Friday, December 19, 2008

IATA Expects Business Travel And Premium Revenues To Fall Sharply Next Year

The International Air Transport Association (Iata) expects business travel and premium revenues next year to fall sharply following most economic forecasts suggesting recession will not bottom out until mid-2009.

In a statement here today, Iata said the steep decline in premium and economy travel continued in October, with a 6.9 percent fall in premium passenger numbers and a 1.8 percent fall in economy.

It said this was slightly less than September's eight percent decline in premium travel but there were some distortions caused by strikes in Europe last October, and early indications for November suggested a larger decline.

"The downward trend is clear," it said.

Iata said economic conditions certainly deteriorated sharply for both business and premium leisure travel due to the near collapse of parts of the banking sector in late September and October.

"The slumping confidence last month will also cut travel from other sectors as surveys of business confidence in the US, Europe and Asia revealed a severe deterioration in October.

"The recent slump in confidence suggests this scale of decline in business travel could well be reached by early 2009," it said.

The group said the weakest major market for premium travel remained within Europe, which fell over 14 percent in October.

"This market has been in decline for a number of years as business travellers shift to cheaper seats on short-haul markets.

"However, even the previously more robust long-haul premium markets are now weakening," it said.

Source : Bernama
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Malaysia Airlines Opens One-stop Ticket Centre At KL Sentral

The newly upgraded Malaysia Airlines ticket office in KL Sentral, a one-stop centre that offers everything one needs for travel, was opened on 15 Dec 08.

Occupying 3,800 square feet, Malaysia Airlines' flagship store boasts 27 counters manned by 60 staff, offering all services for the national carrier, Firefly, MASwings, Enrich, Golden Holidays, and more, the airlien said in a statement Thursday (18 Dec).

Staff can also assist customers with ticket refunds, application for Australian visas and even handle medical cases. On top of this, the opening hours are long, from 4.30am to midnight daily to ensure that customers' travel needs are taken care of.

Opening the flagship store, Malaysia Airlines Chairman, Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid said the national carrier is committed to ensure that the customer's travel experience is seamless all the way.

"This one stop centre will make it easy for customers, and even travel agents to conduct all the necessary transactions. We have a bigger waiting area, dedicated counters, and up to 60 staff on 3 shifts to ensure that we can better serve our customers," he added.

Refreshed with MH=Malaysian Hospitality's colourful look and feel which reflects the multi ethnicity of the country, the ticket centre looks warm and inviting, a perfect place to cater to more than 20,000 customers, including travel agents, every month.

"More and more people prefer to do their transactions at KL Sentral, and our sales have increased 420% since we started operations in 2002. It makes perfect sense to upgrade the centre to cater to the increase in demand and offer the entire suite of products and services that we have," he added.

Munir also said the ticket centre is part of Malaysia Airlines' plan to intensify and consolidate its ticketing operations in the Klang Valley.

"Our focus is customer convenience. As such, our plan is to have two centrally located one-stop centres, the flagship store in KL Sentral to cater to customers in the city and surroundings, and another in Subang Skypark for those in the suburbs.

"Work on the ticket office in Subang Skypark will begin next week and we expect to open our doors in February 2009."

Source : MySinChew
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

MAS in talks with Qantas

MALAYSIA Airlines said on Tuesday it has begun talks with various carriers, including Australia's Qantas, to form tie-ups including joint ventures as carriers face a tough economic environment.

The airline's managing director and CEO Idris Jala had previously denied reports that Malaysian and Australian carriers were in merger talks.

Mr Jala made the latest comments after Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak reportedly said the government was open to a tie-up involving Malaysia Airlines. The government owns more that 90 per cent of the national carrier.

'The present conditions in the world dictate to us to be creative and innovative provided we can agree on the participation of foreigners on a win-win basis,' Mr Najib was quoted as saying by the Malaysian Reserve newspaper.

Mr Jala said that while Malaysia Airlines would pursue strategic partnerships, the government would have the final say in the decision to go ahead with a tie-up.

