Monday, July 30, 2007

MAS cabin staff are best

Malaysia Airlines won the “World’s Best Cabin Staff” award at the World Airlines Award 2007 organised by Skytrax.

MAS took the top position in the 11-month survey, which was conducted between August last year and June. .

The survey is regarded as the primary benchmarking tool for passenger satisfaction levels of airlines throughout the world.

MAS managing director Datuk Idris Jala said he was “very proud of our cabin crew and their outstanding performance.”

“Our crew treat our customers as guests in our own home. They are natural, spontaneous, determined and willing to demonstrate the best of Malaysian hospitality.

“This will go a long way in building our brand, customer value and relationship,” he added.

Focused on the quality of onboard customer experience, the Skytrax survey also looked at the “soft service” provided, including cabin staff friendliness, enthusiasm and attentiveness, and sincerity as well as consistency in service delivery besides general service efficiency.

The worldwide survey data for the award involved more than 3 million respondents representing over 90 different passenger nationalities.

Skytrax Research of London is the specialist research advisor to the air transport industry. It is an independent organisation with 18 years experience in airline research.

Source : STAR
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Putrajaya received 1.3m tourists since 2000

The administrative capital has recorded over 1.3 million tourist arrivals since 2000, but authorities believe the amount could be five times higher.

Putrajaya Corporation (PJC) President Tan Sri Samsudin Osman said tourist arrivals to Putrajaya had been increasing steadily.

He attributed the increase in tourist arrivals to the host of attractions found in the area and also to many events that had been and were being organised in Putrajaya.

For instance, he said, the Putrajaya Floria 2007 (a nine-day flower and garden festival that would take off on Aug 25) and the Arts Festival would attract thousands of visitors to Putrajaya.

He said on average of 200,000 people visited Putrajaya annually, and in 2003 the figure was 312,696 people.

He told this to reporters at the annual Putrajaya Treasure Hunt here on Sunday.

An official from the corporation said the actual number of visitors to Putrajaya could be five times more than the annual average as not all tourists registered their visits.

"We don't have a comprehensive system yet to gauge the exact number of people visiting Putrajaya."

"The figure we have comes from those visiting Dataran Putrajaya and the Putra Mosque," said the official.

He added that in future PJC, through its soon-to-be launched Putrajaya Tourism Action Council, would carry out a detailed survey to determine the tourist arrivals.

"Easily about 40 tour buses make stops at Putrajaya on a daily basis, while there are also people driving in private cars and those who visit our parks and take the lake cruise.

"Based on all these we believe that the figure recorded is not reflective of the actual number of visitors to Putrajaya," he said.

The official also said the lake cruise was a popular tourist attraction, apart from the many parks and the magnificent architecture of the Buildings.

Source : STAR
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Best Western Premier Seri Pacific Hotel celebrates first anniversary the fun way

The Best Western Premier Seri Pacific Hotel Kuala Lumpur celebrated its first anniversary last week in a merry mood and dished out interesting treats to the public.

With the tagline “Service from the Heart”, the former Pan Pacific KL marked its one-year operation by launching a taxi campaign at 11am.

Some 500 cabbies dropped by the hotel lobby to receive goodie bags containing cakes, passenger seat organisers, hotel's brochures, flyers and Tourism Malaysia info materials, as well as mini danglers.

Take a wild guess: Jean F Wasser asking a guest to guess the weight of the jackfruit.
Inside the hotel, the next highlight was the “All Yours to Savour” buffet spread.

Before noon, crowd started to build up and people were seen making a beeline for the restaurants – Zende, Xuang Xi and Kofuku.

These restaurants served a wide variety of food, including international and local fusions, Chinese dim sum as well as Japanese cuisine, at only RM25++ per person.

The hotel's resident band, D'Sophisticates, along with Batak Band Los Gosmos and Symphony Orchestra were on hand to entertain the guests with their performances.

Besides enjoying the food, the guests also had the chance to take part in the “Weight Guess Draw” contest.

A jackfruit was displayed at the hotel's lower lobby and any guest who guessed the weight correctly was the winner.

“My vision for this hotel is to have more activities and build the image of an active hotel. We hope that with the rebranding efforts, we can attract more people to comeand of course come again,” said hotel general manager Jean F Wasser.

The hotel is managed by Residence Hotels & Resorts.

Source : STAR
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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Jetstar launches low-cost KL-Sydney flights

Australia's Jetstar has announced that the first low-cost direct long-haul flights between Kuala Lumpur and Sydney will take off Sept 9 with a special web-only offer from RM88 upwards for a one-way ticket.

However, bookings have to be made between now and 10pm tomorrow, Wednesday, July 25.

The offer is for two travel periods spanning Sept 9-20 this year and Feb 3-28 next year. The standard economy fare at other periods would be RM488, excluding surcharges and taxes.

The company hopes to have three weekly flights, subject to regulatory approval, it said at a presentation to travel industry representatives here Tuesday.

"Jetstar has sought to take a price leadership position in all international markets it serves," David May, general manager of marketing, said in a statement.

The company would also modify its "Double the Difference" voucher guarantee to include its KL-Sydney route.

"If any customer who finds a lower fare online against a Jetstar International flight on the same long-haul city pair, such as KL-Sydney, on the same travel date ... we will double the difference when the Jetstar fare is purchased," he said.

Jetstar currently has five other international destinations -- Bangkok, Phuket, Ho Chi Minh City, Denpasar and Osaka.

Source : STAR
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Only RM10 to Australia with AirAsia X

For less than RM10, passengers can fly from here to Australia come early September when low-cost carriers AirAsia X and Jetstar begin their separate operations.

AirAsia X, the country’s first long-haul budget airline, is expected to start its first flight between here and an Australian east-coast city on Sept 8.

Insiders said the Malaysian airline is expected to start its promotional one-way fare at RM9.90.

A day later on Sept 9, Jetstar - the low-cost subsidiary of Qantas - will start its operations from here to Sydney.

For starters, Jetstar is offering fares from RM88 for one-way travel in September and February. This does not include taxes and surcharges, which come to a total of RM409.50.

The offer is valid till 10pm today and travellers can book online at or call 1800-813-090.

Jetstar’s one-way fare for October and November is RM488 excluding taxes and surcharges.

Jetstar will also offer 36 business-class seats, and the one-way fare for the route is RM1,488, excluding taxes.

“Our fares will be about 20% cheaper than those offered by full-service carriers,” Jetstar general manager for marketing David May told a press conference yesterday.

For comparison, the cheapest return economy fare on Malaysia Airlines is RM2,734.80.

FAX chief executive officer Azran Osman-Rani said, “On the average, our fare will be about 30% to 50% cheaper than the full service carrier.”

AirAisa X is likely to announce its first destination tomorrow, he said when asked about the announcement of Jetstar’s flight between here and Sydney.

The thrice-weekly Jetstar flights will operate out of KLIA on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, departing Sydney at 12.15pm and KLIA at 8.15pm.

Though Jetstar is a low-cost carrier, May said they had opted for KLIA because the “price difference in landing and parking charges offered by the Malaysian authorities was too insignificant to the LCCT.”

Jetstar’s Australian operation is wholly owned by Qantas but is managed separately, and operates independently with its Australian headquarters in Melbourne.

Its intra-Asian operation is a Singapore-based partnership involving Qantas (49%), local businessmen Tony Chew (22%) and F.F. Wong (10%) and Temasek Holdings (19%), with the hub in Singapore. Besides operating a domestic service in Australia, Jetstar also flies to six international destinations – Bangkok, Phuket, Ho Chi Minh City, Denpasar, Nagoya and Osaka.

