Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Wishing all tourism industry players SELAMAT HARI MERDEKA.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Eid ul-Fitr marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

This has to do with the communal aspects of the fast, which expresses many of the basic values of the Muslim community; i.e., empathy for the poor, charity, worship, steadfastness, patience etc.

Fasting is also believed by some scholars to extol fundamental distinctions, lauding the power of the spiritual realm, while acknowledging the subordination of the physical realm.

It also teaches a Muslim to stay away from wordly desires and to focus entirely on the Lord and thank him for his blessings. It is a rejuvenation of the religion and it creates a stronger bond between the Muslim and his Lord.

After the end of Ramadan, is a big celebration of Eid'. WTF wishes all Moslem members a HAPPY EID.

Monday, August 29, 2011


The Egyptian city of Aswan will host the official 2011 World Tourism Day (WTD) celebrations, which will include a High-Level Think Tank on this year’s theme, ‘Tourism – Linking Cultures’ (27 September 2011).

“It is most fitting that Egypt, home to some of the world’s most celebrated cultural heritage and a leading tourism destination, be the host country for the official celebrations of World Tourism Day 2011,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Taleb Rifai.

Egypt is world famous for its rich history and vibrant culture which draw millions of tourists to the country each year. It is precisely this interaction between the peoples and cultures of the world, driven by tourism, that is at the heart of the WTD 2011 theme: Tourism – Linking Cultures.

“We are very honored to be hosting the official celebrations of World Tourism Day 2011 in Egypt. Tourism is one of the most important sectors of our society, representing 12% of our GDP in 2010 and responsible for one in every seven jobs. World Tourism Day is an excellent opportunity to raise awareness around the world of this vital economic sector and its contribution to social, economic and environmental well-being worldwide and in Egypt in particular,” said the Minister of Tourism of Egypt, Mounir Fakhri Abdel-Nour.

Planned WTD activities in Aswan include a High-Level Think Tank on the 2011 theme, at which leading public and private tourism stakeholders, academia and the media will address the role of tourism in building understanding, respect and tolerance worldwide.

WTD activities running throughout the year include the annual WTD Photo Competition, which offers a round-trip to Egypt as first prize. UNWTO has also launched the first ever WTD Twitter Competition, asking people to ‘tweet’ about how they consider tourism to link cultures. Winning entries will appear on the official programme handed out during the celebrations in Aswan.

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Malaysia has a vast potential for Muslim tourism which should be fully exploited, said a tourism writers association.

Malaysia not only had a liberal policy but also offered various conveniences such as the availability of halal food, places of worship, political stability and diversity in tourism products.

"This advantage should be fully exploited to attract more Muslim tourists," said the president of the Malaysian Tourism Writers Association (Tram), Azlie Halimin.

In this context, Azlie said the local authorities, Malaysian Islamic Development Department and Tourism Ministry should always monitor that Muslim tourism facilities in the country were properly maintained and improved.

He said Muslim tourism facilities such as the surau, places for ablution, toilets, direction of the 'kiblat' and halal food must be provided.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


The tourism sector needs to be recognised as a major economic motor that deserves the same sort of attention as the manufacturing and finance industries, tourism leaders from around the world said at a conference in 2009.

"Tourism is the biggest employer in the world" and can play a role in helping the globe recover from the economic downturn, the head of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), Jean-Claude Baumgarten, told the event held in southern Brazil.

Taleb Rifai, the chief of the UN World Trade Organisation had said that while the sector represents nine per cent of the world's economic output and 220 million jobs, "it isn't being taken seriously,".

Tourism companies were not asking for a rescue plan like those given to the US banking sector or to automakers around the world, but rather an easing of restrictions, including the scrapping of visa requirements and airport taxes, and improved infrastructure and tourism promotion campaigns.

"Millions of jobs are at stake, from that of hotel receptionist to flight attendant, to taxi driver," said Hubert

Joly, chief executive officer of the US travel group Carlson."Governments aren't grabbing on the sector's potential for helping a recovery."

Jose Luis Zoreda, the head of Exceltur which represents Spain's biggest tourism companies, said in his country 600 jobs a day have been lost over the past five months in tourism.

"Government measures are going in the right direction but are too timid," he said. The WTTC warned that, planet-wide, some 18 million jobs directly or indirectly dependent on the tourist trade will have disappeared over 2008 to the end of 2009.

The effects of the crisis on limiting travel will see the sector - worth US$5.5 trillion (RM19.6 trillion) - shrink 3.5 per cent this year, the body said.

Since 2009 it has been a "very, very bad year" for business travel, which was seeing the brunt of the crisis- even more so than leisure travel."Business travel in the world is down 10 to 20 per cent in the first quarter" of 2009, he said.

"Companies are cutting costs, and trips are the first thing to go," said the Carlson boss.

He predicted the decline would remain into next year, depressing a segment of the travel market estimated to be worth US$350 billion a year.

Friday, August 26, 2011


Mixed Performance for Malaysians hotels has been reported for 2010. Occupancy levels in Malaysia rose to 70% in 2010 from 62% in 2009, with Kuala Lumpur registering highest growth, while other cities witnessed a decline in performance, as reported in the recently published 2011 Malaysia Hotel Operations Survey.

About 89 hotels across the country participated in the Horwath HTL 2011 Malaysia Hotel Operations Survey, making it one of the most prominent studies of its kind in the Malaysia hotel industry.

The survey conducted annually is supported by the Malaysian Association of Hotels, and is used extensively by developers, investors, hotel operators and government agencies.

Hotels across the country reported a growth in occupancy and a general improvement in Income Before Fixed Charges and Management Fees (IBFCMF), but ADR dropped from RM281 in 2009 to RM223 in 2010. This is due to a general decrease in ADR, as well as an increase in participation from hotels in lower rate categories. However, tight cost controls exercised in 2010, particularly in undistributed operation expenses, resulted in a growth in IBFCMF margins from 35% in 2009 to 39% in 2010.

Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya / Subang Jaya / Sepang recorded slight increases in RevPAR, largely driven by growth in occupancy. Other main tourism destinations, such as Penang , Langkawi and Kota Kinabalu, however, reported year-on-year drops in RevPAR by 11% to 15%.

The largest IBFCMF margins were seen in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi, while Kuching offers the leanest margins.

Leisure demand emerged as the most prominent source of business in 2010, contributing 32% to 67% of room nights across the cities. Corporate demand is also strong in the Greater KL area and Penang . Participating hotels reported Southeast Asian markets as the largest regional source, making up about 60% of all room nights in 2010, including the domestic market which accounted for about 43%. Other significant markets include Singapore , Australia and New Zealand , Middle East and China .

“Overall, participating hotels are conservative in their projections for both occupancy and rate increases in 2011, projecting only a 4% and 6% increase respectively,” said Sen Soon-Mun, Director of Horwath HTL Kuala Lumpur.

In 2010, tourist arrivals grew by 4% to a record 24.6 million arrivals, compared to 23.6 million arrivals in 2009. This resulted in total tourism receipts of RM 56.5 billion – a strong 5.8% growth from 2009. The top 10 source countries include regional markets such as India , Korea and China.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


President Obama’s recent statement that the services of travel agents are no longer needed have some truth in it.

What Obama said during a town hall meeting in Atkinson, Illinois: “One of the challenges in terms of rebuilding our economy is businesses have gotten so efficient that—when was the last time somebody went to a bank teller instead of using the ATM, or used a travel agent instead of just going online? A lot of jobs that used to be out there requiring people now have become automated.”

Pros and con comments have raised the question of the relevance of agents today.

“Not so fast, Mr. President,” said Barry Liben, CEO of Travel Leaders Group, which says it represents about one third of the North American travel agency market. “While many components of travel may have become commoditized, there’s no commoditizing the human touch."

"The vast majority of travel, regardless of online tools, is still booked by travel agents,” wrote Mark Murphy, CEO of Travelalliance, parent of and other publications and dot.coms.

ASTA wrote a letter to the White House “strongly rebutting” the president’s statement. ASTA argued: The US travel agency industry today "is comprised of nearly 10,000 US-based travel agency firms operating in 15,000 locations. We have an annual payroll of US$6.3 billion. Most importantly, our businesses produce full-time employment for more than 120,000 US taxpayers."

Further, the US travel agency industry:
• processes more than $146 billion in annual travel sales, accounting for more than 50 percent of all travel sold. This includes the processing of more than 50 percent of all airline tickets, more than 79 percent of tours and more than 78 percent of all cruises
• helps more than 144 million travelers get where they want to go each year.

“It is true that travel agents are still a significant part of the American workforce, and $6.3 billion in annual payroll and 120,000 jobs are nothing to sniff at, especially in this economy,” commented The Economist. The site added: “Suggesting that such a large number of Americans are doing a job that is no longer necessary was perhaps not the wisest move politically. But just as it's true that ATMs have changed the roles of bank tellers, so too have internet travel sites changed the travel agency industry.”

On the one hand, there’s no question the bricks and mortar agency sites have declined. There were about 32,000 such sites in 1998 which has since declined to somewhere around 20,000, depending on who is counting. And agents are not exactly a growth industry. The federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that there will be about one percent fewer travel agents in 2018 than there were in 2018, despite population growth. But so what?

IBIS World, an industry research provider, says continued changes in the industry will eliminate many smaller brick-and-mortar operations but that the prospects are good for online growth.

“The real challenge for travel agents going forward will be convincing younger business and leisure travellers who have never used anything other than a website to book travel that they can and should use an online travel agent,” according to The Economist.

The Dodo and the milkman were common comparisons for the decline of the travel agent. But that’s in the past. ”The travel agent has been given a reprieve, as travelers are starting to need vacations from planning their vacations,” writes Online Travel.

That’s partly because of the confusion of conflicting words of advice from often self-serving sources. “Everyone is trying to tell you where you should stay, where you should eat, what you should do,” said John Clifford, a travel consultant.

A study by Forrester Research found that, in the first quarter of 2010, 28 percent of US leisure travelers who booked their trips online said they would be interested in using a good, traditional travel agent. Moreover, an ASTA study released earlier this year found that 51 percent of ASTA leisure-based travel agencies saw increased revenue in 2010 compared to 2009

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Heritage trail to introduce historical sites.

Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur is now hiring contractors for its Heritage Trail project which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The aim of the project is to take local and foreign tourists on a historical journey of the various sites in Kuala Lumpur before independence to the present day.

The trail will begin at Museum Negara and the story of each site will be etched on ceramic tiles. In front of the National Mosque, gazebos, stalls and a seating area will be built.

From there, visitors are able to visit the parks, Police Museum , Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia, Perdana Botanical Gardens or Tun Razak Memorial. Further down, the trail leads to Dataran Merdeka, which will be upgraded to include, waterfalls, pictures of past prime ministers and landscaping.

At Medan Pasar, a big arch will be built and Jalan Tun Perak will be upgraded as part of the River of Life project. There will also be a photo spot to allow photographers to get a better angle of Masjid Jamek.

Kuala Lumpur mayor Tan Sri Ahmad Fuad Ismail said although there was a need for new development in the city it was important to retain some areas with historical past. He said there were stories to be told and they needed to be linked from one point to another.

“We have the product but we do not have the proper storyline to show people. “If you are on the heritage trail you will start from a certain point and move on from there. The trail is not all about historical sites as it will also include modern developments like the KLCC and Pavilion.

“We want to preserve the old buildings but make certain enhancements to give it more value,” he said.

He also spoke about developments in areas like Petaling Street , which is a favourite among tourists.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


by Justin Yap,

Considering that Sarawak will see more tourism activities plus contributions from the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) sector, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) hopes to see more funds allocated for the tourism arm in the next 2012 Budget talk.

Under the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP), the state government had allocated five-year RM30 million fund for STB to cover all the tourism activities as well as its operation cost. With RM6 million a year, STB chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan highlighted that its an almost ‘impossible’ challenge.

