Thursday, December 15, 2011

Free hotel internet the priority for business travellers

Free hotel internet the priority for business travellers

The majority of hoteliers believe business travellers to their hotels value free Wi-Fi or internet as the best way to enhance their visit, while 60 per cent think a 24-hour security or reception is what their business guests value the most.

The Choice Hotels survey found 90 per cent of hoteliers think free Wi-Fi is the most important amenity for business travellers
The Choice Hotels survey found 90 per cent of hoteliers think free Wi-Fi is the most important amenity for business travellers
The results are revealed in a new survey by Choice Hotels Europe of just under 100 hotel owners, operators and general managers in the UK and across Europe.
Free internet or Wi-Fi
Choice Hotels brand properties have offered business travellers free internet access since 2009 and we’ve known for a while how valued traveller security is to travel managers,” said Duncan Berry, chief executive of Choice Hotels Europe.
The hoteliers who took part in the survey were asked to choose which of eight hotel amenities were the most important to their business guests and 90 per cent chose free internet.
Flexible check-in
The findings revealed that around half (49 per cent) thought flexible check-in or check-out times are the most valued service by corporate guests, meanwhile an on-site restaurant was seen as the most important amenity for business travellers by 37 per cent of the hoteliers.
However, an airport transfer service (18 per cent) or a fitness centre (12 per cent) were seen of less importance by the respondents to the survey.
Earlier this month Best Western hotels revealed bookings made by corporate guests to their hotels had risen 16 per cent in the last six months . The rise was attributed to initiatives such as free Wi-Fi but also a more personal service for business travellers.
The Choice Hotels survey invited hoteliers from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and the Czech Republic to respond.

Source : BigHospitality
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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Banyan Tree Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

Pavilion presents

Banyan Tree - Signatures - 
Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

Hotel ~ Spa ~ Private Residences 

Banyan Tree Signatures Pavilion Kuala Lumpur

Exclusive Preview by Appointment Only

Tel No 1800 22 8088

The Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts is slated to open in 2015 as part of the Pavilion project on Jalan Conlay near Bukit Bintang.

Kuala Lumpur: The Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts will be the latest luxury hotel brand that will have a presence in Malaysia.

Slated for opening in 2015, Banyan Tree will be a part of the Pavilion project called Banyan Tree Signatures Kuala Lumpur, located on Jalan Conlay near Bukit Bintang.

Banyan Tree did not respond directly to Business Times queries on its opening. So did Kuala Lumpur Pavilion which did not answer any queries.

Both parties are expected to sign a collaboration agreement on October 18 2011, whereby information about the project will be revealed.

While details remain sketchy, industry players and website searches have confirmed that a single 55-storey block will be built to house private residences, serviced residences and a hotel.

Based on "preliminary information" on the project dated May 2011, there will be 441 units of private residences, 51 units of serviced residences and 50 units of hotel.

The fact sheet on the web, which has not been verified by either party, indicates that some 490 units of residences are for sale at an average price of RM2,000 per sq ft. However, sources say almost all units have been sold.

Industry estimates tag the cost of construction, not including land cost, to be around RM800 million.

Pavilion and Banyan Tree's relationship in the project remains unclear.

Banyan Tree Holdings Ltd manages and develops premium resorts, hotels and spas in Asia Pacific. The group has ownership in niche resorts and hotels.

Singapore Stock Exchange-listed Banyan Tree Holdings website states that it is now involved in some 30 resorts and hotels, over 60 spas and 80 galleries, as well as three golf courses.

Source : Business Times

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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Malaysian hotel owners stall global foray

The owners and brands which have representation abroad continue to be the same players such as Holiday Villa Hotels & Resort, IGB Corp, Sunway, Berjaya, Genting Group and Impiana.

Kuala Lumpur: Over the past decade, there have been fewer number of new Malaysian hotel owners and operators expanding abroad.

With the exception of Tune Hotels, there are no new names venturing abroad and making a mark in a big way, said the President of the Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners (Maho) Datuk Seri Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahman.

He noted that the owners and brands which have representation abroad continue to be the same players such as Holiday Villa Hotels & Resort, IGB Corp Bhd, Sunway, Berjaya, Genting Group and Impiana.

For example, Holiday Villa owns/manages some 25 hotels here and abroad, while Sunway has hotels in Cambodia, Vietnam and China.

Meanwhile, Tune Hotels, which now has 10 hotels in Malaysia, Indonesia and the UK, has plans for 72 hotels overseas in the next five years.

Owning a hotel usually needs high capital expenditure but the returns could take even up to 10 years to recover, depending on the average room rate.

Abdul Aziz pointed out that growth can be deterred by the lack of connectivity into a destination.

He said that commercial decisions by airlines to cut destinations was not in the best interest of those who may have plans to expand.

Tune Hotel, he said, is a good example of how an airline plays an important role in a hotel operator's expansion.

Maho's executive director Shaharuddin M Saaid said that other factors which discourage brands from going abroad is the lack of confidence and expertise.

"Brand reputation and acceptance is vital for overseas operation which not many local hotel management companies have," he said, citing the need for a strong networking and customer base when venturing abroad

Shaharuddin feels local players would be more encouraged to move in the foreign realm, should there be an assurance or availability of attractive investment policies, financing facilities, high yield and good return on investment.

And it is rare, although not unheard of, for a player to move and build a brand abroad without first establishing a brand here. But, sometimes, growing in Malaysia too can be challenging.

Source : Business Times
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Furama Bukit Bintang Hotel location a plus point

FURAMA Bukit Bintang, located close to the heart of Kuala Lumpur city centre, has opened its doors for business with the aim of becoming a strong reputable Asian chain of hotels that offers competitive pricing.

Hotel manager Ng Yee Ming said that Furama Bukit Bintang, the first of the brand in Malaysia, is situated in a very strategic location.

“We are close enough to the city centre but away from the traffic congestion as we are located along Jalan Changkat Thambi Dollah behind the Berjaya Times Square area,” he said.

