05/29/2023, 14.11
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Malaysia trying to boost tourism to pre-pandemic levels

by Hal Swindal

According to the Ministry of Tourism, 4.38 million foreign tourists arrived in Malaysia in the first quarter of 2023. The goal now is to attract 16.1 million visitors from Asia and Europe by the end of the year, generating around US$ 10.7 billion in revenue. Several government programmes are in place to this end.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim recently announced his intention to authorise charter tourist flights after Malaysia's Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture (MOTAC) presented a plan in February – the Tourism Recovery Plan 2023 – to reboot the country's tourism industry, which was badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to ministry data, 4.38 million foreign tourists landed in Malaysia in the first quarter of 2023. The goal is to attract 16.1 million by the end of the year, generating revenue worth RM49.2 billion (about US$ 10.7 billion).

MOTAC Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing said he had asked for the cooperation of the Finance Ministry and other ministries to bring visitors back to Malaysia from across Asia and Europe after the drop in tourists over the past three years.

Minister Tiong also explained that the plan will include tourist visas on arrival, multiple-entry visas, electronic visas, and transit visas.

MOTAC's initiative is aiming high, but it remains to be seen whether it will achieve its goals by the end of 2023. Certainly, Malaysia has scrapped Movement Control Orders (MCOs) put in place during the health crisis.

According to the Malaysia Investment Development Authority, tourism is the third source of revenue after manufacturing and commodities. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it had grown to 15.9 per cent of GDP.

Now the National Tourism Policy (NTP) 2020-2030 also includes a plan, the Malaysia Smart Tourism 4.0, launched in 2018. Through access to tourism products and services based on information and telecommunication technologies, it aims to increase revenue from the current US$ 25 billion to US$ 110 billion by the end of the decade.

MOTAC’s Malaysia My Second Home (or MM2H) programme is another way to attract foreigners to Malaysia, the New Straits Times reports.

Groups advocating this change claim that most wealthy foreigners seeking residence abroad reject Malaysia because its requirements are too high and its visa regulations too strict. They believe that MOTAC could ease its rules in line with other Southeast Asian countries.

MOTAC also offers several programmes for foreigners, including "voluntourism", involvement in volunteer activities in Malaysia; agrotourism, i.e. living on farms and visiting to agricultural research centres; and the "kampungstay", staying in a kampung (traditional village) to experience the life of ordinary rural Malaysians.

In 1995, the government launched the Malaysia Homestay Experience Programme (MHEP) for rural tourism in farming and fishing communities.

As of February 2022, more than 200 homestay clusters were available in more than 300 villages, with more than 40,000 host families offering 6,000 rooms across Malaysia.

After the pandemic, which reduced arrivals, the authorities are trying to revive this programme too. On the JomHomestay website, prices doe accommodations range from 120 to 500 ringgit per night (about US$ 26-108).

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