Sunday, 31 March 2013

Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza & LEGOLAND® Make Dreams Come True For Malaysia’s Bravest Children

Mohd Riza Sidek (IJN) Dato Siti Nurhaliza and Thila Munusamy (LEGOLAND)

Johor, 28 March 2013 – Several of Malaysia’s bravest children made a trip to LEGOLAND® Malaysia today as special guests of international superstar Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza. They have recently recovered from heart surgery. The funds for their treatment were raised through the SimplySiti Di Hati 2012 CSR initiative with the National Heart Institute Foundation (IJN Foundation). 

As well as sampling the 40 interactive rides, shows and attractions with the children and their families, Dato’ Siti held a joint press conference with LEGOLAND. During the event she presented the IJN Foundation with a cheque for RM 57,166 that was raised through a nationwide campaign to fund the heart surgery for the three selected children.  

“I am delighted to be here today because LEGOLAND is a place where children’s dreams can come true. The children visiting today have displayed immense bravery over the past months and really deserve to enjoy their day in this unique theme park. My deepest appreciation goes out to everyone who has participated in the SimplySiti Di Hati 2012 campaign to raise funds for these children, who thankfully are healthy after the surgery. I hope there will be more contributions to IJN foundation so many more underprivileged children suffering from heart disease in Malaysia will get the care they need,” Dato’ Siti said. 

In support of Dato’ Siti Nurhaliza’s contribution, LEGOLAND Malaysia also made a special donation. On behalf of the international theme park Thila Munusamy, Director Sales and Marketing, contributed 1,000 complimentary entrance tickets to IJN Foundation.  

“LEGOLAND greatly admires the work that Dato’ Siti carries out and we share her aspiration to help children who are seriously ill, disabled or disadvantaged. We provide on-going support through the Merlin’s Magic Wand; a worldwide charity dedicated to providing magical experiences to these children. Initiatives in the local community are also an integral part of our corporate social 
responsibility. To show our support for Dato’ Siti and children in Malaysia with heart disease we would like to present 1,000 LEGOLAND tickets to the IJN Foundation,” said Munusamy.  

Dato Siti Nurhaliza and her special guests at LEGOLAND
During her visit to LEGOLAND Malaysia Dato’ Siti also became the latest guest to participate in the Minifigure Swap currently taking place in the Park. Since its launch two weeks ago more than 6,000 children and visitors have played their part in Asia’s first ever Minifigure Swap, a Park tradition that involves the trading of small LEGO® figurines to encourage interaction between Model Citizens (LEGOLAND Staff) and Park visitors.

DRH introduces twin developments at Puteri Harbour

Puteri Harbour in Nusajaya will soon see the arrival of Traders Hotel Puteri Harbour and entertainment complex Little Red Cube, both under the investment portfolio of Destination Resorts and Hotels (DRH) and worth more than RM400 million (US$130 million).

Traders Hotel Puteri Harbour is set to open in 2Q2013 and was developed in partnership with Shangri-La Group.

The hotel will boast five multi-function meeting and event rooms, including a banquet hall with the capacity to cater for up to 600 guests, a pre-function area, a business centre and VIP room for MICE or business travellers. Guests can also enjoy the skybar lounge on the roof, three swimming pools, a spa and gym.

Meanwhile, Little Red Cube will come up within the same integrated development of Puteri Harbour. At 1.7 hectares, it will offer visitors two levels of retail, leisure, F&B and entertainment options, such as the newly opened Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park.

The indoor theme park comprises Hello Kitty Town, Little Big Club and latest addition LAT’s Place.

DRH was established by the Malaysian government’s investment arm, Khazanah Nasional for the continued development of Malaysia’s luxury leisure and tourism sector.
-TTG Asia.

