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Visit Malaysia 2020, Not by numbers alone - February 13, 2019

MALAYSIA Tourism Promotion Board, or Tourism Malaysia, has big plans. In 2020, it was originally planning to bring in 36 million international tourists and RM168 billion in tourist receipts. Are we branding and marketing the country rightly? There are about 200 countries vying for the tourist dollar. Taglines do work for some countries, but is “Malaysia, Truly Asia” pulling in the people? According to Tourism Malaysia, it is. They argue the “Malaysia, Truly Asia” tagline has positioned Malaysia as a “destination of diversity, with the country showcasing a kaleidoscope of customs, religions, traditions, festivals, heritage, arts and crafts, and cuisines of the Malays, Chinese, Indians, and various ethnic groups”.

But is the tagline doing the trick? Numbers may have the answer. In 2017, 25.9 million tourists visited Malaysia contributing to tourist receipts of RM82.2 billion. Last year’s first nine months’ data of 19.4 million tourist arrivals and tourist receipts of RM61.9 billion point to a possible decline, posing a tremendous challenge for Malaysia to reach Visit Malaysia 2020’s target of 36 million tourist arrivals (now revised down to 30 million) and tourist receipts of RM168 billion (now revised down to RM100 billion).

The tagline, “Malaysia, Truly Asia,” may not be working as it did before. Looks like Tourism Malaysia has lots of work to do to get the numbers up. In 2016, tourism contributed RM73.3 billion to the country’s gross national income, making it the third highest contributor. Marketing Malaysia —or any other country — is all about branding our authenticity. When people think of a country they think of something special, something very unique.

What defines Malaysia? What is the national character of the country? Nation branding experts tell us that we must have two things when we market a country. One, there must be a strategy. Two, those who are charged with the promotion strategy must be able to marshal the people behind it. The first may be easier to do than the second, but the two must be there for a country marketing strategy to succeed. The wisdom behind the latter is to get all Malaysians to act in a way consistent with the national strategy. All we need is one misalignment, and our reputation as a nation will go south.

The errant behaviour of many of our taxi drivers is a case in point. In fact, in 2015, placed our taxi drivers on top of the list of the 10 worst taxi drivers in the world. Malaysia can do without such infamy. Add to this, statistics on road rage, snatch thefts and other errant ways of ours then you will not look elsewhere for the reasons behind the declining numbers. In this context, it may not be out of place to engage in some introspection of a national kind.

Who are we really? Would our individual conduct find a happy mention in the postcards the 26 million tourists write home? Would they speak highly of our outlook? National or otherwise? And about our attitude towards others? Do we hasten to help others in trouble? Do we treat immigrants like we do the tourists who bring us the dollars? Make no mistake. Our national character does influence tourism. And the link is not tenuous.

Source : NST

Sultan Abdullah a 'people-centric ruler' : January 13, 2019

KUANTAN: Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah is a ruler who cares so much for his subjects that he is willing to set aside protocol to listen to and help them. Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Fuziah Salleh said this was because the sixth Pahang Sultan prioritised the people’s welfare. The Kuantan member of parliament said Sultan Abdullah and his wife, Tunku Azizah Aminah Maimunah, were always the first to visit disaster victims.

She said Sultan Abdullah was always in the people’s hearts due to his down-to-earth nature. “If the people of Pahang are asked about whenever a disaster like floods or fire occur, they will definitely say that his majesty (Sultan Abdullah) is the first to visit the people and ask how they are doing,” she told the New Straits Times today. “This attitude has always been with his majesty since young until he became Tengku Mahkota Pahang and until today.” Fuziah, whose portfolio is religious affairs, was welcoming the proclamation that Sultan Abdullah would succeed his father, Paduka Ayahanda Sultan Ahmad Shah.

