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Get to Know the Father of Tourism in Malaysia: Tan Sri Low Yow Chuan

The Kuala Lumpur Mayor’s Tourism Awards 2014 recently honoured Octogenarian and Veteran hotelier and developer, Tan Sri Low Yow Chuan, 81, with the Mayor’s Commendable Award for outstanding contribution.

The Kuala Lumpur Mayor’s Tourism Awards (KLMTA), initiated in 2011, is held every three years to recognize the “best of the best” of service providers in 15 different categories with the aim of raising standards in the tourism industry. In the citation by Kuala Lumpur City Hall, Low was acknowledged as a driving force behind Kuala Lumpur’s tourism industry since the early 1960s.

Visibly lost for words, his pride shone through when he told reporters, “I feel very honoured. I have worked hard since Merdeka to promote tourism in the country.”

The LowYat Group Chairman received the award from the Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajah Haminah at a ceremony held at Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur attended by industry luminaries.

Tan Sri Low’s legacy is one underscored by hard work, perseverance and determination. A true pioneer of Kuala Lumpur’s development, he oversaw the Low Yat Group’s development of commercial buildings, hotels and properties many of which remain etched in every Malaysian’s consciousness even today, such as the Federal Hotel, Malaysia’s first international-class hotel; the Langkawi Country Club, the first hotel in Langkawi which opened in 1973 when there was little infrastructure to speak of on the island; the pioneering integrated development City Square Centre which won the FIABCI Commercial Development Award in 1994; and Plaza LowYat which earned the accolade “Malaysia’s Largest IT Mall” by the Malaysian Book of Records in 2009.

Tan Sri LowYow Chuan’s training started at the early age of 13, as he followed his father and founder of the Group, the late Tan Sri LowYat, to meetings, listening and absorbing knowledge that no textbook could teach. He was an architecture undergraduate at the University of New South Wales, but that was to be shortlived, as he had to return home to help his father’s business, which included building the Federal Hotel. Opened on 26 August 1957 by Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Federal Hotel housed the VIPs, diplomats, and leaders who flew in from around the world to witness Malaysia’s independence from British rule. It was a defining moment for the Group, which also helped usher in Kuala Lumpur’s first steps onto the world stage.

Following in the visionary footsteps of his father, whom he credits with predicting Jalan Bukit Bintang’s place as one of Kuala Lumpur’s tourist magnets, the Low Yat Group continues to own many key properties in the area besides the iconic Federal Hotel, which includes Hotel Capitol, Low Yat Plaza, and the Bintang Fairlane Residences. It is fair to say that the Group continues to shape Kuala Lumpur’s future as a tourist draw.

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In the 1970s, Low was responsible for establishing a number of internationalclass hotels, not just in Kuala Lumpur, but also in other parts of the country, namely The Federal Beach Hotel in Port Dickson,The Federal Hotel in Ipoh, The Federal Hotel in Penang, and The Plaza Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, helping build early momentum in the Malaysian tourism sector and indirectly in the nation-building process.

Twenty-eight years after the opening of the Federal Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Low launched the hotel management company, Federal Hotels International in Aug of 1985. Federal Hotels International went on to manage three other hotels, namely Prince Hotel on Jalan Imbi, the Ferringhi Beach Hotel in Penang, and the Federal Hotel in Singapore.

“I have never regretted being involved in this industry for the past 50 years,” the indefatigable Low said at the event. He also believes that a key to success is none other than strong moral values and a good upbringing. His father used to say, “Be honest and never tell lies, and your conscience will be clear.Your word should be as good as a written agreement, especially in business.”Those words have clearly served Tan Sri Low well and firmly established his reputation as a respected member of the sector.

His enviable roll call of lifetime achievements include being the founding member of the Hotels and Restaurants Association of Malaysia and its president in 1969 as well as holding numerous positions in tourism and hospitality related organizations such as executive member of the ASEAN Tourism and Hotel Trade Committee, Deputy Chairman of the Accommodation Sub-Committee of the 1972 Pacific Asia Travel Association Conference, member of the Joint Labour Advisory Council, member of the National Advisory Council on Industrial Training, member of the Tourism Development Corporation, Deputy Chairman of the Finance Sub-committee of the Olympic Council of Malaysia,member of the Hotel & CateringWages Council and a committee member of the Malaysian Crime Prevention Foundation.

Perhaps it is in the family’s genes. Hard work, perseverance, and determination – qualities which Tan Sri Low learned from his father, are all clearly evident in his children to whom he has relinquished day-to-day control of the Group. His three sons Gee Tat, 51, Gee Teong, 50, Gee Soon, 45, and daughter Su Ming, 48, who together run the diversified conglomerate that is the Low Yat Group today have big plans to expand its reach. The Group’s ongoing growth and diversification plans include development projects in China, Australia and Japan as well as establishing a core business in the palm oil industry.

The Low Yat Group is poised to continue the legacy first started by Tan Sri Low Yat and built upon by his son, Tan Sri Low Yow Chuan. While the challenges that lie ahead are expectedly significant, the Group is well-positioned today to take on new opportunities and leave their indelible mark on the tourism, hospitality, and property landscape of Kuala Lumpur and beyond. Needless to say, over a half century of sound experience in contributing to the development of Malaysia tourism is an impressive record that no one else in the country could compete with.

Homepage Highlight Photo credit: rizalis (malaysian macro team) / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Source: Senses of Malaysia September/October 2014

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