Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Revitalising tourism in Sarawak

NEW tourism products will be developed to revitalise the tourism industry in Sarawak.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan, who is also Tourism and Heritage Minister, said there was a need to inject new ideas into the tourism industry because it was starting to become stagnant.

“There are many new areas of interest that we have yet to open up in the state. We are looking at new attractions such as historical sites, beautiful natural spots, farms, offshore reefs, homestay in remote areas and the likes.

“I am gathering more ideas from the tourism players in the private sector. We need to be more innovative and creative in promoting Sarawak so that we can bring in more local and international tourists again,” he told a press conference in Miri yesterday.

Dr Chan said that in places like Miri, the potential of war-time historical sites — such as the beachfront where the Japanese landed in their bid to capture the oil-wells — could be explored.

He pointed out that many Australian and British soldiers had died in the city while trying to liberate Sarawak from the Japanese.

“A lot of foreigners will come to pay their respect to their loved ones who have died here if we have some sort of a monument to remember these foreign soldiers who had died,” he said.

Continue reading at: Revitalising tourism in Sarawak

Kapit, Sarawak offers plenty for tourists and adventure seekers

THE sunset in the mountainous Kapit Division with the Rajang River in the foreground, offers a breathtaking view at dusk.

Located inland of Sarawak, Kapit is a charming rural place that one should visit to appreciate the state’s unique geography and culture.

It is home mainly to the Ibans with a handful of Chinese, Malay, Melanau and Orang Ulu – thus visiting the division can be an enriching cultural experience as well.

Kapit is also synonymous with the most expensive freshwater fish in the state, Empurau, which cost more than RM500 per kilogramme! This is due to high demand for its delicious flesh.

The difficulty in catching this fish also contributes to its price as it is a slow-growing species and very particular about its habitat and breeding ground; preferring clear running water and where its favourite food, the Engkabang fruit, are available.

Kapit is the seventh of 11 administrative region in Sarawak and it is the biggest division spanning an area of about 40,000sqkm. It is has three districts namely Kapit, Song and Belaga, and two sub-districts Nanga Merit and Sungai Asap.

To reach Kapit, one has to travel to Sibu Division either by air, land or river and then board an express boat that is available from as early as 5.45am and ends at about 2pm. A trip cost between RM20 and RM30 depending on seating class – first, second or economy.

There are several express boat operators servicing the route almost hourly.

The 126km journey along the longest river in the country, Rajang River, takes nearly three hours. River transportation is the only mode of transport to Kapit for most people but plans are on the way to build a road from Kanowit in Sibu division to Song and to Kapit.

As one leaves the modern and bustling town of Sibu, the landscape along the riverbank also changes. One will pass by many longhouses as well as timber mills and log ponds, and the lush secondary forests and fruit trees.

In Kapit, life starts early.

In the town area, one can hear the shutters of shops being pushed up for business as early as 5am; while by 6am the earliest passenger express boat leaving for Sibu will honk intermittently and calling for passengers to board until it leaves the terminal at 6.40am.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Kapit, Sarawak offers plenty for tourists and adventure seekers

Food can be tourist attraction for Sibu

SIBU: Local tourism players believe food can be a tourism product that will put this riverine town on the world map.

Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) Sarawak Chapter liaison officer for Sibu Roy Ting expressed this confidence when he said that local delicacies could be attractions for overseas and local food lovers to visit Sibu.

He was commenting on the 1Malaysia Fabulous Food Carnival, set to mesmerise visitors with its array of hard-to-resist and mouth-watering delicacies, beginning next month.

“I am happy to see that such event is organised to create awareness of local food and I hope organisers can roll out more promotions in future to better attract tourists.

“It is not sufficient to depend on local tourists alone, we need to target foreign tourists to boost our tourism industry so to speak,” he told The Borneo Post yesterday.

The 1Malaysia Fabulous Food Carnival is set to roll from Dec 11 till Jan 2 next year and will showcase various types of local delicacies.

Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) Sibu executive Rudy Anoi echoed Ting’s opinion that besides places of interest, food can also be a crowd puller.

Continue reading at: Food can be tourist attraction for Sibu

Monday, November 29, 2010

Labuan Grand Dorsett Hotel celebrated third anniversary

LABUAN: The Labuan Grand Dorsett Hotel celebrated its third anniversary yesterday by entertaining the disabled children from the Community In Treatment Centre (PDK Mutiara).

Asian Supply Base (ASB) Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Datuk Harris Hj Annuar Tan officiated at the celebration.

Harris said that there is now a trend in the private sector to get close and to embrace the community under their Corporate Social Responsibility programme.

The Grand Dorsett, according to Harris, has done very well in exemplifying its social responsibility towards the community on the island.

“Labuan is progressing well, mainly in the oil and gas industry and it receives more visitors who are mainly business people.

“They have certain expectations when it comes to accommodation, function and meeting requirements.

“By having an excellent hotel as the Grand Dorsett, the people on the island have been assured that this has been taken care of,” he said.

Continue reading at: Labuan Grand Dorsett Hotel celebrated third anniversary

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sembulan River Beautification Project

Kota Kinabalu: Work on the first parcel of the Sembulan River Beautification Project at Sadong Jaya has commenced and is expected to be completed by 2012.

The RM25 million Parcel One plan which involves the Sembulan and Karamunsing riverbanks adjoining Sadong Jaya, will be constructed by Abad Jaya Construction Sdn Bhd.

In announcing this, Mayor Datuk Iliyas Ibrahim said it is one of three tourism related projects for the State Capital funded by the Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (Sedia) under the Sabah Development Corridor (SDC).

The other two are the coastal cycle way between Tanjung Aru and UMS and the upgrading of the historical precinct of Kota Kinabalu City.

Construction work is divided into three parcels and only work on Parcel One has commenced due to several outstanding issues such as the need to relocate squatters, several abandoned buildings and land exchanges.

Iliyas said a total of RM45 million has been allocated to the Sembulan river beautification project.

It involves beautifying the riverbanks of both the Sembulan and Karamunsing Rivers, between the South China Sea and Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman adjacent to the Muis building and the Karamunsing River, to the Jalan Kemajuan adjacent to the flyover.

Massive changes are expected to take place in the adjoining areas if building owners and businesses cooperate to help transform the whole area into a vibrant tourism hub with international standard dining, drinking and entertainment establishments.

According to him, building owners and nearby residents in the Sembulan area should see this as an opportunity to upgrade and beautify their buildings and homes, so that visitors and tourists to the area will go home with pleasant memories and, more importantly, the desire to come back.

On the said project, Iliyas, said DBKK is going far beyond the normal "repair" work to an old part of the City. He added that the project design is of international standard and was prepared by Innotech Design Architects Sdn Bhd.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sembulan River Beautification Project

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Top recognition for Miri Marriot

Miri Marriott Resort & Spa has gained excellent recognition from the Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards (Hapa) 2010-2012 Malaysia Series winning awards in at least six categories.

It bagged the Best Purchasing Department major and ranked among the top five of Malaysia’s Hotel/Resort of the Year.

The resort was also ranked among the top 10 in the Excellence Service Award, Best All-Day-Dining Restaurant and Best Front Office while its F&B manager Amgad Moussa was rated among the top 10 in the Best F&B Personality Award.

The awards were presented by Tourism Minister Datuk Sri Ng Yen Yen during the Hapa Malaysia 2010-2012 gala dinner and awards presentation ceremony in Kuala Lumpur on Nov 22. Present to receive the award were the the resort’s general manager Marcel Hinderer, who were accompanied by Amgad and public relations and communications manager Lian Pasan.

Hinderer said winning the awards was a significant achievement for the Miri Marriot Resort & Spa and “ a great source of motivation for our associates”.

“The awards are a testimony of the level of commitment and dedication demonstrated by our associates to put us among the top resorts in the country in delivering excellent services to all our valuable guests.