Under the Furama Hotels International (FHI), the hotel’s sister brands are Furama Xpress and Furama Xclusive that will hopefully be opened locally within the next couple of years.

“There are plans to open another two hotels here and this may be Furama’s sister brands. FHI aims at adding more hotels to its portfolio with a target of 60 hotels in five years mainly in China, Indonesia, Taiwan and Thailand,” Ng said.

He added that FHI has a strong presence in the Asian region with more than 7,000 rooms available under the three different brands.

“The different brands has allowed us to capture a bigger and more diversified market segment as we cater to the different needs of guests. Our corporate philosophy asks our associates to strive for better service, product and growth of our people,” he said.

Ng said that other Furama hotels are located in Singapore, Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Pattaya, Koh Samui, Koh Chang), China (Beijing, Shanghai, Xinhua, Suzhou) and Sydney, Australia that is managed by Holiday Inn.
FHI chief executive officer Jason Peck said that Kuala Lumpur offers an excellent opportunity for them.
“Together with Malaysia’s strong tourism drive, there is a positive platform for growth here with plenty of potential,” he said.

Furama Bukit Bintang is a 27-storey four-star business hotel that features 433 guest rooms such as the Superior, Deluxe, Family Room, Executive Club and Executive Suite.

Its facilities include meeting and conference facilities located at the panoramic top floor and a two-storey function room with a view of the city, all-day restaurant, swimming pool with jacuzzi and gymnasium.

The hotel is about five minutes’ walk away from the Imbi Monorail Station and is in close proximity to major expressways and public transport with easy accessibility to major tourist spots.

For more information, visit or call 03-2788 8888.

Source : STAR
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Friday, July 29, 2011

Google Launches Hotel Search Tool With Room Price Data

Google has launched Hotel Finder, an experimental search tool, which enables users to define key lodging preferences in hopes of finding the perfect hotel for their travel needs.
Users input their preferred location, dates, price and rating details, and Hotel Finder delivers its top recommendations, in a list or on a Google Map. For the moment, it’s only available in the U.S.
Here’s how Google aims to improve hotel hunting with this tool:
  • Finding the perfect location. If you’re not a local, it can be difficult to figure out what area of a city you should stay in. Hotel Finder highlights popular areas on the map results. Google calls this the “tourist spotlight,” and it is used to determine an optimal zone for you to stay in. The shape of this area can be adjusted to focus on a smaller area. This is useful if you’ve got a rough destination in mind, such as along the Hudson River or near Times Square.
  • Getting a good deal: Users can choose a price range to search within, as well as compare that hotel’s historical pricing data to its current listing price. Clicking on a hotel will bring up the cost of a room per night and how that compares to previous prices. Google calculates what percentage the cost is above or below the normal. Bargain hunters, start your engines.
  • Comparing hotels: Hotel Finder simplifies comparative shopping. When users click on on a hotel, its full details pop up, including photos, Google Places reviews, pricing and other information. You quickly flip through results by using keyboard shortcuts (“J” and “K”) within the list view — a feature also found in Google Reader and Google News.
  • Making a shortlist: Users can build a shortlist of hotels they’d like to compare further. These results are marked with a red dot in the Google Maps view, and appear at the top of the page in the list view.
Click on the “Book” button in either view and a list of external options are shown. Clicking on a booking option pulls up that site — such as Priceline or Expedia — in a new tab. (Google isn’t getting into the business of booking hotels itself.)
Take a look at Hotel Finder’s features in the gallery below, test it out and let us what you think about the new tool in the comments below. How does it compare to other hotel-shopping methods?

Source : Mashable
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Helicopter Tour Package New Tourist Attraction In Malaysia

Tourists can now enjoy scenic bird's eye views of the country from a helicopter tour.

Six travel agencies will be offering the high-end tour service initially under the 1Malaysia Helicopter Tour Packages which were launched by Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen at the Skypark Business Aviation Centre, Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, here.

"The helicopter tour packages are expected to attract more high-yield tourists, which in turn will increase the tourism industry's contribution to our economy," she told reporters after the launch.

She said tourists would get to view the magnificent architectural wonders, historical landmarks, cities, buildings, villages and plantations in Malaysia from above via the helicopter tours.

"The tours range from 15, 30 to 60 minutes and priced from RM1,250 to RM4,950, with the helicopters able to seat three to six people," she added.

The six travel agencies involved in the tour packages include Shajasa Travels & Tour Sdn Bhd, Elite Luxury Vacations (M) Sdn Bhd, Langkawi Helicopter Xtours and Kota Kinabalu Aerial Tour.

Dr Ng said the helicopter pilot should be a good story-teller to explain and promote the country to tourists.

She said the 1Malaysia Helicopter Tour Packages were part of the ministry's initiative to come up with innovative and creative tourism products to cater to diverse tourists' interests and budgets.

Source : bernama
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Malaysia To Attract More High Yield International Business Travellers

Malaysia wants to attract more high yield international business travellers to the country as they spent three times more than leisure tourists, says Zulkefli Hj Sharif, Chief Executive Officer of the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB).

In a media briefing here today, Zulkefli said international business tourism visitors spent an average of RM7,418 per trip in Malaysia compared with RM2,257 for leisure visitors.

International business travellers also spent an average of RM1,268 per day compared with RM337 for other travellers.

MyCEB was established by the Ministry of Tourism in 2009 to further strengthen Malaysia's business tourism brand and position for the international meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) market.

Zulkefli said 1,278,014 international business travellers visited Malaysia in 2010, an increase of two per cent from 2009.

They were estimated to have spent RM10.6 billion in 2010 and the economic impact value of their spending was estimated at RM17.6 billion, he said.

Given that the average length of international conventions is 3.9 days, the length of stay for international business tourism visitors including pre- and post-touring is 5.85 days.

An estimated 46 per cent of international delegates extend their stay for pre and post travel providing benefits to regional communities and that an estimated 25 per cent of all international participants have an accompanying partner or spouse with them.

Last year, Malaysia leapt three notches to 28th position in the latest International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) country rankings and the government is pushing for the country to be one of the top five destinations in the world by 2020.

