Thursday, March 31, 2011


The Sabah Homestay Programme is expected to remain bullish this year, where RM3.7 million in receipts are projected from the 16 programmes involving 209 houses in the state.

Sabah Homestay Association president, Jeffry Yahya, said this year it expected the receipts to increase by at least 50 per cent from last year's target of RM2.5 million.

"Last year, we were ranked number one in Malaysia. To date, we have seen a 35 per cent increase compared with the first quarter of last year. So we are off to a good start.

"The increase is seen in the number of participating tourists and receipts recorded," he told reporters after the launch of '365 Days Celebration with Homestay Sabah' brochure here Tuesday.

He said only one or two homestay operators here were affected by the Japanese earthquake as the majority of them catered to European market.

On the claims by Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen of the existence of illegal homestay operators, Jeffry said this happened a few years back because of there was no official Homestay logo.

He said the association has the logo now and starting this year, it would be easier for tourists to identify between a genuine and illegal operator.

Earlier, Sabah Tourism Board chairman, Datuk Seri Dr Tengku Zainal Adlin, said last year, 17,558 tourists, both local and foreign, had a taste of the 'kampung' lifestyle through the homestay programmes.

"The programes generated RM2.46 million in receipts, an increase of 14 per cent from RM2.13 million recorded in 2009," said Zainal, who is also a member of Tourism Malaysia board of directors.

Meanwhile, Tourism Ministry's Sabah office director, Nely Nasir, said the ministry has identified 25 illegal homestay operators during their checks at Kundasang, Kota Belud and Kudat in February.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Recent reports regarding medical tourism of botched surgeries, lack of legal recourse for patients and post-operative complications have fuelled a perception that medical tourism is unsafe and risky. However, Dr Prem Jagyasi, author of a recently launched Medical Tourism Guidebook, argues that cross border healthcare won’t put a patient at risk, rather the lack of meticulous planning and preparation will. He emphasised that medical tourism is an age-old concept that has been occurring since the period before Christ, and has lots to offer if planned meticulously.

According to the recent medical tourism research conducted by Dr. Prem, a staggering 94% of industry experts think that medical tourism has yet to reach its full potential. Also, 59% of them believe that accessing reliable information is a big hurdle in the growth of medical tourism.

To help address this knowledge deficit, Dr. Prem has launched a comprehensive Medical Tourism Guide (Health Tourism Guide). The guidebook is available for free preview at

Dr Prem advises, “Even though the process of accessing care in a foreign location might seem simple, there are several intricacies, challenges and issues associated with the industry that all potential medical travellers should be aware of in order to help make their journey successful.”

In order to facilitate meticulous planning, the guidebook lists essential preparation steps that can help ensure a safe and successful medical journey. “Patients need to organize all the post-operative arrangements before they travel, appropriately budget for medical tourism and pack the essential items they would require,” added Dr Prem.

The guidebook also provides essential info on the top 50 medical tourism destinations around the world. Dr. Prem says, “Picking the right healthcare destination is an essential factor that determines the success of your medical journey. The risk of picking the wrong country can be eliminated via thorough research before a medical tourist travels.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


PLANS to connect attractions surrounding the KL Lake Gardens via tram service is in the works, said Kuala Lumpur mayor Datuk Seri Ahmad Fuad Ismail.

“The plan is to utilise it to ferry tourists from one attraction to another within the area. We are talking to the Road Transport Department (JPJ) to see if the trams can be used for such a purpose,” he said after closing the “10,000 Expressions of Green KL” campaign at the Federal Hotel Kuala Lumpur.

He said there were many things to see in the area such as the National Museum , National Planetarium, National Mosque and National Monument.

“There are many good ‘products’ in the area that are quite unknown to the public, such as the police museum,” he said

He said Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) had communicated with the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) who have agreed with the concept.

He also said phase two would start in June. It has been reported phase two will see the construction of a cafe, souvenir shop and a playground featuring the Kampung Boy series by Malaysian cartoonist Datuk Mohd Nor Khalid, better known as Lat.

The first phase has been completed, involving the planting of more than 1,500 trees and plants, lake clean-up, building of waterfalls, the creation of additional car parks, introduction of buggy service and installation of a new lighting system.

“A total of RM17mil has been spent in the first phase with about RM11mil provided by the private sector,” said Fuad.

The mayor said in his speech at the campaign closing ceremony that tree-planting and keeping the environment clean should not only be done during such periods but at all times.

“DBKL will support all corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities by the private sector in terms of logistics, charge exemptions and waiver of certain conditions like deposit payment within the context of CSR commmitment,” he added.

Monday, March 28, 2011


MALAYSIA Airlines (MAS), which is now in its transformation phase, is halfway towards becoming Asia's champion in terms of product offering and quality service. Chairman Tan Sri Dr Mohamed Munir Abdul Majid said the national carrier is already Asia's best airline in terms of service and having the world's best cabin crew.

"Our target is to become the number one airline in Asia, with an average fleet age of 5.2 years," he told reporters from selected local media groups in Subang, Selangor, yesterday.

Tan Sri Munir said the airline now has a good balance sheet, cash position and a team led by a chief executive officer (Tengku Azmil Zahruddin) who is professional, passionate, knows the business well, sound financial management and makes strategic decisions.

He said although the rising oil price is a challenge, MAS now has "a stamina" to expand. The airline is expecting delivery of more aircraft including Boeing 738, Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A330-800.

"MAS is in a good position today. We can take on competition," he said.

Munir also said that subsidiary Firefly will will take over MAS' domestic routes. "But don't ask me when. It depends on market dynamics," he added. Domestic and short-haul routes previously bled MAS as they were deemed unprofitable.

He said MAS is not competing directly with the country's low-cost airline, AirAsia Bhd, but "Firefly is supporting MAS in the low-cost segment to maintain the group's passenger load factor".

According to Munir, market dynamics of supply, demand and price will determine whether MAS will continue to provide domestic full-service flights or reduce its frequency. "People would still want premium service on some routes," he said, pointing out that MASwings, which operates turbo-prop aircraft like Firefly, has a business class.

He said MAS will also focus on the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) business. MAS is currently the world's fifth largest provider of third-party MRO.

Tan Sri Munir, who has been in the corporate sector for about 33 years, received the Brand Laureate Personality Award 2011 recently.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Datuk Bandar Kuala Lumpur Launches First Tourism Awards 2011

The Mayor of Kuala Lumpur, Datuk Seri Ahmad Fuad Bin Ismail has launched the inaugural Kuala Lumpur Mayor's Tourism Awards 2011. He said these were the first such awards created to recognise and appreciate those in the KL tourism industry who have contributed to make Kuala Lumpur an attractive international tourist destination.

"Kuala Lumpur has much to offer now as compared to a decade ago. Now the city has many modern shopping centres, world class tourist attractions, entertainment & dining outlets, multinational chain hotels, MICE, parks, sports, medical and educational centres, more efficient transportation system and multi-cultural centres that have created a distinctive identity and image for the city. Foreign tourists now gain greater experience when visiting Kuala Lumpur and the impressions that are taken back to their countries have further elevated the profile of the city" said Fuad.

