KUALA LUMPUR: By harnessing the power of blogging and social media, the Tourism Ministry aims to attract up to 36 million tourists to Malaysia by 2020, from the 24.6 million achieved last year, said Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen.
This was the main aim of the inaugural Malaysia International Tourism Bloggers Conference and Awards (MITBCA 2012), which will be held at the Seri Pacific Hotel on May 8 and 9.
"They will be organised by the ministry and Social Media Chambers, a non-government organisation (NGO). Our collaboration reflects the need for strong partners in utilising the Internet to promote the industry," Ng said at a press conference at the Malaysia Tourist Information Centre (MATIC) in Jalan Ampang.
The conference will feature experts and veteran bloggers from the US, Scotland India, Thailand, Phillipines and Malaysia, who will share their expertise on the latest trends and developments in social media.
"The Gala Awards Dinner, which will be held at the end of the May 8 conference, is to recognise and reward bloggers from all the world who are dedicated to sharing their travelling experiences online," she said.
"It will also highlight the achievements of various tourism organisations within the social media space."
She added that these events will be the first ever to take place in Malaysia and that the ministry also plans to organise them annually.
Accompanying Ng at the press conference for the upcoming event was the Tourism Ministry's Deputy Secretary General Rashidi Hasbullah, Social Media Chambers president Shahul Hameed Dawood, as well as local television personalities and bloggers Jojo Struys and Anis Nabillah.
Also present was Alistair Watters, creator of popular blog-hosting website travelblog.org, one of the world's largest tourist-blogging websites with over 200,000 subscribers. Watters hails from Scotland but has been a Malaysian resident for the past three years.
"Among highlights of the conference will be the Creation of an Engaged Tourism Social Media Community, Use of Social Media by Tourism Entrepreneurs and Effective Campaigns through New Media," said Ng.
"These presentations will provide a useful basis for the exchange of ideas and sharing of success stories among bloggers."
A total of 16 awards will be presented in categories such as Lifestyle, Duty-Free Shopping, Travel Food, Music, Entertainment and Destination blogs, as well as Micro Blogger and Tourism Blog of the Year. Attending the awards will be 342 bloggers hailing from seven different countries.
"Public voting for these nominees had commenced on our website www.mitbca.com on April 26 and had closed on May 1," said Social Media Chambers president Shahul.
"Over 10,000 entries had initially been submitted for nomination."