This was my first visit to Malaysia. and the first international speaking engagement. This year seems to be speaking year for me, have been getting invites to speak regularly. I was thrilled and excited about this trip for more than one reason. Since the primary reason for going was the Malaysia International Travel Bloggers Conference & Awards (MITBCA 2012). Let me speak about the impressions from the event first.
MITBCA 2012 Event
1. Tourism Malaysia takes the digital social media very seriously. They had spent ample effort and resources to make this event a success. Speakers were invited from around the world and around the country. Participation was not only free but also came with a goody bag. And free food in a luxury hotel. No wonder, there were 500 or so people who sat through two days of the conference.
2. Tourism minister YB Dato’ Dr. Ng Yen Yen showed her seriousness to tap social media to promote tourism. By not only speaking at the inaugural address but also by spending time with the local and invited bloggers to take ideas and feedback. I love people who interact to learn rather than preach. Especially when they are up there in the hierarchy and can get away with it. Her participatory approach is commendable. So is the participation of all the senior officials from her ministry. Her enthusiasm was infectious and her colleagues agreed. She leads by example by having her own website, her own blog, her FB page and a twitter handle. On a lighter note, it was a pleasure to see her doing chicken dance on stage with everyone else. How many times we see ministers so enthusiastic and participative?
3. Local bloggers were awarded for their blogs in 16 different categories. All of them under one super category of ‘Travel and Tourism’. There were innovative categories like Tourism fashion blog. And come to think of it, tourism and fashion may not be too far from each other, both are aspirational for most people. Award winners came equally from both genders. Few of them came with their kids to receive the award. The process of award winning also utilized the social media to get the public polling for the awards. I think this is a good way to encourage more and more people to write about their country. While acknowledging and recognizing those who are already doing it.
4. Tourism Malaysia showcased their best venues by hosting the MITBCA 2012 conference, awards night and high tea for speakers in different venues. They also took us for a night tour to their new capital Putra Jaya. Designed from scratch for the government offices and government officials. This was followed by a trip to Melaka – one of their two world heritage cities. I could not have asked for more. By doing this they very effectively utilized our time to both share our knowledge at the event. And gather some travel stories to write about.
5. I liked the fact that they have two different campaigns and branding for projecting Malaysia to foreigners and to their own citizens. For others, it is Truly Asia Malaysia campaign that we often see in our countries. And for Malaysia, they have Chuti Chuti Malaysia. The word Chuti means the same as Chhuti in Hindi meaning holiday or vacation.
6. As much as I enjoyed speaking at the MITBCA 2012 event, I was thankful for all the learning that other speakers gave me, almost on a platter. I learned that it is not enough to have good content, you need to market yourself well too. My instinct though says that I want to have those followers who really connect with me and my content. And I am not comfortable being a part of the number game. The repeated message was that you have to be a part of the number game if you want blogging to be your profession. So the choice is really between passion and profession.
7. Participants to MITBCA 2012 came from all walks of travel and tour trade. There were existing bloggers and wannabe bloggers. Hotel owners, cable car operators, Couchsurfing ambassadors were there. Ex-servicemen wanting to start their blogs. There were people who did not even have an e-mail Id but still wanted to understand social media. Obviously travel and tour company owners. There were people travelling through Malaysia, and social media experts. And of course, there were all the officials of Malaysia tourism to participate, contribute and learn.
8. All the new bloggers were worried about how to make money from blogging. Sometimes even without having a blog, while all the old timers felt you should blog for the love of blogging and rest will follow. My 2 cents on this is that you need to make an equal amount of effort to earn money in any profession. So if you want your blog to send you money – work hard at it, have unique content and be willing to be patient.
9. My favorite part was interacting with people who had questions for me. End of the day, during break conversations, gave a perspective of a lot of new bloggers. Who want to make it big with blogging and took me back to days when I was a newbie.
10. Blogger Lash, a participant in the conference gave me two of her books on Bali. One on cycling around Bali and another on Hiking around Bali. Thank you, Lash. I will sure use them as and when I visit Bali.