Tourism Malaysia has done a lot to promote the country as one of the top holiday destinations in ASEAN. Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Seri Mirza Mohammad Taiyab has led the promotional arm of the Tourism and Culture Ministry since 2006. The 58-year-old travel enthusiast turned his passion into a career opportunity the moment he enrolled for a diploma in tourism administration in 1976.
“I have always enjoyed travelling since I was young. When I was in school, I used to enjoy camping and cycling. I used to cycle all the way from my hometown in Bagan Serai to Kuala Lumpur. “I like adventure. Surely when you work in the tourism industry, all these come as part of the products you feature. “Everybody likes to travel and when I saw the tourism course being offered, I thought to myself this might be an opportunity for me to take up a career in travel,” Mirza told Business Times in an interview.
Mirza joined the then Tourist Development Corp in 1982, and there was no turning back. Being in the agency for more than three decades has taken Mirza all over the world as he and his team work hard to promote Malaysia. His job took him to Germany where he became Tourism Malaysia’s director of Frankfurt office in 1989. He was responsible for tourism promotional activities in Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland.
In 1995, Mirza was appointed as director of its Tokyo office to oversee the Japanese market, which was the third-largest market for Malaysia at the time. “Tourism is a business where relationship matters and if you have been in the tourism industry long enough, you will realise that it is a field where experience matters a lot,” he said. Mirza has met and handled different kinds of challenges that come with the job.
The main challenge for Tourism Malaysia was that many people did not fully understand what the agency did, he said. “Travel and tourism is always regarded as fun. And fun, if it’s misread, can lead to wrong decisions. For example, when there is a budget cut, ours will be affected first because of the perception that other sectors such as food, health, education are more essential.” He added that when there was a budget cut, it would affect the agency’s promotional activities, which would then affect the industry as a whole as there would be a dip in travel demand and tourist arrivals.
The other challenge of being in the tourism industry is the difficulty in maintaining a routine lifestyle due to the constant travel. However, Mirza said being in the tourism field had brought him unforgettable memories, such as the World Cup football and rugby matches. “I don’t think I would have done that if I was not in this job. I also saw some other big events that were held in the past years. Every time it happens, I tell myself how lucky I am for being in this line.
“More importantly, you can relate to every part of the world. We go to many places, we stay there and we learn so much about those places. I always tell my officers we see the best of everything and we deal with the best,” said Mirza.