Efforts underway to woo new countries, second-tier cities

Warm hospitality: The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry says it is shifting away from the capital cities of Asean nations to lesser-known ones to promote Malaysian tourism. — AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

PETALING JAYA: With the post-pandemic period affecting tourism, Malaysia is now looking at new countries and second-tier cities across Asean countries to woo visitors.

Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines have been the long-standing cornerstones of Malaysia’s tourism industry. These six nations have ranked among the top 10 contributors to international tourist arrivals, accounting for approximately 74% of the market share.

However, there will now be a shift away from the capital cities to lesser-known ones, said the Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry.

“Promotional activities have increased in cities like Balikpapan, Makassar, Lombok and Manado in Indonesia. In the Philippines, the focus has shifted to Davao and Palawan. Vietnam’s northeast region, especially Hai Phong, Danang and Hue City, are also being prioritised ahead of spots like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

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“Tourism Malaysia also recently held a seminar in Siem Reap in Cambodia, and has extended promotional activities in Laos beyond Vientiane to the provinces of Sannakh and Champasak,” it added.

Broadening the geographic focus, non-traditional markets now being targeted include Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, North African nations like Egypt, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco, as well as countries within the BRICS alliance and Eastern Europe, particularly Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria.

To attract a wide range of tourism types, Malaysia is diversifying market segments, including gastronomic tourism, bird watching, heritage and archaeology tours, as well as Muslim-friendly travel.

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Additionally, the nation aims to attract student groups and corporate/business travel.

In addition to the efforts of the ministry and Tourism Board, Malaysia Airports is also enhancing passenger experience and operational efficiency for both domestic and international flights.

Malaysia Airlines, as the national carrier, aims to offer convenient routes and services and has seen a significant 90% recovery in its passenger volume since the pandemic.

The airline plans to gradually increase its capacity, with full recovery anticipated by next year.

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“We’re observing an even growth in both domestic and international traffic. Our network recovery is mainly driven by the domestic market, especially in Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.

“Long-haul destinations like Australia and India also have a strong load factor. We plan to incrementally increase our capacity in 2023 as the demand recovers, with full recovery by 2024,” it said.

Direct flights from Malaysia to Kertajati in Indonesia are now available, increasing connectivity to cities such as Jakarta, Denpasar, Medan, Yogyakarta, Pekanbaru and Surabaya.

Malaysia Airlines also has three new routes to Amritsar, Trivandrum and Ahmedabad in India and gearing up to amplify flight frequency to other key markets. It is also increasing weekly flights from Kuala Lumpur to cities such as Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong in China, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Melbourne and Sydney.

Malaysia Airports’ chief operating officer Gordon Andrew Stewart said several measures had been implemented to improve travellers’ experience.

He said Malaysia Airports had introduced comprehensive multilingual support at some of its airport premises to cater to the needs of travellers.

This involves the provision of signage in Bahasa Malaysia, English, Mandarin and Arabic, ensuring smoother navigation and targeted assistance for all travellers.

Stewart also said tourist help desk counters are actively being set up at key airports such as those in Penang, Langkawi, Kuching and Kota Kinabalu.

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