Malaysia is seeing a rebound in tourism after some rocky times in 2015, and appears to be back on track for the nation’s announced goals for the year 2020. We asked YB Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri bin Abdul Aziz – Minister of Tourism and Culture of Malaysia to tell us more about his targets, and how he hopes to achieve them.
This year, our target is to reach 31.8 million tourist arrivals and RM118 billion in tourist receipts. Our long-term target is to achieve 36 million tourist arrivals and RM168 billion (Euro 37.1 billion) in receipts by the year 2020, based on the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan. This year being designated the “International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development” by UNWTO, Tourism Malaysia will be laying special emphasis on promoting our UNESCO heritage sites and homestay programmes. Kinabalu National Park in Sabah, Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak, Melaka and George Town cities and the archaeological heritage of the Lenggong Valley are four of the UNESCO designated World Heritage sites in Malaysia.
In addition, 2017 is the Visit Perak, Visit Pahang and Visit Terengganu year. These three states in Malaysia are special because of their combination of culture, heritage, nature, adventure, hill resorts, islands, rivers and lakes, which I believe will be of interest to this market. The year 2017 has also been designated as the Visit ASEAN Year which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the founding of the South East Asian nations’ association. As part of the celebrations, the ASEAN community, which includes Malaysia, has worked together to promote the entire region for intra-regional and inter-regional travel. Many multiple-destinations packages have been developed and promoted to encourage tourists to explore the ASEAN region through nature, shopping, adventure packages and more.
You have spoken about the importance of culture and nature. What is being done to preserve these assets?
The Malaysian Homestay Experience Programme, which won the Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance by the UNWTO in 2012, is a classic example of a rural ecotourism program, which helps to preserve our cultural and natural assets. The Homestay program underlines the importance o f co n s e r v a t i o n and envi ronmental management. The Tree Planting Program at Homestays is a good example, where visitors are given the opportunity to plant their own tree to mark their visit to that particular Homestay. It also supports the idea of preserving the environment and further beautifying the landscape of the Homestays. To date, more than 16,733 trees have been planted by the homestay visitors.
How about the flight connections to Malaysia? Would you say that you are getting better connected with all European countries? Are you planning to extend the direct flight connections? If yes, with which countries?
Malaysia is well-connected via air operations from almost all international airlines serving main cities in European countries. Some of the international airlines that connect Europe with Malaysia are: Singapore Airlines, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad, Thai Airways, Vietnam Airlines, Oman Air, as well as Malaysian Airlines from London. We also have a special partnership agreement with Singapore Airlines, which was launched during the last ITB. The goal of this collaboration is to run a joint promotional campaign for 2 years to promote flights and packages to Malaysia. As for Malaysia Airlines’ direct flights, we are confident that the airline will resume flying to Europe markets when they are ready.
What is your message to the world’s TOs and TAs present at ITB Berlin?
We are happy to represent Malaysia in such a huge travel fair. We hope that our presence here will show that Malaysia is a beautiful and culturally diverse country with many fascinating tourist attractions. We are a peaceful nation and we welcome tourists from all over the world to enjoy an affordable and value-for-money holiday in Malaysia