Monday, June 27, 2011

Discover Penang on foot

Those who wish to discover old world charm and cultural diversity unique to Penang should not miss out on four thematic guided heritage trails come July 9. The tours are the George Town Shophopuse Trail, Sun Yat Sen Heritage Trail in Penang, The Living Museum — Sharing Our Stories and Cemetery Tour.

George Town World Heritage Incorporated (GTWHI) acting general manager Lim Chooi Ping said the trails were among the events to be held in conjunction with the George Town Festival 2011. “Through these trails, participants will be able to walk through and experience the captivating history of George Town,” she told a press conference at the George Town World Heritage Office on Lebuh Acheh on Saturday.

Heritage walkabout: (from left) Yoong, Chooi Ping Ho, GTWHI communication officer Lim Chung Wei and The Living Museum curator Kuah Li Feng with one of the flyers on the tour

Penang Heritage Trust (PHT) will conduct the Sun Yat Sen trail and Cemetery Tour while GTWHI will conduct the The Living Museum - Sharing Our Stories trail. The George Town Shophouse Trail will be handled by the Penang Tourist Guide Association (PTGA). PHT manager Ho Sheau Fung said focus of the Sun Yat Sen trail would be on Sun’s movements in Penang and how he managed to gain support from the locals during his revolutionary career.

“Participants will be taken to 15 sites which are closely associated with either Sun or his followers during Sun’s four-month stay here.” It will be held from 9.30am to 11am and 3.30pm to 5pm. Ho said the 45-minute Cemetery Tour would be conducted at the Protestant cemetery on Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah from 2pm to 2.45pm and 3pm to 3.45pm.

PTGA immediate past president Yoong Sun Yen said the 90-minute George Town Shophouse Trail (8.30am to 10am and 10.30am to noon) revisits the golden age of Penang’s past when it was one of the richest centre of trade and commerce. Those interested in The Living Museum — Sharing Our Stories will have six choices of places to visit which include a traditional chettiar house, an old bicycle shop and a shoe shop. This 90-minute tour will be held from 10.30am to noon and 3.30pm to 5pm.

All the tours are priced at RM10 per person and limited to 20 people except for the Living Museum trail which is limited to 15 persons. Those who wish to participate in the tours have to contact the respective organisations by July 6. PHT can be contacted at 04-2642631 and the PTGA at 04-2614461. For the Living Museum Tours, call GTWHI’s Hwang at 014-3423011.

-thestar online.

Unique carnivores of Borneo

KOTA KINABALU: Twenty-four carnivore species are unique to the Borneo island, international conservation experts gathered here confirmed. They have also got a better understanding of the carnivores found in the world's third biggest island and have taken moves to classify some of these carnivores as “critically endangered” species.

This came about at the three-day brainstorming session of the first Borneo Carnivore Symposium that ended here on Saturday. Almost 200 delegates from 15 countries presented and discussed the diverse range of carnivore species on the island, which included cats such as the Sunda clouded leopard (Neofelis diardi), civets such as the Malay civet (Viverra tangalunga), known locally as tangalunga, Sunda stink badger (Mydaus javanensis), also referred to as the Malay badger or teledu, and the playful otters.

Threatened species: A specimen of the endangered Borneo ferret badger. — Photo courtesy of Andreas Wilting and Sabah Parks

The findings at the symposium will determine priorities for Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, the countries sharing Borneo island, to take steps to preserve the carnivores, many of which are rare and some thought to be extinct only until a few years ago. “Coming together of scientists, conservationists and government agencies is the first step towards efforts to ensure the survival of all our carnivores,” said Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu.

“One of our goals was to establish a knowledge base for the priority areas and threats faced by these unique carnivore species,” said Dr Laurentius, the organising chairman of the symposium. He said like other species of wildlife, the carnivores need adequate and different types of forests to support the wildlife and plant life diversity.

