FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning. 

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

May 17 2010

 

Malaysia. Minister Ng Yen Yen.

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HE following should be considered paraphrased quotes from Ng Yen Yen, Malaysia’s minister of tourism, despite being in quotation marks. (She also has titles – Dato Sri and Dr.)

[] “We want to increase the repeat-visitors share from 17% now to 30% in three years’ tome, and then to 50% in five years’ time. We also want to increase visitors’ length-of-stay from 6.4 days to 8 days.”

In answer to my questions to this public statement, Minister Ng did acknowledge that these are tough targets. But she did not seem to realise that they are near-impossible in practical terms – unless, for instance, the government offers free second holidays to boost the repeat share. Also, she has announced no plans on how Malaysia will reach these targets, and no extra funding.

The minister also noted to me – but not to the audience – that her length-of-stay target excludes visitors from Singapore. That is an important qualification, with Singapore counting for over 50% of the visitors as Malaysia counts them.

I still don’t know if her target for repeat-visitors includes visitors from Singapore – because travel from Singapore already includes a high repeat share, probably over 70%.

So I am left with the suspicion that these targets may be no more than the not-infrequent manipulation of statistics by politicians to serve a particular political need.

[] “Malaysia is now ranked 11th in the world (in visitor arrivals, according to the World Tourism Organisation); we want to be 10th.”

This comment was made two months ago, before many results for 2009 were available. At the time, I said that this sounded like more politician-speak.

I noted that quite soon, Malaysia would announce with pride that it had already reached its target. That was because at the time, the destination in 10th place was Mexico, and when Mexico announced its count of visitors in 2009, it would likely show a fall of about 6% in visitors to 21.2mn. At that time, Malaysia had already reported a 7% growth to 23.6mn.

Data now released by the WTO shows that arrivals in Mexico did indeed fall in 2009, by 5.2% to 21.5mn, and this giving Malaysia the top-10 recognition it wanted.

The minister will not quibble with the fact that Mexico does not count land arrivals from the US, whereas Malaysia does count land arrivals from Singapore – so the measures should not be directly compared. (Something that the WTO should auto-correct also, but it often ignores its rules if they become inconvenient.)

Nor will she be bothered with the fact that, because of the way Malaysia treats its Singapore-arrivals data, Malaysia is still not in the top-10 in terms of visitor-spend; it is about 14th.

[] “Our main target markets are China, India, and the Middle East. We are also building domestic tourism. We now have 3600 homes for homestays, for instance, but we need to do work harder. In 2009 there were 109,000 guests in homestays.”

Earlier data indicates clarification is needed. Ng’s ministry said that in 2008 there were 142 villages in the program and 2800 foreign guests.

[] “We see our neighbour destinations as partners, not competitors; we want our visitors to also visit other destinations. This is not a campaign, just a wish. We need to make the country more welcoming.”

No more specifics; can be considered commendable sentiments or more politician-speak, not business-talk.

The Fox

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