Thursday, April 30, 2009

MAS issues operating guidelines on handling outbreak

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has issued standard operating procedures to all its staff and crew members on the handling of passengers in the wake of the swine flu outbreak.

The measures include the close monitoring of passengers for any signs of illness, maintaining high standards of hygiene and special handling of people suspected of being infected with the virus.

MAS general manager for corporate safety, security, health and environment Dr Ooi Teong Siew said the procedures, which were similar to those implemented during the SARS outbreak in 2005, were based on World Health Organisation and the International Air Transport Asso­ciation guidelines.

“The procedures have been issued to our crew members, airport operations staff, maintenance and cleaning personnel and all workers directly involved in the handling of passengers, cargo and baggage.

“Our staff have also been provided with information on swine flu in our efforts to enhance their general awareness of hygiene to minimise the risk of infection,” he said.

Dr Ooi said the measures also included the provision of passenger services and sufficient health safety equipment on board flights, public hygiene and sanitation in which the aircraft would be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected upon disembarkation, and maintaining high levels of cleanliness during in-flight service and ground service.

He said MAS would continue to coordinate with the Health Ministry on the preventive guidelines.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

WHO raises flu threat level, warns pandemic imminent

The World Health Organization said on Wednesday the world is at the brink of a pandemic, raising its threat level as the swine flu virus spread and killed the first person outside of Mexico, a toddler in Texas.
A passenger wearing a face mask arrives at Narita international airport on a direct flight from Mexico, in Narita April 29, 2009. (REUTERS/Issei Kato)

"Influenza pandemics must be taken seriously precisely because of their capacity to spread rapidly to every country in the world," WHO Director General Margaret Chan told a news conference in Geneva as she raised the official alert level to phase 5, the last step before a pandemic.

"The biggest question is this: how severe will the pandemic be, especially now at the start," Chan said. But she added that the world "is better prepared for an influenza pandemic than at any time in history."

Nearly a week after the H1N1 swine flu virus first emerged in California and Texas and was found to have caused dozens of deaths in Mexico, Spain reported the first case in Europe of swine flu in a person who had not been to Mexico, illustrating the danger of person-to-person transmission.

Both U.S. and European officials have said they expect to see swine flu deaths.

Despite worries that a major flu outbreak could hit the struggling global economy, world stocks rallied on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve said the U.S. recession appeared to be easing.

Almost all cases outside Mexico have had mild symptoms, and only a handful have required hospitalization.

"We doubt that the markets will react with the same worry as found during avian flu scares in the past," said Citigroup analyst Tobias Levkovich in New York.


Chan also urged companies who make the drugs to ramp up production. Two antiviral drugs -- Relenza, made by GlaxoSmithKline and Tamiflu, made by Roche AG -- have been shown to work against the H1N1 swine flu strain.

Drugmakers have donated millions of doses of their drugs to the WHO. She also alerted governments to be ready to distribute stockpiles of their drugs.

Vaccine makers were on standby to begin making a new vaccine if needed.

In Mexico, where up to 159 people have died from the virus and around 1,300 more are being tested for infection, people struggled with an emergency that has brought normal life virtually to a standstill over the past week.

"I'm depressed. I don't understand where this came from, how it spreads, how long it will last or what it will to the economy," said an elderly woman named Licha, sitting on a Mexico City park bench and wearing a surgical mask.

Germany and Austria reported cases of the illness, bringing the number of affected countries to 9.

Texas officials said a 22-month-old boy had died -- the first confirmed U.S. swine flu death -- while on a family visit from Mexico.

In the Texas border city of Brownsville, where the young Mexican was first diagnosed and many residents have families on both sides of the Rio Grande river border, some residents said they were now reluctant to venture south to Mexico.

"I am extremely concerned because you could die," said Santiago Perez, 18, a student at Pace High School.

About 30 U.S. Marines in southern California on the biggest military base in the United States were quarantined after one was confirmed to have contracted the illness.

President Barack Obama, facing the sudden flu emergency along with his broader drive to pull the United States out of its deep recession, said the Texas death showed it was time to take "utmost precautions."

Kathleen Sebelius, Obama's newly confirmed health secretary, spent her first day in office on a rapid-fire media tour as the administration sought to calm public fears while urging public health vigilance.

"We know that the cases will continue to rise," Sebelius said.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the Customs and Border Patrol was keeping an eye out for sick travelers, as usual, and had checked 49 people with flu-like symptoms. She said 41 had been cleared of H1N1 infection and eight were still being studied.

"We are preparing for the worst; hoping for the best," Napolitano said. "All of us should be dusting off our business contingency plans, looking at things like telecommuting and the like so that things keep operating."

Many Americans were heeding the warnings, snapping up hand sanitizers, wipes and soap. "I figure it's going to get worse before it gets better, right?" said Kathy Ivcich, 53, a real estate agent in Chicago.


Mexico's central bank warned the outbreak could deepen the nation's recession, hurting an economy that already shrank by as much as 8 percent from the previous year in the first quarter.

France said it would seek a European Union ban on flights to Mexico.

The EU, the United States and Canada have advised against non-essential travel to Mexico, a popular tourist destination, with many of the cases linked to travel there.

Many tourists already in Mexico were hurrying to leave, crowding airports and trying to change their tickets.

"We didn't want to get stuck here," said Australian Alex Grinter, who left her beach vacation in the southern state of Oaxaca to get an early flight to Vancouver.

In Mexico City, a metropolis of 20 million, all schools, restaurants, nightclubs and public events have been shut down to try to stop the sickness from spreading.

H1N1 swine flu is seen as the biggest risk since H5N1 avian flu re-emerged in 2003, killing 257 people of 421 infected in 15 countries. In 1968 a "Hong Kong" flu pandemic killed about 1 million people globally, and a 1957 pandemic killed 2 million.

Seasonal flu kills 250,000 to 500,000 people in a normal year, including healthy children in rich countries.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Flu jabs for Malaysian Frontliners

Some 200,000 frontliners in the country, including doctors, nurses, and police and immigration personnel will be given the seasonal flu injection as a precautionary measure against swine flu, Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said.

He said the exercise would cost the Government some RM7mil and be carried out over the next two weeks.

“We want to protect the frontliners. At the same time, the Veterinary Services Department has informed us that pigs will be given a double dose of the vaccine as a precautionary measure against the flu,” he told a press conference yesterday.

He said the department was closely monitoring the 778 pig farms nationwide and had formed a team to provide immediate response if there were any signs of an outbreak.

Liow had earlier briefed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and the Cabinet on the latest situation involving swine flu, as well as measures taken by his ministry and other agencies to ensure the disease would not spread.

“I must reiterate that as of now, 2.30pm (on Wednesday), no cases of influenza-like illness with symptoms of swine flu infection have been found in Malaysia.

“I urge the public to remain calm but at the same time to be on high alert, and especially to seek medical attention when they have flu, fever and cough.

