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Korea NTO returns to Indonesia, incentivises agents  
Mimi Hudoyo, Jakarta (2011-02-11)
 
KOREA Tourism Organization (KTO) is reopening its Jakarta office after closing it down in 1998 due to the Asian financial crisis.
 
The office, to be opened between June and September, will focus on stimulating Indonesia outbound traffic to destinations beyond Seoul by dangling various incentives. For example, if an agent sends a group which comprises at least 80 per cent Muslim travellers, KTO will give a subsidy of 10,000 won (US$8.90) per person, which the agent can use for food or performance expenses.
 
Speaking to agents yesterday, KTO Singapore and Indonesia director Steve Yong said: “Last year we saw a record number of 95,239 arrivals (from Indonesia) or a 17.6 per cent increase over 2009. This year, we are targeting to achieve 110,000 arrivals.”
 
In terms of arrivals, Indonesia currently ranks fifth in South-east Asia after Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore and Malaysia. Young, however, projected that arrivals from Indonesia would surpass those from Singapore in two to three years.
 
The amount Indonesians spend per visit is also higher than Singaporeans and the Japanese, according to Young.
 
Young told TTG Asia e-Daily: “With Indonesia’s economy growing more than six per cent last year and this year, we see bigger potential for growth of the top and middle-class travellers.”

US$12 million sought to promote Malaysian homestays  
S Puvaneswary, Kuala Lumpur (2011-02-11)
 
THE MALAYSIA Homestay Association is pressing the tourism ministry for an annual grant of RM10 million (US$3.28 million) over four years to promote and develop homestay programmes.
 
It submitted yesterday a paper to the ministry.
 
President Sahariman Hamdan said this would help fund international outreach to traditional markets such as Japan and Singapore, as well as to new ones such as Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, Germany, the UK and Netherlands.
 
It would also cover training programmes to upgrade the entrepreneurial skills of homestay operators and provide them with lessons on e-marketing.
 
Sahariman said: “By next year, we want to double the amount of household incomes of homestay operators, which now average around RM600 monthly.”
 
Homestays, where owners rent out individual rooms, will also be diversified to allow guests to book the entire house. Dubbed 'kampung stays', the product will be launched at Kampung Desa Murni in Pahang on March 20 by Tourism Minister, Dr Ng Yen Yen.
 
Houses are fully equipped and include cooking facilities. For a start, there would be 50 such accommodations, said Sahariman.
 
There are now 138 registered homestay villages in Malaysia, with a total of 2,987 operators and 4,042 rooms. The average occupancy of homestays from January to November 2010 was 23.2 per cent.

Kuoni clarifies Best Tours France status  
Sirima Eamtako, Bangkok (2011-02-11)
 
KUONI Travel Nederland BV has stepped forward to clarify that it did not acquire Best Tours France, adding that the French company is only acting as the sales and marketing outfit of Kuoni Best Tours Belgium.
 
After receiving many enquiries concerning the status of Best Tours France over the last week, operation director Jan Middelhoek said, in a letter to Thai hotels obtained by TTG Asia e-Daily: “Kuoni didn’t buy Best Tours France and this company is not bankrupt. Till today, Best Tours France is paying (its) own invoices.”
 
He said: “For departures from February 7 onwards, all payments to suppliers are now done by Kuoni Best Tours Belgium…all payments thus are guaranteed by Kuoni.
 
“The main advantage for suppliers will be that payments for French customers are also now guaranteed. It’s very important for us to have a smooth operation, with increased trust and confidence in the new Kuoni Best Tours Belgium.”
 
Despite unpaid debt left behind by the Belgian legal entity which Kuoni did not acquire, Dusit Thani Hua Hin general manager Victor Sukseree said the hotel continued to work with Kuoni Best Tours Belgium and had received bookings up to April.

Qatar Airways defends rise of Gulf carriers  
Doha (2011-02-11)
 
QATAR Airways' CEO, Akbar Al Baker, has hit back at comments made by the secretary general of the Association of European Airlines about the pressures a growing prominence of Gulf carriers are placing on the global aviation industry, the same day the Doha-based airline announced plans to fly twice daily to Singapore. 
 
Al Baker took issue with several accusations made by Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus at a recent gathering of the International Aviation Club in Washington, DC, among them an alleged “anomaly in aviation” due to the proximity of hubs in Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
 
The airline chief cited examples of multiple hubs in Paris, Amsterdam and London as well as Frankfurt, Zurich and Vienna.
 
Al Baker said comparing the aircraft order book of the Gulf airlines with that of the US carriers in the longhaul wide-body arena was also erroneous as the “backbone of the US air transport industry is domestic operations”.
 
“The European airlines were pioneers in a large number of areas. We in the Gulf airline community have learnt a lot from them. They should accept competition, and that the customer is in the driver’s seat,” he said.
 
- Read more in TTG Asia, February 25 issue

Chinese to spend more on travel than Hong Kong, Taiwan travellers  
Hong Kong (2011-02-11)
 
TOURISTS from mainland China are expected to spend more on leisure travel this year compared to their counterparts from Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to a report released yesterday by Hong Kong-based Travelzoo Asia Pacific.
 
