Malaysians 'cautious' of crowds but keen to visit tourist hotspots KL and Penang

Visitors sharing light moment together posing for photo at Sky Deck in KL Tower, Kuala Lumpur. - FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

The pandemic may have made Malaysians more cautious of crowded places, but they are still keen to visit popular cities such as Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

A recent survey by Agoda revealed that Malaysians are still keen on well-known domestic tourist spots, with only minor shifts in the Top 20 destinations between its 2019/20 and 2020/21 booking data.

The top five most booked destinations are KL, Penang, Johor Baru, Melaka and Kuantan, Pahang.

“The urban and cosmopolitan settings of KL and Penang offer all the sights and sounds of contemporary life, while maintaining their respective historical charms.

“Penang also has the distinctive reputation of being a culinary heaven. Far beyond its famed char kuey teow, the city has translated its historically colourful cultural makeup into its cuisine,” it said in a statement.

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According to the company, JB has also built a reputation for being a foodie heaven with its emergence in the past few years as a spot for experiencing tantalising food, notably for its Arabic and Javanese-influenced takes on Malaysian dishes.

JB inched Melaka into fourth spot and Kuantan jumped from seventh to fifth spot, knocking Kota Kinabalu (Sabah) out the top five. Meanwhile, Klang (Selangor) moved up one spot to the 20th spot, edging out Taiping (Perak) from the Top 20 list.

“While the top 20 destinations are traditionally tourist-heavy areas, they are still beloved by many for being quintessentially Malaysian spots that symbolise the best the country has to offer,” the company said.

Unexpected findings

The travel booking platform’s data contradicts the prediction from some travel experts that post-pandemic tourists will be avoiding big crowds that are usually found at popular states and cities.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nancy Shukri recently said that the public would rather opt for less-crowded destinations. She added that travellers would also be more cautious about communal sharing, be it space or amenities.

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KL is still the top holiday destination for many Malaysian travellers.  — FilepicKL is still the top holiday destination for many Malaysian travellers. — FilepicAgoda said that while the top destinations may still be preferred, tourists might find new ways to travel amid the pandemic.

“With domestic tourism being the mainstay for many in the country, some may have been looking at new ways to travel, either by opting for staycations or short-term trips,” the company said.

The booking data also shows that Malaysians, like our counterparts across Asia, are going off-the-beaten track for their travels too, heading to less touristy destinations.

Among the top ways Malaysians have been exploring travel – according to the company’s Travel in 2021 survey released in June this year – was by seeking out local destinations never visited before.

Kuala Rompin in Pahang saw the largest jump, moving up seven spots to land in the Top 50 list at the 44th spot. The town is probably best known as the gateway to Pulau Tioman. However, it has also built a reputation among foodies for its selection of seafood restaurants.

Other destinations which rose to the Top 50 this year were Kuala Selangor (46th) and Seri Manjung in Perak (47th), up from 52nd and 53rd spots respectively in 2019/20.

Kuala Selangor is a popular day trip option for travellers in the Klang Valley. Some notable attractions include Melawati Hill, Sky Mirror and Kampung Kuantan Fireflies Park.

Meanwhile, Seri Manjung is known for its natural attractions such as beaches and mangrove parks.

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