Malaysians pioneer sports tourism to England

The Malaysia Airlines - English Premier League tourist package launched last December is set for a revamp in the next football season. With the package to be called Football by Design, MAS together with its partner at home, Holiday Tours Sdn Bhd, and its British partners, AKA Event Travel and Services and Visit Britain, want to bring the first of its kind Premier League package to the Asian region. MAS communications division advertising & promotions executive Khairul Syahar Khalid said the new package promises to be far more flexible and offers more choices.

Promoting the new package, a group of Asian journalists were treated to a special flight to England to watch a match between Manchester United and Arsenal at the latter club's new Emirates football stadium at Highbury, London. They were introduced to the stadium with lunch in the Matchday Experience club which caters for 700 people. "It was two hours before the match and we were then introduced to our personal waiter who made sure we always had food on our table and our cups full of any beverage we desired ... while we enjoyed the delicious set-menu of gourmet food that included a chunky Jack-Daniels steak, salad, bread with various cheeses and dessert, the fact that there was going to be a football match soon seemed almost secondary,a" recalled Royce Cheah in The Star (Malaysia).

AKA Event Travel and Services Managing Director Alan Kotz hospitality packages at the Emirates stadium came at a price of £250-£350 per head, depending on the match category (top-flight matches are more expensive). "On occasions, the MAS package may incorporate a hospitality package, depending on the availability of tickets. As is the case with the other top teams and their stadiums, match day experiences are of similar quality and standard. Watching a football game is not just about the match anymore, it is about having a great all-round experience. From the personal and efficient service we get, right up to the quality and standard of food – it is painstakingly put together to ensure that fans get the best possible experience on a match-day,” he explained.

A package need not be exclusively for those who want to head to Britain just to watch a match. It can be tailored for corporate clients or those who are on business trips here and need some entertainment at night or during the weekend. A ballpark figure for the revamped Football by Design package is around RM4,000 and upwards, which includes flight and match tickets, accommodation (two nights with breakfast) and transfers.