Monday, December 31, 2007

Sports tourism gets boost

Sports tourism is fast gaining a foothold in the country.
Sports Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said sports tourism had the potential to grow as the country was rich in natural resources.

"I believe the industry will go far," Azalina said at the launch of the Adventure Sports and Travel Expo 2007 (Astex) at the Mid Valley Exhibition Centre here yesterday.

Astex organising chairman Datuk Seri Talaat Hussein said sports tourism had existed for years although little was known about it until recently.

Malaysia Sports Tourism Council (MSTC), as the organiser of Astex, hopes to create awareness about sports tourism as well as educate the public on adopting a healthier lifestyle.
"MSTC has created a database for fans of sports tourism.

"Anyone who is interested can find out about the activities through our database," MSTC president Ahmad Kamil Mohamed said. For information, visit

Source : NST
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Thursday, December 27, 2007

30 Minutes from KL to KLIA with new Highway

THE much anticipated 26km KL-Putrajaya Highway that offers road users a shorter and more direct route to the federal administrative capital Putrajaya, Cyberjaya and the KL International Airport (KLIA) is now open to road users and is easily accessible from the city centre.

If prior to this, travelling from KL to these destinations used to take more than an hour, the highway has shortened the trips to a mere 20 minutes to Putrajaya and Cyberjaya and 30 minutes to KLIA at Sepang.

The highway will be toll-free for a month until Jan 13.

Road users entering the highway from the Kampung Pandan Interchange will find their travelling time cut to more than half compared with travelling on the existing route, which takes twice as long to reach the same destinations.

According to Konsortium Lapangan Terjaya Sdn Bhd senior manager (corporate communications), Tihana Yon, the expansion of the KL-Putrajaya highway to the existing major highways would in turn stimulate further commercial and residential developments in the southern corridor of the Klang Valley.

Yon said road users could access the highway from five interchanges – Kampung Pandan, Salak South, Kuchai Lama, Bukit Jalil and the Putrajaya Link.

The Kampung Pandan Interchange provides easy access from areas within the Golden Triangle and the main roads such as Jalan Tun Razak, Jalan Ampang, Jalan Pahang, Jalan Sultan Ismail, Taman Maluri, Pandan Jaya and Kampung Pandan.

The Salak South Interchange provides road users a direct link from Damansara, Bangsar, Jalan Duta and Jalan Kuching.

The Kuchai Lama Interchange has two entry ramps, the first ramp channels traffic from Kerinchi, Mid Valley Megamall, Bangsar, Bandar Tun Razak, and Taman Connaught while the second ramp allows traffic from Jalan Kelang Lama, Kuchai Lama and Taman Desa.

The Bukit Jalil Interchange built over the Kesas Highway provides a lifeline as it assists in the easing of congestion in the city centre and the surrounding areas to Sungei Besi, Kajang, the KL-Seremban Highway, Sri Petaling and Bangi.

And from the opposite direction, road users would find the traffic in Klang, Shah Alam, Subang Jaya, Sunway, Gombak, Ampang and Cheras leading to KL, Putrajaya, Cyberjaya and KLIA much breezier.

The Putrajaya Link however integrates with the North South Expressway Central Link (ELITE Highway) and enables road users to reach KLIA within 10 minutes.

The highway is installed with several safety features and the advanced traffic monitoring systems such as emergency telephone, CCTV and electronic messaging which are routed to the highway’s Control Centre (CC).

“This enables CC to assist patrol vehicles in attending to emergencies on the highway,’’ added Yon.

In addition, she said, the KL-Putrajaya Highway provides a link between the MRR1 and MRR2 and other highways such as Besraya, KL-Seremban, NPE and Kesas, thus relieving traffic congestion along these routes

Source : STAR
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Friday, December 14, 2007

KKIA’s upgrade on right track

The new international airport terminal here is set to open by April and travellers can look forward to less “inconvenience and congestion”.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said Malaysia Airports Bhd planned to use the terminal for boarding and arrivals by Jan 9 before making it fully operational for check-in.

“Once the new terminal is ready, the old terminal will be closed for upgrading,” Chan told reporters during a working visit here yesterday.

Personal inspection: Chan (second from right) checking on the construction progress of the new airport terminal in Kota Kinabalu yesterday. Accompanying him are Sabah MCA chief Datuk Edward Khoo (right) and other VIPs.
The new terminal complex, to be connected with the old one, is among a massive Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) upgrade project involving runway extension and a new low-cost terminal. The RM1.4bil project is scheduled for completion by May 2009.

“We thank the public for bearing with the inconvenience. It is not easy carrying out major upgrading works on an airport that is operational,” Chan said, adding that KKIA is the second busiest airport in the country after KLIA.

The minister said that once completed, the upgraded airport would have state-of-the-art facilities to meet Sabah’s needs.

“Overall, the project is about 8.4% ahead of time though there are some delays in specific areas. But it will not affect the completion date,” he said when thanking the state government for resolving the Sri Tanjung airport squatter problem.

On MAB’s decision to move operations of all airlines to the new terminal once completed in 2009, Chan said AirAsia’s request to remain at Terminal Two would be considered.

“They have written in. We have to hear them out before we make any decision,” he said, adding that the new complex when completed could handle the needs of all airlines and would be convenient in terms of operations.

Source : STAR
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AirAsia and OCM ink deal

THE partnership between the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) and AirAsia, the Airline of the Year, will benefit the 46 affiliates of OCM.

“It is a great partnership as our affiliates can utilise AirAsia's services. The OCM will be appointing a liaison officer to co-ordinate things with AirAsia,” OCM president Tan Sri Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja'afar said after the official signing ceremony in Kuala Lumpur recently.

It’s a deal: Tunku Imran (left) and Fernandes exchanging copies of the agreement.
He added that the airline had supported the Malaysian contingent to the Asian Indoor Games in Macau in November.

AirAsia are involved in sending 400 athletes and officials to Korat for the 24th SEA Games. As partners of OCM, AirAsia will also be the official airline for the Malaysian contingent for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

AirAsia Group chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes said they were keen to play a part in the development of sports.

Source : STAR
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City tourism badly hit by Demonstrations

recent street demonstrations here have badly hit city tourism.

Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Donald Lim said tour operators informed him that many tourists had either cancelled or cut short their tours due to the demonstrations.

“Many of these tourists were from China, Vietnam and Hong Kong.

“It was quite bad from the end of November to early December, but the situation has stabilised slightly now,” he told the press after opening the Kuan Yin Temple in Sungai Buloh near here yesterday.

However, he said only tourism in the city was affected while “the other states are fine.”

He added that up to September, 16 million tourists visited the country. Malaysia is targeting 21.5 million tourist arrivals for the Visit Malaysia 2007, which has been extended to Aug 31 next year.

Source : STAR
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Faber to sell unit for RM228mil

Faber Group Bhd, through wholly-owned subsidiary Faber Hotels Holdings Sdn Bhd, has proposed to dispose of its 100% equity interest in Faber Labuan Sdn Bhd to Berjaya Land Bhd for RM228.54mil.

In a statement, Faber said it expected to realise a gain on disposal of RM99.06mil based on its audited financial statement as at Dec 31, 2006.

