Wednesday, August 27, 2008

5 - 7 Sep : Matta Fair 2008

5 to 7 September 2008

Matta Fair 2008 is back

Malaysia No1 Travel Fair

With More Exhibitors

More Low Fares

More Travel Bargains

Time : 10am to 9pm


Putra World Trade Centre

Kuala Lumpur

Source : shoppingNsales
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First KL Airshow In Subang Next Year To Attract 300 Participants

Almost 300 aviation and plane manufacturing companies will be participating in the first Kuala Lumpur Airshow 2009 (KLas 2009) to be held at the Asia Pacific Auction Centre (Apac) in Subang Airport from July 15th to 19th, next year.

Chief Executive Officer, World Aerospace Sdn Bhd, Nonee Ashirin Mohd Radzi said today that the exhibition was aimed at bringing in the latest people from the industry, products and technologies and to act as a melting pot for professionals and experts in the aviation industry.

"With the endorsement by the Ministry of Tourism, we will be focusing on commercial airlines and business jets in the show," she said.

The show will focus on general aviation, business and regional jets, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO), airport technologies and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM).

"With its strategic location, KLas 2009 is set to draw a larger participation of commercial aircraft and buyers internationally," she told reporters adding that World Aerospace was also the organiser for last year's Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace (LIMA) exhibition in the aviation division.

Nonee said it was timely to hold the airshow in Subang, being a more conducive place to have an exhibition of such nature.

"It is also timely as the VistaJet Skypark had been launched in Subang and LIMA has grown into a military show especially the maritime sector so there is a vacuum in the commercial sector for aerospace," she added.

She also said that the show will not only address the trade people but will also be opened to the public on the last two days.

People from the Klang Valley will be treated to airshows involving international aerobatic teams, she added.

Source : Bernama
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Tourism Malaysia To Promote Domestic Tourism

Tourism Malaysia will cooperate with more organisations to promote domestic tourism including supporting more Treasure Hunt programmes.

Domestic tourism was among the most important segment of the industry as it formed the backbone of the country's tourism, its Deputy Director-General (Promotions), Datuk Razali Mohd Daud, told reporters after flagging of the NPC-Celcom 2008 Treasure Hunt to Penang at the Celcom headquarters here Saturday.

He said domestic tourism was also important to the country as it helped to prevent the outflow of funds besides inculcating national integration among the various races in the country.

He said treasure hunt programmes should be held from time to time not only by the media but also other groups so that the people could see for themselves the facilities available in the country.

Meanwhile, National Press Club (NPC) president Mokhtar Hussain said Penang was selected as the destination of the treasure hunt this year to coincide with the selection of Georgetown as a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

"Besides recreation, we hope the hunt can contribute in promoting domestic tourism. We feel this is the right time to invite the public to know the 'Pearl of the Orient' more closely as well as interacting directly with pressmen," he said.

With the theme "Lets Travel" and the slogan "Travel To Appreciate Heritage", the Treasure Hunt is being participated by almost 300 hunters comprising media personnel, Celcom staff and the public travelling in 100 vehicles.

First prize winners will receive a cash prize of RM5,000 for the media and open categories. It is being sponsored by Celcom for the third time consecutively while the other sponsors include TRC Synergy Bhd, Sime Darby Bhd, Sutera Harbour Resorts.

Mokhtar said the NPC planned to organise the annual event to the East Coast or the southern states next year.

Source : Bernama
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AirAsia To Start Operation In Melaka's Bukit Berendam Airport Dec 8

Low cost carrier AirAsia is expected to start its operations this December 8 at Melaka's Batu Berendam Airport (LTBB) which is undergoing a facelift worth RM131.5 million.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said six destinations had been identified by Air Asia for its initial operations comprising four places in Sumatra and two domestic destinations.

"The destinations jointly agreed upon, using the Boeing 737 aircraft, are Palembang, Pekan Baru, Padang and Medan in Sumatra, and Pulau Pinang and Langkawi," he told reporters after chairing the Exco meeting here Wednesday.

Also present at Wednesday's event was Air Asia chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes, chairman of Air Asia Datuk Aziz Bakar and the general manager of Malaysia Airports Bhd, Abdul Rahman Karim.

Mohd Ali said the four major towns in Sumatra were selected based on their potential for medical tourism while Pulau Pinang and Langkawi for their popularity as tourist destinations.

"Among other destinations being suggested are Jakarta, Kota Kinabalu and Nanjing in China and we have opened negotiations to other airline companies besides Air Asia which showed an early commitment to use the LTBB," he said.

The expansion and upgrading work on LTBB which started last April is expected to be completed in April next year and a major aim is to provide facilities to medical tourists.

The number of medical tourists who sought medical assistance in the specialist hospital in Melaka is estimated to have gone up to more than 67,000 people last year compared with 18,000 people in 2004 with most of them coming from Sumatra.

Work on LTBB is being carried out by the Uni-Integrated consortium which will construct a new terminal covering 7,000 sq metres and is expected to be equipped with various facilities to cater to both domestic and international flights.

Mohd Ali said the Batu Berendam airport will be able to handle a capacity of 1.5 million passengers a year, adding that some 500,000 visitors were expected in the first five years.

On the runway, which would have to be extended by 400 metres to 2,200 metres from the current 1,800 metres, he said the contractors involved in the expansion of LTBB had agreed to first bear the cost of RM40 million.

"I am giving the guarantee to the contractors that the state government will pay the RM40 million after a period of several years," he said.

He said that the application for the RM40 million has been also submitted to the Transport Ministry and is currently under consideration.

The extension of the runway to 2,200 metres is in line with international specifications for the safe and comfortable landing of an Airbus 320.

Meanwhile, Tony said Air Asia was ready to cooperate with the Melaka government. He also described Melaka as having great potential as a tourist destination especially in medical tourism.

"Coincidentally, Dec 8 is also the anniversary date of Air Asia and we are ready to take on a role in LTBB and hope to transport many tourists through the LTBB," he said.

Source : Bernama
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Beachfront Mosque Set To Be Tourist Draw

Not many people, including the residents here, know that Tawau’s Al-Kauthar Mosque is the largest in Sabah and may rank as among the biggest in the country.

What ever it is, the mosque in its own right is rather unique due to its vicinity to commercial centres and a public transport terminal.

Among the buildings in the mosque locality are the district public library and the Federal House that has the offices of various government agencies.

The mosque sits along the beachfront that has a popular recreational stretch known as the Traulsen Drive.

The sight from within the mosque itself is something to behold, as one is able to witness the merchant ships and fishing boats that sail in the Cowie Straits.

