One Solution for Water-starved Taiwan?
Mar 16, 2018

Pingtung County’s Great Chaozhou Artificial Lake is completely dry on the surface, defying traditional notions of a reservoir. This reservoir redirects floodwater underground, filling up underground water storage space until it can be extracted for use as potentially life-saving water in times of drought.

Does water storage necessarily have to be visible? Reservoirs do not necessarily have to be constructed on high ground among hills and mountains. Both Taiwan’s and Asia’s first large-scale man-made lake with artificially recharged groundwater has been constructed in southern Taiwan’s Pingtung County. The facility, which redirects floodwater to replenish groundwater, completely reshapes old notions that reservoirs can only be built above ground. Rather, this is a reservoir that is not in danger of silting up: it stores water underground.

Arriving at the Great Chaozhou Artificial Lake, instead of the expected beautiful lake among the hills, one’s eyes are met instead by a giant, visibly dry pit.

Ting Che-Shih, dean of the Pingtung University of Science and Technology’s College of Engineering, a hydraulic engineer by trade trained in the Netherlands, says, “The Great Chaozhou Artificial Lake is not meant for water storage, but to redirect flood waters from typhoons and other heavy rainfalls from the Linbian Creek into the manmade lake to rapidly seep under the surface and become subterranean water, and further, to use the alluvial plains on both sides of the Linbian Creek as aquifers.”

An important condition for the manmade lake is that redirected water must be able to penetrate rapidly into the subterranean water table. Accordingly, the top of the Linbian alluvial plain delta, located where the runoff comes down from the mountains, was selected for this purpose. Here, the pores in gravel and pebbles are large in diameter, facilitating the rapid underground penetration of floodwater. This is why seeing a dry manmade “lake” is completely normal - because its function was never to store water above ground, but to rapidly transport water to the water table below the ground.

This is not a new concept. Ting studied in the Netherlands, a prominent country in the utilization of underground water resources. The Netherlands has redirected water from the Rhine River below sand bars along the shoreline, using soil to filter and improve water quality prior to extraction.

“The underground realm is really a gigantic reservoir. In fact, UNESCO’s research institute believes that this is the new twenty-first century thinking about aquifer space. And the Netherlands has over a century of history developing underground aquifers as subterranean reservoirs, so the technology and theory is actually quite mature,” says Ting.

For many years, clutching The Complete Works of Li Yizhi (1882–1938), known as the father of modern China’s hydraulic engineering, Ting has preached the gospel of “storing water underground, and collecting flood water in canals.” Ting has stressed that storing its ample annual rainfall under ground could give Taiwan greater flexibility in the use of its water resources.

What about Subsidence?

The excessive extraction of underground water along Taiwan’s western coastal corridor has led to land subsidence and soil salinization. Consequently, talk of underground water extraction makes people blanche, and the concept of underground reservoirs has gained a bad reputation.

If underground space can be effectively utilized, it would enable the storage of a staggering volume of water. By Ting’s reckoning, water has been extracted from up to 200 meters below the surface of the Pingtung Plain, covering 1,220 square kilometers. Multiplied by a 0.1 soil porosity (water is contained in pores in the soil), the entire Pingtung Plain can hold and modulate over 20 billion tons of water, or four times the combined capacity of all of Taiwan’s reservoirs. At 7.5 billion tons of water storage capacity, the area of the Linbian Creek alluvial plain alone can hold more water than all of Taiwan’s reservoirs combined.

Underground aquifer promotion in Pingtung County did not get off to a good start. Only after Tsao Chi-hung, a native of Linbian Township with a deep appreciation of the ravages of coastal land subsidence in the area, became county magistrate and strongly supported the utilization of underground water as a resource, was Linbian Creek floodwater redirected underground. This helped raise the water table, alleviating land subsidence and slowing down soil salinization from seawater seepage.

An underground reservoir is by definition intended to extract water, but does that mean that there are no concerns about land subsidence? Tsai Chang-chan, director of the Water Resources Bureau explains: “The government has spent over NT$10 billion on subsidence prevention efforts, monitoring underground water levels to measure underground capacity and how much water has been directed underground. The guiding concept of the Great Chaozhou Man-made Lake is correct, to first recharge groundwater, and extract it for use once the water reaches a certain level.”

Phase one of the Greater Chaozhou Artificial Lake Project has been allocated a budget of NT$1.4 billion. Over the past two years, trials have been run to replenish groundwater under the Pingtung Plain, and the manmade lake can be recharged with an estimated 150 million tons of underground water per year. After 10 years of replenishment, it is hoped that half of the water volume (75 million tons) can be extracted and used each year.

