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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bon Ton sees value in heritage properties

Resort, restaurant and retail specialist Bon Ton Sdn Bhd will continue to work with other tourism players in promoting Penang as the choice destination for cultural and heritage tourists.

It has invested RM5 million in restoring historic shophouses in George Town's heritage enclave in Penang to date.

Bon Ton director Narelle McMurtrie said the company's hotel management arm - Brand Bon Ton Sdn Bhd - is looking at managing more heritage properties comprising boutique residences in Penang.

"We are now looking at managing other people's heritage properties here by entering into management arrangements with them since we are on the lookout for about 20 more rooms to make our current business viable," she told Business Times.

Australian-born McMurtrie, who is synonymous with Langkawi's Bon Ton Resort and the Bon Ton Restaurant in Kuala Lumpur (which has since closed), is now training her eyes on promoting both Langkawi and Penang as destinations to travellers who are in search of rustic-meets-luxury accomodation.
Last year, Bon Ton Sdn Bhd acquired 10 shophouses in George Town's heritage enclave along Lebuh Stewart and Lebuh Armenian.

The shophouses have been converted into boutique residences, retail outlets and a cafe.

In Langkawi, the company has invested some RM12 million where it has been operating Bon Ton Resort since 1994 and more recently, opened a luxury resort called Temple Tree at Pantai Cenang.

Temple Tree is made up of a collection of nine antique houses, ranging from ages 70 to 110 years.

The homes were destined either for demolition or on the brink of collapse when McMurtrie acquired them from their owners.

She then reassembled these homes in Langkawi and rehabilitated them to luxurious resort accomodation with modern amenities.

"The Temple Tree project was made possible with assistance from the Ministry of Tourism, which had helped us obtain a loan from the SME Bank," she said.

Her Penang properties are all shophouses, which used to serve as homes, warehouses and shops dating as far back as 1850.

"We want to offer travellers the 'Penang Experience' by combining the state's rich heritage and food attributes and we are in the midst of preparing a Penang guide to shopping and cafes," McMurtrie said.

"By promoting Penang as a destination to travellers, we want to ensure that the state's economy benefits via a spillover effect and that travellers return to Penang and also promote the attractions by word-of-mouth."

By Business Times

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