Revitalising local tourism

Revitalising local tourism

WE are often allured by distant lands over the gems nestled in our backyard, and it takes a dedicated few to remind us of the wonders that lie just beyond our doorstep.

Such is the case for many families, where the tireless enthusiasm of one member keeps the spirit of travel alive, even when personal wanderlust wanes.

For my family, that aficionado is my brother, a passionate traveller whose mere presence ensures that every journey is an adventure to remember.

Recently, we found ourselves amid the hustle and bustle of the Matta (Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents) fair, an event brimming with promises of far-flung adventures and exotic escapades. While the overseas travel section buzzed with excitement, the local tour floor seemed to pale in comparison.

It is a sentiment shared by many, including myself, who often opt to organise local excursions independently, believing familiarity breeds the best experiences.

However, herein lies a paradox: while we may overlook the treasures in our backyard, foreigners flock to our shores in search of the unique and the unseen.

China stands as a testament to this, with its tour operators mastering the art of packaging, marketing and sales, drawing crowds with unbeatable prices and unforgettable destinations.

So, where does the discrepancy lie? It is not in the lack of potential but far from it. Our local destinations boast history, culture and natural beauty waiting to be discovered. The missing piece of the puzzle lies in effective marketing strategies.

While state tourism boards do their part in promoting these destinations, there is a clear need for innovative approaches to capture the attention of locals and foreigners alike.

First and foremost, we must reimagine the way we market local tourism. It is not enough to showcase the same old attractions. We must highlight what sets each destination apart, whether it is hidden trails in the rainforest, culinary delights in quaint villages or immersive cultural experiences off the beaten path.

This requires a concerted effort to understand the unique selling points of each locality and tailor marketing campaigns accordingly.

Secondly, we must embrace digital marketing channels to reach a wider audience. In today’s digital age, social media platforms, targeted online advertisements and engaging content can work wonders in piquing interest and driving engagement.

By harnessing the power of technology, we can showcase the beauty of our local destinations to a global audience, enticing travellers from near and far to explore what we have to offer.

Additionally, collaboration is key. By forging partnerships between tour operators, hospitality providers, local businesses and government agencies, we can create comprehensive tourism packages that offer seamless experiences for visitors.

Whether it is curated tours, accommodation deals or special promotions, a united front can elevate the appeal of local tourism and drive visitor numbers.

Perhaps the most important aspect of promoting local tourism is ensuring sustainability. As custodians of our natural and cultural heritage, we must tread carefully, balancing the need for economic growth with the imperative of conservation.

By promoting responsible tourism practices, preserving our ecosystems and respecting local communities, we can ensure that our local destinations remain vibrant and inviting for generations to come.

Promoting tourism offers a multitude of economic and other benefits that extend far beyond the immediate industry. The most common are economic benefits and job creation.

Tourism can be a significant driver of economic growth, generating revenue through visitor spending on accommodation, food, transportation, entertainment and souvenirs.

This influx of money stimulates business activity and creates employment opportunities across various sectors, from hospitality and retail to transportation and infrastructure development.

The tourism industry is a major employer, offering a wide range of job opportunities for locals, including hotel staff, tour guides, restaurant workers, drivers, artisans and more.

By creating jobs and income-generating opportunities, tourism helps alleviate poverty and improve standards of living in communities dependent on the industry.

I do know that our Tourism Ministry has a presence in key countries worldwide but have we set KPIs to ensure those enjoying the perks overseas are bringing in the desired numbers?

My recent trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia left a lasting impression on me. The predominant currency for transactions in Siem Reap is the US dollar, reflecting its status as a tourist-centric city.

Interestingly, the local restaurants, while abundant, are predominantly frequented by tourists rather than locals.

One aspect that truly stood out during my visit was the exceptional restroom facilities at all tourist sites. Unlike many other destinations, the restroom management in Siem Reap rivals even that of first-world countries.

Impeccably clean, consistently dry and fully stocked with essentials, these facilities set a remarkable standard.

Reflecting on this experience begs the question: what would it take for our country to emulate the restroom standards of Siem Reap? The answer seems simple: determination.



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