Saturday, 30 April 2011

Pedestrian strip mall to open in September

A New landmark in the capital city — a pedestrian strip mall called KL CityWalk — is set to open in September. The 500m row of shops fronting Jalan P. Ramlee and Jalan Pinang, will be made up of about 50 outlets, 23 kiosks and 19 carts.

Apart from restaurants, bistros and cafes including a famous local noodle shop from Kampung Baru, KL CityWalk’s attractions will include a local handbag design team that supports an indigenous Thai hilltribe, art dealers and fashion and lifestyle boutiques. A full concierge service will be made available to provide information to tourists and other visitors while a box office will enable patrons to buy tickets for performances in the Klang Valley.

Calming walk: KL CityWalk will incorporate greenery as one of its striking features.

KL CityWalk itself will be an entertainment spot as an events space will be set up for entertainment and cultural performances. Built at a cost of RM15mil by Go Venture Sdn Bhd, the mall will be managed by CityWalk Enterprises Sdn Bhd. Inspiration for the mall came from the Portobello Market in London, Zeil in Frankfurt as well as Xintiandi in Shanghai. The strip mall is in line with City Hall’s vision to create an iconic location that is available in other cities around the world.

Ronnie Choong, group managing director of Trend Matrix Enterprise Sdn Bhd, the parent company of Go Venture, said construction work on KL CityWalk began in 2007 and the certificate of fitness was issued just two months ago. He said tenants were expected to open their outlets in July and August followed by a soft launch before the grand opening in September.

“A lot of tourists and locals like to take a stroll in the city but the malls are usually closed, so KL CityWalk will offer something different. “We are featuring local designers, infusing our multiculture and heritage into this,” he said. He added that with the LRT and monorail stations close by, the strip mall was conveniently located for pedestrians.

On traffic assessment for the area, Choong said they had taken car parking into consideration to allow people to park in nearby hotels and buildings in the area. “About 8,000 parking bays are available in the surrounding buildings. “We are expecting thousands of people to visit the walk all day long,” he said. Asked about the difference between KL City Walk and Kasturi Walk near the Central Market, Choong said KL CityWalk was a full-fledged mall with events, F&B and a greenery project. For details, call 03-2170 6688 or log on to

-thestar online.

Firefly to offer new menu with hot meals

PETALING JAYA: Firefly has introduced a new menu with an Asian flavour on board its Boeing 737 flights. In a statement, it said passengers would be able to enjoy the additional option of hot meals.

The airlines marketing and communications head Angelina Fernandez said the newly-revised menu offers an array of fresh, modern and traditional taste. The new menu includes asam-pedas fish with steamed rice, chicken sambal with lemon-grass rice, vegetable briyani for vegetarians and sweet-sour fish with fried egg noodles. Fernandez said Firefly wanted everything on the menu to reflect its positioning as a community focused airline.
-thestar online.

Friday, 29 April 2011

New angle to revamped store

THE Royal Selangor store at Suria KLCC is the latest to receive the 126-year-old pewter brand’s new retail identity. Fusing traditional and modern elements, the design of the store draws inspiration from the source of pewter – the tin mines. With the use of different materials, textures mixed with neutral colour tones, the new store has a calm ambience.

A special highlight of the store is the angular shaped wall resembling an oversized rock of tin ore. The doors to the store and cashier counter feature an intricate mengkuang weave motif. The creative use of the geometric pattern reflects a rich heritage.

Commenting on the store revamp, Royal Selangor Marketing general manager Chen Tien Yue said, “We love how our new stores look and we believe our loyal Suria KLCC customers will too. We now have a tighter range of designs in this store which should make it easier for our customers to find that perfect gift.”

Intricate details: The main doors to the store feature mengkuang weave motif

Comyns, a 350-year-old sterling silver brand under the Royal Selangor Group of Companies, is also located in the store. The Comyns section displays a variety of sterling silver decorative tableware, interpretative works and also personal accessories.

Royal Selangor recently launched its Spring 2011 collections comprising children’s gifts, portable tea caddies along with desk, cigar and wine accessories. The collection is now available at the Royal Selangor Suria KLCC store and other outlets. For more information, log on to

-thestar online.

AirAsia fuel surcharge returns due to oil price hike

KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia will re-introduce a fuel surcharge for all domestic and international routes beginning May 3. However, all flight bookings made before May 3 will not be affected by the fuel surcharge.

AirAsia regional head of commercial Kathleen Tan said the re-introduction of the fuel surcharge was to offset the escalating jet fuel price that had exceeded US$140 (RM414) per barrel. “We hope that this will only be a temporary measure,” she said in a statement Friday.

The fuel surcharge (one way) for all domestic flights is RM10. For international routes, the fuel surcharge is RM10 for flights that are less than two hours, RM20 for those that are two to three hours and RM30 for flights above three hours. The fuel surcharge for AirAsia X routes to Taipei, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Seoul, Tianjin, New Delhi and Mumbai is RM50; RM70 for Melbourne, Gold Coast, Perth, Tokyo and Teheran; and RM90 for Paris, Stansted (London) and Christchurch.

-thestar online.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Malaysia expects more tourists from Australia and New Zealand

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia can expect more tourists from Australia and New Zealand as their currency remained strong against the ringgit, despite the strengthening ringgit. “We expect inbound tourism from Australia and New Zealand, as well as China and India to increase in the near future,” said Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen. Mastercard spending during the 2010 Megasale period recorded Australians as the biggest spenders, followed by Singaporeans and Americans.

