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, LondonCabs.co.uk 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.