Malaysia targets 30m visitors for VM2020

by ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

PRIME Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday unveiled the new Visit Malaysia 2020 (VM2020) logo as the country seeks to attract 30 million foreigners next year and generate more than RM80 billion in spending as Malaysia pushes to boost its economy.

The logo — a combination of the hornbill, Bunga Raya (hibiscus), wild fern and colours of the national flag — was selected from 586 submissions. The initial logo, which was unveiled in January last year, was widely criticised, forcing the new government to look for a new marketing gimmick to promote the country.

Dr Mahathir said VM2020 is an opportunity to attract a record number of visitors to Malaysia and make the country a destination of choice for leisure and business tourists.

“It is hoped that the VM2020 campaign will succeed in its target of 30 million international tourist arrivals and RM100 billion in tourist receipts,” he said at the unveiling of the logo at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) yesterday.

Dr Mahathir said the tourism sector registered a 4.8% growth between January and May this year, drawing 10.95 million tourists compared to 10.45 million arrivals in the corresponding period last year.

Tourist spending also jumped by 16.9% during the first five months of this year to RM21.4 billion compared to the same period last year.

Last year, 25.8 million tourists visited the country, putting Malaysia 15th in the world based on arrivals.

The country also ranked 21st on highest tourism revenue with earnings amounting to RM84.1 billion as stated in the United Nations World Tourism Organisation’s Barometer Report in May 2019.

“Without a doubt, tourism is one of the most important sectors to ensure the country’s economic and service sector growth. It is not only able to generate income, but also to provide many jobs for the people in the country,” the 94-year-old leader said.

Dr Mahathir said the government’s plan to ease entry requirements is also expected to facilitate the arrival of over three million tourists from China to Malaysia this year.

Malaysia has expanded its visa on arrival facilities to 13 entry points nationwide to ensure a hassle-free entry for Chinese and Indian nationals — the two fastest-growing outbound tourist markets in the world.

Dr Mahathir also said domestic tourism is also a key contributor to the economy. A total of 78.2 million domestic tourists were recorded last year, registering a growth of 10.9% from the previous year. Locals spend RM60.4 billion for tourism in the country.

The government also launched a RM5 million Malaysian Tourism Promotion matching grant fund to assist industry players in their international tourism and marketing programmes.

Additionally, a RM500 million small and medium enterprises tourism fund will be made available by SME Bank (Small Medium Enterprise Development Bank Malaysia Bhd) to assist and expand handicraft and homestay businesses, enabling the government to subsidise interest rates by 2%.

The government has also allocated RM1 billion to the tourism infrastructure fund to provide financial assistance to new and existing companies involved in tourism-related activities and services.

“These are some of the things delivered by the government and we hope that through these incentives, we will be able to see our tourism industry flourishing even more,” Dr Mahathir said.

The VM2020 campaign will focus on ecotourism, arts and culture, befitting the National Ecotourism Plan 2016-2025 and National Culture Policy.

Dr Mahathir said visitors from all over the world will be able to experience the uniqueness and beauty of Malaysia’s ecotourism attractions, including local rainforests, mountains, islands and beaches.

“Indeed, we all have a role to play in the VM2020 campaign. Our hospitality must not be merely a slogan, but translated into the nature and culture of our people.

“The beauty of a place will attract, but hospitality will make people stay and return,” he said.