“The proceeds will be used for the redemption of redeemable convertible preference shares, the group's business growth and expansion plans,” it said.

Source : STAR
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Guidebook on Malacca

An updated tourism guidebook has been published to provide information on the charms and appeals of Malacca to local and foreign tourists.

Its author Bonny Wee said the book Malacca, A Charming Destination aimed to showcase historic Malacca in a light and easy way so that visitors could enjoy their vacations.

Wee previously co-authored You'll Love Malacca - 1998, You'll Love Malacca More - 2000 and You'll Love Malacca Always - 2003 with his late father Wee Hock Chye.

Light and easy: Wee reading his book on Malacca, which is now available in the market.
He said the state had more to offer than just history and past glory.

Wee said the book covered topics ranging from food, people, selected places of interest, small and delightful entertainment outlets in Jonker Street, Jalan Lekir, Hang Kasturi and Lorong Hang Jebat, antiques, art, culture, history and other bits and pieces.

“It gives recommendations on the best Nyonya, Portuguese, Malay, Chinese and Indian restaurants and features the origins of ikan bakar in Serkam,” he said.

He said there were articles on people of Malacca including dodol-king Tan Kim Hock, flying-doctor Lee, lantern-maker Uncle Ang, artist Kim, wood-carver Charlie and blacksmith Tan.

Wee said the book with colourful photographs gave insights on what Malacca was and is today and how one could best enjoy one’s stay in the state.

The book is available at leading bookstores such as MPH, Popular, Tai Kuang (Malacca), Borders and Kinokuniya and is retailed at RM16.80. It is also available at selected cafes, restaurants, gift shops, hotels and art galleries in Malacca city.

For more information, call Wee at 019 -340 7177.

Source : STAR
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@Ease Targets 60% Occupancy Rate

@ease Boutique hotel, a hotel in Sandakan, Sabah and owned by Sara-Timur Properties Sdn Bhd, expects to achieve an occupancy rate of up to 60% in line with the industry’s average rate.

The hotel, built at a cost of over RM40mil, is part of the Sandakan Harbour Square, a RM450mil integrated, commercial, retail, and recreational development project.

At a media briefing on @ease, the operator of the hotel, Value Hospitality Group, said the peak tourist season in Sandakan would be from April to December.

“Sandakan itself has been earmarked as a new growth hub for Sabah, whereby commercial and tourism activities are increasing,” said Value Hospitality area general manager, east Malaysia, John Augustin.

From left: Rosita Hamden, John Augustin and ICSD Ventures Sdn Bhd joint managing director Kenneth K.Y. Tiong at the media briefing
Value Hospitality also manages the Prescott and Everly hotels.

@ease, which was soft launched on Nov 26, is scheduled for official launch on Dec 23.

“We are looking at opening eight more hotels in the peninsula as well as East Malaysia in the future,” said Sara-Timur joint managing director Rosita Hamden.

A property developer with various projects in the country, the company is also the main contractor for Phase I and Phase II of the Sandakan Harbour Square.

Rosita said the company was looking at having the same boutique hotel concept for the eight hotels it planned to build but had yet to decide on the cost of investment.

@ease will feature 138 deluxe rooms and suites, a business centre, and banquet and state-of-the-art meeting facilities.

Source : STAR
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Sunway close to signing deals

Hanley Chew
Sunway International Hotel & Resort is close to signing hotel management agreements with four to six parties in Malaysia, Vietnam and China, chief executive officer Hanley Chew said.

“We are already in negotiations with four to six parties in the region. We are close to signing the agreements,” he said yesterday after a signing ceremony with Angkor Tourism Co Ltd to manage two hotels in Cambodia.

The hotels are Allson Angkor Hotel and Allson Angkor Paradise Hotel, located in Siem Reap.

The agreement would enable the hospitality and management arm of Sunway City Bhd to expand its presence in Cambodia, Chew said.

Chew said the company would start managing the hotels next month for an initial period of 10 years.

“We aim to achieve 60% occupancy rate for both hotels in the coming years,” he said.

Angkor Tourism managing director Kousoum Saroeuth said the company believed Sunway International was capable of managing the two hotels in Siem Reap well.

“Sunway has a good reputation and is performing well not only in Cambodia but also in Malaysia and Vietnam. So it is definitely an opportunity for us to take advantage of Sunway’s expertise and marketing network to develop better our hotels around the world,” he said.

The Malaysian hospitality group now operates and manages 13 hotels and resorts under two hotel brand names –the Sunway Hotel & Resorts and Allson Hotel & Resorts – in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam, representing up to 3,000 guestrooms.

Source : STAR
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Friday, December 07, 2007

Jetstar Asia granted rights to fly to KL

Low fare carrier Jetstar Asia has been granted the rights by Singapore’s Air Traffic Rights Committee to start a daily service between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 1 February 2008.

The services will give consumers ticket savings of up to 70 per cent compared to the current fares available.

Chong Phit Lian, CEO of Jetstar Asia/Valuair said: “Jetstar Asia is happy to provide a low-fare air travel alternative for both business and leisure travelers between the two cities.

We are confident our product will be well supported in view of the strong ties between the two cities where many residents of both cities have friends and relatives.

Jetstar Asia’s big advantages are our operations out of Changi Airport Terminal One, free online seat selection, pre-assigned seating and 20-kg baggage allowance.”

Source : TravelWeekly
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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Malaysian Signforce Hospitality thinks global

LOCAL management company, Signforce Hospitality, plans to manage eight five-star hotels internationally by 2011.

It recently secured a management contract for a five-star resort in Cherating, Pahang, and three other properties in Doha. All are scheduled to be opened in 2010.

Signforce Hospitality's involvement will include providing technical services, financial structuring and management of the property, its chief operating officer, Mr Melvin IZ, said.

Locally, Signforce Hospitality is managing one property, Tanjung Rhu Resort Langkawi, since 1999, under a 30-year contract.

Source : TTG
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Double-digit growth in September arrivals for Malaysia

TOURIST arrival figures in Malaysia for September was recently released.

Most markets recorded a double-digit growth in arrivals compared to the same period in 2006, Tourism Malaysia said in a statement. Poland recorded the highest growth of 370.5 per cent, followed by Russia (93.2 per cent), Vietnam (64.1 per cent), France (48.3 per cent), the Philippines (43.8 per cent) and India (40.4 per cent).

The top five tourist generating markets in September were Singapore (816,776), Indonesia (124,132), Thailand (121,617), Brunei (104,275) and China (57,958).

Tourist arrivals from January to September 2007 were 15.6 million, representing an increase of 21.3 per cent compared to the same period in 2006. Another 4.5 million arrivals are needed in this last quarter to meet the target of 20.1 million tourists for 2007.

Source : TTG
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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Peninsula Manila Hotel Evacuated & Sealed Off by Police

Two escaped coup plotters associated with a failed 2003 coup attempt have taken over the second floor of The Manila Peninsula Hotel here.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, elected to office while in jail for heading the failed military mutiny at Oakwood Suites in Makati several years ago, and Brigadier General Danilo Lim, who faces court marshal proceedings for a failed uprising in February this year, walked out from a hearing at a Makati City courtroom this morning. Accompanied by uniformed military men and tailed by members of the press, the two forcibly entered the Manila Peninsula Hotel and have taken over a portion of the hotel’s second floor after holding a press briefing at the hotel lobby. The two are calling on the Filipino people to withdraw support from Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The President has ordered the Philippine National Police (PNP) to arrest Trillanes and Lim. The PNP has asked the hotel to evacuate hotel guests and staff by 3pm today to secure their safety should negotiations with the plotters fail.

Mariano Garchitorena, head of public relations at the Peninsula has said that the hotel would be cooperating with the police. The hotel is currently on 85 percent capacity. None of the hotel guests and staff had been harmed in the ongoing incident. Guest evacuations have begun at press time.


Police and military forces, backed by armor, have sealed off the area around the Manila Peninsula and the approaches to the hotel in Makati City as the standoff with a group of accused coup plotters, led by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, continues.

Some 20 policemen have been deployed by the entrance to the hotel’s lobby while police lines have been set up near the gates to prevent people from entering.

The security forces are backed up by a number of armored personnel carriers, including two at the intersection of EDSA and Ayala Avenue and two more at the intersection of Ayala and Makati Avenues

The Peninsula Manila Hotel -

Source : TravelWeekly Inquirer
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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Record Q3 profits for MAS

Malaysia Airlines' (MAS) third quarter net profits soared to a record on increased passenger demand for its flights and lower operating cost.

The national carrier also sees a robust last quarter of the year, but warned that like other airlines, its performance would be “dampened by the impact of higher oil prices.''

“The fourth quarter is seasonally the strongest and we are already experiencing very strong bookings,'' managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Idris Jala told reporters at the results briefing yesterday.

For the three months ended Sept 30, MAS' net income surged 52% to RM364mil, against RM241mil a year earlier. Earnings per share rose to 26 sen per share versus 17.2 sen in the previous corresponding period.

Datuk Seri Idris Jala (right) and Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin at the results announcement.
Turnover reached RM4.23bil, or 15% higher compared with RM3.68bil previously, while passenger revenue rose 12% to RM2.46bil.

Seat factor also increased from 69% last year to 74% in the third quarter.

“We have indeed made tremendous progress ... and are confident of doing our very best,'' Jala said, commenting on the group's prospects for the rest of the year.

He noted that MAS' cumulative nine months' net earnings of RM610mil had exceeded the airline's best annual profit in its 60-year history.

Jala was tasked by the Government two years ago to revive the national airline, which was crippled by losses in 2005 and 2006.

“Over the past 18 months, we have made radical changes in the way we are operating, simplifying processes, whilst investing in products and services enhancement,'' he said.

The company achieved its business turnaround plan a year ahead of schedule and plans to introduce its business transformation plan in January.

“We now have 426 ongoing initiatives for improving our products and services to further bring down cost across the network by another 10% during the next financial year,'' Jala said.

The action, he said would translate to a cost saving of RM1bil.

While MAS is widely expected to exceed its own target range of up to RM700mil in net profit this year, the stock performance remained largely subdued at 8% higher year-to-date at its closing price of RM4.58 yesterday.

To compare, the benchmark KL Composite Index was up 25% at yesterday's close of 1,364 points.

Analysts said MAS continued to face challenges, with crude oil at near US$100 per barrel and rising competition from regional full service airlines such as Singapore Airlines as well as budget carriers like AirAsia Bhd.

Meanwhile, MAS subsidiary Firefly, which operates from Subang airport, had purchased 10 new turbo propeller planes with an option for another 10 planes.

The first delivery is expected in the third quarter of next year.

Source : STAR
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MAS codeshares China Southern Airlines

NATIONAL carrier, Malaysia Airlines (MAS), has signed a codeshare agreement with China Southern Airlines (CSA), providing passengers more choices and seamless travel to destinations served by the two airlines.

In a joint statement, they said both airlines would be able to tap feeder traffic from the domestic routes of the respective countries.

From today, passengers from both airlines will enjoy 35 weekly flights between Kuala Lumpur and Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing.

The partnership complements an earlier agreement allowing MAS passengers to travel on CSA flights to 90 destinations in China from Guangzhou and 38 from Beijing while CSA passengers flying into Kuala Lumpur can connect to all domestic points served by MAS and its subsidiary, MASWings, further strengthening Kuala Lumpur as the gateway for Chinese travellers into Malaysia.

MAS managing director/ CEO, Datuk Seri Idris Jala, said the company expected to see a seven per cent growth in passenger volume for the China-Malaysia bound flights.

Source : TTG
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Agent sentiments mixed over liberalised KL-Singapore route

MALAYSIAN agents predict the opening of the Kuala Lumpur–Singapore route to low-cost carriers from Singapore and Malaysia, will have a spill over effect on other tourist destinations in Malaysia such as the southern state of Johor, which is closest to the Lion City.

To save cost, many leisure tourists now travel by road, going through Johor, to get to either city. Johor-based inbound agents are concerned this development would see travellers bypassing the state altogether.

But their outbound counterparts, such as Johor-based New Asia Holiday Tours & Travel, general manager, Mr Raaj Navaratnaa, said he saw his business as a ticketing consultant and outbound agent selling tour programmes ex-Singapore growing as more Malaysians choose to travel to south to take connecting flights elsewhere as there are more airlines and destination choices at competitive rates from Singapore.

For now, the KL-Singapore route will be open from February 1, 2008, and limited to four daily flights - two from either side. But both countries have agreed to fully liberalise access between the two cities, from December 1 next year. This will allow carriers from both countries, the flexibility to operate unlimited number of flights on the route.

Last month, the Malaysian Cabinet gave AirAsia the nod to fly the lucrative route, provided the Singapore government agreed. The Singapore counterpart that will take on the route is widely expected to be Tiger Airways.

Source : TTG
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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Best Western opening in Kota Kinabalu

THE Best Western Kinabalu Daya Hotel is opening in Sabah's capital with 107 newly renovated rooms and will add another 18 rooms before the end of the year.

Inventory is expected to increase to 137 rooms by next year.The hotel will offer high-speed wireless Internet connections, two function rooms and two f&b outlets.

Source : TTG
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Cheap flights to Singapore from February 2008

Malaysia and Singapore low-cost carriers will be allowed to fly four times daily on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore route starting Feb 1.

Singapore’s Transport Ministry announced the decision on its website yesterday to enable AirAsia and Singapore’s Tiger Airways to ply the route.

“This is a positive development in our aviation relations as low-cost carriers will operate on this sector for the first time,” the ministry said in its statement.

Officials from Singapore and Malaysia met for air services consultations in Singapore on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss the matter.

“This was a follow-up to the discussions between Singapore’s Transport Minister Raymond Lim and his Malaysian counterpart Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy on the sidelines of the 13th Asean Transport Ministers Meeting,” the ministry said.

Singapore and Malaysia have agreed to fully liberalise access on the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur sector from Dec 1, 2008.

This will also enable carriers from both countries to operate unlimited number of flights between the two destinations, the ministry said.

“It will bring both countries closer to Asean’s goal to remove all restrictions on passenger flights between Asean capitals by December 2008,” it added.

According to the ministry, transport officials from both countries have agreed to meet again in January 2008 to discuss the further expansion of air services between Singapore and Malaysia.

Source : STAR
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Friday, November 23, 2007

Tony Fernandes on Access to Subang Airport

AirAsia Bhd should be given equal opportunity to operate from the Sultan Abdul Aziz Airport in Subang as part of its strategy to develop the low-cost carrier concept in Malaysia, said group chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes.

“We would rather use the Subang airport than to spend another RM1bil to RM2bil for a new terminal at KL International Airport,” he told reporters after the company's AGM yesterday.

AirAsia had been pushing for the right to operate from the airport for five years, he added.

Meanwhile FireFly, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), has received the green light to operate from the Subang airport, which is under Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd.

“The airport has good accessibility to Kuala Lumpur and infrastructure facilities that would benefit our business,” Fernandes said.

He said the low-cost carrier terminal at KLIA lacked accessibility to the city centre and that AirAsia needed “a bigger terminal'' to accommodate its growing business.

On the flight frequency for its Singapore route, Fernandes said AirAsia “should not be held back” because it had the capacity to operate more than two daily flights if it was allowed.

He said the Government should support low-cost carriers because they enabled “tourists to fly at cheaper prices”, especially during the Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

He said the low-cost carrier concept would also help promote the country's medical, tourism and education industries due to cheaper fares.

“We are concerned that Tiger Airways is catching up with our business, so are Emirates and other foreign low-cost carriers which operate in Malaysia,” he said, adding that an unfair playing field would only harm AirAsia and FireFly, and directly benefit the foreign low-cost carriers.

“We are not afraid to compete provided we are given equal access,” he said.

On rising fuel prices, Fernandes said AirAsia planned to charge a small fee of RM2 for each additional bag a customer carried but had not decided when this would be implemented.

The group would continue to make profit as long as the crude oil price remained below US$75 per barrel, he said, adding that the airline would not extend its fuel hedge given that the price of US$100 per barrel was speculative.

He said the group would suffer an annual loss of US$3mil for every dollar increase in oil price.

Source : STAR
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Ascott adds in Malaysian capital

THE Ascott Group (Ascott) has signed a conditional agreement to purchase a 208-unit serviced residence from HSC Properties for RM112.5 million (US$33,173,866).

The property will be named Somerset Ampang when it opens in Kuala Lumpur in the first half of 2010. When completed, the serviced residence will be part of an integrated development which will house medical, heart and diagnostic centre, HSC Medical Centre.

The high-end medical centre will be separately owned and managed by HSCP. It will occupy five levels of the 23-storey development with amenities such as a medical spa, restaurant and cafe.

Finance and investment deputy CEO, Mr Chong Kee Hiong, said: "Somerset Ampang will cater not only to the needs of business travellers but also to visitors of the medical centre who require post-treatment accommodation, as well as their accompanying families and friends."

Source : TTG
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Thursday, November 22, 2007

AirAsia not raising its fuel surcharge

AirAsia will not raise its fuel surcharge despite the rise in world crude oil prices, which topped US$99 (RM333) a barrel yesterday.

“No, not at the moment. One must build a sustainable business, at whatever the cost of oil is,” AirAsia Bhd founder and group chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes told reporters at the AirAsia Academy here yesterday after two signing ceremonies.

He added that heavier planes required more fuel, “but it’s not fair to put a fuel surcharge on someone who’s not carrying a bag, as opposed to someone who’s carrying six bags.”

“We like to investigate different ways of doing different things,” he said.

Earlier, AirAsia signed an agreement with Aviation Australia to have its existing technicians trained in aircraft maintenance, fulfilling the requirements by the European Aviation Safety Agency.

AirAsia X, the group's long-haul budget carrier, also signed a five-year agreement with Tourism Queensland to promote Gold Coast, Australia.

AirAsia X chief executive officer Azran Osman Rani said that currently there were four flights a week to Gold Coast. Its first flight there was on Nov 2.

“We plan to increase it to a flight a day, as more aircraft become available,” Azran said.

Also present at the event was Australian Tourism, Regional Development and Industry Minister Desley Boyle, Tourism Queensland chairman Don Morris, and Aviation Australia chief executive officer Paul Bredereck.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Airasia Offers To Operate Subang Airport On Its Own

AirAsia Bhd is keen to operate and develop the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport at Subang via private financing initiative (PFI) and make it more business driven and competitive regionally.

AirAsia chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes said today the company was prepared to table a fresh proposal to the government seeking its permission to operate the airport.

When asked for his reaction should the government allow this, he said: "Definitely AirAsia will be prepared for that (to operate the Subang Airport via PFI).

"You have PFI roads, PFI power stations as well as many infrastructure projects, why not the airport," he told reporters after the company's annual general meeting here.

Personally, he said, it would be a good idea for the government to allow AirAsia to go into Subang Airport so that subsequently the no-frills airline would address on its own all matters related to the operation and infrastructure of the airport.

AirAsia had, among others, suggested that it too be allowed to operate via Subang just like community airline FireFly, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines.

Yesterday, Air Asia X chairman Datuk Seri Kalimullah Hassan was reported as saying that Malaysia needed a larger low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) soon to accommodate the increasing passenger volume if it wants to become the regional hub for low-cost travel.

Fernandes said the Subang PFI airport operations, apart from attracting more foreign investors to locate their businesses in Malaysia due to easier access to the Federal Capital, will also make it easier for foreigners to come here for medical, education and tourism reasons.

"Let's make Kuala Lumpur a relevant hub. If we are good and become a strong aviation player, there are so many aspects we can cater for, especially in the medical, tourism and education industries," he added.

"It is a fantastic cause-and-effect business. If we have our own airport close to town, it will attract more foreign investors and more visitors to Malaysia."

Fernandes also said that if AirAsia is allowed to operate Subang Airport, the LCCT at Sepang can be converted into a cargo terminal.

Asked on details of AirAsia's plans to impose a baggage charge on passengers to help cushion the impact of higher fuel prices, he said: "That's one of the ideas that I have. I'd rather look at things like that in a more democratic and fairer way. Maybe we will charge between RM1 and RM2 per extra bag.

"I do not know when to implement it, but what I can say is that it may be pretty soon, and I'm sure that once we implement it, MAS will follow us!"

Source : Bernama
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Govt Yet To Decide On High-speed Train Project

The decision on the proposed high-speed train between Kuala Lumpur-Johor Baharu-Singapore will be made after a detailed study on it is concluded, the Dewan Rakyat was told Thursday.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Abdul Raman Suliman said the study focused on the economic and social impact of the project on the country.

"I would like to announce that the government has yet to make a decision on it and has not called off the project," he said in reply to Teng Boon Soon (BN-Tebrau) who wanted to know whether the government had scrapped the project.

Abdul Raman said the government had to study the project from various aspects like the costs and impact including on the Iskandar Development Region (IDR).

He said the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) was also studying the competitiveness of the project and its implications on the KL International Airport and highways.