“My ministry will take proactive measures to protect the public’s health,” he said, adding that 28 hospitals had been identified as quarantine centres should there be a widespread outbreak of swine flu.

Liow also said the ministry had directed nine designated centres to be on standby to distribute the Tamiflu and Relenza anti-viral medication if the need arose, adding that the medicine was sufficient to be given to two million people at one time.

Liow said it was not necessary for the people to get themselves vaccinated as the country was not facing a flu outbreak, adding it was also safe to consume pork as the meat was sourced locally.

On another matter, Liow said one person had been put under observation for having flu so far, adding that samples taken from the person were sent to the Institute for Medical Research (IMR).

Meanwhile, a man who recently returned from overseas tested negative for the swine flu virus A/H1N1, said health director-general Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.

He said the man was suffering from upper respiratory tract infection.

“It was not a suspected case,” he added, when contacted last night.

“He came voluntarily to Hospital Sungai Buloh where he was admitted. A throat swab was taken and sent to the IMR,” Dr Ismail said.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New swine flu infections intensify travel fears

New swine flu infections were found around the world on Tuesday and the specter of a pandemic hit the travel industry as governments warned people to stay away from Mexico where 149 people have died.
People wear surgical face masks as they get off from the Metro in Mexico City April 28, 2009. (REUTERS/Eliana Aponte)

The number of infections in the United States rose to 65, Canada has 13, and new cases were also confirmed in Israel and New Zealand.

The United States, Canada and the European Union are telling people to avoid non-essential travel to Mexico, and Cuba suspended all flights to and from Mexico for 48 hours.

Travel companies were also staying away. Carnival Cruises canceled stops at Mexican ports for three of its ships on Tuesday and Canadian tour operator Transat AT postponed flights to Mexico until June 1.

President Barack Obama asked the U.S. Congress for $1.5 billion to finance its response to the flu threat, and California declared a state of emergency, allowing it to deploy more resources to prevent new infections.

The World Health Organization said a pandemic -- a global outbreak of a serious new illness -- is not yet inevitable but that all countries should prepare for the worst, especially poorer developing nations.

"They really get hit disproportionally hard," said the WHO's acting assistant director-general Dr. Keiji Fukuda.

One of the mysteries of the outbreak is why the virus has killed scores of people in Mexico while the cases outside the country have been relatively mild and no one has died.

Experts say this may be simply a matter of where they have been looking to find it and officials say they expect to find deaths as the disease spreads.

A pandemic could snuff out fragile signs of economic recovery around the world as travel, trade and manufacturing output would all be hit.

The last flu pandemic was in 1968, when "Hong Kong" flu killed about 1 million people around the world.

Seven countries have confirmed cases of the swine flu and a dozen others have suspected infections.

Mexico City is at the center of the outbreak and many residents are staying in their homes while schools, churches, cinemas and restaurants have all been shut down.

Airline share prices declined again on Tuesday on fears that they could experience a sharp drop in traffic.

U.S., European and Asian stock markets all retreated despite positive U.S. consumer confidence data as flu fears and worries about American banks weighed on sentiment.

"Prices remain in a bit of a swoon as market participants fret that a potential influenza pandemic might prove fatal to the frail signs of recovery just beginning to show," said Mike Fitzpatrick, vice president at MF Global in New York.

Oil dropped almost 2 percent to below $50 a barrel and investors cut their exposure to riskier currencies.

The swine flu virus is not caught from eating pig meat products but several countries, led by Russia and China, banned U.S. pork imports. The EU said it has no plans to restrict pig meat products from the United States.


A barrage of travel warnings by foreign governments and travel firms threatened to batter Mexico's tourism industry, a main source of foreign currency for the country.

U.K. travel firms Thomson Holidays and First Choice decided to repatriate their customers from Mexico and cancel flights bound for Cancun, although most airlines continued to operate their services.

Many private companies took their own precautions, restricting travel to Mexico and other countries with confirmed cases. Honda Motor Co, which like most major auto makers has production facilities in Mexico, has suspended all global business travel until at least May 6.

Experts say that while it is impossible to stop the spread of the disease, efforts to slow its progress could buy crucial time for countries to procure essential drugs.

The WHO's Fukuda said a mild pandemic is possible but he also cautioned that the 1918 "Spanish" flu that killed tens of millions of people emerged from mild beginnings.

Worldwide, seasonal flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people in an average year.

In Mexico, people from company directors to couriers wore face masks while airlines checked passengers for flu symptoms.

The government has shut all schools across Mexico until at least May 6. Restaurants, bars, cinemas and even churches in the capital have been closed to limit new infections.

Residents rushed to stock up on food, water and surgical masks but the usually hectic city is otherwise very quiet.

Mexico says the first fatal case that alerted authorities to the strange new virus was in the southern state of Oaxaca but they have not yet found the origin of the outbreak.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

MAS offers flight changes at no charge

Malaysia Airlines passengers who have booked to travel to Los Angeles or New York can make changes to their flights at no charge from now until the end of May.

The offer from the airline came in the wake of reported cases of swine flu in several places in the United States including California, New York and Texas, and in Mexico and Canada.

MAS director of operations Datuk Tajuden Abu Bakar said the airline would be assisting the Health Ministry in expediting the screening process of its passengers arriving from the United States, particularly for those with connecting flights.

The screening is being carried out by the ministry as a precaution against the swine flu outbreak and passengers with obvious symptoms will be quarantined.

“We will do our best to minimise this although the exercise is expected to slow down the incoming flow of traffic before the immigration lane. Currently, no travel restrictions have been issued.

“At this stage, MAS has not seen a drop in travel demand and we are still operating normally,” Tajuden said in a statement here yesterday.

The airline, he said, was also in close and constant touch with officials from Malaysia Airports Bhd, the ministry and other airport operators to discuss handling procedures and on how best to manage the issue.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as necessary,” he added.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Malaysia expands screening of visitors to all entry points

The Health Ministry has confirmed that no case of “influenza-like” illness with symptoms of swine flu infection has been found in Malaysia.

However, the Government is not taking chances with the outbreak that is already spreading across Mexico to other countries.

Taking precautions: Perlis Tourism and Health Committee chairman Ahmad Bakri Ali (right) discussing a point with a tourist who arrived via the Padang Besar train station yesterday. — Bernama

The ministry has already expanded its screening of passengers arriving at international entry points like KL International Airport, which it started on Monday, to the ground.

In Rantau Panjang, which borders Thailand, the health department began randomly screening those coming into Malaysia on foot.

“We are doing it as a precaution,” a doctor on site said. He set up an informal unit with five of his subordinates.

The ministry has taken measures to set up hotlines for the public to call for inquiries in Putrajaya and also started a 24-hour monitoring of the situation. The public can call 03-8881-0200/300 for enquiries.

Police personnel at Malaysia’s borders are on high alert to check any signs of the swine flu outbreak sneaking into the country.

