Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Expedia-AirAsia union gives birth to Asian web booking business

THE REGION'S booming online travel market has pushed Expedia, Inc. and AirAsia to join forces and establish a 50:50 joint venture company, said to be the first of its kind between a low-cost carrier and an online travel agent.

Under the agreement announced today, a new company will be formed to operate Expedia-branded businesses in Japan, India, South-east Asia and other East Asian markets, as well as AirAsia's packaging and hotel booking websites, AirAsiaGo and GoRooms.

The joint venture will have the exclusive online third-party distribution rights in the region for AirAsia and AirAsiaX flights and travel packages. In addition, Expedia will also be the exclusive third-party travel provider for AirAsia inventory on its sites worldwide.

At the helm of the Singapore-based company is vice president and managing director of Expedia Asia Pacific, Dan Lynn, who will be relocating from Sydney.

Said the new CEO: “Expedia brings global strength in our supplier relationships, a very strong technology background and an understanding of online marketing. AirAsia complements that with its unique understanding of the Asian markets, its very compelling and unique inventory that is low-price but high-quality and its very deep understanding of social media.”
AirAsia Group CEO, Tony Fernandes, said: “We think we have a 'Rolls-Royce partner' here. (Expedia is) going to take our content around the world, which will help AirAsia and AirAsiaX promote our flights in markets that we haven't reached before. Plus, we'll be able to get new ancillary income.”
When asked if the partnership would cannibalise sales on AirAsia's own website, he said: “Who cares? is a site that's always trying to cope. Everytime we have a sale, our system falls over even though we double, triple, quadruple the capacity. We can't cope with the demand. That's why I said there's no problem sharing some of that.”

Fernandes explained that the Expedia and AirAsia sites would be branded differently and target separate market segments. For example, Expedia may be more dominant in certain countries like Japan, where it is already established, while AirAsiaGo would be bigger in China.

Calling this new venture Expedia's “Asia organisation”, president of Expedia Worldwide, Scott Durchslag, said: “This is going to offer a much more efficient and effective alternative for consumers to travel, so I think it will have a significant impact on traditional, offline travel agents. This is a big leap forward in terms of what's possible.”

Expedia, which rolled out its Singapore website last month, launched its Malaysia and Thailand products today. It will continue to run a full-service business, offering other airline content.

Source : TTG
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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Penang airport records 25% passenger growth rate

The Penang International Airport registered the highest growth rate among airports in Malaysia last year, recording a 25% increase with some 4.1 million passengers in 2010 compared with 3.3 million the year before.

Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) senior general manager Datuk Azmi Murad said the increase highlighted the need to expand the airport from its current peak-hour passenger capacity of 1,291 per hour to as many as 2,000 per hour.

The second highest increase among airports was registered by the KL International Airport (KLIA) which saw a passenger volume hike of 14% over the same period.

Azmi said this during a media tour of the Penang airport’s expansion and renovations exercise here over the weekend.
The RM250 million project, implemented through funding from the federal government, would give a new modern iconic facade to the airport. The whole project is expected to be completed in June 2012.

The expansion also entails increasing the terminal capacity to 51,543 sq m from the current 27,526 sq m, while the number of car park bays would be raised from to more than 2,000 from 1,200, Azmi said.
The airport would also have more than 10,000 sq m of commercial space dedicated lounges for their passengers.

MAHB is also considering building an airport hotel and multi-storey car park art the site, but details on these have not been confirmed yet, he added.

A total of 13 commercial passenger airlines and nine cargo airlines currently operate at the Penang Airport, for domestic and regional flights.

Azmi also announced that a key road currently being used for vehicles to drive up to the airport’s present departure lobby will be closed from April 1 till the end of July to facilitate the renovation works.

He said the authorities have planned a temporary loop to be jointly used by vehicles going to the departure and arrival sections, as well as for public transport vehicles. Traffic will be regulated and managed by Rela, the police and airport officials.

Source : The SUN
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Monday, March 28, 2011

More South Indian Tourists To Land On Malaysian Shores

South India is poised to become a major source of tourists for Malaysia, with holiday-makers from states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu, capitalising on the increasing air accessibility to Southeast Asian capitals.

