Tourism players grappling to bring back high-yielding tourists

By TIN Media | Tourism Malaysia Published 10 months ago on 5 September 2023
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Malaysia's tourism players are grappling to bring back high-yielding tourist arrivals to the pre-pandemic levels, industry specialists said.

The task demands large budget and promotional strategies comparable to that demonstrated by Malaysia's regional counterparts such as Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia, according to the Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta).

"While there has been an uptick in tourism, we have not yet fully regained the pre-pandemic levels.

"A significant portion of our tourism numbers come from visitors arriving from Singapore and Thailand, both of which have historically constituted a substantial share of arrivals," Matta president Nigel Wong.

He said it is important to attract higher-yield markets, especially from India and China.

"Our competition for market share in the tourism sector must intensify as many countries in the region are actively competing for the same market segment," Wong added.

 Hindrances & RM1bil Budget

Budget constraints and less effective promotional strategies hinder Malaysia's efforts in the face of its neighbouring destinations like Thailand and Indonesia that continue to captivate travellers, Wong said.

"We had requested a tourism budget of nearly RM1 billion from the national budget, yet we received only RM250 million for 2023. This greatly impacts our ability to promote the country directly and through industry stakeholders," he asserted.

Wong said such a budget boost could contribute to maintaining historical sites, training multilingual tour guides and supporting new sites of attractions.

He further explained that Malaysia should differentiate itself from its neighbours and focus on targeted marketing strategies tailored to various market demographics.

There is fierce competition in the region when it comes to tourism and some of Malaysia's stiffest competition comes from heavily tourism-dependent economies like Thailand and Indonesia.

"Our marketing campaigns have to be very targetted depending on the various market demographics we are focusing on - we need to rely less on broad umbrella campaigns," said Wong.

 Different Perspective

On the contrary, Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Dr Ammar Ghappar offered a more positive perspective on the nation's tourism outlook.

He said Malaysia has been witnessing steady recovery and surpassing targets for tourist arrivals and tourism receipts in the post-pandemic.

In 2022, the country surpassed its initial target of attracting 9.2 million international tourists since the reopening of its international borders in April 2022 by recording more than 10 million arrivals with RM28.2 billion in tourism receipts.

As the year-end approaches, Ammar is confident that tourist numbers will jump by 60 per cent to reach the 16 million target for the year, largely driven by Chinese travellers.

He added that China has historically been a significant contributor to Malaysia's tourism sector.

As of May 2023, Tourism Malaysia received 7,481,156 tourist arrivals including 403,121 arrivals from China.

"China has been among the top contributors in terms of arrivals. It goes without saying that after its border reopening, we are banking on the arrival of Chinese travellers to Malaysia. Last May, Malaysia welcomed the inaugural flight by Xiamen Airlines from Chongqing to Kuala Lumpur."

As of July this year, there were 203 flights per week from China to Malaysia with a carrying capacity of 41,590, which contributed to 57 per cent of the flight frequencies observed on the same route prior to the pandemic.

 Lack of Marketing, Promotion?

Responding to recent criticisms of lacking marketing and promotional efforts, Ammar said Tourism Malaysia has taken a proactive stance towards boosting inbound tourism with a series of more than 100 promotional activities to boost inbound tourism for this year alone.

These include overseas sales missions in Hong Kong and Taiwan, roadshows across Nordic countries, and multiple cities in India (Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Ahmedabad).

It also participated in the International Tourism Fair FITUR 2023 in Madrid, Spain.

The recent advertising video campaign titled "The Soul of Malaysia" has been strategically broadcast through British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) networks across the Asia Pacific, Europe, South Asia and the Middle East.

"This campaign, which magnifies Malaysia's natural wonders and exceptional biodiversity, is set to captivate audiences until November 2023," he added.

To reach a wider Asian market, Ammar said Tourism Malaysia has also collaborated with Discovery Network for the second travelogue series of our global campaign titled "You, Me & Malaysia", broadcast on TLC and Discovery Channel in countries like Southeast Asia, India and Taiwan.

Despite the challenges, Ammar remains steadfast about Malaysia's tourism recovery.

With ongoing efforts and strategic planning, he expects a return to pre-pandemic visitor levels by 2025 with 16.1 million international tourists arrivals that generate RM49.2 million in tourism receipts.



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