SELL­ING MAT DAN

He’s the per­fect per­son to sell Tereng­ganu to UK, Euro­pean tourists

New Straits Times - - NEWS - (you see Mat

LON­DON

IN the sem­i­nar hall at the re­cent World Travel Mar­ket (WTM), one English­man sat in­tently watch­ing pro­mo­tional videos from var­i­ous Malaysian tourism agen­cies. For most present in the hall, he could be one of the many travel jour­nal­ists in­vited, cutting a dap­per fig­ure in his ca­sual beige blazer, match­ing check trousers com­plete with beret. But he wasn’t. The man sit­ting along­side of­fi­cials from the Tourism Tereng­ganu Board was in­tro­duced as a celebrity from Tereng­ganu — Mat Dan!

It shouldn’t have sur­prised me one bit that the Bris­tol-born Daniel Tyler, who as a teenager back­packed his way into the hearts and minds of the Tereng­ganu lo­cals 10 years ago, was at one of the big­gest an­nual in­ter­na­tional travel shows, to pro­mote the coun­try that he had un­wit­tingly fallen in love with and adopted.

“I am not of­fi­cially the tourism am­bas­sador for Tereng­ganu,” he said in his thick Tereng­ganu ac­cent that has in­ad­ver­tently cat­a­pulted him to fame and given him a celebrity sta­tus of sorts when a video clip of him speak­ing in “Ganu Kite” ac­cent went vi­ral.

Since then, Ne­ti­zens couldn’t have enough of him. For now, lo­cal tourists flocked to the state in search of Mat Dan. Now, the tourism board has to work harder to get him to work his charm on UK and Euro­pean tourists.

Of­fi­cially or not, Mat Dan, who is also the am­bas­sador for the En­vi­ron­ment Depart­ment of Tereng­ganu, is syn­ony­mous with the east coast state of Malaysia.

“Orang ten­gok Mat Dan, orang ten­gok Teng­ganu!” Dan, you see Tereng­ganu!) he said.

In­deed, talk about Tereng­ganu, at least here in Blighty, the con­ver­sa­tion will cer­tainly touch on the Mat Salleh that had made Tereng­ganu his home and the Mat Salleh who speaks the loghat Tereng­ganu flu­ently as if he was fed with the budu and keropok lekor since birth.

Meet­ing him in per­son has some­what per­suaded me that Tereng­ganu needed an ad­di­tional tourism prod­uct to help at­tract tourists from the United King­dom to the shores, lakes and is­lands of Tereng­ganu, so that he can share his en­thu­si­asm and love for sun­bathing on the beau­ti­ful beaches, snorkelling in the sea and his ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the beauty of its nat­u­ral habi­tat.

But how do you pack­age and mar­ket Mat Dan to the UK mar­ket?

At WTM, one can see, hear and even smell tourism prod­ucts ef­fec­tively pack­aged by coun­tries in the world that par­tic­i­pate an­nu­ally. There are dancers in colour­ful eye-catch­ing cos­tumes danc­ing to vig­or­ous drum­beats or soul­ful tra­di­tional mu­si­cal in­stru­ments, mes­meris­ing smell of mas­sage oils lin­ger­ing from Thai or In­done­sian pavil­ions and icons or beauty queens sashay­ing around to at­tract vis­i­tors to their stands. Any­thing at all that is eye-catch­ing and vis­i­ble will get a snap that will make the rounds in so­cial me­dia and gar­ner likes and thus in­ter­est.

So, how does one pack­age and mar­ket Mat Dan?

There is no point hav­ing a hu­man prod­uct, be it dancers in tra­di­tional cos­tumes or icons in eye­catch­ing out­fit, if they sit around their own pavil­ion chat­ting with the peo­ple who came on the same flight with them.

They need to be reach­ing out to the more than 50,000 vis­i­tors that go to the travel show — talk to them, en­gage them and en­tice them to your coun­try. No use self­ieing with your own kind, that will only make the rounds in the cyber world of your own coun­try — and in my book that is just a syok sendiri ex­pe­ri­ence wasted on an in­ter­na­tional stage.

The of­fi­cer who in­vited Mat Dan over ad­mit­ted that af­ter hear­ing that he was vis­it­ing his fam­ily, he sug­gested that Mat Dan make an ap­pear­ance at the show. Ad­mit­tedly, no one other than Malaysians, recog­nised him as the Mat Dan who is mak­ing waves in Malaysia. But it was a good move none­the­less — a first step to in­tro­duce him.

A lot of work still needs to be done to mar­ket him.

Af­ter our chat, Mat Dan was whisked off to an­other en­gage­ment. How­ever, the vis­i­tors at WTM were still none the wiser about his iden­tity or celebrity sta­tus.

At the Se­lesa Restau­rant of Bayswa­ter Grand Plaza, he spoke to blog­gers and some Bri­tish me­dia — a plau­si­ble at­tempt in­deed.

Tereng­ganu has a lot to of­fer to tourists, es­pe­cially from the West; they love na­ture, wildlife and cul­ture. They love to ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent kinds of food. Th­ese are the very fac­tors that cap­tured the heart of the young rest­less English­man, that stopped him in his tracks af­ter back­pack­ing through more than 20 coun­tries.

Given enough tips on pro­mot­ing the state as a tourist des­ti­na­tion, he could work his way around the UK, work­ing with the likes of other Malaysians based here such as Hairani Muham­mad, also from Tereng­ganu, whose Makan Café is the talk of the town. He could also work with MasterChef par­tic­i­pant, Zaleha Olpin Kadir, again to talk about food and help pro­mote not just Tereng­ganu but the coun­try. He need not be speak­ing Ganu Kite all the time to peo­ple from his birth­place but it could be an at­trac­tion. And there’s, of course, our own Awang Go­neng — to­gether they could pro­mote their state un­til the cows come home!

As Mat Dan him­self ad­mit­ted, he loves to talk about food, cul­ture and hospi­tal­ity of the lo­cal peo­ple to any­one who would lis­ten. As some­one who claims to be 99.9 per cent Malaysian, to the ex­tent of even ut­ter­ing some English words with the Tereng­ganu ac­cent, he is the per­fect per­son to mar­ket Tereng­ganu and Malaysia. Take him on a road­show, get him on UK talk­shows and in­tro­duce him to the Bri­tish me­dia. I hear there are plans to make this English­man a Tereng­ganu icon and if that doesn’t make head­lines in the Bri­tish me­dia, I don’t know what will.

Tereng­ganu has been known to at­tract vis­i­tors who fell help­lessly in love with the land of Ulit Mayang. There’s Ro­hani Longuet from France who went to Pu­lau Duy­ong in 1971 and has been there ever since. She could eas­ily sell Tereng­ganu to France. And with Mat Dan do­ing the rounds in the UK, we could eas­ily get the num­bers for Visit Malaysia Year 2020.

PIC BY ZAHARAH OTH­MAN

Mat Dan mak­ing an ap­pear­ance at the re­cent World Travel Mar­ket.

PIC COUR­TESY OF TOURISM TERENG­GANU

More needs to be done to mar­ket Mat Dan to the in­ter­na­tional au­di­ence.

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