Features

Kuala Lumpur Takes Centre Stage

1 Mar 2008 by business traveller

Broadway musicals, the world-class Grand Prix and a lively cultural calendar - Kuala Lumpur has been using such activities to attract people looking for something new on a return visit to Asia. Julian Tan reports.

Time was when no one ever associated Kuala Lumpur with catching a Broadway musical or cheering from the bleachers at a world-class race car rally. Nowadays, it’s possible to do both, given the city’s new vibe and ambition to become a significant events hub.

The Petronas Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix – the second held in Asia after pioneering Macau – raised Kuala Lumpur’s profile as an international host when the first competition was staged in March 1999 in the Sepang Circuit, and has been held in the same period ever since. Since last year, the country has been celebrating Visit Malaysia Year with a packed calendar of activities that was extended to August 31, coinciding with the date it declared independence from the British in 1957.

But what has really upped Kuala Lumpur’s ante in the events arena is the state-of-the-art Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre. Since arriving on the scene nearly three years ago, it has provided a fitting venue for trophy events such as the 11th ASEAN General Conference (2005), 1st East Asian General Conference (2005), PC Fair (2006 and 2007) and 8th Asia-Pacific Co-operative Ministers’ Conference (2007) among others.

The International Congress & Conference Association, which monitors global association meetings, reported that Malaysia made strides in 2006, placing 23rd in country rankings, up from its position of 33rd in 2005. Kuala Lumpur jumped to the 15th place in 2006 from 30th in 2005, making it at last, a force to reckon with.

Peter Brokenshire, general manager of Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, also known as the Centre, told BTAP: “Malaysia is a relatively new destination. Many people have been to the more established destinations and are looking for something new on their return to Asia.

“For the first time, the Centre (participated) in a US roadshow in January. This is in line with our strategy of enhancing awareness of the destination and making the Centre an ideal venue in the region for international, regional and national congresses and exhibitions.” The facility has been responsible for attracting 30 percent of the total number of meetings held in Kuala Lumpur, averaging two per month. Of the 24 conventions held at the Centre in 2006, 17 drew international crowds.

The Centre also provided a home for the performing arts. Last year, its Plenary Hall was the venue for the London West End’s production of My Fair Lady, which played to an audience of 19,200 spread across eight shows. Others who have tread the boards of the 16-metre wide stage included pop/opera quartet Il Divo, tenor José Carreras and performers of Grease the Musical.

“The Plenary Hall itself is exquisite, offering exceptional comfort, acoustics and services,” said Robert Purvis Maestro, conductor of My Fair Lady. “And all this was complemented by the friendly and generous character of the Malay and local people who ensured that everything was to our needs… and we are very demanding performers!”

The spacious hall takes up two levels with tiered seating for 3,000 and boasts built-in rear projection facilities, a fully fitted cyclorama (a concave wall positioned at the back of the stage), French action curtains, a fixed stage, backstage support facilities, changing rooms, lift, escalator and staircase access, as well as conference tools like a delegate voting system built in the seat arms and a simultaneous interpretation system for up to six languages.

Adding to the attraction of Kuala Lumpur’s impressive infrastructure is the 571-room Traders Hotel, located next to the Centre. The hotel’s general manager Ed Brea says: “Simply put, we provide great guest accommodation with direct access to most probably the best-value convention centre in the world. The perfect complement, both facilities offer new, state-of-the-art products.

“We also synergise through our young vibrant associates, professional sales and operations executives with the full support of our mutual ownership.”

Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt perhaps best summed up the charm of the city. “I love spicy food, so when I’m in Kuala Lumpur, I go to one of the local restaurants in Petaling Street or Chinatown. I also like to have massages in one of the traditional spas or go shopping near the Twin Towers,” he has been quoted saying.


MARK YOUR CALENDAR

March 21-23
Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix
www.formula1.com
www.malaysiagp.com.my

Until March 24
KL Grand Prix City
www.kualalumpur.gov.my

March 24-27
World Amateur Inter-team Golf Championship
www.waitgc.com/index.html

May 24
Colours of Malaysia
www.motour.gov.my

May 24-August 3
Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival
www.mymegasale.com

August 31
Merdeka Month Celebration: “Celebrating 50 years of nationhood – the golden celebration”
www.tourism.gov.my


PATTERNS OF HERITAGE

Essentially an art gem in itself, the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre incorporates an architectural balance of clever design ideas courtesy of the Cox Group of Australia (the team behind the Water Cube in Beijing and Singapore waterfront project) and local cultural sensitivity achieved through the expertise of Neuformation Architect of Malaysia. Put simply, it is a showcase of Malaysian heritage with an emphasis on the songket (a traditional Malay handwoven fabric), reflecting the Centre’s tagline of “Commerce.Culture.Colour”.

