By Rafiq Vayani
DUBAI: Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia through its agency Tourism Malaysia is participating in the world’s largest tourism trade fair, Internationale Tourismus-Borse Berlin, also known as ITB Berlin. This year, ITB Berlin takes participants on a completely virtual journey throughout the three-day event called ITB Berlin NOW 2021 that is taking place 9 until 12 March 2021.
Participating for the 48th time, Malaysia is joined by 30 Malaysian organisations, consisting of 10 tour operators, 10 hotels and resorts, seven (7) state tourism boards, and three (3) tourism associations. Under one venue at The Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur initiated by Tourism Malaysia, delegates are provided with a platform and facilities to establish global networking and conduct business transactions with buyers online.
Taking full advantage of the virtual experience, Malaysia will also have a “virtual café” for the first time called Malaysia Truly Asia Café Corner that will highlight Malaysia’s niche products such as specialised scuba diving for the disabled, birdwatching, and medical tourism.
The Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri officiates the opening ceremony today through a live telecast from Kuching, Sarawak. Highlighting Malaysia’s islands and beaches, national parks, and UNESCO heritage cities, this year’s theme focuses on ecotourism and sustainability.
“The shifting trend in tourists’ preferences after experiencing the pandemic has given a whole new perspective to the tourism industry in the new norm. On top of that, climate change and environmental protection are also increasingly becoming important issues in the tourism industry worldwide,” says Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri during the opening ceremony.
“Taking all these factors into account, the Malaysian tourism industry is now focusing on maximising our existing resources through ecotourism, rural and experiential tourism, as well as enhancing our niche products. We are also looking into expanding more personalised travel packages that cater to smaller groups of tourists to gradually revitalise the tourism industry once our borders are reopened,” she added.
According to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the tourism sector worldwide experienced a 74% decline in international arrivals in 2020, while Pacific Asia witnessed an alarming 84% decrease in numbers of international tourists in 2020. These data reflect Malaysia’s tourism performance for 2020 where a staggering decline of 83.4% in international tourist arrivals were recorded, as highlighted by Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri.
With Malaysia’s recent roll-out on the Covid-19 vaccination programme and the updated standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the tourism sector, the country is now gearing up in welcoming tourists once again. The recently announced SOPs has also allowed the resumption of Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions (MICE) tourism, with a capacity limit of 50% of the premise.
Through this event, Tourism Malaysia is looking forward to discussing possible collaborations and partnerships by leveraging the business-to-business (B2B) spectrum. Markets proposed for these joint collaborations are Turkey, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Moscow, Ukraine, Austria, Sweden, Czech Republic, and the Balkan Region.
Apart from its aim to promote and increase Malaysia’s visibility in the European market, Tourism Malaysia also wishes to enhance connectivity from major long-haul destinations to Malaysia and also to take advantage of international events such as ITB Berlin to draw visitors to visit Malaysia.