The first thing to strike you about Kuala Lumpur is the airport. For international visitors arriving in the Malaysian capital, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is the first encounter with this sophisticated and well equipped city.
High-speed trains whisk passengers away from the arrivals terminals, where customs and immigration formalities take but a few minutes in the adjacent building. Within no time at all, your group can be in its way to town, which is a 75-kilometre ride away.
A new tunnel on the city outskirts has cut delays for those arriving in town, but only for those arriving in cars, taxis and people carriers. (Coaches and busses not permitted.)
First timers to KL can’t help but notice the domination of the night skyline by the massive structure of the Petronas Twin Towers. At night, they look like a pair of drop crystal earrings hanging from the ears of some great celestial goddess.
Their form is breathtaking and all other buildings in the city, most of them tall in their own right, pale in insignificance.
The Twin Towers – a masterful engineering feat of glass and stainless steel, glow in the night sky.
Also dominating the skyline but taking a second place to Madam Petronas is the communications tower. As with many cities, the communications tower stands tall in the heart of the metropolis.
From the revolving restaurant half way up the tower, the breadth of the city unfolds. Buildings of all heights and sizes stretch out over 200 kmsq and most of them are visible from this vantage point. Available for exclusive use, the restaurant and function space on the level above are popular venues for corporate functions.
The “greenness” of the city is evident than from the tower. Motorways and roads are all lined with lush growth. Median strips filled with tropical palms, colourful bougainvilleas and verdant understoreys soften the edges of the urban spread.
There are no graffiti marks on the buildings which line the rail tracks, instead there is a corridor of green.
Kuala Lumpur has not turned its back on the environment it sprang from, but instead has embraced the natural features and vegetation creating a living, green city.
It’s a city that looks proud. Kuala Lumpur is a city with a strong DNA and an even stronger pedigree.
I last visited KL in 1995. At that time, the city was struggling with a minor identity crisis, It wasn’t Singapore; it wasn’t Bangkok and it wasn’t Hong Kong. It was somewhere in between.
Now Kuala Lumpur has shot through childhood, passed its pubescent pimply stage and launched itself into a mature, adult world and all in a matter of just ten or 12 years.
Whether it’s because of the nation’s political stability, its eclectic cultural composition or its sheer desirability as an Asian hot-spot, Kuala Lumpur has become a favourite for tourism and trade.
While Kuala Lumpur can provide your group with an encounter with tradition, history and cultures, you will also find a modern, stylish contemporary side to the events scene.
Nightlife is vibrant in the Malaysian capital, which will come as something of a shock to those expecting an austere society, and, as in other Asian cities, the big multinational brands are looking at new ways of engaging and appealing to an increasingly affluent and more adventurous younger generation.
Yean Ng, marketing manager at Zouk Club, Kuala Lumpur, says the trend for event organisers is to seek out alternatives to traditional venues.
“Companies are becoming more open to having their press conferences, product launches and other events in a club environment. At Zouk Club, we’ve had some large companies which have had their corporate events here lately: BMW, Calvin Klein, Honda GT, Hong Leong Bank, DiGi, Moda Fashion Gateway, Levis, Top Shop, Maxis, STB, Shangri-la, Walton International, Ben Q, American Idol and other well known names are all examples,” she says.
“As of late, Zouk Club has secured many corporate events and sponsored concerts. How we are involved with an event very much depends on the clients’ requirements and budget, of course.
“Sometimes we come in purely as a venue provider, while at other times we handle everything from conceptualisation to marketing assistance. This would involve promoting their event, creative artistic work on invites posters and co-ordination on event night itself.
“In the event that we take up these responsibilities, we would normally handle everything in-house, rather than subcontract it to others,” Ng says.
The nation’s capital is well equipped to cope with the demands placed upon it by inbound tourists.
Kuala Lumpur has a robust infrastructure and a generous spread of accommodation options to suit varied budgets.
Five-star hotel rates are among the most competitive offered in any Asian capital city.
Within the past few years, several new hotels have sprung up around the city centre but it is the young convention centre that has allowed a new drive to draw international business traffic from the neighbouring countries.
The Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) is one of the largest in the region. With a technologically advanced plenary hall, which can accommodate up to 3,500 delegates, it is not only a massive structure capable of hosting any meeting, conference, or major event, it is the catalyst for economic boom times in the corporate events market.
This is recognised by general manager Peter Brokenshire, who stresses not only the flexibility of the centre’s space and the expertise of its staff.
He sums up the centre’s simple operational philosophy.
“In my office, I have a plaque that reads ‘Learn to do common things uncommonly well’. That’s a point we like to think makes a huge difference in delivering the best service.”
But Kuala Lumpur is not just a business city, it’s also a shopper’s haven. Alphabetically, it has every letter covered from Armani to Zegna. If labels and malls are not your thing, the street-shopping scene is just as rich. Fabrics and artefacts are available for bargaining in many of the shopping precincts around town.