From the mosque, one has a clear sight of Pulau Sebatik, an island divided between Malaysia and Indonesia.


Construction of the RM31.5 million Al-Kauthar Mosque began on June 19, 1997.

The mosque was fully completed in October 2002 and the structure was officially opened by the then Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail on Aug 13, 2004.

The mosque has a dome that measures 20 metres in circumference as well as a minaret that stands 58 metres metres high.

Surrounded by lush greenery which include flowering plants, giving it a touch of radiance, the mosque can accommodate a congregation of up to 17,000 people at any particular time.

In the evenings, several eagles can be seen circling high above the mosque before making their descent onto the mosque's dome.

The raptors appear to be involved in a dogfight trying to get a grip on the domes crescent and star-shaped structures.


The Al-Kauthar Mosque also boasts of having facilities for conducting seminars apart from being equipped with an administration office, library and outlet for the sale of religious paraphernalia.

Its strategic location provides a short and easy route for Muslims from nearby business complexes and offices as well as those on leisure visits to the beach to reach it to perform their religious obligations.


Looking at the buildings standing as the largest mosque in Sabah and among the biggest in Malaysia, Al-Kauthar Mosque has the potential of being turned into a tourist draw for the district.

What is needed to make this a reality is a concerted effort by the state government and religious authorities as well as the mosque management and travel agents to promote Al-Kauthar Mosque as a tourist draw.

The State Legislative Assembly Representative for Tanjung Batu, Datuk Hamisah Samad, said the mosque is suitable to be developed into a tourist attraction for Tawau.

"As a resident of Tawau, I welcome any move to turn Al-Kauthar Mosque into one of Tawaus tourism products", Hamisah told Bernama here recently.

She said for this to materialise, several aspects like the mosques surrounding landscape should be improved for the sake of the visiting tourists.

Tawau is the gateway for air travellers to the tourism haven of Semporna, located some 30 km away.

Source : Bernama
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KLCC Wins UN Green Globe Award

The Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) bagged another award when it received the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Green Globe Benchmarked Bronze Status recently.

To win the award, KLCC was measured against its sustainable policy, energy consumption, portable (treated) water consumption, wastes sent to landfill, community development, paper products, cleaning products and pesticide products.

KLCC has also achieved best practices in three areas namely, energy consumption, water consumption and wastes sent to landfill.

General manager Peter Brokenshire said in the press statement that the KLCC would continue to look into more prudent measures involving all levels of staff to ensure that they were able to exceed previous performance levels.

He credited KLCC's ongoing 3R (Reduce, Re-use and Recycle) campaign which encouraged staff and visitors to segregate their rubbish into colourful bins strategically located around the centre," stated Brokenshire.

Amongst the awards already under KLCC's belt are: TravelWeekly (Asia) Industry Awards' "Best Exhibition and Convention Centre in Asia" in 2007 and the BrandLaureate Awards 2007-2008 for excellence in product branding.nchmarked Bronze Status recently.

To win the award, KLCC was measured against its sustainable policy, energy consumption, portable (treated) water consumption, wastes sent to landfill, community development, paper products, cleaning products and pesticide products.

KLCC has also achieved best practices in three areas namely, energy consumption, water consumption and wastes sent to landfill.

General manager Peter Brokenshire said in the press statement that the KLCC would continue to look into more prudent measures involving all levels of staff to ensure that they were able to exceed previous performance levels.

He credited KLCC's ongoing 3R (Reduce, Re-use and Recycle) campaign which encouraged staff and visitors to segregate their rubbish into colourful bins strategically located around the centre," stated Brokenshire.

Amongst the awards already under KLCC's belt are: TravelWeekly (Asia) Industry Awards' "Best Exhibition and Convention Centre in Asia" in 2007 and the BrandLaureate Awards 2007-2008 for excellence in product branding.

Source : Bernama
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KLCC Wins UN Green Globe Award

The Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) bagged another award when it received the United Nations World Tourism Organisation Green Globe Benchmarked Bronze Status recently.

To win the award, KLCC was measured against its sustainable policy, energy consumption, portable (treated) water consumption, wastes sent to landfill, community development, paper products, cleaning products and pesticide products.

KLCC has also achieved best practices in three areas namely, energy consumption, water consumption and wastes sent to landfill.

General manager Peter Brokenshire said in the press statement that the KLCC would continue to look into more prudent measures involving all levels of staff to ensure that they were able to exceed previous performance levels.

He credited KLCC's ongoing 3R (Reduce, Re-use and Recycle) campaign which encouraged staff and visitors to segregate their rubbish into colourful bins strategically located around the centre," stated Brokenshire.

Amongst the awards already under KLCC's belt are: TravelWeekly (Asia) Industry Awards' "Best Exhibition and Convention Centre in Asia" in 2007 and the BrandLaureate Awards 2007-2008 for excellence in product branding.nchmarked Bronze Status recently.

To win the award, KLCC was measured against its sustainable policy, energy consumption, portable (treated) water consumption, wastes sent to landfill, community development, paper products, cleaning products and pesticide products.

KLCC has also achieved best practices in three areas namely, energy consumption, water consumption and wastes sent to landfill.

General manager Peter Brokenshire said in the press statement that the KLCC would continue to look into more prudent measures involving all levels of staff to ensure that they were able to exceed previous performance levels.

He credited KLCC's ongoing 3R (Reduce, Re-use and Recycle) campaign which encouraged staff and visitors to segregate their rubbish into colourful bins strategically located around the centre," stated Brokenshire.

Amongst the awards already under KLCC's belt are: TravelWeekly (Asia) Industry Awards' "Best Exhibition and Convention Centre in Asia" in 2007 and the BrandLaureate Awards 2007-2008 for excellence in product branding.

Source : Bernama
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10 proposals to build hotels in Penang

GEORGE Town’s listing as a World Heritage Site by Unesco has drawn the confidence of investors to Penang, especially in the tourism sector.

Penang Tourism Development, Culture, Arts and Heritage Com-mittee chairman Danny Law Heng Kiang said this was shown by the over 10 proposals the state had re-ceived from potential investors to set up hotels in the state.

“The proposals include hotels in Penang Road, Magazine Road, Burmah Road, Kelawei Road, Tan-jung Bungah, Batu Ferringhi and Weld Quay. Some heritage buildings in George Town will also be converted into hotels,’’ he said in his speech at the Penang Hoteliers’ Association’s 51st annual dinner on Sunday night.

The dinner was also held in conjunction with the celebration of George Town’s listing as a World Heritage Site.

Former state executive councillor Datuk Dr Teng Hock Nan, who was the guest of honour, urged the state government and Penangites to comply with the heritage guidelines set by Unesco so that the state’s listing would not be jeopardised.