The findings, obtained from a survey of 4,200 Travelzoo subscribers from January 4 to 12, showed that 80 per cent of mainland Chinese respondents, compared to 70 per cent from Hong Kong and 65 per cent from Taiwan, intended to increase their travel budget for 2011.
 
Mainland Chinese travellers said they would spend an average of US$3,780 per person, while the amounts for Hong Kong and Taiwanese travellers were US$2,670 and US$1,782 respectively.
 
The report revealed that ecotourism holidays, with a focus on Tibet, was the trend to watch among Chinese travellers this year. It also found that the increasingly sophisticated Chinese tourist was keen on exotic and luxury vacations at spa resorts, especially those with onsen facilities.

Singapore industry set for restructure  

Raini Hamdi, Singapore (2011-02-10)

THE SINGAPORE Tourism Board (STB) foresees a restructuring of the industry – not least the travel agency sector –  as the destination continues to evolve and attract higher-spending visitors with greater expectations.

Tourism receipts shot up nearly 50 per cent last year to an estimated S$18.8 billion (US$14.7 billion), while arrivals rose about 20 per cent to 11.6 million.

Giving an example of how a changing product is altering the existing industry landscape, STB’s chief executive Aw Kah Peng pointed to the two gaming cruiseships that stopped operation last year as a result of new gaming options in the city (TTG Asia e-Daily, January 13, 2010).

"There was a drop in the number of ship calls as some of the cruises that focused on gaming found it was not worth their while to do these cruises. Hotels too are looking at what is being offered and reshaping and investing to change the nature of their product offering," she said, during a media conference Q&A this morning on 2010 tourism sector performance.

Asked what sort of restructure she sees happening in the travel agency sector, Aw said: "Demand for travel agents remains. As we can see, last year saw a nett increase in the number of agencies. The question remains how are they going to service the customer whose demands have changed. It's no longer about a package tour, so many agents are rethinking itineraries, training issues, and so on.”

Last year saw 120 new licensed agencies and 85 agency closures, resulting in a nett increase to 975 agencies in total. STB’s assistant chief executive, Industry Development 1 Group and Sector Planning & Development Group, Tony Lai, said he noticed a change in new agencies in that they were led by "young entrepreneurs" and many were web-driven, with more than half having a retail front at the same time. 

- Read more in TTG Asia, February 25 issue


Indonesia hits back  

Mimi Hudoyo, Jakarta (2011-02-10)

THE INDONESIA Ministry of Culture and Tourism will sue the organiser of the New7Wonders (N7W) of Nature campaign for dropping the office as its official supporting committee over the Komodo National Park furore (TTG Asia e-Daily, February 8).

The ministry’s lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis told the media yesterday: “Their decision to drop the ministry as the official supporting committee is an attempt to discredit Indonesia’s government and has no legal basis.”

In the meantime, Indonesia tourism stakeholders are calling on the government and private sector to forge ahead with plans for developing and promoting Komodo National Park.

“We must use the momentum to continue improving infrastructure in Komodo,” said Indonesia Care Tourism member Wuryastuti Sunario. “Indonesia should also start selling Komodo together with Flores as an ecotourism destination.”

Incito Tours managing director Sebastian Ng said the N7W campaign was a good means of garnering media coverage for the destination. “We must continue promoting Komodo by highlighting it as a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” he said.


ANA to tap Chinese budget travel with new LCC  

Tokyo (2011-02-10)

JAPAN’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) has designs on the Chinese budget travel market, with plans to launch a new low-cost carrier (LCC) by mid-February.

A joint venture with Hong Kong-based First Eastern Investment Group, A&F-Aviation will initially be based in Osaka's Kansai International Airport, servicing limited destinations in China and Japan from October, while also offering Japanese domestic flights. It will increase the number of routes to 20 within five years.

First Eastern chairman Victor Chu said the LCC would challenge Air China and Japan Airlines on Chinese routes, while its major hubs would include Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Shenzhen and Guangzhou, as well as Hong Kong and Macau.


Suntec International expands its regional footprint  

Gracia Chiang, reporting for TTGmice, Singapore (2011-02-10)

NINE-month-old Suntec International is set to further export its MICE expertise in 2011, having signed last year a sales and marketing representation contract with the Vancouver Convention Centre and, just last month, the Adelaide Convention Centre.

Suntec International is now in talks with the Malaysian government on the latter’s Economic Transformation Programme, which aims to transform the country into a high-income economy by 2020, with help from the MICE sector.

It is also in the final stages of discussions with two venues for consultancy contracts, but details were not available at press time.

Said director of sales and marketing (international business development) Chu Pui Wia: “Asia's MICE industry is on the cusp of a regional transformation, and Suntec International is well positioned to capitalise on the task at hand.

“We are also set to tap the opportunities in the emergent China markets as we are poised to implement more strategic initiatives to further expand our footprint.”

This would be facilitated by Chinese-speaking consultants who were helping to build a comprehensive database of contacts.


Myanmar quiets down in March  

Rahul Khanna, Yangon (2011-02-10)

MYANMAR operators report a busier January compared to the same period last year, although the prospects for March onwards are less certain, with differing forecasts from industry players.

