Saturday, March 17, 2007

Americans showing Interest in Malaysia

It is not even eight years old yet, but the Petronas Twin Towers has become the poster boy for promoting Malaysia to America.

“That’s usually the first thing I tell them,” says Tourism Malaysia vice-president Mohamad Taib Ibrahim, who is based in New York.

For good measure, he would also talk about Entrapment, the 1999 movie which featuring the Twin Towers, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery.

You could say that Malaysia has two Hollywood stars “promoting” the country.

For Visit Malaysia Year 2007, the Tourism Malaysia office in New York is continuing what they call a “tactical campaign.”

A travel fair in New York where Tourism Malaysia participated recently.
Americans are big on the Net, so at least 60% of Tourism Malaysia advertisements are placed on Yahoo and sites like TravelZoo.

“Our current print advertisements feature a dual package where we sell Malaysia and Singapore together. It’s a joint promotion that we are doing with the Singapore Tourism Board,” Mohamad Taib says.

Another similar package features Vietnam as well, he adds.

“There’s also the Malaysia Specialist Programme, which we are running online. Travel agents will sit for an exam and once they pass that, they will get a 12% commission instead of the usual 10% from the wholesaler (ie. tour companies).”

Besides road shows, trade and consumer fairs, there is also the familiarisation trips for tour agents and journalists, where media representatives from The Washington Times, Budget Traveller magazine and the WABC radio station are invited.

“We also promote events such as the World Amateur Inter-Team Golf Championship to tell Americans that there are so many things to do while in Malaysia,” he says.

However, he acknowledges that Malaysia’s budget is not as huge as India’s, which spent millions on its advertising campaign in the North American markets.

“That’s why you can see their Incredible India ads in print and broadcast media especially on CNN,” he says.

Mohamad Taib has a budget of about US$420,000 (RM1.5mil) for the tactical campaign this year.

The number of American tourists hitting Malaysian shores is on the upswing, going by statistics. In 2004, the number stood at 145,094. The following year it was 151,354.

The latest figures show that the number of arrivals last year totalled 174,336, a 15% increase from 2005.

“It’s a double-digit percentage. This is significant because we have not seen this kind of growth before,” he says.

To the Americans, Malaysia is an exotic destination with a captivating culture and good beaches.

“The Conde Nast Traveller magazine recently named Langkawi, Sabah and Sarawak as among the top 10 islands in the world,” he says.

Source : STAR
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