Saturday, June 28, 2008

Big tourism plans for Penang

BEING the point man for Penang’s tourism industry is a daunting job, but state Tourism, Culture, Arts and Heritage Committee chairman Danny Law Heng Kiang has big plans for the future.

Having just passed his 100 days in office, Law is aware that the people are looking for progress and fast implementation of projects.

“Since March 8, I’ve received about 50 proposals from private companies who are interested in embarking on tourism projects in the state.

“Since all of them are private initiatives, they don’t need the funds and in some cases, even the land, from the state government to see their projects through,” Law said.

He said Penang was now studying projects, which include an eco-tourism resort in Teluk Bahang and a 16ha Penang Darling Harbour in Batu Maung.

“There are also proposals for a new marina bay for international cruises to dock, and international standard eco-tourism Asian-style team park with jungle tracking, a crocodile farm and a Cheng Ho Gallery, among many others,” Law said in an interview at his office in Komtar, George Town.

He added that the public would start to see things materialising in the next six months starting with a cable car project and the revamping of Pesta Expo in December.

“We have two options for the cable car project – an RM80mil proposal from Teluk Bahang to Penang Hill and a RM60mil project from Youth Park to Penang Hill.

“We hope to approve and see work start in the next six months,” Law said, adding that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) reports, extensive research as well as land and buildings consultations had to be done before any project was approved.

Source : STAR
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Friday, June 27, 2008

How Fuel Increase Affects the Airline & Travel Industry

FUEL surcharge has, in recent years, become an accepted tra­vel expense and it represents the primary mitigating instrument for the explosive growth in fuel price for airlines. Employed objectively, this surcharge spares airlines and their customers the contention with ever-changing air fares as fuel price tracks upwards – and on rare occasions, downwards. Since its implementation, fuel sur­charges have mostly risen and customers are beginning to notice the huge disparity between surcharges imposed by different airlines for similar or comparable city-pairs.

Worldwide Aviation Ser­vi­ces sales executive, Ms Kath­leen Goh, said: “Business and corporate travel will not be affected, but holidaymakers may choose not to travel to destinations with exorbi­tant surcharges.”

Fuel hedging

Various factors account for fuel surcharges. A large airline’s demand for aviation fuel can be hefty and the Lufthansa Group has an annual requirement for seven million tonnes of aviation fuel – about Hungary’s total annual consumption.

To cushion themselves from the spiralling increases in fuel price, airlines practise fuel hedging, using either an outright swap (where the price is fixed and the airline gains when actual fuel price is higher and vice-versa) or a purchase option (where the airline buys fuel at a pre­determined price when the actual price is higher, but ignores this option and buys from the open market instead when fuel price dips).

Lufthansa corporate and fi­­nance communications spokes­­man, Ms Stefanie Stotz, said: “Fuel hedging pays off for Luf­thansa. In the past 17 years, net hed­ging results of more than US$2 billion have been generated.”

The more expe­rienced and efficient airlines that practise fuel hed­ging strike a fine balance and maximise their gains.

Aircraft type does matter

The fuel efficiency of an airline’s fleet plays a vital role in determining its requirement for fuel. Each successive ge­ne­ration of aircraft is more efficient and the B747-400 – once the workhorse for many airlines – is quickly being eclipsed by the B777-300ER. With only two highly efficient engines, the latter has replaced the four-engined B747-400 on longhaul routes operated by Singapore Airlines (SIA), All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Air France, etc.

The A380 bought by major airlines such as SIA, Qantas, Emirates, Lufthansa, Air France and British Airways also offers matching efficiencies, albeit with higher capacities.

With rising fuel price, airlines such as Malaysia Airlines (MAS), Thai Airways In­ternational and Qantas are losing competitiveness when operating their older generation B747-400s, B747-300s, B767-300ERs and A300-600s. Some are
beginning to consider cutting routes, redu­cing usage of certain aircraft and accelerating the retirement of others. MAS, which until recently operated three aircraft in special liveries, has repainted them in their standard livery to save on weight and expects to save about RM900,000 (US$277,344) each year in fuel cost.

Austrian Airlines, which does not practise fuel hedging and consumes 380,000 tonnes of fuel per annum, recently decided to buy directly from Kuwait Petroleum Interna­tional instead of through its usual supplier. It expects to save se­veral million euros even after factoring in transporting the fuel by train through Slovenia.

Other determining factors

Air routes are sometimes less direct – either as a result of geography or politics – and this adds to the fuel bills. Air Astana’s flights from Delhi and Bangkok to Almaty, and SIA’s flights from Dubai to Moscow are routed around mountains, while South African Airways had to avoid some parts of Africa en route to London during South Africa’s apartheid era.

Congestion in the air and at airports has been a major contributor to fuel wastage in the aviation industry. Europe is a major choke-point. Airlines are sometimes barred from flying the shortest routes due to restrictions by member states.

Lufthansa’s Ms Stotz said: “Between Frankfurt and Beijing, 7.5 tonnes of fuel are wasted because it is not possible to fly a direct route. The fragmentation of air traffic con­trol in Europe costs airlines and travellers roughly 3.5 billion euros (US$5.4 billion) annually. Unnecessary holding patterns and inefficient structures lead to flight detours averaging almost 50km.”

IATA has been championing governments to co-operate and un­ra­vel air routes. This has been relatively successful in many places.

Congestion on the ground is also a major issue at major airports such as Heathrow Airport. Ms Stotz said: “It is up to politicians to change and improve this unsatisfactory situation.”

Alternative fuels remain on the distant horizon and provide little immediate relief to airlines and travellers. The first generation of biofuel being experimented is still not viable. In the quest for alternative fuels, Ms Stotz said: “Lufthansa is convinced that biofuel must not compete with food production.”

Source : TTG
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MAS increase Fuel Surcharge from US340 to US456!

The strength of the longhaul market to Asia will be put to the test as the latest round of fuel surcharge increases kicks in in late-June, when the fee in many cases will be as much as, if not more than, the air fare on major carriers. Effective June 25, a passenger buying, say, a London-Bangkok-London ticket on Thai Airways International pays a US$460 fuel surcharge alone, ie, excluding the air fare and other taxes, compared with US$250 now.

Malaysia Airlines’ (MAS) fuel surcharge on the route is US$340 now; from June 24, it will rise to US$456.

Other major Asian car­riers, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific, charge a fuel surcharge of US$190 and US$182 respectively on the route and, at press time, have not announced a new round of increases.

Different airlines have different strategies that determine the fuel surcharge on a route. Factors such as fuel hedging, fleet efficiency and air routings all play a part and, according to UK operators, carriers are starting to be very creative with fuel surcharges.

Virgin Atlantic, for example, applys different increases across different cabins and MAS offers a discounted fuel charge on a throughout route.

