Popular Tourism Malaysia director-general retires after 36 years

Mirza Mohammad Taiyab

The friendly, jovial and knowledgeable figure that Mirza Mohammad Taiyab cuts will be sorely missed when the well-respected industry figure retires from his director-general role at Tourism Malaysia on December 1.

Mirza had served in Tourism Malaysia for some 36 years, with the last 12 years as director-general. Prior to that, he was the deputy director-general.

At press time, the Public Service Department has not announced Mirza’s replacement. Meanwhile, his duties will be taken over by two deputy director-generals, Mohmed Razip Hasan and Zulkifli Md Said.

Mirza Mohammad Taiyab

During his tenure as director-general, Mirza had expanded Tourism Malaysia’s structure to create a career path for officers from entry level right up to senior management. He is also key in getting Tourism Malaysia staff exposed through overseas placements and in-house training programmes.

He said: “I am proud that I have been able to develop many capable and knowledgeable leaders. Together with the travel industry, we were able to bring tourism to its present level, which is the third foreign exchange earner for Malaysia.”

Mirza was instrumental in leading Tourism Malaysia to bid for PATA Travel Mart 2018, which was held in Langkawi in September. Recognising the importance of business events, he was crucial to the formation of Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) way back in 2009. Prior to the establishment of MyCEB, MICE was merely a unit within Tourism Malaysia.

Looking back at his long-spanning career, Mirza commented: “My biggest regret was not being able to launch a proper campaign to reverse the regression of arrivals after the two airline tragedies in 2014. At the time, Tourism Malaysia had budget cuts. Our challenges then were increased media advertising costs, currency devaluation and keener destination competition from our neighbours.”

When asked about his retirement plans, Mirza shared: “I haven’t decided yet. For now, I want to take it easy and spend more time with my wife and three children.”

To commemorate Mirza’s long service, Tourism Malaysia will be organising an internal farewell reception on November 29, followed by another event for industry players on the following day. His last day of office will be November 30.

Trade reacts to Mirza’s retirement

Mirza’s retirement has evoked reactions from the Malaysian trade members, many of whom hold fond memories of this industry pioneer as well as his contributions and strong support for the tourism sector over the years.

KL Tan, president, The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA), remarked: “MATTA’s success in driving the nation’s tourism industry forward and making Malaysia a preferred travel destination for tourists would not have been successful without the full support of Mirza and collaboration with Tourism Malaysia, both in the country and its overseas offices. Mirza’s support and cooperation with MATTA has created many favourable conditions to the association’s members, such as making Malaysia the European Travel Agents and Tour Operators Associations (ECTAA) Preferred Destination of the Year for 2018 and the selection of Malaysia as the official partner country of ITB 2019.”

Ally Bhoonee, executive director at World Avenues, said: “Mirza’s retirement is a great loss to the tourism industry. Tourism is in his DNA. He has an open door policy and he is a humble, approachable person. I have asked him several times for advice on industry matters and he has always been willing to share.”

Arokia Das, director, Luxury Tours Malaysia said: “I’ve known Mirza for over 30 years, and he has always had a strong passion for the industry and to make Malaysia a premier destination. He has an ear to the ground and he is always abreast of market trends which he kept the travel trade abreast of through proper guidance.”

Anthony Wong, group managing director, Asian Overland Services Tourism & Hospitality Group, said: “Mirza is an industry person, very humble and intelligent and he has supported the industry well, addressing issues to make it an easier environment to work. He has also led many organisations at the international level and supported the industry participation though making Malaysia an active member. This helps to bring many meetings and conferences to Malaysia.”

Uzaidi Udanis, president of the Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association, remarked: “I have known Mirza since 1987 when he was just an officer in Tourism Malaysia. I remember he helped me personally in developing the European market and with that I managed to widen my market to Eastern Europe. As director-general, Mirza has also shown support for MITA Travel Fair and availed himself to all our events which relate to domestic and inbound tourism. I hope that after he retires, he will continue to contribute his valuable experience in the tourism industry.”

Shaharuddin Saaid, executive director, Malaysian Association of Hotel Owners (MAHO), said: “Mirza is a personal friend whom I have known since the mid-1990s. He is highly principled with firm opinions, yet at the same time, good-natured and jovial. During his tenure as director-general, he has been very supportive and co-operative to industry players and stakeholders, MAHO included. He has never failed to show up at our Hari Raya Aidilfitri open houses except on two occasions when he was overseas or out of town. I wish him continued good health and prosperity.”

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