Director General of Tourism Malaysia

With 30 years of experience serving in Tourism Malaysia, which was known as Tourist Development Corporation of Malaysia when he joined on 7 July 1990, Datuk Musa has always been known as a marketing and promotions man with his knowledge extending to the corporate, international and domestic sectors.

Having looked after key markets such as Europe, Asia, Africa and worked in the Tourism Malaysia’s Paris office in his early years, all these past experiences count for the man who has moved up the ladder to step into his current position on 3 December 2018. His biggest responsibility in spearheading the Visit Truly Asia Malaysia 2020 campaign with his team is to bring it to greater heights.

Being the only student to pass with distinction when he took up the Austrian government’s scholarship to do the Diploma in Tourism Management from Schloss Klessheim in Salzburg, his eight-month course had linked him to many tourism professionals from various parts of the world. Until today, the networking remains strong as he is part of its alumni. Datuk Musa is also armed with a Bachelor of Science in Economics with International Business from the University of Southern Mississippi, USA.

Following your appointment, what are some of the new initiatives implemented by Tourism Malaysia?

Among them was our participation in ITB Berlin in March where Malaysia was the Official Partner Country. We received immense media exposure and opportunities for partnerships.

In our recent collaboration with Sharp Electronics (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, we will be using its network of 20,000 retail outlets and 200,000 display panels across China, Japan, Taiwan, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region to promote Malaysia’s tourism video contents using the Japanese multinational electronics giant’s latest 8K ultra high definition technology.

We have also been actively developing packages from Moscow with carriers from the Middle East and Europe, namely Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Emirates and Turkish Airlines that fly direct to Kuala Lumpur daily.

To harness digital technology and social media for Malaysia’s tourism promotion, we invited 26 key opinion leaders from ASEAN to the Malaysia ASEAN Tourism Influencers Key Opinion Leaders Programme, which was held from 26 August to 1 September.

How was the response from the industry players towards Tourism Malaysia’s RM5 million Gamelan Malaysia 2019 Fund to support their tourism promotional efforts?

It was encouraging. Following our announcement on 9 July, we have received over 72 applications besides queries and requests for briefing sessions by us as the implementing agency, from major associations in Malaysia. The incentives under this fund will help lessen their burden during the current weak global economic conditions.

As we enter into the last quarter of 2019 and fast approaching Visit Truly Asia Malaysia 2020 campaign to meet the targeted 30 million tourist arrivals, please share some of the strategies for the year ahead.

Under the Tourism Malaysia Integrated Promotion Plan 2018-2020, we have outlined several strategies. The strategies include leveraging on upcoming major business events in Malaysia like the Malaysia-China Cooperation Year in 2019-2020, APEC meetings that will be held from December 2019 to November 2020 in various venues in Malaysia as well as the PATA Adventure Travel and Responsible Tourism Conference and Mart in Sabah from 12-14 February 2020.

New sports tourism events such as the FIM Endurance World Championship (EWC) and the FIA Endurance World Touring Cup (WTCR), to be held from 13-15 December at Sepang International Circuit, were recently promoted at Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix as we need to make ‘noise’ heard outside of Malaysia of our campaign.

In promoting Malaysia as a filming destination, we had 10 film producers from China to view our locations recently. National Film Development Corporation’s Film in Malaysia Incentive, gives foreign film makers 30% cash rebate on qualifying Malaysian post- production expenditure when they use our country for filming.

We are also enhancing the National Key Economic Area initiatives in our collaboration with airlines and tour operators where chartered flights and the high yield segments are concerned.

What are the unique selling points of Visit Truly Asia Malaysia 2020 that will help it stand tall above the other destinations in the region?

The campaign’s emphasis on promoting nature and culture. Guided by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture’s National EcoTourism Plan 2016-2025, our programmes will thus reflect on the promotion of ecotourism and tourism sustainability.

We will also be promoting new products at Desaru Coast in Johor, Sealife at Legoland, Selangor’s Sky Mirror and Blue Tears, as well as indoor theme parks like Superpark in Avenue K, My Best Box in Berjaya Times Square, Futureland Fun Zone in Sunway Pyramid and The Rift in Mid Valley MegaMall.

