Malaysia readies for a ‘golden party’

2007 will be the best time to visit Malaysia

As Malaysia readies to celebrate 50 years of independence next year, the country is going on a charm offensive and has named 2007 Visit Malaysia year. SHALU CHANDRAN put some questions to Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan B Tengku Mansor, Malaysia’s minister of tourism, to find out what’s on offer. Excerpts:

Why choose 2007 as Visit Malaysia Year?
As our logo says, 2007 celebrates 50 years of nationhood. So we plan to have golden showers all over the country. The theme of the event is golden, it’s a golden party. So, 2007 will be the best time to visit and the ministry plans to aggressively develop and market Malaysia this year, to be the preferred tourist destination for tourists around the world in 2007.
Of course it does not mean we don’t welcome you in 2006, but just that we want to make use of all our resources to promote Visit Malaysia 2007 (VMY 2007) this year. A lot of events have been planned for tourists visiting Malaysia this year, and this will be repeated with more next year.

What sort of events do you have lined up?
In our 50th anniversary, we have 50 events over 50 days with five million visitors – or even 50 million visitors. Many programmes and activities are planned, among them is Malaysia Welcomes the World, a training programme to teach Malaysians how to greet and treat our visitors and to ensure that they return to Malaysia. Other events include the Floral Parade in Kuala Lumpur, Le Tour de Langkawi  which is the richest cycling race in Asia, The Petronas Malaysian F1 Grand Prix in March, the Rainforest World Music Festival in Sarawak, and the most exciting, the Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival which takes place across the country from July 21 to September 2, 2007. Malaysians will also celebrate every festivals on a grand scale, starting with Chinese New Year in January until Christmas.
And with so many events lined up for tourists all year round, we want tourists to stay longer and we expect this will increase arrivals expenditure.

What specific sector of tourism will be in focus?
As far as tourists are concerned, VMY 2007 will target leisure tourists, there will be activities and events suited for family holidays, honeymooners which is usually around April-May and then again from September until November. However we also have big plans and programmes for the MICE market and are conducting special programmes promoting the MICE market in this region.
There are many conferences and exhibitions scheduled to be held in Malaysia in 2007. We are also promoting incentives, we encourage people and companies to come to Malaysia and bring their work here. We might still be quite new, but in terms of facilities that we have Kuala Lumpur now ranks 13th in terms of the number of meetings held. At the moment Kuala Lumpur has 30,000 rooms and all the hotel rooms are about 10-15 mins away from the conference centres, so there shouldn’t be any problems.

What’s new on the MICE front outside the capital?
As far as convention centres go, a new one is being developed in Johor Bahru, which is close to Singapore and another in Sarawak. So we are concentrating not only on Kuala Lumpur, but on all our cities including Langkawi where we have the Maturi convention centre. Genting is another popular destination for MICE facilities.
In Malaysia, it is also very important for us to ensure that we have all the right post conference activities. We have both pre- and post- conference activities for the MICE travellers, including guided tours around the country, sports activities like golf, scuba diving, and of course, shopping!

What were your arrival figures for 2005?
We have had very encouraging arrival figures in 2005, which has seen a double digit growth from this region. Numbers last year were 147,000 from the Middle East, including 53,000 from Saudi Arabia and 30,000 from the UAE. That is an increase of about 31 per cent in 2005 as compared to 2004. We have received a very tall order from the cabinet. In 2005 we saw 16.4 million arrivals. Our target for 2006 is 17.5 million arrivals and in 2007 we are expecting 20.1 million arrivals. In terms of revenue we are expecting Dh44.5 billion. It is a tall order, but it has been very challenging and very exciting for us.

What about new hotel developments?
In terms of new hotel developments, we have a lot of approved contracts which will start soon. A few new hotels opened this year and we have now two more hotels that are under construction at the moment again next to the convention centre.

What are your offerings to travel distributors?
We are working very closely with travel agents and airlines with generous incentives. We are working very closely with them and have involved them in various campaigns. We have also launched a new Malaysian travel brochure with Kanoo Holidays. We have also joined hands with them to develop packages and offer giveaways to people from all over the world. We are also working with Middle Eastern airlines like Etihad, Gulf Air and Emirates to develop special packages and rates for 2007.