The UK, a traditional market for Asia, is a cause for concern, with tour operators interviewed saying, as it is, consumer confidence is low due to a weak economy.

The pound has also weakened considerably against the Thai baht and Malaysian ringgit, while rising fuel costs are also causing ground trans­fer prices to rise, “be it Bangkok-Hua Hin or Kuala Lumpur-Pangkor”, as Western & Oriental UK group head of product, Mr David Kevan, points out.

Spiralling fuel surcharges may dent travel confidence further and although bookings to Asia remain strong now, these are based on current brochure prices, with fuel at around the US$200 per person level.

Thomas Cook Signature UK regional contract mana­­ger - East, Ms Victoria Sertic, said the real impact would only be seen when the new brochures were produced in the next two to three months.

She added: “In the past six months alone, the fuel surcharge has doubled and now an average return fuel surcharge on a straightforward single centre longhaul holiday has broken the US$500 per person mark.

“For destinations such as Bali some airlines are charging as much as US$772 per person. Any savings that we get in the form of tactical offers from our airline partners is completely overshadowed by these huge fuel surcharges.

“Holiday prices are increa­sing in some instances by £200 (US$392) per person between the editions for the same itinerary, which is down to fuel and currency fluctuations such as strength of the euro against the pound and the US dollar against the pound. ”

Kuoni UK product manager Far East, Ms Tamara Die­thelm, said 2008 figures for Asia were looking positive, but these surcharges would eventually affect clients travelling to Asia, coinciding with the credit crunch hitting home in the UK. Her strategy is to work together with the hotels and ground agents to offer clients as much as possible – be it service or upgraded expe­riences – for the higher prices they are paying.

Ms Sertic expects the family market will take the biggest hit as people stay away from scheduled airlines and go on packaged, charter holidays.

“These (charter) operators seem to be controlling the fuel issue much better.

“They charge nowhere as much as the scheduled airlines by being able to manage both their ground and air stock,” she said.

Shorthaul travel is not expected to gain, as the fuel surcharges hit all routes and these destinations are also seeing a big jump in prices, according to Ms Sertic.

Source : TTG
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Malaysia losing edge

Inbound agents brace for fallout as cut in fuel subsidies jacks up tour cost

Malay­sian inbound operators are anxiously awaiting feedback from their China and Hong Kong counterparts if tour package price increases due to the cut in government fuel subsidies, will be accepted.

The super peak season for both markets is July and August, and tour operators fear losing market share to neighbouring destinations if prices are jacked up.

The cut in government fuel subsidies, effective June 5, forced diesel pump prices to increase 63 per cent, from RM1.58 (US$0.48) to RM2.58 per litre; and petrol by 41 per cent, from RM1.92 to RM2.70.

Inbound tour operators said the increases would affect Malaysia’s competitiveness.

Travel agents in China had proposed a RMB200 (US$29) increase for tour packages to be implemented in two stages: RMB100 in mid-June and another RMB100 in mid-July. Those in Hong Kong had proposed tour package prices increase by HK$100 (US$12.80) per person per trip of four to five days’ duration.

Low: Singapore agents may twin with other destinations.
Picture by S Puvaneswary

Malaysian Inbound Tour­ism Association (MITA) division executive committee member for the China market, Mr Bernard Low, said Malaysia was now more expensive compared to Thailand and Indonesia.

He said a four-night/five-day package in a three- to four-star hotel in Langkawi would cost about RMB4,500 compared to less than RMB4,000 in Bali and Phuket.

He added a five-day honey­moon package in a five-star resort was below RMB10,000 in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, compared to RMB14,000 in Malaysia.

With tour packages in Malaysia becoming more expensive, he added that agents in Singapore might choose to twin with destinations other than Malaysia.

China is Malaysia’s fifth largest market, and the largest outside South-east Asia.

Last year, there were 689,293 visitor arrivals from China, and almost 17 per cent or 101,774 came in the super peak months of July and August.

Visitor arrivals from Hong Kong in 2007 totalled 94,495, with 19,419 arrivals in July and August.

PTS Travel & Tours general manager, Mr Saw Beng Teik, said although a clause in his contract allowed for rate adjustments, his counterparts in China could not accept the sudden notice as tour packages had already been sold.

“As we have not raised our prices, we are making a loss of RM400 per trip for a four-day/three-night package, which covers about 300km to 400km of ground travel.

“Bookings in June were down by 50 per cent due to the Sichuan earthquake.

“Otherwise, we would have had to lay off workers to cover losses. As we have our own coaches, we are able to cushion the effect,” he added.

Discover Orient Holidays, manager, Ms Mint Leong, said by sticking to existing rates, it was making a loss of about RM500 per group for a five-day/four-night package covering some 800km.

It had sold 200 packages in June.

Last year, it sold 500 packages in July and August.

Honey Holidays targets the Hong Kong market and general manager, Mr Bobby Eng, said the gap between Malaysia and close competitor, Thailand, was widening as Thai agents were undercutting and selling below cost.

He added: “Air travel from Hong Kong to Bangkok is about half the cost of flying in to Kuala Lumpur.

“A four-night package to Malaysia costs about HK$2,700 compared to HK$1,200 to Thailand.”

At press time, inbound agents were awaiting the outcome of an appeal letter sent by MITA to tourism minister, Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, on June 11, for the Malaysian government to subsidise the cost of diesel for tour transport operators.

Operators of city and express buses already enjoy the diesel subsidy.

MITA deputy president, Dr Amir Hashim, said the letter also sought a dialogue with the tourism ministry to explore co-operation with the public and private sectors “to save the destination”.

Source : TTG
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F1 Singapore Benefits Johor Hotels

Hotels and travel agents in Johor Bahru expect business to be brisk during this year’s fasting month, traditionally a slow period, thanks to the spill­over from the FORMULA 1 SingTel Singapore Grand Prix weekend. Race visitors opting for more affordable hotels are giving the capital of Malaysia’s southern-most state a boost.

The five-star Hyatt Regency Johor Bahru and the five-star Puteri Pacific Hotel Johor Bahru are banking on full occupancy during the race weekend. Both hotels are charging rack rates with a minimum three-night stay.

Rates at Hyatt Regency Johor Bahru start from RM398 (US$123) and RM400 at Puteri Pacific, which are a fraction of what Singapore hotels are charging.

In the Lion City, Rendezvous Hotel Singapore, for example, is charging S$950 (US$695) per night for a minimum of three nights, and S$700 per night for a minimum of five nights. Five-star Meritus Mandarin Hotel Singapore, is charging S$1,500 per night for a deluxe room for a minimum stay of three days, with full non-refundable payment upon booking.

The Singapore government has imposed a 30 per cent levy on the room revenues of 11 hotels closest to the race track, and 20 per cent on all other hotels.

At press time, Puteri Pacific Hotel Johor Bahru director of sales, Mr Kamarul Annuar, said 65 per cent of bookings were confirmed.

Hyatt Regency Johor Bahru general manager, Mr Richard Simmons, said the hotel would assist guests to book transport to Singapore.

Pulai Springs Resort general manager, Mr Jerome De La Fuente, said his resort had imposed a minimum four-night stay and had already received 40 confirmed room bookings. The hotel is charging RM350 per room per night inclusive of breakfast and one return transfer to Singapore.

New Asia Holidays general manager, Mr Raaj Navaratnaa, said his company’s F1 package included transfers to Singapore, accommodation in Johor Bahru and F1 tickets from US$800. To date, the company has received 60 bookings, mainly from Germans and Australians. He expects the number to increase to 200 closer to the date.

He is also collaborating with his Singapore partners to sell packages during the National Association of Travel Agents Singapore Travel Fair from August 1 to 3.

East-Coast Adventure Travel & Tours director, Ms Halizah Mohamed Alip, said the company had sold three packages, which included transfers to the race site, five-day/four-night accommodation in Johor Bahru and tours to Kluang town and Desaru beach. Bookings were from the UAE, India and Italy.

Johor Tourism director, Ms Noridah Kamarudin, said she was meeting operators and hoteliers in Desaru to promote the beach destination. It was once popular with Singaporeans but lost its charm due to the lack of accessibility when the ferry service connecting Singapore Changi Airport with Belungkor stopped in the mid-1990s.

A new highway, connecting Pasir Gudang and Desaru, is scheduled to be completed next year. It will reduce travel time from Johor Bahru city from one-and-a-half hours to 45 minutes.

Source : TTG
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Corporate Companies : Travel Only When Necessary

Businesses have begun clamping down on travel as a slowing economy threatens to decimate corporate bottomlines.

In Hong Kong, agents say major multinationals have begun implementing changes to their travel policy after a review earlier in the year.

Changes include a trading down from first to business class, travel only when necessary and approval must be given for travel to different offices.

A corporate ticketing agent who declined to be named said: “All our major global multinational accounts have made changes to their travel policy in response to the deteriorating economic environment.”

Agents declined to name companies cutting back on travel but said these were mainly financial institutions, which have taken a beating in the US subprime crisis, and technology companies. The last time multinationals made significant changes to their travel policy was in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on New York which, combined with the dotcom bust, precipitated the last economic downturn.

That policy change lasted for about three years, and agents worry they are now at the start of another downward cycle, which this time around also has to deal with rocketing fuel surcharges adding to cost pressures.

The ticketing agent said: “Business and leisure tra­vel from Hong Kong are starting to come down a little. We have been seeing signs of a slowdown since May.”

Regional travel management companies (TMCs) based in Singapore are also noticing some cutbacks.

Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) noticed some cutbacks in the banking and financial sector in the last three to six months, owing to the US sub prime crisis, but American Express Business Travel believes no single industry is more affected than another.

CTW executive vice-president for traveller & tran­saction services and president Asia-Pacific, Mr Berthold Tren­kel, said: “A number of banking clients are down 10 to 30 per cent in terms of their activity levels compared to last year. These are however shortterm ‘travel freezes’, and we expect this to bounce back in particular in Asia-Pacific.”

American Express Business Travel vice-president and ge­neral manager, head of business travel, ASEAN, Ms Irene See, said: “People are more prudent in their travel budget. They are not cutting back completely on their travel expenses, but are merely finding ways to stretch their dollar. ”

Singapore-based companies told TTG Asia they were reviewing business class travel, cutting down the size of the travelling team and choosing non-direct flights, which are cheaper than direct services.

Emerson Network Power marketing manager South-east Asia, Ms Merene Ong, said: “We are more likely to cut the number of staff who will fly to the event than to downgrade the hotel or venue chosen because we must maintain a certain standard for our brand, especially when key clients are present.”

Corporate travel agents such as Prime Travel & Tour are noticing policy travel changes. Prime’s corporate sales ma­na­ger, Ms Masriah Ruslan, said: “We noticed more clients are raising the requisites for granting business-class flights. Most MNC travel policies allow senior management employees to fly in business class should their flight last more than four or five hours. These companies are increasing the flight time, and thus reducing the need for business-class seats.”

Mr Trenkel said: “Often we see that companies will start with less drastic measures such as reducing travel to non-essential events and conventions, drop some internal meetings, or discourage day trips; followed by reviewing travel policies with regard to business versus economy flights. In addition, we have also seen an increased focus by clients on compliance to travel policies, ie, people travelling in the right class of travel, staying at the right hotel, using the preferred air, hotel and car supplier – and reminding those who do not do follow policy.”

Source : TTG
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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Malaysia looks forward to NATAS fair

THE Malaysian travel trade is counting on the Singapore National Association of Travel Agents (NATAS) Travel Fair for more Singapore visitors.

The fair is scheduled to be held from August 1 to 3, at the Singapore Expo Centre.

Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) tourism director, Mr Megat Shahrul Azman, said Singapore was a significant market for high-spending tourists to Langkawi. "They stay at top hotels and spend an average of RM1,000 (US$308) per day. The average Singaporean tourist spends three days/two nights on the island."

LADA will be leading a delegation of suppliers comprising hoteliers, inbound travel agents and product operators.

Hoteliers from Johor will also be represented. Johor Tourism Association committee member, Mr Jerome De La Fuente, said hoteliers would also try to accommodate potential bookings for the Formula One SingTel Singapore Grand Prix in September.

New Asia Holidays general manager, Mr Raaj Navaratnaa, said he was collaborating with his Singapore partners selling packages combining Johor and Singapore in conjunction with the Formula One event.

Source : TTG
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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Almost 1.9M tourists visit Malaysia in May

A total of 1,899,148 tourists visited Malaysia in May this year, representing an increase of 3.1 percent compared to the same month in 2007. Cumulatively, tourist arrivals recorded from January to May this year were 9,001,765, representing a 1.3-percent increase to same period last year.

Singapore maintained its position as the biggest tourist generating market for Malaysia with 1,011,090 Singaporeans visiting the country. Others in the top ten list are Indonesia, Thailand, China (including Hong Kong & Macau), Brunei, India, the Philippines , Japan, Australia and South Korea.

Source : TravelWeekly
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Promote eco-tourism products to woo visitors, says minister

The Tourism Ministry is tapping the potential of eco-tourism to woo foreign and domestic tourists, said its minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said.

“We are giving priority to eco-tourism products as they are popular among tourists,” she told reporters after the launching of the state level “Zoom! Malaysia” at the Kuala Gandah National Elephants Conservation Centre, Lanchang near here recently.

Azalina: ‘The Kuala Gandah National Elephants Conservation Centre is one of the eco-tourism products.’