The building exterior features the elongated pyramidical shape of the pucuk rebung (bamboo shoot) motif, which can also be seen from within the Plenary Hall, the purpose-built facility catering to stage performances, conferences and other events of a grand scale.

More impressions of the songket are evident in the entrance concourses, with timber panelling used to mimic the scaling and weaving of the fabric. Subtle stylished Malay motifs are also stenciled into door spaces and entrance foyers, enhanced by warm hues of the songket design of the carpet on level three.


FIVE-STAR HOTELS IN THE CENTRALLY LOCATED BUKIT BINTANG DISTRICT

GRAND MILLENNIUM

WHAT’S IT LIKE? Soft-opened last December (and formerly The Regent), this is the Malaysia flagship of Millennium & Copthorne Hotels owned by Singapore billionaire Kwek Leng Beng and belongs to the most luxurious of its brands (others being Millennium, Copthorne for mid-management corporates and Kingsgate for the budget conscious). A multimillion-dollar refurbishment is under way – the first phase, which completed recently, included the lobby, dining outlets and Deluxe Rooms, while the second phase will see the suites and Executive Club Floors being refreshed.

WHERE IS IT? In the heart of the Golden Triangle business and entertainment district. The new Pavilion mall is next door.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 468, all with floor-to-ceiling windows providing city skyline views. Room sizes range from 40sqm to 250sqm.

ROOM FACILITIES: An electronic safe, a 32-inch LCD flat screen, broadband internet access and minibar are room standards. Guests of the Executive Club enjoy butler service and Club Lounge privileges.

DINING: The Mill has Asian and Mediterranean food all day, while Zing! tempts with pork-free Chinese dishes.

BARS: Head to Bistro 160 for snacks and drinks or boogie the night away at Pulse.

BUSINESS FACILITIES: A total of 1,394sqm of function space. The ballroom and 12 smaller rooms provide space for 10 to 450 guests; a business centre and Wi-Fi hotspots.

LEISURE FACILITIES: A spa, fitness centre, outdoor swimming pool, indoor squash court and a hair and beauty salon.

PRICE: Best Available Rates online for a weekday stay in mid-May start from US$124.

CONTACT: 160 Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, tel 60 3 2117 4888, www.millenniumhotels.com/grandmillenniumkul


JW MARRIOTT

WHAT’S IT LIKE? This was the first Marriott to open in Malaysia. Locally owned YTL Hotels & Properties acquired it in 1999. Its last renovation was in 2003 with the opening of three new floors. The hotel shares some dining facilities with sister property, the Ritz-Carlton next door.

WHERE IS IT? A half-hour drive from the international airport at Sepang. Situated within the Golden Triangle, the hotel is linked to the Starhill Gallery and the upscale Bukit Bintang shopping and entertainment area via an enclosed sky bridge.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 561 guestrooms ranging from 40sqm to 1,838sqm.

ROOM FACILITIES: A work-friendly environment with a two-line telephone with voicemail, fax and computer modem capabilities, and complimentary broadband internet (note that Wi-Fi throughout the hotel is chargeable).

DINING: Shanghai Restaurant is inspired by the Snow Garden restaurants of Hongkong; Marriott Café is a poolside café serving Asian and Western delights all day; and Third Floor offers French, Australian and Pacific-Rim cuisines with a hint of Asian flavours. Feast Village boasts 13 restaurants like Indian, Chiu Chow and Spanish among others.

BARS: Chill out at Casa Havana for cigar and premium liqueurs, while The Lounge at Starhill lures with an earthy decor.

BUSINESS FACILITIES: The grand ballroom measures 828sqm and can host up to 879. An additional 22 varied-size rooms provide the flexibility, plus a business centre.

LEISURE FACILITIES: A gym, spa, outdoor swimming pool and tennis court.

PRICE: Internet rates for a weekday stay in mid-May start from US$186 nightly.

CONTACT: 183 Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, tel 60 3 2715 9000, www.marriott.com


PRINCE

WHAT’S IT LIKE? The six-year-old property boasts a 24-hour security system with CCTV throughout its public areas in both the hotel and residence towers. The number of non-smoking floors in the hotel is currently eight and will be increased to 10. Banquet floors on level three, 44 Premier Executive Rooms and six suites were refurbished last year. By the year-end, all guestrooms will have been soft-refurbished.