In addition to measuring groundwater, the recharging process also includes other challenges. Huang Shih-wei, director of the Southern Region Water Resources Office under the Water Resources Administration of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, relates that over time, silt can plug up pores and cracks in the man-made river, so that if the bottom sediment is not removed, it loses its exchange functions. Consequently, facilities must be installed upstream to reduce the flow of silt into the man-made lake, and the bottom must be dredged regularly to remove silt.

In the effort to maximize recharging of the Great Chaozhou Manmade Lake, Ting Che-Shih conducted four years of on-site experiments, and studied the methods for channeling water and redirecting silt used by the Dujiangyan Canal in China to reduce the inflow of silt accompanying flood water into the manmade lake. Further, he conducted simulations of various origins and causes of pore and crack blockage, finding solutions for each issue. “Still, eventually, dredging out the bottom layer of sediment is unavoidable in order to maintain normal penetration,” says Ting.

Illegal Dumping, Fighting Sedimentation

The third challenge is underground refuse. In past decades, Taiwan’s western plains have been plagued by unscrupulous operators who replaced illegally mined gravel and replaced it with refuse, or who even buried animal carcasses underground to fill in the gaps. In order to safely utilize groundwater, apart from measuring the water table, such contaminated sources of water must be avoided.

According to Yu Ching-yun, assistant professor in the hydraulic engineering division of National Taiwan University’s Department of Civil Engineering,

“We’ve been taught to believe that extracting groundwater is bad, but the truth is that some places in Taiwan have an overabundance of groundwater. For instance, both Taipei and Taichung have seen excessively high water tables, and it is both possible and necessary for Taiwan to extract and use groundwater in an appropriate fashion.”

From a sustainability standpoint, artificial recharging is not as desirable as natural recharging. “In recent years, a large amount of agricultural land has been repurposed for development in Taiwan. And the transformation of earth into concrete eliminates the land’s natural ability to replenish (groundwater). These cities claim to be ‘sponge cities’ capable of containing water resources, but underneath them is actually still just concrete. For instance, underneath Da-An Forest Park is all concrete, without any capacity for recharging groundwater,” asserts Thomas Chan, deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Administration.

"The critical mission of underground reservoirs is to alleviate the replacement of earth and soil with concrete, cultivate water content resources, and utilize appropriate methods in appropriate places to replenish groundwater."

One such example is the artificial lake atop the alluvial plain. At present, regular groundwater extraction is not prudent; subterranean water should first be preserved and stored so that it can be extracted and used as potentially life-saving water in the event of a drought.

By Kuo-Chen Lu

Translated from the Chinese article by David Toman

Singapore Beats London, New York, San Francisco As Best Smart City
Investvine, A Company of Inside Investor, Ltd.
Mar 13, 2018

Singapore tops the list of the world’s best performing smart cities ahead of London, New York, San Francisco and Chicago in a new study by UK-based market intelligence firm Juniper Research sponsored by IT giant Intel.

The city state ranks first in all four major categories surveyed, namely mobility, health, safety and productivity, with the only other Asian cities in the top ten being Seoul and Tokyo. Dubai, which aimed at becoming the smartest city in the world a few years ago, ranks just 11th in the current list.

The Global Smart City Performance Index ranks the top 20 global smart cities in terms of the integration of Internet of Things technologies and connected services across four above mentioned categories.

The report noted that in the area of mobility, Singapore has applied “smart, connected traffic solutions” together with a very strong policy curtailing car ownership in an effort to reduce the number of vehicles on its roads.

It also highlighted Singapore’s focus on addressing healthcare service provision for elderly citizens through a range of technologies, including digital service platforms as well as remote monitoring devices. In the area of safety, the report noted that Singapore has started trials using smart video surveillance to detect criminal activity.

In addition, Singapore is a leader in allowing citizens to access digital services and city information with its “large open data stores” and “strategies to encourage private innovation” through specialised test-bed environments, the report stated.

“Singapore was lauded for its rapid transformation since independence into the world’s leading smart city and was held up as an example which other cities can learn from,” Intel said in a media release on March 13.

It also noted that Singapore’s “Smart Nation” initiative and its position as a city-state makes the country unique in its ability to execute its smart city vision.

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Indonesia Needs $20 Billion For Tourism Development
Investvine, A Company of Inside Investor, Ltd.
Mar 02, 2018

Indonesia’s initiative to create and promote ten “new Balis” – ten new tourists destinations that could become as popular as the crowded holiday island – would require about $20 billion in investment, the government calculated, hoping for developers from China, Singapore, Thailand and other countries to foot half of the bill.

Plans are to invest in tourism infrastructure in Lake Toba, Tanjung Kelayang, Tanjung Lesung, Kepulauan Seribu & Kota Tua Jakarta, Borobudur, Bromo-Tengger-Semeru, Mandalika, Labuan Bajo, Wakatobi and Morotai.

