Held bi-annually, The Malaysia Tourism Awards began in 1987 and are considered the highest accolade given in recognition to those who excel in the development of the country's tourism industry. Here, veteran travel writer David Bowden showcases some of the recent winners of the illustrious awards.
The Malaysia Tourism Awards celebrate Malaysia as one of the top world tourism destinations while appreciating the contributions many tourism industry players make. The gala ceremony was recently staged in the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre and was graced by the newly-appointed King and Queen; Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah and Yang di-Pertuan Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Haminah Hamidun.
Also present at the black-tie event were the Honourable Minister of Tourism Malaysia Dato’ Sri Dr. Ng Yen Yen; the Malaysia Tourism Ambassador in London, Dato’ Professor Jimmy Choo OBE and Malaysia Food Ambassador, Chef Wan.
Now in its 17th year, a total of 35 awards were presented to the best of the best in the local tourism industry who have contributed substantially toward the country’s tourism development.
It was indeed a proud moment for all those associated with The Expat Group’s Senses of Malaysia magazine as it was awarded the most innovative international tourism publication for the second time in a row. This award acknowledges the effort put into publishing what is now recognised as the leading travel publication in the country, read extensively around the world thanks to being carried globally on Malaysia Airlines.
The other award categories included Innovative Tourist Attractions, Innovative Shopping Outlets, Innovative Homestays and Innovative Spas. Nominations were submitted in early 2011 and the winners were selected by a panel of judges appointed by the Ministry of Tourism. Here is a run-down on awards that have greatest interest to The Expat readers.
Best Five-star City Hotel – Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur
This award is invariably a tribute to the staff at the Mandarin Oriental for their dedicated efforts and commitment towards fulfilling the hotel’s mission of completely delighting and satisfying its guests. Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur occupies a prime location immediately adjacent to the retail gold mine in Suria KLCC and the architecturally impressive Petronas Twin Towers. The restaurants, bars and spa also make the hotel a fitting and deserving winner.
Best Five-star Resort – Shangri-la Rasa Ria, Sabah
I can remember being one of the first guests in this resort and having been bowled over by everything I saw and experienced. Facilities were outstanding, beachside views were refreshing and uninterrupted across the South China Sea and the staff were brimming with enthusiasm. For those who travel through the wilds of Sabah, the Shangri-la Rasa Ria makes a great place for some rest and boasts a fabulous restaurant called Coast, a soothing spa, challenging golf on the adjoining Dalit Bay Golf and Country Club with distant views of Mount Kinabalu and all this, just 45-minutes’ drive from Kota Kinabalu Airport.
Innovative Spa – Spa at Four Seasons, Langkawi
It probably comes as no surprise to discerning travellers that the finest spa in the country is located in one of the finest beachside resorts. The name Four Seasons says it all and lazing about the architecturally-impressive spa in the Four Seasons Langkawi is about as good as it gets. Therapies here borrow the best from the West and East and blend it all together to create a uniquely Langkawi product. It’s hard to pass up on their Urut Melayu traditional treatment that involves firm, long massage strokes with just the right kneading and palm pressure. Choose a massage oil such as Om to ensure that you become putty in the hands of the right therapist.
Best Four-star City Hotel – Holiday Inn Melaka
The Holiday Inn Melaka is a little surprise awaiting all those who head to this UNESCO World Heritage Site destination. The 275-room Holiday Inn is the contemporary face of Melaka with vibrant and colourful artwork adorning the walls to offer guests a soothing, resort-styled setting. I can imagine families travelling here to enjoy the pool, stay in stylish and well-appointed rooms and, to dine in some inviting outlets. Add to the mix the urban oasis of the Tea Tree Spa and the Club Lounge overlooking the pool and you have a charming resort in an historic urban setting.
Best Four-star Resort – Golden Sands Resort, Penang
The 387-room Golden Sands Resort Penang received their award soon after having completed a RM50 million redevelopment programme. Perhaps it was the refurbishment which contributed to winning the award but anyone who has stayed here would know that it probably had more to do with the beachside location and a level of service that has been perfected over the years. The award is affirmation of the hotel’s positioning as one of Malaysia’s leading family resorts and the signature restaurant, Sigi’s Bar and Grill on the Beach, rarely fails to impress.
Best Three-star Hotel and Below – Cititel Mid Valley, Kuala Lumpur
Anyone who has been part of the weekend traffic jam around Mid Valley knows too well that this is one of the most popular retail areas in Kuala Lumpur. With the growing trend for hotels to be attached to shopping malls to ensure they become one-stop destinations, it’s not surprising that the Cititel Mid Valley Kuala Lumpur is the nation’s best value-formoney hotel. If the shopping isn’t enough distraction there are restaurants, cafés, bars and cinemas scattered throughout Mid Valley Mega Mall and the Gardens Mall.
