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LATest e-bulletin December '23

In this issue: ① Quote of the month ② 2024, in the name of growth and sustainability ③ No more passport ④ …and no more cloths ⑤ So Many Good Reasons to Work with LAT ⑥ Myanmar, Children of a lesser God ⑦ Penang Carols ⑧ Sabah, don’t eat that shellfish ⑨ Langkawi, 30 years of Datai ⑩ Malaysia Digital Arrival Card ⑪ Bali New Tourism Tax

"You get whatever accomplishment you are willing to declare"

Georgia O’Keeffe

2024, in the name of growth and sustainability

Travelers at some of the world's best airports can now experience a streamlined immigration process, thanks to cutting-edge technology. In September, Singapore announced plans for Changi Airport to become the first passport-free international hub by early 2024. The innovative system involves an automated immigration checkpoint using passengers' biometric data, eliminating the need for traditional passport presentation.


Rather than interacting with an immigration officer, passengers will undergo a facial scan at the automated checkpoint, confirming their identity without requiring an exit stamp. This biometric authentication will be utilized across various touchpoints, including bag-drop, immigration, and boarding, providing a more seamless and convenient processing experience for all travelers.


The trend of biometric passport clearance is expected to gain traction globally, with Dubai International Airport also adopting biometric clearance, allowing travelers to navigate the terminal and immigration solely through facial recognition.


As the worldwide number of air travelers continues to rise, major airports are seeking efficient solutions to handle the influx. Singapore is addressing this challenge by adding a new terminal at Changi Airport, emphasizing the role of automation in managing the growth without a significant increase in manpower.


While the current implementation in Singapore and Dubai still requires travelers to carry physical passports, the long-term vision is to eliminate physical passports entirely. The use of biometrics, favored by 75% of passengers according to a November 2022 IATA survey, is becoming increasingly popular for its ability to simplify airport processes.


In the United States, biometric technology is already in use for identity verification at customs and immigration checkpoints. However, it currently complements traditional passports rather than replacing them entirely. The ultimate goal, as envisioned by experts, is a future where digital versions of passports stored on mobile devices replace physical documents.


By 2030, numerous airports are anticipated to adopt "walk-through, contactless immigration," with facial recognition operations modeled after Singapore Changi's design. To achieve this, standardization of customs and immigration processes, as well as the sharing of passengers' facial recognition and passport data, will be crucial. A recent report by consulting firm Oliver Wyman predicts the emergence of a universally recognized digital identity for all passengers by 2050, led by the International Civil Aviation Organization. This uniform digital identity would render physical passports obsolete, allowing for seamless travel without the need for traditional documents. Jeremy Springall, Senior Vice President at biometrics firm SITA AT BORDERS, envisions a future where people can travel globally without displaying physical travel documents, thanks to the emergence of digital identities.


Contemporary, Japanese companies are advancing their efforts to tackle travel-related problems, such as carbon emissions and disruption to local people, amid rising demand for responsible tourism among consumers. “Travellers increasingly desire to make more sustainable choices regarding their travel destinations, accommodation, transportation and so on,” noted Japan Airlines in a statement, while noting that those travellers “still lack sufficient options”.


To meet those changing needs, the airline has teamed up with diversified business enterprise Sumitomo Corporation to launch “Any Wear, Anywhere,” a clothing sharing service designed to eliminate the need for the transportation of large luggage to Japan from overseas.


Japan Airlines customers can choose a clothing set dependent on the season and purpose of travel, including leisure or business, which is delivered to and picked up from their chosen hotel. After use, the clothing is cleaned and reused. It is estimated that the service will enable a typical user travelling from New York to Tokyo to reduce the carbon emissions from their travel by 7.5kg, by just cutting back on 10kg worth of baggage.


Tokyo-based company Airporter, Inc., meanwhile, aims to provide hands-free travel by offering a luggage drop-off service at Japan’s main travel hubs. Travellers can request their luggage to be delivered to their hotel or departure airport within the cities of Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka and Okinawa. According to the company, the experimental initiative aims “to promote empty-handed tourism” and prevent “crowding of city buses caused by the increase in inbound tourists”.


This year’s surge in inbound tourists using city buses has been particularly problematic for Kyoto, whose municipal government, in September, introduced extra bus services, began encouraging greater use of the subway, ended the sale of one-day bus passes and began promoting services like Airporter that enable travel without luggage.


Happy New Year from the recycling LAT team!

Myanmar, children of a lesser god

Two women inside military at undisclosed locations in southern Myanmar talk about sinking morale. Their words depict paranoid lives and resentment toward higher ranks. Military families are feeling more insecure. They don't trust each other and are afraid to die.


Officers at her compound admitted the military had sustained many losses since the launch of Operation 1027, while inflicting "a lot of kills on the rebel side every day." With growing pressure from the leadership, there's arguing among the officers and unclear orders. Military spouses were set to undergo more combat training on Nov. 19 to defend their compound. The soldiers' families are cursing the officers who don't care about the private soldiers.