In 2010, MyCEB supported 28 convention bids representing 38,500 delegates and an economic value of RM438 million. It also assisted 124 meetings and conventions, 16 exhibitions and 49 corporate incentive groups, which contributed an estimated economic impact of RM775 million to the country.

Zulkefli said the latest ICCA rankings reflected growth by Malaysia's association meetings business amidst competition from other countries.

Key developments include the expansion of the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre by an additional 10,000 sq metres by end-2013, the Penang International Convention and Exhibition Centre by 2014 and the proposed development of the MATRADE Centre (93,000 sq metres) by 2014.

Other new infrastructure to support the growing industry include the upcoming Kuala Lumpur International Airport, the integrated urban mass rapid transit system and the construction of a series of pedestrian walkways throughout the capital city as part of the Greater Kuala Lumpur plan.

Source : Bernama
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Monday, July 11, 2011

Street Demos Hamper Tour Programmes

The two street demonstrations held here yesterday forced tour agencies to cancel or shelve city programmes for visiting foreign tourists for fear of their safety.

Sri Sutra Travel Sdn Bhd said it took precautionary measures to avert any inconvenience for tourists under its charge.

Managing director Datuk Syed Mohd Razif Al-Yahya Syed Yassin said the tourists were confined to activities in the vicinity of their hotels yesterday.

He said the street demonstrations would have given the tourists a bad impression of Malaysia and it would take some time for them to pick Malaysia as their travel destination again.

He also said that wide coverage of the street demonstrations by the international media was also bad publicity for the country.

The Association of Bumiputera Travel and Tour Agents (Bumitra), which has more than 300 members, said the closure of several major roads in the city to thwart the demonstrators had jeopardised several tour activities and affected the income of agents.

Its president, Mohd Ayub Hassan, said the association, in keeping with a directive from the Tourism Ministry, had given preference to the safety of tourists and kept them away from the "sensitive" spots during the demonstration.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen had said a week ago that it would take the ministry six months to restore confidence in foreign tourists regarding their safety when in Malaysia.

She had also said that the uncertainty caused by the bad publicity on the street demonstration would slash tourist arrivals and cost national revenue by as much as RM1 billion.

Source :Bernama
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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Malaysia Expects More Tourist Arrivals From Middle East

Malaysia expects more tourist arrivals from middle eastern countries despite some of then having problems currently countries, said Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.

Though the ministry couldn't set any target on the number of arrivals from those countries, she hoped that it would be more than 320,000 arrivals this year.

She said Malaysia recorded 322,000 arrivals from the middle east last year and they each tourist spent around RM7,400 during their visit.

"The middle east tourists tend to spend more, stay longer and do more shopping compared to other tourists," she told a press conference at the Al-Amar Lebanese Restaurant in the Pavilion here Monday.

Dr Ng said overall, the ministry recorded that RM2.36 billion were spent by Arab tourists last year.

"We hope the market will go up. In fact, the ministry is doing lots of promotional programmes for the middle eastern market through advertisements in CNN, websites and the local Arab televisions.

"Apart from advertisements, the ministry is using its tourism directors in Dubai, Jeddah and Iran to promote Malaysia's tourism products," she said.

Earlier, she launched The Arab Ramadan Festival themed "The Blessings Of Ramadan, 1Malaysia" to be held during Ramadan at i-City in Shah Alam.

Source : Bernama
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Marriott plans 2 more hotels in Malaysia

Hotel management company Marriott International Inc, which operates the Marriott, Renaissance and Ritz Carlton, is scheduled to open two new hotels in Malaysia by the middle of next year, bringing the total number of hotels here to nine.

These two new openings, one in Johor and another in Sarawak, will see the group increase its room inventory in Malaysia by 400 from about 3,000 now.

Area vice-president for India, Malaysia, Maldives and Australia Rajeev Menon said that it will open a 300-room Renaissance in Bandar Baru Permas Jaya in the second quarter of next year.

The group also targets to open a 101-room Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa by mid-2012. This property, previously the Royal Mulu Resort, is located next to the Mulu National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is now undergoing a complete makeover.

The seven operational hotels in Malaysia now are Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur, JW Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Renaissance Kota Baru in Kelantan, Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel, Renaissance Melaka Hotel, Miri Marriott Resort & Spa and its franchised property, Putrajaya Marriott Hotel.

Meanwhile, chief operating officer for Asia Pacific Craig S Smith said Malaysia is an important market for the group, especially since intra-Asian travel is big.

As more of its hotels open in India, China and the Middle East, more guests are familiar with the brand. Thus, loyalty helps to fill up hotel rooms in other countries too.

He added that its hotels in Malaysia will benefit from the growth in India, China and the Middle East.

The group, which experienced a tough 2009 for its Malaysian hotels, saw revenue per available room grow by a tenth in 2010 compared to the previous year.

"This year has started strong, (our) Kuala Lumpur hotels are doing well but it is too early to say how the situation in the Middle East will reflect in Malaysia this year," Rajeev said.

"We expect similar growth or partially more growth in 2011 compared to 2010," he added.

Source : BTimes
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Grand Hyatt to Open in KL in 2012

An Hyatt affiliate has entered into an agreement with Bahagia Investment Corporation (Malaysia) to manage the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur. The hotel is already under construction and is expected to open in 2012.

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur will be part of a mixed use complex. The hotel, occupying floors 17 through 39 of the property, will feature 412 guest rooms, including 42 suites and will offer over 33,000 square feet of meeting and event space, a 228-seat café, a 298-seat specialty restaurant with multiple cuisines, a 74-seat Sky Lobby Lounge, a 102-seat poolside restaurant and bar, a spa with 11 treatment rooms, and a swimming pool.

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur will be located in the Golden Triangle area of Kuala Lumpur, in a prime location on Jalan Pinang road close to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (“KLCC”) and the iconic Petronas Towers. It is in close proximity to fashion hubs and business centers, museums, memorials and galleries, and within driving distance of natural preserves.

