Malaysia courting honeymoon couples from Italy

With an amazing 300,000 couples getting married every year in Italy, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (Tourism Malaysia) is courting them to spend their honeymoon in Malaysia.

Tourism Malaysia Milan office director Mohd Nasir Kushairi said Malaysia must capitalise on this big and lucrative market as a survey showed that Italians spend an average of five billion Euros (RM23.3 billion) a year to get married, with the honeymoon trip an all-important part in the expenditure.

Mohd Nasir said going on honeymoon was perceived by Italians as the second-to-none way of starting up a new life, so the couple relied quite heavily on a travel agent’s professionalism.

“On the average, they spend Euro 3,000 (about RM14,000) for honeymoon, excluding air ticket. Their popular destination is the Mediterranean which has beautiful beaches and warm weather,” he told Malaysian journalists who were here to cover Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s visit to Italy.

Mohd Nasir said Malaysia could tap the honeymoon market as it had similar attractions like the Mediterranean including beautiful islands like Pangkor, Langkawi and Tioman as well as Sabah.

He said a survey conducted by travel magazine Conde Nast Traveller showed that 76 percent of the newly-weds resorted to a travel agent’s guidance for their trip while 24 percent planned the trip on their own.

More interestingly, 37 percent chose group-tours, long-haul destinations being preferred by 51 percent with Europe attracting 40 percent, while 25 percent picked Italy.

The survey also showed that destination accounted for 91 percent of the choices, followed by the quite complex combination of stay-holiday and a tour (69 percent), price (69 percent), travel agent’s advice (60 percent), and the brand-name of the tour operator and their promotional campaign (46 percent and 40 percent respectively).

Mohd Nasir said Malaysian tourism players should not miss the opportunity as the country had began to attract Italians since Malaysia Airlines brought tourists from Milan through chartered flights from December last year to April this year.

In the first five months of this year, 8,194 Italians visited Malaysia compared to 5,257 in the same period last year while a total of 12,872 came in 2003.

“Many of the Italians like beaches and eco-tourism. That is why they like to go to Langkawi and Sabah as it offers beaches, extreme sports activities like climbing mountains, scuba and diving,” he said.

He said if the honeymoon market was capitalised, Malaysia could see year-long tourist arrivals from Italy as May was considered a wedding season while tourists also travelled during summer in July and August as well during winter between November and January.

Mohd Nasir said several activities and programmes had been lined-up by Tourism Malaysia’s Milan office to promote the country in Italy as well as surrounding countries like Slovenia, Croatia, Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“Tourism Malaysia picks Milan as its main office for Italy due to its strategic location. Furthermore, this is the backbone of Italian economy and travellers are from this region,” he said.

Furthermore, many European companies involved in the fashion industry were based here and when the affluent travelled, they spend an average of 2,000 Euros (RM9,300), he said.

He said Malaysia’s entry into the world of Formula One and the hosting of the Le Tour de Langkawi cycling championship had generated wide publicity for the country in Italy.

“And capitalising on this, we sponsored a local cycling team who have won several championships. It brought huge mileage for us,” he said.

Mohd Nasir said Tourism Malaysia also conducted regular seminars for travel and tour operators while familiarisation trips to Malaysia for tourism players and media were held throughout the year.

He said with all the promotional activities in place, the number of tourist arrivals from Italy, with a population of 57 million, was expected to increase by 20 percent this year.

Besides that, Balkan countries which had recently joined the European Union were being targeted as they offered long term prospects, he added. – Bernama

Malaysia fully committed to sustainable forest management

Malaysia is fully committed to sustainable forest management and practices.

“I wish to emphasise that Malaysia is fully committed to the principle of sustainable forest management,” Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Adenan Satem   told an international conference of sustainable management of tropical forests.

“Malaysia is highly forested although this may not be so obvious if you confine yourself to Kuala Lumpur,” he told the conference being attended by delegates from the Asia-Pacific, African, Latin American and the Carribean regions.

Adenan said almost 60 percent of Malaysia’s land mass of 32.8 million hectares was forested and the figure increased to 77 percent if rubber and oil palm were to be included.

