Saturday, December 31, 2005

Extra MAS flights for Lunar New Year


Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia Airlines (MAS) is mounting 102 extra flights on its international and domestic networks between Jan 24 and Feb 5 to cater for the increased demand for seats during the Chinese New Year festive season.

With the extra flights, there will be additional 18,368 seats offered to customers, says a statement from its Media Relations and Corporate Communications Department here.

The extra flights will be operated using the F50 and all jet aircraft types in the airline's fleet which includes the B737-400, A330-300, B777-200 and B747-400.

"As at today, the booked load factor on Malaysia Airlines demand flights is very encouraging. In addition to catering towards the extra demand from domestic and international passengers, these flights are mounted to also enable Malaysians to visit friends and relatives during the festive season," the statement adds.

Customers are encouraged to call MAS toll-free number 1-300-88-3000 for reservations and enquiries on the extra flights or log on to its corporate website http://www.malaysiaairlines.com/ to effect bookings online.

Courtesy of Daily Express

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Sabah on alert for floods and landslides


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah is on the alert for floods and landslides following bad weather conditions over the last two days.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Yahya Hussin said the state Natural Disaster Relief Committee, was monitoring the water levels at rivers and also landslip-prone areas.

“We are ready to provide whatever assistance should there be floods or any other eventualities,” he said when contacted yesterday.

Meteorologists have forecast heavy rains, winds with speeds of up to 50kph and waves as high as 3m for the next two days in the west coast and interior of Sabah due to a storm in the South China Sea.

State Fire and Rescue Department spokesman Ibnu Suhod said his department had yet to receive any report of floods or landslips despite the heavy rains in the state since Christmas Day.

Source: The Star


Flood Alert

For more updated information on flooded area, river level and rainfall in the various states in Malaysia including Sabah and Sarawak, please visit the following URL:

http://infobanjir.water.gov.my/realtime.htm

Sabah hotels unlikely to raise rates


Kota Kinabalu: It is still uncertain if Sabah hotels will revise their room rates early next year like their counterparts in the peninsula.

Some hotels only adjusted their rates including the seasonal and package rates several months ago, according to Sabah Hotels Association (SHA) President Christopher Chan.

He said it was a common practice by owners to revise room rates in January but this was by no means a rule in the local industry.

"There is not even a consensus by all hotels in the State to adjust the rates. In fact, it will depend on the hotels' demand and supply as a basis to increase the room rates or otherwise.

"Some hotels would base their decision on occupancy rates and the season as to whether it would be wise to review the rates," he told Daily Express on Tuesday.

It was reported that hotel room rates are expected to increase in 2006 as hotel owners try to match rates in the region and achieve better returns on investment.

It reported that the increase is expected to be between 15 and 20 per cent which translates into some RM15 for three-star hotels and up to RM40 for five-star hotels.

"For instance, hotels in the East Coast would have to consider several factors before they decide to review the room rates," Christopher said.

"They have to look at their occupancy rates which are related to the demand and supply including the market segment of tourists visiting the State. Also the hotels in the East Coast do not enjoy high occupancy rates as what has been happening in hotels in the West Coast.

"That is why there is need to push more tourists from the State Capital to the East Coast area. And now there will be two new hotels, with a three-star hotel providing 120 rooms and one with 30 rooms coming up, and this will mean some stiff competition for the hotel operators in the area."

Christopher said it is also imperative to look at the travel pattern of international tourists coming to Sabah as it would have some impact on the local industry here.

For the western market segment like the Europeans, he said the tourists would normally make their accommodation reservation one year ahead and they are not really particular about the price of the room as their currency rates are higher than the Ringgit.

Also, he said, generally the room rates in the Sabah hotels are comparatively low compared to the peninsula.

On the other hand Asians tourists like the Koreans, Indonesians and Singaporeans, he said, would look for alternative choices within the region if they found the hotel rates in the State quite high.

He recalled one experience where the Koreans did not choose to visit Sabah when they found out about the hotel rates.

Meanwhile, Tourism Malaysia Sabah branch director Iskandar Mirza said he foresees a tendency for hotels in the State, especially the five-star hotels in the West Coast area, to raise their room rates as their occupancy rate is more than 80 per cent.

"Actually it is typical for hotels in the country to revise their room rates every year. There is nothing unusual about the review.

"When there is an economic growth, then the hotels tend to raise their room rates to be competitive. But if there is to be an economic depression, then the hotels would lower the rates," said.

He expects to see the hike in room rates to be less than 10 per cent. Iskandar said hotels do not have to get permission from the authorities to revise their room rates. Normally, the hotels would inform their regular customers of their new rates including the promotional and package rates.

Five-star hotels in Sabah charge anything from RM300 for rooms, RM200 onwards for four-star hotels and RM150 onwards for three-star hotels.

Courtesy of Daily Express

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Brunei's Sungai Basong Recreational Park - Tutong's unique landmark

The surrounding of Sungai Basong Recreational Park is truly a sight to behold

Various ethnic houses can be found at the park such as the Kedayan above

Story & photos by Abang Jit Manis

Tutong District has many interesting places to visit. One such place is the Sungai Basong Recreational Park, which is situated near the Tutong-Muara Highway.

The park was first opened in 1989 and since then, it has undergone many changes. Celebrations for His Majesty's birthday are often held here.

The park is also a suitable place for camping and holding various outdoor activities.

The park has two lakes and is surrounded by rich flora and fauna; making it an ideal place for people to relax.

Since 2001, five ethnic houses have been built at the park, which showcase the traditional houses of the Dusun, Tutong, Iban, Kedayan and Chinese people. These unique houses attract not only tourists but locals, too.

The Sungai Basong Recreational Park is truly a unique landmark of Tutong District.

Content & Photos Copyright to and Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

Monday, December 26, 2005

Extra AirAsia flights during CNY holidays

AirAsia will add extra flights between January 24 to February 5 next year, to cope with overwhelming demand during the upcoming Chinese New Year festivities.

