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Malaysia’s Tourism Transformation

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Malaysia Truly Asia Source:

It’s no secret that in the last decade, Malaysia has transformed into a major tourist destination in the Southeast Asian region. With the resounding success of the ‘Malaysia Truly Asia’ branding in 1999, tourist arrivals and receipts have since increased exponentially, pushing Malaysia into the elite of tourism destinations.

Today, the ‘Malaysia Truly Asia’ brand has earned Malaysia its popularity, and accolades from all across the world have poured in, among others, ‘Best Asian Destination’ by the World Travel Awards, World’s Top Muslim Friendly Destination by Mastercard Crescent Rating Global Muslim Travel Index, and ‘Best Eco-Vacation’ destination by the National Geographic Traveler.

On top of that, Kuala Lumpur, the nation’s capital, was named the Second Best Shopping Destination in the Asia Pacific by Globe Shopper Index in 2012, and was also the Fourth Best Shopping City in the World for two consecutive years, as voted by CNN in 2012 and 2013.
The ‘Malaysia Truly Asia’ brand has helped increase tourist arrivals and receipts from 10.2 million tourists and USD4.2 billion in tourism revenues in the year 2000 to 25.9 million arrivals and USD20.2 billion in receipts in 2017. By 2020, the government is targeting to welcome 36 million tourists with USD41.2 billion in tourist receipts.

Such big numbers reflect the government’s emphasis on the tourism industry. Realising the fact that tourism has become a key growth industry for the economy, more focus will be given to develop tourism in certain areas like affordable luxury, ecotourism, family-friendly destination, business tourism, entertainment, events and sports.

Kelatan Kite Festival. Source:

Supporting growth through new developments

The past few years have seen Malaysia building towards these goals. The Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 (KLIA2) was opened in May 2014 to cater to the explosive growth in the low-cost travel industry. Prior to that, the Klang Valley Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project was launched in 2011 and today sees the expansion of the urban transport system which not only improves the livability of Kuala Lumpur, but also boosts tourism activities in and around the area.

New tourist attractions have also cropped up. In terms of shopping, Malaysia welcomed its first premium outlet in the southern state of Johor, and this was quickly followed by the opening of the Mitsui Outlet Park near Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Freeport A’Famosa Outlet in the state of Melaka, and Genting Highlands Premium Outlet in the state of Pahang.

Among self-professed shopaholics, Malaysia is indeed a retail haven. Trendy fashion, international brands and prestige labels have made their homes in some of Malaysia’s most chic and exciting shopping malls. In major cities, spa facilities have mushroomed, providing visitors with a relaxing and healthy experience amid serene and soothing surroundings. Men will also find the shopping experience here to be worthwhile. Electronic items and high-tech gadgets like mobile phones and cameras are competitively-priced.

Meanwhile, the shopping precinct of Bukit Bintang-Kuala Lumpur City Centre also saw a facelift with better infrastructure including a covered walkway for shoppers to go from one mall to another, while efforts were carried out to boost the vibrancy of the shopping precinct with more events and activities.

The implementation of a National Sales Campaign promoted Malaysia as a shopping paradise offering great value for money. Three major sales events are scheduled each year, namely Malaysia Super Sale in March, Malaysia Mega Sale Carnival from June to August and Malaysia Year-End Sale throughout November and December, with shoppers benefiting from the huge discounts on goods.

Besides shopping, Malaysia is also a family-friendly destination. It is home to many international theme parks, including Asia’s first LEGOLAND theme park, KidZania, and Hello Kitty Town. Meanwhile, works are underway for the 20th Century Fox theme park in Genting Highlands, while Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS) which recently opened in the state of Perak is enjoying the spotlight.
Further south in Johor, the Desaru Coast development is taking shape, transforming 17 km of coastline into a premium integrated beachfront resort and lifestyle development that will see, among others, two championship golf courses, an adventure water theme park, a conference centre, a retail village, riverside dining and hotels from the Westin, Hard Rock and Anantara brands.

New opportunities in niche tourism

For avid bikers, motorcycle holidays in Malaysia is a niche attraction that the country is promoting in recent years to draw a unique group of tourists who appreciate and enjoy high-value special interests in their lives. Indeed, Malaysia is a great place for motorcycle holidays as it does not only have well-connected highways, but also scenic countryside, historic places, lots of delicious food and beautiful culture for everyone to enjoy along the journey.

Another new attraction that is being promoted in Malaysia is the lung-washing packages. Behind the quirky name, the message is one that’s clear – Malaysia’s thick tropical jungles, temperate highlands and pristine islands and beaches at which fresh air can be enjoyed and wholesome experience in nature that bring many health benefits to visitors.

Competitive medical fees and modern medical facilities are two vital factors that make Malaysia a popular destination among health tourists. Malaysia offers a wide choice of state-of-the-art private medical centres boasting an impressive array of sophisticated diagnosis, therapeutic, and in-patient facilities. These establishments are well-equipped and staffed to ensure the highest level of professionalism, safety and care to patients.

Opportunities in business events

Business tourism is also a key focus of Malaysia’s tourism promotions. Hence, the Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) was established in 2009 to help develop this area. Since then, Malaysia has supported a total of 1,726 business events which translates to some USD2.2 billion in economic impact. Throughout this period, Malaysia welcomed more than 800,000 delegates, who collectively spent more than USD1.3 billion in the country to date. This is a testament to the efforts that Malaysia has made to position the country as a premier destination for business events and meetings. Some of the major business events held in Malaysia this year are the World Urban Forum 2018, the World Cancer Congress 2018 and the 84th World Library and Information Congress 2018. Together, these three events are expected to attract some 21,000 international visitors to Malaysia with an estimated economic impact of USD61.3 million in terms of job creation and demand for tourism and related services. Other important meetings to be held in Malaysia are Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, and World Congress on Information Technology in 2020.

Business event in Malaysia. Source:

Moving ahead to a brighter future

While the early years in tourism was simply creating awareness for Malaysia, today, the ballgame is different. The tourism industry has evolved, and changes are ever-present, demanding destinations like Malaysia to evolve with new strategies and action plans, as well as leverage on the opportunities available.

These opportunities for tourism in Malaysia to continue to grow come in the form of the stronger presence of llow-cost carriers, connectivity to secondary destinations/cities, partnerships with foreign airlines to increase connectivity, the expansion of Middle Eastern airlines to global destinations, new growth markets in areas of special interest, and others.

These latest developments, as well as new upcoming tourism products, signify a bright future in Malaysia’s tourism industry. With the continued support by the government, as well as smart partnerships and collaborations with the private sector, Malaysia’s tourism industry can only go upward and onward – well towards the year 2020 goal that it has set for itself.

*High-resolution photos can be downloaded from

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