“This listing is just the begin-ning of a great challenge to the present state government as the people of Penang would be having high expectations that the listing would bring about better economic development for the state,’’ he said.

Association chairman Datuk Lim Mee Lee, in his speech, urged the state government to improve security and safety measures at tourist spots in Penang to make tourists feel safe.

“If Penang has a high crime rate, it would have a bad impact on our tourism industry,’’ he said.

He also urged the state government to have a professional heritage management committee to look into reviving significant heritage buildings which are in poor condition.

Source : STAR
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MAS remains focused on cost savings

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is not looking to expand its routes at present as it is still focusing on cost savings in the face of high fuel prices.

Chairman Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid said the impact of higher fuel prices alone cost the airline an extra RM780mil in the last quarter ended June 30.

“At the moment we are not looking at new routes. Although the oil price has come down a little from its highest levels, it is still higher than the average price last year, so we’re still suffering,” he told reporters after opening MAS’ Pintar camp for school students at Kem Pueh, Sematan, about 120km from here on Wednesday.

While fuel prices remained high, MAS still had to control its costs and implement fuel-saving measures, he said.

“In that situation your management resources are focused on cost savings, on maintaining your survivability and living to fight another day. So expansion takes a back seat,” he said.

Munir also said the airline was not in emergency or panic mode but was in control of the situation.

He said MAS was doing well despite the difficult circumstances and managed to achieve a profit in the second quarter of the year, even if it was down by 65% compared with the previous correspondingperiod.

“We are one of the top airlines in the world in terms of financial survivability.

“Being able to survive financially is the most important thing, from which we can do other things including corporate responsibility programmes like this Pintar camp,” he said.

Source : STAR
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tourism industry to remain robust

The local tourism industry, which generates RM10bil in receipts annually, is expected to remain relatively robust despite being beset by global and regional woes.

According to Tourism Malaysia statistics, tourist arrivals to Malaysia rose 3.9% to 12,891,202 in the first seven months of the year against 12,404,377 in the previous corresponding period.

“The modest increase suggests that the rise in fuel and transport costs over the past several years, particularly the sharp spike in world oil prices, and second quarter growth contraction in Japan and European Union countries have not yet impacted Malaysia’s tourism sector,” RAM Holdings Bhd chief economist Dr Yeah Kim Leng said.

He added that the long-haul segment, especially from the high-income countries in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand, recorded double-digit growth in the first seven months.

“This important segment, characterised by longer staying and higher spending tourists, constitutes about 8% of the total number of tourist arrivals in the country,” he said.

China and the Middle East were two other markets which saw significant growth in tourist arrivals - 41% and 15% respectively.

“Though their market shares, at 4.5% and 0.6% respectively, are still relatively small, the strong growth suggests good potential to expand the foreign tourist sub-sector,” said Yeah.

However, industry players are bracing for a consolidation in the tourism sector on expectations of marginal growth this year due to a slowing global economy, inflationary pressures and fuel price woes.

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Ngiam Foon said that given the current scenario of high fuel prices, Government subsidies would assist its members in operating tourism vehicles.

“The recent hikes had increased our transport charges by up to 20% depending on the services and many Matta members have contracts with overseas agents of up to March 2009 based on old rates,” he said.

He also suggested grants for overseas promotion and sales trips and missions, saying that inbound tourism also played an important part in foreign exchange earnings.

Mayflower Acme Tours Sdn Bhd director and general manager Chin Ten Hoy said that 2008 and 2009 might be years of consolidation for the industry after the strong tourist arrivals of 20.97 million recorded in 2007.

“Tourists’ focus on Asia switched to China ahead of the Olympic Games in Beijing and it will continue to be on China after this,” he said.

“For long-haul tourists, the length of stay may shorten from three weeks to 14 days and the choice of hotels may switch from the 5-star category to the 4-star and from the 4-star to the 3-star,” he said.

For the upcoming Budget, he said, the company hoped to see an incentive payout scheme for travel agencies based on the number of tourists brought into Malaysia by the travel agent as well as diesel subsidies for tourist buses.

“Tourism Malaysia should continue to promote all popular destinations in Malaysia instead of promoting selectively on certain destinations,” he added.

Meanwhile, Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel group managing director Anthony Wong said next year’s budget allocation should look at product development and training of people in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners president Low Gee Tat said players in the hotel industry would like to see a special electricity tariff, reinvestment allowance for big capital items and special allowance for hotels that employed environmental friendly gadgets.

Despite challenging times ahead, a 2008 World Travel & Tourism Council research has projected that Malaysia’s travel and tourism industry would generate RM89bil worth of economic activity and 532,000 jobs this year and contribute 4.8% to the gross domestic product.

Source : STAR
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AirAsia giving away 1 MILLION Free Seats

AirAsia has launched its “one million free seats” promotion for flights from its seven hubs: Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Johor, Bangkok, Jakarta and Bali.

The free seats are available for booking between Aug 26 and 31 for travel between April 1 and July 31 next year. Passengers need only pay for fuel surcharges and airport tax.

The campaign includes flights to more than 105 routes in the Asean region and China as well as to Perth and Melbourne.

“We are also offering great hotel rates and packages under ‘Go Holiday’ to go along with the free flights,” said the low-cost carrier’s regional head of commercial Kathleen Tan in a statement yesterday.

The offer is available for six days from today at

26 to 31 August 2008

Air Asia 1,000,000 FREE Seats

We’re making your Holiday Dreams come true!

Get your planner out and pin those dates down! Cancel the dinner and move that meeting, because it doesn’t get better than 1,000,000 FREE SEATS.

Fly to Malaysia, Australia, Brunei, Thailand, China

Inonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam

Booking Period : 26 - 31 Aug 2008

Travel Period : 1 Apr - 31 Jul 2009


Best time to log on is between 3-7am

Reservations starts Midnight Tonite

Book a FREE Seat on

Source : STAR shoppingNsales
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AirAsia to fly to London in March

Budget carrier AirAsia X has reiterated that it will fly to London in March, with Stansted airport the likely destination.

“Definitely, it is going to happen and I am optimistic that it will happen in March,” said Datuk Tony Fernandes, AirAsia X director, founder and group CEO of South-East Asia’s largest budget carrier, AirAsia.

»Definitely, it is going to happen« DATUK TONY FERNANDES

He said high fuel prices would not deter expansion plans.

The long-haul budget carrier had planned to launch flights to London in December but difficulties in securing a leased airplane forced it to postpone.

Fernandes said AirAsia X favoured Stansted, on the outskirts of London, but would finalise its plans in September when it meets officials from Stansted as well as Manchester airport, which is its other option.

