Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Malaysia’s 2007 tourist arrivals exceed target

Tourist arrivals to Malaysia in 2007 reached 20.97 million, surpassing the 20.1 million target set by the government. The figure represents an increase of 19.5 percent compared to the same period in 2006. Total tourist receipts for 2007 was MYR46.1 billion (US$14.373 billion), surpassing the targeted figure of MYR44.5 billion.

Top ten tourist generating markets for 2007 were Singapore (10,492,692), Indonesia (1,804,535), Thailand (1,625,698), Brunei (1,172,154), China (689,293), India (422,452), Japan (367,567), the Philippines (327,140), Australia (320,363) and the United Kingdom (276,213).

Source : TravelWeekly
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Malaysia to host AITE 2008 in May

The Asia International Tourism Expo 2008 (AITE 2008) will be held for the first time in Malaysia from May 22-25, 2008 at Hall 4, Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur.

Jointly organised by the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents, Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association, Bumitra Malaysia and Malaysian Indian Tourism Association, the expo will comprise two days of business-to-business sessions and will be open to the public on the last day.

Some 200 buyers and sellers are taking part in the expo. These include airlines, cruise lines, health resorts and spas, hotels, MICE organizers and venues, travel agents, tourism boards and NTOs.

Source : TravelWeekly
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Malaysia wants more Event Market

Increasing its business events market – and particularly the number of incentive visitors – is a prime objective for Tourism Malaysia, which has its biggest booth ever at AIME.

China, Australia, India and the Middle East are key targets for Malaysia, which has 30 suppliers represented at its AIME booth.

Tourism Malaysia’s director, convention division, Zulkefli Haji Sharif said such a large contingent of suppliers – an increase of six on last year’s showing - will be a major benefit.

“We believe that a strong presence of suppliers will be able to get more business out of this market, especially on incentives,” he said.

“Every year, we feel that there is a lot more interest – this year’s scheduled appointments have been almost full for some of the suppliers.”

Malaysia has plenty to talk about. The Sarawak Convention and Exhibition Centre (SCEC) will open in mid-2009. The state-owned centre will be minutes from Kuching’s city centre, easily accessible by road or river, and will have a floor area of 36,500 square metres. It will cater for between 30 and 1600 delegates, with 14 break-out meeting rooms, and will complement the Sarawak Tourism Complex in Kuching, which can host up to 1,000 delegates.

Kuching will also have the new five-star Royal Suites hotel, which will be within walking distance of the centre.

This will add to the already impressive array of convention facilities, including the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and the new Persada Johor International Convention Centre.

Singapore remains the number one MICE market for Malaysia. But with Australia in the top 10, Tourism Malaysia has built on its exposure at AIME by recently conducting its own trade shows in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in order to entice more Australians to explore the opportunities in Malaysia.

“I believe 2008 will be a very challenging year,” said Sharif, who aims to keep their business events arrivals at 10 percent, while Tourism Malaysia’s target for 2008 rises to 22.5 million total visitors. “I hope with all the support from industry players both domestic and international, we can keep our MICE market at 10 percent,” he said.

Sharif said Tourism Malaysia was “going all out” to increase its incentives market, with particular focus on wooing China, Australia, India and the Middle East.

Source : TravelWeekly
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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

4 Star Hotel with foreign frontline workers under fire

A new four-star hotel in the city centre, which begins operations next month, runs the risk of not being rated by the Tourism Ministry as it has not adhered to the ruling on the hiring of foreign workers.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor found that the hotel employed foreigners in frontline positions, such as waiters.

Tengku Adnan was at the hotel in Bukit Bintang yesterday for the launch of a book entitled Layang-Layang: Diving Malaysia’s Last Frontier by Dr Kurt Svrcula.

The hotel operator admitted to hiring the foreigners as waiters and waitresses due to the difficulty it faced in getting locals to do the job.

The operator told Tengku Adnan that locals, however, took up all the important positions in the hotel.

But the minister said there was already a policy in place since the end of last year.

“We do not allow hotels to employ foreigners as frontliners for the simple fact that we want locals to be employed as many of them are jobless.

“Why don’t you employ people from Sabah and Sarawak to work then? I don’t mind if you employ the foreign workers as janitors in your hotel but not as waiters.”

The hotel operator said the people from Sabah and Sara-wak on its payroll did not stay on longer than three days.

Tengku Adnan stressed that the ruling applied to all hotels in the country and failure to meet it would result in the hotels not getting any ratings from Tourism Malaysia.

It was earlier reported that the government had banned the hiring of foreign workers in frontline positions, including hotels and airports.

The government had advised these industries to employ locals and pay them better salaries, including benefits such as medical coverage, as well as Employees Provident Fund and Socso contributions.

Source : NST
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Hotmail Founder Sabeer To Marry In Exotic Langkawi

Hotmail founder, Indian-born Sabeer Bhatia, who became an overnight millionaire after selling his web-based e-mail service to Microsoft, plans to get hitched in Langkawi Island next month.

Sabeer, 40, chose Langkawi as his preferred venue to wed Tania Sharma, on March 9, and dignitaries from far and wide are expected to bless the marriage at the Taj Rebak Marina Resort located on the world famous island.

"We wanted an exclusive island for the wedding. Sabeer wanted to have it in Hawaii but it would be too far for our guests. We were thinking of Phuket, Bangkok or Koh Samui (Thailand) but decided on Langkawi," R.K. Sharma, the father of the bride-to-be, told Bernama.

