resort to S$6.59 billion from S$6 billion. The additional investment will be funded by operating cash flows from the Resort when it opens next year. Financing for the Resort is in place with the successful syndication of a S$4 billion credit facility in April 2008. As at 31 December 2008, Resorts World at Sentosa Pte Ltd. has awarded more than S$4.5 billion of the S$6.59 billion project costs. At the time of opening, its capital expenditure is projected to be less than S$6 billion.

Resorts World at Sentosa continues to be confident that the Resort will be an iconic family holiday destination in the region and that, in these tough economic times when visitors are less likely to travel long-haul, it will be a highly attractive holiday destination for visitors within the region.

Resorts World Singapore

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Source : SentosaResortWorld Release
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Malaysia Targets One Million Chinese Tourists This Year

Tourism Malaysia is set to capitalise on this year's 35th anniversary of Sino-Malaysian relations as well as the ethnic ties between the peoples of both countries to draw more Chinese tourists to Malaysia.

The Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board has set a target of one million Chinese tourists for this year alone.

"We will launch attractive tour packages which encourage Chinese tour operators to bring newly-wed couples, diplomatic personnel, intellectuals and professionals to Malaysia," Malaysian Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Ng Yen Yen said at a meeting with Tourism Malaysia officers based in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan Sunday evening soon after arriving here on a five-day visit to promote tourism.

She said tourists coming under these packages would enjoy gifts and additional services on top of the attractive discounts.

"We will include wedding photo shoots, gifts and gala shows for mass wedding couples to make their honeymoon in Malaysia a most memorable one.

"Former Chinese ambassadors to Malaysia will be engaged to give talks and hold seminars in universities here to relate their sweet experience in Malaysia so as to attract fellow diplomatic personnel, intellectuals and professionals to visit Malaysia," she said.

Dr Ng said the Chinese websites of Tourism Malaysia would carry the stories and photographs of rich and successful Chinese Malaysians to arouse the interest of the Chinese here to visit Malaysia to find out more about the evolution of Chinese Malaysians.

She also said that Tourism Malaysia would introduce special packages for Chinese senior citizens and parents of Chinese students overseas to visit Malaysia.

The Tourism Ministry would also emphasise the "To Know Malaysia is to Love Malaysia" promotion to get tourists to revisit Malaysia, she said.

Ng is scheduled to have dialogue sessions with major tour operators in Beijing at the Westin Beijing Chaoyang Hotel Monday morning and a dinner with Beijing Tourism Administration officials in the evening.

She will head for Shanghai Tuesday morning and also visit Wuhan and Guangzhou city before returning to Kuala Lumpur Friday.

Source : Bernama
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Airlines tighten baggage rules to help trim costs

Most airlines, in trying to mitigate the impact of fuel price volatility, have resorted to stringent baggage restrictions as part of measures to achieve better fuel efficiency.

According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), every 1% improvement in fuel efficiency across the aviation industry can lower fuel costs by US$700mil annually. This is unsurprising since fuel cost is the second-largest cost for airlines after labour.

Passengers on AirAsia flights are encouraged to travel light, like using carry-on luggage, to minimise checked-in baggage. They are allowed to have one carry-on luggage of up to 7kg, plus free 15kg allowance for checked-in baggage.

In comparison, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) allows for hand luggage to have a maximum combined weight of 5kg and free 20kg allowance for checked-in luggage for economy class (see table).

MAS general manager for corporate safety, security, health and environment, Ooi Teong Siew, said reducing weight was one of the static techniques, which include ensuring aircraft are well trimmed and engines cleaned regularly.

Dynamic techniques, meanwhile, are factors that have an impact on the flight path like direct routings, economical speeds, continuous descents and optimum altitudes.

“These efforts, without compromising on safety and quality, have reduced our fuel burnt rate and enabled us to contribute to cost reduction of RM2.3bil from 2006 to 2008,” Ooi said in an e-mail reply to StarBiz.

AirAsia Bhd group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes noted that for every flight hour, an additional 1,000kg of take-off weight would burn up 90kg fuel.

AirAsia also achieved greater fuel efficiency with its new fleet of A320 planes, as they offered higher unit fuel consumption per flight while high dispatch ability and operational efficiency contributed to lower maintenance expenses, Fernandes said.

“We adhere to a quick turnaround of 25 minutes, which leads to high aircraft utilisation, lower costs as well as greater airline and staff productivity. Fuel consumption-wise, the quick turnaround means less time spent by an aircraft idling on the ground, which reduces unnecessary fuel consumption and harmful emissions,” he said.

Such practices kept costs down and ensured minimum aircraft weight, Fernandes said, adding that savings and benefits would translate into low fares for passengers.

