Monday, January 31, 2011


The much-awaited Land Public Transport Commission (SPAD) is now a reality.

Although it was supposed to be given its full powers by September last year, that deadline has been pushed to now, at the earliest. Reason: one necessary amendment to existing laws did not get passed in time for reasons beyond the control of SPAD.

This is a worrying development. So while SPAD exists in form, it still doesn’t have the teeth to make the positive changes to the sorry state of the country’s public transport system.

There is a lot at stake because SPAD is an idea whose time has come. It parks into one “central garage” the current illogical way that public transport is managed and administered in Malaysia with the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board at one end, the Road Transport Department at the other, while bodies like the Tourism Ministry, which issues licences for tourist buses, still having a piece of the pie.

SPAD is tasked with revamping the entire public transport system and given the mandate to take over all licence-issuing authorities, reorganise the bus network in the Klang Valley, integrate smart ticketing and monitor the overall standard performance of all public transport services, to name a few functions.

Perhaps this is why speculation is rife that SPAD’s recent hiccup (of not having the sufficient legislative backing) is coming from entrenched parties who have learned to somehow profit from the mayhem of the country’s public transport “mis-administration”.

While this theory is unsubstantiated (it could be only a legal technicality that has prevented SPAD from getting all its powers), certainly SPAD’s role could have an impact on the current status quo of the public transport sector.

For one, SPAD would seek to bring about efficiencies in the running of public transport. This could work against the interests of the entrenched players who exist more so because of the licence or monopoly they have rather than for being efficient in what they do.

At the same time, SPAD is facing expectation problems from the public, simply because there is so much pent-up demand for better public transport which went unheeded by an unresponsive, disjointed system which is now being re-directed (with hope) at SPAD.

In fact, public complaints to SPAD show many are hopeful that SPAD will be able to “right the wrongs” of Malaysia’s public transport system.

For serious commercial transport players, SPAD offers hope that they too have a significant role in the country’s public transport, instead of the usual suspects.

SPAD also gives hope to the “small players” in the public transport system, such as taxi drivers, who have often complained that they are subjected to unfair treatment by licence holders.

No doubt, SPAD is a step in the right direction, with regard to regulation and planning and management of public transport in Malaysia. It was earlier said that SPAD’s biggest challenge is being able to perform its duties without fear or favour, especially in enforcing its findings and plans on the myriad of other stakeholders in the public transport system in Malaysia.

Now it seems it has an even bigger challenge, that of being given its full legislative powers to get started. So can SPAD deliver ??

Saturday, January 29, 2011


AirAsia Bhd group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fenandes said that it is time to set up an independent regulatory body to guide the airline industry’s development, said AirAsia Bhd group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Tony Fernandes.

When he said that a body akin to the Malaysia Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) was needed to help the airline industry grow one wonders what he really meant by that. Is the Ministry of Transport not doing enough ?

“An independent regulator is needed to decide on what is best for the Malaysian airline industry,” Fernandes said this when contacted in Bhutan. What is important here is not what he said, rather where is he saying that. Bhutan...then we can assume that Air Asia is flying there?

So, get ready guys, a new destination is up for grabs.

He said the body should also decide on standards for best practices in the industry to ensure that Malaysia remained competitive as a hub for the region.

Fernandes added that the regulator should comprise aviation experts and captains of the tourism and banking industries.

On the new KLIA2 to be completed in October 2012, Fernandes said AirAsia would move in only when the terminal is deemed “operationally safe.”A little bit "sombong" here.

He also urged Malaysia Airports Berhad (MAB) to maintain aiport taxes for low-cost carriers at RM6 and RM25 for domestic and international passengers respectively.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha, at a press conference earlier, said the present LCCT was running at over-capacity, having handled 15.3 million passengers last year.

“They (low-cost carriers) have to move. The current LCCT was only a temporary LCCT. We also need it as a cargo terminal. KLIA2 will be a much nicer terminal than the current LCCT,” Kong said.

Friday, January 28, 2011


In an effort to position Malaysia as a premier duty free shopping destination, the Malaysian Government recently announced the waiver of duty on roughly 400 imported goods beginning in January 2011. The tax will be waived to attract a wider range of luxury brands to invest in Malaysia. The move also facilitates competitive pricing of imported merchandise, giving Malaysian retailers a competitive edge over retailers in other countries.

Malaysia's introduction into duty free shopping began in 1987 when the island of Langkawi was established as the first duty free zone. Since then, the islands of Tioman and Labuan, and numerous other towns have followed suit. "Duty Free Zones" offer items that are exempted from import duties but are available only in designated shopping zones around Malaysia.

As shopping marks a major component of tourism revenue, focus is being placed on three main areas. The first is the implementation of tax exemptions on a wider range of goods. Next is the promotion of the Bukit Bintang/KLCC shopping district as the premier shopping hub, and the development of three new premium outlets.

Although the tax exemptions currently apply to only selected merchandise, it certainly adds appeal to Malaysia's yearly sale carnivals: Malaysia Grand Prix Sale, Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival, and Malaysia Year End Sale. The carnivals increased tourist arrivals to Malaysia and set new shopping trends amongst the locals.

The success of these sale campaigns is evident in the growing number of tourist arrivals and tourism revenue each year. In 2009, shopping amounted to 28.3% of the total tourist receipts of RM53.4 billion. The waiver of tax on a wider range of goods may become a key reason for visitors to vacation in Malaysia.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Malaysians prefer to holiday overseas as they get better bargains, compared to visiting their own country, Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun called on Firefly, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), to have a built-in mechanism offering lower airfares as an effort to encourage domestic tourism.

“Holidaying overseas sounds much better to Malaysians, but it affects domestic tourism. There should be a balance for us when traveling, because holidaying within our country will control the outside flow of the Ringgit.

“For one Malaysian to holiday abroad, we lose one local tourist in the country,” he said.

Masidi gave an example of the promotional fare of RM99 to London while to travel to Sandakan , one will have to fork out about RM400.

Firefly managing director Datuk Eddy Leong, when asked to comment on the matter, said: “I think prices depend on supply and demand. If the supply is more, then players tend to do anything to get passengers. However, we want to continue to be committed to our tagline as a community airline.”

Masidi also proposed to Firefly and other airlines, to consider conveying conservation message to their passengers to protect nature.

“This is also in line with our tagline, ‘less is more’, meaning the less we disturb our pristine forest and sea, the more people will come to visit Sabah ,” he said.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Express Rail Link (ERL) will be offering two packages for families and friends travelling to KLIA, in conjunction with the Chinese New Year, which falls on Feb 3 and 4.

Its Chief Executive Officer Noormah Mohd Noor said both packages were available for online purchases.

The family package is priced at RM75 one-way for two adults and two children (children 2-12 years old), a 25 percent discount from the normal total fare.

She said, for those who travel in a group of three or more can enjoy huge savings through the group savers fare of RM25 per person one-way, compared with the standard single fare of RM35.

"The Chinese New Year marks the importance of family ties and prosperity, we wish to share this celebration with our customers, partners and families and together we invite happiness, hope and abundance for the New Year.

"We offered our super-value fares on KLIA Express for the first time during the year-end holiday period last year. The response was overwhelming and we have decided to offer the exclusive online fares to our loyal as well as new customers again, it is a great way to usher in the Year of the Rabbit," she said in a statement here.

Noormah said, customers can purchase tickets online from Jan 14, for travel from Jan 28 to Feb 6 and e-tickets issued in PDF format are valid for use on the selected travel date only.

CNY marks the importance of family ties and prosperity,this is great for the ERL opetator. But what about the senior citizens who also for the moment pays RM25 but can ride on ERL Transit only. It is about time that on this fare senior citizen should be allowed to take the Express as well.