Continue reading at: Top recognition for Miri Marriot

Sarawak Tourism players asked to provide whole chain of services to attract tourists

KUCHING: Tourism players have to see the essence of the whole chain of services if they want to seek further achievements in their industry, said Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan.

The Minister of Tourism and Heritage noted that most tourists preferred full-scale products and services for one particular need.

“Tourists nowadays do not look at a particular service but a whole chain of services like whether the immigration officer is nice, the standard of airport services, hospitality of taxi drivers and hotels, as well as other things.

“Until and unless our tourism players recognise the importance of this chain, the state’s tourism will remain as it is,” he said when witnessing an agreement signing between Tune Group and Biaramas Express Sdn Bhd at a leading hotel here yesterday.

Dr Chan, who is also Industrial Development Minister, stressed that the whole chain of services must run smoothly with every link strongly connected in order to deliver quality tourism packages.

He was glad that Tune Group would start operating another budget hotel in Bintulu next year. The first Tune Hotels became operational here last year.

The state might need more budget hotels to offer five-star services at one-star rate, he said, adding that some well-to-do travellers did not mind average accommodation.

“Some rich tourists may need only budget hotel as they want to spend money on other things.”

Continue reading at: Sarawak Tourism players asked to provide whole chain of services to attract tourists

Friday, November 26, 2010

RM5.2 billion from tourism for Sabah

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is set to generate an income of RM5.2 billion from the targeted arrival of 2.5 million tourists next year.

Revenue is expected to further reach RM8 billion in 2015 with 3.5 million tourists expected.

Minister of Tourism, Culture and Environment, Datuk Masidi Manjun in his winding up said the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) will be allocated RM25 million to carry out promotions domestically and overseas to achieve next year’s objective.

In his winding up speech at the State Legislative Assembly Sitting yesterday, he said the ministry will focus on developing human capital from 2011 to 2015 to produce more skilled workers for the hospitality and service sectors.

Similarly, it will set up a management and monitoring system to tackle environment degradation issues in tourism areas; develop main towns in Sabah not only as a gateway for tourism but also for short-term visitors from South and East Asia regions; enhance research and development in biodiversity conservation for the benefit of the economy and rehabilitation; and enhance the promotion of traditional culture and art at the international level.

Under the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP), the ministry has been given RM33 million to carry out 27 projects under Phase 1 from 2011-2012 for tourism, environment, conservation and culture.

Altogether, the ministry received RM121, 489,280 in the 2011 State Budget.

Departments and agencies under the ministry such as the Environment Protection Department, Wildlife Department and Sabah Parks were each allocated RM4.3 million, RM18 million and RM26 million respectively for administration expenditure.

These include maintaining cleanliness, ensuring the protection of natural resources within Sabah Parks; and maintaining natural diversity to ensure sustainable and equitable use of wildlife resources.

The State Museum Department and Sabah Cultural Board were given RM13.9 million and RM8.5 million respectively.

Continue reading at: RM5.2 billion from tourism for Sabah

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Increase direct flights to Sabah to boost tourism

KOTA KINABALU: More airlines will be invited to operate direct flights, including chartered, to help increase tourist arrivals to Sabah.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said this is important as over 90% of tourists to Sabah arrive via air.

The state has 112 direct flights weekly to 12 international destinations namely: Brunei, Hong Kong, Shenzen, Jakarta, Tokyo, Osaka, Singapore, Seoul, Taipei, Kaohsiung, Manila and Clark (Philippines).

“We received 28 chartered flights from January until October. My ministry will add more tourist destinations in Sabah,” he said in reply to a question by Datuk Liew Teck Chan in the state assembly here.

Masidi was confident the weekly flights would be increased from 112 to 121 by June 2011 in line with Kota Kinabalu’s status as Malaysia Airlines eastern hub.

Continue reading at: Increase direct flights to Sabah to boost tourism

AirAsia axes Brunei-KK flights

By Azaraimy HH

AirAsia has started the refunding process for customers who have booked to fly between Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB) and Kota Kinabalu (KK) after January 3, 2011 as the popular budget air carrier will discontinue the daily flight after the third day of the New Year.

Just barely over a year from its maiden direct flight from KK to BSB, AirAsia has decided to discontinue the service.

In a telephone interview, an AirAsia official in Kuala Lumpur confirmed the decision has been made purely because of "commercial reasons", and did not elaborate further.

Meanwhile, Brunei Tourism chief, Sheikh Jamaluddin Sheikh Mohammed, said he is somewhat saddened to hear the news. He said the budget carrier's direct flight between Brunei and KK has been benefiting tourists who want to travel or make stopovers between Brunei and KK, especially tourists from Australia and others.

"Regardless of the airlines ... it is sad to hear that they are stopping ... I hope there is something that Brunei Tourism can do but there isn't.

"Maybe I should call Tony (Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia) to find out, I was the one who helped him with the logistics ... you know ...

"Well, when they say it is for 'commercial reasons' then there is not much one could do ... because at the end of the day it will come down to dollars and cents."

He said, (in developing the tourism industry) connectivity is the key, which brings in tourists to the country. "If you break this connectivity; you are cutting your potential," he added.

He said there has been good traffic from Australia; they come to Brunei and then go to Kota Kinabalu.

The Bulletin asked the AisAsia official whether the 'commercial reasons' included rerouting or was it to benefit other routes, or due to discouraging passenger load factor between KK and BSB, but the official did not want to elaborate further.

In September 2009, AirAsia boosted its East Malaysia connectivity by launching services from Kota Kinabalu to Brunei Darussalam.

The establishment of the direct flight was hoped to stimulate travel, enhance connectivity and also tap into the existing market from Brunei and feed the traffic to AirAsia's vast network in the region and beyond, including routes serviced by AirAsia's long-haul affiliate, AirAsia X.

Kota Kinabalu is AirAsia's second and biggest hub after Kuala Lumpur. It serves nine domestic routes that include Penang, Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur, Kuching, Sibu, Miri, Labuan, Tawau and Sandakan, while the international sectors are Macau, Shenzhen, Clark (Manila), Jakarta and Singapore.

Now with the discontinuation of AirAsia's BSB-KK flight, air passengers looking for budget travelling will have to look elsewhere as it will affect both local air travellers and foreign tourists, especially when Brunei is trying to promote itself as a gateway to Borneo.

However, AirAsia said its BSB-KL route remains strong, and as a result it had also added an additional flight recently.

AirAsia said it would continue to look for opportunities to expand the network and increase frequencies.

Only Royal Brunei Airlines will fly to KK from Brunei from January 4, 2011. RBA operates 14 flights a week to KK. It operates twice daily except on Wednesday (three flights) and Thursday and Saturday (one flight).

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Kota Kinabalu makes business sense to Malaysia Airlines

Sabah is about equidistant from most major Asian and Australian cities. And the plane is often the only mode of transport for Sabahans within their Borneo island state, the size of Scotland, and to other Malaysian cities and towns.

Resource-rich Sabah is separated from the peninsula by 1,600km (1,000 miles) of the South China Sea. Every year, Malaysia Airlines flies about 2m passengers between the peninsula and Sabah and beyond, using Kota Kinabalu as a transit point. So, it makes business sense for MAS to make the state capital its eastern operational hub.

Sabah chief minister Musa Aman is happy that Kota Kinabalu will now have more direct air links with major Asian and Australian cities. “It is not just air links that excite us,” he said as he launched MAS eastern hub in Kota Kinabalu on November 15. It is the prospects of not just more tourists to Sabah, but more foreign investment as businessmen find it cheaper and convenient to fly to Kota Kinabalu to do business.

Sabah expects 2.36m tourists next year, slightly more than this year’s figure which earns it about 4 billion ringgit ($1.3 billion). It is targeting 4.5m tourists in 10 years.

By June direct flights to Asian and Australian cities are likely to increase to 121 from 112, with more flights from MAS. The national airline, foreign and budget airlines such as Malaysia's Air Asia, Hong Kong’s Dragon Air, Australia’s JetStar and Singapore's SilkAir fly to 12 Asian cities from Kota Kinabalu: Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Manila and Clark in the Philippines, Kaohsiung, Taipei, Osaka, Tokyo, Seoul, Shenzhen and Singapore.

