Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wish To See Malaysia? Then Visit Melaka

As visitors are about to cross into Melaka, they will be greeted by the slogan 'Visiting Historical Melaka Means Visiting Malaysia' inscribed on the welcoming arch at the Ayer Keroh Highway-Jalan Tun Razak junction.

Everything in Malaysia, they are available in Melaka and that is not an over statement. Right from the facilities, public spots, shopping centres, hotels, institutions of education, resort beaches and islands, and many more.

Melaka also showcases 1Malaysia, according to a member of an entourage that visited the state recently. The values of 1Malaysia are prominently featured in Melaka.

In terms of unity and acceptance, history has shown that Melaka has long received the arrival of people from various ethnic groups, right during the days of the merchants from India and China, Malay Sultanate, the colonialists as well as the pre and post-Merdeka era.

Apart from the Malays, Chinese and Indians, Melaka also has the communities of Baba Nyonya, Portuguese and Chittys, most of them residing in the heart of this historical city.


The historical city is like a city in the garden as the blocks of tall and modern buildings is akin to be in the midst of a beautiful landscaped 'park'.

Melaka, which is to assume the tag as a developed state in Malaysia in October this year, has been given recognition by Unesco as the World Heritage City.

As for the tourism statistics, Melaka received 8.9 million tourists last year exceeding the target of 7.4 million. In 2008, the state received 7.4 million guests.

The state government has maintained and conserved Melaka's heritage well apart from introducing new tourism products. Melaka is renowned for its heritage assets that dated right from the days of the Malay Sultanate and occupation by the Portuguese and Dutch.

The colonials left much of their mark in this city, particularly at Bandar Hilir. Also, there are more than 20 museums here including the Baba Nyonya and Chitty museums that provided a detailed description of the heritage.


Among the tourist attractions here are the Portuguese settlement in Ujong Pasir, Chitty village at Jalan Gajah Berang and the Malay village of Kampung Morten located at the heart of this city.

There are also a number of parks. Apart from the Melaka Zoo, there are the Taman Mini Malaysia and Asean, Crocodile Farm, Butterfly Park, Melaka Botanical Garden, Malaysian Book Village of Melaka, Bees Museum, Garden of One Thousand flowers all of which are located at Ayer Keroh.

The other 'must do and visit' for tourists are the Melaka River Cruise, Menara Taming Sari, Eye On Malaysia, Duck Tour, Water Taxi and Planetarium Complex.

If several other states can be proud with their beautiful beaches, then so is Melaka as the state has Pantai Puteri and Pantai Tanjung Bidara apart from the famed Pulau Besar.

There are the hot springs at Gadek and Bemban as well as the waterfall at Asahan. As for the agro-tourism enthusiasts, they can visit Alor Gajah and Jasin districts to satisfy their interest.


For those who like to shop, Melaka can be considered a 'haven' as there are various handicraft items right up to the branded products available here.

Visitors can take a walk from a building to another before reaching the shopping centres such as the Fashion City located at Melaka International trade Centre (MITC) apart from the Batik House and Dataran Pahlawan Megamall.

Lovers of antics can take the short trip to Jonker Walk located in the city centre. This stretch of street is lined by many premises that sell handicraft and various other products.

For the 'gluttons' they can sample the delights of Melaka such as grilled fish and 'asam pedas'. If they choose to stay overnight, the tourists can visit the grilled fish square at Umbai, Kuala Duyung, Serkam and Alai.

Melaka can also take pride in having international-class sports facilities such as the Melaka International Bowling Centre, Melaka International Motorsport Circuit and its golf course.

In the field of education, the state administrators ensure that the public have access to various education facilities right from the primary, secondary and tertiary level. These facilities are also on offer for international students.

Among the tertiary-level education institutions in the state are Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka, Universiti Teknologi Mara, Universiti Multimedia, MCET UniKL Alor Gajah, Kolej Teknologi Islam Antarabangsa Melaka, Kolej Komuniti, Politeknik, Kolej Yayasan Melaka, Kolej Antarabangsa Sains dan Teknologi Melaka, Kolej Stamford, Kolej Antarabangsa DMDI and Kolej Risda.


Melaka has also moved towards health tourism as there are a number of quality public and private medical institutions.

The land of the legendary Malay warrior 'Hang Tuah' is also progressing in the information communication and technology. The latest development is the availability of the broadband at the speed of one gigabyte per second.

There are also the Melaka Biotechnology Corporation and Melaka Biotechnology Institute. An industrial zone is also provided for investors and various investment incentives are on offer.

Melaka is a state with facilities and infrastructure for the staging of expositions, workshops, seminars and conventions. There are also international-class hotels and resorts apart from the homestay concept for the budget travellers.

Source : bernama
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The last day the funicular train at Penang Hill

ONE would expect a large rush of local visitors to the Penang Hill railway station yesterday, the last day the funicular train would do its rounds. But that was not the case.

Starting today, the station will fall silent to allow upgrading works to the railway as part of a RM63mil upgrading project undertaken by the Tourism Ministry.

Last ride: A funicular train coach heading up Penang Hill yesterday amidst widening works along the track.

Anticipating a strong crowd as it was also a weekend, I was at the ticket counter at 8.30am to ensure train tickets for a photographer and myself.

My early trip was successful but unnecessary as there were only a few people around and just one person ahead of me at the ticket booth.

And although things picked up approaching lunch hour, the crowd was nothing out of the ordinary for a weekend at Penang Hill.

Positive outlook: Mohamad Salim and his wife FAiruzzah Ghazali are looking forward to the completion of the railway upgrade.

As trains left every half an hour, I was soon on my way up the hill.

Indeed, it was a beautiful day to travel with not too much sun but no hint of rain as we slowly made the half-hour journey to the top.

But I have to admit that much of the excitement of my first trip up the hill over 10 years ago had faded over the years, even though I still appreciated the beautiful scenery the ride provided.

And standing elbow to elbow with the other passengers in the coach’s compartment, I had to concur with the sentiments of young American tourist Justin Jiang, 9, who said “I hope next time, the coaches will be bigger, the ride will be faster and it’ll be air-conditioned.”

At the top, traders and hawkers on the hill were understandably concerned with the projected seven-month closure but they were surprisingly positive about the new project.

“Things won’t be the same, especially during these seven months that the train will be down.

“Even though they are offering jeep services up the hill, we don’t expect many visitors to come with the RM70 to RM90 they are charging,” said snack stall seller Mohamad Salim Salleh, 34, who had been trading on the hill for the last 19 years.

“However, we are looking forward to after they finish the upgrading.

“We’ve heard that each trip can bring about 150 passengers, up from the current 50 passengers.

