International tourism promotion should be intensified

The private sector is urged to initiate its own tourism promotion, targeting the regional Asean sector since long-haul travel is yet to return in a meaningful way 

by S BIRRUNTHA / pic TMR

TOURISM promotion efforts in the overseas market should be intensified to leverage on returning confidence and tourists to the region. 

Industry players said while the government is “doing enough” promoting Malaysia as a destination, as seen in tourism arrival in the second half of 2022 (2H22), there is still room for improvement to return to the pre-2020 level. 

The private sector is also urged to initiate its own tourism promotions, targeting the regional Asean sector since long-haul travel is yet to return in a meaningful way. 

We have to target the Muslim market and this market will usually extend their stay to at least 3 to 4 days or even more, says Mohd Akil (pic: Bernama)

Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) deputy president Mohd Akil Mohd Yusof said the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry (Motac) have been doing enough promotion on the international platform with travel fairs and exhibitions. 

He added the travel fraternity have been quite busy these past few months trying to promote tourism both domestically and internationally. 

“The effort is there with Motac and Tourism Malaysia being very active marketing overseas. But of course, there is plenty of room for improvement. 

“There’s also a lot of things beyond our control such as airfare, requirements of certain countries, especially for long-haul flights, post-Covid-19. There is still fear and worry among people,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently. 

Mohd Akil, who is also Triways Travel Network (M) Sdn Bhd group MD, said there are other factors like expensive airline tickets for the long-haul and medium-haul markets. 

“But as we saw early this year, Malaysia’s tourist arrivals during the first quarter of the year (1Q22) surpassed two million and then in 2Q22, it went up to 4.5 million. 

“In 3Q22, they already revised it to nine million and I believe in 4Q22, they will still revise the figure. 

“So, it shows that from zero, we already got to nine million arrivals, which was up by 35%. Thus, I think we did a great job,” he noted, adding that the existing market that Malaysia used to promote international tourism must be continued. 

He also suggested focusing on target marketing, by identifying big events and shows that will attract tourists from Europe, the US, the Middle East and Japan. 

Promotional Methods by Neighbouring Countries

Mohd Akil said the government should also study neighbouring countries’ international travel promotion and do better than them. 

“The private sector must also do their own promotion and market it to existing clients. 

“We used to have over 7,000 travel agents but now many have closed down due to the pandemic. 

“The government should continue to help by giving travel and tour agents financial aid so that they can restart and continue business,” he said. 

Focus more on MICE, Muslim-friendly Markets

Mohd Akil also highlighted on the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) and Muslim-friendly markets. 

He said both markets should be given immense attention, as they are among important markets which contribute hugely to the GDP. 

He added that tourists from Islamic market normally stay more than three nights, which gives the country more revenue. 

“They are good shoppers. They contribute to the tourism industry and the retail industry in terms of foreign expenditure coming into Malaysia,” he said. 

Mohd Akil said tourists under the MICE market also come in big numbers, as Malaysia offers almost all the middle- to up-market products. 

“We have almost everything, such as space, products, exhibition halls, hotels and so on. 

“This target market will also encourage and spur employment in the country,” he noted. 

Focus Asean Countries for Promotion, Marketing Activities

Malaysian Tourist Guides Council president Jimmy Leong said overseas promotion are always ongoing to ensure Malaysia is placed as a preferred destination. 

However, it would be best that the current promotion is focused on Asean countries and later extended to other countries in Asia. “These countries are just next 

door and their borders are open. “Long haul countries like Europe will surely take a while before they normalise travelling,” he told TMR. Leong also opined that consistent and aggressive promotion will be the key to successful marketing to attract tourists to Malaysia.

He noted that the promotional campaign should also incorporate how easy it is to enter and experience “Truly Malaysia”.

As Malaysia’s borders were officially reopened to international travellers on April 1, 2022, Tourism Malaysia re-embarked on its global advertising campaign by leveraging the “Malaysia, Truly Asia” branding in boosting inbound tourism while domestic tourism continues to drive the recovery. 

The agency noted that over 100 promotional activities are lined up to increase visibility with online and offline promotions via smart partnerships, networking sessions, seminars, webinars, roadshows, joint promotions and familiarisation trips through a global network of 30 Tourism Malaysia offices worldwide and six marketing representatives abroad. 

Borders Reopening is Relief for Tourism Industry

Motac Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri previously said the full reopening of borders is a huge relief for tourism as the country welcomes more international tourists to further boost the country’s economy. 

More than 110 international flights arrived on April 1 as the number of international passengers ramped up in the following weeks, for the first time after two years. 

Malaysia also set up the Langkawi International Travel Bubble (LITB) to kick-start international travel on Nov 15, 2021, of which it drew 5,800 visitors from abroad and generated more than RM28 million in tourism receipts for the first three months of its implementation. 

As of March 18, LITB registered 9,196 international arrivals, with the top 10 tourist-generating markets coming from the UK (948), the US (692), Australia (639), Germany (433), Yemen (421), Indonesia (371), South Korea (347), Thailand (343), Sweden (286) and Saudi Arabia (221). 

Recently, Motac announced that it has revised and set a new target of tourist arrivals at 9.2 million with tourism receipts of RM26.8 billion for this year. 

Nancy said this is because the country had almost surpassed the target that it had set for this year at 4.5 million tourist arrivals with RM11.1 billion in tourism receipts, with over 3.21 million tourist arrivals and RM9.35 billion of tourism revenue recorded from January until July. 

She noted that this was made possible only through vigorous initiatives and incentives, including by bringing in international delegates through business events to Malaysia since the reopening of borders and the easing of restrictions for inbound visitors. 

Commenting further, Nancy said based on studies supported by international experience, business event visitors spend three times more than the average tourists and have a large multiplier effect. 

She also emphasised that technology will be a key enabler and collaboration will be essential to accelerate recovery and build a more resilient and sustainable industry. 

In the meantime, Motac is also hoping for a bigger allocation to promote the country overseas as the allocation will help to revitalise the country’s tourism industry. 

She added that more grants are needed to spur industry growth and an allocation for cultural diplomacy with the Foreign Ministry is required to ensure the ministry achieves its targets. 

In the past years, the government had introduced a string of tourism programmes to promote overseas tourism, namely volunteer tourism (voluntourism) which generally means doing voluntary activities in a relaxed atmosphere for the purpose of preserving and keeping the environment clean and green, especially in vacation spots while on vacation. 

Tourism Programmes by the Govt

Meanwhile, the government also introduced Malaysia My Second Home (MM2H) programme as a way to allow foreigners to retire or live in Malaysia for the long term. 

The programme, originally forwarded by Motac, provides a renewable multiple-entry visa for successful applicants worldwide. 

Now channelled through the Home Affairs Ministry, MM2H represents a flagship initiative aimed at promoting positive immigration for the benefit of both Malaysia and potential future expatriates. 

At the same time, the government also introduced agro-tourism, a tourism concept that is growing rapidly, because Malaysia offers various activities related to the agriculture and plantation sector to tourists. 

Additionally, the government also promotes educational tourism by creating various infrastructure and educational facilities. 

Public and private institutes of higher education as well as joint venture programmes with higher education institutes abroad are increasingly held to attract more foreign students to continue their studies in Malaysia. 

Malaysia also actively promoted itself as the organiser and host of various world-class sports tournaments and recreational activities, further making Malaysia the main destination for sports tourism in the Asia Pacific region. 

The organisation of sports such as the 1998 Commonwealth Games, Formula 1, Powerboat, Le Tour de Langkawi and so on are part of the world’s recognised sports events. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition