Monday, February 21, 2011

Yahoo! lists Penang among world’s top 10

An online travel guide has picked Penang as one of the top 10 islands in the world “you must see before you die.”
Yahoo! Travel writer Gary McKechnie ranks Penang eighth on the list of the “must visit” places.
Other islands listed are Bali, Vieques in Puerto Rico, Easter Island in Chile, Ischia in the bay of Naples (Italy), Chiloe in Chile, Bora Bora in French Polynesia, Key West in the Conch Republic, Galapagos in Ecuador and Palm Islands in Dubai.

These destinations offered something that could not be found anywhere else, said McKechnie in his article ‘10 Islands to Explore Before You Die’ (
He praised Penang as Malaysia’s food capital and suggested that visitors did their “food crawl” along George Town’s street stalls.

He recommended that foodies head to the area adjacent to the Kek Lok Si Temple in Ayer Itam to feast on delicious food of rice, noodles, fish, shellfish, chicken, pork and vegetables. He also suggested visitors try out lor bak, lok-lok and ikan bakar.

On the local architecture, he described Penang as having a range of modern high-rise buildings to 19th-century British architecture.

He also pointed out a mix of beach resorts, preserved mangroves, fishing villages, temples, mosques and churches.
“Kek Lok Si was the best example as the largest Buddhist temple in South-East Asia,” he said.

Source : STAR
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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

KL Convention Centre Expands

THE KUALA Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) has finally been given the green light to expand its facilities after a four-year wait, giving the centre a 10,000m² boost that is expected to generate a 40 per cent increase in revenue when completed by end-2013.

General manager Peter Brokenshire said the centre would now be able to host events with over 6,000 delegates and grow its conference business from a 25 per cent share of all events to 30 to 40 per cent.

Construction plans will be finalised in April and works are likely to begin in the last quarter this year.

KLCC's expansion is part of the Malaysian government's Greater Kuala Lumpur Development Plan, which will see the construction of a 2km pedestrian walkway linking major places of interest, hotels and KLCC, as well as the addition of rooms in the city. Projects include new properties such as the 450-key The Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur and hotel expansions like the one by 322-key Impiana Hotel to add 180 rooms.

Phase one, a 142m elevated and air-conditioned walkway linking KLCC to Impiana Hotel, has been completed. The second phase will extend the walkway from the junction of Jalan Pinang/Kia Peng to Jalan Raja Chulan, stretching 42km.

Source : TTG
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Egypt turmoil sends Saudi holidaymakers to Malaysia

A large number of Saudis are, according to the Kingdom’s travel and air industry, heading to Malaysia for their holidays and steering clear of turmoil-hit Egypt.

The Malaysian Consulate in Jeddah has confirmed an increase in Saudi visitors to the country. “There has been a 12.6 percent increase since 2009. A large number of Saudis traveled to Malaysia during the short break this year because of cheap airline tickets available online,” he added.

Malaysian Airlines estimated the number of passengers traveling from Jeddah and Riyadh to Malaysia to be around 1,500 during the first 10 days of February.

According to an official spokesman for Malaysian Airlines in Jeddah, a growing number of people from the Kingdom are opting to travel to Malaysia rather than Egypt and Lebanon. Malaysia was one of the top sought-after holiday destinations this season, he said, adding that “cost is also a factor.”

Malaysia is the preferred choice among many Saudis because of its relaxed and cultured Muslim background. “It has the best cultural mix of Islam and modernism,” said Marwa Hussein, a frequent traveler to Malaysia. “We get halal food everywhere and there is a lot to do for families. The beaches, parks and urban infrastructure make it a top destination for tourists.”

Many expatriates are also worried about traveling to Egypt. “I would not risk going to Egypt because of the political instability. Safety comes first,” said Lujain Ahmed, a Lebanese national who canceled a recent trip to the country.
Asked when she will travel to Egypt, she said, “Not anytime soon or in the next three months. Even Lebanon is not safe right now. We prefer to travel abroad for our short break. Most of our friends suggest Malaysia or Dubai, which is similar to the Kingdom and so you're at home away from home but with a lot more to do.”