Hla Aye, managing director of Shan Yoma Travel and Tours, said January had been a hectic month. “We’ve already received bookings for February and March,” he said.

All Asia Exclusive Travel managing director Phyoe Wai Yar Zar said the company had registered a slight growth in business in January and February, but bookings started to wane in March.

Hotel Yangon sales and marketing director Thet Ko Ko Htaik said the property ran at about 85 per cent occupancy in January, a 20 per cent year-on-year increase, while forward bookings for February and March indicated a full-house situation on most days.

Chatrium Hotel sales and marketing director May Myat Mon said although the hotel’s occupancy in February was better than in January, forward bookings were pointing to a quieter March.


Koh Samui airlift hits hotel performance  

Koh Samui (2011-02-10)

KOH Samui's four-year hotel building boom is threatening to undermine the destination’s long-term success, as supply outstrips a demand hamstrung by severely limited airlift, according to a report released today by hospitality consulting firm C9 Hotelworks.

Samui Hotel Market Update 2010 reveals that oversupply and limited access heavily impacted last year's operating performance for hotels on the island, with marked declines in occupancy (seven per cent), average room rates (15 per cent) and RevPAR (26 per cent) compared to 2009.

C9 Hotelworks managing director Bill Barnett explained: "Private sector development in the hospitality sector has surged well ahead of transportation infrastructure improvements, which has caused the market to go into a tailspin."

Located in an international flight corridor requiring low landing levels, coupled with environmental restrictions allowing only 36 flights a day and a runway length unable to handle larger aircraft, the long-term potential of the destination is effectively capped, especially with no airport expansion or relocation plans in the pipeline.

Comparing the destination to the more developed markets of Phuket and Bali, Barnett added that what was clearly missing in Koh Samui were high-demand generators such as regional low-cost carriers and charter flights.


Amadeus sells Opodo  

Bangkok, Thailand (2011-02-10)

AMADEUS has agreed to sell its pan-European online travel agency Opodo to private equity firms AXA and Permira for approximately 500 million euros (US$684 million), subject to approval by competition authorities.

Following the sale, AXA and Permira plan to merge Opodo with their two online travel firms, Go Voyages and eDream.

London-based Opodo was founded in 2001 by a consortium of European airlines including British Airways, Air France, Alitalia, Iberia, KLM, Lufthansa, Aer Lingus, Austrian Airlines and Finnair.


Baan Taling Ngam rebranded as InterContinental  

Sirima Eamtako, Bangkok (2011-02-10)

BAAN Taling Ngam Resort and Spa in Koh Samui, Thailand will be closed for renovations from March 1 and reopen as a five-star InterContinental resort on October 1.

Resort sales and market director Tasa Soonthornsima told TTG Asia e-Daily that parent company Elite Villa would spend 800 million baht (US$26 million) on overhauling the 73-key property.

Elite Villa managing director Vikorn Srivikorn, also the owner of InterContinental Bangkok and Holiday Inn Bangkok, took over the resort from the defunct Lehman Brothers (Thailand) last May.

The 17-year-old resort used to run under the Mandarin Oriental and Le Meridien brands, and was previously a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.


ASITA offers to persuade investors for ailing Mandala  

Mimi Hudoyo, Jakarta (2011-02-09)

THE ASSOCIATION of the Indonesian Tours and Travel Agencies (ASITA) Jakarta Chapter has offered to assist suspended Mandala Airlines by giving testimony and recommendations to potential investors.

“Airline traffic continues to grow, especially domestically, and Mandala is an old player with many years of experience,” said ASITA board member Asrul Aziz Taba. “It is in our best interest that they are back in the air so we can do business again.”

In return, ASITA has requested priority for its members to claim deposits and ticket refunds if the carrier, which halted operations on January 13, is eventually declared bankrupt.

Mandala’s fate will be determined on February 18, when the company will find out if the majority of its creditors agree to a proposed restructuring programme, said the carrier’s retail sales manager Made Lesmana. “If so, we will be able to take further steps to resume operations, otherwise the company will be declared bankrupt.”

Swatrav Tours and Travel director Muhammad Arsyad said the fact that Mandala neglected to inform agents it was stopping operations, and still accepted payments on the day it suspended business had damaged its reputation.

“Don’t dream Mandala will regain the confidence of customers without its agents,” he warned.


Silversea pays individual agents to book  

Karen Yue, Singapore (2011-02-09)

LUXURY cruise company Silversea Cruises is offering for the first time a US$200 commission bonus per suite to travel agents in Asia, for reservations made before March 31 on any voyage departing till end June.

Silversea Cruises regional director (Asia) Melvyn Yap told TTG Asia e-Daily that the company usually issued a fixed commission of 10 per cent on each cruise-only fare to travel agencies, but not individual travel agents.

“We realised that we did not have any rewards for travel agents who are contributing almost 100 per cent of bookings,” Yap explained. “We hope by doing this, the reward of selling Silversea will trickle down to the agents who support us.”

Yap added that the Asia-Pacific region currently generates 15 per cent of Silversea’s total bookings. “We also hope to grow bookings from the region with this incentive,” he said.


