THIRTY years ago, Regina Fabiny knew very little about Malaysia. When her husband told her that they would relocate to the country, Fabiny said she had to go to bookshops and libraries to find information about Malaysia, which were very few and far in between.
“It was in 1984 when we arrived from Germany. The moment I got down the plane, I knew I was home,” she said.
Fabiny said she felt a strong desire to share her wonderful experience in her new home with her family and friends back in Europe.
“At that time, there were not many guidebooks written about Malaysia. So, I thought I’ll produce one myself. In January 1998, the first guidebook, Leisure Guide To Malaysia was launched by then Cultural, Arts and Tourism Minister Tan Sri Sabbaruddin Chik,” she recalled.
The book, published under Leisure Guide Publishing, was followed by The Guide To Malaysia Series (TGTMS), comprising one main book about the country and a series of complementary guidebooks for each state.
“For international distribution, I was told that a branded series was required to garner market awareness and market demand.
“My desire, as a publisher, was to attract the attention and penetrate the minds of people who were not even considering Malaysia as a destination,” she explained.
Fabiny, who referred to Malaysia as “home”, said she was more familiar with Malaysia than her birth country of Germany.
“I saw the progress and the huge investments here, particularly by hotels, theme parks, golf resorts, marinas and equestrian centres, and thought it would be helpful to bring in tourists to support these investors,” said the mother of two and grandmother of four.
She said most guidebooks available in the market were not produced locally.
“Most of the guidebooks on the shelves, including information available online, were not produced locally. Foreign tourism guidebooks, which came into the picture in the early 90s, mainly focused on cultural and traditional sites and scenic beauty.
“It left out the progress, the excellent infrastructure, the opportunities and other aspects of life here,” Fabiny said.
The first state guidebook, The Guide To Melaka, was completed in 2004. Three years later, The Guide To Malaysia was picked as the official guidebook for the Visit Malaysia Year 2007.
Her journey to promote a country that she loved, however, was not without obstacles as Fabiny met with a devastating hurdle the day her husband was diagnosed with cancer.
“In 2008, we had to go back to Germany to seek treatment for my dear husband. Unfortunately, he passed on. But I knew I couldn’t stay in Germany... I had to return to Malaysia,” she said.
Fabiny returned to Malaysia in 2009 to continue with her efforts to promote the country she now called home.
“In September 2014, my publisher and I released the then eight-part edition of The Guide To Malaysia. A year later, I completed the first edition of The Guide To Sarawak,” she said.
Different from typical tourism guidebooks, editions of TGTMS were a source of comprehensive information, which jointly addressed the needs of tourists, business travellers and investors.
The books were a visually-driven and entertaining directory, which covered all important areas, showcasing the country’s best, while promoting the country’s image and strong brand towards building a resilient global reputation.
Over the years, various editions have even been translated to Bahasa Malaysia, Arabic, French, German, Korean and Mandarin.
“Anybody can go to the above link or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for the link in a layout together with the cover pages. It is not about the money, that’s why anyone can access it for free.”
Fabiny said she was grateful for the support she had been getting over the years.
“The extensive research for our books required a lot of help. While the state guidebooks were commissioned, I had to seek my own funding for the main book.
“I’m blessed to have so many good friends who continue to support me,” Fabiny added.
When she was not working on the book, Fabiny did her part to promote popular Malaysian destinations and delicacies to her friends and family members.
“I always get requests for my famous home-made beef rendang, fried noodles, sweet and sour fish and curry mee. Food is something that can win people over, making them want to return again and again.”
The books are available at major bookstores around the country at a retail price of RM75 (soft copy).