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Whisper it, but Kuala Lumpur (or KL, as it is affectionately known) is hot, hot, hot – and not just because of its tropical climate. Once considered a quiet backwater (it only achieved city status in 1972), Malaysia’s capital is emerging from the shadow of its competitive neighbors, Singapore and Bangkok. The hosting of the 2012 PATA Annual Conference in KL, from April 19 to 22, underlines the strides it has made, both as a destination in its own right and a connecting hub.
“It is exciting for PATA to return to Kuala Lumpur,” said Martin J Craigs, CEO of PATA. “Malaysia's many attractions and services make it a compelling venue to return to."
The 2011 Future of Luxury Travel trends report, published in 2011 by the International Luxury Travel Market, ranked KL as one of the world’s 15 fast emerging city destinations — along with Moscow, Prague, Budapest, Abu Dhabi, Marrakesh, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Macau, Bangkok, Taipei, Seoul, St. Petersburg, Beirut and Buenos Aires — for luxury travelers, given the mix of cultural activities and shopping.
As a result, KL is now one of Asia’s hottest prospects for hotel companies and airlines. The opening of the 412-room Grand Hyatt adjacent to the 88-storey, 1,483-foot Petronas Twin Towers (currently the world’s fifth-tallest building) and the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) is heralding a glut of new hotel openings over the next four years, including W Hotel, St Regis, Aloft, Hilton, Pullman and Chedi Club.
“The KLCC is now defining the center of the city, and is doing a good job to bring in world-class conferences,” says Robert Dallimore, general manager of Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur. “There’s a lot of good development going on here, and it’s a huge focal point. Visitors know the twin towers and want to see and be near them. We think it’s the perfect location for the Grand Hyatt brand’s debut in Malaysia.”
New hotels will benefit from rapidly improving infrastructure. The opening of the giant Terminal 2 at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) in early 2013 aims to make the city a Grade-A competitor with Hong Kong and Singapore (currently ranked 1st and 2nd, respectively, on the Skytrax “World’s Best Airports” list – with KL in 9th) as an Asian air hub. KL is the home base for Air Asia, Asia Pacific largest low-cost carrier, making it an affordable connection point for reaching scores of destinations across Asia Pacific.
Across downtown KL, swanky new restaurants, malls, cafes and sky bars are opening in areas such as Bukit Bintang, Solaris Dutamas, Mont Kiara and Bangsar, and the city’s historic attractions are being spruced up — the metro network is also being expanded. KL is certainly a city on the way up.