AVIATION INTERVIEW WITH DATO’ ZAINUDDIN ABDUL WAHAB
Director General of Tourism Malaysia
With his top priority in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic being to steer the tourism industry to be back on track and at the same time drive digitalisation changes in line with the National Tourism Policy 2020-2030, Dato’ Zainuddin, 58, who hails from Selangor has a tall order to fulfill. Assisted by his team, his vast 37 years of experience in the civil service spearheading various divisions within Tourism Malaysia ranging from strategic planning, management to production, and the Islamic Tourism Centre, will stand him in good stead following his appointment on September 13 to help the tourism industry recover and reset.
Share with us some memorable highlights of your career and how they have helped you to be where you are today.
Not with standing the bittersweet moments in my career path, each experience has shaped my character development. I am grateful to be given the opportunity to work with different talents from various levels that include officers to top management staff. They have taught me valuable lessons that I cherish to this day.
How do you plan to reset the severely impacted tourism industry which is now on the path of recovery?
To keep our tourism industry on the right path towards recovery, we will continue to regain the tourists’ confidence by highlighting Malaysia as a safe holiday destination through the facts and figures of our current Covid-19 vaccination rate, where to date more than 95% of our adult population have completed their vaccination while over 80% of our adolescents have been fully vaccinated.
Simultaneously, we shall continue to strengthen the cooperation between government agencies and industry players in improving product quality and availability besides implementing promotional programmes through the digital platform to reach both the domestic and international markets.
Tell us more about Tourism Malaysia’s digitalisation plans which are expected to help realise the National Tourism Policy 2020-2030 objectives.
Over the past two years, Tourism Malaysia has amped up the use of social media and online platforms when the pandemic hit us. We will continue to leverage their effectiveness through marketing, dissemination of information and the use of local and international media, well-known brands, famous celebrities and influencers or key opinion leaders.
Soon, we hope to not only provide a platform for promotional purposes but also share promotional materials that will be easily accessible to our industry players through a user-friendly database. Earlier this year, we launched our Interactive Digital Brochures that are accessible to the public via our Tourism Malaysia’s website, www.malaysia.travel
What are your new targets for 2022 in terms of market segment, tourist arrivals and revenue?
Our focus is on quality rather than quantity. Facilitating the recovery of the tourism industry, we need to consider many factors, especially since it involves the health and safety of everyone.
In terms of market segment, we are looking to restart tourism with our neighbouring countries in the ASEAN region. Our next target would be with the Asian, Middle Eastern and traditional European markets, including the United Kingdom.
By 2025, we aim to reach 24.3 million international tourist arrivals with a target revenue of RM73 billion from foreign tourists and RM100 billion from domestic tourists.
Kindly share Tourism Malaysia’s 40th participation at the recent hybrid World Travel Market (WTM) in London.
Malaysia joined this year’s WTM physically in ExCel London from 1-3 November and was connected virtually from 8-9 November via WTM London Virtual platform with other buyers and attendees. Tourism Malaysia, together with the Pahang state and local industry players represented the country.
We were excited to be reconnected with our partners and forged many new relationships at WTM, which remains an important platform for us where we highlighted Langkawi’s reopening to the international market on November 15, where fully-vaccinated tourists can visit this legendary island without any quarantine requirements.
Apart from providing the latest information on the prerequisites under the new norms of travelling to Malaysia, we also promoted our new and upcoming tourist attractions to the UK and European markets.
Please update us on the Langkawi travel bubble and the reopening of other domestic destinations to both the local and international markets.
We have seen tremendous response through the reopening of domestic tourism with Langkawi’s pilot travel bubble, which was reopened to fully-vaccinated domestic tourists on September 16 this year. As of October 31, the island has welcomed 190,855 tourists.
Following the resumption of interstate travel within Malaysia on October 11, many of our locals benefitted from the various discounts, rebates and e-vouchers offered by the participating domestic airlines and hotels. We will continue to focus on Langkawi’s pilot project before reopening other local destinations to international tourists.
The government’s recent announcement of a Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) with our neighbour Singapore starting November 29 and its target to reopen our borders to international tourists by January 1, 2022 are good news for the industry, including the aviation sector.
Tourism Malaysia has been collaborating with Malaysia Airports in the past to promote the industry. What can we expect in 2022?
Tourism Malaysia’s collaboration with Malaysia Airports through the Joint International Tourism Development Program (JITDP) in 2018 and 2019 was unfortunately put on hold in 2020 due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
The JITDP witnessed partnership with both domestic and international airlines, which came under the supervision of Tourism Malaysia offices abroad. Among the domestic airlines we worked with were Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and Malindo Air. Meanwhile, the international carriers included Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, China Airlines, Mahan Air, China Southern Airlines, Scoot Air, Air Busan, Pakistan International Airlines and Turkish Airlines.
With the reopening of our international borders, we look forward to work with Malaysia Airports again and not forgetting the airlines to create more connectivity next year.
What is your wish list for 2022?
Tourism Malaysia will be celebrating its golden jubilee or 50th anniversary next year. Spearheading Tourism Malaysia’s efforts towards the rebound of our tourism industry with close collaboration with our industry players, I hope to meet the goals of our national recovery plan and see tourism regain its former stature before the pandemic.
On a personal note, how do you unwind and foodwise, what do you relish?
I love travelling and try to travel leisurely whenever I can with a free and easy schedule. Occasionally, I enjoy golfing or just relaxing with a good cup of black coffee. I cannot refrain from our delicious fried ayam kampung. As for international cuisine, I am a fan of Japanese cuisine, especially sushi.