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MM2H Agents Association Second National Workshop 2015
MM2H Centre in collaboration with MM2H Agents Association (MM2HAA) will organize MM2H 2nd National Workshop 2015 on 15th October 2015 (Thursday) at the Multipurpose Hall, Ministry of Tourism and...
M'sia Realigns Tourism Strategies To Face Global Reality Print E-mail
Wednesday, 06 May 2009 12:06
DUBAI, May 5 (Bernama) -- Malaysia is pulling out all the stops to woo tourists from places with less than eight hours' flight to the country to make up for the expected drop in the number of long-haul visitors in the current testy economic conditions.

Tourism Ministry's deputy secretary-general for tourism Datuk Abdul Ghaffar A. Thambi said the emphasis now was on luring more visitors from the Middle East, China, Japan, Korea and Asean countries, as well as promoting domestic tourism.

Speaking to Bernama on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2009 which gets underway here today, he said the move was in response to industry predictions of reduced travel among long-haul tourists in the wake of the global economic crisis and credit crunch.

"We're hopeful that Middle Easterners will continue to favour Malaysia which shares many commonalities with their own part of the world," he said after a press conference on Malaysia's 16th participation at the May 5-8 event at the Dubai International Conference and Exhibition Centre (DICEC).

Abdul Ghaffar is leading the Malaysian delegation made up of over 100 representatives from 84 organisations, comprising 55 hotels, 23 tour operators, four state governments, KL Tower and Malaysia Airlines.

The four state governments at the ATM, billed as the premier tourism fair not only for the Middle East but also the global tourism industry, are represented by the Sabah Tourism Board, Langkawi Development Authority, Penang Tourism and Kedah.

The Malaysians' presence here is part of a strategy to bring in 250,000 visitors from the Middle East in 2009, a region described by Abdul Ghaffar as "very important" to the Malaysian tourism sector.

Some of the Malaysian participants will join Tourism Malaysia's road shows to Jordan and Syria organised on the heels of the ATM.

Abdul Ghaffar was joined at the press conference by Tourism Malaysia's deputy director-general (planning) Azizan Noordin, its regional director for Africa, West and South Asia Abdul Rahman Shaari, and Malaysia Airlines' general manager for Middle East and Africa Merina Abu Tahir.

Abdul Ghaffar and Azizan updated the audience on Malaysia's tourism industry and fielded questions from the floor on issues ranging from possible fallout from the influenza outbreak originating in Mexico, to steps being taken to make Arab travellers feel more at home while visiting Malaysia.

In 2008, Malaysia drew 22.05 million visitors, including 264,338 arrivals from the Middle East, generating RM49.56 billion (US$13.76 billion) in receipts.

Topping the list of Middle East arrivals last year was Saudi Arabia with 74,632 visitors, followed by Iran (63,165), United Arab Emirates (34,994) and Kuwait (18,853).

And the nation of 27 million people, a tourism gem in the heart of Southeast Asia and known by many across the world via the award-winning "Malaysia Truly Asia" promotional campaign, is touting niche products at the travel fair in a bid to coax Middle Eastern visitors to its shores.

Among them are the homestay programme, Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H), medical and health tourism and ecotourism, as well as spa and wellness.

According to Abdul Ghaffar, the homestay programme which allowed foreigners to experience Malaysian-style living, especially in the villages, was a hit with visitors from China, Japan and South Korea, as well as the United Kingdom.

"We hope it will catch on with our Middle Eastern friends," he said of the programme that has welcomed over 23,000 participants.

Another niche product that will be highlighted at the travel fair is the MM2H which has seen the participation of 484 foreigners until March 2009, with Iranians forming the majority with 358.

Abdul Ghaffar said efforts were being made to promote new destinations in Malaysia like Johor, Terengganu, Pahang, Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan, among foreigners.

He said several adjustments had been made to suit the habits of Middle Easterners, including extending meal times at hotels and allowing retail outlets to operate beyond their normal hours, during the summer holiday season.

Also during that period, Arabic-speaking university students are given special permission to become part-time tour guides for the Arabs.

To make their stay more enjoyable, Abdul Ghaffar said performers from the Middle East were also being brought in to entertain them.


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