"As such, the EPU needs to hold discussions with the private sector on the financing aspect of the project and more time is needed to consider other relevant matters," he said.

Source : Bernama
[tags : ]

RM30mil sales for flights to Gold Coast

AirAsia X has clinched RM30mil in sales for flights to Australia’s Gold Coast since its maiden trip on Nov 2, said chief executive officer Azran Osman-Rani.

“We have had over 30,000 confirmed bookings to the Gold Coast in less than two months,” Azran told a press conference yesterday.

AirAsia X, an affiliate of AirAsia Bhd and Malaysia’s only low-cost long-haul carrier, has been promoting flights to the Gold Coast since Sep 29.

To further enhance AirAsia X’s travel services to Gold Coast, AirAsia X has signed an agreement with Tourism Queensland.

Datuk Tony Fernandes
Azran said the five-year agreement would help AirAsia X increase the number of flights to the Gold Coast and help develop tourism to Queensland.

“We currently have four flights a week (to Gold Coast) and hope to have daily flights by year-end,” he said.

According to Azran, the agreement would see both parties implementing marketing activities to promote international tourism to Queensland with the Gold Coast International Airport as the primary gateway.

He also said joint marketing activities would be undertaken in various international markets such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, China and other South-East Asian markets to support the route to Gold Coast operated by AirAsia X.

“Our marketing activities will include promotions via print and electronic media, and road shows (in those countries),” he added.

While Azran did not specify how much the marketing activities would cost AirAsia, he said the group invested roughly RM30mil a year to promote the company brand.

Azran said its current ridership for the KL-Gold Coast-KL sector comprised 60% Malaysians and South-East Asians and the balance Australians.

Meanwhile, AirAsia signed a contract with Aviation Australia whereby the latter would provide aircraft maintenance engineering training to local engineers.

According to AirAsia chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes, AirAsia started a revision programme earlier this month at its AirAsia Academy in Sepang.

He said the training provided by Aviation Australia was in compliance with the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and consisted of theory refreshers and EASA-compliant exams.

Source : STAR
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VKY 2008 Targets Foreign Tourists

SEVERAL tourism promotion programmes have been carried out in foreign countries to attract tourists for Visit Kedah Year (VKY) 2008.

State Tourism, Youth and Sports Committee chairman Datuk Othman Aziz told the House that the state had allocated RM3mil for the promotional activities.

He said 18 tourism projects, costing RM69.8mil, were listed under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, of which only one at Sungai Merbok had taken off while the others were now open for tenders.

Replying Datuk Abdul Razak Hashim (BN – Guar Chempedak), he said the state had also allocated RM13mil to renovate facilities at Gunung Jerai.

He said construction work at the resort atop Gunung Jerai had started since March.

“All activities at the resort area on the mountain have been postponed until April next year when the construction work is expected to be completed,” he said.

Othman said there were more than 8,700 hotel rooms available to accommodate tourists next year, of which 7,500 were in Langkawi and 1,200 in Alor Star and Sungai Petani.

He said that the state Economic Planning Unit had also sorted out homestay facilities in Kedah to woo tourists.

Othman also said the two resorts at Pedu Lake, which were closed due to financial problems last year, would re-open early next year.

Source : STAR
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Monday, November 19, 2007

Starwood to manage Four Points Hotel in Kuching

Starwood Asia Pacific Hotels & Resorts Pte Ltd will manage the proposed RM100mil Four Points by Sheraton Hotel to be developed by Global Upline Sdn Bhd at Jalan Airport here.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had performed the earth-breaking ceremony for the hotel project yesterday.

The proposed 12-storey 300-room hotel, which is expected to be operational by Aug 31, is one of the three international standard hotels planned in Sarawak by construction company Global Upline.

The second 220-room hotel will be built at Jalan Tabuan here while the third hotel has been earmarked for Miri.

PM Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and his wife Datin Seri Jeane Abdullah looking at the model of the Four Points Hotel Sheraton in Kuching on Tuesday while Global Upline Chairman Tan Sri Ting Phek Khiing ( 3rd left) and Chief Minister Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud (centre) looks on

The proposed Four Points by Sheraton will form part of a complex which will also house an office tower.

The hotel and office tower blocks will share a common three-storey podium, which will provide shopping and dinning facilities.

Global Upline managing director Datuk Mohamad Daniel Abong and Starwood Asia director Thomas J. Monahan signed the hotel management agreement.

Daniel said the investments in the hotel industry marked Global Upline’s diversification into the hospitality service sector to cater for the expanding tourism industry.

“Our company has grown tremendously in the past eight years and has completed some RM1bil worth of infrastructure projects,” he said at the ceremony.

According to him. the airports and flyover projects that the company have undertaken are all delivered ahead of time, within budget and with high quality.

Asia Pacific Starwood Hotel & Resorts Worldwide Inc president Miguel Ko said the proposed Four Points by Sheraton Hotel would cater for both mid-scale business and leisure travellers.

He said Starwood’s portfolio of hotel company brands also included Sheraton, Westin, St Regis, W Hotels, The Luxury Collection, Le Meridien, Element and Aloft.

“The Four Point by Sheraton brand, with 136 properties in 16 countries, is consistently rated as a top performer in the mid-priced category by business travellers,” Ko said in his message in the souvenir magazine published to mark the proposed hotel ground breaking yesterday.

Source : STAR
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Make Penang a Top Destination for Tourism

MANAGEMENT of tourism products must be improved to strengthen Penang's position om tje Asean tourism ranking, state Tourism Development and Environment committee chairman Teng Chang Yeow said.

He said the challenge was now to make Penang a premier destination in the region and as such measures should be taken to ‘polish’ existing products to woo more tourists.

“We have to look into many aspects to remain competitive in the field. Top Asean de-stinations such as Bali and Phuket depend solely on tourism.

“But for Penang, tourism is the second highest revenue earner after the electronics industry,” he said after opening the International Meatless Day Charity Carnival 2007 at Esplanade in Penang yesterday.

Extra pair of hands: Teng (centre) preparing meatless burgers with the help of stall operator Khoo Boo Yeang. Looking on is carnival organising chairman Pishu Hassaram.
Teng admitted that this year had been a challenging year for Penang.

“We have yet to check if we have achieved the target set for the year. But we do observe a positive growth despite stiffer competition,” he said, adding that the hotels had been recording an average of 20% increase in room bookings.

During the Meatless Day Charity Carnival, a variety of food and drinks that are free from animal products and by-products were sold.

More than 100 stalls were put up.

Proceeds from the sales will be channelled to Penang Seri Cahaya Welfare Home Organisations, Sadhu Vaswani Welfare Fund and Pure Lotus Hospice of Compassion.

Teng said the directory of vegetarian and halal food outlets would be re-designed to make it easier for travellers to carry around.

Source : STAR
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Pesta Sungai Melaka attracts more than 70,000 visitors

River city: A river cruise boat ferrying tourists in a 30-minute journey on the river.

THE tourism industry here has a bright future with the Malacca River rehabilitated and the introduction of more exciting activities.

This was evident at the recent Pesta Sungai Melaka 2007, an eight-day festival along the banks of the river, which attracted more than 70,000 visitors.

