How Tourism Malaysia is building back the sector in the post-Covid era


Dr Ammar: 'With careful planning, ongoing efforts, and the gradual reopening of borders, we remain optimistic about the recovery and growth of tourism in Malaysia.' — MUHAMAD SHAHRIL ROSLI/The Star

FESTIVALS, endurance sports, food trails, hiking and heritage tours.

These are among the products that the government is banking on to bring the buzz back to the Malaysian tourism industry after Covid-19 lockdowns nearly decimated it says newly appointed Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Dr Ammar Abd Ghapar.

“According to the World Tourism Organisation, the global tourism sector is showing signs of recovery in 2023,” Ammar tells The Star in an interview recently.

“In the first quarter of 2023, international arrivals reached 80% of pre-pandemic levels, with an estimated 235 million tourists travelling internationally. This figure more than doubled compared to the same period in 2022, indicating a resilient rebound.

“As for Malaysia, we are forecasting a gradual return to pre-pandemic numbers.”

Ammar estimates that the number of international visitors could return to pre-Covid 19 levels by 2025, when arrivals are projected to reach 23.5 million, while total receipts are expected to hit RM76.8 billion.

In 2019, before Covid-19 shut down all travel, Malaysia received 26.1 million international visitors who brought in RM86.1 billion in revenue, according to Tourism Malaysia statistics.

Hiking is one of the activities that Tourism Malaysia is promoting to attract international tourists back to the country. — Tourism MalaysiaHiking is one of the activities that Tourism Malaysia is promoting to attract international tourists back to the country. — Tourism Malaysia

For this year, after the last of the pandemic era travel restrictions were lifted in China, Malaysia aims to attract 16.1 million international tourists that are expected to bring in RM49.2 billion in receipts.

About 4.5 million international arrivals were logged during the first quarter of this year and if the same number is maintained for each consecutive quarter, Ammar is hopeful of reaching the agency’s target.

“If we are able to maintain the same number, we will get 18 million by the end of the year. And we are not factoring the travel that happens in July and August, which is the summer season for Europeans and the year-end holiday breaks.”

Selling Malaysia’s tourism gems

As a marketing agency, one of the main tools that Tourism Malaysia is using to achieve these goals is overseas promotions where it has planned and participated in more than 100 events.

The agency kicked these off sales missions to Hong Kong and Taiwan in January, followed by Nordic countries including Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Events were also held in the Indian cities of Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

It has also participated in global tourism fairs including FITUR 2023 Spain, ASEAN Tourism Forum (ATF) in Indonesia; the Nguyen Hu Flower Street Festival in Vietnam; 16th Tehran International Tourism Exhibition (TITEX) in Iran and South Asia’s Travel and Tourism Exchange (SATTE) 2023 in India.

The agency also promoted Malaysia at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2023 in Dubai; the Seoul International Travel Fair (SITF) 2023 in Korea.

“We also led sales missions to Bahrain and Kuwait to capitalise on the continuing growth of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries,” Ammar says.

Besides these on-the-ground events, the agency has invested heavily in advertisements and digital content on some of the world’s top television channels.

One example is a collaboration with Discovery Network in producing the You, Me & Malaysia travelogue series that will be broadcasted on TLC & Discovery Channel in India, Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries.

An ad campaign called the “The Soul of Malaysia”, is currently being aired on several British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) networks in the Asia Pacific, Europe, South Asia and Middle East markets.

‘The Soul of Malaysia’ ad campaign is currently being aired on several BBC networks in the Asia Pacific, Europe, South Asia and Middle East markets.  — Tourism Malaysia‘The Soul of Malaysia’ ad campaign is currently being aired on several BBC networks in the Asia Pacific, Europe, South Asia and Middle East markets. — Tourism Malaysia

“With local friendliness, decent cost of living, quality of local medical care, rich cultural heritage and unique natural attractions alongside fascinating local arts, history and cuisine, we believe Malaysia’s tourism industry has strong competitiveness and unique selling points”.

Helping hand up for tourism operators

A critical part of these sales missions is to bring along as many Malaysian tourism operators who can then market their products to the international market, Ammar says.

As it is expensive to attend these overseas sales missions, the government subsidises about half of the cost for local operators through the Galakan Melancong (GAMELAN) Malaysia initiative.

For instance, when Tourism Malaysian mounts a sales mission abroad the number of hoteliers, product owners and tour agencies that are able to come along is small due to the high cost of the trip, says Ammar.

“This subsidy helps more of them to join us and during the sales mission we create business-to-business sessions where the Malaysian company sells their products to firms in the host country”.

“Without the subsidy we will only get about five Malaysian tourism companies to 50 foreign companies which is an imbalance,” he says.

In order to further help local players build back after two years of lockdown, the government is also giving out grants for them to organise events such as concerts, sports competitions and food fairs that encourage travel.

Under the Tourism Sector Support Grant scheme (GSSP), RM500,000 and RM1 million are given out for domestic and international events, respectively.

“When we used to have just Tourism Malaysia or the ministry creating an event, we would have about 20 per year. But now we expect to have more because the private sector is also organising the events aimed at bringing visitors in”.

Ammar expects the grant to double the amount of events this year and proposals have included cultural festivals, concerts, food carnivals, football clinics, yachting and golf tournaments.

“With careful planning, ongoing efforts, and the gradual reopening of borders, we remain optimistic about the recovery and growth of tourism in Malaysia”.

Follow us on our official WhatsApp channel for breaking news alerts and key updates!

Tourism Malaysia

   

Next In Focus

Red Shirt’s return sparks hope for democratic renewal in Thailand
Fans, showers, icy treats: How Singapore Zoo is helping animals beat the heat
Is AI pushing boundaries or killing creativity?
El Ni�o as agitator of new conflicts in Mindanao
Asean post-2025: Political and security perspective
Jordanians protest nightly against peace deal with Israel amid anger over Gaza war
Defiance and devastation
Narrow margins
As the weather withers
Malaysia’s plastics problem

Others Also Read