"The tremendous success of putting KL on top of every travellers mind is done through the contributions, investment, commitments, passion and efforts made by the tourism industry players at all levels. Now is the time for Kuala Lumpur City Hall to reward their contributions", he added. The awards will help boost the standards of delivery of products and services in the industry and encourage all tourism operators to strive for nothing less than excellence.

There will be a total of 9 awards and a KL Lifetime Achievement Award. They are for Accommodation, Restaurant, Nightspot, Shopping Mall, Tourist Attraction, International Tour Operator, International Airline and Media Publication - magazine.

There will also be recognition awards, the Front Liner Award, to recognise industry front liners, who have performed over and above the call of duty in providing an outstanding experience for tourists. These individuals could be from any part of the industry for example hotel reception staff, taxi drivers, waiters, doormen, tour guides, stewardesses, and information counter personnel.

Nomination forms can be downloaded from the official awards website at The closing date for nominations is on 21 April 2011. Nominations can be done in three methods that include self-nomination, third party nominations and by invitation.

The award winners will be determined by points awarded by the panel of judges as well as public on-line voting. The judges' points will count for 95% of the total marks while public voting will count for the remaining 5%. Members of the public can cast their votes online from the 2nd of May 2011 by visiting the official website.

The judging will be conducted by independent panels of judges for each of the categories of awards that will be presented. Stringent judging criteria have been set by the panels of judges for each award and the judging process will take over a month to complete. The awards are scheduled to be presented in mid-June 2011.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tune Hotels goes beyond ‘Earth Hour’ in environment conservation

Tune Hotels, the pioneering limited-service hotel brand, has gone beyond the symbolic participation in Earth Hour in its environment conservation initiatives and practices.

Group CEO Mark Lankester said “This year we will again participate in Earth Hour as we did in past years. But the fact is, Tune Hotels has actually gone beyond Earth Hour from day one as environment preservation and carbon neutral practices are deeply ingrained in our business philosophy."

"While businesses globally are spending millions of dollars to offset carbon emission, we at Tune Hotels do it as part of our corporate culture and business model. It’s our way of life!” he explains.

Drawing example from Tune Hotels’ pay-as-you-use concept for air conditioning, Lankester says the practice has made the consumer smarter in the consumption of energy. While air conditioning is available in 12-hour and 24-hour blocks, the ‘credit’ can actually be used over a number of days, depending on the guest’s usage pattern.

“Some people are hardly in the room during their stay and may only need the air conditioning for a few hours in a day so the credit balance can be carried forward to the following days. Likewise, guests welcome the idea of renting towels as it not only gives them the option to save cost but also contribute towards water conservation and lower chemical detergent usage,” he says.

On top of that, Tune Hotels carefully selects electrical and electronic equipment to be installed in its rooms, ensuring that the air conditioner, ceiling fans and television sets are highly energy-efficient that provides maximum quality and comfort.

“Through the pay-as-you-use concept, we are indirectly inviting our guests to join us in our endeavour to be carbon neutral. Our guests are clearly attracted by our price and we faced some objection to our pay-as-you-use approach in the early stage but now more and more guests realise the benefits and it is more than just the price. They stay comfortably at our hotels at very reasonable costs and at the same become smarter in making choices to help preserve the environment.”

As all unessential lights throughout the Tune Hotels network in Malaysia, Bali and London are turned off for 60 minutes on Saturday night, 26 March, guests are treated to a special promo deal by Tune Hotels.

In conjunction with the Earth Hour campaign, Tune Hotels rooms in Malaysia will go on offer from as low as RM5 per night, and Rp50.000 for rooms in Bali, Indonesia for a stay in April 2011. Booking starts from 26 March until 31 March and is only available online at Meanwhile, Tune Hotel Westminster in London has committed to donate £5 for every room booked from 26 to 31 March for an April stay date to the WWF’s Sky Rainforest Rescue Programme which aims to tackle deforestation in the Amazon and protect the home of thousands of species.

“This Earth Hour promotion is extended as a special thank to the 1 million guests who have stayed in Tune Hotels since we first opened the Downtown Kuala Lumpur hotel at Jalan Sultan Ismail in 2007. Since January this year we have also removed the administration fee for room reservations across all our hotels. As we open more hotels we experience better economies of scale and become more cost efficient. We are delighted to be in a position to pass on the savings to our guests,” says Lankester.

Tune Hotels currently has 12 hotels with 9 located in Malaysia. They are in Kuala Lumpur, Kota Damansara, KLIA-LCCT Airport, Penang, Kota Bharu, Johor Bahru, Kuching, Bintulu and Kota Kinabalu. It has 2 hotels in Bali at Kuta and Legian and one in Westminster, London.

Friday, March 25, 2011


Malaysia is one of the world's top five medical tourism destinations for tourists and foreign investors.

Deputy Health Minister Datuk Rosnah Abdul Rashid Shirlin said patients chose to come to Malaysia because they could get the best medical treatment at a lower cost.

She said Malaysia was also known for having internationally-recognised quality standards, extensive diagnostic and therapeutic resources, modern healthcare facilities and trained medical staff.

"The government now wants to spur the growth of the healthcare industry and for healthcare transformation under the 10th Malaysia Plan, we are considering key points where healthcare access, coverage and quality can continue to be improved," she said when launching the Asia Healthcare Operations Summit 2011 yesterday.

She said the government would focus on four areas, including transforming healthcare delivery, increasing the capacity, coverage and quality of healthcare structure, and shifting towards disease prevention.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Malaysia recorded 17% year-on-year rise in hotel prices

According to the latest Hotel Price Index, the average cost paid for a hotel room night in Malaysia in 2010 was US$118, representing a 17% increase over 2009.

Johan Svanstrom, Vice President and Managing Director for in Asia Pacific, told ADOI, “Even though prices in Asia Pacific fell last year as compared to 2009, the price level in the region is 15% higher than in 2004 when the Hotel Price Index was first launched. We are seeing a varying price landscape in Asia Pacific with some markets recording price declines, but hubs like Malaysia and Singapore are recording healthy growth in room rates thanks to strong bounceback in corporate travel and renewed tourism interest from the rest of the world.

The Malaysian government continues to invest in the country as a tourism destination, so it is no surprise that Malaysia is enjoying growing popularity among corporate and leisure travellers alike.”

The city within Malaysia that recorded the highest hotel room prices paid was Langkawi. An average room night on the island cost US$201 in 2010, recording 11% increase over the preceding year. Kuala Lumpur , the capital of Malaysia , also saw a year-on-year price increase of 15% to US$111 per room night paid in 2010.

Neighbouring country Singapore was the most popular choice, despite soaring hotel room prices. In 2010, Singapore recorded a 33% increase in average hotel room prices paid over 2009. Hong Kong and Tokyo ranked second and third respectively.

