Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Scots are keen to know about Malaysia

As the saying goes, the truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

Who would have believed, for example, that the locals staying near Scotland’s Loch Ness tourist spot are more interested to know about Malaysia than their own legendary monster. Loch Ness is, after all, the stuff of legend and a global icon.

Then again, maybe the people have grown accustomed to the mysterious tales surrounding the plesiosaur-like sea serpent over the years. For the folk in Oban – one of the remotest seaside towns in the Scottish west coast – exotic tourist destinations are more alluring.

Datuk Jimmy Choo - STARpic by NG KOK LEONG
Although Malaysia may not have mythical beasts like Nessie, Big Foot or Yeti, it nevertheless has plenty of sun, sea and marine life. With Visit Malaysia Year 2007 in full swing, Malaysia certainly fits the bill as far as the fishing town’s 9,000-odd population is concerned.

According to Tourism Malaysia (UK & Ireland) director Mohmed Razip Hasan, Oban was used as an “acid test”, and it passed with flying colours. “We spoke to several travel agents at random and were surprised to find out that they had already heard about Malaysia, especially the VMY.

“In fact, they asked for additional materials and brochures as they wanted to know more about the country and its people,” he adds.

Razip cites an instance where one of the participants enquired about Malaysia’s Datai Resort while clicking onto the Tourism Malaysia website in the midst of a marketing presentation.

At Fort William, another tourist town nearby, Razip spoke to an English couple who had heard a lot about the Petronas Twin Towers.

“They told me it was their dream to visit Malaysia and see for themselves the country’s super mega-structure,” he adds.

Razip describes his recent trip to Oban, Glasgow and Wales as an eye-opener because it shows the people’s growing awareness of Malaysia.

“While the city folk in London, Manchester and other major cities may be familiar with Malaysia, it’s encouraging to know that those in the outskirts and remote areas have heard of the country, too.

“After the evaluation, we can plan how much more we have to do to promote the VMY campaign,” he says, adding that the marketing team would continue to tap the vast opportunities available.

According to Razip, they travel all over the country and meet travel agents and tourism players to encourage them to come up with more packages this year. Their aggressive marketing strategy also covers Britain’s mainstream media, including BBC television and Heart Radio.

“We had a BBC documentary on Malaysia while Heart Radio’s prime time broadcasts covers more than 400,000 listeners in greater London,” he says.

Tourism Malaysia is also running a poster campaign in London’s main Underground Tube stations including the Charing Cross, Oxford Circus, Piccadilly, Euston and Waterloo lines. At Manchester United’s Old Trafford stadium, a giant bunting with the VMY logo greets football fans at the main entrance.

About 60 London black cabs and 30 double-decker buses have also been roped in. Bedecked with Malaysia’s best sporting, cultural, and arts images, they are cruising the streets promoting Malaysia.

Tourism Malaysia’s calendar of events include the upcoming Taste of Malaysia (March 19 to March 23), the London Golf Show (April 26 to April 29), as well as the just-concluded Times Destinations in Birmingham (March 1 to MArch 4) and the London International Dive Show (March 10 and March 11).

Razip also enlisted the help of Malaysian personalities, including celebrity shoe designer Datuk Jimmy Choo, to lend a helping hand.

“Jimmy gave a talk on Malaysia as a Mice (Meeting, Incentive, Convention and Exhibition) destination to about 25 key tourism players last month,” he says, adding that they are planning to invite superstar Datuk Michelle Yeoh to help out when she next visits London.

Razip also pays tribute to the Malaysian community in the UK, from Malaysian High Commissioner Datuk Abdul Aziz Mohamed to professionals, business leaders and students, for their unwavering support. He is confident that with the co-operation and strong backing from all sectors, they will be able to hit the target of 400,000 British visitors to Malaysia.

To cast the net even wider, Tourism Malaysia is eyeing the 30,000 British war veterans who served in Malaya during the Emergency and Confrontation periods. They are working closely with the British-Malaysian Society and five major travel agents to organise specially-tailored “memorial tours” for them.

“We hope to get more than 3,000 British ex-servicemen and their families to take a trip down memory lane this year,” Razip says.

And he is expecting at least 1,000 of them to join in Malaysia’s 50th anniversary celebrations in Kuala Lumpur on Aug 31. Razip, however, acknowledges that the recent floods in Malaysia has put a damper on their promotions but “it’s business as usual now”.

“After the initial concern, we’re redoubling, even tripling, our efforts to make up for lost time,” he adds.

Yes, it’s a tall order. But with a good recipe and the right chemistry, Razip is confident of achieving his target.

Source : STAR
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