With India's changing economic topography, plus the availability of cheaper flights, visitors from southern cities are increasingly selecting Malaysia as their value-for-money destination.

"South India is one of our focal points to draw tourists to Malaysia. It is becoming a favourite family destination, mainly due to the accessibility and shorter travel time.

"We are expecting a double digit growth this year from south India," P. Manoharan, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board director for India told Bernama today.

With over 60 weekly flights from South India alone, more Indians from cities like Chennai, Cochin, Hyderabad and Tiruchi find it cheaper and convenient to travel to Malaysian tourist spots, compared to domestic holiday travels.

India's thriving outbound travel is forecast to grow at about 13 per cent annually, driven largely by the robust economy, which had boost up disposable income.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation estimates that India's outbound tourists would hit 50 million by 2020, as more Indians eye overseas holidays.

Last year, about 690,000 Indians landed on Malaysian shores. This year, figures are expected to expand by another 17 per cent.

"Friendly environment, cultural similarities and shopping are some elements that continue to attract Indian tourists to Malaysia. It is a potential market," added Manoharan.

Source : Bernama
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Friday, March 25, 2011

MAS aims to be Asia's No.1

MALAYSIA Airlines (MAS), which is now in its transformation phase, is halfway towards becoming Asia's champion in terms of product offering and quality service. Chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohamed Munir Abdul Majid said the national carrier is already Asia's best airline in terms of service and having the world's best cabin crew.

"Our target is to become the number one airline in Asia, with an average fleet age of 5.2 years," he told reporters from selected local media groups in Subang, Selangor, yesterday.

Munir said the airline now has a good balance sheet, cash position and a team led by a chief executive officer (Tengku Azmil Zahruddin) who is professional, passionate, knows the business well, sound financial management and makes strategic decisions.

He said although the rising oil price is a challenge, MAS now has "a stamina" to expand. The airline is expecting delivery of more aircraft including Boeing 738, Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A330-800.

"MAS is in a good position today. We can take on competition," he said.

Munir also said that subsidiary Firefly will will take over MAS' domestic routes. "But don't ask me when. It depends on market dynamics," he added.  Domestic and short-haul routes previously bled MAS as they were deemed unprofitable. 

He said MAS is not competing directly with the country's low-cost airline, AirAsia Bhd, but "Firefly is supporting MAS in the low-cost segment to maintain the group's passenger load factor". 

According to Munir, market dynamics of supply, demand and price will determine whether MAS will continue to provide domestic full-service flights or reduce its frequency. "People would still want premium service on some routes," he said, pointing out that MASwings, which operates turbo-prop aircraft like Firefly, has a business class.

He said MAS will also focus on the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) business. MAS is currently the world's fifth largest provider of third-party MRO.

Munir also rubbished claims that as a government-linked corporation, MAS receives special treatment from the government. "We don't have a seat at the high table as we are a professional lot," he added.

AirAsia X, the long-haul operations of AirAsia, has been seeking rights to routes like Sydney and Jeddah but has not received approval to do so from the government. Munir said MAS' contribution to the country's social and economic development should not be forgotten. The national carrier has also trained and exported many experts in the aviation and MRO industries, he added.

He likened MAS as the first wife, whose contribution to the family has been forgotten, while the AirAsia as the second, younger wife. Describing AirAsia as "a youthful success", Munir said: "They (AirAsia) are wearing red and sitting pretty, while people forget the first wife, who helped raise the children, sending them to school."

On AirAsia X's newly-appointed chairman Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, he said: "I consider her as a friend. But we have to protect our interests."

Last night, Munir, who has been in the corporate sector for about 33 years, received the Brand Laureate Personality Award 2011. 

Source : BusinessTimes
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Facebook leads to hotel room revenue

Facebook is fast becoming more than a customer relationship tool for many independent properties and chains. Many hotels now offer room-booking technology on their Facebook pages, which is leading to incremental sales.

“There is real commerce that is starting to grow on Facebook. Companies like Delta (Airlines) are putting booking engines on Facebook, and Sony just started a deal where consumers can rent movies,” said Michael Hraba, owner of Hraba Hospitality Consulting in San Mateo, California.