He said the carrier would use a leased A340-300 to mount direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, which will act as a hub for other regional destinations in the AirAsia network.

Fernandes added there were plans to fly to South America and Africa.

AirAsia X CEO Azran Osman Rani rejected pessimism among aviation analysts about the prospects for long-haul budget carriers.

“Our model proves that low-cost long-haul can work if you do it right. The faster we expand, the faster our costs drop and the faster we can be more aggressive on pricing,” he said.

AirAsia X has purchased 25 Airbus A330-300 aircraft and is expecting delivery of the first two in October and December this year.

AirAsia X is an affiliate of AirAsia and Virgin Group and was launched in January 2007

Source : Star
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Tourism Malaysia to stick to higher arrivals target

TOURISM Malaysia's request to its board to revise 2008 arrivals target from 22.5 million to 21.5 million, has been vetoed.

With arrivals in the first seven months this year at 12.9 million, this means Tourism Malaysia must draw another 9.6 million more visitors in the next five months - or around 1.9 million a month.

Tourism Malaysia's deputy director-general for planning, Mr Amirrudin Abu, said the NTO's plan was to aim at quick conversion markets to make the numbers. He added more promotional strategies would be developed to make Malaysia a top-of-the-mind destination for weekend visitors from shorthaul markets.

There will be more tacticals with Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and foreign airlines. Tourism Malaysia will also attract more charter flights and launch aggressive promotions to attract tourists from China, India and the Middle East.

Source : TTG
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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Firefly to replace fleet

FIREFLY passengers will get to enjoy bigger leather seats with wider leg space with the airlines’ newly launched ATR 72-500 aircraft.

The plane, which departed from Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport in Subang at 6.50am yesterday, arrived at the Penang International Airport at 9.30am after a brief stopover in Kota Baru.

At the runway, the bright orange aircraft was greeted with a water salutation by the airport’s fire brigade while its passengers received a warm and colourful welcome from a kompang troupe.

Firefly managing director Eddy Leong said the new aircraft was more fuel-efficient and had a more comfortable cabin interior compared to the Fokker 50-seater planes.

Special reception:Guests from Firefly's ATR 72-500 plane were given a warm welcome during its first landing at the Penang International Airport yesterday.

He said the company planned to replace all its Fokker-50 aircrafts with 10 new ATR 72-500 planes by next August.

Leong said the airline’s cheap airfares, flight experience and direct flight services made it a premium airline.

“We don’t require lengthy check-ins because we are smaller in size. We will also be introducing complimentary in-flight refreshments in November,” he said, adding that Firefly passengers now received a generous 20kg baggage allowance.

Among the special guests on board the inaugural flight were 14 pupils and four teachers from SRJK Sabak in Kota Baru and journalists from Kuala Lumpur.

“Today’s the most exciting day of my life! I woke up very early in the morning as I couldn’t wait to get up the plane,” said 12-year-old Anumi Nur Afifah, who was flying for the first time.

Penang Tourism Action Council (PTAC) chairman Datuk Kee Phaik Cheen, who was at the airport to welcome the passengers said as Firefly was flying in the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMTGT) region, Penang had a tourist catchment of 70 million.

The airline currently operates flights from Penang to Subang, Langkawi, Kuantan, Kota Baru, Kuala Terengganu, Phuket, Koh Samui, Medan, Bandar Aceh and soon to Sumatra.

Source : STAR

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French tourist assaulted by two youths

A FRENCHMAN was hit on the head with a bottle by two youths at a coffee shop in Weld Quay in George Town.

OCPD Asst Comm Azam Abd Hamid said the 54-year-old tourist told off the duo as they were using their laser pointers on the television screen while he was watching the Olympics Games at about 10pm on Sunday.

“There was a harsh exchange of words which led to one youth picking up a beer bottle on the table and hitting the foreigner on the head with it.

“They then fled the premises. The victim was sent to Penang Hospital where he received 20 stitches for the wound before lodging a report at the Patani Road police station,” he said yesterday.

In another incident, two Swede tourists, in their 20s, got into a fight while watching the Olympic Games at a hotel lobby in Macalister Road on the same day.

ACP Azam said the hotel staff called the police when the two friends started fighting each other at about 7pm that day, adding that the cause of the fight was not known. The tourists were let off with a warning.

Source : STAR
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UDA to build hotel along Malacca river

Urban Development Authority Holdings (UDA) is set to develop a 26-storey hotel and a multi-tier street mall along the historic Malacca River within the next two years.

UDA chief executive officer Datuk Jaafar Abu Hassan said the project would cost about RM100mil and comprise construction of the hotel, commercial lots, street mall and a jetty.

“There would be four levels of street malls which would resemble that of Bugis Street in Singapore and is to be the largest street mall in the country,” he said after the opening ceremony of the Gerak Usahawan program in Ayer Keroh recently.

The project would be located on site near Jalan Tun Ali.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali said the project would help spur the state’s tourism industry while increasing bumiputra ownership of business premises within the city.

Source : Star
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Tourism Malaysia to push ecotourism

VISIT Malaysia Year will be officially over on August 31, in conjunction with Malaysia's 51st year of independence.

From September through to 2009, Tourism Malaysia's will be promoting destinations with an emphasis on ecotourism.

New destinations to be promoted include highlands resorts such as Fraser's Hill and Cameron Highlands. Beach destinations such as Pangkor in Perak, Cherating in Pahang and Desaru in Johor will also be promoted aggressively to overseas markets.

Tourism Malaysia will still continue to promote annual events that have proven to be international crowd-pullers, such as Petronas Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix and the Sarawak Rainforest World Music Festival, which drew a crowd of 22,000 over three days in July.

Other crowd-pulling events include Miri Jazz Festival in Sarawak's northern tourism hub of Miri and Penang World Music Festival, which will celebrate its third year in 2009.

Source : TTG
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Slowdown prompts hotels to drop rates

ECONOMIC woes and tightened purse strings are finally causing some hotels in the four- and five-star categories to drop rates from now till December in the hope of raising occupancy. Hotels not offering discounted rates are throwing in value-adds to draw business.

From January to June 2008, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) reported that visitor arrivals and average room rate rose 2.9 per cent and 29.6 per cent respectively, as compared to the same period in 2007, while visitor receipts and average occupancy rate dipped 0.2 per cent and 3.4 per cent respectively.

Hotel Rendezvous general manager, Mr Kellvin Ong, said: "We are already seeing a slowdown in corporate travellers as companies curtailed their travelling patterns and expenditure. Many hotels like us are similarly impacted. We are also seeing some hotels dropping rates to get business."

