SALAM from Dubai! I'm mingling with the tourism crowd at the Arab Travel Mart (ATM), one of the biggest exhibitions and conferences promoting tourism, particularly in the west Asian reghion. Malaysia is here, with a big pavilion under the Malaysian Tourism Promotion Board led by its Director General, Dato Mirza Mohamad Taiyab.
It's one helluva of an experience. Tourism promotion here is held in this sprawling purpose-built exhibition named the Dubai World Trade Centre. Accompanying Mirza are Malaysian hoteliers, travel agents and tour operators. We seem to be doing right because Mirza made it to page 2 of the Gulf Times, one of the Dubai's English newspapers.
I'm here as a representative of the National Tourism Council of Malaysia (NTCM). The NTCM is organising its own exhibition and conference in late July and we are doing some promotion here. Tourism Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said is here, as is the Selangor State Government exco for tourism, blogger Elizabeth Wong.
There's much to learn from the ATM. It's quite apparent that the government here invest a lot of money in tourism promotion. MTPB need to be here every year and create sufficient impact at such events.
Apart from Mirza, the Gulf Times also have a colour picture of Malaysian men and women in their traditional costume - baju Melayu and baju kurung complete with accessories. Elizabeth herself was showing off her embroided blue baju kebaya nyonya.
One thing is for sure - one has to be very creative in attracting visitors to visit their booths and stands. At the Malaysian pavilion, a lady from Kuching is seated weaving beads while an artist from Central Market concentrates on batik painting.
At the Moroccon pavilion, a group of young men played traditional drums at the agreed time while a couple from Brazil danced the salsa. Some pavilions had a running commercial on flat screen TVs. All in, the atmosphere is colourful. This is a trade exhibition and conference, and not meant for the public.
It is also clear that in tourism, money makes money. One has to invest big time in infrastructure and have first-class support services such as car rental, friendly hotel staff, knowledgeable tour guides and smiling Malaysians.