By Manik Mehta
NEW YORK, Oct 31 – Malaysia’s tourism industry, which like most countries went through lean times during the COVID pandemic has reinforced its interest to court international tourists, as was evident from
Tourism Malaysia’s participation at the three-day New York International Travel Show 2022 which ended here on Sunday, Oct 30.
The NYITS, which is a new avatar of the New York Times Travel Show, is being sponsored now by Travel + Leisure Co.,, a travel club of the well-known magazine. Travel + Leisure, highlighted the features of the trade show, calling it a “world-class travel industry trade and consumer travel event featuring educational seminars and a major exhibition floor showcasing global travel companies”.
At the show, many of the participants were heaving a sigh of relief that “life seems to be returning to a semblance of normalcy with the lifting of most restrictions and travel and tourism sector is making a comeback”, as one New York based travel agent, who offers tours to Asian countries, including Malaysia and Indonesia, put it.
“We are delighted to bring the most trusted brand in travel to New York City for the first major
post-pandemic consumer travel show at the Javits Center,” said Fiona Downing, Chief Membership Officer, Panorama and Travel + Leisure Clubs. “With travel’s resurgence over the last year, it is clear consumers are seeking a trusted authority delivering value; they’ll find all that and more in the Travel + Leisure GO experience.”
Indeed, the theme of the NYITS was “The Future of Travel,”, reflecting the sentiments of the industry but also the end consumers – the travellers and tourists – who are eager to break out of the restrictive mode imposed on their lives and their movement.
Against this backdrop, Tourism Malaysia’s office in Los Angeles, participated in the New York event to promote Malaysia as an attractive tourist destination to the American public. Malaysia’s tourism-promotion agency – its office in New York was closed down some years back -is now also serving the entire American market.
Akbal Setia, the vice president of Los Angeles-based Tourism Malaysia, made a matter-of-fact observation that the travel industry worldwide had been affected because of the pandemic. “And Malaysia is no exception … if in 2019 Malaysia received 270,000 visitors from the U.S., the numbers of arrivals from the U.S. had declined by some 93% in 2021. We have set ourselves a target of 9.6 million tourists from all over the world for 2022,” Akbal said in an interview with Weekly Echo at the New York travel show.
Malaysia’s tourism planners, according to Akbal, launched the new programme called “Malaysia
Awaits You”, reflecting that Malaysia was keen to welcome tourists and offer them the “sights and sounds, the flavours and food that characterize its culinary culture and natural beauty”, to quote one Malaysian visitor at the show.
While Malaysia will continue to court tourists from China and other markets in the region, Malaysia is also intensifying its promotion efforts in other lucrative markets of North America and Western Europe.
The importance of the tourism sector for Malaysia’s economy becomes obvious from the fact that it has been the second largest contributor to the national economy. “It may have during the pandemic slipped one notch as the third largest forex earner for the country. Malaysia’s earnings from tourism in 2019 amounted to RM82 billion … that says a lot about tourism’s importance for our economy,” Akbal said.
Another ASEAN country that exhibited at the NYITS was Indonesia which had set up a huge pavilion and offered the inquisitive visitors glimpses of Indonesian culture in the form of dances and whetted their palates with samples of dishes like rendang among the visitors. The Indonesian pavilion also had a stand which served freshly-brewed Indonesian coffee to the visitors on all three days.
Besides Malaysia and Indonesia, there was no other ASEAN member country at the show. Thailand, which is a regular participant at international tourism shows because of its heavily-tourism-oriented economy, was conspicuously absent at the NYITS. Nepal, the only other Asian country, participated at the show with a colourful display of its culture, highlighting its traditional dances, temples and mountaineering possibilities.