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Johor now a top tourism destination

JOHOR BARU: Johor is no longer just a transit point for travellers but a top tourism destination, said state Tourism, Domestic Trade and Consumerism Committee chairman Datuk Tee Siew Kiong.

He added that Johor has seen a steady increase of tourist arrivals since 2013 with the tourism sector now playing a key role in the state's economic development.

"The Department of Statistics listed Johor as Malaysia's top domestic tourism destination in 2016 with 7.4 million domestic tourist arrivals and the Malaysia Tourism Council (MTC) also awarded Tourism Johor with the best domestic tourism promotion award last year.

"Tourism Malaysia statistics also show that Johor is ranked at No.3 in terms of attracting foreign tourists, with 2.6 million international tourists visiting in 2016.

Tee further noted that Senai International Airport had recorded three million passengers last year compared with just 1.99 million passengers in 2013, adding that Johor is now connected by air to 11 domestic cities in Malaysia and eight international cities — Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta, Surabaya, Guangzhou, Macao, Kolkata and Seoul.

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ASIA TOURISTS WILL KNOW CYPRUS CITY OF DREAMS BRAND, HO SAYS

The investor building Europe’s largest integrated casino resort in Cyprus wants to attract high-end customers from the neighboring Middle East to the island nation and target visitors from Russia, Britain and Asia.

Lawrence Ho, billionaire owner and chief executive officer of Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd, will operate what will be called the ‘City of Dreams Mediterranean’ in Limassol on the island’s south coast, aiming to capitalize on the company’s ‘City of Dreams’ casino resort brand in Macau and Manila.

“Asian tourists will be able to recognize our brand and as time develops they could be attracted to Cyprus,” Ho said in an interview in Nicosia. “Melco as a company attracts sophisticated customers, middle and upper class customers.”

Initially, Melco aims to attract customers to Cyprus from the neighboring Middle East and to target visitors from Russia and Britain, the two major tourist source markets for Cyprus, Ho said.

Melco presented its plans on Jan. 9 for the construction and operation of the resort in Limassol as well as for another four satellite casinos in other parts of the popular vacation destination. The project represents a total investment of 550 million euros (USD659.9 million) and is scheduled for completion in 2021.

Melco and local partner The Cyprus Phassouri (Zakaki) Ltd won an exclusive license to operate Cyprus’s first-ever casino. Cypriot authorities project that the resort could attract an additional 300,000 visitors a year boosting economic output by a further 700 million euros per annum, currently around four percent of gross domestic product, after the second year of operation.

Melco opened the City of Dreams Manila resort in the Philippines in 2015 and has invested in gaming ventures in Russia. Ho also plans to launch a global hotel brand, starting with a $1 billion high-rise building in Macau and has been seeking entry into the Japanese market.

“Traditionally we’ve been Asia based, but we have global aspirations, and want to be a 21st-century gaming operator,” Ho said. “Cyprus is a fast growing market with a lot of potential,” he said.

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Lava flowing from Philippine volcano, thousands evacuated

LEGAZPI: More than 9,000 people have evacuated the area around the Philippines' most active volcano as lava flowed down its crater Monday in a gentle eruption that scientists warned could turn explosive.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology increased the alert level for Mount Mayon late Sunday to three on a scale of five, indicating an increased tendency toward a hazardous eruption.

Lava flowed at least half a kilometer (less than half a mile) down a gulley from the crater and on Monday morning, ash clouds appeared mid-slope, said Renato Solidum, head of the volcano institute.

Molten rocks and lava at Mayon's crater lit the night sky Sunday in an reddish-orange glow despite a shroud of thick clouds that covered the volcano, leaving spectators awed but sending thousands of residents into evacuation shelters.

Albay province emergency response official Cedric Daep said at least 9,000 people have been moved from high-risk areas in an ongoing evacuation. People in the danger area have put up huge white crosses in their neighborhoods, hoping to protect their lives and homes.

"It's risky if people will be left behind," Solidum said of villagers who stay to watch over their homes within a permanent danger zone around the volcano.

But if the institute raises the alert level further, indicating deadlier danger, villagers would have to leave areas near Mayon. The volcano lies in coconut-growing Albay province about 340 kilometers (210 miles) southeast of Manila.

Three steam-explosions since Saturday have spewed ash into nearby villages and may have breached solidified lava at the crater and caused lava to start flowing, Solidum said.

With its near-perfect cone, Mayon is popular with climbers and tourists but has erupted about 50 times in the last 500 years, sometimes violently.

On May 7, 2013, an ash eruption killed five climbers, including three Germans, who had ventured near the summit despite warnings of possible danger.

Experts fear a major eruption could trigger pyroclastic flows _ superheated gas and volcanic debris that race down the slopes at high speeds, incinerating or vaporizing everything in their path. More extensive explosions of ash could drift toward nearby towns and cities, including Legazpi city, the provincial capital, about 9 miles (15 kilometers) away.

The bulletin sent Sunday night said a hazardous eruption was possible within weeks or even days. It said the glow in the crater signified the growth of a new lava dome and that the evacuation zone be enforced due to the dangers of falling rocks, landslides or a collapse of the dome.

Mayon's first recorded eruption was in 1616. The most destructive in 1814 killed 1,200 people and buried the town of Cagsawa in volcanic mud. The belfry of a Cagsawa church juts out of the ground in a reminder of Mayon's deadly fury that has become a tourist attraction.

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