Developing its tourism fortes, Malaysia’s positive energy is wooing travellers the world over. Natalie Hami reports.
kilfully rising the tourism ranks, Malaysia’s industry stakeholders seem to be driving the country’s tourism products in all the right directions, boosted by the mighty Visit Malaysia 2020 initiative.
The landmark campaign aims to bring in 30 million international tourists and approximately $24 billion in tourist receipts into Malaysia by the year 2020.
Executive vice president, operations, Pan Pacific Hotels Group, Neo Soon Hup explained to TTG that the campaign will potentially ease visa restrictions for tourists from China and India, as well as stimulate hefty hospitality and tourism investments from the Malaysian government, signalling their commitment to grow this sector.
Visitor figures already show promise, according to statistics released by Tourism Malaysia, with the nation having recorded positive growth in Q1 of 2019.
Visitor arrivals to the destination increased by 2.7 per cent to 6,696,933, compared to the same period last year (6,520,218 arrivals).
A destination where city culture lives in harmony with colourful wildlife and an enviable rainforest, Malaysia is now more than ever eager to showcase its breath-taking natural assets. This month in fact, Sarawak Tourism Board will be showcasing the luscious state in an environmentally-friendly manner during the 22nd edition of the Rainforest World Music Festival 2019. With a no-plastic ruling at the core of the festival’s ethos, the three-day event will celebrate diverse music genres, culture and heritage.
Taking pride in maintaining and refining its key tourism segments, in recent months, Malaysia has been homing in on one particular area that has been growing from strength to strength. TTG spoke to key players within Malaysia’s robust MICE segment, to discover how they continue to develop this globally booming industry.
Director of global business development and marketing, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (the Centre), Angeline van den Broecke revealed to TTG that the Centre has recently undergone expansion, which provides an additional 11,000m2 of flexible and multi-purpose space.
“This expansion gives us the space to be even more creative, innovative and customisable in meeting the current and future needs of the Malaysian, regional and international business events industry,” she stated.
Broecke added that the extension will not only allow for larger and more events simultaneously, but the extra space will enable their clients to significantly grow their activities and events.
Meanwhile, offering her opinions on Sarawak’s MICE segment, chief operating officer, Business Events Sarawak, Amelia Roziman said: “This year, things have really changed for the business events sector in Sarawak. Firstly, we revamped our name and image to Business Events Sarawak (BESarawak) as a symbol of a new era in the business events sector. We have seen the economic success from the mix of meetings, conferences, exhibitions and incentives held in Malaysia’s largest state, but now we are taking it to another level and magnifying the intangible outcomes of business events.”
Roziman explained that BESarawak’s focus this year is on advocating legacy impact in every business field. “This means looking beyond the economic input and shifting our attention to the significance of conferences through the promotion and usage of knowledge exchanged, to have a positive effect on various areas of sectors,” she said.
Roziman highlighted the importance of partnerships and explained that business events are a complex ecosystem that cannot grow without industry partners, hence BESarawak has introduced the BESarawak Partnership Programme.
“We focus on the three prongs of partnership – communicating, educating and awarding – which gives our partners the golden ticket in learning opportunities (training courses, professional certifications), recognising achievements, with the Anak Sarawak Awards, and advertising possibilities,” she added.
Hup of Pan Pacific Hotels Group echoed a similar sentiment, revealing that the group leveraged partnerships with the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau by participating in their MICE tradeshows and promotions, such as Malaysia Corporate Meetings & Incentive Twin Deal.
MENA travellers are bound to feel at home in Malaysia, and because of this, key tourism stakeholders are strategically reinforcing an already dynamic relationship with the region through a number of initiatives.
Apart from a hefty delegation at the Arabian Travel Market this year, which included 61 organisations, a Joint Tactical Campaign was recently signed between Tourism Malaysia, Malaysia Airports and Air Arabia.
The Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi said: “This is one of the efforts for us to provide better connectivity to Malaysia. The daily flight from Sharjah to Kuala Lumpur, which commenced on July 1, is the first direct flight from the region offered by a low-cost carrier. I believe that this development is timely, especially in the run-up to our Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign.”
In addition, an Arabic version of Tourism Selangor has been launched on Facebook – a clear indicator of the government’s commitment to using social media to promote Selangor in the Middle East.
According to figures from Tourism Malaysia, tourist arrivals from West Asia rebounded to Malaysia by 25.3 per cent in 2018 from 251,937 to 315,937, led by the growth of Oman (+36.9 per cent), the KSA (+11.6 per cent) and the UAE (+9.7 per cent).
The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur also has its eye on this lucrative market, according to area director of sales and marketing, Marriott International and YTL Hotels, Yannick Mauchle.
“Parts of the MENA region are a key focus for the coming years for our property. Our market penetration for the Middle East and India will continue with market visits along with hotel representatives in these very important regions,” Mauchle exclusively told TTG.
Despite Malaysia’s natural ties to the Middle East, travel and tourism stakeholders are wisely casting their net further afield to markets such as Europe and Australia. Director sales and marketing, LEGOLAND Malaysia Resort, Thila Munusamy noted that the top markets for the resort have been Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and China. Meanwhile, head of sales, Pacific Regency Hotel Group, Kevin Lim pointed to markets such as Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan and the Philippines, as well as China and Indonesia.
Boldly making its mark on Asia’s tourism map, Malaysia has proven itself capable of providing global visitors a range of incredible experiences.