She cited the centre, which received 86,000 visitors last year and 56,000 this year until May, as one of the eco-tourism products.

On Zoom! Malaysia, she said the programme was aimed at promoting domestic tourism as there was a large number of Malaysians travelling abroad last year.

She said facilities at the centre should be upgraded to make it more attractive to visitors.

On the government’s move to restrict functions at hotels, she said hotel operators should be creative in attracting local and foreign visitors to use their facilities.

Source : STAR
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Barisan and Pakatan Rakyat to get same tourism budget

All states, including those governed by Pakatan Rakyat, will be given the same allocation for tourism development.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said said there would be no cut in terms of aid and allocation.

“I love them and they love me,” said Azalina, referring to Pakatan state governments.

She said this after chairing the first National Tourism Council Conference at the Saloma Cafe in Jalan Ampang yesterday.

Also present at the conference were tourism state exco members from Pakatan states of Perak, Penang, Selangor and Kedah.

They were among the 168 representatives from the tourism sector attending a dialogue session with the ministry on tourism-related matters.Azalina said Penang, Langkawi and a wetland in Perak were favourite destinations of foreign tourists, and efforts would be put in to ensure the continuity of tourist arrivals.

She also said with the petrol price increase, the ministry would focus on promoting domestic tourism, which she expected to pick up.

While she welcomed AirAsia and MAS offering low fares, Azalina said the ministry would also talk to KTM and bus companies to boost budget domestic tour packages.In April, Azalina faced criticism when she announced that tourism memorandums of understanding with Pakatan-ruled state governments would be terminated given the change in leadership.

She said this was in line with the termination of Tourism Action Councils, previously chaired by Barisan Nasional’s state executive councillors in charge of tourism, in these states.

Later in May, she said the ministry will not “pull the plug” on tourism promotion activities in these states, as tourism revenue was crucial for economic growth.

Source : STAR
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Compensation for AirAsia flight delays

AirAsia will compensate passengers whose flights are delayed for more than three hours.

The budget carrier said it would give RM200 e-gift vouchers that can be used to buy their next AirAsia flight or any AirAsia product or service online. The e-voucher would be valid for three months.

Labelled as its “On Time Guarantee,” all flights from yesterday were accorded the service, which comes at no extra cost to passengers.

“We decided to put our money where our mouth was (in giving 5-star service).

“And interestingly enough the idea came from one of our staff,” said the budget carrier’s chief executive officer, Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes.

“I dare say we’re the first in the world to do this, and the fact that it’s gonna “hurt us” if we’re late is testament to our commitment to 5-star service for passengers,” he told a press conference here yesterday.

The refund, however, will only be applicable for delays caused by AirAsia and will not cover circumstances such as bad weather, air traffic control, airport closures and acts of God.

Passengers eligible for the compensation will receive the voucher within three working days of the delayed flight via e-mail. A call centre will be set up soon for those without e-mail accounts.

He said the three-hour period was just a start, adding that once the 12 new Airbus 320 were delivered, likely within this year, there would be room for improvement. The delay period would be reduced to one hour.

“In addition, over the last few weeks, we were the only airline to announce new routes to 'market ourselves' to survive the skyrocketing oil prices,” he said, adding that ticket sales had not been affected.

Tomorrow, AirAsia is expected to announce an array of new additions to their food menu.

In a separate statement, AirAsia clarified that it was financially strong and had been making monthly payments to Malaysia Airports Berhad in response to reports that AirAsia had not paid the latter since 2002 for airport terminal charges and tariffs.

“Contrary to claims made, the current management of AirAsia has made payments to Malaysia Airports Berhad over the last five years,” it said.

The statement further places on record that the amount owed was RM62.67mil, and not RM110.36mil purportedly claimed by the airport operator.

Source : STAR
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MAS terminates travel privileges for AirAsia CEO - Tony Fernandes

The war of words between AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines seems to have moved to a personal level with the latter terminating discount benefits for the former's group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes.

In a letter dated May 28, MAS managing director Datuk Seri Idris Jala said the MAS management team had decided it was “best to withdraw” Fernandes' travel privileges following protest letters from many MAS staff.

“I thought I should let you know that there have been numerous complaints from MAS staffers questioning the special privileges granted to you since 2006.

“Many of them feel hurt and frustrated with what they read in the news ... in the wake of your various negative statements about Malaysia Airlines,” he said in the letter.

Fernandes said he had been enjoying 50% discounts for first/business class and 75% for economy class. He said he never used the 75% discount as it was only for domestic routes which he flew on AirAsia.

When contacted, Fernandes said he felt surprised when he received the letter “about three weeks ago”.

He explained that discounted or free seats were a courtesy offered to fellow airline chief executive officers and this was practised even between the “bitterest of enemies”.

“We also offer free seats to Idris, but he’s never taken up the offer,” he said. That offer to Idris, he said, would not be withdrawn.

Asked if he was offended by MAS’ withdrawal, he replied: “No, just a little disappointed.”

“I never complained when MAS launched its free fares promotion. It is nothing personal and I will continue to ask for a level playing field.”

“I'd like to say that MAS has the best crew and I've always been treated warmly by MAS staff. They have always paid me utmost compliments on what we’ve done with AirAsia.

“I’ve always preferred to fly with MAS but I guess all good things must come to an end,” he said.

He said he received 75% discounts from Cathay Pacific and Qantas Airlines, and flew free with Virgin Airlines.

MAS confirmed this move.

“We've provided the travel privilege out of goodwill since 2006 in response to Tony’s request for interline facility for his own travel on our international routes although AirAsia does not have an interline agreement with Malaysia Airlines,” Idris said.

The statement added that according to industry practice, “only airlines with interlining agreements will consider granting such travel privileges for airline employees”.

Source : STAR
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Monday, June 16, 2008

How AirAsia keeps its fares low

AirAsia is able to retain its low fares despite the rising cost of fuel by reducing other costs, its director Conor McCarthy said.

“We’ve adopted various measures to offset our costs, such as charging for checked-in luggage, and promoting more merchandise and food sales on flights.

“We also have to rely on our tour packages and insurance to help alleviate costs,” said McCarthy, adding that low fares were a “need” to stimulate demand.

McCarthy, who is also adviser to AirAsia, was responding to public queries on whether price increases were in store following the recent rise in fuel prices after subsidies were restructured last week.

He added that AirAsia’s fleet of Airbus A320 aircraft also reduced fuel costs by 25% per seat.

However, even with such measures in place, McCarthy said AirAsia was being bogged down by the Government.

“Malaysia, and South-East Asia for that matter, is ripe for development and one method would be to liberalise the airways, especially the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore route, of which AirAsia is now accorded only two flights per day.

“In addition, AirAsia has requested to partially move its operations to Subang airport due to the congestion in the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT), and that too has not been allowed.

