Monday, 31 January 2011

Kerjasama tarik lebih ramai pelancong

KUANTAN 30 Jan. - Kerajaan negeri Pahang sedia bekerjasama dengan pihak yang berkaitan dalam industri pelancongan bagi menarik lebih ramai pelancong tempatan dan asing datang ke negeri ini. Pengerusi Jawatankuasa Pelancongan, Kesenian dan Warisan, Pembangunan Keluarga dan Hal Ehwal Wanita negeri, Datuk Shafik Fauzan berkata, penglibatan pihak berkenaan penting bagi memajukan industri pelancongan di negeri ini. "Kerajaan negeri komited dalam memajukan sektor tersebut tetapi dalam masa sama pengusaha serta agensi pelancongan perlu mempunyai inisiatif sendiri bagi merangka strategi meningkatkan jumlah pelancongan ke tempat mereka.

"Apa yang penting adalah mewujudkan aktiviti yang menawarkan penyertaan pelancong secara bersama," katanya ketika berucap pada majlis penutup program Knowing You Knowing Me anjuran Bukit Gambang Resort City (BGRC) di sini baru-baru ini. Seramai 17 wakil agensi pelancongan dan media dari Singapura menghadiri program tiga hari itu bagi berkongsi idea dan pengalaman dalam meningkatkan sektor pelancongan di kedua-dua negara. Shafik berkata, kerajaan negeri akan menaik taraf beberapa kawasan bersejarah dan destinasi utama dalam usaha menjadikan Pahang destinasi pelancongan utama negara. Tambahnya, ia berikutan kebanyakan pelancong khususnya dari luar negara inginkan suasana tradisional dan alam semula jadi yang tidak diperoleh di negara sendiri.

Dalam pada itu, Pengarah Perhubungan Awam dan Acara BGRC, Nasiruddin Nasrun berkata, program tersebut bertujuan memberi peluang kepada media dan agensi pelancongan Singapura merasai dan menikmati sendiri pengalaman bercuti di Pahang. "Kita juga mahu menjadikan BGRC sebagai pintu masuk ke Pahang dan mereka boleh mengikuti pelbagai aktiviti di sini selain mengatur perjalanan ke lokasi pelancongan lain seperti Sungai Lembing. "Bagi tujuan itu, kita juga mengharapkan kerjasama kerajaan negeri dalam mendokong misi menjadikan negara ini sebagai lokasi percutian yang sangat menarik untuk seisi keluarga," katanya.
Utusan Online.

Pasir Gudang World Kite Fest 2011

Colourful kites in various shapes and sizes will soar across the skies of Johor this February as the state plays host to the prestigious annual Pasir Gudang World Kite Fest 2011. Considered to be one of the best and most organised kite festivals in the world, the 16th Pasir Gudang World Kite Fest will showcase the skills and creativity of local and international kiters. With the theme “Colouring the Sky” the festival will run from 16 to 20 February 2011 at Bukit Layang-Layang, Pasir Gudang, Johor. His Royal Highness, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, the Sultan of Johor, will grace the opening ceremony on 19 February 2011 at 2pm.

This annual colourful event is noted for attracting large crowds of enthusiasts and curious spectators. In 2010, as many as 100,000 visitors came to the five day event and the organiser is confident that the figures will double this year. International participation for 2011 has also increased with 190 participants from 30 countries. They are from Australia, Austria, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, Canada, China, England, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, Kuwait, Lebanon, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, USA and Vietnam. 500 local participants from the public, government and private sectors have also registered their participation this year.

The festival promises to be a lively event with a variety of exciting and entertaining pocket shows, colourful exhibitions and workshops organized for the public. The Pasir Gudang World Kite Fest is organised by the Pasir Gudang Municipal Council and the Johor State Government through the Johor State Tourism Department with the support of the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Information Communication and Culture, the Ministry of Education, the Malaysia Kite Council, the Johor Kite Association, Iskandar Malaysia and Tourism Malaysia.

For more information on Pasir Gudang World Kite Fest, please log on to
-Tourism Malaysia.

Cleanliness major concern for tourists visiting the country

LABIS: The ‘1Malaysia Green, 1Malaysia Clean’ campaign launched in July last year was an ambitious project taken up by the Tourism Ministry and it will take time for apparent changes to occur, said Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen. Dr Ng said it was difficult to change the mindset of locals when it came to cleanliness which was still a major concern among tourists who visited the country. “Some tourists have commented the easiest way for them to locate our toilets was to follow the bad smell,” she said. She added it had been months since the campaign was launched and changes in cleanliness was still not very apparent at local tourist spots.

Dr Ng was speaking to reporters after launching the state ‘1Malaysia Green, 1Malaysia Clean’ campaign at the Pusat Rekreasi Kolam Air Panas here recently. Dr Ng added the campaign was a brave and ambitious project by the ministry and explained it would take more time to change the behavioral patterns of locals. “We can continue spreading the message of going green and clean but it is up to the people themselves to change,” she said.

On a separate matter, Dr Ng said she had also spoken to the management of the hot springs about charging separate rates for foreigners. “There are many avenues to upgrade the tourist spots in Tenang especially the hot springs here which is a unique attraction. “Currently, the management only charges an entry fee of RM2 per person and this should be retained for locals but should be increased for foreigners,” she said, adding that locals could produce their MyKads to enjoy reduced rates.
-thestar online.