The flights, to all AirAsia destinations, are to originate from Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Penang, Miri and Sibu, an AirAsia press release said.

During the period, AirAsia will operate two flights daily from Johor to Kota Kinabalu, Kuching and Penang - double the usual schedule - while flights from both Sibu and Miri have been increased to one flight a day, from three times a week to Sibu, and four times weekly a week to Miri, from Johor Bahru, AirAsia said.

"We are pleased to announce that our scheduled capacity for flights out of Johor during Chinese New year has been 100 percent sold out since two weeks ago," said AirAsia's executive vice president commercial Kathleen Tan.

"Due to the overwhelming response, we have decided to reroute an additional aircraft to Johor so that we may operate extra flights to cope with the increase demands."

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

Thursday, December 22, 2005

No mining allowed in Maliau "The Lost World" Basin


KOTA KINABALU: Sabah’s pristine Maliau Basin will not be opened up for coal mining, Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman said.

He gave an assurance that the Government was committed towards protecting the fauna- and flora-rich 588sq km Maliau Basin in perpetuity.

As such, the state was pushing for Maliau to be designated a World Heritage site, he told reporters after opening a seminar yesterday.

He was asked about talks that the state was negotiating with companies keen on carrying out mining activities in coal- rich Maliau Basin, dubbed the “The Lost World”.

He said that the Government had turned away prospective mining companies and told individuals and companies “not to waste their time” trying to get mining rights.

Musa said the Maliau Basin, together with Danum Valley, had been gazetted as a first-class forest reserve and any move to change its status needed the endorsement of the Sabah Assembly.

He earlier opened The Truth of Islam: A Vision of Ummah and the Rest of the World seminar, organised by the Institute of Islamic Understanding Malaysia (Ikim) in co-operation with the Sabah government.

Source: The Star

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Security situation in Sabah is under control: Army Chief General


By Arman Gunsika

KOTA KINABALU - Army Chief Gen. Dato' Seri Abdul Aziz bin Haji Zainal said the security level in Sabah is good with army outposts in strategic islands in the State to keep the peace.

He said this was also evident in the increasing number of tourist arrivals to the state.

The security situation in Sabah is under control and there is no threat of foreign intrusion.

Gen Dato' Seri Abdul Aziz who is on an official visit here said not only the people of Sabah feel the security and peace but also the tourists particularly the foreigners who feel very confident of the security here so that many are coming to visit the State.

On 'Ops Pasir', the General said it would continue the frequency of patrolling and would be intensified in possible porous areas that are often favoured by intruders and criminal elements.

He assured that the perceived threats by the Abu Sayyaf militant group would be overcome given the existing two-way communication and cooperation with the Philippine government.

To date, no arrest has been made of senior Abu Sayyaf leaders in Sabah, he said adding that the army would continue to be on alert of any possible entry of these militant leaders into the State.

On the issue of illegal immigrants entering the State, General Dato' Seri Abdul Aziz said the situation is also under control as there are army outposts at known exit and entry points.

So far, he said, there has been no influx of illegals that could pose a threat to security situation in Sabah.

The general was on a two-day working visit to Sabah to re-evaluate the security situation and effectiveness of army operations in the State.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Monday, December 19, 2005

Le Meridien KK forecasts RM26m revenue for 2006

KOTA KINABALU - Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu is forecasting revenue of at least RM26mil next year on the back of an anticipated 60 per cent occupancy rate of its rooms during that period.

Its General Manager Winston Reinboth said the hotel was being promoted internationally through the Le Meridien chain and sales offices worldwide, adding that key markets for it include Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

"Half of the hotel's guests so far have been Malaysians while the remainder were largely Europeans as well as tour groups from China," Reinboth told reporters.

"Of course it will not be easy. A lot of hard work has to be done but our promotions will soon bear fruit," he said of Sabah's newest international-class business hotel. The hotel opened its doors last September and Reinboth said it had managed to chalk up "a small" profit in its third month of operation despite operating only 212 of its 306 rooms Reinboth said they are expecting to open all its rooms by late January, in time for the anticipated peak period, and are also considering a "a couple" more food and beverage outlets apart from a catering service.

They will be fully operational by around Chinese New Year next year, he added.

At the moment, Le Meridien operates a single restaurant called The Circle.

He said Le Meridien was still maintaining its promotional rate of RM270 ++ per room despite being on the higher end.

'"We have a quality product and our pricing reinforces that. But the numbers are not cast in stone. We are flexible but not applying a broad brush approach," he added. He said Le Meridien was also planning to eventually increase its staff strength from the present 235 to 290.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Wine and dine with nature at Shangri-La's Tanjung Aru Resort


By Ruben Sario

MENTION the name Sabah and images of Mount Kinabalu, the diving haven of Pulau Sipadan or the state’s myriad wildlife are likely to come to mind.

And as far as gastronomic terms go, “cheap” seafood is Sabah’s forte and very little else.

But the state is one step closer to becoming a culinary destination with the opening of a uniquely named outlet at the Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort (STAR) near the city.

The name is Caf TATU as in Tanjung Aru Tentalising and Unique that opened its doors on Nov 15.

The unique aspect of the outlet is perhaps due to its “interactive” nature where diners can literally watch their food being prepared at the live-cooking stations.

“The restaurant features luxurious buffet breakfast and dinner featuring an international cuisine mix of Mongolian and tandoori dishes, Asian noodles, dim sum, pasta stations, salad and desserts,” said resort general manager Ulf Bremmer.

An added dimension to Caf TATU is its very own authentic Mongolian oven where grilled Mediterranean cuisine is prepared.

The cafe replaces the resort’s Garden Terrace, its first food and beverage outlet when STAR began receiving its first guests about 25 years ago.

Refurbished at a cost of RM3.5 mil, the restaurant has been extended from its original size to now accommodate up to 362 diners at any one time.

