Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ministry Targets 24 Million Tourist Arrivals For 2010

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen is confident of 24 million tourist arrivals this year, an increase from the 23.65 million recorded last year.

Announcing the target at the National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) media briefing for Malaysia yesterday, she said it would be achieved through several strategies such as holding new international events while continuing with existing events.

"We will continue the F1 Petronas Grand Prix at Sepang in April, Colours of Malaysia cultural performance, and bring back the International Floral Parade, in conjunction with the Floral Festival in Putrajaya.

"We will be also be organising the first Malaysian contemporary art festival from July to September," she said, during the briefing held in conjunction with the Asean Tourism Forum (ATF) 2010.

Last year, Malaysia recorded an increase of 7.2 per cent in tourist arrivals, from 22.05 million the previous year.

Another target set by the country is to increase the number of repeat visitors and the average length of stay, said Dr Ng.

"Currently, the average length of stay is 6.4 days and we want to increase it to eight days.

"We also want to increase the percentage of repeat visitors from developed countries, from the current 17 per cent (of overall tourist arrivals) to 30 per cent, maybe in three years' time and gradually to 50 per cent in five years," she added.

To a question, Dr Ng said Malaysia would focus on the Middle East market -- besides China and India -- where sufficient visibility and promotional activities would be held, and even promoting 'Malaysia, My Second Home' to its people.

Popular travel guidebook Lonely Planet has chosen Malaysia as one of the world's top 10 countries to visit for 2010, where the country was the only Southeast Asian country in the top ten list.

The guide has also identified Malaysia as one of the 'Best Value Destinations for 2010', in addition to being among the 'top spots for medical adventures'.

Source : Bernama
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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sabah tourism not hit by US travel advisory

Tour operators here said that tourism in Sabah, particularly in the east coast, has not been affected by a travel advisory issued by the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

Sepilok Tropical Wildlife Adventure Sdn Bhd chairman Datuk John Lim said this was because tourists here and in Semporna had confidence in the level of security.

“The travel advisory does not affect tourism as the tourists feel safe,” he said recently.
Lim said the advisory did not portray the real situation in Sabah.

Some tourists from the US and Europe travelled alone while others came annually as they were attracted by the landscape, he added.

The embassy issued the advisory last week stating that terrorist groups were planning to attack foreigners in islands off Sabah.

It urged them to be cautious when travelling in remote parts of eastern Sabah like Semporna and the islands of Mabul and Sipadan.

Meanwhile, Borneo Divers and Sea Sports (Sabah) Sdn Bhd managing director Clement Lee said the advisory was not something new, adding that the negative perception of security in Sabah should be corrected.

It would not prevent tourists from visiting Sipadan for diving, he said while urging the US embassy to be fair when issuing such advice.

Source : STAR
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10 hotels in Malaysia now hold Green Award status

Five hotels in Malaysia have been chosen as the new recipients of the Asean Green Hotel Award 2010, bringing the total number of such hotels in the country to 10.

The five hotels are The Andaman Langkawi in Kedah, Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa in Kota Kinabalu, Mines Wellness Hotel in Selangor, Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort in Tuaran and Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel.

The Asean Green Hotel Award 2008 recipients which managed to retain their status were Hotel Melia Kuala Lumpur, Nexus Resort Karambunai in Sabah, Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa in Penang, Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur and The Frangipani Langkawi Resort and Spa.

The Asean Green Hotel Stan­dard is an essential tool to support Asean as a world-class quality destination.
Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, in a statement, said among the criteria used were encouraging the use of green products, provision of training programmes for operation on environmental management and introduction of waste management techniques such as recycling.

A total of 155 hotels from 10 Asean countries received the award yesterday during the Asean Tourism Forum 2010 being held at the Empire Hotel and Country Club here.
In an unrelated development, the tourism ministers of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philip­pines (BIMP) launched the “EQUATOR ASIA” brand and logo as a “single tourism destination” hailed as the world’s most biologically productive regions.

EQUATOR ASIA is located along the equator covering the BIMP East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

During a press conference, Dr Ng credited the country’s strategic planning and good crisis management as the key tools to recording the highest increase in percentage of tourist arrivals among Asean countries.
“We have accountable leaders to be on 24 hours standby for crisis management so that immediate actions are taken,” she said.

Source : STAR
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Doubletree by Hilton Hotel to open soon in KL

MORE than 1,000 people attended walk-in interviews over three days for jobs in a soon-to-be opened hotel in Kuala Lumpur recently.

They were responding to Malaysia’s largest recruitment drive, launched by a hotel that will be opening in the second quarter of this year.

Doubletree by Hilton, Kuala Lumpur will be employing up to 420 workers.
The brand is headquartered in MacLean, Virginia, United States.

Seeking jobs: Applicants going through the screening process at Doubletree’s recruitment drive

Doubletree is a 540-room hotel located at the intersection of Jalan Ampang and Jalan Tun Razak.
Chalking up yet another milestone, this Malaysian property marks the hotel brand’s inaugural entry into South-East Asia.

“The new recruits will be offered extensive training to align themselves with Doubletree’s CARE philosophy, which stands for ‘Caring, Attentive, Responsive, and Empowered’.

“We encourage individuals who consider themselves as potential brand ambassadors to be a part of our warm and friendly culture and we are confident that our new team members will enjoy working here,” Doubletree by Hilton, Kuala Lumpur marketing and communications manager Cindy Wong said.

Positions that need to be filled extend across the whole hotel, including Front Office, Housekeeping, Food & Beverage, Security, Engineering and Sales & Marketing.

With the property’s upcoming opening, Doubletree by Hilton, Kuala Lumpur will play a key role in providing job opportunities for the local talents and will fulfil the brand’s drive to develop Malaysia’s talent pool, particularly in the service industry.

