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Tourists basking in the sun at Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur. The tourism industry is the fastest- growing and most profitable sector in today’s economy. FILE PIC   

THE coming years are forecast to be volatile for the world’s economy, and for economies like Malaysia’s that rely on natural resources such as oil and gas and commodities, the need to find other sources of income is imperative.

One such revenue stream is tourism. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) report, “Tourism and the Sustainable Development Goals — Journey to 2030”, the tourism industry is the fastest-growing and most profitable sector in today’s economy. Accordingly, it is also one of the biggest contributors of positive impacts to social-development in any country.

After its much-publicised launch in January last year during the Asean Tourism Forum 2018 in Chiang Mai, followed by the barrage of criticism of its logo by Netizens, the Visit Malaysia Year 2020 (VMY2020) campaign has somewhat gone cold.

Is the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry and Tourism Malaysia continuing with this much-needed campaign? The last official statement from the ministry was last August when the then newly-appointed minister, Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi, announced that the ministry would organise a logo design competition to replace the existing design that the ministry decided to rightfully scrap.

It has been almost five months since. Has VMY2020 been called off? It would not be wise, considering the importance of tourism to the nation’s economy. Besides being the third largest contributor to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), the tourism sector is also the second largest source of foreign exchange income and has created more than 670,000 jobs (4.6 per cent of total employment) in 2017, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council. The figure is expected to rise to 923,000 jobs (5.2 per cent of total employment) in 2028.

Beyond its economic value, empirical evidences published in numerous reports have also stated that the tourism sector plays an important role in nation building.

The silence from the ministry and Tourism Malaysia does not bode well for the country in general, and for the millions of Malaysians and their families whose bread and butter rely on the success of this sector.

Especially in a turbulent global economy, falling price of oil and commodities — the government must ensure that the tourism sector continues to thrive.

The government must continue to provide jobs to the thousands of Malaysians and to new graduates. At a time when our youth unemployment rate is at an alarming 10.8 per cent, tourism can provide the much-needed financial relief to many, in the form of jobs or self-earning and entrepreneurial endeavours. Tourism also helps boost the country’s involvement in the Fourth Industrial Revolution as the industry itself is fuelled by technology.

If the government plans to continue with the VMY2020 campaign, the ministry and Tourism Malaysia must hit the ground running now. They need to promote the campaign in order to deliver its target of 30 million tourist arrivals and 100 billion tourist receipts.

Depending on the target audience, the ministry and Tourism Malaysia must realise that some plan their holidays a year in advance, while others, such as those in neighbouring countries, do theirs between half a year to a few months prior.

As a brand and communications practitioner, what worries me is that Tourism Malaysia might again resort to the antediluvian and antiquated ways of promoting Malaysia as a tourist destination.

In a previous article, I had implored that Tourism Malaysia keep up with the times and understand that the world of tourism has changed.

If “old fashioned” strategies are used to promote Malaysia via the VMY2020 campaign, I fear that this will again be an exercise in futility, and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

In the same article, I had proposed that Tourism Malaysia start with refreshing the “Malaysia, Truly Asia” brand by defining what it stands for, and then use the refreshed brand as the anchor for all manner of communications and campaigns.

Malaysia’s performance in the global tourism industry is declining at a fast pace. From 2013 to 2017, the global tourism arrivals have reported a healthy seven per cent growth, Asia Pacific grew by six per cent, and Asean by 8.3 per cent, beating even the global growth. But, Malaysia recorded a negative three per cent growth in the same time frame.

It is time that the government take stock of the situation and look at tourism in the same way as it views investments and other forms of income generating industries. While we don’t really have total control of these industries, the same could not be said of our tourism sector.

It’s time to go beyond political rhetoric and empty promises — time to do the right thing for the country and the people.

ivan.omar@theiomovement.com Twitter @ckliio9

The writer heads Brand Strategy
at The In/Out Movement, an
ensemble of thinkers, creatives
and perfectionists who believe
in doing right things right

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