Bookings on Abacus make dramatic return to positive growth  

Gracia Chiang, Singapore (2011-02-09)

IN a testament to the strong rebound of the travel industry in 2010, Abacus International saw booking transactions hit a record high last year, growing by 11 per cent compared to 2009, when it saw a one per cent slide in bookings.

Transaction increases were led by North Asia (14 per cent), followed by South-west Asia (10 per cent) and South-east Asia (eight per cent).

“I foresee that 2011 will continue to be a high growth year for Asia, albeit at a slightly slower pace,” said president and CEO, Robert Bailey, adding that Abacus expects to see a four to six per cent jump in bookings this year.

Besides obvious leaders of growth, China and India, Bailey singled out Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia as markets to watch.

Indonesian agents, he said, were benefiting from a stable economy and political scene as well as a recent removal of exit tax, while Vietnam and Cambodia's emerging economies were driving travel demand.

Abacus also reported an eye-popping 126 per cent increase in hotel bookings in 2010, while noting that hotel average daily rates were up by four per cent, with properties in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China at the top of the table.

The GDS predicted that the major drivers of travel distribution for 2011 would be online travel agents, airline ancillaries, mobile travel bookings, social media and personalised trip planning.

- Read more in TTG Asia, February 25


Air Mauritius adds Shanghai via Kuala Lumpur hub  

S Puvaneswary, Kuala Lumpur (2011-02-09)

AIR MAURITIUS plans to use Malaysia as its hub of operations for future expansion plans in North Asia and South-east Asia, with its newest service being a Mauritius-Kuala Lumpur-Shanghai route that will commence on July 1.

The once-weekly flight uses the Airbus A330-200, which has 24 business-class seats and 251 economy-class seats.

Air Mauritius currently operates twice-weekly services to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, and thrice-weekly services to Hong Kong. Shanghai will be Air Mauritius' fourth destination in Asia.

Air Mauritius regional manager, North-east & South-east Asia, Shiri Prakash Rai, said: “The third frequency to Kuala Lumpur and onward to Shanghai will provide more flexibility to the Malaysian market and is in line with our strategy of growing our frequencies to a daily for Asia.”

Singapore will remain as the airline's regional office for North Asia and South-east Asia.

- Read more in TTG Asia, February 11


Thailand to retain tourism-friendly initiatives  

Bangkok (2011-02-09)

THAILAND’s Ministry of Tourism and Sports (MoTS) plans to extend or reintroduce some tourism stimulus policies launched over the last two years.

Permanent secretary Sombat Kuruphan said the ministry was currently debating which of the seven policies originally launched to counter the multiple tourism crises in the country were worth renewing.

Policies still active include the exemption of tourist visa fees for some nationalities, including Indians and Chinese, which will cease on March 31.

Policies that have already concluded include the soft loan scheme for tourism-related operators, travel insurance coverage for foreign visitors in case of riots and the waiver of hotel operating fees at 80 baht per room per year.

Meanwhile, Sombat said the ministry would press ahead with construction of the new government-funded convention and exhibition centre in Chiang Mai, scheduled for completion by end of this year.


Cambodia tourism on a rebound  

Steve Finch, Phnom Penh (2011-02-09)

CAMBODIAN operators report a strong rebound in bookings in January after a difficult period last year, with the upward trend set to continue into the February-March low season.

FCC Cambodia, which operates a total of 60 rooms at an average daily rate of US$115, recorded occupancy of above 80 per cent in January at its three boutique hotels—two in Phnom Penh and one in Siem Reap.

This was an increase of about 10 per cent over last year, said FCC operations director Benoit Jancloes.

Based on advanced bookings, Jancloes also projected a similar performance for February and March.

Sofitel Phnom Penh Phokeethra general manager Didier Lamoot said bookings continued to “look good” at the two Sofitel hotels in Cambodia heading into the off-peak period.

Agents are similarly looking at higher numbers, with Mekong Heritage Travel general manager Som Sun Sovann reporting a 20 per cent increase in Cambodian tour bookings last month.

“We expect the same in February and March—about 25 per cent more than last year,” she said.


NCL opens APAC office  

Hong Kong (2011-02-09)

NORWEGIAN Cruise Line (NCL) has started a dedicated contact centre in Manila to cater to its growing Asia-Pacific business.

In view of Asia-Pacific sales doubling year-on-year in 2010, and in anticipation of a significant increase in bookings this year, NCL decided to launch the operation to provide real-time assistance to travel partners based in the region.

“This is just another step in building our Asia-Pacific business,” said Francis Riley, NCL director of sales for Asia-Pacific. “It’s important that as we continue to develop and grow these core markets, that we are able to provide a quick and efficient process for agents to deal with us locally.”

The centre will have a team of 15 reservation consultants, more than double the size of its original Asia-Pacific support team based in its Miami head office.


Bali keeps its cool  

Raini Hamdi, Singapore (2011-02-08)

BALI players are keeping their cool in the face of latest remarks by Australian federal tourism minister Martin Ferguson who was quoted by the Australian AP as saying: “If you want to help Queensland ... don’t go to Bali.”

