By JADE CHAN
MATTA (the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents) Fair March '09 Buyers' Contest grand prize winner Christopher Lim, 33, had his wife to thank for his win.
"I was reluctant to go to the fair, as I wanted to be more prudent in my spending during the current economic situation.
"But my wife wanted a holiday to get away from work, so I went and booked a trip for two to Italy," said the pharmaceutical company product specialist.
He won RM20,000 worth of travel vouchers, which he hopes to use to settle the remaining payment for their trip.
"I paid a deposit of RM2,000, so I hope the vouchers can be used to pay the balance for our tour, which is valued at RM12,000.
"The trip in May would coincide with our third wedding anniversary, so it'll be a nice present for my wife," said Lim, who is married to 32-year-old bank executive Jacqueline Chong and has a two-year-old son.
He said Chong had initially wanted to visit Japan, but he suggested that they go to Italy instead as the cost of the two trips were similar. "I felt that it would be more worth our money to go to Europe," said Lim, whose tour covers cities like Rome, Venice and Lucerne.
"Of course, I will now use the rest of my travel vouchers for a trip to visit Japanese cities like Tokyo and Osaka with Jacqueline."
The other top winners comprised Chin Fui Yin, 66, and Mary Loo, 64, who won a first class return air ticket (for one) to Stockholm, and a three-day-two-night holiday package for two persons to Macau (including airfare and accomodation) respectively.
Self-employed Ong Peng Hong, 34, who received a business class air ticket (for one) to Korea, said she would most likely go for a holiday with her sister.
The remaining 42 prizes comprised return air tickets and tour packages to various international, regional and local destinations.
The prizes were sponsored by several airlines, tourism offices and companies like Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, Yemen Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, and the Macau Government Tourist Office.
Matta Fair March '09 organising chairman Datuk Mohd Khalid Harun noted that despite the gloomy economic outlook, last month's fair still had a large crowd.
"It exceeded our expectations as the March '09 fair recorded the highest number of visitors - more than 81,000 - compared to the other fairs held over the past two years," said Mohd Khalid, who attributed the success of the fair to Matta's promotion strategy and close relationship with the media.
"The domestic packages did very well this time compared to the Sept '08 fair, because those who wanted to travel but couldn't afford it have opted to travel locally.
"Tourism Malaysia's Zoom Malaysia campaign has also helped to promote local tourism."
On how the economic situation would affect the next Matta Fair, he said that it would depend on the public's confidence in the economic and political environment.
Matta Fair Sept '09 will be held from Sept 4-6 at the Putra World Trade Centre.