HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

From Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur

From Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur

Gateway to Malaysia and beyond

Reinhard Hohler

Malaysia was more than prepared to host the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Travel Mart 2005 at the newly established Kuala Lumpur Convention Center (KLCC) during September 27-30. In the shadow and vicinity of the renowned 452m high Petronas Twin Towers in the heart of the garden city of Kuala Lumpur, a total of 375 global buyers from 54 countries met 704 sellers from 37 countries.

Chiang Mai residents will see even more of AirAsia after the direct daily flight from Chiang Mai to Kuala Lumpur begins on October 20.

As I was invited by the most elegant Shangri-La Hotel, one of the 10 official hotels to accommodate the delegates and members of the press, I flew into Kuala Lumpur from Chiang Mai, (still via Bangkok) by courtesy of Air Asia, which will be opening a direct flight Chiang Mai-Kuala Lumpur later this month.

During the Opening and Welcome Dinner Reception, Dr. Leo Michael Toyad, Malaysia’s Minister of Tourism, presented the “Colors of Malaysia” as a showcase of the country’s fashion and culture.

Petronas Twin Tower in the center of KL.

Fantastic dances were performed by the peoples of Malaysia, who predominantly consist of Malays (50 percent), Chinese (30 percent) and Indians (20 percent), including the indigenous groups of the Western Peninsula as well as Sabah and Sarawak in Eastern Malaysia on the island of Borneo.

The official language of Malaysia is Bahasa Melayu, however English is widely spoken. Islam is the official religion, but the other world religions are freely practiced. Interesting to note is that the Federation of Malaysia is ruled by a king, who is chosen from the nine sultans of the country in five years terms. 1.8 million out of the country’s 23 million people live in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

On September 28, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and India gave press conferences to update the representatives of the media. Cambodia singled out four areas of tourism development, including its jungle-clad northeastern provinces, the coral reefs in the south, Phnom Penh as the new Paris of the East, and Siem Reap with the ruins of Angkor and the Great Lake.

Malaysia will receive 16 million visitors in 2005 to reach the record 20 million breaking point in 2008 by banking on niche markets, such as Eco, Educational, Sports and Health Tourism. While Indonesia keeps the official slogan “Ultimate in Diversity” to promote its marine world of 18,000 islands, Thailand switches to “Dream of Paradise”.

Putrajaya, the futuristic city of the 21st century.

Phornsiri Manoharn, TAT Deputy Governor for International Marketing, announced the official opening of the new Suvarnabhumi International Airport in July 2006 and the expansion of Krabi Airport. For 2005, there is still the target of 13.38 million visitors with the help of the markets of China, India, Middle East and Russia. For December 26, 2005 a humble Tsunami Memorial Day will be staged in Phuket.

India’s “Incredible India” campaign showed a robust 24 percent growth in tourism for 2004 and is on the way to successfully export its several millennium old “mind, body and soul concept”, where each guest is treated as “god” to indulge in self-discovery and self-fulfillment. The center of “Ayurveda” is still located in Kerala.

(From left to right) Palace of the Sultan of Selangor, the Putra Mosque and the building of the office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

The final days of the mart were filled in with the press briefings of Brunei, Hong Kong, Nepal, Maldives and Macao, while a half-day post-mart tour led to the new federal administrative town of Putrajaya. There the participating delegates marveled at the latest state of the art International Convention Center and enjoyed a leisurely boat cruise to see the landmarks of the majestic Putra Mosque, the Prime Minister’s Office and some of the relocated ministries. Putrajaya has what is believed to be the largest man-made freshwater wetlands in the tropics.

Back in Kuala Lumpur, an organized transfer from the official hotels to the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) was arranged, which is one hour away. This super-modern airport is in direct competition with the international airports in Singapore and Thailand, and visitors can conveniently reach any other destinations in Malaysia and beyond. Also, it is from there that AirAsia will start a direct daily flight to Chiang Mai on October 20, 2005. The next PATA Travel Mart will be held in Hong Kong on September 12-15, 2006.