Tuesday, May 31, 2011

French flair at historic Chinese temple

The ornate Khoo Kongsi has played host to countless events, from festive celebrations to weddings. This time, it was the backdrop for an open-air concert by French guitarist Arnaud Fillion. A native of Annecy in south- eastern France, Fillion calls himself an eclectic musician — one who is able to play just about anything, with flamenco and jazz among his favourites. A veteran of more than a thousand concerts, the 31-year-old’s latest performance featured about a dozen tunes that were a mixture of popular hits and some of his own compositions.

Deft hand: The puppet master pulling the strings of her characters during the Chinese puppet show.

“I like to improvise when I’m on stage, and feed off the crowd’s energy,” Fillion, also known as Arnito, said about his choice of songs. With his laid-back charm dovetailing with the soothing melodies from his guitar strings, the showcase proved a real treat for the crowd, who made themselves comfortable on the temple’s stone lined courtyard.

The historic structure, specially lit up for the occasion, was an eye-opening backdrop that impressed the artiste greatly. “It’s definitely one of the most beautiful temples I’ve ever seen. I’ve never played at such a unique venue before, and it’s both inspiring and amazing,” Fillion said.

Filion performing at Khoo Kongsi

Coming from a family of musicians, Fillion believes it was only natural for him to follow suit. By the tender age of 13, he was adept at the guitar and even started composing. To date, he has six albums to his name, as well as having conducted numerous workshops around the Asian region.

As an opening act to Fillion’s performance, there was also a Chinese puppet show — a seldom-seen art form among the tourists in attendance, which saw most of them clapping in appreciation, though not quite understanding the underlying storyline. The event was jointly organised by the Penang State Government, Penang Global Tourism, Alliance Francaise de Penang and Traders Hotel, aimed at adding vibrancy to the local scene and elevating Penang’s status as a tourist attraction.

-thestar online.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Homestay Programme A Boon Or Bane For Sarawak Tourism Industry?

KUCHING, May 29 (Bernama) - Registered homestay programme operators in Sarawak are crying foul over an increase in the number of illegal homestay facilities in the state. Sarawak Homestay Association chairman Mahmud Sabli said with no specific laws to punish such offenders, it would be hard to take action against them. "The best that we can do now is to demand stricter enforcement against them, either by local councils, or the federal Tourism Ministry," he told Bernama here Sunday.

Mahmud said the association had received feedback on the illegal homestay in Sarawak with some even going as far as to advertise their 'illegal' homestay programmes on the internet. Feedback received by Bernama showed that there were more than 100 homestay operators in Sarawak who are registered with the Tourism Ministry but due to lack of enforcement, there has been an increase in the number of illegal homestay in the state. Although there were no specific figures available for the state, Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Ng Yen Yen was quoted on Feb 8, that was an expected 900 unlicensed homes or budget hotels using the homestay status in the country.

She suggested that to fight the rising problem of illegal homestay, stricter issuance of homestay permits by local councils was needed to allow only those registered with the Tourism Ministry to provide such services. Meanwhile, Jamilah Shukri who runs a successful Santubong Homestay about 30km from here said there was a lot of misconception in registering homestay programmes. "Actually the state and federal government had made it easier to legalise their operation by setting a standard regulation and attending a course that is free of charge," she said.

She said even the rate offered by registered homestay operators are cheaper and for example the Santubong Homestay programme rates are as low as RM80 per person. Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF), representing key tourism players in the state, has expressed it concern over the problem because such activities would tarnish the image of the tourism industry. STF president Audrey Wan Ullok said over the years some successful homestay operators had invested a substantial amount of capital and resources to upgrade their services.

"They comply to strict operating guidelines set by the federal Tourism Ministry and these illegal operators usually try to find short-cuts and in the end they give a bad impression that may tarnish the good name established by the legal homestay operators," she said. "If the problem of illegal homestay is not addressed, the legal ones will get discouraged," she said. "We are also getting the homestay operators to become members of the STF so that they can benefit from the government's efforts to improve and market their products," she added.
-Bernama.
- www.go2homestay.com

Malaysians Encouraged To Promote Second Home Programme Among Singaporeans

SINGAPORE, May 29 (Bernama) - Malaysians residing in Singapore can assume a vital role in promoting the "Malaysia My Second Home Programme" (MM2H) among Singaporeans, says Tourism Malaysia Director in Singapore Zalizam Zakaria. He said Singaporeans were among the top ten purchasers of properties in Malaysia under the programme followed by Japanese, British, Americans, Chinese nationals, Iranians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, Indian nationals, Australians and South Koreans.

The MM2H programme is promoted by Malaysia to allow foreigners, who fulfill certain criteria, to stay in Malaysia for as long as possible on a 10 year multiple-entry social visit pass which is renewable. Open to citizens of all countries recognised by Malaysia regardless of race, religion, gender or age, applicants are allowed to bring their spouses and unmarried children below the age of 18 as dependents.

The Malaysian High Commission in Singapore, in collaboration with Tourism Malaysia briefed Malaysians living in the city-state at its monthly "Malaysians Get Together" on the advantages of owning a house in Malaysia. Zalizam impressed upon the Malaysians to do a "sales pitch" among their Singapore friends by highlighting the fact that the Malaysian government would continuously seek to improve the programme to ensure its success. He said Malaysia should be their second home based on its ranking as the 16th most preferred top retirement haven in the "Annual Global Retirement Index" in 2009, according to International Living.com.

