Wonderful Malaysia

Overall growth of tourist arrivals Malaysia

Malaysia recorded an overall growth of +1.2% tourist arrivals with 9,438,592 tourists for the first five months of 2012 as compared to 9,323,827 for the same period last year, according to the Tourism Minister, Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen. ASEAN region still contributed the largest number of tourists to Malaysia with 73.4% of the total arrivals. The positive growth come from Indonesia (+19.3%), Philippines (+41.7%), Vietnam (+35.2%), Myanmar (+6.9%) and Laos (+19.9%). Other notable progressive medium and long haul markets include Saudi Arabia (+50.7%), China (+34.1%), Japan (30.6%), Russia (25.8%), Kazakhstan (25.2%), Denmark (14.4%) and India (+7.8%).

Total receipts by tourists from January to May 2012 rose by +1.9%, generating RM21.8 billion to the country’s revenue as compared to RM21.4 billion in 2011. The tourists’ per capita expenditure for that period is estimated at RM 2,309 an increase of 0.7% as compared to RM 2,294 in 2011.

The minister added that in line with the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan 2020 towards achieving 36 million tourist and 168billion in receipts by 2020, it is important for Malaysia to shift its focus on growing yield per tourist rather than to rely heavily on growth in tourist arrivals. “To attract the higher yield segment, we will need to enhance connectivity to key priority markets.” For a start, Tourism Malaysia works to increase flight frequencies to 6 priority countries namely China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and Taiwan besides developing an air-rights allocation framework to facilitate efficient development of these key routes and others.

One of the most successful programs that have been identified by the Ministry to develop rural based tourism is the Homestay Program. The tourism program recorded a significant increase with 38.4% of occupancy rate compared to 24.9% for the same period last year. A total of 133,689 tourists visited our homestay from January to May 2012 of which 110,322 were domestic tourists and the rest 23,367 were foreigners. This is a 70.7% increase compared to the same period last year where we only received 78,333 tourists. Tourist receipts from homestay program for the first five months of 2012 also proliferated to RM 7,376,446.50 (+53.1%) compared to RM4, 817,158.30 in January to May 2011. Increased spending by these tourists has stimulated the rural economy. The homestay tourism program has encouraged local communities to be a part of rural based tourism whilst maintaining their traditions and identities.

Recognized as one of the National Key Economic Areas, the tourism industry remains as one of the major contributor to Gross National Income, foreign exchange earnings and employment. In 2011, tourism ranked seventh (7th) largest contributor with a GNI total of USD12.3billion and the third (3rd) largest foreign exchange earner after manufacturing and palm oil. The Malaysian tourism industry in 2010 provided 1.8 million jobs (15.9%, share of employment in tourism to total employment). Amongst the 12 Entry Point Projects are duty free shopping, luxury tourism, designating KLCC–Bukit Bintang area as a vibrant shopping precinct, improving business tourism and increasing the supply of 4 5 star hotel rooms, etc.

The percentage on tourist shopping recorded from January to May 2012 shows 32.3% (RM7.04 billion) of the total tourist receipts. This is an increase compared to 30% last year. The covered walkway connecting Bukit Bintang and KLCC completed early this year to facilitate shopping has shown a positive impact.

To attract high yield tourists, we need quality four five star hotel rooms. Currently there are 59,804 four five star hotel rooms available in Malaysia. By 2020, 37,000 additional four five star hotel rooms are required. The Ministry of Tourism targets to increase 3000 four five star hotel rooms in Malaysia as at end 2012. Currently 71% of the target is achieved with 2,123 rooms completed. The government’s liberalization policies and lucrative tax incentives have resulted in domestic and foreign investments on hospitality assets across Malaysia.

Malaysia has premised itself as a world class destination for Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE). The Malaysia Convention Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) successfully secured 33 major events throughout January to May 2012, attracting total delegates of 50,770 and generating an estimated economic impact of RM499.9 mil. The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) Rankings 2011 ranked Kuala Lumpur number 21 in the world and number 5 in Asia Pacific. Malaysia ranked number 29 in the world and number 7 in Asia Pacific.

Domestic tourism is also another important part of Malaysia’s tourism industry. The number of domestic tourists in 2011 increased 15.7% (45,731,000 as compared with 39,539,000 in 2010). In 2011, the spending by domestic tourists was RM27.0 billion, registering a 13.9% increase as against RM23.7 billion spent in 2010. This is the success of the “Cuti Cuti 1Malaysia” Campaign.

