DestinationsArmed with an arsenal of plans to boost airlift and state tourism campaigns, the country makes a serious bid to regain tourism momentum.

Malaysia heralds a comeback

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Gunung Mulu National Park in Borneo. Photo Credit: Dino Geromella/GettyImages.
Malaysia has regrouped and expects to make a tourism comeback this year after a prolonged pullback on high-key promotional efforts over the past four years. Tourism Malaysia’s director general Datuk Musa HJ. Yusof said that Malaysia will be “making more noise” in the marketplace with an arsenal of new airline initiatives and state tourism campaigns in a bid to regain tourists numbers and public confidence. 

According to arrival figures released by Tourism Malaysia, visitor numbers over the first nine months last year have weathered a slight 0.3% dip to reach 19.39 million, continuing a trend that has seen overall arrivals hover between 25 to 26 million annually.  

Overall, huge decreases in arrivals from main source markets Singapore (-15.6% to 7.83 million) and Brunei (-18.6% to 1.06 million) have weighed heavily, but were marginally offset by expanding markets Indonesia (+17.6% to 2.44 million) and China (+34.2% to 2.23 million). 

But an encouraging sign is that visitors on average are spending slightly more and staying longer. Tourism receipts saw a 0.2% increase to RM 61.9 million (US$15.1 million), while average expenditure rose by 0.8% to RM3,190.50. Visitor nights have also increased by 0.2 nights to 7.3 nights. 

Tourism goals get airlift 
However, Tourism Malaysia is expecting to buck the lacklustre trend this year. To give more airlift to a 2019 tourism target of 28.1 million arrivals, Tourism Malaysia renewed a partnership with Malaysia Airports in January to boost international tourism promotion that could see both parties contributing up to RM10 million (US$2.45 million) each.  

Efforts will go into airline partnerships, the operation of inaugural and charter flights, as well as high-yield niche tourism promotion that will build on last year’s efforts, which drew 11 new airlines and more than 40 new international routes nationwide, registering a total of 51.6 million international passengers.  

As of last November, there are currently 67 airlines flying to Malaysia with a carrying capacity of 668,423 seats each week, according to Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad. The operator aims to attract 10 new airlines, both premium and low-cost carriers, to Malaysia, especially to its five main airports in 2019, according to Malaysian media reports. New carriers who have started to fly to Malaysia include India’s largest low cost carrier IndiGo. 

National carrier Malaysia Airlines will be expanding capacity with new routes and increased services between India, China and Japan and Kuala Lumpur.  

It will be rebooting daily flights to Kochi from March 31, a first since the service was discontinued in May 2015, and expanding capacity of its flights to Mumbai using a wide body A330-300 instead of a B737-800 aircraft. Flight frequencies will also be ramped up on its routes to Nanjing (four times weekly), Osaka (10 times weekly) and Melbourne (17 times weekly).  

States in the limelight 
Sarawak and Melaka will also be running state tourism campaigns this year. 

Launched last December, Sarawak will be heading a two-year Visit Sarawak campaign to revitalise the industry and highlight its nature and cultural offerings, targeting nature tourists, families and FITs. The largest Malaysian state is eyeing a goal of five million international and domestic visitors for 2019, generating RM8.97 billion in revenue. 

The campaign will put the state’s indigenous culture at the forefront, with efforts to promote the Iban heartland, and the traditional way of life of the local Melanau tribe. 

Meanwhile, the state of Melaka has unveiled its Visit Melaka campaign that will see it shooting for 20 million tourists this year, helped along by a busy calendar of 85 programmes and events under the theme of “Melaka: The Gateway to Historic Malaysia”. It hopes to surpass the 14.7 million tourists it received over the first 10 months last year, of which 5.6 million comprise foreign tourists.  

Melaka chief minister Adly Zahari announced that RM3 million has been allocated to promote the state’s tourism this year. Among the state’s tourism products to be upgraded are the Melaka River Cruise tourist boat service and the revolving gyro tower, Menara Taming Sari. There are also plans to redevelop the Hang Tuah Village into a theme park. 

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The launch of the Go Malaysia Deals campaign in January. 

Regaining Singapore 
To regain arrivals from its neighbour Singapore, Malaysia has embarked on a joint promotion campaign with online travel agent to entice more weekend travellers from Singapore to visit on short getaways. 

Over a three-month period till March, the Go Malaysia Deals campaign will offer a total of six packages for the Singapore market. The packages will be catered to the preferences of Singapore travellers, based on interests like shopping, sightseeing and food. 

The tour packages will include a 15% discount on all bus ticket bookings from Singapore to Malaysia as well as stays at selected partner hotels, such as Hotel Equatorial Melaka, Capri by Fraser Kuala Lumpur, Impiana Hotel Ipoh, Berjaya Penang Hotel, Grand Ion Delemen Genting Highlands and Berjaya Times Square Kuala Lumpur.  

“With the rising demand for online travel booking, we feel that the time is right for us to embark on a partnership with an established online travel agent in Singapore,,” said Edzuar Zar Ayob Azari, director of Tourism Malaysia – Singapore. 

Last year, saw the number of bus bookings from Singapore to Malaysia nearly doubled from 480,000 to over 700,000. It currently runs 206 daily trips from Singapore to Malaysia. 

To entice more land arrivals from across the causeway, the Immigration Department of Malaysia has arranged more counters to be opened during peak periods to facilitate the clearance of groups.

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The Rainforest World Music Festival showcases the best of world and indigenous music

Fast facts 
• Sarawak has a total of 56 protected areas, 37 gazetted national parks, five wildlife sanctuaries and 14 nature reserves. Its rainforests are the size of Austria. 
• Tuck into a wide array of street food at Kuching Food Fair from July 26 to August 18, 2019. 
• The longstanding Rainforest World Music Festival returns from July 12 to 14, 2019. 
• Encore Melaka, a world-class 2,000-seater theatre has opened, offering an immersive visual experience with video projection mapping and multi-stage hydraulic sets.  
• World’s first Monopoly hotel, Monopoly Mansion by Sirocco, expects to open doors in Kuala Lumpur in 2019. 

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