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LATest e-bulletin October '23

In this issue: ① Quote of the Month ② Education, Awareness or Catastrophe ③ The lost Sultanate of Sulu ④ Indonesia, a Vanishing Nomadic Clan ⑤ So many Good Reason to Work with LAT ⑥ Ubud Bali Gridlock ⑦ Sentosa New Precinct ⑧ Singapore Global Campaign ⑨ Bali, Tourists must Monitor Weather Reports ⑩ Indonesia, First High Speed Train of South East Asia

"Mediocrity can’t see above its height"

Education, Awareness or Catastrophe

Sustainability is a term that encapsulates a straightforward idea applicable to every individual, organization, and government: consider the future while making choices in the present. It's essentially about having a sense of responsibility. We are confronted with a significant decision between perpetuating unbridled consumerism and holding onto the hopeful vision of a better future. The unwise pursuit of material wealth, which seems to be the priority for many, often comes at the expense of ethical behaviour and a thoughtful regard for our communities, environment, and the unintended consequences of our actions. This shift away from solid values erodes our societal foundation. We've replaced intellectual discourse with slogans and poor communication, leading to an increase in factionalism and personal entitlement, unbalanced by a corresponding sense of obligation and responsibility. This phenomenon permeates all aspects of life and society. However, those of us in the travel industry bear a particularly weighty responsibility. We must disseminate accurate and appropriate information about the destinations we promote worldwide, educate people about their communities, values, and customs, and simultaneously offer services that are rich in cultural content while minimizing our social and environmental impact. We are in a unique position to inspire an appreciation for diversity and personal growth through comparison, rather than perpetually chasing "iconic" and "Instagram-worthy" locations and "wow" experiences to make a quick profit. This approach only exacerbates the lack of understanding and jeopardizes our future social development and the health of our planet. We are obligated to be well-informed, knowledgeable, and educated to encourage cultural exchange instead of fostering entitlement based on distorted and often imaginary personal expectations that many travellers carry with them. Traveling shouldn't replicate our familiar cultural environments but should embrace diversity, enriching our awareness and understanding of the world's variety and complexity. At LAT, we stand firmly for this principle and continue to produce literature and products that reflect our commitment and strong sense of responsibility toward cultural development. As we encounter requests for sensational experiences and unconventional programs, we remain steadfast in our mission. We believe that a significant portion of travel consumers possesses the sensitivity to appreciate this approach, despite the many travellers who embark on journeys without understanding their destinations, different time zones, basic astronomical geography, or the distinctions between temperate, tropical, and equatorial climates. These travellers often lack an awareness of the significance of the work of scientists like Alfred Wallace and Charles Darwin, coupled with an unwarranted sense of entitlement to behave however they please, speak their own language everywhere, and blame others for their uninformed and unrealistic expectations. We cannot possibly be the ones encouraging such attitudes.

The Lost Sultanate of Sulu

For centuries, people travelled the 200-kilometer stretch of water between here and Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost province of the Philippines, to trade goods.

However, a decade ago, in the dead of night, two motorboats made a clandestine crossing into neighbouring Malaysia and landed on Sabah. On board were about 200 elderly men, a dozen World War II rifles, and their leader, a 72-year-old prince named Agbimuddin Kiram. The prince's mission was to establish a presence on the northern tip of Borneo on behalf of his older brother, Jamalul Kiram III, who claimed to be the rightful heir to the former Sultanate of Sulu. Their aging group identified themselves as the Royal Sultanate Force, a far cry from the formidable warriors the Tausugs of Sulu once were.

For centuries, Sulu had controlled a significant portion of the South China Sea before falling to Spain in 1836. In stark contrast, Agbimuddin's men were ill-equipped when they landed in Tanduo village on February 11, 2013.