After arresting the country's elected leaders and seizing power on Feb. 1, 2021, chief commander Min Aung Hlaing's troops brutally suppressed peaceful protests against the military takeover, while the generals dragged millions back into poverty. Myanmar's economy contracted by 18% in the year after the coup. It has since registered around 3% annual growth, according to the World Bank, which also warned in a June 2023 report of "permanent" economic damage from distorted policies and the prolonged turmoil.


Now, an increasingly well-coordinated armed insurrection that stretches from Myanmar's northern mountains to its coast on the Andaman Sea threatens to overthrow the regime. Min Aung Hlaing made his first public response to the offensive on Nov. 2, when he vowed to carry out counterattacks against the ethnic insurgents. In a rare convening of the National Defence and Security Council six days later, he said the military had "successfully regained control of the situation," only for a new front against the military to emerge within days in western Myanmar's Rakhine state. Although the regime can damage resistance forces with punishing airstrikes, ambushes and the destruction of several key bridges have hindered its troop movements.


Min Aung Hlaing's support base in the military is limited to those tapped into his patronage. Many soldiers from the compound have died in the conflict, but we are not told the details. No one cares about the deaths of privates.


Estimates for the military's strength are a source of debate, but some believe that casualties, desertions and defections have reduced the number of combat troops to 100,000. The pro-democracy parallel government, the National Unity Government (NUG), says that its armed wing, comprising people's defense force fighters, has 65,000 members, while independent local forces, urban cells and ethnic insurgents are thought to number in the tens of thousands.


Interviews with dozens of defectors suggest that common soldiers operate in the field with inadequate rations and basic equipment. Army recruits are often poorly paid and abused by officers.


Groups run by military defectors estimate that 4,000 to 5,000 soldiers as well as around 9,000-plus police personnel have fled to join the resistance since the 2021 takeover. Since the launch of Operation 1027, at least 500 more soldiers have defected, but many more have simply deserted. Mentally and emotionally, they feel like the Tatmadaw is crumbling, particularly in the north. Even those living in bases are feeling the impact of the conflict as they learn more about the junta's failures and the abuses they commit, also against their own soldiers.


Those inside the military system can expect little sympathy from a broader public subjected to torture, killings and arbitrary arrests. The military relies heavily on fighter jets and helicopter gunships imported from Russia and China to put down resistance, and its ground forces have carried out arson and sexual violence, according to witness accounts. Observers describe the military, mostly soldiers from the ethnic Bamar majority, as a brutalized force indoctrinated with a sense of superiority over the country's minorities.


If deserting soldiers are captured, they risk a prison sentence, torture or possible execution, according to defectors, while their family members are exposed to retaliation. Yet some families do cut ties with the military despite the danger. With the compounds drained of privates, the wives do chores and stand guard with guns.


As conditions deteriorate, faith is not optional. Inside the compounds, commanders are turning to astrologists to direct Buddhist prayers. If a wife cannot join, she must pay for a replacement. Each chant begins with the name of a particular battleground and lasts up to two hours.


It soon became too dangerous for anyone, pro- or anti-military, to demonstrate in the cities. After soldiers began killing unarmed protesters, public fury scared military spouses away from shopping in local markets.

So Many Good Reasons to Work with LAT

Established in 1991

Independently owned and operated

Purely B2B with travel industry partners

Online booking engine with immediate

confirmation of hotels, tours and transfers

Skilful Contents Provider and Technology user

Knowledgeable and efficient reservations personnel

Long and proud association with the MICE industry in all Lotus destinations

Fully committed to Sustainability and CSR

Carbon Neutrality for all packages and services on offer

Extensive selection of scheduled group departures and innovative product lines

Direct access to a vast pool of local professional contributors

Owns small boutique island hotels strategically located

LAT Indochina subsidiary operating in Thailand and Vietnam

Multilingual guides in all destinations

Operations offices throughout its destinations

Centralised bookings and payments for multi destination tours

Assistance in language


Penang Carols

Penang stands out in Malaysia with its abundance of artistic cafes nestled within heritage buildings and old houses. Whether boasting an industrial and raw aesthetic or exuding a decorative and polished vibe, these cafes seamlessly blend history and innovation, providing patrons with an immersive experience as they enjoy their coffee and treats. Featuring a harmonious blend of vintage tiles, meticulously restored facades, and exposed wooden beams, the following six captivating cafes in Penang promise a cultural journey that will appeal to history enthusiasts, art aficionados, and culinary explorers alike.


Over and Above cafe in the charming Pengkelan Weld area was designed by Penang-based interior designer Empt Studio. Its name refers to its second-floor location in an ex-warehouse not far from Weld Quay. A cafe by day and a bar by night, the clever design makes the most of the building’s high ceilings with ample natural light during the day and acrylic panels that light up during the evening. Sleek furniture designed by Empt Studio populates the space, which was transformed to retain the space’s industrial charm while introducing modern aesthetics.


Located in the affluent suburb of Pulau Tikus, JT Patisserie is the brick-and-mortar home of chef Jeffrey Tan. The accomplished pastry chef offers his exquisite French-Asian desserts in this renovated house surrounded by lush trees. Like the refined desserts, JT Patisserie’s interior design exudes elegance in white. The pristine interior features softly rounded furniture, gentle arches and gold accents to create a sophisticated backdrop allowing their delectable desserts’ vibrant colours to take centre stage.


Mangga Cafe is a cafe on the grounds of one of Penang's most iconic heritage buildings, Cheong Fatt Tze - The Blue Mansion. Located in a single store building that used to be the servant’s quarters, the breezy cafe gets its name from underneath a mature mango tree. Indoor seating sees diners eating amongst original timber trusses set against an elegantly designed interior with saffron-coloured feature walls, timber furniture and large windows. Outdoor seating is offered on a raised platform with checkered yellow-and-white mats and nostalgic string chairs in cheerful colours.


Set in a pre-war terrace house in George Town, Chapel Street Cafe, as its name suggests, is inspired by Australian cafe culture. The monochromatic interior gives the space a sleek appearance with industrial flourishes from the mild steel detailing and raw surfaces. Natural lighting and plenty of plants soften the interiors, offering clients a chic backdrop to capture their best shots of the hearty menu.


Housed in an erstwhile shipping yard, Norm Micro Roastery is a cafe in an art-deco-style building with round corners and sky-high ceilings. Reputed to serve some of the island’s best (and boozy) cakes, the spacious cafe benefits from abundant natural light and is designed with an industrial meets Zen aesthetic. A sculptural garden with grey pebbles and low shrubs is at the heart of the space, with polished cement seating wending through it.


A relatively new addition to Penang’s plethora of cafes, Jo Gourmand is a new Parisian-inspired cafe on historic Lebuh Pantai. Appropriately the cafe features charming European details like awnings, wainscotting, patterned mosaics and a fireplace. Open weave rattan chairs and stripey bistro chairs populate the space, with soft lighting and greenery completing the look.


Sabah, don’t eat that shellfish

The Sabah Fisheries Department has issued a warning to the public regarding the picking or consumption of shellfish from Kota Kinabalu waters, highlighting the risk of paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). On the 10th of December elevated contaminant levels in the Likas Bay area were confirmed. The consumption of contaminated shellfish, such as cockles and mussels, could pose health risks. Symptoms associated with PSP include tingling, numbness, and burning sensations in the mouth, lips, and tongue, followed by headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. In severe cases, PSP can lead to respiratory paralysis, coma, or even death.

Langkawi, 30 years of Datai

The luxurious rainforest resort, The Datai Langkawi, is concluding its 30th-anniversary celebrations with a grand finale, featuring an impressive lineup of activities and a gala event. Throughout the year, The Datai Langkawi has celebrated its milestone in a series of events divided into three chapters, each highlighting a different aspect of the resort's essence. Chapter 1 focused on the community, Chapter 2 on arts and crafts, and Chapter 3 on nature. The concluding celebration, Chapter 4, is set to take place from December 8 to 17 under the theme '30 years of The Datai.' The events will encompass dining, nature experiences, craft and culture activities, along with various artisanal bazaars, showcases, and workshops for guests and visitors. The year-long festivities will culminate in a highly anticipated gala event on December 16.

Malaysia, Digital Arrival Card

Effective 1 January 2024, all foreign travellers to Malaysia are required to complete a Malaysia Digital Arrival Card (MDAC) within three days before scheduled arrival in Malaysia. Submitting the form is free of charge.

Bali New Tourism Tax

Bali's government has issued an update regarding the Tourist Retribution, set at $10 (£7.70, €8.90, IDR 150,000) per person.

At the moment, it is possible to pay cashlessly at the BPD Bank counter at the airport, after immigration clearance. Tourists will receive a receipt and a QR code. This QR code will need to be scanned at the Bali airport before departure.

This regulation will come into effect on February 14, 2024.

Our whole product for free and independent travellers, groups and MICE are based on a Climate Contribution programme. This means that part of the greenhouse gas emissions that will be generated are offset by projects in collaboration with Climate Partner, one of the leading climate protection solution providers for companies.

The arising emissions are being compensated by supporting a third-party certified geothermal energy project in Darajat, Java (Indonesia). ​The project helps to meet the growing demand for electricity in Indonesia. By increasing the share of renewable energy, the dependence on fossil fuel-based electricity decreases, and about 705,390 tonnes of CO2 emissions are saved per year.

For over thirty years, Lotus Asia Tours Group has provided services and assistance to travellers the world over, specialising in the design and implementation of corporate events, activities, incentive tours and motivational travel, targeted at FIT, GIT and MICE markets, in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indochina. The group also operates four boutique island hotels in Indonesia, in Lombok, Bali, Sulawesi and Papua. To learn more about our brand please head to our website, or contact us directly; we look forward to hearing how we could help make your next trip, tour or event memorable and successful. Corporate Office D-5-4 Megan Avenue 1, 189 Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia T: +60 (0)3 21617075 · F: +60 (0)3 21617084 · E:


Click here for more details about our resorts.



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