Interested applicants who missed this recruitment drive are invited to email their detailed curriculum vitae, certificates and a recent photograph to before Feb 5.

Source : STAR
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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

One World sees RM70m revenue in bustling 2010

THE five-star One World Hotel in Bandar Utama, Petaling Jaya, expects 2010 revenue to touch RM70 million, a 30 per cent jump from last year, as the improving economy sees the hotel hosting more functions and filling up more rooms.

Last year, like most hotels, it was hit by the global economic downturn. Its revenue declined by 15 per cent from RM64 million posted in 2008.

The hotel, owned and operated by property developer See Hoy Chan Holdings, filled just over half its 438-room inventory and garnered an average room rate (ARR) of RM310.

General manager Ho Hoy Sum said his forecast for 2010 follows an encouraging fourth quarter in 2009, which has continued into January this year.
"The fourth quarter of 2009, which was one of our best ever quarters, had helped narrow the shortfall of the first nine months of last year. January 2010 is doing better than January 2009," Ho told Business Times in an interview.

Ho hopes to grow contribution from the leisure group, which now makes up 5 per cent of its guests profile to 10 per cent.

Improved performance will also be a result of its strategy to have a bigger online representation and attending international tourism events, including the Asean Tourism Forum (ATF) and International Tourism Boerse (ITB).

Ho expects that the hotel's recent awards - The BrandLaureate - SMEs Chapter Awards 2009 and Malaysia Tourism Awards 2008/2009 - will further lend support to its performance.

One World makes just as much from food and beverage as it does from room revenue. Of the RM35 million expected from food and beverage this year, some 40 per cent comes from banqueting events.

Even though this hotel may just be two-and-a-half years old, it recently spent RM2 million to upgrade some of its rooms to better compete with additional room inventory that will come on stream this year with new hotel openings.

"Whenever there is a new player, there will always be an impact, as people tend to want to try new things. We are not going to wait for them (competitors) and only then react.

"We have done some soft refurbishment that adds class to our room and enhances it," he said, adding that the changes and additions were made after listening to its customers.

Changes include installing massage chairs in the executive suites, exclusive Harnn & Thann amenities, complimentary laundry and in-room premium coffee/tea machines.

Source : BusinessTimes
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Hotelier: More can be done to promote tourism in the country

THE outlook for the local hotel industry is expected to be positive this year after the hospitality industry showed some pick-up in the second half of last year, says Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) senior vice-president Ivo R Nekvapil.
“Barring any bad press with less emphasis on H1N1, the industry can do much better,” he tells StarBizWeek through an-email reply.
He says Malaysia is a great value-for-money destination and that it just needs more international brands toboost the country’spopularity.
“We need more innovative domestic packages and a push for more homestays. We also need plans to open more areas for tourists, like islands and eco resorts as in Sarawak,” he adds.
The Novotel Hydro Majestic Hotel was sold for RM156mil last year.
Malaysia should also cut the red tape where possible and create a “one-stop shop” for tourism like what the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti) and the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority (Mida) are doing for manufacturing, according to Nekvapil.
Tourism is Malaysia’s second highest revenue earner.
“We also need to strongly push the Malaysia My Second Home programme as there is huge potential there,” he says.
On recent news report that Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen has urged hoteliers to review hotel room rates, Nekvapil says 5-star hotel rates must increase as the rates in Malaysia are still the lowest.
“(Rates for five-star hotels) must go up comparable to other hotels in Asia. Then the 2, 3 & 4-star hotels can move up to a more realistic level,” he says.
Integrated provider of serviced offices, hotels and serviced residences company, The Nomad Group Bhd, tells StarBizweek that they are positive about Kuala Lumpur’s serviced residences business.
A spokesperson says the company believes there are plenty of opportunities to achieve high occupancy.
“Although occupancy dropped slightly in November/December of 2009, enquiries for Nomad Residences Bangsar, for example, have since picked up this month,” he says in an email.
He adds that the hotel group’s residents consist of various nationalities such as British, French and Australians.
About 80% of its tenants comprise of international business executives.
“We are not only getting leads from multinational companies but also generating interest from entrepreneurs who are in Kuala Lumpur to set up new businesses. The Nomad also provides them with serviced offices to work in,” he says.
The spokesperson says location is very relevant and Bangsar is definitely still a favourite among both expatriates and Malaysians.
Previndran Datuk Singhe ... ‘Interest will be mainly in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kota Kinabalu.’
“The variety of food and beverages outlets, shopping centres and specialty shops makeBangsar an attractive choice for many,” he notes.
The Nomad Residences caters to those on short and long stays, making it easy for people who are in transition, relocating or who have been posted to Kuala Lumpur.
“We have also seen improvement in our rates, as more people are demanding for the convenience of full fledge serviced apartments. Even leisure travellers looking to stay in one destination for more than 5 days are opting for the serviced residences type of accommodation,” he says.
Zerin Properties chief executive officer Previndran Datuk Singhe says the company is expecting investments in hotel properties to pick up this year.
“Interest will be mainly in Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kota Kinabalu,” he says in an e-mail, noting that the Novotel Hydro Majestic Hotel was sold for RM156mil to a local buyer last year.
“We saw a drop of investments in hospitality assets in 2008 due to lack of foreign buyers but by 2009, we saw the return of investors and the return of foreign sellers,” Previndran says, adding that factors which contribute to higher transactions include growth in the tourism business as well as higher low cost carrier traffic.
“Tourists to Malaysia are still enjoying a much lower cost of spending in hotels. On average, they pay about RM560 for the hotel, compared with RM1,867 in Singapore and RM895 in Bangkok,” he says.
It was reported recently that Malaysia recorded tourist arrivals of 23.5 million in 2009, more than its initial target of 19 million despite a global decline in the industry due to the economic downturn and other challenges.
Previndran, citing a report by Travel & Tourism 2009, says Malaysia has emerged as the fourth most price competitive country in the world out of 133 countries surveyed.
On new trends in hotels and resorts in Malaysia, Previndran notes a rising trend in spa resorts, branded budget accommodation, health tourism and nature tourism.