'Any partnership that we pursue will require engagement with, and approval by, key stakeholders,' he said.

'Malaysia Airlines is very pleased with the continued strong support from the government. We will do everything possible to fulfill the interests of the airline in line with the aspirations of the nation.'

Mr Jala said that 'more details will be announced as and when we have finalised the terms of any of these partnerships. At this stage, we have no further comment.'

Malaysia Airlines has undergone a sweeping turnaround programme, including staff layoffs and route closures, which ended a series of disastrous losses and produced a record profit in 2007.

Last month however, the carrier said net profit for the third quarter shrank 90 per cent to RM38 million (S$15.7 million), from RM364 million in the same period last year due to higher fuel costs.

The International Air Transport Association last week said the aviation industry is expected to post a loss of US$2.5 billion (S$3.69 billion) in 2009 due to the economic crisis.

'The outlook is bleak,' said Giovanni Bisignani, the association's director general and chief executive

Source : TheStraitTimes
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TA Enterprise buys Westin Melbourne for RM390m

TA Enterprise Bhd is acquiring the property and business known as The Westin Melbourne in Australia for RM389.12mil from RPHT Pty Ltd and RPHT Operations Pty Ltd.

TA Enterprise told Bursa Malaysia yesterday the acquisition of the freehold five-star hotel, which is part of the 16-storey Regent Place Development, only included the 262 rooms and hotel amenities located on nine floors of the development.

It said the net book value of the hotel was A$137.41mil as at June 30, 2008.

The company added that for the 12 months ended July 31, 2008, the hotel occupancy had increased to 82.8% while the average room rate had risen to A$311.22.

Source : Star
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Monday, December 15, 2008

Four New Economy Fare options from MAS

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is offering four new fare options for economy class travel that will provide customers value and choice while giving them full control of their travel experience.

Its managing director and chief executive officer Datuk Seri Idris Jala said the four fare choices, MHlow Fares, MHbasic, MHsmart and MHflex, are currently available for domestic travel.

He said for international travel, the national carrier planned to introduce it in February next year.

Explaining further the new fare options, Idris said MHlow fares offers up to a 70% ticket discount and required 30 days advance purchase, MHbasic offers a 50% ticket discount and only requires 14 days advance purchase, MHsmart allows a baggage allowance of up to 25kg and 75% Enrich miles accrual while MHflex offers businessmen the most flexible ticket, in providing 125% Enrich miles accrual.

“We are all multiple type travellers depending on the occasion and our new fare options have been customised to cater to the different travel needs,” he said during a media briefing on the new fare options here on Monday.

Source : STAR
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Hotel industry risk of recession at 99.9%

This morning economic research firm in conjunction with Smith Travel Research announced that following a decline of 1.9 percent in October, HIP fell by 3.2 percent in November. HIP, the Hotel Industry's Pulse Index, is a composite indicator that gauges business activity in the U.S. hotel industry in real-time. This decline brought the index to a reading of 92.4. The index was set to equal 100 in 2000.

Looking at HIP's six-month growth rate, which historically has signaled turning points in U.S. hotel business activity, HIP went down by an annual rate of 13.5 percent in November, further worsening its decline of 9.2 percent in October. This compares to a long-term annual growth rate of 3.2 percent, the same as the 38-year average annual growth rate of the industry's gross domestic product.

Looking at the results, Chief Economist Evangelos Simos of said, “Using the NBER methodology to identify the peaks and troughs of the business cycle, the peak was in November of 2007 for the industry. Since then, the index has been declining and so far the recession is 13 months old. Looking further at the six month growth rate, at this time, the recession appears to be similar to what the industry felt in late 1979 through early 1980, but not yet quite as bad as 2001.”

The probability of a recession in the hotel industry, which is detected in real-time from HIP with the help of sophisticated statistical techniques, registered 99.9 percent in November, up from 95.7 percent reported in October. Historically, when this recession-warning gauge passes the threshold probability of 35 percent for a few months, the U.S. hotel industry has entered a recession. As a result, the odds of business expansion in the hotel industry were at the 0.1 percent mark in November, becoming even more dismal than October’s reading of 4.3 percent.