Kuala Lumpur is an internationally recognized tourist and business destination. With a metropolitan population of approximately 7.2 million, it is the largest city in Malaysia and a key leisure location. Many of Malaysia’s major commercial banks and financial institutions are headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, as are many Malaysian companies, making it an international gateway city.

“In 2010, Malaysia attracted over 24.5 million tourists – rivaling that of countries such as Mexico, Germany and Turkey,” said Willi Martin, area vice president, Southeast Asia, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts. “We see Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur as a remarkable opportunity to expand the presence of the Hyatt brand into a principal city in the rapidly emerging Southeast Asia market.”

There are currently 51 Hyatt-branded hotels in Asia Pacific and the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur will join the two existing Hyatt-branded hotels in Malaysia: Hyatt Regency Kinabalu and Hyatt Regency Kuantan Resort.

There are 16 other Grand Hyatt hotels in the region’s key gateway cities and destination resorts, including Bali, Bangkok, Beijing, Jakarta, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo.

Source : AsiaTravelTips
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Tourism Ministry Utilises Social Website To Promote Domestic Tourism

The Tourism Ministry has utilised the social website Facebook to promote domestic tourism among IT-literate Malaysians, especially the youngsters, said its Deputy Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit.

He said the ministry had developed six Facebook applications for Tourism Malaysia which cost a total of RM1,758,432 with each page costing RM293,072.

"The pages include product promotions, tourism destinations and activities such as 'Cuti Cuti 1Malaysia', Citrawarna 1Malaysia, 1Malaysia Mega Sales Carnival, Year End Sales Carnival and Fabulous Food 1Malaysia," he said in reply to a question from Loke Siew Fook (DAP-Rasah) who had asked on the justification for the expenditure at the Dewan Rakyat today.

Dawos added that an advertising company, Impact Creations Sdn Bhd, was responsible for all advertisements and events of the ministry and Tourism Malaysia or the domestic market for 2011 until 2013.

However, the RM1.8 million expenditure was questioned by several members of Parliament who claimed that it was a waste.

Loke said it was irrelevant as the social website could be accessed free of charge while Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau) asked whether the ministry had set any key performance indicators to monitor the advertising agency's performance.

Source : Bernama
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Indonesia's Budget Airlines - Lion Air flies KL-Jakarta

Lion Air will begin flying from the KL International Airport to Jakarta daily from June 29.

Its president director Rusdi Kirana said Lion Air would be introducing its new Boeing 737-900ER series with a maximum capacity of 215 economy class seats to ply the route.

“Although Lion Air is a low fare airline, we will operate from the main terminal building of KLIA which will provide aerobridge services to ensure passenger comfort.

“We are also providing free baggage allowance of up to 20kg per passenger for check-ins and 7kg for hand luggage. Passengers can also pre-assign their seats at check-in desk or use our web check-in facility to reserve their seats,'' he told StarBiz.

Lion Air is the largest airline in Indonesia. Its parent company PT Lion Mentari Airlines recently entered into a joint agreement with Berjaya Air Sdn Bhd to operate, manage and develop the business operations of Berjaya Air.

Kirana said the company hoped to capture a big portion of the market here as they offered very attractive fares which start from as low as RM139 nett (one way and inclusive of airport tax and surcharge).

Lion Air has almost 500 departures daily in Indonesia via 150 routes to 61 destinations and the Kuala Lumpur - Jakarta flight would be able to connect passengers with any of its Indonesia domestic flights.

“For now we have only one flight daily with the flight departing from Kuala Lumpur at 1 pm and arriving in Jakarta at 2 pm. The flight will depart from Jakarta at 9.05am and arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 12.05 noon,'' he said.

Lion Air senior manager (Sales and Marketing) Chandran Rama Muthy said Lion Air's fares and services were affordable and gave value for money.

He said Lion Air was the first airline in the world to operate the new Boeing 737-900ER series aircraft.

Source : STAR
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Smoother Traffic Flow At Penang Airport This October

Visitors to the Penang International Airport will get to enjoy smoother traffic flow when taking and dropping passengers once upgrading work at the arrival and departure zones of the airport is completed this October.

Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad Project Manager Fazil Ahmad said upgrading work on the affected zones had reached 42 per cent and traffic flow including public transportation would be more orderly when completed.

"The project is to ensure traffic flow at the airport is smoother as the departure zone which used to have only two lanes will be expanded to three lanes while the arrival zone which has four lanes will be increased to seven lanes," he told reporters after presenting a briefing on the progress of the upgrading project to the State Committee for Public Works, Utilities and Transportation Chairman Lim Hock Seng here Monday.

The airport upgrading project which began in June last year costs RM250 million.

It has three main phases and will enable the airport to accommodate up to five million visitors when fully completed in June 2012. The First Phase involves infrastructure and utilities, while Phase Two covers the main terminal building and Phase Three is on upgrading facilities at airport apron.

He said the upgrading project will cover 340.5 hectares of land and that at the end of May, the overall project was 29 per cent completed.

"Despite a slight delay of one per cent, we are confident the overall project will be finished in June 2012," he said. He said the upgrading work was aimed at maximising total passenger flow especially during the peak period from 1,300 to 2,000 passengers per hour and increasing the total number of car parking lots from 1,200 presently to 2,000.

Elaborating further, Fazil said Malaysia Airports was spending RM1.6 million to provide temporary diversions to enable the airport to function at maximum capacity while awaiting the completion of upgrading work at all affected zones.

Source : Bernama
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

MAS Offers 4 Million Seats For 'Global Deals, Dream Getaways'

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) expects four million seats to be offered at various discounts under the second wave "Global Deals, Dream Getaways" promotional campaign beginning today until June 27.

"We are mounting this second wave campaign to give an opportunity for our passengers to fly onboard the A330-300, to selected international destinations, to fly business class to domestic destinations, as well as, enjoy discounts of up to 75 per cent," said its Regional Senior Vice President, Sales, Azman Ahmad at a media briefing here today.

He was optimistic the four million seats on offer would be taken up during this offer period based on the encouraging response received to the maiden five-day campaign held from May 13, forthcoming holidays, and the longer travel period until May 2012.

One hundred and forty-four destinations are up for grabs under the campaign and potential travellers are expected to chose long-haul destinations compared with regional sectors which were the focus of the first campaign.

Azman said for the second wave campaign, the thrust would be the special, all inclusive promotional economy class fares from Malaysia to Tokyo and Osaka starting from RM693.00 one way.

"MAS was offering flights to Japan as part of its initiative to improve air travel between Malaysia and the land of the rising sun after the North Asian country was impacted by the recent natural calamities. We are also partnering Malaysian tour operators who use there fares to offer very attractive packages from Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu to Japan," he added.

These deals are offered by all MAS distribution channels such as the website,; on mobile; MHbuddy on facebook; MAS' ticketing offices and appointed travel agents.

All promotional airfares are for one-way economy or business class journey on MAS during off-peak period and includes airfare, airport tax, fuel surcharge, insurance and administrative fees.

Source : Bernama
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KL Festival Set To Attract 700,000 Visitors

The month-long Kuala Lumpur Festival 2011 starting July 1 is expected to attract about 700,000 local and foreign visitors.

Ministry of Information Communication and Culture secretary-general Datuk Seri Kamaruddin Siaraf said the targeted turnout could be achieved with the increase of events from 104 at 47 locations last year to 122 at 51 locations this year.

He said the festival with the theme "Where the Arts Come Alive" was in line with the government's effort to lift Kuala Lumpur as the hub of arts and culture internationally.

Jointly organised by the Ministry of Information Communication and Culture, the Ministry of Tourism, and the Ministry of Federal Territories and Urban Well-being, he said KL Festival attracted the participation of 18 companies and non-governmental organisations, he told a pre-launch news conference at KL Tower here Monday.

Kamaruddin said visitors would be feted to arts, including visual and performing arts, and cultural activities, traditional games, Malaysian cuisine and literary events.

Schedules and details of the events will be posted on the KL Festival website at and the facebook-klfest secretariat, he added.

The festival will be launched simultaneously by three ministers -- Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen and Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin at the KL Tower's 1Malaysia Cultural Village on June 25.