He said Malaysia’s sustainable forest management practices had reached the level of confidence to be subjected to third party independent auditing for timber certification.

“Buyers of tropical timber around the world are demanding that the timber they buy is not a product of destructive logging. Timber certification gives them that assurance,” he added.

The three-day conference is focusing on the experiences of the private sector in implementing sustainable forest management.

Adenan noted that the role and efforts of the private sector in sustainable forest management were often misunderstood and not fully appreciated.

“The tropical forests are complex in nature. Their sustainable management with social, environment and economic dimensions are equally if not more complex,” he said.

“No wonder progress has been slow and often the private sector receives the brunt of the blame.”

“Land of hornbills” lure for German tourists

Realizing the tremendous potential of Sarawak has among tourists from Germany and the European Union (EU) countries, Minister of Tourism Datuk Seri Abang Johari Tun Openg launched a three times weekly Frankfurt-Kuching direct flight.

Abang Johari said the habit of spending by the Bavarians and Frankfurt is the central location in Western Europe has led him to choose the city as a “hub” to promote Sarawak.

He said Frankfurt hosts numerous international conferences and trade fairs every year like the Frankfurt Automobile Show and the International Book Fair can be used to promote Sarawak.

“During this event we can more or less promote Sarawak and is anticipated to increase interest (between Germany and other European) state,” he said.

He said some 190 airlines are stopping at Frankfurt, “so, anyone who wants to fly to Sarawak can go to Frankfurt and board MAS flight direct to Kuching.”

Abang Johari expected Frankfurt-Kuching direct flight to bring another 50,000 tourists from Europe to Sarawak annually.

Last year 200,000 European visited Sarawak, he said.

“However, in Kuching we only have some 2,800 hotel rooms and is always full, but I personally make sure that tourists from Germany and Europe are comfortable (in Sarawak).,” He said.

Abang Johari was optimistic that Sarawak will reach 5,000,000 visitors this year, a year earlier than the target because it is expected influx of tourists from Germany and other European Union countries.

He also advised residents to take advantage of the Sarawak-Kuching direct flight Frankfurt to go to Germany as a country that offered a variety of business and other opportunities.

Malaysian Ambassador to German, Datuk Kamal Ismaun said the German enjoy the summer between May and September and during other months, they go elsewhere to escape the cold.

“Every time they go abroad, they spend between 10 and 14 days in destination and these include the big-spending tourists,” he told Bernama here.

“What they want most when they go abroad to relax on the beach and playing water sports like jet skiing, kayaking and swimming and is a sport that Sarawak should provide to attract German, “he said.

Kamal said the Germans preferred natural environments such as tropical forests, caves, rivers, wildlife and culture and customs of the places they visited.

If invited to Malaysia, they ask if they can see the Orang Utan, said Kamal.

He said after the setback caused by the September 11 attacks and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), the German who showed interest to visit Asia and it should be capitalized by Malaysia, particularly Sarawak, to attract tourists.

If Michael Schumacher for the Formula One race in Sepang come and International circuit, it can be difficult to persuade the other Germans who came to Malaysia because many of them love a challenge, he said.

Kamal said the factors that could work in favor of Malaysia is that most Germans are fluent in English as a subject they are studying for five years during their secondary school education.

Set realistic, achievable actions to reduce loss of natural habitat

All of the 187 parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) should immediately address the loss of natural habitats and species extinction by setting realistic and achievable actions.

Malaysian Environmental Non-Government Organizations (Mengos) chairman Dr Loh Chi Leong said Wednesday that delegates to the upcoming seventh Conference of Parties (COP7) and the First Meeting of the Parties (MOP1) of the CBD should take advantage of the meeting was to organize an effective action and timetables for reducing the level of loss of biodiversity by 2010.

He said that in the World Summit on Sustainable Development 2002, heads of state and government agreed to achieve the goal.

“Mengos want to join other parties and concerned citizens worldwide expansion of our concerns even though many activities and accomplishments of the member nations of the convention, the result is that after 10 years, the rate of species extinction and loss of natural habitat is actually increased rather than decreased, “he told a media conference on the future and MOP1 COP7 here.