London was the most popular non-Asian destination followed by Melbourne and Sydney.

Despite rising prices in Singapore , hotels in other popular destinations among Malaysians such as Bangkok recorded a price decrease of 1% in prices paid, while hotels in Vietnamese city, Ho Chi Minh, registered a 6% decrease.

Johan comments: “Short haul travels are increasingly popular among Malaysians particularly because of the availability of low-cost carriers and the appeal of mid-range hotels. Malaysian travellers should probably maximise the opportunity to travel to the cities with lower room rates now before these destinations too jump on the bandwagon of hotel price increases.”

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Not a major event in Malaysia, it is World Water Day. Why is it so important to us. Read on.

This is the first time in human history that most of the world's population live in cities: 3.3 billion people ...and the urban landscape continues to grow.

38% of the growth is represented by expanding slums, while the city populations are increasing faster than city infrastructure can adapt.

The objective of World Water Day 2011 is to focus international attention on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization and uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems.

This year theme, Water for cities: responding to the urban challenge, aims to spotlight and encourage governments, organizations, communities, and individuals to actively engage in addressing the defy of urban water management.

What is then a major event in Malaysia? The release of sex video tape of a "politician" by a bunch of " concerned" Malaysians.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


The Japanese disaster will reduce premium air travel in March as it makes up 6% to 7% of the global market, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said yesterday. “It is too soon to judge how the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March will affect air travel, but the market is large enough to have a materially adverse impact on the international total for that month,” IATA said in a statement.

IATA, which represents over 240 airlines, made the comments in its monthly premium monitor as it said growth in demand for business and first class tickets on international flights rose to 8.1% in January from 7.1% in December.

“Momentum was strong at the start of 2011 and rising business confidence points to further gains in the months ahead,” IATA said. It added that unrest in the Middle East and the Japanese disaster would likely hit February and March figures.

“The unrest in Egypt, Libya and other north African nations will have sharply reduced travel,” it said. “The ongoing political problems are certainly large enough to put a dent into the February passenger data.”

An IATA spokesman declined to comment on the broader impact of the Japanese disaster for the airline industry but said that IATA was monitoring events closely.

IATA is due to publish monthly air freight and passenger traffic data for February on March 29.

The Geneva-based body whose member airlines cover 93% of scheduled international traffic said premium travel continues to be on an underlying growth rate of around 7%, smoothing out volatility, twice as fast as in 2004-2007. Growth in economy travel, less hard hit than the premium sector in the financial crisis, has stalled in recent months, but IATA said any new trend will not be clear for a while due to distortions like the later Chinese New Year.

IATA’s members include Air Canada, British Airways and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways.

Monday, March 21, 2011


The Tourism Ministry will not adjust its tourist arrival target despite a bleak outlook for the tourism sector in the wake of the twin disasters in Japan and the political upheavals in the Middle East.

Open tender for tourism ads, promises Yen Yen Open tender for tourism ads, promises Yen Yen Its minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said she was optimistic of achieving the target of 25 million tourists to Malaysia this year, one million more than the 24 million visitors recorded last year.

“We are still aiming for 25 million visitors this year although we expect a drop in tourists from certain countries,” she said after the official launch of Millennia City, a residential-cum-commercial waterfront development, here yesterday.

Dr Ng said the ministry would re-look at the source countries rather than revise the tourist arrival target.

The ministry was anticipating fewer Japanese tourists due to the earthquake and tsunami there. Some 500,000 Japanese visited Malaysia last year, she said.

However, South-East Asian countries, China, India, Australia, New Zealand and Britain were potential tourism markets as they were stable and had no negative factors, she added.

Dr Ng said the Government was also looking at boosting domestic tourism. “We expect 100 million domestic trips this year. We received over RM25bil in receipts last year from domestic tourism,” she said.

In another development, Dr Ng said the business tourism in the country was only 5% of the total receipts last year and the Government was focusing on increasing it to 8% by 2020.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


It is said that necessity is the mother of innovation. The Thais are very good at this. Therefore the first ASEAN e-Travel Mart, will be held in Bangkok from March 23 to 25. It has attracted more than 500 buyers, including big names from the online travel market. This is almost double its initial target of 300 buyers.

Organiser Tourism Technology Association (TTA) president, Apichai Sakulsureeyadej, said that over 300 buyers were tourism players from Thailand while the rest were from other ASEAN countries. They will be trading with some 40 sellers comprising mainly tourism-related software and technology providers and regional hotel chains.

He noted that even in its inaugural year, the event had drawn major online travel players, such as Agoda, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Google, AirAsia, Wego, Web Sawadee and Asian Trails. Some are participating as both buyer and seller and/or speaker.

Registration will be on March 23. There will be a B2B show on March 24 and 25, when buyers and sellers will trade and discuss issues concerning online tourism business.

Apichai said TTA expected the event to result in a trading value of 300 to 400 million baht (US$9.8 to 13.1 million) and the purchasing of tourism software and technology of between 60 and 80 million baht.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

50 per cent “rebate” from the advertising agency

By Shazwan Mustafa Kamal and Boo Su-Lyn

Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen should be sacked as tourism minister following fresh allegations by an advertising agency that it was asked for bribes in exchange for a promotion contract, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) lawmakers said yesterday.

Integrated Strategic Communications’ (ISC), the advertising agency behind the award-winning “Malaysia, Truly Asia” tourism campaign said yesterday that it withdrew a bid to renew its contract with the Tourism Ministry after allegedly being asked for bribes in exchange for the deal.

“Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should fire her as a minister. This is embarrassing to the Malaysian government. She should be fired... A confession has been made by the company that is clear,” said PAS vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar.

“It’s clear enough to enable her to be fired, or at least she should be suspended until investigations are done. The government should show that it is serious with this,” he said.

Calling the incident “disgusting”, Mahfuz told The Malaysian Insider that the new allegations cast Najib’s Cabinet in a “bad light.”

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is investigating complaints by the agency, which said it was disputing Ng’s denial of “ambiguity” in the tender process for the advertising and promotions contract worth a total of RM381 million.

ISC founder and chief executive officer Austen Zecha alleged that both he and his deputy were jointly approached on January 19 to “offer the client” (the ministry) a 50 per cent “rebate” or an annual share of the firm’s income from the account.

In exchange, he said, ISC would then “re-win” another three-year Tourism Malaysia contract for the Europe, North America and Oceania tender.

“This essentially led ISC to decide to withdraw its tender on Wednesday, January 26,” Zecha said.

He added that ISC’s founders, shareholders, directors and management had unanimously agreed that the incident was a “grave insult” and that it added further suspicion to the ambiguity of the tender process on a whole.

Today, PR leaders also said they were “unsurprised” by the allegations, citing their consistent criticisms on Ng’s ministry for questionable monetary practices.

This latest episode, according to them, further compounded an “escalating” level of complaints against the Tourism Ministry.

