Scholarly article on topic 'Is Malaysian Food Important to Local Tour Operators?'

Is Malaysian Food Important to Local Tour Operators? Academic research paper on "Economics and business"

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{"Gastronomic products" / "tour operators" / "perceived importance" / "action behavior" / "Malaysian food"}

Abstract of research paper on Economics and business, author of scientific article — Nuraisyah Md. Yusoff, Mohd Salehuddin Mohd Zahari, Mohd Zain Mohd Kutut, Mohd Shaazali Mohd Sharif

Abstract Known as a multiracial country Malaysia not only hold unique cultures, customs and traditions but also having a range of distinctive local food as part of the gastronomic products. International tourists perceived Malaysia having varieties of interesting food, snacks and ethnic cuisines which are worth to be explored. Various efforts are implemented by the government in promoting and marketing these products among the international tourists. However, the extent to which tour operators perceive the importance of Malaysian Malaysian food and their subsequent action behavior are not known and this paper r evealed such issues.

Academic research paper on topic "Is Malaysian Food Important to Local Tour Operators?"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 105 (2013) 458 - 465

AicE-Bs2013London Asia Pacific International Conference on Environment-Behaviour Studies University of Westminster, London, UK, 4-6 September 2013 "From Research to Practice"

Is Malaysian Food Important to Local Tour Operators?

Nuraisyah Md. Yusoff*, Mohd Salehuddin Mohd Zahari, Mohd Zain Mohd Kutut, Mohd Shaazali Mohd Sharif

Faculty of Hotel and Tourism Management _Universiti Teknologi MARA, Shah Alam 40450, Malaysia_


Known as a multiracial country Malaysia not only hold unique cultures, customs and traditions but also having a range of distinctive local food as part of the gastronomic products. International tourists perceived Malaysia having varieties of interesting food, snacks and ethnic cuisines which are worth to be explored. Various efforts are implemented by the government in promoting and marketing these products among the international tourists. However, the extent to which tour operators perceive the importance of Malaysian Malaysian food and their subsequent action behavior are not known and this paper r evealed such issues.

© 2013TheAuthors. Publishedby ElsevierLtd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies (cE-Bs), Faculty of Architecture, Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia.

Keywords: Gastronomic products; tour operators; perceived importance; action behavior; Malaysian food

1. Introduction

Having a diverse ethnic groups and races is giving an advantage to Malaysia with a vast gastronomic products which directly contribute to the country's economy and promoting the gastronomy tourism. Looking at this potential, various efforts are implementing by the government in promoting the gastronomic tourism products namely food, beverages and food related activities. It starts to show some limelight and positive indication when the majority of the international tourists enjoyed, experienced and learnt about these products during their vacation in this country. Scholars argue that, any tourism products could not successfully be promoted without communal efforts from government, private agencies, NGO's

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +60 17 610 3738; fax: +0-000-000-0000 . E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies (cE-Bs), Faculty of Architecture, Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.11.048

and even tour operators. Previous studies indicated that, many international and western countries' tour operators perceived gastronomic products important for creative tourism (Jalis et. al, 2009). In fact, many now used gastronomic products as a marketing tool, a pulling factor in attracting visitors and play a leading role in adding value to a destination (Shenoy, 2005; Jalis et. al, 2009). The Intrepid Travel Agency (2004) reported that much of the tour operators in Australia, United States, Europe and some of Asian countries especially Thailand, China and Japan offers gastronomy packages on top the shopping and sightseeing. Holiday with cooking, food related activities and wine appreciation feature regularly in destinations like Tuscany as well as Provence in Europe, Melbourne and the Sydney Napa Valley in Australia and the Sonoma Valley in California. Tour operators in New Zealand, Australia, Germany and United Kingdom are aggressively offering weekend gastronomy packages owing to demand for a short and/or weekend holidays among food and wine lovers (Scarpato, 2002). Those tour operators even perceived the importance of gastronomic tourism not only in creating the memorable experiences among tourists (Goeldner and Ritchie, 2006) but would be the best predictor of future behavior and choices among potential tourists (Conner and Armitage, 2002). Despite these, the Malaysian tour operator's perception on the importance of Malaysian gastronomic products like food, beverages and food related culture are not known and require an investigation. This paper therefore explores the importance of it from the Malaysian tour operators and their subsequent action behavior in organizing the food tour itinerary.

