Saturday, March 17, 2007

Tourism Malaysia's Aggressive VMY2007 Promotion

Tourism Malaysia has been aggressively promoting Visit Malaysia Year 2007 overseas.

Malaysia Truly Asia – the tagline is everywhere. At home and abroad, it is displayed on billboards, banners, websites, posters, cabs, newspapers and television. Even if you forget the picture, the catchy slogan will still ring in your mind.

Visit Malaysia Year 2007 (VMY) is into its third month now and promotions are in full swing. For the past three years, tourism officials have been preparing for Malaysia’s biggest campaign to woo visitors. We hope to target 20.1 million tourists this year and net a total spending of RM44.5bil.

Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor last week slammed certain tourism-related associations for claiming that tourist arrivals were slow and that the business environment remained unchanged although it was VMY. He called on everyone to put in extra effort to ensure the success of VMY instead of criticising it all the time.

And away we go: Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor waving as he takes a London black cab in the London Taxi Campaign as part of the VMY 2007 promotion. — CHOI TUCK WO
“The peak season for inbound tourists is during the summer months of July-August and November-December while the low times are April-May and August-September,” says Malaysian Association for Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president, Ngiam Foon.

He reckons VMY is on track, and the promotional efforts are paying off, although the statistics are not yet available. “We just need to be patient. What we need to do now is make sure the programmes are executed well,” he says.

According to Sam Cheah, Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) secretary general, it is too early to tell whether tourists are flocking to the country.

Michael Tay
“The individual hotels are doing their own promotions but it is difficult to measure as far as statistics are concerned. MAH is in the midst of compiling the numbers by going state by state.

“It’s also important to look at the geographical location of the hotel and what kind of market they are targeting,” says Cheah, who views the campaign positively.

Many VMY promotions are ongoing in major cities around the world. We checked with our foreign tourist offices to find out how the campaign was progressing.

In Beijing, the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB) has mapped out a year-long campaign to woo Chinese tourists.

“The China market is seen as an important tourist source. If we target one million arrivals from China for VMY, this means an increase of more than 100% compared to the arrivals in 2006,’’ says MTPB counsellor Michael Tay.

MTPB ran an eight-page supplement on Jan 1 in the Global News newspaper and another 12 pages in the January edition of Travel Agent magazine, highlighting VMY programmes throughout the year.

VMY promotional events include getting the Shangri-La chain of hotels to participate in the Food and Cultural Festivals throughout China, tying up with CCTV 1’s children programme, offering a tour package to Malaysia as grand prize, and having VMY shopping promotions with Parkson Department Store.

“Other activities include participation in travel fairs such as Xian International Travel Fair in March, Beijing International Travel Exhibition and East Asia Tourism Fair in Dalian,’’ Tay adds. He says there is a need to adopt strategic approaches to lure Chinese tourists who are becoming increasingly affluent.

”I’d rather work with operators to develop tour packages that are attractive to the Chinese than spend money on exorbitantly priced advertisements,’’ he says.

Malacca Legend (Beijing) restaurant owner James.
“Don’t forget, there are over 400 television stations here. Which one are you going to put your ads in?’’ he asks, adding that media familiarisation trips to Malaysia are far more cost-effective.

“We are also targeting Malaysian corporations in China that can provide incentive trips to Malaysia,’’ he says. Tay is also recruiting various Malaysian restaurants in Beijing to promote VMY.

Meanwhile, Tourism Malaysia in Shanghai completed its promotional events last year and is now busy compiling the number of Chinese tourists visiting the country.

“What we are doing now is gearing for figures,” says tourism consul Wan Zawawi Mohammed. “We will participate in the World Travel Fair at the Shanghai Exhibition Centre from March 22 to March 24.”

Other programmes include collaborating with hotels in Suzhou and Shanghai on food and cultural events in April and encouraging tour operators to sell packages in conjunction with the Malaysian F1 Grand Prix race.

“We will also be sending a football team, comprising the expatriate community in Shanghai to Malaysia for a tour in March. We plan to introduce tours to palm oil and cocoa plantations,” Wan Zawawi says.

The Government has allocated an advertising budget of 1mil yuan (RM450,000) so that advertisements on VMY 2007 will be periodically published in major Chinese airline magazines, he adds.

In the past few years, reports of Chinese nationals being mistreated have had an impact on tourist arrivals, but the many promotional tours organised by the Tourism Ministry are reversing the trend. Chinese tourists are discovering that Malaysia has a lot to offer and their favourite destinations currently are Sabah and Sarawak.

Closer to home, visitors from Thailand made up the second biggest tourist market for Malaysia last year. However, a walk through downtown Bangkok shows no signs of the VMY campaign.

A chat with middle-class Thais reveals that most are not aware of the campaign although ads are being aired over Thai satellite television. Ironically, Malaysia Airlines also advertises heavily – but for flights from Bangkok to London, on select satellite channels.

In Phuket, a Tourism Malaysia billboard just outside the airport beckons visitors. But, getting the same tourists to visit Malaysia can be a challenge, says one travel agent, because the island is literally a paradise of its own. Phuket has clean beaches, clubs, easy transportation, excellent service, cheap booze and goods, and abundant activities to keep tourists occupied for an entire week.

On the whole, VMY promotions are smoothly underway, but we can only tell at the end of the year if the campaign will be a roaring success.

Source : STAR
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