A teacher demonstrating to children how to wash their hands as a precautionary measure against swine flu infection at a kindergarten in Hubei in the Anhui province of China. - Reuters

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar said policemen would assist all border-control agencies to monitor for any signs of the disease at all entry points including airports.

“We are working closely with the Health Ministry to monitor the situation and assist in the screening process,” he told reporters after a visit to Hospital Kuala Lumpur in conjunction with the 202nd Police Day yesterday.

Health Director-General Tan Sri Dr Ismaiil Merican confirmed yesterday that no case of influenza-like illness with symptoms of swine flu virus had been reported in Malaysia. He said that based on surveillance of influenza-like illness, there had been no reported case.

He added that health officers at KLIA screened 428 passengers and airline crew flying in from areas with cases of swine flu for signs of the infection. Passengers and airline crew, he said, were also been given health alert cards and health declaration forms to fill.

“The screening at all international entry points continued yesterday. A technical committee meeting involving several agencies will also be held today to discuss other preventive measures and an integrated approach for the control of any infection,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Dr Ismail said that in view of the World Health Organisation’s decision to raise the swine flu alert to Phase 4 from Phase 3, which made the current situation just two levels away from a full pandemic, the ministry would continue to advise Malaysians to stay away from affected regions.

“This is particularly when the travel is unnecessary and they are not feeling well. Those who fall sick during their travel should seek medical treatment,” he warned.

In Kuala Lumpur, Bernama reports that the Foreign Ministry had asked all Malaysian missions abroad to continuously monitor and update the ministry on the swine flu outbreak in relation to Malaysians residing or travelling overseas.

“The 60 registered Malaysians residing in Mexico where the swine flu outbreak was first detected and another five in the accredited Central American countries are reported to be safe and free from the virus,” the ministry said in a statement.

The public is advised to report to the Consular Divison of the Foreign Ministry at 03-8887-4000 if they are aware or informed of any cases by their friends, relatives or colleagues currently overseas.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Replication of Bukit Bintang in Bandar Hilir

Local property developer Hatten Group Sdn Bhd plans to turn Bandar Hilir into a commercial area on par with Bukit Bintang in Kuala Lumpur with its latest project called Hatten Square.

The 6.25ha project will feature a mall 200 retail outlets, 1,500 parking bays, and a four-star hotel with 260 rooms and 490 suites.

The first phase of the RM150mil project will be ready by December while work on the hotel, expected to be completed in 2011, will start soon.

The company’s executive director Colin Tan said the success of Dataran Pahlawan inspired the company to come up with the shopping mall that will carry exclusive brands and the hotel to cater to the increasing number of tourists.

Enterprising:(From left)Tan, Hatten Group CEO Datuk Eric Tan and executive director Edwin Tan viewing a model of Hatten Square in Malacca recently.

“We hope the mall will turn Bandar Hilir into the Bukit Bintang of Malacca,” said Tan.

Tan said a 17m air-conditioned two-tiered bridge would connect Hatten Square to Dataran Pahlawan.

“There will be shop lots on both sides so our patrons will treat the bridge as a connecting path that is part of mall,” said Tan.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Swine Flu FAQ

Foreign tourists wearing protective masks stand in the main Zocalo plaza in downtown Mexico City, Monday. (AP Photo/Enric Marti)

What is swine influenza?

It is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A strains of the influenza virus. It regularly causes high flu outbreaks in pigs but with low death rates. There are four main sub-types of the virus, but the most recent isolated influenza viruses from pigs have been H1N1 viruses.

How does it spread?

Swine flu viruses do not typically infect humans though they do occur through close proximity or contact with infected pigs or contaminated areas. Cases of human-to-human spread have been documented.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are similar to those of regular flu:
- Fever
- Lethargy
- Runny nose
- Cough
- Sore throat
- Lack of appetite
- Vomiting and diarrhoea in some cases.

How common is swine flu infection in humans?

In the past reports of about one human swine flu virus infection had been received every one to two years in the United States. From December 2005 till February 2009, 12 cases have been reported.

Has this strain of flu been seen before?

No. Flu mutates constantly, so it is common for new strains to emerge. Pigs can also be infected with both human and avian influenza, and the current circulating swine flu strain appears to contain genetic elements from all three.

Can swine flu be treated with antiviral drugs and flu vaccine?

The swine flu is resistant to two common drugs – Amantadine and Rimantadine. The H1N1 swine flu viruses are very different from human H1N1 viruses. Therefore, vaccines for human seasonal flu would not provide protection. However, a “seed vaccine” has been specifically tailored to this swine flu and will be manufactured if officials deem it necessary.

Can people catch swine flu by eating pork?

No. Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 70ÂșC and above kills the swine flu virus.

How long is someone with swine flu considered contagious?

People with swine influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic; possibly for up to seven days following the onset of the illness. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.

What can I do to protect myself from the swine flu?

There is no vaccine available right now to protect against the swine flu.

However, you can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza by:

- Covering your nose and mouth with a disposable tissue or handkerchief when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the waste basket after you use it.

- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also helpful

- Try to avoid close contact with sick people. - If you get sick with influenza, stay at home and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

- Consult your nearest healthcare facility if you think you have any of the symptoms.

Which countries have had cases of the swine flu?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has confirmed human cases of swine flu in Mexico, the United States, Canada and Spain. Only Mexico has reported deaths from the new strain.

Are there any travel restrictions or advisories for Malaysians?

The Health Ministry on April 27 advised Malaysians against travelling to certain places in the United States, Mexico and Canada which have been affected by the swine flu.

What precautions are in place in Malaysia?

- The Health Ministry’s operations room in Putrajaya has started a 24-hour monitoring of the situation. The public can call 03-8881 0200/300 for enquiries.

- Those returning from Latin American countries and found to have flu-like symptoms will be quarantined.

- Health Ministry officials are conducting health screenings on passengers arriving from the United States.

- Thermal scanners will be placed at international airports to speed up the screening process for swine flu.

- Public and private medical practitioners have been instructed to report to the district health office any patient with influenza-like illnesses or severe pneumonia symptoms and who had travelled to the affected countries after April 17.

- Owners of the 797 pig farms nationwide have been ordered to immediately contact the nearest Veterinary Services Department office or the Animal Disease Control Centre if their workers or animals show symptoms linked to the swine flu.

Where can I get more information?

For more information, go to the Health Ministry ( or call the Ministry's hotline at (03) 8881-0200/300.

Useful Links:
World Health Organization:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
Homeland Security Department:
WHO swine flu page:

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Free Seats For Singapore-Langkawi & Penang-Singapore Routes

AirAsia is once more offering sweet deals to its guests, by offering free seats as introduction to its two new routes -- Singapore-Langkawi and Penang-Singapore.

These new routes will simultaneously commence on June 1, 2009 with daily services.

"By opening up these routes, we are looking forward to stimulating more travel and tourism activities which will definitely benefit the country's economy," said AirAsia Regional Head of Commercial, Kathleen Tan, in a statement today.