On Feb 4, the ringgit hit a 13-year high and was expected to steadily appreciate against the US dollar. While the ringgit had also strengthened against the euro and pound, it remained weaker to the Australian dollar. “The strengthening ringgit should not adversely affect foreign spending, as we have other incentives to attract tourist, like duty-free on luxury items,” said Dr Ng, during the launch of Christofle's flagship store in Starhill Gallery.

According to Dr Ng, shopping was a major contributor to the tourism economy in Malaysia and was expected to rise steadily over the next few years. In 2010, 27% of tourism earnings recorded was from shopping.
-thestar online.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Lotus acquires British sports car maker Caterham

LONDON (AP) - Caterham Cars moved into the glamorous world of Formula One on Wednesday when Team Lotus announced the acquisition of the great British sports car manufacturer. Lotus purchased Caterham, which specializes in making small lightweight sports cars, for an undisclosed sum from venture capitalist group Corven, in a deal labeled "the perfect partnership" by the F1 team.

Caterham's most famous car is the Seven, which was designed by Colin Chapman - the founder of the original Team Lotus. He sold the rights of the Seven to Caterham in 1973. Lotus said the deal will allow Caterham to "expand its brand profile and product family." "Caterham has a unique place at the heart of the motoring world," Lotus owner Tony Fernandes said. "As well as being proudly and staunchly British, it has an enviable and uniquely unblemished reputation within the industry for performance, handling and engineering excellence.

"It is already a successful business with sales across Europe, Japan, Australia and the Middle East ... we now have all the ingredients and the launch pad to further evolve that spirit and take Caterham to new exciting horizons." Caterham's existing management team, headed up by managing director and former Lotus Cars executive Ansar Ali, will remain in place.

In the last five years, Ansar has created Caterham's first brand new model in 15 years, the SP/300.R sports prototype racer. "While the Seven will now have the global springboard it deserves and will continue to be evolved yet further," Ali said, "we also have the opportunity to expand the Caterham family beyond the Seven and SP/300.R and breathe new life into our uniquely respected brand and mature it into a truly global business."

-thestar online.

Malacca to impose 5% 'heritage' tax on tourists

MALACCA: Hoteliers in the state will be required to impose a 5% 'heritage' tax on room rates from Sept 1, said Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam. He said the decision to impose the new tax, which will affect some 193 hotels and resorts, was reached during the weekly exco meeting.

"The tax is crucial for the beautification, maintenance, conservation and promotion of heritage sites here," he told reporters here Wednesday. He said assessment tax and quit rent collected were insufficient to upkeep these sites, hence it was necessary to impose the heritage fee.

Mohd Ali added that some RM12mil was expected to be collected annually from the 11,000 rooms of various types offered in the state. Asked whether the new ruling would have a negative impact on the state's tourism, Mohd Ali said it would instead promote growth of the local tourism industry.

-thestar online.

Inbound agents wary of strengthening ringgit

Inbound agents in Malaysia are anticipating that the strengthening of the ringgit against the US dollar will make the destination more expensive. The ringgit reached a 13-year high of 2.99 against the dollar on Monday, and is expected to continue to rally higher in the short-term.

Yap Sook Ling, managing director of Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel, believes that the pinch would be felt in the next contracting season in November. This is the period when the company would also have to add a buffer for exchange rate fluctuations, as well as an increase in the cost of living, which will result in ground arrangements becoming more expensive. She anticipates that package prices would increase by 15 to 20 per cent for the next season. She said: “That’s a lot. To price sensitive markets such as longhaul markets, outbound agents' main concern will be the higher prices. It will make the destination become more expensive, compared to regional destinations such as Thailand, Bali and Vietnam.”

Red Apple Travel & Tours is a major player in the Indian inbound market. Managing director, Arokia Das Anthony, said: “Our margins are already low, as India inbound is a volume market. We have to bite the bullet for whatever has been quoted and guaranteed. “For the next contracting season, we will work on a different rate of exchange, bearing in mind that we will also have to ensure the destination remains competitive.”

To minimise risk of losses due to currency fluctuations, Tina Travel & Agencies managing director, Adam Kamal, has included a clause in the confidential tariff given to partner agents, where rates are subjected to change upon confirmation of bookings.
-TTG Asia.

Agents see strong ringgit as boon for outbound

With the ringgit strengthening against the US dollar, outbound travel from Malaysia is expected to pick up, especially to destinations tied to the greenback. The ringgit has been steadily appreciating against the greenback and is currently pegged at RM2.99 to the dollar. “As the US dollar is used by many suppliers, including cruises to the Baltic and Mediterranean, this bodes well for us, as our products are very attractively priced,” said Jebsen Travel & Tours Services managing director Lim Chee Tong, who is expecting a 20 per cent rise in cruise bookings.

“America has not been so popular over the years because of the strict visa restrictions, but due to changes, plus the currency depreciation and also the Middle East unrest, we will probably see a rise of travel here,” said Apple Vacations & Conventions managing director Koh Yock Heng. “Europe continues to be hugely popular due to the lower euro, which is now around RM4.30.”

Malaysian Harmony Tour and Travel chief executive officer Cooper Huang is certain that there would be a gradual impact. “The growth in our travel segment has been rising progressively due to the falling dollar.”
-TTG Asia.