Flights from Sydney to KLIA are just the start of Jetstar’s journey into Malaysia.

Source : STAR
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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Shortage of locals forcing Hospitality Industry to hire Foreigners

The acute shortage of locals as frontliners in the hospitality and service industry has forced employers to hire foreigners for the job, but this does not reflect the Malaysian identity.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor attributed the shortage to locals considering that jobs such as waiters, waitresses and receptionists as low-paying jobs.

He said that industry players’ use of foreign workers as frontliners did not reflect the Malaysian identity.

“It is sad to say that the industry is highly dependent on foreign workers as front liners,” he told reporters after opening the two-day Asia Human Resource Development (HRD) congress here on Tuesday.

“We (the Government) are now looking for ways to ensure that the industry can stop depending on foreign workers as front liners.”

He said the ministry would get feedback from several government agencies, including the Human Resources Ministry and the Education Ministry, on how to train locals for such jobs at vocational and technical schools.

Tengku Adnan said the country was churning local graduates but it did not mean that they would be assured of jobs upon graduation.

He said that graduates should not just choose to become first-line managers upon graduating but be willing to be promoted through the rank and file.

“They shouldn’t be embarrassed to choose such jobs. They are noble professions. Even I started off as a cleaner. I was cleaning the toilet."

He said there was also a shortage of janitors, plumbers, electricians and mechanics.

“These days it is a headache to get janitors, plumbers, electricians and mechanics to repair things at hotels and restaurants. That is the problem we are facing.”

He said the problem needed to be solved so that the industry’s human resources development would be strengthened and be on par with that of Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia and the Philippines.

On whether the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 campaign would be affected if an early general elections were held, he said : “It will not affect the Visit Malaysia Year. Whatever happens, we are confident that we will achieve our target of RM44.5bil receipts and 20.1 million tourist arrivals.”

He said last year the country achieved close to RM37bil in tourism receipts, which surpassed its target of RM33bil because of increase of day trips by tourists from Singapore and Thailand.

Source : STAR
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Special channels for tourism

Radio and television will have special tourism channels to disseminate information on destinations and interesting events.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said the ministry was having discussions with the relevant ministries on the special channels.

“With these channels, we can promote tourist destinations as well as disseminate information on interesting events for the benefit of the public and tourists,” he said in replying to Senator Datuk Soon Tian Szu in the Dewan Negara yesterday.

Soon had wanted to know whether the government would have its own television channel to promote Malaysia’s tourism products.

In response to a question from Senator Chiw Tiang Chai, on the promotion of Malacca as a tourist destination, Tengku Adnan said Tourism Malaysia had taken various measures, including publishing English and Malay magazines and brochures, depicting various places of interest in the state.

Source : STAR
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Open skies and the MAS-AirAsia discord

Excerpts from an interview with AirAsia 's Tony Fernandes

STARBIZ: Why does AirAsia need the two daily flights into Singapore?

Datuk Tony Fernandes: If Malaysia wants to become a low-cost carrier (LCC) hub, it needs to be connected to at least all the major cities in Asean. Right now, AirAsia is in three of the four major cities – Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Bangkok – and only Singapore is left.

With passengers coming to KL, they have an option of flying within Malaysia and Asean. If we do not offer the Singapore connection at cheaper rates than the current RM800 for a round trip, these passengers would just bypass us and use Tiger Airways instead. Not opening the route, to us, is a missed opportunity for AirAsia.

Next year, the Singapore Grand Prix will begin and we can potentially do a lot of advertising to get the hundreds and thousands of people who descend at the races to see parts of Malaysia if they can find a cheaper way to fly into KL.

They can fly to Langkawi, Penang, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching if they come into Malaysia.

Datuk Tony Fernandes

In your view, why is MAS objecting to a possible early timeline?

Did anyone wait for AirAsia to be of a certain size? From the start, we were up against an airline that had subsidies, enough aircraft and support from the Government.

Just look at us. Five years ago we had just two planes and today, we carry 18 million passengers. We did not have 62 labs or 20 management consultants telling us what to do or 17 code names. It was survival for us and now look at our growth. No one protected us and today, MAS has a bigger market capitalisation than ours and its profits are double that of ours. So why is one national champion trying to hold back the growth of the other? What encouragement is there for other entrepreneurs in this marketplace if our growth is held back?

Look at the CIMB group. It is now a regional bank but not once did Datuk Nazir Razak talk about protection in Malaysia even when CIMB had to compete with banks like Maybank or even Public Bank.

So Idris (MAS managing director Datuk Idris Jala) needs to take a global view. It is a free market out there. Why stop others from growing? I am really surprised at what he said. He should not be scared for MAS. For one, he has better employees; we know that as we have hired some of them!

He talked about Firefly (MAS’ budget carrier based in Penang). He said that Firefly could not fly to where AirAsia was flying. I have no issue with that if Firefly wants to fly anywhere but we should also be flying wherever it flies. We are even thinking of flying the Penang-Kota Baru route and we could even fly to Koh Samui when the runway is made bigger. If MAS wants to fly from Penang to JB on a Fokker, we have no issue on that.

They even have Subang even though we fought so hard to stay back in Subang. Maybe Idris has opened something interesting for us, i.e. Subang. We can both operate from Subang.

We even support the idea of a bullet train linking both the cities and welcome Australia’s Jetstar to fly into Malaysia. Look at India. It has just decided on an open skies policy with Malaysia and that means a lot more competition.

We welcome competition even though we would be flying to Amritsar. We must not be afraid of competition. It is time to get rid of the chip on our shoulders. We are as good as Singapore and we can take them on. Just get that inferiority complex off.

How many Singaporeans currently fly AirAsia from Johor Baru?

About 30%-40% of our load factor from JB. From my recent trip, I found out that a lot of the youths in Singapore want to fly with us.

Would Singapore allow AirAsia to fly into Changi as previously that was not possible?

At one stage, they were a stumbling block but that has changed. Singapore also needs connectivity and it too has budget airlines, so their interest is protected.

What if AirAsia does not get the two flights to Singapore this year?

It puts us back a year and it would be a blow to FAX. We ordered 15 Airbus and that means we have a lot of seats. We want to tap into the Singapore market for our long-haul flights to Amritsar, Hangzhou, Stansted and Australia. Come on, this is Visit Malaysia Year and what we need is connectivity. We should be talking about tourism in Malaysia.

The Government is planning to build a new LCC hub at KLIA to cater for over 30 million passengers and it would be one of the biggest LCC airports in the region. Imagine the LCC without a link to Singapore; would it be feasible? It is just like saying to the world there should be no link from Heathrow to Paris for the LCCs. Can you imagine the low-cost industry without Paris? That should tell you why Singapore should be in.

I have fought so hard all these years for us to be what we are. Our workers have been with us and they deserve credit, as without them, we would not have grown to this size. They deserve to get their bonuses and salary increases for they have managed to ride the tide in difficult times during the severe acute respiratory syndrome, tsunami, and having to compete with an airline that is subsidised.

AirAsia today is a Malaysian global brand and it has done an awesome job. We do not have unions but we still deliver the best. I think they should not be shortchanged anymore. We need Singapore to give our staff more and our passengers the link.

Our shareholders are also very important, the individual shareholders and institutional such as the Employees’ Provident Fund and Tabung Haji, for they believe in our growth story. We have letters from them asking when we can fly to Singapore and I cannot answer them.

Would the Government allow AirAsia to fly from Subang?

Maybe. We do not mind any form of competition, provided it is fair and it is better for Malaysia.

What are the key routes that AirAsia X needs to be successful?