MAS now has three direct flights a week to Haneda in Tokyo, instead of Narita. In January it will have thrice weekly flights to Perth, twice weekly to Osaka and four times a week to Seoul. It plans daily flights to Hong Kong and Taipei and four flights a week to Kaohsiung in June.

Continue reading at: Kota Kinabalu makes business sense to Malaysia Airlines

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

International team to study marine biodiversity in Semporna

KOTA KINABALU: An international team of marine biologists from Malaysia, the Netherlands and US will embark on an expedition to study marine biodiversity and coral reef health in Semporna Priority Conservation Area (SPCA).

The expedition organized by the WWF-Malaysia, Universiti Malaysia Sabah (UMS), Universiti Malaya (UM) and the Netherlands Centre for Biodiversity (NCB) Naturalis will begin from Nov 29 and ends on Dec 19.

The Semporna Marine Ecological Expedition (SMEE) will assess marine biodiversity and coral reef health in SPCA, recognized as a Globally Outstanding Priority Conservation Area within the Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Ecoregion, at the apex of the Coral Triangle – the world’s centre of marine biodiversity.

Semporna is unusual because of its rich mix of reef types, representing five major geomorphological reef types.

Such areas usually have high levels of biodiversity because of the mix of habitat types and ecosystems. There are also strong indications that the Malaysian Semporna area, together with the Indonesian Berau region, share some rare and unique species.

The survey is based on comparable methodologies that have been used in many areas of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Solomon Islands since 1998. There are only very few examples of similar studies being done previously in Malaysia.

There is a need to document the coral and fish richness of all of Malaysia’s reefs to clarify the relationship with the existing definition of the Coral Triangle.

The overall objectives of the expedition are threefold: First, to assess the coral reef biodiversity; second, to assess the coral reef status and reef population health; and, third, to enhance conservation and outreach efforts through better understanding of the marine ecosystems of Semporna. A modified Reef Check methodology and reef profiling will be used at each site for two depths, in order to take a “snapshot” of the reef health.

Continue reading at: International team to study marine biodiversity in Semporna

More flights to Miri next year

MIRI: Miri Airport is expected to be busier next year with the reinstatement of AirAsia Singapore-Miri direct flight and Firefly to fly in from Kuala Lumpur and other destinations in the country.

“My ministry received requests to have AirAsia fly Kuching-Miri-Singapore. I have already approved the route. So most probably AirAsia will start to fly Miri-Singapore from January,” said Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha when approached by The Borneo Post last Sunday night.

Kong was in Miri to attend the Foochow triple celebration gala dinner at Eastwood Valley Golf and Country Club. Around 15,000 Foochows from within the country, Austria, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, New Zealand, Canada and Macau attended the dinner.

The minister disclosed there would be an increase of flights between Kuala Lumpur, Miri and other destinations in Sarawak and Sabah. Apart from Miri, other sectors in the state include Kuching and Sibu and Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan in Sabah.

“Not only AirAsia will increase their flights. Firefly will start to fly to Sarawak by next year. Firefly will start to fly some routes from Kuala Lumpur to Sarawak and Sabah by next year. They will gradually increase their services from 2012 to 2013 until 2015,” he said.

The minister threw a challenge to industry players, especially in the tourism sector, to play their part in ensuring the sustainability of the routes.

“We (the ministry) had approved the route. It is up to stakeholders in Miri to do something to entice tourists, visitors and investors to come in. If they are able to do all this, Miri could be the second hub for Sarawak.”

Continue reading at: More flights to Miri next year

Tourist arrivals to Sarawak in first eight months down

KUCHING: Overall tourist arrivals into Malaysia in the first eight months this year showed an increase of 5.2 percent compared to the corresponding period last year. But, unfortunately, for Sarawak, it registered a negative growth.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan, who is also Tourism and Heritage Minister, said visitors’ arrivals into Sarawak from January to August this year were 2,063,240. This is a drop of 1.5 percent when compared to the same period last year.

Foreign arrivals decreased by 11.97 percent but domestic arrivals showed an increase of 17 percent during the periods under study.

Representing Chief Minister Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud to launch `Transforming Sarawak Tourism Conference 2010’ here yesterday, Dr Chan said that out of the 2,063,240 tourist arrivals into the state, 1,180,955 of them were internationals and the remaining 882,285 were from Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah.

“Unfortunately, while the country recorded positive figures ours was negative. This is a shame because although Sarawak is not so blessed with proximity and connectivity from major markets, we have valuable assets that we can capitalise on. This includes our hospitality and our services.

“However, by giving visitors only our attractive smile is not enough now. We have to be more knowledgeable in order to add some flavour to the products that we sell. No matter how much we can offer but if we do not know how to sell and promote them then it is still pointless,” he said.

Towards this end, Dr Chan urged all tourism industry players to take a relook at their approaches and to find ways to regain the confidence of the market.

Continue reading at: Tourist arrivals to Sarawak in first eight months down

Air travellers to Sibu to pass 1 million mark by next year

SIBU: The number of travellers passing through Sibu Airport is expected to exceed one million by next year, thus necessitating an upgrading of the airport.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha said yesterday, the current airport could only accommodate up to one million passengers annually.

Thus far this year, it had achieved a passenger growth of 11.4 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Kong said for the first nine months of this year, about 758,000 passengers had used the Sibu Airport.

He anticipated the number to exceed 800,000 by year end.

“We predict that by 2011, the number of passengers passing through the airport would surpass the one million mark. For that reason, we need to upgrade the airport,” he told a press conference after an earth-breaking ceremony for the upgrading of Sibu Airport.

The project, which costs RM136 million, is divided into two packages.

Earlier, in his opening remarks, Kong revealed that the extension and upgrading works covering the landside involved expansion of terminal building, utility centre and other related works.

Elaborating on the landside works, he said the upgrading works would see an expansion of the terminal building from 8,040 sq metres to 15,240 sq metres.

The passenger boarding bridges would be increased from two to four.

Continue reading at: Air travellers to Sibu to pass 1 million mark by next year

Monday, November 22, 2010

Brooke Trail in Bau latest Sarawak's tourism product

BAU: The Brooke Trail at Mount Serembu, Bau, is set to be the state’s latest tourism product.

Tourism Deputy Minister Datuk Dr James Dawos Mamit said the area was expected to attract more than 5,000 tourists after its completion.

He said a proposal from Bau District Council to develop the site would be sent to his ministry soon.

“The proposal will be used to see how much allocation is needed for the project. However, we expect the overall cost to be more than RM1 million for the first phase,” he said on Saturday during the Brooke Trail expedition near Kampung Peninjau Lama.

He added that the area was very significant to the state’s tourism sector because it used to house White Rajah James Brooke cottage that was built in 1824.

According to a villager, only wooden structures of the cottage remained today.

Dawos said: “The three-bedroom bungalow was used by the White Rajah as a rest house. We are also planning to rebuilt the bungalow according to its original architecture, which will cost about RM150,000 to RM200,000.”

He said they also planned to build a tourism information centre and a lookout tower and improve on the hiking trails if allocations were approved.

“We will also look into improvement work for the 3km mountain trails because currently the trail is a bit dangerous,” he said.

Continue reading at: Brooke Trail in Bau latest Sarawak's tourism product

Sabah Wants More Direct International Flights

KOTA KINABALU -- More airlines will be invited to operate direct flights, including chartered, to help increase tourist arrivals to Sabah.

Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said this is important as over 90 percent of tourists to Sabah arrive via air.

Sabah has 112 direct flights weekly to 12 international destinations namely Brunei, Hong Kong, Shenzen, Jakarta, Tokyo, Osaka, Singapore, Seoul, Taipei, Kaohsiung, Manila and Clark (Philippines).