An industry source said: "August is especially bad for Singapore. Any hotelier who says that business is great for the rest of this year is lying."

Pacific Arena reported that four- and five-star hotels had slashed their rates by at least 10 per cent in July and August, and had offered lower rates as well for September.

However, the dip in room rates will only offer a brief respite for inbound travel agents who have been having a hard time encouraging groups to stay on longer in expensive Singapore. Travel agents expect hotel performance to pick up again in the new year, and overall room rates will rise between five to 10 per cent.

Source : TTG
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Thousands throng travel fair

THOUSANDS thronged the Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur over the weekend to grab the bargains on offer at the MITM Travel Fair 2008.

Organised by the Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association (MCTA) and supported by Tourism Malaysia, the fair offered attractive holiday products from all over the world under one roof.

One of the highlights was the RM3 airfare to various destinations offered by Firefly. A total of 100,000 tickets priced at RM3 were available for travel until March next year.

Attraction: Among the highlights of the travel fair was the RM3 airfare to various destinations offered by Firefly.

Malaysia Airlines also offered discounts of up to 50% on airfares.

“The fair provides a platform for the local players in the tourism industry to showcase and market their tourism products under one roof.

“The fair provides an opportunity for players in the different segments of tourism to display and offer discounted travel deals and promotions targeted especially at consumers travelling in the second half of the year, which is always the peak season for travelling,” said MCTA president Chay Ng.

He said the fair provided value-for-money deals from a wider range of participants at about 250 booths.

Meanwhile, Tourism Malaysia deputy director-general (planning) Amiruddin Abu urged Malaysians to visit local tourist destinations.

Irresistible deals: Legend Holiday counsellor Janice Kuan (right) briefing Betty Wong and Daniel Loo on the attractive bargains offered by Legend Worldwide Holidays that included discounts of up to 60% at the Legend Water Chalet in Port Dickson and Legend Resort in Cherating.

“We have many attractive tourist destinations and Malaysians should take advantage of it.

“Every year, thousands of foreigners suffer jet-lag after hours of travelling, just to see what our country has to offer,” he said.

He added that tourist arrivals from January to June this year saw an increase of between two and six per cent over the corresponding period last year.

He also advised Malaysians to plan their travels in advance to enable them to enjoy savings on their trip.

Source : STAR shoppingNsales
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Raid on hotel pub ridiculous in Hotel

Malaysian Artistes Association (Karyawan) lambasted the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) for raiding a hotel pub in Glenmarie on Friday and issuing summonses to Muslims there.

Karyawan president Freddie Fernandez said Jais was simply taking advantage of the current political situation.

“It is ridiculous. They (Jais) cannot just barge into the pub, arrest and issue summonses to Muslim workers and patrons simply because they were patrons and workers of a place that serves alcohol.

“Jais certainly does not have any right to arrest people without police officers present,” he said when contacted.

Jais public relations assistant director Mohd Hidayat Abd Rani said 63 patrons and workers of the hotel pub in Glenmarie, Shah Alam, were rounded up during the raid.

He said seven Muslims, including two women, were brought back to the Jais office where they had their statements recorded.

Hidayat said the seven, who had since been released, would be charged at the Syariah Court for consuming alcohol.

“The other 56 have been asked to assist in investigations. They are not charged, but have been asked to give their statements,” he said.

Hidayat said there was no policeman in the raiding party as, according to the Syariah Criminal Procedure Enactment (Selangor), the presence of a religious enforcer or a mosque official was sufficient.

Band manager K. Selvaraj, whose band NRG was playing during the raid, said his men were prepared to take legal action against Jais.

Bandleader Jasminor Jamil said he and his band members were not consuming alcohol.

“It does not make any sense and certainly is insulting to us. Without conducting any breathalyser tests, they assumed we drank alcohol when in actual fact, none of us did,” he told The Star.

“On the one hand, we have the Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry encouraging more local talents to perform in five-star hotels, and here we have people raiding the place,” he said angrily.

In Serdang, Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim said he was not aware of the raid but advised Muslims not to drink.

However, Khalid assured all non-Muslims that the state government would not hamper their activities.

“But they must do it at the right place and time. My advice is that they should not drink and drive,'' he told reporters when approached during his visit to the Malaysia Agriculture, Horticulture and Agrotourism Show (Maha) 2008 here yesterday.

Source : STAR
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Monday, August 18, 2008

Malaysia’s tourist arrivals hit 12-million mark

Malaysia has recorded a total of 12,891,202 tourist arrivals from January to July this year, compared to 12,404,377 tourist arrivals for the same period in 2007, representing an increase of almost four percent.

For the month of July, tourist arrivals posted an increase of 12.5 percent with 1,928,082 tourists compared to 1,713,951 for the same month last year.

Source : Travel Weekly
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KL cabbies told to reflect the image of the city

TAXI drivers are the little ambassadors of Kuala Lumpur, KL mayor Datuk Ab Hakim Borhan said at the launch of the Fly the Jalur Gemilang campaign and the Hospitable Kuala Lumpur Taxi Driver course.

The event was held at the Kuala Lumpur Tower with some 120 taxi drivers taking part.

“I believe that KL taxi drivers are the frontliners who reflect the image of the city and its people to tourists,” Hakim said.

Hakim also said the Kuala Lumpur City Hall had received 1,233 complaints on taxis from January to June.

Here you go: Hakim placing the Jalur Gemilang on the windscreen of a taxi.

The course was the sixth of eight and some 430 taxi drivers have attended the sessions, which began on May 26.

“This a great course for taxi drivers to improve their development and I believe its a good investment by the Kuala Lumpur Tourism Action Council (TAC),” he said.

To add a little difference to the course, the TCA has organised it at various tourist spots in Kuala Lumpur.

The organisers have done this to help the taxi drivers familiarise themselves with the amenities and what the tourist spots have to offer.

Last year, Malaysia attracted 20.9 million tourists and this year the number is expected to be about 14 million.

The one-day course has four modules — the essentials of courteous driving, what customers expect, the best way to treat customers and conflict and stress management.

“I hope that with the strategic locations, good lecturers and well-chosen modules, the course will help us produce world-class taxi drivers,” Hakim added.

The event was jointly organised by the Kuala Lumpur Tourism Action Council, City Hall and various Taxi associations from Kuala Lumpur.

Source : STAR
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Cosy accommodation

The Avillion Legacy Melaka is being positioned as a boutique hotel where service is everything.

It is 8pm, and having negotiated the streets of Malacca town using my trusty map, I have no problems making out the imposing hotel that stands on the corner of Jalan Hang Tuah in Malacca.