“Also, more people may come to Penang Hill as the trips will be faster and they won’t have to wait so long,” he added.

Meanwhile, some hawkers at Sri Bendera, the hill’s food court, echoed similar comments and pledged to stay open during some hours on the coming weekends for the convenience of hikers and riders who regularly ply the hiking trails.

Taking my time, I took a good look at Penang island (and a bit of the mainland) spread out in front of me from Komtar on my far left, to the sights of Jelutong and Gelugor to the high rises of Paya Terubong and over to the beautiful pavilion of the Kek Lok Si on my extreme right.

And when the train arrived and it was time to bid farewell to middle station and its truly spectacular view, I, like the hawkers and visitors I had talked to, could not help but wonder what it will be like the next time around.

Source : STAR
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Sunway Pyramid building into the future

The Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall plans to be Malaysia's biggest mall by size within the next five years

The Sunway Pyramid Shopping Mall in Selangor is likely to overtake the Mid Valley Megamall in Kuala Lumpur as the country's biggest mall by size within the next five years as it adds two new phases to the mall.

Called "SP3" and "SP4", the two phases form part of Sunway City Bhd's (SunCity) planned development on a 2.35ha open car park land adjacent to the existing Sunway Pyramid and the Sunway Lagoon Theme Park.

Currently, Sunway Pyramid has a total gross floor area of 4.5 million sq ft, with a net lettable area (NLA) of 1.7 million sq ft.

Chief executive officer of Sunway Group of Shopping Malls, H.C. Chan, said SP3 will see 500,000 sq ft added to the gross floor area of the mall.

He did not say what the NLA will be, but typically 65 per cent to 70 per cent of a mall's gross floor area makes up the NLA.

"SP3 and SP4 have been planned and should be ready within the next five years ... it is a sizeable addition," Chan told Business Times in an interview.

He said timing of their launch would depend on economic conditions.

Phase SP3 of Sunway Pyramid features a small-office-home-office (SOHO) suites development to be built on 0.73ha.

While Chan declined to reveal details about Phase SP4 of expansion, it is understood that it will include retail, office blocks and residential units on 1.62ha.

"Integration and physical connection is our first priority," Chan said of the mall. The two new phases will be linked to the existing mall.

"We are building into the future, the mall is already big. So, we have to think of niche and innovative ways to attract consumers," Chan said of the concept the mall may have.

The new project will also increase the number of parking bays in the mall, hotel and theme park area by 2,000 to 9,500.

Today, Sunway Pyramid's larger rivals include the Mid Valley Megamall and the Gardens with a combined NLA of 2.5 million sq ft and 1 Utama Shopping Centre in Petaling Jaya at 1.85 million sq ft.

Its smaller rivals are One Borneo in Kota Kinabalu with a NLA of 1.5 million sq ft and Pavilion Kuala Lumpur at 1.37 million sq ft. Suria KLCC together with its upcoming space will have some 1.18 million sq ft of NLA.

Apart from Sunway Pyramid, SunCity also manages Sunway Carnival in Seberang Prai, Penang and Sunway Giza in Kota Damansara, Selangor.

Source : Btimes
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KL Sightseeing Tours For Transit Passengers

Airline passengers on transit for at least five hours can now take Kuala Lumpur sightseeing tours at a price of between RM28 and RM95 per head.

Launching the package dubbed "Showcase KL" here Friday, Federal Territories and Urban Well-being Minister Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin said the package included a KLIA Express train journey and a "KL Hop On Hop Off" bus tour of the capital.

He said up to 43 tourist spots were included in the "Showcase KL" organised by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) with the cooperation of Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB), the Immigration Department, KLIA Express, KL Hop On Hop Off, Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines (MAS).

"This is not a group package that required airline passengers to travel in groups. They can get down at any KL Hop On Hop Off bus stops to have a closer look at tourist spots of their choice," he told reporters after launching the package.

IF 20 per cent of transit passengers at the KL International Airport (KLIA) buy the package, it would contribute RM650,000 to the economy, he said, adding that he expected about 10,000 transit passengers would buy the package this year.

The package is sold at the Visit KL Counter at the KLIA satellite building between 6am and 10pm daily, including on public holidays.

The package cost RM95 for 18-year-old and above, RM84 (seven to 12-year-old), RM46 (five to 11-year-old), RM28 (below four years) and free of charge (below one-year-old).

Transit passengers taking the package will undergo Immigration screening before leaving KLIA and upon rejoining their flight.

"They will get free drinks and enjoy discounts at places like Aquaria KLCC, National Museum, KL Towers and Bird Park. As Tourist Reward card members, they are entitled to a discount of between 10 and 20 per cent at KL Pavilion," said Raja Nong Chik.

Earlier, the first batch of 35 Malaysia Airlines transit passengers were received by Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Fuad Ismail, MAHB managing director Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad, Tourism Malaysia deputy director-general Azizan Nordin and KLIA Express chief executive officer Normah Mohd Noor and KLIA Immigration chief Rohaizi Bahari.

Source : Bernama
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Malaysia revises tourism revenue target

MALAYSIA has revised its tourism receipt target for this year to RM54 billion (US$15.9 billion), an increase of RM2 billion, tourism minister Dr Ng Yen Yen said on February 18.

A new target was set as tourism revenue for 2009 came up to RM52 billion, from a total of 23.65 million tourists.

Malaysia registered 1,896,918 tourists for January this year, an increase of 1.4 per cent compared to the same period in 2009.

The top 10 markets were Singapore (1,001,806), Indonesia (202,124), Thailand (97,050), China, including Hong Kong and Macau (95,473), Brunei (67,544), Australia (54,136), India (48,426), the UK (32,739), the Philippines (32,040) and Japan (30,757).For this year, the tourism ministry has set a target of 24 million visitor arrivals.

Source : TTG
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Genting boss confident of doing better

Over 20 million people went up to Genting Highlands last year and more are expected to do so in the Year of the Tiger.

And the Malaysian resort has no fear of the newly-opened Resorts World Sentosa in Singapore.

Genting Group chairman Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay said yesterday that he expected Genting Highlands to have the edge over the Singapore resort because of the cool weather.

“The resort here still attracts many visitors including Singa­poreans as the cool weather makes a huge difference. Visitors to Resorts World Sentosa still have to bear with the sweltering heat despite state-of-the-art facilities,’’ he told a press conference at the Genting International Convention Centre (GICC) located at the First World Hotel.

Grand welcome: Ong being greeted by a lion dance troupe upon his arrival at the convention centre at First World Hotel in Genting Highlands Sunday. Accompanying him is Lim.

The event was held in conjunction with Chinese New Year and Genting Group’s 45th year anniversary celebrations this year.

The special guests included MCA president and Transport Minister Datuk Seri Ong Tee Keat and party vice-president and Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai.