By the following day, a concerned villager had alerted the authorities, leading to the rapid deployment of Malaysian police, who cordoned off the area and evacuated civilians. Residents of Eastern Sabah were put under lockdown, including those in the city of Lahad Datu, two hours away by car, as authorities engaged in negotiations with the intruders.

Although his daughter claimed that he was surprised by Agbimuddin's actions, nearly a month into the standoff, Jamalul III decided to support his brother's cause. In a statement delivered by Jacel in 2013, Jamalul III declared that Agbimuddin and his men would "fight until the last man" to "reclaim and peacefully settle in our homeland."

By mid-March, after a series of airstrikes and house-to-house manhunts, Malaysia had retaken Tanduo, and 56 of the insurgent group, referred to as "terrorists," were killed. These clashes included ambushes and shootouts that resulted in the deaths of nine Malaysian officers and six civilians.

Today, the Kiram family is engaged in international arbitration with the Malaysian government in an attempt to recover their assets, some of which are located in Europe.

Indonesia, a Vanishing Nomadic Clan

In the 19th century, the Punan people of Borneo were so elusive to their neighbors that rumors circulated about them having tails. Unlike Indigenous farmers who lived in long houses, the Punan resided in family groups, wandering the northern rainforests of the island. They hunted bearded pigs, gathered forest products for trade, and harvested starchy plants. However, they were not only misunderstood but also mistreated. The Indonesian government, over decades, dispossessed the Punan of their ancestral lands and encouraged, sometimes forcibly, their relocation to pre-built villages. By the 1990s, anthropologists believed that the traditional hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the Punan had disappeared. In 2002, a census focusing only on the settled villages was conducted because it was believed that very few nomads remained. Anthropologists and geneticists from the Mochtar Riady Institute for Nanotechnology in Tangerang, Indonesia, conducted studies that revealed the existence of a clan comprising about 30 Punan families who sought refuge in limestone caves and rarely emerged from the forest. This discovery was met with skepticism by many experts. However, with funding from the National Science Foundation, these scientists established contact with the nomadic group in 2018 and began collecting data to ensure their health and well-being. During their initial visit, the scientists returned with photographs of a man wearing a loincloth made of bark fiber and recordings of a unique song language that had no resemblance to any other known language. A description of these people, who identify themselves as the Cave Punan or Punan Batu, was published in the journal Evolutionary Human Sciences last year. Reports in the Indonesian media prompted the local government to recognize the Punan Batu as regular forest users, marking a significant step toward their rights to manage it under national laws. Despite this revelation, some experts still harbor doubts about the authenticity of this unique group's isolation, drawing parallels to the case of the Tasaday, a "lost tribe" discovered in the Philippines in 1971, whose isolation was later determined to be exaggerated or potentially a hoax. Recent studies focused on the DNA of the Punan Batu, accepted by a scientific journal, are expected to dispel doubts held by all but the staunchest skeptics. The limited genetic diversity observed in the Punan Batu suggests they have been isolated for over 20 generations. These new findings may also resolve a century-old debate regarding the Punan's arrival in Borneo and shed light on how they initially adopted a hunter-gatherer way of life. Furthermore, this research could strengthen the case for the Punan Batu's involvement in managing their threatened forest, which faces encroachment from palm oil plantations and commercial forestry operations.

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


Ubud Bali Gridlock

A trial shuttle bus service catering to tourists in Ubud, Bali's hub of arts and culture, is set to launch this week, marking a collaborative effort between the Provincial Government and the Toyota Mobility Fund. This initiative is part of Toyota's Sustainable Mobility Advancing Real Transformation (SMART) and involves a 6-month closed ecosystem trial, commencing on September 22, 2023, and concluding in February 2024. While the initial trial period spans six months, there is a strong commitment to establishing a permanent shuttle bus system in Ubud. The Toyota Mobility Fund has invested USD 1.7 million in conducting this trial, which will introduce two urban mobility solutions in this popular tourist destination. The first solution entails the introduction of ten on-demand eEV shuttle buses that will operate within the Central Ubud tourist area. These shuttle buses will have 21 designated pick-up and drop-off stops along a circular route, all conveniently located within a 10-minute walking distance from the most significant and popular tourist attractions. To access this service, tourists are required to download the SMART Shuttle @ Ubud app from app stores (Apple, Google, and Huawei). After registering an account, users can book a ride through the app, which functions similarly to popular ride-sharing services like Uber, Grab, or GoJek. Passengers can specify their pick-up and drop-off locations, the desired collection time, and the number of passengers. Bookings can be made up to 30 minutes before the intended pick-up time. The service will be operational daily between 6 am and 11 pm. The second solution under this partnership involves the installation of nine digital screens at bus stops along the existing Trans Metro Dewata Route. These screens will display real-time bus timings, benefiting commuters and the local community. According to the Toyota Mobility Fund, these initiatives are expected to yield significant benefits, including capacity building, with the ultimate goal of creating sustainable and tailored business models for the local community. The aim is to enhance mobility in Ubud by reducing air pollution, easing traffic congestion, and promoting the use of electrified public transportation. This new shuttle service in Bali represents a significant step forward in transportation and tourism management on the island. If the 6-month trial proves successful, there are hopes for continued funding and expansion of the program to other destinations on the island that face similar challenges related to tourism-related traffic congestion.


Sentosa New Precinct

A new beach entertainment precinct, developed and managed by the Shangri-La Group, has recently opened on Sentosa Island in Singapore. This vibrant destination offers a wide range of both aquatic and terrestrial activities, as well as a variety of food and beverage options, all presented with the signature Asian hospitality that the Shangri-La brand is known for. Spanning the expansive shoreline of Sentosa Island, The Palawan @ Sentosa offers eight distinct experiences for visitors to enjoy. Highlights include HyperDrive, the first gamified electric go-karting circuit in the region, featuring a three-level racetrack. There's also UltraGolf, an 18-hole mini-golf course, and The Palawan Dog Run, a secure green space designed for smaller and medium-sized dogs to play and exercise. Additionally, HydroDash, Singapore's inaugural floating inflatable playground, adds an exciting aquatic dimension to the offerings.

Singapore Global Campaign

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has introduced its newest global campaign, "Made in Singapore," aimed at encouraging travelers to select Singapore as their next destination. This campaign offers a novel perspective on the "Passion Made Possible" destination brand, initially introduced in 2017 through a collaboration between STB and the Singapore Economic Development Board. Replacing STB's previous international recovery campaign, "SingapoReimagine," launched in November 2020, "Made in Singapore" will highlight quintessential Singaporean experiences, ranging from iconic attractions to hidden gems. It will also showcase how ordinary moments can be transformed into extraordinary experiences in Singapore.

Bali, Tourists must Monitor Weather Reports

Weather warnings are constantly in effect throughout Bali. The Center for Meteorology, Climatology, and Geophysics in Denpasar is advising marine tourism providers and tourists to exercise heightened caution if they decide to venture out onto the water. They are issuing warnings about the possibility of high waves, reaching heights of up to four meters, which may occur in the vicinity of Bali and in the Lombok strait.

Indonesia, First High Speed Train of South East Asia

Indonesia inaugurated Southeast Asia's inaugural high-speed railway, marking the commencement of a long-awaited multibillion-dollar project supported by China. President Joko Widodo celebrated it as a symbol of modernization. Named "Whoosh" and boasting a remarkable top speed of 350 kilometers (220 miles) per hour, this bullet train can now transport passengers between the capital, Jakarta, and Bandung in a mere 45 minutes. This journey, covering a distance of 140 kilometers, used to consume approximately three hours when traveling by train.

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 forest protection project in Rimba Raya, Borneo. The project protects over 64,000 hectares of tropical peat forest from deforestation by offering people in the region alternative sources of income to illegal deforestation.

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, Myanmar 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:


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