Wings Rockestra @ Istana Budaya

Tarikh: 26~28 & 30 April 2013

Masa: 8.30 malam

Tempat: Panggung Sari, Istana Budaya, Kuala Lumpur


Sentoria's RM60m safari park to open in mid-2013

PETALING JAYA (March 29, 2013): Property developer Sentoria Group Bhd, which is investing RM60 million to build a safari park at Bukit Gambang Resort City (BGRC) in Kuantan, Pahang, has opened the first three sections of the new themed attraction.
Dubbed "Bukit Gambang Safari Park", it is the second themed attraction within the integrated resort city and is targeted to be fully opened by the middle of this year. Sentoria will fund the project by internal funds and borrowings.
“BGRC’s maiden attraction – Bukit Gambang Water Park – witnessed increasing patronage since its opening in 2009, attracting more than 600,000 visitors in 2012 alone. The group has worked hard over the past year to ensure that Bukit Gambang Safari Park has met the specific requirements to accommodate the host of unique animals that are being brought in," Sentoria head of public and investor relations Nasiruddin Nasrun said in a statement today.
"We are positive that once it is fully opened in mid-2013, it will not only draw Malaysian tourists to Kuantan but also foreigners from around the world."
The safari park spans over 138 acres of land and will feature a total of eight dedicated sections including the first three named 'Simba Hill', 'Night Jungle' and 'Foreign Village'. Tickets are priced at RM28 for adults and RM18 for children aged 12 years and below.
At the group's AGM and EGM today, Sentoria shareholders approved its final dividend of 1.0 sen per share, bringing a total dividend payout of RM8 million or 16.7% of the group's net profit for the financial year ended Sept 30, 2012.
The shareholders also approved a one-for-10 bonus issue of 40 million new shares of 20 sen each. This would see Sentoria's issued and paid-up share capital increase from RM80 million comprising 400 million shares to RM88 million comprising 440 million shares. The bonus issue is expected to be completed by the middle of next month.

RM2.1mil support for Bornean Sun Bear conservation

BSBCC’s youngest resc ued sun bear: Damai, a seven-month-old cub, is seen chewing off decayed wood to look for termites to eat. She was found in a residential area in Damai in November 2012 by a businessman who found her wandering on his porch. Damai was then sent to the Lok Kawi Zoo before being sent to BSBCC.BSBCC’s youngest resc ued sun bear: Damai, a seven-month-old cub, is seen chewing off decayed wood to look for termites to eat. She was found in a residential area in Damai in November 2012 by a businessman who found her wandering on his porch. Damai was then sent to the Lok Kawi Zoo before being sent to BSBCC.
With a distinctive pale horseshoe-shaped imprint on their chests coupled with their cute and cuddly disposition, it is easy to understand why anyone would fall in love with the Malayan sun bears.
Despite the fact that sun bears are a protected species, some unscrupulous people hunt them down for their body parts which are consumed for medicinal purposes while the cubs end up as pets. Over the years, this practice has tragically depleted the sun bear population. Sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) are the smallest and least known members of the bear family and their population is rapidly diminishing in South-East Asia.
With the support of Yayasan Sime Darby (YSD), the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) in Sepilok, Sabah, has been working hard to right the wrongdoings of mankind. BSBCC has been rescuing sun bears which have been kept as pets and caring for them with the hope of releasing them back into the wild in the future.
BSBCC is a non-profit organisation initiated by the Sabah Forestry Department (SFD), Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) and a non-government organisation, Land Empowerment Animals People (LEAP), in 2008 to look after the plight of captive and orphaned sun bears in Sabah and to promote conservation efforts.
In 2012, YSD allocated funding of RM2.1 million for the BSBCC. A major chunk of the funding is being used to renovate an existing bear house and to construct a second bear house where the rescued sun bears will be relocated. YSD’s sponsorship also includes the construction of a visitor information centre and opening the BSBCC to the public, which would provide financial sustenance to the BSBCC.
YSD governing council member Caroline Christine Russell said the foundation’s sponsorship would help rescued sun bears to recuperate and be rehabilitated in a safe and protected environment. “When sun bears are kept and treated as pets, they grow into adulthood without learning the necessary skills to survive in the wild. YSD is highly supportive of BSBCC’s mission to rescue captured sun bears and promote sun bear conservation in Borneo. This will halt cruelty to these animals including the killing of sun bears for their supposed medicinal value and keeping their offspring as pets,” she said.
BSBCC chief executive officer Wong Siew Te said the process of catching a sun bear cub involved killing its mother. “If the law allows sun bears to be kept as pets, it will only fuel demand which would lead to more poaching of sun bears,” he said.
There have also been instances where poachers left cubs to die, after killing their mothers for body parts. The demand for the sun bear’s bile and other parts especially for traditional medicine and even for delicacies is said to be among the reasons for the poaching and illegal trade of the species.
The Malayan sun bear has been classified as “vulnerable” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red Book Listing of Endangered Species since 2007 due to its dwindling population over the past 30 years. Sun bears do not breed well in captivity and due to their naturally slow reproductive rate, a female sun bear may only have up to three to four cubs in her lifetime. Thus, excessive hunting or capturing of cubs can easily wipe out the local population.
It is illegal to kill or hunt these bears under the 1997 Sabah Wildlife Conservation Enactment and those found guilty of rearing or possessing protected species such as the Malayan sun bear could face a mandatory jail term between one month and a year.
The BSBCC is currently home to 28 rescued sun bears. The latest addition is a four-month old female cub that was found in a housing area in Kota Kinabalu in early November last year.
For more information on what BSBCC does and how the public can help with the sun bear’s conservation efforts, please visit
-thestar online.

