PETALING JAYA: The tourism sector is projected to pick up significantly next year, surpassing pre-pandemic levels in terms of international tourist arrivals.
Tourism deputy director general (promotion) Datuk Musa Yusof said this is due to better flight connectivity and the potential increase in visitors from India and China.
He added that post-pandemic, there has been a surge in demand for ecotourism, experiential travel as well as culture explorations.
“Travel is no longer a luxury but a necessity,” he told reporters after the 16th Bursa-HLIB Stratum Focus Series entitled, Tourism: Welcoming a new dawn yesterday.
Malaysia is considered a “value for money” destination especially due to the weakening ringgit against regional currencies.The majority of tourists from the Asean region also preferred travelling to neighbouring countries.
In the first half of this year, the country has welcomed 9.16 million international tourists, placing second after Thailand in the South-East Asian region.
From January to September, the country recorded a total of 14 million tourist arrivals.With the upswing in arrivals, the government has revised tourism target to 19.1 million by year-end 2023, from the initial 16.1 million.
“We are working together with the public and private sectors to understand the current demands and travelling behaviours so that we can map out our strategic direction,” Musa said.
Tourism Malaysia aimed to place the country as the preferred tourist destination through its Malaysia Truly Asia and Cuti-cuti Malaysia brands.
He added that it would also continue to foster smart partnerships and collaborations with both local and international industry players to further boost the demand for Malaysia’s tourism offerings.
Hong Leong Investment Bank (HLIB) Bhd head of research Jeremy Goh said the government’s target of surpassing 26.1million of international tourist arrivals in the coming years is “highly conservative”.
“If we compare post-pandemic in December 2022 tourist arrivals to pre-pandemic in December 2019, there is already a 92% recovery to pre-pandemic levels.
“And this is without Chinese tourists coming in because they have not reopened their border in December last year,” he said on the sidelines of the forum.
He added that the number of tourist arrivals would likely surpass what the government’s target.
“The ringgit is one of the weakest performing currencies in the region year-to-date, and while that may be a negative for us, it is actually positive for the tourism sector,” he added.