Thursday, May 8, 2008

Tourism needs smiling, helpful Msians

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.


Anonymous said...

Dear Dato Mad,

I fully agree with you that tourism is a sector where money makes money. We need concerted and intergrated effort to achieve that. Beside the chore programmes like the one you are participating in Dubai,I have a few suggestion.

We have hundreds of Malaysian travelling all over the world every day with hundreds of reasons. They are going for conferences, symposiums, workshops etc etc. They are from various sectors and professions. Or they are simply going for holiday.

Accountants participate in their yearly conferences, so are the doctors and the lawyers. NGOs travel too and they can play their parts. And of course the politicians of any breed. They travel extensively and to everywhere as long as there are human beings. They should and must play their parts too.

Why not the Tourism Ministry equip them with the necessary promotionals materials, souveniars, pamplets etc etc, to be distributed to their foreign counterparts. Or by just passing them to friends overseas. Something handy and not so troublesome to carry.

I have seen pamplets about Dubai in Lisbon and about Phuket in Malta. And mind you, it is just a simple promotional fliers about their tourist attractions. I was once asked about Langkawi in Cyprus when I was participating an NGO conference there. Of course there are none about Langkawi or about Pangkor or Trengganu to be found at the nearest tourism centre of our country.

These small constribution towards bringing more tourits to Malaysia could be done not only by the Tourism Ministry alone. We can all play our roles too.

Ramli Mohd Yunus
Alor Star, Kedah.

Anonymous said...

We have problem with knowledgeable tour guides, attitude towards foreigners and we don't smile much,
especially our counter personnel.

We are still lagging behind when it comes to saying `good day, good morning, excuse me, happy journey' how are you, etc etc as compared to the Thais and the Indonesians.

RMY, Alor Star.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dato,

That was indeed a very good comments, Dato.

I just want to share my personal view on this. I attended a few world tourism exhibitions i.e WTM London, ITB Berlin, ATF (Asean), as well as ATM Dubai when I was working few years back.

I saw most of the participated countries promote their destinations on their own ways/creativity. Some spent (millions) and some were just make use of what ever resources they have. It is a great opportunities indeed a great challenges where these destinations are really compete to each other.

We all know that Malaysia is rich of its culture and heritage. I guess, it is wiser to highlight a different culture at different events in order to make things more excited thus attracted people. Even if to bring culture troupe would be an excellent ideas and perform at the exhibition ground.

I am not sure whether Tourism Malaysia is doing this now but what ever initatives taken, it must be consistent.

Again, for those who participated in the exhibition, they must represent the country (Malaysia)not just attended for their company. Representing Malaysia, means they have to portray what Malaysia has best.

Regarding the leaflets of various destinations in Malaysia, actually Tourism Malaysia has a lot of collaterals and everybody can just request for it. Otherwise you may obtain it from state tourism units.

And, as far as the MICE is concerned, Tourism Malaysia has a specific unit to handle MICE and I am sure they would be pleased to render their assistance, if people request it.