NEW YORK, June 19 — After existing for 23 years in the Big Apple, the curtain has finally come down on the New York office of Tourism Malaysia, which was set up to promote tourism from the United States, particularly from the east coast, to Malaysia.
Tourism Malaysia’s New York office will officially shut down on June 30 but the staff have already been working tirelessly since a few weeks ago to wind up the operations and transferring files and other paraphernalia to the Kuala Lumpur headquarters, but some of the old fixtures and furniture will either be donated to charity or given to Malaysian institutions in the city for their use.
The New York office undertook a marathon exercise informing its large base of followers and ‘Friends of Malaysia’ about the impending closure. Some 500 travel agents and tour operators alone were notified about the decision.
This correspondent, who had attended the inauguration of the office 23 years ago, reminisces the evolution of Malaysia’s tourism promotion operations which transited from the simple queries received by mail through aggressive marketing and promotional work to developing a sophisticated and digitalised form of communications with technological aids.
Two of the most senior local staff, Mary M. Scully, the marketing manager, and Nurulhuda Abdul Rahim, the marketing executive, who worked for 23 years at the office since its establishment, looked sad but reconciled to the impending closure of the office.
Both said they would take a break for a month or two and then look for something suitable.
In an interview with Bernama in his office, Ahmad Johanif Mohd Ali, who will be the last vice-president of the New York office and whose term is also ending with the office closure, explained that the office was being closed as a cost-saving measure.
“The closure has, unfortunately, become inevitable. We appreciate the loyalty and dedication of our local staff, and thank them for their services,” Johanif said.
But the closure of the New York office also leaves behind a vacuum which will not be easy to fill. However, tourism promotion on the east coast will continue under the stewardship of Tourism Malaysia’s Los Angeles office which has hitherto been looking after the west coast but will now be responsible for the entire United States and other countries in the region.
Johanif said the Malaysian consulate general in New York and the embassy in Washington DC would also help in promoting Malaysia through their cultural and other activities highlighting Malaysia as an attractive destination.
Tourism Malaysia’s New York office will use its Facebook to communicate with its contacts as its phone connections will be cut effective Sunday.
The New York Times Travel Show, which takes place in January at New York’s Javits Convention and Exhibition Centre, will continue to see Malaysia’s participation in the future too; Tourism Malaysia in Los Angeles will participate in the NYTTS from 2018 onwards.
“This is the nation’s most important travel and tourism show, and Tourism Malaysia will continue to showcase the attractive features of Malaysia at this event which attracts tour operators, travel agents and others associated with the travel industry,” Johanif noted.
Johanif will return soon to the headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. However, his deputy, Ednie Rahma Ab Rahim, who has been in New York since a few months ago, is being transferred to the Los Angeles office.
Though tourist arrivals from the US in Malaysia declined in the first quarter of 2017, the forecast made by Tourism Malaysia for the second quarter of 2017 is optimistic and suggests growth revival.
According to data received from the headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, arrivals from the US in the January-March first quarter of 2017 fell by 12.9 per cent to 52,237 compared to the previous figure.
Revenue also fell in the same quarter of 2017 by 10.9 per cent to RM 0.16 billion. The USA ranked 14th among the top 15 nationalities visiting Malaysia in the 2017 first quarter.
The top 10 nations accounting for tourist arrivals in Malaysia were, in the sequence order, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Thailand, Brunei, South Korea, India, Japan, the United Kingdom and Australia.
Nevertheless, Johanif pointed out that according to the air-bookings manifest for Malaysia for the summer months of June-August 2017, arrivals from the US were forecast to grow by 14 per cent over the year’s earlier period.
“This suggests that we will make a turnaround in the second quarter of this year,” he noted. The April figures for arrivals from the US had already showed that the downward trend had been arrested with a 9.5 per cent growth over the April 2016 arrivals,” he said.
The US is the world’s largest tourism market as far as spending by Americans on overseas tourism is concerned. Some tour operators privately told Bernama that they would like to see Malaysia re-open the New York office in the future.
“It’s going to be difficult to come back and start all over again. A continued presence is essential to sustain the tourism momentum,” David Eisenberg, a New York-based travel and tourism consultant, said. — Bernama