Malaysia – Official ITB Berlin Partner Country

Interview: Mohammadin Bin Haji Ketapi, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture

In 2018, Malaysia received a total of 25.8 million international tourists. We asked Mohammadin Bin Haji Ketapi, Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture for Malaysia, what the target is for the coming years.

With the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign in the works, we look forward to seeing our arrival gures grow to 30-million and tourist receipts reach RM100bn (eds: €21.66bn) by the year 2020. The tourism Industry continued its significant contribution to Malaysia’s economy with a share of 14.9% in 2017 as compared to 10.4% in 2005. In 2017, the direct contribution of tourism to GDP recorded 6.1% with a value of RM82.6bn (eds: €17.89bn), growing from RM76.6bn (eds: €16.59bn) in 2016. The number of employees involved in Malaysia’s tourism sector has risen to 3.4 million in 2017 from 1.5 million in 2005. Employment in the tourism industry contributed 23.2% to total employment in 2017 (2005:15%). Most of the jobs in tourism industry were in the retail trade industry (33.7%) and food & beverage serving services (32.3%) respectively. Tourism is also important to Malaysia as it helps to empower the local community economically. Taking the Malaysia Homestay Programme as an example, it offers the local village-folk to take part in offering authentic homestay experiences to tourists. In 2017, the revenue generated from the programme reached RM27.6 million (eds: €5.98m). Statistics show that in 2018, a total of 372,475 tourists (local and foreign) participated in the homestay programme across the nation. Within this period, a total number of 218 villages with 4,070 homes took part in the programme. These villages are spread throughout the nation, including popular tourist destinations such as Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Melaka, Johor, Penang, Langkawi.

THE NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES INVOLVED IN MALAYSIA’S TOURISM SECTOR HAS RISEN TO 3.4 MILLION IN 2017 FROM 1.5 MILLION IN 2005.

What do you hope to achieve through being official partner country of ITB Berlin 2019?

Malaysia being partner country of ITB Berlin 2019 means a big focus on the country and a big visibility worldwide, especially now that we are promoting Visit Malaysia 2020. But our focus will be to push not only the partner country 2019 of ITB but to make sure, that throughout the year 2019, Malaysia is seen and recognised as the wonderful destination it is. I believe Malaysia’s cultural uniqueness is a big draw for the European market. As you may know, Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures with influences from Malay, Chinese and Indian ethnicities, as well as from Europe, Arab and the Malay Archipelago. This has resulted in a mixed yet harmonious legacy that manifests itself in Malaysia’s architecture, clothing, language, cuisine and other aspects. As such, the highlight of our presence at ITB this year will be the cultural aspects that we bring to the show. Visitors to the trade show will have the opportunity to experience Malaysia’s architecture, local food and cultural performances. We will be bringing in the national cultural troupe to showcase about an hour-long performance during the Opening Gala that re ects the beauty and diversity of Malaysian culture and heritage. Visitors to the Malaysia Pavilion can also get to know the Ring Ladies of Sarawak, so named because of their beauty ritual of wearing copper coiled rings on the forearms and calves respectively. This symbol of beauty is fast disappearing and ITB visitors will be lucky to catch the last remaining Ring Ladies of Sarawak this year. Malaysia will also bring a special exhibition of Sarawak scarves called “keringkam.” These are hand- embroidered scarves made using gold thread and is an important part of Sarawak heirloom legacy. Visitors will get to see these treasured headgear and other ornaments that have rarely been exhibited. The Malaysia Pavilion at Hall 26A, Stand 117, will also display architectural forms adapted from ancient Malay architecture. Besides being the venue for networking and meetings, it will also hold regular cultural performances throughout the exhibition. Delicious Malaysian cuisine, renowned for its generous use of medicinal spices and herbs, will also be made available for the public to sample.

What is the overall policy of the new administration concerning tourism? What are your Ministry’s key aims in the coming months and years? 

The Tourism Malaysia Integrated Promotional Plan 2018 – 2020 was formulated and implemented to tackle existing challenges and improve Malaysia’s tourism performance, with the following strategies in mind:
• Optimising the usage of latest information technology for promotion, publicity and advertising;
• Leveraging upcoming major events in Malaysia, especially business events, 5th World Tourism Conference from 26 to 28 August 2019 in KL, and the Malaysia-China Cooperation Year in 2019-2020, 8th World Summit on Arts and Culture, KL (11-14 March 2019); CHOGM, APEC meeting, etc.;
• Synergising efforts with the development of mega-projects such as Impression City Melaka and Desaru Coast, etc.;
• Enhancing NKEA initiatives (collaboration with airlines & tour operators, charter ights, high yield segment);
• Maximising integrated marketing campaigns by partnering with Government agencies; • Promoting Malaysia as a lming destination.