2. Literature review

2.1. Gastronomy

As far as it is known, the word gastronomy is long being derived from the Greek word "gastros", which means stomach and "nomos" refer to rules or regulation (Scaparto, 2002; Santich, 2004). In spite of many definitions given since the early of twelve centuries, Joseph Berchoux in 1801 illustrated that gastronomy practically was a new social practice with economic implications and cultural circumstances which relates to foods and beverages (Scarpato, 2020). On the other hand, Brillat-Savarin in his text 'The Physiology of Taste', described gastronomy was also related to the method by which food is produced, its economic implications, its treatment, storage, transport and processing (Santich, 2003).

In the later stages (19th century) researchers expanded the term gastronomy into the broader realm based on the work of Archestratus. Borchgrevink, Nelson and Ruf (1998) then defined gastronomy as the art and science which relate to the technology of food and beverages, consumption and its applications by referring to Brillat-Savarin's definition. In other words, they perceived gastronomy as a science the aim of which was the preservation of man by the best possible nourishment; this was to be achieved by giving guidance to all who seek, provide or prepare substances which may be turned into food.

In the broader dimension, gastronomy then was also being reviewed from the perspective of art, psychology, sociology and anthropology (Santich, 1996; Bessiere, 1998; Kellner, 1999). Santich (1996) described gastronomy as reflective eating and expanded this into reflective cooking and food preparation as well, maintaining the association with excellence and fancy food and drink. It not only offers a path towards an understanding of the art and science of food and good eating, but also has great relevance to the society and culture and plays a part in the wider economy (Bessiere, 1998).

The Basque Brotherhood of Gastronomy (2003) who provided implicit interpretations by relating gastronomy to the history of foods and ingredients, to past and present food production practices, to the role of festive foods, food specialties and their meanings, to differences between regions, to myths and legends about eating and drinking in fact, believed that gastronomy is, in essence, a cultural expression. In a recent year, Santich (2003) again contended that gastronomy is associated with the social, cultural

and historical aspects of food and eating, encompassing cuisine, restaurants, dining and food culture and tourism and in other way subjectively relates to on "how, where, when, and why of eating and drinking."

2.2. Gastronomy as tourism products

Besides other tourism products and attraction, it is undeniable that tourists are spent on consuming food and beverages while traveling to a destination which contribute to a large proportion of most tomsts' experiences (Jalis et. al, 2009). Scholars even believed that, some tourists perceived food and drink as one of the important elements of traveling. Therefore, it is not harsh to say that, food and tourism cannot be separated (Henderson, 2009) whereas whatever the reasons for travelling, tourists just like the other people need to eat and drink (Richards, 2002). In other word food and beverages cannot be ignored by tourists when travelling and they in fact cannot visit a country without consuming food and beverages (Goeldner and Ritchie, 2006).

O'Halloran and Deale (2004) in fact, believed gastronomy tourism is a newly defined niche that intersects and impacts both the travel and food and beverage industries. Gastronomic tourism has been taken for granted for a long time; however it cannot be denied that eating and drinking are the integral component of our daily lives (Hall and Sharples, 2003). Owing to its importance, the form gastronomy tourism undoubtedly encouraged the pursuit of travel in the quest for the enjoyment of prepared food, drinks and other related food activities which can result in a great memorable gastronomic experience. In that sense, gastronomic products not only focus on food and beverage but it include food related activities which can reflect the local cultures and heritage to the international tourists (Jalis et. al, 2009).

2.3. Malaysian gastronomy tourism

As with other countries, Malaysia also perceived food is important as part of the gastronomy attraction to a particular destination. Owing to the diverse ethnic groups, races, cultural practices and belief, Malaysia is simply gastronomic heaven (Abdul Karim, 2011). Each ethnics are believed to have their own unique and distinctive food which are interesting to be marketed to the potential tourists. Besides food and beverages, food culture activities and even including the style of cooking, equipment used and also the way food being served are seen important as part of the gastronomic product. Apparently, gastronomic tourism which usually considered as a supporting niche products are now seen as an essential element in attracting more international tourists (Jalis et. al, 2009).

Derived from different ethnic and races (Malay, Chinese, Indian and other minority ethnics), Malaysia are believed having vast culinary gourmet comprises a variety of tastes ranging from mild, spicy to sweet and sour could make Malaysia as one of the best places for experiences gastronomy vacation (Galois et. al, 2009). The uniqueness of Malaysian gastronomic products, therefore could uphold this country as a remarkable destination for international tourists to enjoy "the art of eating" (Zainal, Zali and Kassim, 2010). International tourists as revealed by Jalis et. al, (2009) are seeking any information about the interesting local foods and more likely to taste the traditional foods which can enhance their experience as well as creating more enjoyable vacation atmosphere while traveling to Malaysia.

