Yen Yen Wants To Promote Shoes And Art As New Tourist Products

(Bernama) – KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia is now promoting shoes and art as new tourist products, following the success of two international festivals held last year, said Tourism Minister Dr Ng Yen Yen.

At the heart of this shoe effort was world-renowned Malaysian-born shoe designer Jimmy Choo, she told the monthly Melaka Business magazine in an interview in its just-released latest issue.

“We did the International Shoe Festival because we have Jimmy Choo and Jimmy Choo is Malaysian. And Jimmy Choo for shoe also rhymes”,” she said of the London-based designer.

The festival held in partnership with the Malaysian Shoe Association attracted at least 45,000 visitors and shoes worth RM5 million were sold in cash.

“People like shoes and Malaysia is well-known for shoes. I’m now promoting shoes as a tourist product,” she said.

Dr Ng said, in always looking for innovative ways to promote tourism, she was also promoting art in a big way and a three-month Contemporary Art Festival was held last year.

“Your don’t need too much money for art tourism, you don’t need to cut trees and the artists are there and it’s for me to create a platform for them and also link up all the art galleries.

“We had over 100 artists who participated and what I’m most happy is altogether, about RM17 milion works of art were sold in cash,” she said.

Dr Ng said many artists were so happy with the response and their works were being promoted to Hong Kong, Milan (Italy) and Australia.

“What I do when I go overseas, I actually visit the art galleries, whether government or private, to tell them about our resource in art”. 

Dr Ng also spoke of the big role played by Malaysia’s budget airline AirAsia in the country’s tourism industry and which sparked the boom in low-cost carriers in the last 10 years.

“You just have to look at the story of Malaysia where AirAsia coming into the industry is a very major trend now. AirAsia with its tagline ‘Now Everyone Can Fly’.  “AirAsia is a very fine example of private sector initiative that has done so well, not only for itself but for opening up Malaysia as a tourism destination,” she said.

Dr Ng said Malaysia wanted to increase mid-haul and long-haul tourists because 75 per cent of its tourist arrivals came from this region.

“We want to see more from China, Philippines, Hong Kong, India, Middle East, even from Europe, and AirAsia is flying farther and farther away.  “However nice the country can be, it won’t do if you don’t have accessibility. I think AirAsia is very clever in branding. Now, everyone can fly. So AirAsia is very important,” she said.

Dr Ng said the tourism industry was becoming very competitive, including among South East Asian countries and Malaysia had to be “very, very good and very sharp” in following the tourist trends, never be complacent and must set the pace.

She said the year 2009, saw some remarkable successes for Malaysia’s tourism when the country emerged as the world’s ninth largest tourist destination.

“Everybody was shocked that a country that has 28 million citizens attracted 23.6 million tourists. Our target for this year is 25 million tourists and we’ve got to work very hard. We want to develop in Malaysia a mindset where everybody must ‘think tourism, act tourism”, she said.