Malaysia ranked 26th most competitive tourism destination
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has placed Malaysia in the 26th spot in its Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report. The organisation said that although Malaysia’s ranking dropped one place compared to 2015, the country effectively improved its travel and tourism competitiveness in absolute terms. “Malaysia remains an attractive destination thanks to its price competitiveness, its strong air connectivity and beautiful natural resources. The country also offers a conducive, enabling environment for doing business, which is supported by a strong human resources and labour market. It has also improved in ICT readiness, tourism service infrastructure, and international openness,” the report stated. However, it also noted that Malaysia’s business environment and investment in cultural resources need improving. This year, the top three spots were taken by Spain, Fance and Germany respectively. (New Straits Times Online)

River of Life project now 67% complete
The River of Life (RoL) project, which will transform the Klang and Gombak rivers into vibrant waterfronts, is now 67% complete, with full completion expected in 2020. The first phase of the river beautification covering the river stretch around Masjid Jamek-Daya Bumi is now 93.7% complete. There are three major components to the RM4.4 billion RoL project — river cleaning; river master planning and beautification; and river development. Of the total RM4.4 billion, RM3.4 billion is to clean up the river, and RM1 billion is for landscaping. The project is estimated to deliver affordable housing to more than 35,000 new residents by 2020, as well as 1 million sq m of commercial space and over 27,000 employment opportunities. (New Straits Times Online)

Reclamation for Melaka cruise ship terminal to be completed in 2019
Reclamation work on Pulau Melaka East 1, which will accommodate an international cruise ship terminal as a support to the Melaka Gateway development project, is 90% underway and expected to be fully completed in 2019. Melaka Gateway, a private initiative, is a mixed development on four artificial islands recognised as National Key Economic Areas. Development on other islands involving Pulau Melaka East 2, 3 and 4 will be implemented in phases, said the transport ministry. (The Edge Markets)

HDC to come up with homes below RM250,000
Sarawak Housing Development Corporation (HDC) plans to ‘flood’ the market with affordable houses costing below RM250,000 each so that those entangled in the so-called ‘house-purchasing trap’ can finally have a home they can call their own. This would be possible with the signing of Head of Agreement (HoA) between a Sarawak-based company and China-based company, which will enable the setting up of a modular housing factory in Demak Laut to fabricate the affordable houses. With modular housing, the price of affordable houses could be stabilised or even be reduced by 15-20%. (The Borneo Post)

Artist’s impression of the Melbourne Square project (Image from Urban Melbourne)

OSK partners EPF for A$2.8bil Melbourne project
OSK Holdings Bhd has teamed up with the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) to develop a 5-acre mixed-use development in Melbourne, Australia, with an expected GDV of A$2.8 billion (RM9.39 billion). EPF is taking a 49% equity interest in Yarra Park City Pty Ltd for A$154 million, which holds the development rights for the Melbourne Square project located in Southbank, Melbourne. It will be the pension fund’s second development venture overseas after the Battersea Power Station project in London. Melbourne Square will comprise four towers of residential apartments, a retail mall, an office tower and a hotel/serviced apartment tower, which will be developed in five stages over eight to ten years. (The Edge Markets)

Paramount ventures into hotel development
Paramount Corp Bhd is venturing into hotel development and ownership with its maiden four-star Mercure Hotel at its university metropolis township in Shah Alam. The hotel is the final part of its integrated development at Utropolis Glenmarie, and is expected to open its doors by 2019. Paramount Corp and its JV partner, Singapore-listed Lasseters International Holdings Ltd, will invest RM75mil into the development. The 230-room hotel will present the group with the opportunity for further cooperation between its property and education businesses, and provide students of the KDU University College (KDUUC) School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts with a real-world training ground. (The Star Online)

Master plan of the Utropolis Glenmarie township (Image from Paramount Utropolis)

Country Garden stops free flights for Forest City “buyers”
Property developer Country Garden Holdings Co Ltd has stopped providing free flights to bring in potential buyers from mainland China to its sales gallery in Iskandar Malaysia, Johor, which previously formed part of its marketing campaign to lure investors to buy properties in its Forest City development. The mammoth project, costing US$100 billion (RM443 billion), was in the limelight recently after Beijing introduced tighter rules to curb capital flight. (The Edge Markets)

UK, Malaysia to further enhance bilateral ties post-Brexit
The United Kingdom and Malaysia will continue to expand bilateral economic relationship beyond Brexit after the UK triggered article 50 for the secession from the EU. UK Secretary of International Trade Dr Liam Fox said the UK affirmed its commitment to increase trade and investment as part of efforts to reach out to its trading partners. In the span of 30 years, the UK has invested over £20bil (RM110bil) in Malaysia. The UK is currently Malaysia’s fourth largest trading country in the EU with annual goods and services trade at £3.34bil. (The Star Online)