Thursday, May 19, 2011

AirAsia CEO 'Keen' On Operating New AirAsia Singapore Brand

AirAsia's chief executive is "keen" to operate in Singapore, and the Malaysian airline will soon base some aircraft there in a move that may presage an AirAsia Singapore unit launch.
Recent advertisements for cabin crew positions at AirAsia Singapore are hoped to be the first step, Tony Fernandes told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview. AirAsia will be "night-stopping" aircraft there, in order to make morning flights out of the Southeast Asian island nation.
There have been rumors that Australia's Qantas is interested in its low-cost unit, Jetstar, making a similar move into Singapore to save on costs by hiring locally.
Fernandes also said that its two, 49% owned units, AirAsia Thailand and AirAsia Indonesia, remain on track for separate initial public offerings later this year. The pair may go public simultaneously, or Thailand may go first and Indonesia second, depending on a number of factors.
The IPOs come at a good time for AirAsia, he said, as the moves will free up the balance sheet and allow the low-cost airline to launch new AirAsia units in Vietnam and the Philippines in the near term. The CEO said Vietnam's new government is "much more receptive" to the company's ideas on branding and its websites, and Vietnam's tourism industry is growing quickly, so Fernandes doesn't anticipate the problems that caused its first foray into that country to fail.
Fernandes said he was pleased by remarks made earlier Tuesday by the Malaysian prime minister at the Invest Malaysia conference at the New York Stock Exchange, in which the prime minister expressed a desire to make Malaysia the economic center of Southeast Asia.
AirAsia doesn't believe it can beat the market, so it doesn't do much hedging against rising oil prices, he said, and it is currently about 10% hedged at a cost of about $120 a barrel. Similarly, it doesn't hedge much against currencies, and noted that many forecasts call for the Malaysian ringgit, which has risen sharply, to hover in the MYR2.90 to MYR2.95 range to the dollar, near current levels.
Its long-haul international unit, AirAsia X, is slated to announce a pact with General Electric Co.'s (GE) aviation unit on Wednesday. Fernandes didn't want to steal the unit's thunder, but hinted that the pact could involve aircraft engines, a new type of Airbus aircraft AirAsia X hasn't purchased before and new routes for AirAsia X to Europe.
GE lost out on a previous contract to supply AirAsia X airplane engines, and has been aggressively courting AirAsia for new business, he said. GE CEO Jeff Immelt has been "a fantastic friend" of AirAsia.
In U.S. dollars, AirAsia has about $3 billion market capitalization, and posted annual revenue of about $2 billion and earnings of about $400 million, which excludes the contributions of the Thailand and Indonesia units, Fernandes said.
"We've proven the model," he said of the airline that has grown from 2 two planes to around 100 planes, and there is "great upside" for AirAsia, even after the marked increase in its share price, as it continues to extract even more "ancillary" revenue from passengers for things like food and insurance. AirAsia now extracts $16 of such revenue per passenger, up from $5 in the past.

Source : Dow Jones
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Tourism Ministry Opens Facebook Account To Further Promote Tourism

The Tourism Ministry created the Facebook account "Citrawarna 1Malaysia" because it is aware of the social networking site's potential to promote popular locations in Malaysia to visitors, said its minister Datuk Seri Ng Yen Yen.

"We know that we are now at this social media era and we have to keep with the times. Our target (in using the application) are young people and we encourage them to go the site and share their experiences with others," she said after launching the "Citrawarna 1Malaysia" Facebook account here Wednesday.

The application created in conjunction with the annual Citrawarna 1Malaysia event which will take place at Dataran Merdeka on Saturday is to enable the public to access the ministry's site and participate in various contests in the form of dance games.

The participant with the highest score as of the end of June gets to win an iPad while there will also be 10 consolation winners who will be given vouchers to dine at Saloma Bistro.

Ng added that the Facebook feature was part of the ministry's transformation plans to further improve its delivery system.

Source : Bernama
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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

US raises security alert for Americans

Citing the “uncertainty and volatility of the current situation” following the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the US Department of State has issued a global alert warning American citizens against a possible outbreak of anti-US violence worldwide.

“The US Department of State alerts US citizens traveling and residing abroad to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counterterrorism activity in Pakistan,” the agency’s Bureau of Consular Affairs (BCA) said in a May 1 advisory.

Australia issued a similar warning. In countries with significant Muslim populations, international schools, embassies and other potential targets were putting extra security measures in place in case of reprisals.
Britain confirmed it was taking extra precautions at its embassies around the world and its military bases were on heightened alert.

The global police agency Interpol also called for increased security measures, warning that the death of Bin Laden could provoke reprisal attacks around the world.

Supporters of Bin Laden’s violent campaign took to militant Internet sites to vow revenge.
“The lions will remain lions and will continue moving in the footsteps of Osama. O Allah, America will not enjoy safety and security until we live it in Palestine,” one user wrote on the Shumukh al-Islam forum.
“The celebrations are amusing. Cheer all you want infidel, you only have a limited amount of time in this life in which to do it,” another wrote.

While some experts said that Bin Laden’s death would damage al-Qaida’s brand image, and perhaps lead the organization to fracture still further along geographical lines, most predicted attacks would continue.

“The United States will unfortunately suffer, because jihadists have a tendency to avenge their slain chiefs,” warned Matthieu Guidere, a French academic who specializes in the Arab world.
After the death of the leader of al-Qaida’s group in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarkawi, in April 2006, his successor launched a wave of suicide attacks against US and Iraqi targets, Guidere noted.

And although the figurehead of the operation has died in a plush Pakistani mountain resort and garrison town north of Islamabad, al-Qaida militants in the field have long been acting independently.
“On a tactical level, the death of Bin Laden is not a decisive victory, as for many years he has not been an operational leader and the power has been in the hands of local commanders,” Guidere said.

Lost brand label
Jean-Pierre Filiu, a professor at the Sciences-Po school in Paris and author of a book on al-Qaida, said Bin Laden’s death would accelerate the group’s existing division into separate fighting entities.
“Osama bin Laden’s leadership was in truth ideological. He was the only one able to unite all the disparate groups around the world,” said antiterrorist judge Marc Trevidic, saying al-Qaida had lost a brand label.
Nevertheless, Frank Faulkner, a senior lecturer in sociology and terrorism studies at the University of Derby in Britain, said that revenge attacks were inevitable.
“It’s just a case of when and where,” he said.

Extra vigilance
Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble urged “extra vigilance” from “law enforcement authorities to a heightened terror risk from al-Qaida affiliated or al-Qaida inspired terrorists as a result of Bin Laden’s death.”
“The world’s most wanted international terrorist is no more,” Noble said in a statement issued by his office.
“But the death of Bin Laden does not represent the demise of al-Qaida affiliates and those inspired by al-Qaida, who have and will continue to engage in terrorist attacks around the world,” he said.
“We therefore need to remain united and focused in our ongoing cooperation and fight, not only against this global threat but also against terrorism by any group anywhere,” he added.
Noble said Interpol, a global coordinating body based in France that works with national police forces in 188 member states, was “on full alert for acts of retaliation should al-Qaida try to prove they still exist.”

Limit travel, avoid rallies
The BCA strongly urged Americans “in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations.”
US citizens should also “stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings … US citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest US embassy or consulate,” said the travel alert, which expires on Aug. 1.
It noted that “media coverage of local events may cause family and friends to become concerned for their loved ones traveling and residing abroad.”
“We urge US citizens to keep in regular contact with family and friends,” said the BCA.
The state department said US embassy operations in affected areas would continue to the extent possible under the constraints of any evolving security situation.
“US government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture. In those instances, US embassies and consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to US citizens,” it said.
On Monday, Rebecca B. Thompson, spokesperson of the US embassy in Manila, did not comment on the travel alert.
Instead, Thompson referred the Philippine Daily Inquirer to the BCA website —— which she said “has the most up-to-date information.”

NAIA alert
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) has placed four terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) under “heightened alert” status following Bin Laden’s death.
In a May 2 memorandum, Vicente Guerzon Jr., MIAA assistant general manager, said the move was necessary “as a precautionary measure to ensure the security and safety of airport users, as well as protect airport infrastructure.”
Guerzon said the following security measures shall be immediately implemented at NAIA Terminals 1 to 4:
• Strict access control procedures for both personnel and vehicles.
• Rigid inspection of airline passengers and cargo at security checkpoints.
• Intensified police visibility as well as K-9 paneling at the terminals.
• Maximized deployment of patrol vehicles at aircraft movement areas and airport perimeter.
• Intensified intelligence and monitoring operations as well as networking with other security units.
Guerzon said “matters that may affect smooth airport operations must be brought to the immediate attention of MIAA General Manager Jose Angel Honrado.”

Source : Inquirer
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Osama revenge fears put world on high alert

Governments and airlines around the world are bracing for a backlash following the killing in Pakistan of Osama bin Laden by US Special Forces.

Interpol has called for increased security measures by national police forces and several countries have responded with extra security measures spanning airports and other public transport systems.

Japan said its military bases are on full alert in case of revenge attacks by bin Laden’s al-Qaida supporters.

A Qantas spokesman said the airline was “closely monitoring the situation and if the security situation changes then we will take appropriate steps”.

While the county celebrated bin Laden’s death, the U.S. Department of State issued warnings for Americans abroad and is asking travellers to be vigilant. Britain and Australia have issued similar warnings.

“The terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him (bin Laden), and we must – and will – remain vigilant and resolute,” said CIA director Leon Panetta.

Authorities in Indonesia are especially wary of reprisals.

Just weeks before Bin Laden’s death, authorities in Pakistan arrested Umar Patek, an Al Qaeda-linked Indonesian militant who for 10 years had been on the run for allegedly helping to build the explosive devices used in the 2002 bombings of nightclubs in Bali that killed 202 people. 

Source : TravelMole
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Sheraton Imperial unveils its RM6mil meeting facility

THE Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel was abuzz with excitement as all preparations were underway to unveil their latest meeting facility — @M event level recently. Located on the mezzanine level of the 5-star hotel, the newly renovated meeting level took six months to complete at a cost of RM6 million.
Approximately 200 persons were invited to view the new meeting facility as part of the hotel’s launch activities. Divided into lunch and dinner sessions, guests were taken on a personal tour by the hotel’s sales and marketing team members.
Based on an ‘Open House’ concept, the tour revealed the various meeting rooms, set up according to different themes.
Movie theme: Jack Sparrow, Darth Vader, Wolverine and Ronaldo make up part of the theme.
As guests step into the @M meeting room, they were greeted with a Social Network theme where they were introduced to the various social media channels, played various games on Facebook, posted photos on Twitter and had the chance to win exciting prizes.
Next door at Be@M, it was a more informal affair, with the focus being on the 5 Human Truths theme. Guests were shown how the more ‘friendly’ set up play an integral part in the success of any training workshop.
Over at Do@M, there were two themes. In one corner, the movie theme was introduced with ‘Darth Vader’, ‘Jack Sparrow’ and ‘Wolverine’ serving customers. while at the other end of the meeting room, the sports theme was displayed. Tables with golf, badminton and football d├ęcor were enhanced with a Wii machine to promote that competitive spirit.
At the foyer area of Ez@M, the hotel’s culinary team took centerstage, featuring their specialities at the main island buffet counter — introducing delicious dishes from the ‘Passion’ cook book — a joint collaboration between Sheraton Imperial KL and The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa.
‘We want to support our customers and help them achieve their objectives.
“This does not only mean providing a new facility equipped with the latest technology but also showcasing unique and creative options, aiding our customers with what’s out there and how they can be different and unique too.
“We believe with this new @M facility, we will be able to embark on the journey with our clients”, said General Manager of the Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel Wolfgang Boettcher.
Complementing the new vibrant feel of the @M meeting level was a whole range of sumptuous cuisine – perfectly whipped up by master chefs in each of the meeting rooms. Needless to say, there was networking and ideas plus excitement as guests and associates mingled to show off the new facility.
With the addition of the @M event level, the Sheraton Imperial Kuala Lumpur Hotel now boasts more than 2219.6 sq metres of function space with a 12 venue options. Measuring 667 sq metres, the elegant Nusantara Ballroom (located on level 2 of the hotel) is the largest function space, catering for 120 persons for a boardroom set-up to 1,000 persons for a theatre set-up.
It can also seat approximately 550 persons for a banquet and 800 persons for a cocktail reception.

Source : STAR
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