Source : STAR
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Sentosa resort won't affect Malaysia tourism

THE opening of the Resorts World Sentosa, Singapore's first integrated resort, will not affect tourist arrivals in Malaysia.

"We will grow and will not be cannibalised because the pie will grow. More visitors will come especially if the economy recovers.

"So, the important thing is to make it a more complete experience," Genting Group Chairman Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay told reporters after the launch of the group's 45th anniversary logo in Kuala Lumpur today.

Genting Singapore PLC, a subsidiary of Genting Bhd, will open four hotels tomorrow under the first phase of the US$4.4 billion casino-resort in Singapore.
The Festive Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel Singapore, Hotel Michael and Crockford Tower will offer a total of 1,350 rooms and 10 restaurants.

They are expected to enjoy an occupancy rate of above 80 per cent.

Meanwhile, Singapore's first legal casino and Universal Studios theme park will open to the public as soon as the group obtains licences from the Singapore government.

"It(the resorts) is ready to open and we are now waiting for the licences (casino and theme park) to be issued. As soon as it issued, we will open," Lim said.

The Singapore casino is viewed as the group's key earnings drivers in the future.

"By end of next week, Universal Studios Singapore will open and when we officially launch Resorts World Sentosa later this year, it will be another significant and historical milestone achievement for the group," Lim said.

Under the second phase of the Resorts World Sentosa, Lim said another two projects, the Equarius Hotel and Spa Villas, would be completed by mid-2011.

He said Genting's involvement in a mixed development within Iskandar Malaysia comprised theme parks, hotels and premium outlets which would serve as a gateway for local visitors to Singapore and vice-versa.

The group teamed up with New York-listed Simon Property Group to venture into upscale outlet shopping in Iskandar Malaysia under the Chelsea Premium Outlet Centres concept.

Genting Plantations Bhd's unit, Azzon Ltd, signed a joint venture agreement last year with Simon''s Chelsea Malaysia LLC to establish the centres.

Under the partnership, Genting Plantations and Simon will form a 50:50 joint-venture called Genting Chelsea Sdn Bhd to invest and operate Premium Outlet Centres in Malaysia.

The Johor Premium Outlets, will be the first project to be built in Kulai, Johor, and is set to become the iconic flagship outlet centre in the Southeast Asian retail market.

Expected to open in 2011, the centre aims to synergise with Genting's existing property operations and the group's leisure and hospitality footprint in the region.

On Genting's Resorts World, the crown jewel within the group, Lim said the group expected its customer base to increase to 20 million visitors this year from last year's 19.5 million.

Resorts World Genting, a premier integrated family leisure and entertainment resort at the peak of Genting Highlands, will offer various events throughout the year in conjunction with the group's 45th anniversary.

The events were the group's way rewarding customers with rewards and giveaways which would include special discounts on hotel rooms, food and beverages, lucky draws, theme park packages, international shows and grand sales at retails outlets.

Source : BusinessTimes
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AirAsia introduces self check-in

Low cost carrier, AirAsia, is now offering a self check-in service at several airports in Malaysia and regional countries.

The service is available at the Low Cost carrier Terminal (LCCT)-Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Jakarta, Bali, Bangkok, Phuket, Chiang Mai and Hat Yai.

For added comfort and convenience, customers can also utilise its web-based check-in service, the carrier said in a statement here on Wednesday.

AirAsia said the initiative was part of its on-going mission of using the information, communication and technology (ICT) forefront to exploit technology and practice cost efficiency.

By adopting a cost effective service and liberating the traveling experience for customers, the innovative service will also avoid airport congestion, long queues and reduce waiting time at no extra cost, it said.

According to AirAsia, customers can still opt to check-in the conventional way, at its airport counters.
"We have invested quite a significant amount to develop our ICT facilities in order to keep-up with global standards.

"Now, we have equipped ourselves to fully exploit the benefits of it and achieve a competitive excellence in the market," AirAsia Bhd's group chief executive officer, Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes said.

Source : STAR
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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

AirAsia X seats being refurbished

AirAsia X is undertaking a major refurbishment exercise to upgrade all economy and business class seats on board its long-haul aircraft.

Chief Executive Officer Azran Osman-Rani said the first aircraft will be refurbished by Feb 1, 2010.
The entire exercise, to be done in stages, would be completed by June and provide a more valueble experience for our customers, he said.

Besides the economy seats being refurbished to a more comfortable level, business class travellers will also enjoy a pleasurable journey.

"AirAsia X will have lie flat beds for business class passengers, first of its kind for long-haul aircraft to replace XL seats. There will be 12 lie flat beds in A330 and 18 lie flat beds in A340.

"After taking into consideration complaints (on leg room), we believe the new seats will be more comfortable and relaxing to our customers," he added.

Azran told this to reporters after launching ExxonMobil's "Discover Travel.

Source : STAR
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Remove travel advisory on Sabah, US urged

The Foreign Ministry has urged the US Ambassador to Malaysia to review the travel alert for the popular tourist destination of eastern Sabah in light of the “sound security arrangement” and assurances by Malaysian leaders.
The ministry’s deputy secretary-general I Datuk Mohd Radzi Abd Rahman, who met with US Ambassador James R. Keith on Monday, said that the travel alert could create a wrong, misleading and negative impression to the outside world on the security situation in Malaysia as a whole, in relation to terrorist threats.
Radzi claimed that the actual security situation in the eastern part of Sabah -- including Mabul, Sipadan and Semporna -- was far from what was detailed in the travel alert issued by the Bureau of Consular Affairs of the US State Department on Jan 15.
“The travel alert has generated anxiety, confusion and surprise from Malaysian leaders and the public over the alleged security situation in the popular tourist resorts in Eastern Sabah,” said a statement issued by the ministry on Tuesday.
Last Friday, the US State Department issued a travel alert advising Americans to consider the risks associated with travel to eastern Sabah due to the possible threats from terrorist and criminal groups.
Radzi said the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and heads of Malaysian security agencies have issued statements and assurances on the actual security situation in the region.
He also emphasised that the Government was fully committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of visitors and citizens alike.
“Foreign travellers and tourists need not be unduly worried when coming to Sabah as the situation is peaceful,” it said.


