Tourist arrivals still behind pre-pandemic levels, says Tourism Malaysia

-The Star filepic

PETALING JAYA: Recognising the pivotal role that tourism plays in the country's economic landscape, the Tourism Malaysia board of directors emphasises that tourist arrivals still significantly lag behind pre-pandemic levels.

In a statement, the board noted that as the fifth largest contributor to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the tourism sector held substantial economic importance.

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"Despite commendable progress in tourist arrivals and receipts, these figures continue to fall considerably short of pre-pandemic levels.

"Maintaining competitiveness with our neighbouring countries remains imperative," it said.

In response to extensive feedback from industry stakeholders, state representatives, and the general public, it was evident that the tourism sector and its promotional strategies required substantial improvement.

The board said it wholeheartedly supported the strategic change of direction initiated by the Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister and his Ministry.

"We are committed to providing constructive feedback and guidance to ensure the effective implementation of these strategies, with an emphasis on good governance and transparency throughout the process," it said.

This statement followed the sudden termination of Datuk Dr Ammar Abd Ghapar as the Director-General of Tourism Malaysia, causing ripples throughout the industry.

ALSO READ: Ammar now Tourism Malaysia deputy DG due to under-performance, says Tiong

After Ammar's demotion as Deputy Director-General (Planning), Tourism, Arts, and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing clarified that Ammar was not sacked but demoted due to underperformance, with no connection to racism.

"Since he couldn't perform well, I decided that whoever is capable should take on the role, and if someone is incapable, step down to give others an opportunity," said Tiong.

The notice of termination, signed by Tiong, was dated Feb 22, with the effective date set for Monday (Feb 26).

Ammar, who assumed the Director-General role in April last year, was slated to retire in February 2025.

He, previously the senior director of Tourism Malaysia's International Promotion Division (Americas, Europe, and Oceania), took over from Datuk Zainuddin Abdul Wahab, who retired on April 10, 2023.

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