In February 2013, S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna, the organizers of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards (www.theworlds50best.com) will host the first Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards in Singapore. Launched in 2002, The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards is an annual snapshot of the opinions and experiences of over 800 international restaurant industry experts. With this trusted arbiter of what matters in global cuisine sponsoring an all-Asia awards, greater recognition and awareness will be donned on the foods of Asia and on Singapore as the event host.
As for Singaporean attraction updates, the city’s much-photographed Merlion statue is in the midst of a make-over. A fence was put around it on June 15, and it will be closed until an unveiling celebration on September 15, honoring the iconic statue’s 40th birthday. In hotel news, Starwood Hotels will open the W Singapore Sentosa Cove in September 2012, surrounding the Merlion festivities. (www.starwoodhotels.com)
On to Malaysia, where we learn that the Malaysian Tourism Ministry is planning to market Malaysian-styled “fusion spa and wellness,” which will combine techniques from the various races and ethnicities that make up the country itself. As noted in the local Star newspaper, the Malays have their urut and post-bersalin treatment, the Chinese their inherited massage techniques, the Indians their famous ayurvedic, and the Peranakans, their own distinct spa programs. All these specialties and those from the ethnic communities in Sabah and Sarawak, give Malaysia a branding advantage in the fusion spa sub-sector of health tourism. Right now they are working on a star-rating system to evaluate the treatments and facilities for incoming tourists. This rating system will be along the lines of hotel classifications and will help put Malaysia on par with competitive, established spa destinations, such as Indonesia, Thailand, and India.
Arriving in Thailand, we discover that the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is re-focusing its marketing strategy to attract niche market visitors through the new campaign, “Customize Your Experience,” emphasizing personalized, truly unforgettable vacation experiences. Highlights include projects related to the Thai Royal family and Thai cultural and traditional celebrations. “TAT wants to focus on enhancing Thailand’s brand image and promoting sustainable tourism, while re-enforcing concepts like value for money and generous hospitably,” explained Ms. Juthaporn Rerngronasa, the deputy governor for international marketing. There is also a new emphasis on attracting visitors from emerging markets, such as the Baltic States and Central and South America. At this year’s international travel mart, 47 percent of the buyers were new
buyers. The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) forecasts international tourist arrivals to Thailand to increase by three to four percent, reaching the historic one billion mark near year-end. Said Rerngronasa, “We are targeting 20.5 million international arrivals.” Thailand ranked number one in value for money on the seventh annual Future Brand Country Brand Index 2011/2012. The country’s new marketing video, “Discover the Other You” can be seen on
Heading over to Indonesia, we learn that June 5th was World Environment Day. On this date, Indonesia’s President Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono declared 2012 the International Rhino Year. Indonesia is home to the world’s two most endangered rhino species, the Sumatran and Javan rhinoceros, and so far, the country has been successful in its efforts to preserve them. The Java rhinos are protected in the extensive Ujung Kulon National Park, located at the most western tip of West Java, while the near extinct Sumatran rhinoceros, now numbering just 200, can be found only at the Way Kambas Reserve located at the most southern tip of Sumatra in the province of Lampung as well as in Aceh’s Gunung Leuser National Park. Tourists interested in environmental travel might consider adding these reserves to an Indonesian itinerary. Visit www.indonesia.travel/en for more information about the parks and reserves.
Indonesia is attempting to maintain its wildlife tourism, while encouraging development elsewhere in the country. Makassar, the capital of South Sulawesi and the largest city in the eastern part of Indonesia, is becoming a new tourism hub. At the end of 2011, the city counted 5,535 hotel rooms, according to Anggiat Sinaga, President Director of PT Glion Service Management to Bisnis Indonesia. However, by the end of 2013, Makassar is expected to have a total of 8,000 rooms, when 13 more new hotels will have completed construction. On the island of Java, new hotels are also popping up. In April, Jakarta saw the opening of its first Luxury
Collection hotel, Keraton at the Plaza (www.starwoodhotels.com).
Over on Vietnam’s island of Con Dao in the South China Sea a plan is being laid for an international heritage tourism center. Historical sites will be improved and effectively exploited and eco and cultural tours will be organized. Infrastructure, including roads, electricity, water supplies, schools, healthcare, and economic centers are already being upgraded. A number of five star hotels have already opened on the islands, and more luxury resorts and hotels are under construction. The development will continue through the next 10-20 years with a goal of realizing the vision set for 2030. The island’s peaceful old houses, hidden among trees, add to its unique heritage appeal. In addition, Con Dao National Park covers more than 23 square miles of land and more than 54 square miles in water with more than 2,700 types of fauna and flora, including 100 species that are extraordinarily rare, providing another unique tourist attraction.
For more information on tourism developments and activities in Southeast Asia, contact these tourism
boards: Singapore: www.stb.gov.sg, Malaysia: www.tourism.gov.my; Thailand: www.tourismthailand.org; Indonesia: www.indonesia.travel; Vietnam: www.vietnamtourism.com