THIS HAS BEEN A BIG YEAR FOR MALAYSIA. In August, the country celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence from Britain. The year has been marked by a full calendar of events, all targeted toward increasing tourist arrivals so the country can reach its goal of hosting 20 million visitors in 2007.

The Honorable Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Malaysia's minister of tourism, sat down for a one-on-one conversation with Travel Agent. Foremost on his mind were misperceptions about Malaysia due to its predominantly Muslim population. "Our arrivals figures from the U.S. were higher prior to 2001," says Mansor. "We are a Muslim country, but a peace-loving one. We don't believe in terrorism." He went on to say that there is no terrorist activity in Malaysia. The 88-story Petronas Twin Towers dominate Kuala Lumpur's skyline

In a bid to combat any misconceptions, Malaysia plans to dramatically increase the number of fam trips, from 2,400 in 2007 to 5,000 in 2008. "These will be offered to travel agents and media professionals, as well as VIPs," says the tourism minister. "We are also fostering joint promotions with Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam."

"Malaysia received 174,000 visitors from the U.S. last year," Mansor says. "We're not happy when we compare that figure with Thailand, which receives triple the amount of visitors from the U.S., and Singapore, which doubles our figure." Guest rooms at the Mandarin Oriental have excellent views of the capital city

Hotel brands well-known to Americans are entering the Malaysian market. Earlier this fall, Hard Rock International and Hotel Properties Ltd. announced they would develop a 255-room Hard Rock Hotel in Penang, on the northwest coast of the Malay peninsula. The resort will cover five acres and have two miles of beachfront. It is being created through renovation of an existing five-story building and conversion of a beachfront bungalow into a spa. Rooms will be added to the main building. Four food-and-beverage outlets, including a Hard Rock Cafe, are also planned.

The resort will have meeting and function spaces totaling 5,700 square feet, a gym, a freeform swimming pool and a children's club. An opening date hasn't been scheduled. Agent Advice


Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur, already has several highly regarded hotels. VIPs from Grammy-winning R&B singer Alicia Keys to Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan of Brunei, have stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur. The most requested accommodations in the hotel are in the Horizon Club, which has a private lounge, among other perks. The room types are Horizon Executive, Horizon Premier and Horizon Twin Towers. The latter have views of the landmark 1,486-foot-tall Petronas Twin Towers. Guests in Horizon Club rooms receive complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea and evening cocktails; suit pressing upon arrival; and access to the Horizon Club Lounge on the 27th floor.

The Shangri-La's general manager is Jarlath Lynch, whom agents can contact with VIP requests (011-603-2032-2388, ext. 1141; [email protected]). The usual travel agent liaison for the hotel is Mukhriz Maarof, sales manager in charge of travel trade (011-603-2074-3926, [email protected]). Traditional boats at a beach in Malaysia

Restaurants in the Shangri-La include Lafite (Western menu), Zipangu (Japanese) and Shang Palace (Chinese). The Lobby Lounge is famous for its "Czar" cocktail, containing Absolut vodka shaken with crushed ice and fresh strawberries and garnished with a sugarcane stick. Agents can make restaurant reservations at 011-603-2074-3900, [email protected] For spa inquiries, contact the hotel's fitness center manager, Rajoo Ananthan (011-603-2032-2388, ext. 1283; [email protected]). The spa contains five treatment rooms.

The Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur is the closest hotel to the Petronas Twin Towers. It contains 643 guest rooms, including 41 suites and 51 serviced apartments. The exclusive Mandarin Oriental Club accounts for seven private Mandarin Oriental Club floors, comprising 148 guest rooms, 10 Club Park Suites and one Presidential Suite. Each of these rooms looks out on either the Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park or the capital's stirring skyline.

The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur opened last summer. It has four treatment rooms, a manicure and pedicure room, heat and aqua facilities and a consultation room. Treatments combine Chinese, European, Thai and Malaysian therapies. Mandarin Oriental's signature service is Time Ritual, wherein guests book time rather than specific treatments; their services can then be tailored to create an individualized holistic journey. To make reservations, e-mail [email protected] Resources

When dining at the Mandarin Oriental, clients can opt for Cantonese cuisine at Lai Po Heen or contemporary European cuisine with an Asian influence at Pacifica Grill and Bar. The hotel's Grand Ballroom can accommodate up to 1,800 guests for a sit-down dinner.

Agents with questions and requests should contact Denise Condon, director of travel industry account sales, USA and Canada, who's based in San Francisco ([email protected], 415-772 8831).

Tropical Resort

Outside the capital city, Pangkor Laut Resort ( is a privately owned island three miles off the west coast of Malaysia, in the Straits of Malacca. It has 143 suites and villas, and the 21 Sea Villas are in high demand, since they are overwater and linked by wooden walkways. The Hill Villas and Sea Villas have the best views of the sea and the rainforest. The 52 Hill Villas—which are perched dramatically on the hillside and housed in two-story units—are also popular. The villas on the ground floor feature a huge bathtub in a private open courtyard, and the bathrooms on the first floor open out to the rainforest.

The late world-renowned tenor Luciano Pavarotti's love of Pangkor Laut inspired the Pavarotti Suite, an elegant two-bedroom suite set high on a hill in the rainforest, with a lounge area, TV room, kitchen, open-roofed bathroom and an extensive balcony with views of the sea and rainforest. In addition to Pavarotti, the resort has hosted movie stars Jodie Foster and Jude Law.

Last month, Pangkor Laut Resort opened a restaurant called the Feast Village, which takes diners on a culinary tour of the world via its six dining pavilions—Japanese (serving sushi and teppanyaki), a Western grill, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Malay and Indian. The "village" has a bakery, café and wine cellar, too.

Pangkor Laut Resort also has a Spa Village, composed of eight treatment pavilions, three "Healing Huts" (Chinese herbal, ayurvedic and Malay), two Bath Houses, three Spa Huts, three Nap Gazebos and a Spa Boutique. Advance reservations are recommended. Contact Spa Village Pangkor Laut at 011-605-699-1100, [email protected] Agents can direct questions to YTL Travel Centre, [email protected]