By Alang Bendahara
MANY analysts have said that tourism would be the first economic sector to be impacted by the Covid-19 crisis, and the last to recover, due to travel restrictions and the global recession.
In this month’s digitalisation series, Selangor Journal speaks to Tourism Selangor general manager Azrul Shah Mohamad on the state agency’s digitalisation effort, its activities to celebrate this month’s World Tourism Day as well as its post-pandemic plans.
Last year, Selangor was the most popular state in the country with 19.7 million local tourists coming for a visit, based on the 2020 Domestic Tourism Survey (DTS) conducted by the Department of Statistics Malaysia.
Yet over the last 17 months, the countless restrictions imposed upon the state to contain the spread of the coronavirus have gravely affected its travel sector as almost all activities came to a halt.
“The impact of the pandemic on the tourism industry is severe, especially in Selangor. Many tourism operators have been forced to cease operation, and many hotels in Selangor had to close down,” said Tourism Selangor general manager Azrul Shah Mohamad.
Now, as the vaccination rate around the Klang Valley and the rest of the country begin to inch upwards, tourism authorities, travel players and tourists alike are waiting with bated breath and counting the days till they can start to promote, sell and vacation again.
Never one to be afraid of trying out new experiences, Azrul Shah was early to embrace the mobile application (app) technology when it started to popularise in 2015.
He said the agency took the initiative to support local software developers who introduced the Discover Selangor mobile app.
“We provided the support and our expertise to the Discover Selangor app, and later to other mobile apps that focused on tourism. However the apps were not owned or operated by Tourism Selangor,” he explained.
The lack of autonomy led to Tourism Selangor embarking on its own digitalisation initiative, and the Discover Selangor app soon lost popularity and got removed from Google’s Play Store and Apple’s App Store.
Realising that it needed to have its own platform to promote state tourism sectors and activities, Tourism Selangor then placed its focus entirely on a website.
Given the name Selangor.Travel, the site exists till today.
“Currently, Selangor.Travel is the main digital medium to promote Tourism Selangor’s initiatives to the masses, alongside Tourism Selangor’s social media platform on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok and YouTube.
“Selangor.Travel can also be accessed via a ‘mobile version’, which is lighter and more gadget-friendly. Users may obtain comprehensive information on Selangor’s tourism industry at their fingertips,” said Azrul Shah.
The ease of mobile applications and their popularity among travellers very quickly made Azrul Shah and his team jump on the app bandwagon.
On August 3, 2021, a partnership was formed with Tourplus Technology Sdn Bhd (Tourplus) to create a proper mobile app for the company — Go Selangor.
The Go Selangor application, says Azrul Shah, acts as an e-commerce platform that manages the bookings of Selangor’s travel packages and flight tickets, among other services.
It is owned by Tourplus Technology Sdn Bhd, and Tourism Selangor only supports it in terms of promotions and content development.
Beyond our borders
Pandemic or no pandemic, Tourism Selangor has made plans to celebrate World Tourism Day which falls on September 27 this year.
It has chosen the theme ’Tourism for Inclusive Growth’.
“We will be celebrating World Tourism Day across our social media platforms this year with the sharing and production of artworks, a series of articles and interactive videos,” said Azrul Shah.
“Tourism Selangor also aspires to collaborate with Tourism Malaysia’s offices abroad for any webinars, virtual sharing sessions, or even content sharing.”
Azrul Shah also said for the past few months, Tourism Selangor has been collaborating with Tourism Malaysia Jeddah, Tourism Malaysia Medan and Tourism Malaysia Dubai on special webinar sessions.
“This is to promote Tourism Selangor’s promotional campaign for the international market titled ‘Splendid Selangor, Take Me Anywhere!’ which reflects our determination in penetrating the international travel market even when borders remain closed,” he said.
Slowly, but surely Azrul Shah expects it will take some time for the tourism industry to flourish again and for people to regain their confidence in physical sightseeing and tours.
Yet, he remains confident that with the positive developments shown by the National Covid-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK), the tourism industry in Selangor will start to rebuild phase by phase.
“With the loosening of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) on fully-vaccinated individuals, malls, retail centres as well as food and beverage (F&B) outlets will be the first to rebuild.
“Once the interdistrict and interstate travel bans are lifted and domestic tourism reopens, hotels and tour operators in Selangor will get a chance to heave a sigh of relief.
“It will definitely take time; slowly but surely. I have confidence in Selangor’s capability to rebuild its tourism industry.
“We used to be the most-visited state in Malaysia in 2019, and with all of the initiatives in place to promote Selangor’s tourism, I believe we will emerge stronger and better post-Covid-19.”
This article first appeared in the Selangor Journal monthly September edition, published on September 6, 2021.