Malaysia makes strong pitch for luring more visitors

Reading Time: 6 minutes

a-walk-through-historyMalaysia in the tourism sector is keen to keep pace in the head-on-head race with its increasingly popular neighbour Thailand by strengthening marketing activities in important source countries, easing visa procedures and focusing on promising segments such as shopping, health and halal tourism in order to increase proceeds from visitors.

Malaysia welcomed 29.4 million tourists in 2015 – as per preliminary figures – who brought in $20.7 billion in revenue. In comparison, Thailand officially announced more than 29.88 million visitors in 2015 and proceeds of $61.9 billion, almost triple that of Malaysia. This year, Malaysia expects 30.5 million tourists to contribute some $24 billion, while Thailand readies to cross the 32-million visitor mark and to pocket some $67 billion in tourism revenue, almost 18 per cent of the country’s GDP, partly by focusing on visitors with higher spend. Malaysia, in turn, sees opportunities in capturing revenue, among others, from shopping tourism which, according to official data, made the highest revenue share at 30 per cent of total tourism revenue in the first nine months of last year.

Investvine sat down with Dato’ Haji Azizan Nordin, Deputy Director General (Promotion) at Tourism Malaysia to discuss his strategy for 2016.

Which source markets have grown the most over 2015?

DATUK HJ.AZIZAN NOORDIN 1
Dato’ Haji Azizan Nordin

Dato’ Nordin: Looking at up to September 2015, Taiwan and South Korea have been doing quite well. Continuation on promotion and good offers from airlines played a big role for the steady increase in tourist arrivals from these two countries. Jin Air and Eastar Jet offered more seats and frequencies from South Korea to Malaysia. AirAsia also started flying from Kaohsiung besides Taipei. This helps to bring more Taiwanese tourists from the south of the country to Malaysia. Strong tactical advertising campaigns also helps to keep Malaysia as top-of-mind holiday destination. Other markets that are recovering include Indonesia, Thailand and India. China also showed promising growth after the aviation incident in 2014, since exclusive promotion programmes were held there.

Are you expecting to hit your target number of arrivals for 2015 since numbers in the first quarter compared with 2014 showed a significant decrease? What are the strategies that were used as stated by the tourism ministry to increase these numbers by year-end?

Dato’ Nordin: We are focusing on reviewing some travel formalities which can boost demand and increase arrivals immediately. The introduction of the e-visa as announced in the recent budget speech is expected to provide a boost for the South Asian and Chinesea markets which will contribute to growth. The focus of our promotion is still in the ASEAN region, as well as on Australia and New Zealand for medium-haul high-end travelers.

Furthermore, the Malaysia Association of Hotels, the Malaysia Association of Travel & Tour Agents and state tourism associations and authorities are pulling our resources and activities together even more for greater synergy and economic impact.

We are also putting more emphasis on social media, online media and digital marketing, as this makes communication cheaper and enables us to reach a wider audience. This is the reason why Tourism Malaysia recently introduced the Deputy Director General of Advertising and Digital position in its new organisational structure. It will focus on advertising in digital media, as well as keeping up with the development of information technology and social media in general. Despite a big budget cut, advertisements in key markets and general global promotion will remain, but costs will be monitored from time to time.

Another aspect it that we received some 260 charter flights last year mainly from second-tier cities in China such as Kunming, Chengdu, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Wuhan and a few others. We are also working closely with airlines such as China Eastern Airlines, China Airlines and of course AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines.

What are the goals for 2016 and are there any markets you will specifically target?

Dato’ Nordin: For 2016, our targets are 30.5 million tourist arrivals and receipt of 103 billion ringgit [$24 billion]. The focus has always been on short-haul markets such as our neighbouring countries as from there most of our tourists are from. We are also focusing on the medium-haul markets such as India, China, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and South Korea as they have been showing a great potential in the recent years.

Malaysia recently unveiled tourism guidelines to become more “Muslim-friendly” – what exactly does this mean for Muslims and non-Muslims alike?