Elusive feline: The mysterious Borneo bay cat. — Photo courtesy of Joanna Ross and Andrew Hearn of Oxford University’s WildCRU

“If developed for other uses, such as cultivation of oil palm, it has to be with proper landscape planning to ensure the species' survival,” Dr Laurentius added. According to Dr William Duckworth, director of the Small Carnivore Specialist Group of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSC), the symposium will be used to upgrade some of the carnivores on the IUCN/SSC red list of threatened species.

He added that one of the species to be upgraded is the Borneo ferret badger (Melogale everetti) that is found in Sabah's Crocker Range highlands. “We really do not know much about the Borneo ferret badger, even about its habitat.

Thought to be extinct: The world’s most endangered otter species, the hairy-nosed otter. — Photo courtesy of Dr Nicole Duplaix

“All confirmed records only come from the high elevation areas of Sabah's Crocker Range and the Kinabalu National Parks,” he said. Other carnivore species, including the elusive Borneo bay cat (Catopumabadia) were recorded in Kuching and the Baram region of Sarawak, while the recently rediscovered hairy-nosed otter (Lutra sumatrana) and otter civet (Cynogale bennettii) would also be listed.

-thestar online.

RM69 flights from AirAsia

PETALING JAYA: AirAsia is offering a new promotion to domestic and international destinations with all-in fares staring from RM69. Beginning tomorrow until July 3, passengers can book flights to countries including Indonesia, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. This is for the travel period of July 4 to Aug 25.

In a statement, its regional head of commercial Kathleen Tan urged the public to treat themselves to local and overseas holidays. Other destinations include Tawau, Sabah, from RM129 all-in and Vientiane, Laos, from RM199 all-in.
-thestar online.
www.airasia.com

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thai tourists top foreign arrivals to Langkawi




LANGKAWI: Tourists from Thailand continue to top the number of foreign arrivals to Langkawi every year. Director of Tourism Malaysia in Kedah, Roslan Othman said Langkawi, as a tax free haven, was a major draw for Thai visitors, especially for those who came here to shop.



"The availability of passenger ferries between Langkawi and Satun and other Thai destinations help facilitate additional tourist arrival," he told Bernama here Sunday. Tourism Malaysia is targeting 200,000 Thai tourists in Langkawi this year.



In the meantime, Zhulian Marketing (M) Sdn Bhd (ZMMSB) a leading direct sales company is bringing its members from Thailand to visit Malaysia, including Langkawi. A total of 3,500 members of ZMMSB including Thai nationals and 49 from Myanmar are participating in the incentive award visit to Langkawi. They arrived here in seven ferries from Kuala Perlis and were given a traditional welcome at the Kuah Jetty here Saturday night.



The four-day visit, which began on Friday, will include visiting Penang. They will attend the ZMMSB Conference at Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre (MIEC) in Langkawi on Sunday.



- Bernama


Photo: Pelancongan Kini

Firefly to take over KL-Sibu route from MAS

PETALING JAYA: Firefly will gradually take over the Kuala Lumpur-Sibu route from MAS from July 1. The airline will continue to offer the same twice-daily flight services as MAS, which will withdraw from the route effective Aug 1. “We have an agreement with our code share partner, Malaysia Airlines, that we will operate this route using our B737-800 aircraft and will continue to provide connectivity to other MAS' routes and services,” said Firefly managing director Datuk Eddy Leong in a statement yesterday.

Leong said they were fully aware of the concerns of travellers and travel agents from Sibu on the inavailability of passenger and baggage through-check for those with onward journey on MAS and vice versa. “On Sept 1, our departure control system upgrade, which will allow passengers to through-check their baggage on multiple flights to their final destination, will be operational.” Until then, he said, passengers on the Kuala Lumpur-Sibu flight would have to bear the inconvenience of checking out and re-checking-in.

He said Firefly guaranteed lowest fares and travellers could opt to purchase bundled sets of service including in-flight meals and seat selection. Travellers can purchase flights from www.fireflyz.com.my and travel agents also have the option of making purchases through the Global Distribution System listed under MH9000 series.

-thestar online.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur marks brand entry into Malaysia

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

 

Willi Martin, area vice president, South-east Asia, Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, said: "We see Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur as a remarkable opportunity to expand the presence of the Hyatt brand into a principal city in the rapidly emerging South-east Asia market." Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur will be located in the Golden Triangle area of Kuala Lumpur, in a prime location on Jalan Pinang, close to the Kuala Lumpur City Centre and Petronas Towers.

 

The hotel will be part of a mixed-use complex, occupying floors 17 through 39 of the property. It will feature 412 guestrooms, including 42 suites, over 3,000m2 of meeting and event space, a cafe, a specialty restaurant featuring multiple cuisines, a Sky Lobby Lounge, a poolside restaurant and bar, a spa with 11 treatment rooms, and a swimming pool.

 

There are currently 51 Hyatt-branded hotels in Asia-Pacific, and Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur will join the two existing Hyatt-branded hotels in Malaysia, Hyatt Regency Kinabalu and Hyatt Regency Kuantan Resort. In addition to Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur, twelve other Grand Hyatt properties are currently under development around the world.

-TTG Asia.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mah: New FireFly destinations will help us grow


IPOH: The state government hopes that FireFly's proposal to fly direct from Ipoh to Kota Baru and Phuket will be approved soon to further help Perak's development. State executive councillor Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon said if the proposal received the green light, flights to the new destinations could start by this year.

“I was told that FireFly is still having discussions with the Transport Ministry on the proposal. “The routes have yet to be finalised - whether the flights would be from Ipoh to Kota Baru, then to Phuket, or otherwise. “The full details will be announced later,” he said after launching the Perak Property, Industrial and Furniture Expo 2011 at Stadium Indera Mulia here yesterday.

The four-day event is organised by Perak Real Estate and Housing Developers' Association of Malaysia in conjunction with Ipoh City Day. On the progress of the runway extension project at the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport, Dr Mah said construction work was on schedule. On the development of Perak, Dr Mah said it was rapid compared to two years ago with several new projects in the pipeline.

The number of tourists arrivals to the state was also increasing, he added. “Daily direct flights to Singapore have also helped to increase the number of visitors,” he said, adding that Perak was also fast becoming an education hub with an increasing number of learning institutions.

-thestar online.

photo: Pelancongan Kini.

Genting is jersey sponsor for Aston Villa

PETALING JAYA: Genting has become the jersey sponsor for a Barclays Premier League football club, Aston Villa FC. Its subsidiary, Genting UK, the largest operator of casinos in Britain, entered into an agreement to be the main jersey sponsor for Aston Villa for two years. As part of the agreement, the Genting mark and logo will be featured on home and away Aston Villa jerseys. The financial details of the agreement were not revealed.

Genting UK executive deputy chairman Peter Brooks in a press statement said the sponsorship was “a natural fit” and marked an important milestone in Genting's development as the group continued to expand its presence both within Britain and internationally.

Genting glow: Aston Villa star striker Gabby Agbonlahor sporting the new club jersey sponsored by Genting UK.

The group began its association with Birmingham in the 1970s, where the club is based. “The fact that Genting has strong local connections in addition to its international dimension makes this a good relationship for the club and we anticipate that it will work well as we embark on a new chapter for Aston Villa,” club CEO Paul Faulkner said.

Aston Villa, nicknamed the Villains is the fifth most decorated club in English football history with 19 major domestic honours and is one of only five British clubs to have won the European Cup. Many Malaysian firms have sponsored English football teams prior to this with Proton being the first in 2004 when it sponsored Norwich City's jersey.