US issues travel advisory for Sabah

KUALA LUMPUR: The United States warned its citizens Friday that criminals and terrorists could be plotting attacks on foreigners in Sabah.
“There are indications that both criminal and terrorist groups are planning or intend acts of violence against foreigners in eastern Sabah, notwithstanding the government of Malaysia’s increased ability to detect, deter and prevent such attacks,” according to a travel advisory posted on the website of the US Embassy in Kuala Lumpur.
The advisory noted that al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf militants based in the southern Philippines, which is a short boat ride from Sabah, have kidnapped foreigners from Sabah’s secluded resort areas in the past.
It urged Americans to “avoid or use extreme caution” in connection to travel plans to those areas.
Police officials contacted in Sabah said they were not immediately aware of the advisory and declined to comment.

Source : STAR  STAR2
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Port Dickson Beaches Are Safe For Picnickers

The beaches in Port Dickson are safe for visitors as no picnickers have been attacked by crocodiles or sharks there, said Negeri Sembilan Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan.

He said the wound suffered by a visitor to Port Dickson, which was widely talked about in the internet, was not caused by a crocodile, shark or any other wild beast.

He said reports that he received from medical experts stated that the wound could have been caused by other things but not wild beasts.

"I did not say this, but according to experts who studied the case, we are not sure what had caused the wound. There are many possibilities, probably it was caused by corrals," he told reporters after chairing the State Exco meeting, here Monday.

He said that never in the history of Port Dickson had any visitor been attacked by wild beasts such as crocodiles or sharks.

He hoped members of the public would keep calm and not jump to conclusions based on the speculations in the internet.

He also disclosed that generally, Port Dickson was a holiday resort that was safe to visit.

"We carry out monitoring. Along the beaches, we have control towers with assistance from the St John Ambulance, Civil Defence Department and RELA," he said.

Whether the visitors chose to stay in the hotel or make camp on the beach, they did not have to worry about their safety, he said.

He said this when commenting on a report in the internet that a man was attacked and bitten in the leg by an animal believed to be a crocodile.

Source : Bernama
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Great tourism potential in Sibu

The huge tourism potential of this town as a getaway for city folks has caught the attention of a travel agent in Johor.
Spring Yap, the Inbound and Transport Department manager of Hwee Siang Tour and Travel Sdn Bhd, flew into this town on a fact-finding mission.
All he found was a good opportunity to tailor special packages for visitors from West Malaysia and foreign tourists to explore this Foochow town.
Good host: Tan (right) presenting Yap and his family a calendar of the temple in Sibu recently.
Speaking to The Star at the landmark Sibu Tua Pek Kong Temple, Spring saw the town as a new market for his company.
Yap was here with his wife Lee Chan, daughter Conny, and a friend named Fang.
He talked in length about how impressed he was after three days of exploration in the town.
“I am very impressed by your community gardens. At our place, we don’t have clan associations sponsoring the local authority in creating this type of garden. There is so much to see and learn about the various clans in these gardens.
“The mighty Rajang River, the riverfront, the hospitality of the people, the largest Buddhist temple in South-East Asia, and the largest central marker in Sarawak are good selling points. We also enjoyed Dian Ming Hu (a local delicacy) for the first time, he added.
He was optimistic that he could get a lot of visitors to this town as most travellers liked something new.
By tailoring a package to this town, he believed he would help promote eco-tourism.
He said there were still a lot of West Malaysians who had not set foot on this town, but most of them had been to Kuching and Miri.
His company was formed 21 years ago and had conducted tours to Miri, Kuching and places in Sabah.
At the temple, Yap and his family were warmly entertained by Tan Teck Chiang, the caretaker.
They were briefed on the temple’s history by Tan, who had previously briefed over 3,000 foreign tourists.
Yap described Tan as a good guide for his vast knowledge on the temple, Buddhism and the town.
Tan would be a good host for us should our tour package be successful, he said.

Source : STAR
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Monday, January 18, 2010

Tourism Ministry Welcome Proposal To Reduce Duration For VOA - Ng

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Ng Yen Yen welcomed a proposal to reduce the duration of stay for Visa on Arrival (VOA) holders from one month to just a few days.

"We welcome the proposal as the security of the country is important," Ng told reporters after introducing her new deputy Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit at the Pan Pac Kuala Lumpur International Airport here Saturday.

She was asked to comment on a Bernama report that the government may retort to such action as a means to prevent abuse of such facilities introduced in 2006 in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year, by tourist from other countries.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak had on Tuesday said that nearly 40,000 Indian citizens were 'missing' after their VOA expired.

Ng added that the decision on VOA must be briefed to genuine tourists.

"For the genuine tourist, we welcome them. We will assist them in their visa application. We will do it politely. We do not travellers to feel any discomfort or feel not welcomed," she said.

Ng added that her ministry would also work closely with tourism directors stationed overseas to help in profiling would be tourists, to know if they are genuine tourists or not.

"There is a need for us to check the high risk involved in overstaying," said Ng.

However, despite such challenges, Ng remained confident that the ministry's target of 29.65 million tourists arrival would be achievable due to the global economic recovery.