Indonesia’s ministry of tourism projects that, by 2019, these places will draw ten million additional tourists annually, which would boost the country’s tourism industry of currently four per cent of gross domestic product to 20 per cent by 2019.

According to tourism minister Arief Yahya, around 120,000 hotel rooms, 15,000 restaurants, 100 recreational parks and 100 diving operators will be added to the destinations, said. Other infrastructure will also be built, such as solar facilities as green power sources.

China is projected to be one of its biggest backers, thanks to Indonesia’s participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. China also would be among the most important source countries for additional tourists to Indonesia, and special promotion campaigns are planned there.

In 2017, Indonesia welcomed around 14 million foreign visitor arrivals, a new record high and up 21.9 per cent year-on-year from 11.52 million foreign visitor arrivals in the preceding year. However, the country failed to achieve its 2017 target of attracting 15 million foreign tourists, with the main reason being heavy volcanic activity at Bali’s Mount Agung.

This year, Indonesia expects the number of foreign tourist arrivals to increase to 17 million, with a projected revenue of around $16 billion, up from $15 billion last year.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

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Hearing loss linked to dementia
Mar 01, 2018

The study discovered that older people aged 55 and above with hearing loss are 2.3 times more likely to develop dementia

A local study on Singaporeans has revealed that people aged 55 and above with hearing loss are more likely to develop dementia. As more than 60 per cent of Singaporeans aged above 60 years old experience varying forms of hearing loss, the findings could prove to be significant; opening the possibility that early diagnosis and intervention for hearing loss could potentially delay dementia and cognitive decline.

The study, published in 2017, was conducted through the analysis of data from the Singapore Longitudinal Ageing Study, a long-term, population-based research, led by NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine) Associate Professor Ng Tze Pin, which investigates the ageing and health of community-living elderly in Singapore.

A total of 1,515 Singaporeans aged 55 and above were involved in the research study linking hearing and dementia. The participants had normal memory and thinking skills at the start of the study and were observed through two rounds of follow-up at regular intervals over a period of about three years. Using cognitive and clinical assessments, it was found that cognitively normal participants with hearing loss were about 2.3 times more likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

The results are consistent with findings conducted in Western populations — US, UK and Australia — which adds weight to the potential link between hearing loss and cognitive decline and dementia.

It is indeed feasible now for us in Singapore to consider screening for risk of dementia, and to design appropriate community-based multidomain lifestyle interventional programmes, to help older Singaporeans ‘age without dementia’.
— Assoc Prof Ng Tze Pin, NUS Medicine

Assoc Prof Ng said that risk and protective factors for dementia, including hearing loss, are modifiable with suitable lifestyle changes. “It is indeed feasible now for us in Singapore to consider screening for risk of dementia, and to design appropriate community-based multidomain lifestyle interventional programmes, to help older Singaporeans ‘age without dementia’,” he said.

While there is not yet enough evidence to show how the link between hearing loss and dementia occurs, Dr Rebecca Heywood of Ng Teng Fong General Hospital and Principal Otolaryngology researcher of the published study offered some theories. “Those with hearing loss need more effort to hear a degraded sound, so less brain resources are available for thinking and memory. Hearing loss results in less auditory stimulation and as a result the hearing areas in the brain, which are also involved in memory, become underused and decline in function. It is also possible that hearing loss may give rise to social isolation, which is itself a risk factor for cognitive decline.”

Dr Heywood added that hearing loss is easily diagnosed and treated and should not be seen as an inevitable part of ageing, urging sufferers to seek help.

Assoc Prof Ng and Dr Heywood plan to conduct a follow-up intervention study to examine how the use of hearing aids can help to reduce the rate of cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia in older adults with hearing loss.

SOURCE / National University of Singapore

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Speaking More Than One Language Can Boost Economic Growth
Feb 19, 2018

Multilingualism is good for the economy, researchers have found. Countries that actively nurture different languages reap a range of rewards, from more successful exports to a more innovative workforce.

“Language matters on a large-scale national level and at the level of smaller businesses,” says Gabrielle Hogan-Brun, a research fellow in Language Studies at the University of Bristol, citing data that links economic growth to linguistic diversity.

Switzerland, for example, attributes 10% of its GDP to its multilingual heritage. The country has four national languages: German, French, Italian and an ancient Latin-based language called Romansh.

Britain, on the other hand, is estimated to lose out on the equivalent of 3.5% of its GDP every year, because of its population’s relatively poor language skills.

This may be partly because languages can help build trade relations. A study of small and medium-size companies in Sweden, Germany, Denmark and France found that those which invested more in languages were able to export more goods. German companies that invested heavily in multilingual staff added 10 export countries to their market. Companies that invested less said they missed out on contracts.