For more information on both packages, visit .

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Catching almost everyone in the industry by surprise, the highway operators have increase toll charges for commercial vehicles by two fold almost at par with normal vehicles.

Contrary to government policy of encouraging the use of public transportation, this hike is seen as blatant move to undermine existing policy. Already the cost of operating these vehicles have reach all time high with increase in diesel prices, insurance premium charges and all maintenance items, it would no longer possible to offer tour groups and express bus users the same level of price structure.

Sooner or later our inbound tour costs will have to go up and may not be able to match prices offered by neighbouring countries.

The industry will need to seek a representation with the government for a moratorium on this matter so that a better way out can be found.

The time to act in now and the place in here.

Friday, January 21, 2011


by Denholm Barnetson

Travel operators trying to shrug off hard times are waking up to the vast potential of gay and lesbian tourism, including the new and burgeoning market for same-sex weddings and honeymoons as more countries allow gay marriage.

But industry experts warn that any businesses eyeing the pink dollar, euro, pound or yen need to be welcoming to gays while also avoiding the cliches associated with the community if they want to be taken seriously.

"The tourism industry is really opening its eyes and realising that this is a new and emerging market that they need to tap into," said Clark Massad, the European representative of the International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA).

"Several years ago, it was considered a niche market and now it is really being considered a segment in and of itself," he told AFP at the FITUR tourism trade fair in Madrid, one of the world's largest.

As proof, the IGLTA, which has some 2,200 business members in 87 countries, on Wednesday officially became an affiliate member of the UN World Tourism Organisation in a ceremony at FITUR's new Pink Corner for the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) community.

"The economic impact of the LGBT traveler has become apparent in the last year and especially with the economic crisis," said Massad.

As most are not parents, they have more disposable income, and have the added bonus that they can travel outside peak holiday periods.

Ian Johnson, the founder and chief executive of Out Now, which develops marketing strategies for targeting the gay and lesbian community, said studies by his organisation have shown that LGBT travelers account for 6.0 percent of all tourism numbers worldwide.

But he warned this also represents a challenge as hotels and travel destinations must ensure that employees are properly trained to make gay guests feel comfortable.

"If the consumer senses that it's nothing more than a quick 'pink dollar grab' then the cynicism will kick in immediately and those hotels, airlines and destinations will find they will not get the returns on their investments."

His organisation three years ago developed the GayComfort seal of approval, which has now been awarded to around 1,000 locations worldwide.

Destination tourism marketing offices in places such as Berlin, Stockholm, Australia's Gold Coast, Helsinki, Tel Aviv and Buenos Aires are among the members of the GayComfort programme.

"It is not about making gay guests feel any different, it is all about making them feel welcome, the same as all other guests," Johnson said.

Massad agreed that travel operators and destinations must study the market carefully.

"That means not just hanging a rainbow flag outside of your business ... The last thing you want is to fall into a situation of just using cliches, because the LGBT market will see right through that immediately."

He emphasised that "the LGBT market is an extremely diverse market," with travelers seeking everything from nightlife to beaches to cultural activities.

"Everybody wants to pigeon-hole certain gay destinations but I think that's a very dangerous thing because any city that is a major tourism destination today has the possibility to attract the gay traveler."

Johnson said marketing efforts generally start with private businesses and small tour operators.

Then "government authorities take notice and usually the tourism office money tends to follow the success of one or two pioneering private tour operators in opening up these markets."

He mentioned India, Nepal, Vietnam and Thailand among possible new destinations.

Some operators are also widening the field to include weddings and honeymoons.

Johnson said Out Now has been working with the Vienna tourism board to help develop gay honeymoons."

The value is immense and we can only say to you it's growing," although there is still a "distinct lack of awareness" of the potential among operators, he said.

The rising numbers of gay parents, an issue highlighted recently by pop superstar Elton John and his partner, is attracting interest in gay family holidays.