DAP Socialist Youth chief (Dapsy) Anthony Loke agreed with Mahfuz’s views and demanded Najib take immediate actions as “the image of the country” had been affected by ISC’s statement.

Loke added that Ng should be hauled up and questioned by the MACC over the matter.

“The MACC should ask a statement from her. She’s the minister in charge of the ministry. When her ministry is said to be asking for bribes, the minister should be investigated as well,” Loke told The Malaysian Insider.

Both PR lawmakers accused the minister of lying in Parliament earlier this week when she said that there was no corruption involved in the awarding of contracts by the Tourism Ministry.

“This is proof that the statement given by the ministry in Parliament is a lie. It’s a lie. I think the answer is an insult to the Dewan. Ng Yen Yen said no corruption. It’s an insult to the Dewan and an insult to the Speaker,” said Mahfuz.

Yesterday, Zecha had said that Ng’s remarks in Parliament on Tuesday contradicted her earlier statement that she was unaware of the five companies that were each awarded three-year contracts by her ministry, totalling RM381 million or RM127 million per year.

“Previously, the minister was quoted in the media as saying she did not even know any of Tourism Malaysia’s five tenders were awarded to any of her ‘friends’ but now she seems to acknowledge knowing at least two of them,” he said.

Ng had been forced to explain the situation to Parliament when she was questioned by the DAP’s Jelutong MP Jeff Ooi on whether the five contracts had been awarded to “crony” companies through the use of political connections.

One of the tender winners was Impact Creations Sdn Bhd, which is said to have been selected because Juni Ewe, the managing director of Impact Challenger Sdn Bhd, allegedly related to the first company, is a friend of Ng’s.

Ng denied that the two companies were related.

Ooi had also asked if the award to Naga DDB Sdn Bhd was made with political consideration as its founder and executive chairman, Datuk Vincent Lee Fook Long, was also the executive deputy chairman of the MCA-owned Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd.

Ng is a vice-president of the MCA, the second largest component party in the ruling Barisan Nasional.

The five recipients of the tenders were Naga DDB for the Asean market with a contract value of RM25 million a year, SMASCOM & Designs Sdn Bhd for East and North Asia (RM25 million), Sen Media Sdn Bhd for South Asia, West Asia and Africa (RM26 million), M&C Saatchi Sdn Bhd for Europe, America, Oceania (RM21 million) and Impact Creations for domestic and events (RM30 million).

Ng was also urged to clarify her denial that her ministry was now under MACC investigation and had its offices raided last Friday.

She explained that she was the one who invited the MACC in order to clear the ministry’s image following ISC’s “lies”.

“We cannot say that just because a company has failed to secure a tender, after getting it for 12 years at a value of more than RM160 million, and now it has raised all kinds of things.

“As a minister, it is my responsibility to ensure that the truth is told, not only the lies,” she was quoted as saying in theSun daily.

But Zecha argued that ISC had not “failed” to secure the tender but had withdrawn itself from the bid on January 26, long before Tourism Malaysia decided on and announced the winners on February 7.

He asked if Ng’s statement meant that the latter had already known even before ISC withdrew its bid who would win the tender.

“Is that why only this time there were no actual agencies’ presentations called for, which, as she has said publicly too, was what Treasury told her ministry to do? This should now receive the MACC’s fullest attention, indeed, because something here does not jive,” said Zecha.

The MACC raided the offices of Impact Creations and the Tourism Ministry last Friday following ISC’s complaints on the tender process.

PR MPs have vowed that they would bring the matter up at every possible opportunity during the current Parliamentary session if no immediate action was taken against Ng,

“If the PM does not do anything, or if she (Ng) does not resign, we will make her answer these allegations, one way or another.

“There will be a chance to ask her about this in the coming two weeks, during debate sessions with the various ministries... her time will come, and when it does, we will grill her,” said PKR vice-president Chua Tian Chang.

Like his PR counterparts, he too expressed the view that the allegations were “not new.”

“The tourism ministry has had a controversial record... Datuk Seri Azalina Othman has been investigated before, and now Ng should be investigated too... enough is enough,” Chua told The Malaysian Insider.

DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng said that ISC’s allegations along with the recent arrests and charges against two former senior ministers from MCA showed the “irresponsible” manner on which public funds were being managed by the ruling coalition.

“The DAP urges the MACC to pursue these allegation without fear or favour.

“We also call for the federal government, and the Ministry of Tourism in particular, to prove their commitment to fiscal transparency as preached in the prime minister’s New Economic Model, by immediately instituting open tenders for all government projects henceforth,” said Lim, who is also the Penang chief minister.

Friday, March 18, 2011


WITH the Malaysia Golf Tourism Association teeing off yesterday, the country will pursue more high-yield tourists and increase revenue from the sport by 15 per cent a year. This is up from the RM200 million (US$65.5 million) in 2010.

The association, which will embark on a strategic five-year development plan to turn Malaysia into The Golf Destination in Asia, was launched by Tourism Malaysia chairman Dr Victor Wee on behalf of Tourism Minister Dr Ng Yen Yen.

There is no end to the formation of NGOs in Malaysia. The latest is one which aims to achieve a hole-in-one.

With more than 85 per cent of golf tourists to the country are Singaporeans who are day trippers, Paul Gibbons, pro tem chairman, Malaysia Golf Tourism Association said that the main challenge was to attract golf tourists, who spend one-and-a-half times more than leisure tourists, from medium- and longhaul destinations.

The association will also gather statistics on golf tourists and develop a strong branding and marketing collateral.

Gibbons said a major opportunity for promotional efforts will be next year's IAGTO Asia Golf Tourism Convention that will be held in Malaysia for the first time.

It will bring together more than 150 specialised travel agents selling Asia as a golf destination and 150 suppliers from Asian countries.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Last weekend people with all sorts of mission were at PWTC to see the MATTA Travel Fair and two months from now the same people will be going to the third Malaysian Tourism Fair (MTF) which will be held at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) Kuala Lumpur from May 20 to 22. Organised by the National Tourism Council of Malaysia (NTCM) and supported by Tourism Malaysia, this is the third time the annual fair is being held.

MTF organising chairman and NTCM president Datuk Shamsul Falak Abdul Kadir said as the premier domestic tourism fair, the MTF will showcase what Malaysia has to offer to the domestic market which includes not only Malaysians but the international communities including expatriates who are residing in the country.

“All sectors of tourism will be represented and this includes destinations, products and attractions. eco-tourism, heritage and culture, health and wellness, MICE, sport and events, lifestyle and leisure as well as tourism related services,” he told a press conference.

He added that last year the fair had some 190 booths were taken up and this year they were targeting 240 booths and 30,000 visitors to the three-day fair. Key exhibitors include Tourism Malaysia, State Tourism Boards, organisations, hotels, resorts, airlines, spas, travel agents, tour operators, product and handicraft suppliers, bridal houses and others.