Dato’ Nordin: As you are aware, Malaysia is a Muslim country and Kuala Lumpur was ranked second in the most Muslim-friendly holiday destinations under the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation destination category by Mastercard-CrescentRating’s Global Muslim Travel Industry 2015 ranking recently, thus making it easy and comfortable for Muslim travelers from around the world to visit Malaysia. All of our fast food outlets serve halal food, thus making it easier for Muslim tourists to enjoy dining, which is true for all the non-Muslim tourists too. On top of that, being a multiracial country with people from various religious backgrounds and races living harmoniously together, it is also very easy for non-Muslim tourists to enjoy the country in their own way.

What other products offerings or packages can we expect to see in 2016?

Popular golf spots throughout Malaysia
Popular golf spots throughout Malaysia

Dato’ Nordin: Besides mass tourists, we are also trying to focus on niche tourism products such as sports including motoring and others, golfing, bird watching, medical and wellness as well as shopping. Malaysia has been named Asia’s best golf destination at the World Golf Award in 2014, and Els Club Teluk Datai Langkawi was named World’s Best New Golf Course. With award-winning golf courses to choose from, tourist can tee off in any state in Malaysia.

Apart from that, shopping will be continuously promoted. In that context, Penang has made Malaysia proud as it clinched the rank 9 at the Top 10 Muslim Travel Shopping index ahead of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

With the recently completed double tracking rail system from Kuala Lumpur to the borders of Thailand, rail tourism is something we are starting to promote too. Tourists can buy packages which will allow them to stop at various places along the way. The journey is much faster now with the new electric train. This will help to bring more tourists from Thailand once fully operational.

Medical tourism to Asia-Pacific is expected to hit the $20 billion mark by 2019. Malaysia, despite seemingly having all the ingredients, continues to lag behind other nations in Asia with Thailand leading the way. What is the reason for this, in your opinion? 

Dato’ Nordin: Malaysia offers high-quality tourism experience at competitive prices, and this is also true for medical tourism. We offer high-quality medical facilities and services with some of the latest technologies at a very reasonable price. This is proven through the numerous awards won such as Public Private Partnership Medical Travel Destination of The Year Award at 8th Annual World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress in Orlando, Florida, as well as Medical Travel Destination of the Year at the International Medical Travel Journal Medical Travel Awards 2015 held at the Royal Garden Hotel in London on 15 April 2015, to name a few. Over the years, Malaysia has seen a steady growth in medical tourism. To show how important medical tourism is for Malaysia, a special council, the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council, was established in 2009 to coordinate and facilitate health care matters so that anyone who is looking to have medical treatment in Malaysia can get assistance with visa, choosing hospitals and getting quotations as well as activities for their family members while they are in Malaysia. In 2011, some 641,000 medical travelers came to Malaysia for treatments. In 2014, the number increased by 241,000 people, making a total of 882,000 travelers who chose Malaysia as their preferred healthcare destination. This shows that Malaysia is one of the preferred destinations for healthcare.

Thailand and Singapore generate more per-capita revenue from tourists. In Thailand’s case almost triple the revenue. How do you plan to address this?

Shopping contributed to 30% of revenue generated for tourism in 2015 - Bukit Bintang pictured captured 20% of that revenue
Shopping contributed to 30% of revenue generated for tourism in 2015 – Bukit Bintang pictured captured 20% of that revenue

Dato’ Nordin: We are trying to increase the revenue to match the arrivals. For example, we are focusing on increasing the length of stay of tourists, which is currently 5.8 nights. Besides that we are also promoting luxury holiday and products such as luxury hotel stays, private check-in and better quality facilities at some of our favourite destinations such as Langkawi Island, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Perhentian Island off the coast of Terengganu which is being upgraded as a luxury island gateway. Our 4- and 5-star hotels are much more affordable as compared to our neighbours’.

