Thursday, December 23, 2010

Hilton Settles Spy Suit with Starwood

Hilton Worldwide Inc. will be banned for two years from creating a luxury "lifestyle" hotel chain under an agreement to settle a corporate-espionage lawsuit.

The settlement stems from a suit filed last year by rival Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, which accused Hilton officials of stealing confidential Starwood documents to develop a new boutique-style chain that would appeal to modern tastes.

Terms of the settlement continue a court order that Hilton cease development of its Denizen lifestyle chain. Now, Hilton can never develop its Denizen lifestyle brand and can't start developing a similar brand for two years. Hilton also must allow a court-appointed monitor to review its marketing and branding materials to make sure they don't benefit from the information obtained from Starwood documents.

The deal also includes an unspecified payment to Starwood, according to the court documents.

The dispute between the two chains shocked the hotel world. Starwood is known for brands such as Sheraton, W and Westin. Hilton is a storied chain with a 90-year history and is now owned by private-equity investors Blackstone Group LP, which purchased the company for $26 billion in 2007.

The allegations had placed a cloud over Hilton, observers said, and taken up considerable time from Chief Executive Chris Nasetta and other managers. "It's important to put this type of situation behind them," said Bjorn Hanson, dean of New York University's Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management.

The lawsuit alleged that Ross Klein and Amar Lalvani, two former Starwood executives who had joined Hilton, took more than 100,000 documents to recreate the success of Starwood's W Hotel. Neither man could be reached for comment; both left Hilton after the suit was filed. Starwood said it discovered Hilton had the documents only after Hilton return them to Starwood. Hilton officials said they returned the documents out of "an abundance of caution.

Hilton's delay in developing a lifestyle hotel came at a convenient time given that new hotel construction is at its lowest level in years. In the future, the two-year delay could become a problem as the industry emerges from the recession, industry observers said Wednesday. It leaves a hole in Hilton's marketing to younger travelers seeking a high dollar hotel option.

Hilton's Mr. Nasetta said in a statement Wednesday that the company is "committed to fair, ethical and robust competition in the marketplace." The hotel chain "regrets the circumstances surrounding the dispute with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide and is pleased to bring an end to this prolonged litigation," his statement continued.

The settlement specifies that a criminal complaint from the U.S. attorney for Manhattan continues. A person close to the matter said Hilton has received indication from the U.S. attorney that it does not intend to file charges, although the company continues to cooperate with the investigation.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice declined to comment.

Source : WSJ
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Malacca records RM84mil in tourist expenditure every week

Despite a lack in natural resources, the state’s booming tourism industry is seen by the Tourism Ministry as one of the most important contributors to the nation’s economic development.

Tourism minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said although Malacca has no significant contributions in the agriculture or major technology industries, Malacca has a very successful tourism industry with a record of RM84mil in tourist expenditure every week.

“Last year, the tourism sector contributed 8.2% to the nation’s overall GDP with 75% of its revenue coming from the industry here,” she said at the Malacca Hokkien Associations 209th anniversary dinner here recently. Dr Ng said the state had also set the foundation for the political development for the Chinese community in the country.

Later, during her official visit here, she took a Malacca river cruise and a walkabout around the waterfront with Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam. She lauded the state’s efforts and creativity in turning the historic city into the country’s top tourist destination with over eight million tourist arrivals.

To further enhance this status, she said the ministry has allocated a sum of RM157.2mil to the state for tourism-related projects which will be disbursed in a two-year period under the 10th Malaysia Plan. The allocation represented 46% of the total allocation of RM340mil under the tourism implementation programme.

Dr Ng added that five main projects under the programme included the upgrading of facilities at the Botanical Garden in Ayer Keroh that would cost RM30mil, developing the Tasik Chin Chin area in Jasin (RM25mil) and a cable car service in Banda Hilir (RM49mil).

Two other projects include the monorail phase two project along the Malacca river (RM13.2mil) and development of the Hang Tuah Village along the Duyong River (RM40mil). Other than the listed projects, she said the ministry has plans to make Botanical Garden as the first ‘Night Flower Garden’ in Malaysia with a bird centre.

Dr Ng later also pledged RM30,000 to Jonker Walk Committee for its annual carnival and decoration fund with another RM10,000 for the associations annual activity fund.

Source : TheStar
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Malaysia Among Top Islamic Tourist Destinations

Malaysia is now among the top Islamic destinations of tourists, especially Muslims, because the country offers various services and halal products.