Researchers have also long highlighted the individual benefits of speaking more than one language. For those who find languages difficult, the good news is that you do not have to be fluent to feel a positive impact.

Several studies show that languages boost earning power. In Florida, workers who speak both Spanish and English earn $7,000 per year more than those who only speak English. According to a Canadian study, bilingual men earn 3.6% and bilingual women earn 6.6% more than their English-only peers. The twist: this was true even if they didn’t use their second language for work.

“It seems you don’t have to actually speak a second language on the job to reap the financial rewards of being bilingual,” says economics professor Louis Christofides, one of the authors of the study. The authors speculated that this was because knowing a second language was seen a sign of cognitive power, perseverance and a good education.

Beyond these immediate economic rewards, languages can help a country’s workforce in more subtle, long-term ways. Multilingualism has for example been shown to be good for brain health, delaying the onset of dementia. It has also been associated with a better ability to concentrate and process information. The effects are strongest in people who were multilingual from a young age, but acquiring languages later still made a difference.

“Even a one-week intensive language course improved attention and this effect remained stable nine months later in those who practised five hours a week or more,” say Thomas Bak, reader in Psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and Dina Mehmedbegovic, lecturer in Education at UCL, in a paper on the value of linguistic diversity.

So how can countries boost their linguistic capital? Bak and Mehmedbegovic use the term “healthy linguistic diet” to describe a positive approach to languages across a lifespan.

“As well as using every opportunity to say: ‘It's good for you to eat fruit and vegetables every day’, schools should also say: ‘It's good for you to speak, read and write in different languages’,” they suggest.

This is especially important since many countries already possess a vast, untapped linguistic resource in the form of migrant families. But while many monolingual parents push their children to take language classes, migrant parents may feel discouraged from passing on their own language for fear of discrimination, or because they think multilingualism is harmful. The result? "The size and richness of language at home is compromised,” says Viorica Marian, Professor of Communication Sciences at Northwestern University.

Given that linguistic diversity has such a powerful economic impact, it’s alarming that many languages face a serious risk of extinction. The most vulnerable are languages spoken by small communities in mountainous areas. The main drivers for their decline, according to the researchers’ data, are globalization and high economic growth.

By Sophie Hardach

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What Makes S. Korea and Sweden the Most Innovative Countries in the World
Feb 19, 2018

South Korea and Sweden are the most innovative countries in the world, according to a league table covering everything from the concentration of tech companies to the number of science and engineering graduates.

The index on innovative countries highlights South Korea’s position as the economy whose companies filed the most patents in 2017.

Bloomberg, which compiles the index based on data from sources including the World Bank, IMF and OECD, credits South Korea’s top ranking to Samsung.

The electronics giant is South Korea’s most valuable company and has received more US patents than any company other than IBM since the start of the millennium. This innovation trickles down the supply chain and throughout South Korea’s economy.

Sweden in second place is fast gaining a reputation as Europe’s tech start-up capital.

The Scandinavian country is home to Europe’s largest tech companies and its capital is second only to Silicon Valley when it comes to the number of “unicorns” – billion-dollar tech companies – that it produces per capita.

Education Hinders the US

The US dropped out of the top 10 in the 2018 Bloomberg Innovation Index, for the first time in the six years the gauge has been compiled.

Bloomberg attributed its fall to 11th place from ninth last year largely to an eight-spot slump in the rating of its tertiary education, which includes an assessment of the share of new science and engineering graduates in the labour force. The US is now ranked 43 out of 50 nations for “tertiary efficiency”. Singapore and Iran take the top two spots.

The US’ ranking marks another setback for its higher education sector’s global standing in recent months: in September it was revealed neither of the world’s top two universities were considered to be American. Those honours went to the UK’s Oxford and Cambridge universities respectively.

In addition to the US’ education slump in the innovation index, Bloomberg claims the country also lost ground when it came to value-added manufacturing. The country is now ranked in 23rd place, while Ireland and South Korea take the top two spots.

Despite these setbacks, the Bloomberg Innovation Index still ranks the US as number 1 when it comes to its density of tech companies. The US is also second only to South Korea for patent activity.

These rankings may explain the disparity between Bloomberg’s list of innovative countries and the World Economic Forum’s own list of the 10 most innovative economies.

Under this ranking, compiled as part of The Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018, the US is listed as the second most innovative country in the world after Switzerland.

The US’ inclusion in this league table, and South Korea’s exclusion, are the two most notable differences between the different rankings.

Other than these nations, the majority of countries included in the top 10s are the same in both lists.

Tech Titan Israel

One nation to feature prominently in both innovation rankings is Israel.

Taking third spot in the Global Competitiveness Report’s innovation league table, Israel is ranked 10th best country in the world for innovation overall by Bloomberg. However, its index also ranks Israel as number 1 for two categories of innovation: R&D intensity and concentration of researchers.

