PETALING JAYA: Seeking out untapped markets to bolster tourist arrivals in the country is the way to go, says tourism industry players.
The tourism experience also needs to be tailored to meet specific needs of these emerging markets.
“Market trends have changed a lot globally. While there is still emphasis on growing our traditional markets, the focus on non-traditional markets is essential to buffer our tourism industry against drastic shifts,” said Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (MATTA) president Nigel Wong.
“MATTA is exploring opportunities in previously untapped regions such as the Balkans and countries like Poland, Estonia and Finland,” he added.
Inbound Tourism Alliance chairman Uzaidi Udanis believes Russia was a potential source of tourists who are willing to spend on travel. Thailand has already received nearly one million Russian visitors this year, he said.
Other non-traditional tourism markets include high-income groups from North African countries like Algeria, and second-tier cities in India.
In addition, he believes that Malaysia should focus on the US market.
“I’ve noticed on social media that many American tourists have praised our culture without negative feedback,” he said, adding that the strong US dollar against the ringgit will also be a lure for such tourists.
Malaysian Chinese Tourism Association president Paul Paw suggested Tourism Malaysia expand its efforts to attract tourists from second-tier cities in places like China, India, Africa, and Europe.
However, he felt domestic tourism facilities needed to be improved, including the collaboration of food and beverage providers, businesses in tourist areas, road enhancements and environmental hygiene.
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He said Malaysian airports need to provide more language services to assist visitors from different countries, while KL International Airport’s aerotrain system had to be reinstated as soon as possible.
Recently, Uzbekistan travel agents have been exploring collaboration with the Sabah Tourism Board (STB) to boost promotion and campaigns.
STB chairman Datuk Joniston Bangkuai, who met Malaysia-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce vice-president Dilsod Elmuradov recently, said they had expressed an interest in promoting Sabah and its attractions.
The Uzbek delegation’s visit included exploring various destinations and conducting hotel inspections in Kota Kinabalu.
They felt Sabah would be an appealing destination for Uzbeks during winter, said Joniston.