The interior incorporates local Borneo design and along a wall is the graphically striking painting of the “Tree of Life”’, with features resembling ferns locally known as pakis lembeding.

Floor to glass ceiling windows adorn Caf TATU, allowing guests to take in spectacular views of the resort gardens and swimming pools as they enjoy their meals.

Part of the cafe opens into the gardens with an exclusive dining area, which allows guests the chance to relax and dine outdoors.

Diners stepping into the outlet will notice the multitude of warm colours filling each corner of the cafe to create a chic and comfortable environment.

The caf was designed by Hong Kong-based CL3 Designs Ltd, lighting design by Bo Steiber of Singapore while the kitchen design is done by CKP Malaysia.

Caf TATU is open daily from 6.30am to 10.30pm for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Source: The Star

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AirAsia all set for new routes within Sabah and Sarawak


By Ruben Sario

KOTA KINABALU: Low-budget carrier AirAsia is gearing to launch domestic flights within Sabah and Sarawak in the next six months while introducing new services in the country.

AirAsia group chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes said the airline was eyeing services between Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Tawau as well as Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan and Kuching.

“We will also be mounting flights between Johor Baru, Sandakan and Tawau from February,” he told reporters after the arrival of AirAsia’s Airbus A320 commercial flight from Kuala Lumpur here yesterday.

“We are looking at some routes that have not been offered before.”

Stressing that the airline did not want to duplicate services offered by Malaysia Airlines, Fernandes said officials of both airlines were in the final stage of discussions on arrangements for the domestic flights.

AirAsia will be operating up to six aircraft for its services within Sabah and Sarawak, he said, adding that the airline will also be developing Kota Kinabalu as one of its regional hubs from next March.

The development of the hub will enable AirAsia to mount more international flights to the state capital, particularly from China, he added.

Currently, the airline operates flights to Bangkok and Manila from Terminal 2 of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) which Fernandes described as being tight on occasions with up to three aircraft parked there.

“But we now have more confidence in KKIA with the planned development of the low-cost carrier terminal as part of the airport expansion project,” he said.

On AirAsia’s current fleet of 30 Boeing 737 aircraft, he said these would be phased out and replaced with the A320 jets by 2007.

He said the Boeing 737 aircraft would be used for AirAsia’s operations in Thailand and Indonesia and they would be replaced by the A320 within seven years.

Asked about Singapore’s Silk Air which plans to expand its services here while AirAsia had been refused direct flights to the island republic, Fernandes said: “Of course I am irritated. We hope there will be equal competition.”

Source: The Star

Thursday, December 15, 2005

AirAsia to launch two new flights to Sabah from Johor Bahru

Malaysia's low fare airlines, AirAsia, will start its two new direct flights from Johor Bahru to Sandakan and Johor Bahru to Tawau to cater to the huge demand by travellers from Singapore in February next year, said its chief executive officer Tony Fernandes, Bernama reported.

The new routes were specially requested by Singapore travellers who would like to visit Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Sandakan and the divers' haven in Sipadan Islands, he said at a press conference here in conjunction with the inaugural flight of Airbus A320 from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Kota Kinabalu Thursday.

The flight AK102 with 172 guests on board was welcomed by Sabah Deputy Chief Minister, Datuk Seri Yahya Hussin.

Touching on the AirAsia operational development in Singapore, he said he was unhappy with the Republic for not allowing AirAsia shuttle buses to ferry passengers from Senai Airport in Johor Baharu to Orchard Road in Singapore and vice versa. "We hope to have total access," he said.

AirAsia currently has one daily flight from Kota Kinabalu to Johor Bahru.

Fernandes said the company planned to use Kota Kinabalu as one of its regional hubs to tap the lucrative market in China.

He said the company was phasing out its current Boeing 737 fleet and it would take about seven years to replace them with Airbus A320 aircraft.

He said the second airbus would arrive this Christmas and the third with Manchester United's logo would be delivered next January. Fernandes said the phased out Boeing 737 would be used by its joint-venture companies in Thailand and Indonesia.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Direct Singapore-Kota Kinabalu air link on again


KOTA KINABALU: Four years after Singapore Airlines terminated flights between here and the island republic, its regional airline Silk Air is resuming the air services.

Silk Air chief executive Mike Barclay said the airline was confident that it would be able to sustain the direct air link.

He added that Silk Air had assessed the viability of air services between Singapore and Kota Kinabalu.

The first flight on that route landed here on Monday.

“We intend to stay,” he said, adding that Silk Air was planning to increase the frequency from twice weekly to four times a week by May.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat said the resumption of air services augured well for Sabah’s tourism promotion efforts.

Chong said tourist arrivals in Sabah exceeded the 1.7 million mark last year, with revenue in excess of RM1.3bil.

“Our target is to get 2.7 million visitors to the state in two years,” he said.

Source: The Star

A bigger, better Serasa Beach, Brunei Darussalam

Water sports enthusiasts ready their kayaks at Serasa Beach
(Photo Copyright to Borneo Bulletin)


By H Bat

Following two years of extension works on Serasa Beach, the place now appears to be even bigger and better than before.

Roughly a 10-minute drive from Pekan Muara and less than 27 kilometres from Bandar Seri Begawan, Serasa Beach has proven to be one of the most popular spots among water sports enthusiasts and families seeking a weekend retreat.

The beach boasts a Watersports Complex as well as comprehensive facilities for sporting and recreational activities - which are on par with international competition standards - such as jet skiing, kayaking, windsurfing, regatta sailing, power boat racing, aqua sports training and water skiing.

There are also facilities for casual sportsmen and families.

The beach is also an ideal location for picnics, family outings and fishing. However, some visitors have suggested that perhaps the authorities could provide a children's playground and several huts along the beach.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Monday, December 12, 2005

AirAsia fully prepared to service all domestic routes


KUALA LUMPUR: South-East Asia’s largest discount carrier, AirAsia Bhd, is fully prepared to service all the domestic routes it has proposed to take over from Malaysia Airlines (MAS), says its group chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandes.