KLIA poised to soar into Top 20 listing

The Kuala Lumpur International Airport is poised to join the ranks of the Top 20 busiest airports in the world by 2020. It will need to move up at least seven spots from its current 27th rank over the next seven years.

The signs all point positively to that direction as analysts begin to see the airport's full potential coming to bloom in the next decade. KLIA has always been a winner in its own right. It has won several awards, including “best airport in the world” in its category, ever since it opened its doors back in June 1998.

It was one of the biggest construction projects ever carried out in the country, with up to 25,000 workers working non-stop daily over seven years to complete it. And we were proud that it truly stood out in the international map as an iconic airport in terms of its futuristic design and capacity for future expansion.

The former agricultural land in Sepang was transformed into one of the world's largest airport sites and KLIA took its rightful place as one of the major international airports in the region, even though some of the toughest challengers in competing for traffic are from the region itself. Analysts are now even more upbeat about KLIA because they believe the whole economic make-up of Kuala Lumpur, and by extension, our country, has changed.

As one aviation expert puts it, “there is strong economic growth, more foreign companies are based here than a decade ago, the number of business travellers is higher and there is a huge domestic market and Malaysia is more visible on the tourism map”.

Although there had been setbacks previously when some major airlines decided to bypass KLIA, any airline that seeks to be a global player today cannot overlook the attractiveness of our airport.

We have the connectivity, traffic volume, a thriving domestic market and we are also home to Asia's biggest low-cost airline hub. But while the analysts can crunch the numbers and look at the trending statistics, the success of KLIA is also directly linked to our overall performance as a nation.

For example, if we want to be a top-notch tourist destination, we must strive to make our international gateway the initial point of entry for the majority of tourists travelling to this part of the world. While we can benefit from being one of the stops along the way, it is better to be the first stop.

And if we want to attract more business travellers, we must continue in our efforts to make Kuala Lumpur the city of choice for global companies setting up regional headquarters.

In this respect, our country must continue to be a model of political stability, business friendliness and environmental awareness, among others, to make people want to fly into our country, thereby guaranteeing KLIA's success.

It is not an easy task. But it is not impossible either. Given the right attitude and proper planning, we can really soar for the skies. Come the next decade we should be aiming beyond the Top 20, to be right there at the very top.
-the star.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Malaysian travellers go beyond traditional holiday hotspots

Malaysians are increasingly exploring new destinations, driven by air developments in the region.