Malaysia will host COP7 and MOP1 CBD on February 9 to 20 and February 23 to 27 respectively in the Putra World Trade Centre. Between 2000 and 2500 participants from 187 countries will attend conferences and meetings.

Mengos is an integration of 18 NGOs, was established under the Danish International Development Assistance (Danida)-supported aid program in the Malaysian environment.

Dr Loh said the situation in Malaysia reflects what is happening in many other countries in the world.

“Malaysia has developed a National Policy on biodiversity and conservation policies and action plans, the number of protected areas has increased and there are laws to help promote conservation.

“However, we continue to see the encroachment, conflicting land use, lack of law enforcement and poor management of protected areas and habitats, sectoral approaches and poor coordination among the institutions that caused the loss of species.

“Malaysia, being one of the 12 mega biodiversity countries in the world with at least 15,000 species of flowering plants, 286 mammals and 4,000 species of marine fish, the reverse side of the coin is that countries are also quickly become one the leading countries in terms of number of species of animals and plants are threatened and endangered species, “he said.

Dr. Loh, who is also executive director of the Malaysian Nature Society, said many unique ecosystems and habitats, including mangroves, freshwater wetlands, limestone hills and high plains ecosystem in Malaysia, is under threat of disappearing rapidly due to aquaculture , resort urbanization, land reclamation and soil.

Rather than approach one by one taken by the authorities, he said, caution should be made a priority issue in all areas of management issues including trade, business and social.

Malaysia helps to raise the level of powerboat racing

Malaysia has helped to raise the level of Formula 1 Powerboat World Championship series, the head of the event’s international promoter, Nicolo di San Germano said.

He said the excellent organisation of the Malaysian Grand Prix had help to raise the level of the sports internationally and the result was evident with the growth of the sport in Southeast Asia.

Singapore is the latest to join the family and will host a second event in the Southeast Asian region after Malaysia.

Following Malaysia’s success in staging the event in a grand manner, more countries had been lobbying to host the championship including Brunei and Indonesia.

“This shows that the event is getting more popular and is expanding,” said Nicolo after the “Award of Excellence for 2002 Season” ceremony at a dinner at the Mines de Sel de Bex here Wednesday night. Malaysia received the Best Organiser Award for the Formula 1 Powerboat World Championship 2002 series.

“I am very grateful for the support from the Malaysian Goverment and I feel committed to developing the sports together with H2O Sports Sdn Bhd especially the “Formula Future” series, said Nicolo.

He said, the “Formula Future” drawn-up by Malaysia, specially designed for youngsters throughout the country was indeed a great move and therefore Malaysia was serious not only in popularising the sports but also in developing future powerboat drivers.

“I know it is the wish of Malaysia’s Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad to ensure that the high tech sports becomes accessible to the young Malaysian engineers,” said Nicolo.

“We in the UIM family are ready to play a part to help develop the programme,” he added.

For the 2003 season, UIM had two new hosts for the event, Sentosa Singapore and Sunset Beach Saudi Arabia.

Since Malaysia staged the event in 2001 which was done in a grand manner, it had helped to increase the number of hosts as well as the popularity of the sports.

Langkawi most suitable site for Malaysia’s first Geopark

Langkawi is the most suitable site for declaration as Malaysia’s first geopark in line with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) geopark concept, a UKM don said today.

Prof Datuk Dr Abdul Samad Hadi, deputy vice-chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, said part of the treasure trove of nature that was Langkawi should be preserved.

All the criteria to nominate Langkawi as a geopark were there and all that was it needed to make the bid a success was an integrated effort by all the parties concerned, he told reporters after the launch of an exhibition and a book, “Warisan Geologi Malaysia”, here.

A geopark is a designated area with several geological heritage sites containing valuable archaeological, ecological, historical and cultural resources.

It is not only suitable for scientific research but also for geo-tourism activities and can introduce a new economic source for the country.