He had recently said that AirAsia could operate all domestic routes, except for Lahad Datu, Limbang and Mulu in East Malaysia which are being operated by MAS’ De Havilland DHC6 Twin Otter aircraft.

“We have ordered 100 Airbus aircraft. We can speed up (delivery),” he told reporters at the 2005 Asean Business and Investment Summit 2005 here on Sunday.

He was asked whether AirAsia could serve the routes if the government decided to pass the bulk of them under the rationalisation of domestic routes.

MAS, the national carrier, will submit a turnaround plan, which may cover its domestic routes, to the government by February next year.

AirAsia had made a firm order for 60 Airbus A320s and 40 purchase rights of the same aircraft.

It took delivery of its first Airbus A320 on Dec 8 and is scheduled to receive its second A320 on Dec 25, 2005.

Fernandes was also asked about the five hour-long meeting he had recently with MAS newly-appointed managing director, Idris Jala.

“The five hours was more than what I had with MAS in the last four years,” he said but he declined to provide details of the meeting.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Friday, December 09, 2005

SilkAir to fly Singapore-Kota Kinabalu route


KOTA KINABALU: The SilkAir twice-weekly Singapore-Kota Kinabalu direct flights scheduled to commence on Monday will enhance Singapore Airline’s (SIA) already vast international network.

It will further project the image of the budget airline in Asia using Singapore as the transit hub.

At the same time, the new air link will mark Kota Kinabalu as the airline’s third destination in Malaysia after Langkawi and Kuching which brings to 10 the total number of weekly flights SilkAir operates to Malaysia.

“SilkAir customers will enjoy direct flights between Singapore and Sabah in East Malaysia when the airline launches its twice weekly services to Kota Kinabalu on Monday,” SilkAir Sabah manager Joshua Ganesan said.

In an exclusive interview with NST Business here yesterday, he said the new route would extend the airline’s presence in East Malaysia, building on its operations to neighbouring Sarawak which was launched in March earlier this year.

He said the scheduled service to Kota Kinabalu is code-shared with Singapore Airlines (SQ) and Malaysia Airlines (MH).

According to Joshua, the twice-weekly service on Mondays and Fridays will also complement MAS thrice-weekly flights on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

“Flight MI 398 will depart from Singapore Changi Airport at 3.40pm and arrive Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) at 6.45pm and will arrive in Singapore at 8.55pm on the same day,” he said.

To commemorate the launch of its new flights, SilkAir is introducing an inaugural fare of RM228 return ticket (agent ticket fare) for bookings made by Dec. 17, 2005

Joshua said the promotional fare is subject to seat availability and does not include airport taxes, insurance surcharges and fuel surcharges and are strictly non-refundable.

SilkAir has appointed Popular Express Travel Sdn Bhd, Beautiful Holidays Sdn Bhd, Tay Travel Services Sdn Bhd and Marudu Express Travel Services Sdn Bhd as official ticket agents in Sabah.

SilkAir’s fast-growing network now spans 26 destinations across 10 countries in the region and the airline was recently voted the Best Regional Airline, Asia & China for the sixth time by readers of Asia-Pacific’s leading travel publication, TTG Asia.

The airline has a fleet of 12 aircraft - seven A320s and five A319s - with an average age of just three years 11 months.

“We are delighted to be adding Kota Kinabalu to our network of exotic holiday destinations because Sabah has all the makings of a top-quality leisure destination,” SilkAir chief executive Mike Barclay said.

With its famed national parks, hot springs, beaches, diving spots and affordable golf courses, he said, Sabah is poised to be one of the Asia’s latest travel hotspots, only 21/2 hours from Singapore.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Sabah to step up tourism drive


KOTA KINABALU: The Tourism, Culture and Environment Ministry will continue to step up tourism promotions to achieve the target of 2.7 million visitors by 2007 and four million visitors by 2010.

And, at the same time, it will would come up with more attractive travel packages besides creating new tourism products that are of high quality.

Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat who also heads the ministry said this when winding up his speech at the State Assembly sitting yesterday.

“We are confident that once the upgrading of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport is completed in 30 months or by 2008, we will be able to bring in more direct flights to Sabah,” he said.

According to him, the Immigration Department recorded 1,507,230 visitors including 630,167 foreign visitors during the first 10 months of this year..

“It shows an increase of 5.7 per cent in arrivals compared to the same period last year during which, there were 629,618 foreign and 796,177 domestic visitors,” he said.

On the issues brought up by backbenchers, Kah Kiat said his ministry has plans to carry out a study on tourism development in the interior covering districts like Tambunan, Keningau, Nabawan and Tenom.

He said any development in these areas would be carried out in the Ninth Malaysia Plan. He also said a ‘tourism circuit’ would be created with the completion of the Keningau-Nabawan-Kalabakan road in the interior.

Meanwhile, Kah Kiat said Sabah now has 70 direct international flights operating from nine countries as it continues to enjoy an increase in the tourist arrivals.

Direct flights are from China, Hong Kong, Japan, Philippines, Bangkok, South Korea, Taiwan, Brunei and soon Singapore.

These flights are operated by Malaysia Airlines, Royal Brunei Airlines, Dragon Air, Asiana and Thai Air Asia.

He said the latest to come would be the twice-weekly flights from Singapore via SilkAir which commenced on Monday. He said international flights to Sabah were further supported by the increasing number of scheduled charter flights and other charter flights.

There are 26 direct charter flights from China alone including 15 from Shanghai, six from Hangzhou and five from Guangzhou.

“These direct charter flights were from January to September this year,” he said, adding that Korean Air also operated 19 direct charter flights to Sabah.

And, Asiana Airlines from South Korea, he said, was expected to bring up to 50,000 tourists to Sabah by next March since it operated the charter flights in April this year.

The ministry has been allocated almost RM87 million for next year’s expenditure.

Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Rise in visitors to Sarawak


By JACK WONG at the Sarawak State Assembly

Sarawak’s efforts in promoting domestic tourism in Peninsular Malaysia has paid handsome dividends as shown by a big influx of visitors.

State Urban Development and Tourism Minister Datuk Wong Soon Koh said the number of visitors from the peninsula shot up by 68% to over 259,000 during the first eight months of this year, up from 154,000 during the same period last year.

He said the state had stepped up promotions in the peninsula by going on roadshows there since June this year.

Wong said, during the period under review, that arrivals in the state jumped by 15.5% to 1.92 million, with the Brunei, Britain, Ireland, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand markets contributing most to the increase.

Wong said that overall hotel occupancy statewide during the first nine months of this year rose by over 2%, with occupancy at Miri hotels averaging 76%, Kuching 75%, Sibu 64% and Bintulu 41%.

“We have been able to achieve this because of the close co-operation of Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airlines.

“The presence of Air Asia and Silk Air also greatly increased the number of seats to Sarawak,” he added.

To make the state a destination for meetings, incentive travel, conventions and exhibitions, a 5,000-seat convention and exhibition centre would be built in Kuching, he said.

Social Development and Urbanisation Minister Datuk William Mawan Ikom said the state Welfare Department was documenting the success stories of its welfare recipients.

He said the records would be useful for the state to draw up programmes to help other welfare recipients to become self-reliant.

Mawan said that able-bodied welfare recipients were required to take part in income-generating activities of the department under its sheltered workshop project.

The department runs one such workshop in Jalan Samarahan.

Mawan said his ministry would receive RM39mil under the state’s 2006 Budget to fund social development and community service programmes.

Source: The Star

All you need to know about ‘Bujang Senang' at Jong's Crocodile Farm


KUCHING (NST) - Crocodiles jumping 2.4m to grab a piece of meat or information on the killer croc 'Bujang Senang' are available at Jong's Crocodile Farm.

It is amazing watching these reptiles moving toward a ringing bell, indicating chow time.

Local and foreign visitors are regulars at one of the six adult crocodile-breeding ponds to watch the show, held twice a day at 11am and 3pm.

Feeding takes place in the large holding area for the full-grown crocodiles.

Workers bring 30kg of meat, chicken and heads and necks to the pond.

They throw the food in after the bell rings, making the reptiles scurry for their meals.

The privately-owned crocodile farm located 34km from Kuching on the Kuching-Serian road, has been in existence since 1963.

Spread over 2ha, it has over 1,000 crocodiles bred in captivity.

Since Jan 1, over 81,000 people have visited the farm.

Its owner, Johnson Jong Joon Soon, 52, has put in considerable effort to make their visits memorable.

Source: New Straits Times

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Mysterious carnivore discovered in Borneo’s forests

This is a phantom drawing of a possible new species of mammal known as the Red Borneo Carnivore. The catlike creature has been photographed by camera traps on the Indonesian side of Borneo, according to the WWF. Larger than a domestic cat, this red animal has a very long tail, almost as long as its body, that is rather bushy The World Wildlife Fund has released two photographs (one of them above) taken using a camera trap, of a mysterious new creature moving through the dense tropical forest of the Kayan Mentarang National Park in Kalimantan. The red-coated mammal, slightly larger than a domestic cat, may be the first new species of carnivore discovered on Borneo in more than a century.

GLAND (Switzerland): Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) researchers may have discovered a new, mysterious carnivore species in the dense central forests of Borneo.

The animal, a mammal slightly larger than a domestic cat with dark red fur and a long, bushy tail, was photographed twice by a camera trap at night. This could be the first time in more than a century that a new carnivore has been discovered on the island.

However, WWF researchers have not yet established whether this is an entirely new species or if it is a new species of marten or civet cat, which looks like a cross between a cat and a fox. They are hoping to be able to confirm more about the discovery by setting cage traps and catching a live specimen.

"We showed the photos of the animal to locals who know the wildlife of the area, but nobody had ever seen this creature before," said Stephan Wulffraat, a biologist who is coordinating WWF’s research on this species. "We also consulted several Bornean wildlife experts; some thought it looked like a lemur, but most were convinced it was a new species of carnivore."

WWF stresses that the strange animal, which has very small ears and large hind legs, might remain a mystery forever if its habitat is not adequately protected. Kayan Mentarang National Park in Kalimantan, Indonesia, where the carnivore was photographed, is located in the “Heart of Borneo”, a mountainous region covered with vast tracts of rainforest.

But plans announced by the Indonesian government in July to create the world’s largest palm oil plantation in this area would have a devastating impact on the forests, wildlife and indigenous people. The proposed scheme, funded by the China Development Bank, is expected to cover 1.8 million hectares, equivalent to about half the area of the Netherlands.

WWF stresses that infertile soil and steep areas, such as those in the Heart of Borneo, prevent the development of oil palm plantations. According to experts, it is not recommended to plant oil palm in areas 200 metres above sea level because of low productivity. Most of the Heart of Borneo is between 1000 and 2000 metres high.

WWF’s Heart of Borneo initiative aims to assist the island’s three nations (Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia) in conserving the more than 22 million hectares of rainforest in the area.

It is extremely rare nowadays to discover a new mammal species of this size, particularly a carnivore, WWF says. The last previously unknown species of carnivore identified on the island was the Borneo ferret-badger in 1895.

"This discovery highlights the urgent need to conserve the unique forests in the Heart of Borneo, as this creature—whatever it is—hasn’t been seen since the pictures were taken and is therefore likely to occur in very low numbers," said Stuart Chapman, WWF’s International Coordinator of the Heart of Borneo Programme.

"What other secrets do these remote forests hold?"

Content and Photos Courtesy of New Sabah Times

Brunei Tourism first in Asean to get ‘.travel' domain


Brunei Tourism has become the first tourism authority in Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) to register a ".travel" name for its web site.

