From Beckham to you: Why Malaysia should be your next trip

How influencers are reshaping Malaysia's image

10 Feb 2024 03:01pm
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Photo generated via Canva
Photo for illustration purpose only. - Photo generated via Canva

"Where is Malaysia?" is a common question posed to Malaysian students in Europe.

In contrast to its neighboring countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, Malaysia tends to be less recognised among the younger generation abroad.

When describing Malaysia, it is commonly referred to as a "country sandwiched between Thailand to the south and Singapore to the north," with certain regions situated on the island of Borneo.

There is a tendency for some individuals to perceive Malaysia as a less affluent and less developed Islamic nation.

Surprisingly, many are unaware of Malaysia's metropolitan city, Kuala Lumpur, and iconic skyscrapers like the KLCC.

A misconception persists that Malaysians live in treehouses in the wilderness.

However, many individuals are impressed by Malaysian students' fluency in English.

These individuals may not be aware that Malaysia stands as the second most popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia.

It attracts tourists from neighboring countries, including China, India, Australia, as well as from the UK, the US, Japan, and Germany.

Interestingly, Malaysia is frequently mentioned as a dream destination by individuals in the United Kingdom, with much of this interest being driven by social media influencers who have visited and shared their positive experiences in the country.

Upon analysing the content shared by these influencers, it becomes evident that they are particularly intrigued by Malaysia's cities, especially Kuala Lumpur.

Often described as a "melting pot of cultures," the city boasts a rich tapestry of harmonious multiculturalism, capturing the fascination of these content creators.

Malaysia is portrayed as a unique city that maintains the authenticity of old buildings amid the backdrop of modern skyscrapers.

Affordable hotel rates, efficient public transportation, luxurious shopping centers, and comprehensive facilities emerge as major attractions.

When it comes to activities, these influencers exhibit a greater interest in exploring night markets, street food stalls, and mamak restaurants rather than indulging in the natural beauty of beaches, mountains, or jungles.

Their focus lies in experiencing various local dishes, ranging from nasi lemak to char Kuey Teow.

This positive image has even led to celebrities like David Beckham expressing a desire to return to Malaysia after 20 years, showcasing the stunning KLCC towers in his social media posts.

Malaysia is not only promoted as a second home but also as the first choice for some individuals.

Japanese expatriate Sho, formerly employed by his country's government, made the decision to resign and relocate his family to Malaysia.

He cited the country's excellent education system as a crucial factor influencing his choice for the growth and development of his children.

Sho actively promotes the lives of Japanese residents in Malaysia through his YouTube channel Chonmage.

Malaysia also ranks in the top 10 destinations for global retirees, thanks to its low cost of living, safety, and excellent healthcare services.

After exploring many Asian countries, a writer and podcast owner, 'There's Always Tea', Keith Hockton, and his wife chose Penang as their retirement destination 14 years ago.

Although he has lived in Singapore and Brunei, he chose Malaysia because it has the friendliest people in Asia, easy to approach and help each other.

It makes him want to enjoy his old age with quality with them.

Natural beauty and unique architecture alone are not enough to attract foreigners to a country, whether for tourism or settlement.

The key is a combination of these attractions, and the positive experiences people have when they first arrive, with the local population being a crucial factor. Malaysia has it all.

Wan Izar Haizan is a PhD student at the Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College London. She is a novelist with the pen name Michiko Ohara.

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