“There is no harm in encouraging competition among airlines, because it is Malaysians that stand to gain whilst the airlines improve themselves over time,” added McCarthy, who is also managing director, an international aviation consultation company.

Source : STAR
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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mr Jonas A Schuermann's Personal Touch in running Mandarin Oriental KL

Managing a five star hotel is not an easy feat. Jonas A. Schuermann, general manager of Mandarin Oriental will not rest on his laurels yet.

WE choose a secluded corner in the sunny Lounge on the Park to conduct the interview and the lobby is bustling with guests and friendly staff. But if you looked closely enough there are also a few plain clothes policemen and guards loitering around the front door.

“Excuse me, but I might have to stop the interview for a few minutes as the King of Jordan is leaving the hotel soon and I need to send him off,” says Jonas A. Schuermann while looking towards the main doorway. “How often do you get royalty staying in the hotel you’re managing? Of course the interview can wait while you see the King off,” I thought.

"I like being at the lobby as it is the heart of the hotel where all the action is"- Jonas A. Schuermann.

Growing up in a small village had inspired Schuermann to join the hotel industry. “I started out as a bus boy in a small hotel in 1979 and slowly worked my way up the ranks. I was mainly in the F&B department before managing the hotel as a general manager,” he says. He started out in Hong Kong, then to Beijing, Macau and now Malaysia for the past four years.

Now before anyone could say it’s an easy ride up the ranks, Schuermann will tell you that there is much hard work involved.

“The perception back then when I first started was that the hotel industry is the place to meet people and to travel. It was definitely something I cannot experience while growing up in my village,” he says.

“I have met many people and friends in my 30 odd years in the service industry. It was a pleasant and enjoyable ride,” he added.

“I am glad that my parents were supportive of what I wanted when I first started. They told me to do what I enjoyed doing most. After all, I will be working most of my life anyway so to do something you like will turn work into something enjoyable!”

Just another day at work

When asked what a typical day in the hotel is like, Schuermann is quick to stress that there is no “typical day” in this industry. “In the hotel, everything happens really quickly. A day can go from normal to extraordinary in a second!” he shares.

A normal day in Schuermann’s life begins at about 8 in the morning.

“I get to the hotel and I take a walk around the hotel. I check the log book to see what had happened during the night. Then I also check the list of guest who will be arriving that day. After that I start my meeting.”

Meetings for the day starts with a morning briefing to floor staff. “I also try to meet at least one different executive a day to listen to their problems and come up with solutions for an hour. For example, today I’ll meet up with someone from the finance department and tomorrow it’ll be someone from the HR department. I dedicate the afternoons for paperwork,” he continues.

“I like being at the lobby of the hotel. The lobby is the heart of the hotel and that’s where all the action is. It is where most guests are before checking in and it’s the best place to meet people. You cannot shake hands via email. Being in the service industry, the personal touch is important. Being able to communicate and connect with your guests will leave them with something special to remember during their stay in Mandarin Oriental.”

He also likes working till late because during the day, things tend to happen too fast.

“When you need to put things together or to sit down and think the night is the best time to do it,” he says.

The amount of passion that he exhibit was evident as he didn’t even realise that he works almost 15 hour everyday, six days a week. “When you enjoy what you’re doing, you wouldn’t mind working the long hours,” he says cheerfully.

In case of emergency . .

“The hotel is like a little village. At any one time, there are about five thousand people in the building. Happy and sad occasions are bound to happen,” says Schuermann.

“Many things had happened in my almost 30 years in this industry but the most memorable one has to be the one where a guest went into labour in the hotel (not Mandarin Oriental) and couldn’t be moved to the hospital due to certain complications. She had to give birth in the hotel. The child should be about 11-12 years old this year. The staff at the hotel had quite a celebration after the mother gave birth.”

“We have a fantastic system where all the staff knows what to do in case of emergency. If say a fire happens within the building, whoever on duty will know exactly who to call, how to evacuate guests in the safest way possible. Or say for whatever reasons the newspapers were not delivered for the day. That’s considered an emergency as well. Can you imagine how many angry and irritated guests we have in Mandarin Oriental if the papers are not delivered that day? If that’s the emergency, we might have to go to every newspaper kiosk in town to buy up all the papers or call another hotel for help. It might be something small in that sense, but still it’s an emergency for us,” says Schuermann.

Though not all staff are required to be on call 24/7, there are some key staffs that will have to be accessible at all time. “Someone from the security department and communications department will have to be on call. Other than that, staff on duty would already know what to do. I have so far only called from home a few times through my years working in a hotel. The system is very efficient.”

Now and then

“Many things stayed the same but at the same time, many things also have changed,” says Schuermann when asked about the differences in the industry in the past 30 years.

“The only thing that had stayed the same is that we still have to make our guests happy. Hospitality is all about making your guests feel welcomed. But having said that, the expectations of the guests had changed.

Some time back, a hotel are mainly for travellers who are looking for a place to stay the night. Now its all about lifestyle, security and convenience. You can even experience new things in a hotel!”

“Restaurants have more and more seasonal promotions and rooms are personalised to individual guests to ensure personal touches,” he added.

“In Mandarin Oriental, we ensure that you get the comfort and security of your home.”

Though there is a nice mix of business travellers and tourists, Schuermann confirms that there was an increase in people coming for leisure.

“Another thing that will never change in this industry is that you need a great team to stand by you,” Schuermann stresses.

“The hotel cannot be run by one person. Every single person is like an important cog in the machine. Without that one person, the wheel will not move. I am truly grateful that our team here in Mandarin Oriental went through thick and thin with me.”

MANDARIN Oriental Kuala Lumpur is the proud owner of four ISO and two MS certifications but does that effect you as a guest in the Mandarin Oriental?

The recently awarded ISO 22000:2005 and MS 1480 ­– Food Safety Management Systems requires all hazards that may be reasonably expected to occur in the food chain are identified, accessed and controlled as a preventive measure.

This ensures your peace of mind while you enjoy your meal at the Mandarin Oriental.

ISO 9001 – Quality Management provides a systematic approach in managing the organisation’s processes so that they consistently turn out product that satisfies customers’ expectations.

And with the ISO 14001 – Environment Management, environmentalists can rest assured that Mandarin Oriental take extra care in providing an environmentally friendly hotel for guests.

The OHSAS 18001 – Occupational Safety and Health and the MS 1722 – Malaysian Standards in Safety and Health ensures the safety of staff and guests alike.

Source : STAR
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Friday, June 13, 2008

St Regis Opening in KL in 2014

St Regis, the luxury hotel chain, will make its debut in Malaysia by 2014 with the six-star St Regis Kuala Lumpur which will have at least 200 guest rooms and 200 branded residences under an agreement signed with a local developer.

