Fashion designer Jimmy Choo – who gained worldwide celebrity thanks to his shoes and bags- has his brand currently splashed all over Europe’s walls and billboards as huge posters advertise all over the continent his latest creations for a big popular clothing company. But at World Travel Market last week, Datuk Jimmy was to be seen in real. However, not this time as a designer, but as an Ambassador for Tourism Malaysia. The idea came from Malaysia Minister of Tourism, Dato Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen, who visited last week the Malaysian Pavilion at London’s travel fair. For Dr Ng, Jimmy Choo’s fame is another way to bring more awareness to Malaysia. “ Datuk Jimmy shows that Malaysia is creative and is being recognized worldwide for its talents,” tells Ng. Malaysia is increasingly using celebrities to promote its tourism assets. Actress Michelle Yeoh or former Formula One Ferrari team executive director Jean Todt are also Tourism Ambassadors.

According to Malaysian newspaper ‘The Star’, US$ 200,000 (RM 1 million) have been set aside for the Tourism Ambassador Program which covers basically expenses such as air tickets as well as the ones incurred when an Ambassador is required to meet anyone or to attend any function that Tourism Malaysia might host. The Minister considers such an amount as a fair investment as she sees her Tourism Ambassadors as a way to lure influential people and other celebrities to visit the country.

The coincidence of seeing Choo’s brand displayed on huge posters all across London, turns suddenly the designer into Malaysia’s most visible icon. A great way then to promote Malaysia except… except that Datuk Jimmy did not seem very much aware of what Malaysia has to offer. Asked why tourists should go to Malaysia, Jimmy Choo sounds rather vague in his answers: “Malaysia is a great place for relaxation with quality resorts, fine spa, good services and excellent shopping facilities,” he told his audience in London. Definitely true but is it not exactly the same for Thailand or Indonesia?