Local campaigns, currency woes driving home-ground holidays
PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s domestic tourism looks set to end the year with a bang, with data showing the Jom Cuti-Cuti Malaysia 2023 campaign making significant gains.
There was a jump in the number of Malaysians opting for local holidays in view of a surge in global airfares and other rising costs associated with international travel.
“It is undeniable that Malaysians are increasingly preferring domestic travel. We are targeting total sales of RM12mil this year,” said Tourism Malaysia director-general Datuk Dr Ammar Abd Ghapar.
With its offers of attractive domestic travel packages, the Jom Cuti-Cuti Malaysia campaign this year – the eighth in a series – is aimed at stimulating domestic tourism and encouraging Malaysians to holiday on home ground.
According to the Statistics Department, the number of domestic tourists in Malaysia jumped 20% to 54.5 million in the second quarter of this year compared with the corresponding period last year. This was also a 12% increase from the first quarter of this year.
Last year, domestic visitors totalled 171.6 million, a 160% increase from the 66 million visitors in the previous year.
Domestic tourism expenditure for the second quarter of this year was recorded at RM21.9bil, up 23.9% year-on-year and 13.9% quarter-on-quarter.
The figures also showed that the 2022 domestic tourism expenditure of RM64.1bil was a big leap of 248.1% from RM18.4bil in 2021, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Malaysia.
Since the transition to the endemic stage, Statistics Department data showed that all states in Malaysia recorded positive visitor numbers and tourism receipts.
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Despite the upward trend in domestic tourism, not least because of the lower value of the ringgit, Tourism Malaysia remains cautious in view of the possible impact of external factors such as exchange rate fluctuations and global uncertainties.
Ammar pointed out that currency fluctuations are an inherent aspect of the global economic environment.
The effects, he said, could be wide-ranging.
“A weaker currency can make a destination more affordable for foreign tourists, potentially attracting more visitors. On the other hand, a significantly volatile or weakening currency may raise concerns about inflation or economic instability, deterring potential tourists from visiting,” he explained.
Inbound Tourism Alliance chairman Uzaidi Udanis acknowledged that the demand for domestic tourism had increased this year, thanks to Tourism Malaysia’s promotions.
“We anticipate more Malaysians engaging in domestic travel during the peak season next month,” he said.
To further boost local tourism, he urged the government to extend incentives such as tax relief for domestic tourists, similar to the previous income tax relief for eligible travellers for expenses of up to RM1,000.
Uzaidi said the price of domestic travel packages now had not changed much from three years ago before the pandemic began.
This is because travel agencies had been cautious about adjusting the cost of their travel packages, amid the fluctuating currency exchange rate and dynamic ticket pricing by airlines, he added.
Since airfares are dynamic, he said tour agencies were not able to “lock” ticket prices with airlines.
However, he said that these businesses could still sustain their operations at the prevailing ringgit exchange rate against the US dollar.
Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents president Nigel Wong said Malaysians were choosing to holiday locally because it was cheaper.
As for those who opted to go abroad, he said that many of these travellers were picking destinations closer to home, such as those around South-East Asia.
He attributed this to the spike in airfares.
“December is the peak travel season, so to attract more customers, travel agencies are currently refraining from adjusting the prices of their travel packages,” he said.
Factors contributing to cost adjustments would include transportation charges mainly from flight prices, accommodations, and ground tours.
“This results in a wide range of prices, largely influenced by the traveller’s intended destination,” Wong said.
As such, he said the overall affordability of overseas travel had been significantly affected.