Besides that, shopping is a major component for tourist expenditure. As mention earlier, we won several awards as a shopping destinations. Besides that, with more world-class malls and factory outlets opening across Malaysia, tourists have more options to shop and grab the bargains offered especially during the shopping carnivals which are held three times a year in March, June and December. Malaysia is currently also a value-for-money destination due to our currency depreciation. Tourists can get more from every dollar they spend.

It seems that despite the ASEAN Economic Community, or AEC, being formally declared, the transition by member nation will be a slow and carefully thought-out process. What changes do you expect in 2016 within the tourism industry as a result of the AEC launch? What are some of the investment opportunities occurring within the industry?

Dato’ Nordin: Since the tourism industry is flourishing in Malaysia and the region, there are many investment opportunities available. One of the best investment opportunities would be to build new hotels both at beaches and in cities. There are several international hotel brands that will be opening their doors to tourists in Malaysia in 2016. Among them are the St. Regis Kuala Lumpur and the St. Regis Langkawi, as well as the Le’ Meridian Putrajaya and the Best Western Genting Highlands.

Besides that, factory outlets are gaining momentum in the country. We have Johor Premium Outlets in Johor which opened in 2011 and has become a favourite among Singaporean tourists. A Japanese brand, Mitsui Outlet Park, opened its first phase for business in mid-2015 just six kilometers from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Tourists who are waiting for connecting flights can shop and dine there. The newest factory outlet is Freeport A’Famosa Outlet in the state of Melaka. With more than 100 retail outlets, once fully completed, tourists will be spoilt with choices.

Theme parks are also becoming more popular. Legoland and Sunway Lagoon are some of the big names among theme parks. Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon in Sunway Lagoon will be the first of its kind in Asia and is expected to be opened in 2016. The 20th Century Fox World theme park in Genting Highlands will be the first of its kind in the world and is also expected to be open its doors in 2016. Genting’s First World Hotel will have 8,300 rooms once fully completed, making it the largest hotel in the world.

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

Malaysia in the tourism sector is keen to keep pace in the head-on-head race with its increasingly popular neighbour Thailand by strengthening marketing activities in important source countries, easing visa procedures and focusing on promising segments such as shopping, health and halal tourism in order to increase proceeds from visitors.

Reading Time: 6 minutes

a-walk-through-historyMalaysia in the tourism sector is keen to keep pace in the head-on-head race with its increasingly popular neighbour Thailand by strengthening marketing activities in important source countries, easing visa procedures and focusing on promising segments such as shopping, health and halal tourism in order to increase proceeds from visitors.

Malaysia welcomed 29.4 million tourists in 2015 – as per preliminary figures – who brought in $20.7 billion in revenue. In comparison, Thailand officially announced more than 29.88 million visitors in 2015 and proceeds of $61.9 billion, almost triple that of Malaysia. This year, Malaysia expects 30.5 million tourists to contribute some $24 billion, while Thailand readies to cross the 32-million visitor mark and to pocket some $67 billion in tourism revenue, almost 18 per cent of the country’s GDP, partly by focusing on visitors with higher spend. Malaysia, in turn, sees opportunities in capturing revenue, among others, from shopping tourism which, according to official data, made the highest revenue share at 30 per cent of total tourism revenue in the first nine months of last year.

Investvine sat down with Dato’ Haji Azizan Nordin, Deputy Director General (Promotion) at Tourism Malaysia to discuss his strategy for 2016.

Which source markets have grown the most over 2015?

DATUK HJ.AZIZAN NOORDIN 1
Dato’ Haji Azizan Nordin

Dato’ Nordin: Looking at up to September 2015, Taiwan and South Korea have been doing quite well. Continuation on promotion and good offers from airlines played a big role for the steady increase in tourist arrivals from these two countries. Jin Air and Eastar Jet offered more seats and frequencies from South Korea to Malaysia. AirAsia also started flying from Kaohsiung besides Taipei. This helps to bring more Taiwanese tourists from the south of the country to Malaysia. Strong tactical advertising campaigns also helps to keep Malaysia as top-of-mind holiday destination. Other markets that are recovering include Indonesia, Thailand and India. China also showed promising growth after the aviation incident in 2014, since exclusive promotion programmes were held there.

Are you expecting to hit your target number of arrivals for 2015 since numbers in the first quarter compared with 2014 showed a significant decrease? What are the strategies that were used as stated by the tourism ministry to increase these numbers by year-end?

Dato’ Nordin: We are focusing on reviewing some travel formalities which can boost demand and increase arrivals immediately. The introduction of the e-visa as announced in the recent budget speech is expected to provide a boost for the South Asian and Chinesea markets which will contribute to growth. The focus of our promotion is still in the ASEAN region, as well as on Australia and New Zealand for medium-haul high-end travelers.

Furthermore, the Malaysia Association of Hotels, the Malaysia Association of Travel & Tour Agents and state tourism associations and authorities are pulling our resources and activities together even more for greater synergy and economic impact.

We are also putting more emphasis on social media, online media and digital marketing, as this makes communication cheaper and enables us to reach a wider audience. This is the reason why Tourism Malaysia recently introduced the Deputy Director General of Advertising and Digital position in its new organisational structure. It will focus on advertising in digital media, as well as keeping up with the development of information technology and social media in general. Despite a big budget cut, advertisements in key markets and general global promotion will remain, but costs will be monitored from time to time.

Another aspect it that we received some 260 charter flights last year mainly from second-tier cities in China such as Kunming, Chengdu, Fuzhou, Guangzhou, Wuhan and a few others. We are also working closely with airlines such as China Eastern Airlines, China Airlines and of course AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines.

What are the goals for 2016 and are there any markets you will specifically target?

Dato’ Nordin: For 2016, our targets are 30.5 million tourist arrivals and receipt of 103 billion ringgit [$24 billion]. The focus has always been on short-haul markets such as our neighbouring countries as from there most of our tourists are from. We are also focusing on the medium-haul markets such as India, China, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and South Korea as they have been showing a great potential in the recent years.

Malaysia recently unveiled tourism guidelines to become more “Muslim-friendly” – what exactly does this mean for Muslims and non-Muslims alike?

Dato’ Nordin: As you are aware, Malaysia is a Muslim country and Kuala Lumpur was ranked second in the most Muslim-friendly holiday destinations under the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation destination category by Mastercard-CrescentRating’s Global Muslim Travel Industry 2015 ranking recently, thus making it easy and comfortable for Muslim travelers from around the world to visit Malaysia. All of our fast food outlets serve halal food, thus making it easier for Muslim tourists to enjoy dining, which is true for all the non-Muslim tourists too. On top of that, being a multiracial country with people from various religious backgrounds and races living harmoniously together, it is also very easy for non-Muslim tourists to enjoy the country in their own way.

What other products offerings or packages can we expect to see in 2016?

Popular golf spots throughout Malaysia
Popular golf spots throughout Malaysia

Dato’ Nordin: Besides mass tourists, we are also trying to focus on niche tourism products such as sports including motoring and others, golfing, bird watching, medical and wellness as well as shopping. Malaysia has been named Asia’s best golf destination at the World Golf Award in 2014, and Els Club Teluk Datai Langkawi was named World’s Best New Golf Course. With award-winning golf courses to choose from, tourist can tee off in any state in Malaysia.

Apart from that, shopping will be continuously promoted. In that context, Penang has made Malaysia proud as it clinched the rank 9 at the Top 10 Muslim Travel Shopping index ahead of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

With the recently completed double tracking rail system from Kuala Lumpur to the borders of Thailand, rail tourism is something we are starting to promote too. Tourists can buy packages which will allow them to stop at various places along the way. The journey is much faster now with the new electric train. This will help to bring more tourists from Thailand once fully operational.

Medical tourism to Asia-Pacific is expected to hit the $20 billion mark by 2019. Malaysia, despite seemingly having all the ingredients, continues to lag behind other nations in Asia with Thailand leading the way. What is the reason for this, in your opinion? 

Dato’ Nordin: Malaysia offers high-quality tourism experience at competitive prices, and this is also true for medical tourism. We offer high-quality medical facilities and services with some of the latest technologies at a very reasonable price. This is proven through the numerous awards won such as Public Private Partnership Medical Travel Destination of The Year Award at 8th Annual World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress in Orlando, Florida, as well as Medical Travel Destination of the Year at the International Medical Travel Journal Medical Travel Awards 2015 held at the Royal Garden Hotel in London on 15 April 2015, to name a few. Over the years, Malaysia has seen a steady growth in medical tourism. To show how important medical tourism is for Malaysia, a special council, the Malaysia Healthcare Travel Council, was established in 2009 to coordinate and facilitate health care matters so that anyone who is looking to have medical treatment in Malaysia can get assistance with visa, choosing hospitals and getting quotations as well as activities for their family members while they are in Malaysia. In 2011, some 641,000 medical travelers came to Malaysia for treatments. In 2014, the number increased by 241,000 people, making a total of 882,000 travelers who chose Malaysia as their preferred healthcare destination. This shows that Malaysia is one of the preferred destinations for healthcare.

Thailand and Singapore generate more per-capita revenue from tourists. In Thailand’s case almost triple the revenue. How do you plan to address this?

Shopping contributed to 30% of revenue generated for tourism in 2015 - Bukit Bintang pictured captured 20% of that revenue
Shopping contributed to 30% of revenue generated for tourism in 2015 – Bukit Bintang pictured captured 20% of that revenue

Dato’ Nordin: We are trying to increase the revenue to match the arrivals. For example, we are focusing on increasing the length of stay of tourists, which is currently 5.8 nights. Besides that we are also promoting luxury holiday and products such as luxury hotel stays, private check-in and better quality facilities at some of our favourite destinations such as Langkawi Island, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Perhentian Island off the coast of Terengganu which is being upgraded as a luxury island gateway. Our 4- and 5-star hotels are much more affordable as compared to our neighbours’.

Besides that, shopping is a major component for tourist expenditure. As mention earlier, we won several awards as a shopping destinations. Besides that, with more world-class malls and factory outlets opening across Malaysia, tourists have more options to shop and grab the bargains offered especially during the shopping carnivals which are held three times a year in March, June and December. Malaysia is currently also a value-for-money destination due to our currency depreciation. Tourists can get more from every dollar they spend.

It seems that despite the ASEAN Economic Community, or AEC, being formally declared, the transition by member nation will be a slow and carefully thought-out process. What changes do you expect in 2016 within the tourism industry as a result of the AEC launch? What are some of the investment opportunities occurring within the industry?

Dato’ Nordin: Since the tourism industry is flourishing in Malaysia and the region, there are many investment opportunities available. One of the best investment opportunities would be to build new hotels both at beaches and in cities. There are several international hotel brands that will be opening their doors to tourists in Malaysia in 2016. Among them are the St. Regis Kuala Lumpur and the St. Regis Langkawi, as well as the Le’ Meridian Putrajaya and the Best Western Genting Highlands.

Besides that, factory outlets are gaining momentum in the country. We have Johor Premium Outlets in Johor which opened in 2011 and has become a favourite among Singaporean tourists. A Japanese brand, Mitsui Outlet Park, opened its first phase for business in mid-2015 just six kilometers from Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Tourists who are waiting for connecting flights can shop and dine there. The newest factory outlet is Freeport A’Famosa Outlet in the state of Melaka. With more than 100 retail outlets, once fully completed, tourists will be spoilt with choices.

Theme parks are also becoming more popular. Legoland and Sunway Lagoon are some of the big names among theme parks. Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon in Sunway Lagoon will be the first of its kind in Asia and is expected to be opened in 2016. The 20th Century Fox World theme park in Genting Highlands will be the first of its kind in the world and is also expected to be open its doors in 2016. Genting’s First World Hotel will have 8,300 rooms once fully completed, making it the largest hotel in the world.

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