Growing up as a kid, I was extremely fond of watching television (sorry, Gen Z, we didn’t even know what YouTube was), and one of my favourite channels was Star World. As I grew older, I became even fonder of Star Sports, as I became passionate about cricket. Television was everything. It was the perfect recreation after school, it was something I looked forward to every Saturday morning, and it was something that got me a lot of punishments for missing homework! While the shows were different; from watching The Simpsons, to How I Met Your Mother, or Two and A Half Men, or watching cricket on Star Sports, one thing always remained constant. A glorification ad of Malaysia. For those who grew up with a similar childhood, that iconic tune of “Malaysia Truly Asia” must be instilled in their minds. It made me feel like I should go here, and it became an instant dream in my mind. Cut to 5 years later, and I was studying there.

Malaysia was truly Asia. It lived up to the exact expectations that I had in my mind. The entire journey of 6 years in this tropical country made me realise how important tourism actually is. Malaysia is an icon for tourism. The city life, the beaches, the highlands, everything was a sight worth seeing. According to a study, the tourism sector GDP contribution is 14%, which rose considerably from 12.8% in 2021, but COVID-19 played a considerable role in that decline.

Think of the nations where you would love to travel or visit again. Malaysia, Thailand, Maldives, and Dubai instantly come to your mind. Interestingly, pre-COVID, Thailand’s GDP contribution from tourism was 65.7%, Maldives was more than 28%, and Dubai’s was 9%. Compare that to our nation, and we stand at a mere 5.9; that, too, was pre-COVID, but we’ll get to our nation later.

Tourism is a major factor for any nation. It brings an influx of revenue, with citizens from other nations converting their currencies into ours and contributing massively. It sets our nation in a positive light and changes the perception of people from across the globe, irrespective of the geopolitical situation. It boosts the economy by creating more job opportunities for the locals and investment opportunities for entrepreneurs. Things always look up when tourism performs well in your nation.

Coming back to the “Malaysia Truly Asia” ad, and while I keep humming, I believe it is one of the most fantastic campaigns to go around in my childhood. It was a global communication, that served as invite to every nation. It created that desire in people’s minds to visit the place and check it out on their own. It enabled people to live life in Malaysia.

But how does one travel today? Budget is important, and the most common searches are according to the budget. Is it affordable? Is the currency conversion going to give me enough to enjoy? Next is the destination itself. What it has to offer, how can the trip be truly memorable, and what sights, or what nightlife is a must-see? Once these questions are answered, the destination is locked, and a trip begins.

But we belong to the world of advertising. And advertising is all about persuading an audience to take action against a product or service, no? I believe differently. Sure, it is about convincing your audience to buy your product or avail your service because we position it as the best. But while all that is important, the most integral part of advertising is crafting a story and giving that to the audience. What is the actual story that moves a person to become convinced and sure to take that step? After all, we, as humans, crave stories all the time. Stories are the actual form of success behind a good advertisement. If your story is strong, your communication is automatically sold for your audience to be hooked to your product/service. If it’s weak, well, there’s not much that can be done!

Nations advertise to ensure their tourism keeps on growing. From airlines to hotels, taxis to museums, everyone is conjoined to ensure tourism always keeps rising. There was a time when TVCs were the only method of communicating (I just keep on running back to Malaysia Truly Asia), but gradually, we’ve seen a change in that as modes of communication have changed. Recently, I witnessed a fantastic mode of promoting tourism that really made me want to go there. Sri Lanka, a nation that has suffered from default, is on its road to recovery and has tourism on its mind. The recently concluded Asia Cup was a prime example. Since Pakistan was the actual host of this tournament, the Sri Lankan government invited top-tier influencers from Pakistan to watch the match and, of course, cover the nation’s beauty. It worked. All these vlogs made me look forward to going there.

Influencer marketing to promote tourism has always been successful, and we’ve seen it work for our nation as well. We’ve all traveled or intended to the northern areas of Pakistan after watching Mooroo’s vlog. Remember Eva Zu Bek? Worked pretty well, but we’ve pretty much deviated from that strategy. If you find your favorite influencer having Nasi Goreng Ayam in Malaysia, or just chilling at Jumeira Beach in Dubai, or having a cold one with the boys in Phuket, you’re bound to be enticed and focused on experiencing the same feeling.

Nations strive on tourism. Their GDP keeps on growing if the nation’s tourism sector is doing well. The nation’s image keeps on improving, no matter what the nation is struggling with internally. Their positioning on the globe becomes stronger. Tourism is the one sector that must truly be emphasized on. However, we’ve seen glimmers of that in our nation. 2015 to 2019 was a great example. But we’ve seen a decline since. Nations that do not prioritize on tourism tend to diminish pretty soon from people’s minds.

While you ponder on these thoughts, and while our nation gradually understands the importance of tourism for the nation’s growth, let’s appreciate the ones who are actually doing it and are pretty near us. It’s the season to travel, and I know just the location waiting for your arrival. You know where I’m getting at… *coughs* Malaysia Truly Asia!

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With 5 years of experience in advertising, Muhammad Noor Sohail delves in the world of stories, and thrives on storytelling. A genuine cricket lover, Noor always stays well-knitted with the beautiful game, in the urge to contribute for the prosperity of the game, and Pakistan Cricket.