Resorts World Genting ready for Indian summer

Resorts World Genting is on track to cater to the Indian market, with the availability of more rooms after renovations were completed at many hotels. The market experienced room shortage during last year's summer peak travel season. Red Apple Travel & Tours managing director, Arokia Das Anthony, said it was easy to confirm bookings for the Indian summer season, which is from mid-April until the first week of July.

He said: “With room availability at Resorts World Genting, it makes it easier for us to promote the destination to meeting and incentive groups from India. The Indian MICE movements usually take place from July onwards.”

Anthony has already confirmed six meeting and incentive groups from India for July. Each group will have over 100 people. Last year, the resort had about 5,000 guests during this period. For this year, Red Apple forecasts a 30 per cent increase in FITs and groups.
-TTG Asia.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

MAS previews promotion in Jakarta

MALAYSIA AIRLINES (MAS) is allotting a minimum of 150,000 seats for Indonesia during its one-month Global Deal, Dream Gateway promotion. Launched in Jakarta yesterday, an average reduction of up to 65 per cent off the normal price for economy and business class seats is on offer. The lowest price for Indonesia is the Medan-Kuala Lumpur route, which starts from US$2 for an economy class one-way (fuel surcharge, insurance and airport tax not included), and the highest is US$955 from six Indonesian gateways to Europe. The promotion is valid for sales between April 25 and May 24, with a travel period until March 31, 2012.


MAS executive vice president sales & marketing, Dato' Bernard Francis, said: "The mega sale is in line with our new products. "We have done a lot of branding exercises. We have received new aircraft and will have more,” he said. “We are inviting customers to experience the value of our services.” The promotion is also part of the airline's effort to stimulate the “slight dampening” traffic due to the high fuel price and Japan disaster.


When asked why MAS picked Jakarta over Kuala Lumpur for its promo launch, Francis said: “Indonesia is a very important market for MAS. Business from Indonesia has grown by 15 per cent annually in the last three years.” MAS is expecting a revenue of US$10 million from the promotion. The airline has 89 flights between Malaysia and Indonesia per week, with a country average load factor of 75 per cent, according to MAS area manager, Indonesia, Roslan Ismail. MAS regional senior vice president ASEAN region, Muzammil Mohamad, said: “The mega sale is a good opportunity to fly beyond Kuala Lumpur with MAS, as we have convenient connections.”

-TTG Asia.

New website to attract more tourists

JOHOR BARU: The government is hoping to attract more tourists to its administrative capital in Kota Iskandar through the launch of a new website recently. State Tourism and Domestic Trade committee chairman Hoo Seong Chang said Kota Iskandar received about 10,000 visitors last year. “We know that there is more potential to expand tourism activities here and hope that the new website will be able to attract a larger number of tourists,” he said.

Hoo said the state targeted about 5,000 potential tourists to log on to the website which will give them the latest information on tour packages and places of interest within Kota Iskandar. “The website will also promote areas near Kota Iskandar including Tanjung Piai, Pontian and even tourists attractions within Johor Baru,” he said. Hoo added that the website will also contain information on coming attractions within Kota Iskandar and its surrounding areas.

“Next year, Legoland and many other attractions are expected to open and it would be more convenient is all the information relating to these attractions is made available on one website,” he said. He added that with the website, he was confident that the number of tourists to the area would increase.

Commenting on the new portal, Cahaya Jauhar Sdn Bhd (CJSB) CEO, Mohd Auzir Mohd Tahir said the website was set up by the company, UEM land and the Johor government.
He said the website is important as it also offers attractive tour packages to tourists at the click of a button. “Currently, we are training 60 tourists guides who will take charge of visitors frequenting Kota Iskandar. “These guides will be able to offer in depth information on the area and hopefully allow for tourists to appreciate their visit more,” he said. Those who want to refer to the website’s content can log on to
-thestar online.

More fruit trees for PD hotel

Thistle Port Dickson marked Earth Day recently by adding three more fruit species to its “Eco Park”, bringing the number of flora and fruit species planted at its sprawling 36ha grounds to more than 80. The inaugural event, themed “Trees-tle Day”, was held to mark its commitment to preserve the environment and to promote eco-tourism. Thistle Port Dickson regional general manager Dean Rossilli, Port Dickson Municipal Council Abu Bakar Deli and Negri Sembilan Journalists’ Association head Muhammad Rais Yeop Johari planted three saplings — mango, rambutan and guava — to mark the event.

The other fruit tree species planted at the hotel’s park are longan, duku, chempedak, banana, breadfruit and coconut. There is also a wide range of flora such as Chinese fan palm, hurricane palm, tamarind, pony tail, iron wood and cashew nut. Rossilli said the Eco Park was a popular spot among its guests expecially foreigners who enjoyed strolling in the area. “Although the name, Trees-tle Day is in jest, the objective behind it is very real. “The event is to remind us to be grateful to Mother Earth for the environment we are blessed with and the role each of us must play to preserve this for our future generations,” he said. Rossilli said despite having many attractions, it was unfortunate that Port Dickson’s beauty was often overlooked by foreign tourists.

Citing examples, he said apart from its sandy beaches, Port Dickson’s Cape Rachado was a popular stop for migratory raptors and Sg Linggi was famous for its estuarine crocodiles and Monkey Island for its ape species. He said the event also complemented Tourism Negri Sembilan’s newly announced “Back to Nature” slogan. “I would also like to congratulate Tourism Negri Sembilan for breathing new life into the theme,” he said.

Formerly known as Guoman, Thistle Port Dickson was unveiled in mid-2009 after a RM20mil facelift. The property is managed by Hong Leong Group subsidiary Thistle Hotels.

-thestar online.

2,000 take upgraded Penang Hill train

GEORGE TOWN: A honeymooning couple from Saudi Arabia was among some 2,000 tourists and locals who boarded the Penang Hill funicular train, which resumed operations after a lapse of 14 months. Alaa Abduallae, 30, and Wafaa Ali, 23, were thrilled to take the 10-minute ride up the hill. “However, the train was going too fast for us to snap any good photographs,” Alaa said.

The train will run for charity till April 30. The return fare for the charity ride is RM10 for adults. It is free for children aged 12 and below. The proceeds will go to the Penang Welfare Department to help underprivileged people identified by the state government. The service started at 6.30am yesterday. Among those who tried it was a group of 37 Year Five students and three teachers of SK Pulai in Baling. Their counselling teacher Khaizuran Isa said they made the trip to give students an opportunity to ride on the train. “We want to expose them to new things and let them learn about tourist spots,” she said.

Penangites Les Leong and Jane Ooi, both in their 30s, also brought their six-year-old twin sons to enjoy the train ride to a friend's birthday party on Penang Hill. “This is their second time on the train. They were very excited and said that the ride was faster than the previous tram,” Ooi said.

From May 1, the return fare for Malaysians will be RM8 for adults (below 55 years) and RM4 for children (aged three to 12). Senior citizens (aged 55 and above) and Malaysian students will enjoy a reduced rate of RM4. For foreigners, the return fare is RM30 (for adults) and RM15 (for children aged three to 12). The revamped train service runs from 6.30am to 9.30pm daily.

The service was suspended since Feb 22 last year for the RM73mil upgrading project by the Tourism Ministry.
Penang Hill Corporation marketing and promotion division senior assistant manager Anne Goh said 1,500 people rode on the train from 6.30am till 4pm.
-thestar online.

Monday, 25 April 2011

MASwings offers special airfares to Sabah and Sarawak

KUCHING: MASwings is currently offering a special promotion with all-inclusive fares applicable for travel from here, Kota Kinabalu, Miri, Sibu and Sandakan from as low as RM84. Dubbed 'Borneo Breakaway', the promotion aims to provide customers with a quick getaway during the Labour Day holiday on May 1. The offer, from Monday to April 29, is for travel on its outbound routes between April 27 and Jan 31, 2012.

MASwings corporate communications said in a statement that customers wishing to grab the Borneo Breakaway promotion must make purchase two days in advance. Under the promotion, the all-inclusive fare from Kuching to Sibu is priced at RM90, to Miri and Bintulu from RM114 and to Mulu from RM140. The rate offer from Miri to Mulu starts from RM86, to Limbang and Bintulu from RM88, to Labuan from RM92 and to Sibu from RM108.

Passengers from Kota Kinabalu will also enjoy fares from RM93 to Sandakan, RM95 to Lahad Datu, RM96 to Tawau, RM99 to Miri, RM103 to Labuan, RM123 to Mulu, RM136 to Bintulu and RM138 to Sibu. According to the statement, a total of 300,000 seats were up for grabs during this promotion which, mostly, represent a discount of up to 70%.

Customers can check on promotion fares and flight schedules online at
The fares are also available at all Malaysia Airlines ticketing offices and through its call centre at 1300 88 3000.
-thestar online.

AirAsia Kuala Lumpur-Kochi flights lift India inbound business

Inbound agents from India are experiencing double-digit growth in business, slightly over a year after AirAsia began direct daily services between Kuala Lumpur and Kochi in November 2009. AirAsia is currently the only carrier servicing this route. With direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Kerala’s commercial capital, three inbound agents agreed that it was easier to promote Kerala to the Malaysian market as a complete mono-holiday destination.

Indus Travel Company director, Punit Bhasin, said that without direct flights, Kerala only used to be part of a tour programme combining Chennai or Mumbai. Length of a typical stay used to be two nights, but has now increased to five nights. He added that the direct flights had grown his business from the Malaysian market to Kerala by 50 per cent.

Go India Journeys manager, Australasia & Far East market, Kumar Guru, said his inbound business from Malaysia to Kerala has improved by at least 75 per cent. He said AirAsia’s flights out of Kuala Lumpur to Kochi had also attracted traffic from neighbouring countries such as Indonesia, The Philippines and Thailand to use Kuala Lumpur to connect to Kochi. He said the biggest attractions for the Far East market to Kerala are Ayurveda treatments and cruising the backwaters in houseboats, also known as Kettuvalloms.

Pioneer Personalized Holidays director, Ranju Joseph, said the Malaysian traffic he received were mainly FIT travelers and this segment had grown by some 30 per cent. He said: “This is also a price-sensitive market. Customer expectations of hotel properties do not match their perception of value, and this is our biggest challenge. We are now identifying better properties for the budget segment.”

Bhasin also agreed that the Malaysian market is price sensitive. He said his challenge is to create experiences with a small budget. “I believe more affluent travelers will start travelling to Kerala, as Ayurveda treatments become increasingly popular. It will then become easier to promote the destination, and people will be willing to spend more for their holiday experiences,” he said.
-TTG Asia.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

North Korea demand to rise with Air Koryo connection

With North Korea’s national carrier Air Koryo launching its twice-weekly flights from Pyongyang to Kuala Lumpur this week, tour operators in the Malaysian capital are expecting the new air link to drive demand to the reclusive nation. Mayflower Travel’s group director/general manager, Chin Ten Hoy, said: “When Malaysian Airlines organised a visit there some time ago, places were completely taken up. So with Air Koryo offering direct flights to Pyongyang, we can most certainly expect demand.”


“Many people want to go to North Korea because this country has been closed off for decades, so everyone is wondering what it is like,” said Chin. “People are curious to see how different it is from South Korea, what its people, the food, and the way of life are like.” Air Koryo, the first airline to offer direct scheduled flights between Kuala Lumpur and Pyongyang, will be operating this route on Mondays and Thursdays, with the 142-seater TU-204 Next Generation Tupolev aircraft. Air Koryo’s network also covers Beijing and Shenyang in China, Vladivostok and Moscow in Russia, as well as Bangkok in Thailand.

-TTG Asia.

Branson charity flight put off to July 4

PETALING JAYA: Billionaire Sir Richard Branson's stewardess act has been postponed again this time due to the royal weddingAirAsia announced that the charity flight had been rescheduled to July 4 due to Prince William and Kate Middleton's royal wedding on April 29. In a statement yesterday, AirAsia said the May 1 flight from London to Kuala Lumpur had to be postponed to help address the growing difficulty in obtaining accommodation and flights into London around that time.

“This is brought about by the increase in the number of people visiting London over the long bank holiday weekend and the royal wedding. “The flight will now be rescheduled to depart from London for Kuala Lumpur on July 4. The new date also provides guests better access and comfort for travel into and within London,” it said. Branson, who lost a Formula One bet, is to serve as an AirAsia “stewardess” on the long-haul flight, dressed in the budget airline's striking red uniform.

He will also have his legs shaven in public for charity before departing from Stansted Airport. “Those who have purchased tickets for the charity flight on will be given a full refund or the option to transfer the booking to the new date,” AirAsia said.

-thestar online.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Virgin boss to fulfil lost bet

PETALING JAYA: The new date has been set. Virgin Atlantic founder Sir Richard Branson will turn into an AirAsia X flight “stewardess” on May 1. AirAsia chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes tweeted “it’s official” yesterday, referring to the billionaire’s latest date with AirAsia X.

“Special AirAsia X flight. Seats on sale at AirAsiaGo. All money (will go) to charity. DJ and Eddie Jordan will be performing,” he continued in his tweet. Branson had lost a bet to Fernandes and was to serve as a “stewardess” on the AirAsia X flight from London to Kuala Lumpur on Feb 21.

Coffee, tea or me? : Branson will be serving on an AirAsia X flight from London to Kuala Lumpur.

However, the date was put off after the billionaire injured his knee and could not put on the high heels to go with the stewardess outfit. Branson, who owns the Virgin Racing Team, had bet that his cars would do better than the Lotus Racing team of Fernandes.

-thestar online.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Malaysia to bid for PATA Annual Conference 2012

PATA will again stage its annual conference in 2012, and already one country has expressed interest in hosting the event, which returned this month after a five-year break. PATA chairman Hiran Cooray said the conference was resurrected due to popular demand. The four-day event drew 1,000 participants across 66 countries and regions, with international delegates comprising almost half of the attendees. He added that the association would soon be inviting bids from countries who were interested to host next year's instalment. Said Cooray: “We are looking at the format of a conference alongside other meetings conducted concurrently to satisfy the requirements of all our members.” Tourism Malaysia acting director general Dato' Azizan Noordin told TTG Asia e-Daily that Malaysia plans to contest as host, adding that the country's strength was its value-for-money proposition. He said having a conference of this nature would also educate the local trade on latest trends and create more awareness for tourism in Malaysia. Hot topics at this year's conference were about education, training and raising the industry's profile. Azizan added that he planned to have discussions on digital marketing, as well as involve more low-cost carriers. “It's been a long time since the PATA conference was held in Malaysia,” said Anthony Wong, group managing director, Asian Overland Services Tourism & Hospitality Group, adding that the last time was during PATA's 50th anniversary in 2001. “We intend to bid and hopefully we'll have more Chapters joining us next year,” he added. -TTG Asia.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Vettel wins F1 Malaysian Grand Prix

SEPANG: Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel won the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix on Sunday, giving the German back-to-back wins to open the season. The pole sitter led throughout to win by 3.2 seconds from McLaren's Jenson Button, with Renault's Nick Heidfeld hanging on for third.

Vettel's Red Bull teammate Mark Webber recovered from a poor start, using a four-stop strategy around the Sepang International circuit to claim fourth place, with Ferrari's Felipe Massa fifth. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton had a collision in the closing laps that dropped them down to sixth and seventh respectively. Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi took eighth place, while Mercedes' Michael Schumacher made a very late passing maneuver to take ninth from Force India's Paul Di Resta, who took the last point in 10th.

Vettel's victory was made more impressive by the malfunctioning of the KERS device on the Red Bull, with the German told midway through the race that he could no longer use it. Webber also appeared to have problems with it, dropping from third to ninth after just one lap. By contrast, both Renaults made storming starts, with Heidfeld moving from sixth to second by the second corner.

With rain surprisingly holding off throughout, the closing stages developed into a fight to see who could make their tires last longest. Button used his trademark tire management to claim second. Heidfeld came under intense pressure in the final laps but managed to hold off Webber.

One of the major talking points was a collision between old rivals Hamilton and Alonso with 10 laps to go. The Ferrari driver tried a switchback passing move on Hamilton but did not quite measure the distance correctly, and snapped off the left endplate of his front wing by nudging Hamilton's right rear tire. Alonso had to pit for a new front wing, while Hamilton struggled thereafter as his tires degraded, and was passed by Heidfeld then Webber before admitting defeat and pitting for new rubber with only three laps left.

-thestar online.

Langkawi tourism to get a boost

LANGKAWI: The Government is planning several proactive measures to give a new lease of life to Langkawi's tourism industry. Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop said focus would be given to the development of eco-tourism as Langkawi had several advantages and unique qualities. "For example, Langkawi has 500 species of butterflies compared with Australia, which has 200.

"However, in the last few years, the island's tourism industry has been rather gloomy or in the doldrums compared to other tourist destinations like Bali and Phuket," he said after attending a meeting on drawing up a plan to develop Langkawi more effectively, here, Sunday. "Another effort will be increasing the number of scheduled and chartered flights from various destinations, and the frequency of boat trips from Penang to Langkawi." Nor Mohamed said the cleanliness level of the ferries plying between Langkawi and Kuala Perlis and Kuala Kedah would also be raised for the comfort of passengers.

He said the Government was confident Langkawi could be a tourist destination that was comparable to Hawaii, Bali and Phuket. He added that close cooperation among various quarters like the Economic Planning Unit, Langkawi Development Authority, Tourism Ministry and the state government was important to successfully develop the resort island. The closed-door meeting was also attended by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, representatives of several government departments and agencies, and tourism operators. 

- Bernama

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Vettel takes pole for Malaysian F1 GP

SEPANG: Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull Racing has claimed pole position for the Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix. The defending world champion qualified a tenth of a second ahead of McLaren's Lewis Hamilton at the Sepang International Circuit on Saturday, with Red Bull's Mark Webber in third and McLaren's Jenson Button fourth. Ferrari's Fernando Alonso will start the race from fifth, while Renault's Nick Heidfeld qualified sixth. Ferrari's Felipe Massa, Renault's Vitaly Petrov, Mercedes' Nico Rosberg and Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi completed the top 10.

For the second race running, Michael Schumacher did not make it into the final session of qualifying - running more than six tenths of a second behind teammate Rosberg - and will start 11th. Including last season, Red Bull has claimed pole position in 17 of the past 21 grands prix. Vettel's 17th career pole tied him on the all-time list with three-time world champion Sir Jackie Stewart.

However, he cut it very fine on Saturday, crossing the start-finish line only four seconds before the chequered flag fell to prevent anyone starting another lap. "So very close in the end with the McLaren guys, so I'm very happy," Vettel said. He was quick to thank his mechanics, who managed to integrate the KERS power-boost system into the chassis, having been forced to forego the device in qualifying and race in Melbourne due to technical difficulties. "That made the difference today," Vettel said. "Without that, we would have been behind the McLaren guys."

Hamilton was disappointed not to take pole, but still encouraged that McLaren got much closer to the Red Bulls here than in Melbourne, where Vettel was eight tenths of a second clear of the field in qualifying. "I don't think we can be disappointed," Hamilton said. "We did a great job to even be up there with the Red Bulls. "These guys (Red Bull) have a bit of an edge, but clearly we have closed the gap a little bit here."

Ferrari, the third of the purported world champion contenders, was again off the pace, with Alonso almost a second behind Vettel's pole time. "We were not quick enough in Australia, not quick enough here," Alonso said. "China is in five days' time, so it's quite a difficult weekend as well." Interestingly, Alonso claimed the Red Bull cars were still not using KERS, despite both its drivers and team principal Christian Horner saying they were.

All 24 cars will start the race, as all drivers were within seven percent of the fastest car in the first sector of qualifying. The Hispania cars missed out in Australia due to that seven percent rule, but were comfortably inside the threshold on Saturday in an encouraging showing. The first session of qualifying was red-flagged when the entire left engine cover of Sebastian Buemi's car flew off. Rain threatened but held off, meaning teams will go into Sunday's race without any experience of the new Pirelli wet weather tyres, and with showers forecast.

Vettel was keenly aware of the threat of bad weather during the race. "We know here it's very likely to rain, and a lot of things can happen, so you can't take anything for granted," Vettel said. The fight between Red Bull and McLaren has been more keenly contested in Malaysia than in the season opener, and Vettel said the team was still finding ways to improve. "All weekend I was happy with the car, but never got to the point where I could prove it to myself, and never found the true rhythm," Vettel said. "I knew it was somewhere in there, and qualifying was the first time we had trouble-free runs, so I am very happy with the result."

-thestar online.

MATTA and firm offer Islamic insurance scheme for pilgrims

KUALA LUMPUR: The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) and a major insurance company here have come up with a scheme to support a Government requirement that all haj and umrahpilgrims must have takaful (Islamic insurance) coverage. MATTA president Datuk Khalid Harun said the association and Hong Leong Tokio Marine Takaful Bhd (HLTM Takaful) would be collaborating on the newly-launched MATTA Haj and Umrah Personal Accident Takaful Scheme.

“The scheme conforms with Section 6(1A) of the Tourism Industry Act, which makes it compulsory for haj and umrah pilgrims to have validtakaful coverage,” he said after the signing of a MoU between MATTA and HLTM Takaful at Putra World Trade Centre yesterday. Three plans basic, premium and premium plus are offered under the scheme, which provides for emergency medical evacuation, repatriation of remains, medical expenses coverage, funeral allowance and badal Haji (performing haj on behalf of a deceased person or a permanently disabled person), Khalid said.

The plans, costing RM40 to RM140, cover 11 types of incidents, including loss of documentation, emergency medical evacuation, accidental death and funeral expenses. The scheme also offers reimbursement of deposit or full payment of air tickets or tour packages in the event the travel agent goes bankrupt, said Khalid, claiming this was the first of its type in the country.

He said umrah pilgrims were expected to increase to 100,000 this year, from 90,000 last year. “This collaborative arrangement will ensure Malaysian Muslims on hajand umrah pilgrimage will have adequate insurance coverage or takafulprotection.” HLTM Takaful general manager Abdul Khalid Salleh said the company had targeted RM2mil in premium contribution by the end of the year.

-thestar online.

Misi Jualan Domestik & Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia Travel Fair Di Sarawak

Timbalan Menteri Pelancongan Malaysia, YB Dato’ Dr. James Dawos Mamit telah merasmikan pameran jualan Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia (Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia Travel Fair) di The Spring Shopping Mall, Kuching Sarawak pada  9 April 2011.

Pameran jualan Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia (CC1M) ini yang berlangsung dari 8 hingga 10 April bertujuan untuk mempromosikan produk-produk pelancongan domestik secara lebih bersepadu  dan memudahkan  orang ramai untuk membeli secara terus pakej-pakej percutian daripada para pengusaha produk. Sebanyak 80 buah organisasi yang terdiri daripada pelbagai agensi pelancongan, homestay, hotel, agensi kerajaan dan syarikat pengangkutan dari seluruh negara menyertai pameran jualan ini.

Pameran ini merupakan sebahagian daripada program Misi Jualan Domestik anjuran Tourism Malaysia yang berlangsung dari 6 – 10 April 2011. Sebuah program berbentuk mini Travel Mart turut dianjurkan pada 7 April di Riverside Majestic Hotel, Kuching dan dirasmikan oleh YBhg. Dato’ Amirrudin Abu, Timbalan Ketua Pengarah (Pemasaran) Tourism Malaysia. Seramai 30 pengusaha produk (sellers) dari Sabah dan Sarawak dan 50 agen (buyers) dari negeri-negeri di Semenanjung telah menyertai program tersebut yang memberi ruang kepada para pesertanya untuk menjalin dan mengukuhkan hubungan perniagaan sesama mereka.  

Para peserta Travel Mart turut berpeluang mendengar taklimat pelancongan oleh Encik Kevin Nila Nangai, Pengurus Pemasaran Serantau (Malaysia & Singapura) Sarawak Tourism Board, MAS Holidays, Firefly Holiday dan Car Rental Association of Malaysia (CRAM). Lawatan kemaskini produk di Matang, Lundu, Sematan, Semenggoh, Padawan, Borneo Highlands, Santubong dan Damai sebelum diakhiri dengan aktiviti Sarawak River Cruise Dinner tajaan Tourism Malaysia diadakan  pada 6 April bagi memberi peluang kepada para peserta MJD untuk mengenali produk dan destinasi pelancongan di Sarawak dengan lebih dekat lagi.

Pelbagai aktiviti sampingan turut dianjurkan bagi menghiburkan dan menarik minat orang ramai untuk menyertai pameran jualan Cuti-Cuti 1Malaysia. Antara aktiviti-aktiviti tersebut termasuklah persembahan tarian kebudayaan negeri Sarawak, demonstrasi kraftangan (Kelantan dan Perak), kuiz pelancongan, persembahan artis tempatan dan cabutan bertuah. Misi Jualan Domestik ini turut mendapat kerjasama daripada Kerajaan Negeri Sarawak, Sarawak Tourism Board, MAS, Firefly, CRAM serta beberapa lagi agensi lain.

-Tourism Malaysia.

Mixed fortunes for M'sia-backed F1 teams

SEPANG: The 2011 Petronas Malaysia F1 Grand Prix practice at the Sepang Circuit Friday witnessed mixed fortunes for three Malaysia-backed Formula One (F1) teams in action on 'home turf'.

For the Mercedes GP Petronas team, a partner of national petroleum company, Petronas, noted that the practice session gave a better result compared with the opening round at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia.

Both drivers, Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, experienced good progress of their machines.

"We had a pretty good first day on track here in Sepang. We definitely have taken a step in the right direction. We were closer to our level of performance from Barcelona (winter testing) than in Melbourne. I am hopeful there will be more to come.

"Today, our aerodynamics and our KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems)worked very well and I look forward to more to come in the next two days," said Schumacher, the seven-time world champion from Germany.

He clocked the third fastest time in the morning with a time of 1:39.791s and bettered that time to finish fifth fastest with a time of 1:38.088s in the afternoon session.

His team-mate, Nico Rosberg was in 10th placing in the morning with 1:40.646s but managed to better the time in the afternoon with 1:38.565s for seventh placing.

Team Lotus, it was a different story as the drivers encountered different problems during practice.

"We managed to get through most of the programme but the fact that the traffic held up my quickest lap, masked how we're really looking in outright pace. It's a bit tough as we have had a great build-up to the race here," said Italian Jarno Trulli.

Meanwhile, his team mate, Heikki Kovalainen, who got a taste of the Sepang Circuit in the afternoon session, had to face problems with the rear.

"I went out in the second session and felt something go at the rear, so I came straight back in. It looked like a different problem and despite the fact, the guys worked really hard to get me back out but the time beat us," he said.

Trulli and Kovalainen only managed to clock 1:41.890s and 1:44.886s in the second practice and ended up in 20th and 23rd positions, respectively.

The Lotus Renault GP team also encountered problems with their front suspension in the first practice but after a careful analysis, the team identified a material defect linked to a specific batch of components but later in the afternoon, the team reverted to a different batch and ran without any problems.

"Both Vitaly (Petrov) and Nick (Heidfeld) suffered failures under braking in the front uprights early in the first session. As a precaution, we stopped running the car until we understood the problem.

"We quickly established that the two failed items had come from the same material batch...but once we were confident that the failures were related to a material problem, we released the cars for the second half and they ran without any problem," said the team technical director James Allison.

Heidfeld clocked the 8th fastest time in second practice with 1:38.570s, while Petrov finished in 13th spot on 1:39.267s.
-thestar online.

W Hotel makes its mark in KL

A 150-room hotel will be built in the heart of Kuala Lumpur offering guests a unique dining experience, entertainment and signature spas. Property developer Dijaya Corporation Berhad has partnered hotel and leisure company Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc to develop W Hotel. The brand has 41 hotels worldwide. The signing ceremony was held at the Tropicana Golf and Country Club recently.

It’s official: (From left) Rohana, Dijaya Corporation Berhad deputy managing director Dickson Tan, Dijaya Corporation group chief executive officer Tan Sri Danny Tan, Ng, Abbott, Starwood Asia Pacific development director Rajit Sukumaran and Dijaya Corporation Berhad managing director Datuk Tong Kien Onn at the signing ceremony to develop W KL.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, who attended the event, said the collaboration of the two major brands in the leisure industry to bring in the W brand to Malaysia would boost tourism. “Although ranking fifth in terms of contribution towards the economy, the tourism industry in Malaysia is growing. Hotel occupancy last year was 66.9% which is a 4.2% increase compared with 2009. “Looking at this increasing rate, we will still be short of 40,000 rooms in 2020. We welcome every addition and are convinced that W KL will inject a design-led lifestyle in our city,” she said. 

Dijaya independent non-executive chairman Datuk Rohana Mahmood said the move underlined the company’s commitment to continued growth. “Dijaya is looking at the needs of tomorrow’s jet-setters while also addressing a wider range of environmental challenges facing the industry,” said Rohana, adding that Dijaya will also work towards a Green Building Index rating with W KL.

Starwood Asia Pacific regional vice-president (South East Asia) Chuck Abbott said they were delighted with the signing of the W brand in Kuala Lumpur as the city was cosmopolitan a business hub. “Malaysia has developed a reputation for its standard of hospitality and customer service and we are proud to contribute to the continuing growth of Malaysia as a key business and leisure destination,” he said. The hotel will feature 1,200 sq m of meeting space, one ballroom and five meeting and function rooms. All guest rooms will be fitted with the signature W Bed. Among the facilities are a fitness centre, food and beverage outlets, a full service spa and a nail bar. W KL will be located in the Golden Triangle in Jalan Ampang.

-thestar online.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Trulli takes the slow track to explore Malaysia

SEPANG: Team Lotus driver Jarno Trulli swapped an F1 car for a slower race machine to discover Malaysia better before this weekend's Malaysia Grand Prix. For the past few years, the 36-year-old Italian racer has been flying in and out for the race without spending much time to explore what Malaysia has to offer in the countryside. Until now, when he came straight after the Australian GP a fortnight ago and managed to check out the scenic places in the country other than the Sepang F1 track.

Ready to roll: Trulli going for a spin on two wheels during his preparations for the Malaysia F1 Grand Prix starting in Sepang Friday. — Reuters

“I joined a local professional cycling team (Le Tua) on their ride to great places such as Fraser's Hill and Cameron Highlands. It was amazing,” said Trulli, adding that the highest point of the ride was almost 1,600m above sea level. When not in the seat of a super-fast F1 car, he said cycling was one of his hobbies, which included running to stay in shape during the off-season. He also liked staying at home with his family.

Trulli, like teammate Heikki Kovalainen, is into his second season with Team Lotus and is looking forward to performing well in front of the home fans in the Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix starting today. “We (Team Lotus) have taken a big step forward and I believe we can show our true performance in Sepang,” said Trulli, who started his F1 career with the Prost team in 1997.

Kovalainen, like Trulli, has also been discovering more about Malaysia. After the Australian GP, he decided on a holiday in Langkawi last week. The 29-year-old Finn was also thrilled with Kuala Lumpur's downtown scene, especially at night. “I've been here for about three weeks. I like the food, hot weather and sunshine,” he said, adding that his current favourite food was chicken satay.

Kovalainen had tweeted about his various jaunts around the city since his arrival, including having Tutti Frutti yoghurt. The best part of being an F1 driver, he said, was the thrill of competing with the other cars. “On the downside, our job needs a lot of patience from family and friends. I'm lucky mine are very understanding,” he said, adding that he kept in touch with them via Skype and mobile phone.

-thestar online.