3. Methodology

Based on the topic and potential informants, qualitative approach was used through a face to face interview with selective twenty Malaysian tour operators. Semi structured questions were then developed in order to obtain valuable information and findings regards to the research interests. As this study provides a fundamental basis for other potential studies in the future, using one or two contextual settings

for data collection is considered sufficient and acceptable. Kuala Lumpur and Klang Valley (Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam) were chosen as the venue for data collection as these valleys not only competitive for economic and business market and the fastest growing area, but most of the local internationally recognized tour operators are also based in these cities. Owing to the huge population of tour operators in the country only those operators dealing with international tourists therefore are selected as the sampling of this study. In other words only tour operators that cater or organize the inbound packages are participating in the interview session. The interview processes were conducted in the month of August to December 2012 and were carried out with respective CEO's lasted between forty five minutes and one hour on average.

4. Result and discussion

4.1. Tour operators 'profiles

Based on the information obtained, it showed that all the twenty CEO's of the tour companies had more than fifteenth year's experiences in travel and tour businesses. They specialize in dealing with international tourists and offering the inbound as well as outbound packages. It is important to be noted that, all tour companies involved are having more than 20 years time operations and validate for the information needed. The tour companies involved have been classified according to time duration of operation, main products and activities, types of packages and type of customers. Cater the international tourists from various regions namely Asia, Middle East, Europe, Australia and Northern America make all the tour companies involved in this study are well-known among the international and local travel industry.

4.2. The importance of malaysian food as gastronomic products

Tour operators are agreed that Malaysian food are important as gastronomic products which could attract more international tourists in exploring Malaysia as an interesting tourism destination. Having various and unique food like nasi lemak, satay, roti canai, chicken rice, traditional and other festive foods are some of the interesting examples of Malaysian food that can be promoted. Derived from different ethnics such as Malay, Chinese, Indian and other minority groups, tour operators perceived that each of local food represents Malaysian culture and identity which important to be marketed especially to the international tourists. Tour operators also stressed that, some tourists enjoyed, learnt and explored others culture through consuming local food which can enhance their total experience towards a destination. Some of the interesting verbatim answered as in table below:

Table 1. Interesting verbatim answered

Tour Operator Answers

Tour Operator 3 "Well, definitely Malaysian food is important as gastronomic products...our local food always

represents the Malaysian culture and is important to noted that we have diverse ethnic groups like Malay, Chinese, Indian and other minor groups...hmm, I believed all ethnics having their own uniqueness in term of food which can attract the international tourists..."

Tour Operator 8 "Well, talking about food as gastronomic products, I believed you also agree that our local food

important as gastronomic products because we have an interesting local food which can be promoted. Tourists definitely will consume the local food while travelling, therefore it is a good opportunity for us to promote our local food... "

Tour Operator 12 "Malaysia has a variety of interesting local food such as nasi lemak, roti canai, satay, chicken

rice, other festive food...Well festive food that derived from different celebration such Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali are very interesting and in fact, each ethnic food having their own taste, story and culture that can be promoted. That is why, I believed that Malaysian food is important as gastronomic products...."

Tour Operator 17 "Well...yes to me Malaysian food is an important as gastronomic products. Malaysian food

always associated with identity of our country... somehow it represents the Malaysian culture because we have diverse ethnic like Malay, India, Chinese.. .and not forget the minority ethnic group... when tourist come to Malaysia, they could try Malay food, Indian food, Chinese food.. .our food is broad and interesting to explore which come along with different stories and practices..In fact, the way each of ethnic served the food and eat could be different and I found this factor is fascinating...Hmm that is why to me Malaysian food is important..."