The latest taunt comes as hotels in Bali are still trying to clear the air over an Australian health alert issued on January 19 on Legionnaires’ disease, worried that this may tarnish the island’s image among Australians who, for many Bali hotels, now comprise more than half of the business. Earlier, Bali Discovery Tours had also taken to task Augusta-Margaret River Tourism Bureau chief executive, Simon Ambrose, for what it perceived as using a recent Legionnaires alert on Bali by Australian health authorities to brand Bali as a holiday rival destination that is “dirty, overpriced and a terrorist threat”.

Bali Hotels Association chairman Jean-Charles Le Coz refused to have his feathers ruffled by the federal tourism minister’s glib remark. “We would not want the local economy of Queensland to suffer. We would rather not be named as a specific place to avoid, but again, we feel that this is not personal.”

Australian outbound tour operators are more red-in-the-face. “He (Ferguson) could have been more correct saying New Zealand as that is where most tourists go from Australia. He was not game enough to say that or USA for obvious reasons,” said All About Asia managing director, Robert Graham.

Eventuality’s managing director/CEO Peter Cox said: "Yes, of course the recent Queensland experiences were tragedies. Our hearts go out to all who suffered and indeed to the whole tourism community who need our continued support and commitment to their excellent 'products'. Having said that the decision on where to holiday is made after considering many factors including value-for-money, accessibility, weather, safety, etc.

“Quite frankly most Australians will not listen to politician’s exhortations, unless they involve safety-related travel advisories. And to say go to Queensland rather than Bali is a too-sweeping generalisation. The 'products' are different. I don’t know of many people who would be making decisions on 'shall we go to Queensland or Bali?'”

To Bali, he had this message: Keep promoting your many charms.

– Read more in TTG Asia, February 11


Thai-Cambodian dispute not dampening sales  

Sirima Eamtako, Bangkok (2011-02-08)

DESPITE recent clashes on the Thai-Cambodian border around UNESCO World Heritage Site, Preah Vihear Temple, tour operators have not received any cancellations for bookings to both destinations.

Exotissimo Travel Group COO, Hamish Keith, said there were no cancellations, but the many enquiries on the situation prompted the company to issue a statement yesterday.

“The disputed area is an isolated border region, far from any of Thailand's or Cambodia's main attractions, and is not an area visited by tourists on either side of the border,” said the statement.

“Exotissimo Travel only operates a one-day excursion to the Preah Vihear Temple. We have no clients in the area or scheduled on the tour, and will not be selling this excursion until further notice.”

Destination Asia (Thailand) managing director Pornthip Hirunkate said bookings remained intact, and February continued to be one of the traditional high-season months for both destinations. Travellers fly directly into Siem Reap, which is located far from the tension area, she said.

Ho Vandy, managing director of Phnom Penh-based World Express Tours and Travel, also noted that the company received no cancellations.


Ministry of Culture and Tourism banned from raising support for Komodo  

Mimi Hudoyo, Jakarta (2011-02-08)

THE VERDICT is out: Komodo National Park will stay on as an authorised New7Wonders of Nature finalist, but Indonesia's Ministry of Culture and Tourism will no longer be given Official Supporting Committee status for Komodo's entry in the global poll, stripping the tourism authority's right to campaign for votes.

New7Wonders Foundation (N7W) president and founder Bernard Weber said: “The Ministry's role should have been to support us and to lead the search for a solution to honour the legally binding contract for New7Wonders Official Host, signed in December 2010 with a leading Indonesian private consortium – a consortium endorsed by the Ministry in the first place.

“Instead, they have reacted with malicious misinformation, invented financial commitments and prejudicial action to cover up for an apparent lack of moral responsibility and duty.”

Minister of Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik had earlier said the costs of hosting the official declaration ceremony was too high (TTG Asia e-Daily, February 7, 2011).

At a press conference yesterday, the minister added: “I don’t know what was said in the contract between the consortium and N7W, but if things don’t come out according to the contract, why should we be held responsible for it?”

The ministry also said it was ready to sue N7W for “acting overboard and illogically by linking the status of Komodo as a finalist and the offer to host the declaration of the winners”.


Batu Ferringhi's watersports operators to go  

Kuala Lumpur (2011-02-08)

PLANS to relocate watersports operators at Penang's Batu Ferringhi are being hailed as a good move by at least one hotel along the beach, which has long put up with guest complaints about these vendors.

A spokesperson from Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa said the Malaysian Association of Hotels Penang Chapter had been calling for the state government to regulate watersports activities over the last two years, but no action had been taken until Saturday's incident involving a Chinese tourist who was hit by a water scooter (TTG Asia e-Daily, February 7, 2011).

Malaysia's The Star reported continued activities along Batu Ferringhi yesterday, despite a temporary ban on watersports.

According to an article published today in another local newspaper New Straits Times, the Penang Island Municipal Council will inform all watersports operators on Friday about relocation plans to safer zones.

Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa's spokesperson said hotel guests had complained about being harassed by these operators and felt intimidated by their aggressive approach.

“We are worried about the safety of our guests, and having these activities properly regulated and zoned will be good for the tourism industry.”


Singapore Expo beefs up convention space  

Karen Yue, Singapore (2011-02-08)

SINGAPORE Expo Convention and Exhibition Centre is developing a new convention wing that will house 23 meeting rooms, pre-function spaces and other visitor facilities, ready to be unveiled in early 2012.