London and Australia are important. We would fly to London via Stansted. In Australia, we are looking at Avalon or Newscastle. We would not want to go where MAS flies, but at some point in time, we would need to go where MAS is going.

Source : STAR
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New Five Star Hotel Regulation with minimum set rate of RM275

The Government has imposed tighter criteria for hotel ratings in a move to ensure better quality hotel service and facilities.

Additionally, ratings for hotel apartments have also been introduced to achieve the same objectives.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said the ministry has added five criteria in its rating scheme.

“They include providing WiFi access for all floors in a hotel building, tightening the marking system for hotel ratings, promoting warmer welcome practices a la Malaysia and requiring hotels to send feedback forms from hotel guests straight to the ministry.

“The main change, however, involves the criteria for a hotel to be given a five-star rating,” said Tengku Adnan.

He said five-star hotels would now have to provide 24-hour room service, ensure
shops and restaurants in the hotel operated for a minimum of 18 hours (depending
on approval of local authorities) and use only Malaysian-themed
A minimum price of US$80 (RM275) for room charges per night must also be
implemented, while at least five satellite TV programmes – sports, children,
news and two movie channels – are also required.

Tengku Adnan said the steps were necessary to ensure hotels were given appropriate ratings, which translated to either a star or an orchid rating. Orchid ratings are given to hotels which do not qualify for the one to five-star rating requirements.

All hotels will be rated based on their qualitative and aesthetic requirements, common areas, bedroom requirements, services, safety and hygiene standards, and staff.

These standards, for both star and orchid rating, were according to guidelines set by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, and adjusted to local cultures.

Speaking at the ministry’s office here, Tengku Adnan said the introduction of hotel apartment ratings was to ensure all tourist accommodation premises could be rated.

“This move will also allow us to improve and monitor hotel apartment service and facilities, and streamline their standards,” he said, adding that there were 430 personnel in the ministry’s Hotel Monitoring Team.

Tengku Adnan said there was a need for more personnel, as there were 992 registered hotels in addition to more than 2,200 tourist accommodation premises nationwide.

“We’ve received many complaints from tourists and locals alike that our hotels are not up to their standards, and this is where the ministry aims to put its foot down.

“It is important for us to maintain an image of Malaysia as a family-oriented holiday destination, and most definitely, good hotel service and facilities is a step in the right direction,” said Tengku Adnan.

Source : STAR
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Pakistan, Malaysia sign MoU on tourism cooperation

Pakistan and Malaysia have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in tourism sector between the two countries. The MoU was signed by Shahid Rafi, Secretary Tourism and Datuk Dr Victor Wec, Secretary General Ministry of Tourism of Malaysia at Kuala Lumpur, says a massage from Kuala Lumpur received here Monday.The MoU aims at promoting tourism through cooperation in training and publicity materials, holding of meetings, conventions, travel marts, trade fairs and investments in the field of tourism between the two countries.

The step has been taken in the backdrop of Pakistan-Malaysia Travel Mart held in Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur, organized by Pakistan High Commission to bring together the tour operators of Pakistan and Malaysia for cross selling and networking of tourist flows between the two countries and beyond.

Source : Travel Weekly
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Malaysian agent woos Indian wedding couples

TOURLAND Travel, one of the main travel agents specialising in the Indian market, has extended its leisure and MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events) business to include co-ordinating wedding arrangements for brides and grooms from the Indian subcontinent who want to get married in Malaysia.

Managing director, Mr A Aruldass, said this upper-middle class wedding segment was a new market with potential for growth as Malaysia was a value-for-money destination. He added the expertise of local Indian musicians and bridal make-up artistes could be tapped locally, thus reducing the cost of bringing such professionals over from India. "Travelling to Malaysia and holding a wedding at a five-star hotel here would cost about 30 per cent less than having to travel to a five-star hotel in another state in India," Mr Aruldass said.

Mr Aruldass has co-ordinated three Indian weddings this year, each with an average size of 300 guests.

He is now working with wholesalers and travel agents in India to promote Malaysia as a wedding destination. Tourland will also participate in all of Tourism Malaysia's India roadshows which will cover metro cities.

Source : TTG
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Making Sabah a sanctuary for shoppers

Sabah would inevitably conjure images of the famed Mount Kinabalu and the diving haven of Pulau Sipadan.

There is also the orang utan, Borneo pygmy elephants and the yearly Kaamatan or Harvest Festival of the Kadazandusun community.

Sabah’s tourism promotion efforts have until now largely focused on the state’s nature and cultural attractions.

That is all about to change and Sabah can take its place among the shopping destinations in Asia in about eight months.

Designer brands like Cortina Watch, Guess, BYSI, Southhaven, Edmundser, Bega,
Esprit, Hang Ten, Charles and Keith, Royal Sporting House, Elianto, Tomei, Blush
and Salabianca are heading to the state capital.

They are setting up shop at the mammoth 1Borneo hypermall that will open its doors come March next year.

Raymond Chan
With some 600 shop lots scattered over a total floor area of nearly 140,000sq m, 1Borneo is a tad smaller than Kuala Lumpur’s Mid Valley Megamall in terms of retail space.

But there is more to 1Borneo. The largest shopping complex in Borneo will have four hotels with a total of about 800 rooms slated to be operational late next year.

Among them are the no frills Tune Hotel affiliated with budget airline AirAsia, Novotel and the Grand Boulevard. There are two blocks of 800 mid-level condominiums and the proposed 114 super condominiums. All these will push the total built up area at 1Borneo to a staggering 445,000 sq m.

Jointly developed by Sagajuta (Sabah) Sdn Bhd, a division of construction giant Ramajuta Group and the United Sabah Islamic Association, that owns the 9.4ha site, 1Borneo promises to add another dimension to what Sabah can offer to its 2.5 million annual visitors.

“The push for eco and cultural tourism is fine but shopping is an important element for travellers these days, particularly Asians,” Sagajuta managing director Raymond Chan said.

He reckons the RM1bil 1Borneo is at “the right place at the right time” with the advent of the Asean open skies policy by 2009 and with budget airlines like AirAsia in operations.

Chan said the mall would redefine shopping in this part of the world as about 40% of foreign brands setting up shop in 1Borneo were new to the country.

“Currently when Sabahans want to shop for branded stuff the first choice would likely be Kuala Lumpur. Soon there will be more reason for people from the peninsula to come to Sabah for some serious shopping at 1Borneo apart from the mountain and the islands.”

The immediate catchment area for 1Borneo is Kota Kinabalu’s 800,000 population and those who live within 20 km of the city’s vicinity. Universiti Malaysia Sabah with 16,000 students and staff and the spanking new Federal department complex or “mini Putrajaya” is just a stone’s throw away.

Chan also believes 1Borneo will be big enough to pull in not only those from various districts but also Bruneians.

It comes as no surprise that Sagajuta is targeting 50,000 visitors daily on weekdays and up to 70,000 on weekends when 1Borneo opens. “We are certain there will be numerous repeat visitors,” Chan said.

As construction of 1Borneo reaches its final stages, Chan has assembled a management team that includes Singaporean expert Wong Chee Hwa who has 25 years experience in mall and property management.

Wong, who is 1Borneo's operations manager, said some RM2.5mil has been allocated for advertising and promotions for the few months before and after the opening of 1Borneo. “It will be unforgettable because I want 1Borneo to take off with a bang,” he said.

And after the glitzy opening, those coming to 1Borneo would find a “classy” but affordable place for shopping, Chan said.

“By then Sabah will no longer just be known for its nature but also for some real serious retail therapy,” he added.