He further pointed out that if Sarawak tourism is an economic sector that generates so much revenue for the state, then the government shouldn’t be reducing the budget from the past average of RM40 million. “As the Tourism and Heritage Ministry’s promotional and marketing arm, we are covering every part of the state’s advertising and promotion activities and that requires funding.”

STB estimated that it required nothing less than RM8 million a year to operate at minimum cost. However, if there are more allocations given, it (STB) could be more innovative and allocate funds for other integral areas.

“I am not giving up and I will be pursing this matter,” stressed Rashid.

Due to the lack of funds, STB has had to take the initiative to generate revenue by itself to support its various ongoing programmes. “We have been pushing the funding issues and have already appealed for RM1 million in extra funding from the cabinet last year, which was granted.

“In order to receive funding, the recipient has to justify what it is for and show positive results for the programmes undertaken with the funding. For the first six months of the year STB has been making positive progress and has implemented cost cutting and saving measures, avoided wastage and been very proactive to ensure the success of the programmes,” he added.

He highlighted that the Sabah Tourism Board on the other hand was getting RM25 million in funding allocation yearly. Given the fact that Sabah did not have such a wide industrial area and on the other hand Sarawak had a successful SCORE project, he questioned the rationale of more focus being given to Sabah .

“From the tourism perspective, the focus on energy should also relate to tourism as it is the fastest growing sector of the economy. There are many possibilities how the tourism business can tap into the growing energy industry in the state.

“Most people are looking at the Bakun Hydroelectric project to generate new economic activities for them. The artificial lake itself can be transformed into a tourism business sector if the right creative ideas are implemented,” he explained.

Rashid also pointed out that events that were held in Sarawak should be managed properly. “The annually held Sarawak Regatta which is run by the resident office is one such event that should be run in a more professional manner. It would do much better if it was handled by a professional event management company and not by civil servants.”

“STB is studying numerous local events and looking at the possibility of transforming them into international events. It is a mammoth task as funding again plays a vital role on whether it will be viable. As a non-profit organisation STB’s role is to re-channel funding into the state to improve the quality of tourism event in the state. It is an ongoing challenge for improvement,” he added.

Monday, August 22, 2011


Some say that the most beautiful beaches in Asia are those that have not been visited by many, and are inaccessible to most. Conventional wisdom might be spot on here, but the time spent getting to these Asian beaches is well worth it.

From Borneo to Seychelles, you are a step closer to discovering some most breath-taking beaches and resorts - Mabul Island, Sabah.

Just off the northeastern coast of Malaysia, Mabul is a secluded island perfect for beach lovers and divers alike. One of our favourite resorts there is the 45-bungalow Sipadan Water Village Resort, where the entire venue is set atop stilts over the water.

Borneo is known as one of the best diving sites in the world, including Sipadan Island, just 15km away from Mabul. With calm seas, cool breezes and vivid coral reefs, the island's beauty and exclusivity is self-explanatory.

Getting to Sipadan is a little tricky, which explains why the tourist masses have bypassed this island and moved onto other Malaysian beaches such as Perhentian and Redang.

The first leg, a direct flight to Kota Kinabalu, is easy. Once there, travellers need to change planes and take a domestic flight to Tawau airport on the east coast of Sabah. Now Air Asia fly direct to Tawau from Kuala Lumpur.

Although a bit of a haul, being able to enjoy a view that you share with only 44 other people makes it all worth it.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Borneo's unique beadscraft

Borneo's unique beadscraft can be a world fashion trend, said State Tourism and Heritage Minister Abang Johari Tun Openg.

He said Sarawak's beadscrafts which are produced from a variety of media like clay, glass and wood and especially imbibed with cultural elements such as of the Orang Ulu in the northern part of the state, have very high creative value. "However, we need to add new dimensions to them such as in the shape and colour to match the current world fashion.

"It would also be beneficial for local beadscraftsmen to share ideas with their counterparts in other countries like Africa, Australia and our Southeast Asian neighbours," he told reporters here. Meanwhile, Abang Johari said the Second Borneo International Beads Conference would be held in Kuching from Oct 7 - 9, following the successful inaugural event in Miri last year.

This unique beadscraft has been a excellent souvenir item for the tourists for a long time.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Tourist arrivals in Sarawak could increase by as much as 20% this year compared to 2010 when total arrivals stood at about 3.2mil.

To date, the increase had been at 16%, Tourism and Heritage Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg told reporters on Sunday, adding that in the first quarter, there were 1.16mil visitors to the state.

“We’ve seen tourists from outside Malaysia increased by 22%. Most of them are from Australia, Europe and Japan. South Korea is also a growing market for Sarawak,” Johari said after a ‘buka puasa’ event for his ministry’s staff.

Johari attributed the increase to better air connectivity. “We are also talking to more airlines, trying to help them identify Kuching as another regional hub.”

Next month, the minister will lead a delegation, comprising MASWing personnel, to Maldives, to explore the island nation’s water-tourism. Since mid-year, Johari has been talking about introducing amphibious aircraft to fly between Kuching and Miri to Bakun and Murum dams. Maldives, which is just off the coast of India, has 1,192 islands, of which about 200 are inhabited. Johari said the country’s complicated logistics would serve as a guide as to how Sarawak could develop tourism in central and northern Sarawak. He cited areas “not far from Miri” as having been tagged for more water-based recreational developments.

“Overall, Sarawak has a lot of attractions,” Johari said, adding: “We must know how to manage our attractions, and how to get more (funds) to build better infrastructure within the attractions. We have an advantage here because of global green movement. We have a lot of nature to “pull” tourists with.”

Although Sarawak’s visitor arrivals recorded a slight drop last year, tourism receipts still achieved a respectable RM1.69bil, according to a Tourism Malaysia estimate. The slide was attributed to the prolonged after-effects of global financial crisis, which was also complicated by the European volcanic ash episode.