Tourism Malaysia deputy director general Datuk Amirrudin Abu, who was also present at the press conference, said they were participating in the fair as part their effort to encourage domestic tourism.

“Supporting the event, Tourism Malaysia will be participating with 60 booths and will promote the CutiCuti 1Malaysia which is a known branding of tourism throughout Malaysia,” he said. “The domestic tourism industry not only brings economic benefits for the country but also promotes national integration as we learn to appreciate the diversity of Malaysia,” he added.

Consumer contests, lucky draws and other events will be organised in conjunction with the fair. RHB Bank Berhad is the Gold Sponsor and official card of the fair.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


A unique gathering of tourism players was held yesterday at Gran Melia Hotel, Kuningan Jakarta organised by Tourism Malaysia office and the Embassy of Malaysia.

Malaysian Ambassador to Indonesia Datuk Syed Munshe Afdzaruddin Syed Hassan during a keynote address said that Malaysian and Indonesian tour operators should take advantage of the growing tourism market by establishing a mechanism for collaboration which should not be limited to tourism traffic between Malaysia and Indonesia but should also transcend the global market, particularly the Southeast Asian and European markets.

"Tourism industry players should tap the growing tourism market as everyone can now travel with cheap airlines by looking at the successes, failures and challenges.

"The information gathered could help the government as a facilitator to devise a formula for future direction of tourism collaboration between the two countries," he added.

He proposed the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agencies (MATTA) and the Association of Indonesian Travel Agencies (ASITA) to formulate a mechanism for cooperation.

Syed Munshe Afdzaruddin said tourism was the second biggest contributor to the Malaysian economy by generating a revenue of RM55 billion in 2009.

Malaysia received 2.5 million tourist arrivals from Indonesia last year while 1.1 million Malaysian tourists visited Indonesia in 2009, he said, adding that about 70 per cent of medical tourists in Malaysia were from Indonesia.

The session was attended by mainly Indonesian tourism players with only a handful from the Malaysian side.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Malaysia Important Player In International Tourism

A German Tourism Expert has come in support Malaysian tourism. A leading German expert on global tourism considers Malaysia an important player in international tourism -- both for inbound and outbound traffic.

Raimund Hosch, chairman of the Messe Berlin GmbH, which organises the prestigious International Tourism Bourse (ITB) in Berlin and its Asian edition called ITB Asia in Singapore, described Malaysia as one of the three key tourism players in Southeast Asia, the other two being Singapore and Thailand.

Hosch said Malaysia and Indonesia would post "impressive growth" in inbound tourism in future.

Malaysian tourism planners could take a cue from Hosch's remarks which can enable them to devise a future strategy that takes into account these factors.

"Besides India and China which are not only attractive destinations but also providers of tourists with a growing spending capacity, we should not lose sight of important players in the Asean region such as Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore," he told BERNAMA in an exclusive interview at the ongoing ITB Fair in Berlin.

Hosch also underscored the growing importance of Chinese tourists for the Asean region. The number of Chinese travelling abroad for leisure tourism was rising. There are some 150 to 200 million Chinese whose average earnings are as high as those of West Europeans.

Malaysia, along with Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as well as Europe, will benefit from this trend.

Even the growing exports, for example, will contribute to growing tourism, particularly in the business travel segment," Hosch added.

Meanwhile, Messe Berlin, which started the ITB Asia in Singapore for an initial three years, has renewed the contract to stage the fair at the Suntech Exhibition and Convention Centre in Singapore for another three years.

Monday, March 14, 2011


Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) last week was at the Ministry of Tourism and its favourite agency investigating several of the ministry’s officers over “ambiguous” tender procedures in advertising and promotions.

When asked to comment about this Tourism Minister Dato Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said: “They were not being investigated but were merely assisting the MACC.” She is right. What the MACC is after is the Minister herself. Let's see what they can find out. This will be another tsunami of corruption in Malaysia.

Instead of worrying about the people who has been affected by the tsunami in Japan this is what she has to say, " a drop in Japanes tourist arrival is expected."

“I presume it will affect us as the airports are closed. When a nation faces such a tremendous tragedy, I don’t think the people will have the mood to travel,” she said, after launching the annual 1Malaysia Kuala Lumpur International Dragon Boat Festival at Metropolitan Lake Garden in Kepong yesterday.

Expressing her sympathy to Japan, Dr Ng said Malaysian tourism officers at the ministry’s two offices in Tokyo and Osaka were safe.

Japanese Ambassador Masahiko Horie was reported as saying that Malaysia was the number one choice for Japanese tourists since 2006.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


If Air Asia can do it, Air Asia X can do better to bring in the tourist arrivals into Malaysia.

However, four months and four updates on the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) later, long-haul budget carrier AirAsia X has yet to receive rights to lucrative routes such as Sydney and Beijing.

This is despite Performance Management & Delivery Unit (Pemandu) outlining such routes as immediate action routes at the launch of the ETP roadmap in October 2010.

"Specifically, the Ministry of Transport will identify immediate action steps to enhance connectivity for Malaysia to Sydney and Osaka as well as other priority medium-haul cities namely Shanghai, Beijing, Mumbai, Delhi, Melbourne, Seoul, Tokyo and Taipei that have already been given approval by the ministry for operations by both MAS and AirAsia X," the manual on the ETP said.

According to National Economic Council (NEC) member Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek last week however, the paper on the initiative has yet to reach the consideration of the council.

The NEC is a high-level 12 member committee chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.

When asked then on what the government qualified as immediate action, he said the government needed to take into consideration government-to-government air rights arrangements as well as availability of the rights before it could come to a decision.

Chua went on to say that he was sure the government will decide on it soon.

AirAsia X chief executive officer Azran Osman-Rani told reporters in Kuala Lumpur yesterday that the carrier's RM1.86 billion investment in three aircraft is proof of its belief that the government will make good on its promise.

"I think in a business like this, you can't wait until you have all the risks eliminated, you can't have all the routes on paper, the airports completely built and oil prices are nice, because by then everyone else would have jumped ahead of you.

"So, you do have to take calculated risks because (when it comes to) aircraft orders, slots are constrained, so if you don't grab the manufacturer's slots now, then we are going to be behind and competing countries will grab these slots. What gives us the confidence to take these risks is the ETP," Azran said after attending the fourth ETP update.

Meanwhile, on further aircraft investments, he said it will only be done once the airline strengthens its balance sheet.

Azran added that it may only happen after an initial public offering.

So what is the real problem??

Saturday, March 12, 2011


“The Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011” by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WER) reported that Malaysia fell three places, on a worldwide survey of 139 countries, to spot number 35.

In the WER report entitled ‘Beyond the Downturn’, Malaysia was ranked 22 for its rich natural resources, 33 for cultural resources and 21 for its favourable tourism policy rules and regulations.

The report stated that the country was ranked 3 for its excellent ‘price competitiveness’ in the travel and tourism industry, with low comparative hotel and fuel prices, low ticket taxes and airport charges, very competitive hotel prices, and a favorable tax regime.