It’s visually arresting, to say the least, what with lights illuminating its columns from the ground up.

High up on one side of this gleaming orange-gold building, an inscription of the year 1998 can be seen.

The bathroom inside the Premium Studio where you can look down on Malacca

The Avillion Legacy Melaka is turning 10 this year, but you would never have guessed it from looking at the building — I thought it was one of the newer hotels to have sprung up in busy Malacca.

The current management — the third in the hotel’s 10-year history — is the Avillion Hotels International. They took over the 15-storey hotel in October 2005 and has since worked on re-branding it as a boutique hotel with an emphasis on service.

The facade and design have mostly been left intact. From up-close or afar, the hotel manages to radiate a colonial-era charm. I like how the hotel is grand but not over-the-top or too contemporary that it stands out like a sore thumb. In the courtyard leading to its entrance is a fountain.

The lobby is modest and understated, furnished with Straits-era d├ęcor. Its more distinct feature perhaps is the glass dome centrepiece on the ceiling in a swirl of floral motifs and gold-plated sculptures.

The hotel has 228 rooms, made up of superior rooms, studios, premium studios and suites — all of them done up in earthy tones.

The promotional price for a Superior Room now is RM175+.

“Boutique” usually means a limited number of rooms, but director of sales Michael Chiew tells me Avillion prefers to celebrate the meaning of boutique in the sense of it being a service-oriented hotel.

“Boutique hotel, in our context, is about creating personalised service. We want to provide personalised attention to each client by ensuring quicker response and always trying to address guests by their name.

“Also, we don’t rate our hotels with stars. In the case of Avillion Legacy, we prefer to be called a first-class business hotel, since our core guests are business travellers,” he says.

Chiew says refurbishment is still being carried out in stages. Tired carpets at designated floors have been changed and the woods varnished.

“Avillion Hotels are traditionally categorised into the four elements of wind, water, earth and fire. Avillion Legacy falls into the earth category, which is why we use earth tones.”

A breathtaking glass dome in the lobby area.

I love swimming pools, and I could not wait to check out the one at Avillion.

The outdoor pool, protruding out from the sixth floor, is smallish but agreeable with sun-lit terraced surroundings and Roman pillars. It feels like being on cloud nine to be swimming above the city and having the pool virtually to myself — until the excited screams and footsteps of children break the silence, as a group of them hop their way to the children’s wading pool at the other end.

The hotel has just two F&B outlets: the Coffeehouse for all-day dining from 6am to midnight, and the Lobby Lounge, which operates from 5pm to 1am. After that, their 24-hour room service takes over. The lounge will soon be converted into a sports bar where guests can watch live telecasts on the sports channels.

“Malacca is renowned for its food, so guests usually flock to roadside stalls or Peranakan restaurants to have their meals. Our two in-house outlets should suffice for the moment,’’ Chiew reasons.

The swimming pool on the sixth floor.

Those who would like to explore Malacca town should check out Jonker Street, a vibrant thoroughfare filled with antique shops, fun and hip pubs, interesting food and snack stalls, and gift shops and boutiques.

There are also live performances to be enjoyed here, what with the old folk singing and dancing away unabashedly inside the shop-lots of the different clan associations, in full public view!

You could catch the Panorama Bus at the bus stop just outside the hotel.

This bus service is a project initiated by the Malacca state government and entails a 45-minute tour around the major shopping areas and historical sites.

Dubbed the Hop-on, Hop-off Malacca Day Tour, the bus service costs RM5 for adults and RM2.50 for children.

The tickets can be purchased at the hotel reception desk.

“If you are lucky, you might just catch one of the two double-decker buses with open-air rooftops,” says Chiew.

o Avillion Legacy Melaka is located at 146, Jalan Hang Tuah, Malacca. For enquiries, call (06) 281 6868 or visit

Source : STAR
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Govt move to reduce functions won’t hurt hotels much

WHILE certain quarters in the hospitality sector are making a hue and cry over the Government's recent move to reduce its functions at hotels, the situation may not be as bleak as painted, judging from the views of industry observers.

According to the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH), three- and four-star hotels have lost about RM120mil in revenue up to the middle of July since the Government issued a directive on June 9 to its departments and agencies to reduce the number of events at hotels.

Executive director B. Sarjit Singh said the association was appealing to the Government “to be more relaxed” on the ruling.

“We have written to the Tourism Minister asking her to help rectify the circular to civil servants to stop using hotels for functions,” he said,

Kumar Tharmalingam

The minister indicated she would take up the matter, but there has been no result as yet, he said.

Something that may weaken MAH's argument is the huge growth in foreign tourist arrivals that has boosted hotel occupancy and average room rate growth this year so far.

Occupancy rates in Kuala Lumpur for the second quarter ending June 30 stood at 74%, up from 66.5% in the first quarter.

Average room rates have grown to RM221 per night for the second quarter from RM168 in the first quarter.

However, Sarjit Singh said three- and four-star hotels that depended on government functions for up to 70% of revenue were currently seeing a dilution in revenue.

If the situation were prolonged, he said there was a possibility of the industry reducing its manpower and not recruiting more staff.

At the same time, with high fuel prices and inflation, hotels were seeing a rise in operating costs.

For instance, electricity rates for hotels had gone up 26% in June, he said.

Inflation was also beginning to hurt domestic tourism that was also a substantial component of earnings, he added.

However, continuing high occupancy and average room rates have led property consultants to conclude otherwise.

Property and real estate consultants Hall Chadwick Asia Sdn Bhd chairman Kumar Tharmalingam sees only the “top 10 hotels” being impacted by the austerity drive.

Previndran Singhe

But even so, five-star hotels are currently benefiting from a tourism boom continuing from the past 18 months to two years.

“There isn't such a significant loss. Maybe a slight drop but not too severe,” Tharmalingam said.

“Despite the Government's austerity drive, it would still need to hold functions,” he said.

He added that a more likely scenario was for government departments to switch from five-star venues to three- and four-star venues.

“Of the 36,000 (hotel) rooms available in Kuala Lumpur, fewer than 10,000 are five-star,” Tharmalingam said.

“Three- and four-star, and older hotels in the city would be the beneficiaries,” he said.

At the same time, the private sector would still need to do business at hotels, he said.

Private sector conference budgets might rise, as companies need to spend more on marketing on concerns of a downturn.

Zerin Properties chief executive officer Previndran Singhe was equally bullish on the sector.

“Tourism and hospitality industries in Asia are growing at a whopping 10% annually, four percentage points higher than the world average.

“Among Asian countries, Malaysia recorded one of the highest growth rates at 20%.”