Uncovering Perak gems

TOURISM Malaysia is expecting an increase in tourist arrivals to Perak in view of the 10 new events to be organised to promote the Silver State. Its state director Norshamshida Abdul Rahman said the Ipoh Food Trail, which was launched last year in Pulau Pangkor, was just the start in promoting Perak as there were still many “hidden gems” in Perak .

“We will also introduce Perak holiday packages through e-marketing to further boost the number of tourists,” she said during a getting-to-know-you session with the media and tourism representatives in Ipoh. “Holiday packages can be booked via the Tourism Malaysia website,” she added.
-thestar online.

Nightly performances at i-City until Chap Goh Meh

In the spirit of 1Malaysia, the unique night tourism spot in the Klang Valley, i-City, will be featuring performances nightly from Jan 29 to usher in the Golden Year of the Rabbit and culminate with the Chop Goh Meh celebrations on Feb 17. “Traditionally Chinese New Year is a time for families to gather together for reunions,” said i-City corporate communications manager Tang Soke Cheng. “The City of Digital Lights is an ideal venue for families to visit. It is thus appropriate that we host performances that the entire family can enjoy. “We welcome all Malaysians to join in this festive celebrations offering an array of multi-cultural programmes.”

The Chinese Lunar New Year countdown will begin on Jan 29 onwards, popular deejay Mike will be jazzing up the atmosphere at i-Walk from 6pm onwards to engage visitors in some fun games.
Visitors at i-City will be entertained by multi-cultural performances on a six meter x 12 meter stage at i-Walk, a 30,000 sq ft air-conditioned outdoor arena uniquely designed with up to 1,000 programmable thematic lights, transforming the entire i-Walk into a sea of auspicious red, bringing visitors good luck and fortune. There will also be lion dance, acrobatic and wushu performances including performances by local artistes.

On the first day of Chinese New Year, be mesmerised by the loud beat of drums and deafening sounds of the cymbals to i-Walk where lively lion dance performances will enthrall you. For those eager for good fortune, try catching the God of Fortune, better known as “Choy San Yeh” while he strolls among the dazzling lightscapes in the City of Digital Lights handing out ang pow to lucky visitors. Visitors can also pose with Choy San Yeh with friends and family.

The i-City is packed with local and international cuisines ranging from authentic Malay to Western fare. Even authentic Iranian dishes and shisha are awaiting visitors at i-City. For the more adventurous visitors who would like a snowy Chinese New Year below minus five degrees, spend time at Snowwalk with tobogganing and sledge riding facilities. Snowwalk, a 50,000 sq ft arctic edutainment centre with real falling snow, allows visitors to admire the LED lightscapes set among 100 tonnes of creatively- designed ice sculptures. As part of the grand finale for the Chinese New Year celebrations, a spectacular fireworks display has been planned on Chap Goh Meh, the 15th day of the lunar new year.
-thestar online.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Pelajar Singapura lawat Tanjung Piai

PONTIAN 28 Jan - Taman Negara Tanjung Piai di Serkat di sini, bukan sahaja dikenali sebagai destinasi pelancongan malah menjadi pilihan bagi pelajar luar negara, contohnya sekumpulan 200 pelajar Sekolah Menengah East View, Singapura yang berminat mengenali tanah penghujung benua Asia ini baru-baru ini. Program lawatan pelajar sekolah anjuran sebuah syarikat perunding motivasi Singapura, Innotrex selama tiga hari dua malam ini tidak terhad kepada lawatan ke Taman Negara malah mereka turut berkunjung ke kawasan perkampungan berhampiran, Inap Desa Tanjung Piai dan Tanjung Piai Resort.

Jurulatih daripada syarikat tersebut, Sheikh Ahmad Sheikh Hussin berkata, program seperti itu diadakan bertujuan mendedahkan pelajar dengan aktiviti di luar bilik darjah bagi memberikan mereka motivasi dan menanamkan keyakinan kepada diri masing-masing melalui beberapa program yang telah diatur. Katanya lagi, setiap tahun Innotrex menawarkan pakej aktiviti luar negara kepada pihak sekolah melibatkan Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam dan sebagainya. Beberapa pelajar yang ditemui oleh Utusan Malaysia merasa teruja kerana pertama kali menjejakkan kaki ke Taman Negara Tanjung Piai yang sebelum ini hanya dikenali melalui laman web.

Siok Fang, 15, berkata, ini adalah lawatan pertamanya ke Taman Negara Tanjung Piai yang disifatkannya sebagai cantik dengan pelbagai jenis unggas dan kehidupan lain. "Sebelum ini saya hanya mengetahui melalui media massa atau Internet, tetapi hari ini saya benar-benar berada di tanah penghujung benua Asia ini," katanya lagi. Bagi Raudah Mohd. Yassin, 19, dia suka melihat pelbagai jenis tumbuhan yang terdapat di Taman Negara Tanjung Piai yang dikatakan mempunyai peranan bagi mengawal ekosistem. Selain itu katanya, papan-papan tanda penunjuk yang memaparkan jenis-jenis tumbuhan dan haiwan yang memudahkan pengunjung mendapat maklumat.