WHERE IS IT? A stroll from the convention centre, Petronas Twin Towers and the recently launched Prince Court Medical Centre.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 448 guestrooms and 160 apartments with a choice of one, two and three bedrooms. Serviced apartment guests have access to a private Residence Lounge on the integrated Recreation Floor.

ROOM FACILITIES: Each room has broadband internet connection, multi-feature phones and power switches conveniently located at table level, among others.

DINING: Tai Zi Heen features Cantonese cuisine; Taishojin serves Japanese favourites and has a sushi bar; Eccucino Brasserie has an open kitchen concept, à la carte and buffet; while Terrace Poolside Bar & Grill is adjacent to the pool and garden offering panoramic views of the city centre.

BARS: Fidel’s has a bar and cigar room overlooking the lobby.

BUSINESS FACILITIES: Conference space occupies 1,500sqm on the third floor, featuring a pillarless ballroom and nine individual function rooms. 

LEISURE FACILITIES: A landscaped pool, fitness centre, spa, kids club and a dedicated Residence Lounge for long-staying guests.

PRICE: Best Available Rates online for a weekday stay in mid-May start from US$112.

CONTACT: Jalan Conlay, 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, tel 60 3 2170 8888, www.princehotelkl.com


RITZ-CARLTON

WHAT’S IT LIKE? Since opening in 1997, the product, which is also YTL owned, is constantly being improved to meet the needs of its business and leisure guests. Guestrooms in the hotel wing were renovated in 2006. A harpist performance adds an elegant touch to the lobby lounge and sets the mood for the evening.

WHERE IS IT? Adjacent to the JW Marriott within the Golden Triangle.

HOW MANY ROOMS? A 114-suite wing is linked to the hotel wing with 251 rooms.

ROOM FACILITIES: Internet access is complimentary in room and 24-hour butler service is part of the guests’ experience. Marble bathrooms, Thai silk drapes, curtains and duvet covers are some luxuries.

DINING: Li Yen features the masterchef’s Cantonese offerings for lunch and dinner in a rich Oriental setting with music from the yangqing (a traditional string instrument), while Rossini’s charms with a Tuscan-inspired ambiance. There’s also the Feast Village that can seat 1,000.

BARS: The lobby lounge is where guests can unwind over a cocktail. An English afternoon tea is offered here, as is Sunday brunch and champagne.

BUSINESS FACILITIES: Twenty-five rooms in a 2,787-square-metre conference centre, which is connected to levels one and two of the hotel and the Starhill Gallery via a link bridge on the first floor. A banquet hall for 350, business centre and technology butler service among others.

LEISURE FACILITIES: The fitness centre is open all day, plus an outdoor swimming pool, steam and sauna room among others.

PRICE: Internet rates for a weekday stay in mid-May start from US$180 nightly.

CONTACT: 168 Jalan Imbi, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, tel 60 3 2142 8000, www.ritzcarlton.com


WESTIN

WHAT’S IT LIKE? This is Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ fourth property in Kuala Lumpur. Its philosophy of “personal, instinctive and renewal” is exemplified by luxuries like the Heavenly Bed, Heavenly Shower, Service Express where “one call does it all” and the Westin Kids Club.

WHERE IS IT? Along Jalan Bukit Bintang in the business and shopping district.

HOW MANY ROOMS? 380 guestrooms including 21 suites, a Chairman Suite and a Presidential Suite; and 63 Executive Residences that feature one- and two-bedroom apartments. WestinWORKOUT Rooms cater to the time-strapped traveller.

ROOM FACILITIES: Heavenly Bed, high-speed internet connection, separate bath and shower stall, DVD and CD player and electronic safe among others.

DINING: EEST showcases flavours from Thailand, China, Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam, while Prego satisfies Italian cravings. Splash has all-day dining by the pool, both indoor and outdoor; The Living Room serves a “Breakfast Adventure”, business lunch and on weekends, high tea and English afternoon tea; and Treats is a contemporary retail and gourmet market.

BARS: Qba features the Latin Grill, Wine Bar, Cigar Lounge, Courtyard and Bar with live Latin entertainment and signature Mojitos.

BUSINESS FACILITIES: A 600-square-metre grand ballroom, 20 function rooms and a full-service business centre. The Executive Club Lounge provides guests with 24-hour broadband internet access.

LEISURE FACILITIES: A gym, outdoor pool and kids club among others.

PRICE: Internet Only Rates for a weekday stay in mid-May start from US$155 nightly.

CONTACT: 199 Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, tel 60 3 2731 8333, www.starwoodhotels.com

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