In a year dedicated to hosting an array of festivals, Malaysia is proving it is a top contender across various segments. Panayiotis Markides reports.
Dubbed a cultural melting pot within Asia, Malaysia has successfully managed to harness a multitude of tourism strengths, proving it is adept at magnetising visitors, be it for MICE, business, leisure or medical tourism.
As such, it seems fitting that the campaign for 2015, ‘Malaysia Year of Festivals’, or also MyFEST, aims to showcase the country’s many charms by arranging events across the nation.
Explaining the campaign to TTG was director, Tourism Malaysia – Dubai, Mohamed Taib Ibrahim who said that Malaysia has more than 200 events planned for this year.
These events will be introduced across the nation and will also be themed with categories including music, shopping, leisure, art and food.
Ibrahim added that to promote the country, Tourism Malaysia is working with leading travel agencies as well as leading airlines. “We have organised several familiarisation trips in a year for travel agents as well as media to experience the destination.”
Further elaborating on the campaign to TTG was director of communications, Malaysia marketing team, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Malaysia, Cindy Yoong. “This campaign is a continuation of Visit Malaysia Year 2014. The government, through Tourism Malaysia, has made heavy investments in all key markets.”
And naturally, a sense of unity has also been witnessed within the nation’s industry stakeholders, who are eager to offer their support.
Director of marketing and communications, Dorsett Hospitality International, Kattie Hoo explained the national importance of this year’s campaign: “‘Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015’ is a national mission. It is envisaged that government agencies, the private sector, non-government agencies and industry players will come together and make the national campaign a success.”
Director of sales and marketing, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur, Parveen Kumar, echoed a similar sentiment. “The hotel shows its support by organising collaborative familiarisation programmes with key target markets involving influencers, members of the media and core decision makers.”
The range of events taking place all over the country provides the perfect backdrop to enhance Malaysia’s tourism offering, making its cosmopolitan lifestyle merge perfectly with its industry strengths such as its vibrant corporate and MICE scene, as well as the medical tourism sector.
Malaysia has been a popular destination across the globe, with its attractive financial scene as a reason to travel for business, and the lush natural sights giving leisure travellers the chance to fulfil long sought-after adventures.
Homing in on the destination’s appeal to corporate travellers, Ibrahim explained to TTG the role of the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB). “Given the business tourism sector’s increasing economic importance, the government of Malaysia decided to form MyCEB as a dedicated arm to boost Malaysia’s brand and position in the international market.” He remarked that MyCEB serves as a one-stop centre to assist meeting and event planners who wish to stage regional and international business events in Malaysia.
Kumar further noted: “Malaysia is predominantly resource-driven and offers strong connectivity with other key destinations and neighbouring countries with relatively lower set-up and infrastructure costs. This is encouraging many global companies to consider relocating their regional headquarters or set up new offices.”
He commented on the significance of this sector to the hotel: “Being located right next to the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, the hotel has a distinct location advantage for guests attending large conferences or events.”
Meanwhile, in Sabah state, with nature at their very feet, MICE delegates will find themselves spoilt by the lush landscape, according to owner, Guyana Eco Resort, Tomas Andersen, who explained that even the remote parts of Malaysia are popular for MICE travellers. “Using nature as our playground, multinational companies choose Bunga Raya as a venue for executive meetings and conferences. These are often coupled with team building activities.”
However, Ibrahim was keen to stress that Tourism Malaysia is also promoting the destination’s medical offerings alongside MyFEST. “Malaysia is one of the only countries within the Southeast Asia region where medical tourism is promoted by the government. This provides medical tourists the assurance on quality care, regulation, safety standards and the governing laws within this industry.”
Ibrahim further noted: “An increasing number of Middle East tourists are also discovering the excellent healthcare services available at more than 50 private medical centres in Malaysia.”
The destination’s thriving medical tourism sector is indeed also being capitalised on by Malaysia’s hospitality sector, according to director of sales, MiCasa All Suite Hotel, Kuala Lumpur, Sophia Natasha Malik, who informed TTG: “Besides being a business hotel suite, we work closely with surrounding hospitals promoting cosmetic surgery.”
Tourism Malaysia’s ambitions to increase the country’s visibility globally are paying off, but with a fast-growing tourism industry there is a need to develop the infrastructure to support this.
To this end, additional projects are underway to further boost the country’s tourism portfolio. Ibrahim relayed toTTG that this includes welcoming a host of internationally recognised tourism options. “Ongoing projects include Harrods Hotel Kuala Lumpur; W Hotel Kuala Lumpur; Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur; and St Regis Kuala Lumpur. Twentieth Century Fox Theme Park on top of Genting Highlands will be the first Fox Theme park in the world,” he said.
Kumar enthused that new infrastructure to look forward to extends far beyond new properties, and has the potential to catapult Malaysia’s tourism potential through the roof. “The proposed high-speed rail (HSR) project connecting Singapore and Kuala Lumpur also aims to improve the economic dynamism of Malaysia’s capital city,” he said, informing TTG that this upcoming project will strengthen the link between two of Southeast Asia’s most vibrant and fast-growing economic engines.
With a dazzling spectacle of festivals and events taking place across the destination, this fun-infused atmosphere should prove to be the perfect incentive to travel to Malaysia.