Malaysia courting honeymoon couples from Italy

With an amazing 300,000 couples getting married every year in Italy, Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (Tourism Malaysia) is courting them to spend their honeymoon in Malaysia.

Tourism Malaysia Milan office director Mohd Nasir Kushairi said Malaysia must capitalise on this big and lucrative market as a survey showed that Italians spend an average of five billion Euros (RM23.3 billion) a year to get married, with the honeymoon trip an all-important part in the expenditure.

Mohd Nasir said going on honeymoon was perceived by Italians as the second-to-none way of starting up a new life, so the couple relied quite heavily on a travel agent’s professionalism.

“On the average, they spend Euro 3,000 (about RM14,000) for honeymoon, excluding air ticket. Their popular destination is the Mediterranean which has beautiful beaches and warm weather,” he told Malaysian journalists who were here to cover Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s visit to Italy.

Mohd Nasir said Malaysia could tap the honeymoon market as it had similar attractions like the Mediterranean including beautiful islands like Pangkor, Langkawi and Tioman as well as Sabah.

He said a survey conducted by travel magazine Conde Nast Traveller showed that 76 percent of the newly-weds resorted to a travel agent’s guidance for their trip while 24 percent planned the trip on their own.

More interestingly, 37 percent chose group-tours, long-haul destinations being preferred by 51 percent with Europe attracting 40 percent, while 25 percent picked Italy.

The survey also showed that destination accounted for 91 percent of the choices, followed by the quite complex combination of stay-holiday and a tour (69 percent), price (69 percent), travel agent’s advice (60 percent), and the brand-name of the tour operator and their promotional campaign (46 percent and 40 percent respectively).

Mohd Nasir said Malaysian tourism players should not miss the opportunity as the country had began to attract Italians since Malaysia Airlines brought tourists from Milan through chartered flights from December last year to April this year.

In the first five months of this year, 8,194 Italians visited Malaysia compared to 5,257 in the same period last year while a total of 12,872 came in 2003.

“Many of the Italians like beaches and eco-tourism. That is why they like to go to Langkawi and Sabah as it offers beaches, extreme sports activities like climbing mountains, scuba and diving,” he said.

He said if the honeymoon market was capitalised, Malaysia could see year-long tourist arrivals from Italy as May was considered a wedding season while tourists also travelled during summer in July and August as well during winter between November and January.

Mohd Nasir said several activities and programmes had been lined-up by Tourism Malaysia’s Milan office to promote the country in Italy as well as surrounding countries like Slovenia, Croatia, Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“Tourism Malaysia picks Milan as its main office for Italy due to its strategic location. Furthermore, this is the backbone of Italian economy and travellers are from this region,” he said.

Furthermore, many European companies involved in the fashion industry were based here and when the affluent travelled, they spend an average of 2,000 Euros (RM9,300), he said.

He said Malaysia’s entry into the world of Formula One and the hosting of the Le Tour de Langkawi cycling championship had generated wide publicity for the country in Italy.

“And capitalising on this, we sponsored a local cycling team who have won several championships. It brought huge mileage for us,” he said.

Mohd Nasir said Tourism Malaysia also conducted regular seminars for travel and tour operators while familiarisation trips to Malaysia for tourism players and media were held throughout the year.

He said with all the promotional activities in place, the number of tourist arrivals from Italy, with a population of 57 million, was expected to increase by 20 percent this year.

Besides that, Balkan countries which had recently joined the European Union were being targeted as they offered long term prospects, he added. – Bernama