She prayed for the continued prosperity of Pahang under Sultan Abdullah. Meanwhile, state Tourism, Environment and Plantation Committee chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Sharkar Shamsuddin said he had confidence in Sultan Abdullah’s ability and vast experience to rule Pahang. The Lanchang assemblyman said the sultan was trained since childhood by Paduka Ayahanda Sultan Ahmad Shah and had wide experience in state administration.

“When Sultan Ahmad Shah was appointed the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tengku Abdullah since a young age was appointed Regent (of Pahang) to administer the state. “From there, one can see his majesty’s (Sultan Abdullah) maturity in carrying out his duties and responsibility the best he can,” he said. Sharkar also praised the Pahang Malay Sultanate as it had never been involved in any controversy and had the wisdom to differentiate between the powers of the ruler and the executive.

There's benefit in them mangroves: December 29, 2018

THE recent tsunami in Banten, Indonesia reminded us of the tsunami that happened exactly 14 years ago on Dec 26, which had devastated many countries bordering the Indian Ocean. Many villages on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia, too, were badly affected, and most of the survivors are still being haunted by vivid memories of that catastrophic event. 

The 2004 catastrophe in one way drove home the lesson that Malaysia was not entirely safe from geological disasters. More importantly, the killer waves also taught us the importance of mangroves as they have been proven to blunt the destructive force of tsunamis. Realising this, Malaysia embarked on a mission to rehabilitate mangrove and coastal forests throughout the country’s coastlines. A special annual budget has been continuously allocated for this mission and many rehabilitated areas along the coasts have seen much improvement since the launch of the programme in 2005.

The issue is, however, not only about the success of the rehabilitation programme but also the legal protection and sustainability of the existing and the rehabilitated mangrove habitats. Sadly, mangrove forests in Malaysia are not totally protected. Although large areas of mangrove forests are gazetted as forest reserves under the management and enforcement of the Forestry Department, some other significant and sizeable areas are still categorised as state lands and privately owned lands. These unprotected areas are all earmarked for various development plans. Herein lies the Malaysian challenge.

Mangrove forests are a subject of a number of international treaties: the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation conservation programmes such as the World Heritage Convention, Man and Biosphere and Global Geoparks Network. Malaysia, too, is committed to these global treaties.

Being one of the most prominent tropical coastal wetlands, many mangrove forests around the globe are designated as Ramsar sites under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance or better known as the Ramsar Convention. The convention was adopted in the city of Ramsar in Iran in 1971. It came into force for Malaysia in 1995 after the designation of Tasek Bera in Pahang, a freshwater lake ecosystem, as our first Ramsar site in 1994.

To date, Malaysia has designated seven Ramsar sites. The other six Ramsar sites are mangrove forest habitats of different types: Pulau Kukup in Johor (overwash mangroves), Tanjung Piai in Johor (fringe mangroves), Sungai Pulai in Johor (riverine mangroves), Kuching Wetlands National Park in Sarawak (riverine mangroves), Lower Kinabatangan-Segama Wetlands in Sabah (riverine mangroves), and Kota Kinabalu Wetland in Sabah (basin mangroves). Ramsar Convention recognises the international importance of all types of natural wetlands on the terrestrial and marine zones. It also recognises the importance of constructed wetlands, in which 795 sites around the world have made the list.

All in all, the ultimate aim of the convention is to promote the conservation of wetland habitats. Ramsar sites in Malaysia are being conserved through different models and approaches, and managed by different authorities and agencies as land is a matter within the state jurisdiction. Recently, Pulau Kukup was in the news as to its status as a national park. Regardless of the land status, the fragile mangrove island of Pulau Kukup must be protected and equipped with a robust conservation plan incorporating all relevant policies and laws. The status of Pulau Kukup as a Ramsar site should remain as this is in actual fact a global brand name to attract and promote sustainable tourism for Johor and Malaysia.

It is best for all parties to agree and work collaboratively to protect the pristine mangrove island of Pulau Kukup as it is a precious ecosystem shared by local and global communities. The oxygen they release and the carbon they sequester are just some of the key roles that the mangroves of Pulau Kukup play.

In addition, Pulau Kukup is recognised as one of the most important key biodiversity areas, especially as a habitat for at least 35 species of mangrove plants, and home to myriads of fauna, particularly as an important stopover for migratory birds. This is on top of its role in coastal protection and stabilisation, and in reducing the risks from hydrological and meteorological hazards and disasters.

While Malaysia’s goal to become a developed nation must be welcomed, it must not be achieved at the expense of our rich biodiversity. And this includes our mangrove forests.

We must save them. Only then, will they save us from the wrath of the natural forces?

The writer is a senior lecturer/research fellow of Institute for Environment and Development and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia coordinator of The Malaysian Mangrove Research Alliance and Network (MyMangrove)

Source: NST

E-brochure to boost tourism : December 31, 2019

KUANTAN: The publication of “Salam Pantai Timur Highlights 2019” electronic brochure will help boost the tourism industry, including highlighting the latest products in Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan. Tourism Malaysia (East Coast region) director Dr Zaliha Zainuddin said links to the publication, accessible on Tourism Malaysia’s east coast region Facebook site, would allow tourists to decide on their vacation plans for the year. “This move is to enhance the initiative of promoting tourism in line with technological advances. There will be monthly updates on the Facebook site.

“The content also covers the dates of tourism events so visitors can make choices on selecting the dates and events and plan their trips,” she said after officiating the East Coast Region Tourism Highlights (ECRTH) 2018/2019 here. Also present was Pahang Tourism, Arts and Culture director Datuk Idros Yahya.

In citing Pahang as an example, Zaliha said the Royal Pahang Billfish International Challenge in Cherating and Tioman Island would be featured in the electronic brochure and Facebook site, allowing both foreign and local fishing enthusiasts to book the dates. She said tourism authorities in the east coast gathered travel industry players to identify and update existing products and to improve weaknesses in the industry. Meanwhile, Idros said works on upgrading the suspension bridge at Taman Negara in Kuala Tahan, Jerantut, would be completed within three years.

He said the government provided an allocation of RM4.2mil for the bridge which would have a new route over a longer distance. “The current route is 550m-long and has been recognised as the world’s longest suspension bridge. When completed, it may reach between 750m and 950m,” said Idros. The additional distance was to enable visitors to appreciate the beauty of Taman Negara and to give them an experience that they would not find elsewhere, he said, adding that upgrading work was also done without felling trees to protect and preserve the environment. – Bernama


Ministry sets RM500m sales target for craft products - December 20, 2018

JOHOR BARU: The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry has set a sales target of RM500 million for craft products for next year. It’s minister, Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi, said as of Nov 30, the total sales volume of Malaysian craft products stood at RM465 million and involved a craft community of 19,376 people.

“For next year, we have set a target of RM500 million,” he said after opening the Johor Craft Festival 2018 at the Angsana Johor Baru Mall today.“We are confident of achieving the target as we plan to start selling Malaysian craft products through our Tourism Malaysia offices overseas next year.”There are 37 Tourism Malaysia offices globally, including in Japan, the United Kingdom, France, China, Australia and Indonesia.“We will also take part in international exhibitions to promote our craft products, including in Berlin, Paris and Hong Kong.”

Mohamaddin said that in an effort to develop the human resources for the local craft industry, Kraftangan Malaysia would implement the Malaysian Skills Certificate programme, which would be conducted by the National Craft Institute.“The institute’s branches in Kelantan, Terengganu and Pahang will conduct courses in the fields of batik, metal works and woodworks.

“This will increase the number of skilled workers in the crafts industry,” said Mohamaddin.He said the festival was an opportunity for craft entrepreneurs and producers to sell their products.“I hope the public will take advantage of the school holidays to come to the festival to see and buy craft products from the different states.”Kraftangan Malaysia has set a target of 100,000 visitors and a sales target of RM6 million for the festival, which is on until Dec 30.

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