The second largest foreign exchange earner after manufactured goods and the seventh largest contributor to the Malaysian economy, the tourism industry raked in a Gross National Income (GNI) of RM47.2bil last year.
The industry experienced a remarkable growth and evolved to become one of the country’s fastest growing economic sectors, contributing RM60.6bil in tourist receipts, with tourist arrivals registering at 25.03 million in 2012.
Today, the business volume of tourism is equal to, or even more than that of oil exports, food products and automobiles.
The Government, having recognised the potential of the industry, has mapped out a blueprint of targets for the Tourism and Culture Ministry through various initiatives to stimulate an sustainable development for the industry as the country heads towards achieving high-income status by 2020.
Malaysia recorded an overall growth of 15.9% in tourist arrivals with 6,449,398 tourists in the first quarter of 2013, as compared to 5,562,538 tourists during the same quarter in 2012.
Tourist receipts also grew this year by 16.7%, generating RM14.99bil to the country’s revenue as compared to RM12.84bil in 2012.
Tourism has proven to be a catalyst for development and these dynamics have turned the industry into a key-driver for economic growth.
According to Tourism and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz, the Government’s strong support in recognising tourism as an important economic driver as well as the concerted efforts of the country’s trade and media partners to market and brand Malaysia made the country the most preferred tourist destination which has contributed to this achievement.
Looking ahead, Malaysia is targeting a 7.1% growth in tourist arrivals this year, compared to 26.8 million last year, generating RM65bil in tourist receipts.
Tourism was identified as one of the 12 National Key Economic Areas (NKEAs) under the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) and this has driven Malaysia’s economic growth with various missions being planned and implemented in line with the Malaysia Tourism Transformation Plan towards achieving the targeted 36 million tourists and RM168bil in receipts by 2020.
Towards this end, tourist arrivals are targeted to grow by 1.5 times with tourist receipts growing by three times.
The Government is placing greater effort geared towards increasing the yield per tourist to attract the higher yield segment.
Measures have been taken to improve and upgrade tourist offerings and services to enhance the country’s connectivity to key priority markets.
Among the high-impact programmes conducted by the Ministry for this purpose is the Homestay Programme.
Last year, the programme attracted 325,258 participants, with 20.4% of them foreign tourists.
It generated an income of RM18.55mil to the rural economy community, which is an increase of 17.9% compared to 2011.
The Malaysian Homestay Experience Programme was presented the First Prize UNWTO Ulysses Award for Innovation in Public Policy and Governance in recognition of its outstanding contributions and achievements.
The importance of the shopping and retail industry as one of the key drivers in the tourism sector cannot be overlooked, having contributed the second biggest share of tourist expenditure, 30.7%, after accommodation.
In 2012, tourists spent a total of RM19bil on shopping. This is a 5.7% increase compared to the previous year.
Kuala Lumpur gained worldwide attention when it was named the fourth shopping destination in the world by CNN Travel and second best shopping city in Asia Pacific by Globe Shopper Index.
This recognition strengthened the capital’s position as a shopping haven.
Malaysia’s image as a major shopping destination was a result of several key initiatives undertaken by the Tourism NKEA.
Among the initiatives were the abolishment of import duties on more than 300 items, the opening of the first Premium Outlet store in Johor, the improved pedestrian connectivity within the main shopping precinct of Kuala Lumpur City Centre-Bukit Bintang and the establishment of Bukit Bintang-KLCC Tourism Association.
Another strategy to promote the country as a travel destination of choice was by hosting international and major events.
Various existing homegrown events were repackaged and clustered to boost international spectatorship such as the Formula One series.
During 2012 alone, 19 events were secured with tourist expenditure of RM916mil.
“Culture is a unique proposition for tourists; we know a major draw is our diversity of people and cultures that includes Malay, Chinese, Indian and the traditional tribes in Sabah and Sarawak.
“Tourism and culture not only offers enjoyable experiences for visitors, but also creates greater understanding among different people and enriches the life experiences of the residents, renewing their pride in their heritage and their desire to preserve it,” Nazri said in a statement.
Some 14.5 million tourists visited heritage sites in Malaysia last year and the craft sales at these sites generated RM341mil.
Another niche product offered to tourists is the spa industry.
To further enhance this industry, the Government not only introduced a rating mechanism for these services to maintain its standards, but also set up Centres of Excellence to provide training for spa therapists.
Economic diversification and niche tourism activities would characterise the way the industry moved forward.
Visit Malaysia Year 2014 was launched by the Prime Minister in January 2013 to maximise the potential of the country’s tourism industry with the theme “Celebrating 1Malaysia, Truly Asia. VMY 2014 – We are The Host”.
Malaysia aims to achieve 28 million in tourist arrivals and RM76bil in tourism receipts during this period, creating the need for doubled effort from all parties to ensure the highest standards of services at all times.
The role of every Malaysian is crucial towards ensuring the success of the Visit Malaysia Year 2014.