Eco Excellence – Mount Mulu National Park, Sarawak
Covering almost 550km, Mount Mulu National Park is one of Sarawak’s largest natural expanses of rainforest and named after the state’s second highest peak at 2,376m. It was opened as a national park in 1985 and while the high country is the park’s most obvious feature, Mulu also attracts those who want to explore its spectacular subterranean system of caves. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, two caves here head the list of Mulu “firsts”. Deer Cave is reportedly the world’s largest natural rock chamber and Clearwater Cave is the longest cave system in Southeast Asia. A recently constructed aerial walkway through the rainforest canopy is the largest of its type in the world.
Eco Merit – Danum Valley
Danum Valley and the adjoining Maliau Basin are two of Sabah’s remotest protected areas but accessible from Lahad Datu Airport via flights from Kota Kinabalu. Both have a “lost world” setting with the Maliau Basin having been “discovered” in 1947 and, amazingly, only first explored in 1988. It is as isolated as it gets but five-day treks are available into this pristine rainforest and the majestic Maliau Falls. Danum Valley is slightly more accessible but only just. A canopy walk and night safari adds to the adventure.
Melaka River Cruise
Melaka (or Malacca) is a popular day visit destination from Kuala Lumpur but there are many attractions and first-class accommodation to justify a visit of several days. The Melaka sultanate was founded in the 15th century and became one of the world’s greatest trading centres. During its history, Melaka was infuenced by the Portuguese, Dutch and British as well as Asian traders. The Melaka River is a historic landmark and it’s possible to go on 45-minute river cruises with regular daily departures from 9am to 11pm depending upon the tides.
Lost World of Tambun, Ipoh
Theme parks are always a winner with kids and if water is added to the equation, kids will want to come back time and time again. Located in the rounded limestone hills that surround Ipoh, therapeutic subterranean mineral water features in both the theme park and the associated spa. In addition to the slides and glides in the water park, there’s an adventure park, team building area, ponds, hand’s-on zoo and a tiger valley. The park is open from Monday to Friday (except Tuesday) from 11am to 6pm and the weekends and public holidays from 10am to 6pm. There is also a night area that remains opens until 10pm.
Nite @ Museum
There is some similarity with the movie Night at the Museum and this innovative incentive programme is offered by the Melaka Museums Corporation and Naza Hotel Melaka. The programme combines a night river cruise on the Melaka River, a river walk and then the piece de resistance being a stay in the replica 16th century Portuguese ship known as the Flor de la Mar that forms part of the Maritime Museum. This activity is great for team building for groups of up to 40 people and with a little bit of luck; some of the displays may spring into life after the lights go out.
Shopping – Sunway Pyramid, Kuala Lumpur
Should shopping ever become an Olympic event, Malaysia would win hands down. With so much choice, it’s easy to see why shopping is high on the list of most Malaysian’s recreational activities and for many tourists; value-for-money shopping helps as does a range of what are called lifestyle choices – movies, restaurants, recreational activities and a “hook” to bring in the shoppers. The hook in Sunway Pyramid is Sunway Lagoon Water Theme Park that adjoins the shopping mall as well as the mall’s ice skating rink.
Shopping – Mid Valley, Kuala Lumpur
The comments above about Cititel Mid Valley Kuala Lumpur are applicable for this shopping award to Mid Valley. The adjoining premium mall of the Gardens also adds to the appeal of Mid Valley as it means shopping for all budgets is provided. Valet parking here is important for those who don’t want to join the inevitable weekend parking queues. Mid Valley is popular for its sheer size as well as its offering of quality outlets.
Homestays – Walai Tokou, Kundasang, Sabah
Walai Tokou is located just beyond the main entrance to the famous Kinabalu Park on the road from Kota Kinabalu to Ranau in Sabah. Here six families have pooled their resources to offer rooms to travellers within their homes in the village of Kampung Sinisian near Kundasang. The numbers of rooms in each house varies from one to six with a common shower and toilet facilities, and most visitors come for three-day, two-night packages that include all meals. Villagers will ensure that you learn elements of the local culture such as cooking, farming, dancing and playing bamboo musical instruments, and visitors enjoy locally-grown strawberries and tea from the Sabah Tea Garden.
Source: The Expat March 2012
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This article has been edited for ExpatGomalaysia.com