Michael Hraba
Hraba Hospitality Consulting
For the independent properties that Hraba Hospitality advises, Facebook booking engines do not yet produce a lot of revenue, but Hraba believes it is necessary to offer the option. “If you are there, you (won’t) miss the ones who do want to book. You are available in every possible way your guests need you,” Hraba said.

Facebook conversions growing
“Over the course of 2009, we saw the volume of direct referrals from Facebook to hotel websites grow. The conversion rate was higher for Facebook than it was for TripAdvisor and other travel review sites,” said Douglas Quinby, senior director of research for PhoCusWright, a travel research firm in Sherman, Connecticut. The conversion rate on direct referrals from traveler review sites to hotel supplier websites ranged from 4% to 6% in 2009, while conversion from Facebook to hotel websites was 8%.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide has provided a booking function within a tab on Facebook for all of its brands and properties since it has been on Facebook.

“Conversion on Facebook is smaller but close to conversion on our brand websites. (Starwood’s Facebook fans) start to see other people’s experiences at the properties,” said David Godsman, VP of global Web for Starwood.

While Starwood primarily uses Facebook to “engage” with its guests, the company’s executives realize the valuable e-commerce potential on the global social-networking site. To that end, Westin Hotels & Resorts in January introduced a “Shop” tab on its properties’ Facebook pages. The shopping widget serves as a fully-contained shopping transaction, instead of working as a link from Westin’s website.

“What we are seeing now is an emergence of technology that that we didn’t see six months ago. There is an opportunity for ourselves and other hotel brands to enable these type of transactions within Facebook,” Godsman said.

Facebook booking engines
While most hotel companies have a booking link within Facebook that takes users to their websites to make transactions, Bolongo Bay Beach Resort in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, sports a unique, free-standing booking engine on the social-networking site.

Katarina Doumeng
director of sales,
marketing and Internet
Bolongo Bay
“We had a hotel-and-air booking engine on our website for years, so we asked our Web developer to put that on Facebook. They can click on the Reservations tab on Facebook and book rooms,” said Katarina Doumeng, director of sales, marketing and Internet for Bolongo Bay.

The hotel-and-air engine has proven successful for Bolongo Bay.

“In the last four weeks, for example, we had 207 people on Facebook who either booked or checked rates. That is big, since we are a 62-room property,” Doumeng said. Because the property has made a concerted effort to interact with its guests on Facebook, it has grown its fans from 300 in 2009 to 9,000 this year.

Shopping on social networks
The booking success that hoteliers are experiencing on Facebook makes sense because consumers are using social-media sites much more for travel research and purchases than in the past, according to PhoCusWright. Nearly 13% of social-network users use social networks to shop for travel, according to the firm’s “Traveler Technology Survey 2010.”

In addition, 35% of U.S. online travelers interacted with a travel company on an online social network in the past year. Not only are guests talking with their friends and family about travel on Facebook, but they are also being served travel-related ads, Quinby said.

Given such engagement, other hotels are quickly jumping on the Facebook booking bandwagon. The Hyatt Regency Irvine in Irvine, California, for example, recently became the second Hyatt hotel globally to offer room booking capability on its Facebook page.

“We believe social media is part of the future of how guests will interface with hotels prior to checking in,” said Colleen Kareti, manager of Hyatt Regency Irvine.

  Bolongo Bay
While Fairmont Hotels & Resorts does not yet have a booking function on its Facebook pages, executives plan to add the capability soon. “Part of the audience does want and expect to find out about offers. They may feel excluded if they don’t hear about offers,” said David Doucette, executive director of internet marketing for Fairmont.

Fairmont's social-media policy is to have 80% of its information about travel, hotel and its hotel's food and beverages options. Only 20% of Facebook posts have anything to do with travel offers.

Meanwhile, Fairmont’s Swissotel brand in Zurich, Switzerland, is realizing limited success with a booking link on its Facebook page. “We have seen a slight increase in conversions, but it is not dramatic. Their activity on Facebook is not as evolved as Fairmont’s is yet, so we don’t want to use that as a case study for analyzing potential,” Doucette said.