In 2008, AirAsia inked a three-year sponsorship deal to have its logo on all the jerseys of professional football referees in England. Last year, Manchester United and Telekom Malaysia Bhd forged a five-year agreement to link the two brands in marketing campaigns and promotional activities. Last week it was announced that Cardiff City's jersey for the coming season will have Malaysia's name emblazoned on the front, an initiative from the club's owner and Berjaya Corp Bhd founder Tan Sri Vincent Tan.

-thestar online.

AirAsia inks US$18.5b deal for 200 A320neo aircraft

FRANCE: AirAsia Bhd has inked a US$18.5bil landmark deal for 200 A320neo aircraft, making AirAsia the biggest airline customer for Airbus for the single-aisle product line worldwide. The deal was announced at the Paris Air Show yesterday. AirAsia group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes toldStarBiz that the new aircraft would cater for markets in the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and other joint venture initiatives.

“We will still have a lot of growth for our Malaysian operations and there should be no shortage as to where to put the planes,” he said in a phone interview. The delivery of the 200 planes is expected to happen from 2016 to 2026. AirAsia has the capacity to take up to 500 aircraft.

High flyer: A computer-aided image of AirAsia's A320neo.

“With the trajectory of 500 aircrafts, it will make us one of the biggest airlines in the world,” he added. With the deal, the Malaysian low-cost airline is now the world's biggest airline customer for the A320 family with an order for 375 aircraft to date. So far, 89 A320s have been delivered. The order has eclipsed the US$16bil deal for 180 aircraft from India's Indigo that was sealed on Wednesday. This also confirmed a StarBizreport last Friday that speculated that AirAsia was poised to announce a landmark deal at the airshow.

On the funding, Fernandes said it would not be any different from the others that the company had funded previously. “We have strong cashflow. To fund this new order is a function of cash generation and debt financing. By the time these new ones come in, many of the A320s would have been paid. “We have been taking 16 to 18 aircraft a year and we were then a smaller company,” he said.

Did AirAsia get a discount for the big purchase as it is a long-term customer of Airbus? “We got a good price. And it is not just about the price but also about the service and products,” he answered. On his initial reaction on the news that AirAsia had placed the biggest order, Fernandes said he was both shocked and emotional. “But I am proud of how far AirAsia had achieved in less than 10 years of operations since it first started as a small Malaysian company.

“This is an important milestone in our growth, and this solidifies our position as the world's best low-cost airline. The new order is to cater to expansion plans in the Philippines, Vietnam and other parts of Asia. AirAsia has been hugely successful, increasing its annual passenger volume from 200,000 when we launched it as a low-cost airline in 2001 to an estimated 31 million this year,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Fernandes said with the introduction of the Airbus A320neo, AirAsia's guests could look forward to more exciting routes as it could now explore more destinations with the enhanced range presented by the new-gen aircraft. “We always believe in embracing technological advancements, and this new generation of Airbus A320neo aircraft will put us ahead of the competition and continue to be frontrunners in the volatile aviation industry,” he said. Fernandes said aircraft deal was in line with the company's rapid expansion plans and long-term vision to grow its associates throughout the region.

“We know that we have made the right choice in utilising these new aircraft, especially in times of rising fuel costs. “The Airbus A320neo aircraft will enable savings of approximately 15% in fuel consumption per annum per aircraft,” he said. Tom Enders, president and CEO of France-based Airbus, said in less than 10 years, AirAsia had established itself as one of the fastest-growing, innovative and most respected airlines in the business. “This landmark deal is the strongest endorsement yet of our decision to invest in the development of the A320neo and further consolidates the market leading position of the Airbus single-aisle product line,” he said.

AirAsia also confirmed the new aircraft would be powered by CFM International's technologically-advanced LEAP engine. Additionally, AirAsia's long-haul affiliate AirAsia X is also an all-Airbus customer having placed orders for 38 widebody aircraft. 