Of the estimated 3.2 million arrivals to Sarawak last year, about 750,000 were from Peninsular Malaysia while 625,000 were Sabahans. The number of inter-state travellers made up 42%. Non-Malaysian arrivals was 1.9 million, out of which 1.19 million were Bruneians, followed by Indonesians (about 384,000) and Filipinos (about 71,000).

Part of the increase this year has been the result of Malaysia Airlines’ new Kuching-Seoul direct flight via Kota Kinabalu, as well as its Kuching-Tokyo and Kuching-Osaka, also via Kota Kinabalu. New Kuching-Indonesian routes were also introduced by Kal Star Aviations earlier this year, while the trio of budget airlines — AirAsia, Firefly and Tiger Air — have been adding flight frequencies between Kuching, Sibu and Miri to Kuala Lumpur, Johor and Singapore.

Friday, August 19, 2011


The Malaysian Competition Commission (MyCC) is reviewing the possible impact of the Malaysia Airlines-AirAsia collaboration on the local market. MyCC will then advise both the airlines on the possible do's and dont's, its top executive said.

The commission decided to initiate the research as the Competition Act 2010 comes into force on January 1, 2012.

The Competition Act addresses anti-competition agreements and abuse of dominant positions while MyCC was established to take on complaints and decide if any infringements of the Act has taken place. The latter's focus is on curbing abuse by monopolies, and controlling anti-cartels by major corporations.

This follows concerns that the tie-up between the two airlines - which were until last week, fierce competitors - may now result in an anti-competition behaviour or monopoly. Consumers are particularly concerned about possible increase in airfares.

"MyCC has decided to look at what consequences this alliance will have on the market," MyCC chief executive officer Shila Dorai Raj told Business Times when contacted. "Once we have done a market research, we will advise Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia on the areas where they may cross the line," she said.

Last week, Khazanah Nasional Bhd agreed to swap a 20.5 per cent stake in MAS for a 10 per cent stake in AirAsia from the latter's majority shareholder, Tune Air Sdn Bhd. The parties have said that more detailed terms of collaboration will be revealed after a full anti-trust review by all three companies.

While the Act exempts certain sectors such as those dealing in matters of national interest, services of gen-eral economic interests and collective agreement, it does not provide special exemptions for government-linked companies (GLCs).

Once the Act comes into force, an affected party can lodge complaints to MyCC. "We will look at whether it merits an investigation, what significant effects it has on the market and what market are we talking about. The market has to be clearly defined," she said.

Action will then depend on the evidence that MyCC collects. The maximum fine for contravening the Competition Act is a 10 per cent of the company's worldwide turnover. MyCC is a 10-member commission and its chairman is the former Chief Judge of Malaya Tan Sri Siti Norma Yaakob.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Unique Course for Travel & Tourism Communicators In The Internet Era

Most of the media releases circulating in the travel & tourism industry these days are Boring….Banal….and Bland.

Their content and subject matter has hardly changed at all over the past 30 years.

The world has changed. The travel & tourism industry has changed. The technology has changed.

But travel industry communications has not kept pace!

It all sounds the same, looks the same, feels the same.

There is more “noise” than “news”.

Poor communications content is a major reason why travel & tourism gets scant respect on the global stage.

Imtiaz Muqbil, Executive Editor of Travel Impact Newswire, one of Asia’s seniormost travel & tourism journalists, has created a unique one-day course designed to change the way industry communicators think in the Internet age.

The course will help communicators:

Develop content that is different, distinctive and produces results;
Access insights/ideas and better understand the forces of internal and external change;
Broaden both the context and content of the communications effort;
Boost the competitive edge of their respective companies/organisations; and
Get maximum productivity value in minimum time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Good tourism statements do come from non tourism players. In Sibu for example there has been a call for a team up to create the load. Tourism players here have been urged to work as a team in order to consistently churn out load factors big enough to entice airlines to fly here.

Second Finance Minister Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh stressed that concerted effort by all parties involved was necessary to make the game plan work. “Once we have the load, airlines will fly in. Conversely, if we do not have the load, even if we request them to come in, they will stop flying after a while,” he told reporters after a dialogue with travel and tour agents here yesterday.

When asked for his views on the swapping of shares between Malaysia Airline (MAS) and Air Asia, he said this was beneficial for the local populace if unnecessary competitions were done away with. “But on condition that they do not hike the fare,” said Wong, who is also Minister of Environment and Public Health.

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters after the meeting, Third Division Travel Agents Association president Frankie Ting called for airports to provide basic facilities such as water dispenser and rooms for mothers to change their children’s diapers and do breast feeding. “It is appalling how they will increase the airport tax soon and yet such facilities are not provided for,” Ting lamented.

He felt water dispensers should be provided inside airports for people to drink. “They should be provided for since we paid for it.” He noted there was a water dispenser in KLIA but not at the LCCT.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Tourism is the broad spectrum of travel for the purpose of not only recreation, but also the provision of services for this act. It might occupy local services such as entertainment, accommodation and catering for tourists. It may seem, that tourism brings only benefits, but further consideration shows that it also has disadvantages.

Firstly, many countries depend heavily upon travel expenditures by foreigners as a source of taxation and as a source of income for the enterprises. Therefore, the development of tourism is often a strategy to promote a particular region.

The importance of tourism in in increasing commerce through exporting goods and services.

Secondly, it provides direct employment for the people associated with occupations in bars and hotels. Thanks to it, the average standard of living of people increases well and at the same time unemployment is on the decrease.

However, tourists cause environmental damage through forest fires, destruction of sand dunes and pollution. Consequently this serves negatively as increased pollution disturbs local residents and also it may discourage tourists from further entering the country.

After this, tourism undermines culture by commercializing it and this is often connected with increasing litter, graffiti, vandalism and noise - tourists do not always respect traditional cultures, which is sad but true.

In general, tourism is an extremely profitable process in loads of countries, especially those in which the process of development continue to depend on this industry because this industry does not require a lot of literacy and also it yields maximum profits with less investment.

Monday, August 15, 2011


All travel agents will have to offer travel insurance to their customers flying overseas by year's end. The importance of providing travel insurance will be a requirement soon.