It received a modest ranking of 52 for ICT infrastructure, 34 for air transport infrastructure, 36 for ground transport infrastructure, 17 for ‘affinity for travel and tourism’ and 21 for affinity for travel and tourism.

Malaysia was numberd 46 for its prioritisation of travel and tourism.

The ‘price competitiveness’ pillar was topped by Brunei Darussalam, the Gambia, and Malaysia because all three countries benefit from low fuel costs.

Brunei benefited from low ticket taxes and airport charges, and low taxation. The Gambia and Malaysia were characterised by moderate-to-low taxes, low fuel prices, and highly competitive hotel prices.

The report also said that when choosing a destination, these countries benefited from visitors who were interested in getting more for their money.

Foreign visitors to the country may have been pleased with the availability of cheap exotic food. However, they were disgusted with the standard of cleanliness and this left a negative impression upon them. This helped pull Malaysia downwards.

Malaysia also performed badly in the areas of ‘environmental sustainability' (ranked 64), ‘tourism infrastructure’ (74) and ‘health and hygiene’ (75). WER commented on the low availability of physicians in Malaysia.

At the end of 2010, Malaysia was reported to be losing out to other health tourism destinations such as Mumbai, Bangalore, Bangkok and elsewhere in Asia despite its developed infrastructure for medical treatment and well-trained doctors.

The deteriorating perception of crimes in Malaysia also resulted in the country being given a lower ranking after it was ranked 83 for ‘safety and security’.

Ever since Dr. Ng Yen Yen took over the Ministry of Tourism portfolio in July 2009, the Opposition has been critical of her performance. They have criticised her for allegedly spending more time and money on touring countries overseas rather than attracting tourist to Malaysia. In addition, senior officials within her ministry were implicated in graft scandals.

So what is Yen Yen’s response to the WER Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2011? And will she do more travelling this year?

Could we persuade her to stay at home and work on Malaysian tourism rather than spending a substantial amount of time abroad?

Perhaps we could ask her to work on the basics.

When WER said that tourists liked our exotic food but were disgusted with our hygiene, could she not work together with the appropriate Ministries of Health, Education and Community Development to educate our public on the importance of cleanliness and hygiene?

Our ministers are spoilt and used to being feted by business and individuals (perhaps in the hope of being given a lucrative contract or two) who offer these politicians the best available treatment and services, in their establishments.

Politicians only patronise the best hotels or restaurants and travel first-class or are chauffeur driven. They have no clue what happens elsewhere.

Does the minister ever travel by public transport? Has she tried boarding a coach to make the journey from Kuala Lumpur to the east coast for instance? Or taken a taxi and received shoddy overpriced service?

Perhaps if she did, she might want to liase with the Ministry of Transport and other departments to improve the highways, the selection of drivers, the condition of the buses, the motorway facilities and other safety related features.

Has Yen Yen ever traveled overland, on a sleeper train to Singapore or to the northern states? It is one of the most enjoyable forms of travel in Malaysia, but there are many improvements that could be made and no amount of complaints from members of the public, will induce KTM to make the necessary improvements. However, we know that a word from her would have the magical effect.

Has Yen Yen seen the condition of some of our government hospitals in the outlying states? Or negotiated the long queues that people have to endure in clinics?

If the minister were to go on a boat to one of the outlying islands in the east coast or Langkawi, she might be horrified to learn that life-jackets are not distributed mandatorily. They might be issued if a tourist makes a fuss or if the boatman sees the enforcement officers approaching. Often children are made to use oversized life-jackets.

Tourists are also shocked at the environmental damage that our government encourages. Look at how overtourism has destroyed Redang. Sometimes tortoise eggs are openly sold in seaside destinations. This means that enforcement is poor.

Plastic bags littering our inland waterways, beaches and roadsides are a problem but little is done about educating the locals about his problem.

In Malacca, a natural reserve created a man made waterfall at high cost, then planted selected trees after it had destroyed the natural growing species in the area. Afterwards, it had the cheek to call itself a ‘green’ reserve.

Has Yen Yen tried to put herself in the shoes of a tourist who has to make a police report? Has she seen the inside of a dirty, polluted, congested bus terminal? Has she tried to imagine the horrors faced by a disabled traveler?

When the opposition attacked her for her excesses, she retaliated by saying that she was proud to be responsible for attracting 23 million tourists for a country of 28 million.

We wonder if she excluded those day-trippers from our neighbouring countries, who criss-cross borders because of work or sex related activities.

But her dismissive shot was to declare, “You want to talk to a specialist, you talk to me.”

Well the ‘specialist’ Yen Yen caused us to drop three places in the 2010 WER ranking. Yen Yen needs to understand that before Malaysia sees any drastic improvement, tourism like charity, needs to begin at home.

Friday, March 11, 2011


The Malaysia Budget Hotel Association (MBHA) is working to get more budget hotel operators around the country to become its member. Its President, Datuk Dr Muhamad Nasir Hamzah said the move was aimed at enhancing the quality of budget hotel services as well as to remove the negative image of budget hotels sometimes portrayed as the centres for vice activities.

"There are 6,000 budget hotels in the country offering more than 200,000 rooms and with 120,000 employees. From this, so far only 1,600 hotels are members of the association," he told reporters after the launch of a course on housekeeping for budget hotels here today.

Dr Muhamad Nasir said that currently only Selangor and Negeri Sembilan were keen to make it compulsory for all budget hotels in the two states to register as members with the association.

He said the industry, with the majority of hotels run by locals, was growing fast and these hotels were now sought by western tourists as well as tourists from the Middle East who like to stay for short period of time. Hotels that become members of the association will be provided assistance on various aspects including insurance, licensing, promotions and training.

"The membership fee for MBHA is only RM250 a year. For hotels that have 20 or less rooms, the fee will be only RM100," he said.

On the housekeeping course today, Dr Muhamad Nasir said it was in line with the Ministry of Tourism which took a serious view of the cleanliness of budget hotels in the country. The course, attended by 200 budget hotel operators, exposed participants to effective cleaning techniques for their hotels with the use of environment friendly cleaning agents and in synch with the green element of their premises.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Malaysia'sTourism Competitiveness Index Dropped

Malaysia has taken a slight dip in the Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, according to a report by the World Economic Forum.

The 2011 report, which covers over 139 countries, showed that Malaysia dropped three places to 35th, after being 32nd in 2009. Its closest neighbour, Singapore, maintained its original position, registering at 10th on the index.

Malaysia’s other neighbour, Thailand, was ranked lower on the global travel scale. Thailand had dropped two places to 41st, while Indonesia had improved, rising seven spot to 74th.

The report also showed that Malaysia had one of the highest percentage of budgets when it came to travel and tourism. According to the report, Malaysia seemed to have one of the highest average travel and tourism investment spending as a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product) between 2006 and 2010. The country was second only to Egypt in terms of average investment spending as a percentage of total economy investment spending (between 2006 and 2010).