Source : Bernama
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

MAS: On a wing and prayer

The short term appears bleak but there are signs that MAS may improve.
The woes of national carrier Malaysia Airlines' are aplenty. They range from an aging core fleet, escalating cost structure, high leasing cost and legacy issues to a network that's not far reaching enough. And these keep coming back to haunt the airline despite its hard-fought efforts to get back on steady ground.
To tackle these issues, it needs nothing less than dynamism. Take for example its recent entry into the much-vaunted oneworld. This should have been done years ago.
It's tough out there factors such as rising oil prices sparked by tensions in the Middle East and the earthquake/tsunami in Japan leave an impact on the global airline industry.
Even so, other airlines are able to report profits. Sadly, MAS once again plunged into the red territory with a RM242mil net loss for the first quarter of the year, shocking many who had thought the worst was over when the carrier reported a RM225mil in net profit for 2010.
“I wish I could say we could have done things differently and the losses had nothing to do with fuel prices but the volatility in fuel prices was a major contributor to our loses,'' says MAS managing director Tengku Datuk Seri Azmil Zahruddin.
To Shukor Yusof, a Singapore-based airline analyst for Standard and Poor's “MAS biggest threat in the last seven to eight years has been AirAsia” and the fact that it is still struggling to overcome legacy issues. “For as long as they do not have a clear vision of where they are headed, they will continue to have issues going forward,'' says Shukor.
The issue is made worse as no one can predict the direction of jet fuel prices. International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani says that “remains a concern.'
A Maybank IB analyst adds that MAS needs to sort out its unresolved fundamental issues. “They are doing it but the pace needs to hasten as the world is not waiting for them.''
The question to ask - after a host of revamps and reforms labelled with acronyms such as WAU (Widespread Asset Unbundling), BTP1 (Business Transformation Programme) and BTP2 - what could the airline possibly do - more?
The red ink
Rising jet fuel prices and high leasing made up 58% of total cost that drove MAS into the red in the first quarter. This sent shockwaves to the analysts fraternity.
Of 18 analysts, 12 have a sell call on the stock. Jet fuel raced to US$113 a barrel during the period. MAS hedges 25% of its fuel requirements at US$93 a barrel. Fuel made up 38% of its total cost in the first quarter, aircraft leases 20%, staff cost about 12%-15% and the rest is for maintenance, landing and parking and others.
Its cost per available seat km (CASK) is 8.25 US cents versus SIA's 7.13, and AirAsia's was 4.2 US cents. Even a single cent change can make a difference during turbulent times. MAS is seeking a 15% CASK reduction by 2015.
The airline also added 11% capacity during the year. Had it not, would things have been better? “Unlikely...the fuel pricing would have hit it anyway,'' says an analyst.
Encouraged by the bullish projections that this will be a good year, MAS has added more seats to its network.
“Had we known it (about the tensions in the Middle East that pushed fuel prices and the earthquake in Japan), we would not have put in so much capacity. About 38% of our cost is fuel and with this kind of volatility, we can mitigate but cannot eliminate,'' Azmil says.
It has been a humbling experience. On June 1, MAS was booted out of the MSCI Malaysia Index.
The counter has lost much ground since it released its results closing Friday at RM1.43. Its archrival on the domestic front, AirAsia has also overtaken it in terms of market value at RM8.8bil versus MAS' RM4.8bil.
So, can it keep to its full year projections despite the first quarter blip? “We are on track,'' Azmil says.
Fleet dilemma
Having older planes are one thing but utilitising them to the maximum is another. But here's one of the roots of MAS' headache.
In the past, MAS has been somewhat slow to replace its fleet whenever there was a new generation aircraft launched.
While its rivals would be the first to hop on and make the orders, MAS would take the “wait and see'' approach.
Furthermore, the fuel and maintenance cost of its aging fleet is high. Some attribute this lack of agility then to its dire financial straits.
But that seems to have changed, with Azmil at the helm. The airline has ordered 35 B737-800 and 15 A330-300, some of which have arrived and the bulk coming the next and the following year.
The shift in strategy from being asset light to having a third leased and a third owned is best to balance its portfolio and hopefully it will drive cost down as these are next generation aircraft that are far more fuel efficient than its existing fleet.
“The old ones are sucking too much fuel and does not help yields. Its direct competitors have the latest generation of planes that are much more fuel efficient. Two of the B737-800 that it took delivery of this year are flying 16 hours. That shows there is better utilisation of its fleet to earn better yields,'' says the Maybank IB analyst.
Azmil says many new aircraft are coming into system. “This year, we will see new aircraft coming in and you will see the difference in the economy class and also the front end of the cabin,'' says Azmil.
Next year, MAS will get its long-awaited A380 aircraft but they come years after rivals SIA, Emirates and Qantas. It will certainly lift MAS portfolio of offerings.
Its recent shift in strategy to focus on front end by expanding its portfolio to more market segments is the way to go as MAS would need to bump that up to match the yields enjoyed by SIA.
The yield gap has been widening over the years and some say this is because MAS has been caught up fending off competition on the local front by trying to be both premium and a low cost airlines.
The realisation has set in that a premium product cannot be low cost. So, it now has a portfolio of products offering premium, value (Firefly turboprops) and low cost (Firefly low cost).
Firefly is managed separately though it is a unit of MAS and even SIA is getting directly into the long-haul low-cost market which is competitive as the low-cost carriers are eating into premium airlines' margins.
“Firefly is a bright spot for MAS and will keep improving when it takes more 737-800s. But the revenue contribution isn't that big to MAS overall bottomline. MAS needs to fly more profitable routes especially with the A380s coming in 2012,'' says Shukor.
The brand of choice
One analyst compared air travel withfast-moving consumer goods where there's no loyalty. In this era, airlines need to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack through right pricing and the soft touch. Also, having a brand new plane gives the perception that it is also safer so that's a factor travellers will consider.
With that, the new planes bode well for MAS. Having the A380, will put MAS in the same ranks as SIA or even Cathay but still, it does not guarantee the loads. With A380, MAS will have to fill over 500 passengers at one go at a time when competition is bursting, not just from the premium carriers but low cost as well which offer business class seats a fraction of the cost.
To address that, the airline is focusing on filling the front end of the cabin.
Although the strategy was crafted recently, the front end loads have picked up, according to MAS senior general manager sales and marketing Datuk Bernard Francis.
The recently launched Global Deals Dream Getaways is showing results and the focus from overdependence on corporate sector has widened.
Internally, the target is 25% which means a RM650mil contribution to earnings. The airline has thus far hit 23%. Average load is about 70% and forward preloads are 18% higher than last year in the second half.
Though MAS flies to many countries, it is hard to match the branding that SIA and Cathay command. This is another issue the national carrier needs to address.
“People rather pay more for the rival planes which are newer, with latest interiors. So, it is a perception of better quality even tough MAS' soft skills are excellent,'' says an analyst.
The change afoot for the airline is not just limited to new aircraft and new seats. It has also started from the first touch point.
MAS is one of the first airlines in the world apart from Delta to use iphones, ipads, Facebook and even Android's as tools to check-in and even buy tickets.
The food offering is changing and it has “chef on call'' for the first class to make sure you get the meal the way you want it. It also offers “ferrero rocher'' which is a premium chocolate as a dessert and it is buying new planes. The only set back - the planes cannot arrive any faster.
The ties that bind
Twelve years and two attempts. That is how long the courtship with oneworld took. MAS was invited 12 years ago but due to technical issues, nothing had materialised.
“The board gave the management up to June to get into an alliance,'' says MAS chairman Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid.
After the first attempt, MAS search continued but its balance sheets did not make it “pretty'' enough to be considered as a member.
What changed this time around was that MAS is looking much better despite its recent quarterly blip. Geographically, it is well located as oneworld needs to get smack into the South-East Asian markets since growth in passenger traffic is expected to be robust in the region.
IATA expects Asia to lead traffic growth. All these had strengthened MAS case. This time, following an invitation, the pact was sealed after a 12-hour meeting over the past weekend. “It is the best fit for us and MAS is the best fit for oneworld,” says Azmil.
The full impact is likely to be felt in 2013.
“But don't expect investors to jump to buy the stock as it will take time before we can see the results. Surely, there will be benefits from ferrying member passengers around and the geographic reach for MAS travellers just gets bigger. More so now, there are more avenues to earn miles for the travellers,'' says an analyst.
Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation analyst Brendan Sobie says MAS is going in the right direction as the alliance helps strengthen its position in Asia and widens its reach.
An analyst remarks that the only reason oneworld is losing to SkyTeam and Star Alliance is that they do not have a representative in SEA. “Now, they do with MAS,” he says. The other factor that could boost traffic is Qantas willingness to work with MAS via oneworld to tap into SEA.
Transformation mode
As rightly pointed out by Azmil, MAS is in transformation mode, no longer turnaround .
“Transformation takes long but it will stick with you versus business turnaround, which is for a short time only,'' he says.
An analyst likes the sound of it: “He is going back to the textbooks and this is something which should have been done 12 years ago.”
More crucially, what does that mean for the consumer? “You will see a very different value proposition from MAS from how you buy tickets, whether you use a website, the call centre, the facebook or the androids to the ipad.
It is a different experience when you get to the airport. We are improving the first and business class and looking to improve the economy offering. We are getting new aircraft and modern products.
“At the end of the day, it is not just a transformation, but we are changing the mindset,'' Azmil says.

Source : STAR
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

AirAsia CEO 'Keen' On Operating New AirAsia Singapore Brand

AirAsia's chief executive is "keen" to operate in Singapore, and the Malaysian airline will soon base some aircraft there in a move that may presage an AirAsia Singapore unit launch.
Recent advertisements for cabin crew positions at AirAsia Singapore are hoped to be the first step, Tony Fernandes told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview. AirAsia will be "night-stopping" aircraft there, in order to make morning flights out of the Southeast Asian island nation.
There have been rumors that Australia's Qantas is interested in its low-cost unit, Jetstar, making a similar move into Singapore to save on costs by hiring locally.
Fernandes also said that its two, 49% owned units, AirAsia Thailand and AirAsia Indonesia, remain on track for separate initial public offerings later this year. The pair may go public simultaneously, or Thailand may go first and Indonesia second, depending on a number of factors.
The IPOs come at a good time for AirAsia, he said, as the moves will free up the balance sheet and allow the low-cost airline to launch new AirAsia units in Vietnam and the Philippines in the near term. The CEO said Vietnam's new government is "much more receptive" to the company's ideas on branding and its websites, and Vietnam's tourism industry is growing quickly, so Fernandes doesn't anticipate the problems that caused its first foray into that country to fail.
Fernandes said he was pleased by remarks made earlier Tuesday by the Malaysian prime minister at the Invest Malaysia conference at the New York Stock Exchange, in which the prime minister expressed a desire to make Malaysia the economic center of Southeast Asia.
AirAsia doesn't believe it can beat the market, so it doesn't do much hedging against rising oil prices, he said, and it is currently about 10% hedged at a cost of about $120 a barrel. Similarly, it doesn't hedge much against currencies, and noted that many forecasts call for the Malaysian ringgit, which has risen sharply, to hover in the MYR2.90 to MYR2.95 range to the dollar, near current levels.
Its long-haul international unit, AirAsia X, is slated to announce a pact with General Electric Co.'s (GE) aviation unit on Wednesday. Fernandes didn't want to steal the unit's thunder, but hinted that the pact could involve aircraft engines, a new type of Airbus aircraft AirAsia X hasn't purchased before and new routes for AirAsia X to Europe.
GE lost out on a previous contract to supply AirAsia X airplane engines, and has been aggressively courting AirAsia for new business, he said. GE CEO Jeff Immelt has been "a fantastic friend" of AirAsia.
In U.S. dollars, AirAsia has about $3 billion market capitalization, and posted annual revenue of about $2 billion and earnings of about $400 million, which excludes the contributions of the Thailand and Indonesia units, Fernandes said.
"We've proven the model," he said of the airline that has grown from 2 two planes to around 100 planes, and there is "great upside" for AirAsia, even after the marked increase in its share price, as it continues to extract even more "ancillary" revenue from passengers for things like food and insurance. AirAsia now extracts $16 of such revenue per passenger, up from $5 in the past.

Source : Dow Jones
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Tourism Ministry Opens Facebook Account To Further Promote Tourism

The Tourism Ministry created the Facebook account "Citrawarna 1Malaysia" because it is aware of the social networking site's potential to promote popular locations in Malaysia to visitors, said its minister Datuk Seri Ng Yen Yen.

"We know that we are now at this social media era and we have to keep with the times. Our target (in using the application) are young people and we encourage them to go the site and share their experiences with others," she said after launching the "Citrawarna 1Malaysia" Facebook account here Wednesday.

The application created in conjunction with the annual Citrawarna 1Malaysia event which will take place at Dataran Merdeka on Saturday is to enable the public to access the ministry's site and participate in various contests in the form of dance games.

The participant with the highest score as of the end of June gets to win an iPad while there will also be 10 consolation winners who will be given vouchers to dine at Saloma Bistro.

Ng added that the Facebook feature was part of the ministry's transformation plans to further improve its delivery system.

Source : Bernama
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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

US raises security alert for Americans

Citing the “uncertainty and volatility of the current situation” following the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the US Department of State has issued a global alert warning American citizens against a possible outbreak of anti-US violence worldwide.

“The US Department of State alerts US citizens traveling and residing abroad to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counterterrorism activity in Pakistan,” the agency’s Bureau of Consular Affairs (BCA) said in a May 1 advisory.

Australia issued a similar warning. In countries with significant Muslim populations, international schools, embassies and other potential targets were putting extra security measures in place in case of reprisals.
Britain confirmed it was taking extra precautions at its embassies around the world and its military bases were on heightened alert.

The global police agency Interpol also called for increased security measures, warning that the death of Bin Laden could provoke reprisal attacks around the world.

Supporters of Bin Laden’s violent campaign took to militant Internet sites to vow revenge.
“The lions will remain lions and will continue moving in the footsteps of Osama. O Allah, America will not enjoy safety and security until we live it in Palestine,” one user wrote on the Shumukh al-Islam forum.
“The celebrations are amusing. Cheer all you want infidel, you only have a limited amount of time in this life in which to do it,” another wrote.

While some experts said that Bin Laden’s death would damage al-Qaida’s brand image, and perhaps lead the organization to fracture still further along geographical lines, most predicted attacks would continue.

“The United States will unfortunately suffer, because jihadists have a tendency to avenge their slain chiefs,” warned Matthieu Guidere, a French academic who specializes in the Arab world.
After the death of the leader of al-Qaida’s group in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, in April 2006, his successor launched a wave of suicide attacks against US and Iraqi targets, Guidere noted.

And although the figurehead of the operation has died in a plush Pakistani mountain resort and garrison town north of Islamabad, al-Qaida militants in the field have long been acting independently.
“On a tactical level, the death of Bin Laden is not a decisive victory, as for many years he has not been an operational leader and the power has been in the hands of local commanders,” Guidere said.

Lost brand label
Jean-Pierre Filiu, a professor at the Sciences-Po school in Paris and author of a book on al-Qaida, said Bin Laden’s death would accelerate the group’s existing division into separate fighting entities.
“Osama bin Laden’s leadership was in truth ideological. He was the only one able to unite all the disparate groups around the world,” said antiterrorist judge Marc Trevidic, saying al-Qaida had lost a brand label.
Nevertheless, Frank Faulkner, a senior lecturer in sociology and terrorism studies at the University of Derby in Britain, said that revenge attacks were inevitable.
“It’s just a case of when and where,” he said.