Another visitor to Malaysia said the country is “progressive” in nature. He added that people find a wide variety of activities available in Malaysia attractive and that many people want to get away from the Gulf to experience a change of atmosphere. “You feel like you are in the Gulf because of the Islamic atmosphere but you know you have opportunities to discover life out of the Gulf, which is a great change,” he added.

“Tourist traffic to Egypt may only pick up after three months when things return to normal. The dialogue, decisions and implementation of the political verdict directly influences travel,” said a travel agent in Jeddah.

Travel agencies say people feel attracted to Malaysia because of the weather, the open-minded environment and wide choice of things to do. “Most Saudis see Malaysia as modern yet traditional,” he added.

Saudis traveling from the Kingdom to Malaysia can acquire visas on their arrival.

Source : ArabNews
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Malaysia smashes arrivals record

MALAYSIA registered 24.6 million international arrivals and tourism receipts of RM56.5 billion (US$18.5 billion) last year, the highest numbers recorded to-date, surpassing the government's 2010 targets of 24 million arrivals and RM55 billion in tourism revenue.

Arrivals from India registered the highest growth over 2009 at 17.1 per cent, followed by South Korea (16.2 per cent), the United Arab Emirates (16 per cent), Iran (14.3 per cent) and Cambodia (12.7 per cent).
China was the only non-South-east Asian country in the top five arrival markets with 1.13 million visitors, an increase of 10.8 per cent over 2009.

Singapore maintained its position as the largest tourist-generating market for Malaysia with 13.04 million arrivals, followed by Indonesia (2.51 million), Thailand (1.46 million), China and Brunei (1.12 million).

This year, the Malaysian tourism ministry is targeting 25 million arrivals and RM60 billion in tourism receipts.

Source : TTG
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Monday, February 07, 2011

InterContinental comes to KL - 1 February 2011

INTERCONTINENTAL Hotels Group (IHG) has opened its first InterContinental brand hotel in Malaysia.

IHG is replacing the management of the hotel owned by MTJ Development Sdn Bhd. Japan's Nikko Hotel operated the hotel for 15 years.

The hotel will undergo enhancements that will see it transformed by the end of this year.

General manager Adam McDonald, in an interview with Business Times, said Nikko was already a great product to start with and IHG will now build on that foundation.
As a luxury brand, The InterContinental will initiate some makeovers that will create the feel of the brand and work on providing service standards associated with the hotel.

While admitting that it will be challenge to change the work culture of 400-odd employees who have been under another brand, McDonald was quick to point out that the task was not an impossible one.

"It's all about walking in the guests shoes," he said, explaining how the staff will be trained.

McDonald plans to adapt some of the service culture initiatives that were seen in his previous position as the resort manager of InterContinental Bali.

This will include him interacting more with the hotel guests as he did at the resort in Bali as he hopes the current city hotel will have a good balance of corporate and leisure business.

McDonald also would like to implement changes in the hotel atmosphere right from lighting to staff uniform that changes from day to night.

As the hotel was renovated only four years ago, this time around some 180 rooms from its 473-room inventory and public area will be upgraded.

Rooms will be enhanced with InterContinental toiletries and amenities and improved in terms of touch and feel, McDonald said.

The lobby will also be upgraded to improve the arrival experience where the doorman will set the tone. The lobby will provide a feeling of safe, comfort and a sense of being looked after.

The InterContinental hotel's concierge service keeps its guests in the know by facilitating authentic and enriching experiences beyond the usual attractions.

"The concierge can get you in a restaurant, which is usually not easy to get in," McDonald said.

The Japanese and Chinese restaurants will also undergo a makeover.

IHG has signed a 15-year management contract with the owners.

In terms of performance, McDonald said that one of the measures it uses is to compare itself among its competitive set. In Kuala Lumpur, it compares itself to Mandarin Oriental, The Westin, Shangri-La, Hilton and Sheraton.