"We always remain bullish that our low fares will help to stimulate and induce new travel demand, and will help boost tourism potential on both ends," she said.

The free seats deals are exclusively available online via AirAsia's website at or

Booking period is from April 27 to May 3, 2009 for travel between June 1, 2009 and Jan 31, 2010.

Alongside the new routes, the airline is increasing its frequency from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, bringing the total frequency to eight direct daily flights from the current seven.

The added frequency will also commence operations on June 1, 2009, with free seats on offer to mark its initiation.

The free seats offer is also available online with similar booking and travel period as the new routes above.

"Our Kuala Lumpur - Singapore route on the other hand, received tremendous response ever since it was first introduced, with an average load factor of 80 percent," said Tan.

The free seats offer exclude airport tax, admin fees and are applicable for one-way only.

Source : Bernama
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88,000 free seats to mark Jetstar Asia’s Penang route

Jetstar Asia is offering 88,000 free seats for travel between July 1 to March 25 from Singapore to four local destinations. This offer to celebrate the launch of its Penang service ends on Wednesday.

The Singapore-based low-cost carrier will be starting daily flights from the republic to Penang from July 1, marking the airline’s 17th destination and fourth Malaysian

route. The other three routes are from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.

Jetstar offers flights to 17 destinations in 10 countries within five hours from the Lion City.

With a new Airbus A320 to be purchased in October, Jetstar would also double the number of its Singapore-Penang flights, chief executive officer Chong Phit Lian said in a statement yesterday.

The free-seat promotion excludes airport taxes, administrative and insurance charges.

For enquiries, call 800-6167-017 (24-hour call centre) or visit

Source : Star
[tags : ]

AirAsia Yet To See Any Sales Slowdown

AirAsia, Southeast Asia's biggest budget carrier, has yet to see any sales slowdown despite the current economic situation, group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes said Monday.

"There is no decline in any routes because of the low fares we offer and we fly to places that one go, such as Bandung, Banda Aceh and Vientiane," he said after announcing an alliance with Maybank and American Express on AirAsia's acceptance of Amex cards for bookings.

Also present at the event were Maybank executive vice president and head of cards and payments, Ashraf Ali Abdul Kadir, and American Express International senior vice president and head of global network services, Japan/Asia Pacific/Australia, Kula Kulendran.

Fernandes said that the investment in network expansion and a consistent low fares were also among the factors contributing to the airline's growth.

Despite the economic challenges, there was an opportunity to build market share, he said, adding that AirAsia has received good response for its latest route between Kuala Lumpur and Taipei, with more than 20,000 seats sold.

On fears that the spread of swine flu would hit the travel industry, Fernandes said AirAsia's sales has been unaffected by the virus because people will fly within Southeast Asia rather than in America.

"I am gloomy about the economy but I am not too worried about the pandemic because a lot of resources has been put in to stop it," he said.

According to Fernandes, AirAsia is positive on the company's growth and will continue to grow despite the economic challenges.

"We saw a 21 percent year-on-year increase in our passenger volume for the first quarter of this year when we flew 3.1 million guests," he said.

On the partnership with Maybank and American Express, Fernandes said: "We are confident that this number will grow now that American Express cardmembers are able to easily book seats with us."

The partnership extends world-class value for money travel benefits on AirAsia to all customers carrying American Express cards. The alliance is expected to grow inbound and outbound travel by attracting high-spending American Express cardmembers to fly with AirAsia.

Commenting on the new low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT), Fernandes said that there was still no progress on the construction part, adding that the airport was crucial to enable Malaysia to gain opportunities.

It is understood that the new LCCT will be build by Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd and work is expected to start middle of this year, and scheduled for completion by the third quarter of 2011.

Meanwhile, Ashraf Ali said that Maybank is working to ensure that payments with the American Express card are made available at AirAsia booking counters nationwide by middle of next month.

The first phase of this payment convenience will be offered for flights from Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand and for online payments, he said.

"Since Maybank acquired the American Express issuing and merchant business in Malaysia in 2006, we have continued to offer exciting programmes as well as expended the scope of facilities to cardmembers," Ashraf Ali said.

"This has resulted in a 93 percent growth in card spending by American Express cardmembers in Malaysia," he said.

Source : Bernama
[tags : ]

Passengers from US to be screened

Health Ministry officials will begin health screenings on passengers arriving from the United States today.

A Malaysia Airlines flight will touch down from New York at 7am at the KL International Airport, said Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) senior general manager (operations) Datuk Azmi Murad.

“There will be physical checks and observations of all passengers,” he said, adding that airport authorities would leave it to the health officers to decide what to do.

There are no direct flights from Mexico.

Azmi said there were four flights flying in from New York and five flights from Los Angeles each week.

Source : STAR
[tags : ]

Full foreign equity ownership now allowed in Malaysia

THE Malaysian government's recent decision to immediately lift the 30 per cent ethnic Malay (Bumiputera) equity requirement for the tourism sector has been positively received by the private sector.

Commenting on the liberalisation which now allows 100 per cent foreign equity ownership of four- and five-star hotels, Malaysian Association of Hotels vice-president, Mr Ivo R Nekvapil, said: "It will open a huge portal for new investments, which will in turn create an upswing in job opportunities for the locals. It will also open the door for more international hotel brands to come to Malaysia, which is good for the country."

Kuala Lumpur-based Nazar Travel & Tours managing director, Mr K Narayanan, foresees consolidation among smaller local travel companies as this would enable them to compete more effectively with larger foreign travel operators setting up their offices in the country.

Announcing the decision to liberalise 27 service sub-sectors on April 22, which includes tourism, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said it was part of Malaysia's commitment to ASEAN.

Tourism services liberalised include providing full foreign equity ownership for four- and five-star hotels and their f&b outlets; setting up of theme parks, convention and exhibition centres with a seating capacity of more than 5,000; and allowing travel agents from ASEAN countries to set up agencies in Malaysia to sell inbound tours.

Foreign travel agencies outside of ASEAN wanting to set up an office in Malaysia still have to find a local partner to work with, but it need not be of ethnic Malay origin.

The government aims to create a business environment conducive to attracting more foreign investments and creating higher-value employment opportunities.

Source : TTG
[tags : ]

Government Advises Postponing Trips To Mexico, Canada, U.S

The government has advised Malaysians to postpone trips to Mexico, Canada and several states in the United States such as New York, California, Texas, Kansas and Ohio in view of a swine flu outbreak there.

Health Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the World Health Organisation (WHO) had not imposed any restriction on travel to those places but the people had to be careful so as to prevent the spread of the disease which has already claimed more than 100 lives in Mexico.

"If they do not have important matters to attend to, they should wait until the situation in those countries permitted their travel there," he told reporters after witnessing the handing over of the Joint Commission International (JCI) accreditation to the Prince Court Medical Centre, here, Monday.

