Diversity; main draw of Malaysian tourism

Malaysia is ready to welcome more visitors as new tourism products are launched and promotions of existing attractions are intensified. Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen says the country is fortunate to be blessed with a string of tourist attractions, products and services catering to visitors of all ages and nationalities. Speaking in conjunction with World Tourism Day today, she says the myriad of attractions available has made Malaysia truly Asia. “Malaysia is truly Asia, in the real sense. From its multi-ethnic society, the country has a diversity of cultures, food, heritage, nature and lifestyle. We are all about diversity.” This year’s World Tourism Day will be hosted by Egypt with the theme “Linking Cultures”.

From the world’s oldest tropical rainforest to one of the world’s most famous diving sites, it is no surprise Malaysia is ranked as one of the 12 “megadiversity” countries of the world by the Convention on Biological Diversity. “For eco-tourism, we have some of the best dive sites, islands, adventure trails and marine parks. “Shopping makes a big impact in tourism earnings. Tourists currently spend 26 per cent per dollar for shopping and we want to increase that to 38 per cent per dollar, so more duty-free goods have been introduced. “There are now almost 300 imported goods on the duty-free list. This is an opportunity to be seized by the private sector who should put in more initiatives like having premium factory outlet stores, of which the first will open in November in Johor,” says Dr Ng.

The Homestay programme, another unique and quality tourism product, provides genuine rural lifestyle experience to tourists, a rarity as modernity creeps in. A successful homestay operator can earn up to RM10,000 and an average of RM2,000 monthly. To push the programme digitally, an application called “Go to Homestay”, a directory of homestays in the country accessible via smartphones, was developed recently. “We are also focusing on schools and tertiary institutions as target market for this programme,” says Dr Ng. MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions) is another big earner.

“If we are going to increase our tourism earnings by 1.5 times, we need to bring in more MICE travellers, as an average business traveller spends up to RM7,000 compared with RM2,300 by a tourist,” says Dr Ng, adding that “Malaysia My Second Home”, aimed at getting expatriates to settle down in Malaysia, is another product to be developed further. Tourism is the country’s fifth biggest economic contributor after oil and gas. Last year, international tourists spent almost RM1 billion a week resulting in RM56.4 billion in revenue from 26.4 million tourists. Tourists from Asean make up the largest number, followed by those from East, South, West and Central Asia, America, Oceania, Europe and Africa. Under the Malaysian Tourism Transformation Plan, the ministry aims to achieve RM168 billion in tourism revenue and 36 million tourists by 2020.

The ministry will also be promoting newer products namely Parks and Gardens, Railway Tourism, 1Malaysia Contemporary Art Tourism (MCAT) festival, Helicopter Tourism, Fabulous Food 1Malaysia and Sports Tourism. “There is money to be made from our parks and gardens. A garden trail comprising 22 gardens has been created, and it has been packaged to tour operators in London recently.” People also tour all over the world to look at paintings and art exhibitions. The first MCAT last year sold RM14.4 million worth of artwork by local artists.

“We have started an art gallery for young Malaysian artists, especially for people with learning disabilities to provide a platform for self-advocacy through art.” Railway tourism aims to create an outburst of tourism activities at small towns connected by trains while helicopter tourism is a high-end product which allows tourists to marvel at Malaysia’s varied terrain and landscapes, skyscrapers and man-made landmarks. Fabulous Food 1Malaysia, meanwhile, is seen as a perfect way to promote Malaysian food through thematic promotions from October to December every year. October has been dedicated for gourmet meals, November for restaurants and December for street food promotions through the 1Malaysia Fabulous Food Programme. Source: blog.drngyenyen.com

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