"Saya juga tertarik dengan usaha yang dilakukan bagi terus memelihara alam sekitar khususnya tanaman pokok bakau yang berperanan sebagai penampan ombak dan sebagainya," jelasnya. Arjun Selambram, 19, pula terpegun dengan suasana perkampungan di kawasan Tanjung Piai yang merupakan pertama kali dikunjungi dengan pelbagai jenis tanaman seperti kelapa sawit, kelapa, pisang, kopi dan sebagainya di beberapa perkampungan berhampiran. "Seronok dapat melihat perkara-perkara yang baru dan jarang ditemui di negara saya serta dapat merapatkan hubungan dengan rakan sekolah yang lain," katanya lagi. Bagi Muhammad Faiz Fakhrullah Sahabudein, 16, menjejakkan kaki ke Taman Negara Tanjung Piai merupakan suatu yang tidak diduga dan dia sangat teruja melihat deretan kapal-kapal dagang yang berlabuh di persisiran pantai Tanjung Piai, yang menambahkan lagi keindahan taman negara tersebut.

-Utusan Online.

Head east - Terengganu

There are so many things to see and do in Terengganu. Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian in Terengganu are famous for their white sandy beaches and crystal-clear water. The coral species and marine life attract divers from all over the world. Tourists can choose to relax on the beach or indulge in various water sports. Or get your adrenaline pumping with a 4WD adventure through lush rainforests.

Just 55km inland of Kuala Terengganu is Lake Kenyir, the largest manmade lake in the world and an anglers’ paradise. Foodies will want to sample Terengganu’s cuisine, which shows Thai, Chinese and Indian influences. Keropok lekornasi dagang and laksamare among the signature dishes and can be found everywhere.

In this shopping haven, you’ll be spoilt for choice with its selection of batiksongket, silk, keris, woodcarvings, woven mats, baskets, silverware and brassware. To learn about Terengganu’s ancient history, visit the State Museum which houses a collection of artifacts dating back to the Stone Age and the Malay classical period right to the 19th century.

-thestar online.

The golden touch

Since its RM50mil renovation, Golden Sands Resort, Penang has been setting new standards. As soon as you step into the lobby of the Golden Sands Resort, you can feel the holiday mood. The staff, dressed in brightly coloured floral shorts, short sleeved shirts and running shoes, look genuinely happy as they greet guests. Check-in is a breeze as I am taken to a vast room known as the Cool Lounge. “The Cool Lounge is the first of its kind in the Shangri-La Group of which Golden Sands is a member,” explains Suleiman Tunku Abdul Rahman, director of communications for both Golden Sands and its upscale sibling Rasa Sayang Shangri-La next door.

Cool Lounge was conceived for guests arriving too early or departing late at night. Guests can relax, snooze on the sofas and enjoy complimentary drinks and nibbles in comfort and style instead of sitting in the lobby waiting for the pick-up. I went through jars of cookies, nuts, crackers and savouries which was almost a mini meal and debated if I could smuggle some into my room.

The Cool Lounge was conceived for guests arriving too early or departing late at night as a place where they may snooze or snack.

Cool Lounge boasts Internet stations, a shopping arcade for last minute souvenirs and even a gym. This dedicated traveller’s area is airy and filled with natural sunlight streaming in through floor to ceiling glass walls. It even has changing rooms and shower facilities so you are fresh as a daisy enroute to the airport or while waiting for your room to be ready. Golden Sands reopened in February 2010 after a year-long renovation costing RM50mil. “The 387 family-sized rooms are the biggest in its class in Penang, done in cheerful colours that celebrate ethnic chic and resort living with easy to maintain floors so you don’t feel guilty when you drip water or trail sand,” says Suleiman.

Though staying alone, I checked out the hotel’s new pride and joy — a Murphy bed! I grabbed it out from the wall, pulled it down and hey presto, a single bed. When not in use, it folds neatly back into the wall to release floor space. Now the third person can sleep in comfort instead of slumming it out on the sofa. Each room comes with an LCD TV, DVD player, satellite TVs, modem ports and free broadband Internet access. Golden Sands offers free WiFi for every guest, a thoughtful amenity all hotels should offer. In fact, the whole hotel is wired as their unlimited Internet access includes restaurants, ballroom, lounges, cafés and all public areas including poolside. Being wired is now standard in all Shangri-La hotels. The resort fronts the beach which is open to the public. This means anyone can set up stalls to sell sunglasses, bathers and sarong.

A deluxe sea-facing room at the Golden Sands Resort.

I was advised against patronising operators of paragliding, hang-sailing, banana boat and horse riding as the hotel is not responsible should anything happen. But life is for living so a bit of soft adventure can’t do much harm. However, the hotel has enough activities to keep guests gainfully occupied such as the Water Sports Centre offering water aerobics and scuba excursions, tennis, table tennis, par 3 golf course, beach volleyball, tai chi, pétanque, jungle trekking and even cooking classes.

Renowned for being family friendly, Golden Sands is home to Adventure Zone, a 957sq m family entertainment centre with drop slides, modular play equipment, games section, toddler’s area, themed birthday party rooms and café. The Kids Club offers free organised daily activities, and since times are tough, Golden Sands is doling out an irresistible deal — a ‘Kids Eat, Stay and Play for Free’ programme that allows up to three kids under 12 per family to do just that!