Source : STAR
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Monday, July 23, 2007

Virgin Group to take stake in Fly Asian Xpress

Richard Branson's Virgin Group will sign an agreement next month to take a 20 percent stake in Fly Asian Xpress Sdn. Bhd., the new long-haul budget airline owned by the main shareholders of Malaysia's AirAsia, executives familiar with the plan said Monday.

Branson's Virgin Group Ltd. is scheduled to sign an agreement Aug. 10 to take the stake in FAX for about 24 million ringgit (US$6.9 million; euro5.0 million), pending approval from the Malaysia's Foreign Investment Committee, which oversees all foreign investments, one of the executives told Dow Jones Newswires.

AirAsia, the region's most prominent low-cost carrier, will exercise an option to buy just under 20 percent of FAX as well, the executive said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the negotiations.

FAX is presently 100 percent owned by AirAsia's founders, including its chief executive Tony Fernandes and deputy chief executive Kamarudin Meranun.

The fundraising will allow FAX to partially finance its operational expenses and buy new aircraft, another executive said.

On completion of the stake sale, FAX will have a paid-up capital of 120 million ringgit (US$34 million; euro25 million) and will mull an option to sell more shares to further strengthen its balance sheet, the executive said.

FAX, which plans to launch low-cost flights from Malaysia to India, China and Europe later this year, recently agreed to buy 15 wide-body A330-300 aircraft from Airbus, with the first new A330 to be delivered in the third-quarter of next year.

The airline has a 30-year license to use the AirAsia brand and facilities.

The airline is seen as a test of whether the highly successful low-cost airline model can be profitable on long-haul flights, which are dominated by full-service airlines.

Source : STAR
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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Most planes for MAS rural service ready by then, says Chan

Malaysia Airlines has been told to take over the rural air services from Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) on Oct 1 – as had been decided by the Government.

This is despite protest from MAS that repairs on 12 aircraft, which were under dispute in an audit report, could affect the timing of the takeover and that it would be more comfortable starting operations on Dec 1.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy said this was because by this date most of the planes would have been ready for operations.

“However, the Government will not compromise on the safety of our air passengers. The Department of Civil Aviation is keeping a stringent check on the Fokker 50 and Twin Otter aircraft to ensure that they are airworthy.

“Those that are not suitable to be flown will be grounded for maintenance,” he told reporters after launching TNT’s new expanded facility at KL International Airport’s cargo complex yesterday.

Chan was commenting on a statement by MAS that it wanted the 12 aircraft disputed in an audit report by Singapore’s Fokker Services Asia Pte Ltd to be repaired before beginning operations as it was not willing to put the lives of passengers at risk.

MAS managing director Datuk Idris Jala had said that although the airline was prepared to undertake repairs – estimated to cost RM40mil – it would not pay for them.

Chan added that the Fokker 50 and Twin Otter aircraft would be put under general maintenance by MAS.

“By Aug 1, total fleet management of these aircraft, including maintenance, record-keeping, recovery service, planning of maintenance and the logistics of spare parts will be carried out by MAS,” he said.

Asked if the Government had decided who should pay for the cost of repairs, Chan said this question would be settled between all the stakeholders.

On the Asean Open Skies policy, Chan said the Government would stick to the aviation roadmap for the total liberation of flights between capital to capital by Jan 1, 2009.

“However, we are prepared to look into the limited flights between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. This is a bilateral issue, which needs to be discussed with Singapore.

“Other airlines, particularly low-cost carriers in Singapore, are also looking into the possibility of flying into Kuala Lumpur and other parts,” he said, adding that this was not a straightforward issue.

Source : STAR
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Air Asia Bangkok - KK Route Axed?

AT ABOUT 100m above ground, the battle for domination for the armrest between seat 12b and 12c in the Thai AirAsia flight from Bangkok to Kota Kinabalu began just after take off.

The man who unceasingly picked his nose seized control when he plunked his left elbow on the armrest that separated us. I felt constricted sitting on the leather seat of 12b, as my right hand did not have enough elbowroom. As much as I wanted to elbow that man out of Boeing 737, I needed him, however.

And I was happy to learn that the flight was 98% full. On Aug 22, last year, my heart plummeted when I read in The Nation that Thai AirAsia planned to drop its three-times-a-week flight between Bangkok and Kota Kinabalu due to low demand.

The route has a soft spot in my heart because AirAsia is the only airline that has a direct flight between the two destinations. And if the budget carrier cancelled the 170-minute flight, it would cost me more money and time to fly from Bangkok, where I am based, to the arms of my loved ones in Sabah, which is my home state.

For example, I would have to travel 125 minutes from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur and then take a 150-minute flight from Kuala Lumpur to Kota Kinabalu. And that does not even include transit time in the Low Cost Carrier Terminal at KL International Airport.

But thanks to passengers such as the one seated on 12c, my direct route home was not dropped.

“We continued the flight because of large demand for the route,” explained Thai AirAsia CEO Tassapon Bijleveld in a quick interview in Bangkok during the Thai budget airline’s third anniversary celebration in November last year.

On Oct 21, 2004, Thai AirAsia launched the route. One of the reasons for introducing the route was because the airline wanted to tap into the 35 million tourists who visited Thailand.

“After visiting Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Phuket, tourists want to visit an alternative place and we think that Sabah, with its mountain-high to ocean-deep attractions, is one of the places they would want to go,” said Tassapon.

One of the challenges, he said, of getting his countrymen to fly to Kota Kinabalu was that “Sabah was unknown to most Thais.”

Then, in May, Thai AirAsia dropped the route. And the Malaysian-owned budget airline, AirAsia, took over. Although AirAsia’s scheduling was not convenient (Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday compared with Thai AirAsia’s Tuesday, Friday and Sunday which allowed a quick weekend break to Sabah for me), I was relived that there was still a direct flight between my workplace and my hometown.

A loyal passenger who was equally relieved was Wiphawee Baosathorn, a 25-year-old Thai who is married to a Sabahan. She flies between the two cities once in three months.

Previously, returning to her hometown in Songkla, Thailand was an expensive and once-in-two-years journey. Now she pays about RM400 to RM500 for a return ticket compared with about RM1,400. The direct flight has also allowed Wiphawee to afford a business buying clothes and shoes in Bangkok and selling them in Labuan.

At Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, Carol Raymond, who was clutching several shopping bags, was in jovial mood although her return flight to her hometown, Kota Kinabalu, was delayed for two hours.

The 24-year-old make up artist did not mind the delay as the flight connected her with her two passions – “shopping in cheap Bangkok and Thai food.”

“If not for this flight, I can’t afford to visit Bangkok so often,” she told me last year.

Whenever I boarded the flight that was usually 60% full, I wished for more loyal passengers like Carol and Wiphawee as I was fearful AirAsia would cancel the route.

Unofficially, an AirAsia personnel told me the cancellation was due to unfavourable load factor. After July 31, the route from Bangkok to Kota Kinabalu will be less direct.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

RM180m allocated for Malaysians to set up restaurants abroad

The Finance Ministry has allocated RM180mil to give loans to Malaysians who want to set up restaurants overseas through the MalaysiaKitchen programme.

"MalaysiaKitchen is an effort by the government to promote awareness and understanding of the country through food.

"We also want to encourage the usage of local agricultural products like rambutan, mangosteen, durians and also our spices,” said Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Ng Yen Yen.

She said to qualify for the loan the business must be registered in Malaysia with 70% Malaysian ownership.

The menu of the restaurant must include at least 70% Malaysian food and the raw ingredients should also be sourced locally.