Branded as MAX Atria, the addition will be connected to the centre's existing conference facilities in Foyer 1, located close to Hall 1. Greenery will be incorporated into the architecture.

Natalie Leung, a spokesperson of Singex Venues which manages the Singapore Expo, said the new wing was being developed to a tune of S$55 million (US$43 million) to S$60 million, which includes upgrades to the rest of the venue that started last October.

MAX Atria's new conference facilities will come in handy at a time where the business events industry is witnessing a a greater adoption of the confex model, a phenomenon Singex Venues CEO, Aloysius Arlando, described as “holding one or several conferences within an exhibition itself”.

In gearing up for the expansion, Singex Venues is also adding business development personnel to its human resource pool.

MAX Atria will join other upcoming projects in the Changi precinct such as the UE Biz Hub East, which comprises office and retail space, event venues and a 300-room Park Avenue Changi Hotel, also slated for completion in the same year.


Associations want PCOs to drive profit  

Sydney (2011-02-08)

AUSTRALIAN associations are increasingly looking to professional conference organisers (PCOs) to deliver not just quality meetings, but strategic ideas and sponsorship dollars, revealed a study conducted by the World’s Leading Conference Organisers (WLCO).

While issues such as governance and membership still dominate the agenda, developing new revenue streams beyond membership dues ranks a close third in priority for the non-profit sector.

Bryan Holliday, managing director of ICMS Australasia, the founding member of WLCO, said: “The survey of 38 of Australia’s major associations confirms anecdotal evidence that professional conference organisers are now major drivers of not only effective meetings but profitable events.

“The days where conference committees are happy just to break even are becoming a thing of the past. Non-profits now expect their PCO to be more than an organiser but a strategic partner as well.”

Holliday added that communication and relevance to Gen Y are also two major emerging issues that would likely impact the delivery of programmes via social media and the educational content of conferences.


Qatar Airways embarks on route expansion and capacity hike  

Doha (2011-02-08)

AIMING to boost connections between Asia and Europe through Doha, Qatar Airways has announced a host of network improvements to be phased in from March, including increasing flights to Kuala Lumpur from 11 a week to twice daily from March 27.

Focusing on Europe for its recent expansion, Qatar launched flights to Brussels, Bucharest and Budapest last month and will start services to Stuttgart on March 6.

Capacity increases on the continent have also been earmarked: the double-daily Paris route will rise to 16 weekly services from March 27; Geneva capacity will increase to daily following the introduction of two weekly flights from May 2; and the Copenhagen route will go daily with an extra flight a week from March 27.

Two other destinations will also be served more from March 27, with Oman's Muscat receiving 24 flights a week, up from 21, and Tanzanian capital Dar Es Salaam receiving 14 flights a week, up from 12.

In addition to these frequency increases, the carrier is deploying new capacity on existing routes. Daily services to Bengaluru and Barcelona will be upgraded from a narrow-body Airbus A320 aircraft to a wide-body A330 from March 1 and March 27 respectively.


Certify watersports operators, urge Malaysia agents  

Kuala Lumpur (2011-02-07)

INBOUND tour operators are calling for watersports certification in the wake of an accident on Saturday which saw a Chinese tourist being rammed by a water scooter while walking along Penang's Batu Ferringhi beach.

Responding to the case, the state government immediately ordered a temporary ban on watersports activities on Batu Ferringhi.

Malaysian Tourism Minister, Dr Ng Yen Yen, has also urged the Penang state government to come up with regulations involving safety procedures, zones for watersports activities and insurance claims.

She said seven beach accidents had been recorded in Penang over the last three months with three people sustaining serious injuries.

DiscoveryMICE CEO/president Lee Choon Loong said: “A temporary ban on watersports activities in Penang is not an effective solution because it does not address the core issue of safety. Certification will ensure that all operators know how to handle the equipment professionally.”

Anthony Wong, group managing director, Asian Overland Services Tourism & Hospitality Group, added that the government should introduce certification nationwide.

“Those who are not certified should be banned from operating and working in watersports centres,” he said.


Pricey hosting keeps dragons out, says Wacik  

Mimi Hudoyo, Jakarta (2011-02-07)

FACING possible elimination of Komodo National Park from the New7Wonders of Nature nomination (TTG Asia e-Daily, February 1, 2011), Indonesia's Minister of Culture and Tourism Jero Wacik claimed the problem arose because Indonesia declined to host the official declaration ceremony.

He said: “When the foundation offered Indonesia to be host, we were interested, but then the requirement was tough. We had to pay US$10 million as soon as we said 'yes', and to organise the event we would need to pay another US$35 million.

“It was hard when we weighed the amount of money we needed to host the event even though Komodo might or might not be a winner.”

Meanwhile, New7Wonders said in a media announcement that it contracted with the private sector, not the government.

New7Wonders spokesman Eamonn Fitzgerald said: “The fact remains that there is a legally-binding contract between New7Wonders and a private consortium in Indonesia, and this contract is not being honoured. Unless the contract is honoured or another group takes over the contractual obligations, or the government and private sector decide to work together to resolve this, then New7Wonders cannot operate legally safely in Indonesia, and is forced to withdraw all its activities.”