Israel’s talent for research and development is illustrated by some of the major tech innovations to come out of the country. These include the USB flash drive, the first Intel PC processor and Google’s Suggest function, to name just three.

Despite being smaller than the US state of New Jersey with fewer people, Israel punches well above its weight on the global tech stage.

It has about 4000 startups, and raises venture capital per capita at two-and-a-half times the rate of the US and 30 times that of Europe.

When it comes to being a world leader at innovation, it may simply be the case that you get out what you put in: according to OECD figures, Israel spends more money on research and development as a proportion of its economy than any other country – 4.3% of GDP against second-placed Korea's 4.2%.

Switzerland is in third place spending 3.4% of its GDP on R&D, while Sweden spends 3.3%. The US spends just 2.8%.

By John Mckenna

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Malaysia truly Asia Announced Collaborative Initiatives to Drive Growth of 2.5 Million European Visitors by 2020 at Fitur 2018
Feb 14, 2018

At the recent 38th edition of FITUR 2018, a travel fair exhibition in Madrid, targeting Spanish countries in Spain and Latin America, country brand Malaysia Truly Asia received overwhelming response from trade buyers, medias and visitors.

The 15-member Malaysian delegation was led by YB Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz, Minister of Tourism and Culture, accompanied by Deputy Secretary General (Tourism), Puan Haslina Abdul Hamid; Deputy Director General (Promotion) Tourism Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Abdul Khani Daud; and Senior Director of Tourism Malaysia for International Promotions - America, Europe and Oceania, Dato’ Mohmed Razip Hasan.

Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri reaffirmed that collaborative partnerships and alliances with European trade partners will be one of the key drivers to spur growth of visitors to Malaysia in the run up to the Visit Malaysia Year campaign 2020. The delegation also included Tourism Selangor led by the Chief Minister, YAB Dato’ Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali. The state tourism council participated for the first time at FITUR Madrid and aims at exploring more opportunities to promote Selangor to the Spanish travellers. The Chief Minister of Selangor was accompanied by the State Exco for Tourism, YB Ms Elizabeth Wong and General Manager of Tourism Selangor, Puan Noorul Ashikin Mohd Din.

At a press media briefing held on the 2nd day of FITUR, Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri highlighted a list of significant marketing collaborations and developments for Malaysia in the European market, among them partnership with ECTAA (Confederation of European Travel Agents and Tour Operators Association) for Malaysia as its Preferred Destination Partner 2018; partnership with CEAV (Confederation of Spanish Travel Agents in Spain), represented by its President, Mr Rafael Gallego, and Mr Pedro Ferreira, President of Portuguese Travel Agent Association; Malaysia as Official ITB Country Partner 2019 in Berlin; marketing collaboration between Tourism Malaysia and Malaysia Airports Berhad Holdings with German-based Condor Airlines to commence three weekly flights from Frankfurt to Kuala Lumpur starting November 2018 and a new cruise programme with TUI (UK) Cruises 2018/2019, with potential capacity to welcome 7,200 passengers.

The PATA Travel Mart (Pacific Area Travel Association) 2018 which will see participation by about 2,000 global trade professionals will take place in Langkawi from 12 to 14 September. The event is jointly hosted by Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) and Tourism Malaysia.

In 2016, tourist arrivals to Malaysia was 26.8 million, a growth of +4% and contributed about RM82.1 billion (17.8 billion euros) in tourism receipts, a phenomenal growth of 18.8% in revenue. Target arrivals for 2018 is 33.1 million with tourism receipts expected around RM134 billion (29 billion euros).

“Spain is an important market having reached an incremental growth of 28.4% with more than 40,000 arrivals in 2017. With the commencement of Qatar Airways’ three weekly flights from Doha to Penang commencing 6 February, Spanish travellers can now visit Penang direct from Madrid or Barcelona with a stopover in Doha, with opportunity to combine with other destinations in the country,” says Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri.

A special 11 nights/12 days travel package to Penang/Kuala Lumpur with extensions to other parts of Malaysia was launched at FITUR by Qatar Airways, Dimensiones Club, Penang Global Tourism and Tourism Malaysia. Tourism Selangor also launched #DiscoverSelangor latest video campaign with a tagline #TakeMeAnywhere.

A presentation seminar attended by select top Spanish travel agents was also organised by Tourism Malaysia and Qatar Airways. Also scheduled were one-to-one meetings with key decision makers from airline companies, confederations of tour operators and travel agencies and media interviews with travel trade magazines.

Among them were with Mr Michel de Blust, Secretary General of ECTAA; Mr Pedro Costa Ferreira, President of Portuguese Travel Agent Association; Mr Rafael Gallego, President of Confederation of Spanish Travel Agents (CEAV); Mr Gerardo Manzano of EuropAir; and Mr Neil Chernoff, Iberia’s Senior Vice President for Network and Alliances.