The decor must be of a Malaysian theme and 10% of space has to be set aside for exhibition and demonstration of Malaysian arts and craft and agricultural products.

Loan applications must be through the Exim Bank Malaysia. There is an interest rate of 3% per annum.

There is a processing fee of RM2,000 or 0.1% of the financing amount, whichever is higher.

“At the moment, we have about 400 Malaysian Kitchens around the world. We hope to bring the figure up to 8,000,” said Ng at the launch of “Best of Beijing” food promotion at Nikko Hotel Kuala Lumpur’s Toh Lee Chinese Restaurant.

Ng said to continue attracting visitors to the country, the Malaysian hospitality industry must invent and innovate.

“We need new products, new type of food, and new type of experiences,” she said.

She said with globalisation and with the number of tourists travelling around the world, food definitely plays a very important role.

“Food, glorious food. Love blossoms over food. Business deals and even international policies are settled over food. Tourists today not only go to a destination to look at beautiful places or to shop but also to taste the food,” said Ng.

She hopes that with more MalaysianKitchens being set up overseas, tourists would want to visit the country after trying Malaysian cuisine.

Also present at the launch was Embassy of the People’s Republic of China political consular and mission deputy head Gu Jingqi.

Tourism Ministry Secretary General Datuk Dr Victor Wee said there was a 10% increase in tourists coming to Malaysia in the first quarter of this year.

The number of visitors from China recorded a 60% increase.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

One World Hotel Officially Opens next to 1 Utama

Amazing: The entrance to the Zuan Yuan Chinese Restaurant
SHOPPING at 1 Utama Shopping Centre just got better with the soft launch of the One World Hotel located next door.

Owned by Bandar Utama City Sdn Bhd, the five-star hotel's launch was officiated by See Hoy Chan Holdings Group executive chairman Tan Sri Teo Soo Cheng

A lion dance performance by the Kwong Ngai International Acrobatic Lion Dance Troupe started off the launch followed by a drum performance by the Hands Percussion Team. Later mandarin oranges were given to the guests.

Spacious: A view of the Junior Suite at the One World Hotel.
After the performances, the guests and the media were taken for a tour of the hotel that included the ballroom, restaurants, function rooms, and guest rooms.

A member of WorldHotels Deluxe Collections Group – a leading Europe-based hotel group for more than 500 independent hotels and regional hotel brands – the RM300 million hotel has 438 rooms.

In conjunction with the launch, the hotel is running a promotion with special room rates until September, the superior room and deluxe room is RM298++ per night while the deluxe plus room is RM348++ per night followed by the executive club room (RM418++), junior suites (688++), and suites and executive suites at RM1048++.

For prosperity: Tan Sri Teo Soo Cheng (third right) looking at the two lion dancers.
All rooms are equipped with three telephones, personal voice messaging system, bath, private bar, 32 or 42 inch LCD TV, iron, ironing board, hair dryer, coffee and tea making facilities and a personal safe.

The hotel also has three restaurants – the Kura Japanese Restaurant, Zuan Yuan Chinese Restaurant and Cinnamon Restaurant.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Friday, July 20, 2007

MAS and FAX in dispute over poor condition of 12 planes and repair bill

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is not willing to put the lives of passengers at risk and wants the 12 aircraft, under dispute in an audit report by Singapore’s Fokker Services Asia Pte Ltd, repaired before it can begin rural air service (RAS) operations.

The service is scheduled to start on Oct 1.

At a briefing yesterday, members of the media were shown photographs of defects in some of the 12 aircraft.

Safety issue: These issued by MAS showing the condition of aircraft which the airline received to operate the rural air service.
Captions from the photographs read, “corrosion”, “cowing cannot be latched”, “bird’s nest found on one of the wings of the aircraft”, “(all kinds of joints) used to connect some parts of the aircraft”, “parts damaged” and “parts of carpet missing.”

MAS wants the 12 planes airworthy before it can start the service.

It estimates that repairs will cost RM40mil and its managing director Datuk Idris Jala said at the briefing that while the airline was prepared to undertake repairs, it would not pay for them.

“The repair works could affect the timing of our taking over the RAS, as four of the seven Fokker 50 are not working and the condition of the aircraft is bad,” said MAS executive director and CFO Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin at the same briefing.

He said only 80% of the aircraft would be ready by Oct 1 and “MAS would be (more) comfortable starting operations on Dec 1.”

The whole dispute surrounds the taking over of RAS by MAS.

»Up to February, the planes were in good condition« IDRIS JALA
RAS is a service provided by the Government to connect several remote parts of Sabah and Sarawak.

MAS operated the service for decades, but on Aug 1, 2006, Fly Asian Xpress (FAX) got the rights to manage RAS and was given 12 aircraft – seven Fokker 50 (F50) and five Twin Otters – to operate the service.

MAS maintained all the planes for FAX up to Feb 26.

FAX claimed that MAS had overcharged and decided to outsource maintenance of the planes after February.

FAX also alleged that MAS did not give the records of aircraft for smooth maintenance by the third parties, despite several requests.

“Up to February, the planes were in good condition,” Idris said.

Due to several factors and continued flight delays, the Government in April asked MAS to take over RAS from October 1.

MAS requested Fokker Services to conduct an audit, the findings of which are being disputed by FAX.

The Fokker Services report revealed that four of the seven F50 and one of the five Twin Otters operated by FAX had been heavily cannibalised.

MAS, in its statement, reiterated that one aircraft had been cannibalised of both of its engines, both propellers and had 70 parts missing.

This has been vehemently disputed by FAX which, in a statement earlier, said that over the past 11 months of operations, FAX had to overhaul six F50 engines and four Twin Otters engines, four F50 propellers and three Twin Otters propellers, and two Twin Otters landing gear, among others.

FAX said it did not cannibalise aircraft parts but rather rotated parts from airplanes coming in for maintenance to service those coming out of maintenance.

The issue now is who should fork out the RM40mil required to make the planes airworthy – FAX or Penerbangan Malaysia Bhd (PMB)?

“It is a contract between PMB and FAX, but whoever uses the aircraft has to bear the cost,” Idris said.

“Given that the services were subsidised, we suspect FAX might be asking for payment and compensation from the Government (as the contract to operate the services for several years will now be terminated in October.”

That aside, FAX when taking over the planes initially from PMB, did not do an audit check although Azmil claimed yesterday that the “planes that we handed PMB were airworthy.”

Asked if it was cheaper to lease other planes than to repair the 12, Idris said that, “it is still cheaper to repair them. But we are talking to PMB to replace the fleet (F50 and Twin Otters) and talks are ongoing.”

Even though the planes are between 15 and 20 years old now, Idris said that they were still reliable and could be flown for another five to 10 years.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Thursday, July 19, 2007

MAS: Don’t open Asean skies early

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) does not want the Government to bring forward the timeframe for the Asean Open Skies for fear that Singapore will benefit more than Malaysia.

However, MAS' budget airline Firefly is keen to fly to Singapore and Indonesia.

“We do not discount flying to any destination, including Singapore,” MAS managing director Datuk Idris Jala told reporters after a briefing on the recent spate of delays of MAS flights and on the rural air services that it will be operating by Oct 1.

The market is abuzz with talk that MAS, via Firefly, is keen to fly to Changi. The move will also ensure that MAS remains a competitor not just as a full services carrier but also in the low-cost fare arena when the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore route is opened to competition.

Datuk Idris Jala
Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy hinted this week of the possibility of the original deadline of Jan 1, 2009 being brought forward for several routes under the Asean Open Skies policy since several low-cost carriers had requested for it. However, this is possible only if all the affected governments agree.