Even so, the large amounts of cash pumped into the tourism industry did not seem to change the country’s travel scene for the better, according to the report’s individual indices. Out of 139 countries, Malaysia was competitive in terms of tourism pricing (third). On the other hand, it was shown to be a rather unsafe place to visit (83rd for safety and security). It also seemed to have problem with health and hygiene (75th), and a lack of tourism infrastructure (74th).

According to the report, other matters also plagued the country such as environmental sustainability (64th), and ICT infrastructure and the availability of qualified labour (50th).

On the other hand, the country scored fairly well in terms of policy rules and regulations (21st), affinity for travel and tourism (17th) and natural resources (22nd).

The report also showed that the only clear edge that Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand had over smaller Singapore was their price competitiveness and natural resources. This may be due to the island nation’s smaller size and higher currency value.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Innovative and attractive tourism products will help attract more visitors to Malaysia, said Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen during the launch of I-City Snow-walk.

The tourism industry is a competitive one and Malaysia requires new products to stay ahead.

"We are already recognised but we need to come up with new products," the Minister added. She was launching the Snowalk@i-City, an attraction that features snow covering 50,000 square feet. The Snowalk@i-City is a good example of a tourism product that will help attract more tourists to Malaysia and also help spur domestic tourism,

“In the past, I used to tell foreigners that we in Malaysia can offer them anything, except snow. But with the Snowalk, we can say that we also have snow in Malaysia," she said.

Dr Ng added that Malaysia hopes to attract 25 million tourists this year, compared to 24 million in 2010.

The Snowalk features snowfall technology from Korea in an Arctic environment with 100 tonnes of ice sculptures that were shaped by 30 skilled artists from China. With a constant temperature of -5°C and 100mm of snow on the ground, Snowalk is set to offer a real snowfall experience in Malaysia.

I-City has received huge support from the Tourism Ministry, more than any known effort by the same Ministry

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Demand for domestic tourism in the country rose by 45 per cent last year due to the cheaper prices offered, said Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) deputy president, John Tan. This figure cannot be disputed because no one has the right figure anyway. So be it.

He said the trend changed since last year as more people preferred to holiday inside the country instead of going overseas.

"Among the popular destinations were Langkawi, Terengganu and Penang. We are targeting an increase of about 46 percent this year. Besides the price factor, the emergence of H1N1 could have reflected their interest in our (domestic) tourism," he said at a joint press conference with EON Bank Group here Friday to promote MATTA Travel Fair this weekend. This is true..

Tan also said the number of visitors for the upcoming three-day MATTA Fair starting March 11, would not be affected even though there were speculation that prices of travel packages would rise due to anti-government protests in the Middle East.

"People love to travel and we don't see the crisis affecting travel. We concede that the world oil price is rising due to the crisis in Libya and we (Malaysia) have not increased (the oil price).

"But if there is an increase, the package price will depend on the prevailing price and the hike is not due to MATTA but the airlines that have to raise the price due to the oil price hike," he said.

Tan said they were expecting more than 80,000 visitors to the MATTA Fair.

MATTA had asked its members to explain to their customers terms and conditions when purchasing packages, including the possibility of additional charges.

Monday, March 7, 2011


Some of the things we can from Thailand is the non extension of the two of the seven tourism stimulus policies it launched in the last two years in a bid to restore travellers' confidence during the country's political crisis.

The two initiatives to be discontinued are the exemption of tourist visa fees for certain nationalities, including from China and India, and the government-backed tourist insurance scheme in case of riots. Both tourist-specific policies will cease on March 31.

This is to show that some tourism policies need to be changed from from to time in order to move forward.

The Thai Ministry of Tourism and Sports (MoTS) permanent secretary, Sombat Kuruphan, said that keeping the insurance scheme might send the wrong message to tourists about the country's political situation.

To make up for the removal of the tourist visa fee waiver, Thai authorities have promised speedier immigration procedures at Suvarnabhumi Airport, which is usually crowded during peak air traffic hours something we in Malaysia can emulate.

In January, there were 1.18 million tourist arrivals at the airport, a 6.2 per cent increase over the same month last year. There was also a total of 4.29 million domestic and international passengers passing through the airport, or a 4.91 per cent increase despite all that trouble in the country.

In Malaysia there was peace all round.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Like everyone else in other states, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) is excited as they have discovered several areas in the central region that are unexplored but have high tourism potential. STB local office executive Rudy Anoi has described Pakan, Julau and Kanowit as tourism’s ‘missing link’.

During a recent exploration to enhance product knowledge and catalogue tourism products in the vast central region, STB personnel and some players from the tourism sector were amazed by the breathtaking beauty of these places.

“We have entered an unexplored tourism destination, which is located about an hour’s drive from Sibu. We have chosen this area because thus far there are no agents who really develop and sell such tour packages. With all the information that we have gathered from this trip, we hope to share it with the tourism stakeholders and then start the ball rolling to promote tourism in the central region,” enthused Rudy.

He disclosed that tourism products in Sibu were mostly classified under the “sightseeing category”, which included the central market, heritage garden and indoor museum.

“To get visitors extend their stay in Sibu, or Central Region for that matter, they should be given a wider range of options. Visitors would most certainly look out for something new. I am confident that if the option is attractive, they are likely to extend their stay here.”

He reckoned that with the extension of product knowledge about Pakan, Julau and Kanowit, travel agents could tap the potential of this area.

He said agents could perhaps organise trips to Lumbong Rentap (Rentap Thomb – Iban Warrior) in Bukit Sibau, visit the traditional Iban musical instruments cottage industry and handicraft maker. “It offers a different experience to the tourists.”

As for Julau, he suggested that the tour include jungle trekking and visit to waterfalls such as Jepelak Waterfall (half an hour’s journey from Rh Seli, Ng Liuh). Tourists can also visit the historical Kubu Brooke in Meluan, Rh Ngumbang Nanga Ayam — the popular handicraft producer and Rh Juna with its beautiful and traditional structure. “It is acclaimed as the most “unique” longhouse in Julau district with native design on the wall,” he noted.

In Kanowit, visitors can experience staying at Trang Lodge, Rh Benjamin Angki Rantau Kemiding. It is located about five minutes’ drive from Kanowit town. While there, visitors can experience the longhouse tour and local food, while the more adventurous ones could attempt jungle trekking.

“When we organised this (recent) trip, little did we expect this much of excitement. We need to see things from a tourist’s point of view. What the locals think is not attractive may be a gold mine to tourists,” Rudy enthused.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Although there no extensive rail network in Malaysia, KTM Berhad (KTMB) will be offering exclusive travel packages through its KTM Intercity services, in conjunction with the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Fair 2011 to be held at Putra World Trade Centre from March 11 to 13.

KTM’s SBU Intercity Services marketing manager Mohd Noordin Kimi said they were supportive of MATTA Fair’s role in promoting productivity and tourism. “We hope with all these incentives, we can help promote the local tourism industry,” said Mohd Noordin.

