The Federation expects to double the number of tourists reaching Sarawak after its convention in Malaysia saw more than 500 members interact with key sellers from the host country.
The Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI) Convention 2022 was organised in Kuching (Malaysia) from September 20-23 in collaboration with Tourism Malaysia, Sarawak Tourism Board (STB), and Business Events (BE) Sarawak. About 700 delegates from India attended the convention. This was the third time Malaysia hosted the TAFI convention. The first TAFI convention was held in the country in 1999, followed by the second one in 2007.
Commenting on this year’s convention, Ajay Prakash, President, TAFI, said, “This was a landmark convention, not only for TAFI but also for Sarawak. It has been a relatively unexplored destinations for Indians. By bringing in more than 500 travel professionals into Sarawak for this convention, we hope to remedy the situation. Pre-Covid, Sarawak had 4.6 million tourists and I think by next year or two, the Indian market will be able to double these figures. When people meet other people is when really business begins to happen.”
Sharing his focus areas, Dato’ Sri Dr Anil Jeet Singh Sandhu, Deputy Chairman, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, said, “Hopefully, whatever target my minister has set, will be met after this convention. For the first time, I saw so many Indian travellers flying domestic in Malaysia, and it was a happy sight. Now, we want Indian travellers to explore Borneo. The Sarawak Tourism Board has started tapping the India market and they have spent lots of efforts and money for this. Regarding the visa issue that is always flagged to us, we are pushing for multi-entry visas as well as visa on arrival directly from India.” Currently, VoA is available only for passengers coming from a third country.
Tourism Malaysia also conducted a B2B between Indian buyers and Malaysian sellers. About 108 sellers from all over Malaysia took part in wooing the potential new clientele among more than 450 buyers from India representing more than 240 companies. The Malaysian sellers consisted of 33 travel agents, 17 product owners, 37 hotels and resorts, one airline, seven hospitality-related associations, 6 state representatives among others.
With the tagline ‘Build Back Better’, the convention discussed sustainability, advanced greening efforts, conservation and responsible tourism during its sessions. Several key speakers shared their insights and experiences with the audience on steering into the new post-pandemic world. “Malaysia has everything for everyone, be it an outdoor adventure, a luxurious retreat, or a shopping spree of our finest arts and crafts. We also share a lot of similarities with India in terms of culture, tradition, and cuisine, which is why Malaysia is among the favourite destinations for Indian tourists,” said Dato’ Sri Hajah Nancy Shukri, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Malaysia.
Bringing forth a series of pre and post tours, Dato’ Sri Nancy also expressed her appreciation to the participating tourism associations and products, including the Malaysian Association of Tour & Travel Agents (MATTA), Batik Air, TTA Johor Tourism, Desaru Coast, Holiday Inn Johor Bharu City Center, Trinidad Suite Puteri Harbour, Ibis Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Resort World Genting, Tourism Selangor, Sunway Lagoon, Sunway Resort Kuala Lumpur, Penang Global Tourism (PGT), Langkawi Development Authority (LADA), Tropical Charters Langkawi, Lexis Hibiscus, Sabah Tourism Board, and WebBeds.
In 2019, the Indian market contributed 735,309 arrivals (22 per cent of total arrivals) to the country. Sharing her views on the convention, Yin May Lau, Group Chief Marketing & Customer Experience Officer- Malaysia Airlines, said, “Since its inception, TAFI has shown true commitment towards creating a more evolved and stable environment for the travel industry. We are delighted to be the official carrier for TAFI Convention 2022. Our travel agents play a key role in supporting the recovery of the sector, and we truly appreciate the great lengths they have taken, especially as travel demands continue to soar. We look forward to continue offering our support and strengthening these partnerships for many more years to come. We are happy to fly travel agents across India to our home country, Malaysia, for the TAFI Convention. India has always been an important market for Malaysia Airlines and we are hopeful that through this association and convention, our agent partners would be encouraged to promote Malaysia Airlines to their customers and help create more leisure demand for Kuching, Sarawak, and other Malaysia destinations in the near future.”