About 270 dignitaries including bigwigs like Indian steel king Lakshmi Mittal's brother Pramod Mittal and India's Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel are on the guest list.

"Langkawi is an exclusive island and we have booked the entire hotel for our guests. The event is for two days, the first day is for the sangeet ceremony (pre-wedding ceremony of dance and music) and the wedding is on March 9th," added Sharma.

The Langkawi cable car is also said to have been booked for two hours on March 9 for the wedding party, where the guests will be entertained by musicians, deejays, and singers specially flown in from India.

The computer wizard, who sold Hotmail for a whopping US$400 million in 1997, just before his 30th birthday, was once engaged to a US-based Indian corporate lawyer in 2004 but the three-month engagement fell apart.

Sabeer, the son of a military officer, was born in Chandigarh, Punjab and graduated from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science in India and later completed his Masters programme in Electrical Engineering at Stanford University.

Sabeer got engaged to Tania, a Mumbai-based businesswoman and the heiress of the Baidyanath Group, one of the largest manufacturers of ayurvedic medicine in India, last December.

Taj Rebak Marina Resort -

Source : Bernama
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MAS ‘Porn pilot’ ‘under probe

The Malaysia Airlines (MAS) pilot, who was caught and fined for importing child pornography in Adelaide, has been relieved of flying duties to facilitate an internal enquiry by the national carrier.

In a statement, MAS group human resources senior general manager Effendi Abdul Rahman said:

“We are first conducting an internal enquiry into this matter. Based on the findings, any further action taken will be in accordance with the MoU between Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysia Airlines Pilots Association (MAPA).”

The pilot, who was identified by Australian news portals ABC News and the Adelaide Advertiser as Ahmad Said, 25, was arrested by Customs officers at the Adelaide International Airport last Thursday after they found three video files containing child pornography in his laptop.

ABC News said that when the pilot arrived at the airport, he told them he did not have anything to declare.

But when Customs officers searched his laptop, they found the child video files.

The Adelaide Advertiser reported that the videos were titled “Reped Virgin”, “10-Year Old” and “High School Students.”

His lawyer told the court that Ahmad had been e-mailed the video files and had not shown them to anyone else.

“He was simply reckless, this was not material brought in to be disseminated,” lawyer Stephen Barratt had told the Adelaide court.

Source : STAR
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Monday, February 11, 2008

Malaysia is No. 2 in competitive prices listing for Travel & Tourism

Malaysia has emerged as the second most price-competitive country in the world in the travel and tourism (T & T) industry.

The Geneva-based World Eco-nomic Forum (WEF), which surveyed 124 countries, also gave top marks to Malaysia’s participation at travel and tourism fairs and applauded the Government’s high priority for T & T as well as Ma-laysia’s good road, railroad, airport and port infrastructure.

The WEF, noted for its annual top-level meeting and discussions on current affairs and trends in Davos, Switzerland, recently released its Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report 2007 (TTCR).

Malaysia was also perceived as quite safe for tourists (24th overall) and in terms of the reliability of police services, the country was ranked 19th, on par with Britain and ahead of other developed countries like Spain (22nd), New Zealand (23rd), Portugal (25th), Ireland (29th), Belgium (32nd) and Italy (40th).

The survey covering Malaysia was compiled with the assistance of the Institute of Strategic and Inter-national Studies, Malaysia (Isis) and the National Productivity Corpora-tion.

WEF executive chairman Prof Klaus Schwab said in the TTCR 2007 that T & T was currently one of the world’s largest economic activities and the leading industry in many developing countries.

The report listed Indonesia as the most price-competitive country in terms of the T & T industry while the third most price-competitive country was Bahrain with Thailand fourth.

Meanwhile, the WEF will hold its forum on East Asia in Kuala Lumpur on June 15 and 16, when 300 leaders from more than 20 countries will convene to debate the challenges and priorities which will ultimately shape the region’s future agenda.

Source : STAR
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New fund to help cheated tourists planned

A special fund will be set up to help tourists who have been cheated by unscrupulous people during their stay in the country.

Deputy Tourism Minister Datuk Donald Lim Siang Chai said a proposal had been submitted to the Attorney-General’s chambers for perusal.

“I hope to table the proposal at the next Parliament session,” he said.

Lim said a token sum of money would be collected from those in the tourism industry to be channelled into the fund.

Source : STAR
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Sunday, February 10, 2008

19Million Tourists to Malaysia in 2007

Tourist arrivals amounted to over 19.1 million last year, nearly 20 per cent more than that recorded in 2006.
Tourism Malaysia director (Southeast Asia Division) Zainuddin Wahab said more would be done in areas like eco-tourism and agro-tourism to meet the projected 22.5 million tourists this year.

He was speaking to more than 174 participants of the Malaysia Mega Familiarisation Programme 2008 comprising tour agents and members of the media from 12 countries in conjunction with the launch of Visit Kelantan Year 2008 and the Chinese New Year National Open House 2008 on Friday.

Held on the theme “Malaysia Truly Asia", the event was aimed at heightening awareness among foreign tour operators and the media about tourism destinations, products and services here to help them experience Malaysian hospitality first hand.

Over RM10 million would be spent next month on the Formula 1 Grand Prix from March 21 to 23.