Earlier, in his speech, Dr Abdul Samad said the discoveries made from several years of research in Langkawi should be preserved so that irresponsible parties did not smuggle out the valuable items which had a big market outside.

He said the researchers has taken time to announce their discoveries for fear of losing this invaluable heritage.

Several items displayed at in the exhbition showed that Langkawi had been in existence for 500 million years and is a veritable treasure chest of continuous historical records on the evolution of the earth in Malaysia from the Cambrian Age ( 520 million years ago) to the Jurassic Age 190 million years ago.

Fossils of the Brachiopod, a group of molluscs that emerged in the Paleozoic Age (500 million years ago) and became extinct at the end of the of the Permafrost Age (245 million years ago), found in Kilim, Durian Perangin, Batu Asah and the northern part of Pulau Singa Besar here had similiarities with the Brachiopod fauna from the fringe of the Gondwanaland sub-continent (Langkawi was at that time located in the southern hemisphere). This showed that Langkawi had a cold climate during that age.

Meanwhile, Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) general manager Datuk Zainal Karib Abdul Rahim said efforts to make Langkawi a geopark could start now with cooperation from all the relevant departments and agencies, including the Wildlife and National Parks Department, Environment and Development Institute, UKM and the Museums and Antiquities Department.

He said the geopark concept was introduced by Unesco in 1994 as an addition to its UNESCO World Heritage Site initiative.

Unesco hoped to set up 500 geoparks worldwide by selecting 20 sites as geoparks a year, he said.

He added that the effort would indirectly raise Langkawi’s status as an excellent nature tourism destination in the region.

German tourism traffic to Malaysia rises

Notwithstanding the high-pitched publicity in the German media about the plight of German and other Western hostages kidnapped from the Malaysian diving resort of Sipadan and held by Filipino rebels at Jolo Island, tourism traffic from Germany to Malaysia actually posted an impressive 70 percent growth in the first six months of this year.

There were 51,227 arrivals, up from 29,591 arrivals in the same period last year, said M.D. Razali, the director of the Frankfurt-based Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board.

Describing the surge in German tourist arrivals in Malaysia as a “dramatic increase”, Razali was upbeat about the future growth in tourist traffic from Germany.

According to Razali, the definition of a tourist is “anyone visiting Malaysia for a period of at least 24 hours and staying overnight in the country”.

Razali said that this “unprecedented increase” in tourist arrivals is a reflection of a “sense of awakening” among Germans about Malaysia as an ideal destination for both leisure and business travellers, and is characterised by a strong confidence and interest in Malaysia among members of the travel trade and the consumers alike.

Admitting that the cumulative figure of German arrivals was quite small, Razali said: “We are very confident that as a potential destination, there is unlimited opportunity for further growth.The launch of the campaign ‘Malaysia – Truly Asia’ is expected to further stimulate interest among prospective German travellers to visit Malaysia.”

Asian tourism promotion offices in Frankfurt aggressively court German tourists who have in the past ruled supreme as “world champions” in foreign tourism spending.

Although they have been overtaken by Americans, German tourists still spend a lot of money on foreign travel and tourism.

According Tourism Malaysia, the 43,341 German tourists who visited Malaysia last year spent an average of RM215.2 per day for an average length of stay of 9.6 days. However, they spent an average per capita of RM2,073.8 per trip.

German tourists visiting Malaysia have shown keen interest in cultural tourism, and have a fondness for sandy, clean beaches with plenty of sunshine.

“The Sipadan beach resort with its excellent scuba diving facilities was seen as an ideal holiday resort for Germans until the recent incident (kidnapping of German tourists by Philippine Muslim rebels)… however, Malaysia has other attractive holiday resorts in Penang and elsewhere that can be appealing to Germans,” says a Berlin-based German tour operator who prefers to remain anonymous.

A German family of three were among 21 persons kidnapped from Sipadan on April 23. Fifteen of them, including two of the Germans, have since been released.

Those still in the hands of the kidnappers are a German, three Frenchmen and two Finns.

Information Portal on Malaysia as a Truly Asian travel and business destinations.