Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen, who led the mission, is adamant that the target is achievable as she regards the mission as a huge success in creating awareness on Malaysia and attracting interest from the local tour operators selling Malaysian holiday packages.
She said Malaysia expected an increase in tourist arrivals from these former Soviet Union countries and was set to receive at least 30,000 tourists from Russia, 10,000 from Kazakhstan and 5,000 from Ukraine next year.
As of last year, Malaysia recorded 26,308 tourist arrivals from Russia, 5,000 from Kazakhstan and only about 3,700 visitors from Ukraine.
"We will be putting more effort in strengthening the market in this region as this market is unique in the sense that it needs a different approach. Our own industry players need in-depth understanding of this market," she said.
Dr Ng said Malaysian tour operators had to take the initiative to explore the market as through the visit, the government could only open the opportunity through government-to-
"I have met my counterpart from Kazakhstan and Ukraine and discussed issues pertaining to tourism but the tour operators need to take the initiative to explore the market. A more structured packages is needed here," she said.
On accessibility, she said, more airlines from this region, including Ukraine airline and Aerosvit, should be lured to fly direct to Malaysia to create tourist volume.
Currently Kazakhstan national airline, Air Astana, has agreed to fly direct to Kuala Lumpur once a week beginning Oct 31.
During the sales mission, the minister and her delegation had promoted various tourism niche market attractions and events for 2009 including the tennis tournament, Showdown of Champions 2009, to be held on Dec 18-19.
The tournament will see Russia's world-ranking tennis players Elina Dementiera, currently world number four, and Maria Kirilenko, currently on 56th placing, playing against Sania Mirza of India and Zheng Jie of China, 65th and 28th respectively.
The five main niche tourism products promoted for this market segment include holiday packages for sophisticated office workers, lifestyle tourism which includes eco-tourism, diving and sailing, spa and wellness and golfing, food tourism, art tourism and parks and gardens.
Also promoted were Unesco Heritage tourism in Melaka and Penang, building bridges packages aimed at students and younger tourists and seven-series tourism, which involves luxury packages.
To further create awareness on Malaysia, the ministry's delegation is also looking at organising a Mega Familiarisation programme for media from the countries visited, beside getting more Russian-speaking students to be trained as hospitality ambassadors to assist tourists from this region.
Source : Bernama
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