"We received 28 chartered flights from January until October. My ministry will add more tourist destinations in Sabah," he said in reply to a question by Datuk Liew Teck Chan (SAPP-Likas) in the state assembly here Monday.

Masidi was confident that the weekly flights would be increased from 112 to 121 by June 2011 in line with Kota Kinabalu's status as Malaysia Airlines (MAS) eastern hub.

Continue reading at: Sabah Wants More Direct International Flights

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sabah will attain 2.5 mln tourists arrivals

KOTA KINABALU: Sabah will be able to attain the 2.5 million tourists’ arrival mark in the 2011 State Budget.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, Datuk Masidi Manjun told press members after launching the BlissMedia’s LCD advertising campaign yesterday that he is optimistic of the State’s capacity to achieve the target.

“Short of world catastrophe, I believe we can touch the figure,” he said.

He added that Sabah has fantastic tropical forests which served as a tourism product.

He also said that government’s effort in gazetting new forest reserves have also been received well by the world’s community.

One aspect that remains lacking in Sabah is adequate quality human resources in the service industry, he said.

“Our workers in the service industry keep on being snatched up by hotels in Singapore and West Malaysia,” he said.

He said this was a problem in the tourism industry.

Continue reading at: Sabah will attain 2.5 mln tourists arrivals

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sinar Serapi Eco Theme Park - A paradise in the making in Kuching

ANOTHER best-kept secret paradise of Kuching has been revealed.

Not located on an island or a tropical rainforest, Sinar Serapi Eco Theme Park is at Km12 Jalan Sungai Tengah, off Jalan Matang, about 12km from the city centre.

It is the first of its kind in Sarawak and officially opened its doors about two years ago in a low note.

Managed by Jalinan Bernas Sdn Bhd, the park offers days of fun, thrills and spills at its eco-friendly children’s water park, lakeside steamboat buffet, four-feet-deep recreational lake and waterfront cafe.

Jalinan Bernas managing director Ambrose Wong said the park was open for business from 8am to 10.30pm daily.

“It will have more eco-friendly facilities and exhibits next year after the scheduled works are completed,” he said during a media tour on Thursday evening.

The facilities included a heritage pavilion, a floating stage and a visitors mall beside the man-made recreational lake where water sports like kayaking and jet skiing could be held, he added.

Wong said the park spread over a 21ha site would eventually be transformed into an integrated development which would include a magical playground for adults and children and venues for international cultural events, water sports, musical shows, residential homes and a hotel.

Continue reading at: Sinar Serapi Eco Theme Park - A paradise in the making in Kuching

Friday, November 19, 2010

Elephant sighting sends tourists into frenzy at Sepilok

KINABATANGAN: Information sells in the tourism industry and so when word got out of elephant sightings recently, it had the local tourism industry here abuzz.

Local guide Robert Ernest recently received a tip-off on the sighting of an elephant along Sungai Kinabatangan here by a fellow guide when leading a group of journalists to the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan.

By noon, he got his group moving towards Kampung Bilit, near here, to look for the elephant.

Elephant sightings are rare, occurring only once or twice a month and with only four hours of river cruising time, Ernest wanted to make sure his guests get an additional bonus for what they paid for.

Two hours down the river, a young male elephant was spotted emerging from the water and gingerly walking into the bushes, sending the group into a photo-taking frenzy during the three-minute encounter.

Ernest radioed colleagues about the sighting so that others too would get the chance to see it.

To top their day, the same elephant emerged at the same location about 90 minutes later as the boat headed back towards the Kampung Bilit jetty where it started from.

"This is a rare occurrence. I even consider myself lucky. We do not spread information like this to our guests because we do not want to raise their hopes too high," he said, but they do brag about guaranteed sightings of proboscis monkeys, exotic birds, macaques, monitor lizards and others that are more commonly found in the area.

"We share such information between guides because it helps make this place more interesting.

Continue reading at: Elephant sighting sends tourists into frenzy at Sepilok

Kelabit Beads Certification ceremony

THE pioneering effort of the Kelabit community of Bario Highlands to authenticate their bead collection as treasured heirloom with the issuance of ownership certificates deserves praise and should be emulated by other communities.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan said that beads were considered as among mankind’s most durable ornaments.

“One can say that beads belonging to a particular community mirror the culture of that community. They tell us a great deal about the social, political, economic and religious lives of the community concerned.

“It is indeed an appropriate move to preserve the heirlooms as part of the community’s material cultural heritage,” he said at the launch of the Kelabit Beads Certification ceremony organised by the Beads’ Committee of the Wanita Rurum Kelabit Sarawak in Miri on Wednesday night.

About 30 mothers from the highlands received beads ownership certificates from Dr Chan at the event themed Celebrating Our Mothers Beads of which Datuk Lorna Enan Muloon was the patron.

At the event, Dr Chan was officially accepted as a member of the Kelabit community after he was garlanded with a priceless Kelabit bane (bead necklace) and given the name Mayung Balang, meaning Tiger Slayer in the Kelabit dialect.

Continue reading at: Kelabit Beads Certification ceremony

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Borneo Convention Centre Kuching - For that unique dining experience

IT’S high drama to dine at the Borneo Convention Centre Kuching’s restaurant.

Called Raintree, it is housed at the end of the building that faces Sungai Sarawak. Its ceiling is at least three storeys high. On the left, past the entrance, is a stainless steel wine cellar. Lit from the back, it looks like nothing but a good time to be had.

There’s no real focal point inside the restaurant. The modern design is typically sleek and understated, but a badminton-court-sized red and black Dayak mural on the ceiling comes close. Supporting the mural is a series of giant timber-wrapped pillars.

Judging by looks, the Raintree is a stunner. But what about the food?

The menu is a mix of east-meets-west. It suggests steaks and wild fern, local tapioca puddings with cream, eggplant lasagna and grilled empurau fish.

For the month of November, head chef Virginia Kedit is offering her cultural background.

She has created a special, one-off menu featuring organic chicken, cod fish and lobster cooked in bamboo.

She’s taking Dayak traditional food into the modern age.

The food, served in towers of bamboo stems and poured piping hot into bowls at the table, is 21st-century refinement based on centuries-old longhouse favourites.

Continue reading (Incl. Pics) at: Borneo Convention Centre Kuching - For that unique dining experience

Tune Hotels Bintulu to help spur tourism, business within SCORE

KUCHING: The opening of Tune Hotels’ latest property in Bintulu scheduled for January 3, 2011 is testimony to the company’s commitment to Sarawak and will further promote and develop the state’s tourism and travel industry, in particular within the Sarawak Corridor of Renewable Energy (SCORE) belt, said Tune Hotels group chief executive officer, Mark Lankester.

According to the company’s press statement, the 101-room Tune Hotels Bintulu would be the pioneering limited-service hotel chain’s second hotel in Sarawak, making it the only state other than Selangor to have more than one Tune Hotel. The first Tune Hotel in Sarawak opened at the Kuching Waterfront in 2009.

Apart from Bintulu, Tune Hotels Kota Bharu in Kelantan (173 rooms) was also slated for opening on January 23, 2011, making it a double celebration for Tune Hotels as it ushered in the new year.

Commenting on the Bintulu hotel, Lankester said, “Bintulu’s strategic location in central Sarawak, coupled with good air connectivity to Kuala Lumpur, Kuching and other towns as well as being on the massive Trans-Borneo highway between Kuching and Kota Kinabalu, presents enormous potential for the development of tourism as well as other priority industries under SCORE. The opening of Tune Hotels Bintulu will not only provide more convenience and comfort to tourists and holidaymakers to the ‘Gas Town’ but also those on business trips there.”

Bintulu was famed as Malaysia’s main producer of liquefied natural gas (LNG) but more recently has been identified as one of the growth areas under SCORE. Bintulu is the gateway to Samalaju, one of SCORE’s five major growth nodes, aside from Tanjung Manis, Mukah, Baram and Tunoh. Bintulu is also an important access point to Bakun, Southeast Asia’s largest hydroelectric dam.