“All these developments are timely, especially in the run-up to our Visit Malaysia Year campaign in 2020 – a significant year in which Malaysia hopes to attract 36 million tourists worldwide,” the Minister said.

After the meeting with Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri, Mr Pedro Costa Ferreira, President of Portuguese Travel Agent Association and Mr Rafael Gallego, President of Confederation of Spanish Travel Agents (CEAV) agreed to organise their Annual General Meetings (AGM) in Kuala Lumpur next year.

Focusing on further strengthening the long haul European markets, Tourism Malaysia also organised a meeting attended by Tourism Malaysia’s overseas directors and marketing managers from stations from Almaty, The Hague, Dublin, Frankfurt, London, Moscow, Paris, Istanbul and marketing representatives for Italian and the Scandinavian markets to strategise market action plans and directions for 2018-2020.

Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri also paid courtesy calls to the new Secretary General of UNWTO, Mr Zurab Pololikashvili at the UNWTO office in Madrid, accompanied by HE Ambassador of Malaysia to Spain, Mr Zainal Abidin Bakar, MOTAC’s Deputy Secretary General, Puan Haslina Abdul Hamid, Deputy Director General (Promotion) Tourism Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Abdul Khani Daud and tourism senior officials.

Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri reiterated Malaysia’s strong support towards UNWTO and shall continue to assume active role by participating in UNWTO’s programmes and activities. As Malaysia will soon announce its Visit Malaysia Year campaign 2020, the Minister thanked UNWTO for giving Malaysia the permission to incorporate UNWTO’s tagline #TravelEnjoyRespect into the VMY 2020 branding campaign, in line with Malaysia’s continuous efforts to promote sustainable tourism.

Malaysia is set to achieve its goals to welcome 36 million visitors by 2020 with tourism receipts of RM168 billion (approx. 38 billion euros).


For more media releases, media info and media features on Malaysia’s tourism industry, kindly visit the Media Centre of Tourism Malaysia’s website at

MALAYSIA TOURISM PROMOTION BOARD OR TOURISM MALAYSIA is an agency under the Ministry of Tourism & Culture, Malaysia. It focuses on the specific task of promoting Malaysia as a preferred tourism destination. Since its inception, it has emerged as a major player in the international tourism scene in 2016, Malaysia registered 26.8 million tourist arrivals, placing it among the major tourism destinations of the world.

Press contact:

Media Relations Unit:

Aliza Mansor, Senior Assistant Director, Corporate Communication Division
Tel: +603-8891 8789

Editorial Unit:

Anis Rozalina Ramli (Ms), Senior Editor, Corporate Communication Division
Tel: +603-8891 8759

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Vietnam To Cooperate With Qatar In Food Security
Investvine, A Company of Inside Investor, Ltd.
Feb 14, 2018

Vietnam and Qatar have decided to work closer in the field of food security as the Middle East country is looking for new import sources and food trading partners in the wake of continued tensions with other Gulf Cooperation Council countries.

According to Vietnam’s ambassador in Qatar, Nguyen Dinh Thao, Vietnam has made significant advancement in food exports over the past decade and also made progress in cooperation with large food importers in the Middle East under their food security programmes.

“Vietnam plays an important role in global food security as it has made progress in food security and increased production for international markets,” Thao said, adding that “Vietnam is ready to cooperate with Qatar especially in the field of food security. High-tech agriculture is also a development focus for Vietnam in maintaining food security in the future and it is an area which Qatar and Vietnam can work together.”

Vietnam is a net exporter of agri-food, seafood, rice and many other agricultural products. In 2016, exports of agriculture and forestry products reached $18.1 billion, an increase of 6.5 per cent year-on-year and accounting for 10.3 per cent of the country’s total exports. Seafood exports were valued at $7 billion, an increase of 6.8 per cent as compared to the previous year and accounting for four percent of total export value.

Vietnam also wants to increase export of tropical fruits to the Middle East, starting with Qatar, with the main types of fruit being bananas, grapefruit, dragon fruit, mango, coconut and also durian.

Vietnam could fully meet Qatar’s demand for tropical fruits, Vietnam’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Nguyen Xuan Cuong, said. According to him, Vietnam had 1.8 million hectares of cultivation area for fruits and vegetables with an annual output of 20 million tonnes, and this figure would double in the future if demand increases.

Besides seafood, other food exports to Qatar would include Vietnam’s top agriculture products such as vegetables, coffee, cashew nuts and pepper.

Vietnam and Qatar are looking back at many years of close relations and business ties. As early as in 2008, Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority set up a $1-billion fund to invest in agricultural development, as well as cattle and lamb farming in Vietnam.