The hottest route that budget carriers seek now is the KL-Singapore sector, currently monopolised by MAS and Singapore Airlines, with a round-trip costing more than RM800, inclusive of taxes and fees.

Jala said MAS had submitted a proposal to the Government for Firefly to add more domestic routes to its loop and hoped for an answer soon. However, he declined to name the destinations. Firefly was recently given the rights to fly from Subang.

”We have submitted an official request and are still talking to the Government. It will be (good) for the community as Firefly is a community airline,” Jala said.

Firefly is based in Penang and uses two 50-seat turboprops for its flights to Langkawi, Kota Baru, Kuala Terengganu, Kuantan, Phuket and Koh Samui in Thailand.

On the bringing forward of the timeframe, Jala said Malaysia had more to lose than Singapore.

“I think Singapore would be the winner as the local airlines are not ready to operate in a fully liberalised environment. We need more time,” he explained.

To him even some routes in Malaysia were not fully liberalised since Firefly was not allowed to fly on routes that AirAsia flew. Therefore, it would seem unfair to “open the skies” sooner.

“When we are talking about an even playing field, there should be evenness here and there,” Jala said.

He urged that the original deadline remained so as to give airline operators more time to prepare.

But budget carriers do not agree. Low-cost players like AirAsia, and Singapore’s Tiger Airways and Jetsar Asia are hoping to exploit the potential of the KL-Singapore route sooner rather than later.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Change or Lose Tourist Revenue, Kelantan told

Change your hardline and restrictive attitude or forever lose out on tourist dollars, the Kelantan Government has been told.

Malaysia recorded 17.5 million tourist arrvials last year, the second highest in Asia after China, and they pumped in RM37bil based on receipts expenditure.

Kelantan only tapped a small percentage of the arrivals, said the Tourism Ministry.

Deputy Minister Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai said the PAS government had to be more receptive to tourism and change its attitude if Visit Kelantan 2008 is to be successful.

“It is not that they are the opposition, but their policies tend to be more anti-tourism,” he said when opening an e-commerce seminar at the Kelantan MCA headquarters here on Sunday.

Lim added that the state government must meet the needs of modern-day tourists.

“Restriction on social mobility such as recreational areas and platforms for people to relax within the framework of the law would deal a severe blow to tourism,” he said.

Tourism Malaysia was fully supporting Kelantan in terms of improving infrastructure, facilities, promotions and products.

Lim said such efforts would be counter-productive if the state's policies put off foreign tourists.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Order to Malaysia Airports and AirAsia: Ease movement of the disabled

Launched: Chan (centre), AirAsia chairman Datuk Pahamin Rejab (fourth from left), Fernandes (fifth from left), Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai (fifth from right), counselor Gu Jing Qi from the Chinese embassy (fourth from right) and Malaysia Airports senior general manager (operations) Datuk Azmi Murad (second from right) at the launch of the inaugural AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Shenzhen, China in Sepang.
PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia Airports Berhad and AirAsia have been ordered to thrash out their problems to ensure the disabled community could use the airline with ease.

“I had a dialogue with representatives of the disabled community and fully agree that some kind of facilities should be provided to ease their movement,” said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy.

“I have given instructions that something has to be done; I want to see solutions and want both parties to work things out,” he said, adding that upgrading of facilities at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) had taken place gradually, such as the construction of covered walkways.

He was commenting on the disabled community's complaints against AirAsia and the LCCT after launching the inaugural AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Shenzhen, China, in Sepang yesterday.

The main complaint by the Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group was AirAsia's refusal to take passengers who were completely immobile, suggesting that the carrier review its policies to provide facilities that were non-discriminatory.

On passengers being stranded at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) due to overbooking of flights by Malaysia Airlines (MAS) last Sunday, Chan said he was waiting for a full explanation from MAS.

AirAsia group CEO Datuk Tony Fernandes, who was present at the launch, explained that the carrier accepted partially paralysed passengers but had no facilities for totally paralysed passengers.

Stating that they would have to change the whole configuration of their planes to accommodate totally paralysed passengers, Fernandes added that it was not feasible.

He said that for such passengers, the aisles and the toilets would have to be bigger.

“For wheelchair-bound passengers, we do not charge them for the wheelchair but take them to the plane and physically carry them into the plane,” he said.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Excellence Holidays to pay Holiday-Makers Full Amount

The Consumer Claims Tribunal yesterday ruled in favour of 66 claimants who had bought holiday packages from Excellence Holidays Sdn Bhd and ordered the defunct company to pay back the full amount of claims.

Tribunal president Datuk Seri Mutalib Mohd Razak told the 50-over claimants who turned up for the hearing yesterday that the sum would be based on the amount paid to the tour agent.

United stand: Claimants of Excellence Holidays Sdn Bhd’s travel packages are determined to get their money back.
At press time, the total amount was still not available; however, a check with the tribunal revealed that the highest claim was for RM25,000, while the lowest was RM1,000.

Customers who had bought their tickets and travel packages at the fair said they were told hours before their scheduled departure that their trips had been cancelled.

Claimants’ representative Chia Geh Yang said they would pursue legal action against Excellence Holidays directors if the company failed to pay up and, subsequently, would consider taking action against the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) if that failed.

They would also take the matter up with the Tourism Ministry and stage a demonstration, he said.

Another claimant, manager Selina Yap, said Matta had promised to investigate the case but it had been two months and they had not heard from the association.

“We are not expecting them to pay us back but to provide some kind of compensation, such as travel packages or discounts,” she said, adding that Matta should give them a deadline on the investigation.

Yap said they hoped to put up a protest banner at the next Matta fair in September.

She said the Companies Commission of Malaysia had invited claimants to give their statement on the case last week, since no one had reported to it Excellence Holidays’ closure.

Related News


Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Monday, July 16, 2007

30 Tour Cheating Cases

Thirty cheating cases involving tour agencies were reported by tourists over the last six months, said Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai told the Senate.

He said that in line with the Tourism Industry Act 1992, the tour agencies were issued show-cause letters why their licences should not be revoked and warned not to repeat them.

“The ministry also referred the cases to enforcement agencies like the Consumer Claims Tribunal, Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board and the police,” he told Senator Dr Mohd Puad Zarkashi, who wanted to know the number of cheating cases involving tour agencies during Visit Malaysia 2007.

Lim said there were 10 cheating reports involving membership cards, tour packages (9), last-minute cancellation of packages (3), taxi fares (3), umrah packages (3) and souvenirs (2).

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Protest held against AirAsia

More than 20 disabled and wheelchair-bound members of the Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group (BEAT) held a protest against AirAsia for its refusal to take passengers who were completely immobile.

The protesters, headed by the group's co-ordinator Christine Lee, and assistant co-ordinators V. Murugeswaran and Peter Tan, demanded AirAsia reviews its policies and takes reasonable steps to ensure facilities and services provided at the low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) are non-discriminatory.

Include us: The Barrier-Free Environment and Accessible Transport Group holding the protest at LCCT yesterday. It wants AirAsia to review its policies and ensure it is disabled-friendly.
Lee said that unlike KLIA, the LCCT does not incorporate aerobridges, which allow easier access for passengers to board planes.

“Passengers are instead required to walk up a flight of boarding stairs – a daunting task when one is disabled from the waist down,” she said.

Lee said that when booking AirAsia tickets online, a separate icon would appear on the website asking if the ticket purchaser would require “special assistance”.

“If you clicked 'yes', then you won't be able to proceed with your booking.

“That's when I called AirAsia's call centre, and was told that they were unable to accept passengers who are completely immobile.

“This is even stipulated in AirAsia's terms and conditions!” she added.

