Chief Executive Officer of Tourism Selangor

Armed with 22 years of working experience with Selangor state government and its government-linked companies, Azrul Shah Mohamad believes the key role of Tourism Selangor, the state’s tourism promotion agency, is to create demand for travel.

Despite being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic shortly after coming onboard to his current position in January 2020, he led his team to a new level of playing field. Together they have made inroads to chalk up new successes, including its record high sales of RM1 million at the recent MATTA Fair held in Kuala Lumpur.

The 48-year-old confesses he still enjoys playing football as his hobby despite his hectic schedule.

Your career background has been very much into public relations (PR) and corporate communications. How has it equipped you in your current job responsibilities?

When I was an officer at Selangor’s Economic Planning Unit during the early years of my career, my interest in the state’s tourism promotion had been ignited. It led me to think of building brand awareness as Selangor’s tourism sector was just starting to be developed for foreign markets.

Through our domestic tourism campaign, Pusing Selangor Dulu! or Round Selangor First! launched in June 2020, I tapped into my experience in branding, developing corporate identity or image, marketing communications and publicity.

At the same time, I also engaged with product operators, marketeers in strategic communication planning and the media.

The tourism industry necessitates a great deal of networking, establishing contacts and coordinated promotion activities. My previous experience as a lecturer and PR practitioner was a big help.

One of your key roles is to increase tourism’s contribution to Selangor’s coffers. How much has it grown lately?

Selangor was the biggest contributor of RM40.9 billion to the national gross domestic product last year, up 0.7% from 2021. Of this, 26.5% comes from the services sector, which includes tourism.

The state has received an estimated four million tourists until September out of the five million arrivals targeted for 2023.

What are some of the contributing factors to the success of Selangor’s tourism industry?

They can be partly attributed to Tourism Selangor’s promotion strategies, which have been successfully executed through our domestic tourism campaign, which was highlighted earlier, and via our global tourism campaign, Splendid Selangor, Take Me Anywhere!

Selangor recorded the highest number of domestic visitors two years in a row, receiving over 22 million domestic visitors to the state in 2022, with shopping being one of the most favoured travel experiences which accounted for 38.9% of the total domestic spending in tourism in Malaysia.

Another reason for our campaign’s success is the unique contents we have developed for distribution on social media platforms such as Tiktok. The public also reacted well to our promotional videos featuring our campaign ambassador, Che Puan Juliana Evans.

What strategies and action plans have you mapped out this year to propel the state’s tourism industry forward?

We have six initiatives planned for tourism promotion this year. Among them are the pitching and grants for innovation involving the tourism industry players.

Besides empowering our two tourism promotion campaigns, we have also initiated a tourism networking programme and will be organising events and activities that have a high impact on tourism promotion.

We are also focusing on infrastructure developments that are both sustainable and long-term. The promotion and development of the Gombak Hulu Langat Geopark is another of our initiative whereby Tourism Selangor is the executing body for the state’s first national geopark covering 13 geo sites in Gombak and seven in Hulu Langat.

Overall, to support our promotional initiatives, we have conducted a series of sales missions in countries such as Germany, Laos and China.

What are your plans for the Visit Selangor Year 2025 campaign?

One of our promotional strategies is to focus on medical tourism to draw more foreign tourists to the state with our top-notch medical facilities which we hope to strengthen further.

Bracing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Selangor came up with several economic plans that included financial aid allocation by the state government for the tourism industry. What is coming up next to accelerate its recovery?

We are Intensifying our tourism promotion initiatives to aid the industry players. In our third Pitching Competition 2023 based on the theme, Sustainable Tourism, Tourism Selangor has allocated a total grant of RM150,000 for 15 tourism industry players for more events to be conducted that will revitalise the sector and make Selangor a premier first-choice travel destination.

Working with the private sector to drive the state’s tourism, please share with us your latest initiative.

We have worked with the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) for 12 consecutive years in our participation in the MATTA Fair. Selangor was Malaysia’s Featured Destination for the MATTA Fair September edition where we had five pavilions with 20 product operators under us, including GL Play, our strategic partner.

Tourism Selangor achieved over RM1 million in sales, the highest recorded ever so far through this consumer travel fair, touted as the largest in Malaysia.

In terms of working with the public sector, tell us about your collaboration with Tourism Malaysia Sarawak’s recent familiarisation trip to Selangor.

Tourism Selangor has always collaborated with Tourism Malaysia either through its headquarters or its states’ office and supported their events.

This stopover programme in the Klang Valley and to the East Coast with Tourism Malaysia Sarawak is in line with our mission to promote the tourist attractions in Selangor such as the royal town of Klang and Gamuda Cove with its outdoor water theme park, Splash Mania.

How does Tourism Selangor work with airlines to showcase the state and Malaysia as a preferred destination?

We have collaborated with both local and foreign airlines such as AirAsia, Firefly, Malaysia Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Turkish Airlines and Salam Air during our international sales missions to travel trade shows like ITB Berlin and the World Travel Market in London.

A few of the collaborations also involved providing digital materials to promote Selangor as a choice destination.

Selangor is well connected with KL International Airport’s Terminal 1 and 2 as well as the Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport located in the state. What more can be done to improve connectivity to these airports?

While improving connectivity does not come under Tourism Selangor, we have been working closely with Malaysia Airports in terms of tourism campaigns, increasing product awareness in Selangor through their advertising space and platforms.

Who are Selangor’s key international markets and what has been accomplished through your Splendid Selangor, Take Me Anywhere! campaign?

Our target markets are Asia, including China, the Middle East and Europe. Our campaign showcases Selangor’s tourism segmentations ranging from ecotourism, agro- tourism, theme parks to culture and heritage.

We deploy four different languages in our marketing on social media platforms and for our promotional materials, we have them in Arabic, traditional and simplified Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

To raise awareness of our campaign, we also work closely with various media outlets, influencers and travel agencies in our target markets.

Your Go Selangor application, launched in April 2022, aims to transform and digitalise the industry under Tourism 4.0 as it recovers from the pandemic. How effective has it been in creating more awareness of the various products and services offered by the state and turning them into sales for the operators and providers respectively?

The app is being improved to get more merchants to be registered. We are in the process of constructing the marketing plans for 2024.

How big is the team helping you achieve your goals or strategic action plans for Tourism Selangor?

We have eight different departments such as Corporate Communications, Promotion, Corporate Strategy, Events and Focus Tourism, Product and Package Development as well as Industrial Development.

They have been our main pillars to ensure our tourism development programmes and promotional efforts are conducted smoothly since we have different tourism segmentations that have to be maintained and continuously improved.

Moving forward, the Selangor virtual reality and aerial view experience is one of the new ways we are using in the tourism industry to market our products and services.

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