Source : NST
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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Celebrate Dinners at Hotels for Valentine's Day

Contrary to common belief, Valentine's Day can be easy on the wallet if you plan in advance. We have a few suggestions for an intimate, cosy, enjoyable or whimsical evening if you are game to please the palate and your loved ones.

Buffet treats

IF you believe Valentine's Day should not be confined to couples alone, celebrate the evening with your family. The Saffron Brasserie at Ancasa Hotel & Spa Kuala Lumpur offers a practical semi-buffet so everyone can indulge. After sampling treats at the buffet, guests can tuck into any of the four main courses available with choices like Grilled Striploin, Char-broiled Salmon, Herb Provencale Lamb Rack or Roasted Chicken with Morrel Stuffing. The dinner is priced at RM65 nett per person. For reservations, call 03-2026 6060.

Light delights

EXPRESS your feelings this Valentine's Day with a box of personalised cupcakes bearing your initials. Orders can be placed throughout February at the Bisou Bake Shop located on the Asian Heritage Row in Kuala Lumpur. The Bisou Kiss Me Boxes are priced at RM25++ each and contain four beautifully decorated cupcakes. Orders need to be placed five days before collection. For more information, call 03-2697 0131.

Western fare

CELEBRATE Valentine's Day with your sweetheart at Grand BlueWave Hotel Shah Alam's Tempo Lounge where a five-course Western dinner awaits. The set menu at RM139++ includes Baked Oyster Mornay, Double-boiled Chicken Essence with Spinach Ravioli, Beetroot Sherbet, Sauteed Black Pepper Duck Breast or Angel Hair Pasta with Ocean Scallops and Fruit Souffle. For reservations, call 03-5511 8811.

Local flavour

LOVE does not necessarily mean dazzling chandeliers and western dinner setting. Love can also be expressed with a pair of chopsticks and several Chinese Love theme dishes, just like the menus at Elite Palace, Genting Hotel. Priced at RM338++ per couple, the “Love Me Tender” Valentine’s Day menu features a six-course meal, which include “Japanese Combo Platter” (Chicken Teriyaki, Prawn Tempura and Tako), “Love Me Tender” (Double Boiled Shark’s Fin with Supreme Stock), “Heart and Soul” (Orange Sorbet), “Groovy Kind of Love” (Combination Cod Fish and Salmon), “Love Affair” (Abalone Noodle with Minced Meat) and lastly “Sweet Temptation” (Golden Mango Money Bag). The set menu is also inclusive of two glasses of complimentary white or red wine. For reservations, call 03-6101 1118.

Big spread

VALENTINE'S Day at Hilton Petaling Jaya will be celebrated at its key outlets. Uncle Chilli's is offering the set dinner priced at RM118++ inclusive of champagne with a live band while over at Red, diners can indulge in a five-course set dinner at RM148++. Come armed with a big appetite for the nine-course dinner at the Genji Japanese Restaurant (RM178++) or settle for the six-course menu at Toh Yuen Chinese Restaurant (RM138++). If you and your partner prefer dining buffet-style, head for the Paya Serai for the dinner buffet (RM98++). For reservations, call 03-7955 9122.

For love birds

TWO dinner choices are available at Hotel Armada Petaling Jaya's Utara Coffee House this Valentine's. The Amour buffet line serves up an array of dishes while the Je T'Aime candlelight dinner allows love birds a little privacy. The candlelight dinner will be served at a private part of the outlet, separate from the buffet area so that couples can soak in the romantic candlelight experience. The Je T'Aime dinner is priced at RM98++ per person while the Amour buffet dinner is priced at RM65++ per person. For reservations, call 03-7954 6888.

Luscious offerings

IT is L'Amour at Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur with several ways to win his or her heart through luscious food. The Valentine's buffet dinner (RM288++ per couple) at the Latest Recipe showcases oysters, salmon roe and caviar while a more cosy setting can be enjoyed at Prime, the hotel's international steak restaurant where a five-course dinner is available (RM388++ per person). For an intimate evening, Al Nafourah offers a four-course dinner at RM218++ per person or RM688++ per couple in a private Arabian tent. For reservations, call 03-2263 7434.

Sweet ending

WINE and dine your sweetheart at Bruno's in Section 13, Petaling Jaya with their special Valentine's Day menu. Start with Pan-seared Foie Gras with Apples and Mashed Pear while for the main course, choose between Lamb Rack with Creamy Mushrooms and Potatoes Boulangerie or Cod and Shrimp Dumplings served with Mushrooms and Green Olives with Bisque Sauce. Sweeten the experience with Valrhona Chocolate Lava Cake flavoured with Earl Grey, orange sauce and strawberry ice cream. The menu is priced at RM118++ per person. For reservations, call 03-7960 2663.

Exotic dinner

HOW many ways would you declare your love? Holiday Villa Hotel & Suites Subang has a few suggestions, designed to suit every whim, taste and budget. Cibo's Amore Infinito might just make you pop the question over a five-course candlelight dinner, Italian-style (RM148++). For a touch of exoticism, the Coriander Garden offers the Sita Rama candelight dinner, presenting intoxicating recipes from Thailand, Vietnam and India (RM85++). Alternatively, go Oriental at Seki Tei Japanese Restaurant with the Koibito Seto buffet feast (RM98++) or The Inn of Four Seasons Chinese Restaurant with the Eternal Bliss eight-course set menu (RM98++). For reservations, call 03-5633 8788.

