Thursday, June 16, 2011

Marriott plans 2 more hotels in Malaysia

Hotel management company Marriott International Inc, which operates the Marriott, Renaissance and Ritz Carlton, is scheduled to open two new hotels in Malaysia by the middle of next year, bringing the total number of hotels here to nine.

These two new openings, one in Johor and another in Sarawak, will see the group increase its room inventory in Malaysia by 400 from about 3,000 now.

Area vice-president for India, Malaysia, Maldives and Australia Rajeev Menon said that it will open a 300-room Renaissance in Bandar Baru Permas Jaya in the second quarter of next year.

The group also targets to open a 101-room Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa by mid-2012. This property, previously the Royal Mulu Resort, is located next to the Mulu National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site. It is now undergoing a complete makeover.

The seven operational hotels in Malaysia now are Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur, JW Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Renaissance Kota Baru in Kelantan, Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel, Renaissance Melaka Hotel, Miri Marriott Resort & Spa and its franchised property, Putrajaya Marriott Hotel.

Meanwhile, chief operating officer for Asia Pacific Craig S Smith said Malaysia is an important market for the group, especially since intra-Asian travel is big.

As more of its hotels open in India, China and the Middle East, more guests are familiar with the brand. Thus, loyalty helps to fill up hotel rooms in other countries too.

He added that its hotels in Malaysia will benefit from the growth in India, China and the Middle East.

The group, which experienced a tough 2009 for its Malaysian hotels, saw revenue per available room grow by a tenth in 2010 compared to the previous year.

"This year has started strong, (our) Kuala Lumpur hotels are doing well but it is too early to say how the situation in the Middle East will reflect in Malaysia this year," Rajeev said.

"We expect similar growth or partially more growth in 2011 compared to 2010," he added.

Source : BTimes
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Grand Hyatt to Open in KL in 2012

An Hyatt affiliate has entered into an agreement with Bahagia Investment Corporation (Malaysia) to manage the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur. The hotel is already under construction and is expected to open in 2012.

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur will be part of a mixed use complex. The hotel, occupying floors 17 through 39 of the property, will feature 412 guest rooms, including 42 suites and will offer over 33,000 square feet of meeting and event space, a 228-seat café, a 298-seat specialty restaurant with multiple cuisines, a 74-seat Sky Lobby Lounge, a 102-seat poolside restaurant and bar, a spa with 11 treatment rooms, and a swimming pool.

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur will be located in the Golden Triangle area of Kuala Lumpur, in a prime location on Jalan Pinang road close to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (“KLCC”) and the iconic Petronas Towers. It is in close proximity to fashion hubs and business centers, museums, memorials and galleries, and within driving distance of natural preserves.

Kuala Lumpur is an internationally recognized tourist and business destination. With a metropolitan population of approximately 7.2 million, it is the largest city in Malaysia and a key leisure location. Many of Malaysia’s major commercial banks and financial institutions are headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, as are many Malaysian companies, making it an international gateway city.

“In 2010, Malaysia attracted over 24.5 million tourists – rivaling that of countries such as Mexico, Germany and Turkey,” said Willi Martin, area vice president, Southeast Asia, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts. “We see Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur as a remarkable opportunity to expand the presence of the Hyatt brand into a principal city in the rapidly emerging Southeast Asia market.”

There are currently 51 Hyatt-branded hotels in Asia Pacific and the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur will join the two existing Hyatt-branded hotels in Malaysia: Hyatt Regency Kinabalu and Hyatt Regency Kuantan Resort.

There are 16 other Grand Hyatt hotels in the region’s key gateway cities and destination resorts, including Bali, Bangkok, Beijing, Jakarta, Seoul, Shanghai, Singapore, and Tokyo.

Source : AsiaTravelTips
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Tourism Ministry Utilises Social Website To Promote Domestic Tourism

The Tourism Ministry has utilised the social website Facebook to promote domestic tourism among IT-literate Malaysians, especially the youngsters, said its Deputy Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit.

He said the ministry had developed six Facebook applications for Tourism Malaysia which cost a total of RM1,758,432 with each page costing RM293,072.

