Only about 28,000 of some 139,000 Malaysian tourists who visited Australia last year headed for Queensland. The mere 20% catch might not be something to shout about but FOONG PEK YEE met with some hoteliers in Gold Coast recently to find out why no market is too small to tap.
HONG KONG-born Ted Suen, who is currently residing in Australia, knows Kuala Lumpur’s golden triangle by heart – from the back lanes to the best eating outlets.
His detailed knowledge of some of the famous tourist spots in Malaysia can put some of his Malaysian listeners to shame.
Having said that, Suen’s special interest in Malaysia is not without reason. As sales manager in charge of Asia for Watermark Hotel in Gold Coast, Australia, Suen admitted that he was racing to get ahead of his hotel’s closest competitor for Malaysian tourists.
The promising part is that Gold Coast, also known as the “glittering strip”, actually captured 65% of the 28,000 Malaysian tourists to Queensland last year and its theme parks like Seaworld and Movieworld were among the favourites.
Gold Coast, less than an hour’s drive from Brisbane, entices its visitors with the Tangalooma Wild Dolphin Resort in Moreton Bay.
A 75-minute scenic cruise from Brisbane’s Holt Street Deport, Tangalooma, known for its wild dolphins and pelican feeding activities, desert safari and eco tours, is a very popular family retreat.
Suen pointed out the need to first understand Malaysians, particularly their preferences when travelling.
“Besides sightseeing, Malaysians generally like shopping, particularly for souvenirs and many also crave for their own local food,” he said, noting that several good restaurants in Gold Coast were run by Malaysians.
Suen, who visits Malaysia a few times a year, felt that understanding the culture and characteristics, if not peculiarities of tourists and trying one’s best to accommodate them, would go a long way in tourism promotion.
“Package tours are still popular with Malaysians but travelling on their own for holidays, shopping, business or conferences is also catching up,” he said.
Aside from package tours, family vacations, including those travelling with very young kids, are also becoming popular.
Sheraton Noosa Resort and Spa in Gold Coast for instance, offers “five-star child care facilities” for those travelling with young children.
Its “Crèche and Kids’ Club” provides a secure and government-approved environment for children aged between six weeks and 12 years.
The services are opened to Sheraton guests, local residents and holidaymakers.
Convenience adds to comfort but perhaps the most important part is peace of mind for parents, knowing that their children are in good hands.
Although Asians, including Malaysians, make up only about 2% of Sheraton’s guests, its director of sales, Steve Mohar is confident that the figure would go up as more people get to experience the hotel’sfive-star facilities and personal touch and also the beauty of Noosa.
In fact, he said 35% of his guests were not first-time guests and they included those who first came to stay in Sheraton when they were children.
Going to a Spa is great relaxation and part of an ultimate vacation for many in today’s hectic lifestyle.
Therefore, this resort which was once known only as Sheraton Noosa Resort, had added the word “Spa” to its name after its Aqua Day Spa won the best tourism development award in Sunshine Coast recently.
Noosa is an exclusive beachside village that boasts one of the best surfing beaches in Australia.
Walking distance to Sheraton is Noosa’s cosmopolitan Hastings Street, which has chic boutiques, smart restaurants, art galleries, bookstores and fabulous outdoor cafes.
Despite chalking up some 13,000 visitors daily, Conrad Jupiters with a 24-hour casino which only closes on Good Friday, Christmas and Anzac Day, is not any less aggressive in attracting guests apart from those who come for gaming.
Topping its promotion list is the world-class entertainment programmes and fine dining.
Its public relations officer Amy Christie pointed out that the 90-minute stage spectacular Storm – dubbed one of the most spectacular live shows ever brought to stage – has been a sold out since its opening in May.
The show is scheduled to be on for another year.
Conrad Jupiters’ Chinese restaurant, Zen, which was voted the best restaurant by the Association of Gold Coast Restaurants and Eating Places in 2001 and 2002 is also very popular in Gold Coast.
The awards are prominently displayed at the entrance to the restaurant.
Tourism promotion has certainly gone beyond glossy brochures in the wake of fierce competition locally and internationally.
The bid by some hoteliers in Gold Coast, like having their very own signature or trademark, clinching awards for their services or providing the added personal touch to stand out in the tourism industry, is proof of the dire need to constantly re-invent to attract business.
International hotels which are star-rated are similar in facilities and the next thing tourists naturally look out for is one that promises a difference.
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