Thousands of Genting Group’s loyal supporters and business partners were feted at the Gong Xi Fa Cai celebrations.

Lim announced that the Genting theme park would be improved and upgraded with more exciting rides to live up to its “The Fun City Above The Clouds” tagline.

He expressed confidence that the opening of Resorts World Sentosa would not affect tourist arrivals at Genting Highlands as both integrated resorts had their own attractions and strengths.

Source : STAR
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Friday, February 19, 2010

A mega sale to sell F1 race

The Malaysian GP Sale is scheduled to kick off on March 6 and will run for 37 days as a back-to-back event with the upcoming Formula 1 race.

The Malaysian F1 Grand Prix will be held on April 2 - April 4.

Grand event: Ng talking at the press conference to promote the Malaysian GP Sale Thursday.

Tourism Minster Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said the events to be held would include the Malaysia International Shoe Festival and KL Sunday 1Malaysia Family Fair at various shopping malls around the country.

She also said a Malaysian shopping taskforce would be set up as part of the plan to re-structure the Malaysian Mega Sale.

“The Malaysian Mega Sale has been on for 10 years. Now we want to move forward to structure it properly. Shopping is always structured within Tourism Malaysia,” she added.

“The ministry will look at policies and inter-agencies connectivity. For example, we will invite Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to sit on the taskforce to do city decoration,’’ she told a press conference held at the Menara Dato’ Onn at PWTC yesterday.

“According to a newspaper report, Mita wrote a letter to the ministry dated Feb 8 this year, and because they didn’t get any reply they insisted on proceeding with the lion dance show.
“I must clarify, if there is no letter, there’s no answer,” she said, adding that Mita had only sent an invitation to a press conference at Matic on Feb 11 to announce the lion dance show.

Source : STAR
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Focus on eco-tourism

Mature, urban and seasoned tourists — these are the groups that the Tourism Ministry is trying to woo to boost the national eco-tourism industry.

Explaining that eco-tourism was not just about jungle trekking, river rapids or scuba diving, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said it was all about preserving the environment.

“Eco-tourism helps to protect nature and spur economic activities for local folk.

“In the process, we also help to conserve our environment,” she said in a recent interview.
High- up: A hanging bridge located at Kelantan’s Gunung Stong hill resort is the gateway to Stong waterfalls. The area can be promoted for eco-tourism in Malaysia.

The main destinations for eco-tourism include the Mulu Caves in Sarawak, Belum in Perak, Gunung Stong in Kelantan and Gua Kelam in Perlis.

Mulu Caves has the world’s largest cave chamber and the world’s most extensive cave system while Belum is famous for its rich bio-diversity hosting more than 100 species of mammals.

Gunung Stong is home to one of the tallest waterfalls in Malaysia, the seven-tier Jelawang Falls.

“Gua Kelam, or the Cave of Darkness, is one of the destinations we are promoting to tourists,” said Dr Ng, who described eco-tourism as a high yield product with enormous potential for innovation and creativity.
She said tourism must conserve, not harm, nature.
“We must also minimise unnecessary construction,” she stressed.

Under the 10th Malaysia Plan, Dr Ng said her ministry would make allocations for construction works without damaging nature. “For in-stance, jungle treks and toilets built must blend with nature,’’ she added. She appealed to the people, on a personal note to keep the country clean and be courteous to visitors.

“We must think and act tourism. They help build our economy.

“We must all play our parts to make Malaysia the preferred destination,” she said.

Source : STAR
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Kuala Gandah elephant centre to be world-class

The Government plans to turn the National Elephant Conservation Centre in Kuala Gandah here into a world-class facility which will also focus on eco-tourism.

A total of RM13mil has been set aside to turn it into a learning, research and reference centre.
Become one with the herd

Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Douglas Uggah Embas said the programmes and activities carried out at the centre had proven to be successful.

"The centre is not only a facility that manages elephant translocation and conservation programmes, it also organises activities to promote public awareness on the plight of elephants,'' he added.

The three-hectare centre is located within the Krau Wildlife Reserve area, and sprawls over 60,000ha.

"The land is sufficient to be a roaming ground for elephants, has a lot of potential in eco-tourism and is also rich in biodiversity,'' he said after visiting the area here yesterday.

Uggah noted that the importance of the Kuala Gandah centre as a roaming area for elephants had been curtailed due to development, and that human-animal conflicts had been on the rise.

To a question, the minister said some of the methods used in the translocation programme were stressful to the animals and should be reviewed. Uggah said a total of 158,000 people visited the centre last year, including 30,500 foreigners.

"Our target is to increase the number to 500,000. Although this place is about 110km from Kuala Lumpur, it is easily accessible.''

Source : STAR
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Singapore Marina Bay Sands to open in late April

Casino operator Las Vegas Sands Corp. said Wednesday that it lost money in the fourth quarter on expenses to open its Singapore resort and charges to write down the value of properties in Macau and Pennsylvania.
Company officials said its Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore would open in late April.
Adelson told investors in a conference call that an opening date will be announced next week.
Sands said it spent $42.1 million on pre-opening expenses in the fourth quarter, primarily on the Singapore resort.
The company led by billionaire Sheldon Adelson saw improvements in its gambling business in Macau but no sign of a rebound in the Las Vegas market, which has been battered by the recession and high unemployment.
Growth fell in Macau with the onset of the economic crisis, but has since recovered because of a robust Chinese economy and relaxed visa restrictions on mainland Chinese tourists.
Macau has surpassed the Las Vegas Strip as the world's most lucrative gambling market.
The loss of $113.9 million, or 17 cents per share, compares with a loss of $136.5 million, or 27 cents per share, during the same quarter a year ago.
Excluding the one-time costs, adjusted net income was $20.9 million, 3 cents per share.
Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, whose estimates generally exclude one-time items, expected Sands to earn 3 cents per share on revenue of $1.23 billion.
Sands said it lost $540 million for all of 2009, compared with $188.8 million in 2008.
The Las Vegas-based company said it had $1.88 billion in revenue in the fourth quarter and $4.56 billion for all of 2009, compared with $1.09 billion in the fourth quarter one year ago and $4.39 billion in 2008.
Sands owns the Venetian Macao, Sands Macao and Four Seasons Hotel Macao and Plaza Casino in Macau and and the Venetian and Palazzo casino resorts in Las Vegas.
Its fourth-quarter revenue at three casinos in the Chinese gambling enclave were $952.8 million, compared with just $263.7 million from its Las Vegas operations.
Sands said it had an operating loss of $15.7 million at its Venetian Las Vegas and Palazzo Las Vegas casino-resorts.
Adelson said record revenues in Macau were helped by strong gambling revenue and cost cuts implemented last year.
It reported $154.5 million in depreciation and amortization expenses for the quarter.