Italian fare

EMBARK on an Italian love affair at Villa Danieli, Hotel Imperial Kuala Lumpur with a four-course dinner menu designed to heighten the senses. At RM168++ per person, dinner comes with a complimentary toast and box of handmade chocolates. Over at the Essence, Chef Greg Hjorth and team will entice you and your partner with a buffet dinner incorporating a wide variety of seafood and live food stations. The buffet is priced at RM128++ per person inclusive of wine, sparkling wine, beer and soft drinks. For reservations, call 03-2717 9900.

Source : STAR
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Foreign guests get a taste of local culture at Boulevard Hotel

IT was a thrilling first-time experience for some tourists from abroad during the lion dance performance at the Boulevard Hotel Kuala Lumpur on the first day of Chinese New Year.

The lion dance kept the crowd at the hotel lobby in awe as they showed their skills on the 2.5m high stilts.

Photographs of the performance were taken by both the foreign and local onlookers as the skilled performers jumped from stilt to stilt.

Majestic: The guests were awestruck by the lion dance performance.

Earlier the lion dancers, accompanied by the sounds of cymbals and gongs, did their rounds at the hotel's Wild Rice Restaurant and the Flutes Living Room Lobby Bar as a symbolic effort to chase off bad luck and bring in the good luck.

Along with the troupe was also the God of Prosperity who gave out red packets to hotels guests and spectators.

Hotel general manager James Loo said the lion dance was a compulsory annual affair for the hotel during the season.

“This performance has been on the hotel's annual calendar of events since the hotel opened its door to the public in 2005.

“The dance showcases Malaysia's multi-racial life to our guests,” he said.

Source : STAR
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Heralding Spring's Bountiful Offerings at the Concorde

Now, don’t bite me: A little boy feeding the lion with an orange at the Quality Hotel

THE sounds of big drums, beating of gongs and clashing of cymbals greeted the guests of the Concorde Hotel when 25 Kok Ngai Lion Dance Troupe members awakened the 'lions' at the main driveway to spread some luck and prosperity.

The “lions” took three bows to greet the audience and displayed impressive and gravity defying acrobatic feats, leaping from pole to pole and finally claiming the 'chai ching' (reward of lettuce and ang pow).

Not something you want to do at home: A stunning acrobatic performance by the Shandong Acrobatic Troupe.

Hotel executive assistant manager Andreas Knussi was presented with a platter of lettuce, pomelo, pineapple, bananas and kam (mandarin oranges.).

At the foyer, the hotel heralded the year of the rat with the Shandong Acrobatic troupe taking centre-stage with a 45-minute performance comprising contortionist in action, juggling acts and other acrobatic stunts.

Later the same lion troupe headed to the Quality Hotel in Shah Alam to transform yet another quiet morning into a lively atmosphere.

They were received by Quality Hotel general manager Johan Thomas Low Abdullah and hotel manager Amar Maarof Abdullah.

“This is something we do every year as part of our gesture to usher the Chinese New Year.

“Besides creating the Chinese New Year mood, we also hope that the lions would bring all of us some luck and prosperity,'' said Amar

Source : STAR
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Capitalising on agrotourism

Ngiam: Tourist from Japan and Europe are most likely to visit agrotourism attractions
THE agriculture sector and the tourism industry may be miles apart in some ways, but both are vital components of the Malaysian economy. The fact that the Ninth Malaysia Plan (9MP) devotes an entire chapter to each area underscores their potential and the Government's aim of increasing their contribution to the nation's growth.

As such, where agriculture and tourism intersect, there are surely many opportunities for entrepreneurs to capitalise on the drive for development.

Agrotourism – also known as agritourism, particularly in the United States – straddles these two fields. It essentially involves visits to farms and other agricultural sites to experience the various aspects of farming and the rustic lifestyle at close hand. Often, the farms provide boarding as well.

The definition can be broadened to incorporate elements of entertainment, shopping, education and food.

Agrotourism ties in with the current global emphasis on ecotourism and responsible tourism because when done right, it encourages the appreciation of nature and helps develop rural communities in a sustainable manner. It is a vast arena, and there are many well-established examples all around the world. Tuscany in Italy has been a famous tourist draw for ages, and vineyards, olive groves and farms are part of its scenic beauty. Several other places in Europe also have a similar allure.

Many of the states and provinces in the US and Canada have vibrant agrotourism markets. Among the more prominent attractions are dude ranches (resorts featuring camping, horseback riding and other outdoor activities), u-pick farms (where visitors can pick fruits and vegetables), vineyards and farmers' markets.

Given the importance of agriculture in their economies, it is only natural that Australia and New Zealand are known for their farmstay holidays. In Taiwan, agrotourism – over there, it is known as leisure farming – has taken off in a big way and there is even an association to serve the interests of the operators.

In comparison, agrotourism in Malaysia is not as large and organised. Says Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Ngiam Foon, “It's a niche market and at the moment, it doesn't have a high profile here. But it definitely has a lot of potential.”

He adds that tourists from Japan and Europe, particularly the younger ones, are most likely to visit agrotourism attractions.

The good news is there is plenty of room for growth and the Government sees the wisdom in encouraging the development of agrotourism.

The 9MP points out that the key to enhancing the distinct appeal of our tourism products and services is to promote the country’s traditional advantages, namely, its cultural and natural heritage. This is especially relevant to agrotourism.

Furthermore, our climate welcomes tourists the whole year round and a large portion of the population speaks English.