Ronald N Andruff, the president and CEO of Tralliance Corporation, the official registry of the new ".travel" Top Level Domain (TLD), congratulated Brunei Tourism for registering with the body, according to a press release from the Brunei Tourism.

Brunei Tourism submitted six domain names for authentication to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) of which it is a member.

It received approval by late July and soon registered the domain names, becoming in the process the first to do do among Asean nations.

Coinciding with the new ".travel" TLD registration is a totally newly redesigned web site for Brunei Tourism, now viewable at www.bruneitourism.travel. It projects a contemporary and high class image of Brunei as a destination aimed at attracting discerning travellers.

The major aims of the ".travel" TLD are improved Internet identity, creation of advanced distribution channels, and the establishment of an ever-stronger level of trust between the industry and its customers.

Brunei Tourism will encourage local industry members to register web sites under the new ".travel" TLD as this would likely benefit their businesses in the long run, the statement added.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

AirAsia offers two million free tickets


KUALA LUMPUR: AirAsia will give away a whopping two million free seats to mark its fourth anniversary.

The offer is for all domestic and regional flights departing from its four hubs – Kuala Lumpur, Senai (Johor), Bangkok and Jakarta.

In a statement here the low-fare airline, which operates over 100 domestic and regional flights in Asia, said it would launch an aggressive advertising campaign simultaneously in eight countries from today.

The countries are Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, China (including Macau), Vietnam, Philippines and Cambodia.

To be eligible for the free seats, bookings must be done online at www.airasia.com or via mobile.airasia.com (available on GPRS, 3G, EDGE mobile phone or wireless device) from today until Dec 28, for travel from Feb 7 to Oct 10, 2006.

The offer excludes airport taxes and fees and fuel surcharges. It is applicable for one-way travel only.

The airline advised the public to book early to avoid disappointment, as seats would be limited and may not be available on all flights or during public holidays, school breaks and weekends.

"This is the first time AirAsia has launched a major regional marketing campaign of such magnitude, and it will be the biggest online free seats campaign ever offered in Asia," said AirAsia Bhd executive vice-president (Commercial) Kathleen Tan.

"Our Internet booking has increased to 65% in the last four years and the two million giveaway seats is our way of saying a big 'thank you' to those who had supported the airline and contributed to its success," she said.

Tan added that AirAsia had carried 15 million passengers in the region, and the offer would enable more Asians to travel by air.

In IPOH, the under-used Sultan Azlan Shah Airport here is set to be a low-cost carrier hub with AirAsia introducing flights from Senai to here in February.

AirAsia chief executive officer Datuk Tony Fernandez said the airline would begin operations on Feb 1, with four Senai-Ipoh flights a week.

"We will increase to a daily flight frequency when we take delivery of our A320 Airbus by the end of March," he said, adding that the Boeing 737 aircraft would initially be used for the sector.

Fernandez was speaking at a press conference following a working visit by Transport Minister Datuk Seri Chan Kong Choy to the airport here yesterday.

Accompanying Chan were Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Tajol Rosli Ghazali, MCA secretary-general Datuk Ong Ka Chuan, and state executive councillors Datuk Ho Cheng Wang and Datuk Tan Chin Meng.

Fernandez said flights to the airport would boost economic development in the city and its surrounding areas.

"We also believe that with the help of the minister and the mentri besar, the airport can be developed into a northern low-cost hub complementing the KL International Airport," he said, adding that the flights would attract more tourists to the city.

To a question, Fernandez said AirAsia might fly to Indonesia, Thailand, Sabah and Sarawak from Ipoh.

Chan said the airport showed potential in becoming a low-cost carrier hub.

"We are considering a state proposal to turn the airport into a low-cost hub," said Chan, who is also MCA deputy president.

On calls to increase facilities at the airport, Chan said it would depend on the routes AirAsia wanted to create.

Tajol Rosli said AirAsia would "breathe some life" back into the airport.

"All this while, the airport seemed dead," he said, adding that he would ask the Federal Government to extend the runway.

Source: The Stars

Shangri-La's Rasa Ria Resort reserve opens new facilities for wildlife


By Ruben Sario

FROM afar, the forested hill adjacent to the ShangriLa Rasa Ria Resort at Tuaran, some 30km from the city, looks unremarkable.

But for the past nine years, the 25ha area has served as the first and only privately-run nature reserve in Sabah where 15 orphaned or abandoned orang utans have been rehabilitated to enable them to return to the wild.

The Rasa Ria nature reserve recently charted another milestone with the opening of its RM1mil nature interpretation centre as well as a veterinary clinic and a pantry where 'meals' are prepared for some of the area’s residents.

And there are a wide variety of them at the nature reserve. Apart from the six orang utans currently being rehabilitated there, the facility also has a menagerie of wildlife including bear cats, porcupines and long tailed macaque monkeys.

"There is also some mousedeer, ant eaters, pheasants, slow loris and turtles here while 60 species of birds and 30 types of butterflies have been spotted around the reserve," said coordinator Carolyn Justin.

The nature reserve is also home to a number of domesticated animals including turkeys, ducks, geese and a couple of goats.

Visitors can explore the nature reserve and view the various plants there including the renowned nepenthes or pitcher plant, fig trees and various types of ferns through the five trails that wind through the area, each spanning a distance of about 1km to 1.8km.

The Nature Trail for example would take trekkers through sightings of insects, a termite mound, medicinal plants, varieties of palm trees and a fig tree; while the Bird Watching trail would take visitors to a bird feeding station as well as the reserve’s observation tower.

Carolyn said those wanting to visit the reserve should make a reservation first since only a maximum of 100 visitors are allowed into the area daily.

She said the daily visiting sessions were at 10am and 2pm and coincided with the time when the orang utans are fed.

The Rasa Ria nature reserve was set up following a memorandum of understanding signed between the resort and the Sabah Wildlife Depart- ment in 1996.

Under the agreement, the department trained the nature reserve’s 13 employees in caring for the animals.