Source : STAR
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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

AirAsia Offers 20 Per Cent Discount

AirAsia Bhd will be offering a 20 per cent price slash for all seats to all destinations during a four-day promotion from Feb 18-21.

In a statement here Wednesday, AirAsia said the promotion will be available exclusively online via its website at www.airasia.com during the promotion period for a travel period from March 23-31 this year.

The discounts for its domestic and international destinations will be available for AirAsia's nine regional hubs namely Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Penang, Bangkok, Phuket, Jakarta, Bali, Surabaya and Bandung stretching across 20 countries to over 130 routes.

The promotion excludes domestic destinations within Thailand and the new routes to India (Banglore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, New Delhi and Chennai from Kuala Lumpur and to Chennai from Penang) for which sales were opened recently, where promotional fares are still available online until February 21.

Its regional head of commercial, Kathleen Tan said guests will be able to book flights to favourite destinations such as London, Australia, China as well as regional favourites like Siem Reap, Bali, Phuket, Bangkok, Jakarta, Singapore and Ho Chi Minh City during the four-day promotion.

Those planning on domestic travel in Malaysia will also benefit from the promotion as domestic destinations are included, she said.

Source : Bernama
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Holidaymakers Flood Port Dickson For CNY Break

For Port Dickson, the Chinese New Year began with a demand for accomodation, soaring 95 per cent.

This was evident for the period of between Feb 13 and 15, a survey conducted by the Negeri Sembilan Tourism Malaysia Office revealed.

Sixty-five hotels, resorts, apartments, bungalows and recreational clubs were on hand to cater to the holidaymakers, with a total of 7,694 rooms.

Tourism Malaysia Office director Hishamuddin Mustafa said, to ensure the safety of visitors, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras had been installed at various locations and patrols increased by local authorities.

In a statement Wednesday, he said that among other attractions expected to receive a flood of visitors were the Army Museum, the PD Mini Zoo, the PD Ostrich Show Farm and the Lukut Fort and Museum.

"Port Dickson's 18km-long beach and tourist accomodations are what makes it a popular choice for local and foreign tourists, especially Singaporeans, during the festive season," noted Hishamuddin.

For more information on interesting destinations in Port Dickson and Negeri Sembilan, the public can contact the Tourism Malaysia Tourist Information Centre at the Seremban Plaza at tel: 06-7624488 (Monday to Friday), or the Mambau Barat R&R of the Seremban-Port Dickson Highway at 06-6722726 (Monday to Sunday).

Source : Bernama
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Terengganu Targets Four Million Tourists This Year

Terengganu aims to attract four million tourists to the state this year, from only 3.3 million tourists last year.

State Tourism, Culture, Arts and Heritage Committee chairman Datuk Zaabar Mohd Adib expressed confidence of achieving the target with the world economy improving and the Influenza A (H1N1) pandemic having eased.

"Last year, we targetted 3.5 million tourists, but because of the economic slowdown and the H1N1 pandemic, we only recorded 3.3 million tourist arrivals.

"However, with the current development, we are confident of wooing more tourists to the state this year," he said at a function hosted for the Terengganu winners of the Malaysia Tourism Award here yesterday.

Zaabar said the state government was allocating RM8 million for tourism promotion programmes this year, adding that programmes like Swimaton, the World Gamelan Festival and the Monsoon Cup at Pulau Duyong would continue to be held this year.

Early this month, Terengganu hosted the World Jet Ski championship.

Meanwhile, the three tour operators from Terengganu were named among the winners of the Malaysia Tourism Award.

They are Sutra Beach Resort & Spa for the Best Hotel service under the three star resort category; Hotel Felda Residence Kuala Terengganu (2nd place for Best Hotel Service under the three star hotel category) and Ping Anchorage Travel & Tours (Best Tour Operator under the Most Innovative Tour Operator category).

Source : bernama
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Record 32 Malaysian Exhibitors For AIME In Melbourne

A record 32 exhibitors from Malaysia will take part in the 18th Asia-Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo (AIME) here on March 2 and 3.

They will be among more than 850 exhibitors from 50 countries who will showcase the best in destinations, products and services.

"Malaysia is sending a very strong group this year because of the importance of AIME," said Mohd Hafiz Hashim, Tourism Malaysia's new Melbourne director.

"AIME is going from strength to strength, and to tap into its vast potential, Tourism Malaysia has established MyCEB - Malaysia Convention and Exhibition Bureau - with Zulkefli Sharif as its chief operations officer," Hafiz said.

AIME 2009 broke records with exhibitor numbers climbing to 854, a 3.8 per cent increase on the previous year, and visitor numbers grew by 15 per cent to 3,114 people attending the two-day event at the Melbourne Exhibition Centre.

There also was an impressive 467 hosted buyers who turned up last year to establish business contacts.

Hafiz said conventions would be a top priority this year because of the strong Aussie dollar.

The Kuala Lumpur, Sarawak and Melaka convention centres, led by Angeline Lue, Mohd Ariff Shah Abdullah Sani and Chew Chang Guan, respectively, are sending strong teams to AIME, offering to host international groups and organisations.

Hafiz said incentives would also play a big part in wooing convention and seminar delegates to Malaysia.

"Malaysia has first-class facilities and our hotels, tour operators and tourist attractions will be big plus for us," he said.

Source : Bernama
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More than 170 exhibitors for Matta Fair

THERE was a sense of anticipation in the air recently when more than 100 exhibitors gathered at the Tun Hussein Onn Hall B of the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) for a briefing by the organiser and booth selection before the Matta Fair.

To be held from March 12 to March 14 at Halls 1, 2 and 3 of PWTC, the fair will leave visitors enthralled and excited with increased participation from national tourism organisations from 15 countries and more than 170 exhibitors.

Among the new attractions for the March fair include a Buyers’ Contest comprising giveaway travel vouchers worth RM5,000 for those who buy domestic packages worth RM200 and above, and a grand prize of RM20,000 worth of travel vouchers for those who buy travel packages worth RM500 and above.

“We are expecting more than 70,000 visitors this time as consumer sentiment improves and a projected recovery in the economy. With more competitive promotions from budget airlines and greater connectivity from more comprehensive airline routes and new travel destinations, we foresee a positive response from the public who wish to take a break from their hectic lifestyles.

“There are definitely more choices this time round,” said organising chairman Datuk Mohd Khalid Harun during the booth selection.

Besides joint promotions with partner airlines and sponsors, including free entrance for EON Bank Matta Card cardholders, fair visitors may look forward to international performances and a spectacle of various country pavilions displaying information on well-known tourist hotspots.

To know more about the fair, log on to http://www.mattafair.org.my/ or call 03-9287 6881.

Source : STAR
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pahang offers 10 icons to lure 10 million tourists

Pahang has set a target of 10 million tourist arrivals this year by offering 10 packages that feature its 10 best tourism icons.

The icons are Cameron Highlands, Genting Highlands, Fraser’s Hill, Kuala Gandah Elephant Conservation Centre, Kuala Lipis (historical and heritage town), Taman Negara (national park), Tioman island, Rompin (billfish sports fishing), Pekan (royal city) and Cherating (surfing paradise).

Pahang Tourism, Arts, Heritage, Family Development and Women Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Shafik Fauzan Sharif said the new target was the same as the number of tourist arrivals last year.

“The state has requested an allocation of RM166.5mil under the 10th Malaysia Plan to implement 28 tourism-related projects,” he said.

He said 70% or seven million tourists to Pahang visited Genting Highlands last year.
The Genting Highlands management had agreed to promote other tourist destinations in Pahang in their advertisements and brochures, he added.

Source : STAR
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Occupancy rates at Penang hotels up

Most resort and city hotels on Penang island enjoyed about 65% occupancy rate last month compared with 55% in the same period in 2009, said Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH), Penang Chapter president Marco Battistotti.

“In the final quarter of 2009, the occupancy rate at most of the 37 hotels in Penang, which are MAH members, stood at about 70%, an increase of 2% from the previous corresponding period,” he told StarBiz.
“For resort hotels, about 55% of the guests last month were from overseas while the remainder were locals,” he said. “For city hotels, about 55% of the guests were domestic travellers while the remainder were from abroad.”

Battistotti said the recently launched direct flight to Chennai, India, by AirAsia helped to secure a lot of bookings for March and April for both resort and city hotels.

“MAH will continue to work with airlines, airport authorities, and both the state and federal governments to ensure that there would be more direct flights to Penang in the future,” he said.
Battistotti said MAH was confident that occupancy rate for Penang hotels this year would hit 65% compared with about 59% in 2009.

“In Penang, there is still a need for some 3,000 more hotel rooms over the next five years. At present, there are just under 10,000 hotel rooms here,” he said.

Hard Rock Hotel Penang achieved 70% to 80% occupancy rate for December and January.

However, Golden Sands and Rasa Sayang Resorts projected a slightly different outlook for the first quarter.
“Due to slower bookings, we expect the occupancy rates at both resorts in the first quarter to fall behind the corresponding period of 2009,” said director of communications Suleiman Tunku Abdul Rahman.

“But we hope there will be a last-minute pickup in bookings, as Golden Sands has just been renovated,” he said.

Cititel Penang sales and marketing director Vincent Ng said the hotel was expecting about five-percentage point increase in the occupancy rate for the first quarter from 52% achieved in the previous corresponding quarter.

He said its first-quarter projection was based on its occupancy rate for last month, which stood at 56.9% against 50.1% in January 2009.

“The occupancy rate for the New Year holidays (Dec 31-Jan 2) closed higher at 73.8% against 56.5% recorded in the same period a year earlier.

“The occupancy rate for Chinese New Year 2010 (from the eve till the third day) is expected to pick up and we expect to close at about 80% against 70.7% in 2009,” Ng said.

Meanwhile, Hard Rock Hotel director of sales Betty Lim said the hotel had achieved 70% to 80% occupancy rate for December and January due to visitors from Finland and Australia.

“For February, we are looking at about 60% occupancy rate as we have substantial bookings from domestic visitors.

“Overall, for the first quarter, we expect to achieve a 65% occupancy rate, which is within our target,” she said.

G Hotel director of sales Kevin Cheah said the hotel expected to enjoy an occupancy rate of about 80% this month and next because of the Chinese New Year and bookings from tour groups from Chennai, India.

Source : STAR
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Resorts Worlds Singapore 3D2N at only S$335 Nett

A Whole New World Opens Up.

Resorts World™ Sentosa – Asia’s most anticipated destination – welcomes you!

Marvel at the 6m tall, naked and rotund bronze statues of Adam and Eve.

Be among the first to shop at Asia’s first Victoria’s Secret boutique .

Drop by the Chihuly Studio and be inspired by the glass masterpieces.

Feast on authentic Tuscan cuisine at Palio in Hotel Michael™ or

indulge in fine European and Asian pastry creations at Boulangerie in Festive Hotel™... That’s not all!

Immerse in endless fun on Sentosa and finally, cool your heels in the comfort of a hotel in the city.

3D2N Package starts from S$335 Nett

Book now to enjoy:

• 2-night accommodation in a city hotel* of your choice

• Resorts World™ Sentosa gift voucher worth SGD50

• A pair of limited edition Universal Studios Singapore™ Baseball caps (not available at retail stores)

• Seamless access to Sentosa with our complimentary shuttle to and from selected city hotel

Visit www.rwsentosa.com/partnerpackages for details.

Bookings are open between 10 Feb – 21 Feb 2010 and valid for stay between 12 Feb - 21 Feb 2010

Call 6577 8899 or email partner.packages@rwsentosa.com for bookings.

*Terms and Conditions Apply.

Battlestar Galactica ™ Universal Studios. © Universal Network Television LLC. All rights reserved. ©Resorts World at Sentosa Pte. Ltd. 2010 All rights reserved.

Universal Studios Singapore ® & © Universal Studios.Universal Studios, the Universal globe logo and all Universal indicia ™ & © Universal Studios. All rights reserved.

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Reginald T Pereira
Malaysian Association Of Hotels, (MAH), The Umbrella Body For Hotels In Malaysia Announced The Appointment Of Reginald T Pereira As The Association’s New Chief Executive Officer (CEO). As A Well-respected And Prominent Figure In The Hospitality Industry, Reginald Brings More Than Two Decades Of Passion, Management Experience And Proven Record Of Success To MAH. Reginald Shall Be Responsible To Oversee The MAH Secretariat And The Malaysian Association Of Hotels Training & Education Center (MAHTEC) And Work Towards The Objectives Of The Association With Effect From 1 February 2010.

Prior to his appointment as CEO, Reginald led the Malaysian Association of Hotels Training & Education Center (MAHTEC) as its Chief Operating Officer for three years transforming the company into a leader in the Human Resource Development and education in the hospitality industry in Malaysia.