"The pages include product promotions, tourism destinations and activities such as 'Cuti Cuti 1Malaysia', Citrawarna 1Malaysia, 1Malaysia Mega Sales Carnival, Year End Sales Carnival and Fabulous Food 1Malaysia," he said in reply to a question from Loke Siew Fook (DAP-Rasah) who had asked on the justification for the expenditure at the Dewan Rakyat today.

Dawos added that an advertising company, Impact Creations Sdn Bhd, was responsible for all advertisements and events of the ministry and Tourism Malaysia or the domestic market for 2011 until 2013.

However, the RM1.8 million expenditure was questioned by several members of Parliament who claimed that it was a waste.

Loke said it was irrelevant as the social website could be accessed free of charge while Khairy Jamaluddin (BN-Rembau) asked whether the ministry had set any key performance indicators to monitor the advertising agency's performance.

Source : Bernama
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Indonesia's Budget Airlines - Lion Air flies KL-Jakarta

Lion Air will begin flying from the KL International Airport to Jakarta daily from June 29.

Its president director Rusdi Kirana said Lion Air would be introducing its new Boeing 737-900ER series with a maximum capacity of 215 economy class seats to ply the route.

“Although Lion Air is a low fare airline, we will operate from the main terminal building of KLIA which will provide aerobridge services to ensure passenger comfort.

“We are also providing free baggage allowance of up to 20kg per passenger for check-ins and 7kg for hand luggage. Passengers can also pre-assign their seats at check-in desk or use our web check-in facility to reserve their seats,'' he told StarBiz.

Lion Air is the largest airline in Indonesia. Its parent company PT Lion Mentari Airlines recently entered into a joint agreement with Berjaya Air Sdn Bhd to operate, manage and develop the business operations of Berjaya Air.

Kirana said the company hoped to capture a big portion of the market here as they offered very attractive fares which start from as low as RM139 nett (one way and inclusive of airport tax and surcharge).

Lion Air has almost 500 departures daily in Indonesia via 150 routes to 61 destinations and the Kuala Lumpur - Jakarta flight would be able to connect passengers with any of its Indonesia domestic flights.

“For now we have only one flight daily with the flight departing from Kuala Lumpur at 1 pm and arriving in Jakarta at 2 pm. The flight will depart from Jakarta at 9.05am and arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 12.05 noon,'' he said.

Lion Air senior manager (Sales and Marketing) Chandran Rama Muthy said Lion Air's fares and services were affordable and gave value for money.

He said Lion Air was the first airline in the world to operate the new Boeing 737-900ER series aircraft.

Source : STAR
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Smoother Traffic Flow At Penang Airport This October

Visitors to the Penang International Airport will get to enjoy smoother traffic flow when taking and dropping passengers once upgrading work at the arrival and departure zones of the airport is completed this October.

Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad Project Manager Fazil Ahmad said upgrading work on the affected zones had reached 42 per cent and traffic flow including public transportation would be more orderly when completed.

"The project is to ensure traffic flow at the airport is smoother as the departure zone which used to have only two lanes will be expanded to three lanes while the arrival zone which has four lanes will be increased to seven lanes," he told reporters after presenting a briefing on the progress of the upgrading project to the State Committee for Public Works, Utilities and Transportation Chairman Lim Hock Seng here Monday.

The airport upgrading project which began in June last year costs RM250 million.

It has three main phases and will enable the airport to accommodate up to five million visitors when fully completed in June 2012. The First Phase involves infrastructure and utilities, while Phase Two covers the main terminal building and Phase Three is on upgrading facilities at airport apron.

He said the upgrading project will cover 340.5 hectares of land and that at the end of May, the overall project was 29 per cent completed.

"Despite a slight delay of one per cent, we are confident the overall project will be finished in June 2012," he said. He said the upgrading work was aimed at maximising total passenger flow especially during the peak period from 1,300 to 2,000 passengers per hour and increasing the total number of car parking lots from 1,200 presently to 2,000.

Elaborating further, Fazil said Malaysia Airports was spending RM1.6 million to provide temporary diversions to enable the airport to function at maximum capacity while awaiting the completion of upgrading work at all affected zones.