And within this competitive set, InterContinental will work on getting its share of the market.

In Malaysia, other IHG hotels include Crowne Plaza Mutiara Kuala Lumpur, Holiday Inn Kuala Lumpur Glenmarie, Holiday Inn Resort Penang and Holiday Inn Malacca. A Holiday Inn Express is also scheduled to open in Kota Kinabalu.

Source : Business Times
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Malaysia woos luxury hotel brands

Bulgari, Armani and Versace may no longer be just luxury retail brands found in Malaysian malls, as property developers think about bringing in their hotel brands too.

With brands like Grand Hyatt, Mandarin Oriental and Four Seasons already here while St Regis and Raffles have confirmed openings, developers are eyeing fresh and popular hotel brands.

"Developers are now beginning to look at Waldorf Astoria and also various designer-linked brands like Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, Palazzo Versace, Armani Hotels & Resorts," vice president of the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Ivo Nekvapil told Business Times in an interview recently.

If these brands make their way to our shores, they are likely to be located either in Kuala Lumpur or on Langkawi island.

Nevertheless, Nekvapil feels that sub-brands or brands that come under their more familiar parent company name should be considered as they have potential in Malaysia.
These would include brands like All Seasons and Ibis which are Accor brand hotels and Hilton Garden Inn, a Hilton group brand.

He explained that these brands have international recognition and as such Malaysia too needs these brands to give the country world recognition.

Meanwhile, when asked about the hotel scene in Klang Valley this year, Nekvapil said that there could be an addition of some 2,000 rooms in the four- and five-star hotel/serviced residence category.

Additional rooms this year will come from the opening of Somerset Ampang Kuala Lumpur, Best Western KL Sentral, Park Regis Kuala Lumpur and Pullman Kuala Lumpur Bangsar.

On occupancy and rates in the Klang Valley, Nekvapil said that 2011 could end with an average room rate (ARR) of RM360 for lower end five-star hotels and about RM500 for higher end five-star category hotels. Occupancy this year could finish at about 68 per cent.

Mandarin Oriental still leads the pack, and is now drawing an ARR of around RM700.

Last year, occupancy ended at around 65 per cent and ARR of between RM200 to RM320 per night.

Malaysia had its highest occupancy of over 70 per cent in 2007.

Source : Bernama
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IATA Statistics Show Increased Demand For Air Travel

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said demand statistics last year for international scheduled air traffic showed an 8.2 per cent increase in the passenger business and a 20.6 per cent increase in freight.

Demand growth outstripped capacity increases of 4.4 per cent for passenger and 8.9 per cent for cargo, IATA said in a statement here Wednesday.

Average passenger load factor for the year was 78.4 per cent, which was a 2.7 percentage improvement from 2009, while a 5.2 percentage point improvement to 53.8 per cent was recorded on the freight load factor.

"Compared to the pre-recession levels of early 2008, December air travel volumes were four per cent higher.

"Air freight was one per cent higher than pre-recession level, however, volumes have fallen five per cent since the peak of the post-recession inventory re-stocking boom in early 2010," IATA said.

Its Director General and Chief Executive Officer, Giovanni Bisignani said airlines ended the year slightly ahead of early 2008 with only 2.7 per cent profit margin.

"After the biggest demand decline in the history of aviation in 2009, people started to travel and do business again in 2010. The challenge is to turn the demand for mobility into sustainable profit," he said.

It was estimated that the severe weather Europe and North America in December would shaved one per cent off of total traffic demand for the months.

The hardest hit was Europe, which saw December passenger demand growth slow to 3.3 per cent.

Source : Bernama
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New tourism slogan for Negri Sembilan

Return to Nature will be the tourism slogan for Negri Sembilan this year in line with other tourism packages of the state which are mostly nature-related.
State executive councillor for Tourism Datuk Mohamad Razi Kail said the slogan was aimed at enhancing the tourism sector in the state.