He said the authorities were cooperating with WHO to introduce preventive measures and added that the Health Ministry had contacted the relevant agencies including the Veterinary Services Department to monitor the situation and prevent the spread of the disease and was looking into a suitable vaccine.

"We have the normal influenza vaccine but for the current H1N1 strain (of swine flu), we have to study the suitable vaccine to be used," he said, adding that the suitable vaccine would be supplied to the pig breeders for their livestock.

"The ministry is in the process of buying the gadgets. We had loaned them during the avian flu epidemic several years ago," he told reporters.

Liow also said that visitors flying in from the United States, Canada and Mexico would be required to complete a form if they showed signs of having fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

"These people will be given treatment to ascertain their health status," he said, adding that the Serdang and Putrajaya hospitals had been turned into quarantine centres for the purpose.

Today, two flights were scheduled to arrive from New York and Los Angeles at 6.45am and 12.15pm respectively, carrying 203 passengers.

Source : Bernama
[tags : ]

Swine flu: Health Ministry advises against travel to Canada, Mexico and US states

The Health Ministry has advised Malaysians against travelling to Canada, Mexico and selected US states where there have been reports of swine flu infection.

Its minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the United States had recorded 20 cases of influenza-like illness in New York (eight cases), California (seven), Texas (two), Kansas (two) and Ohio (one).

Mexico has reported 1,149 cases with 71 deaths, out of which 18 cases were confirmed to be caused by the swine influenza A/H1N1 virus. Canada has reported four swine flu cases.

“So far, no deaths have been reported in these two countries,” he said, referring to Canada and the United States.

“Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) has not called for any sanction in travel or trade with those affected countries, I would like to advise all Malaysians against travelling to these places,” he told reporters after witnessing the presentation of the Joint Commission International award to Prince Court Medical Centre here Monday.

Liow said the ministry had also alerted both public and private medical practitioners to report to the district health office any patient they might have treated for influenza-like illness or severe pneumonia symptoms and who had a history of travelling to the above destinations after April 17.

Those who test positive for the swine flu virus would be quarantined and treated at Sungai Buloh Hospital, he said.

The ministry also urged the public not to worry about the influenza outbreak in Mexico, Canada or the United States as the health authorities there had implemented various measures to contain the infection and prevent its spread.

“Malaysia also has a national influenza pandemic preparedness plan, which we put in place during the SARS outbreak,” he said, referring to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome global pandemic in 2002-2003.

“I understand there are have been various e-mail and SMSes circulating about the number of deaths and reported cases, but I stress that the ministry’s statistics are the latest from WHO,” he said, adding that the ministry would be issuing statements from time to time to keep the public informed about the infection.

Liow said the ministry was also mulling getting vaccinations against swine flu for pig farmers and personnel from other frontliner agencies like nurses, doctors and the police.

“But the problem is we are not sure of the strain. We also don’t know if the seasonal vaccination will be able to protect farmers, nurses or tourists from getting infected with the virus,” he said, adding that his ministry would be holding a meeting with all agencies including the Veterinarian Services Department to “cover all the issues.”

Liow also clarified that it would not be possible to get infected with swine flu from eating pork as the transmission of the virus was currently airborne.

Later, the minister also said that thermal scanners would be placed at international airports to speed up the screening process of travellers.

Meanwhile, the Agriculture and Agro Based Industries Ministry has made it compulsory for all pig farmers in the nation to immediately report to the Veterinary Dept if any of their workers or livestock shows signs of coughing or runny nose, said its minister Datuk Noh Omar.

In JOHOR BARU, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyddin Yassin urged the public not to panic, saying the Health Ministry has in place protocols to prevent the disease from spreading to Malaysia.

He said the protocol included tightening surveillance at all entry points into Malaysia via airports and ports, and also at border crossings, reports NELSON BENJAMIN.

“We have used this protocol for avian flu outbreaks in the past. We may have to tighten some of these procedures,” he said, adding that the Health Ministry would work closely with other relevant agencies including the Agriculture and Agro-Based Industries Ministry to monitor the situation.

Muhyddin added that proper awareness and education would also have to be provided to the public as many people were not aware of the disease.

“Many people are hearing about this disease for the first time and we have to educate them on how to play their part to prevent it from spreading,” he said after closing the Malaysia Unit Trust Week here Monday.

Muhyddin said that Malaysia would work closely with the WHO and other international networks to get the necessary information and also to take precautionary measures.

Source : STAR
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Friday, April 24, 2009

Jetstar Asia to fly to new destiniations in Malaysia

Jetstar Asia has been given flying rights approval (22-Apr-09) by the Air Traffic Rights Committee to commence services to Penang and Langkawi in Malaysia.
The new routes will represent Jetstar Asia’s 17th and 18th destinations.

Jetstar Asia will commence flights later this year, with schedule and fares to be announced in due course.

Jetstar Asia Chief Executive Officer Ms Chong Phit Lian said she was excited about the prospect of further expansion of Jetstar Asia into Malaysia.

“With flights already to Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, these new destinations will further expand the important role Malaysia plays in the Jetstar network.

“We are excited to be able to now pursue flying to two of Malaysia’s best holiday destinations.”

Source : Peanuts Online
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Tiger Airways to launch Langkawi and Penang Flights

Tiger Airways has received approval from authorities to commence daily services to Langkawi and up to 3 services a day to Penang from Singapore.

This continues the expansion of the low cost airline across the region which will now serve over 34 destinations, 7 of which have commenced this year.

Rosalynn Tay, Managing Director of Tiger Airways Singapore, said, “Over the last four months we have added 7 routes to our group network including daily flights to Kota Kinabalu and Kuching, a new daily service between Singapore and Jakarta, more services on the ever popular Singapore – Kuala Lumpur route, as well as 4 extra flights a week to Guangzhou bringing the total number of weekly services to 11. Now we are adding Langkawi and Penang to our network to continue to be the low fare leader in Asia.”

Tiger Airways has not yet confirmed the flight schedule to Langkawi and Penang.

Tiger Airways congratulated the governments of Singapore and Malaysia in progressing liberalisation for the benefit of the tourism industry and the economy as a whole.

Ms Tay said, “the governments of Malaysia and Singapore, through liberalizing their skies, are ensuring that the job creating tourism industry and the economy as whole can benefit from growth that is stimulated from true low fare competition. These latest rights will bring more tourists and provide cheaper travel for businesses to assist in growing the economy. Three cheers to liberalisation!”

Source : AsiaTravelTips
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Singapore's March performance reflects continuous downward trend

SINGAPORE’S tourism performance continues to tumble in March, with declining figures reflected in all indicators, according to the Singapore Tourism Board's latest release.

Visitor arrivals registered a decline of 13.3 per cent year-on-year to reach 790,000 and visitor days went down 11 per cent.

Singapore’s top five source markets, Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Australia and the UK accounted for 49 per cent of total arrivals that month.

