If we were to adopt more innovative and effective marketing strategies to promote Malaysia, we would be able to attract more tourists – like Bergen has, writes Benedict Lopez.
Rarely is Norway mentioned as a tourist destination unlike other European countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands and Italy.
But for those who have visited the country quite often as I have, Norway is a haven which can enchant any tourist come summer, autumn, winter or spring.
For a country with a population of only 5.2m, Norway recorded 1.1bn tourist arrivals in 2014. Tourism accounted for 4.3 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product and employed one out of 15 people in the workforce.
Bergen, Norway’s second largest city, takes advantage of its natural beauty to attract tourists to the city, and a visit here is conceivably the highlight for any tourist visiting the country.
The word fjord is one of the few Norwegian words that are used in English. A ferry trip around the fjords during summer will reveal the reason why Unesco has included it on its world heritage list – expressly stating that it belongs to all humankind and should be preserved for future generations.
The splendour of the fjords can keep any tourist spellbound as it did to me. During my trip along the fjords, the ferry stopped at a waterfall, and water was collected in a bucket and given to all passengers to drink – a testimony to the cleanliness of the water. Trips around the fjords are usually during the summer.
For anglers, there are several options for fishing: in the sea, fjords, lakes and rivers in the high mountains. Skiers would relish the snow-capped mountains and highlands, while adventure- seekers can venture on a guided walk on one of the glaciers.
Summer, when many are on vacation, offers hikers and cyclists a range of easy and more challenging trips around the vicinity of the city.
Colourful buildings, bustling market square and Mount Ulriken
Bergen’s landmarks are an old wharf, colourful wooden buildings and a busy market which offer a charming backdrop. These buildings and the vicinity of the market area, with its old old-style décor, will take a tourist down the trail of history.
The city is noted for its many seafood restaurants with excellent cuisine, and like when I was at Reykjavik, I only ate seafood every time I was here.
Bergen’s famed Market Square is continuously pulsating with activity. This 700-year old fish market (Target) is a place of busy quays where local fishermen land their daily catches. Early risers come here to catch a glimpse of the happenings.
Walking along the alleyways, viewing the quay and fish market, and admiring the colourful buildings with their unique architecture is an experience that will remain etched in my memory.
For an exquisite view of Bergen, a tourist has to take a ride to the top of Mount Ulriken using the Ulriken Cable Car. This is one of the seven mountains adjacent to the city of Bergen and offers a panoramic view of the view of the city.
During my visits to Mount Ulriken, I only took the cable car one way and preferred a good walk downhill when returning as I was always awestruck by the clean scenic ambience around me. I regarded it as part of my daily exercise regime.
Norway may be one of the most expensive countries in the world, but it is still worth a visit. I would recommend a visit preferably in summer.
By any account, Malaysia should be among the top ten tourist destinations in the world, with its picturesque tourist sights, eco-tourism areas, natural beauty, affordable hotel rates and reputation as a shoppers’ paradise. Sadly, we are not.
If we adopt more innovative, effective and aggressive marketing strategies to promote Malaysia, we would be able to attract more tourists. More synergy should be encouraged between our tour operators, airlines and hotels working together towards attaining this goal.