Okura enters Thailand with new luxury brand  

Sirima Eamtako, Bangkok (2011-02-07)

JAPANESE hotel group, Okura Hotels & Resorts, is making its debut in the kingdom with a newly-created five-star Okura Prestige brand.

Working with Thailand's TCC Hotels Group, the latter is investing 3,000 billion baht (US$97.43 million) to develop the 242-room Okura Prestige Bangkok, which will be situated on the 23rd through 34th floors of the mix-used Park Ventures – The Ecoplex on Wireless Road. The complex's 22-storey office space is slated to open in September while its hotel will welcome guests in March 2012.

Hotel Okura president Toshihiro Ogita said the hotel would be the launch property of the new Okura Prestige collection, which would be positioned amid luxury international five-star hotel brands. The aim is for 20 hotels worldwide within five years.

Hotel Okura now manages and operates 23 Okura hotels globally, including three under development in Macau, Taipei and Bangkok. Together with its affiliated JAL Hotels, it has a portfolio of more than 80 properties.

TCC vice president for local hotels – international brand Georges Baurin said Okura Prestige Bangkok would join the group’s stable of new projects, including a Hilton hotel and a Doubletree by Hilton in Bangkok as well as a Starwood Luxury Collection resort in Koh Samui.


Vietnamese operator eyes gays and lesbians  

Luat Tran, Ho Chi Minh City (2011-02-07)

HANOI-based Luxury Travel Vietnam is strengthening marketing activities to draw more lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) travellers, and will be promoting the country as an emerging destination for this market at ITB Berlin next month.

The tour operator launched initiatives to woo the affluent gay and lesbian market last year (TTG Asia, September 3-9, 2010).

Sales and marketing manager David Nguyen said: “Thailand is a well-established destination for LGBT travellers…(but) quietly, Vietnam has become a popular niche market for gay tourists.”

Asian Trails Vietnam managing director Bui Viet Thuy Tien said LGBT visitor numbers had been increasing in South-east Asia, though there was a common misperception that the market looked for specific products.

As DINKs (double income, no kids), many LGBT travellers would fit comfortably in the upmarket segment where privacy was as important as luxury and pampering in a holiday, she said.

ICS Travel Vietnam country manager Marc de Swart, however, was unsure if locals were ready for such tourists. He said being gay might be accepted in Thailand and in southern Vietnam, but this was still frowned upon in central and northern Vietnam.


Myanmar banks on tradeshows to continue tourism upswing  

Rahul Khanna, Yangon (2011-02-07)

THE MYANMAR travel trade is gearing up to promote the country at ITB Berlin next month with several first-time participants, in the hope of attracting more European visitors after experiencing positive growth in 2010.

According to the Myanmar Marketing Committee (MMC), the Myanmar booth at ITB Berlin will see 18 representatives from tour companies, hotels and airlines, including new faces such as Unique Asia executive director Lynn Zaw who will be looking out for new business contacts.

Air Mandalay business development manager Edwin Briels said the show was also an ideal platform for the airline to update international tour operators about travel possibilities to Myanmar.

Briels said: “2010 saw a steep increase of foreign tourists, and I think this uptrend will continue in 2011.”

Directorate of Hotels and Tourism director-general Htay Aung said the country also planned to attend ITB Asia in Singapore this October.


NBTA relaunches as Global Business Travel Association and enhances offerings  

Alexandria, Virginia (2011-02-07)

THE FORMER National Business Travel Association (NBTA) rolled out last Thursday its new name and logo, even as it announced impending changes to its member privileges.

The Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) said it would expand its global footprint of networking and educational events, offer free worldwide registration for all GBTA webinars, and provide access to new and improved industry research and resources, among other tweaks.

In addition, it will help members to find the expert they need on any topic, in any global region. This will be coupled with a new website which will allow members to find resources more easily and enable greater collaboration.

Michael McCormick, executive director and COO, said: “Following the initial announcement of our evolution to GBTA last August, we conducted a global membership survey to gain a clear understanding of our members’ needs and expectations. After analysing the feedback, we have reshaped, refined and expanded our organisation’s benefits to best fit our members.”


Komodo about to get kicked out  

Mimi Hudoyo, Jakarta (2011-02-01)
 
INDONESIA’s Komodo National Park is in danger of being suspended as a finalist of the New7Wonders of Nature campaign.
 
The initiative, started in 2007 to create a list of seven natural wonders chosen through a global poll, announced on its official website yesterday that it may be forced to suspend the Indonesian entry as one of its 28 finalists on February 7 “due to certain legal commitments and official pledges not being honoured”.
 
“Discussions are underway to resolve this matter positively,” the initiative added.

In an SMS response to TTG Asia e-Daily’s request for comment, Indonesia Ministry of Culture and Tourism director general of tourism marketing Sapta Nirwandar said: “We are studying the matter.”

Nirwandar had earlier said that a win by Komodo would help emphasise Indonesia’s new Wonderful Indonesia tourism brand.


Bangkok hotels on the decline  

Sirima Eamtako, Bangkok (2011-02-01)
 
BANGKOK hotel occupancy and room rates dropped to their lowest levels in history last year, according to the Thai Hotels Association (THA).
 
THA president Prakit Chinamourphong cited Horwath International’s Regional Outlook report, which said that Bangkok hotels ran at an average occupancy rate (AOR) of 53 per cent and average daily rate (ADR) of US$93 last year, down from 54 per cent and US$91 in 2009.
 
“These are the lowest levels ever experienced,” he said.
 
Other South-east Asian cities beat Bangkok in the rankings, according to the report.

Last year, Manila’s AOR was 72 per cent and its ARR was US$113, Hanoi/Ho Chi Minh City’s was 64 per cent and US$126, Singapore’s was 83 per cent and US$198, Kuala Lumpur’s was 68 per cent and US$111, while Jakarta’s was 68 per cent and US$79.
 
Prakit said Bangkok hotel rates had always been among the top three in the region before the multiple crises over the last few years.
 
Oversupply and a burgeoning number of non-licensed hotels further aggravated the situation, he added.
 
- Read more in TTG Asia, February 11


More international agents to feature India  

Ollie Quiniquini, New Delhi (2011-02-01)

INDIA will get even more exposure in the international scene through special programmes by foreign tour operators who previously did not feature the country.

Gino Bassaletti, product manager of Chile’s Viajes Falabella, said his market’s growing fascination with spiritualism and Buddhism warranted a dedicated programme on India.

“We promote new destination every year. This year, we will do India. We will invest a lot in marketing it but expect good returns,” said Bassaletti.

Zainabz Kutty, director of Singapore’s Travel Z2000 Tours, said she would definitely push India to her clients. “Having now seen the country firsthand, my understanding of India is much better. It is a matter now of deciding which destination to promote first.”

Anita Travel Singapore director Raj Singh also plans to sell India programmes to his largely expatriate clientele. He said he would start with free and easy tours to destinations other than the Golden Triangle of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur, and expects to send at least 100 pax per quarter in the first year.

- Read more in TTG India


ANA’s coffers boosted by increased travel demand  
Tokyo (2011-02-01)
 
ALL Nippon Airways posted healthier financial figures for the April to December 2010 period as booming travel demand and costs cuts reinforced the carrier’s bottomline.
 
The airline posted net profit of 37.54 billion yen (US$459.3 million), compared to a 35.2 billion yen loss during the same period last year.
 
The carrier credited a strong rebound in business travel for bolstering revenue on international routes, while there was also increased demand among both business and leisure customers in the domestic flight division, said ANA CEO Eiji Kanazawa.
 
The opening of the new international terminal at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport in October, which allowed ANA to increase capacity on passenger and cargo routes, also contributed to the strong performance, said Kanazawa.

GHM reaches out to India & Russia  
Singapore (2011-02-01)
 
ASIA-based luxury hotel and resort management company General Hotel Management (GHM) has opened representative offices in India, Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).
 
In India, GHM is represented by marketing consultancy firm Sartha, headquartered in New Delhi and with branch offices in Mumbai and Chennai.
 
In Russia and the CIS, the company is represented by Moscow-based agency TOP Signature, who will provide strategic sales, marketing and public relations support.
 
The expansion follows the opening of a China regional office in Shanghai last year.
 
GHM’s portfolio of hotels and resorts is set to expand with a number of new openings in the pipeline, including The Chedi Club Suzhou and The Chedi Taiping Lake. Also under development are resorts in Egypt, Jordan, Switzerland, Morocco and Malaysia.

UFI to hold 2012 meet in the UAE  
Paris (2011-02-01)
 
THE 79th edition of the UFI Congress, the annual meeting for members of the global association of the exhibition industry, will convene in the Arabian Gulf for the first time in 2012.
 
To be held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) in the United Arab Emirates, the annual meeting is recognised as a platform to showcase the mega event capabilities of host cities and venues to decision-makers in the exhibition industry.
 
Ali Saeed Bin Harmal Al Dhaheri, ADNEC’s managing director, said: “The opportunity to host this prestigious event is a very significant win for Abu Dhabi and for ADNEC. We are very happy to note this multi-pronged approach to promote our city and our event facilities to the world is bearing fruit.”
 
This year’s congress will take place in Valencia, Spain from November 9 to 12.

One World upgrades MICE facilities  
Kuala Lumpur (2011-02-01)
 
ONE World Hotel in Petaling Jaya has spent close to RM3.5 million (US$1.14 million) on upgrading the audiovisual equipment in its 2,000-pax capacity ballroom to attract more meetings and conventions.
 
One World’s general manager Ho Hoy Sum said besides a range of new state-of-the-art equipment, the hotel had recently installed two sets of line array speakers and an additional giant projection screen in the ballroom, bringing the total number to three speakers, two giant screens and five wide screens.
 
The hotel has also increased its dedicated Internet bandwidth to 15mps, with additional bandwidth on demand for those who require it.
 
One World Hotel, which opened in 2007, has a predominantly corporate mix of guests.
 
A break
TTG Asia e-Daily will be taking a break for the Chinese New Year period and resume on February 7.
 
We wish all our readers celebrating the occasion Xin Nian Kuai Le.

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