In order to grow the tourism industry, efforts have been intensified towards enhancing existing tourism products and developing new, creative and innovative tourism products. This included the “1Malaysia International Shoe Festival 2012?, “1Malaysia International Tourism Exchange 2012?, “1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism 2012? and the recently concluded “1Malaysia International Tourism Night Floral Parade 2012?.

The Ministry of Tourism’s ‘Malaysia: Truly Asia’ branding is recognized worldwide and the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has ranked Malaysia the ninth most traveled to destination in the world.

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Legoland Malaysia ready to receive visitors

Legoland Malaysia will open its doors to the public soon, way ahead of schedule.

Many of us can remember spending hours of our childhood building structures from colourful Lego pieces. With a pinch of creativity, simple Lego bricks were cleverly stacked to construct vehicles, buildings and even cities, leaving many with fond memories of the construction toys.

Nonetheless, the initial announcement in 2008 about the arrival of the Legoland theme park to our shores elicited less than enthusiastic responses from some quarters.


Beautiful creation: The gates of Legoland Malaysia will officially open Sept 15.

In fact, the Malaysian Tourist Guide Council initially expressed disappointment as the Legoland park was an unfamiliar brand in the region and industry players were expecting theme park icons like Disneyland to be set up in Iskandar instead.

But, after more than two years of changing the minds of sceptics and efforts to attract the public, Legoland Malaysia is ready to welcome enthusiasts and cynics alike to take a joy ride come Sept 15, 2012.

“We are opening earlier than expected so that is a good thing,” Legoland Malaysia general manager Siegfried Boerst said.

The theme park was originally slated to open in 2013.

Legoland Malaysia is the first Legoland in Asia and the sixth in the world. The 76 acre theme park features seven themed areas with more than 40 interactive rides, shows and attractions.

Legoland started promoting its pre-opening annual passes late last year and Boerst noted that there was huge interest in the theme park from the public as well as trade partners. Much to the delight of Boerst, more than 45,000 annual passes have been snapped up.


Magnificent: A miniature of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building featured in Legoland Malaysia.

“I believe interest will grow with word of mouth particularly when we open and people start coming to experience what Legoland has to offer,” Boerst said.

The theme park is targeting over a million visitors annually in its first few years and Boerst expects visitor numbers to hit 1.8 million by 2020. On average, annual pass holders are expected to visit Legoland four to five times a year.

The bulk of the park’s traffic will mainly be local and Singaporean visitors, but plans are afoot to draw more international tourists.

The growth in visitor numbers, Boerst said, will be supported by the growing tourism industry here.

“We hope to tap into the 40 million tourists a year expected to come into Malaysia. We want to be a part of the attractions for new visitors as well,” he said.

Legoland Malaysia a part of the tourism landscape

According to Tourism Malaysia, there were 24.7 million recorded tourist arrivals last year, with tourism receipts totalling RM58.3bil. The Malaysia Tourism Plan 2020 is targeting 36 million tourist arrivals and RM168bil in tourism receipts by 2020.

Legoland parks typically house miniature Lego structures built around themes such as Star Wars as well as mini villages with landmarks in the area. Other Legoland parks are located in Denmark, Germany, the UK and the US.


Hop on: A train that runs through the park.

The heart of Legoland Malaysia is Miniland, which features various Asian landmarks recreated using more than 25 million Lego bricks.

Apart from Legoland’s own features, Boerst believes that up and coming attractions nearby will drive visitors to the Iskandar region and by extension, to Legoland.

“Legoland fits well with the tourism pillar of Iskandar. There is a good concept for Iskandar and we are working with other attractions in the vicinity to offer attractive packages,” Boerst said.

The Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park in Nusajaya is scheduled for a November opening with attractions such as Lat’s Place and a Sanrio Hello Kitty Theme Park among other things. Iskandar Malaysia is looking to add more theme parks for the region to boost tourism activity there.

Some have been quick to point out that Legoland is no match for Singapore’s integrated resorts, which have stronger products to offer. The attractions at the resorts include Universal Studios Singapore, a casino and the Marine Life Park which cater to a wide range of visitors compared to Legoland’s target audience of young children.