Qatar is also investing in the real estate, tourism, banking and petroleum sector in Vietnam, and the Gulf country’s national airline Qatar Airways operates direct flights from Doha to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City

Currently, there are around 1,400 Vietnamese citizens residing in Qatar, namely researchers, students, engineers and workers in the construction and service industry.

Photo by Peter Wendt on Unsplash

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Thais Spend A Record Of 9.38 Hours On The Internet Daily
Investvine, A Company of Inside Investor, Ltd.
Feb 05, 2018

Thai people are spending an average of nine hours and 38 minutes daily on the Internet, with around one third of this time used for consuming social media. This makes the country ranking first in Internet time spent in the world, followed by the Philippines, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa.

These are the results for the newly released 2018 Global Digital Report by UK-based creative agency We Are Social and Canadian social media marketing firm Hootsuite.

The Philippines took first place for the greatest amount of time spent on social media daily (three hours and 57 minutes). Brazil is just behind them (three hours and 39 minutes) while Indonesia (three hours 23 minutes) and Thailand (three hours ten minutes) come in third and fourth place, respectively.

Interestingly, even though the top five spots are dominated by Southeast Asian countries, only 58 per cent of people in the region have access to the Internet, which highlights a significant digital gap in the region.

Northern Europe and Western Europe have the highest Internet connectivity rate of over 90 per cent, while Central Africa has the lowest rate of only twelve per cent.

Overall, more than four million, well over half of the world’s population, is now online, with the latest data showing that nearly a quarter of a billion new users came online for the first time in 2017. Africa has seen the fastest growth rates, with the number of Internet users across the continent increasing by more than 20 per cent year-on-year.

Likewise, More than three billion people around the world now use social media each month, with nine in ten of those users accessing their chosen platforms via mobile devices.

Photo by Muhammad Raufan Yusup on Unsplash

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Decoding the ‘Private Message’ Culture
Jan 29, 2018

E-commerce vendors expanding into Southeast Asia need a unique sales model for each country. Increasingly, Southeast Asians living in Taiwan and Southeast Asian online celebrities are emerging as the key to social media-based e-commerce.

E-commerce is still in the fledgling stage in Southeast Asia. Most consumers still habitually shop in brick-and-mortar stores where they can see and touch the products. Many harbor doubts about the security and trustworthiness of online shopping platforms.

Aside from trust issues, internet infrastructure is still relatively undeveloped in some Southeast Asian countries. Little bandwidth and slow internet speeds make browsing on mobile devices a tedious affair as images downloads are slow or full of errors, hampering local e-commerce development.

A survey by international consulting firm PwC indicated that consumers in Southeast Asia favor shopping via mobile phone and social media apps more than consumers in other countries.

If consumers don’t trust e-commerce platforms, finding the right product online is as difficult as looking for a needle in a haystack. However, since mobile phone use is widespread, Southeast Asian consumers are much more open to shopping in the social media world through apps such as Instagram, Facebook or Line.

“The biggest obstacle to online shopping for Southeast Asian consumers is [the lack of] trust,” observes Tai Fan-chen, deputy head of the Commerce Technology Application Research Division of the Commerce Development Research Institute (CDRI).

Although each country has a distinct culture and background, Tai says, Southeast Asian nations have one point in common - they all greatly value personal contact.

Therefore, social media platforms that provide such a “human touch” are very popular and an important channel for reaching out to potential customers. Comparable to direct selling, this type of e-commerce model exploits interpersonal relationships to generate profits or entice people into making a purchase.

When you ask Taiwanese and Malaysian e-commerce companies what is indispensable to know when one wants to be successful in the Southeast Asian market, they will inevitably tell you: Private message or chat room economy.

What is Meant by Private Message Culture?

Private message culture means that customers use social media platforms and messaging apps to ask all kinds of questions about a product before they decide to place an order.

They inquire about product features such as size, measurements and price, or want to know how to place an order: how to navigate the site, make a money transfer, accept a delivery, and so on. While online shoppers in Taiwan are used to these logistics processes from order to delivery, inexplicable problems can crop up anywhere along the way in Southeast Asia.

“What occurs most often is that people ask you how to place an order; people here are used to letting you help them order,” explains Zhi Qing Wong, a customer representative at the Malaysian subsidiary of Taiwanese cosmetics company All Young.

“Many people are lazy,” remarks Ng Shern Yau, co-founder and COO of Hong Kong-based Logistics Worldwide Express (LWE), which uses Malaysia as its logistics and customer service hub. Ng points out that some people get in touch not to ask the price, but rather to haggle about the price, which would not be possible if they order through a website. “Malaysians like to haggle,” notes Ng.

Consumers in different markets also differ. Shoppers in the Philippines tend to be impulse buyers, whereas Malaysian consumers tend to hesitate and think over purchase decisions for some time.

