Malaysia inches closer to restoring its European markets, with partnerships to gain visibility with the continent’s travel buyers lined up and longer-term plans to rebuild connectivity
After national flag carrier Malaysia Airlines axed most of its routes to Europe, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts & Culture and Tourism Malaysia is eager to rebuild its European feeder markets by working with overseas partners.
European arrivals to Malaysia took a hit when Malaysia Airlines pulled the plug of its Frankfurt route in April 2015, followed by Amsterdam and Paris in January 2016. European carriers Air France and Lufthansa had also cancelled services to Kuala Lumpur in October 2015 and February 2016 respectively.
With hubs that service both Europe and Malaysia, Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Emirates, Qatar Airways and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines are coming onto Tourism Malaysia’s radar as choice partners to grow arrivals from Europe in the long term, noted Tourism Malaysia’s director-general, Mirza Mohammad Taiyab.
Mirza shared that Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airports Holdings have set up a joint fund to attract more European airlines to fly to Malaysia.
Currently, airlines offering connections from Europe to Malaysia are KLM and Turkish Airlines. Condor, the leisure airline of Thomas Cook, will commence new flights between Frankfurt and Kuala Lumpur from November 5.
While Tourism Malaysia works towards rebuilding connectivity as a long-term solution, in the shorter term it is focused on building awareness about the country’s offerings among European travel agents.
This year, Tourism Malaysia is targeting 1.5 million tourists from Europe, up from 1.1 million arrivals in 2017.
It recently signed an MoU with the European Travel Agents and Tour Operators Association (ECTAA) to become the association’s preferred destination partner for the year.
The partnership led to ECTAA organising its semi-annual meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the first to be held outside of Europe, which hosted 46 delegates from 25 tourism associations in Europe.
The European delegates, some visiting Malaysia for the first time, were given the option of attending four-day post tours covering Selangor, Langkawi and Sabah.
At the meeting, delegates were also given an overview on what the country has to offer for leisure and business visitors by Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau.
Through the MoU, ECTAA would highlight diverse travel and tourism products in Malaysia to its members across European countries, shared Mirza.
In another strategic partnership to step up promotions in Europe, Malaysia has been named the official partner country of ITB Berlin 2019.
Mirza said: “Malaysia’s official partner country title at ITB 2019 will entail publicity opportunities globally as well as the potential to reach out to key decision makers and top industry players.”
Travel suppliers in Malaysia welcome the NTO’s intensified efforts in Europe, while also rolling out marketing activities of their own to attract outbound travellers from the continent.
Fiona Hagan, general manager at Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa in Kota Kinabalu, said: “Exposure at ITB Berlin will get the country in front of many key decision makers in Europe and keep the destination top of mind. We support all initiatives that knock on doors of agents in Europe.”
Hanley Chew, CEO of Berjaya Hotels & Resorts, said: “We are confident that with promotions by Tourism Malaysia, there will be an increase in European arrivals to Malaysia.
“In 2017, guests from Europe only (made up) seven per cent of room nights at our property, a three per cent decrease compared with 2016. For this year, we are targeting a 10 per cent increase over 2017 for total room nights contributed by European guests.”
The hotel is also participating in tradeshows, performing sales calls and continuing direct contracting with travel agents in Europe through its London sales office.
Jai Kishan, general manager, New World Petaling Jaya, suggested that further destination awareness of Malaysia in Europe could be created by directly reaching out to travel consumers on the ground through social media campaigns and by inviting media and film crew on fam trips to Malaysia.
“Malaysia is not lacking in (business and leisure) offerings when compared to our neighbouring countries,” said Kishan.
“What’s lacking is awareness of our offerings in the European markets and with Tourism Malaysia’s efforts, it is just a matter of time before this changes.”