When I was moved to Malaysia by American Express back in the late ’80s, I was surprised that the country had such a low international profile. During my travels, I often met people who had either never heard of Malaysia or were not sure where it was located. Compared to Singapore and Thailand, it was a virtually unknown country.
The second observation was how, when Malaysia did get international coverage, it was often negative. A lot of the negative comments were perhaps a reaction to the outspoken Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, who was quite vocal on a wide range of subjects. He was not afraid to voice his thoughts where he felt Western powers were being very selfcentred or even, to his mind, hypocritical in their actions.
A lot has changed in the last 25 years. Malaysia still gets a certain amount of negative press coverage, but it is mixed with some very positive recognition. Malaysia now ranks much more highly on many of the global tables measuring a country’s success.
It also ranks in the top ten most visited countries in the world and, even allowing for the many Singaporean visitors, that’s quite an achievement. In many other ways it has changed dramatically, from the transformation of Kuala Lumpur which is hardly recognisable from when I first visited, right through to the incredible increase in the number of TV channels now available through the arrival of satellite and cable TV.
When I returned to Malaysia in the mid-’90s as an aspiring entrepreneur and decided to launch a local magazine for expats, a key objective was to make expats better informed about Malaysia. Against the recommendations of people in the industry, I decided to give all expats a free personal subscription for as long as they lived here. It was certainly a very expensive decision, but it does mean we reach more expats than any other publication. A key objective was help make departing expats “unofficial ambassadors” for the country. We felt that the more they knew about the country and the more they went out and discovered Malaysia’s many attractions, the more they would enjoy their stay here and leave with a positive image and pleasant memories. Expats regularly write to us to cancel their subscription as they are leaving Malaysia, and often make comments along these lines which is very satisfying.
As we expanded our range of products by adding more magazines, launching various websites, and starting events we continued to focus on working expats but added Malaysia My Second homers, tourists, business investors, and people outside the country in our target audience. This has given us the ability to reach a very large number of foreigners with an interest in Malaysia, even those who have not yet set foot in the country.
Another change from the early years is that certain departments of the government have taken an interest in the views of expats and, as we have the greatest interaction with the expat community, they have asked for our feedback on many occasions. We certainly appreciate people who have written us sharing their views and the many people who complete our frequent online surveys.
As will be appreciated, our business model means that we have to rely on advertisers for revenue, so we hope you will patronise them if you are looking for the type of products and services they sell. It would also be appreciated if you told them you saw their advertisement in The Expat. At the same time, tell any expat friends who are not getting their free copy that they can subscribe at our popular website ExpatGoMalaysia.com.
The May 2014 issue will be our 200th, so if you have any comments about what we have been doing – positive, critical, or just a suggestion, please e-mail me and we may well include your comment in that issue. If you are a long-term subscriber, then we would especially like to hear from you.
Wishing you a great Christmas and New Year.
Source: The Expat December 2013
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