Bring your kids here so they will remember you in your old age as they max out in Adventure Zone. The Adventure Zone is indoors and air-conditioned so glam mums need not fear age-inducing sunburn as they play with their kids all day long. Since calories don’t count during holidays, I gorged on the scrumptious buffet at Garden Cafe which offers local and Western delights in a garden setting. Golden Sands is 31 years old this year and the raintrees, banyans and casuarinas are nicely matured and impressively sized.

The Lobby Lounge is the place to chill before or after dinner though I found the tidbits, savouries and finger food filling enough to stay put. Golden Sands is also the first to establish a Research and Development Centre to study Effective Microorganism (EM) technology to produce EM mudballs. Though it sounds unpalatable, EM mudballs help clean, filter and aerate Batu Ferringhi’s rivers. Made of earth, rice and Bokashi (fermented organic matter containing sawdust and bran) which breaks down harmful bacteria, such mudballs have been successful in cleaning 150 of Japan’s rivers.

-thestar online.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Operasi tren Bukit Bendera disambung semula akhir Mac

GEORGETOWN 29 Jan. – Perkhidmatan kereta api kabel Bukit Bendera dijangka beroperasi semula dengan menggunakan koc-koc baru buatan Switzerland seawal akhir Mac ini, kata Menteri Pelancongan, Datuk Seri Dr. Ng Yen Yen. Katanya, semua kerja menaiktaraf secara fizikal akan siap tidak lama lagi sebelum tempoh ujian operasi kereta api selama sebulan akan dijalankan. "Kami yakin perkhidmatan kereta api itu akan disambung semula seawal akhir Mac ini,” katanya kepada pemberita selepas mempengerusikan mesyuarat MCA Pulau Pinang di sini hari ini.

Sebelum ini, perkhidmatan kereta api berkabel berusia 87 tahun itu dihentikan operasinya pada 22 Feb tahun lepas untuk kerja-kerja naik taraf oleh Kementerian Pelancongan dengan kos RM63 juta. Selepas selesai kerja-kerja naik taraf itu, setiap koc baru berhawa dingin itu boleh membawa sehingga 50 penumpang dengan masa perjalanan sehala selama 10 minit. Di bawah sistem baru perkhidmatan, penumpang boleh sampai ke puncak bukit itu tanpa menukar tren di stesen pertengahan.

Yen Yen juga berkata beliau bangga dengan inisiatif oleh ahli botani Datuk Seri Lim Chong Keat untuk membangunkan sebuah taman di puncak Bukit Bendera. "Kami berbincang cara untuk menjadikan Bukit Bendera sebagai salah satu taman bukit paling indah di rantau ini,” katanya. Menurutnya cadangan bayaran masuk ke taman itu akan terbahagi kepada pemegang MyKad dan orang asing. Bukit Bendera ialah salah satu destinasi pelancongan yang terkenal di sini dan perkhidmatan kereta api berkabel itu mula diperkenalkan pada tahun 1923, satu-satunya perkhidmatan seumpama itu dalam negara.

- Bernama

Sarawak wants visitors from Europe and Middle East for music fest

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) aims to attract more long-haul visitors such as those from Australia, Europe and the Middle East to the coming Rainforest World Music Festival (RWMF) on the back of better and earlier marketing efforts. Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said the board hoped to attract a crowd of at least 21,000 during the three-day festival out of which 70% would be from outside of Sarawak. He said previous festivals saw about 40% foreigners. “We’ve started to promote the festival early and we’re more prepared this year. We’ll be making some changes and upgrading the festival site, and arranging for more packages so that visitors who come for the festival will have more tourism variety in terms of food and places of interest,” he said.

How it’s strung: Mathew Ngau Jau (right), a well-known Orang Ulu performer and sape maker showing Dr Chan (second right) how to play the sape during the launch. With them are (from left) permanent secretary to the Tourism and Heritage Ministry Datuk Ik Pahon and Rashid.

“The festivity is not confined to Santubong (where RWMF will be held) but around the city,” he told a press conference to launch the festival’s new image in Kuching yesterday. RWMF will be held at Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong from July 8 to 10, showcasing 20 performers from France (Startijenn), New Zealand (Pacific Curls), Iran (Mamak Khadem), USA (The Blue Canyon Boys and Lisa Haley & The Zydekats), Georgia, Eastern Europe (The Shin), Canada (Ikswew), Finland (Frigg), Senegal (Malick Pathe Sow), Malaysia (Agungbeat), Mexico/Australia (Victor Valdez Trio), Latvia (Ilgi), China (Hanggai), India/UK (Kissmet), Ireland (Paddy Keenan Trio), Tunisia/Algeria (Duoud), Dominican Republic (Joaquin Diaz), Italy (Kamafei), Kenya (Kenge Kenge) and Poland (Warsaw Village Band).

Dr Chan, who is also Tourism and Heritage Minister, said they would also rope in low cost carriers to be involved in the festival to achieve the 70% target. “They fly to and from everywhere now,” he said. STB chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan said mini concerts and music workshops would be held at selected venues to create the air of RWMF festivity prior to the event as well as to cash in the tourism receipt. He said the previous festival generated RM13mil in tourism receipt for the local tourism industry.