Some of the exclusive deals up for grabs include the ‘All in 1Malaysia’ promotion. With a group of minimum six passengers comprising at least three different races, passengers will be able to enjoy 25% off from their return tickets. The promotion will be available throughout the year.

Commuters taking the KTM Komuter train to the MATTA Fair in a group of minimum three people will also be able to enjoy 25% off their Komuter journey ticket. The public can visit the KTM Intercity Booth at the fair to grab return tickets, for a minimum of two passengers, at a promotional price of 25% discount. The tickets are valid up to May 31.

KTMB will also be giving out a mystery gift to every 1,000th visitor to their booth and is offering vouchers to MATTA to be given out at the fair.

MATTA Fair organising chairman John Tan said this year’s fair would see an increased number of booths, new exhibitors and better deals. He said MATTA was working closely with the national and state tourism boards to promote tourism actively and ensure better service of participating agents.

“We expect to see a turnout of more than 80,000 visitors this year. There are 978 booths at the fair,” he added.

The KTM Intercity promotional packages will be available through KTMB and KTM Intercity’s website as well as at participating travel agencies. For details, visit or call 03-2279 8867, or visit the MATTA website at

Thursday, March 3, 2011


Peple do make fun with figures.A good example is that Tourism Malaysia is targeting about 555,000 Filipinos to visit the country’s neighbor in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region this year.

Zakaria Mohd Nani head of the Tourism Board Malaysia and Deputy Director for International Marketing Division (South East Asia) said that over the years, Filipino tourist arrivals to Malaysia have increased, he told reporters during the launch of said facility. In 2010 alone, a total of 486,790 Filipinos visited Malaysia, which is about a nine percent improvement compared to figures recorded in 2009.

The Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board recently opened its one-month customer assistance stall facility at the Ayala Center Cebu, in partnership with budget airline Cebu Pacific (CEB). The move is intended to increase Filipino tourists going to Malaysia this year.

The Cebu consumer promotion facility dubbed “Suroy-Suroy sa Malaysia Bai” hopes to encourage more Cebuanos to visit this exciting and leading tourist destination in the ASEAN. Special tour packages with airfares, hotel accommodations, and tours are made available.

The travel display is being organized by Ayala Center Cebu and Selrahco Management under its “Travel and Beyond” program.

Masrina Mohd Bakri, Director for Tourism Malaysia and Cultural Attache with the Embassy of Malaysia in the Philippines, said that aside from culture, food, and sites, Cebuanos can also capitalize on their “home stay” program allowing tourists to merge with the Malaysian culture in farms and coastal villages, among other sites.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Following a meeting with the Japanese Transport Ministry, it was announced on Friday that an arrangement has been reached to allow airlines to freely decide on the number of flights and routes they operate between the Narita International Airport in Tokyo and Malaysia from the summer of 2013.

Malaysia will then intensify efforts to promote the Kota Kinabalu International Airport in Sabah as its second aviation hub, especially after Japan agreed to open skies arrangement with the country.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha said more flights to and from Tokyo to Malaysia through Kota Kinabalu were expected as many Japanese wanted to visit Sabah.

"We are currently working towards promoting Kota Kinabalu as a second hub. By this arrangement, it will allow more flights and airlines from Malaysia flying to Tokyo, and this is good for air travelling between the two countries," he said.

Kong said that his officials met with counterparts from Japan's Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry here last Wednesday to finalise the arrangement.

This will take place when the maximum quota of landings and take-offs at Narita are raised to 270,000 per year.

Kong said that with the arrangement, Malaysian carriers would also be able to fly more frequently to Narita, if slots for landings and departures at the airport increased gradually before summer of 2013.

Earlier, the two countries agreed on air service liberalisation, except services in Narita due to the airport�s lack of available slots for landings and departures.

Currently, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) has daily flights to Narita from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport while Air Asia X operates three times a week to Haneda.

Last year, MAS announced that it was making Kota Kinabalu as its eastern hub to tap into major international destinations from the Far East to Australia, with development over three stages, beginning Nov 15, last year to June 3, this year.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Malaysia will host the second leg of this year's Formula One calendar on April 10 after the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix scheduled for March 13 was cancelled due to the deadly political unrest in the Gulf state.

So far demand for the 13th Malaysian Grand Prix has been disappointing, and well short of the targetted average of 33,000 a day over the three-day event.

"In November we began our promotion. We have sold 6,000 tickets to foreigners. However the domestic market is yet to pick up," said Razlan Razali, chief executive of the Sepang International Circuit.

Malaysia's Sepang Formula One event is losing traction, according to the circuit's boss who admitted the shabby stadium and tropical temperatures have caused ticket sales to plunge.

The Malaysian event has also been outshone by neighbouring Singapore, which offers not just adrenaline-packed night racing on a street circuit, but teams it with live entertainment by big-name performancers like Beyonce.

Malaysians increasingly preferred to watch the race on television rather than brave the afternoon heat.

"It has lost its lustre," Razlan said."Having Singapore next to us for F1 does not help and our biggest competitor is the television as many people prefer to watch the race from the comfort of their homes."

Despite ticket prices going for as low as $19, the cheapest on the F1 circuit, the 13-year-old Sepang event which has a daily capacity of 130,000 has not been pulling in the crowds.

Razlan said that last year just 97,000 people were drawn to the circuit over three days. In 2009 there were 126,000 while 2006 recorded the biggest crowd with 140,000 over three days.

The circuit boss admitted that Sepang is a "tired-looking" venue in urgent need of rejuvenation.

But he said he has received no reply after petitioning the government to fund a major overhaul at a cost of 180 million ringgit (596 million dollars).

Sepang's soaring roof, inspired by the hibiscus which is Malaysia's national flower, need to be replaced as the grandstand canopy has exceeded its lifespan and cannot cope with Malaysia's tropical downpours.

"When it rains, it leaks. People are not happy. The circuit was built in a record time but unfortuntely there were shortcuts and poor maintainance," he said.

The sport's ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone proclaimed Singapore as the "jewel in F1's crown" when the city-state hosted its first night race in 2008.

But in crushing comments for Malaysia, he likened Sepang to "an old house that needs a bit of redecorating."

"It's starting to get a little shabby and looks a bit tired. There is rubbish all over the place and it's not really a good sign for Malaysia," Ecclestone said at the time.

Razlan, who took over shortly after Ecclestone aired his criticism, said that to counter the decline, Sepang should stage a night race before its rights to host F1 expire in 2015.

"We should do one night race before we extend the 2015 contract. Maybe this will attract a bigger crowd as the weather at night will be cool," the 38-year-old said.

Other Asia-Pacific countries that host Formula One races are Australia, China and South Korea. India holds its first race this year.

But Razlan said that despite its shortcomings, the Malaysian event has a strong impact on the national tourism industry as it is beamed live across the globe, providing priceless publicity.

"(Financially) it is a loss-making event but the economic impact to the country is great," he said.