The press release further pointed out that SCORE was launched in 2008; a major initiative undertaken to develop the Sarawak Central Region and transform the state into a developed one by 2020. It was aimed at accelerating the state’s economic growth and development, as well as improving the quality of life for the people of Sarawak. SCORE was officially launched in Bintulu by the then Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

The core of the corridor was the energy resources, particularly hydropower, coal and natural gas found abundantly within the Sarawak Central Region. This would allow Sarawak to price its energy competitively and encourage investments in power generation and energy-intensive industries that would act as triggers for the development of a vibrant industrial development in the corridor.

Continue reading at: Tune Hotels Bintulu to help spur tourism, business within SCORE

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Six Kota Kinabalu flights weekly to Seoul and Tokyo

Kota Kinabalu: Sabah can expect a 10 per cent increase in Korean tourist arrivals to the State Capital following the launching of Malaysia Airlines' (MAS) thrice-weekly direct flights from Seoul on Tuesday.

MAS Korea Area Manager, Lee Weng Chi said the airlines increased the direct flights from two a week to three, as it has seen an encouraging increase of 26 per cent in the number of Korean customers this year to Sabah.

He said the increase is also in conjunction with the launch of Kota Kinabalu as Malaysia Airlines' Eastern hub. Incidentally, the number of direct KK-Tokyo flights was also increased to three weekly effective Monday.

Lee said the airline would be deploying its new 160-seat B737-800 that will bring in 640 passengers per week during the peak season.

"These additional flights will only fly from Seoul, Korea to Kota Kinabalu and vice versa without going to Kuala Lumpur. Hence, it will bring in more Koreans to visit Sabah as the increase in services will provide greater accessibility.

"In the previous service that operated two times a week, the airline used the 290-seat Airbus 330 accounting for 580 passengers per week and had to fly over to Kuala Lumpur as some of the passengers wanted to go to the country's capital. That is why we forecast more Koreans to visit Sabah in the thrice weekly flights," he said to reporters during a press conference on the Korea Media Familiarisation Trip to Sabah, on Tuesday.

According to him, the airline has received great response to its thrice weekly direct flights with all seats sold out during the peak season.

"We have no more seats to sell to the Koreans especially during the holidays now. But these thrice weekly flights from Seoul to Kota Kinabalu is only running for two months.

"The reason is the airline would be increasing the direct services to four times per week that will boost Korean arrivals to Sabah by 68 per cent by January next year," Lee said.

He added the Koreans would also be able to enjoy the four times a week flights to Kuching via Kota Kinabalu beginning Jan 15.

Continue reading at: Six Kota Kinabalu flights weekly to Seoul and Tokyo

Festival to promote Tawau

TAWAU: A festival will be held here on January 13, next year to attract more visitors to Tawau.

Municipal Council president Ismail Mayakob urged all the departments to cooperate and get ready to promote Tawau.

He said various activities would be held on that day to promote the uniqueness of the district.

“The facilities in the district should also be maintained and upgraded immediately to give tourists a positive image.

“It is important to promote Tawau to other countries. For instance, when someone asks about the products in Tawau, most of the people here will say there is ‘nothing in Tawau’. This gives a negative perception of Tawau to outsiders,” he said at the full council meeting here yesterday.

Ismail pointed out Tawau has various products to offer to visitors such as the tallest tropical trees, cocoa and fresh seafood. Tourism promoters should also focus on the products in Tawau instead of only the tourist spots in Semporna.

He urged the private sector to promote Tawau to the tourists while the government would provide the infrastructure facilities.

Continue reading at: Festival to promote Tawau

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kota Kinabalu as Eastern Hub launched

Kota Kinabalu: Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Musa Aman launched the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) as Malaysia Airlines' (MAS) Eastern Hub, Monday, signalling that the State is on course to achieving tourism and economic excellence.

He was delighted that more direct air links would be forged between the capital and major cities in the region, in line with Sabah's plan to develop tourism as one of the growth sectors as envisaged in the Sabah Development Corridor and Halatuju (development agenda).

He also welcomed the latest addition to the national carrier's fleet, the new Boeing Next-Generation B737-800, which sported a new MAS, livery flown in by pilots Capt. Niazi Saif-ud Dean and Capt. Zamri Ismail, on its inaugural flight here from Kuala Lumpur.

Given a water cannon salute on its arrival at the KKIA, the plane flew in Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri, MAS Managing Director-cum-CEO, Tengku Dato Sri Azmil Zahruddin and media representatives here from the nation's capital for the Eastern Hub launching.

"It is not just air links we are excited about É we welcome the move by Malaysia Airlines to station two of its new technologically advanced B737-800 at the KKIA," Musa said.

"We are privileged to be among the very first to enjoy the pleasures of flying on this aircraft, which is equipped with all the latest features for the comfort of passengers."

"Sabah has been blessed with tropical attractions, flora and fauna biodiversity and multi-cultures É to preserve this slice of heaven for today's and tomorrow's generations, our focus is to always promote sustainable development and sustainable tourism.

"It is our hope in the State Government that tourism players in Sabah remain mindful of the attractions that we are blessed with, and the fact that some of these sites are vulnerable to the impacts of tourism activities," Musa said.

"We must do everything in our capacity to minimise the impact of tourism activities on coral reefs, the jungle and our iconic wildlife, some of which are listed as endangered," he said, adding the tourism sector should also look into reducing carbon emissions in their daily operations.

Musa said the Sabah Government is resolved towards reaching the aim of 4.5 million tourists 10 years from now through sustainable tourism efforts.

He noted that the State Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry and the Sabah Tourism Board, together with MAS, had a big hand in attracting visitors into the State.

Over one million visitors came to Sabah in the first half of this year - a 5.2 per cent increase compared to last year, while Sabah's tourism receipts in 2009 were RM3.875 billion, with 2.246 million tourist arrivals.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Kota Kinabalu as Eastern Hub launched

MAS centre at KKIA operational with maiden flight to Tokyo

KOTA KINABALU: National flag carrier Malaysia Airlines’ first domestic hub at the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) is now operational with the maiden arrival of the company’s latest aircraft, the Boeing 737-800.

After a brief stopover, the aircraft departed for Haneda, Tokyo representing the first flight from its eastern hub which MAS chairman Tan Sri Munir Majid projected could add as much as RM100m a year to the company’s bottomline.

“This new service provides us the opportunity to grow and expand to new destinations, adding to the rapidly developing opportunities in commerce and tourism in Sabah,” he said after the launching of the MAS Eastern Hub by Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman at KKIA here.

Also present was MAS managing director Tengku Datuk Seri Azmil Zahruddin.

Munir said the MAS Eastern Hub would be developed in three stages from now until June 3 next year and by then the airline would have stationed its two new Boeing 737-800 and the older Boeing 737-400 aircraft as well as 150 pilots and 250 cabin crew here.

From the KKIA hub, MAS would also be operating flights to Haneda, Seoul, Osaka, Kaohsiung, Taipei and Perth.

Munir noted that Sabah was a key desination for MAS, demonstrated by an average growth in passenger numbers over the past two years, with some 1.8 million passengers flying between the peninsula and the state during that period.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: MAS centre at KKIA operational with maiden flight to Tokyo

MAS to develop KK Hub over three stages

Kota Kinabalu: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is gearing itself to be a household name among air travellers in the region with the establishment of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) as its Eastern Hub.

Acknowledging that competition was bound to come in as they further develop the potentially huge KK-to-other-regional cities market, MAS Chairman, Tan Sri Dr Munir Majid said the national carrier wants to plant its feet firmly in this network so they could be head and shoulders above other competitors.

"We have developed the market (KK) before and now we make it into a hub to make it tough for people to compete with us É (when) the durian gets ripe everyone wants the durian, which is fair enough, that's business.

"(We're) using the hub to establish ourselves after spending so much money and time developing the market," he said, after the launching of the Eastern Hub here, Monday.