Ooi said MAS also minimised the use of auxiliary power unit on ground, ensured faster connection of ground power, chose the best flight profile as well as adopted a continuous descent approach at applicable airports, and regular airframe and engine maintenance.

“Other examples include replacing the heavy unit loading devices with those which are 40kg lighter and using nearer alternate airports.”

MAS is anticipated to achieve greater fuel efficiency when it takes delivery of 35 B738 late next year and the A380 in 2011.

Meanwhile, FlyFirefly Sdn Bhd managing director Eddy Leong said the airline did not practise overzealous efforts in enforcing one hand luggage and checked baggage limits.

“Firefly’s business model was designed to be light from the beginning because we chose a very fuel efficient and modern ATR72-500 aircraft,” he said.

The focus then is on eliminating hassles, enriching the travel experience and optimising costs.

“For example, our full complimentary food and beverage on board includes serving muffins on paper cups and ensuring that we cater exactly to the passenger count. Any extras would be given to passengers. In the end, there is no waste to offload, no wastage to worry about. Our ultimate gain is in the revenue side and loyalty from passengers,” Leong added.

Emirates Airlines, in contrast, increased the free baggage allowance across its network effective May 4, with the exception of countries that apply one-piece concept for checked-in luggage. Economy class travellers are now given 30kg from 20kg previously.

An analyst with a local brokerage said the impact of strict baggage terms was unlikely to have a huge impact on bottomline.

Airlines also tried to carry the correct amount of jetfuel and to power planes by ground power units during waiting periods instead of jetfuel to achieve better fuel efficiency, he said.

IATA, on its website, indicated efforts being taken with air navigation service providers, air traffic controllers, airlines and other key stakeholders to save one minute per flight via better airspace design, procedures and management.

“If successful, this initiative could reduce total industry operating costs by over US$1bil a year and significantly reduce environmental emissions,” the association said, noting that on average, airlines spent US$100 per minute per flight in total operating costs.

Source : STAR
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Malaysia Tourism Industry - 2nd Highest Contributor

THE Malaysian tourism industry has developed and become the second highest contributor for the Malaysian economy.

"Despite the current global recession, last year, Malaysia recorded an increase of 5.1 per cent in tourist arrivals, from 20.97 million tourists in 2007 to 22.05 million in 2008," said Datuk Dr Ong Hong Peng, secretary-general of the Ministry of Tourism at Institut Karisma's convocation yesterday.

"There is an urgent need for more qualified and registered tourist guides. Currently we have a total of 4,837 active tourist guides in Malaysia and only 10.3 per cent are skilled in foreign languages," Ond said.

"The Ministry is strongly encouraging existing tourist guides to enrich themselves through greater command of foreign languages such as Dutch, German, Russian, French and Arabic. We are embarking on providing foreign language courses to address this need and encouraging more people to take up this career, including school-leavers and those unemployed."

Source : MalayMail
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MAS among top three carriers in 2009

MALAYSIA Airlines has been identified as among the top three mainline carriers for 2009 after Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa by Aviation Week's Top-Performing Companies (TPC) study of the global airline industry.

Air Arabia tops the low-cost/niche carrier category while FedEx is the highest-ranked freight carrier and Australia's Regional Express is the top regional carrier, it said.

Aviation Week's TPC study of the global airline industry is the industry's leading annual rankings and competitive analysis.

It said, a follow-up to last month's TPC Aerospace and Defense rankings, this year's airline analysis shows the effects of the recession on the industry -- few airline business models are immune.

"The recession has grabbed hold of the airline industry, and survival is still the name of the game," said Aviation Week and Space Technology editor-in-chief Anthony L. Velocci, Jr. "This year's TPC review of airlines places liquidity and financial health as the top indicators for weathering further volatility in the economy and rising fuel prices. We are seeing sharp drops in scores across the board, in all regions, but with the TPC rankings, we can identify those airlines that are doing things right," he said.

Launched in 1996, Aviation Week's TPC study identifies relative strengths and weaknesses in companies'' operational performance and evaluates how well they are executing business strategies.

Proprietary metrics have been refined over the past 13 years with input from industry leaders to include scores in five performance categories: Liquidity, Financial Health, Earnings Performance, Fuel Cost Management, and Asset Utilization.

The benchmarking tool and micro site are produced in partnership with PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Source : BusinessTimesOnline
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Security at major hotels in Kuala Lumpur

Security at major hotels, nightspots and tourist haunts in the city has been tightened following the terrorist attack on two hotels in Jakarta.

City deputy police chief Datuk Abdul Samah Mat, however, said that Kuala Lumpur was safe. He said uniformed policemen as well as undercover personnel were monitoring the situation.

“Several district police chiefs where prestigious hotels are located have met the hotel representatives to advise on additional security measures. We have also increased our patrols at clubbing areas in the city, such as Jalan P. Ramlee, as well as other tourist haunts."