The Hotel Industry Pulse, or HIP for short, was created to fill the void of a real-time monthly indicator for the hotel industry that captures current conditions. What the indicator does is provide useful information about the timing and degree of the industry’s linking with the US business cycle, or simply put it tracks monthly overall business conditions in the industry, like an industry GDP, and points in a timely way the changes in direction from growth to recession or vice versa. The composite indicator is made with the following components: revenues from consumer’s staying at hotels and motels adjusted for inflation, room occupancy rate and hotel employment, along with other key economic factors which influence hotel business activity.

Source : Financial Collapse
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Thailand Hotel struggle as occupancy rate plunges 19%

Employees of luxury hotels in Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket have seen a cut in their working days as operators try to reduce operating costs without having to lay off workers in the light of plunging tourist arrivals.

Prakit Chinamourpong, president of Thai Hotels Association (THA), said on Tuesday that luxury hotels in Chiang Mai had reduced employees' working days to five days a week due to fewer customers.

Many hotels in Phuket and Bangkok have also cut working days to four and five days per week.

"Some luxury hotels are running with a single-digit occupancy rate, sharply down from the average 70 per cent rate recorded in the same period last year."

"For the overall hotel industry, the average occupancy rate this month alone has declined 19.1 per cent," he said, adding that the impact of the Bangkok airports' shutdown was greater than the 2004 tsunami.

From January to early this month, the average occupancy rate is 65 per cent, down from 68 per cent over the same period last year.

Prakit said some luxury hotels in Bangkok had also decided to cancel their gala dinner packages already booked for New Year's Eve after customers cancelled reservations.

THA forecast that the hotel sector would slow until June 2009,with small and medium sized hotels suffering the most, so THA is asking the government to help by granting soft loans.

He said that about 30 per cent of workers in the hotel sector are expected to lose their jobs next year.

The closure of the Bangkok airports caused damage which could amount to Bt130 billion as the country could lose up to 2.3 million foreign tourists.

Airports of Thailand (AOT) said about 15,000 flights had been cancelled during the eight-day closure of airports, but all airlines had resumed operations at Suvarnabhumi International Airport with the total number of flights now close to the usual 547 flights per day.

However, Phornsiri Manoharn, governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), remains optimistic, saying the tourism sector's growth could be revived as TAT and six other industry bodies plan to launch a series of post-crisis promotional campaigns.

TAT also plans more sales and marketing activities to boost domestic tourism next year.

Meanwhile, industry sources said Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the world's largest international hotel chain operator, is considering the shut down of its regional Asia Pacific office in Bangkok, following the work-hour cutback at some luxury properties in major tourist cities.

The regional office was part of a world wide business expansion covering its multibrand management of hotel properties, including Le Meridien, Westin, Sheraton, St Regis and W Hotel.

Source : FinancialCollapse
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HKIA records further air traffic decline

Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) handled 3.8 million passengers in November 2008, representing a year-on-year drop of almost six percent. Air traffic movements fell by over one percent from November 2007 to 24,815.

The decline in passenger throughput was driven mainly by contracting visitor volume, particularly from long-haul markets including North America and Europe. The Chinese Mainland and South-east Asian markets also showed a considerable decline. The closure of Suvarnabhumi Bangkok Airport from November 25 to December 3, during which over 230 flights were cancelled, also contributed to the drop in passenger and cargo throughput last month.

Passenger volume and air traffic movements in the first 11 months of this year grew by over two percent each over the same period in 2007, to 44.5 million and 276,535, respectively.

Source : TravelWeekly
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Malaysia to establish one-stop centre for business events

Malaysia’s Minister of Tourism, YB Dato’ Sri Azalina Dato’ Othman Said, outlined the details of the establishment of the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) at a press conference held recently at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre.

This follows the announcement made on December 3 by Deputy Prime Minister YAB Dato’ Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Abdul Razak to strengthen Malaysia’s tourism industry by targeting the business events market.

MyCEB will be a one-stop centre in coordinating business events activities in the country. Its goals are to secure business events for Malaysia and establish the country as the preferred business events destination worldwide.

MyCEB will have an advisory council made up of experienced individuals and leaders from the private and government sectors. An initial budget of MYR5 million (about US$1.4 million) has been set aside for its establishment.

A total of 1,013,104 tourists visited Malaysia for business events purposes in 2007, an increase of almost 24 percent over 2006.

Source : TravelWeekly
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Source : shoppingNsales
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Singaporeans still big spenders in M’sia despite slowdown

Singaporeans, despite facing some tough economic conditions back home, are still the big spenders in Malaysia.

Figures gleaned from the 2008 Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival statistics showed that Singaporeans spent the most with a whopping RM64.7mil in credit card transactions.

Indonesians are next with RM42.9mil and that is why Tourism Malaysia is confident that the Malaysia Savings Sale 2008, which began on Nov 29 and ends on Jan 4, will enjoy the same success, if not better.

Speaking at the Johor launch of the Malaysia Saving Sales 2008 at the Plaza Pelangi on Friday night, Datuk Idros Mohd, the chief executive officer of Pempena Sdn Bhd, the Shopping Malaysia arm of the Tourism Ministry, said that Singapore was still the country's No 1 market.

"There is no denying that we depend a lot on Singaporeans as far as tourist arrival figures are concerned. In fact, last year we welcomed an estimated 10.5 million Singaporeans. "In a way, the Malaysia Savings Sale 2008 is targetted primarily at the Singapore market and Johor Baru being the closest to the republic is our main focus.

"People say that during these tough economic climate, shopping is the last thing on their minds. But I see it as a blessing in disguise for Malaysian retailers. "Times are tough and consumers are more careful with their money. That's why it's so attractive for Singaporeans to make their short hop-over to Johor Baharu to shop because of the favourable exchange rate," he said.

The opening of the new Customs and Immigration Complex scheduled for Tuesday also means that Singaporeans will enjoy a smoother drive into the city, Idros added.

The Malaysia Savings Sale 2008 was first launched by Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said at the Pavillion in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 29 and since then it had launches in Langkawi, Miri, Kota Kinabalu, Penang and now Johor Baru.

Source : STAR
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Resorts World in Genting among nine considered for top spot

RESORTS World Bhd (RWB), Malaysia’s leading leisure and hospitality conglomerate, added two more accomplishments to its portfolio when it was named the World’s Leading Casino Resort by the 2008 World Travel Awards and secured the fourth place in Malaysia’s Most Valuable Brands (MMVB) 2008 awards.

The resort topped nine other casinos in the world namely Caesars Palace Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, Monte Cristo, Johannesburg and MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, USA to be named as the World’s Leading Casino Resort.

RWB is also a five-time winner in the Asia’s Leading Casino Resort Award category, besides winning the Asia’s Leading Family Resort Award early this year.

On top of the world: Resorts World senior vicepresident of marketing and sales Paul Chan (right) receiving the award at the World Winners Award Ceremony at Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa.

“It is indeed a great honour for RWB to receive this award. We are proud and pleased to be acknowledged by travel professionals worldwide. Much of our success comes from the hard work and relentless efforts of our 13,000 employees at Genting Highlands Resort and this award is dedicated to each and every one of them. But, we will not rest on our laurels and will continue to evolve and innovate in our quest for world-class standards,” said RWB senior vice-president of marketing and sales Paul Chan upon receiving the award at the World Winners Award Ceremony at Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort Villages & Spa, Providenciales, Turks & Caicos on Dec 2.

The awards was initiated in 1993 to acknowledge and celebrate excellence in the world’s travel and tourism industry.

Now in its 14th year, travel professionals and discerning travellers have come to regard the winners as the best endorsement that a travel product or service could aspire to receive.

Thousands of votes cast globally were by travel professionals from 167,000 travel agencies, tour and transport companies and tourism organisations in over 160 countries.

Winning a World Travel Award (dubbed by the Wall Street Journal as the ‘Oscar’ of the travel an tourism industry) has become one of the highest accolades a travel product or organisation can achieve.

Additionally, Genting Highlands Resort also shone in the local scene when they secured the fourth rank for the Malaysia’s Most Valuable Brands (MMVB) Awards 2008 with its flagship brand Genting – City of Entertain-ment receiving due recognition.

RWB was feted in an award ceremony on Nov 25 at PJ Hilton.

Organised by the Association of Accredited Advertising Agents Malaysia (4As) and The Edge, the valuation for the awards was conducted by Interbrand, a brand consultancy.

Over the years, RWB has carved its name as a leading integrated entertainment, leisure and hospitality operator in Asia. The renowned Genting Highlands Resort with its myriad attractions ranging from casinos to theme parks plus international shows and concerts, is a positive contributor to the tourism industry of Malaysia.

With its tagline ‘City of Entertainment’, the Resort is continuously upgrading an introducing new attractions and services for its esteemed customers.

Source : STAR
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Legoland Theme Park at RM750m to start 2010 in Johor

Work on the RM750mil Legoland theme park at Bandar Nusajaya in Iskandar Malaysia will start in 2010 and the opening slated for 2013.

The park, to be built in the city centre of Nusajaya, will have a 5.5 million sq ft of gross floor area within the 58.679ha land dedicated for the lifestyle-theme development.

Merlin Entertainment Group Ltd managing director for Legoland Parks, John Jakobsen said the theme park would create about 1,000 job opportunities in the park itself and it could reach up to 5,000 during construction period and indirectly upon the completion of the project.

Sectors which would benefit from the opening of the park would include retail, hospitality, services and food and beverage to cater for tourists and visitors.

“We want to position our Johor park not only as a leading tourist attraction in Malaysia but also in the region,’’ he said.

Jakobsen said the park was expected to attract between one and two million visitors yearly.

“The figure is based from our four existing parks with revenue between US$40mil and US$100mil per park,’’ he said.

Merlin, which is controlled by Blackstone Group of New York, an investment and advisory firm, has 70% equity in Legoland theme parks while Lego Group holds 30% stake.

Legoland has four theme parks.

The park in Billund, Denmark opened in 1968, Windsor, England (1996), California (1999) and Germany (2002) and in Dubai, which will open in 2011.

Other theme parks under Merlin stable include Madame Tussauds, London Eye, Thrope Park, Sea Life Sanctuaries, Dungeons in Europe, 28 aquariums and six hotels across the world.

“We have considered coming to Malaysia about four years ago and we started seriously looking into it about eight months ago,’’ he said.

He said the company’s investment decision in Iskandar was based on the development activities to be implemented.

Jakobsen said the Legoland park in Johor would not only attract visitors from other parts of Malaysia and Singapore but visitors from other countries in the region.

He said visitors from other countries in this region would find it more convenient to come here than going to Europe or North America.

Jakobsen said Malaysia offered a strategic location in Asia with 60% of the world’s population.

“Legoland park is different from other parks as our attractions are made to appear as if they are built out of Lego bricks,’’ said Jakobsen.

He said Legoland park targeted at children aged from two to 12 years old accompanied by their parents or grandparents and not teenagers and young adults which was the main focus of the other theme park operators.

Source : Star
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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

240,000 tourists stranded in Thailand

Thailand's Tourism Minister Weerasak Kowsurat said on Monday that the number of stranded foreign tourists in Thailand have risen to 240,000.

Weerasak is due to hold a foreign press conference at BITEC exhibition hall in Bangkok, which opened on Monday as the international flight check-in for the U-Ta Pao airport although the later is some 200 kilometers from Bangkok.

Weerasak said he would do everything to send news to the world that Thailand is doing its best to send stranded travelers home.

The minister added that he would ask for the special financial package worth 10 billion baht (about 290 million U.S. dollars) to help small and medium-sized operators in the tourism and related industries which have been hard hit by the shutdown of Bangkok airports.

Since the anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) seized Bangkok's two airports last week, all the domestic and international flights fly-out or land-in Bangkok were forced to stop service.

Last Thursday, Thailand airport authority opened the U-Ta Pao airport, a military air base, as the temporary airport of Bangkok. Since the airport which locates in Chon Buri Province has some three hours driving distance from Bangkok, all the passengers were advised to check-in seven hours before the bounding time.

Source : Hotels
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Monday, December 01, 2008

Restarting operations at Thailand's Airport will take a week

Restarting operations at Thailand's main airport will take at least a week once a sit-in by anti-government protesters ends, officials said on Monday, as attention shifted to a court verdict that could end the crisis.

The general manager of Suvarnabhumi airport said it could take a week to resume operations because security and computer systems had been compromised during the blockade by People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protesters.

"Normally, checking the IT systems takes one week," Serirat Prasutanond told Reuters, adding the delay would be even longer if any of the airport's systems needed repair.

"We have to check, recheck, check, recheck," he said.

Thousands of yellow-clad PAD protested defied police and occupied Suvarnabhumi for a seventh day on Monday in a campaign to topple Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, whom they accuse of being a pawn for his brother-in-law, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a 2006 coup and exiled since.

As a result, tens of thousands of foreigners have been stranded in Thailand or are unable to even begin their holidays during what should be the peak tourist season.

The main domestic hub, Don Muang, has also been occupied, and the air cargo industry has ground to a halt.

Forecasts for an economy already suffering from the global financial crisis are grim.

Finance Minister Suchart Thada-Thamrongvech told Reuters on Monday the economy might be flat next year, or grow by just 1 to 2 percent, after earlier forecasts of between 4-5 percent.

Thailand's Board of Trade director said the cost of the airport closure was "incalculable," but a senior board member offered a figure, telling the Nation newspaper lost export earnings ran at around 3 billion baht ($85 million) a day.

Somchai has been in the north of the country since returning from an overseas trip last week but is supposed to attend a ceremony to mark the king's birthday in Bangkok on Tuesday.


Also on Tuesday comes the end of a vote fraud case that could deliver a crippling blow to the six-party coalition government.

The Constitutional Court has moved with uncharacteristic speed to wrap up the case and is widely expected to order the disbanding of Somchai's People Power Party (PPP) and two other coalition partners.

If it does, Somchai and other leaders would be barred from politics and many cabinet ministers would have to step down. The PPP's dissolution, however, will not necessarily mean a snap election as many MPs will simply switch to a new "shell" party.

The stakes have risen with thousands of government supporters now also rallying in the capital, the first show of strength by the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD) in a week.

DAAD leader Veera Musikapong has denounced the court case as a "concealed coup" and government supporters have threatened to take to the streets if the ruling goes against Somchai.

There was some cheer on Monday for the tens of thousands of tourists affected by the airport closures, when PAD officials said they would allow 88 aircraft stuck at Suvarnabhumi to leave.

Operators said they intended to bring them quickly into service to pick up passengers from U-Tapao and other airports outside the capital, the Bangkok Post said.

The government is providing free hotel rooms and meals for those stranded, but dealing with the estimated 100,000 people affected is proving a logistical nightmare and many are falling through the net.

"We are so tired. When can we go?" 25-year-old Iranian Ali Golbabaei said at Suvarnabhumi airport on Monday, recounting his real-life version of Hollywood movie "The Terminal."

Golbabaei said he and two friends were told accommodation vouchers had run out, and they had no money left after holidaying in the beach resort town of Pattaya.

"Nobody is helping us. We are the last tourists in this airport."

In an ironic twist, "The Terminal" -- in which Tom Hanks plays a traveler stuck in New York's JFK airport after his passport is revoked -- was inspired by the true story of an Iranian man who lived in Paris's Charles de Gaulle airport for 18 years.

The chaos has worried Thailand's neighbors, due to meet in two weeks for a regional summit. Surin Pitsuwan, head of Southeast Asia's 10-nation grouping, ASEAN, said a postponement might be wise.

Source : Reuters
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