A food fest and a performance by the Swatari troupe showcasing little-known tribal dances of the Sabah and Sarawak regions - Tourism Malaysia seems to have its focus squarely on India. Why?
India is the sixth most prominent tourism generating source market for Malaysia.
In 2007, 422,452 Indian tourists visited Malaysia - an increase of 51.4 per cent from last years' arrival figures - while tourism receipts from India stood at RM 1,131.9 million, which is a rise of 56 per cent over the previous year's RM 724.7 million.
With its destination promotion campaign "One Golden Celebration", the tourism ministry of Malaysia aims to achieve 500,000 tourist arrivals from India for the year 2008.
Malaysia is seen as something of a value-for-money destination by Indian travellers. Are you trying to change this?
Malaysia offers "value for money", but that doesn't mean we get only the budget travellers. A room in a regular five-star hotel is available for $90, which is far lower compared to $120-150 in any of India's tourist hotspots. In the Bukit Bintang shopping district, we're told that LCDs are so cheap that Indians buy them and get them shipped home, and it still works out cheap.
Malaysia means Kuala Lumpur for most Indian tourists. Which other destinations are you trying to open up and how?
There's Langkawi, which is a duty-free shopping island, besides Johor, Penang, Sabah and Sarawak that we're trying to open up. Our target now is niche segments.
For example, the "Love in India, wed in Malaysia" campaign last year promoting Malaysia not just as a honeymoon destination but a place to get married. Then there is golf tourism and the Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival positioning the country as the discount-shopping getaway of Asia. We've also recently started our Fly & Drive packages through Kuala Lumpur and Penang, the Cameron Highlands and Ipoh.
What of the controversy about visa on arrival? Is the policy under review?
Visa on arrival applies for all Indians, except for people coming in from Chennai. Anyway, if you get a visa in India itself, it works out cheaper, and what's more, you get a visa for multiple entries.