Visitor arrivals in 12 out of the top 15 markets decreased compared to the same month last year, reflecting the impact of the current global economic slowdown on consumer spending.

Hotel performance was also less rosy. Room revenue fell 33.3 per cent to hit S$125 million (US$83.1 million), and revenue per available room decreased 30.9 per cent to reach S$145.

Average room rate dipped further from S$205 in February to $196, a 18.5 per cent decrease over the same period last year.

Average occupancy rate was estimated to reach 74 per cent, posting a 13.1 percentage point decrease.

Source : TTG
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Malacca rated high

The historic city of Malacca has successfully achieved the rating as one of the country’s most sustainable cities for four consecutive years from 2004.

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam said that Malacca was the only city in Malaysia that maintained its position under a nationwide rating system.

In 2004, Malacca achieved a score 72.92% and this rose to 82.88% the following year and 81.08% in 2006.

“In 2007, the rating went up to 84.21% and we scored the highest last year with 85.09%,” he said in a speech while officiating at the 9th Melaka Twin Cities Convention 2009 here.

The rating is conducted by the Federal Town and Country Planning Department which assess sustainable development and quality of life in selected towns and cities.

The score of 80% and above is required for a city or town to be deemed as sustainable.

Mohd Ali, whose speech was read by state Local Government and Housing Committee chairman Datuk Latiff Tamby Chik, noted that the Malacca City Council achieved a 4-star rating by the Local Government and Housing Ministry last year.

He said this rating placed the Malacca Historic City Council among the top ten local councils of the 145 nationwide.

Some 250 people took part in the two-day convention with the theme Building a Better City, Today and Tomorrow.

Among those at the convention was Prof David Lung, of the Unesco Chair in Cultural Heritage Resources Management, who presented a paper entitled Heritage City: Preserving the Authenticity of Culture and Heritage.

Source : STAR
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Cathay to cut KK-Hong Kong flights

CATHAY Pacific will reduce its daily Kota Kinabalu-Hong Kong flights to four times a week in line with the airline's overall strategy to cut frequencies to cope with falling passenger travel.

Its sister airline, Dragonair, is the carrier that plies the route and will fly four times a week effective May 2009.

"We are reducing flight frequencies for destinations that have quite a number of flights. But we will try to keep our network intact without cutting routes," Katherine Lo, Cathay Pacific country manager for Malaysia and Brunei told reporters in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Lo said Cathay Pacific was not reducing its daily flights between Kuala Lumpur-Hong Kong and Penang-Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific said last week it will reduce passenger capacity by eight per cent and overall cargo capacity by 11 per cent from May.

The airline is re-deploying its aircraft to more profitable routes and will increase flights from Hong Kong to Denpasar, Sapporo and Bahrain/ Riyadh.

Meanwhile, Lo said Malaysian employees with Cathay Pacific have been supportive of the airline's special leave scheme aimed at conserving cash.

"Almost 90 per cent of our 80 employees in Malaysia have participated in the voluntary scheme that was announced last Friday at the group level," said Lo.

Under the special leave scheme, all Cathay Pacific employees have been asked to take unpaid leave of one to four weeks, depending on seniority, over a 12 month period from May 1 2009 till April 30 2010.

Lo said the remaining year will continue to be a challenge for the airline, following its 22.4 per cent drop in turnover for the first quarter of 2009.

"We have already announced a series of measures to save cost including parking freighters, deferring our new aircraft deliveries and postponing capital expenditure," she said.

It has deferred the completion of its new cargo terminal in Hong Kong by 24 months to 2013 and will delay capital expenditure in airport lounge renovations in Hong Kong and London.

But Lo added that Cathay Pacific had recently revamped its airport lounge in Penang and was committed to completing renovation works on its airport lounge in Kuala Lumpur by mid-2009.

"The lounge (in Kuala Lumpur International Airport) will be bigger and hopefully can accommodate our expansion plans down the line," she added, declining to provide the investment value for the lounges.

Lo said the airline had no immediate plans to scrap its fuel surcharge.

Source : Business TimesOnline
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Tourists turned off by dirty toilets

IT is a stinking problem and one that has left some tourists unhappy about their holiday in Sabah -- dirty public toilets.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun is hoping that everyone will do their bit to keep toilets clean as it will be impossible for local authorities to do so on their own.

"I have received feedback from tourists on dirty toilets. Together with the local authorities, we must educate the locals on how to use toilets properly. We must love our washrooms.

"My ministry has, through the Sabah Tourism Board, upgraded public toilets along the Ranau-Sandakan road over the last two years," he said in his winding-up speech following the debate on the motion of thanks to the Yang Dipertua Negeri Tun Ahmadshah Abdullah's speech.

A campaign called "Toilet Ops" has also been implemented by the ministry through the Environmental Action Committee with the cooperation of the Quality Restroom Association Malaysia.
Meanwhile, the state government plans to introduce free Internet access in a move to keep up with globalisation trends that require communities to be knowledgeable on wide-ranging issues.

State Resource Development and Information Technology Minister Datuk Dr Yee Moh Chai said the service was expected to be in place in Kota Kinabalu by next year

Source : NST
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Pulau Sipadan now in 14th place

Pulau Sipadan is now in 14th place in the race to be named one of the new Seven Wonders of Nature.

If the famed diving spot is to remain in contention, it must move up to 11th by July to qualify for the next round of the online election.

The campaign has seven categories, including islands, forests and seascapes.

And destinations from over the world are vying to make it into the top 11 in each section in time for the next round.

At the top of the island category is Bora-Bora Island in French Polynesia, followed by the Galapagos Islands.

Thailand's Ko Phi Phi is in 12th place.

Yesterday, the state Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry launched a campaign to get university students and staff to vote for the island on Sabah's east coast, as part of an effort that started more than a month ago to get more support.

Assistant Minister Bolkiah Ismail, who launched the campaign at the Universiti Malaysia Sabah campus in Sepanggar, said he is scheduled to meet with federal authorities next week to begin an awareness programme in the peninsula.

"If Sipadan is eventually categorised as a new natural wonder it will have a great impact on tourism, not only for the island itself but for other destinations in Sabah and all over Malaysia."

Bolkiah said islands like Galapagos are not as diverse in marine life as Sipadan.

And getting Malaysians to participate in the online vote should be viewed as a "national duty".

To vote for Sipadan, go to

Source : NST
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Govt to develop tourism aggressively

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen has said that the Federal Government will initiate aggressive measures to attract tourists, particularly to Pahang.

She said the industry’s players could carry out three types of promotional activities namely overall, product and rural.

“Each of the categories can be promoted individually, depending on creativity and foresight. For example, rural promotion can be done in Kuantan as there are a lot of iconic places in rural areas unknown to outsiders. Pekan town, in the parliamentary constituency of our Prime Minister, can be exploited to lure more tourists,” she said during her first visit to Kuantan at Hyatt Regency Resort here on Saturday.

Also present were state Culture, Arts, Heritage and Tourism Committee chairman Datuk Shafik Fauzan Shariff and Pahang Tourism Action Council general manager Idros Yahya.

Dr Ng said that other activities such as the unique zoom riders programme could be initiated to promote Kuantan town.

She said a matter that needed priority was cleanliness of public toilets.

“Tourists come here not only to go to iconic places but to experience public life as well. It is important not to allow tourists to feel disgusted by the toilets. For example, some nice plants could be placed at the toilets to make them less dull,” she said.

Dr Ng, who is also Raub MP, said that not much money was needed for promotional activities, but creativity was the key to success.

She said, last year, the number of tourists to Malaysia was 7.7 million of whom one million were from China, 200,000 from India, 73,000 from Japan and 66,000 from Hong Kong.

“We have set a daring target of 10 million visitors for this year, including those from the United States. “Pahang had many tourist attractions like Cameron Highlands, Pulau Tioman and Taman Negara. It’s just a matter of how we promote these iconic places,” she said.

Meanwhile, Shafik Fauzan proposed that more direct air links be established from other countries to Malaysia. “In this way, foreign tourists will have less jetlag and have more time for sightseeing,” he said.

Source : STAR
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Firefly offers Batam deal for avid golfers

Budget airline Firefly is targeting golf lovers with a package that will take them to Indonesian holiday island Batam for a round — or two — of golf.

The “3D2N Batam Golf Package”, which costs RM999 per person on a twin-share basis, is one of 11 holiday packages to local and Asean destinations under the airline’s “WOW Bargains” campaign launched yesterday.

Under the package, golfers will stay at the Novotel hotel and get two rounds of golf at the Batam Palm Spring & Southlink Country Club.

FlyFirefly Sdn Bhd managing director Eddy Leong said the airline decided to offer the flight-cum-accommodation deals because it was more practical for travellers.

“We also want to encourage consumers to lead the lifestyle they want. Even though we are facing hard times, it should not stop us from enjoying life,” he said at the press conference.

At the event, Leong, accompanied by Tourism Malaysia marketing deputy director-general Datuk Amirrudin Abu and Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) deputy president Datuk Mohd Khalid Harun, gave away prizes to the airline’s biggest spenders during the Matta fair, and winners of the “Wing Commanderz 2009” mobile simulator contest.

Among other deals offered in the WOW campaign until Oct 24 are the “3D2N Island Getaway” package to Langkawi priced at RM199 per person and the “3D2N Genting Highlands Free & Easy” package which costs RM229 per person for a stay at the First World Hotel.

Those wishing to travel to Thailand can opt for the “HKT-3D2N Phuket Free & Easy Package” which offers accommodation at the Centara Karon Beach at RM399 per person.

For more information, log on to

Source : STAR
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Tourism Ministry Studying KPI

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said the ministry is studying the type of key performance index (KPI) to be implemented.

The move was in line with the announcement by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak that ministries should implement KPI to evaluate the performance of public sector staff.

"Divisions under the ministry have been asked to make proposals on KPI to so that the secretary-general can study them before it is implemented in line with the ministry's vision and mission."

Ng was speaking to reporters after presenting an approval letter to former Scuderia Ferrari executive director Jean Todt under the Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme here today.

She said the MM2H programme was an effective way to 'sell' Malaysia to foreigners as the country has a lot to offer like the unique cultures, beautiful beaches and good food.

Source : Bernama
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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Malaysia cuts tourist loss with The Big Swing

Approved projects face height guideline restrictions

PENANG needs at least 200 to 300 new hotel rooms a year even if its economic growth stays below 5% per annum as a result of the global recession, says the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH), Penang chapter, chairman Marco Battistotti.

Assuming the state’s economy annually expands by 5%, which was last year’s record, there is a need for 300 to 400 rooms.

“New hotel projects that have been approved should be allowed to carry on so long as they are in accordance with the law,” Battistoti added.

Despite the slowdown, airport arrivals in Penang for the first two months of the year were just slightly down at 464,634, against 527,203 in the first two months of 2008.

Kate Lim showing the artist's impression of the approved Rice Miller Hotel. Legal action may be taken

“The Penang hotels’ occupancy rate for the first three months of 2009 was about 60%, compared with about 64% in the same period a year ago,” Battistoti said, adding that the hotel rates were competitive compared with prices in Bali, Bangkok and Singapore.

“The daily room rates in these destinations have risen by about 20% and 25% since last year.

“Presently, the average room rate in Singapore is about S$180, while in Bangkok and Bali, they are US$75 and US$94 respectively,” he said.

Penang is attractive as a tourist destination not only because of its competitive room rate pricing.

“The strength lies in Penang’s balanced mixture of beach and city hotels. It has 35 hotels, of which 22 are in the city and 13 are beach resort hotels.

“Together they provide some 9,000 rooms,” he said.

Marco Battistotti... MAH supports the projects

Due to the global recession this year, the MAH expected about 7% drop in tourist arrivals for Penang, Battistoti added.

“The presence of low-cost carriers such as Firefly has helped increase tourist arrivals in Penang from other states in the country and the region.

“Some 20 years ago in Europe when low-cost carriers first appeared, travel within the European continent also doubled,” he said.

On the four approved hotel projects for inner George Town that hit a snag following the 18m height restriction guideline in the state heritage dossier, Battistoti said the MAH supported the projects .

The hotels are the Eastern & Oriental Hotel extension project known as Annexe at Lebuh Farquahar, the Boustead Group’s RM130mil Royale Bintang Hotel and the Asian Global Business (AGB) Group’s Rice Miller Hotel in Weld Quay, and the Low Yat Group’s proposed hotel project at Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah.

The Eastern & Oriental Group obtained building plans approval from the Penang Island Municipal Council (MPPP) in 1996 for its 28-storey Annexe.

However, it was scaled down to 15 storeys in 2008 when the 18m height restriction was imposed.

The Boustead and the AGB Groups received MPPP endorsement for their projects in 2007 while the Low Yat Group’s proposed project received the go-ahead in late June 2008, less than two weeks before George Town was declared a World Heritage Site on July 7.

Because of the controversial height guideline, the developers of the four projects have now taken a different stand on their projects.

In a recent interview, AGB Group chairman Kate Lim said MPPP and the Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry representatives had informed AGB verbally to scale down the proposed 51.7m Pier Hub project to 18m.

AGB has yet to receive the go-ahead from the local authorities to commence building.

“We are puzzled because the MPPP’s planning approval was given for a building 51.7m high.

“The financing was also obtained for a project with this height. How is it possible to change the financing model now?” she said.

Complying with the advice would cause the project to lose 70% of its gross commercial area, effectively rendering the whole project commercially unviable, Lim said.

“If we cannot proceed as planned, we will have to seek legal redress,” she said.

The Boustead Group declined comment.

A source familiar with the Boustead project said the group would carry on work as it had already received the go ahead to start construction from the MPPP.

