By James Wilkinson in Penang, Malaysia
Malaysia is emerging as the hot new conference destination in Asia, with hotels reporting an increased number of new bookings over the last five weeks, particularly in the wake of the political protests in Thailand.
Tranquil: Golden Sands Resort by Shangri-La
Penang’s recently refurbished Golden Sands Resort by Shangri-La is one of several on the exotic island to have reported a surge in bookings and according to the hotel’s General Manager Bruno Cristol, many were originally destined for Malaysia’s northern neighbour.
“With the current political unrest in some of Malaysia’s neighbouring countries, Malaysia and specifically Penang, is seen as a safe haven,” he exclusively told SpiceNews.
“As a result, we have picked up a number of bookings that were originally planned to be held in Thailand and as long as the situation continues, we expect to see more,” he said.
Alongside the shifting of conferences away from Thailand, which will not be a long-term segment for the resort, Cristol said the property is still seeing a significant lift in conference and leisure bookings, particularly from Australia.
“Australia is our number one overseas market currently, accounting for approximately 25 per cent of our total guests,” he said. “The resort has made a huge effort to refocus on the Australian market’s needs with our new beach restaurant’s menu adapted to largely Australian style with our Australian-trained chef at the helm and a comprehensive beverage list which includes Australian beers, new world wines and cocktails.
“There are lots of new, fun activities around the pool/garden for groups and a fresh, modern contemporary look to all our rooms similar to what you would find on the Queensland coast enhanced with local Malaysian touches,” he said.
Cristol knows the Australian market well, having worked in hotels across the country for more than a decade, with his last posting being at Shangri-La Hotel, The Marina, Cairns.
With PCOs and incentive planners looking to Asia like never before thanks to cheap flights, a strong Australian dollar and some of the best conference deals ever put on the table, Cristol’s positioning of the hotel could not have come at a better time.
“We believe there is great potential for the Australian market to Penang and the resort as we have everything that is necessary for a conference or incentive retreat,” he said.
“There’s the great weather, fairly close proximity between the two countries and many flight options… along with political stability, widely spoken English, its diverse, fascinating culture and history, wide variety of delicious cuisine, great perception of value and the warm Malaysian hospitality.
“As for choosing Golden Sands Resort specifically, we offer very competitive rates and value-added services for our MICE clients. Most importantly, we customise our packages according to our client’s needs – from rooms, meeting facilities, food and beverage to recreational requirements.
“The resort tries our best to accommodate all of our clients’ requests to ensure that they have an enjoyable and memorable event… from planning to execution, all functions are handled with assured quality by our team of highly experienced event planners and banqueting staff.
“Additionally, the resort’s beautifully landscaped gardens and beach-side location differentiates us as a fun MICE venue. Visiting groups have the choice of holding meals or a break-out session beach-house style in Sigi’s, at the beach or even at our executive golf course.
“Last but not least, the resort also offers a wide array of exciting recreational activities for teambuilding events including dragon boat racing, beach volleyball tournaments and exciting water sport activities,” he said.
The ease of getting to Penang is another major positive – it’s a one-stop journey via Kuala Lumpur on Malaysia Airlines from Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
Particularly in Business Class, Malaysia Airlines not only offers excellent rates for groups, but also world-class cabin crew, top in-flight cuisine and drinks, a vast array of entertainment and extremely comfortable seats. For bookings and more information, visit www.malaysiaairlines.com.au