Daily tickets to the festival are priced at RM110 for adults and RM55 for children aged three to 12 and these are now available on line A three-day pass for adults costing RM300 and RM150 for children aged three to 12 are also available. Those intending to go to the music festival are advised to purchase their tickets early online, before Feb 28, to enjoy early birds discount for the July 8 and 9 day passes. For more information, log on to

-thestar online.

Medical tourism hale and hearty

GEORGE TOWN: Medical tourism raked in an estimated RM230mil in revenue for Penang last year. State Tourism Development and Culture Committee chairman Danny Law said this was an increase from RM162mil in 2009. He said the number of foreign patients who sought medical treatment in Penang increased from 202,000 in 2009 to 250,000 last year, adding that most of them were from Indonesia. “This is due to the new air route introduced by AirAsia from Surabaya to Penang which has brought in new patients from Surabaya,” he told a press conference yesterday.

Law said 70% of revenue from medical tourism in the country was contributed by hospitals in Penang. “This was mainly possible because of the co-operation between the seven hospitals which practise healthy competition and even work together during promotions overseas,” he added. He said medical tourism had spurred the growth of related sectors such as taxi services, hotels and the food industry. Law also said domestic and international tourist arrivals to Penang increased to 4.1 million last year from 3.3 million in 2009. He said Indonesians topped the list of tourist arrivals to Penang last year followed by Singaporeans, Chinese nationals, Japanese and Americans.

-thestar online.

Errant tour agents warned

Representatives from 130 companies turned up at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) on Thursday to draw ballots for the upcoming MATTA Fair 2011. The balloting exercise is to determine their booth numbers in the event to be held from March 11 to March 13 at PWTC. Organised by Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), the fair this year is themed “Colour Your Life” and will showcase travel and tour products as well as services at some 900 booths.

During the briefing for exhibitors on booth allocation, organising deputy chairman Boris Tan told them that they must first settle outstanding complaints lodged by customers against them before the fair began. “The Tourism Ministry is serious about this matter and some may be barred from participating,” he told members of the industry and related businesses. “We know that not all complaints are genuine but we want members to treat the complaints seriously,” he said.

Balloting exercise: Representatives chossing booths for MATTA Fair 2011.

He explained that although members and associate members of the industry might be successful in securing booths before the fair, errant members might be barred on the day of the event. He also warned them not to share their booths with those who had not registered to participate in the fair. “We have received complaints that some of you have been sharing booths. If you are caught doing this, you will not be able to participate the next time around,’ said Tan.

In order to prevent this problem, he advised genuine exhibitors to display their licence and fair registration forms at their booths. He also announced that the organising committee was barring bridal companies from participating in this year’s fair. “Last year, some non-member exhibitors engaged foreign bridal companies to sell their products and destinations at the fair,” he said. He noted that foreign promoters created many problems at the fair with their aggressive selling methods. Organising committee member M. Ali said there were many complaints received against the bridal companies that exhibited previously.

Exhibitors at the MATTA Fair are divided into three categories -- direct members, associate members which consists of hotels and other accommodation providers, and related industries which are foreign tourism boards and companies that offer tourism-related products. MATTA, which has more than 2,000 members, is expecting some 85,000 visitors at the fair and targetting RM1mil in sales.

-thestar online.

PM: M'sia keen to list Sabah's Maliau Basin as a world heritage site

MALIAU BASIN (SABAH): Malaysia is very keen to list Sabah's Lost World, the Maliau Basin as a world heritage site. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, in endorsing the state government's proposal, said that a World Heritage listing by UNESCO would bring immediate world attention and interest in the 58,400-hectare untouched tropical rainforest, just slightly smaller then Singapore.

Najib (second right) crossing the skybridge during his visit at the Maliau Basin Conservation Area in Tawau

He said the heritage listing of Mount Kinabalu National Park, George Town, Gunung Mulu National Park and Malacca had seen a jump in worldwide interest in such areas of natural or historical importance. However, he said there was a lot of work to be done to obtain such a World Heritage status as the government and various had to meet with various guidelines to be able to meet the requirements of Unesco in listing it as a world heritage site. “I would support the Chief Minister in getting this place listed as a world heritage site," he told reporters after becoming the first Prime Minister to step foot in the Maliau Basin where he opened the Maliau Basin Studies Centre and also launched the study of the Stability of Altered Forest Eco-Systems (SAFE) conducted by Royal Socieity of UK and sponsored by Sime Darby Foundation.

Najib said that Maliau Basin was becoming an integral part of an ecological experiment in an area that contained rare flora and fauna, including six types of pitcher plants and more then 80 species of orchids and endangered wildlife, from rhinocerous to orang utans. ''Only about 25% of Maliau Basin has been explored. From four major expeditions between 1986 to 2005, we learned it has the greatest number of waterfalls any where in Malaysia. “About 40 of them, in all, including the famous seven-tiered Maliau Falls and Sabah's only ox-bow lake called Lake Linumunsut."

However, he said conservation required funding and hoped the private sector, local and international, could play a significant role in sustaining and extending Malaysia's conservation efforts. ''This will be crucial in making Maliau Basin Studies Centre a premier facility for tropical rainforest, research and scientific discovery in the region," he added.