According to a study by metasearch site Wego, Malaysian users searched 900 more destinations for flights than in 2011, bringing the total number of flight destination searches to 2,500. The behaviour of 100,000 travellers using in 2012 up to February 2013 was analysed.

In terms of accommodation, users are now looking at stays in 400 new destinations out of almost 2,000 destinations in total, for the same period.

Internationally, Bangkok, Jakarta, Taipei and Singapore still reign, but may face competition from secondary destinations. Dean Wicks, chief marketing officer, Wego, said: “Users are constantly finding new routes with AirAsia, Jetstar, Malindo Air and other carriers, which soon become popular especially if they are seen to be affordable.

“It’s driving a shift away from the traditional selections of Bali and Phuket in favour of destinations like Bandung, a favourite weekend retreat with Jakarta residents; Hat Yai; Macau; and Perth.” He cited Istanbul as another destination that has caught the eye of Malaysian travellers, and believed that further developments in aviation would increase the popularity of secondary destinations further.

Within the country, Kuala Lumpur is the top search. One in every eight Malaysian users seeks flights to the capital and even more for hotels in the city. Other cities in the top 10 are (in order): Langkawi, Penang, Cameron Highlands, Port Dickson, Johor Bahru, Genting Highlands, Kota Kinabalu, Malacca and Kuching.

Accommodation-wise, 16 per cent of Malaysians booked five-star hotels; 26 per cent booked four-stars, 31 per cent booked three-stars; 17 per cent booked two-stars; and the rest was spread among one-star and uncategorised hotels.
-TTG Asia.

MAHB: KLIA2 on schedule to open on June 28

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia Airports Holding Bhd (MAHB) says the klia2 - the new low-cost airline hub - is on schedule to open on June 28.

The airports operator said on Thursday all efforts were underway to meet this target date. "MAHB is closely monitoring the progress of the work being done by the contractors," it said. Although some works by the contractors were behind schedule, they were ramping up their efforts to meet the deadline, it said.

MAHB is employing 1,102 new staff for KLIA2, of which 746 are aviation security, 86 are airport fire and rescue services, 98 are engineering and maintenance and 172 are operations services.

MAHB also said its managing director Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad Abdul Majid, who has been with the company since 2003, had requested the board seek a suitable successor. Bashir's contract ends in June. However, MAHB said the board would like Bashir to continue to guide the company through the current challenges facing the aviation industry.

"The board will in due course identify a successor and will provide sufficient time for a proper transition. The board has deliberated the matter and has forwarded the matter to Ministry of Finance for its decision," it said.
-thestar online.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

PAL's Kuala Lumpur flights to stir weekend and MICE travel

The Malaysian travel trade is looking to tap Philippine Airlines' four-times-weekly direct flights between Kuala Lumpur and Manila, commencing May 1.

Ally Bhoonee, executive director of World Avenues, said: “The Philippine market, with its growing economy, is a good market to replace the slow movements out of Europe. The short flight distance encourages weekend getaways to Kuala Lumpur, and there are also no visa requirements. "With improved accessibility, we will certainly intensify our efforts in the Philippines."

Another inbound player, Tina Travel & Agencies managing director, Adam Kamal, said: "The added capacity on this route makes it easier for us to target the meetings and incentives segment out of Manila. Some corporate companies only want to fly on full-service carriers." The other full-service carrier on the route is Malaysia Airlines, which runs four daily flights between the two cities.

Lexis Hotels & Resorts vice president – operations, Tiu Kwe Yee, was also keen to target the honeymoon segment. "Our Grand Lexis Port Dickson resort has a private pool in every room. We will work with inbound (consultants) on packages."