Apart from a relatively low cost of living, Zalizam said it was worthwhile to note that those who qualified would be able to bring their immediate family members along, own freehold property in Malaysia, import worldly goods and even purchase a brand new car, tax free. "They can also enjoy all the multiple benefits that Malaysia offers to its citizens," he said, explaining further that Malaysia had an efficient and affordable healthcare system. Just a stone's throw across the causeway, Zalizam said Singaporeans should grab low-priced apartments, town houses, beachside villas and sprawling houses in city suburbs, which was real value for money, and make Malaysia their their second home.
-Bernama.
- www.mm2h.gov.my

Resorts World Sentosa Set For Phase 2 Opening

SINGAPORE, May 27 (Bernama) - Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) is on track to open the second phase of its integrated resort, which includes a maritime museum, an aquarium and a marine life park. These attractions will open progressively from the third quarter, this year, beginning with the museum. The marine life park is expected to open fully by mid-2012.

Speaking at a press conference here Friday, chairman of Genting Group chairman and RWS Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay said the resort is on track for its Phase Two opening. He said RWS expects to attract more than 16 million visitors in 2011, an increase compared to 15 million last year. Lim was speaking ahead of the grand opening of Universal Studios Singapore on Saturday. The two-day celebrations include a Hollywood-style gala dinner on Friday, which will be attended by celebrities such as Paula Abdul, Jet Li and Maggie Cheung.

Touching on expansion, Lim said he is open to more land acquisition opportunities for its expansion. Universal Studios Singapore is also projecting four million visitors this year, double the number in the first nine months of its soft opening in March 2010.
-Bernama.
-www.rwsentosa.com and www.rwgenting.com

Genting Malaysia Acquires Prime Real Estate Properties In Miami

KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 (Bernama) - Genting Malaysia Bhd's subsidiary, Bayfront 2011 Property, LLC, has purchased land of approximately 5.62 hectares (13.9 acres) in Miami, the United States (US), for a total consideration of US$236 million for a mixed-use development. The land includes the building currently housing The Miami Herald Media Company and an adjacent parking lot, Genting Malaysia said in a statement.

The seller, The McClatchy Company, is the third-largest newspaper publisher in the US and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. It is also the parent company of the Miami Herald. The acquisition also involves large prime freehold waterfront properties facing the scenic Biscayne Bay. Genting Malaysia is working towards developing a comprehensive master plan for Resorts World Miami, as the development will be called. It will include a hotel, convention, entertainment, restaurant, retail, residential and commercial facilities.

The project aims to capitalise on Miami's standing as one of the world's leading tourism hubs. "Resorts World Miami will be a landmark mixed-use development for Miami, Florida and the United States," said Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, Chairman and Chief Executive of Genting Malaysia. The acquisition is an integral step for Genting Malaysia as it seeks to expand internationally in the leisure, hospitality and entertainment industry. The envisioned Resorts World Miami represents Genting Malaysia's second venture in the US, after Resorts World New York, at the historic Aqueduct Racetrack in the City of New York.
-Bernama.
-www.gentingmalaysia.com

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Lost World Hotel

May 2011, Ipoh – Lost World Hotel now opens its doors, welcoming guests to a world of nature and the crisp fresh air of Tambun. Once again Sunway International Hotels & Resorts introduces the ideal getaway for those seeking a vacation experience filled with unforgettable moments. 

Lost World Hotel is a component of the renowned Lost World of Tambun theme park located just a stone's throw away. It consists of 134 rooms and 20 service-apartments in its 2nd Block. Guests of the Lost World Hotel have a selection of rooms to choose from ranging from the Exotic, Classical, Deluxe Suites and Premier Suites. Room rates range from RM 190 – RM600. All rates are inclusive of breakfast and complimentary tickets to the spectacular Lost World Hot Springs & Spa by Night, which is truly a sight to behold and an experience not to be missed. In addition, all rooms have complimentary  Wi-Fi.

“Not only are we one of the only Hotels in Malaysia to offer guests the ultimate relaxation experience at our Lost World Hot Springs & Spa by night but we have also set a milestone as the only hotel in Perak to be smoke free” says Mr Calvin Ho, the General Manager of Lost World of Tambun. 

Lost World Hotel caters for the entire family and corporate world alike. It will definitely pave its way as a premier destination of choice, elevating a whole new meaning to entertainment and leisure. Located in Ipoh, Perak – 2hours drive North from the country's capital, Kuala Lumpur and 1 and a half hours drive from Penang. For More information please contact (+605) 540-8888.

-Sunway Lost World Hotel.

Nature's art on show

Colourful petals and sweet flowery scents will greet visitors to the Penang Botanic Gardens in conjunction with the Penang Floral Festival 2011 taking place from today until June 5. Stall operators have been busy preparing for the festival, such as setting up flowers and plants of all shapes, sizes and colours to be sold at the entrance to the gardens.

Green fingers: Oh Foon May, 15, pruning plants in preparation for the Floral Festival at Botanic Gardens

A stage has been set up for the opening ceremony today by state Tourism Development and Culture Committee chairman Danny Law. The festival’s organising chairman Ooi Eng Choon, who is from the Penang Arts Society, said that the festival was held to encourage the locals to appreciate nature. “We want people to develop a love for nature, as nature has the ability to lower stress levels,” he said. Twelve Penang Arts Society committee members have been preparing for the festival since February.

Professional look: (From left) Judges Anek (from Thailand), Chartee (Thailand), David Goh (Penang), Lee Tang Wei (Taiwan) and Imam Wiguna (Indonesida) evaluating the adenium plants.

“We have been holding meetings to plan the event, including arranging with the stall operators and judges for the bonsai and adenium competition,” said committee member Pong Kok Kiong, 37. Australian tourist John Grafitti, 71, was admiring the flowers at the stalls. “The flowers on display are stunning. The Botanic Gardens is a beautiful place,” he said.

Ready for business: Nursery operator H.G. Tan arranging plants in his stall at the Botanic Gardens.

There will also be a stall by the Friends of the Botanical Gardens selling T-shirts with prints of leaves. Also on display throughout the nine-day festival are 150 bonsai and adenium plants from the competition. “The response to the competition has been encouraging. It shows that there is a great interest in bonsai and adenium plants locally,” said committee member Chuah Yeh Pow, 50. The Floral Festival is from 10am to 7pm daily, and entry is free.

-thestar online.

PD’s star attraction ready soon

Mention Port Dickson and sun, sea and sand pop into mind. The resort town which is among the top local beach holiday destinations will soon have an added attraction that will have visitors starry-eyed. The soon-to-be-completed Baitul Hilal complex in Teluk Kemang which will feature a state-of-the-art observatory is set to become a star attraction here, said Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan.

He said the RM30mil project — a joint venture between the Wakaf, Zakat and Haj department and the Negri Sembilan Islamic Council — is poised to become a premier observatory in the region. “Besides being a venue for the sighting of the new moon, the complex will also facilitate research and the study of astronomy.

Ready in November: Mohamad (front) after a visit to the soon-tobe- completed Baitul Hilal complex in Teluk Kemang, Port Dickson.

“It will be equipped with a state-of-the-art 609mm telescope to enable researchers to study celestial bodies. The telescope will be one of the largest in the country,” he said during a visit to view the complex’s progress. The complex, which is scheduled to be completed in November, is located on the same spot where the new moon is traditionally sighted during the month of Ramadan. The observatory will be equipped with the latest astronomy gadgets from the United States and will also house offices, a lecture hall, meeting rooms and an exhibition area

The facility will be able to accommodate 200 people at any one time. Mohamad said an 84-room three-star hotel and three apartment buildings would also be built nearby for the convenience of visitors and tourists. “The complex is strategically located and the view from here especially during sunset is breathtaking. “We hope that this observatory will not only be a tourist attraction but a centre for astronomists and researchers to come and study the stars,” he said.

-thestar online.

Public can see and learn about KL via Malaysia Heritage Walk

Literally walk down memory lane through the heart of Kuala Lumpur starting at the Central Market at 10.30am every day. Malaysia Heritage Walk, a free service, which began in October last year, is carried out by a group of volunteers called Be Tourist.

Tour guide and Kuala Lumpur expert Erina Loo begins the journey explaining how Central Market was a wet market in 1888. She said the main aim was to promote and highlight the historical aspect of Kuala Lumpur by walking along the busy road.

Scenic sight: The convergence of Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang played a significant role in the history of Kuala Lumpur.

Loo describes the architecture of the building as art deco, which faced redevelopment but was saved by a group of non-governmental organisations to preserve its structure. She then proceeded to Jalan Pasar, where the original market was located with the clock tower built in the 1930s standing out. She said the British constructed the administrative building in Jalan Mahkamah Persekutuan, which is now known as Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad.

“Loke Chow Kit, a leading Chinese trader used to have his own department store in the same administrative area, which goes to show the kind of influence he had at the time,” she said. While walking along the convergence of the Sungai Gombak and Sungai Klang, Loo said a port used to be located along the bank. The port, which was strategic for the market, allowed the trading and exchange of goods.

Colonial look: Old buildings along Jalan Pasar.

Moving along to another iconic structure of the city is the Masjid Jamek mosque that was built for the Malay settlement near the present HSBC Bank. The tour then proceeded to one of the busiest streets in the city, predominantly known to Indians as Lebuh Ampang. It was made famous by the Chettiar community from south India after they established money-lending establishments along this road. “The Indians made their initial fortune selling salt but most of them had left during the emergency period in 1960s,” Loo said while showing an old Chettiar shop that is still operating as a traditional money-lending outlet.

Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, previously known as High Street, has some of the oldest shophouses that are still in their original form. Walking along this road, one can see modern businesses and traditional traders still operating side by side. Further down Jalan Tun H.S. Lee is where the jewellery and pawn shops were located about 50 years ago. 

Near the area, one will find Kuala Lumpur’s oldest Taoist temple built by Kapitan Yap Ah Loy, the man behind the development of Kuala Lumpur. Kapitan Yap Ah Loy built the temple behind his house to show his gratitude to his master who was killed in a civil war.

Tourist lure: This is the oldest Taoist temple in Kuala Lumpur built by Kapitan Yap Ah Loy.

Moving along to Jalan Hang Kasturi, one will find a row of shophouses known for selling dried seafood and Chinese herbs, but now only one or two are in the trade. It has now been transformed into Kasturi Walk with a huge Wau structure welcoming people from all over the world to Central Market. The tour ends at Central Market. Those interested in taking the tour can call 017-989 1031 or 03-2032 1031 or log on to www.malaysiaheritage.net.

-thestar online.

Floral display at Botanic Gardens

GEORGE TOWN: Colourful flowers and sweet flowery scents will attract visitors to the Penang Botanic Gardens in conjunction with the Penang Floral Festival 2011 from today until June 5. Stall operators have been busy preparing for the festival by bringing in flowers and plants of all shapes, sizes and colours to be sold at the entrance to the gardens. Organising chairman Ooi Eng Choon, who is from the Penang Arts Society, said the festival was being held to encourage locals to appreciate nature.

Clean up efforts: A gardener cleaning up a pond filled with water lilies at the Penang Botanic Gardens.

The society has been preparing for the festival since February. There will also be a stall selling t-shirts with printed leaves by the Friends of the Botanical Gardens. The festival is held from 10am to 7pm daily and entrance is free.

-thestar online.

Malaysia promos on London roads

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian jungles and marine parks will be making their “rounds” at London's tourist sites on the city's iconic double-decker buses over the next three months. Launched by Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen at Belgrave Square, London, the five selected buses will ply the city's centre, north, east and west routes. Dr Ng said she was excited about the partnership with Transport for London to promote Malaysia's destinations in Britain.

Moveable media: Dr Ng flanked by Tourism Malaysia ambassador Datuk Jimmy Choo (left) and Tourism Malaysia acting director-general Datuk Azizan Nordin (right) at the launch of the campaign in London Friday.

“We hope the buses bring more sunshine and help put a smile on the faces of London's commuters,” she said during a reception at the Malaysian High Commission here. Painted with colourful nature and underwater scenes, the buses will ply famous tourist sites such as Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Piccadilly Circus and Harrods.

On Malaysia winning the gold medal for its show garden at the Chelsea Flower Show for the second year running, Dr Ng said the country was honoured by the award. “We are extremely honoured and feel that this is a tribute to the unique mixture of flora and fauna our country boasts of,” Dr Ng said at Sloane Club later.

She said Malaysia's involvement in the flower show was aimed at raising awareness on the country's beautiful parks and gardens among nature enthusiasts and horticulturists. Queen Elizabeth II and Duchess of Cornwall Camilla, were among the VIP guests who visited the Malaysian show garden. Dr Ng said that although 429,965 British tourists visited Malaysia last year (1.2% less than the previous year), she was optimistic that the number would increase as the country's economy picked up.

-thestar online.

Government Considering AirAsia X Routes Application

KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 (Bernama) - The Transport Ministry is considering AirAsia X's routes application to Beijing, Shanghai, Jeddah, Istanbul and Osaka as it is mindful of the importance of enhancing air services to promote and develop tourism and business investment into Malaysia. However, the approval of these routes depend on the traffic rights availability and the receiving country's rules and regulations, which includes among others, restrictions on low-cost-carrier, slots constraint and airspace control, said the ministry.

It said between 2007 and 2011, the government had approved AirAsia X's request to operate in 32 international destinations. "From the 32 international destinations approved, AirAsia X has only operated into 15 destinations," it said in reply to AirAsia X founder, Datuk Sri Dr Tony Fernandes comment yesterday that Malaysia would loose out by holding back routes approval for its long-haul budget carrier.

The ministry said AirAsia X has not fully utilised all the traffic rights granted to them for four destinations namely, Tianjin, Melbourne, Taipei and Tehran, which holds back the provisions of traffic rights to others. AirAsia X also has not provided any service into 16 destinations that was approved which included Amritsar, Fukuoka, Kathmandu, Manchester, Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, Dublin, Pusan, Sharjah and Bahrain. It said there were also routes which both AirAsia and AirAsia X suspended without prior notification.
-Bernama.

London Double-Decker Buses With Malaysian Themes Plying London Routes

KUALA LUMPUR, May 27 (Bernama) - From Friday, five of London's iconic red double-decker buses fully wrapped with Malaysian themes including eco, nature and underwater, will be plying London routes as part of an advertising campaign by Tourism Malaysia to attract British tourists to visit Malaysia. The bus campaign was launched by Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen at a special reception at the Malaysian High Commission in Belgrave Square, London Thursday.

In her speech text emailed to Bernama here Friday, Dr Ng said besides taking over the five buses, Tourism Malaysia was also participating in the Chelsea Flower Show 2011 from May 24 until Saturday. She said the advertising campaign would run for 12 weeks from this week to Aug 15. "The buses will ply routes 414 (Battersea), 19 (Brixton) and 11 (Stockwell) and the hope is to capture the interest of British tourists and other international tourists to visit Malaysia.

"We are excited about the working partnership with Transport for London to promote our fantastic destination on the most recognised public transport system and the world's most iconic city that presents a great opportunity for Tourism Malaysia. "Londoners will be able to see giant exotic jungle and aquatic images of Malaysia as part of a drive to promote the country's hugely diverse nature, fantastic diving and growing ecotourism industry," she added.

On participation in the Chelsea Flower Show 2011, Dr Ng said Malaysia was extremely honoured to have been awarded the prestigious Gold Medal, saying that it was a tribute to the unique mixture of flora and fauna that the country boasted. She also said that 429,965 tourists from the United Kingdom visited Malaysia last year, a decline of 1.2 per cent from 435,091 in 2009. "Despite the decline, I am optimistic that with the economy in UK picking up, tourist arrivals in Malaysia will increase," she said.
-Bernama.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Citrawarna 1Malaysia Off To A Colourful Start

KUALA LUMPUR, May 21 (Bernama) - A slight drizzle failed to dampen the spirit of the crowd at the colourful opening of the Citrawarna 1Malaysia 2011 extravaganza at the Dataran Merdeka here Saturday night. Themed "1Malaysia Tourism Festival," the mesmerising event featuring Malaysian music and dance attracted an estimated 100,000 people, including foreign guests. Taking centre stage was Malaysia's unique cultural diversity, with the venue in the heart of the capital having been transformed into a fairyland of lights and colour. Multicoloured fireworks lit the city skyline.

The show was graced by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah. Present were Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, his wife Puan Sri Noorainee Abdul Rahman and Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen. The Malaysian premier cultural event, already into its 13th year, was broadcast live over RTM and also beamed to countries like Brunei, China, Indonesia, Taiwan, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam and Macau, reaching an estimated TV audience of 25 million viewers.

Malaysia's renowned tourism tagline, "Malaysia Truly Asia", came alive through musical, song and dance performances highlighting six tourism products, namely Parks and Gardens; Sports Tourism; Contemporary Arts; Fabulous Food, Fruits and Shopping; Ecotourism; and 1Malaysia Green 1Malaysia Clean. Spectators were also entertained by ethnic dance performances.

Tourism is one of the largest contributors to the Malaysian economy, generating RM56.5 billion in tourism receipts in 2010 on the back of 24.5 million tourist arrivals. Dr Ng said Malaysia aimed to welcome 36 million tourists with receipts of RM168 billion by year 2020. "To achieve this, we'll continue to be creative and innovative in utilising our nation's resources such as nature, culture and history. "However, the most important ingredient for Malaysia's tourism success is the commitment, dedication and support of all Malaysians," she said in her speech.

Tonight's event was marked by the joyful "Joget 1Malaysia" finale which saw the participation of some 5,000 performers as well as members of the public. A tourism carnival was held earlier today, offering a wide array of domestic tourism packages and the opportunity to savour other Malaysian delights, including mouth-watering local fruits.
-Bernama.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Malaysia Vaults Three Spots To 28th Place In International Convention Ranking

MELBOURNE, May 20 (Bernama) - Malaysia vaulted a notable three spots to 28th place in the latest International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) country rankings. The number of meetings hosted by Malaysia grew 24 per cent, from 96 meetings in 2009 to 119 last year. Malaysia also retained its position as one of the top 10 meetings destination in the Asia Pacific.

The largest meeting held in 2010 was the 18th World Congress of Accountants which attracted a record attendance of more than 6,000 delegates. In a statement, Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) chief executive Zulkefli Sharif said the latest ICCA ranking reflected a growth in Malaysia's business meetings amid a competitive and challenging market. "Malaysia's promising increase in the number of meetings and improvement in rankings to date, is a clear testament of the growing strength of the collaboration and commitment between the Ministry of Tourism, MyCEB and the various industry partners to bid for, secure and deliver successful international meetings for the country," he added.

In 2010, Malaysia welcomed 1.3 million international business event visitors, contributing an estimated RM17.6 billion in economic impact. The meetings hosted includes the Asian Pacific Digestive Week (2,661 delegates),6th World Islamic Economic Forum (2,000 delegates) and the 2nd Global Model United Nations Conference (1,000 delegates).
-Bernama.

Matrade Bags Two Awards For Malaysia Kitchen Campaign

KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 (Bernama) - The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) has bagged the gold and bronze award for branding and reputation in the "Malaysia Kitchen for the World campaign" held in New York City on May 10.

The campaign, launched last year in New York, was aimed at placing Malaysian restaurants and cuisine on the world map. "We are thrilled to have received these awards. "In addition to placing Malaysian cuisine firmly in the spotlight, Malaysian food products were now on the shelves of numerous Asian grocers and specialty stores, popular US supermarkets and hypermarkets, thus creating a greater awareness for Malaysian food products," said New York Trade Commissioner Wan Latiff in a statement today.
-Bernama.

25 Million Tourist Arrivals Achievable This Year

KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 (Bernama) - The drop in tourist arrivals in the first quarter of this year by one per cent compared to the same period last year is not something worrying as it will pick up during the subsequent quarters, said Tourism Deputy Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit. "Normally, the number of tourist arrivals for the first three months is not encouraging but will increase after that, especially during the summer.

"Usually, at the beginning of the year people around the world are busy at work and they go for holidays in the summer, including to Malaysia," he told a news conference after opening the Malaysian Tourism Fair (MTF) 2011, here Friday. In view of this, Dawos was confident that the 25 million tourist arrival target set for this year could be achieved. He said tourists would choose to visit Malaysia as "it is blessed with beautiful natural attractions, government stability and friendly people, and is safe in terms of security".

Twenty-four million tourists visited Malaysia last year with projected revenue of RM56.5 billion from their expenditure, up by 5.8 per cent from RM53.4 billion earned in the previous year. "The average spending per capita for international tourists is around RM3,000 and for domestic tourists, it is about RM300 because it is cheap to travel in this country," Dawos said.

Meanwhile, National Tourism Council president who is also the MTF organising chairman Datuk Shamsul Falak Abdul Kadir said, this year's fair showcased every aspect and sector of Malaysia's tourism industry to encourage Malaysians to travel within the country. "We can see that every sector is related to tourism. Therefore, other ministries and public agencies and bodies should come forward and capitalise on the avenues available such as MTF to jointly promote local tourism as a whole," he said. The three-day MTF from today is held at the Putra World Trade Centre.
-Bernama.
-Photo: Pelancongan Kini

Terengganu's Lake Kenyir anticipates more tourists

The Terengganu state government is preparing for a surge in visitors to Lake Kenyir, the largest man-made lake in South-east Asia. As such, major developments are in the pipeline to create a viable and attractive tourist destination. Several three- to four-stars hotels are being developed on some of the 340 islands on the lake, including a luxury hotel on Pulau Poh, linked by a new cable car facility from Pengkalan Gawi jetty. There are also plans to turn one of the islands into a duty-free haven next year.

Terengganu chief minister Ahmad Said, at the launch of the Kenyir Festival earlier this month, said: “We are seeing a greater appreciation for nature among visitors, so the lake is a definite draw for the state.” Over 200,000 tourists visited Lake Kenyir last year, an increase from 160,000 in 2009. The visitors were mainly from Singapore, China and Arabic countries.

Anthony Wong, group managing director, Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel, said: “It’s natural to see an increase in Chinese visitors to Lake Kenyir, as many of them live far from nature, and thus enjoy being close to oceans, lakes and forests.”
-TTG Asia.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Luxury Tourism Fair (LuxtoFair '11)

Date:20th - 22nd May 2011
Venue:Hall 4, Putra World Trade Centre, Kuala Lumpur
Time:Fri      20th    10.00am - 8.00pm
Sat     21st    10.00am - 8.00pm
Sun    22nd   10.00am - 7.00 pm
Official Opening:3.00pm Fri 20th May 2011
Organised By:National Tourism Council of Malaysia (NTCM)
Endorsed & Supported By:Ministry of Tourism, Malaysia
Exhibition Managers:Asia Fairs Sdn Bhd
No of Booths:130
Expected Exhibitors:70 - 80
Other Sub-Events:Industry/ trade session
Cocktail Reception (invited guests)
Stage Performances
Travel Fashion Show
Stage Presentations/ performance


 * Concurrent Event
The Malaysian Tourism Fair 2011

EXHIBITORS PROFILE

luxury hotels/resorts collections
independent luxury and boutique hotels/resorts
health spas, spa resorts and health retreats
golf clubs and resorts
MICE venue operators and facilitators
airlines
executive car hire and transport providers
luxury cruise providers
yatches and yatching holiday providers
medical and health facilitators and centres
travel agents and tour operators
recreational and sporting facilitators and operators
clubs / memberships
providers of unique experiences
providers for exclusive adventure/sporting holidays
luxury brand products retailers
F&B outlets and product suppliers


VISITORS PROFILE

high end luxury travel buyers and individuals
luxury business travellers
VIPs, CEOs, corporate directors and senior managers
entrepreneurs
business and society elites
socialites and celebrities
expatriates
embassies
corporate companies and organizations
ministries and government agencies
foreign travellers and communities
visiting tourists
private travel arrangers/consultants
adventure/sporting travel organisers
professional conference organizers
trade visitors including wholesales, agents and FAM trip participants
local and international media, travel writers and publishers
              

WHO ARE THE LUXURY TRAVELLERS?
 
Based on their wealth, they can be categorised into three categories
 
Tycoons and the very high-networth are able to fulfil all material requirements and fantasies. Everything they require would have to be customized to suit their own lifestyle, time and expectations; be it their own chartered planes, stretched limousines and other personalized requirements.

Very Rich and wealthy may not have the financial wealth and requirements as the tycoons. Nevertheless, they also demand impeccable door-to-door and personalised service and quality products as they seek for exclusive and unique experiences.
 
Rich people demands qualititative products and services all round. These people are still working to maintain and enjoy their lifestyle and therefore, despite having the financial resources they will strongly consider value-for-money deals as a matter of principle. Travel patterns are partly business and partly leisure. This category makes up the major part of the niche' luxury market.
 
The LuxtoFair is targeting to attract and draw visitors mainly from the third category of this market segment.  This is the more 'conventional' luxury market, the elite travellers who seeks exclusive and unique experiences as part of their lifestyle. Their image and status may affect their travel patterns and requirements.  This market segment also includes the aspiring luxury travellers and the savvy luxury shoppers, the 'new money' in luxury market who are discerning customers seeking value for money bargains and deals. Besides all the above, there are also the travellers who are merely seeking unique experiences as lifestyle experiences.

 

WHAT CAN THE EXHIBITORS STRATEGICALLY PROMOTE AT THE FAIR?
 
-    high quality products and services
-    pampering and lifestyle experiences
-    exclusive and unique experience vacation packages
-    MICE packages, especially for corporate meetings/outings
-    wedding, honeymoon and anniversary packages
 
A fundamental prerequisite for addressing this market segment is to offer high quality products and services, exclusivity, uniqueness and qualitative experiences. The affluents have the money to spend but at the same time, are experienced and smart travellers.  They are compelled to search for 'value and deals'; key words in current consumer market. Exhibitors, besides promoting their respective products and services should consider offering attractive and promotional packages and deals during the Fair.

-National Tourism Council of Malaysia.

Ng: S’poreans feeling at home with homestay programme

RAUB: More than half of the foreign visitors who took up homestay vacations in Malaysia last year were from Singapore with a majority opting for Johor. Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said of the more than 49,000 foreigners, 52.5% or nearly 25,800 were from the republic.

The Singaporeans were followed by visitors from Japan (22.4% or nearly 11,000) and Europe (9.3% or more than 4,500). Ng said Johor had the most number of homestay guests (23,300), followed by Selangor (5,600), Sabah (5,500) and Pahang (2,500).

Come ‘balik kampung’: Ng (third from left) visiting the homestays with some of the home owners after launching the Kampung Gali Hilir Homestay programme in Raub, Pahang yesterday. — BRIAN MOH / The Star

Besides Singapore, visitors from Japan and African nations made up the bulk (87%) of the homestay vacationers in Selangor. “Homestays are an opportunity to develop the rural economy,” said Ng, who singled out Raub as an ideal tourism district in Pahang due to its many small villages, interesting local spots and popular dishes. She said this in her speech when launching the Kampung Gali Hilir Homestay programme the second in the Raub district after Kampung Pasu near here, yesterday.

Ng, who is Raub MP, said Pahang currently had 14 homestay programmes, with 249 homes providing 376 rooms. Dr Ng said successful homestays made as much as RM10,000 a month. “Homestay is not merely providing accommodation. “It provides tourists with an experience of rural life, living with a family, doing traditional activities together and learning,” she said. “They (the visitors) would want to continue to balik kampung.”

-thestar online.

Terengganu to attract more tourists

HULU TERENGGANU: The Terengganu government aims to draw more than 350,000 tourists to Lake Kenyir this year. Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said said it was a realistic aim as some 200,000 tourists had visited the famous lake compared to 160,000 in 2009. “Tourists prefer to experience the wonders of nature while staying a few nights here.

Natural wonder: The scenic Pulau Bayas in Tasik Kenyir, Terengganu.

“The lake is definitely a major tourist destination for the state,” he said after launching the Kenyir Festival in Pengkalan Gawi, Lake Kenyir here recently. Ahmad added that tourists from Singapore, China and Arabic countries were frequent visitors at Kenyir. He added the state is also planning major developments for the lake in order to cement its status as a world-class tourist destination.

“We are planning to build a duty-free island by next year. “It will be the main project in Lake Kenyir, which encompasses tourism, business and hospitality as part of its appeal to tourists,” he said. He added hotels with three to five stars status would also be built at some of the islands in Lake Kenyir to accommodate the influx of tourists. “We will start with building a luxury hotel in Pulau Poh. “A cable car facility from Pengkalan Gawi jetty to Pulau Poh is also in the pipeline,” he said.

-thestar online.

Monday, May 16, 2011

AirAsia X targets Japan and Middle East expansion

Budget longhaul carrier AirAsia X is awaiting landing rights in Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya, and has also set its sights on obtaining landing permissions in Istanbul, Dubai or Abu Dhabi. AirAsia CEO, Tony Fernandes, told media during the launch of its year-long To Japan With Love campaign that Japan remains a huge market despite the March 11 disaster.

“The potential between Japan and South-east Asian destinations is massive,” said Fernandes. “Once we have the green light for increased landing rights, AirAsia X has the potential to transform the business, cultural and economic connectivity between Japan and South-east Asia.”
“We’re expecting AirAsia Philippines to be flying more into Japan, and will announce routes in September,” he added.

AirAsia X currently operates thrice-weekly flights between Kuala Lumpur and Tokyo’s Haneda airport. The carrier is also keen on obtaining landing rights in Istanbul, Dubai or Abu Dhabi to establish new routes to the Middle East. In 2009, AirAsia X was flying into Abu Dhabi, but the airline halted operations there last year. “The Middle East is a huge market, and the UAE is a prime focus,” said Fernandes.

“Besides leisure and business travelers, AirAsia X’s budget flights would benefit the thousands of foreign workers in the region from Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines, who would have another airline option to fly home.”
-TTG Asia.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Getting Japan back on the tourist map

Japan hopes to reverse the plunge in tourist arrivals in the wake of the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan by giving a clearer picture of the situation in the country.

Figures on tourist arrivals early this year by the Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) had never been more positive or filled with potential. The number of Malaysian travellers to Japan had been steadily increasing over the decade, from 72,445 in 2004 to 85,627 in 2006, climbing to 105,663 in 2008 and 114,500 last year. It had been expected to increase by 20% this year. Then disaster struck on March 11, and with lingering concerns over the dangers of radiation from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, tourists became reluctant to visit the country.

Scenic attractions: Malaysian tour operators are taking advantage of Japan’s natural beauty in the spring to draw tourists back there. – AP

Malaysian tour operators were left with a crisis of mass cancellations in bookings for Japan. In March last year, the number of Malaysian visitors to Japan was 12,130. For the same month this year, it was only 5,500, marking a 54.7% decrease. And Malaysians aren't the only ones who are passing Japan over. Germans visitors recorded the biggest drop at 64%, from 14,141 visitors last March to just 5,000 this March. Overall, Japan suffered a drop of 50% from 709,684 visitors in March 2010 to 352,800 this year.

News about the nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant continues to stoke fear of radiation among potential travellers although United Nations organisations, including the World Health Organisation and World Tourism Organisation which are monitoring the situation, have issued a statement saying that the current radiation levels pose no travel risk to Japan. Malaysian tour operators are calling for information to be disseminated over the media to dispel the negative news and fears about radiation that have made many travellers afraid to visit Japan. The tour agents are dismayed that many rumours and fears have not been dispelled on an official level.

Lee: ‘We are banking on one of Japan’s loveliest destinations in summer to draw visitors’

“The problem is that nobody realises we do not have a problem,” saidMicky Gan, managing director of the Tokyo-based Alpha International Service Corporation during a Japan National Tourism Organisation (JNTO) seminar on the revival of Japan bound tourism held in Kuala Lumpur recently. There are so many rumours flying around uncontained and unchallenged, ranging from entire onsen (hot springs) being washed out to sea to a certain “Mr Saito”, a tour guide we've met before, being lost to the waves, he highlighted. “In reality, everything is as normal as can be in Tokyo. Shibuya is packed. The trains arrive every minute on the dot. People queue everywhere. It is normal, peaceful and orderly. Shops specifically selling produce harvested from Fukushima sell three times as much as those who sell products from other regions in Japan. It is a show of solidarity and support.

“I can tell you that no country takes safety issues as seriously as Japan. The authorities set a very strict standard on safety. And contaminated food has never been released to the consumer market,” assured Gan who has been residing in Tokyo for over 30 years. “Some of the reports by the foreign media have inaccurately painted the picture that there is no stock of food or beverage in convenience stores. But the way a Japanese convenience store operates is different. Due to high rental costs, they do not keep huge stocks or have a storeroom.”

Tour operators in Malaysia are eager to resume outbound activities to Japan. To get the ball rolling, they are calling on suppliers including airlines, hotels and ground transportation providers to support them by giving a 30% discount. “Japan's tourism revival requires a three-party commitment, from suppliers, operators and government authorities,” said Koh Yock Heng of Apple Vacations and Conventions Sdn Bhd, the leading Japan outbound tour operator in Malaysia. “We understand that airlines used to have 85% to 95% load capacity for Japan destinations. That's now reduced to 30% to 50% and the problem is compounded by rising oil prices. But if we want to kickstart the tourism machinery again we must have hefty discounts and positive support.” Koh said news of the disaster hit them smack in the middle of the MATTA Fair in March.

“Our April sakura season tours and July Hokkaido lavender tours were selling well in the morning. Then activity slowed down before stopping completely by late afternoon. Cancellations came. We have refunded RM5mil worth of bookings while 20% of customers converted their packages to other destinations like Korea,” he revealed. Before March 11, chartered flights to Hokkaido had been at 85% capacity but after that, it was reduced to 15%, he explained. “From an expected 18 groups, we will only be taking three groups. Even if we make a loss, we are still flying to Japan. It is to send a strong message to the market that Apple is starting activities to Japan again.” To get people to go to Japan again, the facts have to be told, he said.

“Tokyo is located some 400km from Sendai and 240km from Fukushima. The Kansai region with Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe is well over 1,000km away. The islands of Kyushu in the south and Hokkaido in the far north are also far away.” Malaysians looking for travel packages costing between RM4,000 and RM6,000 are their target group, according to Koh. “They are generally more educated and take a keen interest in current affairs and they expect to be well informed. So we need to tell them why it is safe to visit Japan. JNTO needs to provide the public this information.” Koh added that Hong Kong is already starting tours to Tokyo, Kyushu and Hokkaido but not to Sendai. “We must do our groundwork now, not later, to prepare for the September Raya season and school holidays,” he said.

Apple launched its packages last week, becoming the first in the country to start selling this destination again since March 11. Within three days, they managed to confirm 160 bookings, and its managing director Datuk Desmond Lee San said they are confident of achieving 1,000 bookings. “We are banking on one of Japan's loveliest destinations in summer to draw visitors. I trust that Malaysians would love experiencing the natural scenery, warm hospitality and cherry, lavender and rock melon season in Hokkaido in July,” he told The Star.

The bookings are for Apple's specially arranged chartered flights to Hokkaido with Malaysia Airlines. Apple has slashed it usual price of RM6,899 (US$2,298) for a seven-day Hokkaido tour to between RM3,499 and RM4,799. Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs also lifted its advisory against non-essential travel to Japan last week. However, it continues to advise Singaporeans “to avoid travel to the coastal areas of Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, which were the most affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, as these areas continue to suffer disruptions to residential, business and transport infrastructure.”

Taking media and trade members to see Japan is a vital way of reviving tourism to the country, according to Matthew Cheah, director of J-Horizons Travel, which saw an 80% drop in business after March 11. “It is vital for us to start taking media and trade members to see Japan for themselves. We will focus our efforts on Hokkaido, Kyushu and Honshu,” he said. Shen Nordin, corporate and retail outbound division manager of Japan Travel Bureau (Malaysia), which regularly expects some 20,000 Japanese visitors to Malaysia, said inbound tours from Japan were also affected.

“We must sweeten the deal for travellers to head back to Japan. The discounts are required for just a limited period of around three months. Malaysians also need to hear from the authorities that it is safe to visit Japan. We cannot afford to wait any longer as many people will be out of a job.” Shen added that official travel advisory have not been updated to reflect the real situation. He said that the one issued by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry still reads: Malaysians are strongly urged to defer unessential travel to Japan unless absolutely necessary. Malaysians who travel to other parts of Japan are advised to exercise a high degree of caution due to the prevailing situation regarding the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

“Now who wouldn't be terrified after such advice? Whose responsibility is it to update and coordinate with the Government on the actual situation? The American, Australian and British embassies have updated theirs,” he pointed out. “We hope the JNTO will conduct a public relations exercise. People do not know or understand what is really happening. “If we really want to help Japan, we should help them recover their economy. What they earn will extend to their communities.”

In response to these calls, the JNTO will be resuming promotional activities this month. Its Singapore office director Shimizu Yasumasasaid they are in the midst of re-allocating their budget to concentrate promotional activities to revive tourism to Japan. “The first stage of our recovery plan is providing updates to industry partners and the public; the second stage is to resume activities; and the third stage is to hold familiarisation trips for media and industry partners. We will also be having a Japan promotion in Singapore in September.” Cheah has called for a similar Japan Fair utilising the joint efforts of agents and suppliers. Koh is confident that Malaysian visitors will return to Japan. “People go to Korea once or twice and that's it. But travellers are very likely to make repeat visits to Japan,” he said.

-thestar online.