ASTANA, Nov 18 – Tourism Malaysia’s new office in Almaty, Kazakhstan, which will also serve as a branch office of the Malaysian Embassy, is expected to be officially opened early next year. Malaysian Ambassador to Kazakhstan Datuk Hidayat Abdul Hamid said the tourism authorities decided to set up an office in the central Asian nation’s former capital city after realising that it had a huge tourist market which was worth tapping into.
“Tourism Malaysia started its operations in Almaty from a temporary office in September this year. The new (and permanent) office is likely to be opened by the minister (of Tourism and Culture) next year. “Two Malaysian officers have already been placed there and three more staff members comprising locals are expected to be recruited,” he told Bernama when met here, recently.
He said with the setting up of a Tourism Malaysia office in Almaty, which is located in southern Kazakhstan, more promotional activities will be carried out to highlight Malaysia’s attractions to the people there. According to Hidayat, Malaysia draws about 20,000 visitors from Kazakhstan every year, despite the dearth of promotional activities currently.
He said the potential to lure more of their citizens to visit Malaysia was great, considering the fact that they enjoyed a rather high per capita income. “Malaysia is a harmonious Islamic nation, where people practising other religions and cultures also live. Our climate is not cold, unlike their country’s, so they will feel comfortable holidaying in Malaysia.
“Hence, with the establishment of the new tourism office and the availability of direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Almaty, as well as more promotional activities, we can definitely increase tourist arrivals from Kazakhstan to Malaysia,” he said. Currently, Air Astana, the Kazakhstan’s national airline has direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Almaty thrice a week. The Kazakhstan authorities are planning to increase the flight frequency for Kuala Lumpur-Almaty route.
Hidayat said previously any dealings with Almaty had to be carried out through Tourism Malaysia’s office in Moscow, Russia. Hence, its new office in Almaty will make it more convenient for the city’s residents to seek Malaysian tourism-related services, he said. The Tourism Malaysia’s office in Almaty would also enjoy the status of a branch office of the embassy. The Malaysian Embassy was located in Almaty before it was shifted to Astana in 2001, following the proclamation of the latter as the capital city of Kazakhstan in 1997.
Malaysia was also keen to promote its medical tourism industry to the people of Kazakhstan, Hidayat said, adding that it possessed immense potential as our country offered world-class healthcare services at competitive rates, compared with other nations. “They will have to fork out a lot of money if they were to seek medical services in other countries. Malaysia, on the other hand, offers quality services at very reasonable rates,” he said.