He said Malaysia was among the tourist magnets of the region with soaring tourist arrivals.

A survey showed that in the first five months this year, Malaysia registered tourist arrival growth of 23% compared with the previous corresponding period.

China showed a 5.6% increase, while tourist arrivals in Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand were up 9.5%, 12% and 15% respectively.

Singhe said there were clear indications of future success of the hotels and resorts industry in Asia, with a projected 1.6 billion international travellers to the region by 2020, almost twice last year's figures.

“Although it is fair to assume that this rate of growth cannot be sustained due to the increases in fuel prices and other 'mega crises', the number of potential travellers is so huge that the long-term growth prospects will remain substantial by any measure,” he added.

What is also interesting to note, according to Singhe, is that tourism profitability in Asia has also improved significantly and is already exceeding that achieved in Europe and the Middle East.

“In addition, 18 Asia-Pacific countries are expected to receive US$110bil in additional tourism revenue over the next three years,” he said.

Source : STAR
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InterContinental profit rises 29% in first half

The world’s largest hotelier InterContinental Hotels Plc reported yesterday a 29% rise in first-half operating profit, but said growth had slowed in the second quarter, particularly in the United States.

The British group, which operates InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and Holiday Inn hotels, posted first-half operating profit from continuing operations of US$284mil, in line with analysts’ range of US$281mil — US$290mil and a mean forecast of US$285mil.

The hotelier, which earns nearly 70% of its profit in the United States, said revenue per available room (RevPAR), a key industry measure, grew 4% in the first half, but then slowed to 3.4% in July and only 1.5% in the United States.

“Generally, RevPAR growth slowed through the second quarter, and market conditions have become more challenging, particularly in the US,” said chief executive Andrew Cosslett in a results statement.

The InterContinental Hotel, Park Lane in London - Reuters

Last month, US-based hoteliers warned of soft US demand in 2008 and into 2009 with Marriott International and Sheraton-owned Starwood seeing a slowing US economy leading to US weakness in the second quarter.

InterContinental, which operates just over 4,000 hotels around the world, said it had exceeded its three-year rooms growth target six months ahead of schedule with 60,490 rooms added since June 2005.

Its half-year dividend rose 6% to 12.2 US cents.

Source : STAR
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Kota Kinabalu International Airport to open tomorrow

The RM1.4bil makeover of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport is one step closer to completion – the new main terminal will become operational tomorrow.

Malaysia Airports senior general manager Datuk Azmi Murad said operations at the existing terminal would be transferred to the new RM720mil building at 12.01am.

He said the new Terminal 1 is capable of handling up to 3,200 passengers per hour during peak periods as it has 64 check-in counters for international and domestic flights as well as 17 aircraft parking bays.

An interior view of the new Kota Kinabalu international airport terminal that include elements indigenous to Sabah such as a column heads resembling the traditional wakid baskets.

Azmi noted that elements indigenous to Sabah had been built into the interior of the terminal with the design of column heads inspired by the wakid or traditional baskets used by the Kadazandusun and Murut communities.

“Ethnic patterns of the Rungus and Bajau communities have also been incorporated into the way the floor tiles were laid out,” he told a media briefing at the new terminal building yesterday.

He said the old terminal that had been used since the 1980s would be demolished and rebuilt by mid-2009. It will be integrated with the new building, doubling the floor space to more than 100,000 sq m and be used mainly for domestic arrivals and departures.

Azmi said 4.3 million passengers used the airport last year, making it one of the busiest after KL International Airport. In comparison, the number of passengers passing through the Kuching and Penang airports last year was about three million.

For this year, Malaysia Airports was expecting up to 4.6 million passengers would pass through Kota Kinabalu International Airport, which has the capacity of handling up to nine million passengers annually.

“Going by an average growth of between 5% and 8% in passenger volume annually, we expect the terminal to reach its capacity in about eight to 10 years,” Azmi said, adding that there was still room for expansion.

The airport's redevelopment also included the construction of a low-cost carrier terminal that opened last year and the extension of the runway to 3,780m and a full-length taxiway scheduled to be completed next year.

Source : STAR
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Firefly takes delivery of new ATR72-500 aircraft

Firefly has taken delivery of its new ATR72-500 turbo-propeller aircraft with its first flight between Subang airport and Kota Baru.

The airline is hoping that the aircraft, which arrived here yesterday after a four-day flight from Toulouse in France, will boost its efficiency.

Firefly, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), is replacing its three Fokker-50s with ATR72-500 planes which run on 40% less fuel and are more cost-effective.

Its managing director Eddy Leong said he hoped to reduce cost by 20%.

“This would be primarily due to fuel efficiency.

“The 72-seater ATR will also be able to carry 22 more passengers than the Fokker-50, even though most of the charges for both planes (such as landing charges and parking charges) are almost the same,” he told reporters.

Also present to welcome the new aircraft was Transport Minister Datuk Ong Tee Keat and MAS managing director and Firefly chairman Datuk Seri Idris Jala.

Leong said another five were expected to arrive next year, and a further 10 in 2010.

Leong also announced the launching of new routes from Penang to Medan and Banda Aceh, and from Subang to Pekanbaru, Johor Baru and Koh Samui in October.

Source : STAR
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CIMB links up with MAS

CIMB Group and Malaysia Airlines System Bhd (MAS) have teamed up to enable customers of the country’s second largest commercial bank to pay for their flight tickets directly through the CIMB Clicks, the bank’s Internet portal.

Once the flight booking has been confirmed at MAS website, customers will be directed to the payment page and from there they can select their CIMB account to pay for the purchases.

Payments made via the portal are ­debited automatically from the customer’s savings or current account in real time, said Peter England, CIMB Bank Bhd head of retail banking.

“We are not charging any interest nor service fees for this convenience,” he said.

To date, CIMB has over 250 bill payment facilities available on the portal, which its customers can access anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Source : STAR
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Friday, August 08, 2008

More tourists visiting Malaysia

MALAYSIA saw an increase in tourist arrivals for the first half of the year compared with the same period last year.

Tourism Malaysia recorded 10.9 million tourist arrivals from January to June compared with 10.7 million last year.

“The target given to us was 7%. Even though we only achieved 2%, there was still an increase in the number of tourists arriving,” Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Mirza Mohd Taiyab said during a press conference announcing the upcoming Malaysia International Travel Mart (MITM) Travel Fair.

Mirza said although there seemed to be fewer Middle Eastern tourists, the numbers had grown by 3%.

A team: (From left) Tourism Malaysia domestic promotion division director Musa Yusof, Mirza, Ng and MCTA committee members David Lai and Tai Poh Kim at the press conference.

