15 minutes with Hamzah Rahmat


President of the Malaysian Association of Tours and Travel Agents (MATTA).

Formed in 1975 with only 30 travel agents, today MATTA boasts a membership of over 3000 tour and travel organizations with the aim to promote the interests of the travel industry in Malaysia. MATTA has a full time secretariat based at its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur. Mr Rahmat has been president since 2013 and has extensive experience in the travel industry in Malaysia and Singapore. He shares his market knowledge with Asean Cruise newsletter.

The Malaysian Government hopes cruise tourism would generate M$1.75 billion in gross national income and create 10,000 jobs by 2020, what part will MATTA play to achieve these goals and make the country a “Straits Riviera”?
The 3,000 plus tour and travel agents in MATTA provide a wide range of services to their clients including the promotions and sales of cruise packages, and providing local offshore excursions for cruise passengers. As agents, they work closely with cruise operators that recognise their importance as they can add services and value to basic cruise packages. However, they are not involved with the design, construction and operations of cruise ships, terminals and voyages but can channel valuable feedbacks from their clients. The “Straits Riviera” is a government initiative in connecting the dots (cruise terminals) that span the Straits of Malacca to across the South China Sea. The grandiose sounding name can help in the branding of cruises along this arch (the shape is similar to the Nike logo).

Do Malaysians like to cruise and what are their favourite cruise destinations? Who are your typical Malaysian cruiser?
There are no typical Malaysian cruisers and it is impossible to stereotype Malaysians. As for cruises, the high-end customers may wish to travel incognito and join European or Caribbean cruises. Those interested in Asian communities may board an Irrawaddy or Yangtze cruise. The mass market will go for shorter cruises around the region or “cruise to nowhere” which are virtually floating casinos. The river cruise along the Rajang River in Sarawak is more appealing to foreign tourists.

What are their favourite cruise ships? Why?
This is subjective, and for many the crowd onboard is more important especially those who fancy going on a ‘love boat’ cruise.

Do Malaysians like European river cruising?
Yes, there are some high-end customers who enjoy river cruising in Europe.

Does adventure cruising to places like the Antarctic interest Malaysians?
High-end customers also share an interest in going for adventure cruises such as the Antarctic.

At your own travel agency, Best Star Travel Centre, how long have you been selling cruise holidays and packages? – what is the biggest change you have seen in the market over the last five years?

Best Star concentrates in several niche markets like trade fairs and conventions, afraid cruise is not one of them.

Are there differences in what Malaysians expect from cruises compared with more seasoned passengers from America or Europe?
No difference, Malaysians will be just as curious and excited when they join an American or European cruise, and likewise for Americans and Europeans who join an Asian cruise
Have you cruised before and what was your best cruise experience?
Afraid I have not cruised before, although I do intend to do so in future.