National President of Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association (MCTA)

A founder member since MCTA’s formation on September 14 1992, Paul Paw remains optimistic about the tourism industry having gone through in its ups and downs over 50 years of his experience in both the inbound and outbound segments. Paul, who hails from Seremban, Negri Sembilan, is happy that the association, celebrating its 31st anniversary soon, is unified under one team.The 70-year-old veteran is also the Managing Director of China Express Tours & Travel Sdn Bhd, the General Sales Agent of Sichuan Airlines. Enjoying what he is doing, he believes it is too early yet for him to retire from the industry.

Looking back, what made you join the travel industry?

I found the travel line quite interesting as you can see the world. The ‘world’ I saw first was Malaysia as I started out as a local tourist guide instead of a tour leader. I was among the first batch of local tourist guides churned out in the country and today, I am one of the examiners for Tourism Malaysia for the tourist guide course.

What are some of the memorable highlights of your over 30 years with MCTA?

Started by a small group of seven local Chinese travel agents in 1992, the association managed to have its own building at Pandan Jaya, Kuala Lumpur on November 23 2001, thanks to contributions and support from its members.

Another significant milestone was fighting for the association’s rights to be endorsed in 2009 where we were recognised as one of travel associations that can renew the license on behalf of travel agencies who are our members. That truly made MCTA so strong that our membership grew. Lastly, the unification of our members from two teams into one in 2021 further strengthened the association.

How do you view the speed of our tourism industry recovery? Is it on track and what can be done?

We are on track up to 80% as we still have airfare issues, shortage of manpower and immigration woes to tackle alongside concerns such as the prolonged Russia-Ukraine war and weak Ringgit. We need the government’s assistance in recovering our tourism industry after the global Covid-19 pandemic hit us and the industry came to a standstill with cross-border travels closed and subsequent lockdown measures and travel restrictions.

How has domestic tourism helped rejuvenate the travel industry after being impacted by the pandemic?

Domestic tourism can play a very important as can be seen during the pandemic as travel restrictions within Malaysia gradually eased. We could only go to nearby places such as Hulu Selangor and Kuala Langat initially. Working with Tourism Malysia, local familiarisation tours were organised for our members and industry players to places like Sekinchan in Selangor and other states such as Perak, Pahang and East Malaysia for product updates.

How can travel agencies work together with the airlines to sustain the tourism industry post-pandemic?

Both parties have to support each other. The airlines are our principals and partners. We hope they can give us very good airfares. Travelling from Kuala Lumpur to China on a return trip during the pandemic could easily cost RM30,000 due to lower capacity and less flights. That is daylight robbery!

Besides increasing their flights and frequencies as well as advertising more, we also require the airlines to be punctual in their scheduled flights. Only then can we fulfill the seat capacity. This is a chicken and egg situation because when we achieve, the airlines can then add more flights.

What are the highlights of your Malaysian International Travel Mart (MITM) 2023 held at the Mid Valley Exhibition Centre in Kuala Lumpur?

We had the support of eight national tourist organisations that included Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and the Philippines besides the participation of state tourism organisations where Sabah and Penang are our preferred destinations this year.

This year’s travel fair attracted 43 exhibitors who took up 292 booths. Our official airline partner Malaysia Airlines sponsored the lucky draw prizes for the buyers contest where the first prize is an air ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney.

What is MTCA’s current membership and who is it open to?

We have grown from seven members in 1992 to 1,409 members today. One of the main objectives in our association is to protect our members’ interests and offer them benefits. They include organising activities such as dialogues with Tourism Malaysia and MITM at state levels. We also try to solve their problems with the NTOs overseas.

Designated as one of the associations since 2011 by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, we have been given the licensing rights to endorse members comprising Chinese firms related to the travel and hospitality industries that operate in the country.

What is MCTA doing to increase Chinese arrivals into Malaysia since China reopened in January?

The Chinese tourists are slowly returning after China’s reopening but its government is still very strict on the issuance of passports. Our state chapters have been busy organising MITM in Penang (July 1-2), Johor (July 7-9), Perak (July 21-23) and Kuala Lumpur (July 28-30). We will continue with MITM Sabah (August 19-20) and Negeri Sembilan (October 21-22) to promote the destination.

With the KL International Airport being the main gateway into Malaysia, what are your suggestions to help raise its profile and improve its facilities?

Having ambassadors and translators who can speak in various languages at the airport is a good initiative, especially when dealing with immigration matters. More helpers to assist passengers ̧ especially senior citizens and those not so technology- savvy, at the self-check-in kiosks and the opening up of more auto-gate facilities to a broader base of foreign nationalities will not only help provide more conveniences but also project a friendly image at our flagship airport. Additionally, a strong maintenance culture of our infrastructural facilities is imperative.

How do you see the future of travel?

The prospects of this industry should be bright. It is still a good one to get into despite being beset with challenges arising from wars, weather conditions, natural disasters or acts of god such as earthquakes which cannot be controlled. People have to travel and indulging in leisure activities has become a lifestyle.

Is MCTA tapping into data driven insights to rethink about the travellers’ needs?

This should apply to all of us involved in the travel industry as the travelling style has changed after the pandemic. We do not see so many people travelling in big groups unless they are company incentive trips. Organising tours for the individual traveller and smaller groups have raised our cost.

Instead of using a coach in the past for group travel, we are now using more vans to transport separate smaller groups and tailor make or customise the tour programmes to meet different needs. The younger travellers, for instance, prefer not to use the services of tour agencies and would book online and deal directly with the hotels and airlines.

What is your wishlist for MCTA?

I hope my successor will make MCTA, now armed with eight Chapters in Labuan Sabah, Sarawak, Penang, Perak, Johor, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur and 23 excos in total, better and stronger.

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