In addition, the Malaysian tourism industry as a whole is robust and healthy. After a bad year in 2003 due to the SARS (Sever Acute Respiratory Syndrome) scare, tourist arrivals and receipts have rebounded strongly to achieve new records.

A main component of agrotourism in Malaysia is the homestay programme, which increases participation of the rural population in tourism-related activities and provides rural households opportunities to supplement their incomes.

During the Eight Malaysia Plan, covering 2001 to 2005, an additional 463 homestay operators were trained and licensed, bringing the total to 1,089 from 79 villages.

The efforts on this front continue under the 9MP. These include farmstays and visits to agricultural parks and research stations, says the 9MP report. Guests will be encouraged to visit handicraft sites and participate in activities such as pottery-making, batik-canting, songket- and basket-weaving.

There is also comfort in the fact that there are some agrotourism success stories in Malaysia to learn from and to emulate.

A shining example is Cameron Highlands, which has been one of the country's top destinations among domestic and foreign tourists. Much of this has to do with its tea plantations and strawberry and vegetable farms. Also, there are a number of farms (ranging from those cultivating tropical fruits to ostrich farms) that cater largely for visitors.

The website of the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Ministry ( has a directory of dozens of agrotourism sites, including pasar tani locations. Among the notable places are the Malaysian Agricultural Park in Shah Alam, a honey processing centre in Kedah and a veterinary station in Perak.

Entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector are, of course, prime candidates to operate agrotourism projects. However, Ngiam of Matta says it is important to first understand what is needed to create a sustainable tourist attraction.

Ultimately, that means ensuring that the visitor has a positive experience and goes home with fond memories. After all, tourism is a service industry. “It's not just about providing the hardware. The software is just as important,” Ngiam reminds.

In addition, it may be a good idea to adopt the cluster approach in developing agrotourism attractions so as to give tourists more reasons to make the trip.

Source : STAR
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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Terengganu hotels filling up fast

With the exception of Kemaman, hotels throughout the state are enjoying a 90 per cent occupancy rate since the beginning of this week.

And the industry has the Chinese New Year holidays to thank. Tourism Malaysia Terengganu director Mohd Amirul Rizal Abdul Rahim said most of the tourists were Malaysians who were taking advantage of the long weekend to visit the state.

The ratio of domestic to foreign tourists, he said, stood at 60:40, while for Kuala Terengganu it was at 80:20.

“It’s great for the industry and it is a good indicator of things to come seeing that the islands, which are the main draw, are yet to open.

“Holiday packages to Terengganu are selling well,” he told the New Straits Times.

Matta Terengganu committee member Alex Lee said this was the first time the state had seen a significant improvement despite it being early in the year.

Lee said locals would normally shy away from Terengganu due to the perception that it is still the monsoon season.

The branding and packages offered during the Matta fairs, had played a vital role in wooing people here, he said, adding that industry players were surprised at the increase in tourists this time of the year.

State Industrial Development and Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Mohamed Awang Tera said that tourists, especially those from Kuala Lumpur, flocked to Terengganu to escape the hectic life and enjoy the serenity here.

“We have also been promoting the state and Kuala Terengganu as a destination filled with natural heritage and waterfront city respectively since last year.

“With the newly opened Islamic Civilisation theme park and other new tourism products, we have lots to offer.”

Ming Star hotel general manager Taufek Mohamed said the hotel was fully booked which was a good omen for Visit Terengganu Year and hoped this would continue.

“The state has done a good job promoting tourism here and more tourists means a better spillover for related tourism players such as handicraft and keropok lekor producers,” he said.

Source : NST
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KK promises an eco-friendly waterfront project

OVER the last few decades the narrow shoreline of the once serene coastal town of Kota Kinabalu (KK) has changed.

What KK was, in the 1950s or 1960s, is now almost unrecognisable to those who grew up close to it.

It has rapidly changed its face over the last three decades with most of the city centre built on reclaimed land.

Today, Kota Kinabalu City Hall is striving to strike a balance in preserving its old environment, while pushing for development to make the city a world-class leisure and tourism spot, in line with the objectives of the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC).

Impressive real estate: An artist’s impression of the Kota Kinabalu waterfront.
This rainforest city of over 300,000 people will play the leading role as the gateway to Sabah, which aims to be one of the most liveable places in Asia.

For city planners it is also crucial that the city is ready to impress and help the state woo some RM105bil in development projects for investments under the SDC’s 18-year overall economic development plan.

Environmentalist, however, are worried about pushing Kota Kinabalu's shoreline further into the sea as they believe further changes would bring irreparable consequences to city’s very own treasure.

Their concern is on the proposed Kota Kinabalu waterfront project that offers to transform Kota Kinabalu into an integrated mixed development along a section of the Kota Kinabalu town’s coastline.

The Kota Kinabalu City Waterfront, expected to be completed by 2010, will feature the key attraction of a 2km long boardwalk, built using eco-friendly materials rising above the sea on stilts.

Waterfront Urban Development Sdn Bhd (WUD) is carrying out the entire project in collaboration with Kota Kinabalu City (DBKK).

The project is among those identified under the SDC that aims to make Sabah a major destination for both leisure and business tourism and has also caught the attention of Kuwait Finance House (Malaysia) Bhd (KFHMB) and a consortium of Middle Eastern and Malaysian investors.