US actress and talk show host Rosie O'Donnell and her partner several years ago launched R Family Vacations aimed at families with same-sex parents.

UNWTO Secretary General Taleb Rifai agreed that LGBT travel is now taking off.

"We have seen some announcements lately from countries that in the past would probably have not been able or willing to have come out so clearly and say 'we are encouraging'" gay tourists, he told AFP.

"So I think it's a trend that is most likely to continue because it is connected to other global trends that are going in that direction."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


The Malaysian authorities will create a reserve that will provide a good home for tigers rescued from poor living conditions, but campaigners argue the focus should be on protecting the animals in the wild.

"It is still at the preliminary stage. It will be an enclosed area big enough for the big cats to roam," a wildlife and national parks department said.

"Tigers in the park will be fed and it will be a tourist attraction."

A final decision on the programme, which will be located in peninsular Malaysia, will be made by the end of the year, the official said.

The plan was prompted by the discovery of 27 captive tigers living in poor conditions in a zoo in southern Malacca state, the official said.

He played down fears of poachers raiding the tiger park, saying it would be "enclosed and guarded."

Several NGOs monitor trade in wildlife, urged the authorities to concentrate on battling poaching rather than breeding tigers.

"We agreed that something must be done to care for the tigers that are casualties of poaching and conflict. However, the facilities undertaking these efforts should avoid becoming factories for more captive tigers," he said.

"Captive tigers would not have the ability to feed themselves or a fear of humans, and so cannot be returned to the wild. Also, this will not prevent tiger extinction in the wild," he added.

The priority should be to protect tigers in the wild where they still face a serious threat.

Conservationists have called for a war on poachers who are undermining Malaysia's ambitious goal to double its population of wild tigers to 1,000.

In the 1950s, there were as many as 3,000 tigers in Malaysia but their numbers fell as the country opened up more land for agriculture.

Monday, January 17, 2011


This is something entirely new to the industry.

The Tourism Ministry is to act immediately against fraudulent homestay programmes before the scam undermines the tourism industry, said the Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.

She said she had instructed the enforcement division of the ministry to identify these fake programmes and act against them.

"Perhaps the ministry can require all homestay programmes to register with it and rebrand them to enable the tourists to differentiate between the real and the fake.

"Right now, there are no specific laws for the government to act against the fake homestay operators, but the matter has to be tackled for the tourism industry to grow," she told reporters after a meeting with officers and staff of the ministry in Kelantan and Tourism Malaysia Kelantan, here.

Ng said operators of fake homestay programmes did not live in, contrary to the objective of the programmes, and did not fulfil the criteria as promoted in the package.

"Tourists must understand that in a homestay programme, the owner of the house lives in and takes the tourists through the package of activities," she said, adding that tourists had complained of having been cheated.

Ng said eight villages in Kelantan offered homestay programmes operated by 161 home owners who made available 194 rooms.

Last year, she said, 1,193 foreign tourists and 1,148 domestic tourists participated in the homestay programmes, bringing in returns of RM1.17 million.

Ng said Kelantan had the potential to draw more tourists, particularly from Singapore, and the ministry had launched a homestay programme incorporating a train journey in October last year to boost the potential.

"Tourist information centres were visited by 2,149 tourists from Japan, China, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Germany and the United Kingdom, indicating an interest in the tourism products of Kelantan," she said.

We know for a fact that the homestay program is not new in this world. It has been started by Japan 50 years ago by several youth organisation as part of their community development program. When the owner is not staying in the house taking care of the guests it cannot be called "homestay". Instead you can call it SELDOM INN or better still ON HOLIDAY INN.

The Ministry might want to launch this new product since it is always hungry for new ideas.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Finally it is happening in Indonesia. Cheap airfares and the government’s recent repeal of the exit tax are leading more Indonesian tourists overseas.

The changes might increase in the number of outbound Indonesian tourists in 2011 by 20 percent, up from 5 million in 2010, according to the Association of Indonesian Travel Agencies (Asita). “The abolition of the fiscal fee along with more affordable tickets offered by low-cost carriers have encouraged more people to travel overseas.