Legoland Malaysia model builders Muhammad Khairul Zainon Noor (left) and Stefan Bentivoglio putting on the final piece of the miniature Petronas Twin Towers.

But Boerst believes that Singapore’s resorts are not direct competitors.

“It is always good to have healthy competition, but I believe we can profit from each other. Legoland’s presence here adds to the whole tourism attraction in this part of South-East Asia and tourists on longer stays can visit parks in both countries,” he said.

Additionally, a water park and Legoland Hotel are slated to be opened in 2013 and 2014 respectively, which would mean more integrated offerings for Legoland. This will draw longer-staying visitors and add to Legoland’s revenue.

Legoland expects to generate more than RM100mil in revenue in its first year of operations. This will come from all the attractions in the park, restaurants as well as retail outlets.

“We should see operational profit in the first year itself, but to recover the full investment will depend on the long-term development of the park which usually takes about 15 to 20 years,” Boerst said.

The combined cost of the theme park and planned water park is RM720mil, which is fully funded by the Malaysian government, while the construction of the hotel will cost RM190mil.

Boerst said, although Legoland essentially only manages the park in Malaysia, UK-based Merlin Entertainments Group, the owner and operator of the other Legoland parks, will look into acquiring at least a 20% stake in Legoland Malaysia moving forward.

This will increase Merlin’s reach in Asia, which is expected to be the new playground for theme park operators as the North American and European markets mature and visitor numbers plateau.

A report by Pricewaterhouse-Coopers forecast Asian theme park attendance to grow to 290 million in 2012 from 249 million in 2007, while spending in that period is expected to rise from US$6.4bil (RM19.93bil) to US$8.4bil.

Market research company Global Industry Analysts Inc estimates that the global theme parks market could reach US$29.5bil by the year 2015 and US$31.8bil by 2017, offering plenty of room for growth in Asia.

Boerst said Legoland may venture into other Asian markets and is already in negotiations for a theme park in South Korea.


Sneak peak: A view of Miniland

“In Asia, the market is huge and it is relatively untapped. In the past, local players tend to lack the financial strength and expertise to set up really good theme parks. But the market is ready for that now,” he said.

He noted that the entertainment industry in East Asia particularly is not saturated and as infrastructure improves and disposable income increases, the region is turning out to be an important market.

He added that Legoland parks did not see much of a slowdown during the economic downturn despite views that consumers would cut down on leisure pursuits.

“We have seen a good 10% growth in visitors and sales annually for the whole of the Merlin Group. I am positive that if everyone focuses on what needs to be done here, we will see investments growing in Iskandar and that can only be beneficial for Legoland Malaysia.

“This is a new market for us so we are optimistic,” he said. – By Joy Lee, Photos by Abdul Rahman Embong
and Kevin Tan

For more, please visit the Legoland Malaysia official website

Map: Legoland Malaysia


Building frenzy


Legoland Malaysia on track

Legoland Malaysia

Legoland to showcase iconic buildings

Legoland Malaysia

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Tourism Malaysia

European Union Film Festival 2011

November 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Lovers of European films, do take note as the European Union Film Festival is just around the corner. Organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Poland, this event is now in its 12th year and is an annual event aimed as showcasing a collection of films which draw on the rich and diverse talents of European film makers. These movies not only display the cultural heritage of European films, they also promote the cultural heritage of Europe’s outstanding film industry.

Some of the films that are scheduled to play include classics like Oliver Twist

The festival is currently going on at several cinemas in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya until the 20th November before moving on to Penang from 24th till 30th November 2011. This year, the festival will feature over 15 of the best international European films from countries like Poland, Denmark, Spain, Germany, France, Switzerland, Norway, Belgium and Italy. Some of the films that are scheduled to play include classics like Oliver Twist and Great Expectations; comedies like If I Have To Be Honest and Tandoori Love. The participating cinemas in Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya are GSC Mid Valley Megamall, GSC 1 Utama and GSC Pavilion, whereas GSC Gurney Plaza will be the cinema to go to if you would like to catch the movies.

Tickets are priced at RM 5 each except for ‘Cell 211?, which is free. Tickets for ‘Cell 211? can only be redeemed on the same day of screening. All movies will be screened in their original language with English subtitles. For the full schedule of movie listing, please log on here or refer to all GSC cinema listings in major newspapers.

