Tourism Australia country manager for Malaysia Karen Saw on the hidden gems in the Down Under

She also talks about the aspiration behind the ‘Come and Say G’day’ campaign.

Tourism Australia country manager for Malaysia Karen Saw (Photo: Low Yen Yeing/The Edge Malaysia)

Options: Tourism Australia just launched the ‘Come and Say G’day’ campaign. Can you tell us more?
Karen Saw: As our first global campaign since 2016, Come and Say G’day is the next instalment of Tourism Australia’s There’s Nothing Like Australia global brand platform. Central to the campaign is G’day, a live-action short film starring CGI animated characters and directed by Michael Gracey, acclaimed Australian director of The Greatest Showman.

The film features Ruby (voiced by Australian actor Rose Byrne), a plush kangaroo souvenir that embodies the Australian spirit — warm, welcoming and optimistic — and Louie (voiced by actor Will Arnett), a toy unicorn that is a symbolic representation of an international traveller. The film is about friendship and adventure, all set against an incredible backdrop of landscapes and Aussie icons.

What do you hope audiences will take away from it?
People around the world have had a really challenging time in recent years. Now, more than ever, they are looking for uplifting, joyful messages and long to experience incredible holidays again. This campaign shows that Australia is the answer, with boundless natural wonders, world-class food and wine, unique wildlife and friendly locals. Australia is an incredible destination, but it’s how we do tourism that sets us apart. Australians give travellers the warmest welcome possible. When Aussies ask, ‘G’day, how you going?’, it is coming from a place of genuine curiosity.

We hope that through seeing our recognisable and beloved icons, stunning scenery and warm characters on the film, people will remember why there’s nothing like Australia, and be compelled to discover the true meaning of an Aussie welcome by travelling Down Under.

The film features the Sydney Harbour as well as natural landscapes such as Uluru and Nitmiluk Gorge [Northern Territory]. Why were these specific sites chosen for the campaign?
The narrative of G’day sees its characters go on a quest that takes them across the country to showcase some of its most beautiful places. Some of the locations were chosen as they’re so iconically Australian, whereas other places were picked to surprise and delight. We want to inspire people to come and experience the known, as well as the unknown.

Uluru and Nitmiluk Gorge have long been significant landmarks to aboriginal people, and their inclusion puts indigenous cultures at the centre of Ruby and Louie’s journey.


Nitmiluk Gorge, Australia

Having worked for Tourism Australia for 13 years, what have been your most significant career highlights?
Prior to joining,  the country had always stood out as a destination with diverse experiences. It has been both rewarding and empowering to now be part of making Australian tourism much more vibrant, and bringing it to Malaysians, whose positive travel sentiments are on the rise now, more than ever. In my time with the agency, I’ve had the pleasure of leading some of the best-performing partnerships with our airline partners and key distribution partners in-market. This entailed working closely with them to inspire product development that can inject new experiences and grow demand for Australian tourism.

Being able to successfully spearhead effective conversion campaigns with partners even while travel borders were closed during the pandemic was also a crowning point of my career. It was especially memorable when I was able to oversee the first group arrival of Malaysian travellers at Longitude 131°, a luxury wilderness camp in Uluru, when international borders finally reopened.

What do you like most about Australia and what are some of the hidden gems you have unearthed?
There are simply too many to list! Some of them are watching the dusk and dawn at the ever-magical Uluru, and indulging in some seriously good food under its canopy of stars. Another memorable experience was taking selfies with the world’s happiest animal, the quokka, at Kangaroo Island and Rottnest Island. And, of course, Australia’s renowned fresh produce, seafood and gourmet delicacies as well as its coffee culture are gems to my palate.

Every moment Down Under has been a priceless one that cannot be seen and felt until you’ve experienced it first-hand, so come and say G’day!

Malaysians, as you know, love food. What should one try when visiting?
Australia’s food scene is all about locally sourced and high-quality produce, and dedicated chefs and producers who champion sustainable practices behind the scenes. When in Victoria, Brae is one name to bookmark. It is a contemporary restaurant perfectly set on an organic farm that is sure to help one immerse in nature, offering a constantly evolving set menu centred around ingredients grown on its farm. Abla’s is a quiet, reliable spot that has been on the Melbourne restaurant scene since 1979, serving traditional, homemade Lebanese fare. At Efendy Restaurant in Sydney, Turkish cuisine doesn't come more authentic.

Malaysians are one of the most multicultural and diverse populations on the planet. Foodies from all backgrounds can find something that suits their palate, and our Muslim travellers can also enjoy a wide range of halal food options in Australia. There’s everything, from traditional kebabs to upscale places that offer the best Muslim-friendly cuisine.


Efendy Restaurant in Sydney (Photo: Efendy)

What are you reading or listening to now?
I love to read — not only does it help me unwind, it also keeps me up to date with what’s going on around the world, especially in the travel industry. I subscribe to a wide range of publications, from travel trade magazines to The Edge. In my personal time, reading anything related to the philosophy of life is right up my alley, and my choice of music is anything that puts me in a relaxed mood.

Describe your idea of a perfect weekend in Kuala Lumpur.
Given that I tend to be busy with work on weekdays, weekends are reserved for quality time with my loved ones. We like to travel — anywhere near nature — so, weekend getaways are a common affair. We are also big foodies, so we spend time here scouring for good food and drinks. Setting aside ‘me time’ is an important routine, and I make sure to pamper myself with a massage or facial, or simply explore my hobbies such as baking and coffee art.   

This article first appeared on Nov 28, 2022 in The Edge Malaysia.


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