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Malaysia getting ready

Malaysia getting ready for Visit Malaysia 2020: Travel, Enjoy, Respect “Everything went well this year. We had 152 participants in our stand in 74 organisations. Some are from the private sector, working here on B2B meetings. After ITB Berlin everyone will be looking forward to following up with the contacts made here for future promotion, especially towards Visit Malaysia 2020. We are gearing up for next year as well, as we are ITB Berlin’s official partner country. We have had a lot of discussion with ITB management here in Berlin, working on our visibility for next year, in terms of promotion during the event. As a partner, country, we have to prepare for our opening ceremony, in terms of what kind of image we portray to the world, as there will be a large number of international VIPs there from all over the world.” So this year, it’s been a kind of planning phase for next year’s “big event”? “Yes, in fact we have eleven state representatives here this year, and we have our NGOs, Malaysian Travel and Tour Operator associations here with us, and we have had discussions about the fact that next year we have to come together, to make sure that our presence for ITB Berlin 2019 is the best, for us to prepare for Visit Malaysia Year 2020.” How important is tourism as part of Malaysia’s economy? “Tourism is always a pillar of our economy – number five – contributing 82billionn Ringgit in receipts (eds. approx. €17bn) and providing close to four million jobs. There are a lot of indirect benefits as well, in the hotel industry, transport and so on. When the Prime Minister announced the Visit Malaysia 2020 project, he also made it clear that the heart of our promotion will be ecotourism. We are therefore currently working on strategy and an action plan to get more visitors to come to Malaysia from 2020 and beyond.” One of the main aspects of your promotion is ecotourism. What concrete things are being done by the government to underpin sustainable tourism? “The Federal Government has already come up with a national plan, called Malaysia Ecotourism Plan 2016-2025. We have already identified 63 clusters of eco-sites that can be promoted as tourism attractions to the world. Currently, we have already identified six of these clusters that are ready to receive tourism. This is one of the things the government is doing to promote ecotourism, to protect our nature, to attract tourists and to experience these places. This is not only for the tourists, but also for our next generations. For instance, in Sabah, they have stopped virtually all new logging activities. Tourism income has already surpassed that of logging in Sabah, so logging is no longer a priority. Tourism is the key economic area now for Sabah. Also in Sarawak, they recently stopped or revoked logging licences for two companies, meaning no more logging in key Photo: Dato’ Sri Abdul Khani Daud – Deputy General Director (Promotion), Tourism Malaysia was a busy man during ITB. parts of Sarawak. These are the good developments in these areas thanks to the State Governments there, making sure the ecosystem, the nature and the environment are protected for the next generation, and also for the international tourists to experience. And in turn, this has a strong positive economic impact. That’s why for Visit Malaysia 2020, the minister has already selected the tagline, Travel, Enjoy. Respect. (eds: the slogan of the UNWTO for the Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development). We want the tourists to come to Malaysia, to enjoy what we have – the environment, the nature, the culture, the modern cities and facilities we have, but at the same time, protect and respect what the locals have, and together to preserve the nature and the culture, and make tourism sustainable for the future.” It can be very surprising for visitors to find genuinely untouched nature, as one can see in your state parks. How much does this fact – of being able to find untouched nature – make the destination stand out from other nations in the region? “Indeed, places like Gunung Mulu National park in Sarawak, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, or Royal Belum, where we have requested UNESCO status. Even though it covers a surface of more than 500 sq km, Gunung Mulu is not visited by many international visitors. Last year, only 8,000 international visitors were recorded there. Belum also is untouched, with its Orang Asli aboriginal people. These are places we want the world to discover and explore, but of course, at the same time they need to be protected.” So you’re not looking for mass tourism in these places? “Of course. For those who appreciate the environment, these places are unique. Places like Mulu, Taman Negara or Belum are not mass tourism destinations like Kuala Lumpur or Penang or Malacca, where you can do a lot more things in the city. By the same token, these areas are great for families, even with small children, because the facilities are there to cater for them. At Mulu, there is a boardwalk directly from the hotel to the cave. Similarly, in Sipadan, there are only 120 permits to dive per day. This is to protect the environment from the possible effects of mass tourism.” 14 >> Travel Trade OUTBOUND - Scandinavia

Finnair to partner ITB Finland is the Partner Destination of ITB China and Heli Mende, Director, Head of Visit Finland, says Chinese travellers are a very important tourism source market for Finland. “From January to November 2017, the number of overnights from China to Finland reached 321,172 with a 34.3% growth compared to January to December 2016. China represents the fifth largest group of travellers to Finland,” she noted of the impressive rise in arrivals from the far eastern market. “We are continually working to enhance our partnership with travel trade partners in China to provide unique travel products to Chinese travellers and ITB China provides us with a great platform to present Finland to Chinese decision makers,” she added. Finland is also looking forward to taking part in the EU China Tourism Year, for which ITB China is an official partner event. “As a member of the European Union, Finland is thrilled to contribute to this year of co-operation and celebration between China and Europe,” Mende said. Around 50 delegates from Finland will be representing the country at ITB China. Iceland a hot spot As a more that 20 years tradition Stein Larusson, Iceland is host at the Icelandair booth the first day late afternoon for trade partners. Here he is serving Icelandic beer to Grimur Gislason, sales and marketing director of Air Iceland Connect. Northern European countries are coming in from the cold to celebrate strong tourism growth at ITB. The Nordic countries enjoyed continuing high demand last year, including from the all-important German market. Iceland remained a hotspot, with a 24 per cent surge in international visitors, including 17 per cent more from Germany. Norway maintained its steady growth of recent years with an extra 7.9 per cent international visitors, including a 6.7 per cent rise from Germany. Sweden, Finland and Denmark also recorded solid improvements. Travel Trade OUTBOUND - Scandinavia

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