In launching the festival, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the state was not banking on its past glory to sell Malacca River as the RM91.2mil beautification project launched last year would bring the river on par with the rivers in Venice, Italy, and San Antonio, Texas.

Fun rides: A decorated boat waiting for people to board.
Over 30 activities were held during the festival including fun-filled activities like wall-climbing, flying fox and archery for the more adventurous at the river mouth along Jalan Quayside in Bandar Hilir.

For others, there were aqua bikes, kayaking and island-hopping on boats.

There were also fireworks displays, a decorated boat parade, motorbike and trishaw parades, traditional games and river cruise trips.

Shanta Devi, 43, from Seremban, said the timing of the river festival close to the Deepavali holidays proved right to attract people.

“I came here with my family after we had done all our Deepavali shopping. There are so many activities and my three children kept pestering me to allow them to get on the ferris wheel and do the bungee jump,” she said.

Celebrative: Various traditional dance performances were held during the pesta in Padang Rempah.
The popular ferris wheel dubbed the Eye on Malacca, bungee jump and the pirate ship are the latest attractions launched during the festival.

Newlywed couple, Isaac Fernandez, 26, and Lucia Hernandez, 25, from Spain, said they were impressed by the beautiful and colourful surroundings at the riverbank.

“It was quite romantic taking the 20-minute river cruise with the colourful lights along the banks and we hope to come again for next year’s festival,” said Isaac.

Chief Minister Mohd Ali Rustam said the festival would help the state's tourism industry soar to greater heights.

He said the festival would be an annual event, adding that next year’s event would be bigger and better.

Source : STAR
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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

MAS named Asia’s best business class airline

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) was recently named Asia’s Leading Business Class Airline by the London-based World Travel Awards.

For business class, MAS beat a field of strong Asian contenders such as Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Korean Air.

MAS was chosen by travel professionals from some 170,000 travel agencies, tour and transport companies, and tourism organisations in more than 160 countries.

“Our employees have worked very hard to improve service delivery as part of our Malaysian hospitality and we believe this award will motivate them to provide even higher standards of customer service,” said MAS managing director and CEO Datuk Seri Idris Jala.

This recognition follows the recent announcement where MAS cabin crew was voted World’s Best Cabin Staff in the World Airline Survey conducted by airline auditor Skytrax.

The World Airline Awards are recognised across the globe as the leading independent monitor of passenger opinions.

Source : STAR
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Hard Rock to excite Penang

The resort is situated on nearly five acres of land with approximately two miles of magnificent beachfront on one of Asia’s most popular island destinations. The property, which aims to infuse new excitement and energy into the market, underscores resurgence in tourism and reflects Hard Rock’s strategy to accelerate expansion of the brand worldwide.

Hard Rock International and Hotel Properties Limited (HPL) announced today their plans to develop a Hard Rock Hotel in Penang, Malaysia. Hard Rock Hotel Penang will be a luxury resort situated along the famous beaches of Batu Ferringhi, hailed as the Pearl of the Orient.

Coupled with Hard Rock’s tradition of providing luxury, quality service and amenities with a unique rock ‘n’ roll edge, this destination resort will bring a unique entertainment element the island has yet to offer.

“We plan to continue our Asian expansion of the Hard Rock brand with unique, new properties – including urban hotel and destination resorts and cafes,” commented Hamish Dodds, President and CEO, Hard Rock International. “We have a long standing and successful partnership with HPL Hotels & Resorts through the Hard Rock Hotel properties in Bali and Pattaya.”

Through a major renovation of the existing property, HPL Hotels & Resorts will completely revamp the existing five-story main building, add additional rooms and maintain one of the two current beachfront bungalows, converting it into a full service luxury spa.

The renovation and expansion will increase guestroom keys from 180 to 255, configured as mostly deluxe rooms with hill, sea, garden or lagoon views. There will also be nine studio suites and one Kings’ suite. Four food and beverage outlets are planned for the resort, which will include a Hard Rock Cafe, an all-day dining restaurant and a bar/lounge.

The resort’s main ballroom and three function rooms offer a total of 5,700 square feet for private events and the meetings, incentives, corporate and exhibitions clientele. Additionally, there will be a fully equipped gym and a specialized kids' club.

A main trademark of the Hard Rock Hotel experience, Hard Rock Hotel Penang will feature an incredible oversized free-form pool, totaling 25,833 square feet, replete with sand islands and luxurious poolside cabanas.

“Penang has eagerly anticipated the entry of an energetic and adventurous hotel brand such as Hard Rock,” says Stephen Lau, Chairman of HPL Hotels & Resorts.

“Our company’s projected growth strategy is to continue to open more resorts and hotels in key Asia-Pacific cities that, in partnership with like-minded associates, will assure our guests a satisfying level of comfort backed by personalized service. Hard Rock Hotel Penang could not be more perfect.”

“The Seminole Tribe of Florida is thrilled about further Hard Rock development in Southeast Asia,” notes Max Osceola Jr., Member of the Seminole Tribal Council, “It’s a testament to the brand that we have such incredible strategic partners and ample opportunity for global growth in such interesting locations. We are looking forward to this groundbreaking new property.”

Declared as “Visit Malaysia Year” by the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Malaysia is expecting an increase in the number of tourist arrivals to reach approximately 20 million in 2007; up from 17.5 million in 2006.

With the “Visit Malaysia Year” 2007 campaign and the State’s efforts to bring back the glory days of tourism to Penang, the island is expected to see a major resurgence in leisure, transient and business travel with robust gains in overall occupancy and average rates.

Source : 4Hoteliers

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Friday, November 09, 2007

AirAsia wins Airlines of the Year Award

Low-cost airline AirAsia made Malaysia proud when it won the Centre of Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) Airline of the year award at the CAPA Aviation Awards for Excellence here last night.

The airline received the award before 300 members of the aviation community at a ceremony held in conjunction with the Aviation Outlook Summit yesterday.

The airline’s group CEO Datuk Tony Fernandes said winning the award was testament of the company’s resilience and cemented AirAsia as the leading and largest airline in Asia.

“This is our best year yet. It exemplifies our endeavour in rising up against the big incumbent players. We have come along way since starting up with only 200,000 passengers six years ago and now we have over 18 million passengers,” he said.

Fernandes said it was a wonder how such a small airline from Malaysia, which started out with RM40mil in debts, could have such an impact on the aviation landscape.

Malaysia also won another award – the Tourism Malaysia bagged the National Tourism Organisation of the Year.

Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Mirza Mohammad Taiyab said it was an acknowledgement of the campaign's success.

“We have finally received the attention of the relevant industry players. The Government has given us strong support,” he said, adding that some 20 million tourists were expected to visit Malaysia this year.

Source : STAR
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New Airline Routes for FireFly

Firefly will be flying to Kota Baru and Langkawi from the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang from Nov 17.

The introduction of additional flights to and from Subang is the airline’s response to public demand.

With the convenient location of the airport at Subang, air travellers in the Klang Valley need not travel far for their short-haul destinations, said Firefly managing director Eddy Leong.

Firefly’s new routes will give additional travel options, what with the upcoming festive season and school holidays.