Reginald obtained a Diploma in Hotel Management from The Les Roches School of Hospitality Management in Switzerland and has an MBA (Human Resources). He has been involved in the industry since 1983 and has served in various capacities in the Food & Beverage, Human Resources and Training Departments of international hotels, and food and beverage operations. Upon completion of his course in Switzerland His passion for training and education was instrumental in him joining Stamford College and under his leadership, made them at the time, the largest private school of hospitality management with more than 1,000 students. He was also a member of the evaluation committee for developing the standards in food and beverage for the National Vocational Training Council under the Ministry of Human Resources and served as a judge for three terms for the Ministry of Tourism on the evaluation of hospitality services in the country. Reginald is also a Certified Instructor of the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute. In recognition of his efforts in developing the Institute’s courses in Malaysia Reginald received the Institute’s Lamp of Knowledge Award for Outstanding Hospitality Education- International in June 2007. Reginald is among the first Malaysians to receive this prestigious award.

Reginald currently sits on the Board of Directors for Human Resource Development Corporation of Malaysia as well as a member of the DPCCE Industry Advisory Council under the Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia and Council Member for the National Association of Private Education Institutes (NAPEI)

The Board has also appointed Sophia Maxwell as the General Manager of MAH. Sophia has been with MAH since 1995 and served in various capacities and until her promotion was the Administrative Manager of MAH. Sophia will be responsible for the daily management of MAH.

Sahak Ahmad who has extensive experience in the Education industry, most recently with Stamford College Malaysia where he held various positions including Student Services Manager and Principal has also been appointed as General Manager of MAHTEC.

“I am extremely pleased to have Reginald to head the Secretariat and the company, where we will benefit immensely from his experience, proven record of success and passion for the industry. He has the knowledge and skills to run MAH & MAHTEC efficiently and effectively. With this new structure in place, the Board is confident that MAH and MAHTEC will be moving to greater heights in the future and foster closer relations with members and the industry.”
said YBhg Datuk Mohd Ilyas Zainol Abidin, MAH President.

Source : Bernama
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AirAsia to set up new low-cost airline with Vietjet Air

After establishing bases in Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, AirAsia has set its sights on Vietnam where it will establish a new low-cost airline with new partner, Vietjet Aviation Joint Stock Co (Vietjet Air).
AirAsia yesterday said in a statement it had bought from Madam Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao a 30% equity stake in Vietjet Air for 180 billion dong that would allow it to set up a Vietnam-based joint venture low-cost airline to be known as Vietjet AirAsia.

It said the stake sale was approved by Vietnam’s Transportation Ministry on Tuesday and the joint venture airline did not require fresh capital injection.

It is highly likely that AirAsia will second some of its aircraft for the operations in Vietnam and drive the venture given its expertise in running low-cost airlines.

Vietjet AirAsia will operate both domestic and international flights and is currently finalising details regarding routes, frequencies and launch of flight.

It hopes to launch commercial operations between April and June this year.

According to its website, Vietjet Air was the first private airline to receive a business licence in December 2007 but has yet to offer commercial flights.

However, its rival Indochina Airlines – the second private airline to be licensed in the country – started offering flights in November 2008.

But this airline owes almost 30 billion dong (US$1.6mil) for jet fuel and services, and has been unable to operate its sole plane since November, according to reports originating from Vietnam.
Jetstar Pacific Airlines Joint-Stock Aviation Co, 27%-owned by Sydney-based Qantas Airways Ltd, is now the only provider of domestic flights in the country apart from state-owned carrier Vietnam Airlines Corp.

Vietnam Airlines is the country’s only airline operating international flights. It carried more than 9.3 million passengers in 2009.

A total of 17.5 million passengers went through the country’s airports last year.

Vietjet Air has a share capital of 600 billion dong (RM112mil) and its founding shareholders are Sovico Holdings, HCMC Housing Joint Stock Commercial Bank and some individuals from Vietnam’s civil aviation industry.

Following the completion of the share transfer, the shareholding structure in the joint venture airline will be AirAsia via AA International Ltd with 30%, Sovico Holdings with 51% and Nguyen Thanh Hung with 19%.
The move by AirAsia to enter Vietnam is to strengthen its base in the Asean region which has a population of nearly 600 million.

“The birth of VieJet AirAsia contributes to the diversification of the aviation market in Vietnam, providing more options by way of low fares to meet the air travel needs of the people in Vietnam and in the region,” the statement said.

Source : STAR
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Innovation is the key

THE Tourism Ministry wants states to be more innovative and creative in promoting their tourism products.
Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said Perak had vast tourism potential with its ecotourism products like the Belum Forest Reserve, its caves, rich tin mining history and as a food heaven.
“The ministry’s plan for Perak included a booklet about the state and also a traveler’s food guide to promote tourism.
“I will be meeting Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abd Kadir and state Tourism executive councillor Datuk Hamidah Osman to discuss the ministry’s plans to boost tourism under the 10th Malaysia Plan,” she said.
The higher, the better: Dr Ng celebrating Chinese New Year with MCA grassroot leaders from various divisions with the auspicious yee sang during lunch on Saturday in Ipoh. On Ng's right is Perak MCA Youth chief Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon.
Dr Ng was speaking to reporters during a Chinese New Year lunch with about 100 MCA grassroots leaders from nine divisions in Perak on Saturday.
Ng said there was a need for human resources and knowledge management in the tourism sector so as not to lose out to other countries, adding that some 80% of those involved in the tourism sector were non-professionals.
She said smaller hotels and home stays were getting popular.
The tourist arrivals last year was 23 million surpassing the ministry’s target of 19 million.
This year the ministry hopes to woo 24 million visitors who will bring in an estimated revenue of RM5.2bil.

Source : STAR
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

MAS offers CNY bargains

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is offering Everyday Low Fares for destinations worldwide in conjunction with the Chinese New Year.

Those interested are able to book the tickets until Feb 12.

Among the destinations offered are Bali, Hong Kong and Frank­furt.

The travelling period is between March 10 and Jan 14, 2011.

The tickets are available online at www.malaysiaairlines.com, MAS ticketing offices and travel agents.