At the launch of the SDC, a tripartite agreement was signed between WUD, KFH and Intonasi Intan Sdn Bhd witnessed by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

WUD managing director Reymee Mohamed Hussein said the development would incorporate environmentally friendly features like hi-tech LED lighting, energy conserving air conditioning systems and solar powered pedestrian lighting along the boardwalk.

Reymee, together with Geoffrey P.J. Lee, conceptualised the Kota Kinabalu City Waterfront development masterplan with DBKK.

He gave the assurance that there would be no reclamation work.

“It is primarily to increase the role of a coastal city like Kota Kinabalu to become a catalystfor the modernisation and development in Sabah,” said Reymee, adding that the RM500mil project was conceptualised after studying several thriving world class international waterfront attractions like Darling Harbour (Australia), Cape Town Waterfront (South Africa), Victoria Harbour (Hong Kong), Canary Wharf (London) and Clark Quay Riverside (Singapore).

The development will also spur economic growth for Kota Kinabalu and provide employment and new business opportunities to local residents and businesses.

“Kota Kinabalu City Waterfront will feature one of the longest city waterfront boardwalks in Asia and is poised to become the city’s prime tourist attraction. It will be an integral part of Sabah’s hospitality industry,” Reymee said.

Sabah Environment Protection Association president Datuk Sue Jayasuriya said there was a need to ensure that any development did not turn the rainforest city into a concrete jungle.

Source : STAR
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May date for Malaysia’s First Tourism Trade Show - Asia International Tourism Expo (AITE)

Malaysia will hold its first international tourism trade show in May.

Themed Asia International Tourism Expo (Aite) 2008, the expo will serve as platform for local and foreign industry players to network and showcase their tourism products.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Mansor said an exposition on such a scale was important in promoting a more efficient market in the travel trade.

“It acts as a catalyst of physical contact and exchange between buyers and sellers,” he said at a news conference here yesterday.

The exposition will showcase not only local but also international tourism products, with buyers and sellers from the Asian and European regions.

“It is the perfect place to explore new marketing trends and learn about foreign tourism products,” he said, adding that there were plans to make the exposition an annual affair.

Malaysian Association of Tour And Travel Agents (Matta) president Ngiam Foon, who was present, said, “Those who attend the expo will definitely have the chance to learn and experience more international tourism products.”

Aite 2008 is expected to be on par with the London World Travel Market, International Tourism Berlin and Arabian Travel Market expositions.

Some 200 buyers and sellers were expected to participated at Aite 2008, including car rental companies, hoteliers, health resorts and spas, ground transportation providers, and cruise lines.

Aite 2008, to be held at the Putra World Trade Centre here, is jointly organised by Matta, the Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association, Malaysian Indian Tourism Association and Bumiputra Travel and Tours Association Malaysia.

The show, which will run from May 22 to 25 and includes two days of business-to-business sessions, will be open to public on the last day.

Source : STAR
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Thrill of Le Tour de Langkawi curtain raiser

CYCLING enthusiasts felt the pulse and shared excitement of the 13th edition of the Le Tour de Langkawi (LTdL) at the Kayuhan LTdL08 held in front of the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya on Sunday.

Those who showed up at the Tour's curtain raiser sponsored by the Amanah Raya Berhad savoured the rare privilege to rub shoulders with Meitan Hompo – GDR team trio of Koji Fukushima and his brother Shinichi Fukushima along with Malaysia's Ng Yong Li.

Ng is the sole non-Japanese in the line-up of the six riders team.

Switching gear: Koji checking out Omar's (in blue) solar cycle while his brother Shinichi looks on
Another three riders for the side are Yukiya Arashiro, Takashi Miya-zawa and Miyataka Shimizu.

The 34-year-old Koji said he is pleased to be back here to compete in the Tour.

He wooed his fans with his friendly gestures as well as his attempt to converse in Malay with the locals.

Besides giving away postcards with his image on it, Koji also obliged in signing autograph and posing for photos.

This season, the Tour drew a record turnout of 25 teams comprising professional tour, professional continental, continental and Asian sides.

They will vie for honours in the nine-stage Tour travelling a total distance of 1377.4km from Feb 9 to 17.

“I am really happy to be here. For the up coming Tour, teamwork is crucial to ensure that our team win at least a stage victory. We will keep on attacking to get on the podium,” added Koji, who is renowned for his harmonica blowing antics on the saddle.

Going around the circuit: Azalina (centre) joining the participants in the fun ride.
About 2,000 participants took part in the fun ride.

Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Zulhasnan Rafique, Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor and Putrajaya Corporation president Tan Sri Samsudin Osman also graced the event.

Prior to the ride, the organisers also gave away bicycles to the less privileged.

In addition, sponsors for the Tour also stepped forward to reinforce their commitments and presented their contributions to Azalina.

At the starting line, the solar bicycle from Universiti Tenaga National pedalled by Omar Sirat drew huge attention.

Omar said he covered a total distance of 2,500km over five days at the World Solar Cycle Challenge held in Australia in 2006.

The dignitaries also joined representative from corporate companies, NGOs, tourists and students in the brief 1km ride while the avid cyclists went on the 40km route.

Off they go: The cyclists pedalling around the 1km fun ride route
Zulhasnan's wife Datin Seri Siti Nooriah Ana Abdul Razak flagged off the participants.

Former cycling icon Shaharudin Jaffar, two-time Olympian (1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico) Ng Joo Pong and former national women’s cyclist Diljan Mushalkhan were also part of the Pedal Power Cycling Group from Shah Alam.

