Despite growing competition from Asian destinations, cost-conscious tourists seeking to get the best value for their money, and depreciating value of the US dollar, Malaysia made a strong bid at the ITB Asia 2009 in Singapore to attract Asian and other tourists.
The ITB Asia, an Asian edition of the ITB Berlin, the world's largest tourism event, made its debut last year against the backdrop of the Asian tourist's growing spending power.
While emphasising that Asia had become an important source of tourism traffic, Martin Buck, the Vice President of Messe Berlin, the organiser of the ITB Asia 2009, spoke about the "great significance" of the Asean region.
"The Asean region is an important market for outbound traffic.
"Vietnam is an upcoming destination as well as a market. So also is Thailand and Singapore," Buck said.
Asia's growing importance both as a destination and a source of traffic was also reflected in the fact that some 70 per cent of all hosted buyers at the ITB Asia were from Asia, up from 56 per cent in 2008, according to Buck.
Malaysian tour operators, travel agents, hoteliers and tourism agencies made a strong bid to court Asian tourists.
Megat Shahrul, Tourism Manager of the Langkawi Development Authority, said given Langkawi economy's "total dependence" on tourism, the island was interested to court tourists not only from its traditional markets in Europe and Australia but also from Singapore, Thailand and other Asian countries.
Megat confirmed he had received "lots of enquiries" from Indian tour operators.
"Langkawi as a tourism destination should be, particularly, interesting for Indian couples wanting to spend their honeymoon on the island," he said in an interview with Bernama.
Megat cited the case of a mammoth wedding which Langkawi had organised for an Indian couple from Mumbai and brought in an entire wedding party to Langkawi.
"The money spent on food, drinks, wedding arrangements and other items amounted to RM 3 million. That benefited many segments of the economy. The wedding guests stayed at the Taj Rebala and Westin hotels," he added.
Angelina C. Fernandez, Head of Marketing and Communications of Firefly Sdn. Bhd, a subsidiary airline of Malaysia Airline, highlighted the fact that her airline was participating for the first time at the Singapore show because it would get "visibility" at the event.
She pointed out that Firefly, which was established in 2007, had acquired seven ATR 72-500 aircraft.
"Our airline is ideally suited for flying to destinations where the wide-bodied aircraft do not fly," she said.
She said Firefly received "many enquiries" from agents in South Africa, Germany, India and Hungary.
"These agents are looking for point-to-point business as they were unable to do so in the past."
Firefly, according to Fernandez, benefited from the economic downturn "because our fares are very competitive" for the cost-conscious travellers.
A key expression of confidence in Malaysia as a destination was provided by a spokesperson of Carlson Hotels Worldwide which is setting up two properties in Kuala Lumpur.
Xerxes Meher Homji, the Singapore-based Executive Vice President (Asia/Pacific) of Carlson Hotels Worldwide said two hotels belonging to the Carlson stable would be set up near the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.
"Construction work on the hotels will start early next year and the hotels are expected to be completed in three years," Homji said.
Jill Henry, Chief Executive Officer of the Sarawak Convention Board, was promoting her state as a convention centre.
She stated that Sarawak is the "first of all Malaysian states to start a convention board which is autonomous from the tourism board.
"The convention activities in Sarawak are, generally, linked with nature as the background.
"This is a refreshing approach for many customers in the convention business," Henry said.
Besides the new Kuching convention centre, the state also has additional convention capacity provided by two new hotels Sheraton and Pullman.
"This gives us a total capacity of 15,000 for the convention business," she said, adding that ITB Asia served her as a "learning ground" where she was able to make contacts with the intermediaries and learn more about the distribution channels.
Juggling with figures, Zalizam Zakaria, the Director of Tourism Malaysia in Singapore, expressed "satisfaction" with the flow of traffic from Singapore to Malaysia.
"Traffic from Singapore between January and August 2009 was good, totalling nearly 8.3 million, a 13.4 per cent growth over the year-early period," Zalizam said.
He was confident that the target of 11 million arrivals from Singapore for 2009 would be reached despite the economic downturn.
Zalizam is trying to encourage Singaporeans to visit other non-traditional destinations in Malaysia such as Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, Terengganu and not just confine themselves to Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and Johor Bahru.
Source : Bernama
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