Taxis are affordable and plentiful and a quick and efficient monorail glides above the streets, moving people with speed and comfort. It costs next to nothing to ride and makes sure travellers arrive in air-conditioned comfort.
Traffic in Kuala Lumpur still presents its challenges, however.
When the shopping’s all done and the restaurants have all been explored, when there no more optic storage available for sightseeing and you’ve taken your last look at the Petronas Towers, it’s time to leave Malaysia’s capital and explore some more of what the country has to offer. N
Asian Overland Services Tours & Travel
In their own words: Established in 1976, Asian Overland Services Tours and Travel’s aspiration is to show visitors the many beautiful faces of Malaysia. An adventure and travel maker, we create tours with the aspiration of giving visitors a personal feel, taste, touch and sight of the many side of our rich heritage of cultures and peoples and our rainforests, hailed as one of the most diverse in the world.
In their own words: We offer a complete range of travel and inbound/outbound tour-related products and services including transfer, leisure to special interest group tours, hotels accommodation and convention services. With offices in Kuala Lumpur and throughout Southeast Asia, our experienced and dedicated team has extensive knowledge and offers full destination and event management services to organisations located domestically and throughout the world.
Diethelm Travel Management
In their own words: Diethelm Travel Asia Ltd (DTA) has almost 50 years experience of providing full travel services within the region. DTA is a subsidiary of Diethelm Keller Holding (www.dksh.com), headquartered in Zurich, a closely held family company principally owned by fourth generation descendants of the founders. Our extensive network has fully licensed and insured offices in Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam and has a worldwide reputation as a first-class travel service provider. DTA employs over 700 multi-lingual staff and serves hundreds of quality tour operators across the globe. DTA enjoys exceptional relationships with travel suppliers and government departments.
East West Executive Travellers M Sdn Bhd
In their own words: Our Goal – To manage every incentive/meeting programme with maximum attention to detail and with the flair that promises excitement and motivational impact
Tour East Malaysia
In their own words: Our winning edge lies in our Tour East team. Our passion, experience and unmatched destination knowledge help our trade partners build individual and custom-made packages that suit every need. The numerous prestigious awards conferred upon us by our industry colleagues and members of the travel trade are testimony of our commitment and fine achievements.
In their own words: The key company philosophy is to manage conferences and special events flawlessly, to exceed customer expectations and to deliver excellent value to customers. Destination East’s professionals provide great attention to detail, focus on quality in people and systems to produce memorable experiences. This philosophy combined with a flexible approach to providing services both for fast growing and fast changing high technology companies have remained our focus.
A boutique hotel comprising two Victorian mansions in the hills on the outskirts of KL is an ideal venue for gala function, writes Kevin Moloney
Inside the solid walls of Carcosa Seri Negara, it’s serene and calm – a contrast to the busy world outside.
Carcosa Seri Negara is an ultra-luxury boutique hotel with a history so rich and colourful; every step through the magnificent buildings and gardens is like treading on time.
If the builders of Victorian mansions had any idea that in 100 years or so their creation would be the ideal accommodation for a small, high-end incentive group, they would have
built more. The hotel is located a short ride from the centre of KL and consists of two Victorian mansions, each restored to a supreme quality.
Although heritage registered and protected, certain concessions have been allowed such as the inclusion of bathrooms on all 13 suites and the installation of air-conditioning throughout the buildings. However the works have been conducted in a style that remains faithful to the original design of the buildings. Apart from feeling comfortably cool, you’d be hard pressed to find an air-conditioning duct.
Carcosa, the original residence of Sir Frank Swettenham, the first Resident-General of the Federated Malay States, is a handsome and proud building, typical of its grand Victorian heritage, Another building on the same hill, was originally known as the “King’s House” and is now referred to as Seri Negara, meaning “ beautiful country”.
Together, like twin sisters, the mansions form Carcosa Seri Negara.
The varying categories of suites in both mansions are grand to say the least. They all boast several rooms and have a definite genuine colonial feel to them. This is luxury of the highest order and recent visitors to the property, including Queen Elizabeth, are testament to its quality.
The public areas, including a plush dining room capable of seating 80 for an elaborate banquet and the adjoining bar are beautifully decorated and require little, if any theming.
The hotel is available on an exclusive use basis for accommodation, and the management’s flexible approach allows for a range of function options to be housed either in the main buildings or the in the grounds.
The expansive verandah surrounding the Carcosa building is a tempting place for a cocktail party. With views through the outlying jungle to the city centre, it’s a remarkable slice of colonial Malaysia.