“They love chatting; I once spent an hour answering a customer's questions, but he waited a month before placing his order,” recalls Eng Sin Yee, customer representative at Taiwanese online cosmetics and body care retailer Shopping99.

Hsu Yi-chih, general manager of Vacanza Accessory, a jewelry vendor who is also active in Malaysia and Vietnam, points out that communication with new customers is time-consuming and therefore costly. Consumers expect an exchange of several private messages, and even after all their questions have been answered, they do not necessarily make a purchase. “They want to chat with you to confirm that you are a real person,” Hsu points out. (Read: Appealing to Southeast Asian Markets with Taiwanese Quality)

In Taiwan, online vendors often use endorsements by Internet stars or manage social media communities because this has proven the most effective approach for building reputation and trustworthiness in Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asian Graduates in Taiwan Manage Social Media Communities

Shopping99 counts among the Taiwanese online vendors who expanded into overseas markets at an early date. Last summer, the company made a second attempt to win the Malaysian market, relying on Malaysians living in Taiwan to manage social media communities in their home country from Taiwan.

Shopping99 co-founder and chief marketing manager Sharon Peng has hired Malaysians who graduated from universities in Taiwan and put them in charge of marketing, social media, customer service and promotional live broadcasts because they know best how to communicate with Malaysian consumers.

A mobile phone, two hosts, three products and four spotlights are all it takes to get rolling for a live broadcast on the latest must-have beauty products sold on Shopping99.

“You definitely won’t find this in Malaysia…,” the two Malaysian hosts, Fang Wan-yi and Huang Hsin-yi, tell their live audience. The pair, who speak Mandarin, English and Cantonese aside from their mother tongue Malay, smoothly switch from one language to another when introducing products. During the broadcast, they occasionally respond to online messages from viewers.

The live broadcasts take place two to three times per week lasting 20 minutes to half an hour. During the program, Fang and Huang not only advertise the products but also present life in Taiwan. They once did a live broadcast from an Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodles outlet, and also filmed an episode comparing different bubble milk teas.

“We don’t do live broadcasts only to sell stuff; sometimes it is to build brand recognition and intimacy,” notes Peng. The broadcasts help convince customers that Shopping99 is a legitimate shopping website and enlivens the fan community so that people ask questions when they consider a purchase.

Aside from managing their own social media communities, the fastest way for companies to boost their brands is to directly partner with online influencers who take advantage of their popularity and their fans’ trust to feature products in their videos.

Teaming Up with Internet Celebrities

“Online celebrities and online models are not the same. Online celebrities must have their own ideals. What we are doing now is steering online celebrities’ focus away from simply viewer numbers to gaining their viewers’ trust,” explains Kokee Lau, general manager Greater China for Malaysian online artist management agency Red People. Taiwanese online cosmetics retailer 86shop collaborates with Red People to boost the site’s popularity in Malaysia through online influencers.

Shopping99 also once invited Philippine online celebrity Sachzna Laparan, who has more than a million followers, to Taiwan. During the four-days, three-night trip she not only promoted products in live broadcasts but also food and fun activities in Taiwan, which greatly boosted interaction with her fans.

Marketing by Compatriots Engenders More Trust

Another trend that has recently emerged is Taiwanese companies collaborating with Southeast Asian social media influencers who live in Taiwan to promote their products among migrant workers and immigrants from Southeast Asia.

Indonesian national Anny Ting has lived in Taiwan for 16 years. She is well-known among Taiwan’s Indonesian community as the host of an award-winning radio program. Ting also works as a translator, voice-over artist and, most recently, in a new capacity as live broadcast celebrity.

As a Muslim, Ting often wears a headscarf. She is known for her acute fashion sense and ability to pick the right colors, and is often asked where she buys her headscarves.

“Sister, I want to buy the same scarf as yours,” is a request Ting often hears from migrant workers.

Last October, a Taiwanese headscarf maker asked Ting to present their products. So she launched live broadcasts on social media such as Facebook and Line promoting cosmetics, health and body care, make-up brushes and wireless karaoke microphones, eliciting an overwhelming response from her audience.

Ting reveals that of all the products she has endorsed, the headscarves have so far proven most popular, while clothing and body care are also selling well. On average, customers spend between NT$1,000 and NT$2,000 per purchase. Clearly, this is a previously overlooked market segment.

Ting is convinced that “trust” is the key reason why her live broadcasts became a success. “Because I used to be a migrant worker, the Indonesians in Taiwan feel that I am one of them,” she notes.

Evidently, understanding the market, localizing marketing and building trust among consumers are the keys to e-commerce success in Southeast Asia.

Translated from the Chinese article by Susanne Ganz

- ASIA TODAY News Global Distribution