The government rescinded the exit tax paid by citizens at international departure points on Jan 1. Previously, Indonesians without tax registration numbers (NPWP) had to pay a Rp 1 million tax when leaving the nation by sea or Rp 2.5 million when leaving by air.

Now every Indonesian can fly as we do in Malaysia.

No official figures were available for the number of outbound Indonesian tourists in 2010. According to the Central Statistics Agency, there 8.7 million Indonesian airline passengers went abroad between January and November in 2010, up from 7.2 million in the same period in 2009.

More Indonesians were travelling overseas. Nearby destinations such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand remained Indonesians’ favorite destinations.

It is hoped that the Malaysian authorities maintain its status quo on our citizens going abroad for travel and business. Already the cost of getting an international passport is a bit on the high side compared to Indonesia.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


The Malaysian Asso­ciation of Tour and Travel Agent’s (MATTA) new RM3mil headquarters - Wisma MATTA - was officially opened by Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.

“This is indeed a day of celebration. The new office is symbolic of MATTA’s success,” she said.

MATTA president Datuk Mohd Khalid Harun said the association has grown from 35 members to 2,800 members today.

MATTA also announced that the MATTA International Fair Selangor Umrah & Muslim Travel Destinations will be held from this Friday to Sunday at the Shah Alam Convention Centre.

It will be the biggest Muslim travel fair in Malaysia with the participation of more than 51 travel agencies and 110 booths.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Written by a participant of MM2H

August 12
Moved into our new home in Kg Penarek, Trengganu. It is so beautiful here. The beaches are so picturesque. I have a beautiful pokok sena and a couple of frangipani in my front yard and from here I can see the off-shore islands. Can hardly wait to see visit them. This is truly God’s Country.

October 14
Trenganu is such a gorgeous place to live, one of the real special places on Earth. The palm trees are always a joy to see. I love all of the shades of reds, oranges and yellows of the other trees, they are so bright. I want to walk through the beach all day long. They are so graceful – certainly they must be the most peaceful place on Earth. This must be paradise.

November 10
Moonson season starts this week. I can’t imagine why anyone would leave this place now. The season is the very symbol of peace and tranquility of Malaysia. I love it here!

December 2
It rained like cats and dogs last night. I woke to the most wonderful sight: Everything covered in a beautiful blanket of water. What a beautiful place. Nature in harmony – I love it here!

December 12
More rain last night. I love it! A moonson wonderland – I love it here!

December 19
More rain – couldn’t get out of the house now. Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink. I am bored.

December 21
More of that stupid rain coming down – I have a running nose and fever is next.. Asshole.

December 25
What a way to spend Christmas? All locked up in this house. More freakin’ rain.

December 28
It hasn’t stopped raining since Christmas, getting very distressful.

January 1
Happy New Year? The way it’s coming down it won’t dry up until the 1st of July!

January 4
Finally got out of the house. We went to the store to get some food and a goddamn " lembu" ran out in front of my car and I hit the bastard. It did $3,000. in damage to the car. Those beasts ought to be killed, the owner as well.

January 27
Warmed up a little and slightly dry today. The sun has turned up.

March 23
Took my car to the local garage. Would you believe the whole underside of the car is rusted away from all of that damn salt from the sea.? Car looks like a bashed up heap of rusted cow shit.

May 10
Sold the car, the house, and moved to Western Australia, Perth to be exact. I can’t imagine why anyone in their freakin' mind would ever want to live in the God forsaken state of Trengganu.

Friday, January 7, 2011


In early 2005, Air Asia shook up the travel industry offering dirt cheap fares over the internet. Booking a flight has never been so easy and cheap. Everyone can fly.

As time goes on they began jacking up fees on everything from checked bags to credit card reservations. Consumers squawked, but the charges stuck, and fees have become a crucial revenue source for the red carrier.