Starwood Hotels & Resort Worldwide Inc, which will operate the hotel, Thursday signed the management agreement with ONE IFC Hotel Sendirian Berhad and ONE IFC Residences Sendirian Berhad, both of which are subsidiaries of property group ONE IFC Sendirian Berhad.

ONE IFC is 60 per cent owned by CMY Capital Serndirian Berhad, with another 30 per cent held by listed Malaysian Resources Corporation Berhad and 10 per cent by Jitra Perkasa Sendirian Berhad.

"The agreement signed Thursday is proof that Kuala Lumpur is ready to welcome a brand whose reputation for luxury is incomparable," ONE IFC's chief executive officer, Carmen Chua, said at the signing ceremony here.

She said the St Regis Kuala Lumpur and The Residence at the St Regis Kuala Lumpur, which would also have spa, gourmet dining and meeting facilities, would be housed in a single mixed-use development called ONE IFC. She did not disclose the total cost of the project.

"The company's commitment to the ONE IFC project, despite current economic uncertainty, the sub-prime meltdown, inflation and rising construction costs demonstrates its confidence in the Malaysian economy and the country," Chua said.

ONE IFC will be a landmark defining the KL Sentral development project in the Malaysian capital just as the Petronas Twin Towers defines the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC) area, according to Chua.

It will be situated on Lot C of KL Sentral which is directly opposite the National Museum and Kuala Lumpur Lake Gardens.

New York-based Skidmore, Owings and Merrill LLP has been appointed architect for the ONE IFC project.

ONE IFC Sdn Bhd has signed an agreement that will see the world-renowned St Regis brand make its entry into Malaysia.

The six-star St Regis hotel, which is scheduled to open its doors in 2014, will be built on Lot C at KL Sentral. The St Regis Kuala Lumpur will feature a minimum 200 hotel rooms and 200 whole ownership units or residences.

“Our vision and aspirations are to create a development that would redefine luxury, and one that would raise the benchmarks of Malaysian real estate to that of international standards,” ONE IFC chief executive officer Carmen Chua told reporters at the signing with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc yesterday.

Starwood is a world leading hotel and leisure company with about 900 properties in 100 countries. Apart from the St Regis brand, Starwood manages other brands such as Le Meridien, Westin, Sheraton and The Luxury Collection.

The St Regis brand is over 100 years old and the St Regis Kuala Lumpur will feature the hallmark of the St Regis hotel – butler service and luxury accommodation.

Mustafa Kemal Abadan, design partner of the world-famous architecture firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), will design the hotel, residence and office tower.

SOM’s portfolio of over 800 design awards includes the Freedom Tower, which is the redevelopment of the World Trade Centre in New York, and the Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest tower, in the United Arab Emirates.

“The sustained demand for luxury accommodation, the renowned Malaysian hospitality, combined with the legendary bespoke service of the St Regis brand, and the unrivalled location of this hotel in the exclusive urban centre of KL Sentral, will make this property an extremely attractive choice for travellers to Kuala Lumpur,” said Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Asia Pacific president Miguel Ko.

ONE IFC is 60% owned by CMY Capital Sdn Bhd, 30% by Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd and 10% by Jitra Perkasa Sdn Bhd.

Construction of the ONE IFC hotel, residence and office tower development is expected to be financed by the shareholders funds and begin in 2010.

Chua also said the ONE IFC’s commitment to the project represented its confidence in the Malaysia economy despite the current climate of uncertainty, inflation and rising costs.

She said the final costing and the subsequent gross development value of the project would only be determined after the building was designed.

Source : NST Star
[tags : ]

MAH elects new board members

THE Malaysia Association of Hotels (MAH) elected the following for a two-year term (2008 to 2010) at its recent annual general meeting on June 10.

President: Datuk Hj Mohd Ilyas Zainol Abidin (De Palma Hotel Ampang, managing director)

Vice presidents: Mr Ivo R Nekvapil (City Hotel Kuala Lumpur director), Mr Shaheen Shah Mohd Sidek (Cyberview Lodge Resort & Spa Cyberjaya, general manager), and Ms Christina Toh (Dorsett Regency Hotel Kuala Lumpur, general manager)

Secretary-general: Mr Sam Cheah (Kuala Lumpur International Hotel, general manager)

Treasurer: Mr Chai Weng Moon (First Business Inn Kuala Lumpur, general manager)

Source : TTG
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No more fuel price increase, Malaysian PM assures

TOUR operators welcome prime minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's assurance yesterday that there would be no more fuel price increase for the rest of the year.

The prime minister's announcement came in the wake of fuel price increase in Malaysia on June 4 as well as statements from the government that fuel prices would be reviewed monthly (TTG Daily News, June 6 and 9).

World Avenues executive director, Mr Ally Bhoonee, said this made it "safer" for agents to create packages and get their overseas counterparts to market them.

Borneo Adventure, which is unable to increase rates due to contracts already signed with clients, has to absorb the revenue loss from the fuel price increase. Operation manager Mr Emong Tinsang said any further increase this year would cause further loss of revenue.

"We need five to six months to negotiate the rates with overseas operators for the next contracting period which begins in March, but we are not able to forecast ahead what fuel prices will be like in 2009."

Mr Ally said some transport companies were taking advantage of the fuel price rise to increase their coach rental by more than 50 per cent. He feels tour operators and transport companies must work hand in hand to save the destination from losing out to competitors with lower operating costs.

Source : TTG
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Malaysia participates in Tourism Futures National Conference

The Director General of Tourism Malaysia, YBhg. Dato’ Mirza Mohammad Taiyab, gave a glimpse of Tourism Malaysia’s future direction and goals to key industry players at the sixth Tourism Futures National Conference.

Held at the Crowne Plaza Royal Pines Resort on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia, from June 2-4, the conference was organised by Tourism Australia, Tourism Queensland and Gold Coast Tourism.

On tourism targets, Dato’ Mirza said: “Tourist arrivals to Malaysia made up 11.3 percent of the total tourist arrivals in the Asia Pacific region, or 2.2 percent worldwide in 2007, with 20.9 million arrivals. We are currently working towards target arrivals of 22.5 million by the end of 2008, and ultimately 25.7 million by 2010.”

On challenges: “The tourism industry that we face today is a challenging one. The rising oil prices and airfares; the emerging and strengthening of new tourist destinations and brands such as Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia; as well as the control gained by individual travellers with the use of the World Wide Web as opposed to consulting travel agents – all influence the way we campaign in each market and in each country.”

Source : Travel Weekly
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Malaysian trade fear sky-high prices will dampen China market

INBOUND agents handling China worry they may lose business to neighbouring countries during the July and August super peak season.

They are anxiously waiting to hear from their counterparts in China whether they will accept the proposed RMB200 (US$29) increase in tour packages, or send their customers to other countries that can offer better rates.

The increase is to be implemented in two stages, RMB100 in mid-June and another RMB100 in mid-July. It comes in the wake of a sudden fuel price increase on June 5 (TTG Daily News June 9).

The Kuala Lumpur Tourist Guides Association is negotiating with the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (MITA) and the Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association (MCTA) to raise guide fees for China from RM150 (US$46) per day to RM200, beginning July.

MITA division exco member for China, Mr Bernard Low, said even with the existing rate, Malaysia was more expensive compared to Thailand and Indonesia. He said a four-night/five-day package with three- to four-star accommodation in Langkawi cost about RMB4,500, compared to less than RMB4,000 in Bali or Phuket.

Source : TTG
[tags : ]

Travel agents expect domestic travel to increase

Domestic travel is expected to increase as the result of the recent increase in fuel prices, said Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) deputy president Datuk Mohd Khalid Harun.

He said although there would be impact on the industry, people could from now plan their holidays, and purchase travel packages during the Matta fair where the cheapest products would be up for sale.

“We are expecting over 80,000 people to buy our local and regional travel packages during the fair in September.

“Although the industry faces great challenges, we are optimistic we will still have customers,'' he told reporters during a dinner hosted for Matta's agents, airline companies and national tourism organisations at a hotel last night.

Matta president Ngiam Foon said there were always ways to stretch the ringgit.

“It is possible to get air tickets and hotels at a fairly reasonable price during off peak seasons and weekdays. People can always choose to stay at a three star or a budget hotel.”

About 80 people from the fraternity attended the Matta dinner, including the media.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Paya Indah Wetlands to reopen next month

THE Paya Indah Wetlands in Dengkil, Selangor, which has been closed since February 2005, will be reopened next month.

A soft relaunch will be held for the 3,100ha sanctuary filled with some 210 species of residential and migratory birds and 26 species of mammals, including four Nile hippopotami.

According to park superintendent Salman Saaban of the Wildlife and National Parks Department (Perhilitan), the reopening date would be decided by the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.

Almost done: Work on the Paya Indah Wetlands is almost complete.

“Perhilitan will also seek a meeting with the Selangor state government to update the new administration on the progress of rehabilitation work at Paya Indah,” he said.

Salman said that Selangor state tourism, consumer affairs and environment committee chairman Elizabeth Wong would also be briefed on the beautification and repair works at the park.

The Selangor state government and the state Wildlife Department had signed a memorandum of understanding on Aug 1 last year to make the department responsible for conserving and managing the wetlands for 30 years.

The Federal Government had invested RM160mil into the mega project meant for nature conservation when it opened in October 2001. It took over the park management after the Malaysian Wetlands Foundation disclosed that revenue from the wetlands was not enough to meet operating costs.

The park will reopen once the landscaping and mechanical and electrical works totalling RM11.1mil have been completed by contractor Gema Padu Sdn Bhd.

Once the wetlands reopens, Perhilitan will focus its efforts on conservation and research while attractions like angling, boating, cycling and nature walks in the recreation zone will be privatised.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Hoteliers turn price hike guru for tourism sector

The Malacca Hotel Association (Maha) will forward several proposals to the state in a bid to help prepare the tourism sector absorb the effects of the fuel price increase.

Maha president Datuk Syed Rahman Alkaff said there were concerns that the fuel price increase would adversely affect tourism resulting in a drop in the number of foreign and domestic tourists.

“What is needed is proper planning and marketing by the state to ensure that the tourism sector remains vibrant,” he said yesterday.

On Monday, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said the state would adopt several innovative strategies to ensure that the target of 6.8 million tourist arrivals for 2008 was met.

Although admitting there would be a drop in the number of foreign tourists, Mohd Ali was confident that this would be offset by a rise in domestic tourists.

Syed Rahman said that Maha, which has 60 registered members, would hold a meeting later this month to look at ways to minimise the impact of a slowdown in the travel industry before forwarding several proposals to the state.

Among the proposals, he mentioned, were improving the transport system and offering a “master-ticket” for all the 23 museums here, as well as for the river cruise and viewing tower.

He also suggested that the state reconsider plans for the RM1.8 bil aerorail link in the city.

“It would be more beneficial if they considered linking KLIA to Malacca,” he said, adding that this would help bring in more foreign visitors to the state.

He also urged the state to begin promoting and marketing the upgraded RM132mil Batu Berendam airport immediately before its completion in 2010.

On the state’s tourist-related projects such as the Malacca River beautification project and Taming Sari viewing tower, he said they had received positive feedback from tourists.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

AirAsia slashes fares to just RM1

AirAsia has returned with irresistible promotions with some 250,000 seats up for grabs with fares from as low as RM1 to domestic and regional destinations in line with the Mega Sale Carnival 2008.

Fares as low as RM1 are for one-way from Kuala Lumpur hub to popular destinations in Peninsular Malaysia including the new stop, Kuantan, and international destinations such as Singapore, Banda Aceh, Medan, Padang and Palembang.

One-way tickets to certain destinations in Sabah and Sarawak and Southeast Asia are priced at RM20.

Fares to Chiang Mai, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Hanoi, Clark (Manila), Macau, Shenzhen and the new destinations of Haikou (Hainan) are at RM70 and Hong Kong at RM150.

To top it off, this promotion also includes AirAsia X service to Gold Coast, Australia, at RM199.

These low fares come with the lowest surcharges and airport tax in the country.

“From the past Mega Sale promotion, there was an increase in the number of tourists to Malaysia which helped stimulate the growth of the tourism industry,” said AirAsia group chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes.

“Therefore, we believe this year’s campaign would encourage more visits from tourists.

“The Mega Sale also gives us a chance to enhance our customer satisfaction by providing exceptional holiday experience for a minimal fare,” he said.

Booking period is from today to June 22, while travel period is from July 1 to Sept 25.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Kuantan set to be AirAsia’s eastern hub

Low-cost carrier AirAsia plans to have direct flights from here to international destinations like Singapore, Jakarta and Bangkok.

This follows the airline's introduction of flights from the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) at KLIA to the state capital from June 1.

Present at the official launch here yesterday were Tengku Puan Pahang Tengku Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah Sultan Iskandar, Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob and AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes.

Speaking to reporters later, Fernandes said there was potential for Kuantan to become the airline’s east coast hub.

“We have been looking for an east coast hub as we think the east coast has enormous potential. If there is good infrastructure, there is no reason we cannot sell the whole of east coast from Kuantan,” he added.

There was a huge demand from Singaporeans for direct flights from Kuantan, he noted.

Fernandes said the airline had already submitted its application to the Transport Ministry and was awaiting a reply.

On the fuel price rise and the company’s efforts to remain cost- effective while introducing new routes and more flights, Fernandes said the way to deal with the increase was for the airline to market its way out of the problem.

