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Tourism Malaysia: Getting the number game right

Tourism an ever-evolving industry for Malaysia. M Nazri, minister of tourism and culture Malaysia talks to TBMEs Charmaine Fernz on the initiatives being undertaken to further boost tourism to Malaysia….


M Nazri, minister of tourism and culture Malaysia

Tourism Malaysia has done their due diligence in terms of understanding travellers from the Middle East region. Our understanding of the market over the years points in one direction that there is a huge NRI market to be tapped in the Gulf. Of this market, the Indian community is very substantial. Taking tap into this big market, our Prime Minister on his recent visit to India announced a special e-visa arrangement for Indian nationals including NRIs. This multiple entry e-visa would be priced at just US$25 and will be valid for 30 days. This will also encourage many Indians who come to Malaysia and visit Singapore who is our neighbour to access Malaysia more easily.

Target segments

We are keen to target Indian tourists who are looking to have destination weddings. We also have some beautiful destinations for honeymoon couples. Finally, shopping is one of the biggest highlights and you get your money’s worth. As per the World Economy Forum, Malaysia is the third cheapest destination in the world in all aspects.

We would also like to invite and encourage production companies to visit Malaysia. We certainly offer a lot of incentives. Finally, with the UNWTO declaring 2017 as the ‘year of sustainable tourism’ works in our favour due to the varied eco-tourism offerings in Malaysia. We have the oldest rainforest in the world, mountains, the Proboscis monkey and so much more. There are also new eco-tourism destinations being highlighted such as Cameron Highlands and Sabah.

The Village Of Tambatuon, Kota Belud, Borneo, Sabah, Malaysia 

Experiential Tourism

Malaysia is keen to promote the concept of experiential tourism. We have a lot to offer today’s traveller who want to get a real feel of the destination. As a destination, we welcome tourists who want to live like locals and experience the culture. There are options such as living like a fisherman or a village folk or even just a normal Malaysian city life. We offer the home-stays options. Travellers can also savour the local cuisine which is such a variety in Malaysia due to the influence of the Chinese, Indian and Malay food options. To cite an example, in Penang, one can savour the experience of hawker food. We also promote the ‘Malaysia my second home’ programme encouraging people to invest in our country as retirement home or even consider investing and staying in the country. The incentives of this programme is that a buyer gets a 10-year multiple entry visa for not just themselves but their families too as long as they comply with the condition stated.

The Way Ahead

We are keen that companies come and invest in our country in hotels, resorts etc, wherein the government provides 100% equity. To provide an impetus to the tourism industry, we will be soon launching a tourism tax for all accommodation facilities in the country. We felt the need as tourism used to be dependent on allocation of budget given to the ministry.  In 2013-14, we had a big budget but from 2015 onwards, we have seen this budget dip with several cuts due to fall of the Ringgit (MYR) and reduction of cost of oil and gas. This dip in budget severely affected our promotions. We also evaluated that if this tax was implemented and runs smoothly, the country can collect approximately MYR 600 million a year. This is more than enough to do promotions or implement new infrastructure projects in tourism. This tax will be implemented for both locals and tourist alike. We will charge MYR 20 per night for five and four star hotels; the three star and below will be charged MYR 10 per night and this goes down to MYR 2.50 per night for unrated hotels. This will also include Airbnb and any other lodging facilities with two or more rooms.


Total number of global tourists Malaysia received was 26.8 million in 2016. This is a four percent increase over 2015. However, more important is the tourism receipts. In 2015, it was MYR 72 billion; while in 2016, it was MYR 82 billion. The numbers for 2017 is MYR 103 billion in tourism receipts and 31.5 million tourist arrivals, which is attainable.

Malaysia Tourism has a target to reach 36 million tourist by 2020 and MYR 168 billion in tourism receipts which is achievable if we work towards it. There are many activities planned such as hopefully we will be country partner for ITB in 2019. This means that from 2018 onwards we will be working towards the 2020 ‘Visit Malaysia’ year to help achieve our target.

Tourism Overview

Year                       Tourist numbers              Tourism receipts

2015                       25.7 million                         MYR 72 billion

2016                       26.8 million                         MYR 82 billion

2017                       31.5 million                         MYR 103 billion

2020                       36 million (target)            MYR 168 billion (target)

Tourism Tax (once implemented)

Amount               Hotel Category

MYR 20                 Five and four star

MYR 10                 Three star and below

MYR 2.50             Unrated