Now Air Asia should be trying to rewrite the rules on ticket sales through global distribution systems and the travel agencies they do not support. Air Asia has never paid commissions to the middleman and drive more consumers to its website, it could net hundreds of millions of ringgit up front in new revenue and savings. And you can bet that other airlines would follow.

Because Air Asia is the only carrier that flies non traditional routes they have created a niche for themselves. Those tickets are still being sold only at their own site. And Air Asia officials said that sales are trending ahead of last year since Dec. 31.

The company once made a splash by offering more legroom in certain rows, only to learn that customers would not pay extra for it. So Air Asia reconfigured cabins to squeeze in more seats. With its higher fees, only customers who check bags or change a ticket end up paying more.

Air Asia will not reshape the distribution system, travel agencies and GDS companies will continue to take the hit. This is destructive to the travel industry, but extremely great for the traveller.

Monday, January 3, 2011


A nine- kilometre boat ride lasting 40 minutes provided by the River Cruise Service along the Terengganu river has been introduced as a new attraction for visitors at the Islamic Civilisation Park (TTI) here.

TTI sales and marketing manager Nor Sabihah Fidri said everyday about 400 tourists visited the park to experience the joy of riding in several boats that had been made available for them at the park.

This is a miserable figure compared to the money spent to create this theme park called Taman Tamaddun Islam which was inspired by the Alhambra of Spain.

"We receive visitors to go for between seven and eight trips a day along the river," she told reporters in conjunction with a quiz programme organised by the TTI-Terenganu FM radio service here Saturday.

Undoubtedly many efforts have been carried out to promote the theme park but without much success. Not in this heat and weather of Kuala Trengganu.

The quiz contest held in collaboration with the radio station started on Dec 1 last year and will end on Jan 31.

So what are you waiting for. Just hit the road and head for TTI, you will be surprised what you can see there and ask yourself if the trip has been worthwhile.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


The Malaysian tourism industry continues to grow rapidly, thanks to increasing promotional activities, growing MICE industry and rising level of personal disposable income that are fuelling growth into the country’s tourism industry. Also, being a preferred medical tourism destination and politically stable, the country has become a more profitable tourism industry, says "Opportunities in Malaysian Tourism Industry (2007-2009)”, a research report by RNCOS.

The report provides an in-depth analysis of the present and future prospects of the Malaysian tourism industry. It focuses on different tourism parameters, like inbound & outbound tourism, expenditure by inbound & outbound tourists, accommodation & transportation facilities and medical tourism. The report will help clients to evaluate the opportunities and factors critical to the success of tourism industry in Malaysia.Key Findings• Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia are important sources of visitors for Malaysia. Beyond ASEAN, tourist arrivals from China and India will remain an important influence throughout the forecast period (2008-2012) as the majority of Chinese tend to weigh their spending towards consumer purchases as opposed to luxury hotel accommodation.• The promotion of Education Tourism will continue to be expanded to expedite the development of Malaysia as a preferred destination for international students. The projected foreign exchange earnings from this potential source of growth are estimated at RM 900 Million by 2010.•

It is expected that expenditure by international tourists in Malaysia will increase at a CAGR of 6.63% during the forecasted period.• Increasing disposable income in Malaysia will open the opportunities for both outbound and domestic tourism. It is expected that per head disposable income in the country will increase at a CAGR of 5.06% during 2008-2012.• It is expected that MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions & Exhibitions) industry will be one of the major contributors to the Malaysian tourism industry.Key Issues & Facts Analyzed• How is the ASEAN tourism industry performing?•

What is the position of Malaysian tourism industry in the ASEAN tourism industry?• What are the emerging trends in the tourism sector in Malaysia?• What is the future outlook of the tourism industry?• What are the Key driving forces for the Malaysian tourism industry?• What opportunities exist for the industry?• What are the challenges for the industry?• How is the market affected by other factors prevailing in the economy?