An introductory price of RM9.99 will be charged for the two new routes. Bookings are now open and travel period is from Nov 17 to March 29 next year.

The Kota Baru-Subang flight will depart at 8am, and return from Subang at 9.20am, reaching Kota Baru at 10.20am.

The Langkawi flight will depart at 3pm for Subang, and 4.35pm for Langkawi. Firefly will also be adding a third flight daily from Subang to Penang at 12.50pm, and leave Penang at 11.30am for Subang.

Bookings can be made via Firefly’s website at, Firefly call centre at 03-7845 4543 (opens daily 8am–9pm) or at its sales office in Komtar, Penang.

For those in the Klang Valley, tickets can be purchased at Firefly’s sales counter at Terminal 3, Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport, Subang.

Source : STAR
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MAS to buy 10 ATR aircraft

Malaysian Airline System Bhd (MAS) yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with ATR in Toulouse, France, for the purchase of 10 ATR 72 500s and an option for five more worth a total of US$285mil.

The purchase was in response to the Government’s request that MASWings, a subsidiary of MAS set up to service the air routes of Sabah and Sarawak, expand its services to the two states.

MAS executive director and chief financial officer Tengku Azmil Zahruddin and ATR chief executive officer Stephane Mayer signed the MoU.

MASWings is expected to take delivery of the first five aircraft in 2009 and the next batch in 2010. ATR is a joint venture between EADS and Alenia Aeronautica. The ATR 72 500 is a turboprop six-blade propeller aircraft.

“The new aircraft will enable MASWings to expand its capacity by 150%.

“This will allow MASWings to meet the future demand in air travel within Sabah and Sarawak and connect more customers worldwide to the two states, which are ideal destinations for business and vacation,” Tengku Azmil said in a joint media release with ATR.

He added that with the fleet expansion, MASWings would progressively add new frequencies in addition to expanding its services to more destinations in Sabah and Sarawak.

MASWings, which started operating in both states on Oct 1 this year, currently has four Fokker F50 and four Twin Otter aircraft.

Meanwhile, OSK Investment Bank senior analyst Chris Eng said the acquisition of the aircraft for MASWings would not impact the country’s flagship airline negatively, as the Government footed the bill.

“It just shows that it is keen on maintaining a good level of service,” he said.

Eng added that the MoU signed between MAS and ATR in July for the purchase of 10 ATR 72 500s with an option to purchase another 10 for MAS’ low-cost carrier, Firefly, was another step in showing that it was serious in expanding the Firefly fleet.

Firefly was launched in April this year in Penang and recently started operations in Subang. It currently has a fleet of two Fokker F50 aircraft.

Source : STAR
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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Foreign companies keen to invest in health tourism in Port Dickson

Two foreign companies have shown interest in investing in the "wellness zone" in Port Dickson, known for its tranquil beaches.

Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai said one of the companies was planning to set up a centre to treat cancer patients there.

The wellness zone is designed to not only treat patients but also to provide a tranquil environment for the sick to recuperate.

A 61km zone in Port Dickson, where international spas and other health tourism facilities would be set up for patients to recuperate, and Nilai have been earmarked for the wellness zone.

Lim, who declined to elaborate on the foreign firms, said the International Trade and Industry Ministry was working with the Finance Ministry on incentives for those who want to operate within the wellness zone.

He said this to reporters after opening a health talk on "Team Up For Healthy Heart" at Pantai Putri Hospital on Sunday.

Lim also suggested that Perak had the potential to set up a wellness zone because of its proximity to Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

He added that foreign patients could be drawn to Perak as the state had a high standard but cheap cost of living.

He noted that revenue from foreign patients seeking medical help in private hospitals in the country had been on the rise.

Last year, he said, some 292,000 foreigners seeking medical treatment in the country brought in a revenue of some RM204mil. In 2005, a total of 232,000 foreign patients brought in a revenue of RM151mil.

He added that the figure was expected to grow further this year.

Source : STAR
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Kuching-Macau flight for RM39.99 by AirAsia

Budget airline AirAsia is offering a four-month promotional fare of RM39.99 for its Kuching-Macau flight, which will be launched on Nov 15.

The fare excludes airport taxes, fuel surcharges and fees, and is for one-way travel.

The thrice-weekly flight is AirAsia’s first international connection from Sarawak.

AirAsia Kuching station manager Shanmugamnathan Suppiah said as Macau was an important gateway to Hong Kong and southern China, the direct service would boost the state's tourism.

Sarawak Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer Gracie Geikkie (centre) shake hand with Air Asia station manager Shanmugamnathan together in picture are Sarawak Tourism Federation President Wee Hon Seng (left).
“The Macau route is highly popular among tourists connecting from southern China, Hong Kong and Macau to Kuala Lumpur,” he told reporters at the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) office in Bangunan Yayasan Sarawak here.

He said AirAsia would consider mounting daily flights if there was good demand from travellers.

STB chief executive officer Gracie Geikie urged local tour operators and hoteliers to come up with special packages to attract expatriates from Macau, and Chinese nationals in the mainland and Hong Kong to spend their holidays in Sarawak.

“ We will meet travel agents and tour operators in Macau, Hong Kong and China to promote the Kuching-Macau service,” she added.

Geikie said the direct flight would reduce travel costs and time for those travelling to Sarawak via Macau and vice-versa.

She also hoped AirAsia would introduce direct flights from Sarawak to other popular destinations like Bangkok.

Source : STAR
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Firefly may fly to Singapore

Another first: Chan receiving passengers on the Firefly inaugural Penang-KL flight in Subang Monday. Next to him (right) is Leong.

Now that AsiaAsia can fly to Singapore, national carrier Malaysia Airlines’ subsidiary Firefly may follow suit.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said that the Government “would certainly give serious consideration” for the national carrier’s subsidiary to fly to the republic from its hub in Subang.

It was a bilateral issue and he would have to raise the matter with his Singapore counterpart at the Asean Transport Ministers Meeting on Thursday, he told newsmen after receiving Firefly’s inaugural flight from Penang, which arrived at the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah airport here at 8am yesterday.

The Cabinet last week agreed to give no-frills carrier AirAsia and Singapore’s Tiger Airways Pte Ltd the go-ahead to start flights between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Another first: Chan receiving passengers on the Firefly inaugural Penang-KL flight in Subang Monday. Next to him (right) is Leong.
MAS expressed disappointment over the opening of the KL-Singapore route on a limited basis and had asked that its 100%-owned Firefly be allowed to fly to Singapore from Subang.

Chan said that the decision to allow Firefly to operate from Subang was an extension of the Government’s earlier policy of only allowing turbo propeller aircraft to operate at the airport.

“After we moved (airlines operations) to KL International Airport, the Government continuously enhanced its position as a hub. But we allowed some operations by turbo propeller aircraft at the Subang airport, such as Berjaya Air,” he said when asked why Firefly was allowed to fly from Subang when an earlier request by rival AirAsia was rejected.

Firefly started operations six months ago, flying from Penang to Langkawi, Kota Baru, Kuala Terengganu, Kuantan, Phuket and Koh Samui. Effective yesterday, it commenced twice daily flights between Subang and Penang.

Firefly managing director Eddy Leong said that the Government had also given it the green light to operate from Johor Baru and Kota Kinabalu, adding that Firefly now could link up with many domestic destinations and cities in Indonesia and southern Thailand.

Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad managing director Datuk Seri Bashir Ahmad said that refurbishment of the Subang airport would be completed in December.

Source : STAR
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Monday, October 29, 2007

Open house for tourists

Foreign tourists had the opportunity to witness Malaysian hospitality when they attended a Hari Raya open house hosted by the Malaysian Tourism Board Malacca branch here.

The function was held at a traditional Malay house in Duyong and the food served included lemang, chicken rendang, ketupat, and Malay kuih like dodol, bahulu, tarts and currypuffs.

Memorable: Buus and his daughters Nanna (second from left) and Freia tasting lemang and chicken rendang offered by Christine Queh at the open house in Duyong, Malacca, recently.
Danish tourist Soren Buus learnt how to sit cross-legged before trying out the dishes with the assistance of state tourism employees.

“It is a new experience I will not forget. My wife and two daughters also loved it,” he said.

Buus said they were amazed by local people using their hands to eat, adding that “once we tried it, we liked it.”

“This my first time at a traditional Malay village, although I have been here for six weeks,” he said

Singaporean Therese Tan said that similar food could be found in Singapore, but it was difficult to enjoy the traditional Malay village environment back home.

State tourism director Ahmad Johanif Mohd Ali said this was the second year a Hari Raya open house was hosted.

“Our intention is to provide an opportunity for foreigners to have the feeling of a celebration in a traditional Malay house,” he said.

He said that more than 100 foreigners from various hotels in the state attended the open house.

Source : STAR
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Terengganu to have international aviation hub

The Sultan Mahmud Airport here will be elevated to an international aviation hub to complement the vigorous development programme under East Coast Economic Region (ECER).

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who announced the elevation of the airport status, said this would enable Terengganu to become the gateway to the ECER as well as a major tourism and education hub.

"Although the Sultan Mahmud airport will be the gateway for the ECER, the airports in Kota Baru and Kuantan will be also upgraded to improve," he said at the launching of the ECER at Batu Burok here, on Monday.

Abdullah said the Sultan Mahmud airport was undergoing renovation at a cost of RM123mil and would also see an extension to its runway to enable bigger aircrafts to land.

Abdullah also unveiled several ECER goodies for Terengganu including the Kuala Terengganu City Centre (KTCC) to transform this sleepy hallow into a high impact urban development to signify the town's multi modal role as tourism and investment gateway.

The Prime Minister also announced that Kuala Terengganu would be turned into an ICT nerve centre for ECER with the establishment of the International Business Exchange in Bukit Rakit and the setting up of a global animation hub to create high-end programmes for Hollywood, Korean, Japanese and local production houses.

Terengganu will also become the region's educational hub with the establishment of the 283ha Taman Ilmu (Knowledge Park) that will house six universities and several industrial training centres.

Source : STAR
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Hotel Sector high on Investors’ Radar Screen

FOREIGN groups are coming in greater numbers to acquire hotels in Malaysia, especially in the Klang Valley, to take advantage of the good value and expected strong growth in the industry.

Last year, a whopping 85% of the value of hotel transactions in the country was by foreigners compared with 44% in 2005.

»I think we are going to see a consolidation of hotel ownership« PREVINDRAN SINGHE
Foreign investments in hotels grew by 64% last year with foreigners, including regional chain players, hotel funds, foreign investment funds and individuals, making up 42% of the ownership of 4- and 5-star hotels in Kuala Lumpur now.

According to Zerin Properties chief executive officer Previndran Singhe, the growing interest among foreigners in the hotel sector was triggered by the strong growth in the tourism sector and the economy.

Generally the foreign investors were from the region and the Middle East, he said, adding that there was also a growing interest from investors in Singapore, Thailand and Europe and American funds and hotel chains.

“The advent of low-cost carriers and the strong tourism drive may create an insatiable appetite for hotels,” Previndran told StarBiz.

In the past few years, Zerin Properties has concluded a number of hotel transactions within and outside the country for foreign groups.

“We are basically hotel dealmakers in the region. We are in the midst of concluding a sale in Indochina and selling a resort in the Philippines, and has been appointed by a Middle East fund to negotiate the purchase of hotels in the region.”

Previndran said Zerin was also involved in hotel sales in Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Australia and other emerging markets.

As the exclusive agent for the asset disposal programme of the Sheraton Chain of Hotels in Malaysia, it concluded the sale of the 207-room Sheraton Perdana in Langkawi for RM77.5mil and the 267-room Sheraton Kuantan for RM36.6mil in 2005.

It was also involved in the sale of the 149-room Merlin Johor Baru for RM10.46mil and the 66-room Merlin Inn in Cameron Highlands for RM13.5mil.

Last year, the 100-room Grand Centerpoint in Kuala Lumpur was sold for RM12.5mil, and the latest deal was the sale of the 91-room Four Seasons in Langkawi for RM435mil.

The 452-room Westin Kuala Lumpur was sold for RM455mil in 2006, or a whopping RM1mil a room
“Malaysia has some of the finest hotels in the region and the growing number of foreign brands and players is adding a new dimension to the local hospitality sector.

“The hotels here are on par with other international markets and the local industry is leading in terms of product innovation through products such as The Datai, Hilton Batang Ai and Tune Hotel.

“New hotels coming in with truly leading designs include Maya Hotel and KL Hilton, which are niche in their market positioning and are market leading,” Previndran said.

Renovation work to spruce up some of the leading existing hotels such as Shangri-La Kuala Lumpur, Sheraton Imperial and The Regent is also underway.

With the tourism drive, average room rates (ARR) for 5-star hotels have moved up by at least 20% over the past two years while other categories of hotels have recorded an ARR increase of to 5% 10%.

Hotel occupancy rates in the Klang Valley have also increased from the mid-60's two years ago to about 70% now.

In August, 4- and 5-star hotels recorded an average occupancy rate of 86% while the average room rate climbed to RM361 from below RM300 previously.

“Moving forward, I think we are going to see a consolidation of hotel ownership – from fragmented ownership to chain ownership, and maybe even a hospitality-based real estate investment trust (REIT) like the Starwood REIT in the US.

“These consolidated owners will be locals and foreigners from the region who are already chain owners. There is also a strong Middle Eastern interest coming into the market, mainly in the premium properties,” Previndran said.

He said more top class brands, such as Conrad and Intercontinental, were expected to come into the market in the near future.

“On the other end of the spectrum, more chain-based limited service hotels in the likes of Ibis, Formula 1 and Holiday Inn Express will also be making its presence felt. I also see interest in resort locations picking up tremendously.”

Around the region, Previndran said Vietnam was experiencing a boom in the hotel industry due to shortage of good hotels.

“We see strong opportunities in the Vietnamese cities and resorts for premium and limited service hotels.

“The Philippines is also a good market as the population base is big and its islands are truly a big attraction for the Korean and Japanese markets.

“Australia is also another strong market, with Sydney being the most visited city in the Asia-Pacific.”

Source : STAR
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