Departing Manila every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 07.55, flights arrive in Kuala Lumpur at 11.40. They leave Kuala Lumpur at 12.50 and arrive in Manila at 16.40pm on the return leg. Philippines Airlines will operate its 126-seater Airbus A319 on the route.
-TTG Asia.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Malindo Air maps out strategy for flights to 12 destinations this year

KOTA KINABALU: Hot on the heels of its inaugural commercial flight to Kota Kinabalu, newcomer Malindo Air has mapped out a strategy to fly to 12 destinations this year. And if all goes as planned, the Indian capital of New Delhi would be its maiden international destination some time in the middle of this year.
Today, Malindo Air will begin plying its second route Kuala Lumpur-Kuching. Its load factor for the first day of operations averaged 70%. Speaking to the media yesterday, Malindo Air chief executive officer Chandran Ramamuthy said a 70% load factor was good and that forward bookings were looking great. “We even having bookings for 2014,” he said.
It was just over six months ago that Malindo Air, 49% owned by Indonesian Lion Air, was conceptualised. The airline's takeoff yesterday defied sceptics who had said it would never see launch.
“We have proven them wrong. We have taken off and we followed the timeframe set, although it was tough,” said Chandran. Malindo Air was supposed to begin operations in May but brought it forward to this month as it managed to get the aircraft numbers. It has two aircraft now, which would increase 12 by the year-end.
Its entry also marks a milestone in Malaysia's aviation industry, as now the country had a third airline after AirAsia and Malaysia AirlinesIts entry would certainly intensify competition, although Chandran believes the market is big enough for three players, a sentiment also echoed by Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri“Now, travellers have another choice and that is good for consumers,” observed an analyst.
Malindo Air is flying passengers on its new B787-900 extended range, offering 15kg of free baggage, snacks and free inflight entertainment, with a business class offering thrown in. The airline is offering promotional fares of RM68 one-way all-inclusive from the KL International Airport (KLIA) to Kota Kinabalu and RM38 from KLIA to Kuching, valid till Oct 28.
Chandran would not elaborate on Malindo Air's future destinations other than New Delhi, but those in the know claim it would fly to Sibu, Miri, Bintulu, Sandakan, Tawau, Labuan, Bali, Surabaya and possibly even Jakarta, which is currently serviced by Lion Air. KLIA would be its main transit hub with Kota Kinabalu as its secondary hub.
Malindo Air has big plans for the Kota Kinabalu hub. Chandran said there would be direct connectivity from Kota Kinabalu to Indonesia, Japan, China and South Korea within two years.
Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun, meanwhile, said the arrival of Malindo Air to Kota Kinabalu would hopefully boost tourism in the state. Last year, tourist arrivals in Sabah totalled 1.8 million.
-thestar online.

Formula One: Vettel grabs Malaysian pole in qualifying drama

SEPANG: Reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel snatched pole position for the Malaysian Grand Prix Saturday in the dying seconds of a dramatic qualifying session which was thrown into chaos by rain.
In his final run on a drying track, Vettel stormed across the line in a time of 1min 49.674sec, pipping Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa (1:50.587) and Fernando Alonso (1:50.727) with Mercedes pilot Lewis Hamilton fourth.
Red Bull's Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg of Mercedes will start Sunday's race from fifth and sixth, with Kimi Raikkonen, last week's winner in Australia, on the fourth row alongside McLaren's Jenson Button.
Force India's Adrian Sutil was ninth ahead of McLaren's new recruit Sergio Perez, who finished last year's rain-interrupted race second for Swiss outfit Sauber.
"It turned into an interesting qualifying session," said Vettel. "It was quite tricky because some parts of the track were still wet and others were dry, but still all in all a very good session for us. "We managed to save some tyres, which could be crucial tomorrow."
Malaysia's ever-present tropical showers had disrupted Friday practice, and clouds were again looming ominously as qualifying got underway.
With track temperatures at a sizzling 41 degrees Celsius (106 Fahrenheit), Sutil set the pace in Q1 with the Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber trailing in 15th and ninth respectively. Rosberg was leading Q2 when the rain set in, effectively bringing the session to an early halt as the cars returned to the pits - but not before Paul di Resta had twice lost control of his Force India.
With the cloudburst quickly easing, the cars switched to intermediate wet-dry tyres for the final qualifying shoot-out and officials disabled the DRS overtaking system in the slippery conditions. Hamilton ran wide on the slick track but soon recovered to post the fastest time, before he was quickly usurped by Rosberg and then Vettel at the top of the standings after six minutes.
With two minutes left, Webber raced through to time quickest, a lead which lasted just seconds as Hamilton crossed behind him in a time of 1min 51.699sec, a lap which seemed to have secured his first pole position for Mercedes.
But with the chequered flag waving, Alonso bolted over the line with a new fastest time, followed immediately by Vettel who claimed his 38th pole position - and boosted his bid to win a fourth straight world championship.
Vettel will hope to improve on last week's showing in Australia, when he also started in pole position but dropped back to finish third behind Raikkonen and Alonso. "I think if you start in the front you always want to finish there as well. I think it will be a long race," said the German.
Teams will be bracing themselves for further rain on Sunday, after last year's long storm delay in a race which was eventually won by Alonso. In 2009, heavy rain forced the grand prix's cancellation after just 31 laps, with Button awarded victory.
-thestar online.

Karnival Jom Pi Perlis

Tarikh: 23 ~ 31 Mac 2013

Masa: 9.00 pagi ~ 9.00 malam

Tempat: Jeti Kuala Perlis, Perlis

Karnival ini dianjurkan bagi mempromosikan produk-produk pelancongan dan homestay di Negeri Perlis. Selain itu, terdapat juga agensi-agensi dan jabatan-jabatan lain yang turut serta di dalam karnival ini seperti Jabatan Perhutanan, Usahawan-usahawan SDSI, IPTA/S (UiTM Arau, UNIMAP, Politeknik Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin, KATPM & AUCMS), Briged Sempadan 504 dan agensi-agensi pelancongan Negeri Perlis. Pelbagai produk usahawan, pakej-pakej pelancongan, maklumat pengajian tinggi serta kuiz pelancongan, persembahan nyanyian & tarian disajikan di sepanjang karnival ini berlangsung.
-Tourism Malaysia~ Perlis.

Kimi Raikkonen loves the home stretch

SEPANG: There is no place like home, especially after a busy Formula One Season, said Lotus F1 Team driver Kimi Raikkonen.
The 2007 Formula One champion also known as the “Ice Man” said he would like nothing better than to just relax and unwind in the comfort of his home after each season of travelling and racing. “I usually like to stay home. I travel so much during the year for all the races and when I have free time, it's nice to not really plan anything and just spend it at home,” he said.
He was talking to reporters at the Clear and Rexona meet-and-greet session with the Lotus F1 Team at a hotel here on Thursday. “I don't really have a specific place that I need to jump into a plane and head to,” said the 34-year-old Finish driver.
Raikkonen said schedules during races were tight, which made it difficult for him to go on sightseeing excursions, let alone try local cuisines. “Usually, it doesn't really matter which country we go to, all we see are the airport, hotel and race circuit,” he said.
His teammate, 27-year-old Romain Grosjean, believes he is lucky to be able to travel around the world to race. “When we visit each country, we don't have much time to sightsee but at least I can say I have already seen the Petronas Twin Towers.”
Raikkonen (left) and Grosjean speaking to the media during the meet-and-greet session hosted by Clear and Rexona.Raikkonen (left) and Grosjean speaking to the media during the meet-and-greet session hosted by Clear and Rexona.
The team's technical director James Allison said tomorrow's race at Sepang would be an indicator of how well the team performed for the rest of the season. “We had a good finish in Australia and a car that is balanced and kinder on its tyres, but conditions in Sepang are very different.
“The extreme tyre temperatures that we get here can cook the tyres, the track surface is rougher, hotter and some of the corners are more demanding than they were in Australia,” he said, adding that if his team could have a strong showing on the tyres like they did in Australia, then they were set for a very strong season this year.
-thestar online.

Firms appeal to Muslims with halal food

A board explaining halal is displayed at the entrance of a restaurant on the University of Tokyo Hongo campus.

With markets expanding in Muslim counties, a number of Japanese companies see the production of halal foods and other products as a passport to the Islamic world, even though this might mean the complete renovation of a factory.

Halal, an Arabic term meaning "permissible," is used to designate the preparation of food Muslims are allowed to eat according to Islamic law. Other products also must contain ingredients that are considered halal. Cattle and chickens are slaughtered and processed using a special method, which is accompanied by an Islamic prayer. Pork and alcohol are totally forbidden.

Halal authentification bodies have received applications from Japanese companies that want to produce halal products for Islamic countries. The number of restaurants and university cafeterias offering halal dishes is also increasing.

"Halal is a passport to Islamic countries," Akmal Abu Hassan, 43, a Malaysian living in Japan, said at a forum held in Saitama in mid-February. About 150 people from companies thinking of expanding into Islamic countries attended the forum. Hassan, who runs a company to help Japanese companies develop halal products, said: "[Islamic countries are] a promising future market. This is a good opportunity [to develop halal products]."

The number of Muslims is expected to exceed 2 billion in 2030. Two of the largest Muslim countries, Indonesia and Bangladesh, are expected to chalk up growth rates of 6 percent. In anticipation of the future huge market, Japanese companies scrambling to receive halal authentication are on the increase.

The Japan Halal Association, an Osaka-based incorporated nonprofit organization established in 2010, received 14 applications last year, up from two in 2011. This year, the number of applications has already exceeded 10.
However, it is not easy for a company to meet the requirements.

An association official said: "In some cases, it becomes necessary to totally renovate a factory." Only five applications have been approved over the past three years, the official said.

At a spice manufacturing company in Ageo, Saitama Prefecture, which received halal authentication from another organization, part of its factory was renovated to produce halal products exclusively. Kazuto Inoue, 73, who runs the company, is busily developing halal products. "The Muslim market is very attractive," he said.

Counting on tourists
The tourist industry also has its eye on Muslim countries. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, the number of tourists from Indonesia last year increased by nearly 60 percent compared to visitors from that country in 2007.

The Japan Halal Association said the number of restaurants offering halal dishes has increased rapidly over past 10 years. Currently, about 200 restaurants across the nation offer halal dishes.

Takayuki Ishihara, manager of the Gyumon barbecue restaurant in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, which offers halal meat, said, "I hope mutual understanding will deepen between Muslims and Japanese by dining here."

The JNTO, which plans to open an office in Indonesia in May, is preparing booklets to introduce Japanese restaurants offering halal dishes and places where Muslims can pray, an official said.

Oven set aside
A restaurant on the University of Tokyo's Hongo campus prepares a daily halal dish, such as chicken cooked in tomato sauce and beef curry. The restaurant staff have discussed menus with Muslim students, and separate cooking utensils are used to prepare halal dishes from those needed for other dishes. An oven is set aside for halal dishes.

According to the National Federation of University Co-operative Associations, seven other universities prepare halal dishes. Toru Ito, assistant senior managing director of the University of Tokyo's cooperative, said: "Universities admit students from around the world. We must be prepared to receive such students."

Chukyo University Prof. Ryoichi Namikawa, who has written a book about the concept of halal, said: "People may have become more interested in Muslim countries because of China's economic slowdown. To understand Muslim countries, an understanding of halal is essential."
-The Yomiuri Shimbun.

Putrajaya’s hot air balloon fiesta back with more exciting activities

A closer look: PPj president Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat (third from left) touring the inside of a hot-air balloon after the press conference.A closer look: PPj president Tan Sri Aseh Che Mat (third from left) touring the inside of a hot-air balloon after the press conference.
Come March 28, look up at the skies and you may see a monkey, cat, Smurf or a clown flying over Putrajaya as the annual Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta is back.
Organised for the fifth time, the hot air balloon festival will be held from March 28 to 31 at the Millen-nium Monument in Precinct 2, Putrajaya. It is organised by AKA Balloon Sdn Bhd, Putrajaya Corporation (PPj) and the Malaysian Sports Aviation Federation (MSAF). This time around, there will be three female pilots and nine new pilots.
Twenty-four balloons from France, the US, Germany, Japan, Belgium, Switzerland, Vietnam, the Nether-lands, New Zealand, Thailand, India and, of course, Malaysia will be participating. It is the first time that Poland, Spain and Australia are taking part. There will be six special balloons that will take to the skies, including Buzzy and a Tune Talk balloon.
State colours : Mohammad Sobri will be piloting the “Kedah” balloon.State colours : Mohammad Sobri will be piloting the “Kedah” balloon.
“We are delighted to have been given this opportunity to, once again, put Malaysia on the map of ballooning. “Since the inception of the first Putrajaya Hot Air Balloon Fiesta back in 2009, Malaysia has grown to become one of the more popular Asian destinations for the ballooning community,” said Putrajaya Inter-national Hot Air Balloon Fiesta chairman Mohammad Sobri Saad.
For four days, every morning from 7am to 9am, balloonists will participate in a ballooning competition, vying for Rudy’s Trophy — a trophy named after the late fiesta chairman and co-founder Khairuddin Abd Rani.
For the competition, one pre-determined balloon, known as the “hare” will first take off. The other participating balloons, known as “hounds”, will launch at pre-determined intervals after the “hare”. The “hare” then lands at a suitable site and lays out a large piece of fabric, forming the letter ‘X’, marking this as the target. The “hounds” then attempt to drop their markers as close to the ‘X’ as possible. The closest marker will garner the highest score.
In the evenings, the balloonists will again take to the skies for a balloon show at 6pm. One of the highlights is the “night glow” event on March 30, where the balloons will light up in a synchronised manner to the sounds of music, culminating in a fireworks display.
Visitors can also look forward to a myriad of activities such as model hot air balloon demonstrations and meet-and-greet sessions with the balloonists.
Adventurous visitors can visit the Mountain Dew Extreme Zone to try zorbing, car simulators, hamster roll, paintball and more . Helicopter joy rides will be available on March 30 and 31. Members of the public can go for the tethered hot-air balloon rides from 7.30am to 10.30am and 7pm to 10pm daily for RM20 per person.
Romantic: The ‘Portland Rose” hot air balloon.Romantic: The ‘Portland Rose” hot air balloon.
The ride will be hoisted 60 feet off the ground. “The fiesta offers lots of exciting activities that will keep the young ones occupied — from colouring competitions and stage performances by cartoon characters to carnival games and rides,” said event director Izzati Khairudin. Admission to the fiesta is free.
Visitors are encouraged to use the KLIA Transit to Putrajaya as KLIA Transit will be offering a 30% discount on ticket rates during the four days. From the Putrajaya station, the public can take the Nadi Putra buses which will ferry them directly to fiesta grounds. Alternatively, visitors can also choose to drive to any of Putrajaya’s ‘Park & Ride’ points and take the Nadi Putra buses.
For details, visit, follow the Putrajaya International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta official Facebook page,@myballoonfiesta on Twitter, and @myballoonfiesta and#myballoonfiesta Instagram account.
-thestar online.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Malindo Air takes off with first flight to Kota Kinabalu

photo: Malaysia Truly Asia facebook
KUALA LUMPUR: Malindo Air's first flight took off from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to Kota Kinabalu at 6.50am on Friday.

Its CEO Chandran Ramamuthy said the passenger load was over 70%. He said the airline would fly to 22 destinations this year.

The airline is the first in Malaysia to operate the Boeing 737-900ER aeroplanes with a capacity of 180 seats each and capable of serving destinations within a five-and-a-half hour range.

Malindo is a joint venture between Malaysia's National Aerospace Defence Industries (Nadi) Sdn Bhd and Indonesia's largest domestic carrier Lion Air parent PT Lion Group.
-thestar online.