“Travel insurance is already compulsory for those who are travelling to Mecca to perform the Haj since 1992. Now, we want to make it mandatory for all outbound travels and we hope to achieve this by year's end,” said Mohd Khalid Harun, President of MATTA during a press conference after the launch of the MATTA Fair August 2011 yesterday at the Putra World Trade Centre.

“We have done several roadshows around Kuala Lumpur and we will go to other states soon. What we want to do is create an awareness among our members on the importance of travel insurance for customers,” Mohd Khalid said.

He said the association had so far spoken to no less than 10 insurance companies on the possibility of providing coverage to outbound travellers.

On the MATTA fair, Mohd Khalid remarked that the popular travel fair's reputation had gone beyond Malaysia. “We have more and more tourism organisations from other countries who have set up booths here. Even Mexico and Ecuador are at the fair,” Mohd Khalid said.

He said MATTA expected to have an even bigger fair in March next year as the association had plans to hold it at the same time as the International Islamic Travel Conference and Travel Mart. “With the conference and travel mart, it will be a five-day event instead of a three-day event.”

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Government investment arm Khazanah Nasional Bhd and the founders of AirAsia Bhd inked a deal that will see Malaysia Airlines exit the low-cost segment and greater collaboration in aircraft purchasing, engineering and training between the two airlines.

“Imagine MAS during the golden age when we were truly a premium airline. This is what this deal hopefully promises,” newly-appointedMAS executive director Mohammed Rashdan Mohd.Yusof said after a news conference. Rashdan was formerly the executive director of investments for Khazanah Nasional and its nominee to the board of MAS.

Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin, who resigned from his post as chief executive officer and managing director of MAS ahead of the deal, will be the executive director for investments for Khazanah Nasional, effective Sept 12. A new managing director is likely to be appointed soon.

MAS’ low-cost arm, Firefly,will become a regional premium full-service carrier, leaving AirAsia and AirAsia X as the only local players in the low-cost segment. “We have a unique service offering, which is the turboprop (aircraft) out of Subang, and there is no reason why that shouldn’t continue. “It’s not only low-cost travellers who like it, but also people in suits,” Rashdan said.

The early phase of the collaboration will focus on aircraft purchasing, engineering, ground support, cargo, catering and training.

Tune Air, a 26.28 per cent shareholder in AirAsia, agreed to take a 20.5 per cent stake in MAS in exchange for Khazanah Nasional having a 10 per cent stake in it. Under the deal, Khazanah Nasional also proposes to buy a 10 per cent stake in long-haul budget carrier AirAsia X on terms and at a price to be agreed on later.

MAS and AirAsia will issue free warrants to each other’s shareholders. A MAS shareholder will be granted one warrant in AirAsia for every 30 MAS shares held, while an AirAsia shareholder will get one MAS warrant for every 10 AirAsia shares held.

A joint collaboration committee has been formed to carry out the agreement, which will be chaired by MAS board member Datuk Azman Yahya. Other members of the committee include Rashdan, AirAsia group chief executive officer Tan Sri Tony Fernandes and its deputy group CEO, Datuk Kamarudin Meranun. An advisory panel, chaired by former prime minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, will ensure that all parties operate in the interests of the public and reflect the aspirations of consumers.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Air travel will cost more soon when airport tax, or passenger service charge, is raised from next month. Sources said Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) is raising the tax to cover rising operating costs and finance airport expansion.

It is understood that the airport operator has proposed that the tax at the country’s 39 airports it manages, excluding low cost carrier terminals (LCCTs), be raised by RM14 for international travellers from Sept 15. These travellers will have to pay RM65 from RM51 (RM45 for airport tax and RM6 for security charge) now. The last increase was in 2002, when the charges were raised to RM45 from RM40 for international passengers and RM6 from RM5 for domestic departures.

The tax at low-cost carrier terminals (LCCTs) in Sepang and the Kota Kinabalu International Airport will also likely be raised by RM7, bringing the airport tax to RM32 from the current RM25 for international passengers. However, it is not known how much more domestic travellers at KLIA, other airports and LCCTs will have to fork out.

Sources said MAHB has received the go-ahead to implement the increase in airport tax. An announcement is expected soon.

At present, domestic passengers pay RM9 (RM6 for airport tax and RM3 for security charge) using KLIA and airports managed by MAHB while LCCTs charge RM6. In May 2007, the Transport Ministry halved airport tax at LCCTs from RM51 to RM25 for international passengers and from RM9 to RM6 for domestic passengers.

This latest development comes a day after Malaysia Airlines (MAS) and AirAsia announced a tie-up aimed at turning around the loss-making national carrier. On Tuesday, Khazanah Nasional Bhd, which owns 69.5% in MAS, said it will take up a 10% stake in AirAsia, while Tune Air Sdn Bhd, which owns 23% in AirAsia, will hold a 20.5% stake in MAS.

Sources said the latest increase in airport tax is also part of an operating agreement signed between MAHB and the Transport Ministry in February 2009. Under the deal, the government had agreed to a benchmark airport tax of RM65, excluding LCCTs. Until the tax was raised, the government has to compensate MAHB for the difference. MAHB had said then that the practice better shields the company from policy decisions that may not be commercially viable.

For the first six months of the year, 31.24 million passengers used the 39 local airports MAHB manages, up 12.6% from 27.74 million in the same period last year. KLIA saw 18.42 million passengers from January to June, a 13.4% increase from 16.25 million a year ago. The LCCT in Sepang handled 8.57 million passengers, up 19% from 7.21 million.

Friday, August 12, 2011


Current wisdom tells the hotelier not to discount; rather, add value. So, you’ve taken that to heart and created a package that’s filled with amenities to enhance the experience for your guests.

But for the price-sensitive guest, how do you get that value across and make the sale before he or she succumbs to sticker shock? There’s a time-honored technique for selling luxury that works exceptionally well in today’s market. It’s called, appropriately enough, the PRICE technique, and it breaks down into five easy-to-remember steps:

Prepare your customers by sparking their interest.
Reassure them of the value.
Establish the Integrity of your product.
Gain their Confidence.
Exceed their expectations.