Lee also said that AirAsia charged RM12 for renting out a wheelchair, which a passenger could use to go from the ticketing counter to the departure hall.

“One would then have to go from the check-in gate to the aircraft without the wheelchair, which is quite absurd.”

Murugeswaran pointed out that AirAsia also stipulated that the carriage of persons with limited mobility was subject to whether they were able to climb the boarding stairs unaided or aided.

“Passengers who are unable to board the stairs without any assistance would be requested to travel with a caregiver or companion.

“This is blatantly discriminating, unfair and unacceptable. We want to be independent and not have to rely on other people to chaperon us when travelling,” he said, adding that nothing has been done despite BEAT holding a dialogue with AirAsia on the matter more than two years ago.

During the protest, BEAT also urged Malaysia Airports Bhd to ensure all new and old airports in the country are equipped with facilities to improve accessibility to disabled passengers.

When contacted, an AirAsia spokesman said they were unable to comment on the matter at present.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Historical Sales for 10th Rainforest World Music Festival

History was made at the 10th Rainforest World Music Festival when ticket sales crossed the million-ringgit mark for the first time.

Sarawak Tourism Board chief executive officer Gracie Geikie said this was the first time that ticket collections had crossed the magical mark.

Great response: Part of the crowd at the festival at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong on Saturday night.
Ticket sales this year was greatly boosted by on-line purchases. . Last year, ticket sales was about RM700,000.

Tickets were priced at RM80 this year, up from RM60 last year. Three-night tickets were sold at RM200.

A record 17 musical groups from several countries performed at the festival in the Sarawak Cultural Village on the foothills of the legendary Mount Santubong.

Six of the groups, including those from Sarawak, will also perform at the inaugural World Music Festival at the Botanical Gardens in Penang on Friday.

More than 6,000 fans attended the opening show on Friday, compared to 3,500 last year. The crowd swelled to nearly 9,000 on Saturday and an estimated 7,000 fans watched the show last night.

Russian Malerija band Huun Huur Tu combining traditional music with throaty singing in one of the performances.
“About 45% of the fans were foreigners,” said Geikie, who added that the number was less than last year due to the shortage of hotel rooms.

The Holiday Inn Damai Resort, one of the three resorts in Santubong, is closed fora proposed RM30mil redevelopment project.

Geikie said the board plans to make the festival more interesting next year by including fringe events.

“We also want to create a global heritage village by bringing in indigenous tribes from various countries.

“These tribes will demonstrate how to make and use their musical instruments,” she added.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Kelantan to splurge on tourism promotion

Kelantan is spending a whopping RM2.2mil to promote Visit Kelantan Year 2008, a six-fold increase in its annual tourism budget.

With Terengganu and Kedah hosting similar events next year, Kelantan must work extra hard to draw tourists, said State Tourism, Culture and National Unity Committee chairman Datuk Anuar Tan Abdullah.

The plan: Anuar looking at the one hundred recipes for rice after opening Pesta Nasi 100 in Kota Baru yesterday as Kelantan Tourist Association President Nik Aman Nik Mohamed (second from left) looks on.
He said Kelantan had targeted 5.7 million local and Asean tourists, and 200,000 international visitors next year.

“Promotions have already been held in Dubai, London and Berlin while the Sultan of Kelantan personally promoted the 100 Rice Festival in New York last April.

“We will also be holding promotions in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and China in September,” he told reporters at the fourth Pesta 100 Nasi & 100 Jenis Kuih-Muih Kelantan (100 types of rice and delicacies) at the Sultan Muhammad IV Stadium here.

Anuar said the soft launch for the Visit Kelantan Year 2008 was held yesterday at Pantai Seri Tujuh, adding that a full-scale event would be held later.

The state exco member said Kelantan would also increase the budget for next year’s rice and kuih festival.

“Kelantan food is unique not just because of the taste but also its variety and unique names, such as tahi itik, jala emas and puteri mandi.

“Next year, we hope to break our record with 300 types of rice (displayed at the festival),” he said.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur took only one month to post a GOP

Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur, which turned one on July 1, has bucked the industry norm and posted a gross operating profit (GOP) within the first month of its opening.

According to industry experts, hotels in Malaysia generally take about a year, at best about three months, to post GOP.

"Registering GOP within a month of opening is definitely out of the norm," one hotel expert said.

GOP is the cost of doing business or gross revenue (from rooms, food and beverage, laundry or business centre) minus cost of operations (wages, electricity and amenities).

"We managed to deliver GOP in the first month. We earned enough to pay all our
bills and still put money in the bank," general manager Reto Klauser said in an
interview with Business Times.
"(Our GOP) is in line with the operating philosophy of a Traders Hotel. The
operating profits should be above the industry norm and we are very pleased to
have delivered that expectation," he said, when asked about the GOP achieved by
the hotel.

It is understood that the industry average GOP for four-star hotels is 35 per cent.

On whether this meant being able to recoup the investment of RM290 million put in by its owners KLCC (Holdings) Sdn Bhd earlier than the 12- to 15-year target set a year ago, Klauser indicated that he preferred to maintain that target date.

Traders Hotel, a Shangri-La Group business hotel, is looking forward to achieving an average room rate (ARR) of slightly below RM300 and an average occupancy room of 70 per cent in 2007.

Occupancy is up from 65 per cent last year while ARR has remained unchanged.

Traders Hotel was able to achieve an enviable ARR and occupancy among four-star hotels in the Kuala Lumpur City Centre area despite initial challenges of creating awareness in the Traders brand.

"A year ago, many did not know what Traders Hotel was about and what to expect. The challenge was to get the word out, to explain the brand and explain what Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur is," Klauser said.

He added that, today, its open-air rooftop SkyBar is well-known and talked about, which has helped motor the awareness about the hotel.

Sixty per cent of its guests are business people or free individual travellers while 25 per cent are those who come from the meeting, incentive, convention and exhibition market. The rest are the leisure crowd.

"Next year we expect to see more volume and plan to lift the price by about 10 per cent," Klauser said.

The hotel is owned by Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, a wholly-owned subsidiary of KLCC (Holdings).

Source : eHotelier
[tags : ]

World Lion Dance Championship at Genting

WHAT better way to celebrate the country's 50 years of nationhood than with a whole lot of fanfare?

Genting – City of Entertainment, the Selangor & Federal Territory Dragon & Lion Dance Association and the Tourism Ministry are jointly organising a special 50 Years of NationhoodWorld Lion Dance Invitation Championship in conjunction with Malaysia's 50th year of independence at the Arena of Stars in Genting Highlands Resort come August.

It is also held in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2007.

“The event this year will be more exciting and interesting,” Selangor & Federal Territory Dragon & Lion Dance Association chairman Leong Lik Thong told a press conference last Thursday.

During the press conference, lots were drawn to determine when the teams would be competing during the preliminary rounds, which will be held on Aug 3 and 4.

Drawing lots: Leong (second from left) and Resorts World Bhd promotions and entertainment assistant manager Steve Wong (third from left) drawing lots to determine when the teams would compete during the preliminary rounds on Aug 3 and 4. Also present is competition chief judge H.P. Siow (right).
Leong said the expenditure for the event this year exceeded RM800,000 and that much care had been put into planning the event.

“There are more teams this time. While we used to allow only two teams per country, we are now allowing three teams. We have 27 teams participating, from China, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singa-pore, Indonesia, Australia, the United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau and the Philippines.”

The first championship took place in 1994. The international competition is held on a biennial basis, and is interspersed with a national championship.

