Sunday, February 11, 2007

Malaysia Through the Eyes of Foreign Visitors

IT is just over one month into Visit Malaysia 2007. Many tourists can easily be found – at KL Sentral, for example, or on the KL Hop-on Hop-off City Tour buses. It appears that the promotion of Malaysia as a tourist destination is working – or is it?

Surprisingly, though, none of the tourists interviewed came to Malaysia as a direct influence of the Visit Malaysia 2007 campaign. Take the van Pelt and Bergmans couples from the Netherlands, whom we spoke to while they were tucking into a hearty lunch of wanton noodles.

To their liking: The van Pelts and Bergmans from Netherlands are making the most of their visit.
“Our son, whom we are visiting, is working here in Malaysia, and this is our second time here. The Bergmans decided to join us on this trip,” said Els van Pelt.

They said they were aware of the Visit Malaysia 2007 campaign, but that was just coincidental to choosing Malaysia as their holiday destination.

Malaysia appears to be a family-oriented tourist destination – the Garda family from Johannesburg, South Africa, a case in point. The family entourage consists of grandpa and grandma Ismail and Shahim, sons Feroze and Zubair with wives Nazia and Farzana respectively, and grandchildren Isa, Nawal and Sabreen.

Both Feroze and Zubair have been here four times before, and they wanted the entire family to experience the country for themselves. As Feroze said, “We feel comfortable with the culture and the food.”

The Gardas are a Muslim family, which is not so common in Johannesburg. Grandma Shahim relishes the freedom. “We are able to eat almost anywhere here, which is so different (from home) as we are only a small percentage of the population in South Africa.”

They also love the peaceful situation here. “We come from a country that is not so safe, and we are able to go anywhere here, even at night, and there have been no problems at all,” she said.

Shahim was also surprised at how easy a time tourists have in Malaysia.

The Garda family of Johannesburg, South Africa feel safer here in Malaysia than at home.
“I have been to Singapore before and I feel that the service here is just as good, but perhaps the country is not as clean. And toilets – they are not so clean especially in the smaller towns and villages but it is clean in the cities.”

Similarly, Steve Sharp, 26, from London and Stewart Ainsley, 29, from Portsmouth are in Malaysia not as a result of the Visit Malaysia 2007 campaign, but merely because they wanted to see the country. Asked their honest opinion about Malaysia as a tourist destination, Sharp said, “Malaysia is just not as well known as it should be. The problem is not with Malaysia itself, but the country is not perceived around the world as a tourist hotspot.”

He added, “There may be many places to go and see but we don’t know about them. I would say that awareness about the different facilities and places to go should be increased. We have been here two weeks and we feel we've seen it all.”

Therese Hellgien, Louise Svensson and Halcon Hogset from Norway were also in KL, but their trip is a stopover on their way to Bali from Thailand.

Seen it all: Sharp and Ainsley believe Malaysia is not perceived around the world as a tourist hotspot.
“We knew about Visit Malaysia 2007 but it wasn't a factor for us coming. We saw posters of it in Thailand but nothing in our home country in Norway,” they said.

Realistically, it would be a difficult task for Tourism Malaysia to buy airtime on every TV station around the world, but what they have done has been effective.

Kjetil Winsnes from Norway said, “I have seen the commercials on CNN. That's the one that says ‘Malaysia – truly Asia’.”

Munuela and Uwe Semper from Germany are here for the second time, the last visit being 10 years ago.

“We saw promotions on television but not on German national TV. It was on CNN and some sports channels – subscription television only,” Uwe said.

“There are a lot of special things about Malaysia. There isn't anything in particular, but it is Malaysia as a whole that we like. Shopping is great in KL, but smaller towns like Tanah Rata and Brinchang in Cameron Highlands are special in their own way, something you can’t describe, actually,” said Munuela.

Source : STAR
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