Malaysia believes that tourism can help mitigate the effects of an economic downturn and contribute to recovery.
Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said in times of adversity, there was a need to be creative in product development and to diversity markets through more efficient use of promotion resources.
As such, she said, Malaysia had developed and promoted the homestay concept, which was a community-based tourism programme, also aimed at increasing rural income and employment.
This effort had helped reduce migration of rural youths to the urban areas and in maintaining the social fabric of the rural communities, she said at the 18th Session of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), here, Monday.
Held at the Palace of Independence, in Astana, the capital city of Kazakhstan, the four-day meeting from today to discuss tourism matters is being attended by about 500 participants from 154 member states and affiliates.
Dr Ng said the homestay programme also served as a platform for building bridges by encouraging international travel among youths, so as to gain a better understanding of the rich cultural diversity and to strengthen ties among nations.
To further strengthen the tourism industry, Malaysia had undertaken several initiatives, including the formation of a 24-hour tourist crisis management committee, improving service delivery, investing in human resource development through training and capacity building, as well as fostering public-private partnership, she added.
"As part of our marketing strategy, we undertook sales missions to countries less affected by the crisis, re-energise traditional markets and seek for increased opportunities in new markets."
However, she said, above all the efforts taken to strengthen the resilience of the tourism sector, the key factor for success was the strong commitment of the government towards the industry.
Dr Ng in her speech also took the opportunity to congratulate Jordanian Taleb Rifai for his appointment as the new Secretary-General of UNWTO and thanked the outgoing Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli who decided to leave his position prior to the expiry of his third-term this year.
The General Assembly today ratified the appointment of Rifai, upon recommendation by the Executive Council. The council at a meeting in Bamako, Mali in May this year had selected Rifai out of four candidates named, to the post of secretary-general for 2010-2013.
On the sidelines of the meeting, Dr Ng called on Rifai. Earlier, she met with Hong Kong Commissioner for Tourism Margeret Fong who expressed Hong Kong's interest in developing a partnership with Malaysia in cruise tourism as well as the meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) segment of the industry.
Dr Ng also had an audience with the vice-chairman of the National Tourism Administration of China, Zhu Shanzhong, where they exchanged updates on tourism in both countries.
Source : Bernama
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