Then, and only then, do you bring up the price of the package.

You can offer a tour package that includes two nights’ accommodations, a Welcome Gift Basket , a six-hour city tour, two spa treatments, dinner for two and breakfast daily plus full use of the spa’s facilities and all resort activities. The best of your resort and the destination wrapped up in one weekend getaway — and it’s priced accordingly. Here’s how a phone conversation might go, point by point, with a potential guest who inquires about the package:

Prepare: “This is one of our guests’ favorite packages, and it’s my own favorite to experience the best of the area this time of year.”

Reassure: “It’s a great value, nearly all inclusive, allowing you a full day to enjoy the spa and another to explore this great city.”

Integrity: “Our spa has been ranked one of the top five most romantic in the world and is rated 4 stars, and our city is the most livable in the world.”

Confidence: “Not only can I suggest the best city tour for you to visit on your chauffeured tour, but I can also set you up with the perfect spa treatments for your bodies’ needs.”

Exceed: “All gratuities and taxes are included in the package, and you can enjoy all of our resort facilities — including hot tubs, wellness classes, bikes, saunas and more — for no additional cost.”

And, finally: “For everything I’ve just described, the price for two people is only RM 500 per night. May I assist you in reserving it?”

Thursday, August 11, 2011



It is not a merger as widely reported although a stock or share swap normally occurs as part of a merger or acquisition when shareholders' ownership of the target company's shares is exchanged for shares of the acquiring company.

There is no reasonable rationale for a merger since all three airlines operate totally different business models. It is a swap to pave the way for what some analysts has described as a "partnership". In fact, yesterday's signing ceremony was termed as "comprehensive collaboration framework".

Through the share swap, AirAsia group chief executive Tan Sri Tony Fernandes is not the single largest shareholder in MAS.

The government's investment arm Khazanah Nasional Bhd, with a 49 per cent stake in MAS after the share swap and holding a special shareholder position of the government, will continue to maintain its position as the single largest shareholder in the national carrier. The aviation sector is a strategic sector to the economy and MAS will remain as a core holding in Khazanah's portfolio.

Also, Khazanah's commitment to AirAsia is considered "firmer" given its stake is via the unlisted Tune Air, hence illiquid. As Tune Air's stake is via MAS, it would seem to have the option to sell into the open market if it is not in alignment with the views of MAS' board majority.

In addition, Khazanah also proposes to acquire some AirAsia X's shares on terms and at a price to be mutually agreed later.

Negotiations on a partnership had been ongoing since the days of Datuk Seri Idris Jala as MAS managing director. Khazanah's managing director Tan Sri Azman Mokhtar confirmed negotiations concluded at 2.05am on Sunday morning.

Shukor Yusof of international rating agency Standard & Poor's, who has been tracking both airlines for years, sees it as the "financial reengineering of MAS" that is "the hallmark of the Binafikir boys", who now run Khazanah.

Azman is one of the co-founders of Binafikir. The other is Mohammed Rashdan Mohd Yusof, who is Khazanah's executive director (investments) and recently named to the board of MAS. He has been named as MAS executive director. "They (Azman and Rashdan) crafted the Widespread Assets Unbundling (WAU) for MAS in 2002 - essentially moving the debts to another government agency Penerbangan Malaysia Bhd - and it would seem they are having another go at realigning MAS' financial profile," he said.

Shukor is not far from wrong really. The man that brought in the Binafikir boys into MAS back then has returned as chairman of the national carrier. Tan Sri Md Nor Yusof had served as MAS managing director before. At the press conference, Azman, Md Nor and Fernandes talked about growth and the immediate synergistic opportunities which can be realised without significant effect on any party's operations. This includes aircraft purchasing, engineering, ground support services, cargo services, catering and training.

The collaborative agreement signed between the three airlines will be for five years, with the option for a further five-year renewal.

Md Nor said the joint collaboration will help MAS focus on its strengths in its core markets . It will be able to offer services in engineering and other areas to both AirAsia and AirAsia X. Fernandes said AirAsia and AirAsia X see growth opportunities in new routes and destinations.

Azman called it "historic collaboration" which is both synergistic and pragmatic. It will sharpen the focus of core competencies, deliver better products and choices for customers and ultimately create greater value for all the stakeholders.

Through the collaborative framework, MAS and its subsidiary Firefly, AirAsia and AirAsia X will focus on business segments in which they are capable of developing the most value. MAS and Firefly will continue to operate the short-, medium- and long-haul full service segment while AirAsia and AirAsia X will provide the short-, medium- and long-haul budget services.

Analysts said with the Asean free skies policy coming into effect in 2015, this will see increased competition with unlimited flight frequencies between Asean's 10 major cities. "Notably, more regional airlines are now aggressively growing and starting their own low-cost carriers, which are turning out to be effective vehicles to garner regional traffic to feed into legacy, premium airlines' long-haul routes. Strengthening and coordinating the two local airlines are necessary to stave off incoming competition, particularly considering that the KL International Airport is stuck between Singapore as a major business hub and Thailand as a major tourism hub," he said.

Despite the owners saying that the playground is big for four airlines, it may be a tad too many for a small country like Malaysia. Some see the share swap as a prelude to some kind of arrangement that may see, for example, route rationalisation which could see AirAsia taking most of the domestic and short-haul routes, a committed traffic to feed into MAS' long-haul network, usage of MAS maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities and MAS employees' unions.

As Azman rightly puts it, this will not be the end-all transformation for the airline industry but it is the beginning. But for now, the government can breathe a sigh of relief as it will have less headache after having to referee the consistent discord between MAS and AirAsia all this while.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Free backpackers cheatsheet are now available online.

Guidebooks for travel destinations have been condensed into two pages, and can be downloaded free online.

This means that you may no longer have to go through the hassle of ploughing through thick guidebooks to plan your next backpacking trip. Rather, you'd just have to look through two PDF pages - which fills you in on where to go, how to get there, where to sleep, what to see and do, and more - for each destination.

