Govt urged to look into alternative tourism ideas to attract visitors from China
KUALA LUMPUR: With the upcoming October Golden Week, a peak travel time for Chinese travellers, the Malaysian tourism sector has urged the government to intensify its promotions and adapt them to attract this major pool.
Malaysian Inbound Tourism Association (Mita) president Uzaidi Udanis said the industry wants the government to step up its efforts to boost the tourism sector, especially ahead of the week-long break when Chinese citizens flock overseas for holidays.
“We hope to see more promotions from Tourism Malaysia.
“Lately, I have seen Chinese tourists preferring not to move in large groups but smaller ones using mainly vans or cars.
“This different style of travel has been on the rise and is likely to continue right through the Golden Week,” he said.
In recent years, China’s Golden Week (Oct 1-7), which commemorates its National Day holiday, has become a catalyst for promoting public travel, boosting tourism, and stimulating consumption.
Uzaidi said challenges remain, especially for larger tour groups, despite an increase in flights by Malaysia Airlines and others.
He said he has observed that instead of just visiting the usual spots, more travellers are lured by places like Taman Negara and events such as marathons, especially during the September-October season.
“We need to encourage our members to offer something different to tourists. We could teach them Malaysian dances or provide experiences like learning about Malaysian padi fields, food farms and durian farming.”
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Nigel Wong said Malaysia was popular among Chinese tourists.
“Our Chinese counterparts have told us that Malaysia remains in demand among their nationals. I think they’re just waiting for the opportunity when more of them can fly out,” he said.
Wong acknowledged the current limitations imposed by travel restrictions.
“At the moment, even if they promote Malaysia to the Chinese, the number that can exit the country is still minimal, so this will take some time.
“Even though it’s National Day there, it will take time before the Chinese can travel out fully.
“So, as we do our promotions now, we could expect to see a gradual increase towards the end of the year,” he added.
Malaysia Aviation Group chief commercial officer of airlines Dersenish Aresandiran said Malaysia Airlines has experienced a significant post-pandemic resurgence and recovery.
“Reopening the Chinese and North Asian markets has contributed to our progress, allowing us to reach about 90% of our pre-pandemic levels,” he said.
Malaysia Inbound Chinese Association president Datuk Dr Angie Ng said the tourism industry is well prepared to welcome Golden Week holidaymakers, even though the sector has not fully recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic.
“With fewer direct flights, the number of travellers during this period may not reach previous heights. “But we are confident that Malaysia remains one of the preferred destinations for Chinese nationals,” she said.
On the plus side, Golden Week coincides with the durian season, which will entice tourists to visit Malaysian orchards to savour the tropical fruit, she added.
Agreeing with Uzaidi, Ng said the Chinese travel patterns have shifted towards smaller group tours and high-end accommodations.
“Nowadays, they like booking flights and hotels individually, rather than going through local agencies for tour packages,” she said.
Ng also said Chinese tourists now tend to stay for fewer days in Malaysia than before, attributing the trend to younger Chinese visitors preferring focused, shorter (four-day-three-night) trips to six- or seven-day packages.
“Some Chinese tourists will hop over to Kota Kinabalu and Langkawi for a quick trip,” she added.
According to Tourism Malaysia, between January and June this year, there were 498,540 tourist arrivals from China, or 5.4% of the total recorded in the country.
Among the top 10 countries, China was rated fourth after Singapore (42.4%), Indonesia (15.8%) and Thailand (8.4%).
The rest came from Brunei (4.4%), India (3.1%), Vietnam (1.8%), Australia (1.6%), the Philippines (1.6%) and the United Kingdom (1.3%).
Durian orchard owner Stephen Chow said an increasing number of Chinese tourists had been drawn to his farm through social media promotions.
Previously, they collaborated with local travel agencies to bring tourists to their orchards to dig into fresh durian, but things started to change this year.
“There have been fewer tourists from travel agencies.
“Now, Chinese visitors contact us via social media platforms to arrange for visits and to savour the King of Fruits,” said Chow.
Noting the impact of climate on harvests, he said the durian season in Raub (Pahang) and Johor has been extended due to delayed ripening, with the harvesting expected to last from now to November or early December.