Meanwhile, the New Sunday Times learnt that several major hotels in the Golden Triangle area of the city have taken additional security measures.

“Since the Jakarta bombing incident on July 17, we have taken extra steps to ensure security,” said an industry source. Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur general manager Stephen Cokkinias said there was no cause for concern as Malaysia was a safe country to visit.
“The hotel has always taken measures to ensure the safety of their guests and staff .”

Meanwhile, Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd security and safety adviser Datuk Kamaruddin Mohd Ismail said there were now more visible security measures at key airports.

“In recent meetings, the police’s General Operations Force informed us that they had increased their uniformed personnel too,” said Kamaruddin, when contacted.

He said the GOF now guarded the departure and arrival halls, as well as the areas outside the terminal buildings of the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

“We have also increased the number of security officers and are monitoring at the airside areas, which are the restricted areas of the airport,” said Kamaruddin.

Meanwhile, in Johor Baru, state police chief Datuk Mohd Mokhtar Mohd Shariff said their officers stationed at all entry points, and marine police personnel patrolling the coastline, have been told to be extra careful.

“We will cooperate with both the Customs and Immigration departments to ensure the nation’s security.”

Source : NST
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Friday, July 17, 2009

Q&A - What will be the impact of Indonesia's hotel bomb attacks

Bomb blasts ripped through the JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta's business district on Friday, killing nine people and wounding dozens in attacks that could dent investor confidence in Indonesia.
Police stand guard in front of the damaged Ritz-Carlton hotel after an explosion in Jakarta July 17, 2009. (REUTERS/Dadang Tri)

A car bomb also blew up along a toll road in North Jakarta, police said without giving further details. Indonesia's Metro TV said two people had been killed. An unexploded bomb was also later found at the Marriott, police said.

The apparently coordinated bombings are the first in several years and follow a period in which the government had made progress in tackling security threats from militant Islamic groups, bringing a sense of political stability to Southeast Asia's biggest economy.

Some analysts have already cast suspicion on remnants of the Jemaah Islamiah group, blamed for previous attacks including a car bombing outside the Marriott in 2003 as well as bombings on the resort island of Bali the previous year that killed 202 people.

Here are some questions and answers on security in Indonesia:


Yes. Indonesia had made enormous progress in containing the threat from militant group JI which security officials and analysts said was behind several fatal bomb attacks on Western targets including hotels and bars in Jakarta and the resort island of Bali.

The Indonesian authorities, with help and training from their Australian and U.S. counterparts, have increased security and surveillance in recent years.

Indonesia's security forces have detained hundreds of militants and killed several during shoot-outs, carrying out numerous sweeps, even in recent weeks.


There are no outward signs security measures have been relaxed in Jakarta. The security presence was stepped up around the time of the presidential elections on July 8, which passed peacefully.

All the major hotels in Jakarta have security checks outside to reduce the risk of car bombs, although checks in many are not particularly thorough, with a security guard just poking his head in the window to look at who is inside the car.

Although the Marriott and Ritz were known for exceptionally tight security barriers and checks, including for those entering the hotel on foot, from the damage at the scene of the blasts it appears the bombs exploded inside the hotels, and were either brought in by suicide bombers or planted inside and set off by timers.


Several analysts are already saying these attacks have some of the hallmarks of JI, which in the past has chosen high-profile targets such as Western hotels and bars frequented by foreigners.

JI has used car bombs in the past, but barricades and layout changes as well as other measures at the best-protected luxury and Western hotels in Jakarta and Bali have made it harder for that kind of attack.


If it is indeed JI, this suggests they still have bomb-making capability and operatives, despite having lost many of their trained and skilled members.


In 1998, when former autocratic President Suharto was desperately trying to retain power, some elements within the military were accused of stirring up social unrest and riots in an attempt to cause widespread panic and destabilise Indonesia.

There have been other instances in Indonesia's history when military elements were suspected of being behind unrest in order to have an excuse to clamp down on civilians.

The country has also sporadically seen violence including bombings attributed to various separatist groups, political organisations, and criminal gangs.


It's certainly a blow for Indonesia's security forces and the country's risk profile, particularly coming so close on the heels of peaceful elections in the world's third-largest democracy.

Indonesia had begun to stand out among its Southeast Asian peers as a stable democracy that was making real progress in tackling corruption in order to attract foreign investment.

These attacks could make some investors think twice before committing to any new, long-term, strategic investments in areas such as natural resources or infrastructure.

That said, however, the market reaction has been relatively muted.

Tourism Ministry projects 19 million tourist arrivals

The Tourism Ministry has now adjusted this year’s target of achieving 20 million tourist arrivals to 19 million.

Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said there was a need to be realistic, given the current tough times.

“The World Tourism Organisation has recently announced a reduction of 8% in tourist arrivals globally from January to April this year,” she said at a press conference after launching the KL International Airport Mega Sale Carnival 2009 here yesterday.

Dr Ng launching the Mega Sale Carnival at KLIA

Dr Ng said the influenza A (H1N1) had not even come into the picture during that period.

“In Asia and the South Pacific region, the decrease is 6% and this is a major reduction,” she said.

The reduced number of projected tourists was part of the ministry’s plan to achieve the targets it has set out to accomplish, she said.

Dr Ng added that the ministry has also decided to develop the rural tourism economy by promoting home-stay programmes and increasing the number of foreign language-speaking tour guides as part of its key results areas.

Source : Star
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PHOTOS of Bombs explode at Jakarta Ritz Carlton & Marriott hotels

Smoke billows out of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel following
a blast in central Jakarta, July 17, 2009.

People run following a blast at the Marriot Hotel in central Jakarta

Police stand guard in front of the damaged Ritz-Carlton hotel after an explosion

olice stand guard in front of the damaged exterior of the Ritz-Carlton hotel after an explosion

Windows at the Ritz-Carlton are blown out after Friday's blast.

Damage to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel can be seen following the blast.

A photo posted on Twitter purportedly shows smoke from the Ritz-Carlton in Jakarta

Indonesian police stand guard in front of the Ritz Carlton Hotel after an explosion in Jakarta on Friday.(Dadang Tri/Reuters)

At least six people, including several foreigners, have been killed and 10 injured when explosions ripped through two luxury hotels in downtown Jakarta on Friday, police say.

South Jakarta police Colonel Firman Bundi said some of the bodies had been taken to a hospital.

The facade of the Ritz-Carlton was blown off in one blast and another explosion hit the Marriott, police said. The explosions rocked the area about 8am local time (11am AEST).

The head of the Health Ministry crisis centre, Rustam Pakaya, said at least two people were seriously injured, including one New Zealander.

One hospital emergency room said it was already treating 15 people.

Debris and shattered glass littered the street outside the neighbouring hotels, which are in an upscale Jakarta neighbourhood, and ambulances raced to the scene

Herald on the scene

The Sydney Morning Herald's Indonesia correspondent Tom Allard said one bomb was reportedly detonated inside the Ritz-Carlton.

"I'm looking at it now, you can see all the windows punched out on one side,'' Allard told 2UE radio from outside the back of the hotel.

"[I've been told] the bomb actually went off inside the restaurant at the time people were actually sitting there to have their breakfasts.

He said he could see what appeared to be dead bodies being pulled out of the building and badly injured people being helped out as well.

An Australian man called Jim told 2UE his son was injured in the explosion at the Marriott.

The man said his son phoned him from Jakarta, where he was working, and told him he was on his way to hospital.

His left leg was bleeding and he'd lost hearing in one ear but he told his father he was OK, the man said.

Witness reports

A man jogging by the hotels said he first heard a loud explosion at the Marriott. Five minutes later, a bomb followed at the Ritz.

Alex Asmasubrata said he saw four bodies inside the Marriott. An Associated Press reporter saw three injured people taken away from the Ritz.

Security guard Eko Susanto told AFP: "I heard two sounds like 'boom, boom' coming from the Marriott and the Ritz-Carlton. Then I saw people running out."

Witness Intan told TV One one of the explosions wrecked the lobby of the Plaza Mutiara building.

"I was having breakfast on level 16, I heard an explosion and went down to the first floor and it was a mess. I saw foreigners all bloody, about three to five of them, badly wounded," she said

A witness, who gave her name as Mery, told ElShinta: "I saw some people being carried into a Mercedes. There was a lot of them in there, they were having trouble closing the doors."

Dow Jones Newswires reported witnesses who heard three explosions in the Mega Kuningan business precinct.

"I heard at least three explosions and now white smoke is billowing," a fund manager at a foreign securities company told Dow Jones Newswires on the phone.

JI warning

The bombings come a day after an analyst warned that Indonesian terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah, dormant following an effective police crackdown resulting in the arrest and execution of some members, was on the rise again and set to strike.

The Marriott hotel was attacked in 2003, when 12 died. Jemaah Islamiah was blamed for that blast.

The Department of Foreign Affairs was aware of reports of an explosion and was in contact with the Australian embassy in Jakarta to investigate what happened, a spokeswoman said

Embassy staff were urgenty seeking to identify whether any Australians were injured, the spokeswoman said

Anyone who has concerns for the welfare of family and friends overseas should try to contact them directly first. DFAT's 24-hour consular emergency centre is also available on 02 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135.

It is five years since the Australian embassy in Jakarta was bombed, killing 10 people and wounding 161 in September 2004.

Source : SMH CNN Reuters
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