The TIN Media webinar on “FOOD Tourism - Discover Malaysia by Taste” was held on 29th July 2020 organized by TIN Media as a part of the virtual live talk show series. The series is focused to educate and help the tourism industry players about the importance of adopting digitalization in the business, whether it is for products, destinations, or the service providers. The series brings industry leaders from various sectors to share their experiences and advice in front of a live audience.
The distinguished panelist were Mr. Erik Wolf- Industry Founder and Executive Director-World Food Travel Association- United Kingdom, Prof Dr. Mohd Salehuddin Mohd Zahari- Dean of Faculty of Hotels and Tourism Management UiTM-Malaysia. The webinar was moderated by Presanth Chandra - Co-Founder TIN.MEDIA.
On COVID crisis impact on tourism, Erik Wolf said that the pandemic has affected the entire world. Hospitality and tourism sector are the biggest hit by the pandemic, it is definitely not a great time but this time can be used to reset business like redoing the website, marketing collaterals, business plan and by making social media game strong, also improving the technology system like booking platforms, etc.
He added “many tour agents and operators are pivoting and redirecting their business by taking virtual tours, online classes, food delivery, etc. Things are changing around the world and accordingly, everything needs to change including how we do business.”
On being asked how important it is to take food tourism as a crucial segment to promote destinations, Erik said “food and drink are the foundation for destination tourism as everyone, both local and visitors engage in eating and drinking. Therefore, local culinary culture should be focussed on regardless of the national, regional, or local level which holds the society together.
On advising Malaysia on food tourism promotion Erik added “you have a rich culinary culture but not a culinary brand. Most people can’t tell what Malaysian food is all about. So, the first thing to do would be creating a culinary brand to identify with. Secondly, organize your resources. The people of Malaysia are your resources because the people serving food makes the difference. It can be organized through local chapter helping the industry to build including, training, social media, and many more”. Erik added, “I think Malaysia as a county has the opportunity to entice people who know nothing about Malaysian food to come and experience it”.
On advising the tour operators who would like to venture into promoting food tourism experiences, Erik said “If you want to attract domestic tourist, don’t try to do international cuisines and do what you can do the best and by focusing on local variation and recipes will help people learn more about the country. In that way, the local people can be an ambassador when they travel internationally”.
Talking about the economic impact of food tourism, Erik said “25 percent of the average spending of a tourist is on food, and it varies depending on the place. There should be efforts to make customers from worldwide and make them aware of a specific culture through correct mode of communication”.
On collaborative opportunities, Erik said “We have two different platforms, one is www.gastroterra.org which is mainly person to person platform designed to meet new people, share knowledge, participate in polls, surveys, etc and everything is free to participate. While www.worldfoodtravelmarket.com is business to business platform, specifically, focused on food tour operators and the businesses who’re associated with them. So, either of these two can have collaborative opportunities”.
Prof Dr. Mohd Salehuddin Mohd Zahari said “Life is changing now, true that with travel restrictions all over the world everything falls apart and tourism has had the hardest hit. Losses are lining up due to all the cancellation and postpone of events”.
On being asked how is the food tourism segment doing here in Malaysia, he said “The food tourism segment in Malaysia is slightly higher than the rest. Because it looks promising (locally and domestically) with the increasing trend of eating out. However, internationally, Malaysia is known as multiracial, Malaysia is climbing the ladder into food tourism when we compare it to the neighbouring countries like Singapore and Thailand. However, We are still struggling in promoting Malaysian food to create an identity and reflect the culture of the nation. We haven’t achieved our target and have to work hard to achieve it. Our food needs to be made recognized in the western world.
He added “Our food quality and presentation is very important, the only problem with our food is it is too spicy, so we need to suit and match the international tourists, especially from the four-season countries. This input I’m giving based on international tourist reviews. So, we need to portray a good image for food tourism through word of mouth. Also, we need to be consistent in promoting our food else we will lag behind from neighbouring countries”.
While concluding, Prasanth, co-founder of TIN Media added some valuable insights saying “Malaysia has so much to offer, a lot of work is waiting for food tourism in Malaysia. We need to work together to promote food tourism. As food connects people from their hearts, we should tap more into this segment. And this is the time everyone is looking for with more innovative ways for promoting tourism and most importantly, food tourism. It is somehow needed to be prioritized as a key tool in promoting tourism, entirely”.
You can watch the webinar here: https://www.facebook.com/tindotmedia/videos/582261252362143
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