Please tell us a little more about yourself and why you believe you were chosen for the portfolios of Tourism and Culture.

Coming from Sabah, a state with multicultural and religious backgrounds together with diverse tourism attractions, I believe with my vast experience and deep interest in art, culture and heritage, I am able to contribute towards enhancing and promoting the art, culture and heritage industry as one of the prominent socio-economy drivers of the nation. In addition, under the new government’s manifestos, the tourism industry will continue to be strengthened and supported to attract more visitors to see and experience Malaysian cultural and heritage diversity plus abundance of natural wonders.

What are your biggest challenges in the next years?

The main challenge is to get more involvement from the non- governmental bodies and societies to cooperate and organise any programmes, events and activities relating to national art, culture and heritage. The Ministry has several incentives such as tax reduction and exemptions for private companies that are willing to fund such art, cultural and heritage programmes. I would like to remind again that the effort in empowering and sustaining our art, culture and heritage not only falls on the government’s shoulder but importantly, on the collaborative efforts with other individuals, private sectors and NGOs.

What sets this country apart from the rest – especially in Southeast Asia?

The “Malaysia, Truly Asia” tagline has worked wonders to position our destination’s diversity. It gets the message across that Malaysia is a kaleidoscope of customs, religions, traditions, festivals, heritage, arts and crafts, and cuisines of Malays, Chinese, Indians, and various ethnic group that continues to fascinate visitors from all over the world. Malaysia has also premised itself as a diverse tourism destination that offers world-class attractions, including nature, shopping, adventure, islands and beaches, as well as many international events, offering visitors a plethora of interesting choices. Besides that, the country is also a major destination for health tourism and MICE events. This “Malaysia, Truly Asia” branding continues till today to position Malaysia’s uniqueness. Upcoming developments such as Desaru Coast in Johor, Impression City Melaka and 20th Century Fox World Theme Park in Genting Highlands, once completed, will bring renewed interest in Malaysia. We are also seeing the industry invigorated by the opening of renowned hotel property brands here. Several established hotel brands have ventured into Malaysia for the first time recently, while some of them are poised to enter the market in the near future. We are pleased that brands such as Double Tree, Hilton, Marriot, Anantara, Westin, Mercure, Sheraton, W, St. Regis, Four Seasons, Hyatt and others see the value of Malaysia for their business expansion and investments. Malaysian food is probably one of its best attractions to visitors as dining in the country is truly a gastronomy experience. Being a multi-cultural country, Malaysia offers a great variety of local cuisines. Visitors will definitely be amazed by the incredible range of food, desserts and fruits found throughout the country.
Penang Assam Laksa Ranked no.7 on CNN’s World’s 50 Best Foods in 2018. Ipoh has been named as one of the top three best coffee spots in Asia by the world’s largest travel- guide publisher, Lonely Planet this year. Besides, citing Southeast Asia as the best region to try local cuisine, Booking.com named two places in Malaysia in its list of Top 10 destinations to taste local food – Ipoh and Johor Bahru. Kuala Lumpur was voted by global news network CNN as the world’s 4th Best Shopping City, after New York, Tokyo and London, and ahead of Paris, Hong Kong and Dubai, for two consecutive years – 2012 and 2013. Some of our renowned shopping outlets include Pavilion Kuala Lumpur, Midvalley Megamall, KLCC and etc. We now have several premium outlet malls – Johor Premium Outlet, Mitsui Outlet Park, Freeport Melaka, Design Village Outlet Mall in Penang and Genting Premium Outlet – to give shoppers better value for money.
Beautiful beaches and islands are in abundance in Malaysia. Langkawi, Malaysia was on the Conde Nast Traveler list of The Best Islands in the World 2018. Some top choices of beautiful beaches and islands include Sipadan island, Sabah; Pangkor Island, Perak; Batu Feringhi Beach, Penang; Perhentian island, Terengganu.
Malaysia’s tropical rainforests, said to be over 130 million years old, are also a unique feature of Malaysia. Some of the renowned rainforests in Malaysia include Taman Negara Pahang, Endau-Rompin, Gunung Mulu National Park, Kuala Selangor Nature Park, and Kinabalu Park.


Photo: Mohammadin Bin Haji Ketapi Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture