PETALING JAYA: The local tourism industry is on the road to recovery, having seen around one million arrivals since international borders reopened – but there is still work to be done before the champagne can be broken.
Industry players said more efforts are needed to ensure Malaysia regains its spot as the top tourist destination in Southeast Asia, which it held five years ago.
Malaysian Travel and Travel Agents Association (MATTA) chairman Datuk Tan Kok Liang said Malaysia had received around one million tourist arrivals since the government lifted restrictions on international travel , and he is confident that we could easily reach the five million mark by the end of the year.
“We are optimistic as European Union countries, Australia, South Korea and India, as well as other ASEAN countries, have given us positive feedback,” he said. -he declares.
However, Malaysia should adopt a more segmented marketing strategy to attract more tourists, Tan said.
“Each country has its own uniqueness, but there are also similarities. If we say we have good food, Indonesia and Singapore would say the same; If we present ourselves as a nature destination, Indonesia and Thailand also do the same.
“So we have to reach out to those who have special interests – for example, if we want to promote Malaysia in Scandinavian countries, maybe we can highlight our natural attractions because we know they love nature” , he added.
Tan said more concerted promotional efforts by the government and the private sector, especially on culture and ecotourism, are also needed for Malaysia to penetrate the US market.
The United States is huge, but Tourism Malaysia has only one full-fledged office – in New York, he added.
“My opinion is that Malaysia would be able to penetrate the US market well if more attention and focus were given.
“Many other national tourism organizations pay attention to the United States — Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates each have two or three offices and representatives,” he said.
Malaysian Tourist Guides Council (MTGC) chairman Jimmy Leong Wie Kong said Malaysia needs a better “formula” to attract tourists and regain its place among Asean’s top tourist attractions.
“If we look at the 10 countries in Southeast Asia, our popularity as a tourist destination over the past five years has fallen to fourth place.
“We are in this situation now because other countries are following what we have done and doing very well in attracting tourists,” he said.
Leong said the government, tour operators and even the public have a role to play in ensuring that tourists get the experiences they have been promised and that their expectations are met.
“What encourages tourists to visit or revisit a destination is the experience.
“The government has launched the ‘Malaysia Truly Asia’ campaign and organized promotional activities, but these will not be effective if tour operators do not sell packages suitable for this campaign.
“And even if they do, we also need to make sure that when tourists get here, they will realize the experience in terms of the infrastructure and the quality of our services that are promised to them,” he added.
Leong said the “true Malaysian experience” can best be provided by licensed tour guides who have been trained to welcome such visitors.
“We also need to tap into our rich heritage and focus on small tour groups, which is a rapidly growing trend, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Currently, tourists are traveling in smaller numbers, so we need to customize our packages to allow them to experience the best of our country.
“Apart from that, we can also promote our rich history – for example Melaka, which is popular for its history from Portuguese and Dutch times. This is one of the things that can bind us to tourists.
“We also have our royal families and their historical backgrounds, which we don’t really highlight. So I think every state should look carefully at its rich heritage that can be capitalized,” he added.