In relation to this, Islamic Tourism Centre (ITC) director-general Zainuddin Abdul Wahab said the centre was focusing on providing information and facilities sought by the Muslim community.

"There is much potential in Islamic tourism in Malaysia due to contributing factors such as its liberal policies which offer comfort in various aspects, including food, beverages, personal needs and facilities," he told reporters here Monday.

Zainuddin said, based on studies, tourists, especially Muslims, chose Malaysia because of the convenience of obtaining halal food, prayer houses, health-based tourism, variety of cultures and heritage and peaceful environment.

The ITC is recognised by the tourism ministry and Tourism Malaysia, as well as supported by the Bumiputera Adventure and Travel Companies and the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents

Source : Bernama

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Monday, December 13, 2010

Tourism Malaysia re-allocates promotion budget

TOURISM Malaysia will change how it spends its money next year due to rising costs. This includes scaling back its presence at some international trade shows and reducing the amount spent on print advertising.

The NTO's annual advertising and promotion budget has been capped at RM200 million (US$63.8 million) since 2001 without any adjustments for inflation. This was even reduced to RM150 million this year as part of a government cost-cutting drive.

Tourism Malaysia would still have a big presence at major shows such as the Arabian Travel Market and World Travel Market, but would be represented by its overseas tourism officers at others, said deputy director-general (marketing) Amirrudin Abu.

Amirrudin said it was "important to maintain a presence as a show of confidence to the market" but the NTO had to also stretch the budget.

He added that Tourism Malaysia was increasing its spending on Internet and social media marketing, as print advertising was getting more costly.

Source : TTG

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AirAsia X to launch Japan route on Thursday

Malaysian long-haul budget airline AirAsia X is to launch regular flights between Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo starting on Thursday, airport officials said.

Its inauguration flight is scheduled to depart from Tokyo's Haneda airport at 11:45 pm (1445 GMT). The carrier plans three flights a week connecting the Malaysian capital with the Tokyo airport, the officials said.

It will be the first foreign budget airline authorised to use Haneda, which began handling an expanded array of international flights in October when it opened a fourth runway and a new terminal. Haneda is considered more practical than its sister airport Narita as it is located only 30 minutes from Tokyo, roughly half the amount of time it takes to travel to Narita, which is 60 kilometres (40 miles) from the capital.

AirAsia X plans to sell a one-way ticket for 5,000 yen (60 dollars) for an economy seat from Japan as an opening discount, compared with economy fares of more than 200,000 yen offered by current route operators.
AirAsia's entry into the Japanese market is expected to further boost competition in a space that is set to become increasingly crowded as more budget carriers enter the fray.

In September Japan's All Nippon Airways said it will establish a low-cost carrier by the end of the year that will eventually operate international and domestic short-haul routes, anticipating booming Asian demand. Debt-hit Japan Airlines has also said it is also looking into the possibility of launching a low-cost carrier.

Japan's existing cheaper domestic carriers such as Skymark and Air Do have been unable to offer the kind of heavily discounted fares associated with budget airlines in the United States and Europe due to higher operating costs.
Qantas Airways' budget Jetstar airline already flies between Australia and Japan from Osaka and Narita. 

Source : MSNNews
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Malaysia poised to become luxury goods haven

Malaysia is carving a niche as the destination for luxury goods shopping, said Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.

She said retailers had much to look forward to as Malaysia would be a duty free haven for most luxurious goods, including watches and jewellery, effective Jan 1.

“It is important to ensure an enabling environment for the industry. Last year, we received RM10bil from shopping tourism. Our target is to have 36 million tourists and RM168bil in tourism receipt by 2020, and we are expecting 35% to be from shopping receipts,” she said in her speech at the ‘A Journey Through Time IV - Watch of the Year Awards 2010 Gala Night’ held at the Starhill Gallery yesterday.

Also present was YTL Corp Bhd group managing director and organiser Tan Sri Dr Francis Yeoh and Tourism Malaysia ambassador Datuk Jimmy Choo.

Dr Ng said duty-free shopping was part of the steps being taken to create a conducive environment for such shoppers. “The 6km walkway to be built in the Bukit Bintang area will help encourage shopping and boost sales,’’ she added.

Yeoh said duty-free shopping would create a snowball effect on luxury retail and the tourism industry overall.
An extensive array of exclusive timepieces from many watch houses, some of which have stand-alone boutiques in Starhill Gallery, were paraded in a week-long event themed “Time to Love.”

Dr Ng presented the Tourism Malaysia Most Revered Award to the Richard Mille brand for its RM010 Sepang F1 model watch.

Source : STAR
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