Source : AsiaOne
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Resorts World Singapore Gets Ready for Chinese New year

RWS gets ready for Chinese New Year
The interior of a room in Festive Hotel, one of the four hotels in Resorts World Sentosa (RWS). The room has been especially decorated for children. RWS, one of Singapore's integrated resorts (IRs), held its soft opening for all the public areas that are ready for visitors on 20 January 2010. -BH

RWS gets ready for Chinese New Year
Entrance to the Festive Hotel. The Hard Rock Cafe Hotel and Festive Hotel of Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) are already receiving guests as a soft launch to their official opening on the 20th. These guests are family members and friends of the staff of Resorts World Sentosa, and they enjoy an overnight stay for just $38 per room. - Ashleigh Sim, ST

RWS gets ready for Chinese New Year
With the cutting of the ribbons and lion dance at 8.18am sharp, RWS CEO Tan Hee Teck, and Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, chairman of RWS and Genting Group, declared the four hotels, 10 restaurants and lounges, and five retail shops open. The opening was a relatively low-keyed one attended by RWS and Genting top suits, their business partners and the media. -ST
RWS gets ready for Chinese New Year
Customer service ambassadors dressed in safari outfits stood and mingled around, ready to direct visitors. -TNP
RWS gets ready for Chinese New Year
Resembling an elephant with spider’s legs, the sculpture, which has a gold obelisk on the animal’s back, looks similar to the ones made by Spanish artist Salvador Dali. -TNP
RWS gets ready for Chinese New Year
Sculptures of a nude "fat" man and woman in the walkway between the Hotel Michael and Crockfords Tower. The statues, possibly sculpted by Colombian artist Fernando Botero, is titled "Adam and Eve". -TNP
RWS gets ready for Chinese New Year
Potted yellow chrysanthemums standing around a small makeshift stage just outside the casino. -TNP

Resorts World Sentosa expects 13 million visitors for first year

Resorts World Sentosa, the Genting Group’s latest and largest family destination in Singapore, expects 13 million visitors in its first year of operations.

The resort, spanning over 49 ha on Sentosa Island, is built at a cost S$6.45bil, and is Genting Group’s most expensive, most exquisite and ambitious project.

Schduled to open soon, Resorts World Sentosa will be home to South East Asia’s first and only Universal Studios theme park, six luxury hotels, marine life park and a casino, among others.

Robin Goh
The Festive Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel, Crockfords Tower and Hotel Michael opened to the public on Jan 20.
Visitors to Universal Studios alone is expected at 4.5 million per year, said Resorts World Sentosa Pte Ltd assistant director Communi-cations Robin Goh to Malaysian reporters on a familiarisation trip to the resort recently.
The first weekend opening to the public saw the resort commanding more than 90% hotel occupancy, mostly local guests.
Goh said the resort expected more foreign visitors when Universal Studios and the casino open.
“Preparation work is almost done at Universal Studios and the park’s operation team are gearing up for the opening. We have not got the casino licence yet and are working closely with the authorities to obtain all necessary licences.
“The date depends on certain factors as safety is our number one priority,” said Goh.
As for Malaysian visitors, he said: ”The Malaysian market is very important to us. After all, we are a Malaysian group and we want all Malaysians to be part of this (resort).
“We also want Malaysians to come and enjoy all the offerings, including Universal Studios, and be proud because this resort is built by a Malaysian company,” he said.
For the convenience of prospective visitors from Malaysia, the resort has tied up with Malaysian travel agents who can facilitate their trip and offer them better rates.
“They (Malaysian travel agents) have different packages to offer which include transport (by air or bus), hotel accommodation and universal studio tickets. We also have a Malaysian bus programme which brings people from different states in Malaysia straight to Resorts World Sentosa,” he said.
Source : AsiaOne Star

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Malacca Dirty hotels claim disputed

State tourism authorities have brushed off travellers’ reviews in TripAdvisor, which ranked two hotels here as among the top 10 dirtiest hotels in Asia.
It was not an accurate representation of the situation here and was carried out without a proper rating system, said state Tourism, Culture and Heritage Committee chairman Datuk Seet Har Cheow.
The US-based travel portal, which forms the world’s biggest travel community, has listed on its site the 2010 Dirtiest Hotels in Asia.
Thorough checks: Malacca Tourism Promotion Division general manager Nazary Ahmad checking the bedroom linen while a Malacca Historic City Council officer (below) inspects the toilet in one of the rooms at a hotel in Malacca yesterday.
A Thai resort topped the list, while two Malacca hotels were ranked at the fourth and ninth positions.
The results was based on accumulated feedback given by hotel guests over a four-year period.
Speaking to reporters yesterday after visiting Mahkota Hotel, which was ranked fourth, Seet noted that the complaints raised by travellers were not solely on the cleanliness issue but also other aspects such as service quality and others.
“The review is not a good reflection of the hotel’s true situation.
“There were both negative and positive comments,” he said.
However, Seet, who was accompanied by health officers from the Malacca Historic City Council and tourism promotion officers, said the state would take note of the views and work on any short-comings.
“The hotels named in the list should take note of the reviews,” he added.
Edward Lau, general manager of Mahkota Hotel, located along the Banda Hilir coastline, said the management was taking steps to address grievances raised by its former guests.
“We have also e-mailed to the website concerned to get a proper clarification on how they carried out their online rating system,” he said.
He said it was unfair for the website to introduce such a review with no proper criteria in the rating system, which was based on feedback received over an extended period.
Seri Costa Hotel manager Helen Yap also shared the same sentiment, saying that it was unfair for such a review to seem to “represent” entirely the cleanliness of hotels.
“We always make it a point to look into complaints made by our guests to improve the hotel further.”
The review has listed Seri Costa Hotel at the ninth spot.

Source : STAR
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Roaring start for Park Royal KL hotel

THE Park Royal Hotel Kuala Lumpur hosted a Chinese New Year Appreciation Dinner, celebrating the auspicious start to 2010 in the spirit of the Tiger at its Orchid Grand Ballroom recently.
The event saw the attendance of the hotel’s top management, business partners, hotel guests and members of the media.
Intriguing: Hotel guests were entertained by a lion dance performance.
Park Royal general manager Lloyd Daser welcomed the guests and tossed yee sang with them.
“As we approach the Year of the Tiger, we look forward to a year full of accomplishment and excitement for Park Royal and other Pan Pacific brands.
“The Tiger is a sign of strength and determination, but opportunities are waiting for those willing to take on the challenge,” Dasser said.
The evening saw performances from an eight-piece all female drum troupe from Chong Hwa Shaolin Gor Chor Association.

Source : STAR
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Federal Hotel to celebrate Yan Yat in style

THE Federal Hotel Kuala Lumpur is going traditional this festive season and is having a show to celebrate Yan Yat on Feb 20 at 7pm.
Yan Yat which is known as “everyone’s birthday” or the “common man’s birthday” falls on the seventh day of the Chinese New Year. According to the Chinese custom, Yan Yat which is also known as renri, is the day human beings were created.
Serenading: Chan Ai-Jia (right) and Han Jie will entertain guests at Federal Hotel on Yan Yat day
It is celebrated not only in China, but also other regions influenced by the Chinese culture and in Malaysia it is celebrated on a grand scale where families come together to toss yee sang and make good wishes as well as toast for happiness and prosperity.
This year, the hotel is having a show featuring award-winning singers Chan Ai-Jia and Han-Jie, as well as GS dancers in a one-hour show while guests enjoy an eight-course menu. The show itself will take guests on a nostalgic journey as singers serenade audience with golden oldies and evergreen numbers as well as contemporary pop songs.
“It is going to be exciting and festive and the show’s repertoire will include plenty of interaction between the audience and me,’’ said Han-Jie who who will also be emcee for the evening.
“The presence of the GS dancers will also make the evening lively as they will provide a visual treat since they will be changing costumes on and off for the show,’’ he said.
The dinner show will be held at the ballroom on Level 2. Prices per table of 10 are at RM1,388++ (1st tier) and RM1,188++ (2sd tier).
The menu will kick off with the celebratory Salmon Yee Sang, followed by Shark’s Fin with Crabmeat, Prosperous Chicken, Steamed Red Snapper with Supreme Soya Sauce, Braised Mushroom, Sea Cucumber with Broccoli, Glutinous Rice in Lotus Leaf, Sweetened Sea Coconut with Ginseng and Deep Fried Mini Lotus Paste Bun.