Despite the current and future success with hotels’ e-commerce activities on Facebook, hoteliers still say their primary purpose on social-networking sites is to develop relationships with their guests.

“We didn’t enter this space with a commercialization concept—we entered it to really re-define the relationships we could have with our guests,” Starwood’s Godsman said. “We haven’t tried to get as many fans as possible. Instead, we have a really engaged group of people.”  

Source : HNN
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Tourism Malaysia Strategises To Woo More Singaporeans To Malaysia

The Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board has lined up strategies to introduce affordable new tourism products and packages to attract more Singaporeans to Malaysia.

Malaysia Tourism Singapore director Zalizam Zakaria said Singapore was a "very big and important market for us".

"It has always been the biggest contributor to our nation's tourism economy," he told Bernama after the launch of the Central Region Seminar and Travel Mart 2011, here.

Zalizam said Malaysia Tourism Singapore contributed nearly 53 per cent of the total tourist arrivals from Singapore to Malaysia, saying: "In 2009, we had about 12 million Singaporeans visiting Malaysia. Last year, the number was up by four per cent to 13 million." This year, he said, although the target set by the Tourism Ministry was only 12 million tourists but "I think we can match the same number or little bit higher than that."

Explaining that Singapore has only five million population and how did Malaysia received 13 million Singaporean tourist arrivals, Zalizam said this was because of repeat visitors. "On the average, at least one Singaporean goes to Malaysia 2.5 times. After two or three times, where do they go, that's why we have to expose new places for them. Our strategy now is to open new places and new products for them," he said.

Citing east coast states (Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang), Perak, Sabah and Sarawak as well as the rest of Malaysia are popular but were getting less visitors.

He said Tourism Malaysia Singapore was aggressively working with various state governments to woo Singaporeans to these places. Zalizam said Tourism Malaysia Singapore initiated this seminar and travel market last year by focusing on region by region.

"We started with the east coast last year and today we are organising the event to promote the central region comprising Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya," he said. He said the seminar and the travel market served as a fitting platform for tourism players from Kuala Lumpur, Selangor and Putrajaya to meet Singapore travel and tour agents.

"The objective of organising this session is to allow the states to update their latest tourism development happenings and to introduce these new products and packages in their future travel itineraries," he added.

Source : Bernama
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Malaysia in top 5 for medical tourism

Malaysia is one of the world's top five medical tourism destinations for tourists and foreign investors.
Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said patients chose to come to Malaysia because they could get the best medical treatment at a lower cost.

She said Malaysia was also known for having internationally-recognised quality standards, extensive diagnostic and therapeutic resources, modern healthcare facilities and trained medical staff.

"The government now wants to spur the growth of the healthcare industry and for healthcare transformation under the 10th Malaysia Plan, we are considering key points where healthcare access, coverage and quality can continue to be improved," she said when launching the Asia Healthcare Operations Summit 2011 yesterday.

She said the government would focus on four areas, including transforming healthcare delivery, increasing the capacity, coverage and quality of healthcare structure, and shifting towards disease prevention.

Source : NST
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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Shangri-La in Tokyo Closes Temporarily until END April 2011

The aftermath of the earthquake has claimed its first luxury hotel casualty in Tokyo: The Shangri-La Hotel, which only opened its doors in Tokyo in March 2010, has said that it is closed until the end of April, at the earliest, as it continues to assess the situation.

Its general manager, Wolfgang Krueger, and about 11 other people from the hotel are now working out of Fukuoka, in southern Japan, according to Maria Kuhn, its spokeswoman in Hong Kong. The Shangri-La Tokyo as 300 full time staff who are currently on paid leave.

“This is not a decision we have made lightly,” Ms. Kuhn said. She added it was too early to assess what sort of financial impact the closure would have on the company’s overall financial performance. “As soon as we feel it is safe and we can run the hotel at our normal standards, we will open again,” she said.

An average room at the Shangri-La costs around 70,000 yen a night ($863.26), and the majority of its visitors are foreigners, primarily from Asia. The hotel is a stone’s throw from Tokyo Station, the main gateway of the capital. With 200 rooms, the hotel takes up the top 11 floors of Marunouchi Trust Tower Main and “provides a luxurious and spacious retreat at the end of a busy day”, according to its website.