“For the young cyclists, the event was a refreshing change from their weekly training routine. It was an opportunity for them to feel the different environment cycling here in Putrajaya. Usually, we train at the Taman Tasik Shah Alam,” said Shaharudin.

In addition, the Kolej Sultan Alaed-din Sulaiman Shah residents from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) also featured in the ride.

UPM corporate communications officer Kamarol Abu Bakar said they encourage their students to cycle as part of their environment friendly initiative.

“A total of 19 of them signed up for the ride. They usually commute around the campus on their bicycles,” he added.

Source : STAR
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MAS aims for up to RM1bil cost savings

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) hopes to realise cost savings of up to RM1bil over the next 12 to 18 months with several initiatives and cost reduction programmes in place.

With a lower cost base, MAS – which is transforming itself into a five-star value carrier (FSVC) – hopes to “offer more competitive fares” that would hopefully allow it to carry 25 million passengers by 2012.

The bulk of the cost savings would be factored into this year, as the various initiatives are at different stages of implementation.

Cost saving is one of the five steps outlined in MAS' five-year business transformation plan (BTP) launched yesterday to turn the national carrier into a FSVC.

Managing director Datuk Seri Idris Jala said although the plan might be ambitious and there were challenges in its implementation, he admitted that MAS “needs a business transformation or it will fail.”

Datuk Seri Idris Jala (left) and Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin Raja Abdul Aziz at the briefing on MAS business transformation plan
There are 493 initiatives that look at, among other things, revamp in procurement, introduction of meal boxes, reduction in meal wastages, renegotiation of hotel rates for crew members, measures to save on jet fuel, introduction of alternative airports and revision in taxi fuel policy to minimise fuel burn off.

The BTP also involves measures by MAS to offer five-star quality products and services, competitive fares, get more customers and revenue, as well as grow its network and capacity.

The airline aims to record an annual net profit of more than RM1bil up to 2012.

“We believe that if we aim for the best and stretch our limits, we will achieve an annual profit of RM1.5bil by 2012, even after factoring in the industry’s challenges,” Jala said. The projections were based on crude oil prices at US$100 per barrel.

Jala is confident that MAS could achieve RM2bil to RM3bil in profit per annum if all went as planned but “without the plan, MAS could potentially lose RM1bil in a worst-case scenario by 2012”, given the intense competition and demand outstripping supply with overcapacity.

This is the second plan the airline has unveiled since Jala was appointed MD in 2005. In February 2006, the business turnaround plan was launched to steer the airline back into the black.

For the third quarter ended Sept 30, 2007, MAS reported a net profit of RM610mil. Analysts expect MAS to net nearly RM1bil in net profit for the full year.

By reducing its overall costs, the airline believes it would be able to offer more competitive fares.

It would focus on the leisure market, which is essentially a price sensitive market. Given the competition from the low-cost carriers, MAS has to be in a position to offer fares that are competitive enough to attract the leisure travellers.

Jala added that MAS would add more seats to its economy class by removing some of its business class seats.

He said the airline's core network would be in Asean, China and India. It would restructure its North American and Middle East routes, monitor its South American and South African routes, and operate its Australian and European markets via a hub and spoke strategy.

MAS also intend to expand its fleet, going forward, and take ownership of new planes serving its core network.

It has yet to order more aircraft and executive director/CFO Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin said a decision would be made this quarter on new orders.

On the status of the six A380s, Azmil said the airline was not happy with the continued delay in delivery of the first A380 and was still looking at getting compensation from Airbus.

Jala said the focus now was to “make use of existing assets” but that did not mean the airline was not sourcing for new ventures.

It was in negotiations for a joint venture to set up maintenance, repair and overhaul operations with Qantas in Subang, he said.

Entering into an alliance is also conceivable by 2012 and to Jala “this is crucial as we need to belong to a tribe (alliance).

“MAS is looking slightly more beautiful as we are more confident now and we would be able to do a lot more things (in the future).”

Source : STAR
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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

AirAsia X flies to Hangzhou

AirAsia X began operating flights between Kuala Lumpur and Hangzhou in China, the low-cost carrier's second foreign destination.

The first flight left KL International Airport's low-cost carrier terminal yesterday morning.

Hangzhou is located about two hours from Shanghai by bus.

AirAsia X chief executive officer Azran Osman-Rani joined the passengers on the first flight.

The company, in a press release, said that more than 10,000 seats valued at some RM5mil had been snapped up for between February and March.

Source : STAR
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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Higher leasing cost delays AirAsia X’s flight to London

Higher leasing cost is holding up AirAsia X’s plan to launch its maiden flight to London, said its chief executive officer Azran Osman Rani.

“The delay in the delivery of the Boeing 787 has led to an increase in the cost of leasing the Airbus A340, which is the aircraft we wanted to use on the London route.

“Hence, demand has surpassed the supply,” he said on the sideline of AirAsia Bhd’s maiden flight to here yesterday.

In September last year, Azran said AirAsia X had already secured the landing rights for Standsted airport, its London destination. It plans to fly on a daily basis using the A340, which can fly the route non-stop.

AirAsia X’s sales and bookings for the route were supposed to begin in February.

Meanwhile, plans to fly to China, Amritsar in India and Melbourne in Australia using the Airbus A330 aircraft were going on smoothly, he said.

“Two of the three destinations will take off this year,” said Azran, adding that the slower global economic growth would not dampen AirAsia X’s growth.