"The new slogan will be used to promote Negri Sembilan as an eco-tourism destination. This is because about 90 per cent of the state's tourism products is nature-related.
"We have beautiful beaches, mountains and forests hundreds of years old to explore. "It would be a shame if these bounties of nature were not promoted as an increasing number of tourists love eco-tourism packages," he said at a recent briefing session at the Tourism Malaysia office here.
Among the popular nature-related tourism products in the state are the Edu Eco-tourism Centre at the Sungai Menyala Forest Reserve in Port Dickson, Sungai Linggi in Rembau, Taman Alam Liar and Gunung Besar Hantu in Jelebu, and Gunung Angsi and Bukit Putus in Kuala Pilah.

There is also the popular Raptor Watch in Port Dickson, Scientific Expedition and Kenaboi International River Challenge at the Kenaboi Forest Reserve in Jelebu, and the Port Dickson International Triathlon.

Razi said it was time for the state to upgrade its tourism sector based on the numerous tourist spots in the state. He said tourists who selected tourism packages will also be introduced to the state's culture through the penginapan desa programme, which allows them to appreciate nature while getting a feel of kampung life.

To further enhance the eco-tourism sector products, he said the Tourism Ministry had allocated RM16.2 million under the Tenth Malaysia Plan for various projects.

These are to extend the Teluk Kemang beach front in Port Dickson, as well as upgrade the Ulu Bendol Recreational Park in Kuala Pilah and the Seremban Orchid Park.

He said RM12.6 million has been spent on past eco-tourism products in the state.

A total of 2.2 million tourists visited the state last year. The tourism target for this year is 2.4 million visitors.

He said the old slogan, Unique Culture, Popular Destination, will continue to be used for all state tourism products as it reflected the uniqueness of the state's adat perpatih practises

Source : NST
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Tourism Ministry Targets 25 Million Tourist Arrivals This Year

The Tourism Ministry is targeting an increase of 25 million tourists visiting the country this year, compared with 24 million last year, with a projected tourism revenue of RM60 billion.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said in order to achieve the target, her ministry would continue efforts to woo more visitors to visit Malaysia.

She said the efforts included continuing discussions with local and foreign airlines to provide more direct flights to major towns in the country.

"We may be able to meet the target by increasing the number of flights from abroad to the major towns like Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu, Penang or Melaka," she told reporters after attending a Chinese New year programme organised by the Tourism Ministry at the Dataran Raub, here Saturday night.

Dr Ng, who is also the Member of Parliament for Raub, hoped that this year there would be more tourists who would be staying up to 10 days, thus spending more in the country.

She said the ministry was targeting to woo more tourists from Russia, India, China, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Belgium, Holland and the Middle East.

Source : Bernama
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Tourism Ministry aiming for RM61bil spending target

The Tourism Ministry will work to increase direct flights from more countries as it pushes to meet its tourist spending target of RM61bil this year, said its minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.

Dr Ng said her ministry had exceeded the RM55bil tourist spending target set under its Key Performance Indicator (KPI) last year and would be coming up with various strategies to meet the RM61bil set for it this year.

She said the ministry would work to expand existing markets and open new ones to meet the target but one of the problems it faced was the lack of accessibility.

“There is a big wave of tourists from Britain, Australia and New Zealand that we can tap but we still do not have direct flights by their national carriers.

“We need to do something to strengthen the accessibility (from these destinations),” she told reporters after attending the MCA Chinese New Year open house here yesterday.

Dr Ng said the ministry would also be focusing on attracting long stay visitors especially from Europe and for this it would come up with events that would help draw them to Malaysia.

She said the Cabinet had agreed to waive the need for visas for Taiwanese visitors to help attract more tourists from that country while the number of tourists from China was expected to continue to grow this year.

Dr Ng said the Egyptian unrest would have little impact on tourism as tourist arrivals from the country was low.
The main markets for Malaysia in the Middle East were Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Kuwait, she added.

Source : STAR
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