As leisure travel ramps up, one noticeable trend is that travellers
are increasingly shunning pre-packaged, bucket-list tours in favour of
immersive experiences. So how can Malaysia leverage on the
make-your-own, do-your-own, more-than-generic sightseeing trend?
Look to the melting pot for culinary inspiration
One, capitalise on Malaysia’s enviable food diversity, courtesy of its ethnic melting pot.
“Malaysia has a lot to offer considering how rich our food history
is,” says Dexter Lim, founder of Malaysian-made D’Artisan Handmade
Cheese that fuses local flavours such as Kerabu, Gula Melaka and Cili
Padi into premium cheeses.
D'Artisan Handmade Cheese hosts cheese-tasting workshops that allow guests to sample local cheeses created with raw unpasteurised, hormone-free, antibiotic-free milk. Photo Credit: D'Artisan Handmade Cheese
Dexter offers cheese tasting at his shop, and also partners with
local establishments like independent malls (Publika) and grocer (Qra)
to bring cheese tasting experiences to guests.
Similarly, Kedai Coklat’s chocolate tasting introduces guests to
Malaysia cacao beans while supporting local Malaysian chocolate
“Not many people know that Malaysia grows some of the best cacaos,
especially in Kelantan and Kota Marudu,” says owner Michael Woo. “Yet
this is the kind of experience that would attract foodies on a food
There's K-beauty, so why not M-beauty?
Two, think beauty and wellness. Just as tourists make a beeline to
Seoul’s Myeongdong for K-beauty, Malaysia could tap into its own local
health and beauty traditions.
Travellers can tour the bedak sejuk factory in Balik Pulau to learn more about the laborious process of manufacturing this traditional Malay beauty product. Photo Credit: Chengwoh.sg
For instance, in Balik Pulau, Penang tourists in-the-know participate
in the traditional making of rice powder or what the locals call “bedak
“Malaysia does not lack experiences because we have a rich cultural
heritage, but frequently these are a hidden secret and not listed in the
local travel booklet or guides,” says tour guide Jeremy Mak.
Make the most out of Malaysia's mosques
Three, explore spirituality. One interesting government-backed
initiative is Islamic Tourism Centre’s (ITC) Mosque Tourism. ITC is an
entity under the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture.
“Mosque tourism enables guests to visit and experience the unique
heritage, architecture and historical value of the mosques in the
country, and also to learn about the lifestyle and culture of the local
community,” said Dato' Dr Mohmed Razip Hasan, director general, Islamic
Putra Mosque in Putrajaya is increasing in popularity among tourists. Photo Credit: GettyImages/Kapook2981
ITC observed that the post-pandemic travel behaviour points to a
preference for meaningful experiences and opportunities to engage with
Response to mosque tourism has been positive, with iconic mosques
such as Putra Mosque, and Masjid Negara and Masjid Wilayah in Kuala
Lumpur, proving to be among the popular attractions.
During a mosque visit, guests get to observe congregational prayers,
experience the ablution process, participate in Muslim celebrations such
as iftar (breaking of fast) and qiyam (night prayer) during Ramadan,
and Eid festivities, as well as experience Muslim wedding ceremonies.
Boost awareness of unique experiences
However, there are challenges. One is expanding awareness of the product and experience.
“We do find it tough to get the word out to broaden product
awareness,” acknowledged cheesemaker Dexter, but judicious use of social
media and partnerships – such as with tour agencies and tourism boards –
can be an effective solution. It’s also one of the reasons why, despite
Malaysia being a durian haven, there remains little by way of
experiencing durian tasting.
Another challenge for artisans and craftmakers is the language
barrier. “The storytelling makes it engaging, but I’ve met traders who
are shy or lack confidence to speak even when they have a great product.
It’s great when tour guides act as intermediaries, but to scale, that’s
where I believe the industry can benefit from collaborations with
tourism boards – perhaps even helping these traders to digitalise and
tell their stories effectively,” adds Mak.
On that note, ITC encourages efforts by tourism industry players to
collaborate on initiatives to create unique and localised experiences.
“Travel has become increasingly competitive, and destinations need to
make themselves stand out by focusing on localised and personalised
experiences. ITC would like to see more mosques, local communities,
entrepreneurs and unique product owners work together with tourism
industry stakeholders to develop these local experiences that will not
only support travel but preserve and enrich our wealth of heritage and
culture – for future sustainability.”