Earlier, at the air show on Tuesday, national carrier Malaysia Airlineshad also announced that it would buy 10 additional next-generation 737-800s, exercising its option to purchase the additional planes under an original deal sealed with Boeing in 2008. The order is valued at more than US$800mil. Incorporating new engines and large wing-tip devices called sharklets, the A320neo will deliver fuel savings of 15% and additional range capability of 500 nautical miles, or the ability to carry two tonnes more payload at a given range.

-thestar online.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

A ‘high day’ for AAX

PETALING JAYA: AirAsia X (AAX), which got the go-ahead on Monday for five key international routes, will fly two within 12 months, according to chief executive officer Azran Osman-Rani. Azran could not name the routes as the challenge now was to secure all the regulatory and airport authorities' approvals to enable AAX to land in the respective countries. “We have to make sure we get the approvals and the readiness. It is manageable but we could not initiate it without the Malaysian government's approval,'' Azran said by telephone from Paris yesterday.

Earlier yesterday, AAX
founder Tan Sri Tony Fernandes tweeted about the approval, saying that it was a “great day for AAX. The Government has removed all restrictions on routes. Only Sydney. Great, great day. Now we can go to Jeddah, Beijing, Shanghai, Osaka, Istanbul. The world has opened up. Thank you Prime Minister.''

The Transport Ministry had on Monday approved AAX's application for flights to Beijing, Osaka, Shanghai, Jeddah and Istanbul, but not the KL-Sydney route. “We don't have the aircraft to immediately fly all the five routes. At most we can do two routes in the short term (12 months) with our current capacity. Beyond that we will have to wait for future plane delivery. We have ordered 17 (aircfaft) but this approval (of routes) is important as we can now find the routes for all of them.

“(Therefore) the approval means a lot to AAX and we thank the Government for it. We were hampered by optimal aircraft utilisation without the key route approvals and this approval will unlock the problem and pave the way for our potential IPO (initial public offering),'' Azran said.
“We also don't want our aircraft to wait and sit idly. But, with this approval, investors will now have more confidence in us (when we go for our IPO) and there will be economic-viable routes for the planes to fly.'' Azran said it was a positive development for the country as “we can now prioritise the very limited aircraft capacity that the country has access to on the most important routes rather than peripheral ones. This will help the
Economic Transformation Programme achieve the tourism target that it had set.''

There are also conditions tied to the approval, but Azran merely said clarification was needed and he hoped to meet up with the Transport Minister at the Paris Air Show today. Asked when the company was planning the IPO, Azran said “it was too early to say. We still need to get clarification from the ministry.''
-thestar online.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lohan Hill has great potential to host world paragliding meets

RANAU: Lohan Hill has all the right qualities to become a world-class paragliding location here in Sabah. Situated along Sabah’s Crocker Range in the Ranau district, the location is seen by experts as a key spot for international-standard competitions for the sport.

Participants and officials of the recently concluded Paragliding Accuracy World Cup (PGAWC) Sabah 2011 held here believed the weather, accessibility and community involvement would play a big role in making this happen. Paraglider Rafael Kerin, who is currently third in the world ranking said even though it rained on the last day of the event, the paragliders could still afford to complete the designated rounds.

Smooth sailing: Paragliders making their descent to the landing site at Lohan Hill.

“The wind was accommodating and the weather was well despite the rain. “And the competition was also well-organised,” said the 41-year-old Slovenian, who emerged as the winner in the men’s category. Having competed in many paragliding competitions worldwide, he said Lohan Hill has what it takes to host the world championships.

Event director, Lt Col (R) Basir Ab Rahman, a paraglider himself, said the local community and easy access to the site were plus points to hold international events there in future. “The local community at the nearby Kampung Lohan has also been very supportive as well as the Sabah Tourism Board and the government.

Popular: Kerin (middle) posing for a photo with fans.

“The site is close to Ranau’s sports complex meaning accessibility is good. The wind at Lohan Hill is also friendly and people can fly most time of the year,” he said. Malaysia Sports Aviation Federation vice president Datuk Gimas Hussin said the federation would push for the world governing body in aviation sports, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, to host higher level paragliding events in Lohan Hill.

The PGAWC Sabah 2011 attracted 62 paragliders from 11 countries including the men’s and women’s world number one — Slovenian Feraric Matjaz and Indonesian Sirin Milawati. Kerin won the men’s category followed by China’s Quaing Sheng Guang and Matjaz while the top three spots in the women’s category belonged to Indonesia’s Rosnia Dian, Milawati and Bonaria Cherry.

-thestar online.

Rebranding Penang local tours

Penang's inbound tour packages will be rebranded to suit domestic needs. Penang Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA) Fair 2011 organising committee chairman Johari Shafie (pic) said existing tour packages lacked flexibility and were not interesting or exciting enough.

“Tourists had little choice but to accept available tour packages which may not suit their preferences,” said Johari. He said tour agents would be encouraged to provide consultation to holiday-makers to find out their needs and preferences.

“Agents will look into their preferred choice of accommodation, transportation mode, tour guides and type of tourism products. “MATTA will play a consultant’s role for both tourists and agents by providing information on what Penang has to offer,” he said, adding that local products would be aggressively promoted.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Johari said focus would be given on inbound holiday packages. “We want to make Penang the regional tourism hub, a position currently held by Singapore. ‘We are confident of repolishing the Pearl of the Orient, given the right rebranding exercise,” he said. Also present at the press conference was state Tourism Development and Culture Committee chairman Danny Law.

The MATTA Fair Penang 2011 will be held from July 22 to 24 at the Penang International Sports Arena. More than 300 local and overseas travel agents are expected to take part in the travel fair, offering special discounts, promotions, value-added packages and great travel incentives for holidaymakers.

For more details, call MATTA Penang Chapter at 04-8900106 or e-mail to secretariat.penang@matta.org.my.

-thestar online.

Kogure gives Weider Honda their first victory in the Japan Super GT

SEPANG: Weider Honda Racing team put their miserable start to the season behind them with a near flawless performance to claim their first victory in the third round of the Japan Super GT series at the Sepang Circuit yesterday. Driver Takashi Kogure, who drove superbly to clinch pole position on Saturday, took over from Loic Duval and pressed on to take the chequered flag at the end of the 46-lap race to hand Honda their first win of the season.

Duval started strongly in the first six laps but lost some ground to the chasing pack when he ran into GT300 traffic. An incident free pit stop and consistent driving from Kogure, however, ensured their first win in a total time of 1’33:34.849, 14.198 seconds ahead of the second placed MOLA team piloted by Ronnie Quintarelli and Masataka Yanagi. “The track was a little bit slippery towards the end but I think everyone suffered a bit from that. The car was excellent today and we are very happy to finally win and be back in the championship,” said a delighted Kogure, who has had a good relationship with the Sepang circuit, having set the Sepang GT500 class lap record here in 2007 with the Takata Dome NSX team.

Just too good: Takashi Kogure driving his car to to victory for his Weider Honda Racing team in the Japan Super GT 500 at Sepang Sunday. — BRIAN MOH / The Star.

Weider Honda Racing team won the overall title last year but have not finished on the podium in the last two races this season. Keihin Real Racing, carrying the largest weight handicap amongst the top three at 28kg and driven by Toshihiro Kaneishi and Koudai Tsukakoshi, finished 32.487 seconds behind the winners for third place, completing a race where the top three starters in the grid maintained their positions throughout the race. Fourth placed on the starting grid and team standings leaders Team Impul endured a bad race with tyre problems and finished last.

Lexus Team Petronas Toms, the defacto home team started from a disappointing 11th on the grid but first driver and newly crowned Le Mans winner Andre Lotterer quickly made up ground, moving up to sixth position by the 14th lap, and second driver Kazuki Nakajima managed to hold off the advances from the Honda of Team Kunimitsu towards the end to finish the race in sixth position.

In the GT300 class, the BMW Z4 GT3 of Team UKYO took top honours, also from pole, in a nail biting finish. Nobuteru Taniguchi, the first driver for the team, opened up a healthy lead but second driver Taku Bamba had to endure several nervy moments before eventually taking the chequered flag.

“We are very happy with the win and everything went according to plan, except for maybe the finish, which I am a bit disappointed with myself. ”I couldn’t keep the lead that Taniguchi had given me and I got a bit nervous towards the end. I just tried to keep my cool and work with the strengths of the car and thankfully it all worked out,” said a relieved Taku.

-thestar online.

WWF: Sabah marine park has much to offer

KOTA KINABALU: The proposed Tun Mustapha Park on a conservation area in northern Sabah is a treasure trove for eco-tourism. Its limestone caves at Balambangan Island and its pristine beaches are prompting environmentalists to pitch the tourism possibilities with tour operators in the state.

WWF Malaysia organised a trip for Sabah tourism operators to see the potential sites in the proposed park for the development of eco-tourism programmes. WWF-Malaysia Sulu-Sulawesi marine eco-region manager Robecca Jumin said the trip on Thursday was aimed at increasing the profile of the proposed park as well as to highlight the Balambangan, Maliangin and Berungus islands. “Exposure to these sites is intended to initiate eco-tourism development that will generate a sustainable livelihood for local communities and garner support to fully protect Balambangan Island,” she said in a statement.

She added that the proposed park within the Kudat-Banggi Priority Conservation Area (PCA) is one of three globally significant PCAs in Malaysia within the Sulu-Sulawesi marine eco-region. The area has Malaysia’s second largest concentration of coral reefs linked to complex habitats including primary rainforest, mangroves, and seagrass beds and is home to 252 species of hard corals, 350 species of fish, endangered green sea turtles and dugongs. Once gazetted, the proposed park, measuring over one million hectares with 50 islands and over 80,000 inhabitants, will become Malaysia’s largest marine park.

Balambangan Island, she said, had over 20 limestone caves with archaeological findings that date back 11,000 years to 1.75 million years. The cave system houses intriguing chambers and limestone formations that have the potential to attract local and foreign tourists. Researchers from Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Malaysian Archaeological Research Centre found three prehistoric human bones and 36 items made from animal bones believed to be tools from the Pleistocene era.

-thestar online.

AirAsia X planning to fly to Africa

SEPANG: AirAsia X is planning to fly to destinations in Africa, saidAirAsia Bhd group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes“Our team has just come back from South Africa, Egypt and Morocco. We are currently surveying new routes, landing rights and potential markets that we are about to venture into,” he told reporters after launching the AirAsia-CAE (Canadian Aviation Electronics) Asian Aviation Academy here on Monday.

He said AirAsia X flights going to Africa would be focused on destinations in the central and southern part of the continent. “We see a lot of potential in Kenya and Somalia. We will definitely fly there (African continent) at some stage. "AirAsia is always looking to find new market opportunities and this includes other parts of the world as well,” he said.

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had suggested that the low-cost airline should consider Africa as its next major destination. He had said during the Langkawi International Dialogue 2011 that the company could either fly there on its own or join forces with African airlines to provide services between Kuala Lumpur and cities in the continent.

On the Asian Aviation Academy, Fernandes said the RM200mil joint venture between AirAsia and CAE was aimed at training pilots, cabin crew, maintenance workers and ground personnel for airlines in the Asean region. “We are planning to train some 12,000 pilots a year in the academy and we forecast that the number of trainees will grow exponentially. “Pilot training programmes will be available from July 1 while non-pilot training programmes will commence on Oct 1,” he said, adding that it also accepted trainees from other airlines. CAE group president Jeff Roberts said the training centre would include six CAE-built full-flight simulators, including four for the Airbus A320 and one each for the A330/340 and Boeing 737 Classic.

-thestar online.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Firefly to take delivery of two new jets ahead of schedule

PETALING JAYA: Firefly will take delivery of two jet aircraft ahead of schedule this year, allowing it to further improve connectivity and flight timings domestically and regionally. Firefly managing director, Datuk Eddy Leong, said that the delivery of the two jets was initially targeted for the year end. “However, we will take delivery of our sixth Boeing 737-800 and our second Boeing 737-400 this month. This would bring our fleet size of jets to eight. “Now that two aircraft have been confirmed delivery ahead of time, we will focus on improving flight timings and connectivity on existing routes and look at developing new ones.

"Of the two jets, the Boeing 737-800 will be stationed in Firefly's Central hub in Kuala Lumpur and the Boeing 737-400 will be stationed in Johor Baru,” he added. Firefly's new routes that are already open for sale using jet aircraft, include twice daily flights from Johor Baru to Kota Kinabalu, commencing June 16, twice daily flights between Kuala Lumpur and Sibu from July 1, twice daily flights from Kuala Lumpur and Sandakan from Aug 1, four weekly flights to Surabaya commencing Aug 14 and three weekly flights to Bandung from Aug 16.

These are in addition to existing routes, which include six daily flights between Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu, seven daily flights between Kuala Lumpur and Kuching and twice daily flights between Johor Baru and Kuching. Firefly is also the first company in Malaysia and the second airline in the world to have a page on Foursquare, the location-based social network that enables travellers to discover useful travel tips near their airports or destinations.

For more interesting facts and tips, visit http://foursquare.com/flyfirefly to meet up with friends, discover new places and unlock rewards as you travel. Firefly also connects with the world through Facebook and Twitter.

-thestar online.

1Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival 2011

We have already passed the half year mark and there is no better way to take a breather than to indulge in a fantastic shopping experience with the Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival or now known as the 1Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival (1MMSC). The 1MMSC sale campaign will run nationwide from 15 June to 31 August 2011.Organised by the Ministry of Tourism, 1MMSC will be launched at Suria KLCC today by the Honourable Minister of Tourism, Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen. The choice of the launch location is in line with the government’s effort to develop the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC)-Bukit Bintang area into a premier shopping precinct under the Economic Transformation Programme. 

This year, the 1MMSC is complemented by the 1Malaysia Unified Sale, an initiative by the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Co-operatives and Consumerism (MDTCC), which will run concurrently with 1MMSC. The 1Malaysia Unified Sale offers consumers discounts, incentives and added services throughout all sectors of the economy. Among the sectors that are participating in the Malaysia Unified Sale are retail, food and beverage, hotel, spa, tourist attraction, electronic and electrical, and transport. Apart from this new initiative, the government, in its effort to position Malaysia as a luxury shopping destination, has recently announced the waiver of import duty on about 300 goods valued at over RM200. This initiative is implemented to attract a wider range of principal luxury brands to invest in Malaysia, and in doing so, add variety to the product choice on the market. MasterCard Worldwide, the official card of the 1MMSC since the programme was first introduced, returns with instant redemptions, exclusive promotions and the opportunity to win RM100,000 in Shopping Spree. 

Tourism Malaysia is also adding more excitement to the sale carnival with its Shopping Voucher programme which offers discounts and special sale promotions from various retailers nationwide.  These vouchers will be distributed at exhibitions and road shows participated by Tourism Malaysia, and will also be available at Tourist Information Centres located at international airports throughout the country. 

To further promote 1MMSC and Malaysia as a premier shopping destination, Tourism Malaysia is hosting 93 Mega Fam participants from Algeria, Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Latvia, South Korea, Sweden, Thailand, Netherlands, Philippines and Vietnam. These participants will get to experience the excitement of the 1MMSC. Malaysia’s sale campaigns have contributed significantly to the growing number of tourist arrivals and tourist receipts each year. In 2010, tourist receipts registered at RM56.5 billion and from this amount, 28.7 percent or RM16.2 million was contributed by the shopping sector.

-Tourism Malaysia.