"We received mixed messages on global economy. Australia have the best result, but America' was not very good and we are happy to see Asia doing very well.

"In view of that, we will be focusing on tourists from Asia, especially China, India and new emerging Asean countries like Vietnam and Cambodia," she said.

The ministry would continue to introduce new products like "Malaysia Contemporary Art Festival", "International Shoe Exhibition" and "Flower Parade".

Commenting on a travel advisory issued by the US Embassy yesterday, Ng said: "It is not new. It has been on and off for the past few years, especially in relation to political conflicts here or nearby countries."

The Embassy had advised US tourists to be extra careful when travelling to Sabah, especially to Semporna, Mabul and Sipadan.

Source : Bernama
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Ratings for island’s Tour Guides

The Tourism Ministry will introduce a rating system for tour guides in Langkawi, ranging from “A” to “AAA”.
Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said the rating was to create value to the services provided by tour guides.
“For example, when a tourist comes here for four days and wishes to see all the products in the island, he will not hesitate to pay extra money if the tour guide can show him everything he wants to see within the period.
“This is an ‘AAA’ service because the guide is able to entertain the tourist despite the time constraints,” Dr Ng told newsmen after chairing a dialogue with tourism players and government departments here yesterday.
Great service: Dr Ng and Langkawi MP Datuk Paduka Abu Bakar Taib (in pink shirt) posing for a photograph with tourism operators at the Lada Langkawi Complex in Langkawi Saturday. — Bernama
She said the ministry also planned to conduct Niche Tour Guide Apprenticeship Programme in Langkawi to train students who wished to become tour guides.
The programme was aimed at producing a group of tour guides focused on tourism products in Langkawi.
“At the moment, we have two types of tour guides – operating in and outside the city.
“Now we will have a third category, which is Langkawi tour guides specially dedicated to promote tourist products in Langkawi,” she added.
In a related matter, Dr Ng said that the ministry had asked the Langkawi Spa Association to train single mothers to work as therapists at spas on the island.
Dr Ng added that besides providing job opportunities for single mothers, this would also reduce the dependency of spa outlets on foreign masseurs.
“The association will work with the Langkawi Single Mothers Association to identify women who can be trained as therapist.”
Later, in Sepang, Dr Ng welcomed a proposal to reduce the duration of stay for Visa on Arrival holders from one month to just a few days.
“The security of the country is important,” she told reporters after introducing her new deputy Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit.
She was asked to comment on a report that the Government could resort to this to prevent the abuse of the facility introduced in 2006.

Source : STAR
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Star Cruise tourism breakthrough

COME Feb 13, Penang will become the home port for Star Cruise Pisces which will make daily night familiarisation cruises on the open sea.
Penang Port Commission (PPC) chairman Tan Cheng Liang said the vessel with a passenger capacity for over 1,600 people would embark and disembark at the Penang Swettenham Pier International Cruise Terminal.
A clearer picture: Tan (right) showing the layout of the Penang Swettenham Pier International Cruise Terminal to (from left) Star Cruise Travel Service Pte Ltd vice-president for nautical operations Stefan Norberg, vice-president for cruise operations Jeffery Yoon and Goh.
She said the vessel would leave daily at 8.30pm, and return to the port the next morning at 8am.
Tan said the initial plan for the cruise tourism was to allow tourists from all over the world to fly to Penang, stay in the state and take the short cruise that would have various activities and entertainment lined up.
“We need to get the market first, and once we have the numbers, long-term plans will be drawn up,” she said.
“This is our first breakthrough in cruise tourism, and we hope to come up with better offers once we have memorandums of understanding with Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia.
“This will indeed stimulate the state’s economy as well as create a spillover effect to the various industries involved,” she told a press conference after meeting with Star Cruise Travel Service Pte Ltd officials at the PPC office yesterday.
Tan said besides that, the Star Cruise Virgo from Singapore to Phuket would continue to use the terminal as a transit port every Monday.
Star Cruise Travel Service Pte Ltd senior vice-president (sales) Michael Goh said this was the first time its vessel was making Penang a home port.
He said the services were timely as Chinese New Year was just around the corner.
He said the 12-storey ship had among others over 600 cabins, 11 restaurants and bars, gymnasium, swimming pool and a show lounge, adding that there were about 700 crew members from 40 different nationalities.
Tan also said she had requested the state government to take the necessary steps to resolve congestion woes at Weld Quay following complaints from the public.
She said the road was congested especially on Monday, Wednesday and Friday when several cruise ships docked at the terminal.
“On those days, there are some 40 coaches, 60 taxis and 200 trishaws that would line the street to pick up passengers,” she added.
When contacted, state Traffic Management and Local Government Committee chairman Chow Kon Yeow said the Penang Municipal Council had come up with a proposal to turn part of Weld Quay into a one-way street.
“The council has proposed that the entrance to the ferry right up to Ghaut Lebuh Chulia be turned into a one-way street to ease the traffic woes. So far, we have not received any objection from the business community there,” he added.

Source : STAR
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2008 / 2009 Tourism Malaysia Awards

The Ministry of Tourism honoured several tourism industry players for their excellent performance at the Malaysia Tourism Awards 2008/2009 at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre on 9 January 2010.
Graced by the Deputy Prime Minister YAB Tan Sri Muhyiddin Hj Mohd Yassin, who represented the Honorable Prime Minister of Malaysia, the event was attended by over 800 guests from the travel and tourism industry.

A total of 39 awards were given out on that night to winners in 12 categories. The highlight of the awards was the Prime Minister's Tourism Award which went to YBhg. Tan Sri Dato' Seri Panglima Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir who was the past Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism. Meanwhile, the Minister of Tourism's Special Award was presented to Tuan Haji Sahariman Hamdan, President of the Malaysia Homestay Association. (Full list of awards recipients below).

YB Dato' Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen, Minister of Tourism Malaysia, lauded the winners and finalists for their product and service excellence and also praised industry players who had shown innovativeness and creativity in their quest to enhance the tourism scene.

"As is our tradition for the last 16 years, tonight we honour Malaysia's brightest ‘stars' - outstanding individuals and organisations who are committed to growing a culture of excellence and who show the spirit of enterprise by continually innovating their product offerings. Their efforts have ensured that Malaysia remains competitive and attractive as the not-to-be missed destination to visit," said YB Dato' Sri Ng.
She believed that the Malaysia Tourism Awards is in line with the Honorable Prime Minister's aspirations for the nation's higher growth and development and urged all in the tourism industry to support the 1Malaysia concept.

She said, "As members of the tourism industry, I believe that we are the best people to exemplify and promote the spirit of 1Malaysia to our foreign guests. With our close and daily interactions with the locals and local culture in our daily work, we are, in essence, realising the 1Malaysia concept."
Through the packaging and presentation of Malaysia's diverse assets, industry players can offer tourists the experience in a variety of ways "through the sampling of ethnic cuisines; the study of architectural heritage of our cities; the participation in traditional culture and lifestyle such as dance and handicraft; the exploration of important historical sites; and the exposure to multi-ethnic communities and their ways of living," added YB Dato' Sri Dr Ng.

Overall, the Malaysia Tourism Awards covered 14 categories:
• Prime Minister's Special Award (new)
• Minister of Tourism's Award,
• Innovative Foreign Tour Operator,
• Innovative Tourism Magazine,
• Innovative Restaurant
• Innovative Shopping Outlet
• Innovative Homestay
• Innovative Tourist Attraction,
• Best Tour Operator,
• Best Hotel Services,
• Best Tour Programme,
• Best Tour Guides,
• Best M.I.C.E. (No winner)
• Creative Tourism Article on Malaysia (Winners to be announced at a special media function at a later date)
Recipients from each category were presented with a trophy and certificate each, while finalists received Merit certificates.

Complete Winners' List
    YBhg. Tan Sri Dato' Seri Panglima Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir,
    Executive Chairman of Sazean Development Sdn Bhd and
    Past Minister of Culture, Arts and Tourism
    Tuan Haji Sahariman Hamdan,
    President of the Malaysia Homestay Association
Malaysia Tourism Awards
First introduced in 1987 by the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism, it was originally called the "Malaysia Tourism Gold Awards" but was renamed "Malaysia Tourism Awards" in 1993 to better reflect the distinction of the awards and the corporate image of Tourism Malaysia.
This prestigious awards is a tribute to those who have excelled and supported the development of tourism in Malaysia. It also acts as an incentive for participants to strive for the highest level of professionalism and quality in both products and services.

The Malaysia Tourism Awards is the highest accolade for individuals and organizations, whose outstanding contributions play a significant role in the success of Malaysia's tourism industry. Into its 16th year, it has expanded from a tourist-and-travel centric recognition programme into one that encompasses all service industries and where local patronage is equally relevant.

It also honours industry players who break new boundaries to take risks in creating distinctive products and services that offer unique and memorable experiences of Malaysia.

The 2000 Malaysia Tourism Awards marked the first awards ceremony to give recognition to foreign partners in the tourism industry who had equally contributed towards the success of Malaysia's tourism industry by promoting Malaysia overseas. The awards offered during this particular year for foreign participants were Best Tourism Article, Innovative Tourism Publication and Best Foreign Tour Operator (covering Europe, West Asia/Africa, South Asia, ASEAN, East Asia, America and North Asia).

Source : Tourism Malaysia

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Iran grows for Malaysia but challenges abound

IRAN registered the highest growth for Malaysia last year, increasing by 60.9 per cent to reach 101,664 visitors.

Agents specialising in this market, however, said Malaysia was in danger of losing its lustre due to unhealthy practices such as rate-dumping to grab market share and Singapore's growing appeal through aggressive promotional efforts.

Grace Holidays general manager Godwin Miranda said: "A standard package of seven nights in Malaysia is sold US$15 or more below cost. Agents make up the difference by pushing optionals and shopping tours. Services are compromised by skimping on trained tour guides, interpreters and hotel facilities."

Mohammad Kiani, general manager of Sewac Travel & Tours, added that the number of Iranians going on Kuala Lumpur-Penang packages had dropped by at least 80 per cent since 2007 and the market was now opting for Kuala Lumpur-Singapore packages instead.

Iran overtook the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last year to become Malaysia's second largest Middle East market, after Saudi Arabia. UAE arrivals fell by 36.8 per cent in 2009 to a little over 22,000, compared to 34,994 in 2008.

Source : TTG
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Monday, January 11, 2010

23.5 million tourists recorded last year

Malaysia recorded tourist arrivals of 23.5 million last year – more than its initial target of 19 million despite a global decline in the industry due to the economic downturn and other challenges.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the industry earned about RM51bil in tourism receipts and with such an optimistic outlook, the time was right for Malaysia to take full advantage of its next wave of growth.
“I look forward to seeing the tourism industry in Malaysia flourish with fresh ideas and high quality products, service standards beyond regular expectation and value-added incentives that no traveller can resist,” he said in his speech at the Malaysia Tourism Awards 2008/2009 presentation here last night.
The text of the speech was read out by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
Also present were Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Idris Jala.
Najib also said that the Government would allocate RM899mil for the industry this year to, among others, upgrade its infrastructure, train local frontliners, develop more attractive tourism products and events.
He expressed confidence that the services sector with its great growth potential would drive the economy further, adding that the Government aimed to see it expand by 3.6% this year and contribute 60% to the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2020.
“With the creation of meaningful and high-value products, accompanied by excellent quality service, I have no doubt the industry will be able to attract greater numbers of high net worth tourists willing to pay a premium price for first-rate experience,” he said.
Najib said the tourism industry needed to support the Government’s commitment towards addressing climate change issues, adding that he was pleased to note that some industry players were already making concrete efforts to be environmentally responsible.
Dr Ng said Malaysia’s success in exceeding tourist arrival target was a result of commitment and dedication from all of the industry players, adding that the success was not by chance but through creative marketing, prudent investment and high quality product.
Forty-six awards were presented, including the Prime Minister’s Special Award which was given to former Culture, Arts and Tourism Minister Tan Sri Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir.

Source : STAR
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Church attacks may hurt tourism: Yen Yen

The Tourism Ministry fears that attempts of arson on several churches in the country may threaten the tourism industry's growth.
Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said the religious tension could cause fear among foreign tourists of visiting Malaysia, hence affecting its economy.
"This is the communication era, so information travels fast...tourists will choose not to visit a country faced with conflicts, especially religious conflicts," she told reporters after officiating at a Christmas and New Year celebration attended by about 150 Christians, here, Sunday.
Dr Ng said the church attacks were sending the wrong message to foreign tourists when Malaysia was always touted as a harmonious country despite its multiracial and multireligious society.
However, she said, the ministry had not received information on the effects of the incidents on tourist arrivals in Malaysia.
"We are monitoring the developments through our offices overseas."
Dr Ng who condemned the church attacks said the people should not be influenced by the actions of a few who were out to create chaos in the country.
She said the Barisan Nasional government, which at all times wanted to safeguard peace and religious freedom in this country, would ensure the individuals involved would face appropriate action.
So far, seven churches with the latest in Miri, Sarawak as well as the church and guard post at Sekolah Menengah Convent in Taiping, Perak have been targeted.

Source : STAR
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Hilton : Save up to 50% on 2010 weekend stays if you book & pay this month

Weekend Pass

Hilton Worldwide is giving travelers up to 1/3 off weekend hotel stays at resorts in the Americas throughout 2010 - if they book and pay in January.

Hilton kicked off a global sale across most of its chains that rewards people who plan their 2010 getaways - and pay for them in January. The sale gives us a glimpse at what hotel giants might try to get leisure travelers to take vacations this year since business travel remains sluggish. How the sale works:

To take advantage of the sale, visit the Hilton HHonors sale website by Jan. 31 to book and pay for your hotel stay between Jan. 7 and Dec. 26, 2010. The discounts will apply mainly to Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights throughout 2010, although some hotels will also discount Thursday nights.

How big your discount will be will depend on where you go. You'll save more money when you vacation across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The Hilton Luxor in Egypt is one of the hotels that Hilton has put on sale for 2010. The catch? You must book and pay in January.

The deal applies to all Hilton chains outside the Americas: Hilton, Doubletree, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn & Suites, Homewood Suites, Conrad and Waldorf Astoria. Inside the Americas, however, the sale excludes Conrad and Waldorf Astoria hotels.

Taking advantage of the sale requires some advance planning, even if you plan to use it this month. Why? Hilton says that all reservations must be booked at least three days in advance.

Hilton HHonors members, meanwhile, needn't worry about losing points if they book a discounted room. Under the sale, HHonors members will still earn their standard points and miles.

Hilton kicked off the sale by giving away a free two-night's stay at any Hilton-brand worldwide to members of the audience of the Ellen Degeneres Show.

Source : USAToday

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Tourism boost for Desaru

The tourism sector is set to flourish here with the recent launch of a new water theme park at its largest resort – the Lotus Desaru Beach Resort.
Lotus Corporation Bhd chief operating officer Datuk Ramalingam Pillai said that children and adults alike could enjoy themselves at the theme park.
“The water park dubbed the Desaru Explorer is JB’s first world-class water park within a resort,” he said.
Air adventure: A resort guest taking the light aircraft flying lesson.
He said the features and attractions for the park were chosen after taking into consideration the available space and the existing pool.
“The park offers the latest water-based amusements, with special play equipment dedicated to children and a relaxing social atmosphere for adults,” he said.
Ramalingam explained that the theme park would consist of a lagoon area with a waterfall, the children’s Oasis adventure which is an aqua play area, and a children’s pool and activity area with a maximum capacity of 75 “screaming” children.
“Besides those attractions, encircling the area is a twisty river slide,” he said, adding that the slide takes a path through the Oasis.
He said the 300m river flows through a series of secluded lagoons and a 10m tunnel accompanied by sounds and visual effects.
Lotus Corporation took over the resort formerly known as Impiana Beach Resort two years ago.
Ramalingam said the resort underwent major upgrading and renovations a year ago costing more than RM50mil.
Other water sports activities are jet-skiing, banana boat rides, kayaking, snorkelling and fishing, besides 4X4 adventuring, light aircraft flying lessons and a firefly tour close to the resort.
He said the hotel offered more than 2,000 rooms at between RM160 and RM736 per night.
For further enquiries, call the Lotus Desaru Beach Resort at 07-884 2800.

Source : STAR
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Hoteliers urged to review rates

Hotel operators should review their current room pricing to more appropriate levels, said Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.
She said she had heard from some foreign tourists that they were shocked to see hotels with good service and facilities charging low rates.
“An interesting thing is that when tourists who want to visit our country look at the competitive hotel prices, they will think that the services cannot be that good,” she said in calling on the hotel industry to reconsider its pricing.
“We must not undervalue ourselves,” she told reporters after a Tourism Malaysia meeting with 13 state directors yesterday.
She said hotel operators could perhaps have international and local room rates.
Malaysians could get certain discounts by showing their MyKad, Dr Ng said.
She added that as long as hotels maintained their service, customers would keep coming back.
She said the ministry had no right to decide on hotel room rates, but it would write to the Malaysian Association of Hotels and other industry players on the matter.
At the tourism directors’ meeting earlier, Dr Ng said the ministry aimed to strengthen tourism services.
“We will continue to have close collaboration with other ministries like the Information, Communication and Culture Ministry and Agriculture Ministry to coordinate our activities.”
Dr Ng said her ministry would also continue its 1Malaysia Fabulous Food Festival which had gained excellent response.
She added that the ministry would also organise the first International Shoes Festival this year.