He said MAS' first goals from the Eastern Hub were to establish new routes, to Haneda and Perth, and from this they would use it as a base to either increase their flight frequencies (including to other existing routes) or add new destinations.

Emphasising that MAS' new Next-Generation Boeing 737-800s, equipped with the passenger-inspired Boeing Sky Interior, would be the ideal jumpstart to their endeavours, Munir said the technologically advanced plane has the ability give them better frequency, apart from range, meaning a well thought-out business plan.

"That's one of the reasons why we chose the 737-800s É with a capacity of 160 seats, it gives us a better opportunity to sell our seats.

"So we can attack the market that we have already identified, increase the frequency and look at new destinations as they become available," he said, adding MAS has ordered 35 new 737-800s from Boeing, with an option of another 20.

MAS Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Tengku Datuk Azmil Zahruddin said the Eastern Hub makes good business sense since flying out their planes to major cities in the region from here would be more cost efficient compared to from Kuala Lumpur.

Continue reading at: MAS to develop KK Hub over three stages

Sarawak Cultural Village wins another excellence award

THE Sarawak Cultural Village (SCV) has added another feather to its cap by winning an excellence award in the Best Cultural or Heritage Experience category in Expatriate Lifestyle magazine’s Best of Malaysia Travel Awards 2010.

SCV was voted the winner by the magazine’s readers and was the sole recipient from Sarawak among the 74 award winners in 16 categories. The awards were presented in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month.

”We are honoured and privileged to win this award. It will be an encouragement for SCV to continue our good work and remain a key player in the state’s tourism industry,” SCV general manager Jane Lian Labang said at a ceremony to hand over the award to Assistant Tourism and Heritage Minister Datuk Talib Zulpilip yesterday.

Jane said SCV’s blueprint of success focused on creativity, innovation and human resource training to continually improve its visitor experience.

In line with this, she said SCV would offer new attractions next year for visitors to enjoy. These include an arts learning centre called Persada Ilmu with a dance studio, library, information centre, costume gallery and lecture hall; the Persada Alam tea garden where visitors can taste different varieties of local tea while being entertained by interactive performances; and the Rainforest World Music Gallery featuring musical instruments from around the world and live performances by SCV’s resident band Tuku Kame.

There will also be a new Bidayuh longhouse, complete with new “baruk” (meeting hall), which can offer accommodation for more guests under SCV’s village stay programme.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Sarawak Cultural Village wins another excellence award

Monday, November 15, 2010

Adopt or buy a Christmas gift to save Borneo orangutans

ANIMAL lovers can help save endangered orangutans by adopting them or buying Christmas gifts from the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation now.

To adopt an orangutan, purchase ‘Cards for a Cause’ or to view the range of cute merchandise ranging from t-shirts, soft toys, coffee mugs, children’s puzzles and books visit www.orangutans.com.au.

BOS will use funds to help care for and rehabilitate endangered orangutans in Borneo with plans for the largest ever release of ex-captive orangutans back into the wild.

The program will ensure the survival of Bornean orangutans in a natural, protected habitat, allowing some of the released primates to live freely for the very first time.

BOS will be releasing 108 rehabilitated organgutans back to their natural habitat while orangutans with ongoing health issues and diseases will continue to be cared for within BOS sanctuaries.

BOS Australia president Jan Hindmarsh said it hoped to have large pockets of protected rainforest sanctuaries for all orangutans in its care within 10 years.

"It is an expensive process with land greatly valued by resource companies which are ripping away the natural habitat of the orangutan," she said.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Adopt or buy a Christmas gift to save Borneo orangutans

Corridors of forest to save Kinabatangan orangutans

KINABATANGAN: Researchers and conservationists in Sabah and United Kingdom have shown that a combination of modest translocation rates (one individual every 20 years) and corridor establishment will enable even the most isolated subpopulations of orangutans along the Kinabatangan to survive in the long-term.

The study, carried out by the Sabah Wildlife Department (SWD) in collaboration with Cardiff University, Danau Girang Field Centre (DGFC) and the NGO HUTAN was recently published in the scientific journal Endangered Species Research (free access on http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/esr/v12/n3/p249-261/).

“We simulated the effects of non-intervention, translocation, corridor establishment and a mixture of the two latter approaches on future genetic diversity in the Lower Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary’s orangutan population”, explained Benoit Goossens, Director of DGFC in the Kinabatangan and one of the authors of the study. “We found that non-intervention resulted in high extinction risk for a number of subpopulations over short demographic time scales and that the exclusive use of either translocation or corridor establishment as a management tool was insufficient to prevent inbreeding and extinction in the most isolated subpopulations”, he added.

“Last year, all participants to the 2009 Orangutan Conservation Colloquium organized by the Malaysian Palm Oil Council, SWD, the NGO HUTAN and other organizations, recognized the importance of corridors within a fragmented landscape for biodiversity conservation and recognized the need to reestablish connections between orangutan populations”, said Marc Ancrenaz, Co-director of HUTAN and another author on the paper.

“Our study, once more, emphasizes the importance of reestablishing habitat connectivity and to do it quickly, or else we will inevitably lose small orangutan populations through inbreeding and demographic instability”, stressed Ancrenaz.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Corridors of forest to save Kinabatangan orangutans

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sime Darby key to setting up the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary

KOTA KINABALU: Yayasan Sime Darby has emerged a key player in assisting efforts to set up the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in the Tabin Wildlife Reserve over the last three years.

The foundation has contributed RM5mil towards the development of Borneo Rhino Sanctuary as well as provide additional funds for management of wildlife in Tabin Wildlife.

Sabah Wildlife Department director Dr Laurentius Ambu said that support by the private sector played an important role in the conservation of the Sumatran rhinos whose last known remaining populations were in the Danum Valley and Tabin Wildlife Reserve in the Lahad Datu district.

He said the Government had outlined several steps towards helping in the survival of the endangered Sumatran rhinoceros.

The first need is to prevent the poaching and illegal trapping of Sabah’s remaining wild rhinos.

The second need is to bring the few remaining rhinos which are not breeding to the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary, a managed fenced facility being developed at Tabin Wildlife Reserve.

“The people who will be protecting, monitoring, rescuing and caring for rhinos need a comfortable place to stay as well,” he said in thanking Yayasan Sime Darby and other partners in helping provide basic facilities for the area.

Continue reading at: Sime Darby key to setting up the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jerudong: The suburban jungle

By Ron Knox

The towns and cities of the world may be referred to as, 'urban jungles', but in Brunei we have real jungles minutes from our front doors. Take a short stroll through some parts of Jerudong and it is hard to believe you're only minutes away from banks, schools and supermarkets.

Brunei is lucky to have such an abundance of land, much of it still a jungle, within 20 minutes of the city centre. Over 95 per cent of Brunei are state land, mainly rainforest. In addition, Brunei's' small population means it will be many generations before it will need to be developed, if ever. In the future, it could be Brunei's most valuable natural resource.

Away from the 'jungle', Jerudong is one of Brunei's busiest suburbs. It has several hotels, supermarkets, banks, schools and all the trappings of a thriving community. If you live in the Jerudong/Sengkurong conurbation you really never need to visit Gadong or the city centre. All you need is right on your doorstep. However, if you take a stroll along one or two of Jerudongs simpangs you can soon forget your only five minutes from suburbia. Before you know it, you are surrounded by trees and the sounds of nature. The traffic and shops forgotten in this green universe. The jungle is a huge presence, even in one of Brunei's busiest and most populous suburbs.

Brunei's suburbs have been built in the midst of the jungle, but the jungle also bears the man's footprint. There are many simpangs that are little more than bumpy tracks that wander off into the jungle. If you care to follow them, you find homes, as well as businesses both large and small, in the most unlikely places. Brunei is now developing a large scale farming industry, but small-scale farming has been practised for generations and it is still thriving. You see it when you get a little off the beaten track and come across many areas planted with vegetables and fruit.