“Over the last four years, we have encouraged Arab tourists to go to other parts of Malaysia other than Kuala Lumpur. We also encourage them to come at other times and not only during summer,” he said.

Tourism Malaysia would be taking up 10 booths at the fair organised by the Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association (MCTA).

Mirza said visitors would be able to find out more about the Xcape holiday packages that were part of the Zoom! Malaysia campaign.

This campaign aims to zero in on specific places of interest in the country to encourage people to travel within Malaysia instead of visiting other countries.

MCTA president Chay Ng said almost 75% of the products at the fair would focus on domestic and inbound tourism.

Tourism organisations from Turkey, Uzbekistan, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Africa, China and Hangzhou would also take part.

A new attraction this year would be the bridal corner and soon-to-be-wed couples and newlyweds can check out honeymoon packages.

The fair will be on from Aug 15 to 17 at the Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur, from 10am to 9pm.

Entrance fee is RM3 per entry for adults. Senior citizens and children under 12 enter free.

For more information, visit

Source : STAR
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Malaysia's MICE bureau to operate end-2008

MALAYSIA'S Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MYCEB) is scheduled to be operational by the end of this year.

The bureau is expected to play a big role in bringing more international MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions) business to Malaysia through focused marketing and promotional efforts.

Tourism Malaysia director-general, Datuk Mirza Muhammad Taiyab, said it would help to identify and bid for suitable and lucrative events for Malaysia.

The bureau will comprise members of the private and government sector. It will also lend support and give confidence to local associations and MICE planners to bid for international conferences and congresses.

DiscoveryMICE president and CEO, Mr Lee Choon Loong, said: "The bureau, comprising both private and public sectors, is the perfect platform for companies to work on some common strategies and directions to stimulate the MICE business in Malaysia."

World Avenues executive director, Mr Ally Bhoonee, said the bureau would add credibility to Malaysia as a MICE destination. He added: "A professional establishment such as this one will help the country bid for big congresses four to six years down the road. With dedicated staff, there will be a chance of developing working relationships and continuity in serving foreign MICE organisers and incentive houses."

Source : TTG
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US pastor paints Beijing hotel rooms in protest

An American pastor checked into upscale hotels in the Olympics host city this week, filmed himself painting two of his rooms with slogans like "Beijing 2008 Our world Our nightmare'' and then disappeared. Without paying.

Eddie Romero's unusual protest, now making the rounds on YouTube, shows that foreigners can still sneak through the tight security measures China imposed to keep potential troublemakers away from the games, which start Friday.

The net tightened even more Thursday.

A Hong Kong lawmaker said immigration officials deported three U.S.-based Chinese democracy activists after denying them entry to the territory, which is the site of Olympic equestrian events.

A second protest by three Americans in Tiananmen Square, including anti-abortion activist the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, was stopped by security agents who led them away.

Locals who threaten to take some of the shine off the games get tougher treatment.

At least two women who have protested being evicted from their homes near Tiananmen were rounded up late Wednesday and early Thursday and taken to a police station, one of them told The Associated Press.

In a telephone call, Zhang Ma said she was being held with the other woman, Zhang Wei, and several other residents but could not give other details.

She hung up quickly, saying she was being watched and was not supposed to talk to reporters.

Romero's friends said the preacher was in hiding, but planned to surrender to Chinese authorities as soon as the Olympics end Aug. 24.

They said he began thinking about his elaborate, one-man protest of China's human-rights abuses when Beijing was selected as the host for the 2008 Olympics seven years ago.

On Tuesday, in a sometimes unsteady hand - he had to teach himself how to paint - the California-based pastor splashed the walls of his two hotel rooms with demands for the release of five Chinese activists.

He slashed pillows and staged mock killings with stuffed people propped on the bed, red paint spattered like blood on the headboard. "One down,'' Romero whispers, looking into the video camera.

Bespectacled and gray-haired, he holds up a finger in his transformed Novotel Peace Hotel room. "One down.''

Romero, who appears to be alone, tells the camera he doesn't want to disrupt the games.

He talks about religious freedom for groups that remain highly sensitive with the Chinese government - Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, the Falun Gong spiritual movement.

"Freedom's a scary thing for them, and by them I mean the Chinese communists,'' he says.

Before starting work on the second hotel room, he prays.

After finishing his protests, Romero, who is a part-time philosophy professor at Mt. San Antonio Community College in Walnut, California, taped the door keys to the rooms' "Do Not Disturb'' tags, hung them outside and had supporters tell journalists by e-mail where to find them.

The four-star Novotel and the Traders Hotel, both part of international chains, said the case was in the hands of police.

A Beijing police spokeswoman said she knew nothing of it.

"We really don't understand why he did this,'' said Lanny Liu, communications manager at Traders. Romero apparently slipped out of room 417 before dawn Wednesday, leaving damage that Liu said cost nearly US$1,500 (euro978) to clean up.

"We just want to find the person and ask him to pay the bill.''

At the Novotel, room 1602 already was restored Thursday afternoon, with machines drying the carpet and a smell of cleaning fluid in the air.

Downstairs, manager Marc Cherrier spread his hands and shrugged hugely. "I have no idea,'' he said of what happened.

Romero's friends said he had planned to paint four hotel rooms, but skipped two because of security concerns.

At one hotel, he found the lobby full of security agents and left after telling officials he had walked into the wrong building.

At the second, he found two security agents searching his room, but convinced them there was nothing suspicious about the paint he had.

"That was a close one,'' he says later into his camera.

The protest is heartfelt, said Bob Fu, leader of the Texas-based China Aid Association, which is among a group of Romero supporters monitoring the protest from California.

"This is not like middle-age crisis, craziness,'' Fu said.

"He's very genuine, a caring, loving pastor. And very creative.''

Another friend, British-based pastor Tony Thomas, said Romero had no special connection to China, but he had a vision for the project in 2001 after watching Beijing win the right to host the games.

Thomas said Romero hatched the protest plan - which he eventually named "The Gadfly Project'' - after consulting with a few close friends at his Hacienda Christian Fellowship church and talking with American activists who campaign for Chinese rights.

"It's gone quite amazingly well,'' Thomas said.

"From the outset, it was considered an almost impossible thing to happen unless God was in it.''

The friends said Romero was occasionally logging on to make blog posts while in hiding.

He speaks little Chinese, but has dodged authorities so far, and even managed to shop at a Wal-Mart.

"Can you believe it? I'm in Sam's Club in Beijing!'' Romero says in one Internet posting.

"Will be relieved when all is complete,'' he says in another.

Watch the Video of him paiting his Room below:

His Blog :

Source : STAR
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