Called the "Backpacker Cheatsheets", these "guidebooks" by GuideGecko, a publishing portal for travel guides, cover areas in Southeast Asia and beyond. They can be downloaded for free online at

These guides may also help make your trip a little more unique. "While every traveler researches his own trip, 95 per cent end up on the same itinerary," said Dr. Daniel Quadt, Chief Backpacker at "Our cheatsheets...[give] you options to explore along the way."

The cheatsheets released so far include those for destinations in Southeast Asia, such as Thailand, Bali, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Myanmar. Information for Australia, New Zeland are also available. In weeks to come, cheatsheets for South America and other countries will be released.

GuideGecko offers over 2,700 guidebooks on 169 countries and 270 cities and regions around the world. These guides were all independently researched and written by professional travel writers from around the world. They can be acessed via the iPhone, Amazon Kindle and on the web.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

MAS/ Airasia Share Swap Deal

Malaysia Airlines's move to carry out share swap deal with low-cost carrier AirAsia Bhd in the near term, has caught industry players by surprise.

With the share swap deal, both airlines may no longer be competing directly with each other but instead, leverage on each others' strengths and capability, so said HwangDBS Vickers Research here today. It also said both parties are likely to enjoy better purchasing power as a combined entity.

"We think more importantly, the deal could help reposition and turnaround Malaysia Airlines as a premier long haul carrier," the research house added, in its research note.

The shares of both airlines were suspended from trading today for two days pending an announcement to be made by the companies. At Friday's closing, AirAsia's share stood at RM3.95 while Malaysia Airlines was at RM1.60. So one can except a great deal movement in the stock market these couple of days

HwangDBS Vickers Research also said the partnership would see both airlines expanding their fleet size to an estimated 228 aircraft, the largest in the region.

For AirAsia, being a large entity and having Khazanah Nasional as a shareholder, enables it to be in a better position to gain more routes and landing rights both locally and internationally.

Under the deal, the airlines are expected to operate as separate entities at the operational level but would likely share common directors and policies. It could also lead to a change in management in the national carrier, said the research house.

Meanwhile, ECM Libra in its research note said the partnership would allow AirAsia to continue what it does best with less predatory competition, while Malaysia Airlines can concentrate on serving the premium segment with better revenue yield.

It also said that there are opportunities for cost-savings as both airlines would be able to bargain better for future aircraft purchases, as well as minimise duplication of resources such as that in the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) area.

It was reported that the swap deal will involve Khazanah Nasional taking up a substantial stake in AirAsia's major shareholder, Tune Air Sdn Bhd. Tune Air on the other hand, may take up to a 20 per cent stake in Malaysia Airlines via the subscription of new shares at a price likely to be at a premium to the market price.

Will this swap be the end of a low cost carrier or an end to a premium airline is yet to be seen.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Living within a quick drive to work, the store, school or public transportation is nice, but only having all of those items a few blocks away makes your neighborhood "walkable."

Although walking tours are quite rate in Malaysia, we need to spend time judging the distance between residents and amenities and ranking places based on the results. This "walkability" study can also determine the possibility of organizing walking tours.

Ideal walking neighborhoods have either a main street or public space at the center, enough people to keep public transit running frequently and a good mix of housing and businesses. Parks and other public spaces make up a large part of the equation, as do amenities designed around pedestrians, nearby schools and workplaces and "complete streets" designed for pedestrians, cyclists and transit.

Very often, you'll see a good pedestrian design with sidewalks and crosswalks that make a city more accessible and walkable. Even in cities that on the whole aren't that walkable, there are neighborhoods that are great places to walk.

We can insists that a walkable neighborhood adds an increase to a home's selling price and cities with major tourist spot can provide for a good walking tour.

Take Kuala Lumpur for example. Any tourist who's seen Dataran Merdeka and stopped into Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad and directions can tell you that the city's most walkable neighborhoods in City Centre, the Masjid India, Lebuh Ampang and China Touwn and along the riverfront are some of the easiest to navigate in the city. What locals probably won't tell is just how easy it is to get around Maslid Negara, Bird Park, Orchid Garden, the Lake Gardens and its surrounding neighborhoods.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


THE first regional travel agent conference will field hard-hitting topics such as ‘Can you handle the truth?’, ‘Can you handle online?’ and the satirical, ‘How to lose clients and win complaints’.

Aside a critical examination of what travel agents must do to remain relevant, it will be packed with practical How-Tos, in line with its aim of ensuring agents walk away with real learning points. These topics include ‘How to retail travel today’, ‘How to buy travel today’, ‘How to achieve customer service excellence’ and ‘How to customise travel’.

Speakers include keynoter Hans Lerch, CEO of Hotelplan Switzerland, who will paint a macro picture of the future of the travel agency business; Martin Symes, CEO of WEGO, who will guide agents on how they can make money from online; Hui-Wan Chua, senior regional director Asia, Travelport, who will show agents how to be effective in travel retailing; and Charee Guico, manager Travel Agent Distribution, South-east Asia, Expedia, who will explain how agents can buy travel more effectively in today's world of multi-channels.

Arthur Kiong, managing director hotel operations Asia-Pacific, and senior vice president group marketing services, Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, will show how customers are changing and the key areas agents need to reboot in order to service the more sophisticated, demanding and empowered clients of today.

Sheldon Hee, general manager, Tradewinds Tours & Travel Singapore, will look at conduct, ethics and professionalism, an essential component in customer relationship management. Yet another session will give agents insights into how new dream merchants, such as John Sutherland, CEO Dreamscape Journeys, who sells space travel, get their ideas for unique travel experiences and how they get the clients to buy these ideas.

Registration for the free conference will open on August 19 on a first-come-first-served basis to TTG Asia readers and ITB Asia delegates (travel agents get first priority). To register, please visit and click on the button at the top of the page (Register: TTG Asia Travel Agent Conference), which will be up from August 19.

TTG Travel Agent Conference, a collaboration between TTG Asia Media & ITB Asia, will be held on October 21, 2011, from 9am-12pm, at Suntec Singapore Ballroom 1.