Source : Bernama
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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

MAS Offers 4 Million Seats For 'Global Deals, Dream Getaways'

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) expects four million seats to be offered at various discounts under the second wave "Global Deals, Dream Getaways" promotional campaign beginning today until June 27.

"We are mounting this second wave campaign to give an opportunity for our passengers to fly onboard the A330-300, to selected international destinations, to fly business class to domestic destinations, as well as, enjoy discounts of up to 75 per cent," said its Regional Senior Vice President, Sales, Azman Ahmad at a media briefing here today.

He was optimistic the four million seats on offer would be taken up during this offer period based on the encouraging response received to the maiden five-day campaign held from May 13, forthcoming holidays, and the longer travel period until May 2012.

One hundred and forty-four destinations are up for grabs under the campaign and potential travellers are expected to chose long-haul destinations compared with regional sectors which were the focus of the first campaign.

Azman said for the second wave campaign, the thrust would be the special, all inclusive promotional economy class fares from Malaysia to Tokyo and Osaka starting from RM693.00 one way.

"MAS was offering flights to Japan as part of its initiative to improve air travel between Malaysia and the land of the rising sun after the North Asian country was impacted by the recent natural calamities. We are also partnering Malaysian tour operators who use there fares to offer very attractive packages from Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu to Japan," he added.

These deals are offered by all MAS distribution channels such as the website,; on mobile; MHbuddy on facebook; MAS' ticketing offices and appointed travel agents.

All promotional airfares are for one-way economy or business class journey on MAS during off-peak period and includes airfare, airport tax, fuel surcharge, insurance and administrative fees.

Source : Bernama
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KL Festival Set To Attract 700,000 Visitors

The month-long Kuala Lumpur Festival 2011 starting July 1 is expected to attract about 700,000 local and foreign visitors.

Ministry of Information Communication and Culture secretary-general Datuk Seri Kamaruddin Siaraf said the targeted turnout could be achieved with the increase of events from 104 at 47 locations last year to 122 at 51 locations this year.

He said the festival with the theme "Where the Arts Come Alive" was in line with the government's effort to lift Kuala Lumpur as the hub of arts and culture internationally.

Jointly organised by the Ministry of Information Communication and Culture, the Ministry of Tourism, and the Ministry of Federal Territories and Urban Well-being, he said KL Festival attracted the participation of 18 companies and non-governmental organisations, he told a pre-launch news conference at KL Tower here Monday.

Kamaruddin said visitors would be feted to arts, including visual and performing arts, and cultural activities, traditional games, Malaysian cuisine and literary events.

Schedules and details of the events will be posted on the KL Festival website at and the facebook-klfest secretariat, he added.

The festival will be launched simultaneously by three ministers -- Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim, Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen and Datuk Raja Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin at the KL Tower's 1Malaysia Cultural Village on June 25.

Source : Bernama
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Saturday, June 11, 2011

MAS: On a wing and prayer

The short term appears bleak but there are signs that MAS may improve.
The woes of national carrier Malaysia Airlines' are aplenty. They range from an aging core fleet, escalating cost structure, high leasing cost and legacy issues to a network that's not far reaching enough. And these keep coming back to haunt the airline despite its hard-fought efforts to get back on steady ground.
To tackle these issues, it needs nothing less than dynamism. Take for example its recent entry into the much-vaunted oneworld. This should have been done years ago.
It's tough out there factors such as rising oil prices sparked by tensions in the Middle East and the earthquake/tsunami in Japan leave an impact on the global airline industry.
Even so, other airlines are able to report profits. Sadly, MAS once again plunged into the red territory with a RM242mil net loss for the first quarter of the year, shocking many who had thought the worst was over when the carrier reported a RM225mil in net profit for 2010.
“I wish I could say we could have done things differently and the losses had nothing to do with fuel prices but the volatility in fuel prices was a major contributor to our loses,'' says MAS managing director Tengku Datuk Seri Azmil Zahruddin.
To Shukor Yusof, a Singapore-based airline analyst for Standard and Poor's “MAS biggest threat in the last seven to eight years has been AirAsia” and the fact that it is still struggling to overcome legacy issues. “For as long as they do not have a clear vision of where they are headed, they will continue to have issues going forward,'' says Shukor.
The issue is made worse as no one can predict the direction of jet fuel prices. International Air Transport Association (IATA) director general and CEO Giovanni Bisignani says that “remains a concern.'
A Maybank IB analyst adds that MAS needs to sort out its unresolved fundamental issues. “They are doing it but the pace needs to hasten as the world is not waiting for them.''
The question to ask - after a host of revamps and reforms labelled with acronyms such as WAU (Widespread Asset Unbundling), BTP1 (Business Transformation Programme) and BTP2 - what could the airline possibly do - more?
The red ink
Rising jet fuel prices and high leasing made up 58% of total cost that drove MAS into the red in the first quarter. This sent shockwaves to the analysts fraternity.
Of 18 analysts, 12 have a sell call on the stock. Jet fuel raced to US$113 a barrel during the period. MAS hedges 25% of its fuel requirements at US$93 a barrel. Fuel made up 38% of its total cost in the first quarter, aircraft leases 20%, staff cost about 12%-15% and the rest is for maintenance, landing and parking and others.
Its cost per available seat km (CASK) is 8.25 US cents versus SIA's 7.13, and AirAsia's was 4.2 US cents. Even a single cent change can make a difference during turbulent times. MAS is seeking a 15% CASK reduction by 2015.
The airline also added 11% capacity during the year. Had it not, would things have been better? “Unlikely...the fuel pricing would have hit it anyway,'' says an analyst.
Encouraged by the bullish projections that this will be a good year, MAS has added more seats to its network.
“Had we known it (about the tensions in the Middle East that pushed fuel prices and the earthquake in Japan), we would not have put in so much capacity. About 38% of our cost is fuel and with this kind of volatility, we can mitigate but cannot eliminate,'' Azmil says.
It has been a humbling experience. On June 1, MAS was booted out of the MSCI Malaysia Index.
The counter has lost much ground since it released its results closing Friday at RM1.43. Its archrival on the domestic front, AirAsia has also overtaken it in terms of market value at RM8.8bil versus MAS' RM4.8bil.
So, can it keep to its full year projections despite the first quarter blip? “We are on track,'' Azmil says.
Fleet dilemma
Having older planes are one thing but utilitising them to the maximum is another. But here's one of the roots of MAS' headache.
In the past, MAS has been somewhat slow to replace its fleet whenever there was a new generation aircraft launched.
While its rivals would be the first to hop on and make the orders, MAS would take the “wait and see'' approach.
Furthermore, the fuel and maintenance cost of its aging fleet is high. Some attribute this lack of agility then to its dire financial straits.
But that seems to have changed, with Azmil at the helm. The airline has ordered 35 B737-800 and 15 A330-300, some of which have arrived and the bulk coming the next and the following year.
The shift in strategy from being asset light to having a third leased and a third owned is best to balance its portfolio and hopefully it will drive cost down as these are next generation aircraft that are far more fuel efficient than its existing fleet.
“The old ones are sucking too much fuel and does not help yields. Its direct competitors have the latest generation of planes that are much more fuel efficient. Two of the B737-800 that it took delivery of this year are flying 16 hours. That shows there is better utilisation of its fleet to earn better yields,'' says the Maybank IB analyst.
Azmil says many new aircraft are coming into system. “This year, we will see new aircraft coming in and you will see the difference in the economy class and also the front end of the cabin,'' says Azmil.
Next year, MAS will get its long-awaited A380 aircraft but they come years after rivals SIA, Emirates and Qantas. It will certainly lift MAS portfolio of offerings.
Its recent shift in strategy to focus on front end by expanding its portfolio to more market segments is the way to go as MAS would need to bump that up to match the yields enjoyed by SIA.