"The aim of the nature reserve has always been to enhance the conservation of the flora and fauna native to Sabah."

"The animals transferred to the reserve are often those that have been abandoned while young or those domesticated by villagers and then rescued by the Wildlife Depart- ment," said Rasa Ria general manager Alain Borgers.

He said apart from the conservation efforts, the nature reserve had also provided education experience for students from around the state capital.

Borgers said this was important as schools in the west coast of the state would not likely be able to send their students to the renowned Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre at Sepilok in Sandakan.

"We are proud to be able to play the role of satellite centre for the Wildlife Department by welcoming students," Borgers said in noting that for this year alone, some 800 students and teachers had visited Rasa Ria nature reserve.

Source: The Star

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

New Labuan ferry terminal to open Dec 15

The new Labuan International Ferry Passenger Terminal
that will be operational on December 15. Photo: Norizan Murshid


By Rosli Abidin Yahya

After several opening delays due to technical problems, the RM30 million Labuan International Passengers Ferry Terminal is set to operate on December 15. The new terminal is expected to provide a more comfortable journey for visitors to the island.

According to LDA Holding Sdn Bhd, a company of Labuan Incorporation, tasked to operate the terminal, the new ferry terminal will be ready in less than ten days.

"We have made successful departure and arrival trials at both doors of the new terminal and we have studied all the weaknesses. We are ready for operation in ten days time," said Tan Hong Kee, Technical Manager of LDA Holding.

He said all computerised sales of ferry tickets and entries of passengers from Labuan to Brunei Darussalam, Kota Kinabalu, Lawas and Limbang including small passenger boats to Menumbok and Sipitang will be done at the terminals. Passengers using the international ferry to Brunei will be charged RM5 per person to go inside the terminal while those on local lanes like KK, Limbang and Lawas will be charged RM3.

At the old terminal, passengers were charged a flat rate of RM0.50 per person to enter the terminal building.

The new ferry terminal, which is considered one of the most modern and sophisticated in Borneo, will be able to handle more than 1,000 passengers at one time compared to 700 previously.

The terminal also comprises various components such as jetties, a passenger terminal building and offices of Labuan government agencies such as the Malaysian Royal Customs and Immigration Department.

The terminal will also accommodate a duty free shop, surau, a car park area and a large waiting area.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Monday, December 05, 2005

Carnival time at Semenggoh Nature Reserve, Sarawak


By Sharon Ling

The Semenggoh Nature Reserve, on the outskirts of Kuching, recently threw open its doors to the public for its annual park carnival.

Now in its second year, the Semenggoh Carnival is aimed at promoting awareness of the importance of conservation among the public, especially children.

At the same time, it is an opportunity for the reserve, which houses a wildlife centre, a botanical research centre and a tropical-tree seed bank, to showcase its conservation and research activities.

The reserve, managed by Sarawak Forestry, is home to 40 species of wildlife, including its star attraction, orang-utans.

According to Wilfred Landong, Sarawak Forestry’s protected areas and biodiversity conservation general manager, the wildlife centre cares for 22 orang-utans, including two babies born a few months ago.

“The centre was established in 1972 for the care and rehabilitation of confiscated or surrendered animals. The animals are trained to live in the wild again,” he said during the carnival’s opening ceremony.

Other protected wildlife in the reserve include the Bornean gibbon, sun bear, wild cat, bear cat, python, argus pheasant, hornbills, storks and eagles.

Landong added that the reserve had more to offer visitors than just animals.

“The lowland dipterocarp rainforest here, although small in size, has over 250 tree species and over 200 species of other plants.”

Sarawak Land Development Minister Datuk Dr James Masing, who opened the carnival, reminded visitors that the wildlife centre was not a zoo but a rehabilitation centre.

“The animals are not on display. Once they are fit and able to cope on their own, they will be released into the wild,” he said.

He later launched a 900m trail in the reserve named “Masing Trail” in his honour.

Dr Masing and Landong then gave away ornamental plants, seedlings and posters to visitors.

One of the carnival's highlights was the feeding of the orang-utans, an event that takes place twice daily.

Visitors followed Sarawak Forestry rangers along a trail to a clearing where they laid out food for the orang-utans

However, only one orang-utan came swinging down from the trees to collect its meal.

Perhaps the rest had felt shy because of the many people.

Another highlight was a demonstration on how to catch and restrain crocodiles.

The crowd watched in awe as American wildlife expert Robert Adams and Sarawak Forestry staff members manhandled a crocodile and restrained it to measure its size and weight.

Other carnival activities included talks on wildlife, orang-utans and conservation by Sarawak Forestry experts, jungle trekking and a lucky draw.

Source: The Star

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sabah needs 8,000 hotel rooms by 2010


Kota Kinabalu: Sabah needs at least 8,000 rooms within the next five years with the anticipated rise in tourist arrivals following the current expansion of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, said Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Chong Kah Kiat.

Chong, who is also Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister, said with the expansion of KKIA which would feature 10 new aerobridges, more aircraft would be able to bring in more tourists to Sabah.

The RM800 million KKIA expansion project that will see the reclamation of sea to accommodate a longer runway as well as a bigger passenger terminal would begin early next year, making it among the best, if not the best in the country, once completed.

Work is now under way to clear the surrounding area of squatters.

Currently, there are 12,000 rooms in Sabah with half of them in the city catering to tourists in Sabah, Chong said when launching the city's latest boutique hotel, Saturday.

According to him, about 3,000 rooms are needed in the city alone and he hoped more boutique hotels would be built here, Tawau and Sandakan.

He said the demand for rooms in Sabah is there as reflected by the increase in tourist arrivals to 1.7 million to date from just about 300,000 seven years ago.

At the same time, he said room rates in Sabah are still considered relatively cheap compared to those in Europe.

Towards this end, Chong said the hotel and service industry needs to train more human capital in order to provide better quality service apart from emphasising on cleanliness and security of visitors.