-thestar online.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Lutong can be a tourist attraction, says Dr Chan

Lutong could be developed into Miri’s next major tourist attraction due to the charm of its old town. “Tourists would be delighted to visit a more traditional part of the city. It would indeed be a breath of fresh air amongst the modern infrastructure,” Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said during a visit to Lutong Bazaar yesterday. In this respect, he said the government would provide the infrastructure required by the town to become a tourism centre. Dr Chan believed that the growth of tourism in Lutong would help to stop the decline of business in the town.

“Cafe operators can run their cafe the traditional way by grinding coffee beans with a traditional hand grinder. It would indeed be an eye-opening for the public and tourists alike,” Dr Chan said. Touching on the cleanliness of Lutong river, Dr Chan said he would try to seek the help of Shell to clean up the river as well as to beautify two parks in the vicinity of the town. Lutong is about 20 minutes from Miri City and is where Shell built Malaysia’s first oil refinery.
-thestar online.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

SIA fuel surcharges up, but MAS and AirAsia yet to decide on any hike

PETALING JAYA: The second round of fuel surcharges imposed by Singapore Airlines (SIA) and its unit SilkAir in just over a month will trigger an industry-wide reaction, especially since jet fuel prices have breached the US$110 per barrel mark. Qantas was first to respond to say that a fuel surcharge imposition was imminent even though Australian carriers have some protection from the high value of the Aussie dollar against the US currency, in which oil is traded.

However, carriers in Malaysia have yet to decide on any fuel surcharges even though AirAsia group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes said that “we won't burden consumers. We have learnt from the last fuel crisis.'' He added that “we are not affected by the higher jet fuel prices. The airline and its associates (Thai AirAsia and Indo AirAsia) are doing very well and there is plenty of ancillary income'' to offset any rise in jet fuel cost.

File pic shows Azran Osman-Rani, CEO of AirAsia X, speaking at a press conference in Tokyo on Dec. 10, 2010. The Malaysia's long-haul budget carrier launched flights to Tokyo on Dec. 9. - AP

An analyst with a local brokerage concurred with Fernandes and added that the impact of the jet fuel hike for now on AirAsia's bottomline would be minimal. However, if jet fuel prices were to rise further, all airlines would be impacted.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is bullish about passenger traffic growth this year but has also warned that due to higher fuel costs, a fall in profits for the airlines from US$15.1bil in 2010 to US$9.1bil can be expected this year.

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) could not comment whether it would follow SIA's footsteps to impose fuel surcharges as its senior management team was involved in an in-house management programme. Nor could its subsidiary Firefly be reached for comment.

However, MAS managing director Tengku Datuk Seri Azmil Zahruddindid say earlier that the airline would monitor the situation closely.

Singapore Airlines and SilkAir to impose second round of fuel surcharges in just over a month.

The local carriers are laggards; they will not impose fuel surcharges until other players such as Cathay Pacific, Garuda and Thai Airways do so, according to an analyst. Whether it is now or later, any fuel surcharge imposition “would not be good for travellers' wallets but airlines have made it a habit of passing part of their fuel cost to travellers in the form of fuel surcharges or higher ticket fares,'' said a source.

IATA concluded in its January CFO survey that unit costs would increase significantly this year for airlines. For AirAsia, every US$1 rise in jet fuel meant its cost rose by RM17.8mil whereas for MAS it was a RM42.3mil rise given its wider network and bigger cost base, said an analyst. “The breakeven point for the airlines is when jet fuel prices reach US$160 and US$130 a barrel respectively for AirAsia and MAS. Only then would they have to worry about profitability,'' he said. He was of the view that the current rise in jet fuel prices was temporary and it should retrace. His prediction was that jet fuel would average US$90 a barrel this year while IATA's forecast was US$84 a barrel. IATA added that 30% of the industry's fuel needs were hedged this year but could not give the average hedge price.

MAS had 30% of its fuel hedged at US$100 a barrel this year and with jet fuel at US$110 a barrel, it was already out of the money, said an analyst. AirAsia has not declared how much of its fuel is hedged this year, but last year about 15% of its total group fuel consumption was hedged. The airline had in 2008 abandoned its hedging policy, opting for spot buying to meet its needs after its hedges had turned sour and it was forced to make huge provisions for them. Despite the rising jet fuel prices, analysts still have a “buy'' call on both stocks. For the full-year 2010, an analyst expects AirAsia group to report RM924mil in net profit and RM1.06bil for the current year. For MAS, he reckons it would be RM700mil net profit for 2011 and this is on assumption that jet fuel prices will be at the US$110 a barrel level.

On Friday, SIA and SilkAir said they would increase fuel surcharges for tickets issued on or after Jan 27 due to the recent sharp rise in the price of jet fuel. It said the price of jet fuel was above US$110 a barrel. The rise is between US$3 and US$27 per sector. This is its second increase in fuel surcharges since Dec 2, when jet fuel prices were above US$95 per barrel. Before December, the last increase was in June 2008. There were three fuel surcharge cuts in September and November 2008 and in February 2009, SIA said.

Carriers in the United States such as Delta, United, Continental, and US Airways have increased their fares to match rising costs and two Indian airlines, Kingfisher and Jet Airways, raised their fuel surcharges by up to US$4 per ticket on Jan 1.

-thestar online.

Ninth Tune Hotel in Malaysia opens

KOTA BARU: Barely three years after the inception of Tune Hotels, a total of one million people have stayed in its 12 hotels locally and abroad, confirming that it is one of the fastest-growing hotel chains in the region. Tune Hotels chief executive officer Mark Lankaster said the limited service model offers value for money. “We always listen to our guests and strive to meet their needs and expectations. “Recently, we removed the RM10.90 administration fee across our entire chain. “Guests now only pay for the room,” Lankaster told reporters after the soft launch of the 12th Tune Hotel here on Sunday. He added Tune Hotels enjoy a 95% occupancy rate on any given day.

The opening of the Kota Baru hotel brings Tune Hotel properties in Malaysia to nine, the last hotel was opened in Bintulu on Jan 3. Three other Tune properties are located in Kuta and Legian in Bali and one in London. Lankaster revealed that by the end of next year, a total of six hotels woud be built. “The Kota Baru hotel completes our framework to cover the northern, southern, central, eastern and western regions of the country and from next year we would be concentrating on building hotels beyond Malaysian shores,” he said.

-thestar online.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Middle East-ASEAN traffic boom for Unique Choice

Indonesia is proving to be a fast-growing tourist destination for Riyadh-based Unique Choice who recently appointed a Jakarta-based resident director for hotel contracting from February 1 just after it started selling the country slightly over a year ago. CEO Zawfir Ziard said the tour operator sent 1,800 passengers to Indonesia in 2010, and anticipates the Middle East market to the country to grow to 2,000 pax this year. He added that last year's passenger numbers to Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand were 16,000, 6,000 and 3,000 respectively, with expectations of a 60 per cent growth in 2011. Driving the numbers were the Middle East's strong economy and increased air links to the three countries, explained Zawfir. Unique's clientele is mainly leisure traffic from the UAE, Qatar and Oman. 
-TTG Asia.

Conserving the Bornean leopard

KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah Wildlife Department wants to launch a Bornean clouded leopard captive breeding programme at the Kota Kinabalu Lok Kawi Wildlife Park. The move follows the discovery of the endangered leopard. The Bornean clouded leopard is a unique subspecies distinctly different from their relatives in Sumatra. Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said the uniqueness of the Bornean clouded leopard put it on the high priority list for conservation. He noted it has already been listed as endangered on the International Union of Conser vation of Nature Red List.

Unique breed: A close-up photograph of the Bornean clouded leopard taken in Sabah’s Deramakor Forest Reserve last year. – Wilting and Mohamed.

“To maintain the diversity of the species, Sumatran and Bornean clouded leopards need to be managed separately in cap- tive breeding programmes,” said Dr Laurentius. Currently, this clouded leopard species, the largest carnivore in Borneo, is not kept in any European or American zoo. The leopard was first caught on camera in the wild in Sabah’s central Deramakot Forest Reserve last year. An international team of research scientists led by the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research, Berlin, in cooperation with the Sabah Wildlife Department, had only recently classified the Borneo clouded leopard (neofelis diardi borneensis) as distinct from its relatives in Sumatra by using genetic and morphological analyses.

-thestar online.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Tune Hotels buka cawangan di Kota Bharu

KOTA BHARU, 23 Jan. - Pengendali hotel bajet bertaraf lima bintang, Tune hari ini membuka cawangan pertamanya di pusat bandar Kota Bharu, iaitu cawangan pertama hotel berkenaan di Pantai Timur. Ketua Eksekutif Kumpulan Tune, Mark Lankester berkata, cawangan hotel itu yang berkapasiti 173 bilik dan menelan kos RM20 juta, mula beroperasi hari ini dan menerima 40 pelanggan terawal. "Kedudukan hotel ini di pusat bandar Kota Bharu adalah strategik kepada pelancong dan menjadi tumpuan umum dan ia diyakini menjadi tempat untuk kami meluaskan lagi empayar perniagaan di Wilayah Pantai Timur,” katanya kepada pemberita di sini.

- Bernama

Tuning in to more hotels in Sarawak

TUNE Hotels plans to have at least four more hotels in Sarawak under its operation with the Sibu and Miri hotel branches targeted to be operational by this year. Tune Hotels East Malaysia regional manager Shanmugamnathan Suppiah said the group was also looking at the possibility of expanding its operations to Mukah and Tanjung Manis due to the growing economic presence there. “Our plan for Sibu and Miri is progressing well and we have received several proposals from interested parties,” he said after briefing travel agents here. The group now has two hotel branches in the state - Kuching which started its operation in 2009 and Bintulu on Jan 3.

Stay with us: Shanmugamnathan (second from left) and Kuching hotel manager Donna Ong (left) posing for a photograph in front of the hotel’s reception counter with the staff.

There are 135 and 101 rooms at its Kuching and Bintulu hotel branches respectively. Meanwhile, head of government business and relations Shamsul Salim said the group had also set its eyes on overseas expansion following its successful ventures in setting up two hotel branches in Bali and one in Westminster, London. “We are looking at expanding to New Zealand, Australia and probably Paris. But Singapore is not on our radar of expansion due to the high cost involved,” he said.

Shamsul said the group would set up its next hotel branch in Kota Baru on Jan 23 which comes with 172 rooms. Shanmugamnathan revealed that its Kuching hotel branch had so far hit 85% occupancy rate on a consistent basis. “The occupancy rate is up to our expectation and we are targeting for more. Expansion is definitely in our plans for Kuching if we keep maintain ing a high occupancy rate” he said.

Co-founded by AirAsia’s Datuk Tony Fernandes, Tune Hotels is a limited service hotel brand that provides “5-Star Beds at 1 Star Prices” with high-quality accommodation basics of comfortable beds, power showers and clean, central and secure locations. The costs are kept low by employing a limited service concept eliminating traditional full service facilities like meeting rooms, swimming pools, business centres and gyms. It comes with a self service demand-based online booking system with best prices for advance bookings. Guests staying at Tune Hotels also have the capability to “design your stay” via pay-as-you-use add-ons such as toiletries, air-conditioning and WiFi.

-thestar online.

Malaysia wants orang utans abroad to 'come home'

KOTA KINABALU: Malaysia will help non-governmental organisations to bring back orang-utans from zoos abroad and rehabilitate them in their native environment in Sabah. Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Tan Sri Bernard Dompok said that the government was keen to assist in the rescue of displaced orang utans currently placed in zoos in Europe and United Kingdom.

He said one obese orang utan named Oshine, highlighted by the international media, was rescued from a private owner in South Africa and was now being rehabilitated at Monkey World in Dorset, UK. “It is being put on a diet in the centre as it had grown too fat and has apparently never seen another orang utan until it arrived at Monkey World,” he said during a dialogue with Sabah NGOs regarding issues pertaining to plantations. “I told them (NGOs) this is one thing (rescuing orang utans) that they may want to do and the government will give all the assistance to help them get back the displaced apes,” he added.

He said there was no reason for the orang utans to suffer in the cold north European climate as there was ample space for orang utans in the forests of Sabah. Weighing about 100kgs, Oshine, a 13-year-old orang utan, was raised by a South African couple who fed him marshmallows and other sweets. It is now on a strict diet of of fruit, yoghurt, lean meat and vegetables in Monkey World. According to news reports, Monkey World carers were working towards reducing Oshine’s weight to about 70kgs and teach it to be an orang utan again by letting it live next to baby orang utans.

-thestar online.

Menara setinggi 135 meter bakal jadi mercu tanda baru di Langkawi

LANGKAWI 22 Jan. – Sebuah menara setinggi 135 meter dengan dua ciri istimewa iaitu menara peninjau dan sebuah restoran, yang dianggar menelan kos lebih RM10 juta akan dibina sebagai mercu tanda baru pulau peranginan ini. Bekas Perdana Menteri, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad berkata beliau yakin pembinaan menara yang dirancang sejak lebih 20 tahun itu bakal menjadi tarikan baru pelancongan. “Saya diberi penghormatan menamakan menara itu, tapi belum dapat nama yang sesuai sehingga kini,” katanya pada sidang akhbar selepas majlis pecah tanah di tapak pembinaan menara itu di Pantai Kuah hari ini.

Beliau berkata menara itu akan membolehkan lebih 50 pengunjung berada di tingkat atas pada satu-satu masa dan pelancong dapat melihat pemandangan indah di sekelilingnya, termasuk ketika matahari terbenam. Selain itu, pengunjung boleh menikmati makanan di sebuah restoran yang akan ditempatkan di menara tersebut.

Sementara itu, Menteri Besar Kedah Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak berkata kerajaan negeri menyokong pembinaan menara tersebut. “Kita memberi kemudahan kepada syarikat yang hendak membangunkan menara itu,” katanya ketika ditemui pada majlis pecah tanah itu. Pengerusi Eksekutif Syarikat Blackrock, Datuk Abu Hassan Mohamed sebagai pemaju projek itu berkata, tanah seluas 11.33 hektar di pesisir pantai berhampiran Kuah akan ditebus guna pada bulan depan. Beliau berkata projek pembinaan menara itu akan bermula Mac ini dan dijangka siap dalam tempoh 24 bulan.

Katanya, sebuah pusat sehenti pelancongan dan gerai makanan yang menghidangkan juadah tempatan akan turut dibina di kawasan menara sebagai tarikan. Selain itu, kawasan nelayan di situ akan dibangunkan untuk manfaat bersama.


Saturday, 22 January 2011

le tour de Langkawi 2011

Start and Finish

Stage 1Sunday, 23 January 2011
Dataran Helang - Pekan Kuah
94.3 kms

Stage 2Monday, 24 January 2011
Kangar - Butterworth
145.0 kms

Stage 3Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Taiping - Sitiawan
144.9 kms

Stage 4Wednesday, 26 January 2011
Ayer Tawar - Cameron Highlands
137.6 kms

Stage 5Thursday, 27 January 2011
Tapah - Genting Highlands
124.3 kms

Stage 6Friday, 28 January 2011
Rawang - Putrajaya
107.0 kms

Stage 7Saturday, 29 January 2011
Banting - Tampin
149.5 kms

Stage 8Sunday, 30 January 2011Kuala Pilah - Jasin156.5 kms

Stage 9Monday, 31 January 2011Melaka - Nilai151.7 kms

Stage 10Tuesday, 1 February 2011UITM Shah Alam - KL Loop104.6 kms

TOTAL DISTANCE : 1315.4 kms