The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) will leverage on digital marketing to further boost the country's tourism industry.
To achieve this goal, Matta has opted to build its very own online services booking engine. Its president Datuk Tan Kok Liang asserted that digital marketing was vital for the industry as people were now living in a technology-savvy era.
"We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH). We will be putting in our inventory as we do not want to depend on online services booking engines such as Agoda and Expedia.
"We want to create our own Malaysian search engines. We want to create strong engines. This is very important" Tan said at a press conference during Matta's digital branding workshop at Grandis Hotel yesterday.
"According to a report by Tourism Malaysia, 89.9 percent of inbound and domestic travellers used the internet as a source of information to search travel information, visualize travel destinations, getting reviews and share travel experiences.
"The breakdown of their usage is 28.8 percent search engine, 27 percent websites, 13.9 percent travel review sites. 11.8 percent social media, 11.1 percent online travel provider and 3.7 percent travel blogs" Tan added.
According to Tan, individual travel agents would usually have their own online platforms.
"Individual companies cannot compete with â€˜giants'. Plus, international online rates are probably cheaper than the local online rates. That is why we want to create a technology solution platform, where we can gather all the travel agents and hotels in the country. We will create our own inventory and we will launch our very own booking engine" Tan stressed.
There will be an open tender for the said project, which will be made available to both local and international service providers. It is understood that the matter had already been brought to Matta's Finance and Tender department.
"We should be able to select our vendor by March and by then, the vendor would have to start working in the programming and the website" said Tan, disclosing that it would take at least six to nine months for the project to be completed.
"We should be able to launch the project by 2019. It is not easy to complete such a project" he added.
When asked whether there would be a difference between international and local online booking rates, Tan asserted that the local rates would be priced at a â€˜competitive' rate to accommodate Malaysia's economic growth.
"We have to compete with international travel search enginesâ€¦.everything is a commercial decision" he said, adding that all travel agents must work together with Matta to negotiate a better rate.
As the country heads into the Visit Malaysia Year 2020, online bookings would be even more vital, Tan opined.
Commenting on the said MoU, which was signed last month in Kuala Lumpur, Tan disclosed that agreement would also focus on promoting Malaysia. He also said that the Ministry of Tourism and the government as a whole was supportive of Matta's online initiative. The two-day workshop dubbed Accelerate Your Business Through Digital Branding was attended by over 40 people.
Also present at the event were Matta vice president (Education and Training) Christina Kong @ Wahida and Matta Sabah chapter chairman Lawrence Chin.