Source : STAR
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Local Chains Sitting Out Hotel and Travel Boom in Malaysia

Malaysia's growing travel industry.

Naza Group of companies is best known for selling imported cars. But in November it made headlines announcing it would spend $231 million to build five hotels around Kuala Lumpur over the next five years. With three hotels already in its portfolio, Naza seemed on its way to becoming something that Malaysia's never had--a sizable homegrown hotel chain outside of the resort niche.
Not so fast. Last month Chief Executive S.M. Nasarudin told FORBES ASIA that Naza's plans have been scaled back to just two hotels, at a cost of $75 million. One will carry the Naza Talyya name, a brand that caters to the masses, and the other will be either a luxury or boutique hotel. He declined to explain why three hotels were dropped.

While Malaysian businesspeople are reluctant to build local hotel chains, big international brands such as the Mandarin Oriental, Nikko Hotels, Hilton and others have jumped into the market. The Hyatt and Four Seasons chains will open hotels in Malaysia in the next few years. A new Doubletree in Kuala Lumpur is expected to start accepting guests in May.

What the foreign invaders see is the country's growing travel business. Malaysia's profile has risen considerably since the world's tallest twins, the Petronas Towers, opened more than a decade ago. More and more, the country finds itself on itineraries, with low-fare airline Air Asia--perhaps Malaysia's most recognized brand--making it easier and cheaper to get to and around the country. Arrivals of visitors who stayed at least one night hit 23.7 million last year, up from 7.9 million in 1999. Tourism is now the country's second-highest revenue producer (behind manufacturing), accounting for 12.3% of the gross domestic product last year.

At the same time a more open regulatory environment for the industry--compared with other parts of the region except Singapore and Hong Kong--is attracting hotel investment from abroad. Foreigners find it easier to buy property and to move their money in and out of the country.

Are local companies missing out on a good business? They don't seem to think so. While there may be an undersupply of hotels in Malaysia, there's apparently an oversupply in the Klang Valley, and ten more three-, four- or five-star hotels are slated to open by the end of next year, an 8.7% increase. That's keeping room rates down and hitting returns. Average rates in Malaysia are lower than anywhere else in the region. A room in a five-star hotel can be had for $100, unheard of in most Asian countries. In fact, a World Economic Forum report on travel and tourism found that Malaysia was the fourth-most-price-competitive country in the world last year. Low prices mean that occupancy rates are holding firm at their historical average of 60% to 70%, but that's a shade too low to draw many local investors into the sector.

What's more, the travel industry was hit last month by the publicity over a series of attacks on churches, mosques and temples that rocked the nation. Investors were already jittery due to rising ethnic tensions, and after the attacks the tourism minister conceded that they may well affect tourist arrivals.

Yet in many ways Malaysia is ideally suited for long-term growth in the hospitality industry that could nurture local operators. Operating costs are low, the infrastructure is solid, and the country's always eager industrial-promotion authorities tout this as a strategic sector. Indeed, the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak on the famed island of Borneo are becoming outdoor-travel destinations. And the country sits comfortably between the two extremes in the region, undeveloped Asia on the one hand and a seemingly Westernized version on the other, making it attractive for visitors who want a taste of the "real" Asia without the fuss.

The lack of a successful, recognizable homegrown hotel operator is a peculiar distinction for Malaysia. Thailand has Dusit Thani and Centara Hotels, for example. Malaysia notably does have the Shangri-La chain, started by tycoon Robert Kuok, but it largely makes its mark abroad.

Ivo Nekvapil, vice president of the hotel association, blames inept local operators. He says that when they do jump into the sector they often don't invest enough money. Too many, he says, look for a short cut; they fail to understand their customers, deliver quality service, carve out a niche for themselves and secure foreign tie-ups to glean expertise. "Branding [in hospitality] takes 20 years and millions of dollars," he says.

This is something Tune Hotels seems to understand well. Tune is the closest Malaysia has come to building a hotel brand on its home turf. Cofounded by Air Asia Chief Executive Tony Fernandes in 2007, it's looking to offer little beyond high comfort and security at a low price. Tune has shown promise; it has 7 hotels now--5 in Malaysia and 2 in Indonesia--and last year it signed contracts to open 44 more. But most of those will be overseas. By 2015 Tune hopes to have 30 hotels in India and 64 elsewhere in Southeast Asia and China, compared with only 20 in Malaysia. Others are planned for Australia, the Middle East and even London.

Other Malaysian hoteliers are also setting their sights abroad. Cititel Hotel Management plans to open two branches of its Express budget line in Malaysia, where it now has four hotels. But it will be relying heavily on growth in Vietnam, Thailand, Australia, the Philippines and London--which each host one Cititel hotel--to boost its earnings.

Malaysian property giant ta Enterprise now runs three hotels but none in Malaysia. It may open two hotels in Kuala Lumpur, one under its Aava "Asian flavor" brand that it's looking to market offering five-star service and four-star accommodation. It opened an Aava hotel in Canada in November. Its aim is to develop its own chain, but Managing Director Alicia Tiah says: "We're interested in overseas growth primarily. We don't want to be known as a local brand. We want to cater more to business travelers." She says business travelers are willing to spend more and "Malaysia is not a main destination for business travelers," adding that rates of return there "are not so fantastic--we want to invest in countries where the exchange rate has a chance to go up."

The trend in hospitality may reflect the exodus of capital from the country, which has hurt the exchange rate. UBS says Malaysia suffered the biggest foreign-exchange losses in Asia in 2008. The country's reserves fell by a third from April 2008 to last November, to $96.3 billion.

But foreign hotel operators using stronger currencies continue to stake out turf in the country's hotel sector. Some 5,600 hotel rooms with a four- or five-star rating are expected to come on line within three years; most will be built by overseas companies. Malaysia is getting lots more places for people to stay, but it may still have to make do without a big brand to call its own.

Source : Forbes
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