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Postcard from Zaharah: Malaysian businesses in full swing

LONDON is abuzz with Malaysian activities — and we are not talking about the shopping sprees in Oxford Street or Bicester Village.

The good news is that they are filling up hotels (Malaysian-owned hotels, as well) with events and programmes. This can only spell one thing: the economy on all sides is back on track and will be chugging along merrily!

An acquaintance in the hotel industry gleefully reports that all rooms, once filled with deathly silence, are all taken up. The latest hospitality intelligence report is bringing back the smile to her face. Activities are back to the same period as the year 2018 and that says a lot.

Malaysian restaurants are packed and crowded with Malaysian businessmen and women here to ink MoUs (Memorandums of Understanding) and follow-up deals that were stopped by the pandemic.

And as for journos like me, who once took to Zoom and online to do reporting, we are suddenly rushed off our feet and spoilt for choice as to which story and event to cover. Our diaries are full with networking events, tourism and food promotions and visits by ministers and dignitaries.

A few days ago, I was privileged to attend a ceremony at a Malaysian-owned hotel where businessmen and women exchanged signed agreements and were ready to move on.

Among the first to venture out and seek new export opportunities in the international markets was Global Entrepreneur One Stop Centre (GLOPEC), which has signed MoUs to form collaborations with several strategic partners for the United Kingdom and other European markets.

Their Taste of Sabah campaign posters with eye-catching and tantalising food packages, ranging from kerepek pisang, kerepek ubi, sos nanas and all manner of soft drinks, can be found at most Malaysian restaurants where customers, Malaysians and non-Malaysians alike, are encouraged to take them free of charge and taste them.

This is to encourage feedback from potential customers to be relayed back to the producers back in Sabah.

I am pleased to see that the cooking instructions and list of ingredients are in English — right for the target market. I am hoping that those being introduced to the Italian and French markets will be translated accordingly, too.

Some years ago, when the Malaysian economy was prosperous and bursting at the seams, there was a similar venture. London was to be made a gateway to the European market. With much anticipation, these products were brought in to line the shelves of an acquired warehouse that was supposed to supply products to the markets across the English channel.

But horrors of all horrors, the instructions to make the much sought-after lamb curry were still sadly in Malay, and the list of ingredients still contained certain things that were not allowed into the country. And even if they were allowed, they must come with warnings of allergies, for example.

Another food promotion, that of the famous keropok lekor, was launched without the much needed health certification as required by the Foods Standard Agency.

But, I am glad to hear from the officials from GLOPEC and Yayasan Sabah that certification has been given a priority before they market their products. In fact, they will help producers from the B40 so that they will reach a wider global market.

With Malaysia opening its doors wide, travel operators are back pursuing their traditional partners in the European sector. They can't wait for the World Travel Market, which is usually in November, to sell their products. They need to sell them now before competitors such as Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia grab them first.

This is the concern of Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association president Uzaidi Udanis, who had advised that Malaysia take steps in preparing to welcome foreign travellers or risk losing out to other countries.

He is here in London with a few tour operators to meet UK tour operators and the response has been good.

In fact, a group from Pahang Tourism is now here, and basking in the success of Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah's Weaving exhibition.

The Raja Permaisuri Agong has single-handedly promoted Malaysia to the eyes of the world as droves of people flock to the exhibition to see Malaysia's finest woven textile on display. She has had members of the British royal family given a guided tour.

As for Pahang Tourism, they have also inked their strategic cooperation with newly-opened Halia UK restaurant at the Bayswater Grand Plaza Serviced Apartments, where most occupants are from all around the world.

Running the restaurant is Noor Amy Ismail, who couldn't have taken over the restaurant at a better time. Though not from Pahang, she has no qualms about promoting Pahang cuisine, straight out from the Queen's cookery book.

So, it is all happening and let us make this work and get the wheels going again! We need to move on — fast!

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