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11:00am 01/05/2022
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[Isshōkenmei] Malaysia’s media, friends of Taiwan leisure farms (39)
By:Lee San 

These “friends of farms” collectively form a powerful force that has made Taiwan’s leisure farms a well-known attraction among Malaysians.

Stanley Yen is an iconic leader in Taiwan’s travel industry and is popularly known as the island’s “Godfather of Tourism”. He is also the author of many award-winning books which are the must-reads for Taiwan’s hospitality industry personnel. 

Sure enough I am also one of his fans, especially his book “Find Yourself on the World Map” published in 2017. In his book I came across some familiar terms such as Taiwan Leisure Farms and Malaysia’s Media friends alumni, much to my pleasant surprise. After reading his book, I felt like I was also playing a role, albeit a minor one, in their travel industry! 

In the book, Yen had very high regards for Taiwan Leisure Farming Development Association, a then little-known NGO which was nevertheless full of creative ideas, taking the practically unknown leisure farms on the island to unseen heights with a little help from the powerful words of some foreign media friends. 

As a matter of fact, the association never actually had any ambitious marketing strategy to start with, and the leisure farm industry’s phenomenal rise in popularity was unexpected. 

I was invited to visit a Taiwan leisure farm for the first time in October 2005, and two months later, I led a family-oriented group of 80 Malaysian tourists to visit a leisure farm, and witnessed how much the adults and children in the group enjoyed the farm’s trip. 

I said affirmatively: “Leisure farms must be included in Taiwan’s regular tour itineraries, but given the severe lack of understanding of this travel concept among Malaysians, how are we going to convey this message to the people?” 

Our guide Shinny Chiu proposed, “Lee San can help! You can represent us to invite Malaysian media practitioners to come here to experience our leisure farms!” 

I echoed, “And after that, we’ll just leave it to them to write and share on their own media what they have experienced at these farms!” 

Response from the media has been overwhelming. Finally, Louis Ng, the PIC at Apple 101, joined hands with Taiwan Leisure Farming Development Association to bring batch after batch of media representatives to visit Taiwan’s leisure farms, with Shinny Chiu as their guide in each of these groups. There are about 18 to 22 media participants (including online media and bloggers) in each group, and after all these years, we have hosted more than 400 Malaysian journalists in total. 

A strong bond has developed among the over 400 members of “Taiwan Leisure Farm Malaysian Alumni Association”, an unprecedented achievement in the Malaysian media industry.

These “friends of farms” collectively form a powerful force that has made Taiwan’s leisure farms a well-known attraction among Malaysians.

All tour expenses of these fam trips have been borne by the association, while accommodation, food and souvenirs are provided freely by individuals farms. 

As the organizer, the association holds annual brainstorming sessions to constantly improve its presentation, with new themes conceived every year to encourage the participation of Malaysian journalists, among them deep exploration, photography contest, treasure hunt, essay writing competition, etc. All these activities are held at various farms across Taiwan, allowing the participants to have first-hand experience of the best Taiwanese leisure farms have to offer. 

Upon returning to Malaysia, these participants would put their personal experiences in words and pictures and start selling this novel tourist product to Malaysians in their respective publications so that more Malaysians will come to know the unique charms of Taiwan’s leisure farms. 

Notably, more than 500 media reports were published between 2011 and 2022 in Malaysia. We have even heard that some of these participants have later come back with their families and friends, over and again!

Because of the staunch support of these Malaysian media friends, Taiwan Leisure Farming Development Association has commissioned me and Apple 101 to bring these media group members together under a “Malaysian Media Alumni”. 

During the annual autumn travel fairs in Kuala Lumpur, the TLF association’s Secretary-General Yu Wen-Horng and Director of Marketing Shinny Chiu will come personally with the owners of several Taiwanese leisure farms and meet up with these “alumni”. 

And for your information, I, Lee San, have been appointed the “life chairman” of this alumni association ! 

More in the Isshōkenmei series

(Lee San is Founder and Group Executive Chairman of Apple Vacations. He has traveled to 132 countries, six continents, and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored five books.)

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