Other luxury hotels have also shut down some of their operations. The Mandarin Oriental, long a favorite among foreign tourists, has virtually shut down all of its dining facilities. On its website, it says, “In keeping with the government’s directive to conserve energy, the following restaurants and bars will be closed until further notice: Signature, Sense, Tapas Molecular Bar, Ventaglio, Mandarin Bar and the Gourmet Shop. K’shiki, The Oriental Lounge and the hotel’s in-room dining facilities all remain open and available for guests.”

One thing is clear: potential visitors to Japan are already cancelling visits scheduled for April – the peak of the country’s renowned cherry blossom season – and the tourism industry will take months, if not years, to recover from this catastrophe. This is only the beginning of what’s going to be the biggest challenge ever faced by Japan’s tourism industry.

Source : WSJ
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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Malaysia recorded 17% year-on-year rise in hotel prices!

According to the latest Hotel Price Index, the average cost paid for a hotel room night in Malaysia in 2010 was US$118, representing a 17% increase over 2009.

Johan Svanstrom, Vice President and Managing Director for in Asia Pacific, told ADOI, “Even though prices in Asia Pacific fell last year as compared to 2009, the price level in the region is 15% higher than in 2004 when the Hotel Price Index was first launched. We are seeing a varying price landscape in Asia Pacific with some markets recording price declines, but hubs like Malaysia and Singapore are recording healthy growth in room rates thanks to strong bounceback in corporate travel and renewed tourism interest from the rest of the world. The Malaysian government continues to invest in the country as a tourism destination, so it is no surprise that Malaysia is enjoying growing popularity among corporate and leisure travellers alike.”

The city within Malaysia that recorded the highest hotel room prices paid was Langkawi. An average room night on the island cost US$201 in 2010, recording 11% increase over the preceding year. Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, also saw a year-on-year price increase of 15% to US$111 per room night paid in 2010.

Neighbouring country Singapore was the most popular choice, despite soaring hotel room prices. In 2010, Singapore recorded a 33% increase in average hotel room prices paid over 2009. Hong Kong and Tokyo ranked second and third respectively.

London was the most popular non-Asian destination followed by Melbourne and Sydney.

Despite rising prices in Singapore, hotels in other popular destinations among Malaysians such as Bangkok recorded a price decrease of 1% in prices paid, while hotels in Vietnamese city, Ho Chi Minh, registered a 6% decrease.

Johan comments: “Short haul travels are increasingly popular among Malaysians particularly because of the availability of low-cost carriers and the appeal of mid-range hotels. Malaysian travellers should probably maximise the opportunity to travel to the cities with lower room rates now before these destinations too jump on the bandwagon of hotel price increases.”

Source : ADOI
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Refunds for missed flights to Japan

Airline companies have agreed to refund passengers for the flights to Japan that they had missed following the strong earthquake and tsunami there last week, said Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.
Tour package operators have decided to charge an administrative fee of a maximum RM200 per passenger and return the balance, she added.

Both the airlines and travel operators, she said, arrived at the decision during a meeting with the ministry three days after the disaster struck Japan.

Among those who attended the meeting were representatives from AirAsia, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Japan Airlines and Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA).

“Airline companies have agreed to give a full refund without any penalty or customers may convert the charges into credit for their next flight,” she told reporters after attending the FIA Conference Week 2011 at Mandarin Oriental on Monday.

Dr Ng added that the refund was applicable for flights from March 11, the day the massive earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, until next month but the time period varied according to different airline companies.

On March 16, The Star reported that the ministry would meet the respective operators after receiving several complaints from the public about losing their deposits after purchasing tour packages to Japan.

“We will meet again early next month to discuss the situation in Japan and see if there is a need to extend the time period,” she added.

Source : STAR
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All Aircraft Passengers From Japan Screened For Radiation Level At KLIA

All aircraft passengers coming directly from Japan will have to undergo checks to determine radioactive levels at the main entry points in the country, said Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri.

He said the inspection on passengers travelling on MAS, AirAsia and Japan Airlines had started since March 16 at the KL International Airport and March 18 at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) which involved the low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT).

"Those found to have been exposed to radioactive elements would undergo a decontamination process by an accredited agency, that is the nuclear and atomic power licensing agency, the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment with assistance from the security division of Malaysia Airports Berhad," he said after launching the Caring Society Programme (Mayang) at the Community Hall in Pintas, near here today.

Source : Bernama
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Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Malaysia’s tourism appeal drops

Malaysia has taken a slight dip in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, according to a report by the World Economic Forum.

The 2011 report, which covers over 139 countries, showed that Malaysia dropped three places to 35th, after being 32nd in 2009. Its closest neighbour, Singapore, maintained its original position, registering at 10th on the index.
Malaysia’s other neighbour, Thailand, was ranked lower on the global travel scale. Thailand had dropped two places to 41st, while Indonesia had improved, rising seven spot to 74th.

The report also showed that Malaysia had one of the highest percentage of budgets when it came to travel and tourism. According to the report, Malaysia seemed to have one of the highest average travel and tourism investment spending as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) between 2006 and 2010. The country was second only to Egypt in terms of average investment spending as a percentage of total economy investment spending (between 2006 and 2010).

Even so, the large amounts of cash pumped into the tourism industry did not seem to change the country’s travel scene for the better, according to the report’s individual indices. Out of 139 countries, Malaysia was competitive in terms of tourism pricing (third). On the other hand, it was shown to be a rather unsafe place to visit (83rd for safety and security). It also seemed to have problem with health and hygiene (75th), and a lack of tourism infrastructure (74th).

According to the report, other matters also plagued the country such as environmental sustainability (64th), and ICT infrastructure and the availability of qualified labour (50th).

On the other hand, the country scored fairly well in terms of policy rules and regulations (21st), affinity for travel and tourism (17th) and natural resources (22nd).

The report also showed that the only clear edge that Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand had over smaller Singapore was their price competitiveness and natural resources. This may be due to the island nation’s smaller size and higher currency value.

Source : Malaysia Today
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Thursday, March 03, 2011

Legoland to boost Malaysian tourism by end 2012

Malaysia plans to open the first Legoland Theme Park in Asia by the end of next year and hopes it will pull in 1 million regional tourists during its first year.

Costing RM 720 million, Legoland Theme Park in Malaysia is under construction at a site in Iskandar and will represent one of the main attractions of a new city and economic zone located at the southern tip of the country.

The park will feature 40 attractions and rides similar to other Legoland attractions, but unlike the parks in Europe it will remain open year-round.

Legoland Malaysia will have miniature replicas of iconic buildings and structures from across Asia. They include Petronas Twin Towers and India’s Taj Mahal.
According to Legoland Malaysia’s senior director of operations, Siegfried Borst, the theme park will target families with young children aged between two and 12 years old.

Legoland Malaysia Theme Park is the first component in a much bigger Legoland Malaysia Resort that will have a retail mall, themed hotel, business hotel as well as office and residential areas.

The theme park will be linked to Johor Bahru, the capital city of Johor in southern Malaysia just across the causeway from Singapore. It will be linked by a 14 km coastal highway and offer two hotels close to the park to accommodate visitors.

The Malaysian project will be the sixth in the world following Legoland Billund in Denmark, Legoland Windsor near London in Britain, two Legoland parks in the US including Legoland California and Legoland Florida, and Legoland Deutschland in Germany.

Last year, there were 24,577,196 tourist arrivals to Malaysia representing an increase of 3.9% from 23,646,191 in 2009, according to Tourism Malaysia’s data.

The biggest supplier was Singapore with more than 6 million visits a year across the causeway to Johor Bahru and on airline shuttles to Kuala Lumpur.

Source: TTR Weekly
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Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Kuwaitis Often Tag Malaysia As Attractive Destination

Whenever Malaysia's name crops up at regular Kuwaiti family reunions or 'diwanya', it is with fond reference to interesting stories about the country.

Malaysian Ambassador to Kuwait Datuk Ashaary Sani noted that in lieu of the many initiatives undertaken by Malaysian authorities to lure tourists from Middle Eastern countries, the country's name seems to appear more often at the 'diwaniya'.

He said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak's attendance in the 'Invest Malaysia 2011' conference in Abu Dhabi late last month, was a clear demonstration of Malaysia's will to attract investors from the Gulf countries.

The conference saw Malaysia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) signing the Framework Agreement on Economic, GCC, Commercial, Investment and Technical Cooperation, which reflects the significant increase in economic relations between Malaysia and the six GCC member states, namely United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain.

Ashaary told Bernama which attended the celebration to commemorate Kuwait's 50th independence anniversary, 20th Liberation Day, and fifth anniversary of the Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al Sabah's ascension to power, said the visit by Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen in May last year also left a significant impact in the mind of the people here about Malaysia.

Noting that the size of Malaysia's trade with Arab countries, particularly Kuwait, was still relatively small, he said the potential to grow rapidly was always there. Ashaary said trade volume between the two countries from January to October last year reached RM1.7 billion, an increase of up to 41.12 per cent as compared to the previous year.

He said the various measures taken by Malaysia, such as promotional tours, development of various infrastructure to meet the needs of Arab tourists, invitation to access investment in Asean countries for the Middle Eastern investors, besides presenting itself as a Muslim country, sent a clear signal about Malaysia's invitation to Kuwait, whether for social or business purposes.

Attractive foreign exchange rates (one Kuwait Dinar is about RM13) also provides many advantages for Kuwaiti visitors.

Ashaary said Kuwaitis usually preferred a destination that provided everything, from a theme park, beautiful beaches, green forests, shopping paradise, to comfort for a variety of businesses. And, Malaysia provides these and much more.

The fact that the number of Kuwaiti tourists who visited Malaysia rose 15 per cent last year as compared to previous years, proved that the country's tourism sector has vast potential to develop.

In terms of business, Ashaary said Kuwait provided access for the entrepreneur to explore open markets in Iraq. He said investors could develop a base in Kuwait to enter neighbouring Iraq, the country which is currently under active development in the post-Gulf War era. Meanwhile, the prosperity of the Kuwaiti can also be a plus factor for anyone interested to visit an Arab country, to make a visit here.

Ashaary said the Malaysian community of about 200 people here, comprising students and professionals, enjoyed close relationship and always cared for one another.
He said the Malaysian Kuwait Association often held gatherings to bring families closer.

Source : Bernama
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MATTA Targets 80,000 Visitors To Exhibition

The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) is targeting 80,000 visitors with a turnover of about RM100 million during its three-day fair and exhibition at the Putra World Trade Centre, here, starting March 11.

Organising committee chairman John Tan said more than 350 tourism organisations including foreign tourism offices, travel agencies, hotels, airlines and other related companies would be displaying their products at 978 booths occupying a total space of 23,200 sq metres.

"We are looking a lot of quality visitors," he told reporters here Tuesday.

Tan said among the major exhibitors are Five Stars Travel Sdn Bhd which took up 36 booths, Tourism Australia, and Culture and Tourism Ministry of Indonesia (20 booths each), Langkawi Development Board, Sabah Tourism Board and Terengganu State Secretariat (12 booths each).

Check out MATTA FAIR 2011!

Source : Bernama
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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

MAS Launches MHbuddy On Facebook

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) passengers can now book and check-in for a flight while sharing their trip details with their friends with the launch of MHbuddy, an application on Facebook.

In a statement Monday, MAS said the introduction of MHbddy today would take flight bookings to another level.

"Besides opening up another distribution channel for ticket sales, our customers can also experience amazing convenience now.

"At the same time, they can stay connected with their friends," it said.

Its executive vice president (commercial strategy), Dr Amir Khan, said a few airlines were already selling tickets on Facebook.

"However, no other airline allows its customers to integrate their travels so deeply into the Facebook social graph. Neither do they allow customers to check-in via Facebook," he said.

He said MHbuddy would also allow passengers to select their seats.

"During seat selection, they will also be able to view the seats of their friends who are travelling on the same flight," he said.

MHbuddy is developed by SITA Lab.

Source :Bernama
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