“This event has become established over the years, and I am told that the teams have been working very hard on their repertoire,” Leong said, adding that they were expecting a full house attendance this year.

The champions will be awarded a cash prize of US$10,000 together with a trophy, while the first and second runners-up will receive trophies and US$5,000 and US$3,000 respectively.

The remaining seven teams that qualify for the finals will receive US$1,000 each.

The 50 Years of Nationhood – World Lion Dance Invitation Championship will take place from Aug 3 to 5 at the Arena of Stars, Genting Highlands. Preliminary rounds will take place on the Aug 3 and 4, while the finals will be held on Aug 5.

Tickets are by way of redemption at Genting WorldCard Centres. For more details, call 03-6105 2028.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

RM7mil Facelift for Cherating Beachfront

A total of RM7mil has been allocated for various development projects to give Cherating, a popular beachfront, a facelift in a bid to boost tourist arrivals.

Kuantan Municipal Council (MPK) has been tasked with the job that includes completing projects worth RM5mil by the end of the year.

According to MPK president Datuk Azizan Ahmad, the figure was a special allocation set aside by the Finance Ministry.

The projects are mainly to upgrade the roads, sewerage system and landscaping which would cost RM3.8mil, he added.

“Another important feature in the project is the construction of a tourism information centre (TIC) that cost RM500,000,” he said.

He added that a TIC in Cherating was essential as there were always crowds in the area because holiday-makers loved the rustic setting and sandy, white beaches.

A TIC would be a place where visitors could obtain information on the many attractions of Cherating and interesting spots and activities in Pahang, he said.

“By having better infrastructure and landscaping for Cherating, it will give the area a fresh look to attract more people to holiday there,” he added.

Azizan said the facilities were being built near the Cherating Cultural Complex, which would be getting a facelift as well.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Hong Kong wants more Muslim tourists from Malaysia

The Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) is targeting to increase the number of Muslim tourists from Malaysia.

Its regional director (South/Southeast Asia) David Leung said for the first five months of 2007, there were 173,000 visitors from Malaysia, of which a substantial portion comprised Muslims.

There were 445,000 Malaysian visitors to Hong Kong in 2006.

"The 173,000 figure is about 10% more than the figure for the same corresponding period of 2006.

"We expect a single digit growth in Malaysian visitors to Hong Kong for the second half of this year," he said.

Leung spoke at a workshop for Muslim travelers to Hong Kong from Malaysia.

The workshop is organised by HKTB and supported by Cathay Pacific Airways and Uni Asia Tours Hong Kong.

"The completion of Disneyland in 2005, the Wetlands Park in 2006, and the recent completion of the cable car ride in Lantau Island were the crowd pullers for tourism," he said.

Leung said to attract more Muslim visitors from Malaysia, HKTB would launch in October a guide book for Muslim travelers in Hong Kong.

"The book contains information and addresses of all the halal-certified restaurants in Hong Kong.

"It also contains information of the interesting tourism sites in Hong Kong," he said.

Leung said the guidebook would be made available at travel agents and airline companies in the South and Southeast Asia region.

"The workshop is to address the religious and dietary need of Muslim travelers in Hong Kong.

"It is also to update travel agents' product knowledge and enable them to better understand what Hong Kong can offer to Muslims visitors," he said.

HKTB will be having a similar workshop in Kuala Lumpur on July 12 (Thursday).

Leung said Muslims travelers from Malaysia to Hong Kong started to increase some five years ago.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Focus on flavours of Japan at Zipangu, Shangri-La

The “Shochu and Sake with Zipangu Specialties'' at Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur from July 9 to 27 highlights the pleasures of the spirit and wine.

Wide array: Chef Takagi with some of his creations.
Who else could possibly know about pairing food with shochu and sake but a Japanese and Zipangu's Japanese head chef Yuichi Takagi spent hours putting together the flavours of Japan with modern touches for this gastronomic occasion.

Chef Takagi's special menu has a selection of appetisers and main courses, all of which go well with either drink.

Shochu (pronounced show-choo) is a drink Japanese appreciate before and after meals.

Today, the spirit is produced widely in Japan. However, it is native to south of Japan's Kagoshima prefecture on Kyushu island.

It is distilled from various types of ingredients that contain sugar like potatoes, rice, wheat and barley.

There are two main types of shochu available - the authentic (Honkaku) and modern version (Korui).

The flavour and aroma of the Honkaku is prevalent from the original ingredients as it goes through single distillation and hence the taste varies from light to smooth (when rice is used) to earthy and strong if potatoes are used.

Korui goes through more distilling, resulting in it being smooth and flavourless and it can be used to make cocktails.

Zipangu guest services manager Tetsuya Mohri said Shochu can be taken hot or on the rocks and pairs well with Japanese and Western style dishes as it enhances the taste of ingredients and softens the strong smell of meat and seafood.

Traditional fare: Cold miso soup poured over rice and served with a variety of condiments.
Sake, the traditional Japanese rice wine needs no introduction.

It is served cold, warm or hot, depending on an individual's preference although in Japan, it is consumed hot in winter and cold in summer.

Chef Takagi's list of starters is impressive as he has Kumi Yuba Avocado Uni Nose Uma-An Kake (avocado and sea urchin on bean curd skin served with cold sticky sauce), Ebi To Iroiro Yasai Bainiku Naise Ae (shrimps and mixed vegetables marinated with plum mayonnaise), Truffle Iri Dashimaki Tamago (Japanese truffle omelette served with gazpacho and grated radish), Gohya To Tofu No Salad Zipangu-Fu (Zipangu Special - bitter gourd and bean curd salad), Zipangu Fu Morokoshi Yaki (Zipangu Special - Japanese pancake and corn served with special sauce) and Zipangu Kunsei Moriawase (Zipangu smoked specialties - salmon, pregnant fish, wild duck, ginger, cheese and egg smoked in mango tea and served with special dipping sauce).

Mohri said the Truffle Iri Dashimaki Tamago was prepared in traditional Japanese style but that the chef picked out a few ingredients from the European kitchen like truffles and gazpacho to pep up his creation.

Bitter gourd is not an item one comes across in a stylish restaurant. However, Mohri said it was on the menu as many people were now accustomed to its bitter taste due to its health properties.

Chef Takagi's Gohya To Tofu No Salad Zipangu-Fu is not at all bitter and is quite pleasing to savour.

This dish is prepared as a healthy option with the white soft tofu flesh as a background to the light green floral shaped bitter gourd slices, showered with bonito flakes.

Those opting for the main course have a choice of Kamo Rohsu No Tareyaki Sansho Fuumi (Japanese pepper flavoured, roasted and sliced wild duck), Mirugai To Kaki No Karayaki (Grilled shellfish and oyster in spicy sauce), Ebi Hamo Nasu No Karaage Nioroshi-An (Deep fried shrimp, conger pike and eggplant with grated radish sauce), Ebi To Takenoko Ryukutou Yuba Age (Japanese spring roll -shrimp ball and bamboo shoot rolled with soy bean curd skin), Hiyashi Yasai Taki Awase (cold vegetables and seafood with jelly sauce), Ayu Somen Zipangu-Fu (cold somen noodles served with grilled sweet fish and bonito entrails) and Hiya Ziru Zipangu-Fu (cold miso soup poured over rice, served with a variety of condiments).

There are several types of shochu and sake on the drink list, so the pricing depends on what the diner orders.

Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur
11 Jalan Sultan IsmailKuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-20743900
Business hours: Noon to 2.30pm on weekdays, 6.30 to 10.30pm daily.
Weekend buffet brunch is served from 11.30am to 2.30pm at RM88++ per person

Source : STAR
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