Source: Daily Express

Crab-fest in Sematan, Sarawak


By Catharine Goh

A relative of lobsters and shrimps, crabs will soon be synonymous with the small fishing town of Sematan at the southern tip of Sarawak, about 110 km from the state capital of Kuching.

A crab festival and carnival was launched recently at Sematan by Sarawak Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr George Chan to promote the fishing town as a popular tourist destination.

"We aim to draw more visitors to Sematan, which is already synonymous with crab rearing. More home stay and village stay facilities will be provided for tourists," he said.

The Urban Development and Tourism Ministry is upgrading accommodation facilities in Sematan and promoting its attractions, which include pristine national parks such as the marine national park for turtle conservation at the nearby Talang Talang and Satang Islands as well as long stretches of beach fronting the South China Sea.

The Sungai Batang Kayan Bridge, which was completed last July to replace a ferry, has also improved access to the town, he added.

During the three-day carnival, visitors were able to taste crab-based dishes and products such as herbal crab fried rice, crab pie-tee, crab sandwich and crab burger.

Other activities included a telematch, crab cooking competition, crab-tying competition, guessing the number of crabs in a jar contest, and visiting a caged crab farm.

Although crabs are related to lobsters and shrimps, they have evolved to walk or run sideways, as well as burrow and swim.

The body is covered by a chitinous shell called a carapace, with its abdomen tucked under the body, serving as a brood pouch for eggs.

A crab's segmented body has several pairs of appendages, of which usually five pairs serve as walking legs and two as sensory antennae.

The pincers, called chelae, are located on the front legs and are used for fighting, display, and feeding.

Crabs can possess fairly complicated nervous systems and are considered to be more advanced as they can live in more extreme areas because of their ability to adapt well to the changing environment.

They can see fairly well with their compound eyes; their senses of smell and taste are also more advanced which help them to find food and mate easier.

Reproductive and social behaviour sometimes include complex mating rituals and communication techniques such as drumming or waving the pincers. This is because crabs tend to be aggressive towards one another, and the males often fight to gain access to the females.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Grand launching of Miri Marriott Resort and Spa


By George Francis

MIRI - Miri City is now officially an urban resort destination for tourists with the newly opened international Miri Marriott Resort & Spa, the first in Borneo under Marriott International, said Sarawak Chief Minister Thursday night.

Tan Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud was speaking at the launch of Miri Marriott Resort & Spa, owned by his sister, Datuk Hjh Raziah Mahmud in a glittering ceremony at the hotel's poolside, attended by close business associates including Tuni Kyi - Vice President of China, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia of Marriott International, Inc.

He said the launching resort of the resort was timely after the "rebranding" of the previously RIHGA Royal Hotel Miri.

The launch, he said, was the result of successful re-branding and business venture for mutual benefits.

"This reflects the improvement of Miri after attaining a city status last May, and being the first international standard hotel here, surely Marriott will succeed in Sarawak as in Peninsula Malaysia."

Hopefully Marriott, with 220 guest rooms and suites here, he said would venture to spread out further than Miri in Borneo.

Meanwhile, in an interview, Taib said, a few years back no one wanted to invest in the hotel industry in Sarawak so the government had to invest in it.

"Today the government don't have to do that anymore, beginning with RIHGA Royal Hotel, the first private hotel in Sarawak.

He said after the improvement of the services in tourism and hospitality industry, there was an increase in the number of tourists coming to Sarawak.

"Of course, it is time for us to build more hotels because we've passed what we called the 60 per cent occupancy rate for hotels in the state, which is a positive growth."

Taib said he was very happy with the current trend of development particularly in Miri, as a resort city as it has the advantages of strategically located next to the seaside and a lot of other attractions like the Niah and Mulu Caves.

Datuk Raziah said earlier, there was a demand for modern hotel for consumers that led to the choice of Marriott as the international hotel operator.

She assured that the choice had been justified bringing in corporate culture to blend with the local culture.

Marriott International Area Vice-President, Tuni Kyi, said Miri is one of over 2,800 hotels worldwide under Marriott, and the portfolio for Miri is the slogan is "It's the Marriott way".

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Weekend

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort for animal lovers

TUARAN - Encouraged by its success in rehabilitating orang-utans, a resort on Tuesday opened a centre where visitors can learn more about animals.

The Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort's nature interpretation centre has a library, veterinary clinic and nursery, animal food preparation kitchen, nocturnal animal watching area, feeding platforms and several nature trails.

Besides rehabilitating 15 orang-utans, it has been providing shelter to other animals.

Over the last nine years, it has dedicated 25ha to a nature reserve which is home to countless small mammals, over 60 bird species, 30 butterfly species and flora.

The resort started its conservation programme following a Memorandum of Understanding it signed with the Sabah Wildlife Department in 1996.

It is the only private organisation in the State which is allowed to rehabilitate and conserve the animals.

Source: New Straits Times

Sabah sees a rise in number of Chinese tourist arrivals


By Arman Gunsika

KOTA KINABALU - Chinese tourist arrivals in Sabah are steadily rising despite the overall national figure falling dramatically, State Assistant Minister of Tourism, Culture and Enivronment Datuk Karim Bujang said.

Sabah is not affected by the controversy surrounding the nude squats where allegedly a Beijing woman was forced to do in a police lock up in the peninsula recently.

It was reported that only 202,620 Chinese came to Malaysia between January and August this year, representing a 47.8 per cent drop from the same period last year. However, Sabah maintains to receive about 30,000 Chinese tourists last year, more than the previous years. Datuk Karim said most of the problems that cropped up in the peninsula did not happen in Sabah and that tour operators in the State are working very well with their Beijing counterparts.

Some of the Chinese tourists came through chartered flights, direct to Sabah and the rest from West Malaysia, he said. According to Karim, Sabah should be able to maintain - if not increase a little - the number of arrivals from China. Nevertheless, Karim said Sabah is not immune to complaints from tourists and among these were signboards and direction signs.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin