TENS of thousands of would-be travellers flocked to Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), Kuala Lumpur, in search of exciting holiday packages and special deals at the 44th edition of the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) Fair.
Families, young professionals, singles and millennials poured over colourful brochures and travel booths, clearly spoilt for choice.
Travelling is serious business, reflected by the steady increase in sales turnover for MATTA throughout the years.
The domestic halls were abuzz with excitement as exhibitors held activities, games and performances to attract visitors to their booths.
The Sarawak Pavilion was decorated in yellow, black and red while dancers in traditional costumes performed and took pictures with visitors.
Sarawak, named by the fair as Malaysia’s Favourite Destination, garnered a positive response from visitors over the three days, said Sarawak Tourism Board marketing director Benedict Jimbau.
“We are happy with the encouraging response from visitors to the booth who have made direct bookings.
“The most popular packages were short getaways to Kuching, Miri and Sibu.
“More people are enquiring about Sarawak’s unusual attractions because they want to experience it for themselves,” said Jimbau.
“This includes the new packages in central Sarawak such as the Bario Ba’kelalan discovery trek,” he revealed.
At the theme parks corner, Lee Shuen Ruh from Kuala Lumpur, said the fair was a good platform to promote domestic tourism.
“I think many are opting for local destinations as the Malaysian ringgit is weak,” said the 39-year-old bank manager who was at the fair with her husband to purchase Legoland tickets for their family.
This was also their first time purchasing tickets at the fair as previously, their friends would buy for them.
First-time visitor Mitra Devan, 19, came with his brother and mother, and joined the long queue at the AirAsia booth.
“We came here to get air tickets to Langkawi as AirAsia offers very competitive prices,” said the college student from Kajang.
Similarly, at the international halls, visitors were cramming their orange woven bags with brochures, while others listened intently to travel agents who elaborated on the various packages offered.
Unfazed by the flurry of activity, Khairul Hafiz, 25, said he was planning a trip to Beijing, in hopes of visiting the Great Wall of China.
“I am still looking around. But if I do not get to go to China, my second option would be India,” said the technology analyst who enjoys travelling alone.
Taiwan, which was promoted as Asia’s Favourite Destination of the fair, had all 20 of its booths packed with interested visitors.
Taiwan Tourism Bureau Kuala Lumpur Office deputy director Cindy Chen said they brought the biggest delegation ever from the country this time round.
“Comprising 160 members from 19 organisations including hotels, tourist associations and tourism-related industries, the delegation is here to provide the latest travel information to fair visitors.
“Joining us for the first time is the Chinese-Muslim association, promoting Taiwan as a Muslim-friendly destination, and so far, we have received good response,” she said.
She revealed that the number of Malaysian visitors to Taiwan from January to July this year increased by 16% to 280,000 compared with the same period last year.
“With the growing number of tourists and positive response from travel agents, we hope to achieve 550,000 Malaysian tourists this year,” she said, adding that more than 474,000 Malaysians visited Taiwan last year, a 10% growth compared with 2015.
Attracted to the thought of spending autumn in South Korea, a season bathed in yellow and crimson falling leaves, and a dreamy white Christmas for winter, travellers thronged the Korean booths.
Korea Tourism Organisation Malaysia and Brunei managing director Lee Younggeun said these two seasons were peak periods for Malaysian visitors.
“For winter, we are promoting ski resort areas such as Gangwan-do as the province is a haven for winter sports enthusiasts.
“Plus, we are introducing PyeongChang, Gangneung and Jeongseon to Malaysians as the 2018 Winter Olympic Games will be held at these places,” said Lee.
The Land of the Rising Sun was another crowd-puller with its sushi-making demonstration, and bamboo and washi paper umbrellas booth decorations.
Japan National Tourism Organisation Kuala Lumpur Office director Wataru Kobayashi revealed that the fair garnered more response compared with the March edition.
“The number of people purchasing our holiday packages, train and amusement parks tickets is increasing,” he shared, adding that they had 21 exhibitors from Japan and local agencies.
Besides getting special deals, visitors had a chance to take part in lucky draws, redemptions and watch interesting performances, said the Macao Government Tourism Office representative in Malaysia, Veron Ng.
She highlighted upcoming events in Macao such as the Macau Food Festival and Macau Grand Prix in November as well as the Macao Light Festival and Macao Galaxy Entertainment International Marathon in December.
As part of its corporate social responsibility, MATTA has also introduced its MATTA-SLDN (National Dual Training System) Apprentice Programme. Launched last year, it aims to bring new workers into the tourism industry.
MATTA immediate past president Datuk Hamzah Rahmat revealed that apprentices of the programme, run by the Skills Development Department under the Human Resources Ministry, will undergo 20% classroom learning at MATTA headquarters and 80% on-the-job training for 18 months.
“Currently, we have about 30 students. This fair saw registration of more than 60 people who were interested to enrol,” he said.
The next MATTA Fair will be from March 16 to 18, 2018 at PWTC.