Tapping Bollywood glitz to attract Indian tourists

PETALING JAYA: In a bid to further re-energise the country’s tourism sector, the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry has outlined a strategy targeted at the promising Indian market.

By leveraging on a shared cultural heritage, the ministry aims to make Malaysia the favoured destination for India’s globetrotters.A significant part of this initiative involves forging partnerships with leading tour operators in India.

In a statement to The Star, the ministry said that it would be pushing its promotional efforts via online and offline platforms.

This would also include increasing its participation in international trade shows, exhibitions, travel expos and roadshows.

“The ministry will promote Malaysia online and at events like the International Indian Film Academy Awards 2024 (IIFA),” it said.

According to the ministry, the IIFA would be a huge platform to showcase Malaysia to Bollywood’s most prestigious event.

“Our focus is on offering diverse and exciting experiences to Indian tourists, whether they seek urban exploration, beach holidays or family-friendly theme parks. Malaysia is well-positioned to cater to these wide-ranging interests,” it said.

Among the Indian tour operators that the ministry is seeking to work with are DPauls Holidays and online travel agents like Yatra Holidays and Ease My Trip.

“This move ensures a robust online presence, catering to the increasingly digitally-savvy Indian audience,” it said.

Malaysia’s move to attract Indian visitors mirrors that of Thailand as India was the second largest source of tourists to the kingdom last year. Recent reports said about 580,000 Indian travellers visited Thailand between January and May this year.

According to data from the ministry, there were 552,739 Indian tourists to Malaysia in 2017, 600,311 in 2018 and 735,309 in 2019. However, the Covid-19 pandemic caused a huge dent in 2020, resulting in a sharp decline to 155,883.

After Malaysia reopened its borders, the number of Indian tourists who came here last year totalled 324,548, with an average expenditure of RM5,476 per person and an average stay of 6.2 days. As of July this year, the number of Indian tourists visiting Malaysia reached 337,865.

Malaysia Airlines, on its part, has announced plans to expand its connections to India, launching three new routes from next month. These routes – to Amritsar, Trivandrum and Ahmedabad – are being prompted by strong travel demand from India, where the airline has reported an average load factor of 81%.

The carrier flies directly from Kuala Lumpur to six Indian destinations: New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kochi.

Besides India, it said China remains a key market as well.

According to the airline, it would be closely monitoring these regions to expand opportunities, including through aircraft upgrades and increased flight frequencies.

Since China’s reopening in January, the carrier has resumed flights to Guangzhou, Xiamen, Shanghai and Beijing Daxing International Airport, with load factors approaching 70%. In July, it launched codeshare flights with China Southern Airlines between Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 1 and Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport.

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