“We have developed many ways of keeping our fares low despite the rising oil price,” he added.

“We also sell more things now, including hot food instead of boxed food. We have to find ways to deal with it. We have a brand new fleet, and fuel burn is much lower. “

Tengku Abdullah, in his speech earlier, said he hoped AirAsia would continue to operate in Kuantan despite the oil price rise.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Air Asia challenges MAS union boss

Air Asia employees have hit back at remarks attributed to the Malaysia Airlines Employees Union and its executive secretary Mustafar Maarof.

Local media reported Maarof’s claims that AirAsia should stop “pressuring” the Malaysian government to allow it to operate from Subang airport or turn it into a low-cost hub.

Maroof also said that AirAsia should “not push for more flights on the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore route”.

Air Asia employees said they were “deeply hurt and bitterly disappointed” by the remarks attributed to Maarof.

Their statement went on, “The remarks indicate either a fundamental lack of knowledge about how the free market works or – and we trust this is not so – a deliberate attempt at obfuscating the facts of the case.

“We are not sure where Encik Mustafar gets the idea from that AirAsia is “pressuring the government” on these issues.

“It is not “pressure” but simple fairness that the government, in turn, does its utmost to enable AirAsia to perform at its ultimate capability.

“Unlike MAS, AirAsia is not a government linked company but a private firm, founded and operating under its own steam and in a free market environment.

"For Encik Mustafar’s information, AirAsia’s entry into a particular route has not resulted in “heated and uncontrolled competition among local airlines, which could ultimately force local airlines to contemplate closure”.

“In essence, AirAsia and MAS operate in two different markets on any particular sector – one is a full-service, legacy carrier; the other a budget carrier.

"It is MAS that has now ventured into AirAsia’s market by launching its own 'budget' fares.

"And given that MAS now appears unable to settle on its own identity – whether to focus on being a full-service carrier challenging the likes of Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific etc, or become a low-cost carrier – is an issue for the MAS management and its employees union to deal with."

Source : TravelMole
[tags : ]

Hotels issue wake-up call about being 'wiped out'

Hoteliers are worried about being "wiped out" by the government's decision not to hold functions at hotels, unless they were international events.

Malaysian Association of Hotels president Datuk Mohd Ilyas Zainol Abidin said up to 70 per cent of events at hotels were from the government sector.

"The government can scale down their events but to stop coming to us will wipe some of us out."

Speaking after the association's annual dinner last night, Ilyas said the government should consider "repackaging" its hotel events.

"For instance, instead of using a four-star hotel, the event could be held at a three-star hotel.

"Or, instead of giving each participant a room, let them share rooms."

He said in times of rising costs, the government should help the hotel sector.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said, who was at the function, agreed that the hotel industry needed help.

Azalina added: "I am concerned as hoteliers have invested a lot. I hope a solution can be found."

Source : NST
[tags : ]

Shows and facilities upgraded to attract tourists in Malacca

The well-known Taman Mini Malaysia and Mini Asean in Ayer Keroh have undergone re-branding to remain among the state’s top tourist attractions.

K.I. Pengurusan Holdings managing director Bharat Ajmera said the re-branding involved upgrading facilities and traditional performances.

“There is a new stage for activities, upgraded camp sites and trails for jungle trekking for corporate camps,” he said.

Taman Mini Malaysia and Mini Asean has 13 Malay and 12 Asean traditional houses.

Bharat said the traditional wooden homes had been refurbished.

He said that newly-choreographed dances had been lined up for visitors.

Meanwhile, Raneesha Manoharan, 24, a ballet-Bollywood performer, said she was roped in to assist performers here in new dance techniques.

For inquires, call Taman Mini Malaysia and Mini Asean at 06-232 1331

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Eye on Malaysia to be one-of-a-kind attraction

The state’s RM40mil Eye on Malaysia project will include several features to make it a one of its kind tourist attraction.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said that besides the ferris wheel, there would also be a 90m water screen and entertainment rides.

He said the project was being carried out under a 60-40 joint-venture between Kumpulan Melaka Berhad (KMB) and the current operators of the Eye On Malaysia, MST AD Suria Sdn Bhd.

“The 60m ferris wheel is scheduled to arrive here in September and become operational by Oct 18,” he told reporters this after performing the ground-breaking ceremony here yesterday.

Mohd Ali said a month of festivities along the Malacca River would be held to announce the Eye’s move from Taman Tasik Titiwangsa to its permanent home at a 2ha site along the Kota Laksamana coastline next to a RM24 mil marina project.

Once operational, the ferris wheel is expected to attract 700,000 visitors in a year.

Meanwhile, Kota Melaka MP Sim Tong Him voiced his concerns over the project.

“It is a waste of money to have the ferris wheel here as there is already the Eye On Melaka and the Taming Sari viewing tower,” he said.

He said tourists wanted to experience the state's culture and heritage and not “view it from above.”

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Monday, June 09, 2008

Penang Govt mulling over RM30m theme park proposal

The state is studying the possibility of allowing a RM30mil theme park similar to the Genting Highlands Theme Park complete with fun rides and a water park to be set up in Seberang Prai.

State Tourism, Culture, Arts and Heritage Committee chairman Danny Law Heng Kiang said that a local firm had submitted the proposal to build the family theme park on a 2ha site located near Auto-City in Juru here.

“The proposal seems quite acceptable but we will still need to vet it through the state Economic Planning Unit, the Environmental Department and local council before making a decision,” he said after visiting the Auto-City carnival yesterday.

“It would be a medium-scale theme park situated next to the Prai river and it would have fun rides, outdoor activities, a hawker centre and a water-theme park.

“There is a possibility that the park will be expanded to 4ha if things go well,” he said, adding that the proposed site belonged to a local firm.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Firefly offering 100,000 free tickets at Penang Matta Fair

The Penang Matta Fair 2008 is offering 100,000 free tickets from community airline Firefly to fly to six of its destinations.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) Penang chairman Ann G.H. Tan said the offer was aimed at drawing more visitors to the fair to be held at the Penang International Sports Arena from July 4 to 7.

Firefly, which is owned by Malaysia Airlines System Bhd (MAS), is among the main sponsors of the Penang Matta Fair.

It plies the Subang-Penang route and also flies to Langkawi, Kota Baru, Kuala Terengganu, Kuantan, Koh Samui and Phuket.

Tan said in a statement yesterday that besides the free air tickets for lucky visitors, the fair would also feature some interesting side activities and offer attractive discounts for tour packages as well as lucky draws.

She said there would be 281 booths, including 36 manned by travel agents and 74 on tourism promotion.

Meanwhile, the fair organisers are trying to get the cooperation of RapidPenang to provide free bus transport for visitors to the fair

Source : STAR
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