Source : STAR
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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Najib to attend tourism awards

The Prime Minister’s Special Award and the Minister of Tourism Award will be given for the first time at the 16th Malaysia Tourism Awards 2008/2009 gala dinner on Saturday.
The special awards will be conferred to a company or individual for outstanding contributions to the tourism industry.
Once a tourist attraction: The Raja Brooke Birdwing at the salt lick in Ulu Geroh before the destruction of the site. (Right) Workers cutting the iron pipe.
In addition to the two new honours, 46 recipients in 12 categories, including Best Tour Operator, Innovative Foreign Tour Operator and Innovative Homestay, will be awarded for their innovative efforts to enhance the industry.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak will attend the black-tie event at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre.
Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said it would be the first time a Prime Minister would grace the event in its 22 years.
“This implies the importance placed by the Prime Minister on this recognition,” Dr Ng told reporters yesterday.
First introduced in 1987, the awards are held every two years. In 2007, 43 awards in 11 categories were given out.
Winners from each category will receive a trophy and certificate while finalists will receive merit certificates.
Dr Ng added that although 2009 was not a good year for the global tourism industry, the number of foreign arrivals to Malaysia exceeded the target of 19 million.
“From January to November, international tourist arrivals to Malaysia stood at 21.5 million. This was an increase of 7.6% compared to the same period in 2008,” said Dr Ng.

Source : STAR
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Resorts World Sentosa to start phased opening this month

Singapore’s first integrated resort, Resorts World Sentosa, will start its phased opening from Jan 20, beginning with four hotels.
“Resorts World Sentosa is working closely with the authorities to obtain approvals for Universal Studios Singapore, which will open next,” the company said in a statement.
The opening date for the casino will be announced when Genting Singapore Plc, a 54% subsidiary of Genting Bhd receives its casino licence, it added.
The resort’s four hotels – Festive Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel Singapore, Crockfords Tower and Hotel Michael – offer a combined inventory of 1,350 rooms and 10 restaurants.
Another two hotels, Equarius Hotel and Spa Villas, will add another 500 rooms when launched after this year, the company said.
Source : STAR
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AirAsia, Jetstar in non-equity alliance

Jetstar, the budget airline owned by Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd, and Malaysia’s AirAsia will form a non-equity alliance to cut costs, a sign that even budget airlines were feeling the burden of the aviation industry downturn.

Wednesday’s joint announcement comes less than a month after Qantas flagged a possible tie-up between the region’s two fastest growing no-frills airlines.

“The aviation market in Asia is a growth market, and has proven resilient over the past 12 months, despite the tough operating environment, with significant growth in passenger numbers forecast in the region,” Qantas Airways chief executive officer Alan Joyce said.

Airlines worldwide have been grappling with falling demand, higher funding costs and volatile fuel prices.

AirAsia and Jetstar compete regionally with Tiger Airways, which is 49 per cent-owned by Singapore Airlines and which has received a lukewarm response to a planned initial offering of shares.

The alliance between Jetstar and AirAsia will explore opportunities in areas including joint procurement of aircraft and pooling of inventories, the statement added.

AirAsia, the region’s biggest low-cost carrier, and Jetstar have grown rapidly and now fly routes across Southeast Asia and Australia.

“With joint purchasing power it means that we can potentially work with airline manufacturers on the right configuration and design of an aircraft specifically for AirAsia and that best suits our operational needs for the future,” Air Asia CEO Tony Fernandes said.

The Jetstar Group currently operates a total fleet of 60 aircraft comprising 48 A320 family aircraft, and has future orders and purchase rights for about 100 new aircraft.

Source : Business TImes
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More visitors expected for MATTA Fair

The MATTA Fair organising committee is expecting an increase of 10,000 visitors to this year’s fair that will be held from March 12-14 at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC).

“Last year’s target was 65,000 but we had a total of 70,000 visitors despite various issues such as the Influenza A(H1N1) scare as well as the bad economy,” organising committee chairman Datuk Mohd Khalid Harun said during the MATTA Fair launch reception held at The Teeq Brasserie, Lot 10 Shopping Centre.

He said that they were confident of this year’s visitor response and were not too worried about the second wave of the flu.

“I think the government and private sector have handled the situation very well and curbed the disease. We hardly see people wearing masks these days, which is a good indicator that the worst of the scare is over,” Khalid said.

He added that they were also in the process of negotiating with the sponsors and soon, with the exhibitors, for something special for the customers.

“We are hoping that the exhibitors will be able to give the customers something extra like points or discounts, particularly cardholders of our official card EON Bank,” Khalid said. He added that cardholders may also be able to take home special goodie bags.

As for the exhibitors this year, they are expecting about 300 to be present, taking up a total of 893 booths in Hall 1, 2 and 3.

“We have had so many requests for space and booth allocation from local and international exhibitors however everyone has to wait until Mon (Jan 11) before we start accepting applications,” Khalid said.

He added that they have had exhibitors from overseas countries like Mexico, Spain and America opening booths at the fair and hoped they too would return.

Until Jan 22, an early bird discount of up to RM500 will be given to active MATTA members who join except those representing hotels, airlines, cruises and others, who will only get RM300 discount.

Among the most popular destinations at the fair among customers usually are Asian countries.

The official media for the event are The Star, Nanyang Siang Pau and Sin Chew Daily (newspapers), whereas the magazines are Escape and Traveller’s Digest.

Source : STAR
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