Extra vigilance
Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble urged “extra vigilance” from “law enforcement authorities to a heightened terror risk from al-Qaida affiliated or al-Qaida inspired terrorists as a result of Bin Laden’s death.”
“The world’s most wanted international terrorist is no more,” Noble said in a statement issued by his office.
“But the death of Bin Laden does not represent the demise of al-Qaida affiliates and those inspired by al-Qaida, who have and will continue to engage in terrorist attacks around the world,” he said.
“We therefore need to remain united and focused in our ongoing cooperation and fight, not only against this global threat but also against terrorism by any group anywhere,” he added.
Noble said Interpol, a global coordinating body based in France that works with national police forces in 188 member states, was “on full alert for acts of retaliation should al-Qaida try to prove they still exist.”

Limit travel, avoid rallies
The BCA strongly urged Americans “in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations.”
US citizens should also “stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings … US citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest US embassy or consulate,” said the travel alert, which expires on Aug. 1.
It noted that “media coverage of local events may cause family and friends to become concerned for their loved ones traveling and residing abroad.”
“We urge US citizens to keep in regular contact with family and friends,” said the BCA.
The state department said US embassy operations in affected areas would continue to the extent possible under the constraints of any evolving security situation.
“US government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture. In those instances, US embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to US citizens,” it said.
On Monday, Rebecca B. Thompson, spokesperson of the US embassy in Manila, did not comment on the travel alert.
Instead, Thompson referred the Philippine Daily Inquirer to the BCA website —— which she said “has the most up-to-date information.”

NAIA alert
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) has placed four terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) under “heightened alert” status following Bin Laden’s death.
In a May 2 memorandum, Vicente Guerzon Jr., MIAA assistant general manager, said the move was necessary “as a precautionary measure to ensure the security and safety of airport users, as well as protect airport infrastructure.”
Guerzon said the following security measures shall be immediately implemented at NAIA Terminals 1 to 4:
• Strict access control procedures for both personnel and vehicles.
• Rigid inspection of airline passengers and cargo at security checkpoints.
• Intensified police visibility as well as K-9 paneling at the terminals.
• Maximized deployment of patrol vehicles at aircraft movement areas and airport perimeter.
• Intensified intelligence and monitoring operations as well as networking with other security units.
Guerzon said “matters that may affect smooth airport operations must be brought to the immediate attention of MIAA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado.”

Source : Inquirer
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Osama revenge fears put world on high alert

Governments and airlines around the world are bracing for a backlash following the killing in Pakistan of Osama bin Laden by US Special Forces.

Interpol has called for increased security measures by national police forces and several countries have responded with extra security measures spanning airports and other public transport systems.

Japan said its military bases are on full alert in case of revenge attacks by bin Laden’s al-Qaida supporters.

A Qantas spokesman said the airline was “closely monitoring the situation and if the security situation changes then we will take appropriate steps”.

While the county celebrated bin Laden’s death, the U.S. Department of State issued warnings for Americans abroad and is asking travellers to be vigilant. Britain and Australia have issued similar warnings.

“The terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him (bin Laden), and we must – and will – remain vigilant and resolute,” said CIA director Leon Panetta.

Authorities in Indonesia are especially wary of reprisals.

Just weeks before Bin Laden’s death, authorities in Pakistan arrested Umar Patek, an Al Qaeda-linked Indonesian militant who for 10 years had been on the run for allegedly helping to build the explosive devices used in the 2002 bombings of nightclubs in Bali that killed 202 people. 

Source : TravelMole
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Sheraton Imperial unveils its RM6mil meeting facility

THE Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel was abuzz with excitement as all preparations were underway to unveil their latest meeting facility — @M event level recently. Located on the mezzanine level of the 5-star hotel, the newly renovated meeting level took six months to complete at a cost of RM6 million.
Approximately 200 persons were invited to view the new meeting facility as part of the hotel’s launch activities. Divided into lunch and dinner sessions, guests were taken on a personal tour by the hotel’s sales and marketing team members.
Based on an ‘Open House’ concept, the tour revealed the various meeting rooms, set up according to different themes.
Movie theme: Jack Sparrow, Darth Vader, Wolverine and Ronaldo make up part of the theme.
As guests step into the @M meeting room, they were greeted with a Social Network theme where they were introduced to the various social media channels, played various games on Facebook, posted photos on Twitter and had the chance to win exciting prizes.
Next door at Be@M, it was a more informal affair, with the focus being on the 5 Human Truths theme. Guests were shown how the more ‘friendly’ set up play an integral part in the success of any training workshop.
Over at Do@M, there were two themes. In one corner, the movie theme was introduced with ‘Darth Vader’, ‘Jack Sparrow’ and ‘Wolverine’ serving customers. while at the other end of the meeting room, the sports theme was displayed. Tables with golf, badminton and football décor were enhanced with a Wii machine to promote that competitive spirit.
At the foyer area of Ez@M, the hotel’s culinary team took centerstage, featuring their specialities at the main island buffet counter — introducing delicious dishes from the ‘Passion’ cook book — a joint collaboration between Sheraton Imperial KL and The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa.
‘We want to support our customers and help them achieve their objectives.
“This does not only mean providing a new facility equipped with the latest technology but also showcasing unique and creative options, aiding our customers with what’s out there and how they can be different and unique too.
“We believe with this new @M facility, we will be able to embark on the journey with our clients”, said General Manager of the Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel Wolfgang Boettcher.
Complementing the new vibrant feel of the @M meeting level was a whole range of sumptuous cuisine – perfectly whipped up by master chefs in each of the meeting rooms. Needless to say, there was networking and ideas plus excitement as guests and associates mingled to show off the new facility.
With the addition of the @M event level, the Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel now boasts more than 2219.6 sq metres of function space with a 12 venue options. Measuring 667 sq metres, the elegant Nusantara Ballroom (located on level 2 of the hotel) is the largest function space, catering for 120 persons for a boardroom set-up to 1,000 persons for a theatre set-up.
It can also seat approximately 550 persons for a banquet and 800 persons for a cocktail reception.

Source : STAR
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