“To stop work now would mean compensating the sub-contractors and that is a step that the Group don’t want to take,” the source said.

E&O communication and investor relations director Lyn Chai said the group had recently stopped work and would await clarification from the relevant authorities expected in June.

“When the Unesco height restrictions came to the forefront recently, we decided it would be in the best interests of George Town and consistent with E&O Hotel’s unique position as a heritage hotel, to review our plans and await formal notification,” she added.

When contacted, a Low Yat Group spokesman said the group, which had invested in Penang since the 1960s, would continue to co-operate and work with the relevant authorities to bring progress to the state and to uphold the Unesco world heritage site status.

“There are no immediate plans to make changes to the development order that has been approved,” he added.

The Low Yat Group hotel project comprises 399 rooms and a double-storey basement car park.

Source : STAR
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Malaysia cuts tourist loss with The Big Swing

THE tourism ministry has initiated a new tactical called The Big Swing with its promotional arm, Tourism Malaysia, and inbound tour operators.

The Big Swing aims to minimise the loss of international tourists as a result of the political tensions in Thailand, especially in view of the upcoming Golden Week celebrations in China and the peak summer holiday seasons in India and the Middle East.

The tactical works with Tourism Malaysia overseas officers and inbound tour operators to convince overseas wholesalers and tour operators who have stopped promoting Thailand because of the political uncertainties, to promote Malaysia instead.

Up to the end of April, Malaysia Airlines is offering no additional charges to travellers re-routing flights from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association is speaking with hoteliers in Kuala Lumpur to come up with tactical promotions for the summer period, to encourage more international tourists, according to its honorary secretary-general, Mr Adam Kamal.

Source : TTG
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Female tourist guides welcome ban on twin sharing

A long-time nightmare has come to an end for female tourist guides with the Government decision to ban the sharing of rooms with male colleagues from June 1.

Incidents of female tourist guides being harassed, molested and even raped by their male roommates were not new, said Malaysian Women Tourist Guide Association vice-president Ong Swee Ching.

However, victims chose to remain quiet, fearing they would lose their jobs. The few that dared bring up the issue, including Ong, were boycotted by industry players.

“Our initiative to set up the Malaysian Women Tourist Guide Association in 2006 was also met with resistance. I was not given any jobs, until I moved to a new company,” she said.

Relating her own experience, Ong said a male colleague, whom she was forced to share a room with, had pestered her for sex. She told him off and “he did not disturb me any more because I was tough.”

Ong thanked the new Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen for insisting on this new ruling.

Ng had met with tourist guides, tour operators and hoteliers at her office here yesterday. She warned that any tour companies found to have forced their female workers to share rooms with the men would have their licences revoked.

“In 2006, we tried the gentle way. We warned the companies, but nothing was done. The action is to ensure the safety of the women, who make up more than one-third of the total number of tourist guides in Malaysia,’’ she told reporters.

Dr Ng also proposed that new hotels be equipped with cost-effective rooms or dormitories for tourist guides and their co-workers, adding she would bring this up in the Cabinet meeting.

Tourist guide Grace Tan had been sharing rooms with the men since she joined the industry 23 years ago. She was lucky her younger brother was her assistant, and he would always be in the same room with her and the other male colleagues.

“Many tourist guides who have resigned out of frustration have expressed their hope to return to the industry now,” she said.

Source : STAR
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AirAsia bucks the trend

FROM this recession, we learn that bad economic news is only bad for some but good news for others.

Contrary to the norm of organisations suspending operations or trimming costs, AirAsia seems to be progressing at full tilt here. It is expanding and adding new routes – such as the latest Kuala Lumpur-Tianjin route – to keep up with demand.

AirAsia Bhd’s long-haul sister airline, AirAsia X, took off to Tianjin on April 2.

“This is a welcome move for us,’’ said a Malaysian who only wished to be known as Chin. He said he could not afford to use the other airlines so he tried out AirAsia, paying only 1,800 yuan (RM955) for one-way airfare. Chin, who has been working in Tianjin since 2008, took the flight home several days after AirAsia’s maiden flight to Tianjin.

“The flight was okay but delayed by an hour – 30 minutes late due to traffic control in Beijing and another 30 minutes due to the late arrival of the morning flight. Tony (AirAsia group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes) was on the same flight too, greeting each and every passenger on board. He’s a true professional,’’ he added.

Chin, who had been working in Beijing before his transfer to Tianjin, also gave the pilot the thumbs-up for making a smooth landing.

Plaudits also came from a group of Malay­sian students who are studying Chinese Medicine at the university in Tianjin as the new route means a cheaper alternative. It is a more approachable no-frills airline for them and it only costs about 2,,200 yuan (RM1,170) for a round trip.

“I can now afford to fly home more often,’’ said student Benny Tang, adding that he would take AirAsia again to go home to take part in a play next month.

The additional route is also good news for Chinese tourists. As highlighted by Malaysian Ambassador to China Datuk Syed Norul­zaman Syed Kamaruzaman during AirAsia X’s inaugural flight press conference, Malaysia and China have shown close cooperation in the field of tourism.

Last year, he said, Malaysia welcomed close to 950,000 arrivals from China, an increase of over 20% compared with 789,568 visitors in 2007. “China is, in fact, the leading tourist market outside the Asean countries for Malaysia, and ranks number five in the top 10 tourist generating markets,’’ he added.

Xing Baohua is among the tourists who are impressed with the fare structure. “I have gone online to check on the airfare for a one-way trip which can go as low as 428 yuan (RM227),’’ said the 35-year-old avid traveller who has been working in Tianjin for many years.

She said she loves Malaysia and its beautiful sights, adding that the new KL-Tianjin route would help put more Malaysian destinations on her must-visit list. “Everyone can fly!” she said in Chinese, repeating the airline’s slogan and waving the AirAsia pamphlet.

Fernandes told the media in Tianjin that AirAsia’s journey in China began in 2004 with only two aircraft and over 200 staff. He said the airline believed that Tianjin – its first northern China destination – had the same potential as its southern China destinations.

Fernandes recalled that AirAsia began with a flight a day to Macau but now flies 12 times a day. “In 2004, AirAsia had only 4,000 passengers for the Macau route. Last year we carried 1.8 million passengers for eight destinations. In spite of the global financial downturn, we are going against the trend,’’ he said.

A travel agent from Inner Mongolia who was also present expressed great interest in expanding its cooperation with the budget carrier.

“AirAsia’s presence in northern China actually brings more opportunities for us, especially during such times of economic uncertainty,’’ said the agent, who wished to be known as Meng. “So far, I have not sold more than five or six air tickets to Kuala Lumpur. The Kuala Lumpur-Tianjin route has good potential as many from Inner Mongolia love travelling,” he said.

Meng said times might be hard but there were always opportunities, adding that some businesses or companies like budget airlines could even be immune to economic downturns.

Source : Star
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