Behind the Carcosa mansion is yet another option for larger groups. The Grand Marquee (fully air-conditioned and so elaborate with its heraldry and colonial relics, it looks like a scene from King Arthur’s court at Camelot), can seat up to 200 for a banquet. A separate pre-function area under the same canvas room allows for a total gala experience.
The Seri Negara Mansion is just as grand as Carcosa. Behind it, in lieu of the formal dining environment seen in the first mansion, is the more casual Gulai House. Here a feast of traditional Malaysian cuisine can be enjoyed by smaller incentive groups either in the ambient restaurant or on the sweeping verandah.
Carla Petzold-Beck, general manager of the hotel, says: “I’d like to think we are flexible. We can prepare typical Malaysian banquets or draw from our extensive range of French cuisine.”
Cacosa Seri Negara is a sparkling alternative for functions in a city well endowed with large five-star hotels. It provides a genuine insight in to colonial Malaysia in an environment of opulence and luxury.
It has to be a serious consideration for an incentive event or conference gala dinner.
Tel: +603 2295 0888
THE BUYERS VIEW
Seven senior event managers from Sydney and Melbourne converged on Kuala Lumpur recently with an open mind and wide eyes.
Many had not been to Malaysia for several years and were impressed at the range of options available to them.
Flying Malaysian Airlines, whose scheduled flights leave simultaneously from both home cities, the group met at Kuala Lumpur International Airport for four days of inspections and experiences.
Hosted by Tourism Malaysia, Shangri-la Hotels and destination management company Tour East, the general consensus of the group was that KL had definitely come of age.
“I’m impressed with the sophisticated level of infrastructure” said Michael Walker of The GET Group from Sydney. “I can see several opportunities for large group movements here.”
A site inspection of the KL Convention Centre conducted as always by the man with the greatest knowledge, general manager, Peter Brokenshire, opened the eyes of the group. The outstanding facilities, central location and breadth of offerings from the centre impressed even these seasoned professionals.
Accommodated at the Shangri-la Kuala Lumpur, the group also inspected the Traders Hotel, which is directly linked to the Convention Centre. Judy Colson from NGT in Melbourne commented on the outstanding décor and design.
“This group check-in facility is perfect,” she says. Colson was referring to the sleek, purpose-built area on the fifth floor of the property, which has a business focus with a touch of New York chic.
Opened late last year, Traders is securing a significant quota of room nights as the Convention Centre attracts more international business.
Members of the group agreed that Malaysia had not been on the radar for them in recent years. Recent events in other neighbouring destinations have spurred them to consider Kuala Lumpur and other Malaysian destinations for incentive and group movements. “I’d definitely recommend this to clients now that I’ve seen it,” Janine Keating from Sydney’s Corporate Conference Solutions commented.
The group left Malaysia united in the belief that the facilities, accommodation options and ground operators, combined with the natural features of the country, place Malaysia as a desirable destination for group movements.
KUALA LUMPUR HOTEL HIGHLIGHTS
The butler does it
If, after a long day at the hectic regional sales conference you fancy nothing more than soaking in a nice hot bath, why not get your butler to run it for you. The Ritz-Carlton, in the Golden Triangle area, offers a full butler service for all guestrooms.
Fiddling around with your computer’s internet connections and then facing separate billing for usage when you check out at the front desk is a continual annoyance for many busy travellers. The good news is that the Impiana Kuala Lumpur has become the first hotel in the city to automatically bundle your broadband connection within your overall hotel stay cost. This should helpto keep your company accountants happy when you submit your expenses.
Touches of class
Your muscles are knotted from tension about your presentation, your neck aches from gazing at a white screen since morning, your wrist hurts from making notes and your legs are stiff from sitting all day. The newly opened Spa at the Mandarin Oriental Kuala Lumpur may have the answer. It has become one of the first spas in Asia to offer Haki stretch and relax massage treatments, designed especially for tight muscles developed from too much desk-bound work. The treatment is available at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental for US$73 for a 50-minute session.
Le Meridien Kuala Lumpur/Hilton Kuala Lumpur
The Hilton and Le Méridien in Kuala Lumpur have joined forces to promote KL Sentral, their common home complex, as a total events solution provider for large-scale event organisers. The joint initiative, called Take 2, has its own website www.take2kl.com. This website details Take 2’s facilities and also offers potential customers to request for a proposal. The package offers event organisers access to 930 rooms with two different styles, 15 food and beverage outlets to choose from and 1,620sqm of ballroom space and a further 18 breakout rooms. The two hotels can also share the pre-function space which adjoins the ballrooms of each hotel.
All the President’s men
JW Marriott Hotel Kuala Lumpur
If you need an exclusive venue for an extremely select group of guests you
might want to consider the 1,838sqm Presidential Suite at the JW Marriott.
This is a duplex which has its own rooftop balcony.The hotel rents this out for private gatherings of up to 15 people to be held here. This will set you back around US$4,412 .