One of the things that I like about the jungle is that it is usually quite cool. Shady trees and grass make the hot sun much easier to bear. Cooling streams of various sizes cut through the jungle and, in Jerudong, there are several sizable lakes, usually covered in vegetation.

The local wildlife keeps well hidden, except for mosquitoes, which always feast when I am around. Larger bugs are much less troublesome, despite their sizes. The occasional monitor lizard barely offers you a glance as he strolls leisurely across the track.

It always astonishes me that so few Bruneians seem interested in this incredible resource. I suppose we all take what is familiar for granted.

Provided you take a little care, there is more to be had from a few hours in the jungle than wandering around Brunei's shopping malls.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Semenggoh Wildlife Centre expects 190,000 visitors this year

THE number of visitors to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre (SWC) in Jalan Puncak Borneo near Kuching is increasing rapidly and is expected to reach more than 190,000 this year.

SWC manager Jen Sangel said: "In 2008, there were 77,220 visitors and last year we recorded 89,226."

The increase may be due to air fares that were affordable for travel to Sarawak, he said.

Local visitors comprised 60%, including those from Sabah and Peninsular Malaysia, while foreigners made up the remaining 40%.

The foreigners were mainly from Europe, Britain, Australia and the Middle East.

Entry to the centre costs RM3 for adults and RM1.50 for schoolchildren, Jen told StarMetro after briefing Danish Ambassador to Malaysia Svend Waever and his wife Karin Gunilla Waever who visited the centre on Wednesday.

Most of the visitors want to catch a glimpse of orang utans, which are found in the rainforests of Borneo.

Jen said there were 27 orang utans at SWC and two other centres in the state.

The orang utans had names like Aman, Manap, Saddam, Selina, Annuar, Nora, Ritchie, Doris, Delima, Murray, Angku, Sedudu, Baka, Mamu and Ting San, he added.

He said that Aman was blind, but regained her sight after successfully undergoing an operation last year.

Other activities at SWC include jungle trekking (three trails) and bird watching.

Continue reading (Incl. Pic) at: Semenggoh Wildlife Centre expects 190,000 visitors this year

Friday, November 12, 2010

Direct Miri-Singapore flights from Jan 21

MIRI: AirAsia is ready to mount four return direct flights weekly between here and Singapore starting Jan 21 next year.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan, who is also Minister of Tourism and Heritage, announced this in a press conference together with Datuk Sim Hock Guan, chairman of Miri Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry at SUPP Miri headquarters yesterday.

“The flights are on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, taking off at 8.30am from here, and at 10.50am from Singapore,” he said.

These flights are already open for booking online.

Dr Chan said 38 packages have already been lined up to support the passenger load which the airlines need to maintain the route.

Tour operators in Singapore have been wooed to promote Miri and the weekend market segment include drawing Singaporean students to visit Miri under the Singaporean government travel incentive scheme, Dr Chan said.

The state government is also targeting to bring 25 tour operators from the island state for a familiarisation tour here to enable them to promote Miri as a destination.

“One of our tasks is to ensure that the seats are filled up as it is all about the bottom line for AirAsia,” he said.

On the local front, those working in the oil and gas industry including those in Shell and Petronas would welcome the flights as they could fit into their travel plans, he said.

Sim, who welcomed the direct flights, said Dr Chan had worked hard to get them implemented.

He said Singapore was a practical and ready market with a population of over four million, and it should be tapped aggressively by tour operators.

Continue reading at: Direct Miri-Singapore flights from Jan 21

Firefly urged to make Sibu its hub for East Malaysia

SIBU: Firefly — a low cost carrier has been urged to consider making Sibu the hub for East Malaysia, following its expansion plans into Sarawak market.

This was because the central region was a rapidly growing market for domestic travel, reasoned the managing director of Equitorial Tours and Travel Sdn Bhd, Robert Tan.

While he hailed the airline’s expansion to Sarawak as timely, he opined that Kuching market had become congested with five airlines fighting for the market share and lately, Jetstar had decided to pull out.

“On the contrary, there are more than 10,000 locals working in Singapore and Johor Baharu. And moreover, there are many students studying in public and private institutions of higher learning in the Peninsular,” Tan told The Borneo Post yesterday when asked on the impact of Firefly’s entry to Sarawak on the airlines industry.

He thus argued that this would provide the necessary load to ensure that the airlines remain profitable, reiterating that Sibu was a mouth-watering market.

Backing his claim to urge the low fare airline to give Sibu the priority, he said both the current premium and low cost airlines still serviced the Sibu-Kuala Lumpur route and “hence, this goes without reasonable doubt that Sibu or the central region has the passenger load.”

The nation capital was the gateway to domestic and international destinations and it was imperative that, more airlines serviced this route.

As such, Firefly, he said, should take up the initiative since this would greatly benefit the people in the central region.

He reckoned that unlike in the Peninsular with better road connectivity, people in Sarawak depended heavily on air travel between towns as it was more convenient and time saving.

Continue reading at: Firefly urged to make Sibu its hub for East Malaysia

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More MAS international flights from Kuching

SARAWAKIANS can expect Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to operate more international routes to and from Kuching next year.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr George Chan yesterday said the destinations include Tokyo and Osaka in Japan, Seoul in South Korea and Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei.

The Tourism and Heritage Minister also said MAS would commence its flight from Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, Osaka’s Kansai Airport and Seoul’s Incheon Airport into Kuching via Kota Kinabalu in Sabah from mid January next year.

AirAsia will operate Kuching-Bandar Seri Begawan in 2011. We are also advocating that MASwings be allowed to operate Kuching-Pontianak, Kuching-Bandar Seri Begawan and Mulu-Bandar Seri Begawan routes on a commercial basis,” said Dr Chan in his winding-up speech at the State Legislative Assembly yesterday.

Apart from that, Firefly would be flying into the capital city from January next year, he said.

Dr Chan pointed out that enhancing accessibility and connectivity was crucial in helping the state achieve its target of 4 million tourists next year.

Hence, the state government had entered into discussions with Malaysia Airport Holdings Bhd to provide incentives to foreign airlines in terms of free landing and discounts on airport charges, he revealed.

“The federal government has been supportive in liberalising the air services agreement with foreign countries and the opening up of Sarawak through reciprocal open sky policy. The state continues to engage airlines as part of its strategy to collaborate in destination promotion efforts and contributed marketing support funds as part of the joint promotion to bring more tourists,” he explained.

Continue reading at: More MAS international flights from Kuching

Sarawak tourism bodies to help Firely boost links

THE Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) and Sarawak Tourism Federation (STF) have given an assurance to assist Firefly Sdn Bhd in terms of marketing as they are all for improving connectivity to the state.

STB chief executive officer Datuk Rashid Khan said the board would meet with Firefly, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines (MAS), to discuss business and marketing strategies to promote Sarawak as a destination via Firefly's flights.

"We will meet next week with a few agendas to see how we can play a role and work together," he told StarMetro in Kuching yesterday.

He said that STB was happy that Firefly intended to facilitate code-sharing arrangements as there were other international airlines that provided travel to the state via code-sharing with MAS.

"Take for example All Nippon Airways. Not many know that it code-shares with MAS on the Kuala Lumpur to Kuching route," he said.

Therefore, with Firefly in the picture, he said there would be better accessibility between many other countries and Sarawak.

Rashid said that Firefly had already lined up a number of sales promotions with the launch of the Kuala Lumpur to Kuching and Kota Kinabalu routes and STB would assist by incorporating its product experience.

STF president Audry Wan Ullok said the federation was happy with Firefly's move as it would better facilitate the travel plans for those coming from abroad.

"A problem faced with AirAsia is the hassle of tourists transferring from KLIA to the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) to catch connecting flights," she said.

Continue reading at: Sarawak tourism bodies to help Firely boost links

Sarawak thriving via eco-tourism

ECO-tourism is the main attraction for visitors in Sarawak, says Tourism and Heritage Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan.