Seeing to its importance and great potential to attract the international tourists, tour operators also believed that Malaysian food can expand the tourism industry and even increase the local business and income. Local food and ethnic cuisines, in fact can be a significant tool in allowing the international tourists explore the local culture and heritage in creating a more memorable experience while visiting Malaysia. Using Malaysian food as a pulling factor, tour operators also believed that Malaysian food act as new niche tourism products that can increase the local tourism earnings. Tour Operators even argued that:

Table 2. Tour operators argued

Tour Operator Answers

Tour Operator 1 " I mentioned earlier, Malaysian food is important as gastronomic products and

directly it will help in expanding the tourism industry and local earnings owing to its potential and opportunity. Again, we have diverse ethnic and culture which I believed it can attract tourists to learn about our culture through consuming the local food...In fact, more tourists nowadays seeking for more interesting activities while travelling to a destination, therefore we could use our local food as an another interesting attraction to allow them experience our heritage and culture through interesting Malaysian food..."

Tour Operator 9 "If we are taking our local food, I strongly believed that Malaysian food can expand our

industry. In fact, through food, we can help in boosting the local business especially, the local food seller, food operator and other that related to it... I believed that others might agree if I perceived Malaysian food act as a new means attraction which can be used as a pulling factor by us, tour operators in attracting more international tourists visit Malaysia..."

In short, Malaysian food are important as gastronomic products owing to its potential and uniqueness which are believed could attract more international tourists visit Malaysia. Worth to reiterate that, different ethnics in Malaysia with different cultures, beliefs and practices could bring different food, taste and authentic dishes. In fact, by promoting the Malaysian food through gastronomic tourism international tourists indirectly having good opportunities in exploring the Malaysian culture and heritage. It is important to note that, Malaysian food not only act as adding value to a destination but also indirectly given advantage to the local sellers, food operators and other parties that relate to it. Thus, it will contribute the tourism earning and income.

4.3. Tour operators's action behavior

Having touched on the perceived importance of Malaysian food as gastronomic products, this subsequent analysis explains the tour operator's action behavior in including Malaysian food as part of

the tourism product in the tour itinerary. Tour operators are having similar interpretation where they perceived Malaysian food is important towards their business. Variety types of local food are believed having their own uniqueness which are potentially being marketed along with other major tourism products. Although dining activities are not the main activities to be included in the tour itinerary, but all tour operators involved in this study looking Malaysian food are worth to be promoted in the future. Taking serious consideration in organizing a food tour itinerary, tour operators also believed that Malaysian food could become a promising element for tourism products and services. Some of the verbatim answers recorded are as follows:

Table 3. Verbatim answers recorded

Tour Operator Answers

Tour Operator 7 "Hmm...talking about tour itinerary, however it is important to say that we don't include

certain Malaysian food as main part of the tour itinerary..! believed that, most of the tour

operators consider eating activities are not the main tourism activities while designing the

tour itinerary..."

Tour Operator 10 "Even though I perceived that Malaysian food important to the gastronomic products,

unfortunately in creating tour itinerary, Malaysian foods are not considering the main activities... However, we do provide information and gives recommendations for tourists who seeking to experience authentic local food products...In fact, as a CEO of this tour company, now I'm seeing Malaysian food could become one of the important products to be included for the future tour itinerary..."

Tour Operator 16 "I do believed that Malaysian food is important towards our business. However the extent to which we include dining activities at particular local restaurant are not getting too much attention.. .well, I could see including Malaysian food along with other main tourism products in tour itinerary will indirectly cater more international tourists... "

5. The implications and conclusion

It is proven from this study that, tour operators clearly perceived that Malaysian food like Nasi lemak, satay, roti canai, chicken rice, traditional and other festive foods are important as gastronomic products and having positive indicators in attracting international tourists to visit Malaysia. Many believed that food are interrelated with tourism industry which tourists definitely will consume local food while visiting a particular destination. Seeing the current trend of the international tourists which are seeking for more tangible activities they are assuming eager to experience the local food during their vacation. Some of the tour operators admitted that Malaysian food importance to their business. In other words, engaging Malaysian food or dining activities along with the uniqueness of other major tourism products is gradually receiving attention among the tour operators.

Bearing this point in mind, tour operators in this country especially those who directly deal with international tourists should increase their marketing strategy in promoting the local gastronomy products and incorporating dining activities in addition to the existing ones. To the researcher's knowledge, a few internationally known local tour operators have started incorporating some of the Malaysian food as part of their tourism activities or package itineraries. This good indication should not be ignored but aggressively be utilized by tourism agencies, tour operators, government bodies that these products in addition to other tourism products able to generate and boost the economy not only to the operators but to all parties involved. In line with the above statements, the collaboration and cooperation between tour operators and other stakeholders involved are therefore crucial and should be further strengthened if the "total tourism experience" among the international tourists in this country is to be achieved.


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