Saturday, August 6, 2011


The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) is eyeing more than 100,000 visitors during the three-day 32nd MATTA Fair, starting Aug 12, at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here.

MATTA president, Datuk Mohd Khalid Harun, said the target was achievable due to the current conducive environment that has been boosted by positive development in the country's economy and tourism sectors, among others.

In addition many key exhibitors will not be taking part in the August fair due to budget constraints.

He said this during a joint press conference between MATTA and Hong Leong Bank Thursday.

One can say many things at a press conference. But one has to face the reality that this fair is in the midst of the holy month of Ramadhan and you can safely discount the number of attendance of Muslim travllers on that week. PWTC will be jamned with visitors going to get things at the ramadhan bazaar at level 3. So good to your people in MATTA.

Meanwhile Hong Leong's General Manager for Unsecured Lending, Margaret Then, said the Hong Leong Bank Matta Credit Card would continue to provide a complete package of offers and privileges, complementing travel needs of cardholders.

The bank is targeting 3,000 successful applicants during the fair.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tourism Promotion To Showcase Ramadan In Malaysia

In her usual self of always having something to say and better said by others, Tourism Minsiter Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said The Tourism Ministry will intensify promotion to showcase Ramadan in Malaysia in efforts attract more tourists, especially from West Asia.

The third Ramadan Bazaar in Kampung Baru jointly hosted with the Jamek Mosque would enable foreign tourists to experience the atmosphere of Ramadan in the country.

"As of last January, Malaysia received 16,329 tourists from Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Iran compared to 15,008 in the corresponding period last year," she said after launching the Ramadan Bazaar at the Jamek Mosque, Kampung Baru here Wednesday.

Dr Ng said the iconic "bubur lambuk" (porridge) of Kampung Baru would be popularised in other places such as Raub, Pahang on Aug 16.

Sounding like the Grand Imam she said 66 Ramadan Bazaars catered to the delight of customers and tourists in the city, including three in Kampung Baru, namely in Jalan Raja Alang, Jalan Raja Muda Musa and Jalan Raja Uda.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Penang's listing as a UNESCO Heritage site in 2008, had given the island a big boost by attracting international tourists and is confident of surpassing last year's record of 9.5 million international and domestic visitors to the island state, said its exco for Tourism Development and Culture, Law Heng Kiang.

"Our tourism industry is upbeat and we are eager to welcome visitors and ensure they enjoyed their stay and see the best of Penang," he said at a gathering of Australian travel agents, tour operators and media here Sunday.

He said Penang had a lot to offer, including its international festivals and competitions, including the Dragon Boat Festival, the Penang Bridge marathon and the Chingay competition.

"The state's cultural heritage and wonderful cuisine has also attracted tourists to the state. The island's hotels are fully booked during school holidays as well as during durian season.

But this would be meaningless if the heritage centres and not maintained from time to ensure its sustainability.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


The role of travel agents in China is still relevant towards boosting the tourist traffic between China and Malaysia, despite high level of advancement in ICT where travel arrangements can be made via online.

Sarawak Tourism Board’s (STB) chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan underlined this in his congratulatory speech at the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) China Top Agents Award Ceremony 2011 here.

“Channels such as online booking and e-debit transactions for travelling are still in an infancy stage in China. Thus, customers there still rely on consulting roles provided by travel agents there to advise them on product experience and destinations. All of you (the Chinese travel agents) are very much involved in catering for such demand in the value chain – you are the experts who understand the needs of your Chinese customers. Your knowledge on destinations will help you to market and promote routes that will not only satisfy your customers, but will also generate profits for your businesses,” he said in his address to the audience at a hotel here last Friday.

According to data from Tourism Malaysia, the country recorded over 1.13 million tourist arrivals from China for the period between January to December last year – a healthy 10.8 per cent growth from some 1.02 million Chinese tourists here in corresponding period in 2009.

The annual event, organised by national carrier MAS, witnessed the recognition of the airlines’ 50 top-performing travel agencies from the regions of China, Hong Kong and Macau.

Expressing a similar sentiment with Rashid, it was highlighted that since 2007, MAS had seen its China region enjoying healthy revenue growth of over 10 per cent per annum, with average seat factor growing at double-digit levels.

“MAS has always recognised China and its surrounding regions as a fully potential market. In 2010, there were over 50 flights that serviced China and Hong Kong region from Malaysia, with average seat factor consistently reaching the 70-per cent level. This remarkable result is testament to the strong partnership and cooperation between MAS and these Chinese travel agencies. As such, we are proud to be associated with such high-performing, high-quality partners towards boosting the inter-tourism traffic between Malaysia and China,” he said.

“We have done this in order to support the travel agents in China to sell their products on Malaysia and in particularly, on Sarawak."

Will anyone be doing the same for agents in Malaysia, to make them continuously relevant.

Monday, August 1, 2011


In a brand new move, Prime Minister Dato Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak today advised the tourism industry to explore and promote new areas instead of merely focusing on the established attractions. This is a far departure from the policy of the Tourism Ministry which only focuses on primary destinations in Malaysia.

New areas must be identified and promoted to further develop the industry, he said at the launch of the ground-breaking for a four-star resort here, an event also attended by Pahang Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob and UDA Holdings Berhad chairman Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed.

PM Mohd Najib said the development of the resort in Pekan, for example, was likely to boost tourism in the royal town.

He also said that a waterfront would be developed on a bank of the Pahang River flowing through the town to boost its tourism potential.

The resort will be developed by UDA Holdings at a cost of RM80 million. It is expected to be completed in 2013.

The resort, boasting a "modern tropical" concept, will be built in the Peramu Jaya area, adjacent to the official residence of the prime minister in Pekan already boast of a four star rating even befor the official opening.

Meanwhile, Nur Jazlan said the strategic location of the resort on a bank of the Pahang River would serve as an attraction for tourists.

"I believe the 133-room resort will spur the tourism industry as it changes the landscape of development in Pekan and creates an economic spillover for the local people," he said.