He said that, up to June this year, the national parks in the state recorded 191,824 visitors of whom 46,345 were foreigners.

"Among the popular destinations are the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre which attracted 40,305 visitors, Bako National Park (16,723 visitors), Niah National Park (12,543 visitors) and Mulu National Park (10,786 visitors)," he told the State Assembly in his winding up speech yesterday.

Dr Chan said his ministry had also received 24 requests from villages and longhouses in the state to register for the homestay programme.

"To date, 2,984 homestay operators from 139 villages, including 19 villages in Sarawak, have been trained and registered throughout the country by the Tourism Ministry."

Continue reading at: Sarawak thriving via eco-tourism

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sabah contributing fair share in tackling climate change

Kota Kinabalu: State Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the State Government has contributed substantially in tackling the climate change issues in Sabah.

He said this is proven with activities it has conducted that are in line with the REDD-plus in sustainable forest biodiversity conservation, protection, restoration and rehabilitation.

Much of this, he said, was showcased in the two-day forest and climate change international conference and exhibition at Magellan Sutera.

"However, the work does not and must not stop there.

What transpired further from the conference should be put into practice.

"Besides, the awareness and dissemination of information, the realisation of implementing REDD-plus should be given priority," he said at the close of the conference.

He assured that the State Government would ensure that the close cooperation among all the relevant agencies would continue to prevail in achieving the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD-plus) that was formulated in the Bali Action Plan (COP13), in 2007.

He expressed delight with the outcome and recommendations from the conference.

He said the Government would take note of it for appropriate actions adding that he believed in a pragmatic approach that benefits the people of Sabah and at the same time, not disrupt the State's development agenda.

REDD-plus, he said, is relatively a new acronym to many but the State Forestry Department is taking proactive action and a leading role towards a better understanding of this mechanism and to study the potential of its implementation in Sabah.

He cited research carried out by Professor Kanehiro Kitayama of Kyoto University, Japan in Sabah for many years.

He said it highlighted that sustainable forest management in Deramakot Forest Reserve, with strict compliance to international principles and standards has proven to be a good mitigation option to alleviate the current rate of carbon emission and biodiversity loss in production forests, while maintaining sustainable timber production.

Continue reading at: Sabah contributing fair share in tackling climate change

Excitement over new low-cost flights to Kuching and KK

AS SOON as word got out that Firefly was spreading its wings to Sarawak and Sabah on Monday, online traffic at Firefly’s ticketing website escalated rapidly.

The buzz was all over Facebook that the airliner, a wholly-owned unit under Malaysia Airlines, was offering tickets priced as low as RM9 for travel between Jan 15 to May 31 next year.

Aside from this too-good-to-resist promotion, Sarawakians were happy over the fact that they had more travel choices.

When met at Kuching International Airport yesterday, avid traveller Awang Putra Awang Ahmad said that Firefly’s expansion was a good move and highly anticipated.

He said the people now had the choice of another low-cost carrier .

“More airlines means competition in ticket prices, so customers are bound to benefit,” he told StarMetro.

Putra, who works in the service industry, said he was excited over the air fare Firefly had to offer to compete with rival AirAsia.

“I’m planning a holiday with my family in Kuala Lumpur next year so I’m going to check out Firefly’s fares. I hope it will come up with packages for the family soon,” he said.

Lim Fung, who was travelling to Kuala Lumpur, said the promotion by Firefly was attractive, but hoped the airline would provide good service other than just cheap fares.

“Sometimes, all that a customer wants is an easy flight, and this means no long delays. I hope Firefly will give us consistency in timing as well,” said Lim, who works as a driver.

Continue reading at: Excitement over new low-cost flights to Kuching and KK

Tune Hotels to open new hotel in Bintulu next year

Tune Hotels will open two new hotels in Bintulu, Sarawak and Kota Bharu, Kelantan by next year.

"The increasing the number of hotels, reiterates the commitment to increasing our network to 100 in major cities globally, providing five-star beds at incredible value and affordability," said its group chief executive officer, Mark Lankester in a statement Tuesday.

The introduction of the 101-room Bintulu hotel and 173-room Kota Bharu hotel will further add value for savvy travelers, both business and tourists alike, keen to adopt the pay-as-you-use concept that we provide," he added.

Kota Bharu has the first Tune Hotel in Kelantan and Bintulu, the second in Sarawak.

With the opening of the Bintulu and Kota Bharu hotels, it brings the number of Tune Hotels in Malaysia to nine and 12 globally.

Continue reading at: Tune Hotels to open new hotel in Bintulu next year

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Bukit Tengkorak site in Semporna to become Sabah tourist attraction

Photos copyright to the Semporna District Office

SEMPORNA: A development project involving the Bukit Tengkorak archaeological site is now complete and will be a new tourist attraction in Sabah.

State Tourism, Culture and Environment Assistant Minister Datuk Ellron Alfred Angin said the RM4.2 million project by the National Heritage Department was aimed at preserving the historical site which showed the area’s civilisation, besides boosting the state’s tourism industry.

“The Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry fully supports all efforts taken by the National Heritage Department to increase awareness and appreciation of historical sites and buildings.

“Historical sites and monuments will continue to be preserved and protected in line with the National Heritage Act 2005,” he said during the handing-over of the completed Bukit Tengkorak development project site.

Earlier, National Heritage Department commissioner Prof Emeritus Datin Paduka Zuraina Majid said Bukit Tengkorak was one of the sites in Sabah’s east coast with the highest prehistoric value.

She said other areas of interest to the department were Mansuli in Lahad Datu and Tingkayu in Kunak.

Continue reading at: Bukit Tengkorak site in Semporna to become Sabah tourist attraction

Dusun community returns to Mount Kinabalu

KOTA KINABALU: The Dusun community in Bundu Tuhan and Kiau will make a pilgrimage to Mount Kinabalu on Dec 3, a journey that will symbolize a return to their sacred mountain.

After more than forty years since Kinabalu Park was gazetted and more recently, as a World Heritage Site, the indigenous people in the areas feel ‘separated’ from what was once their ancestral domain and the final resting place of the departed souls. The pilgrimage, which is jointly collaborated between the Kinabalu Council of Elders and Sabah Parks, is hoped to launch what would become an annual affair where the community gets one day in a year to return to their sacred mountain they once referred to as ‘Gayo Ngaran’ (the big name).

“We know that this mountain in now a heritage for the world and we’re proud of it. But all we’re asking for is just one day for our community to make our pilgrimage,” said Johnny Ghani, a community activist from Bundu Tuhan.

The community from the two areas has sought for permission to have the park closed for just one day in a year for them to perform the pilgrimage. It is learnt that due to climbing bookings already made by climbers in advanced their request might not be possible this year. But they hope that when the event becomes an annual affair, their request for one-day closure could be allowed. Johnny explained that the pilgrimage is particularly for the benefit of their younger generation.

“Before the area was gazetted as a park, villagers here were free to go to the jungle to find natural resources for their livelihood. They can’t do it now…Although it’s good to see how this area has developed especially in tourism, people probably are not aware that many of our children have never climbed the mountain because they couldn’t afford the fees even at discounted rates,” he said.

He added that it is not only about climbing the mountain but more significantly about a tradition that was once closely connected to the mountain. “Our younger generation has lost that connection,” he lamented.

Negotiations to gazette Kinabalu Park began in 1962 between the British and local officers as well as the community members from Kiau and Bundu Tuhan. After full consent from the communities to ‘give up’ the mountain, the matter became official in 1964. However the community asked to be allowed to have access into the park to harvest rattans, collect forest products and to hunt only to learn later that such activities were strictly prohibited.

In 2000 Kinabalu Park was declared a World Heritage Site after being globally acknowledged as a biodiversity hotspot. It is also a major tourism destination where in 2009 more than 25,000 people visited the park and 47,000 climbed the mountain, the highest peak in South East Asia.

Continue reading at: Dusun community returns to Mount Kinabalu