On the positive side, it might actually help AirAsia X because lower demand due to slower economic growth would eventually bring down leasing costs, he said.

AirAsia Bhd’s group chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes echoed Azran saying: “Travelling has become part of the social need now. History shows that low-cost carriers can actually benefit from recession as people will be willing to trade down extra facilities to travel.”

“I am predicting a very bad recession. It is here. There are too many bubbles in the US economy,” he added.

Fernandes also said that AirAsia X had new shareholders from the Middle East and North Asia. They will be announced in two weeks.

Source : STAR
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Saturday, February 02, 2008

LCCT may become cargo hub when new terminal is up

Malaysia Airports Holding Bhd is considering turning the existing Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) into a cargo transportation hub when the new LCCT is ready in the next three to four years.

This was one option being considered, said managing director Datuk Seri Bashir Ahmad.

Stewardesses posing next to a Tiger Airways plane.
He said the shift to the new location was imminent as the LCCT would not be able to accommodate the projected growth in passenger volume.

The LCCT has the capacity to handle 10 million passengers annually. This capacity would increase to about 15 million passengers upon completion of renovation work by year-end.

“Expansion work on the LCCT will commence by end of this month,” Bashir said after welcoming Tiger Airways, the second Singapore Airline-owned low-cost carrier to utilise the LCCT.

On the new LCCT next to the KL International Airport (KLIA) main terminal, he said it would handle 25 million to 30 million passengers annually.

He also said an announcement on a theme park in KLIA would be made in the next two to three months.

With its inaugural flight yesterday, Tiger Airways has become the 56th international airline to fly to KLIA.

“The arrival of Tiger Airways is a good indication particularly for LCCT-KLIA towards attracting more airlines.

“The service will further strengthen air connectivity between Malaysia and Singapore as it complements the current service by Malaysia Airlines and Singapore Airlines,” he said.

AirAsia and Jetstar Asia also started flying the same route yesterday.

Tiger Airways took to the skies from Singapore in September 2004 with two aircraft in its fleet and three routes in its network. Within three years of operation, it now flies to more than 25 destinations across eight countries in Asia Pacific on a fleet of brand-new Airbus A320 aircraft.

Source : STAR
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Friday, February 01, 2008

New Meaning of MH to MAS

IT took Malaysia Airlines (MAS) a long time to realise that its MH code could be put to better use. Not only does the airline's top brass admit this but so do some of its employees.

Over the past months, MAS has given the airline's MH code a new identity – Malaysian Hospitality – and that could be its differentiating factor when pitted against other airlines.

To MAS managing director Datuk Seri Idris Jala, Malaysians are hospitable people and once the new identity is embraced, MAS employees will not merely be employees but hosts.

To him, those who fly MAS are not passengers but guests and their journey should be a “delightful experience” from the first touch point to the end of the journey.

He is so excited with code MH that he calls himself the Chief MH Officer.

But the right attitude is needed if MAS wants to win big time with the identity. To an employee, the crew can make or break MAS with their attitude since any mistake made by an employee is akin to a mistake by MAS and that brings its glorious name down.

So, how the host engages with its guests is what Jala wants its employees to be aware of.

And it was no coincidence when Jala, at a media briefing yesterday, spoke of the need for “everyone in MAS to be always humble.” To him, being humble could win some hearts but that message has to be “driven all the way through the company.”

Jala spent more than two hours explaining in detail why MH was so crucial and how the new business transformation plan (BTP) launched yesterday would ensure the airline's profit sustainability up to 2012.

This is necessary since the whole aviation landscape is evolving with the impending liberalisation and the entry of low-cost carriers.

MAS cannot continue to operate with its present high cost structure, which it needs to bring down to be competitive and be in a position to price its fares competitively.

Jala is set to make the transformation work, even if it means changing the mindset of the 16,000-odd employees. To him, if the journey was not taken, MAS' books would be tainted with red ink in 2012.

Over the past two years, various labs had been set up and 493 initiatives launched. There has been progress in many areas and the RM60 plate of nasi lemak is certainly no longer on the menu as the procurement department has been overhauled.

Outsourcing is one way of reducing costs, so is code sharing and striking an alliance is inevitable in the future. Even a change of uniform for the crew is in the pipeline to give MH a fresher look.

But what could possibly go wrong in the implementation of the ambitious BTP plan?

To Jala, complacency has seen major companies fall from glory. But this man is not going to allow that, as he is going to do whatever it takes for MAS to go on the new journey and deliver the projections made in its 100-page document.

This is one man who also ensures that if he decides to call it a day, he has a succession plan in place for MAS. His choice candidate is Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin but this is for MAS shareholders to decide.

Jala’s three-year term comes to an end at the end of this year and it is still early days to speculate whether he would stay. But by the look of things and given the fact that he has come up with an ambitious five-year plan, he looks certain to continue driving MAS for a very long time.

Jala admits that the plan cannot reach fruition without the help of everyone at MAS. Two years after making the same plea, he is still asking employees to do their part to achieve greatness.

In a video shown to the media yesterday, a cross section of employees interviewed showed support for Jala. One employee expressed that “all of us want to see MAS grow and we are dying to contribute and we would do whatever it takes to get MAS on track.”

That may be a message from one person but it is essentially the voice of many. Jala may be able to deliver what he has promised but he must also reward all employees and not just a small section of the workforce when times change for the better at MAS.

Source : STAR
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