PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is a popular place for tourists looking to stay at beachfront hotels and islands, but to get more visitors, local authorities and lodging operators need to do more, especially providing better facilities and ensuring the beaches are kept clean.
Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) president Datin Christina Toh said Malaysia’s beaches and beachfront hotels have remained popular with tourists as they are blessed with great natural beauty, a vibrant sea life and tasty local cuisines.
She said it is important that local municipalities and hotels continue to preserve beaches besides improving logistics and accessibility to island destinations, maintaining upkeep and cleanliness of beaches as well as ensuring safety measures for beach and water activities be improved to attract more tourism dollars.
“Aside from preserving the natural beauty, increasing the number of activities and events at the beach is a must to ensure that it remains vibrant and appealing.
“Safety standard operating procedures (SOP) at the beach must also be enforced to ensure the tourists’ confidence. The cleanliness of the beach also needs to be maintained by the beach hotels and local municipalities,” said Toh.
Hotel occupancy rates at popular beachfront locations across Malaysia are filling up and with the visa-free initiative for Chinese and Indian tourists, hoteliers are expecting more tourists.
However, hotel operators say much improvements must be done to support tourist arrivals, which reached 26 million as of Nov 15.
Meanwhile, Tourism Malaysia says it is also working vigorously to promote more tourist destinations, including island holidays, in anticipation of the influx of visitors from China and India effective this month.
According to the MAH, the top five beachfront destinations in no particular order remain: Desaru in Johor, Port Dickson in Negri Sembilan, Batu Ferringhi in Penang, Langkawi in Kedah as well as beaches in Sabah and Sarawak.
Toh said the hotel industry is prepared to welcome an influx of tourists following the 30-day visa-free travel initiative for visitors from China and India which started on Dec 1 and is valid until Dec 31, 2024.
“With the expected increase of tourists, airlines can also consider chartering new or reinstate direct flights to our country expanding the connectivity of our country,” she said.
Toh added that if the visa exemption process is executed efficiently, it can attract a significant flow of foreign currency from these countries.
“This comes at a strategic time, considering our current low exchange rate, which could significantly encourage their spending,” she said.
Besides holidaymakers, some avid anglers are also a big fan of Malaysian waters and beaches and hope for this rare tourism product to gain more traction.
Professional fishing guide Jacky Chang, 48, who has been conducting guided fishing tours around Malaysia for 15 years, said his customers are mostly from China and Japan, with some from Europe and the United States, as well as locals.
“The related facilities certainly play a role. They reflect the maturity of the local fishing industry chain. Only with complete facilities can more domestic and foreign anglers be attracted to visit, thus spurring the local economy,” he said in an interview.
While fishing charters are not very common in Malaysia, Chang said a popular fishing destination with comprehensive facilities would attract more anglers.
“This includes convenient transportation, comfortable accommodation, dining options, well-designed docks for safe boarding and disembarking, public restrooms, trash bins and fishing boats with adequate safety measures and professional captains. These are all part of the fishing tourism service chain facilities,” he said.
While his fishing spots are mainly dependent on weather and fishing season, some of Chang and his colleagues’ favoured places include Endau in Johor; Kuala Rompin, Pekan and Pulau Tioman in Pahang; and Lake Temenggor at Royal Belum state park in Perak.
Chang, an avid angler for 40 years in the shallow sea, deep sea, freshwater, mountain streams and abroad, said he primarily focuses on sport fishing using lures.
Based on Immigration Department statistics recorded from Jan 1 to Nov 15, some 26 million foreigners have visited Malaysia, with Singapore topping the list with 12.6 million visits.
This is followed by Indonesia at 3.1 million, Thailand (2.07 million), China (1.4 million), Brunei (904,841) and India (78,532).