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Malaysia Launches Mega Tourism Drive, Unveils "Eye on Malaysia"
This giant Ferris wheel measuring nearly 60 metres high will be at the Lake Titiwangsa throughout Visit Malaysia Year. It offers rides to catch a panoramic view of Kuala Lumpur in its 42 airconditioned gondolas.

KUALA LUMPUR- "The time is now; the place is Malaysia. There is so much to explore, so much to experience." With these messages to the people of the world, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi launched "Visit Malaysia Year 2007" at Taman Tasik Titiwangsa here on Jan. 6, 2007 in an elaborate and colourful ceremony which came after one-year-long intensive preparations.

The rain in the federal capital failed to dampen the spirit of the more than 20,000 visitors who had flocked the Taman Tasik Titiwangsa to witness the glittering event.

The event was launched exactly at 10 pm with a fireworks display which was greeted with loud cheers from the spectators who remained at the recreational park even when the rain turned heavier as soon as Abdullah completed the launch.

In his speech, the Prime Minister called on Malaysians to help make the programme a success by welcoming and treating the tourists in a friendly manner.

He also urged the people to promote the country to enable Malaysia to emerge as one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

Abdullah said Malaysia was prepared to hold the programme as it was confident that Malaysia had much attractions to offer the tourists.

"As proof, we have people of diverse ethnic groups who live happily and peacefully to bring progress to their country. These are assets that enrich our culture and are an attraction to the visitors," he said.

Abdullah said Malaysia was also fortunate because besides having beautiful natural environment, the country also had a good road and transportation network.

"We are proud when visitors have no difficulty in going to visit the scenic spots as there are good roads for a comfortable journey.

"We also have good land and air transport networks which give us an edge in wooing the tourists," he said.

Abdullah hoped that Malaysians would welcome and treat the tourists well as they were noted for their hospitality worldwide.

"The people of Malaysia are well known for their courtesy, hospitality and friendliness. Let us prove that this is our identity and that we are very proud of it," he said.

The kind hospitality accorded by Malaysians to the foreign tourists could become an attraction to them to continue to visit Malaysia and invest in this country.

"I believe many of them will want to invest and open up factories and so on, besides developing the tourism industry, this would also develop the country's economy," he said.

Abdullah said the country's tourism sector had received international recognition when more than 17 million tourists visited Malaysia last year and spent more than RM37 billion.

The Prime Minister also took the opportunity to try the "Ferris Wheel" which was opened for the first time in conjunction with the launch of the VMY 2007.

Besides the Ferris Wheel, VMY 2007 will also organise more than 240 events and activities in various locations throughout the country.

Among them are 50 major events which would begin with the Flora festival from Jan 20 to Feb 4.

What was more significant was that the launch of the VMY 2007, with the theme 'Golden Jubilee Celebration' was also a double celebration to usher in the New year and to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the country's independence.

The VMY, which was first introduced in 1990 and held for the second time in 1994, had achieved memorable success and had achieved their objectives in promoting the country as one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

Various events have been drawn up for the VMY 2007 such as the Malaysian Flora Fest, Grand Prix F1, The World Rainforest Musical Festival (Sarawak) and the Mega Sales Carnival throughout the country.

Malaysia is targeting 20 million foreign tourists to come to the country in conjunction with the VMY 2007 and expects to reap RM45 billion in terms of tourist expenditure.

Abdullah called on Malaysians living overseas to act as honorary ambassadors to let their friends and colleagues know of the country's beauty and serenity.

"After all, no amount of glossy advertisements and promotions can take the place of honest and sincere testimony," he said.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor said: "VM 2007 is all about bringing Malaysia to the world and bringing the world to Malaysia.

Marking the official launch, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi unveiled the country's latest tourist attraction, a giant ferris wheel called "Eye on Malaysia" in the heart of capital.

At 60 metres high, the 'Eye on Malaysia' offers a bird eye's view of the capital Kuala Lumpur.

Unlike the London Eye which is a permanent fixture, the Swiss-made Malaysian Eye will be stationed beside Lake Titiwangsa for a year.

Despite criticisms from some quarters that the "Eye on Malaysia," which cost over US$8 million to build, is a waste of public funds given that the KL Tower is just round the corner, the authorities argue that it's money well spent.

The operator also promises that a ride on the Malaysian Eye offers a completely different experience from a visit to the KL Tower.

"The KL tower is much higher but here (on the Malaysian Eye), it's moving so we have different positions. It's very slow but it's moving, you are going up from zero to 60 meters and at all time you can look around," says a Tourism Malaysia official.

"Visitors can expect to have a good view of the city from the wheel, including KL Tower, the Petronas Twin Towers, Genting Highlands and Istana Budaya," a Tourism Malaysia official said. "And there will be daily shows as well."

He said the 60-metre Ferris wheel has 42 air-conditioned gondolas which can each accommodate eight people. Two gondolas will be reserved for the disabled. There is also a VIP gondola.

The 12-minute ride will cost RM15 for adults, and RM8 for children and concessionaires.

It was earlier reported that everything was in place for the grand opening of the Eye on Malaysia scheduled forJan.6, 2007 except for one important detail.

The organisers, MST Ad Suria Sdn Bhd, said the Department of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH) had not completed their inspection of the giant Ferris wheel in Taman Tasik Titiwangsa here. But MST made it on time for Jan. 6 launch.

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