How do you plan to engage with the industry players this time around to get their full support in order to make this campaign a success?

Following our engagement sessions in Negeri Sembilan and Sabah last April, our next session to encourage local tour operators and agents to develop special travel packages will be in Johor.

We would like to encourage the industry players to create a countdown in order to build up the excitement for the celebration of this national campaign and carry its logo in all their promotional activities.

So far, engagement sessions have also been organised with the local media in KL, Sabah and Sarawak to heighten awareness about the campaign under Sembang Santai Tourism Malaysia bersama Media, with six programmes have been planned throughout 2019.

Domestic tourism plays a significant role contributing double-digit growth in 2018 to the local economy with its 78.2 million domestic tourists and total expenditure of RM60.4 billion. What is Tourism Malaysia’s message to the locals on spending holidays in their own country during Visit Truly Asia Malaysia 2020? What are some of the incentives and/or special events that have been created for them?

While we encourage Malaysians to travel within their own country to explore its nature, culture and people, it is worrying to see that 68.2% of them preferred to stay at their relatives’ house rather than at hotels or other paid accommodations. We are working hard to change this with the help of various associations and instill in them that Malaysia has so many beautiful, unique and thematic hotels and accommodations to offer that fits their budget.

The promotional programmes to gain public support for the campaign next year include Tourism Malaysia Travel Fair; Augmented Reality Cuti-Cuti Malaysia Treasure Hunt Sabah; Surfcasting Tour, A Journey to Visit Malaysia 2020; MARVEL Run Malaysia 2019 and our domestic sales missions.

Tourism Malaysia had a tripartite collaboration with Malaysia Airports and Condor Airlines last year on the Frankfurt-KL route during the winter season. What were the total number of arrivals from this seasonal flight arrangement? Were the passengers all German nationals or mixed from other European countries?

Malaysia recorded 51,209 tourist arrivals from Germany since Condor Airlines started its winter operations in November 2018. Owing to overwhelming response for direct flights connecting Germany to Malaysia, we continued our collaboration with the airline for the summer season from May to October.

Can we expect more of such arrangements with other parties/ airlines?

Of course. This year alone we partnered with new airlines such as Air Busan and Air Arabia to enhance connectivity to Malaysia.

What strategies does Tourism Malaysia have to woo the high- yield Middle Eastern tourists to Malaysia as there has been a drop in their arrivals and a change in the profile of those travelling from groups or families to more frequent independent travellers (FITs) and couples?

The increase in seats capacity to Malaysia from the Middle East (ME) following Air Arabia’s direct Sharjah-KL flights in July and Qatar Airways’ Doha flights to Langkawi via Penang this October has opened new possibilities for us to grow the ME and surrounding markets.

We are expanding the market volume to Malaysia by targeting Air Arabia’s vast network to the primary, secondary and tertiary cities within the ME. In Qatar Airways’ case, Penang and Langkawi will be the drawcard for the Europeans to travel to Malaysia.

We are optimising the different market segments such as millennials travelling with their close friends, partner or spouse and young families. They usually travel as FITS or use online travel agency as they are more IT savvy. Since the ME has a younger population, millennials are an important market segment to focus on and grow.

We are also eyeing the expatriate market, especially in the Gulf Cooperation Council countries as they make up between 40% and 90% of the population. Tourism Malaysia is expanding the market beyond the ME by taking advantage of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar‘s position as important global airport hubs with good connections to Europe, North Africa and the United States as the majority of these destinations are not covered by our local carriers.

Our strategies are executed through smart partnership with airlines and tour operators under the joint promotion or Joint International Development Tourism Programme with Malaysia Airports.

On the personal front, what is your ultimate vision for the tourism industry in Malaysia?

Bring our tourism industry to greater heights as the industry is very dynamic. For the country to remain attractive and as a ‘top- of-mind’ destination, the concerted efforts of all Malaysians are vital. To quote the French poet Anatole France, “To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe”.

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