Photo (c) El Bibliomata

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Tourism Malaysia

Hope Comes A-Floating

October 19, 2011 at 4:30 pm

It is not everyday that a person can boast of living on board and being a part of a majestic ship for week or a month, what more two years. Unless that individual plans to serve in the Navy or has an endless supply of funds which enables them to travel on a cruise endlessly, it is a rare opportunity for the people to live a life on a ship. This once-in-a-lifetime experience is what makes serving on-board the Logos Hope so memorable for volunteers who have chosen this rather unique path of life.

Logos Hope

The ship, Logos Hope docked at Port Klang

The story of a ship named Logos Hope…

The Logos Hope was first built in 1973 and was originally built for the purpose of a passenger car ferry. Before it was known as Logos Hope, it was called Gustav Vasa and it sailed along the North Atlantic routes. A decade after it was built, the ship changed hands to Smyril Line and was renamed Norröna. The vessel then plied the route between the Faroe Islands and Denmark. It came into the hands of GBA Ships in the year 2004 and underwent major renovations to fulfill her upcoming role. She obtained her current name, Logos Hope, in 2005 and after outfitting in Kiel, Germany; Køge, Denmark and final dry dock in Sweden, Logos Hope finally became an active ship in February 2009.

The ship is manned by a crew of 400 volunteers from 45 different nations. The community is diverse, from retirees to children of families serving on board and has an average age of 25 to 30 years old. Most of the volunteers serve for two years, which is the longest period of time available for service. Volunteers not only get a chance to give back to the people around the world, they are also given training programmes, which when combined with the work experience and the cross-cultural encounters, provides them with an opportunity to learn new skills and develop their characters.

Visitors browsing through the many titles that is available onboard the Logos Hope

“Mommy, look… it’s a floating library!”

The company that is behind this vision is GBA Ships e.V, a non-profit organisation that is based in Germany. GBA Ships operates ships that sail around the world with the purpose of bringing knowledge, help and hope to those who are in dire need of it. Their vision is to provide access to high-quality literature to those who need it, providing practical love and promoting peace by embracing diversity, as evident in the ships’ crews. Since 1970, the fleet of ships owned by GBA Ships have established a name for themselves as floating book fairs. These ships have made over 1,400 port calls in over 160 countries and territories and have welcomed over 42 million visitors on board their ships.

The floating book fair offers a selection of over 5,000 titles for visitors who come to the book fair. The wide selection of books on display are suitable for every member of the family as it covers a good range of categories such as cookery, sports, hobbies, science, medicine, dictionaries, languages and philosophy. The books are donated by publishers whose books have been removed from circulation in first-world countries after the latest editions have been released. This gives Logos Hope the chance to offer these books at a fraction of their costs to people in developing countries.

Visitors can see pictures of the ship’s history on the walls as they head to the book display area

A ship full of angels in disguise…

One of the many things that volunteers of the Logos Hope find meaningful is the initiatives and projects that they do for the communities in need. GBA Ships believe in quality life for all, regardless of personal background and circumstances. As the ship sail from port to port, the crew contributes to the society’s needs in every way possible – be it a simple task of sharing and exchanging experiences with locals to donating supplies or even building schools or houses. Some of the projects that have been undertaken by the Logos Hope’s communities include hosting over 80 tribal chiefs on board in Ghana, building orphanages and donating over 50,000 books to community groups and colleges in Liberia, running HIV / AIDS Awareness projects in West Africa and offering free eye examinations for the people in Malaysia.

Some of the book titles that are available for sale at the floating book fair

Where will they go next?

The Logos Hope is currently docked at Port Klang until 24th October 2011. The ship will then be heading to Kuching, Sarawak where it is expected to arrive on 27th October and will be there till 15th November before it moves on to Kota Kinabalu. The Logos Hope will then continue to make its way to Singapore and Philippines. The fair is open to the public from 10 am to 10 pm from Tuesdays to Saturdays, and 3 pm to 10 pm on Sundays. It is closed on Mondays. Entrance fees are priced at RM1 per person and admission is free for children under 12 who are accompanied by an adult.

Though it was almost 5pm when this picture was taken, there were still many people queueing up to board the floating book fair

For more information on the Logos Hope and its future port of calls, log on to their website here.

Logos Hope is currently looking for donations for its generators. Interested parties may refer to the above website or speak to any of the staff on-board Logos Hope for more information.

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