The yield gap has been widening over the years and some say this is because MAS has been caught up fending off competition on the local front by trying to be both premium and a low cost airlines.
The realisation has set in that a premium product cannot be low cost. So, it now has a portfolio of products offering premium, value (Firefly turboprops) and low cost (Firefly low cost).
Firefly is managed separately though it is a unit of MAS and even SIA is getting directly into the long-haul low-cost market which is competitive as the low-cost carriers are eating into premium airlines' margins.
“Firefly is a bright spot for MAS and will keep improving when it takes more 737-800s. But the revenue contribution isn't that big to MAS overall bottomline. MAS needs to fly more profitable routes especially with the A380s coming in 2012,'' says Shukor.
The brand of choice
One analyst compared air travel withfast-moving consumer goods where there's no loyalty. In this era, airlines need to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack through right pricing and the soft touch. Also, having a brand new plane gives the perception that it is also safer so that's a factor travellers will consider.
With that, the new planes bode well for MAS. Having the A380, will put MAS in the same ranks as SIA or even Cathay but still, it does not guarantee the loads. With A380, MAS will have to fill over 500 passengers at one go at a time when competition is bursting, not just from the premium carriers but low cost as well which offer business class seats a fraction of the cost.
To address that, the airline is focusing on filling the front end of the cabin.
Although the strategy was crafted recently, the front end loads have picked up, according to MAS senior general manager sales and marketing Datuk Bernard Francis.
The recently launched Global Deals Dream Getaways is showing results and the focus from overdependence on corporate sector has widened.
Internally, the target is 25% which means a RM650mil contribution to earnings. The airline has thus far hit 23%. Average load is about 70% and forward preloads are 18% higher than last year in the second half.
Though MAS flies to many countries, it is hard to match the branding that SIA and Cathay command. This is another issue the national carrier needs to address.
“People rather pay more for the rival planes which are newer, with latest interiors. So, it is a perception of better quality even tough MAS' soft skills are excellent,'' says an analyst.
The change afoot for the airline is not just limited to new aircraft and new seats. It has also started from the first touch point.
MAS is one of the first airlines in the world apart from Delta to use iphones, ipads, Facebook and even Android's as tools to check-in and even buy tickets.
The food offering is changing and it has “chef on call'' for the first class to make sure you get the meal the way you want it. It also offers “ferrero rocher'' which is a premium chocolate as a dessert and it is buying new planes. The only set back - the planes cannot arrive any faster.
The ties that bind
Twelve years and two attempts. That is how long the courtship with oneworld took. MAS was invited 12 years ago but due to technical issues, nothing had materialised.
“The board gave the management up to June to get into an alliance,'' says MAS chairman Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid.
After the first attempt, MAS search continued but its balance sheets did not make it “pretty'' enough to be considered as a member.
What changed this time around was that MAS is looking much better despite its recent quarterly blip. Geographically, it is well located as oneworld needs to get smack into the South-East Asian markets since growth in passenger traffic is expected to be robust in the region.
IATA expects Asia to lead traffic growth. All these had strengthened MAS case. This time, following an invitation, the pact was sealed after a 12-hour meeting over the past weekend. “It is the best fit for us and MAS is the best fit for oneworld,” says Azmil.
The full impact is likely to be felt in 2013.
“But don't expect investors to jump to buy the stock as it will take time before we can see the results. Surely, there will be benefits from ferrying member passengers around and the geographic reach for MAS travellers just gets bigger. More so now, there are more avenues to earn miles for the travellers,'' says an analyst.
Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation analyst Brendan Sobie says MAS is going in the right direction as the alliance helps strengthen its position in Asia and widens its reach.
An analyst remarks that the only reason oneworld is losing to SkyTeam and Star Alliance is that they do not have a representative in SEA. “Now, they do with MAS,” he says. The other factor that could boost traffic is Qantas willingness to work with MAS via oneworld to tap into SEA.
Transformation mode
As rightly pointed out by Azmil, MAS is in transformation mode, no longer turnaround .
“Transformation takes long but it will stick with you versus business turnaround, which is for a short time only,'' he says.
An analyst likes the sound of it: “He is going back to the textbooks and this is something which should have been done 12 years ago.”
More crucially, what does that mean for the consumer? “You will see a very different value proposition from MAS from how you buy tickets, whether you use a website, the call centre, the facebook or the androids to the ipad.
It is a different experience when you get to the airport. We are improving the first and business class and looking to improve the economy offering. We are getting new aircraft and modern products.
“At the end of the day, it is not just a transformation, but we are changing the mindset,'' Azmil says.

Source : STAR
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